Kansas House Rejects Automatic Spending Cuts
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House members have rejected a proposal that would have automatically trimmed about $300 million from the state's next budget if the state Supreme Court rejects a new law boosting spending on public schools. The vote Friday was 71-53 for an amendment to strip the proposal from budget legislation being considered by the House. Its Appropriations Committee included the provision in case lawmakers are ordered to boost education funding further than they have. The Supreme Court ruled in October that the state's education funding is inadequate under the state constitution and legislators enacted a new law to phase in a $534 million increase in spending over five years. Supporters said the provision was a responsible way to deal with budget uncertainties. Critics predicted it could create chaos for government agencies.
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are considering proposals to boost spending while top Republicans mull over measures that would reduce taxes. The House debated a bill Friday that would revise the $16 billion-plus budgets approved last year for the state's current fiscal year and the next fiscal year that begins in July. The bill includes nearly $8 million to provide pay raises for employees in the state's court system, including a 2.5 percent increase for judges. It also restores $12 million in past cuts in the state's higher education system. But the House's debate came a day after top Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature met with executives from large corporations to discuss reducing their state taxes. Changes in federal tax laws late last year are expected to boost those state taxes.
Kansas House Rejects Expanding Medicaid Program
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has rejected a proposal to expand the state's Medicaid health coverage for up to 155,000 additional needy people. The vote Friday was 66-56 against adding an expansion of Medicaid to a bill that would make changes to the state's current budget and the budget for the next fiscal year beginning in July. The proposal would have expanded Medicaid as encouraged by the federal Affordable Care Act of 2010 championed by former President Barack Obama. Lawmakers approved an expansion last year and former Republican Governor Sam Brownback vetoed it. GOP critics said an expansion would prove costly to the state. Democratic Representative Brett Parker of Overland Park proposed the expansion. He and other supporters said it would help needy Kansans and draw down millions of new federal dollars.
LGBT Advocates Express Opposition to Kansas Adoption Bill
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Gay rights advocates from across the country rallied at the Kansas Capitol yesterday (THUR) to oppose an adoption bill that they see as a civil rights setback. The proposal would prevent the state from withholding grants or contracts to faith-based agencies that refuse to place children into homes that violate their religious beliefs. The measure needs approval in the House after passing the Senate. Supporters say the proposal helps secure the rights of the agencies themselves, the foster care system is overloaded and these protections are needs to insure faith-based agencies remain in service. Critics contend the bill will allow religious agencies to freely discriminate against same-sex Kansas residents looking to adopt. Last month, the state reported there are 7,540 children in foster care. The number was 5,711 a decade ago and has been steadily increasing.
Kansas House Jabs at Kobach During Budget Debate
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has taken a jab at Secretary of State Kris Kobach during a debate on budget legislation by adding a provision directed at him. The House's vote Friday was 103-16 to add a provision that says no statewide elected official cited for contempt by a court can use any funds in the state's next budget to pay fines, court costs or attorney fees. A federal judge found Kobach in contempt earlier this month. The judge ruled he violated a court order requiring his office to inform certain people that they were eligible to cast a ballot while a lawsuit challenging a state voter identification law worked its way through the courts. Kobach is appealing the ruling. His spokesman did not immediately return phone and text messages seeking comment.
Rabbis Ask Kansas Senator Not to Compare Abortion with Holocaust
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A group of rabbis wants a Kansas state senator and congressional candidate to stop comparing abortion to the Holocaust. The Rabbinical Association of Kansas City sent a letter to Leavenworth Republican state senator Steve Fitzgerald asking him to stop using the Holocaust for political purposes. Fitzgerald is seeking the GOP nomination in the Kansas 2nd District. Last month, Fitzgerald referred to the infamous Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele during a debate over abortion. He has also compared the group Planned Parenthood to a Nazi concentration camp. The rabbis said in the letter that Fitzgerald's words abused the memory of those killed by the Nazi regime. Fitzgerald said he would take the rabbis' letter into consideration but didn't promise to stop referencing the Holocaust during abortion debates.
Kansas Moves to Loosen Rules for Some Amusement Park Rides
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas is moving to loosen its rules for amusement rides for events such as county fairs a year after lawmakers strengthened regulations after a 10-year-old boy's death on a waterslide. The Senate voted 37-1 on Thursday approve a bill addressing complaints from rural lawmakers and local officials that last year's law was too broad. The House approved the measure 114-6 earlier this month, and it goes next to Governor Jeff Colyer for his possible signature. Legislators acted last year in response to the death of Caleb Schwab on a giant waterslide at the Schlitterbahn park in Kansas City, Kansas. The changes will set lower requirements for rides at short-term, one-location events run by nonprofit groups and exempt attractions such as hay-rack rides and low-speed barrel trains.
Missouri Measles Outbreak Reaches 10 Reported Cases
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Health officials say there are now 10 reported cases of measles in Missouri, including three students. The Kansas City, Missouri Health Department plans to announce seven more exposure sites in the Kansas City area. Department spokesman Bill Snook says the three students with the virus attend Liberty Public Schools. Two students pose no risk, but a third student may have exposed others at South Valley Middle School. A district spokesman says children who aren't immunized are being held out of school. Missouri Department of Health and Senior Service official Kerri Tesreau says the cases may have come from an international traveler living in Missouri. Health officials in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa are warning that a Missouri traveler may have exposed their residents to the virus.
Former KU Chancellor Earns Same Salary in Adviser Role
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ University of Kansas officials confirm that the school's former chancellor is earning the same salary after stepping down and becoming a special adviser. KU officials tell the Lawrence Journal-World that Bernadette Gray-Little began her position as a special adviser last July. She announced in September 2016 that she would step down as chancellor after the 2016-17 school year. KU spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson says the salary of about $510,000 is the same amount she earned during her final year as chancellor. Gray-Little declined to comment on her role and referred the newspaper to the university or the Board of Regents. Barcomb-Peterson says the board's terms of departure for Gray-Little said that her new role consists of ``helping the new chancellor, at his or her request, become acquainted with the university's unique programs, its several campuses, and other areas.'' Democratic Representative Jim Ward, the Kansas House minority leader, says such a consulting deal is common in higher education but still looks bad as the state struggles to fund both college and K-12 education
Kansas Man Sues over Arrest During Missouri Library Q&A
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Kansas man alleges in a lawsuit that his free speech rights were violated when he was arrested while asking challenging questions about Israel during a public forum at a Kansas City, Missouri, library. The Kansas City Star reports that 39-year-old Jeremy Rothe-Kushel filed the suit Thursday in federal court in Kansas City. He was arrested in May 2016 during the question-and-answer segment of a talk by Middle East expert and diplomat Dennis Ross. A librarian also was arrested while trying to intervene and acquitted last year of several municipal charges. Defendants include police employees and the event's co-sponsors. A police spokeswoman says the department won't comment on ongoing litigation. Rothe-Kushel's attorney, Arthur Benson, said in in an email that his client has always been a peaceful critic of Israel.
Boyfriend Charged in Deaths of Kansas Woman, Unborn Child
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) - Johnson County authorities charged a 26-year-old Kansas City, Kansas man with capital murder in the deaths of a woman who was pregnant with his son. The Kansas City Star reports Devonte Dominique Wash will face the death penalty if he is convicted in the January death of 23-year-old Ashley Harlan of Olathe. She was found shot to death at her home. Harlan was about 20 weeks pregnant when she died. Kansas law allows seeking a capital murder charge if the defendant knowingly or purposely killed or created a great risk of death to more than one person. Friends told the Star that Harlan moved from Manhattan to Olathe in early January to be nearer to Wash. She was living with her grandfather when she was killed.
Kansas Virtual Reality Company Sues Game Hacker
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas-based virtual reality company is suing a hacker after trying to hire the anonymous user to identify and fix security issues in its gaming software. The Kansas City Star reports that Orbus Online LLC has filed a copyright lawsuit against an unidentified hacker who goes by "Simian Dong." The lawsuit lists the defendant as John Doe. The company alleges discovering in January a user had developed superpowers in their virtual reality game, OrbusVR. The powers gave the user advantages over other players. Orbus owner Riley Dutton contacted the hacker, offering to pay him to help protect the company's software. The lawsuit says the hacker declined the offer, later posting instructions online for others to repeat the hack. The lawsuit also alleges the hacker publicly distributed the company's game code.
Stepmom of Missing 5-Year-Old Loses Custody of 1-Year-Old
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The stepmother of a missing 5-year-old Wichita boy has lost custody of her 1-year-old daughter. The Wichita Eagle reports that a judge's ruling Friday puts Emily Glass's daughter in state custody. Child welfare officials will decide where she'll live. Glass is charged with child endangerment stemming from her care of the girl, who previously was placed in police protective custody. The charge was filed after Glass reported her stepson, Lucas Hernandez, missing in February. Glass cared for her daughter and Lucas while the children's father worked out of state for weeks at a time. Lucas' biological mother didn't live in the Wichita area when he disappeared. Search crews have repeatedly combed Wichita parks and found no sign of Lucas. Police say they don't think he was abducted or walked away.
Man Sentenced to More Than 18 Years in Wife's 2016 Killing
LARNED, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has been sentenced to more than 18 years in prison for killing his wife. The Hutchinson News reports that 27-year-old Jacob Ohnmacht, of Larned, was sentenced Thursday for voluntary manslaughter and interference with law enforcement. Ohnmacht initially faced a second-degree murder charge in the December 2016 strangulation death of 21-year-old Kayla Dawn Parret at the couple's rural Pawnee County home. As part of his plea, he agreed to drop his appeal of a criminal threat conviction for spitting in an officer's pizza. Parret's mother, Cindy Hope, said Ohnmacht staged a scene to make it appear Parret hanged herself and that he took her down before officers arrived. The arrest affidavit said there had been multiple domestic abuse instances, and that Parret left Ohnmacht before returning to him.
Pittsburg State University to Cut 19 Positions
PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — A university in southeast Kansas is planning to cut 19 full-time positions because of stagnant state funding, increasing costs and enrollment pressures. The Joplin Globe reports that Pittsburg State University officials announced the plan Thursday. Officials say employees affected by the layoff have been notified and will continue to be paid through mid-June. Employees will also receive job placement assistance through the university's Office of Career Services, and have preferred status for university job openings over the next 12 months. The positions will remain in place through the end of the fiscal year ending June 16. University officials say instructors weren't included in the cuts. They say the layoffs are part the university's a long-term cost reduction. The cuts come as the university faces declining enrollment, especially with international students.
Kansas Man Sentenced in $3 Million Marijuana Conspiracy
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas man was sentenced to five years in prison without parole for his role in a conspiracy to distribute $3 million worth of marijuana in the Kansas City metro region. Prosecutors say 29-year-old Justin Polson of Overland Park was sentenced Thursday and ordered to forfeit $1.5 million to the government. Polson pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to distribute marijuana and participating in a money-laundering scheme. His co-defendant, 38-year-old James Mack, of Westminster, Colorado, was given the same sentence last month on the same charges and also ordered to forfeit $1.5 million. Prosecutors say Mack mailed marijuana in five-gallon plastic buckets to Polson between September 2012 and May 2015. Polson deposited about $3 million into Mack's bank account, in amounts below $10,000 to avoid reporting requirements.
Former School Choir Director Admits to Sex with Student
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A former teacher of the year for a northeast Kansas school district has admitted to having with a student. Forty-five-year-old Todd Burd pleaded guilty Friday to amended charges of unlawful sexual relations. The Kansas City Star reports that he initially was charged with aggravated criminal sodomy after the 16-year-old boy reported being assaulted while sitting in Burd's pickup truck. Court documents say the victim told police that Burd sent photographs and messages that were "sexual in nature" beforehand. The victim said Burd had been pressuring him to meet after school hours. Burd taught music and was the choir director at Gardner Edgerton High School in late 2016, when the incident happened. Burd received the Gardner-Edgerton district's Teacher of the Year honor in 2015. His sentencing is set for June 29.
2 Injured in Crash with Topeka Patrol Vehicle Sue for $5M
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two people injured in a crash with a Topeka officer's patrol vehicle are suing for $5 million. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Jesus Meza and Mayra Meraz filed the suit last month against Topeka's city government. They allege the crash happened in April 2016 after the on-duty officer drove through a red light at an excessive speed. Meza's car rolled several times and was destroyed. The claims says Meza underwent surgeries after being diagnosed with a scraped cornea and several fractures. It said Meraz suffered from headaches as well as back and hip pain. The paper obtained the claim this week through a records request. Topeka city officials say the officer still works for the police department. But officials declined to comment further, saying the city doesn't discuss pending litigation.
40 to 50 Cattle Killed when Trailer Overturns in Western Missouri
HARRISONVILLE, Mo. (AP) - Police say a cattle trailer has overturned in western Missouri, killing 40 to 50 animals. The crash happened around 4:30 a.m. Friday in Harrisonville, which is about 30 miles south of Kansas City. Police say the truck was pulling a trailer with 80 to 100 head of cattle. A man and woman in the truck were taken to a hospital with minor injuries. Police say the surviving cattle were rounded up and taken from the scene in trailers. Police say some are expected to be examined by a veterinarian. The cause of the crash remains under investigation. It caused major traffic delays on northbound Interstate 49.
Pizza Hut Museum Opens on Wichita State University Campus
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ The new Pizza Hut Museum has opened at Wichita State University. WSU Foundation CEO Elizabeth King tells The Wichita Eagle that staff from the school came together "to collaborate and create this fabulous museum that will be curated by the students.'' Brothers Dan and Frank Carney were students at the university in 1958 when they converted a beer tavern into the original Pizza Hut. The building was used for the museum, which opened Wednesday on the school's Innovation Campus. Dan Carney attended the opening ceremony, saying "I think they did a great job.'' The museum includes articles, memorabilia and photos of the brothers and takes visitors through the evolution of the pizza chain. There are 7,500 Pizza Huts nationwide and another 10,000 internationally.