Kansas Governor-Elect: Kansas Voters Would Reject School Funding Amendment
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Incoming Kansas Governor Laura Kelly says she doesn't think Republican lawmakers will be able to approve a state constitutional amendment on school funding. And, she says, if they did pass the amendment, she believes Kansas voters would reject it. GOP lawmakers have discussed a constitutional amendment for years in reaction to Kansas Supreme Court rulings on school financing. House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins, a Republican from Wichita, said earlier this week he believes there is a renewed interest in an amendment. Two-thirds of the House and Senate would have to approve the amendment before it went to voters. GOP leaders said this week they may consider reopening - or even starting over - on a funding plan passed this year. The Kansas City Star reports Kelly also rejected that idea.
Report: Kansas Election Officials Reject Voter Fraud Claims
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An American Civil Liberties Union survey has found that county-level election officials in Kansas reject the notion that voter fraud is either a major or minor concern. The report released Friday contradicts claims of widespread voter fraud by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Election officials in 85 of the state's 105 counties partially or completed responded. Sixty-six of them said voter fraud was "not a problem at all." None deemed it a "significant problem." The ACLU says the report examined whether county election policies are reducing voter turnout and hurting democracy in Kansas. It found voter turnout was higher in counties offering better early voting. The report also detected a relationship between the number of voters assigned to a polling site and the voter turnout rate.
Farmers Buoyed but Cautious as China Resumes Buying Soybeans
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The resumption of soybean sales to China is encouraging to American farmers who've seen the value of their crop plummet amid a trade war with the world's second-largest economy. But producers see it only as a small step toward normalcy as they continue monitoring the unsettled trade relations between the countries and call for more federal aid. Private exporters have reported sales of 1.43 million metric tons of soybeans to China less than two weeks after the Trump administration reached a three-month truce in the trade war. The American Soybean Association says it's positive news but didn't significantly boost prices and farmers need more help. Both the association and the National Farmers Union are pushing for more federal aid through a $12 billion federal program created to compensate producers for trade-related losses.
Report: Oklahoma Lagging in Per-Student Spending
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A recent report shows Oklahoma is trailing behind neighboring states in per-student spending, even with this year's teacher pay raises. The Tulsa World reports that the National Center for Education Statistics report shows that Oklahoma's annual expenditures were nearly $1.3 billion below the regional average for the 2015-16 school year. The region includes Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, New Mexico, Colorado and Texas. The region spent an average of roughly $9,900 per student, but Oklahoma lagged behind by about $1,800. The Oklahoma State School Boards Association says adjusting the figures to include the $480 million in increased state funding this year still puts the state behind about $1,100. Oklahoma teachers walked off the job in April to protest a decade of budget cuts. Oklahoma lawmakers approved a tax-hike package to fund teacher pay raises.
1 Dead, 1 Hurt in Crash with Dump Truck in Kansas
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a collision with a parked dump truck has left one teen dead and another injured in Kansas City, Kansas. The Kansas City Star reports that police say the teens were riding in a speeding sport utility vehicle that skidded into the city work truck Thursday. It appears that the SUV then struck a guardrail and rolled over. A team of workers who were around the corner didn't see the crash but came running after they heard the impact. The teen who died was ejected. A girl in the SUV was taken to a hospital with minor injuries. Two other teens in the SUV weren't hurt. Police say the teens weren't wearing seat belts.
Kansas EMT Pleads Guilty to Stealing Morphine
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An emergency medical technician in Jackson County, Kansas, has admitted to stealing morphine. Federal prosecutors said 33-year-old Colby VanWagoner, of Mayetta, pleaded guilty Wednesday to obtaining a controlled substance by deception and making a false statement during an investigation. VanWagoner worked for the Jackson County Emergency Medical Service in Holton. In his plea, he said he replaced morphine sulfate with saline solution and put the vials back into narcotic boxes on ambulances and in office stocks. Tests showed some of the vials that had been tampered with had concentrations of 1 percent or less of morphine. The concentration of morphine should have been 100 percent. VanWagoner will be sentenced March 12. The parties have agreed to recommend a sentence of five years on federal probation.
Kansas Telemedicine Abortion Ban's Fate in Doubt
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas law meant to ban telemedicine abortions has become entangled in larger court battles over abortion and the legality of the practice remains in doubt. A state court judge heard arguments Friday on an abortion rights group's request to block the new law from taking effect in January. Since October, a Wichita clinic has given women abortion pills and had them consult with an offsite doctor by teleconferencing. The clinic also hopes to offer telemedicine abortions to women in rural areas. District Judge Franklin Theis suggested during a hearing Friday that the new law is an "air ball" that doesn't authorize criminal prosecutions. But Theis didn't rule after state attorneys suggested other state abortion laws might come into play. Those provisions are tied up in another pending lawsuit.
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A state court judge is considering whether to block Kansas from enforcing a ban on telemedicine abortions that are to start in January. With telemedicine abortions, women in rural areas are allowed to get abortion pills without an in-office consultation in a city clinic. On Friday, Judge Franklin Theis will hear an abortion rights group's request to stop the law. The Center for Reproductive Rights contends the ban violates the state constitution by treating women seeking abortions differently from other telemedicine patients. The group says the law places an undue burden on women seeking abortions. The center sued on behalf of Trust Women Wichita, which operates a clinic that this year began to offer abortions through telemedicine so that women in rural areas would not have to come to Wichita.
Topeka Online Utilities Pay System Safe After Cyber-Attack
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka officials say the city's online utilities payment system is safe after a cyber-attack in November. City spokeswoman Molly Hadfield said the system was breached on November 1. Its billing payment software vendor, Central Square, notified the city of a possible cyber-attack on December 7. The breach might have affected up to 10,000 Topeka customers. Hadfield said Central Square has turned over the information to a forensics investigator. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports city staff worked with Central Square to move the current online payment system to a more secure platform.
Douglas County Considering Jail Expansion Plans
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Douglas County Commission is considering a plan to add between 84 and 154 beds to the county jail. Undersheriff Gary Bunting and Assistant County Administrator Sarah Plinsky presented the plan Wednesday. The commission asked for a plan that would allow the county to stop housing 50 to 80 inmates in other counties. Commissioners also want more room for work-release and re-entry programs, and enough beds to separate inmates of different security classifications. The Lawrence Journal-World reports one option includes building a central south tower to provide from three to four new incarceration pods, which would each house 28 inmates. Cost estimates were not presented. In May, county voters rejected a $44 million jail expansion proposal that would have added 93,200 square feet in jail space and 178 beds.
Outgoing Leawood Lawmaker Switches from GOP to Democratic Party
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Another Kansas lawmaker is switching from the Republican to the Democratic party. Outgoing Rep. Joy Koesten, of Leawood, announced Thursday that she's changing her party affiliation. Koesten wrote that she "just can't stomach trying to 'fit in' any more to a party that grieves me so each and every day." Her announcement follows state Senator Barbara Bollier's decision to switch after she endorsed Democratic Governor-elect Laura Kelly and was stripped of a committee leadership post. Koesten was elected in 2016 in a moderate wave, but lost her District 28 seat in the primary to conservative challenger Kellie Warren. Warren will assume office next month after beating Democrat Brian Clausen in the general election. Koesten wrote in her final newsletter as a state representative that she wasn't "welcome" in the GOP.
Missouri Department of Conservation Announces Large Deer Poaching Case
OZARKS, Mo. (AP) — Members of a southwest Missouri family have been caught in a multi-year investigation into the illegal killing of hundreds of deer. The Springfield News-Leader reports David Berry Sr. of Springfield, and his sons, David Berry Jr. of Brookline, and Kyle Berry, of Everton, were involved in an investigation by state, federal and Canadian law enforcement agencies and conservation officers. The Missouri Department of Conservation said in a news release Thursday that the investigation eventually tied 14 Missourians to more than 230 charges in 11 Missouri counties. Some suspects also were tied to state and federal wildlife violations in Kansas, Nebraska and Canada. Lawrence County Prosecuting Attorney Don Trotter says most of the deer were killed at night only for their heads, with their carcasses left behind.
Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill: U.S. Senate Has Lost Its Way, Must Do Better
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrat Claire McCaskill has stern words for her soon-to-be former colleagues in the Senate, saying that polarization and fear of political consequences have rendered the body ineffective and unwilling to take on difficult issues. The 65-year-old two-term senator lost to Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley in her re-election bid in November. In an emotional farewell speech from the Senate floor on Thursday, McCaskill called her fellow senators "family," but expressed concern about what the Senate has become. McCaskill said that the Senate is "no longer the world's greatest deliberative body" and cited a litany of concerns, including legislation that is written behind closed doors, omnibus bills so large that senators don't know their details and lobbyists learning the details of tax bills before senators do.
Negro League Bobbleheads Part of Fundraising Campaign
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Fans of the former Negro League could have a chance to commemorate some of its stars through a series of bobbleheads. The effort is designed to help mark the upcoming centennial of baseball's Negro National League, which began in Kansas City in February of 1920. Supporters unveiled the first bobblehead, of pitcher Satchel Paige of the Kansas City Monarchs, while announcing the campaign on Wednesday. The Kansas City Star reports production of the rest of the licensed, limited-edition bobbleheads will depend on a Kickstarter campaign sponsored by the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum and the Dreams Fulfilled, a group promoting the Negro League centennial. The goal is to raise $10,000 by January 7.
Wichita Art Gallery Reports Break-in, Theft of 8 Pieces
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita art gallery says eight pieces of glass art were stolen during a break-in. The founder of Karg Art Glass, Rollin Karg, says he discovered the break-in and theft early Wednesday. Gallery officials estimated the loss was about $2,500. Police are investigating. The Wichita Eagle reports Kart Art Glass is generally regarded as the city's foremost glassblowing studio and gallery.
L.A. Chargers Score 2 TDs in Last 3:49 to Beat Chiefs at Arrowhead
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Things just got a little more interesting in the AFC West after Philip Rivers engineered a very late comeback. The Los Angeles Chargers scored two touchdowns in the final 3:49 before Rivers hit Mike Williams for a two-point conversion with just four seconds left to lead a 29-28 win over the Chiefs in Kansas City. The Chiefs led 28-14 and were looking at their 10th straight win over the Chargers until Justin Jackson scored on a three-yard run. Following a Kansas City punt, Rivers kept the winning drive alive with a fourth-down pass to Travis Benjamin, and Los Angeles received some help from a questionable pass interference call that gave the Chargers first-and-goal at the Kansas City 1 with eight seconds remaining. Rivers was 26 of 38 for 313 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions as the Chargers moved into a virtual tie with Kansas City for the division lead at 11-3. Williams accounted for 20 points with three touchdowns and the game-winning conversion catch that allowed Los Angeles to clinch a playoff berth. Patrick Mahomes (mah-HOHMZ') threw for a pair of first-quarter touchdowns and was 24 of 34 for 243 yards and no picks.