Brownback Proposes $600 Million for Kansas Schools in State of the State Address
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top Republican legislators in Kansas are upset with GOP Governor Sam Brownback's proposal to boost spending on public schools because they say they don't see how the state would pay for the hike in education funding. Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning of Overland Park said last (TUE) night that they do not think the state can sustain the spending Brownback is proposing. In his State of the State address, Brownback proposed phasing in a $600 million increase in education funding over five years. He said he's not proposing a tax increase. Wagle called it a feel-good proposal that will force lawmakers to consider tax increases later. Denning said the plan is "insulting." House Majority Leader Don Hineman of Dighton said he doesn't see how the plan will work. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in October that the state's annual funding of $4.3 billion to its public schools was insufficient and unconstitutional. The court's ruling came after lawmakers last year phased in a $293 million increase in education funding.
Kansas Governor Says He is Counting on Revenue Growth to Cover Boost in School Funding
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is counting on growth in state revenues to pay for his proposal to boost spending on public schools. The budget proposals the term-limited Republican governor released this (WED) morning stoked an open revolt among GOP lawmakers. They believe they'll be forced to consider raising taxes or making deep cuts elsewhere after Brownback leaves office. Senate budget committee Chairwoman Carolyn McGinn called his proposals "irresponsible." Brownback is proposing to phase in a $600 million increase in aid to public schools over five years to meet a Kansas Supreme Court mandate to boost education funding. Budget Director Shawn Sullivan said growing revenues from a strong national economy will cover the costs. The governor's proposed $16.8 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning in July balances without a tax increase.
Brownback Interrupted by Heckler During Speech to Legislature
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A heckler in a Kansas House gallery interrupted Governor Sam Brownback twice during his annual State of the State address. Officers escorted the man from the gallery after his second interruption of the governor Tuesday evening. Such heckling is highly unusual during the annual speech, though some governors have faced protesters or been booed while walking into the House chamber. The man first interrupted Brownback when he was arguing that money alone won't lead to better schools and cited the Kansas City, Missouri, school district's past problems. The man shouted, "Because of poverty!" The second time, Brownback promised an aggressive fight against human trafficking after noting Kansas' history as an anti-slavery state. The man shouted: "What about the slavery in our prisons?" Brownback ignored the man each time.
Kansas Lawmaker Quits Posts After Remarks About Blacks
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas state legislator who suggested at a public forum that blacks are predisposed to abusing drugs has resigned from two committee leadership jobs. Republican state Representative Steve Alford of the western Kansas town of Ulysses stepped down Tuesday as chairman of the House Children and Seniors Committee and vice chairman of a legislative task force on child welfare. Alford resigned from those positions a day after apologizing for remarks he made Saturday at a public meeting in Garden City. During the meeting, Alford discussed his opposition to legalizing any use of marijuana and referenced a time in the 1930s when it was outlawed. He said marijuana and other drugs were prohibited partly because blacks responded "the worst" to them "because of their character makeup — their genetics and that."
ACLU Seeks Contempt Ruling Against Kris Kobach
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union has asked a federal judge to hold Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in contempt of court, alleging that he refused to comply with multiple orders. A court notice on Tuesday shows U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson will handle the ACLU request. The latest legal skirmish stems from Robinson's earlier preliminary injunction ordering Kobach to register for all federal elections people who registered to vote at driver's license offices, regardless of whether they provided documentary proof of citizenship. The group late Monday filed a motion saying Kobach is refusing to send those voters a certificate of registration which contains information such as the polling location or to correct erroneous information in the election manual. Kobach's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Topeka Gets Its First Hispanic Mayor
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The city of Topeka has sworn in its first Hispanic mayor. 41-year-old Michelle De La Isla has been sworn in after winning the November election with 51.3 percent of the votes. She'll replace Larry Wolgast, who decided not to seek re-election after serving as Topeka's mayor since April 2013. De La Isla was born in New York and moved as a child to Puerto Rico with her family. She spoke during her campaign about overcoming circumstances such as homelessness and teen pregnancy, and receiving her degree from Wichita State University. De La Isla says she asked others at her swearing-in ceremony to join her at the front of the Topeka City Council chambers to show that she can't work to improve the city alone.
Kansas City Church Elder Charged with Wife's Death
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — An elder of a Kansas City, Missouri, church is charged with killing his wife, who was an associate pastor. Johnson County authorities on Wednesday charged 30-year-old Robert Lee Harris, of Overland Park, with first-degree murder in the death of his wife of 18 months, 38-year-old Tanisha Harris. Police said officers responded Monday to the couple's apartment about a domestic disturbance and returned when Harris reported that his wife was missing. Her body was found later in Raymore, Missouri. The Kansas City Star reports that she was an associate pastor at Repairers Kansas City, a non-denominational church. Pastor Carlton Funderburke described the newlyweds as "loving" and said there were "no signs at all" of trouble. Harris is being held on $1 million. His first court appearance is scheduled for Thursday.
Fatal Kansas Swatting Call Suspect Accused of Canadian Call
CALGARY, Alberta (AP) — A Los Angeles man accused of making a hoax emergency call that led to the fatal police shooting of a Kansas man is charged with making a similar call in Canada days earlier. Police in Calgary said in a news release that warrants have been issued for Tyler Barriss, 25, who is charged with public mischief, fraud and mischief. He's accused of calling authorities on December 22 and claiming that he had shot his father and was holding his mother and younger brother hostage, the release said. Officers descended on an apartment building and were evacuating people when a woman called police and said she believed she was the victim of "swatting," in which a person makes up a false report to get a SWAT team to descend on an address. The woman walked out of her apartment unharmed and police were able to confirm the call was false. The release said it is believed the woman was "targeted because of her online persona." A similar bogus call on December 28 about a shooting and kidnapping led police in Wichita to rush to a home where Andrew Finch, 28, was shot and killed after opening his door. Police said the unarmed Finch was given commands to keep his hands raised, but he reached toward his waistline multiple times. Barriss is awaiting extradition from California to Kansas, where he is charged with making a false alarm. Barriss has a history of making bogus calls to authorities. He was released from the Los Angeles County jail last year after serving less than half of a two-year and eight month sentence for phoning in two fake bomb threats in 2015 that cleared out the KABC-TV studio in nearby Glendale. The Wichita Eagle reported that his 62-year-old grandmother also sought a restraining order in 2015 from a California court, writing that Barris had made "constant threats to beat my face bloody." Barriss's California-based public defender, Mearl Lottman, didn't immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press. Acting Duty Insp. Peter Siegenthaler, of the Calgary Police Service, said it's unlikely that Barriss will be extradited to Canada, but that he would be arrested if he entered the country.
Topeka Man Pleads Guilty to 5 Bank Robberies in 4 States
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has pleaded guilty five bank robberies in four states. Federal prosecutors say 21-year-old Dakota Shareef Walker, of Topeka, pleaded guilty Wednesday to robbing U.S. Banks in Topeka, Kansas; Kansas City, Missouri; Evanston, Wyoming; and Malad City, Idaho. He also pleaded guilty to robbing a Wells Fargo Bank in Preston, Idaho. The robberies occurred between November 28, 2016, and January 9, 2017. In each case, Walker gave tellers a note warning not them not to activate any alarms or to make any sudden moves. Sentencing will be April 16. Prosecutors say all parties have agreed to recommend a sentence from 4.25 years to 8 years in federal prison.
Kansas Man Convicted in Confrontation at Federal Courthouse
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas man has been convicted of fighting with and threatening law enforcement officers at the federal courthouse in Kansas City, Missouri. A federal jury on Tuesday found 31-year-old James Everett, of Kansas City, Kansas, guilty of three charges arising from a confrontation in March 2016. Prosecutors say when Everett was about 10 yards from the courthouse entrance when he began yelling and demanding to speak to a federal judge. When four federal officers responded, Everett threatened to shoot the officers. Four federal officers and two Kansas City police officers were needed to restrain Everett. Three federal officers received medical treatment after the encounter. Investigators later found a handgun in Everett's car. Because he was a convicted felon, Everett was not allowed to own a weapon.
Ex-Olathe Teacher Pleads Guilty to Relationship with Student
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A former Olathe South High School teacher and coach has admitted to having a sexual relationship with a student. Michael Jasiczek pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to two federal charges involving having sex with a student over the age of 16. A third charge was dropped. The Kansas City Star reports prosecutors determined the relationship was consensual. But under state law, it is a felony for teachers and authority figures to have sexual relationships with students at the same school. Jasiczek, a social science teacher and assistant football coach, was placed on administrative leave in May and was later fired. He was a teacher at Olathe South High School for more than a decade. He coached football, ran a weightlifting club and was called "Coach Jazz" by students and staff.
Kansas Community Sued over Woman's Death During Police Chase
PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. (AP) — The family of a pregnant woman who died when the vehicle she was in was hit by a driver fleeing police is suing a Kansas community. The Kansas City Star reports the lawsuit against Prairie Village was filed by the husband and two children of Denisse Lopez, who died in January 2016. The crash occurred in Overland Park when 23-year-old Raphael Sherman, of Shawnee, was trying to escape Prairie Village police. He ran a red light and hit the vehicle Lopez was riding in. The lawsuit alleges the chase was unsafe because of traffic conditions. Lopez's baby boy was successfully delivered before she died. Sherman is serving a prison sentence of nearly 12.5 years after pleading guilty to second-degree murder. Prairie Village City Administrator Wes Jordan said the city will not comment on the lawsuit.
2 Wichita Police Officers Face Criminal Charges
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say two officers have been charged in unrelated incidents in October. Police said in a news release Tuesday that Officer Jax Rutledge is charged with misdemeanor domestic battery and criminal deprivation of property. The Wichita Eagle reports that court documents say she clashed with her stepson and his girlfriend when they came to pick up belongings while moving out. The release says Officer Josh Price has been charged with misdemeanors and a felony. Court documents say Price accessed an electronic clearinghouse of crime data last year and engaged "in a course of conduct targeted at" two people. Both officers are on unpaid leave. Rutledge has been with the department nine years and Price 18 years. Police didn't immediately respond to an email asking whether the officers had attorneys.
Goodwill Returns Accidentally Donated Acuff Fiddle to Owner
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A fiddle believed to be once owned by the late country music star Roy Acuff is back with its owners after it was accidentally donated to a Goodwill store in Missouri. The instrument was anonymously donated. Goodwill of Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas put it up for auction on December 27. The Kansas City Star reports that after bidding began, a member of the family that mistakenly donated the fiddle asked to have it returned. Kevin Bentley is interim president and CEO of the Kansas City Goodwill organization. He says the item was given back because it was a family heirloom. Acuff's fiddles were made by his uncle, Evart Acuff, who numbered each one. A sticker inside said the fiddle, No. 19, was handmade in August 1945 in Maryville, Tennessee.
Former Mail Carrier Gets Probation for Delivering Marijuana
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors say a former mail carrier was part of a scheme to deliver marijuana to Johnson County. Twenty-five-year-old Terrell Dewayne Shears of Overland Park on Tuesday was placed on five years of probation for possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute. Prosecutors say while Johnson delivered mail, he would give addresses to Arizona drug traffickers. The dealers would then mail packages with marijuana to those addresses and Shears would drop them off at another location. He then texted a person he knew only as "John" to pick them up. Investigators found 40 pounds of marijuana in Shears' postal vehicle when he was arrested.
Kansas City Airport Gets First Nonstop Transatlantic Flight
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Kansas City International Airport is getting its first regularly scheduled nonstop transatlantic flight. Airport officials announced Tuesday that Icelandair will fly a seasonal nonstop flight from Kansas City to Iceland's capital, Reykjavik, beginning May 25. The flights will be scheduled three times a week from May to the end of September. The airport says travelers will be able to connect to more than 25 popular destinations in continental Europe from Reyvjavik. The flights from Kansas City will be on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, with return flights to Kansas City on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. The Kansas City Star reports airport officials are pursuing other transatlantic routes, possibly to the United Kingdom or Germany. Icelandair will use a 183-seat airliner that includes economy and business class sections for the flights.
Independence, Missouri Police Say 2 Homeless People Died in a Fire at Condemned Home
INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) - Authorities in Independence, Missouri say two homeless people died in a dilapidated home where they apparently were squatters. Detectives on Tuesday asked for the public's help to investigate the December 23 fire. Firefighters found two bodies inside the vacant home, which was destroyed. They were identified as 27-year-old Alexandria Wickman and 43-year-old Shawn Hansen. Police say the two were believed to be staying in the house. The cause of the fire is under investigation.