Twin-Engine Plane Crashes in SE Kansas
CHANUTE, Kan. (AP) — Federal officials are describing the crash of a small plane in southeastern Kansas as a fatality accident. The plane went down Friday afternoon about seven miles northwest of Chanute. Few details were immediately available. The area is mostly rural. Peter Knudson of the National Transportation Safety Board confirms the crash was fatal but he did not know how many people were aboard or how many died. Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory identified the plane as a twin-engine Cessna 402. Her agency is also investigating.
UPDATE: KS Legislative Session Will Continue Past 90-Day Deadline
The 2012 Kansas legislative session will run long. Today (FRI) was scheduled to be the final day of the session, but important issues...including the state budget and tax-cutting legislation...are still unresolved. Legislative leaders say lawmakers are likely to leave Topeka sometime today (FRI) and return on Monday to address unfinished business. Both chambers of the legislature passed a resolution earlier in the session that authorized an extension beyond the scheduled 90-day timeframe if there was still work to be done.
Kansas Budget Negotiations Resume
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — House and Senate negotiators have resumed talks on their differences over the proposed $14 billion Kansas budget for 2013. Three House and three Senate members met briefly Friday to exchange their latest offers. Friday was scheduled to be the final day of this year's session but legislative leaders are expecting the session to be extended. The budget calls for spending some $6 billion in state tax dollars and fees in the fiscal year beginning July 1. It covers the expenses of most government programs. Negotiators are at odds over how to fund increases in public schools, including how much to boost spending and the source of that funding. They also disagree about spending on social services and money to defend the state in litigation over redistricting maps.
Backers of Kansas Abortion Bill Still Seek Passage
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Abortion opponents in the Kansas Legislature aren't giving up on forcing a Senate vote on a bill designed to prevent the state from subsidizing abortions indirectly through tax breaks. Among other things, the measure would prevent individual income tax filers from including abortion expenses when they take a deduction for their medical costs. The bill has passed the House, and it's now before the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee. Committee Chairman Pete Brungardt, a Salina Republican who supports abortion rights, said Thursday that he doesn't intend to consider the measure. But House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lance Kinzer, an anti-abortion Olathe Republican, said supporters are discussing a possible attempt to pull the bill from the committee. Supporters would need 24 votes in the 40-member Senate to prevail.
Controversy Erupts over Domestic Violence Contract
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some Kansas senators are criticizing proposed changes to a contract for groups that serve domestic violence victims. The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services wants to require victims to undergo psychological evaluations. It also seeks to limit lifetime services to 18 months and have 90 percent of victims hold jobs after 18 months. The proposals prompted The Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence to drop negotiations last week on the contract. On Thursday, members of the Senate budget committee criticized the SRS's proposals, saying they did not reflect the reality faced by domestic violence victims. SRS officials say they will try to negotiate with local domestic violence centers to distribute about $2 million in federal funds for services after July 1.
Kansas Lawmakers Pass Anti-Shariah Law Measure
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill designed to prevent Kansas courts or government agencies from relying on Islamic Shariah law or other foreign legal codes has cleared the state Legislature. The Senate approved the bill Friday on a 33-4 vote. The House had approved it, 120-0, earlier in the week. The measure goes next to Governor Sam Brownback. The bill doesn't specifically mention Shariah law, which broadly refers to codes within the Islamic legal system. Instead, it says that courts, administrative agencies or state tribunals can't base rulings on any foreign law or legal system that would not grant the parties the same rights guaranteed by the state and federal constitutions. But several supporters specifically cited the potential use of Shariah law in Kansas courts as their concern.
Kobach Concedes Accelerated Timeline for Voter-Citizenship Law Now Dead
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Secretary of State Kris Kobach is conceding that Kansas legislators have effectively killed his proposal to require first-time voters to provide proof of citizenship starting next month. Kobach acknowledged Thursday his bill is dead because a fellow Republican, Senate President Steve Morris, has assigned it to a hostile committee. Morris hasn't allowed an up-or-down Senate vote after the measure passed the GOP-led House. Kansas already has a proof-of-citizenship rule for people registering to vote for the first time in the state, but it doesn't take effect until January. Kobach wanted the rule in place by June 15th. The House passed one version of Kobach's proposal in February, but it stalled in a Senate committee. House members passed a new version Wednesday, hoping senators would take a quick vote.
Kansas House Defeats Proposed Repeal of Tuition Break for Immigrants
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Republican-led Kansas House has rejected an effort to repeal a 2004 law allowing some illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities. The law permits illegal immigrants who meet certain rules, such as graduating from a Kansas high school, to pay the lower tuition Kansas charges to residents of the state. The Kansas Board of Regents says about 500 students participate in the program. House members defeated a proposed repeal Thursday on an unrecorded 68-32 vote during debate on a broader education bill. Those favoring repeal said the tuition program rewards illegal immigrants and serves to attract others to Kansas. But other House members said the students who benefit from the program are working toward citizenship and bettering their lives.
Kansas House Approves New Map for State Senate
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has approved a proposal favored by conservative Republicans for redrawing the state Senate's 40 districts. The measure won final House passage Thursday on a vote of 67-50 and moved to the Senate, where approval is unlikely. The Senate's moderate GOP leadership is pursuing its own redistricting plans, and many lawmakers believe the House version would help conservatives gain control of the chamber. The House action came hours after the Senate Reapportionment Committee's approved three new plans for redrawing the Senate districts to account for population changes over the past decade. None of those plans is acceptable to conservatives, who see them as designed to keep moderates in control of the Senate. The redistricting impasse among Republicans threatens to postpone the state's scheduled August 7 primary elections.
Kansas Agencies Wrangle over Pipeline Taxes
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — There's disagreement in Kansas over whether oil company TransCanada should be exempt from paying millions in property taxes for the section of its Keystone pipeline that moves oil through Kansas to Oklahoma. The Kansas Department of Revenue wants the Kansas Court of Tax Appeals to reconsider its decision to approve TransCanada's 2011 property tax exemption. The department estimates that Calgary, Alberta-based TransCanada owes nearly $19 million in 2011 property taxes for the pipeline that's been operating since last year. The department says the pipeline doesn't meet a requirement that Kansas refineries must have access to the oil in order for TransCanada to get the exemption. The Court of Tax Appeals, however, says the pipeline meets the access requirement because Kansas refineries can get the oil from facilities in Oklahoma.
Council Grove Residents Facing Water Shortage
COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. (AP) — Zebra mussels are causing water problems in Council Grove. City Administrator Danny Matthews on Thursday night asked that residents not use any city water for the time being because the city's water tower is nearly empty. Matthews says zebra mussels are clogging the tower's intake from Council Grove City Lake. Crews are working to clear the intake. Matthews says it will take eight to 10 hours to fill the water tower again once the intake work is done. WIBW reports citizens are being asked to avoid using any city water so the water still in the tower is available for emergencies.
Kansas Supreme Court Upholds Murder Conviction
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has upheld the second-degree murder conviction of a Topeka man who killed one man and wounded another in downtown Lawrence in 2006. Rashawn T. Anderson is serving a 15-year sentence for the killing of 46-year-old Robert E. Williams and the shooting of Pierre C. Burnett after a concert at The Granada theatre in Lawrence. The court ruled Friday that errors in jury instruction and closing arguments during Anderson's trial did not warrant reversing the verdict. In March of 2009, Anderson was sentenced to life in prison for the July 2005 slaying of 19-year-old Christopher Caraway in Topeka. That sentence is running concurrently with the sentence imposed in Douglas County. His earliest possible date of release from prison is in 2033.
UPDATE: Gang Members Charged under RICO Targeted Undocumented Workers
DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors say a Hispanic gang consisting mostly of U.S. citizens preyed upon undocumented workers in Kansas who did their business in cash and were afraid to go to law enforcement because of their immigration status. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom on Friday announced racketeering and other charges against 23 members of the Nortenos gang in Dodge City, including 22 who are first- or second-generation citizens. Four of the men are charged with murder in the 2009 slaying of Israel Peralta and attempted murder of three other men who were with Peralta when he was shot to death. The gang members are charged under the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, adopted by Congress in 1970 to prosecute the Mafia. They're also charged with drug, weapons and assault crimes.
Brown v. Board Site to Mark 58th Anniversary of Supreme Court Decision
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site is marking the 58th anniversary of the civil rights ruling with a push to capture decades-old memories from Topekans. People are invited to visit the site May 17 and learn about the park's new Oral History Project. Park staff will be on hand to sign up those willing to share their stories in later interviews. Officials especially want to hear from people who were teachers or students at Topeka schools before and after the Supreme Court decision that declared segregated schools unconstitutional. Speaking at the event will be Charles Scott Jr., whose father was one of the Brown case attorneys. A proclamation by Governor Sam Brownback formally apologizing for racial segregation in education will also be presented.
Kansas Students Beat National Average in Science Test
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new report says Kansas eighth-graders scored higher than the national average on a science proficiency exam. State officials said Thursday that Kansas students had an average scaled score of 156 out of 300 on the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress. That score is higher than the average in 26 other states. The national average was 151. The report says 35 percent of Kansas eighth-graders scored "proficient" or above in science. The national average was 31 percent. Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker said the state was in "a good position from which to grow." The U.S. Education Department says the results show that eighth-graders nationwide are doing better in science than they were two years ago, but seven out of 10 still are not considered proficient.
Kansas City Man Sentenced to 15 Years in Death of Wife
LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man was sentenced to 15 years in prison for killing his wife, whose body has never been found. Shon A. Pernice was sentenced Friday in the January 2009 death of Renee Pernice. She disappeared from the couple's home after filing for divorce. Pernice pleaded guilty in February to voluntary manslaughter. He admitted to investigators that he hit his 35-year-old wife during an argument and she died after falling down a flight of stairs. Authorities believe Pernice put his wife's body in a trash bag. They say her body likely ended up in a two-acre landfill in Shawnee, Kansas. In January 2010, a Clay County judge awarded guardianship of the couple's two sons to Renee's mother.
Nebraska Supreme Court Rules that Kansas Woman Must Testify
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Nebraska Supreme Court says a Kansas woman can be sent to jail for refusing to testify against the Nebraska man she has accused of sexual assault. The woman had refused to testify, saying it would shame her and her family. But a Nebraska judge ordered her last year to take the stand or face 90 days in jail, saying her testimony was important to the case. The Associated Press does not name victims of sexual assault. The state's highest court upheld the judge's decision Friday, saying a state law that allows witnesses to decline to testify when they would be shamed or publicly disgraced doesn't apply in criminal cases. Lancaster County Attorney Joe Kelly says his office will speak with the woman before deciding how to proceed.
Body Tentatively Identified as Missing Kansas Man
LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. (AP) — Police say a burned body found behind a western Missouri home appears to be that of a man reported missing in northeastern Kansas. Lee's Summit police Sergeant Chris Depue said Thursday the body is tentatively identified as that of 27-year-old Christopher McQueen of Leawood, Kansas. The tenant of a rental home in Lee's Summit found the body Monday afternoon, one day after McQueen's family reported him missing. Depue says McQueen had gone to work the previous night but never came home. It's still not known how McQueen was killed and whether the body was burned at the site. Depue declined to say where McQueen worked, except that it was not in Lee's Summit or Leawood. Meanwhile, police are examining McQueen's vehicle, which was found in a parking lot in south Kansas City.
Kansas Gang Members Charged under RICO
DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — A federal grand jury has indicted 23 suspected gang members on racketeering charges in only the second case in which the federal racketeering law has been used against a Kansas gang. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says the indictment against the Norteno gang also charges four of the men with the June 2009 murder of Israel Peralta and attempted murder of at least three other men in Dodge City. The indictment was obtained by The Associated Press before its official release. Former U.S. Attorney Eric Melgren first used the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act to prosecute 28 members of the Crips gang in Wichita in 2007. Congress enacted RICO in 1970 to target the Mafia, and the law has been used in human trafficking and gang cases.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.
Kansas Legislature Facing Likelihood of Extended Session
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Legislature appears all but certain to miss Friday's deadline for completing the annual session in 90 days. The Kansas Constitution calls for 90-day sessions in even-numbered years, unless two-thirds of each chamber vote to extend the session. Legislative leaders conceded Thursday that with the state budget, redistricting and taxes still unresolved, the session will probably stretch through the weekend and into next week. The House and Senate both approved a resolution March 30 authorizing extra days. The resolution set April 25 as the start of the wrap-up session and June 1 as the final possible day to meet.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.