UPDATE: Attorneys Make Opening Statements in Kansas School Funding Lawsuit
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An attorney representing the state of Kansas says legislators did the best they could to maintain education funding while faced with a struggling state economy in recent years. Arthur Chalmers is a Wichita attorney hired by the state in the latest school finance litigation. During opening statements Monday, he told a three-judge panel in Shawnee County District Court that school funding wasn't arbitrarily targeted from 2009 through 2011. Instead, Chalmers said legislators took steps to maintain education funding. And he noted districts also had local and federal funding sources available. Alan Rupe, an attorney for students and school districts, argued earlier Monday that the spending cuts contribute to lingering achievement gaps. The trial is scheduled to last three weeks. Any decision is expected to be appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court.
2 Kansas Congressional Republicans Seek Re-Election
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas Republicans Tim Huelskamp and Lynn Jenkins have filed for re-election to Congress even though the lines of their districts aren't settled. Each U.S. House member's campaign paid a $1,760 fee and filed paperwork Monday in the Kansas secretary of state's office to guarantee the incumbent's spot on the August 7 primary election ballot. Huelskamp represents the 1st District of western and central Kansas and is seeking his second term. Jenkins is seeking a third term in the 2nd District of eastern Kansas. The lines defining the boundaries of their respective districts are unsettled because the Legislature failed this year to adjust the state's political boundaries to account for shifts in population. The job has been left to three federal judges handing a federal lawsuit over redistricting.
UPDATE: Judges Chosen to Hear Ethics Case Against Former Attorney General
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas Court of Appeals judges and three district court judges have been appointed to hear a disciplinary case against former Attorney General Phill Kline. The judges appointed Monday will sit with two state Supreme Court justices to review the case. The high court's five other justices removed themselves last month, citing their previous knowledge of the allegations. A complaint accuses Kline and former subordinates of misleading other officials to further investigations of abortion providers. Kline strongly disputes the allegations.Supreme Court Justice Dan Biles, one of the two remaining to hear the case, named the replacements. They are Court of Appeals Judges Karen Arnold-Burger and Henry W. Green Jr. and District Judges Edward Bouker of Ellis County, Bruce Gatterman, of Pawnee County, and Michael Malone, of Douglas County.
Kansas Lawmaker Released from Subpoena on Meetings
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House member has been released from a subpoena issued by a district attorney investigating private meetings of lawmakers with Governor Sam Brownback. Olathe Republican Scott Schwab says he was released Monday after signing a statement saying he didn't attend a private dinner in January at Cedar Crest, the governor's residence. A spokesman for Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor confirmed that Schwab no longer faces the subpoena. Taylor, a Democrat, is investigating seven private meetings the Republican governor had with lawmakers. Brownback invited more than 90 lawmakers, all but one a Republican, grouping them by their memberships on 13 committees. Brownback has said he's confident the gatherings did not violate the Kansas Open Meetings Act. Schwab said he's still upset about being subpoenaed.
Blue-Green Algae Advisory Issued for Overland Park Lake
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials have issued an advisory about blue-green algae at a Johnson County lake. WDAF-TV reports that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has posted advisory signs at South Lake Park in Overland Park warning people about the dangers of the algae. The department says people and pets should not drink the water at the lake. Ingesting the infected water can cause diarrhea, vomiting and animals can die from drinking too much water affected by the blooms. Blooms of blue-green algae sickened more than a dozen people in Kansas last year and killed at least five dogs.
Hundreds Honor Return of Fallen Kansas Soldier
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Hundreds of people lined a Johnson County highway to pay tribute to a soldier who was killed in Afghanistan last month. Twenty-three-year-old Private first class Cale Miller died May 24 when he was trapped inside a vehicle when it was hit by a roadside bomb. Miller's body arrived at New Century AirCenter in Gardner in a procession that included family members, the Patriot Guard, military officials, Olathe police and fire departments and elected officials. The funeral for the 2007 Olathe Northwest graduate is scheduled for Wednesday. Governor Sam Brownback has ordered that flags across Kansas fly at half-staff on that day. Miller deployed with the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.
Shawnee County Couple's Deaths Likely a Murder-Suicide
TECUMSEH, Kan. (AP) — Shawnee County authorities say the death of a Tecumseh couple last week likely was a murder-suicide. The county sheriff's office says in a news release that an investigation indicated 57-year-old Andrew Jackson Jr. killed his estranged wife, 52-year-old Carolyn R. Jackson, and then killed himself. Their bodies were found in their home last Tuesday. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the couple was separated and going through a divorce. They had been married 30 years and had three adult children. The sheriff is waiting for reports from the county coroner before making a final ruling.
Lawrence to Consider Installation of Downtown Surveillance Cameras
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Law enforcement officials want to install police-controlled surveillance cameras in downtown Lawrence. City commissioners will consider Tuesday whether to allow Lawrence police and the Douglas County Sheriff to use $46,800 in grants to buy two surveillance cameras for downtown. Lawrence police chief Tarik Khatib says video systems help enhance public safety. He says temporary cameras proved valuable during the spring celebration of the Kansas Jayhawks' run through the Final Four, and they would help during parades or if a child was missing downtown. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the application for grant money from the U.S. Justice Department says the cameras also would be used to gather evidence of criminal activity. Khatib says he hopes the cameras would be installed within a year.
Filing: Woman Claims Letter to Abortion Doctor Was 'Divinely Inspired'
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas abortion opponent accused of sending a threatening letter to a Wichita doctor is claiming that her message was "divinely inspired." Angel Dillard made the assertion in a recent filing in federal court. The Valley Center woman is being sued by the U.S. Justice Department under a law aimed at protecting access to abortion services. Authorities say Dillard wrote to Dr. Mila Means last year warning her to check daily under her car because someone might place an explosive there. At the time, Means was training to offer abortions in Wichita. Dillard contends the lawsuit violates her freedom of speech and religion. She has filed a counterclaim. No abortions have been openly performed in Wichita since Dr. George Tiller was killed by an abortion opponent in 2009.
Federal Charges Filed Against Canadian Man Who Picked Up KS Girl
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- Federal prosecutors have filed charges against a Canadian man found in Michigan last week with a 12-year-old Kansas girl he met on the Internet. The U.S. Attorney's office says 20-year-old Stewart Kenneth Cody McGill, of Bewdley, Ontario, was charged Monday with transporting a minor out of state for the purpose of having sex. Authorities say McGill traveled to the Kansas town of El Dorado to meet the girl. Her parents reported her missing Thursday afternoon. The man and the girl were found Friday near Potterville, Michigan. The girl told authorities that she went with McGill willingly. According to court documents, McGill told police he met the girl online playing "World of Warcraft" and he loved her. Kansas prosecutors did not have information Monday on a lawyer for McGill. He remained held in Michigan.
Report: 20% of Kansas Wheat Now Harvested
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service is reporting that 20 percent of the state's winter wheat crop had been harvested as of Sunday. The agency said Monday that southeast Kansas is farthest along, with half of its wheat now in the bin. Farmers in south-central Kansas have cut 44 percent of their crop. About 62 percent of the wheat crop has now matured, compared with an average of only 2 percent at this point in the season. Just 4 percent of the wheat has not yet turned color. The new report says 24 percent of the wheat is rated poor to very poor. About 36 percent is rated fair, with 32 percent rated good and 8 percent excellent.
Kansas Man Charged in Fatal Hit-and-Run Accident
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas motorist has been charged in the hit-and-run death of a pedestrian in Kansas City, Missouri. The Jackson County (MO) prosecutor's office says 33-year-old Aldo Rivera-Campillo of Overland Park is charged with involuntary manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident. The victim is identified as 51-year-old Stephen Reedy, whose body in a Kansas City street about 3 am Saturday. A witness saw the damage to Rivera-Campillo's car and told him to pull over. Police said they found him in the driver's seat smelling heavily of alcohol. Police say Rivera-Campillo told investigators he had been drinking and later thought he hit something in the road. No lawyer was listed Monday for Rivera-Campillo in electronic court records, and no phone number in that name could be found.
Google Camera Car Prowling Hutchinson
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Google Street View cars have been seen moving around Kansas this week taking photos. The Hutchinson News reports that cars in Google's Street View fleet have 15 lenses taking 360 degrees of photos. Motion sensors track the camera's position, a hard drive stores the data, a small computer runs the system and lasers capture 3D data to determine distances within Street View imagery. Google's cars have been mapping Reno, Harvey, Sedgwick and Wyandotte counties recently. The cars started driving in the southern states and move north as it gets warmer. When data goes back to Google, signals from several sensors in the car, like GPS, determine the car's exact locations. When the signal is blocked by a tall building, data from other sensors help to fill in the gaps.
Sedgwick County Considers Closing Facility for Young Offenders
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County officials have been considering closing a facility for juvenile offenders in order to address budget problems. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Sedgwick County Commission has been weighing the possibility of closing the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch to help deal with the county's $9.5 million deficit. Commissioner Dave Unruh says closing the facility gets the county closer to meeting its budget goals. Closing the ranch would save the county between $1 million and $2 million a year. The county's 2012 budget was $412 million. The 51-year-old facility is considered a model program for helping prevent seriously troubled juveniles not committing more crimes. A judge who oversees the court's juvenile department said that closing the Boys Ranch would be a "huge loss."
Dedication Event for New Public Restroom Lures Hundreds to Lucas
LUCAS, Kan. (AP) — Hundreds of people gathered this past weekend in the central Kansas town of Lucas to take part in the grand opening of the town's quirky new public restroom. Organizers said the Bowl Plaza Grand Opening was the culmination of a four-year dream to build a downtown restroom in Lucas. But Bowl Plaza, built with the help of a grant from the state Department of Commerce, never was intended to be a typical restroom. The rectangular men's and women's building is shaped like a toilet tank, and the oval-painted entrance resembles an upraised toilet seat lid. The Salina Journal reports that the walkway to and from the restrooms is shaped like an unfurling toilet paper roll. The daylong event Saturday included a toilet seat toss and Tubular Olympics with empty toilet paper rolls.
Report: Smoking Rate Increases Among Pregnant Women in Douglas County
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A new report shows there's been an increase in the number of Douglas County residents who report smoking during their pregnancies. The 38-page Community Health Assessment report shows that 13 percent of the county's live births in 2010 were to women who smoked during pregnancy. The Lawrence Journal World reports that's up from 2006 when 11 percent reported smoking. It's also higher than the national average of 10 percent. The health department says it has stepped up its efforts to help curb the problem by educating and training its nurses, employees, case workers and other staff on how to more effectively influence their clients to quit smoking. The department says smoking during pregnancy can lead to such things as miscarriage, premature births and birth defects.
Website Offers Diabetes Forums, Discussion for Native Americans
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Two Native American professors have launched a website designed to help other Native Americans deal with Type 2 diabetes. The website, WellboundStorytellers.com, was launched two weeks ago by Rhonda LeValdo. She's a media instructor at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence. Teresa Trumbly Lamsam is also participating in the site. She's a visiting professor at the University of Kansas. Soon after it launched, Native Americans around the country were sharing personal stories about their health troubles and successes. Shortly thereafter, bloggers were accepted to the site. The Kansas City Star reports that on virtually every health measure, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders rank at or next to the bottom among all races. Lamsam and LeValdo say Type 2 diabetes is especially devastating, and both have several relatives who have died from the disease.
Hutchinson Man Hopes to Educate Others about Lyme Disease
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Hutchinson man who's suffering from Lyme Disease wants to raise awareness about the tick-borne illness in Kansas. Andy Green was bitten by a tick in 2009 while in Arkansas. The bite developed into a red circular rash, which he assumed it was a spider bite. But Green had actually been bitten by a tick carrying the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease. The bite has left him in constant pain, disabled, and unable to work. And Green and his family say finding doctors well-versed in Lyme has been a challenge. The Hutchinson News reports that Kansas health officials say there have been two confirmed cases of Lyme Disease in Kansas this year. The three-year median in Kansas from 2007 to 2009 was 16 cases.
Nebraska Resources District Purchases River Water Rights
CURTIS, Neb. (AP) — The Middle Republican Natural Resources District has purchased surface water rights for 672 acres. The purchase is intended to help Nebraska stay in compliance with a three-state compact that governs use of the Republican River. The NRD says the rights acquired from Riverside Irrigation Company will free up 2,400 acre feet of surface water that will now flow downstream. The project was funded through the NRD's occupation tax and the federal Agricultural Water Enhancement Program. The price was not disclosed. Use of the Republican River's water is governed by a 1943 compact between Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. Colorado was given 11 percent of the water, while Nebraska was allotted 49 percent and Kansas 40 percent. There is a long-standing dispute between Kansas and Nebraska over whether Nebraska has used more than its share.
Recovery Continues for Farms Damaged in 2011 Missouri RIver Flooding
MISSOURI VALLEY, Iowa (AP) — Hundreds of farmers in Iowa and Nebraska are still struggling to remove sand and fill holes gouged by the Missouri River, which swelled last summer with rain and snowmelt and overflowed onto thousands of acres of farmland. While the river flooded parts of Montana, the Dakotas, Kansas and Missouri, the worst damage was in Iowa and Nebraska. Iowa farmer Mason Hansen has been working for months to clear his property, but about 160 acres still look like a desert, with sand piled up to 4 feet high. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved more than $20 million in disaster aid to help Iowa and Nebraska farmers with the cost of moving sand, grading land and filling holes. But most farmers say that will cover only part of their costs.
'Biking for Baseball' Group to Bring Mentoring Message to Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Adam Kremers, Chase Higgins and a few of their friends are living a dream this summer. The group of guys is riding their bikes to every major league ballpark, catching a game at each in the process, and raising awareness for youth mentorship programs along the way. That's 11,000 miles, 30 ballparks and one memorable summer. They've called their organization "Biking for Baseball," and have knocked out the first 10 stadiums in the western half of the country. They were in Houston on Sunday and are currently on their way to Florida for games in Tampa and Miami. One of the leaders of the group, Adam Kremers, summarized it like this: "Biking for Baseball, this idea is combining everything I love." The group expects to be in Kansas City for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game on July 10, with a special mentoring-awareness event scheduled for Wednesday, July 11. They plan to attend the Friday, July 13 game between the Kansas City Royals and the Chicago White Sox before moving on to Minnesota on the next leg of their journey.
Big Cactus Drawing Tourists to Small Kansas Town
CHASE, Kan. (AP) _ A cactus that has grown to 37 feet is drawing a lot of attention to a small Kansas town. The cactus, called an American aloe, is expected to bloom any day now for the first time since Ed Ward gave it to his wife in 1976. The Wards live in Chase, a Rice County town about 90 miles northwest of Wichita. In mid-March, the Wards noticed the stem had begun growing about a foot a day. It also has buds the size of small bananas. Ed Farley estimates about 3,000 people have stopped to take pictures of the plant since it was featured a few months ago on a national television show. The Wichita Eagle reports that some people say the plant dies after it blooms, but others disagree.
Kansas School Funding Lawsuit Begins
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A legal challenge filed against the state of Kansas over the funding of public schools has reached Shawnee County District Court. Attorneys are scheduled to present opening arguments Monday before a three-judge panel. The trial is scheduled to last as long as three weeks. The lawsuit was filed in 2010 by attorneys representing 54 school districts claiming the state is reneging on its promise to maintain suitable levels of funding for education. It is the second time this decade that the Kansas school finance formula has been under judicial scrutiny. The last dispute resulted in legislators increasing school spending by nearly $1 billion. The state contends that current funding levels are constitutional and that it is the Legislature's decision to set funding levels based on available state revenues.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.
Opening Statement for Plaintiffs Delivered as Kansas School Finance Trial Opens
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An attorney representing students, parents and school districts say cuts in Kansas education funding are making it harder for schools to educate all students and close achievement gaps. Alan Rupe, a Wichita attorney, is representing 32 students and 54 school districts in what is expected to be a three-week trial challenging the state's funding of public schools. In opening remarks today (MON) in Shawnee County District Court, Rupe took an hour to explain the history of Kansas school finance litigation. He also discussed the more recent history of how cuts in education spending have impacted school districts and student achievement. An attorney for the state was scheduled to give opening remarks later today (MON).
**this story has been updated. Please see above.
Kline Attorneys Seek Yet Another Judge's Recusal in Disciplinary Case
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Lawyers for former Attorney General Phill Kline have requested that one of two remaining Kansas Supreme Court justices recuse himself from hearing Kline's disciplinary case. The ethics violation allegations stem from an investigation of abortion providers that Kline began when he was attorney general from 2003 to 2007. The state Board for Discipline of Attorneys said Kline misled officials or allowed subordinates to mislead others. Kline has disputed the allegations. Five of the seven justices recused themselves May 18th from the Kline case. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Sunday that Kline's lawyers filed the "Suggestion for Recusal of Justice Dan Biles" on May 30th. The filing said in part that Biles and Kline clashed over education financing. Court spokesman Ron Keefover said as of Friday, Biles hadn't recused himself from the case.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.