Analysis: Conservatives Ready to Cut Kansas Budget
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Conservative Republicans in Kansas are ready to squeeze state spending next year to close a budget shortfall that results from their push to cut taxes. The GOP right will control the Kansas Legislature. Last week's elections resulted in Republicans keeping majorities of 32-8 in the Senate and 92-33 in the House. And the Senate is far more conservative than it has been. Lawmakers and conservative Republican Governor Sam Brownback must tackle a projected $328 million gap between anticipated revenues and existing spending commitments for the fiscal year beginning in July 2013. The projected shortfall results from massive income taxes enacted this year to stimulate the economy. Brownback promises to protect core services, but neither he nor his allies deny that a shrinking of government is part of their design.
State Hasn't Paid Full Amount for Faulty System
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state still has not paid the final $2 million it owes to 3M Co. for a new motor vehicle system that created long delays after it was introduced in May. As of Friday, the last payment on the $25 million contract is six months overdue. Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan has said the state won't make the last payment until all the problems with the system are fixed. The revenue department says the program is no longer experiencing statewide problems that occurred during the summer. But spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda says some local issues have not been resolved. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the state sent a total of $560,000 to counties to help pay overtime costs incurred by employees when the system was introduced.
Prosecutors: KC Man Made Killing Look Like Suicide
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man has been charged with killing a woman to keep her from revealing that several people were sexually assaulting her. Twenty-three-year-old Micah Moore of Kansas City was charged Saturday with first-degree murder in the death of Bethany Deaton. The body of the 27-year-old woman was found October 30th in a van at a Kansas City-area lake. Authorities also discovered what appeared to be a suicide note and an empty pill bottle. Court documents say Moore confessed Friday to the killing. It's not clear if he has an attorney. Moore is charged only with murder, though the detective's statement said that Moore had admitted the sexual assaults to a pastor.
Kansas Sex Crime Convict in Secret Boy Scout Files
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man placed in the Boy Scouts' so-called "perversion files" in 1968 went on to sexually assault a 6-year-old in 1992. The next year, Gerald V. Ashworth raped a mentally disabled woman and fondled another disabled woman. The mother of the raped woman says she wonders now whether her daughter might have avoided becoming a victim if the file had been public. The Wichita Eagle isn't naming the mother to protect her daughter's identity. Ashworth used his access as a volunteer and Sunday school teacher to drive the woman's daughter from a church to a vacant home and rape her. Now 50, her daughter no longer goes to church and always travels with a trusted adult. The earliest the 74-year-old Ashworth could be released from prison is in 2014.
Kansas Man Guilty of 17 Counts in Girls' Rapes
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has been found guilty of raping two Kansas City, Kan., girls whose mother brought them to a motel to have sex with him. The Wichita Eagle reports 49-year-old James Lamont Brown is facing a mandatory sentence of life without parole because of his extensive criminal record. Brown was charged with 10 counts each of rape and aggravated human trafficking for having sex with the girls at a Wichita hotel in 2010 and 2011. He was convicted Friday on 17 of those counts. The girls' mother pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated human trafficking. She testified that she sat on a motel bed and watched Brown have sex with her daughters on at least five occasions. Brown denied ever meeting the girls.
Wichita Advocates to Fight Fluoride Nationally
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Advocates who led the successful fight against adding fluoride to Wichita's water say they plan to take their campaign across the country. In Tuesday's election, 60 percent of the voters opposed fluoridation in Wichita, while 40 percent voted for it. The Wichita Eagle reports that three-fourths of municipalities in the United States fluoridate their water supplies. But Mark Gietzen, president of the Kansas Republican Assembly, says plans are being made to expand the fight against fluoridation. He says one effort might be promoting a state recommendation against fluoridation while still allowing communities to decide the issue locally. Gietzen says he also wants to make fluoride one of the top issues for the National Republican Assembly.
Stranded Motorist Dies in Southwest Kansas Crash
SUBLETTE, Kan. (AP) — A stranded motorist has been killed in southwest Kansas after a driver headed to the scene to help crashed into the disabled vehicle. The Kansas Highway Patrol has identified the victim as 24-year-old Nicholas Eugene Chaffin of Sublette. The accident happened around 2am Sunday about five miles northwest of Sublette in Haskell County. The patrol says Chaffin's 1973 vehicle was "broken down and blacked out" in the middle of the road. The pickup truck driver who was trying to help was taken to a hospital with a possible injury.
Southeast Kansas Town Gone Broke After Embezzlement
The southeast Kansas town of Thayer has gone broke and is now pinching pennies. According to the Lawrence Journal-World, former city clerk Laura Whittley embezzled at least $120,000 from the city's bank account, leaving the town unable to fill potholes, perform maintainance, or even replace the city clerk's position. Whittley was sentenced to one year and one day in jail and has promised to pay back the money.
Hays Moves Ahead with Storm-Shelter Classrooms
HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Hays education officials are moving ahead with plans for a middle-school addition that can also serve as a storm shelter. Deputy superintendent Richard Cain told The Hays Daily News that construction on the eight classrooms at Hays Middle School could begin in April. Cain says the district received an extension of the September 16 deadline to submit plans to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Those plans are expected to be submitted soon. The Hays USD 489 Board of Education voted in February to accept a FEMA grant to help pay for the project. The addition will be built to FEMA specifications and can serve as a storm shelter. The project is expected to cost about $2.7 million, with the district paying about $1.4 million.
Buffalo Demand Could Help Prices at Kansas Auction
CANTON, Kan. (AP) — Kansas wildlife officials are auctioning off surplus buffalo from a herd at a refuge in south-central Kansas. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism says the buffalo auction is planned for Wednesday at the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge in Canton. The department's website says that nearly 100 buffalo from the department's display herd at the refuge will be sold. The annual auction typically attracts spectators and buyers from all over the country. The department says prices paid for the iconic animals range from several hundred dollars to several thousand, depending on market demand and the animal. The auction will include 25 adult cows and 22 bull calves. The refuge corrals are located in the Canton area, about 30 miles northwest of Wichita.
Kansas Surveys Districts about Cursive Handwriting
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Education is asking school districts how extensively they're teaching cursive handwriting. Results of a survey will be presented to the state Board of Education at a meeting this week in Topeka. Schools around the country are spending less time on handwriting instruction as students do more of their work on computers. Experts say students accustomed to writing on computers at home have a hard time seeing the relevance of spending hours practicing handwriting. But the National Association of State Boards of Education wrote in a September policy update that there are benefits. The association says handwriting is a basic skill that can help students in reading, writing, language use and critical thinking.
Judy's Garland's "Oz Dress" Fetches $480K in Auction
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — The now-faded blue gingham dress Judy Garland wore in "The Wizard of Oz" has sold for $480,000. Auction house Julien's Auctions says the pinafore fetched the highest price of any item during a two-day auction of Hollywood memorabilia that attracted bids from around the world. The auction ended Saturday in Beverly Hills, California. Steve McQueen's racing jacket sold for $50,000, as did a purple skirt worn by Marilyn Monroe while filming "River of No Return" in Canada. Julie Andrews' "Sound of Music dress" brought $38,400. Sunglasses worn by Jean Reno in "Leon" went for $8,320, while Johnny Depp's shades fetched $3,250. Bidders also snapped up pieces of royal wedding cakes. Prince William and Kate Middleton's cake sold for $7,500 while Prince Charles and Princess Diana's cake sold for $1,375.
Governor Hunts Pheasants in NW Kansas
OAKLEY, Kan. (AP) — Dozens of hunters will join Governor Sam Brownback in Oakley this week for a four-day event that spotlights pheasant hunting in northwestern Kansas. The 2nd annual Governor's Ringneck Classic will benefit four nonprofit organizations.
Topeka District's Energy Education Park Progresses
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Topeka school district is transforming a former milk barn into a center that will include exhibits on electricity and renewable energy. Located on the former grounds of the Topeka State Hospital, the center will be a key feature of the Kanza Education and Science Park. To the west of the barn is a 160-foot, 100-kilowatt wind turbine. To the east of it are mounds of dirt and construction machinery, where Westar Energy is building a new substation. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that once the learning center and substation are finished, students visiting the park will be able to learn about the electricity generated by the turbine. They can view the solar panels on the barn's roof. They also will learn how substations work and how cables transport electricity.
Wichita Dedicates New Operation Freedom Memorial
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Supporters of Wichita's newest veteran's memorial took an important step toward their goal of opening the memorial by Veterans Day next year. On Sunday, the site of the Operation Freedom Memorial was dedicated in Veterans Memorial Park in Wichita. The memorial will include a sculpture in the center of a 25-foot diameter circle. It will be surrounded by three 8-foot black granite walls, which will carry the names of the nearly 100 Kansans killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, Operation Freedom Foundation still needs thousands of dollars before the monument can be built. Anita Dixon began working to create the memorial after her son, Sgt. Evan Parker, died in Iraq in 2005. She says it's important that all Kansans in the service be recognized.
Kansas Supreme Court to Hear Kline's Ethics Case
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court will hear arguments Thursday in the ethics case against former Attorney General Phill Kline. A state board has recommended Kline lose his law license in Kansas because of his actions during an investigation into abortion providers. Kline has strongly denied any ethics violations. Lawyers for Kline and for the disciplinary administrator's office will argue Thursday over whether Kline should be disbarred. Supreme Court spokesman Ron Keefover says it's not clear when the court might rule. The case is being heard by five judges not usually on the court, after five Supreme Court justices recused themselves from the hearing. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Kline's law license in Kansas is still active, although he now teaches at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.