Kansas Lawmakers Eye Frenetic End to 2012 Session
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislative leaders are expecting several busy and contentious days, if not weeks, as lawmakers prepare for the final segment of the 2012 session. The House and Senate return Wednesday from a three-week break with several major issues to resolve, including work on next year's budget and redrawing the state's political boundaries. The new districts must be completed by May 10 to avoid delays in the June candidate filing deadline and August primary. Democratic and Republican leaders said Tuesday the redistricting work has become highly partisan. House and Senate negotiators are expected to resume talks on proposals to reduce the state income tax for individuals and eliminate the tax for nearly 200,000 businesses. Republican Governor Sam Brownback remains committed to seeing tax cuts passed this session.
Kansas Jail Escapee Charged with Carjacking
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — One of the four men who escaped from a north-central Kansas jail last week now faces a charge of carjacking. The U.S. Attorney's office says a federal grand jury indicted 22-year-old Eric James on the charge Tuesday. The indictment accuses James of assaulting a driver and stealing a 2002 Nissan Altima on April 18 in the Ottawa County town of Minneapolis. The carjacking occurred after James and three other men broke out of the Ottawa County jail, where they had been transferred from an overcrowded state prison. James was arrested two days later in Omaha, after officers in that city spotted the gold Nissan. James was the last of the escapees to be captured. He was serving a sentence for aggravated robbery, burglary and other crimes in southeastern Kansas.
Panel Taking Nominations for Northeast Kansas Court Vacancy
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A commission in northeast Kansas is taking nominations until May 24 for a seat on the state trial court that sits in Topeka. The new judge will replace Judge Charles Andrews, who retired from the Shawnee County District Court at the end of March. Nominations will be screened by a seven-member commission headed by Kansas Supreme Court Justice Marla Luckert. Attorneys can nominate themselves, or people can suggest candidates. Under state law, the potential judge must be at least 30 years old, live in Shawnee County and have actively practiced law for at least five years. The commission plans to meet June 11 to interview candidates. The panel will forward two or three names to Governor Sam Brownback, who will make the appointment.
Kansas Travel Trade Group Backs Immigrant Worker Plan
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The trade group for travel and tourism businesses in Kansas has joined an effort to start a state program to place some illegal immigrants in hard-to-fill jobs. The Travel Industry Association of Kansas says it joined a coalition pushing state legislators to create such a program because it wants to address worker shortages in some industries. The coalition includes the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and agriculture groups. The travel association also says it wants to prevent harm to the tourism industry that might occur if legislators enact tough laws aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration. Legislators reconvene Wednesday to wrap up business for the year, but they've so far shown little interest in tackling immigration issues. Some critics consider the business coalition's plan amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Lawrence Police Investigating 2 Attacks on KU Campus
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Police say two female students have reported being attacked on the University of Kansas campus in the last week. One student said a man threw her to the ground last week as she walked outside Strong Hall. She was able to kick the man and get away. She described her attacker as a black man between 40 to 50 years old, average height and weight, black hair with graying tips and wearing a brown jacket. Early Saturday, another female student said she was briefly molested by a white man as she was walking outside Haworth Hall. She described the suspect as college-aged, between 6-foot and 6-foot-3, thin build, dark eyes and dark brown hair. He was wearing a green Ralph Lauren polo shirt and cargo shorts.
Cerner Corporation Breaks Ground on New Kansas Office Complex
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Medical computer systems developer Cerner Corp. has broken ground on a complex in Kansas City, Kansas, with offices for 4,000 employees. Governor Sam Brownback took part in Tuesday's groundbreaking near Kansas Speedway. Cerner is headquartered in North Kansas City, Missouri, and has a second campus in Kansas City, Missouri. In Kansas, Cerner is building a $190 million complex with 660,000 square feet of space. The company expects to open the complex next year and have 2,000 workers there by the end of 2014, most of them new employees, with the number doubling within 10 years. Kansas lured the project with a $230 million package of incentives that also allowed construction of a new stadium for Major League Soccer team Sporting Kansas City. Two of the team's owners are Cerner executives.
U.S. Senate Seeks to Slow Closing of Rural Post Offices
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has moved to impose new restrictions on the closing of rural post offices. Under the measure, the ailing U.S. Postal Service would be barred from closing post offices for one year if they are located in rural areas — those with fewer than 50,000 people. The exception would be if there was no community opposition. The measure was among revisions to a bill aimed at stabilizing the Postal Service. The main bill would provide a short-term cash infusion while delaying decisions on thousands of post office closings and ending Saturday mail delivery. A final vote is expected Wednesday. The mail agency says it needs to begin closings this year as part of a billion-dollar cost-cutting effort. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe previously agreed to delay closings until May 15.
Baldwin School Wins National Aerospace Competition
BALDWIN, Kan. (AP) — Baldwin High School is celebrating its second national title in an aerospace technology competition. A team from the northeast Kansas school on Saturday won the national finals of the Real World Design Challenge in Washington D.C. The competition is sponsored by federal agencies, private aerospace companies and governments of participating states. The Lawrence Journal-World reports teams in the competition were required to digitally design tail sections and wings for a light-aviation aircraft. Teams then had to demonstrate their designs could fly from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina to Dayton, Ohio. Pam Davis is team coach. Baldwin competed in the final round against teams from Nevada and Pennsylvania. The three teams made the finals after competing Saturday morning with 28 other teams. Baldwin also won the national championship in 2010.
3 Kansas Schools Win 'Green' Designation
WASHINGTON (AP) — Three schools in Kansas have been awarded "green ribbon" honors from the U.S. Department of Education. The department said in a release Monday that the schools are Eisenhower High in Goddard, Erie High in Erie and Brookwood Elementary in Leawood. The federal agency began the Green Ribbon Schools program last year. It honors schools that use a comprehensive approach to sustainability by cutting utility costs and providing healthy learning environments. The Kansas schools given the one-year designation were among 78 honored nationwide.
NE Kansas Man to Be Tried on Child Sex Charge
ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — A 73-year-old northeast Kansas man will go to trial on a charge of aggravated indecent liberties with a 9-year-old girl. KNZA-FM reports Norman Longbrake pleaded not guilty Monday in Atchison County District Court. The Atchison resident remains jailed on $200,000 bond. Longbrake was arrested by Atchison police in February. He's accused of engaging in unlawful sexual conduct with the girl the previous month. Conviction on the charge would bring a mandatory life sentence under a statute known as Jessica's Law, because the girl in this case was less than 14 years old.
SBA Now Taking Applications for April Storm Recovery Loans
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Small Business Administration is now taking applications for low-interest federal loans to Kansas residents and business owners affected by recent storms. SBA representatives will also be available Tuesday to answer questions about the program. The disaster declaration makes the loans available to homeowners, renters, businesses and nonprofit groups whose property was damaged or destroyed by the April 14 storms. The SBA loans are available in Sedgwick, Butler, Cowley, Harvey, Kingman, Reno and Sumner counties. Cleanup efforts have now entered their second week. The Wichita Eagle reports The American Red Cross, Midway-Kansas Chapter has closed its shelter and site that offered meals. However, The Salvation Army still has a mobile truck providing sandwiches, water and snacks for volunteers in affected neighborhoods.
Hall Family Foundation Makes $790K Donation to KU
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas has received a $790,000 gift from the Hall Family Foundation. The KU Endowment said in a release Tuesday that $430,000 will go toward renovating the university's Hall Center for the Humanities. Another $360,000 will go toward meeting a matching challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Victor Bailey, Hall Center director, said renovations will include creating a new seminar room and two office spaces. The NEH challenge grant of $425,000 requires $1.275 million in matching gifts by July 31, 2015. The grant will underwrite two new programs at the Hall Center. The Hall Family Foundation was started by the founder of Kansas City-based Hallmark Cards. KU Endowment is an independent organization that serves as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for the university.
Annual Miller Moth Migration Strikes Western Kansas
HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Western Kansans are enduring the annual migration of miller moths, which overtake homes and crops as they head toward Colorado. Known as millers, the creatures are actually army cutworm moths. They migrate across Kansas every spring. The Hays Daily News reports the insects can be found in every nook and cranny during the migration. Western Kansans know that they can swat them or catch them in soapy water. But mostly the residents have to wait out the migration, which takes a few weeks. Ellis County Extension Agent Stacy Campbell says the moths like to feed on alfalfa and wheat. She says she has not received any reports of the insects damaging the young wheat crop.
Judge Hears Arguments on Trying Child Sex Case
WINFIELD, Kan. (AP) — A south-central Kansas man accused of sexually abusing several children is asking a judge to throw some of the charges out. KAKE-TV reports Jerry Mills, of Arkansas City, had a preliminary hearing Tuesday in Cowley County District Court. Judge Jim Pringle must decide whether to order Mills to go to trial. Prosecutors offered graphic testimony to demonstrate they have sufficient evidence. But lawyers for Mills argue some of the charges fall outside the five-year statute of limitations because the allegations date back longer than that. Mills was charged after several people — some of them now adults — told authorities last year of being abused for years as children. Tuesday's hearing was closed to the public to prevent a potential jury pool from being tainted.
Garden City Officials Pleased with New Air Service
GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Garden City officials say early response to a new air service makes them hopeful the service will prosper. The aviation director at the Garden City Regional Airport says American Eagle flights from Garden City to Dallas were at maximum capacity last weekend. The American Eagle regional jet service to and from Dallas began on April 3. It replaced daily flights to and from Denver, which were operated by Great Lakes Aviation. The Garden City Telegram reports monthly passenger counts in April won't be available until mid-May. Brett Hooyerink, a senior manager with American Airlines, says the airline is elated with the early full planes. But he says advance bookings have gotten off to a slow start, so the airline feels it has more work to do to attract passengers.
Kobach Says Status with Romney Camp Hasn't Changed
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says he remains an informal adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Kobach told reporters Monday that his status with the Romney campaign is the same as it has been for months. He was addressing speculation that his role is changing as Romney, the expected GOP nominee, prepares for the general election campaign. Kobach's ties to Romney are drawing national attention because Kobach is a strong advocate of state and local laws aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration. Kobach helped draft tough laws in Alabama and Arizona. And Kobach confirmed in February that he was an unpaid adviser to Romney's campaign. Kobach said Monday that he emails close Romney aides from time to time to offer his views on immigration issues.
Kansas Chief Justice Postpones Court Furloughs
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss is postponing two of the remaining four days of court employee furloughs based on assurances from lawmakers that they will approve a funding request. The furloughs were scheduled for alternate Fridays. The first one occurred April 13 and closed courts throughout Kansas. Nuss said Monday he'll postpone the furloughs scheduled for April 27 and May 11, based on discussions last week by the House Appropriations Committee. Those planned for May 25 and June 8 remained unchanged. Nuss ordered the furloughs after legislators failed to approve $1.4 million in supplemental funding to keep the courts operating through June 30. He says if the funding doesn't come through, he'll reschedule the postponed furloughs for later dates.
National Governors Association Regional Economic Summit Targets Federal Government, Regulations
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Republican governors of Nebraska, Iowa and Michigan say the federal government cramps the states' ability to create new jobs and stimulate regional economies. Nebraska's Dave Heineman, Iowa's Terry Branstad and Michigan's Rick Snyder met Tuesday in Omaha with representatives of eight other states at the beginning of a two-day summit of the National Governors Association on regional economic development. The governors and representatives of Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and West Virginia are sharing best practices for creating jobs in their states. Heineman, who leads the association, held a news conference with Branstad and Snyder. The three say higher taxes, more stringent regulations proposed on businesses and the Obama administration's health care overhaul are hurting business growth in their states.
Kansas City Chiefs Look to Fill Holes Along Line in NFL Draft
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs head into the NFL draft this week in an enviable position. General manager Scott Pioli believes he's filled most of the pressing needs on the roster — left tackle Eric Winston, running back Peyton Hillis, tight end Kevin Boss and cornerback Stanford Routt have all signed in free agency. That means Pioli has a bit more flexibility when the Chiefs go on the clock Thursday night. They have the number 11 pick and are expected to go after help at middle linebacker or along the offensive and defensive lines. But with all those major holes already filled, Pioli also has the flexibility to pick a quarterback or some other position if the right opportunity presents itself.
Big 12 Coaches Using Spring to Fix Issues
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Nearly every coach in the Big 12 and beyond will swear that spring practice shows just how far away their team is from playing a real game. For some, like new University of Kansas coach Charlie Weis, it's far from hyperbole. Weis took over in the offseason after the Jayhawks fell to 2-10 under departed coach Turner Gill, and it didn't take long for him to see why. The Jayhawks have issues on both sides of the ball — including the nation's worst defense at nearly 44 points allowed per game in 2011 — and Weis took spring ball as an opportunity to start fixing what's wrong. Many of Weis's new colleagues have used the spring to settle on new quarterbacks. Baylor, Iowa State and Oklahoma State are among the Big 12 schools searching for signal callers.
2 KU Football Players Dismissed for Violating Rules
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Sophomore linebacker Collin Garrett and freshman cornerback Chris Robinson have been dismissed from the University of Kansas football team for violating team rules. New coach Charlie Weis announced the dismissals Monday. He did not elaborate on what caused the players to be kicked off the team. Garrett played in six games as a freshman last season, making four tackles against Oklahoma and one tackle each in games against Kansas State, Baylor and Missouri. Robinson spent the season as a redshirt.
Wichita Tornado Cleanup Enters New Phase
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Relief groups that responded to the April 14 tornado in southwestern Wichita are adjusting their efforts as the recovery enters a new phase. The United Way says the need for volunteers is declining as debris from damaged and destroyed homes is moved to curbsides. The agency says roads need to remain clear to accommodate heavy trucks collecting the debris. The American Red Cross said Monday it closed its shelter in Derby after everyone staying there was placed in other housing. The Red Cross ended its feeding service Sunday after dishing out more than 12,000 meals and snacks. But Red Cross volunteers are continuing to work in Wichita. And the Salvation Army is sending more volunteers from Kansas City to Wichita, where it still has a mobile kitchen serving survivors and cleanup crews.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.
Kansas Lawmakers Prepare to Resume 2012 Session
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers resume the 2012 session Wednesday facing major unresolved issues, including passage of a state budget and redrawing the state's political boundaries. Legislators have spent the last three weeks on their traditional spring recess. House and Senate budget committees met during the break to work on the estimated $14 billion budget for the next fiscal year. The committees received word during the recess that state revenue over the next two years is expected to top earlier estimates by $252 million. House and Senate negotiators are expected to resume talks on proposals to reduce the state income tax for individuals and eliminate the tax for nearly 200,000 businesses. Lawmakers must also redraw the boundaries of the 125 state House districts, 40 Senate districts and four U.S. House districts.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.