Headlines for Thursday, January 29, 2015
Happy Kansas Day!
GOP Leaders See Need to Fix Kansas Budget by Mid-February
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Governor Sam Brownback's budget director and top Republicans agree that Kansas needs to balance its current budget by mid-February to ensure that the state can keep paying all of its bills on time. Budget Director Shawn Sullivan said Wednesday that the Legislature should pass a bill by February 13 to close a projected $279 million shortfall in the current budget to head off any potential delays. The governor's proposals include diverting money from highway projects to general government programs and making selected spending cuts. The House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means committees plan to discuss the governor's proposals Thursday. A key issue for both committees is whether the state should cover nearly $64 million in unanticipated costs associated with aid to public schools. The governor is proposing the additional money.
Kansas House Panel Eases Off Plan to Delay School Aid Funds
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has modified a proposal from Republican Governor Sam Brownback to delay providing some funds to school districts for four months. The Appropriations Committee began work Thursday on a bill that would close a projected $279 million shortfall in the current state budget. Brownback's budget-balancing plan relies most heavily on diverting funds for highway projects and other special funds into the state's main bank account, which has the projected deficit. But Brownback also hoped to avoid a mid-February cash crunch for the state by delaying $45 million in payments to schools for building repairs and equipment until June. The committee voted to delay only $20 million in payments. The Senate Ways and Means Committee is working on its own budget-balancing bill but canceled its meeting Thursday.
Kansas Police Officers May Be Required to Wear Body Cameras
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers may require police officers to wear body cameras under a bill discussed by a state Senate panel. The Senate Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee heard testimony Thursday on a measure that would require police officers to wear body cameras and continually record their activities and interactions. Portions of video relevant to investigations, official complaints or the use of force would be stored for three years. Community activists argued that the move would ensure greater transparency and public safety. However, some committee members expressed worry that smaller police departments would be unable to afford the cameras and manage the footage.
Senate Passes Bill Approving Keystone XL Oil Pipeline
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican-controlled Senate has passed a bipartisan bill approving construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The 62-36 vote on Thursday advanced a top priority of the newly empowered GOP, which championed the legislation despite a presidential veto threat. Keystone is the first of many battles with the White House over energy and the environment. The measure fell short of the threshold needed to override a veto. It also needs to be reconciled with the House version. The bill authorizes construction of the nearly 1,200-mile pipeline to carry oil primarily from Canada's tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries. Critics argue the $8 billion project would spell disaster for global warming. Supporters call it a jobs bill that would boost energy security.
US Senate Rejects Moran's Amendment on Prairie Chicken
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The U.S. Senate has rejected an amendment by Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas that would have removed the lesser prairie chicken from the federal government's threatened species act. Moran's amendment to a bill intended to expedite construction of the Keystone XL pipeline fell short of the 60 votes needed to be added to the measure. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last year designated the lesser prairie chicken as threatened, which is one step below endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Moran says federal officials underestimated the bird's population after a historic drought hit its habitat, and that its numbers have risen since then. The lesser prairie chicken resides mainly in Kansas, but also is in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Colorado.
Brownback Names Federal Judge's Aide to Kansas Appeals Court
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has nominated a senior federal judge's longtime legal adviser and research clerk for the Kansas Court of Appeals. Brownback announced Thursday that he's chosen Kathryn Gardner of Topeka for the state's second-highest court. Her appointment is subject to state Senate confirmation. Gardner has worked for the past 15 years as Senior U.S. District Judge Sam Crow's law clerk. She also is a former assistant attorney general, had a private law practice for 12 years and was a research attorney for a state Court of Appeals judge for two years after law school. Brownback cited her legal experience during a news conference but also noted that Gardner writes cowboy poetry. She would replace Caleb Stegall, who was elevated by Brownback last year to the state Supreme Court.
Kansas Lawmakers Move to Block More Local Gun Regulations
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas lawmakers want to bar local governments from regulating the sale of firearms with new fees or taxes. The Kansas House Federal and State Affairs Committee held a hearing on a bill Wednesday that would ban counties and municipalities from regulating gun sales through zoning or any new fees or taxes. State law already bans local governments from regulating firearms in most other ways. Gun lobbyist Patricia Stoneking testified that the bill would protect licensed firearms dealers from excessive regulation. A second firearms bill heard by the committee Wednesday would prevent criminal penalties for licensed gun owners who accidentally bring guns into buildings where they are forbidden.
Bill Would Require Body Cameras for Kansas Police Officers
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas police officers would be required to wear body cameras under a bill being considered by a state Senate panel. The Senate Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee will hear a bill Thursday that would require police officers to wear body cameras and continually record their activities and interactions with citizens. Any portions of video that led to an arrest or showed the use of force would be required to be stored for three years. Police also would be required to save video showing incidents that were the subject of official complaints. Several public figures have called for such legislation following the police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August.
Kansas Considers Reduced Penalties for Marijuana Possession
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Penalties for marijuana possession may be softened in Kansas as legislators seek to lower prison populations and reduce costs. The House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee heard testimony on Wednesday from supporters of a bill that would drop first- and second-time marijuana possession offenses below the felony level. That would make offenders less likely to serve prison time, and the Kansas Sentencing Commission's director said the move would save the state about $800,000 a year. Republican Representative Tom Moxley of Council Grove said he supported the move because growing evidence suggests longer prison terms do not rehabilitate nonviolent offenders and only strain state resources. Kansas's prison population is growing and is expected to exceed capacity by the end of 2015. No one spoke against the bill in the hearing.
Kansas Hunting Guides Sentenced for Game Violations
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Two hunting guides nabbed during an undercover operation were spared prison after pleading guilty to exceeding daily bag limits. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Wichita says two guides for Misty Morning Outfitters of Haven, Kansas, were each sentenced Wednesday to a year's probation and a $1,000 fine for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Lane Hensley of Liberal exceeded the daily limit of three Canada geese when he took undercover U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents on a 2011 hunt in Reno County. Tanner Cox of Wichita exceeded the daily limit of 15 mourning doves during a 2011 hunt in Reno County. The owner of the Misty Morning Outfitters, Ryan Warden, was sentenced in November to five years of probation, a fine of $2,500 and restitution of $5,000.
Fort Hood Gunman Hasan Could Get New Lawyer
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kansas (AP) — The gunman who killed 13 people at the Texas military base Fort Hood in 2009 may receive a new attorney to handle his appeals, which could complicate an already-delayed review process. Nidal Hasan appeared in court Thursday at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he is on military death row. He no longer has the beard he wore during his August 2013 trial, having been forcibly shaved in prison. Hasan's lead defense counsel, Lieutenant Colonel Kris Poppe, began work as a judge after Hasan's trial. Hasan said he wanted to retain Poppe. The trial judge, Colonel Tara Osborn, said she was concerned that Poppe now served under her even while representing Hasan. She did not make a ruling Thursday. The review is one of several mandatory steps in military death penalty cases.
Ex-Fire Chief Sentenced for Theft
LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) _ A former fire chief of a township near Leavenworth has been sentenced to a year of probation for felony theft. Fifty-two-year-old Jeff H. Theno, of rural Basehor, was sentenced Wednesday for theft that occurred while he was chief of the Fairmount Township Fire Department. County Attorney Todd Thompson says Theno signed a contract to remodel the department's fire station. He was given a total of $14,000 for supplies but he did not buy the materials or remodel the station. Theno pleaded guilty in December. District Judge Gunnar Sundby said Theno had the lowest criminal history score possible. He suspended a six-month prison sentence and placed Theno on probation. The Leavenworth Times reports Theno was the department's chief for more than 10 years. He resigned in July.
Britt Brown, Former Publisher of The Wichita Eagle, Dies
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Harry Britton "Britt" Brown, a former publisher of The Wichita Eagle, has died. The newspaper reported that Brown was 87 when he died Monday at his Wichita home. Downing & Lahey Mortuary said the family isn't releasing the cause of death. Brown was the great-grandson of Colonel Marshall Murdock, who founded The Eagle in 1872. He was one of the family owners of The Wichita Eagle & Beacon Publishing Company. He also served as publisher before retiring as board chairman in 1979. Brown grew up in California and was a 1947 graduate of the University of Kansas.
Wichita State Student Found Dead at Residence Hall
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Wichita State University student has died of an "apparent overdose" in a residence hall. The Wichita Eagle reports that the university said in a statement that the 29-year-old student was found unresponsive around 11 pm Wednesday in his room at Fairmount Towers South. A Wichita Police Department incident report says a resident assistant had gone into the room to investigate an odor. No foul play is suspected. Counseling staff is being made available to meet with students on campus.
Kansas Leads Big 12, Beats TCU, 64-61
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - Frank Mason III scored 16 points with a couple of key shots and No. 9 Kansas held on for a 64-61 victory at TCU Wednesday night. The Big 12-leading Jayhawks (17-3, 6-1 Big 12), had as much as a 13-point lead early but found themselves down after TCU scored the first seven points after halftime. Mason's driving layup with 13:26 left started a 12-0 run that put the Jayhawks ahead to stay. The Horned Frogs' senior guard Kyan Anderson had 17 points for TCU.
KU Women Win on the Road at Iowa State, 61-56
AMES, Iowa - Chelsea Gardner’s double-double of 23 points and 11 rebounds carried Kansas University’s women’s basketball team to a 61-56 victory over Iowa State on Wednesday. It was KU’s third straight Big 12 victory and its first win in Ames since the 2005-06 season. It was the Cyclones’ first home loss this season.
Wichita State Baseball Program Lands on NCAA Probation
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State's baseball program was placed on probation Thursday after the NCAA found that the Shockers used 21 players who received impermissible benefits over a two-year period. The school self-reported the violations last year, likely resulting in lighter sanctions. Still, the NCAA decided that Wichita State's storied program would need to vacate all wins from 2011-13 — including its 2013 NCAA tournament appearance — and pay a $5,000 fine. Shortly after he was hired in June 2013, Shockers coach Todd Butler discovered that players had purchased more than $7,000 in apparel at a substantial discount. The incidents occurred under the watch of former coach Gene Stephenson, who was fired in June 2013 after 36 seasons. The wins will be stricken from his record.