Headlines for Friday, February 20, 2015
Kansas Senate Approves Proposed Ban on Abortion Procedure
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A national group's push to redefine and outlaw a procedure commonly used in second trimester abortions is advancing in Kansas. The state Senate voted 31-9 Friday to approve model legislation drafted by the National Right to Life Committee. The group unveiled the proposal in Kansas last month. The measure bans what doctors call the dilation and evacuation procedure used in about 8 percent of the abortions in Kansas and redefines it as "dismemberment abortion." Abortion rights advocates say the procedure can be the safest way to perform an abortion in the second trimester, but the ban could outlaw some earlier abortions. The bill goes next to the House. Republican Governor Sam Brownback is a strong abortion opponent and has pledged to sign the measure if it clears the GOP-dominated Legislature.
Kansas Democrats Denounce Republican Immigration Bill
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Democrats say that an immigration bill before the state legislature is prejudicial and extreme. The lawmakers said in a news conference Thursday that a bill that would deny benefits to people who entered the U.S. illegally amounted to an overreach by Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who sponsored it. A federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked an executive order Tuesday that would have protected as many as 5 million people from being deported. Kobach said at a news conference Tuesday that the order vindicated his bill to bar immigrants who entered illegally from receiving driver's licenses or other benefits. Despite the ban, the Kansas Democratic Party plans to organize clinics to help those who entered the U.S. illegally to naturalize according to a path provided by the order.
Kansas House Panel Passes Strict Reform to School Wage Talks
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas school boards would have the power to tell teachers "take it or leave it" in salary negotiations under a bill endorsed by a state House panel. The House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee approved the bill Friday, sending it to the House floor for further debate. The bill would allow individual teachers to negotiate outside of the normal collective bargaining structure and also would give school boards the ability to refuse to negotiate with any teachers' group. Republican Representative Marvin Kleeb of Overland Park said school boards would be unlikely to issue ultimatums, and the bill would be beneficial to the state's best teachers. But Mark Desetti, a lobbyist for the state's largest teacher's union, said the bill was designed to make it easier to cut teachers' salaries.
Kansas Senate Bills Seek to Stall EPA Regulations
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee is considering two bills that would delay or possibly prevent enactment of new federal clean air regulations. The Lawrence Journal-World reportsthe Senate Utilities Committee is expected to advance one of the bills next week. The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing rules that would require states to adopt plans for reducing carbon emissions from power plants by 30 percent by 2030. The rules are to take effect in June. One bill would require the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to notify the KCC before entering agreements with utilities over carbon dioxide emission standards. The other bill would prohibit the KCC and health department from even drafting a state plan before all of litigation surrounding the rules has been resolved.
Kansas Senate Passes Bill Stiffening Scrap Theft Penalties
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Penalties for Kansas scrap theft would rise significantly under a bill passed unanimously by the state Senate. Thursday's move sends the measure to the Kansas House for consideration. Senators from both major parties spoke supportively of the measure Wednesday, arguing that scrap thieves often do thousands of dollars in damage by removing metal components from equipment. The bill would make scrap theft a level six felony, putting repeat offenders behind bars. It also would create a database to help authorities track down offenders and punish dealers trading in stolen goods. Lawmakers objected to an earlier version that would have made scrap theft a level five felony and put first-time offenders behind bars for 11 to 34 months. First-time offenders without prior convictions would get probation under the amended version.
Kansas Postpones Plan to Change Tag Notifications
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - State officials say they will indefinitely postpone plans to change the way Kansas motorists are notified when vehicle tags need to be renewed. The state had announced a plan earlier in the week to move from the traditional notification letter to a postcard, in an effort to save money. But a Kansas Department of Revenue spokeswoman said Thursday the move was postponed as the department tries to address concerns raised by county treasurers. She did not elaborate on what the concerns were. It's unclear how long any change will be postponed. Officials estimated it would save nearly $562,000 a year.
Dockworkers Strike Forces Furloughs at Hutchinson Plant
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - A strike by dockworkers on the West Coast is having an impact on some workers in Hutchinson. Siemens Wind Energy furloughed 60 employees on Wednesday because parts needed to build wind turbine nacelles at the plant are stuck in ships off the West Coast. A Siemens representative said that the company is assessing the situation daily and doing what it can to procure parts from other Siemens factories. The Siemens plant employs about 360 full-time workers and contract workers. The Siemens statement said the company would get back to full production as soon as possible. Nacelles hold the wind turbine's generating components, such as the generator, gearbox, drive train and brake assembly.
Kansas Education Officials to Accept Online Comments About Standards
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas education officials have created an online tool to allow the public to comment about math, reading and writing standards. The tool, called "Join the Conversation!" will be available online until October 30. People will be able to read about the standards and make suggestions on moving a standard to another grade level, creating a new standard or rewriting a specific standard. Kansas based its standards in part on the Common Core state standards, which have faced criticism in recent years. The Common Core standards replace a hodgepodge of educational goals that had varied greatly from state to state. The standards will be up for review in 2017 in Kansas. The public may comment online at http://standards.ksde.org.
Bill Restricting Sex Ed Moved Forward by Kansas House Panel
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Schools would need to obtain parental consent before teaching sex education to students under a bill endorsed by a Kansas House panel. The House Education Committee voted 10-8 to approve the bill Thursday. Several Kansas school districts already require written parental consent, and others allow parents to request their children be excluded from such instruction. Supporters of the bill say that's not enough, because parents are often ill-informed about what the curriculums include. But Democratic Representative Carolyn Bridges of Wichita said parents already have access to all the information they need and they have the right to petition their school board if they disagree with the curriculum. Republican Representative Ron Highland of Wamego said he expects a heated debate on the bill on the House floor.
Missouri Police Officer Charged with Assault After Shooting
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri police officer has been indicted on assault charges after shooting and injuring a man police were trying to arrest last summer. Kansas City officer Jacob Ramsey was arraigned Friday after being indicted by a Jackson County (Missouri) grand jury. He's facing charges of first-degree assault and armed criminal action. A judge entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf. Investigators say Ramsey shot 37-year-old Anthony Contreras after police went to Contreras's home to serve an arrest warrant on June 24. Police say Contreras was shot while he tried to flee on foot. Through his attorney, Ramsey waived his right to a jury trial and requested that a judge decide the case. A trial was scheduled for April 2. The 31-year-old Ramsey is on unpaid administrative leave.
USAF Report: Pilot Error Caused Mid-Air Collision in Kansas
NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — The Air Force says an October jet crash in Kansas involving two F-16s occurred after one of the pilots failed to maintain visual contact with the other jet, leading to a mid-air collision. Air Combat Command in Virginia released its investigation into the jet crash near Moline, Kansas, on Friday. After the collision, one of the jets crashed into the ground. The other was able to return to Tulsa Air National Guard Base, Oklahoma. The pilot who ejected suffered minor injuries. Both aircraft belonged to the 138th Fighter Wing at Tulsa, Oklahoma. They were flown by pilots assigned to the wing's 125th Fighter Squadron. The report says the pilots were participating in a combat maneuvers training mission when the collision occurred. The Air Force estimates the damage at $22.5 million.
KSU Researchers Investigate Weed's Resistance to Herbicide
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Kansas State University researchers say new findings may help explain why an invasive weed is developing resistance to a well-known herbicide. The researchers found that the plant kochia has evolved to have multiple copies of a gene that targets the weed killer glyphosate, allowing it to survive treatment. Monsanto brought glyphosate to the market in 1976 under the name Roundup. Assistant agronomy professor Mithila Jugulam says the resistance mechanism is becoming prevalent in other glyphosate-resistant weeds. Jugulam says the resistance evolved as the result of continuous use of glyphosate and the lack of herbicide diversity in controlling this weed. The journal Plant Physiology recently published the study Jugulam worked on with plant pathology professor Bikram Gill.
Hearing on Protection Order Sought Against Randle Postponed
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A hearing on whether to approve a domestic protection from abuse order against Dallas Cowboys running back Joseph Randle has been postponed. The attorney representing Randle's ex-girlfriend told The Wichita Eagle that Thursday's scheduled hearing was delayed for three weeks. The delay comes as the Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office considers whether to file criminal charges against Randle. Dalia Jacobs, the mother of Randle's son, told investigators that during a February 3 altercation at a Wichita hotel Randle brandished a gun and broke a car window while they argued. His attorney has said Randle did not threaten the woman or show a gun at any time. Randle was arrested after a small amount of marijuana was found in his hotel room but those charges were dropped.
Report: Number of Kansas Farms Declined in 2014
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A new government report shows Kansas had 800 fewer farms last year compared to 2013. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Thursday that the state had 61,000 farms and ranches in 2014. A breakdown by size shows small operations with less than $100,000 in agricultural sales decreased by 900 farms from a year earlier. But the number of farm operations which had more than $100,000 in ag sales actually grew by 100 farms. The agency also reported that the state had 46 million acres of land in farms and ranches. That's down 100,000 acres from the previous year. Kansas farms averaged 754 acres, up 8 acres from the previous year.
Prosecutors Charge Olathe Man with Attempted Kidnapping
MERRIAM, Kan. (AP) — A 24-year-old Olathe man is charged with trying to kidnap a woman from an eastern Kansas business. The Kansas City Star reports Johnson County prosecutors have charged Brandon Lee McReynolds with a felony count of attempted kidnapping. He appeared in court Thursday and requested a public defender. McReynolds was arrested Tuesday after police released surveillance camera images to the public from the Monday incident at a Merriam business. Merriam police say the woman was working when McReynolds came in to inquire about a job. They say McReynolds then demanded several times she leave with him. Authorities say McReynolds fled after hearing approaching footsteps, and that the woman wasn't physically injured.
Kansas Girl's Shooting Death Case Moved to Federal Court
LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) - A man charged with killing a 5-year-old Kansas girl during a police chase will be tried in federal court. Federal prosecutors announced Thursday that a state charge of first-degree felony murder against Marcas McGowan of Atchison will be dismissed to pursue indictments returned Wednesday by a federal grand jury. A state felony murder conviction could allow a life sentence with parole eligibility after 25 years, while a federal kidnapping conviction could bring life with no possibility of parole. Prosecutors allege McGowan kidnapped Cadence Harris from an Atchison home they shared with the girl's mother in July 2014. A police chase ended near Leavenworth when McGowan exchanged gunfire with officers. Cadence was found dead inside the car. Court documents allege McGowan shot the girl.
Wichita State Won't Appeal Loss of Baseball Victories...but Former Coach Will
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State won't appeal an NCAA ruling that vacates its baseball wins in the 2012 and 2013 seasons, but the school's former baseball coach says he's challenging it on his own. Gene Stephenson tells the Wichita Eagle he knows the chances of the NCAA accepting his appeal are slim, but he says it's important. University President John Bardo says he disagrees with the punishment but decided it wasn't in the school's best interest to appeal. The Shockers won 74 games in the two seasons. The NCAA placed the program on probation in January after finding the Shockers in 2012 and 2013 used 21 players who were given improper discounts on non-baseball merchandise from the program's athletic apparel manufacturer. The school also was placed on one year of probation.
Long-Lost Clown Statue from Wichita Amusement Park Found
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Louie the Clown, who went missing from a closed Wichita amusement park more than a decade ago, has been found at the home of a sex offender who used to work at the park. The return of the mascot of the Joyland amusement park was such big news that it was re-introduced during a media briefing Thursday. Wichita police say officers found the clown statue Tuesday at a home of 39-year-old Damian Mayes, who is serving a prison sentence for a 2010 conviction for aggravated indecent liberties with a child and aggravated criminal sodomy. Mayes used to build and repair organs at the park. Louie disappeared from the Joyland property in 2005 or 2006 but wasn't reported stolen until 2010. Police say that the nearly 50-year-old clown is worth $10,000.
"Pine Tar" Ump to Retire
NEW YORK (AP) — Longtime umpire Tim McClelland has retired, and Major League Baseball has hired three umps full time for the upcoming season. MLB announced the moves Friday. The 63-year-old McClelland was perhaps best known for being the plate umpire who called out George Brett in the "Pine Tar Game" in 1983, prompting the eventual Hall of Famer to run out of the Kansas City dugout in a rage to argue. McClelland worked in the majors for more than 32 years, was a crew chief and handled the World Series four times. He was noted for the exceptionally slow manner in which he called strikes. McClelland worked more than 4,200 games, including 94 in the postseason. He was second among umpires in experience, behind only 37-year vet Joe West. Will Little, Tripp Gibson and Mark Ripperger were promoted full time to the MLB umpiring staff. They have all worked 174 games or more in the majors.