Headlines for Friday, March 6, 2015
Kansas House Panel Sets Monday Hearing on GOP Schools Plan
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee is preparing to review a plan from top Republican lawmakers to overhaul how the state distributes money to public schools. The Appropriations Committee's hearing Monday would be the first on the plan. The committee drafts budget measures, and aid to public schools is the biggest spending item each year. The Kansas Department of Education was preparing an analysis Friday of how the GOP plan would affect individual school districts. The measure incorporates Republican Governor Sam Brownback's proposal to give districts "block grants" based on their current aid until lawmakers write a new formula. Republican leaders said the plan increases aid to schools. Figures from legislative researchers show that most of the increase over the next two school years would cover rising state contributions to teacher pensions.
Data Shows GOP Plan Trims Kansas School Aid Again This Year
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — New Kansas Department of Education figures show that public schools would lose a total of $51 million in state aid before the end of June under an education funding plan from Republican leaders. Figures released Friday show that the total reduction would be 1.5 percent of the general aid districts had been set to receive. Republican Governor Sam Brownback already has announced cuts of $28 million in aid to public schools to help balance the budget, and they take effect Saturday. Department of Education figures released Friday show that the GOP leaders' plan for overhauling education funding would trim an additional $23 million. However, GOP leaders have noted that total spending still would remain significantly above the amount for the 2013-14 school year. They released their plan Thursday.
KS Justice Recuses Self from School Finance Lawsuit
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court's newest justice and the only one appointed by Republican Governor Sam Brownback has removed himself from hearing an education funding lawsuit. The court said in a brief order Thursday that Justice Caleb Stegall wouldn't participate. Stegall declined to comment through the court's spokeswoman. An attorney for four school districts suing the state said in December that Stegall should not sit with the high court on the case because he represented Brownback in unsuccessful settlement talks in 2013. Stegall was Brownback's chief counsel before the governor named him to the state Court of Appeals in 2013. Brownback elevated Stegall to the Supreme Court last year. The high court noted that Stegall wouldn't participate as it ordered more proceedings before a three-judge panel in Shawnee County District Court.
Kansas Supreme Court Upholds Conviction in Cheerleader's Murder
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has upheld the convictions of a Great Bend man who killed a 14-year-old cheerleader and burned her body at the asphalt plant where he worked. The court in a 61-page ruling handed down Friday affirmed Adam Longoria's conviction for the capital murder of Alicia DeBolt. It rejected defense arguments that publicity surrounding the case was so pervasive that Longoria could not get a fair trial. Alicia was last seen leaving her home in Great Bend for a party just before midnight on August 21, 2010. Text messages showed that the then-38-year-old Longoria had picked Alicia up that night. Her family reported her missing the next day, and her body was found three days later at the Venture Corporation plant where Longoria worked.
Kansas Senate Panel Shifts Funds Within Higher Education Budget
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A legislative committee's proposed budget for the Kansas higher education system would shift money away from Kansas State University and away from the main University of Kansas campus. The Senate Ways and Means Committee has approved a higher education budget of $2.7 billion both for the fiscal year beginning July 1st and the following fiscal year. The committee endorsed a proposal to trim operating funds for the main KU campus in Lawrence by $4.6 million each year. THAT money would go to the KU Medical Center to help it expand in Wichita and to provide scholarships for medical students. Meanwhile, K-State would lose $3.2 million in operating funds in each of the next two years.
KS Unemployment Rate Remained at 4.2 Percent in January
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas reports that its unemployment rate remained at 4.2 percent in January and the state's private-sector employment grew over the previous year. The state Department of Labor noted Friday that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for January was significantly better than the 4.7 percent reported in January 2014. The state said 1.14 million Kansas residents held private-sector jobs in January, about 17,100 more than in January 2014. The growth was about 1.5 percent. Government employment also was slightly higher in January than in January 2014. The department said leisure and hospitality businesses saw the most robust employment growth over the year. They employed almost 126,000 people in January. That was 4,200 more than in January 2014, an increase of 3.5 percent. But employment in manufacturing and mining declined.
Kansas Says 2014 Job Growth Better than Previously Reported
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas labor officials say the state's private-sector job growth last year was stronger than previously reported and the highest rate since 2007. The state Department of Labor reported Friday that the number of people employed in private sector jobs was 1.9 percent higher on average each month than in 2013. The department said the new rate was based on more comprehensive federal data. The previous figure was 1.3 percent. An average of about 1.14 million Kansas residents held private-sector jobs each month in 2014. The department had calculated the figure was 14,000 higher than in 2013, based on preliminary data. But federal officials provide more comprehensive data after about six months, and it showed Kansas having an average of 20,800 more private-sector workers each month, compared with 2013.
Kansas Fugitives in Triple-Shooting Arrested in Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS (AP) _ Authorities say they arrested two fugitives wanted in Lawrence for aggravated kidnapping, burglary and robbery. U.S. Marshalls say they arrested 20-year-old Rachael Ann Hampton and 24-year-old Robert Alan Long near the Las Vegas Strip. The two are wanted in connection with a triple shooting on February 8th. Hampton and Long are in custody in Clark County, Nevada pending extradition to Kansas.
Judge Refuses to Dismiss Case Against Suicide Bomb Suspect
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has refused to toss out terrorism-related charges against the man accused of plotting a suicide bomb attack at a Kansas airport. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot rejected Friday all arguments made by defense attorneys for Terry Loewen. The former avionics technician was arrested in December 2013 after authorities said he tried to bring a van filled with inert explosives onto the tarmac at Mid-Continent Airport in Wichita. The judge says defense claims of entrapment and outrageous government conduct cannot be determined before the trial. Loewen was arrested after a sting operation in which undercover FBI agents posed as co-conspirators and gave him the fake explosives. Belot also refused to suppress evidence taken from the van due to a clerical error in the date of the search warrant.
Kansas City Police Seek Help in Solving Body-in-Well Case
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City, Missouri, police are hoping the public can help piece together the movements of a woman in the days before her body was found last month in a well. Police on Friday released photos taken February 12 of 27-year-old Janina Vasquez at the Isle of Capri Casino. Her body was found a week later in a 25-foot, city-owned well near the Missouri River. Investigators want to talk to the driver of a red car Vasquez was seen getting into while leaving the casino, as well as anyone who saw her get into the car. Vasquez was wearing a hooded jacket, gray sweat pants and burgundy-colored boots. The body was found by Kansas City water department workers in a flood-control well unrelated to drinking water.
Kansas City Police Investigate Toddler's Burning Death
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Kansas City police are investigating after a 2-year-old girl was found dead from burn-related injuries at an apartment. Officers say the girl was dead when they arrived at the residence yesterday afternoon, and a 4-year-old boy suffered burns to his chest and back. Authorities say there's evidence a fire occurred inside the apartment at least 12 hours before the ambulance was called.
Suspected Sex Predator from Kansas Arrested in Arizona
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) _ A Kansas man wanted for alleged sexual exploitation of a child has been arrested in northern Arizona. The U.S. Marshals Service announced yesterday that 48-year-old John Thomas was taken into custody after leaving a Chino Valley, Arizona home in a vehicle. Federal authorities say Thomas had dramatically changed his appearance but still was identified and arrested without incident. Riley County police say Thomas allegedly was in possession of numerous images of child pornography and a warrant was issued for his arrest in February.
Lobbyist Confronts Teacher over Brownback Mention in Speech
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A lobbyist who used to work as Governor Sam Brownback's chief of staff is defending his confrontation with a Topeka teacher he claims was unprofessional in referencing the governor in her speech at a Model UN competition. But witnesses tell The Topeka Capital-Journal http://bit.ly/1EkDOGT that David Kensinger's behavior was rude and hostile toward teacher Jenay Weekly, who says she was upset after being approached. Weekly reviewed the competition's history in her Monday speech, noting that organizers were pleased about securing Brownback as keynote speaker one year when he was a senator. She then asked, "Who could have known?" Teachers say they interpreted the rhetorical question to mean that no one knew Brownback would later become governor. Kensinger didn't say how Weekly's speech was inappropriate in his email to the newspaper.
U.S. Army Recognizes Chelsea Manning as a Woman
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A military appeals court is recognizing the transgender defendant accused of leaking classified information to WikiLeaks as a woman. The U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals in Washington issued the order pertaining to Chelsea Manning this week. The 27-year-old intelligence analyst, formerly known as Bradley Manning, was cleared last month to receive hormone therapy at the army prison in Fort Leavenworth.
K-State Renames iSIS System to Avoid Confusion with Terrorist Outfit
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas State University is renaming its computer network system to avoid associating with a terrorist group. Chief Information Officer Ken Stafford says the university will no longer use the abbreviation iSIS for its network. It will now be called KSIS. Stafford says it will take considerable time and effort to change the name in all of the school's references.
On Second Thought... KC Girl with Leukemia Can Have Her Playhouse After All!
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A young girl with leukemia who asked for a playhouse in her backyard, but was denied by the homeowners association, will get her wish after all. The homeowners group met Thursday to reconsider the "barn-style'' playhouse proposal it had turned down. Although several details still have to be worked out, the group says 6-year-old Ella Schultz can have the playhouse at her Raymore home.
AP Source: Jayhawks Bench Alexander Amid NCAA Questions
University of Kansas forward Cliff Alexander will remain out of action amid questions about his family's relationship with an agent, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke Friday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case. Yahoo! Sports was first to report late Thursday that Alexander's family may have received impermissible benefits from an agent. Alexander has missed the Jayhawks' last two games after the NCAA alerted the school about eligibility concerns. Bill Self said Thursday that Alexander was unlikely to play in the ninth-ranked Jayhawks' game against No. 15 Oklahoma on Saturday. The coach declined to comment on specifics of the case. KU has already wrapped up the Big 12 championship outright.