Headlines for Monday, April 27, 2015
Kansas Lawmakers Reconvene Wednesday
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas legislators are close to the end of their annual spring break and plan to reconvene this week at the Statehouse to wrap up their business for the year. The House and Senate are scheduled to be back in session Wednesday. Lawmakers must balance the next state budget, and their research staff says they must close a $422 million shortfall for the fiscal year beginning July 1. But they have a full plate of other issues as well. Wednesday would be the 73rd day of their annual session, out of 90 scheduled. The 90th day would be May 16. Lawmakers have met more than 90 days in previous years, and their longest annual session was in 2002, at 107 days. Last year's session lasted only 79 days.
Kansas Faces Criticism for Cost of Sex Offender Program
LARNED, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas is among a number of states facing scrutiny over its program that commits sex offenders to involuntary treatment, which critics claim indefinitely warehouses them due to public safety concerns. Program supporters argue it is necessary to keep dangerous offenders off the street, but some lawmakers have expressed concern as its costs and population balloon. A state audit report is due out Tuesday, comparing Kansas's programs to those in 19 other states and the District of Columbia. Republican Governor Sam Brownback has recommended increasing its funding from $13.9 million in 2014 to $20.4 million by 2017 to accommodate its growing population. The Department for Aging and Disability Services says the number of offenders confined under the program has grown to 258 since 1994 and only three have been released.
All 3 Groups Seeking SE Kansas Casino License Meet Requirements
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — All three investor groups interested in developing a southeast Kansas casino have met the minimum financial and management requirements. The Kansas Lottery Commission affirmed Friday that each group met the standards necessary to be forwarded to a seven-member Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board. The board is responsible for selecting the best strategy for what would be the fourth state-owned casino, with a decision expected as early as July. Under a Kansas law adopted in 2007, four gaming zones were created for casinos, with only one casino allowed in each region. The state owns the casinos but they are managed by private companies responsible for developing the properties. The state now operates casinos in Dodge City, Mulvane and Kansas City, Kansas.
Former Kansas Governor Carlin Launches Opinion Website
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Former two-term Kansas Governor John Carlin has started a website to share his concerns about the direction state government is heading. The Salina Journal reports reports that one of the hottest issues for Carlin is financing education. The former governor says companies locate in states where there is quality education. He added that it worries him that there is an appearance that the state is backing away from supporting public education. Carlin, now 74, is teaching at Kansas State University. As a Democrat in a Republican state, the dairy farmer from Smolan said he built grassroots support before selling causes and solutions in Topeka, and that required many reaches across the aisle. Carlin says that in many ways, "the public has been left out the last few years."
Kansas Governor to Re-Enact Signing of Anti-Abortion Measure
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback plans to have four ceremonies across Kansas to re-enact his signing of the nation's first ban on a procedure that critics describe as dismembering a fetus. The Republican governor's events Tuesday are at a Catholic church education building in Lenexa and Catholic high schools in Pittsburg, Wichita and Hays. Brownback signed the measure April 7, and it takes effect in July. Oklahoma enacted such a law days later. Both states' laws ban doctors from using forceps, clamps, scissors or similar instruments on a live fetus to remove it from the womb in pieces. Such instruments are used in dilation and evacuation procedures performed during the second trimester. Abortion rights supporters say such procedures are often the safest for women seeking to terminate pregnancies during the second trimester.
Kansas AG Seeks Maximum of $450K to Defend New Anti-Abortion Law
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is telling legislators that defending a new anti-abortion law in court could cost the state up to $450,000. The new law takes effect in July and bans a procedure used in second trimester abortions that critics describe as dismembering a fetus. Kansas is the first state to enact such a ban. Abortion providers have said they're considering lawsuits. Anti-abortion leaders are confident the statute will withstand a challenge. Schmidt told legislators last week that his office could need $50,000 by the end of June, between $100,000 and $200,000 for the fiscal year beginning July 1 and up to $200,000 for the following fiscal year. Schmidt's office already has paid outside attorneys $1.2 million to defend anti-abortion laws since 2011, without losing a case.
KDOT Says State Seat Belt Usage Rate Shows an Increase
The Kansas Department of Transportation says more Kansans are buckling up than ever before. Transportation Secretary Mike King said in a statement Monday that 86 percent of drivers and front-seat passengers were observed to be wearing seat belts in 2014. That's up from just 61 percent in 2003. Although the state beat its target for 2014, its seat belt usage rate remains below the national average of 87 percent. The state ranked 40th in the country for seat belt usage in 2013. Transportation official Norraine Wingfield says usage is going up the fastest among teens, and passengers tend to buckle up if the driver does first. Kansas Highway Patrol Colonel Mark Bruce says the numbers show that the state is moving in the right direction.
Miller to Plead Guilty in Jewish Site Shootings
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A white supremacist accused of killing three people near two Kansas Jewish centers says he's ready to plead guilty to all charges to avoid a lengthy trial. Frazier Glenn Miller told The Associated Press in a phone call from jail on Monday that he doesn't have long to live and wants to have his day in court. The 74-year-old from Aurora, Missouri, is charged with capital murder in the April 2014 shooting deaths of 69-year-old William Lewis Corporon and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park, Kansas. He also is accused of killing 53-year-old Terri LaManno at a nearby Jewish retirement home. Miller told the AP he executed the attacks but wasn't aware none of the victims were Jewish.
GM Celebrates as 500 Millionth Vehicle Rolls Off the Line
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - General Motors is planning a celebration next month at the Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas City, Kansas, to mark the production of its 500 millionth vehicle globally. The auto maker says GM CEO Mary Barra and North America President Alan Batey will be on hand May 4 for a news conference and celebration at the Fairfax plant. The Kansas City plant builds the Buick LaCrosse and the Chevrolet Malibu. The plant has about 3,900 employees and recently completed $600 million in improvements, including a new paint shop.
K-State to Host Touring Exhibit of Early Shakespeare Plays
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - A nearly 400-year-old collection of William Shakespeare's plays will make a stop in Manhattan. Kansas State University will host an exhibition featuring a rare "First Folio" of the Bard's plays in February 2016. The folio was assembled by two of Shakespeare's actors in 1623 and is an original printing of the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays. Included are plays such as "Macbeth," ''Julius Caesar" and "The Tempest." Of 800 copies made originally it's estimated between 200 and 300 remain. The exhibition will tour all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Island. The university reports that planning is beginning this spring on a month-long program of events. The tour is organized by the Folger Shakespeare Library, in partnership with the Cincinnati Museum Center and the American Library Association.
Topeka Arts Website Recovers from Hacker Attack
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The website of a Topeka arts districts has been restored after it was hacked. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the main page of the North Topeka Arts District site was replaced last week with a crude image of a masked man holding a gun. A message in garbled English read, in part, "I am Muslim & I love jihad. I love ISIS 3." An expert on Islamic State extremists said such website defacements are less likely to be placed for strategic messaging reasons and are usually vandalism rather than an actual security threat.
Accidental Shootings Raise Concerns in Wichita
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - South-central Kansas authorities are expressing concerns about accidental shootings. Wichita police say there have been seven accidental shootings in the city through April 20. The Wichita Eagle reports that in the past couple weeks alone, a 32-year-old woman died in her home. Her husband told police he was removing his gun from its holster when it discharged. Also killed was a 28-year-old man who accidentally shot himself in the thigh. Wichita police Captain Jeff Weible said the department encourages people to "practice good firearm safety." As of July 1, no training will be required for someone choosing to carry a concealed weapon, to holster a hidden gun or carry one in a purse or backpack. But police say the accidental shootings show that firearms safety training remains worthwhile.
Small Kansas Church Sues County over Zoning Dispute
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A small southeastern Kansas congregation has sued Crawford County in a zoning dispute over church property that challenges the constitutionality of its zoning laws. Liberty Baptist Church filed its lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in Kansas claiming land use regulations violate the First Amendment and federal law. The congregation of 15 members contends it was twice denied a conditional use permit by county commissioners for a new church outside Pittsburg city limits. Its lawsuit contends the regulations are unlawful because they exclude new churches from locating anywhere in the county without undergoing a zoning process. It seeks an order blocking the county from preventing Liberty Baptist from using its property. It also seeks a ruling declaring the county's zoning restrictions on churches unconstitutional. Crawford County's legal counsel declined comment.
Pilot Makes Emergency Landing in Eastern Kansas Field
GARDNER, Kan. (AP) — The pilot of a small home-built aircraft was walking around uninjured after making an emergency landing in an eastern Kansas field. The Kansas City Star reports (http://bit.ly/1Ex1jMa) the pilot reported losing oil pressure before landing in a field five miles north of New Century Airport outside Gardner, where it had taken off minutes earlier on Monday morning. The Long-EZ home-built plane landed about 9:50 am. The pilot was the only person aboard the small plane.
Topeka 'Flex Service' Buses to Operate Like Taxis
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Riding some Topeka buses will soon be more like taking a taxi ride. The Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/1EcDmbn ) reports that the city's mass transit provider, Topeka Metro, plans to offer a "flex service" beginning August 3. Initially, the service will be offered in east and southeast Topeka. People in the zone can arrange for a small bus to come pick them up at the curb if they call at least three hours in advance. For $2, those passengers then will be able to ride anywhere else in the flex zone. Or they could take the bus to a Walmart Supercenter, a Topeka Metro anchor location, where they will be able to board a fixed-route bus at no extra cost. Topeka Metro spokesman Ronnie Murphy says the goal is to boost ridership.
Belton School District Investigates Bullying, Hurtful Emails
BELTON, Mo. (AP) — Officials in a suburban Kansas City school system have started an investigation into bullying emails that several district students have reported receiving through their school email addresses. The Kansas City Star reports that administrators in the Belton district think somebody has found a way to send the emails and make them appear as if they are coming from student email account. The attacks are coming through district-issued iPads meant to help students work more efficiently and creatively. In each case, the apparent sender denied sending the message. District technology employees think some of the messages are coming from the same phone. Superintendent Andrew Underwood says the person using the phone can access somebody's email account if they have an email address and password.
Oklahoma Woman Appeals Convictions for 2002 Topeka Murders
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An Oklahoma woman is challenging her convictions in the 2002 shootings of her ex-husband and his fiancee as they slept in their Topeka home. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Dana Chandler, of Duncan, Oklahoma alleges that a Shawnee County District Court judge erred in imposing two "Hard 50" sentences. Chandler, now 55, received the sentences in 2012 for the killings of 47-year-old Mike Sisco and 53-year-old Karen Harkness. The sentences mean Chandler would have to serve 100 years before becoming eligible for parole. Chandler is asking the Kansas Supreme Court to vacate her convictions, grant her a new trial, or send the convictions back to Shawnee County District Court so she can be resentenced. The earliest the case could be argued would be in the fall.
Wichita's Carnegie Library Celebrates 100 Years
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita is getting ready to celebrate the centennial of a landmark library building that was built with a $75,000 grant from businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The Wichita Eagle (http://bit.ly/1HNKOxC ) reports that Fidelity Bank officials plan to celebrate the building beginning May 14 when the first book was officially checked out a century ago. There also will be events in the fall, including concerts in the pocket park near the building. For half a century, the building was a library. It later became a municipal court building and then the Wichita Omnisphere and Science Center. Now it is the commercial bankers division of Fidelity Bank. It's not open to the public, but an open house is planned to give people a chance to tour the building.
Kansas City Officials to Consider Energy Efficiency Proposal
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Council is mulling a proposal requiring large buildings to publicly report their energy consumption in an effort to increase efficiency. Councilman Scott Taylor is sponsoring the ordinance with Mayor Sly James. He tells The Kansas City Star (http://bit.ly/1z2q0zo ) that reporting energy consumption will encourage large buildings to become more energy efficient. Taylor believes the proposal will be supported by a majority of taxpayers and citizens. But representatives of some of the city's largest buildings are worried it will be an expensive mandate, putting them at a competitive disadvantage compared to other cities that don't require reporting of energy consumption. If Kansas City adopts the ordinance, it will join 13 other U.S. cities that enforce this reporting. The council's finance committee is expected to consider the measure Wednesday.
Abilene Racing Greyhound Sells at Auction for Record $85K
ABILENE, Kan. (AP) — A racing greyhound from a farm south of Abilene has made a name for himself in the National Greyhound Association's auction record book. PJ Burninitdown sold for a record $85,000 at an auction for first-time greyhounds Friday. The Salina Journal reports the dog was purchased by Steve Sarras of West Virginia and will head to Southland Greyhound Park in West Memphis, Arkansas. The greyhound's owner, Jay Rangel of Abilene, and co-owner, Paul Bitterman of New York, also set two other records at the auction. Rangel and Bitterman raked in $550,000 in sales, setting the record for the most money for an owner, as well as money for a single litter at $195,750. The pair collected roughly a third of the total $1.4 million in sales of greyhounds at the auction.
Appeals Court Turns Away Missouri Death Row Inmate Appeal
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A federal appeals court has upheld the death sentence for a man convicted of raping and killing a 15-year-old Kansas City girl in 1989. The ruling Monday by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision rejecting Roderick Nunley's argument that he had the right to be sentenced by a jury instead of a judge. Nunley was one of two men who pleaded guilty and received the death penalty in the death of Ann Harrison. She was waiting for a school bus in front of her home when she was abducted. Michael Taylor was executed for the same crime in February 2014. The appeals court ruled that Nunley was not entitled to a new sentencing hearing because he waived jury sentencing when he pleaded guilty.
Missouri Man Loses Control of Skateboard, Killed in Crash
WARRENSBURG, Mo. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City man is dead after crashing his skateboard over the weekend just weeks before he was to graduate from college. The Warrensburg Daily Star-Journal reports 26-year-old Dylan Austin of Independence was riding his skateboard at 2:17 am Saturday down a hill leading into a park when he lost control and hit his head on a concrete curb. Police Chief Bruce Howey says the University of Central Missouri student was going down a huge hill in the darkness and picking up speed when he crashed. Austin was pronounced dead at the scene. He would have graduated in two weeks from the university with a master's degree. Howey says there is no reason to suspect foul play was involved.
Royals Fall to White Sox in Two Games Sunday
CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago White Sox rallied to beat Kansas City 5-3 for their second win against the Royals on Sunday. The day began with a 3-2 Chicago victory in the resumption of a game suspended by rain on Friday night. Then, the Sox beat the Royals again in the regularly scheduled Sunday game marking just their second win in six games this season against Kansas City.
89-Year-Old Former KU Football Player Scores in Alumni Scrimmage
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — An 89-year-old former University of Kansas football player has gained fresh fame after making a touchdown run during an alumni scrimmage. Bryan Sperry was all grins Saturday as he jogged toward the end zone, playing in the scrimmage before KU's annual spring football game. His decades-younger opponents intentionally missed repeated tackles before congratulating him. Sperry described the experience as "fun," adding that he didn't know whether he could run. The Kansas City Star reports that Sperry was 17 years old when he first left home to play football at Kansas State University. After serving in World War II, he had a brief stint playing at a university in England. He finished out his playing days at KU before spending decades as a high school football coach and math instructor at Pittsburg State.