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Headlines for Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Kansas News Headlines From the Associated Press
Kansas News Headlines From the Associated Press

GOP Lawmakers Signal Desire to Overhaul K-12 Kansas Schools 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Conservative Republican legislators are preparing to push for huge changes in Kansas's education system. And other lawmakers warned Tuesday that a coming debate over funding could center on proposals they see as hostile to public K-12 schools. Proposal under consideration include junking current standardized testing for students, turning over some school services to private companies and forgoing federal dollars to avoid federal education requirements. A joint legislative committee set up to study what students should be learning and the best way to fund schools met briefly Tuesday to review a draft report from its Republican chairman. The report calls for overhauling how the state distributes more than $4 billion in aid annually to its 286 local school districts. The committee tabled the report until at least later this month.


Kansas Tax Collections $27M Short of Projections for December

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is reporting that it collected $27 million less in taxes than anticipated in December with both individual income and sales taxes falling short of expectations. The shortfall in tax collections reported Monday complicates the state's budget picture as legislators prepare to open their annual session next week. The state Department of Revenue says the state collected $599 million in taxes last month instead of the $626 million projected in a fiscal forecast issued in November. The shortfall is 4.4 percent. Since the current fiscal year began in July, the state has collected $2.84 billion in tax revenues. That's $19 million less than anticipated. Kansas has struggled to balance its budget since personal income taxes were dramatically cut in 2012 and 2013 to stimulate the economy.


Kansas Legislature's Leaders Want Shorter, Quieter Session 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top Republicans are hoping the Kansas Legislature can close a projected state budget deficit quickly this year and avoid the infighting that made last year's session the longest ever. Education funding is also an issue. But leaders of the two chambers' Republican majorities aren't sure how far they'll get in drafting a new formula for distributing more than $4 billion in state aid to public schools. Lawmakers are waiting for the Kansas Supreme Court to rule in an education funding lawsuit against the state from four school districts. The Legislature convenes January 11, and its agenda is packed with issues. But Republican leaders said their goal is to wrap up the year's legislating in less than the traditionally scheduled 90 days after last year's session lasted a record 114 days.


Draft Report: Overhaul of Kansas School Funding Needed

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A legislative committee's draft report says Kansas needs a ``complete overhaul'' of its system for funding public schools. The report posted online Monday is for a joint committee studying school funding issues. The report says the state's formula for distributing more than $4 billion in aid annually should be redesigned to focus on individual students. The report also suggests some expenses, including transportation and food services, could be handled regionally to save money, or turned over to private companies. The report also suggests the state consider whether accepting federal dollars is worth the cost of complying with federal rules. The committee is scheduled to meet again today (TUE) to review the report and decide whether to forward its recommendations to the full Legislature.


Counties Seek State Funds for Sexual Predator Legal Fees 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two counties are asking the state to reimburse them for legal expenses caused by sexually violent predators. The fees stem from cases where the individuals challenge their confinement to the state's Sexual Predator Treatment Program at Larned State Hospital. Counties where the patients' case originated must pay the legal costs. But in the past, the Attorney General's office reimbursed the counties through a state fund. However, lawmakers didn't appropriate any money for the fund during the current fiscal year. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that representatives from McPherson and Butler counties asked a legislative committee on Monday to reimburse their costs. The committee can only recommend to the full Legislature whether to appropriate the funds to the counties.


Commission to Decide on Zoning for South Lawrence Shopping Center

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Lawrence City Commission is expected to decide today (TUE) whether to make land-use and zoning changes that would allow for a new 250,000-square-foot shopping development on the city's south side. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the commission will meet to discuss the KTen Crossing project planned near the intersection of US 59 and the K-10 bypass. Commissioners must agree to rezone about 60 acres from residential to commercial before North Carolina-based development group Collett can move forward.  The developer hopes to break ground on the project this summer and open the shopping center as soon as fall 2017.


11 Freight Train Cars Derail in East-Central Kansas 

PARKER, Kan. (AP) — Crews are cleaning up after a freight train derailed in east-central Kansas. Union Pacific Railroad said in a written statement that 11 of the train's 166 cars jumped the tracks around 5 p.m. Monday near the Linn County town of Parker. The derailed cars were carrying lumber and soda ash, which is sometimes used to treat drinking water and not considered extremely hazardous. The statement says no one was injured. The train was headed from Nebraska to Texas, powered by six locomotives. Union Pacific says a team is working on cleaning up the site and reopening the line. Train traffic is being rerouted through the southeast Kansas town of Coffeyville. The cause of the derailment is under investigation.


Attorney General Seeks Data on Colorado Marijuana in Kansas 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is gathering data from local law enforcement agencies in an effort to measure the impact of Colorado-purchased marijuana on the state. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Schmidt has sent more than 500 survey forms requesting information to county and district attorneys, as well as police departments. He said he would make the survey results public when they are compiled later this year. According to Schmidt, there are numerous accounts of marijuana being illegally brought into the state from Colorado. He says his goal is to get a clear picture of what's happening in the state so "policymakers can make informed decisions." Kansas law still prohibits the possession or distribution of marijuana.


Wife of Topeka Councilman Applies for Diversion 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The wife of a Topeka councilman is seeking to enter into a diversion agreement on charges that she aided her husband in a child abuse case. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 32-year-old Allison Schumm and her husband, 34-year-old Jonathan Schumm, face charges in Shawnee County District Court. She applied this week for diversion, which would keep a conviction off her record. Defense attorney Carol J. Cline declined to comment. The Schumms have 17 children, including one born in December, and four other biological children. The couple also has two children who are in foster care and 10 who are adopted. Court records show that Jonathan Schumm is accused of choking a child and threatening to "kill him." Efforts are underway to remove him from office.


Kansas City Man Sentenced to Prison in Cellphone Store Robbery 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for robbing a cellphone store about a year ago. The Kansas City Star reports that 29-year-old Leonard H. White of Kansas City pleaded guilty Monday at the Jackson County Courthouse to robbery, resisting arrest and armed criminal action. Court records say White robbed a cellphone store in December 2014 before fleeing in a Jeep. Officers soon spotted the vehicle, pulled it over and took White into custody. A judge sentenced White to 12 years for robbery, four years for resisting arrest and three years for armed criminal action. The sentences will run concurrently.


Contract with Longtime Cheney Lake Marina Owner Not Renewed 

CHENEY, Kan. (AP) — The longtime owners of Snyder's Marina at Cheney State Lake are removing all boat slips and closing up this week after their contract wasn't renewed. Tammera and Dennis Snyder have run the only marina at the lake since 1999. But the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism advised the couple last month the contract won't be renewed after inspectors cited issues with fire, environmental and electrical safety at the marina. KAKE-TV reports Tammera Snyder said she was believed until November that the state would work with the couple and likely renew the contract. Agency spokesman Ron Kaufman says the state will seek new bids on the contract and the Snyders can put in a bid. He says it's unlikely a new marina operator will be chosen before summer.


5 Charged in Stabbing Death of Wichita Man Found in SUV 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Five people have been charged in the stabbing death of a Wichita man whose body was found in a sport utility vehicle on Christmas Eve. Authorities say 42-year-old Moises Arias-Aranda was stabbed and left on a roadside in north Wichita. The Wichita Eagle reports that 20-year-old Gabriel R. Lara, 28-year-old Diego S. Olivas, 29-year-old Jose A. Rojas and 21-year-old Amelia Wilson-Ramos are charged with one count each of first-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping. Twenty-five-year-old Aubrey D. Cole is charged with first-degree murder and a probation violation. Rojas also has a probation violation charge. The suspects are being held at Sedgwick County jail on bonds up to more than $1.5 million. They have preliminary hearings Jan. 20. It wasn't immediately clear if the suspects have lawyers.


Purdue University Bus Catches Fire in Kansas; No Injuries 

BREWSTER, Kan. (AP) _ About 60 Purdue University students are safe after their charter bus caught fire in western Kansas. Kansas Highway Patrol spokesman Tod Hileman says the bus was headed to Colorado for a ski trip when it caught fire Monday on Interstate 70 about five miles east of Brewster. No one was injured. The Salina Journal reports that a bus from Brewster High School picked up the students and they spent much of the day in the school's gym shooting baskets and waiting for another chartered bus to pick them up. Hileman says the bus was one of four buses traveling together to Colorado when the fire occurred. The cause of the fire is unclear but Hileman says it destroyed the inside of the bus and damaged the outside.  


Kansas City's Country Club Plaza Sold to Joint Venture

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Kansas City's Country Club Plaza, the city's premiere shopping and entertainment district, has been sold for only the second time since it opened in 1923.  The current owner, Highwoods Properties, announced Monday it had reached an agreement to sell the Plaza for $660 million to a joint venture between Taubman Centers and The Macerich Company. The sale is expected to close February 1.  The Kansas City Star reports that Taubman and Macerich will be 50/50 owners. The 55-acre shopping district includes 18 retail and office properties. The Taubman company, based in Broomfield Hills, Michigan, owns and manages 23 shopping centers in the United States and Asia. Macerich is a real estate investment trust with interests in 50 shopping centers and malls throughout the United States.  


Wichita Drone Operators Must Register Drones with FAA 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Anyone who wants to fly a drone in and around Wichita will likely have to register with the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA is requiring the registration of recreational drones before they are flown. Drones are not supposed to be flown within five miles of an airport unless the operator contacts the airport first. The Wichita Eagle reports that almost the entire Wichita metropolitan area is close to some type of public or private airport or heliport. Pilots who fly drones weighing 55 pounds or less must register by February 19 and show that registration, either on a printout or on an electronic device, when they fly their drones. FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Cory says the requirements are intended to keep drones a safe distance from planes and helicopters.


Sedgwick County Will Try to Sell Former Boys Ranch Again 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County commissioners will try for the second time to sell or lease the former Judge Riddel Boys Ranch. The county commission closed the home for troubled boys in 2014 after a dispute with the Legislature over funding to operate it. The ranch provided educational and other social service programs for troubled juvenile boys. County officials said Tuesday they will write a request for proposals for real estate developers and nonprofits to determine interest in the 38-acre property near Goddard. The Wichita Eagle reports that the county tried before to lease the ranch but did not receive any proposals. The property has sewer and air-conditioning problems and might not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The county hopes to have a draft request done by mid-February.


Online Food Directory Aims to Link Farmers with Consumers 

WICHITA, Kansas (AP) — A Wichita native has developed an online directory of farmers in hopes of connecting them with digital consumers. The Wichita Eagle reports that 31-year-old Mikel Bowyer started working on the ICT Food Circle project after joining a civic hacking organization that aimed to improve the community through public data projects. The site currently allows consumers to browse and contact farmers based on what products they sell. In the future, Bowyer wants to offer consumers a look at each farms' real-time inventory. Bowyer has been working on ICT Food Circle as a side project to his part-time and full-time jobs. He hopes to eventually register the site as a nonprofit.


Kansas Capitol's Cafe Changing Ownership After 39 Years 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A concession stand on the third floor of the Kansas Statehouse is changing hands after 39 years. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Kathy Dawson and her colleagues are expanding their dining business. They already run the cafeteria in the basement of the Docking State Office Building. Eventually, that cafeteria will be closed to make way for demolition of the building. Dawson is taking over for Don Wistuba. He's been blind since birth and has operated the Statehouse concession stand since 1976. He's said his business has declined because offices once housed in the Capitol have moved to other buildings and because lobbyists provide free food to legislators. Dawson is also blind. Blind people are given priority in operation of vending facilities in federal and state government buildings.


Kansas Man Sentenced to Life for Child Sexual Abuse

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A 31-year-old Johnson County man will serve at least 40 years in prison for sexually molesting an 8-year-old girl. Robert Donovan Burton was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison with no chance of parole for 40 years for abusing the girl at an Olathe home in late 2012 and early 2013. The Kansas City Star reports it was Burton's second conviction for a sex crime involving a child. In 2005, he pleaded guilty in Johnson County District Court to attempted rape of a child younger than 14. In that case, his 12-year-old victim later gave birth to a child fathered by Burton. The girl in the latest case reported to authorities that Burton molested her after showing her pornographic videos on his cellphone.


Report: Kansas Winter Wheat Crop Mostly Faring Well 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new government report shows the Kansas winter wheat crop is faring mostly well so far this winter. Cattle and sheep are also mostly in good shape. The report released Monday by the National Agricultural Statistics Service comes after a month in which temperatures averaged six to eight degrees above normal across the eastern half of Kansas. Temperatures were closer to normal in the western half of the state in December. Winter wheat condition is rated as 8 percent excellent and 46 percent good. Cattle statewide are rated in 6 percent excellent and 63 percent good condition. 


Kansas Cotton Crop Hurt by Losing Ground to Other Crops

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas cotton farmers are seeing better yields, but the crop is losing ground to other commodities. The Hutchinson News reports  that cotton continues to lose acreage to corn, milo and other crops in Kansas. Acreage for cotton spiked at more than 115,000 in 2006. But the Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reports that the forecast for 2015 was 15,000 harvested acres, down 48 percent from 2014. Cotton production in Kansas was forecast at 24,000 bales in 2015, down 50 percent from 2014.  But the crop is doing well where it's still being grown. Cotton has been growing in southern Kansas for about two decades.


Kansas Outlasts Oklahoma for 109-106 Win in Triple Overtime

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) —The Jayhawks' Perry Ellis had 27 points and 13 rebounds, Devonte Graham hit the go-ahead free throw in the third overtime and top-ranked Kansas outlasted the Oklahoma Sooners to win 109-106 on Monday night. Wayne Selden had 21 points and Graham finished with 20 for the Jayhawks (13-1, 2-0 Big 12). The Sooners' Buddy Hield had a career-high 46 points for Oklahoma (12-1, 1-1), but he made two crucial turnovers in the final extra session, then missed a potential tying 3-pointer at the buzzer. Jordan Woodard hit six 3-pointers and had 27 points and Ryan Spangler finished with 14 points and 18 rebounds for the Sooners, who were trying to extend their best start in 28 years. 


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