Headlines for Thursday, January 28, 2015
Kansas Lawmakers Approve Bill to Keep State's Courts Open
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have given final approval to a bill to keep the state's courts open following a legal dispute involving their budget. The Senate passed the measure Thursday on a 39-1 vote. The House approved it last week, 119-0, so the bill goes next to Governor Sam Brownback. The measure repeals a 2015 law threatening the court system's budget. That law said the judiciary's entire budget would be nullified if the courts struck down another law enacted in 2014. The 2014 law stripped the Kansas Supreme Court of its power to appoint chief judges in the state's 31 judicial districts and gave it to local judges instead. The high court invalidated the 2014 law last month. Supporters of the 2014 law said they didn't intend to close the courts.
Kansas Lawmakers Discuss Shortening the Legislative Session
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers say that legislative sessions need to be curtailed to expedite decisions and save taxpayer money. The House Committee on Appropriations held a hearing Thursday to discuss a bill that would shorten the session in odd numbered years to 60 days. Even-numbered years would remain at 90 days as required by the Kansas Constitution. Republican Representative Marvin Kleeb from Overland Park was one of many members who testified that the shorter session would allow them to spend more time with their families and return to their businesses. They also said it would push lawmakers to discuss bills in a more efficient manner. Kleeb added that a shorter session could save taxpayers more than $1.9 million a year.
Kansas Court Ponders Greenhouse Gas Limits for Coal-Fired Power Plant
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An environmental group is asking the Kansas Supreme Court to require state limits on greenhouse gas emissions for a new coal-fired power plant in southwest Kansas before it is built. The court heard arguments Thursday from attorneys in a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club in 2014 after the state Department of Health and Environment signed off on the $2.8 billion project. Sunflower Electric Power Corporation wants to build the facility next to an existing coal-fired plant outside Holcomb. KDHE issued a permit in 2010, just before the federal government began regulating greenhouse gas emissions. Environmentalists challenged it and in 2013, the Supreme Court sent the permit back to KDHE. The department issued what it calls an addendum to the 2010 permit and contends greenhouse gas emissions limits aren't required.
Official Wants to Toss Lawsuit over Audit of Voting Machines
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge will hear arguments next month on the request to dismiss the lawsuit filed by a Wichita mathematician who is seeking to audit voting machine results after finding statistical anomalies in election counts. A hearing has been set for February 18 in Sedgwick County District Court. Wichita State University statistician Beth Clarkson wants the tapes to check the error rate on electronic voting machines used at a Sedgwick County voting station during the November 2014 general election. Sedgwick County contends it is statutorily prohibited from producing the voting machine tapes, which it contends are not open records. It also argued the issue was settled in an earlier lawsuit. But Clarkson's attorney, Randall Rathbun, says issues raised in the past are not being litigated in this case.
Kansas Senators Consider Firearms Non-Discrimination Act
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Olathe shooting range co-owner William Basore says he faced discrimination when he couldn't get insurance for his new car last fall because of his business. A bill reviewed Thursday by a Kansas Senate committee would protect Basore and any others businesses "engaged in the lawful commerce of firearms or ammunition products" from discriminatory practices by businesses such as banks, payment processors or insurance companies. Gun-rights advocates spoke in favor of the bill at a Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs hearing. But the measure was strongly criticized by lobbyists who wanted to include amendments or feared that it would create potential liabilities. Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri lobbyist Elise Higgins said the bill should protect organizations that offer health care for women.
Kansas Statehouse Power Plant Delayed Due to Lawmakers' Concerns
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A power plant construction project near the Kansas Statehouse has been delayed after lawmakers raised concerns about the plant's financing. The plant will power the capitol and other office buildings. Governor Sam Brownback’s administration reached the $20 million agreement to finance the facility without legislative approval. The state is financing the project through a 15-year lease-purchase agreement with Bank of America, paying about 2.3 percent interest. Brownback said a number of legislators wanted additional information but the governor also said the state could face penalties if it doesn't begin construction soon. The Department of Administration hopes to finish the plant this year. Brownback said he hopes the delay in construction would last only "for a couple of days."
Kansas Senate Confirms Commerce Secretary, Higher Ed Regents
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has approved Governor Sam Brownback's appointments of a new commerce secretary and three members of the board overseeing the state's higher education system. All four votes Thursday were 40-0. Antonio Soave has served as interim commerce secretary since December. He formerly was chairman and CEO of a company that helps businesses with mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures and expanding foreign markets. Soave also previously coached college soccer and played professional soccer in Italy. The three Board of Regents members confirmed Thursday were appointed by Brownback in June. They are David Murfin of Wichita, Dennis Mullin of Manhattan and Daniel Thomas of Mission Hills. Murfin is CEO of an oil drilling and equipment company. Mullin is chairman of a steel and pipe supply firm. Thomas is a dentist.
Investigators Identify Man Killed in Fight at Salina Jail
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have released the name of a man who died after fighting with two corrections officers as he was being booked into the Saline County Jail. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation identified the man Wednesday as 50-year-old Scott Brunson. The KBI says Brunson was arrested Monday after officers responded to a disturbance and found an injured woman. The KBI says Brunson was involved in an altercation with jail staff and died at a Salina hospital early Tuesday. Brunson's family says his drug and alcohol addictions contributed to his death. The Salina Journal reports that blood tests showed Brunson had cocaine, alcohol and methamphetamine in his system. The KBI is investigating the incident.
McPherson Teen Charged After Threatening Note Found at High School
MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — A 15-year-old student in Kansas has been charged after another student found a threatening note in a school restroom. The Salina Journal reports that the student is charged with aggravated criminal threat and faces discipline by McPherson High School. The McPherson Police Department says the student could face additional charges, and other students might be charged. Police say the student named in the note didn't have involvement in its creation or dissemination. Other students' response in sharing portions of the note has prompted more school security.
Lansing Prison Worker Enters Plea in Drug Smuggling Case
LANSING, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas prison worker has pleaded no contest to smuggling methamphetamine into the prison. Prosecutors announced Wednesday that 60-year-old Jacqueline Doty, of Fort Scott, had entered a plea in the case. The Kansas City Star reports that court documents say Doty was arrested in June 2014 after she was searched at the Lansing Correctional Facility and found to be carrying about 14 bags containing meth hidden in an undergarment. One of the bags held about 14 grams of meth. Doty told investigators that she had brought drugs into the prison on multiple occasions.
Teen Shot by Wichita Police Charged with Weapons Violation
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 17-year-old who was shot and wounded by Wichita police has been charged with a misdemeanor weapons violation. The Wichita Eagle reports that the charge was filed Thursday in juvenile court. It carries penalties ranging from probation to 28 days in juvenile detention. Police said the black teen was armed and running toward the white police officer who fired at him. The shooting happened on the night of Dec. 4 outside a high school where a girls' basketball game was underway. Police say the teen began running with a handgun when officers stopped a pickup truck that police thought contained a suspect in a double homicide. The teen is accusing of ignoring multiple commands to drop the handgun. Prosecutors haven't yet ruled on whether the shooting was justified.
Pittsburg Post Office Removes Banner
PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) - A post office in southeast Kansas has removed a "God Bless America" banner after an organization complained the banner violated the principle of separation church and state. The Joplin Globe reports the Pittsburg post office removed the banner Wednesday after hearing complaints about it from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The Wisconsin-based foundation has also been trying to get Missouri sheriffs to remove "In God We Trust" bumper stickers from department vehicles. Pittsburg postal workers paid for the 12-foot-long vinyl banner after the 2001 terrorist attacks. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Post Office says policy prohibits the placement of notices on postal property unless they're related to official government business.
University of Kansas Student Senate Votes Down Proposal to Impeach Student Leaders
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - The University of Kansas Student Senate has voted not to begin impeachment proceedings against three student leaders. The senate voted Wednesday night to allow President Jessie Pringle, Vice President Zach George and Chief of Staff Adam Moon to remain in office. Last November, a senate committee demanded the three be impeached, largely because of what some students said was their reluctance to support demands to promote campus diversity. The Lawrence Journal-World reports an impeachment committee found no allegations of misconduct against the three. The report also said their impeachment would set a dangerous precedent of removing officers from office because they aren't popular. After the impeachment efforts began last year, the three students released a list of diversity-related proposals they intend to pursue.
Feds Drop Fraud Charges Against Former Kansas Police Officer
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has dropped all charges against a former Bel Aire police officer accused in a scheme to buy and sell discounted firearms by falsely claiming they would be used for law enforcement purposes. At the government's request, U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren dismissed on Thursday mail and wire fraud charges against Nathan Mavia, just weeks before his trial. Prosecutors declined to comment on their reasons. His defense attorney says Mavia did not do anything that was criminal, and that both sides realized this was the fair thing to do. Mavia had been employed at the department from February 2012 until June 2014. Former Bel Aire Police Chief John Daily and two of his ex-officers, Robert McCaslin and Ricky Swanson, face trial on February 16 in U.S. District Court in Wichita.
9 Kansas City Police Officers Suspended During Investigation
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Police Department says two sergeants and seven detectives in its Crimes Against Children section have been suspended with pay while the department investigates claims that some cases haven't been addressed in a timely manner. The department said Thursday that it launched an internal probe after Chief Darryl Forte became aware of issues in the section in October. The department says it is concerned that some serious cases with vulnerable victims may not have been handled appropriately. A commander, sergeant and other detectives with experience in Crimes Against Children cases will manage the section's caseload during the probe. Crimes Against Children investigates cases in which children 16 years old or younger are victims of physical or sexual abuse, neglect, endangerment, parental kidnappings and custody violations.
Missouri Bill No Longer Targets Kansas City Earnings Tax
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City has been dropped from a bill targeting a 1-percent tax that people who work or live there and in St. Louis must pay. Under changes made Thursday, the bill focuses solely on phasing out the St. Louis earnings tax over 10 years. A committee has advanced the amended bill to the full Senate. Leaders in both cities have said ending the tax would have potentially devastating consequences. The tax generates one-third of St. Louis' general revenue. Kansas City Mayor Sly James said in a written statement that removing Kansas City from the bill is "a step in the right direction." Kansas City residents, as well as those in St. Louis, remain scheduled to vote in April on whether to renew the tax for another five years.
No. 6 Texas Women's Team Beats Kansas, 70-46
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — No. 6 Texas routed Kansas 70-46 Wednesday night for the 1,000th win in Longhorn women's basketball history. Texas (19-1, 8-1) took command with a 23-0 push bridging the second and third quarters. Lauren Aldridge scored 15 for Kansas (5-15, 0-9), which has lost 11 consecutive games. Caelynn Manning-Allen scored 14. The Jayhawks were plagued by turnovers with 12 in just the first quarter but made eight 3-point baskets, including five by Aldridge. The Longhorns finished the first half with a 19-0 push that gave them a 39-15 halftime lead. Kansas failed to score during the final 7:45 of the half.
Report: Royals Have Biggest Attendance Increase over Decade
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A financial news and opinion company reports the Kansas City Royals have seen the biggest increase in fan attendance among all major professional U.S. sports teams over a 10-year span. The Internet content company 24/7 Wall St. says in a report released Wednesday that attendance at Royals home games rose 92.7 percent from 2005 to 2015, with an average attendance last year of 33,438. The report says average attendance at Kauffman Stadium in 2005 was 17,356 per game, second lowest total in the majors and just 42.5 percent of stadium capacity. It was the 20th straight year in which Kansas City missed the postseason. In 2015 the Royals filled 88.2 percent of Kauffman's seats as they finished with the best American League record and won the World Series.