Headlines for Monday, February 15, 2016
Kansas Governor Endorses Marco Rubio for President
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has endorsed Florida Senator Marco Rubio for President of the United States. Brownback said, "Marco Rubio is a true conservative who can unite the party and defeat Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders in the fall. In the past, conservatives have been forced to make a choice between their heads and their hearts. This year, we are fortunate to not have to make that choice. Brownback said Rubio has a proven track record of protecting life, defending religious liberty and undoing Obamacare. Brownback's son-in-law works for Rubio.
Teacher's Union Prepares for Kansas Supreme Court Hearing on Tenure
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A union representing Kansas teachers has filed two district court lawsuits alleging teachers were removed from their positions without independent hearings, even though they had earned tenure before the state Legislature repealed teacher tenure protections in 2014. The lawsuits, filed by the Kansas National Education Association, come as the union and the state prepare for a showdown before the state Supreme Court over the 2014 law. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the lawsuits were filed against school districts in Wyandotte and Butler counties. The union's attorneys say three teachers were denied due process and they argue that teachers who earned tenure before 2014 can't be denied those rights now. The union contends that the Legislature's decision to remove the teacher protections is unconstitutional.
Lawmakers Tie Kansas Hospital Problems to Privatization Push
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas legislators from different parties are suggesting that the state has mismanaged its two mental hospitals to justify turning them over to private companies to operate. But one of Republican Governor Sam Brownback's top social services administrators told a House committee Monday that there's nothing to the allegation. Both Democratic Representative Jim Ward of Wichita and Republican Representative Scott Schwab of Olathe suggested the hospitals may have been deliberately mismanaged. Secretary Tim Keck said the Department for Aging and Disability Services sees privatization to as an option for Osawatomie State Hospital about 45 miles southwest of the Kansas City area, but not for Larned State Hospital in western Kansas. Dozens of positions are open at each hospital, and the federal government decertified the Osawatomie Hospital in December.
Kansas Department of Corrections to Sell More Prison Goods
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Secretary of Corrections would be able to sell prison-made goods to more entities under two bills before a House committee. Both of the measures would allow the secretary to sell products to any person or organization in Kansas. One would allow a vocational building program to manufacture housing units for sale or donation to the public. Corrections Secretary Johnnie Goddard told the House Committee on Commerce, Labor and Economic Development on Monday that the program would reduce the recidivism rate from 35 percent to 18 percent. Proponents from Ellsworth say the program also would address the shortage in rural housing. A representative of the Kansas Manufactured Housing Association argued that the measures would create unfair competition. The Department of Corrections would pay inmates up to $1.05 a day.
Abortion Issue Sparks First Tie Vote for State Appeals Court
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A split vote last month on an abortion issue is the first time in Kansas Court of Appeals' history that it has reached a deadlock. The 14-member court was evenly divided in a January 22 vote on whether the Kansas Constitution guarantees the right to an abortion. The main reason there have been no previous tie votes in the court is that initially the panel had seven members, and decisions are often made by three-judge panels. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the January session was the first time the court had met as a whole since 1983. The tie affirms a Shawnee County District Court ruling that prevented a ban on a controversial second-trimester abortion procedure from taking effect.
Kansas Senate Committee Approves Shipman's Nomination
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has approved the nomination of the acting secretary of the Department of Administration to become secretary, but not before questioning her about a $20-million lease-purchase deal for a new state power plant. The Senate Ways and Means Committee heard testimony Monday from acting secretary Sarah Shipman, who signed the lease agreement and is seeking to be secretary of the department. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the agreement has drawn criticism from legislators concerned about its cost and about perceived attempts to sidestep a legislative committee that approves state construction. The project's on hold.Shipman acknowledged miscommunication and promised to attend future meetings at the Statehouse regarding the power plant. The committee approved Shipman's appointment, sending her nomination to the full Senate.
Kansas Missing Persons Reports to Be Filed in 2 Hours
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas law enforcement would be required to file a missing persons report within two hours of receiving a minimum amount of information under a bill approved by a Senate committee. The measure that passed Monday in the Senate Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee sets a specific time period in which the report must be provided to the National Crime Information Center and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. Under current law, reports simply need to be entered "as soon as practical." Overland Park Republican Representative Greg Smith is chairman of the committee and wrote the current law, which went into effect in 2013. His daughter was abducted and killed in 2007. The committee on Tuesday will debate changes on a bill that would overhaul the juvenile justice system.
Kansas Lawmakers Want to Limit Release of Police Video
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers want to restrict public access to law enforcement body camera footage in an effort to protect the privacy of people caught on camera. A bill introduced by the House judiciary committee would limit release of the video to the people in the footage, their attorneys and their parents if they are minors. The public would have access to footage only through a court order. Under the current law, most of the video is public record and available to anyone who asks for it. Proponents say regulation would protect the public's privacy. But some critics say the bill doesn't go far enough to balance privacy rights and the value of the cameras as an accountability tool.
5.1 Earthquake Shakes Oklahoma, Neighboring States
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The U.S. Geological Survey reports a 5.1 magnitude earthquake in northwest Oklahoma that was reportedly felt across Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Nebraska, Texas, Arkansas and Iowa. Local authorities report no injury or damage as a result of the quake that struck Saturday at 11:07 a.m. north of Fairview. Ten smaller quakes ranging from magnitude 2.5 to 3.9 were recorded in the same area over the next several hours. The area is about 100 miles northwest of Oklahoma City. The strongest earthquake on record in Oklahoma is a magnitude 5.6 in Prague in November 2011 that damaged 200 buildings. Geologists say the recent, dramatic spike in seismic activity is linked to the injection of wastewater underground as part of the hydraulic fracturing process in oil and gas production.
University of Kansas Endowment Using Crowdfunding
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas Endowment is using a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for some small scale projects on campus. The campaign, called Launch KU, is designed to bring in money for projects such as replacing musicians' chairs at Swarthout Recital hall or bringing therapy dogs to campus. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the first seven projects using the crowdfunding resource raised more than $50,000 from 200 donors. A second batch of eight projects ends in mid-April. The endowment's director says the campaign is a new approach targeting a different audience than the organization's typical multimillion-dollar building campaigns.
Lawrence Dealing with Emerald Ash Borer Infestation
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Lawrence's Parks and Recreation Department is seeking about $240,000 to deal with beetles that are expected to kill all of the city's ash trees over the next decade. The Parks and Recreation Department is seeking $238,540 to hire three full-time forestry staff to fight an infestation of the emerald ash borer. The department will take its request to the City Commission on Tuesday. The city has about 3,200 ash trees. The emerald ash borer, which has been in Kansas for a few years, was confirmed in Douglas County last year. The pests feed on ash trees. If the funds are approved, crews would soon start treating some ash trees on public land and removing and replacing others.
Award-Winning Kansas News Photographer Bill Snead Dies
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Bill Snead, an award-winning news photographer from Kansas whose career included covering wars and national political conventions, has died. He was 78. Snead's wife, Dona Snead, said Monday that Snead died at his Lawrence home Sunday after struggling for several months with advanced lung cancer. Snead spent 21 years with The Washington Post, including as a staff photographer and assistant managing editor for graphics. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Snead also served as picture editor for National Geographic and bureau manager for United Press International in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Snead was later a senior editor at The Lawrence Journal-World until 2007. He won the newspaper photographer of the year award from the White House News Photographers Association in the early 1990s.
Pulitzer Prize-Winning Composer Steven Stucky Dies at 66
ITHACA, N.Y. (AP) — A Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, longtime Cornell University faculty member and resident composer with the Los Angeles Philharmonic has died. Steven Stucky was 66. His publicist, Jessica Lustig, says Stucky died Sunday at his home in Ithaca after having aggressive brain cancer. Stucky won a Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for his "Second Concerto for Orchestra," commissioned for and premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he was resident composer from 1988-2009. He also wrote for other major U.S. ensembles including those of Chicago, Baltimore, Cleveland, Dallas and Philadelphia. Stucky was born in Kansas and raised in Texas. He studied at Baylor and Cornell, returning to Cornell to teach in 1980. He joined the faculty of The Juilliard School in 2014. He is survived by his wife, Kristen, and two children.
Villanova Starts 2nd Week as No. 1 in AP Poll; KU Leaps to No. 2
Villanova is No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25 Men's College Basketball Poll for a second week and the University of Kansas, coming off wins over two top 10 teams, jumps four places to second. Duke, which had one of the longest consecutive poll streaks ever, returns at No. 20 after two weeks out of the Top 25. Villanova (22-3) received 44 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel on Monday with KU (21-4) getting the other 21. Oklahoma, which lost to Kansas in their rematch, and Iowa stayed third and fourth. North Carolina jumped four places to fifth and was followed by Maryland, which had been No. 2, and Virginia. Michigan State and Xavier are tied for eighth and West Virginia, which also lost to Kansas, is 10th.