Associated Press

The Associated Press is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering, supplying a steady stream of news to its members, international subscribers and commercial customers. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, it's a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members.

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Business
1:50 pm
Fri March 27, 2015

Utility Customer Disconnect Protection Ends Tuesday

Credit Brendan Wood, flickr Creative Commons

A state agency is reminding utility customers who are behind on paying their electric and natural gas bills that the Kansas Cold Weather Rule ends Tuesday.

The Kansas Corporation Commission says the rule aims to protect residential customers who cannot fully pay winter utility bills. It is in effect from Nov. 1 through March 31 of each year for customers of companies under the KCC's jurisdiction.

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Education
12:54 pm
Thu March 26, 2015

Senate Rejects Bill On Teacher Contracts

Credit Jirka Matousek, flickr Creative Commons

A bill that would have forced a re-negotiation of all teacher salaries at the end of their current term was defeated in the Senate.

The Senate voted 13-27 to reject the bill Wednesday. It would have also eliminated the current teacher pay scale by narrowing salary talks between school boards and teachers unions to minimum salary.

Republican Sen. Jeff Melcher from Leawood inserted the changes into the bill and said they would help school reward good teachers and fire underperformers.

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Education
12:35 pm
Thu March 26, 2015

Brownback Signs School Funding Overhaul Into Law

Credit alamosbasement, flickr Creative Commons

Republican Governor Sam Brownback has signed a $4.1 billion plan to overhaul Kansas' school funding system.

The governor signed the bill into law Wednesday during a private ceremony in the presence of GOP leaders.

It scraps the current formula for determining state aid and replaces it with "block grants" to school districts based on their current aid. The grant system will be in place for two years while the Legislature develops a new formula.

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Government
5:00 am
Thu March 26, 2015

UPDATE: Bill Expanding Concealed Carry Heads To Governors Desk

Credit Auraelius, flickr Creative Commons

Update from AP: 

A proposal to allow Kansas residents to carry concealed firearms without a permit has won final approval from the Legislature.

The measure was headed to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback despite some lawmakers' misgivings about the state dropping its requirement that anyone seeking to carry a concealed firearm undergo at least eight hours of training.

Brownback's office didn't say what his plans are, but he's signed every other major gun-rights measure sent to him since taking office in January 2011.

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Environment
2:22 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

Kansas House Approves Bill To Limit Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Credit D1v1d, flickr Creative Commons

The Kansas House has advanced a bill to set up a greenhouse gas reduction plan.

The House advanced the measure on a voice vote on Tuesday and will take a final vote Wednesday.

The bill would direct the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to develop an emissions plan, and the Legislature's energy committees would be required to approve it.

The Environmental Protection Agency has directed states to develop stricter emissions standards by June of next year.

States without a suitable plan will have federal regulations imposed upon them.

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Health
2:15 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

Senate Panel Considers Cigarette, Alcohol Tax Increases

Credit Maarten van Maanen, flickr Creative Commons

Health advocates and business owners are divided over proposed increases in cigarette and alcohol taxes in Kansas.

The Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee considered the measures on Tuesday. Governor Sam Brownback recommended the moves in January as a part of his budget proposals.

The cigarette tax would jump by $1.50 per pack to $2.29, and the tax paid by consumers at liquor stores would increase to 12 percent, up from 8 percent.

Health advocates testified for the bill, saying that increasing prices is the best way to get smokers to quit.

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Government
1:30 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

House Advances Bill To Reduce Civil Service Protections

Credit Stephen Koranda

Two bills that could limit public employee protections advanced in the Kansas Legislature on Tuesday while a strict reform to public employee collective bargaining stalled in the Senate.

The House voted 71-53 to give first-round approval to a bill that would allow state agencies to remove civil service protections for new workers and employees changing positions.

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Crime and Courts
2:33 pm
Tue March 24, 2015

Commune Leader Sentenced To Life In Prison For Murder

A man who led a Kansas commune that collected millions of dollars in life insurance payouts from dead members was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison for the drowning death of one of them 12 years ago.

Daniel Perez, 55, stared straight ahead and showed no emotion as he heard his sentence: a life term for murder in Patricia Hughes' 2003 death at the commune's 20-acre compound near Wichita, another life term on a sexual exploitation of a child conviction, and nearly 34 more years behind bars on 26 other counts, including rape.

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Health
2:18 pm
Tue March 24, 2015

Kansas Senate Approves Plan To Control Mental Health Drugs

Credit Simone, flickr Creative Commons

A new bill that would control the cost of mental health drugs to the Medicaid program in Kansas has advanced in the Legislature.

On Monday, the Senate gave first-round approval to a bill requiring a review of Medicaid's mental health prescriptions.

It also creates an advisory committee to draft guidelines on prescriptions for poor and disabled Kansans covered by the program.

The measure had bipartisan support and arose from discussions between Governor Brownback's administration and mental health advocates.

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Education
12:46 pm
Mon March 23, 2015

State House Committee Rejects Proposed Ban On Common Core Standards

Credit Alberto G, flickr Creative Commons

The House Education committee has rejected a proposed ban on using multi-state Common Core academic standards in the state's public schools.

On Friday, the committee voted 10-7 against the bill, that would prevent any school district or official from giving "any measure of control" over academic standards to any group outside Kansas.

Common Core foes opponents are split over whether to pursue softer language for the bill to help it advance.

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