Kan. spat over education standards in limbo
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A question about the legality of putting a policy statement in the Kansas budget stalled some lawmakers' efforts to block the implementation of Common Core reading and math standards in state schools.
Kansas joined more than 40 states in adopting the national education standards in 2010 and school districts are in varying stages of implementing them. However, opponents wanted to stop the standards through a budget provision that would ban using any state money on Common Core.
The House dropped the language Tuesday in its final budget offer, saying it would have violated a constitutional ban on having two subjects in a single bill.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Marc Rhoades says Wednesday he understands concerns about the standards but there were few options left to stop them this session.
Kan. lawmakers' sales tax talks take new twist
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas legislators are considering a proposal to impose a lower state sales tax on groceries than on other consumer goods.
Senate Republicans offered the proposal Wednesday during negotiations with House members on tax issues.
House and Senate Republicans disagree over how much the state's 6.3% sales tax should drop in July.
It's set to decline to 5.7%, but Gov. Sam Brownback and Senate GOP leaders have said allowing it to drop much will cause budget problems and prevent Kansas from cutting income taxes.
In negotiations, GOP senators proposed keeping the sales tax at 6.25%, while the House's plan was 6%.
As a compromise, Republican senators suggested dropping the sales tax on groceries to 5.7% while keeping the tax on other items at 6.25%.
OKLAHOMA TORNADO-SCHOOL SAFETY
School storm protection is spotty in tornado zones
MOORE, Okla. (AP) - Communities in the tornado-prone Midwest are increasingly building "safe rooms" in public schools. But this week's deadly tornado near Oklahoma City highlights how storm protection in the nation's schools is inconsistent.
Plaza Towers Elementary School, where seven students were killed, did not have a safe room. Several other schools in the area did.
In response to the tornado, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has announced the creation of a state fund to accept donations for the construction of safe rooms. And a state lawmaker proposed a $500 million bond issue to help finance storm shelters.
The rooms are expensive, costing up to $1 million, depending on size. Oklahoma has already distributed federal grants for safe rooms to more than 100 schools. But most schools still lack them.
3 snared in trucking scam face court in Kansas
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Arraignments have been scheduled for three California residents accused of trying to steal nearly $83,000 worth of beef from a southwest Kansas slaughterhouse.
The U.S. Attorney's office on Wednesday announced the June 4 court dates in Wichita for 53-year-old Oganes Nagapetian; his 46-year-old wife, Larisa; and his 50-year-old brother, Tigran Nagapetian. All are from North Hollywood, Calif.
An indictment unsealed earlier this month charges them with conspiracy to violate U.S. laws.
Prosecutors allege the three tried to steal a semi-load of processed beef in November 2011 from the Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Holcomb by pretending to be legitimate freight haulers.
U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says meatpacking plants in Dodge City, Liberal, Holcomb and Garden City have been targeted in similar trucking schemes on several occasions.
AIR FORCE TANKERS-KANSAS UPDATE
Senators praise McConnell tanker decision
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Republican Sen. Jerry Moran says the Air Force decision to base a new air refueling tanker at McConnell Air Force Base will help protect the base against any future military cutbacks or closures.
The Kansas congressional delegation says McConnell will be the main operating site for the KC-46A, which will replace the KC-135. The Air Force will base 36 of the new aircraft at McConnell starting in 2016 and will spent $192 million on upgrades.
McConnell was chosen over bases in North Dakota, Oklahoma and Washington.
Republican Sen. Pat Roberts says McConnell's makeover following the devastating tornado in 1991 gave it a solid platform and a "leg up" in the competition. He says it also fulfills an Air Force general's promise made after bombers were relocated to base in South Dakota.
EPA fines Coffeyville refinery $300K
COFFEYVILLE, Kan. (AP) - The federal government is fining a southeast Kansas refinery $300,000 for deficiencies in the company's program to curb air pollution.
The Environmental Protection Agency's regional office said in a release Wednesday that Coffeyville Resources Refining & Marketing has agreed to pay the penalty to settle alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at its Coffeyville plant.
The proposed settlement addresses deficiencies in the refinery's risk management program, which is aimed at preventing and reducing the severity of accidental releases of air pollution. The settlement is subject to a 30-day comment period and approval by a federal court.
The settlement is the third for the company since 2012. The first also addressed air pollution, while the second settlement dealt with a 2007 oil spill into the Verdigris River.
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