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Top Stories Of The Week

Kansas Legislature

Long-time Leawood state Senator John Vratil announced that he won't run again. Kansas finally got a set of redistricting maps, by court order. Those & other top stories of the week on the Saturday News Review.

Court Redistricting Solution Shakes Up Kansas Politics

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach called the redistricting maps produced by 3 federal judges Thursday night “the most disruptive ever.” But, he said, there were no grounds for appeal.

And three days before filing deadline for coming primaries, Kansas politicos faced four state Senate districts with multiple incumbents... more than twenty in the House. And for every district with multiples, there's another that now had nobody running.

As of Friday afternoon candidates and political observers were still trying to figure out what the new districts would mean in terms of how the conservative-moderate power struggle in Topeka will balance out.

Most agreed that having Manhattan, Kansas in the big 1st District of western and central Kansas did not bode particularly well for the National Bio and Agro Defense Laboratory. Military leaders and supporters had similar feelings about having Ft. Leavenworth and Ft. Riley in different Congressional districts.

Leawood's Vratil To Retire From Kansas Senate

Amid it all GOP state Senator John Vratil of Leawood announced his retirement he won't run for a fourth term. He said he'd just lost the fire, that going to work in the Senate had become a chore for him. Yes, he said, increasing conflict within the Republican party was part of what was so wearisome. As for the redistricting maps produced by the court, he agreed that they were fair but chaos-producing, and speculated that if the House was working on the maps now, it would likely draw its own map and allow the Senate to do likewise, as was done “in the good old times.” Vratil endorsed Representative Pat Colloton to assume his 11th District seat.

School Funding Lawsuit Hearings Begin

Another courtroom battle was just beginning, as testimony began in the lawsuit Kansas education funding continued. Several dozen districts are suing the state over millions of dollars in funding that was not budgeted. Alan Rupe, representing the school districts, said schools were shorted more than $23 million in just two years. Arguing for the state, Attorney General Derek Schmidt.said the court should honor the decisions of the Legislature, which had made the best of bad revenue times.

Any decision will likely be appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court.

No Criminal Charges in Bioscience Authority Probe

Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe says there will be no criminal charges against former Kansas Bioscience Authority CEO Tom Thornton. Howe says there was mismanagement, impropriety and violation of KBA policies but it took place openly and with the approval of both KBA management and its board of directors. Thus, he said, violation of policies did not equate with violation of laws.

Murder Investigations End Because Families Afraid To Testify

Mayor Sly James asked Kansas City Police Chief Daryl Forte to address a city council committee after reports in the Kansas City Star that 6 out of 10 murder cases are dropped because victims' families won't testify. Forte said he wants to try several things, including adding e-mail and text messages to the persuasion tool kit and simply more contact with the bereaved.

Homes May Be Condemned For East Patrol Campus

Another city council committee advanced a proposal to give the city manager the authority to issue condemnation notices on properties whose owners have not reached buyout agreements so the city can have their land for the new East Patrol Police campus. Assistant City Manager Pat Klein emphasized the fairness of the offers the city is making. Others testifying before the committee framed the issue in terms of core-city redevelopment, and on the other side of the issue, of displacement of aging homeowners.

More Red Light Cameras In Kansas City Future

Deputy Police Chief Cheryl Rose reported to a city council grou on a new study that suggests red-light cameras are reducing accidents in Kansas City, Missouri. Given the study and its interpretation, the city plans to add cameras in up to 7 more intersections.

Judge Sides With Commission: No Zoo Tax Vote

A circuit judge upheld the Cass County Board of Commissioners' right to keep a zoo sales tax off the ballot there, despite the number of petitions collected. The court said that the ultimate authority for what goes to the voters rests with the commission.

Petitions Circulated In Arboretum Statue Flap

Opponents of a bare-breasted sculpture at the Overland Park Arboretum launched a petition drive to call a grand jury to rule on whether it is obscene. The artist says the statue is meant to make a statement about societal overemphasis of physical assets. The critical group contends it implies endorsement of that emphasis.

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