Schlitterbahn rides would have more state oversight under House bill

Legislators are discussing changes to Kansas laws following a water slide death at the Schlitterbahn park in Kansas City, Kansas, in August 2016. (Wyandotte Daily file photo)

A bill that received preliminary approval in the Kansas House on Thursday would increase state oversight on amusement park rides.

The bill, which received preliminary voice approval, is expected to pass next week on a final vote in the House, then would go to the Senate for consideration.

The bill comes in the wake of a fatal Schlitterbahn water park ride accident in Kansas City, Kansas, in which the son of an influential Republican legislator died in August 2016. Caleb Schwab, age 10, was killed while riding the Verruckt, the world’s tallest water slide, at Schlitterbahn. The ride has been closed since the accident, and Schlitterbahn has announced it will disassemble the ride once the legal process involving the accident is completed.

Rep. Tom Burroughs, D-33rd Dist., in whose district the Schlitterbahn water park is located, said Rep. Scott Schwab gave a very impassioned presentation on the bill Thursday. Rep. Schwab stated it was necessary for the state to have an inspection process so no other family would have to suffer the consequences that the Schwab family did.

Rep. Burroughs said he voted in favor of the bill on Thursday, and he expects it to pass by a large majority. The bill originated with Rep. John Barker, a Republican from Abilene, and the House Committee on Federal and State Affairs.

Rep. Burroughs said the bill would regulate the industry to the extent that the rides would be inspected. It also brings Kansas into line with neighboring states that have an inspection process on rides, inflatables and amusement parks, he said.

If it passes, the bill will put documents in place, and will encourage a concerted effort by the facility itself to have the rides inspected on an annual basis, he added. It should give consumers a sense of comfort, he said.

The rides will be inspected once a year by an engineer hired by the insurance companies that insure the amusement parks, under the bill. There is a provision that requires injuries on rides to be reported, and the state may inspect the ride if there is an injury. Also, there is a provision for fees to be collected from amusement parks, and permits to be issued. The state Labor Department will be authorized to conduct random inspections, under the bill.

The attention drawn to it will encourage amusement parks to take additional steps to ensure the safety of visitors, Rep. Burroughs said.

Plan phases in $750 million more for Kansas schools over the next five years

by Sam Zeff, Kansas News Service

A Kansas legislative committee worked eight hours Thursday night and didn’t come up with a new school funding formula.

But now the goal has been set for how much new money will be added to try and satisfy the state Supreme Court, which has ruled school funding in Kansas is inadequate.

“Our target was a $150 million over a period of five years, to escalate up slowly to a more constitutionally appropriate number,” said Rep. Melissa Rooker, a Republican from Fairway and a driving force to find more money for public education.

By adding $150 million more each year for the next five years, lawmakers will gradually increase public school funding by $750 million. Most believe that final figure will pass constitutional muster.

Rep. Ed Trimmer from Winfield, the ranking Democrat on the K-12 Budget Committee, said that’s the minimum the Legislature has to find.

“Otherwise we’ll be back here doing this same thing again after the court tells us that’s not enough money,” he said.

There is concern by some on the committee that a five year ramp up may not be quick enough to satisfy the court. Lawyers for the plaintiff school districts that sued the state have said they would accept some phase in of new money.

“So as long as the court stays engaged and there is a commitment that gets fulfilled, we can figure out how to make it work,” said David Smith, chief of staff in the Kansas City, Kansas, school district, which is one of the plaintiff districts in the Gannon school funding case.

The chairman of the committee, Rep. Larry Campbell from Olathe, said he’s aiming for the $150 million figure. But it appears some conservatives on the K-12 Budget Committee as well as some in the GOP House leadership may have a problem with that much more money.

Leadership delayed the hearing for two days in part to arm twist some Republican members into supporting putting only $75 million more into schools.

The hard ball apparently continued Thursday night as several amendments that added money into public education passed the committee on close votes. During an extended break, a number of people saw Republicans called into the office of House Speaker Ron Ryckman from Olathe. After the break, several moderate and Democratic amendments failed.

One of the swing votes on the committee was Rep. Adam Smith, a freshman from Weskan, which is right next to the Colorado border. He voted for several amendments backed by moderates and Democrats on the panel.

He said he wasn’t pressured by leadership.

“Most of my interest lies with my district back home, and the people I talk to back home on the programs that are important to them that’s what I tried to support the most,” he said.

The amendment that held up final action dealt with adding more state aid into student transportation. There wasn’t an immediate figure for what that would cost. It’s a pretty big item, so Campbell decided to wait until a dollar figure was available.

Campbell said the committee will finish its work Monday and then the bill will head to the Kansas House floor.

There are a couple of looming deadlines. First, the Legislature has its first adjournment next Friday. And if a new, constitutional funding formula isn’t on the books by June 30, the high court has said it may shut down public schools.

Sam Zeff covers education for KCUR and the Kansas News Service and is co-host of the political podcast Statehouse Blend Kansas. Follow him on Twitter @SamZeff. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to

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More than 30 employers already signed up for KCKCC job fair

by Kelly Rogge, KCKCC

More than 30 employers have already signed up for booths at the Kansas City Kansas Community College’s 2017 “Get Hired – Kansas City” Job Fair.

The fair is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 26 in the KCKCC Field House, 7250 State Ave., with special accommodations for the veterans and disabled from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

The event is free and open to students, faculty, community members and veterans. Last year, approximately 1,000 individuals attended, and over the last several years, a high number of those who were interviewed at the job fair have been hired on the spot, according to a college spokesman.

“We take pride in our services to our growing population of military and disabled students,” said Alicia Hooks, executive director of entrepreneurship and workforce center at KCKCC. “We had more than 50 employers attend last year and are considered the largest job fair in the Kansas City metropolitan area.”

The list of employers already registered to attend include:
• Amazon
• Ameristar
• Berry Plastics
• Best Harvest
• Brookdale Senior Living
• Capitol Federal
• Cohen Esrey Real Estate
• Community Blood Center
• Creative Blow Mold
• Display Studios
• Economic Opportunity Foundation Inc.
• Edwardsville Care & Rehab
• ExpressPros
• Fastenal
• IMKO Workforce Solutions – Shawnee
• Leavenworth County Sheriff’s Office
• Liberty Fruit
• MVP Electric
• North Kansas City Hospital
• Olathe Health System
• Pipefitters Local Union #533
• ProLogistix
• Providence Medical Center
• Regal Staffing
• Sage Restoration
• Sam’s Club
• Sheet Metal Workers Local Union #2
• Spangler Graphics
• Spectrum Paint
• Tall Oaks Conference Center
• United Health Group
• U.S. Navy

Participants should dress professionally and have resumes on hand to give to potential employers. In addition, they will have the opportunity to visit with all of the area companies attending as well as fill out job applications. Employment specialists will be available onsite to help prepare or update resumes for printing.

The job fair is sponsored by the Entrepreneurship and Workforce Center at KCKCC. To register online, employers may visit the website link at Early bird pricing is available until April 1. Regular pricing on all booth space ends April 15.

For more information on the Job Fair, call 913-288-7644.