Local and state briefs

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K-State’s first free online course reaches students across six continents

Kansas’s massive online open course, or MOOC, first opened in fall 2014 and reached 2,100 students in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia, according to a K-State news release.

The free class, called Health and Wellness 101: Everyday Small Changes, is taught by Linda Yarrow, assistant professor of human nutrition. The MOOC covers topics on living a healthy lifestyle, such as healthy meal planning and cooking, body image, physical activity, healthy sleep habits, lowering disease risk and stress management.

“Everyone, at some point in their life, becomes more concerned about their health,” Yarrow said in the release. “Sometimes it’s because they realize their needs change as they get older, and other times they witness friends and family having health complications. We tried to make the course very personal, though it’s hard to do on such a large, international scale.”

A second opportunity for all students to take the class began Jan. 12 and will be open until March 22.

Proposed bill to balance budget will maintain a deficit

According to the Little Apple Post, numbers from the Kansas Legislature’s research staff indicate the current state deficit will not be fully covered by a proposed plan being pushed by lawmakers. The researchers reported that the bill would leave Kansas with an $800,000 deficit after its proposed adjustments.

On Tuesday, it was reported by the legislative researchers that tax collections from July 2014 through January were nearly $66 million short of the expected amount. They also stated that before the final numbers on tax collections were reported, the plan was meant to leave the state with reserves of almost $65 million.

Lawmakers express concern about diverting highway funding

According to KSNT, House Republican Reps. Don Hill of Emporia, Tom Philips of Manhattan and Democratic Rep. Adam Lusker of Frontenac said they’re concerned about Kansas roads and bridges deteriorating if funds from highway projects are diverted to general government operations.

The fund diversion bill, proposed by Gov. Sam Brownback, would take $158 million from highway projects and, according to transportation officials, would have the potential to delay some projects. Kansas currently faces a shortfall of $330 million in its current budget. Republican leaders believe a bill making adjustments needs to be approved by Feb. 13 to ensure the state’s debts are paid on time.

Drug crime sentencing could change amid prison space issues

Drug offenders could soon be steered towards community treatment rather than prison time through a new proposal according to Junction City Post.

After decades of failed policies as a result of the “war on drugs,” a growing prison population and a budget crisis, the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee is set to try a new approach that could, according to committee chairman Rep. John Rubin, both save money and have more positive results.

Rubin’s committee had previously approved a bill to make small amounts of marijuana possession a felony after a third offense rather than the second.

The committee also had a hearing on a bill that would allow prosecutors to seek diversions combined with drug treatment programs, for possession crimes.

School funding cuts could lead to adverse effects in some districts

The Kansas Senate’s Ways and Means Committee discussed a bill that would cut $39 million in funding for schools this fiscal year according to the Little Apple Post. Sen. Ty Masterson, chairman of the committee, argued for the cuts saying current spending is distributed unfairly and schools would be able to adjust.

Educational officials however said the cuts in funding would force some schools to close early, cancel free lunches to at-risk kids, cancel summer school programs and lay off custodial staff.

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