Kansas Governor's Tobacco Bonds Plan Draws Strong Criticism
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is facing strong bipartisan criticism over his proposal to use bonds backed by tobacco settlement funds to help plug short-term budget gaps. The Republican governor wants to sell off the rights to collect part of Kansas' annual payments from a national legal settlement in the 1990s between states and tobacco companies. Such a deal would generate a one-time cash payment of $158 million to the state. The governor outlined the plan this week as one of several alternatives for closing budget gaps totaling more than $290 million. Budget Director Shawn Sullivan said the governor believes the proposal would do less harm to state programs than other proposals. But legislators in both parties see the plan as using long-term debt to fix budget problems over two fiscal years.
Kobach Wins 2nd Conviction in Double-Voting Prosecution
HAYS, Kan. (AP) — A man who illegally voted in both Kansas and Colorado has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. The conviction against Randal Kilian is the second under a new state law that gives Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach the power to prosecute election fraud allegations. The Wichita Eagle reports that the 62-year-old Kilian agreed to pay a $2,500 fine under a plea entered Thursday in Ellis County District Court. As part of the plea, two companion charges were dropped. Kobach says the fine shows how seriously the state takes voter fraud. Kilian was registered as a Republican in Hays when he voted illegally in 2012. He's now a Colorado resident. Another man pleaded guilty in December in Johnson County District Court to voting illegally in Arkansas and Kansas while moving.
Senator: Election Official Lacked Authority to Change Policy
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill says an election official had no authority to unilaterally modify a federal voter registration form to require proof-of-citizenship documents to register to vote in Kansas, Alabama and Georgia. The Missouri Democrat released on Friday a letter sent to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission saying the actions of its executive director, Brian Newby, could cause irreparable harm to the commission. Worse yet, she says, it could deprive tens of thousands of American citizens of their rights to cast a ballot. McCaskill asks commissioners to ignore Newby's illegitimate actions and revert to its prior policies. She says the changes requested by the three states are policy changes that must be publically considered by the full commission. The EAC did not immediately comment on her letter.
Kansas Panels Approve Extra $17M for State Mental Hospitals
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Two separate Kansas legislative committees have approved proposals from Governor Sam Brownback to provide an additional $17 million to the state's two mental hospitals. The decisions Thursday by the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee mean both chambers will consider the spending as part of broader budget legislation next week. The extra funds will provide pay raises and offset lost federal funds over the next 15 months. Most of the funds would be spent at Osawatomie State Hospital. The federal government decertified the hospital in December over the reported rape of an employee and other safety issues. But legislators also have been concerned about staffing shortages at Larned State Hospital in western Kansas.
Kansas Supreme Court Rules Sex Offender Registry Not Cruel
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A divided Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that the lifetime registration for sex offenders does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. The ruling Friday comes in the case of Henry Petersen-Beard, who was convicted at age 19 of raping a 13-year-old girl. He had challenged the lifetime registration requirement as unconstitutional under the Kansas Bill of Rights and the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In an opinion written by Judge Caleb Stegall the court found the registration requirement was not a form of punishment. But three other cases released on Friday — that were decided before Stegall took office — found the requirement constituted punishment and therefore a 2011 amendment to the law couldn't be applied retroactively. However, those rulings applied only to the three defendants in those cases.
Southern Plains Residents Warned of Potential Tornadoes
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Weather forecasters are telling people in the Southern Plains to review their tornado safety plans ahead of severe weather expected next week. The Storm Prediction Center says tornadoes are possible in southern Kansas, Oklahoma and northern Texas next Tuesday, with additional severe weather for those areas and Missouri later in the week. SPC operations manager Bill Bunting says one reason for noting the troubling forecast six days out is that people should review where they will obtain emergency information next week. Bunting said there isn't a need to be alarmed now, but the need for awareness is growing as the nation's midsection approaches its peak tornado season. Next week marks five years since a tornado outbreak across the South killed 316 people.
KU Minority Students Seek Parallel University Government
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Minority students at the University of Kansas are pushing for an independent governing body to represent their interests — and have won recognition and funding to start the long process that could let them do so. Students insist they're not trying to set up a wholly separate student government. But they are frustrated by what they see as a lack of attention to issues they care about. They want a structure that focuses on social justice issues and multicultural students, with programs such as longer orientations for some students or funding for those with financial emergencies. They say it would complement the work of the traditional student government. Experts see the novel approach as the latest example of the impatience minority students feel after generations of exclusion from campus government.
Suspended Corrections Employee to Stand Trial in Killing
GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — A judge has found sufficient evidence for a suspended correctional employee to stand trial in a fatal western Kansas shooting. The Great Bend-Tribune reports that the ruling was issued after Freddie Alec Thomas appeared in Barton County District Court on Thursday for a preliminary hearing. Thomas is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of 39-year-old Jeremy Alan Saldana outside a Great Bend home. The shooting happened after Thomas went to the home with a woman whom Saldana had dated previously. Saldana was living with the woman's daughter and grandchildren but wasn't at the home when the visit began. Witnesses testified that a pushing match ensued when the unarmed Saldana arrived, and he was shot. An Ellsworth Correctional Facility spokesman says Thomas hasn't worked at the facility since last September.
Kansas State Presidential Search Will Be Closed to the Public
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The search for the next president of Kansas State University will be closed to the public. The Manhattan Mercury reports that Regent Dennis Mullin says a closed search process was selected to make sure the best candidates for the position are found. He discussed the search process this week with the Kansas Board of Regents. It's looking for a replacement for Kirk Schulz, who has been selected as the next president of Washington State University. Richard Myers, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is serving as Kansas State's interim president. Mullin says many qualified candidates won't allow themselves to be considered with an open search process. Schulz previously has said he only applied for the Washington State position because it was a closed search.
Hutchinson Couple Dies in Head-On Crash on Kansas Highway 14
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Hutchinson couple has died in a head-on crash on a highway overpass. The Kansas Highway Patrol says crash happened Thursday when a 17-year-old driver crossed the center line of Kansas 14 between Nickerson and Hutchinson. The teen's vehicle then crashed into an oncoming vehicle, killing two people inside. The patrol identified the victims as Jimmie Ray and Carolyn Sue Narron, both 68. The patrol says the teen was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Authorities say one dog inside the Narrons' vehicle was killed and another ran from the scene. The crash caused traffic delays for several hours.
Kansas City to Consider $27M for Jazz District Improvements
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City leaders are calling for $27.6 million in public funds to help complete revitalizations to the 18th and Vine jazz district. The Kansas City Star reports that City Manager Troy Schulte and a councilman who represents the district made the case to the City Council on Thursday for the public spending. They said the money could help leverage $12 million in private dollars. Before falling into disrepair, the area east of downtown became world famous for the hard-swinging, bluesy jazz style played in its club. Struggles remain despite more than two decades of work. Completed projects include the American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball museum. Schulte urged the city to "do it right and declare victory once and for all at 18th and Vine."
Court Suspends Lawrence Attorney's License for 18 Months
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has suspended the license of a Lawrence attorney for 18 months amid complaints from her clients and other attorneys. Under an order issued last week, Joan M. Hawkins also was instructed to pay the costs for the disciplinary proceedings. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Hawkins is the owner of J Hawk law firm and handles family law cases. The court's order said Hawkins had filed false pleadings in district court, delayed returning unearned legal fees to a former client and improperly called into question the veracity of a court employee. The court also found that she engaged "in behavior that unreasonably delayed the resolution of two legal matters."
Charges Filed in 1988 Killings of 2 People in Kansas
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ A Wichita man is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the 1988 shooting deaths of two people in Kansas City, Kansas. Wyandotte County authorities charged Melvin L. Shields Thursday in the deaths of 27-year-old Jolene Jones and 33-year-old Steve Ray. The Kansas City Star reports that the victims were longtime friends who had a daughter together. Their bodies were found in a secluded area near the Kansas River. Prosecutors say the initial investigation didn't identify a suspect but the investigation was recently reopened, which led to Shields' arrest. Shields is being held in Wyandotte County on $1 million bond. He was sentenced to prison shortly after the double killing for unrelated convictions and has a record of criminal convictions.
Rural Survey Suggests Midwest, Plains Economy Remains Mired
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ A survey of rural bankers in 10 Western and Plains states suggests the region remains stifled by relatively low agriculture and energy commodity prices. An April report released Thursday says the Rural Mainstreet Index fell to 38.2 from March's 40.2. It had risen the past two months. Survey officials say any score below 50 on any of the survey's indexes suggests that factor will decline. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the monthly survey, and he says that, compared to a year ago, prices for farm products are down 16 percent and energy products are down 8 percent. Nonetheless, the confidence index rose to 34.8 from 30.1 in March. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.
Wichita Standoff Ends with Arrest of Murder Suspect
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Authorities have arrested a suspect in a fatal Wichita shooting after a standoff. Wichita police say the man was taken into custody Thursday in the backyard of house and is being held on $250,000 bond. He's been identified as a suspect in the March 3 killing of 35-year-old Brandon Walters. Police have said that Walters was shot inside his home. The standoff began after officers received information about the address of a a woman linked to the suspect. Woodrow said that as officers approached the home, the suspect was spotted leaving a detached garage. Woodrow says the suspect ran into the house when he saw the officers. During the standoff, four children and several adults exited the house.
Between 50 and 60 Cattle Found Starved to Death in Kansas
OFFERLE, Kan. (AP) - Officials are investigating after 50 to 60 cattle were found starved to death in southern Kansas. Sheriff Bryant Kurth says the cattle were found March 31 near Offerle in Edwards County. Edwards County Attorney Mark Frame says between 50 and 60 cattle were found dead or near death at a feedlot owned by Offerle rancher David Oliphant, who was hospitalized. Frame says the animals had water but no food. The Hutchinson News reports area farmers are caring for another 50 to 60 cattle. He says farmers in the area have told him they would have helped if they had known the cattle needed feed. Frame said he couldn't comment on any possible charges because the case is still under investigation.
Topeka Woman Admits Aiding Man in Girl's Kidnapping and Rape
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas woman has pleaded guilty to aiding a man convicted of abducting an 8-year-old girl from her Topeka home, then drugging and rapping her. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 24-year-old Michelle Lee Harris, of Topeka, admitted Thursday to reduced charges of attempted kidnapping and aiding a felon. As part of the plea, a third charge was dismissed. She testified against Jeremy James Lindsey at his trial earlier this year. Prosecutors said he removed a sleeping girl from her mother's Topeka home in 2014 and transported her in a car trunk. He raped her twice before calling Harris, who gave him and the girl a ride. Lindsey then raped the child a third time before she managed to free herself and escape. Harris' sentencing is scheduled for May 23.
Kansas State Gives AD John Currie 2-Year Contract Extension
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State has signed athletic director John Currie to a two-year contract extension through the 2022 academic year, a deal that keeps his salary unchanged but includes $700,000 in retention bonuses. The school announced the agreement Friday. Currie will make $775,000 in annual salary, but will receive retention bonuses of $100,000 in 2017, $275,000 in 2021 and $325,000 if he remains in his position through June 2022. Currie has spearheaded $210 million in facility improvements, including massive upgrades to Bill Snyder Family Stadium and a new basketball training facility. He has also helped Kansas State's athletic department go from a massive budget deficit to self-sustaining. Still, his popularity has waned among some fans, particularly after his unpopular hiring of Bruce Weber as the coach of the men's basketball program.
Chiefs GM Dorsey Thinks LB Houston Will Play This Season
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Chiefs general manager John Dorsey expects Pro Bowl pass rusher Justin Houston to play this season, even though surgery to repair his torn ACL could take up to 12 months of recovery time. Dorsey made the prediction during a news conference Friday to discuss the NFL draft. Houston hurt his left knee during a game against Buffalo midway through last season, and at the time it was thought to be a hyperextension. He returned to play sparingly in the playoffs, and an arthroscopic procedure after the season revealed his ligament was not functioning properly. Houston had surgery to repair the ACL in February, and Dorsey said that he's "ahead of schedule" in his recovery. But he declined to say when Houston will be able to play next season.
Royals Beat Tigers 4-0, Winning 2 of 3 Games in Series
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Edinson Volquez pitched seven sharp innings, Mike Moustakas went deep and the Kansas City Royals pounded in a 4-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers Thursday night. Volquez (3-0) retired the first eight batters and only had to wiggle out of one jam, when Alcides Escobar let a grounder go through his legs in the fourth inning. The Tigers went on to load the bases before Volquez struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia to end the inning. Escobar hit a sacrifice fly off the Tigers' Mike Pelfrey (0-3) in the bottom half of the fourth. Lorenzo Cain also drove in a run, and Kansas City tacked on another when a double-steal turned into an error on third baseman Nick Castellanos that allowed Cain to scamper home for the fourth run. Volquez scattered five hits and a walk while striking out five. The Royals begin a three game home stand versus the Baltimore Orioles tonight (FRI) at Kauffman Stadium.