Kansas Secretary of State Seeks Driver's License List in Voting Rights Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is asking a federal court to order the state to release a list of about 21,000 people who have temporary driver's licenses in an apparent effort to bolster his claims that noncitizens are voting. The move comes in a civil lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging a Kansas law requiring documentary proof of citizenship to register to vote. The Kansas Department of Revenue has resisted disclosure based on potential privacy issues. Kobach argues that such license holders are noncitizens with no privacy rights. Kansas issues temporary driver's licenses to noncitizens who are lawfully in the U.S.
Kansas House Speaker Appoints New Committee on K-12 Funding
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House will have a new budget subcommittee on funding for public schools, and a western Kansas lawmaker will lead its Appropriations Committee. House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. of Olathe announced Thursday that he's splitting oversight over education spending between subcommittees on public schools and higher education. The new K-12 panel's chairman is Republican Representative Larry Campbell of Olathe. Ryckman served as Appropriations Committee chairman before fellow Republicans designated him as speaker for 2017-18. He named Republican Representative Troy Waymaster of Bunker Hill as the next Appropriations Committee chairman. GOP moderates picked up some key committee posts after elections this year made the Legislature less conservative. Representative Steve Johnson of Assaria will be chairman of the Taxation Committee and Representative Blaine Finch of Ottawa will lead the Judiciary Committee.
Kansas Renews Contracts for Private Firms to Manage Medicaid
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has renewed its existing contracts for three companies managing the state's Medicaid program for another year through 2018. Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer made the announcement Thursday. He said, "Time will bring clarity from D.C" on health care policy. President-elect Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress are looking to repeal and replace the 2010 federal health care law championed by outgoing President Obama. The Medicaid program provides health coverage for the poor, elderly and disabled and is funded jointly by states and the federal government. In 2013, Kansas turned over management of its Medicaid program to state subsidiaries of Amerigroup, Centene Corp. and United Healthcare. Colyer led the privatization effort. Colyer said the state will wait until late in 2017 to solicit proposals for new contracts.
State Selling Kansas Bioscience Authority Portfolio for $14M
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State officials have agreed to sell the investments of the Kansas Bioscience Authority for about $14 million. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Governor Sam Brownback and leaders on the State Finance Council on Friday agreed to authorize sale of the portfolio to Origami Capital Partners for $14 million to $14.5 million. The state has invested $232 million in the Bioscience Authority since it was formed in 2004 to accelerate growth in the bioscience sector. The Legislature and Brownback had previously agreed to sell assets of the KBA to bolster the state budget and built $25 million in anticipated revenue into the current fiscal year's budget. The KBA's building and land are also for sale, and officials say deals for those portions are likely to be completed.
Lawrence Police Chief to Retire in June
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The chief of police in Lawrence has announced plans to retire. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Police Chief Tarik Khatib said Friday he's planning to retire in June. Khatib has led the department since 2011 and has been with the department for more than 20 years. He says he's unsure about his plans after retiring. City Manager Tom Markus will choose his replacement.
Kansas Secretary of State Meets with Trump in New York
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is meeting with President-elect Donald Trump. Kobach arrived Thursday at Trump Tower in New York after Trump's transition team confirmed the scheduled meeting. Kobach advised Trump's campaign on immigration issues. Kobach is a former law professor who helped draft tough state and local laws cracking down on illegal immigration, including in Arizona and Alabama. Since Kobach was elected Kansas secretary of state in 2010, he's also been a champion of tough voter identification laws. Kobach met with Trump in New Jersey before Thanksgiving and brought with him a list of immigration and national security proposals. Kobach was previously considered a potential candidate for attorney general and homeland security secretary. Kobach spokeswoman Desiree Taliaferro said she has no details about Thursday's meeting with Trump.
Kansas Supreme Court Hears Death Row Inmate's Appeal
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys for a former Missouri city official sentenced to death in Kansas for killing his estranged wife, their two daughters and his wife's grandmother have asked the Kansas Supreme Court to throw out his conviction. As a Kansas public defender specializing in death-penalty cases, Meryl Carver-Allmond told the Kansas Supreme Court on Friday there's no dispute that her client, James Kraig Kahler, carried out the 2009 killings. But she argued that an accumulation of mistakes by the judge and prosecution during Kahler's trial made those proceedings unfair to her client. An attorney for the state pressed for Kahler's conviction and sentence to stand, saying everything the trial judge did was legal. Authorities say Kahler gunned down the four victims in his estranged wife's grandmother's home in Burlingame after losing his job as the water director in Columbia, Missouri, amid a contentious divorce. Friday's hearing was the first death penalty case heard by the state Supreme Court since Election Day, when voters opted to retain four justices who were targeted for ouster partly because the court overturned other death sentences.
Official: Unclaimed Property Wouldn't Close Kansas Budget Shortfall
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's administration says liquidating an investment fund tied to Kansas' unclaimed property would only provide $40 million to $50 million to help decrease the state's $350 million budget shortfall. A 2000 law change directed the state to invest an amount equal to the unclaimed property it receives each year. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that state budget director Shawn Sullivan's conclusion echoes Treasurer Ron Estes' explanation that only a fraction of the fund's $360 million value could be used to shrink the budget deficit. Sullivan says the project amount is interest that wouldn't be a part of the state general fund. Sullivan didn't say if liquidating the fund would be part of the governor's proposal to close the gap, but acknowledged that officials have recently been seeking information.
New Gun Charges Filed in Kansas Bomb Plot Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors have added firearms charges against two of the Kansas men accused of plotting to bomb an apartment complex where Somali immigrants live in Garden City. The superseding indictment filed Thursday in U.S. District Court again charges Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright, and Curtis Allen with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction. But the new indictment also charges Allen with illegally possessing firearms because of a misdemeanor domestic battery conviction. It adds two counts against Stein alleging gun violations in connection with the bomb conspiracy. It also seeks forfeiture of the weapons. Attorneys for Allen and Stein did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. Kari Schmidt, who represents Wright, says her client has no criminal history and is not prohibited from possessing firearms.
Kansas Hotel Standoff Ends with Suspect Shot, Wounded
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City, Kansas, hotel standoff has ended with a suspect wounded after exchanging gunfire with police. The Kansas City Star reports that police say the suspect had at least one gunshot wound and was taken away Friday morning in an ambulance. Police responded around 12:30 am to a disturbance in a room at the Hilton Garden. Police backed off after the man fired shots through the door of a hotel room, and the standoff began. Some hotel guests were evacuated and several streets around the hotel were blocked off. No officers were hurt.
Kansas Farmers Take Top Honors at Wheat Yield Competition
MEADE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas teen and another farmer have taken top honors at the inaugural National Wheat Yield Contest. The Hutchinson News reports The National Wheat Foundation announced the winners earlier this month. Seventeen-year-old Jagger Borth's winning variety for irrigated winter wheat, WestBred's Grainfield, had a yield of 133.64 bushels an acre. Jagger, of Meade, says an exceptional growing season and cool weather helped push the yield over the top this year. Rick Horton of Leoti was another winner in the contest. Horton had the contest's highest yielding dryland winter wheat plot, which yielded 127.94 bushels an acre.
OSHA Investigating Fatal Trench Collapse in Belton
BELTON, Mo. (AP) — Federal authorities are investigating after a 33-year-old man died when the trench he was working in collapsed at a work site outside Kansas City. The regional office of the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration said in a release Friday that it's investigating the death Thursday of the 33-year-old man who was working at a home construction site in Belton when he was caught in the 12-foot trench as it collapsed. OSHA says preliminary information show the trench did not appear to have been equipped with protective measures to prevent collapse. The agency says that since January it's investigated trench collapses that have killed 24 workers.
Man Donates Land to 2 Kansas Universities for Scholarships
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Jefferson County man has donated more than 1,300 acres of land to the University of Kansas and Kansas State University with the stipulation that income from the land's sale go toward engineering scholarships. The Lawrence Journal-World reports 88-year-old James F. Lindley of Grantville died in 2015. Lindley graduated from the University of Kansas in 1949 with an electrical engineering degree, and the school's endowment staff began working with him in 1998 on his estate plans. Lindley was a World War II Army veteran, and farmed and raised cattle. The Kansas Board of Regents approved the transfer of land to charitable arms of each university on Wednesday. The land donated to the two schools is in Shawnee and Jefferson counties. The Regents say the property's appraised value is $4.3 million.
Regional Economy Improves but Still Weak in Rural Parts of 10 States
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A monthly survey of bankers suggests the economy has improved in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states, but it's still weak because crop prices remain low. The overall economic index for the region remained in negative territory 42.9 in December even after improving significantly from November's 36.6. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says weaker crop and meat prices continue to slow business in rural areas. Survey officials say any score below 50 on any of the survey's indexes suggests a decline in that area. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed. Goss says the economy is improving in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota while all the other states are trending lower.
Topeka Driver Injured After Swerving to Avoid Duck Decoys
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Shawnee County authorities say a driver was critically injured after she swerved to avoid a bag of duck decoys on a highway and was ejected from her vehicle. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the rollover crash happened early Thursday morning on the US-75 highway, south of Topeka. Police spokesman K.D. Lewis says the woman's vehicle entered the median and rolled after she attempted to avoid the bag that was in the roadway. Lewis says the bag appears to have fallen out of another vehicle prior to the crash. The unidentified woman was taken to a hospital with what were considered to be life-threatening injuries.
Murder Suspect Who Shot Himself Dies in Kansas Hospital
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a suspect in a Florida killing who exchanged gunfire with U.S. Marshals earlier this week has died. KWCH-TV reports that police on Friday identified the suspect as 26-year-old Gabriel L. Davis. He died Thursday at a Wichita hospital. Police say Davis had a warrant for a September 2015 murder out of Florida. Federal agents were monitoring a home Wednesday, when the suspect and a female got into a vehicle in the driveway. Davis shot at them as they came near to take him into custody, and they returned fire. The vehicle fled the scene and crashed into a house, and both the suspect and the woman took off running. Police say they found Davis during a search, and he fired a shot into his head as officers approached.
Circus Settles Federal Complaint over Missouri Elephant Incidents
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A circus has agreed to pay a $7,000 fine to settle alleged federal animal-welfare violations involving Missouri and Pennsylvania shows where elephants were allowed to get loose or too close to circus-goers. Florida-based Royal Hanneford Circus' resolution of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2015 complaint came six months after the Carson & Barnes circus agreed to a $16,000 fine for its alleged role. Royal Hanneford had hired Carson & Barnes, based in Oklahoma, to exhibit the elephants. Neither circus admits any wrongdoing. The USDA alleged that during a 2014 fundraiser circus in the St. Louis suburb of St. Charles, three elephants briefly got loose on the arena's lot. Three weeks later in Altoona, Pennsylvania, the USDA said, elephant handlers wrongly stopped to water the animals in a publicly accessible area.
Lawrence Considers Massage Parlor Regulations
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys in Lawrence are proposing a local ordinance that aims to combat human-trafficking operations disguised as massage parlors. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the ordinance was drafted at the urging of the Lawrence Police Department. The city has about 50 massage businesses. Kansas doesn't require licenses or background checks for the businesses to operate. Two people were convicted last year of human trafficking at their massage parlor in Lawrence. Assistant city attorney Maria Garcia says the first draft of the ordinance has provisions on a licensing and permitting process, application and fees, and education or training requirements. Garcia says they're also considering having inspections. City staff is working to gather feedback on the draft ordinance from local massage businesses.
3 Kansas City Firefighters Suffer Minor Injuries
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say two firefighters were taken to a hospital with minor injuries after a roof collapsed as they battled a fire in a Kansas
City home. The Kansas City Star reports that a third firefighter was treated at the scene Friday morning. The firefighters were in the final stages of putting out the fire when the roof of the two-story house gave way. Kansas City Fire Department spokesman James Garrett says a team rushed into the structure and retrieved the firefighters within three minutes. No one was in the home at the time of the fire, but it appeared that the home was occupied.