Attorney: Kansas Delays Planned Parenthood's Medicaid Reimbursement Cutoff
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Planned Parenthood attorney says Kansas will not cut off Medicaid funding for the abortion provider until May 24. Attorney Bob Eye said Friday that Planned Parenthood and the state Department of Health and Environment agreed on the timing of the cutoff after Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit. A department spokeswoman did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment. The state notified Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri earlier this week that Medicaid funds would be cut off as of Tuesday. The lawsuit seeking to block the action was filed the next day. Eye said the parties agreed the two-week delay would give them and the presiding federal judge more time to prepare for a first hearing that is now expected to be May 17.
Kansas Senate VP Won't Seek Re-Election, Cites Political Climate
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A top Republican in the Kansas Senate says he made a mistake in supporting Governor Sam Brownback's 2012 income tax cuts and will not seek re-election because of the state's political climate. Kansas Senate Vice President Jeff King of Independence was the only member of Senate leadership to vote this week against a budget that will require Brownback to make more cuts in order to balance. The Wichita Eagle reports King played a major role in reforming the state's pension system during the governor's first term. He strongly objected to the Legislature's decision to delay a $96 million payment to the pension fund to help fix the current budget. He says blindly following the status quo is not governing, but rather political cowardice that can't be rewarded.
Huelskamp Opponent to Run in Kansas 1st District as Independent
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ An educator and farmer who previously ran against congressman Tim Huelskamp as a Republican is now planning to run in the 1st District of Kansas as an independent candidate. Alan LaPolice of Clyde announced Thursday that he is leaving what he called a failed political system to run as an independent. He said outsiders must get elected to change Washington. LaPolice also said he's never been truly welcomed into the Kansas Republican Party. He received 45 percent of the vote against Huelskamp in the Republican primary in 2014. Great Bend physician Roger Marshall already has filed to run against Huelskamp in the GOP primary. Huelskamp is a tea party favorite who is seeking his fourth term in the 1st District, which covers western and central Kansas.
New Kansas Law Aimed at Collecting Unpaid Turnpike Tolls
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new state law aims to help the Kansas Turnpike collect unpaid tolls by allowing the state to block the vehicle registrations of offending motorists, starting in 2018. Governor Sam Brownback signed the measure into law Friday. The bill arose from a proposal from the Kansas Turnpike Authority, which oversees the state's only toll road and told lawmakers it is considering putting up gateless toll systems at three high-traffic exits. But if it does, it would need a way to ensure that tolls are collected. The bill says that the Turnpike Authority will be allowed in 2018 to ask the state to block the vehicle registrations of motorists who have more than $100 in unpaid turnpike tolls. Kansas motorists must register their vehicles annually to drive them legally.
Feds Cite Nebraska Company for Safety Violations at Kansas Facility
TRIBUNE, Kan. (AP) — Federal officials have cited a national agricultural marketing firm based in Omaha, Nebraska, with exposing workers to grain dust and fall hazards in western Kansas. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed penalties of $47,300 for The Scoular Company after identifying several serious violations. An OSHA news release says the citations stem from an investigation of the company's facility in Tribune, Kansas. OSHA described platforms that lacked guardrails and open-sided work platforms in a news release. The release also said that employees were exposed to grain dust explosion hazards.
Kansas Benefiting from Shift to Wind and Solar Energy
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. investment in renewable energy projects has outpaced investment in fossil fuels for the second straight year. The U.S. Department of Energy says wind turbines and solar panels accounted for more than two-thirds of all new electric generation capacity added to the nation's grid in 2015. The remaining third was largely new power plants fueled by natural gas, which has become cheap and plentiful as a result of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The states of GOP lawmakers who have fought to protect coal-fired power plants are actually benefiting from the shift to renewable energy. Leading the way in new wind projects are GOP strongholds Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. The cost of adding wind turbines has plummeted in recent years.
Jury Sides with Anti-Abortion Activist in Threat Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Jurors have sided with a Kansas anti-abortion activist by ruling that she didn't intentionally seek to intimidate a doctor by sending a letter that suggested someone might place an explosive under the physician's car. The U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division sued Angel Dillard in 2011 for sending the letter to Dr. Mila Means, who had been training to offer abortions. At the time, no doctor was performing abortions in Wichita in the wake of the 2009 slaying of Dr. George Tiller by an abortion opponent. Defense attorneys said it was constitutionally protected speech. The jury sided with Dillard on Friday. The lawsuit was filed under a federal law aimed at protecting access to abortion services. Jurors were tasked with deciding whether the letter constituted a "true threat."
School Board to Review Manhattan High School's Mascot Name
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The fate of Manhattan High School's Indians mascot could be decided this fall. The Manhattan Mercury reports that six of the seven Manhattan-Ogden school board members said at a meeting Wednesday that they were willing to discuss changing the mascot in the fall when incoming Superintendent Marvin Wade can weigh in on the issue. Curt Herrman was the only board member against the conversation. In early February, board president Marcia Rozell said she wasn't planning to take up complaints about the mascot. For the second school board meeting in a row, a Manhattan resident spoke in favor of changing the high school's Indians moniker Wednesday. Joe Sutliff Sanders says he believes keeping the mascot contradicts the school district's mission to "help children learn well."
Northeast Kansas Prosecutor Taylor Won't Seek Re-Election
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor says he won't seek re-election this year because he believes in term limits and it's time for someone else to take on the job. The two-term Democrat spoke at a news conference Friday. He was first elected district attorney in 2008 and re-elected without opposition in 2012. Taylor gained national attention in 2014 over his aborted campaign for the U.S. Senate against Republican incumbent Pat Roberts. Some fellow Democrats pushed Taylor to withdraw in September 2014 to give independent candidate Greg Orman a better chance of defeating Roberts. Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach argued that Taylor didn't comply with a law limiting when candidates can drop out and tried to block the move, but state courts sided with Taylor. Roberts eventually won re-election.
Salvation Army Camp Declines to Host Event Encouraging Teen Marriage
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Christian group that promotes marriage at ages as young as 13 won't be able to use a Salvation Army camp in Wichita for a retreat for parents seeking marital partners for their children. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Let Them Marry ministry wanted to have the retreat at Camp Hiawatha in November. Janet Pack, of the Salvation Army in Wichita, said that the nonprofit inquired about holding the event at the camp, although it was never formally booked. She says the Salvation Army "remained steadfastly focused on our mission of advocating for and protecting children." Laura Ohlman, who was helping organize and promote the event, says the event is still a goal, although she's not sure when it will happen.
Casino Holds Groundbreaking in Pittsburg After Legal Battle
PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — More than 80 Pittsburg-area community members have gathered for a ceremonial groundbreaking of a new casino that was delayed for months because of legal challenges. The Joplin Globe reports that work for the Kansas Crossing Casino and Hotel started in July after the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission chose it for a contract. But construction was halted in September after Cherokee County and a firm, which proposed another casino in that county, filed lawsuits questioning how the state contract was awarded. Cherokee County and the competing business, Castle Rock Casino Resort, sought an injunction to block construction of Kansas Crossing. Lead investor Bruce Christenson and others decided to delay construction until a judge ruled in March that enough evidence supported the review board's decision to recommend Kansas Crossing.
Study: Haskell University Buildings Need Millions for Building Upgrades
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A recently released report says that Haskell Indian Nations University needs between $111 million and $123 million to get its aging facilities up to par. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Haskell's National Board of Regents reviewed a report Thursday from the university's first comprehensive facilities study in nearly 20 years. The board passed resolutions to support pursuing ways to implement an improvement plan. Restoration work needed to reopen the closed, nearly 120-year-old Hiawatha Hall would put the price tag on the higher end. Haskell President Venida Chenault says that a team led by Albuquerque-based Dyron Murphy Architects spent time on campus last fall to conduct evaluations. Chenault says the university hopes to receive investments from some tribes in order to make the restoration possible over the next 10 years.
Less Water Released from Missouri River Dams, Reduces Kansas Flood Risk
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The amount of water being released from dams along the Missouri River has been cut to help reduce the risk of flooding downstream after recent heavy rains. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reduced the amount of water released from Gavins Point dam on the Nebraska-South Dakota border to 14,000 cubic feet per second from 21,000. Water management chief Jody Farhat the change should reduce the risk of flooding downstream of the dams in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. But it won't eliminate the chance of flooding. Flooding can still occur if heavy rains fall in areas where streams and the Missouri River are already at elevated levels. The Corps will increase releases from the dams after river levels begin to fall.
Illinois Man Named President of Land Institute in Salina
SALINA, Kan. (AP) _ A Western Illinois University official will be the new president of The Land Institute in Salina. The institute announced Thursday that the new president will be Fred Iutzi, the manager of agriculture, energy and cooperative development programs for the Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs at Western Illinois. His appointment is effective October 1. He will replace Wes Jackson, who co-founded the institute 40 years ago. The Salina Journal reports that Iutzi was formerly part of the institute's Fellows program and attended seven Fellows workshops. He holds a bachelor's degree in geography from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a master's degree in sustainable agriculture and agronomy from Iowa State University.
Topeka Man Plans to Plead Guilty in Fort Riley Bomb Case
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Federal court documents show that a 29-year-old Topeka man plans to plead guilty to a conspiracy charge in connection with a plot last year to bomb the Fort Riley military base. Alexander E. Blair's attorney filed a request Thursday to change the not guilty plea entered for him last year by a federal magistrate. A change-of-plea hearing is May 23. Blair is charged with helping 21-year-old John T. Booker Jr. of Topeka in planning to plant a bomb outside the Army installation in northeast Kansas to aid the Islamic State group. Blair could face up to three years in prison. Booker pleaded guilty in February to two charges under an agreement with prosecutors calling for him to spend 30 years in prison. He has not yet been sentence
Wichita Man Gets Probation in Fatal Shooting
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A man has been sentenced to three years of probation in the killing of his friend in southeast Wichita. The Wichita Eagle reports that 20-year-old Octevious Loudermilk was sentenced Thursday in the death of 22-year-old Tajay McGee. Loudermilk pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. If Loudermilk violates the terms of his probation, he could be incarcerated for 38 months. McGee was found dead in the basement of a duplex with a gunshot wound to the head in October 2015. Authorities characterized the shooting as an accident. Loudermilk's attorney said that the two friends were "playing with a gun, loading it and unloading it," when Loudermilk pulled the trigger without realizing that it was loaded. Loudermilk has also been ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution to the Kansas Crime Victim's Compensation Fund.
Kansas Sampler Festival This Weekend in Winfield
WINFIELD, Kan. (AP) - A spring festival that highlights Kansas products, music, food and places is opening this weekend. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Kansas Sampler Festival is planned for Saturday and Sunday at Winfield's Island Park. It includes more than 300 exhibitors from 150 communities. A shift in focus is planned. Starting in 2018, the foundation that promotes the festival plans to create an annual Kansas Road Trip that will encourage exploration of specific regions of the state.