Kansas Unemployment Rate Rises for Third Consecutive Month
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas says its unemployment rate rose in August for the third consecutive month to 4.3 percent. The state Department of Labor reported Friday that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate last month was up from 4 percent in July and also higher than the 4.1 percent recorded in August 2015. The unemployment rate dropped during the first part of this year until it hit 3.7 percent in May, and it's been inching back up since. The department said that the state had 8,300 fewer people employed in nonfarm jobs in August than in August 2015, a decrease of 0.6 percent. About 4,200 of the jobs lost over the year were in the private sector. Construction employment in August was 7.7 percent lower in August 2015, with companies shedding 4,700 jobs.
Kansas Board Calls for Restored Higher Education Funding
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Board of Regents is urging the governor and lawmakers to restore higher education funding. The regents took the stance unanimously Wednesday. For fiscal years 2018 and 2019, their proposal calls for reinstating about $30 million per year sliced from the fiscal 2017 budget. The cuts announced in May represented a 4 percent higher education reduction. The University of Kansas and KU Medical Center lost about $10.7 million, and Kansas State University's campuses lost about $7 million. Regents chairwoman Zoe Newton says the board is "not unaware of the straits that we are in as a state." But she says the board feels it needs to "put out there what it is that we feel we need as a system."
Kobach: Effort Underway to Identify Voters Affected by Order
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says county election offices are sorting through thousands of records to identify voters affected by a recent federal court order. The effort stems from last week's ruling blocking Kansas and two other states from requiring proof of citizenship from people who register to vote using the federal form. Kobach says the state's voter database does not differentiate between people who register with the federal form and the state form. That means local election officers will have to physically go through paper records of people who tried to register since January to determine which voters were affected by the ruling. Kobach estimates that the number of people affected would be between 200 and 400 statewide.
Health Care Clinics in Lyndon, Alma to Close
LYNDON, Kan. (AP) — Regional health care clinics in the small towns of Alma and Lyndon have been slated to close. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Stormont Vail Health announced the closures. Officials say the 4 percent Medicaid cuts and the state's failure to expand Medicaid were the main factors in the organization's decision to close the clinics. Stormont Vail spokeswoman Nancy Burkhardt says the decision was made so Stormont Vail could put services where they reach the most people. The Cotton O'Neil Lyndon clinic is scheduled to close December 31, and the Cotton O'Neil Alma clinic is set to close January 31, 2017. Lyndon Mayor Chris Cole says the closure will hurt the small town. Burkhardt says 1,900 patients use the Lyndon clinic, and 800 patients use the Alma clinic.
Governor Sam Brownback Urges State Fair to Generate Own Funds
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has encouraged the Kansas State Fair Board to self-finance any improvements that it would like to make. The Hutchinson News reports that Brownback met with the board on Thursday. Board president Tom Tunnell has expressed interest in using Sales Tax Revenue Bonds as a funding mechanism. The Kansas State Fair is fee-funded agency, but is experiencing rising expenses and a need to improve buildings, including the Expo Center and the Bison Arena. Brownback says he doesn't think state fair improvements match the intention of the bonds. According to the governor, it's difficult for an entity like the state fair to compete with schools for state aid. Brownback has previously urged other agencies, like the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, to self-finance as well.
Kansas Congressman Forging Ahead Despite Primary Loss
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — After losing his primary last month, Kansas congressman Tim Huelskamp is back in Washington, D.C., and pushing to have the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service impeached. The Wichita Eagle reports that Representative Huelskamp and others in the House had been pushing to open impeachment proceedings against Commissioner John Koskinen since January. Koskinen is accused of thwarting congressional investigations into the IRS's tough scrutiny of tea party groups seeking tax exemptions. GOP leaders reached a compromise and have summoned Koskinen to testify at a hearing next week in exchange for postponing any impeachment vote. Huelskamp lost his primary race to Roger Marshall, an obstetrician, on August 2.
Former Lawrence Officer Charged with Misdemeanor Battery
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A former Lawrence police officer is facing a misdemeanor charge after authorities say he punched a man during a domestic disturbance investigation. Douglas County Attorney Charles Branson announced Friday that he has charged Frank McClelland with misdemeanor battery. Police Chief Tarik Khatib said Friday that another Lawrence officer reported the incident, which occurred August 16. The Lawrence Journal-World reports officers were trying to break up a fight between two men when one of the men refused McClelland's commands to sit on the ground. Branson says McClelland swept the legs out from under an uncooperative man and then punched him in the face up to four times. McClelland was placed on administrative leave during an investigation by the Douglas County Sheriff's Office. He resigned August 24.
Authorities Investigate Officer-Involved Shooting in Kansas
ELLSWORTH, Kan. (AP) - Authorities are investigating after a law enforcement officer was involved in a shooting in central Kansas. A Kansas Highway Patrol dispatcher says the shooting happened Thursday night along Kansas 156 between the towns of Holyrood and Ellsworth. No details were provided on who was wounded or the extent of that person's injuries. Ellsworth County Sheriff Tracy Ploutz declined to provide details Friday morning. The Ellsworth Police Department said on its Facebook page that all its officers are "okay" and expressed thanks for the "thoughts and prayers for everyone involved."
Kansas State University Distances Itself from Racist Post
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas State University is distancing itself from a derogatory photo tagged to its Facebook site that depicts two young women in apparent blackface along with a racist slur. University spokesman Jeff Morris says neither woman is a student at Kansas State. He says one attended last spring, but had not enrolled for the fall semester. He says the offensive photo came to the university's attention Thursday morning and was taken down because it was not considered appropriate. He says Kansas State can't control who tags to their site. Morris says there is "nothing else for us to do,'' other than to continue to meet with students and encourage people to be nice and kind to each other. The posting caused a dustup on social media and made national headlines.
IRS Service Center in Kansas City Survives National Cuts
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Internal Revenue Service center in Kansas City will be one of only two national IRS processing centers left after another reduction in centers across the country. The IRS announced this week that a center in Covington, Kentucky will close in 2019. One in Fresno, California will close in 2021 and one in Austin, Texas, will close in 2024. The Kansas City center, which employs about 4,600 people, will continue to process Form 1040 paper filings. A center in Ogden, Utah will process business filings. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen says budget cuts and growth in electronic filings contributed to the closings. The Kansas City Star reports the IRS began consolidating its processing centers in 2003, merging 10 locations into the five operating today.
Man Charged in Deadly Fourth of July Crash near Topeka Lake
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A man has been charged in a deadly Fourth of July crash near a Topeka lake. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 33-year-old Jason Patterson is charged with involuntary manslaughter, or in the alternative, second-degree murder; driving under the influence and speeding. Police say he struck 60-year-old Tara French near Lake Shawnee. She was rushed to a hospital where she died of her injuries. Shawnee County Jail officials said Patterson was booked and released on bond Wednesday. It wasn't immediately known if he had an attorney.
KCK Mayor Apologizes to Slain Officer's Family
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas City, Kansas, mayor apologized Thursday to the family of a police captain who was fatally shot this summer while investigating a drive-by shooting. The Kansas City Star reports that Mayor Mark Holland said during a commission meeting that he "would never intentionally introduce controversial comments during a time of grief" and that he was "deeply sorry" for that. The family of Captain Robert David "Dave" Melton was critical last month of a prepared statement issued after the killing. In the statement, Holland said: "We have seen the loss of innocent lives at the hands of police; and we have seen the ambush and murder of police who were actively protecting the public. Our nation is in uncertain times." The mayor also has met with the family.
Ex-Bank Teller Gets Break in Cartel Money-Laundering Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has approved a diversion agreement for a small town bank teller caught up in the prosecution of an alleged conspiracy to launder drug money for a Mexican cartel in Kansas. The government and the defense for Kathy Shelman asked the court Friday to defer prosecution for 12 months. The former Plains State Bank teller is charged with failing file a report on suspicious banking activity. Her attorney, Jim Pratt, says the agreement means that if she stays out of trouble a motion will be filed at the end of that time to dismiss the charge. Trial begins October 26 against former Plains State Bank President James Kirk Friend and customers, George and Agatha Enns of Meade. The couple deposited more than $6.8 million between 2011 and 2014.
3 Small Earthquakes Shake North Central Kansas
ELLIS, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Geological Survey says three small earthquakes shook Ellis County in north central Kansas. The agency says the first earthquake hit Thursday night about 10 pm and registered a 3.3 magnitude. That quake was centered 9.3 miles north of Ellis. The second quake, a 3.1 magnitude, was detected about 11 pm eight miles north of Ellis. And the third quake, a 2.6 magnitude about 1 am Friday, was centered about four miles north of Ellis. Hays Post reports no damage or injuries are reported from any of the earthquakes. The quakes come after another small earthquake was reported in the area Wednesday.
Kansas Trooper Shoots Machete-Wielding Man
EDSON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says a trooper shot a man who was armed with a machete in northwest Kansas. The patrol was notified early Friday that a man standing near a vehicle on Interstate 70 in Sherman County was armed with a baseball bat or machete. A trooper found a vehicle stopped in the middle of the road about two miles east of Edson. The patrol says in a news release that the man, armed with a machete, rushed the trooper. When the man ignored commands to drop the machete, the trooper shot the suspect. The subject was taken to Goodland hospital and then was flown to a Denver hospital. His condition was not immediately available. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is the shooting.
Mexican National's Murder Trial Shifted to St. Louis
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A judge has granted a venue change for a Mexican national accused of killing a Missouri man and four others in Kansas, ordering the Missouri trial to be held in St. Louis. A judge in mid-Missouri's Montgomery County signed off Thursday on the venue change for 40-year-old Pablo Serrano-Vitorino. Serrano-Vitorino is charged in Missouri with first-degree murder in the March 8 shooting death of Randy Nordman in New Florence. Missouri prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the case, and Serrano-Vitorina has pleaded not guilty. Serrano-Vitorino also is charged in Kansas with four first-degree murder counts related to the March 7 shooting deaths of a Kansas City, Kansas neighbor and three other men at the neighbor's home.
Judge Delays Proceedings Against Former Football Player
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has agreed to halt court proceedings against former Dallas Cowboys running back Joseph Randle until he receives another mental evaluation. The Wichita Eagle reports that defense attorney Steven Mank sought the delay Thursday. The prosecution didn't object. The 24-year-old Randle was deemed competent in June to stand trial on charges that he hit people with his car during a housewarming party and dodged police trying to serve him with a warrant. He also is charged in two other cases. A bench trial set for Thursday in one of the cases didn't happen because of Mank's request. The other three cases had been set for jury trials next week. A report from the mental evaluation is expected to be completed within about two weeks.
Weak Farm Income Hurts Economy in Rural Parts of 10 States
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Bankers say weak farm income continues to weigh down the economy in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states. The overall rural economic index for the region remained in negative territory and declined to 37.3 in September from August's 41.1. Survey officials say any score below 50 on any of the survey's indexes suggests a decline in that area. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says farm income is expected to decline 12 percent over last year. That is limiting spending by farmers and hurting the economy in rural areas. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed. Goss says the number of farm loan defaults hasn't increased significantly over the past year, but more loans are being restructured.
Memos: Kansas City Police Child Crimes Unit 'Incompetent'
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Internal Kansas City, Missouri police documents show a unit set up to investigate crimes against children failed to properly investigate thousands of cases, with some detectives doing no work at all. A special squad asked to clear backlogged cases found such serious problems that Police Chief Darryl Forte in January suspended nearly all of the detectives and sergeants in the Crimes Against Children Unit. The Kansas City Star reports that a review of internal police department memos uncovered the depth of the problem. The memos describe 148 "severely mishandled" cases, "incompetence," and evidence of efforts to cover up the problems. A unit created in April has reviewed tens of thousands of cases. Forte, prosecutors and child care advocates say they have seen marked improvement in investigations since the unit was overhauled.
Oklahoma's First New Abortion Clinic in 40 Years Opens Doors
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Despite facing some of the nation's strictest anti-abortion laws, a new clinic has opened its doors in Oklahoma City. It's the first new abortion provider in Oklahoma in more than 40 years. The Trust Women South Wind Women's Center welcomed the first patients last week to its facility on the city's south side. Six licensed physicians are providing services there, including abortions, OB-GYN care, family planning, adoption and emergency contraception. Trust Women opened its first clinic in Wichita in 2013 following the shooting death of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller. Trust Women's founder and CEO Julie Burkhart worked with Tiller for seven years. Trust Women says Oklahoma City was the largest metropolitan area in the U.S. without an abortion provider. It says the state's last clinic opened in 1974.
A's Win 14-5 to Sweep Royals
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Oakland Athletics routed the Kansas City Royals 14-5 on Thursday night. The A's continued to wreak havoc on the Royals' diminishing playoff chances, sweeping a four-game series at Kansas City for the first time in their history. The A's outscored the Royals 43-12, the largest Oakland run differential in a four-game series in franchise history. Stephen Vogt drove in five runs including a two-run double in the third, walked with the bases loaded in the fourth and hit a two-run homer in the sixth. The five RBIs matched a career high. The Royals will face the Chicago White Sox in a four-game home stand over the weekend.