Kansas Lawmakers Approve Budget, Adjourn Until June 1
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers approved a plan for balancing the state budget that gives Governor Sam Brownback broad discretion to make spending cuts. The measure passed by a very narrow margin after several marathon debates over the weekend. It had been failing for most of Sunday night but several Republican senators changed their votes in the early morning hours Monday and the Senate approved the measure on a 22-18 vote. The House had approved the plan just after midnight on a 63-59 vote. The Senate approved the measure just after 3:00 am. Lawmakers were faced with closing a $290 million budget shortfall. The measure will delay about $96 million dollars in payments to the state’s pension system. It will also transfer about $185 million from the state’s highway fund, which will delay 25 highway construction projects for at least three years. The proposed budget also cuts funding to state universities, makes a 3 percent cut to state agencies and cuts about $35 million dollars from the the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The bill now goes to Governor Brownback, who has said he will sign it. The Kansas Legislature is now adjourned until June 1, when lawmakers will return for a brief adjournment ceremony.
Kansas Says April Tax Collections $2.6M Above Expectations
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is reporting that its tax collections last month were $2.6 million more than expected, giving state officials a small dose of good news in dealing with ongoing budget problems. The Department of Revenue reported Monday that the state collected $584.3 million in taxes in April, when the official projection was $581.7 million. The surplus was 0.5 percent. That's positive news but revenue projections were slashed only three weeks ago. The tax collections are now being pegged against a more pessimistic forecast. Still, Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan said there are positive economic signs in personal income and sales tax collections that exceeded expectations. The report came 12 hours after the Legislature approved a budget-balancing plan that leaves most of the work to Governor Sam Brownback.
Lawmakers Approve 'Step Therapy' and Change Cash Assistance Rules
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators approved a bill early this (MON) morning aimed at changing welfare policies and reducing prescription costs within the state's Medicaid program. The Senate approved the measure on a 27-13 vote after the House passed it Sunday night, 79-43. The measure now goes to Governor Sam Brownback. GOP leaders say the measure is crucial to resolve budget issues because it would reduce the state's costs in providing health coverage to poor and disabled residents by nearly $11 million a year. It would allow Medicaid to use so-called step therapy with prescriptions and require participants to try a less expensive drug before being allowed to get a more expensive one. The measure also would reduce the lifetime limit for cash assistance to 24 months from 36 months.
House Rejects Giving Governor Bigger Role in Judicial Selection
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has rejected a proposal that would have given Governor Sam Brownback more clout in deciding who is nominated for the Kansas Supreme Court. The measure was criticized by some lawyers who said it would have damaged the separation of powers between the branches of government. The House voted 57-56 against the proposal Saturday. The state's high court judges are chosen by a commission consisting of five attorneys elected by other lawyers and four members selected by the governor. Currently the chief justice appoints the replacements for the chairperson or lawyers who resign before their terms are up. The bill would have allowed the governor to appoint the replacements instead. The failed move comes amid protests from conservative lawmakers over court rulings against the state on school funding and death penalty verdicts.
Kansas Lawmakers Approve Abortion Bills
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas legislators approved two anti-abortion proposals Sunday. They're likely to become law because Governor Sam Brownback is a strong abortion opponent who has signed every piece of anti-abortion legislation sent to him since he took office in January 2011. One measure approved Sunday night explicitly prohibits midwives from performing abortions or administering abortion-inducing drugs. The proposal was part of a comprehensive health care regulation bill that included new rules for acupuncture. The Senate's vote was 40-0, and the House passed it, 115-7. The other measure makes permanent an annual budget policy in place since 2011 that prevents the state from providing federal family planning dollars to Planned Parenthood. The funds are used to cover the costs of non-abortion services for poor patients. The votes on the bill were 87-34 in the House and 32-8 in the House.
Kansas Officials Begin Redistricting Process for 2022
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Six years before it has to be done, state and federal officials are already talking about redistricting of congressional and legislative districts. The new maps for political districts aren't due in Kansas until 2022. But officials from the U.S. Census Bureau met with the state Legislature's research department last week to discuss the process they'll use. They also were getting familiar with data and computer software that will be used for redistricting. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the next census will be in 2020 and states have two years after that to draw new political maps. Michael Ratcliff, an official with the census bureau, says the federal government wants to get geographic information and software to states as early as possible to help state officials begin planning.
Second of 2 Kansas County Jail Inmates Recaptured
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — The second of two men who escaped from a southeast Kansas county jail is back in custody. Crawford County Sheriff Dan Peak announced Monday that Shaun Steven Simpson was arrested without incident while walking in a neighborhood in Olathe. Simpson and Steven Barnes climbed over a fence at the county jail's outdoor recreation area in Girard on April 23. Barnes was recaptured Saturday at a Pittsburg motel. The vehicle the men used to escape was found at an apartment complex in Olathe. The Pittsburg Morning Sun reports that Peak says the two will likely be charged with escape from custody and other charges. And he expects charges against others who helped the men after their escape. Simpson's mother, Marlene Louise McAfee, of Arma, is charged with helping the two escape.
Lawrence School Rejects Student Requests to Ban Confederate Flag
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence school officials say it's unlikely the district will ban displays of the Confederate flag. An advisory committee told students seeking the ban that broadening the district's existing discrimination and harassment policy to include symbols associated with hate groups would accomplish the same goal. Some students ask the school district for the ban after a student displayed a Confederate flag on his pickup truck on school grounds in January. The Lawrence Journal World reports the committee members say banning the flag would expose the district to the risk of being sued by students claiming their free speech rights were being violated. The advisory committee will meet again Tuesday to begin drafting a new policy.
Judge Spares Kansas Woman from Prison After $1.2M Theft
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas woman was spared from going to prison after admitting she helped her husband steal more than $1.2 million from a company which owns assisted living centers in Kansas and Missouri. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten sentenced 51-year-old Lori A. Shryock of Augusta to five years on probation. Her husband was sentenced in October to three years in prison. Both pleaded guilty to mail fraud.Her attorney told the court the wife was motivated less by greed than by fear and love for her husband, but knowingly enjoyed the financial benefits. The indictment alleges the thefts occurred while Brent Shryock was employed as information systems director for Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America, where he was in charge of purchasing equipment. The couple created fictitious companies to submit fraudulent invoices.
Court Approves Denial of Benefits to Kansas Hospital Clerk Who Objected to Vaccine
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Court of Appeals says a hospital can deny unemployment benefits to a former employee who objected to receiving a flu vaccine. The appeals panel affirmed a lower court ruling dismissing the case of Debra Rhodenbaugh, who had been an emergency department clerk at McPherson Hospital. In 2013, she objected to getting vaccinated after the hospital announced employees would be required to receive a flu vaccination. She was later fired and applied for unemployment benefits, which the hospital fought, saying she wasn't eligible. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the appeals panel said Rhodenbaugh had a duty to the hospital to either get the vaccination or meet the applicable exemptions. The ruling said Rhodenbaugh's failure to comply amounted to job-related misconduct "and thus disqualified her for unemployment benefits."
Standoff That Scrapped Classes in 2 Kansas School Districts Ends
MONTEZUMA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in Gray County, in southwestern Kansas, say a home standoff that forced the cancellation of classes in two rural districts has ended with the man's arrest. The county sheriff's department says on its Facebook page Monday afternoon that the situation at Montezuma "ended safely." Calls to the sheriff's department for details were directed to the county prosecutor's office, which couldn't immediately comment. Messages left with a Kansas Bureau of Investigation spokesman also were not returned. South Gray High school principal Tim Skinner says classes were cancelled Monday in the Montezuma and Copeland school districts. Skinner says the residence is near the high school and elementary school in Montezuma. The two districts share a junior high and high school and busing services. They have a combined enrollment of about 240 students.
Kansas Man Dies in Rollover Crash Near Lame Deer
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say a Kansas man has died after rolling his vehicle down an embankment on Highway 4 in southeastern Montana. The Billings Gazette reports that the 69-year-old man, who hasn't been identified, was pronounced dead at the scene south of Lame Deer on Saturday. According to the Montana Highway Patrol, the man had been headed north on the highway when he entered a curve and lost control of his Cadillac. The vehicle crossed the center and southbound lanes before sliding off the edge of the road and rolling down an embankment. The car was found on its side in a pasture. The man had not been wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the vehicle. Authorities suspect speed played a factor in the incident. The crash remains under investigation.
Police: Woman Dies in Wichita Parking Spot Dispute
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a woman has been stabbed to death in Wichita during a parking spot dispute. KSNW-TV reports that the stabbing happened Saturday night in the parking lot of an apartment complex. Wichita Police Sergeant Brian Sigman says the 23-year-old victim was sitting in a car with four other women with the driver's door open. Another driver wanted her to close the door so he could pull into an adjacent parking space and is accused of stabbing her when she refused. She was rushed to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Sergeant Joe Kennedy says another woman received treatment after she was stabbed in the arm. The suspect has been booked into jail. Kennedy says he had injuries from the fight.
Midwest Economic Survey Index Figure Drops Slightly
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Figures from a survey of supply managers in nine Midwest and Plains states shows a slight decline after rising for three months, but economists say the results still point to economic growth. The report issued today (MON) says the Mid-American Business Conditions Index declined to 50.1 in April from 50.6 in March. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests economic growth. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he says "continuing weakness in the region's agriculture and energy sectors remains an obstacle to improving overall growth." The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
Convicted Sex Offender Pleads Guilty in ID Theft Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A decades-long ordeal ruined a Texas man, but his life might start to get better now that the sex offender in Kansas who stole his identity has pleaded guilty to misusing a Social Security number. Fernando Neave-Ceniceros's plea Monday in federal court in Wichita will help prosecutors begin to repair the havoc left behind for Marcus Calvillo, the Grand Prairie, Texas man whose identity he assumed. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Anderson says he doesn't know of a case where the theft of an identity had a more devastating impact than this one. The 41-year-old convicted child sex offender and Mexican national admitted to using Calvillo's Social Security number to hide his own identity and lack of legal status in the United States. Sentencing is July 25. His attorney declined comment.
Tiny Houses in Kansas City to Serve Homeless Veterans
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A group of military veterans has started a program to build tiny houses for struggling and homeless veterans on a vacant piece of land in Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports that the nonprofit Veterans Community Project hopes to have 50 tiny homes on a four-acre vacant site it purchased from the Kansas City Land Bank. The first 240-square-foot house was dedicated Monday morning. Each house costs about $10,000 to build and equip. The organization is seeking private community donations and is challenging each branch of the military to donate at least one house. United Automobile Workers has agreed to donate basics, such as dishes, linens and toiletries. Army veteran Chris Stout, retired Marine Corps veteran Kevin Jamison, Navy reservist Mark Solomon and others started the nonprofit.
Royals Snap Losing Skid Beating Mariners, 4-1
SEATTLE (AP) — Kansas City Royals' starting pitcher Ian Kennedy took a shutout into the sixth inning as the Kansas City Royals ended a long scoreless streak and a five-game skid with a 4-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners Sunday. Eric Hosmer homered, Lorenzo Cain had an RBI single and scored a run, Alex Escobar had three hits and also scored for the Royals. The Kansas City team had been shut out in the first two games of the Seattle series. Kennedy gave up four hits and struck out six in five-plus innings. Reliever Danny Duffy got two quick outs before Chris Iannetta hit a run-scoring single. However, the Royals' Wade Davis pitched the ninth for his eighth save. Mariners' pitcher Taijuan Walker gave up three runs and seven hits in five innings for Seattle.