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Headlines for Saturday, September 19, 2015

AG Urges Restraint Between Judicial, Legislative Branches

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is urging "humility and restraint" to ease tensions between the state's legislative and judicial branches. Schmidt made the plea yesterday (FRI) in a statement over two pending lawsuits filed against the state by district court judges. A state judge earlier this month struck down a 2014 law stripping the Kansas Supreme Court of its ability to appoint chief judges. The judge ruled the law violated the state constitution by infringing on the Supreme Court's power to administer the courts. That order is on hold while the state appeals. Legislators this year passed another law nullifying the judicial branch's entire budget if the policy change was struck down. Schmidt plans to ask the justices to remove themselves from the case because it directly involves their own power.


Kobach Issues 90-day Limit for Incomplete Registrations

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas residents whose voter registrations have been suspended because they haven't provided a passport or birth certificate have 90 days to provide the documents before their registrations are canceled. The Kansas City Star reports Secretary of State Kris Kobach issued the 90-day rule on Thursday, saying it was matter of efficiency and cost-savings. Voting rights groups vigorously objected to the time limit, which goes into effect early next month. More than 35,000 voter registration applications are currently "in suspense," of which about 30,000 are incomplete because registrants haven't provided the required identification. Proof-of-citizenship documents have been required since January 2013 but there was no limit on how long county election officials had to keep incomplete registrations.


Judge Sides with Media in Open Records Case Against State

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge says applications for two county commission openings filled late last year by Governor Sam Brownback are not exempt from the state's open records law.  Shawnee County District Judge Rebecca Crotty yesterday (FRI) denied a motion by Brownback's attorneys to dismiss a lawsuit filed by The Salina Journal and The Associated Press seeking information on applicants for the newly created Saline County Commission seats. The governor's attorneys also requested a summary judgment declaring the requested records were exempt under state statute, but Crotty denied that motion, too. Saline County residents voted in November to expand the commission from three to five members. The AP and the newspaper argued that applicants' names and other details are public information, but Brownback's office insisted they were a personnel matter.


VA Med Center to Host Town Hall Meeting, Clinic

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center is hosting a town hall next week that aims to get feedback from veterans and their families. The event is scheduled from 1 pm to 3 pm on Thursday in the facility's auditorium. The agency VA's regional office in Wichita also will be holding a benefits claim clinic from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm.  The agency said Thursday in a news release that representatives from the Dole VA Medical Center will be available to provide one-on-one assistance to veterans during the town hall. Senior staff will be present to hear from veterans and their families. Veterans can get help for their benefits claims at the clinic, and the VA says staff will be on hand to finalize their claims as appropriate.


Board of Regents Prioritizes KU Science in Budget Request

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Regents is asking state lawmakers for more than $10 million in funding to build new science facilities at the University of Kansas. The board approved its budget request for the next legislative session on Thursday. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the board plans to forward the request to Governor. Sam Brownback by the October 1 deadline. To construct the integrated science buildings, the university is requesting $3.5 million in fiscal year 2017 and $7 million in fiscal year 2018. Tentative plans call for two facilities as part of a broader initiative to enhance and link science facilities across the campus.


Kansas Health Worker's Police Interview Shown to Jurors

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Jurors in the first-degree murder trial of a Kansas health care attendant have watched a video of the man telling police why he killed a client. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 49-year-old Ronald Eugene Heskett, of Eudora, is on trial for the 2014 death of 65-year-old Vance Moulton. In a recording shown Thursday, Heskett says Moulton wanted to die so he could "see his mom and be able to walk again." Moulton had cerebral palsy. The interrogation video also shows Heskett cutting himself with a pocketknife when detectives left the room. Upon returning, detectives disarmed Heskett. He's heard saying he cut himself because he felt "so guilty." Prosecutors say Heskett had money problems and some of Moulton's money is missing. The trial is expected to continue through next week.


Kansas Lawmakers Considering Bids from Efficiency Experts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A panel of Kansas lawmakers is seeking a consulting firm that can identify significant saving opportunities in the state budget. The Legislative Budget Committee started interviewing firms on Thursday and is expected to make a selection on Friday. The committee is considering pitches from four consultants and is holding each session behind closed doors. Republican state Rep. Ron Ryckman Jr. of Olathe says the committee wants to be "as open as possible," but the closed sessions are necessary in order to protect "trade secrets." Budget director Shawn Sullivan says it'll be difficult for the firms to come up with new budget cut ideas, but he's hopeful that the process will be productive. Lawmakers earmarked $3 million for a contract with a firm that will perform a study and recommend efficiencies.


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