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Headlines for Thursday, April 23, 2015

Proposed Kansas Budget Fixes Would Affect Hospitals, Medicaid Firms 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — New budget-balancing proposals from Kansas Governor Sam Brownback would require hospitals to pay higher fees and capture savings from companies managing the state's Medicaid program. The Republican governor outlined proposed budget adjustments Thursday before a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee. One proposal would require hospitals to pay an additional $19 million in fees during the fiscal year beginning July 1. The fees help sustain the Medicaid program's health coverage for 368,000 needy and disabled Kansas residents. The state uses revenues from the fees to attract federal dollars that go back to the hospitals for caring for Medicaid participants. Other proposals reduce projected Medicaid spending by almost $33 million between now and the end of June 2016 to reflect lower payments to the three health insurers managing the program.

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Brownback Skips Crime Victims Event in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback was a no-show at a crime victims' rights conference hosted by his office, sending a brief video greeting instead. The governor had been expected to attend the 18th annual state event Thursday in Wichita. The crowd collectively groaned when informed legislative matters had kept Brownback away. The conference brings together law enforcement, victim advocates, social service providers and others to learn about available resources and services. In a video lasting less than two minutes, Brownback thanked attendees for their work in meeting the most basic need of crime survivors. He told them that what they do is tremendously important, saying the state is a better place for it.

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Ethics Commission Questions Some PAC Names

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state ethics commission is determining whether some political action committees connected to leading Kansas politicians are properly named. The Wichita Eagle reports the issue arose when a PAC called "It's Time to Fix Stupid," was notified that the name had to be changed. State law requires PACs affiliated with a larger corporation or organization to note that in their name. Unaffiliated PACs must indicate who's involved or the cause it is advocating. The Eagle then found that PACs linked to Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Governor Sam Brownback, former Governor Kathleen Sebelius and a group of Pittsburg Democrats might not be properly named. Carol Williams, executive director of the commission, said Brownback's PAC met the requirements because it's incorporated and includes the corporation name.

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Business Group Launches Kansas Radio Campaign on Taxes 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A group representing small business owners has launched statewide radio ads in an effort to push Kansas legislators into keeping one of Republican Governor Sam Brownback's key income tax policies. National Federation of Independent Business state director Dan Murray said Wednesday that the group doesn't want lawmakers to roll back past personal income tax cuts to help balance the budget. Lawmakers in 2012 exempted 281,000 business owners from personal income taxes as part of a larger package of reductions that Brownback pushed to stimulate the economy. Some lawmakers want to rethink the policy because the state is facing budget problems. Republican Senator Jim Denning of Overland Park said the law is flawed and needs to be revised. The ads are sponsored by an NFIB political action committee.

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Ride-Hailing Firm Uber Expands to 4 Kansas Cities

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Ride-hailing company Uber says it is bringing its service to four additional cities in Kansas only days after Governor Sam Brownback vetoed legislation opposed by the firm. Uber said riders in Lawrence, Leavenworth, Manhattan and Topeka could begin hailing Uber drivers Thursday afternoon. The company already offers service in Wichita, Kansas City, Kansas, and Johnson County. Uber connects drivers to riders through a mobile app and entered the state in 2014. Legislators approved a bill this month to require state background checks and broader insurance coverage for drivers for ride-hailing companies. Uber called the measure overly burdensome and said its enactment would force the company out of Kansas. Brownback vetoed the measure Monday, saying it could stifle innovation in the state.

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More Than 30 People Named in Driver's License Fraud Case
 
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — More than 30 people have been arrested in a phony driver's license scheme in suburban Kansas City. Former Kansas Department of Revenue employee Samantha Jo Moore is jailed in Johnson County on 51 felonies, including bribery, identity theft and official misconduct. Bond for the 28-year-old has been set at $250,000. Her public defender, Joseph Astrab, didn't immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press seeking comment. Moore is accused of taking bribes to supply licenses to dozens of people while working as a driver's license examiner at the license office in Mission. The Kansas City Star reports that authorities also allege that Moore took actions to destroy or tamper with evidence. Officials say the investigation is ongoing.

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Kansas City Loses Out on Homeland Security Funds

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City officials are unhappy that the city has lost out on homeland security funds.  Councilman John Sharp, chairman of the council's public safety committee, said a recent Kansas City Star series on domestic terrorism had shed light on regional risks of terrorism attacks. He also pointed to the murders last year of three people at Jewish sites in Overland Park, Kansas, and the bombing in Oklahoma City 20 years ago The Kansas City Star reports the city received $1 million last year but was not one of 28 communities that received at total of $287 million this year.  Mayor Sly James and other area officials have written Gov. Jay Nixon asking for an allocation from Missouri's homeland security grant.

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KU Says Jump in Drug Offenses Reflects Better Reporting

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas is reporting a large increase in drug offenses in the last year but police contend it is caused by better drug education and enforcement, rather than more drug use on campus.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports annual crime statistics released Wednesday showed 177 drug offenses reported on campus in 2014, compared with 107 in 2013, a 65 percent increase.  University police Capt. James Anguiano says police are training student housing employees to recognize illegal activity and identify drugs. He says obtaining more search warrants also contributed to the higher numbers.  Anguiano says most of the drug offenses involved marijuana in residence halls.  The statistics showed 832 crimes were reported on campus in 2014, a 26 percent increase from 661 crimes in 2013.

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Beckham Named K-State's New College of Veterinary Medicine Dean 

MANHATAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University has picked a new leader for its College of Veterinary Medicine. Tammy Beckham said in a news release that she's "honored to have been chosen." She's now the director of the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases, a Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence in College Station, Texas. Beckham also has served as director of the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory. Beckham succeeds Ralph Richardson, who has served as the College of Veterinary Medicine's dean since 1998. The university says Richardson will transition to a faculty position in the college.

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Retrial Pushed Back to August in Lawrence Homicide Case 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A retrial has been pushed back to August for a Lawrence man whose first homicide trial ended with a hung jury. The Lawrence Journal-World  reports that the trial for 30-year-old Dustin D. Walker initially was scheduled for next month. But it was rescheduled for Aug. 17 after a new defense attorney was named Thursday. Walker is charged with first-degree murder in the March 2014 shooting death of 37-year-old Patrick Roberts during a robbery. Walker was found guilty in February of aggravated burglary, but the jury could not agree on the murder charge. Another man, Archie Robinson, was found guilty of both charges in March. He was sentenced in April to life in prison with no chance of parole for 20 years in the killing.

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Wichita Student Arrested After Bringing Fireworks to School

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Officials say a 16-year-old boy was arrested after bringing fireworks and a Molotov cocktail to a Wichita high school.  The Wichita South High School principal said in an email to parents that no students were in immediate danger nor was the building evacuated.  District spokeswoman Susan Arensman said the student will face legal and school disciplinary action.  The principal said students should report any unusual activity to school officials.

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Topeka Man Gets 6 Years in Prison for Distributing Child Porn

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A U.S. attorney says a Topeka man must serve more than six years in prison on a child pornography charge.  U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says 43-year-old James A. Greer has been sentenced to 76 months in prison after pleading guilty to one count of distributing child pornography earlier this year.  Authorities say they discovered more than 900 images and around 290 videos containing child pornography.

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Website Selling BTK Prison Letters Draws Attention of State

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Corrections says it's looking into reports that a website is selling letters from the serial killer known as BTK for up to $300 apiece. KSNW-TV reports the letters were sent from El Dorado Correctional Facility by Dennis Rader, who is serving a life sentence for a series of killings that haunted Wichita for three decades. Rader was arrested in February 2005 and confessed to 10 killings in the Wichita area between 1974 and 1991. He called himself BTK, which stood for "bind, torture, kill." The Corrections Department says it wants to make sure Rader is not requesting that anyone make money on his behalf. The website's owner says he's interested in serial killers and posted several of Rader's letters from prison for sale online.

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Report: Man-Made Earthquakes Shake More Than a Dozen Areas in US

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Government scientists say more than a dozen regions in the United States have experienced a rise in man-made earthquakes in recent years. A report released Thursday found that 17 areas in eight states have seen small quakes triggered by oil and gas drilling. They include parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas. The U.S. Geological Survey says most of the shaking is caused by the oil and gas industry injecting wastewater deep underground, which can activate dormant faults. A few cases stemmed from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The agency plans to study how often man-made quakes are expected to occur in the next year and how much shaking they would produce. Scientists released the report at an earthquake meeting in Pasadena, California.

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Dog Rescued in Derby After 13 Days Stuck Under Concrete Slab 

DERBY, Kan. (AP) — A miniature dachshund has been rescued after spending 13 days trapped underneath a concrete slab in south-central Kansas. The Wichita Eagle reports that the dog, named Lucy, disappeared April 3 while in her fenced Derby yard. It turns out Lucy had dug underneath the slab that was supporting the house's air-conditioning unit. Owner Rebecca Felix says that her other dog, Thor, had acted interested in the spot where Lucy was buried underground. But it wasn't until last Thursday that she and her husband heard a quiet bark come from under the concrete. Her husband dug deep enough to see Lucy's nose and one closed eye. He then called 911, and firefighters helped extract her. Veterinarian Kelly Miller says it's "amazing" Lucy survived and didn't suffer organ failure.

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Missouri House Gives Initial Approval to Statewide Regulation of Ride-Hailing Services

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — An effort by Missouri lawmakers to create statewide regulations for ride-hailing companies including Uber and Lyft has received initial approval in the House. The House on Wednesday approved the measure on a voice vote. Opponents from Kansas City and St. Louis say it would remove cities' ability to protect residents. The measure would require background checks and insurance as well as a local license for the companies to operate. Supporters say it would ensure Uber and Lyft could operate in the state with some regulations. Democratic Representative John Rizzo of Kansas City says the proposal is an example of big business taking advantage of local government. The measure would block more restrictive local regulation of the companies. It needs final approval in the House before going to the Senate.

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Climax Springs Residents Seek to Dissolve Incorporation 

CLIMAX SPRINGS, Mo. (AP) — Residents of a tiny southwest Missouri community on a well-traveled road between Kansas City and the Lake of the Ozarks are asking for permission to dissolve their village's incorporation. The Lake Sun Leader reports Climax Springs hasn't seen much local involvement in quite some time, and with no municipal services for a population of about 100, there's not much for a village board to do. The Camden County clerk's office says a petition to dissolve incorporation was being verified this week. In a town with only 54 registered voters, 48 people signed the petition. If 41 of those signatures are verified and certified as being acceptable, the village can dissolve without having the issue placed on a ballot. A second Camden County village, Macks Creek, dissolved in 2012.

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