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Headlines for Thursday, December 15, 2016

Here's a look at area headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas Senate Committees Get New Leaders

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Most Kansas Senate committees will have new leaders when legislators reconvene next month, and moderate Republicans will have more chairmanships. Senate President Susan Wagle announced the appointments of 12 committee chairmen and chairwomen Wednesday. Only four are keeping the posts they had previously. The Wichita Republican said turnover in this year's elections required most of the changes. Fourteen of the Senate's 40 members will be new. Moderate Republican Senator Carolyn McGinn of Sedgwick will lead the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee, replacing conservative Senator Ty Masterson of Andover. Moderate GOP Senator Vicki Schmidt of Topeka will lead the Public Health and Welfare Committee. Wagle in February removed conservative Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook of Shawn


Kansas Secretary of State Meets with Trump in New York 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach met on Thursday with President-elect Donald Trump. Kobach made no comment to reporters either upon arriving for or leaving his meeting at Trump Tower in New York. Kobach advised Trump's campaign on immigration issues. Kobach is a former law professor who helped draft tough state and local laws cracking down on illegal immigration, including in Arizona and Alabama. Since Kobach was elected Kansas secretary of state in 2010, he's also been a champion of tough voter identification laws. Kobach met with Trump in New Jersey before Thanksgiving and brought a list of immigration and national security proposals. Kobach previously was considered a potential candidate for attorney general and homeland security secretary. Kobach spokeswoman Desiree Taliaferro said she has no details about Thursday's meeting.


Kansas Renews Existing Contracts for Firms Managing Medicaid 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has renewed its existing contracts for three companies managing the state's Medicaid program for another year through 2018. Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer made the announcement Thursday in a tweet. He said, "Time will bring clarity from D.C" on health care policy. President-elect Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress are looking to repeal and replace the 2010 federal health care law championed by outgoing President Barack Obama. The Medicaid program provides health coverage for the poor, elderly and disabled and is funded jointly by states and the federal government. In 2013, Kansas turned over management of its Medicaid program to state subsidiaries of Amerigroup, Centene Corp. and United Healthcare. Colyer led the privatization effort. Colyer said the state will wait until late in 2017 to solicit proposals for new contracts.


Official: Unclaimed Property Wouldn't Close Budget Shortfall 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's administration says liquidating an investment fund tied to Kansas's unclaimed property would only provide $40 million to $50 million to help decrease the state's $350 million budget shortfall. A 2000 law change directed the state to invest an amount equal to the unclaimed property it receives each year. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that state budget director Shawn Sullivan's conclusion echoes Treasurer Ron Estes's explanation that only a fraction of the fund's $360 million value could be used to shrink the budget deficit. Sullivan says the project amount is interest that wouldn't be a part of the state general fund. Sullivan didn't say if liquidating the fund would be part of the governor's proposal to close the gap, but acknowledged that officials have recently been seeking information.


Search Committee for KU Chancellor Appointed

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Board of Regents has appointed several members to a committee searching for a new chancellor for the University of Kansas. The 24 new members announced Wednesday include representatives of the university's faculty, staff, students, alumni, endowment, administration, athletics and residents of Lawrence. The committee will be led by regent Dave Dillon. The committee will be looking for a replacement for chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, who has said she will step down next summer. The search group has been instructed to identify three to five candidates for the job. The regents said in a news release the committee will work during the next several months with the search firm R. William Funk & Associates. 


Battery Charge Dismissed Against KU Forward Bragg

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have dismissed a battery charge against University of Kansas basketball player Carlton Bragg Jr. and charged the woman who accused him of shoving her. The Douglas County district attorney's office said Wednesday the charge was dismissed after law enforcement reviewed surveillance video showing a woman repeatedly striking a man and putting her hands near his neck. Bragg, a 20-year-old sophomore, had been suspended from the KU basketball team after he was arrested Friday. Coach Bill Self said in a statement Wednesday that Bragg is no longer suspended and he's proud of how Bragg handled the allegations. Bragg said in the statement that it's been a "difficult and humiliating experience" he hopes to put behind him. The district attorney's office says Saleeha Soofi faces one count of battery. It's unclear whether she has a lawyer.


K-State Removes Suspect in Rape Case from Dorm 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University has removed a rape suspect from a residence hall. The Manhattan Mercury reports the rape is alleged to have occurred December 4 in a dorm room and was reported to police last week. University police identified and removed the suspect Tuesday from a university residence hall. Officials declined to give the name of the residence hall where the suspect lived. Kansas State spokesman Steve Logback said no arrests had been made of Wednesday and an investigation is ongoing.


Kansas Lawmaker to Resign After Marrying

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A prominent Kansas legislator is giving up his House seat next month because he's gettingremarried. Republican Representative Marvin Kleeb of Overland Park said Wednesday that continuing as a legislator would force him to spend too much time away from his new spouse. Kleeb has been the House Taxation Committee's chairman and was a leading candidate for chairman of the budget-writing Appropriations Committee. Current Appropriations Committee Chairman Ron Ryckman Jr. of Olathe is set to become House speaker next month. Kleeb is marrying again on Dec. 23. His first wife, Nancy, died of cancer three years ago. Kleeb was first elected to the House in 2008 and was re-elected last month in his Kansas City-area district with 58 percent of the vote. Republicans in the district will name a replacement.


New Gun Charges Filed in Somali Bomb Plot Case in Kansas 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors have added firearms charges against two of the Kansas men accused of plotting to bomb an apartment complex where Somali immigrants live in the meatpacking town of Garden City. The superseding indictment filed Thursday in U.S. District Court again charges Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright, and Curtis Allen with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction. But the new indictment also charges Allen with illegally possessing firearms because of a misdemeanor domestic battery conviction. It adds two counts against Stein alleging gun violations in connection with the bomb conspiracy. It also seeks forfeiture of the weapons. Attorneys for Allen and Stein did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. Kari Schmidt, who represents Wright, says her client has no criminal history and is not prohibited from possessing firearms.


OSHA Probes Man's Death on Kansas Job Site

CHERRYVALE, Kan. (AP) — Federal workplace safety officials are investigating the death of a 48-year-old man at a southeast Kansas job site. The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration says the worker was fatally hit Tuesday by a vehicle at a Colt Energy Inc. natural gas pipeline construction site near Cherryvale in Montgomery County. The victim's name hasn't been released. A message left Thursday by The Associated Press with Nick Powell, Colt Energy's president, was not immediately returned.


Northeast Kansas County Approves Wind Farm Plan

SENECA, Kan. (AP) - Authorities in a northeast Kansas county have approved plans for a wind farm project. WIBW reports the Nemaha County Commission has adopted a resolution approving a conditional use permit and wind farm district. That decision came after a public hearing, where 11 county residents voiced both support and opposition to the project. Florida-based company NextEra Energy Resources is behind the project. Company officials say they will move forward once they have a buyer for the electricity that will be produced. The construction plan includes 40 wind turbines to be erected in parts of four townships in Nemaha County.


Driver Injured After Swerving to Avoid Duck Decoys in Kansas 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Shawnee County authorities say a driver was critically injured after she swerved to avoid a bag of duck decoys on a highway and was ejected from her vehicle. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the rollover crash happened early Thursday morning on the US-75 highway, south of Topeka. Lieutenant K.D. Lewis says the woman's vehicle entered the median and rolled after she attempted to avoid the bag that was in the roadway. Lewis says the bag appears to have fallen out of another vehicle prior to the crash. The unidentified woman was taken to a hospital with what were considered to be life-threatening injuries.


Kansas Governor Says Budget Will Include Rural Teachers Plan 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says his budget proposals next year will include a new scholarship program for training teachers for rural schools. Brownback also said in an Associated Press interview Wednesday that another initiative will help bring doctors and dental services to rural areas lacking them. The Republican governor acknowledged that he'll be pursuing the programs while outlining proposals for eliminating projected budget shortfalls totaling $1.1 billion through June 2019. But he said budgeting is about setting priorities. He said he will propose providing scholarships to university students who train to be teachers and serve in rural areas facing teacher shortages. Brownback also responded to criticism from Senate President Susan Wagle for not imposing immediate budget cuts. He said it would be "more constructive" for lawmakers to offer their own proposals.


Budget Shortfall Leads to Delay for KDOT Road Projects

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Ten more Kansas road projects are being postponed because of the state's budget shortfall. Kansas Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Swartz told The Wichita Eagle on Wednesday that the department would be taking on more projects if "there wasn't some uncertainty right now." The state had planned to put 18 projects with estimated construction costs of around $24.7 million out to bid for work next month. That number has now been trimmed to eight projects that will cost $7.25 million. Last month, the department indefinitely postponed 24 road projects that would have cost $32 million. The state faces a projected $348 million budget shortfall this year with a larger shortfall of $582.6 million on track for the next fiscal year.


New Topeka Psychiatric Facility to Provide 24 Beds

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A health care company is working to open the first private hospital in Topeka since the famed Menninger psychiatric clinic left town more than a decade ago. Plans call for the Freedom Behavioral Hospital of Topeka to open its door in Topeka within a week. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that it is housed in a former nursing home facility that underwent a $3.5 million renovation. The facility will add 24 beds for seniors age 50 and up to in-patient mental health care options in the capital city. Jason Reed is president and CEO of the parent company, Freedom Healthcare, of Lake Charles, Louisiana. He says the hospital is awaiting final regulatory approval from one agency. He says the hospital already is receiving calls from people seeking services.


Pay to Double for Topeka Mayor, Council Members

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka City council members and the mayor will be paid twice as much next year. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a divided council approved the increase Tuesday night. The annual pay for council members will increase to $20,000 from $10,000. And the mayor will earn $40,000, up from $20,000. Topeka has a weak mayor form of government. The mayor's job duties include overseeing council meetings and performing ceremonial tasks. Through the measure, governing body members also will consider approving a pay raise for council members and the mayor every four years. Any increase would be tied to the consumer price indexes of the previous years. Council members last approved a pay raise for themselves in 2004, and the raise took effect the following year.


Kansas Regents Approve Universities' Concealed Carry Plans

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Regents approved policies that detail how the state's six public universities will implement a state law allowing concealed handguns on campuses beginning next year. The regents approved the policies with little discussion Wednesday. Starting in July, the universities will be required to allow anyone 21 or older to have concealed handguns on campus in buildings that don't have security measures, such as metal detectors. The security measures generally are considered too expensive for most campus buildings, meaning concealed carry will be allowed in nearly all buildings on the campuses. Stun guns -- but not the more powerful Tasers -- also will be allowed. The universities can later ask the regents for permission to permanently or temporarily add security measure to prohibit concealed weapons at specific venues.


City of Lawrence Asked to Back State Park Recreation Center 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The city of Lawrence is being asked to join Kansas to help financially back a $70 million outdoor recreation center at Clinton State Park that could include whitewater rafting. Other potential activities at the proposed center would be a 1,500-acre facility hosting outdoor activities including zip lines, biking, running, hiking, climbing and paddle boarding. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the company Plei would run the center. Lawrence city manager Tom Markus says the city would have to look for money outside of its current budget if the City Commission agreed to help fund the center. State tourism officials say the financing tool most likely to be used for the project would be sales tax revenue bonds. The project is set to be presented to the Douglas County Commission on Wednesday.


Regional Economy Improves but Still Weak in Rural Parts of 10 States 

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A monthly survey of bankers suggests the economy has improved in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states, but it's still weak because crop prices remain low. The overall economic index for the region remained in negative territory, notching a score of 42.9 in December. That's even after improving significantly from November's 36.6. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says weaker crop and meat prices continue to slow business in rural areas. Survey officials say any score below 50 on any of the survey's indexes suggests a decline in that area. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed. Goss says the economy is improving in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota while all the other states are trending lower.


Fugitive Shoots Self After Crashing into Wichita Home

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Authorities say a suspect in a Florida killing has shot and critically wounded himself after exchanging gunfire with U.S. Marshals and crashing a vehicle into a Wichita home. KAKE-TV reports that the 26-year-old man shot at the marshals Wednesday after they approached him. Police spokesman Officer Charley Davidson says the marshals returned fire before the suspect drove off with a woman. They crashed after a brief chase and took off running. Davidson says the suspect shot himself in the head when authorities caught up with him. He was rushed to a hospital, and the woman wasn't immediately found. The suspect's name hasn't been released. The Jacksonville County Sheriff's Office in Florida said that the man was suspected in a September 2015 killing at a hotel.


Interim President Named for Fort Hays State University 

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — A former president of the Kansas Board of Regents has been named interim president for Fort Hays State University. The Board of Regents said Wednesday in a release that Andy Tompkins will serve as interim president at Fort Hays State beginning Monday. Tompkins retired as president and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents in June 2015 after serving in that post for five years. Mirta M. Martin resigned as president of Fort Hays State last month. The board said Tompkins has a master's degree from Emporia State University and his doctorate in educational administration from the University of Kansas.


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