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Headlines for Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Kansas Senate Advances Bill on Political Signs

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Local governments would be barred from passing restrictions on political campaign signs under a bill advanced by the Kansas Senate. The chamber gave first-round approval to a bill Monday that would prevent local governments from enforcing ordinances on the placement of political campaign signs. Republican Senator Rob Olson of Olathe said he inserted the measure into a bill regulating lobbyist's activities because he said some municipal officials tend to enforce political advertising rules selectively during competitive campaign. The Senate rejected another amendment that would have required lobbyists to disclose details of their dinner meetings with legislators. That amendment was narrowly defeated by a vote of 16-20 in the Senate.
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Federal Official Criticizes Brownback Position on Food Stamp Funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal official criticized Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's stance in support of funding food stamps through federal block grants. U.S. Department of Agriculture administrator Audrey Rowe said at a news conference Monday with Brownback that she disagrees with his position that food stamps should be funded by federal block grants but managed by individual states. Rowe runs the department's food and nutrition service division and said that the Republican proposal would be detrimental to the oversight and the quality of services. The news conference was called to announce $13.5 million in federal grant money that Kansas is receiving to fund a pilot program to offer job training for food stamp recipients. The federal program gave $200 million to 10 states to support programs to move people into stable employment. 

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Senate Panel Endorses Brownback's Pick for Kansas Highway Patrol Chief

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's appointment of a veteran Kansas Highway Patrol officer as the agency's superintendent has been endorsed by a state Senate committee. The Federal and State Affairs Committee voted unanimously Monday to recommend the confirmation of Major Mark Bruce as the patrol's leader. The action sends Bruce's appointment to the full Senate. Bruce has served 25 years with the patrol and was named to its top job in January after Superintendent Ernest Garcia retired. Meanwhile, another key Brownback appointee faces a confirmation hearing today (TUE). The Public Health and Welfare Committee will consider Susan Mosier's appointment as secretary of the Department of Health and Environment. She's held the job since former Secretary Robert Moser's resignation in November. She previously ran KDHE's Division of Health Care Finance.

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Kansas Senate Advances New Plan to Control Mental Health Drugs 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new proposal for controlling the cost of mental health drugs to the Medicaid program in Kansas has advanced in the Legislature. The Senate gave first-round approval Monday to a bill requiring a review of Medicaid's mental health prescriptions. It also creates an advisory committee to draft guidelines on prescriptions for the needy and disabled covered by the program. The measure had bipartisan support and arose from discussions between Republican Governor Sam Brownback's administration and mental health advocates. The Senate last month rejected a repeal of a 2002 law that blocks restrictions on mental health drugs for Medicaid participants. Supporters are looking for cost savings in the program to help balance the state budget. They also worry that some powerful drugs are prescribed and used improperly. Opponents say they fear some mentally ill indigent patients will be unable to get the medicines they need.

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Jury Recommends "Hard 50" Sentence in Lawrence Murder  

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Douglas County jury has recommended a 50-year prison sentence for a woman convicted of killing her roommate and former employer by nearly decapitating him. The, so-called "Hard 50" sentence would mean that  20-year-old Sarah Gonzales McLinn would be in prison for a mandatory minimum of 50 years without eligibility for parole. The jury made the recommendation Monday for after deciding that the January 2014 killing of 52-year-old pizza shop owner Harold Sasko was committed in an "especially heinous, atrocious or cruel manner." McLinn, who was convicted Friday of first-degree murder, is to be sentenced April 29. During her trial, McLinn's attorneys sought an acquittal based on claims that she had a mental disease at the time of the slaying and suffered from multiple personality disorder. But jurors concluded McLinn was capable of forming intent in killing Sasko.

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Lawrence Man Sentenced in Synthetic Marijuana Case

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A Lawrence man was sentenced to seven years and three months in prison for marketing synthetic marijuana and other designer drugs on the internet. Bradley Miller was sentenced Monday after admitting he conspired with his brother, Clark Sloan, and his brother's son, Jonathan, to manufacture and sell the drugs. Federal prosecutors say the men's business started at a shop in Lawrence. The business grew to include suppliers, retailers, wholesalers and business associates across the country, in Canada, South America, Europe and Asia. The men made at least $3.3 million from the scheme. Clark Sloan, of Tonganoxie, and Jonathan Sloan, of Lawrence, were convicted last September on 20 counts. Clark Sloan was sentenced to seven years and three months in prison, and his son got eight years.

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Kansas Commune Leader Faces Sentencing in Murder

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The leader of a Kansas commune who received millions of dollars in life insurance payouts from dead members will soon learn his punishment for the murder of one of his followers. Fifty-five-year-old Daniel Perez faces a life sentence after a jury found him guilty last month of first-degree premeditated murder in the 2003 death of Patricia Hughes at the suburban Wichita compound that was home to the commune. Her death was considered an accident until 2011, when a woman who was 12 at the time told authorities the death was staged. Perez also was found guilty of 27 other counts, including rape, aggravated criminal sodomy and sexual exploitation of a child. Perez testified he was innocent. His attorneys have asked for his acquittal or new trial.

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Former Central Kansas Banker Pleads Guilty to Fraud

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A former loan officer for a Great Bend bank will be sentenced June 8 after pleading guilty to bank fraud. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom announced Monday that 56-year-old Brian W. Harrison, of Great Bend, admitted in his plea that he committed fraud while working as a loan officer at Farmer's Bank and Trust in Great Bend from 2004 to 2012. Prosecutors say he made false statements to investigators about loans he made. He also falsified credit and loan applications, promissory notes and security agreements for a customer without permission. Attorneys have agreed to recommend a sentence of six months in prison, followed by six months home detention. He also will be ordered to pay more than $124,000 in restitution.

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Brownback Designates Wednesday as Kansas Military Appreciation Day

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Governor Sam Brownback has proclaimed Wednesday as Military Appreciation Day in Kansas. Brownback said in a statement Monday that the goal of his proclamation is to recognize the men and women of the U.S. armed forces. Brownback plans to meet with his military council Wednesday in Topeka after signing the proclamation. The governor is expected to get an update on federal military issues and discuss their potential effect on Kansas. The Governor's Military Council was founded in 2004 and works to protect military activities in the state. Kansas is home to the Army posts of Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth and McConnell Air Force Base outside Wichita.
 

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