Kansas House Advances Budget-Balancing Measure
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has given first-round approval to a bill that eliminates a projected deficit of nearly $200 million in the state's next budget. The chamber's voice vote Wednesday advanced the measure to a final vote Thursday. The bill makes dozens of changes in the $16.1 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. It contains proposals from Republican Governor Sam Brownback to close the gap by juggling funds and capturing unanticipated savings. The House added extra funds for the state's two mental hospitals and pay raises for uniformed corrections officers at state prisons. Republican supporters said the bill addresses essential budget needs. But Democrats and some GOP lawmakers complained the bill represented poor fiscal management following massive personal income tax cuts enacted at Brownback's urging in 2012 and 2013.
Kansas Senate Advances Bill to Decrease Medicaid Drug Costs
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill designed to cut Kansas's costs in providing prescription drugs for poor and disabled residents has received first-round approval in the state Senate. Senators advanced a bill Tuesday that would allow the state's Medicaid program to use so-called step therapies for prescriptions that require patients to try less expensive drugs before obtaining more expensive ones. The Senate expects to take a final vote today (WED) to determine whether the measure passes and goes to the House. Governor Sam Brownback included the proposal in his plan for eliminating a projected deficit of nearly $200 million in the $16.1 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. His administration believes the state would save nearly $11 million annually with the change in the prescription drug policy. Critics worry that patients won't get needed medications.
GOP Blocks Kansas House Debate on Medicaid Expansion
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republicans have blocked a debate in the Kansas House on expanding the state's Medicaid program as encouraged by the federal health care overhaul. The vote Wednesday in the GOP-dominated chamber was 85-37 against debating a proposal from Democratic Rep. Jim Ward of Wichita to expand Medicaid for three years. The Kansas Medicaid program provides coverage for 362,000 poor and disabled Kansans, and Ward's proposal would have provided coverage for another 160,000 people. The 2010 federal health care law championed by Democratic President Barack Obama encouraged states to expand their Medicaid programs by promising that the federal government would pick up almost all of the costs. But Republican legislative leaders in Kansas opposed the health care overhaul and believe a Medicaid expansion would be more costly to the state than expected.
Kansas House Budget Plan Still Hits KU
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A budget-balancing plan given first-round approval by the Kansas House still punishes the state's largest university for using out-of-state bonds to finance construction projects on campus. The House advanced the budget bill Wednesday on a voice vote to set up final action Thursday. Members narrowed a provision restricting spending at the University of Kansas so that it did not apply to its Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas. But there was no attempt during a five-hour debate to remove the remaining restrictions. Democratic Representative John Wilson of Lawrence said there's probably a better strategy for dealing with the issue. Republican legislators are upset that a nonprofit corporation formed by the university had a Wisconsin agency issue $327 million in bonds for campus construction projects without legislative approval.
Kansas House Plan Hinders Hospital Privatization
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has approved a proposal to make it harder for the state to sell or turn over the operation of its two mental hospitals to private companies. The House voted 68-51 on Wednesday for an amendment to budget legislation from Democratic Representative Jim Ward of Wichita. It says the state couldn't spend any money on privatizing the hospitals in Larned and Osawatomie unless the Legislature approved the idea first. A critical survey in November prompted the federal government to decertify the Osawatomie hospital about 45 miles southwest of the Kansas City area. The state is losing between $500,000 and $1 million a month in federal funds. The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services has said privatizing the hospital is an option, but area legislators oppose the idea.
Kansas House Moves to Shield KU Med from Budget Measure
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House members want to make sure that a measure punishing the University of Kansas for using out of state bonds to finance campus construction projects doesn't hurt its Medical Center in Kansas City. The House approved an amendment to a budget bill Wednesday on a voice vote to narrow the scope of a provision restricting spending at the University of Kansas. Top Republicans in the GOP-dominated Legislature are upset with the university over how it is financing a development project that includes a new science lab, housing for 1,200 students, a new student union building and new power plant. The university formed a nonprofit corporation that then went to Wisconsin's Public Finance Authority to issue $327 million in bonds, and thus avoided having to get approval from the Kansas Legislature.
Anti-Sexting Bill Aimed at Juveniles Advances
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has approved a bill designed to address sexting among middle and high school students. The chamber's 123-0 vote on Wednesday sends the measure to the Senate. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the bill is focused on 12- to 18-year-olds accused of transmitting images of a nude child. Under existing state law, prosecutors were restricted to filing a felony that carries a sentence of up to 11 years in prison and lifetime registration as a sex offender. The bill establishes three options for handling so-called "sexting" cases based on simple possession of the image, transmission of an image and aggravated transmission of the image. Republican Representative Blaine Finch, of Ottawa, says moderated sanctions provide an opportunity for counseling or mental health treatment outside of prison.
Kansas Cancer Survivors Support Tanning Booth Ban for Teens
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Skin cancer survivors and a dozen like-minded organizations have testified in support of a bill that would ban tanning beds to those younger than 18 years old. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the bill would forbid anyone 17 or under from tanning devices. It would also allow the Kansas Board of Cosmetology to impose a maximum fine of $250 on tanning businesses for every violation of the law. The bill's hearing before the House Health and Human Services Committee coincided with the annual lobbying day of the Cancer Action Network affiliated with the American Cancer Society. Hilary Gee of the Cancer Action Network said a 2013 survey indicated that 69 percent of Kansas voters supported protection of children and teenagers from indoor tanning devices.
Kansas Governor Appeals Court Order to Release Candidate Materials
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is appealing a judge's ruling that the state must release candidates' applications for two county commission openings filled by Governor Sam Brownback. The state has filed a notice of appeal in the lawsuit brought by The Salina Journal and The Associated Press seeking the disclosure of information on more than two dozen applicants for newly created Saline County Commission seats. Saline County residents voted in November 2014 to expand the commission from three to five members. The AP and the newspaper argued that applicants' names and other details are public information. Brownback's office argued they are personnel records exempt from the state's open records law. Shawnee County District Judge Rebecca Crotty ruled in December in favor of AP and the newspaper.
Kansas Lawmakers Give `Revenge Porn' Bill a Second Look
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas lawmakers are weighing legislation that would make it illegal to post photos or videos of a nude person online without his or her consent. The Kansas City Star reports that Democratic Representative Sydney Carlin of Manhattan and Republican Representative Stephanie Clayton of Overland Park introduced bills last session to deter the online phenomenon of "revenge porn.'' Under the legislation, posting of nude materials without a person's consent could be prosecuted as a potential felony under the state's blackmail and breach of privacy laws. Republican Representative John Barker of Abilene, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, says that panel could vote on whether to advance the bill to the House floor as early as Thursday.
University of Kansas Touts Projects, Defends Bonding Deal
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas officials say using $327 million in out of state bonds to finance construction projects allows them to meet crucial campus needs in a cost-effective way. Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, other university officials and state Board of Regents members defended the school's central district development project and its financing Tuesday during a House Appropriations Committee hearing. The university formed a nonprofit corporation which then had Wisconsin's Public Finance Authority issue the bonds last month without legislative approval. Special university counsel Jeff Gans said the university needed to move quickly to keep its borrowing costs low. University officials said the project includes a new student dormitory that would open in fall 2017 and help prevent a campus housing shortage. The project also includes a new science building to replace outdated labs.
Kansas House Abandons Bill Removing Gifted Children from Special Ed
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A bill that would have made changes to gifted education has been abandoned after protests from parents. The House Committee on Education dropped the effort Tuesday to remove references of gifted children from the category of special education. Representative Sue Boldra said the proposal was not intended to eliminate gifted programs.The Hays Republican said her goal was to separate gifted students from other special education students. The Wichita Eagle reports that the bill was similar to one that gifted-education advocates fought last year. Concerns were raised that it could cut funding for gifted education and eliminate protections that gifted students and their families currently have.
Kansas Senate Bill Would Restrict Habitat Protections
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Conservationists say protected habitats for endangered and threatened species in Kansas would be sharply reduced under a Senate bill in its second week of hearings. The measure before the Senate Natural Resources Committee would change the definition of critical habitats and restrict habitat protection to areas where a vulnerable species lives. Critics say the bill doesn't take into consideration potential territories where the species could migrate. The Sierra Club testified Wednesday that the bill would cut habitat protections by 60 percent. Farmers and ranchers spoke in favor of the bill last week. The Kansas Farm Bureau says the measure would clarify the Kansas Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act. The committee has not scheduled a debate on the bill.
Company to Pay $110,000 for Kansas Telemarketing Violations
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A California company has agreed to pay $110,000 in penalties and fees for violating the No-Call Act and the Kansas Consumer Protection Act. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says Judson Enterprises Inc., of Gold River, California, agreed to a consent judgment that was approved this week by a Shawnee County district judge. The attorney general's office started investigating the company in 2013 after receiving a complaint from a Manhattan resident who was on the no-call list. 37 Kansas residents filed complaints with Schmidt's office and the Federal Trade Commission. Schmidt says the company's telemarketers were calling Kansans on the no-call list and failing to end the call when the consumer declined its offer.
Kansas Members Discuss Student Restraint and Seclusion
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — School employees would receive more training on how to help disruptive students and avoid physically restraining them under a bill introduced by the House Committee on Children and Seniors. The bill would also prohibit the use of medications to subdue a student. Additionally, it extends a 2015 law that required parents to be notified on the day students were restrained or put in seclusion. That law was due to expire in June 2018. The House committee is scheduled to debate the bill later this week.
Appeals Court Upholds Tax Evasion Convictions of Diet Doctor
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court has upheld the convictions of a Kansas obesity specialist who co-authored the "Atkins Diabetes Revolution." The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday affirmed all five counts of attempted tax evasion against Dr. Mary C. Vernon. The Lawrence woman was sentenced in 2014 to three years and five months and ordered to pay more than $311,000 in restitution. The "Atkins Diabetes Revolution" was published in 2004, a year after the death of weight loss expert Dr. Robert Atkins. The appellate panel rejected Vernon's claim that the trial judge miscalculated her sentence, based on a tax loss of $988,000 from 1991 to 2002. The lower court had also given Vernon more prison time because she created a sham corporation called Rockledge Medical Services to evade income taxes.
Feds Charge Kansas Man over Fake Casino 'Players Cards'
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors have charged a former tribal casino employee with embezzlement in a scheme involving fake "players cards" at a casino in northeast Kansas. A criminal information filed Tuesday charges 32-year-old Donald M. Collins of Wetmore with one count of embezzling tribal funds. Collins worked at the time as players club manager at the Sac and Fox Casino, which is owned by the Sac and Fox Nation of Kansas and Nebraska. His defense attorney did not immediately return a message left seeking comment. Collins is accused of making counterfeit cards valued at about $13,326. The cards allow bearers to play various casino games. Prosecutors allege that about $17,443 was fraudulently won by people using them. Collins was issued a summons to appear in federal court in Wichita on February 24.
Pro Racecar Driver Scott Tucker Charged in Payday Loan Scam
NEW YORK (AP) — Professional racecar driver Scott Tucker has been charged in a payday lending operation offering quick cash over the Internet to desperate people. Authorities said Tucker was arrested Wednesday in Kansas City, Kansas, on charges in an indictment unsealed in federal court in New York City. The indictment says Tucker and a lawyer also arrested Wednesday exploited over 4 million people in the United States who were struggling to pay basic living expenses. It says the operation charged interest rates as high as 700 percent or more using deceptive and misleading communications and contracts. In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission sued Tucker in Nevada over the payday lending operation. The agency has said in court papers that Tucker pocketed at least $420 million unlawfully. Tucker's lawyers did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
Former Malheur Occupier Arrested on Unrelated Warrant
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A man who had been with the armed occupiers at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge has been arrested on an unrelated warrant. The Oregonian reports that 31-year-old Brandon Dowd is being held in the Harney County (Oregon) Jail under a warrant from Kansas in connection with a theft case. He was not arrested for anything he might have done while on the refuge. He was arrested Monday. Dowd was seen about three weeks ago guarding the main entrance to the refuge. He is not among the last four holdouts still occupying the space. A Riley County, Kansas, Police Department spokesman says Dowd is accused of stealing a firearm worth about $600 from a 65-year-old man last May.
Murder Charge Filed in 60-Year-Old Jogger's Shooting Death
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 24-year-old Kansas City man is charged in the 2012 slaying of a 60-year-old man who was shot while jogging. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced Tuesday she had charged Craig L. Brown with second-degree murder in the May 13, 2012, death of Harry Stone of Raytown. Stone was shot and later died in surgery. Baker says Brown was in an automobile accident on February 1, 2015, and police found a black Glock semi-automatic pistol in the glove box. The gun was test fired in June and matched the gun used to kill Stone. The gun was tracked to a federal prison inmate, who said he sold it to Brown before Stone's shooting. Brown is being held in the Jackson County Jail on $200,000 bond.
Man Sentenced to 14 Years for Topeka Park Murder
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Topeka man convicted in a 2014 killing in Freedom Valley Park has been sentenced to more than 14 years in prison. Prosecutors say 25-year-old Jourdan Mickel Hunt shot at 20-year-old Germaul Rayton, Ahmad Rayton and Anthony Marshall III on May 31, 2014. Germaul Rayton was killed. Hunt was sentenced Tuesday on a charge of second-degree murder. He was also convicted of two counts of aggravated battery in the shootings of the two other men, who were injured in the incident. Hunt was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison on the battery charges. The sentences will run consecutively.
Man, Woman Found Dead in KCK Home
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A man and woman have been found dead inside a Kansas City, Kansas, home. Police said in a news release that the discovery was made Tuesday night when officers responded to the home. The victims were identified as 25-year-old Leslie Jacobson and 31-year-old Micky Burke, both of Kansas City, Kansas. The release says it appeared they had been shot. The case remains under investigation. Anyone with information is urged to come forward.
Man Arrested in 2006 Death of 2-Year-Old Boy in Topeka
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 31-year-old man has been arrested in Missouri in the 2006 death of a 2-year-old boy in Topeka. Craig Beam, chief deputy U.S. Marshal for the District of Kansas, said that the man was arrested Monday on a second-degree murder warrant in Florissant, Missouri, and is being held on $500,000 bond. Authorities say 2-year-old Eli Clemens died on March 11, 2006, at an apartment complex. His death was ruled a homicide four months later. Topeka police have not said how the boy died. Officials said the suspect is expected to be extradited to Topeka following a hearing in St. Louis.
KU Jayhawks in 3-Way Tie for Big 12 Title After Beating West Virginia
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 12th straight Big 12 title in men’s basketball is still in reach for the Kansas Jayhawks after a victory last (TUE) night over the West Virginia Mountaineers. Perry Ellis had 21 points, Landen Lucas pulled down a career-high 16 rebounds and Frank Mason III added 14 points as No. 6 Kansas beat No. 10 West Virginia, 75-65. The win puts KU into a three-way tie atop the Big 12. The Jayhawks (20-4, 8-3) are now tied with the Mountaineers (19-5, 8-3) and No. 3 Oklahoma (20-3, 8-3) as Kansas pursues its 12th consecutive Big 12 championship. All three teams have seven games remaining.