Kansas, 5 Other States Sue Obama Administration over Affordable Care Act
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Six states have filed a new lawsuit against the Obama administration over the Affordable Care Act. The complaint that Kansas, Texas, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Indiana and Nebraska filed Wednesday in the Northern District of Texas takes issue with the Health Insurance Providers Fee assessed to health insurers to cover federal subsidies. The lawsuit says nothing in the Affordable Care Act's language provided clear notice that states would have to pay the fee. The suit seeks an injunction against the administrative rule that says states are responsible for the fee and others. It also asks for states to be refunded for what they've already paid.
Brownback Aide: Kansas Ethics Commission Rejects Complaint
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Governor Sam Brownback's spokeswoman says the Kansas ethics commission is not acting on a top Democrat's complaint against the governor's re-election campaign. Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said the commission notified the campaign of its decision Wednesday. The commission emerged from a 20-minute closed session Wednesday without saying anything about the complaint filed last month by Kansas Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley. Commission members and staff did not comment. The Topeka Democrat accused Brownback's 2014 re-election campaign of violating state law by using its funds to pay lawyers more than $167,000 last year. A federal grand jury last year investigated three loans to the campaign in 2013 and 2014 totaling $1.5 million from Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer. The U.S. attorney's office said in June there would be no criminal charges.
Kansas State Officials Abandon $20 Million Power Plant Deal
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have moved swiftly to protect a government office building near the Statehouse after Governor Sam Brownback canceled a $20 million project that would have torn it down. Both chambers on Tuesday approved a bill preventing the spending of any state money through June 2017 to demolish the Docking State Office Building and build a new power plant for the Capitol and other nearby state office buildings. The existing power plant is at the Docking building. The measure also includes provisions designed to help the Republican governor's administration in negotiating penalties to be paid to the construction and financing companies for canceling the project. Legislators were upset that the administration executed the deal in December without lawmakers' approval. The bill passed the House, 121-1. The vote in the Senate was 40-0.
Lawrence Discusses Affordable Housing Legislation
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence city commissioners have directed staff to respond to legislation that would prohibit local governments from requiring a share of new housing construction to be set aside as affordable. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the measure passed the Kansas Senate on Tuesday. Lawrence city commissioners discussed the bill hours later after a resident asked why the city hadn't testified in opposition. Senator Rob Olson, an Olathe Republican, told The Topeka Capital-Journal that the Kansas Association of Realtors asked that the bill be passed because of discussions in Lawrence about enabling some housing in new subdivisions to be sold at a reduced price. Interim City Manager Diane Stoddard says there has been no official proposal in Lawrence, although such a policy was mentioned in talks last year about affordable housing.
Kansas Senate OK's Plan for Adding More Highway Patrol Troopers
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas would increase its vehicle registration fees to help its Highway Patrol put more troopers on the state's highways under a bill the state Senate approved. The Senate on Tuesday voted 24-14 for a measure that boosts the fee for each vehicle's registration by $3.25. The measure goes next to the House. Of the increase, $2 will go to the patrol and $1.25 to the state's center in Hutchinson for training law enforcement officers. The measure would allow the patrol to hire an additional 75 troopers. Thirty-five of the state's 105 counties have no assigned trooper, and the patrol has about 80 fewer troopers than it did a decade ago. Critics of the bill said the state should use general tax dollars to pay for public safety needs.
Kansas House Rejects Plan to Raise Speed Limit to 80 MPH on Interstate
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House members are comfortable raising the speed limit on some highways to 70 miles per hour, but they aren't ready to increase it to 80 on interstates. The House approved a bill on a 106-19 vote Tuesday to allow the state's secretary of transportation to increase the speed limits on non-interstate highways another 5 miles per hour, from the current 65. The measure goes next to the Senate. The House's action came after it voted 90-24 against a proposal from Republican Representative John Bradford of Lansing to increase the speed limit on interstates to 80 mph from the current 75. Bradford noted that seven other states have top speed limits of 80 or 85 miles per hour. But opponents cited safety concerns in rejecting his proposal.
Kansas Senate Approves Bill for New Pilot Foster Care Program
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has approved a proposal for a pilot program to have married couples who don't smoke or drink alcohol serve as foster parents for abused and neglected children. The vote Tuesday was 24-15 on a bill from conservative Republican Senator Forrest Knox of Altoona. The measure goes next to the House. Knox's bill sets up a program in which couples in "stable" marriages for at least seven years volunteer to be foster parents. Only one spouse in a so-called CARE foster family could work outside the home. But such couples could be reimbursed by the state for up to $4,000 a year in home or private schooling expenses. Critics predicted the measure would siphon money from public schools and said passing it suggests other families aren't as good.
Kansas Senators Vote to Overhaul Juvenile Justice System
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas senators have voted to overhaul the juvenile justice system by offering community-based programs instead of jail for low-risk juvenile offenders. The measure will close group homes for juvenile offenders in July 2018. Young people who violate probation will be referred to community-based programs that allow them to stay in homes with their families. The Senate voted 38-2 in favor of the bill Tuesday, sending it to the House for further consideration. Republican Senator Greg Smith, of Overland Park, says the $75.6 million in savings over five years will be redirected to community-based programs such as anger management and family therapy. Critics of the bill say they worry there won't be enough state funding to maintain the community-based alternatives to incarceration.
Kansas Senate Approves Parental Early Release Program
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill that would release some prisoners who are parents has received final approval in the Kansas Senate. The vote Tuesday was 40-0, sending the measure to the House. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the bill allows the Kansas secretary of corrections to transfer low and moderate-risk inmates from prisons to house arrest as part of a community parenting release if they satisfy several requirements. The inmates must have custody of a child, have no convictions for sex offenses or dangerous felonies, must not be eligible for deportation and must have less than a year remaining on their prison sentences. Supporters included the Department of Corrections and the Kansas Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff King says the effort has been successful in Washington state.
Kansas Senate Approves Lesser Penalties for Juvenile Sexting
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has passed a bill to lessen the penalties for sexting by middle and high school students in hopes that prosecutors will be willing to combat the practice. The vote Tuesday was 40-0. The bill goes next to the House, and its members approved their own version of the legislation earlier this month. Both measures focus on 12- to 18-year-olds accused of transmitting images of a nude child. Under existing state law, prosecutors are restricted to filing a felony charge that carries a prison sentence up to 11 years and four months and lifetime registration as a sex offender. Both chambers' bills make a first offense by someone 18 or younger a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail.
Federal Government Not Backing Own Official in Voter Rule Controversy
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The federal Justice Department is refusing to support a U.S. elections official who sided with Kansas, Alabama and Georgia in a fight over whether voters should have to show proof of citizenship. The government contends in a court filing that the executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission strayed from federal law when he required citizenship proof for people in those three states who register using a national form. Residents of other states only need to swear that they are citizens, not show proof. The Justice Department is siding with voting rights group in urging a federal judge to temporarily block the proof-of-citizenship requirements for residents in the three states. The election assistance commission's director Brian Newby had granted the states' request to change form's instructions for their residents.
Kansas House Passes Student Athlete Head Injury Bill
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House of Representative has approved a bill that would enable chiropractors to sign off on student athletes returning to a sport after a head injury. The current law allows chiropractors to perform student athletes' physicals before a sports season and to diagnose concussions on the field. However, it requires that a medical doctor evaluate and sign off before a student athlete can return to a sport after a head injury. The bill passed 73-51, but prompted an intense debate about whether chiropractors have sufficient expertise to make those decisions. The Kansas Chiropractors Association backs the bill and the Kansas Medical Society and other physicians' groups oppose it. The House reconsidered the chiropractor measure Tuesday and reapproved it 70-53, sending it to the Senate.
Report: 2015 Kansas Crops Valued at $6.48 Billion
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new government report forecasts the 2015 value of field and other crops in Kansas at $6.48 billion. The National Agricultural Statistics Service said Wednesday that its estimate for the state is down less than 1 percent from 2014. The agency said it anticipates the value of the state's corn production at $2.18 billion. That is up 2 percent from the previous marketing year. It projected the Kansas corn price at $3.75 per bushel. The value of winter wheat production in Kansas trailed behind at $1.56 billion, up 4 percent from the previous marketing year. The average wheat price is projected to average $4.85 per bushel.
Transgender Activist Sues Kansas over Birth Certificate
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A transgender activist is suing Kansas over its refusal to update her gender on her birth certificate. Topeka resident Stephanie Mott filed the lawsuit against the Kansas Department of Health and Environment last week. The Wichita Eagle reports that KDHE denied Mott's request to amend her birth certificate to list her gender as female. The Transgender Law Center says the Kansas agency has made that type of change to birth certificates in the past, but stopped doing so shortly after Governor Sam Brownback took office in 2012. A KDHE spokeswoman says the agency does not comment on pending litigation. Mott ran unsuccessfully for a vacant seat in the Legislature last year. She says it's important that her birth certificate reflects her authentic self.
3 Northeast Kansas School Officials Won't Return Next Year
PERRY, Kan. (AP) — The head of a northeast Kansas school district is among three administrators who won't return next year amid a student drug-testing controversy. Perry-Lecompton Superintendent Denis Yoder's decision to retire comes after the school board decided not to renew the high school principal and assistant principal's contracts. One issue is a drug-testing policy that took effect at the high school as the new semester began. District officials confirmed at the time that teachers and most school district staff wouldn't undergo drug testing and that the assistant principal was twice convicted for drunken driving. Yoder says publicity surrounding the new policy affected the board's decision not to renew the contracts of the high school officials. But he says it "isn't necessarily" the reason he's leaving.
Bills to Help Kansas Microbreweries Approved by State Senate
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Microbreweries in Kansas could start producing hard cider and would be allowed to brew more beer than they can now under bills approved by the state Senate. Senators approved two measures Tuesday on 40-0 votes, sending them to the House. Both bills are designed to keep the state's microbrewery industry growing. One measure would allow a microbrewery to produce up to 60,000 barrels of beer a year, double the current limit. The other bill would allow a microbrewery to produce hard cider from apples or pears that is less than 8.5 percent alcohol by volume. State law current limits such businesses to producing beer.
Woman Charged in Kidnapping, Killing of Woman at Fort Riley
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A fourth person has been charged in the 2014 kidnapping and killing of a woman on the Fort Riley military base. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said in a news release Tuesday that 26-year-old Shantrell Woody is charged with one count of kidnapping resulting in death. The Associated Press left a phone message seeking a comment from an attorney listed as representing Woody. Twenty-four-year-old Amanda Clemons' body was found in Geary County in February 2014. An autopsy determined that Clemons died of a sharp-force injury. Prosecutors say Woody and three others kidnapped Clemons and held her on the military base before she was killed. The other three people accused of being involved in the incident have each been charged with one count of kidnapping resulting in death and are being held in the Geary County Jail.
2 More Men Charged in KC Shooting Death of 3-Year-Old
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two more Kansas City men have been charged in the drive-by shooting death of a sleeping 3-year-old boy that prosecutors say was in revenge for an earlier slaying. The Kansas City Star reports 24-year-old Dominque Marchbanks and 26-year-old Sulif Wilkins were charged Tuesday with first-degree murder in the May 31 death of Amorian Hale. A third suspect, 23-year-old SirTerry Stevenson, was charged last summer with first-degree murder, unlawful use of a weapon and armed criminal action in Amorian's death. The boy was asleep in a first-floor bedroom when a car drove by and someone sprayed the home with bullets from an assault-style rifle, hitting him in the head. Prosecutors believe the shooting was in retaliation for the death of Marchbanks' brother four months earlier.
Hearing for Woman Charged in 2014 Lawrence Death Pushed Back
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A hearing for a woman accused in the 2014 killing of another woman has been pushed back to April. The Lawrence Journal World reports that 39-year-old Angelica Kulp appeared in court Tuesday, where her attorney asked for an upcoming hearing to be pushed back to allow more time for discovery. Douglas County District Court Judge Kay Huff granted the attorney's request, scheduling Kulp's next court appearance, where a date will be set for her preliminary hearing, for April 12. Kulp is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 56-year-old Christine Kaplan, who was found dead at her Lawrence home. The cause of Kaplan's death has not been released.
19-Year-Old Charged in 2 South-Central Kansas Crash Deaths
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 19-year-old man has been charged in a crash that killed two people last summer in south-central Kansas. The Wichita Eagle reports that Myles Evans was charged Tuesday in Sedgwick County with two counts of involuntary manslaughter. A criminal complaint alleges that Evans was driving under the influence when he struck 72-year-old Paul LaBrue and 70-year-old David Bell on August 21 in a residential area of Goddard. LaBrue's dog also was killed. LaBrue and Bell were about two blocks from their homes when they were hit. John Rapp, who is representing Evans in the case, said Tuesday that he had no formal comment, "other than to say our sympathies go out to the families of the deceased." A preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 8.
KC Man Charged in Hit-and-Run Involving Bicyclist in Shawnee
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A 38-year-old Kansas City, Missouri, man has been charged in connection with a hit-and-run crash that injured a bicyclist in Shawnee, Kansas. Kevin E. Hall was charged Tuesday with DUI, aggravated battery and leaving the scene of an accident. Johnson County, Kansas, prosecutors say Hall was driving a truck when he struck bicyclist Steve McCrary on September 23. Authorities say Hall and McCrary were both traveling westbound at the time, and that Hall did not stop after the accident. McCrary was transported to a hospital in critical condition. Hall was arrested soon after the accident. Hall said during a court appearance Tuesday that he plans to hire an attorney.
Racecar Driver Scott Tucker, Arrested in KCK, Pleads Not Guilty in Payday Lending Case
NEW YORK (AP) — Professional racecar driver Scott Tucker has pleaded not guilty in New York to charges in a payday lending scam. The 53-year-old Tucker entered the plea in his first appearance in Manhattan federal court Tuesday. He was arrested earlier this month in Kansas City, Kansas. He is free on $2 million bail. Prosecutors say Tucker charged millions of people who used his lending operation exorbitant interest rates. The government says Tucker and his companies charged 700 percent or more for loans obtained over the Internet between 1997 and August 2013. Prosecutors say the loans generated hundreds of millions of dollars in profits. Also pleading not guilty was Timothy Muir, a lawyer charged along with Tucker. Lawyers for both men declined comment.
Authorities Investigate Reports of Great Bend Swim Team Sexual Assaults
GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating assault allegations involving members of a Kansas high school swim team. The Saline County Sheriff's Department is investigating a report that a Great Bend High School student was assaulted on a bus as the school's swim team returned from a recent competition. That incident reportedly occurred three days before another incident under investigation by the Ellsworth County Sheriff's Department that reportedly occurred February 6 as the swim team returned from a Manhattan meet. The incidents have sparked protests at school district offices by family members and students who question the district's response to the allegations. Superintendent Brad Reed says the district is investigating the allegations, cooperating with law enforcement and has also revised its practices regarding adult supervision on bus trips.
K-State Announces "Clear Bag" Policy for Next School Year
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — All bags brought to ticketed Kansas State University athletic events must be clear starting next school year. The Manhattan Mercury reports that the goal of the new policy is to provide a safer environment and speedier entry into venues. Many other collegiate programs and professional leagues have already adopted the policy. Kansas State athletic director John Currie said in a news release that the experience of fans and their safety is a "top priority." Besides clear bags, the policy allows small clutch bags and medically necessary items after proper inspection. Football season ticket holders will receive one approved clear plastic bag per account when their season tickets are mailed in August. Prohibited items include coolers, backpacks, diaper bags, camera bags and seat cushions with pockets and zippers.
Boy, 3, Dies in Salina Fire
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a fire broke out in a trailer home in Salina, killing a 3-year-old boy. Salina Fire Marshal Roger Williams told The Salina Journal that the fire was reported before noon Wednesday. He says firefighters pulled the child from the back of the trailer, which was fully engulfed in flames. Williams says the child's grandmother, who was hospitalized with burns, and two other children escaped the fire. Williams says the cause of the fire is under investigation. The victim's identity hasn't been released.
Walker, Hearing Aids Stolen During Kansas Basketball Game
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a walker and a set of hearing aids have been stolen from a 79-year-old woman attending a men's basketball game at Allen Fieldhouse. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the theft happened during last week's Oklahoma State game. KU police Captain James Anguiano says the hearing aids were inside a bag attached to the walker. The KU Office of Public Safety crime log says the items had been left unattended when they were taken. They haven't been recovered. Anguiano says the hearing aids were valued at $6,000 and the walker at $100.
Suburban Kansas City Police Kill Person During Investigation
BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. (AP) — Police say officers have fatally shot a person while responding to a report of a prowler in a residential area of suburban Kansas City. Blue Springs police spokeswoman Jennifer Dachenhausen says the shooting happened around 5 am Wednesday. She said she couldn't say whether the person who was shot was armed or provide any additional details about what led up to the shooting pending an investigation. The name of the victim wasn't immediately released. She said she also couldn't release the person's age, gender or race. The two officers who were involved in the shooting were placed on paid leave pending an investigation, as is customary. She said she couldn't immediately release their names or race. Police planned to release more details in a written statement later Wednesday.