UPDATE: Kansas Officials Confident Feds Will Approve Medicaid Changes
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials in Governor Sam Brownback's administration say they expect the federal government to give its go-ahead to an overhaul of the Medicaid program in Kansas. Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer said at a Friday news conference that Kansas is seeking a waiver of federal rules on Medicaid that other states previously have had waived. Colyer led the team that developed the plan for overhauling the $2.9 billion-a-year program, which covers health care for the poor, needy and disabled. Kansas formally submitted a waiver application Thursday to the federal government. Brownback plans to turn Medicaid's management in Kansas over to three private, managed-care companies. The state's application came a day before new federal rules took effect, changing how applications from states are handled. Colyer described the timing as a coincidence.
Kansas Officials Pleased by Demise of Restrictions on Children Performing Farm Work
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials say they're relieved the federal government has abandoned proposed rules restricting farm work by children. Speaking Friday in Topeka, U.S. Senator Jerry Moran said the proposed rules lacked common sense. The Kansas Republican says pressure from farmers, ranchers and farm-state officials led the U.S. Labor Department to withdraw the plan. Governor Sam Brownback and Attorney General Derek Schmidt also welcomed the department's move. The rules would have banned children under 16 from using most power-driven farm equipment, including tractors. The rules also would have kept those under 18 from working in feed lots, grain silos and stockyards. The federal agency had said it was trying to reduce deaths and accidents. Critics said the rules would have dramatically changed farm life.
Kansas Senate Panel Advances New Map
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — New maps have emerged redrawing the Kansas Senate's boundaries and a vote on the new districts is expected next week. The Senate Reapportionment Committee endorsed the new districts on Friday, along with new lines for the 10 State Board of Education seats. The measure also includes changes already approved by the Kansas House to its 125 districts. Legislators are facing a May 10 deadline to approve the new maps, which reflect population changes in the 2010 census. If the deadline is missed, it is likely that the June candidate filing deadline and August primary dates will have to be moved. Chairman Tim Owens, an Overland Park Republican, said the committee would work on finishing a proposal for redrawing the state's four U.S. House districts next week.
Joint Panel to Consider Clarifying Ballot Measures
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House members of a conference committee on elections have asked their Senate counterparts to consider a proposal to help voters understand complicated ballot measures. The issue arose over a Feb. 28 Wichita referendum in which voters rescinded a tax incentive the City Council had granted to developers of the Ambassador Hotel project downtown. The Wichita Eagle reports some voters said the ballot language was so confusing it was impossible to know what a "yes" or "no" vote meant. Olathe Republican Representative Scott Schwab, chairman of the House Elections Committee, asked senators on the conference committee to talk to their leaders about adding the language to an elections bill. The proposal would allow officials to provide an explanation when it's not clear what a ballot measure would do.
Governor Brownback Proposes $2 Million for Larned Hospital Staffing Concerns
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's administration is asking the Legislature for about $2 million to alleviate staffing problems at Larned State Hospital. The hospital for the mentally ill is in danger of losing its federal certification because of the inadequate staffing. Losing the federal certification could cost the state $14.5 million a year. The hospital also houses the state's sexual predator treatment program. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the administration is seeking $993,000 to hire 23 direct care staff. Another $940,000 would be used to increase pay for nurses. State hospitals in Parsons, Osawatomie and Kansas City, Kansas. have also reported being understaffed. All the hospitals are facing major increases in overtime costs.
Negotiators Resume Kansas Budget Effort
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House and Senate negotiators expect to begin work next week on a compromise version of a new state budget. The negotiators met briefly Thursday to outline a timetable for their work. The exact dates will depend on each chamber passing its own version of the budget for the 2013 fiscal year, which begins July 1st. Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Carolyn McGinn expects her committee to finish its budget Friday and have it ready for debate next Tuesday. In the House, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee said it will probably be Monday at the earliest before his panel sends a budget bill to the full chamber, with debate possibly starting at mid-week.
Kansas Legislative Negotiators Agree on Tax Cuts
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Negotiators for the Kansas House and Senate have agreed on cuts in sales and income taxes. Three senators and three House members struck a deal Thursday to reconcile numerous differences between their chambers over tax policy. The proposal would cut the state's individual income tax rates and phase out income taxes over five years for 191,000 businesses. The sales tax would drop to 5.7 percent in July 2013, from its current 6.3 percent. However, the negotiators won't present their plan to either chamber until they get final figures on its potential effects on the state budget. The plan is expected to provide at least $119 million in tax relief during the fiscal year that begins July 1st and at least $500 million for the following fiscal year.
Kansas Groups Plan 'We Are Women' Rally at Capitol
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Organizers are hoping for a turnout of at least several hundred people Saturday for what they're calling a rally for women's rights in Topeka. The "We Are Women" event will begin at the Statehouse. From there, participants will march to the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. Similar rallies are taking place around the country Saturday. Sponsors in Kansas include Planned Parenthood, the state chapter of the National Organization for Women and the American Civil Liberties Union. The rally comes as Kansas legislators consider a bill giving greater legal protection to health care providers who refuse to participate in abortions or dispensing abortion-inducing drugs. Critics believe the legislation would limit access to birth control.
Kansas Holding Drop-Off Event for Unused Medications
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansans can rid their homes of expired or unused prescription drugs on Saturday by dropping them off at sites throughout the state. Medications will be accepted for safe disposal as part of the semi-annual National Drug Take Back Day. The event is coordinated by the Drug Enforcement Administration along with local and state agencies. The state attorney general's office says Kansans have turned in more than 5 tons of medications since the program began in 2010. Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in a news release that unused medications pose risks of misuse or accidental ingestion. He calls this is an opportunity for their safe disposal. Drop-off sites can be found on the attorney general's website.
Republican Party Chooses New Shawnee County Sheriff
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Shawnee County Republicans are recommending that Undersheriff Herman Jones become the county's sheriff. Jones was chosen Thursday to replace Sheriff Richard Barta, who retired last week. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the vote was split and came only after former Topeka Police Chief Ed Klumpp withdrew his name from consideration before the meeting. Governor Sam Brownback is expected to formally approve Jones's appointment to serve the rest of Barta's term, which ends in January. The 53-year-old Jones filed last month to run for sheriff later this year.
11 Arrested in Manhattan on Prostitution Charges
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Riley County police arrested 11 people over two days during an undercover operation targeting prostitution. Lieutenant Josh Kyle said in a news release those arrested gave home addresses in seven different cities. These arrests were made at two different Manhattan hotels, the Clarion and America's Best Value Inn. Officials did not say if the arrests are connected to a bust in Manhattan earlier this month at America's Best Value Inn where police said that a runaway girl was found at the hotel working as a prostitute.
NE Kansas Teen Pleads to Multiple Burglaries
ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — A northeastern Kansas teenager has admitted stealing thousands of dollars' worth of items in a series of burglaries over several months. KNZA-FM reports 18-year-old Jonathan Lewis pleaded guilty Friday in Atchison County District Court to burglary and theft. Several other charges were dismissed in a plea agreement. Lewis, of Atchison, was arrested March 8 in that city for burglarizing a home and taking items including rare coins worth more than $1,000. While in jail, he was also charged with burglarizing a concession stand last October, and with a January break-in at a home where he took more than $25,000 worth of items including guns, ammunition and rare coins. Lewis remains jailed pending sentencing June 4.
Washburn University Foundation Announces $6M Gift
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Washburn University is describing a $6 million gift as the largest in its history. The Topeka school said in a news release Friday that the money comes from Jacki Summerson and her late husband, Frank. The money has been placed in an irrevocable trust. Ultimately, it will be used to pay for high-caliber faculty members. The Summersons received undergraduate degrees from Washburn University in the late 1960s. His was in business administration; hers was in mathematics and physical sciences. Jacki Summerson said in a news release that she and her husband were fortunate to have had successful careers and "wanted to do something significant for Washburn.'' They operated several franchises of the staffing business Manpower. Later, they started Professional Security Inc. and PSI Armored Incorporated.
Wichita State Names New President
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The former chancellor of Western Carolina University has been named the new president of Wichita State University. The Kansas Board of Regents announced Friday that John William Bardo was chosen the 13th president of Wichita State. He'll replace Donald Beggs, who will resign June 30. Bardo started his career at Wichita State, where he was graduate coordinator of the master of urban studies program from 1976 to 1977. He was also chairman of university's sociology and social work department from 1978 to 1983. He has also worked at the University of North Florida and Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts. More recently, Bardo served as chancellor of Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina, from 1995 to 2011. He returrned to the classroom last year as a professor of education.
Manhattan Software Company to Expand, Add Jobs
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Software company CivicPlus says it plan to expand its operations in downtown Manhattan. CivicPlus, which started in Manhattan in 2001, said Friday the expansion could bring more than 250 new jobs to the city over the next decade. CEO Ward Morgan said in a news release that the company is poised to grow by as much as 40 percent in the next year. It will build a $9 million headquarters in downtown Manhattan. CivicPlus develops, designs, and manages systems that improve government communication with citizens. The company currently has 83 employees in Manhattan. It provides website solutions for over 1,000 cities and counties throughout the United States, as well as clients in Canada and Australia. The Manhattan City Commission will consider an economic development incentive for CivicPlus next week.
1 Killed, 2 Hurt in Crash at Kansas Rest Area
SOLOMON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says one person is dead after a tractor-trailer slammed into a recreational vehicle at a rest area along Interstate 70. The crash happened around 1 pm Thursday near the north-central Kansas town of Solomon, about 90 miles west of Topeka. Troopers say the semi was eastbound when it pulled into the rest area at a high rate of speed and slammed into the back of the parked RV. The motor home was pushed into a grassy area, where bystanders pulled two people from the vehicle before it caught fire. A man who was in the RV was killed and a woman traveling with him was injured. The driver of the semi was also hurt. I-70 was briefly closed in both directions following the wreck.
Kansas Trooper Cleared in Fatal Shooting
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Investigators have cleared a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper of any wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of a man last year. Ottawa County Attorney Betty Mick said Thursday that trooper Justin Rohr was justified in shooting 56-year-old Larry Dean Smith of Delphos last October. The Salina Journal reports a Kansas Bureau of Investigation found that Smith fired first during a confrontation in a heavily wooded area near Delphos. Smith was scheduled to appear in Saline County District Court the day he was shot. He was facing prison time on 10 drug-related charges. He had been released from prison nine months earlier. Mick said her office has closed the investigation into the shooting.
Legislators Recognize Kansas Jayhawk Squads
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The state Legislature has honored the University of Kansas men's and women's basketball teams for their successful seasons this year. Four players from each team appeared in the House and Senate chambers Friday. Legislators read resolutions thanking the teams for their efforts and for the pride they brought the university and the state of Kansas. The men's team won its eighth straight Big 12 Conference regular-season title and reached the final in the NCAA tournament, losing to Kentucky in the championship game. The women ended the season with a loss to Tennessee in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA tournament. The Jayhawks finished with a record of 21-13, despite losing leading scorer Carolyn Davis to a knee injury.
Scams Targeting Salina Area Residents
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have been warning Salina residents about two scams working in the area. The Salina Journal reports one of the scams involves phone calls and text messages saying the person has won a gift certificate to major retailers. The Better Business Bureau says the scam is being used to solicit private information, including Social Security numbers. A second scam is a secret-shopping letter containing a Better Business Bureau seal, but is not accredited by the organization. The letter is accompanied by a fraudulent check for nearly $3,000 which the recipient is asked to deposit using a debit card. The recipient is told to then go to Western Union to wire $2,300 back to the company. The Better Business Bureau says the check will not clear the bank.
KU Satellite Campus to Offer New Undergraduate IT Degree
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A University of Kansas satellite campus in Johnson County is adding a new degree. The Kansas Board of Regents has approved an undergraduate degree in information technology on the Edwards Campus through the School of Engineering. A master's degree in the subject was already available. The undergraduate option is the second new degree program added to the Overland Park campus thanks to the Johnson County Education Research Triangle. Money from an eighth-cent sales tax increase paid for a new $23 million building on the Edwards Campus. Several other new degree programs are planned.
KS Man Sentenced to Life in Prison
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has been sentenced to life plus 14 years in prison for raping his 10-year-old stepdaughter and setting her on fire. The Wichita Eagle reports 31-year-old Chris Newberry has been undergoing psychiatric treatment at Larned State Hospital since pleading guilty to rape and attempted murder in September 2009. Wichita police say Newberry doused his stepdaughter with lighter fluid before setting fire to the family's mobile home in March 2009. His wife and three other children escaped the fire. The stepdaughter survived with burns over 40 percent of her body. The sentence Newberry received Thursday includes five years on each of four counts of aggravated arson.
KC Chiefs Select Defensive Tackle in 1st Round of NFL Draft
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs have selected Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe, filling one of their biggest needs with one of the biggest gambles in the NFL draft. The Chiefs went with the 6-foot-4, 346-pound tackle with the 11th overall selection Thursday night after his impressive performance at the scouting combine. The massive Poe pushed 44 reps with 225 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in an unofficial time of 4.98 seconds. General manager Scott Pioli has established a reputation for being risk-averse with his draft philosophy. But in choosing Poe, Pioli gambled on the raw athletic ability of a player who managed only 33 tackles, eight tackles for loss and one sack in Conference USA play last season. He's expected to slide into the Chiefs' 3-4 defense immediately.
Kansas Senate Panel Considers Disaster Fund
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are considering a bill creating a special fund to cover the state's share of federal disaster assistance. Major General Lee Tafanelli, the Kansas adjutant general, testified before a Senate committee Thursday about the legislation. The bill would move $12 million a year into the special fund, which would be capped at $40 million. Tafanelli, a former legislator, says Kansas spends an average of $22 million a year to cover its 10 percent share of federal disaster aid. He suggested the Legislature transfer $22 million a year, instead of the $12 million in the bill, to build the special fund more quickly. The full Senate is expected to debate the bill next week.
Kansas Lawmakers to Take on Another Gambling Expansion Bill
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has sponsored a measure designed to bring a casino to southeast Kansas and slot machines to dog and horse tracks. Chairman Senator Pete Brungardt offered the measure in the Senate Federal and State Affairs as a late-session push for the gambling legislation. The bill must be read into the record in the full Senate before the committee can work the issue. A 2007 state law allows slots at now-closed tracks in Kansas City, Wichita and outside Pittsburg, as well as a state-owned casino in southeast Kansas. Gambling supporters say the law's financial requirements are too strict for a southeast Kansas casino or slots at the tracks to be economically feasible. The committee's bill would change the requirements. Such efforts have found little legislative support in the past.
Kansas Seeks Formal Permission for Medicaid Overhaul
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has formally asked the federal government for permission to overhaul the state's Medicaid program. Governor Sam Brownback's office declined Friday to discuss its application for a waiver of federal Medicaid rules until an afternoon news conference. But the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services confirmed for The Associated Press that it received the application Thursday. Brownback plans to turn over the state's $2.9 billion-a-year Medicaid program to three private, managed-care companies, starting January 1, 2013. The administration plans to issue contracts this summer, though it has promised to delay including long-term services for the developmentally disabled until January 1, 2014. The federal government must approve some changes because it provides a majority of the funds for Medicaid, which covers health care for the poor, needy and disabled.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.
UPDATE: Kansas Seeks Federal Waiver to Begin Medicaid Overhaul
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state of Kansas has applied for permission from the federal government to overhaul its Medicaid program, just a day before a change in the rules for how such requests are handled. Brownback's office declined Friday to discuss its waiver application until an afternoon news conference. But the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services confirmed for The Associated Press that it received the application Thursday. New rules for waiver applications took effect Friday, mandated by the federal health care overhaul in 2010. Among other things, they require a state to have public hearings on its proposed changes before submitting an application to the federal government. The conservative Republican governor plans to turn the state's Medicaid program — which covers health care for the poor, disabled and elderly — over to three companies.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.