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Regional Headlines for Friday, December 7, 2012




Kansas Officials Say Feds Will Allow Medicaid Overhaul

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says federal officials have granted the state permission to overhaul its Medicaid program. The decision by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was announced Friday. It allows Kansas to turn the $2.9 billion-a-year program for the needy over to three private insurance companies in January as planned. The state already has awarded three-year contracts to the companies. Medicaid covers medical services for about 395,000 poor, disabled and elderly Kansans. Brownback's administration argues that moving all Medicaid participants into managed care will improve services while controlling the state's costs. Kansas needed HHS to waive some of its rules for the overhaul to proceed because the federal government provides the majority of funds for states' Medicaid programs.


Kansas GOP Leader's Reimbursement Raises Eyebrows

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Records show incoming Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick pocketed more than $14,000 from campaign contributions at the end of 2011 as a reimbursement for a decade of communications expenses. Merrick spent a decade in the House, was appointed to the Senate in 2010 and returned to the House this year. State law prohibits candidates who raised money for one office from transferring the funds to a campaign for another office. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports  that the Stilwell Republican reported reimbursing himself for telephone, cell phone, fax and Internet service expenses from January 1, 2000, through December 31, 2010. The money came from Merrick's dormant House campaign fund when he was in the Senate. 


Kansas GOP Legislative Leaders Open to Remapping

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate's new leaders are receptive to redrawing the state's political boundaries again next year, even though federal judges drew them just this year. Incoming Senate President Susan Wagle told The Associated Press on Thursday that she is interested in redrawing legislative districts. However, she said she wants to consult first with attorneys to see whether a quick round of redistricting is allowed under the Kansas Constitution and past court rulings. In a separate interview, incoming Majority Leader Terry Bruce said he's open to adjusting the state's four congressional districts. He said he'd be willing to consider it if the congressional delegation can agree on a map. Asked whether Governor Sam Brownback is interested, his spokeswoman said only that he'd carefully review any legislation sent to him.


Fiscal Cliff's Possible Cuts Worry Kansas Legislative Leaders

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two leaders in the Kansas Legislature say they're worried about how the state's budget would be affected by spending cuts tied to the federal government's so-called fiscal cliff. House Minority Leader and Lawrence Democrat Paul Davis said Thursday he fears the cuts would have a profound effect on social services and highway projects. Congress and President Barack Obama are trying to work out a deal by the end of the year to avoid the fiscal cliff. If they can't, taxes are set to increase automatically, and spending cuts will be triggered. Incoming Senate Majority Leader and Hutchinson Republican Terry Bruce said he's concerned about specific programs, such as nutrition services for senior citizens. Bruce said the state's most vulnerable citizens could be at risk of having services curtailed.


Kansas Congressman Pessimistic About Fiscal Cliff Negotiations

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas congressman Mike Pompeo is pessimistic about the ability of Congress and President Barack Obama to reach a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff. The conservative Wichita Republican told reporters on a Thursday telephone conference call that he's disturbed by comments from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner that the administration will let the country go over the cliff if Republicans won't allow taxes to increase on the wealthiest Americans. Pompeo opposes such a tax increase and said the administration is "fixated" on the idea. He said the right path is lower taxes and smaller government. Without a deal by year's end, tax increases and spending cuts are to be imposed automatically. Officials and economists worry the economy will suffer. Pompeo said he wants even larger spending cuts than the looming reductions would put in place.


Kansas Senate Leader Taps Governor's Staff for Top Aide

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Incoming Kansas Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce's new chief of staff is a former legislative liaison for Governor Sam Brownback. Peter Northcott began working for Bruce this week, immediately after leaving Brownback's office. Bruce said Thursday he was impressed by Northcott's work on the governor's staff, which involved daily contact with lawmakers when the Legislature was in session. Bruce says he immediately approached Northcott after fellow Republican senators designated him as their next majority leader. Both Bruce and Brownback are conservative Republicans. Republicans maintained their 32-8 majority in the Senate in this year's election, but conservatives ousted enough moderate incumbents to take control of the chamber from them. Bruce is a Hutchinson attorney. He was first elected to the Senate in 2004.

U.S. Atty's Office Collects $15.8M in Civil, Criminal Cases Filed in KS

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors say they have collected $15.8 million in criminal and civil cases filed in federal courts in Kansas. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said Thursday in a news release the amount his office has recovered for the federal treasurer and for crime victims in fiscal 2012 was up by one-third. He says that in this time of economic recovery, the collections are more important than ever. Criminal actions accounted for $2.1 million in collections, while civil cases brought in $13.7 million. That compares with the previous year in which the District of Kansas collected $11.8 million in both criminal and civil actions. Nationwide, the $13.1 billion collected by U.S. attorney's offices across the country more than doubled the previous fiscal year's collections.

FCC: Pirate Radio Station Operator Must Pay $10K

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The Federal Communications Commission has proposed a $10,000 fine for a man accused of operating a pirate radio station in Manhattan. Glen Rubash has 30 days to appeal Wednesday's action from the agency's enforcement bureau. The 59-year-old Junction City man didn't immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press seeking comment. The station was operating under the 88.3 frequency on the FM dial. KMAN has reported that the station was rebroadcasting from the Republic Broadcasting Network. The FCC wrote that the 88.3 signal was traced in September to an FM transmitting antenna mounted on a pole next to a Manhattan home. The FCC wrote that agents determined that the signal was strong enough that a license was required. But no license had been granted.

Kickapoo Tribe Receives EPA Grant to Plug Wells

HORTON, Kan. (AP) — The Kickapoo Tribe has received a $25,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to plug abandoned wells on its land in northeast Kansas. The agency announced this week that the tribe was among 50 recipients of grants totaling $1.2 million. The goal of the Kickapoo project is to reduce the amount of surface runoff that flows into the open wells, leading to contamination of groundwater. Educational and outreach materials also will be used to increase awareness of groundwater contamination. The EPA says the Kickapoo Tribe has recorded elevated levels of E.coli bacteria and nitrates in the groundwater.

Kansas Governor's Wife Donates Books to Holiday Program

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas first lady Mary Brownback has donated 500 books from the Kansas Book Festival to the annual Marine Corps Toys for Tots program. Brownback made the presentation to two Marines on Thursday at Cedar Crest, the governor's official residence in northwest Topeka. Brownback is a supporter of several literacy programs in Kansas, including the Kansas Book Festival. Included in the donation were 22 different titles for reading levels from kindergarten through seventh grade. The books were a donation from the Scholastic publishing company to Brownback for her to distribute. Marines will be collecting more toys at various locations across Kansas from Friday through Monday. The Toys for Tots program collects new, unwrapped toys from October through December each year and distributes them to children in several Kansas communities.


Kansas Woman Ticketed for Getting Car Stolen

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina woman whose car was stolen after she left it running to warm up has been ticketed for leaving her vehicle unattended. The Salina Journal reports that the woman's 1998 Chevrolet Lumina was stolen at 6:45 am Thursday and found about four hours later a block-and-a-half away with its stereo missing. Also missing from the car was a diaper bag containing a wallet. Police spokesman Scott Siemsen says the loss was estimated at $240.


Group Opposes McPherson Police Chaplain Program

MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — A national group says a new police chaplain program in a central Kansas town violates the U.S. Constitution. The Freedom From Religion Foundation notified McPherson city officials that it had received a complaint about the program, saying it violates the separation of church and state. The Wisconsin-based organization is asking the city to end the program. The program allows two Christian ministers to ride along with McPherson police officers, to counsel officers and be present when officers inform families of deaths. An attorney for the foundation says the complaint came from a McPherson resident. The Hutchinson News reports that the city council is expected to address the issue at its regular meeting on Monday. But Mayor Tom Brown says he's optimistic the program will be kept.

Wife of Convicted Kansas Killer Dropped from Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The wife of a man convicted of killing a rural Kansas woman has been removed from a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the victim's children. An Atchison County judge on Thursday removed Rebecca Hollister from the lawsuit filed by the children of 58-year-old Patricia Kimmi of rural Horton. Hollister's husband, Roger, is serving life in prison for Kimmi's November 2009 death. Kimmi's children allege in their lawsuit that their estranged father, Eugene Kimmi, and the Hollisters conspired to cause Patricia Kimmi's death. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the judge ruled the plaintiffs had presented no evidence to prove Rebecca Hollister was involved in Patricia Kimmi's death. He said Rebecca Hollister might have lied to investigators after the crime but that was not part of the lawsuit.


Kansas Man Pleads Guilty in Double Fatality Crash

OSKALOOSA, Kan. (AP) — A 32-year-old northeast Kansas man has pleaded guilty in Jefferson County District Court to two counts of involuntary manslaughter for an accident that killed two people in March. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Brian Keefe also pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts of driving under the influence. Keefe's vehicle crossed the center line, causing a two-vehicle crash that killed two people in the other car, 38-year-old Shawn Fraker of Winchester and 27-year-old Daniel Shawn Walker of Oskaloosa. Keefe was out on bond for the March crash when he was arrested again for drunken driving in August. He is scheduled to be sentenced January 10. Jefferson County Attorney Jason Belveal says Keefe is likely to serve a sentence of 38 to 86 months.

KC-Based Migrant Farmworkers Receives EPA Grant

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City-based group that works with migrant farmworkers is receiving a $23,110 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. The agency announced this week that the Migrant Farmworkers Project was among 50 recipients of grants totaling $1.2 million. One goal of the project is to improve the waste disposal practices of the migrant and seasonal farmworker community in Lafayette County. Another is to expand an existing aluminum recycling project. Classes and other efforts will be made to teach the community about the problems caused by pollution.


Missouri Education Board Leader Denies Sex Allegations 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The president-elect of the Missouri State Board of Education is denying allegations that he had an inappropriate sexual relationship years ago with a former member of his Kansas City church. In the lawsuit, the woman alleges the Reverend Stan Archie, senior pastor at Christian Fellowship Baptist Church, began a sexual relationship with her while he was counseling her. The lawsuit also names the church, saying officials failed to protect her and hid previous reports of impropriety by Archie. Archie's attorney, Michael McCausland, says Archie and the church deny the allegations. He calls the lawsuit "an obvious attempt to extort money." The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday that a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said Archie told Commissioner Chris Nicastro and others about the lawsuit.


Kansan Among Candidates for Omaha Schools Post

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A Kansas educator is a finalist to become superintendent of the Omaha district in Nebraska. The district said Friday that Mark Evans, superintendent of the Andover public schools, is one of three finalists for the position. The Omaha board is trying to replace John Mackiel, who retired in August after 15 years. In April, the board hired former Des Moines Superintendent Nancy Sebring, but she withdrew in June after sexually explicit emails sent to and from her work account became public. The two other finalists for the Omaha job are the Carey Wright, chief academic officer for the District of Columbia Public Schools, and Superintendent Stephen Murley, of the Iowa City schools.


KC Police Officer Delivers Baby at Off-Duty Job

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City police officer who usually spends much of his time catching shoplifters at his off-duty security job at a Walmart store found himself in a much different role last week. The Kansas City Star reports seven-year Kansas City police veteran Matt Phelps encountered a woman outside the store's grocery entrance whose water had broken Saturday night. The woman was in labor and gave birth to a baby girl on a bench about eight minutes later, at about 7 pm. The Police Department says in a news release Thursday that the mother, Marsheanna Clark, and the baby are doing well. Phelps says it was the first time he had helped deliver a baby.


Trust Established for KC Chiefs Player's Child

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs say they have established a trust fund for the 3-month-old girl left without parents when linebacker Jovan Belcher shot her mother and then killed himself. The Chiefs announced Friday that the Zoey Michelle Belcher Irrevocable Trust will be established with contributions from the Hunt family, who own the team, as well as Chiefs players, coaches and staff. The public may contribute. Belcher fatally shot 22-year-old Kasandra Perkins on Saturday at the home they shared with Zoey. He then drove to the Chiefs practice facility at Arrowhead Stadium and shot himself. UMB Bank in Kansas City will be corporate trustee and work with Zoey's legal guardian to ensure that the money is used for her. Jovan Belcher's mother has been granted temporary custody of the girl.


NFL, Teams Offer Support for Players in Crisis

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — In the final days of Jovan Belcher's life, he could have taken advantage of numerous avenues for support provided by the Kansas City Chiefs and the NFL. There are hotlines established by the league that connect players, staff and their families with third-party counselors unaffiliated with the NFL or its teams. There are also numerous symposiums and support personnel whose jobs are to ensure the well-being of the players. But as many players suggested, having support available is only half of the equation. They must also take advantage of it, and that means a willingness to admit when they have problems. Said Chiefs offensive lineman Ryan Lilja: "The resources the league and the teams offer are always good, it's just up to guys to take advantage of it."

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