KS Mulling Change in Driver's License Renewals
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas hasn't decided when to start issuing a new type of driver's license to residents who voluntarily document their U.S. citizenship when renewing their licenses. Department of Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan said Monday the timing is uncertain because officials aren't sure how the federal government will enforce a 2005 anti-terrorism law aimed at making state driver's licenses more secure. Jordan has been criticized because earlier this year the department backed off plans to require citizenship papers from people renewing their licenses. Kansas requires new voters to document their citizenship, and some lawmakers expected voters to take care of it while renewing their licenses. Jordan said federal officials say Kansas is complying with the anti-terrorism law if residents can voluntarily provide citizenship documents and receive a different license.
GOP Opposition Hasn't Quieted KS Medicaid Expansion Debate
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Pressure is likely to build next year in Kansas to expand Medicaid to cover thousands of uninsured residents, despite the Republican-dominated Legislature's displeasure with the federal health care overhaul. Advocates for the needy and consumers promise to push for an expansion once lawmakers convene their annual session January 13th. The nonpartisan Kansas Health Institute estimates an expansion would cover more than 85,000 people, almost a quarter of the state's uninsured residents. Supporters face Republicans' strong opposition to the 2010 health care law championed by President Barack Obama, a Democrat. There's also GOP skepticism that the federal government will keep promises to finance most of the cost. The rocky rollout of the federally run online health insurance marketplace also toughened some Republicans' resolve.
Kickapoo Leadership Won't Abandon Reservoir Fight
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Leaders of the Kickapoo tribal reservation in northeast Kansas want the federal government to help out with a longstanding effort to build a reservoir. A federal court ruled this month that the tribe couldn't compel a water district to use its powers of eminent domain to obtain the private property so the reservoir can move forward. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that tribal chairman Steve Cadue Cadue has sent a letter to Governor Sam Brownback urging him to petition the U.S. Department of the Interior and Bureau of Indian Affairs to intervene. The tribe has been trying to complete the project for nearly two decades. Tribal leaders say it is vital to their people's water security. The reservation sits on a rock formation that blocks access to underground water.
Lawrence Moves Ahead with Repairs to Water Plant
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The city of Lawrence has awarded a $3.8 million construction contract to improve operations at its Kaw Water Treatment plant. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Wolf Construction will build a new raw-water intake in the Kansas River and make improvements to an existing intake in the river. The intakes are key pieces of equipment that take water from the river and transfer it to the Kaw plant, where it's treated for use as drinking water. Construction is expected to begin in early 2014 and likely will last into July. Revenues from city water rates will pay for the project. The winning bid was about $1 million less than city engineers had projected.
Small Plane Crashes in Northern Kansas
CONCORDIA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say four people escaped injury in the crash of a small plane in north-central Kansas. WIBW-TV reports that the single-propeller aircraft overturned Monday afternoon in a field off a runway at the airport in Concordia. Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Ben Gardner says two children, ages 5 and 7, were on board along with their father and grandfather. The grandfather was piloting the plane and coming in for a landing after a pleasure flight. Gardner says the two adults were walking around and talking to troopers at the scene, but were taken to a hospital to be checked as a precaution.
City of Topeka Sends Flags to Submarine
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The city of Topeka sent two flags to its namesake submarine, which is currently being overhauled in Maine. Topeka Mayor Larry Wolgast says the city recently sent three flags to the crew of the USS Topeka, in response to a request from submarine officials. The USS Topeka is a nuclear-powered attack submarine. It has been in drydock since December 2012 in Kittery, Maine. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the sub is undergoing a 20-month overhaul. Wolgast said his office recently sent flags, which flew December 11 and 12 in front of City Hall. Topeka city manager Jim Colson says the flags were sent to show the city's support and appreciation for submarine's crew. The flags will be kept aboard the USS Topeka.
New Kansas Ag Secretary Appoints Advisory Board
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Acting Kansas Agriculture Secretary Jackie McClaskey has appointed a board to advise her department's marketing team as it promotes the industry. McClaskey appointed the advisory board's 12 members last week. She said the board also will work on international trade development, education programs and agribusiness development. Members of the board are farmers, ranchers or agriculture advocates or have ties to agriculture-related businesses. The board members are Mike Bergmeier of Hutchinson, Donna Cook of Louisburg, David Foster of Fort Scott, Ron Hirst of Hutchinson, Lindsey Huseman of Ellsworth, Twilya L'Ecuyer of Morrowville, Brian Linin of Goodland, Becky Nickel of Newton, Greg Peterson of Assaria, Jennifer Ryan of Pratt, Derek Sawyer of McPherson and Ron Suppes of Dighton. McClaskey became acting secretary earlier this month.
Weather Hampers Search for KS Hunter's Body
JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — Recovery teams plan to resume searching for a Fort Riley soldier who drowned on Christmas Eve while duck-hunting on a northeast Kansas lake. Thirty-one-year-old Thomas Hedrick fell into the icy lake the morning of December 24 while trying to retrieve a duck shot by a fellow hunter. Geary County Sheriff Tony Wolff said Monday that bad weather has been hampering efforts by multiple agencies to recover Hedrick's body. The sheriff says a break in the weather is expected Tuesday, when dive teams and sonar-equipped boats will resume the search. Wolf has said the active-duty soldier went out on a makeshift boat to retrieve the duck, but stepped out onto an ice sheet when the boat began taking on water.
Police Grapple with Enforcing Driver Texting Ban
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence police say they're still trying to figure out how to enforce a ban on texting while driving, three years after the law went into effect. Exceptions allow drivers to use a phone's map application or check emergency alerts, making enforcement even more complicated for police and prosecutors. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that drivers' phones typically are examined only after accidents causing death or serious injuries to see if texting led to the crashes. Police Chief Tarik Khatib says it's tough for a single officer to keep an eye out for texting drivers without putting himself or herself in danger of wrecking. The Kansas Department of Transportation says the number of accidents caused by drivers distracted by their cellphones rose from 292 in 2005 to 518 in 2010.
Mixed Response to All-Day Kindergarten in Kansas
ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Leaders of the Kansas House and Senate education committees aren't sold on Governor Sam Brownback's five-year, $80 million plan to pay for full-day kindergarten. The Arkansas City Traveler reports that House Education Committee Chairwoman Kasha Kelley says she "would like to take a look at it a bit more." Kelley says she wants to know how the added spending would affect other services and the state's reserve fund. Senate Education Committee Chairman Steve Abrams says he hasn't seen the bill and noted that the research is mixed. Studies generally show children in all-day kindergarten programs make bigger academic gains than students in half-day programs, but research is inconclusive on how long the benefits persist. Abrams says it boils down to whether parents are "actively involved."
Manhattan Staging New Year's Eve Ball Drop
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Thousands of New Year's Eve revelers are expected to turn out in the Kansas town known as "the Little Apple" for a ball-drop event modeled after the one in New York's Times Square. Manhattan is staging its 11th annual New Year's Eve celebration in the Aggieville bar and entertainment district. Tuesday's festivities begin at 10 pm and include a laser light show. The event culminates at midnight with the lowering of a ball from atop Varney's bookstore. It's reminiscent of the ball drop in the Big Apple, a Times Square tradition for more than a century.
Man Dies in North-Central Kansas Apartment Fire
HERINGTON, Kan. (AP) — A fire at a north-central Kansas apartment building killed a man believed to be in his 70s. Fire officials are trying to determine what caused the fire early Monday on Main Street in Herington. Herington fire officials say the blaze started in a second-story apartment above a vacant business. The man was found dead in the apartment, where he lived by himself. His identity has not been released. No other injuries were reported. Surrounding buildings were not damaged. The state fire marshal's office is investigating the fire.
Lawrence Actor's Collapse Leads to Fundraiser
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Money is being raised for defibrillators after a Lawrence actor's on-stage collapse during a production of "Shrek." 6News Lawrence reports that 20-year-old Jake Leet was playing the part of the donkey earlier this month at Theatre Lawrence when he went into cardiac arrest. Medical staff in the audience rushed to the stage and began giving him chest compressions. He survived, even though the theater didn't have a defibrillator to shock his heart. The Lawrence Journal-World that the theater is getting the life-saving devices after a weekend fundraiser. A woman driving her daughter to the event had recently replaced all the defibrillators at her workplace and offered to donate two of the old ones. They'll expire in 2015, but that should give Leet's family and friends more time to raise money.
Kansas Gay Inmate's Husband Not Planning to Visit
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The husband of a Kansas inmate says he isn't interested in visiting his spouse, who has complained that the state is discriminating by prohibiting the visits. Christopher Yates is serving seven years in prison for crimes related to embezzlement. He says the state is treating him differently by refusing to allow his husband to visit. The two men were married in Iowa. However, Yates's husband, Steve Yates, told The Topeka Capital-Journal that he has no desire to visit the prison. He says he plans to end the marriage, perhaps by getting an annulment. The state has said the banned the visits because Steve Yates is a co-defendant in some of Christopher Yates' crimes. Prison officials said the men's sexual orientation had no bearing on the decision.
Cerner Finishes Land Deal for $4.3B KC Office Park
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Medical records software maker Cerner Corporation has finished purchasing the property needed for its planned $4.3 billion office park. The Kansas City Star reports that city officials say the 237-acre land acquisition was completed last week. The site was formerly occupied by the massive Bannister Mall shopping center, which was demolished in 2009. Over the next decade, the North Kansas City-based company plans to build a phased, 4.5 million square-foot campus that is expected to employ 15,000 people. The new campus would the largest in the area, surpassing the Sprint headquarters in Overland Park. Cerner currently employs more than 9,000 people in the metropolitan area, with many of them based at an office complex in the Village West area of western Wyandotte County, Kansas.
Unconscious Driver Robbed at Wichita Restaurant
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are looking for the thief who victimized an unconscious driver at fast-food restaurant's drive-thru lane. The Wichita Eagle reports that the 43-year-old woman suffered a possible brain aneurysm and struck the speaker box outside a Taco Bell around 8 pm Sunday. She came to a stop in the drive-thru lane. Someone then reached into her vehicle and stole her wedding ring, a cellphone and a purse containing cash, credit cards and a checkbook. The woman's husband was called to the scene and noticed the items were missing. Paramedics rushed the unconscious woman to a hospital, where she was reported in critical condition Monday.
Wichita Studies Fueling Buses with Natural Gas
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita is looking into powering its bus fleet with natural gas instead of diesel fuel. The Wichita Eagle reports that the city paid $3.76 a gallon for diesel to run the buses this month; compressed natural gas runs about $1.20 to $1.50 a gallon. But making the switch would require the city's transit facility to undergo major improvements — about $200,000 to modify buildings, primarily for safety reasons, and $2 million to build natural gas fueling stations. Transit director Steve Spade says that with those costs factored in, the average annual savings with natural gas buses would be around $300,000 a year over time. Spade and the city's consultant are in the middle of a detailed study about the potential conversion.
Kansas City Couple Claims $71.5M Powerball Jackpot
PLATTE WOODS, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City couple is having a very happy holiday season after winning a $71.5 million Powerball jackpot in the Christmas night drawing. The Missouri Lottery said Monday in a news release that 49-year-old Kevin Carlson and his wife claimed the prize Thursday. Carlson celebrated his birthday the next day and already has quit his job as a mechanic. His wife, whose name was not released, plans to keep working. Carlson says he "went nuts" when he realized the ticket was a winner. He had bought it at the Autobahn BP store in Platte Woods where he regularly stops for coffee. The couple plan to use the money to pay bills, help their grown children and take a trip for their upcoming 30th wedding anniversary. Carlson also wants a 1968 Camaro.
Trials Approaching for 2 Men Accused in Wichita Killing
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two men are scheduled to be tried next month in the killing of a 34-year-old Wichita man whom prosecutors allege was injected with a lethal dose of methamphetamine. The Wichita Eagle reports that Justin Jones and Jason Jones, both 38, are charged in the death of Shawn Lindsey. Jason Jones is scheduled to stand trial on January 13th; jury selection for Justin Jones's trial is scheduled to begin January 27th. Prosecutors have announced plans to seek Hard 50 prison sentences against both men, along with a third suspect in the case, Dang Sean. The 32-year-old was scheduled to stand trial in December, but the case was continued at the request of the defense. Three other defendants are charged with kidnapping Lindsey, but not with taking part in his killing.
Wichita Hotel Donates Furniture to Charities
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Thousands of pieces of used furniture that could have made money for a Wichita hotel are going instead to groups that serve people in need. KWCH-TV reports the DoubleTree by Hilton Wichita Airport hotel is replacing about 2,000 beds, dressers and other items. Instead of selling the items to liquidation houses, the DoubleTree donated them to three charities. On Friday, Dear Neighbor Ministries loaded up dozens of beds and lamps for its transitional housing program for women and children leaving its domestic violence shelter. Another group, His Helping Hands, collected furnishings for a warehouse where the needy can pick up items like beds and dressers. And Wichita Habitat for Humanity is getting more than 400 items for its ReStore, which sells used furniture and appliances to the public.
Fleeing Driver Involved in Deadly KC Crash
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a driver attempting to elude Kansas City police has been involved in a deadly crash. The Kansas City Star reports that a police helicopter was following the fleeing vehicle when it struck a pole. Police said one of the four people inside the vehicle died Saturday. Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forte said in a Tweet that no police cruisers were involved.
Wichita Police Investigate Possible Hypothermia Death
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are investigating the death of a homeless man, who they say might have frozen to death under a bridge. Police found the man's body under the bridge Sunday afternoon after being called to check on his welfare. The man, who is believed to be in his 50s or 60s, was pronounced dead at the scene. The bridge is just south of Wichita's Riverside park. The coroner will determine the man's cause of death but police say there were no obvious signs of trauma.
Sedgwick County Zoo Plans $11.5 Million Campaign
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The director of the Sedgwick County Zoo says the organization is considering an $11.5 million fundraising campaign to build a new elephant exhibit, along with bringing four more elephants to the facility in Wichita. Zoo director Mark Reed says the county's zoological society is expected to announce the campaign soon. He says the zoo wants to raise a majority of the money before taking the campaign public. The Wichita Eagle reports that the campaign would be the largest in the zoo's history. If the zoo doesn't bring in more elephants, it might lose the two it already has because of new accreditation standards for the country's zoos.
Fort Hood Shooter's Jail Requests: Bible, Cheese Company Info
DALLAS (AP) — The former Army psychiatrist behind the Fort Hood shooting massacre made several requests of the county jail where he was being held before trial. KXAS-TV in Dallas reports that Nidal Hasan filed 21 requests with the Bell County Jail, where he was held for nearly four years after the 2009 shooting that left 13 dead. Among those requests was a question about the name of the company that made the cheese on the sandwiches he was served in jail. Hasan also asked for a copy of the Bible and a "knowledgeable person" to answer "difficult questions." He also wanted a clock to track his daily prayer times as a Muslim. Hasan was convicted and sentenced to death in August and is now being held at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Kidney Transplant Binds KC Couple as Wedding Nears
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Ten months after his girlfriend gave him one of her kidneys, Travis Spire-Sweet is going strong. The Kansas City Star reports that the 30-year-old Kansas City acupuncturist didn't know what it felt like to have a fully functioning kidney until now. Thirty-four-year-old Taesha Benson donated the organ last February and they got engaged at a Kansas City Royals game in May. Benson had a rare post-surgery complication but is now back to work and training for a February half-marathon in Portland, Oregon. The two are planning to marry in the spring before spending their honeymoon on a tropical island. Spire-Sweet, whose kidney disease was caused by a birth defect, says Benson saved his life and he hopes his story will raise awareness of the need for organ donors.
NFL: Officials Erred on KC's Missed Field Goal
SAN DIEGO (AP) — The NFL says referees erred in not penalizing the San Diego Chargers for an illegal formation on a missed 41-yard field goal attempt by Ryan Succop of the Kansas City Chiefs with four seconds left in regulation on Sunday. Succop was wide right on the kick, and the Chargers went on to win 27-24 in overtime to claim the AFC's final playoff spot. The NFL says in a statement released Monday that had the penalty been assessed by referee Bill Leavy's crew and the ball moved up 5 yards, it would have allowed the Chiefs to attempt a 36-yard field goal. San Diego lined up with seven men on one side of the snapper. The rule says no more than six players can be on the line of scrimmage on either side of the snapper.
Chiefs Praise Retiring Player Gonzalez's Career
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Even though Tony Gonzalez is retiring as a member of the Atlanta Falcons, the Kansas City Chiefs still view the 13-time Pro Bowl tight end as one of their own. Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said Monday that he'll "always be considered a part of the Chiefs family" after Gonzalez reaffirmed Sunday that he doesn't plan to play another NFL game. Gonzalez was drafted by the Chiefs and spent his first 12 seasons in Kansas City. He was traded to the Falcons in 2009, when it appeared that Atlanta was going to give him a better shot at playing in the Super Bowl that eluded Gonzalez his entire career. Gonzalez was presented with a half Chiefs, half Falcons commemorative helmet during halftime of Atlanta's 21-20 loss to the Panthers on Sunday.