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Regional Headlines for Monday, February 17, 2014

KS Medicaid Expansion Urged; State GOP Not Budging

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Advocates of expanding Medicaid in Kansas have staged a small rally at the Statehouse, but the Republican-dominated Legislature doesn't seem much interested in taking up the issue. About 50 people attended the rally Monday organized by local chapters of the liberal group The group supports expanding Medicaid in line with the federal health care overhaul championed by President Barack Obama. Speakers said the expansion could help 150,000 more Kansans obtain health coverage. Medicaid covers health care for the poor and disabled. Legislators last year enacted a budget law barring a Medicaid expansion through June 2015. And no proposal for expanding Medicaid is headed for a legislative vote so far this year. Republican Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer said Kansans simply don't want to be part of implementing the Democratic president's health care changes.


KS Common Core Foe Hasn't Read Standards He Opposes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An eastern Kansas Republican who is the main proponent of a House measure that would nullify Common Core reading and math standards in the state admits he hasn't read what's in them. Representative Willie Dove, of Bonner Springs, says he is driven by a firm belief that the federal government shouldn't be involved in education. He is pushing a bill in the Kansas House that would also nullify recently adopted Next Generation Science Standards and prohibit school districts from administering any tests aligned to those standards. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Dove serves on the House Education Committee, which on Wednesday will conduct a hearing on the bill. Leaders in both chambers say the measure faces an uphill battle and isn't likely to go anywhere this year.


Bill Seeks Task Force for Locally Grown KS Foods

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Rural development advocates are seeking passage of a bill that could lead to the expansion of smaller farms and food production in Kansas communities. The bill would create an 18-member task force to explore options for helping the production of locally grown food. A hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Wednesday in the Senate Agriculture Committee. The task force would develop a plan for expanding food systems and removing any obstacles that impede farmers and food producers from developing locally grown crops and products. Such obstacles can include funding, distribution and processing. The task force would begin meeting in September and end its work in December 2015, making a report to the Legislature at the start of the 2016 session.


Dentists Cite Low, Slow KanCare Reimbursements

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some Kansas dentists say a low reimbursement rate and slow processing of KanCare claims are preventing them from accepting new patients covered by the state's managed care program. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Manhattan dentist E. Hamrick Swan Jr. says the reimbursement rate for KanCare patients is about 40 percent of his fee. While he still takes KanCare patients, he said he has to limit the number of new ones he can accept. A spokeswoman for Kansas Department of Health and Environment's health programs says last year's switch to KanCare included a requirement that rates couldn't fall below 2012 levels. But the executive director of the Kansas Dental Association says those rates haven't gone up very quickly, either, while the cost to provide services to KanCare patients continues to rise.


Bills Would Shift KS Investment Policy on Sudan, Iran

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee is considering legislation to lift restrictions on investments by the state pension fund in Sudan but impose new limits concerning Iran. The Pensions and Benefits Committee reviewed two separate bills Monday but took no action. One bill repeals the 2007 law blocking Kansas Public Employees Retirement System investments in companies doing business in Sudan. It was a response to violence in the Darfur region. Committee Chairman Steve Johnson said the committee is considering whether the policy remains appropriate, given the creation of South Sudan in 2011. The other bill would limit KPERS investments in companies doing business in Iran. Its leading advocate is state Representative Scott Schwab of Olathe. The Republican says Kansas should do what it can to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.


Board Mulling Changes to KS Teacher Licensing

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State Board of Education officials are considering making changes to how teachers in Kansas are licensed in effort to meet a growing demand for technical education courses at high schools. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the board discussed the changes during a meeting Thursday in response to a growing demand for courses resulting from new programs and funding for technical and career education enacted since 2011. A representative of the Kansas National Education Association raised concerns during the meeting that the licensing changes could lead to teachers who lack the necessary instructional skills to adequately educate students. Board members say they have wanted to review the licensing process for years and the increased scarcity of technical and career education teachers is prompting a closer look.


Governor Creates Panel to Study KS Seismology

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has asked the director of the Kansas Geological Survey to lead a task force to develop a plan for increased earthquake activity possibly related to Kansas oil and gas activities. The Republican governor on Monday named Rex Buchanan to lead the task force, which will meet in April in Wichita. The task force will study whether human activity is causing an increase in minor earthquakes in Kansas. Kansas has seen increased fracking for oil and gas extraction in recent years in southern counties. The region is also seeing an increase in the number of small earthquakes that scientists have said could be caused by the returning of waste fluids back into the ground during the process.


KU Hospital Receives Gifts for Expansion

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas Hospital has received $3.5 million in private donations toward construction of a new facility. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the donations were announced Monday at a news conference at the hospital's campus in Kansas City, Kansas. The hospital bought 14 acres of land near the campus in 2005 with the expectation of needing to accommodate more patients and surgery space. There's no timetable yet for construction of what's planned as a 92-bed facility. Hospital spokesman Dennis McCulloch says the donations announced Monday are the first funds raised so far for the $250 million project. McCulloch says officials hope to raise $100 million in gifts.


KS Students Lobby Against Sex Ed Bills

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A cadre of college students is lobbying Kansas legislators to reject bills that would change the way parents approve student access to sex education courses and materials. The bills have been introduced in the House and Senate. They would require school districts to receive written approval from parents or guardians before students would receive sex education instruction or access to materials. Currently, the decision regarding policies about parental approval of sex education is left to local school districts. Students from the University of Kansas, Emporia State University and Wichita State University were lobbying Monday to encourage legislators to reject the changes, arguing they would ignore the wishes of local communities. The House bill will be heard Tuesday in the education committee. The Senate bill awaits a hearing.


Central Kansas Town Losing Last Remaining School

MARQUETTE, Kan. (AP) — Officials of a central Kansas school district say they had no choice but to close a small town's last remaining school, but that's little comfort to residents who believe their community is losing a way of life. The Salina Journal reports more than 200 unhappy residents of Marquette packed a recent meeting where the Smoky Valley School Board voted to close Marquette Elementary School at the end of the academic year. The school has 67 pupils in kindergarten through third grade and grades five and six. Its fourth-graders were moved to a school in Lindsborg at the start of the year. Smoky Valley officials expect to save $400,000 by sending Marquette's pupils elsewhere in the district. But many unhappy parents say they'll send their children to a different district altogether.

Kansas Horse Therapy Center Plans to Close

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A cash-strapped therapeutic horse riding center in Wichita plans to close next month, The Wichita Eagle reports that the Flint Hills Therapeutic Riding Center has been unable to replace funding lost when its main corporate sponsor, Boeing, left town. It has also now lost its Medicaid insurance. The 14-year-old horse therapy center in southeast Wichita says it is about $50,000 a year short of the money needed to stay open. It says fundraising efforts launched in September brought in some small donors and a lot of volunteers. Each therapy session costs the center an estimated $125. The center says it can't charge families more than $35 per session because many of them already face huge medical bills.


KS Family Says Stray Bullet Hit Playroom Wall 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita family says someone fired a bullet that lodged itself in their daughter's playroom wall over the weekend. KWCH-TV reports Wichita police responded to a call of shots fired around 2 am Saturday morning in the neighborhood, with some neighbors reporting they heard a car race away shortly afterward. Mike Santee says he first noticed a bulge in the hallway wall, and then found the curtains in her playroom had been torn. Santee says he, his wife and their 4-year-old daughter were sleeping in the room next door to the playroom, just feet away from where the bullet struck. He says the most unnerving part of the incident is not knowing where the bullet came from, and that one of the family members could have been struck.

Suspect in KS Office Killing Booked Into Jail

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The suspect in the death of a 25-year-old Steckline Communications employee has been moved from a hospital and booked into the Sedgwick county jail. The Wichita Eagle reports a 31-year-old identified in a police report as the suspect in Daniel Flores' death was booked into jail Friday night on suspicion of first-degree murder and aggravated burglary. Flores's body was found around 8 am last Monday in a basement area of the Steckline offices. Preliminary autopsy reports indicate he died of blunt-force injuries. Police arrested the suspect late Wednesday during a traffic stop, when an officer found him with a knife stuck in his stomach. Officers had been watching the suspect's home before the traffic stop. Officials said Friday that police plan to present their case to prosecutors next week.

KS Man Injured After Woman Rejects Bid for Dance

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 69-year-old Kansas man ends up with a broken rib and collapsed lung after unsuccessfully trying to get a young woman to dance with him. The Wichita Eagle reports the man attempted to dance with the woman at 1:10 am Sunday at the Driftwood Lounge when she took exception and pushed him. Police spokesman Sergeant John Hoofer says the man was injured when he fell back onto a wooden bench. He was transported to a local hospital. Police are still looking for the woman, who is in her 20s.


2 MO/KS Border Universities Seek Law Students

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Kansas are competing for law school students. UMKC's law school has provided in-state undergraduate tuition for most Kansas residents for four years. Now, the KU School of Law is responding. The Kansas school will use a new scholarship program to allow residents of 11 Missouri counties to pay the equivalent of in-state tuition — $19,623 a year instead of $33,067 for out-of-state students. UMKC's law school does not formally waive out-of-state tuition but nearly all of those students get in-state tuition rates. The competition is partly because fewer students are enrolling in law schools. The Kansas City Star reports that 68 percent of schools accredited by the American Bar Association reported lower first-year enrollment in 2013.

Book Tells Story of Spencer Family Gifts to Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new book by a Topeka man about the lives of a Kansas couple tells the story of how their success in the chemical and coal industries turned into a life of philanthropy across the state. The Topeka Capital Journal reports Ken Crockett's work, "Kenneth and Helen Spencer of Kansas: Champions of Culture and Commerce in the Sunflower State," traces the couple's backgrounds and how they shared the wealth that they built. The couple donated millions of dollars to help establish various research libraries, art museums and research institutes in Kansas and Missouri. Kenneth Spencer was the son of the owner of the Pittsburg & Midway Coal Mining Company that later developed Spencer Chemical in the 1940s. The couple also formed a charitable foundation.


Teen Girl Located Safe in Northwest MO Home County

GALLATIN, Mo. (AP) — Authorities have canceled an endangered-person advisory for a 14-year-old girl after finding her safe in her northwest Missouri home county. The Daviess County Sheriff's Office issued the alert late Sunday, believing the teen might have been headed to Wichita with a 17-year-old boy. The advisory was issued when the pair failed to return to Daviess County after traveling to neighboring Grundy County on Saturday. No further details about the case were released Monday afternoon.


Vandals Cause Extensive Damage to MO High School


PLATTE CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities in northwest Missouri are looking for two people who broke into a high school and caused more than $100,000 in thefts and vandalism. The break-in at Platte County High School occurred sometime late Sunday or early Monday. KCTV reports that surveillance video shows two people in hooded sweatshirts entering a computer lab, possibly after breaking through a window on the roof. The sheriff's department says the thieves grabbed computers, then vandalized the school's phone system, three vending machines and administrative offices. They also left graffiti. The high school is located in Platte City, about 20 miles north of Kansas City.


KC Catholics Among Those Seeking Finn Sanctions

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A group of Kansas City Roman Catholics has joined a request to Pope Francis to discipline Bishop Robert Finn for the way he handled complaints against a priest who admitted taking pornographic photographs of young parishioners. The Kansas City Star reports Milwaukee priest and canon lawyer James Connell initiated the effort to punish Finn, of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. Finn pleaded guilty in 2012 to a misdemeanor count of failing to report suspected child abuse to the state. Along with Connell's request to the pope, an online petition signed by more than 113,000 people worldwide seeking Finn's removal also was forwarded to the Vatican. Finn's conviction was related to his handling of the Reverend Shawn Ratigan, who has pleaded guilty to state and federal child pornography counts.





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