Senate Leader Wants to Expand Lobbying Law to Contracting
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate's top Republican leader says she will push to expand the state's lobbying laws so that they covers attempts to influence who receives state contracts. Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita said Friday that she plans to introduce a bill to require people who try to influence contracting decisions by state agencies to register as lobbyists. Such a step would require them to disclose their spending on the meals and gifts they provide to officials, as well as what they spend on communications and advertising. The current definition of lobbying covers attempts to influence the Legislature and work by state agencies on administrative rules and regulations. Democratic legislative leaders quickly endorsed Wagle's proposal and said they'll outline their own government transparency proposals next week.
Kansas Long-Term Care Providers Struggle Financially
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Owners and advocates of long-term care providers in Kansas say they're being squeezed financially on several fronts. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that advocates told the House Health and Human Services Committee Thursday that Kansas providers face grave financial hardships due to low reimbursement rates, backlogs in processing Medicaid applications and a recent spike in civil penalties for health and safety violations. A survey found such facilities in the Midwest reported operating at a net loss of about 0.5 percent in 2016. A Kansas Health Care Association representative says the financial problems long-term care facilities face also threaten state and local economies. The association represents more than 250 long-term care providers. Republican Reprsentative Dan Hawkins chairs the committee. He says he'll invite the secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services to respond to the concerns.
Kansas Unemployment Rate Drops in December to 3.4 Percent
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas saw its unemployment rate drop slightly in December to 3.4 percent and reach its lowest point in nearly 18 years. The state Department of Labor reported Friday that last month's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was lower than both the 3.5 percent reported in November and the 4.3 percent rate in December 2016. The state's unemployment rate has remained below 4 percent since March 2017. According to department statistics, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate last dropped to 3.4 percent in February 2000. The department also said the number of people working in private-sector, nonfarm jobs also grew by about 8,000 in December from December 2016. The increase was 0.7 percent. Labor Secretary Lana Gordon said hours worked and real earnings also increased over the years as employers sought workers.
Topeka Police Finish Internal Review of Fatal Shooting
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An internal review by the Topeka police department found two officers who fatally shot a man in September acted in compliance with the department's policy on use of force. Deputy city manager Doug Gerber said Friday the department would not say publicly whether officers Justin Mackey and Michael Cruse were disciplined because it is a personnel matter. The two officers have been on paid leave since they shot 30-year-old Dominque White September 28 near a Topeka park. Authorities have said the officers struggled with White and shot him after he appeared to be reaching for a gun as he ran away. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay announced in December that he would not file criminal charges against the officers. Attorneys for White's family disputed the findings Friday, saying they were contradicted by video and ballistic evidence.
Attorney: Teen Sexually Assaulted at Kansas Military School
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 15-year-old Texas boy was sexually assaulted this week by two other students at a Kansas military school, the family's attorney said Friday. Salina police confirmed that they arrested two St. John's Military School students on suspicion of aggravated criminal sodomy. The boys, ages 15 and 16, were placed in juvenile detention pending formal charging. The assault allegedly occurred Tuesday night in a dormitory room, said attorney Dan Zmijewski, The boy was taken to the hospital the following day for an examination. "This happened pretty late at night when I thought all the kids supposed to be in their own rooms sleeping, so I don't understand how it happened," Zmijewski said. St. John's President William Clark did not respond to a request for comment.The assault occurred between 11 p.m. and midnight on Tuesday, and staff called police to report it at 11:50 a.m. the following morning, said Salina Police Capt. Mike Sweeney. The teens' first court appearance is planned for Monday, Zmijewski said. The prosecutor's office did not immediately respond to a message seeking more information. The Episcopalian boarding school is also embroiled in a federal lawsuit filed by a Tennessee father over the 2014 sexual assault of his 12-year-old son in a dorm room. The father alleged the school failed to adequately supervise cadets. That case is now in arbitration. St. John's also settled out of court in 2014 in another lawsuit filed by 11 former students who alleged the military school's practice of giving higher-ranking cadets authority to discipline younger cadets encouraged physical and mental abuse.
Officials: Snowy Owls from the Arctic Are Dying in Kansas
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — While Kansans might enjoy seeing a snowy owl from the Arctic, wildlife experts say it's not good news that the animals are this far south. Wildlife officials say nearly a dozen snowy owls have been found dead this winter in Kansas. Most likely died from starvation. The Wichita Eagle reports the more than five dozen white owls seen in Kansas are here because they have been pushed out of their habitat in the Arctic. Chuck Otte, secretary of the Kansas Ornithological Society, says older owls claiming territory push the younger ones out of the Arctic. Most go to northern states but an abundance of snowy owls there can send them farther south. Otte suggests people resist the urge to feed the owls, saying that only prolongs their suffering.
Wichita Police Captain on Leave After Confronting Young Basketball Referee
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a captain with the department is on unpaid administrative leave after a confrontation with a teenage referee during a youth basketball game. The incident happened Saturday in Augusta at a game involving fifth- and sixth-grade students. A video shows the police captain, who was off-duty, rushing toward a player on the court who appears to be hurt. A teenage female official appears to try and stop him and the man pushes her out of the way. Wichita police said in a statement Thursday that the department will be reviewing the incident to determine if policies were violated. The man was escorted off the property but wasn't taken into custody. Augusta police are investigating and will send their findings to the city prosecutor.
Kansas City, St. Louis Fail to Make Final List for Amazon's 2nd HQ
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Amazon has announced its list of 20 cities for a second headquarters, and both big cities in Missouri failed to make the cut. St. Louis and Kansas City were among 238 cities making a bid to be the site of a second headquarters. The 20 finalists were announced Thursday. The online retailer in September opened the search and promised to spend more than $5 billion on the site. The Seattle-based company expects it will bring up to 50,000 jobs. A final selection will be announced later this year. The St. Louis Economic Development Partnership on Thursday released details of its bid which offered $5.4 billion in incentives. It called for three primary sites: Downtown St. Louis, and areas along the Mississippi River facing each other in Missouri and Illinois.
Plan for New Kansas Prison in Limbo After Meeting Postponed
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A plan for a new state prison in Kansas is in limbo after Republican Governor Sam Brownback postponed a meeting aimed at getting the final go-ahead from legislative leaders. Brownback and the Legislature's top eight leaders were scheduled to meet Thursday morning to discuss the Department of Corrections plan to have private-prison operator CoreCivic Inc. build a new prison in Lansing. The 2,400-bed facility would replace the state's oldest and largest prison there. Brownback postponed the meeting indefinitely just before it was to start. His move suggests the plan doesn't yet have enough support among legislative leaders. Under a law passed last year, five of the eight must approve for the plan to go forward. Tennessee-based CoreCivic would lease the prison to Kansas for its first 20 years in operation.
Kansas Utilities Studying Possible Impact of Tax Cuts
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Corporation Commission is studying how recently enacted federal tax cuts could affect public utilities. The KCC on Thursday announced the general investigation and ordered utilities to track all savings from the tax cuts and to keep those funds in a separate interest-bearing account. The tax cuts reduce the federal corporate income tax rate from 35 to 21 percent. The commission's announcement came after Westar Energy, Kansas City Power and Light, and Black Hills Energy announced they will ask for regulatory approval to lower their rates because of the tax cuts. The Lawrence Journal-World reports KCP&L expects to save up to $100 million a year, while Westar anticipates it will save about $65 million a year. Black Hills did not say how much it anticipates saving.
Indictment: 2 Wichita Police Officers Obstructed Justice
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors are accusing two former Wichita police officers and a gambling operator of obstruction of justice for their roles in identifying a suspected undercover officer who was investigating illegal gambling. An indictment unsealed Thursday charges police officers Michael Zajkowski and Bruce Mackey with obstruction of law enforcement along with a gambling operator Brock Wedman. Wedman was also charged with lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Also separately charged Thursday in a criminal complaint with two counts of lying to the FBI about a poker game was retired Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Michael Frederikson. Court records do not indicate whether the men have attorneys. The charges stem from a February 12, 2014, poker game during which the Zajkowski and Mackey allegedly used police department resources to determine the ownership of a vehicle driven by the suspected undercover investigator and then outing him to Wedman. Prosecutors say Frederiksen was a player in that game.
Tax Law Gives Unexpected Break to Farmers Who Sell to Co-Ops
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Key senators and farm groups are trying to fix a provision in the federal tax overhaul that gave an unexpected tax break to farmers who sell their crops to cooperatives instead of other buyers. The provision from Republican Sens. John Thune of South Dakota and John Hoeven of North Dakota surfaced in the final days of the debate over the tax bill. Companies that aren't co-ops include local grain companies as well as agribusiness giants such as Cargill and ADM. The senators say they didn't intend to give co-ops and their farmer-members a competitive advantage over other companies. They say they just wanted to make sure farmers' taxes didn't rise. But observers say it's not clear if a fix can pass, given the partisan divide on Capitol Hill.
Man in Debt over DUI Pleads Guilty to Robbing Kansas Bank
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City, Missouri, man who was thousands of dollars in debt from a drunken driving case has pleaded guilty to a Kansas bank robbery that netted just $615. Prosecutors say 41-year-old Ryan Michael Cothern pleaded guilty Wednesday to robbing a U.S. Bank in Overland Park in October 2017. Investigators say Cothern handed a teller his cellphone with a message demanding she put money into a bag. The teller placed $615 and a GPS locator in the bag and pulled the alarm. Cothern was arrested about 7 miles from the bank. Johnson County records show Cothern was released from jail four days before the robbery. He was under court order to pay back more than $14,000 he owed in an earlier DUI case.
Former Jackson County, Missouri, Jail Officer Admits Jail Smuggling
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former corrections officer at the Jackson County Detention Center admitted that she helped smuggle contraband to inmates at the center. Thirty-year-old Jalee Caprice Fuller, of Independence, pleaded guilty Thursday to her role in the conspiracy to smuggle contraband such as cell phones to inmates between May and June of last year. She admitted that she conspired with other people, including an inmate, to smuggle in items not allowed in the detention center. A co-defendant, 36-year-old Marion Lorenzo Byers, of Kansas City, pleaded guilty to the same offense in December. Under federal statutes, Fuller and Byers are each subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole.
Bill Snyder's 22-Year-Old Grandson Found Dead in Manhattan
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State coach Bill Snyder's 22-year-old grandson has died in Manhattan.
Riley County Police Department spokeswoman Hali Rowland told The Associated Press that Matthew Snyder was found dead Wednesday afternoon. His father, Sean Snyder, is Kansas State's special teams coach. Rowland says it is being investigated as an unattended death. No other details were immediately released.
Kansas State Athletics Director Gene Taylor said in a statement that "Our thoughts and prayers are with the Snyder family during this very difficult time." The statement said the Snyder family is "greatly appreciative of the outpouring of support displayed by the K-State Family as they cope with this tragedy."
Keystone XL Route Still Uncertain in Nebraska
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The Keystone XL pipeline still faces an uncertain future in Nebraska despite the developer's announcement that it will proceed with the project. TransCanada Corp.'s decision follows a 3-2 vote by the Nebraska Public Service Commission to approve a pipeline route through the state, but not the one the company preferred. The company said after the decision it needed time to evaluate the decision and line up potential customers. Pipeline opponents note that the company's announcement that it has secured enough contracts to ship 500,000 barrels of oil a day is far below the pipeline's capacity. The pipeline was first proposed to ship 830,000 barrels a day. Jane Kleeb, founder of the anti-pipeline group Bold Nebraska, says she doesn't believe the pipeline will ever be built. Opponents have filed a lawsuit challenging the commission's decision.