Senate Panel Approves Kansas Governor Brownback's Nomination for Religious Ambassador
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Senate Foreign Relations Committee narrowly approved the nomination of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback to be U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. On an 11-10 vote Thursday, the panel recommended that the full Senate consider President Trump's selection of Brownback for the State Department post. LGBT rights groups are criticizing Brownback's nomination because of his conservative views on issues such as same-sex marriage. During his confirmation hearing, Brownback defended his decision as Kansas governor to scrap an executive order that barred discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. He says state lawmakers should have resolved the matter, not the governor.
Kansas Proposes Work Requirement in New Version of Medicaid
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are proposing a new version of the state's privatized Medicaid program that would require about 12,000 adults to work. The proposal was unveiled Friday as the state considers changes to a program that serves more than 400,000 residents. The Wichita Eagle reports Kansas currently has no work requirement for Medicaid recipients and it would be the first state in the country to do so. Governor Sam Brownback's administration says requiring some people to work will improve their lives. Officials note that of the 12,000 people that would be affected, most already are required to work because they receive welfare assistance. Advocates for Medicaid recipients say work requirements are illegal and were not allowed before President Donald Trump's administration. The proposal must be approved by the federal government.
Kansas Democrat Seeks Change in Harassment Investigations
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Democratic leader wants the Kansas Legislature to have independent attorneys investigate sexual harassment allegations. Minority Leader Jim Ward also promised Thursday that fellow Democrats in the Kansas House will undergo training on sexual harassment at a December retreat. Ward also pledged that he'll be willing to remove committee assignments from any House Democrat found to have committed sexual harassment. The Legislature's policies say that allegations against lawmakers by their employees are investigated by its administrative services office. Republican leaders said they trust that process. Ward commented a day after a former Democratic legislative staffer said she was propositioned by a lawmaker in 2015 and that in 2016 female college-student interns acted as after-hours designated drivers for intoxicated lawmakers. Ward was not minority leader at the time.
Kobach Transcript: Changes to US Election Law Discussed
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A newly unsealed deposition shows Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach discussed with President Trump's voter fraud commission a requirement that people produce proof of U.S. citizenship to register to vote. Excerpts of the transcript made public Thursday show Kobach also testified that Republican Representative Steve King of Iowa has agreed to introduce legislation amending the National Voter Registration Act if Kansas loses a federal lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging the document requirement. A judge required Kobach to submit to the August deposition after finding a pattern of Kobach misleading the court. The transcript sheds new light on a November meeting with the then president-elect discussed the possibility of Kobach becoming secretary of homeland security. Kobach says they discussed the issue of noncitizen voting.
Man's Possible Disability Key Issue in Kansas Capital Case
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man's attorneys have asked the state Supreme Court to spare him from being executed for a college student's murder over questions about whether he is developmentally disabled. The court heard arguments Friday in an appeal from 34-year-old Justin Eugene Thurber. The south-central Kansas resident was sentenced to die for the kidnapping, rape and killing of 19-year-old Jodi Sanderholm after he stalked members of her college dance team. A ruling will come later. The judge rejected the defense's request for a hearing on whether Thurber is developmentally disabled, ruling that the defense hadn't presented enough evidence to warrant a hearing. The state notes that Thurber graduated high school and attended college. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that it is unconstitutional to execute defendants with even mild developmental disabilities.
Experts: Kansas Depends on Immigrant Labor, Foreign Trade
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Experts are saying the Kansas economy is heavily dependent on global free trade and immigrant labor at a time when both are considered charged political issues in the U.S. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the University of Kansas's Institute for Policy and Social Research sponsored the annual Kansas Economic Policy Conference on Thursday. Alexandre Skiba is a former economics professor at the university and spoke at the conference. He says the dependence on immigrant labor and foreign trade is especially true in rural western Kansas, where the meatpacking industry depends on immigrant labor and the entire agriculture industry generally depends on access to foreign markets. Olathe-based Garmin International official Laurie Minard says the current U.S. political climate is hard on her business that's dependent on access to an international workforce.
Fifth Teenager Enters Crowded Race for Kansas Governor
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A fifth teenage boy has launched a campaign for governor and entered a field of 19 candidates. The Hutchinson News reports that 16-year-old Joseph Tutera Jr. of Mission Hills is running as a Republican. He appointed his father as his campaign treasurer this week to take a step required for him to legally collect contributions. Kansas has no minimum age for gubernatorial candidates. So far, 12 Republicans, six Democrats and one independent have launched campaigns. Tutera is sophomore class president at the private, Catholic, all-boys Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Missouri. Seventeen-year-old Rockhurst senior Dominic Scavuzzo is seeking the GOP nomination, too. The Republican candidates also include 17-year-olds Ethan Randleas of Wichita and Tyler Ruzich of Prairie Village. Sixteen-year-old Jack Bergeson of Wichita is running as a Democrat.
Kansas Ethics Panel Rejects Bitcoin Contributions
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission says the digital currency known as bitcoin is too secretive and untraceable to be allowed as a form of campaign contributions in state and local elections. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the decision came after one member received a request from a candidate wanting to know whether it was legal to accept campaign contributions in bitcoins. Bitcoin was first introduced in 2009 and is gaining acceptance as an alternative form of currency. But governments struggle to create standards for accepting bitcoin in anything other than private, commercial transactions. Commissioner Jerome Hellmer says bitcoins are too risky to be allowed in Kansas elections without standardized reporting procedures. He says bitcoin is "contrary to the transparency we're asking for our political system to provide to the public."
Staff Realignments Announced at St. Francis in Topeka
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The new owners of St. Francis Health in Topeka say they plan to eliminate 60 jobs as part of staff realignment but will also add 86 new full-time positions. The University of Kansas Health System and Nashville-based Ardent Health Services say the new jobs will be primarily in nursing and clinical care areas. Mark Gregson, who is leading the transition for the new hospital, says the laid-off workers will be encouraged to apply for the new positions or to look for other positions within the Ardent or KU Health systems. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the positions being eliminated include administrative and system positions. No nursing staff jobs will be lost. The two systems announced in June that they would take over the 108-year-old hospital.
3 Kansas Deaths Believed to Be Double Murder-Suicide
GRANTVILLE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man fatally shot his sister and another man before killing himself in northeast Kansas The bodies were found Wednesday at a home in rural Grantville in Jefferson County. Authorities on Thursday said 64-year-old Penny Nelson and 61-year-old James Chavez were killed at Nelson's home. Chavez was a neighbor who was visiting at the time. Sheriff Jeff Herrig says 66-year-old Harlan Gleason shot his sister and Chavez before shooting himself. His body was also found at the home. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and Jefferson County detectives are investigating. A possible motive for the shootings has not been released.
Police Investigate Shooting Death of Kansas City Lawyer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Kansas City, Missouri police are investigating the death of a lawyer who was shot in his front yard moments after he walked his children to school. Neighbors and Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker identified the man as 39-year-old Thomas Pickert, a personal injury lawyer. Pickert was killed Wednesday in the Brookside neigborhood of Kansas City. Police said Pickert's wife heard a gunshot and then found her husband fatally injured outside. Investigators interviewed a man who owns a white van seen in the neighborhood at the time of the shooting. Media reports indicate that Pickert recently won a $5.75 million judgment against that man. But police spokeswoman Kari Thompson said Thursday the man is not a suspect in Pickert's death. Thompson provided no other details about the investigation.
Airline Service Will Return to Dodge City, Liberal on January 1
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Airline service will return to Dodge City and Liberal beginning January 1. The federal Transportation Department has approved San Francisco-based Boutique Air and St. George, Utah-based SkyWest Airlines as providers of air service to the western Kansas cities. The cities lost service when Alaska-based PenAir filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August. Under the Essential Air Service program, Boutique Air will provide 18 weekly nonstop round trips to Denver International Airport. Boutique will receive an annual subsidy of $3.6 million. SkyWest will operate 12 weekly nonstop or one-stop round trip flights to Denver. It will receive an annual subsidy of nearly $3.8 million.
Baker University Gift Will Help Attract Low-Income Students
BALDWIN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Baker University officials say a $1 million gift will provide scholarships for low-income students. Bob Carr, CEO and president of the Give Something Back Foundation, announced the gift last week. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the foundation has already given $1 million to Wichita State University and $500,000 each to Kansas State and Pittsburg universities. The money will provide scholarships to at-risk students from low-income families, those with an incarcerated parent or those eligible for Pell Grants. Eighth-graders who would qualify will be identified this year and will be paired next year with mentors and offered internships through their high school years. If they maintain at least a 3.0 GPA in high school and take college prep courses, they will be eligible for scholarships covering tuition, fees, and room and board.
US Rig Count Declines by 4 to 909; Kansas Loses 1
HOUSTON (AP) — The number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. declined by four this week to 909. That's up from the 557 rigs that were active a year ago. Houston oilfield services company Baker Hughes said Friday that 737 rigs sought oil and 172 explored for natural gas this week. Among major oil- and gas-producing states, Texas gained five rigs and Oklahoma and Wyoming each increased by one. Louisiana lost three rigs, North Dakota and West Virginia each declined by two and Alaska, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico and Pennsylvania each lost one. Arkansas, California, Ohio and Utah were unchanged. The U.S. rig count peaked at 4,530 in 1981. It bottomed out in May of 2016 at 404.
Texas Man Pleads Guilty in Missouri Fraud Scheme
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The owner of a Texas business pleaded guilty for his role in an $840,000 scheme to defraud a Missouri construction company. Federal prosecutors say 49-year-old Brian Newkirk, of Houston, pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of wire fraud in a scheme that defrauded the J.E. Dunn Construction Company. Newkirk's firm, Search Group International, was one of three businesses hired to find employees for the company. Prosecutors say he paid kickbacks to John Kirwin, of Lee's Summit, who was an internal recruiter for J.E. Dunn. Prosecutors say invoices submitted by Newkirk and another defendant, Debi Jordan, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, included highly inflated amounts or discussed employees that were never hired by the company. Kirwin and Jordan also have pleaded guilty in the case.
Kansas to Auction 40 Surplus Bison from Maxwell Refuge
CANTON, Kan. (AP) — The state of Kansas will auction off 40 surplus bison at Maxwell Wildlife Refuge in mid-November. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism says the auction will be held November 15 at the 2,500-acre refuge about 6 miles north of Canton. The department says the bison will be more than a year old and tested for brucellosis and tuberculosis. The auction will involve 10 2-year-old bulls, four cows, eight yearling heifers, eight yearling bulls, five heifer calves and five bull calves.
Big 12 Conference Will Start League Play Earlier in 2018
IRVING, Texas (AP) — The Big 12 has released its 2018 conference football schedule, and league play will get started earlier next season. When Oklahoma plays at Iowa State next September 15, it will be the third week of the regular season. That is a week earlier than the first conference games this year, and means the Sooners won't have to wait as long to try to avenge their surprising home loss to Iowa State earlier this month. Big 12 officials released the conference slate Thursday, nearly two months earlier than they posted the 2017 schedule last year. The 2018 Big 12 championship game will again be played the first Saturday in December. Texas and Oklahoma will play their Red River rivalry game at the Texas State Fair on October 6, a week later than this year, and the Sooners will host Oklahoma State a week later next season, on November 10.
Houston Dynamo Beats Sporting KC, 1-0, in MLS Playoffs Knockout Round
HOUSTON (AP) — The season is over for Sporting Kansas City. In the knockout round of the Major League Soccer playoffs, the Houston Dynamo beat Sporting KC, 1-0, on Thursday night. Alberth Elis scored the game's only goal in the 94th minute of extra time and the Dynamo made it stand in the second extra period for the victory over Sporting KC. Houston, which is undefeated in its last seven games, advanced to the Western Conference semifinals to face the Portland Timbers. Sporting KC has made the playoffs for its seventh consecutive season, but lost in the knockout round for the fourth straight year. Sporting has been winless in its last six matches and was again without one of its best players. Goalkeeper Tim Melia, who went down with a hamstring injury on October 7.