Kansas Governor's "New Day" Won't Change Key Policy Stances
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer is likely to keep some of former Governor Sam Brownback's most prominent policies in spite of promising a "new day" when taking office this week, Colyer was sworn in Wednesday after Brownback resigned to take an ambassador's post. He was Brownback's loyal lieutenant governor for seven years. Like Brownback, Colyer is a conservative Republican and a strong abortion opponent. The new administration is likely to continue supporting abortion restrictions. Colyer described himself in a Thursday news conference as a "Second Amendment guy," signaling no shift on gun-rights issues. He continued to defend the philosophy behind work requirements in social services programs and express doubts about expanding the state's Medicaid program. He's echoed Brownback's statements about tying additional funding for public schools to specific education policy goals.
Kansas Governor to Require Annual Sexual Harassment Training
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — All employees and interns working for Kansas executive branch agencies will be required to undergo annual sexual harassment training, new Governor Jeff Colyer announced Monday. Colyer outlined the new policy during a Cabinet meeting and then signed an executive order during a Statehouse news conference to put it into effect. He allowed The Associated Press into the Cabinet meeting. It is the Republican governor's first executive order since taking office last week after replacing former GOP Governor Sam Brownback, who resigned to serve as U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. The executive branch has not had a single anti-harassment policy across all agencies. "I just want us to make sure that the culture is respectful and very professional," Colyer told his Cabinet. "I think that's what all of us want." Colyer told reporters at the news conference that his administration will be "fierce" in enforcing the executive order but is still working on a policy for how employees are disciplined if they do not participate in the annual training. Colyer's order comes as the top state lawmakers are reviewing the Legislature's anti-harassment policy, which has been in place since 1994 and hasn't required annual training for lawmakers, their employees or interns. Legislative leaders held multiple, voluntary training sessions since December. Top lawmakers initiated a review of the Legislature's sexual harassment policy review after the ex-chief of staff for a former Democratic leader said publicly in October that a lawmaker once asked her for sex in 2015. She described harassment as "rampant" and said female college-student interns regularly served as after-hour designated drivers for intoxicated lawmakers in 2016. Colyer said his executive order will require an outside, independent review when an elected official or Cabinet secretary is accused of harassment. He said the order also will require agencies to review their anti-harassment policies at least once every three years.
Some Mental Health Providers Asked for Patient Information
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Some mental health professionals say they are being pressured by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas to release notes from therapy sessions with their patients. The therapists say Blue Cross Blue Shield Kansas and its subcontractor, New Directional Behavioral Health, are demanding the notes to limit expenses for patients who need long-term intensive counseling. The Kansas City Star reports the insurance company says its auditing only a few high-cost providers to determine if the services given to patients match what was billed. The company says it shields all therapy notes and other documents to follow medical privacy laws. Psychologist Susan Eyman of Lawrence says she refused to turn over her notes and was forced to pay back thousands of dollars in Blue Cross Blue Shield Kansas reimbursements.
Kansas Chemistry Teacher Fights Immigration Arrest
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Supporters of a Kansas chemistry instructor hope immigration officials will be lenient because he has lived in the United States for 30 years without problems and has a family. The Kansas City Star reports Syed Ahmed Jamal was arrested in his front yard in Lawrence, Kansas, on January 24 as he walked his seventh-grade daughter to school. The 55-year-old Jamal, who is from Bangladesh, arrived in the United States in 1987 to study at the University of Kansas. Most recently, he was teaching at Park University. Jamal's lawyer, Jeffrey Bennett, says an immigration judge allowed Jamal to remain in the country on a supervised basis provided he checked in regularly. President Donald Trump has toughened immigration enforcement. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say Jamal lost an appeal of a removal order four years ago.
Father Charged with Vehicular Homicide in Crash Death of Son
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police have arrested the father of a 6-year-old boy who was killed in the August crash of a vehicle the father was driving. Television station KWCH reports that Daniel Juares-Lopez, of Wichita, was arrested Friday on charges of driving without a valid license and involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence. Police say Juares-Lopez was driving the sport utility vehicle the night of Aug. 10 when the SUV crossed the center line, overcorrected and hit a curb. The SUV then crossed to the opposite side of the road, hit another curb and rolled several times. Six-year-old Daniel Ware was thrown from the vehicle in the crash and died. Juarez-Lopez was also critically injured.
Kansas Education Department to Keep Bus Funds Despite Audit
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Education Department will continue distributing millions in bus funding despite a recent audit that says the payments are barred under current state law. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the state Board of Education says it will keep paying for school districts' bus operations under the same formula it's been using for decades until instructed otherwise. A January independent audit of how transportation aid to districts had been distributed says the formula is based on a law repealed in 1973. The board held a meeting January 26 in response to a letter from Republican lawmakers urging board members to suspend the Education Department's top school finance officer pending the audit. But the board voted almost unanimously to support the officer's continued employment. Lawmakers have introduced bills to clear up confusion on the transportation aid formula.
Age Requirements Sought After 6 Teens Run for Governor
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Candidates would be required to be at least 18 to run for statewide offices in Kansas under legislation drafted in response to six teenagers entering the race for governor. The Kansas House Elections Committee is considering whether to set an age requirement for running for governor, secretary of state, attorney general, state treasurer and state commissioner of insurance. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the committee could vote on the plan Monday. Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor would also have to live in Kansas for four years before seeking office. If approved, the changes wouldn't take effect until after this fall's election. Six teenagers are seeking the state's top office, while another is running for secretary of state. Proponents of the bill say most states require candidates to be older.
Koch Family to Open Unconventional Private School in Kansas
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two members of the Koch family are financing a new private school in Kansas that will incorporate aspects of the "Maker movement" and other education innovations. The Wichita Eagle reports that Chase and Annie Koch are opening a new pre-K-through-12th-grade school on Wichita State University's campus. The couple are the son and daughter-in-law of Koch Industries CEO Charles Koch. The school is called Wonder and is scheduled to open for preschool and elementary-age children in September. Wonder is expected to have a mastery-based approach to academics rather than traditional grade levels. There also won't be traditional grades or report cards. The lease agreement between Wonder and the Wichita State Innovation Alliance says that total launch costs are estimated at about $1.5 million, which includes renovations and equipment.
Man Jailed After Charging Topeka Officers with Machete
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a homeless man is jailed in Kansas after charging at officers with a machete at police headquarters in downtown Topeka. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the incident began around 2 a.m. Saturday when a man armed with a machete entered the Law Enforcement Center and said he had a bomb. Officers were able to get the man to exit the building. Police Lt. Steve Roth says officers used a stun gun to subdue the man when he became aggressive. Roth says the man sustained only "superficial" injuries. The man is jailed on $25,000 bond on suspicion of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, making a criminal threat and other offenses.
ICE Agent Accused of Leak to Kansas TV Anchor to Change Plea
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A court notation says an agent with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement accused of sending a Wichita television news anchor sensitive law enforcement material has told a federal judge he intends to change his plea. ICE Agent Andrew J. Pleviak had a hearing Monday during which he was judged competent to assist in his defense. He was indicted in July on two counts of exceeding authorized access to a government computer and one count of destruction of records. A probable cause affidavit released last month shows KAKE-TV anchor Deb Farris told police Pleviak was sending her sensitive law enforcement material and texting messages that were sexual in nature. A change-of-plea hearing was set for Wednesday. The court will also consider at that time whether to revoke his bond.
Body Found Inside Burning KCK Home
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating after a body was found inside a burning Kansas City, Kansas, home. The discovery was made late Sunday as firefighters battled the blaze. Police Chief Terry Zeigler said on Twitter that police are assisting in the investigation. Zeigler says the circumstances leading up to the person's death aren't known. The name of the victim wasn't immediately released.
Ex-Lawrence Officer Who Used Excessive Force Gets Diversion
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A former Lawrence police officer accused of punching a man in the face during a domestic disturbance investigation has been granted diversion. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Douglas County District Attorney's Office has approved a two-year diversion for Frank McClelland. He was charged with one count of misdemeanor battery stemming from the 2016 encounter, which was captured on camera. The agreement, reached last month, requires that McClelland write a letter of apology, complete at least 20 hours of community service and submit to a psychological exam. McClelland also is barred from working as a law enforcement officer or security officer during the duration of the agreement. The state could reinstate prosecution if he doesn't adhere to the diversion terms. DA Charles Branson says the victim was "very satisfied."
State Legislatures See Flurry of Activity on Abortion Bills
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Republicans who control a majority of the nation's statehouses are considering a wide range of abortion legislation that could test the government's legal ability to restrict a woman's right to terminate pregnancy. Just this past week, the Mississippi House passed a bill that would make the state the only one to ban all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. In Missouri, lawmakers heard testimony on a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. And in Ohio, the House is expected to consider abortion restrictions that have already passed in the Senate. They would prohibit the most common type of procedure used to end pregnancies after 13 weeks and require that fetal remains be buried or cremated. Abortion has been a hot topic in several legislative sessions that began or continued last month.
Family Wants Veteran's Stolen Medals Returned
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Relatives of a Vietnam War veteran want back a piece of the man's legacy stolen from a storage unit in Kansas. The Hutchinson News reports that the family of Charles "Chuck" David Sankey is offering $12,000 to anyone with information that leads them to the Silver Star, Purple Heart and four Bronze Stars stolen from Hutchinson Self Storage. Sankey, 73, died in Wichita January 25 of complications caused by the wartime chemical Agent Orange. Bruce Sankey says his brother knew he was dying and wanted to put most of his belongings in the storage unit in November. But when the family went to clean out the unit, all they found was a lamp and a photo. Hutchinson police say the facility has cameras and that officers are following several leads.
Wichita High School Surprises Teacher Before Deployment
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — One Wichita high school used a homecoming pep rally to give a teacher a surprise sendoff before he deploys for a year with the Kansas Army National Guard. The Wichita Eagle reports that woodworking teacher David Young was surprised to be honored at the Wichita South High assembly on Friday. Assistant Principal Ashok Surender thanked Young for his service and told him the school loves him. Young is scheduled to leave around mid-February for a yearlong assignment in Kuwait with the 161st Field Artillery Regiment. Young's wife and two grown children also surprised him at the assembly. Command Sgt. Major Rick Haney, who oversees recruitment for the Kansas Army National Guard, says it was great for students to see a teacher honored for his military service.
6-Foot-Tall, 65-Pound Harp Stolen from Wichita College
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A music major at Friends University in Wichita says a thief somehow walked off with his harp and a bassoon during the weekend. Raul Rangel says his 6-foot tall harp, valued between $11,000 to $12,000, and his bassoon were stored at the university's Riney Fine Arts Center during the weekend. The area they were in requires a code for access that is given only to specific students and faculty. The Wichita Eagle reports the harp is an Aoyama Model 42-B with the serial No. 1-0163. He says the instruments were in the room on Friday and he discovered them missing Monday. Rangel says the harp is delicate and it will be ruined if the thief keeps it outside or in a garage. Wichita and university police are investigating the theft.