Democratic Wins Could Mean State Action on Health Care, Guns
Democratic gains in the 2018 elections could lead to a push for expanded health coverage, gun control and recreational marijuana in some states. Democrats won complete control of the governor's office and both legislative chambers in six new states — Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico and New York. Leaders there already are making plans for an aggressive leftward agenda. All told, Democrats gained seats in 62 of the 99 partisan state legislative chambers and also picked up seven governors' seats. Yet the overall outcome of the election was a continued trend toward unified control of state governments. Republicans could hold trifecta control in as many as 22 states. Democrats will have unified control in 14. The number of politically divided state governments is near its 60-year low point.
Kansas Senator Pat Roberts Isn't Ruling Out Another Run for Senate
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Republican Senator Pat Roberts is working to get a farm bill passed to prove he's still a viable candidate for 2020. The farm bill is crucial for the 82-year-old chairman of the Senate agriculture committee after he survived a 2014 primary challenge against a political newcomer with less than 50 percent of vote and needed a flood of national money to win the general election. It's unlikely he would be able to avoid another primary challenge or a strong Democratic challenger if he runs for a fifth term, which would keep him in office through his 90th birthday, The Wichita Eagle reports. "Marines always take the hill," Roberts told McClatchy in September. "You just want to know whether you want to take that next hill down the road. Let's just get this one (the farm bill) done and the rest will take care of itself." One of the main points of conflict between the House and Senate versions of the farm bill involves proposed changes to food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. House-passed legislation significantly tightens existing work requirements for aid recipients, but the Senate version makes only modest changes. Negotiations are underway during the congressional break, as Republicans get one last shot as the House majority before Democrats take control in January. Roberts said the Senate bill includes new oversight measures and encourages states to expand their work training programs. He argued that these measures would ensure the program's integrity and won't cost the bill the Democratic votes it needs to pass the Senate. Kansas Republican Representative Roger Marshall, who sits on the House Agriculture Committee, is an outspoken supporter of work requirements for food stamp recipients. If Roberts doesn't run for another term, Kansas Republican leaders say Marshall, who represents Roberts's old House seat, is the most likely candidate for his Senate seat. Marshall called Roberts a friend and a mentor in a statement when asked whether he would consider running should Roberts retire. Other possible contenders could include Rep. Kevin Yoder, who lost to Democrat Sharice Davids in this year's election, and outgoing Governor Jeff Colyer, who lost the Republican gubernatorial primary to Kris Kobach by 343 votes . "Gov. Colyer has not ruled out the possibility," spokeswoman Kara Zeyer said. "He's open to any opportunity that will allow him to continue to serve the people of Kansas in the future in the best way that he can."
Kansas Domestic Violence Deaths in 2017 Highest in 2 Decades
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas recorded more domestic violence related homicides in 2017 than it had in more than two decades. A Kansas Bureau of Investigation report shows the 38 domestic violence deaths in 2017 was twice as many as 2016. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the agency says 20 of the deaths were female and 18 were male. Also, 33 of the suspects were male while five were female. And firearms were used in 26 of 38 cases. KBI spokeswoman Melissa Underwood says 2017 was the second highest number of domestic violence-related deaths since records began in 1993, with 41 deaths. Erin Reazin, a victim services coordinator for Topeka's YMCA, says society needs to changes the culture from telling females they are responsible for reducing their risk to finding only the perpetrator at fault.
Police Investigating Murder-Suicide Near Eastern Kansas Park
SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating a possible murder-suicide near a suburban Kansas City park. Police say in a Facebook post that two bodies were found Sunday near Riverfront Park in western Shawnee, Kansas. The discovery was made while officers were responding to a request from Kansas City, Missouri, police to check on the welfare of a person thought to be endangered. The names of the two people who were found dead weren't immediately released. Their deaths are under investigation.
Undersheriff Charged in Beanbag Shooting Death Was Untrained
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Court documents say a Kansas undersheriff who shot and killed a man with a beanbag round hadn't been trained on how to properly use the weapon. The Wichita Eagle reports that a police expert says in a report for the prosecution that the lack of training led 60-year-old Virgil "Dusty" Brewer to aim at the wrong part of Steven Myers's body as Myers left a Barber County shed. Authorities tracked Myers to the shed last year after he was accused of threatening people with a gun outside a bar in Sun City, about 110 miles west of Wichita. An instructor on use of force and less lethal weapons wrote in the report that Brewer also didn't use the right kind of round. Brewer is charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Woman Found in Burning Kansas Home Dies from Injuries
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a woman has died after she was pulled from a burning suburban Kansas City house fire. The Kansas City Star reports that 67-year-old Leanora Marks was rescued Sunday night from the basement of an Overland Park home. Fire officials said in a news release that she was rushed to a hospital, where she later died. Fire crews say it appears the fire started in the basement, but the majority of the damage was to the home's upper level. The blaze was brought under control about a half four after fire crews responded. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Police: 4 Injured When Vehicle Crashes into Olathe Salon
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Police say four people were injured when a vehicle crashed into a hair salon in Olathe, Kansas. The Kansas City Star says the crash happened around 1 p.m. Friday on South Clairborne Road. Police say four people inside the salon were taken to hospitals with injuries not believed to be life-threatening. Police have not said what led to the crash, but say the driver remained at the scene and was cooperating. No charges or citations have been reported.
Police: Woman Killed by Hit-and-Run Driver on Wichita Street
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are searching for a hit-and-run driver after two patrol officers found a woman's body on a city street. Police say the officers were on routine patrol Friday evening on Harry Street in the south part of the city when they crossed the I-135 bridge and spotted the woman's body lying in the westbound lanes. Officials say she had been hit by a vehicle. First responders pronounced that woman dead at the scene. Her name had not been released by midday Saturday. Police are asking anyone with any information on the hit-and-run to call Crime Stoppers.
University of Kansas Forms Task Force for Greek System
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas has established a new task force to recommend changes to the school's Greek system in order to improve safety and efficiency. The Kansas City Star reports that the university's chancellor Douglas Girod announced the new Sorority and Fraternity Life Task Force on Thursday. The group is comprised of 27 individuals with ties to the university's Greek system, such as student leaders, alumni and parents. The task force is expected to make recommendations on new policies and programs by the summer. The move comes months after the university met with a group of fraternity leaders to curb Greek social activities, which was criticized as "unconstitutional" by the broader fraternity community days later.
Lawrence Teen Who Took Gun to School Put on Probation
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence teenager has been sentenced to six months of probation for bringing a loaded handgun to Free State High School last spring. The student, who was 17 at the time, was charged as a juvenile. He was sentenced Friday after he pleaded no contest in September to criminal use of a weapon, a misdemeanor. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the teenager could shorten the probation process by completing two of four options — a fatherhood course, a mentoring course, attending therapy or writing an apology letter to Free State High School. On April 9, a school resource officer and a Lawrence police officer found a pistol in the boy's backpack after receiving a tip from another student. As part of his probation, he must stay employed or return to school.
Regents Approve New Program at Kansas State University
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State will offer a new bachelor's degree in education studies beginning in August. The university has announced that the program will require 120 hours to complete through the College of Education. The Manhattan Mercury reports the program doesn't offer a license for K-12 teachers. It offers specialized education courses for people not wanting to teach in a traditional classroom, with courses such as pop culture and educational psychology. Currently, 12 Kansas State faculty members are scheduled to teach the program. Each student would have an internship before graduation. The university also announced that it will begin an online Kansas insurance certification for undergraduates in spring 2019. The program offers a stand-alone credential for those with a bachelor's degree, or can be a path to the university's online bachelor's degree in personal financial planning.
2 Kansas Women Start Therapeutic Horseback Riding Nonprofit
OLPE, Kan. (AP) — Two women in eastern Kansas are starting a therapeutic horseback riding initiative for veterans, individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder and people who want to learn how to ride. The Emporia Gazette reports that Erin Norton and Misty Williams recently registered their nonprofit, Hearts n Hooves of the Flint Hills. They're applying for grants and hope to raise about $600,000 to go toward hiring a licensed therapist, purchasing land and constructing facilities. Norton and Williams launched the initiative after learning about a number of suicides involving soldiers at the Fort Riley Military Base. Norton says therapeutic horseback riding can offer veterans something special and fun to do, while improving their mental health. She says Hearts n Hooves would like to use the practice to treat a variety of conditions, including autism, cerebral palsy, down syndrome and PTSD.
Missouri-Kansas City Adds $20 Million in Scholarships
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The University of Missouri-Kansas City expects to provide 400 more scholarships to low- and moderate-income students. Chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal announced Thursday that the university is partnering with the nonprofit KC Scholars to expand its scholarship program. The university and KC Scholars will each contribute $10 million. The Kansas City Star reports the university currently has 46 KC Scholar recipients enrolled. The new program will add 400 scholarships over nine years. Each scholarship will be worth $10,000 a year for five years. The first 80 students in the Kansas City metro area who are receiving the new scholarships will be notified Monday and Friday. KC Scholars was launched with a $79 million contribution from the Kauffman Foundation in 2016 to help needy students afford college.
Duke Leapfrogs Kansas for No. 1 in Latest AP Top 25 Poll
NEW YORK (AP) — Duke has supplanted the University of Kansas atop the new AP Top 25 poll after its dominating win against Kentucky, giving the Blue Devils a record number of appearances at No. 1. The Blue Devils jumped from fourth to first in Monday's first regular-season poll. That allowed Duke to set a record with its 135th week at No. 1, breaking a tie with UCLA for most all-time. It also marked the third straight season that Duke has spent at least one week at No. 1. Duke (2-0) claimed 48 of 65 first-place votes after beating then-No. 2 Kentucky by 34 points in the Champions Classic to open the season, the program's most lopsided win against a top-5 opponent. The Blue Devils followed that with a win Sunday against Army at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke's Kentucky win was impressive enough to bump the preseason No. 1 Jayhawks, who fell to No. 2 despite a quality win of their own against then-No. 10 Michigan State in the Champions Classic's first game. Kansas went from having 37 first-place votes in the preseason to just 14 this week. Gonzaga stayed at No. 3, followed by Virginia and Tennessee each climbing a spot to round out the top 5. Nevada, North Carolina, reigning national champion Villanova and Auburn were next, while Kentucky slid eight spots to No. 10.