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Headlines for Monday, September 30, 2019

 

New Kansas Council on Expanding Medicaid to Have 1st Meeting

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's new council on expanding Medicaid is scheduled to have its first meeting Monday at the Statehouse.  The agenda for the meeting includes a welcome from Kelly and briefings about other states' experiences in expanding Medicaid health coverage for low-income residents.  Kelly formed the council earlier this month to review other states' expansions and advise her and the Republican-controlled Legislature on the best alternatives for Kansas.  The governor took office in January promising to expand Medicaid, but her efforts were blocked by conservative Republican leaders in the Senate who said they were worried about its potential cost to the state. They said lawmakers would consider a plan next year.  Kelly formed the council after creating a Medicaid working group in January that had no public meetings.

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Kansas Governor's Warnings Open Medicaid Expansion Review

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly has opened a review of options for expanding Medicaid in Kansas with warnings against work requirements and a limited expansion. Kelly gave opening remarks Monday at the first meeting of a council she appointed to provide the Republican-controlled Legislature with policy guidance ahead of next year's expected debate on the issue. Kelly said she wants the council to develop "guiding principles" for lawmakers. She described work requirements and a limited Medicaid expansion as ideas that haven't worked well in other states. The governor took office in January pushing to expand the state's Medicaid health coverage for as many as 150,000 additional residents. An expansion plan passed the House, but conservative GOP leaders blocked it in the Senate, expressing concerns about its potential costs to the state.

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Kansas AG: New Policy for Taxing Online Sales Is Invalid

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has issued a legal opinion declaring that a new and aggressive state policy for taxing online sales is invalid. Top Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature immediately demanded Monday that Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly require the Department of Revenue to rescind the policy. The department issued a notice in August saying any "remote seller" doing business with Kansas residents must collect state and local sales taxes and forward the revenues to the state, starting Tuesday. It cited a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year allowing states to collect such taxes. The GOP attorney general said the department didn't have the authority to impose such a policy through a notice. Legislators included provisions on taxing internet sales in two tax-cutting bills this year, but Kelly vetoed both.

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Federal Judge in Kansas Reprimanded over Harassment, Affair

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge in Kansas has been publicly reprimanded after acknowledging that he sexually harassed female employees and had an extramarital affair with an offender. The Judicial Council for the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order Monday sanctioning U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia. He was appointed to the bench in 1999. Murguia did not immediately respond to an email message seeking comment, but the order said that he had acknowledged engaging in the misconduct and apologized for it. A special investigating committee interviewed 23 people. The order said Murguia made sexually suggestive remarks and sent inappropriate texts to female employees and had "excessive, non-work-related contact" with them. It also said he had carried on a "years-long" extramarital sexual relationship with a "drug-using individual" on probation.

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Wichita Trial Begins in Abortion / Stalking Lawsuit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal jury will decide whether the operator of a Wichita abortion facility had reasonable grounds to seek a protection-from-stalking order against an abortion protester.  Jury selection begins Monday in the federal lawsuit filed by anti-abortion activist Mark Holick against clinic operator Julie Burkhart.  The lawsuit stems from anti-abortion protests in 2012 and 2013 in front of Burkhart's home and in her neighborhood. She subsequently got a temporary protection-from-stalking order against him that was dismissed two years later.  U.S. District Judge John Broomes has already thrown out some of the lawsuit's claims, but left it to a jury to decide whether the facts constituted malicious prosecution.

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Runner Struck and Killed by Lightning While Finishing 50K Race in Southeast Kansas

INDEPENDENCE, Kan. (AP) — A runner has been killed by lightning as he was about to finish a 50 kilometer race in southeast Kansas.  Organizers of the FlatRock race said in a Facebook post that 33-year-old Thomas Stanley, of Andover, was struck Saturday while competing in the race at the Elk City State Park, which is about 150 miles southwest of Kansas City, Missouri.  KSN-TV reports that Race Director Carolyn Robinson says many runners and officials tried to give Stanley CPR and first-aid, but were unsuccessful. Robinson says his wife was presented the medal he would have received. The couple had three children.  His family described him in a statement as a "devoted husband, father, and friend." Stanley worked for the nonprofit Kansas Leadership Center, which provides leadership training.

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29-Year-Old Man Dies After Shooting Outside Wichita Bar

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating a deadly shooting outside a Wichita bar.  The Wichita Eagle reports that it happened early Sunday after a disturbance that started inside Magoos Bar and Grill moved into the parking lot. Police spokesman Officer Kevin Wheeler says multiple shots were fired, striking the victim.  Wheeler says the wounded man was rushed to a hospital in a private vehicle and died there of his injuries. Police say the victim was 29 but didn't immediately release his name.

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Woman Sentenced for Car Crash into Cabela's to Steal Guns

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 28-year-old Kansas City, Kansas, woman has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison after she and a co-defendant intentionally drove a car into a Cabela's store in Kansas in order to steal guns. The U.S. District Attorney's Office for Kansas said Monday that Brenda Tosh was sentenced for conspiring to steal guns from a federally licensed firearms dealer. She pleaded guilty in July. In her plea, Tosh admitted that she and 29-year-old Kyle Mendez, of Kansas City, Kansas, crashed a car through the door of the Cabela's in November 2018. They attempted to steal several shotguns and rifles but Tosh was arrested before she could leave the store. Mendez was arrested after stealing a car from a nearby auto dealership. His sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 26.

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Wichita Mom, Her Boyfriend Arrested in 2-Year-Old's Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 24-year-old Wichita woman and her boyfriend are jailed after her 2-year-old son was found dead at their home. Wichita police say the case is currently considered a child death investigation. An autopsy will determine how the boy died on Sunday. Capt. Brent Allred said Stephanie Aviles is being held on suspicion of aggravated child endangerment and 31-year-old Bernardo Gonzalez-Mejia faces possible child abuse charges. The Wichita Eagle reports Allred said the boy had extensive bruising on his body at the time of his death. Allred said Aviles left the boy with Gonzeles-Mejia to run errands. He called her to say the boy wasn't breathing and she called 911. The boy was pronounced dead at the scene. To other young children living at the home are in protective custody.

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Runner Killed While Finishing 50K Race in Southeast Kansas

INDEPENDENCE, Kan. (AP) — A runner has been killed by lightning as he was about to finish a 50 kilometer (31.07 mile) race in southeast Kansas. Organizers of the FlatRock race said in a Facebook post that 33-year-old Thomas Stanley, of Andover, was struck Saturday while competing in the race at the Elk City State Park, which is about 150 miles (240 kilometers) southwest of Kansas City, Missouri. KSN-TV reports that Race Director Carolyn Robinson says many runners and officials tried to give Stanley CPR and first-aid, but were unsuccessful. Robinson says his wife was presented the medal he would have received. The couple had three children. His family described him in a statement as a "devoted husband, father, and friend." Stanley worked for the nonprofit Kansas Leadership Center, which provides leadership training.

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Cougar in Southeast Kansas Zoo Escapes Enclosure

INDEPENDENCE, Kan. (AP) — Officials at a southeast Kansas zoo say a cougar that got out of its enclosure has been recaptured. The cougar got loose Monday morning at Riverside Park and Ralph Mitchell Zoo in Independence. City officials said later Monday the animal was captured and it had not left the zoo. Zoo officials had issued a statement before the capture warning residents to be cautious while the search was underway. Further details were not released. Independence is about 113 miles southeast of Wichita.

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Police: 8-Year-Old Girl Killed in Wichita Crash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say an 8-year-old girl died and six others were injured in a three-vehicle crash this week in Wichita.  Police say 8-year-old Kiya Johnson was thrown from a large sport utility vehicle in which she was riding Thursday evening when it turned in front of a Jeep at a Wichita intersection. A car at the intersection was also hit in the crash.  Police say Kiya was taken to a local hospital, where she died.  Three other children — a 5-year-old girl, 5-year-old boy and 2-year-old girl — in the SUV also were injured, as was the 32-year-old woman driving and a 33-year-old passenger. The 28-year-old man driving the Jeep also suffered injuries.  Police say the driver of the car was the only person involved not taken to a hospital.

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Woman Killed in I-35 Hit-and-Run in Kansas City, Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police in Kansas City, Kansas, say a woman has been killed in a hit-and-run along Interstate 35.  Kansas City station KMBC reports that the incident happened early Saturday morning when the woman was hit by a vehicle around the northbound lanes of I-35 near the Seventh Street Trafficway.  Police had not released the identity of the woman by midmorning Saturday.  Investigators are asking the public for any information on the hit-and-run.

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Man Sentenced in Crash that Killed Kansas City Newlyweds

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man who was driving drunk when his car collided with another vehicle and killed a newlywed couple has been sentenced to 26 years in prison.  Thirty-year-old Preston Moore was sentenced Friday for two counts of driving while intoxicated causing death and one count of driving while suspended.  Jackson County prosecutors said Moore was driving south in northbound lanes of Interstate 49 in November 2017. His car collided head-on with a car carrying 29-year-old Laura Humphrey and 31-year-old Ryan Humphrey, of Kansas City. They died at the scene.  The couple had been married less than nine months.  The Kansas City Star reports Moore's license was suspended after a previous DWI conviction. Witnesses told police he appeared to be driving over 100 mph just before the crash.

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Former Hospital Chief to Plead Guilty in Insurance Scheme

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former hospital chief executive has agreed to plead guilty to participating in a scheme to submit millions of dollars in fraudulent reimbursement claims to insurance companies for a 15-bed hospital in north-central Missouri. David Lane Byrns, the ex-chief executive of Putnam County Memorial Hospital, was charged Friday with conspiracy to commit health care fraud. An 11-page information alleges Byrns submitted fraudulent reimbursement claims on laboratory tests on behalf of patients who never visited the 15-bed critical care facility in Unionville, about 150 miles (241 kilometers) southwest of Kansas City, The Kansas City Star reported . Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway released an audit in 2017 alleging that Putnam County Memorial Hospital received $90 million in questionable insurance payments in less than a year. The case will be transferred from Kansas City to a federal court in Florida for his plea and sentencing. Byrns' attorney, Justin Johnston, did not return a phone call Monday. Byrns became chief executive at the hospital in September 2017, through his company, Hospital Partners, which he ran with Jorge Perez of Florida. The two men marketed themselves as businessmen who could help save financially struggling hospitals, particularly in rural communities. Court records show that Byrns entered into an agreement with a Florida contractor to provide claims processing in return for a 6.5% fee from revenue collected from insurance companies. Another Florida company claimed to operate a clinical lab at Putnam. The information filed against Byrns said the clinical lab company had access to a bank account where insurers would deposit reimbursements. The federal information said from October 2016 to February 2018, Byrns and others submitted false reimbursement claims for blood and urine tests, bringing in $114 million in payments to the hospital. At least $63 million of that was transferred to the lab operator and Bryns personally received $5.1 million, according to prosecutors. Perez is the former chief executive of North Kansas City-based EmpowerHMS, a management company tied to several struggling rural hospitals in Kansas, Missouri and elsewhere, including some that were forced to close.

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Federal Public Defender Seeks $224,000 as Contempt Sanction in KCK Prison Recordings Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The federal public defender's office in Kansas is seeking nearly $224,000 in legal fees and expenses from the federal government because of prosecutorial misconduct during an investigation into recordings of phone calls between inmates and their attorneys at a prison.  A judge in August held the U.S. attorney's office in Kansas in contempt of court and said it would impose the monetary sanctions against the government as punishment for violating orders to preserve evidence and turn over documents.  Federal Public Defender Melody Brannon says any fees awarded will not go directly to the Kansas public defender's budget. Instead, she requested the court consult with the general counsel for the U.S. Courts as to where the funds should be deposited.

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Kansas City Man Sentenced to Prison for Tax Fraud Scheme

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man has been sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for tax fraud.  Federal prosecutors for Missouri say 40-year-old William Patrick Vogt was sentenced Friday in federal court. Vogt pleaded guilty in May to one count of false statements on a tax return and agreed to pay more than $466,500 restitution to the IRS and nearly $76,000 restitution to the state of Missouri.  Vogt, who owns lawn and landscaping company By The Blade in Parkville, Missouri, admitted he vastly underreported his business income on individual federal income tax returns for 2013 through 2015 for a total of more than $1.4 million.  Prosecutors say Vogt deposited business receipts into his personal account and cashed checks to the company rather than deposit them to hide his income.

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Emporia State Installs Sleeping Pods so Students Can Nap

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Exhausted Emporia State students who are currently sleeping on chairs and tables across campus will have a chance to stretch out in private, secure sleeping pods.  The university has installed one sleeping pod in the library and plans to install another next month at Memorial Union. The pods are 43.5 square feet, slightly wider than a twin bed, with a nightstand and a charging station. Curtains and window blinds provide privacy, The Kansas City Star reported.  "We know that our students, on any campus really, are already napping," said university spokeswoman Gwen Larson. "You can walk through a campus and see students with their head down on a table or curled up in a comfy chair taking a nap.  These sleep pods just give them a safe place to get a really good snooze."  The pods are designed by San Diego-based HOHM for students, faculty and staff. The company provided the sleeping pods at no cost to the university. Students hired by the company will be stationed near the pods to check people in and out and ensure only one person is using a pod at a time. They also clean rooms and change sheets after each use, Larson said.  

At least 50% of college students exhibit daytime sleepiness, according to Stanford University's Center for Undiagnosed Diseases. And the American Academy of Sleep Medicine says a lack of sleep can hurt a student's grades.  "We know that good sleep plays a vital role in overall health and well-being," said Jim Williams, vice president of student affairs. "These sleeping pods can help our students reap the benefits of being rested."  Other schools, including the University of Miami, Wesleyan University, Stanford University and Washington State University, have installed sleeping tubes, which look more like a lounging couch with a privacy hood. Emporia's sleeping pods offer more privacy.

Students can book time online for the pods on a first-come, first-served basis, with naps between 30 minutes and four hours. Pods are only available between 3 and 8 p.m. each day. Students can have two hours of free nap time a month, with additional time costing $10 an hour.  "It's not like a vending machine that's available for use any time of the day or night," Larson said.  So far, Larson said students aren't rushing to use the pods but Larson said that could change when students start pulling all-nighters while studying for midterm exams.

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Kansas Officials Concerned About Drop in Young Hunters

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are concerned about a possible drop in conservation funds as fewer young people take up hunting.  Out-of-state hunters continue to flock to Kansas for its deer, elk and turkey. The total number of licenses and permits for out-of-state hunters more than doubled in the past two decades to more than 150,000.  The Kansas News Service reports in-state licenses have declined about 14%. Hunters' fees and licenses bring in about 60% of Kansas' conservation dollars.  The Department of Wildlife and Tourism last year hired 23-year-old Tanna Fanshier as its new hunting recruitment coordinator.  She said to attract younger hunters, Kansas is moving away from emphasizing the long tradition of hunting in the state toward emphasizing how hunting helps conservation of wildlife and habitat.

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