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 Gov. 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.
St. Louis, Kansas City Fail to Make Final List for Amazon 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. Missouri officials also submitted a bid separate from the two cities that would have involved an innovation corridor between Kansas City and St. Louis rather than a single location in one of the state's major metropolitan areas.
Kansas Technical Colleges Skeptical of Dual Credit Proposal
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Technical colleges in Kansas are skeptical about Gov. Sam Brownback's plan to offer 15 credit hours of dual-enrollment college courses at no charge to the state's high school students. Ben Schears is president of Northwest Kansas Technical College in Goodland. He told the Kansas Board of Regents Wednesday that technical colleges are worried about being stretched too thin. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Brownback wants to use $7.3 million in the current fiscal year to bring the program he championed in 2012 to full funding. The program currently provides nearly $12 million in tuition support for high school students to earn college credit by taking career and technical education courses. Schears says that the program has become more popular in recent years and funding hasn't kept up with the demand.
State Senator Saves Fellow Lawmaker with Heimlich Maneuver
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas state senator says he's a "happy camper" after another lawmaker rushed to his aid when he began choking. The Wichita Eagle reports that Senator Ed Berger, of Hutchinson, saw Senator Dan Goddard, of Parsons, struggling Wednesday while they attended a reception at the Topeka Country Club. Berger performed the Heimlich maneuver after asking Goddard if he needed help. Both first-term senators are assigned to the Ways and Means Committee. Berger said it was "pretty simple," although he worried that he had hurt Goddard. Goddard says he feels fine. He says he isn't sure what caused him to choke, adding that he was eating salad, bread and meat.
Indictment: 3 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.
MLK III to Speak at Kansas State University After Airing Concerns About Trump
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The eldest son of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is coming to Kansas State University after raising concerns about President Donald Trump's recent remark about immigrants. Martin Luther King III will give a lecture January 25 in the university's Student Union. King was critical Monday on the holiday to honor his father after Trump was accused of using a vulgarity in a meeting to describe African countries and expressing a preference for immigrants from countries like Norway. King said: "When a president insists that our nation needs more citizens from white states like Norway, I don't even think we need to spend any time even talking about what it says and what it is." He added: "We got to find a way to work on this man's heart."
Inspection Finds No Violations in Death of Topeka Elephant
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Federal inspectors say they found no evidence the Topeka Zoo violated any standards before the death of a 35-year-old elephant. Inspectors were called after the December 11 death of Shannon, an African elephant. Deputy Topeka city manager Doug Gerber says a veterinary medical officer from the U.S. Department of Agriculture presented a report to the zoo Tuesday. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the cause of the animal's death has not been determined. The veterinary pathology department at Kansas State University is evaluating tissue samples taken from the elephant. Shannon died that day after she spent about 20 hours on the ground over a two-day span. When she was found on the ground Dec. 10, a team lifted her back up but she was found back on the ground the next day.
Bill Snyder's 22-Year-Old Grandson Found Dead in Manhattan
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University football 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."
Wichita Names Members to Citizens Advisory Board for Police
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita city officials say they welcome a new Citizen's Review Board to help monitor police practices. The city on Wednesday announced seven members and six alternates for the board. All the members were chosen by City Manager Robert Layton. The Wichita Eagle reports the board's meetings will be open to the public but it may meet behind closed doors to discuss information police want to be confidential. The board will include several business executives and non-profit workers, three teachers, two pastors and a former city council member. Layton said the board may review investigative reports on recent incidents, including the fatal police shooting last month of an unarmed man after a hoax emergency call. The board will be only an advisory group, and cannot conduct its own investigations.
18-Year-Old Charged in Shooting Death at Topeka Hotel
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An 18-year-old Topeka man is charged with first-degree murder in a shooting death at a hotel. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay on Thursday charged Logan Lee Able Bartley with first-degree murder, aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery. Prosecutors allege Bartley shot 31-year-old Jesse Lee McFall last week at a Best Western Hotel. Topeka police say McFall was shot several times during an argument at the hotel.
Missouri Man Pleads Guilty to Kansas Bank Robbery
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 US 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.
Developer Plans to Move Forward with Keystone XL Pipeline
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The developer of the Keystone XL pipeline announced Thursday that it hopes to begin construction next year following an alternative route approved by Nebraska authorities, but an opponent voiced doubt that the pipeline will ever be built. TransCanada Corporation said in a news release it has secured enough 20-year commitments from oil companies to ship approximately 500,000 barrels per day through the pipeline. The company previously said it needed time to evaluate the commission's decision and line up potential customers. "Over the past 12 months, the Keystone XL project has achieved several milestones that move us significantly closer to constructing this critical energy infrastructure for North America," Russ Girling, TransCanada's president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. The Nebraska Public Service Commission in November approved a route that would extend the pipeline by 5 miles (8 kilometers) more than TransCanada had initially proposed, and requires the company to build an extra pumping station in the state. The company, based in Calgary, Canada, said Thursday that it would accede to the commission's demands in order to move the project along. The project has faced intense opposition from environmental groups, property owners along the route and Native American tribes, who consider it a threat to their groundwater and property rights. Commissioners who voted for it said the alternative route would affect less rangeland and endangered species. The commission was not allowed to take into account the recent leak of the existing Keystone pipeline in South Dakota because pipeline safety is a federal responsibility. Opponents have filed a lawsuit challenging the commission's decision, and the Nebraska Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments later this year.
Suit Alleges Racial Discrimination at Entertainment District
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas man who is black has filed a lawsuit alleging that he was racially discriminated against at the Power & Light District in Kansas City, Missouri. The Kansas City Star reports that Arthur Wayne Brown, of Shawnee, says in the federal lawsuit filed Tuesday that he was verbally and physically abused in October 2014 when he went to the entertainment district to watch the Royals play in the World Series. Brown says he was buying drinks from the Dubliner's outdoor bar and needed to use the restroom inside. Brown says security officers then handcuffed him and took him to the entertainment district's security office, where he was "chained to a bench." Downtown Irish Pub, which does business as the Dubliner, didn't return a call from The Star for comment.
Banker Survey Suggests Economy Remains Slow in Rural Areas
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Declining numbers in a new monthly survey of bankers suggests the economy remains weak in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states. The overall economic index for the region dropped to 46.8 this month, compared with the December reading of 47.8. The November figure was 44.7. Survey organizers say any score below 50 suggests a shrinking economy in the months ahead. The confidence index reflects expectations for the economy six months out, and it fell to 46.7 in the January survey from 51.2 in December. However, Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says "year-over-year indices are trending higher." The January number a year ago was 42.8. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.
Kansas Chief Justice Argues Court System Needs More Funds
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss has told legislators that judicial branch employees are so underpaid that the problem threatens the state's ability to provide justice. Nuss made an aggressive pitch for greater funding for the court system during his annual State of the Judiciary address Wednesday to a joint session of the Legislature. The chief justice's speech came a week after Republican Governor Sam Brownback released budget proposals that did not include nearly $20 million in additional funds sought by the courts for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Nuss said the pay for all job classifications within the court system are below market rates and some by as much as 21 percent. He said low pay has given Kansas courts an unusually high turnover rate.
Kansas Lawmakers Get Hour of Training on Sexual Harassment
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Dozens of Kansas legislators have received an hour of training on identifying and dealing with sexual harassment. The session Wednesday for Kansas House members was part of an effort by legislative leaders to address allegations of misconduct at the Statehouse. About 80 of the House's 125 members attended. Two dozen of the House's 40 Democrats attended a separate session in December. The Senate planned to have a session for its 40 members Thursday. Several House members said the training represents a first step toward combatting sexual harassment. The training came weeks after the ex-chief of staff for a former Democratic leader said publicly that a lawmaker once asked her for sex in 2015 and that female college-student interns regularly served as after-hour designated drivers for intoxicated lawmakers in 2016.
Several Drug-Related Arrests at Newton High School
NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities arrested seven people, including five minors, as part of an investigation into drug activity at Newton High School. The arrests Wednesday morning were the result of a two-month investigation by a Harvey County Drug Task Force. During the investigation, police seized 74.5 grams of marijuana and 97 prescription pills. Newton officials said all those arrested either attended the high school or recently withdrew. They were arrested on charges of selling marijuana, Xanax, Oxycontin and hydrophone. Five people were arrested at the high school and two were arrested elsewhere in the city.
Newton spokeswoman Erin McDonald said another person wanted in the case was already in custody and two more arrest warrants are outstanding. The statement said none of the cases involved weapons.
Trump Calls Bob Dole 'a True American Hero'
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is honoring former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, calling the longtime Kansas lawmaker "a true American hero." Trump is speaking under the Capitol dome at a ceremony to present the 94-year-old Dole with Congress' highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal. Trump is recounting Dole's service in World War II, his lengthy recovery from his wounds during the war and his service in Congress. The president says Dole "has never stopped fighting" for Kansas, military veterans and the disabled. He is pointing to Dole's work to create the World War II Memorial and his frequent visits to the memorial to greet fellow veterans.
Judge Denies Request to Boost Number of Conservative Voters in Jury
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge says three Kansas men accused of plotting to bomb apartments housing Somali refugees have no legal basis to request that prospective jurors come from counties where more residents voted for President Donald Trump. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren issued the decision Wednesday. The men are accused of targeting an apartment complex in Garden City, in rural western Kansas. They're being tried at the closest federal courthouse about 220 miles away in Wichita, where trials pull prospective jurors from surrounding, more urban counties. The men argue the practice is discriminatory because it excludes western Kansas counties with more rural and conservative residents. But the judge ruled that those demographic differences aren't legally recognizable. Prosecutors argued defense attorneys were trying to pick a jury pool based on ideology.
After Complaints, Catholic University Cancels LGBTQ Exhibit
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Catholic university in Wichita canceled an exhibit that featured LGBTQ Kansans who have made contributions in art. The exhibit, "Rainbow in Reverse: Queer Kansas History," was scheduled to open next week at Newman University. The Wichita Eagle reports that during the weekend, an email from Jean Heimann, a Wichita Catholic writer and speaker, was circulated to religious groups. It encouraged those concerned about the exhibit to contact Newman and diocese officials. The email asked why students should be exposed to "evil" and encouraged to learn more about a "sickness" in society. Newman Provost Kimberly McDowall Long said in a statement Tuesday the exhibit was canceled because of confusion over its content and purpose. The artist, Genevieve Waller, says she hopes a different venue can be found in Wichita.
Signed Copy of Eisenhower's Book Donated to Kansas State
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A one-of-a-kind signed copy of a President Dwight D. Eisenhower's wartime memoirs has been given to Kansas State University. Eisenhower was the supreme Allied commander during World War II and wrote "Crusade in Europe" before he was elected president. The donated leather-bound copy was a gift to Eisenhower's youngest brother, Milton Eisenhower, who was Kansas State's president from 1943-1950. Eisenhower wrote inside it that "if I could have had the help of Milton in preparing this work its value, if any, would have been multiplied for every reader." Kansas State graduate Richard Rees acquired the book from a rare books dealer in Pennsylvania and donated it to Kansas State in memory of his late parents. Current Kansas State president Richard Myers described it as an "irreplaceable treasure."
Wichita Eagle Promotes Employee as New General Manager
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita Eagle has promoted an employee with more than three decades of experience as its general manager. The Wichita Eagle reported on Wednesday that Dale Seiwert will be responsible for The Eagle's publishing, advertising and financial operations. Its parent company, McClatchy, says his promotion is effective immediately. The 58-year-old Wichita native is beginning his 38th year at The Eagle. He joined the paper in his final semester studying accounting at Friends University for a part-time position that ended up being 40 hours a week. He was most recently a McClatchy regional manager of financial planning and analyst for The Eagle, Kansas City Star, Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat. Seiwert lives in Maize. He and his wife, Linda, have three grown daughters who live in Wichita.