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Headlines for Thursday, January 3, 2019

Moran Says Medicaid Expansion Could Help Kansas Hospitals

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Republican U.S. Senator Jerry Moran says many rural hospitals in Kansas are "hanging on by a thread" and could benefit from the additional revenue that Medicaid expansion would generate. But Moran said Wednesday, after speaking to LMH Health president and CEO Russ Johnson in Lawrence, that he wants to leave the decision to the state Legislature, the Lawrence Journal-World reported . Kansas has rejected accepting additional federal funding through the Affordable Care Act to expand the program for the poor and disabled. The idea is being revisited now that incoming Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly has expressed an interest. The federal government paid the full cost of the expansion until 2017 and will continue paying 90 percent starting in 2020. In Kansas, former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and outgoing Gov. Jeff Colyer were the biggest reasons for the program not being expanded. Both cited cost as the main factor. Colyer's budget office estimated the expansion would be a net cost of $22 million for the fiscal year beginning in July 2019. Moran said he plans to be back in session on Monday, but he will be ready to head back sooner if it will help end the shutdown. Moran said he believes the border wall funding issue could be resolved through legislative negotiation if the people involved would "come out of their corners." Moran is also concerned about the impact of immigration policy on higher education. He said he has heard that many institutions of higher education in Kansas, particularly community colleges, are losing lucrative foreign student enrollment. Another issue affecting Kansas is the trade war with China, which put U.S. soybean purchases on hold until the two countries agreed to a truce in December.


Kelly Appoints Single Leader for 2 Social Services Agencies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Gov.-elect Laura Kelly has named a social services veteran to be the interim leader of both the state's child welfare agency and another department. The incoming Democratic governor announced Thursday that Laura Howard will serve as interim secretary of both the Department for Children and Families and the Department for Aging and Disability Services. Kelly spokeswoman Ashley All said the interim appointment will give Kelly time to find permanent secretaries once she takes office Jan. 14 but added that Howard could remain in one of the jobs permanently. Howard is director of the Public Management Center at the University of Kansas. But she's worked as a regional manager for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and as a deputy secretary for health care policy for the state.

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Outgoing Child Welfare Chief Says Grants on Hold

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The departing leader of Kansas's child welfare agency says it has put new grants to foster care contractors on hold at the request of Democratic Gov.-elect Laura Kelly. Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel announced the move Thursday after Kelly said she would replace Meier-Hummel at the Department for Children and Families. Kelly takes office January 14. Meier-Hummel said the grants awarded in November to five nonprofit organizations are in the best interest of children and families. The four-year grants are set to start July 1 and will increase state spending on foster care by $35 million a year. Kelly is a critic of the no-bid process for awarding the grants and accused DCF on Thursday of not being transparent. Meier-Hummel said the process has been open and the agency has been transparent.


GOP Leader Had Hoped DCF Secretary Would Stay On

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A top Republican lawmaker says he had hoped Democratic Gov.-elect Laura Kelly would retain the current leader of the state's child welfare agency at the start of her new administration. Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning said Thursday that he was hoping Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel would be given "a little more runway to prove herself" at the Department for Children and Families. The Overland Park Republican said DCF is a difficult agency to manage. Kelly instead announced she will appoint Laura Howard as interim DCF secretary and interim secretary at the Department for Aging and Disability Services. Howard has worked for federal and state social services agencies and now directs a University of Kansas management center. Kansas House Speaker and Olathe Republican Ron Ryckman Jr. said DCF was improving under Meier-Hummel.


Kansas Representative-Elect Sharice Davids to Support Democratic Shutdown Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas's new Democratic congresswoman is preparing to vote for legislation drafted by her party's leaders for reopening parts of the federal government.  Representative-elect Sharice Davids said Wednesday the package should have bipartisan support in both the House and Senate and she hopes it can pass Congress quickly.  The package includes $1.3 billion for border security. That's far less than President Donald Trump is seeking for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Parts of the federal government have been shut down since December 22 because of the dispute over funding the wall.  Davids said she hopes Trump comes to see that the shutdown is bad for the nation.  Davids and Republican Kansas Representative-elect Steve Watkins will take office Thursday. Watkins' office did not immediately respond Wednesday to messages seeking comment.


Scam Costs Some Wichita State Employees Their Paychecks

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State University officials say some employees didn't receive their paychecks recently after being victims of an e-mail phishing scheme. Computer hackers asked the employees through a scam that asked them to type in their university ID number and password, giving scammers access to bank account numbers, student records and other personal information. Wichita State official Lois Tatro said in an e-mail to employees Wednesday that direct deposits for "a handful" of employees were diverted to another bank account. Those employees lost their paychecks. The Wichita Eagle reports it was unclear Thursday whether student records were compromised. University officials did not say if employees affected by the scheme were compensated for lost pay.


Lawrence Police: Online Date Turns Out to Be Armed Robber

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man was robbed after inviting a date whom he met online to his Lawrence apartment. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the robbery happened around 7:10 p.m. Friday. Police Sgt. Amy Rhoads says the victim told police he met the robber on a dating website. When the man arrived, he brandished a gun and demanded the victim's bank card. The suspect fled and used the bank card a short time later. No one was immediately arrested.


Man Accused in Attack on Black Boy in Wichita Arrested Again

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man accused of kicking a 1-year-old black boy and yelling racial slurs in a Kansas grocery store was back in jail Thursday after being arrested in a drug possession case. Trace Riff, 31, was booked into the Sedgwick County jail on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance and is being held on a $2,500 bond, according to jail records. Further details about the arrest were not immediately available. Riff is facing municipal charges of battery and resisting arrest . The boy's mother and other witnesses allege he kicked the child at a Dillon's store on Dec. 23 and then yelled racial slurs. The boy was knocked to the ground but was not seriously injured. The FBI participated in the investigation and black leaders in Wichita are asking that the case be considered a hate crime. The boy's mother, Lashantai Whitaker, said her 11-year-old daughter, who was holding her brother's hand when he was kicked, is now afraid to walk to school, The Wichita Eagle reported . The Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office, which could bring more serious charges, is reviewing the case. Riff's grandmother and brother told The Eagle that he was once an international model whose life spiraled out of control because of mental health and substance abuse problems. After spending a couple years walking runways in several countries, Riff returned to Oklahoma City and became homeless, sometimes living in dumpsters before moving to Wichita, his grandmother, Twila LaRue, said Wednesday. LaRue acknowledged the seriousness of the allegations against her grandson but said her family has tried to help him for years without success.


Killing of 16-Year-Old Robbery Suspect Deemed Justified 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a 16-year-old suspect in a Wichita gas station robbery was armed when a customer shot and killed him. The Wichita Eagle reports that a police report lists the teen's death as a justifiable homicide. Police say a 42-year-old customer pulled out his gun and fired multiple shots Friday after he was robbed. Three other suspects then fled. Police say the robbery is related to an earlier robbery at a Family Dollar Store in which three people held up an employee at gunpoint and took money and cigarettes. A 17-year-old has been arrested in the robberies and police continue searching for two other suspects. In Kansas, killings are justifiable when a person reasonably believes deadly force is necessary to prevent death or extreme harm to themselves or others.


Second Person Arrested in Christmas Day Killing of Mother

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a second person has been arrested in the Christmas Day killing of a mother of two in Kansas. Junction City police say 33-year-old Mashaun Jay Baker was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of capital murder in the death of 31-year-old Jenna Schafer. Police Capt. Trish Giordano says Schafer was found dead from an apparent gunshot wound around 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 25 in an apartment. Her obituary said she had two daughters. Police previously arrested 33-year-old Dion Green, of Junction City, on suspicion of first-degree murder. Neither man has been charged. Baker was scheduled to make a first appearance Thursday afternoon, and doesn't yet have an attorney. Green's attorney didn't immediately return a phone message. Giordano says the children are safe. She says she can't comment further.


Wichita Man Sentenced for Beating Girlfriend to Death with Shovel

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 38-year-old Wichita man who admitted beating his girlfriend to death with a shovel has been sentenced to 35 years in prison before he is eligible for parole.  Travis Becker Jr. was sentenced Wednesday for the death of 42-year-old Perla Rodriguez, who was the outreach director for the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center.  Becker was sentenced to 25 years for first-degree murder and a consecutive sentence of 15.5 years for aggravated kidnapping.  KAKE-TV reports officers found Rodriguez's body in November 2017 in a northwest Wichita home. They also found a wooden handle shovel inside the bedroom, with the shovel blade covered in blood and hair.  Becker was later arrested at his sister's home in Olathe.


Man Preparing to Fire Celebratory Round Shoots, Wounds Self

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a New Year's Eve reveler accidentally shot himself while preparing to fire a celebratory round in Kansas City, Kansas.  Police Chief Terry Zeigler tweeted that the shooting happened as the victim was getting ready to go out at midnight and fire his .22-caliber handgun. Zeigler says that when he sat the gun down on the couch, he accidentally shot himself in the stomach.  Zeigler says the man is expected to recover. Celebratory gunfire is illegal because of the risk of stray bullets hurting or killing someone.


Fatal Stabbing is Kansas City's First Homicide of 2019

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities are investigating the first homicide of 2019 in Kansas City.  KMBC-TV reports that a stabbing was reported around 10 pm Wednesday at an apartment. Officers say someone drove the victim to a hospital, where the person died a short time later. The victim's name wasn't immediately released.  Police are looking for a suspect.


Voting Rights Case Costs Ford County about $70,000 to Date

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Ford County has paid more than $70,000 in legal fees so far to a firm that represented its county clerk in a lawsuit filed after Dodge City's only polling place was moved outside city limits for November's general election.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports a document it received through an open records request shows the county paid the Hinkle Law Firm $71,481 in October and November to defend Ford County Clerk Debbie Cox.  The American Civil Liberties Union sued Cox in late October because the location inside the city was scheduled to undergo construction. The ACLU argued moving the site made it more difficult for voters — particularly the city's large Hispanic population — to vote.  Days before the election, a federal judge denied the ACLU's request to keep the original site open.


New Kansas Secretary of State's Staff to Have Familiar Faces

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State-elect Scott Schwab has named veterans of the Statehouse and Kansas politics to key senior staff positions.  Schwab announced Wednesday that Catherine Gunsalus will serve as assistant secretary of state and chief of staff once he's sworn in January 14. She has been Schwab's chief of staff as the Olathe Republican has served as Kansas House speaker pro tem for the past two years.  Katie Koupal will be deputy assistant secretary of state for communications and policy. She has been a lobbyist for AT&T and previously held numerous legislative staff positions.  Schwab is retaining Garrett Roe as general counsel and has appointed Clay Barker as deputy general counsel. Barker is a former Kansas Republican Party executive director.  Schwab also is retaining Bryan Caskey as elections director.


County Identifies 2 Killed in Fiery Crash at McConnell AFB

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County officials say two people who died in a fiery crash outside McConnell Air Force Base have been identified. County spokeswoman Kate Flavin said the victims in the crash were 17-year-old Isaiah Chandler and 29-year-old Matthew Pyles. Police say their bodies were found inside a burning car Sunday night near a little-used back entrance of the base. No other information about the victims has been released. KAKE-TV reports the Air Force said an investigation indicates the car hit a barrier at the entrance at a high rate of speed. The release did not say who was driving. The base and local law enforcement continue investigating the crash. The entrance was barricaded after the 9/11 attacks. It's only used occasionally to admit buses during special events.


Wichita State Provost Becomes School's Acting President

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State University President John Bardo has asked Provost Richard Muma to be acting president while Bardo recovers from lung surgeries.  Bardo, who is 70, was hospitalized in November with a chronic lung condition. He was expected to return to campus this month.  The university said in a news release Wednesday that Bardo asked that Muma be acting president while Bardo focuses on recovering.  It is not clear when Bardo is expected to return to the university.  Bardo has been Wichita State's president since 2012.


New Kansas Insurance Chief Names KDOT Official Top Assistant

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Insurance Commissioner-elect Vicki Schmidt has picked a high-ranking Kansas Department of Transportation official to serve as her top deputy.  Schmidt announced Wednesday that upon taking office, she will appoint Barbara Rankin as assistant insurance commissioner. Schmidt is scheduled to be sworn in January 14.  Rankin has been the Department of Transportation's chief counsel since 2011. Schmidt said Rankin also has more than 20 years of legal experience in the banking, insurance and securities industries and built what Schmidt called "a wealth of knowledge and experience."  Schmidt is a Republican who was elected insurance commissioner in November after serving 14 years in the Kansas Senate, including as chairwoman of its Public Health and Welfare Committee.  Departing Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for governor last year.


3 People Arrested After Deputy's Car Rammed During Chase

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Three people from Great Bend are jailed after a chase in central Kansas during which the driver rammed a deputy's cruiser. Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir says a deputy tried to stop a truck early Thursday southeast of Great Bend. Officers later determined the truck was stolen. Bellindir says the driver, 19-year-old Tanner Guyton, fled in the truck, beginning a 23-mile chase through rural Barton County that reached speeds in excess of 100 mph. The sheriff says when the chase continued into Great Bend, Guyton intentionally rammed into a deputy's patrol car. The deputy was not injured. Eventually, another deputy intentionally rammed the truck, causing it to go into a yard and hit a tree. Guyton and two passengers face several charges, including aggravated battery of a law enforcement officer.


Delaware Tribe Ends Plans for Heritage Center Near Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Delaware Tribe has abandoned plans to develop an agricultural heritage center northeast of Lawrence.  Chief Chester Brooks said the tribe's council decided the proposed center would not produce enough revenue to cover the estimated $500,000 cost of developing it.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports the tribe, based in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, is now trying to lease the 92-acre site to another agricultural user. The property is just northeast of the Kansas Turnpike's interchange in North Lawrence.  Brooks says the Delaware Tribe would prefer to sell the land.  The tribe bought the property in 2013 with plans to open a casino. The casino plan stalled because most of the site is within the Kansas River flood plain. Brooks says the state also was unwilling to expand gaming to out-of-state tribes.


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