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Headlines for Thursday, November 22, 2018

Kansas Medicaid Expansion in Doubt Despite Governor-Elect's Support

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic and moderate Republicans lawmakers worked together last year to try to make Kansas the latest state to expand Medicaid, only to see their bipartisan effort rewarded with a veto from former conservative GOP Gov. Sam Brownback. The election this month of a governor who supports Medicaid expansion seemed to remove the biggest hurdle for those hoping to bring health coverage to thousands of the state's poor. But it's not that simple. In the same election that put Democrat Laura Kelly in the governor's office, Kansas voters also elected a more conservative Legislature. Any bill seeking to expand Medicaid will have a tougher time getting to the governor's desk. "I'm still looking at every possible way that we can stop that," said state Rep. Dan Hawkins, a conservative Republican from Wichita who is chairman of the House's health committee. Republicans retained their large majorities in both chambers and will appoint the leaders of the committees, who can help them bottle up or kill legislation they don't like. In this month's election, conservatives gained at least half a dozen seats in the House and might replace the chamber's majority leader, a moderate, with someone who leans further to the right. Hawkins is vying for the post. In the Senate, the health committee chairwoman is a moderate Republican who was instrumental in pushing Medicaid expansion last year but is leaving her position after being elected state insurance commissioner. Her replacement is likely to be more conservative. With conservatives in control of the majority party, Kelly will likely have to make concessions on Medicaid expansion to get enough support to pass the Legislature. One could be a work requirement for recipients, something other Republican-leaning states have imposed. For her part, Kelly, a veteran state senator from Topeka, has promised to have a working group create a bipartisan plan.

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Court Clears Way for Grand Jury Probe of Kansas Official

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has cleared the way for a grand jury investigation of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's handling of voter registrations before the 2016 election. The court late Tuesday denied Kobach's second request to review a June ruling of the Kansas Court of Appeals. The lower court had said Douglas County District Court must summon the grand jury to investigate. A Lawrence man, Steven Davis, who gathered enough signatures to force the investigation contends Kobach's office didn't register some people who tried to register online or at state driver's license bureaus. Kobach has called the allegations politically motivated. Elections Director Bryan Caskey said the allegations stem from now fixed technical problems that occurred during the transfer of information between computer systems.

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Kansas Democrats to Pick Kelly, Rogers Replacements

 TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Two groups of local Democratic activists are meeting next week to fill the Kansas Senate seats previously held by Governor-elect Laura Kelly and Lieutenant Governor-elect Lynn Rogers. Precinct committee members of Kelly's former Topeka-area district are scheduled to meet at 6:30 p.m. November 29 at the Topeka public library. In the Wichita district Rogers represented, precinct committee members are scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. December 1 at the Service Employees International Union Local 503 headquarters. Kelly and Rogers both resigned from the Senate earlier this month after their ticket won the governor's race. Kelly has served 14 years in the Senate and Rogers, two years. The new senators will serve the remaining two years of the four-year terms until the 2020 elections.

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New Kansas Elections Head: 'People Want Things to Calm Down'

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas state Representative Scott Schwab is preparing to take over as secretary of state after promising to be less colorful and more focused on nuts-and-bolts administrative details than outgoing Republican incumbent Kris Kobach. Kobach won the office in 2010 on a platform of rewriting state election laws. He boosted his national profile by championing tough voter identification laws and ran unsuccessfully for governor as a vocal ally of President Donald Trump. Both Schwab and Kobach are conservative Republicans. But Schwab said in a recent Associated Press interview: "People want things to calm down." His plan is to focus on improving the day-to-day administration of elections but the Kansas Senate's top Democrat has a proposal to curb the office's power to oversee elections in the state's four most populous counties.

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Jackson County Prosecutor Seeking to Lead Missouri Democrats

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The chief prosecutor in one of Missouri's largest counties says she wants to be the next chairwoman of the Missouri Democratic Party. Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said Wednesday that she would stay on as prosecutor if she's picked to lead the Democrats. The election for Democratic chair will be December 1 in Jefferson City. Peters Baker said that the party needs to start working on strategy and candidate recruitment for the 2020 elections. Peters Baker was appointed prosecutor in May 2011 and first elected the following year. She says she plans to seek re-election in 2020.

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Manhattan Makes Deal to Get Half of its Power from Wind

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) _ The Manhattan City Commission has approved a plan to convert half of its energy use to wind power.  The commission backed a 20-year agreement with Westar Energy for the 300-megawatt Soldier Creek Wind Farm in northeast Kansas, a project that will be complete in the fourth quarter of 2020. The city has paid Westar about $2.6 million a year for the past five years. Officials say the agreement with Westar will save the city $50,000 a year for the next 20 years. Kansas State University has entered the same agreement with Westar.

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Bridge over Missouri River Reopens for Both Directions

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A bridge connecting downtown Kansas City to the north across the Missouri River has been reopened to traffic in both directions. The Buck O'Neil (Broadway) Bridge returned to full operation Wednesday morning.  It had been partially closed to southbound traffic during a $7 million repair project that started in May. The Missouri Department of Transportation let the bridge remain open to northbound traffic during the work, and people also had access to nearby Wheeler Downtown Airport.

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Man Already Accused in Lawrence Homicide Facing New Charges

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man jailed for more than a year in a murder case now faces charges in another death. 21-year-old Steven Drake III of Lawrence was charged this week with vehicular homicide in connection with a November 2016 accident that killed 24-year-old Taylor Lister. Drake has been in jail since last year in the fatal September 2017 shooting of 26-year-old Bryce Holladay. The first-degree murder trial is scheduled to start January 14. Drake has claimed he acted in self-defense. The new charge is a misdemeanor that alleges Drake drove in a way that created "unreasonable risk of injury" when his pickup truck left the road, went into a ditch and struck a tree. Lister died at a hospital.

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Judge Calls Lawyer Incompetent, Bars Her from Representing Lawrence Triple Murder Suspect

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A judge is barring an attorney from representing the man charged with fatally shooting three people and wounding two others in downtown Lawrence. Douglas County District Court Judge Sally Pokorny says she has "grave concerns" about the competency of Jennifer Chaffee. Pokorny cited a laundry list of missteps that culminated with a mistrial four days into jury selection in the high-profile case.  Chaffee declined to comment. She was representing 21-year-old Anthony Roberts Jr., who is charged with three murder counts and one attempted murder count. Two other suspects face less serious charges in the October 2017 shooting.  Pokorny has appointed a new attorney to represent Roberts and says she intends to appoint a second attorney soon. Roberts's trial is now set for February 4.

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Man Shot by Police in Kansas Earlier This Month Dies

PRATT, Kan. (AP) — A man shot by police earlier this month near the small Kansas town of Pratt has died. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says 38-year-old Rene Prieto died Wednesday in a Wichita hospital, where he had been treated since the shooting on November 13. An autopsy is planned and the bureau says in a brief news release that the investigation continues. The shooting happened after Pratt police officers responded to a report of a man waving a gun on a street outside a home. Authorities say Prieto fired at one of the responding officers. Three officers returned fire. No officers were hurt. Pratt is a town of 6,700 residents in south-central Kansas, about 80 miles west of Wichita.

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Kansas Family Sues After Teen Was Killed in Wreck Outside Arrowhead Stadium

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The family of a teen who was killed in a crash with an off-duty officer outside the stadium where the Kansas City Chiefs play has filed a wrongful death lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed in Jackson County Circuit Court against Terrell Watkins. He was driving a police van to an off-duty security assignment at Arrowhead Stadium in heavy pregame traffic last month when he slammed into the back of a car. The crash killed the car's driver, 17-year-old Chandan Rajanna, of Overland Park, Kansas, and seriously hurt the teen's father and older sister.  Watkins isn't identified in the lawsuit as a police officer, but police officials previously said that an officer was involved in the fatal wreck. Watkins doesn't have a listed phone number.

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Man Gets 90 Months in US Prison for Downloading Child Porn

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas man has been imprisoned for downloading child pornography from the internet. Federal prosecutors say 31-year-old Shane Ragsdale, of Hutchinson, was given 90 months at his sentencing Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Wichita. Ragsdale had pleaded guilty to one count of receiving child pornography. He admitted to using a peer-to-peer file-sharing network to download the porn.

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Police: Woman Injured Holding onto Door of Stolen Pickup

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a 31-year-old woman was injured while holding onto a door of a stolen pickup truck in Wichita. Police say the pickup was reported stolen Wednesday morning. The woman and a 30-year-old male with her apparently learned later that the pickup was seen at a Lost Sock laudromat.Their pickup was still there when they arrived, and an argument soon broke out between them and a person sitting behind the wheel.Police say the man fired his gun several times as the person in the truck tried to drive away. The woman grabbed onto the driver's side door but let go when one of her legs struck a street sign. No arrests have been reported, and it's unclear whether the driver was struck by any of the bullets. Police haven't released the names of those involved.

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Kansas City Prepares for Annual Holiday Lighting Ceremony

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Kansas City is preparing for an annual holiday lighting ceremony that draws tens of thousands of people. The switch will be flipped Thanksgiving night at the Country Club Plaza, where several blocks of buildings will be outlined in holiday lights through January 13.  A concert and fireworks display will also be part of Thursday night's festivities. The lighting ceremony dates back to the 1930s.

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