Lieutenant Governor Colyer Taking Lead on State Budget Proposal
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer is taking the lead on writing a state budget proposal to submit to legislators when they return to Topeka in January as Governor Sam Brownback prepares to leave office for a diplomatic post. A U.S. Senate committee has approved President Trump's nomination of Brownback as an ambassador at large for international religious freedom, but a full Senate vote has been delayed. Brownback told reporters that Colyer is leading the budget process. Colyer on Wednesday made a significant cabinet announcement, naming Gina Meier-Hummel as secretary for the Department for Children and Families. Brownback is expected to resign after he is confirmed and Colyer will become governor. Colyer, a Republican, is among several candidates for governor in 2018.
Kansas Reviewing Security for Voter Registration Database
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas election official says a multistate voter registration database the state manages is being reviewed for security concerns. The Kansas secretary of state's office manages the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program database, the Lawrence Journal-World reported . The program contains voter registration information for millions of voters in more than 25 states. It originally only had data from Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska. The review was spurred by a story from ProPublica, a nonprofit investigation journalism organization. The October story said that public records indicate that the server the database is hosted on isn't secure and is vulnerable to hackers. The program was created in 2005 as a way to clean up voter rolls when voters moved across state lines, said Bryan Caskey, the chief election officer in the Kansas secretary of state's office. It's unknown if Kansas will have to fund an upgrade to the system should the review find a need to improve security. "I leg timately do not know the answer to that yet," Caskey said. "We're still evaluating all options, and one of the options is cost." Some studies have found that the Crosscheck system isn't always accurate. The system will sometimes identify potential duplicate registrations in different states when they're actually registrations for different people. Election officials are supposed to take steps to contact voters whose registration may be a duplicate before purging them from voter rolls. If officials can't contact the voter, they may purge the registration if the voter doesn't cast a ballot over two federal election cycles.
Lawrence Bans Openly Carrying Firearms in City Buildings
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Lawrence City Commission has voted to prohibit openly carrying firearms in city buildings. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the unanimous decision affects the more than 40 buildings owned or leased by the city. Changes to the city code also place significant penalties for violating the ban. Commissioner Matthew Herbert says the open carry of guns in city hall would negatively affect discourse at commission meetings. Banning the open carry of firearms in certain government buildings is allowed under state law provided the appropriate signs are posted. The commission adopted an ordinance to incorporate the relevant state law provisions into city code and establish penalties. A second ordinance requires all municipal buildings to be designated as prohibiting open carry. The new ordinances will not affect the ability to carry concealed weapons.
Former Kickapoo Tribal Chairman Found Guilty
HORTON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say former Kickapoo Tribal Council Chairman Steve Cadue has been convicted of two charges related to his management of funds. The council said in a news release that Cadue was convicted this week of fraudulent handling of a recordable instrument and tampering with records. He entered a no contest plea. St. Joseph News-Press reports a jury convicted former Treasurer Bobbi Darnell was convicted in March. Former Secretary Adolph Cadue Jr. is awaiting trial on similar charges. The complaints allege the former tribal council officials falsified resolutions to draw excessive amounts from the tribe's burial fund held by the federal government, transferring the money to the tribe's bank account. The money was used to subsidize payroll and other tribal expenses.
4 Arrested in Kidnapping of Kansas Teen
EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say they have arrested four teenagers in connection with last week's kidnapping of a 16-year-old Emporia boy. The Lyon County sheriff's office said in a news release Wednesday that deputies responded to Newman Hospital on November 18 to a report of an aggravated kidnapping. The victim was treated for multiple bruises, a possible broken nose and other injuries. Lyon County detectives and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation interviewed multiple people leading to the arrests of four suspects. The four teenagers ranging in ages from 17 to 18 are in custody on suspicion of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, aggravated battery and criminal threats. The Lyon County attorney's office is reviewing those charges.
Kansas Judge to Review Records on Teen's 1988 Disappearance
LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge will read thousands of pages of investigative records focusing on the 1988 disappearance of a teenager before deciding whether to release the files to the teen's parents. The parents of Randy Leach, 17, have filed a lawsuit contending the Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office and Leavenworth County violated the Kansas Open Records Act by refusing to release the records. The parents, Alberta and Harold Leach, asked the judge to order the release of all records related to their son's disappearance between April 1988 and December 1992, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported . Randy Leach was last seen that April at a high school graduation celebration in the county. He disappeared along with a car with no trace. No one has been charged and the car was never located. Leach's parents had sought investigative reports in the early 1990s relating to their son's disappearance, according to Alberta Leach. She said they received about 60 pages from investigators, but all were documents the parents provided them. Under Kansas law, a judge can order the release of criminal investigation records if it's in the "public interest." David C. Van Parys, an attorney for the defendants, said the records request in the disappearance hadn't "reached the threshold of public interest. It has met the threshold of public curiosity." Maxwell Kautsch, an attorney for the Leaches, said the teenager has been missing for nearly 30 hours. "The answers are in the investigation," he said. "The only way they're going to know what happened to their son is the opening of the investigation." Leavenworth County District Court Judge David King said he'll inspect the investigative reports before making a decision. He said deciding the case would be his highest priority and that it would be done as soon as possible.
Report: Kansas Rural Population Sees Rapid Decline
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new federal report says rural areas across the country are losing population at an unprecedented rate as both people and industries are concentrating in urban areas. "Rural America at a Glance" is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's annual report on employment, population and poverty trends in rural counties. The latest edition was released last week, the Lawrence Journal-World reported . While Great Plains and Corn Belt states like Kansas have seen a decline in rural population for decades, what's new is the decline's extension in to the eastern U.S., said John Cromartie, a geographer with the department's Economic Research Service. Cromartie said one of the biggest contributing factors to the trend is a slowing rate of suburbanization on the edges of metro areas. "In the past you would see rapid growth in areas around the edges of cities like Atlanta or Nashville, Columbus or Indianapolis," he said. "And that's just not happening right now." Another factor has been the out-migration of young adults and declining birth rates among young adults who remain in rural areas, according to Cromartie. He also said there's been a rising mortality rate among working-age adults in rural counties. The report didn't include data specific to counties or states. But it showed that population declines have become widespread throughout rural America since around 2010. The number of "nonmetro" counties losing population reached more than 1,300 between 2010 and 2016, with a combined population loss of just under 790,000.
Corrections Officer Severely Hurt in Kansas City Jail Attack
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A jail inmate in Kansas City, Missouri, has been charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action after authorities say he attacked a corrections officer, critically injuring him. The Jackson County prosecutor's office says court documents show 20-year-old Johnny R. Dunlap attacked the officer with a plastic cone and other objects Wednesday night at the Jackson County Detention Center. The name of the officer, who is in a hospital as a result of his injuries, hasn't been released. The prosecutor's office says the officer was unconscious during most of the assault and he suffered fractured facial and nasal bones. Prosecutors want Dunlap's bond set at $250,000 for the attack. Dunlap faces up to life in prison if convicted. Online court records did not list an attorney for him Thursday.
Kansas to Open $6.5 Million Dinosaur Theme Park
DERBY, Kan. (AP) — A $6.5 million dinosaur theme park is expected to open next year in southern Kansas. The 14-acre theme park is scheduled to open in the Wichita suburb of Derby with more than 30 life-size animatronic dinosaurs, The Wichita Eagle reported . Featured dinosaurs will include a Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops and Stegosaurus. The park will be set up like a scientific expedition, said the park's executive director Guy Gsell. Visitors will be able to dig for fossils, walk past the life size dinosaur models and participate in events, he said. Kansas was a fitting location for the park because the state has a long history with modern paleontology, Gsell said."Kansas is like the birthplace of modern paleontology," Gsell said. "You had your Bone Wars here, your most famous discoverers were here. Paleontology as a science should resonate with Kansas." Private financing and money from Sales Tax Revenue bonds are funding the project. The bonds are meant to incentivize businesses to create destinations to attract out-of-state visitors. "Wichita has so many science attractions — Exploration Place, the Sedgwick County Zoo, the Kansas Aviation Museum, Tanganyika Wildlife Park," Gsell said. "We think this is a great place for family science tourism, which is exactly what I do. We think this creates synergy for a number of top notch science attractions." The park is expected to open on Memorial Day. Gsell said ticket prices will likely be about $15 per person, though there will be specials, group rates and season tickets. Derby officials plan to use additional bond money to develop a hospital, hotel, restaurants and retail shops.
Firefighters Prepare to Rescue Santa from Lawrence Rooftop
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Firefighters are preparing for their annual rescue of Santa Claus from a downtown Lawrence rooftop. Santa is expected to "land" tomorrow (FRI) night on the roof of Weaver's Department Store. Firefighters then will use a ladder truck to climb up and rescue him. Once on the ground, Santa will listen to the Christmas wishes of children and pose for pictures. Youth also can make crafts for their families. The event coincides with the Lawrence holiday lighting ceremony.
Resurgent Vinyl Records Spur Kansas Convention
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Vinyl records are not the only things making a comeback. Wichita is hosting a vinyl record convention Saturday at the Holiday Inn Wichita East. The last such convention in Wichita was more than 20 years ago. About a dozen vendors from Kansas and Oklahoma are expected to attend. They will be selling both new and vintage vinyl, CDs, cassette tapes and audio equipment, among other items. It is being organized by a community group calling itself the Kansas Sound Exchange. The group hopes to make it a recurring event that gives music lovers an opportunity to mingle.
Shelter Focuses on Pets for Black Friday
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas shelter is offering Black Friday deals on hard-to-adopt black pets. Black animals often are overlooked at shelters in part because of their abundance. The Kansas Humane Society is offering black or mostly black pets for free from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at the Wichita shelter. The shelter has been having a Black Friday sale the past few years to garner interest in the pets. Dogs under six months and kittens will be $25. The discount doesn't apply to dogs deemed high-profile because their breed or another factor makes them desirable. Adult cats are always free, although donations are accepted. Shelter spokeswoman Ericka Goering says the shelter typically finds homes for all or nearly all its animals on Black Friday. The shelter typically houses about 150 animals.
Eagle Owls Make Debut Thanksgiving Day at Topeka Zoo
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center has two new Eurasian eagle owls that are expected to make their debut to the public today, on Thanksgiving Day. The birds are the largest of the owl species. The zoo says in a news release that the newly-acquired breeding pair were put together by the Eurasian eagle owl species survival plan. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Morrisey is the female and came from a zoo in Florida. The male, Gengis, is from the Kansas City Zoo. They were introduced to each other during their quarantine period soon after arriving in Topeka.