Farm Bill Compromise Unveiled, Clearing Way for Vote
WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawmakers have reached an agreement on the farm bill, a mammoth package that will fund key farm safety net programs for the next five years without making significant changes to the food stamp program that serves nearly 40 million low-income Americans. The agreement, signed on Monday by House and Senate members of the conference committee, is the result of months of negotiations to reconcile conflicting versions of the bill.
"We started this journey nearly two years ago," said Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., in a statement. "As promised, this farm bill provides much needed certainty and predictability for all producers — of all crops —across all regions across the country."
The measure bears a price tag of $867 billion over 10 years and is expected to be brought to a vote this week, though exact timing is uncertain. The legislation sets federal agricultural and food policy for five years and provides more than $400 billion in farm subsidies, conservation programs and food aid for the poor. It reauthorizes crop insurance and conservation programs, funds trade programs, bioenergy production and organic farming research. It also makes reduces the cost for struggling dairy producers to sign up for support programs and legalizes the cultivation of industrial hemp, an initiative championed by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. On Monday evening McConnell Tweeted a video of himself signing the conference report. One thing the bill doesn't have: tighter work requirements for food stamp recipients, a provision of the House bill that became a major sticking point during negotiations. Currently able-bodied adults ages 18-49 without children are required to work 20 hours a week to maintain benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The House bill would have raised the age of recipients subject to work requirements from 49 to 59 and required parents with children older than 6 years to work or participate in job training. The House measure also sought to limit circumstances under which families who qualify for other poverty programs can automatically be eligible for SNAP, and earmarked $1 billion to expand work-training programs. By contrast, the bipartisan Senate bill offered modest adjustments to existing farm programs and made no changes to SNAP. Negotiators ultimately rejected the most controversial House measures related to SNAP. The outcome is a victory for Democrats, who refused to support them.
Kansas Governor-Elect Selling Inaugural Ball Tables for $10K
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor-elect Laura Kelly is selling premium tables at her inaugural ball in January for $10,000. The plan has the inaugural committee and the state ethics commission conferring over compliance with legal limits on contributions to such celebrations. Kansas law limits contributions to inaugural committees to $2,000. Tickets to Kelly's ball start at $100 with a top price of $1,000. But her committee is offering a $10,000 "gold" package for a table of 10 seats. Incoming governors traditionally rely on private donations to pay for the festivities. The ethics commission has ruled that the value of the food and entertainment is subtracted from the ticket price to determine the contribution. Commission Executive Director Mark Skoglund said Tuesday that his staff and the inaugural committee have been in regular contact.
Kansas Supreme Court: Marijuana Odor Can Justify Warrantless Home Search
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A divided Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that police can rely exclusively on their sense of smell to provide probable cause for a preliminary search of a home for marijuana without a warrant. The 4-3 ruling extends to residences already established practice in Kansas that allows police to search vehicles for marijuana based only on smells, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported . The ruling issued Friday came in a case in which Lawrence police entered a man's apartment without a warrant because they said they detected a strong smell of raw marijuana. The justices rejected arguments by Lawrence Hubbard's attorney that sought to suppress evidence of drugs because the initial warrantless search by Lawrence Police Officer Kimberly Nicholson and another officer violated his constitutional rights. The lawyer also argued Nicholson's testimony that she smelled raw marijuana coming from the apartment was inadmissible expert testimony and questioned whether the officer could detect the smell of raw marijuana inside the apartment while standing outside the front door. The majority opinion written by Justice Dan Biles that upheld Hubbard's convictions said officers didn't have to perform a sophisticated sensory task before performing the warrantless search. The officers entered Hubbard's apartment in November 2013. After later obtaining a search warrant, they found 25 grams of unsmoked marijuana in a closed Tupperware container locked inside a safe in a bedroom closet. A small amount of weed was detected on a partially burnt cigarillo in the living room. The closet holding the marijuana was an estimated 30 feet from where Nicholson said she first smelled unsmoked marijuana, said Jim Rumsey, Hubbard's attorney. Kate Butler, an assistant district attorney in Douglas County who argued the state's case before the Supreme Court, said the officers properly established probable cause and the initial security sweep prevented someone inside apartment from destroying possible evidence of a crime. A dissenting opinion authored by Justice Carol Beier said Hubbard's convictions should be reversed and his sentence vacated. Beier said a lower court ruling failed to demonstrate the lawfulness of the search warrant and determine whether police officers should have been qualified as expert witnesses.
Kansas Senator Jerry Moran Wants to Speed Vote on Yemen Resolution
WASHINGTON (AP) — Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran says he will support speeding up a vote on ending U.S. military involvement in a war led by Saudi Arabia in Yemen. The Kansas City Star reports the Kansas Republican said Tuesday that he supports a procedural step to move a resolution ending U.S. involvement toward final passage. The procedural vote is Wednesday. The resolution is rebuke to Saudi Arabia over its role in journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder. It's also a rebuke to President Donald Trump's administration, which has made it clear that it does not want to torpedo the long-standing U.S.-Saudi relationship over the killing. Moran said in a statement that passing the resolution should help force a diplomatic resolution to the war after nearly four years and ease the resulting humanitarian crisis.
Topeka Says Utility Vendor May Have Been Victim of Cyber-Attack
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials in Topeka say the city's utility billing vendor may have been the victim of a cyber-attack. The city said in a news release Monday that up to 10,000 customers may have been affected, although a data breach hasn't been confirmed. The vendor, Central Square, notified the city of the potential problem Friday. The city's information technology team then helped transition the vendor to a more secure platform. The team was unable to detect any malicious activity. Those who may have been affected set up auto-pay or made one-time credit or debit card payments with the vendor from October 31 to December 7. The city says local law enforcement and the FBI have been notified.
3 Carnival Workers Charged in Killings of Kansas Couple
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Three carnival workers have been charged with capital murder in the fatal shooting of a couple whose bodies were found in Arkansas days after they disappeared from a fair in Kansas. The Kansas Attorney General says 52-year-old Kimberly Younger, of McIntosh, Florida; 54-year-old Michael Fowler Jr., of Sarasota, Florida; and 35-year-old Rusty Frasier, of Aransas Pass, Texas, are jailed on $1 million bond in Arkansas while awaiting extradition to Kansas. Two others are charged with obstructing apprehension. The charges stem from the deaths of Alfred "Sonny" Carpenter and Pauline Carpenter. The Wichita couple was killed in July at the Barton County Fair. Their bodies were later found buried in shallow graves next to a creek bed outside the small community of Natural Dam, Arkansas, in the Ozark National Forest.
Man Sentenced to Life for Drive-by Shooting in St. Joseph
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — A 20-year-old St. Joseph man was sentenced to life in prison without parole for a fatal drive-by shooting. Khaury El-Amin was sentenced Monday in the October 2017 shooting death of 26-year-old Donovan Smith. KQ2 reports court documents said El Amin shot out of a car at Smith, who was outside a house in St. Joseph. Circuit Judge Patrick Robb denied El-Amin's motion for a new trial before sentencing him to life without parole for murder. He was also sentenced to 25 years for armed criminal action. Testimony during his trial in October indicated El-Amin killed Donovan because Smith borrowed $300 from El-Amin to pay for his daughter's birthday party and didn't repay it. Smith was in St. Joseph for a relative's funeral when he was killed.
Deaths of Man, Woman Investigated as Homicides
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities are investigating the deaths of a man and woman in Kansas City as homicides. The Kansas City Star reports that officers found 35-year-old Fernando Howard and 36-year-old Shaketa Payne inside a home early Saturday. Police say they had unknown injuries and were pronounced dead at the scene. The circumstances of their deaths are under investigation.
Former Teller Admits to Embezzling from Savings and Loan
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas bank teller has pleaded guilty to embezzling from the savings and loan where she worked. The U.S. attorney's office says 49-year-old Theresa Williams, of Leavenworth, Kan., entered the plea Monday. She admitted through her plea to embezzling $13,000 from Mutual Savings Association in Leavenworth. To cover up the crime, she made false entries in bank reports. Sentencing is set for February 25. She faces up to 30 years in federal prison and a fine up to $1 million.
Man Arrested After Police Chase with 3 Children in Car
GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 36-year-old Garden City man is facing serious charges after police say he fled in a vehicle with his three young children inside. Officers who were called Monday night to a domestic dispute saw a vehicle driven by Billy Mondragon speeding away from the scene. Police say during the chase, Mondragon drove toward a police vehicle, forcing the officer to swerve to avoid a collision. Mondragon's vehicle eventually rolled and came to a stop on its wheels. The driver was arrested after trying to flee on foot. The children — ages 2, 1 and 1½ months — were not properly restrained. They were treated for minor injuries and released. Police are seeking three counts each of attempted second-degree murder and several other charges. Mondragon is being held on $250,000 bond.
Pharmacy Tech Sentenced to Probation for Stealing Drugs
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 37-year-old former pharmacy technician at the University of Kansas Hospital was placed on probation for stealing drugs from the hospital. Federal prosecutors say Heydon White, of Stilwell, admitted that he stole the painkiller fentanyl from cabinets at the hospital. He was responsible for stocking the computerized cabinets and removing expired medication for disposal. Prosecutors say White was caught after an internal audit showed he handled a high number of intravenous bags containing the drug and saline. White was also ordered Monday to pay $4,300 in restitution. The Kansas Board of Pharmacy revoked White's license. Prosecutors said the board cited the theft of 483 bags of fentanyl.
New Prosecutor Named for Western Kansas County
GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — A new prosecutor has been picked for a western Kansas county where the former prosecutor decided to step down after the sheriff was acquitted of a misdemeanor. The Great Bend Tribune reports that the Barton County Republican Committee unanimously appointed Levi Morris as the new county attorney Monday. Outgoing County Attorney Amy Mellor announced last month that she was resigning at year's end, saying Sheriff Brian Bellendir was acting like "a bully." She cited a letter from Bellendir starting his intention to try to have Mellor removed from office. The defense said Bellendir slapped the suspect in a propane theft on the back of the head as someone would do a child. Bellendir says that was a mistake, but didn't rise to the level of mistreatment of a confined person.
Oklahoma Police Shoot, Kill Man After Store Robbed in Kansas
PERRY, Okla. (AP) — Investigators are looking into a police shooting in northern Oklahoma that left a man wanted for robbery in Kansas dead following a chase. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation says it's looking into the shooting death early Monday of 39-year-old Shane Adair Wentling after a police pursuit involving officers from the Perry Police Department and Noble County Sheriff's Office. The OSBI says Wentling brandished a gun after a clerk at a convenience store in Wichita, Kansas, refused to sell him beer Sunday night. After Kansas authorities released details of the robbery, Oklahoma police spotted Wentling's vehicle near Perry and a chase ensued. Investigators say police used a tactical maneuver to stop Wentling's car and he was shot and killed after he exited his vehicle while brandishing a firearm.
Lawsuit Challenges Eligibility of Kansas House Victor
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A lawsuit alleges that a suburban Kansas City Republican is ineligible to serve in the Kansas House because of residency issues. The Kansas City Star reports that the lawsuit challenging Adam Thomas' ability to assume his Kansas House seat was filed Monday on behalf of residents of his district in the Spring Hill and Olathe area. He has been charged with election perjury stemming from allegations that he gave a false address when he filed paperwork declaring his candidacy. Kansas City attorney Mark Johnson, who filed the suit, says a judge will gather evidence and send it to the speaker of the House of Representatives. The full House will ultimately decide whether Thomas is allowed to be seated.
Thomas didn't respond to a request for comment from The Star.
Wichita Seeks Amtrak Service, County Shows Hesitance
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita officials are pushing for Amtrak to restore rail service in the city that hasn't had a passenger train service for nearly 40 years, but Sedgwick County officials aren't ready to embrace the plan. The Wichita Eagle reports that City Hall's lobbying agenda for the state legislative session beginning next month shows that bringing back the rail service is a top transportation priority. The city says passenger rail is critical to attracting and retaining young workers, as well as providing safe travel for an aging population. But Sedgwick County Commission Chairman David Dennis says he can't make a decision on the issue until he knows the service's cost and benefits. Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari says more than 1,700 Wichita travelers took its bus to connect to the train in Newton over the past year.
Lawrence Asked to Consider Program for Feral Cats
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The city of Lawrence will consider a request to allow colonies of feral cats to live in the city if they have been vaccinated and spayed or neutered. The Lawrence Humane Society is proposing the change, which would allow organization workers to trap the cats to be vaccinated and spayed or neutered. The cats would then be returned to the area where they are captured. The Humane Society says it euthanizes dozes of feral cats every year because they aren't adoptable. The city commission will consider several changes to the animal control ordinance Tuesday. The Lawrence Journal-World reports city staff says it doesn't have enough information yet to make a recommendation. Topeka and Kansas City, Kansas, have community cat programs and Wichita is considering instituting it.
Incoming Kansas Congresswoman Names Campaign Aides to Staff
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Representative-elect Sharice Davids has given top positions on her congressional staff to key campaign aides. Davids announced Monday that Allison Teixeira Sulier will be her chief of staff once Davids is sworn into office January 3. Davids also said that Danielle Hull Robinson will be district director, managing operations and constituent services in Davids' home 3rd District in the Kansas City area. Sulier was senior adviser on Davids' campaign and previously worked for Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and the Democratic group American Bridge. Robinson was communications director for Davids' campaign and previously worked in communications for both businesses and nonprofit groups. Davids defeated four-term Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder in the November election.
Wichita Gets Anti-Gun Violence Mural Sponsored by Toms
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita's newest mural is among several pieces of outdoor artwork to be painted throughout the Midwest as a part of a shoe company's national campaign to end gun violence. The Wichita Eagle reports that Oklahoma artists Daniel Gulick and Anthony Carrera painted the Wichita mural Wednesday for Toms' gun violence awareness campaign. The outdoor artwork features a hand forming a peace sign, surrounded by clouds and a wheat field, with the words "End gun violence together." Toms announced its campaign on social media last month, helping customers send postcards to urge their representatives to pass universal background check legislation. Gulick and Carrera have already painted murals in Tulsa and Stillwater, Oklahoma, as well as Wichita Falls, Texas. They plan to travel to Joplin, Missouri, next.
Singer-Songwriter Jason Mraz Sings to Hospitalized Teen
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Singer-songwriter Jason Mraz has serenaded a Kansas high school senior who is hospitalized in St. Louis while awaiting a second double-lung transplant. The Grammy Award winner stopped by the bedside of 18-year-old Madison Taliaferro, of Holton, on Sunday while he was in Missouri for a concert. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Mraz performed his hit songs "I'm Yours" and "Have It All." Taliaferro's mother, Desiree Taliaferro, shared videos on Facebook. She wrote in a post that nurses schemed to get Mraz to sing to her daughter because they "know she loves musicals and just overly enjoys singing." Madison Taliaferro was born with cystic fibrosis and received a pair of lungs six years ago. The operation went well, but then her lung function fell suddenly from 48 percent to 22.5 percent.
Oklahoma Woman Arrested After Juvenile Found in Kansas
EUREKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have arrested the grandmother of a 17-year-old Oklahoma boy with special needs who was found alone near a southeast Kansas rest stop. Rogers County, Oklahoma, authorities say 68-year-old Janie Gill was arrested in that county and booked into jail Monday on one count of child neglect. More charges are pending. A custodian found the boy Nov. 29 at a rest stop near Beaumont in Kansas. He had no identification and couldn't speak. The Greenwood County, Kansas, sheriff's office later learned his identity and that he was from Oklahoma. He remains in protective custody. Greenwood County has put a hold on Gill, pending the serving of an arrest warrant on suspicion of aggravated child endangerment and interference with law enforcement. The juvenile's name has not been released.
Remains of Pearl Harbor Victim from Kansas Identified
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The remains of a 19-year-old Kansas man who was killed during the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor have been identified. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Camillus O'Grady was killed on the battleship USS Oklahoma on Dec. 7, 1941. The Defense Department announced Monday that it had accounted for him, although the identification was made two years ago, using DNA and a dental analysis. The Navy seaman was from the Washington County town of Greenleaf. The Department of Defense in 2015 ordered the disinterment of unknown victims from the Oklahoma, and began exhuming those remains for analysis. That resulted in the identification of O'Grady.