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Headlines for Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Democrats Accuse Kansas GOP of Illegal Coordination with PAC

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Democratic official has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that the state Republican party illegally coordinated with a super PAC in the state's 3rd congressional district. The complaint filed Tuesday by Andy Sandler, Democratic chairman for the 3rd congressional district, concerns an ad showing Alana Zimmer-Roethle criticizing Democrat Sharice Davids, who is running against GOP incumbent Kevin Yoder. The ad doesn't disclose that Zimmer-Roethle is the secretary of the Kansas GOP party. The Kansas City Star reports the Congressional Leadership Fund, a PAC working to maintain GOP control in the U.S. House, spent nearly $2 million as of Sept. 21 to support Yoder. Jim Joice, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, said the party didn't know about the ad or Zimmer-Roethle's involvement until it was televised.

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Davids Fundraising Event Scheduled at Iconic Gay Bar in New York City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An iconic gay bar in New York City is hosting a fund-raising event for a Democratic Kansas congressional district candidate. The Stonewall Inn will host the event Tuesday for Sharice Davids, a gay Native American, who is running against Republican incumbent Rep. Kevin Yoder in Kansas 3rd congressional district. The Kansas City Star reports tickets for the event start at $100, with prices ranging up $2,700 to be a host. The Stonewall Inn was declared a national monument in 2016. Riots that began at the bar in 1969 when gay patrons protested against police raids are considered a turning point in the gay rights movement.

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Cost of Flood Damage for Rural Riley County Estimated at $1.35 Million 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A flood on Labor Day caused $1.35 million in damage in rural Riley County. County emergency management director Pat Collins told county commissioners during their Monday meeting that 28 homes outside of Manhattan were damaged. Officials announced earlier that the flooding caused $17.2 million inside Manhattan city limits. The Manhattan Mercury reports Collins said the Red Cross helped 327 people in 139 homes in the region and between 15 and 30 people stayed at their two shelters each day. Nearly 9 inches of rain fell during the Labor Day weekend, causing Wildcat Creek to overflow its banks and forcing more than 300 people to evacuate their homes.

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Kansas Board of Regents Seeks $25 Million for Financial Aid Program

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Regents is seeking $25 million from state lawmakers to fund a financial aid program for college students. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the board's budget request is part of a plan to funnel up to $50 million into need-based financial aid for Kansas students enrolling in technical schools and universities. The financial aid would also be available for private schools that aren't part of the Regents system. Qualifying students could receive up to $5,000 each. Elaine Frisbie is the board's vice president of finance and administration. She says state funding would be matched with private donations through university endowments or foundations. Frisbie says lawmakers would consider the $25 million request in the next legislative session but it wouldn't begin until fiscal year 2021, if approved.

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Kansas Child Welfare System Faces Sexual Assault Case

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas' troubled child welfare system was beginning to make progress after months of issues when rape allegations were made public last week involving a teen in the state's custody.  The Kansas City Star reports that a 13-year-old was allegedly raped in May while at a child welfare office in Olathe. A young man also in the state's care was charged with assault in the case earlier this month. Both were waiting to be placed in a foster home or facility.  The department was in the midst of making changes following missing runaways, foster children sleeping in offices and high-profile deaths.  DCF Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel says that the department investigated the incident and cited the office. She says officials are disappointed the assault happened but are making changes to keep more families together and to improve the department.

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21-Year-Old Arrested After Deadly Manhattan Shooting

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man has been arrested after a deadly shooting in Manhattan.  Riley County police say 21-year-old Felix Flores, of Manhattan, was found suffering from a gunshot wound Saturday evening. He was rushed to a Manhattan hospital and then flown to a Topeka hospital, where he later died.  Police say another 21-year-old man is jailed in Riley County on $20,000 bond on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter.  The investigation is ongoing. No other details were immediately released.

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Couple Convicted in Torture, Killing of Wichita Man over $185

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A couple has been convicted of participating in the torture and killing of a Wichita man over $185 in missing drug money.  The Wichita Eagle reports that Jeff and Heidi Hillard were found guilty Monday in Sedgwick County of first-degree murder in the death of 33-year-old Scottie Goodpaster Jr.  Court documents say Goodpaster and a woman were kidnapped in November 2016 and that the woman was beaten and sexually assaulting before she blamed Goodpaster "out of fear." He was attacked with an ax, knife and staple gun and suffered genital injuries. His body was found six days later in neighboring Harvey County.  The Hillards also were convicted of rape, kidnapping, and battery. But they were acquitted of robbery.  Two other defendants are awaiting trial and a third has been convicted.

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Kansas Teacher Arrested on Sex-Related Charge

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A man who abruptly resigned from the Shawnee City Council after being placed on leave from his teaching job has been arrested and charged with having sexual relations with a student. Thirty-three-year-old Justin Adrian was arrested on Tuesday, after he was charged on Friday with unlawful sexual relations with a student. Adrian left his teaching position at Olathe East High School and resigned from the Shawnee City Council earlier this month. Fox4KC reports court documents say the alleged incident occurred with an Olathe East student older than 16 at the school September 7. He was a social studies teacher at the high school. Adrian's next court appearance is scheduled for Wednesday.

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Man Sentenced for Threatening Woman with Gun at Day Care

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A man has been sentenced to two years and three months in prison for putting a gun to the head of a woman at a Topeka day care center where seven small children were present and saying he was going to kill her. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Debra Zollicoffee described Myles Stanford as a "monster" at his sentencing hearing Monday. Stanford also faces 12 months of supervised release after pleading guilty to aggravated assault in the October 2017 incident at Nanny's Daycare Center in southeast Topeka.  Prosecutors say the children who were present ranged in age from 13 months to 3 years. One child was a son Sanford has with his girlfriend, who is related to Zollicoffee.  Stanford's public defender, Heather Nelson, says tensions were "really high" that day.

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Washburn University to Honor Bob Dole with Dedication of Bronze Statue

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Washburn University will dedicate a statue to former U.S. Senator Bob Dole to celebrate his life of public service. Dole, who is 95, plans to attend the dedication ceremony Friday in Topeka along with his wife, Elizabeth. Dole graduated from Washburn with bachelor's degree and law degrees by applying college credits he earned elsewhere while serving in the U.S. Army. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the ceremony will be 11 a.m. near Carnegie Hall on the Washburn campus. Dole served in the Kansas House, as Russell County attorney and in the U.S. House before being elected to the U.S. Senate. He was President Gerald Ford's running mate in 1976 and won the GOP nomination for president in 1996. He has received the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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Defrocked Priest Still Holds Medical Licenses in Kansas, Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas priest still holds medical licenses in Kansas and Missouri despite being defrocked this year after Archdiocese of Kansas City leaders determined that he abused three minors decades ago.  The Kansas City Star reports the Missouri Board of Registration for the Healing Arts is investigating the allegations against 71-year-old John Wisner, who remains a licensed psychiatrist in both states. The Kansas board declined to comment on whether it was looking into Wisner's case.  Wisner declined to comment on the allegations or the investigation. It's unclear if he's still practicing medicine.  Patrick Wall is a former Catholic priest who works as an investigator for a law firm that represents sexual abuse victims. Wall says the Kansas archdiocese should've reported Wisner to licensing boards when it learned of the allegations six years ago.

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2 Kansas Men Take Plea Deal in Missouri Robbery, Killing

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two Kansas men have reached plea deals in a deadly southwest Missouri robbery. The Joplin Globe reports that 21-year-old Brock Robinson and 20-year-old Azaiah Forester agreed to testify against a third man, Erik Jones, as part of the murder plea. The plea deal says Taven Williams was killed in January 2017 when he attempted to stop the three Columbus, Kansas, men from robbing another man in Joplin, Missouri. The target of the robbery was wounded. No one was arrested until two months later when Joplin police stopped a pickup truck that Robinson owned and Jones was driving. Jones was cited with driving while intoxicated, and the officer found a handgun in the truck that matched the serial number of a gun stolen from the home where Williams was killed.

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9-Year-Old Accidentally Shoots, Wounds 10-Year-Old Sister

MERRIAM, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a 9-year-old boy has accidentally shot his 10-year-old sister in the leg in suburban Kansas City.  Police in Merriam, Kansas, said in a news release that the shooting happened around 8:30 pm Saturday after the gun was left unattended. Police say the girl's wound wasn't life threatening. She was taken to a hospital. No one has been arrested. The shooting remains under investigation.  Police urged gun owners to properly secure their firearms in the news release.

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Motorcycle Driver Dies After Colliding with School Bus

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police are investigating a crash between a Kansas school bus and a motorcycle that killed the motorcycle driver. None of the nine pre-K children and two adults on the bus was injured in the Tuesday morning accident. Officer Zac Blair says the bus was turning left when the motorcycle collided with it. The driver's identity has not been released. The investigation is continuing.

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Police Say Adult, Not Child, Shot Man While Playing with Gun

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man who thought he and a child were playing with toy guns accidentally shot another man in a Wichita home. Wichita police initially said a child had fired the gun. But on Tuesday afternoon officer Charlie Davidson said a 24-year-old man accidentally fired a shot that hit another man in the leg. The Wichita Eagle reports several people were eating together Monday night at the home. Davidson said a 5-year-old boy was playing with guns when the 24-year-old started playing with him. Davidson said the man switched guns with the child and thought the gun he had was a toy. The man fired, hitting a 35-year-old man. The victim was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. No one else was injured.

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Police: Woman Found Dead in Car Died from Crash Injuries

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police have ruled that a woman found dead inside a vehicle after a police chase died of injuries suffered in the head-on collision that ended the pursuit.  The Kansas City Star reports that police on Monday disclosed the cause of death of 29-year-old Chrissy Saale. Her body was found early Thursday on Interstate 70 in Kansas City, Kansas. She was a passenger. The driver, a 24-year-old man, faces several charges.  The chase began when police followed a car onto a dead end street before the driver struck a police car and drove off, crossing into Missouri before returning to Kansas.  The car eventually drove the wrong way on the interstate and collided with another car.  The other driver had minor injuries.

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Kris Kobach, Jeff Colyer Headline GOP Fundraising Pheasant Hunt

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Secretary of State and candidate for Kansas governor Kris Kobach will team up with current Gov. Jeff Colyer for a $15,000-a-person pheasant hunt in October to raise money for the state Republican Party.  The Kansas City Star reports that Colyer and Lt. Governor Tracey Mann are headlining the event with Kobach and his running mate Wink Hartman. Kobach defeated Colyer in the GOP primary by 343 votes.  Colyer spokeswoman Kara Zeyer said the governor is committed to GOP victories in November.  The fundraiser comes as Kobach's candidacy has been spurned by prominent Republican centrists. Former Kansas Governor Bill Graves and former Kansas Senator Nancy Kassebaum both said this month they support Democratic state Senator Laura Kelly's run for governor. Independent Greg Orman is also seeking the office.

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Northeast Kansas Conservative Senator Fitzgerald to Retire

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas state senator who gained attention for comparing Planned Parenthood to a Nazi concentration camp plans to announce his retirement from the Legislature within a few days, he confirmed to the Kansas City Star.  But his announcement was pre-empted by the man who defeated him in the August GOP primary in the 2nd Congressional District. Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, a Leavenworth Republican, said he was preparing to resign when he heard that Steve Watkins had sent a press release congratulating him on his retirement.  Fitzgerald, a senator since 2013, belongs to the conservative wing of the party that resisted the repeal of former Gov. Sam Brownback's tax cuts and expanding Medicaid.  Fitzgerald said he didn't know how Watkins knew his plans. Watkins didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Josh Hawley Defends Duck Boat Lawsuit in Latest Court Filing

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is defending his lawsuit against the operators of a duck boat that sank in July, killing 17 people.  Hawley's August lawsuit accuses Branson Duck Vehicles and Ripley Entertainment Inc. of violating Missouri's consumer protection law and putting profits above safety, citing the July 19 accident on Table Rock Lake.  
The companies responded by seeking dismissal, calling Hawley's lawsuit "irresponsible" and "littered with factual inaccuracies and innuendo."  In a filing Monday, Hawley's office said the companies are trying to delay state enforcement actions and evade any court order that would stop them from resuming operation.  Hawley is a Republican running for U.S. Senate against incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill.  Ripley says in a statement that it is disappointed by Hawley's "inflammatory language" and that it simply wants resolution in the appropriate court.

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Ben & Jerry's Creating "Take Back Congress" Flavors

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The founders of Ben & Jerry's ice cream in Bernie Sanders' home state are putting their ice cream expertise to work to support seven congressional candidates they call progressive.  Vermont's Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield are working with political action committee MoveOn to create ice cream flavors that reflect each candidate. They are asking for help in naming the flavors. Cohen says he will then make by hand about 40 pints of each to be raffled off to support the candidates.  The candidates include James Thompson, who's running in the 4th congressional district in south-central Kansas.  Other candidates include Jess King in Pennsylvania, Lauren Underwood in Illinois, Aftab Pureval in Ohio, J.D. Scholten in Iowa, Ammar Campa Najjar in California and Stephany Rose Spaulding in Colorado.   Cohen says they all support "Medicare for all, debt-free public college and getting big money out of politics."

//////////////////  Recent Kansas Editorials  ///////////////////////

The Iola Register, September 19

AG Schmidt Working in League to Undo Health Care Act

In their efforts to prove they can outfox the Affordable Care Act, 20 Republican state attorneys general are working to prove its unconstitutionality and in the process eliminate valuable protections for U.S. consumers. Top of the list is the provision that insurance companies must provide coverage to those with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, cancer or heart disease.  In Kansas, about 504,000 of our non-elderly would be regarded as having pre-existing conditions, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.  Denying these people health insurance "gives me pause," admitted Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt who has joined the federal lawsuit on behalf of Kansas.  But not enough, obviously, to be deterred.

At essence is the health care act's mandate that U.S. citizens carry health insurance or else pay a fine on their tax returns. Last year, however, Congress repealed the penalty when it reworked the tax bill, which, Schmidt maintains, should make Obamacare void. Without teeth, it's unenforceable.  Other provisions in jeopardy if the AGs — all Republican — are successful are those that prevent health insurance companies from charging women and those chronically ill higher rates.  With Obamacare, the playing field was leveled. No matter your gender or health, your insurance premiums were the same. The only modifying risk factor acceptable for charging higher rates was for tobacco-users, a voluntary habit that can have unhealthy  — and costly — consequences.

Schmidt says not to worry. That if the attorneys general prevail and eliminate the Affordable Care Act, he's certain Congress will revisit health care quickly and make amends.

That's no comfort at all.

When Schmidt and his cohorts discovered they could prove the health insurance plan was on shaky ground they went for the jugular, using a veil of legalese.  This is why people distrust government.  It's not by the people, for the people.  It's by the cunning, for the select few.

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The Topeka Capital-Journal, September 22

Lawmakers Should Act on Municipal Court Recommendations

Bonds, fees and fines assessed to people facing criminal charges are intended to protect the public, but some fees do not serve the public interest, according to a committee studying fee use in Kansas municipal courts.  The committee, formed at the direction of the Kansas Supreme Court, recently recommended a series of changes to municipal courts in Kansas, and its carefully constructed recommendations deserve consideration.  

For example, the current bond system uses a one-size-fits-all approach to assign bond amounts based upon the charges. Although intended to ensure people charged with very serious crimes have a harder time getting released from jail, the traditional bond schedule does not take into account access to financial resources.

Someone with plenty of income facing serious charges might have an easy time making their bail, while someone facing a comparatively minor charge might languish in jail. Potentially dangerous defendants with money can be out on bail with limited monitoring. Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans are twice as likely as whites to end up stuck in jail unable to pay.

Even if someone is later found innocent or charges are dismissed, pretrial jail time can cost people jobs, homes or child custody, putting additional burdens on the working poor. Even short sentences can cut the defendant's ties to the community, making them more likely to commit future crimes.  The additional jail time is also a burden on taxpayers. The U.S. Department of Justice reports 60 percent of people in jail across the United States have not yet been to trial, and 90 percent of them are there because they're unable to pay bail, costing taxpayers an estimated $14 billion annually.

The committee wisely recommended judges take financial resources into account when assigning bond.  After trial, fines and fees can be similarly problematic for people unable to afford them. The committee again recommended taking income into account, and increasing credit for community service to satisfy court imposed sanctions.  Some of the committee's recommendations may require changes in state or local laws. Lawmakers should act quickly to adopt the committee's recommendations. Reforming our municipal court's approach to bonds, fees and fines is a valuable step toward making our justice system a more equitable and effective safeguard of the public.

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Lawrence Journal-World, September 23

Increase Funding for Higher Ed

The Kansas Board of Regents is right to seek significant funding increases for the University of Kansas and the state's other regents universities, but questions will need to be answered before the increases win legislative approval.

Foremost, the regents will have to justify a 15 percent pay increase for Regents President and CEO Blake Flanders. Second, it needs to be clarified how the funding increases, if awarded, will affect KU's plan to cut $20 million from its operating budget this year and next.

On Thursday, the Board of Regents approved an $85 million funding increase over the next two years in its budget proposal that will go to the Legislature. The funds requested by the Regents are restoration for dollars the Legislature cut in 2009.  For the state universities, the request includes $50 million for fiscal year 2020, which begins in July, and an additional $35 million for the fiscal year 2021.  "Our hope is that this will happen," said KU Chancellor Douglas Girod. If the request is approved, KU is expected to receive about $33 million across all its campuses.

The state of Kansas collected $300 million more in tax revenue than budgeted during the last fiscal year and is up another $17 million through two months this year. Certainly, after years of higher education cuts driven by tax funding shortfalls, it's appropriate for the Legislature to restore some of that funding to the state's colleges and universities.

The state's current funding of state universities is about $588 million in state general funds out of a total state general fund budget of $7 billion, according to figures provided by the Regents.
Girod didn't provide specifics on how the additional state funding might affect plans to cut $20 million from KU's budget this year and next. The cuts have been a source of friction amid faculty and staff. Girod did say that "the dollars would help the university take care of their people and the challenges they have been facing."

The Regents took care of Flanders by awarding him a $30,000 pay raise from $200,000 to $230,000. Regents said the increase was necessary to bring Flanders in line with his peers around the country. Still, the pay increase runs the risk of becoming an issue with legislators and, worse, sends the wrong message to KU faculty and staff facing wage stagnation and job losses. If KU will clarify how the state funds will affect the planned cuts, that could go a long way to tempering the CEO pay hike.

Overall, the Board of Regents' budget proposal is appropriate. We hope the Legislature, which will undergo a makeover in the November elections, will recognize the need to support it and restore to higher education some of the significant funding cuts the state's colleges and universities have endured the past decade.

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