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Headlines for Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Kelly, GOP Leader to Unveil Kansas Medicaid Expansion Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and a top Republican legislator are preparing to unveil a bipartisan plan for expanding Medicaid in Kansas. Kelly's office scheduled a Statehouse news conference for Thursday morning with Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning. The governor and the Overland Park Republican have been working for weeks toward a compromise on extending Medicaid health coverage to as many as 150,000 additional people. Kelly has advocated a straightforward expansion of the state's $3.8 billion-a-year Medicaid program under the 2010 federal health overhaul championed by former President Barack Obama. Denning drafted an alternative in October. The Legislature opens its annual session Monday.  


U.S. Trade Deal with Mexico and Canada Advances to Vote Before Full U.S. Senate

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Senate Finance Committee has approved a new trade deal. UMCA, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, now moves on to the full Senate. Kansas Republican Senator Pat Roberts says farmers and ranchers in his state have been pushing for passage of the deal, which he says will bring them more certainty in export markets.  The finance committee vote was 25-3 with two Republicans and one Democrat voting "no."  The timeline for a full Senate vote is unclear as the pending impeachment trial could affect scheduling. Canada also still must approve the deal.


Secretary of State Nixes U.S. Senate Run in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has now publicly addressed reports that he's decided against running for an open U.S. Senate seat in Kansas.  Pompeo’s role has him at the center of U.S.-Iran relations after a drone strike killed a top Iranian general -- an act that led to Iraq voting to oust U.S. troops.  Several media outlets, including the Kansas News Service, had already reported that Pompeo would stay put at the State Department.  And Pompeo said as much at a news conference on Tuesday.  With Pompeo out, some Republicans worry that they can't block a polarizing conservative from winning the GOP nomination and putting the seat in play. Some top Republicans saw Pompeo as the best bet for beating Kris Kobach and stopping his bid for the Senate.  Some anti-Kobach Republicans are now focused on the race's best-funded candidate so far, GOP Congressman Roger Marshall, of Great Bend.  


With Pompeo Out, GOP Can't Dodge Kansas Senate Race Headache

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's declaration that he won't run for the Senate from Kansas returned some Republicans to worrying that they can't block a polarizing conservative from winning the GOP nomination and putting the seat in play.  Some top Republicans saw Pompeo as the best bet for torpedoing hard-right immigration policy advocate Kris Kobach's bid for the Senate after Kobach lost the Kansas governor's race in 2018. Some anti-Kobach Republicans focused quickly Tuesday on the race's best-funded candidate so far. He is GOP Rep. Roger Marshall of western Kansas. Yet Marshall faces skepticism about his chances of beating Kobach. 


Kansas Governor Plans to Merge Social Services Agencies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly plans to merge state agencies providing services to poor and troubled families, the elderly, the mentally ill and the developmentally disabled into a single large department. Kelly said Wednesday that she believes Kansas residents now served by the Department for Children and Families and the Department for Aging and Disability Services will benefit from having a single “point of entry” into state government. Her plan also would move juvenile justice programs from the Department of Corrections into her new Department of Human Services. Her administration is stressing that it's not a move to cut costs or employees.


Kansas Supreme Court Gets New Justice, Governor Prepares to Appoint Another  

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Supreme Court plans to swear in a new justice this month (January 24).  Evelyn Wilson is set to take her seat on the seven-member high court on January 24, a little more than a month after Governor Laura Kelly announced her  appointment.  Wilson has been a district judge in Shawnee County since 2004.  She replaces former Supreme Court Justice Lee Johnson who retired in September.  Kelly still has another appointment to fill on the high court.  That's because former Chief Justice Lawton Nuss retired in December. The governor is expected to name a replacement for Nuss by mid-March.  


Proposed Bill Seeks More Transparency After Police Shootings

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill that will be introduced in the Kansas Legislature this year would change how law enforcement agencies handle police shootings. The bill would require all law enforcement agencies to have written policies for investigations when police kill someone, and would mandate that outside agencies investigate the shootings. If a prosecutor doesn't charge officers after a fatal shooting, the bill would require the investigating agency to release its report to the public. The Kansas City Star reports the mother of a 17-year-old killed by Overland Park police in 2018 help Rep. David Benson, of Overland Park, draft the bill.


Crews Battling Several Grass Fires Across Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Crews are battling numerous grass fires across Kansas amid windy, dry conditions.KWCH-TV reported Wednesday that weather radar has picked up the smoke from fires in Cowley, Greenwood and Saline counties.The National Weather Service said a fire located east of Arkansas City is spreading north. The local emergency management agency has warned residents southwest of Dexter that they need to be aware of the fire and prepared to take action if needed.Grassfires are also located northwest of Eureka, east of Salina and South of New Cambria.Winds were gusting between 30 and 40 miles per hour Wednesday afternoon. 


Burglary Suspect Crashes After KC-Area Police Chase

Overland Park, Kan. (AP) - A burglary suspect has been arrested after leading police on a chase in  Johnson County that ended in a crash. The suspect allegedly drove in the wrong lanes, onto sidewalks and through a fence before crashing into a tree in Overland Park yesterday (TUE).  Police radio traffic indicated that the chase reached speeds of about 60 mph through residential neighborhoods and 80 to 85 mph on major thoroughfares. The suspect's name and details about whether he was injured were not immediately released.


Southeast Kansas Sheriff Ousted from Office for Misconduct

INDEPENDENCE, Kan. (Montgomery County Chronicle) - The Montgomery County sheriff has been ousted from office. Bobby Dierks was officially removed from office Monday, following a settlement hearing in Montgomery County District Court.  He had been suspended as sheriff since March 2019.  According to the Montgomery County Chronicle, Dierks admitted that he tried to stop one of his deputies from arresting his then-girlfriend on a charge of driving under the influence.  While the former sheriff has been ousted from office, he won't have to serve any jail time.


Key Boeing Supplier May Begin Shedding Workers in Wichita Area

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A key Boeing supplier is asking if employees will take voluntary buyouts after it suspended production of fuselages and other parts for the troubled 737 Max aircraft. Spirit AeroSystems CEO Tom Gentile says the Wichita company will soon face difficult decisions about cutting jobs. He says Spirit still has no clear idea about when Max production will resume. The Boeing 737 represents more than half of Spirit AeroSystems' revenue. Gentile says his company is talking to Boeing about "different scenarios but nothing has been decided."


Capital Murder Charge Filed in Kansas Fire That Killed 3

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A man charged with setting a fire that killed his estranged girlfriend and two of her children in Kansas has now been charged with capital murder. Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree announced the upgraded charges Wednesday against Ismael Caballero in their deaths in Kansas City, Kansas. He is now charged with capital murder, second-degree murder and arson. Prosecutors allege Caballero set the Dec. 30 fire that killed 32-year-old Yazmine Rodriguez-Santilla, 14-year-old Amerikha Rodriguez and 10-year-old Jean Carlos Rodriguez. Dupree says the upgraded charges allow him to consider seeking the death penalty but he has not yet made that decision.  


Wichita to Resume Chalking Tires After Temporary Suspension

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita is reinstating the legally contested practice of marking tires with chalk to enforce parking rules. The city suspended chalking after a federal appeals court found that the practice was unconstitutional, likening it to entering a property without a search warrant. But city spokeswoman Megan Lovely told The Wichita Eagle that the case wasn't binding in the city because it was decided by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Kansas is part of a different circuit. She says enforcing parking restrictions is “crucial," noting that businesses depend upon the public “having quick and convenient access to their locations.” 


Kansas City Sues Former Firefighter for Breaking Gun Laws

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Kansas City is suing a former firefighter and others, accusing them of conspiring to traffic weapons in the region without following federal gun laws. The lawsuit filed Monday alleges the defendants bought and sold guns by using straw buyers and gun sellers that willfully ignored the likelihood that the guns were being sold illegally, often to felons.  A gun safety group has joined in the lawsuit.  The "Everytown for Gun Safety Fund" says it is the first such lawsuit filed against the gun industry in more than 10 years. The lawsuit comes as Kansas City grapples with one of the highest homicide rates in the U.S.


Kansas High School Graduation Rate Remains Flat

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The high school graduation rate in Kansas remained flat last year, with about 88% of the state's high schoolers graduating on time. That’s the same as it was in 2018.  The Kansas News Service reports that the graduation rate has slowly increased over the past decade.  But according to Kansas Deputy Education Commissioner Brad Neuenswander, as the rate improves, the job of reaching the remaining students gets even harder.  The goal is to have 95% of Kansas high schoolers graduate on time by the year 2026.


Protests, Demonstrations at the Kansas Statehouse Under Discussion

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The rise of protests at the Kansas Statehouse has exposed a complex landscape where rules diverge from one floor to the next and sanctions are inconsistently applied by law enforcement. Republican leaders in the Legislature, the Democratic governor's administration and Capitol Police remain entangled in negotiations with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas over how to proceed. The discussions come after demonstrators with the Poor People's Campaign  -- and those pushing for Medicaid expansion -- have been increasingly crossing paths with law enforcement over the past 18 months.  


Suspect in After-Hours Kansas Club Shooting Arrested

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man suspected of fatally shooting an innocent bystander last month during an argument at an after-hours Kansas club is in custody. Twenty-five-year-old Terrance Nigel Johnson was extradited Tuesday to Sedgwick County, Kansas, from Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, where he was arrested last week. He is jailed on $500,000 bond on suspicion of first-degree murder in the Dec. 2 shooting of 19-year-old Sonya Brown at the 511 Club in Wichita. Police say Johnson had been involved in a disturbance with someone else and that Brown was an unintended victim. 


District to Pay $165K to Settle Student's Sex Crimes Suit

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has approved a $165,000 settlement between a large suburban Kansas City school district and a student who was sexually assaulted by a middle school classmate. The Kansas City Star reports that the Shawnee Mission School District in Johnson County, Kansas, agreed to settle in September, but the amount wasn't disclosed until it was approved this week. The lawsuit alleged that school officials didn't act when a male student was repeatedly accused of sexual offenses before he assaulted the victim in 2017 in an eighth-grade study hall at Westridge Middle School. 


Corps Trying to Make More Space for Missouri River Runoff

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers doesn't expect to eliminate from its reservoir system all the leftover water from last year's near record runoff that led to massive flooding along the Missouri River. Officials are raising the current releases in expectation of high spring runoff again this year. The Corps' John Remus told the Omaha World-Herald the system needs to make as much space as possible in light of forecasts for warmer than normal weather and higher than normal runoff. He says the Corps normally doesn't release more during the winter because of the potential for ice jams and dams upriver.


Kansas City, Kansas, Police ID City's First 2020 Homicide Victim

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified the victim of the first homicide of the year in Kansas City, Kansas. Police say 21-year-old Luis Deras-Orellana was the person shot early Sunday. He was taken to a hospital, where he died. No details have been released about a suspect or motive. Last year, 37 people were killed in KCK.


Kansas City Teenager Charged in Killing During Drug Deal

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A teenager is charged with second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of a man during a marijuana deal that was allegedly arranged over Snapchat. The prosecutor's office in Jackson County, Missouri, has announced charges against 19-year-old Jordan L. White of Kansas City. The shooting in September killed 20-year-old Robiell Avilla. Police were called about shots fired and found two people with gunshot wounds. The other injured person survived. A third person told officers that they had gone to an apartment complex to buy marijuana. The Kansas City Star reports that the deal was orchestrated on Snapchat.


Work Underway in Kansas, Missouri on Wind Farm Project

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — Work is underway on a 600-megawatt wind project in southwest Missouri and southeast Kansas. On the Missouri side, construction has started on the North Fork Ridge Wind Farm about 20 miles north of Joplin and is expected to begin in the next month around Golden City on the King’s Point Wind Farm. The Joplin Globe reports that both of those farms will consist of 69 wind turbines that will generate a total of about 300 megawatts. On the Kansas side, construction began in September on the Liberty Utilities-Empire District’s Neosho Ridge Wind Farm north of Parsons. The 139 turbines being built there will generate the other 300 megawatts of electricity.


Arkansas Panel Issues Recommendations on State's Levees

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - An Arkansas panel is calling for increased oversight of the state's levees after last year's historic flooding. The Arkansas Levee Task Force presented its final report Tuesday on the state's system of levees. Governor Asa Hutchinson formed the panel after intense rain in Kansas and Oklahoma strained aging dams and levees all the way into Arkansas.  A levy in the western part of the state was breached. Hutchinson said he supports a plan to provide additional assistance through incentive grants that will encourage districts to bring levees up to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers standards.


Missouri Senator Pushes Idea to Speed Up or Dismiss Impeachment

UNDATED (AP) - Missouri Senator Josh Hawley is proposing a rule change that would allow the Senate to dismiss the impeachment of President Donald Trump. Hawley's proposal, unveiled Monday, says the Senate could dismiss the articles of impeachment if the House doesn't deliver them within 25 days of its impeachment vote, which was December 18.  Already, ten Republican senators have signed on as co-sponsors of Hawley's proposal.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has delayed sending the articles of impeachment to the U.S. Senate.  


Kansas Senator Jerry Moran Becomes Chair of Veterans Committee

WASHINGTON (AP) - Kansas Senator Jerry Moran is now the new chairman of the U.S. Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. Moran's office has announced that his fellow GOP senators had confirmed his appointment to lead the panel.  Moran will replace former Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson after Isakson retired from Congress at the end of last year. Moran has been a committee member since he began serving in the Senate in 2011. Moran served in the House before his election to the Senate in 2010 and was a member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee from 1998 through 2010.


WVU's Huggins Fined for Referring to Refs as '3 Blind Mice' Following KU Game

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — The Big 12 Conference has fined West Virginia coach Bob Huggins $10,000 for referring to an officiating crew as “three blind mice” after a recent loss at third-ranked Kansas. The league announced the fine in a statement that also issued a public reprimand. Commissioner Bob Bowlsby says the fine and reprimand were appropriate because it was Huggins's third such incident. Huggins made the comments in a postgame radio interview Saturday after the 60-53 loss in Lawrence, Kansas.


KPR's daily headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and updated throughout the day.  KPR's weekend summary is usually published by 1 pm Saturdays and Sundays.

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