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Headlines for Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Senate GOP Blocks Move to Debate Medicaid Expansion

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republicans have blocked a move in the Kansas Senate to expedite a debate on Medicaid expansion. The vote Wednesday was 23-13 to pull an expansion bill from committee, one vote short of the 24 needed. The House passed the bill in March but the Republican-controlled Senate has not acted on it. Medicaid expansion is one of new Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's priorities. Her plan for expanding Medicaid health coverage to up to 150,000 additional Kansas residents is based on a bill that passed in 2017 with bipartisan support, only to be vetoed by then-Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican. GOP leaders say they want to wait until next year to vote on an expansion plan and that Kelly is trying to rush the debate.

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Medicaid Expansion Backers in Kansas May Hold Budget Hostage

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Supporters of expanding Medicaid in Kansas are looking to block passage of the state's next annual budget to force an expansion plan through the Republican-controlled Legislature.  Legislators are set to reconvene today (WED) after an annual spring break.  The state Senate expected to vote quickly on expediting an expansion debate. The House approved the measure in March, but the Senate has yet to act on it.  Top Republicans want to delay action until next year.  Supporters weren't sure they could pull an expansion bill out of the Senate committee where it's been stuck. That has them focusing on the alternative of tying up the $18 billion-plus budget that lawmakers must pass to keep state government operating after June.  House Democratic Leader Tom Sawyer calls the budget "the best leverage we have right now."  Demonstrators are at the Kansas Statehouse today (WED), urging lawmakers to expand KanCare, the state's Medicaid program.

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Kansas House Sustains Abortion 'Reversal' Veto

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republicans in the Kansas Legislature have narrowly failed to override Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's veto of a bill to require doctors to tell patients that medication abortions can be stopped after the first of two pills. The Senate voted 27-13 Wednesday with no votes to spare to override the veto. But the vote in the House was 82-43, two short of the two-thirds majority needed for an override. Kelly said the bill is an unwarranted intrusion between patients and their doctors. Abortion opponents say such measures ensure that women harboring doubts about ending their pregnancies will learn that they can stop a medication abortion after the first of two pills. Abortion-rights supporters say such mandates force doctors to present patients with dubious information.

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Kansas Senate Overrides Governor's Abortion 'Reversal' Veto

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has overridden Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's veto of a bill requiring abortion providers to tell patients about a disputed treatment to stop a medication abortion after it's been started. The vote Wednesday was 27-13, just the two-thirds majority needed. Kelly said the bill is an unwarranted intrusion between patients and their doctors. Abortion opponents say such measures ensure that women harboring doubts about ending their pregnancies will learn that they can stop a medication abortion after the first of two pills. Abortion-rights supporters say such mandates force doctors to present patients with dubious information. Arkansas, Arizona, Idaho, Utah, South Dakota, North Dakota and Kentucky all have similar laws.

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Kansas Collected $81 Million More in Taxes than Expected in April

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is reporting that it collected $81 million more in taxes in April than anticipated even after officials issued a more optimistic fiscal forecast during the month. The state Department of Revenue's report Wednesday came as Republican legislators attempted to revive a tax relief bill. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly in March vetoed a GOP bill aimed at preventing individuals and businesses from paying more in state income taxes because of changes in federal tax laws at the end of 2017. Kelly described it as fiscally irresponsible. The Department of Revenue said Kansas collected nearly $1.2 billion in taxes during April when it expected a little more than $1.1 billion. The surplus was 7.3 percent. The new forecast issued in mid-April increased projections for tax collections through June 2021.

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Kansas Governor Seeking More Money for Prisons

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly is seeking $35 million to improve corrections officer salaries and inmate health care and to transfer inmates out of overcrowded state prisons. Kelly on Tuesday submitted an amended budget proposal for the spending year that begins July 1 for lawmakers to consider as they returned Wednesday to the Statehouse for a brief wrap-up session. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Kelly wants to purchase contract bed space for male inmates to free state correctional officers for redeployment in the crowded prison system. In February, the governor declared an emergency at the state's most crowded prison because of serious staffing shortages. Kelly also wants to move 120 women at Topeka Correctional Facility to a state juvenile corrections complex and to broaden medical treatment for inmates with Hepatitis C.

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Kansas Undersheriff Shot by Suspect Is Expected to Recover

STERLING, Kan. (AP) — An undersheriff who was shot when he tried to stop a man on a federal firearm charge is expected to recover. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and Rice County Sheriff's office said Wednesday 48-year-old Rice County Undersheriff Chad Murphy's condition has improved from critical to serious. Murphy was shot Monday by 37-year-old David Madden near Sterling. Authorities say Madden then shot and wounded Sheriff Bryant Evans and killed his father before killing himself during a standoff. Madden was under investigation in the disappearance of 22-year-old Megan Renee Foglesong, of Oneida, Illinois, who was last seen in Rice County in 2015. The KBI said in a news release Wednesday that investigation continues but no new leads or information have emerged from this week's shooting.

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Woman, Child with Man When He Shot and Wounded Central Kansas Lawman

STERLING, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a woman and child were with a man when he shot and critically wounded a Kansas undersheriff.  Kansas Bureau of Investigation senior special agent Steve Rosebrough says the woman and a child left 37-year-old David Madden on Monday night before he shot the Rice County sheriff in the leg and killed himself. The KBI says Madden also killed his father, 65-year-old Thomas Madden.  The KBI says it's unclear whether the woman and child accompanied Madden willingly. The relationship between Madden and the woman wasn't known. Madden also is a suspect in the 2015 disappearance of his girlfriend.  Rosebrough said the undersheriff's injuries aren't believed to be life-threatening. He is in critical but stable condition. The sheriff has been released.

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Kansas Tornado Was Small, but Still Caused Damage

PAOLA, Kan. (AP) — The National Weather Service says a tornado near the eastern Kansas town of Paola was a small one, but it was still enough to cause damage.  The Kansas City Star reports that the twister with winds estimated at 80 mph to 85 mph was reported at 4:10 am Monday just south of Paola. Jason Leighton of the National Weather Service says it was an EF-0, 15 yards wide, and lasted three minutes.  The tornado damaged the roof of Trinity Lutheran Church and toppled headstones in a nearby cemetery. It also bent a flag pole. No injuries were reported.  The twister was the first one of the year reported in the weather service's Kansas City region. Paola is a town of 5,600 residents 45 miles southwest of Kansas City, Missouri.

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Storm System Drops Tornadoes in Southwest Missouri

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A severe thunderstorm has spawned tornadoes that downed power lines and trees in parts of southwest Missouri.  National Weather Service meteorologist Kelsey Angle says tornadoes were reported Tuesday afternoon near Wheaton, Rocky Comfort, Miller and Stella in southwest Missouri.  Angle says preliminary reports indicate some outbuildings were damaged.  David Compton, emergency management coordinator in Barry County, says one or two homes in Wheaton were damaged and several trees and power lines were down. He had no reports of injuries.  The line of storms is carrying heavy rain, hail and the possibility of more tornadoes as it moves east.  Angle says most of southwest Missouri is under a tornado watch until at least 11 pm, with some areas under tornado warnings.

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Washburn Coach: Football Field was "Piece of Heaven" for Slain Player

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Hundreds gathered in Kansas to remember a Washburn University football player who was killed in a shooting that also wounded a friend who had been drafted hours earlier by the New York Giants.  The Kansas City Star reports that coach Craig Schurig said at Tuesday's vigil for 23-year-old Dwane Simmons that the football field was his "piece of heaven." The coach compared Simmons, a junior from Lee's Summit, Missouri, to the candles carried by mourners, saying he "shined the light on everybody." The university plans to create a scholarship named for Simmons.  The shooting early Sunday outside an off-campus party also injured cornerback Corey Ballentine, whom the Giants drafted Saturday in the sixth round. The university says Ballentine is expected to make a full recovery. No one has been arrested.

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Officer Ruled Justified in Shooting, Wounding of 18-Year-Old

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A prosecutor has determined that a suburban Kansas City police officer was justified in shooting and wounding an 18-year-old homicide suspect.  The Johnson County district attorney said Tuesday in the ruling that Matthew Bibee Jr. made comments that indicated his intent to kill the officer.  KMBC-TV reports that Bibee began shooting on March 31 after an officer confronted him because he matched the description of a suspect in an attempted carjacking. Bibee sustained shrapnel wound to his wrist. Investigators said that as Bibee was being led to a police car, he shouted that he was trying to take the officer's "life first."  Bibee is jailed on $1 million bond on charges that include battery on a law enforcement officer and first-degree murder in the March 29 killing of 17-year-old Rowan Padgett.

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New Jersey Lawmakers Seek Probe in Heatstroke Death of Garden City Football Player

NEPTUNE, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey's U.S. House delegation is seeking an independent investigation into the heatstroke death of a Kansas community college football player from their state.  The state's 12 representatives wrote Tuesday to Garden City Community College President Ryan Ruda requesting the probe.  Nineteen-year-old Braeden Bradforth died in August about an hour and a half after practice. Bradforth was a defensive lineman from Neptune High School who arrived in Kansas in July.  An autopsy report from December blamed his death on exertional heatstroke.  School administrators said last year they were conducting an internal review of the circumstances of his death.  Messages seeking comment have been left with the college.  New Jersey's representatives say the probe should at least review health and safety practices at the school.

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Kansas Governor Names New Appeals Court Judge Amid Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Gov. Laura Kelly has nominated a new judge for the Kansas Court of Appeals despite a lawsuit over whether she has the power to fill the vacancy after her first nominee withdrew.  The Democratic governor announced Tuesday that she was submitting Lenexa attorney Sarah Warner's name to the Republican-controlled Kansas Senate for confirmation.  Kelly was forced in March to withdraw Labette County District Judge Jeffry Jack as her first nominee because of political posts on his Twitter feed in 2017.  Senate President Susan Wagle contends that Kelly missed the deadline to make a proper nomination and the choice now falls to Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss.  Attorney General Derek Schmidt petitioned the Supreme Court last week to settle the issue. The court plans to hear arguments May 9.

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Kansas Medicaid Patients Can Now Get Antiviral Hep-C Drugs

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A court settlement will allow Medicaid beneficiaries in Kansas infected with the Hepatitis C virus to be able to receive the treatment they need regardless of how far their disease has progressed.  U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree approved on Monday the agreement in a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of enrollees in the privatized Medicaid program, also known as KanCare. The lawsuit challenged a Kansas policy that restricted the more costly treatment by direct-acting antiviral drugs to only the sickest Medicaid beneficiaries.  The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas lawsuit is among several nationwide demanding state Medicaid programs cover the treatment.  An attorney says 335 Kansas Medicaid beneficiaries were initially denied treatment since 2016 and another 2,600 enrollees suffering from the disease will now have access to the drugs.

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Kansas City Lawmaker Resigns from Missouri House Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri lawmaker has resigned after an investigation into a sexual harassment complaint found he engaged in "ethical misconduct" by pursuing an "amorous relationship" with an employee.  Democratic Representative DaRon McGee, of Kansas City, submitted his resignation late Monday. It was printed in the House Journal, which was publicly available Tuesday, along with an investigatory report by the House Ethics Committee.  The committee said McGee made repeated communications over the course of at least 10 months while attempting to engage in an unwelcome relationship with an employee. The report said McGee then took actions which resulted in the employee's termination.  The committee recommended McGee resign or face potential expulsion if he didn't comply with other sanctions.  McGee's resignation letter said he had accepted a job in Kansas City.

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Female High School Wrestlers in Kansas Will Get their Own Tournament

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas will host its first state-sanctioned high school wrestling tournament for girls only next year.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Kansas State High School Activities Association board voted Friday to add girls wrestling to its competitions.  The association's executive director, Bill Faflick, says the first girls state wrestling tournament will be held in Salina on February 27, 2020.  High school girls are already allowed to wrestle, but they've had to join boys' teams. More than 375 high school girls wrestled on boys' teams across Kansas this winter.  The change means that boys and girls will still meet during the regular season, but they must participate in their respective regional and state tournaments.  Faflick says they hope the decision leads to more female participation in high school wrestling across Kansas.

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Iowa Flooding Not Expected to Spread Very Far

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — Officials in Davenport, Iowa, say they're not expecting flooding that swept into a section of downtown Tuesday to spread much beyond the couple of blocks already under water.  Davenport Public Works Director Nicole Gleason says one flood barrier failed along the river, swamping vehicles and buildings along part of the Mississippi River's edge. Gleason says as long as the other barriers hold and rain overnight is not heavier than expected, much of the flooding should be contained to a few blocks.  Officials and volunteers scrambled to fill sandbags Tuesday afternoon to get to downtown business owners hoping to keep floodwaters out.  The National Weather Service says the river at Davenport reached a level of 21.88 feet by 5 pm — the fifth highest level recorded at the spot. The river is expected to crest Wednesday at 22.2 feet — just inches below the record of 22.6 feet set in 1993.  Mayor Frank Klipsch says no one was injured Tuesday in the flooding.

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Survey Suggests Economic Growth Ahead for Midwest, Plains States

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new report says an April survey of business supply managers suggests there will be solid economic growth over the next three to six months in nine Midwest and Plains states.  The report issued Wednesday says the Mid-America Business Conditions Index dropped to 55.9 last month from 58.2 in March. The February figure was 57.9.  Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he says finding and hiring qualified workers remained the chief threat to the manufacturing economy for the region.  The survey results are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth. A score below that suggests decline.  The survey covers Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

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US Wildlife Officials Propose Downlisting Endangered Beetle

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Latest on a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to take the American burying beetle off the endangered species list (all times local):

4:25 p.m.

Biologists say the government's decision to change the classification of an endangered scavenging beetle is not supported by scientific data. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Wednesday it is proposing to downlist the American burying beetle from endangered to threatened. Native to 35 states and three Canadian provinces, the beetle was listed as endangered in 1989 when it was found only in eastern Oklahoma and Block Island off the cost of Rhode Island. Thanks to conservation efforts, federal officials say there are now confirmed populations of the American burying beetle in nine states. Noah Greenwald is endangered species director for the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity. He says scientific data indicates that the beetle is even more endangered now, but that President Donald Trump's administration is severely reducing its habitat protections.
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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — U.S. wildlife officials say an endangered carnivorous beetle is making a comeback and should be downlisted to threatened. The American burying beetle was once found in 35 states and three Canadian provinces. When it was listed as endangered in 1989, it was only in eastern Oklahoma and Block Island off the cost of Rhode Island. Amy Leuders is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services' southwest regional director. She said Wednesday that conservation efforts over the past 30 years have helped the beetle recover. Leuders says populations now can also be found in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas, and on Nantucket Island off the coast of Massachusetts. The large, nocturnal beetle eats decaying animals. It's active only in the summer and lays its eggs beside small carcasses that it buries.

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