Kansas Legislature Resumes 2012 Session
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Legislators have returned to the Kansas Statehouse to resume their work on issues remaining in the 2012 session. Wednesday is the 74th day out of the 90-day regular session authorized by the Kansas Constitution. Legislators gaveled back into session shortly after 10 am to handle routine announcements. Many major issues facing legislators in January remain unfinished, including proposals to change the state's pension, tax and education systems. Legislators must finish work on a $14 billion state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Another issue commanding attention is work on redrawing the state's 40 Senate, 125 House and four U.S. House districts to reflect changes in the 2010 census. Legislators must complete the work by May 10 to avoid delays in the August primary election.
Kansas Lawmakers Resume Negotiations Over Tax Cuts
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have resumed negotiations on proposals to cut sales and income taxes. Three members of the House and three from the Senate met Wednesday to try to resolve the chambers' differences as the Legislature returned from a three-week break. Republican Governor Sam Brownback is pushing legislators to lower the state's top individual income tax rates and eliminate income taxes for 191,000 businesses. He says those moves will stimulate the economy. Meanwhile, more than three dozen former GOP legislators are expressing concerns about the tax-cut debate. The ex-lawmakers, calling themselves Traditional Republicans for Common Sense, say they're worried that public schools won't be properly funded.
KS Governor Agrees to Modify Medicaid Plan
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Amid pressure from advocates for the developmentally disabled, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is going along with a proposal to modify his plans for overhauling the $2.9 billion-a-year Medicaid program. Brownback announced Wednesday that his administration is endorsing a proposal for a one-year exclusion of long-term services for the developmentally disabled from the Medicaid reforms. Those services wouldn't become part of the overhaul until 2014. House Majority Leader Arlen Siegfreid, an Olathe Republican who's normally a Brownback ally, confirmed that he is pursuing the proposal. His plan would allow pilot projects to test whether private managed-care companies can provide adequate services. Brownback's administration plans to turn the management of Medicaid over to three private companies, starting in 2013. Medicaid covers medical services for the poor, needy and disabled. Earlier today, hundreds turned out at the Kansas Statehouse to protest the portion of Brownback's Medicaid overhaul proposal that would have transferred the responsibility for long-term care of the developmentally disabled to the private companies.
Feds Investigate Complaints about Waiting Lists for Kansas Disabled Programs
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Complaints about possible civil rights violations arising from waiting lists for physically disabled Kansans seeking state services have been sent to the U.S. Department of Justice. The Lawrence Journal World reports that the federal Office of Civil Rights unsuccessfully tried to negotiate a voluntary settlement with Governor Sam Brownback's administration. At issue is whether Kansas is doing enough to provide services to disabled residents who in some cases have been on waiting lists for three years. A U.S. Supreme Court decision requires states to provide services to people with disabilities. Officials with the U.S. Attorney's Office for Kansas are meeting with the Department of Justice to consider further action. Brownback's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Kansas Senate Leaders to Push for Redistricting Change
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate's Republican leaders are pushing for a change in the state constitution to limit the role of legislators in redrawing the state's political boundaries. The proposal outlined Wednesday would create an independent commission to adjust legislative and congressional districts once a decade. The Legislature's only role would be approving or defeating the commission's plans. The Senate's conservative and moderate Republicans are locked in a dispute over redrawing senators' districts, and the stalemate threatens to delay the state's August 7 primary election. Senate Vice President John Vratil, a Leawood Republican, says redistricting has become too political. Proposals for an independent commission have been offered previously, and House GOP leaders have opposed them. House Majority Leader Arlen Siegfreid, an Olathe Republican, said elected officials should handle redistricting.
House Members May Be Reconsidering Intervention in Senate Remapping Dispute
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas House committee is hesitating to intervene in a contentious dispute in the state Senate over redrawing senators' districts. The House Redistricting Committee convened Wednesday with plans to review proposals for adjusting the boundaries of Senate districts. But its chairman, House Speaker Mike O'Neal, kept the panel in session for only a few minutes. Aides to O'Neal said later there were signs the Senate was moving closer to resolving a dispute between conservative and moderate Republicans on redistricting. Tradition dictates that one chamber does not attempt to redraw the districts of the other chamber's members.
No Deal Reached in Kansas Abortion Threat Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The government's lawsuit against an abortion opponent accused of sending a threatening letter to a Wichita doctor appears headed for trial. The Justice Department has sued Valley Center resident Angel Dillard under a law aimed at protecting access to abortion services. Court records show a closed mediation session that took place Tuesday before a federal magistrate failed to produce a settlement. A trial was scheduled for early next year. Federal authorities say Dillard warned Dr. Mila Means last year to check under her car every day because someone might place an explosive there. At the time, Means was training to offer abortions at her Wichita practice. No abortions have been openly performed in Wichita since Dr. George Tiller was shot and killed by an abortion opponent in 2009.
Fort Riley Brigade Readies for Afghanistan
FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — A brigade of the Army's 1st Infantry Division is preparing to leave Fort Riley for a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan. The 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team will hold a ceremonial casing of its colors Thursday at Cavalry Parade Field on the northeast Kansas post. The flag will be unfurled again when the unit arrives in Afghanistan. It's the brigade's third deployment since 2006 and its first to Afghanistan. The soldiers will work with Afghan government and security forces to help stabilize the country.
KU Med Center Agrees to Severance Package for Departing Executive Dean
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The leader of the University of Kansas Medical Center has reached a severance agreement that will pay her more than $419,000 after she steps down in June. University of Kansas officials announced the agreement Tuesday with Barbara Atkinson, executive vice chancellor of the Medical Center and executive dean of the University of Kansas School of Medicine. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the agreement says Atkinson will be placed on administrative leave and would not be involved in any decisions at the university after April 9. But she will be paid her normal salary through June 30. Atkinson earns nearly $544,000 per year. After she leaves, she agreed to take a lump sum payment of about $419,000.
Kansan Wins $1M in Powerball Game
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Another publicity-shy Kansas resident has won a big prize in a multistate lottery game. The Kansas Lottery says a Topeka resident has claimed a $1 million "Match 5" prize in the April 4 Powerball drawing. The lottery said Tuesday the person declined to be publicly identified in claiming the prize Monday. Powerball players win the "Match 5" prize by correctly guessing the five white-ball numbers in a drawing. The prize used to be $200,000; it rose to $1 million under changes that took effect in January. Kansas allows lottery winners to remain anonymous. A Kansas resident chose to do just that earlier this month after winning one-third of a $656 million Mega Millions jackpot. That individual took a one-time cash payment of nearly $158 million, worth $110.5 million after taxes.
Toddler Prank Leads to Frantic Search
GARDEN PLAIN, Kan. (AP) — Officials in Sedgwick County say a 13-month-old girl whose apparent disappearance touched off a frantic search was just playing hide-and-seek under her crib. The Wichita Eagle reports the little girl's baby sitter called 911 on Wednesday afternoon from the home south of Garden Plain. Sheriff's deputies joined emergency responders in looking for the toddler, fearing she might have made her way to ponds or streams near the house. The search ended after 18 minutes when a relative took one last look around the house and heard a giggle coming from under the toddler's crib, where she had covered herself with a blanket to hide.
Wichita Standoff at Gas Station Ends Peacefully
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita police dog helped end a three-hour standoff that began when a man threatened to blow up a Shell gas station. Police say the man entered the station about 10 pm Tuesday and told the employee he had explosives in his backpack. The employee was able to push the station's silent alarm before he was released about a half-hour later. Wichita Police Captain Jeff Easter said the suspect told police he had C-4 and was going to blow everybody up. About 15 homes around the station were evacuated. KFDI reports after the man stopped responding, a police dog was released into the station. The dog backed the man into a corner, and he was taken into custody. Police say the suspect's backpack did not contain any explosives.
Parents Sue Seneca High School over Reported Hazing Incident
PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — The parents of a Seneca High School student are suing the school district over hazing at a football camp. Paul and Kristi Smith say in the lawsuit that their son, who is now 16, suffered severe cuts, bruising and scarring during the hazing at a 2010 Pittsburg State University football camp. At least eight freshman football players reportedly were hazed by upperclassmen during the camp. Prosecutors say the most serious incidents involved students being hit with plastic curtain rods. The Joplin Globe reports the lawsuit claims coaches did not properly supervise the team. Seneca schools Superintendent Steve Wilmoth said he had no comment on the lawsuit. Charges were filed against 11 players. Several were convicted of misdemeanor battery. Charges were dropped against two and one was acquitted.
Mexican Man Sentenced for Returning to United States
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 30-year-old Mexican national who was deported after a fatal DUI accident in 2005 was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for returning to the U.S. Adan Cruz-Santos was sentenced Tuesday for illegally re-entering the country as a convicted felon. Cruz-Santos was deported in February 2010 after serving a prison sentence for voluntary manslaughter and DUI in the death of 25-year-old Jodie Hatzenbihler. The Olathe nurse died after being hit by a car as she crossed a Lawrence street. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Cruz-Santos pleaded no contest to his third DUI conviction after a September traffic stop. He spent 90 days in the Douglas County Jail before being transferred to federal authorities. Under a plea agreement, he faces mandatory deportation after serving his federal sentence.
Kansas Man Sentenced for Producing Child Porn
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A northeastern Kansas man is going to prison for producing child pornography involving a 3-year-old boy. The U.S. Attorney's office said Wednesday that 30-year-old Steven Miller was sentenced this week to 10 years behind bars. Miller pleaded guilty earlier this year, admitting he produced child porn found by investigators on computer hard drives. The photos showed Miller sexually abusing the 3-year-old boy. Prosecutors said the abuse took place in 2003 while Miller was living in Overland Park.
Hutchinson Man Apparently Drowns in Backyard Pool
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Hutchinson police say a 63-year-old man apparently drowned in his backyard swimming pool. Police Lieutenant John Moore says when officers were called to a Hutchinson home Tuesday evening they found Gerald Alfieri, who had been removed from an above-ground pool. Efforts to revive Alfieri were unsuccessful. Moore says an autopsy will be conducted.
Doctor Pleads to Misdemeanor in Fatal Accident
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita doctor who drove three miles with a man's body on top of his van after a fatal accident has pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor. Sixty-seven-year-old Mohammad Sarrafizadeh was given a one-year suspended sentence after pleading guilty Wednesday to misdemeanor vehicular homicide. Sarrafizadeh was arrested in June, the day after his car struck and killed 31-year-old lawn service worker Ramon Martinez-Limon. The victim was thrown onto the vehicle's roof, prompting witnesses to call police. The Wichita Eagle reports Sarrafizadeh was driving his severely disabled daughter to her school the morning of the accident. His attorney said last fall that Sarrafizadeh had a stroke that made him unaware of the accident.
Students Seal Reno County Time Capsule
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) _ A ceremony is planned in Hutchinson Friday to open one time capsule and bury another. A shoeboxed-sized time capsule full of artifacts from life in Reno County in 2012 was welded shut on Tuesday. Its contents will be revealed Friday, and then it will be placed in the cornerstone of Memorial Hall in Hutchinson. The Hutchinson News reports it will be buried in the same cavity that previously held a 1911 capsule, which was removed last fall. Friday's ceremony will mark the 100th anniversary of the grand opening of the building, which was called Convention Hall when it opened in April 1912. After the contents are revealed Friday, festivities will move to the Reno County Museum, where an exhibit of the artifacts found in the 1911 time capsule will open.
Missouri 8th Grader Charged with Rape at School
RAYTOWN, Mo. (AP) — A 16-year-old eighth grader is being held in juvenile custody after being charged with raping a 13-year-old girl at a suburban Kansas City middle school. Jackson County (MO) juvenile authorities filed delinquency charges against the boy on Tuesday. Police say the girl reported the attack February 27. She said the boy pulled her into a classroom and assaulted her. A Raytown school district spokeswoman says the boy has been suspended and the district is awaiting court action before proceeding with more disciplinary action. Officials said a hearing will be held later to determine whether the juvenile will be tried as an adult.
Cerner Breaks Ground for New Kansas Office Complex
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Medical computer systems developer Cerner Corporation has broken ground on a complex in Kansas City, Kansas, with offices for 4,000 employees. Governor Sam Brownback took part in Tuesday's groundbreaking near Kansas Speedway. Cerner is headquartered in North Kansas City, Missouri, and has a second campus in Kansas City, Missouri. In Kansas, Cerner is building a $190 million complex with 660,000 square feet of space. The company expects to open the complex next year and have 2,000 workers there by the end of 2014, most of them new employees, with the number doubling within 10 years. The state of Kansas lured the project with a $230 million package of incentives that also allowed construction of a new stadium for Major League Soccer team Sporting Kansas City. Two of the team's owners are Cerner executives.
Judge Hears Arguments on Trying Child Sex Case
WINFIELD, Kan. (AP) — A south-central Kansas man accused of sexually abusing several children is asking a judge to throw some of the charges out. KAKE-TV reports Jerry Mills, of Arkansas City, had a preliminary hearing Tuesday in Cowley County District Court. Judge Jim Pringle must decide whether to order Mills to go to trial. Prosecutors offered graphic testimony to demonstrate they have sufficient evidence. But lawyers for Mills argue some of the charges fall outside the five-year statute of limitations because the allegations date back longer than that. Mills was charged after several people — some of them now adults — told authorities last year of being abused for years as children. Tuesday's hearing was closed to the public to prevent a potential jury pool from being tainted.
Sprint Loss Widens on Nextel Writedown
NEW YORK (AP) — The impending shutdown of the Nextel network doubled Sprint Nextel Corporation's loss in the first quarter, as it wrote down the value of the network and subscribers kept leaving it. Sprint has struggled with the cost of running two disparate wireless networks as Nextel customers have cancelled in droves. In the first quarter, Sprint's net loss was $863 million, or 29 cents per share. In the same quarter last year, the loss was $439 million, or 15 cents per share. Analysts polled by FactSet were on average expecting a loss of 42 cents per share. Revenue was $8.73 billion, up 5 percent from a year ago, as iPhone subscribers boosted services fees. Analysts were expecting $8.71 billion.
Kansas Legislature Wrap-Up Session to Convene
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Legislature returns today (WED) from a three-week break with several major issues to resolve, including work on next year's budget and redrawing the state's political boundaries. The new districts must be completed by May 10 to avoid delays in the June candidate filing deadline and August primary. Democratic and Republican leaders said Tuesday the redistricting work has become highly partisan. House and Senate negotiators are expected to resume talks on proposals to reduce the state income tax for individuals and eliminate the tax for nearly 200,000 businesses. Republican Governor Sam Brownback remains committed to the passage of tax cuts this session, as well.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.
Kansas House Panel May Wade into Senate Remap Fight
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee is preparing to step into a contentious dispute among state senators over political redistricting in hopes of breaking their stalemate. The House Redistricting Committee was scheduled to meet Wednesday to review proposals for redrawing the 40 state Senate districts. Lawmakers must redraw the district boundaries of elective offices to account for changes in population over the past decade. A decades-old Kansas tradition dictates that one chamber doesn't get involved in adjusting the other chamber's districts. But a bitter split in the Senate between conservative and moderate Republicans has held up approval of a new map. The Senate also has yet to give the usual rubber stamp to a bipartisan plan passed by the House for redrawing state representatives' districts.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.
Hundreds Protest Portion of Kansas Medicaid Overhaul Plan
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Hundreds of developmentally disabled Kansas residents and advocates for them have rallied at the Statehouse against part of Governor Sam Brownback's plan to overhaul the state's Medicaid program. Participants in Wednesday's rally don't want services for the developmentally disabled included when the state turns management of its $2.9 billion-a-year Medicaid program over to three private companies. The administration plans to issue contracts this summer. Medicaid covers health care for the poor, elderly and disabled. The rally's participants created a temporary display of personal objects on the Statehouse's south steps to urge the administration to change its plans. House Majority Leader Arlen Siegfreid, an Olathe Republican, said he'll introduce a proposal this week to delay including long-term care for the developmentally disabled in the contracts for a year.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.