Headlines for Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Interstate 70 Reopens in Western Kansas
DENVER (AP) - Interstate 70 in western Kansas and eastern Colorado has reopened after it was shut down because of strong winds and blowing snow for parts of Tuesday. The highway was closed between Goodland, Kansas and Limon, Colorado on Tuesday morning as wind gusts reached 60 mph on the Eastern Plains. The highway was reopened Tuesday afternoon after an eight-hour closure. The volume of traffic is also slowing holiday travelers headed into Colorado's mountains. Another round of snow is expected to move into the region on Christmas Day.
KS Bill Would Allow Unapproved Meds for Terminally Ill
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City lawmaker is proposing a measure that would allow terminally ill patients to use medications that haven't received federal approval. Shawnee Republican Representative Brett Hildabrand plans to present the "Right to Try" bill when legislators return to Topeka on January 12. Hildabrand says the government shouldn't stand in the way of anything that could potentially extend the lives of people with terminal illnesses. Five other states — Missouri, Colorado, Michigan, Louisiana and Arizona — already have approved similar legislation. The initiative is being spearheaded by the Arizona-based nonprofit Goldwater Institute, which says the effort is designed to allow patients access to investigational drugs that have completed basic safety testing.
Kansas Lawmakers Floating Variety of Revenue Proposals
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Republican legislators in Kansas are tossing around plenty of proposals for raising new revenues to help close the state's budget shortfalls. They're not confining themselves to rethinking personal income tax cuts that represent GOP Governor Sam Brownback's legacy. But many lawmakers floating the ideas also aren't expressing much enthusiasm for them. Several Republican leaders said the GOP-dominated Legislature also must make significant spending cuts in addressing shortfalls totaling more than $710 million in the current and next budgets. The tax proposals from senators include delaying future promised cuts in personal income tax rates and accelerating the elimination of income tax deductions already being phased out as rates drop. Legislators also have mentioned eliminating exemptions to the state sales tax and increasing gasoline, liquor and tobacco taxes.
Kansas Legislature Fills Top Administrative Post
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A longtime legislative liaison and manager for the Kansas commission that regulates utilities will oversee payroll, parking, secretarial and other services for state lawmakers, starting next month. The Kansas Legislature's top leaders Tuesday hired Tom Day as director of legislative administrative services. The 61-year-old Day is from Lawrence and is acting executive director of the Kansas Corporation Commission. He has been its legislative liaison and a public service executive since 1999. Day expects to start his new, $85,000-a-year job January 7, five days before legislators open their annual 90-day session. He'll replace Jeff Russell, who retired in September after nearly 17 years. Day's appointment had bipartisan support. Top lawmakers pointed to his experience both as a liaison and in handling personnel and building management issues with the KCC.
Kansas Tribes Take Cautious Approach to Marijuana
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some northeast Kansas American Indian tribes say they need more information before making a decision on whether to grow and sell marijuana on tribal land after the federal government said it wouldn't interfere with those who do. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Kickapoo Tribe spokesman Fred Thomas says he doesn't see how legalizing marijuana on the reservation would benefit his tribe. Alan Kelley of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska says he sees no need for it, either. Earlier this month the U.S. Department of Justice said Indian tribes can grow and sell marijuana on their lands as long as they follow the same federal conditions laid out for states that have legalized the drug. But tribes have been taking a cautious approach as many questions remain unanswered.
Kansas Prison Updating Alarms After Nurse is Assaulted
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - The Hutchinson Correctional Facility has ordered new alarm pendants for contract nurses to wear in the wake of last summer's alleged sexual assault at its central unit. The Hutchinson News reports that the system has been ordered, but not yet installed. In the interim, the facility has given contract employees prison radios that also have an alarm feature built in. Prison spokesman Dirk Moss says the facility provided all 116 contract workers with the radios about two months ago. Prior to that, only corrections officers had access to the radios. The plan is to only provide the alarm pendants to the nurses so they don't have to carry around radios, Moss said.
Good Samaritans Settle Strangers' Layaway Balances
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Melody McKenzie headed to the Lawrence Wal-Mart this week planning to remove an item from layaway that she had intended to purchase for her 12-year-old daughter before money got too tight for that to happen. The Lawrence woman thought she stilled owed $87 on the karaoke machine after paying $15 to have it put on layaway, but when she told the clerk to put the toy back on Monday, she was shocked when informed that she owed only one penny. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the clerk told her a good Samaritan had paid off the rest. Wal-Mart Supercenter manager Shawn Jacobson says that since Thanksgiving about 10 people had come in to pay off strangers' layaway balances, amounting to between $2,500 and $3,000 in payments.
Kansas, Arizona Seek Rehearing in Voter Citizenship Lawsuit
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas and Arizona have asked an appeals court for a rehearing of its ruling that their residents can register to vote using a federal form without having proof of citizenship. A petition filed late Monday contends the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals overlooked certain issues when it sided against the states in November. The federal appeals court ruled that Kansas and Arizona cannot demand federal election officials to help them enforce state laws requiring new voters to submit a birth certificate, passport or other papers documenting U.S. citizenship. The court overturned an order from a federal judge in Kansas that had required the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to modify its form to require those documents. The federal commission's spokesman did not immediately respond to an email Tuesday seeking comment.
Lawrence Man Released After Police Standoff
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence police say there wasn't probable cause to arrest a man after a three-hour armed standoff at an apartment complex. The man was taken into custody Monday after police obtained a search warrant to enter his apartment. Officers believed he was connected to an alleged aggravated assault in which a person's car was taken and a man threatened the alleged victim with a handgun. Police spokesman Sergeant Trent McKinley says officers determined there wasn't enough probable cause to book the suspect into jail so he was released after briefly taken into custody. McKinley declined to provide additional details of the standoff because of the ongoing investigation.
Judge Postpones Trial in Assisted Living Fraud Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal Judge has delayed the trial for a Kansas couple accused of stealing more than $1.5 million from a Wichita company that owns assisted living centers in Kansas and Missouri. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten set a new trial date for May 5 in the case of Brent and Lori Shyrock of Augusta. The couple had been set to go to trial January 13 on four counts of mail fraud. Their attorney asked for the delay in order to review a large amount of complicated accounting documents. The indictment alleges the crimes were committed while Brent Shryock was employed as information systems director for Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America. He was in charge of purchasing equipment. Prosecutors say the couple created four fictitious companies to submit fraudulent invoices.
Homicide Suspect Says Victim Begged to Die
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Court records say a Lawrence health care attendant who is charged in the killing of man with cerebral palsy told authorities the victim wanted to die. Forty-eight-year-old Ronald Eugene Heskett, of Eudora, is charged with first-degree murder in the asphyxiation death of Vance Moulton. The 65-year-old had a towel around his head when he was found dead in September. The newly released affidavit says Heskett told investigators that Moulton repeatedly begged to be killed. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Heskett said he gave in after Moulton said "he just wanted to walk with his mother again." Heskett says he twisted a towel around Moulton's neck and told him to lay on it. Defense attorney Mike Warner said he didn't want to comment until he finished reviewing the police investigation.
Koch Industries Completes Purchase of Oplink Communications
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A subsidiary of Koch Industries has completed its acquisition of optical network device company Oplink Communications Incorporated. The companies announced Tuesday that Koch Optics Inc. has acquired 14,701,501 shares at a price of $24.25 per share. The deal represents about 83.8 percent of Optlink's outstanding shares. Last month's tender offer for all of Oplink's outstanding shares expired on Monday. The companies subsequently completed the merger, effective Tuesday, without a vote or meeting of Oplink's shareholders. Oplink survives as a wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries. Its shares ceased trading on the NASDAQ Global Market prior to the Tuesday's opening. Wichita, Kansas,-based Koch Industries owns companies in various industries such as chemicals, refining, forest and consumer products, fertilizers, electronic components, minerals and energy. Oplink is based in Fremont, California.
Wichita State Beats Hawaii 80-79 in Overtime
HONOLULU (AP) — No. 11 Wichita State overcame a sloppy start to beat Hawaii in overtime Tuesday night and reach the final of the Diamond Head Classic. Ron Baker led the Shockers (10-1) with 17 points. Hawaii (8-4) led 77-74 with just under a minute to go in regulation play when Wichita's Mike Thomas scored off an inbound pass to send the game into overtime. Rashard Kelly grabbed a rebound and put back a short bank shot with 3.8 seconds left to win the game.