Headlines for Monday, January 19, 2015
Tickets for Obama Visit to Kansas Available Tuesday Morning
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas students, faculty and staff are getting first dibs on tickets to see President Barack Obama in Lawrence discussing themes from his State of the Union address. The university says students can start picking up their free tickets at 9 am Tuesday at the box office in the Kansas Union. A limited number of tickets will be available for the general public starting at 5 pm at the Dreher 4-H building at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. Obama is scheduled to arrive in Lawrence on Air Force One on Wednesday evening and will speak at Anschutz Sports Pavilion next to Allen Fieldhouse at 11:20 am Thursday. No signs or banners will be permitted and attendees are asked to limit personal items and not bring any bags to the event.
Early Morning Quakes Shake South-Central Kansas
ANTHONY, Kan. (AP) - Two earthquakes were felt in south-central Kansas early Monday. No major damage was reported from either quake. The U.S. Geological Survey says a 2.7 magnitude quake was reported about 3:50 am Monday near Caldwell in Sumner County. A few minutes later a quake measuring 3.9 was reported about eight miles northeast of Anthony in Harper County. The state recorded more than 120 earthquakes last year, most of them in south-central Kansas.
State Geologists Link Earthquakes to Fracking Waste Disposal
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A state group says a steep increase in earthquakes in south-central Kansas likely is caused by the disposal of waste water from an oil and gas extraction process often called fracking. The state recorded more than 120 earthquakes last year, up from zero in 2012. State officials have hesitated to link the earthquakes to fracking, or hydraulic fracturing. Kansas Geological Survey officials said last week there is a strong correlation between the earthquakes and the waste disposal. But they stressed the link is with the waste disposal, not with the extraction process itself. Joe Spease, of the Kansas Sierra Club, says that's just semantics. His group supports a moratorium on fracking until the oil and gas industry develops a plan for disposing of the wastewater.
Brownback Seeks Reorganization of Foster Care Licensing
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Governor Sam Brownback is trying to reorganize the licensing of foster care homes and the state workers who determine whether people are eligible for Medicaid. Brownback issued an executive order last week to move foster home licensing to the state Department for Children and Families from the Department of Health and Environment. DCF already oversees child welfare services. The order also moves the Medicaid eligibility workers from DCF to KDHE in January 2016. The health department oversees the Medicaid program that provides health coverage to the poor and disabled. The governor must allow legislators to consider the order, but if neither the House nor the Senate rejects it by mid-March, it will take effect. Brownback says the reorganization will streamline the administration of both programs.
Caregiver Act Aims to Reduce Hospital Readmissions
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A group of seniors and their supporters are pressing for a bill aimed at ensuring a smooth transition to home for discharged hospital patients. Members of the AARP talked to lawmakers and the governor last week about a bill called the Caregiver Act. The Wichita Eagle reports that it would require hospitals to work with a patient's caregiver, often a family member. The goal is ensure that necessary preparations are in place for the patient to continue to recover at home after being discharged. AARP state executive director Maren Turner says some hospitals already do a good job of that, but others are inconsistent. Backers say that too frequently, discharged patients are re-hospitalized because they injure themselves trying to do too much.
Rural Hospitals Plead for Medicaid Expansion
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Kansas hospital officials are pleading for the state to expand the Medicaid program for low-income people as allowed under the new federal health care law. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the hospital officials told a legislative committee during the first week of the session that they face tremendous economic challenges without an expansion. Neosho Memorial Regional Medical Center CEO Dennis Franks said, "We're in the roughest time we've ever been in." Franks was among several people who testified Wednesday before the House Vision 2020 Committee, which is chaired by Representative Tom Sloan. The Lawrence Republican said he hopes to develop a "Kansas solution" for expanding Medicaid that will pass the conservative-dominated Legislature.
KU Says $3.9M Needed for Law Enforcement Training Center
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Operators of the state's central law enforcement training facility say $3.9 million is needed from the Legislature to avoid extreme cuts. The Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center is generating less revenue than expected. The University of Kansas runs the center near the southern Kansas town of Yoder as part of its continuing education program. Center director Ed Pavey says the district and municipal court docket fees that the center has relied on as its main funding source have plummeted in recent years. The center attributes the drop largely to fewer traffic tickets being issued. Pavey said the center needs more money to ensure it's able to continue operating and keep up with payments on bonds issued to finance an expansion.
Bills to Require Body Cameras Get Support, Raise Questions
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Legislation requiring Kansas law enforcement officers to be equipped with body cameras has gained bipartisan support in the first days of the new session, but questions about costs have raised some concerns. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports a bill backed by Democratic Representative Gail Finney of Wichita likely will be considered in the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee, whose chairman supports the cameras but thinks the measure might be an unfunded mandate. Democratic Senator David Haley of Kansas City is pushing a similar proposal. Finney says Wichita has experienced a number of officer-involved shootings and could potentially have an incident like in Ferguson, Missouri, where sometimes violent protests followed the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer.
Topeka Warden Says Facility is Working to Improve Safety
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The warden of the Topeka Correctional Facility says everyone is working hard to ensure the safety of women inmates at the prison. A federal investigation found in 2012 that sexual misconduct and abuse of inmates was rampant at the prison. On January 9, the U.S. Department of Justice and the state announced a settlement that resolved the prison of those allegations. Warden Hope Cooper, who took over when the former warden was transferred after the sex scandal was first revealed in 2009, says several steps have been taken to improve safety. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Cooper says security has been improved and staff was added at the prison. And she says females were put into positions of authority at the prison.
University of Kansas Buys New Multi-Million Dollar Jet
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas is using a new airplane purchased by a gift from the Kansas Endowment. University spokeswoman Errin Barcomb-Peterson says the seven-passenger Cessna Citation CJ4 was delivered December 23 and has already been used on some trips. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the exact purchase price was not disclosed but the KU Endowment agreed to provide a grant not to exceed $8.1 million for the plane. The university traded in a 1997 Cessna Citation Bravo jet it had used previously. In addition to the business jet, KU owns a share in a second plane. KU Endowment funded the purchases, and KU pays ongoing expenses. The planes are used for the University of Kansas Medical Center's medical outreach program for rural Kansas, administrators' travel and athletic recruiting trips.
Kansas Lawmakers Have High Hopes for Medical Marijuana Bill
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Two Kansas lawmakers who have introduced medical marijuana bills every year since 2009 say there's a chance the measures will finally get a formal committee hearing after years of being pushed aside. The bills filed by Senator David Haley, a Kansas City Democrat, and Representative Gail Finney, a Wichita Democrat, would allow some patients with chronic illnesses to legally obtain and use marijuana. The Senate's Public Health and Welfare Committee plans to conduct new informational hearings on Wednesday and Thursday to hear from supporters and foes, respectively. Currently 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana.
Rape Suspect Surrenders After Stand-Off in Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Kansas City police say a man who is suspected of raping his neighbor surrendered peacefully after a standoff that lasted nearly six hours. Police Officer Darin Snapp said in a statement that officers responding around 9:30 p.m. Sunday to a reported rape encountered a woman who said she was assaulted by her neighbor at his home. Officers went to the man's home and saw the suspect inside, but he at first refused to surrender. The man surrendered about 3 a.m. Charges are expected later Monday.
Foundation Distributes $5.5M in Donations to Joplin
JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) - A foundation has distributed more than $5.5 million in donations that poured into Joplin after a May 2011 tornado. The Joplin Tornado Fund administered by the Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri received just over $6 million in donations from sources as diverse as children's lemonade stands to $500,000 from celebrities Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Stephanie Howard, president of the foundation board, says about 54 percent of the funds went to organizations that rebuilt or repaired the homes of owners who didn't have insurance or enough insurance, or to federal allocations to re-establish a house or repair all the damage. The Joplin Globe reports groups that helped with mental health and counseling, and those that cared for children while parents dealt with the tornado's aftermath, also received foundation grants.
Prosecution and Defense Seek DNA in Wichita Identity Theft Trial
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A federal judge has postponed the trial of a man charged with assuming the identity of a dead Texas boy. The move gives the prosecution and defense time to obtain DNA that each side hopes will bolster their case. DNA evidence has long been a mainstay in other criminal trials but its use in an immigration-related identity theft case is unusual. Prosecutors want to compare Teodoro Erasmo Luna's DNA to the sisters of the child he is accused of impersonating. Pena is charged in a 17-count indictment with aggravated identity theft, misuse of a Social Security Card, lying on a passport application, and other crimes. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten says the DNA testing will help the parties reach a resolution. The new trial date is March 24.
Man Dies After Being Found on Ice at Creek in Wichita Park
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police are investigating the death of a 21-year-old man who was found on ice at a creek in a Wichita park. The Wichita Eagle reports that a 911 caller reported that the man was in the creek around 8:55 am Saturday. A 911 dispatch supervisor said emergency crews got the unresponsive man out of the ice about 50 minutes later. Sergeant William Manchester said the man was pronounced dead at a hospital.
9-Month-Old Missouri Boy Fatally Shot by 5-Year-Old Brother
ELMO, Mo. (AP) — A 9-month-old northwest Missouri boy is dead after being accidentally shot in the head by his 5-year-old brother. Nodaway County Sheriff Darren White says the baby was pronounced dead at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City just before noon on Monday. The Kansas City Star reports emergency responders were called to an Elmo home at 8:58 am on Monday after a 5-year-old found a loaded .22 caliber handgun and apparently was handling it when it fired. White says the bullet struck the 9-month-old, who was in a playpen. The sheriff says there is no reason to believe the tragedy was anything other than an accident.