Headlines for Friday, April 3, 2015
Winds Damage Buildings, Leave Power Outages in South Central Kansas
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Strong winds blew through south central Kansas early Friday, leaving downed trees and damaged buildings and cutting off power to thousands of residents. Local media reported damage in Harvey, Reno, Sedgwick and Butler counties. Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton says the Newton Library and several other buildings in the city were damaged. Several buildings in Wichita were also damaged. There were no reports of fatalities. Power outages were reported throughout the region. Westar Energy says about 50,000 customers were without power early Friday. School was canceled Friday in Wichita and Maize because of the power outages.
Sheriff Says Kansas Man Found Beneath Destroyed Mobile Home
SCOTT CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 62-year-old southwest Kansas man is dead after strong winds destroyed his mobile home. KWCH-TV reports Scott County Sheriff Glenn Anderson says deputies arrived at the home in a rural area near Scott City early Friday morning and found the man under the frame of the trailer. Anderson says the home was believed to have been destroyed by strong winds Thursday night. The sheriff didn't immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press on Friday afternoon seeking additional details.
Kansas Legislature Taking Annual Spring Break
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Legislature is taking its annual spring break. The House and Senate adjourned Thursday evening after passing a raft of legislation. State officials and university economists plan to meet April 20 to issue new forecasts for revenues through the June 2016. Legislators will use those projections to finish a state budget. Governor Sam Brownback says he is open to raising sales taxes to fill gaps in state's budget. Brownback said during a news conference Thursday that he would like to shift the state from income and property taxes to consumption taxes. The state faces budget shortfalls of nearly $600 million in the fiscal year beginning July 1. The Senate passed a budget in March that does not balance without tax increases. The Legislature plans to reconvene April 29 to wrap up its business for the year.
Kansas Moving to Tighten Rules for Cash, Food Assistance
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Critics of tighter rules for social services in Kansas focus on how they expect those policies to make daily life difficult for needy families. Republican Governor Sam Brownback and his allies emphasize their goal of moving people from state assistance into jobs. Legislators have approved a bill putting policies imposed by Brownback's administration into state law, so they'll be harder to undo. Those policies require able-bodied adults receiving temporary cash assistance to work or be looking for jobs. Lawmakers added rules, too. One bans using cash assistance for entertainment, cruises, spa trips, tattoos, body piercings and consultations with psychics. Another would limit ATM withdrawals with assistance cards to $25 a day. The House passed the bill on an 87-35 vote Thursday, a day after the Senate approved it, 30-10.
Kansas Lawmakers Approve Plan for Pension System Bonds
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is expected to issue $1 billion in bonds later this year to bolster its pension system for teachers and government workers. Legislators gave final approval Thursday to a bill authorizing the bonds. The Senate approved the measure on a 23-16 vote after the House passed it Wednesday on a 63-57 vote. The measure now heads to Republican Governor Sam Brownback, who praised the idea before the Senate's vote. He had proposed $1.5 billion in bonds. The pension system would get an infusion of cash, narrowing a long-term gap in funding for pension benefits. The state expects to earn more from investing the new funds than it would pay on the bonds. But critics see the move as risky.
Kansas to Allow Carrying of Concealed Guns Without Permit
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas will become the fifth state to allow its residents to carry concealed firearms without a permit throughout the state. Republican Governor Sam Brownback on Thursday signed a bill ending the permit requirement. The change takes effect July 1. The National Rifle Association says Kansas joins Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming in having such a policy. Kansas still will issue permits for gun owners who want to carry concealed in other states that recognize Kansas permits. A person seeking a Kansas permit must undergo eight hours of firearms training. Brownback said gun owners have shown they are responsible. But Democratic state Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau of Wichita said the state still should require some training.
Kansas Supreme Court Upholds Convictions in Fatal Accident
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has upheld the murder convictions of a man who killed two people when he crashed into their vehicle while running from police. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Kaston Hudgins of Galena hit speeds reaching 120 mph in July 2009 while trying to elude a Cherokee County deputy after a traffic stop. The chase ended when Hudgins's vehicle hit the back of a car driven by 41-year-old Teresa Kemp. She and her 13-year-old daughter Taylor were killed. Hudgins was convicted in 2012 of two counts of first-degree felony murder and one count of fleeing a law officer. He received two concurrent "Hard 20" life sentences for murder and six months for fleeing. The high court on Friday said there wasn't sufficient cause for a new trial.
Proposal to Shield Campus Religious Groups Advances in Kansas
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have advanced a bill aimed at giving religious groups on state college campuses more control over their membership. The House Federal and State Affairs Committee approved a bill Thursday that's drawn criticism from gay-rights supporters who believe it will protect groups that bar gays and lesbians as members and cite religious reasons. The committee's 12-10 vote sends the bill to the House for debate. The Senate approved it two weeks ago. The measure would prohibit state universities, community colleges and technical colleges from withholding benefits to religious groups based on how they limit membership in line with religious beliefs. Supporters said the bill protects groups' freedoms of association and worship. Critics said colleges would be forced to support groups that discriminate.
State Senate Confirms Kansas Patrol Chief, KDHE Head
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Senate has confirmed two of Governor Sam Brownback's major appointments. The Senate voted Thursday to approve the governor's choices for Kansas Department of Health and Environment secretary and Kansas Highway Patrol superintendent. The Senate voted 33-4 to approve the appointment of Susan Mosier as KDHE secretary. Mosier has been serving as KDHE's top administrator since the resignation of then-Secretary Robert Moser at the end of November. She previously ran KDHE's Division of Health Care Finance. The vote was 40-0 to confirm Major Mark Bruce as patrol superintendent. Bruce is a 25-year patrol veteran elevated by Brownback to the top job in January after Superintendent Ernest Garcia retired.
Uber Says Proposed Kansas Insurance Requirement Could Force It to Leave State
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has approved changes to a transportation bill that car service Uber says could drive it out of the state. Changes to the bill the House approved on Thursday would require drivers from transportation network companies to hold additional insurance for the periods they are transporting riders for pay. It would also require companies to do background checks on their drivers through the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. The bill directly affects the company Uber, which connects independent drivers to riders through a smart phone app. The company posted on its blog Monday that the bill would make it impossible for Uber to operate in Kansas. Republican Representative Scott Schwab said the bill would give fair regulation to Uber without giving the company special treatment.
Kansas Among 15 States Urging Supreme Court to Uphold Gay Marriage Bans
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Eight states where same-sex couples can marry are among 15 states urging the Supreme Court to uphold gay marriage bans and leave the matter to voters and lawmakers. These states are telling the justices in a brief filed Thursday that the court would do ``incalculable damage to our civic life'' if it decides that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry nationwide. The states say they should be free to decide the issue for themselves. The eight states where gay and lesbian couples can marry after courts struck down bans on gay marriage are: Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Utah and West Virginia. Seven other states where same-sex marriage remains illegal also joined the brief. They are: Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas.
State Increasing Pressure Against Wichita Marijuana Initiative
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Some lawmakers and state officials are ramping up the pressure against a Wichita ballot initiative that seeks to ease penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana. But supporters of the measure are also pushing back after crashing the officials' news conference Friday in front of the Sedgwick County courthouse. The issue is on the ballot for Tuesday's election in Wichita. The proposed ordinance does not legalize marijuana. It makes first-time possession a criminal infraction with a $50 fine. Under state law, it is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and a year in jail. Opponents contend the city has no legal authority to adopt an ordinance that conflicts with state law. Supporters say people should vote for the measure anyway to send the Legislature a message.
Kansas Wesleyan Drops Nursing Accreditation, Seeks Another
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Wesleyan University's nursing program has voluntarily withdrawn its accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education. The Salina Journal reports that the Salina school's withdrawal was effective March 11, and is a part of a plan to pursue accreditation through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. That process is expected to take about two years. According to Matt Thompson, president of Wesleyan, the new accreditation is "more appropriate" for programs that offer bachelor's, master's or doctorate degrees in nursing. Thompson says the lack of accreditation will not affect the school's graduates. According to him, about half of the graduate nursing programs in Kansas don't require incoming students have a degree from a program with ACEN or CCNE accreditation. Wesleyan still has accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, and the nursing program is licensed by the Kansas Board of Nursing.
Florida Juvenile Suspected of Making Threat to Kansas School
DERBY, Kan. (AP) — Investigators say a juvenile in Florida is suspected of posting an online threat that there would be a shooting at Derby High School, prompting the district to beef up security for a day. Officials say the suspect has no connection to Derby High School and it appears the threat was random. Derby police on Tuesday received a tip that the threat was posted on a gaming website, but it didn't specify a date. Classes at Derby High School were held on schedule Wednesday, though additional law enforcement officers were present. Derby spokeswoman Kristy Bansemer says the FBI helped Derby police identify the suspect on Thursday. She says the FBI and Florida law enforcement will continue investigating the case.
Wichita Man Gets at Least 3 Years in Arkansas Man's Death
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man must serve at least three years in prison for his role in an Arkansas man's death during a 2013 robbery at a rental house. The Wichita Eagle reports 21-year-old Orville T. Smith had pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and other charges in the shooting death of 27-year-old Paul Danny Khmabounheuang. Attorneys had agreed that Smith should receive the 38-month sentence because he played a small part in the crime and agreed to testify against three other men charged in the case. A district judge imposed Smith's sentence Thursday. Prosecutors say Smith wasn't involved in planning the robbery and was brought in to drive to the residence about an hour before the November 2013 shooting. Smith's attorney also noted that her client wasn't armed.
Kansas City Bank Employee Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former Kansas City bank employee pleaded guilty to embezzlement and not paying taxes on the money. Federal prosecutors say 39-year-old Jennifer Regans, of Kansas City, pleaded guilty Thursday to embezzlement by a bank employee and filing a false tax return. Regans was an administrative assistant by Pioneer Services, the military banking division of MidCountry Bank in Kansas City until she was fired in July 2012. She admitted in her plea that she embezzled at least $500,000 from the bank. The U.S. Attorney's office says in a news release that prosecutors believe she embezzled up to $1 million. Prosecutors say it will be up to the court to determine the amount of actual loss when Regan is sentenced.