Headlines for Monday, June 22, 2015
Kansas Lawmakers Urge Review of Federal Health Overhaul
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — More than 70 Republican legislators in Kansas are urging GOP leaders in Congress to re-examine the federal health care overhaul after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a key provision. State Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook of Shawnee and Representative Dan Hawkins of Wichita released the letter Monday. They are the leaders of the Legislature's health committees. The letter was dated June 16 and addressed to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Twenty-five other Republican state senators and 44 other GOP Kansas House members signed the letter. It urges Congress to "reconsider or re-examine" the 2010 federal health care law. The nation's highest court is considering the legality of federal subsidies for consumers in states like Kansas that don't have their own online health insurance marketplaces.
Brownback Says School Funding is 'Wild Card'
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A lawsuit over funding for Kansas public schools threatens to upend the state budget that Governor Sam Brownback and the Legislature struggled to balance this year. The state is increasing sales and cigarette taxes to help raise an estimated $384 million in new revenues during the fiscal year beginning July 1st to avert a budget deficit. But Brownback acknowledged that funding for the state's 286 public school districts remains a "wild card." A three-judge panel in Shawnee County District Court has ruled that Kansas must boost aid to school districts by at least $548 million a year. The state has appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court.
Brownback Wants More Highway Patrol Officers
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Governor Sam Brownback says he wants to increase the number of highway patrol troopers on the state's roads. His comments come as the patrol is working with its lowest staffing levels since 2005, when the patrol had 487 troopers. Patrol spokesman Lieutenant Adam Winters says as of Friday, the patrol currently has 399 troopers. The Topeka Capital-Journal reportsthat at the end of last year, the patrol had no troopers assigned to 21 counties, and another 34 counties had only one trooper. When the governor was asked last week what areas of state government should get increased funding, he specifically mentioned the highway patrol but offered no specifics.
House Committee to Hear Complaint on 'Inflammatory' Language
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A special Kansas legislative committee will consider a complaint from legislators who say a Democratic House member used "inflammatory" language when she referred to supporters of an education bill as "racist bigots." The measure would have repealed a law allowing some immigrants who are in the country illegally to pay in-state tuition at Kansas colleges and universities if they meet other requirements. Nine Republican members of the House Education Committee signed a formal complaint against Democratic Representative Valdenia Winn of Kansas City. She called the proposal a "racist, sexist, fear-mongering bill" in March, a transcript shows, and apologized to those "whose lives are being hijacked by the racist bigots" supporting it. The House Select Investigating Committee is scheduled to hear the complaint Friday.
Court Throws Out Some Convictions in Kansas 'Pill Mill' Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has thrown out some convictions against a former Kansas doctor and his wife accused of a moneymaking conspiracy at a pain clinic linked to 68 overdose deaths. But the ruling Monday does not end legal troubles for Stephen Schneider and his wife, Linda, because much of the case remains. The couple was convicted in 2010 of conspiracy to commit health care fraud resulting in those deaths, unlawfully prescribing drugs, health care fraud and money laundering. Schneider was sentenced to 30 years and his wife 33 years. The court also overturned the conspiracy sentence following an unrelated U.S. Supreme Court decision that the victim's drug use had to be the actual cause of death, not merely a contributing factor. At least one remaining count carries a mandatory 20-year sentence.
Proposal to Reopen Boys Ranch Concerns Wichita Officials
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita school officials say they are concerned that Sedgwick County is considering reopening a reform program for juvenile boys. School officials say the district would have to make a significant investment if the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch reopens. The ranch closed last summer after county officials said the county could no longer afford to subsidize it without increased state funding. The Wichita Eagle reports that Sedgwick County commissioners last month instructed staff to include money in their 2016 spending requests to reopen the ranch or to fund a similar program. The Wichita district is required by law to provide educational programs at the facility. School board member Lynn Rogers said he is concerned the county didn't contact the school district about the possibility of reopening the ranch.
Kansas AG Elected Vice President of National Association
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has been elected by his colleagues in other states as vice president of their national association. The two-term Republican received the honor during the summer meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General in San Diego. Schmidt previously has served as the group's Midwestern regional chairman, the co-chairman of its consumer protection committee and the vice chairman of its committee on combatting human trafficking. Schmidt served in the Kansas Senate and was its majority leader for six years before being elected attorney general in 2010. He was re-elected last year.
Kansas Parole Board Denies Parole for 1984 Murder
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Parole Board has denied parole for a man convicted of killing a Nickerson man in 1984. The Hutchinson News reports that Danny Pickerill has been denied parole for his conviction in the 1984 death of Nickerson resident Richard Wilson. He was sentenced to two life terms and has spent 30 years in prison for first-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping. He won't be eligible for parole again until June 2017. Adam Pfannenstiel, communications director for the Kansas Department of Corrections, says parole was denied because of the violent nature of the crime. Pickerill is accused of murdering Wilson, wounding his wife, Peggy, and then kidnapping her daughter and granddaughter. This was Pickerill's first time before the parole board.
Milk Production in Kansas More Than Doubled in Past 20 Years
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials say milk production in Kansas has more than doubled in the past two decades. Cows in Kansas produced 3.1 billion pounds of milk in 2014, an increase of 181 percent compared to 1994. It's also an increase of 6.1 percent compared to the year before. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that milk production has increased by at least 5 percent each year since 2012. The Kansas Department of Agriculture says the state has one of the fastest growth rates in the country. The department says Kansas produced enough milk in 2014 for 350 million one-gallon jugs, with a value of around $746 million. Kansas has about 325 dairies and 143,000 cows.
Return of Hot, Dry Weather Jump-Starts Kansas Wheat Harvest
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The return of mostly dry, hot weather this weekend has jump-started the stalled winter wheat harvest. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that 8 percent had been harvested as of Sunday. Normally by this late in the season, about 33 percent of the wheat is in the bin. Last year at this time 21 percent had already been cut. About 51 percent of the wheat in Kansas is now mature. The wheat harvest is now in full swing across most of Kansas, with the possible exception of northwest Kansas and the northern tier counties. Aaron Harries, marketing director for the industry group Kansas Wheat, says yields are better that expected relative to the very poor yields that had been expected early this spring. Better-than-expected doesn't mean above average.
Chinese Demand Grows for Kansas Sorghum
STERLING, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has seen increased demand from China for its sorghum crops. Kansas typically grows more wheat than any other state and also grows the most sorghum in the nation. But until recently, none of the state's sorghum, also known as milo, had been exported to China. The Hutchinson News reports that China bought 80 percent of the U.S. crop last year, or 3 million metric tons. An industry group, Kansas Grain Sorghum, says China is buying more than 7 million metric tons this year and that the Chinese sales boost has pushed the price of sorghum to about a dollar more than corn in Kansas. Sorghum is mostly used to make fuel and fatten livestock.
Corps of Engineers Taking Steps to Reduce Missouri River Basin Flood Risk
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is taking steps to reduce flooding risks in the Missouri River Basin after recording higher than expected water levels at many of its reservoirs. Corps officials said Monday they expect to hold more water back over the summer, using the storage capacity of reservoirs to limit downstream flooding when possible. Jody Farhat of the Missouri River Basin Water Management Division says the Corps anticipated drought conditions earlier this year, but shifted its focus after the Midwest and Plains states experienced far more rain than predicted. Some states have seen as much as 10 inches in the last 30 days. The basin covers parts of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas and all of Nebraska.
Man Arrested After Standoff with Lawrence Police
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A Lawrence man has been arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault after a six-hour standoff with police. Authorities say officers responded Sunday to a residence around 5:30 am, where a 48-year-old allegedly threatened another person in the house with a rifle. The victim was able to escape uninjured shortly after police arrived. Officers then attempted to communicate with the suspect for the next six hours. The suspect eventually emerged from the home just after 11:30 am and surrendered. The suspect is being held in the Douglas County Jail without bond.
Attorney for Suspect in 4 Kansas Deaths Wants Trial Moved
OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) - The attorney for a man charged with four deaths at a Kansas farm wants the trial moved to a different county. The attorney for 30-year-old Kyle Flack of Ottawa has filed a motion to move the capital murder trial out of Franklin County. Flack is charged with murder and rape after two men, a woman and her daughter were found dead near Ottawa in 2013. Flack has pleaded not guilty. The motion for a change of venue contends Flack cannot get a fair trial in Ottawa County because pretrial publicity has prejudiced potential jurors. The motion doesn't name a preferred new site for the trial. A motion hearing is scheduled June 30 to determine whether court documents sealed by judges should be unsealed.
5-Year-Old Abandoned at Wichita Store
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 5-year-old boy has been placed in foster care after he was abandoned at a Wichita department store. A relative who was with the boy was caught attempting to shoplift last week from a Kohl's store and fled leaving the child behind. Police say the woman remains on the run, and no other relatives showed up to claim the boy during a temporary custody hearing Friday. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett says efforts will be made to talk to people related to the boy before the court makes a long-term placement decision. Wichita police Detective Andrew Do says the boy's caregiver hasn't been charged. But he says police plan to pursue a case against her for felony theft and possibly child endangerment or abandonment.
Man Says He Was Shot While Driving on Kansas City Interstate
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police are investigating a man's report that someone pulled up beside him and shot into his car while he was driving on Interstate 435 in southeast Kansas. It was the second such report in just over a week but Kansas City police Captain Tye Grant says investigators have no evidence the two shootings are connected. In Monday's incident, a 40-year-old man was able to drive himself to a fire station. He suffered a non-life-threatening gunshot wound to his upper left leg and a bruise on his torso. On June 14, two women riding in a car in the same area reported their vehicle's driver's side window shattered. A shotgun pellet was later found in the car. One of the women was cut by shattered glass.
Man Accused of Threatening Wichita Park Visitors
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 55-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of threatening visitors at Riverside Park in Wichita. The suspect faces charges including aggravated assault, one count of simple battery and one count of criminal possession of a weapon. The Wichita Eagle reports a 29-year-old woman told police she was approached by a man who threatened to physically harm her. According to Wichita Police Department spokesman Sergeant Brian Sigman, the suspect then went to a group of visitors and threatened them. Sigman said the suspect pulled out a box knife and threatened to cut a 24-year-old man and a 22-year-old man. The suspect pushed the 24-year-old with one hand and brandished the knife with his other hand.
Health Officials Say 2 Men Died of Malaria in Springfield
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Health officials say two men from South Africa whose bodies were found at a motel in southwest Missouri died of cerebral malaria. The Greene County (Missouri) Medical Examiner's office said Monday that 45-year-old Gerrit Strydom and 44-year-old James Bethel died in early May of cerebral malaria, a treatable disease transmitted by an infected mosquito. The medical examiner's office says the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made the diagnosis. Tom Van De Berg, a forensic investigator with the medical examiner's office, says both men likely became infected about the same time in South Africa and died within hours of each other. Their bodies were found May 9 at a Springfield motel. He say the mean had been ill and searched the internet for their symptoms during their motorcycle trip across Route 66.
Jackson County Summons Dead Man for Jury Duty -- Twice
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A man who died more than eight years ago has been summoned twice in the last three years for jury duty in Jackson County (Missouri). The Kansas City Star reports that Cody Liberty, who graduated from Raytown High School in 1999, died in 2007 in Florida. But Jackson County summoned him for jury duty in 2012 and again for July 20 this year. His mother, Jana Swann, of Kansas City, says the first time was bad enough. That's when she told court officials her son died in 2007. Officials said they pulled his name from the records then. But Swann says she received the second summons this month. State and county court administrators say they can't explain the mix-up, but say records will be corrected to show Liberty has died.
Red Sox Rout Royals 13-2
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Red Sox' David Ortiz passed two Hall of Famers with his 476th home run, and the Boston Red Sox banged out 13 hits Sunday in a 13-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals. Ortiz homered to lead off the fourth inning and move past Stan Musial and Willie Stargell into 28th place on the career home run list. Boston's Wade Miley pitched six scoreless innings. The Royals couldn't make much progress against Miley but they did threaten briefly in the first inning. Eric Hosmer and Kendrys Morales singled, then Alex Gordon walked to load the bases. But Alex Rios flied out to center, ending the inning and stranding the three runners on base. The Royals finally broke through in the ninth with Lorenzo Cain's two-run triple.