Headlines for Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Topeka Says 55K Gallons of Raw Sewage Spilled into Kansas River
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Crews in Topeka have been working to repair a sanitary sewer leak that resulted in 55,000 gallons of raw sewage spilling into the Kansas River. The Topeka Capital Journal reports that it's the city's third sewage release into the Kansas River since April. Bob Sample, the city's general manager of water pollution control, says the cause of the Tuesday leak hasn't yet been determined. About 3 million gallons of raw sewage discharged into the Kansas River in late April after a power failure at the city's south Kansas River pump station. Earlier this month, the city dealt with a surge of heavy rain by bypassing a secondary cleaning process and dumping as many as 50 million gallons of sewage into the river before it underwent a secondary cleaning process.
Altered KPERS Rules a Concern for Retiree Teachers in Kansas
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Education authorities are raising concerns about new rules for the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System that they say could discourage retirees from teaching in Kansas classrooms. Under former rules, a teacher or school administrator could retire, draw a KPERS benefit and work full time for a new school district or his or her same school district. The Hutchinson News reports that new legislation changes working-after-retirement rules for KPERS participants and is expected to have the most impact on schools, particularly teachers and administrators who retire and return to work. The new rules have a $25,000 earnings limit per year. Buhler USD 313 business manager Perry McCabe and Gene A. Buie, executive director of United School Administrators of Kansas, anticipate teacher shortages in Kansas if schools can't hire retirees.
Brownback Campaign Seeks Donation from Westar Amid Rate Case
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's campaign recently approached a Westar Energy official for a campaign debt donation while the utility is in the process of seeking a rate increase. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a Brownback campaign official contacted Mark Schreiber, Westar's government affairs vice president, more than a week ago looking for help retiring debt from the governor's successful re-election campaign last year. The contact with Schreiber takes place when Westar is requesting a $152 million rate increase from the Kansas Corporation Commission. Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley says Brownback's office doesn't influence the KCC's operations or decision-making. Westar spokeswoman Gina Penzig acknowledges the request to Schreiber and says it was referred to Westar Employees' Political Action Committee, which hasn't made a decision on it yet.
Brownback Calls for Abortion Facility Inspections
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback wants two state agencies to determine if Kansas abortion facilities take part in a fetal tissue program in the wake of criticism over a Planned Parenthood executive videotaped discussing the disposition of parts from aborted fetuses. Brownback's office said Tuesday he wants the Kansas Board of Healing Arts and the state Department of Health and Environment to investigate whether any Kansas facility sells tissue and organs from aborted fetuses. An undercover video released by anti-abortion activists shows Planned Parenthood's senior director of medical services discussing procedures for providing fetal body parts to researchers. Planned Parenthood says it legally helps women who want to make not-for-profit donations of their fetus's organs for scientific research. Laura McQuade, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and mid-Missouri, says the organization doesn't participate in the fetal tissue program and calls the investigation "politically motivated."
Researchers: Kansas Cash Balance to Be Lower than Expected
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislative researchers say the state's cash balance could be smaller next June than lawmakers realized when they approved increases in sales and tobacco taxes to fill a $400 million budget gap. The Wichita Eagle reports the nonpartisan Legislative Research Department says Kansas will have about $67 million in its reserves by the end of the fiscal year, rather than the $86 million projected last month. The lower number could fall even farther if Governor Sam Brownback doesn't find about $50 million more in cuts. Brownback's office said in an email it would continue focusing on reducing the cost of government for Kansas taxpayers. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley called the new numbers an ominous sign that the state will be facing another budget shortfall next year.
Kansas Bioscience Authority Cuts Staff, Halts Investments
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Faced with dwindling state funding, the Kansas Bioscience Authority is laying off several staff members and scaling back operations. The KBA invests public money in the biotech industry to foster startups and attract investment in Kansas. But state funding for the agency has been cut significantly since 2012. Statute allows for the KBA to receive up to $35 million each year. But from 2012 through 2015 it received less than $29 million. Duane Cantrell, the KBA's president and CEO, told The Kansas City Star that KBA is laying off seven of its 13 full-time staff members and no longer has a full-time scientist on staff. It also will hold off on making new investments for now. The governor's office says the KBA has to manage within its budget.
Lawsuit Alleging Problems with Medicaid in Kansas Ends
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former executive of the firm managing part of the privatized Medicaid program in Kansas is ending a lawsuit alleging she was fired after protesting potentially improper cost cutting moves. A one-sentence stipulation filed Tuesday in federal court notes that former Sunflower Vice President Jacqueline Leary and defendants Sunflower State Health Plan Incorporated, its parent Centene Corporation and others have agreed to dismiss the case. Each pays its own costs and attorneys' fees. The lawsuit alleged Sunflower stopped assigning Medicaid participants to doctors working for health care providers who were paid a higher-than-standard rate. The companies disputed that, filing counter claims alleging Leary tried to extort money from them. Medicaid covers health services for the poor and disabled. Kansas has turned its administration over to Sunflower and two other private companies.
Kansas Seeks Dismissal of ACLU Lawsuit on Gay Marriage
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas says there nothing more a federal judge in Kansas can do that that has not already been done by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month that legalized same-sex unions nationwide. The state on Tuesday argued the court should dismiss as moot the lawsuit filed by a civil right's group challenging the state's gay marriage ban. Kansas contended in a court filing that continued litigation serves no legitimate purpose. Since the high court's ruling, Kansas has been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and awarding them the same tax, health insurance and other benefits given to married couples. It argued the same-sex couples who sued no longer have standing because the relief they sought has already been given to them without the need for a judgment in their case.
Kansas Gets Federal Disaster Aid for Spring Storms
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - President Barack Obama has signed a federal disaster declaration that will free up federal funds to help Kansas recover from recent spring storms. The federal money will go toward repairing damage to infrastructure and services damaged by May and June storms that included tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding. Obama signed the disaster declaration Monday. Federal funding is available to the following counties: Atchison, Barton, Brown, Butler, Chase, Chautauqua, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Clay, Cloud, Coffey, Cowley, Doniphan, Edwards, Elk, Ellsworth, Franklin, Gray, Greenwood, Harper, Haskell, Hodgeman, Jackson, Jefferson, Jewell, Lyon, Marion, Marshall, McPherson, Meade, Miami, Morris, Nemaha, Neosho, Osage, Pottawatomie, Republic, Rice, Stevens, Sumner, Wabaunsee, and Washington.
Topeka Man Sentenced to 50 Years in Mother's Brutal Slaying
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 40-year-old Topeka man has been sentenced to at least 50 years in prison for the brutal murder of his mother four years ago in the home they shared. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Jason Hachmeister was given the Hard 50 sentence Tuesday in Shawnee County District Court. He will serve the sentence concurrently with an earlier prison sentence for child pornography. A jury convicted Hachmeister in February of premeditated first-degree murder in the slaying of his 58-year-old mother, Sheila Hachmeister, on September 10, 2011. District Judge Richard Anderson said Hachmeister never took responsibility for repeatedly stabbing and then strangling his mom, so he didn't deserve mercy in sentencing. The sentence means Hachmeister won't be eligible for parole until he is 90 years old.
Judge Dismisses Charges in Alleged $132 Million Scam
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A federal judge has dismissed the indictment against seven men accused in 2012 of cheating investors out of $132 million. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten granted a request Monday from prosecutors to dismiss the case. Its end comes nearly three years after the government announced the indictment, alleging at the time that investors were bilked with false promises and phony reports about companies that leased drilling rigs and related businesses. Prosecutors did not explain their decision in the filing. The order dismisses charges that had been filed against Michael McNaul, formerly of Hutchinson; Dale Lucas of Wichita; Russell Kilgariff of Preston; Lloyd Nunns of Hutchinson; Greggory Krause of Hutchinson; Steven Tallman of Owasso, Oklahoma; and Fredie Hembree of Hutchinson.
Body of Missing Man Found
EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say crews have recovered the body of a 26-year-old man who apparently drowned in the Walnut River at an El Dorado park. KAKE-TV reports the man was with his brother Sunday morning when he tried walking across a man-made waterfall and got swept away. El Dorado police said Tuesday the man's body has been found. Emergency crews have been looking for the man, whose identity hasn't been released. They scaled back their efforts Sunday afternoon because the water level was too high to continue. Divers were brought in Monday morning to resume the search.
K-State Reports $141.5M in Donations
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Kansas State University says it has received $141.5 million in gift pledges in the fiscal year that just ended. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the donations for the fiscal year that ended June 30 came from individual supporters and corporate partners, with 57,813 individuals making more than 80,550 gifts. Alumni made nearly half the gifts and were the largest donor group. While there were also several small gifts, 28 families committed $1 million or more each. The university says that about 66 percent of the money was pledged through endowments and deferred gifts that will become available in the future. Kansas State President Kirk Schulz said in a written statement that private donations are becoming more important as the state covers less of the cost of higher education.
Mathematician Says Kansas Voting Machines Need to Be Audited
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A Wichita State University mathematician says she has seen enough odd patterns in Kansas election results that she thinks it's time to check the accuracy of some voting machines. Wichita State's Beth Clarkson says that she noticed some suspicious patterns after the November elections and wants to find out why but government officials have been reluctant to provide her with the records she needs to conduct an audit. Sedgwick County election officials refused to allow computer records to be part of any recount, instead telling Clarkson if she wanted them she would have to fight for them in court. Clarkson says an audit is important because of national concerns about the voting machines that thousands of Kansans use to cast their ballots.
Report: Increase in Same-Sex Marriages Will Boost Kansas Economy
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A report from a Los Angeles-based think tank estimates that same-sex marriages could provide the Kansas economy with $14.1 million in the first three years. Several Wichita-area businesses say they're expecting a bump in revenues with the legalization of same-sex marriages as an influx of couples plan their weddings. The Wichita Eagle reports that photographers, florists, hair stylists and bakeries also say they're eager to get in on the new business. The trend nationwide is that half of same-sex couples marry within the first three years of legalization. The report from the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles predicts a $9 million boost to the state economy the first year based on wedding, tourism and sales tax revenue.
Earthquake Centered in Northern Oklahoma Rattles Region
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A magnitude 4.4 earthquake centered in northern Oklahoma shook the region Monday. The U.S. Geological Survey says Monday's quake happened at about 3:20 pm, with the epicenter located about 9 miles east of Cherokee, Oklahoma near the Kansas border. People reported feeling the quake in several states, including Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. The Alfalfa County Sheriff's Office said there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage. According to the Oklahoma Geological Survey, a 4.4 earthquake would be among the top 10 strongest earthquakes recorded in the state.
Former Surgery Center Employee Convicted of Computer Fraud
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 54-year-old former employee of a Wichita surgery center has been found guilty of computer fraud for a mass transfer of emails that included information of 317 patients. The Wichita Eagle reports April Galvan was found guilty Monday of seven counts of computer fraud. Authorities say that around 11:30 am on June 12, 2013, Galvan had been fired from Cypress Surgery Center. Prosecutors say that in anticipation of being fired, Galvan sent about 140 emails from her work computer to her personal email account earlier that morning. They say other emails had been sent in the days leading up to her firing. The emails included sensitive health information for 198 patients, and seven of them had confidential patient information. The surgery center discovered the email transfer in an audit shortly after Galvan was fired.
Store Employees Hailed for Rescuing Child from Hot Car
MERRIAM, Kan. (AP) - A pair of Kansas shoe store employees are being lauded for their actions after one of them found a 2-year-old locked inside a sweltering car in the parking lot. KCTV-TV reports 16-year-old Porscha Bland had just left the Famous Footwear store in Merriam on Saturday afternoon when she saw the child in a car, covered in sweat and crying. She ran back into the store and alerted her manager, Sarah Oropeza, who tried to smash a passenger window with a tire iron. Another person arrived with a truck hitch and broke the girl out. Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe says he's considering what charges are warranted against a couple who said the girl was their niece and left her in the car.
Group Recommends New Terminal at Kansas City Airport
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A study group says a single new terminal at Kansas City International Airport would be cheaper to build than a major renovation of the existing terminals. The Kansas City Star reports the recommendation is a reversal of earlier expectations. The city's Aviation Department has recommended discarding the horseshoe terminal concept in favor of a new, single terminal. Steve Sisneros, director of airport affairs for Southwest, says a renovation project would cost more than $1 billion while a new terminal would cost significantly less than that. He declined to provide more specific numbers. Tuesday's special business session was convened to bring council members up to date on the status of the airport talks. Kansas City residents will have a vote on the financing for any major airport improvements.
Judge Sets Date for Resentencing Kansas Doctor, Wife
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A judge has set a hearing for a former Kansas doctor and his wife accused of a moneymaking conspiracy at a pain clinic linked to 68 overdose deaths. Stephen Schneider and his wife, Linda, will be resentenced August 31. The couple was convicted in 2010 of unlawfully prescribing drugs, health care fraud and money laundering. Schneider was initially sentenced to 30 years and his wife to 33 years. But in June, U.S. District Judge Monti Belot overturned the conspiracy sentence following an unrelated U.S. Supreme Court decision that an overdose victim's drug use had to be the actual cause of death, not merely a contributing factor.
65-Year-Old Colby Man Killed in Police Shootout
COLBY, Kan. (AP) - A western Kansas man killed in a shootout with police officers over the weekend has been identified as a 65-year-old Colby resident. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says Charles Edward Dewey was gone when Colby police responded late Friday night to a domestic disturbance involving someone with a gun. Police found Dewey just after midnight Saturday morning hiding under a camper trailer. Police say Dewey fired a handgun at the officers, who returned fire and killed him. No law enforcement officers were injured in the exchange. Two Colby police officers and one deputy who were involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave.
Moran Collects Nearly $30,000 in Campaign Donations from Tribes
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ U.S. Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas has received nearly $30,000 in support of his re-election bid from 12 different American Indian tribes this year, including $1,000 from the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation of Kansas. The Wichita Eagle reports Moran's most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission shows the Republican has received $1.43 million in total campaign donations from January through June. Other tribes that have contributed include Oklahoma's Chickasaw Nation, Louisiana's Tunica-Biloxi Tribe and New York's Seneca Nation of Indians. Moran, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, is a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
Report: Kansas Winter Wheat Harvest Nearly Finished
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ The latest government snapshot of crops in Kansas shows the winter wheat harvest is 96 percent complete. The National Agricultural Statistics Service also reported Monday that about 32 percent of the state's soybean crops are blooming. The agency estimates 3 percent of the state's sorghum crops are forming heads and about 9 percent of the sunflowers planted in Kansas are blooming. Roughly 64 percent of Kansas corn crops are silking. The report also says that top soil moisture is short or very short across almost a quarter of Kansas
Appeals Panel Rejects No-Sex-Without-Contraception Order
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal appeals panel says a judge in Kansas City exceeded his authority when he ordered a defendant to use contraception during his supervised release. Christopher J. Harris was sentenced to 15 years for being a felon in possession of a firearm after his arrest in 2013. U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs noted at sentencing that Harris had 10 children by seven women, and said his conduct was creating a "very serious social problem." Sachs ordered Harris to refrain from "any unprotected sex activities" without the approval of his probation officer. Harris appealed. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Sachs's order involved a "greater deprivation of liberty" than necessary, and ordered the court to delete the special condition from the terms of Harris's release from prison.
Panel Suggests Giving Missouri Students College Algebra Alternatives
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A committee appointed by the Missouri Department of Education is recommending that two- and four-year public colleges give students the option of taking math classes more relevant in their fields than algebra. Math professors say roughly half of the students who take college algebra fail it at least once, causing many of them to just give up and drop out. Education officials say allowing students to take alternative math courses could speed their time to graduation. The Kansas City Star reports that the change would add Missouri to a growing list of states giving students options beyond algebra. All six Kansas universities governed by that state's Board of Regents allow students to take other math courses to satisfy degree requirements.
Pirates Defeat Royals, 10-7
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Pittsburgh Pirates' Travis Ishikawa had three extra-base hits and drove in four runs as Pittsburgh beat the Kansas City Royals 10-7 Monday night. Ishikawa hit a two-run double in a the second. He homered in the fifth allowing Jung Ho Kang to score. The Royals cut the deficit to 8-7 in the seventh as Mike Moustakas homered to lead off the inning. Eric Hosmer had an RBI triple for his third hit and scored on Kendrys Morales's groundout. Pittsburgh's A.J. Burnett (8-3) got the win in his first start since the All-Star Game.