Headlines for Friday, September 18, 2015
Kansas Sees Over 2 Percent Decrease in Its Uninsured Rate
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The rate of Kansas residents who are uninsured has dropped to 10.2 percent amid a national movement to increase health coverage. The U.S. Census Bureau determined that about 12.3 percent of people in Kansas didn't have health insurance in 2013. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the new information indicates that about 57,000 fewer people were uninsured in 2014 compared to 2013. Nationwide, the rate of uninsured Americans fell from 14.5 percent in 2013 to 11.7 percent in 2014. That means about 8.5 million more people had health insurance last year than those who had it the previous year. The president and CEO of the Kansas Health Institute says the 2.1 percentage point decrease in Kansas largely was due to the state's rollout of health insurance exchanges.
AG Urges Restraint Between Judicial, Legislative Branches
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is urging "humility and restraint" to ease tensions between the state's legislative and judicial branches. Schmidt made the plea Friday in a statement over two pending lawsuits filed against the state by district court judges. A state judge earlier this month struck down a 2014 law stripping the Kansas Supreme Court of its ability to appoint chief judges. The judge ruled the law violated the state constitution by infringing on the Supreme Court's power to administer the courts. That order is on hold while the state appeals. Legislators this year passed another law nullifying the judicial branch's entire budget if the policy change was struck down. Schmidt plans to ask the justices to remove themselves from the case because it directly involves their own power.
Kobach Issues 90-Day Limit for Incomplete Registrations
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas residents whose voter registrations have been suspended because they haven't provided a passport or birth certificate have 90 days to provide the documents before their registrations are cancelled. The Kansas City Star reports Secretary of State Kris Kobach issued the 90-day rule on Thursday, saying it was matter of efficiency and cost-savings. Voting rights groups vigorously objected to the time limit, which goes into effect early next month. More than 35,000 voter registration applications are currently "in suspense," of which about 30,000 are incomplete because registrants haven't provided the required identification. Proof-of-citizenship documents have been required since January 2013 but there was no limit on how long county election officials had to keep incomplete registrations.
Judge Sides with Media in Open Records Lawsuit Against State
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge says applications for two county commission openings filled late last year by Governor Sam Brownback are not exempt from the state's open records law. Shawnee County District Judge Rebecca Crotty on Friday denied a motion by Brownback's attorneys to dismiss a lawsuit filed in January by The Salina Journal and The Associated Press seeking information on applicants for the newly created Saline County Commission seats. The governor's attorneys also requested a summary judgment declaring the requested records were exempt under state statute, but Crotty denied that motion, too. Saline County residents voted in November to expand the commission from three to five members. The AP and the newspaper argued that applicants' names and other details are public information, but Brownback's office insisted they were a personnel matter.
Kansas Lawmakers Considering Bids from Efficiency Experts
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A panel of Kansas lawmakers is seeking a consulting firm that can identify significant saving opportunities in the state budget. The Legislative Budget Committee started interviewing firms on Thursday and is expected to make a selection on Friday. The committee is considering pitches from four consultants and is holding each session behind closed doors. Republican state Representative Ron Ryckman Jr. of Olathe says the committee wants to be "as open as possible," but the closed sessions are necessary in order to protect "trade secrets." Budget director Shawn Sullivan says it'll be difficult for the firms to come up with new budget cut ideas, but he's hopeful that the process will be productive. Lawmakers earmarked $3 million for a contract with a firm that will perform a study and recommend efficiencies.
Board of Regents Prioritizes KU Science in Budget Request
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Regents is asking state lawmakers for more than $10 million in funding to build new science facilities at the University of Kansas. The board approved its budget request for the next legislative session on Thursday. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the board plans to forward the request to Governor Sam Brownback by the October 1 deadline. To construct the integrated science buildings, the university is requesting $3.5 million in fiscal year 2017 and $7 million in fiscal year 2018. Tentative plans call for two facilities as part of a broader initiative to enhance and link science facilities across the campus.
Kansas Health Worker's Police Interview Shown to Jurors
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Jurors in the first-degree murder trial of a Kansas health care attendant have watched a video of the man telling police why he killed a client. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 49-year-old Ronald Eugene Heskett, of Eudora, is on trial for the 2014 death of 65-year-old Vance Moulton. In a recording shown Thursday, Heskett says Moulton wanted to die so he could "see his mom and be able to walk again." Moulton had cerebral palsy. The interrogation video also shows Heskett cutting himself with a pocketknife when detectives left the room. Upon returning, detectives disarmed Heskett. He's heard saying he cut himself because he felt "so guilty." Prosecutors say Heskett had money problems and some of Moulton's money is missing. The trial is expected to continue through next week.
Court Hears Arguments on Wichita Marijuana Ordinance
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court is now considering a challenge to a Wichita ordinance allowing for lighter penalties for marijuana possession. Wichita voters approved an ordinance in April calling for a maximum $50 fine and no jail time for fist-time marijuana possession. Under state law, the same offense carries a possible a $2500 fine and up to a year in jail. The state argues the Wichita policy should be struck down because it conflicts with Kansas law and because all the rules for collecting and submitting signatures weren’t properly followed. The attorney for the city of Wichita said striking the ordinance would be overturning the will of voters because of a technicality.
New Missouri Law Ends Kansas City Minimum Wage Hike
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Kansas City, Missouri plans to drop a proposed worker pay increase after Missouri lawmakers recently banned local governments from deviating from the state's minimum wages. Kansas City's attorney said Thursday that he's recommending repealing a proposed hike to $13 an hour by 2020. The state Legislature earlier this week overturned Democratic Governor Jay Nixon's veto of the ban. Local minimum wages higher than the state's current $7.65-an-hour minimum in effect before August 28 still are valid. Kansas City elected officials adopted a raise but it had not yet taken effect.
Ohio Governor First Candidate in Kansas Presidential Caucus
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas GOP officials say Ohio Governor John Kasich is the first presidential candidate to file for the party's caucus. Kasich said in a statement Thursday that he believes Kansas is an important state and his campaign plans to be competitive here. The Kansas Presidential Caucus will be March 5 in 95 locations across the state. The sites have not yet been chosen. Candidates must pay a $15,000 filing fee and complete an informational form to register for the caucus.
Kansas High Court Hears Murder Conviction Appeal From Former Deputy
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Supreme Court justices heard arguments Thursday on the appeal of a former Sedgwick County sheriff's deputy serving a life sentence for killing his wife days after she filed for divorce. Brett Seacat was convicted in 2013 of first-degree murder and other charges in the 2011 death of his 34-year-old wife, Vashti. Prosecutors contend Seacat set fire to the family's home to destroy evidence as their two young sons slept down the hall. Seacat accused the judge at sentencing of helping convict him by hiding evidence he claims proves his innocence. The court is considering whether the trial judge should have allowed hearsay statements Vashti Seacat allegedly made before her death indicating her husband had threatened to kill her and burn down the house with her inside.
Ex-Kickapoo Tribe Officials Respond to Lawsuit
HORTON, Kan. (AP) — Two former officials of the Kickapoo Tribal Council have responded to a lawsuit accusing them of misleading the council into passing an unbalanced budget. Former tribal chairman Clifford "Steve" Cadue claims the lawsuit is a political stunt by current chairman Lester Randall ahead of an upcoming tribal election. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Randall filed the lawsuit in tribal court last month against Cadue, accusing him of committing financial wrongdoing and falsifying meeting minutes. Former tribal treasurer Bobbi Darnell also is named in the lawsuit. Both Cadue and Darnell argue that the claims are baseless and wrongfully assign criminal conduct to them.
Overland Park Teen Sentenced in Drunken Driving Death
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) - An Overland Park teenager has been sentenced to more than five years in prison for a drunken driving crash that killed a man and injured a woman. The Kansas City Star reports that 18-year-old Conner Estrella was sentenced Thursday. He previously pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter for the August 2014 death of 52-year-old Kevin Patrick Moroney. He also pleaded guilty to aggravated battery for injuring a woman standing with Moroney next to a parked vehicle. Moroney's 32-year-old son, Brent Moroney, says he hopes the sentence is "severe enough to send a message to other people." Before sentencing, Estrella apologized. He says what happened "hurts me every day."
Wichita Restaurant Admits Hiring Illegal Immigrants
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas company that operates a Twin Peaks restaurant in east Wichita has admitted it knowingly employed at least 30 immigrants who were living unlawfully in the United States. Le Grande Tetons, LLC, pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to engaging in a pattern and practice of hiring workers it knew were not authorized to be employed in this country. The company was immediately sentenced to pay the $50,000 fine called for in the plea agreement. A U.S. Department of Homeland Security inspection in September 2013 identified more than 20 such immigrants working illegally at Twin Peaks in Wichita, and the store manager promised at the time to stop hiring such workers. The government says restaurant management resumed the practice in 2014, even rehiring six of the former workers.
Wichita State Enrollment Numbers Down
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Enrollment is down at Wichita State University and students are taking fewer credit hours. The Wichita Eagle reports that the numbers are from the 20th day of classes, which was Monday. The reports show that the number of students enrolled decreased by nearly 500 from the same time last year to 14,495. Credit hours taken by students were down 2.3 percent. University officials are declining to talk about the numbers until they are officially submitted to the Kansas Board of Regents next week. However, President John Bardo told faculty and staff last month that enrollment is a "formidable" issue. Graduate students and international students make up much of the decrease in head count.
Man Sentenced in Death of New Bride in Topeka
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A man has been sentenced to life in prison plus 50 years for the shooting death of a Kansas woman just hours after her wedding. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports31-year-old Awnterio Dwan Lowery was sentenced Thursday for the death of 42-year-old Tiffany Davenport-Ray. Prosecutors say in May 2014 Lowery and two other men shot at the Topeka woman and her husband, Melvin Ray, as they were driving to a post-reception gathering. Prosecutors say Melvin Ray, who was driving, returned fire and his wife was hit by in the crossfire. Lowery was convicted in July of premeditated first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder. A second man, 38-year-old Thomas Earl Brown Jr., is charged with premeditated first-degree murder in Davenport-Ray's killing. His case is pending.
Johnson County Man Pleads Guilty to Charges in $6M Embezzlement
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $6 million from an Overland Park company. Forty-six-year-old Kenneth Voboril, of Shawnee Mission, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of wire fraud and one count of filing a false tax return. Voboril admitted that he devised a scheme to defraud Commodity Specialists Company by creating fake companies and billing CSC for deliveries that didn't occur. At the time, Voboril was running a CSC subsidiary, TransMaxx. He embezzled more than $6 million and did not report the income on his federal tax returns. Voboril will be sentenced in December.
Woman Found Dead in Wichita Home Identified
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified a woman who was found dead in her Wichita home. According to Wichita police, 66-year-old Jacquelyn Harvey was found dead from a gunshot wound Wednesday morning by her son. According to Lieutenant Todd Ojile, the victim's body had at least one gunshot wound and her purse and SUV were missing. Police are investigating Harvey's death as a homicide. The victim's vehicle was eventually recovered Wednesday night.
VA Medical Center to Host Town Hall Meeting and Claims Clinic
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center is hosting a town hall next week that aims to get feedback from veterans and their families. The event is scheduled from 1 pm to 3 pm on Thursday, September 24 in the facility's auditorium. The agency VA's regional office in Wichita also will be holding a benefits claim clinic from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm. The agency said Thursday in a news release that representatives from the Dole VA Medical Center will be available to provide one-on-one assistance to veterans during the town hall. Senior staff will be present to hear from veterans and their families. Veterans can get help for their benefits claims at the clinic, and the VA says staff will be on hand to finalize their claims as appropriate.
Broncos Stage Stunning Comeback, Beat Chiefs 31-24
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Denver Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby returned a Kansas City fumble 21 yards for a touchdown with 27 seconds remaining, completing a stunning comeback in the Broncos' 31-24 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night. Bronco's quarterback Peyton Manning threw for 256 yards and three touchdowns, the last to Emmanuel Sanders with 36 seconds left as the Broncos (2-0) appeared headed for overtime. But on the next play by the Chiefs (1-1), Jamaal Charles was stripped by Brandon Marshall and the ball bounced right into Roby's hands. The dramatic turnaround came after Knile Davis gave Kansas City the lead with 2:27 left on an 8-yard run, raising hope among a sellout crowd at Arrowhead Stadium. Instead, Denver pushed its winning streak to seven straight over its AFC West rival, while Manning improved to 14-1 in his career against the Chiefs.
Infante Drives in 7 Runs as Royals Down Indians 8-4
CLEVELAND (AP) — Omar Infante drove in a career-high seven runs as the Kansas City Royals beat the Cleveland Indians 8-4 Thursday night. Infante hit a three-run homer in the second inning off Corey Kluber (8-14), added a two-run double in the fifth after the Indians pulled their ace and a two-run single in the seventh. Infante nearly matched the offensive output of teammate Mike Moustakas, who set a team record with nine RBIs on Saturday against Baltimore. The Royals split the four-game series in Cleveland with two wins each. They now head to Detroit for a three-game set versus the Tigers over the weekend.