Headlines for Monday, October 5, 2015
Lobbyists Spent $500K on Entertaining Kansas Lawmakers During Session
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Lobbyists have spent more than $500,000 entertaining Kansas lawmakers during the last legislative session. Kansas law prohibits lobbyists from making campaign donations during the session and limits their spending to $100 on lawmaker gifts. But state law does not limit the amount of food and drink lobbyists can buy lawmakers. The Wichita Eagle reports lobbyists have spent more than $500,000 since January treating Kansas lawmakers to dinners, drinks, tickets to college basketball games and other entertainment. Kansas lawmakers faced intense pressure from lobbyists during the last session as the legislature struggled to bridge a multi-million dollar gap in the state budget. Many industries in Kansas enjoy generous tax breaks and lenient regulatory standards and are eager to persuade lawmakers to continue those considerations. The Kansas Bankers Association spent the most on food and entertainment for lawmakers, at $26,135. The Kansas Chamber of Commerce was second with $20,139. Advocates for government transparency say such spending influences lawmakers' votes, but lawmakers insist that the free food, liquor and free entertainment have no effect on how they vote.
Dispute over Kansas Judicial Funding Moves to Federal Court
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The fight over a move by the Legislature to defund the Kansas judiciary's budget has now landed in the federal courts. A court notice shows Kansas has moved the lawsuit filed by four judges to U.S. District Court in Topeka. The attorney representing the judges said Monday he is confident that whether the matter is heard in state or federal court that law would be found unconstitutional, but no decision has been made whether the new venue. At issue is legislation passed this year nullifying the judicial branch's entire budget if a 2014 law stripping the Kansas Supreme Court of its ability to appoint chief judges is struck down. Kansas contends the lawsuit raises a federal due process claim. The case is now before U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree.
Kansas Planning to Reduce Health Aid for Some State Workers' Kids
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has plans to reduce the insurance assistance for children of lower-income state workers next year and also allow those children to be enrolled in a federal health program. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that workers who qualify will be able in 2016 to sign their children up for coverage through the federal Children's Health Insurance Program, CHIP. Prior to the federal Affordable Care Act state workers weren't allowed to sign up for CHIP. The Health Care Commission, which governs the State Employee Health Plan, voted to eliminate $2.2 million in funding for Kansas's Healthy KIDS program, which helps subsidize health insurance for the children of lower-income state workers. The Kansas Department for Health and Environment says it expects to file the required paperwork to enact the plan next month.
Culling Voter Records to Take Weeks in Some Kansas Counties
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some Kansas election officials expect to take weeks to cancel incomplete voter registrations even with a new rule for culling records from Secretary of State Kris Kobach. And county election officials said Monday that even when the job is done, electronic records for such residents still will be accessible, not deleted. A new rule from the Republican secretary of state took effect Friday and directed counties to cancel registrations incomplete for more than 90 days. Most of the 31,000 affected registrations are for residents who haven't complied with a 2013 law requiring new voters to produce papers documenting their U.S. citizenship. Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman said her office will first go through a list of 1,700 people who were on the incomplete list but have Kansas birth certificates.
Kansas Democratic Party Elects Wichita Attorney as New Chairman
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Delegates from across the state elected Wichita attorney and longtime party activist Lee Kinch as the new Kansas Democratic Party chairman on a unanimous vote Saturday at a meeting in Salina. Kinch will replace Larry Meeker, who resigned as chairman in August after he was quoted saying the Kansas party needed to emphasize that it is more conservative than the national Democratic party. Kinch told the delegates in Salina he would pledge to bring the party together and work to gain seats in the Legislature next year with the help of moderate Republicans. Jim Sherow, who ran against Republican incumbent 1st District Congressman Tim Huelskamp last year, says he was first nominated but turned down the job so he could support Kinch.
Raises on Hold for University of Kansas Employees
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ The University of Kansas will wait to give out employee raises while there's still a chance for last-minute state budget cuts. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Provost Jeff Vitter says the university budgeted mid-year, merit-based salary increases for select employees that would comprise about 1 percent of the university's salary budget. But, Vitter said that extending the faculty and staff raises will depend avoiding any possible state budget cuts. He says the decision will be made later this semester. Vitter says many employees had asked about the raises. There's been speculation about the possibility of additional budget cuts since the Department of Revenue reported last week that the state collected $31 million less in taxes than anticipated for September.
Kansas to Receive $5.6 Million Federal Workforce Grant
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is getting nearly $5.6 million from the federal government to help people who are having trouble finding jobs get into work or training. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the grant from the Workforce Innovation Fund will pay for on-the-job training, job preparation and placement services. It also will go toward developing an online portal for people looking for help with employment and training staff on better customer service. Kansas Department of Commerce spokesman Matt Keith says the training will emphasize jobs that are in high demand and pay enough for the job seeker to reach self-sufficiency. He says the programs are meant to help people who have at least one barrier to employment, such as having a low income, prison record, disability or being 55 or older.
Stoneking Retiring from Kansas State Rifle Association
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The president of the Kansas State Rifle Association is retiring because of health problems. The Wichita Eagle reports that Patricia Stoneking announced her retirement in an e-mail to members this weekend. Stoneking says she's retiring because of the severity of health issues she's had for months and that doctors have told her to minimize stress. As leader of the Kansas NRA affiliate for a decade, Stoneking helped the association grow into a major player in Kansas politics. She was also the main proponent for a bill signed into law this spring that eliminated the training requirement to carry a concealed firearm. Kathleen Wade, association vice president, will assume the duties of president, and Moriah Day, a staffer for Secretary of State Kris Kobach, will lead the group's political action committee.
Guilty Plea in Plot to Kill 4 at Topeka West High School
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A man charged as a juvenile with plotting to kill four adults at a Topeka high school has pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated assault. As part of Monday's plea agreement, four counts of soliciting first-degree murder were dismissed. Prosecutors say the defendant tried to hire two people to kill the adults at Topeka West, where he was a student. He was 17 when he was arrested in January 2014. The Topeka Capital-Journal reportsthat the man was released on a recognizance bond to the supervision of relatives. Sentencing is December 8. A Shawnee County judge denied prosecutors' request to try the suspect as an adult. However, the man will face a longer sentence as an adult if he doesn't meet the requirements of his juvenile sentence.
Report: Winter Wheat Planting Nears Halfway Point in Kansas
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas farmers are nearing the halfway point for planting of the 2016 winter wheat crop. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that 46 percent of the state's winter wheat crop has been seeded. That is slightly behind the 49 percent average for this date. The agency also provided its weekly snapshot of the progress of the fall harvest for other major crops in the state. About 62 percent of the corn in Kansas has now been cut, along with 25 percent of the sorghum and 15 percent of the soybeans. Fourth cutting of alfalfa is 88 percent complete. Cotton growers have harvested about 4 percent of their crop in the state.
Legal Battle Erupts Over Western Kansas Millionaire's Estate
HAYS, Kan. (AP) - A legal fight is brewing over the $20.6 million estate of a western Kansas man whose will was changed shortly before his January 2013 death. At issue is a letter typed on 98-year-old Earl Field's stationery that said he had decided to eliminate the Fort Hays State University Foundation as the primary beneficiary and instead give the largest portion of his estate to his part-time bookkeeper and caretaker. The letter described his caretaker as "like my daughter." The Hutchinson News reports that the Fort Hays State foundation considers the letter fraudulent.
John Deere Reaches Labor Agreement With UAW Members
MOLINE, Ill. (AP) — Farm equipment manufacturer Deere and Company says United Auto Workers members have approved a new six-year labor agreement that covers facilities in three states including Kansas. The company said in a statement Sunday that it had reached a tentative agreement with the union last week and it received notification Sunday that UAW members had ratified the deal. Negotiations began in late August. The labor contract covers manufacturing employees at factories in Coffeyville, Kansas as well as eight other facilities in Iowa and Illinois. Declining sales have led Deere to lay off workers in Iowa and Illinois this year.
Kansas Deer Hunt Offers Disabled Veterans Access to Outdoor Activities
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have highlighted the need for special outdoor events for disabled participants. The Wichita Eagle reportsKansas hosts about 20 hunting and fishing events for disabled participants across Kansas each year. Laws and regulations also have changed to make it easier for disabled Kansans to enjoy hunting. Youth and disabled hunters can participate in special early seasons for deer and turkey. Several state parks and wildlife areas have hunting blinds designed for people with disabilities. Last month, the volunteers hosted eight disabled hunters at an event sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.
Police: 2 Boys Arrested in Theft, Arson at Wichita Home
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 12-year-old boy and a 13-year-old boy have been arrested after police say they stole items from a Wichita residence and set the garage door on fire. According Wichita police Sgt. Brian Sigman, officers responded to a home at 2 am Saturday. Police say they found the boys in the area with the items missing from the home, including a machete. Sigman said the suspects used gasoline that was in the garage to set the door on fire the night before the robbery.
Police: Woman Shot in Back Outside Wichita Party
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a 26-year-old woman was shot in the back when she went outside to check on a disturbance during a house party in Wichita. Wichita police Sgt. Brian Sigman said the woman was shot in the back twice shortly before 1 am Sunday. According to police, witnesses said the shooter was in a red Dodge Charger with tinted windows and chrome wheels that drove off after the shooting. The woman was taken to Wesley Medical Center for treatment and released. Sigman said the woman did not appear to be involved in the disturbance and just happened to step outside when the shooting took place. An investigation is ongoing.
Goddard High School Wins Ecology Award
GODDARD, Kan. (AP) — A south-central Kansas school has been honored for its efforts to help the environment. The Wichita Eagle reports the National Wildlife Federation has named Eisenhower High School in Goddard one of its top 10 Eco-Schools. The honor recognizes the school's commitment to wildlife protection, sustainability and environmental education. Eisenhower High School has built an outdoor classroom, planted about 300 culturally significant plants and become a certified wildlife site and monarch butterfly way station. Last year, students recycled more than 15 tons of paper, 600,000 bottles and 300 pounds of aluminum cans. Teacher Denise Scribner was instrumental in landing the award and is a state finalist for the Presidential Award of Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. Her work also earned the school the Kansas Green School Award in 2014.
Former Navy Pilot Sues US Government over Bipolar Diagnosis
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former Navy pilot who lost his job flying commercial planes after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder is suing the federal government for $35 million after a different psychiatrist said he never had the illness. William Royster says in a lawsuit filed Friday that he was treated for bipolar disorder at the Kansas City Veterans Affairs Medical Center for a decade before his new doctor determined the diagnosis was wrong. The 53-year-old says he was flying a jet in June 1996 on a training mission when he was shot down. He was treated for injuries and honorably discharged from the Navy later that year. He says he flew commercial jets for United Airlines from January 1998 until April 2004, when a doctor at the VA hospital diagnosed him as bipolar.
K-State Football Player Moore Arrested for DUI
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas State football player has been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 20-year-old Cre Moore was arrested early Sunday after the pickup he was driving hit a light pole in Manhattan. Moore was uninjured. The Riley County Police Department says Moore, a sophomore back-up defensive back for the Wildcats, was charged with DUI and was found to be in possession of "several pills which were identified as depressants." Moore, from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, was given a bond of $3,500 for the offenses of DUI and possession of a depressant. It was unclear if Moore has a lawyer. During the Big 12 coaches teleconference Monday, Kansas State coach Bill Snyder acknowledged the arrest and said he would handle the matter, but didn't elaborate.
Fan Pronounced Dead After Collapsing During Chiefs-Bengals Game
CINCINNATI (AP) — A man from Springfield, Missouri, collapsed in a restroom at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati on Sunday during a game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Cincinnati Bengals. Police and paramedics tried to revive the man at the stadium but he was later pronounced dead at a local hospital. The man's identity wasn't released, pending notification of his family. A Bengals spokesman said the fan had a pre-existing medical issue.
Bengals Unbeaten After 36-21 Win Over Chiefs
CINCINNATI (AP) — The Cincinnati Bengals are still unbeaten this season after their 36-21 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. The Bengals (4-0) matched the third-best start in franchise history. The Bengals Andy Dalton completed 17 of 24 passes for 321 yards including a 55-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Tate. It was another rough day all around for Kansas City (1-3). Alex Smith was sacked five times, the Chiefs settled for kicker Cairo Santos's club-record seven field goals. The Chiefs have now fallen to a 1 and 3 record for the season.
Winless Jayhawks Lose Top 2 Quarterbacks to Injuries
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart is out with a shoulder sprain and Deondre Ford is done for the season with a thumb injury, forcing freshman Ryan Willis to start Saturday's against No. 3 Baylor. Jayhawks coach David Beaty made the announcements Monday. The Jayhawks (0-4) also lost top quarterback Michael Cummings to a season-ending knee injury during the spring game. Cozart was injured in last Saturday's loss at Iowa State, while Ford was hurt in a game at Rutgers, when Cozart was already sidelined by an illness. Willis filled in for Cozart on the final few series against the Cyclones, going 8 of 16 for 100 yards. Before that game, his only experience was two plays in the opener against South Dakota State. The Bears (4-0) were already 42-point favorites.
Royals Secure Home-Field Advantage With 6-1 Win over Twins
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Johnny Cueto pitched five solid innings as the Kansas City Royals beat the Minnesota Twins 6-1 on Sunday sweeping the 3-game series and finishing the regular season with 95 wins. The defending AL champion Royals (95-67) posted their best regular-season record since 1980. The win also means Kansas City has secured home-field advantage throughout the post-season which they will begin at Kauffman Stadium Thursday. On Sunday, Salvador Perez hit his 21st homer in the third inning, one behind Kendrys Morales and Mike Moustakas for the team lead. Cueto (4-7 with Royals, 11-13 overall) allowed one run over five innings, helping the Royals finish the regular season on a five-game winning streak.