Headlines for Thursday, November 12, 2015
Kansas Legislators Get 8.5 Percent Raise in Daily Expenses Allowance
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers automatically are getting an 8.5 percent raise in their per diem allowance. The Wichita Eagle reports the raise is because of a state law that increased lawmakers' daily "subsistence payments" by more than 28 percent through the past seven years. The Legislature set it up in 2008 so members' per diem rises with a federal allowance. The per diem payments are the set amount lawmakers get to pay their living expenses each day they work in Topeka. As of October 1, the per diem amount is $140 a day, up from $129. The allowance payments are in addition to the state lawmakers' base salary of $88.66 a day when they attend session and committee meetings.
Report: Student Scores Rise and Fall as Funding Rises and Falls
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A report from the Kansas Association of School Boards shows that the state's performance on national tests rose and fell with funding. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the board says student performance on national math and reading tests improved between 2003 and 2007 before leveling off until 2011, when it began to fall. The board's analysis, which was presented to lawmakers by association advocacy director and lobbyist Mark Tallman during a meeting, says the performance trend follows funding patterns. The report says auditors were more than 99 percent confident a relationship exists between spending and performance outcomes. Kansas State Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Brad Neuenswander expressed concern over the direction of Kansas test scores, and said that the state is seeing the performance gap widening again between students who can pay for lunch and students who cannot.
Lawmakers in Favor of Medicaid Removed from Health Committee
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Three Republicans who support Medicaid expansion have been removed from a Kansas House committee that oversees health care issues. The Wichita Eagle reports that House Speaker Ray Merrick removed Representative Barbara Bollier of Mission Hills, a retired physician; Representative Susan Concannon, a Beloit Republican and committee vice chair with a background in rural health; and Representative Don Hill, an Emporia Republican and a pharmacist. Merrick said in a statement that Kansas citizens oppose an expansion of the health care program. The chair of the committee, Representative Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican, said he had not been informed of the committee changes ahead of the decision. Bollier says she is saddened that three of the most knowledgeable people on health care issues have been removed. Kansas is one of 20 states that have not expanded Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act.
Students, Faculty Discuss Racism at University of Kansas
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas students and faculty have met at a forum to discuss the effects of racism, expressing frustration with school administration in Lawrence. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Wednesday forum drew more than 1,000 people to the auditorium at the main student union on campus, with more watching from an overflow room. The forum was announced Monday in the wake of recent student protests over racism at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little moderated the event, and listened as people voiced their experiences and concerns. Several members of a group known as Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk took to the stage with signs and demanded actions from the school, including that the university hire a director for the Office of Multicultural Affairs by December 15 and that concealed weapons be banned from campus.
Kansas Attorney General Asks Supreme Court Justices to Recuse Themselves
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is asking all Kansas Supreme Court justices to recuse themselves from a lawsuit involving the court system's budget. Schmidt announced Tuesday that the state filed a motion seeking the recusal because the justices have publicly opposed the law in question. Legislators approved a budget measure this year protecting a law that allows local judges to appoint chief judges in the state's 31 judicial districts, rather than the state Supreme Court. The budget measure says if that law is struck down, the judiciary's entire budget is "null and void." Supreme Court spokeswoman Lisa Taylor says the justices will consider the recusal motion. Schmidt also argues Kansas Court of Appeals judges should hear the case.
Kansas Officials Say State is Working to Save Federal Arts Funding
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A spokesman for the Kansas Department of Commerce says it is working on initiatives for keeping the state from losing all of its federal arts funds. Agency spokesman Dan Lara said Tuesday that the agency is looking at partnering with other state agencies on arts-related projections. He said doing so would allow the department and its Creative Arts Industries Commission to count the spending on those projects — or even a contribution of employee time on them — as part of the state arts funding needed to qualify Kansas for federal funds. A National Endowment for the Arts official told state officials in a September letter that Kansas must boost its state arts funding by nearly $225,000 by January 15 or forfeit its $591,000 in federal arts dollars.
Kansas Holding Hearings on Disability Services
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is holding hearings on proposed changes to how disabled Kansans receive services. The Wichita Eagle reports the state is holding hearings Thursday and Monday to provide an update and answer questions about the proposed system. Kansans with disabilities now receive medical care, residential and day services, as well as other help through Medicaid. People with disabilities receive services from seven Medicaid waivers, which are divided based on disability type. The state wants to combine the seven waivers into one universal waiver. Hearings are being held in Wichita, Kansas City, Hays and Pittsburg.
Kobach Seeks End to Lawsuit Against Kansas Citizenship Rule
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Secretary of State Kris Kobach's office has registered two prospective northeast Kansas voters and is asking a judge to dismiss their federal lawsuit against the state's proof-of-citizenship requirement. The Wichita Eagle reported that an attorney for Kobach's office asked Tuesday to have the lawsuit dismissed, arguing that the two young men no longer have grounds to sue. The men did not comply with a 2013 law requiring new voters to document their U.S. citizenship when registering. But Kobach said his office regularly checks records from other state agencies for proof of citizenship. Attorneys for the two men say Kobach's office acted simply to prevent court scrutiny of the law. Kobach's office also registered two other men who filed a separate state-court lawsuit, and the judge refused to dismiss it.
Kansas Issues Permit for Seaboard Hog Operations
TRIBUNE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas environmental regulators have approved a permit for a massive new hog feeding operation in Greeley County. Seaboard Foods said in an email Thursday that it has not yet scheduled construction at Ladder Creek West. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment issued on Tuesday a permit for 120 swine buildings to hold up to 132,000 pigs. The site nine miles from Seaboard's existing Ladder Creek complex expands its operations in Greeley County to 330,000 mature hogs. Approval comes despite opposition by environmentalists who question whether this part of the Ogallala Aquifer has enough water left to properly operate the facility. Seaboard contends its flow tests of wells show sufficient water. KDHE says it is not required by statute or regulation to ensure the facility has access to sufficient water.
Federal Reserve Says Region's Farm Income Fell Sharply in 3Q
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Federal Reserve says farm income fell sharply during the third quarter in Midwestern and Western states, so farmers cut back on major purchases. The U.S. Agriculture Department predicts farm income will fall 36 percent this year. The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Missouri said Thursday agriculture bankers across the region are reviewing their loans to make sure farmers can make payments. But at most banks fewer than 5 percent of loans had been placed on watch lists at the end of September. About 65 percent of the bankers surveyed reported declining capital spending on farms. But only about 35 percent said farm capital spending was lower than last year. The 10th Federal Reserve District covers Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Colorado, northern New Mexico and western Missouri.
Woman Charged After Alleged Theft from Dependent Adult
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 43-year-old Lawrence woman has been charged with felony mistreatment of a dependent adult after allegedly stealing money from a woman for whom she had durable power of attorney. An affidavit accuses Jennifer Ann York of cashing Billie Jean Shewbart's Certificate of Deposit for nearly $27,000 and spending most of the money on personal expenses instead of on Shewbart's retirement home as directed. The affidavit describes Shewbart as a "senior" but doesn't provide an age. An obituary from an Enid, Oklahoma, newspaper lists the death of 71-year-old Billie Jean Shewbart of Lawrence on September 9. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that York is scheduled to appear in court November 18. York is currently free on a $10,000 own-recognizance bond but could spend up to 11 years in prison if convicted.
Missouri Man Sentenced for Defrauding Disabled Veterans
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man who defrauded federal programs for disabled military veterans out of more than $7.4 million has been sentenced to prison. Michael Parker, of Blue Springs, was sentenced Thursday to four years and three months in prison. Prosecutors say Parker, who co-owned a construction business, used false claims to win government contracts on work targeted for businesses owned by disabled military veterans. Parker and his father, Warren Parker, owned Silver Star Construction. They claimed Warren Parker was a disabled veteran, which investigators learned was not true. Michael Parker was for conspiracy to commit fraud against the government, major program fraud and wire fraud. Warren Parker was previously sentenced to seven years and three months in prison.
Arson Suspect in Fatal Kansas City Fire Asks for Lower Bond
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The suspect in a fire that killed two Kansas City firefighters is asking for a reduction in her $2 million cash bond. The Kansas City Star reports lawyers for Thu Hong Nguyen made the request Thursday in Jackson County Court. The judge set a December 3 bond reduction hearing. Nguyen owned a nail salon in a building that caught fire October 12. Firefighters Larry Leggio and John Mesh died while fighting the fire, which court documents indicate stated in a storage room of her business. Nguyen has pleaded not guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree arson. One of her attorneys, Bill Shull, said Nguyen has a health issue that has caused her to fall twice in custody and suffer convulsions and seizures.
Lawrence Could Face $6 Million Tab in Fighting Ash Borers
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence could face up to $6 million in costs to deal with the anticipated infestation of emerald ash borers. Mark Hecker, assistant parks and recreation director, told department's advisory board Tuesday that treatment, removal and disposal of the affected trees is estimated to cost as much as $6 million. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Hecker also urges the city to establish a plan to combat the infestation. He says emerald ash borers can devastate an entire population of ash trees, and have been confirmed north of Lawrence. Hecker says a recent count shows about 3,000 ash trees in Lawrence parks and right-of-ways. He says keeping the trees alive will take continual treatment that could cost about $150 for every tree each year.
Kansas City Area Hospitals Deny Cannabis Oil to Severely Epileptic Patients
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City area hospitals are denying cannabis oil recommendations for people with severe epilepsy even though the state of Missouri passed a law last year allowing the drug to be used for such issues. KCTV-TV reports that no hospitals in the area will allow their doctors to write a recommendation for the medicine, also known as CBD oil. The head of epilepsy and neurophysiology at Children's Mercy Hospital, Dr. Ahmed Abdelmoity, cites problems with the medicine, such as no knowledge of a standardized strength for child doses, side effects from long-term use and reactions with other medications. Children's Mercy plans to start a study on the use of cannabis oil in epileptic patients next year, but it will not be widely recommended. Doctors are allowed to write cannabis oil recommendations at the Comprehensive Epilepsy Care Center in St. Louis.
Former AP Newsman in Topeka, Elon Torrence, Dies at 98
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Former Associated Press reporter Elon Torrence, who covered the trial of two men hanged for murders that inspired the Truman Capote book "In Cold Blood," has died. He was 98. His daughter, Mary Torrence, confirmed that he died Wednesday at a Topeka retirement community. She says his wife of 70 years, 95-year-old Lois "Polly" Torrence, died Monday following a stroke. Elon Torrence was an AP newsman at the Kansas Statehouse from 1946 to early 1982. He also worked at The Garden City Telegram. He served 16 years on the state's Governmental Ethics Commission, starting in 1994. He covered the trial of the two men hanged for killing the Clutter family in 1959 in the southwest Kansas town of Holcomb. He also covered a deadly 1966 tornado in Topeka.
Blizzard Warning Canceled in NW Kansas After Minimal Impact
GOODLAND, Kan. (AP) — Blizzard warnings were canceled in northwest Kansas after a winter storm moved out of the state after dropping 2 to 3 inches of snow. National Weather Service meteorologist Jerry Killingsworth in Goodland says high wind warnings were still in effect for parts of Kansas, but the snow has moved north and east and was no longer a threat. Killingsworth says there were occasional periods of quarter-mile visibility during the storm along the Colorado and Nebraska borders, but it had only minimal impact on traveling. As of 4:30pm, he says clouds had been replaced by sunny skies. The weather service also issued a tornado watch Wednesday for east-central Kansas and central Missouri from the same storm system but those watches were later cancelled.
Parents of Abused, Isolated Teen Sentenced to Prison
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita couple has been sentenced to more than five years in prison after beating and abusing their adopted daughter. Authorities say the girl had been starved and chained up in a windowless basement. The Wichita Eagle reports that the judge ordered the 68-month sentence after the girl testified in court Tuesday morning. The girl was 14 years old when authorities placed her and three other children in police protective custody in March 2014. The mother and father pleaded guilty in July to criminal charges, including three counts of child abuse, two counts of aggravated battery, one count of aggravated endangerment of a child and one count of criminal restraint. The father was also convicted of other charges. The parents have not been named to protect the girl's identity.
Federal Judge Leaves Deportation Fight to Immigration Court
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has made it easier for a man to fight deportation after prosecutors say he posed for decades in the U.S. as his dead infant brother to escape child support obligations and other legal difficulties in Canada. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten on Thursday sentenced Leslie Lyle Camick to 364 days for obstruction of justice — just a day shy of the one-year sentence prosecutors wanted to make his crime an aggravated felony leading to immediate deportation. He has been in custody for 27 months. Camick was convicted in 2014 of identity theft, fraud and other charges. An appeals court in September overturned most convictions for lack of sufficient evidence, ordering resentencing for the remaining obstruction count. It found Camick sued the victim as retaliation, after Camick's indictment.
Kansas City Memorial Dedicated to Those Killed in 1981 Hotel Skywalk Collapse
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A memorial has been dedicated in Kansas City to the 114 people killed 34 years ago in one of the nation's worst structural disasters. Two-hundred people from around the country turned out Thursday to view the 24-foot sculpture entitled "Sending Loves" The names of those killed in the 1981 skywalks collapse at Kansas City's former Hyatt Regency Hotel are etched in the memorial. The collapse occurred during a dance that drew about 1,500 people to the hotel. Shortly after 7 pm, the fourth-floor skywalk gave way, falling on a second-floor skywalk. Then both dropped about 45 feet into the crowded lobby. Besides the 114 people killed, more than 200 were injured. The memorial also honors the rescuers who rushed to the scene to cut people out of the twisted metal.
Kansas Woman Admits Embezzling $471K from Employer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas woman has pleaded guilty to charges accusing her of embezzling about $471,000 from her employer. The office of the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri said in a release that Kimberly Joyce Padgett of Osawatomie, Kansas, pleaded guilty Thursday to five counts of wire fraud. The prosecutor's office says Padgett admitted embezzling about $471,000 from Reliant Financial Services in Kansas City, Missouri. Among her duties at the company were paying bills and preparing paychecks. She's accused of writing $350,000 in checks to herself and using a company credit card to pay for such things as clothing, jewelry and hotels. She faces up to 20 years in federal prison without parole, as well as fines.
92-Year-Old Kansas Man Killed in Arkansas Crash
BATESVILLE, Ark. (AP) — A 92-year-old man from Kansas has been killed in a two-car crash while traveling west on I-40 in St. Francis County, Arkansas. Arkansas State Police say that Jack Carey of Hutchinson, Kansas, attempted to enter the left lane in front of a second vehicle around 8 am Wednesday. A 2009 Toyota Corolla struck Carey's vehicle, a 2009 Volvo. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports travel conditions were clear and dry at the time of the crash. Preliminary figures indicate the fatal crash was the 442nd such accident in Arkansas so far this year.
Ted Cruz Files for Kansas GOP Caucus
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Senator Ted Cruz has filed for the Kansas Republican Presidential caucus. KSN-TV reports (link is external) that Cruz is the fifth presidential candidate to file for the Kansas presidential caucus, which is scheduled to be held in March at about 95 different caucus locations around the state. Other candidates who have filed for the Kansas caucus include former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Ohio Governor John Kasich, Donald Trump and Ben Carson.
Big Hopes Accompany Kansas Teams as College Hoops Begins
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas is still waiting for the NCAA to rule on the status of five-star recruit Cheick Diallo, adding another layer of intrigue to the start of the college hoops season in the Sunflower State. Jayhawks coach Bill Self, whose team plays Northern Colorado on Friday, said Thursday there has still been no movement in Diallo's case. The Mali native has been cleared to practice but is barred from participating in games for fourth-ranked Kansas. There are plenty of questions accompany Kansas State and Wichita State, too. The Wildcats are essentially starting over after losing nearly a full roster worth of players to graduation and transfer, while the No. 10 Shockers are considered Final Four contenders. Kansas State opens against Maryland-Eastern Shore. Wichita State plays Charleston Southern.