Headlines for Wednesday, January 6, 2016
Kansas Hospital Group Renews Push for Medicaid Expansion
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas hospital group has gathered state lawmakers, health care officials and business leaders in an effort to widen support for Medicaid expansion before the start of the 2016 legislative session. The Wichita Eagle reports that presentations at the Tuesday forum hosted by the Kansas Hospital Association had highlighted possible savings such an expansion might generate. Private-sector support for expansion has grown in the past six months. Hospitals around the state have attributed revenue declines, in large part, to donated care for uninsured patients. But while attending legislators remained open to discussion of the issue this session, some say the power to "move the needle on the issue" lies higher up in the administration. Thirty states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid; Kansas has not.
Bioscience Authority Not Fully Severing Ties with State
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- The head of the Kansas Bioscience Authority says the state-established entity will rely more heavily on private-sector support after significant state funding cuts. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Kevin Lockett recently took over as president and CEO. He says the agency doesn't intend to fully separate from the state, although it's working to transfer as much of its original mission as it can to the private sector. His comments come less than a week after the group issued a statement that said KBA's board of directors had voted "to shift the organization's mission to the private market in 2016." KBA was established by the Legislature in 2004 to make investments and loans to startup bioscience companies and to make grants to state universities to conduct bioscience research.
Sheriff: Manhattan Man Dies After Jailhouse Suicide Attempt
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Manhattan man has died after a jailhouse suicide attempt. The Manhattan Mercury reports that the man died Monday morning after he was removed from life support. Geary County Sheriff Tony Wolf said in a news release that the man had attempted suicide in his cell December 31 at the county's detention center. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and Geary County Sheriff's Office are conducting a joint investigation. The man was initially taken to Geary County Community Hospital and later transported to the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City. Wolf says the man was in jail for failing to appear on a warrant, not for "anything hard core." He says there was no indication that the man was a danger to himself.
Lawsuit over Kansas Toddler's Death Sent Back to Court
EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — Fresh life has been giving to a lawsuit claiming that the state child protection agency bears liability in the death of a south-central Kansas toddler. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Kansas Court of Appeals has reversed a lower-court judge's decision to dismiss a wrongful death lawsuit. It was filed by Jayla Haag's father against the Kansas Department for Children and Families. The father contends that the child protection agency knew of risks to the 18-month-old girl and could have prevented her 2012 death at the hands of her mother's boyfriend. The girls' injuries included a broken jaw, and she had lived in what's been described as a meth house. Assistant Attorney General Steve Fabert argued previously that DCF, as a governmental agency, has immunity in such a lawsuit.
Official: Using Private Vendor for State Testing Could Be Costly
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas education official says using a private vendor for state tests would boost costs. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the issue came up after an interim legislative panel released a draft of its public school recommendations. Among those was a recommendation that the state seek a test provider without ties to federal or state government and that it pay for all students to take the ACT. For more than 30 years, the University of Kansas's Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation has written and administered the state's tests in math, reading and other subjects. The Kansas State Department of Education says Kansas has the second-cheapest state tests in the nation. Deputy education commissioner Brad Neuenswander says changing to a different vendor would cost "much more."
Kansas Officials Move Transportation Engineering Jobs to Lawrence
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Transportation is trying to reduce the number of engineers leaving the agency by moving some jobs to Lawrence. Transportation officials said Wednesday the agency has moved 18 employees, including 16 engineers, from its Topeka office to leased space in the Bioscience and Technology Business Center on the University of Kansas campus. Transportation secretary Mike King says the all of the employees already live in Lawrence. He says the agency has lost "a significant number" of engineers recently. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the staff transferred to Lawrence do design and management work on state road and bridge projects. King says he hopes the move will also help the agency recruit engineering interns from the university.
Judge Sets May Trial for Wichita Anti-Abortion Activist
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has set a May trial date for an abortion opponent accused of sending a letter to a Wichita doctor saying someone might place an explosive under her car. An order filed Wednesday scheduled a three-day trial for anti-abortion activist Angel Dillard beginning May 3 In federal court in Wichita. The Justice Department sued Dillard in 2011 for sending the letter to Dr. Mila Means, who had been training to offer abortions. At the time, no doctor was performing abortions in Wichita in the wake of Dr. George Tiller's murder. An appeals court ruled in July that the decision about whether Dillard's letter constituted a "true threat" should be left to jurors. It noted Wichita's history of violence against abortion providers and her publicized friendship with Tiller's killer.
GOP Lawmakers Signal Desire to Overhaul K-12 Kansas Schools
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Conservative Republican legislators are preparing to push for huge changes in Kansas's education system. Other lawmakers warned Tuesday that a coming debate over funding could center on proposals they see as hostile to public K-12 schools. Proposals under consideration include junking current standardized testing for students, turning over some school services to private companies and forgoing federal dollars to avoid federal education requirements. A joint legislative committee set up to study what students should be learning and the best way to fund schools met briefly Tuesday to review a draft report from its chairman. The report calls for overhauling how the state distributes more than $4 billion in aid annually to its 286 local school districts. The committee tabled the report until later this month.
Attorney General Seeks Data on Colorado Marijuana in Kansas
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is gathering data from local law enforcement agencies in an effort to measure the impact on Kansas of marijuana legally purchased in Colorado. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Schmidt has sent more than 500 survey forms to county and district attorneys and police departments requesting information. He says he will make the survey results public when they are compiled later this year. Schmidt says there are numerous accounts of marijuana being illegally brought into the state from Colorado. He says his goal is to get a clear picture of what's happening in the state so "policymakers can make informed decisions." Kansas law still prohibits the possession or distribution of marijuana.
Kansas Demands Explanation of Virginia Gun Permit Decision
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas' top prosecutor wants to know why the state's concealed carry firearm licenses aren't being honored in Virginia. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt requested an explanation Tuesday for Virginia's legal reasoning. Last month, Virginia announced it was dropped reciprocity agreements with 25 states, including Kansas. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said the concealed weapons laws in those states don't meet Virginia's standards. Schmidt said in a news release that Virginia's decision was a ``surprise and a tremendous disappointment to many law-abiding Kansans who hold concealed carry licenses.'' Schmidt says Virginia first recognized Kansas licenses in February 2014 after six years of periodic discussions between the two states. He says he is unaware of any changes in Virginia law since then that would have explained the reconsideration.
Counties Seek State Funds for Sexual Predator Legal Fees
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Two counties are asking the state to reimburse them for legal expenses incurred by sexually violent predators. The fees stem from cases where the individuals are challenging their confinement to the state's Sexual Predator Treatment Program at Larned State Hospital. Counties where the patients' case originated must pay the legal costs. But in the past, the Attorney General's office reimbursed the counties through a state fund. However, lawmakers didn't appropriate any money for the fund for the current fiscal year. The Topeka Capital-Journal reportsrepresentatives from McPherson and Butler counties have asked a legislative committee to reimburse their costs.
Kansas to Start Mentoring Program for People Receiving State Assistance
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is starting a new program to provide volunteer mentors for welfare recipients and plans to expand it this summer to help foster children reaching adulthood. Governor Sam Brownback announced the start of the mentoring program Wednesday. The governor's wife, Mary Brownback, is the first person to volunteer to be a mentor. The Department for Children and Families expects to start training mentors in February for recipients of cash assistance. Officials said the goal is to match 1,100 cash recipients with mentors within a year. The department also hopes to match 90 foster children with mentors, starting in July. Abused and neglected children generally leave foster care at 18. State officials said they're modeling the new program on an existing one that helps hundreds of adult prison inmates and juvenile offenders.
Wife of Topeka Councilman Applies for Diversion
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The wife of a Topeka councilman is seeking to enter into a diversion agreement on charges that she aided her husband in a child abuse case. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 32-year-old Allison Schumm and her husband, 34-year-old Jonathan Schumm, face charges in Shawnee County District Court. She applied this week for diversion, which would keep a conviction off her record. Defense attorney Carol J. Cline declined to comment. The Schumms have 17 children, including one born in December, and four other biological children. The couple also has two children who are in foster care and 10 who are adopted. Court records show that Jonathan Schumm is accused of choking a child and threatening to "kill him" the next time. Efforts are underway to remove him from office.
Police Investigate Deadly Shooting in Kansas City, Kansas
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man has been fatally shot in Kansas City, Kansas. Police say in a news release that officers responded Tuesday night to the shooting and found a man dead inside a residence. The release said a person of interest turned himself in at police headquarters about 10 minutes later. The identity of the victim hasn't been released.
McClatchy Names Tony Berg as Kansas City Star's New Publisher
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The McClatchy Co. has promoted Tony Berg to president and publisher of The Kansas City Star. The company announced the 38-year-old Berg's appointment on Wednesday. Berg joined the Star in April 2015 as vice president for advertising after holding a similar job at the Wichita Eagle since 2012. Under his leadership, both newspapers restructured their sales forces, launched new products and services and posted double-digit growth in digital sales. Berg has spent 15 years in the news industry in sales and leadership roles. Before moving to Wichita, Berg worked at the Arizona Republic and the Lawrence Journal-World. He is a native of Emporia, Kansas, and graduated from the University of Kansas. He replaces Mi-Ai Parrish, who became president and publisher of the Arizona Republic last September.
Johnson County Man Sentenced in Child Sexual Abuse Case
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) _ A 31-year-old Johnson County man will serve at least 40 years in prison for sexually molesting an 8-year-old girl. Robert Donovan Burton was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison with no chance of parole for 40 years for abusing the girl at an Olathe home in late 2012 and early 2013. The Kansas City Star reports it was Burton's second conviction for a sex crime involving a child. In 2005, he pleaded guilty to attempted rape of a child younger than 14. In that case, his 12-year-old victim later gave birth to a child fathered by Burton.
Kansas Prisoner Charged With Murder in Missouri
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A man in a Kansas prison for the 1984 murder of a Sedgwick County man now faces another murder charge in the Missouri death of a teen who disappeared more than 30 years ago. The Wichita Eagle reports that 57-year-old Martin Priest has been charged with capital murder in Missouri. Court documents say Priest killed the teen, identified as ``T.R.,'' by strangling her in May 1984 in Eldon, Missouri. Priest could face life in prison if convicted. Priest has been in prison since being convicted of first-degree murder in the killing of 25-year-old William Mayhugh on Christmas 1984. He could be released on that charge as early as August. Kansas Department of Corrections officials say Priest could be transferred to Missouri to face the murder charge.
Online Food Directory Aims to Link Farmers with Consumers
WICHITA, Kansas (AP) _ A Wichita native has developed an online directory of farmers in hopes of connecting them with digital consumers. The Wichita Eagle reports that 31-year-old Mikel Bowyer started working on the ICT Food Circle project after joining a civic hacking organization that aimed to improve the community through public data projects. The site currently allows consumers to browse and contact farmers based on what products they sell. In the future, Bowyer wants to offer consumers a look at each farms' real-time inventory. Bowyer has been working on ICT Food Circle as a side project to his part-time and full-time jobs. He hopes to eventually register the site as a nonprofit.
Contract with Longtime Cheney Lake Marina Owner Not Renewed
CHENEY, Kan. (AP) — The longtime owners of Snyder's Marina at Cheney State Lake are removing all boat slips and closing up this week after their contract wasn't renewed. Tammera and Dennis Snyder have run the only marina at the lake since 1999. But the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism advised the couple last month the contract won't be renewed after inspectors cited issues with fire, environmental and electrical safety at the marina. Tammera Snyder said she believed until recently that the state would work with the couple and likely renew the contract. Agency spokesman Ron Kaufman says the state will seek new bids on the contract and the Snyders can put in a bid. He says it's unlikely a new marina operator will be chosen before summer.
Sedgwick County Will Try to Sell Former Boys Ranch Again
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Sedgwick County commissioners will try for the second time to sell or lease the former Judge Riddel Boys Ranch. The county commission closed the home for troubled boys in 2014 after a dispute with the Legislature over funding. The ranch provided educational and other social service programs for troubled juvenile males. County officials say they will write a request for proposals for real estate developers and nonprofits to determine interest in the 38-acre property near Goddard. The Wichita Eagle reports that the county tried before to lease the ranch but did not receive any proposals.