Headlines for Tuesday, January 12, 2016
State of Kansas Cutting Off Medicaid Funds for Planned Parenthood
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has announced that Kansas will prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving any funds through its Medicaid program. In his annual State of the State address Tuesday evening, the Republican governor also encouraged the GOP-dominated Legislature to enshrine his directive into law. Brownback used his speech to outline a broad legislative agenda on issues such as taxes, health care and education. He announced his action against Planned Parenthood near the end. The governor is a strong abortion opponent. He signed a law in 2011 to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving federal family planning dollars through the state health department. The governor said Tuesday that he directed the health department's secretary to see that no taxpayer money goes to Planned Parenthood through Medicaid, which provides health coverage for the needy.
Firm Says Its Proposals Would Save Kansas $2 Billion over 6 Years
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A consulting firm has outlined dozens of proposals for Kansas legislators that it says could save the state more than $2 billion over the next six years. The proposals Tuesday from Kansas City-based Alvarez & Marsal include overhauling health insurance for state workers and bringing local public school employees into a single, statewide health plan. The state would offer only high-deductible health insurance plans for its workers. The firm's 105 proposals include increasing taxes paid by workers' compensation insurance companies and leasing small plots of state-owned land for cell phone towers. Alvarez & Marsal says its proposals would save $302 million alone during the fiscal year beginning in July when the state has a projected $190 million budget deficit. The Legislature hired the firm last year to identify potential efficiencies.
Kansas to Consider Tighter Limits on Local Property Taxes
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers will consider new limits on local property taxes this year. The Legislature enacted a law last year aimed at lowering annual increases in the property tax levies that cities and counties rely heavily upon to finance local services. The restrictions take effect in 2018. But Republican Senator Jake LaTurner of Pittsburg has a new bill to tighten the restrictions and have them take effect in July. The Kansas Association of Realtors said imposing the restrictions earlier than planned is its top legislative priority. The idea also is supported by Americans for Prosperity, an anti-tax group backed by billionaire political donors Charles and David Koch. Groups representing cities and counties plan to ask legislators to repeal the restrictions.
Kansas Highway Patrol Suggests Title Fee Increase to Hire More Patrol Officers
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Highway Patrol is proposing an increase in the state's vehicle title fee to pay for more officers in 35 counties that currently have no assigned troopers. Patrol Superintendent Mark Bruce on Monday suggested the vehicle title fee be increased to $17.50 from $10, with the revenue earmarked to hire 75 more patrol troopers. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says it is also looking for funding to fill 20 job openings. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports KBI Director Kirk Thompson said his agency has 20 openings for criminal investigators and is struggling to keep forensic scientists on staff because of low pay. He says the KBI had funds to add five more agents in the past year but is having trouble attracting candidates.
Kansas School District Testing Students for Drugs, Alcohol
PERRY, Kan. (AP) — Students at a Jefferson County high school must undergo random drug testing to participate in extracurricular activities. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the policy took effect last week at Perry-Lecompton High School. School officials say the goal is to provide students with an incentive to turn down illegal drugs or alcohol. American Civil Liberties Union attorney Doug Bonney says that since the mid-1990s, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the drug testing of students involved in extracurricular activities is constitutional. Bonney says the ACLU disagrees with the decision. Perry-Lecompton High School Principal Mike Copple says drug tests will cost the school $39 per test and alcohol screenings will cost $79 per test.
Wichita Police Seek Driver in Deadly Hit-and-Run Crash
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are asking the public for help finding a driver in a deadly hit-and-ran crash. Police Lieutenant Todd Ojile says the 65-year-old victim was hit by a vehicle Monday night as he was crossing a street. After a woman found the man in the street, he was taken to a Wichita hospital, where he died. The victim was pushing a shopping cart that contained personal belongings and liquor when he was hit. His name is being withheld until relatives are notified. Ojile says investigators have little information about what happened and are asking for possible witnesses to come forward.
Southeast Kansas Man Dies in Industrial Accident
ROSE HILL, Kan. (AP) — A southeast Kansas man has died in an accident at his workplace. Rose Hill police say 24-year-old Robert Haigler of Udall died Tuesday morning at Viking Blast & Wash Systems. Police say Haigler was operating a lathe when the part he was working on bent and hit him in the head. He died instantly. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the accident.
Lansing Prisoner Who Shot at Law Officers During Escape Gets 128 Years in Prison
PLATTE CITY, Mo. (AP) — A man who escaped from the state prison in Lansing, Kansas and then shot at law enforcement officers who were chasing him has been sentenced to 128 years in prison. Scott Gilbert was sentenced Friday for 10 felonies resulting from his escape from the Lansing Correctional Facility in May 2013 and a subsequent police chase through Platte and Clinton counties in Missouri. During the chase, Gilbert fired several shots, hitting four different vehicles. He and an inmate who escaped with him barricaded themselves in an unoccupied rural house before surrendering. Before his escape, Gilbert was convicted of 52 felony offenses in Kansas. Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd says Gilbert had the longest rap sheet of anyone he ever prosecuted. The other inmate's case is scheduled for a jury trial in June.
Report: Kansas Farmers Planting Fewer Winter Wheat Acres
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new report shows U.S. farmers are planting fewer acres into winter wheat as key growing states like Kansas cut back amid low crop prices. The National Agricultural Statistics Service on Tuesday estimated the nation's seeded area for this year's crop at 36.6 million acres. That is down 7 percent from a year ago. The decline is being driven in part by fewer wheat acres planted in Kansas, the nation's top producing state. Winter wheat acres in Kansas are down 8 percent to 8.5 million acres. Growers in other major winter wheat growing areas also cut acreages. Texas planted just 5.3 million acres, down 12 percent. Oklahoma seeded 4.9 million acres for an 8 percent drop in acres. Colorado and Montana are both down with 2.25 million wheat acres each.
Iowa Panel to Examine State Lotteries' Jackpot-Fixing Case
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A legislative committee in Iowa plans to look into the jackpot-fixing scandal that started in the state and has spread to several other state lotteries, including the Kansas Lottery. State Representative Bobby Kaufmann says the Iowa House government oversight committee will investigate how it was possible for an employee at the Multi-State Lottery Association to allegedly fix jackpots. He says lawmakers want to prevent it from happening again. Kaufmann said lawmakers may seek documents and testimony from the Urbandale, Iowa-based lottery association, which runs the popular Powerball game and is governed by 37 lotteries in U.S. states and territories. The alleged scheme didn't affect Powerball, which uses balls instead of computers to draw numbers. That game is expected to set a world jackpot record in Wednesday's drawing of $1.5 billion.
Dodge City Man Sentenced in 2014 Drunk Driving Incident
DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Dodge City man has been sentenced to nearly four years in prison after pleading guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol, which led to the death of a woman. The Dodge City Daily Globe reports that 23-year-old Nicholas Andrew Rodriguez was sentenced to 42 months in prison for an involuntary manslaughter charge and an additional 6 months for a criminal trespassing charge. The sentences will run concurrently. Rodriguez was arrested in October 2014 after an incident in which he drove under the influence of alcohol, leading to the death of 24-year-old Diana Soto. Court documents say Rodriguez will be required to register as a violent offender upon release.
Cimarron Implemented Emergency Closure After Cattle Deaths
ELKHART, Kan. (AP) — Part of the Cimarron National Grassland is closed during an investigation into the deaths of seven cattle. The closure imposed in December at the grassland in Morton County will last until at least May 1, or until it is rescinded. About 2,600 of the 108,000 acres are closed to all motorized and non-motor access. The Hutchinson News reports the Morton County Grazing Association leases the grassland each year. Some range riders found the cattle dead in October. A veterinarian determined the animals had inhaled something that caused their deaths. The closure was implemented because of the potential for hazardous airborne conditions. District Ranger Lance Brown says the animals' deaths did not appeared to be caused by anything malicious.
Kansas Woman Who Tried to Flush Drug Money Sentenced
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A woman who tried to flush nearly $4,000 in drug money down a toilet was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said in a news release that 26-year-old Marisela Rameriz was sentenced Monday for one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Rameriz admitted she helped arrange for 16 mounts of methamphetamine to be transported from California to Kansas. When she was arrested, she tried to flush $3,880 in cash down a cell block toilet. One of her co-defendants, Jorge Rodriguez-Maciel, was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Another is scheduled for sentencing Friday and the third is awaiting trial.
Kansas City Couple Donates $2 Million to University of Kansas
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas will use a $2 million donation from a Kansas City, Missouri, couple to establish an architecture scholarship and to help a reading program for children. The university announced Monday it had received the gift from Michael Cummings and his wife, Pamela Miller. It said about $1.6 million will be used to establish the Michael A. Cummings Scholarship for architecture students, giving preference to students from rural communities. The other $400,000 will go to Reach Out And Read Kansas City, a nonprofit program at the University of Kansas Medical Center that partners with doctors to provide books for children and encourage parents to read to them. Michael Cummings earned bachelor's degrees from Kansas University in 1983.
Kansas Could Gain Millions if Winning Powerball Ticket Sold Here
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The State of Kansas could be a big winner if someone buys the winning ticket to the $1.3 billion Powerball drawing in the state. The Kansas Lottery says a Kansas winner of Wednesday's jackpot would have to pay at least $40 million to the state. That is more than enough to cover the state's current $14 million dollar budget shortfall. Kansas Lottery spokeswoman Sally Lunsford says if the winner took the one-time payout of $806 million, the state's tax of 5 percent would generate a bit more than $40 million. After federal taxes, the winner would still get $564 million.
Man Sentenced in Death of Kansas Legislator's Wife
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A motorist who had drugs in his system when he struck and killed a Kansas lawmaker's wife in a supermarket parking lot has been sentenced to five years and nine months in prison. Twenty-three-year-old Christopher Schrader apologized Monday when he was sentenced in Sedgwick County for the February 2015 death of 60-year-old Annette Hedke. Schrader pleaded no contest previously to involuntary manslaughter. Hedke was the wife of Republican Representative Dennis Hedke of Wichita. He's part of a wrongful death lawsuit that seeks more than $75,000. The lawsuit says Schrader shouldn't have been allowed to drive because of his driving record and drug use. It also alleges negligence on his mother's behalf because she gave her son permission to drive the vehicle.