Headlines for Friday, January 15, 2016
Judge: Rules in Favor of KS Voters Against Kobach
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas judge has ruled that Secretary of State Kris Kobach has no legal right to bar people who register to vote using a federal form from voting in local and state elections. Shawnee County District Judge Franklin Theis (Tice) ruled today (FRI) in favor of two Kansas voters who challenged how Kobach is enforcing a state proof-of-citizenship requirement for registering to vote. The judge said Kobach had no authority to "encumber the voting process'' by declaring that voters who use a federal form to register can cast ballots only in federal races. The federal form does not require proof of citizenship. The court found the right to vote under current Kansas law is not tied to the method of registration. Kobach's office declined comment on the ruling.
Wal-Mart to Shutter 154 U.S. Stores, 9 in Kansas
NEW YORK (AP) - Wal-Mart is closing 269 stores worldwide, more than half of them in the U.S. Nine Walmart stores will close in Kansas, including stores in Burlington, Clearwater, Columbus, Ellsworth, Hillsboro and Rose Hill. Three Walmarts in Wichita are also set to close. The stores being shuttered account for a fraction of the company's 11,000 stores worldwide and less than 1 percent of its global revenue. The closures will affect 16,000 workers, 10,000 of them in the U.S.
Kansas Anti-Discrimination Bill Seeks to Protect LGBT
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas legislation that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state's anti-discrimination statute is drawing opposition. The Wichita Eagle reports that the measure would make it illegal to fire or evict someone for being gay or transgender, and ensure equal access to public accommodation. Supporters of the bill consider it necessary because the LGBT community in Kansas routinely faces discrimination. Opponents counter that the measure would make Kansans who oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds vulnerable to lawsuits, and that transgender women would be allowed to enter women's bathrooms. Current law shields Kansans from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on race, religion, color, sex, disability, family status, national origin or ancestry.
Kansas Medical Board Clears Planned Parenthood
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas' medical board is taking no action against a Planned Parenthood clinic after completing an investigation into whether illegal sales of fetal tissue are occurring after abortions. A State Board of Healing Arts disciplinary attorney sent a letter last week to Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri saying the board's disciplinary staff had investigated the group's clinic in Overland Park. The letter said "no further action will be taken at this time." Governor Sam Brownback called for the investigation last year and this week ordered the state to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funds. Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers have said they don't participate in programs for the donation or sale of fetal tissue.
Lawmakers Work to Keep Kansas Courts Open During Funding Dispute
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Two legislative committees are considering bills aimed at keeping Kansas courts open following a legal dispute involving the judicial branch's budget. The House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee were having hearings Thursday on separate but identical bills repealing a 2015 law threatening funding for Kansas courts through June 2017. The law was passed by Republican legislators to follow up on a statute they enacted in 2014. The 2014 policy stripped the Kansas Supreme Court of its power to appoint the chief district court judges in the state's 31 judicial districts. The 2015 law said the judiciary's entire budget would be nullified if the 2014 law was struck down. The Supreme Court invalidated the law in December. GOP lawmakers say they don't want to close the courts.
Kansas Democrats Outline 2016 Legislative Priorities
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Democratic lawmakers are outlining their agenda for this year's session of the Kansas Legislature. House and Senate Democrats held a joint news conference Thursday to outline their vision for the state. Democrats in the past have focused heavily on education and economic issues, such as increasing the state's minimum wage, now $7.25 an hour. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka and House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs of Kansas City also plan to respond to budget proposals outlined by Republican Governor Sam Brownback. Lawmakers opened their annual session Monday. Republicans hold majorities of 32-8 in the Senate and 97-28 in the House and won every statewide and congressional race in the past six years.
Brownback Defends Teacher Merit Pay Proposal
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is defending his support for using a new school funding formula to encourage local districts to enact merit pay systems for teachers. The Republican governor responded to comments Thursday from Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka. Hensley is a teacher and said he opposes merit pay because, he says, such systems are marred by favoritism. Hensley also said legislators should focus on issues that unite educators when they draft a new law for distributing more than $4 billion in funding to the state's 286 school districts. Brownback said Hensley is dismissing the merit pay proposal too quickly. He said lawmakers should hold hearings on merit pay systems in other states and learn where they've worked.
Kansas, Georgia Investigate Mysterious Cattle Mutilations
Kansas authorities are still investigating mysterious cattle mutilations in Harvey and McPherson counties in central Kansas and now... authorities in Georgia have reported finding mutilated cattle as well, with neatly-cut circles sliced into their rear ends. No bite marks or other indications of animal attacks were discovered. No footprints or tire marks were identified near the animals. The cuts were clean, with no jagged edges. Investigators say they can't explain the deaths. Here in Kansas, similar, sporatic and unusual cattle mutilations date back for a half century. Law enforcement authorities - including the FBI - have been investigating these cattle mutilations in Kansas for the past 50 years. Nationwide, during that time, thousands of similar cattle mutilations have been reported.
Iowa City Official Hired as Lawrence City Manager
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - The city manager of Iowa City, Iowa, will now have the same title and responsibilities in Lawrence, Kansas. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 64-year-old Tom Markus was named Thursday by Lawrence Mayor Mike Amyx and will start his new job March 21 at an annual base salary of $190,000. Markus was chosen from an initial pool of 54 applicants, which then was narrowed to three finalists. The Lawrence City Commission still must approve Markus' employment agreement. They are expected to consider that approval at the commission meeting next Tuesday. Markus has held the Iowa City job for five years. He succeeds David Corliss, who resigned last June to become town manager of Castle Rock, Colorado.
Defendant in Killing of Wichita State Student Pleads Guilty
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — One of two people charged in the killing of a Wichita State University student has entered a guilty plea. The Wichita Eagle that 23-year-old Isaiah Copridge pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree murder in the death of Rayan Ibrahim Baba. Copridge also pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery after waiving his preliminary hearing. The victim was a 23-year-old Saudi undergraduate student. He was found shot in a parking lot of one of the university's dormitories on August 8. An affidavit says he had contacted Copridge's co-defendant, Eboni Fingal, about sexual services she advertised online shortly before he was killed. Copridge faces more than 54 years in prison. His sentencing is set for February 18, just two days after Fingal's trial is set to begin. She has pleaded not guilty.
Wichita Doctor Indicted After Patient Overdose
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita doctor accused of unlawfully distributing prescription drugs has been indicted after a patient died from an overdose. The U.S. attorney's office says the 31-count indictment against Dr. Steven Henson was unsealed. The 54-year-old is accused of writing prescriptions for cash, when there wasn't a medical need. Federal prosecutors say the scheme resulted in the death of a patient in July. Charges against Henson include unlawfully distributing the painkiller oxycodone, the anti-anxiety drug alprazolam and methadone. Eight people who got prescriptions from the doctor also are charged with unlawful drug distribution.
Probation Ordered for Gun Buyer in Jewish Site Killings
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A southern Missouri man has been sentenced to five years of probation for purchasing one of the shotguns that a white supremacist used in a deadly attack at two Jewish sites in suburban Kansas City. Forty-nine-year-old John Mark Reidle, of Aurora, was sentenced Thursday in federal court in Springfield. He had admitted to falsely claiming he was buying the gun for himself on a federal form on April 9, 2014. Four days later, convicted killer Frazier Glenn Miller killed three people outside Jewish facilities in Overland Park, Kansas. The Joplin Globe reports that Judge Beth Phillips said Miller took advantage of Reidle's limited intellectual ability. Reidle will be confined at home during the first six months of his sentence.
Student Accused of Bringing Gun to Kansas Middle School
ABILENE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have arrested a 13-year-old boy who is accused of taking a gun to his central Kansas middle school. KSAL-AM reports that the Abilene Middle School student was walking home when he was arrested. Abilene Police officials say a handgun was recovered from the student's backpack. Officers believe that the student did not threaten anyone with the gun. He is accused of showing the gun to several friends at school. The friends alerted an adult, who then called police.
Sedgwick County Sheriff: Deputy Suspected of Sex Charges
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Sedgwick County's sheriff says one of his deputies has been arrested on suspicion of aggravated sexual battery. Sheriff Jeff Easter says the 37-year-old detention deputy has been jailed but not yet been charged.
Bill Honoring Kansas County 1st to Pass in 2016
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The first bill to clear the Kansas Legislature this year and go to Governor Sam Brownback designates Cowley County as the state's stone bridge capital. The House approved it on a 118-1 vote Thursday. The Senate unanimously approved the measure last year. Brownback says he hasn't reviewed the bill but believes he will be able to sign it. The measure says Cowley County in south-central Kansas is home to 18 stone arch bridges built before 1910, and all but one still carry traffic daily. The only vote against the measure came from Republican Representative Craig McPherson of Overland Park. He said he prefers not to clutter up the state statutes with items that can be handled in legislative resolutions.
Dyson's Hometown Names Street to Honor Royals' Star Outfielder
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The honors keep rolling in for Kansas City Royals players. The latest accolade is the renaming of a street in McComb, Mississippi, in honor of outfielder Jarrod Dyson. The McComb City Council voted to change the name of Warren Street to Dyson Drive. Dyson was in Mississippi this week to receive a proclamation about the change. McComb's mayor says Dyson grew up on Warren Street. The Kansas City Star reports Dyson posted the news on his Instagram account, calling the name change a "blessing from above." Dyson also served as the grand marshal of the city's Christmas parade last month.
Kansas Events Offer Opportunity to See Bald Eagles
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Nature enthusiasts in Kansas say they they're seeing a revival of bald eagles across the state, and events are planned to give the public a look at the once-endangered birds. The Wichita Eaglesays that this spring and summer, Kansas is expected to have at least 100 pairs of bald eagles nesting atop the state's cottonwoods and sycamores. Over the next few weekends, Kansas conservation groups and nature centers are inviting the public to free viewings of the eagles. Those events will be on Saturday at Milford Reservoir near Junction City, January 23 at the Clinton Reservoir near Lawrence, and January 30 and February 6 at the Chaplin Nature Center south of Wichita.