Headlines for Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Interest-Only Payments Concern Kansas Lawmakers
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers say they want more control over state finances after the Department of Transportation issued $400 million in bonds and arranged to only pay interest for the first decade. Senate President Susan Wagle said in a statement that she and her colleagues "have serious heartburn" over aspects of recent deals. The Wichita Republican also raised concerns about a $19.9 million lease-to-own deal that the Kansas Department of Administration negotiated. The Wichita Eagle reports that Wagle says lawmakers will be pursuing legislation to "ensure legislative oversight over principal and interest payments, collateral agreements and long-term leases." Governor Sam Brownback's spokeswoman, Eileen Hawley, says the Departments of Administration and Transportation acted "well within their legal scope of authority." She says Brownback is "happy to review legislation improving legislative oversight."
Kansas Lawmaker Retracts Dress Code Proposal
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas lawmaker has apologized and retracted a dress code that banned plunging necklines and short skirts for women testifying before his committee. Republican state Senator Mitch Holmes issued a statement Tuesday saying it was unacceptable for him to provide specific guidance about how women should dress in the state's Ethics and Elections Committee chambers without also producing similar guidance for men. Legislators in both parties have strongly criticized the guidelines issued last week that said "low-cut necklines and mini-skirts" are inappropriate "for ladies." Holmes is the committee's chairman. He apologized and said he "meant no offense." Similar issues have arisen in Missouri and Montana in recent years. The Kansas Legislature's rules generally allow its committee leaders to set their own rules.
Kansas Senate Panel Struggles with Medical Marijuana Measure
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee isn't ready to endorse a narrow medical marijuana proposal. The Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee voted Tuesday to forward a medical marijuana bill to the full Senate without a recommendation on whether it should pass. The measure would allow therapeutic hemp oil to be used in treating seizures. Republicans who control the panel expect the measure to be sent to another committee that handles health issues. The medical marijuana proposal had been tied to another proposal to lessen criminal penalties for first- and second-time marijuana possession. The House passed a single bill covering both subjects last year. The Senate corrections committee split the measures into two bills. It approved the one lowering penalties for marijuana possession and sent it to the full Senate for debate.
Ethics Complaint Questions Legal Fees by Governor's Campaign
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A top Democratic lawmaker says he plans to file a complaint with the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission seeking an investigation into Governor Sam Brownback's use of campaign donations to pay more than $167,000 in legal fees last year. The payments came as a federal grand jury was investigating loans that Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer made to their 2014 re-election effort. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley said Monday he also plans to ask the ethics panel for an advisory opinion on the legality of a candidate using campaign funds as collateral. Eileen Hawley, spokeswoman for the governor's office, said Monday that the campaign complied with all laws and regulations and that the investigation into the loans did not result in charges.
Amendment Would Establish Hunting, Fishing Right in Kansas
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Lawmakers are considering an amendment that would give Kansans a constitutional right to hunt, fish and trap wildlife. The Wichita Eagle reports that the measure will be added to the November ballot if it obtains a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate. The resolution had a hearing before the House Committee on Federal and State Affairs on Tuesday. National Rifle Association lobbyist Travis Couture-Lovelady says the measure may not be needed immediately. But the former lawmaker says it's important to "ingrain" the rights in the constitution because the population may become "disconnected" from its "hunting heritage" as the population becomes more urban. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism also voiced support for the measure.
Kansas Bill Would Require Schools to Allow Shooting Clubs
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Shooting clubs that use BB guns and other air guns could hold practices and competitions in schools under a Kansas bill. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Weapon Free Schools Act would be amended so air guns wouldn't be considered weapons. Schools also wouldn't be able to prohibit organizations from conducting activities just because they "include the possession and use of air guns by the participants." Representative Blake Carpenter, a Derby Republican, introduced the bill in response to a controversy in the Derby school district surrounding a shooting club. After operating at Oaklawn Elementary for 30 years, district leaders forced the club off campus. The Derby BB Club's founder, Larry Richardson, complained that the club never had an incident. The Kansas Association of School Boards, however, raised liability concerns.
State Utility Consumer Advocate Office Without Lawyer
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The state agency that represents residential and small-business customers is without a lawyer. The Wichita Eagle reports that the lack of legal representation for the Citizens' Utility Ratepayer Board comes after the organization fired its interim consumer counsel, Niki Christopher. Monday's firing is tied to a bill that was designed to keep the CURB board from shifting the agency's focus away from representing small consumers. Last month, board members discussed refocusing on fighting new federal clean air regulations. The board later pulled back from the proposal. The bill also would have nullified a CURB board order prohibiting Christopher from discussing utility issues with legislators and reporters. CURB Chairwoman Ellen Janoski said Christopher sent the board an email on Friday. Janoski said Christopher wanted to talk to "whoever."
Kansas Secretary of State Pursuing 3 New Criminal Cases
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Secretary of State Kris Kobach is pursuing three new criminal cases against people he alleges voted illegally in Kansas and other states. Kobach told a Kansas House committee Monday that his office has filed a total of six cases since legislators enacted a law last year to give it prosecutorial power in election fraud cases. One new case is in Johnson County against Michael L. Hannum. He lives in Omaha, Nebraska, and said prosecutors in both states told him they weren't going to file cases. Defendant Randall K. Kilian, formerly of Ellis County, now lives in Castle Rock, Colorado. A third new case is in Sedgwick County case against Ron R. Weems.
Kobach Seeks to Mandate Audits of Kansas Election Results
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Secretary of State Kris Kobach is proposing to have Kansas counties audit voting results immediately after the state's primary and general elections. Kobach outlined a measure Monday that would require all counties to manually audit 1 percent of their election returns, starting with state elections in 2018. The Kansas House Elections Committee agreed to introduce a bill including Kobach's proposal. The secretary of state said the measure is a response to calls for his office to allow private parties to audit election equipment. A Wichita State University mathematician sued the Sedgwick County election commissioner to gain access to voting machine tapes from November 2014 to research what she believes are statistical anomalies. A trial is set for March 22.
Burglar Hits at Least 6 KU Dorm Rooms as Residents Sleep
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas police say someone burglarized at least six rooms at a residence hall while students were sleeping. Prescription drugs and hundreds of dollars of cash were stolen during the thefts late Wednesday and Thursday morning at Lewis Hall. Captain James Anguiano says all the rooms were unlocked and people were asleep inside when the burglaries occurred. No one was hurt. The Lawrence Journal-World reports police are not yet sure whether one or more burglars committed the thefts.
Straub International to Close Larned Location
GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Straub International says it will close its Larned location and consolidate the work into its remaining locations. Straub, an agriculture equipment dealer, also has outlets in Great Bend, Salina, Hutchinson, Pratt, Wichita and Marion. CEO Larry Straub says closing the Larned location will make the firm more efficient, noting the Great Bend store is only 20 miles away and many services overlap. Many of the 20 employees from the Larned store will have the chance to stay with the company. The Hutchinson News reports Straub said slowing business conditions prompted the decision.
Wichita Airport Records Its Third-Highest Passenger Count in 2015
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita's Eisenhower National Airport recorded a nearly 2.5 percent increase in passengers in 2015. Wichita Airport Authority official Valerie Wise credits the gains to a new $160 million terminal that opened last June, offering passengers more conveniences and amenities. The Wichita Eagle reports about 1.57 million passengers flew into and out of Eisenhower last year, an increase of 37,679 passengers from 2014. Last year was the third-busiest year in the airport's history, trailing only 1.59 million passengers in 2007 and 1.61 million passengers in 2008. Wise says the gain in passenger growth came despite a reduction in capacity in flights using the airport. Passenger capacity at Eisenhower last year was down 4 percent from 2014, or 36,763 fewer seats.
Indicted Wichita Doctor Had Been Picked for Jail Medical Job
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A Wichita doctor charged in federal court with unlawfully distributing prescription drugs had been hired as the Sedgwick County Jail's medical director before his arrest. The Wichita Eagle reports that 54-year-old Dr. Steven Henson is accused of writing prescriptions for cash, when there wasn't a medical need and prescribing controlled drugs for patients he had not examined. Federal prosecutors say the drug scheme resulted in the overdose death of a patient in July. Henson has pleaded not guilty.
Sprint Cutting 2,500 Jobs and Closing Call Centers to Cut Costs
NEW YORK (AP) _ Cellphone company Sprint is eliminating more jobs as it seeks to cut costs and turn around its business. Sprint spokesman Dave Tovar says the country's No. 4 wireless service provider has cut about 2,500 jobs since last fall, or about 8 percent of its workforce. Last week, it notified employees at six customer service centers around the country that it would be closing those locations or reducing the staff there. The latest round of layoffs follows 2,000 job cuts announced in November 2014. Shares of the Overland Park, Kansas-based company are down about 39 percent in the past 12 months. The stock dropped 9.6 percent to $2.60 in afternoon trading Monday.
Kansas City School Bus Crash Leaves 7 with Minor Injuries
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Officials say seven children suffered minor injuries when their school bus collided with a vehicle in eastern Kansas City. Police say six children were taken to Research Medical Center and one was taken to Children's Mercy. The other children on the bus continued on to school. At least 20 students, mostly ages 12 and 13, were on the bus headed to Kauffman School when it was hit from behind by a sports utility vehicle. The bus driver and the driver of the other vehicle were not injured. Apple Bus Company said in a statement that the accident is still under investigation.
Salina Man Pleads No Contest in Stabbing Death
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina man will be sentenced in April after pleading no contest in the stabbing death of another man. Ivan Huizar Alvarez was scheduled to go to trial Monday for first-degree murder in the March 2015 death of Scott Johnson of Salina. Instead, he agreed to a plea deal on Friday to intentional second-degree murder. Prosecutors say Huizar Alvarez chased Johnson and stabbed him several times during an argument. Huizar Alvarez had claimed the stabbing was in self-defense. The Salina Journal reports prosecutors expect Huizar Alvarez to be sentenced to about 22 years in prison. He also is expected to be required to register as a violent offender for 15 years.
Man Dies in Saline County Jail After Fight with Officers
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is investigating after a man died following a fight with two corrections officers while he was being booked at the Saline County Jail. The man died early Tuesday at a Salina hospital after the altercation Monday evening. Salina Police Captain Mike Sweeney says the man resisted as he was being taken into custody for allegedly punching a woman. Jail Administrator Captain Brent Melander says the man continued to be disruptive in the jail booking area and two officers tried to restrain him. He was unresponsive after the fight and was taken to Salina Regional Health Center. His name has not been released. KSAL reports that corrections officer David Grove was admitted to the hospital for observation and officer Andrew Fillipi was treated and released.
Woman Pleads Not Guilty in 2 Kansas City Firefighter Deaths
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A woman has pleaded not guilty to six charges related to the deaths of two Kansas City firefighters. The Kansas City Star reports Thu Hong Nguyen's attorney entered the pleas Monday. She is charged with two counts of second-degree murder, arson, causing catastrophe and two counts of second-degree assault. Prosecutors allege Nguyen set fire in a nail salon on October 12. An investigator said in an affidavit that Nguyen owned the nail salon. The blaze spread to a building housing several businesses and apartments. Firefighters Larry Leggio and John Mesh died when a wall collapsed on them. Two other firefighters were injured. Five businesses and 26 apartment residents were displaced. Nguyen is being held on $2 million cash bond.
Kansas Man Sentenced for Exposing Marshals to PCP
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas City, Kansas, man has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for causing a struggle in which U.S. Marshals were exposed to the drug PCP. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says 32-year-old Frederick E. Pendleton pleaded guilty to one count of assaulting, resisting or impeding a federal employee. Pendleton struggled with U.S. Marshals as they attempted to arrest him in December 2014 for violating supervised release in a criminal case. Two marshals say their hands made contact with PCP that leaked from a vial in Pendleton's waistband. They were treated at a hospital. Pendleton's 24-month sentence will be consecutive to an 18-month sentence in the previous case.
No. 14 Iowa State Beats No. 4 Kansas, 85-72
AMES, Iowa (AP) — No. 14 Iowa State blew past Kansas 85-72 on Monday night for its fourth straight win. The Cyclones (16-4, 5-3 Big 12) have now defeated three of the top four teams in this week's Top 25. Iowa State overcame a sluggish start with a 24-7 run midway through the second half, and Georges Niang's three-point basket made it 80-67 with 2 minutes left. Monte Morris also scored 21 points for the Cyclones. KU's Perry Ellis had 23 points and Frank Mason III scored 16 to lead Kansas (16-4, 5-3), which lost its third straight road game. The Jayhawks have lost four of their last five against Iowa State.