Today In Kansas Report – Jan. 7, 2020

Jackson SchneiderJanuary 7, 2020

A man died Saturday in a fishing accident in Russell County. According to the Russell County Sheriff’s Office, first responders were dispatched to a report of a fisherman who had fallen through the ice. They located 72-year-old James L. Schoenberger. Schoenberger was transported to the hospital in Russell where he died.

The driver of a stolen University of Kansas Jayhawks’ Athletics vehicle was arrested in Salina after a high speed pursuit. 42-year-old Sarah Howe was taken into custody after officers were called to a motel to check on two people who didn’t pay for their room and departed from the property through the window. A vehicle description led officers to locate a black, 2019 Ford Expedition that was reported stolen from the KU campus in Lawrence. When police attempted a traffic stop the woman drove over a landscaping island and sped away. The chase reached speeds of over 75mph and ended when the SUV hit a curb. The woman, who is from Oregon is now facing charges for DUI, possession of stolen property, flee and elude plus possession of opiates.

A new task force is on the case to solve the mystery of the unknown swarms of drones flying over portions of Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, and Wyoming. Ian Gregor with the FAA says federal and local authorities are working together to figure out who is controlling the drones.  A Colorado Sheriff’s office is asking the public to keep an eye out for some sort of command vehicle.  It will likely look like a closed box trailer with antennas, or a large van that looks out of place.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is not running for the Senate.  Multiple reports indicate that Pompeo met yesterday with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to tell him that he would not run for the seat currently held by retiring Kansas Senator Pat Roberts.  Pompeo served as the Kansas Fourth District Congressman from 2011 to 2017 before joining the Trump administration.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has a plan which she says will stabilize the state budget and ensure long-term viability of the state employee pension system while protecting KPERS benefits. The past several years the state accumulated a record level of debt and the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS) fund was shortchanged. The new plan includes paying over $500 million in debt off early and avoiding future principal and interest costs. It will also include re-amortizing the legacy unfunded liability of the KPERS fund. Re-amortization has been previously proposed by Republican state lawmakers to help ensure long-term viability of the state employee pension system.

Employees at a Kansas aerospace company are being offered buyouts.  Spirit AeroSystems CEO Tom Gentile announced yesterday that employees in Wichita, Tulsa and McAlester will have the chance to volunteer to be laid off.  The buyout announcement comes several weeks following suspension of the production of the Boeing 737 MAX.  Spirit AeroSystems officials say they are looking at ways to reduce costs due to uncertainty on the timing for resuming 737 MAX production.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating last month’s explosion at a Kansas aviation company.  Fifteen employees were injured in the December 27th incident at Textron Aviation.  Company officials have linked the explosion to a three-inch liquid nitrogen line that ruptured.  OSHA has six months to investigate the explosion and issue citations or fines if it discovers violations of health and safety regulations at the plant.

The longest-tenured judge to serve on the Kansas Court of Appeals will retire this Spring. Judge G. Joseph Pierron Jr’s last day on the bench will be April 3rd. The 72-year-old judge joined the court in December 1990. Since then, he has written 392 published opinions and heard thousands of appeals. The Court of Appeals hears all appeals from district courts in both civil and criminal cases, except those that may be appealed directly to the Kansas Supreme Court. Most of the time, panels of three judges hear the appeals, and they travel across the state to do so. The governor appoints judges to the Kansas Court of Appeals, subject to a majority confirmation by the Kansas Senate.


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