Feb 18, 2020 2:00 PM

Troopers find 100 pounds of pot, meth while offering driver assistance

Posted Feb 18, 2020 2:00 PM
Photo courtesy Nebraska State Patrol
Photo courtesy Nebraska State Patrol

Lancaster County, NE  — State Troopers arrested two men after finding 100 pounds of marijuana and one half pound of methamphetamine while attempting a motorist assist on February 14 in Lincoln.

Just after 4:00 p.m. on Valentine's Day, a trooper observed a recreational vehicle having difficulty maintaining its lane while traveling eastbound in Interstate 80 near Lincoln, according to a media release.

The vehicle exited I-80 at mile marker 399 in Lincoln. The trooper contacted the driver of the RV at a gas station to offer assistance. The trooper then discovered that the driver was driving with a suspended license.

During the stop, an NSP K9 detected the presence of a controlled substance in the vehicle. Troopers searched the vehicle and found 100 pounds of marijuana and one half pound of methamphetamine.

The driver, Jason Wolff, 43, of Sacramento, California, and passenger, Michael Wernecke, 48, of Madison, Wisconsin, were arrested for possession of marijuana – more than one pound, possession of methamphetamine, and possession with intent to deliver. Both were lodged in Lancaster County Jail.

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Feb 18, 2020 2:00 PM
 Kan. Medicaid expansion blocked — lawmakers considering 'nuclear option'
Medicaid expansion advocates attend a rally last month at the Kansas Statehouse. Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

By STEPHEN KORANDA, Kansas News Service

TOPEKA — The Kansas legislative session began with what seemed like a done deal for expanding Medicaid. Gov. Laura Kelly and a top Republican senator had forged a compromise to offer health coverage for up to 130,000 low-income Kansans.

About a month later, the deal has ground to a halt — and even the state budget could be held up — because of abortion politics. Medicaid supporters are irritated. Moderate Republicans and Democrats are ready to fight back with delays. And abortion opponents haven’t budged.

“I’m pretty frustrated,” said Republican Sen. Randall Hardy, who supports expanding Medicaid. “I’m willing to consider almost anything at this point.”

The strategy of holding up the Legislature to get Medicaid expansion is a risky play, Washburn University political science professor Bob Beatty said. It could anger voters if the delay drags on to the point that important services like roads and law enforcement aren’t funded.

“This is the nuclear option,” Beatty said, “because the last thing voters, constituents and even legislators want is for the Legislature to not be able to do anything, including funding programs that everybody agrees should be funded.”

The Senate already passed the proposed constitutional amendment on abortion, which would overturn a court ruling that said the state constitution gurantees women a right to the procedure. But the House narrowly rejected it on Feb. 7.

That led the influential anti-abortion group Kansans for Life to call for blocking Medicaid expansion until the amendment is on a ballot, something Republican Senate President Susan Wagle has promised will happen.

Abortion opponents say the delay is necessary, fearing that the court ruling on abortion rights could lead to state money being used for abortions through an expanded Medicaid program.

“If we want to be able to protect human life and protect the citizens of Kansas from being forced to fund abortions through Medicaid, then this is just a position that we have to take,” Kansans For Life’s Director of Government Relations Jeanne Gawdun said earlier this month.

Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, the Republican who helped draft the Medicaid compromise, is pushing back, saying state funding would not go to abortion due to federal law.

Last year, Democrats and moderate Republicans tried holding up the budget in the House to get Medicaid expansion, but ultimately didn’t have enough votes. The top Democrat in the House said expansion is such a high priority this year that they’re willing to try again if needed.

“We will keep discussing it with them to get that leverage,” House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer said.

Since Republicans hold strong majorities in both chambers, Democrats would need to attract a healthy number of Republicans like Hardy if they hope to successfully block any bills.

Meanwhile, Medicaid supporters held a rally last week, shouting their disapproval of the whole situation inside the Statehouse.

“There’s been one delay after another,” Alliance for a Healthy Kansas Executive Director April Holman said, “with no end in sight.”

Stephen Koranda is the Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @kprkoranda.