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Headlines for Friday, July 17, 2015

Kansas City Council Approves Minimum Wage Boost

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City, Missouri's minimum wage would rise to $13 an hour over about four and a half years under a newly approved ordinance. The city council voted Thursday to approve the measure. The proposal has the backing of low-wage workers, but business groups are questioning its legality. It calls for businesses with more than 15 employees to begin paying at least $8.50 an hour on August 24th. The current state minimum is $7.65. The minimum wage would rise again on January 1st, 2017, to $9.82 an hour, and be followed by annual increases until it hits $13 an hour in 2020. Cost-of-living adjustments would be made in subsequent years. Workers who are 17 or younger are among those who would be exempted.


Kansas Mental Health Panel Contemplating Expanded Medicaid 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A committee appointed by Governor Sam Brownback's administration to study Kansas's behavioral health system is tentatively recommending that the state explore expanding Medicaid. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that idea flies in the face of the governor's resistance to expansion unless several conditions are met. The Adult Continuum of Care Committee hashed out recommendations Thursday that will go into its final report. Behavioral health services commissioner Bill Rein urged the panel to focus on short-term recommendations that can be implemented by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services without additional legislation. The panel is comprised largely of mental health professionals from within and outside state government, law enforcement and the judiciary.


US Geological Survey Records 7 Earthquakes in Kansas in 7 Days 

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Geological Survey has recorded seven earthquakes that were spread across Kansas this month. The Hutchinson News reports that the quakes were registered between July 8 and July 14. Two of the earthquakes were recorded south of Coldwater in Comanche County. Another was registered outside Cheney in Sedgwick County. All were below a magnitude of 3.0 on the Richter scale. The Comanche County quakes occurred within two minutes of each other last Wednesday. The Sedgwick County quake occurred on July 10.


Judge Rejects Defense Argument in Jewish Site Shootings Case 

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A judge has rejected a white supremacist's effort to argue in court that the killings of three people at two Jewish sites in Kansas were necessary. Johnson County Judge Thomas Kelly Ryan said at a hearing Friday that the "compelling necessity" defense could not be used in the guilt phase of Frazier Glenn Miller's capital murder case. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty in the case. Ryan didn't rule out the possibility of letting Miller use the defense if he's convicted of the killings and jurors have to decide if he will be sentenced to death. Ryan said there was no "legal" or "logical" connection between the argument Miller presented and the 2014 killings at two Jewish sites in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park. Miller's representing himself.


Firm Agrees to Fines over Pollution at Fertilizer Sites 

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) — Federal regulators say the Wilbur-Ellis Company has reached a settlement agreement over alleged air pollution at three of its Kansas fertilizer facilities. The Environmental Protection Agency said in a news release Thursday that the company has agreed to pay a $67,404 penalty to settle violations of the Clean Air Act at its facilities in White Cloud, Troy and Silver Lake. The company is also required to spend an additional $113,121 on emergency response equipment. EPA says its inspections revealed anhydrous ammonia processes at each of those sites exceeded the allowable threshold. Anhydrous ammonia is used in fertilizers. It can cause rapid dehydration and severe burns if inhaled. At high concentrations, even short-term exposure can cause death.


Turnpike CEO: Culvert Needs Enlarging at Site of Deadly Crash

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) - Authorities say a culvert where a 21-year-old Texan died after losing control of his car during flooding on Interstate 35 needs to be enlarged. Zachary Clark, of Keller, Texas, was headed north last week when his vehicle hydroplaned, went off the road and entered an area of rapidly moving floodwater in drainage culvert. Turnpike CEO Steve Hewitt told The Wichita Eagle the culvert needs to be enlarged. But Hewitt says there's no guarantee future flooding won't overwhelm even an expanded culvert. 


1st District Challenger Outraises Incumbent Huelskamp 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas obstetrician who is seeking to unseat Republican U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp outraised the incumbent last quarter and is closing the fundraising gap between the two. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Roger Marshall of Great Bend raised nearly $185,000 in the period between April and the end of June, with most of that coming from individual contributors. Huelskamp raised nearly $77,000 during the same period, with nearly half coming from political action committees. Fort Hays University political science professor Chapman Rackaway says he's impressed with Marshall's showing for the quarter, but added that Huelskamp's fundraising hasn't ramped up yet. Alan LaPolice, a second Republican challenger seeking Huelskamp's seat, filed a finance report Tuesday that indicated he didn't raise any money during the quarter.


Trial Postponed in Franklin County Murders

OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) _ The capital murder trial has been postponed for a 30-year-old Kansas man accused of killing four people.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Franklin County District Judge Eric Godderz on Thursday granted a defense request postponing Kyle Trevor Flack's murder trial from September 2015 to February, 22, 2016.  Flack is charged with capital murder in the 2013 slayings of 21-year-old Kaylie Smith Bailey, and her daughter, 18-month-old Lana-Leigh Bailey. He's also charged with premeditated first-degree murder in the deaths of 20-year-old Andrew Stout and 31-year-old Steven White.  Defense attorneys on Thursday gave several reasons for seeking the postponement, including the resignation of Ron Evans as head of the death penalty defense unit, a state-funded group that represents indigent defendants in capital cases. Timothy Frieden is now Flack's lead defense attorney.


Nevada Casino Owner Buys Woodlands Track in KCK

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - A Las Vegas businessman has bought the Woodlands racetrack in Kansas City, Kansas. The price that Phil Ruffin paid Woodlands owner Howard Grace for the track wasn't disclosed. The Wichita Eagle reports Ruffin, who owns the Treasure Island casino and hotel in Las Vegas, hopes to be able to simultaneously reopen the Woodlands and two tracks he already owns, Wichita Greyhound Park in Park City and Camptown Greyhound Park in Frontenac. He anticipates hiring 500 to 700 people at the Woodlands.


Warrant Issued for Kansas Activist Charged in Fatal Crash

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ Wyandotte County authorities have issued an arrest warrant a 39-year-old community activist charged in a traffic crash that killed a teenager.  The Kansas City Star reports that the warrant was issued after Tamika Pledger failed to show  up for a hearing in Wyandotte County District Court. The judge also increased Pledger's bond to $100,000.  Pledger is charged with involuntary manslaughter and three counts of aggravated battery after her car struck a group of teenagers January 30 in Kansas City, Kansas. Tierra Smith, a 17-year-old from Raytown, Missouri, died from her injuries about a week after the crash. A preliminary hearing scheduled for Thursday was canceled, and Pledger's lawyer also filed a motion to withdraw from the case. Pledger has  said the crash was an accident.


No Charges for Police Who Killed Suspect in Woman's Death

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The Reno County District Attorney's Office has announced that no charges will be filed against Hutchinson police officers who fatally shot a man at his home. According to a news release Thursday, Reno County District Attorney Keith Schroeder said officers "were completely justified in the actions they took" on June 23. The news release says officers responded to a report of a man in a residence having confessed to killing someone. According to the release, 22-year-old Jonathan Wilson was behaving erratically inside the home, where there were three small children. Police say Wilson threw knives and other objects at officers before he was fatally shot. Wilson was the suspect in the death of a 38-year-old woman whose body was found in a creek bed in northern Reno County.


Child Locked in Hot Car in Wichita Released from Hospital

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A child who was locked inside of a hot car in a Wichita grocery store parking lot has been released from the hospital. KAKE-TV reports the girl was released Thursday into the custody of her mother. The Kansas Department of Children as well as the Exploited and Missing Children's Unit are investigating the Wednesday incident. Authorities say fire crews responded to a call of a child in a locked vehicle in a grocery store parking lot around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Wichita Fire Battalion Chief Andy Cole has previously said the child's mother arrived at the vehicle around the same time crews did. Cole said the mother unlocked the car and got the child out. The district attorney will decide if any charges will be filed.


Some Economic Growth Likely in Rural Parts of 10 States 

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new survey suggests modest economic growth ahead in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states, but the predicted decline in farm income this year remains a concern. The overall Rural Mainstreet economic index inched into positive territory in July at 53.4. In June the index registered a neutral score of 50. The index has risen for four months. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says the trend is encouraging, but the bankers surveyed still aren't very optimistic. The confidence index remained in negative territory at 46.6 after improving from June's 45.9. The survey indexes range from 0 to 100. Any score below 50 suggests decline in that factor in the months ahead. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.


Kansas Supreme Court Won't Remove Judge from Donor Case 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has denied a request to remove the judge from the case of a Topeka man who donated sperm to a lesbian couple. The state has been seeking to have William Marotta declared the father of the couple's child so he can be forced to pay child support. The state started pursuing the case in 2012 after the couple split up and one of the women applied for state health insurance for the child. Marotta claims he signed a contract waiving his parental responsibilities. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports court documents show the state Supreme Court has denied a request from Marotta's lawyer to remove Shawnee County District Judge Mary Mattivi from the case. A status hearing on the case is set for August 18.


Kansas Man Sentenced to 15 Years in Missouri Man's Death 

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — A northeastern Kansas man has been sentenced to 15 years in prison in the beating death of a Missouri man whose body was found below a cliff. The St. Joseph News-Press reports that 50-year-old Timothy Osborne of Atchison, Kansas, was sentenced Friday in the April 2014 death of 57-year-old William Howard Paige Jr. Osborne pleaded guilty in May. Paige was from St. Joseph, Missouri, where Buchanan County prosecutors charged Osborne with voluntary manslaughter. St. Joseph police said the investigation showed Paige was killed during a dispute. An autopsy found that Paige died of blunt force trauma to the head. Authorities found Paige's decomposed body in May 2014 near the bottom of a park's lookout area.


CEO Leaving American Jazz Museum 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The American Jazz Museum in Kansas City has announced the departure of the museum's chief executive. The Kansas City Star reports that Greg Carroll is out as head of the American Jazz Museum, which he's led since 2007. Museum board chairman Trey Runnion said in an announcement of Carroll's departure that the museum has grown under Carroll's leadership. There was no reason given for Carroll's departure. The jazz museum opened in 1997 as part of an effort to redevelop Kansas City's 18 & Vine Jazz District. The museum also operates the Blue Room jazz club and the Gem Theater. The board says it will hire a search firm to find Carroll's replacement.


Topeka Evel Knievel Museum to Show Daredevil's Possessions 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka officials say a museum dedicated to daredevil Evel Knievel will open in Topeka. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Evel Knievel museum will be located at the Topeka Harley Davidson and will house the largest collection of Knievel's possessions. City officials said in an announcement Friday that the museum will include a dozen jackets, six bikes, a Mack truck and pinball machines. The Evel Knievel Museum at Historic Harley-Davidson is expected to open by next summer. Knievel is known for several stunts, including jumping the fountains at Caesar's Palace and the Snake River Canyon. Knievel, a native of Butte, Montana, died at age 69 in 2007 in Clearwater, Florida.


Lawrence Police ID Body Found Near RR Tracks

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence police have identified a body found this week near railroad tracks.  Police say the victim has been identified as 58-year-old Rick Bowman of Lawrence. A cause of death has not been released. Police spokesman Sergeant Trent McKinley says foul play isn't suspected. Railroad personnel found Bowman's body Monday afternoon.


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