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Headlines for Friday, June 20, 2014


20K State of Kansas Tax Refunds on Hold Until July

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — More than 20,000 tax refunds to be distributed by the state of Kansas won't go out until July. Department of Revenue spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda told The Wichita Eagle that as of this week, the department has a backlog of 20,690 individual tax refunds, which adds up to $10.1 million. This time last year, the department had 24,603 returns to send out. Koranda says the department has worked hard to get refunds out in a timely manner. She pointed to three reasons refunds checks may be late in arriving: the return was filed late, is missing paperwork or is being scrutinized for fraud. She said 5,000 returns have come in the last week, which is fairly typical.


Kansas Leaders Release State Worker Bonus Funds

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and legislative leaders have taken a formal step needed to give a promised $250 bonus to full-time state government workers in December. Brownback and eight top lawmakers on Thursday approved the distribution of $4.5 million in state funds to various agencies for the bonuses. Legislators included the bonuses in the budget for the fiscal year beginning in July, and Brownback signed the spending plan into law. But the bonus provision required another look from the governor and legislative leaders. The proposal had bipartisan support, and Brownback said in a statement that he's pleased the bonuses are coming. But Senate Minority Leader and Topeka Democrat Anthony Hensley said he thinks state workers will be insulted because the bonuses are so small and are not a pay raise.


Kansas Speaker Criticized for 'Red Shirts' Remark

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick is drawing criticism from the state's largest teachers union for saying he was uncomfortable with groups of people in red shirts at the Statehouse. The Kansas National Education Association said Friday that Merrick was clearly referring to protests during the legislative session against a measure ending guaranteed tenure for public school teachers. Dozens of teachers wore red T-shirts, packing galleries and hallways. But the House speaker said Friday that he was referring to British redcoats during the American Revolution, and misspoke. Merrick made the comment Thursday in response to reporters' questions about whether a new policy allowing concealed guns at the Statehouse would make some visitors uncomfortable. The Stilwell Republican said he was alluding to the history behind guarantees of the right to bear arms.


Kansas Leaders Wrangle in Handling Cash-Flow Fix

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback and Kansas legislative leaders are shifting $675 million among various state accounts so that the state can pay its bills on time over the next year. But their meeting Thursday turned into a contentious debate over the Republican governor's fiscal policies and the massive personal income tax cuts he championed to help stimulate the economy. Brownback met with eight top lawmakers — including the Legislature's two Democratic leaders — to get their approval for an internal financial move that's become an annual routine. The state credits money from various accounts to its general fund. Last year, the borrowing was $300 million, and Democratic leaders suggested the state's finances have deteriorated. But Brownback said the state has a growing economy because of the tax cuts.


V-A Inspector General Reviewing KC Veteran's Death

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal office responsible for overseeing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is reviewing the death of a Kansas City, Missouri, veteran who was killed by police last month after they say he pointed his weapon at them. Acting VA inspector general Richard J. Griffin told Kansas 3rd District Congressman Kevin Yoder about the review in response to Yoder's May 30 request for an investigation into the death of 26-year-old Issac Sims. Sims was killed May 25 after allegedly pointing a rifle at police officers following a five-hour standoff at his Kansas City home. A few days earlier he had been told it would be 30 days before he could get a bed at the VA Medical Center in Kansas City for court-ordered treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Hearing Set in Lawrence Businessman's Death

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A hearing has been scheduled to determine if a confession from a 19-year-old woman accused of killing her roommate can be used as evidence in her murder trial. Sarah Brooke Gonzales McLinn is charged with premeditated first-degree murder in the death of 52-year-old Harold Sasko. Her lawyer, Carl Cornwell, has said his client will use the defense of mental disease or defect during her trial, which has been scheduled to start January 5, 2015. Sasko's body was found January 17 at the home he shared with McLinn in Lawrence. Lawrence police testified during a May hearing that McLinn confessed to the murder during an interview after her arrest. The next hearing set for July 3 will be used to determine if the confession can be used as evidence.


Kansas Feedlot June Inventory Lowest Since 1999

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new report shows the number of cattle in Kansas feedlots is down 2 percent for the lowest June inventory since 1999. The National Agricultural Statistics Service said Friday that Kansas feedlots contained 2.02 million cattle on feed on June 1. The report counts animals in the larger feedlots with capacities of 1,000 or more head. The low numbers come despite the fact that placements during May totaled 435,000 head, up 1 percent from May 2013. Marketings of fed cattle in May totaled 400,000 head, down 2 percent from last year. June's low feedlot count reflects the aftermath of widespread drought that sent huge numbers of livestock to slaughter last year, shrinking the size of the nation's cattle herd.


Wichita Man Sentenced in Meth Murder

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has been sentenced to life in prison for the killing of another man who was tortured and injected with a lethal dose of methamphetamine. KWCH-TV reports that 38-year-old Jason Jones must serve at least 25 years before having a chance for parole under the sentence imposed Friday by a Sedgwick County judge. But the judge also gave Jones more than 13 years for kidnapping, which will follow the murder sentence. Jones was among six people charged in the death of 34-year-old Shawn Lindsey, whose body was found in a field in January 2013. Prosecutors said Lindsey had been bound and tortured by a group of men at an auto shop before getting the lethal dose of meth. A jury convicted Jones in April of first-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping.


Police ID 2 Men Found Dead in Kansas City Cemetery

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas City, Kansas, police have identified the bodies of two men found near a local cemetery and are asking for help finding the killer. Police Sergeant Patrick McCallop on Friday said 25-year-old Lydell D. Irvin Jr. and 22-year-old Naythan T. Walton were killed early Thursday. Their bodies were found by passers-by around 6:30 am in a grassy area of Memorial Park Cemetery, about 30 to 40 yards away from the road. Police say the two men died of apparent gunshot wounds, and that there is no evidence pointing to a murder-suicide.


Report: Kansas Farm Real Estate Values Rising

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new government report shows rising farmland values across Kansas. The Agriculture Department reported Thursday that the average value of an acre of farm real estate in Kansas was $1,750 in 2013, up from $1,510 the previous year. It is also a big jump compared to 2009 when that same acre was valued at $1,010. Land used to grow crops was valued for 2013 at $1,930 per acre, up from $1,650 an acre the previous year. Irrigated cropland for 2013 was worth even more with the government pegging irrigated cropland at $2,760 an acre and non-irrigated cropland at $1,840 an acre. Kansas pasture land was valued last year at $1,150 per acre, up from $938 an acre a year earlier.


KU to Remove Track Inside Football Stadium

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas has announced plans to remove the track from Memorial Stadium, the first step in what the school hopes to be an eventual renovation of the football facility. Earlier this year, the school unveiled the Rock Chalk Park track facility during the Kansas Relays. The new facility allowed the school to begin removal of the old track inside the stadium. KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger said an anonymous donor provided the funding for the construction, which will begin Tuesday and take about six weeks. The track will be replaced by new artificial turf that will be safer and more aesthetically-pleasing. Memorial Stadium, which opened in 1921, is among the oldest college stadiums still in use.


Kansas Unemployment Stays at 4.8 Percent in May

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A new report says the Kansas jobless rate remained unchanged at 4.8 percent in May while the state saw record employment. The state Department of Labor reported Thursday that nearly 1.43 million Kansas residents were employed in May, up from both April of this year and May 2013. The agency also said that last month's unemployment rate was significantly better than the 5.6 percent seen in May 2013. Labor Market information services director Justin McFarland said the figures show rising demand for workers from employers and greater confidence in the state's economy. The department said nearly 1.13 million people held private-sector, nonfarm jobs in May, an increase of 1.3 percent from the same month last year. The most robust over-the-year growth was in construction, which saw payrolls expand nearly 9 percent.


Expanded Liquor Sales in KS May Have Health Effects

A new report by the Kansas Health Institute lays out the potential health effects of expanding liquor licenses to grocery and convenience stores in Kansas. The study says more outlets selling alcohol may lead to increased consumption by under-aged drinkers. Tatiana Lin, who leads KHI's health impact assessment work, says making alcohol more available makes kids more likely to want to try it. Studies in other states indicate it’s easier for young people to steal alcohol when it’s sold in grocery and convenience stores. A spokesman fo the state association of convenience stores says many stores already sell beer, lottery tickets, and tobacco, requiring customers to produce ID. He says the opposition to expanded liquor sales is really about protecting liquor stores from competition. A bill to let grocery and convenience stores sell liquor died in committee again this year.


Osage County Woman Found Safe

QUENEMO, Kan. (AP) — Osage County authorities say a woman who had been missing since Thursday evening has been found safe. The Osage County Sheriff's office says 45-year-old Judy Lamberd of Quenemo was found Friday morning when someone saw her walking along the Osage-Franklin county line. She had been reported missing Thursday night after last being seen in the yard of her home. Authorities said she needed medication. Osage County Sheriff Laurie Dunn says no foul play is suspected in the woman's disappearance.


Funeral Set for Kansas Soldier Killed in 1950's Crash

CANEY, Kan. (AP) — Services are planned this weekend for a Kansas soldier who was among those killed when a military plane crashed in Alaska more than 60 years ago. Earlier this week, the Department of Defense released the identities of 17 people onboard the C-124 Globemaster, which crashed in 1952. The department was able to identify the victims after the glacier shifted two years ago, releasing the remains. Army Private Leonard Kittle of Caney was among the 52 killed. Kittle will be buried Saturday next to his mother's grave at the Sunnyside Cemetery in Caney, a town of about 2,100 people in southeast Kansas where Kittle was born and raised. His casket was flown with an Army honor guard to Tulsa on Thursday.


Dodge City Bank of America Banks to Close

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Bank of America has added a branch in Dodge City to the list of sites it plans to close in Kansas. Spokeswoman Diana Wagner says no specific date is set for closing its branch in downtown Dodge City but it will happen in the first quarter of next year. The company announced in April that it plans to sell branches in Caney, Coffeyville, Emporia, Great Bend, Hays, Hutchinson, Independence, Lindsborg, McPherson and Salina. The Dodge City Daily Globe reports  a branch in Junction City will close July 11 and two in Liberal will close Aug. 8. The bank will retain branches in Kansas City, Topeka, Wichita and Lawrence. Wagner says the closings are caused by a drop in transactions because customers are using more mobile and online banking.

State to Take Bids for SE Kansas Casino

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state will begin taking bids for a fourth state-owned casino next month. The Kansas Lottery will begin receiving applications July 14 for a casino in the southeast region, which includes Crawford and Cherokee counties. The Wichita Eagle reports the deadline for applications to the Kansas Lottery is 1 p.m. Dec. 19. State political leaders will choose a review board, which will choose the winning application. The state owns casinos in Dodge City, Mulvane and Kansas City, Kansas. But bidders lost interest in the southeast region, in part because of a required $225 million initial investment and $25 million privilege fee. During the last session, the Legislature reduced those investments to $50 million and $5.5 million in the southeast. Those provisions take effect July 1.

Kansas Girl Helping Turtle in Road Hit by Car

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 16-year-old Lawrence girl is hospitalized with serious injuries after she was hit by a car while trying to help a turtle get off a road. The Douglas County Sheriff's office says the accident happened Thursday afternoon in Douglas County southeast of Lawrence. Lt. Steve Lewis says the girl was flown to Overland Park Regional Medical Center. Her name was not released. Lewis says when the girl stopped to help the turtle, a vehicle driven by a 36-year-old Lawrence woman hit her. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the woman was arrested and booked into jail on suspicion of driving with a suspended license and failure to provide proof of liability insurance.


Foster Mom Faces Felony Drug Charges

BUNKER HILL, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas foster mother faces drug charges after she and foster teenagers in her care were accused of testing positive for marijuana. Russell County Attorney Daniel Krug says Pam Pertl of Bunker Hill is charged with marijuana possession, distribution of marijuana and aggravated endangerment of a child. The sheriff's department says deputies were called June 5 after a social worker reported Pertl and three of her foster teens tested positive for marijuana. Undersheriff Max Barrett, however, said Friday that Pertl and two of her foster teens tested positive. Barrett says one of the teens also told authorities Pertl and the teens drank milk mixed with bleach to interfere with the results of drug testing on their urine samples. The Kansas Department of Children and Families says children won't be placed in foster homes found to be unsafe.


Man Faces Life in Prison in Child Sex Abuse Case

PLATTE CITY, Mo. (AP) — A northwest Missouri man is facing a mandatory life sentence for child sexual abuse after he was found to be a predatory sexual offender. A Platte County jury found 50-year-old Fentress Maurice Wilson of Riverside guilty Tuesday of first-degree statutory sodomy of an 8-year-old girl. After he was convicted, prosecutors presented testimony that Wilson had a decades-long history of sex crimes against children. The Kansas City Star reports that Missouri law allows prosecutors to cite previous acts of abuse only to increase punishment after a defendant has been found guilty. Platte County Eric Zahnd is part of an effort to change the Missouri Constitution to allow prosecutors to tell jurors about a defendant's prior sex offenses before they reach a verdict. The measure will appear on the November ballot.


Opponents Rally Against Missouri 'Right to Farm'

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Opponents of a ballot measure creating a "right to farm" in Missouri contend it could make it harder to enforce environmental regulations against corporate farms. More than 50 people rallied Thursday at the Missouri Capitol in opposition to Constitutional Amendment 1 on the August ballot. The measure asks voters whether the right "to engage in farming and ranching" should be "forever guaranteed" in the Missouri Constitution. Opponents say the vague wording could lead to lawsuits challenging the enforcement of environmental regulations against farms. The measure was referred to the ballot by the Republican-led Legislature. Supporters of the proposal have expressed fears that animal activist groups could try to impose limits on livestock farms, as they did with a 2010 ballot measure dealing with dog breeders.


Wichita Man Going to Prison for Meth Sale

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man is going to prison for the $20,000 sale of a pound of methamphetamine to an undercover officer. The U.S. Attorney's office says 39-year-old Patrick C. Hains was sentenced in federal court Thursday to 10 slightly more than 10 years. Hains pleaded guilty earlier to conspiracy to distribute meth and using a firearm in a drug crime. He was arrested January 14 after a Wichita police officer working undercover paid him $20,000 in cash for a pound of meth. Investigators also seized a shotgun that Hains kept to protect himself during drug transactions. One co-defendant is awaiting trial, and another will be sentenced August 1.


Kansas Among States Affected by Velveeta Recall

NEW YORK (AP) — Kraft is recalling Velveeta cheese from Walmart stores in as many as 12 states, mostly in the Midwest, because the cheese lacks the proper amount of preservatives. Insufficient levels of sorbic acid has led to the recall of 260 cases of Velveeta original pasteurized recipe cheese product because it could cause the cheese to spoil prematurely or cause food-borne illnesses. Kraft Foods Group Inc. says the cheese was sent to three Walmart distribution centers and could have been shipped to as many as 12 states: Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The company says the code on the package is 021000611614.


Grant to Fund Missouri, Kansas Pollution Cleanup

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) _ The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $1.2 million in grants to clean up contaminated properties in 15 counties of northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas. The EPA said the grants announced Thursday include $200,000 to train about 40 low-income people in environmental remediation and wastewater treatment. Funds will be administered by the St. Joseph-based Mo-Kan Regional Council, a nonprofit planning and economic development organization. Mo-Kan officials said they're already aware of nearly 400 properties that could qualify for cleanup of hazardous waste or petroleum contamination. Kansas counties included in the grant are Atchison, Brown, Doniphan, Jackson, Jefferson and Nemaha. The Missouri counties are Andrew, Atchison, Buchanan, Clinton, DeKalb, Gentry, Holt, Nodaway and Worth. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment and Missouri's National Resources Department will help identify and assess properties for cleanup.


Overall Index Down in Rural Midwest Banker Survey

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ The overall index for a monthly economic survey of bankers in 10 Midwestern and Plains states has fallen from May but remains in positive territory, suggesting slower growth in the near future. The Rural Mainstreet Index fell to 53.6 in June from 55.6 in May. The survey indexes range from 0 to 100. Any score above 50 suggests growth in the months ahead. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey. He says June's results indicate that areas highly dependent on agriculture and energy are experiencing slower growth than a year ago. Almost half of bankers surveyed reported that higher beef and pork prices have increased overall economic activity in their area. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.


St. Louis Blues to Play NHL Preseason Game in Kansas City

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The NHL is coming to Kansas City, Missouri — at least for one night. The St. Louis Blues announced their preseason schedule on Friday. It includes seven games — three at home, three on the road and a neutral-site game against Dallas on September 27 in Kansas City. The Blues open the preseason at Columbus on September 21, followed the next night with a game in Dallas. The home preseason opener is September 25 against Columbus. After the Kansas City game, the Blues play two home games — September 30 against Carolina and October 2 against Minnesota. The preseason concludes with a game at Minnesota on October 4. The NHL has not yet released its 2014-15 regular-season schedule.



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