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Headlines for Monday, July 7, 2014

Kansas Gay Marriage Opponents Seek 'Religious Freedom' Bill Again

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators will face renewed pressure next year to provide additional legal protections to gay marriage opponents who want to avoid accommodating same-sex couples for religious reasons. A "religious freedom" measure failed in the Legislature earlier this year, even though conservative Republicans control both chambers and top GOP leaders strongly support the state constitution's gay marriage ban. A federal appeals court that has jurisdiction over Kansas struck down Utah's gay marriage ban last month. Gay marriage opponents believe Kansas's ban is now in jeopardy, though Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff King noted the ruling is on hold, leaving the state's ban intact. A prominent Southern Baptist minister in Wichita and other pastors and church organizations are determined to see legislators take up the "religious freedom" issue again.


National Group Plans to Challenge Kansas Gun Law 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A national gun-control group says it is planning to challenge a Kansas law declaring that the federal government has no authority to regulate guns manufactured, sold and kept only in the state. The Washington-based Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence announced Monday that it would file a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the state law. The Kansas law was enacted in 2013 and makes it a felony for any U.S. government employee to attempt to enforce a federal regulation or treaty when it comes to Kansas-only firearms, ammunition or accessories. A similar law enacted in 2009 in Montana was struck down by the federal courts. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback promised a vigorous defense of the state's law.


Kansas GOP 4th District Congressional Candidates Appear at Forum

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The two Republicans vying for the south-central Kansas congressional seat traded barbs at their first face-to-face forum. Congressman Mike Pompeo told the Wichita Crime Commission on Monday he's on a mission in Washington to shrink the size and scope of government. He says he believes deeply in the private sector. Former congressman Todd Tiahrt said he's challenging Pompeo in the August primary to reclaim his old seat because he cannot sit by and watch all the hard work he did in Washington deteriorate. He cited what he called the "train wreck" in Washington caused by lawmakers who can't get along with each other. Tiahrt represented the 4th Congressional District for 16 years before giving it up in 2010 for an unsuccessful campaign for Senate.


Huelskamp Faces GOP Challenge in KS 1st District

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — The Republican congressman from the sprawling 1st District of western and central Kansas is finding himself on the defensive while campaigning back home. Incumbent U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp is a Tea Party favorite and Kansas farmer known for his criticism of the GOP leadership. He is seeking a third two-year term. Huelskamp was stripped in 2012 of the farm state's nearly automatic seat on the House Agriculture Committee. He also told his constituents he voted against the farm bill because farmers want regulatory relief and freedom — not more handouts. He also says people should work to get food stamps. Huelskamp is challenged in this year's GOP primary by Alan LaPolice, a Clyde farmer and educator who has made Huelskamp's conflicts with other Republicans the centerpiece of his campaign.


Northeast Kansas Inmate Walks Away from Work Detail

LANSING, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in northeast Kansas are searching for a minimum-security inmate who walked away from a work detail. Fifty-two-year-old Ronald J. Emons was being held at the Lansing Correctional Facility for violating his probation for a 2011 conviction of attempted indecent liberties with a child. KAIR Radio reports that Emons went with a work crew around 6 am Monday to a reservoir outside the prison compound's fenced area. Staff noticed him missing around 10:40 am. A spokesman for the Kansas Corrections Department says Emons could be in Atchison. He's from that area and still has family there. A judge sentenced Emons in July 2011 to probation for attempted indecent liberties with a 14- to 16-year-old child. He has been sent to Lansing twice for violating the terms of his probation.


Couple Pleads Guilty to Hiring Illegal Workers

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The owners of two Overland Park hotels pleaded guilty to hiring workers who were in the country illegally and then paying them less than other workers. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom announced in a news release Monday that 53-year-old Munir Ahmad Chaudary and his 41-year-old wife, Rhonda R. Bridge, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to harbor undocumented workers for personal gain. The couple admitted they hired the workers for Clarion hotels they own in Overland Park and Kansas City, Missouri. Grissom says the illegal workers were not given Social Security, workers' compensation and unemployment insurance. A sentencing date hasn't been set. They face five years in federal prison without parole and a fine up to $250,000. Prosecutors also are seeking the forfeiture of assets gained through the couple's activities.


Missouri Moves to Allow Bi-State Police Response

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has signed legislation allowing law enforcement agencies to assist each other across state lines in the Kansas City metro area. Now, the Kansas City Metro Tactical Officers Association will try to get a similar law passed in Kansas, as required by the Missouri legislation. The measure signed by Nixon last week would let officers in nine Missouri and Kansas counties respond to requests for help across the state line for active shootings, terrorist acts or other incidents that endanger the public. Missouri counties named in the bill are Jackson, Clay, Platte, Cass and Ray. The Kansas counties are Johnson, Wyandotte, Leavenworth and Miami. The mutual aid arrangement would be established only if the Kansas Legislature passes a similar law, or the Kansas governor issues an executive order.


Wichita Marijuana Advocates Collect Signatures for Pot Vote

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A group of Wichita marijuana advocates is counting petition signatures to see if there are enough to force a citywide vote on decriminalizing pot in the community. Petitioners are trying to gather nearly 3,000 valid signatures on a petition that would give voters a chance in November to ask for sharply lower punishments for marijuana possession. The current maximum criminal penalty of $2,500 and a year in jail would be reduced to a $25 civil fine. The Wichita Eagle reports supporters view marijuana possession laws as a gateway into the criminal justice system for young people, especially blacks. Among the petition's advocates is Kansas Representative Gail Finney, a Wichita Democrat who has tried unsuccessfully for years to get the Legislature to vote on a medical marijuana bill.


Wichita Woman Accused of Chasing People With Lit Fireworks

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 39-year-old Wichita woman was arrested after police say she chased three people with large fireworks in her hand. Wichita Police say the fireworks were lit and she sprayed the three victims with sparks Friday night. Police say the woman knew the group of people and was intentionally trying to burn them. The woman was booked into jail, and authorities say they're unsure whether alcohol was a factor in the incident.


Revenues at Kansas Star Casino Slide

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Gambling revenues at the Kansas Star Casino south of Wichita are lagging behind figures recorded a year ago soon after the permanent casino started operating. The casino's June report to the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission showed that it has won $167 million from gamblers so far this year, compared to $176.3 million a year ago at this time. General Manager Scott Cooper says a struggling economy has had an impact on revenues. He says a hotel expansion and other amenities to be added soon should boost those numbers. The Wichita Eagle reports the reduced revenues means Kansas has taken in about $2.1 million less in taxes on the operation than it had by this time last year.


Feds Reject Kansas Tribal Casino Application

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The federal government has refused to accept a tract of suburban Wichita land into trust so an Indian tribe can build a casino there. The Kansas Attorney General's Office said Monday that the Interior Department rejected a request from the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma to take the land into trust. The Wyandotte Nation bought the tract in Park City in 1992. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act allows tribes to conduct gambling only on Indian lands, which are defined as land within a reservation or held in trust by the United States. But the Interior Department has found that the tribe did not have sufficient trust funds to have purchased both the Park City land and a Kansas City tract where it has already built a casino.


KS Ins Commish: Health Plans Cover Quitting Tobacco

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger is urging Kansans who smoke or chew tobacco to check if their insurance plans cover programs to help them quit. The U.S. Department of Labor announced in May that insurance companies and employer group health plans must cover counseling and other programs that help people quit smoking. The companies are not allowed to charge out-of-pocket costs or require prior approval for the programs. The plans must cover at least two quitting attempts per year, which includes a 90-day supply of tobacco cessation medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration and at least four counseling sessions, whether by phone, in person or in groups. Praeger says in a news release that some plans offer smoking cessation services and programs beyond those approved by the FDA.


Emporia Assisted Living Facility Destroyed by Fire

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Improperly disposed of fireworks are blamed for at least three fires in Emporia, including one that destroyed an assisted living facility. KVOE reports smoldering fireworks were stored in a plastic trash can that was rolled up against Sterling House on Friday night. The resulting fire destroyed most of the assisted living residence and displaced 21 residents Firefighters were called to a house fire around 6 pm Saturday where fireworks put into a plastic trash can smoldered overnight and ignited some siding and a window sill. That fire came at the heels of a similar fire elsewhere in the city where smoldering materials were not properly handled before damaging siding of a home and forcing firefighters to tear down a ceiling to make sure the fire was put out.


First of 3 Fuselages Removed from Derailment Site

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana Rail Link spokeswoman says it took about 12 hours to remove the first of three commercial airplane bodies that fell into the Clark Fork River after a train derailed. Spokeswoman Lynda Frost said Monday that specialized machines are pulling the 20-ton fuselages attached to 50-ton flatbed cars from the embankment one at a time at a rate of 20 feet per hour. Frost says the most difficult fuselage to retrieve was removed safely Sunday. Crews were working on the second fuselage Monday and plan to remove the third by Tuesday. She says crews are attempting to remove the fuselages and their flatbed cars without causing any additional damage. Three other Boeing 737 fuselages fell off the train during Thursday's derailment 50 miles west of Missoula. Boeing officials are assessing the damage. The fuselages were built by Spirit Aerosystems in Wichita.


2 Killed in SW Missouri Crash

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two men are dead and four others were seriously injured when their SUV overturned on a county road in southwest Missouri. The Missouri State Highway Patrol says 20-year-old Mark Harken of Prairie Village, Kansas, was he lost control of his SUV and drove off the road about 2:15 Saturday afternoon. Harken and 18-year-old Clayton Miller of Kansas City, Missouri, were killed in the crash. Four other young men from the Kansas City metropolitan area were flown to three regional hospitals in serious condition.


Dole Announces Stops for Next Leg of Homecoming Tour

OSKALOOSA, Kan. (AP) — The next leg of former U.S. Senator Bob Dole's homecoming tour is scheduled to take him to nine communities in eastern Kansas. The visits next week are the latest in a series of trips Dole is making this year from his home in Washington, D.C., year to greet old friends and supporters throughout Kansas. He spends about an hour at each stop. On July 14, Dole is to hold public gatherings in Oskaloosa, Alma, Council Grove and Marion. He plans appearances the following day in Cottonwood Falls, Eureka, Yates Center, Burlington and Osage City. Dole turns 91 on July 22.


Kansas Groups Seek Dental Practitioner Status

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Several Kansas groups are seeking a new level of dental provider they say could ease a shortage of dentists across the state. A proposed bill was introduced in the last legislative session to create registered dental practitioners who would be somewhere between a hygienist and a dentist, but it didn't get a hearing. Advocates like the Kansas Dental Project say the mid-level positions would improve access to dental services like nurse practitioners and physician's assistance do in the medical community. The Wichita Eagle reports 86 of the state's 105 counties qualify as dental health professional shortage areas, including 13 counties that have no dentist at all. The Kansas Dental Association opposes dental practitioners and says they would face the same barriers preventing some dentists from practicing in rural areas.


Wichita Tanker Base Boosts Contractor Opportunities

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Preparations at McConnell Air Force Base for the arrival of the new KC-46A air refueling tankers are expected to boost contracting opportunities for businesses. A recent groundbreaking ceremony marked the start of the first $197 million in new construction projects. Congress has allotted a total of $219 million for the tanker work at the Wichita base. The Wichita Eagle reports that while most of those new contracted opportunities are construction related, officials say there are other contracting possibilities at the base. The Small Business Administration says federal contract opportunities in Kansas average between $1.5 billion and $2 billion annually. About 23 percent are open to bid by small businesses. SBA usually refers businesses starting out in contracting to the Kansas Procurement Technical Assistance Center at Wichita State University.


SW Kansas Reservoir a Popular Destination

JETMORE, Kan. (AP) — People from as far away as Oklahoma spent part of their holiday weekend at a 5-year-old southwest Kansas reservoir that got a big boost from steady rainfall last week. KSN-TV reports HorseThief Reservoir near Jetmore is about 65 percent full after gaining 7 feet last week, drawing people from all around to the few big bodies of water in western Kansas. Reservoir manager Josh Hobbs says the project was met with a lot of skepticism, but it has shown it has the ability to hold water even in a prolonged drought. The reservoir is part of the Pawnee Watershed and fed by about 1 million gallons of water a day from Buckner Creek, one of the only live creeks in the region.


Wichita Man Trying to Recover Truck Run Over, Dies

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a man who was run over while trying to recover a stolen truck has died. Police said Monday that 25-year-old Shawn Palmer died Sunday from injuries he suffered over the weekend. Lieutenant Randy Reynolds said Palmer and his older brother went to a QuikTrip when they saw their father's truck was being driven by someone they didn't know. When the driver tried to flee in the truck, the brothers jumped on but were thrown off. Reynolds says a trailer being pulled by the truck ran over Shawn Palmer. The older brother was treated and released at a hospital. The driver, a 34-year-old Wichita man, was booked into the Sedgwick County jail. The Wichita Eagle reports that the pickup and trailer were recovered in a field.


Wichita Police Pull Dog from Overpass

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A photo of Wichita police officers rescuing a 6-month-old German shepherd from an overpass helped reunite the frightened animal with his owners. The Wichita Eagle reports an officer was writing a ticket near the overpass at Kellogg and Tyler Road on Friday night when he saw the dog, named Harley, on the overpass ledge. Police say the dog had been frightened by fireworks being shot off near its home and somehow got on the ledge, 32 feet above a highway where people sometimes drive 70 or 80 mph. Four officers managed to get the dog off the ledge, but the spooked animal ran off and had to be corralled by several police cars. A photo of the rescue was posted online, which is how its owners tracked it down.


Parents Work to Keep Missing Children in Spotlight

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Missouri parents whose children have been missing for years say they struggle to keep their children's cases in the public eye while dealing with the frustration of not knowing what happened. One such parent is Tammy Mack, whose 15-year-old daughter Ashley disappeared from St. Joseph 10 years ago. She says she hasn't given hope of finding out what happened to Ashley but she no longer spends hours every day online and on the phone searching for clues. She and family and friends held a candlelight vigil at the pool Sunday night. She also planted a tree near the pool in her daughter's memory. The Kansas City Star reports that a convicted felon who lived in Ashley's neighborhood is a strong suspect in her disappearance but no one has been arrested.




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