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Headlines for Thursday, August 7, 2014


Credit Agency Downgrades Ratings on Kansas Bonds

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A second leading bond-rating agency has downgraded its credit rating for Kansas and cited what it calls the state's "structurally unbalanced budget" following massive personal income tax cuts. Standard & Poor's said Wednesday that it is dropping its rating for Kansas to AA from AA+. The agency also dropped its rating for bonds backed by state tax dollars. Moody's Investor Services downgraded its credit rating for Kansas in May. S&P said in its report that Kansas will probably need to cut spending in the future to offset the income tax cuts. The reductions were enacted that the urging of Republican Governor Sam Brownback to stimulate the economy. Brownback noted that the state's rating remains high and said rating agencies don't like tax cuts.


Brownback Seeks to Rally Kansas GOP for Fall Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Governor Sam Brownback is rallying Republican activists to promote what he says is the Kansas economic comeback after the state's primary election showed significant dissent within the GOP. Brownback and other prominent Republicans had a short rally Wednesday morning at the state GOP's headquarters in Topeka. He urged Republicans to get out and spread a message about how aggressive income tax cuts he engineered are boosting economic growth. The governor faces a tougher-than-expected re-election race with Democrat Paul Davis because of questions about whether the tax cuts are boosting growth or undermining the state's finances. Davis said Wednesday that people are worried about the governor's policies. Some are Republicans. In Tuesday's primary, Jennifer Winn, the governor's lesser-known and underfinanced opponent, received nearly 37 percent of the vote.


Poll: Kansas Only State with Big Uninsured Jump

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- A new Gallup poll shows Kansas is the only state in the nation to see a significant increase in its uninsured rate this year, while states that adopted parts of the Affordable Care Act have seen the largest declines. The Kansas City Star reports the adult uninsured rate in Kansas rose from 12.5 percent last year to 17.6 percent during the first half of this year, giving it the seventh-highest uninsured rate in U.S. Missouri's uninsured rate remained essentially flat, with 15.2 percent uninsured in 2013 and 15.1 percent uninsured this year. Research director Dan Witters did not offer an explanation for the growth in Kansas uninsured. A spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services says the ACA was directly responsible for her state's spike.


GOP Governors' Group Starts Attack Ads in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Republican Governors Association is running a new TV ad in Kansas attacking Governor Sam Brownback's Democratic challenger in November's election. The 30-second spot portrays Paul Davis as a liberal tied to President Barack Obama. The ad does not mention Brownback, but the message dovetails with one of the Republican incumbent's key campaign themes. Davis spokesman Chris Pumpelly said Thursday that the ad on Topeka and Wichita stations is designed to distract voters from Brownback's record on fiscal issues. The ad notes that Davis was a delegate for Obama at the Democratic National Conventions in 2008 and 2012. Online records of television ad contracts show the RGA is spending $111,000 on time on broadcast stations over seven days. The ads started Wednesday, the day after the state's primary election.


Roberts, Orman Spar at Start of Kansas Senate Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican U.S. Senator Pat Roberts says a northeast Kansas businessman running against him isn't truly an independent candidate but a liberal Democrat. Roberts criticized independent candidate Greg Orman on Wednesday after a short, post-primary election rally at the Kansas Republican Party's headquarters. Orman is an Olathe businessman pitching himself to voters as a centrist. He said in an interview he expected such criticism from Roberts and called it a tired attack. Roberts noted Orman's 2007 contributions to Democrat Barack Obama's presidential campaign, and his donations to Democratic congressional candidates. Also, Orman ran for U.S. Senate briefly as a Democrat in 2007 and early 2008. But Orman said he's given far more money to centrist causes. Meanwhile, Roberts will also be facing a Democrat in November, Shawnee County district attorney Chad Taylor.


Democrat Sees Kansas Senator Pat Roberts as Vulnerable

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic challenger Chad Taylor's campaign manager says that the results of the Kansas Republican primary show U.S. Senator Pat Roberts is vulnerable as he runs for re-election. Taylor campaign manager Brandon Naylor noted Wednesday that the three-term incumbent couldn't get a majority of votes in winning his GOP primary race against tea party challenger Milton Wolf. Final, unofficial results showed Roberts with 48 percent to Wolf's 41 percent. Two lesser-known candidates split the rest. Taylor is the Shawnee County district attorney and won the Democratic primary over Lawrence attorney Patrick Wiesner with 53 percent. Taylor immediately challenged Roberts to debates in each of the state's 105 counties. Roberts spokesman Leroy Towns said the senator already has agreed to a debate at the Kansas State Fair in September.


Jenkins Issues Debate Challenge in Kansas 2nd District

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Republican congresswoman Lynn Jenkins has challenged her Democratic opponent to three debates this fall in their race in the 2nd District of eastern Kansas. Democrat Margie Wakefield's campaign said immediately Wednesday that there should be more than three. Campaign manager Mark Sump said the candidates should have what he called an actual back-and-forth on the issues. Jenkins sent Wakefield a letter Wednesday to propose debates at Topeka public television station KTWU, the Eudora Reporter and in Independence with a sponsor and venue both accept. Most of the letter touted Jenkins' work in Congress and attacked Wakefield. Sump said the campaign should be free of what he called deception and personal attacks. Jenkins is seeking her fourth, two-year term in the U.S. House. Wakefield is a Lawrence attorney.


LaPolice Will Not Endorse Anyone in Kansas 1st District

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The Republican challenger who lost to U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp says he won't endorse either candidate in the general election for the 1st District of Kansas. Alan LaPolice said Wednesday he is urging everybody to cast a ballot in November but won't pretend to think he could decide for others how to best use that vote. Huelskamp faces Democrat Jim Sherow in the general election. LaPolice, a farmer and educator from Clyde, is a political novice who garnered a surprising 45 percent of the vote Tuesday against the better-funded Huelskamp. LaPolice says he is just a small-town, former school administrator and doesn't know why people would need his endorsement.


Kansans' Personal Spending on Par with Neighboring States

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — New government figures show consumer spending in Kansas grew slightly faster than most of its closest neighbors, but average per-person spending remained lower than all but one. The report marks the government's first state-by-state breakdown of consumer spending. Nationally, the report shows a substantial shift in the economy since the recession. Kansas ranks somewhere in the middle of most categories, including how much residents have spent on housing, utilities and health care. In 2012, the latest year for which data are available, per-person spending averaged $35,498 nationally and $32,523 in Kansas. Spending rose 3.7 percent in Kansas in 2011-2012, compared with 3.6 percent in Missouri, 2.9 percent in Nebraska and 3 percent in Colorado. Of Kansas' neighbors, only Oklahoma had a higher increase at 4.2 percent.


Car Crashes into Northeast Kansas Restaurant

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A driver is unhurt but a 78-year-old man suffered a minor injury when a car crashed through the wall of a northeast Kansas restaurant. The accident happened Thursday afternoon at a Golden Corral in the Kansas City suburb of Olathe. Police say a 77-year-old woman was trying to park her car in front of the restaurant but hit the outside wall. The car ended up partially inside the restaurant. The 78-year-old patron sustained what police called a minor injury to his face.


No Injuries Reported When Building Partially Collapses

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — No injuries were reported after a three-story brick building with a daycare facility partially collapsed in Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports that a rear section of the building collapsed Thursday morning. Children in the daycare were safely evacuated and lined up across the street before being reunited with parents. Fire crews also evacuated a nearby building as a precaution.


Little Impact in Kansas from Russia Food Sanctions

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas trade official says Russia's ban on U.S. food imports will hurt Russia more than it will harm Kansas farmers. The state Agriculture Department says Kansas ships more than $50 million worth of agricultural products to Russia, mostly soybeans and live breeding cattle. The department's international trade director, J.J. Jones, said Thursday that Kansas sold $15 million worth of soybeans to Russia in the first half of 2014. Sales of live breeding cattle to Russia are down because of domestic demand as U.S. ranchers rebuild their own herds. Russia buys $149 million in live cattle each year from the United States, and Kansas is one of its top three suppliers. Kansas hasn't sold beef to Russia in two years because of Russia's ban on growth additives fed to cattle.


Right to Farm Opponents in Missouri Weigh Recount Option

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Opponents of Missouri's Right to Farm constitutional amendment are mulling a recount request after the measure appeared to pass by the slimmest of margins. The unofficial tally from Tuesday's election showed that Amendment 1 carried by a margin of 0.2 percent. The measure was favored in most rural counties, but opposition in the St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield and Columbia areas was nearly enough to offset it. Missouri law allows for a recount if the victory margin is 0.5 percent or less, but the losing side must request it. The amendment declares farming a right. It is part of an effort to fortify the ag industry against animal-welfare activists and opponents of genetically modified crops, who fear the amendment will be used by corporate farms to escape unwanted regulations.


Missouri Highway Officials Fear Rise in Fatalities

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri transportation officials are cautioning that the state could see a rise in traffic fatalities and bridge closures following the defeat of a proposed sales tax. State transportation commissioners held a subdued meeting Wednesday, a day after voters rejected a three-quarters cent sales tax for transportation by 59 percent of the vote. The proposal would have raised at least $540 million annually for the next decade and funded over 800 transportation projects. Without additional revenue, officials say that by 2017 they won't have enough money to adequately maintain roads and bridges. Commissioners fear traffic fatalities will go up if they can't improve rural two-lane roads that lack shoulders. They said the state could have to close some bridges if it lacks the money to repair them.


Thousands Without Power After Storms, Kansas City Woman Missing

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Utility companies in the Kansas City area worked throughout the night to restore power to thousands of customers after a storm packing heavy rain and strong winds moved through the state. Kansas City Power & Light reported 1,575 customers were without power early Thursday in its service area in the Kansas City metropolitan area, down from more than 6,000 Wednesday night. The storm dumped more than 3 inches of rain in parts of northwest Missouri, including Kansas City and Warrensburg. Emergency workers are searching for a woman who might have fallen into a river in Kansas City during the heavy rainfall. Police say a man reported seeing a woman going into the Blue River Wednesday night during the rain. Firefighters and police searched the area until about 10:30 pm, when the effort was called off because of darkness and the high water in the river. The search was resuming Thursday morning.


Kansas Primary Election Tests Dual Voting System

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas primary elections tested a dual voting system that counts votes for federal offices cast by people who registered using a federal form without proving their citizenship. It's unclear how many of those registrants actually voted Tuesday. But the Sedgwick County election office said Wednesday that a "quick check" of 1,100 provisional ballots did not reveal any names matching those on its list of federal registration applicants. Secretary of State Kris Kobach has instructed counties to give provisional ballots to voters who registered on the national form without documentation of citizenship. That potentially affects 172 voters across 16 counties, including 85 in Sedgwick County. Election officials were told to count only their votes for federal races.


Pittsburg to Decide on Accepting Grant for Trail

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) - Pittsburg officials will decide next week if they will accept a state transportation department grant worth more than $650,000 to build a proposed trail that has drawn opposition. The Joplin Globe reports the trail would also be funded by about $250,000 in private donations. Some homeowners who live near the trail's planned location oppose the project. The Pittsburg City Commission will decide Tuesday whether it will take the $656,000 grant. A Kansas transportation department official says it would be rare if the city declined it. Pittsburg was one of 20 chosen for it. The transportation department said it received $50 million worth of requests for grants from the transportation alternatives program. The department has about $11 million in available funding for that program.


Monsoon Season Helps Ease Drought in Southwest: Southern Plains Still Parched

DENVER (AP) — A generous monsoon season has helped ease drought conditions in Colorado and the Southwest but parts of the hard-hit southern plains still have a long way to go. The U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday said that between 2 and 6 inches of rain fell in storms last week across the plains of Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas, which have been stuck in a drought for nearly four years. However, report author Brad Rippey says they'll need extended rain and snowfall to make up for the 20 to 30 inches of moisture they've lost during that time. Rangeland and pasture in New Mexico and Arizona and are still fairly dry but conditions have improved. While all of Colorado was in some stage of drought a year ago, now just 40 percent is.


Hutchinson Salt Museum Seeks Higher Attendance

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - Officials with a salt museum in Hutchinson admit attendance hasn't been as high as expected but they say they are always looking for new ways to draw people in. The museum, called Strataca, has averaged about 55,000 visitors a year since it opened in May 2007. Director of Operations Gayle Farrell says annual attendance has not been increasing as much as museum officials hoped, but specific events are popular. The Hutchinson News reports the museum has been out of debt since early 2011. The only outside support it receives is 5 percent of a local quarter-percent sales tax, which is about $100,000 per year.


Sentencing Delayed for Kansan in Brother's Death

SALINA, Kan. (AP) - An 18-year-old Kansas man will be sentenced in September for the shooting death of his young stepbrother at their home. Ryan Velez was scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday for second-degree murder after he shot 9-year-old Kaden Harper in June 2010. The sentencing was delayed at the request of Velez's attorney, who said he needed more time to review records from Larned State Hospital. Velez has been at Larned since 2011 after pleading guilty to unintentional but reckless second-degree murder. He was 14 when he shot Kaden at their rural Assaria home. Prosecutors say the boys were arguing over doing chores. The Salina Journal reports Velez will now be sentenced on September 22.


5 Kansans Accused of Money Laundering at Casino

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - Five Kansas residents are accused of trafficking in marijuana and laundering the profits through slot machines at a Kansas City, Kansas casino. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says a federal indictment handed down on Wednesday alleges the defendants laundered more than $200,000 in cash by depositing the money into slot machines and then cashing out without playing. The investigation began after the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission contacted the Kansas Bureau of Investigation about suspicious activity at Hollywood Casino. Prosecutors say the defendants were seen depositing large amounts of money in small denominations into the machines, cashing out and redeeming ticket vouchers without making wagers. An attorney for the lead defendant, 30-year-old Gregory Rapp of Gardner, was not available for comment Wednesday afternoon. No attorneys were listed for the other four.


New Wichita Airport Terminal to Open in 2015

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita's new airport terminal is on schedule to open next spring. Airport officials say construction began on the new building in October 2012 and the building is three-fourths complete. Jim Armour, the terminal's resident engineer, told members of the Wichita Airport Authority this week that the site is expected to be finished by March 31, 2015. The Wichita Eagle reports the airport's name will also then change from Wichita Mid-Continent Airport to the Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport. When the new terminal opens, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Southwest will each lease two gates, and Allegiant Airlines will lease one. An additional three gates will give the airport room to grow.


Police: $100,000 Worth of Copper Stolen in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita police say thieves have stripped $100,000 worth of copper wire and piping from a former grocery store. Police said Wednesday the theft was discovered Tuesday at a now-closed Dillons store in the southern part of the city. Capt. Doug Nolte says damages to the building will likely cost more than the copper. He says the thieves cut holes throughout the building. Nolte says they appeared to be working inside it for a long period of time. Nolte says police are working with evidence found at the scene to track down the thieves.


Kansas School District to Return Funds

CHEROKEE, Kan. (AP) - A clerical error is causing some funding questions for a southeast Kansas school district. Southeast USD 247, with schools in Cherokee and Weir, will have to return money from a four-mill capital outlay that was used in the 2013-14 school year. The error also means the district cannot spend the funds for the upcoming school year. The Pittsburg Morning-Sun reports that the district was authorized in September 2012 to renew its annual collection of four mills in capital improvement funds for the next five years. However, the board's resolution was not certified because of a clerical error. This year, the board proposed increasing the capital outlay from four to eight mills. The error in the original proposal was found when a resident sought records related to the proposed increase.


Kansas City Schools Get Provisional Accreditation

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri education officials have granted provisional accreditation to the Kansas City School District. The unanimous vote Wednesday by the State Board of Education means that Kansas City schools no longer will be labeled as unaccredited when classes start next week. That will remove the option for some students to transfer to other nearby schools at the expense of the Kansas City district. Kansas City schools had been unaccredited since January 2013. State education officials said Kansas City students have shown some improvement academically but that many still failed to score as "proficient" on Missouri's standardized tests. State board officials said it will be a challenge for Kansas City schools to maintain their new provisional status over the next year. Kansas City schools Superintendent Stephen Green said it can take a while for students scoring below grade level to improve their status, but he believes the district's scores can continue to get better.


Baseball Fan from South Korea Gets "Royal" Treatment

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A South Korean who has been communicating with Kansas City baseball fans online during games for years is getting the royal treatment in his first visit to the city. The Kansas City Star reports that Sung Woo Lee of Seoul has been a Royals fan since the 1990s and watches as many games as he can, despite a 14-hour time difference from Kansas City. He was welcomed at Kansas City International Airport on Tuesday by a group of fans who have set up an itinerary that includes five Royals games, including one on Monday at which he will throw out the first pitch before Royals play the Oakland A's. He's also slated to attend Thursday's Kansas City Chiefs game and travel to Arkansas to see the team's Class AA affiliate, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.


4 Shot in Wichita Apartment

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Police in Wichita are investigating the shootings of four men inside an apartment early Thursday. KWCH-TV reports that all four were shot multiple times. A 25-year-old man suffered what police called life-threatening wounds to his chest and legs. The shootings broke out around 4 am at an apartment complex in the northeastern part of Wichita. Police would not say if they had identified the shooter or a likely motive.


Weis Knows Jayhawks Need Wins to Prove Progress

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ Charlie Weis is entering the third year of a five-year contract at Kansas and he knows better than anyone that the University of Kansas Jayhawks need to start winning games in a hurry. The longtime Big 12 doormat won just once in his first season and three times last year, including a conference victory over West Virginia. But for Weis to feel good about the progress that has been made, it may take going at least .500 for the first time since 2008. Weis took the drama out of the biggest question in the spring when he appointed sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart the starter. But there are plenty of question marks elsewhere on the two-deep, especially with another influx of junior college prospects. KU opens its season September 6 against Southeast Missouri State.


Jackson County Jury Splits Verdict in Church Case

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Jackson County, Missouri jury has returned a split verdict in a lawsuit accusing a pastor who's also a past president of the Missouri State Board of Education of sexual exploitation. The Kansas City Star reports the jury ruled Thursday that the Reverend Stan Archie's Christian Fellowship Baptist Church has to pay a former staffer and her husband $350,000 for misrepresenting that a 2007 church investigation of her abuse allegations was aimed at learning the truth. Jurors rejected claims alleging that Archie and the church had defrauded the staffer by misrepresenting Archie as a "safe and competent" counselor. The jury declined to consider punitive damages. Lawyers for the couple, who were not identified, had been seeking $1.5 million. Archie resigned as Missouri State Board of Education president in January 2013.



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