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Headlines for Thursday, September 18, 2014

Officials Await Court Ruling in Kansas Senate Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Officials are waiting for a ruling from the Kansas Supreme Court on whether the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate must be removed from the ballot. The court's consideration of Democrat Chad Taylor's petition to avoid being listed as a candidate comes with counties facing a Saturday deadline to begin sending ballots to military personnel overseas. Taylor's decision to end his campaign against three-term Republican Senator Pat Roberts put the race in the national spotlight. Some Democrats pushed Taylor to withdraw to help independent Greg Orman's chances of beating Roberts by preventing a major split in anti-Roberts votes. But Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Taylor didn't comply with an election law limiting when nominees can withdraw. Taylor then appealed to the Supreme Court.


Task Force Considers School Efficiency in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A new Kansas commission tasked with looking for efficiencies within the state's public schoolsystem begins a two-day meeting Thursday at the Statehouse. A draft recommendation prepared for consideration by the K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission shows the panel is considering a host of proposals. One calls for offering school districts incentives to consolidate. Another proposal calls for overhauling how teachers are paid. The panel's chairman, Wichita businessman Sam Williams, is also recommending potential restrictions on teacher bargaining rights. Legislators created the K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency commission this year, tying it to a proposal increasing aid to poor school districts by $129 million. Members include superintendents, former state senators, principals and the president of a conservative think tank. The commission must submit a report to the Kansas Legislature by January 9.


Staff at Kansas Universities Get Pay Raise

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Staff at five of six Kansas universities who voted to leave the civil service have received their first raises in several years. The classified staff chose to leave the civil service last year because of frustration with stagnant pay. The vote removed the staff from control of the Legislature and allows the universities to determine their pay. The workers include custodial and maintenance workers and some administrative and supervisory jobs that receive hourly wages. Ali Levine, chairwoman of the University Support Staff Council, told the Board of Regents Wednesday that most staff saw pay raises on July 1. Levine, who works at Wichita State, says staff there received a 3 percent raise.


Haskell University Inaugurates New President

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - The new president of Haskell Indians Nations University says she's focusing on the future. Venida Chenault was inaugurated Wednesday as the seventh president of the university in Lawrence. She is the first former Haskell student to become president of the school for American Indians. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the inauguration was the beginning of the school's celebration of its 130th anniversary. Chenault, a member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi and Kickapoo tribes, has held various faculty and administrative positions at Haskell since 1991, most recently as vice president of academic affairs. She was named president in January. In her speech, Chenault said she was a single mother on government assistance while she earned college degrees. She says she is an example of how higher education can help American Indians.


Hike, Bike Trail to Open on KCK Levee

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - A new hiking and biking trail is opening on a Kansas River levee in Kansas City, Kansas. The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, says a grand opening ceremony for the Armourdale Hike and Bike Route-Island View Loop is planned for Saturday morning. The initial levee trail spans 1.3 miles. Mayor Mark Holland said in a news release that encouraging residents to walk, run and ride on trails is "key to the health and wellbeing of Wyandotte Countians." Representatives from the National League of Cities also will attend the event.


Sheriff: Salina Jail Overcrowding Getting Worse

SALINA, Kan. (AP) - Saline County Sheriff Glen Kochanowski says the population of the county jail is the highest it's ever been. The sheriff said the jail held 280 inmates Wednesday. The jail was built for 192 inmates. Another 67 inmates are being housed outside of Saline County.
The sheriff cited changes in state laws that send people to county jails rather than state prisons and an insufficient number of judges in Saline County District Court as causes for the overcrowding. The jail also houses inmates waiting for beds in the state system, or those waiting for mental evaluations at Larned State Hospital. Salina County residents will vote in November on a five-tenths percent sales tax for a new jail with 344 beds and a justice complex.


Kansas Soldier Sentenced for Social Security Fraud

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - A Fort Riley soldier has been sentenced to six months in prison and six months of home confinement for accepting disability payments he wasn't eligible to receive. A U.S. attorney's office says 38-year-old James Scott Nickerson was ordered to pay nearly $72,000 in restitution to the Social Security Administration during the Wednesday sentencing. He was also sentenced to three years of supervised release following the prison sentence. Nickerson pleaded guilty in April to one count of making a false official statement to a federal agency. Nickerson applied for disability benefits in October 2009 under the Wounded Warrior Program. He claimed he was unable to work because of mental disorders he developed while serving in Iraq. He concealed that he was working full time for the Army in various jobs.


Colorado Panel Works on Plan for Southwest Chief

PUEBLO, Colo. (AP) - A commission created by the Colorado Legislature has begun looking into funding to upgradethe route of Amtrak's Southwest Chief and keep the passenger train running through the southeast corner of the state. The Pueblo Chieftain reports the commission met Wednesday to gather information for a funding request to lawmakers. The commission is also examining what it would take to alter the train's route and add a stop in Pueblo. The train currently stops in Lamar, La Junta and Trinidad, Colorado. Last week, federal officials announced a $12.5 million grant for the most urgently needed repairs on the route, in western Kansas and eastern Colorado. Upgrades are also needed elsewhere in Colorado and in New Mexico. Amtrak says repairs are needed so trains can maintain 60- to 70-mph speeds.


Missouri Teen Shot with Stun Gun Recovering

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A suburban Kansas City teenager is no longer in a medically induced coma and is speaking with family members after a police officer critically injured him with a stun gun. 17-year-old Bryce Masters of Independence began slowly recovering overnight and was able to answer questions from hospital staff on Wednesday. Family attorney Daniel Haus says the teen is breathing on his own but remains in critical condition. Masters' family has said his heart stopped after he was shocked with the stun gun during a traffic stop Sunday in Independence. Police say he was combative and wouldn't comply with the officer's demands. They say he was pulled over because of a warrant associated with the license plate on the car, which belonged to another person.


Report Due on Fatal Kansas Police Shooting

WINFIELD, Kan. (AP) - A south-central Kansas prosecutor is preparing to report on the fatal shooting of a 22-year-old man by a sheriff's deputy during a traffic stop. Cowley County Attorney Chris Smith is expected to release his decision Friday on whether the shooting of Tayler Rock was justified. Rock, of Arkansas City, was shot several times May 31 after the deputy pulled him over on U.S. 166 near Dexter for a traffic violation. The Cowley County sheriff has said Rock tried to drive away, dragging the deputy through a ditch and running him over. Rock was pronounced dead at a hospital. The deputy was treated for injuries to his lower legs.


Missouri Sierra Club Endorses Wind Energy Transmission Line

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri Chapter of the Sierra Club is endorsing a plan for a wind energy transmission line that would stretch across Kansas and Missouri. The Sierra Club says it would reduce dependence on coal and would help Missouri achieve a requirement that utilities' generate at least 15 percent renewable energy by 2021. The Grain Belt Express high-voltage transmission line would run 750 miles from western Kansas, across Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. Some property owners along the route have said the plan would hurt their property values, health and quality of life. Grain Belt Express, owned by a Houston, Texas energy company is seeking clearance to use eminent domain to obtain property for the power transmission line.


Topeka School District Got Free Military Gear

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A suburban Topeka school district is among several nationwide that have taken advantage of free military surplus gear, but officials aren't saying what they got. Auburn Washburn superintendent Brenda Dietrich said Wednesday the district learned of the Pentagon's surplus program from a staff member who had a spouse at the Kansas Bureau of Investigations. Dietrich would say only that district police received a piece of safety equipment that is part of an emergency operations plan. District spokesman Martin Weishaar says the equipment is not a grenade launcher or a tank or anti-mine vehicle. But he refused to describe it because the district considers that security-related information. The equipment is meant to be used in response to a situation in which somebody outside a school would want to do harm.


Former KS Gov Dies, State Flags at Half-Staff

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) - John Anderson Jr., who served as Kansas governor from 1961 to 1965, has died. His daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Anderson, says Anderson was 97 when he died Monday at an extended-care facility in Olathe. Anderson practiced law in Olathe and served as Johnson County attorney before winning a seat in the Kansas State Senate in 1952. He was appointed attorney general in 1956 and won re-election in 1956 and 1958. In 1960, Anderson ran for governor, defeating incumbent George Docking. At that time governors served only two-year terms, and Anderson won re-election in 1962. After his term ended, Anderson returned to his law practice in Olathe. He again sought his party's nomination for governor in 1972 but was defeated in a primary election.


Biden to Attend Joplin School Dedication

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) - Officials in Joplin, Missouri say Vice President Joe Biden will speak at next month's dedication of the city's new high school. The district announced Wednesday that Biden will be joined by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan for the October 3 ceremony at the Joplin High School/Franklin Technology Center. Half of Joplin's schools were damaged or destroyed in the May 2011 tornado that killed 161 people and flattened thousands of homes and businesses. Construction of the new high school was the last of the district's major rebuilding projects. It opened September 2. As part of the dedication, students, parents and others will try to set a world record for the longest ribbon used in a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The planned 6.5-mile ribbon symbolizes the tornado's path through Joplin.


KS Corrections Officer Stabbed, Doing Okay

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - A corrections officer at Hutchinson Correctional facility is hospitalized after being stabbed by an inmate at the prison. Prison spokesman Dirk Moss says the officer suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the stabbing Wednesday morning. Moss says the attack happened in the cell block of the main building but he could not provide any other details. Moss said one inmate was placed in the segregation unit after the stabbing. Officials say the prison was never to lockdown and it is running normally.


Sedgwick Co Approves $5 Million for Elephant Exhibit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The Sedgwick County Commission will spend $5.3 million to build an elephant barn at the zoo in Wichita. The commission voted on Wednesday to spend part of the city reserves to build the barn as part of the new $10.5 million exhibit for the elephants. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums is requiring that its zoos that house female elephants have at least three elephants by September 2016. The Sedgwick County Zoo currently has only two elephants. The Wichita Eagle reports the zoo wants to bring in four more elephants and hopes to eventually have a breeding herd. The Sedgwick County Zoological Society has raised $4.3 million toward the exhibit and pledged to raise the rest if the county agreed to build the 18,500-square-foot barn.


Woman Pleads Guilty in Adoption Scam

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - A woman who pretended to be pregnant to scam prospective adoptive parents in Kansas and elsewhere has reached a deal with prosecutors for a 33-month prison sentence. Thirty-four-year-old Chrystal Marie Rippey, of Marshall, Texas, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of wire fraud in federal court in Kansas City, Kansas. In her plea agreement, she admits to defrauding four families in 2011 and 2012, including couples from Shawnee and Overland Park, Kansas. She gave a Delaware couple a sonogram image of another woman's pregnancy with twins taken off the Internet. Rippey contacted adoption agencies and individuals, pretending she was pregnant and seeking to give up her unborn child for adoption. Prospective parents paid her living expenses and bought her meals and gifts. A sentencing date has not been set.


Woman Injured in Kansas City House Explosion

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Kansas City authorities say a house exploded in the southeast part of the city, injuring a female neighbor. Fire Chief Paul Berardi says no one was inside the house that blew up on Wednesday night. The woman was hospitalized with minor injuries in the blast that damaged two neighboring houses. Berardi described what was left of the house as "a pile of sticks." The cause of the explosion is unknown. Police and firefighters are investigating. Neighbors reported smelling gas before the explosion.


Cain's 3-Run Homer Powers Royals to Win over White Sox

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Lorenzo Cain hit a three-run homer and Nori Aoki kept up his tear at the plate as the Kansas City Royals beat the Chicago White Sox 6-2 Wednesday night. The win kept the pressure on Detroit in the AL Central. The first-place Tigers led the Royals by 1 1/2 games at the start of the night. Alcides Escobar also homered and Aoki went 3 for 4 to finish with 11 hits in the series. Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura allowed three hits, two walks and one run over seven innings.


No. 20 Kansas State Prepares for No. 5 Auburn

MANHATTAN, Kan. -The Auburn Tigers are the fifth ranked team in the country. They own the highest ranking for a non-conference opponent to visit Manhattan in 45 years, making this the biggest non-conference game in the Bill Snyder Era at Kansas State. K-State quarterback Jake Waters faces offf against Auburn's Nick Marshall, a transfer from Garden City Community College. No. 5 Auburn and No. 20 Kansas State kick off Thursday night at 6:30 pm.



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