S&P Drops Kansas Credit Rating, Citing Ongoing Budget Issues
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — S&P Global Ratings says it's downgraded the state's credit rating because of its ongoing budget problems. The rating agency said Tuesday it has dropped its rating for Kansas to "AA-," from "AA." The action comes three months after S&P put the state on a negative credit watch. State Budget Director Shawn Sullivan says the S&P report cites a continued underfunding of the state's pension system. He says Kansas is still being penalized for years of neglect before improvements made in 2012. The report also cites the state's continued diversion of funds from highway projects to general government programs. The state has struggled to balance its budget since slashing income taxes in 2012 and 2013. S&P downgraded the state's credit rating in 2014.
Kansas Delegates Back Sanders in Democratic Convention Vote
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas delegates at the Democratic National Convention awarded most of their votes on the presidential nomination to Bernie Sanders in line with the state's caucus results. The state cast 23 votes for the Vermont senator and 14 votes for presidential nominee and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton's supporters included State Chairman Lee Kinch and three other party-leader superdelegates. Thirty-three of the state's 37 delegates were allocated to the candidates based on the results of caucuses in March that Sanders won handily. The four superdelegates could support whomever they wanted. Party rules required the delegates allocated by the caucuses to vote for the candidates to which they were bound unless they were formally released.
Atheists Sue Kansas City Officials over Baptist Convention
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A group of atheists has sued Kansas City, Missouri, officials over the planned use of $65,000 in tourism tax dollars to aid an upcoming Baptist convention. The Kansas City Star reports that American Atheists Inc. and two Kansas City members have filed the suit against Kansas City Mayor Sly James, city manager Troy Schulte, the city council and the municipal government. The lawsuit argues that using tax money to help prepare for the National Baptist Convention USA Inc. advances a religious purpose in violation of American Atheists' right to be free from compelled support of religious institutions. The city declined to comment on the lawsuit, but city spokesman Chris Hernandez says contract language would show that the money would be used for secular purposes.
Kansas Campaign Sign Law Raises Concern
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Officials in two cities in Kansas say they have concerns about the constitutionality of a state campaign sign law. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the law requires cities and counties to let campaigns post yard signs on street rights-of-way. Wichita city attorney Jennifer Magana and Haysville's chief administrative officer, Will Black, say the law is not constitutional. Magana says the law creates different rules for campaign signs and signs with other types of messages, which conflicts with a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision that says city sign ordinances have to be content neutral. Black says Haysville is enforcing its current sign ordinance while working to rewrite it to comply with the Supreme Court ruling.
Police Group Says Shawnee County Sheriff Improperly Prohibited Campaigning
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Fraternal Order of Police has accused Shawnee County Sheriff Herman Jones of attempting to stop deputies from exercising their right to participate in political campaigns. According to a news release from the police officers' group, Jones issued a memo through legal counsel to officers informing them that active participation in political campaigns by any officers or sheriff's office employees violates Kansas law and could lead to termination of their employment. Exceptions for political participation include the sheriff, undersheriff, clerical employees, cooks and maintenance personnel. Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 3 president Kristen Marr says the group has directed its attorneys to respond to the memo.
Man Who Escaped from Kansas Jail Recaptured
ABILENE, Kan. (AP) — An inmate who escaped a central Kansas county jail is back in custody. The Kansas Highway Patrol and Dickinson County authorities said Tuesday that 27-year-old Trent Hostetter was recaptured, though they didn't released details. Hostetter escaped through an outside exercise yard Monday evening at the county lockup. Authorities believe that he then stole a vehicle in Abilene, leading officials on a chase before he crashed the vehicle and fled. Hostetter was jailed on alleged parole violations and was awaiting sentencing on charges of impersonating an officer.
Transgender School Bathrooms Still Debated in Kansas Town
DERBY, Kan. (AP) — A south-central Kansas school district is letting students use bathrooms matching their gender identity as a local task force explores the issue. The Wichita Eagle reports the governing board of the Derby school system made that decision Monday. The Obama administration in May directed public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity. Derby officials have said they'd comply. The state's education board has voted to ignore the directive, arguing local schools are best suited to decide how to handle issues transgender students face. The matter in Derby hasn't generated a consensus. Parents and others have formed Facebook groups and circulated petitions to either support the district's decision or urge them to reconsider. During Monday's meeting, people spoke on both sides of the issue.
Kansas Officials Rule 75-Year-Old Woman is Citizen
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 75-year-old eastern Kansas woman who is unable to get a replacement for her lost Arkansas birth certificate has been certified as a U.S. citizen, allowing her to vote. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the state Election Board issued the ruling Monday after meeting with Jo French of Osage County. Evidence of her citizenship included a record of her birth in a family Bible and Census records. The rare meeting comes amid ongoing legal challenges to Kansas' proof of citizenship voting requirement. French said that although she agreed with the requirement, she "just couldn't imagine having to go through this procedure." Secretary of State Kris Kobach said the Election Board has only met a handful of times to review citizenship evidence since the proof of citizenship law was adopted.
Topeka Law Enforcement Agencies Adjust Procedures
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Law enforcement agencies in Topeka have been taking steps to ensure officer safety after incidents elsewhere that have claimed officers' lives. Police Chief James Brown says the Topeka Police Department is implementing two-person patrols to some extent. The department also is taking other measures that aren't being disclosed. Kansas City, Kansas, police Capt. Robert Melton was killed Tuesday in the line of duty. Earlier this month, five officers in Dallas and three officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, were killed in ambushes targeting police Topeka Police spokeswoman Amy McCarter says there has also been a recent influx of community support, including food and flowers and notes of support left in the department's lobby. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the Shawnee County Sheriff's Office also is assessing some procedures.
Study: Kansas Lost $1.1B in Aquifer Value from 1996-2005
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new university study shows that Kansas lost about $110 million annually between 1996 and 2005 in the value of its High Plains aquifer. The study, conducted by a Yale University team, was led by Eli Fenichel, assistant professor at the Yale School of Forestry and Environment Studies. The aquifer is a vast underground water resource. The analysis shows that such things as groundwater extraction and management changes reduced the state's groundwater wealth by $110 million a year between 1996 and 2005, for a total loss of about $1.1 billion. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the study used the Kansas aquifer as an example to look at setting dollar amounts on "natural capital," or natural resources such as water, fish and forests. The amount was calculated in 2005 dollars.
Plea Entered in Mistaken-Identity Shooting Death
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — One man has entered a plea in the mistaken-identity shooting death of a Salina girl while another is seeking to withdraw his plea. The Salina Journal reports that 20-year-old Jerome Forbes and 18-year-old Andrew Woodring appeared Monday in Saline County District Court. Forbes pleaded no contest to charges that included involuntary manslaughter. Forbes initially was charged with felony murder in the May 2015 shooting death of 17-year-old Allie Saum. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 9. In a separate hearing, Woodring said he pleaded no contest to felony murder because he felt pressured and didn't believe he would receive a fair trial. The judge will rule Aug. 10. If the plea stands, Woodring would be required to serve 25 years of a life sentence before he's eligible for parole.
Replica Slave Cabin Raises Questions in Missouri Community
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An 85-year-old white widow's opening of a replica slave cabin to attract people to her Missouri black history library is drawing the ire of activists who consider the site an unnecessary reminder about slavery. The Kansas City Star says schools aren't making plans to visit, and civic clubs don't want to hear presentations from Marge Harlan. The retired psychologist and school teacher used about $175,000 of her own money to build and furnish the library in Sedalia, hoping to improve race relations, but it draws only a couple visitors a week. Local NAACP leader Rhonda Chalfant decries the cabin, saying a friend described it as "building a replica of Auschwitz in a Jewish neighborhood." Chalfant says Harlan was warned the cabin wasn't a good idea but built it anyway.
Fatal Stabbing Sunday Night Near Wichita West High School
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police are investigating a deadly weekend stabbing in Wichita. The Wichita Eagle reports that the stabbing happened just after 9:10 pm Sunday a few blocks west of Wichita West High School. The name of the victim wasn't immediately released.
Kansas Woman's Body Found After Skydiving in Oklahoma
CUSHING, Okla. (AP) — Authorities say they have found the body of a Kansas woman who went missing Sunday after skydiving in northern Oklahoma. Lincoln County Emergency Management Director Wendi Marcy said authorities have alerted the Kansas woman's family that they found the body, but did not release any other details. Television station KFOR reports multiple law enforcement agencies had been searching for the woman after her parachute was found in a wooded area near Cushing, Oklahoma. Marcy says she does not know how authorities identified the woman's remains.
Teen Smoking Prevention a Success in Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Officials say a campaign to prevent teen smoking in Kansas City is progressing faster than expected. The Kansas City Star reports that a local campaign called Tobacco 21 began in October, and that nearly half the residents in the metro area now must be 21 to buy tobacco products. Organizers say the progress is due to a partnership between public health advocates and the business community. Implementing ordinances to increase the minimum age of sale and purchase of tobacco products is being discussed in the Missouri cities of Liberty and Lee's Summit, as well as Tonganoxie, Kansas. A report from the Institute of Medicine says if all states increased the legal age for tobacco purchase to 21, there would be a 12 percent drop in teen and young adult smokers.
Man Found Dead in a Kansas City Parking Lot
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Authorities are investigating after a man was killed in a Kansas City, Missouri, parking lot. Police say that officers found the victim dead last (MON) night while responding to reports of a shooting. The man's name wasn't immediately released. Police said he was in his mid-30s. No other information was immediately released. Authorities are urging anyone with information to come forward.
Authorities Arrest Suspect in Topeka Shooting Death
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have arrested a suspect in the shooting death of a driver who crashed into a Topeka apartment building. Police said in a news release that the 24-year-old suspect has been booked into jail on suspicion of first-degree murder and criminal possession of a firearm by a felon. The release said authorities found the driver unresponsive while responding early Saturday to a report that a vehicle had struck a building. Police said 28-year-old Xavier McCullough, of Topeka, was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. He was the only occupant of the vehicle. Police said the victim and suspect knew each other and had a dispute before the crash.
Convicted Sex Offender Sentenced in ID Theft Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Texas man who has said his life was ruined by a convicted child sex offender who stole his identity has seen his impostor sentenced in a federal courtroom in Kansas. Marcus Calvillo of Grand Prairie, Texas, can now begin to repair the havoc left from a decades-long ordeal that prosecutors call one of the most devastating identity theft cases they've seen. Fernando Neave-Ceniceros was sentenced Monday to a year and a day for misusing a Social Security number. His plea deal will help prosecutors clear his victim's name more quickly. Neave-Ceniceros says he feels bad and is sorry. He says he never meant to hurt anybody. Calvillo told the court he is now 45 years old and would like to have what's left of his life solely to himself.
Massive Flock of Egrets Causing Problems at Sedgwick County Zoo
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Officials at a Kansas zoo say almost 5,000 egrets in the area are causing problems. The Wichita Eagle reports that the federally protected birds have taken up residence in a corner of the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita. Zoo bird curator Scott Newland says he's been dealing with the flock for about two years and that eggs, chicks and nesting twigs have been falling onto public pathways and into animal exhibits. Newland says it's posing a risk to animals. The zoo has devoted more than 500 hours and $50,000 to keep the birds under control. Newland says that a zoo keeper could remove 10 wheelbarrows full of waste and fallen twigs on any given day due to the egrets. The zoo has had a depredation permit, which allows it to scare away, capture or kill birds if necessary for health and safety.
Man Sentenced for Shooting Kansas Deputy During Chase
INDEPENDENCE, Kan. (AP) — A man was sentenced to life in prison without parole for 31 years for crimes he committed in Kansas while fleeing from Oklahoma. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says Alejandro Arturo Garcia was sentenced Tuesday for attempted capital murder and other crimes. Authorities allege he and two other people fled after shooting a police officer in northern Oklahoma in May 2015. The officer survived his injuries. The two other suspects were caught in South Coffeyville, Oklahoma. Garcia drove into Kansas, stole a pickup truck after firing at the driver and then shot at Montgomery County Sheriff's Deputy Michael Grimes, who was not injured. After a long standoff, officers found Garcia in a home near Liberty, Kansas. Garcia still faces charges in Oklahoma in the shooting there.
Missouri U.S. Senator Prodding Challenger with Jayhawk Mascot
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Republican U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt is using a University of Kansas Jayhawk to take a political swipe at Democratic challenger Jason Kander. When Kander made a campaign stop Tuesday in Jefferson City, the applauding audience included someone dressed like a KU Jayhawk mascot. A Blunt spokesman said later that it was a campaign volunteer. Blunt's campaign is trying to make an issue of Kander's assertion that he is a fifth-generation Missourian. Kander was born and attended high school in Kansas. But he has made Missouri his home since graduating from Georgetown University law school in 2005. Kander currently lives in Columbia and also has served in the Missouri National Guard. Kander said Blunt should be "embarrassed" for having a supporter dress in an animal uniform.
Angels Beat Royals, 6-2, in Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Los Angeles Angels' Albert Pujols drove in four runs, pitcher Hector Santiago won his fifth consecutive start and the Angels beat the Kansas City Royals 6-2 on Monday night. Pujols drove in two with a bases-loaded single during a four-run first, then added RBI singles in the seventh and ninth innings. He leads the majors with 26 RBIs in July, including 16 in his past eight games. Santiago (9-4) is 5-0 with a 1.48 ERA in July. He held the Royals to two runs on five hits with four walks and five strikeouts. Royals' starter Ian Kennedy (6-9) is 0-3 in five starts since a victory June 26.