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Headlines for Tuesday, September 23, 2014


KDOT Secretary Hit by IRS Tax Lien

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Transportation Secretary Mike King says he has paid an income tax bill of more than $250,000 after the IRS filed a tax lien against him last month.  King tells The Wichita Eagle the amount was the balance of personal income tax that he and his wife owed from the sale of his construction company in 2012.  King says he had been making payments on the debt and was surprised by the lien. He says he doesn't know why the IRS filed it.  An IRS spokesman says the agency can't comment on specific cases.  King says the original amount of taxes owed from the sale was more than $400,000.


Feds to Meet with Wolf Creek Nuclear Plant Officials

BURLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — Federal regulators plan to meet with Wolf Creek nuclear plant officials next month to discuss long-standing design issues with the cooling system at the eastern Kansas facility.  The meeting is scheduled October 2 at the Nuclear Regulatory Commissions' office in Arlington, Texas. The public will be allowed to ask questions, and can phone in to participate.  The NRC says in a news release that Wolf Creek's cooling system draws water from Coffey County Lake, pumps it to the plant's systems for cooling and then returns it to the lake. That water does not contact any radioactive steam or water.  At issue are problems with corrosion and pressure surges in the system's pipes. Federal regulators want to hear about plans for design modifications.


GOP Group Backs Democrat for Kansas Elections Post

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A group of dissident Republicans has endorsed Democrat Jean Schodorf in her campaign against Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach.  Schodorf had a news conference Tuesday outside the Statehouse to publicize her endorsement by Traditional Republicans for Common Sense -- a group of former lawmakers.  Schodorf is a former moderate GOP state senator from Wichita who switched parties after losing her seat to a conservative challenger in 2012. She was among the founding members of Traditional Republicans for Common Sense but no longer belongs to it.  The group has also endorsed independent candidate Greg Orman for U.S. Senate, and many of its members back Democrat Paul Davis for governor.  Kobach said the group's move isn't surprising and said it is as little a Republican group as he is a Democrat.


Group Launches New TV Attack Ad against Greg Orman

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A free-market political action committee is launching a television ad in the U.S. Senate race in Kansas attacking the independent challenger to three-term Republican incumbent Pat Roberts.  The Freedom Partners Action Fund says it is spending "six figures" on the ad against Greg Orman beginning Tuesday. The PAC is part of the political network of billionaire businessmen Charles and David Koch.  The 30-second spot notes that Orman contributed to President Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign and to other Democrats. It says a vote for Orman is another vote for Obama.  Obama received 38 percent of the vote in GOP-leaning Kansas in 2012.  Orman is a 45-year-old Olathe businessman running as a centrist. His campaign called the ad misleading and released a list of his past contributions to GOP candidates.


Kansas State Lands $50 Million Federal Grant

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University has been awarded a $50 million federal grant for a global food security project.  The award was announced Tuesday by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Kansas State will use the funds to establish a Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Sustainable Intensification.  The government's Feed the Future program funds labs at colleges and universities nationwide to research ways to improve food production and nutrition around the world.  Kansas State's new lab will identify technologies to help small farmers in West Africa and South Asia improve land, water, soil, crop and livestock management while also improving yields and sustaining natural resources.  Kansas State has three other Feed the Future labs, focusing on sorghum and millet research, applied wheat genomics and the reduction of postharvest loss.


Lawsuit in Kansas Senate Race Sent to Lower Court

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has sent a lawsuit attempting to force Democrats to name a new U.S. Senate nominee to a lower court.  The Supreme Court's order Tuesday said that the petition filed last week by disgruntled Democratic voter David Orel, of Kansas City, Kansas, didn't contain enough evidence for the justices to make legal decisions. The high court sent the case to Shawnee County District Court.  Democrat Chad Taylor's withdrawal from the race against three-term Republican Sen. Pat Roberts was widely seen as helping independent candidate Greg Orman's chances of winning by avoiding a major split in the anti-Roberts vote.  Orel filed his petition last week only minutes after the Supreme Court removed Taylor from the November 4 ballot. Orel's son works on Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's re-election campaign.


Report: Kansas Senate Candidate's Assets Top $21M

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The independent candidate trying to unseat U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts in Kansas says he owns assets worth between $21.5 million and $86 million. Greg Orman on Monday released a copy of the financial disclosure report that candidates for federal office must file. It shows that since the beginning of 2013, Orman and his wife, Sybil, have earned between $917,000 and $4.5 million in income. Most of the assets and income are associated with Orman's business interests. Orman is a 45-year-old Olathe businessman hoping to unseat the three-term Republican incumbent in the November election. Orman co-founded a private equity firm. His disclosure form also lists interests in banking and real estate. Roberts reported in August that he and his wife own assets worth between $1.6 million and $4 million.


Dole Campaigns for Roberts in Kansas Senate Race

DODGE CITY, Kansas (AP) - Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole is set to campaign with fellow Republican Pat Roberts in race that's suddenly competitive for the three-term Kansas U.S. senator. Dole planned to attend an event with Roberts Monday in Dodge City. The pair also plans to attend events together Tuesday in heavily Republican western Kansas. Having eked out victory in a GOP primary in August, Roberts finds himself locked in a tight race with Greg Orman, a businessman from the Kansas City suburbs running as an independent.


Man Suspected of Firing at Kansas Deputy Arrested

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) - Authorities in northeast Kansas have arrested a man suspected of firing a shot at a Johnson County sheriff's deputy. The deputy was unhurt in the shooting early Monday, which set off a massive search for more than 12 hours in the southern part of the county. The sheriff's department says the suspect was arrested without incident several miles from where the confrontation occurred. The deputy was investigating a reported break-in at a construction site when the suspect fired a shot before fleeing. Authorities said the deputy did not return fire. Several schools in the Blue Valley district were placed on heightened alert during the search. Law enforcement officers patrolled bus stops during the morning.


Koch PAC Launches New TV Ad in Kansas Senate Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A conservative political action committee is launching a television ad in the U.S. Senate race in Kansas attacking the independent challenger to three-term Republican incumbent Pat Roberts. The Freedom Partners Action Fund says it is spending "six figures" on the ad against Greg Orman beginning Tuesday. The PAC is part of the political network of billionaire businessmen Charles and David Koch. The 30-second spot notes that Orman contributed to President Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign and to other Democrats. It says a vote for Orman is another vote for Obama. Obama received 38 percent of the vote in GOP-leaning Kansas in 2012. Orman is a 45-year-old Olathe businessman running as a centrist. His campaign notes his past contributions to Republicans, including moderate GOP Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts in 2010.


Kansas Seeks Dismissal of Teachers' Union Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is seeking dismissal of a lawsuit by the state's largest teachers' union over a new law ending guaranteed tenure in public schools. Schmidt filed his request Monday in Shawnee County District Court in response to the lawsuit filed in August by the Kansas National Education Association. The attorney general contends the union has no standing to sue over the tenure law because it is not directly harmed. He also argues the union can't show that any individual has been harmed since the law took effect in July. The union declined to comment. Legislators folded the anti-tenure measure into a larger education funding measure. The KNEA lawsuit alleges the move violated a provision of the Kansas Constitution requiring most bills to contain only one subject.


Appeals Court Sets Hearing in Wichita Bomb Threat Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A federal appeals court has scheduled arguments in the case of a Kansas abortion opponent who sent a letter to a Wichita doctor saying someone might place an explosive under her car. A notice Monday at the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sets a November 18 hearing in the Justice Department's lawsuit against Angel Dillard. At issue is whether a federal judge in Wichita wrongly concluded Dillard's letter was not a "true threat." The judge ruled that the letter was constitutionally protected speech. The government appealed. Dillard claims in a cross-appeal that the government violated her speech and religious rights when it sued her in 2011 for sending the letter to Dr. Mila Means, who at the time was training to offer abortions after Dr. George Tiller's 2009 murder.


Kansas Supreme Court Ruling Concerns Prosecutors

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) - Prosecutors say a Kansas Supreme Court ruling could lead to the early release of more than 200 dangerous inmates. The ruling, first issued in May and clarified on Friday, concerns whether a defendant's prior felony convictions are classified as "crimes against persons" or "nonperson" crimes under state guidelines in place since July 1, 1993. Nonperson crimes such as forgery or theft generally bring shorter sentences. The court ruled in May that all felony convictions from other states before July 1, 1993, should be considered nonperson crimes for sentencing purposes. It clarified Friday that the ruling pertained only to out-of-state convictions. Scott Schultz, executive director of the Kansas Sentencing Commission, says an estimated 235 inmates could have their sentences reduced because of the ruling.


Panel Studies Plan for Performance-Based College Budgets

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Board of Regents will form a group to study the logistics of basing budgets for the state's universities and colleges at least partly on performance. Performance-based budgeting ties some a portion of post-secondary institutions' funding to their meeting specific goals. The key is determining what the goals are, how to measure performance and the amount of funding involved. Kansas Board of Regents President and CEO Andy Tompkins and Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz said last week they hoped performance-based budgeting would allow post-secondary institutions to earn more funding than they currently receive from the state. Critics say performance-based budgeting has caused problems in other states and could be used to reduce funding.


Trial for Man Accused in Commune Death Delayed

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A man accused of killing a woman at a Sedgwick County commune in 2003 will not go on trial as scheduled next week. The Sedgwick County prosecutor says the trial for Daniel Perez, of Valley Center, has been delayed indefinitely. Perez faces 35 charges including first-degree premeditated murder in the death of 26-year-old Patricia Hughes. A Sedgwick County judge ruled Monday that evidence from a Texas case in which Perez is accused of sexual misconduct will be admitted in his Kansas trial. The continuance was granted to allow witnesses from that case to be called. No new trial date was set.
Authorities allege Perez led a commune in Valley Center and lived off life insurance payments of several commune members who died.


Feds Say Kansas Company Violated Safety Rules in Omaha

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Federal safety officials have proposed fining a Kansas-based company nearly $134,000 for what the officials say were welding safety violations in Omaha. The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Monday that it has cited Watco Cos. Inc., of Pittsburg, Kansas, for three repeat and three serious safety violations. A spokeswoman for Watco told The Associated Press on Tuesday that she couldn't immediately comment. OSHA inspectors say Watco let workers enter rail cars to perform repair tasks, including welding, without implementing procedures required under OSHA's regulations for work in confined spaces. The agency says a Watco worker had reported suffering respiratory inflammation after doing welding work inside a rail car in Omaha.


Wichita Middle Schools to Get 3-D Printers

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita middle school students will soon have access to 3-D printers. KWCH-TV reports Wichita Public Schools officials on Monday night approved the purchase of printers for the district's 18 middle schools. The printers will be used in the district's career and technical education programs to help students learn about measurements. Teachers say the printers will help get students excited about studying technology. The Cargill Company gave the district a $60,000 grant to cover the cost of the printers.


Judge Rules on Suspect's Attire in KC Slayings

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Jackson County judge says a 34-year-old man accused of fatally shooting three people and brutally beating two others who later died will be allowed to wear street clothes during his courtroom appearances. Brandon Howell is facing a dozen charges in the September 2 attacks, including three counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of 88-year-old Alice Hurst, her son, 63-year-old Darrel Hurst, and 69-year-old Susan Choucroun. Charges have not been updated in the beatings of George and Ann Taylor, who died after the other counts had been filed. Howell appeared in court Monday wearing a blue pullover sweater and slacks, but no visible shackles. His attorney told Associate Judge Mary Weir the jury pool could be tainted if news stations repeatedly showed him in leg irons or other restraints.


Cracked Windshield Forces Jet to Land in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A 50-seat jet flying to Dallas was forced to land in Wichita after its windshield cracked. No one was injured onboard the Embraer regional jet that took off from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Spokeswoman Valerie Wise says the plane was over Salina Monday morning when the pilot said he needed to make an emergency landing at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. The Wichita Eagle reports the jet landed safely. The flight, which was being flown for American Airlines, carried 52 people, including crew. Investigators are trying to determine what caused the windshield to crack.


Kansas Running Animal Disease Response Exercise

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - State and local officials in four Kansas counties are conducting an exercise to practice the state's plan to respond to a foreign animal disease. The state Department of Agriculture says the drill began Monday and continues through Wednesday. Emergency response teams from Clay, Lyon, Riley and Pottawatomie counties are taking part. Agriculture officials said the exercise is based on a hypothetical case of foot-and-mouth disease, which was last identified in the U.S. in 1929. Foot-and-mouth is a highly contagious disease that affects cattle, sheep, swine and other cloven-hooved animals. Kansas Agriculture Secretary Jackie McClaskey says the exercise will identify gaps in the state's response plan and give state and local officials experience in carrying out the plan.


Kansas Growers Plant Winter Wheat, Harvest Corn

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A new government report shows Kansas growers were busy in the past week planting winter wheat as the corn and sorghum harvests progressed.The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that about 15 percent of the state's winter wheat has been planted. About 3 percent has emerged. Harvest moved ahead with 26 percent of the corn crop and about 3 percent of the sorghum now cut. Corn condition is rated as 16 percent poor to very poor, 29 percent fair, 41 percent good and 14 percent excellent. Sorghum is reported as 14 percent poor to very poor, 32 percent fair, 45 percent good and 9 percent excellent. Soybeans are dropping leaves, cotton bolls are opening and sunflowers are turning brown as harvest for those crops nears.


Farmers Hoping to Open Boot Hill Distillery

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) - Several western Kansas farmers are planning to build a distillery on land in Dodge City that was once the site of the Boot Hill Cemetery. If the plans work out, the Boot Hill Distillery will open next July. The Hutchinson News reports the land was the site of the cemetery in the 1870s. It later became a public school and eventually held Dodge City's Municipal Building. The building has been empty for years. One of the investors, 23-year-old Hayes Kelman of Sublette, says the business will distill whiskey made mostly from corn grown on his family's farm in Haskell County. The project received a $190,649 Community Development Block Grant in August to stabilize and repair the building, which on the National Register of Historic Places.


Donated Land Brings Revenue to KU

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - The University of Kansas is benefiting from donated land by using it to raise funding and offer research opportunities. The school's endowment, which is the nonprofit fundraising arm of the university, owns about 45,000 acres of land in Kansas and other states, including Oklahoma, Colorado and Wyoming. Its spokeswoman tells the Lawrence Journal-World that much of the endowment's land is farmed. The income from it goes toward the university as specified by the donors' intentions. She says that over the past five years, farm and mineral holdings have averaged $3 million in income per year. Donated land also includes the University of Kansas Field Station, which is used for research by the Kansas Biological Survey.



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