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Headlines for Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Report: More Kansas Children Living in Poverty in 2013

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A new report says from 2008 to 2013 the percentage of Kansas children in poverty went up. The annual Kansas Kids Count report rates Kansas at 15th on overall child well-being looking at families' economic well-being, community and family structure and children's educational progress and health. The report covers data from 2013, the most recent available. It says 19 percent of children in Kansas lived in poverty in 2013, compared with 15 percent in 2008. The report also says 24 percent had a parent who didn't have full-time, year-round employment.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 6 percent of Kansas teenagers weren't either in school or working. Kansas was also ninth in the country on economic well-being based on the percentage of children living in poverty.


Kansas Tax Amnesty Program to Begin in September 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansans who owe back taxes to the state will be able to pay the debt without also paying penalties for six weeks, beginning in September. The Department of Revenue will accept payments for back taxes from individuals and businesses between September 1 and October 15. Those participating in the amnesty program will not be required to pay interest or penalties, if the entire debt is paid. The Wichita Eagle reports the Legislature approved the tax amnesty program during the last session, after estimates it could bring in $30 million to the state. However, some lawmakers were skeptical the program would raise that much revenue. If the estimates fall short, the state might face more budget cuts.


9,805 Applications Filed for Concealed Gun Permits in Kansas 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas attorney general's office says it received 9,805 applications for concealed gun permits for the fiscal year ending June 30. Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in a news release Tuesday that he expects the program to remain popular even with the law passed by the Legislature this year allowing eligible Kansans to carry concealed guns without a license. He noted Kansas licenses are recognized by 36 other states, most which still require a permit in order to carry a concealed firearm. Kansas has received 100,769 applications since the program began in 2006, and issued concealed gun permits for 98,035 of those. About a quarter of those requests were made in 2013, when the number of applications peaked at 25,361. More than 90,000 Kansans have active concealed carry licenses.


Kansas Revenue Department Still Processing Paper Tax Returns 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Revenue says it's still processing paper tax returns but should be finished soon. The Wichita Eagle ( ) reports several people have complained that they still haven't received their state tax refund even though they filed their taxes months ago. Department of Revenue spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda says the agency should be finished processing paper returns by the middle of next week. She says most of those still being processed were received after May 1. Koranda says if there is a problem with any of the returns the refunds will be further delayed. They also could be delayed if they have been marked for a debt offset in which part of the refund is used to pay debts like unpaid parking tickets or back child support.


Westar Criticized for Multi-Million Dollar Electric Rate Hike Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The largest electric utility in Kansas is drawing strong criticism for proposing to increase its rates by $152 million a year. AARP Kansas has called the proposed increases unreasonable, and green-energy advocates argue that part of the plan will discourage consumers from installing solar panels or taking other steps to conserve power. The Kansas Corporation Commission had its first public hearing Tuesday in Topeka on the proposal from Westar Energy. The KCC plans another Thursday in Wichita. The company has said it needs the rate increases to cover costs already incurred for plan upgrades. The company has said its rates would rise by an average of 7.9 percent for all of its 700,000 customers. Westar expects residential customers' bills to increase between $9 and $13 a month.


Brownback Campaign Seeks Donation from Westar Amid Rate Case 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Governor Sam Brownback's campaign recently approached a Westar Energy official for a campaign debt donation while the utility is in the process of seeking a rate increase. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a Brownback campaign official contacted Mark Schreiber, Westar's government affairs vice president, more than a week ago looking for help retiring debt from the governor's successful re-election campaign last year. The contact with Schreiber takes place as Westar is requesting a $152 million rate increase from the Kansas Corporation Commission. Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley says Brownback's office doesn't influence the KCC's operations or decision-making. Westar spokeswoman Gina Penzig acknowledges the request to Schreiber and says it was referred to Westar Employees' Political Action Committee, which hasn't made a decision on the request.


No Injuries in Kansas National Guard Training Accident 

MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas National Guard says no one was injured when one of its Black Hawk helicopters made a hard landing at the McPherson airport. Major Joshua Urban says in a news release Wednesday that the helicopter was carrying a crew of four during a standard night-training exercise on the airport's runway. The accident that occurred shortly before midnight damaged the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter to the extent it was unable to fly. The helicopter was from the Kansas National Guard's 1st Battalion, 108th Aviation. The cause of the accident is under investigation.


Lawsuit Alleging Problems with Medicaid in Kansas Ends 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A former executive of the firm managing part of the privatized Medicaid program in Kansas is ending a lawsuit alleging she was fired after protesting potentially improper cost cutting moves. A stipulation filed Tuesday in federal court notes that all parties including former Sunflower Vice President Jacqueline Leary and defendants Sunflower State Health Plan Inc. and its parent Centene Corporation have agreed to dismiss the case. Each will pay its own costs and attorneys' fees. The lawsuit alleged Sunflower stopped assigning Medicaid participants to doctors working for health care providers who were paid a higher-than-standard rate. The companies disputed that, filing counter claims alleging Leary tried to extort money from them. Medicaid covers health services for the poor and disabled. Kansas has turned its administration over to Sunflower and two other private companies.


Brownback Calls for Planned Parenthood Inspections

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Governor Sam Brownback wants the state to determine if Kansas abortion facilities take part in a fetal tissue program in the wake of criticism over a Planned Parenthood executive videotaped discussing the disposition of parts from aborted fetuses. Brownback's office said Tuesday he wants the Kansas Board of Healing Arts and the state Department of Health and Environment to investigate whether any Kansas facility sells tissue and organs from aborted fetuses. An undercover video released by anti-abortion activists shows Planned Parenthood's senior director of medical services discussing procedures for providing fetal body parts to researchers. Planned Parenthood says it legally helps women who want to make not-for-profit donations of their fetus' organs for scientific research.


Kansans for Life Seeks Review of KS Ban on Profiting from Fetal Tissue Sales

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An anti-abortion leader wants Kansas to review its ban on selling fetal tissue following Governor Sam Brownback's call for an investigation of Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. Executive Director Mary Kay Culp of Kansans for Life said Wednesday workers at abortion clinics may not have enough legal protections if they seek to become whistleblowers. She says the state should also mandate that women seeking to end their pregnancies be given more information if they're asked to donate fetal tissue or organs. President and CEO Laura McQuade of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri said it's not necessary to revisit the 2000 ban. She said Planned Parenthood doesn't have a tissue-donation program. Brownback has called for the state medical board to investigate whether fetal tissue is being sold.


Kansas Bioscience Authority Cuts Staff Due to Drop in State Funding 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Faced with dwindling state funding, the Kansas Bioscience Authority is laying off half of its staff members and scaling back operations. The KBA invests public money in the biotech industry to foster startups and attract investment in Kansas. But state funding for the agency has been cut significantly since 2012. The KBA is allowed to receive up to $35 million each year by statute. But from 2012 through 2015 it received less than $29 million. Duane Cantrell, the KBA's president and CEO, told The Kansas City Star that the agency is laying off seven of its 13 full-time staff members and no longer has a full-time scientist on staff. The governor's office says the KBA has to manage within its budget.


Kansas Seeks Dismissal of ACLU's Same-Sex Marriage Lawsuit 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas says there nothing more a federal judge in Kansas can do that that has not already been done by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month that legalized same-sex unions nationwide. The state argued on Tuesday that the court should dismiss as moot the lawsuit filed by a civil right's group challenging the state's gay marriage ban. Attorneys for the state contend that continued litigation serves no legitimate purpose. Since the high court's ruling, Kansas has been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and awarding them the same tax, health insurance and other benefits given to married couples. The state argues that the same-sex couples who sued no longer have standing because the relief they sought has already been given to them without the need for a judgment in their case.


Topeka Says 55K Gallons of Raw Sewage Spills into Kaw

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Crews in Topeka have been working to repair a sewer leak that resulted in 55,000 gallons of raw sewage spilling into the Kansas River. The Topeka Capital Journal reports it's the city's third sewage release into the Kansas River since April. Bob Sample, the city's general manager of water pollution control, says the cause of Tuesday's leak hasn't yet been determined.  About 3 million gallons of raw sewage was discharged into the Kansas River in late April after a power failure at the city's south Kansas River pump station. Earlier this month, the city dealt with a surge of heavy rain by bypassing a secondary cleaning process and dumping as many as 50 million gallons of partially treated sewage into the river.


Lawrence Commissioner Ribs Topeka over Sewage Releases

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence city commissioner vented about leaving "flaming bags of poo" in Topeka after the city's third recent release of raw sewage. Matthew Herbert says he had a "little tirade" on Facebook after finding out Tuesday that Topeka spilled 55,000 gallons of raw sewage into the Kansas River. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Topeka also released sewage into the river in April and again earlier this month. Topeka's sewage releases head downstream toward Lawrence. Herbert said in a letter to Topeka on Facebook that he'd leave excrement-filled bags "on your city steps" until the city solves its sewage issues. Herbert said Wednesday his remarks were tongue-in-cheek, and he's aware the releases were within state limits. He says he has no intention of leaving flaming bags of anything in Topeka.


Topeka Police Chief Takes Aim at Gangs After Shootings 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka's police chief says his department will be relentless in searching for those responsible for a recent outbreak of gang-related shootings in a south Topeka neighborhood. Chief James Brown told City Council members on Tuesday that six people have been arrested in connection with eight recent shooting incidents in the Hi-Crest community. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports two of the shootings claimed the lives of a 5-year-old girl and 45-year-old man, but nobody has been arrested for those. Brown says criminals committed violent acts in the neighborhood, causing others to retaliate. The chief says the perpetrators are "very violent, dangerous individuals who have no regard for human life," which has him concerned about his officers' safety. Mayor Larry Wolgast noted that the shootings haven't been random situations.


Man Charged in Fatal Shooting in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A 20-year-old man has been charged in the shooting death of a woman near a Kansas City, Missouri convenience store.  Police say Charles L. Austin was charged Tuesday with second-degree murder for the death of 31-year-old Misty Marion. Court documents say a witness identified Austin as the man who confronted the witness and Marion Saturday night.  According to the court documents, Marion and the witness were running away when they heard gunshots. Marion was shot in the back. Austin is being held in lieu of a $250,000 bond. 


8 Indicted in Topeka Cocaine Bust

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Eight people have been indicted on federal charges of trafficking about $1.7 million of powder cocaine in the Topeka area. According to U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom, the eight were indicted Tuesday and charged with conspiracy to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine. Grissom said the eight, six of whom are from Topeka, were a part of a cocaine trafficking conspiracy. The indictment seeks the forfeiture of more than $73,000 seized in a July 9 raid.


Topeka Man Drowns in Shawnee County Pond 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified a man who drowned in a pond in Shawnee County. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 52-year-old Marty P. Artzer of Topeka drowned Tuesday night. Emergency crews found Artzer at the bottom of a pond. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The sheriff's office identified Artzer early Wednesday and says it's investigating the death as an accidental drowning.


Longest-Running Pizza Hut Closing This Weekend in Kansas 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A Pizza Hut in Manhattan that has been at its original location longer than any Pizza Hut in the nation will close this weekend in Manhattan. Company officials announced Tuesday that the Pizza Hut in Manhattan's Aggieville will close at 11 pm Sunday. It began operating there in 1960. Employees at the restaurant were offered new jobs and all other Pizza Hut restaurants in the Manhattan region will remain open. Co-founder Bernie Butler said in a news release that the Aggieville location is closing because it is not designed to handle increasing preferences for delivery over dine-in service. Pizza Hut was founded in 1958 by two Wichita State University students. After the original Pizza Hut in Wichita moved, the Manhattan location became the oldest still operating at its original site.


2 Tribes Back Kansas Effort to Block Quapaw Casino Expansion 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two tribes are backing efforts by Kansas to block the Quapaw Tribe from expanding its Downstream Casino in Oklahoma into southeast Kansas. The state and Cherokee County argued in a filing Wednesday that the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska and the Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska should be allowed to intervene in the lawsuit. Both tribes contend they have significant competitive interests in the outcome of the litigation initiated by Kansas. Both operate casinos, and claim there is a "real threat" of tribes outside of Kansas coming into the state to open up casinos and compete with them. Kansas says those tribes will demonstrate in joining the lawsuit that Indian-law issues are more complex than suggested by the Quapaw Tribe and the United States.


Denver Man Pleads Guilty to Drug Charges 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Colorado man has pleaded guilty to a charge stemming from flying a plane containing more than 200 pounds of marijuana into a southeast Kansas airport. The federal prosecutor's office in Wichita said Wednesday that 59-year-old Kenneth E. Weaver, of Denver, pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana. In his plea, prosecutors say Weaver admitted his small plane contained about 207 pounds of medical grade marijuana when he flew it into the Iola airport on July 11, 2014. Federal authorities say Weaver had to forfeit his plane and about $460,000 in cash. He's expected to be sentenced to a year in prison when he's sentenced October 5.


Tom Brokaw Joins Effort to Build Eisenhower Memorial in DC 

WASHINGTON (AP) — Tom Brokaw is joining the effort to build a memorial honoring President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington. The veteran journalist has joined an advisory committee for the Eisenhower Memorial project with former Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas. The group is advocating for the memorial's completion after 15 years of planning. In a statement Wednesday, Brokaw says that while researching his 1998 book "The Greatest Generation," he met many veterans from World War II who would give their lives for their country and for Eisenhower, their leader. Brokaw says veterans want to see Eisenhower honored. The memorial project has won design approvals from key agencies, despite objections from some Eisenhower family members over the design. Some in Congress have called for halting the project and eliminating its funding over the design.


Missouri Woman Dead After Being Trapped in Submerged Vehicle 

MULBERRY, Kan. (AP) — A Missouri woman is dead after her vehicle slid sideways into a Kansas lake and became submerged, trapping her inside. The Crawford County, Kansas, Sheriff's Office says 52-year-old Venice Ann Little of Mindenmines, Missouri, was found dead inside the cab of her submerged GMC Sonoma pickup truck on Tuesday. The Joplin Globe reports an initial investigation determined Little drove too close to a bank near the lake in Mulberry City Park and her vehicle lost traction in the wet grass and mud. Two other occupants, 47-year-old Sherri West of LaCygne, Kansas, and 33-year-old Mandi Umphenour of Mulberry, Kansas, were able to escape the sinking vehicle. They were unable to get Little out. An autopsy will be performed to determine her cause of death, which appears to be drowning.


Driver Rescued from High Water in Kansas Amid Heavy Rain

ROSE HILL, Kan. (AP) — A driver in Kansas has been rescued from his vehicle that sat in high water, as heavy rains caused major flooding across the state. According to Butler County Fire Chief James Woydziak, firefighters responded to a call about a water rescue in Rose Hill Tuesday morning. Officials say James Polk managed to climb on top of his vehicle which had stalled on a submerged low water bridge. Firefighter Chris Hodges said he pulled his rescue truck to the edge of the water, and waded to Polk's car. Polk was taken to safety and was not hurt. Wichita also saw heavy rains Tuesday afternoon that led to some motorists being stranded and street closures.


Jarrod Dyson Hit Lifts Royals Past Pirates for 3-1 Win

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Jarrod Dyson hit a two-run single in the eighth inning to lead the Kansas City Royals to a 3-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night. Dyson scored later in the inning on Alcides Escobar's single to put the Royals up 3-0, and they won for the 11th time in the past 14 games. Wade Davis (6-1) struck out Andrew McCutchen to end the eighth inning with two Pirates on base to pick up the victory. Pirates' starter Gerrit Cole (13-4), who leads the majors in victories, was charged with all three runs and five hits in 7 1/3 innings.


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