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Headlines for Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Judge Refuses to Stay Order over Voter Citizenship

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge in Wichita has refused to stay his order for federal election officials to immediately enforce Kansas and Arizona laws requiring new voters to document their U.S. citizenship. U.S. District Eric Melgren on Wednesday denied requests from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and voting rights groups to stay his ruling while the case goes to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Melgren ordered the commission to proceed without delay on his March directive to immediately modify its national voter registration form. The March ruling requires the agency to add special instructions for Arizona and Kansas residents about their states' proof-of-citizenship requirements. Arizona and Kansas officials contend their state's requirements prevent voter fraud. Critics of such laws argue they suppress voter turnout.


Gov on FBI Probe: State's Bid Process Was Open

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says he will cooperate with the FBI if he's contacted about an investigation into allegations concerning the awarding of state contracts to privatize the state's Medicaid program. Brownback told The Associated Press yesterday (TUE) that he believes the allegations are mostly a smear campaign. The Republican governor says he has directed state employees to cooperate fully if they are contacted by the FBI. Brownback says he hopes the FBI does contact people because Kansas went through an open bidding process in awarding the contracts. Several news outlets -- including the AP and Kansas Public Radio -- have reported the existence of an FBI investigation into the activities of the governor's former chief of staff -- David Kensinger -- and Kensinger's Topeka lobbying and consulting firm, Parallel Strategies.


UPDATE: Objections Lodged Against Pat Roberts in Senate Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Four northeast Kansas residents have filed objections to Senator Pat Roberts's candidacy for re-election, arguing the three-term Republican is not truly a Kansas resident. The objections were filed Wednesday by Christine Tawney and Chuck Henderson, of Manhattan, and Tom and Sylda Nichols, of Leonardville. Their complaint will be reviewed by a three-member state board led by the secretary of state. The objections are similar to allegations leveled by Roberts's tea party-backed Republican challenger, Milton Wolf. Roberts owns a home in Alexandria, Virginia, and a duplex unit in Dodge City that he rents out. But Roberts spokesman Leroy Towns says the senator pays income and property taxes in Kansas and has been registered to vote in Dodge City for more than 30 years.


Civil Rights Group Says Public Schools Facing Conservative Criticism

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center says public schools are under attack from conservative groups opposed to new education standards and federal intrusion into local issues. Officials with the civil rights organization said Wednesday the report documents efforts by political groups to block implementation of the Common Core Standards for math and English as part of a larger effort to dismantle public schools. Among those named in the report are billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. The report says the groups also seek to end teacher tenure, which Kansas did in April. A spokeswoman for Wichita-based Koch Industries says the company isn't involved in Common Core discussions. An official with Americans for Prosperity, which has ties to the Kochs, says the issue is retaining local control over education.


Man Hit by Train in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Topeka police say a man died after he was hit by a train. Emergency crews found the man's body this (WED) morning after BNSF Railway reported that one of its trains hit a person on the tracks. Investigators are trying to determine why the man was on the tracks.

Topeka Councilman Enters Diversion Agreement

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka City Councilman John M. Campos II entered a diversion agreement on two felonies that led to an effort to remove him from the council. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Shawnee County District Court records show Campos entered the diversion Tuesday. Campos was briefly booked into jail on April 22 on felony charges of making a false writing and interference with law enforcement. Prosecutors contend Campos presented a fake insurance card to the city's legal department while trying to have a ticket from a traffic stop dismissed. District Attorney Chad Taylor filed documents the same week seeking to remove Campos from the council. As of Tuesday, Campos is still on the council. He has until Monday to respond to the ouster petition.

Farley Says Washburn Faculty, Staff Speech Is Not Restricted

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Washburn University president Jerry Farley says faculty and staff are not restricted from speaking to the media and legislators. Confusion arose when the university in Topeka combined its communications policy with that used by Washburn Institute of Technology. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the policy was applied to Washburn's deans and at least one dean applied the restrictions to his faculty and staff. The policy suggested to some that faculty and staff had to seek permission from administrators before talking to public officials and the media. But Jerry Farley said Tuesday the protocols don't restrict faculty and staff from voicing their opinions publicly. He says faculty is asked only to make it clear they are speaking as individuals, not as university representatives.


Loan Help Offered for Tornado-Damaged Businesses

BAXTER SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) — The Small Business Administration is offering loan assistance to companies in southeast Kansas, northeast Oklahoma and southwest Missouri damaged by a tornado and violent weather on April 27. The Kansas Division of Emergency Management says it was notified Wednesday that the state was granted an SBA disaster declaration for Cherokee County and adjacent counties. Dozens of homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed in the Cherokee County town of Baxter Springs by an EF-2 tornado that also hit Quapaw, Oklahoma. Officials say the declaration also covers Crawford and Labette counties in Kansas, Jasper and Newton counties in Missouri, and Craig and Ottawa counties in Oklahoma. SBA loans are the primary form of federal assistance to repair and rebuild non-farm private businesses of any size following disasters.


USDA: 5 Kansas Counties Declared Drought Disasters

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated five counties of south-central Kansas as disaster areas because of production losses caused by drought. Senator Jerry Moran said Wednesday the agency has declared Butler, Kingman, Reno, Sedgwick and Harvey counties as primary disaster areas. The designation lets farmers and ranchers seek federal assistance. The declaration also makes producers in 12 contiguous counties eligible for help. Those counties are Barber, Chase, Cowley, Elk, Greenwood, Harper, McPherson, Marion, Pratt, Rice, Stafford and Sumner. Moran says farmers and ranchers in the 17 counties may receive federal disaster help such as the emergency loan program and the supplemental revenue assistance payment program.


Senate Majority Leader Blocks Vote on Keystone XL


WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Democrats are refusing to let supporters of the Keystone XL oil pipeline to use an energy efficiency bill as a vehicle to attempt winning congressional approval for the controversial project. Majority Leader Harry Reid used a parliamentary move Wednesday to block a Republican amendment on the pipeline as well as a measure to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from imposing new greenhouse gas regulations on coal-burning power plants. The proposed Canada-U.S. pipeline would cross Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. The Obama administration announced last month it was delaying a decision on the pipeline's fate indefinitely. Reid has offered supporters a vote on a stand-alone bill that deals with only the pipeline. All 45 Senate Republicans and as many as a dozen Democrats support the project. Environmental groups oppose it.



Voters Reject $30.6 Million Bond Issue for Schools

COLUMBUS, Kan. (AP) — Columbus voters have overwhelmingly rejected a $30.6 million bond issue that would have paid for a new elementary school and renovations throughout the school district. The Joplin Globe reports that the final tally Tuesday was 668 in favor of the bond issue and 1,746 against it. The measure would have raised the mill levy by roughly 16.5 cents, from 49.82 to 66.35. Superintendent David Carriger says the committee promoting the bond issue needs to find out what the community is willing to support. Tuesday's measure would have paid for a new school for students in first through eighth grades, remodeling the pre-kindergarten building and renovations at the high school. Carriger says the money also would have paid for construction of safe rooms, which is one of the district's top priorities.

Highway Patrol Investigating Kansas Woman's Death

CONCORDIA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol is investigating the death of a woman who was injured along a highway in north central Kansas. Patrol trooper Ben Gardner said Tuesday details about what happened to the woman are "pretty limited." He says the patrol was contacted late Saturday about a woman being injured near a U.S. Highway 81 intersection about 4 miles north of Concordia. He says the woman was a pedestrian. The woman was taken to a hospital but died from her injuries. The Salina Journal reports that the woman's name was not released but Gardner said she was from the Concordia area.

Citizens Group Backs Single-Terminal Plan at KCI

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City citizens advisory group has recommended replacing the existing three terminals at Kansas City International Airport with a new single terminal. The Kansas City Star reports 19 of the KCI Terminal Advisory Group's 24 members voted in favor of a single terminal, subject to more information on cost. That decision mirrors a plan the city's Aviation Department has recommended — but which many in the public have rejected because they prefer the current distances between parking and terminal gates. The advisory group's recommendation is intended to guide the city toward one of its most important civic building projects of the next decade. The group concluded the airport has too much crumbling infrastructure, aging operating systems and insufficient gate and security space to simply do nothing.


Wichita Agrees to Add Some Residents to City Water System

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita City Council has agreed to a state plan that will provide city water to some residents whose groundwater is polluted. The council voted on Tuesday to allow the some residences in west Wichita to be hooked up to new lines and mains. The $3.1 million project is funded by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The Wichita Eagle reports that the homes were previously supplied by well water but lost their service after high levels of a toxic dry cleaning solvent were found in the groundwater. Wichita public works director Alan King says the state wants to install waterlines that would extend city water services to about 114 homes. The work will start immediately and should be completed by August 1.

Kansas State Fair Issues Warning About Online Ticket Sales

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State Fair officials are warning the public about online ticket brokers who have been promoting tickets they don't have yet for the fair's grandstand concerts. Fair Manager Denny Stoecklein said Tuesday the sites are advertising and selling tickets they cannot guarantee. Stoecklein also says he's contacted the Kansas Attorney General's Office, which plans to communicate with the online sites to stop selling tickets they do not have. The Hutchinson News reports that a site promoting tickets for country singer Hunter Hayes has been offering prime seating for from $120 to $380. The fair's tickets range from $37.50 to $75. Stoecklein says the Kansas State Fair and are the only official sellers for the Kansas State Fair concert tickets. Sales open to the general public Saturday.


Appeals Court Sides with Deputies in Inmate Death Lawsuit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled against the family of a Sedgwick County jail inmate who died after being ill for days before he was taken to a hospital. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld a jury's verdict that cleared two jail deputies in the 2007 death of 46-year-old Terry Bruner. The court found that the judge did not make a mistake by refusing to grant a new trial based on claims one of the jurors was biased. An appeals panel also upheld a lower court's ruling deciding the case in favor of 13 others whom the family had also sued. The appeals court said the family failed to prove that the defendants recognized Bruner was at risk of dying and consciously disregarded it.


Former Massage Parlor Owner Plans to Change Plea

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Just days before trial, the former owner of Asian massage parlors in Wichita has notified the court he intends to change his plea in a Kansas sex trafficking case. A court notation Tuesday shows the change of plea hearing for Gary H. Kidgell of Waltham, Massachusetts is set for Thursday. Kidgell and his wife, Wichita resident Yan Zhang, had been scheduled for trial Monday. Court documents also indicate Zhang has been talking to prosecutors and may change her plea. An indictment charges both with sex trafficking. One count also charges Kidgell with harboring for financial gain an immigrant who was in the country illegally. The couple is accused of recruiting women from around the country to come to Wichita to work at massage parlors, then coercing them into prostitution.


KU Honors Judges / Alumni for Service

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ Three judges who graduated from the University of Kansas School of Law will be honored for their public service and contributions to the legal community. The awards will be presented this Saturday during a ceremony in Lawrence to honor distinguished alumni.This year's honorees are retired Kansas Supreme Court Justice Edward Larson, Judge Mary Murguia of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge Julie Robinson of the U.S. District Court in Kansas.
Larson graduated from the law school in 1960 and was appointed to the state Supreme Court in 1995. Murguia graduated in 1985 and was appointed to the federal appeals court in 2010. Robinson, a 1981 graduate, was named to the federal district court in 2001 after serving as a federal bankruptcy judge.


Death of Leavenworth Inmate Apparent Homicide

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) _ Authorities say an inmate's death at the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth is being investigated as an apparent homicide. Forty-eight-year-old Jeremy Nemerov died Monday night at St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City. A prison spokesman (Treavor Kroger) says he was found unresponsive in his cell on April 24, the day after he arrived at the prison. The FBI is handling the homicide investigation.


Man Dead after Falling Out of Golf Cart at FedEx

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) _ Officials of FedEx are pledging to help investigate the death of a man who fell out of a golf cart at a large parcel-handling complex in Shawnee. Police were called to the facility around 8 o'clock yesterday (TUE) morning and found the 21-year-old man lying on the pavement. Witnesses reported seeing the man tumble out of the golf cart. He later died at a hospital. Police did not release the man's name.


FBI Finds Synagogue Directions in Suspect's Home

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Evidence recovered from the home of a Missouri man accused of killing three people outside two Kansas Jewish facilities indicates he researched directions to synagogues and kosher places to eat. Avowed white supremacist Frazier Glenn Cross is charged with last month's shootings outside the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park - and at the nearby Village Shalom senior care facility. Killed were 69-year-old William Corporon, his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, and 53-year-old Terri LaManno.


Missouri Lawmakers Pass Funeral Protest Law Change

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri lawmakers have sent Governor Jay Nixon a bill designed to clear up potential confusion about the state law restricting protests at funerals. The law now requires protesters to stay 300 feet away from funeral sites, from an hour before they start until an hour after services end. But a federal appeals court ruled that buffer zone could not be enforced in regard to funeral processions. The measure that passed with a unanimous Senate vote Wednesday specifies that processions are not included in the protest ban. The House approved the bill previously. Another federal judge upheld the rest of Missouri's law, but the bill could stave off future lawsuits. The legal challenge was brought by a Kansas church that denounces homosexuality and frequently protests at funerals.


KC Woman Wins $2.5 Million Missouri Lotto

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A Kansas City woman who won a $2.5 million Missouri Lotto prize says she plans to retire early. The Missouri Lottery says 64-year-old Patricia Roscher won the April 12 drawing after buying a ticket at a QuikTrip in Pleasant Valley. Roscher is a financial analyst with a credit card company. She chose to take the $1.25 million lump-sum. She says she and her partner of 18 years also plan to buy a new home.


Holton Voters Approve $21.3 Million Bond Issue

HOLTON, Kan. (AP) _ Holton voters have approved a $21.3 million bond issue that will be used to build an elementary school. WIBW-AM reports unofficial results of Tuesday's election show the issue passed by a 934-756 vote. The district says it will buy property just west of the current Colorado Elementary School. It will then demolish the current school and build a two-story structurethat will replace both of Holton's existing elementary schools. A 1986 addition to the original building will be renovated for administrative support offices.The state will reimburse the district for 55 percent of the construction costs, or $11.8 million. The district's responsibility for about $9.6 million will be financed overs 25 years.


Armenians Viewing KS Hazard Training Events

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) _ A delegation from the Republic of Armenia is visiting Kansas to observe a state training exercise and receive instruction on responding to bio hazards. The events are part ofan ongoing exchange between Armenia and the Kansas National Guard through a program administered by the National Guard Bureau. On Tuesday, the delegation was in Emporia to watch a bio hazards training exercise involving local first responders and the Kansas National Guard's 73rd Civil Support Team. The Armenians travel next Wednesday to the state's Crisis City training center in Salina for classroom instruction on responding to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear hazards. The visit has been coordinated by the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center at Kansas State University.


Hamilton County Approves $6.4 Million Bond Issue

SYRACUSE, Kan. (AP) _ Voters in Hamilton County approved a $6.4 million bond issue for the county's only school district in Syracuse. The money from the bonds will be used to build an agricultural-educational building and make several athletic improvements, such as a new gymnasium, football turf and an eight-lane track. The Hutchinson News reports unofficial results showed the issue passed by a 358-265 with 28 provisional ballots. Forty-nine percent of the eligible voters cast ballots. About $1 million in state aid is available for the project.




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