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Headlines for Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Democrats May Face Another Fight in Kansas Senate Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Republican serving as Kansas' top elections official won't give up on forcing Democrats to field a U.S. Senate candidate, even if the state Supreme Court orders the current nominee's removal from the ballot. Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Tuesday that state law requires Democratic leaders to pick a new candidate if Chad Taylor is removed from the ballot. Taylor stopped campaigning but Kobach refused to remove him from the November 4 ballot. Taylor took his case to the Supreme Court which heard arguments Tuesday. Some Democrats pushed Taylor to leave the race against three-term Republican Senator Pat Roberts, seeing independent candidate Greg Orman as stronger. Kobach said Tuesday that state law requires parties to fill candidate vacancies, and he's ready to return to the Supreme Court if necessary.


Feds Allow Kansas to Withhold Test Data

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Federal education officials have granted a request from Kansas to not release assessment test results that experts say are invalid because of technical problems and cyberattacks. Only generalized information about how Kansas students did on certain test items will be made public. The decision means parents, teachers and administrators won't be able to see how specific students, schools or districts performed in math and reading assessments. Kansas State Board of Education chairwoman Jana Shaver says there were so many problems it was not feasible or fair to release the data. The Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation at the University of Kansas department administers the tests. It says problems affected up to one-third of this year's math tests and two-thirds of the English tests.


KS School Task Force Leader Recommends Changes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The head of a school efficiency task force is recommending several changes, including incentives for Kansas school districts to consolidate and potential restrictions on teacher bargaining rights. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Wichita businessman Sam Williams mailed his recommendations to the members of the task force last week. The panel's vice chairman, Jim Hinson, superintendent of Shawnee Mission district, said the recommendations are only a draft and the entire commission has not considered them. He says he personally has questions on several of the proposals. Hinson said commission members will discuss the draft at meetings later this week. that commission must submit a report to the Legislature by January 9.


Former Candidate for Governor Will Run for Mayor in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A Wichita business owner who sought this year's Republican nomination for Kansas governor now says she intends to run for Wichita mayor. Jennifer Winn says her supporters have encouraged her to enter the race next spring. Current Mayor Carl Brewer is barred by term limits from seeking re-election. Winn lost the August GOP primary to Governor Sam Brownback. But she drew more than 94,000 votes - about 37 percent of the total - in a showing that surprised many observers. Winn is a Wichita native and the owner of a property management company. She has said that legalizing and taxing marijuana would help state revenue and allow other taxes to be lowered. 


Republican Praeger Favors Democrat for Insurance Commissioner 

TOPEKA — The trend of Kansas Republicans crossing party lines to support Democrats running against GOP conservatives now has reached the insurance commissioner’s race. Republican incumbent Sandy Praeger, who’s not running for re-election after three terms, endorsed Democrat Dennis Anderson at a campaign event in Topeka on Tuesday. Praeger, a moderate Republican who bucked the party line in supporting the federal health reform law, is among more than 100 current and former GOP office holders who have endorsed Paul Davis, the Democrat challenging Republican Governor Sam Brownback. Praeger said she is supporting Anderson in large part because he favors expanding Medicaid eligibility to more poor adults and because he opposes creation of a multi-state compact to transfer control of federal health care programs to member states.


Kansas Gets $3.8M Federal Conservation Grant

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas will receive $3.8 million in conservation funding to help landowners protect key farmlands, grasslands and wetlands. The grant was announced Tuesday by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. It's part of $328 million the U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing nationwide for conservation easements. The USDA's Kansas conservationist, Eric Banks, said conservation easements will help farmers protect valuable farmland from development, restore lands best suited for grazing and return wetlands to their natural conditions. The 2014 farm bill created the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. About 18 projects in Kansas were chosen to restore 4,800 acres.


Ex-Bondsman Convicted in Hutchinson

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - A former bail bondsman has been convicted of six counts for coercing women he bailed out of jail to have sex with him. A Reno County jury on Tuesday convicted 66-year-old Dwight Jurgens on six of nine counts in a human trafficking case. He was found guilty on two counts of aggravated human trafficking, two counts of rape and two counts of attempted aggravated human trafficking. He was acquitted of criminal sodomy and two counts of aggravated human trafficking. Sentencing was scheduled for October 24. Prosecutors alleged Jurgens told four women he would revoke their bonds if they didn't have sex with him. The crimes occurred while Jurgens was a bonding agent for TNT Bonding. Defense attorney Dam Kepfield said he anticipates that the verdict will be appealed.


Eisenhower Memorial Panel Considers Gehry Design

WASHINGTON (AP) - A federal commission working to build a memorial honoring President Dwight D. Eisenhower near the National Mall is considering whether to move forward with architect Frank Gehry's design after years of controversy over the project. Earlier in September, Gehry's team presented a revised design in response to objections from critics and Eisenhower's family. Now the Eisenhower Memorial Commission is scheduled to meet Wednesday for the first time in more than a year to consider the changes. Gehry's Los Angeles-based team has eliminated metal tapestries on the sides of the proposed memorial park, along with some columns. One stainless steel tapestry would remain as a backdrop, depicting the Kansas landscape of Ike's boyhood home. But in a letter Monday, Eisenhower's family says the revised design still does not address their concerns.


Petitioners Work to Repeal Roeland Park Discrimination Ban

ROELAND PARK, Kan. (AP) - The Johnson County legal department says a petition to repeal Roeland Park's anti-discrimination ordinance can move forward. The county has approved the ballot language that will appear if enough support is garnered. The City Council must repeal the ordinance or place it on a citywide ballot if 472 registered voters sign the petition. An attorney representing a former councilwoman who submitted the petition says the decision should be made by the voters, not the council. The city became the second in the state to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity last month. The measure passed after the mayor broke a 4-4 tie by the council. The law prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and public service. Lawrence has a similar ordinance.


KU Joins Group Aiming to Boost Graduation Rates

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - The University of Kansas is joining 10 other major institutions in an initiative to increase graduation rates for low-income and first-generation college students. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the University Innovation Alliance will develop what the group calls a "playbook" on how to help such students complete their degrees. Kansas chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little says the initiative will allow university leaders to share and adapt ideas that have proven to help students from all backgrounds. The group said studies show students from wealthy families are seven times more likely than low-income students to earn college degrees. All of the participating universities have large numbers of low-income and first-generation students and have developed programs to help them succeed.


Dole Resuming Kansas Homecoming Tour

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) - Former U.S. Senator Bob Dole returns to Kansas next week for the latest of several planned trips to his home state this year. The 91-year-old Russell native lives in Washington, D.C., and is making the homecoming tour to greet longtime friends and supporters throughout the state. Next week's trip is Dole's eighth of the year and will take him to southwest Kansas. The tour begins the evening of September 22 in Dodge City, with stops in Kinsley, Greensburg, Ashland, Meade and Liberal the following day. On September 24, Dole will visit Hugoton, Elkhart, Johnson City and Ulysses. He plans to conclude the tour September 25 with stops in Satanta and Cimarron.


Feds Seek Forfeiture of Jet in KS Pot Bust

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Federal prosecutors are seeking the forfeiture of a business jet after the pilot was arrested in July at a Kansas airport and accused of possessing more than 50 kilograms of marijuana with the intent to sell it. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says 58-year-old Kenneth Weaver of Denver also is accused of conspiracy and interstate travel in furtherance of drug trafficking. Prosecutors say Weaver was arrested on July 11 after agents executed a search warrant on the plane at the airport in Iola and seized a load of marijuana. The superseding indictment seeks the forfeiture of a 1979 Israel Aircraft Industries jet, a 2007 Bentley Continental GT-C automobile and more than $450,000 in cash seized August 8 in Sylmar, California. 


Joplin Tornado Aid Worker Sentenced for Fraud

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - A woman who worked for a southwest Missouri disaster relief agency has been sentenced to prison for a fraud scheme following the deadly Joplin tornado. The U.S. attorney's office says Herlana Latham, of Memphis, Tennessee, was sentenced Tuesday to 14 months in federal prison and ordered to pay about $6,700 in restitution. She pleaded guilty earlier this year to wire fraud. Latham formerly lived in Joplin and worked for a nonprofit organization that distributed aid to landlords who rented housing to people displaced by the May 2011 tornado. She was accused of verifying false landlord applications. Co-defendants Christopher Smith and John Williams, both also of Memphis, pleaded guilty previously in the scheme. Williams was sentenced to eight months in prison and Smith to three years of probation.


Reno County Developing Comprehensive Bicycle Plan

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - Reno County is taking early steps to develop a comprehensive route for bicycle riders in the county. The first step came Tuesday, when county commissioners agreed to install four bike-route advisory signs on Old Kansas 61. That reversed a vote last week, when commissioners voted against the signs. The Hutchinson News reports the approval came after bicycling supporters agreed to pay the estimated $690 cost of installing the signs. Commission Chairman James Schlickau recommended that the county form a group of interested people to discuss and propose a comprehensive bike route for the county. Commissioners also were told that a committee with members from Hutchinson, South Hutchinson, Haven, Colwich and Wichita is working to develop a bicycle route from Hutchinson to Wichita, though the plan is "in its infancy."


Port of Kansas City to Reopen for Barge Traffic

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The port of Kansas City's barge-shipping terminal will reopen after being closed since 2007. The Port Authority of Kansas City said Tuesday it is partnering with Kaw Valley Companies of Kansas City, Kansas, to operate the Woodswether Terminal. It will initially employ five to seven people. Port Authority vice president Marissa Cleaver Wamble says the partners hope to have the terminal open for barge traffic before this year's shipping season ends in early December. The city-owned terminal can store about 750,000 tons. It closed seven years ago because low water levels on the Missouri River reduced barge traffic. Wamble says about $6 million in upgrades is needed to also reopen the port to rail traffic.


Another Kansas Man Electrocuted by Power Line

PRATT, Kan. (AP) - Pratt County officials say a worker has died after coming into contact with a 7,200-volt power line. The sheriff's office says he died Tuesday while using a bucket truck near the line in Pratt. The man was taken to the Pratt Regional Medical Center where he later died. His identity has not been released. The sheriff's office is investigating. It's the second electrocution death in Kansas in two days. A 34-year-old man was killed Monday when a boom on a truck touched an overhead power line in Arkansas City.


Topeka Police Chase Ends With Arrest

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Shawnee County authorities have arrested a man who they say led officers on a chase through two counties using a stolen vehicle. Sheriff's Lt. Danny Lotridge says on Tuesday a Silver Lake officer spotted the 54-year-old man walking at a park. There was an outstanding warrant for his arrest. Lotridge says the man stole a Jeep Grand Cherokee when he saw the officer and fled. The pursuit ended in Jefferson County after authorities popped the vehicle's tires. Deputies say they broke out two windows and threatened to send in a police dog before the man surrendered. He was taken to an area hospital with unknown injuries that deputies say are unrelated to the chase. Authorities say he faces charges of motor vehicle theft, fleeing and various traffic violations.


Businessman Considers Making Lyons Golf Course Public

LYONS, Kan. (AP) - A Rice County businessman is considering buying a nine-hole private golf course in Lyons and making it public. Gene Zaid, founder of JACAM Chemicals, said discussions about the Town and Country Club are in its preliminary stages. He has asked the Lyons City Council for breaks on city water rights for irrigation at the club. Any deal on the course would not involve the chemical company. The Hutchinson News reports that the Lyons City Council will take up a formal resolution on the water rate request next week. The 40-acre private course is a 2,902-yard, par-35 course, with an appraised value of $174,540.


Royals Fall to White Sox in 4-Hour Long Game

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis both gave up runs for the first time in nearly three months as the Kansas City Royals' bullpen dropped Tuesday night's game in a 7-5 loss to the Chicago White Sox. The rare bullpen failure prevented Kansas City from gaining ground on AL Central leader Detroit, which lost at Minnesota. The game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City lasted more than four hours, the longest 9-inning game in Royals franchise history.



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