Kansas AG Posts Proposed Bill to Fix 'Hard 50' Law
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Attorney General Derek Schmidt is releasing the language he wants legislators to consider when addressing the Kansas Hard 50 law during a special session next month. The Republican said Monday that he has completed a draft of the bill to consider during the special session, which starts September 3. The Hard 50 law allows convicted murderers to be sentenced to at least 50 years in prison with no chance of parole. A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision questioned the constitutionality of such sentences. Schmidt's proposal would allow jurors to hear evidence to determine if a person is should be sentenced to a minimum 50 years in prison. Currently, such sentences are made only by judges.
Kansas Lawmakers Criticize Federal Health Care Law
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Members of the Kansas congressional delegation seem to agree the coming weeks are critical to the future of the federal health care law. But the all-Republican delegation is less certain about how to stop it. Senator Pat Roberts wants to delay the law's October implementation. He told a meeting of the Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association on Monday it's difficult to take away a subsidy once it's been granted. Representative Mike Pompeo says the tactic of defunding the law by refusing to pass an appropriations bill may shut down government for a few days. But Pompeo also said he's unsure if the tactic would be useful if Republicans fold on the issue a week later. U.S. Representative Lynn Jenkins says Congress will probably pass another continuing resolution to fund government.
Changes to Kansas Child Support System Questioned
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Private contractors are preparing to take over operations of the Kansas child support system from a state agency even as questions remain about how the contracts were awarded. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the private companies will begin administering the system in the coming weeks, taking over operations from Department for Children and Family Services employees who were stationed in court trustee offices statewide. Contracts were awarded in June on a competitive bid process, though Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka says one contractor seemed to have an inside connection to landing the contracts. A spokeswoman for the Department for Children and Families says those who provide child support services are part of a small industry that has close ties to government.
Analysis: Kansas Lawmaker Moves to Stem Judicial Appointment Criticism
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Governor Sam Brownback's deadline for nominating a new Kansas Court of Appeals judge is nearing. A key GOP legislator is making a very public effort to counter criticism that the Senate's consideration of the appointment will be rushed. Brownback must name his pick for a new seat on the state's second-highest court by August 29. Five days later, lawmakers will convene a special session and will be legally obligated to review pending appointments. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff King promises that the prospective Court of Appeals judge will be the most-thoroughly vetted nominee in decades. The Independence Republican had three prominent legal scholars draft a six-page questionnaire for the nominee that demands a detailed career history, disclosures of past legal conflicts of interest and documents from public appearances.
Wichita Attorney to Seek Resigning Lawmaker's Seat
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A longtime Wichita attorney says he wants to replace Representative Nile Dillmore in the Kansas House after Dillmore steps down next month. John Carmichael is a Democrat, like Dillmore. Democratic precinct committee members in Dillmore's 92nd House District in northwest Wichita will decide during the fall who will fill the seat through the end of Dillmore's current, two-year term. But Carmichael says he's also preparing to run for the seat in 2014. Carmichael is secretary of the Kansas Democratic Party and a former member of the Kansas Human Rights Commission. Dillmore has announced that he's resigning after the Legislature's special session, which convenes September 3 so that lawmakers can rewrite a law allowing convicted murderers to be sentenced to at least 50 years in prison.
Kansas Jobless Rate Increased in July
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials say the state's unemployment rate rose slightly in July as more individuals entered the labor force looking for work. The Department of Labor says Monday that that jobless rate rose to 5.9 percent in July, up from 5.8 percent in June. The unemployment rate was 5.8 percent in July 2012. The rate increase is a result of fewer people working in Kansas at the same time there are more people in the available labor pool. The state added 800 private sector jobs in July and has gained 23,300 private sector jobs over the past 12 months. However, manufacturing shed 1,900 jobs in July, the second straight month of declines, which labor officials say indicates weakness in the sector. Professional and business services added 2,300 jobs.
2 Dead in Plane Crash at KC Downtown Airport
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two people have been killed after a single-engine plane crashed at a small airport near downtown Kansas City. Fire Department spokesman James Garrett says the single-engine Mooney crashed shortly after taking off Sunday afternoon from the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport. Garrett says the two people on board were killed. No other injuries are reported. The victims' identities haven't been released. Lynn Lunsford, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, says the pilot reported engine trouble shortly after departing the airport. He says the plane crashed about a quarter mile from the airport. FAA records show the plane was registered to Air McRoyal, of Youngstown, Ohio. Lunsford says FAA and NTSB investigators are headed to the scene. Wheeler Airport, located just west of downtown Kansas City, is used largely by corporate and recreational flyers.
Louisburg QB Killed in Car Crash
LOUISBURG, Kan. (AP) — School officials in Louisburg met with students this weekend after a senior at the school was killed in a vehicle accident. Auston McLellan, a senior quarterback at Louisburg High School, died from injuries he sustained in the crash Saturday night. The Miami County Sheriff's Office says McLellan, who was 17, died after the car he was in went off the roadway after passing another vehicle. The car he was in overturned and collided with a utility pole. KCTV reports that school officials met with about 150 students at the high school Sunday morning to offer counseling. McLellan's classmates have also organized a candlelight vigil for Sunday night at the school's football stadium.
Sheriff: Potwin Shooting Not Accidental
POTWIN, Kan. (AP) — Law enforcement authorities now say the shooting of a Kansas man by his wife was not an accident. A 31-year-old Potwin woman was arrested Monday morning in her husband's shooting at their home Sunday. Butler County authorities originally believed the shooting was an accident, after the couple both said it was in separate statements. Sheriff Kelly Herzet says investigators decided the shooting wasn't accidental after interviewing the couple's four children. He says the children told investigators the couple was arguing when the woman shot her husband. The woman is being held in the county jail pending filing of formal charges. The children were placed with a grandparent. The 44-year-old husband remains in critical condition at a Wichita hospital.
Ex-Soldier on Trial in Manhattan Homicide
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A former Fort Riley soldier is on trial this week in the shooting death of a Kansas National Guardsman outside a Manhattan motorcycle club. WIBW-TV reports that a jury was chosen Monday in Riley County District Court for the first-degree murder trial of Daniel Parker. Parker is accused of killing 21-year-old Frederick Beverly, who suffered a fatal head wound early on New Year's Day of 2012 while manning the gate at the "Assassin Street Rydaz" motorcycle club. Prosecutors say Parker opened fire from a passing car following a disagreement earlier in the night with a member of the club. Opening statements in the trial were scheduled to begin Tuesday morning.
SW Kansas Man Dies After Being Severely Beaten
LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — A 51-year-old southwest Kansas man is dead after being severely beaten in a rural Seward County home over the weekend. The High Plains Daily Leader reports that Seward County deputies were called at 8:30 pm Saturday in the northwest part of the county on a report of an unresponsive man. They found Thomas Miller of Garden City, who was flown to a Wichita hospital where he died early Sunday morning. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is helping the sheriff's office investigate the death, which is considered a homicide. Seward County Undersheriff Gene Ward says nobody has been arrested but people were being interviewed. An autopsy was performed Monday morning.
Sedgwick County DA Says No Charges to Be Filed in Fatal Crash
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Sedgwick County prosecutor's office says it's not pursuing charges in a rollover crash that killed a 14-year-old Derby boy. Braxton Kooser died in January after the SUV he was in veered off a rural Sedgwick County road. Kooser, who was thrown from the vehicle, died at the scene. Three other teenagers in the vehicle were injured. The Wichita Eagle reports that Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett's Office says it has reviewed the details surrounding Kooser's death, and that no charges will be filed at this time. Sheriff's spokesman Lieutenant David Mattingly said Friday the case was submitted to Bennett's office last week after an investigation that took nearly eight months.
Wichita School Ready After Fire Closes Building
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Students who arrive at one Wichita elementary school to begin the new school year will see the results of long hours of extra work during the weekend by teachers and maintenance staff. The district had to scramble to find a new building after a fire damaged College Hill elementary school last week. District officials chose to reopen a school building that had been closed and employees worked throughout the weekend to prepare for students' arrival Monday morning. Parents and students met with school employees Sunday to get a look at the school. The main concern is a longer commute for students. The district is busing students from the damaged school to the building, which was called Bryant magnet school before it closed.
MS Company Buys Previously Rented KS Terminal
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi asphalt company has bought a Missouri River terminal it had been renting in Kansas, and says it plans to expand it. Ergon Asphalt & Emulsions of Jackson, Mississippi bought the Wolcott Terminal Facility in Wolcott, Kansas from Tanco Kansas City LLC. It had leased the terminal northwest of Kansas City from 1992 until the purchase on July 31. The terminal currently has a 176,284-barrel capacity, receiving neat asphalt from barge, truck and rail and loading it onto trucks. The Wolcott Facility also moves sulfuric acide, and Ergon says it will handle existing sulfuric acid contracts. President J. Baxter Burns II says Ergon plans to add capability and storage capacity.
Child Protection Center Sees Increase in Referrals
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City center that specializes in interviewing young crime victims for law enforcement is seeing a sharp increase in law enforcement referrals for young victims and witnesses. The center's director says the additional referrals don't mean there's an increase in the number of physical child abuse cases. Director Beth Banker says the increase comes after Jackson County (Missouri) Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker made it clear that prosecuting physical child abuse cases was one of her priorities. The Kansas City Star reports that the center recorded a 78 percent increase in referrals from law enforcement in physical child abuse cases in the first six months of 2013, compared with the same time in 2012. And it had a 59 percent increase in referrals to interview children who have witnessed child abuse.
Northeast Kansas Man Reunited with Pet Alligator
ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — The Atchison County Sheriff's Office says an alligator that was released into a county lake has been reunited with its owner. Investigators say Waylon Saxton was unlikely to face charges after his alligator, named Cletus, was discovered shot and wounded in the lake after he disappeared last month. Saxton says his alligator disappeared during a party at the lake. He says he didn't report it because he was afraid whoever took the 3-foot-long animal would kill it. The alligator recovered from its wounds at an animal rescue facility in Greenwood, Missouri. The sheriff's department tracked down the alligator's owner, who got the alligator back Saturday. He says he'll keep the animal in more secure pen.
Wichita Police Say Body That of Missing Man
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a man reported missing last week has been found dead in a pond. Sergeant Jim Merrick says drivers passing the pond spotted the body in the water Saturday evening and called 911. He says the man's family reported him missing Friday. The man's identity and cause of death have not been released. Merrick says it appears the man had been in the water for some time, and that it's too early to determine how he died or to rule out foul play.
JCCC Opens New Culinary Academy
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Johnson County Community College is welcoming about 700 students to its new $13 million culinary academy. Classes at the Hospitality & Culinary Academy begin Monday. Students will find a much larger work space with five new culinary labs that cook with gas instead of electricity. The college already has the largest culinary apprenticeship program in the country. It's accredited by the American Culinary Federation and is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. The Kansas City Star reports that only 225 of the nearly 5,000 culinary programs in the United States have earned ACF accreditation. The Johnson Community College program is one of only 28 programs that received an exemplary rating. The college's upgrades mean the program can eventually add 200 more entry-level students.
Analyst: Kapaun's Remains Could Be in US Cemetery
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A senior Pentagon analyst thinks there's a chance Kansas native Emil Kapaun's remains eventually will be among those of other missing Korean War troops buried in a national cemetery in Hawaii. The Wichita Eagle reports that Father Kapaun was an Army chaplain who is believed to have died of starvation and disease in a North Korean prison camp in 1951. He was awarded the Medal of Honor in April and the Catholic Church is deciding whether the Marion County native will become a saint. Pentagon analyst Philip O'Brien is an authority on Korean War soldiers missing in action, and he thinks Kapaun's remains were buried in 1954 in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, a cemetery in Hawaii better known as the "Punchbowl."
Seller of Home Where BTK Killed Woman Discloses Past
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The seller of a Kansas house where BTK serial killer Dennis Rader took a woman's life in 1985 says he is disclosing the murder to make sure any potential buyer doesn't have a problem with the home's past. The Wichita Eagle reports that real estate experts think the seller is doing the right thing by letting buyers know what happened there, even though state law doesn't require such disclosure. Rader told a judge in 2005 that he sneaked into the Park City residence and strangled 53-year-old Marine Hedge. The former Park City compliance officer is serving a life prison sentence for 10 Wichita-area murders over three decades. He called himself BTK, which stood for "bind, torture, kill." Rader's own Park City home was purchased by the city and torn down.
Amazon Severing Ties with Online Associates in MO
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Online retailer Amazon is severing ties with its online associates in Missouri because of a new state sales tax law. Amazon Associates are people who write blogs or product reviews then link to Amazon.com. They collect commissions if people use their link to buy at Amazon. The Kansas City Star reports that Amazon blames its decision on to sever ties with its Missouri associates a new Missouri new law that takes effect this month subjecting those transactions to sales taxes. The retailer says it will no longer pay advertising fees for customers referred to an Amazon site after August 27. Representative Jeremy LaFaver, a Kansas City Democrat, says lawmakers didn't hear from Amazon when the bill was under debate in the Legislature.
Folk-Art Installation Grows Near Topeka
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A couple's spat with bureaucracy has led to the creation of a folk-art installation that draws about 2,000 visitors each year to their Topeka-area farm. The Kansas City Star reports that the project started when officials told Ron and Linda Lessman the rusty trucks on their property were a hazard because they live in a flood plain. But instead of moving them, Ron Lessman sank the trucks in concrete and dubbed them Truckhenge. When there were complaints about some nonfunctioning boats on his property, along came Boathenge. Other projects have followed. The latest is a line of fencing festooned with fake Christmas tree branches. It's titled the "Wall of Lame" and dedicated to arts organizations in Topeka that have so far declined his invitations to view his art.
Large Ranch Sold in South-Central Kansas
EUREKA, Kan. (AP) — Auctioneers say a 9,100-acre ranch in south-central Kansas has been sold to seven buyers for a total of $13.5 million. The ranch in Greenwood County was owned by the Frank N. Bills Living Trust. The trust decided to sale the ranch after Bills died in January at the age of 70. The Wichita Eagle reports that the ranch was broken into 16 tracts and sold to seven buyers from Texas, Nebraska and Kansas. The average price was $1,475 per acre. Auctioneer Jeremy Sundgren of El Dorado says it was one of the largest ranches ever auctioned in south-central Kansas. He says the buyers were all owner-operators, rather than investors. Bidders came from seven states. Sundgren said Bills was a hard-working man who assembled the land himself over many decades.
UMKC Program Gets $2M to Boost Entrepreneurship
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The effort to boost entrepreneurship in the Kansas City region is getting a $2 million boost. The University of Missouri-Kansas City's Innovation Center will use the money to create something called the University Center Program. Its goal is to support high-growth entrepreneurship in the region by doing things such as increasing the capital pool for startup companies and strengthening the network of resources for entrepreneurs and small business. Half the money will come from a five-year, $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce. The university said in a news release that the grant is being matched with $1 million in contributions from Kansas City corporations, including AMC Theatres, H&R Block and Sprint. A small business-focused Innovation Center program called KCSourceLink will oversee the University Center Program.