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Regional Headlines for Monday, July 30, 2012



State of Kansas Reviewing Health Insurance Rate Increases

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State insurance regulators have started more closely reviewing health insurance premiums that increase by 10 percent or more. The state started the more intensive reviews of the rate increase requests to comply with a provision of the federal health insurance reform law. The state insurance department has always reviewed all rate increases. But in the past, the more stringent reviews were used for rate hike proposals of 12 percent or more. Governor Sam Brownback's administration strongly opposes the health care law. The Kansas Department of Insurance is led by an elected commissioner, who is not part of the executive branch. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports since the provision took effect in September, Kansas has received four rate filing requests above 10 percent.


Evolution Remains Prominent Issue in Kansas School Board Races

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State Board of Education candidates can't escape questions about how Kansas public schools should teach evolution, even as they stress other issues in their campaigns. Educators expect the board to consider new science standards next year. Five of the board's 10 seats are on the ballot in this year's elections. The August 7th primary will settle races for party nominations in two districts. In the 6th District, Usha Reddi, a Manhattan teacher, and Carol Viar, a member of a Salina-area school board, are seeking the Democratic nomination. The winner will face former state Representative Deena Horst, a Salina Republican. In the 8th District in Wichita, Kathy Busch, a retired assistant superintendent, is trying to unseat incumbent Walt Chappell in the Republican primary, with no Democratic candidate on the ballot.

Douglas County to Issue Its Own Photo IDs for Voting

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Douglas County clerk's office plans to issue its own photo identification cards for voters to use at the polls. County Clerk Jamie Shew was planning to start issuing the ID cards Monday, the Lawrence Journal-World reports. The new system will allow voters who don't have a photo ID to avoid going to the state's Division of Vehicles to obtain one. A Kansas law taking effect this year requires voters to show a photo ID at the polls. Its enactment was advocated by Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who says his office is examining Douglas County's plans. For voters seeking a card, Shew's office will accept a current utility bill, bank statement, government check or other government documents that show a name or address.

At Least 3 Kansas Walmart Stores Receive Bomb Threats

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Three Walmart stores in Kansas were temporarily closed after someone phoned in bomb threats, two days after at least eight false threats were called in to stores in Missouri. KSHB reports that Lawrence police were called just before 2:30 am Sunday to both of that city's Walmart stores after managers received threats from a male caller. Someone called a store in Gladstone, Missouri just before 4:30 am Sunday to say a bomb had been planted at a store in Leavenworth, Kansas. That store was emptied out while investigators looked for explosives but found none. Similar threats were made Friday to stores in at least eight Missouri communities, and a store in Claremore, Oklahoma was briefly closed Wednesday after a threat there, as well.


KS Conservatives Noted as Part of National Trend to Oust Moderates

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Conservatives in Republican states are turning against moderate members of their own party, trying to drive them out of state legislatures to clear the way for reshaping government across a wide swath of mid-America controlled by the GOP. Political groups are helping finance the efforts by supporting primary election challenges to several dozen moderate Republicans in the Midwest and South, especially prominent lawmakers who run key state committees. Two years after Republicans swept into power in many state capitols, the challengers say it's time to adopt more strict conservative policies. The push is most intense in Kansas, where conservatives are attempting to replace a dozen moderate Republican senators who bucked new Governor Sam Brownback's move to slash state income taxes.


Kansas House Hopeful Files to Run as Independent

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House candidate expects to run as an independent after being denied a spot on the ballot as a Democrat because his filing form was lost. Larry Meeker of Lake Quivira submitted petitions Monday to the secretary of state's office with the signatures of 1,300 registered voters. He needed about half that many signatures from within the 17th House District in the Kansas City area to qualify as an independent candidate in the November general election. Secretary of State Kris Kobach's office should know within a few days whether enough of the signatures are valid. Democrats contend that Kobach's office lost Meeker's filing form after it was delivered on the June 11 deadline. The secretary of state's office says there was no proof it was submitted.

Report: 66 Percent of Kansas Corn in Poor Condition

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new government report is putting some grim numbers to the status of major crops across Kansas. In its weekly crop condition report, Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service said Monday that 66 percent of the corn crop is in poor to very poor condition. Twenty-four percent is in fair condition, with 9 percent rated good and only 1 percent rated in excellent condition. About 2 percent of the corn acreage has been harvested for grain, in the earliest start to the corn harvest in Kansas history. Other major Kansas crops are not faring much better, with many stands withering amid a brutal drought and triple-digit temperatures burn up crops. The agency reported 59 percent of the soybean crop is in poor to very poor condition. About 56 percent of sorghum falls into that category.

Train Derailment Near Salina Sparks Fire

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Union Pacific Railroad officials are investigating the cause of a train derailment near Salina. Sparks from the train derailment west of Salina started a field fire Sunday afternoon. No injuries were reported. Saline County Sheriff's Deputy Eric Appel says about 25 train cars loaded with coal derailed near Bavaria. The Saline County Rural Fire District was able to extinguish the fire in a wheat stubble field after about 2 acres burned. KSAL reports the train had 109 cars powered by three engines.


3 More Men Enter Guilty Pleas in Kansas Hunting Camp Case 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A major investigation into illegal deer hunting in Kansas has snared three more out-of-state hunters. The U.S. attorney's office says three customers of a hunting camp called Camp Lone Star pleaded guilty and were sentenced Monday on misdemeanor charges of interstate transportation of wildlife taken in violation of state law. A judge sentenced Bart Stelly of Arnaudville, Louisiana; Ryan Pinkston of Center, Texas; and Tim Metcalf of Lafayette, Louisiana, to probation. They must also pay fines and restitution. The government says 25 people have now been sentenced for activities of the hunting camp near the south-central town of Coldwater. Plea hearings are scheduled later this month for three others. The camp's owner and his brother were sentenced last year to 41 and 27 months in prison, respectively.

500 Homes in Hutchinson Lose Power after Storm

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Westar Energy says at least 500 homes in Hutchinson were without power after an apparent microburst from a storm that dropped about an inch of rain in some areas. The Hutchinson News reports tree branches covered lawns and limbs dangled from power lines Sunday morning. Several streets were blocked with branches before city crews came in and cleared the debris away. A roof and shed in the south part of town also were damaged by the high winds. The National Weather Service office in Wichita says the storm blew through the area around 4 am Sunday.

Kansas Man Threatens Utility Worker, Keeps Power

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City man could face criminal charges after using a baseball bat to threaten a utility worker who was preparing to cut off his electricity. KCTV reports the Olathe man confronted a Westar employee at 10:30 am Thursday but never swung the bat. While Missouri has rules preventing utilities from cutting the power of delinquent customers during extremely hot or cold weather, Kansas has no such restrictions. The man says he was upset because he has three children who live in the home and it was very hot and muggy Thursday morning. The utility worker fled the scene and called police. The man paid his bill and kept his electricity. The case has been turned over to the Johnson County District Attorney's office for possible charges.


Sumner County Opts Out of Federal Planning Grant

WELLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — Sumner County leaders have chosen not to take part in a federal grant given to five Kansas counties to encourage sustainable development. Opponents of the grant say it gives the federal government an entry into local planning decisions. Others link it to a 10-year-old United Nations international agreement that encourages efforts to promote sustainable development. The Wichita Eagle reports the $1.5 million grant encourages Sedgwick, Butler, Reno, Harvey and Sumner counties to take a regional approach to planning. Paula Downs, project manager for the grant, says Sumner County's decision won't exempt it from planning decisions made under the grant. She also says the grant won't be revoked because of the county's vote.

Group Hopes to Reverse New Wichita Open-Carry Law

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A group of Wichita city officials and business owners is hoping to reverse a city ordinance that lets people openly carry firearms without a permit. The law went into effect Thursday after city officials determined Wichita's ordinance prohibiting open display of a loaded firearm conflicted with state law. The Wichita Eagle reports the City Council approved the new measure earlier this month after Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said the city couldn't ban open carry. Council members say the 2007 state gun law tied their hands. Business owners are afraid people who openly carry guns will scare off customers, while law enforcers say openly displayed weapons will make it harder to distinguish between criminals and non-criminals.


Petition Drive to Remove Kansas Sculpture Continues

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Organizers say they're close to reaching the required number of signatures for a petition drive aimed at removing a sculpture of a partially clad woman from a suburban Kansas City park. Phillip Cosby, Missouri and Kansas director of the American Family Association, says the sculpture at the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens is obscene and should be removed. Cosby is seeking 4,500 signatures required to empanel a grand jury, which would then investigate a charge of promoting obscenity to a minor. He said Monday he has about 3,500 signatures and hopes to have the rest by August 7. He expects to file the petition September 1 with the Johnson County court, which would call the 15-member grand jury. The sculpture was donated to garden by a group of Chinese artists.


UPDATE: Victims of El Dorado House Fire Released from Hospital

EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — Four people injured in an El Dorado house fire on Sunday are out of the hospital. Investigators say a patio grill may have started the blaze, which spread throughout the home. KAKE-TV reports  the four people taken to a Wichita hospital were treated from smoke inhalation and minor burns and then released. Fire officials say they believe the house will be a total loss.



Bull Rider Fatally Injured at Kansas County Rodeo

IOLA, Kan. (AP) — A bull rider who suffered fatal injuries at a rodeo in southeastern Kansas has been identified as a 22-year-old Missouri man. The Iola Register reports that Justin Jeffries died at a hospital after being bucked by a 1,700-pound bull Saturday at the Allen County Fair Rodeo. Jeffries was a resident of the west-central Missouri town of Cole Camp. Authorities said Jeffries was wearing a vest and helmet when he was thrown just after leaving the gate to attempt an 8-second ride. The bull's hind hooves hit Jeffries in the chest and abdomen. It's the first fatality in the 27-year history of the Allen County Fair Rodeo. Officials of McKellips Rodeo Company said Jeffries was in his first year as a member of the Missouri Rodeo Cowboy Association.

Kansas Judge Causes Stir with Facebook 'Like'

AUGUSTA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge has caused a stir by doing something millions of people do every day — "liking" a post on a Facebook page. Several weeks ago, Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet asked people to click the "like" button on his campaign Facebook page. District Judge Jan Satterfield, a former Butler County prosecutor, was one of a few dozen people who did so. The Augusta Gazette reports that Satterfield's click caught the attention of Lee White, a former Butler County resident now living in California. White has filed a complaint with the Kansas Commission of Judicial Qualifications. White says Satterfield's action amounts to a public endorsement of the sheriff. Satterfield says she's not aware of the complaint and has never endorsed any candidate.

Missouri River Gets Boost from Northern Reservoirs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The same reservoirs in northern states that were blamed for last year's flooding on the Missouri River are now giving the river a boost during a severe drought. With the help of water from reservoirs in North Dakota and Montana, the Missouri River hasn't lost its depth beyond a one-foot drop in some places downstream from Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports the Mississippi River on the east side of the state, and waterways in Kansas and Nebraska, aren't so fortunate. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began tapping into reservoir water Friday after depleting the year's supply of snowpack and rain. Corps officials say there is plenty of water in the northern reservoirs to keep the river moving.

Condition of Kansas Wetlands Deteriorating Due to Drought

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two of Kansas' premier wetlands are in danger of drying up, and wildlife officials say that could be devastating for waterfowl hunters and wildlife watchers down the road. On the bright side, managers at Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge say the parched conditions give them access to the areas they don't usually have when water is plentiful. The Wichita Eagle reports Cheyenne Bottoms near Great Bend and Quivira, near Stafford, are nearly dry because of the ongoing drought. Officials say the conditions of central Kansas wetlands are probably the worst they've been in about 20 years. Bird experts say it shouldn't have much of an impact on migrating waterfowl that will simply keep flying until they find better conditions.

Ceremonies to Note Contribution of Black Civil War Soldiers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A weekend of ceremonies is planned in Topeka to celebrate the contributions of black soldiers in the Civil War. The celebrations will note the 150th anniversary of the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry Regiment. The group of soldiers went into its first battle in Missouri in October 1862. The events will begin Friday with a graveside service at Mount Auburn Cemetery. A living history program will be held Friday evening, and another program is scheduled for Saturday evening, both at Cushinberry Park. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the three-day celebration will conclude with an outdoor church service Sunday in Cushinberry Park.

Iowa Woman Still Missing, One Year after Fire

NORWALK, Iowa (AP) — Investigators are still checking leads but report no arrests in the year following the slaying of a south-central Iowa man and the disappearance of his wife. The Warren County home of Kay and Bill Wood was destroyed by fire on July 30, 2011. His body was found in the debris. The 79-year-old had been shot several times. Their truck was found in Kansas City, Missouri the next day. Seventy-two-year-old Kay Wood remains missing. Police released a sketch of a person who was seen standing near the truck, but he hasn't been identified. Michael Motsinger is an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agent. He told The Des Moines Register that agents are still working leads and are far from calling it a cold case.


Chiefs Hoping Poe Gamble Pays Off

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — If Dontari Poe bombs out, general manager Scott Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel could wind up wearing the biggest dunce caps in Kansas City. The Chiefs spent the overall No. 11 draft pick on an unproven kid who was merely second-team all-league in Conference USA. If the hulking nose tackle rises to stardom, however, the Chiefs could have their finest defense since Marty Schottenheimer's brawny squads of the mid-1990s. Poe and his new bosses are in the spotlight as the Chiefs begin their first full week of training camp.


4 Injured in El Dorado House Fire 

EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — A house fire in El Dorado sent four people to the hospital. El Dorado Fire Captain Max Brown says the fire Sunday evening caused about $350,000 damage and the home is a total loss. KFDI reports two people were critically injured and two others had serious injuries from burns and smoke inhalation. The cause is still under investigation.

**This story has been updated. Please see above.


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