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Regional Headlines for Monday, September 16, 2013


KS Shifts Plans on Driver's License Renewal Requirements 

Kansas Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan says the state of Kansas isn't planning to require people renewing their driver's licenses to produce proof that they're in the U.S. legally. Jordan told The Associated Press in an interview Monday that his agency will instead develop an initiative in which people can voluntarily present a birth certificate, passport or other document when renewing a license. Kansas requires people getting new driver's licenses to provide such proof. State officials had talked about making the rule universaly under a 2005 federal law designed to make driver's licenses more secure. Kansas also requires new voters to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship when registering. Many lawmakers assumed that the election law wouldn't be as onerous if a proof-of-citizenship policy were in place for all driver's license renewals. 


Kansas Lawmaker Disappointed with License Policy Shift

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The chairman of the Kansas House Elections Committee says he's disappointed that the Department of Revenue no longer plans to require people to provide proof of legal U.S. residence to renew their driver's licenses. Olathe Republican Scott Schwab said Monday legislators assumed the driver's license requirement was coming when they enacted a law requiring new voters to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship when registering. The law took effect this year. Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan said the shift in plans is a response to signals from federal officials about what states must do to make driver's licenses secure. But Schwab said legislators thought the proof-of-citizenship rule for new voters would be less onerous if people were already providing the same documents to renew driver's licenses.


Kansas Agency Adjusts to Voter Citizenship Rule 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Revenue has made changes at its driver's licenses offices because of the state's proof-of-citizenship requirement for new voters. Secretary Nick Jordan said Monday the agency is now providing additional printed information to people who register to vote at driver's licenses offices if they don't produce a birth certificate or passport or other papers. The information tells them that they must do so to be registered. Federal law requires states to allow prospective voters to register at driver's license offices, and thousands of Kansans do. In another change coming by early October, Jordan said that if people bring in citizenship papers but don't need them to renew a driver's license, the offices will accept them anyway for voter registration purposes.


KS Job Vacancies Increase over 2012

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Job vacancies in Kansas rose 5.5 percent in the second quarter of 2013 from the same period last year, and state officials say the increase is a sign of an improving economy. The state Department of Labor reports nearly 38,000 jobs remained vacant during April, May and June, compared with about 36,000 during the second quarter of 2012. The state had 2.8 vacancies for every 100 jobs in the second quarter this year, compared with 2.7 percent during the same period last year. Labor Secretary Lana Gordon says the slight uptick shows that employers are confident enough to add workers. The report also says the number of unemployed Kansans for each vacancy was 2.2 in the second quarter, down slightly from 2.5 a year earlier.


Former KS Governor Sebelius to Stump for Davis

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius will be back in the state this week to attend a political event for Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis. The Kansas City Star reported Monday that Sebelius, the current Health and Human Services secretary in President Barack Obama's administration, will attend the reception for Davis on Thursday in Mission Hills. Davis, a Lawrence Democrat, has formed a campaign committee for a bid to challenge Republican Governor Sam Brownback in 2014. Davis is expected to formally announce his campaign in the coming weeks. No other Democrat has announced plans to challenge Brownback next year. Sebelius was elected twice as governor after serving as state insurance commissioner. She resigned in 2009 to join the Obama administration.


KS GOP Committee Opposes New Education Standards

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Republican Party's central committee is taking a stand against new standards approved by the state Board of Education for teaching math, English and science. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the committee adopted a resolution on the Common Core standards during a weekend meeting. The resolution criticizes the standards because they were developed to be used nationally, not just in Kansas. GOP Chairman Kelly Arnold told the newspaper Monday the biggest objection is loss of state control over what is taught in Kansas classrooms. The executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party disagrees. Jason Perkey says the standards make sense and define what students should know to be prepared for college and career training. GOP efforts to repeal the standards and defund their implementation failed in this year's legislative session.


Kansas Board to Renew Discussion on Teacher Crime

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas State Board of Education is reopening a discussion of how to prod prosecutors into doing a better job of reporting felony convictions to help the board weed out problem teachers. Board members plan to take up the issue Tuesday in discussing their agenda for the Kansas Legislature's 2014 session. The issue arose in August as the board revoked the licenses of six teachers, including four convicted of sex offenses against minors. Kansas law requires prosecutors to regularly report all felony convictions to the Department of Education so it can check them against employment rosters. But there are no penalties for not complying. Only 14 of the state's 105 county prosecutors have filed any such reports during the past two years.

Ex-BOE Member Opposes KS School Finance Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former member of the Kansas State Board of Education is opposing a school finance suit, saying school districts don't need more money. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Wichita Republican Walt Chappell submitted an amicus brief to the Kansas Supreme Court this month. He says school districts could save nearly a billion dollars by consolidating, making teachers work longer hours and cutting funding for low-income students. The school finance lawsuit accuses the state and Legislature of underfunding schools by hundreds of millions of dollars. In January, a Shawnee County District Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, an alliance of about 50 school districts. The case since has proceeded to the Kansas Supreme Court.


KS Board of Ed Leaving Its Home of 47 Years

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas State Board of Education is moving from the Topeka building that has been its home since the board was established in 1966. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker says on the board's website that the move to the Landon State Office Building is necessary because the lease on the current building is up for renewal, and the agency has outgrown its current space. The board was established in 1966 when Kansas voters passed a constitutional amendment putting governance of the state's public school system under the elected State Board of Education. It was also the year the Department of Education moved into the Scott Building in downtown Topeka. The board's first meeting in the new agency headquarters will be November 12-13.


Westar to Continue Push for Kansas Rate Increase

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Officials from the largest electric utility in Kansas are vowing to press on with its request for $31.7 million in rate hikes for some customers across the state, including plans to modify rates for low-income customers. Westar Energy Inc. is asking the Kansas Corporation to approve the request, which would shift the burden of rates away from larger, industrial customers. The Wichita Eagle reports Monday that critics of Westar's request say the new proposals for low-income and new startup businesses would expand what is supposed to be a narrowly focused rate request. Westar is seeking the rate increase to pay for $1.2 billion in upgrades to satisfy Environmental Protection Agency regulations. Westar serves nearly 700,000 customers in eastern and central Kansas, including the cities of Topeka, Wichita and Pittsburg.


Meth Lab Incidents Decrease in Kansas in 2012

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says there were fewer meth lab incidents in Kansas last year. The KBI reported 143 meth lab incidents statewide in 2012. The Wichita Eagle reports that's down from 214 in 2011. But authorities say the statewide decrease in meth-making doesn't mean there's a drop in use of the drug. KBI special agent in charge Kelly Ralston says while the numbers are down in terms of manufacturing, there's still significant demand for meth. The Drug Enforcement Administration said there were about 12,700 meth lab incidents nationwide in 2012, down 5.5 percent from 13,390 in 2011. Of Kansas's 143 meth lab incidents reported last year, about half were in five counties in the southeastern corner of the state.


Topeka Police Seeking 2 Suspects in Robbery

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police are looking for two suspects who forced employees at a fast food restaurant into the bathroom and then robbed the business. The robbery was reported Sunday night at a Dairy Queen. Police say the robbers entered the business through a back door, displayed a hand gun and forced employees into the bathroom. They escaped with an unknown amount of money. No one was injured. WIBW reports that both of the suspects covered their faces during the robbery.

Storm Forces Kansas State Fair Midway to Close

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Heavy rain and lightning brought an early end to this year's Kansas State Fair. Fair officials closed the midway early Sunday, the last day of the fair, because of flooding and lightning. However, the Toby Keith concert went on as scheduled Sunday night when the rain subsided. The Hutchinson News reports that many fairgoers waded through a foot of water on the midway while leaving on Sunday. Fair Manager Denny Stoecklein says those who could not use the ride tickets they bought Sunday could use them next year. And anyone who bought a wristband for rides on Sunday can exchange them for new ones next year.


K-State Gets Grant for Grain Dust Safety Course

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University is receiving a $105,000 grant to train workers and employers on preventing explosions from grain dust at mills and elevators. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced the award Tuesday. Kansas State will use the funds to develop materials and training in English and Spanish on controlling dust generation when grain is being unloaded and handled. Other topics will include avoiding turbulence during handling, better control of bucket elevator operation, and use of appropriate sensors and explosion vents. The dust generated at grain handling operations creates risks of fires and explosions. Kansas has had several grain dust explosions in recent years, including major ones at Haysville and Atchison that resulted in fatalities. K-State received a $120,000 OSHA grant for similar training last year.


Separate KC Shootings Leave 1 Dead, 4 Wounded

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Separate weekend shootings in Kansas City have left one person dead and four others injured. The Kansas City Star reports that the first shooting happened around 11:30 pm Saturday. Police said two people were injured when shots were fired from a vehicle into a home. The victims were taken to a hospital, but the extent of their injuries weren't immediately known. The second shooting happened around 2:19 am Sunday. Three people were taken to a hospital, where one of the victims later died. Police didn't release the names of the victims, and no arrests were immediately made in either shooting. Police are asking the public to call with tips.


Kansas Activist Seeking Grand Jury over Statue Dispute

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas family policy activist is trying again to petition for a grand jury in Johnson County to determine if a sculpture of a partially clad woman should be removed from an arboretum. Phillip Cosby, director of the American Family Association of Kansas and Missouri, is holding a rally on Thursday to gather support for the petition drive. The goal is to force a grand jury to decide if the "Accept or Reject" statue at the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens violates Kansas anti-obscenity laws. Cosby needs 4,700 signatures to seat a grand jury. The first grand jury empaneled in the controversy in October 2012 did not issue an indictment to remove the artwork, ruling that the statue of a headless woman taking a photo of herself was not obscene.


KS Family Seeks Justice in Student's Death

MCLOUTH, Kan. (AP) — Family members of a 16-year-old northeast Kansas student killed in Costa Rica in 2011 are hoping for a second round of justice in the teen's death. McLouth High School student Justin Johnston was in Costa Rica with other McLouth students and sponsors on a nine-day trip to the Central American nation. Johnston was shot by a security guard who mistook him for a thief. A tribunal in Costa Rica convicted the security guard and sentenced him to 15 years in prison for shooting Justin. But an appellate court ordered a new trial, ruling that the trial judges hadn't established their finding that the guard had fired the gun with intent to kill. The Kansas City Star reports that Justin's family is attending the new trial, which begins this week.


2 Burned Bodies in Minivan in KCK

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating after two burned bodies were found inside a minivan in Kansas City, Kansas. Police said firefighters made the discovery early Sunday while responding to a report of a vehicle fire. Police said the contents of the Oldsmobile Silhouette were burned beyond recognition. The identity of the victims will not be released until they are positively identified and their families notified. Police are asking the public to call with tips. No other information was immediately available.

KS Man Admits Meth Trafficking, Faces 18 Years

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas man snared in an undercover sting has admitted his role in a Mexican methamphetamine trafficking ring that operated in the Kansas City, Kansas area. The U.S. Attorney's office says 34-year-old Lorenzo Sepulveda of Olathe pleaded guilty Monday to one count of conspiracy to distribute meth. His plea agreement calls for an 18-year prison sentence and the forfeiture of $125,000. Sepulveda was among eight people charged last year as the result of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He admitted to several transactions in 2009 in which undercover agents bought meth from various drug dealers involved in the operation. Prosecutors say Sepulveda told agents the meth came directly from Mexico. Sentencing is scheduled for December 16.

Kansas Town Rallies for Little Girl Struck by Arrow

BAXTER SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) — Residents of the southeast Kansas town of Baxter Springs are raising money to help the family of a 7-year-old girl who was accidentally shot in the eye with an arrow. The Joplin Globe reports that Jayce Cunningham has undergone surgeries at Freeman Hospital West in Joplin, Missouri and another at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. Mandy Kinsley is one of numerous individuals helping to plan and carry out fundraisers in upcoming weeks. Kinsley says Jayce is expected to undergo a minimum of five surgeries to save her eye. But Kinsley says it's unknown whether Jayce's vision can be saved because there was damage to her retina. Money raised at a weekend rummage sale and other fundraisers will be used to help offset the family's travel expenses.

Former Lyons Mayor Dies at 77

LYONS, Kan. (AP) — The former four-term mayor of Lyons and a longtime editor and publisher of the Lyons Daily News has died. Paul Edward Jones was 77. His daughter, Bethany Prain, said he died Thursday at the Hospice House in Hutchinson of melanoma. The Birzer Funeral Home said on its website that Jones became managing editor of the Lyons Daily News in January 1959 and became publisher several years later. He also held several leadership roles with the Kansas Press Association. In 1983, he was elected mayor of Lyons and served in the post until 1991. Funeral services are scheduled for 2 pm Monday at the First United Methodist Church in Lyons. Burial will follow at the Lyons Municipal Cemetery.

Google Earth's Co-Creator to Lead KU Homecoming Parade

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas says the co-creator of Google Earth will serve next month as the grand marshal for school's annual homecoming parade. The university says the honor for Brian McClendon is in keeping with the homecoming theme, "Jayhawks Around the World." The parade is scheduled for October 3 in downtown Lawrence. McClendon is a Lawrence native who earned his engineering degree from the University of Kansas in 1986. He joined Google in 2004 and now leads the Google Maps team, which includes Google Maps for Mobile and Google Earth. He holds 10 patents for advanced computer graphics hardware and software. McClendon serves on the advisory boards for the university's School of Engineering and its Department of Electrical Engineering and computer science. He lives in Portola Valley, California.


Toddler Pulled from Wichita Pond

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 17-month-old boy has been hospitalized after being pulled from a private pond in Wichita. The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Department says the child was pulled from a pond early Monday. Police say he was taken to Wesley Medical Center in critical condition. Wichita police Sergeant Kelly O'Brien says the boy apparently left the family's house and fell into the man-made pond in the backyard.


Man Arrested After Allegedly Groping 3 Young Girls

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Hutchinson police say a man is in custody after he allegedly broke into a home and groped a 10-year-old girl and two 9-year-olds. Police Lieutenant John Moore says the girls' father chased the 21-year-old man from the home and police later found him walking in the area. KAKE reports that officers responding to the call found the suspect's cell phone in the girls' bedroom. Police say the girls don't know the suspect, who lives within a block of their home. Kansas Department of Corrections records show the suspect was convicted of theft in November of 2012 and burglary and theft in June. He is currently on intensive supervised probation.

Turrell Installation Opens at Spencer Art Museum

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — An exhibition featuring the works of light artist James Turrell has opened at the Spencer Museum of Art on the University of Kansas campus. Called "James Turrell: Gard Blue," the work is a projection of blue light in an enclosed space. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that holograms created more recently by Turrell surround the main work. The 70-year-old Turrell has had a big year. New York City's Guggenheim museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston are all featuring installations of Turrell's work this year. Turrell attended a Saturday night reception at the Spencer Museum on the eve of the exhibition opening to the public. The exhibition is free and will remain on view through May 18.



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