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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Forecast Rains Raise Fears of More Kansas Flooding

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — More wet weather is on the way for drenched Kansas counties where swollen rivers are raising new flooding fears. Heavy rains that began last week have already caused flash flooding over roads and swamped some homes in central Kansas. But emergency managers are now more concerned about the storms expected to begin Wednesday and stretch into the weekend. The National Weather Service says it has been raining off and on since July 21, with Wichita getting 13.4 inches from that date through Monday. State climatologist Mary Knapp says the drought monitor update to be issued later this week will show the end of drought conditions in central, north-central and parts of southeast Kansas. The drought persists in far western Kansas.


Strong Winds Sweep Through Central Kansas

PRATT, Kan. (AP) — Another round of strong storms took down power lines and trees in central Kansas as residents kept a worried watch on swollen waterways. Winds ranging from 80 to 100 mph were reported Monday night in Pratt and Butler counties. Emergency officials say the winds caused extensive damage at the Shady Creek marina at El Dorado Lake. Power outages were reported in Butler, Pratt, Harvey and Greenwood counties. More flooding is a concern in Reno County, which has had lowland flooding since Sunday. Reno County Emergency Management Director Bill Guy says Cow Creek is rising in Rice County and that water will soon be flowing into Reno County, where some rural residents have left their homes. Twenty-one counties in south-central, central and southeast Kansas are under a flood warning.


UPDATE: Kansas Governor Signs Special Session Proclamation

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has signed a proclamation formally calling the Kansas Legislature into special session beginning September 3 to rewrite a state law allowing judges to sentence convicted murderers to serve at least 50 years in prison. Brownback had a Tuesday afternoon signing ceremony in the Statehouse rotunda. He had already announced the special session, but a proclamation is required to convene it. The governor was responding to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision raising questions about the constitutionality of the state's "Hard 50" law. Attorney General Derek Schmidt had pressed the governor to call such a session. Legislators and prosecutors have said a special session is necessary to rewrite the law and protect public safety. Brownback and top legislators expect the session to last no more than three days.


Kansas Governor Also Sets Duration for Special Session

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has not only set the opening date and time for a special session of the Kansas Legislature, but he's also specified that lawmakers should finish their business within three days. Brownback issued a proclamation Tuesday calling the Legislature into special session at 8 am on September 3 to rewrite the state's "Hard 50" criminal sentencing law. The statute allows judges to sentence convicted murderers to serve at least 50 years in prison. A U.S. Supreme Court decision in June raised questions about the law's constitutionality. Brownback and top legislative leaders have said repeatedly that they want a short special session focused on the "Hard 50" law. And in his proclamation, Brownback called on lawmakers to approve the bill rewriting the law by 5 pm September 5.


Kansas AG Says He's Seeking Consensus 'Hard 50' Fix

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says he's working with local prosecutors to draft a consensus proposal for repairing a state law that allows convicted murderers to be sentenced to at least 50 years in prison. Schmidt watched Tuesday as Gov. Sam Brownback signed a proclamation calling the Legislature into special session September 3 to rewrite the "Hard 50'' law. The attorney general asked for the special session because of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June raising questions about the law's constitutionality. Schmidt's request had bipartisan support from prosecutors. Schmidt said the measure he'll propose will ensure that the "Hard 50'' still can be imposed going forward. But he said it will also seek to apply any changes to pending first-degree murder cases.

Kansas Legislative Panel Named for 'Hard 50' Study

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislative leaders have appointed a joint committee to review Attorney General Derek Schmidt's proposal for revising the state's "Hard 50" criminal sentencing law. The appointments of six senators and eight House members were released Monday. House Judiciary Committee chairman Lance Kinzer, an Olathe Republican, will head the panel. Governor Sam Brownback has called a special session for September 3 to rewrite the state law allowing judges to sentence convicted murderers to serve at least 50 years in prison. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June raised questions about the statute's constitutionality. Schmidt's office is drafting a proposal for revising the law. The joint committee is expected to review it before the special session begins. The members are:
— Senate Republicans (5): Majority Leader Terry Bruce, Hutchinson; Jeff King, Independence, Senate vice president and Judiciary Committee chairman; Forrest Knox, Altoona; Julia Lynn, Olathe, and Greg Smith, Overland Park.
— Senate Democrats (1): David Haley, Kansas City, ranking party member on the Judiciary Committee.
— House Republicans (6): Kinzer, Olathe; John Rubin, Shawnee, Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee chairman; John Barker, Abilene; Ed Bideau, Chanute; Mark Kahrs, Wichita, and Charles Macheers, Shawnee.
— House Democrats (2): Jan Pauls, Hutchinson, ranking party member on the Judiciary Committee, and Emily Perry, Mission.

Large Meth Seizure Reported in Douglas County

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in Douglas County say they've seized 25 pounds of methamphetamine with an estimated street value of $1 million. Lawrence police tell 6News Lawrence that the seizure was made last week. Few other details about the case were released Monday because the investigation continues. Police Sergeant Trent McKinley says authorities believe the meth came from Mexican producers and was meant for distribution in Douglas County. He says cash, cocaine, other drugs and a handgun were also seized. The evidence is being turned over to federal agents.


Large Sinkhole Draws Curious to Western Kansas

SHARON SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) — A sinkhole estimated to be about 90 feet deep is drawing so many curiosity seekers to western Kansas that the landowner is pleading for people to stay away. Wallace County officials say the sinkhole, which is 200 to 300 feet wide, was discovered July 31 in a pasture several miles north of Sharon Springs. Rex Buchanan, interim director of the Kansas Geological Survey, says the sinkhole occurred naturally and is not caused by groundwater depletion or oil or gas drilling. After the sinkhole was publicized, people began driving to see it, often entering the private pasture belonging to Margaret Hoss and her family. The Salina Journal reports that Hoss says gawkers have ignored signs to stay out of the pasture, so barricades were put up on Monday.


Anglers Find Small Alligator in Northeast Kansas Lake

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas sheriff wants to know who dumped a small alligator in a lake, where it was spotted by fishermen. KAIR-FM reports that the group of anglers made the discovery Saturday while fishing at Atchison County Lake. They alerted the lake's caretaker, who called the sheriff's department. Sheriff Jack Laurie says deputies and members of the Atchison County Humane Society caught the alligator Monday using a net, a dog kennel and other tools. The Humane Society planned to turn it over to an animal reserve called Monkey Island, near Lee's Summit, Missouri. Laurie believes that someone had the alligator as a pet but released it when it started growing. If the owner is found, the sheriff says charges including animal cruelty are possible.


Lawrence Man Charged in Store Voyeurism Case

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A man accused of making secret video recordings of people undressing in downtown Lawrence stores will be back in court in September to hear evidence against him. A Douglas County judge set the September 30 hearing during a brief court appearance Monday by 35-year-old Orion M. Graf, a University of Kansas graduate student. Graf is facing 10 felony counts of breach of privacy. He was arrested on July 28 after Lawrence detectives searched several downtown Lawrence stores. Police and prosecutors have refused to release more details about the allegations. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that a court-appointed defense attorney representing Graf declined to comment on the case.


Man Who Escaped From Hutchinson Prison in Custody

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man who escaped from a minimum-security unit at a Hutchinson facility is back in custody. State corrections officials say 44-year-old Mark Edward Lucas turned himself Tuesday morning to authorities in Shawnee County. Lucas escaped Saturday afternoon and authorities had said he likely was traveling to Topeka. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Lucas's latest convictions were for shoplifting from a Topeka Walmart store, where he had been permanently banned for previous thefts. Lucas had made guilty or no contest pleas to resolve 19 previous theft cases before his latest conviction. Before his last sentencing, he blamed his struggles on crack cocaine.


Human Remains Found at Downtown KC Airport

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police are investigating after human remains were found at the Wheeler Downtown Airport. Construction workers unearthed the skeletal remains Monday evening. Investigators have not determined if the remains are male or female. Police say it appears the remains have been at the site for a long time.

Kansas Board to Consider 'Freedom Week' Guidelines

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas State Board of Education is poised to approve amended guidelines for public schools to observe the new "Celebrate Freedom Week." Lawmakers approved legislation establishing the week earlier this year. Proponents said Kansas students should learn more about the founding of the United States and the key documents that form the basis of government. The Board of Education will discuss the new guidelines at its monthly meeting August 13. The guidelines will then be submitted to the Department of Administration and the attorney general for review. The State Board of Education will hold a public hearing later this year. The guidelines apply to kindergarten through eighth grade. They include discussion of the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation and religious references that influenced the drafting of the documents.


Kansas Awards $2M for Recreation Trail Projects

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas agency has awarded $2 million for development of 16 recreational trails projects, including a route through the Flint Hills region. The grants were announced Tuesday by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. The agency received applications for funds totaling more than $5 million. The goal of the program is to improve the outdoor amenities of parks and recreational offerings statewide. The largest award was for $900,000 to the Kanza Rail-Trails Conservancy for use on the Flint Hills Nature Trail. In addition, the Kaw Nation was awarded $350,000 for the Allegawho Project south of Council Grove, while $31,000 was awarded for a B-29 bomber museum trail in Pratt. The state trail grant program requires a 20 percent match from the local entity receiving the funding.


Hutchinson City Council Officially Bans Public Nudity

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — It's officially against the law to be nude in public in Hutchinson. The Hutchinson City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a city ordinance banning public nudity. City Attorney Paul Brown said police sought the ordinance because current laws didn't cover certain situations involving public nudity, generally involving people who are mentally ill. The new ordinance gives officers a way to detain a person and begin a process for addressing mental health issues. The Hutchinson News reports that the law will not apply to children under 10 years old, a nude model in an art class or a breastfeeding mother. Brown says police will not be overly aggressive in enforcing the law. It will not be enforced in back yards, private swimming pools or the locker room at the YMCA.


Kansas Nursing Board Allowed to Hire 2 Investigators

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback and legislative leaders are allowing the Kansas Board of Nursing to hire two additional investigators to help it regulate a growing number of nurses. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the plan approved Monday will cost the state an additional $148,000 a year. The board will cover the cost from regulatory fees it already collects from nurses. The board now has five investigators. Executive Administrator Mary Blubaugh said the board has seen investigators' average caseloads grow from 240 to 455 since 2007. Blubaugh said Kansas has about 64,000 nurses, an increase of more than 12,000 since 2007. She said the new investigators will help the board get closer to its goal of closing 80 percent of its cases within nine months, instead of the current 40 percent.

Victoria's Secret to Feature K-State Branded Clothing

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Fans of Kansas State University have a new way to show their support for the school. Apparel retailer Victoria's Secret is introducing a line of women's clothing bearing the Wildcat logo Tuesday as part of its PINK Collegiate Collection. The Manhattan Mercury reports that the collection includes comfortable clothing such as T-shirts, sweatshirts and yoga pants. Tami Breymeyer, Kansas State's licensing director, says her office received several requests from fans to have the university involved in the PINK collection. The University of Kansas also is part of the PINK collection. The universities receive 10 percent of the wholesale price of the items.


Kansas Youth Minister Backs Out of Plea Deal

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — A former Junction City minister has backed out of a plea bargain involving allegations he sexually abused young boys in his church's congregation. WIBW-TV reports that 26-year-old Jordan Young was expected to plead guilty Tuesday to several charges as part of a negotiated settlement, but when he went into the courtroom he told the judge he didn't want to go ahead with the deal. Young also said he wanted to fire his attorney, which Judge David Platt approved. Young has been in jail since his arrest last August after Junction City police investigated reports of sexual misconduct at Faith Tabernacle Apostolic Church, where Young served as youth minister. Assistant prosecutor Michelle Brown has given few details of the deal other than to say Young faced extensive time behind bars.


Kansan Sentenced in Scheme That Led to Arson Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Manhattan man who took part in an armed robbery that ultimately led to a deadly arson fire has been sentenced to 20 months in federal prison. Twenty-year-old Dennis James Denzien pleaded guilty in May to aiding and abetting a robbery. The U.S. Attorney's office says he was sentenced Monday in federal court in Topeka. Denzien was one of five people charged in a series of incidents February 6th that ended with an arson fire at a Manhattan apartment building. The fire killed 34-year-old tenant Vasanta Pallem, a postdoctoral researcher in chemical engineering at Kansas State University. Denzien admitted driving another defendant to and from a convenience store for a robbery. Two other defendants have pleaded guilty to setting the fire to distract police investigating the robbery.

Crackdown on Exploding Targets in 5 States

DENVER (AP) — Federal authorities are cracking down on the use of exploding targets on U.S. Forest Service land in five states to prevent them from sparking wildfires. Monday's order covers forest and grasslands in Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. Violators could face a fine of up to $5,000 and be sent prison for up to six months. Exploding targets can be purchased legally. They're used for shooting practice and explode when hit by a bullet. According to the Forest Service, they've caused at least 16 wildfires nationally in the last year. In the five state region, they're blamed for starting seven since the beginning of 2012. The largest was Springer Gulch near Colorado's Lake George. It cost $2.7 million to fight. The Bureau of Land Management is considering a similar ban.

Drought Leads to Tighter Colorado Wheat Seed Supply

DENVER (AP) — Exceptional drought conditions and untimely freezes that have left some southeast Colorado winter wheat fields with nothing to harvest have also limited the certified seed supply for next season. The Colorado Wheat Research Foundation predicts there will be enough seed available if farmers get in touch with dealers early. Certified seed growers in northeast Colorado, which got a little more moisture than southeast Colorado this season, say they've been fielding calls from southeast Colorado, western Kansas, and the panhandles of Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas to see if they have surplus certified seeds to sell. Certified seed grower Dan Anderson near Haxtun says his supply is already about 70 percent sold. He says customers are speaking up for seed earlier this year because they're aware of drought problems around the region.


K-State Rewards Hill With New 5-Year Deal

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State has rewarded baseball coach Brad Hill for the best season in school history with a new contract that will guarantee him $1.735 million over the next five years. The deal includes an average compensation of $292,000 and retention incentives of $125,000 if he remains coach through the 2015 season and $150,000 through the life of the contract. The new contract replaces a five-year pact Hill signed after the 2010 season, and it includes additional pay for appearances in the Big 12 championship and NCAA tournament. The Wildcats won a school-record 45 games last season and their first regular-season league title in 80 years. They advanced to the super regionals, where they were eliminated by Oregon State, one game shy of making the College World Series.


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