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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, July 31, 2012

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A political action committee formed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is backing conservative challengers to moderate Republican state senators in the August 7 primary. Kobach's Prairie Fire PAC filed a campaign finance report Monday with the secretary of state's office showing it raised nearly $20,000 from its formation in February until Thursday. The PAC spent nearly $11,000, mostly in campaign contributions to Kobach's fellow GOP conservatives. The donations included $1,000 each to conservatives hoping to unseat Senate President Steve Morris, of Hugoton; Pete Brungardt, of Salina; Tim Owens, of Overland Park; and Vicki Schmidt, of Topeka. Kobach says he's supporting candidates who want to do more to fight election fraud. But he acknowledged that conservatives concerned about other issues are also trying to oust GOP moderates.


Moderates in Kansas Senate Outspend GOP Challengers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — New finance reports show moderate Kansas senators who face conservative opponents in next week's Republican primaries have generally outspent their challengers by large margins. Campaign finance reports filed with the secretary of state's office showed Tuesday in many cases, conservative challengers spent a fraction of what the incumbents have spent on their campaigns. A dozen incumbent GOP moderates in the Senate face more conservative opponents in the primary. The only incumbent who lagged in spending was Senator Roger Reitz, of Manhattan. His latest report lists less than $16,000 in campaign spending since the beginning of last year. His two primary opponents have spent twice as much. In Topeka, Senator Vicki Schmidt has spent almost $208,000 on her campaign. Her opponent, state Representative Joe Patton, has spent about $56,000.


New PAC Aligns Kansas GOP Moderates with Unions

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate's moderate Republican leaders have formed a political alliance with labor unions through a new political action committee that is helping incumbent senators against conservative challengers. The Kansas Jobs PAC formed in June and raised $181,000 by the end of last week, according to a campaign finance report filed with the secretary of state's office. Of those funds, $100,000 came from the Senate Republican Leadership Committee, a PAC led by Senate President Steve Morris, a Hugoton moderate. Another $50,000 came from the main PAC operated by the Kansas-National Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union. Another $15,000 came from a St. Louis-based union group for carpenters. A dozen moderate GOP senators are trying to fend off challenges from conservatives in the August 7 primary.


Kansas Senate President Holds Big Campaign Fundraising Lead

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Senate President Steve Morris has a big fundraising advantage over his Republican primary opponent. Morris filed a report Monday with the secretary of state's office showing he raised almost $89,000 from January 1 through last Thursday. He began the year with more than $159,000 in the bank. The Hugoton Republican's report also shows he has spent more than $148,000 this year on his race for re-election. Morris is opposed in the August 7 primary by House member Larry Powell, of Garden City. Powell reported raising almost $29,000 this year, including $20,000 in personal loans to his campaign, while spending about $21,000 so far this year in his effort to unseat Morris. Morris is among numerous moderate GOP senators facing challenges from candidates claiming to be more conservative.


Casino Firms Give Big to Kansas Senate Leader's PAC

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Companies operating state-owned casinos in Kansas have contributed $70,000 to a political action committee backing moderate Republican state senators in contested primaries. The Senate Republican Leadership Committee disclosed the contributions in a campaign finance report filed this week with the secretary of state's office. The PAC is led by Senate President Steve Morris, a moderate Hugoton Republican. It shows contributions to the PAC from each of the companies operating the state's casinos in Dodge City, Kansas City and south of Wichita. The largest contribution, $50,000, came earlier this month from the company running the Wichita-area casino. The Kansas Contractors Association's PAC contributed $20,000 to the PAC in January. Another major contributor to Morris's PAC is the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce's PAC, which contributed $12,500 in June.


Kansas Chamber of Commerce Spends $231K on Mailers and Ads in July

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Chamber of Commerce has spent more than $231,000 this month on mailers and broadcast advertising designed to help conservative candidates in GOP state Senate primaries. The chamber's political action committee disclosed the spending in a campaign finance report filed this week with the secretary of state's office. A dozen moderate Republican senators face conservative challengers in the August 7 primary. The biggest donor to the chamber's efforts remains Wichita-based Koch Industries Inc., which contributed $125,000 to the PAC earlier this month. That's more than half of the $228,000 the PAC raised since the beginning of the year. The chamber reported spending $130,000 on radio and cable television advertising to influence state Senate races and more than $101,000 on printing and postage for mailers.

Kansas Senate Leader's PAC Extends Reach in Races

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A political action committee led by Kansas Senate President Steve Morris has extended its reach by largely funding another PAC helping his fellow moderate Republicans. Campaign finance reports filed this week with the secretary of state's office showed that Morris's PAC, the Senate Leadership Committee, contributed $70,000 in June and July to the Kansas Traditional Republican Majority PAC. That's most of the $81,000 the Traditional Republican Majority PAC has raised since the beginning of last year. Another $10,000 was contributed last year by the United Transportation Union, based in Ohio. A dozen moderate GOP senators, including Morris, face conservative challengers in the August 7 primary. Both Morris's PAC and the Traditional Republican Majority PAC are allowed by Kansas law to give a maximum contribution of $1,000 to each candidate.


Kansas Revenue Tops Expectations in July

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas revenue officials say payments of corporate income taxes helped push state revenue above expectations for the first month of the new fiscal year. The Revenue Department reported Tuesday that overall receipts in July totaled $457.8 million — about $2.7 million better than the official forecast. Corporations paid nearly $14 million in state income taxes last month, compared with an expected $10 million. Payments of individual income taxes were on the mark at $205 million. The department says use tax receipts were about $1 million more than expected, suggesting businesses are buying more equipment. The overall July receipts came in at $20 million more than total revenue in the same month last year.

Man Charged with TV Station Break-in Will Stand Trial

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The man accused of breaking into a Topeka television station and injuring four employees will stand trial on seven charges. After a preliminary hearing Monday, 48-year-old Ray Anthony Miles was bound over for trial. He faces three counts of aggravated battery and one count each of aggravated burglary and making a criminal threat, as well as two misdemeanor charges. The 48-year-old Miles is accused of breaking into the WIBW-TV on May 23 because he was upset that the station would not do a story on problems he was having with the Veterans Administration. Testimony during the hearing revealed that one station employee suffered an eye injury and two others were stabbed during the attack. Those two employees' injuries were not life-threatening. Miles's trial was set for September 12.

Shawnee County to Spend $2.1M on Recycling Bins

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas county plans to spend nearly $2.1 million to buy 45,000 bins for a curbside recycling program expected to begin next year. The Shawnee County Commission voted Monday to spend about $46 each for 95-gallon bins from a company with a manufacturing plant in DeSoto. The price includes a $4 per-bin assembly charge. Shawnee County, which is home to Topeka, plans to begin curbside recycling early next year for all garbage-collection customers, while raising rates by $4 a month. The county plans to make recycling pickups every other week. Customers who don't want to recycle may opt out, but they must still pay the higher rate.

USGS Study Says Algae Toxins Were in Kansas River 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal study shows that toxins from a large algae bloom in a Kansas reservoir wound up in the Kansas River, a major drinking water source for about 800,000 residents in eastern Kansas. The study by The U.S. Geological Survey also showed, however, that the toxins weren't present in the water once it had been treated for consumption.  The USGS study was conducted last year on the Kansas River from the Milford Reservoir to the Kansas City area. It came after a massive summer algae bloom at the reservoir prompted concerns about the algae toxins making their way into the river from reservoir releases.  The USGS says it's started a program with regional public drinking water suppliers to monitor algae toxins in the Kansas River.


Topeka Police Investigate 4 Robberies in 1 Day

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police say one man is suspected of committing four robberies in one day in the city. The robberies occurred Monday at a Taco Tico, Prize Package restaurant, Dollar General and Smokes for Less. WIBW reports the suspect in all cases was described as a black male, possibly in his 30s, about 6 feet tall and 200 lbs. The suspect carried a small semi-automatic handgun. Police say the suspect was wearing sunglasses and dark-colored shorts. In the Dollar General robbery, he had on a white tank top and a gray shirt on top of his head.

Sedgwick County Inmates Seek $20 Million

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Inmates in the Sedgwick County jail who allege they were sexually assaulted by a deputy are seeking $20 million from the county. The Wichita Eagle reported Monday that attorneys for the inmates filed the two notices of claims with the county commissioners. Prosecutors allege that six inmates were assaulted by jail deputy 21-year-old David Kendall, who resigned in late June. Kendall faces 12 charges, including aggravated criminal sodomy and misdemeanor sexual battery. It wasn't clear how many inmates are included in the claims because the county redacted the names from the notices. The inmates allege Sheriff Robert Hinshaw was negligent for retaining Kendall even after receiving reports that the deputy engaged in illegal sexual conduct with an inmate. Hinshaw said he couldn't comment because of the ongoing investigations.

Family Sues over Death at Country Music Festival

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The parents of a Nebraska teen who died at the 2010 Country Stampede music festival in Manhattan have filed a lawsuit over his death. The Manhattan Mercury reported Monday that Kristina and Mark Kreutzer of Beaver Crossing, Nebraska, are seeking damages in excess of $75,000 on two counts. The lawsuit was filed in late June against Country Stampede, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism; Robin Jennison, secretary of the state agency, and two employees of a company that provided security at the music festival. The Kreutzers' suit alleges the defendants did not provide timely aid to their son, 19-year-old Jacob D. Kreutzer, who died June 24, 2010, while camping at the event. The Shawnee County coroner listed the cause of Kreutzer's death as an unexplained internal injury.


Court Rejects Religious Claim to Name Change

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An appeals court has rejected a Kansas man's claim that the federal justice system's refusal to recognize his new Muslim name violates his constitutional religious rights. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Michael White failed to show it was unreasonable to deny his request to amend all records in his criminal case. A lower court held that replacing the name Michael White with Abdul Hakeem Kareem Mujahid in all federal court records would create confusion. Mujahid is serving 10 years at a prison in Colorado for killing another inmate at the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth. A Kansas court granted his petition to change his name in December 2010.


KDOT Worker Killed in Rollover Crash

ULYSSES, Kan. (AP) — A southwest Kansas man killed in a rollover accident has been identified as a longtime employee of the state transportation department. KAKE-TV reports that 43-year-old Jeffery Harris, of Hugoton, suffered fatal injuries in the crash Monday about 11 miles south of Ulysses. The Highway Patrol says Harris was driving a Kansas Department of Transportation tractor-trailer when it veered off Kansas 25, overcorrected and rolled over in a ditch. He later died at a Wichita hospital. KDOT says Harris was a 14-year agency employee. He worked as a senior equipment operator out of the Hugoton office.


Kansas Soldier Who Died in Afghanistan Laid to Rest

VALLEY CENTER, Kan. (AP) — Residents of a south-central Kansas town have paid their respects to a 26-year-old soldier who died in Afghanistan. The funeral for Army Sergeant Erik May took place Tuesday at a church in Valley Center, followed by a procession to Greenwood Cemetery in Wichita. KWCH-TV reports the streets of Valley Center were lined by dozens of people holding signs and waving flags to support May's family. May died July 14 in eastern Afghanistan. The cause of death remains under investigation. May joined the Army in September 2007 and was assigned to Fort Riley in February 2009. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. May was on his second deployment, after serving in Iraq in 2009.

Groundbreaking Planned for Kansas Electric Line

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new company begins work this week on a high-capacity transmission line it says will create an energy "superhighway" between eastern and western Kansas and bolster the state's wind energy potential. Prairie Wind Transmission plans to break ground Wednesday in Colwich on a 108-mile line that will extend from Wichita to Medicine Lodge and south to the Oklahoma border. The high-capacity line carries about 345 kilovolts. Prairie Wind is a joint venture of Westar Energy and Electric Transmission America. The line is expected to be finished and energized in December 2014. The company says it will provide the first strong transmission path between western and eastern Kansas. Prairie Wind president Kelly Harrison says wind energy projects in Kansas have been stymied by limited transmission capacity.

Report: 66 Percent of Kansas Corn in Poor Condition

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas isn't escaping the suffocating heat and dry weather that have caused substantial problems for farmers through much of the country. In its weekly crop condition report, the Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service put some grim numbers to the status of major crops across the state. The agency said 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.

Heat Suspected in Kansas Coal Train Derailment

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Officials believe extreme heat may have caused part of a Union Pacific coal train to derail in north-central Kansas. Sparks from Sunday's derailment touched off a fire that scorched several acres of wheat stubble about six miles west of Salina. No injuries were reported. KAKE-TV reports the 106-car train was traveling from Denver to Kentucky. Twenty-seven cars went off the tracks, which were being replaced Monday. Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis says extreme heat can cause metal tracks to expand and warp. Cleanup was expected to be finished by Tuesday. Davis says six trains pass daily between Denver and Kansas City. The trains were being rerouted through Nebraska until the derailed train can be cleared.


Chiefs Great Willie Roaf Heads to Pro Football Hall of Fame

 NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Willie Roaf might have missed out on a whopping 11 Pro Bowls had he been 2 inches taller. Fortunately for the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs, Roaf, who loves basketball and says he can still dunk at age 42, stopped growing when he was 6-foot-5. Roaf says if he had been 6-7, he probably would have kept playing basketball in college, but instead took one of only two scholarship offers he received to play football. The former Louisiana Tech standout went on to an honor-filled 13-year NFL career as an offensive tackle, playing nine seasons with the Saints and four with the Chiefs, retiring after his seventh All-Pro season in 2005. This Saturday in Canton, Ohio, he'll be formally inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

3 Men Plead Guilty in Kansas Hunting Camp Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Three out-of-state hunters have been snared in a major investigation into illegal deer hunting in Kansas. 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.

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.

State 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.

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.

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