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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Davis Announces Candidacy for KS Governor

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democrat Paul Davis is officially entering the 2014 Kansas governor's race, announcing his plans to challenge Republican Governor Sam Brownback. Davis, the House minority leader and a Lawrence attorney, announced his plans Tuesday through social media. It is Davis's first attempt at being elected to a statewide office. In an online video announcing his candidacy, Davis says he wants to focus on education, protecting the middle class and rewarding hard work in Kansas. He's says "It's time to set things right" in Topeka. The 41-year-old Davis announced earlier this summer that he was forming an exploratory committee to consider a campaign. He has been in the Kansas House since 2003. Former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius is scheduled to appear at a reception for Davis on Thursday in Mission Hills.


Former GOP Veep Nominee to Help KS Gov's Campaign

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan will be in Kansas next week to attend Republican fundraisers for Governor Sam Brownback's re-election campaignThe Lawrence Journal-World reports that the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee will headline events on September 25 at the Wichita Petroleum Club and at a private home in Mission Hills. Ryan was Brownback's legislative director for two years in the 1990s when Brownback served in the U.S. Senate. The fundraisers will benefit Brownback's 2014 re-election campaign and the Kansas Republican Party. Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis, of Lawrence, is the only announced Democratic candidate for governor. Ryan and running mate Mitt Romney lost their White House bid in 2012, but Wisconsin voters re-elected Ryan to the U.S. House on the same day.


State of KS Plans Events on Medicaid Changes for Disabled

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials have scheduled four meetings next week to discuss how people with disabilities will be affected when they're included in an overhaul of the state's Medicaid program. The Department for Aging and Disability Services says the meetings are intended for physically and developmentally disabled Kansans, their families and groups that provided services. The sessions will give those parties a chance to ask questions about the overhaul. The meetings are September 23 at Fort Hays State University, September 24 at Wichita State University, September 25 at Parsons High School and September 26 at Olathe City Hall. Kansas has already turned over most of its $3 billion-a-year Medicaid program to three private health insurance companies. But in-home services for the disabled won't be included until January.


KBI Investigating Incident Involving County Sheriff 

SYRACUSE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and a special prosecutor are looking into an incident involving the Hamilton County sheriff. Details are scarce, but Scott County Attorney John Shirley told The Associated Press the incident involving Sheriff Richard Garza was a "family matter" and that there was no physical violence. Shirley was appointed special prosecutor at the request of the Hamilton County attorney. Shirley said Tuesday he did not yet have enough information to decide whether to file charges. The KBI says the incident occurred early Sunday in the western Kansas county, but referred all questions to Shirley. A phone number for Garza could not be found, and he did not respond to an email seeking comment. Law enforcement agencies in the area declined to comment or did not return calls.


KS Board of Ed Votes to Revise Teacher Licensing Requirements

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The State Board of Education has voted to require all Kansas teachers renewing their licenses to submit fingerprints for checks against a state criminal database. Tuesday's 9-1 vote came during a discussion of how to strengthen a law requiring prosecutors to notify the state about criminal convictions of people seeking or renewing teaching licenses. Kansas has been fingerprinting applicants for new teaching licenses since 2002. The new policy would extend the requirement to teachers renewing licenses every five years. State law bars the board from issuing licenses to anyone convicted of sex crimes, child abuse, murder or certain other offenses. Prosecutors are required 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.


Kansas Bioscience Authority Approves New Investments

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bioscience Authority's executive committee has approved up to $1.6 million in new investments for two Kansas City-area companies. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the committee on Monday authorized the new investments, which include $600,000 to Olathe-based Novita Therapeutics and $1 million for Innara Health Inc. of Shawnee. The Kansas Bioscience Authority is charged with investing in and nurturing new companies in the biosciences and life sciences fields. Novita was formed in 2009 and develops medical devices for cardiovascular diseases. Innara Health is also a medical device company. Thomas Krol, director of commercialization at KBA, says the group has moved away from grant-based financing for companies in favor of investing and reinvesting in companies, with an expectation for returns.


Kansas Hospital Settles Allegations of False Claims

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Hutchinson Regional Medical Center has reached a settlement over allegations the hospital submitted false claims to Medicare. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said in a news release Tuesday that the hospital has agreed to pay $853,651. It has also entered into a "corporate integrity agreement" with the Department of Health and Human Services' fiscal watchdog. The hospital used a wound therapy that involved putting the patient in a chamber of oxygen with increased pressure. The government contends the procedure was not medically necessary or was undocumented. It also alleged the claims resulted from a kickback deal with at least one doctor and the company supplying the chambers. The hospital does not admit any wrongdoing in the settlement. Its spokeswoman said one of its executives would comment on Wednesday.


Northeast KS County Employee Arrested in Thefts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Jackson County (Kansas) employee is accused of stealing more than $16,000 from the county. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 40-year-old Janette Lyn Fund of Delia is accused of stealing the money from the county's Landfill and Recycling Department in Holton from 2011 to 2013. Jackson County Attorney Shawna Miller said Tuesday that Fund is charged with 90 felony counts of making a false information and 90 counts of theft. Fund is being held on $50,000 bond in the Jackson County Jail. It's unclear if she has a lawyer.


Former Manager of Electric Cooperative Charged

DIGHTON, Kan. (AP) — The former manager of a western Kansas electric cooperative has been charged with stealing more than $100,000. The Hays Daily News reports that 59-year-old Earl N. Steffens of Dighton is charged in Lane County with theft. He's accused of stealing the money from a co-op subsidiary. Steffens was general manager of the cooperative from 2001 until earlier this year. Lane-Scott provides electricity to parts of Rush, Gove and Logan counties and most of Ness County, in addition to all of Lane County and portions of Scott and Finney counties. Lane County Attorney Dale Pike says Steffens is accused of stealing from High Line Services LLC, a subsidiary of Lane-Scott. Steffens's lawyer didn't immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday.


KS Board of Ed Member Offers to Recite MLK Speech from Memory

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas State Board of Education member who was criticized for using a racial slur has offered to recite Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech at a public discussion. Steve Roberts, a Republican from Overland Park, said Monday he's offered to recite King's famous speech from memory at the event Friday. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the event is being organized by Topeka activist Sonny Scroggins to discuss the "N-word" and free speech. Roberts drew criticism in May after he used the racial epithet at a state board meeting during a discussion on African-American history. Roberts said during that discussion that it was the 50th anniversary of King's Letter from Birmingham Jail and that King had used the "N-word" in his letter.

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 about preventing explosions from grain dust at mills and elevators. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced the award. 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 deadly ones at Haysville and Atchison. K-State received a $120,000 OSHA grant for similar training last year.


Planned KC-Area Ikea Store to Have Geothermal System

MERRIAM, Kan. (AP) — Ikea plans to use geothermal technology at its new store in suburban Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports that Ikea plans to incorporate geothermal technology into its Merriam store's heating and cooling systems. Ikea, the world's leading home furnishings retailer, says its Denver-area store, which opened in 2011, also uses geothermal technology. The Merriam store is scheduled to open in fall 2014. Geothermal technology involves using a closed-loop ground source heat pump system and drilling 180 boreholes 600 feet deep across part of the site in Merriam. Pipes in the boreholes will form an underground network of loops for circulating 36,000 gallons of heat-transferring liquid connected to forced-air heat pumps. The company says it's committed to sustainable practices when they're feasible.


Major Astro Belongings Go to KS History Museum

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Museum of History now has several personal items that belonged to Tom Leahy Jr., who generations of Kansas children knew either as Major Astro or the weekend movie host in the television show "The Host and Rodney." Leahy, who died in 2010 at age 87, was from Wichita and portrayed Major Astro in the afternoon show, which first ran from 1962 to 1973. Leahy reprised the character for a short time in 1985. Leahy created Major Astro in large part because of America's focus at the time on outer space and astronauts. The Wichita Eagle reports that Leahy's widow, Wilma, has donated four boxes of Leahy's personal items and a painting to the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka.


KC School Officials Request Accreditation Upgrade

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City school district says it is showing rapid improvement and wants Missouri education officials to upgrade it from unaccredited to provisionally accredited. Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent R. Stephen Green presented his argument Tuesday to the Missouri State Board of Education. Green highlighted Kansas City's finances and improvement on school performance reports. The difference between unaccredited and provisionally accredited can be significant for a school system. Missouri law lets students transfer from unaccredited district to accredited school systems, and unaccredited districts also can face a state intervention. Kansas City became unaccredited in 2012. The Missouri State Board of Education took no immediate action on Kansas City's request. Board President Peter Herschend says the decision is not easy and could take at least a couple of months.


Wichita Police Investigate Baby's Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita are investigating the death of a baby at a south Wichita home. KAKE-TV reports that officers were called to the home Monday afternoon. A 24-year-old man told police he had taken a nap while holding the 5-month-old baby. He said the baby was dead when he woke up. Police are investigating the nature of the death. Officers also took a 3-year-old child at the home into protective custody.


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 has pleaded guilty 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.

KS Winter Wheat Planting Begins; Corn Harvest Continues

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas farmers have started planting their winter wheat crop at the same time the state's corn harvest has barely begun. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that 5 percent of the state's winter wheat has now been planted. That's about the same as last year in mid-September and close to the 6 percent average. But the Kansas corn harvest is getting an unusually late start because planting was delayed by wet spring weather. The report says only 8 percent of the corn has been harvested, compared with about 50 percent at the same time last year. In a normal year, at least 24 percent of the corn would have been cut by this late in the season.


K-State President to Receive Eagle Scout Award

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz is being honored with an award from the National Eagle Scout Association. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Schulz will receive the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award at a luncheon Saturday in Manhattan. The award recognizes individuals who, after receiving their Eagle Award at least 25 years ago, have distinguished themselves in their career and have volunteered in their communities. Schulz is president of the Coronado Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America and has served on the council's board since 2009. Both of his sons have also earned the rank of Eagle Scout.

Group Trying to Save Historic Dodge City Theater

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — The historic Dodge Theater, a movie and live action venue that opened in downtown Dodge City in 1929, is falling into disrepair after sitting empty for more than 10 years. But a group of Dodge City residents is determined to save the building, where the world premiere the film "Dodge City" was held in 1939. The event drew 150,000 to the city, including Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. The group called the Dodge Theater Foundation is trying to buy and restore the theater. The Dodge City Daily Globe reports that a representative of the group, Mark Vierthaler, estimates the effort will cost $3 million. The foundation is seeking financial support from residents and businesses, as well as applying for grants.

MO Democratic Lawmaker Plans State Auditor Campaign

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri House member plans to seek the Democratic nomination for state auditor next year. Jay Swearingen, a two-term House member from Kansas City, says he'll make an official campaign announcement in October. Swearingen is a vice president of the Missouri Credit Union Association. He was first elected to the Legislature in 2010 and serves on committees dealing with tax policy, professional registration, financial institutions and economic development. Republican Auditor Tom Schweich is completing his first term. He defeated Democratic incumbent Susan Montee in 2010. State campaign finance reports show Schweich had about $294,000 on hand at the end of June. Swearingen had more than $11,000. The auditor's office will be the only statewide position on Missouri's November 2014 ballot. Filing officially begins next February.

KS Man Held on $85,000 Bond in Groping Case

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A 21-year-old Hutchinson man is being held on $85,000 bond after authorities alleged that he broke into a home and groped three young girls. Tyler Lee Ford was charged Monday with aggravated burglary and three counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. Authorities allege he broke into the home Sunday and groped a 10-year-old girl and two 9-year-old girls who were in bed. The Hutchinson News reports that police said Ford did not know the girls. Police say they found Ford's cellphone in the girls' room. An indecent liberties with a child conviction carries a life sentence without the possibility of parole for 25 years.

Justice Department Awards $1 Million to KC Program

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City program aimed at reducing violence will receive a three-year, $1 million grant from the federal government. The U.S. Department of Justice announced the grant Monday to the Kansas City No Violence Alliance. The Kansas City Star reports that leaders of the alliance say the grant will be used to focus crime-fighting efforts on one of the areas with the highest crime rates in the city. The grant for Kansas City will focus on an area roughly bounded by 25th Street on the north, 39th Street on the south, Benton Boulevard on the east and The Paseo on the west.

MO Man Sentenced to 7 Years in Girlfriend's Death

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — A man who shot and killed his girlfriend while he was drinking has been sentenced to seven years in prison. Sean Ray, of Independence, was sentenced Monday after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the February death of 46-year-old Kari Jean Tabor. He will be eligible for parole after five years if he completes an alcoholism treatment program. Court records indicate Ray called 911 on February 9 to report he had accidentally shot his girlfriend. The Kansas City Star reports that the couple lived together for 20 years, and relatives of both Ray and Tabor said they were satisfied with the sentence.


Kansas Agency Adjusts to Voter Citizenship Rule Enforcement

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 says 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 says 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 Lawmaker Disappointed with Revised Driver's Licenses Renewal Plan

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 says 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 says 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 says legislators thought the proof-of-citizenship rule for new voters would be less onerous if people already were providing the same documents to renew driver's licenses.


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