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Headlines for Monday, July 13, 2015

National Weather Service Issues Excessive Heat Warnings for Parts of Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning for much of northeastern Kansas as high temperatures mix with abundant moisture in the air to create dangerous conditions. Heat advisories and warnings remain in effect until 9 pm. The weather service says temperatures are expected to be in the upper 90s, with heat indices soaring as high as 116 degrees. A swath of counties in northeast Kansas and northwest Missouri was expected to have the hottest conditions. High temperatures are expected to drop to the mid to lower 90s starting on Tuesday.


Judicial Council to Study Revisions to Kansas Records Law 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas council that reviews legal issues plans to study expanding the state's Open Records Act to cover officials' emails about public business on private accounts. The Kansas Judicial Council says it is forming a committee that will hold four monthly meetings starting in August. The chairmen of the Kansas House and Senate Judiciary committees requested the study. The issue arose following disclosures that Budget Director Shawn Sullivan used a private email account at least twice in December to circulate details about potential budget proposals. Governor Sam Brownback later acknowledged conducting public business through private emails. The records law doesn't cover communications with private accounts or devices, even those concerning government business. State and local agencies don't have to disclose their contents to the public.


Lawmakers Question Kansas Policy on Tax Credit Information 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials say a longstanding policy that keeps secret the names of many tax credit recipients is intended to protect taxpayers' privacy and has spanned the terms of several governors, Republican and Democrat. Critics say the policy is the result of a broadly interpreted statute that allows the Revenue Department to release statistics related to tax policy but forbids it from releasing individual taxpayers' information. The Wichita Eagle reports that opponents of the current policy point to Missouri, where copious details of tax credits and recipients are available online and don't appear to have had any negative impact on the business climate. Under Kansas law, the identities of those receiving tax credits — and the amount of tax credits, themselves — are withheld if fewer than five tax filers take advantage of them.


Email: Kansas Not Accepting Tax Returns of Same-Sex Couples
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An email from a Kansas Department of Revenue official says the department hasn't started accepting joint tax returns from same-sex couples, despite earlier comments from the attorney general's office. The Wichita Eagle reports that Richard Cram, policy director for the Revenue Department, said in an email the department's waiting for instructions from Governor Sam Brownback's office before accepting joint tax returns from same sex couples. Cram said he's hoping for instructions from the governor's office early this week. Two assistant attorneys general argued in a legal brief last week that a federal lawsuit against the state should be dismissed because state agencies are recognizing same-sex marriages. Jeannine Koranda, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Revenue, would not clarify whether joint tax returns are currently being accepted in Kansas.


Kansas Supreme Court Upholds Man's Murder Conviction

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has upheld the first-degree murder and assault convictions of a man prosecutors say was involved in a fatal Wichita shooting in 2009. The court upheld Michael Reed's convictions on Friday for the death of 33-year-old Vincent "Vinny" Barnes. Reed had asserted that jurors should have never heard the victim's last words, which authorities say linked Reed to the killing. Reed was given a life sentence.According to authorities, Reed, along with his brother Robert and another man, were celebrating Robert's bachelor party when the Michael attempted to contact Barnes to buy cocaine. Police say the three men went to Barnes' apartment after he hung up on them and refused to take any more of their calls. Court records say Robert Reed shot Barnes during an argument.


More Kansas Teachers Leaving State or Retiring

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is seeing a surge this summer of teachers leaving for jobs in other states, while many more are deciding to retire early or get out of education altogether. The exodus comes amid a backdrop of cuts in classroom spending, uncertain school financing and eroding job protections. The Kansas State Board of Education will hear a presentation Tuesday on "exit trend data" for this past school year. Preliminary numbers are already raising alarm. According to data released by Kansas State Department of Education, at least 3,720 Kansas teachers have left the state, retired or taken jobs outside of education after this past school year, a huge jump from the 2,150 who did so just a couple of years ago.


State Board Expected to Vote on Unlicensed Teacher Proposal  

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A measure that would allow some Kansas school districts to hire unlicensed people to fill teaching positions is set to go before the state education board this week. Supporters of the measure say that it would help address teacher shortages, but opponents say that opening classrooms to unlicensed teachers would be bad for students and a slippery slope for education. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Kansas State Board of Education is expected to vote on Tuesday. The proposal would apply to the state's six innovative districts, which are Blue Valley, Concordia, Hugoton, Kansas City, Marysville and McPherson. The coalition was established in 2013 by state lawmakers to allow a small group of districts to work outside some of the state's educational red tape.


Federal Judge Says Kansas Must Release Report on Boy's Death
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge says a Kansas agency must release the results of its internal investigation into the death of a 4-year-old northeast Kansas boy. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth Gale rejected an argument from the Department for Children and Families that its investigative report and other documents should be kept secret. The ruling Friday comes as part of a federal lawsuit against DCF brought by Naomi Boone, the mother of 4-year-old Mekhi Boone. The child died in 2013 at the hands of his father, Lee Davis, who's serving nearly 20 years for second-degree murder. Boone contends the child shouldn't have been placed with his father. The judge's ruling gives DCF 30 days to comply. A DCF spokeswoman says the agency doesn't comment on pending litigation.


Investigation into KU Sexual Assault Complaint Policy Still Unresolved 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A federal investigation into the University of Kansas for its handling of a sexual assault complaint is still unresolved amid a national backlog of cases. The U.S. Education Department released a list in May 2014 that showed colleges that were under investigation. At that time, there were 55 open investigations nationwide. The number has since increased to 134. A department spokesman says 11 cases have been resolved since May 2014. The department says it doesn't comment on individual cases. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that a spokeswoman says the school is cooperating with the department but declined to say more.


Democratic Candidates Address National Hispanic Group in KC

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Thousands of Hispanic activists gathered in Kansas City, Missouri for the annual convention of the National Council of La Raza -- the nation's largest Hispanic advocacy group. The four-day convention started Saturday and continues through tomorrow (TUE) at Bartle Hall. Three Democratic presidential candidates: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley spoke to the group today (MON).  Missouri Governor Jay Nixon welcomed the group on Saturday, saying he would veto a measure that would prevent illegal immigrants from receiving money under a state scholarship program.  


Report: Most Kansas Students Get Less Than 20 Minutes of Recess

A new survey shows 63 percent of Kansas elementary students have 20 minutes or less for daily recess and only 41 percent of schools have policies prohibiting it from being withheld as a punishment. The survey will be presented Wednesday during the Kansas Board of Education meeting in Topeka. It was conducted in fall 2014, with 490 Kansas physical education teachers responding. The Kansas State Department of Education collaborated on the report with the Kansas Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. The survey also found that 61 percent of students don't have lunch recess before eating. Research has shown that students eat healthier when they have a pre-lunch recess. Concerns have arisen nationally that schools are devoting less time to recess.


University of Kansas Lets Freshmen Choose Tuition Plan

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas has a new tuition option for freshmen. The university says it will let freshmen decide whether to lock in tuition costs over four years or to gamble that yearly rates won't increase dramatically. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the tuition compact is intended to protect incoming students from sudden sharp increases in tuition by starting with a higher rate but limiting increases for four years. Beginning this fall, freshmen will be able to decide whether to sign the four-year deal or continue to pay tuition yearly.


Wichita Exploring Gray Water Options

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita officials are working to get local businesses to consider manufacturing uses for treated sewer water the city would otherwise dump into the Arkansas River. The Wichita Eagle reports city officials want Wichita's big commercial water users to use treated sewer water in the manufacturing process. Alan King, city public works director, says commercial use of gray water is part of the city's long-range water conservation plan. He says rate structure and infrastructure are the two major challenges for using gray water, because switching some large customers to cheaper gray water would mean the city would lose some revenue. So until growth catches back up, the city would have to find ways to not pass on the cost to ratepayers.


Wichita Animal Control Officers Seek Home for Alligator 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita animal control officials are trying to figure out what to do with a 3-foot alligator that turned up in a local yard and gave its eventual captors all sorts of fits. The Wichita Eagle reports that the reptile was discovered Friday night and took five law enforcement officers to subdue. Police spokesman Lieutenant James Espinoza says the alligator did not belong to the people who live at the home where it was found. Police believe it was being kept as a pet until its owner didn't want it anymore and dumped it in the yard. Espinoza says the animal was pretty aggressive toward police and animal control officers. It's being kept at the animal shelter in a cage designed to hold alligators.


Police Officer Praised for Handling of Shoplifting Case

ROELAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City police officer says he's amazed by the public's response to his actions while handling a shoplifting call at a local retail store. The Star reports that Roeland Park officer Mark Engravalle responded Monday to a Wal-Mart after a woman and juvenile were caught shoplifting. He says most calls to the store are for people stealing jewelry, cosmetics and electronics, but this time the suspect's haul consisted of diapers and baby wipes. Engravalle was so touched by the sight of the homeless widow's crying, dirty, barefoot daughters that instead of hauling the woman off to jail, he sent the girls to pick out some shoes. Engravalle paid for the shoes, along with the diapers and wipes the woman had tried to steal.


Suspect Arrested After Shots Fired at Olathe Softball Fields

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A man has been arrested after gunshots were fired outside a suburban Kansas softball complex. The Kansas City Star reports The Kansas City Star reports that no was injured. Olathe police said several games were in process Saturday afternoon when the gunfire erupted in the parking lot of the Olathe Girls Softball Association. Witnesses gave a description of the suspect's car, and officers heading to the call spotted the vehicle and pulled it over. The man is being held in the Johnson County Jail awaiting charges.


Fundraising Nearly Complete for $70M KU Building

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Fundraising is nearly complete for the most expensive privately funded academic building on the University of Kansas campus. KU Endowment President Dale Seuferling says it is within $3.4 million of reaching its goal of $60.5 million for Capitol Federal Hall, a new School of Business building. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the project's total cost is $70.5 million, with the university paying $10 million for site preparation, utilities and furnishings. Seuferling says KU Endowment announced the lead gift for the building, $20 million from Capitol Federal Foundation, in October 2012. Groundbreaking was in late 2013, and the building is scheduled to be completed in April. Classes are expected to begin there in fall 2016, though it's possible they could start earlier.


Royals Beat Blue Jays 11-10 to Wrap Season’s First Half

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals’ Paulo Orlando broke a tie with an eighth inning home run as the Royals defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 11-10 after blowing a seven-run lead Sunday. Kansas City led 7-0 after five innings, but the Blue Jays sent 12 men to the plate in an eight-run sixth inning. The Royals rallied in the eighth and reliever Wade Davis (5-1) got the win despite allowing his second run of the season. The Royals enter the All-Star break leading the American League with 52 victories. 


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