Regional Headlines for Monday, December 1, 2014
Merrick to Remain Kansas House Speaker in 2015-16
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republicans in the Kansas House have re-elected Speaker Ray Merrick to the chamber's top leadership position. And House Democrats turned Monday to veteran state Representative Tom Burroughs of Kansas City to lead them for the next two years. The House's 125 members and members-elect had organizational meetings at the Statehouse to pick leaders for 2015 and 2016. Merrick easily overcame a challenge within the GOP from Representative Virgil Peck of Tyro. The vote among Republicans was 80-16. The GOP will have a 97-28 majority when the Legislature reconvenes in January. Democrats had to pick a new Minority Leader because Paul Davis of Lawrence gave up his House seat to run unsuccessfully for governor. Burroughs won the minority leader's job over Representative Jim Ward of Wichita in a 17-11 vote.
Kansas House Democrats Pick KCK Lawmaker as Leader
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democrats in the Kansas House have elevated a Kansas City lawmaker who had been their assistant minority leader to their top leadership position. Rep. Tom Burroughs won the minority leader's job Monday in a 17-11 vote over Rep. Jim Ward of Wichita. Democratic House members and members-elect had to pick a new minority leader for 2015 and 2016 because Minority Leader Paul Davis gave up his House seat to run unsuccessfully for governor. Veteran Rep. Tom Sawyer of Wichita said the outcome was a vote for the status quo because Burroughs was a part of Davis' team. Sawyer also said Democrats believed Burroughs worked hard this year at fundraising and recruiting candidates. Some lawmakers and legislative aides saw Ward as likely to be more confrontational with Republicans than Davis was.
Union Cites Violations at Topeka State Prison
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - State and union officials acknowledge that understaffing and turnover have caused violations of the contract covering employees at the Topeka Correctional Facility for women and other state prisons. The violations include having probationary officers train newer workers and requiring employees to work double shifts. Rebecca Proctor, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, says the violations raised concerns about security for inmates, employees and people living near state prisons. Jeremy Barclay, spokesman for the state corrections department, says a probationary officer trained new employees at the Topeka prison only once, and said mandatory, forced overtime was authorized since a 2009 agreement between the state and union.
Kansas Farm Groups Gathering as Season Comes to a Close
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The fall harvest of crops in Kansas is mostly in the bin now. Winter wheat planting is done. And calving is still months away. Kansas farmers and ranchers are taking advantage of the seasonal lull this week to come together to socialize, hash out farm policy aims and gather information at three major agricultural conventions. On Monday, more than 1,000 farmers head to Manhattan to layout the roadmap for public policy issues the Kansas Farm Bureau members consider of importance to agriculture. Kansas Livestock Association kicks off its three-day convention beginning Wednesday in Wichita amid all-time high cattle prices. Beginning on Thursday, the Kansas Farmers Union is meeting in Manhattan for three days. The director of the U.S. Agriculture Department agency that oversees fair and competitive trading is headlining their event.
Ranchers Gather for Annual Convention in Wichita
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Cattlemen from across Kansas will be converging in Wichita next week for the annual convention of the Kansas Livestock Association amid all-time high cattle prices. The three-day event that begins Wednesday touches on nutrition, cattle markets and retail sales. Thursday will feature a presentation from CattleFax Executive Vice President Randy Blach. He will analyze the factors behind the record prices along with a prediction for how long that profitability might last. Walmart executive Brittni Furrow is on tap Friday to talk about where beef fits into her company's global approach to sustainably produced food. The historically high price for beef has a down side. Kansas livestock experts are warning ranchers and farmers that the high cattle prices make their herds a prime target for thieves. They encourage ranchers to brand their cattle and install cameras to watch for rustlers.
Spotlight on Fair Trade at Farmers Union Convention
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - The director of the U.S. Agriculture Department agency that oversees fair and competitive trading is headlining this year's annual meeting of the Kansas Farmers Union that begins Thursday in Manhattan. The Farmers Union has more than 20 speakers scheduled for the three-day event it calls "Thinking Outside the Box". Among the headliners is Larry Mitchell, director of USDA's Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration. He is expected to speak Friday on how his agency's programs affect the livestock and grain markets. Other convention topics include agricultural advocacy, history, new farming practices, farm succession and cooperatives.
22 Dogs Rescued from Fire at Lawrence Kennel
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - More than 20 dogs have been rescued from a pet care business that caught on fire in Lawrence. Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical says the fire was reported early Saturday at a strip mall. No flames were visible from the outside when the first company arrived. But the release said that as crews investigated, they encountered dense smoke and fire inside Christal K-9, which provides dog grooming and boarding services. 22 dogs were rescued from the building, but one died. Fire-medical crews, veterinarians, bystanders and others revived the dogs using canine resuscitation masks donated to the department in October by the Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America. The department says the dogs were later taken to area veterinary clinics.
Grave of Kansas Town's Founder Discovered in Missouri
LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) - An amateur historian has solved the old mystery of what happened to the founder of the southwest Kansas town of Liberal. Lidia Hook-Gray was researching on an online genealogy website when she discovered that Seymour S. Rogers, and his wife, Addie, were buried in a cemetery in Carthage, Missouri. Rogers made his way to southwest Kansas after a failed first marriage and a stint in the Union Army in the Civil War. He established a homestead with a sod house that doubled as a general store. He allowed travelers free use of his hand-dug well, earning the title of "that liberal fella." Word got out, and the well became a popular stop. The town picked the name Liberal because of Rogers' generosity.
Judge Allows Publication of 'In Cold Blood' Files
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge has decided that the son of a deceased Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent can publish his father's files from the 1959 murders that inspired the book "In Cold Blood." Shawnee County District Court Judge Larry Hendricks said in a ruling made public Monday that he made an error when he initially blocked publication of the criminal investigation files in 2012. His decision comes in a lawsuit by the Kansas attorney general's office against Ronald Nye of Oklahoma City. The judge ruled Nye's First Amendment rights to publish his father's files outweigh government's interest in maintaining the confidentiality of its investigative records. Nye's father investigated the Clutter family murders in Holcomb and kept records at home. Richard Hickock and Perry Smith were executed for the killings in 1965.
Voting Machines Aging in Kansas, Missouri
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The need to replace aging touch-screen and optical-scan voting machines is looming in Kansas and Missouri. But TheKansas City Star reports that the enormous cost of buying new election equipment has left legislators and budget officers with little appetite for the job. Replacing all the voting machines in just Jackson and Johnson counties would cost an estimated $10 million to $20 million. That's far more than lawmakers have set aside. Election officials say the result is that voters in the 2016 presidential election may confront old, unreliable machines. The Presidential Commission on Election Administration warned of a voting machine crisis in a report it issued nearly a year ago. Johnson County officials have started talking about a funding mechanism, including potentially issuing bonds for equipment replacement.
Quail, Pheasant Hunting the Army Way at Fort Riley
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Hunters have found that what's good for Fort Riley is good for them. The thick brush, rugged terrain and overgrown fields used to train soldiers also provide outstanding wildlife habitat for quail, pheasants, deer, turkeys and even elk. The 101,000-acre Army base is located in northeast Kansas. The Kansas City Star (http://bit.ly/11FxBEq) reports that hunting is permitted on large chunks of acreage on the base where training is not taking place. John Hill is president of the Jayhawk Chapter of the Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation, a conservation group dedicated to promoting upland game-bird hunting and habitat improvement for the birds. The Kansas quail population has dropped sharply over the years. But Hill says he knows he can still return to Fort Riley and stand a chance of flushing quail.
KU Group Wants Tobacco-Free Campus
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - An effort is underway to ban smoking from the University of Kansas campus. Tobacco Free KU says in a report that the efforts started in spring 2013, when student and faculty surveys gauged opinions about the possibility of a tobacco-free campus. The University Senate passed a resolution encouraging the Student Senate to develop a more restrictive smoking policy. The university already bans smoking and e-cigarettes inside or near campus buildings. The goal is to expand the ban to the entire campus by fall 2015. KU got a $25,000 grant from the Kansas Health Foundation to help research the viability of going tobacco free.
Prosecutor: No Charges in Kansas Inmate's Death
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A prosecutor has decided that no criminal charges are warranted in the death of a Missouri woman at a Kansas jail. Fifty-eight-year-old Brenda Sewell of Kansas City, Missouri, was in jail in Sherman County when she died January 22. She and her sister had been arrested two days earlier for possessing a small amount of marijuana. Relatives say Sewell wasn't given an opportunity to make a phone call. They also contend jailers refused to give her prescription medication and were slow to help after she collapsed in her cell. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Sherman County Attorney Charles Moser released the police investigative file exclusively to the newspaper this month. The report showed that Douglas County Attorney Charles Branson found that the correctional officers overseeing Sewell didn't commit a crime.
Annual Seed Harvest Keeps Wild Prairies Alive
EL DORADO SPRINGS, Mo. (AP) - This year's effort to collect wildflower and grass seeds from surviving prairie remnants has wrapped up. The Missouri Department of Conservation said in a news release that staff and volunteers netted about 6,500 pounds of seeds mixed with chaff. The seed will be used to plant about 300 acres of native wildflowers and grasses. Today, only small remnants of the once abundant open tallgrass prairies remain in the state. The habitat loss has harmed several species, including Missouri's greater prairie chickens. Wildlife biologist Matt Hill says native seed harvest is an economic and ecologically-sound step in broad efforts to help prairie species. A key partner in the project is The Nature Conservancy of Missouri, which owns prairie land and provides financial support for seed collection efforts.
65-Foot Christmas Tree Lights Up Manhattan
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A 65-foot artificial tree that is touted as the state's tallest holiday tree is lighting downtown Manhattan. The Manhattan Mercury reports that the nearly $100,000 artificial tree grew by 15 feet this year for the second Festival of Lights. It features lights that change according to the rhythm of holiday music that can be heard over the radio. There's a 6-foot star at the top. Hundreds of people gathered Friday night for a lighting ceremony that included a visit from Santa. The tree is located in the Blue Earth Plaza near the city's mall, downtown shopping area and museum that tells the story of the tallgrass prairie.
Report: Man Found on K-10 Died from Drug Overdose
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - An autopsy report of a man found along Kansas 10 in Douglas County shows he died from an overdose of a prescription antipsychotic medication. The Lawrence Journal-World reports 37-year-old Nathan Thurman was prescribed the antipsychotic drug at a state hospital before his death in July. Lawrence police found an empty bottle of the Quetiapine tablets inside his bag. They say he filled the prescription five days before his death and that the drugs should have lasted one month. Douglas County Coroner Erik Mitchell says Thurman had a toxic concentration of the drug in his blood. The report didn't state if the overdose was believed to be intentional.
Police: Wichita Teen Attacked over K-State Hat
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are searching for a suspect after a teenager reported being attacked and robbed of his Kansas State hat. The Wichita Eagle reports the 19-year-old victim tells police the man approached him during the weekend while the teen was walking and demanded his knit cap and shoes. He says the man struck him in the face when he asked why the man wanted the items. Police say the man took the hat and fled in a white sedan with two women. They say the teenager wasn't seriously injured. No arrests have been reported.
No Arrests 1 Year After 4 Killed in Topeka
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Topeka police believe those responsible for four homicides in the city last year are still living in or near the city. On December 1, 2013, 45-year-old Carla Avery was found seriously wounded behind a strip mall in Topeka. Hours later, three other people were found shot to death. Two of those victims had connections to Avery, who died two days later. A year later, no arrests have been made. Topeka Police Captain Brian Desch believes the suspect or suspects came from Topeka and that someone knows who was involved. He is asking anyone with information to come forward. Desch says police believe the deaths were not random acts of violence. He says one to two detectives continue to pursue leads in the case.
Report: Slow Growth Ahead in Midwest, Plains
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A monthly report suggests slow economic growth is likely in nine Midwestern and Plains states in the months ahead because low crop and energy prices are hurting business. The survey of business leaders conducted by Creighton University revealed an overall economic index for the region of 51.3 in November. That's down from October's 51.8 and barely above the neutral score of 50. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota. The survey results from supply managers are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests economic growth, while a score below that suggests decline.
Wichita Police Seek to Boost Hispanic Presence
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A shortage of Spanish-speaking officers has the Wichita Police Department seeking to boost its Hispanic ranks, but turnout at training academies shows there's much work to be done before the force reflects the makeup of the community. Though Hispanics now make up 15 percent of Wichita's population, The Wichita Eagle (http://bit.ly/12jYy08 ) reports only 45 of the police department's 602 employees are Hispanic, and only about 20 speak Spanish. Police Captain Jose Salcido says the city's Hispanic population surged after a large hailstorm in 1993 brought roofing crews to town to repair or replace roofs. Many of the workers loved what they found, so they stayed and urged relatives to come there, too. Officer Erik Guzman says Spanish-speaking residents often are relieved when an officer arrives who can converse with them.
Sheriff: Kansas Man Shoots Suspect During Break-in
VALLEY CENTER, Kan. (AP) - The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office has arrested a man who deputies say was shot in the head by a homeowner during an attempted break-in. The suspect was booked into the Sedgwick County Jail Sunday on suspicion of aggravated burglary after being treated at an area hospital. The homeowner tells deputies he shot the man while he was trying to break through a window. The homeowner then called 911. Deputies found the wounded man walking down the street. They say two adults and three children were in the home but that no one else was hurt.
Broncos Defeat Kansas City Chiefs 29-16
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Peyton Manning threw two touchdown passes and Connor Barth was perfect on five field-goal attempts as the Denver Broncos beat the Kansas City Chiefs 29-16 on Sunday night to remain alone in first place in the AFC West. It marked the sixth straight time the Broncos (9-3) beat Kansas City (7-5). The victory kept Denver a game up on San Diego in the division race.
Kansas Beats Michigan State 61-56 to Win Orlando Classic
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Perry Ellis had 17 points and nine rebounds to help No. 11 Kansas beat Michigan State 61-56 Sunday in the championship game of the Orlando Classic. Svi Mykhailiuk added 11 points and Frank Mason III chipped in 10 for Kansas (5-1). Michigan State (5-2) got 14 points from both Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice. KU's Ellis was named the tournament MVP.
No. 2 Notre Dame Routs Kansas Women 89-47
UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — No. 2 Notre Dame defeated the Kansas women's basketball squad 89-47 on Sunday at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Women's Challenge. The Irish led 42-21 at the half and things didn't get much better for Kansas in the second half as the Irish pulled away winning the match by more than 40 points.