Headlines for Monday, December 22, 2014
Kansas Law Examined in Dispute over County Board
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback wants state legislators to rewrite an obscure law that required him to fill two newly created seats on the Saline County Commission and have voters fill similar vacancies in the future. A local lawmaker promised Monday to pursue the issue. The Republican governor faced criticism over the Saline County appointments because his office refused to release candidates' names before announcing his choices last week. The dispute also highlighted how the governor fills the vacancies when local voters expand their county governing boards. Saline County enlarged its commission in November from three to five members. Brownback said local voters should fill the new seats. State Representative and Salina Republican J.R. Claeys said he will work with Brownback on a bill during the legislative session opening January 12.
KDHE Says New Virus Found After Resident's Death
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Health officials say a new virus has been discovered following the death of a southeast Kansas resident this summer and they believe it is carried by ticks or other insects. The state Department of Health and Environment said Monday that testing by the federal Centers for Disease Control confirmed the presence of what's now called the Bourbon virus. It's named for Bourbon County, where the victim lived. KDHE spokeswoman Aimee Rosenow said it's the only confirmed case of the virus. Rosenow said it's not clear exactly how the virus contributed to the patient's death. The department declined to identify the Kansas resident who died, saying it wanted to protect the patient and family members. The department said the patient's symptoms resembled those from other tick-carried diseases.
Police Say Train Struck, Killed Person in Lawrence
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a train has struck and killed a pedestrian in the northern part of Lawrence. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that police responded Sunday afternoon after receiving multiple reports about the collision. The train tracks and the intersection remained closed much of Sunday while police investigated. Police Sergeant Mark Unruh said the cause of the accident wasn't immediately known. He said the coroner was attempting to identify the victim who died at the scene.
Prosecutors Drop Charges in KU Residence Hall Rape
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors have dropped charges against two men accused of raping two women in a University of Kansas residence hall during homecoming weekend. The Douglas County prosecutor's office said in a written statement that evidence initially suggested a crime occurred. But the statement said there was no longer sufficient evidence to proceed after more people were interviewed and cell phone and medical records were reviewed. One former suspect is from Lawrence and the other from Olathe. Police said one of the men is a KU student. Court documents had said the 21-year-old men knew the victims and had sex with them without consent. The charges had stated that that the victims were incapable of giving consent because of either mental deficiency or the effect of alcohol or drugs.
Missouri to Increase Minimum Wage
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's low-wage workers are getting a small pay hike in 2015. Starting New Year's Day, the state's minimum wage will increase by 15 cents to $7.65 an hour. The minimum wage for tipped workers in Missouri will rise by 9 cents to $3.83 per hour. A law passed by voters in 2006 provides an annual cost-of-living adjustment to Missouri's minimum wage. The National Employment Law Project said in a news release that Missouri is joined by 19 states that will also raise their minimum wage on New Year's Day. New York will do the same on December 31, 2014. The advocacy group for low-wage workers says the minimum wage increases will boost pay for a total of 4.4 million workers, including 136,000 in Missouri.
Kansas Senator Sees Progress Against IS in Iraq
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Senator Pat Roberts has finished a two-day tour of Iraq and says he's seeing signs of progress in the fight there against Islamic State militants. Roberts said Sunday that he left Thursday for his tour of Kuwait and Iraq "expecting the worst." He went to visit American troops in advisory and training roles, including about 400 from the Army's 1st Infantry Division, headquartered at Fort Riley. The Republican senator told The Associated Press that he believes the situation in Iraq has changed dramatically since the summer, when the Islamic State group captured control of parts of northern and western Iraq. He met Saturday with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and said al-Abadi has improved his military's leadership and worked to unify Islamic groups in the past 100 days.
Kansas Senator Skeptical of Obama Moves on Cuba
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Senator Pat Roberts is skeptical of President Barack Obama's decision to restore diplomatic ties with Cuba and suggested the result is only a "public relations change." The Republican senator said Sunday that the Democratic president needs to consult Congress on changing U.S. policy toward Cuba and questioned whether Obama can restore diplomatic relations through executive actions. Roberts said failing to consult with Congress only will "poison the well." The senator also said he doesn't think Cuban President Raul Castro or his older-brother and longtime Cuban dictator Fidel Castro have changed in not respecting individual freedoms. Roberts said the U.S. is supposed to stand for those freedoms. Roberts said he doesn't know what's being gained from Obama's actions "except a public relations change."
Kansas Man Receives National Heroism Award
PITTSBURGH (AP) — A Kansas man is one of this year's Carnegie Hero award recipients. Nineteen people across the country are being honored with medals and cash for risking their lives for others. They include Paul Mongiello of Overland Park, who rescued two workers from a natural gas explosion last year at a Kansas City restaurant. The blast in February 2013 killed a waitress at JJ's Restaurant and injured more than a dozen other people. The Carnegie Hero awards are named for Pittsburgh steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. He was inspired by stories of heroism during a coal mine disaster that killed 181 people, including a miner and an engineer who died trying to rescue others.
Topeka Man Gets "Hard 50" for Murder
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Topeka man has received a "Hard 50'' sentence for murder. Troy Robinson must serve 50 years in prison for the murder of Oma Bennett before he's eligible for a parole hearing. Bennett was stabbed to death in her Topeka apartment two years ago.
Kansas Mulling Response to Legal Pot in Colorado
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas hasn't decided whether to join a lawsuit filed by other states against Colorado over its legalization of marijuana even though the two states share a border. Spokeswoman Jennifer Rapp said Friday that Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has been considering legal action against Colorado for months. But she said in an email that his office is still weighing its options. Nebraska and Oklahoma filed a lawsuit Thursday with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to declare Colorado's legalization of marijuana unconstitutional. They argue it's a public safety issue. They're seeking to prevent Colorado from enforcing an initiative approved by voters in 2012 to legalize marijuana despite federal laws against it.
Authorities Investigate Death at Shooting Range
OGDEN, Kan. (AP) — Police are investigating a death at a shooting range in Kansas. The Manhattan Mercury reports that police and other emergency personnel responded Saturday night to a call at Ogden's Best Guns and Gun Range. Witnesses said there was a gun-related incident inside the gun range area. Riley County Police Department spokesman Matthew Droge says there wasn't a robbery and that the public wasn't in danger. No other details were immediately available.
Douglas County Prepares for Mail-Ballot Election
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Officials are preparing for the first ever mail-ballot election in Douglas County. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the election will determine the level of funding Lawrence schools will receive. School officials are seeking to recoup about $1.4 million of funding by keeping the local option budget at its current level. A local option budget represents funding that is raised by local property taxes for school districts. The size of a district's local option budget can be no larger than 33 percent of its general operating fund, which in Lawrence's case is about $72.2 million. At a cost of $100,000, the Lawrence district will mail the ballots to registered voters January 7. School officials are hoping residents don't mistake the mail-in ballots for junk mail.
Driving Permits Sought for Immigrants in US Illegally
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The city of Wichita plans to lobby the state Legislature next year to allow people in the country illegally to receive a driver's permit. The permits could not be used for airport security or as identification to vote. But they could be used to obtain car insurance. The Wichita City Council voted Tuesday to include the measure as part of its agenda for the upcoming legislative session. The Wichita Eagle reports supporters say the permits would make it easier for immigrants to find work and would protect the public from being in accidents with people who don't have insurance. Representative Ponka-We Victors, a Democrat from Wichita, introduced a similar bill last session, but it didn't get a hearing.
People Shot, 1 Fatally, in East Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police say one person has been shot to death and two others wounded in east Kansas City. Officers responded to the shooting around 10 pm Saturday. Police say one person died at a hospital. Two other shooting victims sustained wounds that weren't life threatening. The name of the victim wasn't released. Officers are investigating and didn't immediately provide any details about what led up to the shooting. Police are asking anyone with information to come forward.
Mother Seeks Resentencing in Deadly Arson Fire
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former Johnson County physician who killed two of her children in an arson fire wants a new sentencing hearing. The Kansas City Star reports that Debora Green argues that her life sentence with no chance of parole for 40 years is unconstitutional. Green, now 63, was found guilty of starting the 1995 fire that engulfed her Prairie Village home. A number of Kansas inmates are seeking to be resentenced after a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found that the kind of sentence Green received must be considered by a jury. Green's sentence was imposed solely by a judge. Since the ruling, the Kansas Supreme Court has reversed several murder sentences that were decided by judges, not juries. A hearing on Green's motion is scheduled for January 22nd.
Service Remembers Homeless Who Have Died in Wichita
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita religious and nonprofit leaders are remembering the homeless people who died this past year in the city. The Wichita Eagle reports that more than 50 people attended a memorial service Sunday night at St. James Episcopal Church. Some attendees brought bouquets of flowers. Pastor Rick Cline says it doesn't matter what a person's life circumstances were or how they died. Cline, who is also a spokesman for the Advocates to End Chronic Homelessness, said they are "all human beings and deserve respect and dignity." Anne Corriston, executive director of Inter-Faith Ministries in Wichita, said that in years past, the homeless memorial service remembered as many as nine or 10 people who had died. This year five were remembered. The names are received through various work or homeless agencies.
Christmas Tree Veterans Mark 55 Years in Business
ST. JOHN, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas family is celebrating 55 years in the Christmas tree business. The Wichita Eagle reports that the scent of fresh-cut trees, swags and wreaths hangs in the air at the Delp Christmas Tree Farm. Four generations of families have come to select Christmas trees at the St. John business. Cecil and Ruby Delp started the farm in 1959 and were founding members of the Kansas State Christmas Tree Growers Association. The idea to plant trees came to Cecil Delp after he noticed how well Ponderosa pine did in Stafford County shelterbelts. Delp's son, Cecil, said his father loved trees. Cecil and Ruby both died in 1997 after 65 years of marriage. Today, the farm has 20 acres and 13,000 trees in seven varieties.