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Headlines for Friday, June 19, 2015


Kansas Lawmakers to Reconvene to Resolve Conflict on Tax Law 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators aren't quite done with their work for the year because they inadvertently enacted two conflicting versions of a new law aimed at holding down local property taxes. House Speaker Ray Merrick's office said Friday that legislators will reconvene June 26 to pass a bill addressing the problem. Spokeswoman Rachel Whitten described it as a technical fix. Legislators already were scheduled to have a brief adjournment ceremony that day. The issue is a new law limiting the authority of cities and counties to spend increases in property tax revenues without getting voters' approval. Lawmakers intended the limits to take effect in 2018. They passed two bills raising taxes to balance the budget. One measure said the limits on property taxes would start in July and the other, in 2018.


Regents Hold Tuition, Fee Hikes to 3.6 Percent

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Board of Regents is limiting increases in tuition and fees at state universities this fall to 3.6 percent. The board's unanimous decision Thursday came just one day after it told universities to revise their proposals on tuition and fees.  Some earlier proposals suggested increases of 5 percent for in-state Kansas undergraduates and as high as 6 percent for graduate students and out-of-state students.  The Kansas Legislature imposed a tuition cap of 3.6 percent.  At the University of Kansas, in-state undergraduates will pay $174 more this fall for a total of just over $5000 dollars per semester.  The board also approved additional compensation for top college administrators. University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little will receive a salary increase of $10,000 and Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz will get a pay bump of about $9,000.


Kansas Jail Inmate Escapes While Out for Dental Appointment

WINFIELD, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are looking for a jail inmate who did not return from a court-ordered furlough in Cowley County. The sheriff's office said in a news release that 19-year-old Candise Renee Cross of Winfield left the Cowley County Jail with her mother Thursday for a dentist appointment, but apparently fled during a bathroom stop on the drive back to the jail. Cross was serving time for failing to appear in two Cowley County court cases, one for interfering with law enforcement and the other for misdemeanor battery. Cross is described as 5 feet, 3 inches tall and weighing about 135 pounds. She has reddish brown hair with dark streaks and was last seen wearing a white tank top and blue jeans.


Vigil Held in Wichita for Charleston Shooting Victims 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — People in Wichita have gathered for a vigil honoring the nine people killed in a shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. The vigil was held Thursday at St. Paul's African Methodist Episcopal Church, which is Wichita's oldest African-American church. Speakers included Wichita city councilwoman Lavonta Williams and NAACP Wichita branch president Kenya Cox. The Rev. Joseph Nixon, who is the pastor of the Wichita church, told those who attended the vigil that praying came with a mandate and that they had a job to do more than just pray. Another vigil is scheduled for Friday at Calvary Missionary Baptist Church.


Kansas Health Department Issues Lake Algae Warnings 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Health officials are warning the public about a toxic algae bloom in three lakes in Kansas. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment issued the public health warning for Chisholm Creek Park Lake in Sedgwick County, Marion Reservoir in Marion County and Memorial Park Lake in Barton County. The agency says activities like boating and fishing may be safe, but people and animals should avoid direct contact with the water. 


Dodge City Lifts Fireworks Ban; Barton County Considering Options

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Welcome rains in western Kansas will mean the return of fireworks to Dodge City and perhaps Barton County as well. The Dodge City Commission agreed this week to allow the discharge of fireworks in Dodge City on July 3-5 on private property, between 10 am and 11 pm. Fireworks are still prohibited on public property and it is still illegal to sell or store fireworks in the city. Last year, fireworks were banned because of drought conditions. The Hutchinson News reports Barton County is considering allowing fireworks on July 3-4. The county commission will consider the issue Monday.


Senate Committee Adds Lesser Prairie Chicken Amendment to Appropriations Measure 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A U.S. Senate committee has approved an amendment that prohibits a federal agency from enforcing protections for a rare grouse. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved the amendment to a $30 billion appropriations measure. The amendment by Kansas Republican Senator Jerry Moran bars the use of funds to enforce the threatened species listing of the lesser prairie chicken. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the "threatened" listing for the lesser prairie chicken is needed because of steep declines in the bird's populations. The birds are found in Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Opponents of the threatened listing say it leads to unfair fees and restrictions on farmers, ranchers and oil companies.


Kansas Universities' CEOs to Receive 2 Percent Salary Increases

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Regents has approved 2 percent increases in the base salaries of the top administrators at five state universities. The board approved the additional compensation Thursday. University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little will receive a base salary of about $510,000 for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The increase is $10,000. Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz will see his salary rise about $9,300 to $476,000. Wichita State University President John Bardo's salary will be about $357,000, an increase of about $7,000. Fort Hays State University President Mirta Martin's base salary will rise by $5,200, to about $265,000, and Pittsburg State University President Steve Scott's salary will be about $263,000, also about $5,200 higher. The board's action does not cover interim Emporia State University President Jacqueline Vietti.


Kansas State University President Giving Salary Increase to Staff 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The president of Kansas State University says he's giving the money he would make in a raise to be used elsewhere at the university. WIBW-TV reports that President Kirk Schulz announced on the university's website he won't keep the 2 percent raise approved by the state's Board of Regents on Thursday. Schulz thanked the Regents for the raise and credits them with backing his K-State 2025 initiative. But he says he's turning the raise over because the university couldn't provide faculty and staff raises too. He says he'll put the amount of money of his raise toward supporting the University Support Staff Awards program. Students at most state universities in the state will also see their tuition and fees increase by no more than 3.6 percent this fall.


Regents Approve Greenhouse for Microbiology Research at KU 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Regents has approved construction of a greenhouse on the University of Kansas campus. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the greenhouse will be used for research by James Bever, a new distinguished professor at the school. Bever is considered a world leader in soil microbiology and is scheduled to begin a joint appointment with KU in January. The regents on Wednesday authorized construction of the greenhouse, which will cost an estimated $645,000. The Kansas Endowment Association will transfer the land to the university. Part of the greenhouse will operate all year, while other sections will operate only spring through fall. Bever is one of five new Foundation Distinguished Professors the university announced this spring.


Ohio Fugitive, Wife Arrested in Kansas Motel

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say an Ohio couple possibly linked to a suspicious Florida death has been arrested at a motel in Kansas. Craig Beam, chief deputy of the U.S. Marshal's Kansas district, says Michael Douglas Evans and his wife, Kristy, were arrested Thursday evening at a Motel 6 in Hays. The woman's 7-year-old daughter was with them and has been placed in protective custody. Michael Evans was wanted in Ohio for failure to appear in court on felony charges. The couple also is wanted for questioning in the death of 46-year-old Joseph Moniz at a Miami hotel in early June. Beam says the couple was arrested without incident after Hays police spotted their vehicle and contacted the Marshal's office. They are being held in the Ellis County jail awaiting an extradition hearing.


Kansas Supreme Court Overturns DNA Testing Denial 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court is again overturning the denial of DNA testing in a second-degree murder case. The justices ruled Friday that a Wyandotte County judge erred in refusing the testing for Jerome Cheeks. He wants evidence from the scene of the 1992 Kansas City, Kansas, killing tested to support the claim that he wasn't the one who fatally beat his wife. In 2013, the justices ruled that a Kansas statute that limits post-conviction DNA analysis to cases involving only first-degree murder or rape is unconstitutional. Subsequently, a Wyandotte County judge found Cheeks still couldn't get testing because he had been paroled and didn't meet the requirement of being "in state custody." In the latest reversal, the justices said Cheeks was in custody when he filed his original petition.


Kansas Supreme Court Upholds Conviction in Daycare Death 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has upheld the involuntary manslaughter conviction of a daycare provider in the 2007 accidental death of an infant. Michelle Bolze-Sann was sentenced to nearly three years in prison for her role in the suffocation death of the 6-month-old baby. The child died July 2, 2007, after rolling off a bed and becoming trapped between the mattress and the bed's footboard. In a ruling released Friday, the state Supreme Court upheld the Shawnee County court verdict. Prosecutors said Bolze-Sann violated state laws requiring napping children under 18 months of age to be in cribs or playpens with narrowly placed slats and protective bumpers. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the justices rejected Bolze-Sann's claim that the state failed to present sufficient evidence establishing that she acted recklessly .


ESU Master's Program Developer Begins Crime Lab Internship

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — An Emporia State University instructor working to develop the state's first master's degree program in forensics science is getting some real-world experience. The Johnson County Sheriff's Office says in a news release that associate biological sciences professor Melissa Bailey is spending nine weeks interning in the crime lab. Bailey is serving as the interim director of the new master's program, which starts this fall with an inaugural class of 25 students. Bailey has been working with the major crime labs in Kansas and the Kansas City metropolitan area in designing the 40-hour program. During her Johnson County internship, Bailey will spend time in every section of the lab. The goal is to familiarize her with current practices so graduates of the new program will be prepared for the workforce.


New Study Ties Earthquakes to "Fracking" Injection Wells

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Scientists say earthquakes in Kansas and other parts of the central U.S. are increasing the most in areas where oil and gas companies are pumping saltwater waste into the ground at the fastest rate. According to a new study published in the journal Science, an unprecedented recent jump in quakes in the Midwest can be traced to the accelerated rate at which drilling wastewater is being injected deep below the surface. Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas have seen extreme increases in seismic activity in recent years. 


Slow Start to Kansas Winter Wheat Harvest Amid Muddy Fields 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas winter wheat harvest is expected to get into full swing by this weekend or early next week amid a forecast calling for mostly warm, dry weather across the state. So far, though, it has been a messy start in the scattered places where combines have ventured into muddy fields. At OK Co-op Grain Company in Kiowa, assistant elevator manager Brett Courson says there are stuck combines across the country there, and some custom cutters have put tracks on their combines to get into fields. Farmers there have gotten a pretty good start, but 3 inches of rain this past week has knocked down test weights. The industry group Kansas Wheat says it anticipates a big part of the state to be harvesting all at once next week.


Bankers Signal Mixed Economic Picture in Rural Midwest

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ The economy has improved slightly in rural parts of 10 Western and Plains states, but a new survey suggests little growth ahead. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says the strong dollar is continuing to hurt crop prices and exports, so farm income is down in the region. The current bird flu outbreak also has bankers worried. Bankers from Kansas, Missouri, and 8 other states were surveyed. The overall Rural Mainstreet index improved to the neutral score of 50 in June from last month's 49.  The survey indexes range from 0 to 100. Any score below 50 suggests a decline.


Eisenhower Memorial Gets Key Approval

WASHINGTON (AP) _ An influential arts panel has given final approval to a design for a memorial to honor President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington, another step toward groundbreaking. The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts voted Thursday to give final approval to Frank Gehry's controversial design. Congress must still fund the project, which is expected to cost approximately $140 million. So far, $63 million has been appropriated and the Eisenhower Memorial Commission is also raising funds. The design includes a memorial park with statues of Eisenhower and a large metal tapestry depicting the Kansas landscape of his boyhood home in Abilene.


Kaw Nation to Hold First Powwow Near Council Grove 

COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. (AP) — An American Indian tribe is poised to hold its first official powwow for the first time in 142 years on its own land near Council Grove. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Kaw Nation, also called the Kanza, is scheduled this weekend to hold the powwow, with more than 300 dancers. The Kaw Indians had claimed a territory that covered parts of Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri, but by the mid-19th century it was forced into what's now Oklahoma. The tribe's legacy and culture is ingrained in Kansas history. The state took its name from the tribe, and a Kaw warrior stands atop the dome of the state Capitol. The Kaw Nation in 2000 purchased more than 145 acres of land along the Little John Creek near Council Grove.


Woman Sentenced to 5 Years for $3 Million Fraud Scheme 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 53-year-old Kansas City woman whose fraud scheme forced a company to file for bankruptcy has been sentenced to five years in federal prison. Irene Marie Brooner was sentenced Thursday for a $3 million fraud she ran while managing payroll for Galvmet, a sheet metal fabrication company. The company, which once employed 26 people, filed for bankruptcy and closed last year. Brooner admitted that for more than 10 years, she made unauthorized payment from the company's bank account to her personal accounts and increased her own salary more than 100 times. She also falsified documents to support the company's loan. The scheme cost Galvmet and Missouri Bank and Trust a total of nearly $3 million. Prosecutors say Brooner used the money to support a lavish lifestyle.


Kansas Man Charged with Molestation Arrested in California

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) _ Police say a suburban Kansas City music instructor charged with child molestation has been arrested in California.  Overland Park police said they were notified Thursday that 28-year-old Sean Dow was arrested in Los Angeles. Dow is charged with sexually abusing four female students at a Shawnee music store where he taught. Dow had been out on bond and confined to his Overland Park home. Police say he removed an electronic monitoring device and fled on Saturday. Police say they are unsure when Dow will be returned to Kansas.  


State Eases Ag Vehicle Regulations

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas is making it easier for farmers to use regularly registered vehicles for agricultural operations, while still giving them regulatory exemptions on vehicles registered only for farm use. After July 1, Kansas will offer an expanded definition of "covered farm vehicles''.  The change allows farmers to use regularly registered vehicles to transport crops, livestock, machinery or supplies within 150 miles from their farm. Under the expanded definition, those vehicles would be exempt from commercial motor vehicle safety regulations which require a driver's license, logbooks and drug testing.  


Kansas State Fair Manager Resigns

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The general manager of the Kansas State Fair has announced his resignation. Denny Stoecklein, who has been the fair's manager for more than 12 years, told The Hutchinson News that he is taking a new position as director of marketing and public information for Hutchinson Community College. Stoecklein says he and his wife both attended Hutchinson Community College and their son, Ryan, will be a freshman there this fall. Stoecklein has been with the state fair since 1995 and became general manager in 2003. His last day with the fair is July 17. 


Wichita State Announces Second Joint Research Venture

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita State President John Bardo says a second company has agreed to a joint venture at the university's innovation campus. Bardo says French company Dassault Systemes will create a manufacturing research center on the innovation campus. The university announced earlier this year that Airbus will move to the innovation campus from its current office in downtown Wichita. The Wichita Eagle reports the WSU plans to start the 120-acre innovation campus with a $43 million Experiential Building. A groundbreaking is expected in the coming months.


Royals Take Series in 3-2 Win over Brewers 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Alcides Escobar had three hits and scored twice and Jeremy Guthrie pitched six effective innings as the Kansas City Royals beat the Milwaukee Brewers 3-2 on Thursday night. Escobar doubled to lead off the Royals' two-run first inning then scored on Lorenzo Cain's sacrifice fly. Escobar singled in the second, stole second base and scored on Mike Moustakas' two-out single. Kendrys Morales' single in the first drove in Eric Hosmer. Guthrie (5-4) picked up his first victory since May 20, allowing two runs and seven hits. With the victory, Ned Yost surpassed Whitey Herzog as the most successful manager in Royals' history with 411 wins.


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