Headlines for Thursday, July 9, 2015
Kansas, Missouri Governors Differ in Gay Marriage Responses
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas Governor Sam Brownback described the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling legalizing same-sex marriage as a potential threat to religious liberties. Meanwhile, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon called the decision an important step toward creating a fairer society. Advocates on both sides of the issue and on both sides of the border have noted the sharp contrast in the neighboring governors' responses in the form of executive orders. Brownback's executive order this week told Kansas government agencies that they cannot punish ministers or religious groups for opposing same-sex marriage. His order says the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage could limit religious liberties. Governor Nixon's executive order directs Missouri state agencies to take all necessary measures to comply with the decision. He called on his state's lawmakers to expand anti-discrimination laws to cover gays and lesbians.
Gay Rights Group Critical of Brownback Executive Order
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The executive director of the leading gay rights group in Kansas is calling Republican Governor Sam Brownback's recent executive order on same-sex marriage an "unconstitutional power grab." Tom Witt of Equality Kansas issued a lengthy statement Thursday criticizing the order Brownback issued to protect clergy, churches and religious groups from state sanctions for refusing to participate in same-sex weddings or provide goods, services or accommodations for them. The order covers religious groups with state contracts to provide social services. Its definition of state government includes "political subdivisions." Witt said that language applies the order to cities, counties, school districts and other local governments. Witt said Brownback declared himself their "supreme ruler" and is allowing them to refuse to recognize legal same-sex marriages. Brownback's office did not immediately respond to Witt's statement.
Brownback's Office Says Executive Marriage Order Narrow
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's chief spokeswoman says his recent executive order on same-sex marriage does not apply to local governments. Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley issued a statement Thursday in response to criticism from a gay rights leader. The order this week protects clergy, churches and religious groups that refuse to participate in same-sex weddings or provide goods, services or accommodations for them. The order says state agencies and political subdivisions shall not punish them for acting on their opposition to gay marriage. Equality Kansas Executive Director Tom Witt said cities, counties, school districts and other local governments fall under the definition of political subdivisions. An American Civil Liberties Union attorney agreed. But Hawley said the order applies only to agencies and subdivisions over which the governor has legal authority.
Kansas Relents on Same-Sex Couple Joint Income Tax Return Policy
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Attorneys for Kansas officials say in a federal court filing that the state is allowing married same-sex couples to file joint income tax returns. The disclosure of the policy change was made in a filing Thursday asking U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree to dismiss a lawsuit filed last year by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of gay and lesbian couples. The ACLU challenged the state's ban on same-sex marriage and the Department of Revenue's refusal to allow same-sex couples to file joint tax returns. The U.S. Supreme Court last month declared gay marriage legal across the nation. The state's lawyers submitted an affidavit from Department of Revenue policy director Richard Cram. He said the agency's policy against joint tax returns for same-sex couples is no longer valid.
KS Chamber: Governor's Order Sufficient on Gay Marriage
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Chamber of Commerce says legislators should not pursue a new religious objections law following an executive order from Governor Sam Brownback protecting clergy and religious groups. The influential business group issued a statement yesterday (WED) saying that Brownback's executive order is a sufficient response to the recent Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage across the nation. Kansas had banned gay marriage and refused to recognize such marriages from other states. Brownback said the high court ruling is a potential threat to religious liberties. His order this week told Kansas government agencies that they can't punish ministers or religious groups for opposing same-sex marriage. The chamber said it recommends against expanding the order's scope or enacting a broader religious objections law because it worries about burdens on business.
Army Troop Cuts Modest at Kansas Posts; Officials Relieved
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas faces only modest cuts from the Army's plans to reduce its active-duty troops over the next two years, losing fewer than 700 soldiers. State officials said Thursday that the result shows Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth remain crucial to the military. The Army said Fort Riley will lose 615 active-duty troops, or 4 percent of the 15,400 there. Fort Leavenworth will lose 60 troops out of about 2,500, or 2.4 percent. Members of Kansas's congressional delegation and Governor Sam Brownback said the state fared well. The Army plans to cut its troop strength 8 percent, to 450,000 from 490,000. Kansas Senator Jerry Moran said with the overall cuts, the two posts were not likely to avoid reductions. But he said officials had feared losing 4,000 troops at Fort Riley.
Kansas Secretary of State Unveils Voter Fraud Hotline, Website
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Secretary of State's Office has set up a website and phone hotline to report suspected voter fraud. Secretary of State Kris Kobach's office has updated the agency's website with a tab for Kansans to report suspected cases of voter fraud. Kobach pushed for the power to prosecute such cases during the last legislative session. Kansas Democrats have criticized Kobach's crusade to crack down on voter fraud. Representative John Carmichael, of Wichita, says Kobach has yet to demonstrate widespread voter fraud in Kansas.
KNEA to Appeal Dismissal of Teacher Tenure Lawsuit
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The main teachers union in Kansas says it will appeal the dismissal of a lawsuit against the state for ending teacher job protections. The Kansas National Education Association has submitted a court notice that it will appeal the dismissal. Shawnee County District Court last month rejected the KNEA's challenge of the constitutionality of 2014 legislation in which lawmakers ended state-mandated teacher due process rights. The bill contained provisions on school funding and teacher tenure, prompting the lawsuit from the KNEA, based on the argument that lawmakers violated the state Constitution by folding permanent policy into an appropriations bill. The trial court said matters unrelated to appropriations must be struck from appropriations bills, but the court said it couldn't declare the measure an appropriations bill.
Lawsuit Seeks Documents in Death of Kansas Boy, 4
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An attorney suing a state agency in federal court over the death of a 4-year-old northeast Kansas boy has also filed a state lawsuit seeking documents in the case. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that attorney Michaela Shelton argues in the Shawnee County lawsuit that the Department of Children and Families didn't produce all the records she requested. Shelton's seeking information on Mekhi Boone, who died in 2013. His father, Lee Davis IV, is serving nearly 20 years for second-degree murder. Shelton represents the child's mother, Naomi Boone, who filed a federal lawsuit alleging the child was improperly placed with Davis. The new lawsuit seeks additional DCF documents that could aid Shelton in the federal lawsuit. A DCF spokeswoman said Thursday DCF hadn't received a copy of the new lawsuit.
University of Kansas Reviewing Sexual Assault Policy
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The chancellor of the University of Kansas says her administration plans to respond this fall to recommendations from a university sexual assault task force. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little says her administration plans to respond this fall to the recommendations from the University of Kansas Sexual Assault Task Force. The task force, formed last fall, presented 27 recommendations in May. Recommendations included creating an on-campus center for sexual assault prevention and education and requiring all freshmen to live in residence halls. Gray-Little says the university has already taken some steps to address sexual assault, including updating the student code and creating an advocate position to help parties involved with sexual assault cases.
KC's Minimum Wage Would Rise Under Draft Ordinance
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City's minimum wage would rise to $13 an hour over eight years under a draft ordinance that has been passed out of a committee of councilmembers. The councilmembers made no recommendations Thursday on whether the ordinance should be approved when they consider it again July 16. The measure calls for incremental hikes to the current $7.65 an hour minimum wage. Workers would receive their first raise Aug. 24, when businesses with more than 15 employees and $500,000 in annual income would be required to begin paying at least $8.50 an hour. Workers younger than 18 are among those who would be exempted from the higher wage. Backers say a wage hike is needed to help workers pay their bills. Opponents say it would cripple businesses and question its legality.
Missouri Man Killed in Freak Tire Incident
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A suburban Kansas City man is dead after a tire flew over the concrete barrier in the median of Interstate 70 and crashed through his windshield. The Star reports the 23-year-old Independence man was eastbound on the interstate near the Blue Ridge Cutoff on Monday evening when witnesses saw his car go off the highway and crash into a tree line.
Man Accused of Assaulting Father's Caregiver
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Authorities are looking for a 51-year-old man accused of attacking his father's live-in caretaker with a golf club and cane in Wichita. According to police Lieutenant James Espinoza, a 49-year-old woman was transported by private vehicle to Wesley Medical Center early Wednesday with several injuries to her head and face. She is in serious condition. Authorities say the woman told police the suspect attacked her when she would not give him his 89-year-old father's benefits card. She says the suspect is occasionally at the house the she and his father share. Espinoza said the victim told officers the suspect wanted to take money from the card to purchase narcotics.
Kansas Man Pleads Guilty to Photographing Women in Restrooms
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A 39-year-old registered sex offender from Lenexa has admitted videotaping women in restrooms at Johnson County Community College. The Kansas City Star reports that Saysavat Bounyadeth on Thursday pleaded guilty in Johnson County District Court to three felony counts of breach of privacy. Bounyadeth previously was convicted for a December 2013 burglary in Olathe in which he stole underwear and lingerie from a 19-year-old woman. He was placed on probation and ordered to undergo sex offender treatment. But his probation was revoked after failing to complete the treatment. Campus police arrested him April 27 after a woman noticed him using his cellphone to photograph her inside a restroom on the Overland Park campus. He's scheduled to be sentenced August 27.
Kansas Officials Worried About Highway Collapse
TREECE, Kan. (AP) _ State transportation officials are awaiting the results of testing along a five-mile stretch of U.S. 69 in southern Kansas looking for trouble spots that could lead to highway collapses. The road leads to the abandoned mining town of Treece, which was bought out by the federal government a few years ago because of environmental contamination left by mining. Kansas Geological Survey scientist Rick Miller says about half a mile of U.S. 69 near the Kansas-Oklahoma border is over an abandoned mine. The transportation department says nearly 2,200 vehicles, including 400 semitrailers, travel that stretch of highway each day. Cherokee County in southeast Kansas once was part of a center of zinc and lead mining. Results of testing conducted this week aren't expected for months.
Missouri Attorney General Sues Kansas City Area Auto Shop
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Attorney General office's has filed a civil lawsuit against the owners of a Kansas City area auto repair business. The Kansas City Star reports that the lawsuit filed this week in Clay County accuses John and Deborah Rocha of failing to finish auto repairs as promised and misrepresenting some repairs they had provided. They own Mobile Auto Repair. The attorney general's office said in a release Thursday that at least 14 customers have said they paid for auto repair work that was never completed. John Rocha denied the allegations and said most of their customers did not have enough money to pay up front. He also says he allowed some customers to pay for only the parts needing repair and did not charge them for the labor.
FTC Announces Settlement in Payday Lending Scheme
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Operators of a Kansas City-area based payday lending scheme are banned from offering loans under a settlement that would wipe away outstanding debts. The Federal Trade Commission announced the settlement Tuesday with business owners Timothy Coppinger and Frampton Rowland. Combined, the men operated more than a dozen companies in Kansas City, Missouri, and the Kansas towns of Prairie Village and Mission. The FTC says the business deposited money into the accounts of payday loans seekers without their permission. The FTC also alleged that recurring charges were withdrawn without any of the payments going toward the principal. Rowland's attorney said in an email to the Associated Press that his client had voluntarily ceased consumer lending before the FTC filed the case. Coppinger's attorney said his client didn't want to comment.
Kansas Joins Partnership to Market Region to Filmmakers
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas is working with neighboring states to promote and market the region to film producers looking for movie locations. The film offices in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska along with Kansas City, Missouri, are collaborating to entice the film industry to the area. Peter Jasso is executive director for the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission. He says in the absence of tax credits and other financial incentives, the partnership is a way for the states to come together to make larger-scale film projects possible in the region. The partnership has already helped with the production of the film "American Honey,'' which is slated for release next year. It was filmed in the four-state area, including Mission Hills, Kansas.
Sedgwick Co Appoints 1st Female Undersheriff
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office has appointed its first female undersheriff. Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter announced Wednesday that Brenda Dietzman had been promoted from captain to the rank of sheriff's colonel and appointed to the position of undersheriff. As undersheriff, Dietzman will oversee jail operations. Dietzman said her priorities will be recruitment and retention of jail deputies, as well as serving mentally ill inmates. Dietzman began her career with sheriff's office in 1990 as a patrol deputy. She replaces Colonel Danny Bardezbain, who recently retired.
Blue Bell Ice Cream Begins Trial Run at Alabama Plant
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) _ Texas-based Blue Bell is beginning a trial run of ice cream production at its Alabama plant after a national recall that followed a series of listeria illnesses. Alabama Health Officer Don Williamson said Wednesday the company notified the department that it will begin a trial run of production later this month. The ice cream will not be sold to consumers. Williamson says both state health officials and Blue Bell will test the product for listeria. The company issued a national recall and shut down production after the company's ice cream was linked to 10 listeria illnesses in four states, and three deaths in Kansas. The contaminated products have been found at the company's Texas and Oklahoma plants, but so not at its Sylacauga, Alabama, facility.
Planning Commission Gives Final Approval to Eisenhower Memorial
WASHINGTON (AP) — A long-delayed effort to build a memorial honoring President Dwight D. Eisenhower is gaining design approvals to potentially move forward. The project won approval Thursday in a 10-1 vote on final site and building plans at the National Capital Planning Commission. This was the second federal approval after the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts approved the design in June. Architect Frank Gehry's design includes a memorial park with statues of Eisenhower and a large metal tapestry depicting the Kansas landscape of Ike's boyhood home. Kansas Senator Pat Roberts, the chairman of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, says the 15-year project can now move toward completion. Building the $140 million memorial still requires funding. So far, $63 million has been appropriated by Congress. But some lawmakers want to block any further funding.
Royals Beat the Rays but All-Star Alex Gordon Goes Down with Injury
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The Kansas City Royals defeated the Tampa Bay Rays by a score of 9 to 7 last (WED) night. But there was some bad news for the Royals. All-Star outfielder Alex Gordon left the game with a groin injury. Gordon was voted to his third straight All-Star game over the weekend but will likely miss that game and probably several more games to come.