Headlines for Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Excessive Heat Warning Extended for Parts of Kansas and Missouri
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — More hot, humid weather is forecast for Kansas and Missouri Tuesday. The National Weather Service has extended an excessive heat warning for much of the two-state region. The weather service issued heat advisories and excessive heat warnings for both states Monday, and extended the warning to late Tuesday night. The weather service says temperatures are expected to reach the mid- to upper 90s, with heat indices climbing to 110 degrees because of the humidity. Health officials are warning residents to take the hot weather warnings seriously. They say the elderly, the very young and people with health conditions often feel the effects first and over-exposure can be deadly for some vulnerable people.
Kansas Secretary of State Seeks Approval of Health Compact
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas secretary of state has written members of Congress urging them to affirm a health care compact he says would give states a way to exempt themselves from the federal Affordable Care Act. Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Monday in the letter to 94 Republicans in Congress that authorization of the interstate coalition on health care would give those states authority to regulate health care within their borders and to administer their federal health care funds. In 2014, Kansas lawmakers approved a bill to join such a compact. But it requires congressional approval to take effect. Critics say the plan could jeopardize the health care of people who receive other forms of federal health care benefits, including more than 450,000 seniors in Kansas on Medicare.
Revenue Department: Same-Sex Couples Can File Joint Tax Returns
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's office says same-sex couples in Kansas who were married last year after the state's ban was struck down in November can file their taxes jointly for the 2014 tax year. Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said Tuesday that same-sex couples who filed for an extension on their 2014 taxes or want to go back and amend their taxes may file jointly. The Wichita Eagle reports the Kansas Department of Revenue said Monday that couples would be able to file jointly for the current 2015 tax year. Hawley says the agency reviewed its policy and confirmed that gay couples also will be able to file jointly for 2014. Equality Kansas executive director Tom Witt hailed Tuesday's announcement, saying married same-sex couples should be allowed to file their taxes with the same status as other married couples.
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. But 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 reportsopponents also point to Missouri, where details of tax credits and credit 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.
Kansas Lifts Teacher Licensure Requirement in 6 Districts
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas State Board of Education is allowing unlicensed teachers to work in six school districts. The Topeka Capital Journal reports the measure was poised to fail, but passed Tuesday 6-4 after a compromise. Board member Kathy Busch of Wichita dropped her opposition when proponents tweaked the measure so the state board would retain greater control over hires in the six districts. More than a dozen educators and parents tried to dissuade the board from exempting the districts from the state's licensure regulations. The measure waives the state's licensure regulations for school districts in the Innovative Districts Coalition, a program the Legislature in 2013. Supporters contend it would help address teacher shortages and hard-to-fill subject areas. Opponents say it would hurt students and is a slippery slope for education.
KU Attorney Spars with Appeals Court Judge in Expulsion Case
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An attorney for the University of Kansas faces stiff questioning from an appeals court judge during a hearing on whether the school had the right to expel a student based on offensive tweets and off-campus incidents. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports former KU student Navid Yeasin was suspended in November 2013 for violating an order not to contact his ex-girlfriend in any way. Yeasin sued last year and a Douglas County judge ruled in September the school did not have jurisdiction to expel him. The university appealed that decision to the Kansas Court of Appeals, and a three-judge panel heard arguments from both sides on Tuesday. Judge Stephen Hill sparred with Trower over whether the school's actions constituted prior restraint of speech. The panel didn't issue a ruling on Tuesday.
Brownback Raising Cash to Pay Down Campaign Debt
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Records show that the campaign finance team for Gov. Sam Brownback's re-election has been working to pay off legal fees and debt from the 2014 election. Brownback and his campaign-finance team have been reaching out to potential donors since he was re-elected last November when he defeated Democratic nominee Paul Davis. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Brownback campaign's most recent finance report filed in January shows the campaign carried $300,000 in residual loan debt. The report also shows the campaign organization owed $200,000 to Brownback and $100,000 to Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer. Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley confirms the campaign is raising funds that will be used to repay existing loans and legal fees from the re-election campaign. But Hawley would not address how much the campaign still owes.
Religious Group Threatens Suit over VA Sweat Lodge Dispute
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A religious liberty group is now threatening to sue over the ongoing Native American sweat lodge dispute at the VA hospital in Wichita. The Liberty Institute sent another letter Tuesday to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs alleging discrimination against Native American religious practices of veterans at the Robert J. Dole Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The sweat lodge's spiritual leader, who is a substance-abuse counselor at the center, has been indefinitely suspended. Members of the sweat lodge have been unable to meet for religious worship there without him. The medical center says in an emailed statement that it is working steadfastly with the local Native American community to find a trained spiritual leader to perform the August sweat, while at the same time respecting cultural traditions.
Sinkhole Formed at Tuttle Creek Lake
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has reduced flows from Tuttle Creek Lake since a 15-foot sinkhole was found near the lake. The Manhattan Mercury reports the sinkhole on the east side of outflow tubes at Tuttle Creek Lake measures 15 feet in diameter and 8 feet deep. Engineers reduced outflows from the lake from 19,000 cubic feet per second to 6,200 when they noticed the hole forming last week. They also closed the gates on the east side of the lake's dam. They have since increased outflows. Brian McNulty, operations manager for Corps of Engineers, says the sinkhole likely formed as a result of recent high water levels and outflows from the lake and doesn't indicate any structural problems in the dam.
ATM Skimmers Found at 3 Wichita Banks
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita police say users of automated teller machines at three Intrust Bank locations should check their accounts for suspicious activity after someone installed skimmers to gain access to their credit card and debit card numbers. The Wichita Eagle reports police were notified Monday of the skimmers, which already had been removed by the person who installed them by the time the banks noticed. Investigators examined security camera footage and saw someone placing the device on the three ATMs. Skimmers are placed over the card reader of an ATM and records information that lets thieves drain bank accounts.
Officials: Tornado Reported in Reno County in Kansas
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A tornado that touched down in south-central Kansas during a severe thunderstorm damaged at least two homes, but no injuries were reported. Reno County emergency specialist Evan Seiwert said the tornado was reported three miles southeast of Nickerson on Monday evening. Todd Strain with Reno County Emergency Management says power lines were also down. Reno County-Hutchinson Law Enforcement told The Hutchinson News (http://bit.ly/1M40Ww3 ) that one home may be a total loss, and another sustained damage to a roof and garage. Authorities also said two roads were closed in Reno County because of tornado damage. Strain said sections of Reno County received up to 3 inches of rain. The National Weather Service cancelled a flood warning for Reno County on Tuesday morning after floodwaters began receding.
Report: 93 Percent of Kansas Winter Wheat Harvested
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A new government update on the winter wheat harvest shows that 93 percent of the crop has now been cut in Kansas. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday in its weekly that progress was ahead of the 87 percent cut at this time last year, but near the 94 percent that would be average for this late in the harvest. The agency says 55 percent of the corn grown in Kansas is in excellent to good condition with 33 percent rated as fair and 12 percent poor to very poor. Soybeans rated 48 percent excellent to good, 43 percent fair and 9 percent poor to very poor. About 66 percent of sorghum was in good to excellent shape, with 30 percent fair, and 4 percent poor to very poor.
Taiwan Pledges $1M For Eisenhower Memorial in DC
WASHINGTON (AP) - Taiwan is pledging $1 million to help build a memorial honoring President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington as the memorial project begins a fundraising campaign to complete the monument. The gift being announced Tuesday marks a critical phase for the Eisenhower Memorial. Organizers must determine whether they can raise the money needed to build the monument. They hope to raise at least $20 million privately and build support in Congress for additional funding. The project has been in the planning stages for 15 years. Last week, the memorial won final approval for its design, despite criticism from Eisenhower family members. Congress already appropriated $60 million for design and planning. President Obama's 2016 budget proposal included $68 million more for construction. But lawmakers in Congress have not yet approved any funding.
Lawrence Police Investigating Death Near Railroad Tracks
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Officials in Lawrence are investigating after a body was found along railroad tracks in the city. The body was found Monday in East Lawrence by railroad employees. Lawrence Police spokesman Sergeant Trent McKinley says crime scene technicians and coroner personnel are investigating.
Shirley Temple's Famous Polka Dot Dress Brings $75K at Auction
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The red polka dot dress that Shirley Temple wore in a 1934 movie has sold for $75,000 at an auction in Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports that the auction Tuesday included more than 500 of Temple's childhood belongings, including hundreds of dolls and toys, and dozens of her costumes. The auction was organized by Maryland-based Theriault's auction house for Temple's estate. Shirley Temple Black, who died in February 2014 at the age of 85, starred in more than 80 films. As an adult, she also served in the United Nations General Assembly and later became U.S. ambassador to Ghana. Temple's baby grand Steinway also sold at the auction for $45,000.
Defendant in Kansas Robbery/Murder Case Pleads No Contest
PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — One of four men charged in the robbery and slaying of a Pittsburg State University student has pleaded no contest to conspiracy and will testify against two of the others. The Joplin Globe reports 25-year-old Tyler Smith entered his plea in Cherokee County District Court on Monday. It's part of a deal in which prosecutors will recommend a two-year prison sentence, with a second conspiracy count to be dropped. In exchange, Smith will testify against 22-year-old Darius Rainey and 20-year-old Corbin Spragg. Both are being held on $2 million bond for charges of felony murder and four other counts in the October 9 slaying of 20-year-old engineering student Taylor Thomas. A fourth man, Bryan Bridges, also has been charged with murder but has not been found since the killing.
Woman Struck, Killed by Train in Emporia
EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Emporia police are investigating after a woman was struck and killed by a train. KWCH reports that the woman was hit by the train Tuesday afternoon in Emporia. Police Chief Scott Cronk says the woman was pronounced dead at the scene. She has not been identified. Cronk says the area where the woman was hit has electronic signals and crossing arms.
Police: Trophies Stolen from Southwest Boys Club in Wichita
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police are investigating after they say at least two men broke into the Southwest Boys Club in Wichita and stole items including money, sports equipment and trophies. The trophies were meant to be given to the winning teams of a baseball tournament last weekend. According to police Lieutenant James Espinoza, the suspects broke into the ballpark early Saturday and stole items worth about $3,500. Authorities are looking through security video of the alleged theft. No suspects have been arrested.
Prominent Texas Businessman Bass Invests in Blue Bell
BRENHAM, Texas (AP) — Blue Bell Creameries has announced an investment by a prominent Texas businessman will "ensure" the return of its ice cream products to the market. Blue Bell released a statement Tuesday announcing Sid Bass has become a partner. The company based in Brenham, Texas, did not reveal the size of Bass' investment. CEO and President Paul Kruse said Bass made a "significant investment" and that the "additional capital will ensure the successful return of our ice cream." Bass is active in his family's oil-and-gas business. The company earlier this year shut down production and issued a national recall after its ice cream was linked to 10 listeria illnesses in four states, including three deaths in Kansas. Blue Bell last week announced plans for test production runs at its Alabama plant.
Execution Set for Man Who Raped, Killed Kansas City Girl, 15
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A September execution date has been set for a man convicted of raping and killing a 15-year-old Kansas City girl in 1989. The Missouri Supreme Court set the execution date for Roderick Nunley for the 24-hour period beginning at 6 pm on September 1. Missouri has executed four men this year, and another inmate is scheduled for execution Tuesday evening. Nunley was one of two men who pleaded guilty and received the death penalty in the death of Ann Harrison. She was waiting for a school bus in front of her home when she was abducted. Michael Taylor was executed for the same crime in 2014. An appeals court ruled earlier that Nunley wasn't entitled to a new sentencing hearing because he waived jury sentencing when he pleaded guilty.