Headlines for Friday, July 24, 2015
Kansas Budget Cuts Coming; Governor Expands Aide's Duties
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says his budget director will outline spending cuts next week to help prevent a deficit. Brownback said Friday that budget director Shawn Sullivan's duties also have been expanded so that he'll examine what the governor called "back office" operations across state government to see whether savings can be found. The Republican governor said his administration will seek to cut about $50 million. That's the amount lawmakers counted upon when they approved increases in sales and cigarette taxes last month to help balance the state budget. Brownback said the cuts won't touch aid to public schools, but state law limits his power to trim education funding. Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka said he worries that cuts to higher education and social services are coming.
Kansas Governor's Case on Teacher Pay Uses Faulty Comparison
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has stumbled in trying to build a case that teachers in Kansas are paid significantly better on average than teachers in neighboring Missouri. Brownback told reporters during a Friday news conference that teachers in Kansas are paid an average of nearly $55,000 a year. The figure includes both salary and benefits. He said teachers in Missouri are paid just under $48,000. That would be 13 percent less. The governor's staff said the numbers came from each state's education department. But Nancy Bowles, spokeswoman for Missouri's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, says Missouri's figure doesn't include benefits because local districts don't report that information to the state. The Kansas department said without benefits, the average teacher salary in Kansas for the 2014-15 school year was about $49,700, including extra summertime pay.
Kansas Governor Names Attorney as Administration Secretary
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has promoted the Kansas Department of Administration's highest-ranking attorney to the agency's top administrative job. Brownback announced Friday that Sarah Shipman will serve as secretary of administration. She's been the department's deputy secretary and chief counsel since March 2014 and joined the agency in October 2011. The department oversees purchasing, upkeep of state office buildings and computer and phone services for state agencies. The department has an annual budget of $147 million and almost 400 employees. Shipman replaces Jim Clark, who retired last month after serving almost two years as administration secretary. Brownback still has another position in his Cabinet to fill with the departure of Commerce Secretary Pat George, who's taking a job as CEO of a nonprofit group providing substance abuse treatment in seven states.
Kansas Sues US Army over Fort Riley Food Service Contract
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state of Kansas is suing the U.S. Army in federal court, alleging the Army is trying to prevent the state from continuing to provide cafeteria service at Fort Riley. The state has received the federal contract worth more than $1 million since 2006. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Kansas Department for Children and Families filed the lawsuit earlier this week. The state alleges the Army is trying to change the process in a way that would prevent Kansas from bidding on the contract. The Army wants to add the fort's cafeteria services to a procurement list, which would remove it from public bidding. A Department of Defense spokesman told the newspaper that the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
Kansas Abortion Opponents Push for Ban on Late-Term Procedure in Other States
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Abortion opponents are using questions about Planned Parenthood's handling of fetal tissue to bolster arguments that other states should follow Kansas in approving a ban on a common second trimester procedure. But abortion rights supporters are criticizing what they see as another episode in an ongoing campaign to limit access to abortion services. Anti-abortion activists have released two covertly recorded videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing how they provide organs from aborted fetuses for research. Abortion opponents say prohibiting a common second-trimester procedure, medically known as dilation and evacuation, would reduce potential trafficking in fetal tissue. Kansas enacted the nation's first ban on the procedure during this year's legislative session, but a state district court judge last month temporarily blocked it from taking effect.
Kansas Congressman Leads Effort to Pass Bill Blocking GMO Labeling
WASHINGTON (AP) — Companies would not have to disclose whether their food products contain genetically modified ingredients under legislation passed by the US House Thursday. Republican Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas, and his Democratic colleague, G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, championed the bill. Their “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act” would replace state and local labeling mandates with a nationwide labeling system overseen by U.S. Department of Agriculture and modeled on the federal organic certification program. The bill was backed by the food industry, which has fought mandatory labeling efforts in several states around the country. The country's largest food companies say genetically modified foods are safe and that disclosure labels would be misleading. Advocates for the labels say people have a right to know what is in their food and criticize the legislation for trying to take away states' ability to require the labels.
KDHE: No Danger from Millions of Gallons of Sewage in River
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials say there is no cause for alarm after three incidents in which millions of gallons of sewage spilled into the Kansas River at Topeka. The latest incident was on Tuesday, when a sanitary sewer main leak caused 55,000 gallons of raw sewage to enter the river. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports 3 million gallons of raw sewage spilled into the river in late April after a power failure at a pump station. Earlier this month the city released partially treated sewage into the river, which it was allowed to do because of heavy rainfall. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said Thursday investigators tested bacterial levels after each incident and found them to be normal.
Salina Officers Recover Sick Animals Abandoned at Motel
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Officials are looking for one or two people who abandoned several animals at a Salina motel. Salina animal control officers went to a Traveler's Lodge Thursday after receiving an odor complaint. They found emaciated, dehydrated cats, snakes, turtles and rats. Some of the animals were feeding on other animals that had died. Vanessa Cowie, animal services manager at the Salina Animal Shelter, says it appears the animals had been abandoned for at least two weeks. The Salina Journal reports shelter workers saved at least 10 animals. Some reptiles could be released into the wild the other animals will eventually be put up for adoption. Salina police Capt. Mike Sweeney said police are seeking one or two people who are believed to have stayed at the motel.
Affidavit Offers Glimpse into Case Against Kansas Medical Marijuana Activist
GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — An arrest affidavit for a western Kansas woman accused of endangering her 11-year-old son by keeping marijuana around the house says the boy was able to draw a picture of the vaporizer she used to turn pot into cannabis oil. The court document was released to The Wichita Eagle through an open-records request. It provides some insight into the state's case against Shona Banda, a marijuana activist who says she uses the herb to treat a medical condition. Banda, of Garden City, faces five charges related to marijuana use and child endangerment after her son talked about her drug use during an anti-drug program at school.
Kansas City Man Charged in Death of 3-Year-Old Boy
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man has been charged in the death of a 3-year-old boy who was killed when shots were fired into his family's home. The Jackson County prosecutor's office said Thursday that 22-year-old SirTerry L. Stevenson is charged with first-degree murder, unlawful use of a weapon and armed criminal action in the May 31 death of Amorian Hale. Prosecutors say the shooting was in retaliation for the January shooting death of another man. Prosecutors filed the charges against Stevenson under seal last month and made the charges public Thursday. Stevenson is being held on a $500,000 cash bond.
Prosecutors Consider Death Penalty in Kidnapping and Death of 5-Year-old Girl
LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors are considering whether to seek the death sentence for a 31-year-old man accused of killing a 5-year-old Kansas girl. Prosecutors allege Marcas McGowan kidnapped Cadence Harris from an Atchison home they shared with the girl's mother in July 2014. A police chase ended near Leavenworth when McGowan exchanged gunfire with officers. Cadence was found dead in the car. The Kansas City Star reports McGowan initially faced state murder charges. In February, prosecutors dismissed the state charge after a federal grand jury indicted McGowan on charges including kidnapping and using a firearm during a violent crime. Federal prosecutors in Kansas have submitted the case to the US Justice Department's death penalty review board in Washington. They expect a decision within 90 days.
Marshals Capture Oklahoma Prison Escapee in Wichita
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Marshals Service has captured an Oklahoma prison escapee in Kansas. The agency said Friday in a news release that 32-year-old Charles Dean Brown and his girlfriend were arrested Thursday night at a Wichita house where they had been staying with family. Brown escaped earlier that day from the Jackie Brannon Correctional Center in McAlester, Oklahoma, where he was serving time for possession of a firearm and unauthorized use of a vehicle. He had been spotted getting into his girlfriend's vehicle, and Oklahoma authorities asked the U.S. Marshals to assist. Authorities say Brown tried to escape from the house by breaking a window after he was found, and was arrested by the fugitive task force after "a brief confrontation." Both are awaiting extradition to Oklahoma to face charges.
Kansas Man Arrested for Chase, Ramming Missouri Police Car
INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City, Kansas, man has been charged after authorities say he rammed a police car and swerved toward police officers who were attempting to slow his pickup during a pursuit in Independence. The Kansas City Star reports that Jesus A. Carreno-Zamora was charged Wednesday with assault, attempted assault, resisting arrest, theft and possession of marijuana. Authorities say Independence police began pursuing Carreno-Zamora Tuesday after he allegedly stole a radio from another vehicle. Police said the man swerved toward two officers deploying spike strips. Two tires on the man's vehicle were deflated, but police say he continued driving and eventually rammed a police car. According to authorities, the suspect continued to drive until the car caught fire. No injuries were reported. It was not immediately clear if Carreno-Zamora has an attorney.
Kansas City Approves Finance Deal for New Convention Hotel
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City officials have approved a financing deal for building a new downtown convention center hotel. The Kansas City Council on Thursday approved the financing deal to build an 800-room Hyatt Hotel just east of the Bartle Hall Grand Ballroom. The Kansas City Star reports the $311-million project requires a public subsidy along with private investment, but doesn't use general taxpayer dollars nor require the city to guarantee the debt. If the financing is completed by the end of 2015, construction could begin in the first quarter of 2016, with the hotel expected to open in mid-2018. Critics contend it's expensive, won't attract many more conventions, and will struggle to meet revenue projections, as has happened with convention hotels in St. Louis and even Overland Park, Kansas.
Wichita Considers Selling Downtown Hyatt
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The city of Wichita is considering selling the downtown Hyatt Regency after owning it for more than a decade. Mayor Jeff Longwell told The Wichita Eagle that the city may sell the Hyatt and put the money toward fixing neighborhood streets. There's no price tag yet for the hotel and garage. The 303-room hotel opened in 1998 and was purchased by the city in 2001, when the council voted to buy out its private partners in the Hyatt Regency. The city paid investors $2.5 million from its insurance reserves and assumed $15.7 million in debt. Longwell pointed to the recent sale of another Wichita hotel as evidence of the benefit of selling the Hyatt. But he says the city would first undergo a cost benefit analysis and get community input.
Kansas State Seeks to Raise $1B
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas State University and the K-State Foundation are scheduled to begin a campaign this fall to raise $1 billion for the university. The Manhattan Mercury reports that the university's Innovation and Inspiration Campaign kicks off in October and seeks to raise money for K-State's bid to become a top-50 public research university within the next ten years. University officials say the events, scheduled for the weekend of October 7-10, are expected to attract more than 1,000 students, faculty members, and alumni to open the public phase of the campaign.
Health Offficials Issue Toxic Algae Warnings for 6 Kansas Lakes
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Health officials are warning the public about high levels of toxic blue-green algae in six lakes in Kansas. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says that direct contact with the water is strongly discouraged for people, pets and livestock. The lakes now under a warning status include the Brown County State Fishing Lake in Brown County and Chisholm Creek Park Lake in Sedgwick County, Memorial Park Lake in Barton County and Plainville Township Lake in Rooks County. Also included on the list are the Lovewell Reservoir in Jewell County and the Milford Reservoir in Clay, Dickinson and Geary counties.
Kansas Supreme Court Rules Against Ex-KSU Lineman
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has ordered a lower court to reconsider whether a former Kansas State offensive lineman owes interest on previously unpaid child support. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the high court on Friday overturned a state appeals court decision on previously unpaid child support payments by former Kansas State star offensive lineman Kendyl Jacox. The state of Kansas alleged Jacox owed more than $173,600 in back payments to the mother of his child born in 1998 when he was at Kansas State. The woman then sought interest on the payments, but the lower courts ruled against her. The state Supreme Court ruled the lower courts erred and ordered the case sent back to Riley County.
SW Kansas Post Office Temporarily Closed After Car Crash
KISMET, Kan. (AP) — A southwest Kansas post office is temporarily closed after a car crashed into the building. The Hutchinson News reports the crash happened on Thursday in Kismet, a town of fewer than 500 people 20 minutes northeast of Liberal. Seward County sheriff's deputies at the scene declined Thursday evening to release any information about the accident without first getting permission from the sheriff, who had gone home for the day. Post office officials say rural customers will still get their mail delivered as normal, but those who have post office boxes in Kismet will have to pick up their mail in nearby Plains. Post office spokesman Mike Mannington says the Kismet office will reopen after the building is determined to be structurally sound and the repairs have been completed.
Man Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison for Shooting at Police
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for firing shots at Wichita police officers during a car chase. The Wichita Eagle reports 29-year-old Tyler Deck was sentenced last week. He had pleaded guilty in March to two counts of attempted second-degree murder and one count of robbery in a separate case. According to police, a pursuit ensued after a dispute on September 6, 2014, at a convenience store escalated and shots were fired. Authorities say Deck fled in a vehicle and he fired shots at police before the driver of his car lost control and crashed. Police say Deck continued to shoot at officers as he fled on foot. No officers were injured.
Hutchinson Woman Receives Christmas Card 47 Years Later
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Hutchinson woman has received a Christmas card nearly a half-century after it was mailed from neighboring Nebraska. The Christmas card that Carol Hastings received had a 6-cent stamp and was postmarked Omaha, Nebraska, on December 20, 1968. The Hutchinson News reports(http://bit.ly/1OCWy6B ) the card was delivered to Hastings on Thursday — nearly 47 years late. The card was from a family friend in Nebraska who she hadn't been in touch with since the 1950s. The letter was addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Bill Hastings at their old address in Hutchinson. But it didn't have a zip code, which was also noted on the envelope. Hastings and her family are trying to locate relatives of the sender, who they believe may have already died.
Blue Bell Production Trial Runs Begin After Listeria Scare
BRENHAM, Texas (AP) — Blue Bell Creameries has started ice cream production trial runs in Alabama three months after a listeria scare halted all sales. The Texas-based company said it's evaluating the enhanced production processes at its plant in Sylacauga, Alabama. Blue Bell earlier this month notified federal and Alabama health officials of its plans for test production. The runs began Wednesday. Company officials Friday didn't immediately return messages. Blue Bell has not said when sales will resume. Blue Bell products were linked to 10 listeria illnesses in four states, including three deaths in Kansas, before a voluntary recall April 20. Listeria is a bacteria that can cause serious illness, especially in older adults, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems. Contaminated products were found at Blue Bell's Texas and Oklahoma plants.
ESPN, Missouri Valley Conference Agree on 10-Year Extension
BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) — ESPN and the Missouri Valley Conference have agreed to a 10-year extension on their media rights deal that increases coverage of the league through the 2023-24 academic year. ESPN retains the rights to the MVC's men's and women's basketball tournaments. Multiple men's basketball games as well as Olympic sports will be telecast across ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPNEWS. ESPN and the 10-member MVC schools will work together to develop on-campus production capabilities involving students. Using those productions, ESPN3 will show a minimum of 820 events a year, including at least 70 men's basketball games, in the final six years of the agreement. The MVC has been one of the top men's basketball conference outside the Power Five, led by Wichita State.
Cardinals Beat Royals, 4-3, in Make-Up Game
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Cardinals' John Lackey threw seven strong innings as St. Louis beat the Kansas City Royals 4-3 on Thursday night in the makeup of a rainout from last month. As in the originally scheduled game, St. Louis and Kansas City led their league in wins and Lackey (9-5) and Chris Young (8-6) were the scheduled starters. The Royals trailed 4-2 at the start of the ninth inning. They put runners on second and third with no outs, but only managed to score one more run and the Cards held on to win 4-3. The Royals return to Kansas City to begin a home stand versus the Houston Astros tonight (FRI) at Kauffman Stadium.