Headlines for Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Judge Voids Kansas Same-Sex Marriage Ban as Unconstitutional
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has voided the Kansas ban on same-sex marriages as unconstitutional in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision on the issue. U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree ruled Monday that the provision in the Kansas constitution that prohibits issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples or recognizing such marriages violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That ruling also applies to any Kansas statute, law, policy or practice that bars or fails to recognize such unions. But Crabtree stopped short of issuing a permanent injunction so as to give the state an opportunity to voluntarily comply, as its attorneys have assured the court they will do. The court says some facts in the court record suggest Kansas officials have not uniformly complied with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
Ex-Candidate Wolf Confronts Kansas Senator Moran at Town Hall Meeting
WAMEGO, Kan. (AP) — Former tea party-backed Senate candidate Dr. Milton Wolf confronted Kansas Senator Jerry Moran at a town hall meeting Monday over the state medical board's investigation of Wolf's license. Wolf challenged Kansas Senator Pat Roberts in last year's GOP primary. He asked Moran at the meeting in Wamego what Moran knew about the medical board's investigation of Wolf over his postings on Facebook in 2010 of images of fatal gunshot wounds. Moran said he didn't know anything until he saw news reports about the incident last year. Wolf declined to say Monday whether he plans to run in next year's Republican primary against Moran. Wolf said last week that the board closed its investigation without finding wrongdoing but he declined to publicly release the letter from the medical board he says closed the investigation. By law, early stages of board investigations are confidential.
Ex-Candidate Wolf Declining to Release Kansas Board's Letter
WAMEGO, Kan. (AP) — Former U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Milton Wolf says he won't publicly release a letter from Kansas's medical board closing an investigation over his past Facebook postings of X-ray images. Wolf said Monday that he doesn't want the board to declare that he's given up privacy rights. By law, early stages of board investigations are confidential. Wolf is a Leawood radiologist with tea party backing in a stronger-than-expected primary challenge to Republican Senator Pat Roberts last year. The board investigated Wolf for posting X-ray images of serious medical injuries on Facebook in 2010. Wolf says it found no wrongdoing. Weeks before the August 2014 primary, a board attorney asked the Topeka Capital-Journal by letter to turn over its information about the postings. The board has declined to release the letter.
Kansas Capitol Concessions Vendor Quits After 39 Years
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A vendor who has provided concessions at the Kansas Statehouse for 39 years says he is quitting. Don Wistuba, a beloved fixture at the Capitol, says he can't compete with the free food lobbyists provide for lawmakers during the sessions. He's giving up his concession stand on August 31. The Lawrence Journal World reports that Wistuba, who is blind, began operating a snack bar in a state office building in 1974. He moved to the Statehouse in 1976. Wistuba says when 90 percent of the people at the Capitol get free food, he can't operate a profitable business. He also says there is no longer enough foot traffic in the building when the Legislature is not in session because many state offices have been moved out of the building.
Lawrence Mayor Resigns From Food Bank That Owes $50K in Taxes
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - The mayor of Lawrence has resigned his position leading a local food bank that owes $50,000 in federal payroll taxes. TheLawrence Journal World reports Mayor Jeremy Farmer has stepped down from his position as executive director of Just Food. Farmer says Just Food recently discovered that several payroll tax payments had not been made, and the missed payroll taxes are part of the reason for his resignation. He denies any intentional wrongdoing. Kristi Henderson, president of Just Food's board of directors, confirmed that the nonprofit group has about a $50,000 federal tax liability. She says the board is investigating whether Just Food owes any Kansas state taxes. Henderson says there's no indication money was misappropriated, and the problem appears to be a lack of attention to detail.
Brownback Urges Schools to Move More Money into Classroom
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is urging districts to move more of the money they get into the classroom and hold down administrative costs of running the school. The Republican governor made the comment to reporters Tuesday after addressing educators attending a training session on a reading initiative funded by welfare funds. His advice comes as school districts across the state grapple with funding cuts. Brownback says Kansas law requires districts to spend two-thirds of their funding in the classroom, but only a handful of districts actually get that done. But Mark Farr, the president of the state's largest teacher's union, says teachers need the support of a whole school to be successful in a classroom. He says if the governor really wants to help schools, he would fund schools.
Kansas Regulators Plan Hearings on Westar Rate Agreement
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas utility regulators plan hearings later this month on a proposed agreement to allow the state's largest electric company to raise its annual rates by $78 million. The agreement involves Westar Energy, a state consumer advocacy agency and other parties in Westar's rate case before the Kansas Corporation Commission. The KCC plans to handle procedural issues during a Wednesday meeting at its Topeka offices. It plans to open hearings on the agreement August 17 and has set aside up to five days. Westar initially sought a $152 million rate increase and said the revenues largely would cover the costs of upgrading power plants. The company says that under the agreement most households would see their monthly bills rise from $5 to $7. Westar has nearly 700,000 Kansas customers.
Kansas Regulators Disagree on KCP&L Rate Increase
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas regulators can't yet agree on how much to increase Kansas City Power & Light Company's annual rates. The utility's charges for customers with electric heating systems emerged as a key issue Tuesday during a public discussion by the Kansas Corporation Commission. The KCC has until September 10 to issue a written decision on KCP&L's request to raise $67 million more annually from its 247,000 customers in the state's northeast corner. The utility estimates its request would boost customers' rates by 12.5 percent — or $11.67 a month for an average residential customer. Each of the three commission members had a different figure for how much profit the company should be allowed to earn. Commissioner Pat Apple suggested a low figure if rates for customers with electric heating don't drop.
Topeka Bookkeeper Accused of Stealing over $100K
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 60-year-old former bookkeeper faces charges accusing her of stealing more than $100,000 from a Topeka company. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Marcia Kay Collins is charged with theft of more than $100,000 and criminal use of a financial card in which losses were at least $1,000 but less than $25,000. Shawnee County District Court records show she also faces two misdemeanors involving the misuse of a credit card. Evidence presented at a preliminary hearing estimates the loss to Smith Audio Visual at more than $300,000. Collins was released on bond from the Shawnee County Jail and is scheduled to be arraigned October 8. A trial date hasn't been scheduled. Her lawyer, Rachel Pickering, declined comment Tuesday.
Haskell Indian Nations University Maintains Accreditation
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Haskell Indian Nations University will maintain the accreditation it has held since 1979. The university announced Monday the Higher Learning Commission reaffirmed the university's accreditation after a comprehensive review this year. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that commission members visited the campus in April for the 10-year review. A self-study process also was involved. The review came after years of turmoil at the school in Lawrence, before current president Venida Chenualt was inaugurated in 2014. As part of the ongoing process, the university will present an interim report on a revised policy for assigning credit hours in July 2017. Haskell is open only to members of federally recognized Indian tribes. It offers four bachelor's degrees and 13 associate's degrees. It currently has 721 full-time students.
KDHE Returns Landfill Application to City of Galena
COLUMBUS, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas health department has returned Galena's application for a landfill permit because it doesn't meet state requirements.
The Joplin Globe reports that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment told Galena Mayor Dale Oglesby recently in a letter that the city's landfill application can't be processed because it lacks the signatures needed from county government officials. Oglesby said Monday the KDHE action was expected. The Galena City Council approved plans for a landfill in 2014 but rescinded them after widespread opposition. Oglesby then presented the application to county commissioners in April and requested the county provide information for it. But Richard Hilderbrand, chairman of the county panel, told Oglesby the landfill proposal did not meet the county's trash plan, which states no more dumps should be created.
Airline Announces New Service from Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Allegiant Travel Company has announced new flight routes from Kansas City to Florida. The Kansas City Star reports (http://bit.ly/1IWCPcT ) Allegiant's new non-stop flights from Kansas City to Orlando, Fort Myers and St. Petersburg-Clearwater are set to begin in November. The airline says its flights from Kansas City to Florida will operate twice weekly.
Convicted Child Killer Eligible for Parole
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas parole board will consider parole for a 40-year-old inmate convicted in the death of a 2 1/2-year-old boy. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Glenn Allen Heath Jr. was convicted of first-degree murder in the 1995 beating death in Topeka of his fiancee's son. The Kansas Parole Board is scheduled to hear public comments August 21 about the potential parole of 28 inmates, including Heath, who was sentenced to consecutive terms of life and five years, eight months in prison after a jury convicted him of child abuse and first-degree murder. An autopsy indicated the child died of bleeding from abdominal punctures. In the months before the boy died, a state agency had been called twice on reports of the child suffering bruises and a broken leg bone.
Kansas Batboy Who Died in Accident Laid to Rest
LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — Family, friends and teammates of a 9-year-old Kansas boy who died when he was accidentally hit by a bat honored him Tuesday as an inspiration whose big smile will always be remembered. A funeral for Kaiser Carlile was held at the Seward County Community Center gymnasium. Kaiser was injured Aug. 1 by a player's swing near the on-deck circle during a National Baseball Congress World Series game in Wichita. He died the next day. His Liberal Bee Jays teammates were among several hundred people who attended the funeral, The Wichita Eagle reported. His parents and his sister all spoke during the service. The parents thanked people from Liberal and across the nation who have overwhelmed them with support and prayers since the boy's death.
Blue Bell Resumes Ice Cream Shipments Following Listeria Scare
BRENHAM, Texas (AP) — Blue Bell Creameries has resumed ice cream shipments four months after listeria contamination halted sales and production. The Brenham, Texas-based company on Tuesday used Twitter and Facebook to announce its trucks "are on the road again" and filled with ice cream. The messages did not say when and where Blue Bell products would be sold. Blue Bell in April voluntarily recalled all products after its treats were linked to 10 listeria illnesses in four states, including three deaths in Kansas. The company stopped production and started extensive cleaning and decontamination at its plants in Brenham, Alabama and Oklahoma. Regulators last week said Blue Bell could resume production in Sylacauga, Alabama. Listeria is a bacteria that can cause serious illness. Blue Bell didn't immediately return requests for comment Tuesday.
Kansas City Bar Catches Fire for Second Time This Year
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a fire hit a Kansas City bar for the second time this year. KCTV reports the blaze at Champ's Lounge & Grill was reported early Tuesday. No injuries were reported. Authorities say the fire appears to be suspicious. The building was ruled a total loss after a January fire. Though the building was still standing, it was not in use and gas and electricity had been off shut off.
Police: Domestic Dispute Led to Fatal Shooting
DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Dodge City police say longstanding domestic issues likely led a man to shoot and kill two people before shooting himself. Police Chief Craig Mellecker says 55-year-old Jesus Ochoa-Morales was shot in a store's parking lot Sunday and died at a hospital. About 10 minutes later, 48-year-old Maria Monreal was abducted at gunpoint from the Wal-Mart where she worked. Mellecker says when officers approached the suspect's vehicle, he shot Monreal in the head and then shot himself. Monreal died Sunday. Police say the suspect, 58-year-old Isaias Monreal, was flown to a Wichita hospital, where he died Tuesday. All those involved lived in Dodge City.
2 Arrested in Fatal Shooting on Wichita State Campus
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Wichita police say a shooting death on the Wichita State University campus was not a random act. Deputy Police Chief Hassan Ramzah says a 23-year-old man and a 19-year-old woman were arrested Sunday afternoon in connection with the shooting. The victim, 23-year-old Rayan Ibrahim Baba, was found in a campus parking lot Saturday morning suffering from several gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead at a Wichita hospital. Ramzah says Baba was acquainted with the two suspects and had arranged to meet them at Fairmount Towers, where he lived. The Wichita Eagle reports that Baba was a Saudi undergraduate student majoring in electrical engineering but was not signed up for classes this fall. Wichita State campus police say Baba's death is the first homicide on the campus since 1993.
Report: Fall Crops Faring Well in Kansas
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The latest government snapshot shows most major farm crops in Kansas are faring well this season. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that 59 percent of the state's corn is in good to excellent condition. About 31 percent is rated as fair with 10 percent in poor to very poor condition. The soybean crop is rated as 52 percent good to excellent condition with 39 percent rated as fair with 9 percent of the soybeans in poor to very poor shape. About 68 percent of Kansas sorghum crops are rated in good to excellent condition. About 27 percent of the sorghum is in fair condition with 5 percent rated as poor to very poor. The agency also rated topsoil moisture as adequate in 78 percent of the state.
Cueto Shuts Out Tigers 4-0 in Royals Home Debut
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Royals' new ace pitcher, Johnny Cueto, threw a four-hitter in his Kansas City home debut Monday night as the Royals beat the Detroit Tigers 4-0. Cueto (1-1) did not allow a runner past second base, struck out eight and walked none. It was his sixth career shutout and second this season. Cueto, who was acquired from Cincinnati on July 26 for three minor league pitchers, received a standing ovation after every scoreless inning as he walked to the dugout. Sluggerr, the Royals' mascot, appeared wearing a Cueto-like mane of dreadlocks.