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Headlines for Thursday, October 8, 2015


Judge Sets December Hearing to Consider Blocking Kansas Voter Rules 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — County election officials in Kansas could have canceled many of the more than 31,000 incomplete voter registrations when a federal judge has the next hearing in a lawsuit challenging the effort. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson on Wednesday set a December 4th hearing on a request from attorneys for two northeast Kansas residents to block the culling of registration records ordered by Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Most incomplete registrations are for people who have failed to comply with a 2013 state law requiring new voters to document their U.S. citizenship. Robinson set the hearing in December to allow both sides to file written legal arguments. 


Kansas Governor Not Considering Spending Cuts or Tax Hikes to Balance Budget

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says he's not considering additional spending cuts or new tax increases to keep the state budget balanced in the face of disappointing tax collections. Brownback said Wednesday he's confident the state will get through its short-term budget problems. In July, August and September, the state's tax collections were a total of $67 million less than anticipated, a shortfall of 4.7 percent. The state increased sales and tobacco taxes in July to keep its $15.4 billion budget balanced. Later that month, Brownback's administration made $63 million in budget adjustments. Brownback ruled out further tax increases, saying, "We're not going that route." But he also said he thinks the state can manage without spending cuts.


US Supreme Court Weighs 3 Kansas Death Sentences

WASHINGTON (AP) — The US Supreme Court seems inclined to rule against the perpetrators of what one justice called "some of the most horrendous murders" he's ever seen from the bench. The justices on Wednesday were critical of the Kansas Supreme Court, which overturned the death sentences of three men, including two brothers convicted in a murderous crime spree known as the "Wichita massacre." It was the first high-court hearing on death penalty cases since a clash over lethal injection procedures exposed deep divisions among the justices in the court's last term. The debate this time concerned the sentencing process for Jonathan and Reginald Carr and for Sidney Gleason, convicted in another case. The state court ruled that jurors received flawed instructions about mitigating evidence and said the brothers should have been sentenced separately.


Reports of Forcible Sex Offenses Rise at University of Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A newly released report says the number of forcible sex offenses reported on the University of Kansas campus has gone up for a second straight year. The university's Clery Act Annual Security Report released October 1st says there were 24 forcible sex offenses reported on campus in 2014. TheLawrence Journal-World reportsthat's up from 13 reported offenses in 2013, and three reported in 2012. Captain James Anguiano with the university's Office of Public Safety says the increase in reported offenses doesn't necessarily mean it's happening more often, but rather that more incidents are being reported. The Clery Act requires universities to release data on crimes reported on or near campus.


Report: Kansas Population Increases to 2.9M

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ New health statistics show that the Kansas' population has nudged up slightly to 2.9 million. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has reported a 0.3 percent population increase from 2013 to 2014. The report released this week shows that three counties in the Manhattan and Fort Riley area had the largest increases in population from 2010 to 2014. Geary County's population increased 7.4 percent, Pottawatomie County, 6.5 percent and Riley County, 5.7 percent. The report also found that teen pregnancy numbers decreased by 6.5 percent between 2013 and 2014. The pregnancy rate for mothers under 20 years of age was 16 per 1,000 females. That rate was the lowest for this age-group in the past 20 years. 


Sedgwick County Officials Request Restrictions on Indigent Food Program

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Sedgwick County commissioners are considering asking the state to bar people in the U.S. illegally from a federal nutrition program. TheWichita Eagle reportsthat no state has such a restriction on the federal Women, Infants and Children program, which provides nutritional food and supplements, like milk and cheese, to low-income families. Chairman Richard Ranzau on Wednesday proposed that the county ask the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, which administers the WIC program in the state, to restrict participation to legal U.S. citizens. Two of the other five commissioners supported Ranzau's plan. KDHE spokeswoman Sara Belfry says U.S. citizenship isn't a requirement to be eligible for WIC, and changing eligibility requirements would require state and federal approval.


Kansas Home Used on Historic 'Underground Railroad' Demolished

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Civil War-era home north of Topeka that was thought to have been a way station on the Underground Railroad has been demolished. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Rhode Island abolitionist William Owen constructed the two-story building in 1858. The former owners of the home, who sold it at a 2006 auction, said abolitionist John Brown was a frequent visitor. They also said Union General William Tecumseh Sherman stayed there for a week before serving in the Civil War. But the home was severely damaged in a fire in 2009. A Topeka Fire Department report estimated the damage at $129,600. 


Brownback Wants Eisenhower Statue on Statehouse Grounds

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —Governor Sam Brownback thinks Kansas native son and President Dwight Eisenhower should have more than a sidewalk plaque to honor him on the Statehouse grounds. The state unveiled the plaque Wednesday during a ceremony. It is the 11th plaque on a "Walk of Honor" started in 2011. Next week marks the 125th anniversary of Eisenhower's birth in 1890. Brownback proposed putting a statute of Eisenhower outside the Statehouse. The governor told reporters his office has been working on the project for about two years. Eisenhower was a five-star Army general and supreme Allied commander in World War II before serving as president from 1953 to 1961. He died in 1969.


Wichita State Chapel Draws Complaints After Change to Accommodate Muslims 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State University has announced plans to review changes to a campus chapel after dozens of donors, alumni and others at the university criticized the renovation of the space to accommodate Muslims. The Wichita Eagle reports the university renovated the Harvey D. Grace Memorial Chapel in May and removed the tiny altar and pews after Muslims at the university said they wanted a larger place to pray. The family that made the chapel possible in 1964 specified that the chapel remain open to all creeds. But dozens of donors, alumni and others learned about the renovation and contacted university administrators. Wichita State President John Bardo said Tuesday the university will consider changing the chapel again and appointed the school's student affairs vice president to devise a plan to hear ideas for the chapel's uses.


Hutchinson Delays Decision on E-Cigarette Ban

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) _ The Hutchinson City Council has delayed a decision on whether to ban electronic cigarettes in some areas of the city. The council heard from opponents and supporters of the proposal Tuesday before deciding to take more time to consider the issues. Supporters want the city to treat e-cigarettes like traditional cigarettes under the Kansas Indoor Clean Air Act, which prohibits smoking in most indoor public places. The Hutchinson News reports supporters of the ban argue that no one knows what chemicals are contained in e-cigarette vapor, which could endanger public health. Supporters said individual businesses should be able to decide if they will allow e-cigarettes. They also argued electronic cigarettes help traditional smokers who are trying to quit and that no one has proven the e-cigarettes are unhealthy.


Kansas State Students Seek Rental Inspection Program

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Students at Kansas State are asking the Manhattan City Commission to consider reinstating a rental inspection program. The Manhattan Mercury reports the commission repealed the city's previous program, which called for mandatory inspections and fees for landlords. The program was stopped in 2011 after just one year. Representatives from the Student Governing Association told the commission Tuesday that the issue is a matter of student safety. Student body president Andy Hurtig says some students who rent properties are living in "very deplorable conditions." The K-State Student Governing Association unanimously passed a resolution earlier to encourage the commission to look into the issue. Mayor Karen McCulloh says the commission will take what they said under consideration.


Federal Agency Investigates CO2 Leak at General Mills Plant 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal agency is investigating a report of a carbon dioxide leak at a General Mills plant in Kansas City. The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration says it's looking into the incident at the General Mills plant that led to the evacuation of 110 employees Wednesday after a carbon dioxide alarm went off. No injuries were reported. Jean Williams, OSHA's acting area director in Kansas City, says the agency will determine if federal standards were violated leading to the incident. The agency says carbon dioxide is a colorless, odorless, incombustible gas used in food refrigeration. Symptoms of exposure can include headache and shortness of breath. The plant mills and packages flour.


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