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Headlines for Wednesday, October 21, 2015

News headlines from around the region, focusing on what's happening in and around Kansas.
News headlines from around the region, focusing on what's happening in and around Kansas.

Group Says Kansas Incentive Program Benefits Larger Businesses

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A watchdog group says larger businesses have been the primary beneficiaries of a Kansas economic incentive program. The Wichita Eagle reports that the group Good Jobs First says most of the money spent on the state's Promoting Employment Across Kansas program from 2010 to 2014 went to companies with more than 100 employees or at least 10 locations. The program allows companies to retain 95 percent of their state payroll withholding tax for up to seven years. State Commerce Department spokesman Dan Lara questions the group's methodology labeling firms with more than 100 employees as large. He says the federal government uses 500 employees as the threshold for what constitutes a small business, and an audit shows the PEAK program adds $57 to the economy for every $1 spent by the state.


Kansas Representative Huelskamp Skeptical of Ryan's Bid for Speaker 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas congressman Tim Huelskamp is resisting Paul Ryan's appeals for GOP lawmakers to rally behind him as House speaker and questions the Wisconsin Republican's interest in the job. Huelskamp said Wednesday that conditions Ryan has outlined for taking the job leaves the impression with him that Ryan doesn't really want to be speaker. Huelskamp is a tea party favorite who represents the 1st District of western and central Kansas. He is among the hard-line GOP conservatives who forced House Speaker John Boehner to announce plans to retire at the end of the month. Boehner stripped Huelskamp of plum committee assignments late in 2012. Ryan is insisting on Republican unity and rules changes before he formally seeks the speaker's job. Huelskamp said, "I don't think they are all reasonable demands."


Kansas Budget Director Accessed State Email 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Records show the Kansas budget director had access to his state email during a holiday last year when he also sent a policy document on a personal email account. The Wichita Eagle reports that records show Budget Director Shawn Sullivan had access to his state email around Christmas 2014 when he used his private account to email a draft of the governor's budget and tax plan to two lobbyists. When Sullivan was asked earlier why he used private email for that purpose, he said it was because he was home. Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley responded for Sullivan, saying Sullivan used a private email to send the budget information because his work phone didn't support more involved emails, and that Sullivan now uses a work laptop for sending such out-of-office messages.


Kansas Officials Question Value of Data on Energy Use

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some Kansas officials question the value of data collected in annual reports meant to identify state buildings using excessive amounts of energy. The Department of Administration presented such a report Tuesday to a joint legislative committee that oversees state construction projects. The report said 120 of the 328 buildings surveyed, or nearly 37 percent, had excessive energy use over the past five years. But department officials cautioned that state agencies aren't consistent in how they report the information and some appear to misunderstand what data is being requested. The officials also said some data is out of date. The committee voted to recommend that legislators next year consider repealing the law requiring the reporting. But Democratic Sen. Marci Francisco of Lawrence said collecting such information is useful.


Hill's to Cut 44 Jobs in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A pet food company has announced plans to cut 44 information technology jobs in Topeka. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Hill's Pet Nutrition will eliminate the 44 information technology jobs in Topeka over the next year. Hill's told employees it will move some information technology jobs to centers owned by Colgate-Palmolive in New Jersey, Mexico City and India. Hill's spokeswoman Edisa Chacin says employees can apply for other information technology jobs in the company. She says more than 900 people work at Hill's operations in Topeka and Emporia.


Body Found on I-70 in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police in Kansas City are investigating the discovery of a body on highway. The Kansas City Star reports the body was found early Wednesday on eastbound I-70 in the downtown area. Police say a motorist alerted police, and that it appeared that a vehicle struck the man after he jumped. Traffic in the area was diverted while crime scene investigators gathered evidence, but the roadway reopened a few hours later. In separate incident, a tractor-trailer hauling sausages overturned early Wednesday along Interstate 670 in nearby Kansas City, Kansas, causing a traffic backup. The crash closed a section of eastbound I-670 while crews cleared debris.


Kansas Court Speeds Handling of Lawsuit over Abortion Law 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Court of Appeals is taking the rare step of having all of its judges hear a legal challenge to a ban on a common second-trimester abortion procedure to speed up the court's review. Supporters and critics of the law said Wednesday the court is signaling that it views the case as important and wants it to go quickly to the Kansas Supreme Court to settle whether the state can enforce the ban. The law was supposed to take effect in July, but a Shawnee County judge blocked it while a lawsuit against it proceeds. Attorney General Derek Schmidt appealed. Oral arguments in the case are set for December 9. Court officials believe it is the first time since 1989 that all judges will participate in such a hearing.


Efforts Aims to Help Preserve Sites at Kansas Park

SCOTT CITY, Kan. (AP) — A committee has been formed to help preserve and develop Lake Scott State Park in western Kansas. The Hutchinson News reports that Governor Sam Brownback and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Secretary Robin Jennison announced the formation of the Scott State Park Historic Preservation and Development Committee earlier this week. The remains of the northernmost Native American pueblo are a defining feature of the park, which is located north of Scott City. Authorities say that funding challenges have constrained efforts to preserve and interpret the site. One of the goals of the committee will be to raise funds to build an interpretive center over the ruins to help preserve them.


Missouri Woman Sentenced for Defrauding Veterans Program 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 70-year-old Missouri woman has been sentenced to 20 months in federal prison for defrauding a federal program designed to award contracts to businesses owned by service-disabled veterans. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says Mary Parker of Blue Springs, Missouri, pleaded guilty in federal court in Kansas City, Kansas, to one count of aiding and abetting wire fraud. She admitted helping her son, Warren Parker, and her son, Michael Parker, in making false claims for their company, Silver Star Construction of Blue Springs and Stilwell, Kansas. Prosecutors say the company obtained more than $6.7 million in contracts from the Veterans Administration. An investigation determined that Warren Parker never was classified as a service-disabled vet. He was sentenced in 2012 to 87 months in prison.


Southwest Chief Amtrak Upgrades Underway 

PUEBLO, Colo. (AP) — Amtrak improvements along the route of the Southwest Chief through Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico are underway. The Pueblo Chieftain reports that EVRAZ Steel will provide the 11,000 tons of rail needed between Las Animas, Colorado and Pierceville, Kansas. The $8.25 million contract was celebrated Monday by a group of elected officials, steelworkers and others in Pueblo. Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace says the rail replacement has already begun in western Kansas. A $12.5 million grant was awarded last year to upgrade about 50 miles of track in western Kansas and eastern Colorado. Pace says the states have applied for a similar grant this year. The 11,000 tons of steel used for the first leg of the project will be manufactured in Pueblo.


Impostor Spared Prison in Bizarre ID Theft Case 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An immigrant who changed the legal name of his identity theft victim to his own was spared from federal prison in a case even the federal judge called remarkable. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren sentenced 82-year-old Ramon Perez-Rivera on Wednesday to the one night in jail he had already spent when arrested. Prosecutors say Perez-Rivera also changed the victim's birth record to his own name and used the identity to obtain food stamps and Medicaid, a U.S. passport and a driver's license. His defense attorney says his client is uneducated and received some very bad advice from a California notary about changing the victim's name. Perez-Rivera told the court that he thought he was legal. He pleaded guilty in August to possession of unlawfully obtained documents and other charges.


Dead Rabbits Dumped on Wichita Neighborhood Driveways 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say someone deposited 22 dead rabbits on individual driveways in a neighborhood on the city's east side, but they don't know much else about the incident. Police spokesman Lieutenant James Espinoza told The Wichita Eagle it looked like the rabbits were thrown onto the driveways, rather than strategically positioned. He said the rabbits looked like they had been shot with more than a pellet gun. Officers think the incident happened early Wednesday morning, and that the rabbits were wild. Espinoza says he hasn't seen any cases like it. He says Wichita Animal Control is in charge of investigating the incident, but the lieutenant who oversees animal control was out of the office Wednesday.


County Commissioner Shuns Bilingual Spanish TV Reporter 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita television station says one of its reporters has been defamed by a county commissioner who refused to be interviewed by her because he believes she is an advocate for people living in the country illegally. The Wichita Eagle reports Beatriz Parres is a bilingual television reporter who covers news for both Spanish-language KDCU and English-language KWCH. On Monday she approached Sedgwick County Commission chairman Richard Ranzau to ask him about a recall effort in which a pro-immigrant group and others want him removed from office. Ranzau told her he wouldn't talk to her but would allow a reporter who works only for KWCH to interview him. KWCH news director Brian Gregory said Parres is a reporter and it is unfortunate an elected official would make such baseless comments.


Attorneys Seek Release of Man Convicted in Girl's Death 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys for a Kansas man convicted of killing a 14-year-old girl in 1999 have asked the court to vacate his first-degree murder conviction. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that lawyers for Floyd S. Bledsoe filed a motion Tuesday in Jefferson County to vacate Bledsoe's first-degree murder conviction in the 1999 death of of Zetta Arfmann. Bledsoe's lawyers are members of the Midwest Innocence Project and are working the University of Kansas School of Law. They've asked the judge to release Bledsoe based on DNA evidence they say shows that two other men had contact with Arfmann's body. Results of that DNA test became available earlier this year. Bledsoe was sentenced to life in prison in 2000 and briefly released in 2008 before an appeals court reinstated his conviction.


Donations Mounting for Families of Kansas City Firefighters  

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Donations have been pouring in for the families of two Kansas City firefighters killed during a building fire.  The International Association of Fire Fighters Local 42 says the union's received about $54,000 in donations for the families of veteran firefighters Larry Leggio and John Mesh. They died Oct. 12 when a building collapsed during a fire. The Kansas City Star reports other efforts include T-shirts with the images of Mesh and Leggio. As of Tuesday, donors bought 2,360 shirts. Another Kansas City area entrepreneur designed a baseball cap incorporating the initials "KC" with "FD," and says demand has exceeded supply. The Independence School District also has set up a fund for Mesh's four daughters, and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph created memorial scholarship funds honoring both firefighters.


Advocacy Group to Seek Sedgwick County Commissioner Recall 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An advocacy group has announced plans to try to recall a Sedgwick County commissioner who wants to prohibit people in the U.S. illegally from participating in a federal nutrition program in Kansas. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Immigration Advocacy Network announced Monday it'll seek to recall Sedgwick County Commission Chair Richard Ranzau over his positions on health care and immigration. Sandrine Lisk, director of advocacy for the group, says they'll apply within the week for a petition seeking Ranzau's recall. Ranzau sent a letter to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment recently asking that Kansas participants in the the federal food program called, Women, Infants and Children, be limited to "United States citizens, nationals and qualified aliens." Ranzau says a potential recall won't affect his positions on WIC.


Officials: Wichita State University Student Found Dead

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Officials say a female student was found dead in her room on the Wichita State University campus. According to university spokesman Joe Kleinsasser, the student was found Monday evening and no foul play is suspected. The student's identity has not been released pending notification of her family. Wichita State University's police department and the Sedgwick County coroner are investigating the student's death.


University of Kansas Announces Investigative Office Director's Resignation 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas has announced the resignation of the director of the office that investigates sexual violence reports on campus. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Jane McQueeny has resigned from her job as director of the university's Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access. Her last day was Friday. The office was created in 2012 to investigate reports of sexual violence and other discrimination on campus. The office also recommends disciplinary action when a student is found responsible for sexual misconduct. The university announced last week that it is creating the new Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center, which will be devoted to preventing sexual violence on campus. The new center will also be the central coordinating office for the university's sexual assault prevention and education programming.


K-State to Honor Marlin Fitzwater with Honorary Degree 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A former presidential press secretary is receiving an honorary doctorate degree from Kansas State University. The school plans to give Marlin Fitzwater the degree during the December 11 graduate school commencement. He also will serve as the commencement speaker for the ceremony. Fitzwater majored in technical journalism at Kansas State. He graduated in 1965 and worked on newspapers including The Manhattan Mercury and The Topeka Capital-Journal. In Washington he worked in the Environmental Protection Agency, and the departments of Transportation and the Treasury, before serving Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.


Man Charged in Slaying of 23-Year-Old Man in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man has been charged in the fatal shooting of a 23-year-old man in Wichita. Emmanuel E. Crosby was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder in the death of David Ingram. Prosecutors say Crosby shot Ingram last Thursday afternoon when the victim and his girlfriend picked up Crosby and another man for a drug deal. Police say Crosby and the other suspect were in the backseat of a vehicle and Ingram was in the front passenger seat at the time of the shooting. Ingram was taken to a hospital, where he later died. Crosby said in court in Tuesday that he plans to hire an attorney. His next hearing is set for November 3.


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