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Headlines for Thursday, February 12, 2014

Kansas Considering Policy Changes for State Employees

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Governor Sam Brownback's administration is proposing to revise hiring, layoff and termination policies for Kansas government workers and possibly eliminate longevity bonuses for 17,500 employees. The state Department of Administration on Wednesday described the initiatives modernizing state policies. One proposal would give state agencies broader authority to hire employees into non-civil service positions rather than keep those jobs in the civil service system. Secretary of Administration Jim Clark said a new policy would emphasize performance rather than seniority in selecting employees to be terminated. That proposal requires the Legislature's approval and Clark said lawmakers will be asked to fund annual longevity bonuses or cancel them, rather than forcing agencies to eat the costs from existing dollars.

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UPDATE: Kansas Senate Panel Approves Bill to Ban Abortion Procedure 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has approved a proposed ban on a procedure used in 8 percent of the abortions performed in the state. The Public Health and Welfare Committee's voice vote Thursday sends the measure to the Senate for debate. The bill was drafted by abortion opponents who describe the targeted procedure as dismembering a fetus. The bill would prohibit a procedure known as dilation and evacuation and designate it in state law as a "dismemberment abortion." Doctors would not be allowed to use forceps, clamps or other similar instruments to cut up a fetus and remove it from the womb in pieces. Abortion rights advocates say the procedure is sometimes the safest way to terminate a pregnancy and also is sometimes used during the first trimester.

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Kansas Regents Review Potential Impact of Same-Sex Marriage

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Board of Regents has appointed a committee to study how legalization of same-sex marriage could affect state universities. Regent Fred Logan said Wednesday he expects the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a ruling that will require states to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states or he says the court could strike down state bans on the marriages. The Lawrence Journal-World reports if that happens, universities will have to consider issues including health insurance and benefits for employees and student housing policies. Several Kansas counties are granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples but the state is not recognizing those marriages.

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Kansas Proposal Would Allow Concealed Carry with No Permit 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Gun-rights groups in Kansas are telling legislators that the state should allow its residents to carry concealed firearms without a permit. The Kansas Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee heard testimony Thursday on a bill ending a requirement for people wanting to carry concealed to get a state permit. The panel took no action. A permit costs $132.50, and a person must undergo eight hours of training to get one. Lobbyists for the National Rifle and Kansas State Rifle associations noted that Kansas law has long allowed the open carrying of weapons and said people shouldn't need a state permit to exercise gun-ownership rights protected by the state and federal constitutions. But Salina resident and NRA member David Nichols says he doesn't want untrained people carrying concealed weapons.

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Kansas Birthing Center's License Suspended by State 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas birthing center licensed to deliver babies for healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies has been temporarily shut down and declared a public health risk by the state health department. The Birth and Women's Center in Topeka was placed under emergency suspension Feb. 4 after an investigation determined the center had violated several stipulations of its licensing by failing to keep proper records or complying with quality assurance requirements. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says it received complaints of an unusually high incidence of medical problems in women and their children who had been delivered there. A woman who answered the phone at the center referred questions to Dr. Josie Norris, the practitioner who oversees the birth center. Norris didn't immediately return a phone call.

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Attorney General's Office To State Board: Look Elsewhere for Routine Legal Advice 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas attorney general's office told a state board that it didn't have enough lawyers to provide routine legal advice to the board. In response, the Kansas Underground Utility Notification Board says it will seek free outside legal advice. Spokeswoman Jennifer Rapp says attorney general's office would represent the board in a specific legal matter, such as a lawsuit. But she says the office can't provide routine legal advice because it doesn't have the resources. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the board oversees Kansas One Call, which educates the public and fields calls about avoiding utility lines when digging. It works closely with the Kansas Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities. The KCC says it will arrange for a lawyer to provide free representation to the board in the short term.

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Overland Park Police Announce Arrest in Shooting Death

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) - Police in Overland Park say they have arrested a suspect in the shooting death of a 49-year-old man outside his home on January 31st. A 19-year-old man was arrested in Johnson County for first-degree murder. He's being held on a $1 million bond. The Kansas City Star reports Steven L. Sawyer was shot to death on New Year's Eve morning when he went outside to warm his car. Police haven't released a motive yet in the slaying. The newspaper says the arrest was made in Missouri with the help of the U.S. Marshal's Service.

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Lobbyists Briefed on Budget Earlier Than Previously Disclosed 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Newly released emails obtained by the Topeka Capital-Journal show the governor's administration informed two lobbyists about its budget efforts weeks earlier than previously disclosed. The emails showed they were included on a December 6 email thread about the budget. President Kent Glasscock of Kansas State University Institute for Commercialization also was included. The newspaper made an open records request to the school for emails between Glasscock and the state's budget director. Most of the emails' content was redacted. The university said Glasscock has consulted with several governors on budget issues and it wasn't appropriate for Kansas State to comment on who was chosen for budget consultations. A spokeswoman for Governor Sam Brownback says he consulted with several people during budget discussions.

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Kansas Legislators Continue Hearings on Marriage 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers want to lower the state's divorce rate. The House Federal and State Affairs Committee on Wednesday conducted the first of two informational hearings on marriage called by the committee's chairman, Representative Steve Brunk. The Wichita Republican says the state has an interest in keeping marriages together. Three people testified favor of reforms, suggesting the state provide counseling to couples seeking divorce. Glenn Stanton of the conservative organization Focus on the Family said married people are healthier and happier than their unwed peers and the social cost of divorce to the state is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Kansas courts have the option to mandate counseling only when the divorce involves children. The state does not have a mandatory waiting period for divorce petitioners. The hearings are scheduled to continue today (THUR).

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Kansas Lawyers Criticize Proposed Change for Selection of Justices 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are considering changing the way state Supreme Court justices are selected. The House Judicial Committee conducted a hearing Wednesday on two measures that would amend the Kansas Constitution. One change would select Supreme Court justices in partisan elections, while the other would allow the governor to appoint them. But representatives from several lawyers' associations told the panel that those changes would politicze the selection process and weaken the independence of the judiciary. Any amendment to the constitution must be approved by a two-thirds vote in both chambers of the Legislature and passed by a majority in a statewide referendum.

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Commune Leader Testifies in His Own Defense in Murder Trial 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The leader of a Kansas commune that lived off the life insurance payouts of its dead members has taken the stand to deny he killed any of them. Fifty-five year old Daniel Perez said Thursday that he has never claimed to be a seer with magical powers as numerous others have testified. He is charged with first-degree premeditated murder in the 2003 drowning death of 26-year-old Patricia Hughes at the group's compound near Wichita. He also denied the accusations of rape, sodomy, criminal threat, lying on life insurance applications and credit applications and sexual exploitation of a child for which he is charged. Perez contended any sex was consensual, and tried to shift the blame to others. Both sides rested their cases and closing arguments are scheduled for Tuesday.

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$1M Winning Powerball Ticket Sold in Kansas 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Powerball ticket sold in northeast Kansas is worth $1 million. The Kansas Lottery said in a news release that the ticket matched all five white-ball numbers — 11, 13, 25, 39 and 54 — in Wednesday's drawing but not the Powerball of 19. Another ticket, sold in southwest Kansas, matched four of the first five numbers, plus the Powerball, to win a $10,000 prize. Tickets in North Carolina, Puerto Rico and Texas matched all six numbers to split a $564.1 million jackpot. The jackpot goes back to $40 million for the next drawing, on Saturday.

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Company Suspends Efforts to Seize Nebraska Land for Pipeline

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A Canadian oil pipeline company is temporarily suspending efforts to seize Nebraska land for the Keystone Pipeline XL amid a legal challenge. A Holt County District judge issued a temporary injunction Thursday, keeping TransCanada from invoking eminent domain along the proposed Keystone Pipeline route in northern Nebraska. TransCanada agreed to the order, hoping to get an accelerated trial schedule. Landowners have sued over the project. TransCanada filed legal papers in nine Nebraska counties three weeks ago to invoke eminent domain for the land that's needed to construct, operate and maintain the pipeline. The Keystone Pipeline would carry an estimated 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day to Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines headed for Gulf Coast refineries.

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HCA Midwest Settles Charity Dispute in Kansas City Area 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City will pay $15 million to settle a dispute over whether it provided charity health care in the Kansas City area. The money will go to the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City, which was created after HCA's purchase in 2003 of former Health Midwest hospitals in the area. HCA Midwest officials said the organization has exceeded its charity obligations by providing "tens of millions of dollars" in free or uncompensated care every year. The company didn't say exactly how much charity care it provided. The Kansas City Star reported Wednesday that HCA was required to provide at least $653 million in charity and uncompensated care in the Kansas City area for 10 years ending in March 2013.

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Affidavit: Mexican Cartels Laundering Drug Proceeds in US

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A federal Drug Enforcement Agency affidavit obtained by The Associated Press says a Mexican cartel is suspected of laundering $2 million in drug proceeds through a small southwest Kansas bank to avoid tighter restrictions on U.S. currency in its home country. A search warrant filed Tuesday in federal court lays out the investigation into alleged money laundering between 2011 and 2014 by a cartel known as the Mexican Mennonites and others. The warrant was executed against a former banking official. Plains State Bank senior vice president Lindsey Schartz says two ex-employees named in a Drug Enforcement Administration affidavit no longer work there. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says it is an ongoing investigation. No charges have been filed.  

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Suspect Hospitalized After Shooting Involving Topeka Police 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police say a person is hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries after being shot by a police officer during a confrontation. The department said in a news release that the shooting Wednesday morning occurred as officers were investigating a report of a suspicious vehicle in southeast Topeka. An officer determined the vehicle was stolen and when he returned to the vehicle, police say the driver tried to grab the officer's weapon. The two struggled before the officer broke away and fired at the suspect. A second person in the car was not injured. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation will lead the investigation. The names of those involved have not been released.

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Suspect in Kansas Jewish Sites Killings Gets New Lawyer 

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A white supremacist accused of killing three people outside Jewish sites in Kansas has been assigned a new attorney in his capital murder case. The Kansas City Star reports veteran death penalty defense lawyer Mark Manna of Topeka has been assigned to represent 74-year-old Frazier Glenn Miller Jr. Miller's previous attorney withdrew last week, citing a breakdown in communications with Miller. Miller, of Aurora, Missouri, is accused of fatally shooting three people on April 13, 2014. Prosecutors say he killed 69-year-old William Corporon and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, outside the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, then fatally shot 53-year-old Terri LaManno at the nearby Village Shalom care center. Miller has said he wanted to kill Jews. None of his victims was Jewish.

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Deputies Ruled Justified in Fatal Shooting of Kansas Man

SALINA, Kan. (AP) _ Two Saline County sheriff's deputies have been cleared of any wrongdoing in the January 7 shooting of a central Kansas man who pointed a semi-automatic handgun at them.  The Salina Journal reports the officers returned to duty on Tuesday, five weeks after fatally shooting 35-year-old Brock D. Nichols near Assaria.  Sheriff Glen Kochanowski says County Attorney Ellen Mitchell concluded that the use of force was lawful and justified.  The deputies were sent to Nichols's home northeast of Assaria to check the welfare of a toddler. Nichols was shot after he went into a dark bedroom, spun around and pointed a gun at the deputies.  The sheriff did not identify the two deputies, who were doing as "well as expected'' in returning to work.

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Wichita to Accept Mural by Blackbear Bosin

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A mural by a well-known Kiowa-Comanche artist will be displayed in a Wichita museum that focuses on the Plains Indians. The Wichita Eagle reports that a March 13 unveiling is planned at the Mid-America All-Indian Center for the last large mural painted by Blackbear Bosin. The acrylic mural on canvas, entitled "From Whence All Life," was commissioned by Farm Credit Bank in 1972. Bosin is most famous for creating the 44-foot tall steel Keeper of the Plains statue at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas rivers. Last fall, the owner of the Farm Credit Bank building offered to donate the art to the city. City documents say an independent appraisal in November valued the mural at $185,000.

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Kansas Conference Focuses on Business, Community Development

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Commerce is hosting a rural opportunities conference that will highlight rural business and community development. The agency announced Wednesday that registration is now open for the April 15 event in Newton. Sessions include a discussion on marketing a community, the next steps on the statewide water plan, and a panel of Humboldt community leaders talking about how they addressed that community's needs. Other workshops include such topics as marketing, health, public buildings and succession planning.

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Study Predicts Bigger, Longer Droughts for Much of Western North America

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Scientists warn the American Southwest and Central Plains could face "megadroughts" during the second half of this century. And they could last for decades. The scientists write in a study in the journal Science Advances that global warming will lead to "unprecedented drought conditions" -- the worst in more than 1,000 years. The study is based on current increasing rates of rising emissions of carbon dioxide and complex simulations run by 17 different computer models, which generally agreed on the outcome. The Southwest will see less rain. But the biggest problem in both regions will be the heat, which will increase evaporation and dry out the soil. The lead author is NASA atmospheric scientist Benjamin Cook, who says, "We're going to have to think about a much drier future in western North America."

 

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