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Headlines for Tuesday, April 8, 2014


Lawsuit Against Kobach Returned to Kansas Court

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has agreed with the American Civil Liberties Union that a state court should decide a lawsuit challenging Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's enforcement of the state's voter-citizenship rule. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren in Wichita returned the lawsuit Tuesday to Shawnee County District Court. The ACLU filed the case last year in state court, challenging plans by Kobach to create separate rules for Kansans using a state registration form and those using a federal form. The state form requires voters to provide documents proving their U.S. citizenship. The federal form does not. Kobach wanted the ACLU lawsuit heard by Melgren. Kansas and Arizona have sued the federal government and Melgren last month ordered a modification of the national voter registration form.


Governor Signs Kansas Jobless Tax Bill


TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has signed a bill that he says will save Kansas employers about $42 million by adjusting their payments to the fund that pays benefits to unemployed workers. Brownback had a signing ceremony Tuesday at Cerner Corporation in Kansas City, Kansas. Executives from the electronic health records company attended, along with state Labor Secretary Lana Gordon and officials of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. Brownback's office says the bill will lower payments for about 44,000 businesses. Employers who've paid more into the fund than their workers have received in benefits will see a 15 percent cut in rates. The measure also provides a discounted rate to non-construction employers who open businesses in Kansas.


KS Teachers Vow to Fight for Rights

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Leaders of the top Kansas teachers' union are vowing to continue the fight through November's elections against the Legislature's vote to eliminate tenure. Lawmakers inserted the provision Sunday into a bill that increases state funding for public schools. The measure is now on Governor Sam Brownback's desk. The Kansas National Education Association said Tuesday that ending tenure would limit teachers' ability to advocate for their students' best interests. The union also says depriving teachers of the administrative due process provided by tenure puts their jobs in jeopardy. Proponents of the change included conservative Republicans and the group Americans for Prosperity. They argued the move would give local school boards and administrators more power to remove underperforming teachers and would improve the quality of public education.


Kansas Lawmakers OK Tougher Medicaid Fraud Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is praising legislators for unanimously approving a measure to increase penalties for defrauding the state's Medicaid program. Schmidt said Monday the bill approved over the weekend also would make it easier to fine people who file false Medicaid claims. The Medicaid program is funded jointly by states and the federal government and provides health coverage for the needy and disabled. Kansas law now carries a presumed sentence of two years' probation for a first-time offender convicted of defrauding Medicaid of $25,000 or more. Under the bill, a person defrauding Medicaid of between $100,000 and $250,000 would face nearly three years in prison. Someone defrauding the program of $250,000 or more would face almost five years in prison.


Salina Voters Back $111 Million Bond Issue

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — An election conducted by mail has ended with voters in the Salina school district approving a $111 million bond issue. Participation was nearly 66 percent in the mail-in balloting, which ended at noon Tuesday. KSAL-AM reports that Saline County clerk Don Merriman announced shortly after the deadline that roughly 8,400 ballots were cast in favor, with about 5,600 against. About 500 votes remained to be counted. Funds from the bond issue will address numerous needs in the district, including safety and security, all-day kindergarten and career and technical education. Officials also plan improvements at both high schools in the central Kansas district and construction of storm shelters at all schools.


Investigation into County Health Director Revived

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The Saline County sheriff is reopening an investigation into a sexual harassment complaint against the county's health director, who started work Monday. Bronson Farmer said he is more concerned about his new job as director of the Saline County Health Department than he is about Sheriff Glen Kochanowski's decision to reopen the investigation. The Salina Journal reports a woman alleged that Farmer sexually harassed her in 2006, when they both worked at the health department. Farmer said Monday that the allegations were found to be false in 2007 and he is confident the new investigation will result in the same finding. Kochanowski says he reopened the case because some people involved in the original investigation were not interviewed. He says the interviews could change the finding, or confirm it.


Police Seek Federal Help in Highway Shootings

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police are asking federal investigators to help determine whether more than a dozen shootings in less than a month along Kansas City-area roads and highways are connected. Three drivers have been wounded by gunfire as they drove along area highways, many in an area called the Grandview Triangle, where three interstate highways intersect. Ten of the 13 shootings happened in Kansas City, including Sunday evening when a 57-year-old man was eastbound on Interstate 470 when he was shot in the left calf. The other three shootings were in the suburbs of Leawood, Blue Springs and Lee's Summit. Police spokesman Tye Grant says Chief Darryl Forté met with FBI officials on Monday and has asked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to assist.


County Commission Wants Input on Prairie Chicken

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Finney County commissioners say they want to have a say in the federal government's efforts to decide the regulations for the lesser prairie chicken. The commission signed a letter Monday to the Bureau of Land Management asking for coordinating status while the agency devises a plan to regulate the lesser prairie chicken and its habitat. The bird was designated as a threatened species in March. The BLM had asked Kansas counties affected by the decision to participate in the process. But county commissioners said they want more than just input, and being given coordinating status would ensure more of a voice. The Garden City Telegram reports that coordinating status would mean the BLM must consider the county's concerns because the county previously adopted a Natural Resource Coordination Plan.

Fort Riley Opening Center for Sex Assault Victims

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — Fort Riley is opening a new Sexual Assault Response & Prevention Center this week to assist survivors of sexual assault and help prevent the abuse from happening again. Major General Paul Funk II, commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley, will tour the center after it opens Wednesday and hear about the various services to be offered. The center on the northeast Kansas Army post will have eight staff members, including three victim advocates and a special agent with the Criminal Investigation Division. It will be open from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm during all duty days. Fort Riley says team members also will be available outside of the normal hours, as necessary.

Legislature Funds Wichita State Innovation Campus

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State University officials are celebrating after the Kansas Legislature approved $2 million for a new effort to create more technology jobs. The university also will get back some of the millions it lost last year when lawmakers cut its budget and put a cap on some employees' salaries. Wichita State wants to create an Innovation Campus by forming partnerships with companies, which will be housed in four buildings on campus. The Wichita Eagle reports that the effort to attract and train technology jobs is designed to make the city's economy more diverse and less dependent on aviation companies. The Legislature gave the university discretion in how it will use the money, whether for building the complex or paying operating costs.


Man Found Guilty in Salina Homicide

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina man has been convicted of first-degree murder in the death of a 27-year-old mother of five children. A Saline County District Court jury on Tuesday also found Dane DeWeese guilty of conspiracy to commit murder for his role in the April 2013 death of Kristin Tyler. Tyler's body was found in rural Salina about two weeks after her family and friends last had contact with her. The Salina Journal reports that the jury deliberated only about two hours before convicting DeWeese. He will be sentenced June 16. Another man, Joel Heil, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in Tyler's death. He is scheduled to go on trial May 7.


Former City Councilman Admits Child Sex Crimes

COLUMBUS, Kan. (AP) — A former city councilman and school crossing guard from southeast Kansas has pleaded guilty to six counts of child sex crimes. Seventy-nine-year-old Stanley Pickering, of Baxter Springs, has been jailed since his arrest in January. KOAM-TV reports that Pickering pleaded guilty Tuesday in Cherokee County District Court to criminal sodomy, indecent liberties with a child and indecent solicitation of a child. The Kansas attorney general's office says two of the counts carry the potential for life in prison without the chance of parole for 25 years. Pickering resigned as an elementary school crossing guard and from the Baxter Springs City Council after his arrest. He remained on the ballot for last week's council election, but he lost to a write-in candidate. Officials have said none of the offenses occurred on school property.


Judge Affirms Verdict in Brother's ID Theft Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has upheld the convictions in Kansas against a man who posed for decades as his dead infant brother to escape child support obligations and legal difficulties in Canada. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten rejected on Monday a defense effort to set aside the jury verdict in the case of Leslie Lyle Camick, a telecommunications field engineer who lived in Winfield. A federal jury in January found him guilty of aggravated identity theft, obstruction of justice, mail fraud and wire fraud. The judge refused to accept the defense argument that Camick committed no identity theft by taking his late brother's name, because that is how everyone knew him in the United States. Marten said a successful deception is still a deception. Sentencing is April 21.


Cosmosphere Capsule Headed for Exhibit in Germany

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson is preparing to launch the Liberty Bell 7 space capsule on a trip to Germany. The capsule, flown by Gus Grissom in a 1961 space flight, will leave the Cosmosphere in August to be part of an exhibit in Bonn, Germany from October to February 2015. The Hutchinson News reports that the Cosmosphere is planning an exhibit beginning May 10 that will showcase the artifacts from Grissom's 15-minute suborbital space flight, including survival gear, medical equipment and personal items he had on board. The Liberty Bell sank in the Atlantic Ocean after Grissom's flight. It was recovered in 1999 by the Cosmosphere's SpaceWorks team and the Discovery Channel. Spaceworks restored it, and it has been at the Cosmosphere for eight years.

Great Bend to Host Annual Farm, Ranch Expo

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Organizers of the annual Great Bend Farm and Ranch Expo say the event is expected to draw more than 500 exhibitors and thousands of spectators. The exhibition runs Wednesday through Friday at the Great Bend Expo complex, located about 2 miles west of the city. Admission is free. This is the third year for the expo. Some of the new attractions include demonstrations on low-stress cattle handling and horse training. Speakers from Kansas State University will discuss their research. Demonstrations of combines and sprayers are also planned.


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