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Headlines for Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Kansas Weighs Regulating Health Care 'Navigators'

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has given first-round approval to new regulations for counselors who help consumers navigate the federal online health insurance marketplace. The Senate's voice vote Tuesday advanced the legislation to another vote Wednesday, when it is expected to win final approval and go to the House. The bill would require so-called navigators to register with the attorney general's office, pay a $100 annual fee, be fingerprinted and undergo background checks. Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee Chairwoman Mary Pilcher-Cook said the measure would protect consumers. The Shawnee Republican is a vocal critic of the 2010 federal health care overhaul that created the online marketplace. Democrats said the bill is unnecessary and only a political statement. Kansas has about 170 navigators.


Kansas Court Ruling to Aid Areas with Lower Property Valuations

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas school districts with the lowest property valuations stand to benefit the most from any new money approved by legislators in response to last week's state Supreme Court ruling. A deputy commissioner from the Kansas Department of Education tells Democratic legislators Tuesday most of those districts would use any additional money from the state to reduce property taxes, while still spending roughly the same amount on education. The education department estimates lawmakers need to spend $129 million to fully comply with Friday's ruling, which found portions of the state's school funding formula were unconstitutional. The department says poorer districts receive a higher percentage of state aid to offset the lack of property valuation. However, large districts like Wichita, Topeka and Olathe also qualify for significant aid amounts.


Ex-AG Kline Asks US Supreme Court to Review Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Kansas Supreme Court's indefinite suspension of his law license. In a filing Monday, Kline's lawyers contend the Kansas court selectively applied rules governing attorney conduct in deciding the ethics case arising from his investigations of abortion providers. The Kansas Supreme Court sanctioned Kline's law license in October 2013. The court found that as attorney general and later as Johnson County prosecutor, Kline repeatedly misled or allowed subordinates to mislead others, including a Kansas City-area grand jury, to further his investigations.


Kansas Budget Panel Rejects Proposed $2M for New KU Institute

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate budget subcommittee has rejected a proposal to spend $2 million for a new institute at the University of Kansas to work with pharmaceutical companies on new drugs and technologies. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the subcommittee's action Monday led Democratic Senator Laura Kelly of Topeka to accuse Republican subcommittee Chairman Tom Arpke of Salina of having a personal vendetta against the university. Arpke denied it and said the university would be seeing much larger cuts in spending if its budget were tied to its declining enrollment. He and Republican Senator Steve Abrams of Arkansas City voted to put the $2 million toward scholarships, mostly for students at private colleges. The full Senate budget committee is expected to review the subcommittee's action Wednesday.


Testimony Continues in Kansas Quadruple Homicide Trial Hearing

OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — An investigator has testified at a hearing for a Kansas man accused of killing four people that crews looking for the 18-month-old daughter of one victim found a child's body inside a suitcase in a creek. Andrea Reed with the Johnson County Sheriff's department testified Tuesday at a hearing for Kyle Flack, who faces capital murder and other charges. The bodies of Andrew Stout, Steven White and Kaylie Bailey were discovered last spring at Stout's Ottawa farm. The toddler's body was found later. Reed testified that investigators searching a creek in Osage County found diapers and papers with the Baileys' names on them before finding the suitcase that contained a child's body. Reed didn't identify the body. The hearing to determine if there's enough evidence to try Flack continues Wednesday.


Patrol: Man Shot Himself During Police Chase

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says a St. Joseph man died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after a chase in northeast Kansas. The patrol says 29-year-old Jack Ryan Kelley fled from police Friday in Hiawatha, Kansas. They say after his vehicle crashed, Kelley ran from the scene and then shot himself. He died later at a Kansas City hospital Hiawatha police chief John Defore says police found suspected illegal narcotics and drug paraphernalia at the Hiawatha home where Kelley was found before the chase began. A 6-year-old boy at the home was taken into police custody. The St. Joseph News-Press reports that Kelley was a suspect in a February 28 home invasion in St. Joseph, as well as other crimes in Andrew County.

State Considering New Plan for Highway Project

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Transportation is considering a new highway project that would save an historic rock formation near Dodge City. Transportation officials say the new plan for widening U.S. 50 between Dodge City and Cimarron would add at least $15 million to the $69 million project. But it would save the Point of Rocks in Ford County. The department's first plan included cutting away parts of the Point of Rocks, which is a landmark along the Santa Fe and Great Western trails. It is topped by a metal sign featuring a silhouette of cowboys on their horses. Opposition to removing the historic site arose after the first plan was announced. The Wichita Eagle reports that the new plan would reroute the highway around the hilltop.


1 Dead in Officer-Involved Shooting in NW Kansas

OBERLIN, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a person is dead after being shot by law enforcement officers in northwest Kansas. The shooting occurred Monday in Oberlin, when an officer and a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper were investigating possible criminal activity. Police say the suspect turned and fired at officers while fleeing. They returned fire, killing the suspect. Other details have not been released. KAKE-TV reports that the Kansas Bureau of Investigation is leading the investigation, with help from Oberlin Police, the Decatur County Sheriff's Office and the highway patrol.


Report: KS Winter Wheat Starts to "Green Up"

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A government report says the Kansas winter wheat crop has begun to green up in a few parts of the state. The National Agricultural Statistics Service on Monday reported the crop's condition as 18 percent poor to very poor, about 45 percent fair and 35 percent good to excellent. The agency also said cold weather in the past week challenged Kansas farmers calving during snowstorms. Some ranchers reported respiratory issues in newborn calves. While pastures are also starting to turn green, concerns are growing about dry conditions and low pond levels. Stock water supplies were reported as adequate in 69 percent of Kansas.

Police ID Man Found Dead Near Kansas River

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Police in Lawrence have identified a man found dead near the Kansas River, but the cause and circumstances of the death are still unknown. A volunteer with a river cleanup crew found the body just before 9 am Saturday. Police issued a statement Monday identifying the man as 44-year-old Lawrence resident Troy A. Straub. A preliminary examination found no signs of foul play. A report from the coroner's office is pending. The body was discovered near an area where homeless camps have been found and unattended deaths have been reported several times since at least 2008. Police said Saturday they did not know if the man was between homes at the time of his death.


Police Seek Help in Fatal Wichita Club Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a 23-year-old woman who died after being shot at a private club was an innocent bystander. Kelsey Shaw was shot early Sunday as she waited to get into an after-hours party at the bike club. She died later at a Wichita hospital. Wichita police spokesman Lieutenant Todd Ojile, says someone fired shots from the street as several people were waiting to get into the club. Police have few witnesses because people were distracted by a disturbance involving two people who had just been thrown out of the club. Janet Radig, president of the neighborhood association, told KWCH-TV that residents have complained to police, city officials and the club owners about noise, littering and other problems with patrons but nothing has been done.


Kansas Regulators Approve Permit Expansion for Seaboard Hog Operation

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — State regulators have approved a massive expansion at Seaboard Foods' hog feeding operation in western Kansas. The state is permitting up to 396,000 animals despite concerns from the Sierra Club and others about whether the depleted Ogallala Aquifer underlying it has enough water to treat the waste from that many hogs. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment signed off on a wastewater permit for the facility on February 26. Its approval was not made public until Tuesday, when the Sierra Club criticized approval of a 50 percent expansion at Seaboard's Ladder Creek facility in Greeley County. KDHE says the permit was issued in accordance with state and federal regulations. Sierra Club cites a recent Kansas Geological Survey report that the aquifer at the site is "effectively exhausted."


Sedgwick County Settles Lawsuit over Inmate Beating

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas county commission has agreed to settle a lawsuit by relatives of mentally ill jail inmate severely beaten by a sheriff's deputy. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Sedgwick County Commission on Tuesday approved a $300,000 settlement with relatives of the late Edgar Richard Jr. The family had been seeking $4.5 million in a federal lawsuit that was scheduled to go to trial March 25. Richard was 59 years old and had a history of psychotic behavior when he was jailed in 2008 awaiting trial on a probation violation. A deputy who was later fired punched Richard 15 to 20 times in the face on February 15, 2008, breaking his jaw and knocking out several teeth. Richard ended up in a nursing home and died of cancer in 2010.


Body Found at Kansas City Recycling Center

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police are investigating after a man's body was found in a pile of trash at a recycling center. The body was found early Tuesday by workers at the recycling center in east Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports that the recycling center is a private company that has contracts to pick up trash from some businesses. Investigators are trying to determine where the load containing the body was picked up. The man's identity hasn't been determined. A medical examiner will determine the cause of death.


KC Man Charged in Crash That Killed 1-Year-Old

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man has been charged with involuntary manslaughter for the death of a 1-year-old girl who was thrown from the vehicle he was driving when he fell asleep and crashed. Jackson County (Missouri) prosecutors say 23-year-old Eric Gahagans also was charged Tuesday with possession of a controlled substance and driving without a valid license in connection with the July 28, 2013, incident. Gahagans told police he fell asleep while driving his girlfriend and her children and ran off the road, becoming airborne and crashing at 7:08 am. The girlfriend and her infant daughter were found outside the vehicle. Police said the child had not been properly restrained in a car seat. Prosecutors say Gahagan's blood tested positive for marijuana usage. They have requested a bond of $75,000.


$5 Million More Needed for Wichita School Repair

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita school officials say an elementary school that was damaged by a fire last summer suffered substantially more damage than originally believed. To address the problem, the district's school board on Monday approved $5 million more in repairs and other expenses for College Hill Elementary School. The district had previously approved spending $750,000 for repairs. The district says it found previously unknown structural damage at the school after the fire. The $5 million will go toward repairing the roof, windows and mechanical systems. Officials said insurance will reimburse the district for most expenses above its $250,000 deductible. The district also will spend $500,000 in capital outlay funds on repairs and upgrades. The building is expected to be ready for students to return when the next school year begins.

Garden City School to Offer 4-Year Degrees

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Garden City Community College officials say the school is discussing the possibility of offering some four-year degrees to students. The Garden City Telegram reports the programs would be offered through National American University. Officials of National American visited Garden City Monday to discuss the baccalaureate programs that could be offered there. Herbert Swender, president of Garden City Community College, says the school has been in discussions with NAU for a couple of years. He says possibilities for four-year degrees include criminal justice and allied health. Ron L. Shape, chief executive officer at NAU, says the groups are still in the discussion stage and it will be a few months before any decisions are made. NAU has similar arrangements with other community colleges in Kansas.

New Stem Cell Center Conducting Clinical Trials

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new center at the University of Kansas Medical Center that focuses on stem cell research is conducting clinical trials only eight months after it opened. Officials with the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center briefed a Kansas Senate committee on the clinic's work since it was established last year. Dr. Buddhadeb Dawn, the center's director, detailed clinical trials for the Senate Ways and Means Committee. He says the trials will help patients and make the state a leader in stem cell treatments. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the center works on adult stem cell, cord blood and related stem cell research. It is prohibited from using embryonic stem cells or cells taken from aborted fetal tissue.


Judge Upholds Missouri Limit on Funeral Protests

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal judge has upheld a Missouri law barring protests within 300 feet of a funeral. The Missouri law creates a buffer zone around funeral sites from one hour before until one hour after a funeral. Attorney General Chris Koster said Tuesday that the law is now in effect as a result of a federal court ruling a day earlier. But an attorney for the Kansas woman who challenged the law said it has been enforced since last April, when a federal appeals court rejected a free-speech challenge to the buffer zone. The latest ruling by U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. dismissed a claim that the time restriction was unconstitutionally vague. The lawsuit was brought by a member of a Topeka-based church that denounces homosexuality and frequently protests at funerals.


Police Search for Missing Elderly Missouri Woman

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police are searching for an 86-year-old woman missing from Weatherby Lake near Kansas City. The Weatherby Lake police issued a Silver Alert late Monday for Anna L. Gibson, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. She was last seen on the way to a doctor's appointment Monday morning. She is described as white, 5-foot-1-inch, weighing 119 pounds, with white hair and blue eyes. Gibson is driving a blue, 2005 Chrysler Town and Country minivan with Missouri plates SF0B9G.

Former Defense Secretary Panetta to Receive Truman Award

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has been named recipient of the 2014 Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor award. The Truman Foundation said in a release Tuesday that Panetta, defense secretary from 2011 to 2013, was named recipient of the award. Panetta also served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2009 to 2011 and was President Bill Clinton's chief of staff from 1994 to 1997. Clinton received the Truman award in 2013. Karl Zobrist, president of the Truman Foundation, says in a release the defense department and the CIA were established during the Truman administration and that Panetta guided both organizations "in a manner that exemplifies the public spirit and high principles of President Truman." Panetta's scheduled to receive the award at a ceremony May 14 in Kansas City.



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