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Headlines for Wednesday, April 23, 2014


KS Nullifies Local Regulation of Guns

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has signed legislation nullifying city and county gun restrictions and ensuring that it's legal across the state to openly carry firearms. The governor announced his action Wednesday. The new law will take effect July 1. The National Rifle Association has described it as a model for stripping local officials of their gun-regulating power. The bill would sweep away local restrictions on open carry, though cities and counties could prevent people from doing so in public buildings. The measure also would prevent cities and counties from enacting restrictions on firearm sales or how guns are stored and transported. Supporters of the bill say a patchwork of local regulations has infringed on gun-ownership rights. But critics say local officials know their communities best.


Kansas Joining Compact Against Federal Health Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is joining a proposed compact with other states hoping to exempt themselves from the federal health care overhaul. Republican Governor Sam Brownback announced Wednesday that he signed a compact bill passed by the GOP-dominated Legislature earlier this month. The new law takes effect July 1. The compact would let participating states remove themselves from all federal health regulations if Congress consents. Many Republicans strongly oppose the federal health care law championed by Democratic President Barack Obama. Critics of the bill questioned whether Congress would approve a compact. They also suggested member states could cut Medicare benefits for seniors. Brownback said the federal health overhaul represents a bigger threat. The Texas-based group pushing the compact says eight other states have enacted similar laws, including Missouri.


Textron Eliminating 750 Cessna, Beechcraft Jobs

NEW YORK (AP) — Just over a month after buying Beechcraft for $1.4 billion, Textron announced 750 job cuts at that company and at its Cessna division. The layoffs will occur over the next 60 days. Both aircraft makers are based in Wichita. Management and non-management jobs will be eliminated, the company said. Textron Incorporated, based in Providence, Rhode Island, expects about $4.6 billion in annual revenue from the combination of Cessna and Beechcraft.


Aerospace Firm Chooses Site for New Kansas Plant

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita-based aerospace company has chosen the suburb of Newton as the new home of its chemical subsidiary. The Newton Kansan reports Aviation Business International will house its ABI Chemicals division in a 20,000-square-foot facility. The plant will be built at the Newton City-County Airport, near the Kansas Logistics Park. The ABI Group of Companies supplies products to airlines worldwide, including Delta, Air France and British Airways. The new plant will produce next-generation coatings used in aerospace manufacturing processes, being developed in conjunction with Wichita State University's National Institute for Aviation Research. Operations are expected to begin in October, with 14 employees by the end of the year. The city of Newton will build the plant and lease it to ABI Chemicals.


McConnell Base Gets Final OK for Refueling Tankers

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita has received final approval to become the main operating site for the Air Force's new KC-46A air refueling tanker. Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, along with U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, announced Tuesday that the base in Wichita passed an environmental study, the final requirement for receiving the 36 new tankers. The Air Force selected McConnell in May 2013 to be the home for the new tankers, pending the outcome of the environmental study. The Wichita Eagle reports that the decision means the base can start spending $219 million to prepare for the tankers, which are expected to arrive in early 2016. The aircraft will replace the aging KC-135 fleet flown by crews for nearly 60 years.

Online Portal for Kansas Driver's Permits Delayed

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is starting later than initially planned with a new online portal for taking applications for driver's education permits from young residents. The Department of Revenue expects the portal to be available May 5. The department previously planned to have it available April 1. Department spokeswoman Jeanine Koranda said Tuesday the delay was caused by last-minute improvements to make the portal run more smoothly for driving instructors. With the new format, an instructor will be able to fill out an online form and immediately print out the permit if there are no issues that require additional review. In the past, the forms had to be mailed to Topeka, and processing them could take several weeks. Each year the department handles about 50,000 driver's ed applications.


Soldier Pleads Guilty to Illegally Taking Benefits

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Fort Riley soldier has admitted that he accepted disability payments he wasn't eligible to receive. The U.S. Attorney's office says in a statement that 37-year-old James Scott Nickerson pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of making a false official statement to a federal agency. Prosecutors say in October 2009, Nickerson applied for disability benefits under the Wounded Warrior Program. He claimed he was unable to work because of "mental disorders" he developed while serving in Iraq. But he concealed that he was working full time for the Army in various jobs, including as a platoon sergeant. Nickerson admitted being paid nearly $72,000 in Social Security disability benefits he shouldn't have received. He has already agreed to pay $71,734 in restitution. He will be sentenced September 8.


Soldier Convicted in WikiLeaks Case Gets New Legal Name

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge has granted a request to formally change the name of the soldier convicted of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks from Bradley Edward Manning to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning. The former intelligence analyst is serving a 35-year prison sentence for passing classified U.S. government information to the anti-secrecy website. Manning is serving the sentence at an Army prison in Kansas. During a brief hearing Wednesday, Leavenworth County District Judge David King said he'd allow the name change. The decision clears the way for official changes to Manning's military records, but it would not compel the military to treat Manning as a woman. That includes transferring Manning to a prison with a woman's unit.


Salina Boy Accused of Making Playground Knife Threat

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — An 11-year-old Salina boy is in legal trouble after a group of children told police he threatened them with a knife. KSAL-AM reports that the incident occurred Tuesday evening on a school playground. Police say the boy pulled out a butterfly knife with a 4-inch blade and waved it at four other children during an argument over his bicycle. The children — two 9-year-olds and two 11-year-olds — also told police the boy threatened to go home and get a gun. The boy was arrested on four counts each of aggravated assault and making criminal threats. He was later released to his parents.


Grass Fire Blamed for Accidents on I-70

GLENDALE, Kan. (AP) — Officials have extended a burn ban in a north-central Kansas county where smoke from a large grass fire was blamed for two multi-vehicle accidents on Interstate 70. No serious injuries were reported in the accidents Monday afternoon in Saline County. The Salina Journal reports that authorities believe a passing train sparked the fire, which started near Glendale and spread along a five-mile stretch of the highway. The Kansas Highway Patrol says visibility was near zero when five vehicles were involved in a chain- reaction collision around 3:20 pm. About 30 minutes later, an eastbound semi carrying hay bales ran into the back of another tractor-trailer. The interstate was closed for about an hour as crews fought the flames. Saline County commissioners on Tuesday extended a burn ban until April 29.

Barton County Commissioner Dies in Plane Crash

GARFIELD, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says a county commissioner from western Kansas died when his plane crashed while he was crop dusting. The patrol says 67-year-old Don Cates, a Barton County commissioner from Claflin, died Tuesday afternoon when his ultralight, single-engine plane hit a power line and crashed into a ditch just northwest of Garfield in Pawnee County. Cates was the only person on board. Cates joined the Barton County Commission in 2010. The Great Bend Tribune reports that Cates was a pilot in Vietnam and was awarded several military honors. He then flew for 34 years as a commercial pilot before reaching the mandatory retirement age. He worked several jobs after that and was flying for Pratt's Farmers Spraying Service when he crashed.

KC-Area Police in Both KS and MO Seek ATM Thieves

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police on both sides of the state line in the Kansas City metropolitan area believe they're getting close to shutting down a group behind more than a dozen thefts from automatic teller machines since November. KMBC-TV reports that some arrests have been made. But officers in a Missouri-Kansas task force are seeking at least one more person who might be a big piece of the puzzle. Kansas City police Sergeant Bryan Jones says investigators are looking for George S. Schrand Jr. to get his side of the story on the ATM thefts. Police say the Kansas City man also has outstanding arrest warrants in Missouri's Clay County on assault and felonious restraining charges. He's also being sought for a parole violation.


Kansas City Hospital Adopts 'No-Hitting' Policy

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City hospital has a new policy that forbids hitting of any kind, including parents spanking their children to discipline them. KMBC-TV reports that Children's Mercy Hospital has established what it calls a "No Hit Zone" where physical discipline is banned. Hospital officials say the goal is not to tell parents how to discipline their kids, but instead to help parents through stressful times at the hospital. A hospital brochure says harsh discipline like hitting, spanking and yelling can affect children's physical, emotional and mental health. Under the new policy, hospital employees who see behavior that could escalate are directed to address the adult and see how they can help. A social worker could be called in if behavior progresses to the hitting level.


Wichita Man Sentenced for Car-Horse Crash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has been sentenced to more than two years in prison for fleeing a hit-and-run accident that killed a man on horseback. The rider, 51-year-old Lloyd Ferguson, died after his horse was hit by a car the night of July 5, 2013. A 6-year-old boy riding with Ferguson was seriously injured, and the horse had to be euthanized. A Sedgwick County judge on Tuesday sentenced 26-year-old George Childers to 28 months in prison, followed by 12 months of probation. Childers pleaded guilty earlier to leaving an accident scene and interfering with law enforcement. A storm had cut power to streetlights in the area. KWCH-TV reports that Childers apologized Tuesday to the victims and said the lack of streetlights had made it difficult to see the horse and riders.


Spirit Airlines to Begin Flights from Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Spirit Airlines will begin offering five daily flights out of Kansas City in August. The low-budget airline announced Wednesday that it would offer flights to Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit, Las Vegas and Houston, beginning August 8. The airline, based in Miramar, Florida, offers inexpensive flights but also charges for amenities such as soft drinks, carry-on bags and assigned seats. It also has more seats, which don't recline, in its airplanes. Kansas City will be the 56th city in Spirit's network.


JJ's Restaurant to Reopen Near Former Site

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A popular upscale Kansas City restaurant that was destroyed by a gas explosion last year plans to reopen this summer across the street from its previous location. The Kansas City Star reports that JJ's will open a 4,800-square-foot restaurant and bar on the south side of the lobby in the new Plaza Vista Building a few blocks from the Country Club Plaza. Owner Jimmy Frantze says he expects about 90 percent of his former employees to return. An explosion caused by a natural gas leak on February 19, 2013, killed server Megan Cramer and injured several other workers. The blast leveled the restaurant and damaged two neighboring buildings. Frantze and his brother David Frantze say they considered rebuilding at the original site, but the bids were way too high.


Police Identify Body Found in Kansas City Pond

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A medical examiner is working to determine what caused the death of a man whose body was found inside a truck in a pond in northern Kansas City. Police on Tuesday said the body was that of 42-year-old Vincent Eugene Reynolds, who was last seen on April 12. His family reported him missing April 14. The pickup truck was discovered Monday evening at the Willow Lake complex, where Reynolds lived.

Kingman Voters Extend City Sales Tax

KINGMAN, Kan. (AP) — Kingman residents easily approved the extension of a 1 percent city sales tax. The Hutchinson News reports that results showed the proposal passed Tuesday by a vote of 213-95. It extends a 10-year city sales tax, which was scheduled to expire at the end of the year. The sales tax is expected to generate at least $450,000 a year. Kingman Mayor Elizabeth Madden said 82 percent of proceeds will go to capital improvements, with 18 percent for economic development. The new sales tax takes effect January 1.


Feds Seek $211K in Fines from Agriculture Company

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Federal safety regulators are proposing $211,000 in fines for a Minnesota agriculture company that authorities say repeatedly failed to make sure workers weren't exposed grain dust hazards in Montana. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Wednesday cited CHS Inc. for 19 violations following inspections at grain-handling facilities in Cut Bank, Glendive, Denton and Valier. Three were repeat violations, including failing to test the air quality in work spaces for potentially explosive grain dust, hazardous gases or lack of oxygen. Fourteen were classified as serious, meaning there was a substantial probability of a worker death or injury. The company has the option to contest the fines. A CHS worker was killed in Kansas in 2010 when he fell into what regulators said was an inadequately protected grain bin.


Governor Touts Nebraska Jobs for Veterans

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman is hoping to lure military veterans to the state with a campaign touting good jobs for vets. "The Good Life for Veterans" campaign seeks to attract military veterans and their families from other states to Nebraska. The initiative is a partnership between state government, business and veterans groups including the Nebraska Department of Labor, the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry, private business employers and others. Nebraska employers and other representatives are attending a series of military career fairs in several states, including Kansas. The initiative began after a Nebraska Chamber poll found that more than half of nearly 450 private business respondents had experienced difficulty hiring qualified employees during the past year. Nebraska's unemployment rate is among the lowest in the nation.




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