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Headlines for Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Kansas Lawmakers Reconvene to Conclude Business

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Legislature has reconvened so members can wrap up their business for the year, and a new state senator has taken her seat. Both chambers convened Wednesday morning. Lawmakers could be in session into next week as they finish work on the state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 and tackle tax, criminal justice and environmental issues. The new senator is Republican Molly Baumgardner of Louisburg. Republicans selected her last week to replace fellow Louisburg resident Pat Apple. He resigned from the Senate to take a seat on the utility-regulating Kansas Corporation Commission. Baumgardner is a former member of Johnson County Community College's elected Board of Trustees. Wednesday was the 77th day of the session, out of 90 typically scheduled.


Kansas Revenues Off by $92M in April

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are blaming changes in federal tax policies for lower-than-expected state revenue collections in April. The Department of Revenue reported Wednesday the state's April collections were $92 million less than analysts had forecast less than two weeks ago. More than $89 million of the shortfall was in individual income taxes related to federal changes in calculating capital gains on investments and other income. Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan blamed President Barack Obama's administration and changes made to the federal tax code that expired on January 1, 2013. Jordan says other states have seen similar declines in revenue collections, including Michigan which saw revenues drop 42.6 percent. The April totals were announced as legislators returned to Topeka to finish work on the state budget and other issues.


KS House Appropriations Committee Approves Budget Bill 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has approved a budget bill that includes Governor Sam Brownback's request for additional funds for social services. Wednesday's vote by the House Appropriations Committee sends the measure to the full chamber for debate. The Senate has already approved its version of the budget. The House panel met to review revenue forecasts and to discuss budget issues for the remainder of the current fiscal year and the year that starts July 1. Legislative staff briefed the committee on revenue projections that were revised upward by $177 million earlier in April. Brownback is seeking $5 million in new funding to reduce the number of disabled residents waiting for health care services. The money would come from savings in the KanCare Medicaid system for the poor, elderly and disabled.


Backers of Kansas Death Penalty Bill Renewing Push

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A botched execution in Oklahoma isn't causing Kansas legislators to reconsider a bill aimed at expediting appeals in the state's capital murder cases. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff King said Wednesday that Oklahoma's experience shows the need to ensure that Kansas uses the most humane and foolproof execution method possible. But King said the state still needs to ensure that Kansas juries' decisions in capital cases are carried out. The bill sets deadlines for attorneys to file legal arguments with the Kansas Supreme Court. The state enacted its current capital punishment law in 1994 but has yet to execute any convicted murderers. In Oklahoma, condemned convicted murderer Clayton Lockett died Tuesday of an apparent heart attack after the execution procedure was halted after it started.


Official: Kansas Planned for Execution Review

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A spokesman for the Kansas prison system says the agency was already planning to review the state's execution process before a botched execution in Oklahoma. Corrections Department spokesman Jeremy Barclay said Wednesday officials will consider which drugs will be used in lethal injections and steps in administering them as an execution nears. But Barclay said an execution isn't likely for at least several years. Kansas enacted its current capital punishment law in 1994 but has yet to execute any convicted murderers. Oklahoma on Tuesday started executing convicted murderer Clayton Lockett but halted the procedure, and he later died of an apparent heart attack. Barclay said Kansas has no supply of lethal injection drugs because any current supply would likely expire before an execution was scheduled.


Estimate for Aid to KS Classrooms Drops $12 Million

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A school funding plan recently enacted in Kansas is now expected to provide $12 million less than previously thought for public schools.  The State Department of Education is apologizing for what it says is confusion surrounding its estimates.  Republican legislators pushed the plan earlier this month, and GOP Governor Sam Brownback signed it into law last week. Supporters said it provides an additional $73 million for Kansas classrooms.  That new total is now $61 million.  Supporters of the plan had relied on figures issued by the department on April 6. Those figures were revised April 17.  Brownback aides said they didn't know about the revised estimates when he signed the bill.


Black Hills Energy Seeks Natural Gas Rate Hike

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Black Hills Energy's Kansas is seeking a rate increase that it says would raise a typical residential bill by $4.17 per month.  The natural gas utility, which is based in Lawrence, serves customers in 64 Kansas communities.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports Black Hills says it needs the rate increase to pay for increased operating expenses and infrastructure investments. The company says it's spent nearly $51 million in those areas since 2006.  The request goes before the Kansas Corporation Commission.


KS Legislators Review Social Service Issues

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas legislative oversight committee is raising questions about trends in state programs to provide health and social services for eligible residents.  Tuesday's discussion by the committee includes reviews of cost estimates for providing health care for the poor and disabled, as well as temporary assistance to low-income residents.  Legislators are asking whether the cost estimates are related to changes in state policy for cash assistance programs and the new KanCare Medicaid system.  KanCare is administered by three private insurance companies. Kansas privatized the program in 2013 to reduce the growth of health care costs, which are shared by state and federal sources.  The oversight committee will also hear concerns about KanCare in the afternoon from consumers and advocacy groups.


Salina Has No Designated Public Storm Shelters

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Although no public shelters are available in Salina during stormy weather, emergency officials say residents have many places to seek refuge and they are considering ways to provide more.  Saline County Emergency Management director Hannah Stambaugh says residents currently can shelter at fire stations, schools, churches and businesses.  The Salina Journal reports storm shelters for all Salina public schools are included in a recently passed $110 million school bond issue. The district's new Salina West building has a basement designed to withstand winds up to 250 mph but it is not coordinated with the city's and county's emergency notification system.  Stambaugh says a higher priority is improving the county's tornado siren system. Many of the about 20 sirens in the city and county are old and outdated.


KS Public Broadcasting Could Lose Funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Supporters of public broadcasting in Kansas are concerned this could be the year that public funding for the operation ends.  Governor Sam Brownback's budget recommendation for the next fiscal year includes $600,000 for public broadcasting, down from $3.8 million in 2008.  The Kansas City Star reports more lawmakers consider public broadcasting a target for cuts in a time when a tight state budget requires more money for such areas as schools and social services.  A House committee earlier this year voted to remove the remaining subsidy. But a Senate committee agreed with Brownback's decision to allocate $600,000 in the next fiscal year.  Public broadcasters say they've already cut staff and are using cheaper programming. And they say they are working to increase private funding.


Drought, Wind Causing Big Dust Storms in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Drought conditions and seemingly unrelenting winds this week have whipped up massive dust storms across Kansas. The National Weather Service in Dodge City said Wednesday the windiest period is now over in the state as the system moves off into the Great Lakes and northeastern United States. Blowing dust is blamed for the zero-visibility conditions that caused a traffic accident that killed a Great Bend man on Monday. Stanton County schools also cancelled classes and activities that day. Winter wheat also is suffering as the wind sucks up the little moisture that had been in fields. Meteorologist Jeff Hutton says much of the dirt this year has been blowing in from eastern Colorado, where it is drier. But a lot of it is also coming off Kansas fields.


Tips Offered for Driving During Wind-Driven Dust Storms 


TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas highway officials are offering tips for motorists confronting dust storms and blowing smoke as high winds continued blowing across western and central parts of the state yesterday (TUE).  Several collisions, one of them fatal, happened Monday amid a dust storm on U.S. 56 near Great Bend. And a dozen vehicles were involved Sunday in accidents on U.S. 54 south of Liberal as dust reduced visibility to near zero.  The Kansas Department of Transportation advises motorists to avoid driving through dust storms and smoke from spring burning when possible. If that's not possible, the agency says to pull off the road as far and as quickly as possible.  Once off the road, KDOT says drivers should turn off all lights. That's because other drivers may mistakenly use a stopped vehicle's lights as a guide.


Court Orders Planned Parenthood to Pay Costs

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court has ordered Planned Parenthood to pay Kansas the costs of an appeal over family planning funds. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday awarded the state $1,350 for its costs of appealing a district court order. An appeals court panel ruled in March that Kansas can strip two clinics of federal family planning money while Planned Parenthood moves forward with its challenge of a state law it calls retaliation for its advocacy of abortion rights. At issue in the case is money distributed to states under a federally financed family planning program. Kansas appealed U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten's order to fund the clinics until the case was resolved. A status conference by telephone has been set for May 12 in the case.


Car-Semi Collision Kills 2 in Southwest Kansas

GREENSBURG, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Highway Patrol says two Oklahoma residents have died in a collision between their car and a tractor-trailer. The accident happened around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday near the southwest Kansas community of Greensburg. The patrol says the northbound car failed to yield at the intersection of U.S. 183 and U.S. 54 and was hit by the westbound semi. Authorities identified those killed as the car's 35-year-old driver, Aurora Diane Balch, and her 27-year-old passenger, Donald Anthony Barrs, both of Weatherford, Oklahoma. The Highway Patrol says neither wore a seatbelt.


Wichita Toddler Killed in Gunshot Accident

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A 19-month-old Wichita toddler is dead after being accidentally shot by his 4-year-old brother who was trying to lift a loaded handgun from a nightstand when it went off. Wichita police say they received a 911 call around 2 pm Tuesday from someone who was extremely upset and had a hard time providing an exact address. The child was pronounced dead shortly after two men brought him into a hospital. Police Lieutenant Todd Ojile says three children were in the bedroom when the 4-year-old found the 9 mm handgun and accidentally pulled the trigger. The children's 33-year-old father and his 22-year-old brother were in the living room when the shooting occurred. Ojile says the tragedy shows why parents and caregivers need to keep guns out of the reach of children.


Wichita Man Found Guilty in Meth-Injection Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has been convicted in the death of a man who prosecutors say was tortured before being injected with a lethal dose of methamphetamine. A Sedgwick County jury on Tuesday found 38-year-old Jason Jones guilty of first-degree murder in the death of 34-year-old Shawn Lindsey. Surveyors found Lindsey's body in a field in January 2013. Prosecutors will seek a Hard 50 sentence during the sentencing phase of the trial Wednesday. Jones was one of six people charged in Lindsey's death. The Wichita Eagle reports authorities say Lindsey was bound and tortured by several men in a west Wichita auto shop before he was injected with meth. Prosecutors say Lindsey was killed because he owed money to the shop's owner.


1 Dead in Bus Crash in Western Kansas

COLLYER, Kan. (AP) _ A passenger bus collided with a pickup truck in western Kansas, killing one person in the pickup and injuring several people on the bus. The patrol says the accident happened early Wednesday as the Greyhound bus and pickup truck were headed east on Interstate 70 in Trego County. Patrol spokesman Tod Hileman says investigators are working to determine what caused the accident. He says the victim was in the pickup, which was also hauling a trailer. The victim's identity hasn't been released. Greyhound spokeswoman Lanesha Gipson says the bus was headed from Denver to Kansas City, carrying 42 people, including the driver. Gipson says 16 people on the bus were transported to hospitals, and three remained hospitalized later Wednesday. Greyhound sent another bus to pick up the passengers.


KS, Colorado Groups Aim to Save Southwest Chief Route

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A coalition in Western Kansas and Southern Colorado has pledged $9 million to keep Amtrak's Southwest Chief on its current route through those areas and Northern New Mexico.  The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that coalition announced yesterday (TUE) that Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, which owns the track along the Southwest Chief route, has said it will commit to contributing $2 million. Meanwhile, Amtrak has pledged $4 million and the Kansas Department of Transportation has committed $3 million.  No such steps have been taken in New Mexico, where a state study is underway to determine the economic benefits, infrastructure needs and costs, and possible constitutional constraints.  The coalition also is pursuing $24.5 million in federal grants.


KS Horse with Equine Herpes Virus Euthanized

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A horse in northeast Kansas has tested positive for equine herpes virus after participating in a barrel racing event in Nebraska.  Kansas Animal Health Commissioner Bill Brown says the horse was euthanized and samples were sent to a laboratory, where tests showed lesions consistent with EHV-1. Additional testing in Kentucky confirmed the horse had the virus.  The horse participated in a competition in Lincoln, Nebraska, in mid-April. A few days later a Wisconsin horse also was confirmed with the virus and euthanized.  The virus is easily spread by airborne transmission, horse-to-horse contact and contact with nasal secretions on equipment, tack, feed and other surfaces.  Kansas agriculture officials are not imposing any restrictions on equine events but encourage horse owners to take precautionary measures.


Judge Sets Hearing in KS Planned Parenthood Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has set a hearing to determine the status of a lawsuit over federal family planning money to Planned Parenthood in Kansas.  U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten has scheduled for a status conference by telephone for May 12 in the case.  An appeals court panel ruled in March that Kansas can strip two clinics of federal family planning money while Planned Parenthood moves forward with its challenge of a state law it says is retaliation for its advocacy of abortion rights.  At issue in the case is money distributed to states under a federally financed family planning program. Kansas appealed a lower court's order to fund the clinics until the case was resolved.


Ex-Menninger CEO Suggests Downtown Topeka Marker

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The retired CEO of the famed Menninger psychiatric clinic is suggesting that redevelopment efforts in downtown Topeka include a plaque honoring the site of his grandfather's medical office in the 1890s.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Dr. Walt Menninger contacted the newspaper to suggest the honor for his grandfather, Dr. C.F. Menninger.  The newspaper solicited suggestions after an architectural firm working on the redevelopment disclosed names of people who could be honored with plaques or statues. The list included world-renowned psychiatrist Dr. Karl Menninger, who died in 1990.  He was the son of C.F. Menninger and both helped found the Menninger clinic in 1919. It remained in Topeka until moving to the Houston area in 2003.  The city plans improvements along a four-block downtown stretch over two years.


One Dead in Emporia House Fire

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in Emporia say one person has died in a house fire.  Crews were called to the single-story home around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. Firefighters quickly extinguished the flames and found the victim.  Police are helping investigate the cause. The victim's name was being withheld while family members were notified.


Judge Sets Hearing in KS Planned Parenthood Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has set a hearing to determine the status of a lawsuit over federal family planning money to Planned Parenthood in Kansas. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten on Tuesday scheduled for a status conference by telephone for May 12 in the case. An appeals court panel ruled in March that Kansas can strip two clinics of federal family planning money while Planned Parenthood moves forward with its challenge of a state law it says is retaliation for its advocacy of abortion rights. At issue in the case is money distributed to states under a federally financed family planning program. Kansas appealed a lower court's order to fund the clinics until the case was resolved.


Man Arrested on Drug Charges in Field Near KCI

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A man is in custody after allegedly fighting with an officer and then fleeing into a field near the Kansas City International Airport. The incident Tuesday night did not affect operations at the airport. The Platte County Sheriff's Office says a deputy tried to stop the 41-year-old man on Interstate 29 for routine traffic violation. The man allegedly then fought with the deputy and fled onto airport property. The deputy suffered minor injuries. He was arrested before he made it to an airport runway. Authorities say they found 6 pounds of marijuana in the man's car. No charges have been filed.


Prairie Chicken Hunting Could End in SW KS

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State wildlife officials may bar the hunting of all prairie chickens in southwest Kansas to help the state comply with the federal government's listing of the lesser prairie chicken as threatened.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports the state Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism said Tuesday that fewer than 100 lesser prairie chickens are taken each year, but the goal is to try to prevent any from being killed.  An advisory commission will consider the proposal in June.  The federal government in March declared the lesser prairie chicken as threatened because its numbers have dropped dramatically.  Hunters seek the larger and darker greater prairie chicken but sometimes kill lesser ones.  The hunting ban would affect all or part of 28 counties. The season is from November 15 through December 31.


Bank of America Selling 11 KS Branches

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Bank of America plans to sell 11 branches throughout Kansas, including two in the city of Great Bend.  The Wichita Eagle reports the branches are being sold to four Kansas-based banks.  A Bank of America spokeswoman told the newspaper Tuesday the branches being sold are located in Caney, Coffeyville, Emporia, Great Bend, Hays, Hutchinson, Independence, Lindsborg, McPherson and Salina.  The Eagle listed the buyers of the 11 branches as Lyon County State Bank in Emporia; Commercial Bank in Parsons; First Kansas Bank in Hoisington; and First Bank Kansas in Salina. The sales are expected to close this summer.


Ex-Employee Accused of Theft from Cabela's

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former employee of a Wichita sporting goods store is accused of stealing merchandise and thousands of rounds of ammunition.  The U.S. Attorney's office says 25-year-old Garrett T. Alley was indicted Tuesday on one count each of possessing stolen merchandise and stolen ammunition.  Prosecutors said Alley worked at Cabela's in Wichita for seven months, beginning in December 2012.  The indictment alleges he stole more than $5,000 worth of merchandise, including clothing, optics and binoculars, plus more than 4,000 rounds of ammunition.  Court records did not list an attorney for Alley, and no phone number could be found in Wichita under his name.




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