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Headlines for Wednesday, February 4, 2014

Kansas House Approves Bill to Close Budget Gap
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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has approved a bill closing most of a projected $344 million shortfall in the state's current budget. The House vote Wednesday was 88-34. Republicans relied on their large majority to push it through. The measure mostly diverts funds from highway projects and other special funds into the state's main bank account to cover general government expenses. The measure goes to the GOP-dominated Senate. Top Republicans there hope to vote on the plan Thursday. Lawmakers believe they must pass a bill by February 13 for the state to pay bills on time. New figures from legislative researchers Tuesday showed that with tax collections short of expectations through January, the bill still would leave a budget deficit of about $800,000 at the end of June.

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Kansas Bill Would Narrow Talks Between Teachers, Schools 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are considering a bill that would narrow negotiations between school boards and teachers. The House Education Committee conducted a hearing Wednesday on the bill, which would remove 30 issues from a list of things over which the teachers' union and school boards would be required to bargain. That would leave only salary and work hours on the annual bargaining agenda. Both sides would have to agree beforehand to discuss benefits or other issues. Representatives of teachers and school boards testified against the bill, saying they had agreed to a compromise last month that would allow each side to bring five issues to the negotiating table. Representative Ron Highland, a Wamego Republican who is chairman of the committee, said he still believes the bill would speed up negotiations.

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Bonner Springs Lawmaker Dove is New Kansas House GOP Whip 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republicans in the Kansas House have elected a Bonner Springs lawmaker to serve as majority party whip. Representative Willie Dove received 47 votes on the third and final ballot Wednesday, compared with 44 votes for Representative Brett Hildabrand of Shawnee. The whip counts votes and lines up support for GOP leaders on major legislation. Dove is an insurance salesman first elected to the House in 2012. Republican Representatives Bill Sutton of Gardner and Erin Davis of Olathe also sought the whip's job but were eliminated on the first and second ballots. The position was open because Rep. Ron Ryckman Jr. of Olathe stepped down. Ryckman was elected to the post in December, but House Speaker Ray Merrick later named him chairman of the budget-writing Appropriations Committee.

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Kansas Senate Wants to Allow More Bill-Bundling Than House 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators don't agree about how much to restrict the bundling of multiple measures into a single bill. The Senate voted 35-4 on Wednesday to approve proposed rules governing interactions with the House after stripping out a provision against bundling. Critics say bundling leads to sloppy legislation. House members added the anti-bundling provision last week before approving the joint rules. The two chambers must draft a final, compromise version. The House wants to prevent negotiators from the two chambers from bundling more than two measures together in the final version of a bill. Bundling occurs because the same teams of lawmakers negotiate over multiple measures on broad topics such as insurance and agriculture. Senate leaders said they're fine with a limit, but think the House's proposal is too strict.

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Kansas Lawmakers Concerned About Diverting Highway Funds 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House members from both parties are concerned about diverting funds from highway projects to general government operations to help close a shortfall in the state's current budget. The lawmakers said Tuesday during debate on a budget-balancing bill that they worry the state's roads and bridges will deteriorate. The bill contains a proposal from Brownback to divert $158 million from highway projects. Transportation officials acknowledge some projects could be delayed. Protesting the move were Republican Representatives Don Hill of Emporia and Tom Phillips of Manhattan and Democratic Representative Adam Lusker of Frontenac. The state faces a shortfall of more than $330 million in its current budget. 

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Kansas Senate Confirms Higher Ed, Social Services Officials 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has confirmed Republican Governor Sam Brownback's secretary for aging and disability services and three of his appointees to the state Board of Regents. The votes Wednesday all were 40-0. Kari Bruffett has been interim secretary at the Department for Aging and Disability Services since May. She replaced Shawn Sullivan, who became Brownback's budget director. The Board of Regents oversees the state's higher education system. The Senate confirmed appointments made by Brownback in August that included former Democratic state Representative Bill Feuerborn of Garnett. The other two new regents are Goodland lawyer Joseph Bain and Sedan city attorney Zoe Forrester Newton.

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Topeka Man Convicted of Killing Mother

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Topeka man will be sentenced May 11 after being found guilty of killing his mother at a home they shared in 2011. A Shawnee County jury on Tuesday found 40-year-old Jason Hachmeister guilty of the premeditated murder in the death of Sheila Hachmeister. Prosecutors say the victim was stabbed several times and strangled. Testimony during the trial indicated that Jason Hachmeister would receive a $125,000 life insurance payout because of his 58-year-old mother's death. The defense had contended a man Sheila Hachmeister met on an online dating service killed her. Prosecutors say they will seek a "Hard 50" sentence for Hachmeister.

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Council Upholds Firing of Hutchinson Police Officer

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - A former Hutchinson police officer who was fired for lying lost his appeal to be returned to his job. The Hutchinson City Council on Tuesday upheld the firing of Charles Malvo for lying during an internal affairs investigation. He was the second officer who lost an appeal of his firing for lying during the investigation. The second officer, Lorenzo Bohringer, has taken his case to court. The Hutchinson News reports Malvo, Bohringer and Jamin Raigoza were fired in December 2013 after a woman complained Raigoza was harassing her, including showing up at her job and house and asking for sex and showing her an inappropriate picture. Malvo and Bohringer are accused of lying during the investigation into the woman's complaint.

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Lawrence Officials Approve Funding for Police Dogs

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Lawrence police officers will soon be able to call two dogs their partners in fighting crime. The City Commission approved funds to create the new K-9 unit on Tuesday night. The money will be used to purchase the dogs and equip vehicles for them, along with paying for veterinarian bills and food. Lawrence is one of 10 largest cities in Kansas that doesn't have its own canine unit. The department has requested dogs from neighboring law enforcement agencies when needed in the past. The city's police chief says the department will interview officers to select who will serve as the dogs' handlers. The Lawrence Journal-World reports officers will purchase the dogs from a Texas breeder used by the Kansas Highway Patrol's Police Service Dog Unit.

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Ford to Add 900 Jobs at Kansas City Assembly Plant 

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Officials say Ford Motor Company will create an additional 900 jobs in Missouri to build the next-generation F-150 pickup. Governor Jay Nixon says Ford's decision to add jobs at the Kansas City Assembly Plant shows the growth of the state's automotive manufacturing industry. He was scheduled to visit Magna Seating of America, an Excelsior Springs supplier of seating components to Ford's Missouri plant, on Wednesday but the trip was delayed until Thursday because of bad weather. The governor's office says Nixon will discuss the continued expansion of the state's auto sector in Kansas City and across Missouri. The Michigan-based company will have more than 7,000 workers in Kansas City with the new positions.

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Man Injured by Police Shooting in Kansas City 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police say officers shot and injured a man during a domestic disturbance. Spokesman Darin Snapp says officers called to a home in northern Kansas City early Wednesday found a woman on the ground in the front yard and her husband standing over her with a rifle. He says the woman had already been shot in the leg and the man appeared to be ready to shoot her again. Snapp told KCTV5 that when the man held the rifle as if he was going to shoot, two officers fired, hitting him in the side. The man and his wife were taken to a hospital. Both are expected to survive. Two children in the home, ages 6 and 10, were asleep during the confrontation. No officers were hurt.

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Proposed Indoor Skydiving Center in Kansas Draws Skepticism

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A proposal to bring indoor skydiving to a Kansas City suburb hit an obstacle when city council members questioned the peculiar shape of the building. IFly Indoor Skydiving, of Austin, Texas, wants to open a business in Overland Park. The 60-foot building would have two columns on each side of a wind tunnel, allowing customers to free fall and float. Members of the Overland Park City Council said Monday they were concerned about placing such an odd-looking building in a main part of town, particularly if the business closed. The Kansas City Star reports an IFly representative said the base of the building is the size of a typical restaurant and the structure above could be removed, although none of the company's venues across the country have closed.

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Missouri Man Convicted in Death of Kansas Dog Breeder

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Missouri man has been found guilty in the bludgeoning death of a retired Kansas art teacher who was known nationally for breeding, raising and showing Afghan hound dogs. The Wyandotte County, Kansas, district attorney's office says Darrell Broxton of Kansas City, Missouri, was found guilty early Tuesday evening of intentional second-degree murder, burglary and two counts of theft. Broxton was convicted after a seven-day trial of killing 69-year-old Peter Belmont of Kansas City, Kansas, who was found bludgeoned to death in his bed on December 16, 2012. An autopsy estimated that he had been dead for several days before he was found. The district attorney's office says it presented evidence that Broxton was investigated for a similar 1996 homicide in Florida. A sentencing date has not been scheduled.

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Man Critically Injured in Fall at Cheney Reservoir 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita officials say a city employee is in critical condition after being injured at the city's pumping station at Cheney Reservoir. The 59-year-old man was found unconscious about 2 am Tuesday by another employee who was checking on him. Public Works Director Alan King says it's possible the man fell between 20 and 30 feet and could have been lying there for hours before he was found. The incident is under investigation. The man's name has not been released. The city is working to repair a leak in the water treatment plant but it's not clear if the injured person was involved in that project.

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Prosecutor Describes Commune Leader's 15-Year Brutal Reign 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors say a 55-year-old Kansas man accused of killing a member of his commune more than a decade ago was a brutal leader whose 15-year reign was marked by sexual violence and the deaths of six people. Daniel Perez is charged with first-degree murder in the 2003 drowning death of Patricia Hughes at the group's compound in Valley Center. During opening statements in his trial on Wednesday, Perez's attorney, Alice Osburn, told jurors her client did not kill Hughes and that all of the deaths at the commune were coincidental. Osburn said the group shared $4 million in insurance payments from the dead members. Perez also is accused of lying on life insurance applications, rape, sodomy, criminal threat, making false statements on credit applications and sexual exploitation of a child.

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Kansas Man Pleads Guilty to 2 Counts in Fatal Collision 

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A 33-year-old Kansas man has pleaded guilty in the death of a former Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader in a traffic crash while he was fleeing from police. The Kansas City Star reports Roy Lee Maney of Shawnee pleaded guilty Wednesday to reckless second-degree murder and leaving the accident scene in the collision that killed 30-year-old dance instructor Tiffany Mogenson in October 2013. In a plea deal, Johnson County prosecutors dismissed charges of aggravated battery and obstructing the legal process. Mogenson's husband called the plea agreement "absolutely sickening" and has hired attorneys to ask the judge to not accept the plea. Mogenson was stopped at a Prairie Village intersection when Maney's car hit the back of her vehicle at an estimated 90 mph, killing her instantly.

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Joplin Ends Contract with Firm Leading Redevelopment 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Joplin has ended its contract with a Texas-based contractor leading tornado recovery efforts after the firm skipped town as its co-founders resigned. The southwest Missouri community announced Wednesday that it severed ties with Wallace Bajjali Development Partners a day earlier. The city cited "gross negligence, fraud, and willful misconduct" among reasons for the move. The Sugar Land, Texas, firm was hired in 2012 after presenting a plan for $800 million in projects to help Joplin rebuild from a 2011 tornado that destroyed a large swath of the city and killed 161 residents. Wallace Bajjali was paid about $1.68 million by Joplin before the city learned third-hand that the firm's office had closed. Joplin officials later learned that the co-founders had resigned. The firm's former leaders haven't returned calls seeking comment.

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Cowboys Player Arrested in Wichita Drug Case 

Dallas Cowboys running back Joseph Randle has been arrested for the second time in less than four months, this time on suspicion of marijuana possession after a domestic violence call to police in his hometown in Kansas. Wichita police spokesman Lieutenant James Espinoza said Randle was arrested early Tuesday after the 22-year-old mother of Randle's child called 911 to report she fought with him in a hotel room. Espinoza said the woman showed no signs of being injured. The 23-year-old Randle was arrested after a small amount of marijuana was found. In October, Randle was arrested on a misdemeanor shoplifting charge at a Dallas-area mall. He just finished his second season as the backup to DeMarco Murray, who led the NFL in rushing in 2014.

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Royals Stars Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain Sign New Contracts

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Third baseman Mike Moustakas and the Kansas City Royals have agreed to a $2.64 million, one-year contract, avoiding arbitration. Moustakas would earn a $10,000 bonus under Tuesday's deal if he has 550 or more plate appearances. The 26-year-old had asked for $3.1 million in arbitration and had been offered $1.85 million. Postseason star Lorenzo Cain has also agreed to a one-year contract with the Royals for $2,725,000. Cain had asked for $3.6 million and had been offered $2 million when the sides swapped figures last month. In addition to his salary, the speedy outfielder would earn a $25,000 bonus for 505 plate appearances.  Four Royals remain in arbitration: first baseman Eric Hosmer and pitchers Danny Duffy, Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland.

 

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