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Headlines for Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Kansas Senate Panel Delays Education Reviews

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee is delaying discussion of education budgets to allow more time to study last week's ruling from the state Supreme Court on public schools. Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Ty Masterson says Wednesday that a scheduled review of budgets for K-12 schools and higher education is on hold as legislators look for ways to comply with the court ruling. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled Friday that the state needed to fix two funds aimed at helping poorer school districts in order to bring the entire school finance system into compliance with the constitution. The education department estimates the solution could cost as much as $129 million for the budget year beginning July 1. Masterson says legislators are looking at all options before making recommendations. 


KS Senate Approves Proposed Limits on Pre-Primary Party Switches

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has approved a proposal from the state Republican Party to make it harder for voters to switch parties before primary elections. The chamber's 27-12 vote sends the bill to Republican Governor Sam Brownback. The House approved the measure last year. The bill prohibits voters affiliated with a political party from switching their registration between the June 1 candidate filing deadline until after results from the August primary are certified. Current law allows switching up to two weeks before the primary. Republicans said the change would protect the integrity of party contests. They said party switching allows manipulation of elections. Democrats said the bill would restrict voting rights and suggested conservative GOP legislators are trying to protect themselves. Brownback hasn't said whether he'll sign the bill.


KS Gun Bill Moving Again Following Compromises

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A proposal to strip Kansas cities and counties of their power to regulate firearms is moving again through the Legislature after supporters stripped out two provisions preventing the state House from considering it. The House Federal and State Affairs Committee rewrote the bill Wednesday and approved it a second time. The full House is likely to debate it by next week. The committee had approved the bill in February, but the measure hadn't come up for debate. One reason was a provision allowing gun owners to carry loaded firearms in their vehicles statewide, instead of having the practice regulated by local ordinances. Law enforcement groups objected. The second provision stripped from the bill would have allowed juveniles to possess firearms with the permission of parents or guardians.


Kansas Bill on Health Care 'Navigators' Advances

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has approved regulations for counselors who help consumers navigate an online insurance marketplace created by the federal health care overhaul strongly opposed by most Republican state officials. Wednesday's 30-10 vote in the GOP-dominated Senate sends the measure to the House. The bill would require health care the so-called health care navigators to register with the attorney general's office by July 2015, submit their fingerprints and undergo background checks. The attorney general's office also would handle complaints about navigators. Republicans say the bill protects consumers from financial fraud and identity theft. Democrats called the measure unnecessary and a political statement against the 2010 federal health care law. Kansas has about 170 navigators, most trained by the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved, which conducts background checks.


Plan Permits More Beer from Kansas Microbreweries

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are trying to help the state's microbreweries by increasing the amount of beer they can make each year. The state Senate approved a bill Wednesday to raise the limit on manufacturing by microbreweries to 30,000 barrels of beer a year, instead of 15,000 barrels over the two-year term of their licenses. The chamber's 40-0 vote sends the measure to the House. Kansas has four microbreweries, and backers of the bill have said at least two of them are approaching the production limits. Supporters also believe increasing the limit will encourage the growth of the state's craft-brewing industry. Microbreweries can sell their beer at their manufacturing sites, open restaurants, provide catering and package their beer for sale in liquor stores.


Fix to Legalize Charity Raffles Advances in KS Legislature

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Charitable raffles aren't legal in Kansas, but the state Senate has approved a proposal to allow them. The fix requires an amendment to the Kansas Constitution because it originally prohibited all forms of lotteries. The Senate voted 35-0 Wednesday to adopt a proposed constitutional amendment. The action sends the measure to the House, where passage by a two-thirds majority would put the proposal on the statewide ballot in August. Approval by a simple majority of voters would add it to the Constitution. Kansas has a lottery and state-owned casinos, but they're permitted under an exception to the overall ban on lotteries. Under Kansas law, raffles are essentially private lotteries. The amendment would bar charities from contracting with professional raffle or lottery vendors to run their games.


Former Kansas Legislator Charged with Bank Fraud

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas House member has been charged with using money from bank loans intended for cattle purchases to finance his political activities. The U.S. Attorney's office says 40-year-old Trent K. LeDoux, a Republican from Holton, was indicted Wednesday on three counts of bank fraud and two counts of money laundering. LeDoux did not immediately return a message seeking comment. It's not known if he has a lawyer. The indictment alleges that while in office, LeDoux obtained about $465,000 in loans from a Colby bank to buy cattle. He's accused of depositing $15,000 of the money into his campaign account in December 2011, and $12,000 in August 20120. LeDoux was appointed to fill a House vacancy in May 2011. He sought re-election the following year but lost the Republican primary.


UPDATE: Judge Orders Trial in Kansas Quadruple Homicide

OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has ordered a 28-year-old Kansas man to stand trial in the deaths of three adults and an 18-month-old child. Franklin County Judge Thomas Sachse ordered Kyle Flack to stand trial on charges of capital murder, first-degree murder and a weapons violation in the deaths. Flack's attorney, Ron Evans, declined to comment. The bodies of Andrew Stout, Steven White and Kaylie Bailey were discovered last spring at Stout's Ottawa farm. The body of Bailey's daughter, Lana-Leigh, was found several days later in a suitcase in a creek. Testimony showed all four died of gunshot wounds. The judge ruled Wednesday at a preliminary hearing that there was probable cause to try Flack on the murder and weapons charges, but not a charge of attempted rape that prosecutors had been seeking.


Kansas Bill Would Expand Anti-Bias Laws to Gays

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House Democrat has drafted a new proposal to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Kansas City Representative Louis Ruiz presented his proposal Tuesday during a meeting of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee. The panel agreed to sponsor it. Such proposals have failed to pass several times in recent years in the Republican-controlled Legislature. Expanding anti-discrimination laws to protect gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered against bias in employment, housing and public accommodations is a key goal of the gay-rights group Equality Kansas. The bill's introduction came a month after the House passed a "religious freedom" bill that critics said would allow widespread discrimination in the name of protecting gay-marriage opponents from fines and lawsuits.

Kansas Lags Behind Target in Health Enrollments

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — New federal figures show that Kansans are enrolling more slowly than expected in health insurance plans offered through an online marketplace. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported Tuesday that about 29,300 Kansas residents had chosen health insurance plans through the marketplace by March 1. The agency had projected that 42,400 Kansans would have enrolled in plans through the marketplace by the end of February. The actual numbers are short of federal projections for the end of January. But the number of Kansans enrolling through the marketplace grew by 31 percent in February. The figure was about 22,400 at the end of January. Republicans who control state government are vocal critics of the 2010 federal health care law creating the online marketplace.

Senate Committee Rejects Funding for KU Medical Building

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee ignored pleas from University of Kansas officials and approved a capital improvement plan that does not include funding for a new heath education building. Members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday were not convinced that the medical school might lose its accreditation if it is not able to construct the new building. Dr. Doug Girod, executive vice chancellor of the medical center, told the committee that the medical school's accreditation body recently said the school's facilities are an area of noncompliance. The current building was built in the 1970s and Girod says it isn't built for modern methods of training physicians. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Committee Chairman Ty Masterson said the university has enough resources to respond to the accreditation issue.


Grass Fire at Fort Riley Causes No Injuries

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — A fire at Fort Riley fueled by strong winds burned 2,500 acres of grass but caused no structural damage of injuries. Fort spokesman Steve Elstrom says the blaze started about 2 pm Tuesday during a military training exercise on the northwest side of the fort. KCLY reports firefighters from Fort Riley and Riley County fought the blaze on both sides of U.S. 77, with the majority on the east side but including an area approaching the Military Marina.


Kansas Farm Bureau President Announces Retirement

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The president of Kansas Farm Bureau plans to retire later this year after 12 years in the post. Ottawa County farmer Steve Baccus has led the Manhattan-based organization since 2002. He served as vice president for five years before that. Baccus announced Tuesday that he will retire on December 3. In a news release, he said he and his wife have decided the time is right for him to step down. Baccus is a former president of Ottawa County Farm Bureau. He and his family were named Kansas Farm Bureau's District Farm Family of the Year in 1996. He was elected in 2004 to the board of the American Farm Bureau Federation, helping set policy for the agriculture advocacy group.


11 Hidden Cameras Found in Woman's KC Apartment 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police have found nearly a dozen hidden cameras in a woman's apartment above a tattoo parlor where she worked. The Kansas City Star reports the 25-year-old woman found a hidden camera in a smoke detector and called police Saturday. Investigators found 10 more cameras hidden throughout her home, including four in her bathroom. Officers traced wiring from some of the cameras to the basement below the tattoo parlor, where they found a computer monitor with seven video screens showing the interior of the victim's apartment. The woman told police her 47-year-old landlord and boss had propositioned her and asked her out several times. She says he remodelled her bathroom in October when she was out of town. The woman has moved out.


Minor Earthquakes Rattle Kansas and Oklahoma

ANTHONY, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Geological Survey says three minor earthquakes have been reported today (WED) in southern Kansas and northern Oklahoma. The first quake was reported at 4:50 am Wednesday, 14 miles east-northeast of Anthony in Harper County. It measured 3.4 on the Richter scale. KAKE-TV reports that another quake, rated 2.7, was reported at 7:30 am about 10 miles south-southeast of Medford, Oklahoma, followed by a third quake at 8 am about 10 miles east-southeast of the Kansas town of Harper. It also registered 2.7. No damage or injuries have been reported from any of the quakes. The quakes came after Oklahoma reported three minor earthquakes Tuesday. The strongest was reported, near Langston, Oklahoma, and measured 3.7 on the Richter scale.


Judge Says Boy Competent for Trial in Fire Deaths

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A 14-year-old Hutchinson boy accused of starting a house fire that killed his mother and sister has been found competent to stand trial on charges of murder and arson. The Hutchinson News reports that Reno County District Judge Patricia Macke Dick issued the ruling Tuesday. She also granted a motion for an independent evaluation related to the state's request to try the boy as an adult. The teen has remained in custody since the fire last September 26 that killed his mother and 11-year-old sister. He is charged a juvenile with two counts of murder, aggravated arson and the attempted first-degree murder of his father, who escaped the fire. A court entry notes the father was present at Tuesday's competency hearing. All proceedings have been closed to the public.


Missouri Man Admits Defrauding Social Security

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A western Missouri man has admitted improperly receiving more than $109,000 in disability benefits while working at a Kansas equine training center. The U.S. Attorney's office says 39-year-old Michael Burt, of Archie, pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing Social Security funds. Burt was approved for Social Security disability payments in 2002 after being deemed medically unable to work because of back disorders. But he admitted that he began working full-time in July 2004 at Two Bit Training in Overland Park, doing manual labor that included cleaning stalls and looking after the horses. The Social Security Administration was never told of his employment at the business, which trains horses and riders. Burt's plea agreement calls for him to pay full restitution. He also faces a possible prison sentence.


Salina Puts 90-Day Ban on Vapor, Hookah Bars

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — No hookah lounges or vapor bars will be able to open in Salina for at least 90 days while city officials study regulations governing the businesses. The Salina City Commission voted Monday to impose a 90-day ban on the businesses. Two vapor bars that recently opened will be allowed to stay in business. The Salina Planning Commission is scheduled to discuss rules for hookah lounges and vapor bars at its April 1 meeting. In hookah bars, users inhale smoke through a water pipe. A vapor bar allows the use of e-cigarettes. The Salina Journal reports that the current city code doesn't address such businesses. City attorney Greg Bengtson said hookah lounges would violate current city rules if they use tobacco. Vapor bars don't violate the city's smoking ban.

New Tourism Tax in Wichita Step Closer to Approval

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A proposal to increase hotel taxes to promote Wichita tourism is one step closer to reality. The Wichita City Council voted Tuesday to proceed with a new 2.75 percent tax on hotel bills. The council will officially vote on an ordinance next week. The tax would fund a tourism business improvement district. It is forecast to raise between $2.5 million and $3 million to lure tourists to the city. Go Wichita president Susie Santo says an advisory board will make recommendations in the future on how the money would be spent. The Wichita Eagle reports that the proposed tourism business district was supported by several Wichita organizations. But representatives of an anti-tax group, Americans for Prosperity, said the increased tax would hurt local businesses.

Farmers Union Selects National Leadership

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Former North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson has been re-elected president of the National Farmers Union. Johnson has led the group since 2009, after heading North Dakota's Agriculture Department for a dozen years. He says he's grateful for the opportunity to serve two more years as National Farmers Union president. Kansas Farmers Union President Donn Teske was elected vice president of the national group.


Woman Sues Pawn Shop for Selling Gun to Daughter

NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A western Missouri woman is suing a pawn shop that sold her mentally ill daughter a gun that she used to fatally shoot her father. Janet Delana of Wellington appeared at a news conference Wednesday with attorneys for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence to announce the suit filed that morning in Lafayette County Circuit Court. The lawsuit alleges Colby Sue Weathers was schizophrenic and had a history of serious mental illness when she went into Odessa Gun & Pawn in Odessa, 40 miles east of Kansas City, and purchased a gun June 27, 2012. Just over an hour later she is accused of shooting her father in the back of the head. A manager at the pawn shop had not seen the lawsuit and declined to comment.


Toddler Shot in Forehead with Stun Gun

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 2-year-old Wichita girl is recovering in a hospital after being shot in the forehead with a stun gun. KAKE-TV reports that police initially believed the toddler's 4-year-old sister had fired the weapon. But the girls' father told the station Wednesday the 2-year-old shot herself. The incident happened Tuesday afternoon at the family's home. Police say one of the barbs lodged in the toddler's forehead and shocked her. She was reported in fair condition Wednesday at a Wichita hospital. The father said a nanny was in the kitchen and the girls were playing in a bedroom when the 2-year-old found the stun gun in a nightstand and accidentally pulled the trigger. Police have classified the case as a home accident.


Kansas City Man Sentenced for Odd Bank Robbery

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City man who robbed a bank with a hatchet has been sentenced to nearly 16 years in federal prison. Thirty-five-year-old Derek T. Brownlee was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years and eight months for robbing the Metcalf Bank in Overland Park last July. Prosecutors say Brownlee was wearing a bandanna over his face and carrying a hatchet when he jumped over the teller's counter and demanded money. He escaped with money and the teller's personal belongings but was captured after a chase that ended in Kansas City.


NCAA Selection Committee Faces Complex Choices

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The NCAA tournament selection committee will have some tough choices this weekend. It must determine where to seed the University of Kansas in light of Joel Embiid's back injury. It must evaluate where to put unbeaten Wichita State and how it views Syracuse, which has lost four of its last six. It must still find the top 36 at-large teams in a bracket that committee chairman Ron Wellman believes will be the most wide open he can remember. And all of it must be finished by Sunday night. Wellman told reporters Wednesday that committee members will be in touch with schools about injuries and may even come up with multiple brackets as a backup plan to help them deal with Sunday afternoon games. Committee meetings begin Wednesday afternoon.


Testimony Continues in Kansas Killings Case

OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — A forensic pathologist says an 18-month-old girl whose body was found last spring inside a suitcase in a creek in eastern Kansas had been fatally shot in the chest. Dr. Erik Mitchell testified Wednesday at a pretrial hearing for Kyle Flack, who is accused in the death of that baby, Lana-Leigh Bailey. Flack is also charged in the death of Lana-Leigh's mother, Kaylie Bailey, along with Andrew Stout and Steven Bailey. Their decomposing bodies were discovered in May at Stout's Ottawa farm. Mitchell says the baby and the adults died of gunshot wounds. He says the adults were shot in the head and likely died instantly, but that the baby was shot in the chest and probably survived "at least a few seconds" before dying.

**this story has been updated. Please see above for latest version. 




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