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Regional Headlines for Friday, April 19, 2013


Kansas Governor Signs Sweeping Anti-Abortion Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has signed a bill into law to block tax breaks for abortion providers and ban abortions performed solely because of the baby's sex. The measure signed by the governor Friday also declares that life begins at fertilization. Some abortion-rights supporters worry that the language in the measure could be used to legally harass providers. Abortion opponents call it a statement of principle and not an outright ban on terminating pregnancies. In addition to the provisions on taxes and sex-selection abortions, the bill prohibits abortion providers from being involved in public school sex education classes. It spells out in more detail what information doctors must provide to patients seeking abortions. Many of the provisions take effect in July, but the tax changes take effect for 2014.


Governor Signs Law Merging Kansas Transportation Units

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has signed a bill that creates a partial merger of the Kansas Turnpike Authority and the Kansas Department of Transportation. The Republican governor said Friday the move reduces duplication of resources and will improve efficiencies in the two agencies. Critics feared the proposal was an attempt to move toll money from the turnpike to the highway department. Money has often been taken from the highway department in the past to fund other state operations. Lawmakers changed the legislation to restrict the use of toll money to turnpike roads and bridges. Transportation Secretary Mike King will become director of turnpike operations. He says the move will lead to consolidation of land and buildings, and to sharing of technology and engineering services.


Judge Dismisses Lawsuits on Open Carry of Weapons

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A Johnson County judge has dismissed lawsuits against Leawood and Prairie Village over bans on open carry of firearms. The Libertarian Party of Kansas argued in the lawsuits that the two Johnson County cities violated citizens' rights by banning open carry. They noted the Kansas attorney general issued an opinion last year that cities cannot ban open carry. Overland Park has rescinded its ban. District Judge David W. Hauber ruled Wednesday that the Libertarian party officials did not demonstrate how they had been personally injured by the municipal bans. He said he could not issue an injunction against the bans without that proof. The Kansas City Star reports Prairie Village officials said in a statement Thursday that the city's citizens had strongly opposed open carry.

Kansas Jobless Rate Rises Slightly in March

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Unemployment rose slightly in Kansas in March despite a drop of more than 1,300 applications for initial unemployment benefit claims. The Kansas Department of Labor reported late Thursday that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose from 5.5 percent in February to 5.6 percent in March. The rate was 5.8 percent in March 2012. A labor economist says Kansas didn't add as many jobs that it typically does in March, suggesting a slowdown in economic momentum. The private sector added 3,100 jobs, primarily in construction and leisure and hospitality professions. Initial claims for jobless benefits fell from 16,388 in February to 15,069 in March. The figure was also below the 17,997 initial claims filed in March 2012. There were some 128,000 people still receiving continued jobless benefits.

Kansas Officials See Scant Change in Revenue Outlook

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials have made relatively little adjustment in projections for the state's overall revenues through June 2014. The officials and economists issued a new fiscal forecast Friday, revising one issued in November. The new forecast predicts the state will collect $6.2 billion in revenues during the current fiscal year and $5.5 billion for the fiscal year beginning in July. The figures are close to previous projections. The forecasters predicted revenues would decline by $745 million during the next fiscal year following income tax cuts enacted last year. The drop would be 12 percent. Kansas Legislative Research Department Director Raney Gilliland said forecasters believe the economy will remain stagnant in the near future. The forecasting team includes legislative researchers, the governor's budget staff, Department of Revenue officials and university economists.


Kansas Projects Lower-Than-Expected Costs for Services

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials have lowered their estimates for what they expect Medicaid and other social services to cost the state through the middle of next year. Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer said Friday the new figures show that there is a "dividend" from the state's overhaul of Medicaid. The new projections cover about $1 billion in state spending on social services each during the current fiscal year and the one beginning in July. The new figure for the current fiscal year is almost $38 million lower than the previous estimate. The figure for the next fiscal year is about $25 million lower than previous total. The state turned its Medicaid program for the needy over to three private health insurance companies this year, promising it would lower costs and improve health coverage.


Court Denies Beechcraft Challenge of Lost Contract

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas airplane maker Beechcraft has lost a legal battle to halt work on a high-stakes Air Force contract awarded to rival Sierra Nevada Corporation. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims on Friday denied Beechcraft's request for a temporary injunction. The contract for 20 planes for use in Afghanistan is worth more than $427 million. It could be worth as much as $1 billion, depending on future orders. Wichita-based Beechcraft said that while it reluctantly accepted the court's opinion it will continue to contest the award through the Government Accountability Office. Sierra Nevada, in a partnership with Brazil's Embraer, plans to build the planes in Jacksonville, Florida. The companies said in a joint statement that the decision ensures work will continue uninterrupted for delivery of the planes on schedule in mid-2014.


Judge: Activist Can Shield 'Ministerial' Visits

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has ruled that a Kansas abortion opponent can shield from disclosure ministerial visits with the killer of abortion provider George Tiller. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten on Friday reversed a magistrate judge's decision that Angel Dillard's communications with convicted murderer Scott Roeder were not protected because she was not an ordained minister. Marten found that Dillard she was acting as a lay minister. But Marten also said Dillard must disclose communications with another inmate who claims Dillard hired him to stalk a Wichita doctor training to do abortions after Tiller's death. Dillard contends the inmate tried to blackmail her after getting out of prison. The judge says regardless of who is telling the truth such a relationship is not covered by the priest-penitent privilege.


Kansas Man Going to Prison for Crash That Killed 2

OSKALOOSA, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas man will go to prison for more than three years for a head-on crash that killed two people. KAIR-AM reports that Brian Keefe, of Nortonville, was sentenced Friday in Jefferson County District Court. Keefe pleaded guilty in December to two counts of involuntary manslaughter and two misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence. The Kansas Highway Patrol said a car driven by Keefe crossed the center line of a road north of Oskaloosa and struck another vehicle on March 29, 2011. The crash killed 38-year-old Shawn Fraker, of Winchester, and 27-year-old Daniel Walker, of Oskaloosa. Keefe was sentenced to three years and seven months on each of the manslaughter counts, to run concurrently. He'll also spend three years on post-release supervision.


1 Dead, 1 Wounded in Wichita Shootings

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say two separate shootings that left one man dead and another critically injured apparently are related. Police say the first shooting happened Thursday night near downtown. A 30-year-old man who was found lying near a home died at a hospital. The second shooting was reported a short time later in southeast Wichita. Police say a man in his 20s was taken to Wesley Medical Center in critical condition. A police spokesman says at least three men are being sought in connection with the fatal shooting.

Judge Slams Kansas Military School for Media 'Grab'

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has criticized a Kansas military school for a motion he describes as aimed chiefly at getting positive media attention. U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum on Thursday denied a motion by St. John's Military School for summary judgment in its favor on a former cadet's claim of abuse. The judge called the motion a media "grab" lacking merit and borderline sanctionable. Eleven ex-cadets have sued the Salina boarding school alleging abuse. Lungstrum says the school's motion did not address the basis of the claim by an ex-cadet who says he was bound, gagged and branded. The judge also warned he would deal harshly with unnecessary filings by either side intended mainly to draw media attention.


Kenseth Qualifies on Pole at Kansas Speedway

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Matt Kenseth took the pole Sunday at one of his favorite places after setting a track qualifying record of 191.864 mph at Kansas Speedway. Kenseth won the fall race at Kansas last season, and hasn't finished outside the top 10 since having engine trouble in the 2009 race. He has finished in the top five at Kansas five times. Carl Edwards will start on the front row for the first time at Kansas after qualifying second with a lap of 191.748. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. qualified third. Joey Logano will start 22nd and Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski will go off 33rd. Both drivers arrived at Kansas with their full teams after appealing heavy sanctions handed down by NASCAR for bringing unapproved parts to last weekend's race at Texas. Jeff Gordon crashed between turns 1 and 2 during his qualifying run.


Royals-Red Sox Game Postponed 

BOSTON (AP) — Tonight's (FRI) baseball game between the Kansas City Royals and the Boston Red Sox has been postponed as authorities continute to search for a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings. No makeup date was announced for the opener of the three-game series at Fenway Park. 


ACLU Protests Creationism Group's Kansas Event

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union is objecting to a southwest Kansas district's plans to allow a pro-creationism group into its schools to talk to students about dinosaurs. Members of the Creation Truth Foundation are to speak next week during student assemblies in Hugoton schools and in the evening at public gatherings. The ACLU said Friday it wants the district to call off the school assemblies. Foundation instructor Matt Miles says creationism would only be discussed during events conducted outside the school day. Superintendent Mark Crawford says he isn't canceling the assemblies. He says the group won't be allowed to promote the evening events during the school events. But ACLU attorney Doug Bonney says the chance for constitutional violations is high, given the Oklahoma-based foundation's mission of promoting Christianity.

Man Sentenced to 10 Years in Motorcycle Fatality

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Sedgwick County man has been sentenced to 10 years and three months in prison for the death of his motorcycle passenger during a police chase. The Wichita Eagle reports that court records show 23-year-old Joshua L. Wynn was sentenced Thursday for the September 2011 death of 19-year-old Mallory Scofield. Wynn was convicted in February of second-degree unintentional but reckless murder as part of a plea deal. Scofield died when she and Wynn were thrown from a motorcycle in west Wichita while Wynn was fleeing from a sheriff's deputy after an attempted traffic stop. Wynn also was sentenced to a six months for license violations.

Trial Set for Kansas Fugitive in Nebraska Chase

TECUMSEH, Neb. (AP) — A July trial in Nebraska has been scheduled for a Kansas fugitive who's accused of firing at officers during a vehicle chase in southeast Nebraska. The Beatrice Daily Sun reports that 33-year-old Michael Engstrom of Topeka pleaded not guilty earlier this week to several felony counts in Johnson County District Court. His wife, Jamie Engstrom, pleaded guilty to felony child abuse. Prosecutors dropped several charges connected to the February 13 chase in exchange for Jamie Engstrom's plea. Authorities say the child abuse charge was filed because Jamie Engstrom had placed a 14-year-old child in harm's way. Officers discovered after the chase that the child was in the Engstroms' car. Both Engstroms have been charged with murder in the slaying of a Topeka man earlier on February 13.

Ex-Newton Chamber Worker Reaches Plea Deal

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — A former Newton Chamber of Commerce employee accused of stealing more than $25,000 from a promotional program has pleaded no contest to four felony charges. Kayla Tillery entered the pleas Thursday in Harvey County District Court. Tillery was charged last month with 14 counts. Authorities alleged that she forged a $5,500 check in the name of the Chamber of Commerce and stole more than $25,000 from the Chamber's "Newton Bucks" program. "Newton Bucks" can be used like cash and are part of program encouraging residents to shop locally. Tillery's plea agreement calls for 45 months of probation plus restitution on all 14 counts filed in the complaint. Tillery was hired by the chamber last year and fired in February.

KC Art Institute Suit Puts Donor into Bankruptcy

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A lawsuit filed by the Kansas City Art Institute over an unfulfilled donation has caused a former banker into bankruptcy. In 2005, Larry and Kristina Dodge of California pledged to donate $5 million to the Art Institute to help construct a new building. The Dodges paid $1 million and the art institute erected the building, naming it for the Dodges. The couple say the recession and the seizing of Larry Dodge's bank made it impossible to fulfill the pledge The university sued the couple. With Larry Dodge declaring bankruptcy, the institute is now working to force Kristina Dodge to pay a $3.3 million judgment against the couple. The Kansas City Star reports that the school's attorneys recently sought to compel Kristina Dodge to produce documents about the couple's financial situation.

Kansas Hosts Birding Competition

PRATT, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism is hosting a new bird watching contest. The department says its "Kansas Birding Big Year" contest will run from April 20 to December 31. A "big year" is what bird watchers call an informal competition to see who can observe the most bird species in a geographic area in one year. The Kansas competition will apply to birds spotted in the state. Mike Rader, wildlife education coordinator for the department, says the point is to get people outside and enjoying nature. He says it's also a good way to learn about the different birds that pass through Kansas and make the state their home. Participants can log their data into an online service called "eBird," available on Cornell University's website.

2 Foreign Officers to Join Military Hall of Fame

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Two international military officers, including one who commanded units in Afghanistan, are set to be inducted into the International Hall of Fame at Fort Leavenworth. The honorees are General Tom Middendorp, chief of defense in the Netherlands, and Lieutenant General Joseph Kasaon, commander of the Kenyan army. They'll be recognized April 25 during a ceremony at the Army's Command and General Staff College. Middendorp graduated from the college in 1997 and was named chief of defense in the Netherlands in 2012. He was promoted to general after serving in Afghanistan in 2009. He also led units in Iraq and the Balkans. Kasaon graduated from the college in 1990 and was named commander of Kenya's army in 2011.


County Jail in South Dakota Tightens Security After Escapes

HURON, S.D. (AP) — Recent inmate escapes from the Beadle County Jail in the South Dakota city of Huron have led to more than two dozen changes in policy to beef up security. KOKK radio reports that Sheriff Doug Solem says major moves include increasing staff, not allowing inmates to bring anything into the jail and not using inmates on cleaning detail at night. Last November, 2 teenagers overpowered a jailer and escaped. They were apprehended the next day. In January, a man with a criminal history in Kansas and North Dakota escaped by using a makeshift weapon to hold a guard hostage. Charles Beeney was caught later the same day. The jail also had escapes in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

Kansas City Firm Top Choice to Design NFL Stadium

ATLANTA (AP) — The Kansas City-based architecture firm that designed the new stadium shared by the New York Jets and Giants is the top choice to design a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons. Documents from the state of Georgia name 360 Architecture as the "apparent awardee" of the lead architect job. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the designation means negotiations on a fee and other terms will begin immediately. If a deal can't be reached, the Falcons and the Georgia World Congress Center would turn to their next choice, which was not named. 360 Architecture was among five finalists for the project. One of its highest profile projects is 82,000-seat MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The stadium is planned for a site near the existing Georgia Dome in downtown Atlanta.


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