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Regional Headlines for Friday, December 14, 2012

Kansas Senate President Could Wield More Power over Committee Choices

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top Republicans in the Kansas Senate are considering a proposal to concentrate the power over committee assignments in the chamber's president. And the idea has bipartisan support. Incoming Majority Leader Terry Bruce of Hutchinson said Thursday that some fellow Republicans view the Senate's current method of handling committee assignments as cumbersome. A nine-member, all-GOP panel makes the assignments. The practice is a legacy of Republican infighting decades ago and voters electing Democratic lieutenant governors in the past to preside over a Republican-controlled Senate. Meanwhile, the House gives its speaker control over committee assignments. Bruce and Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita take over when lawmakers convene their 2013 session January 14th. Abolishing the all-GOP appointments group has the support of Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka.

Kansas Senate Hopes to Fill Committees Next Week

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate's new Republican leaders hope to finish making committee assignments early next week. Incoming Senate President Susan Wagle already has named the chairmen and vice chairmen of the chamber's 13 standing committees. But an all-GOP leadership panel headed by the Wichita Republican has yet to finish its assigned task of filling out each panel. The panel will also appoint Democratic committee members from a list of recommendations from Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka. Wagle will become Senate president when lawmakers convene their 2013 session on Jan. 14, and committee assignments will start on that date. In the House, incoming Speaker Ray Merrick will make the committee assignments. His chief of staff said the Stilwell Republican doesn't have a timetable for finishing the job.

Kansas State of the State Address Set for January 15

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has chosen January 15 as the date to deliver his annual State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature. The Republican governor will outline his legislative agenda for 2013 one day after lawmakers begin the annual session. Brownback goes into the new year with sizeable GOP majorities in both chambers. Republicans outnumber Democrats 92-33 in the House and 32-8 in the Senate.


Study: Fiscal Cliff May Cost Kansas 40,400 Jobs

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An economic consulting firm predicts Kansas would lose nearly 40,400 jobs next year if no deal is struck on the so-called fiscal cliff. A state-by-state analysis posted Wednesday by Regional Economic Models Inc. says the private sector in Kansas would take the biggest hit, with nearly 35,000 jobs at risk. The firm says retailers would suffer the most as consumers cut spending. The fiscal cliff refers to automatic tax increases and cuts in government spending that would effect January 1st unless Congress and the White House reach a deal to avert them. For Kansas, Regional Economic Models projects a loss of $2.75 billion to $3 billion in gross domestic product unless an agreement is reached in Washington.

Settlement Reached for Salina Contamination Cleanup Plans

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Salina officials and the federal government reached a financial settlement to cover another step in cleaning up contaminated groundwater and soil at a former Air Force base. Officials announced Thursday that the federal government will pay 90 percent of an estimated $9.3 million needed to investigate the contamination, prepare a feasibility study and agree to a final plan for cleaning up the industrial solvent TCE at the former Schilling Air Force Base. The city of Salina will pay the remaining 10 percent. KSAL reports the federal share is about $8.4 million and the local share is $936,000. The deal must be approved by the Salina City Commission, the Salina School District, the Salina Airport Authority and Kansas State University, as well as the U.S. District Court and Justice Department.


Kansas Lottery Executive Director Named

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has picked Secretary of Administration Dennis Taylor to be the new executive director of the Kansas Lottery. The Republican governor announced the appointment Friday. Taylor will replace Dennis Wilson, who resigned December 3 from the lottery for health reasons. Taylor has served as administration secretary for two years, overseeing state purchasing, upkeep of state office buildings and computer and phone services for state agencies. Brownback also put him in charge of a new office of state repealer, which sought to remove outdated and burdensome laws and regulations. Brownback is expected to name an acting secretary of administration in the coming days. Taylor's appointment takes effect on January 13. He has 35 years of public service experience and served as a cabinet member for former Governor Mike Hayden.


Outgoing State Representative Joins Hays City Commission

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — A longtime Kansas legislator who lost his re-election bid in November is getting right back into public service. The Hays Daily News reports that eight-term House Democrat Eber Phelps has been appointed to fill an unexpired term on the Hays City Commission. Phelps was one of three applicants to replace Barbara Wasinger, who's resigning to take a seat on the Ellis County Commission. He was appointed Thursday night on a 3-0 vote. Phelps will serve until April of next year in his second stint on the city commission. He spent six years on the commission before resigning in 1996 following his first election to the Kansas House. Phelps was defeated by Republican Sue Boldra in last month's election from the northwest Kansas House district.

Death of Shawnee County Jail Inmate Prompts Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The family of a man who died while in custody of Shawnee County authorities is suing several county and Topeka officials and prison employees. The family of 35-year-old Julio Aguirre is suing 30 defendants including the city of Topeka, Police Chief Ron Miller and other officers and health care providers. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Aguirre was mentally unstable throughout his eight days in jail after being arrested in December 2010. The lawsuit alleges the family repeatedly asked that he be sent to a hospital but that request was ignored for days. He was eventually was sent to Osawatomie State Hospital and then to an Overland Park hospital. He died December 12. An attorney says the county denies any negligence, and city officials say they are studying the lawsuit.

KU Medical Center Cited for Death of Goat in Lab

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Federal regulators have cited the University of Kansas Medical Center for violations in its animal research facilities, one that led to the death of a goat. After an inspection in January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture cited the medical center for inadequate veterinary care, improper reporting and improper supervision of experimentation. A medical center spokeswoman says medical center lost an appeal of the citation for the goat's death but the USDA has not indicated it will conduct further investigations. The USDA says some citations are corrected quickly and do not prompt further investigations. The Kansas City Star reports that the agriculture department is conducting another inspection of possible failure to provide adequate veterinary care and adequate laboratory oversight. The medical center says that investigation involves four relatively minor issues.

2-Year-Old Topeka Girl Dies After Pit Bull Attack

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka officials say a 2-year-old girl died after she was attacked by a pit bull mix at a relative's home. The child was attacked Thursday afternoon while she and her mother were visiting the relative. Her name has not been released. Shawnee County Sheriff Lieutenant Danny Lotridge says the girl died after being taken to a Topeka hospital. Officers did not release information on circumstances surrounding the attack. The dog, a 6-year-old male, was taken away by animal control officers. Its fate was not immediately known.


Feds Charge Kansas Feedlot Worker for Alleged Thefts

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas woman faces federal charges of stealing more than $211,000 from a Lyons livestock feeder to pay off losses from her own cattle business. The U.S. attorney's office on Friday charged 37-year-old Carrie L. Frederick of Sterling with three counts of wire fraud. The government says Frederick owed Golden Belt Feeders near St. John more than $150,000. The debt stems from losses in cattle transactions she financed while serving on Golden Belt's board. Prosecutors allege that after Frederick began working in 2007 at Sellers Farms' feeding operation in Lyons, she sent fraudulent faxes to banks for money transfers to cover personal expenses and repay her former employer. Frederick's lawyer did not return a call Friday. A phone number for her could not be found. Frederick was summoned to appear in court January 4.


Kansas Regulators Approve $33M Rate Hike for KCP&L

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas City Power & Light has been granted a $33 million rate increase that will add about $74 a year to electric bills for its 242,000 Kansas customers. The increase was approved Thursday by the Kansas Corporation Commission, which says it will boost the average residential customer's costs by $6.20 a month. The Kansas City, Missouri-based utility had sought a nearly $64 million increase for its Kansas customers. KCP&L officials said they needed additional revenue to maintain generating plants and cover new costs of complying with federal environmental regulations. The company also sought to earn a 10.4 percent profit on its operations, but the three-member KCC scaled that figure back to 9.5 percent.

Kansas Homeowner Finds Burglar in Garage, Shoots Him

MULVANE, Kan. (AP) — A burglary suspect is in a Wichita hospital after being shot in the middle of the night by a rural Sumner County homeowner. Sumner County sheriff's Captain Mike Yoder the 31-year-old suspect is expected to survive. He was in stable condition Thursday at Wesley Medical Center recovering from a gunshot wound in the torso. Neither the suspect nor the Mulvane homeowner has been publicly identified. Investigators say the homeowner awoke to noises around 3:30 am Wednesday and found a man in his garage apparently trying to steal his Harley Davidson motorcycle. The homeowner reportedly told the man to freeze, but the burglar charged him and punched him in the jaw. The homeowner told investigators he then shot the man in the upper left torso.

Report: Sumner County Led Kansas in Wheat Production

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new report shows that Sumner County was Kansas' top 2012 winter wheat producer. Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reported Thursday that Sumner County growers cut 17.9 million bushels this year. McPherson County was second with 11.3 million bushels, followed by Reno County with 10.8 million bushels. Sumner County, in south-central Kansas, also had the most harvested acres with 375,500 total acres. Reno County was second with 246,000 acres, and McPherson County came in third with 225,600 harvested acres. But the highest yields were in Crawford County. Farmers there averaged 61.6 bushels of wheat per acre, breaking the record 50 bushels per acre set in 2003 and 1997. Miami County had the second highest yield with 59.6 bushels per acre. Wilson County was third with 57.9 bushels.


Body Found in Washington State Identified as Kansas Man

LONGVIEW, Wash. (AP) — The body found in the Columbia River a year ago at Longvie, Washington has been identified as a 57-year-old Kansas man, Charles A. Farley of Hiawatha. Cowlitz County (Washington) Coroner Tim Davidson said Thursday the identification was made after Farley's DNA profile was plugged into a national missing persons database. The Daily News reports that Farley was reported missing in April of last year in Kansas. His pickup truck was found in June 2011 at a truck stop at Halsey, Oregon. The body was found December 15, 2011, at a bulk terminal on the river. The death remains under investigation.

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