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Regional Headlines for Friday, January 17, 2014

Voter Citizenship Suit Stalled as Feds Mull Action

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas and Arizona officials are awaiting word from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission on a request to modify federal voter registration forms to require proof of citizenship by residents of the two states. Both states require proof of citizenship from voters who register using state forms. They sued the commission to impose the same requirement for voters using federal forms to help enforce the states' rules. A federal judge in Wichita gave the agency a Friday deadline to respond. A commission spokesman said Friday afternoon that the "matter is still under review." But action by the federal commission is not expected to settle the issue. The proof-of-citizenship requirement championed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has come under attack in courts and in the state Legislature.


Kansas Highways Reopen Following Dust Shut Down

COLBY, Kan. (AP) — Major highways have reopened in northwest Kansas after being shut down because of high winds and blowing dust. The Kansas Department of Transportation closed Interstate 70 from Colby to the Colorado border at mid-afternoon Thursday. Sections of Kansas 27 and U.S. Highways 36 and 83 in Sherman, Cheyenne, Rawlins, Thomas and Sheridan counties were also closed for a time. But the wind subsided as darkness fell, allowing the highways to reopen. In Goodland, the National Weather Service reported winds of 45 mph with gusts up to 55 mph Thursday afternoon. Similar gusts were reported throughout the region, and authorities in Cheyenne County blamed the wind for a tractor-trailer rollover on U.S. 36 west of St. Francis. Information on Kansas highway conditions is available online at

3 Fatalities Reported in NW Kansas Traffic Pileup

REXFORD, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says blowing dust caused an 11-vehicle pileup that left three people dead in northwest Kansas. The crash happened Thursday afternoon on Highway 83 near Rexford, in Thomas County. The patrol says seven tractor-trailer trucks and four passenger vehicles collided. The patrol says high winds and blowing dust reduced visibility to almost zero at the time of the crash. The victims were identified as 51-year-old Leonard Scott Breeden of Colby; 57-year-old James Ocie Perrott of Perryton, Texas; and 66-year-old Jerold L. Lamb of Florissant, Colorado. The patrol did not release more details on the accident or information on injuries.


Feds Seek More Time to Give Evidence in Wichita Airport Bomb Plot

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors are requesting more time to share evidence with lawyers for a man accused of trying to drive a van carrying what he thought was a bomb onto the tarmac at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. A filing Friday also asks a federal judge the court to designate the case against avionics technician Terry L. Loewen as complex. The designation eases speedy trial concerns and gives both sides more time to prepare for a later trial. The trial is now set for February 18. The 58-year-old Wichita man was arrested Dec. 13 following an undercover sting operation. Charges include attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted material support to al-Qaida. Prosecutors are also seeking a hearing next month about the handling of classified information during court proceedings.


KS Dems Doubt GOP Governor Can Sustain New Spending

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democrats don't believe Kansas can sustain new spending proposed by Republican Governor Sam Brownback because of massive personal income tax cuts previously enacted at his urging. Brownback on Thursday outlined proposed changes in the state's budget for its current fiscal year and the fiscal year beginning July 1st. Most of the spending for those two years was approved in 2013. The Legislature's research staff projects that under the governor's proposals, a budget shortfall will emerge by mid-2017, and the state would need to cut $921 million over three years to avoid deficits. Democrats cited those numbers in arguing that the state can't afford the governor's budget proposals and the tax cuts. But Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said the governor is confident that economic growth will sustain core government services.

KS Gov Proposes Restoration of Some Higher Ed Funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback proposes to add $44 million for higher education to the state's current and next fiscal year budgets to offset cuts made last year by legislators. But some Democrats were skeptical Thursday of the Brownback's proposals. Spending on higher education was an unusual area of disagreement between Brownback and fellow Republicans in the GOP-dominated Legislature. Lawmakers trimmed a total of about $46 million in higher education spending for the current fiscal year and the one beginning July 1st combined. Brownback had wanted to keep spending flat. He's proposing to restore about $11 million over the two fiscal years for salaries, with the rest of the additional money going to special projects. Democratic Senator Marci Francisco of Lawrence said funding new initiatives is questionable when existing items are underfunded.

State Will Increase Payments from Oil and Gas Fund

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas will increase payments from a trust fund to several counties that had sued over the annual disbursements. Governor Sam Brownback's administration announced earlier this week that the state will increase payments from the Oil and Gas Depletion Fund to many counties. The Garden City Telegram reports that nearly half of the state's 105 counties, and all the counties in southwest Kansas, sued last fall, saying they should have received twice as much money as the total sent to counties in October from the trust fund. Brownback said in a news release Tuesday that a "misunderstanding" between counties and legislators led him to increase the payments by $7.5 million. The trust fund is designed to offset decreases in property tax revenues in oil- and gas-producing counties.


Former KS State Senator Takes Seat on Regulatory Commission

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Former Kansas Senate Majority Leader Jay Emler has taken a seat on the state commission that regulates utilities. Emler was sworn in as a member of the Kansas Corporation Commission on Friday, one day after the Senate voted 38-0 to confirm his appointment by Governor Sam Brownback. Emler abstained from that vote, and another senator was absent. After winning confirmation, Emler resigned from the Legislature. Emler is a Lindsborg Republican who had served in the Senate since 2001. He is a former chairman of the chamber's Utilities Committee and served as majority leader in 2011 and 2012. Emler will replace former KCC Chairman Mark Sievers, who stepped down in December citing personal reasons. The KCC said Emler will serve the remainder of Sievers' four-year term, through mid-March 2015.


KU Health Building Left Out of Budget Proposal

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Leaders of the University of Kansas are vowing not to give up on a plan to build a new health education center for the university's medical center, even though Governor Sam Brownback's proposed budget does not include funding for the effort. Brownback's budget proposals released Thursday did include additional money for higher education. But the Republican governor didn't add money for a new building at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas. Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and Kansas Board of Regents Chairman Fred Logan tell the Lawrence Journal-World that they will continue to seek state support for the $75 million building. The building would allow expansion of the physician training program, as well as use of new technologies to prepare students and other health professionals.

Final Inmate from 2012 Jail Escape Found Guilty

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A convicted killer who was one of four inmates who overpowered guards and escaped from a Kansas county jail in 2012 has been found guilty of aggravated escape and battery on a corrections officer. The Wichita Eagle reports an Ottawa County jury convicted Santos Carrera-Morales on Thursday. The 24-year-old was serving time for two counts of first-degree murder in a 2007 Wichita gang shooting but had been transferred to the Ottawa County jail to ease prison overcrowding. Two of his accomplices were arrested April 18, 2012, the day of the escape, while Carrera-Morales was arrested a day later. The fourth inmate was caught April 20, 2012. The incident prompted state corrections officials to transfer 18 other state inmates from Ottawa County back to the prison in Ellsworth.


Onaga Man Dies in Logging Accident

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas man died when he was hit by a tree at a logging job site. Riley County police say 47-year-old David Teske of Onaga died Thursday at the job site south of Manhattan. KMAN reports that police say Teske was dead at the scene after being hit by a falling tree.

Prof: Snow Cover Protected Wheat During Cold Snap

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas State University agronomy professor says snow cover left over from early winter snowfall helped protect the wheat crop from frigid temperatures. Professor Jim Shroyer says the snow cover reduced the risk of damage to winter wheat in bitterly cold conditions in much of the state in recent weeks. The Manhattan Mercury reports soil temperatures on January 6 were about 9 degrees in Republic County in north-central Kansas, while further west they were in the mid- to upper 20s in Garden City and Colby. Shroyer says that some damage can be expected when the soil temperature drops into the single digits, meaning crop damage was less likely in the western part of the state. He says wheat stalks are most resistant to winter conditions from mid-December to mid-January.

Former KS Doctor Faces Mounting Legal Problems

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former south-central Kansas doctor already serving time on supervised release for a drug conviction faces mounting legal problems after his latest conviction on gun and drug charges. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot on Thursday set a hearing for February 10 on revocation of supervised release for Lawrence M. Simons. Simons will also be sentenced that day for his November conviction on charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of controlled substances. His latest troubles began when he gave a bail bondsman a pistol as partial payment in an unrelated domestic dispute. Controlled substances also were found in storage units Simons used to store personal property. The former Goddard physician pleaded guilty in 2009 to two counts of unlawfully distributing controlled substances.


Cerner Describes New Campus as Largest in Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Cerner Corporation says a $4.3 billion campus that will be built over the next decade on the site of a former Kansas City shopping center will be the largest in Missouri. The Kansas City Star reports that the North Kansas City-based medical records maker described the project Friday at a news conference attended by Governor Jay Nixon and Kansas City Mayor Sly James. Cerner executives say they expect the first building will be completed and 1,500 people working at the site in about 30 months. Eventually, as many as 15,000 are expected to work at the 4.5 million square-foot campus. Cerner currently employs more than 9,000 people in the metropolitan area, with many of them based at an office complex in western Wyandotte County, Kansas.


Feds Seek to Shield Evidence in Suicide Bomb Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors want to shield some evidence in the case of a Wichita man accused of plotting a suicide bombing at Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport, where he worked as an avionics technician. A filing Thursday asks the court to limit who can see formerly classified information that has been declassified in order to prosecute 58-year-old Terry Loewen. Prosecutors allege Loewen tried to get what he believed was a car bomb onto the tarmac on December 13th. Charges include attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted material support to al-Qaida. The government wants to protect identities of undercover agents and use of sensitive sources and methods. Prosecutors say Loewen gave the FBI a statement that encompasses five DVDs. It has already disclosed 948 pages of reports and 636 photographs.

Police Investigating Shooting Near KCK City Hall

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — One person is dead after being shot outside of City Hall in Kansas City, Kansas. The Kansas City Star reports officers heard multiple gunshots shortly before someone reported the shooting at 3:20 pm Thursday. Initial reports were that the man was shot in the head while between City Hall and the health department building directly to its east. Police shut down part of a nearby street to investigate the shooting. Information about a suspect was not immediately available.


Kerry: Keystone Environmental Report Has Not Been Received Yet

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry says he won't be pushed into making a decision on the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline, despite pressure from Canada and other pipeline supporters for quick action. At a joint appearance Friday with Canada's foreign affairs minister, Kerry said he has not received a crucial environmental report on the $7 billion pipeline, which would carry oil from western Canada to refineries in Texas. Kerry said "a lot of questions" have been raised on the 1,700-mile pipeline proposed by Calgary-based TransCanada. He said the questions require answers. Kerry said he "can promise our friends in Canada that all the appropriate effort is being put into trying to get this done effectively and rapidly." The State Department has jurisdiction over the pipeline because it crosses an international border.


KS National Guard to Host Foreign Officers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A group of international military officers will visit Topeka next month to learn about Kansas history and see state government in operation. The 47 officers come from 40 countries. They're taking advanced military courses at the Army's Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. The Kansas National Guard will play host to the officers on February 6. Their schedule in Topeka includes a presentation by state Court of Appeals Chief Judge Thomas Malone at the Kansas Judicial Center. They'll also visit the Statehouse to meet Governor Sam Brownback and tour the House and Senate chambers.

Man Pleads Guilty in Hutchinson Shooting Death

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A man scheduled to go on trial next week for a Hutchinson shooting death pleaded guilty in the case. Twenty-one-year-old Isaac Beltran pleaded guilty Thursday to reckless killing 26-year-old Dustin Brooks of Hutchinson as the two men argued. Police say Beltran shot Brooks during a large party at a Hutchinson home. No one else was injured. The Hutchinson News reports Reno County District Attorney Keith Schroeder said the plea deal likely would result in a 10-year prison sentence for Beltran. Sentencing is scheduled for February 21.

Lawrence Police Investigate Disturbance at Gymnastics Academy

The Lawrence Journal-World reports that police and fire-medical crews responded to calls concerning a shooting in the parking lot at Lawrence Gymnastics and Athletics at 4930 Legends Drive at about 1:30 this (FRI) afternoon. Police discovered a man, who appeared to be suffering from a gunshot wound, inside a car parked outside the building. The man was taken to a Topeka trauma center; the newspaper has received no word on the man's condition.


KS Woman Sentenced for Embezzling K-State Research Funds

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former employee at Kansas State University's Biosecurity Research Institute has been sentenced to 60 days in federal prison for embezzling research funds. The U.S. Attorney's office says 51-year-old Linda Kay Miller must also pay $14,000 in restitution under the sentence she received Friday. She had pleaded guilty in October. Miller, of Alma, worked from August 2007 to January 2013 at the institute on the Manhattan campus. The institute receives grants for infectious disease research focused on threats to plant, animal and human health. In her plea, Miller admitted altering three checks received by the institute and depositing the money into her personal bank account.


Alternative Energy Patent Issued to K-State University

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University has received a patent for a substance that helps convert straw and other grasses into a cleaner-burning fuel. The patent was issued to the university's research foundation, which helps faculty, staff and students commercialize and protect their discoveries. Kansas State says two former faculty members developed a substance that can be used in the production of syngas. Syngas can be burned for energy and used to generate electricity. But converting biomass to syngas creates tar that must be scrubbed from the syngas. Research foundation vice president Marcia Molina says the newly developed substance is more effective at removing the tar.


Lawrence Man Identified by Father as Wichita Holdup Suspect 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The suspect in a Wichita bank robbery was quickly apprehended after a relative recognized televised images of the bearded, balding man in sunglasses and a bright green jacket. Investigators said the man entered a Bank of America branch Thursday afternoon and gave a teller a note demanding that money be put in a bag. The note ended with "thxs and pls." The suspect took the bag and left. Police quickly released a surveillance photo to the media. The U.S. Attorney's office said investigators were still at the bank when the suspect returned with his father and surrendered less than two hours later. Twenty-five-year-old Matthew Greenlee, of Lawrence, was charged Friday with one federal count of bank robbery. He did not have a listed phone number or a lawyer.


Penguin Exhibit Helps KC Zoo Set Attendance Record

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A record number of people flocked to the Kansas City Zoo last year, in part to see a new penguin exhibit. Zoo officials say 882,194 people visited the zoo in 2013. About 90,000 of those visitors went to the zoo after the penguin exhibit opened in October. The Kansas City Star reports that the zoo had hoped to attract 835,000 people last year. Attendance in 2012 was 824,218. Zoo attendance peaked at 714,367 in 1998, then declined before rebounding and has been rising steadily since 2006. Zoo officials are hoping to meet the 1 million visitors mark by 2016.


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