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Regional Headlines for Friday, March 16, 2012


Report: Afghan Shooting Suspect to Be Held at Fort Leavenworth

WASHINGTON (AP) — A senior defense official says the U.S. soldier accused in the killings of 16 Afghan civilians is expected to be flown to the U.S. military prison at Fort Leavenworth as early as today (FRI). The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of security surrounding the move, says the shift does not necessarily mean a decision was imminent on announcement of formal criminal charges against the suspect. The suspect, whose name has not been made public, was moved from Afghanistan to Kuwait on Wednesday. Officials say that transfer was necessary because there was no appropriate detention facility to hold him in Afghanistan. Leavenworth is the military's only maximum-security prison.


Kansas House Votes to Add $25M to Budget for Schools


TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has added $25 million to a proposed state budget to help public schools cover unanticipated costs in the current school year. Friday's 116-1 vote on the additional school funding came as the House debated a proposed $14.1 billion state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Republicans who control the House had previously blocked a plan to have the state cover $29 million in costs faced by school districts because of higher-than-expected enrollment, and because they have a larger-than-expected number of students who need special programs to avoid failing.  But they relented when backers of the extra funding proposed diverting $25 million from highway projects. GOP Governor Sam Brownback had included the funding in his budget recommendations, but the House Appropriations Committee deleted the money, arguing that the state's 286 school districts should tap into their cash reserves first.


Kansas House Nixes Proposed KHI Admissions Ban

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas House has voted against a one-year ban on new admissions to the state hospital for the developmentally disabled. The vote occurred Friday as the House debated a $14.1 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The House Appropriations Committee had included a provision banning new admissions to the Kansas Neurological Institute in Topeka. The House stripped the proposal from the budget on a voice vote. Topeka-area lawmakers led the effort to reject the ban. They said KNI deals with the most medically fragile developmentally disabled Kansans. Backers of the ban said it would free up money for in-home services for the developmentally disabled.

Kansas House Adds Extra Money for Mental Health Services to Budget Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas House members have modified a proposed $14.1 billion state budget to boost spending on mental health services. The House voted 75-46 on Friday for a proposal from Representative Pat Colloton, a Leawood Republican, to add $5 million for grants to community mental health centers. It was among numerous amendments the House was expected to consider before deciding whether to give the spending plan first-round approval. The proposed budget sticks closely to many of Republican Governor Sam Brownback's spending recommendations for the fiscal year that starts July 1. It includes Brownback's proposal to spend $10 million for state grants to community mental health centers. But Colloton noted that the spending is down from $30 million several years ago. But Republicans who support the total budget describe it as responsible.


Kansas House Backs Policy on Food Stamps, Immigrants

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has given strong support to a state policy reducing or denying food stamps to U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants. During debate Friday on a new state budget, the House voted 113-7 against forcing Governor Sam Brownback's administration to reverse the policy. Almost 2,100 children lost food stamps after the policy took effect in October. The policy altered how household incomes are calculated to determine eligibility for food stamps. Previously, Kansas, like most other states, discounted a portion of a family's income if some members couldn't prove they were in the U.S. legally. Backers of the change said the state had been discriminating against families that do not include illegal immigrants.


Kansas House Panel Endorses Governor's Tax Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _Governor Sam Brownback's proposal for reducing income tax rates cleared a House committee, but it's unclear if the plan will be debated by the full  chamber. The House Assessment and Taxation Committee has endorsed the bill after modifying it to preserve a tax credit for mortgage interest payments. The voice vote sends the bill to the full House, which has already passed a rival plan that differs vastly from the governor's proposal. Conservative Republicans tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill by removing Brownback's plan and substituting it with proposals to eliminate the tax on incomes of $30,000 or less and creating a single tax rate of 4.9 percent for all other earners.


Kansas House Panel Dismisses Complaint Against Ward

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A House investigative panel has dismissed a complaint against a Wichita Democrat. The complaint filed by 26 Republicans accused Representative Jim Ward of misleading the House during a debate on an amendment he proposed to a property tax bill. A bipartisan panel unanimously dismissed the complaint Thursday. Ward said he did nothing wrong, and said Republicans simply didn't read his amendment before voting on it. The Wichita Eagle reports that Representative Lance Kinzer, an Olathe Republican, said House members had other ways to learn what Ward's amendment did. He and others also said they don't want an investigation whenever someone thinks a legislator didn't properly explain a bill or amendment. None of the Republicans who signed the complaint asking that Ward be censured or expelled testified to the committee.


KS Senate Panel Won't Act on Voter ID Implementation Date Change

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A key state senator is blocking a vote on Secretary of State Kris Kobach's legislation requiring new Kansas voters to prove their U.S. citizenship ahead of this year's presidential election. Chairwoman Terrie Huntington said Friday she won't have her Senate Ethics and Elections Committee meet again this year. The committee adjourned its last scheduled meeting Thursday without voting on Kobach's bill. Kansas has a law requiring people registering to vote for the first time in the state to provide proof of their citizenship, but it doesn't take effect until January. Kobach wants to move the effective date to June 15. Kobach has said the panel could easily convene again. Supporters also could ask the Senate to remove the bill from committee, but that takes a supermajority vote.


Capital Murder Charge Filed in Topeka Girl's Death 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 28-year-old Topeka man has been charged with killing an 8-year-old neighbor girl whose family said she was sleeping when she was snatched from an apartment. The capital murder charge filed Friday against Billy Frank Davis Jr. gives Shawnee County prosecutors the option of seeking the death penalty. Davis was found hiding in a bushy creek bed Tuesday morning, just hours after Ahliyah Irvin's body was found. Davis also is charged with rape of a child, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated burglary, burglary to a residence and criminal damage to property. Davis is being held in the Shawnee County Jail on $10 million bond. It wasn't immediately clear if he had an attorney. Calls to the prosecutor's office rang unanswered, and the jail declined to leave a message for him.


Kansas House Committee Endorses Anti-Abortion Measure

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas House committee has endorsed legislation meant to ensure the state doesn't subsidize abortions even indirectly through tax credits and deductions. The Federal and State Affairs Committee advanced the bill Thursday after adding language addressing concerns from the University of Kansas Medical Center. Officials of the medical school worried that doctors in residency wouldn't be able to obtain abortion training and its accreditation would be in danger. The committee's action sends the bill to the House, where it is likely to pass. Kansas doesn't subsidize abortions directly, but abortion opponents want to make sure that people can't deduct abortion-related expenses from their state taxes. Abortion rights advocates see the measure as too sweeping and likely to be challenged in court.


Kansas Senate Approves Junction City Debt Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Senate has approved legislation giving Junction City more flexibility in managing its debt.  The vote of 36-4 sends the measure to Governor Sam Brownback. The bill gives Junction City officials three additional years to reduce the ratio of outstanding debt to its total property valuation. The limit would remain at 37 percent under the bill through June 2016. Junction City issued bonds in the past decade to make improvements related to the return of the Army's 1st Infantry Division to Fort Riley. City officials and supporters of the debt extension said the expected level of growth didn't occur, leaving the city in financial difficulty. The measure was part of the city's financial restructuring plan adopted in 2011.


Tons of Documents Destroyed in Consumer Protection Promotion

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Attorney General Derek Schmidt says Kansans destroyed more than 5 tons of personal documents during National Consumer Protection Week last week. Schmidt's office worked with businesses and organizations in five cities to give citizens a place to drop off personal documents, which were then shredded and recycled. Schmidt says the events offered a safe way to destroy documents containing personal information that identity thieves like to steal. The document disposal events were held in Wichita, Salina, Garden City, Topeka and Pittsburg.


K-State Basketball Player Accepts Apology from University of Southern Mississippi

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Kansas State guard Angel Rodriguez says he has accepted Southern Mississippi's apology over remarks made by its band and has moved on. The freshman says Friday he did hear the chants of "Where's your green card?" during the Wildcats' 70-64 second-round victory in the NCAA tournament Thursday and that the school's athletic director and "personnel from their school" came to the team hotel to apologize. Rodriguez said he accepted the apology because "there's ignorant people and I know that's not how they want to represent their university." Rodriguez added a civics lesson, saying he doesn't pay attention to that "nonsense, especially because Puerto Rico is a commonwealth, so we don't need no type of papers." USM president Martha Saunders issued an apology Thursday in a statement.


Hearing Set for Kansas NBAF Project

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A committee of the National Research Council is holding a public hearing with the Department of Homeland Security to discuss an updated risk assessment for the proposed biosecurity lab to be built in Kansas. The meeting today (FRI) in Washington will focus on the findings of a report made public last month about the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. The lab is to be built in Manhattan near the Kansas State University. The $650 million lab would replace an aging animal research facility at Plum Island, New York. Scientists would conduct research on deadly animal diseases, including foot and mouth disease. The National Research Council committee is reviewing a report that said the risk of accidental release of foot and mouth disease was remote.


Victims in Diluted Drug Case Want Civil Suit Reopened

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Victims and some of their family members are asking a court to reopen civil cases filed against pharmaceutical companies whose drugs a pharmacist diluted in a fraud scheme. Pharmacist Robert Courtney is serving a 30-year sentence for adulterating cancer drugs he prepared for 34 cancer patients in the Kansas City region in 2001. He admitted that he also diluted chemotherapy drugs since at least 1992 and had diluted many other drugs. The Kansas City Star reports lawyers representing 23 parties recently asked a Jackson County (MO) judge to reopen the case. They want to throw out more than $70 million in settlements paid by Eli Lilly and Bristol-Myers-Squibb, whose cancer drugs Courtney diluted. Court records say a hearing could be scheduled in late March or early April.


Abortion Activist Asks Judge, Not Jury, to Try Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An abortion opponent accused of sending a threatening letter to a Wichita doctor who was training to offer abortions wants a judge, not a jury, to decide her case. Angel Dillard filed a motion Friday in federal court in Kansas opposing a government request for a jury trial. The Justice Department sued Dillard under a law aimed at protecting access to abortion services. The Valley Center woman told Dr. Mila Means in a letter last year that the doctor would have to check under her car every day for explosives. No abortions have been openly done in Wichita since Dr. George Tiller was killed by an abortion opponent. Dillard argued her association with Tiller's murderer would prejudice some jurors and a judge would be able to set aside personal feelings.


Kansas City Police Looking for Owner of Urn, Ashes

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police are looking for the owner of an urn containing ashes that was found earlier this month on the city's north side.  Police say someone brought the urn to the Shoal Creek Patrol Division on March 2, saying it was found next to a tree and a sign that had been knocked over.  Detective Aaron Benson says it's not clear whether the ashes are human or animal. After two weeks of investigation, he says the department decided to ask the public if anyone knows who might be missing an urn.  Anyone with information is asked to call Kansas City police.


Appeals Court Sets Hearing in Boeing Age Discrimination Suit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A federal appeals court has scheduled arguments May 10 in an age discrimination lawsuit brought by former Boeing worker after the 2005 sale of its commercial airplane operations in Kansas and Oklahoma. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has filed notice of the date for arguments. The workers are appealing a 2010 ruling by a U.S. District Judge that sided with The Boeing Company and Spirit AeroSystems. Spirit was created from the spinoff of Boeing's commercial airplane operations in the two  states. Ninety former Boeing workers filed suit claiming they lost their jobs because of their age. The litigation was later granted conditional class-action status. The judge granted summary judgment to the companies, finding there was too little evidence to put the case before a jury.


31 Named in Missouri Drug Trafficking Indictment

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A federal grand jury in Kansas City has indicted 31 people on charges of taking part in a $1 million drug trafficking conspiracy involving methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana.
The U.S. Attorney's office announced the 27-count indictment Thursday and says that several of the defendants have been arrested. Nearly all of the suspects are identified as Mexican citizens. The addresses of some are unknown, but the rest are identified as residents of western Missouri, Kansas and California. The indictment alleges that all of the defendants conspired since January 2007 to distribute illegal drugs, including at least 15 milos of meth. Other charges against some of the suspects include illegal possession of firearms and re-entering the U.S. after being deported.


SE Kansas Man Convicted of Murder in 2 Crash Deaths

COLUMBUS, Kan. (AP) _ A southeastern Kansas man has been convicted of murder for causing a double-fatality crash while he led police on a high-speed chase for 11 miles. The Cherokee County News-Advocate reports that a jury took less than 90 minutes Thursday to find Kaston Hudgins guilty on two counts of first-degree murder. Hudgins was fleeing a Cherokee County traffic stop on July 16th, 2009, when he slammed into a car driven by 41-year-old school teacher Teresa Kemp. Her 13-year-old daughter, Taylor, died at the scene on U.S. 69 south of Pittsburg. Teresa Kemp died six days later. Witnesses testified Hudgins was drunk and driving at least 98 mph when he hit Kemp's vehicle. A civil jury last year found Hudgins responsible for the crash and awarded Kemp's husband $5.7 million in damages.

KC Chiefs Sign Tight End Kevin Boss

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Tight end Kevin Boss has agreed on a three-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs. Boss, who signed as a free agent with Oakland last season after spending his first four seasons with the New York Giants, will get $9 million from the Chiefs. He also will get $2 million that was guaranteed by the Raiders for 2012 before they cut him earlier this week. Boss made 28 catches for a 13.1-yard average and three touchdowns with Oakland. He had 18 touchdowns in four seasons in New York. Kansas City's starting tight end, Tony Moeaki, missed all of last season with a left knee injury. The Chiefs also signed running back Peyton Hillis from the Cleveland Browns this week. He's expected to provide the Chiefs with a one-two punch with tailback Jamaal Charles.


House Prepares for State Budget Debate

(see above for updated material on this story)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas House is preparing to debate a proposed $14.1 billion state budget that has drawn bipartisan criticism over withholding of some education funds. The measure on the House agenda sticks closely to many of Republican Governor Sam Brownback's spending recommendations for the fiscal year that starts July 1. It would cut overall state spending by about 4 percent, or $616 million. But it doesn't include $29 million sought by Brownback to cover higher-than-expected costs incurred by school districts in the current academic year. Without that money, districts would have to use their reserves. Republicans backing the bill defend it as responsible. It could leave the state with more than $500 million in cash reserves at the end of June 2012, depending on how much lawmakers cut taxes.


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