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Regional Headlines for Friday, May 31, 2013



Kansas Lawmakers' Work on $14.5B Budget Stalled

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are waiting to consider a proposed $14.5 billion budget for each of the state's next two fiscal years. Republican leaders were still wrestling Friday with tax issues, which is holding up budget votes. Also, House and Senate negotiators reached agreement on budget issues two weeks ago but reopened their talks Thursday to make adjustments. A key budget issue is higher education spending. Republican Governor Sam Brownback wanted to keep it flat over the next two years, but both chambers approved cuts. Negotiators have agreed to cuts of 1.5 percent in each of the next two fiscal years for state universities. The Legislature's annual session is in its 98th day. The state constitution specifies 90-day sessions, but Republican leaders had promised lawmakers would meet just 80 days.


Kansas Lawmakers Forced Back into Tax Negotiations

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are being forced to resume negotiations on tax issues following the House's rejection of a plan to lower the state sales tax on groceries. House and Senate negotiators were meeting Friday. It was the 98th day of the Legislature's annual session, with 90 days normally scheduled. Republicans who control both chambers can't agree on adjusting the sales tax as part of a larger plan to also cut income taxes. GOP Governor Sam Brownback wants to raise additional sales tax revenues to prevent budget shortfalls. The sales tax is 6.3 percent but is set by law to decrease to 5.7 percent in July. The House rejected a plan Thursday night to lower the sales tax on groceries to 4.9 percent while keeping it at 6.3 percent on other items.

Kansas Democrat: Chances for Tax Plan Slipping Away

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Democratic state senator involved in Kansas legislators' tax negotiations says chances that Republicans can pass tax legislation this year are diminishing. State Senator Tom Holland of Baldwin City questioned Friday whether House Republicans can agree on any proposal for adjusting the state sales tax while further cutting income taxes. The House rejected a plan Thursday night to drop the sales tax on groceries to 4.9 percent but keep it at 6.3 percent on other items. Democrats oppose Republican Governor Sam Brownback's efforts to follow up on massive income tax cuts last year with another round of reductions. Brownback proposed keeping the sales tax at 6.3 percent to raise additional revenues to prevent budget shortfalls. The tax is set to drop by law to 5.7 percent in July.

Kansas Revenue Secretary Makes Pitch to House GOP

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan is trying to lessen resistance among House Republicans to raising new revenues by adjusting the state sales tax. Jordan told GOP House members during a Friday meeting that they shouldn't view sales tax proposals as tax increases. He noted Republican Governor Sam Brownback's proposal to keep the sales tax at its current 6.3 percent rate is part of a larger plan that includes future income tax cuts. Also, legislation this year follows massive income tax cuts enacted last year. The sales tax is set by law to decrease to 5.7 percent. Some GOP conservatives see cancelling part or all of the decrease as raising taxes. But Jordan said the goal is to allow Kansas to phase out personal income taxes to stimulate economic growth.

Kansas Senate Panel Offers Bill on Educational Standards

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas Senate committee has introduced legislation that would pause the implementation of new standards for math and reading in public schools. The bill would create an 11-member legislative panel to review decisions by the State Board of Education on adopting and implementing any uniform education standards. The Senate Ways and Means Committee began reviewing the proposal Friday. It's aimed at the Common Core standards, which resulted from a multi-state effort to develop uniform benchmarks for math and reading. The Kansas Board of Education adopted them in 2010, when many other states did the same, but they have not yet been put into effect. Critics argue the standards would undermine state control over schools and be expensive to implement.


Kansas Governor Signs Bill Restricting Lobbying on Guns

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has signed legislation restricting the use of state funds to promote or oppose gun control policies. The measure signed Friday takes effect in July. It passed the Legislature this year with strong support from gun rights advocates. The new law will prohibit local governments and school districts from using funds they get from the state to hire lobbyists to influence Kansas legislators on gun control issues. Also, neither the state nor local governments could hire Washington lobbyists to influence federal officials. The measure also says no state funds can be used for materials or advertising on gun control issues. Critics contend the new law will violate public officials' free speech rights. But supporters said those officials still can speak out without using state funds.


Fort Riley Issues Furlough Notices

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — Furlough notices are being issued to some 2,400 civilian employees at Fort Riley as the military prepares to make budget adjustments for the remainder of the fiscal year. Army officials said Thursday that the furloughs will begin on or after July 14 and last through September 30, the end of the federal budget year. The furloughs were authorized May 14 by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel as a means to comply with automatic spending cuts that took effect March 1. Colonel William Clark, garrison commander of Fort Riley, says that soldiers and families should expect some delays in services on the northeast Kansas post, but matters relating to life, health and safety will not be affected. Fort Riley is home to nearly 18,000 soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division.

Roberts Says AG Holder Should Resign

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Senator Pat Roberts says Attorney General Eric Holder should resign over allegations that he knew of the gathering of journalists' telephone records and emails. The Kansas Republican told The Associated Press by telephone Thursday the resignation would be in the best interests of Holder and President Barack Obama. The Justice Department has been intensely criticized over its secret gathering of the phone records of AP reporters and the emails of a Fox News journalist. Holder has testified that he had no knowledge that the records were sought after journalists reported on government activities. Roberts says Holder's resignation would be appropriate but would not make questions of First Amendment violations go away.


Storm Forecasters Caution Midwest to Watch for Twisters, Hail, Winds

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Forecasters are warning that a few strong to violent tornadoes and very large hail could form across the Southern Plains into the Ozark Plateau. The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, said the worst weather late Friday afternoon and Friday night would be in an area from central Oklahoma through southeastern Kansas into southwestern Missouri. Severe weather is also possible in the upper and middle Mississippi Valley and the Midwest. Storms are expected to form after 4 pm and are expected to become severe quickly. Hail could be the size of baseballs and winds could gust above 60 mph in the afternoon. Storms later could have gusts above hurricane force. The forecasters' advisory includes Moore, Oklahoma, where 24 people died in a May 20 tornado that had 210 mph winds.

KU Football Player Charged with Aggravated Robbery

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas football player Chris Martin and two other men are charged with aggravated robbery after a home invasion in Lawrence. Martin, former football player Jeremiah Letrell Edwards, of Garland, Texas; and Joshua Edwards of Lawrence were charged Thursday. Prosecutors allege they took cash and marijuana after pointing a gun at two people at the home on May 13. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that prosecutors sought $50,000 bond for each man but a judge set bond at $35,000. Martin's attorney, Chris Joseph, said his client was not a danger to the community and intended to do everything he could to continue his career at Kansas. The men's next court appearance is scheduled for June 6. Martin, a junior defensive end, transferred to KU this year but hasn't played for the Jayhawks.


No Charges to Be Filed in Wichita State Rape Claim

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas prosecutor says sexual assault charges won't be filed against a former Wichita State basketball player. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett announced the decision Friday, two days after police reported on their investigation of allegations by a 20-year-old woman. Bennett's office issued a statement saying the decision was based on the facts of the case, the relevant law and discussions with the woman and her family. The woman alleged in late April that she was sexually assaulted by a former player at the home of another athlete. Bennett says if additional information comes to light, the case could be reconsidered in the future.


Kansas Man Sentenced for January Jail Break

HURON, S.D. (AP) — A 45-year-old Kansas man has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for breaking out of the Beadle County jail in January. KELO television reports that Charles Beeney had previously pleaded not guilty to charges of assault, theft and escape. On Friday he changed his plea to guilty and was given the maximum sentence for the crime. Prosecutors say Beeney escaped from the jail in Huron on Jan. 8 by accosting a guard with a makeshift weapon. He was captured later that day after stealing a pickup truck and driving it to Sioux Falls. Beeney was originally serving a two-year term for stealing a pickup truck and leading authorities on a chase.

Mother, Son to Be Tried Together in Woman's Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A mother and son will be tried together in the shooting death of the son's estranged wife in Topeka. A Shawnee County District Court judge ruled that Manuela Alcala and her son, Manuel Alcala, will be tried together in the October 2012 death of 34-year-old Ashley Alcala. She was shot to death at her home. The Alcalas, all of El Paso, Texas, wanted to be tried separately but District Judge Evelyn Wilson ruled Wednesday it was appropriate to consolidate the cases. The trial is scheduled to begin July 1. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the two are charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Two other men — including another of Manuela Alcala's son — are also charged with first-degree murder in the woman's death.

Settlement Reached in Kansas Explosion Death

HAVEN, Kan. (AP) — The son of a Missouri woman who died in an explosion at a home near Cheney Reservoir has reached a confidential settlement in a wrongful-death lawsuit. The settlement approved Thursday in Reno County Court ended a lawsuit filed after the death Mary Lou Hemmy, 60, of Independence, Missouri. She died in the October 2011 when the owner of a home she was visiting turned on an electric furnace, causing an explosion and fire. Three other people were injured in the explosion. Her son, Troy Hemmy, sued Service Gas Incorporated, Sigg Plumbing LLC and Daniel Sigg, all of Andale. He had sought $2 million but the terms of the settlement were not disclosed, The Hutchinson News reported. As part of the settlement, the defendants denied any wrongdoing.


Kansas Bicyclist Killed in Hit-and-Run Accident

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A woman died after her bicycle was hit by a vehicle near Salina. The driver of the vehicle left the scene. Saline County sheriff's deputy Lance Zurfluh says the woman died Friday morning after she was hit from behind by a vehicle going the same direction on a street west of Salina. Zurfluh says a truck driver stopped after seeing the crumpled bicycle and discovered the injured rider nearby. KSAL reports that the woman is from Ottawa County. She died at Salina Regional Health Center. The suspect vehicle is believed to be a 2001 Chevrolet or GMC pickup truck. It is expected that the vehicle will  have damage to the front passenger side.

Nigerians Coming to Kansas to Check Out Wheat Crop

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Representatives of flour milling and food companies in Nigeria will visit Kansas and three other states in June to view this year's winter wheat crop. The industry group Kansas Wheat said Thursday the trade team will travel June 2-12 through Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Nebraska. Members of the team will talk to university researchers, tour grain facilities and visit farmers. They'll also survey the U.S. hard red and hard white winter wheat crops. The Nigerians will be in Manhattan June 6 and 7, with stops at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center and the International Grains Program at Kansas State University. Kansas Wheat Commission marketing director Aaron Harries said in a release that investment in research by Kansas growers is reassuring to Nigerian buyers.


Wichita Man Sentenced for Investment Fraud

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita investment adviser who admitted stealing money from clients is going to prison. The U.S. Attorney's office says 44-year-old Eric Burns was sentenced Friday to five years and three months in federal prison. He was also ordered to pay more than $2.2 million in restitution. Burns pleaded guilty in January to five counts of wire fraud, admitting he arranged wire transfers of client funds he pretended to be investing. The transfers took place in 2008, 2010 and 2011. They involved amounts ranging from $12,000 to $150,000. The Kansas securities commissioner suspended Burns's registration as an investment adviser in November 2011 after receiving a complaint that he misappropriated client funds.


Optometrist Sentenced for Claiming False Eye Exams

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A south-central Kansas optometrist has been sentenced to 41 months in federal prison over a scheme to collect more than $580,000 for eye examinations that were never performed. Wade Abbey of Derby pleaded guilty in February to five counts of wire fraud. He was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court. Federal prosecutors said Abbey inflated the number of eye exams he and his wife performed at their office, Visions Doctors of Optometry, and provide false information to get paid for them. Prosecutors say Abbey and his wife were paid an hourly wage and additional fees for each full eye exam they conducted. Abbey admitted in his plea bargain that he was paid roughly $583,000 for eye exams he claimed from occurred between January 2010 through June 2010, but didn't perform.

Kansas Boy Dies After TV, Dresser Fall on Him

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 3-year-old Wichita boy who was badly injured when a TV set and a dresser fell on top of him has died. The Wichita Eagle reports a house manager at Via Christi Hospital said the boy died Thursday morning, five days after he arrived in critical condition. Police said young children were playing videogames at a Wichita home Saturday afternoon when a large, box-style TV and a dresser tipped over on the 3-year-old. Adults in another room heard a crash and called 911. The boy's name has not been released. Police said the child had suffered head injuries in the accident.

Wichita Officials Look for Man Who Jumped in River

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a man is missing after he jumped into the Arkansas River while fleeing from officers. Emergency responders searched the river until midnight Thursday before calling off the effort. The search was expected to begin again Friday. Wichita police Lieutenant Dan East said an officer stopped the man for a traffic violation Thursday evening. The man was talking to the officer outside his vehicle and then ran off, before jumping into the river and disappearing. Wichita fire crews used boats and divers to help with the search, while police stationed at several locations along the river also looked for the man.

City, National Baseball Congress Unveil Changes to Upgrade Tournament

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The city of Wichita and National Baseball Congress officials are hoping a new format, more promotions and television exposure will help stabilize the financially struggling NBC national baseball tournament. The changes unveiled Thursday were in response to an audit released two weeks ago that found the tournament, which is managed by the Wichita Wingnuts independent league team, was $280,000 in debt and two years behind on lease payments for Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. The tournament has been in Wichita since 1935. This year's tournament is from July 26 to August 10. The first week will be a 16-team qualifier. The second week will pit qualifiers from that tournament against the 10 most successful leagues in the last 10 NBC tournaments, two at-large clubs, and the previous summer's national champion and runner-up.

Attorney Disbarred in Nebraska After Conviction in Kansas

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — An attorney has surrendered his license to practice law in Nebraska after he was convicted of theft charges in Kansas. The Nebraska Supreme Court said in a ruling Friday that it has disbarred Kevin K. Stephenson of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Stephenson was convicted in February of two counts of theft in Greeley County, Kansas, for his role in representing an estate. He was sentenced to 16 months in prison and 24 months of post-release supervision, according to the ruling. He was also ordered to pay $117,400 to the estate. The court says Stephenson self-reported his conviction to the Nebraska Supreme Court's counsel for discipline, and did not contest the allegations. Stephenson was admitted to practice law in Nebraska in October 2006.

Newton Woman, 80, Running 10K -- Again

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An 80-year-old south-central Kansas woman is gearing up to run this weekend's annual 10K race in Wichita, which she's run 19 times since the race began. Rita Sadowksi, of Newton, is hoping to finish the Kansas Health Foundation River Run race Saturday in good time. She says she'd like to finish in less than an hour and 20 minutes. Last year she took first in the 75-and-over female master's division with a time of 1:16:45. Sadowski told The Wichita Eagle that she trains on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, though she has taken this week off to prepare for the race Saturday. Her daughter, Gina Crowley, of Charleston, South Carolina, and Crowley's nephew from St. Louis are joining her in the River Race this year.


University of Kansas Announces New Men's Basketball Assistant Coach

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — University of Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self hired Jerrance Howard to be an assistant coach on Friday, plucking one of the top recruiters from Larry Brown's coaching staff at SMU. Self was looking for someone with deep connections on the recruiting front to replace Joe Dooley, who was instrumental in landing some of the Jayhawks' top talent. Dooley left in April after 10 seasons to become head coach at Florida Gulf Coast. Self and Brown have a close relationship that dates to the 1980s, when Self was an assistant under Brown at Kansas. Howard earned a reputation as an up-and-coming assistant coach in five seasons at his alma mater, Illinois. He's also coached at Texas A&M and the University of Kentucky.

Reid Loading Chiefs with Information Prior to Mandatory Minicamp

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Coach Andy Reid is willing to admit he is overloading the Kansas City Chiefs with as much information as he possibly can ahead of the team's mandatory minicamp next week. Reid said after wrapping up three weeks of voluntary workouts Friday that the idea is to give them as much of the playbook as possible. Even though the team has only been together a short time, Reid said there's already enough of the offense and defense installed that the Chiefs couldn't possibly use everything in a game. Running back Jamaal Charles left Friday's practice after getting a right-foot toe stepped on. The Pro Bowl running back was taken for precautionary X-rays.

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