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Regional Headlines for Friday, November 30, 2012




Kansas Tax Collections Slightly Exceed Expectations

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state Revenue Department says Kansas collected $2.6 million more in taxes than expected in November. The agency said Friday that the state collected about $441 million in taxes this month, when a fiscal forecast predicted it would take in less than $439 million. The difference is less than 1 percent, but Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan said the numbers contain solid signs that the state's economy is improving. The report was the first since officials issued a new fiscal forecast earlier this month. Legislative researchers project a budget shortfall of $328 million by June 2014, although that figure is likely to be recalculated next month. Kansas enacted massive income tax cuts this year to stimulate the economy. Critics contend the reductions have led to budget problems.


Finalists Named for Kansas Court of Appeals Vacancy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A state commission has nominated a former conservative lawmaker now serving as a trial judge as one of three finalists for a seat on the Kansas Court of Appeals. But the statewide judicial nominating commission on Friday passed over Governor Sam Brownback's top attorney, Caleb Stegall, as a finalist. The commission named Sedgwick County District Judge Tony Powell as a finalist for a Court of Appeals vacancy created by the October death of Chief Judge Richard Greene. The other two finalists are prominent attorneys Dennis Depew, of Neodesha, and Stephen Kerwick, of Eastborough. There were 25 applicants for the vacancy. Twenty of the candidates, including Stegall and Powell, also applied for an earlier vacancy on the 13-member court.


State Library of Kansas Returning to Statehouse

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — After two years in temporary quarters, the State Library of Kansas is returning to its refurbished home in the Statehouse. The library's 202,000-book collection has been housed in several remote sites since December 2010, when the north wing of the Statehouse closed for renovations. Some items in the collection are more than 200 years old. A modular building was placed on the Statehouse grounds for the library staff and some items in the collection. The rest were stored elsewhere in Topeka. State librarian Jo Budler said Friday the return to the Statehouse began this week. The move is expected to be finished by early to mid-December.

Convicted Kansas Murderer Seeks New DNA Testing

OSKALOOSA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has approved a Kansas inmate's request to re-test DNA evidence in a 1993 murder. Fifty-five-year-old Bradley Wade Johnson is serving a life sentence for the March 1993 death of Benjamin Creek. Johnson and a co-defendant, Frank Sutton, met Creek in a Topeka bar. Prosecutors said the two men robbed and beat Creek before his body was found in rural Jefferson County. Sutton is also serving a life sentence. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Johnson always claimed his conviction was a case of mistaken identity. On Tuesday, a Jefferson County judge ordered that hairs found on Creek's body and blood from Johnson's clothing be re-tested. In 1993, DNA testing could show only that the hairs were consistent with Johnson's. Modern testing could conclusively identify the source of the hairs.


Topeka Mayor Bunten to Retire After Term Concludes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka's 82-year-old mayor has decided that two terms in office are enough. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Bill Bunten held a news conference Thursday to say he won't seek re-election next year. The city holds its municipal primary in February and the general election in April. Bunten says three people have indicated to him that they would seek the office he first won in 2005. He declined to name the potential candidates. Bunten began his public service career in November 1962 when he was elected to the Kansas House. He served 28 years in the House. In 2003, he was appointed to fill the remaining two years of Lynn Jenkins's term in the state Senate following her election as state treasurer.

Kansas Vote Certified Amid Debate on Voter ID Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials have certified the results of this month's general election amid a debate over a law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. The Board of Canvassers met briefly Thursday and unanimously approved figures provided by county election officials. The board consists of Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Governor Sam Brownback, who sent his chief counsel. All three are Republicans. Kobach defended the state's photo ID law, noting that 838 Kansans cast provisional ballots because they lacked the proper ID at the polls on November 6th. That's out of 1.18 million voters who cast ballots. Critics note that Kobach pushed the law as a way to combat election fraud. Kobach acknowledged Thursday that his office has received no reports of potential election fraud yet this year.

Republicans Divided on U.S. Immigration Law Reforms

WASHINGTON (AP) — After Mitt Romney's presidential election loss, Republicans quickly identified one of their mistakes as the party's dysfunctional relationship with Hispanic voters, who overwhelmingly voted for President Barack Obama. But early GOP immigration reform efforts on Capitol Hill seem to miss the mark. A pair of bills offered by Republicans would provide legal status for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants — but not citizenship — and eliminate the popular diversity lottery that randomly awards green cards to 55,000 would be immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States . Early reviews from Democrats and a longtime Republican consultant on Hispanic media aren't enthusiastic. Lionel Sosa, a media consultant for the past three Republican presidents, says the party has to see "the writing on the wall."


Analyst Forecasts 2013 Rise in Retail Meat Prices

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The continuing drought means consumers can expect to pay 5 to 8 percent more at the meat counter next year regardless of whether they buy beef, pork or chicken. CattleFax executive vice president Randy Blach made that prediction Friday during the 100th convention of the Kansas Livestock Association. Roughly 70 percent of the nation's cattle herd has been affected by drought, with 40 percent impacted by a severe drought. Blach estimates that the nation's herd is going to be reduced by one million cattle when the government releases its semi-annual cattle inventory in January. With shrinking slaughter numbers, he also anticipates that at least one major meatpacking plant will close within a year, along with several cattle feedyards.


Missouri River Group Argues Against Water Releases

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Members of the congressional delegations from Kansas, the Dakotas, and Montana are urging President Barack Obama to deny requests to aid Mississippi River navigation by authorizing additional water releases from Missouri River dams. South Dakota Senator John Thune says the group sent a letter Friday to Obama, Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate. The letter was signed by members of Congress from the four states as well as by the governors of North Dakota, South Dakota and Kansas. Lawmakers from Mississippi River states want more water releases from the Missouri River dams to help barge traffic. Thune and his group say that would harm people and businesses in their states.


Dad Tries to Cut BB from Son's Skull with Knife

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 12-year-old Wichita boy is in protective custody after police say his father tried to remove a BB from his skull with a utility knife. No charges have been filed, but The Wichita Eagle reports that police want to know why the 57-year-old father waited a day before taking the boy to a hospital. Lieutenant Doug Nolte, a police spokesman, says the boy accidentally shot himself in the head while playing with a BB gun Wednesday. The father's attempt to dig the BB out with a knife was unsuccessful, and he took the boy to Via Christi Hospital about 24 hours later. Nolte says the injury was not life-threatening, and the boy was taken into protective custody after leaving the hospital.

Sedgwick County Asking for Money to Keep Boys Home Open

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County officials say they will close a ranch for troubled boys if the state does not provide more financial help. County officials told south-central lawmakers on Thursday that the county can't afford to keep the Judge James V. Riddel Boys Ranch at Lake Afton open past next year. The home offers rehabilitation programs for boys considered at high or moderate risk of reoffending. The Wichita Eagle reports that the state pays $126 a day for each boy at the ranch. County officials say the actual cost is $201 per boy. The county says the ranch's graduates have a low rate of recidivism because of programs offered there. They contend it would cost the state more in the long run to house juveniles at facilities more geared toward incarceration.

Chamber Backs Single Terminal at KC Airport

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chamber of Commerce is backing a controversial proposal to consolidate the city's airport into one terminal. The chamber voted Thursday to support a $1.2 billion proposal for Kansas City International Airport, joining other city officials who support replacing the three current terminals with a single terminal. Critics say the current configuration makes KCI one of the most convenient airports for travelers in the country, offering easy access to terminals and parking. But supporters say a single terminal would improve efficiency, passenger safety and convenience. And they say one terminal would allow the airport to grow in the future. The Kansas City Star reports that if the proposal proceeds, construction could start in late 2014 and be finished by late 2016.

2 School Buses Collide Near Wichita

GODDARD, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in Sedgwick County say a collision involving two school buses and a car west of Wichita left several people with minor injuries. The sheriff's department says the accident happened shortly after 4 pm Thursday in Goddard. Details of the collision weren't immediately clear, but no one was sent to the hospital. The Goddard school district says the buses were carrying elementary school students. Paramedics checked about a dozen people at the scene.


Missouri Couple Wins Share of Powerball Prize

DEARBORN, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri couple who just hit it big in the Powerball lottery will take a lump-sum payment amounting to about $136 million after taxes. State lottery officials introduced Mark and Cindy Hill at the high school in Dearborn, about 40 miles north of Kansas City. The Hills have one of two winning Powerball tickets in the record $588 million jackpot. The other was sold near Phoenix. Mark Hill is a mechanic. Cindy was laid off from her job as an office manager. They have three grown sons and a six-year-old daughter adopted from China. They're now considering a second adoption. Cindy Hill called her husband with the life-changing news but he didn't believe it until he saw the quick-pick ticket himself. The Hills are expecting "a pretty good Christmas" and a flood of requests for financial help.


Rare Alligator Moves from Sedgwick County into Albuquerque Exhibit

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A rare Chinese alligator is starting to make itself at home at the Albuquerque BioPark. Zoo officials announced Friday that the male alligator was recently moved into the zoo's reptile house after spending about a month in quarantine. He had come from the Sedgwick County Zoo in Kansas. Herpetologists plan to breed the male with a female Chinese alligator that will arrive from the Bronx Zoo next year. The Albuquerque BioPark is part of a program that promotes conservation of the species through breeding and reintroduction. Unlike the abundant American alligator, zoo officials say the Chinese alligator is endangered, with fewer than 130 surviving in the wild. Those that remain are confined to a small area in the Yangtze River basin in Eastern China.

Kansas Mother Pleads Guilty to Murder in Son's Death

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina mother accused of failing to protect her 14-month-old son from severe abuse by her fiance has pleaded guilty in the toddler's death. The Salina Journal reports that 20-year-old Brittney Betzold pleaded guilty Thursday to amended charges of second-degree murder and child abuse. Beztold had faced trial next month for first-degree murder in the death of Clayden Lee Urbanek. Authorities said the toddler was covered with bruises when he died in October 2011. Betzold's fiance, 28-year-old Antonio M. Brown, is scheduled for trial in January on a charge of first-degree murder. Police say Brown told officers he had spanked Clayden with a 10-inch piece of board but did not cause the bruising over most of the boy's body or the fatal injuries to his abdomen.

Lesser Prairie Chicken May Be Listed as Threatened Species

DENVER (AP) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it is considering formally listing the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species. Friday's announcement begins a yearlong review that will include public meetings in four of the five states where the member of the prairie grouse family lives. Fish and Wildlife says it made the decision based on evidence that the bird and its habitat are in decline. The agency already is working with state and federal agencies on a range-wide, voluntary conservation planning effort. The chicken's range includes parts of New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Kansas but nearly 85 percent of its grass and brush-land habitat has been affected by ranching and farming. Ranchers, farmers and wind farm operators worry about the bird being listed because it could increase regulations.

SW Kansas Teacher Charged with Exploiting Child

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — A 24-year-old southwest Kansas social studies teacher has been charged with sexually exploiting and soliciting a child. A joint statement by the Liberal police chief and Seward County attorney says Liberal High School teacher Drake Foster was arrested Tuesday and is cooperating with authorities. The Hutchinson News reports Foster also taught geography and history and coached the boys' soccer team. Deputy school superintendent Paul Larkin says Foster has resigned his position. He declined to discuss further details of the case. Bond has been set at $50,000, and Foster was scheduled to appear in court December 3. A phone message left for his attorney was not returned Thursday.


Missouri Judge Says Expert Can Tell Jurors About BDSM

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that lawyers for a Missouri couple accused of holding a woman in sexual slavery may call an expert to explain bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism to jurors. But in his ruling Friday, U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple also said the expert won't be allowed to discuss whether acts allegedly committed by the couple conform to norms in the BDSM community. Edward and Marilyn Bagley are charged with keeping a young woman as a sex slave in their home near Lebanon, Missouri. Prosecutors say what might be considered normal for BDSM practitioners is irrelevant in the case. They contend the young woman was tortured without her consent. But Ed Bagley's lawyer says jurors will need some understanding of the tenets of BDSM to decide if consent was granted.

K-State Football Prepares to Give Seniors Send-Off

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Ryan Doerr remembers when he was a redshirt freshman, and Bill Snyder was returning to the sidelines at Kansas State. The senior punter remembers thinking they had a chance to be part of something really spectacular. Fast forward four years and the 7th ranked Wildcats are preparing for their season finale against Number 23 Texas. If they win, they're assured of at least a share of the Big 12 title and the league's automatic berth to a BCS bowl game. They've come a long way from the days of Ron Prince, when they won just five times, helping to re-establish a program that Snyder built from the ground up during the 1990s.


Kansas Governor's Aide Gets Second Interview for Appellate Court Appointment

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's chief counsel has had a second interview with a judicial nominating commission for a seat on the state Court of Appeals. Caleb Stegall was among nine candidates who met Friday with the commission, which will nominate three finalists to replace the late Chief Judge Richard Greene. Brownback will make the appointment. The panel also granted a second interview to Sedgwick County District Judge Tony Powell. Powell is a former Kansas House member who was an anti-abortion leader among legislators. Stegall and Powell were interviewed earlier this month for another vacancy on the Court of Appeals but were passed over in favor of three other candidates.

**this story has been updated. Please see above.



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