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Regional Headlines for Monday, April 23, 2012


Kansas Secretary of State Says Redistricting Delay Could Result in Constitutional Crisis 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is warning lawmakers that a potential constitutional crisis is brewing because they haven't yet redrawn political districts. But Kobach said Monday that he's also wary of a new proposal to postpone the state's primary election until the last week of August if lawmakers don't set new political boundaries soon enough. Lawmakers reconvene Wednesday for a wrap-up session that could continue through early May. Legislators must redraw state House, state Senate and congressional districts to account for changes in the state's population during the past decade. Kobach said the Kansas Constitution doesn't allow the state Supreme Court to draw lines for lawmakers. He says the court can only review what legislators have done. But he said delaying the primary would hurt the democratic process.


Kansas A-G: Remapping Failure Could Bring Significant Legal Costs

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has told Governor Sam Brownback and legislative leaders that failing to agree on a congressional redistricting plan could prove expensive for the state. Schmidt says in a letter that if there is no agreement, the state is likely to face litigation, and Kansas could be forced to pay the legal fees of anyone who sues. That happened in 1982, when legislators approved a U.S. House redistricting plan that was vetoed by then-Gov. John Carlin. Two groups of residents sued the state, and a panel of federal judges drew new lines. The state faced $27,000 in legal fees. The Associated Press obtained a copy Schmidt's letter Monday. It's dated Friday and urges quick action on redistricting after lawmakers reconvene this week following a long break.


KS Chief Justice Postpones Court Furloughs 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss is postponing two of the remaining four days of court employee furloughs based on assurances from lawmakers that they will approve a funding request. The furloughs were scheduled for alternate Fridays. The first one occurred April 13 and closed courts throughout Kansas. Nuss said Monday he'll postpone the furloughs scheduled for April 27 and May 11, based on discussions last week by the House Appropriations Committee. Those planned for May 25 and June 8 remained unchanged. Nuss ordered the furloughs after legislators failed to approve $1.4 million in supplemental funding to keep the courts operating through June 30. He says if the funding doesn't come through, he'll reschedule the postponed furloughs for later dates. 


Kansas Senate President Says Manhattan District Shift Could Endanger NBAF Funding

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A top Kansas lawmaker says funding for a federal bioterrorism lab in Manhattan, Kansas could be in trouble if the city is moved to a different congressional district. Kansas Senate President Steve Morris says a split between conservative Congressman Tim Huelskamp and Speaker of the House John Boehner could have an impact on that funding. Huelskamp represents the 1st Congressional District, and one proposal for redrawn districts would move Manhattan from the 2nd District into the 1st. The Wichita Eagle reports Morris told members of the Wichita Pachyderm Club on Friday that Boehner might not support funding the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility if it's in Huelskamp's district. Huelskamp's spokeswoman says he has met with Boehner and does think a change of district would hurt the NBAF's funding prospects.



Kobach Says Status with Romney Camp Hasn't Changed

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says he remains an informal adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Kobach told reporters Monday that his status with the Romney campaign is the same as it has been for months. He was addressing speculation that his role is changing as Romney, the expected GOP nominee, prepares for the general election campaign. Kobach's ties to Romney are drawing national attention because Kobach is a strong advocate of state and local laws aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration. Kobach helped draft tough laws in Alabama and Arizona. And Kobach confirmed in February that he was an unpaid adviser to Romney's campaign. Kobach said Monday that he emails close Romney aides from time to time to offer his views on immigration issues.

Report: State Hospitals in Kansas Face Staffing Crisis

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Legislative staffers say an early retirement program launched last year by Governor Sam Brownback has resulted in major staffing problems at state hospitals. Legislative staffers told the Kansas House Appropriations Committee Friday that staffing is so tight at Larned State Hospital that the hospital could lose its federal accreditation. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the loss could cost the state $14.5 million in federal funds. The governor says more than 1,000 employees took advantage of the retirement program, which offered health insurance and one-time payment incentives to state workers. It is expected to save the state $34.5 million over two years. The report says low pay and long hours are making it difficult to recruit and retain workers at the hospitals.


Hawker Beechcraft Issues Layoff Notices

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Aircraft maker Hawker Beechcraft says it has given 60-day layoff notices to about 350 workers at its plant in Wichita. Monday's letter from CEO Steve Miller and Chairman Bill Boisture tells employees that market conditions require adjusting production to ensure the company remains competitive. Hawker Beechcraft committed in 2010 to keeping its aircraft operations in Kansas for 10 years as part of a $45 million deal with state and local officials. The company agreed to maintain current aircraft lines and keep at least 4,000 jobs in Kansas until 2020. The company says even with the planned layoffs, it remains in compliance with the agreement.

Missing MO Man Found in Refrigerator

DE SOTO, Kan. (AP) _ A man reported missing in Missouri several months ago has been found dead inside a refrigerator in northeastern Kansas. The Johnson County Sheriff's Department says the refrigerator was abandoned in a field near the town of De Soto. Authorities announced Monday the body inside was that of 33-year-old Gregory Price, whose disappearance was reported early last year to police in Independence, Missouri. The sheriff's department says Price's last known whereabouts were in the De Soto area. A tip led deputies to the field where they found the refrigerator and the body late last week. The cause of death has not been determined.

Warm Weather Gives Boost to Kansas Parks Budget

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Unseasonably warm weather for the first three months of the year has resulted in a big revenue increase for the state's parks department. Wildlife and Parks Department Secretary Robin Jennison says January through March was the most lucrative start to a year in recent memory for the department. Parks director Linda Lanterman says revenues went up in February, alone, from just over $78,000 in 2011 to more than $261,000 this year. But the Topeka Capital-Journal reports things could change if the warming trend continues through the summer.


Kansas Case Manager under Scrutiny 

The Kansas Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear a case brought by a woman who lost full custody of her child after a case manager recommended that custody be granted to the child's father. According to a report in the Topeka Capital-Journal, Karen Williams contends the March 2011 custody decision was based on confidential conversations between the judge and the case manager. Williams says she did not have a chance to respond to accusations made by the case manager, violating her right to due process. In Kansas, case managers are appointed by judges and are not required to be licensed. The Legislature is also considering a bill requiring specific qualifications for case managers. It would restrict the potential pool of judicial appointees to licensed psychologists, psychotherapists, counselors, therapists, social workers or lawyers. The appeals court is scheduled to hear the case May 15.

Kansas Abortion Foes Struggle to Get Bills Passed

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Abortion opponents are struggling this year to push proposals through the Kansas Legislature. The agenda for lawmakers remains crowded with other big issues and even some anti-abortion legislators want to rest after a string of victories last year. A bill giving health care providers greater legal protections if they refuse to be involved in abortions has cleared the House, but it faces skepticism. A more sweeping measure designed to keep Kansas from subsidizing abortions even indirectly has stalled in the House. The contrast is sharp with last year. That's when lawmakers approved a series of measures that put the state at the front of a trend in which abortion foes capitalized on the election of sympathetic Republican governors like Kansas's Sam Brownback.


KHP 75th Anniversary to Feature Retro Rides: All Hail the Return of the Crown Vic  

 SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas drivers might have flashbacks this year if they are pulled over by certain Kansas Highway Patrol troopers. The patrol has issued 14 cars to troopers that look like those used by the patrol in 1989. They are blue and gray Crown Victorias with a single red light on top. The cars are being used to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the patrol. The Salina Journal reports they will stay in the patrol's fleet until they are retired at 49,000 miles. The patrol says the cars might look old, but they have all the modern technology in other highway patrol cars. The anniversary cars are among the last Crown Victorias the Highway Patrol will own, because Ford stopped making the cars in 2011.


KU Hospital to Redevelop Heart Transplant Program

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas Hospital has announced plans to redevelop its heart-transplant program, which closed in 1995. The hospital said Monday it has received a $1.5 million gift from William Reed, chairman of its department of cardiovascular disease, and his wife, Mary, to develop the program. The Kansas City Star reported that the hospital closed its heart-transplant program in 1995 after problems with the program were made public by the Star. From May 1994 to late March 1995, the hospital performed no transplants and turned away every donated heart. But it kept admitting patients and put others on waiting lists. In 1996, the hospital revamped its heart program and announced in 2000 that it was redeveloping the transplant program. But those plans were later put on hold.


Parts of 2 Lawrence Streets to Honor Don Fambrough

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Sections of two streets in Lawrence will be renamed to honor former Kansas football coach and player Don Fambrough. The city of Lawrence and the University of Kansas will rename the two streets at a ceremony before the spring football game Saturday. The ceremony will be at the current intersection of 11th and Maine Streets. The city will rename a section of 11th Street "Fambrough Drive." The university also will rename a stretch of Maine Street behind the Memorial Stadium press box "Fambrough Way." The two streets will intersect. Fambrough died in September at the age of 88. He had two four-year stints as Kansas football coach in the 1970s and 1980s.

**editor's note: The main Kansas Public Radio studios are located at 1120 W. 11th Street in Lawrence. The street name change will NOT affect KPR's mailing address.

Work Moving Quickly on Topeka Zoo's Rain Forest

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Tropical Rain Forest building at the Topeka Zoo is on track to reopen next month after a renovation that will make it lighter, brighter and wetter. WIBW-TV reports the $1.2 million project that began in November is running ahead of schedule. Officials were aiming for a Memorial Day opening but now say visitors could be welcomed inside by mid-May. The centerpiece of the work is replacement of the acrylic lenses that make up the geodesic dome. The Rain Forest was built in the 1970s, and the roof had become opaque over the years. Nearly 100 animals live in the building, including sloths, bats and tortoises. To give visitors a real feel for the tropical forest, the renovated building has new piping that will produce an occasional light rain.
Filmmaker Focuses on Oklahoma's Dust Bowl Era

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns is turning his lens toward the Oklahoma Panhandle for a new four-hour documentary on the Dust Bowl and its impact on the region. Burns interviewed dozens of survivors, many of them in the Panhandle region of Oklahoma, for the documentary that is scheduled to air this fall on PBS. The film also covers the effect on nearby parts of Texas, Colorado, New Mexico and Kansas. In an interview with The Associated Press, Burns describes the Dust Bowl as the "greatest manmade disaster in the nation's history." The two-part series also includes a treasure trove of never-before-seen photographs and homemade films documenting the time in the early 1930s when a combination of drought and high winds pulled up thousands of tons of over-farmed prairie in the Southern Plains.


American Royal Rodeo Downsizing

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The American Royal Rodeo will be a smaller event this year, and it will not return to the Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City. American Royal officials say the rodeo will move to Hale Arena in Kansas City's West Bottoms, rather than to its longtime home at Kemper Arena. The event also will not include any performances from main headliners such as last year's concert by Reba McEntire, but instead will focus on Kansas City and regional bands. American Royal President Bob Petersen says several factors, including scheduling conflicts with the Sprint Center and the rodeo calendar, prompted the changes. The Kansas City Star reports the rodeo is planned for September 27-29, which will make Kansas City the last major stop on the rodeo circuit before the national rodeo finals in Las Vegas.

80-Foot Plate of Nachos Sets New World Record

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence has gained a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records after serving up a two-ton plate of nachos served at the Kansas Relays. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the 80-foot nacho plate was finished by noon Saturday and weighed in at 4,689 pounds. That easily beat the former record of 3,999 pounds set in October 2011 at a restaurant in Massachusetts. But breaking the record wasn't an easy task at all, especially after a cooler went out Saturday morning and 2,000 pounds of food spoiled. Organizers worked with local suppliers to replace the bad food, and about 70 percent of the feast was consumed. Kansas Relays ticket-holders paid a $1 donation or canned food item for their servings, with the proceeds going to the Lawrence Interdenominational Nutrition Kitchen.

Thieves Strike "Cowboy Church" in Haysville

HAYSVILLE, Kan. (AP) — The pastor of a small Kansas church that serves cowboys and cowgirls says he's forgiven the thieves who caused thousands of dollars of damage at the church over the weekend. The thieves destroyed air conditioners at the Prairie Trail Cowboy Church in Haysville, just south of Wichita. They got away with only about 40 dollars worth of aluminum. KWCH reports church members found the damage as they arrived for services Sunday. A member of the congregation saw a truck near the church's air conditioner on Saturday afternoon but assumed it was a repairman. Pastor Chris Bray is offering forgiveness to the thieves. He says the church is ready to help anyone who is so desperate and obviously needs help.


KC to Begin Enforcement of Illegal Signs Policy

Kansas City residents and businesses are being warned to remove any signs they've posted in public rights-of-way or on utility poles. A new ordinance that imposes fines for illegally placing the signs takes effect Monday. The fine for the first offense is $20, with subsequent fines ranging from $20 to $1,000 per sign. Kansas City crews and volunteers did a sweep last week, collecting 4,300 illegally-placed signs, which were destroyed. The Kansas City Star reports the signs have been prohibited on public rights-of-way since 1967, but the city has not had a way to enforce the ban. City officials say they'll concentrate on groups that place multiple signs and leave them up for days or weeks. 

ND Official: Proposals Cut Need for Keystone XL

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota official says several pipelines that have been proposed could diminish the importance of the Keystone XL pipeline for his state's booming oil patch. Public Service Commissioner Kevin Cramer says the six proposed pipeline projects make the Keystone XL project less important to North Dakota in moving its oil to Gulf Coast and other U.S. refineries. However, Cramer tells the Dickinson (North Dakota) Press that the Keystone XL Pipeline is still important for national security and energy security. TransCanada Corporation's Keystone XL would move Canadian oil to Texas, but has been held up because it needs State Department approval to cross the U.S.-Canadian border. It also would transport oil from North Dakota and Montana across South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority, says the Keystone XL pipeline is unique because it has commitments from shippers.
State Job Fair Moves to Dodge City

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Commerce says about 70 companies — and possibly more — are planning to take part in the agency's fourth annual statewide job fair. The event takes place Tuesday from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. at United Wireless Arena in Dodge City. The first hour is reserved for members of the military and their families. The Dodge City Daily Globe reports the Commerce Department chose Dodge City to make sure that residents in the southwestern part of the state have a chance at a job fair. The previous events were held at Fort Riley and in Salina and Overland Park. Commerce Department officials say at least 50 people were hired at last year's fair. The agency advises job-seekers to bring a resume and dress for potential interviews.

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