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Regional Headlines for Monday, April 29, 2013


House Panel Resumes Kansas Budget Work

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has resumed work on the 2014 state budget, but leaders say the group isn't likely to produce a bill that will be debated in May. House Appropriations Chairman Marc Rhoades told the committee on Monday that House leaders don't intend to have a debate on a separate budget bill when legislators return to the Statehouse on May 8. Instead, Rhoades says any lingering spending issues will be referred to a conference committee to discuss with the Senate as part of work on the overall $14 billion budget. The two chambers have taken different positions on how much to cut from higher education. Republican Governor Sam Brownback has been touring the state urging lawmakers to spare higher education from any cuts in spending.


State Explains Increased Employment Numbers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials with some Kansas agencies say an increase in state employment in the last fiscal year was caused largely by reorganization and student employment. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported last week that the state had a total of 69,974 temporary and regular people at the beginning of fiscal year 2013. That's an increase of 143 from fiscal 2012. The Department for Children and Families had 348 fewer employees. A spokeswoman for the department says 125 of those jobs were transferred to the Department of Aging and Disability Services. Three of the state's universities increased employees in fiscal 2013. Andy Tompkins, head of the Kansas Board of Regents, says most of the increase was students, teaching and research assistants, and temporary nonstudent workers under federal grants or contracts.

KS Ag Dept Move Presents Dilemma for Workers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —  More than 100 state employees are facing the dilemma of whether to move, commute more than 50 miles or retire when the Kansas Department of Agriculture moves from Topeka to Manhattan. Agriculture Secretary Dale Rodman announced earlier this month the department was making the 56-mile move to be closer to Kansas State University, the future National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility and other ag-related entities. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the department will keep its administrative staff of about 10 employees in Topeka and will maintain a lab and field office at Forbes Field. The other 150 KDA workers will have to decide whether to commute, move or leave the department. The proposal calls for KDA leave its downtown Topeka offices no later than June 30, 2014.


Cessna Offers Voluntary Buyouts to Hourly Workers

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Cessna Aircraft is offering voluntary retirement buyouts for its hourly employees. The Wichita Eagle reports that Wichita-based aircraft company aims to get about 180 workers represented by the Machinists union to take the voluntary retirement offer. Cessna employs 8,200, including 5,800 in Wichita. The company has said it needs to cut employment figures because of sluggish demand for light business jets. Cessna's senior vice president of human resources Jim Walters said in a statement that the buyouts and a similar program for salaried employees announced last month are expected to allow the company to make the majority of its workforce adjustments through voluntary means.


Kansas Bankruptcy Filings Down More Than 11 Percent

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new report shows bankruptcy filings in Kansas fell 11.5 percent for the 12-month period ending in March compared with the previous year. The report released Monday by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts shows Kansas lagged behind the national drop of 14.4 percent during the same period. A total of 8,794 Kansas residents and businesses filed for various types of bankruptcy protection. Businesses accounted for 221 of those bankruptcies. The report says 5,598 of the bankruptcy filings were Chapter 7 liquidations. Another 3,132 people filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which allows debtors to keep property and pay debts over time. Some 55 filed for reorganization under a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Nine filed under a category reserved for farm bankruptcies.


Analysis: Kansas Higher Ed Budget Tied to Sales Tax

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas higher education officials are depending upon Republican Governor Sam Brownback's political momentum working on fellow GOP conservatives to preserve existing state funding for public universities and colleges. Brownback began touring university and community college campuses last week in what his administration described as an effort to highlight the importance of higher education to the state and its economy. The governor and other Republicans want to position Kansas to phase out individual income taxes, but the state must stabilize its budget over the next few years. Brownback proposes to cancel a decrease in the sales tax scheduled by law for July. If lawmakers don't agree to that plan, they'll find it difficult to follow his recommendation to avoid cutting higher education funding. Both chambers have approved cuts.

Douglas County Seeks Federal Grant for Study on Creating 'Food Hub'

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Douglas County officials say the county is applying for a federal grant to study the feasibility of establishing a "food hub" that would make it easier for county businesses to sell locally grown produce and meats. The county's Food Policy Council is applying for a $58,250 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It wants to use the money to study a system of linking producers and farmers in the region with larger institutions that want a steady supply of locally grown foods. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the federal grant would be matched with $10,000 from the Kansas Health Foundation. The money would be used to hire a consultant to analyze the market and determine what type of business model would work best in Douglas County.


Drug Take-Back Event in Lawrence Draws Record Response

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A drug take-back event in Douglas County has drawn a record response. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Lawrence law enforcement officials say they collected a record 875 pounds of unused prescription drugs Saturday as part of a nationwide "Drug Take-Back Day." Lieutenant Steve Lewis, Douglas County sheriff spokesman, said that last year, the Drug Take-Back Day collected 300 pounds of unwanted prescription medicine. Federal authorities say nationwide about 1.5 billion doses of prescription drugs go unused each year, which can lead to accidents and dangerous misuse. All of the drugs collected Saturday were placed in a secure box for destruction by the Drug Enforcement Agency.


Union Employee Charged with Embezzlement

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors in Kansas have accused a former union employee of stealing about $50,000 from an employee benefit plan. The Kansas City Star reports that Angela Heninger worked as an executive assistant for the Mobilization, Optimization, Stabilization and Training Trust, or MOST. MOST is an affiliate of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, which is headquartered in Kansas City, Kansas. Heninger was charged last week in U.S. District Court in Kansas with one count of embezzlement, six counts of wire fraud and five counts of bank fraud. Online court records don't list a lawyer for Heninger, and a phone listing under her name was disconnected.

Man Charged with Endangering Kids in KS Chase

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man has been arrested on felony child endangerment and 11 other charges after a chase that ended with him ramming into the side of another car. KAKE-TV reports the chase began just before 8:30 pm Saturday when Wichita police saw the 24-year-old suspect driving with his headlights off. Police say he drive off when officers tried to pull him over and he T-boned another car. The suspect tried to run but was caught a few houses away. Police say a 19-year-old woman, a 10-month-old, 2-year-old and 12-year-old children also were in the car. The woman was cited for failing to restrain the children. Police say the suspect and woman met on Facebook and he had borrowed a friend's car to take her and her children to the movies.

2 Suspects Lead Officers on Chase in 2 States

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two men led law enforcement officers on a chase that spanned several counties in two states before the getaway vehicle got stuck in the mud in northeast Kansas. WIBW reports the Kansas Highway Patrol was called around 3 pm Saturday to help in the chase that began in Buchanan County, Missouri. The suspects were wanted in that state for stolen vehicles and weapons charges. The chase went through Atchison and west to Brown County, then onto Nemaha County where the suspects were taken into custody. Police say the passenger jumped from the vehicle about a mile from where it stopped and was found in a ravine in a field about 700 yards north of the road. Both suspects are facing several charges, including possession of stolen property.

Westar Says Copper Thieves Likely Severely Injured

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas utility company officials say someone who caused a power outage and more than $150,000 in wire loss and damage by breaking into a substation could possibly be blind, deaf and seriously burned. KWCH-TV reports Westar crews who went to check on a Wichita substation at 5:45 am Saturday found grounding cables and copper wire missing and noticed the chain link fence was cut. Westar says whoever broke into the substation was messing with very dangerous materials and probably was severely injured when the transformer shorted out. Police have asked hospitals to notify them if anyone comes in with electric shock injuries, and say personal items left at the scene also could help them identify a suspect.


Russian Expert to Discuss Chechnya at KSU

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — With the Boston Marathon bombings focusing attention on Chechnya, a Kansas State University professor wants to help the public understand the southern Russian province. Russian military history expert David Stone is speaking at 5:30 pm Thursday in Eisenhower Hall. He'll discuss the origins of the Chechen conflict and the Russian wars in Chechnya. He'll also touch on ongoing violence in Chechnya and surrounding regions of the Caucasus, and the increasing role of radical Islam in the conflict. Bombing suspects Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his brother, Dzhokhar, emigrated to the U.S. about a decade ago from Dagestan. The Russian republic has become an epicenter of the Islamic insurgency that spilled over from the region of Chechnya. Stone wrote "A Military History of Russia: From Ivan the Terrible to the War in Chechnya."


Saline County Juvenile Detention Center to Close Temporarily

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The Saline County sheriff has temporarily closed the county's juvenile detention center, saying a lack of staff is making the center unsafe for employees and inmates. Sheriff Glen Kochanowski announced Monday that he expected the Saline County Juvenile Detention Center to reopen in July. The Salina Journal reports that seven juveniles were taken Monday to a juvenile detention facility in Junction City, joining three Saline County juveniles already housed there. Kochanowski says the Saline County center's employees will work at the jail or remain at the center while it is closed to book new offenders for Junction City. The sheriff says he is required by state law to be responsible for the well-being of inmates, and he had to close the center to ensure no one else gets hurt.


Kansas Wheat Tour to Assess Impact from Cold Weather

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Nearly 80 farmers and other agricultural experts plan to fan out across Kansas this week for the annual wheat quality tour amid mounting worries about crop damage from several hard freezes this spring. The tour leaves Monday from Manhattan. More than 600 crop evaluations are planned across the state before the tour ends Thursday at the Kansas City Board of Trade with the announcement of its forecast for the 2013 crop. This year's event will offer a close-up look at the impact from April freezes interspersed with warm temperatures. Wheat is particularly vulnerable when it has come out of winter dormancy and has begun to actively grow. This year's crop is 10 days behind normal development in a season battered by not only recent freezes but ongoing drought.

Man Sentenced to 18 Years in Leavenworth Deaths

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — The family of two Leavenworth brothers who were shot to death in 2011 is unhappy with a plea agreement that allowed the killer to be sentenced to 18 years in prison. A Leavenworth County judge followed the plea agreement's recommendations while sentencing 37-year-old Aundray D. McDonald Friday for two counts of voluntary manslaughter. He was originally charged with premeditated first-degree murder and first degree felony murder in the December 2011 deaths of 25-year-old Derrick and 28-year-old Marshall Jones outside a Leavenworth barbershop. The shootings resulted from a feud between McDonald and the brothers. The Leavenworth Times reports  that the brothers' family asked for a longer sentence. One of the family members screamed after hearing the judge was following the plea agreement and had to leave the courtroom.


KC Lawyer Sentenced for Money Laundering

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 66-year-old Missouri lawyer has been sentenced to five years in federal prison after he was caught in an undercover sting conspiring to launder drug money. The U.S. Attorney's Office for Kansas said in a release Monday that Ronald E. Partee of Kansas City, Missouri pleaded guilty earlier to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of money laundering. Partee admitted that he and the operators of a credit counseling service agreed to funnel drug money through Kansas bank accounts. Prosecutors said Partee served on the nonprofit counseling agency's board and approved two wire transfers he believed were drug funds. Workers at the credit counseling agency are charged with conspiracy, money laundering and possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and are awaiting trial.

Kansas Couple Gives $2.5M to KU Cancer Center

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City-area couple has donated $2.5 million to the University of Kansas Cancer Center. The money from Tom and Teresa Walsh of Leawood will support the nurse navigators program. Nurse navigators help patients through appointments, tests, treatments and follow-up, as well as providing emotional support. The center announced the gift Monday. It said in a news release that the Walshes' gift will support five new nurse navigator jobs. Tom Walsh, an entrepreneur, earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Kansas in 1980. Teresa Walsh co-founded Silpada Designs jewelry, which was purchased by Avon in 2010. In 2011, the Walshes made a $2 million gift to the cancer center, of which $1 million established the Walsh Family Foundation Patient Navigation Fund.


University of Kansas Making Plans for Online Coursework

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas officials admit the school has not been aggressive in offering online education options, but that is changing. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that university officials are planning a campus-wide strategy for online teaching. Education Dean Rick Ginsberg says the school needs to be in the online market to keep pace with other universities. But university officials say they want the online offerings to reflect the quality of the school's classes. So classes will not be moved online in bulk. Instead, the plan is to focus on specific targets, more complete online graduate programs and combining online material with physical classrooms. Another goal is to offer individual online courses to replace classes from other institutions, such as community colleges, that undergraduates often take to fill requirements.

Business Students Lend Know-How to KS Nonprofits

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Graduate students at the University of Kansas School of Business are wrapping of the first year of a new program to help solve management problems for nonprofit groups. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the business school launched the Kansas Impact Project last fall. First-year students in the MBA program formed five teams, each studying the business problems of a nonprofit group and coming up with possible solutions. One group worked with a long-term care facility in the southwest Kansas town of Ashland on how to recruit and keep qualified nursing assistants. Another tackled the problem of clients who miss appointments at the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center in Lawrence. Cathy Shenoy, the business school's MBA program director, says the Kansas Impact Project will expand to eight nonprofits next year.

Army Officer's Sword on Display at Kansas Fort

LARNED, Kan. (AP) — A sword presented more than 150 years ago to an Army officer who became one of only 19 men to have received two Medals of Honor has a new home in Kansas. Frank Dwight Baldwin served in the Civil War and later fought American Indians in outposts that included Fort Larned, Kan. The sword he was presented by the Michigan Horse Guards in September 1861 now will be on permanent display at Fort Larned National Historic Site. The Wichita Eagle reports the sword was presented by the fort's Old Guard, a volunteer and support group whose members bought it from an anonymous seller on eBay for $6,000. Baldwin was stationed at Fort Larned from May 1 through June 5, 1872, and again from October 29, 1872, to May 1873.

3 Wichita Juveniles Arrested in Confetti Explosion

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say they arrested three juveniles after a confetti cannon went off inside a mall. Sergeant Jesse Boomer says no one was injured and no damage occurred after the explosion Sunday afternoon inside the Towne West Square. But Boomer says the sound frightened several people in the area. Witnesses say the confetti device went off near a movie theater. The juveniles were arrested soon after the incident. The boys were taken to juvenile hall but it was not clear if they would face charges.

2 Kansas Educators Part of Delegation to Brazil

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Two Fort Hays State University administrators are part of a delegation of U.S. higher education officials that is planning to travel to Brazil next month. The visit led by the New York-based Institute of International Education is scheduled from May 5 through May 10. The delegation will include representatives from 15 American higher education institutions, including Fort Hays State. Representing the western Kansas university are Assistant Provost for Strategic Partnerships Cindy Elliott and Graduate School Dean Tim Crowley. Fort Hays State says the group will meet with officials from both public and private higher education institutions in Brazil and travel to five cities, including Sao Paulo and the capital of Brasilia.

SoftBank Allows Sprint to Conduct Talks with Dish Network

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Sprint Nextel says SoftBank is allowing it to seek more information from Dish Network related to its rival bid for the third-largest U.S. cellphone company. Overland Park-based Sprint has agreed to sell 70 percent of itself to Japan's Softbank Corporation for $20.1 billion. But it recently got a competing $25.5 billion offer from Dish Network for the whole company. Under the agreement with SoftBank, Sprint can enter into a non-disclosure agreement and talks with Dish so it can clarify and obtain additional information from Dish related to its bid for the company. Sprint isn't allowed to provide non-public information to Dish and can't enter into negotiations with the company. SoftBank says it remains confident in its offer and expects the deal to close in July.

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