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Regional Headlines for Monday, December 24, 2012


Report: Understaffing Contributed to Election Woes

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A task force looking at election day reporting problems in Sedgwick County says the office overseeing them is understaffed and needs more updated training. Their six-page report released Monday was completed in response to problems that included final vote counts being delayed for hours after polls closed. The task force found that the Sedgwick County commissioner's office has the lowest number of full-time staff with the second highest number of registered voters when compared with the three other large Kansas counties. The group found vote totals were never incorrectly reported and no laws or policies were broken. The group recommended county commissioners appropriately staff the office and contract for at least the next two years for on-site election day support with the vendor who supplied the election software.


Two Killed in Crash on Interstate 70 in KCK

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Two people have died in Kansas City, Kansas in a crash that shut down eastbound lanes of Interstate 70 for two hours.  The Kansas City Star reports that the crash happened around 6:30pm when a car veered off the road and hit a bridge.  The cause of the crash is under investigation. Authorities didn't immediately release the victims' identifies, pending notification of relatives.


Ethanol Spill Closes Section of I-70 in Central KS

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A 10-mile section of Interstate 70 in east-central Kansas was closed Sunday, after a semi-trailer rolled, spilling about 500 gallons of ethanol.  The Salina Journal reportsthe spill occurred in Lincoln County Sunday morning. The driver was taken to a Salina hospital, but no other injuries were reported.  Westbound lanes were opened up by early afternoon, but the highway patrol said the 10-mile eastbound section of the highway remained closed Sunday evening while crews continued cleaning up the spill.  Emergency officials said the spill was contained and does not pose any danger to the area.


Kansas Officials Resist Calls to Rewrite Gun Laws

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Members of the all-Republican Kansas congressional delegation and officials in the GOP-dominated state government are resisting calls to tighten access to firearms following the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school earlier this month.  So far, no prominent Kansas elected official who's strongly supported gun rights has backed away from positions that have brought him or her support from the National Rifle Association.  Officials in both Washington and Topeka say they want to examine services for the mentally ill and have expressed concern about what they see as a violent culture that fuels shootings. The GOP-led Legislature is unlikely to restrict access to firearms.  Some GOP officeholders are urging caution. They argue that it's too early to talk about policy changes so close to the horrific events in Newtown, Connecticut.


Kansas Activist Plans Vigil over Connecticut Shooting

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas activist is planning a Christmas Eve candlelight vigil to honor victims of the mass shootings at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School.  The vigil is set for 4:15 this (MON) afternoon in Dornwood Park, near Highland Park High School in east Topeka.  Organizer Sonny Scroggins is encouraging people to bring flashlights, drums, bells, horns and candles. He says he wants to drown out what he calls the evil spirits occupying the city and the U.S.  Twenty-six people, including 20 children, were killed Dec. 14 at the school in Newtown, Connecticut, by a gunman who then killed himself.  The Connecticut shootings occurred two days before two Topeka police officers were gunned down in a grocery store parking lot.


Merry Christmas! Sedgwick County DA Gives Out $106K in Bonuses

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Sedgwick County district attorney is giving out $106,500 in year-end payments to staff, a practice that's not done in other county departments and that also comes alongside regular county raises.  District Attorney Nola Foulston's office has 119 employees and is paying incentives ranging from $500 to $3,000 this year to 71 professional and executive staff members. Her staff is also eligible for performance-based raises through the county's regular 2.5 percent raise pool.  Foulston has been awarding the performance-based incentives since 2001. Budget director David Miller said no other county department gives such incentives.  Foulston calls the performance-based incentives "deferred compensation" for members of her staff who earn the money for above-and-beyond work, and said she also annually returns unspent funds to the county.


State Lawmakers to Get Schooled in KS Open Meetings Laws

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some legislative leaders have scheduled training to learn more about the Kansas Open Meetings Act.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the training will be held in January, about a year after dinners at the governor's mansion led to an investigation. The investigation ended with Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor finding "technical violations" of the law but not enough to prove more substantive violations.  KOMA prohibits the majority of a legislative body from meeting behind closed doors to discuss business.  Taylor said lawmakers lacked knowledge of open meetings act and recommended further training.  The attorney general's office says House Republicans will receive their requested training on January 17th.  Tom Hawk, a Manhattan Democrat elected to the Senate in November, said the tentative training date for his caucus is January 15th.


Convicted Killer's Wife Files for Sanctions

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The wife of a man convicted of killing a rural Kansas woman is asking for compensation after her name was dropped from a wrongful death lawsuit.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the children of 58-year-old Patricia Kimmi of rural Horton filed a wrongful death lawsuit more than a year ago.  It named their estranged father, Eugene Kimmi; Roger Hollister; and Hollister's wife, Rebecca Hollister. The lawsuit claimed the three conspired to cause Patricia Kimmi's death.  Hollister's husband, Roger, is serving life in prison for the 2009 killing. But an Atchison County ruled earlier this month that the plaintiffs had presented no evidence to prove Rebecca Hollister was involved.  A motion filed late last week on behalf of Rebecca Hollister asks the court for sanctions, including expenses and attorneys' fees.


KS Senate Rules Decisions Likely Next Month

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate's new vice president expects fellow Republicans to decide early next month whether to make major changes in the chamber's rules.  Senator Jeff King of Independence says members of an all-GOP leadership panel haven't yet reviewed any proposals in writing, although several ideas have come up.  One proposal under consideration would abolish the leadership panel, which makes committee assignments. The proposal would give that power to the Senate president, who already leads the nine-member group.  Another measure would establish a standing, bipartisan rules committee and have its leader settle rules disputes. Currently, the senator presiding over a debate handles the task.  King said if there are major changes, the Senate will consider them within days of the January 14 opening of the 2013 legislative session.


Overland Park Arboretum to Charge Admission

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A nationally recognized arboretum in northeastern Kansas will begin charging admission next year.  Officials of the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens say the popular Johnson County attraction set a record this year with more than 157,000 visitors through November. The previous record was 141,000 set in 2009.  The 300-acre park is operated by the city of Overland Park. The City Council voted in November to charge admission of $3 admission for visitors 13 and older - and $1 for children 6 to 12 years of age - beginning in January. Children 5 and younger will still be admitted free.  Admission will also be free for all visitors every Tuesday.  


New KS Vehicle Registration System Hits 2M Mark

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — After several delays and long lines, the new vehicle title and registration system in Kansas has processed more than 2 million customer transactions.  The state Department of Revenue says in a release that the new system replaced a 25-year-old mainframe system and moved Kansas from a paper-driven process to an electronic one and that the new system successfully processed its 2.1 millionth customer transaction this week.  The new system to help drivers renew license tags and register their cars however caused long delays and lines at motor vehicle offices across Kansas after it was introduced in May, prompting anger from residents and county treasurers' offices.  Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan thanked residents and county treasurers for their cooperation during the transition and said the move to the updated system was necessary.


Kansas Drought Task Force to Meet More Regularly

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas state drought task force will meet regularly to discuss ways to deal with the ongoing drought.  Governor Sam Brownback says the task force will meet on a regular basis because the drought in many respects is more severe than the droughts of the 1930s and 1950s.  Brownback recently spoke during a conference call with other state officials to talk about drought conditions in Kansas.  The Hays Daily News reports that Tracy Streeter, director of the Kansas Water Office and chairman of the task force, said at least 200 water supply systems in Kansas have also entered conservation phases. At least nine are in emergency situations, restricting or banning outside water uses.


Drought Blamed for Disease in Kansas Horses

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A bacterial disease more commonly seen in the dry Southwest is infecting a large number of horses in Kansas. WIBW-TV reports veterinarians at Kansas State University blame the outbreak of pigeon fever on the persistent drought and this year's unusually hot summer. Professor of equine medicine Laurie Beard says pigeon fever is painful for horses but not usually fatal. The disease causes muscles abscesses, most commonly in the pectoral muscles. That gives an infected horse a pigeon-like swollen chest. Pigeon fever is caused by bacteria found in soil. Veterinarians at Kansas State say they treated a large number of horses throughout the fall and are still seeing more cases. They're hoping the outbreak will subside as winter weather moves in.



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