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Regional Headlines for Monday, January 20, 2014


Lieutenant Governor's $500K Loan to Brownback Not Unusual

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — While a $500,000 loan from Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer to the re-election campaign of Republican Governor Sam Brownback raised a few eyebrows, analysts say the gift is part of a growing campaign practice. Colyer made the contribution to Brownback's campaign on December 31, the last day of the recent reporting period. The money pushed Brownback's total for the preceding 12 months to more than $1.6 million. Before the loan, the campaign had raised funds roughly equal to that raised by presumed Democratic nominee Paul Davis. The Kansas City Star reports that the practice of private loans has been growing in recent years in U.S. politics. Analysts say the contributions are legal and a sign that Brownback intends to show Democrats and donors that he's not taking the race lightly.


Democrat to Enter KS Congressional Race

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas state senator plans to seek the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House seat held by Republican Kevin Yoder. The Kansas City Star reports that Kelly Kultala expects to make an official announcement Tuesday about her bid in the 3rd Congressional District. The district includes all of Johnson and Wyandotte counties and part of Miami County. Kultala lives in Kansas City, Kansas. She served four years in the state Senate before losing a re-election bid in 2012. She told The Star on Monday she believes Washington is "broken, and Kevin Yoder is part of the problem." Yoder, of Overland Park, told the newspaper he's ready for Kultala's challenge as he seeks a third term. Democrat and political newcomer Reginald Marselus, of Lenexa, is also in the race.


KS GOP's Defiance on School Funding Turns Heads at National Level

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The bitter legal battle in Kansas over education spending is garnering national attention, thanks to the defiant tone struck by conservative Republican leaders as they wait for a state Supreme Court ruling in a funding lawsuit. Top Republicans in the GOP-dominated Legislature contend the Supreme Court doesn't have the authority under the state constitution to tell lawmakers how much to spend on schools. Republican Governor Sam Brownback is with them. He pointedly referred to the Supreme Court in his State of the State speech last week with five of the seven justices present. With such statements, Brownback and GOP legislative leaders suggest they're prepared to ignore a Supreme Court order for a massive spending increase. Experts say such a move could resonate around the country.

Kobach Raises $96K in KS Secretary of State Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Campaign finance records show that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach began the year with a significant fundraising advantage over Democratic challenger Jean Schodorf. The Republican secretary of state's re-election campaign filed a report earlier this month showing that he raised $96,000 in cash contributions last year and ended the year with $125,000 in his campaign treasury. Schodorf raised $44,000 and loaned her campaign an additional $2,000. She ended 2013 with almost $39,000 in campaign funds. Her finance report says the Democratic challenger didn't begin raising money until late September. However, Kobach raised at least $64,800 in cash contributions after Schodorf began her fundraising. Kobach is seeking his second, four-year term. Schodorf is a former state senator from Wichita and a former moderate Republican who switched parties.


Lawmaker Meetings Would Be Broadcast Under Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Audio and video of Kansas legislative committee sessions would be streamed live over the Internet under a bill introduced in the House. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Republican State Representative Stephanie Clayton, of Overland Park, says her bill would help citizens stay current on matters that affect their lives and ensure legislators are paying attention. The bill also would require video broadcasts of House and Senate sessions. Audio of the sessions already is streamed on the Internet. Clayton says all the committee rooms in the renovated Statehouse are wired to provide audio and video, so the state would only have to purchase cameras. She said she thought the equipment could be purchased for $10,000. The bill has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee.


Home Inspector Regulation Law Expires in KS

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas law that regulated home inspectors has expired, raising concerns from home inspectors who helped write the law. The law, which took effect in 2009, required Kansas home inspectors to follow certain practices and standards. But it had a provision that allowed it to expire five years after taking effect. The fifth year was 2013. Governor Sam Brownback vetoed a measure that would have allowed the law to continue, saying he didn't see evidence that large numbers of Kansans were being ripped off by home inspectors. Kerry Parham, president of the Kansas Association of Real Estate Inspectors, and Jeff Barnes, a Mulvane-based home inspector, helped write the law. Parham told The Wichita Eagle that the law kept incompetent or unethical inspectors out of the business, protecting the public.

Events Planned for Annual Kansas Days Observance

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A series of events are scheduled January 29 in Topeka to celebrate the 153rd anniversary of Kansas statehood. The Kansas Historical Society will host the events, including a dedication ceremony in the Statehouse rotunda on the first floor. The Statehouse restoration project was recently completed after more than 12 years and nearly $330 million. Governor Sam Brownback will be joined by other dignitaries and musicians for the dedication. School groups will be able to participate in programs in the new visitor center from 11 am until 1 pm.

Body Found at Lawrence Home

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence police have identified a 52-year-old man whose body was found at his home while police were looking for a missing woman. Sergeant Trent McKinley said Sunday in a release that officers found the body of Harold M. Sasko late Friday. He says officers went to the house in an attempt to locate 19-year-old Sarah Brooke Gonzales McLinn, who has not been seen for several days. Her family reported her missing. McKinley says the cause of Sasko's death was not released. No suspects have been identified. He says police continue to try to locate McLinn and Sasko's vehicle, a dark gray or blue 2008 Nissan Altima with Kansas license number AK149.

Police: 7 Suspects Admit to More Than 40 Holdups

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police say a special operations division made several important arrests last year that helped take armed robbers off the streets. In one case, seven people arrested last year have admitted to committing more than 40 armed robberies in the last six years. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the seven were all charged under a federal statute and face long prison sentences. Police Major Mike Haugen, the commander of the special operations division, says his division also helped break up a multistate robbery crew that hit Topeka. He says five people were involved in that ring, and they are all in federal custody. They are accused of robbing a Family Dollar and EZ Payday Advance in Topeka, as well as robberies throughout the Midwest and in Utah.


Emporia State to Reopen Newly Renovated Dorm

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Emporia State University is reopening a newly renovated residence hall and beginning work on a second one. The university says students are moving into the updated Trusler Hall on Tuesday before starting classes on Wednesday. Trusler had been closed to students for 18 months while it was gutted and renovated. Students living next door in Singular Hall packed their rooms before leaving for winter break. Starting Thursday, Singular Hall is closing so renovations can begin there.


Transition Teams Handling Beechcraft Sale Details

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The sale of Beechcraft to Cessna Aircraft's parent company, Textron, is expected to close in the first half of this year, pending government approvals. The Wichita Eagle reports two transition teams for each company have been formed to work out the details. Those details include such things as employment levels, production sites and reduction of costs. Also formed is a steering committee composed of Beechcraft CEO Bill Boisture, Textron CEO Scott Donnelly and Cessna CEO Scott Ernest. The companies announced last month that Textron had finalized a deal to buy Beechcraft for about $1.4 billion. Boisture says the necessary paperwork for regulatory approval has been filed.

North Lawrence "Food Desert" Drawing Attention

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Residents in northeast Lawrence are living in what experts consider a 'food desert.' Four adjacent census tracks in northeast Lawrence are designated a 'food desert' because the 18,000 residents living there have no nearby grocery store to provide fresh, healthy food. Many of the residents are low-income and have little access to transportation. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the last grocery store north of the river closed in the mid-1990s. While they are available only in warm months, the city has seven community gardens within or near food deserts. Also, two farmers markets now accept food stamps and most of Lawrence's food pantries are in or near food deserts. Advocates trying to get a grocery store to locate to the area say it's a tough sell for grocery stores.


Lawrence Officials Explore Options for Career Technical Center

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence business officials are looking for inspiration as they make plans for their portion of a career-training center. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and the Lawrence school district are working together on the project. Last week, chamber representatives visited the Blue Valley school district's Center for Advanced Professional Studies in Overland Park to look for ideas. The school district is constructing a new building for high school students, funded with a $5.7 million portion of $92.5 million in bonds that voters approved in April. The chamber, meanwhile, will renovate an existing building for adult training. Chamber vice president of external affairs Hugh Carter says he's eager to find out what Lawrence employers are looking for and offer the relevant training.


Lecompton Residents Concerned Over Fate of Post Office

LECOMPTON, Kan. (AP) — More than 100 people attended a weekend meeting about the future of Lecompton's post office. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Mayor Sandy Jacquot encouraged the standing-room-only crowd Saturday to write the U.S. Postal Service and state government officials. Lecompton's post office is now open just four hours on week days and 90 minutes on Saturday. It was one of 13,000 whose hours were cut in May 2012 to save money. Residents are concerned that if the town of about 625 residents loses its post office, it may also lose its zip code, meaning mail would likely be addressed to Perry. The mayor and residents say Lecompton should keep its post office in part because of its historical significance. Lecompton was named the capital of the Kansas Territory in 1855.

No More In-Person Visits at Shawnee County Jail

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — In-person visits at the Shawnee County Jail are being replaced with videoconferencing for inmates and their families. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the jail's communication vendor, Securus Technologies, has installed a videoconferencing system that lets family and friends catch up with inmates from their homes or offices. The county doesn't pay for the new system because Securus relies on the $1 per minute user charge. The first video visits will be Wednesday. Lawyers and other professionals can still visit the jail. Major Tim Phelps says the new system has several benefits, including increased visitation hours. Opponents question the cost for users. Shawnee County Commissioner Kevin Cook also says videoconferencing could mean trouble for people on the other end of the conversation if anything illegal is going on in the background.


Number of Homeless Children in Wichita Schools Increasing


WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The number of homeless children in the Wichita school district is expected to set a record this year. The Wichita Eagle reports that educators and staff members have identified 2,182 homeless children in Wichita schools so far this school year. That number includes 177 homeless preschoolers — an age group that wasn't included last year. School districts are required by federal law to identify and help homeless children because of the extra challenges they face. The U.S. Department of Education counts anyone "doubling up" — or living with another family — as homeless. The Wichita district's homeless children liaison, Cynthia Martinez, says most of the homeless children in Wichita schools are living doubled up. Martinez says the children often bounce around after their families are evicted.


Man Sentenced in Johnson County to 6 Months in Prison

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A 38-year-old registered sex offender has been sentenced to six months in jail after his second eavesdropping conviction. The Kansas City Star reports Christopher John Symington was accused of taking photos up the skirts of an unsuspecting woman in a Johnson County business. He was sentenced Friday in Johnson County District Court after pleading guilty to breach of privacy. Symington had previously been placed on probation after a conviction for a similar crime in 2010 at a business in Overland Park. Court records show Symington also has a 2002 statutory sodomy conviction in Missouri in a case involving a 16-year-old girl.

Topeka Zoo Master Plan Contains Ambitious Goals

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Topeka Zoo's master plan includes dreams of new geographical areas, new animals, improved elephant exhibits and even a floating butterfly house. Zoo officials acknowledge the plan is ambitious and will change over time. They also have no cost estimate, except an estimated $9.8 million for expanding the elephant exhibit. Zoo director Brendan Wiley presented the plan in a public hearing Wednesday, saying zoo officials wanted to be sure of public support before embarking on the plan. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the elephant exhibit is the zoo's first priority. It would increase the exhibit from three-quarters of an acre and add elephants. The layout will be grouped according to where they are from, such as North America, Asia and Africa.

Opera Stars Ramey, Held Join Wichita State Faculty

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two graduates of Wichita State University who are now among the world's most renowned opera singers are joining the school's music faculty. The Wichita Eagle reports that Samuel Ramey and Alan Held will teach voice and opera beginning this fall. Both are bass-baritones and have sung some of opera's most famous roles at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Italy's La Scala, the Vienna State Opera and other major venues. Ramey is a 71-year-old native of Colby, Kansas. He has made more than 80 recordings and is reputed to be the most recorded bass in history. Held, who is in his 50s, is an Illinois native. He received his master's degree and met his wife at Wichita State in 1985.

Retired Wichita Officer Landwehr Laid to Rest

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Hundreds of people attended the weekend funeral for Ken Landwehr, the retired Wichita police commander who helped solve more than 600 homicides. Landwehr died January 13th at age 59. The Wichita Eagle reports Landwehr was diagnosed with kidney cancer just before his 2012 retirement. During the Saturday service at Central Community Church in Wichita friends and colleagues remembered Landwehr as a devoted family man and tough investigator who fought hard for victims. He joined the Wichita Police Department after he was himself a victim of armed robbery in 1977. He went on to lead the agency's homicide unit for 20 years and the task force that captured BTK serial killer Dennis Rader, who killed 10 people and eluded police for decades, in 2005.

Selling Java Gives KS High School Students Business Know-How

CHEROKEE, Kan. (AP) — Students at a Kansas high school are hawking java to their teachers and classmates and learning business skills in the process. The Morning Sun in Pittsburg reports that a coffee shop opened this month at Southeast High School in Cherokee. The project is an extension of an existing student-operated shop, called the Spirit Shack. It carries school gear, iPad chargers, vending machine treats and other products. Senior Kelsey Dietz says students became interested in selling coffee after another school talked about their coffee shop program during a state conference. Southeast High School students toured other student-run coffee shops before opening theirs. Students said the first few days of being in business were much more stressful and successful than they would have imagined.

Wine Business Growing in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — More than 150 people attended the 28th annual Kansas Grape Growers and Winemakers Association conference this weekend in Topeka. Bob DesRuisseaux, owner of Prairie Fire Winery in Paxico and one of the conference organizers, told The Topeka Capital-Journal business is booming for Kansas wineries. He says this year's conference was sold out and featured workshops on various topics ranging from drought recovery to improving wine quality. DesRuisseaux says winemaking is becoming a leading source of agritourism in Kansas. Kansas has 33 farm wineries. Annarose Hart, of the Kansas Department of Agriculture, says winemaking is becoming an increasingly important part of the Kansas tourism mix, noting the development of the Somerset Wine Trail in Miami County. She says a marketing plan is being developed at present to promote Kansas wine.



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