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Regional Headlines for Monday, March 12, 2012



Governor Sam Brownback Seeking Additional $3.4 Million for KS Medicaid Overhaul

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback is asking Kansas legislators to add $3.4 million to the state budget to help with an overhaul of the Medicaid program. Brownback submitted his request for the funds Monday. His administration is planning to issue contracts this summer to three companies to manage the $2.9 billion-a-year Medicaid program, which provides health coverage for the poor, the disabled and elderly. The changes are designed to cut the state's costs while improving the coordination of medical care. Brownback is asking legislators to add $1 million to the budget for what he called a robust public education campaign about the coming changes. His request also includes $2.4 million to upgrade the computer system that handles bills submitted by health care providers to the Medicaid program.


House Delays Debate on GOP Tax Cut Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas House has delayed debate on a bill that would cut the state's sales and income taxes in what supporters see as a push for economic growth. The debate was postponed until Tuesday because of scheduling issues Monday with other committees and other logistics. The measure would promise future cuts to individual income taxes as revenues grow, forcing the state to stop the annual growth in its spending at 2 percent. The state would phase out taxes on the earnings of thousands of partnerships, sole proprietorships and other small businesses. The sales tax rate also would drop to 5.7 percent from 6.3 percent in July 2013, as previously scheduled. The plan is a modified version of one presented earlier this year by leaders of the House's Republican majority.
Kansas House Approves Property Tax Measure

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ House members have approved a measure that provides Kansas cities and counties with $90 million property tax relief while requiring public notification when property valuations increase.
The bill, approved Monday 101-23, now goes to the Senate. It restores a city-county revenue sharing program that ran from 1938 to 2004, and it requires the local governments to use the money to reduce property taxes. The bill would share $45 million in both 2013 and 2014. The bill includes a requirement that cities and counties lower their property tax rates when the overall valuation has increased. The intent is to end a practice that legislators called "stealth" tax increases when property values increased but tax rates didn't. Local governments still could vote to increase rates if property valuation declined.

Kansas House Approves Changes to Concealed Carry Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Concealed carry permit holders in Kansas would be allowed to carry their weapons in more places under a bill heading to the Senate. The measure would allow concealed carry permit holders to carry weapons in public buildings that lack adequate security, such as metal detectors and security guards. The House approved the changes Monday on a 70-54 vote. The changes would apply to all public buildings. Allowing the weapons is also viewed as an economic issue because of the cost associated with providing metal detectors and guards at entrances to each public building across Kansas. Hospitals, colleges and nursing homes would be able to exempt themselves for a specific period of years by sending notification to the attorney general's office.


State Officials Optimistic about Kansas Economy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas policymakers say they sense that the state's economy is on the mend. They point to recent job reports, increasing state revenues and sentiment among residents and the business community that conditions are turning around. But there is caution in the legislators' sentiments, fueled by uncertainty regarding federal tax laws and how quickly consumer sentiment will be fully restored. The state Department of Labor will report tomorrow (TUE) on the January unemployment rate, which finished 2011 at 6.3 percent. A federal report released Friday showed the nation added 227,000 jobs. One indicator of the rebound is state revenues. Senate President Steve Morris says it's no small feat that Kansas went from looking at a $500 million deficit at this time last year to a $500 million surplus now.


7 States Oppose California Low-Carbon Fuels Rule

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Seven states are opposing California's effort to enforce a state mandate that critics say discriminates against fuels produced outside California. A federal judge ruled in December that California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard regulation violates the U.S. Constitution's commerce clause by discriminating against ethanol made in the Midwest. California has appealed and asked to be allowed to enforce the rule while its appeal is pending. The regulation doesn't mandate using specific fuels, but assigns higher carbon scores to fuels made outside California. Groups challenging the regulation say it conflicts with federal standards and rules out fuels from other states. Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said Monday the regulation threatens $1.3 billion in annual ethanol sales from Nebraska alone. Also filing challenges are Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Materials Shortage Causes Furloughs at Hawker

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Hawker Beechcraft is furloughing employees because of a shortage of materials on two composite jets. The Wichita-based company says it will furlough employees who work on final assembly of Premier 1A and Hawker 4000 business jets inside Plant IV. Spokeswoman Nicole Alexander says the furloughs will be held on a rolling basis over the next 30 to 60 days, and last between 30 and 45 days. The Wichita Eagle reports employees working on the planes in Plant 3 are already on furlough because of the material shortages. She says the composite materials are in short supply because of increases in production of commercial and military programs.

Biomass Plant Construction Begins in SW Kansas

HUGOTON, Kan. (AP) _ A Spanish company is building a plant in southwest Kansas where grass and other crop residue will be turned into fuel. Madrid-based Abengoa Bioenergy is building its first commercial plant in Hugoton. The facility is expected to use about 1,300 tons of crop residue and grass a day to make ethanol. Tom Robb, manager of the product division of Abengoa, tells The Hutchinson News the site is expected to be producing ethanol by late 2013 or early 2014. The plant is projected to have 65 permanent jobs with an annual payroll of $5 million when it's operating. Abengoa has also received a $132 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop the site, which is expected to cost more than $350 million. 


Dental Health Awareness Campaign Launched

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Health Foundation has launching a new campaign to draw attention to what it calls a crisis in dental health care in Kansas. The campaign, called "Truth about Teeth," launched today (MON). It will use billboards, media ads, a website and a Facebook page to spread the message that poor dental health affects overall health. Steve Coen, CEO of the foundation, says a lack of access, high costs and a shortage of dentists have contributed to Kansas' poor oral health. The Wichita Eagle reports the campaign will use ads with words such as "decay'" and "gross" plastered across mouths to attract attention and provide facts about poor dental health.


Victim in October Mobile Home Fire Identified

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A set of charred human remains found in the burned-out wreckage of a mobile home in Salina last year have finally been identified. The Salina Journal reports the remains were those of 42-year-old John Mosher, a transient who entered the abandoned mobile home and apparently set the fire to keep himself warm. Police say the fire got out of control and engulfed the single-wide structure, which had no utilities. The wreckage and remains in a densely wooded area of north Salina were discovered last October 21. Police tentatively identified Mosher as the victim after speaking with a person who had been hitchhiking with him. But his name wasn't confirmed until last week, after DNA from the scene was compared to a sample he had given authorities in Florida.


Ex-County Official Pleads Guilty in Kansas Theft Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The former public works director in Barber County has admitted stealing from the county. Forty-nine-year-old Steven Collier, of Nashville, Kansas, pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to two counts of theft from a program receiving federal funds. He agreed to make restitution of $116,310. In return, the government agreed to drop nine counts. Sentencing is set for May 30. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Metzger says prosecutors plan to ask the court to dismiss the indictment against Collier's wife, Diana, of Medicine Lodge. Steven Collier admitted forging an invoice for the purchase of steel beams and using the money instead to buy a bulldozer for his own use. He later sold the bulldozer and kept the proceeds. He also admitted selling a county-owned tractor for $20,000 and keeping the money.


NW Kansas Man Sentenced for False Cattle Claim

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A northwest Kansas rancher has been sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for pledging more than 1,700 head of cattle he didn't have as collateral on bank loans. The U.S. Attorney's office says 52-year-old Frank Dix, of Woodston, was sentenced Monday in Wichita after previously pleading guilty to one count of making a false statement to a bank. Dix admitted that in 2010 he provided a statement to a Stockton bank falsely claiming to possess 1,775 head of cattle. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says Dix still owed the bank more than $450,000 at the time he pleaded guilty to the charge.


Sentencing Delayed for Kansas Grocer in Food Stamp Fraud Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A federal judge wants more time to decide the punishment for a Wichita grocery store owner involved in a food stamp conspiracy that targeted poor people willing to sell their benefits for cash. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten on Monday continued the sentencing for Ahmed Al-Maleki until Tuesday. The owner of Kansas Food Market was convicted of conspiracy, wire fraud and food stamp fraud. Marten found that the guideline range for the crimes fell between 15 and 21 months, but he is mulling a possible probationary sentence. He also wants more time to review documentation for the losses to the Agriculture Department's food stamp program. The government contends losses amounted to more than $130,000. The defense disputes that figure. The conspiracy involved more than 100 participants and 750 transactions.


Repairs to Delay Traffic on NE Kansas Bridge

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) _ Motorists who depend on the Centennial Bridge connecting Leavenworth in northeastern Kansas and Platte County in Missouri can expect weeks of delays while crews carry out repairs. The Kansas Department of Transportation says that from today (MON) ntil late August, only one lane will be open at a time, meaning eastbound and westbound traffic will have to alternate. The bridge carries Kansas 92 from Leavenworth over the Missouri River to northwestern Missouri, where drivers can pick up Missouri Route 45 or connect with Interstate 29 a few miles farther east. KDOT suggests drivers consider alternate ways to cross the Missouri River, including the Amelia Earhart Bridge farther north at Atchison or the I-435 bridge farther south.


Apologies Issued over Column in K-State Student Paper 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas State University's student newspaper column that questioned why students from countries unfriendly with the United States are allowed to attend public universities has raised a flap. Sophomore Sean Frye suggested in the February 24th issue of The Collegian that legislation be passed to prevent the enrollment of students who "could, in the near future, become the enemy." Frye's column targeted students from China, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey and incorrectly stated $7 million in state and federal funds is spent each year to educate international students at Kansas State. University officials say that international students pay about 2 1/2 times more in tuition than in-state students. On February 29th, The Collegian published an apology by Frye. The newspaper's editor-in-chief apologized the next day.


Governors Plan Ecotourism Visit to Nebraska

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ Nebraska will host the governors of two neighboring states this month to discuss what they can do to attract more hunters, bird-watchers and tourists who want to enjoy nature. Governor Dave Heineman announced Monday that he is hosting Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper on March 23. The governors are expected to discuss ecotourism, economic development and water issues that affect all three states. The Nebraska Division of Tourism and Travel says residents and out-of-state visitors made more than 19 million trips in 2010 in the state to destinations at least 100 miles from their homes. The governors are expected to meet in Wood River to view Nebraska's sandhill cranes.

Man Shot by KCK Police Dies

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ A man shot Saturday night during a confrontation with Kansas City, Kansas police officers has died. Police said on Monday that the man was shot Saturday night after officers answered a call of an armed disturbance. Police say the man was armed with a knife and two officers fired at him. He was taken to a hospital, where he later died. The Kansas City Star reports that the officers were not injured and have been placed on paid administrative leave while the shooting is investigated.

Wichita Police Identify Victim of Old Town Shootings

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Wichita police say a man who was fatally shot in the Old Town section of the city fired at police officers several times. The man was identified Monday as 23-year-old Marquez Smart. Four other people were wounded in the shooting early Saturday but it was unclear if they were hit by bullets shot by Smart or by police officers. Chief Norman Williams says Smart fired at least two shots while walking with a crowd and then ran. Smith says when Smart approached officers who were in the area, he fired more shots and ignored several orders to drop his gun. Police chased him into an alley and fired at him again, fatally wounding him. The shooting happened after a concert featuring R&B singer Pleasure P.

Man Dies Following Fall from Truck, Being Struck by SUV

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A 36-year-old Kansas City man died after he fell from a moving vehicle and was struck by another vehicle that left without stopping. Police say Ronnie Harris was killed early Saturday in east Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports Harris was riding in a westbound van on U.S. 40 when he fell out just before 3 am Saturday. Before the van driver could stop, a westbound SUV struck Harris and continued driving. Harris died later at a hospital. Police believe the driver of the vehicle that hit Harris may not realize he struck a person. They are looking for a larger SUV, possibly a Ford Expedition.


Roommate Convicted in Former Kansas Police Officer's Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A man has been convicted of fatally shooting his roommate, a former Kansas police officer.  A Sedgwick County District Court jury found Michael Williams guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Sean Putnam. The 41-year-old Putnam's body was found in February 2011 in a shallow grave in the backyard of a Wichita home. Prosecutors say he was shot in late December 2010. Then, a bag was put over Putnam's head and a bungee cord around his neck. Putnam worked as a law enforcement officer in Bel Aire, Galena and Cherokee County. When he died, he was working as a roofer. Sentencing was set for April 13th. Another roommate, Deborah Weiss, has pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter for participating in the strangulation.


Mother, 3 Children Die after Western Kansas Fire

SCOTT CITY, Kan. (AP) _ A house fire in a small western Kansas town has killed a mother and her three children. Scott City Police Sergeant Andy Newland says the fire started Saturday morning near a radiator heater in the laundry room of a two-bedroom house in Scott City. The cause of the blaze is under investigation. The 28year-old mother called to report the fire. But she was disabled and couldn't get herself out of the home. The other, a 4-year-old boy and two girls - ages 6 and 8 - were overcome by smoke. One child died initially, while the mother and two other children were flown to Wichita where they died Saturday afternoon. Newland declined to release the names of the victims. Scott City is about 30 miles north of Garden City.


Suspect in Double-Fatal Accident Set for Trial

COLUMBUS, Kan. (AP) _ A suspect in a traffic accident that killed a Kansas woman and her daughter is scheduled to go to trial on Tuesday. Kaston Hudgins of Galena is charged with first-degree murder in a July 2009 wreck that killed Teresa Kemp and her daughter, Taylor, both of Pittsburg. The Joplin Globe reports the trial is scheduled to start Tuesday in Cherokee County District Court. Prosecutors say Hudgins was drinking when he fled from a Cherokee County sheriff's deputy and hit Kemp's vehicle south of Pittsburg. A judge a civil trial last April found Hudgins solely responsible for the deaths and awarded John Kemp - the husband and father of the victims - more than $5.7 million in damages.


New Site Sought for Trial in Kansas Teen's Killing

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) _ Lawyers for a 38-year-old central Kansas man accused of killing a 14-year-old girl are trying again to get his trial moved. Adam Longoria is scheduled for trial March 26 in Barton County District Court on charges of capital murder and attempted rape. He would face life in prison if convicted. Longoria is accused of killing Alicia DeBolt, who disappeared in August 2010 after leaving her Great Bend home for a party. Her burned remains were later found at an asphalt plant where Longoria worked. Judge Hannelore Kitts denied a motion in February for a change of venue from Barton County. But the Great Bend Tribune reports the defense renewed the request in a motion last week that cited subsequent news coverage, including reports on the denial of the first motion.



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