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Regional Headlines for Monday, March 18, 2013



KS House Tax Plan Could Delay Road Projects

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas' transportation secretary says a key part of a legislative proposal to lower sales and income taxes will force the state to delay highway projects. Transportation Secretary Mike King issued a statement Monday about a provision of a tax bill before the Kansas House that diverts $382 million in revenues over two years from highway projects. The House bill would follow up on last year's income tax cuts by allowing further reductions in rates if state revenues grow by more than 2 percent. It also would allow the state sales tax to drop in July, as scheduled by law. Lawmakers also must stabilize the budget, and so the House plan diverts highway funds. Governor Sam Brownback wants to cancel the sales tax reduction to stabilize the budget.


Ex-US Senator, Nobel Winner Talk Pensions

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have heard a pitch for starting a 401(k)-style pension plan for new teachers and government workers from former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey and a Nobel Prize-winning economist. Bradley and the economist, Robert Merton, a finance professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, spoke Monday to the Kansas House Pensions and Benefits Committee. Bradley and Merton advise Austin, Texas-based Dimensional Fund Advisors, which manages such plans in the private sector. They told Kansas lawmakers they could pursue innovations in managing a new plan that would make it friendly to employees. The committee has been working quietly for weeks on legislation aimed at bolstering the long-term financial health of the state pension system. Part of its plan is a 401(K)-style plan for new hires.

Army Vice Chief of Staff Discusses Budget Cuts

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Army Vice Chief of Staff John Campbell says senior leaders implementing federal budget cuts will remain focused on soldiers and units still in Afghanistan. The general, who became vice chief of staff on March 8, spoke Monday at Fort Leavenworth. He says he told new battalion and brigade commanders studying at the Kansas post that there will be challenges ahead. Campbell says the impact of the automatic federal budget cuts was amplified for the Army because of other spending reductions in the current fiscal year. He estimated the Army was nearly $30 billion below what was requested for ongoing missions and operations. Campbell also says the reductions will affect military training and many programs throughout the Army, including potential furloughs of civilian employees beginning in April.

Missouri S&T Student Found Dead in Dorm

ROLLA, Mo. (AP) — Police in Rolla are investigating the death of a student at Missouri University of Science and Technology. KOLR-TV reports the student is identified as 19-year-old Kaitlin Brown, of Mission, Kan. The university says Brown was a sophomore studying business and information technology. Rolla Police Chief Mark Kearse says Brown was found dead around 2:30 a.m. Saturday in her dorm suite. The cause of death has not been released, and the chief says an autopsy is planned for Tuesday. Kearse told the TV station police are involved because there were some circumstances surrounding the death that, as he put it, "we're not comfortable with."

NE KS Man Charged in Baby's Death

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A Riley County man has been charged with murder in the death of a six-month-old baby. Riley County Attorney Barry Wilkerson says Michael Dechant was charged Monday with first-degree felony murder and one count of child abuse in the baby's death. He's being held on $500,000 bond. KMAN reports that the child was hospitalized with injuries late Friday and died early Monday at a Kansas City hospital. Dechant was originally charged with aggravated battery.

Police: KS Couple Did Heroin While Child Slept

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man and a woman have been arrested in Wichita after police say they were caught doing heroin in a restaurant parking lot while their toddler slept in the backseat of their car. Lt. Joe Schroeder told The Wichita Eagle that the couple took the child to Chuck E. Cheese on Sunday, but they never made it inside the restaurant. He says the man and woman did some heroin in the front seat of their car, and police found them passed out after someone called 911 to express concern for the child. Schroeder says the 3-year-old girl was asleep in the back seat and unharmed and has been placed in protective custody. The 31-year-old man and 22-year-old woman were arrested on suspicion of drug offenses and child endangerment.

Construction Ahead of Schedule on Augusta Levee

AUGUSTA, Kan. (AP) — Officials in a southeast Kansas town devastated by flooding nearly 15 years ago say work on a new levee is progressing slightly ahead of schedule. The Augusta Daily Gazette reports the levee protecting the west city of Augusta is expected to be complete by the end of August, at a cost of more than $6.6 million. Groundbreaking on the levee along the Whitewater River took place in July of last year. Part of Augusta lies at the confluence of the Whitewater and Walnut Rivers. In October 1998, more than 650 homes and roughly 90 businesses were damaged when water overtopped the levee following days of heavy rain. Augusta's old levee was built in the 1930s and designed for a 100-year flood. The new wall is designed for a 500-year flood.


Emporia police practice school shooter scenario

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — The Emporia Police Department practiced their techniques for responding to a school shooting while the students were on spring break. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that about 45 members of the Emporia Police Department practiced shooter response techniques at Timmerman Elementary School on Monday. Lt. Jim Tilton says the training was mandatory for all of the department's police and that school district security guards also took part. Tilton says the active shooter training is annual, and the department tries to hold the drill at a different school each year to ensure that police learn the various school layouts. He says the training goes over how to respond in an active shooter situation, and gives staff a chance to ask any other questions they have.


Rains Help, But Parts of KS Still Need 20 Inches of Rain

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Recent rain has helped ease the drought in some sections of Kansas, but the state still needs considerably more moisture.  The U.S. Drought Monitor says in a report released Thursday that the amount of Kansas in extreme or exceptional drought dropped from about 70 percent to less than 65 percent.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the improvements after the early March rains were largely in east-central Kansas.  But long-term moisture shortfalls still persist across the state. The National Weather Service says Kansas still has "precipitation deficits" of up to 20 inches in much of the state, particularly in southern and eastern sections.


KS Governor Gets Star-Studded KPERS Reform Cast

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley and a Nobel laureate in economics are part of the group coming to talk to lawmakers about making major reforms to the state pension system.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Bradley and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Robert Merton will speak Monday morning to the House Pensions and Benefits Committee.  Both are affiliated with the Austin, Texas-based investment firm Dimensional Fund Advisors. Its co-founder, David Booth, is known for buying James Naismith's original rules of basketball, then donating them to the University of Kansas.  Conservatives favor a 401(k)-style plan.  But Democratic leaders say it's not appropriate to let DFA officials help design a plan for the 281,000-member Kansas Public Employee Retirement System. They say it gives Booth's company an unfair advantage in potential contract negotiations.


Shawnee County Treasurer Launching Online System

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Shawnee County residents will be able to get in line to renew vehicle tags and titles from home.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the new system begins today (MON).  Shawnee County Treasurer Larry Mah says the online and mobile queue allows customers to choose a license renewal location, then issues a ticket number and asks the customer to enter a cellphone number, so the system can send a text when the number is 20 minutes out. Mah says the electronic queue won't stop the lines from forming, but he hopes the measures at least spread the wait times out.  The new system is a major change from less than a year ago, when people lined up outside the offices as early as 4am.


New Venue for the Symphony in the Flint Hills

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — An annual event that brings the Kansas City Symphony to the Flint Hills won't use a remote prairie as its backdrop this year.  Instead, the Symphony in the Flint Hills will be performed amid the historic buildings of Fort Riley. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the sunset concert is set for June 15 on Fort Riley's Historic Main Post. Gates open at 1pm, and there will be activities until the 90-minute concert begins at 6:45pm.  Tickets go on sale Saturday. General admission tickets are $75 for adults and $43 for children under 12.


Skull in KC Could be Prehistoric

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two Kansas City teenagers walking along a dry creek bed in north Kansas City have found what a forensic anthropologist says is the skull of an American Indian female who likely died centuries ago.  Fifteen-year-old Hunter Collins, and 17-year-old Heather Johnson found the skull and a tooth and alerted authorities.  The Kansas City Star reports that the skull and the tooth were sent to the Jackson County medical examiner's office, which shipped them to forensic anthropologist Michael Finnegan at Kansas State University.  Finnegan told authorities the skull belonged to a mongoloid female of a historic or prehistoric era, likely an American Indian.  The skull will go to the Department of Natural Resources, which will keep it in the secure room and also notify Indian tribes associated with Missouri.


KS Court Upholds Drug Enforcement Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Court of Appeals says marijuana that someone obtained legally in another state is still illegal in Kansas.  The ruling comes in the case of a Colorado man who was stopped in Kansas with medical marijuana he was legally prescribed in his home state.  The Kansas City Star reports a Kansas judge acquitted the man of a misdemeanor charge of illegally possessing marijuana.  The state appealed the acquittal, leading to Friday's ruling that Kansas has the right to enforce its own drug laws even when marijuana was obtained legally elsewhere.  Attorney General Derek Schmidt says the decision doesn't change the outcome of the Colorado man's case, and he won't be tried again. But Schmidt says the ruling will provide guidance to Kansas trial courts in similar cases.


KS Gov Fills Court Vacancy in Johnson County

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has appointed an Overland Park attorney to a seat on Johnson County District Court.  Timothy McCarthy will replace District Judge John P. Bennett, who served on the court since 1995 and recently announced his retirement.  McCarthy is a partner in the firm of Gilliland and Hayes. He was one of three finalists chosen by a special nominating commission.  Brownback's office says the governor selected McCarthy because of his experience as a municipal judge in Edwardsville and as a temporary replacement for sick or absent district judges in Johnson County.  The governor also noted McCarthy's experience in handling civil cases.


Kansas Group Hosts Workshops on Pasture Evaluations

WHITING, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Rural Center and the Natural Resources Conservation Service will hold workshops next month on evaluating the effect of the drought on eastern Kansas pastures.  The Rural Center says the four sessions are scheduled for the first week of April in Pottawatomie, McPherson, Reno and Coffey counties.  They're aimed at helping cattle ranchers determine how well their ranges and pastures can support livestock after about two years of drought. The sessions will also focus on what steps can be taken to protect grazing resources.  The workshops will be led by a rangeland management specialist from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which is a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Kansas specialist, David Kraft, says early April is the time for making adjustments to maintain drought-stricken pastures.


Kansas Town Adopts Pro 2nd Amendment Resolution

SYRACUSE, Kan. (AP) — A western Kansas town has adopted a resolution supporting the Second Amendment right to bear arms.  The Garden City Telegram reports that the Syracuse City Council approved the resolution earlier this month.  Syracuse Mayor Joe Stephens says he hopes other towns will follow suit.  Last month, Seward County became the first Kansas county to adopt a resolution regarding the Second Amendment. Stephens says Syracuse used that resolution's language in drafting theirs.  The resolutions come as lawmakers in Washington discuss several gun control measures, including one requiring federal background checks for more would-be gun buyers.  Gun control has received increased attention since 26 children and educators were gunned down in Newtown, Conn.


KU Reinforces Jayhawk Sculpture

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The latest edition of the Classic Jayhawk, a University of Kansas campus landmark sculpture, will be tougher than its predecessors and less likely to be rolled away thanks to a 3-foot anchor and three tons of concrete. Over the years, the other Classic Jayhawks have been climbed on, knocked over and rolled along the Jayhawk Boulevard sidewalk. But The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the new version of the Jayhawk sculpture in front of the Kanas Unions is due to be completed this month. And while it might look the same, inside it's an entirely different bird. The other Classic Jayhawks were hollow fiberglass. The new sculpture comes with a 3-foot-deep underground anchor and is filled with about three tons of concrete and steel rebar to help deter thefts.



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