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Regional Headlines for Monday, May 13, 2013



Man Accused in Kansas Farm Slayings Appears in Court

OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — A man charged with killing four people on an eastern Kansas farm has made an appearance in a packed courtroom, but stayed mostly quiet. Twenty-seven-year-old Kyle Flack is being held on $10 million bond. He is charged with murder in the deaths of 18-month-old Lana Leigh Bailey, her mother, 21-year-old Kaylie Bailey, and 30-year-old Andrew Stout. He also is charged first-degree murder in the death of 31-year-old Steven White. He appeared in a packed courtroom Monday and waived an initial preliminary hearing. He sat quietly with his attorney, acknowledging the judge once with an audible "Yes, sir." Another hearing was set for July 8. A body believed to be the toddler's was found over the weekend. The adults' bodies were found early last week.


Kansas Prosecutor Weighs Charges in Escape

EDGERTON, MO. (AP) — The Leavenworth County attorney is weighing whether to file charges after three inmates escaped from a prison in the Kansas county. Missouri prosecutors previously charged 31-year-old Allen M. Hurst and 49-year-old Scott A. Gilbert with trying to ambush officers who pursued them and of attempting to kidnap the mayor of the small town of Edgerton, Missouri. They were caught around 5 pm Friday, several hours after escaping from the Lansing Correction Facility with 57-year-old Randy Ridens Sr. The Kansas Department of Corrections says Ridens was taken into custody later Friday night as he was entering Topeka. He hadn't been charged in the escape as of Monday, but Leavenworth County Todd Thompson says he is reviewing the case. Meanwhile, corrections spokesman Jeremy Barclay says an investigation into the escape is ongoing.


New Plan for Kansas Judiciary Emerges

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An influential Kansas legislator is outlining a new proposal for having the state's appellate judges confirmed by the state Senate. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff King said Monday the proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution would retain a commission that screens applicants for the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. But the Senate would vote on the governor's appointees. King, an Independence Republican, provided details of the proposal exclusively to The Associated Press a day before the Legislature's staff was to have the measure drafted. Currently, the nominating commission names three finalists for seats on the appellate courts and the governor appoints one, with role for the Legislature. Any amendment to the Kansas Constitution must be approved in a statewide vote.


Kansas Lawmakers Return for Session's 80th Day

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are returning to the Statehouse to continue their annual session certain they'll miss their goal of finishing business in 80 days. Monday was the 80th day of the session, and Republican leaders of the GOP-dominated Legislature didn't expect an agreement on tax cuts and a state budget until later in the week. The Republican leaders have said throughout the year they expected to trim 10 days from what's normally scheduled as a 90-day session. But the House disagrees with the Senate's proposal to cancel a sales tax decrease scheduled by law for July to stabilize the state budget while enacting fresh income tax cuts. The House wants to let the sales tax drop and enact less aggressive income tax reductions.


UPDATE: Kansas Senate Leader Says Tax Differences Narrowing

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle says her chamber and the House are narrowing their differences over canceling a scheduled decline in the state sales tax. The Wichita Republican agreed Monday with GOP Governor Sam Brownback that private talks involving Wagle, Brownback and House Speaker Ray Merrick of Stilwell are going well. But Wagle declined to provide specifics about how differences between the two chambers are narrowing as Republican leaders negotiate over the sales tax and cutting income taxes. The Senate has approved Brownback's proposals to cut income taxes and keep the sales tax at its current 6.3 percent rate to stabilize the budget. The House has passed legislation allowing the sales tax to drop to 5.7 percent in July as provided by law, with less aggressive income tax cuts.


Kansas House Minority Leader Upset over Private GOP Talks on Taxes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A top Kansas Democrat is criticizing Republican Governor Sam Brownback and GOP legislative leaders for holding private talks to resolve tax issues. House Minority Leader Paul Davis says discussions of tax issues should occur during public meetings of negotiators appointed by House and Senate leaders to resolve the chambers' differences. Davis, of Lawrence, issued a statement Monday saying the Republicans' private talks "betray democracy" and deny the public chance to weigh in. Brownback has been meeting with Senate President Susan Wagle and House Speaker Ray Merrick about cutting income taxes and canceling some or all of a sales tax decrease scheduled by law to take effect in July. Wagle said such private talks are common on big issues.


Analysis: Delay Becomes Tactic in Kansas Tax Debate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Stalling has become an important tactic for Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle as she tries to push a reluctant House toward canceling a scheduled sales tax decrease. Wagle and House Speaker Ray Merrick are negotiating on legislation following up on massive personal income tax cuts enacted last year. Fellow Republicans want another round of income tax cuts, but lawmakers also must stabilize the state budget. The Senate approved legislation coupling fresh income tax cuts with a plan keep the state's sales tax at its current rate of 6.3 percent. The House would allow the sales tax to drop to 5.7 percent in July as planned and make smaller income tax cuts. Last week, Wagle said resolving those differences requires time to educate House members about the benefits of the Senate's proposals.


Kansas Foster Care Advocates Gather to Highlight Needs

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Advocates for the more than 5,600 Kansas children in the state's foster care system gathered Monday at the Statehouse to raise awareness and support. The event began with a proclamation signing by Governor Sam Brownback. The goal is to increase awareness about foster care and help children find homes. May is Foster Care Month in Kansas and advocates put on an informational fair on the Statehouse grounds coordinated by the Kansas Department for Children and Family Services. Blue wristbands were distributed to show support for foster children and efforts to find them homes. The agenda also included remarks by Kansas lawmakers and members of groups that help children and families with foster care and adoption services.

Kansas Takes Closed Approach to Criminal Records

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials say most criminal records are kept away from the public to protect people accused of crimes and prevent information from getting out that could endanger prosecutions. But even some state legislators interviewed by The Kansas City Star say they are surprised by the restrictive nature of the state's criminal records laws. The only way for most people to get hold of criminal records is to file a lawsuit. Sometimes that means spending thousands of dollars to get information readily available in most states. The head of the National Freedom of Information Coalition says he knows of no other state with such restrictions. Lyon County prosecutor Marc Goodman says his county is the only one that routinely releases criminal affidavits, and that has never caused him any problems.


Beechcraft Lands $210M Military Contract

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A unit of Beechcraft Corporation says production will begin this month in Wichita on 35 training aircraft for the military. Beechcraft Defense Company on Monday announced the signing of a $210 million contract with the Air Force, under the government's Joint Primary Aircraft Training System procurement contract. The contract includes 33 T-6 aircraft for the Navy and two for the Army. It also has an option for two more of the planes. Beechcraft Defense said the latest contract is the 19th order for T-6 training planes from the military since the joint procurement program began in the late 1990s.


Coach Sues Kansas Business, Employee for Selling Counterfeit Goods

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Luxury goods manufacturer Coach has sued a Wichita business, its owner and an employee for allegedly selling phony goods bearing its brand name. The lawsuit filed Friday against The Fabulous Store is the latest legal headache for store owner Glenda Morgan. It comes on the heels of a three-count indictment filed last month against the store and Morgan charging they sold counterfeit goods imported from China. The criminal charges accuse her of selling handbags, wallets, sunglasses and jewelry from numerous manufacturers. Morgan declined comment Monday. Coach seeks to block the store from selling its fraudulent goods and to destroy any remaining inventory. It also seeks damages of more than $2 million for each counterfeited trademark. The civil lawsuit alleges copyright and trademark infringement, unfair competition, unjust enrichment and trademark dilution.


Former Kansas Doctor Charged with Gun Violation

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas doctor out on supervised release for unlawfully prescribing drugs is now accused of using a gun to pay a bail bondsman. Fifty-seven-year-old Lawrence M. Simons was being held Monday on one federal count of unlawful possession of a firearm after a felony conviction. Simons, of Wichita, once worked at Schneider Medical Clinic in Haysville. He was sentenced in January 2010 to two years in prison followed by three years' probation for unlawfully distributing controlled substances. Simons is now accused of giving a pistol as partial payment to a bondsman for getting him out of jail in a domestic case involving a criminal threat. His attorney in the threat case did not immediately return a message. He does not yet have an attorney in the federal case.


US Retail Sales of Farm Equipment Surge in April

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An industry group says retail sales of farm tractors and combines in the United States surged last month. The Association of Equipment Manufacturers reports U.S. farm equipment dealerships sold nearly 59 percent more combines in April than in the same month a year ago. The group reported 920 combines were sold across the nation. U.S. sales of farm tractors rose 6.4 percent in April, with 22,144 tractors sold.


Car Swept Nearly a Mile Down Kansas Creek

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Crews were planning to use a crane to pull a car from a north-central Kansas creek, nearly a mile from where it slid down a muddy bank into the water. The Salina Journal reports that a woman left the car stuck in a muddy driveway in western Saline County during heavy rain late last Wednesday. The woman was visiting friends and came out the next morning to discover the car missing. Sheriff Glenn Kochanowski said Monday the 2008 Chevy Malibu had apparently rolled and tumbled into nearby Mulberry Creek, which was 4 to 5 feet deep from the rain. The car was discovered late Saturday about three-quarters of a mile downstream. A reserve deputy went to the scene on horseback and photographed the car with water nearly to the roof.

Urban Mayors in KS, OK and MO Push for Expanded Passenger Rail Service

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Supporters of passenger rail service through Wichita are joining forces with officials in Oklahoma and Missouri. A letter of support signed by the mayors of Wichita, Oklahoma City and Kansas City, Missouri was unveiled Friday on the eve of National Train Day. Rail supporters say they want to close the 185-mile service gap between Oklahoma City and Wichita. They contend creating daily passenger rail service between the two cities would strengthen the existing regional network throughout the I-35 corridor that stretches from San Antonio to Kansas City, Missouri. Wichita Vice Mayor Pete Meitzner says Kansas will contribute $3 million for the city to pursue federal funding for the project, contingent on Oklahoma providing $2.3 million. It is estimated to cost $90 million for the expanded rail service.

Dole Institute Plans Birthday Festivities This Summer

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Dole Institute of Politics is planning to celebrate former U.S. Senator Bob Dole's 90th birthday as part of its lineup of summer events. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that other activities include an in-depth look at the Battle of Gettysburg. Director Bill Lacy says that on June 20, the center will bring in a panel of historians and military experts to mark the 150th anniversary of the three-day battle. It was the deadliest of the Civil War and was sfought in July 1863. Then on July 22, the institute will celebrate Dole's birthday with an open house. This summer also marks the 10th anniversary of the institute's opening. During the coming year, a series of events and new exhibits will mark the milestone.

Corps to Build Shallow-Water Habitat Near Atchison

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to create more shallow-water habitat along the Missouri River. The St. Joseph News-Press reports that the corps has announced plans to build the habitat in an area known as Benedictine Bottoms, just northeast of Atchison. The goal of the projects is to provide a refuge for young pallid sturgeon and other native species. There used to be much more shallow-water habitat along the river. But about 100,000 acres of it disappeared when the river was dammed and straightened and its channel narrowed. While changes to the river aided navigation and improved flood protection, the pallid sturgeon population has dwindled. That's why the corps has been ordered to undertake shallow-water habitat projects. The public can weigh in on the project through June 6.

Crash Sends Car Through Convenience Store Front

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina man went into a local convenience store for milk and turned around to find that his car has come crashing through the front of the building behind him. Hassan Williford joked that the vehicle must have got tired of waiting for him Saturday afternoon at a Kwik Shop. Instead, it was another driver who struck Williford's car and send it crashing into the building. The Salina Journal reports 75-year-old Moses Stewart of Salina was backing his Ford Expedition out of a parking space around 3:50 pm and struck Williford's car. Stewart's wife says her husband, who drove to the store to buy a lottery ticket, told her the accelerator stuck. Police say the store will be temporarily closed until local and state inspectors approve its re-opening.

Closing Arguments Delayed in Petro America Trial


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Complications with jury instructions have pushed back the start of closing arguments in the trial of five people accused of bilking investors out of millions of dollars by illegally selling them stock in a company prosecutors say was worthless. Isreal Owen Hawkins of Kansas City, Kansas and four others are accused of selling unregistered stock in Petro America Corporation, which they claimed was worth $284 billion. Prosecutors say the defendants continued selling shares even after Missouri regulators ordered them to stop. U.S. District Judge Brian Wimes told jurors Monday afternoon he hadn't anticipated it would take so long to iron out issues with jury instructions in a case that has five defendants, including Hawkins, who is representing himself. Closing arguments now are scheduled to start Tuesday morning.



Kansas Governor Says Private GOP Tax Talks 'Going Well'

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says private negotiations on tax issues with the Kansas Legislature's top Republicans are "going well" but he can't predict when GOP leaders will agree on a plan. The Republican governor declined Monday to discuss details of what's being discussed on cutting income taxes while potentially canceling a scheduled decrease in the state's sales tax. Brownback and GOP leaders want to follow up on personal income tax cuts enacted last year, but the state must stabilize its budget. The Senate has approved Brownback's plan to cut income taxes rates further while keeping the sales tax at its current 6.3 percent rate. The House has passed legislation to let the sales tax drop to 5.7 percent in July as planned while making less aggressive income tax cuts.

**this story has been updated. Please see above. 

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