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Regional Headlines for Monday, May 14, 2012



UPDATE: Kansas Budget Talks Resume with Much Work Remaining 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have agreed on several minor spending items as they try to complete work on the 2013 state budget. House and Senate negotiators traded offers Monday on remaining issues as the session hit the 93-day mark. Negotiators had met through the weekend to attempt to resolve such issues as pay raises for state employees. Both chambers have approved budgets totaling about $14 billion for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Negotiators remain far apart over how to fund increases in public schools, including how much to boost spending and the source of that funding. They also disagree on spending on social services and money to defend the state in litigation over redistricting maps.


Kansas Closer to Using Casino Revenue to Support Pensions

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Negotiators from the Kansas House and Senate are close to a deal on using revenues generated by state-owned casinos to support pensions for teachers and government workers. Senators agreed during talks Monday to include a proposal in legislation overhauling the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. They're negotiating with House members over how much revenue should be set aside. KPERS projects an $8.3 billion shortfall between anticipated revenues and benefits promised public employees through 2033. The state has committed $10.5 million a year in casino revenues to state universities' engineering programs. The House version of the pensions legislation says after that, 75 percent would go to KPERS. Senators didn't consider the idea previously, but their negotiators are now proposing to set aside 50 percent of the remaining casino revenues.


UPDATE: Kansas Lawmakers Resume Work on Cutting Taxes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are resuming work on proposals to reduce sales and income taxes even though they've already approved a package of aggressive tax cuts. Three House and three Senate negotiators had been expected to meet today (MON) to continue discussions, but the scheduled meeting was cancelled. The group has announced it will meet tomorrow (TUE) to consider alternatives to the tax plan that cleared the Legislature last week. Republican Governor Sam Brownback has said he's willing to sign the plan already approved by lawmakers. It cuts individual income tax rates, exempts 191,000 businesses from income taxes and reduces the sales tax to 5.7 percent in from its current 6.3 percent, starting in July 2013. But Brownback also has encouraged lawmakers to keep working because many of them fear the tax plan they passed could create serious budget problems.


Analysis: Kansas Tax Debate May Spur More Shortcuts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — When massive tax cuts cleared the Kansas Legislature, recriminations followed over how both chambers truncated their debates. The House tried to rush the legislation to Republican Governor Sam Brownback last week, and the Senate simultaneously tried to block it. Legislators caught on the losing end in both chambers worried that traditions of unfettered debate were in danger. Recent history suggests unusual maneuvers in the Legislature can become ordinary. Lawmakers need look no further than the now-routine tactic known as a "gut and go." It strips a bill of its contents and substitutes another proposal. The tactic sparked outrage when it was employed two decades ago to force the House to debate a major anti-abortion proposal. But now it's used repeatedly each year to speed measures to passage.


Kansas Lawmakers Work on Bolstering Pension System

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Negotiators for the Kansas House and Senate are reviewing proposals aimed at overhauling the state pension system for teachers and government workers. Three senators and three House members were scheduled to meet Monday afternoon on pensions legislation. They're trying to reduce the long-term costs of pensions for the state. Both chambers have proposed a new plan for public employees hired after 2013 that would move away from guaranteeing benefits based on a worker's salary and years of service. Instead, the state would pay a guaranteed interest rate on contributions by a worker and the state to the employee's benefits. But the House proposed that employees have a choice between such a plan and a 401(k)-style plan, in which benefits depend upon the retirement plan's investment earnings.


E-Verify Proposal Scrapped in KS Budget Talks

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A proposal to require government contractors in Kansas to use the federal E-Verify database to ensure employees aren't illegal immigrants won't survive legislative negotiations over the state budget.  House and Senate negotiators have concluded they don't want to include a major policy change in the spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1.  The proposal would require companies having contracts with the state worth more than $50,000 to submit a notarized statement saying they use E-Verify to check the status of new employees.  During a debate last week, Representative Anthony Brown, a Eudora Republican, persuaded House members to add the proposal to the chamber's proposed budget, imposing the policy for only a year. Senators did not consider the idea before approving their version of the budget.


UPDATE: Head-On Crash Kills 2 Near Manhattan 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol has identified the two people killed in an early-morning crash that also injured four students from Kansas State University. The patrol says the students were in a pickup truck traveling east in a westbound lane of Kansas 18 shortly before 3 a.m. Monday. Officers say the pickup struck a westbound car head-on. The crash killed the car's driver, 31-year-old Elizabeth Young, of White City, and her passenger, 32-year-old Michael Stanley, of Ogden. WIBW-TV reports the four students in the pickup were taken to hospitals in Manhattan and Topeka. The accident occurred near Manhattan on a section of highway reduced to two lanes by construction.

Obama Campaign Launches Attack Ad Citing KC Steel Mill Closure

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is launching a sharp critique of Mitt Romney's business record, airing a hard-hitting TV ad that recounts the demise of a Kansas City, Missouri steel mill that was restructured by Romney's private equity firm and led to hundreds of job losses. The ad and events targeting Romney's role with Bain Capital planned for this week mark the president's most forceful attempt to define Romney's business record before the November election. The ad includes interviews with former workers at the steel plant, who say Bain's role led to job losses and slashed benefits. One worker calls Romney a "job destroyer." Romney's campaign did not respond to the ad early Monday.

Teen Ministry: Despite Injuries, Two People Walked Away from Kansas Plane Crash

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A teen ministry official says two of the five people aboard a small plane that crashed in Kansas on the way to a Christian youth rally in Iowa were able to walk away from the crash. One later died. A hospital spokesman said Sunday that the lone survivor, 22-year-old Hannah Luce, is in serious condition in a burn unit in Kansas City, Kansas. Luce is the daughter of Ron Luce, the founder of Teen Mania Ministries, which was sponsoring the weekend rally. A Teen Mania Ministries spokeswoman, Cindy Mallette, says in an emailed statement that Luce and a ministry employee, Austin Anderson, were able to get out of the plane and walk to a nearby road to get help after the Friday crash. Anderson died Saturday at a Wichita hospital.

Kansas State Hires Top Scientist

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas State University has hired an internationally known pharmacology expert to direct a center at the university involved with improving animal health and food safety.
Jim Riviere, director of the Center for Chemical Toxicology Research and Pharmacokinetics at North Carolina State University, starts at Kansas State on August 1. His annual salary is $260,000.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Riviere is the first member of the National Academy of Sciences to join the Kansas State faculty. He'll be a distinguished professor in the Department of Anatomy and Physiology in the university's College of Veterinary Medicine. He will also direct the Institute of Computational Comparable Medicine, which applies mathematical models to improve animal health and food safety.  Kansas State also has hired Riviere's wife, Nancy Monteiro-Riviere, a leading nanotoxicologist.

Kansas State University Planning New Residence Hall

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University is planning to build its first new residence hall on campus in half a century. University president Kirk Schulz tells The Manhattan Mercury newspaper that the project is currently in the planning stages. Schulz estimates construction will start about a year from now, with the dorm opening in two to three years. Kansas State had about 12,000 students when it opened its last new residence hall on campus in the early 1960s. Enrollment has roughly doubled since then, and in the past decade the university has concentrated its housing efforts on renovating and expanding the off-campus Jardine Complex. Schulz says the new dorm will feature such amenities as suites with private or semi-private restrooms. He expects construction to be financed with bonds and fees, not with state funding.


Salina Airport to Host Thunderstorm Study

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A group of scientists from the federal government, Germany and more than 20 universities soon will be studying thunderstorms from the Salina airport. The project is dubbed the Deep Convective Clouds and Chemistry project, or DC3, and will study storms in Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma and Alabama starting next week. The Salina Journal reports the project's intent is to see how thunderstorms suck up pollution and distribute it around the country. Researchers say Salina was chosen to host the project because of its central location and the length of the airport's runway, one the longest in the Midwest. The project's site manager estimates DC3 will pump about $1.5 million into the Salina economy through the end of June.


Court Denies Convicted Killer's Request for Continuance

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A convicted murderer has lost a motion for a continuance in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against him by the children of his victim.  Roger Hollister is serving a life sentence for the 2009 murder of 58-year-old Patricia Kimmi of rural Horton.  Kimmi's children in September sued Hollister. They also are suing their father, Eugene Kimmi, and Hollister's wife, Rebecca Hollister. They claim the three conspired to kill Patricia Kimmi. Hollister is the only person charged or convicted in the case.  Hollister sought a continuance in March because he wanted to hire an attorney. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Sunday that an Atchison County judge denied the motion, saying Hollister has made no effort to hire an attorney.  Hollister is now scheduled for a deposition in June.


Kansan Sentenced for Trafficking in Painkillers

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A northeastern Kansas man who peddled prescription painkillers in parking lots is going to prison for 30 months. The U.S. Attorney's office says 31-year-old Joseph R. Jenkins, of Merriam, was sentenced Monday in federal court in Kansas City, Kansas. He was also ordered to pay nearly $11,000 to cover the federal government's expenses in making undercover buys of Oxycodone. Jenkins pleaded guilty last year, admitting he sold the prescription pain pills a half-dozen times to undercover agents at locations around Johnson County. The sites included the parking lots of a Cheesecake Factory, a Wholesale Foods store and a Chinese restaurant, all in Overland Park. Other sales took place outside an apartment complex in Merriam.


Investigators Seek Stolen Jet Engine Tools 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police are looking for suspects in the heist of some pricey jet turbine engine tools from a trailer parked at a Wichita hotel. KAKE-TV reports workers from a Texas company that specializes in jet turbine engine repair were staying at the Spring Hill Suites when the theft occurred. The crime was reported Sunday morning. Wichita police Lieutenant Doug Nolte says equipment worth several hundred thousands of dollars was taken. He says the thieves may not have known what they were taking. The tools have a very specific use. Police say the thieves may try to unload the stolen items at pawn shops in the Wichita area.


Facebook Leads to Bust at Kansas Drinking Party

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A posting on Facebook has landed a couple of Wichita adults in hot water for allegedly supplying alcohol to minors. The Wichita Eagle reports organizers of an underage drinking party used Facebook to promote the gathering. Police Lieutenant Doug Nolte says that someone saw the post and called 911. Officers went to the home Saturday night and shut the party down. They also arrested a 46-year-old woman and a 41-year-old man on suspicion of furnishing alcohol to minors. Authorities also released four juveniles to their parents. Nolte said Monday he didn't know how many people had attended the party.

Hutchinson Man's Leg Amputated after Accident

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Hutchinson police are looking for the driver of a motorcycle that hit a man, injuring him so severely that part of his leg had to be amputated. Twenty-six-year-old Jeffrey W. Nusser was hit by the motorcycle Saturday night as he crossed a street in Hutchinson. Police Lieutenant John Moore says the driver of the motorcycle left the scene. Nusser was flown to Via Christi Medical Center at St. Francis, where his right leg was amputated below the knee. Moore says the motorcycle involved was a cruiser bike with ape-hanger handle bars.


Olathe Father Sentenced in Newborn's Death

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — An Olathe man who pleaded no contest in the death of his 3-week-old son was sentenced to 10 years and three months in prison. The Kansas City Star reports 26-year-old Aaron M. Snyder was sentenced Monday in Johnson County District Court after a plea agreement. Snyder pleaded no contest in April to reckless second-degree murder. His son, Logan Snyder, died in January 2011. Prosecutors said the baby suffered trauma consistent with being shaken.


Lawsuit Blames 2 OK Agencies for Death of Toddler

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — An ongoing federal lawsuit claims a 3-year-old toddler who was brutally murdered in 2001 might be alive today if two Oklahoma agencies had communicated better with each other. Erica Green came to be known nationally as "Precious Doe." Her father says the Oklahoma Department of Corrections should have contacted the Oklahoma Department of Human Services when the infant was born five weeks after her mother went to prison. Larry Green alleges that Erica's mother and prison officials instead allowed an acquaintance to take the baby. The Oklahoman reports that a federal judge ruled in April that Green's lawsuit could proceed against the state agencies, which both deny any wrongdoing. Green's attorneys want the state to adopt clear, written policies and procedures on how infants born to incarcerated mothers will be protected.

Small Kansas Town Prepares for 50th Annual Rodeo

ABBYVILLE, Kan. (AP) — It's going to be a busy week for the nearly 90 residents of the Reno County town of Abbyville. They are getting ready for the 50th edition of the Abbyville Rodeo which will draw thousands to town on Friday and Saturday. The town's residents all come together to get the rodeo grounds ready, fix the food and do other preparation for the rodeo and spectators. The Hutchinson News reports Abbyville is one of the smallest towns in the country to host a nationally sanctioned professional rodeo.


BPI Announces More Layoffs Following 'Pink Slime' Controversy

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The maker of the beef product dubbed "pink slime" by critics says it's laying off 86 employees from its South Dakota corporate office, and company officials are blaming what it calls a "campaign of misinformation." Beef Products Inc. food-quality director Craig Letch told The Associated Press on Monday that the company initiated this second round of layoffs in response to intense negative publicity about its lean, finely textured beef. The company and outside food-safety experts insist that the product is safe, and BPI has won public support from governors in four states where its plants operate. The company announced earlier this month it was closing its three plants in Kansas, Texas and Iowa, resulting in 650 lost jobs. A plant in Nebraska will remain open but at reduced capacity.


KC East High School Addresses Language Needs of Immigrant Students

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Language from all around the world can be heard at Kansas City East High School. Nearly half of the school's 1,031 students are immigrants who are learning English. Many of the immigrants have arrived in Kansas City after experiencing crime, war or crushing poverty in their homelands. The Kansas City Star reports the students speak 35 languages and come from dozens of countries.  East Principal Tommy Herrera says when the students first arrive, they often can't read or write in their own languages.  The immigrant students build their language through academic content. With several language specialists to help interpret, students express themselves the best way they know how, including using their own languages. That effort is then used to build English.


Kansas Budget Talks Resume with Much Work Remaining

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Legislators are returning to the Statehouse to finish work on the proposed $14 billion Kansas budget for 2013. Monday is the 93rd day of the session and the 20th day of the wrap-up session, the longest in the state's history. Three House and three Senate negotiators met Saturday but stuck to minor budget issues. The budget calls for spending some $6 billion in state tax dollars and fees in the fiscal year beginning July 1, covering most government programs. Negotiators are at odds over how to fund increases in public schools, including how much to boost spending and the source of that funding. They also disagree on spending on social services and money to defend the state in litigation over redistricting maps.

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

Accident Kills 2, Injures 4 Kansas State Students

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) _ Two people were killed and four Kansas State University students were injured in an accident near Manhattan.  The Kansas Highway Patrol says the head-on collision early Monday on Kansas 18 killed two people from Ogden.  The patrol says a truck carrying four people was going the east in the westbound lanes of Kansas 18 when it hit a car going west. The two people killed were in the car.  WIBW reports patrol Lieutenant Gregory Harkrader says alcohol apparently was a factor in the crash.  The names of those involved have not been released.  The accident closed down parts of Kansas 18 near Manhattan for more than 6 hours before it was reopened about 9:30 am.

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

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