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Regional Headlines for Monday, May 6, 2013



Analysis: Kansas Debate over Taxes Remains Volatile

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators reconvene this week facing a decision about Governor Sam Brownback's plan to stabilize the budget by canceling a scheduled sales tax decrease. The political climate appears to be as volatile as the state's recent weather. The Senate has embraced the Republican governor's plan to keep the sales tax at its current rate of 6.3 percent, as well as his proposal for cuts in personal income tax rates to follow up on reductions enacted last year. The House wants to let the sales tax drop to 5.7 percent in July as planned, with less aggressive income tax cuts. Some Republican legislators believe a compromise is possible. But several key legislators also said GOP lawmakers could remain at odds and the Legislature could adjourn without passing a tax bill.

Advocates for the Disabled Back Kansas Governor's Plan for In-Home Services

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Advocates for the developmentally disabled are supporting Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's plan to divert projected savings from the state's Medicaid program to in-home services for the disabled. But they said Monday that they'll also push the state to develop a long-term plan for eliminating the state's waiting list for in-home services. Kansas overhauled its Medicaid program, which covers health care for the needy. The state turned most of the program over to private insurance companies and is projecting greater than anticipated savings. Advocates for the disabled said during a news conference that they see Brownback's plan to use $8 million in savings for the state on in-home services as welcome progress. Legislators reconvene Wednesday to finish work on the state budget for the fiscal year beginning in July.

Kansas Delegation to Host Legislative Forum

DERBY, Kan. (AP) — South-central Kansas lawmakers plan to hear questions and comments from the public on the state legislative session. The final forum has been scheduled for Monday from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm at the Derby City Hall. Democratic Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau of Wichita is the chair of the south-central delegation and will moderate the forum. The Kansas Legislature has been in recess since April 5. Legislators will return to Topeka on Wednesday for the closing days of the session.

Kansas Governor Continuing Higher Education Tour

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback is continuing his statewide tour aimed at building support for protecting cuts to the Kansas higher education system. The Republican governor will make stops Monday in Manhattan at Kansas State University, meeting with students and faculty. He will be at Fort Hays State University on Tuesday, along with a stop to the University of Kansas School of Medicine's Salina campus. Brownback wants legislators to keep funding for the state's universities, community colleges and technical schools stable in the 2014 budget. Legislators are going the opposite direction with the House seeking a 4 percent cut and the Senate a 2-percent cut to higher education. The governor also wants to keep the state's sales tax rate at 6.3 percent instead of reducing to 5.7 percent as scheduled in July.

Documents: Evidence Flimsy in Suburban KS Drug Raid

LEAWOOD, Kan. (AP) — A Leawood couple is relieved to know why Johnson County sheriff's deputies raided their home last year, but they are upset that the raid was based on what they call flimsy evidence. Deputies stormed Robert and Adlynn Harte's home last April looking for evidence the couple was growing marijuana. The couple wasn't charged and the sheriff's department refused to say why their home was targeted. The Hartes sued for information last year, and the records were released last week. The raid was based on Robert Harte buying hydroponic equipment. Investigators also found a cup of a leafy green substance in the couple's trash. Tests showed it was not marijuana. The Kansas City Star reports that a lawyer for the sheriff's department declined to comment because of potential litigation.

Investigation: Mullinville Broke Open Meetings Law Rules

MULLINVILLE, Kan. (AP) — The Kiowa County Attorney says Mullinville's city officials need to take classes on the state's open meetings law. County Attorney Scott James says the council violated the law by firing a newly elected city council member from his job in the city's public works department during a closed session. He has asked Mullinville's mayor, city clerk, four council members and the city attorney to take the classes. James says last month's firing of Rob Roberts was a technical violation of the law. He says tempers flared during the closed session and city officials forgot to follow the open meetings law. The Hutchinson News reports that the officials must receive training by December 31.

After Record Lows in 2012, Tuttle Creek Lake Recovering

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says recent precipitation brought Tuttle Creek Lake back to its normal elevation. Brian McNulty, the corps' operation manager, says the lake was at its normal elevation of 1075 feet by the end of the day Friday. The Manhattan Mercury reports that's more than 10 feet above the lake's level last fall. Last summer, water levels dropped because of lack of moisture. By July, the lake got so low that many marinas became unusable and boating hazards such as trees and stumps were exposed. McNulty says now lake users just need the temperatures to warm up. The water is still too cool for good crappie fishing and it's been too cool for many people to camp at the lake.

Kansas Seeks Applicants for Child Support Panel

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court is looking for divorced parents who've paid or received child support to serve on an advisory committee. The group would recommend changes in the guidelines that judges use to determine how much one parent must pay a former spouse. The state's highest court is publicly asking people to submit applications for appointments to the Child Support Guidelines Advisory Committee. The court is looking to fill four community member positions. The advisory committee works to make sure that the rules on child support in Kansas are based on sound economic data and take into account the varied circumstances facing families. The four members will help analyze of national trends in spending on children and recommend changes for review by the Supreme Court.

KS Shows Big Gains in Casino Revenue Report

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Commercial casinos in the U.S. have made it almost all the way back from the hard times of the Great Recession. The American Gaming Association says revenue at non-Indian casinos hit $37.3 billion last year, just under the all-time high reached in 2007. The biggest gains came in Kansas, Maryland, Maine and New York, each of which opened new casinos in 2012. New Jersey saw the biggest decline, down 8 percent from 2011. Employment at the casinos was down less than 1 percent, to 332,000 jobs. There were 513 commercial casinos last year, 21 more than a year earlier. The report does not include Indian casinos, which won $26 billion from gamblers in 2011, the most recent year for which figures are available.


Tiger, Mountain Lions Seized from Kansas Property

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas man is in custody after a menagerie of wild cats was seized from private property in northeast Kansas. Atchison County Sheriff Jack Laurie says one tiger, two cougars, three bobcats, two lynx, one serval and two skunks were taken Sunday from land belonging to a relative of the suspect. Laurie says the animals were living in inadequate enclosures and were infrequently fed. Staff with the Humane Society of the United States and the Kansas City Zoo helped sedate and move the animals. They've been taken to animal sanctuaries in Texas, Florida and Kansas. Laurie says the owner became combative during the seizure and was found to be in possession of methamphetamine. He was arrested on suspicion of multiple charges, including interference with law enforcement and disorderly conduct.


Kansas Jehovah's Witness Saved by Blood Substitute

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City man is recovering at home after his life was saved by a transfusion of a blood substitute. Mark Watkins, who is a Jehovah's Witness, collapsed on April 15 while at church. Doctors determined he was bleeding to death internally. Because his religion prohibits blood transfusions, University of Kansas Hospital trauma surgeon Charlie Richart contacted a Massachusetts firm that creates a product called Hemopure. The Kansas City Star reports that Hemopure is a blood substitute that includes purified cow hemoglobin. Richart had to get a special compassionate care dispensation from federal officials to use Hemopure because it is not approved for use in the U.S. Watkins received six units on April 17-18 and went into surgery April 19. He went home from the hospital Friday.

Man Dies AfterJumping into Pond Following Chase

PARK CITY, Kan. (AP) — A man who drowned after jumping into a pond while trying to evade police has been identified as a 30-year-old from Arkansas City. Officials say Jeremy Horton jumped into the retention pond Saturday night near Park City and drowned after refusing orders to come out. Divers pulled Horton from the water after about 45 minutes but he could not be revived and was pronounced dead. Wichita police Lieutenant Doug Nolte says police were called after Horton began acting strangely at a Rusty Eck Ford and refused to leave. He ran from officers and his vehicle eventually became disabled after he drove into a field. Horton then jumped into the pond.


Kansas Man Admits Possessing Child Porn Images

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A northeastern Kansas man will be sentenced in August after admitting he possessed more than 12,000 images of child pornography. The U.S. Attorney's office says 45-year-old James Christmas of Olathe pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to one count of possessing child porn. Prosecutors said the investigation began when Christmas's estranged wife alerted Olathe police in September 2010 that she found child porn on his computer. Besides the 12,000 images, investigators also reported finding 26 videos of child porn. Christmas faces maximum penalties of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine at his sentencing August 12.


2nd Kansas Teenager Charged in Fatal ATV Accident

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 18-year-old Prairie Village woman is the second person charged in connection with an ATV crash that killed a 17-year-old student late last year. The Kansas City Star reports Taylor Marie Sheets turned herself in Saturday. She is charged as a juvenile in Miami County District Court with involuntary manslaughter-DUI in the death of Tyler Rathbun, a 17-year-old senior at Shawnee Mission East High School who died in the crash outside of Paola. Sheets was released from custody Saturday after posting $15,000 bond. It wasn't clear Saturday if she had obtained an attorney. Another 18-year-old, William Mahaffy Sutherland of Overland Park, is charged with aggravated child endangerment and unlawfully hosting minors consuming alcohol. His attorney didn't return a call seeking comment.

Kansas Woman Killed After Falling Out of Party Bus

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 26-year-old Kansas City, Kansas woman has died after falling out of a so-called "party bus" on Interstate 35 and being struck by three other vehicles. The Kansas City Star reports the victim has been identified as Jamie N. Frecks. The Kansas Highway Patrol says she fell out of the emergency door of the party bus around 9:50 p.m. Saturday as it was northbound near the Southwest Boulevard exit in Kansas City, Kan. Frecks was one of 16 passengers on the bus. The Highway Patrol says two of the vehicles that struck her after she fell out did not stop. Nobody else on the bus was injured. The crash report doesn't identify the company that operates the bus, which was driven by a 49-year-old Basehor, Kansas woman.


Country Stampede Extends Kansas Lease Through 2017

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The Country Stampede annual music and camping festival will remain at a northeast Kansas state park through 2017. KJCK-AM reports that festival officials announced Monday an extension of their lease with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. Country Stampede takes place the last full weekend in June at Tuttle Creek State Park, about four miles north of Manhattan. Some of country music's biggest stars have performed since the first festival was held in 1996. This year's Country Stampede takes place June 27-30. Headliners will include Trace Adkins, Little Big Town, Jason Aldean and the Pistol Annies, featuring Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley.


Cool Temperatures Slow Corn Planting, Wheat Development

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Cool temperatures and wet fields are stalling corn planting in Kansas and slowing development of the state's winter wheat crop. Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that just 17 percent of the planned corn is now in the ground. That is two weeks behind average. The weather is also slowing wheat development. The reports says just 3 percent of the crop has headed, about three weeks behind normal. Forty percent of the wheat crop is rated in poor to very poor condition. Of the rest, 33 percent is rated fair, 24 percent is in good condition and 3 percent is rated excellent. Producers are still feeding supplements to cattle herds because pasture growth has also been slowed by the cool weather.


KU Mum on McLemore Coach Payment Allegations

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas athletic officials are reviewing allegations that the former AAU basketball coach of Ben McLemore received cash payments aimed at steering the player to a sports agent. AAU coach Darius Cobb told USA Today that he received $10,000 in two payments from Rodney Blackstock. Blackstock is the founder and CEO of Hooplife Academy in Greensboro, North Carolina. The university issued a statement saying the information was being reviewed and declined to comment further on Monday. Cobb says that he tried to act in the best interest of McLemore and his family by using Blackstock as a middleman with agents and financial advisers. McLemore, a red-shirt freshman, has declared for the June NBA draft.


Missouri Soldier Sentenced to 50 Years for Murder

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A 22-year-old soldier from western Missouri has been sentenced to 50 years in prison for killing a man while he was home for his wife's funeral. Army Specialist Justin Cannon, of Peculiar, Missouri was sentenced to 50 years in prison with eligibility for parole for killing 24-year-old Michael Griggs of Raymore. The Kansas City Star reports Griggs's body was found in Truman Lake on August 1, 2011. Police said Cannon thought Griggs had been having sex with the soldier's wife. Cannon was on his way to jump school at Fort Benning, Georgia on July 27, 2011, when he learned his wife, Amber Cannon, 16, had died at a Grandview motel of a drug overdose. The eight-member military panel on Thursday found Cannon guilty of murder without premeditation.

Riley County PD Increasingly Utilizing Twitter

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The Riley County Police Department has become very active on Twitter, using the social media device for investigations and public relations. Officer Matt Droge of the Riley County Police Department told WIBW that his department has been able to close about a half dozen investigations thanks to tips it received after posting suspects' info on social media. He also said Twitter and other social media can help law enforcement build a positive public perception. Droge says the department has had a Twitter account since 2009, but just actively started using it in the past year. The department also is looking to be more involved on Facebook and Pinterest.

Study: Thousands of Kansas Youths Involved in Automobile Crashes

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — While seat belt usage drops off dramatically after toddlerhood, new research shows older children are involved in thousands of traffic crashes each year in Kansas. Kansas State University civil engineers worked with the Kansas Department of Transportation and a research program to analyze crash data. They found that children from 4 to 13 years of age were involved in 50,155 crashes in the state from 2004 to 2008. The crashes happen at an age when seat belt usage is less prevalent. According to 2010 observational surveys in Kansas, nearly 97 percent of children under the age of 4 use safety restraints. But only 76 percent of older children — ages 4 to 13 years old — use seat belts. The driver's sobriety is among the factors affecting seat belt usage.

Drought Might Force Wichita to Idle Fountains

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A drought-induced water shortage could force Wichita officials to idle the city's $3.5 million WaterWalk Waltzing Waters fountain system and other fountains throughout the city this summer. City Manager Robert Layton says water use across all city operations is under review. The Wichita Eagle reports city officials are preparing a water conservation plan for residential and commercial users to confront the shortage and prevent even greater deficits. The fountains incorporate 150-foot-high streams of water synchronized to lights and music. They are part of a larger $41 million development agreement between the city and WaterWalk, owned by a local developer. City officials say Cheney Reservoir could dry up by mid-2015 if the drought continues, and the city would no longer have enough water to meet demand if that happens.

KC Housing Authority No Longer Under Federal Control

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — After 20 years of federal oversight, the Kansas City Housing Authority is now under local control. U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple issued an order last week saying he will continue to monitor the authority for one year but it will no longer be under federal control. Whipple took over control of the authority in 1993, after a lawsuit complained about its financial mismanagement and political meddling. Julie Levin, an attorney for the group that filed the original lawsuit, says Whipple's order recognizes that the housing authority is now well run. The Kansas City Star reports that since Whipple's action in 1993, the agency has renovated or replaced nearly every public housing unit in Kansas City. It also has had stable management for the last 12 years.

Graham County Takes Another Step Toward Wind Farm

HILL CITY, Kan. (AP) — A northwest Kansas county is closer to having its own 70-megawatt wind farm. The Graham County Commission has approved a conditional use permit for the Ringneck Prairie Wind Farm 6 miles south of Hill City. The Hays Daily News reports that details remain to be worked out, but last week's approval of the conditional-use permit, as well as road and payment agreements, means the project is on track. The county's economic development director, Kirk Schweitzer, says road work, pad sites, underground power lines and other steps could be completed in the fall, with towers going up next spring. The wind farm is expected to create eight permanent jobs once it is operating.

Airbus Mentoring Program to Fly Students over Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A group of middle school students will get a chance to fly over Wichita this week to mark the conclusion of a mentoring program. The program, called Flying Challenge, culminates Thursday at the National Center for Aviation Training. The agenda that includes flights over Wichita, a robotics lab, a paint lab and a radio controlled airplane demonstration. Flying Challenge is sponsored by the Airbus Corporate Foundation and coordinated by United Way of the Plains. It is designed to inspire students who are at risk of not graduating from high school or pursuing college. It seeks to inspire them to pursue degrees and a career in the aviation industry. The program matches Airbus and Wichita State University engineering students with 80 students at Brooks Middle School in Wichita.


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