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Regional Headlines for Monday, October 14, 2013


AP Report: Kansas Abortion Lawsuits Cost $913K

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state of Kansas has paid two private law firms more than $913,000 to help it defend anti-abortion laws enacted since conservative Republican Governor Sam Brownback took office. The attorney general's office disclosed the figures in response to requests from The Associated Press. The payments included $126,000 for the defense of new restrictions enacted earlier this year. President and CEO Peter Brownlie of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri on Monday called the spending "a travesty." But Mary Kay Culp of Kansans for Life says it's ridiculous to blame abortion opponents for the spending when abortion providers are filing the lawsuits. Since Brownback took office in January 2011, legislators have approved regulations specifically for abortion providers and tighter limits on late-term abortions. They've also placed restrictions on private health insurance coverage for terminating pregnancies.


Furloughed KS National Guard Employees Recalled to Work

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Civilians who were furloughed at two Kansas National Guard maintenance sites by the federal shutdown are being called back to work. The Adjutant General's Department said Monday that 126 of the 263 federally funded state employees who were furloughed October 1 will go back to work at sites in Salina and Fort Riley. The employees perform maintenance on military equipment for active duty and reserve units. The department says they can be recalled because they are working under funding from the fiscal year that ended September 30. Monday's recalls leave 139 state employees who support the Kansas National Guard on furlough. Those workers perform supply, clerical, maintenance and repair support for the federal functions of the Guard and the Adjutant General's department.


KS Death Penalty Case Goes to US Supreme Court

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas death penalty case involving a drug user who fatally shot a sheriff goes before the U.S. Supreme Court this week, a year after the state high court overturned the man's capital conviction. The Wichita Eagle reports that Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Cheever's attorney will have an hour Wednesday to make their cases before the justices. Scott Cheever has admitted killing Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels in January 2005, but the 32-year-old says heavy meth use made him unable to understand what he was doing. At Cheever's trial in 2007, the state called a witness who had given Cheever a mental exam and determined he knew what he was doing when he shot Samuels. That testimony prompted the state Supreme Court last year to overturn the verdict.

KS Utilities Expect Higher Winter Heating Costs

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A return to normal temperatures could mean a significant rise in heating costs this winter as historically low natural gas prices also move higher. The Wichita Eagle reports Kansas Gas Service, with 630,000 customers across the state, expects customer bills to rise about 6 percent from November to May, compared with last year's costs. Black Hills Energy, with more than 600,000 customers in Kansas and neighboring states, predicts gas prices will average 10 percent to 12 percent higher this year nationwide. The Midwest has seen unseasonably mild temperatures over the past two winters, and coupled with low gas prices have given residents a break on their heating bills. But that's likely to change as weather forecasters are calling for temperatures to return to normal.

KS Governor's Legacy Clouded by School Funding Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Hundreds of millions of tax dollars for public schools are at stake in a lawsuit before the Kansas Supreme Court, but so is the core of Republican Governor Sam Brownback's vision for the state. Brownback banks on massive personal income tax cuts boosting the state's economy. His successful push for the reductions makes Kansas a lab for conservative ideas. But Brownback's signature policy stands to unravel if aggrieved school districts and students pursuing the lawsuit succeed in forcing a dramatic increase in education spending. A lower-court ruling said Kansas must increase annual aid to its public schools by at least $440 million. Projections from the Legislature's research staff suggest that the state can't add so much new spending to its annual budgets with the income tax cuts in place.


Lawmaker Questions Plans to Move Wichita State Agencies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A lawmaker is raising questions about plans to move several state agencies out of a municipal building in Wichita, even though city officials offered to remodel and reduce the rent. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Representative Jim Ward says he's unsatisfied with the reasons state officials have given for planning to move out of the Finney State Office Building next year. The Wichita Democrat noted that the city of Wichita offered to drop their rent from $11 per square foot to about $6 per square foot if they renew their lease. He says the agencies won't be able to match that rent elsewhere. About 700 state employees currently work in the building. Most are part of the Department of Children and Families, which says it needs more waiting-room space.


KS Securities Official Considering Stiffer Penalties

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Securities Commissioner Josh Ney intends to ask legislators to increase penalties for those who prey on the financial assets of residents age 60 and older. Ney tells the Topeka Capital-Journal that he wants to enhance the penalties for criminals when the victims are older to close what he sees as a gap in current state law. He says Kansas has made improvements in securities enforcement in recent years but more could be done to protect residents and their investments. Ney was confirmed as securities commissioner in September by legislators, replacing former state Representative Aaron Jack, who left the office earlier this year amid controversy over how he ran it. Ney says he also will ask legislators to establish a fund from settlements to help local securities cases.

League of Kansas Municipalities Calls for Immigration Changes

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The League of Kansas Municipalities is urging Congress to enact immigration reforms that include what the group calls a "reasonable" path to citizenship for immigrants in the U.S. illegally In a statement issued Monday at its annual meeting, the league says any immigration changes also should provide adequate border security and should not burden local governments. The statement endorses a federal solution on immigration. Some states have pursued their own policies for cracking down on illegal immigration, but Kansas lawmakers have been split on the issue. More than 30 Kansas mayors signed a letter to the state's congressional delegation in August, urging its members to pursue immigration reform. Signers included the mayors who brought the issue to the league, Carl Brewer of Wichita and Mike Boehm of Lenexa.


Kansas Officials Urge Motorists to Watch for Deer

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are warning motorists to watch out for deer as breeding season approaches. The Kansas Highway Patrol said in a news release that deer-vehicle crashes are the highest during breeding season, which peaks in mid-November. The increase is partially the result of deer being more active and paying less attention to hazards such as vehicles. Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism biologist Lloyd Fox says fall also is the time when many deer move to new locations as crops are harvested. Kansas Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Swartz says nearly 8,700 traffic crashes in 2012 involved deer. The crashes left two people dead and 322 were injured. Experts say motorists should be particularly cautious at dawn and dusk when deer are more likely to be on the move.


Rebuilt Stretch of I-70 Opens in NW Kansas


GOODLAND, Kan. (AP) — A three-year project to improve a stretch of Interstate 70 in far northwest Kansas has been completed. The Kansas Department of Transportation marked the milestone with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday at the Travel Information Center west of Goodland. Crews rebuilt 12 miles of eastbound and westbound lanes of I-70 from the Colorado border east into Kansas. The $48 million project was funded by T-WORKS, a transportation program approved by the Kansas Legislature in 2010 to create jobs and preserve highway infrastructure.


KS Agency Awards $2.1M in Housing Grants

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A county and nine cities in Kansas will share $2.1 million in grants to help them building housing for moderate-income families and extend their streets, sewers and water systems. The Kansas Housing Resources Corporation is making the grants under its Moderate-Income Housing Program. It's aimed at helping the development of single-family homes, rental properties and infrastructure in communities with fewer than 60,000 residents. Stafford County is receiving $168,000. The largest grant of $400,000 went to the city of Quinter. Hoxie received about $382,000 and Liberal, $350,000. The corporation awarded $250,000 to Hugoton, $200,000 to Lyons and $100,000 each to Cottonwood Falls, Humboldt and Parsons. Stockton received $71,000. The corporation is an independent agency with a board appointed by the governor.

Kansas Rural Center Hosts 2013 Conference

WHITING, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Rural Center is hosting its 2013 Farm and Food Conference next month in Newton. The center says in a release that its conference, "Farming as if People Matter: How to Feed Ourselves, Build New Farms and Adapt to a Changing World" is scheduled for Saturday, November 2. The daylong event includes workshops on several topics, including farm management, local food marketing and community Food Solutions. Wes Jackson, founder and president of the Land Institute in Salina, is also scheduled to give the keynote address.

Community Says Farewell to Slain Kansas Couple

EUREKA, Kan. (AP) — Eureka High School's tiny auditorium was packed as the community said goodbye to a couple who were killed in their rural Greenwood County home by a man who also is believed to have shot and wounded their 26-year-old daughter. The Wichita Eagle reports law enforcement officers kept close watch Saturday at the funeral for Keith and Sheila Kriesel, who were fatally shot October 2nd. A man sought in connection with the shootings, 35-year-old Kevin Welsh, remains at large. Family members say 52-year-old Sheila Kriesel had worked for the Greenwood County Attorney's Office, while 54-year-old Keith Kriesel was a jailer for the county sheriff's office and drove a school bus. The state has offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to Welsh's capture.


MO Couple Sentenced for Fraud Involving Health Clinic

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City, Missouri couple has been ordered to pay $660,000 in restitution after pleading guilty to health care and tax fraud involving a clinic they operated in Kansas City. Seventy-six-year-old Carol Ann Ryser and 68-year-old Michael Earl Ryser operated Health Centers of America in south Kansas City until it closed in March as part of a plea agreement. The Kansas City Star reported Monday that Michael Ryser also was ordered to serve two years in prison. Carol Ryser was placed on probation for three years and ordered to surrender her medical license. Prosecutors say the Rysers made several false claims to government and private insurance providers and filed a false income tax return. Most of the restitution is owed to the Internal Revenue Service.


Nebraska Seeks Deal to House Some County Inmates in Kansas

BEATRICE, Neb. (AP) — County supervisors in Gage County in southeast Nebraska are ready to begin sending some of their jail inmates across the state line to be housed in Washington County, Kansas but the county attorney wants to wait to get an agreement on paper. The Beatrice Daily Sun reports holding prisoners in Kansas will cost $35 per day under an agreement between the two counties. Sheriff Millard Gustafson said on Friday he has met with Washington County Sheriff Justin Cordry to discuss details of outsourcing inmates to the 34-bed Kansas jail built in 2007. Gage County would save as much as $30 a day for each inmate it moves to Kansas. Chief Deputy Attorney Rick Schreiner says an agreement needs to be drafted that leaves no unforeseen scenarios.

Ancestor Fair Will Aid Kansas History Researchers

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Family history enthusiasts are urged to attend the Kansas Ancestor Fair in Topeka. The Wichita Eagle reports that the event is planned from 9 am to 3:30 pm Saturday at the Kansas Historical Society. The event will include exhibits on heritage, historical and lineage groups. Guest speakers will talk about online ancestry search engines and how to research colonial and Kansas land records. The Ancestor Fair is free and open to the public. No preregistration is required.

Couple to Donate Calhoun Portrait to Lecompton Historical Society

LECOMPTON, Kan. (AP) — The Lecompton Historical Society will receive a portrait of one of Kansas' most notorious territorial figures this week. A Michigan couple will donate the oil painting of John Calhoun, president of the Lecompton Constitution Convention, on Friday afternoon at the Constitutional Hall State Historic Site, where the convention met in 1857. The portrait belongs to John and Mary Calhoun McCord, of L'Anse, Michigan. John McCord in Calhoun's great-great-grandson. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Calhoun was a leader of moderate proslavery factions in Kansas Territory during the 1850s. In 1857, Calhoun became president of the Lecompton Constitutional Convention, which legalized a constitution making slavery legal. But the constitution was rejected twice by voters and Calhoun was suspected of tampering with returns in some elections to support the pro-slavery side.

Former Victim of Bullying Offers Hope for Others

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A one-time Topeka middle school student is offering some advice to those who have been bullied at school. Wes Gately, now 18 and a student at Washburn University, tells the Topeka Capital-Journal that while schools have taken steps to make the hallways safer, students still have to find safe havens. That includes reaching out to their parents and other adults, as well as friends, to get through being bullied. A federal website says 28 percent of students in sixth through 12th grade are bullied each year. Kansas has passed laws requiring school districts to crack down on bullying and implement response plans. Gately says schools are trying but more needs to be done and says victims must learn not to give in to bullies or respond to their actions.

Oh My! Flying Monkey Among Maine Oz Exhibit Attractions

ROCKLAND, Maine (AP) — Fans of "The Wizard of Oz" can head to Maine — not Kansas — to see an exhibit of all things Oz going back more than a century. The Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine kicked off its "Wonderful World of Oz" exhibition on Saturday with 107 items dating back to the 1900 book "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz." The book has spawned countless movies, stage productions and spinoff merchandise. The exhibit items come from the world's largest Wizard of Oz collection, owned by two Camden men who have more than 100,000 Oz-related items. Among the things on display are the Wicked Witch of the West's hourglass, Dorothy's blue gingham dress, a Lollipop Guild munchkin outfit, a flying monkey and a pair of ruby slippers.


WW2 Marines from KCMO and Louisiana to Be Buried Friday

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Pentagon's POW/Missing Personnel Office says the remains of two World War II Marines from Louisiana and Missouri will be buried Friday with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. Nineteen-year-old Staff Sergeant Thomas Meek of Lisbon, Louisiana and 23-year-old Captain Henry White of Kansas City, MIssouri died when their SBD-4 Dauntless dive bomber crashed in what is now Vanuatu during a night training flight on July 21, 1943. The plane was reported as crashed on a coral cliff on Mavea Island. An investigation in 1947 did not recover any remains. One last year found human remains, a captain's bars and Meek's military ID tag. Because no individual identification was possible, the men will be buried in a single casket.


Cass County Police: 3 Missing Siblings Believed to Be with Mother

HARRISONVILLE, Mo. (AP) — Authorities in western Missouri are seeking the public's help in ensuring the safety of three missing siblings believed to be with their mother, who doesn't have legal custody of them. Cass County sheriff's Major Jeff Weber said Monday an endangered person advisory has been issued for 11-year-old Tabitha Davis, 14-year-old Jasper Davis, and 15-year-old Jordan Davis. Their father reported them missing Friday from their Harrisonville home. Weber says authorities believe the children are with their mother, 44-year-old Sherri Lynn Davis, but that she doesn't pose any apparent threat to the children. Weber also says Sherri Davis hasn't had contact with the children for about three years. He says the couple divorced a few years ago. The sheriff's office asks anyone with information to call 816-380-5200.




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