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Regional Headlines for Thursday, April 26, 2012




UPDATE: Kansas Legislative Negotiators Agree on Tax Cuts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Negotiators for the Kansas House and Senate have agreed on cuts in sales and income taxes. Three senators and three House members struck a deal Thursday to reconcile numerous differences between their chambers over tax policy. The proposal would cut the state's individual income tax rates and phase out income taxes over five years for 191,000 businesses. The sales tax would drop to 5.7 percent in July 2013, from its current 6.3 percent. However, the negotiators won't present their plan to either chamber until they get final figures on its potential effects on the state budget. The plan is expected to provide at least $119 million in tax relief during the fiscal year that begins July 1 and at least $500 million for the following fiscal year.


Negotiators Resume Kansas Budget Effort  

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House and Senate negotiators expect to begin work next week on a compromise version of a new state budget. The negotiators met briefly Thursday to outline a timetable for their work. The exact dates will depend on each chamber passing its own version of the budget for the 2013 fiscal year, which begins July 1. Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Carolyn McGinn expects her committee to finish its budget Friday and have it ready for debate next Tuesday. In the House, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee said it will probably be Monday at the earliest before his panel sends a budget bill to the full chamber, with debate possibly starting at mid-week.


Governor Brownback Agrees to Modify Medicaid Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Amid pressure from advocates for the developmentally disabled, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is going along with a proposal to modify his plans for overhauling the $2.9 billion-a-year Medicaid program. Brownback announced Wednesday that his administration is endorsing a proposal for a one-year exclusion of long-term services for the developmentally disabled from the Medicaid reforms. Those services wouldn't become part of the overhaul until 2014. House Majority Leader Arlen Siegfreid, an Olathe Republican who's normally a Brownback ally, confirmed that he is pursuing the proposal. His plan would allow pilot projects to test whether private managed-care companies can provide adequate services. Brownback's administration plans to turn the management of Medicaid over to three private companies, starting in 2013. Medicaid covers medical services for the poor, needy and disabled.


KS Senate Considering Creation of Disaster Fund

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas lawmakers are considering a bill creating a special fund to cover the state's share of federal disaster assistance.  Major General Lee Tafanelli, the Kansas adjutant general, testified before a Senate committee Thursday about the legislation. The bill would move $12 million a year into the special fund, which would be capped at $40 million.  Tafanelli, a former legislator, says Kansas spends an average of $22 million a year to cover its 10 percent share of federal disaster aid. He suggested the Legislature transfer $22 million a year, instead of the $12 million in the bill, to build the special fund more quickly.  The full Senate is expected to debate the bill next week.

Kansas Senate Committee Schedules Redistricting Talks

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A legislative committee in Kansas is preparing to discuss proposals for redrawing congressional and state Senate districts.  Chairman Tim Owens scheduled a meeting of the Senate Reapportionment Committee for Friday morning. He set the meeting amid growing pressure on lawmakers to finish adjusting political boundaries to account for changes in the state's population over the past decade.  Owens said the panel will consider both Senate and congressional redistricting issues.  State officials have told legislators they risk creating administrative problems or postponing the state's August 7 primary election if district lines aren't settled by mid-May.  A dispute between conservative and moderate Republicans in the Senate has prevented approval of a plan redrawing members' districts. Both chambers have approved their own congressional redistricting plans, but have killed the other's proposal.


Kansas Governor Says He Likes Direction of Tax Talks

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says he's pleased with the direction of negotiations among Kansas legislators about cutting taxes, saying he sees the core of a plan he offered emerging. Brownback told The Associated Press on Thursday that the key elements of any tax plan must be reducing individual income tax rates and exempting 191,000 businesses from income taxes. A compromise plan has started to emerge from negotiations between the House and Senate over the final version of tax legislation. Three senators and three House members planned to resume their talks Thursday afternoon. The governor said any plan that emerges also must not cause budget problems. Legislators didn't like elements of Brownback's plan that offset some of his cuts, such as eliminating tax credits and deductions.

Kansas Senate Passes Plan to Merge Arts, Film Panels

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has approved a bill to create a new Creative Arts Industries Commission by merging separate arts and film services panels. Wednesday's 38-1 vote sent the measure to the House. Passage there would forward the bill to Governor Sam Brownback, who proposed merging the two commissions. The Wichita Eagle reports the final version was drafted by House and Senate negotiators to reconcile differences over how many people would serve on the commission and who would appoint them. The new commission would have 11 members and be part of the state Department of Commerce. Brownback sought last year to abolish the Arts Commission. He vetoed its entire budget, costing the state $1.2 million in outside arts funds but leaving the commission in existence.


Kansas Lawmakers to See Another Push on Gambling

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has sponsored a measure designed to bring a casino to southeast Kansas and slot machines to dog and horse tracks. Chairman Pete Brungardt, a Salina Republican, offered the measure in the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee as a late-session push for the gambling legislation. The bill must be read into the record in the full Senate before the committee can work on the issue.  A 2007 state law allows slots at now-closed tracks in Kansas City, Wichita and outside Pittsburg, as well as a state-owned casino in southeast Kansas. Gambling supporters say the law's financial requirements are too strict for a southeast Kansas casino or slots at the tracks to be economically feasible. The committee's bill would change the requirements. Such efforts have found little support at the Kansas Legislature in the past.


U.S. Senate Panel Advances 5-Year Farm Bill

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee has approved a five-year, half-trillion-dollar plan to overhaul the nation's food and farm policies.  The measure goes now to the full Senate. It ends the practice of paying farmers for crops they don't grow. Instead, it shifts emphasis to crop insurance and a new federal risk management program.  It also seeks to end some abuses in the federal food stamp program and cuts some $4 billion from food stamp spending, which makes up about 80 percent of the farm bill. In all, the bill reduces some $23 billion from the deficit.  The current farm bill expires at the end of September, but it's unclear whether Congress can pass a bill by then. The House is calling for far greater cuts, particularly in the area of food stamps.


1 Killed, 2 Hurt in Crash at Kansas Rest Area

SOLOMON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says one person is dead after a tractor-trailer slammed into a recreational vehicle at a rest area along Interstate 70. The crash happened around 1 pm Thursday near the north-central Kansas town of Solomon, about 90 miles west of Topeka. Troopers say the semi was eastbound when it pulled into the rest area at a high rate of speed and slammed into the back of the parked RV. The motor home was pushed into a grassy area, where bystanders pulled two people from the vehicle before it caught fire. A man who was in the RV was killed and a woman traveling with him was injured. The driver of the semi was also hurt. I-70 was briefly closed in both directions.

Cattle Truck Overturns Near Kansas City

BONNER SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) — A truck full of cattle drove off an embankment of an interstate near Bonner Springs, and burst into flames, killing several cattle and closing one lane of the interstate. The accident happened about 2:30 am Thursday on westbound Interstate 70 near 110th Street in Bonner Springs. Police say one lane of the interstate could be closed for most of the day as cleanup continues. The driver of the truck has been hospitalized but the extent of his injuries was not immediately known. About 30 to 40 cattle either died in the accident or had to be euthanized, while officials were rounding up several other cows.


Guns Stolen from Wyandotte County Cabela's Store

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police in Kansas City, Kansas have been investigating the theft of several guns from an outdoor recreation store in a suburban retail development. Police said the guns were stolen early Thursday from the Cabela's store in a retail area near the Kansas Speedway in Wyandotte County. Police said thieves broke into the business but did not say how many or what variety of guns were taken. Police say they have no suspects.

Cessna Aircraft Recalling Workers, Hiring More

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Cessna Aircraft is trying to fill about 150 jobs through recalling employees and hiring new workers. Cessna spokesman Andy Woodward says the employees are needed because of an increase in production. The company also is increasing its sales force. He declined to say which production lines are increasing. The company has cut thousands of workers since 2008 during the recession. The Wichita Eagle reports Cessna posted $669 million in revenue in the first quarter of 2012, compared with $556 million for the same time a year ago. The company had $6 million in losses in the quarter, down significantly from a loss of $38 million a year ago. The company delivered 38 Citation jets in the first three months of the year, compared with 31 a year ago.


Kansas Senate Honors Chamber's Longtime Secretary

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has honored the leader of the chamber's staff of clerks, who's planning to retire in December after 22 years in the job. Senators approved a resolution for Secretary Pat Saville and held a reception for her outside the chamber. Saville is the longest-serving secretary of the Senate in state history. The resolution praised Saville's dedication. It noted that she served as president of the American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries in 2000 and 2001 and received its staff achievement award in 2007. The 69-year-old Saville joined the Legislature's staff in 1975 as a secretary to House members and later served as a secretary and administrative assistant to three legislative leaders. She became secretary of the Senate in December 1990.


Saline County Reopens 30-Year-Old Murder Case

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Saline County authorities have reopened an investigation into the 1981 shooting death of a Kansas man. Thirty-year-old William Farmer was found shot to death in a car in a remote area near New Cambria on May 31, 1981. Saline County Deputy Jim Hughes announced Thursday that new information has surfaced on the case. He says some of the people considered persons of interest in the case have died, prompting new information from people who may have been afraid to come forward. Farmer's wife, Brenda, who has remarried, told KSAL that it's way past time to solve the case. And the couple's two sons said they were encouraged by the new interest in their father's death.


Woman Sentenced to Prison for Shooting at Kansas Troopers

GOODLAND, Kan. (AP) — A California woman will spend more than 13 years in prison for shooting at two Kansas Highway Patrol troopers during a chase last year on Interstate 70. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says 31-year-old Piper Lacey Stout-Briese was sentenced Thursday in Sherman County District Court. She pleaded no contest to two counts of attempted second-degree murder for the shooting in January 2011. Stout-Briese, of Palmdale, California, was a passenger in a car driven by Anthony Patrick when it was stopped in northwestern Kansas for a tag violation. Patrick drove off, and Stout-Briese fired shots from a .22-caliber rifle that struck the troopers' vehicle during the ensuing chase. Patrick pleaded no contest earlier to the same charges and received the same sentence.

TSA Defends Pat-Down of 4-Year-Old at Wichita Airport

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The grandmother of a 4-year-old girl who became hysterical during a security screening at a Kansas airport says security agents forced her to undergo a pat-down, and even yelled at the child and called her an uncooperative suspect. The incident has been attracting increasing media and online attention since the child's mother, Michelle Brademeyer of Montana, detailed the ordeal in a public Facebook post last week. The Transportation Security Administration says its agents followed proper screening procedures. The child's grandmother, Lori Croft, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that mother and daughter initially passed through security at Wichita's airport without incident. But then the child ran to briefly hug Croft, who was awaiting a pat-down after tripping the alarm. That's when TSA agents insisted the child undergo a physical pat-down.

H&R Block to Cut 350 Jobs, Close About 200 Store Locations

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — H&R Block is reorganizing its business and cutting hundreds of jobs in a bid to save the company up to $100 million per year by the end of fiscal 2013. The nation's largest tax preparer, based in Kansas City, Missouri, also says its earnings and revenue for its fiscal year will fall below Wall Street expectations, in part because of charges related to the restructuring. Block will offer severance packages to employees who volunteer to leave, and will lay off workers if it does not reach the goal of eliminating 350 full-time positions. The company also plans to close about 200 offices. In addition, Block says Jeff Brown, its chief financial officer, is resigning and a search for a successor is underway.

Kansas Wheat Tour Shows Off Crop at Critical Time

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The annual Kansas Wheat Quality tour takes place next week at a pivotal time for the 2012 crop. Participants will begin May 1 in Manhattan and travel about 4,000 miles along four different routes throughout the state. They'll gather two days later at the Kansas City Board of Trade to share their production forecasts. The winter wheat is developing two weeks ahead of normal, and the yield looks promising. But the trade group Kansas Wheat says long-term drought stress is beginning to show in western Kansas, and much of the crop is battling leaf diseases. The Wheat Quality tour draws farmers, government personnel and members of the milling industry and other business groups. More than 100 participants are expected, making this year's event one of the largest in recent years.

Kansas Students Raise $500 for Historic Cabin Restoration

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas school children have responded to a legislative call to raise funds to help restore the cabin where the state song, "Home on the Range," was written. Senate leaders say that students from Horizon Elementary in Shawnee and Jayhawk Elementary in Mound City are the first to turn in their money, raising the first $500 to restore the historic building. The cabin near the Smith County town of Athol in north-central Kansas is where Dr. Brewster Higley wrote the poem "My Western Home" in 1871. The poem began to circulate and was eventually put to music. Legislators helped launch the "Coins for the Cabin" drive in February. The program challenged students, teachers and administrators to raise money for the project while learning more about the history of the state and the song.


Underground Salt Museum Marking 5th Anniversary 

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Underground Salt Museum plans to throw itself a 5-year birthday party next Monday. Organizers of the event say they want to note the anniversary as a way to thank everyone who helped make the museum possible. The museum offers tours in a still-functioning salt mine operated by the Hutchinson Salt Company. The Hutchinson News reports the museum opened in 2007 but no grand opening was ever held because the museum has been developed in stages. More than 46,000 people visited in the museum's first eight months in 2007. In 2008, when the museum was named one of the "Eight Wonders of Kansas," there were 58,305 visitors. Since then, the number of visitors has fluctuated between 53,000 and nearly 56,000.

Restitution Added to Kansas Man's Child Porn Sentence

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has added victim restitution to the terms of punishment for a northeastern Kansas man who admitted distributing child pornography. The U.S. Attorney's office said Wednesday that 55-year-old Leon Smith of Leavenworth, was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison. Judge Carlos Murguia also ordered Smith to pay restitution of $3,000 to one victim and $2,000 to another whose photos were distributed on the Internet. Smith admitted in his guilty plea that he searched for child pornography on the Internet and saved the material in folders on his computer. An FBI agent in Oklahoma downloaded more than 50 images from Smith's computer in 2010, using peer-to-peer file sharing software.

Gunshot-Detection System to Be Deployed in KC

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City, Missouri police are teaming up with the city's transportation authority to deploy gunshot-detection technology that can instantly pinpoint the location of shots fired. The Kansas City Star reports officials with the company that developed and markets the ShotSpotter system say it can be operational in the city within 60 to 90 days. ShotSpotter uses multiple sensors to pick up the sound of gunfire and pinpoint its location. The information goes into computers at California-based SST Incorporated, where acoustic experts assess the data to determine whether the sounds were gunfire or something else. Gunshots are instantly reported back to the area's 911 operators, or in some cases patrol officers. SST vice president Lydia Barrett says 68 police agencies across the U.S. use the technology.

Klein to Lead K-State Wildcats in Annual Spring Football Game

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State fans are eager for Saturday's spring game to see how good Collin Klein could be now that he's comfortably in charge. A year ago, the plucky "run-first" quarterback was just starting to assume control of the offense. He'd thrown all of 18 passes the previous season, and much like the rest of the Wildcats, nobody really knew what to expect. What happened is that Klein put together one of the best seasons in school history, leading the surprising Wildcats to 10 wins and a berth in the Cotton Bowl. Klein threw for nearly 2,000 yards and 13 touchdowns with six interceptions, but it was on the ground where he really soared. The junior ran for 1,141 yards and 27 touchdowns, setting a Big 12 record for rushing scores and breaking a 42-year-old school record.

Kansas Tax Cut Plan Starting to Emerge from Legislative Talks

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The outlines of legislation cutting sales and income taxes in Kansas are emerging from negotiations between the state House and Senate. Three senators and three House members reviewed proposals Wednesday and moved closer to reconciling dozens of differences between their chambers. They're working on a plan to cut the top individual income tax rate and to phase out income taxes for 191,000 businesses. Negotiators also are leaning toward reducing the 6.3 percent state income tax to 5.7 percent, effect in July of next year. Negotiators said they may finish work on the plan this week. Meanwhile, more than three dozen former Republican legislators are expressing concerns about the tax-cut debate. The former Kansas lawmakers say they're worried that public schools won't be properly funded.

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


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