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Regional Headlines for Thursday, February 23, 2012




USPS Consolidating 7 Mail Processing Centers

TOPEKA, KS (AP) — The United States Postal Service plans to consolidate seven mail processing centers in Kansas to reduce costs.  The Postal Service said in a news release today (THUR) that the processing center in Topeka will be consolidated with one in Kansas City, Missouri.  Processing centers in Hays, Salina, Dodge City and Hutchinson will be consolidated with the processing and distribution center in Wichita.  Officials say work at the Liberal processing center will be moved to Amarillo, Texas and the Colby processing center operations will move to North Platte, Neb.  No specific dates have been set for the consolidation. Once the centers are consolidated, mail processing work will end but retail and business activity at the seven centers will continue. 


KS House Advances Kansas Property Tax Relief

TOPEKA, KS (AP) — House Democrats have successfully amended a bill to provide $90 million in property tax relief over the next two years to Kansas cities and counties. The measure was added today (THUR) during debate on a bill that would restrict the growth of property taxes in municipalities if the overall property valuation increases. The entire bill advanced on voice vote to final action on Friday. Democrats tried earlier in the week to get $45 million in property tax relief inserted in a bill, a move defeated largely along party lines. Rep. Jim Ward of Wichita renewed the effort today (THUR), doubling the amount. Both amendments would take the money from the state's expected revenue surpluses.  The move is counter to efforts by Republicans to cut income taxes.


 KS Senate Modifies "Health Freedom" Proposal

TOPEKA, KS (AP) — The Kansas Senate has given first-round approval to a proposed amendment to the state constitution challenging a key federal mandate on health care.  But before advancing the so-called health "freedom" amendment on a voice vote today (THUR), senators modified it so that a statewide vote on the proposition would occur only if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the federal health care law.  A final vote on the measure was expected tonight (THUR).  The amendment would declare that Kansans have the right to refuse to buy health insurance. A provision in the federal health care overhaul of 2010 requiring most Americans to buy insurance, starting in 2014.  Critics of the proposed amendment said if the federal law is upheld, it will be supreme, making the Kansas measure meaningless.


KS House Approves Kansas Child Abuse Reporting Changes 

 TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — House members have approved a bill that would amend Kansas laws regarding mandatory reporting of alleged child abuse. Today's (THUR) 123-1 vote sends the measure to the Senate. Supporters say the changes were in response to the allegations of child sex abuse at Penn State University involving former football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. The bill expands the list of individuals required to report allegations of child abuse to authorities for investigation. It also strengthens the penalty for failure to report cases of suspected sexual abuse. It would remove the defense that a person believed someone else was going to file the report, unless a report had actually been made, or that a person did not make a report for fear of reprisal or any other consequence.


 Exide Adding Jobs at Salina Plant

SALINA, KS. (AP) — A north-central Kansas producer of lead-acid batteries has announced plans to expand and add at least 100 jobs over the next two years.  Officials of Exide Technologies in Salina made the announcement today (THUR), with Kansas Commerce Secretary Pat George on hand.  The 100 to 130 new jobs are expected to expand Exide's payroll in Salina by $4 million. The plant now has about 600 employees.  Exide Technologies operates in more than 80 countries. Salina Area Chamber of Commerce President Dennis Lauver says Exide was offered a combination of state and local incentives to expand the Kansas operation.


KS Senate Advances Brownback's Tech Education Proposal

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has given first-round approval to Governor Sam Brownback's plan to modify technical education programs.  The measure advanced yesterday (WED) on a voice vote. Final action planned for today (THUR) would send the bill to the House.  The proposal would provide incentives for high school students who don't plan to pursue four-year degrees and are interested in a career in a vocational or technical program. The plan would allow them to earn certificates in qualified programs through community or technical colleges while still in high school.  Financial incentives would be included to encourage high schools and technical schools to develop the certificate programs and get students trained.  The plan was part of Brownback's school finance proposal.


UPDATE: KS House Approves Bills Repealing Outdated Laws

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has passed more than two dozen bills rolling back laws, rules and regulations identified by the state's official repealer as outdated or unnecessary. The repeal measures cleared the House and went to the Senate today (THUR).  Governor Sam Brownback designated Secretary of Administration Dennis Taylor last year as the state's official repealer. Taylor gathered suggestions from throughout Kansas of laws and regulations that are burdensome to government, businesses or residents.  Many of the statutes relate to special funds for fees that are no longer collected. Others spell out duties of county officials that were adopted in the early 1900s.  In all, more than 50 items were identified for repeal and are in various stages of the legislative process.


Rumsfeld to Speak at Fort Leavenworth

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will be in northeastern Kansas this week to address military officers and sign books for the public.  The Leavenworth Times reports that Rumsfeld is to speak at 10am tomorrow (FRI) to officers attending the Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. Afterward, he'll sign books at a public event at Fort Leavenworth's Post Exchange.  Rumsfeld served as secretary of defense under President Gerald Ford in the 1970s and during the administration of President George W. Bush.  He has been touring the country to promote his memoir, "Known and Unknown."


Bill Honoring Frankfort Soldiers Faces Senate Vote

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill to honor 37 servicemen from a small northeast Kansas town who died in World War II appears headed to Governor Sam Brownback for his signature.  The Kansas Senate was scheduled to take final action on the bill today (THUR), which was approved earlier by the House. It would name part of Kansas Highway 99 "The Frankfort Boys World War II Memorial Highway."  Frank Benteman, a Frankfort native and WWII veteran who pushed the honor, says Frankfort had more men killed in action in World War II than any other town its size.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that American Legion Post No. 181 in Frankfort has raised about $2,200 of the roughly $3,000 needed to pay for the Frankfort Boys signs and for their upkeep.


Kansas Attracts 5 Bidders for 3 Medicaid Contracts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has received bids from five companies for three contracts for managing the state's $2.9 billion Medicaid program.  Legislators who have been skeptical of Governor Sam Brownback's Medicaid overhaul plan saw the number of bidders as relatively low and suggested it signals trouble. Medicaid provides health coverage for the needy, disabled and elderly.  But House Majority Leader Arlen Siegfreid, an Olathe (oh-LAY'-thuh) Republican, said he thinks the five bids are sufficient for a competitive process.  Brownback's administration plans to award the contracts this summer.  The bidders include Amerigroup Corporation of Virginia Beach, Virginia.; Wichita-based Coventry Health Care of Kansas; and Sunflower State Health Plan, based in Topeka.  Also bidding are Minnesota-based United Healthcare and WellCare of Kansas Incorporated based in Tampa, Florida.


Missouri Considers Making I-70 a Toll Road

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri state Senator says he wants the full chamber to debate a measure allowing tolls on Interstate 70.  The Senate Transportation Committee heard about two hours of public testimony yesterday (WED) on legislation that would allow the state to contract with a private company to fix I-70 in exchange for being allowed to charge tolls. State transportation officials say the foundation of I-70 is crumbling and it needs to be widened to handle increased traffic.  Committee Chairman Senator Bill Stouffer, a Republican from Napton, said more public hearings will be held in coming weeks. Stouffer says he hopes to eventually vote the legislation out of his committee so it can come before the full Senate.


New KU Building to Open, Doubling Size of Edwards Campus

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A grand opening is scheduled for March 2 for a $23 million building that will expand the University of Kansas' Edwards Campus by more than half.  The 75,000-square-foot building will house business, engineering, science and technology programs on the campus in Overland Park. The new classrooms, lecture halls, computer labs and conference center will allow the Edwards Campus to serve 1,000 more students.  A dedicated sales tax approved by Johnson County voters in 2008 paid for the new Business, Engineering, Science and Technology Building.  The building is part of the Johnson County Education and Research Triangle. The Triangle also incorporates the International Animal Health and Food Safety Institute at Kansas State's Innovation Campus in Olathe and the University of Kansas' Clinical Research Center in Fairway.


Galena Mayor Holds Robbery Suspect at Gunpoint

GALENA, Kan. (AP) — Galena Mayor Dale Oglesby doesn't take kindly to trespassers on his property.  Early yesterday (WED), Oglesby saw someone near a storage building at his home. He grabbed his 9 mm semi-automatic handgun and held the man at gunpoint until police arrived.  Police say the suspect had two motors from oil field equipment that belonged to Oglesby when the mayor stopped him.  The man was booked at the Cherokee County Jail on suspicion of theft and criminal trespass. Police say he might have had an accomplice but that person has not been caught.  The Joplin Globe reports that the confrontation came just hours after Police Chief Larry Delmont gave a presentation to the Galena City Council on an increase in scrap metal and battery thefts in the town.


Reports Shows KS Meth Lab Busts Went Up in 2011

The number of methamphetamine labs busted by law enforcement officers in Kansas rose last year.  Drug Enforcement Administration numbers obtained this week by The Associated Press show the state had 172 meth lab busts in 2011, compared to 149 the previous year.  The numbers are dwarfed by statistics in neighboring Missouri, which reported nearly 2,100 busts last year. For instance, the statewide total for Kansas is far below the total for Missouri's Jefferson County, south of St. Louis.  Nationally, meth lab seizures were up 8.3 percent in 2011 from 2010.


 Kansas Modifies System for Paying Legislative Pages

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — For the hundreds of Kansas students who serve each year as legislative pages, the check will no longer be in the mail. Senators approved a bill on Thursday that would end the practice of paying each page with a $3 check for their day's service. Instead, legislators have decided to give them a $5 voucher to be used at the Statehouse snack shop. The Senate approved the bill 40-0, sending it to Governor Sam Brownback for his signature. The House approved the bill 109-2 on February 17. Senator Dick Kelsey, a Goddard Republican, says the present practice of issuing a check costs the state $6 per check to process, not counting postage or the $3 value. He says many of the checks aren't ever cashed.


 Suspect in Manhattan Death Now Charged in Rape

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A man already suspected in the death of a former combat medic is now charged in a rape of a Manhattan woman.  Riley County authorities say 25-year-old Justin Charles Taylor was charged yesterday (WED) in the 2010 rape of a 57-year-old woman.  Taylor has been jailed since August 2011 on charges of second-degree murder in the death of 31-year-old Kevin Cockrum, who died from injuries suffered during a confrontation in the Aggieville district of Manhattan. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go on trial in April.  KMAN reports that Taylor's first appearance on the rape charge is scheduled for tomorrow (FRI).  


KS Woman Pleads No Contest in Attack on Pregnant Woman

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — One of two Dodge City women accused of attacking a pregnant woman in an effort to kill the unborn child reached a plea deal in the case.  Eighteen-year-old Kaila Vargas pleaded no contest this week to intentional aggravated battery and criminal threat. In exchange for the plea, an attempted murder charge was dropped.  Assistant Ford County Attorney Scott James says Vargas and Mary Gobin attacked the woman, who was seven to eight months pregnant, at her home last June. They allegedly threw her to the ground and punched her stomach several times.  The Dodge City Daily Globe reports the attack apparently happened because the victim's boyfriend had talked to police about a separate case.  Gobin pleaded no contest to aggravated battery and criminal threat on February 10.


KS Man Seeks New Trial in Horton Woman's Murder

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — A Sabetha man convicted of capital murder in the death of a rural Horton woman is seeking a new trial.  An attorney for 60-year-old Roger Hollister says he deserves a new trial because the Atchison County judge who heard his case did not properly instruct jurors.  Hollister is serving life in prison with no chance of parole for the November 2009 death of 58-year-old Patricia Kimmi.  Hollister's attorney argued in a court motion that evidence presented in the trial was insufficient, errors were made in closing arguments and other errors deprived Hollister of a fair trial.  The St. Joseph News-Press reports that the Atchison County attorney said he would file a response to the motion within 30 days or request an extension.


Vehicle-Deer Accident Sways KS Lawmaker on Bow Hunting Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas lawmaker says a run-in with a deer made him see a proposal on crossbow hunting in a new light.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that House Republican Anthony Brown voted Tuesday against a bill creating a crossbow hunting season.  But when the bill came up for a final vote yesterday (WED), Brown was for it. The measure now goes to the Senate.  Brown says he was driving home from Topeka to the Douglas County town of Eudora Tuesday night when a collision with a large doe did substantial damage to his truck. He says a deputy told him it was the second deer-related accident he'd worked that night.  The bill would clear the way for Kansas to create a crossbow hunting season for deer, antelope, elk and wild turkey.


Another Defendant Sentenced in Slaying of Wichita Man

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — One of eight suspects in the shooting death of a Missouri football player's cousin has been sentenced to eight years in prison.  Twenty-one-year-old Deshon Houston was sentenced in the 2010 death of Aaron Hobson of Wichita.  He pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery in exchange for testifying against the other suspects.  The Columbia Tribune reports that Hobson was visiting Columbia in October 2010 to watch his cousin, Trey Hobson, play in the university's homecoming game. Aaron Hobson was meeting friends at a convenience store when he was robbed and shot.  The triggerman in the death, Daron Peal, has been sentenced to 45 years in prison.


Judge Refuses to Drop Charges in Family Sex Crimes Case

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri judge has refused to dismiss rape charges against one of five men accused of molesting young relatives three decades ago at a farm.  Clay County Circuit Judge Larry Harman denied several defense motions to dismiss charges against 54-year-old David Mohler over delays in getting medical and mental health records from the accusers.  Mohler's lawyer had argued that repeated trial delays were unfair to his client.  Mohler, three of his brothers and their father were charged in November 2009 with sexually abusing at least four young relatives on a farm 30 miles east of Kansas City starting in the early 1980s.  The father, Burrell Mohler Senior, was free on bail Friday. David, Jared and Roland Mohler also have bonded out, while Burrell Mohler Junior remains in jail.  


Army Reviewing KU Program for Wounded Veterans

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Army is reviewing a program that sends wounded veterans to the University of Kansas for graduate study.  The Wounded Warrior Initiative provides funds for wounded soldiers to pursue master's and doctoral studies in areas that support research and academic programs. In return, the veterans make a six-year commitment to the Army.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the program is being reviewed and the Army has not recruited any new soldiers for the 2013 school year.  U.S. Army Major Michael Flatoff is a spokesman for the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, which oversees the program.  He says the program was a pilot project that is being evaluated to determine if it should be continued. He had no timetable for when the review would be completed.


KS Researcher Who Faked Data Faces Sentencing

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has granted a sentencing delay for a Kansas researcher who admitted falsifying data in a 2010 clinical trial of an allergy pill on human subjects.  Lisa Sharp, a nurse from Olathe (oh-LAY'-thuh), had been scheduled for sentencing March 5, but a judge has moved the proceeding to March 23. Sharp's co-defendant, Topeka physician Wayne Spencer, will still be sentenced March 5.  Both defendants worked for Lee Research Institute, which was paid by Schering-Plough to conduct the clinical trial on the allergy medication. Spencer was the principal investigator and Sharp was the lead research coordinator.  They pleaded to conspiracy to defraud and failing to maintain records in a clinical trial as required by the Food and Drug Administration.


No Serious Injuries in KC Area School Bus Accident

GRANDVIEW, Mo. (AP) — Authorities in suburban Kansas City say one person suffered minor injuries and two were taken to hospitals as a precaution after a car collided with a school bus.  The accident happened around 2:30 yesterday (WED) afternoon, at an exit along U.S. 71 in Grandview, Missouri.  KSHB-TV reports the bus was carrying two students from the Hickman Mills School District. Police said initial reports indicated the car turned in front of the bus.  The driver of the car was taken to a hospital with minor injuries after being pulled from the wreckage. A school district spokesman says the pregnant bus driver and a student who may have had an asthma attack were also taken to hospitals to be checked.


KS Drug Charges Dropped Against Boxer Tommy Morrison

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors in Sedgwick County have dropped drug charges against former heavyweight boxing champion Tommy Morrison, less than a year after unrelated drug charges were dismissed in Emporia.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the Sedgwick County charges were dropped Tuesday, the same day Morrison faced a court hearing.  The Oklahoma native was arrested in March 2010 outside a Wichita fitness club and later charged with possessing marijuana and drug paraphernalia.  Morrison had told The Eagle he often sat in his car reading the Bible before going into the club to lift weights. He said his car had items from a recent move, including a box containing a pipe that police said bore marijuana residue.  The Emporia charges were dismissed after a state trooper who arrested Morrison died in a motorcycle accident.  




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