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Regional Headlines for Thursday, June 28, 2012

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says he wants to wait until after the November presidential election to move forward on implementing a key part of the federal health care overhaul in his state. The Republican governor said Thursday that the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling upholding the 2010 law championed by Democratic President Barack Obama makes health care a political issue. Opposition from Brownback and other Republicans who dominate the state Legislature has prevented Kansas from moving to set up an online marketplace for patients to shop for insurance policies. The federal law mandates those exchanges for each state by 2014. States face a November deadline to tell federal officials of their plans. Brownback said that if GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney unseats Obama, states will get a waiver from the requirement.


Kansas Insurance Commissioner, Governor at Odds on Health Care Compliance 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger says the state shouldn't wait until after November's presidential election to move toward complying with a key part of the federal health care law. Praeger's comments Thursday about the U.S. Supreme Court's decision upholding the federal law put her at odds with Governor Sam Brownback, a fellow Republican. Brownback said he wants to wait until after the election to decide what Kansas will do about setting up an online health insurance marketplace. The health care law requires each state to have one operating in 2014. The governor predicted that if GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney gets elected, states won't face the requirement. But Praeger says the state should still work on an online marketplace so that it has some say in how it's run.


Governor Declares Fire Emergency for 9 Kansas Counties

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has issued an emergency declaration for nine counties of central and north-central Kansas, citing the risk of wildfires. Counties covered by the declaration issued Wednesday evening are Barton, Ellis, Ellsworth, Lincoln, Mitchell, Osborne, Phillips, Rooks and Russell. The Kansas Division of Emergency Management says a large grass fire in Phillips County was contained Wednesday evening, as were fires in Rooks and Ellis counties. Other fires were contained earlier Wednesday in Russell County, and near Great Bend in Barton County. Some of the counties covered by the declaration were included because they may be in the path of spreading fires. Emergency Management spokeswoman Sharon Watson says there were no reports of evacuations or injuries or of houses being damaged, although some farm buildings and outbuildings have been affected.


KC Officials Investigate Possible Heat Deaths

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A western Missouri medical examiner is investigating two deaths as possibly heat-related, including one that occurred nearly two months ago. In a news release Thursday, the Kansas City Health Department said heat is suspected as a factor in two Jackson County (MO) deaths so far this year — one of a man born in 1952, the other of a boy born last year. The department would not comment further. But police in suburban Lee's Summit announced previously that a 13-month-old boy died May 3 after being left for hours in a hot car. The cause of death won't be confirmed until the investigation is completed. Meanwhile, Missouri health officials say 251 people around the state sought treatment at emergency rooms for heat-related illnesses from May 1 through Wednesday.


Forecast: No Relief in Sight from Kansas Heatwave

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Forecasters see no relief in sight anytime soon from the scorching Kansas heat wave that has plunged the state into triple-digit temperatures.  Meteorologist Chris Jakub of the National Weather Service in Wichita said Thursday that the forecast is for temperatures mostly above 100 until Wednesday. And it could continue beyond that.  An upper level high pressure zone sitting over the Central Plains refuses to break down or move out of the area.  Temperatures are expected to reach 106 in Wichita on Thursday, and go even higher in parts of central Kansas where the thermometer could reach near 110. The heat is brutal in Hill City, which has recorded the hottest temperature in the nation for the past five days. Highs reached 115 Wednesday in Hill City.


Testimony to End in Kansas School Funding Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Testimony is close to wrapping up in a trial over whether Kansas spends enough money on public schools or distributes the dollars fairly. Attorneys expect to finish questioning witnesses Thursday in Shawnee County District Court, where the trial began June 4. The last witness was expected to be state Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker. Three judges are hearing the lawsuit, filed against the state by the Dodge City, Hutchinson, Kansas City and Wichita school districts and 31 students in those districts. They argue that cuts in general aid to schools in recent years are keeping the state from providing a suitable education for every child. The state contends it did the best it could while facing budget problems.

State of Kansas Announces New Fire Marshal

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An official from the Kansas Department of Revenue has been named state fire marshal. Governor Sam Brownback announced the appointment of Doug Jorgensen on Wednesday. The appointment is effective July 1 but requires confirmation by the state Senate. Jorgensen is currently the director of Alcoholic Beverage Control in the Department of Revenue department. He served as acting state fire marshal from January to July of last year, and also spent 28 years with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.


Break-Ins Targeting Hutchinson Churches  

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Police in Hutchinson are investigating a series of break-ins at churches, but so far they're not sure if the burglaries are connected. The latest incident occurred this week, when someone broke into Our Redeemer Lutheran Church at night and stole money, electronics and two fire extinguishers. The Hutchinson News reports the church was the fifth to be burglarized since late March. Pastor Chad Trunkhill says he's grateful that whoever broke windows to get inside didn't use the fire extinguishers to do more damage. During a late-April break-in at Eastwood Church of Christ, someone sprayed fire extinguishers over the pews, hallways and fellowship hallways. Police Detective Darrin Cox says tests are being done to identify blood found at Tenth Avenue Methodist Church, where a burglar broke a window March 27.

Coal Train Derails in Northeastern Kansas

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — About 30 cars of a coal train have gone off the tracks near Junction City in northeastern Kansas. KJCK-AM reports the derailment happened around 5 pm Wednesday on the southeastern side of the city. The train was made up of more than 100 cars. No injuries were reported. Crews from Union Pacific were on the scene Wednesday evening clearing the wreckage.

Wildfires in NW Kansas Reportedly Extinguished

OBERLIN, Kan. (AP) — State emergency officials say crews have succeeded in extinguishing wildfires that burned hundreds of acres in northwest Kansas. The whole region has been sweltering under triple-digit temperatures and dry conditions. Fire departments from neighboring Colorado and Nebraska were called in Tuesday to help fight at least two wildfires outside Oberlin, located in far northwest Kansas along the Nebraska state line. Temperatures in the area were forecast to be 113 yesterday with daytime highs staying in triple digits through the rest of the week. No major damage or injuries were reported from the fires.

Airlines Waiving Fees for Itinerary Changes Due to Colorado Fires

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Frontier Airlines and United Airlines are relaxing fees for changing itineraries, if travelers are affected by the wildfire near Colorado Springs, Colorado. Frontier says travelers who were scheduled to go through Colorado Springs through July 4th may be eligible to have fees for changing their plans waived. United says travelers going through Colorado Springs through July 2nd may be eligible. Colorado Springs Airport officials say American Airlines and Delta Air Lines are encouraging travelers to call them if they want to ask about changing travel plans. Photographs taken Wednesday afternoon showed smoke and flames not far from the U.S. Air Force Academy campus at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Black smoke also enveloped many highways and thoroughfares, slowing traffic.


Superintendent Says State Cuts Part of Teacher Contract Dispute

HOLTON, Kan. (AP) — The superintendent of the Holton school district says unpredictable state funding contributed to a dispute with the district's teachers. Earlier this week, Holton teachers returned 69 unsigned contracts to the district to protest a lack of negotiations and another year without a pay raise. Superintendent Nancy Meyer says the district offered the teachers one-time bonuses last August rather than raises. She says the district took that action in part because the state has reduced funding for public schools and it's difficult to predict when that trend might end.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Meyer said the Legislature cut $279,000 from the district's budget during the 2011 session, continuing a trend of budget cuts since 2007.


State Approves Payment to Inmate Assaulted by Guard

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A state board has approved a $30,000 payment to a former Topeka Correctional Facility inmate who was forced by a guard to engage in sexual activity. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the payment settles a federal lawsuit filed against the state by parolee Rebecca Fleetwood. Fleetwood accused corrections officer Nathan VanDyke of driving her to a cemetery in September 2008 and forcing her to perform a sexual act. VanDyke later pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual relations and was placed on probation. The payment to Fleetwood was endorsed by the State Finance Council, a bipartisan board made up of legislative leaders and chaired by Governor Sam Brownback. House Speaker Mike O'Neal, a Republican from Hutchinson, voted Thursday against the settlement, saying it would have been wiser to seek dismissal of Fleetwood's lawsuit.


Kansas Farm Guys Create Parody Video Sensation

ASSARIA, Kan. (AP) — A random decision to make a video singing the praises of farmers is making social network stars out of three Kansas brothers. The Peterson boys of Assaria are getting national attention over their video "I'm Farming and I Grow It." Greg Peterson says he got the idea as a parody to "Sexy and I Know It" by LMFAO. He talked his brothers, 18-year-old Nathan and 15-year Kendal, into singing and filming a video of about farming on their family's Saline County farm. The video was posted on Monday. By Wednesday, it had nearly 400,000 views. The Wichita Eagle reports Greg Peterson has received hundreds of requests from people wanting to find out more about the brothers. And they've been invited to the national FFA convention in Kentucky.

Cherokee County Jail Escapee Recaptured 

COLUMBUS, Kan. (AP) — A man who escaped from the Cherokee County jail Sunday has been arrested and returned to jail. But authorities allege Jimmy Dale Sluder committed a residential burglary before he was arrested Tuesday in Pittsburg. The Joplin Globe reports that Sluder is suspected of burglarizing a Columbus home Tuesday before his capture. He was in jail on theft charges. He was arrested at a Pittsburg apartment after officers received a tip about his whereabouts. Cherokee County Sheriff David Groves says Sluder is suspected of breaking into a Columbus house Tuesday afternoon. He allegedly tied up the homeowner and left with a vehicle and other property. The homeowner was able to free himself and notify authorities.


Missouri Judge: KC Diocese Must Turn Over Documents

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Jackson County (MO) judge has ruled that the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has to give prosecutors information about the diocese's investigation into past reports of priests accused of abusing children. The judge overseeing the case against Bishop Robert Finn and the diocese also said in a ruling Wednesday that the diocese must turn over documents from its independent investigation into the case of the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, who's facing state and federal child pornography charges. Finn and the diocese are charged with misdemeanors related to how they handled allegations against Ratigan. The Kansas City Star reports the judge says information about the diocesan investigations into alleged misconduct is relevant to the case and that he'll impose a protective order to limit access to the files.


Hill City Hits 115 Degrees Again Wednesday

HILL CITY, Kan. (AP) — Blistering heat is helping Hill City get a national reputation. The western Kansas town hit 115 degrees on Wednesday — a day after hitting the same mark to earn the distinction of recording the nation's highest temperature, according to the National Weather Service. Tuesday's reading was also a new record for that date in the town. Numerous Kansas communities are shattering records for high temperatures this week as an intense heat wave bears down. Farmers fear they're losing valuable corn crops to the heat, and emergency management officials are urging residents to stay indoors. Russell, Dodge City, Great Bend and Hays all topped 110 degrees on Wednesday.


Reward Increased to $10,000 for Information on Shooting of Jogger

RAYTOWN, Mo. (AP) — A reward for information in the shooting death of a Kansas City-area jogger has increased to $10,000. Contributions from friends, family and private donors have increased the reward in the case of Harry Stone, a 60-year-old Raytown man who died May 13. Police say he was shot in an apparently random act of violence as he jogged. Investigators suggest the shooting could have been a gang initiation or a dare. Police are looking for a dark-colored, four-door car with at least two occupants that fled the scene. Anyone with information should call 816-474-TIPS.


Len Dawson to Receive Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award 

CANTON, Ohio (AP) — Pro Football Hall of Famer Len Dawson is being honored again in Canton as this year's recipient of the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award. The former Kansas City Chiefs quarterback has served as a color commentator for the Chiefs Radio Network since 1982. He was an analyst for NBC from 1976-82. Dawson also hosted HBO's "Inside the NFL" from 1977-2001. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1987. The Rozelle Award recognizes "long-time exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football." Dawson will receive the award August 3 during the inductees' gold jacket dinner.

California Man Pleads Guilty in Tax Fraud Scheme

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A California man pleaded guilty to his part in a nationwide tax fraud scheme that prosecutors say sought to defraud the Internal Revenue Service of nearly $100 million. John V. Perdido of Temecula, California pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court and agreed to forfeit $805,749 he received from the IRS. Perdido, is among 14 defendants charged in the scheme. Federal prosecutors allege Gerald A. Poynter, who lives in the Kansas City area, organized a tax scheme to help clients receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent tax refunds. The other defendants, from eight states, also are charged with conspiracy. Five, including Poynter, live in the Kansas City area. Poynter is awaiting trial.

6-Year-Old Wichita Girl Dies in Traffic Accident

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say speed is likely a factor in an accident that killed a 6-year-old girl. The victim of the accident Tuesday evening was identified as Fedodora Two-Hatchett. Police say the girl was riding in a car in a residential area when a vehicle going between 60 and 70 mph struck the car at an intersection. The speed limit at the site is 35 mph. Police say the girl was secured in a child safety seat when the cars collided. Her mother, 27-year-old Maria Two-Hatchett, was in fair condition at a Wichita hospital. Her 1-year-old daughter also was hospitalized in fair condition. No charges have been filed.


Gov Brownback Reacts to SCOTUS Decision on Nation's Health Law

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback issued a two-line statement today (THUR) concerning the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on the nation's new health care law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: "Stopping ObamaCare is now in the hands of the American people.  It begins with electing a new president this fall.”  The nation's high court voted 5-to-4 to uphold key parts of the law, which critics call "Obamacare."  The court said the individual mandate requiring all Americans to have -- and perhaps purchase -- health insurance is constitutional.  

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

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