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Regional Headlines for Thursday, June 6, 2013





Regents Unhappy With Cuts to Kansas Higher Ed Spending

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas higher education officials are frustrated and angry that state lawmakers have imposed budget cuts on public colleges and universities, calling the reductions harmful to the state's economy. Members of the Board of Regents reviewed the budget cuts on Thursday and began hearing initial tuition and fee increase proposals from the six state universities. The Legislature adjourned early Sunday after passing a budget that cuts higher education funding by 1.5 percent in each of the next two fiscal years. Legislators also approved salary and wage caps that will further reduce resources available to the campuses. Regents say Governor Sam Brownback should be furious with the reductions. The board told university officials last month they shouldn't expect approval of tuition increases that would completely make up for cuts by the Legislature.


High Demand for Concealed Carry Permits in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The high demand for concealed carry permits is continuing in Kansas. The Wichita Eagle reports that the state had taken 22,124 applications through the first 10 months of the fiscal year, which started last July. In all of fiscal year 2012, Kansas residents submitted 12,408 applications. In response to the demand, the Kansas attorney general's office hired more staff and temporarily reassigned workers to help process the applications. Some residents had complained the state was not processing applications within the required 90 days. Don Brown, a spokesman for the office, says applications are now being processed in 88 days or less. The office says 3,462 applications were received in April, down slightly from the 4,071 in March, which was the highest number of applications ever in a month.


Former Overland Park Man Killed in Afghanistan

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — An Overland Park native has died in the war in Afghanistan. The Department of Defense says 2nd Lieutenant Justin Lee Sisson and another soldier were killed Monday after their unit was struck by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. The 23-year-old Sisson graduated from Blue Valley West High School in Overland Park in 2007. He earned a history degree from Florida State University and then completed Army Ranger School last fall. Lee will be buried at Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery, where both of his grandfathers are buried. The date for his burial has not been determined. He is survived by his parents and an older brother.

KCC Will Not Seek Outside Inquiry into Staff

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Corporation Commission will not ask an independent consultant to investigate the executive director's complaints about the agency's staff. On Wednesday, commissioner Tom Wright proposed a review of director Patti Petersen-Klein's remarks to an auditor that the agency was overstaffed, inefficient and had no accountability. The motion died after another commissioner declined to support it. The third commissioner was not at the meeting. The Topeka Capital-Journal last week reported that Patti Petersen-Klein told the consultant the agency's employees were lazy and the agency was dysfunctional. The agency's employees complained to the auditor that Petersen-Klein's management style was ruining staff morale and prompting many employees to leave. The consultants concluded in the report that it was unlikely that Petersen-Klein could mend her relationship with the KCC staff.


Western Kansas Legislator Resigning Later This Month

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A state legislator from western Kansas is resigning later this month, saying he wants to spend more time with his family and can't juggle legislative duties with a growing business. Representative Brian Weber said Thursday that he'll step down after the Legislature's formal adjournment ceremony June 20. The Dodge City Republican has served in the House since 2011. The 30-year-old Weber is the co-owner of a family heating and air conditioning business and said he plans to move to Garden City, where it has its main office. He and his wife have a daughter who will be a year old on June 16. Weber serves as chairman of a House Appropriations subcommittee on social services spending and as vice chairman of its Health and Human Services Committee.


Salina Girl Who Received Electrical Shock in Critical Condition

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — An 11-year-old Salina girl who suffered an electrical shock while playing in a rainstorm remains in critical condition at a Wichita hospital. An uncle of Jayden Hicks told The Salina Journal that the family has seen some improvements since the girl was hospitalized May 29 but he did not give specifics. The girl was found lying on two in-ground electrical junction boxes in front of the Campbell Plaza in downtown Salina. Four other children playing with her and a firefighter who was injured during the rescue were treated and released at a Salina hospital. Fire Marshal Roger Williams said Wednesday an investigation into the incident is continuing, with a focus on electrical wiring that connects street lights, public restroom lights and traffic lights at three pedestrian crossings.

10 Names to Be Added to 1st Infantry Memorial Walk

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — The names of 10 soldiers killed in combat in the past year will be added next week to a memorial walk outside the 1st Infantry Division headquarters building at Fort Riley. The ceremonies on Wednesday are part of the division's annual celebration of its establishment in 1917 as the first designated division in the Army. Other activities planned for the week include soldier competition and entertainment. The soldiers' names will be unveiled during a ceremony in Victory Park at Fort Riley. The soldiers were assigned or attached to the 1st Infantry Division at the time of their deaths. Currently there are 541 bricks honoring soldiers. Fort Riley is home to approximately 18,000 soldiers. It is located about 60 miles west of Topeka.


EPA Fines Kansas Company for Work Practices

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) — A Lenexa company has been fined about $27,000 for failing to follow federal rules on lead paint. The Environmental Protection Agency said in a release Wednesday that HarenLaughlin Construction Company will pay $27,286 for not using required practices for lead paint while renovating a multifamily building in Kansas City, Missouri. Under the agreement, HarenLaughlin will complete a $24,500 supplemental environmental project to remove lead-based paint from a nearby apartment and pay the remaining $2,786 in cash. The lead paint rule requires contractors that work on buildings constructed before 1978 to use lead-safe work practices. Lead exposure can cause various health problems from behavioral disorders and learning disabilities to seizures and death.

Dodge City Police Chief to Retire in 2014

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Officials in Dodge City will soon begin looking for a new police chief. City officials said Wednesday that Chief Craig Mellecker has announced he'll retire in March 2014 after 30 years with the police department. Mellecker was appointed chief in 2011. City manager Ken Strobel says officials knew at the time that Mellecker would be retiring within a few years, but they were confident about what he could accomplish. As chief, Strobel says, Mellecker has expanded the school resource officer program and a gang resistance education program to elementary and middle schools. He also implemented a digital ticketing system. Mellecker was serving as a lieutenant when he became police chief.


Man Gets 37 Years for Aurora Motel Stabbing Death

BRIGHTON, Colo. (AP) — An Adams County judge has sentenced a man to 37 years in prison for a 2009 stabbing death at an Aurora motel. Thirty-nine-year-old Jesse Dimmick had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of 25-year-old Michael Curtis at the Carriage Motor Inn. Dimmick fled to Kansas after the murder and kidnapped a young couple in suburban Topeka before surrendering. He has been sentenced to 11 years in prison in that case. The Adams County judge ordered Dimmick on Thursday to serve his murder sentence consecutively to the Kansas sentence, for a total of 48 years.


Suspects Sought in String of KCK Street Robberies

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police in Kansas City, Kansas have recovered a stolen vehicle they believe was used in a carjacking and up to a half-dozen armed street robberies. The holdups occurred in the northeastern part of the city over a span of roughly three hours, beginning with the carjacking around 5:30 am Thursday. Other victims reported being confronted while walking down the street by two or three people, at least one with a gun, who took cellphones, wallets and other items. No injuries were reported, but one man told KCTV that he was in his car when three people jumped out of another vehicle and opened fire with a sawed-off shotgun. The man said his car was hit twice by gunfire while he drove away.


Kansas Family Files Suit over Lethal Sign Accident in Alabama Airport

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The family of a boy who died when a flight information sign fell on him and relatives at Birmingham, Alabama's airport has filed a suit against contractors who designed it. Luke Bresette of Overland Park, Kansas was killed when the flight information sign toppled onto him and his family March 22nd. Two of Bresette's siblings and his mother were also injured. The lawsuit accuses a group of nine contractors of negligence, and claims they caused Bresette's wrongful death and pain and suffering for the family. The suit doesn't name the airport authority as a defendant, and it's unclear how much the family is seeking in damages. Just weeks before the accident, the airport completed the first phase of a more than $201 million modernization effort.

Sedgwick County Rationing Toilet Paper for Inmates

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Sedgwick County Sheriff says inmates are wasting too much toilet paper, so he's reduced their supply. Sheriff Jeff Easter is limiting inmates to one roll a week. He says that will cut the amount his office is spending on toilet paper from $100,000 to $50,000 a year. Inmates are allowed to buy extra toilet paper. Exceptions will be made for those who are indigent, or inmates who are sick. Easter says inmates plug toilets and cover vents and doors with the toilet paper to absorb the smell when they are illegally smoking tobacco or marijuana. Several inmates wrote letters to The Wichita Eagle complaining about the rationing, saying it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

Sperm Donor Case on Hold over Judge's Status

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A lawsuit by the state of Kansas to force a Topeka sperm donor to pay child support is on hold while a judge considers whether to remove herself from the case. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Shawnee County District Judge Mary Mattivi had a 25-minute hearing Wednesday but didn't issue a decision. She said she needed to do research and read the lengthy affidavit submitted by an attorney for sperm donor William Marotta. There's been no public explanation for the request for Mattivi to step aside. The state argues Marotta must pay child support because he is the father of a 3-year-old girl born in 2009. Marotta argues that he donated his sperm to a lesbian couple and signed a contract waiving parental rights and responsibilities.

Patients Seek to Reopen KC Drug Settlement Case

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — New information on the 2002 financial settlement between pharmaceutical companies and the victims of a Kansas City pharmacist who diluted patients' drugs shows some plaintiffs received smaller settlements than others. The Kansas City Star reports that a document filed this week with a Missouri appeals court shows families who sued soon after authorities arrested Robert Courtney in 2001 received larger settlements than those who sued later. Courtney pleaded guilty in 2002 to diluting drugs and is serving a 30-year prison sentence. His patients, or their survivors, sued drug manufacturers for negligence. The companies denied the allegations but settled the more than $70 million in claims. Several of Courtney's victims have pushed to reopen the lawsuits, contending the settlements didn't allow them to receive the full value of their claims.


Defense Challenges Evidence in Kansas Lawman's Trial

KINGMAN, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys for a former Kansas lawman accused of killing his wife and setting their home on fire are challenging the way authorities collected evidence. Brett Seacat is charged with first-degree murder in the April 2011 shooting death of 34-year-old Vashti Seacat. The former police instructor also is charged with aggravated arson and two counts of child endangerment for allegedly setting fire to the couple's Kingman home. He and his two young sons escaped the fire. Forensic consultant Gene Gietzen testified Thursday about traces of gasoline that the prosecution contends were found on the pants Seacat was wearing the day of the fire. He says the pants were put in a paper sack, which allows accelerants to escape and can cause cross contamination. Seacat contends his wife committed suicide.


Family of Slain Winfield Woman Fighting Parole

WINFIELD, Kan. (AP) — Relatives of a south-central Kansas woman who was killed in 1984 hope to block the parole of her husband, who was one of two men convicted in the strangulation. The Winfield Daily Courier reports that petitions have been placed at businesses throughout the city seeking signatures from people opposed to parole for William P. Kessinger. Kessinger and Clifford Eugene Cox both pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the death of 22-year-old Cathryn Lynne Kessinger in May 1984. According to testimony at the time, Kessinger offered Cox $1,000 to kill his wife. When Cox said he couldn't do it alone, Kessinger held his wife's hands behind her back while Cox put a rope around her neck and pulled. Both men received life sentences. Kessinger will have a parole hearing next month.


KU Reaches 6-Year, $26M Deal with Adidas

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The familiar three stripes of the German company known as "adidas" will adorn University of Kansas sports apparel through at least 2019 after the two sides agreed to renew their partnership in a deal worth in excess of $26 million. KU teams have worn adidas footwear, uniforms and accessories since 2005, when the school signed an eight-year deal for the manufacturer to provide apparel for its 18 athletic teams. Jayhawks athletic director Sheahon Zenger said Thursday "we have been extremely pleased with our partnership with adidas. ... The fact that adidas eagerly sought to extend our partnership clearly demonstrates to us their continued understanding of the tremendous value of the entire Kansas athletics program." The company has partnerships with about 70 college programs, including Notre Dame, Michigan, UCLA, Tennessee, Indiana, Nebraska and Louisville.

*note: "adidas" as a trademark is officially uncapitalized. You can learn more about the company at their website,

Missouri University Offers Tuition Break for Neighboring Counties

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Western State University is offering the equivalent of in-state tuition to students from 51 selected counties in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska, potentially saving them $6,000 per year. The university says its "Griffon Rate" will be in effect this fall. It applies to both undergraduate and graduate tuition, for new and current students. Undergraduates taking classes on the main campus in St. Joseph will save about $200 per credit hour. Regular tuition for out-of-state students is $392 per credit hour. The "Griffon Rate" will be roughly $192 per credit hour. Missouri Western says it also will continue to offer scholarships for out-of-state students who meet academic requirements, but the "Griffon Rate" can't be used in conjunction with them.

Cosmosphere Adds Motion Flight Simulator

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson is preparing to debut a motion flight simulator with a choice of six themed rides. The pod-like machine, called the "naviGATOR," will give visitors the feel of blasting off to the international space station, flying with the Navy's Blue Angels or take part in some other flight. Rides will be offered for the first time Friday. They last four minutes and cost $5 per person. Former Hutchinson resident Julie Purin won a contest to name the simulator and chose "naviGATOR," inspired by the 1986 science fiction movie "Flight of the Navigator." Cosmosphere officials had been calling it the Predator.

Kansas House Tax Chairman Defends GOP's Latest Tax Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The chairman of the Kansas House committee on taxation says it's "misleading" for Democrats to describe newly approved tax legislation as a tax increase. Republican Richard Carlson said Wednesday that the plan approved over the weekend is part of a larger tax reform effort that began last year. This year's bill cancels most of a sales tax rollback scheduled for July and adjusts income tax laws to raise an additional $777 million over the next five years. In a fundraising email, Kansas Democratic Chairwoman Joan Wagnon described the measure crafted by Republicans as "tax hikes on working Kansans." But this year's tax bill followed legislation last year cutting income taxes by $4.6 billion over the next five years. Carlson said it's "disingenuous" to suggest Kansans are paying higher taxes.

New NRA-Backed Kansas Law Seeks to Limit Lobbying

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is set to enact what appears to be a first-of-its-kind state law pushed by the National Rifle Association to restrict the use of public money on lobbying or advocacy on gun-control issues. The measure is seen as a strong statement on gun rights. But it also may be a hard-to-enforce limit on what public officials can do to advocate on either side of the gun debate. The law takes effect next month. It aims to prevent local governments and school districts from spending the state funds they receive to hire contract lobbyists to push or oppose gun-control policies at the local, state or federal level. The state also couldn't hire lobbyists on gun-control issues in Washington. The NRA sees the law as a model for other states.


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