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Regional Headlines for Thursday, March 14, 2013


Kansas Senate Passes Revised Income, Sales Tax Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has approved a bill that further cuts the state's individual income tax rates but also cancels a scheduled drop in the state sales tax. Thursday's 25-14 vote sends the measure to the House. The bill follows up on personal income tax cuts enacted last year. It's designed to stabilize the budget while allowing Gov. Sam Brownback and other Republicans to pursue their goal of eventually phasing out personal income taxes. The measure contains Brownback's plan to phase in a second round of income tax rate cuts over four years. It also keeps the sales tax at its current 6.3 percent rate, rather than letting it drop to 5.7 percent in July as provided by law. It also phases out income tax deductions as rates decline.


Kansas House GOP Uncertain About Sales Tax Proposal

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House Republicans acknowledge they're split over canceling a planned decline in the state sales tax. Several Republicans said Thursday they're willing to consider the idea if it allows the state to pursue more cuts in personal income taxes. But House Taxation Committee Chairman Richard Carlson says the proposal is unlikely to pass. The 6.3 percent sales tax is set to drop to 5.7 percent in July. The proposal to cancel it is part of Governor Sam Brownback's plan for following up on massive personal income tax cuts enacted last year. He wants to stabilize the budget while phasing in additional income tax rate reductions over the next four years. House Speaker Ray Merrick also doubts Brownback's proposal will pass but says he's counting votes.


Kansas Governor Says Options Limited in Tax Debate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says options for Kansas legislators are limited as they struggle with his proposal to cancel a sales tax decrease to stabilize the budget and allow the state to pursue further income tax cuts. Brownback said Thursday that he's trying to protect education funding and core state services while following up on income tax reductions enacted last year. He said he's willing to negotiate, but pursuing both goals restricts lawmakers' choices. The governor made his comments as the Senate prepared to take final action on a bill containing his proposal to phase in further reductions in personal income tax rates over the next four years. The bill keeps the sales tax at 6.3 percent rather than dropping it to 5.7 percent in July as planned.


Kansas Senate Approves Legislation Ending Union Paycheck Deductions

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has approved legislation barring public employee unions from deducting money from members' paychecks to help finance political activities. Thursday's 24-16 vote sends the bill back to the House to consider changes made by the Republican-led Senate. Proponents argued the measure would protect members of public employee unions from having part of their pay funneled to candidates or causes they oppose. Supporters also said state and local government agencies processing payrolls shouldn't be entangled in such transactions. Opponents argued the bill was unnecessary because union members must agree to any deductions. Public employee unions said the measure is meant to hurt their fundraising. They called it an attempt by many Republicans to undermine groups that overwhelmingly support Democrats.


Kansas House Gives Approval to 3 Gun Laws

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has approved three proposals to alter the state's gun regulations, including expanding the locations where concealed weapons could be carried. The bills passed with broad support Thursday and head to the Senate for consideration. One measure would let school districts and state colleges designate employees who could carry concealed firearms inside their buildings, even if such weapons were banned for others. The bill also would expand the number of public buildings where people with a state permit could bring concealed weapons, including the Statehouse. Another measure declares that the federal government cannot regulate firearms manufactured, sold and kept in Kansas. The proposals are a reaction to discussions about new federal gun-control measures after December's school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Kansas Senate Debating Union Paycheck Deductions Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill prohibiting public employee unions in Kansas from deducting money from members' paychecks to help finance political activities is advancing in the Legislature. The Senate is scheduled to debate the measure Thursday. The GOP-dominated chamber is expected to pass it. Supporters of the bill say they want to prevent public employee unions from funneling money deducted from members' paychecks to candidates or causes opposed by those members. They also contend that state and local government agencies processing payrolls shouldn't be entangled in such transactions. Opponents argue there's no need for the legislation because union members must agree to any deductions. Public employee unions say the measure is meant to hurt their fundraising and is another politically motivated attempt by many Republicans to undermine groups that overwhelmingly support Democrats.


Government Seeks to Unseal Abortion Case Filing

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Justice Department has asked a judge to make public a Kansas anti-abortion activist's communications with the killer of Wichita abortion provider George Tiller. The government's request Thursday to unseal its filing comes a day after the court refused to shield Angel Dillard's contacts with murderer Scott Roeder. Prosecutors argue it's in the public interest for court proceedings to be conducted transparently whenever possible. U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth Gale initially ordered the filing under seal until he decided whether Dillard's communications were protected by ministerial privilege. Gale later ruled they are not because the Valley Center woman is not an ordained minister. The sealed filing purportedly includes about 10 pages of letters obtained by the FBI that Dillard sent Roeder. The government sued Dillard for sending an allegedly threatening letter to a Wichita doctor.


Obama: Keystone XL Pipeline Not Major Jobs Creator

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has told House Republicans he's still weighing a decision on the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Texas. At a closed-door gathering with the Republicans on Wednesday, Obama said jobs numbers and other benefits touted by supporters are probably exaggerated, but he did not rule out a decision to approve the pipeline, according to participants. Nebraska Republican Representative Lee Terry said Obama appeared "conflicted" on the pipeline, saying many of the promised jobs would be temporary, and that much of the oil would likely be exported. But Terry said Obama also indicated that dire environmental consequences predicted by pipeline opponents were exaggerated. Terry, who supports the pipeline, said he wished Obama's comments were less negative, but he was still hopeful the project would be approved.

Kansas-Owned Casino Revenue Rises in February

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Lottery says gambling revenue at all three state-owned casinos in the state rose in February. The lottery announced Wednesday the Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane made just under $17 million for the month, up from $16.4 million in January. The Boot Hill Casino brought in $3.24 million in February, compared with $3.1 million the previous month, and the Hollywood Casino in Kansas City had $10.4 million, an increase from $10.1 million. The Wichita Eagle reports that the three casinos brought in a total of $30.6 million in February, an increase from $29.6 million in January. The increase came despite a short month that included two major snowstorms.

Russell to Seek Water Release from Reservoir

RUSSELL, Kan. (AP) — The city of Russell will ask the state to release water from the Cedar Bluff Reservoir to recharge its wells along the Smoky Hill River near Pfeifer. The council voted Tuesday to support the request from Russell public works director Arlyn Unrein. Russell owns the rights to 2,000 acre-feet of water in the lake. Unrein says he will ask for an initial release of 250 cubic feet per second and then slow the release as the water heads downstream. He anticipates the city will need 1,000 to 1,200 acre-feet of water. The Hays Daily News reports that the date of the release has not been determined. Russell's request comes about two weeks after water was released from the reservoir to recharge wells belonging to the city of Hays.

Kansas Couple Faces Felony Charges in Nebraska

TECUMSEH, Neb. (AP) — A couple suspected in a Kansas slaying and suspected of shooting at Nebraska law officers have been charged with attempted murder. The Beatrice Daily Sun reports that 33-year-old Michael Engstrom and 34-year-old Jamie Engstrom were arraigned on Wednesday in southeast Nebraska's Johnson County. Michael Engstrom faces 21 felony counts, including five of attempted second-degree murder. Jamie Engstrom, who also is known as Jamie Russell, faces a dozen counts. Authorities suspect Engstrom in a double shooting in Topeka on February 13 that killed Ricky Mitchell and wounded a woman. Police believe Engstrom robbed a convenience store in Pawnee City, Neb., hours later. Authorities say that when Nebraska officers tried to stop the couple, Engstrom fired at them, wounding one. The high-speed chase ended when their car became stuck.


KC to Host Civil Rights Group's Convention in 2015

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A national Hispanic civil rights group that pulled an earlier event out of Kansas City, Missouri to protest the appointment of a member of an anti-immigrant group to a local board has picked the city for its 2015 convention. The National Council of La Raza said Thursday that Mayor Sly James will attend a formal announcement on Monday. NCLR opted to hold its 2009 convention in Chicago after former Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser appointed a member of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps to the city parks board. The organization advocates patrolling the Mexican border and reports illegal immigrants to authorities. The appointee resigned in 2008. Convention officials estimated the 2009 event would have brought $5 million into the Kansas City economy and filled 5,000 hotel rooms.


Dogs Found in Possible Iowa Puppy Mill; Owner Believed to Be Kansan

NEOLA, Iowa (AP) — Pottawattamie County (Iowa) officials have seized 19 dogs from what one official is calling a "puppy mill." Animal Control Director Corbin Ranslem says the dogs were seized on Wednesday at a Neola home. The dogs had been living in wire kennels inside a stinky garage at the home. Ranslem says the smell from the feces and urine was horrible. County Supervisor Loren Knauss says the dogs are believed to be owned by a Kansas man. The man has 10 days to appear before a judge to prove the dogs are his and that he deserves to get them back. Knauss says that otherwise the dogs will be put up for adoption. Knauss says he wants to "make sure this puppy mill owner doesn't get these dogs back."


Topeka Man Admits Writing Thousands of Bad Checks

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Topeka business owner has admitted writing thousands of bad checks that prosecutors say inflated his bank balances by more than $600,000. The U.S. Attorney's office says 48-year-old John Charles Humpage pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to one count of bank fraud. He faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine at his sentencing, scheduled for June 10. Humpage did business under various names, including Crescent Limousine and Yellow Cab of Topeka. Prosecutors say Humpage engaged in a check-kiting scheme over four months in 2008, depositing more than 5,000 bad checks in bank accounts and withdrawing the money before the checks bounced.

Olathe Man Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An Olathe business owner pleaded guilty to not paying more than $370,000 in taxes that he owed the federal government. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says in a news release that 41-year-old Marcos Bowman, the owner BCK Drywall, pleaded guilty Wednesday to tax evasion on his tax returns for 2007-2009. His gross receipts for commercial drywall work totaled more than $7.9 million during those years. Bowman failed to pay $373,473 he owed on those receipts. Grissom says Bowman used his company's bank account for personal expenses, including cars and a $355,000 home. He also didn't send tax forms to subcontractors so they could accurately report their pay. He will be sentenced June 17.

Convicted Iowa Killer Paroled; Must Live in Kansas

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa man who served 17 years of a 50-year murder sentence has left prison on parole. Iowa Department of Corrections spokesman Fred Scaletta says Brian Davis was released on Wednesday. Under the terms of Davis's parole, he must stay with relatives in Olathe, Kansas; obey all laws; and get a job. His parole will be supervised by Kansas officials. Davis was convicted of second-degree murder for killing Julie Baack. The 23-year-old Baack disappeared from her Le Mars apartment in 1992. Her remains were found east of Onawa three years later. Davis and Baack were dating at the time of her death. Davis originally was scheduled to be released on parole in 2018, but in January the Iowa Parole Board granted Davis an early release.

Sheriff: Sedgwick County Deputy Released from Hospital

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Sedgwick County sheriff says a deputy who was shot in the eye following a chase is out of the hospital. KAKE-TV reports that Sheriff Jeff Easter said the 33-year-old deputy was released Wednesday from Wesley Medical Center, where he underwent surgery. The deputy was shot Monday night after a chase that began when he tried to stop a car for traffic violations. Authorities say the car sped off, and the deputy later found it abandoned near Potwin in Butler County. He was shot while searching for the suspects. A Kansas Highway Patrol trooper joined the search and shot a male suspect, who remains hospitalized in serious condition. A woman who was also in the car is in custody. Both suspects are from Gardner.

Feds Seek to Medicate Fake-Bomb Suspect for Trial

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal judge is considering a request by prosecutors to forcibly medicate a man accused taking fake explosives through a security checkpoint at Kansas City International Airport on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. Prosecutors say 48-year-old Anthony Falco, who has schizophrenia, has been found incompetent to stand trial, but he's not a danger to himself or others so he doesn't qualify for involuntary commitment. They want to force him to take his medication so he will be fit to stand trial. If the judge refuses to allow that, prosecutors could be forced to dismiss charges. Falco's attorney told U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Hays on Thursday that he has been in custody 18 months and even if convicted might not be sentenced to more than two years.


Work Progressing on New Wichita Airport Terminal

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Officials in Wichita say construction of a new terminal at Mid-Continent Airport is ahead of schedule. Members of the City Council and Mayor Carl Brewer toured the site Thursday. Construction of the $160 million terminal began in October and is expected to be complete in 2015. The terminal will replace one built in 1954. Wichita Airport Authority director Victor White says the existing terminal is among the oldest in the country and "functionally obsolete." KAKE-TV reports that the new terminal will have 12 gates as well as exhibits showcasing Wichita's aviation history. The project is being financed with airport user fees and federal funds.


2 Salina-Area Foundations Receive Big Gifts

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Two central Kansas foundations have each received large gifts to help continue their charitable work. The Community Foundation for Cloud County says it received $1.7 million from the estate of Dale and Mary Jane Cool, lifelong residents of the county. The money doubles the size of the foundation. Foundation officials say the bequest will provide annual grants totaling $100,000 to support six charities that benefit Cloud County residents. And the Russell County Area Community Foundation says it received a $1 million gift from the Starr F. Schlobohm Trust. The money will go to the Joshua Scholarship Fund endowment, which helps Russell County students pursue higher education. The Salina Journal reports that both foundations are affiliates of the Greater Salina Community Foundation.


Federal Officials Charge 8 Following Poaching Investigation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Eight people face federal charges accusing them of illegally trafficking in paddlefish caviar from western Missouri.  The U.S. Justice Department said Thursday about 100 people were also issued citations in the investigation into the illegal commercialization of Missouri paddlefish and their eggs for caviar. Paddlefish are protected by federal and Missouri law.The investigation by the Missouri Department of Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spanned nine states, including Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Illinois and New Jersey. Paddlefish are prized for their eggs, which can be processed into caviar. Conservation officials say a pregnant paddlefish can have about 20 pounds of eggs, and that those eggs can be sold for about $35 an ounce. The eight men are charged with violating a federal wildlife protection law.


McLemore Leads No. 7 KU Jayhawks Past Texas Tech

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Ben McLemore scored 24 points to lead the number 7-ranked University of Kansas Jayhawks to a 91-63 rout of Texas Tech on Thursday, setting up an intriguing date with Iowa State in the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament. KU, the regular season conference co-champion, was pushed by Texas Tech in their meeting in Lubbock earlier this season, but used a big run early in the second half to put this one away early. The Jayhawks (27-5) shot 66 percent from the field (31 of 47), the best mark by any team in a Big 12 tournament game, in advancing to face the Cyclones on Friday night. KU needed overtime to beat them in both of their regular-season games. Dejan Kravic scored 20 points, Dusty Hannahs added 15 and Jordan Tolbert had 13 for the Red Raiders (11-20).


UPDATE: AP Source: Vikings Agree to Terms with Ex-KC QB Matt Cassel

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A person with knowledge of the deal says the Minnesota Vikings have agreed to terms with quarterback Matt Cassel. The Vikings and Cassel came to agreement on Thursday, the same day he was formally released by the Kansas City Chiefs with two years left on his contract. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal, first reported by Fox Sports, has not been announced. Cassel spent the last four years in Kansas City. He completed 58 percent of his passes for 1,796 yards with six touchdowns and 12 interceptions in nine games last year. Cassel will replace Joe Webb as Christian Ponder's backup. Ponder has been inconsistent his first two seasons, but GM Rick Spielman said when the season ended that Ponder is the starter for 2013.


Chiefs Agree to Terms with CB Sean Smith

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs have agreed to terms with cornerback Sean Smith on a three-year deal to help shore up the secondary. Smith has spent the past four seasons with the Miami Dolphins, starting every game each of the past two years. He has 177 tackles and five interceptions in his career. The Chiefs have been bold players in free agency under new general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid, revamping their offense by trading for quarterback Alex Smith and signing wide receiver Donnie Avery, tight end Anthony Fasano and backup quarterback Alex Smith. They've also signed defensive tackle Mike DeVito and veteran cornerback Dunta Robinson, who is expected to provide depth. But the addition of Smith solidifies the cornerback spot opposite Brandon Flowers.


Sporting KC Loans 4 Players to Orlando City

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Sporting Kansas City has agreed to loan four of the MLS club's players to Orlando City, the team's new minor league affiliate in the USL Pro league. Goalkeeper Jon Kempin, defender Yann Sango'o, midfielder Christian Duke and forward Dom Dwyer were to join Orlando City on Thursday to prepare for that club's season opener April 7. Sporting KC reached a two-year agreement with Orlando City in January, providing an avenue for players who don't see regular action with Sporting KC to get meaningful time in competitive games. Orlando City has won the Commissioner's Cup the past two years for the best regular-season record in its league. The club will also participate in the U.S. Open Cup, a tournament that Sporting KC won last season.


Chiefs Cut Matt Cassel with 2 Years Left on Deal

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Chiefs have cut ties with quarterback Matt Cassel, who lost his starting job to Brady Quinn last season and then watched Kansas City trade for Alex Smith to be his replacement. The move Thursday came less than 24 hours after Smith was introduced at Arrowhead Stadium. Cassel was the first major acquisition by the Chiefs under previous general manager Scott Pioli, and he was quickly given a six-year, $63 million contract. But after leading the Chiefs to the playoffs in 2010, Cassel struggled to live up to the same expectations. He sustained a season-ending hand injury two years ago, and then lost his job to Quinn after sustaining a concussion last season, spending the rest of the year as the backup. Cassel had two years remaining on his contract.

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


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