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Regional Headlines for Thursday, March 15, 2012



KS House Tax Cut Plan Cheaper than Initially Estimated

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ New estimates show that a sweeping tax-cut bill approved by the Kansas House would have a smaller impact on state revenues than earlier projected. Documents prepared by legislative analysts and obtained Thursday by The Associated Press put the cost of cutting income and sales taxes at nearly $334 million in the first year. Projected over five years, the cost grows to nearly $2.2 billion. The figure includes nearly $776 million from cuts in income taxes, and $1.42 billion from abolishing the sales tax on food. The documents also show that a separate tax-cut plan endorsed by a Senate committee would cost the state about $105 million in the first year. That plan is a modified version of proposals from Governor Sam Brownback.


Kansas Voter ID Law Implementation Change Now in Limbo

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ State senators aren't sure they'll vote on Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's proposal that would require new voters to prove their U.S. citizenship ahead of this year's presidential election. Testimony from opponents took up most of the Senate Ethics and Election Committee's hourlong meeting Thursday. It adjourned without taking a vote. It was the committee's last scheduled meeting of the year. Chairwoman Terrie Huntington, a Fairway Republican, said she's not sure she can schedule another meeting. Kansas has a proof-of-citizenship rule set to take effect January 1, 2013, for people registering to vote for the first time in the state. But Kobach wants to move up the effective date to June 15.  Kobach said if the committee wants to move forward, it will find a way to have another meeting.


Kansas House Panel Endorses Anti-Abortion Measure

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has endorsed legislation meant to ensure the state doesn't subsidize abortions even indirectly through tax credits and deductions. The Federal and State Affairs Committee advanced the bill Thursday after adding language addressing concerns from the University of Kansas Medical Center. Officials of the medical school worried that doctors in residency wouldn't be able to obtain abortion training and its accreditation would be in danger. The committee's action sends the bill to the House, where it is likely to pass. Kansas doesn't subsidize abortions directly, but abortion opponents want to make sure that people can't deduct abortion-related expenses from their state taxes. Abortion rights advocates see the measure as too sweeping and likely to be challenged in court.

Federal Disaster Loans Available to Those Affected in February Storms

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Residents and businesses affected by the storms in Kansas last month will be eligible for federal disaster loans. The Kansas Adjutant General's office said in a release Thursday that the U.S. Small Business Administration will make low-interest federal disaster loans available to residents and businesses affected by the tornadoes and severe storms that hit eastern Kansas on February 28. The SBA loans are available in Geary, Lyon, Morris, Osage, Pottawatomie, Riley, Shawnee and Wabaunsee Counties. An outreach center has been established in the Harveyville Public Library where SBA representatives will be on hand to help interested residents. Applicants can also apply online at SBA's web site. An EF-2 tornado destroyed nearly half of the eastern Kansas town of Harveyville. One resident was killed and more than a dozen were injured.


Hawker Beechcraft Will Keep Wichita Plant Open

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Hawker Beechcraft officials say its Wichita Plant 1 will remain open, saving hundreds of jobs.  The airline manufacturing company had previously announced that it would close two plants in Wichita and move the work to outside suppliers and to Mexico.  But it announced in a memo to union members this (THUR) morning that it expects to keep Plant 1 open, and it expects the volume of work to remain the same.  The Wichita Eagle reports the decision is part of a joint partnership between the company and the Machinists union that was forged during contract negotiations last year.  Workers in Plant I perform fabrication work, such as the production of small part assemblies.


KS Senate Panel Delays Votes on Remapping Plans

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has delayed voting until Friday on two bills redrawing state legislative districts.  The Reapportionment Committee had been scheduled to take final action on the measures yesterday (WED).  But Chairman Tim Owens, an Overland Park Republican, noted the committee needed to wrap up hearings on the measures first.  One bill adjusts the boundaries of state Senate districts to account for changes in population over the past decade.  The other bill follows a bipartisan plan for a new map of Kansas House districts. The House has already passed the measure, and — if tradition holds — the Senate will approve it without making changes.


Critics Say Kobach Not Focused on Kansas Office

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says claims by critics that his personal schedule shows he's not focused on his official duties are unfounded. Kobach made the comment Thursday following a news conference by members of Kansans Count, a coalition that opposes his legislative initiatives. The group released information gleaned from Kobach's office calendar from January 2011 through mid-February 2012. The coalition said the records show Kobach had at least 186 interviews and appearances with media organizations outside Kansas during that period. Kobach is a former law professor who's known nationally for helping to draft tough laws aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration in Alabama and Arizona. He has said that he handles such work in his spare time.


KS Mom Sentenced to Year in Prison for Young Son's Death

OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — A northeastern Kansas woman whose 4-year-old son died when her unattended car rolled over him has been sentenced to one year in jail.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 40-year-old Tammy Lynne Payne pleaded no contest in December to child endangerment and driving under the influence with a prior conviction.  She was charged after her son, Alex, died from injuries he suffered last March when the family car ran over him at their Ottawa home.  Franklin County prosecutors say Payne had been driving drunk with her children in the vehicle. When she got home, she got out of the vehicle and it rolled backward over Alex, who also had gotten out.  Payne was also fined $1,000 for the DUI conviction.


KS Committee Approves Bill on Remedial Courses

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has approved a bill that would prohibit state funds from being used for remedial courses at public colleges and universities in the state.  House Speaker Mike O'Neal, a Republican, proposed the measure, which would also cut the number of freshman class or transfer admissions who don't meet minimum admissions standards. The House Appropriations Committee approved the measure yesterday (WED), sending it to the full House.  State Rep. Barbara Ballard, a Democrat, opposed the bill, saying remedial courses are often needed to help some students.  But state Rep. Anthony Brown said the bill will encourage parents to make sure their children take college-bound courses in high school.  The Lawrence Journal World reports that in the state's regents schools, about 14 percent of entering freshmen take remedial courses.


KC Police I-D Body Found Last Week as Missing Blind Man

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police have identified a body found last week as that of a man missing since last summer.  The body of 63-year-old Richard Solis was discovered on a ledge behind his Kansas City home last week.  Solis, who was legally blind and had dementia, was reported missing by his family in August.


KS Gov Appoints Advisory Council for Medicaid Overhaul

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has appointed a 20-member council to advise his administration as it overhauls the state's $2.9 billion-a-year Medicaid program.  Council members announced yesterday (WED) include the chairwomen of the Senate and House public health committees, Sen. Vicki Schmidt, a Topeka Republican, and Rep. Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican.  Brownback also named Rep. Jerry Henry, of Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Social Services Budget Committee, and Sen. Alan Schmidt, a Hays Democrat.  Other members of the council represent health care providers and Medicaid participants.  Brownback's administration expects to issue contracts this summer to three companies to manage the Medicaid program, which provides health coverage for the poor, disabled and elderly.  The governor's office said the advisory council will have its first meeting later this month.


Hospice Care of Kansas Lays Off Workers

A Wichita-based hospice care business has laid off 28 workers after being acquired by a Texas company. Hospice Care of Kansas says the layoffs are the result of being acquired in 2010 by Harden Healthcare of Austin, Texas. Rick Breuss, a vice president for Hospice Care, told The Wichita Eagle Wednesday that most of the layoffs will occur in administrative positions. He also said the company plans to hire more caregivers, such as registered nurses and home health aides. Hospice Care has 92 employees in Wichita and 326 employees in Kansas. It says it is the largest hospice care provider in the state.


KS Senate to Approve City Debt Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate is set to approve legislation giving Junction City more flexibility in managing its debt.  The measure would give the city an additional three years to reduce the ratio of outstanding debt to its total property valuation. The limit would remain at 37 percent under the bill through June 2016.  Junction City issued bonds in the past decade to make improvements related to the return of the Army's 1st Infantry Division to Fort Riley. City officials and supporters of the debt extension said the expected level of growth didn't occur, leaving the city in financial difficulty.  The Senate gave the bill first-round approval yesterday (WED).  It cleared the House last month and would go to Governor Sam Brownback on final Senate passage.


Military School Seeks Gag Order in Abuse Lawsuit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas military school is asking a federal judge to bar the plaintiffs and lawyers in a lawsuit alleging abuse of former cadets from talking publicly about the case. Attorneys for St. John's Military School, in Salina, filed a motion Thursday seeking a gag order in the lawsuit by parents claiming their sons were repeatedly beaten by higher-ranking students in charge of discipline. U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum scheduled a Tuesday hearing on the motion. St. John's contends public discussion would prejudice its ability to get a fair trial. The school issued a statement Wednesday saying it was studying the allegations but denying the existence of a "culture of abuse." St. John's has settled nine other lawsuits filed since 2006 alleging abuse.


Defense Dept Letter Indicates Support for Kapaun Medal of Honor

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Defense Department says it supports recent legislation that allows a Kansas Army chaplain to be awarded the Medal of Honor. Jo Ann Rooney, an undersecretary of defense, told Senator Pat Roberts in a recent letter the department supports legislation that enabled Fr. Emil Kapaun's consideration for the honor. That legislation waived time restrictions on awarding the medal. Kapaun's actions took place in the Korean War. Kapaun, from Pilsen, was serving as an Army Chaplain when he died in a prison camp in 1951. He's also been classified as a Servant of God by the Vatican, the first step to sainthood. The Wichita Eagle reports that Rooney said the waiver legislation gives the President the authority to award that medal to Kapaun if he determines the award is merited.


SE Kansas Man Convicted of Murder in 2 Crash Deaths

COLUMBUS, Kan. (AP) — A southeastern Kansas man has been convicted of murder for causing a double-fatality crash while he led police on a high-speed chase for 11 miles. The Cherokee County News-Advocate reports that a jury took less than 90 minutes Thursday to find Kaston Hudgins guilty on two counts of first-degree murder. Hudgins was fleeing a Cherokee County traffic stop on July 16, 2009, when he slammed into a car driven by 41-year-old school teacher Teresa Kemp. Her 13-year-old daughter, Taylor, died at the scene on U.S. 69 south of Pittsburg. Teresa Kemp died six days later. Witnesses testified Hudgins was drunk and driving at least 98 mph when he hit Kemp's vehicle. A civil jury last year found Hudgins responsible for the crash and awarded Kemp's husband $5.7 million in damages.


Rural Economy Appears Strong in 10 States

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Higher fuel prices haven't slowed the economy much in rural areas of 10 Midwest and Plains states. A monthly survey of rural bankers showed no change in March. The overall economic index registered 59.6 again this month, and any score above 50 suggests the economy will grow. The bankers appear quite optimistic about the next six months because the confidence index rose to 63 in March from February's 60.3. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says there is still a fair amount of uncertainty about the economy, so many farmers and businesses are reluctant to expand. The hiring index rose to 60 in March from February's 53.7, suggesting businesses are hiring. The survey covers Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.


Suspect in Pittsburg Shooting Arrested

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A suspect in the death of a Pittsburg, Kansas man has been arrested in Columbia, Missouri. The Joplin Globe reports that 27-year-old Nathan Whitney was arrested Tuesday in Columbia. Whitney was being sought on first-degree murder charges in the death of Ryan Bailey, who was shot to death in Pittsburg in October 2011. Whitney, of Joplin, was also sought on two outstanding warrants. He was being held Thursday without bond on the murder charge in the Boone County jail and is awaiting extradition. Three other people have also been arrested and charged in Bailey's death.

I-70 Drug Busts Nets Marijuana, Methamphetamine

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers have seized more than 110 pounds of marijuana and two pounds of methamphetamine in two recent traffic stops. A trooper stopped and searched a 1997 Ford Expedition headed east on Interstate 70 near the Marshall Junction in Missouri on Tuesday. The trooper found 117 pounds of marijuana concealed inside the spare tire, rear fenders and the ceiling. The Kansas City Star reports two Denver residents were arrested on drug-trafficking charges in that stop. Also Tuesday, a trooper pulled over another vehicle heading east on Interstate 70 near Sweet Springs, Missouri. The trooper found two pounds of meth inside. The driver of that vehicle, a 58-year-old Sedalia resident, was arrested on a first-degree drug trafficking charge.

KC Council Delays Daytime Curfew Vote

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A Kansas City Council Committee has postponed a decision on whether Kansas City should adopt a daytime curfew for students. The Kansas City Star reports that the school district and police asked for the law to help them combat truancy and juvenile delinquency. Home school parents argued against the curfew, saying there's no evidence curfews alleviate crime and a curfew could present problems for homeschoolers who are out during daytime. The committee postponed a decision Wednesday until March 21. The current proposal would prohibit children from loitering unsupervised in a public place from 30 minutes after school starts to 30 minutes before school ends. Violators would be taken to school, placed with a parent or taken to a location until a parent or guardian could be found.


Football Game to Aid Harveyville Tornado Relief

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Ready for some football?  How about if going to a semi-pro game would help families recovering from the Harveyville tornado?  The Topeka Thunder will play the West Central Warriors of Belton, Missouri on Sunday afternoon in a benefit for Harveyville. The northeastern Kansas town sustained extensive damage and one death when it was hit February 28th by an EF-2 tornado.
The Thunder and the Warriors play in the Central Plains Football League. The semi-pro association has more than a dozen eight-man teams throughout Kansas and Missouri that play a high-scoring, arena-style of game outdoors.  Sunday's game will be played at the SportZone complex at 3909 Southwest Burlingame in Topeka. Donations of money, food, clothing and other items will be accepted for admission.


KS Secretary of State Says He Has Plan to Save Citizenship Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (KOH'-bahk) says he'll ask legislators to modify his bill to require new voters to prove their U.S. citizenship ahead of this year's presidential election.  Kobach said yesterday (WED) the changes will address concerns caused by a delay in a major state computer upgrade.  A proof-of-citizenship rule is scheduled to take effect January 1, 2013, but Kobach wants to move that forward to June 15. The rule applies to people registering for the first time in Kansas.  But a Senate committee learned yesterday (WED) that a key phase of a $40 million upgrade of state computers handling driver's license records won't be ready until August.  Senators want to be sure that information from driver's license records proving citizenship can be transferred to election officials.


31 Named in Missouri Drug Trafficking Indictment

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal grand jury in Kansas City has indicted 31 people on charges of taking part in a $1 million drug trafficking conspiracy involving methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana. The U.S. Attorney's office announced the 27-count indictment Thursday and says that several of the defendants have been arrested. Nearly all of the suspects are identified as Mexican citizens. The addresses of some are unknown, but the rest are identified as residents of western Missouri, Kansas and California. The indictment alleges that all of the defendants conspired since January 2007 to distribute illegal drugs, including at least 15 milos of meth. Other charges against some of the suspects include illegal possession of firearms and re-entering the U.S. after being deported.


KDHE Holds Twitter Chat Today on Severe Weather

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is holding a Twitter chat on severe weather preparedness.  The agency plans the live chat at 3pm today (THUR) to answer questions about severe weather and how to prepare for storms. It also plans to talk about what to do if severe weather strikes. KDHE Secretary Robert Moser says the agency wants to make sure Kansans are well-informed, and the Twitter chat is just one of the mediums available.  Kansans can ask questions by logging onto and following @KDHE and using the hashtag #ksstorms.


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