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Regional Headlines for Thursday, May 16, 2013



UPDATE: Kansas Budget Negotiations Resume

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House and Senate negotiators are working again on the 2014 and 2015 state budgets in an effort to bring the legislative session to a close. Senate Ways and Means Chairman Ty Masterson told House counterparts Thursday he's prepared to move quickly to finish the talks on roughly $14.5 billion in spending in each of the next two fiscal years. The Senate has offered to scale back from 2 percent to 1 percent its proposed cuts in funding for higher education. The House is proposing a 4 percent spending cut for public universities, community colleges and technical schools. Republican legislative leaders say they want to resolve budget issues before the two chambers work out their differences on tax cuts, the other big issue still hanging over lawmakers.


Kansas House Leader, Top Senate Democrat Skeptical on Taxes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick and Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley aren't impressed with talk from Senate Republicans that a deal on taxes is getting closer. Several top GOP senators said Thursday the two chambers are close to agreeing on cutting income taxes and canceling all or part of a scheduled sales tax decrease. Republican Governor Sam Brownback and GOP senators want to keep the sale tax at its current 6.3 percent. The House has approved a plan to let it drop to 5.7 percent in July as planned, although House Republicans offered a compromise Wednesday to set it at 6 percent. But Merrick noted that GOP senators haven't made a counter-proposal, and Hensley said he thinks Republicans remain far apart.


Kansas Negotiators Agree on Biodefense Lab Bonds

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House and Senate budget negotiators have agreed to authorize issuing $202 million in bonds to build a federal biodefense research lab in Manhattan. Negotiators agreed Thursday to allow the state to issue the bonds. Kansas previously authorized $105 million in bonds to help build the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility near Kansas State University. Governor Sam Brownback says the additional bonds will fulfill the state's obligation for the estimated $1.5 billion project. The lab will research dangerous animal diseases, replacing an aging facility on Plum Island, New York. Construction has already started.


Kansas National Guard Braces for Furloughs

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas National Guard says it will furlough about 1,100 members for up to 11 days because of federal funding shortfalls. Major General Lee Tafanelli, who heads the Kansas National Guard, said the furloughs will affect members whose jobs are federally funded, such as those in administration and logistical support. No furloughs are planned for active-duty and reserve members. The furloughs were ordered by the Defense Department. Tafanelli says they'll start July 8 at the earliest and run through September 30th. Those affected will be out of work one day a week, losing 20 percent of their pay. There are approximately 7,500 members of the Kansas Air and Army National Guard.

New Court Overhaul Plans Surface in Kansas House

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An influential Kansas legislator has outlined three new plans that would overhaul the state's two highest courts. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lance Kinzer unveiled the proposals Wednesday, a day after the Kansas Bar Association's board opposed a plan he supported. That defeated plan would've empowered the state Senate to confirm new members of the Kansas Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. One of Kinser's measures would amend the Kansas Constitution to require the same Senate confirmation. The second measure would decrease the mandatory retirement age for the courts' members from 75 to 65. And the third measure would create a new Court of Criminal Appeals and limit the Supreme Court's jurisdiction. The House Federal and State Affairs Committee agreed to sponsor Kinzer's measures. They'll likely be considered next year.


Bill Changes Land Use Rules Near Historic Sites

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate approved a bill that would rescind state restrictions on land use near state or national historic sites. Supporters say the state's involvement in developments near historic sites infringe on private property rights. Proponents say the current system allows preservation officers to investigate a project's impact on the historic site, although local or state governments can overrule their recommendations. The Senate approved the bill Wednesday and it now goes back to the House for a vote. The Wichita Eagle reports that the bill repeals state restrictions on the development or renovation of buildings within 500 feet of a historical building in a city, or 1,000 feet around sites in unincorporated areas.


Bad Weather Headed for Plains Over the Weekend

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Forecasters say portions of the central United States could see severe weather this weekend and Monday. The Storm Prediction Center at Norman, Oklahoma said Wednesday a bout of "fairly substantial" bad weather is possible in Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas on Saturday, from Oklahoma to Iowa on Sunday and from Oklahoma to Illinois on Monday. Storms could become steadily worse through the period — starting with hail and high winds Saturday and evolving into a system with tornadoes possible by Monday in Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. The bad weather could extend into Tuesday but forecasters said a longer term storm prediction was not possible yet.


12-Year-Old Boy Pulled from Topeka Pool Dies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police say a 12-year-old boy from Fort Riley has died after he was pulled from a Topeka hotel's pool. The boy, Dalton Register, went under the water while swimming at the pool at Ramada West last Friday. Topeka police said resuscitation measures were tried immediately after he was taken from the pool. Dalton was hospitalized and police said Thursday he had died, but they did not say when. Additional details weren't available.

Father of Slain Kansas Toddler Grieves in Missouri Jail

LEBANON, Mo. (AP) — The father of an 18-month-old girl who was killed along with three adults on a southeast Kansas farm says he's partly to blame for putting his estranged wife and their toddler in harm's way. Shawn Patrick Bailey is in a Lebanon, Missouri jail preparing for a nine-year prison sentence on a burglary conviction. He told the Lawrence Journal-World that his addiction to drugs led him to commit crimes, which caused Kaylie Bailey to leave him. Shawn Bailey was behind bars when he found out Kaylie Bailey was killed and their baby was missing. He says he blames himself for introducing Kaylie to Andrew Stout, whose Ottawa, Kansas home is where Kaylie and Lana-Leigh Bailey, Stout and Steve White were killed. Kyle Flack has been charged with the killings.


Judge Rules Former Kansas Doctor a Danger to Community

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal magistrate judge says she is keeping a former Kansas doctor in federal custody to assure the safety of the community. U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Humphreys issued a written order Thursday outlining her findings a day earlier to keep Lawrence Simons in jail pending trial. He was charged Monday with unlawful possession of a firearm. Simons has a 2010 felony conviction for unlawfully distributing prescription drugs. Prosecutors allege Simons used a gun to partially pay a bondsman who bailed him out of jail last month in a criminal threat case. Humphreys cited Simons's history of domestic violence, including recordings of jailhouse phone calls in which he was verbally abusive and threatening with his 16-year-old son. She also says he has failed to comply with conditions of supervision.

Judge Approves Consent Decree for Salina Base

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Although a federal judge has approved a consent decree involving the cleanup at the former Schilling Air Force Base in Salina, cleanup at the site is still years away. The Salina Journal reported Wednesday that the judge approved the joint settlement agreement between Salina authorities and the federal government. The approval is another step in an 18-year conflict over the cost of cleaning up contaminated groundwater and soil at a former Air Force base. The decree essentially starts the process of making a plan for the environmental cleanup of a plume of pollution that is moving toward the city's water wells The federal government will pay more than $8.4 million of the nearly $9.4 million cost to map the operation. The city of Salina will pay the remaining $936,300.


KSU to Build New Residence Hall, Dining Center

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University has been given approval to build a new residence hall, renovate two others and replace a dining center. The Kansas Board of Regents voted Wednesday to approve the $70 million project. The new 450-bed facility will open in the fall of 2015 along with a new dining center that will be connected to the existing Marlatt and Goodnow halls. The university also plans to renovate those two residence halls and use the dining center that now serves them to house a generator. The university is projecting that demand for on-campus housing will outstrip capacity in coming years. A news release described the project as the university's most significant residence hall upgrades in more than 45 years. Funding will come from housing fees and revenue bonds.

Grant Aimed at Helping Improve Cattle Resiliency

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University scientists are part of a multistate partnership receiving a $9.6 million, five-year grant to find ways for cattle producers to adapt to climate extremes in their grazing operations. Kansas State agronomy professor and team leader Chuck Rice says the project's goal is to increase the resiliency of beef cattle operations on grazing lands and wheat pastures. He says reaching that goal could help cattle operations remain productive through a range of potential climate changes. The researchers will work with ranchers and farmers to evaluate management practices and suggest changes to improve resiliency. Sharing the grant with K-State are Oklahoma State University, the University of Oklahoma, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, the Noble Foundation and Tarleton State University in Texas.


Preliminary Hearing Set for Salina Murder Suspect

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A preliminary hearing to determine if there's enough evidence to try a man in the death of a Salina woman is set for August 1. KSAL-AM reports that 24-year-old Joel Heil appeared via closed-circuit video Thursday morning in Saline County District Court. He's charged with first-degree murder in the death of 27-year-old Kristin Tyler. The mother of four was missing two weeks before her body was found May 9 in a ravine off Interstate 135 in rural Saline County. The preliminary hearing was scheduled for August to give Heil's attorney, Julie Effenbeck, time to gather information about the case, including obtaining autopsy results. Heil also faces felony drug and battery charges in an unrelated case. He's jailed on a $1 million bond.


Low-Performing KC Charter School to Close

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City, Missouri charter school that's about to lose state funding is closing at the end of the month. The Missouri State Board of Education refused this week to renew a charter contract for Gordon Parks Elementary, citing its low academic performance. That means the flow of state funding to the school will end as of June 30. Gordon Parks serves about 240 kindergartens through fifth-graders. Its sponsor, the University of Central Missouri, says it's working to place the students in new schools so they continue their education in the fall. The university said the school had displayed "many positive attributes." But Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education spokeswoman Sarah Potter said the school is one of the lowest-performing in the state.

Brown v. Board Site to Mark Anniversary of Ruling

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Brown v. Board of Education National Historic site in Topeka will display a black doll used in a series of famous race studies to mark the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The case that toppled segregated education was decided 59 years ago Friday. In the 1940s and 1950s, psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark presented children with a black doll and a white doll as part of social science experiments. The married black couple then asked the children which doll was the nicest, smartest and prettiest. Most chose the white doll. The Clarks testified about the results in a South Carolina school desegregation case. That case was combined with other desegregation cases from Topeka, Virginia, Delaware and Washington, D.C. and were argued collectively before the Supreme Court.


Dow to Appeal $1.2 Billion Damages Order

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge is ordering Dow Chemical Company to pay $1.21 billion in damages after it lost a class-action lawsuit that accused it of conspiring to fix prices. Dow says it will appeal. The February 20 jury verdict in federal court in Kansas City, Kansas called for Dow to pay $400 million in damages. The jury decided that Dow had participated in a price-fixing conspiracy for the chemical urethane, which is used in a wide variety of products. Dow had asked the judge for a new trial, and also to force the plaintiffs to try their cases individually. Both requests were denied. The final order by judge John W. Lungstrum filed on Wednesday includes a tripling of the jury verdict, as called for by U.S. antitrust law.

Children's Mercy Touts New Way to Estimate Weight

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Children's Mercy researchers have come up with a new way to estimate the weight of young patients in time-sensitive situations. The new method involves measuring the length and circumference of the upper arm. It's called Mercy TAPE, which is short for taking the guesswork out of pediatric weight estimation. Such estimates are used to determine things like how much medicine to give patients. The estimates also help medical staff determine whether children are growing normally. Children's Mercy says its researchers have confirmed that this method works just as well with children who are underweight, normal weight and obese. International studies also have demonstrated that it performs as well in children from Africa and Asia. Information about the weight estimation method has been published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.


Missouri Students Returning from SC Weight Loss Program

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Students from a suburban Kansas City school district will be nearly 600 pounds lighter when they return Friday from the spring semester at a weight-loss boarding school in South Carolina. That amount brings the Independence students' total weight loss for the school year to 1,342 pounds. This is the first year that the Independence district has sent students to MindStream Academy in the southern South Carolina town of Bluffton. Twelve students completed the first semester at the school. Of those students, nine returned for the spring semester and were joined by six new students. Aspiring Marine Jason Alexander was the biggest loser, shedding 154 pounds over two semesters. Funding for the $28,500-per-semester tuition came from the school district, donors, the students' families and a foundation associated with the academy.


Liberty Man Sentenced in Death of Young Daughter

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A northwest Missouri man was sentenced to 20 years in prison for causing his 3-week-old daughter's death. Thirty-year-old Tristan R. Williams of Liberty was sentenced Thursday for second-degree murder in the March 2010 death of his daughter. Williams initially told police that two cats pushed his daughter over while she was in a bouncing chair. The Kansas City Star reports that investigators found no evidence that the child had fallen. They said her injuries were from non-accidental trauma, and she had several fractures, bruises, retinal hemorrhage and swelling of the brain.

Lyons Man Sentenced in Child Molestation Case

LYONS, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas man has been sentenced to more than 17 years in prison for the sexual abuse of a child. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced Wednesday that 34-four-year-old Jeffrey S. Redding of Lyons was sentenced to 210 months in prison for rape and aggravated indecent liberties with a child. He pleaded no contest to the charges in February. Redding also will have to register as a sex offender for life, and have lifetime post-release supervision and electronic monitoring. The Hutchinson News reports that Rice County District Court records indicate the crimes occurred in May 2010. Other charges were dismissed as part of Redding's plea agreement. The age and gender of Redding's victim were not released.


KU's Self to Be Honored at Dick Vitale Fundraising Gala

Dick Vitale's fight against cancer is nearing a major milestone. Vitale says he expects to top the $10 million mark with his eighth annual celebrity gala in Sarasota, Florida on Friday night. The event will honor former Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden, former University of Connecticut basketball coach/cancer survivor Jim Calhoun, and University of Kansas basketball coach Bill Self. The gala raises money for the V Foundation in honor of the late Jim Valvano. Net proceeds go to pediatric cancer research. Vitale says the night "has gone way beyond my dreams." More than 70 sports celebrities are scheduled to attend, including Florida coach Billy Donovan, Kentucky coach John Calipari, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, Miami coach Jim Larranaga and Florida State coaches Jimbo Fisher (football) and Leonard Hamilton (basketball).

Haslam Says He Was Unaware of Rebate Issues

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam says he was "absolutely not" aware of and did not participate in the practices that led to the federal investigation into his Pilot Flying J company. Haslam, who bought the Browns last year, says he takes responsibility for what happens at his company, a truck-stop chain that is the nation's largest diesel fuel retailer. He says as soon as they found out what happened, they took "an aggressive stance" toward fixing it. Federal investigators allege that Pilot deliberately withheld rebates to boost profits. Haslam was in Indianapolis to speak at a transportation seminar. This was his first public question and answer session since the FBI raided company headquarters April 15. Haslam answered predetermined questions asked by former Kansas governor and American Trucking Associations president Bill Graves.


Kansas GOP Lawmakers Huddle on Taxes, Change Tactics

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republicans in the Kansas Senate say they're close to reaching a deal on tax issues with their counterparts in the House, but actual negotiations between the two chambers are on hold. Senate GOP leaders said Thursday that they want the two chambers to agree first on a state budget of roughly $14.5 billion for the fiscal year beginning July 1, then resolve tax issues. That's a reversal of tactics. Republicans in the GOP-dominated Legislature had said they'd resolve tax issues first. Republican senators met Thursday with GOP House members. Repeatedly, senators said they saw movement on taxes. Their comments came a day after House Republicans outlined a compromise for cutting income taxes and cancelling part of a scheduled decrease in the state sales tax.

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


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