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Regional Headlines for Thursday, May 30, 2013



UPDATE: Kansas Lawmakers Hope to Complete Work This Weekend

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislative leaders plan to have lawmakers resolve difficult tax issues and wrap up their business this weekend. Lawmakers hoped House and Senate tax negotiators would resume talks Thursday. GOP leaders have been unable to agree on adjusting the sales tax to head off budget shortfalls while the state cuts income taxes further. But House Majority Leader Jene Vickrey told other GOP lawmakers Thursday that it's time for lawmakers to work through the weekend to finish the year's business. The 6.3 percent sales tax is set by law to drop to 5.7 percent in July. An adjustment would be tied to cuts in personal income taxes. Lawmakers also are working on the next state budget of about $14.5 billion. Thursday was the 97th day of the Legislature's annual session.


Plan to Drop Kansas Sales Tax on Groceries Revived

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are considering a proposal to lower the state sales tax on groceries as part of a larger plan that also cuts income taxes. The Kansas House was expected to vote Thursday night on the measure. It was drafted by GOP Representatives Mark Hutton and Gene Suellentrop. It would cut the tax on groceries to 4.9 percent while keeping it at 6.3 percent on other items. House approval would send the measure to the Senate. The plan is similar to one the House rejected last week, but its drafters made changes. Republican Governor Sam Brownback said the idea has merit. The sales tax is scheduled by law to drop to 5.7 percent in July, but Brownback wants to keep it at 6.3 percent to offset income tax cuts.


Kansas Lawmakers Backing Off Some Higher Education Cuts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators may be rethinking proposed cuts in higher education spending as they try to finish work on budget issues. House and Senate negotiators reopened talks Thursday on a proposed $14.5 billion state budget for each of the next two fiscal years, starting in July. House members said they want to modify a deal struck nearly two weeks ago. Budget negotiators had agreed to cut higher education funding 1.5 percent during each of the next two fiscal years. Republican Governor Sam Brownback wanted no cuts, but both chambers approved cuts of different magnitudes. Lead House negotiator Marc Rhoades of Newton said fellow Republicans in his chamber now want to spare community colleges and technical colleges the 1.5 percent cut during the next fiscal year. Senators were considering the idea.


Brownback Urges Kansans to Heed Weather Warnings

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback is urging Kansas residents to remain on guard as severe weather continues in much of the state. The governor said Thursday that residents should seek cover immediately when tornado warnings are issued. Numerous tornadoes have touched down in Kansas this week. Most have caused little to no damage, but two businesses and about 20 homes were damaged or destroyed Monday night in the northeastern town of Maryville. The following night, more tornadoes in northeast Kansas caused scattered damage in Nemaha County, and about 100 cattle were killed when a twister hit Ottawa County north of Salina. Flash flood warnings were posted for parts of Kansas on Thursday as heavy rain continued to fall.

Douglas County Will Seek Exemption from Gun Law

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Douglas County Commission will ask the state for an exemption from a new law that allows concealed weapons in public buildings. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the commission voted unanimously Wednesday to seek the exemption. Commissioner Jim Flory, a former prosecutor, says counties should be able to decide individually whether to allow guns in their public buildings. He also says counties should work with the Kansas Association of Counties to get an amendment to the bill. The law requires most local governments to allow people who hold concealed-carry permits to bring handguns into public buildings, unless adequate security measures are in place. The law takes effect July 1 but counties can be exempt until January 1, 2014, if they notify the Kansas Attorney General.

Brownback Opens Kansas Summer Reading Program

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has opened the summer "Read Kansas Read" program by reading a story about ducks and rabbits to a group of children at the Statehouse. This is the second year for the program, which encourages children to read when they're not in school. State Librarian Jo Budler said more than 80,000 students took part in summer reading programs last year at public libraries throughout Kansas. Brownback's audience Thursday was made up of children from the Topeka YWCA's Kids Quest program. The governor handed out books and encouraged the children to exercise their reading muscles during the summer.

Foes Trying to Block School Standards in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Critics of multi-state, Common Core reading and math standards are pushing Kansas legislators to block their use in the state's public schools. House Speaker Ray Merrick said Thursday that some fellow Republicans want an up-or-down vote on an anti-Common Core measure. They were vocal enough that GOP House members were holding up action on a proposed state budget for each of the next two fiscal years. Common Core resulted from efforts by states to develop uniform standards for reading and math. The Kansas State Board of Education adopted the new guidelines in 2010. Critics argue the standards are a threat state control over schools and expensive to implement. But Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce said chances are slim that an anti-Common Core measure will be considered.


Sedgwick County Prosecutor: Domestic Violence Law Laudable

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett says a new Kansas domestic violence law is laudable. But Bennett also said Thursday that what works in urban areas doesn't always work in sparsely populated rural counties, where there are fewer treatment options. The law requires prosecutors to identify all crimes that have a domestic violence component, and mandates treatment for domestic violence offenders. The law took effect for counties last July and takes effect this July for municipalities. Bennett says one issue is funding. Shawna Mobly, director of a private agency called Correctional Counseling of Kansas, says offenders who cannot pay for their treatment violate their parole and go to already overcrowded jails. Mobly said Sedgwick County averages about 350 domestic violence cases each month.


Salina Girl Hospitalized After Receiving Electrical Shock

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Salina police say an 11-year-old girl is hospitalized in intensive care after she suffered an electrical shock while playing with four other children during a storm. Police Lieutenant Scott Siemsen says emergency responders found the girl lying on two in-ground electrical junction boxes at the front of the Campbell Plaza on Wednesday evening. A firefighter and other children who had been playing with her were treated at Salina Regional Health Center for less serious injuries suffered when they tried to help her. Fire Marshal Roger Williams said firefighters removed the girl from the water with a long pole. She was not breathing but was revived by firefighters performing CPR as she was taken to the hospital. The Salina Journal reports that the cause of accident is under investigation.

Patrol Identifies 4 Victims in Kansas Accident

ELLSWORTH, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says four people who died Tuesday in an accident in Ellsworth County were from Colorado. The patrol identified the victims as 54-year-old Kevin J. Dorrell; 51-year-old Debra M. Dorrell; 15-year-old Justin Turner; and 11-year-old Joe Turner, all of Aurora, Colorado. A spokeswoman for Wesley Medical Center in Wichita said Thursday 9-year-old Jonah Turner, who was pulled from the wreckage, was in critical condition. The Wichita Eagle reports that Trooper Ben Gardner says the children were brothers and the Dorrells were their grandparents and legal guardians. The family was traveling from Aurora to Mississippi when their vehicle hit a disabled semi-trailer truck that had stopped along Interstate 70 about eight miles north of Ellsworth. The truck driver was not injured.

KU Football Player Arrested on Robbery Charges

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas defensive lineman Chris Martin has been arrested on robbery charges. Jayhawks coach Charlie Weis says in a statement released Wednesday night that the school is aware of the charges and gathering facts. is reporting that Lawrence Police arrested the 21-year-old Martin earlier on Wednesday, along with former Kansas player 21-year-old Jeremiah Edwards of Garland, Texas; and 28-year-old Joshua Edwards of Lawrence, in connection with an armed robbery on May 13th. Martin, who went to high school in Aurora, Colorado, is charged with aggravated robbery, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery and kidnapping. Martin is a junior college transfer who was preparing for his first season at Kansas. He played for City College of San Francisco last year after spending his freshman season at Florida.

Kansas Co-Op Plans $42 Million Grain Storage Project

CANTON, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas co-op is planning a $42 million grain storage and loading facility that it hopes will create 18 permanent jobs. The McPherson Sentinel reports that the plant will be built in McPherson County, just outside Canton. Officials with Mid Kansas Co-op say the project will take about 10 years, with more than 150 construction jobs. The co-op says on its website the new facility will have train tracks and high-speed equipment for loading grain into rail cars. The storage facility is expected to hold more than 3 million bushels of grain. McPherson Industrial Development Company chief Brad Eilts expects the project to provide a benefit to the county of more than $330,000.

Former KC Water Dept Worker Pleads Guilty to Insurance Scam

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former employee at the Kansas City water department has pleaded guilty to taking part in a scam that defrauded an insurance member benefit program out of about $300,000. The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri said in a release Thursday that 31-year-old Michael King of Kansas City pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of wire fraud. Prosecutors allege King and other city employees defrauded Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City out of more than $300,000 through a benefit program that allowed members to accumulate points for participating in healthy activities. They received $1 for every 1,000 points earned toward a gift card or $250 debit card. King was accused of making fake submissions for 51 employees, resulting in 79 gift cards worth $12,745.

Santa Fe Trail Sites Added to Historic Register

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A half-dozen segments of the Santa Fe Trail in Kansas are now on the National Register of Historic Places. The Kansas Historical Society announced Wednesday that sites in Marion and Morton counties were placed on the list in April. Kansas now has slightly more than 1,300 places on the register. The 1,200-mile Santa Fe Trail stretched from Missouri across Kansas, Colorado and Oklahoma into New Mexico. The historical society says that before 1846, it served mainly as a trade route between the Missouri and Rio Grande rivers. Five of the segments added to the National Register are in the Cimarron National Grassland within Morton County, in far southwest Kansas. The sixth is the French Frank's Ranch segment in Marion County, located in east-central Kansas.

Boy, 10, Finds $10,000 in Kansas City Hotel Room

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 10-year-old boy found $10,000 in a drawer at a Kansas City hotel room and turned the money over to police. Tyler Schaefer found the money Saturday in the room at the Hilton airport hotel where he and his father, Cody Schaefer, were staying. The Kansas City Star reports that Cody Schaefer, a truck driver from Rapid City, South Dakota, said Tyler likes to look for things. After they checked into their room, Tyler began opening all the drawers. It wasn't long before he found the neatly stacked bills. Schaefer told his son they couldn't keep the cash because they didn't know who it belonged to. So they handed it over to police. Police said Thursday no one has come forward to claim the money, which they're holding for safekeeping.

Wichita Police Say Man Killed His Twin Brother

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a 59-year-old man is claiming he shot and killed his twin brother in self-defense. The shooting occurred Wednesday night at the west Wichita home where the brothers lived. Police say the brother called 911 and said he had shot his brother after his brother pointed a gun at him. The men lived alone at the house Wichita police Sergeant Jim Merrick said the slain main had been shot at least once in the chest and died shortly after emergency responders arrived at the home.


Kansas DA: No Charges over Stillborn Baby in Trash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Sedgwick County district attorney says no charges will be filed for now over the disposal of a baby's body in a trash bin at a Wichita shopping center. Police found the body in January at Eastgate Shopping Center. A 17-year-old girl told officers she delivered the stillborn, full-term baby at home and placed it in a trash can. A relative who didn't know about the baby later put the trash in a large bin at the shopping center. The district attorney's issued a statement Wednesday saying the case could be re-examined if new information comes to light. Police have said an autopsy showed no evidence of trauma or disease and no conclusive sign that the infant had drawn a breath.


Man Sentenced to 30 Years for Making Child Porn

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 38-year-old Kansas man was sentenced to 30 years in prison for taking pornographic photos of young children, including one that showed a naked 2-year-old boy in a roasting pan inside an oven. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom's office said Micheal D. Arnett of Roeland Park was sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty in February to one count of producing child pornography. Arnett admitted during his plea hearing that he took pictures of young children engaged in sexual activity from 2000 through the summer of 2008. Three boys in the images were ages 11, 8 and 2. When investigators arrested Arnett in May, they found disturbing online discussions on his computer in which he and other child porn talked about kidnapping and eating children.

Firefighters Battle Big Blaze in Southwest Kansas

MOSCOW, Kan. (AP) — A large grass fire in southwest Kansas has spread to thousands of bales of corn stalks stored at a facility in the Stevens County town of Moscow. KAKE-TV reports the fire broke out late Tuesday and involved about 50,000 corn stalk bales by Wednesday. Moscow Mayor Billy Bell told the station that a bioenergy company had planned to use the stalks to produce ethanol. Bell says firefighters have contained the blaze, which investigators believe was intentionally set. The mayor also says no injuries have been reported and no structures were in danger, but residents have been told to prepare to evacuate if the wind changes direction. Local farmers also have their irrigation systems on standby to help out if necessary.

Kansas Deputy's Killer Seeks to Recover Cash

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man serving a life sentence for killing a sheriff's deputy is trying to recover more than $4,500 in cash seized from his home on the day of the shooting. The Newton Kansan reports that Gregory Moore has filed a motion seeking the cash in Sedgwick County District Court. Moore was tried there on a change of venue from Harvey County, where Sheriff's Deputy Kurt Ford was shot and killed in April 2005. Moore's efforts aren't sitting well with members of the Harvey County Commission. They asked county attorney David Yoder this week to explore placing a lien on the money. Yoder estimates the county spent about $30,000 prosecuting Moore for killing Ford, wounding a second officer, firing at three other officers and kidnapping a woman.


K-State, Wichita State to Meet in NCAA Baseball Tournament

Top-seeded Kansas State has never before hosted an NCAA baseball tournament regional, but that doesn't mean there won't be a little bit of familiarity for the Wildcats this weekend. They'll open the NCAA tournament against in-state rival Wichita State. Second-seeded Arkansas takes on number 3-seed Bryant in the other opening matchup of the double-elimination regional. The winners play each other on Saturday, as do the losers. The Wildcats, the regular-season Big 12 champs, beat the Shockers twice earlier this season, but Wichita State — the 1989 national champion — has a 51-33 advantage in the all-time series. That includes a 19-18 record in games played in Manhattan.


George Brett Takes on Task of Solving Royals' Hitting Woes

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Hall of Famer George Brett has been appointed the Kansas City Royals' interim hitting coach as part of a shakeup aimed at pulling the struggling team out of its skid. The team announced the move before Thursday night's game in St. Louis. Brett has helped the Royals in spring training for years, but has turned down full-time job offers — including opportunities to manage — because he didn't want to deal with the daily grind. The Royals, mired in an eight-game losing streak, haven't scored more than three runs in their last six games. They're near the bottom of the league in runs, walks, homers, RBIs and just about every other hitting metric. Brett replaces Jack Maloof and Andre David, who have been reassigned to the minor league organization.

Kansas House GOP's Survey Results in No New Tax Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick says no new proposal on taxes has emerged from his survey of dozens of fellow Republicans. Merrick met Wednesday with House Republicans in small groups after the chamber rejected a proposal to the lower the 6.3 percent state sales tax to 6 percent in July. It's currently scheduled by law to drop to 5.7 percent on July 1st. The Stilwell Republican said afterward that House GOP leaders don't yet have a new plan. Lawmakers involved in the meetings said House Republicans expressed a variety of positions. Most Republicans want to cut personal income taxes again after reductions last year. Republican Governor Sam Brownback wants to keep the sales tax at 6.3 percent to raise new revenues and head off budget shortfalls.

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

Kansas Democrats See Trouble in GOP Impasse on Taxes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top Democrats in the Kansas Legislature are criticizing what they describe as "gridlock" among Republicans on tax issues and suggest administrative problems could result. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka and House Minority Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence said Wednesday that the Legislature's research staff sees potential complications if the 2013 session drags into June. Republican legislators can't agree on adjusting the state sales tax to raise new revenues and prevent budget shortfalls while Kansas cuts income taxes. The sales tax is 6.3 percent but is scheduled by law to drop to 5.7 percent in July. Hensley and Davis noted that the state is required by law to give retailers a month's notice of a sales tax change before collecting the new levy.


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