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Regional Headlines for Thursday, May 31, 2012




Kansas Revenues Miss May Estimate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Revenue Department says the state collected nearly $27 million less in taxes than expected in May. The agency reported Thursday that May's tax collections totaled slightly more than $564 million. Economists and researchers had forecast last month that May revenues would total nearly $591 million. Officials attributed the lower-than-expected figure to a slowing of growth in individual income tax receipts. Still, Kansas Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan says revenues through the first 10 months of the current fiscal year totaled $5.4 billion — an increase of 8 percent over the same period a year ago.


Filing Deadline For Kansas Candidates Looms, Despite Redistricting Lawsuit 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Candidates for local offices in Kansas have until Friday to file for the August primary. Their races are not affected by the current controversy over political boundaries. The maps for Kansas legislative seats, four U.S. House seats and the State Board of Education are up to a three-judge panel in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas. The judges are considering two days of testimony that ended Wednesday before they decide where the new districts should be placed. The court case has no bearing on county level races, which are based on defined county and precinct boundaries. Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Thursday that candidates for those offices must file by noon Friday to secure a place on the ballot. Legislative and congressional candidates have until June 11.


State Offers Grace Period for Vehicle Tags

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansans whose vehicle tags expired in May are getting a break from the state. The Kansas Department of Revenue and Kansas law enforcement agencies say people whose car tags expire as of May 31 will have until June 29 to renew them. The grace period was prompted by long delays earlier this month after a new vehicle title and registration system was installed across the state. Officials said that for 30-day permits, the cardboard style permit can be displayed on vehicles. For 30-day permits that expired any time in May, there will be a grace period through June 29.


Kansas Communities Recovering from Storms

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Crews are working in several Kansas communities to restore power, remove broken trees and repair minor damage from hail and high winds that smacked the state. The most serious damage from Wednesday night's weather was reported near the town of Silver Lake, northwest of Topeka. Shawnee County's emergency management director said straight-line winds destroyed a Baptist church under construction. In Wichita, the city-owned Sim Park Golf Course was closed Thursday while crews replaced hundreds of divots created by hailstones. About 15,000 customers of Westar Energy in scattered communities lost power during the storms. Most had electricity restored by midday Thursday. But one fixture that kept working overnight was a tornado siren in southern Wichita, even though no tornado warnings were posted. The malfunctioning siren blared repeatedly for more than five hours.

Wichita School Contract Talks Reach Impasse

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita School District and its teachers union have declared an impasse in contract talks following a heated negotiation session that district officials called adversarial. The Wichita Eagle reports the district will seek federal mediation to settle the contract dispute with its 4,000 teachers after talks broke down Wednesday. Negotiations began in March on a new contract to take effect in August. Major sticking points have included teacher evaluations, lesson plans, dress codes and classroom discipline. A lawyer for the district, Tom Powell, says the union started the negotiations on a negative note by insisting on recording the talks.

Quality, Yield Mixed Across Kansas Wheat Harvest

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas farmers are finding wide variations in quality and yield after nearly a week of the winter wheat harvest. The latest daily bulletin put out Wednesday by industry groups reported the harvest 30 percent complete in Pratt County. The elevator in Iuka reports good yields in that area, with most fields averaging between 40 and 45 bushels per acre. Farmers around Hoisington in Barton County have been cutting for four days, and the crop in that area is not doing as well as expected. But farther east around Marion, where the harvest is about 25 percent complete, the local elevator reports crop quality is good. Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reported this week that the harvest is the earliest in the state since it started collecting data in 1952.

Nebraska High Court Refuses to Hear Challenge to Pipeline Siting Rules

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Nebraska Supreme Court has refused to hear a direct challenge to the state's new pipeline siting law. The Lincoln (NE) Journal Star reports that the court on Wednesday declined to take quick action. Pipeline opponents had hoped the court would use its power of original jurisdiction. The lawsuit filed May 23 by three Nebraska landowners along TransCanada's proposed pipeline route argues that the law outlining the review process is unconstitutional. The pipeline opponents say the law doesn't allow for judicial review and doesn't spell out what criteria should be considered when a proposed pipeline is being evaluated. TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL project is designed to carry oil from Canada across Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, with a link to Montana and North Dakota oil fields.

Sentencing Delayed for Former VP in Topeka Bank Fraud 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The president and CEO of Heritage Bank in Topeka says a fraud scheme cost the bank $712,145 last year. Ernie Beaudet testified about the loss Wednesday at a hearing for 40-year-old Jennifer Hughes-Boyles, a former vice president at the bank. Hughes-Boyles pleaded guilty in February to fraud. Hughes-Boyles was scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday. But the sentencing was delayed after attorneys received new reports on the bank's losses and real estate appraisals earlier in the day. A judge gave attorneys 10 days to submit briefs before setting a new sentencing date. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports she faces a maximum sentence of 30 years and a $1 million fine. Hughes-Boyles remains free on bond until sentencing.


Riley County Seeks Woman Connected to Person of Interest in 1977 Murder

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Riley County police are asking for help finding the ex-wife of a person of interest in a 1977 Manhattan homicide. The police department wants to speak with the ex-wife of Dewayne Murrell, also known as "Cornbocker." Police said in a news release Thursday that Murrell is believed to have died in the 1980s. The release says the woman's first name might be Wynonna and she might be living in New York. The woman also might have an uncle known as Dennis White, who might also be dead. The police say they want to ask the woman for information about the murder of Warren "Tiger" Lewis, whose body was discovered Aug. 4, 1977, at the North Crest Trailer Park. Police did not indicate why they wanted to speak to the woman.


Judge Gives Preliminary Approval to Herbicide Settlement

BENTON, Ill. (AP) — A federal judge in southern Illinois has given preliminary approval to a $105 million settlement between Syngenta and community water systems in six states over one of the chemical maker's popular agricultural herbicides. U.S. District Judge J. Phil Gilbert on Wednesday ruled that the deal announced last week appears to be "a good compromised result for the parties." The agreement would settle a nearly 8-year-old lawsuit over weed-killing atrazine and help reimburse nearly 2,000 community water systems that have had to filter the chemical from their drinking water. An attorney behind the lawsuit says those water systems serve more than 52 million Americans in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri and Ohio. Syngenta says it agreed to settle the matter "to end the business uncertainty" and avoid further legal costs.


EPA Raises Concerns About Keystone Pipeline Near U.S. Gulf Coast

HOUSTON (AP) — A Canadian company seeking to build a pipeline to transport crude oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries has submitted a new application for the southern segment of the project that avoids sensitive wetlands in Texas. It comes after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency raised concerns. Army Corps of Engineers official Vicki Dixon says Thursday that TransCanada submitted a new permit application in April after the EPA sent a letter in November requesting a more rigorous review process. She says the EPA was concerned the pipeline would impact sensitive wetland habitat in Galveston. The new route avoids the wetlands. TransCanada will drill horizontally under the watershed in some cases. The EPA will not be involved in the review. The Keystone XL project has created tensions between the U.S. and Canada.


UPDATE: National Spelling Bee Contestants Narrowed Down to Nine

OXON HILL, Md. (AP) _ The finalists in the Scripps National Spelling Bee have been chosen. Two Kansas students were among the semifinalists. Lawrence 8th grader Emma Steimle was eliminated in the fifth round on the word "Schwyzer." 10-year-old Vanya Shivashankar of Olathe was eliminated in the sixth round, on the word "pejerrey"...that's a kind of fish. But Jordan Hoffman of Lee's Summit, Missouri made it through to the final round. She'll compete against 8 other top spellers tonight. The bee will get underway tonight (THUR) at 7 pm, and will be broadcast on ESPN.


NCAA Boss Calls 4-Team Football Playoff 'Workable'

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — NCAA president Mark Emmert says another round of conference realignment could be sparked by schools trying to improve their chances to play in the proposed four-team college football playoff. Emmert was in Kansas City on Thursday to discuss various issues with representatives of the Big 12, who were conducting their annual meetings at the InterContinental Hotel. He said the dust may have finally settled on conference realignment, but warned that a change to the postseason system could set the wheels in motion again. Emmert called it "unrealistic" that teams from the power conferences would break away from the NCAA to form their own organization, as some have speculated. He also cautioned about the growing gulf between the "haves" and "have-nots" of major college sports.


Big 12 Board of Directors Confirms Conference Happy with 10 Members

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Oklahoma State president Burns Hargis says the Big 12 is satisfied at 10 teams, though he acknowledged that if Notre Dame was interested in joining the league, "that's something we would have to pursue." Hargis, who chairs the league's board of directors, spoke Thursday during the Big 12's annual meetings at the InterContinental Hotel in Kansas City. He said that Big 12 administrators are all "very satisfied" with 10 teams, but nobody in the conference is willing to shut the door provided the right opportunity arises. That could mean a school such as Florida State, which has expressed interest in the conference, or even Notre Dame, a traditional independent in football that might need to join a conference depending on how a college football playoff shakes out.


Leavenworth Church Reopens Following Major Renovation

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — An open house will be held Sunday at the Immaculate Conception Church in Leavenworth, which was closed for nearly a year for a renovation project. The church closed last June 12 for the $1 million renovation project, which included a redesigned sanctuary, increased accessibility for the disabled and new flooring, lighting and pews. It reopened for services on May 27. The Leavenworth Times reports the church is built on the site of a cathedral that opened in the 1860s but burned down in 1961. The Reverend David McEvoy said it was the first major renovation project at the church since it opened in 1964. McEvoy says about 75 percent of the work has been paid for and most of the money was raised by parishioners.


Kansas Man Pleads to Blackmailing Ex-Girlfriend

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A 20-year-old Kansas man faces nearly three years in prison after pleading no contest to blackmailing a former girlfriend to get her to send him provocative pictures of herself. Todd Murphy, of Hutchinson, was originally charged with sexual exploitation of a child for a September 2010 incident involving a 16-year-old girl. The Hutchinson News reports that Murphy pleaded Wednesday to the lesser charge, which was amended by Reno County district attorney Keith Schroeder after he spoke with the girl's family. Schroeder says Murphy hacked into the girl's email account and obtained a picture of her in a swimsuit that she sent to her current boyfriend. The prosecutor says Murphy threatened to post the picture on the Web unless the girl sent him more provocative pictures of herself. Sentencing is scheduled July 20.

Kansas Historic Site to Host Summer Dig

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Historical Society is inviting amateur archaeologists to take part in a summer dig and field school. Participants will be digging from Saturday through June 17 at the Kansa Indian site of Fool's Chief Village, located on Topeka's north side. Artifacts will be excavated, cleaned and catalogued at a field laboratory. The Historical Society and the Kansas Anthropological Society are sponsoring the dig. The Kansa site was chosen because it will be affected by a road project planned for the intersection of U.S. 24 and Menoken Road in Shawnee County. Working with state and federal transportation officials, the Historical Society will conduct a data recovery project and recommend ways to preserve the site's historical significance.


Small Central Kansas Town Welcomes New Growth

ELLSWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Nothing is wrong with the economy in the central Kansas town of Ellsworth. Manufacturing and other businesses are expanding or locating in the town, which has about 2,800 residents. The Salina Journal reports new projects will bring more than 200 jobs to the Ellsworth County town by 2015. City officials attribute much of the growth to the town's location. It's a 15-minute drive from Interstate Highway 70. And it's on Kansas 156, which has become a major route from Garden City to northeast Kansas. On Tuesday, residents will vote on a property tax increase to expand and improve for the city's schools. And Ellsworth officials say they are working to provide more housing so new workers will live in town, rather than commuting.

Witness: Kansas Commune Leader Foretold Death of Woman Allegedly Slain

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A witness who was 12 years old when authorities allege a member of a Kansas commune was killed by the group's leader says the suspect foretold the death and was with the woman when she died. The woman testified Wednesday during a preliminary hearing for Daniel U. Perez, who's accused of killing 26-year-old Patricia Hughes in 2003. The woman isn't being identified by The Associated Press because authorities allege she was raped by Perez. She testified Hughes willingly went toward the pool on the commune's property the day she died, kissing her baby daughter goodbye and reassuring others she would return from the dead. The witness said Perez told her to tell police Hughes had fallen and hit her head while trying to rescue her daughter from the pool.

SE Kansas Farmer Dies in Combine Accident

YATES CENTER, Kan. (AP) — Woodson County authorities say a 66-year-old farmer has died in an accident during wheat harvest. Undersheriff Glen Smith says the accident occurred Tuesday afternoon in rural Yates Center. KFRM-AM reports that David E. Stockebrand was cutting wheat with his son, who was unloading a combine. When he finished, the son began to drive away and the father was caught under the rear wheel of the combine.

Man Sentenced in Death of KC Graduate

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man was sentenced to 22 years in prison for the fatal shooting of an 18-year-old man who had graduated from high school just hours before. Terry C. Smith was sentenced Wednesday for second-degree murder and other charges in the death of Cortez L. Williams. Williams was shot the same day he graduated from Paseo Academy in May 2011. The Kansas City Star reports police say Smith shot at a rival's car but hit Williams' vehicle instead. Smith told investigators he fired to scare away a person he had feuded with over a stolen rifle. Williams's vehicle drove by as Smith was firing and he was hit. Williams tried to drive away but crashed into a retaining wall.

Kansas Man Pleads Guilty in DUI Fatality

LARNED, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas man has pleaded guilty to charges in a drunken driving crash that killed another motorist in February 2011. Fifty-seven-year-old Loren D. Lane, of Larned, was accused of driving into oncoming traffic at an intersection on Kansas 156. His vehicle collided with one driven by 47-year-old Rick Perez, of Great Bend. Perez died at a Pawnee County hospital. The Hutchinson News reports that Lane pleaded guilty in Pawnee County District Court to involuntary manslaughter and being under the influence. In return, the county prosecutor dismissed charges of failure to yield and failure to wear a seat belt. Lane is free on bond pending sentencing, which is scheduled for July 6.


Kansas Federal Redistricting Trial Concludes

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The fate of political boundaries in Kansas is now in the hands of three federal judges who will review two days of testimony and draw new maps. Attorneys for elected officials, business leaders and residents completed closing arguments Wednesday in the trial over redistricting. The judges gave no hint how they would draw the boundaries, but did suggest they would be holding themselves to a higher standard for population deviation among the districts. Evidence presented at the trial showed that courts have traditionally deviated from optimum district sizes by plus or minus 2 percent of the ideal population. Redistricting duties were handed to the federal court because Kansas lawmakers failed to approve new maps for legislative, State Board of Education and U.S. House districts.


National Spelling Bee: 2 Kansas Kids Make Semifinal Round   

OXON HILL, Md. (AP) — Fifty semifinalists have taken the stage at the National Spelling Bee. The competitors include the sister of the 2009 winner and two five-time participants. Unlike the preliminary rounds, spellers who get words wrong are hearing the dreaded bell that signals it's time to leave the stage. There's no set number of finalists, but organizers are aiming for between 10 and 15. Two Kansas students reached the semifinal round. Vanya Shivashankar is an Olathe 10-year-old who is among the favorites in this year's competition. Her sister, Kavya, won the Scripps National Spelling Bee three years ago. Vanya was the only speller to earn a perfect score in the preliminary rounds. Eighth-grader Emma Steimle of Lawrence also advanced to the semifinals. Apolonia Gardner of Imperial, California, was the first speller eliminated, misspelling "phalarope." Thursday's semifinals are being broadcast on ESPN2. The finals will take place Thursday evening and will be shown on ESPN.

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

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