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Regional Headlines for Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013


Kansas Legislature Adjourns 2-Day Special Session

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have adjourned their special session. Lawmakers wrapped up business Wednesday in only two days. They approved a bill repairing a law allowing convicted murderers to be sentenced to at least 50 years in prison. The Senate also approved multiple appointments by Governor Sam Brownback, including the appointment of chief counsel Caleb Stegall to the Kansas Court of Appeals. The Kansas House adjourned at 5:21 pm, and the Senate followed suit six minutes later. It was the Legislature's first special session since 2005, when lawmakers were ordered by the Kansas Supreme Court to increase funding on public schools. This year's special session was the 22nd in state history. The only other two-day special session was in 1989 to extend a deadline for owners of homes and businesses to pay property taxes.

KS Voter Citizenship Amendment Rejected

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators ended a special session without debating proposed changes in a law requiring new voters to provide proof of U.S. citizenship when they register. Democratic Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau tried Wednesday to add language to a bill on criminal sentencing that would have let new voters sign a sworn statement attesting that they're U.S. citizens. The Republican-controlled Senate ruled the proposal out of order. Another Wichita Democrat, House member Jim Ward, had the same result with a similar amendment Tuesday in his chamber. The registration law took effect in January and is designed to prevent non-citizens from voting. But the registrations of more than 15,000 legal Kansas residents are on hold because they have yet to provide proper documentation of citizenship, such as a passport or birth certificate.


KS Supreme Court Approval of Hard 50 Law Not Assured

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys and state officials say it's too early to tell if justices of the Kansas Supreme Court will approve changes made this week to the state's Hard 50 prison sentence. Legislators finished work on the measure Wednesday, and Republican Governor Sam Brownback is expected to sign it into law in the coming weeks. The measure was passed in response to a June U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a Virginia case that held that juries, not judges, should determine such extended prison sentences. Attorneys said Thursday that it would be several months before legislators know for certain whether the Kansas Supreme Court will allow the changes in process to apply retroactively to 45 cases either still in the trial stages or being appealed.


KS Pension System Funding Gap Exceeds $10B

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas public pension system says it had robust investment gains last year but still saw its long-term funding gap grow to $10.2 billion. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the gap widened because the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System was still booking deferred losses from the 2008 collapse of financial markets. A Kansas House committee reviewed the figures Wednesday. The gap represents the difference between anticipated revenues and promised benefits through 2033. The figure for the end of 2011 was about $9.2 billion. KPERS reported earning 14.5 percent on its investments last year. Also, legislators enacted laws in 2011 and 2012 to overhaul the pension system to boost its long-term financial health. But the system's assets would cover only 56 percent of its long-term commitments.


Debate over KS Judicial Appointments Expected to Continue

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Leaders of the Kansas House and Senate Judiciary committees expect lawmakers to renew consideration of the way judges are appointed to the state Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. House Judiciary Committee chairman Lance Kinzer said Thursday the issue will be on the agenda for the Legislature's 2014 session. Jeff King, who chairs the Senate panel, says he'll still pursue a single system for selecting judges for appellate courts. The two Republicans spoke a day after the Senate confirmed Caleb Stegall to the Court of Appeals. It was the first appointment under a new law that has the governor name the judges, subject to Senate confirmation. Appointments to the Kansas Supreme Court still take place using the old system. A nominating commission names three finalists, with no role for legislators after the governor makes an appointment.


KS Senate Confirms New Regents, Other Appointees

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has confirmed three state Board of Regents members and other appointments by Governor Sam Brownback. Senate action Wednesday means that Shane Bangerter of Dodge City, Helen Van Etten of Topeka and Ann Murguia of Kansas City, Kansas can continue serving as regents overseeing the higher education system. The votes were 35-5 for Bangerter and 37-3 for Van Etten and Murguia. Brownback named them as regents in June, and a Senate committee gave them permission to start serving on the board. Had senators rejected their appointments, they'd have had to step down. The Senate also confirmed Secretary of Administration Jim Clark and Securities Commissioner Josh Ney. The votes were 40-0 for Clark and 37-2 for Ney.


Reward Offered for Info in Shooting of KS Deputy

AUGUSTA, Kan. (AP) — A southeast Kansas sheriff is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a man sought in the wounding of a deputy. The Augusta Gazette reports that Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet posted the reward Thursday while the search continued for 41-year-old Jan Tracy Kilbourne. Investigators have been looking for Kilbourne since the deputy was shot in the shoulder during a traffic stop near Augusta early Monday. Herzet says the deputy is recovering at home. Butler County investigators are following leads in Liberal and in Hutchinson, because Kilbourne has ties to both cities. But a massive search prompted by a possible sighting Wednesday in Cowley County was scaled back after several hours, although a tracking team continued working there Thursday.


KCC Approves Transmission Line

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Corporation Commission has approved a $113 million transmission line between Saline County and Cloud County. The 60-mile line will connect a Westar Energy substation about five miles northeast of Assaria to ITC Great Plain's substation about four miles northwest of Aurora. The Salina Journal reports that Westar will pay about $66 million and ITC will pay $46.8 million for the line. Westar says construction of the 345-kilovolt line is expected to begin in mid-2014, with completion by late 2016. The project costs will be absorbed over 40 years by customers in the Southwest Power Pool region, which includes Kansas, Oklahoma and parts of Nebraska, Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas and Missouri.


Leavenworth VA Hospital Expanding 

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — The Eisenhower VA Medical Center in northeastern Kansas is expanding to meet new needs and standards. The Leavenworth Times reports that construction is underway on a $2.75 million women's health clinic. Meanwhile, bidding on a construction contract for a stand-alone, 27,000-square-foot nursing home closed Thursday. Jim Gleisberg, a spokesman for the VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System, says the medical center already offers health services for women. But the number of female veterans has grown, Gleisberg says, and the new, 4,700-square-foot clinic will be able to serve more women. The Eisenhower VA Medical Center also has an existing Community Living Center, as the nursing home is called. But it's located on the third floor of a building, and current standards call for such facilities to be on the ground floor.


Overland Park Data Studied to Create Disaster Recovery Plans 

ROLLA, Mo. (AP) — If a massive tornado ever strikes Overland Park, researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology have created a model that could speed the city's recovery. The researchers gathered data from the Kansas City suburb on water, sewer lines, transportation, communication and electricity. They also worked with meteorologists to determine the average width, direction and path of an EF-5 tornado. Researchers also know the average size of the devastation and collateral damage zones. The model also includes information about the availability of raw materials and the number of skilled workers who would be needed to get Overland Park back on its feet. Next up, the team plans to model what would happen in the St. Louis area if a severe earthquake occurred along the New Madrid fault.


Truck Carrying Wind Turbine Equipment Crashes

WASHINGTON, Kan. (AP) — A massive wind turbine base remained in the median of a northeast Kansas highway overnight after a semitrailer hauling it broke an axle and rolled. The Salina Journal reports the semi crashed just after 10 am Wednesday on U.S. Highway 36 in Washington County. Sheriff Justin Cordry says the truck and trailers were totaled, and the turbine base was badly damaged. Cordry says the semi, which was headed to southwest Kansas, was being escorted because of its oversized load and there were no signs of driver error. The turbine base was left in the median overnight and was to be retrieved Thursday. The eastbound passing lane of U.S. 36 was being closed so two cranes could be brought in to load the 117,000-pound base onto a replacement trailer.


KS Historical Society Completes Menninger Project

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A two-year project to document the records from the Menninger Foundation archives has been completed by the Kansas Historical Society. The records date from 1644 to 2002 and include the papers of famed Topeka psychiatrists C.F., Roy, Walter, Karl and William Menninger. They also include manuscripts from Sigmund Freud and Florence Nightingale. Selected documents from the 2,500-cubic-feet of records are available for viewing on the historical society's Kansas Memory digital archives. The Menningers founded their Topeka mental health clinic in 1925, growing to international fame for its hospital and training programs. The Menninger Clinic campus closed and relocated in 2003 to Houston to become part of the Baylor College of Medicine.


KSU Professor Uses 'The Office' in His Econ Class

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The NBC workplace comedy "The Office" is being used as a teaching tool. Kansas State University director of economic undergraduate studies Dan Kuester says fictional manager Michael Scott and employees of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company provide numerous examples of economics principles. Kuester worked with two other people to create a website called "The Economics of The Office" containing 35 clips from the show. While it may be useful in some high schools, its primary use is in entry-level college economics classes. To illustrate supply and demand, teachers can play a short clip of office oddball Dwight buying the remaining inventory of a popular Christmas toy, Princess Unicorn dolls. Dwight then sells the dolls at a profit. But more often than not, the characters provide examples of what not to do.


KSU Plans Conferences for KS Farm Lenders 

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University will hold two conferences this fall to update the state's financial community on agricultural issues. This year's first Agricultural Lenders Conference is scheduled for October 8 at the Southwest Research Extension Center in Garden City. The meeting will be repeated the following day at the International Grains Program Conference Center in Manhattan. Topics will include grain market prospects, land values, crop insurance and the outlook for the cattle market.

Ban on Hotel Smoking Will Continue in Garden City

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Visitors to Garden City will continue to be prohibited from smoking in any hotel and motel rooms. The Garden City Commission voted Tuesday to deny a request from some hotel and motel owners to allow smoking in up to 20 percent of their businesses' rooms. State law allows smoking in 20 percent of rooms in hotels or motels, if the businesses choose to allow it. Kerry Spanier, of the Dusty Trail Inn, told the commission the city's hotels and motels are losing business to nearby communities because smokers move on when they learn they can't smoke in Garden City. The Garden City Telegram reports that commissioners who voted to uphold the ban said changing it for hotels could prompt similar requests from other groups.

KS Drought Conditions Largely Unchanged as Iowa Deteriorates

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Drought conditions have worsened in a portion of the Midwest including Iowa, the nation's leading corn producer, as the region experienced its hottest week of the year. The extreme heat and near record low August rainfall combined to expand drought conditions from the eastern Dakotas southeastward into western Illinois. Iowa saw its warmest week since July 2012, with highs topping 104 at Des Moines on August 30. About 98 percent of Iowa is classified as being in drought. Severe drought expanded to 32 percent of the state, up from 22 percent the week before. Conditions are mostly unchanged in Nebraska and Kansas. The weekly drought monitor, which tracks conditions from August 27 through Tuesday morning, shows 61.7 percent of the contiguous United States in drought, nearly the same as the week before.

Kingman County to Vote on New Jail, Law Center

KINGMAN, Kan. (AP) — Kingman County residents will vote next month on two tax proposals that would fund a new jail and law enforcement center. The Hutchinson News reports that one ballot issue on the October 29 ballot would create a quarter-cent sales tax, effective July 1, 2014, that would continue for 20 years. The second question would extend an existing three-quarter-cent tax for two more decades. That tax is set to expire in 2021. If the taxes are approved, the county would build a 32-bed jail, offices for the Kingman County sheriff and Kingman police departments, an emergency operations center, a 911 call center, and records and evidence storage. The current law enforcement center and jail are housed in an apartment building constructed in 1959.


Montana Man Denies Assaulting Elderly Nuns

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Billings, Montana man pleaded not guilty to charges that he broke into a home shared by two retired Roman Catholic nuns and beat them and stomped on their heads. The Billings Gazette reports that 32-year-old Christopher Samuel Pine pleaded not guilty Thursday to two counts of felony aggravated burglary. District Judge Mary Jane Knisely set Pine's bond at $250,000. Pine was charged after someone broke into a house owned by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth early on August 14, beat 90-year-old Sister Mary Vincentia Maronick and 79-year-old Sister Clara Scherr and stole a credit card and other items. Maronick told investigators that Scherr was praying when the assailant told her, "God won't help you tonight." Both women were hospitalized for several days before being moved to a transitional care facility for rehabilitation.


Troubled Amusement Park Ride Coming to Worlds of Fun

BUENA PARK, Calif. (AP) — A Knott's Berry Farm ride that twice stranded passengers is being moved to Missouri. The Orange County Register says the Southern California theme park didn't make a safety change needed to reopen the Windseeker — its tallest ride. Knott's parent company announced last week that it's moving the 301-foot ride to its Worlds of Fun park in Kansas City. It will be dismantled in January. The ride also will get a new name — SteelHawk. California regulators ordered the ride shut down last September. The Division of Occupational Safety and Health says Knott's made some safety changes but never replaced ladders that don't meet state rules. Stacy Frole, a spokeswoman for Knott's owner Cedar Fair Entertainment, says the current ladders are legal in other states.


Projected Cost of Levee Repairs Rising

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — The cost of two levees that were damaged in the floods of 1993 has nearly $67 million, and officials say that price tag is likely to go up again before construction begins in two years. One of the levees would protect St. Joseph, Missouri and the other would protect Elwood and Wathena, Kansas, along with Rosecrans Memorial Airport. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers updated the cost estimates at a meeting with interested parties on Tuesday. Spokesman David Kolarik says the price continues to rise because of changes in the corps' design for the levees. The St. Joseph News-Press reports that the cost estimates of the repairs in 2006 was $32.7 million. The levees were damaged in the 1993 floods, which caused massive damage in northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas.

KC Diocese Seeing Increased Number of Child Abuse Calls

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph says calls to its child abuse ombudsman have increased 35 percent in the reporting year that ended in June. The ombudsman said in a report released Thursday that she received 107 calls in the year, compared with 79 the previous reporting year. Ombudsman Jenifer Valenti attributed the increase to anti-abuse training programs the diocese began in the last year. The Kansas City Star reports that Bishop Robert Finn implemented the child protection programs after a 2011 controversy over his handling of a Catholic priest's production of child pornography. A Jackson County (Missouri) judge also demanded regular reports on child welfare in the diocese after convicting Finn last year of failing to report suspicions of child abuse.


Police Identify Man Shot to Death in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police have identified a man who was shot to death by a homeowner during a crime spree in the northern part of the city. Police say 30-year-old Christopher Robinson of Kansas City, Kansas died after he was shot Wednesday while he tried to steal a car inside a residential garage. The Kansas City Star reports that Robinson allegedly stole three vehicles, attempted to take two others and broke into another home in a spree that ended with his shooting death. He was shot after allegedly fighting with the homeowner while trying to drive off in the resident's vehicle. The homeowner's wife and child were in the house at the time. No one else was injured.


MO Woman Found in Filthy Conditions Dies

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — A 73-year-old Independence woman who was found in squalid conditions last month has died. Independence police announced Wednesday that Ruth Raps had died after more than three weeks at a hospital. Police say she was found August 11 sitting in a recliner at her home, surrounded by filth, weighing only 70 pounds and suffering from severe bedsores. Her husband, 58-year-old Gary R. Raps, was charged with elder abuse. The Jackson County (Missouri) prosecutor will await autopsy results to determine whether Gary Raps will face other charges. Court documents say Raps told police his wife got sick about 11 days before she was found and he was did not know how to care for her.

Wichita State Basketball Player's Condition Improves

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State University officials say freshman guard D.J. Bowles is recovering at a hospital after collapsing during a workout on Tuesday. Via Christi Hospital officials say Bowles's condition was upgraded to fair Wednesday evening. He was listed in serious condition most of Wednesday but Wichita State officials say he was stable and alert. Doctors have not determined why Bowles collapsed. Bowles, from Chattanooga, Tennessee, played at Oldsmar Christian High School in Florida.


KC Man Survives Being Crushed in Trash Truck

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police say a homeless man survived but suffered two broken legs after the trash bin he was sleeping in was dumped into a trash truck. Police say the 51-year-old man was asleep in the industrial recycle bin early Thursday when the truck driver picked it up and crushed its contents before moving on to the next site. The Kansas City Star reports that the driver heard screaming at his next stop in Grandview and found the man in the back of the truck. The victim told police he heard the trash truck but wasn't able to escape before the bin was dumped into the truck. Doctors said both of the man's legs were broken and he might have suffered other injuries but he will survive.

KCMO School District to Make Case for Partial Accreditation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The unaccredited Kansas City school district will make its case to the state Board of Education this month for regaining provisional accreditation. The Kansas City Star reports that Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro heard from district officials Wednesday and decided to let them speak at the state board's next meeting on September 16 and 17. The district says it deserves the upgrade because a recently released state performance report shows it's scoring in the provisionally accredited range. The report uses test scores and other data to evaluate districts. Dropping the unaccredited label would prevent students from using a state law to transfer to accredited school systems. So far a pending court case is preventing Kansas City transfers. No decisions are expected until the board's October meeting at the earliest.


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