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Regional Headlines for Thursday, September 19, 2013


KS Chief Justice: Furloughs Looming Next Year

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Supreme Court Justice Lawton Nuss says the next fiscal year's budget for the judicial branch could force courts across the state to be closed for seven weeks. Nuss said Thursday that the budget approved by lawmakers this year for Fiscal Year 2015 is more than $8 million short of what the judiciary needs to avoid forcing its employees to take unpaid leave. Fiscal 2015 begins in July 2014. The Supreme Court has appointed a 10-member advisory council to examine the consequences of not supplementing the courts' budget and to make recommendations for reducing spending. The council's first meeting is Oct. 7 in Topeka. The Legislature appropriated about $127 million for the courts for the current fiscal year and almost $128 million for fiscal 2015.


Ex-KS Officer Acquitted of Threatening Chief

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A federal jury has acquitted a former northeast Kansas police detective of threatening other officers in his department, including the chief. KCTV reports the jury on Thursday found John Hudson not guilty on all four counts against him. Hudson served in the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department for 15 years before retiring two years ago. Prosecutors said he was upset about Chief Rick Armstrong's support of a federal sting operation aimed at members of a special unit suspected of stealing items from homes during raids. Hudson was charged after a former girlfriend told authorities he considered Armstrong and other top officers "rats." The girlfriend also claimed Hudson made threatening remarks against the officers. Three members of the special unit were sentenced last year for stealing electronics from homes.


Wichita Toddler Who Fell into Fish Pond Dies

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita toddler who fell into a backyard fish pond earlier this week has died. A spokeswoman for Wesley Medical Center tells The Wichita Eagle that 17-month-old Ethan Joshua Kimmi died Thursday morning. The boy was pulled from a koi pond at his grandparents' home around 7:30 a.m. Monday and taken to the hospital in critical condition. Police have said Ethan was playing in a screened-in area of the home and apparently got out through a dog door. The death has been ruled an accident.


KS Education Official Responds to GOP Resolution

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas education commissioner Diane DeBacker says she will be sending a "friendly" letter to the state Republican Party this week correcting what she and other education leaders are calling misinformation about Common Core Standards for reading and math. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the letter is a response to a resolution the Kansas GOP state committee adopted last weekend calling for Kansas to withdraw from the standards. The standards — which have been adopted in 45 states and the District of Columbia — are intended to raise academic expectations so students will be prepared for either college or the workforce by the time they graduate from high school. The GOP resolution says Common Core amounts to an illegal transfer of power to the federal government and unaccountable private interests.


Obama Traveling to Kansas City Auto Plant

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's automotive industry will be getting renewed attention this week when President Barack Obama visits a Ford Motor Company plant near Kansas City. Obama is scheduled to travel Friday to Ford's new stamping plant in Liberty, located next to the auto maker's Claycomo assembly plant, to illustrate the comeback of the nation's auto industry. Democratic U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill plans to attend the event. McCaskill says the plant is a good place to highlight the turnaround of automotive manufacturing. The Claycomo plant makes Ford's F-150 pickup truck. The stamping plant was built to produce parts for a new model of van. Missouri lawmakers approved an incentives package for automotive manufacturing in 2010. The proposal passed during a special legislative session after a senator ended a more than 20-hour filibuster.


Bids Come in Low for Controversial Highway Project

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Bids for the controversial South Lawrence Trafficway came in lower than expected, meaning construction could begin next month. The Kansas Department of Transportation said on Wednesday that a Columbia, Mo.-based company was the apparent low bidder. Emery Sapp & Sons bid $129.8 million, below the estimated cost of $150 million for the last part of the trafficway. The transportation department will review the bids before officially awarding the contract. The project will extend the highway from Interstate 70 northwest of Lawrence through the south side of the city, eventually connecting with Kansas 10. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the bypass project has been delayed by protests and lawsuits since the early 1990s. A ruling by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in July 2012 ended the legal challenges.


Manhattan Woman Seeking Help in Finding Husband

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — An assistant professor at Kansas State University is asking for the public's help to locate her husband, who hasn't been seen since Sept. 2. Kelly Welch, with the university's Department of Family Studies and Human Services, posted on Twitter Tuesday night that her husband, Dave Welch, has not had his medication and might be suffering from dementia. The Manhattan Mercury reports he was driving a maroon 2000 Pontiac Montana with the Kansas tag number 577 FLR when he was last seen. Riley County Officer Matthew Droge says police determined Dave Welch was not a crime victim and he had not done anything illegal by leaving. His name has been added to a national law enforcement database for missing people.


Chelsea Clinton to Speak at UMKC in February

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The daughter of Bill and Hillary Clinton is coming to Kansas City early next year to help launch an initiative to honor accomplished area women. Chelsea Clinton is scheduled to speak Feb. 24 at the Swinney Recreation Center at the University of Missouri-Kansas City as part of events honoring the late Martha Jane Phillips Starr. The Kansas City Star reports the philanthropist was one of the first women to become a member of the UMKC board of trustees and also helped start the UMKC Women's Council and its Graduate Assistance Fund. The Starr Women's Hall of Fame, named after Starr, is scheduled to induct its first members in the fall of 2014. Starr died in 2011.


Zoo in Garden City to Open New Space for Big Cats

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — The big cats at Lee Richardson Zoo in Garden City will officially move into their new, $1 million home this weekend. The zoo is set to open its Cat Canyon with a ribbon cutting and grand opening celebration Sunday afternoon. The Garden City Telegram reports the exhibit provides a larger, more natural habitat for three jaguars, three bobcats and a new mountain lion. It features glass viewing windows for the public. And heated rocks will draw the cats close to the glass so visitors can get a close look at the animals. The new mountain lion, Peyton, recently arrived at the zoo from Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita. Zoo executive director Kathy Sexson, says the cats have been visiting the exhibit recently to get comfortable with their new home.


KS Juvenile Facility Limits Toilet Flushing

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County inmates are undergoing more restroom rationing, but this time it's in a bid to conserve water. Inmates at the Sedgwick County Jail have been allowed one roll of toilet paper a week since June. Now, the Sedgwick County juvenile detention facility is limiting inmates to three flushes an hour. The Wichita Eagle reports county officials said Tuesday a water use audit shows the jail was responsible for 55 percent of the county's water usage, while the juvenile facility accounted for only 4 percent. The juvenile facility limits flushing to three times an hour thanks to a plumbing sensor, which can be overridden in case of illness. The jail doesn't have the plumbing sensors, but county officials say they may consider installing plumbing controls at the jail.

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