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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, December 31, 2013



Regents to Reconsider New Social Media Policy

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Regents is taking another look at a new social media policy that was devised in the wake of criticism about a journalism professor's anti-NRA tweet. A news release Tuesday says that board chairman Fred Logan is requesting a workgroup to review the policy. Under it, a university chief executive officer can discipline employees, up to termination, for social media communications that affect the university's ability to carry out its functions. But faculty and education groups have criticized the policy, saying it is too broad and will stifle free speech. The regents approved the measure unanimously in the wake of a tweet by University of Kansas journalism professor David Guth after shootings that left 13 dead at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. last September.


Gay Couples Sue to Overturn KS Tax Filing Policy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two married gay couples have filed a lawsuit to overturn a Kansas policy that prevents them from filing joint state income tax returns. The lawsuit in Shawnee County District Court contends that the Department of Revenue's policy is discriminatory and violates the couple's rights to equal protection. The lawsuit, which was filed Monday, also questions whether the department had the authority to set the policy through a notice in October giving guidance for same-sex couples. The department was reviewing the filing Tuesday and did not immediately comment. The couples are Michael Nelson and Charles Dedmon of Alma and Roberta and Julia Woodrick of Lawrence. Both couples were married in California. The Kansas Constitution says the state cannot recognize same-sex marriages, but the lawsuit notes that the federal government does.


KS to Check for Voter Birth Records

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says the state will start checking birth certificates within a few weeks to decrease the list of voters with registrations on hold for not complying with a proof-of-citizenship requirement. Kobach told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview that attorneys for his office and the state Department of Health and Environment were meeting Tuesday to finish an agreement. The health department's Office of Vital Statistics maintains birth certificates. Kobach said Monday that the Office of Vital Statistics will check lists of prospective voters against its records to determine whether it has birth certificates. Kobach said the checking should begin by mid-January. The proof-of-citizenship law took effect January 1, 2013. More than 19,300 registrations are on hold, preventing the voters from legally casting ballots.


Timing of Kansas Voter Records Check Criticized

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Jean Schodorf, a Democratic candidate for Kansas Secretary of State, says Kris Kobach should have had a system in place months ago to search for state birth certificates for voters whose registrations are on hold. The Republican secretary of state said his office and the state health department were finalizing an agreement Tuesday on using birth certificates to reduce the list of voters with registrations on hold for failing to comply with a requirement to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship. Kobach says he expects the checks to begin in mid-January. Schodorf says Kobach should have had an agreement in place when the law took effect at the start of 2013. She questioned whether he'll be able to administer the program smoothly. More than 19,300 voters have registrations on hold.


Kansas Statehouse Visitor Center to Open Thursday

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State and local officials will hold a ceremony this week to mark the official opening of the Kansas Statehouse visitor center to the public. The Kansas Historical Society will cut the ribbon Thursday morning on the new facilities on the north side of the Statehouse. Governor Sam Brownback and Topeka Mayor Larry Wolgast are scheduled to speak, and visitors will be offered tours of new exhibits lining the halls of the Statehouse. Workers are completing a 13-year, nearly $330 million renovation of the capitol building. The project has included expanded office and meeting space for state officials, new ventilation and electrical systems, and the visitor center on the ground floor. The center includes a marble floor with a map of Kansas with each county's name engraved.


University Sees Growth in Private, Research Funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little says the university's efforts to raise higher education funds from private donors and research grants continue at a brisk pace, but she cautions that state support is still critical. Gray-Little tells The Topeka Capital-Journal that while outside research grants hit record levels, further gains may be difficult because of federal budget constraints. The university has recorded $957 million in private funds toward its goal of raising $1.2 billion by 2016 as part of its "Far and Above" campaign. Research funding topped $171 million in 2012, compared with $161 million a year earlier. The chancellor says state support for higher education helps with fundraising efforts by demonstrating a partnership for improving the university.


KS Agencies to Give Rides to Drunken Revelers

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Great Bend police say giving intoxicated New Year's Eve revelers a ride home is better than making a bunch of drunken driving arrests in a town that has no public transportation. The central Kansas community's police chief and a sergeant are planning to drive two vans Tuesday night and into the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Riders — including people who live outside of town in Barton County — will pay $5 each, with proceeds going toward local Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or DARE, program. The Barton County Sheriff's office says it also will be providing rides to people who live outside of town who have no other options. Kansas Highway Patrol spokesman Carl Mackey says he hasn't heard of any other communities providing that kind of service.


Utility Report on Plaza Restaurant Explosion Postponed

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri utility regulators have again pushed back their report on a Kansas City restaurant explosion that killed a waitress. The Kansas City Star reports that Missouri Public Service Commission staff had promised to publish the results in early December. But the commission posted on its website Monday that the report is now likely to be filed on or before February 6 — nearly a year after the blast at JJ's restaurant on the Country Club Plaza. Authorities have said the February 19 explosion was caused when a natural gas supply line was breached by a crew from Heartland Midwest, an Olathe-based cable company subcontractor. Forty-six-year-old Megan Cramer was killed and more than a dozen people were injured.

Wichita Woman Who Was Robbed in Drive-Thru Dies

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 43-year-old Wichita woman, who was robbed after becoming ill at a fast-food restaurant has died. Officials at Via Christi Hospital-St. Francis say 43-year-old Danielle Zimmerman died Monday. She was hospitalized after being found unconscious at a Taco Bell restaurant Sunday evening. Police say her car drove over a speaker box and stopped in the drive-thru lane. Wichita police Lieutenant Doug Nolte says Zimmerman suffered a possible brain aneurysm. When her husband arrived, he noticed that her purse, phone and wedding ring were missing. KAKE-TV reports her family says she was taken off life support on Monday. The family said it didn't care about her purse or phone, but they hope to get her wedding ring back.


Parents Charged in Death of Salina Infant

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina couple will have public defenders as they face charges of first-degree murder in the death of their infant son. The Salina Journal reports that 27-year-old Nicholas Corbin and 20-year-old Desirah Overturf made their first court appearances Tuesday by video from the Saline County Jail. Police were called to their home the night of December 26 and found Jordan Jeremiah Corbin dead. The baby was two months and 27 days old. Nicholas Corbin initially told District Judge Patrick Thompson on Tuesday that he was considering pleading guilty. The judge urged him instead to at least talk with a public defender. Prosecutors also asked the judge to appoint a lawyer for Overturf. Investigators have not revealed how the baby died. Bond for both defendants is set at $1 million.


Teen Arrested in Hutchinson Church Break-Ins

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Hutchinson teenager is facing charges after being arrested in two church burglaries. The 17-year-old was arrested Friday after a custodian discovered him at the First Church of God. Nothing was reported stolen from that church. But police say the teenager is also a suspect in the theft of some cash from Riverside Baptist Church less than an hour before the break-in at the First Church of God. The teen also is suspected of breaking into vehicles in the past week. Investigators say the thefts apparently aren't related to a string of church burglaries that hit Hutchinson in 2012.


Man's Death Shows Challenges in Helping Homeless

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a homeless man who apparently froze to death had refused several offers of help because he didn't want to go to a shelter. The 61-year-old man was found dead under a bridge Sunday afternoon. The Wichita Eagle reports police aren't releasing the man's name until they confirm his ID through fingerprints. An official cause of death will be determined by an autopsy. Officer Nate Schwiethale says police had repeatedly asked the man to go to a shelter but he resisted because he didn't want to be confined. Schwiethale is one of three Wichita officers who try to direct homeless people to agencies that can help them. He was the 10th homeless person known to have died in Wichita this year.


$1M Raffle Ticket Sold in South-Central Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Lottery says a $1 million ticket has been sold in south-central Kansas. Lottery officials announced Tuesday that the winning Holiday Millionaire Raffle ticket number is 120298. Besides the $1 million prize, there were 25 winners of $5,000, 25 winners of $1,000, and 2,500 winners of $100 in Tuesday's raffle drawing. Kansas Lottery Interim Director Sherriene Jones-Sontag says raffle players should check their tickets immediately. Winners have 365 days from the date of the drawing to come forward. Lottery prizes of $1,000 or more must be claimed at Lottery headquarters in Topeka, either in person or by mail. Players can take their $100 winning tickets to any Kansas Lottery retail location to claim their prize. Lottery offices will be closed on New Year's Day.


Lawrence School District to Build Tech Ed Center

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Lawrence school board has formally accepted land that will be the site of a new technical education center for the district's high school students. The board on Monday voted to accept 11 acres donated by HiPer Real Estate Holdings. Superintendent Rick Doll says the vote was the culmination of years of work to expand the district's job-training and career preparation efforts. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the $5.7 million project is being funded with money from a $92.5 million bond issue district voters approved in April. Construction is expected to begin early next year, with the center scheduled to open for the 2015-2016 school year.

Wichita Museum Plans Events to Celebrate MLK Day

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas African American Museum in Wichita is planning a series of events on the Saturday before the Jan. 20 observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Wichita Eagle reports that memorial events honoring the slain civil rights leader have been held in Wichita for more than 30 years, drawing more than 700 people annually. Activities scheduled for January 18 include a pancake breakfast, a community-wide parade and a celebration that will include a gospel concert. Museum executive director Mark McCormick says the program was designed to make the holiday more of an American holiday than an African-American holiday. He says the museum is trying to be "more purposeful and intentional about being inclusive."

Survivor of Bacterial Meningitis Writes Book

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man who survived a battle with bacterial meningitis is sharing his experiences through a new book. Andy Marso, a reporter for The Topeka Capital-Journal, contracted the rare disease while he was a student at the University of Kansas in 2004. He lost parts of both of his feet and his hands. Marso spent four months in the hospital, followed by physical and occupational therapy to relearn everything from walking to bathing. His book is titled, "Worth the Pain: How Meningitis Nearly Killed Me — Then Changed My Life for the Better." It was released in November. Marso told The Lawrence Journal-World that the disease brought out good in other people and improved his relationships. He says he also learned strength and persistence to deal with life's struggles.


KC-Area Dad Recalls Growing Understanding of Autism

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Autism was poorly understood in 1974 when Kansas City's first baby of the new year, Danny Hogan, was born with the developmental disorder. The Kansas City Star reports that Danny was 2 when his father, Tom Hogan, realized his son was different. During a father-son walk, he vowed to always be there for his child. At the time, many child development specialists still blamed parents for failing to nurture the emotional and verbal skills missing in many autistic children. Tom Hogan has watched the world's awareness and understanding of autism grow and describes the past 40 years as fulfilling. He says people talk to him sometimes like it's been a burden. But Tom Hogan refutes that idea. He says his son is his companion and friend.



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