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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, February 11, 2014


KS House Panel Approves Abortion Law Changes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has made quick work of approving abortion legislation that addresses legal issues raised in state and federal lawsuits filed by abortion providers. The Federal and State Affairs Committee's discussion of the bill Tuesday lasted only seven minutes. Abortion opponents described the measure as making only small changes in existing laws rather than setting new policy. Planned Parenthood officially is neutral. One part of the bill revises a requirement that the home pages of abortion providers' websites link to a state health department site with information about pregnancy and fetal development. Providers would no longer have to say that the state's information is accurate and objective. The bill also revises language in various provisions of state law dealing with medical emergencies in which abortion restrictions are waived.


KS House Committee Advances Bill on Response to Gay Unions

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House members have given first-round approval to a bill aimed at protecting people, groups and businesses that cite religious reasons for refusing to provide goods or services for gay weddings. The vote Tuesday was 72-42. The measure advanced even though critics suggested the bill would encourage widespread discrimination against gays and lesbians. The House plans to take final action on the bill Wednesday, and it's likely to pass. The bill bars government sanctions for refusing to recognize a marriage or civil union, or refusing to provide goods or services to a couple. Anti-discrimination lawsuits also would be barred. Critics have zeroed in on limited protections in the bill for individual workers and government employees even if their employers want to provide goods and services to gay couples.


Judge to Decide Proof-of-Citizenship Voting Rule

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge says his decision in a lawsuit asking federal election officials to require proof-of-citizenship for voter registrations will be based on who gets to decide what is necessary to determine voter qualifications. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren is hearing arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit brought by Kansas and Arizona seeking a court order to force the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to modify federal voter registration forms to require more documentation for residents of their states. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach told the court the issue is one of immense political importance that a federal agency should decide. The Justice Department argued that Congress established the federal form and gave the agency discretionary authority. The department argues the states have other ways to check applicants' citizenship status without requiring additional documentation.


Kansas School Choice Advocates Rally at Statehouse

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Speakers at a Statehouse rally have urged Kansas lawmakers to give families more choice in where their children attend school and how they're taught. More than 50 people took part in Tuesday's gathering to promote an array of options for what is broadly called school choice. Some speakers advocated giving families tax credits or vouchers for private schools or home schooling. They also urged expansion of a Kansas law that allows for limited charter schools, which are overseen by public school districts. In addition, lawmakers voted last year to create so-called innovative school districts that would be exempt from some rules and regulations Speakers said the underlying issues are whether public schools are meeting children's needs and the extent of parents' control over how and what their children are taught.


Bill Would Require Fines for Those Who Buy Sex

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas assistant attorney general is urging state lawmakers to require mandatory $2,500 fines against anyone convicted of paying for sex, even if they receive diversion. Pat Colloton testified Monday that a state fund to help human trafficking victims is in danger of going broke because many people convicted of patronizing prostitutes are given diversion but not fined. The fines are used to fund the Human Trafficking Victim Assistance Fund. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a bill before a Kansas House committee would require the fines, and also prevent offenders from getting a second diversion if they are convicted of the crime twice. Local courts also would be required to report all convictions and diversions for patronizing prostitutes to a central Kansas Bureau of Investigation database.


Veteran KS Senator Faces Questions About Home

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Pat Roberts is facing questions about whether he can claim the Kansas cow town of Dodge City as his home as he seeks a fourth Senate term. Roberts and his wife own a duplex unit there, but it has a tenant. He's registered to vote at another Dodge City address less than half a mile to the south. It's a home belonging to another couple, longtime friends and supporters, where he rents a room and a bathroom for $300 a month. The issue is getting new scrutiny after a New York Times story suggested Roberts was "desperate" to re-establish ties with his home state. Roberts says Kansas has always been his home, but primary challenger Milton Wolf says the issue shows Roberts is a creature of Washington.


Victim of Homicide at Wichita Communications Company Identified

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a man who was killed at a Wichita communications building worked for the company. Police identified the victim found at Steckline Communications as 25-year-old Daniel J. Flores. They say he had worked at the company for about two years. An employee of the company found Flores's body early Monday. Police say he died of blunt force trauma, and there were signs of a struggle. KAKE-TV reports that Lieutenant Todd Ojile says several doors lead into the building and police found no signs of forced entry. He says it's unclear if Flores was the intended target. Officers are still processing the scene and no one has been arrested. The company operates the Mid America Ag News Network and several radio stations.


Bees in Popular KU Exhibit Killed by Cold

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A popular exhibit at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum is empty and quiet after all the bees in an observation hive were killed by cold weather. Bruce Sherting, director of exhibits at the museum, says the observation hive had a small opening for the bees. He says recent cold, bitter winds apparently blew directly into the hive and killed the bees. He says some bees die every the winter but it's unusual to lose an entire colony. The museum announced the bees' deaths on its Facebook page Friday, and said it is working to prevent a similar problem in the future. 6News Lawrence reports that the exhibit will now be taken apart and sterilized. The museum plans to bring in a new queen and colony in the spring.


Spearville School Asked to Remove Cross

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — A group wants a western Kansas school to remove a cross from the top of its building. Americans United for Separation of Church and State says the cross on Spearville Elementary School violates the First Amendment. The group wrote Superintendent Daryl Stegman and Principal Marvin Hartzler in November in response to a complaint from a resident. The USD 381 Board of Education reached an informal consensus Monday that it wouldn't take any action on the cross until a lawsuit is filed. The Dodge City Globe reports that the group requested a reply from the school district within 30 days and sent another letter January 9. The school district has chosen not to respond to the group. Spearville, a town of about 775 residents, is northeast of Dodge City.


Plaintiffs Agree to Dismiss Claims in Fuel Case

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Several plaintiffs have agreed to dismiss claims against 15 companies in longstanding lawsuits involving allegations that oil companies and gasoline retailers overcharged consumers by selling so-called "hot" fuel. Federal officials earlier consolidated about 50 lawsuits filed since 2006 from consumers across the country in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas. At issue was whether customers are shortchanged when buying gasoline that's over 60 degrees. The volume of gasoline expands, and consumers argued they got less than a gallon of fuel for a full gallon price. Plaintiffs' lawyers agreed last week to dismiss claims in Kansas federal court in 22 cases against 15 defendants, which included 7-Eleven and Circle K stores. Several larger retailers, including Costco, Wal-Mart and Valero, earlier reached settlements in their cases.


Body of Man Found in Freezer in KCK

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas City, Kansas police say the body of a man was found in a freezer in a detached garage behind a home. The body was found Sunday afternoon in a top-loading freezer. A woman who was cleaning found the body. The coroner's office said Monday the body was intact but a full autopsy could not be performed until the body thawed. The police department's major case unit is investigating the case but the death has not been ruled a homicide.


UPDATE: Missing KS Man Found in Colorado

CHEYENNE WELLS, Colo. (AP) — A missing 66-year-old Kansas man has been found safe in Colorado following a six-county search after the man's SUV got stuck in a field over the weekend. Lieutenant Colonel Mike Daniels, spokesman for the Colorado Civil Air Patrol, said the man was found Tuesday by a pilot, who was able to direct searchers to the man's location in eastern Colorado after he wandered away from his truck. Daniels says the man was hungry and thirsty, but he had no serious injuries. Clark Nelson, of Garden City, Kansas, called 911 Sunday night from his cell phone and said he turned off on a dirt road and could not drive out. The search was launched after the man's cell phone stopped working.


Ex-Garmin Worker Admits Theft of GPS Devices

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A former warehouse worker at the Kansas headquarters of the Garmin International has pleaded guilty to stealing GPS devices that were later sold on eBay and elsewhere. The U.S. Attorney's office says 31-year-old Terrence Heathington pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of mail fraud. Heathington was indicted in August on 40 counts of mail fraud. The indictment alleged he caused about 165 cases of GPS devices worth more than $1 million to be shipped to his home and those of high school friends living in Atlanta, Ga. Heathington worked from March to September 2008 at Garmin in Olathe, where he lived at the time. He later moved to Atlanta. Prosecutors say Heathington faces up to 20 years in prison at sentencing, which will be scheduled later.


Police Searching for Junction City Woman

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police are looking for a 24-year-old woman who was last seen at a motel in Junction City. Police say Amanda Clemons was last seen Friday night leaving a room at the Budget Host Motel. Witnesses told police she was being placed in a sliver vehicle occupied by two men and two women. Clemons is described her as a light-skinned black woman standing 5-feet-7 inches tall and weighing 215 pounds. Anyone with information about Clemons is asked to contact Junction City police or Crime Stoppers.

Lawrence Couple Gives 165 Acres to Land Institute

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence couple has donated 165 acres of woodlands and pasture to the Land Institute in Salina. The land from Jim and Cindy Haines is west of Lawrence is known as the Gorrill Farmstead. The Haines also gave 65 acres to the Land Institute in July. The Land Institute is a Salina-based environmental agriculture group. It will use the new donation for research in ecology and plant genetics. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the new donation includes 50 acres of farmland and a 3,000-square-foot stone-built home listed on the Register of Historic Kansas Places. The Land Institute is forming a research consortium with the University of Kansas, Kansas State University and the Konza Prairie.

Director Seeking Kansas Barn for Ad

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A director is looking for a barn in Kansas for a Coca-Cola commercial. Zach Lowry, film director of New York-based Flex Collective, wants to come to Kansas in May or June to shoot a Coke commercial. The Wichita Eagle reports that he first wants to find a weathered, wood barn, with a wood-shingled roof, next to or surrounded by a wheat field. The barn also has to be big enough for a 1965 Mustang to fit diagonally inside and have a ceiling 20 feet or higher and windows or side slits for light rays to show through. Marci Penner, director of the Kansas Sampler Foundation, sent emails last week asking if anyone in Kansas might know of such a barn. So far, she's gotten more than 2,500 responses.


Pharmaceutical Firm to Add 230 Jobs in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A New Jersey-based life sciences company is planning a $30 million expansion in Kansas City and the addition of 230 jobs in the next five years. Catalent Pharma Solutions is involved with development of drugs, biologics and consumer health products. It has more than 1,000 scientists and 30 facilities on five continents, and works with most leading pharmaceutical and biologics marketers. The Kansas City facility now has about 50 employees, working mainly on product development and analysis and clinical supply services. Governor Jay Nixon said Tuesday the expansion would strengthen Missouri's position in biosciences. The state Department of Economic Development is offering $2.65 million of economic incentives for the company through the Quality Jobs program.


Former Grandview Mayor Pleads Guilty to Fraud

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The former mayor of Grandview has pleaded guilty to a federal charge accusing him of taking about $35,000 in contributions intended for a nonprofit. The U.S. Attorney's office says in a release that Stephen S. Dennis pleaded guilty Tuesday to wire fraud. Dennis resigned in January as mayor of Grandview, a Kansas City suburb with about 25,000 residents. Prosecutors say Dennis admitted to taking about $35,000 in contributions from International House of Prayer Forerunner Christian Fellowship, a nonprofit organization in Grandview. Prosecutors say the money was supposed to go toward a nonprofit Dennis set up called Matters of the Heart, but instead went to Dennis' personal use. Sentencing hasn't been set for Dennis, who was released on his own recognizance.


MO House Panel Backs End to KS Business Battle

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri House committee has advanced legislation seeking to end to a tax-break battle for businesses with Kansas. The bill endorsed Monday by a special House business committee would affect four counties on each side of the Missouri-Kansas line in the Kansas City area. Missouri would stop offering tax breaks tailored for businesses to move from those four Kansas counties into one of the four Missouri counties — but only if Kansas enacts a similar moratorium through legislation or an executive order. The proposal comes after the states have waived hundreds of millions of dollars of tax revenues competing with each other for businesses in the Kansas City area. The counties at issue are Jackson, Clay, Platte and Cass in Missouri, and Wyandotte, Johnson, Douglas and Miami in Kansas.


KC Charter Considers Options After Losing Sponsor

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City charter school that the state suspects of inflating attendance and encountering other academic problems isn't ready to close after losing its sponsor. Hope Academy attorney Dana Cutler said Tuesday that the school is looking into other possible sponsors and isn't giving up on having the University of Missouri-Kansas City remain as its sponsor. State law requires charter schools to have a sponsor and a valid charter agreement. Cutler's comments came one day after the State Board of Education upheld a decision by the university to withdraw sponsorship from the school. Hope Academy is focused on helping dropouts and students at risk of dropping out. The state reported discovering attendance issues during a surprise visit in October. UMKC didn't immediately return a message from The Associated Press.


Chelsea Clinton to Speak This Month at UMKC

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Chelsea Clinton is speaking this month at an event celebrating a new hall of fame that will recognize women from the Kansas City metropolitan area. The University of Missouri-Kansas City says the former first daughter is scheduled to talk to a sold-out crowd February 24 at the school's Swinney Recreation Center. The Starr Women's Hall of Fame is the work of 24 women's organization from the area. It bears the name of Martha Jane Phillips Starr, a Kansas City philanthropist who died in 2011. She was one of the first women to become a member of the UMKC Board of Trustees. The first class won't be inducted until the fall, but details about the application process, criteria and deadlines will be announced at this month's launch event.

KU Loses to K-State as Embiid Deals with Ailments

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self says that star freshman Joel Embiid could miss time with back and knee injuries, and just how much could determine whether the Jayhawks still have a shot at landing a number 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The 7-footer has been dealing with a sprained knee and back trouble. He only played 18 minutes in an 85-82 overtime loss at rival Kansas State on Monday night. Self said afterward Embiid is "going to need some time off," but he wouldn't say whether the big man would miss Saturday's game against TCU. The Jayhawks are 18-6 and 9-2 in the Big 12, good enough for a narrow lead over Texas (18-5, 7-3) in the race for the conference title.



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