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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Health Care Compact Legislation Advances in Kansas House

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill permitting Kansas to join an interstate compact to end federal rules for health care programs has received first-round approval in the state House. The measure advanced on an unrecorded 80-37 vote Tuesday. The bill is expected to pass on final action Wednesday and go to the Senate. It's a protest from the Republican-dominated Legislature against health care policies championed by Democratic President Barack Obama. Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas have already enacted similar laws encouraging a compact, which would then let states run programs like Medicaid and Medicare as they see fit. The federal government sets rules for the programs for the needy and elderly and provides much of the funding. But the measure is largely symbolic for now, because Congress would have to approve the compact.


Kansas School Finance Debate Extended

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee is extending its discussion of Governor Sam Brownback's proposal to rewrite the formula for distributing state aid to school districts. Friday is the last day in this year's legislative session for bills in certain committees to clear their chamber of origin. Senator Jean Schodorf says the Education Committee won't be able to finish its work on the school finance bill this week, and will request an exception to allow for more debate. Schodorf, a Wichita Republican, says Brownback's plan is complex and has generated a lot of discussion. She says the bill isn't dead, but needs further review. Brownback is proposing to give school districts more authority to raise revenue and spend the dollars with more flexibility.


KS House Panel Approves Income Tax Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has approved a plan for cutting individual income taxes, reducing taxes for business owners and keeping a promise to cut the state sales tax next year.  The measure endorsed Monday by the House Taxation Committee is an alternative to a tax plan proposed by Republican Governor Sam Brownback. The committee's voice vote sends the measure to the House for debate.  The committee modified a plan drafted by Republican leaders in the House.  The plan would reduce individual income tax rates for 2013, but not as aggressively as Brownback had proposed. It would also scale back an income tax credit for poor workers by more than House GOP leaders had sought.  The sales tax would drop to 5.7 percent from 6.3 percent in July 2013, as scheduled.

KS House Panel Backs Religious Freedom Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has endorsed legislation that backers say would protect religious freedom but opponents believe would allow discrimination based on sexual orientation.  Monday's adoption by the House Judiciary Committee on a voice vote sends the bill to the full House.  Committee chairman Lance Kinzer, an Olathe Republican, says the bill puts into law the language of Kansas court decisions for determining when government policies place too heavy a burden on practicing religion. It also allows people to sue state and local government agencies if they feel their religious freedoms have been abridged.  Critics, including the Kansas Equality Coalition, claim the bill's true intent is to discriminate against individuals based on sexual orientation.

A Tuition Break for Veterans Moves Forward in KS House

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has approved a bill allowing all military veterans to pay the lower tuition rates at state universities normally reserved for Kansas residents.  The tuition break already applies to veterans who live in Kansas for two years during their military service and establish a home in the state within 30 days of leaving the military. Veterans save about $4 million in tuition costs a year.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the measure endorsed Monday by the House Education Budget Committee extends the in-state tuition break to all veterans.  The bill goes next to the House Appropriations Committee for review.

KS House Panel Postpones Vote on Abortion Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has postponed its vote on a bill aimed at preventing the state from subsidizing abortions even indirectly through tax credits or deductions.  Chairman Steve Brunk said he cancelled Monday's meeting of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee to give members more time to draft possible amendments.  Brunk, a Bel Aire Republican, expects a vote next week. The committee's approval would send the bill to the full House.  The bill also rewrites the state's informed consent law, requiring doctors to provide certain information before terminating a woman's pregnancy. It would require doctors to allow patients to hear a fetal heartbeat.  The measure also would prohibit schools from incorporating materials from groups that provide abortions into classes on human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases.


Judge Orders Doctor's License Revoked in KS Abortion Case

An administrative judge has issued an order revoking a Kansas doctor's license over her referrals of young patients for late-term abortions. The judge said Dr. Ann Kristen Neuhaus failed to meet accepted standards of care in performing mental health evaluations on 11 patients, aged 10 to 18, in 2003. The order was made public Tuesday. Neuhaus provided the second opinions that allowed the late Dr. George Tiller of Wichita to terminate the patients' pregnancies. But Administrative Judge Ed Gaschler, who presided over a hearing for Neuhaus, said the care of the patients was seriously jeopardized by her actions. The revocation order will be reviewed by the State Board of Healing Arts, which regulates physicians. Neuhaus attorney Bob Eye did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment. 


Prairie Band Potawatomi Reservation Convenience Store Seized for Back Tax Debt 

HOLTON, Kan. (AP) — A convenience store on the Prairie Band Potawatomi reservation in northeastern Kansas has been shut down for what the state says is failure to pay more than $1.7 million in sales tax. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that state revenue agents and Jackson County sheriff's officers began seizing the assets of Kathy's General Store near Holton on Tuesday morning. The Revenue Department says it seized all known bank accounts, on-site cash, business inventory and personal property assets of Kathy's Inc. and owner Kathy L. Kaul Kennedy. Kaul Kennedy has challenged the state's authority to collect various types of taxes on the reservation for more than two decades. Revenue officials say Kathy's Inc. owes roughly $1.35 million from October 2005 to September 2009, and about $375,000 from October 2009 to September 2010.


KBA Approves $2 Million in New Investments

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bioscience Authority's investment committee approved just under $2 million in new investments. The investments approved Monday come after Governor Sam Brownback withheld part of KBA's annual appropriation of $35 million. KBA leaders say they had plenty of money available to fund the investments.

The Lawrence Journal-World reports the committee approved just under $191,000 for Mencuro Therapeutics Inc. in Lawrence, which develop drugs that are an alternative to morphine for pain management. Other investments must still be approved by the KBA's full board during its March 6 meeting. They include $350,000 for the Center for Animal Health Innovation in Olathe; about $75,000 for Aptakon, based in Kansas City, Kansas; and a $1.3 million research and development award for Aratana Therapeutics, based in Kansas City, Kansas.


Temporary Power Outage at KU Traced to Mouse 

Power was lost for a short time at more than 10 buildings at the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence on Tuesday.  The outage began around 2:10 pm after a mouse caused an electrical short. The university said in a statement that buildings were brought back online gradually, with power being fully restored around 3:30 pm. Buildings affected by the outage included Spencer Museum, Watson Library and the Kansas Union. 

England Wins Trans-Atlantic Pancake Race

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) _ An English runner has won the annual Shrove Tuesday trans-Atlantic pancake race, beating the winner of the southwest Kansas leg of the race by 10 seconds. Eighteen-year-old Devon Byrnes of Olney, England, covered the course in 58.5 seconds to beat 19-year-old Kaela Krueger, who won the leg of the race in Liberal six hours later. Women clad in aprons and head scarves run the course with a pancake in their pan, flipping it at the beginning and end of the race. Shrove Tuesday, widely known in Britain as Pancake Day, is traditionally the last day for merrymaking before the start of Lent. Pancakes were thought to be a good way for Christians to consume the fat and other ingredients they were supposed to give up during the 40 days of Lent before Easter.

Emporia State University Students Launch Fundraiser for Teaching Hall of Fame

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) _ Three Emporia State University students are launching a national campaign to honor teachers and help the university's National Teachers Hall of Fame. The university said in a news release Tuesday that the students are trying to raise $1 million in one semester by encouraging people across the country to honor a teacher. The students are Beka Enoch of Manhattan, Holli Schletzbaum of Wichita and Kelsey Cowan of Olathe. They are asking people to record comments about a favorite teacher on the Hall of Fame's website ( or at the Hall of Fame's museum. The comments should be accompanied by a minimum $1 donation. The money will be used to fund activities at the Teachers Hall of Fame, which was founded in 1989 on the Emporia State campus.


Headstones Removed from Wichita Cemetery 

Wichita investigators are trying to figure out who took a half-dozen historic headstones from a cemetery and threw them into a roadside ditch. A Sedgwick County sheriff's deputy came across the headstones Monday. The oldest dated to 1867, and the newest to 1907. Investigators said Tuesday they've determined the stones came from Wichita's Highland Cemetery. Photos of the headstones were released to the  media, and people responded with numerous tips. 


Storms Leave Scattered Damage in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A line of powerful storms stretching from the Oklahoma border to near the Nebraska state line has left scattered damage to trees and buildings as it raced eastward across Kansas.  The National Weather Service received reports Monday afternoon and evening of thunderstorm winds blowing roofs off a barn and an out building in the southeastern town of Caney.  The violent weather system also spawned hail in much of the state. In Ottawa County, in north-central Kansas, a 2-inch-deep covering of hail slowed traffic on Kansas Highway 81 around 5pm.  Jabara Airport in Wichita reported a thunderstorm gust of 67 mph shortly after 4pm and emergency management officials in nearby Butler County reported a roof torn from a building and cars moved in a parking lot around the same time.

Topeka Zoo's Oldest Female Orangutan Dies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Topeka Zoo's oldest female orangutan has died at the age of 45.  The zoo announced the death of Daisy the orangutan on Monday. It said the cause of death has not been determined but Daisy had been in failing health from chronic sinusitis and kidney disease.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Daisy arrived at the zoo at the age of 5 in 1971. She was a surrogate mother to several newborn orangutans during her time at the zoo.

Goeldi's Monkey Gives Birth at Garden City Zoo

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — A southwest Kansas zoo has a new baby monkey.  The Garden City Telegram reports the baby Goeldi's monkey was born Sunday at the Lee Richardson Zoo. It's too early to tell the baby's gender.  Goeldi's monkeys are small and native to South America. In the wild, they are threatened by deforestation and poaching.  The baby's parents average just 14 to 18 ounces in size. And zoo officials say the tiny baby is barely visible as it clings to its mother's upper back.  The first-time mother will care for the baby on her own for the first two weeks before allowing the father to help.  The family is on view in the Marie Osterbuhr Aviary.

Phony DEA Agents Scamming Kansans

HIAWATHA, Kan. (AP) — A sheriff in northeastern Kansas is warning of a new telephone scam from someone claiming to be with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.  WIBW-TV reports that several residents of Brown County have received the calls.  A caller tells residents that they're targets of an investigation into purchases of diet pills and medications from other countries. The victims are then told they'll be arrested immediately at work unless they wire money to the DEA at a specified address.  Victims have told Brown County authorities that they've ordered medications from out of the country in the past. Investigators believe the scammers have somehow got hold of records of those transactions. 

Four Arrested in Burglaries of Topeka Storage Units

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Topeka believe they've solved a rash of storage unit burglaries in which more than $250,000 worth of property was stolen.  Police announced the arrests Tuesday of two men and two women suspected of breaking into dozens of storage units beginning last October. One of the suspects is charged with 84 counts of burglary and 77 counts of theft.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that detectives executed a search warrant Jan. 4 at a home where they found two stolen vehicles — including a 1968 Chevy Chevelle — and two 26-foot trailers' worth of stolen goods. Other search warrants were executed since then.  Police say that so far, they've matched more than $100,000 worth of stolen items with the owners. Detectives continue working with victims to identify more items.

Brad Pitt's Foundation to Help KC Redevelopment

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A foundation started by actor Brad Pitt after flooding in New Orleans will help renovate a closed Kansas City school into affordable housing and a community center.  City officials and architects announced the $14 million project for the 103-year-old Bancroft School on Monday.  Pitt, a native of Missouri, founded the Make It Right Foundation to help bring affordable housing back to New Orleans after the 2007 floods. BNIM Architects of Kansas City was one of the firms chosen to help with that project.  The Kansas City Star reports that the project is only the second project the foundation has undertaken outside New Orleans.  Organizers say the entire project will be built to highest environmental standards. Besides housing, it will include space for community groups, including Kansas City police.

I-70 in Eastern Colorado Reopens after Snowstorm

DENVER (AP) — About 250 miles of highways in eastern and northeastern Colorado have reopened after a winter storm and high winds prompted authorities to halt traffic.  Parts of eastern Colorado remained under a high wind warning or a high wind advisory Monday. The National Weather Service canceled a blizzard warning issued earlier in the day.  Nearly 350 miles of highways were closed Monday morning and about 100 miles remained closed in the afternoon. Eastbound Interstate 70 from Denver to Kansas was among the highways that reopened.  The Colorado Avalanche Information Center says avalanche danger is high in the northern San Juan Mountains, Steamboat Springs and the Flat Tops Mountains.  Steamboat Ski Resort reported a record 27 inches of new snow at mid-mountain in the last 24 hours on Monday.

Downtown Emporia Gains Historic District Label

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Officials in Emporia are looking forward to the benefits of the designation of the city's downtown as a historic district.  The nomination was approved by the Kansas Historical Society on a vote of 11-0 at a weekend meeting.  The Emporia Gazette reports that owners of buildings and businesses worked with community groups for more than three years on the project.  Casey Woods, executive director of the group Emporia Main Street, says designation of the downtown historic district brings access to new tax credits and other incentives for maintaining and renovating buildings.  Woods says the city's marketing efforts will also be helped by the designation.  The historic district covers about 18 city blocks, taking in churches, government buildings, former schools and a historic auto garage.

Cessna Moves Sport Aircraft Work to Independence

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Cessna Aircraft has moved work on its 162 Skycatcher from Wichita to its plant in Independence, in southeast Kansas.  Yingling Aviation in Wichita has been reassembling and delivering the Skycatcher aircraft after it was manufactured by a company in China.  Cessna said Monday work on the two-seat light sport aircraft will be moved from Yingling to the Cessna plant in Independence.  Cessna spokeswoman Diane White says Cessna wants to integrate the Skycatcher with its other single-engine airplanes in Independence. She says the plant in Independence has the capacity to do the work and the decision is not a reflection on Yingling.  The Wichita Eagle reports that Yingling has laid off six mechanics and moved others to other programs because of the decision.

Kansas Star Casino Nets $21.6 Million in First Few Weeks

MULVANE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane brought in $21.6 million in gambling revenue through January.  The Kansas Lottery says the total includes several "soft openings" and a demonstration for state regulators before the casino officially opened in late December.  The casino near Mulvane expects to open a five-table poker room soon, and will expand to 2,000 slot machines, 45 tables and a 12-table poker room when its permanent casino opens in January 2013.  The Lottery says the Hollywood Casino at the Kansas Speedway in Wyandotte County, which opened February 3, brought in just over $6.8 million in its first week of operation.

Bill Would Allow State to Give Armory to City of Horton

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are considering legislation to complete the transfer of a closed National Guard armory to the city of Horton.  The adjutant general closed the armory in the northeastern city in 2010 as part of an effort to reduce the state's portion of the National Guard budget. Units assigned to the armory were transferred to other locations in northeast Kansas.  A bill before the Senate Local Government Committee would clear the way for the Kansas Military Board to transfer the property to the city of Horton. The city would acquire the property at no cost, but it would be responsible for upkeep and utilities.  The House passed the bill on a vote of 124-0 last week. 


Kansas City Man Admits to Killing Missing Wife 

A former western Missouri firefighter has pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the death of his wife, who disappeared more than three years ago. Thirty-nine-year-old Shon Pernice of Kansas City entered the plea Tuesday in Clay County (MO) Circuit Court. Pernice had been scheduled for trial next week on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of Renee Pernice. The 35-year-old nursing instructor and mother of three disappeared in January 2009. Her body has not been found. Kansas City police said she had told her family she was considering divorce before her disappearance. Shon Pernice was a firefighter in the Kansas City suburb of Independence. He has also served in the National Guard and with the Army in Iraq. 



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