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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Kansas Projects Included in Federal Spending Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Congress is considering a $1.1 trillion appropriations bill that contains funding for projects in Kansas with implications for the next several decades. The bill, which has been agreed upon by House and Senate negotiators, contains $404 million for the next round of construction of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility near Kansas State University in Manhattan. It also contains $219 million for military construction at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita in advance of the stationing of new KC-46A refueling tankers. Congress is expected to vote on the appropriations bill by Saturday, but first must pass a continuing resolution to keep the federal government operating until the deal is finished. The bill contains the spending for several government agencies and is based on a budget agreement reached last month.


KS Chamber Expands Agenda on Energy, Education

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Chamber of Commerce is expanding its legislative agenda this year to include support for repealing the state's renewable energy standard for utilities. Chamber executives said Tuesday they're getting into the renewable energy issue because businesses are concerned about energy costs. The standard requires Kansas utilities to see that renewable sources such as wind provide 20 percent of their electric generating capacity by 2020. Chamber President and CEO Mike O'Neal also said the group will lobby on education issues. O'Neal said the chamber's position on energy isn't anti-wind, but driven by a belief that the marketplace should drive utility decisions. But green energy advocate and Lawrence Rabbi Moti Rieber said the chamber is taking a stance against jobs and economic development.


KS House to Study Governor's All-Day Kindergarten Proposal

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House Republicans are forming a committee to study Governor Sam Brownback's proposal to increase funding for all-day kindergarten. House Speaker Ray Merrick announced Tuesday that he had asked a group of legislators to review the plan before the chamber acts on it. Brownback announced in December that he wanted to increase funding for all-day kindergarten over five years. The first year would cost $16 million, increasing by the same amount until fully funded at more than $80 million in the fifth year. Currently, nearly all of the state's 286 school districts provide all-day kindergarten. The program is funded with existing state aid, such as money allocated for students at-risk of academic failure, or general school revenues.


Probe: Group Founder Had Undue Influence on Agency

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A three-month investigation has concluded that the founder of a nonprofit Wichita group used personal relationships to receive confidential information from a state agency and inappropriately influenced some foster care decisions. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Kansas Department of Children and Families on Monday released its findings in an investigation that began in October after the agency received complaints about placement decisions involving FaithBuilders. The probe found that staff members at DCF's Wichita office violated agency rules by providing FaithBuilders founder and executive director Andrea Dixon "more information on certain cases than was appropriate" and by "giving unnecessary deference" to Dixon and her organization on placement decisions. Despite the findings, DCF said in its report it would resume allowing children to be placed with FaithBuilders homes.


Republicans Fill Kansas House Leadership Position

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republicans in the Kansas House have elected a freshman lawmaker from Olathe to fill a vacant leadership position. Representative Ron Ryckman Jr. will be the House majority whip, serving as the Republicans' chief vote-counter on significant issues. He prevailed over Representative Travis Couture-Lovelady of Palco on a 62-28 vote Monday. Ryckman will replace former Brian Weber of Dodge City, who resigned from the Legislature in June for family and business reasons. Ryckman already is serving as chairman of the House Social Services Budget Committee. He is the son of Representative Ron Ryckman, a Meade Republican who was elected to the House in 2010.

Moran Plans to Host Town Hall Meeting in Cheney

CHENEY, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Senator Jerry Moran continues his multi-county listening tour later this month with a town hall meeting in Sedgwick County. The Kansas Republican announced Monday the gathering will be held the afternoon of January 25 at Cheney City Hall. Moran has held town halls in several communities in recent week to gather public opinion on issues facing Kansas and the nation.

KS Atty General Reports Fundraising Efforts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt reports raising more than $229,000 in 2013 as he begins his bid for a second term. The Republican attorney general reported Friday he had nearly $375,000 in cash for the period from January 1, 2013, through December 31. He started the fundraising cycle with $189,000. Schmidt also reported campaign expenses of $44,000 in 2013. No other Republican or Democrat has formed a committee for a campaign to challenge Schmidt. The former state Senate majority leader won his first term as attorney general in 2010 by defeating Democratic incumbent Steve Six.

Reward Doubles for Return of Dying Woman's Ring

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The reward has doubled for return of a wedding ring stolen from a dying woman last month in Wichita. The Wichita Crime Commission says it is now offering $4,255 for information leading to recovery of the ring belonging to 43-year-old Danielle Zimmerman. She died in December after suffering an aneurysm at a fast-food restaurant. While she was unconscious, someone stole the ring and several other items from her car. The Wichita Eagle reports that the crime commission announced a $2,000 reward last Friday but said donations from the public have increased the amount. Three men have been arrested and some of Zimmerman's possessions have been recovered but the ring is still missing. Zimmerman's husband has publicly pleaded for someone to the return the ring.

KS Group Working on Medicaid Plan, but GOP Wary

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Hospital Association is working on a proposed alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health care overhaul, but Republican leaders remain wary. Hospital Association Vice President Cindy Samuelson said Monday that the association doesn't know what form its proposal will take. One option is using additional federal funds promised under the federal health care law to help Kansans buy private coverage. Arkansas and Iowa are taking that approach. Samuelson said the association is seeking what she called a unique Kansas solution. Republican Governor Sam Brownback and GOP legislative leaders are still critical of the federal health care overhaul championed by Democratic President Barack Obama. The hospital association has hired a firm headed by former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt to help with a plan.


Older Kansans Outnumber Younger in Health Sign-Ups

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new federal report says more Kansans approaching retirement age than young adults have signed up for health coverage through an online insurance marketplace. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Monday that 34 percent of Kansans who chose a plan via the marketplace through December 28 were 55 through 64 years old. Twenty-seven percent were 18 through 34 years old. A similar trend appeared in nationwide data. The online marketplace opened in October with a rocky rollout of its website. HHS said through December 28th, about 14,200 Kansans selected a health plan through the exchange, with 74 percent receiving subsidies. Fifty-six percent of the enrollees were women. The federal government runs the marketplace for Kansas because state officials resisted involvement with the federal health overhaul.

Bill Includes Funds for McConnell Construction

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Senator Jerry Moran says the final Omnibus appropriations bill includes $219 million for upgrades at McConnell Air Force Base to accommodate the new KC-46A tankers. The Kansas Republican said in a news release Monday that a vote is expected this week in the House and Senate. Moran says the funding is a vital step on McConnell's path to becoming the home of the new tankers. The KC-46A tanker fleet will begin arriving at McConnell in 2016, bringing more than 200 airmen to the base. Projects at the Air Force base include an installation of weapon system trainers and construction of hangars, parking space and a hydrant fuel system. A squadron operations and aircraft maintenance unit building will also be built at the base.


Man Commits Suicide at Home Where Boy Was Shot

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a 70-year-old man shot himself to death at a home where a 10-year-old boy was accidentally shot during a game with a gun. Lieutenant Doug Nolte says the man was found dead in the backyard of the house in southeast Wichita on Monday night. He is the same age as a man who was arrested Sunday when the boy was taken to a hospital after he was grazed by a bullet. The child was treated and released. Police allege the man began playing "quick draw" with two boys, using his .22 caliber handgun, and accidentally fired a shot. A 14-year-old boy was not injured.


Judge Allows Bulk of Claims Against KS School

WICHTA, Kan. (AP) — An embattled Kansas military boarding school will have to go to trial over a lawsuit filed by 11 ex-cadets alleging a culture of abuse. U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum ruled Monday that former students at St. John's Military School in Salina cited enough evidence that a reasonable jury would find the school's conduct "exceeded the bounds of decency and is intolerable in a modern society." The judge dismissed only 10 of the 44 claims brought by the students. The lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial in March. Lungstrum wrote the cadets presented evidence the school had a system that allowed some students to physically discipline other students. He said the school had notice that such discipline caused physical harm and but still failed to protect the cadets.


2 Dead in Shooting at Kansas City Intersection

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police say two people have died and another is hospitalized after someone opened fire on a pickup truck at an intersection. The shootings happened just before 1:30 pm Tuesday on the southeastern side of the city. Witnesses and police said the pickup truck was stopped at a traffic light when multiple shots were fired from a silver Hyundai. Police said the Hyundai left the scene with its back window blown out by shots fired from inside. Names of the two people who died were not immediately released. Injuries to the pickup truck's third occupant were described as minor.


Missouri Man Charged in Motorist's Death After Chase

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 22-year-old Independence man has been charged with second-degree murder — or an alternative count of first-degree manslaughter — for a crash that killed a 35-year-old Kansas City man and seriously injured two passengers. Investigators say Andrew Stark was fleeing from police Monday morning when he drove into Kansas City, ran a red light and plowed into the side of a car driven by Jason Lewis, who was killed. Stark is accused of running from the scene before being taken into custody a block away. Police say Stark's license was revoked at the time of the crash, and that he has two prior convictions for leaving the scene of an accident. He also has five convictions for driving while suspended. Online court records didn't indicate whether he had an attorney.


Senior Center Director Pleads No Contest to Theft

ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The former director of a south-central Kansas senior center has pleaded no contest to theft, misuse of public funds and giving false information. The Arkansas City Traveler reports that 47-year-old Edward G. Greene entered the pleas Tuesday in Cowley County District Court. Greene resigned in September 2012 after four years as director of the Arkansas City Senior Citizens Center. He was charged last February with six felony counts, three of which were dropped under a plea agreement. The agreement requires Greene to pay restitution of $25,000 to the senior center, $25,000 to Ark City Senior Friends and $3,000 to the city. Sentencing is scheduled for February 19.


Cargill Contributes $120K to Global Trading Center

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Cargill Meat Solutions is pledging $120,000 to help Wichita State University establish a center that will teach students about global trading. The Wichita State University Foundation said in a news release that the Koch Global Trading Center is slated to open this summer in a building that houses the business school. The center will be equipped with real-time quotes, international data feeds and analysis software. It is designed to prepare students for careers in the financial and commodity markets. Cargill's gift brings the total amount raised for the project to $850,000. The ultimate fundraising goal is $1 million.


Wichita Police: Woman's Body in House for Months

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say they don't suspect foul play in the death of an 88-year-old woman whose semi-mummified body was discovered while authorities were investigating her son's suicide. Lieutenant Doug Nolte said Tuesday police forced their way into the home Friday after a neighbor reported not seeing the male occupant for several days. Officers found the 69-year-old man dead, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His mother's body was also in the home, wrapped in plastic tarps. Nolte says the woman apparently had been dead for several months. Determining the cause of death is expected to take time given the body's condition, but there are no obvious signs of trauma.


Lawrence District Will Manage Virtual High School

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Lawrence school district plans to take over management of Lawrence Virtual High School, at least through the end of the school year. District Superintendent Rick Doll announced Monday that the company currently managing the school, K12 Inc., will be paid through the end of its contract on June 30. But the district began operating the school at the start of the second semester, after it reported a graduation rate last year of just 26.3 percent. Doll says the school board will have to decide later this year whether to continue operating the virtual school. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Lawrence district already manages a virtual school for K-8 students. The virtual high school had 292 students enrolled last year, including 34 seniors.

Main SE Kansas Recycling Center Has Funding Woes

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — The only major recycling center in southeast Kansas is facing a dire future if it doesn't find a permanent funding source. The Southeast Kansas Recycling Center in Pittsburg takes in recycling from several southeast Kansas towns and take trailers to collection points in Cherokee County. But Jim Triplett, president of the center's board, says the recycling center lost nearly $69,000 last year. He blames the loss on falling commodity prices, building loans and more competition for clothing — which provides money for the center. He also says the center is the only recycling center in Kansas that isn't financially supported by a city or county. The Joplin Globe reports that  the Crawford County Commission recently gave the center a $10,000 temporary payment.

Retired Wichita Investigator Landwehr Dies at 59

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Retired Wichita police Lieutenant Ken Landwehr, who supervised more than 600 homicide investigations during his career, has died at the age of 59. KAKE-TV reports that Landwehr died Monday at his home. Police Chief Norman Williams said Landwehr had kidney cancer. Landwehr retired in 2012 after a 35-year career with the Wichita Police Department. He investigated many of Wichita's most infamous homicides and was credited with breaking the BTK serial killer case. The suspect, Dennis Rader, was arrested in February 2005 and pleaded guilty to killing 10 people in the Wichita area between 1974 and 1991. Landwehr also led investigations that led to arrests in two quadruple homicides within a week of each other in 2000.


Big Powerball Prize Unclaimed in SW Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A million-dollar Powerball prize on a ticket sold in southwest Kansas remains unclaimed after nearly a year. The Kansas Lottery said Tuesday the ticket matched the first five numbers but not the Powerball in the drawing of January 26, 2013. Those numbers were 3-22-26-41-49, Powerball 18. Holders of winning tickets have 365 days to come forward. If the prize isn't claimed, the Lottery retains the jackpot money to be used in future prizes. The Lottery said the $1 million ticket was sold in its 24-county southwest Kansas region. By policy, the agency doesn't reveal the store where a winning ticket was sold until the prize is claimed.




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