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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, January 15, 2013



Brownback Urges More Cuts in Kansas Income Taxes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback wants Kansas lawmakers to cut individual income taxes even further. In the prepared text of his State of the State speech Tuesday night, Brownback also said his ultimate goal is abolishing the state's individual income tax altogether. For now, the Republican governor said he wants to lower the top rate on individual income taxes to 3.5 percent from the current 4.9 percent. For low-income families, Brownback wants the rate reduced to 1.9 percent from the current 3 percent. The current rates were adopted in 2012 and took effect January 1. The state also exempted the owners of 191,000 businesses from income taxes. The reductions have created a projected revenue shortfall of $267 million for the fiscal year that starts July 1.


Brownback Seeks Changes in Selection of Judges

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback wants to change the way the state's top judges are chosen and to take courts out of school funding. In the prepared text of his State of the State address Tuesday night, Brownback cited last week's decision by a panel of trial judges that held the state's school finance formula unconstitutional. The Republican governor said he would support direct election of judges to the Kansas Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. He would also back a version of the federal system, in which lawmakers confirm top judicial appointments. Brownback also wants to change the Kansas Constitution to give the Legislature sole power to determine how much money is needed to provide a "suitable" education. Both changes would require Kansas voters to amend the state Constitution.


Kansas Governor's Plans Defy Court Order on Schools

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Governor Sam Brownback is calling for a fresh round of aggressive cuts in Kansas income taxes and changes in the state Constitution to rein in the judiciary. Brownback reaffirmed in the prepared version of his State of the State address Tuesday evening that his goal is to eventually eliminate income taxes. But his plan for further reductions is tied to keeping the state sales tax at its current rate, rather letting it drop in July as previously planned. Brownback's speech came just days after a three-member panel of trial judges ruled the state must boost its annual aid to public schools by at least $440 million. Brownback endorsed proposed constitutional amendments on education funding and the selection of judges for the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.


Governor Seeks $12M Kansas Reading Initiative

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback wants to spend $12 million to help Kansas elementary school students who struggle with reading. In the prepared version of his State of the State address Tuesday night, the governor outlined three-part initiative called Kansas Reads to Succeed. Besides the funding to for programs to help struggling readers, Brownback is also proposing to require third-graders to demonstrate an ability to read as a condition of being promoted. Additional incentives would be provided to elementary schools that do the best at boosting fourth-grade reading scores. Brownback says 29 percent of Kansas fourth-graders can't read at a basic level. The governor says promoting elementary school pupils who can't read is "irresponsible and cruel."


Kansas Legislature Opens with Bipartisan Tone

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Leaders of the Kansas Legislature are stressing a desire for bipartisanship as they begin the annual session. The House and Senate convened Monday with Republicans outnumbering Democrats 32-8 in the Senate and 92-33 in the House. Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita promised an open-door policy for senators of both parties. The chamber's minority leader, Democrat Anthony Hensley of Topeka, praised Wagle as a fighter after noting her multiple bouts with cancer. In the House, new Speaker Ray Merrick of Stilwell told members they shouldn't be afraid to share ideas with colleagues. House Democratic Leader Paul Davis noted what he called a toxic atmosphere in American politics over the past decade. Davis said the remedy starts with lawmakers working together and realizing that compromise is good.


Kansas Legislature Could See Push to Repeal Corporate Farming Restrictions

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's administration appears ready to ask Kansas legislators to repeal state laws that restrict the involvement of corporations in farming. State Agriculture Secretary Dale Rodman told freshmen legislators Tuesday that the state's anti-corporate farming laws need to be repealed. He said later during a brief interview the state can't expand agriculture as much as it could because of the restrictions. Also, Attorney General Derek Schmidt said he told Rodman in a recent letter that some of the restrictions are likely unconstitutional. Kansas has restricted corporate involvement in agriculture since 1931, during the Great Depression. Current law generally limits corporate ownership of agricultural land to family farm corporations or partnerships or small corporations formed by Kansas residents. It makes exceptions for feedlots, poultry operations, dairies and hog farms.

Chairman Predicts Kansas House Vote Next Week on Rules

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The chairman of the Kansas House Rules Committee says he expects the chamber to vote next week on a final set of rules for the next two years. McPherson Republican Clark Shultz said Monday his committee may revise a rule that limits House debate on spending proposals. The House adopted temporary rules Monday that mirror ones in place for 2011 and 2012. The Rules Committee will propose revisions for the House to consider. Shultz said one issue is the budget rule, which says that if members want to propose higher spending for particular programs or agencies during a House debate, they have to offset it with a cut elsewhere. He said there's confusion about which bills are affected by the rule and what spending offsets are allowed.


2 Firms Agree to Fines for Kansas No-Call Violations

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas attorney general's office says two companies have agreed to pay $10,000 each for violating the state's no-call telemarketing law. Attorney General Derek Schmidt identified the companies Tuesday as Prairie Life Fitness LLC, of Omaha, and Vandell Communications LLC, based in Illinois. Schmidt's office began investigating Prairie Life Fitness in early 2012 after an Overland Park resident complained of getting a solicitation by phone. The company acknowledged marketing its Kansas-based fitness centers to Kansas residents who had placed their numbers on the national do-not-call registry. The attorney general says Vandell Communications telephoned Kansas residents on the no-call list offering prizes on behalf of a Nevada company selling travel-related services. Schmidt says both companies agreed to pay the state $10,000 in penalties and fees for the violations.

SW Kansas Woman's Death Under Investigation

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are asking for the public's help as they investigate the death of a southwest Kansas woman. Twenty-three-year-old Yesenia Rodriguez was found dead Sunday morning in the driveway of her home just outside Liberal. Seward County Sheriff Bill McBryde says an autopsy performed Monday showed no signs of trauma. But authorities are treating the case as a homicide as they wait on a toxicology report. McBryde said the woman's last known contact was with her roommate at 3 am. Her body was found outside her home slightly more than five hours later. The sheriff also says Rodriguez's car — a gray 1994 Toyota Corolla — is missing. Investigators hope to hear from anyone who might have seen the vehicle.

Thief Steals Wheels from Disabled Kansas Dog

OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — An eastern Kansas family wants to know what kind of person would steal the wheels right out from under a disabled 10-year-old dog. KCTV reports the crime happened Saturday while Jeffrey and Lou Baker's friendly, 50-pound boxer Sammy was outside their rural Franklin County home. Sammy was outfitted with a special canine wheelchair last fall after losing the use of his back legs to a progressive disease. The wheelchair straps onto his body and helps him get around. Franklin County Deputy Jerrod Fredericks says it takes "a special kind of crazy" to commit such a crime. The wheelchair turned up along a hiking trail near the Bakers' home. The straps were intact, but someone removed a pin to make it easier to get the device off the dog.


Gaming Company Proposes $7.25M Settlement with KS County

COLUMBUS, Kan. (AP) — Penn National Gaming is proposing a $7.25 million settlement with Cherokee County in a dispute over a casino that was never built. Cherokee County sued Penn National for $53 million in 2008 after the company decided not to build a casino in southeast Kansas. The company cited competition from a resort just south of where it planned to build the casino. A Shawnee County judge in November accepted the county's argument that the company backed out after deciding it could make more money elsewhere. Penn National has the state contract for a casino in Kansas City, Kansas. The Joplin Globe reports the settlement includes $4.75 million and 200 acres of property worth about $2.5 million. The commission has not formally accepted the settlement, which the judge also must approve.

Searchers Find Body of Missing Hays High Schooler 

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Ellis County authorities say the death of an 18-year-old Hays high school student was accidental. The body of Citlatli Adilene Armendariz was found Monday afternoon in a creek about a mile south of Hays. She had been missing since she left a party Saturday night. KWCH-TV says a coroner's report found she died of hypothermia along with head injuries resulting from a fall. The Ellis County sheriff's office says Armendariz fell down a 6-foot embankment and landed head first on ice in Big Creek. She then walked about another quarter mile to where her body was found. Investigators say there is no indication of foul play, though the investigation will continue.

Kansas City Police Chase Ends with Fatal Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police have identified the man killed in a shootout with officers that followed a low-speed chase along an interstate. The chase began early Tuesday when Independence police tried to stop the driver, identified later as 38-year-old Todd S. Weber. Police said Weber's last known address was in nearby Overland Park, Kansas. Officers followed Weber into Clay County and Kansas City, in a pursuit with top speeds of only 35 mph. Stop sticks slowed the vehicle, but it continued for several miles. Eventually, Weber got out of his vehicle on Interstate 435 in eastern Kansas City. Police spokesman Steven Young says the man pointed a gun at officers and began firing. Officers returned fire, killing him. None of the officers was seriously hurt.


University of Kansas Gets Approval for $39M Project

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas received approval from the Lawrence city commission to begin construction on a $39 million complex that will include track and field, soccer and softball facilities. KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger announced Tuesday that the school had received the all-clear to begin construction on the facilities west of campus. Preliminary plans call for a track and field stadium with 7,000 permanent seats and room for 3,000 temporary seats. The new home of the Kansas Relays would mean the existing track could be removed from Memorial Stadium, where the Jayhawks play football. The new soccer stadium will seat 2,500 and the softball stadium will seat 1,500. School officials hope to have the facilities ready by spring 2014.


Ex-Kansas Sheriff Sentenced on Drug Charges

STOCKTON, Kan. (AP) — A former northwest Kansas sheriff has been sentenced to four years and one month in prison for distributing methamphetamine. KWCH-TV reports that the sentence given Tuesday to former Rooks County sheriff Randy Axelson was shorter than the five years and four months requested by prosecutors. Axelson was arrested December 2011 following an investigation by Kansas authorities. He was accused of distributing meth over a period of four months at the Rooks County Fairgrounds and within 1,000 feet of Stockton High School. He pleaded guilty in July 2012 to four counts. Prosecutors dropped five other counts in exchange for the plea.


Man with 2 Children Suspected in Topeka Thefts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police say a man brought along two children while he stole items from an office building and a church. Topeka police spokeswoman Kristen Veverka said Tuesday the man stole items from an office building on January 2. The two children were with him inside the building. Last Thursday, a man accompanied by two children took property from a Topeka church. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the man is white, mid-30s, slender with brown hair. He and the children left the church in a two-tone blue minivan.


Washburn Prof Chosen as Law School Dean for University of Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has picked a new dean for its law school. Provost Zulma Toro announced Tuesday that Michael Schwartz of Lawrence, Kansas will be the dean of law at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Schwartz replaces former federal prosecutor Paula Casey, who has served as the law school's interim dean since July 2012. Casey will resume her role as a professor when Schwartz takes over as dean July 1. Schwartz is currently associate dean for faculty and academic development at Washburn University School of Law in Topeka.

Trial Delayed in Kidnapping/ Killing of Topeka Girl

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The capital murder trial of a Topeka man charged with kidnapping, raping and killing an 8-year-old girl has been postponed for several months. Billy Frank Davis Jr. is accused of kidnapping Ahliyah Irvin on March 13 while she slept in her Topeka apartment, where Davis was a neighbor. Her body was found within hours inside a clothes dryer in the same apartment complex. The Topeka Capital Journal reports that a Shawnee County judge on Monday granted a defense request to delay the trial from March 4 to October 7. A motion to move the trial to another county was denied. Davis could face the death penalty if he's convicted. Police say he told detectives that he kidnapped and choked the girl during a flashback to his military service in Iraq.

KSU to Convert Car to Compressed Gas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The city of Topeka is teaming up with Kansas State University students to make a vehicle powered by compressed natural gas, an alternative fuel created from the methane extracted from human waste. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports mechanical engineering students will convert a city vehicle to compressed natural gas in a bid to find a use for methane gas from a Topeka wastewater treatment plant. Don Rankin, public works utilities infrastructure division director, says the plant wastes the methane equivalent of about 440,000 gallons of gasoline. Topeka expects to spend no more than $10,000 to supply the vehicle and buy parts for the conversion. Rankin says the results and cost benefit analysis could go a long way in helping the department determine the best use for the wasted fuel.

Pratt Ethanol Plant Expected to Reopen

PRATT, Kan. (AP) — A new owner plans to reopen an ethanol plant in Pratt that's been closed since 2008. Officials with Scoular Company of Omaha, Nebraska announced Monday that it sold most of its interest in the plant to Pratt Biofuels Investors. That's a new company formed by investors in a California ethanol plant, Calgren Renewable Fuels. Calgren plans to reopen the Pratt plant by spring. The plant, which can produce 55 million gallons of ethanol a year, closed in 2008. The Wichita Eagle reports that Scoular will continue to procure feedstock and will market and ship the ethanol and distillers grains produced at the plant. Scoular has eight facilities in Kansas and employs more than 150 people in the state.


Missouri Court Reinstates Suit Against Royals Mascot

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Sluggerrr, the Kansas City Royals mascot, is going back to court. A Missouri appeals court on Tuesday reversed a lower court decision in a lawsuit filed by John Coomer of Overland Park against the Royals and their mascot. Coomer alleges he suffered a detached retina and other injuries when he was hit by a hot dog Sluggerrr threw into the stands during a Royals game in 2009. In 2011, a Jackson County (Missouri) jury found for the Royals, saying fans accept a risk of being hit by flying promotions when they attend games. The Kansas City Star reports that the Missouri Western District Court of Appeals overturned that decision Tuesday. The court ruled that being hit by a hot dog is not a well-known risk of attending a baseball game.


Baby Abandoned in Lawrence in 1964 Discusses Life

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A woman who was abandoned as a newborn in Lawrence almost 50 years ago says she's had a happy life. A cleaning woman found the baby at what was called the Grover Bungalo Launderette in November 1964. She was likely no more than three hours old. Nurses at a Lawrence hospital named her Baby Amy. Her parents were never found. The Lawrence Journal-World reports she was adopted and spent the first seven years of her life in Kansas. The family moved to New York state. After earning two college degrees, she has traveled the world as an underwater archaeologist and currently lives in Craig, Alaska. She and her husband have two children. She says she forgives her birth mother and would thank her if the two ever met.

Suspect in Hutchinson Shooting Waives Hearing

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A suspect in a fatal Hutchinson shooting will be arraigned February 4, after he waived his right to a preliminary hearing. Twenty-year-old Isaac D. Beltran of Hutchinson is charged with second-degree murder in the November 2012 death of 26-year-old Dustin Brooks. The Hutchinson News reports that Beltran's case was transferred after Monday's hearing to Judge Tim Chambers. Beltran will enter a plea at the February 4 hearing. Brooks died at Hutchinson Regional Medical Center after being shot outside a Halloween party. Police say the shooting occurred after Brooks and Beltran argued.

Israel's Ambassador to US to Deliver Landon Lecture

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The Israeli ambassador to the United States is appearing at Kansas State to give the latest installment of its Landon Lecture series. Michael Oren will present "Israel, The Ultimate Ally" at 10:15 am on January 29th. The U.S.-born and -educated Oren has held the ambassador post since June 2009. His last two books are "Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East from 1776 to the Present" and "Six Days of War." Both were New York Times best sellers. Oren sometimes attracts controversy. Ten Muslim students were convicted of misdemeanors for repeatedly interrupting his 2010 speech at the University of California at Irvine. The Landon Lecture is named for Governor Alf Landon, a Republican who was Kansas governor from 1933 to 1937. Landon lost to Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1936 presidential election.


Man Pleads Guilty to Charge in Missouri Sex Slave Case

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man accused of torturing a young woman he kept as a sex slave has pleaded guilty to having sex with her when she was underage. Edward Bagley entered his plea Tuesday in a deal with prosecutors. He agreed to a 20-year prison sentence that still must approved by a federal judge. Bagley was originally charged in September 2010 with 11 federal counts, including conspiracy, sex trafficking, forced labor trafficking and using an interstate facility to entice a minor into illegal sexual conduct. Prosecutors say the woman was 16 in 2002 when she moved into the now 45-year-old Bagley's mobile home on the outskirts of Lebanon, Missouri. She lived there until 2009. Four other men and Bagley's wife have pleaded guilty to conspiracy and await sentencing.

Kansas Youths Host Town Hall on Underage Drinking

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A group of students from Wichita area high schools will host a town hall meeting on the dangers of underage drinking. The Mayor's Youth Council event begins at 6 pm Tuesday in the council board room at Wichita City Hall. Panelists include Mayor Carl Brewer along with some city officials, law enforcement personnel, school and council representatives. The Mayor's Youth Council is made up of more than 30 students from area high schools.


Creve Coeur, MIssouri Joins Cities with Protest Restrictions

CREVE COEUR, Mo. (AP) — Another St. Louis-area town is placing restrictions on funeral and burial protests by groups such as the Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Creve Coeur City Council on Monday unanimously passed a measure banning picketing within 300 feet of a space where a funeral or burial service is taking place. The ban is in place during the service, along with one hour before and after. Clayton passed similar legislation in December. Both laws mirror a Manchester ordinance that has been upheld by a federal appeals court. Westboro is known for anti-gay protests that often occur at military funerals.

UMKC, Bar to Offer Continuing Legal Education

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A new partnership will create the largest continuing legal education provider in the Kansas City area. The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law and the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association announced Monday that they're working together to teach attorneys the latest on topics such as ethics. UMKC's director of continuing legal education, Daniel McCarroll, will serve as director for the collaboration. Local bar association executive director Vickie Schatz will be the manager. UMKC Law School Dean Ellen Suni says the decision to combine the two competitors will "make Kansas City a model for economical, efficient excellence in continuing legal education." The Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association serves about 5,000 members in seven Missouri counties and two counties in Kansas.


Chiefs' Reid Adds Former Bears Assistant to Coaching Staff

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — New Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid hired former Bears assistant Dave Toub to direct special teams on Tuesday, and announced that he's retaining linebackers coach Gary Gibbs and defensive backs coach Emmitt Thomas from the previous staff. Reid announced the majority of his coaching staff late last week, including Doug Pederson as offensive coordinator and Bob Sutton as the defensive coordinator. Toub has spent the past nine seasons with the Bears. Prior to that, he worked with special teams and the defensive line for Reid in Philadelphia. Reid still has not announced an offensive line coach, though former Dolphins coach Tony Sparano has interviewed for the job. Reid also confirmed Tuesday that he had hired Eugene Chung to be the assistant offensive line coach. Chung also worked with Reid in Philadelphia.


New-Look Chiefs Turning Attention to NFL Draft

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The overhaul of the Kansas City Chiefs is nearly complete. Andy Reid has been hired to replace Romeo Crennel as coach, and longtime Green Bay Packers personnel man John Dorsey has replaced Scott Pioli as general manager. Most of the assistant coaches are on board, and now the Chiefs can start turning their attention toward the rebuilding job. The Chiefs finished 2-14 last season, matching the worst record in their 53-year history. But the byproduct of all that on-field suffering is that they have the number-one NFL draft pick for the first time, giving Kansas City a good place to start turning around the team.


Brownback to Deliver Kansas State of State Address

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is preparing to deliver his third State of the State address, outlining for legislators his agenda for the 2013 session. The speech will be delivered Tuesday night to a joint session of the House and Senate. Brownback is expected to share his plans for balancing the state budget, which faces a projected shortfall of $267 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The governor has already suggested that a sales tax increase approved in 2010 and set to expire this summer be kept in place to raise revenue. Brownback is also likely to suggest how legislators should respond to last week's court ruling that declared the state's school finance formula unconstitutional.

**this story has been updated. Please see above. 


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