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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, March 27, 2012



UPDATE: Kansas House Advances Plan Targeting School Lawsuits

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas House members have given first-round approval to a proposed amendment to the state constitution aimed at blocking lawsuits over education funding. The measure advanced Tuesday on a 91-31 vote to final action, which is expected Wednesday. The amendment would declare that courts or the executive branch couldn't direct the Legislature to appropriate money. The proposal is backed by Republican Governor Sam Brownback and GOP leaders in both chambers. The Kansas Constitution currently says the state cannot spend any money unless the Legislature makes a specific appropriation. But in decisions in a school finance lawsuit in 2005 and 2006, the state Supreme Court told lawmakers they had to increase aid to public schools. The court also set specific figures. Supporters want to put the proposal on the November ballot.


Kansas Lawmakers Begin Negotiations on Tax Cuts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House and Senate negotiators are working out a final version of legislation cutting sales and income taxes. Three senators and three House members met for about an hour Tuesday to review the two chambers' differences on tax-cutting measures. They're expected to meet again Wednesday. The House and Senate have both passed bills cutting the state's top individual income tax rates and eliminating income taxes for 191,000 partnerships, sole proprietorships and other businesses. Both also have passed proposals to reduce sales taxes, as well as measures aimed at holding down local property taxes. But the two chambers differ widely on parts of their proposals. Governor Sam Brownback is pressing for an overhaul of the state income tax code.


Kansas House Bill Creating School Vouchers Fails

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill that would have created a tax break to allow students to attend private or parochial schools has been defeated. The House voted Monday to block a proposal to provide tax credits for contributions to scholarships for students in 18 struggling public school districts who wanted to attend private or parochial schools. Supporters argued the bill would give parents in low-performing districts the option of improving their children's education. But opponents of the bill said most poor people would not have been able to use the program, in part because the $4,000 scholarships would not cover full tuition at most private schools. Opponents also said giving tax credits would decrease state revenue that goes to public schools. The potential annual tax loss was estimated at $5 million.


 Kansas SRS Secretary Names Regional Director

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The head of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services has named a permanent director for the agency's Kansas City region.  SRS Secretary Phyllis Gilmore has announced the appointment of Mike Myers. Myers has been the interim regional director since February. The regional office covers Atchison, Douglas, Johnson, Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties. The region serves more than 97,000 clients. Myers has more than 30 years of experience in management, human resources, budgets and business administration.


Kansas Appeals Court Rejects False Teeth Argument

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Court of Appeals didn't bite on a man's claim that his false teeth caused his arrest for driving while intoxicated. Gary Bolton, of Morris County, argued his dentures might have trapped alcohol in his mouth when he took a breath test in 2008. Court records show his blood alcohol level was 0.24, far above the 0.08 limit for driving under the influence. The Wichita Eagle reports Bolton was trying to stop the state from suspending his driver's license. He argued police should have made him remove his dentures before the test. But the appeals court ruled Friday that police had complied with a requirement that drivers be observed at least 20 minutes to allow mouth alcohol to dissipate and make sure nothing is put in their mouths.


UPDATE: Kansas DA Expects No Charges Over Questionable Disposal of Abortion Files

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas district attorney says he doesn't expect to file criminal charges against a former abortion provider who discarded patients' private medical records in a recycling bin outside a school in the Kansas City area. But Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said Tuesday his office will examine whether Krishna Rajanna's actions violated state consumer protection laws, which are enforced through civil lawsuits. Howe also said he may contact federal officials about potential violations of patient privacy laws. Rajanna confirmed that he discarded hundreds of patients' records in a recycling bin outside an elementary school blocks from his home in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, believing the bin would be emptied quickly. He did not immediately return a telephone message Tuesday afternoon, seeking a response to Howe's comments.


Kansas Refinery Agrees to Pay $700,000 Penalty

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A petroleum refinery and underground storage facility in McPherson County has agreed to pay $700,000 in penalties to settle violations of federal and state laws. Under a consent decree filed Monday in federal court in Kansas City, The National Cooperative Refinery Association agreed to pay $475,000 to the United States and $225,000 to the state. It also agreed to spend about $745,000 on environmental projects such as the purchase of emergency response equipment and services for agencies in McPherson County. The government alleged National Cooperative Refinery Association polluted the air, failed to implement a risk management plan and didn't submit timely and accurate reports to regulatory agencies. The deal is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court approval.


Attorneys Seek "Proper Care" for Suspect Charged with Iraq Shootings

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) _ Attorneys for an Army sergeant charged with shooting five service members in Iraq in 2009 are concerned about the soldier's medical treatment at the prison at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. Sergeant John Russell, of Texas, was moved to Washington in January from Fort Leavenworth. Civilian lawyer James Culp and military attorneys representing Russell filed a request with the Army's I Corps headquarters seeking "proper care" for their client. The 47-year-old Russell is accused of carrying out the deadliest act of soldier-on-soldier violence in the war in Iraq as he was nearing his third tour of duty. Culp said Russell is on anti-depressive and anti-psychotic drugs that are causing his health to deteriorate by elevating his heart rate, blood pressure and weight. Major Chris Ophardt, a spokesman for I Corps, declined Tuesday to comment about the attorneys' request.


Pittsburg High Considering Random Drug Testing Policy

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) _ Officials at Pittsburg High School are seeking more input from parents before advancing a proposed drug-testing policy for any student participating in extracurricular activities. The policy would require students and parents at the southeast Kansas school to sign informed-consent agreements before the students can participate in activities. The agreement would make students eligible for random drug tests. Pittsburg High School activities director Doug Hitchcock says only about 20 people showed up for a session this month to discuss the proposal. Another meeting has been set for April 3. Hitchcock said administrators want community and parental input before sending a final version of the proposed policy to the school board for consideration.


UPDATE: NE Kansas Killings Being Treated as Murder-Suicide 

EDWARDSVILLE, Kan. (AP) — Police in a Kansas City suburb say they're treating the deaths of two men inside a home as a murder-suicide. The men were found shot to death Monday afternoon by Edwardsville police responding to a 911 call. KCTV reports that investigators were not seeking any suspects Tuesday. A woman who lives in the house was there along with a 4-year-old child when the shootings occurred in the basement. Police say both men were in their late 20s to early 30s. One of them lived in the home and was the father of the 4-year-old. The men's names have not been released. Edwardsville is a community of about 4,500 people in Wyandotte County, just west of Kansas City, Kansas.


Arkansas City Settles Discrimination Lawsuit

ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The City of Arkansas City has agreed to pay a former employee and her attorney $64,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit. The employee, Mary K. Bartlett, will receive $35,502 as her part of the settlement of a 2010 lawsuit. Bartlett claimed she was fired as secretary in the Public Services Department after disagreements with her supervisor over accommodations for her medical conditions. She also claimed retaliation for reporting that her supervisor violated a city policy. The Arkansas City Traveler reports the settlement was reached a month ago but it was not signed by Bartlett until last week. As part of the settlement, the city did not admit any wrongdoing. The city claimed Bartlett was not fired but quit because of her disagreements with the supervisor.


KSU Athletic Director Denies Strife Led to Martin Departure

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas State athletic director John Currie denied Tuesday that a rift with Frank Martin was the primary reason the popular basketball coach left for the same job at South Carolina. Currie said he tried to offer Martin a chance to restructure his contract several times over the course of the season. That included a last-minute pitch Monday, when Martin called to inform K-State officials that he was accepting an offer from the Gamecocks. Currie was joined at a news conference Tuesday by Kansas State president Kirk Schulz, who offered support of his athletic director. Currie said he would begin the search immediately for a new coach. He would not say whether he has a list of potential candidates and declined to offer a timetable for the hiring. This will be the first time Currie has hired a major coach since taking over in 2009.


UPDATE: Martin Introduced as Gamecocks Coach

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ Former K-State men's basketball coach Frank Martin says he's ready to take on the difficult task of turning around the University of South Carolina team. South Carolina placed last in the Southeastern Conference this year. Martin was introduced Tuesday as the Gamecocks new coach, leaving Kansas State after four NCAA tournament appearances in five years. Martin says while "some people run away from challenges,'' he runs to them, "I always have." South Carolina has been to the NCAA just once since 1998, but the Gamecocks gave Martin plenty of time to turns things turnaround. He was given a six-year, $12.3 million deal. Martin was 117-54 in five years with the Wildcats. They reached the NCAA regional finals in 2010 and lost to Syracuse in the third round this season.


Jury Selection Slow in Kansas Capital Murder Case

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Opening statements are now expected Thursday in the trial of a central Kansas man accused of killing a 14-year-old girl and burning her body at the asphalt plant where he worked. Thirty-eight-year-old Adam Longoria, of Great Bend, could face life in prison without parole if he's convicted of capital murder in the death of Alicia DeBolt in August 2010. Questioning of prospective jurors in Barton County District Court began Monday and will continue Wednesday. Court adjourned Tuesday with six people still needed for the final pool from which 12 jurors and two alternates will be drawn. The court wants 42 people in the pool before attorneys exercise their right to dismiss prospective jurors without having to give a reason.


B-2 Stealth Bombers to Get $2 Billion Upgrade

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An officer at Whiteman Air Force Base says B-2 stealth bombers soon will be undergoing the biggest and most complex update in the plane's history. The Kansas City Star reports the Pentagon is moving forward with a 10-year, $2 billion effort to modernize the defensive capabilities of the fleet, which is kept at the central Missouri base. Planned improvements include replacing analog equipment with digital, upgrading antennas and enhancing communications systems and pilot displays. Keeping the nation's 20 B-2's in top shape is a priority at Whiteman, since the bat-winged bombers are expected to be in use until 2058. Colonel Rob Spalding says some improvements already have been made by technicians at the base to keep the planes current with changing technologies.


KU's Robinson Named to Wooden Award All-American Team

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Anthony Davis of Kentucky, Jared Sullinger of Ohio State and Thomas Robinson of the University of Kansas are among players chosen for the John R. Wooden Award All-American team. The Wooden All-American team was announced Monday. The others are Isaiah Canaan of Murray State, Jae Crowder of Marquette, Marcus Denmon of Missouri, Draymond Green of Michigan State, Kevin Jones of West Virginia, Doug McDermott of Creighton, and Tyler Zeller of North Carolina. All 10 members of the team have maintained at least a cumulative 2.0 grade point average and are making progress toward graduation, two components of the award that were insisted upon by the late UCLA coach, whose name is on the award.


Commission Supports DC Eisenhower Memorial Design

WASHINGTON (AP) — Members of a federal commission working to build a memorial to President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington are issuing a unanimous statement supporting architect Frank Gehry and his design concept after hearing months of criticism.On Tuesday, the commission issued a joint statement saying Gehry has their "total and unqualified support." The commissioners say Gehry followed their direction and consulted with Eisenhower's family. Gehry's design calls for a memorial park framed by metal tapestries depicting Eisenhower's boyhood home in Kansas. Carved stones would depict Ike as president and World War II hero, along with a statue of a young Eisenhower. Eisenhower's family says it focuses on his humble roots, rather than Ike's accomplishments. The commission includes both Kansas senators and lawmakers from Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Rhode Island and Texas.


3 Sentenced in Kansas for Methamphetamine Trafficking 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Three men who pleaded guilty in separate Kansas methamphetamine trafficking cases have been sentenced in federal courts. The U.S. Attorney's office says 44-year-old James Hald, of Wichita, was sentenced Monday to 17 years and six months for conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute meth. Hald admitted selling the illegal drug in the city over a three-month period last year.
In Topeka, a federal judge on Monday gave 44-year-old Jay Joynt an eight-year sentence for selling meth. The Topeka man and a co-defendant sold meth on seven occasions to undercover officers in 2009.
And a Leavenworth man was sentenced Monday in Kansas City, Kansas to 14 years for trafficking in methamphetamine. Forty-two-year-old Christian Agesen had pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy and possession with intent to sell the drug.


Mushroom Hunter Finds Skull in Osage County

CARBONDALE, Kan. (AP) _ The discovery of a human skull on property in northeastern Kansas has authorities looking for more remains and an identity. A woman hunting for mushrooms on her Osage County property discovered the skull Saturday night behind a shed. There was no indication how long it might have been there. Osage County Sheriff Laurie Dunn said officers from several agencies were walking the property Monday seeking any clues about the skull and how it got there. The property is located northwest of Carbondale, about 15 miles south of Topeka.


Trial Date Set for Former Lawman Accused in Wife's Death

KINGMAN, Kan. (AP) _ A former law enforcement instructor charged with killing his wife will go on trial August 20. Brett Seacat is charged with first-degree murder in the April 30, 2011, death of his wife, Vashti, at their Kingman home. KAKE-TV reports a Kingman County District Court judge on Monday scheduled Seacat's trial to begin August 20. The trial had been scheduled to begin on April 23. Seacat is also charged with aggravated arson and two counts of endangering a child. Prosecutors allege Seacat shot his wife and set the house on fire, two weeks after his wife had filed for divorce. Brett Seacat and the couple's two young sons escaped. Seacat pleaded not guilty to the charges. His attorneys say Vashti Seacat set the fire and then took her own life.


K-State Men's Basketball Coach Frank Martin Leaving for Job with South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The University of South Carolina has hired Frank Martin to revitalize its basketball program. School trustees approved the six-year contract worth more than $2 million a year on average Tuesday morning. Martin is expected to be introduced by the school later today (TUE). The former Kansas State University coach will take over a team that finished dead last in the Southeastern Conference last season. Martin advanced to the NCAA tournament four times in five years at Kansas State. His Wildcats reached the regional finals in 2010. His overall record as a head coach is 117-54, and he is 6-4 in the NCAA tourney.

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


Kansas House to Debate Plan Blocking School Funding Lawsuits

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas House members are preparing to debate a proposed amendment to the state constitution aimed at blocking lawsuits over education funding. The measure on the agenda would declare that courts or the executive branch couldn't direct the Legislature to appropriate money. The proposal is backed by Republican Governor Sam Brownback and GOP leaders in both chambers. The Kansas Constitution currently says the state cannot spend any money unless the Legislature makes a specific appropriation. But in decisions in a school finance lawsuit in 2005 and 2006, the state Supreme Court told lawmakers they had to increase aid to public schools. The court also set specific figures. Kansas faces another lawsuit from students and parents in four school districts, arguing that budget cuts in recent years have resulted in inadequate funding.

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


Unredacted Abortion Records Found in Kansas Recycling Bin

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — More than 1,000 private abortion records from a defunct clinic were found discarded in a recycling bin outside an elementary school near Kansas City, Kansas, prompting a police investigation and outrage from people on both sides of the abortion debate. The patient records found Saturday came from Affordable Medical and Surgical Services in Kansas City, Kansas, which closed after its doctor, Krishna Rajanna, lost his medical license in 2005. The Kansas City Star reports the records include names, birth dates, telephone numbers, Social Security numbers and the patients' health history, including if any abortions were performed. The records included patients from almost every county in the Kansas City area and beyond, from Topeka to Freeman, Missouri. Between 2000 and 2005, Rajanna was either fined or disciplined four times by the Kansas Board of Healing Arts and inspectors who visited his clinic in 2005 and reported it was not clean. Rajanna said he threw the personal documents into recycling bins at Brookridge Elementary School on Friday. "I was under the impression that these would not be seen by anyone," said Rajanna. "I thought that these would be recycled away just like any other papers." The daughter of the woman who found the records contacted the Kansas City Star after Overland Park police initially declined to respond to her call — a decision Police Captain Erik Hulse later conceded was a mistake. The women did not want their names released. Overland Park police were investigating and other agencies, including the Johnson County district attorney's office and the Kansas Board of Healing Arts, were seeking information about the handling of the documents. Kansas law requires that all medical records be kept a minimum of 10 years. Hundreds of the discarded records were dated after March 2002, The Star said. Rajanna said he dumped the records because they were "old records that are out of date" and that he thought they would be picked up quickly. The bins are emptied monthly. The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, makes it a federal violation to release private medical information without patient permission or other authorization. The law does not dictate exactly how medical records should be destroyed but it specifically prohibits discarding records in public dumpsters unless they have been made unreadable. "This is a particularly egregious matter to have abortion records treated in this fashion," said Susan McAndrew, a deputy director in the U.S. Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights. "I'm glad this man is no longer practicing." Mary Kay Culp, executive director of the anti-abortion group Kansans for Life, said it was another example of how abortion providers don't really care about women. "This shows they don't have any real concern about women's privacy," Culp said. "What they have concern about is their own bottom line and distracting the public about privacy issues in order to avoid genuine investigations." Peter Brownlie, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, called the dumping of the records "awful." "What a gross violation of a woman's privacy," he said. "I've never heard anything quite like it." Brownlie said that his organization retains abortion records in secure long-term storage "forever." 

It is unclear what actions might be taken against Rajanna. Medical providers that don't transmit payment or other information to third-party payers electronically are not subject to HIPAA regulations. On Monday, Rajanna said his clinic was cash-only, although The Star reports that some of the retrieved records clearly showed photocopies of insurance cards on the back page. McAndrew said that the HHS office in Kansas City would have to determine whether to investigate.

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


UPDATE: Legislators Seek Investigation of Abortion Records Dumping Incident 

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Anti-abortion lawmakers want the Kansas Legislature to investigate after a former abortion provider discarded hundreds of patients' medical records in a recycling bin outside a Kansas City-area elementary school. The general counsel for the state board that regulates doctors said Tuesday it will consider going to court for an outside custodian to oversee remaining records from the Kansas City, Kansas clinic formerly operated by Krishna Rajanna. The clinic closed in 2005, shortly after Krishna Rajanna lost his Kansas medical license. Rajanna told The Associated Press he still has documents stored in his home in Overland Park. The discovery of the discarded documents prompted an investigation by local police, the Johnson County district attorney's office and the state regulatory board. Rajanna said he'd expected the bin to be emptied quickly.

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


2 Found Dead in NE Kansas Home

EDWARDSVILLE, Kan. (AP) _ Police in a northeastern Kansas town are investigating the deaths of two men found inside a home. Officers went to the house in Edwardsville after getting a 911 call shortly before 4:30 pm yesterday (MON). Police haven't said who placed the call. Investigators were trying to determine if the deaths were a murder-suicide or a double homicide. Edwardsville is a community of about 4,500 people in Wyandotte County, just west of Kansas City, Kansas.

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

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