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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, May 28, 2013



UPDATE: Kansas House Rejects Plan for 6 Percent Sales Tax 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has rejected a plan for cutting personal income taxes further and setting the state's sales tax at 6 percent in July to prevent budget shortfalls. The vote Tuesday was 71-42 against the measure. Republican legislative leaders said they're not sure of their next step. The measure was drafted by House and Senate negotiators to reconcile differences on legislation following individual income tax cuts enacted last year. Republican Governor Sam Brownback wants to raise new sales tax revenues to stabilize the budget. The tax is 6.3 percent but is set by law to drop law to 5.7 percent in July. GOP lawmakers' disagreements on taxes have blocked action on a proposed $14.5 billion budget for each of the next two fiscal years, starting in July.


Appeals Court Won't Ease Way for Kansas Coal Plant Construction

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court in Washington has refused to clear a potential obstacle to construction of a coal-fired power plant in southwest Kansas. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected a request from Hays-based Sunflower Electric Power Corporation to overturn a federal judge's ruling that put the construction plans on hold. Sunflower wants to build an 895-megawatt plant outside Holcomb. But U.S. District Judge Emmett Sullivan last year ordered the U.S. Agriculture Department's Rural Utilities Service to complete an environmental study before granting any approvals for the $2.8 billion project. The appeals panel on Tuesday rejected Sunflower's request on technical grounds. The company says it's reviewing the decision.


Tornado Damages Marysville Homes, Businesses

MARYSVILLE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in a northeast Kansas county say a tornado damaged two businesses and some homes but there are no early reports of fatalities or serious injuries. Marshall County emergency management director Bill Schwindamann says the tornado was reported about 9:30 pm Monday in Marysville, about 150 miles northwest of Kansas City near the Nebraska border. Schwindamann says one business was destroyed and another was seriously damaged. He says about 25 homes suffered damage ranging from minor to substantial. Some livestock also was reported missing at a farm where a barn was destroyed. Crews were out assessing the damage and working to restore power lines early Wednesday.


State of Kansas Officials Break Ground on NBAF Project

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — State of Kansas and federal officials gathered for a ground breaking ceremony for the first phase of a new federal biodefense lab in Manhattan as funding for the project meanders through the legislative process. The first shovels of dirt were turned Tuesday morning near Kansas State University for the central utility plant for the $1.2 billion National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility. A U.S. House budget committee has approved $404 million of the $714 million that President Barack Obama has proposed in his budget for the lab. The Senate is yet to consider the request. Officials say the lower amount is sufficient for contracts to be signed and construction on the lab to begin in 2014. Kansas legislators are considering a request to approve $202 million in bonds to complete the project.


2 Charged in 2010 Death of Kansas Liquor Store Owner

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Johnson County authorities say two men have been charged in the 2010 death of a Kansas liquor store owner. One of the suspects in the May 2010 killing of 61-year-old Gerry Grovenburg of Spring Hill is still on the loose. Authorities say they are looking for 30-year-old Bruce Julius Ashley Jr., who was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder in Grovenburg's death. The second suspect, 33-year-old Larry Marshall Jr., is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday afternoon on charges of first-degree murder and attempted robbery. The Kansas City Star reports that he was arrested May 17 in Arkansas and returned to Johnson County Friday, where is being held on $1 million bond. Grovenburg was killed in a Shawnee liquor store he had operated for 35 years.


Scuba Diver Drowns in Eastern Kansas Lake

MELVERN, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in eastern Kansas say a man who drowned at Melvern Lake over the weekend had been scuba diving. The victim was identified Tuesday as 37-year-old Vincent Rice, of Melvern. The Osage County sheriff's office is calling the death an accidental drowning, but more details are expected after an autopsy. Rescue crews were called around 4 pm Sunday to the Coeur D'Alene swimming beach at the eastern end of the sprawling lake after Rice failed to surface. His body was recovered about five hours later following a search by several agencies.


Kansas Teen Apparently Drowns at Wellington Lake

WELLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — The body of a 14-year-old boy from the Haysville area was recovered from Wellington Lake after he apparently drowned on Memorial Day. Wellington Police Chief Tracy Heath says the teen was with friends at the lake Monday afternoon when he went under the water and did not come back up. His body was recovered Tuesday morning. Winds that were gusting up to 37 mph might have contributed to the boy's disappearance.


4 People Die in Central Kansas Traffic Accident

ELLSWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Four people are dead and a young child seriously injured after their sports utility vehicle hit a parked semi-trailer truck in central Kansas. Kansas Highway Patrol trooper Ben Gardner says the accident happened about 9:30 am Tuesday on the western edge of Ellsworth County. Gardner says the truck was parked on the shoulder of Interstate 70 with its traffic hazard triangles displayed when the SUV hit it from behind. He says the child was scheduled to be flown to a Wichita hospital Tuesday afternoon. The truck driver was not hurt. Interstate 70 was closed while the patrol's Critical Accident Response Team investigated the accident. No further information was immediately available.


Music Festival at Kansas Speedway Cancelled

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A two-day festival of alternative, pop and rap music at Kansas Speedway scheduled for late June has been called off. Organizers of Kanrocksas announced the cancellation Tuesday, citing low ticket sales. The festival was scheduled to open June 28 with a lineup that included Fun., Passion Pit, She and Him, Kendrick Lamar and Imagine Dragons. The cancellation was announced jointly by Midwest Music Festivals and Kansas Speedway. A message on the Kanrocksas website says there are no plans to reschedule the event. This year's festival would have been the second Kanrocksas. The first was held in August 2011, also at the NASCAR track in Kansas City, Kansas, and attracted more than 30,000 fans with such acts as Eminem, Kid Cudi and the Flaming Lips.


Cowley College Continues Concealed Weapons Ban

WINFIELD, Kan. (AP) — Cowley College in Winfield will continue banning concealed weapons inside its buildings and residence halls as officials study how to implement a new Kansas law. The law taking effect July 1 prohibits most public entities from banning concealed firearms in their buildings unless the buildings have adequate security. But it also lets public universities and junior colleges such as Cowley exempt themselves for four years. The Winfield Daily Courier reports that trustees of Cowley College approved such an exemption last week. Interim college president Tony Crouch said the board might not use the entire exemption but wants to study whether to arm security guards and even create a fully commissioned police force. Crouch said those moves would have policy and budget implications that need to be examined.


Officials Hope to Limit Missouri River Flooding

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — After several days of heavy rain across the lower Missouri River basin, the amount of water released into the river is being reduced to help minimize flooding. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it began reducing the amount of water flowing into the river on Sunday because of concerns about flooding downstream. Last week, 24,000 cubic feet of water per day was being released from the Gavins Point dam on the South Dakota-Nebraska border. By Wednesday morning, half as much water will be released. The corps is also reducing the amount of water released from Fort Randall dam in South Dakota. The corps' Jody Farhat says the reductions should alleviate some downstream flooding along the Missouri River.

Wal-Mart Pleads Guilty to Violating Federal Rules

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Wal-Mart Stores Incorporated has pleaded guilty in Missouri to violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act by failing to properly handle pesticides that had been returned by customers at its stores across the country. In a plea deal filed Tuesday in federal court in Kansas City, Wal-Mart admitted trucking more than 2 million pounds of regulated pesticides and other products from its return centers to Greenleaf, a recycling facility in Neosho, Missouri, between July 2006 and February 2008. Federal prosecutors say the products were processed for reuse and resale, but lax oversight caused regulated pesticides to be mixed together and offered for sale in violation of FIFRA. The Missouri deal calls for Wal-Mart to pay an $11 million fine, plus $3 million to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.


Petro America Chief Seeks New Trial in Fraud Case

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The lead defendant in a federal securities fraud case in Kansas City is asking for a new trial because of juror misconduct. Isreal Owen Hawkins filed a motion last week claiming that one of the jurors in his 17-day trial failed to disclose during jury selection that she had performed alterations on several of his suits. Hawkins was convicted May 15 of conspiracy, securities fraud, aggravated currency structuring, money laundering and two counts of wire fraud related to his company, Petro America Corp. Prosecutors said Hawkins and several others defrauded investors out of more than $10 million by illegally selling them stock in a company that had no assets, despite claiming to be worth $284 billion. Four others were convicted of conspiracy and other charges in the same trial.

Atchison County Town Working on Baseball Museum

MUSCOTAH, Kan. (AP) — Residents of a small northeast Kansas town are planning to build a baseball museum inside an old water tower tank. The project is planned in Muscotah, an Atchison County town of about 200 people that is looking for attention. About 50 Muscotah residents and volunteers are working with the help of the Kansas Sampler Foundation to convert the water tower tank into a baseball and museum. The museum also would honor native son Joe Tinker, a shortstop for the Chicago Cubs when the team last won the World Series in 1908. He's the Tinker of the famous baseball poem "Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance." The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the city's old water tank will be made to look like a large baseball and will house the museum.

2 Killed in Wrong-Way Crash Near Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says two people are dead after a wrong-way collision on Interstate 235 in southwest Wichita. The patrol says a car driving south on the interstate crossed a grass median and drove into the northbound lanes on Tuesday morning. The car hit an oncoming pickup and both drivers were killed. The crash happened around 7:35 a.m. Tuesday when a southbound car crossed the grass median and collided head-on with a northbound pickup truck. The patrol identified the driver of the southbound car as 27-year-old Nicholas Richard Oswald and the pickup driver as 32-year-old Adam Charles Hutchinson, both of Wichita. No passengers were in either vehicle.


Empty Mill, Railcars Burn in SW Kansas

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — Investigators are seeking the cause of a fire that destroyed a vacant flour mill and several rail cars in southwestern Kansas. KSNW-TV reports that 75 firefighters and 15 trucks responded after the fire broke out in Liberal around 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Some crews were still at the scene Monday putting out hot spots. The fire began in an old flour mill next to the Equity Grain Elevator. The elevator was spared, but the flames spread to a fertilizer warehouse. No injuries were reported.

Teens Held in Junction City School Vandalism

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — Officials in Junction City are estimating the damage done by vandals at an elementary school at more than $250,000. Police said the damage at Westwood Elementary was discovered after three teens were taken into custody around 8 a.m. Monday on suspicion of shoplifting at a Dollar General store. Officers reported finding items from Westwood Elementary on one or more of the teens. Police then went to the school and found extensive damage throughout the building. Details of the damage weren't immediately released Monday. Two 15-year-olds and a 16-year-old were in custody on suspicion of burglary, theft, conspiracy and felony property damage. Police were seeking a fourth person they believe was also involved.

Window Cleaner Injured in Fall at Kansas Hospital

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — A man cleaning the outside of windows at a northeast Kansas hospital became a patient there after falling three to four stories. Geary County Sheriff Tony Wolf says the accident happened Monday morning at Geary Community Hospital in Junction City. The window cleaner suffered what Wolf called very serious injuries. The sheriff says the man was wearing a rope harness at the time, and it wasn't immediately clear how or why he fell.


Dodge City Might Revive 1914 Motorcycle Race

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Motorcycle enthusiasts in Dodge City are hoping to rev up a 100-year-old tradition next year. The Dodge City 300 motorcycle race drew 17,000 people to Dodge City in 1914 and more than 20,000 in 1921. Dodge City historian Roger Burnett says the race was the premier event of motorcycle racing at the time. The Hutchinson News reports that the Dodge City motorcycle community is organizing a weeklong event next July to mark the race's 100th anniversary. It will include motorcycle displays music, fireworks and — of course — motorcycle races. The organizers are working to raise funds, with plans to bring in businesses like Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle, both of which were involved in the original races. Main Street Dodge City and area businesses are also supporting the event.


Ex-Jayhawks RB Miller Gets Second Chance at KU

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Sophomore running back Darrian Miller, who was dismissed from the University of Kansas following his freshman season, is getting another chance with the Jayhawks. KU coach Charlie Weis said Tuesday that Miller signed a grant-in-aid to rejoin the program. He spent last season at Butler Community College but did not play football. Miller, who set a record as the high school career rushing leader in Missouri class 5 and 6 football in 2010, ran for 559 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman for former KU coach Turner Gill. He was dismissed after the season for unspecified off-the-field issues. Miller said that "Coach Weis has given me a rare opportunity ... to make this right. I am truly thankful for this opportunity and I intend to make it right." He joins a crowded Jayhawk backfield that includes James Sims and Tony Pierson.

Chiefs' Voluntary Workouts Paying Dividends

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs have begun their final week of voluntary workouts, though you wouldn't know they've been voluntary by the attendance. Just about everyone has been at practice every day for the past couple of weeks. There have been no contract holdouts, and no drama. Instead, the Chiefs under new coach Andy Reid have been busily installing their offense and defense, getting acclimated with each other and preparing for next week's mandatory minicamp...which probably won't be a whole lot different than organized team activities. The Chiefs have already started to nail down potential starters at several positions, including on special teams. They've also uncovered a couple of projects, such as college hoops player-turned-tight end Demetrius Harris, who has a legitimate shot at making the team.


Kansas Lawmakers Resuming Work on Tax Plan, Budget

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House members are preparing to vote on cutting personal income taxes further and setting the state's sales tax at 6 percent in July to prevent budget shortfalls. The measure facing a vote Tuesday afternoon in the House was drafted by House and Senate negotiators to reconcile differences on legislation following individual income tax cuts enacted last year. Republican Governor Sam Brownback wants to raise fresh sales tax revenues to stabilize the budget. The tax is 6.3 percent but is set by law to drop law to 5.7 percent in July. Meanwhile, legislative negotiators have agreed on a proposed $14.5 billion budget for each of the next two fiscal years, starting in July. But votes weren't scheduled. Tuesday was the 95th day of the Legislature's annual session.

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


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