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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, October 8, 2013


UPDATE: KS Supreme Court Considers State's Duty on School Funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Supreme Court justices and an attorney for the state are arguing in a hearing over what the Kansas Constitution considers a minimum level of funding for public schools. Attorney Arthur Chalmers briefly suggested during arguments Tuesday before the court that the Legislature could cut off public schooling at the sixth grade and still meet its constitutional obligation to make suitable provision for financing public schools. However, he later backed off, saying such a decision probably would be too arbitrary to pass muster. The justices are considering the state's appeal of a lower court order mandating that legislators boost annual spending on schools by at least $440 million. Chalmers said the constitution gives legislators wide discretion in setting spending and voters unhappy with lawmakers can remove them from office.


Justice: Will Kansas Schools Litigation Ever End?

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Supreme Court justice is asking whether legal battles over school funding will ever end if the high court sides with school districts that have sued the state to force higher spending. Justice Eric Rosen said during a hearing Tuesday that he worries about what he called "constant litigation." The court heard arguments on the state's appeal of a lower-court ruling that the state must boost its annual spending on public schools by at least $440 million a year. Wichita attorney Alan Rupe spoke on behalf of the aggrieved school districts. Rosen asked him whether there's an end in sight to litigation over school funding. Rupe said the end comes when lawmakers provide adequate funding. But Rosen said that's a target that changes year to year.


Attorney: Tax Cuts an Issue in KS School Funding Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An attorney representing school districts that have sued Kansas over funding says massive income tax cuts enacted over the past two years are a major issue in the case. Wichita attorney Alan Rupe said during a state Supreme Court hearing Tuesday that legislators have removed resources for funding schools as the state says it can't afford to boost spending. The high court is considering the state's appeal of a lower court ruling that the state must boost its annual spending on schools by at least $440 million. The state's lawyers argued that the Legislature did the best it could after the Great Recession. But Rupe noted that the Republican-controlled Legislature cut personal income taxes at GOP Governor Sam Brownback's urging. The cuts were designed to stimulate the economy.


2 KS Justices: Promise on School Funding Broken

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas Supreme Court justices have told an attorney for the state that it has broken promises made to public schools about their funding. Justices Eric Rosen and Lee Johnson made their comments from the bench during arguments Tuesday on the appeal of a school funding lawsuit. The state is appealing a lower court ruling that legislators must boost annual funding for schools by at least $440 million. The Supreme Court is hearing a lawsuit filed in 2010 by several school districts, including Dodge City, Hutchinson, Kansas City and Wichita. They argue the state has failed to comply with a 2006 court order to increase funding. State Solicitor General Stephen McAllister argued that the state failed to comply because of the Great Recession.

Roberts Could Face Tea Party Challenge in GOP Primary

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican U.S. Senator Pat Roberts may be getting a primary challenge in his bid for re-election. Milton Wolf is inviting supporters on his website to a "major announcement" Tuesday evening regarding the 2014 GOP Kansas Senate campaign. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the 42-year-old Johnson County doctor is expected to say he's moving ahead with a GOP primary challenge to Roberts, who's seeking a fourth six-year term in the U.S. Senate. No Democrat has announced plans to run. Wolf is a political novice who says on his website that "career politicians" have failed. He could highlight the division playing out nationally among tea party conservatives and others in the Republican Party. Roberts's executive campaign manager Leroy Towns says Wolf has shown little willingness to talk about real issues.

KanCare System Criticized in Topeka Hearing

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Health-care executives and advocates are getting the chance to tell lawmakers what they dislike about the state's managed care plan for Medicaid. A legislative oversight committee met Monday to gather updates on how the program is working and guide legislative fixes. The Wichita Eagle reports that a second meeting also is planned. The program has been criticized for delays in reimbursing providers and providing prior authorizations for certain types of treatment. Health providers told lawmakers that the issues could threaten the existence of their businesses. Providers showed examples where three managed-care insurance companies have messed up billing. Sometimes claims are overpaid or underpaid. Other examples involved the denial of legitimate claims. State officials, meanwhile, gave presentations indicating that by their measures, KanCare appears to be going well.

Wichita Officials Say City's Website Was Hacked

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita officials say the city's website was hacked during the weekend, potentially compromising the personal information of 29,000 vendors and employees. The city said in a news release late Monday the hackers might have gained access to Social Security numbers, taxpayer identification numbers and banking information of vendors and former and current employees who were reimbursed for expenses since 1997. The city says it has fixed the problem and is notifying those who might be affected. City Manager Robert Layton says law enforcement agencies are investigating the incident. The release said city officials are working with the state's Enterprise Security Office to fix any remaining security concerns.

Another Defendant Pleads Guilty in Topeka Murder

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The third of four defendants has entered a guilty plea for his role in a Topeka woman's shooting death. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 20-year-old Gabino Alcala pleaded guilty Tuesday to a reduced charge of intentional second-degree murder. A second charge of conspiracy to commit murder was dismissed. He was originally charged with premeditated first-degree murder in the 2012 shooting death of 34-year-old Ashley Alcala at her Topeka home. His sentencing is scheduled for October 24, the same day his brother, Manuel Alcala, and mother, Manuela Alcala, are to be sentenced in the case. Manuel and Manuela Alcala on Monday also entered guilty pleas in Ashley Alcala's death. A final defendant, Benjamin Anaya, has a pretrial hearing November 14.


Topeka Area School District Saves $336K

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka school district saved more than $336,000 since starting an energy conservation program last year. Auburn-Washburn Unified School District 437 board members learned Monday night the district has saved $336,198 since it began the conservation program. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the energy savings were from November 2012 to August 2013. The district has saved 1.6 million kilowatt hours of electricity and 196,900 gallons of water. School board members in January approved the energy conservation policy, which entails reducing energy use by doing such things as changing set points on thermostats and using automatic sensors for some lighting fixtures. Superintendent Brenda Dietrich said in January the program is expected to save the district about $4.3 million during a 10-year period.

Sierra Club: KDHE Not Enforcing Odor Control

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Sierra Club says Kansas environmental regulators are not enforcing an odor control provision in a permit for Seaboard Food Incorporated's hog feeding operation in Greeley County. At issue is the way the company is calculating the levels of water in lagoons used to treat manure for odor control. The environmental group on Tuesday criticized the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for finding that Seaboard met requirements based on head counts and weights. The Sierra Club contends KDHE is not enforcing the permit language by accepting the company's calculations. The complaint filed in August is the third one the group has filed. KDHE says its secretary determined it would be a poor use of scarce fresh water to maintain full pools when the facility was not operating at full capacity.

Koch Subsidiary to Buy Texas Facility

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A subsidiary of Koch Energy Services has entered into an agreement to buy an electric power generating facility in Texas. Wichita-based Koch says in a release the company has agreed to buy the facility in Odessa, Texas, from affiliates of Energy Capital Partners. Koch did not disclose terms of the deal, which requires regulatory approval. Koch says the 1,055-megawatt facility began operations in 2001 and provides power to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas system, which serves 23 million customers.


Towanda Girl Injured in ATV Accident Dies

TOWANDA, Kan. (AP) — A south-central Kansas teenager has died from injuries she suffered in an ATV accident. KFDI reports deputies were called to the home Saturday evening after 16-year-old Hevin Thomas of Towanda had fallen from a four-wheeler she was riding on with three other teenagers. Thomas was taken to a Wichita hospital in critical condition with head and back injuries and died Monday night.


Charge Filed in Olathe Beating Death

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A 44-year-old man has been charged with beating another man to death in Olathe. The Kansas City Star reports that Brian Dale Pittman of Olathe is charged in Johnson County District Court with voluntary manslaughter. The victim, 56-year-old Arthur Wilson Cattlett Jr., was unresponsive when police found him on September 29. Prosecutors allege in court documents that Cattlett was beaten, kicked and stomped during a "sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion." Court records show Pittman was arrested Tuesday and his bond was set at $1 million. It's not immediately clear if he has an attorney.


Authorities Identify Girl Killed in KCK House Fire

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have released the name of the 4-year-old girl killed in a weekend house fire in Kansas City, Kansas. The Kansas City Star reports that fire department officials identified the victim Tuesday as Sh'mere Jackson-Green. The fire was reported just after 4 am Sunday. When emergency crews arrived they found heavy flames coming from the rear and center sections of the home. The girl was found in or near a bedroom at the back of the house, which had no smoke detectors. A woman and a 7-year-old girl escaped uninjured. But a firefighter involved in the rescue efforts suffered burns on his face. Fire officials determined that the fire was accidental. Damage to the house and its structure is estimated at $50,000.


Fire Kills 1 Person in Southwest Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — One person has died in a garage fire in southwest Wichita. The Wichita Eagle reports that the fire was reported shortly before 1 pm Tuesday. A dispatch supervisor says a car in the garage caught fire. No other details were immediately available, including the name of the victim.


Salina Nixes $15K Art for New Bridge

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Salina city commissioners have rejected a request to spend more than $15,000 on artwork for a new bridge. The commissioners turned down the request Monday from Community Art and Design and Salina Arts and Humanities for the new Greeley Avenue Bridge. The Salina Journal reports that Mayor Barb Shirley and three commissioners said they didn't feel the bridge warranted art. Commissioner Randall Hardy was in favor of the art. The city estimates it will cost about $670,000 to replace the bridge, which was closed to vehicles in December after it was deemed unsafe. The Kansas Department of Transportation declined to provide 2014 funding for the bridge.


K-State Salina Gets FAA Contract

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University-Salina has been selected to test certification standards for small unmanned aircraft systems. The Federal Aviation Administration has signed an agreement with K-State Salina for the university to test industry standards for small unmanned aircraft systems set by the F38 technical committee of ASTM International. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the small systems the school will test typically weigh 55 pounds or less. K-State Salina unmanned aircraft systems program manager Mark Blanks says the project will involve testing standards to identify weaknesses.

Wichita Police Bureaus Create Facebook Pages

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita Police Department is creating Facebook pages for its patrol bureaus. The Wichita Eagle reports that police are using social media to better connect with neighborhoods. The first police bureau Facebook site has been active about three months. Lieutenant Doug Nolte says a second one went active at the end of August and two others are still being developed. The pages include information about traffic issues, crime trends and neighborhood meeting dates. Nolte says their content will evolve as needs dictate, and the goal is for them to become "a real-time police blotter."

Goddard Considering Big Development Project

GODDARD, Kan. (AP) — A small south-central Kansas town near Wichita is considering a project that would include an Olympic swimming venue, a hotel and a dinosaur-themed education park. The Goddard City Council voted Monday to schedule a public hearing November 18 to discuss financing the project. KWCH reports that City Administrator Brian Silcott says the pool would be the site of swimming, diving and water polo competitions, and perhaps someday host Olympic regional competitions. It would be operated by the International Swimming Hall of Fame. Silcott says a marketing firm projected the project would attract 2.4 million visitors a year and create about permanent 470 jobs. The city plans to pay for the complex by selling STAR bonds. The sales tax from the development would pay off the bonds.

Silver Lake Man Dies in Riding Mower Accident

SILVER LAKE, Kan. (AP) — Shawnee County authorities say a Silver Lake man died in an apparent accident while mowing. The body of 52-year-old Bernie M. Menhusen was found Monday night pinned beneath a riding lawn mower. Shawnee County sheriff's Lieutenant Jay Simecka says Menhusen was dead at the scene. Simecka says the sheriff's office was called about 10 pm Monday after Menhusen's family reported they hadn't heard from him since about 1 pm. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the Shawnee County's Coroner's office will determine the exact cause of death.

Ex-Soldier Sentenced for Killing KS National Guard Member

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A former Fort Riley soldier has been sentenced to life in prison in the death of a Kansas National Guard member outside a Manhattan motorcycle club. KMAN reports that Daniel Parker, of Junction City, apologized before he was sentenced in Riley County District Court for first-degree murder and criminal discharge of a firearm. Parker was accused of opening fire on the "Assassin Street Rydaz" clubhouse as the victim, 21-year-old Frederick Beverly, manned the gate for a party early on New Year's Day, 2012. Prosecutors said Parker had argued earlier with a club member. The prosecution said it was fortunate more people weren't injured, noting Parker fired more than 20 rounds. Beverly's sister, Sharlene Beverly, said she had endured sleepless nights and that Parker "took a good person."

Lower KS Court to Reconsider Molestation Case

BUHLER, Kan. (AP) — A lower court will reconsider the case of a former south-central Kansas high school debate coach convicted of sexually molesting a South Korean exchange student. Richard Young, of Buhler, was sentenced to more than 13 years in prison after being convicted in 2008 in Reno County District Court. Prosecutors said he fondled the 15-year-old student within days of the boy's arrival to attend Buhler High School. But the Kansas Court of Appeals reversed the conviction last year, saying the trial judge improperly allowed evidence that Young had sexually abused his stepsons. Now, the Kansas Supreme Court wants the lower court to reconsider its ruling based on a previous appellate court ruling addressing the admissibility of prior sexual crime evidence. The Hutchinson News reports that Young remains incarcerated.

Man Dies After Falling Off Vehicle in Central KS

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — A 23-year-old man has died after falling off the hood of a moving vehicle in central Kansas. The Ellsworth County Sheriff's Office said in a news release that Roland A. Rummel was run over Sunday in northern Ellis County and died Monday at Hays Medical Center. The Salina Journal reports that Rummel reportedly exited a vehicle and then jumped onto the hood while the vehicle was in motion. When the driver pressed the brakes, Rummel fell off and was run over. The driver was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence and transporting an open container.


Nebraska School Stabbing Suspect Found in Kansas

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Authorities say a girl suspected of attacking another student at Lincoln Pius X High School has been discovered in southeast Kansas. Lincoln, Nebraska police spokeswoman Katie Flood says the suspect was found around 10 am Tuesday in Woodson County, Kansas. Officers there had been notified about someone with car trouble, and they found the girl. She's being held in a juvenile detention facility until she can be taken back to Lincoln. The stabbing attack occurred Monday morning inside a bathroom at the parochial school, which has nearly 1,100 students. The Associated Press is not using the girl's name because the AP generally doesn't identify juveniles accused of crimes.


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