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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, December 26, 2012



Man Jumps to Safety from Burning Shawnee Home

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — A man is recovering from injuries suffered after jumping from the second story of a burning home in suburban Kansas City. Neighbors said the injured Pennsylvania man was visiting his in-laws at their Shawnee home. When the fire started around 7 p.m. Tuesday, he was upstairs with his wife. Shawnee Fire Marshal Capt. Corey Sands says smoke filled the house. Because the windows were nailed shut, the man had to use an ottoman to break the glass. Broadcaster KCTV reports that the man broke his jaw and suffered cuts in the 15-foot jump. Firefighters rescued the man's wife, and her parents both made it out safely. Sands says it appears the fire started in the basement. The cause of the blaze is under investigation.


New Faces Lead KS Legislative Education Panels

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Veteran conservative Kansas legislators with diverse backgrounds but similar mailing addresses will be at the center of education debates during the 2013 legislative session, one that is expected to renew discussion on policy issues long relegated to the back burner. Sen. Steve Abrams and Rep. Kasha Kelley, both Arkansas City Republicans, were tapped earlier in December to lead their chamber's education committees. Abrams brings nearly 20 years of elected education leadership, including a stint on the State Board of Education, while Kelley brings experience serving as vice chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee. Education lobbyists aren't surprised by the choice of Abrams as committee chairman given his background, while Kelley's selection is a bit of an unknown considering she's never served on the committee since being elected in 2004.


New KS House Speaker Reverses Merger of Panels

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Incoming Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick has reversed a decision to merge the chamber's Elections and Local Government committees. The Stilwell Republican announced earlier this month that the two committees would be combined, with Olathe Republican Scott Schwab as chairman. Merrick says he now believes there will be enough work for both panels in the 2013 session, which begins Jan. 14. Schwab retains his chairmanship of the Elections Committee. Republican Steve Huebert (HYOO'-burt), of Valley Center, will continue to chair the Local Government Committee.


New State Senators Majority on Budget Panel

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — New members of the Kansas Senate will have a majority on the chamber's Ways and Means Committee and a key role in drafting budget legislation. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce of Hutchinson says new members expressed strong interest in budget issues. Republican leaders appointed three GOP senators-elect new to the Legislature to the 11-member committee: Steve Fitzgerald of Leavenworth, Jeff Melcher of Leawood and Michael O'Donnell of Wichita. Four House members who won Senate seats this year will also serve on Ways and Means: Tom Arpke of Salina, Jim Denning of Overland Park, Dan Kerschen of Garden Plain and Larry Powell of Garden City. Andover Republican Ty Masterson will chair the committee. The Democratic members are long-time Sens. Laura Kelly of Topeka and Marci Francisco of Lawrence.


Driver Accused of Trying to Run Down KC Officers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A driver accused of trying to run down two officers in Kansas City has been captured on the Kansas side of the metro area. Kansas City police say the incident began a few minutes after midnight Wednesday when officers walked toward a vehicle parked in an alley. When the vehicle headed toward the officers, the officers fired several shots. The officers then pursued the car until losing sight of it. Kansas City, Kan., police spotted the vehicle a short time later. Police say the driver stopped without incident, was arrested and transported to an area hospital to be treated for a non-life threatening gunshot wound.


Deferred Maintenance Backlog Down at KS Colleges

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The list of needed repairs at Kansas' public universities is declining amid increased spending and low bids from contractors scrambling for work. The Lawrence Journal World reports that nearly 40 percent of regents' university buildings were built during the 1960s and 1980s when there was huge higher education growth. With those buildings now aging and requiring major repairs, the Kansas Legislature approved funding in 2007. Federal stimulus money also was used for repairs. But from 2008 to 2011, the repair estimate grew to $904 million from $825 million. Finally this year brought good news. Kansas Board of Regents director of facilities Eric King says the deferred maintenance backlog is coming in at about $800 million. Regents Vice Chairman Fred Logan of Leawood says the story is "really positive."


KS Conservatives Open to Keeping Sales Tax As Is

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Chamber of Commerce and some conservative Republican legislators are open to canceling a scheduled decrease in the state sales tax.  But they'll only support the idea if lawmakers also follow up this year's aggressive income tax cuts with another round of reductions. GOP conservatives want to phase out state income taxes.  A first round of income tax cuts has left the state with a projected budget shortfall of $295 million. That's led to speculation that Governor Sam Brownback will propose keeping the state's current 6.3 percent sales tax in place.  Brownback has not ruled out the idea.  The sales tax is set to drop to 5.7 percent in July because of a promise from legislators when they boosted the tax in 2010 to bolster the budget.


KS Town to Defend Ban on Open Carry of Firearms

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. (AP) — Officials in a northeast Kansas community are pledging to fight a legal challenge to a local ban on the open carry of firearms.  The Libertarian Party of Kansas went to court last week seeking to prevent enforcement of open-carry bans by Prairie Village, Leawood and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas.  The Kansas City Star reports Prairie Village officials announced Monday that the Johnson County community will "vigorously defend" its authority to enact gun control measures. Officials for nearby Leawood and the Unified Government have not yet commented.  The Libertarian Party's lawsuit contends the Prairie Village code conflicts with state law and the Kansas Constitution. The filing also alleges that Kansas communities that ban open carry of firearms are violating citizens' constitutional rights.


Taxes, Conservative Wins Are Top Stories in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's tax cuts and the conservative majorities he now enjoys in the state House and Senate have been picked as 2012's top stories in Kansas.  The Associated Press surveyed its newspaper editors and broadcast news directors for their choices.  Pushed by the conservative Brownback, Kansas lawmakers approved massive income tax cuts in 2012 that supporters insisted would stimulate the state's economy. Then in August, Republican conservatives ousted moderates in the primaries, paving the way for easy November wins and setting Brownback up with can't-lose majorities for the upcoming legislative session.  Other stories getting attention in the survey included the heat wave and drought that gripped the state, the botched rollout of the new computer system for handling driver's licenses, and Kansas State's return to prominence in college football.


It's Dang Cold in Kansas!

Sure, it's cold here in eastern Kansas...but it's even colder in the northwestern part of the state.  A wind chill advisory is in place for many parts of northwest Kansas.  The National Weather Service reports that it felt like 10 below zero around 8 o'clock this (WED) morning in Goodland.  Around the same time in Lawrence, the wind chill index made it feel like 2 below zero.


KCI Bound Flight Makes Emergency Landing in Omaha

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A Kansas City-bound flight made an emergency landing in Omaha, Neb., on Christmas Day. Southwest Airlines says a fuel valve problem forced the crew to declare an emergency last (TUE) night. Officials say the 109 passengers boarded another plane and arrived at Kansas City International Airport about two hours late.


Trial Delayed in KS Military School Lawsuit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A jury trial in the federal lawsuit alleging abuse at a Kansas military boarding school has been put off to 2014.  Former cadets at St. John's Military School in Salina filed suit in March of this year, alleging higher-ranking students were encouraged to discipline younger ones. The plaintiffs contend the practice led to physical and mental abuse.  St. John's has denied the allegations.  The trial was initially set for October 2013, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth Gale has rescheduled it to March 2014.  Defense lawyers requested the extra time to prepare after more former cadets joined the lawsuit. The plaintiffs objected to the request.  Attorneys expect the trial to take two to three weeks.


Blue Cross Revises Wellness Incentive Program

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City is revising a wellness incentive plan after six city employees and one Jackson County, Missouri worker were charged with defrauding the insurance giant.  The Kansas City Star reports that company medical director Gregg Laiben says the new program will offer a maximum reward of $100 a year and won't rely on self-reporting of physical activity.  Federal prosecutors allege the workers falsely claimed hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash rewards by lying about taking part in physical activities.  Some defendants are accused of building points toward $250 gift cards by filling out forms in the names of others, including children as young as 1 year old supposedly completing marathons and triathlons.


KS Aviation Museum Offers F-4 Simulator Flights

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Aviation Museum is offering a rare opportunity for the public to experience a flight in an F-4 simulator.  The so-called F4 experience will be available today (WED) through Sunday at the Wichita museum.  Detailed flight controls simulate the real thing. A museum volunteer and F-4 simulator creator Justin Messenger will take museum goers through various options from a quick flight to one the museum touts as challenging even for experienced pilots.  The museum is charging $20 for a basic flight that lasts 30 minutes and includes a simulated launch from an aircraft carrier.  For $60, the public can experience a so-called immersive flight lasting 90 minutes that includes suiting up in a functional flight suit. 


Drive Nets 4,800 Books for Children's Hospital

TONGANOXIE, Kan. (AP) — Two northeast Kansas teenagers have helped round up thousands of books for a Missouri hospital where both have been treated for serious illnesses.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports Tonganoxie High School seniors Wyatt Maurer and Tyler O'Briant led a book drive earlier this year for Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. Their campaign brought in about 4,800 volumes, along with more than $1,100 to buy e-readers and electronic books.  Maurer has dealt with chronic kidney disease since birth. O'Briant was treated at Children's Mercy for chronic bacterial and viral infections earlier in high school.  The classmates are both on the Teen Advisory Board of Children's Mercy, which has six locations on both sides of the state line. They're planning another book drive in the spring.


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