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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014


Police Jail Man on Murder Charge in MO Abduction

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A 45-year-old school employee has been jailed on suspicion of first-degree murder in the abduction of a 10-year-old girl in southwest Missouri. Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams says investigators found "evidence of foul play" in their search for Hailey Owens. Witnesses told police that Hailey was taken by a man in a pickup truck in Springfield Tuesday evening. Police spokeswoman Lisa Cox declined to address media reports Wednesday that Hailey's body has been found. A suspect was arrested late Tuesday inside a vehicle parked at his Springfield home. Police identified him Wednesday as Craig Michael Wood. Formal charges have not been filed. The Springfield School District says Wood is a coach and paraprofessional at a school for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Hailey did not attend that school.


Senator Declares KS Anti-Gay Marriage Bill Dead

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The chairman of the Kansas Senate Judiciary Committee says the Legislature will not proceed any further with a House-passed bill aimed at shielding people who refuse for religious reasons to provide goods and services to gay couples. State Senator Jeff King on Tuesday declared the legislation dead. The bill would have barred government sanctions or anti-discrimination lawsuits against individuals, groups and businesses that cite religious beliefs in refusing to provide goods, services, accommodations or employment benefits to gay couples. Supporters said the bill would protect Kansans from being forced to participate in gay weddings if the federal courts struck down the state's ban on same-sex unions. The House passed it last week. Senate leaders said the bill couldn't pass their chamber amid criticism that it was discriminatory. King said his panel still will have hearings on religious liberty issues.


KS House Panel Reviews School Standards Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has heard testimony from an overflow crowd on a bill that would bar use of the Common Core standards for reading and math in public schools. Supporters and opponents of the standards filled the House Education Committee meeting room and the adjacent corridor for Wednesday's hearing. The measure seeks to reverse a 2010 State Board of Education decision to adopt the standards. It would also create an advisory group to develop new guidelines for math and reading. Witnesses had 90 seconds each to address the committee, which asked no questions and took no action on the bill. Kansas was part of a multi-state consortium that developed the Common Core standards to create common material that students should master. States were able to add content to the standards.


KS Senate Advances Bill to Expand No Call Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has given first-round approval to a bill adding cellphone numbers to the state's no call law for telephone solicitors. The measure proposed by Attorney General Derek Schmidt advanced Wednesday on a voice vote. Approval on a second vote expected Thursday would send the bill to the House. Kansas enacted the no call statute in 2002 to protect residents from unwanted telemarketing calls. People add their numbers to a list maintained by the Federal Trade Commission. The attorney general can pursue complaints about solicitations made via landline phones but has no authority over calls made to cellphones. The bill would create that authority. During Senate debate, Hiawatha Republican Dennis Pyle questioned having Kansans use a list maintained by the federal government.


Kansas GOP Pushes for Changes in Local Elections

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Republican Party is pushing legislators to change the dates of local elections and make them partisan, but a GOP-dominated state Senate committee hasn't embraced the entire plan. The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee debated a bill Wednesday that would hold city and school board elections in even-numbered years on the same schedule as legislative and statewide contests. It did not take final action on the measure. Kansas currently has its city and school board elections in the spring of odd-numbered years, and turnout is typically low. State GOP Chairman Kelly Arnold said moving the elections would boost turnout. But Senate committee members rewrote the bill so that local elections would remain nonpartisan. Several members said making them partisan would prevent military personnel or federal employees from serving.

KS House Panel Shortens, Adopts Climate Measure

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has approved a resolution protesting President Barack Obama's plan on climate change after stripping out language suggesting the science behind it is flawed. The Energy and Environment Committee's voice vote Tuesday sends the measure to the House for debate. The nonbinding resolution says the plan released by the president last year would harm the economy and asks Congress to block it. Obama's plan includes tougher pollution standards for power plants and higher vehicle fuel efficiency standards. The resolution initially contained more than a page of language questioning the scientific consensus that human activity contributes to climate change. Environmentalists labeled it a denial resolution. Overland Park Republican Craig McPherson pushed to shorten the measure and said the committee wanted to highlight the economic harm of Obama's plan.


KS House Approves College Textbook Tax Break

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Students at public and private colleges in Kansas would get a tax break on textbook purchases under a bill approved by the state House. Wednesday's 122-0 House vote sends the measure to the Senate. The bill creates a state refund for the sales taxes paid on textbooks required for classes at state and private universities, community colleges and technical colleges. Students would apply to the Department of Revenue for the refund. The proposal comes from Wichita Democrat Brandon Whipple, who said it's a way to help students and their families. State officials don't know how much the break would save taxpayers. The state's sales tax is 6.15 percent.


Judge Strikes Down Nebraska Law Permitting Keystone XL Progress

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A judge has struck down a Nebraska law that allowed the Keystone XL oil pipeline to proceed through the state. Lancaster County (Nebraska) Judge Stephanie Stacy issued a ruling Wednesday that invalidated Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman's approval of the route. Stacy says the decision should have been made by the Nebraska Public Service Commission, which regulates pipelines and other utilities. The ruling could cause more delays in finishing the pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada to Texas refineries. But it's a win for Nebraska-based pipeline opponents. They've argued that Heineman exceeded his authority when he approved the route in January 2013.


Arkansas City Approves Zoning for Meatpacker Expansion

ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Arkansas City Commission has approved two ordinances that will allow Creekstone Farms Premium Beef to expand its operations in the southeast Kansas town. The commission's vote Tuesday night annexed about 9.5 acres of farmland owned by Creekstone that is adjacent to the current plant but outside city limits. It also changed the land's zoning to heavy industrial. The Arkansas City Traveler reports that the first phase of the expansion, which already is under way, will bring the plant back to full production capacity after a fire last fall. Later phases will increase the company's cold storage areas and possibly add an additional shift. City manager Nick Hernandez says if Creekstone adds another shift, it would become Cowley County's largest employer.


Kingman County to Vote on 1-Cent Sales Tax

KINGMAN, Kan. (AP) — Kingman County residents will vote April 8 on whether the county should impose a 1-cent retail sales tax. County commissioners on Tuesday authorized the special election. County officials say the tax would be used to finance capital projects, including a new law enforcement center. The Hutchinson News reports the county has been working toward building a new law enforcement center for more than a year, but commissioners on Tuesday rejected a previous design, saying it was too expensive. If approved, the 1-cent sales tax would go into effect October 1, or as soon as possible after that date. It would remain in force for 20 years. Revenues would be shared among the county and its seven incorporated cities.

KU Drops Bonding Request for Athlete Dorms

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas is dropping a request before the state Legislature for bonding authority to build upscale apartments that would house basketball players and other students. University spokesman Tim Caboni said Tuesday the decision to withdraw the bonding proposal came after a House committee rejected it last week. The university was seeking bonding authority for $17.5 million to help build apartments near Allen Fieldhouse that would house 66 students. Thirty-two of the apartments would be for men's and women's basketball players. Some members of the House Education Budget Committee last week called the project extravagant and suggested the school's athletic boosters could help build it. Caboni told The Lawrence Journal-World the university will explore other options to complete the apartment project, but he didn't provide any details.


Woman in Sex Trafficking Case Released on Bond

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita massage parlor worker has been released on bond while she awaits sentencing in a sex trafficking case. Xiuqing Tian of Framingham, Massachusetts had been jailed since she pleaded guilty in November to helping induce an immigrant to reside unlawfully in the United States. The U.S. Attorney's office says a federal judge on Wednesday granted Tian's request to be released to a halfway house. The judge also ordered her to obtain lawful employment. Tian has agreed to testify against her two former employers, who are awaiting trial. In her plea deal, she admitted moving to Wichita to work for the pair and said they encouraged her to perform sex acts for patrons of two massage parlors where she worked.


Southeast KS Woman Sentenced for Toddler's Death

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — A southeast Kansas woman has been sentenced to slightly more than five years in prison for the strangulation death of her toddler son in the straps of a safety seat. The Joplin Globe reports that 29-year-old Cara M. Lloyd was sentenced Tuesday in Crawford County District Court. The judge gave her credit for 320 days she has already spent in Jail, reducing her 61-month sentence by nearly a year. The Pittsburg woman's son, Cory Jones Jr., was 13 months old when he was strangled by the straps of his child safety seat. The death occurred in October 2011 while Jones and her children were at a friend's home in Frontenac. Jones was initially charged with first-degree murder but pleaded guilty in October to voluntary manslaughter.


2 Plead Guilty in High School Football Hazing

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Two 18-year-old Hutchinson High School students pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in a hazing incident involving "branding" of some of the school's football players. Jaiden Casanova and Kendric Hudson pleaded guilty Tuesday to misdemeanor charges alleging they used hot hangers to brand four freshmen football players in the school's locker room. They had faced felony battery charges but pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and misdemeanor hazing. The Hutchinson News reports that both will serve one year on probation and a 30-day jail sentence. A 16-year-old also charged in the case was placed in state juvenile custody for out-of-home placement. The investigation found no evidence that similar incidents had happened before, or that the coaches were aware of it. Prosecutors said the branding involved small marks on the players' abdomens.


KS Doctor Wins $1 Million in MO Lottery Game

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A northeast Kansas doctor says he feels better about his financial future after winning $1 million in a Missouri Lottery game. Lottery officials said Wednesday that 60-year-old orthopedic surgeon Truett Swaim bought a Mega Millions ticket in early December, but didn't realize it was a big winner until he checked the numbers last week. Swaim lives in Leawood, Kansas and bought the ticket just over the state line in Kansas City, Missouri. Swaim says the prize won't change much about his daily life, but he does plan to work less, play more golf and take a few more vacations. It also will give him and his fiancee some extra cash for a planned honeymoon in Fiji following their upcoming wedding.




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