Here are the headlines for Wednesday, February 1st, 2012
KS Senate Panel Passes Congressional Remap Plan
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has endorsed a redistricting bill that is likely to give the state's senior Republican congresswoman a more Democratic district. Reapportionment Committee members who supported the measure didn't mention opposition to it from Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, who represents the 2nd District of eastern Kansas in the U.S. House. Instead, they said it accounted for changes in population over the past decade while creating relatively compact districts. But the proposal moves the boundaries of the 1st District of western and central Kansas so that it sweeps in the northeast Kansas community of Manhattan. It also puts all of Democratic-leaning Lawrence in the 2nd District, instead of splitting it between two districts. Manhattan officials have said they want their community to remain in the 2nd District.
Tax Refunds Cut into Kansas Revenues
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A high number of Kansas tax refunds added up to lower-than-expected state revenue collections in January The Department of Revenue said yesterday that overall receipts were $30.6 million less than anticipated, with individual income receipts off by $33 million.Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan says Kansas has seen a 25 percent increase in electronic tax filings and that many people are getting their refunds earlier than previous years. The agency said refunds are being paid within a week of electronic forms being filed. On the positive side, Jordan said use-tax collections exceeded estimates by $7 million in January. For the first seven months of the current fiscal year, overall revenue collections are up 6.2 percent, or $200 million, from the same period last year.
Man Indicted in $3 Million Ponzi Scheme
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal grand jury has indicted a former Missouri man in a Ponzi scheme that prosecutors say defrauded 39 investors out of $3 million. U.S. Attorney Beth Phillips says in a news release that 72-year-old Ronald W. Shepard, formerly of Lee's Summit, was charged Tuesday in a 15-count indictment. The indictment says Shepard's company, Safety Solutions in Lee's Summit, developed and marketed a trailer hitch called Tow-Safe. A patent application for the device was rejected. Shepard also operated a real estate company and did tax returns for individuals. Shepard allegedly received about $3.2 million from investors. Shepard allegedly returned about $1.2 million to investors and lost or spent the rest.
KS Bill Would Allow Rate Hikes Before State Gives Approval
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers have been considering a proposal that would allow utility companies to raise rates before the state approves the increases. The Wichita Eagle reports that the proposal for "interim rates" is contained in a House bill that was proposed by natural gas companies. It was the subject of a hearing this week in the House Energy and Utilities Committee. The measure would allow a utility company to increase rates 30 days after it files with the Kansas Corporation Commission for permission to increase rates. The commission has 240 days to consider rate hikes. The company would give refunds if the commission decides the utility is entitled to less than requested. If the utility can't find you, your refund goes into the state's unclaimed property fund.
KS Secretary of State Touts Bill on Citizenship Rule
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Secretary of State Kris Kobach (KOH'-bahk) says Kansas legislators can show they're serious about fighting election fraud by passing his bill to speed up a requirement for some potential voters to show proof of citizenship. But the Republican secretary of state faced hostile questions today (WED) from Democrats during a House Elections Committee hearing. A law enacted last year says people registering to vote for the first time in Kansas must prove their U.S. citizenship, starting in January 2013. Kobach wants the rule to take effect by June 15, ahead of this year's presidential election. But state Rep. Ann Mah, a Topeka Democrat, predicted the state won't be ready to administer the rule so quickly and that it will be a problem for thousands of potential voters, which Kobach disputes.
Governor Says He Warned Lawmakers about Open Meetings Law
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's staff says he warned lawmakers not to violate the state's open meetings law while attending dinners at Cedar Crest mansion. Caleb Stegall, the governor's counsel, said in a statement Tuesday that none of the private dinners attended by Republicans from 13 legislative committees violated the law. He said Brownback was careful to warn those attending the dinners that they could not discuss legislative business. The open meetings law prohibits a voting majority of any government group from discussing business without giving the public notice and access to the meeting.
Stegall says once lawmakers were warned, the dinners become informational presentations, which don't violate the law. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that some legislators who attended the dinners didn't mention being warned about following the law.
Zombie Movie to be Filmed in Southeast KS
RIVERTON, Kan. (AP) — Zombies will be invading southeast Kansas this spring and summer. They'll be in the Riverton area for a low-budget zombie apocalypse movie called "Zompocalypso." Eric Anderson and his wife, Amelia Dellos, who own Chicago-based Corn Bred Films, are making the movie. Anderson, a native of Parsons, says he wants to highlight locations and actors in the Midwest. He says he hopes to use the family homestead outside of Riverton for the movie. The Joplin Globe reports the movie revolves around two brothers. One is a free spirit and the other believes that zombies will cause the end of the world supposedly predicted by the Mayan calendar. Anderson said he's hoping to release the movie to independent movie houses by the end of the year.
Kansas Now Recognizes West Virginia Gun Permits
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginians with valid permits can now carry concealed handguns in Kansas. The reciprocity agreement also allows Kansas residents with valid permits to carry concealed weapons in West Virginia. West Virginia has similar agreements with 22 other states. Assistant Attorney General Will Valentino tells the Charleston Gazette that agreements with all the states aren't possible. Some states don't allow concealed weapons to be carried. Other states' laws vary too much from West Virginia's laws. State Police records show that at least 60,000 West Virginians have concealed weapons permits.
Kansas Pork Producer Disputes Allegations of Pig Mistreatment
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A Kansas-based pork producer strongly disputes allegations it is mistreating pregnant pigs by keeping them in so-called "gestation cages." The Humane Society of the United States lodged the allegations Tuesday against Seaboard Foods and North Carolina-based Prestage Farms. The group cited a video they say showed pigs standing or lying in cages and workers cutting the tails off piglets at production facilities in the Oklahoma Panhandle. At a news conference in Oklahoma City, Paul Shapiro with the Humane Society said investigators worked for both companies and videotaped the conditions late last year. Ron Prestage is a veterinarian for Prestage Farms, founded by his father. Prestage said in a statement that the company is committed to sound animal care. Seaboard officials say they're pleased that their employees are following proper industry-supported protocols and procedures.
Judge's Ruling Puts KS Power Plant on Hold
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal judge in Washington has put a proposed coal-fired power plant in southwest Kansas on hold until an environmental impact study has been completed. U.S. District Judge Emmett Sullivan ruled Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service violated federal law by failing to perform such a study before giving Sunflower Electric Corporation permission to expand in Holcomb. RUS must sign off on decisions related to the Sunflower project because it provided past financial support and oversaw corporate reorganizations. Sullivan's ruling in a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club forbids the agency from issuing additional approvals for the plant or taking any other major federal actions until the environmental study is complete. Sunflower officials say it's too early to know how the ruling will impact the project.
Clinical Research Center at KU Med Center Opens
FAIRWAY, Kan. (AP) — A new clinical research center in Fairway will provide a place for the earliest stage of new drug and treatment tests. The Clinical Research Center started taking patients last week and held its official grand opening Tuesday. The center is part of the University of Kansas Medical Center. The $19 million renovation project was funded by a one-eighth-cent sales tax approved by Johnson County residents. The center's medical director, Raymond Perez, says the research building will give the Medical Center a place to conduct Phase 1 clinical trials on patients. The Kansas City Star reports the center is starting with about 10 Phase 1 cancer trials. When it reaches full capacity in about seven years, Perez expects to have 25 to 30 cancer trials under way involving 300 or more patients.
KS Senators Hear Plea for Anti-Bullying Bill
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The father of a Wichita girl who committed suicide after being repeatedly bullied is urging Kansas senators to strengthen the state's anti-bullying laws. Fourteen-year-old Rhianna Morawitz hanged herself in her bedroom in September after what her father said was repeated harassment at school and online. The father, Rick Morawitz, told the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday that a 2007 state law doesn't go far enough to protect students who are victims of bullying. The committee is considering legislation to require more reporting by school districts under a uniform anti-bullying policy and shorten the timeline for investigations. It also requires districts to report incidents to the State Board of Education. Opponents say the proposal micromanages how districts respond to bullying and gets away from local governance of discipline.
Former Guard Admits Robbing Missouri Bank
KANSAS CITY, MO.(AP) -- A Kansas man has admitted holding up a western Missouri bank where he once worked as a security guard. The U.S. Attorney's office says 38-year-old Daniel Bryant Hill pleaded guilty today to robbing a Commerce Bank branch in the Kansas City suburb of Grandview. Prosecutors said Hill, of Kansas City, Kansas, admitted entering the bank on November 18, 2011, and handing a teller a note demanding money. He fled with about $4,400. He was arrested the same day and told investigators he chose the bank because he was familiar with it, having worked there as a guard in 2005. Hill also admitted robbing a branch of U.S. Bank in Kansas City, Missouri, in September 2011.
Chiefs Offensive Coordinator Muir Retires
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Offensive coordinator Bill Muir informed the Chiefs today that he will retire after 34 years in the NFL, a move many had expected after Kansas City struggled much of last season. Muir joined the Chiefs as offensive line coach in 2009 and was elevated to offensive coordinator by then-coach Todd Haley, who was fired midway through this season. The longtime assistant also spent seven seasons in Tampa Bay, where he won a Super Bowl as part of Jon Gruden's staff. The Buccaneers won three division titles during his time there. Muir was not expected to remain the Chiefs' offensive coordinator even if he remained on staff. New coach Romeo Crennel has said he hopes to have that position filled sometime after the Super Bowl.
Southeast KS Man Charged in House Fire that Killed Wife
FORT SCOTT, Kan. (AP) — A Fort Scott man who was seriously injured in a fire that killed his wife is jailed on $1 million bond after being charged with murder. Prosecutors say 25-year-old Brent Bollinger is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated arson, and aggravated child endangerment. His wife, Brenna Nicole Bollinger was found dead after a fire at the couple's home last October 13. Their 2-year-old son, Bryson Bollinger, was hospitalized for treatment of burns for about a month after the fire. Bollinger's attorney, Paul Morrison, said during a court appearance Monday that Bollinger suffered burns over 69 percent of this body and has undergone several surgeries. He also said prosecutors have only a circumstantial case against his client. The Fort Scott Tribune reports the next court date will be February 9.
Wichita Man Pleads Guilty to Child Porn Charge
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man faces up to 10 years in prison after admitting he possessed more than 1 million images of child pornography. The U.S. Attorney's office says 47-year-old Matthew Alter pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of possessing child pornography. Sentencing is set for April 16 in U.S. District Court. Prosecutors say the investigation of Alter began after Italian police notified U.S. authorities that a computer in Kansas was accessing a child porn website. The trail led to Alter's Wichita home, where investigators seized computer hard drives containing more than 1 million images of child pornography. The children photographed ranged from 1 to 12 years old. The U.S. Attorney's office says Alter had been collecting child porn for more than a decade.
KS Department of Agriculture Downplays Talks about Immigrants
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Department of Agriculture spokeswoman says talks between Secretary Dale Rodman and federal officials about illegal immigrant workers were informal only. Spokeswoman Chelsea Good said Tuesday that Rodman has met several times with U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials about labor shortages in Kansas agriculture. But Good says the Kansas agency has not made a formal request for a federal waiver that would let businesses in Kansas hire illegal immigrants. Rodman told The Topeka Capital-Journal last week that a program allowing illegal immigrants to continue working in Kansas would be good for agriculture. But Governor Sam Brownback's office later said the idea did not come from the administration. A coalition of business groups plans to push for state legislation on the issue.
Two Die in Wreck that Closed Part of I-35 in Kansas
GARDNER, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says one of two people who died after being thrown from a car on Interstate 35 was also struck by a minivan while lying on the pavement. The accident happened around 1:45am Tuesday near the northeastern Kansas town of Gardner. Southbound lanes of I-35 were closed for several hours. The Highway Patrol says a car driven by 32-year-old Jason Richard Mees, of Hiawatha, veered off the road, returned to the pavement and rolled over. The crash ejected Mees and his passenger, 32-year-old Jennifer Diane Curbow, of Edgerton. Officers say neither victim wore a seat belt. Authorities were investigating why the car left the highway. The driver of the minivan that struck the car and one of the victims after the accident was not hurt.
Motive Sought in Wichita Homicide
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita are seeking a motive in the city's fourth homicide of the year. A relative found the body of 38-year-old Michael Salyer in his downtown apartment Monday afternoon, more than 16 hours after neighbors last saw him alive. The Wichita Eagle reports that an autopsy Tuesday showed Salyer had been stabbed to death. He also had severe head trauma. Wichita police Lt. Ken Landwehr says there were signs of a brief struggle, but robbery doesn't appear to be a motive. No drugs or paraphernalia were found in the apartment, and Salyer's wallet, keys and other valuables were also left behind. Investigators had no suspect as of Tuesday night.