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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, February 25, 2014


KS House Gives First-Round Approval to Tax Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two southeast Kansas cement plants would be in line for significant property tax relief under a bill tentatively approved by the House to define what is property and what is machinery and equipment. The bill, which advanced Tuesday on an unrecorded 101-13 vote, is a response to escalating property taxes that have been assessed to two cement plants since the state exempted certain commercial industrial machinery and equipment from property taxes. Legislators exempted machinery and equipment from taxes starting in 2006. However, county appraisers increased the companies' taxes by reclassifying what was formerly equipment and making it real estate and subject to taxes. The House bill would define what could be counted as machinery and equipment and exempt only in the cement industry. A final vote is expected Wednesday.


Gay-Rights Advocates Rally at Kansas Statehouse

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Dozens of Kansans have rallied at the Statehouse in favor of gay rights and to protest legislation that they argue would encourage discrimination against gays and lesbians. Nearly 200 people gathered Tuesday afternoon for the event, staged by the gay-rights group Equality Kansas and several other organization. They also lobbied legislators. They oppose a bill to prohibit government fines and anti-discrimination lawsuits when people, groups, businesses cite their religious beliefs in refusing to provide goods, services, accommodations or employment benefits to gay and lesbian couples. Backers have said the measure focuses on protecting gay-marriage opponents from being punished for following their religious beliefs in refusing to be involved in same-sex ceremonies. The House passed the bill earlier this month. The Senate Judiciary Committee is having hearings on religious freedom issues next week. 

Holder: Discriminatory Laws Don't Need Defending

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Eric Holder says that state attorneys general who believe that laws in their states banning same-sex marriage are discriminatory are not obligated to defend them. For an example of a discriminatory law, Holder turns to the 1954 Brown versus Board of Education case that led to public school integration. He tells The New York Times that had he been attorney general in Kansas in 1953, he would not have defended a Kansas statute that put in place separate-but-equal facilities. In an interview Monday with the Times, Holder says an attorney general should apply the highest level of scrutiny before reaching a decision on whether to defend laws that touch on core constitutional issues like equal protection. He says the decision shouldn't be political or based on policy objections.

House Panel Revises KS Sex Ed Proposal

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A House committee has made significant changes to a proposal that would mandate parental action before students receive sex education in Kansas public schools. The House Education Committee heavily amended the bill Monday, changing the proposal from requiring parental approval before a student could receive the instruction to a bill requiring written consent before a student would be withheld. Committee members spent 90 minutes debating the changes before delaying a final vote until Tuesday. The change was prompted after a student in Johnson County reported that suggestive material was posted on a classroom door that her parents had expressly forbid her to receive in school. Legislators said Monday they understood parental concerns but feel some students who need sex education won't receive proper information any other place.


US Military Opposes Kansas Bill on Airport Hazard

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. military has criticized a bill before the Kansas Legislature that narrows the definition of what's considered an airport hazard. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that both the Army and Air Force have written letters stating that House Bill 2652 would threaten military training and deployment capabilities because it would allow development to encroach on airfields. The bill's supported by a company called Pflumm 143 Inc., which has been trying to develop land in Olathe near the Johnson County Executive Airport. The bill narrows the definition of airport hazard, which can be used to protect airspace from development, to physical structures only. But critics of the bill say there are many land uses without structures that pose a threat to air safety and should be kept far away from airfields.


Bill to Open Police Records to Public Advances

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill that would make some police records available to the public will go before the Kansas House. The House Judiciary committee on Monday approved the bill, which would make police documents that explain reasons to arrest people open to the public. The bill would also make affidavits to justify search warrants open to the parties involved. The Wichita Eagle reports that people who have a home searched would have 30 days to request documentation explaining the reasons for the search. Kansas is one of the few states in the country that seals probable-cause affidavits. The bill would allow prosecutors to seal or redact the records if releasing them would jeopardize "the safety or well-being" of a victim or witness.

KS Governor Continues Push for All-Day K

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback is visiting Kansas elementary schools to continue to build support for his proposal to expand state funding for all-day kindergarten instruction. The Republican governor is asking legislators to increase funding for all-day classes, increasing the state support by $16 million a year over five years until it is fully funded. Brownback on Tuesday is scheduled to visit a classroom in Silver Lake after making a similar trip on Monday to a school in Topeka. Legislators have been slow to embrace the governor's proposal, raising concerns about the additional expense to the state and whether any academic gains made by attending all-day classes can be sustained. Brownback has touted the plan as a means for raising reading scores and helping at-risk students succeed.

Kansas Senate Hopeful Sees Attempt 'to Intimidate'

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas physician running for the U.S. Senate is accusing Republican incumbent Pat Roberts of trying to intimidate him. Leawood Radiologist Milton Wolf said Monday that Roberts is behind news reports about Wolf posting graphic images of gunshot victims on Facebook. The postings several years ago were first reported by The Topeka Capital-Journal. Wolf is trying to unseat the three-term incumbent in the August 5th GOP primary. Wolf apologized for the postings on a personal Facebook page, adding that they were removed shortly after appearing. The challenger told The Associated Press that Roberts is engaging in character assassination because he's panicking. Wolf said he won't back down in the race. Roberts spokesman Leroy Towns said the initial news report about the postings speaks for itself.


Kansas City Pushes Aggressively for GOP Convention

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Nearly 40 years have passed since Kansas City, Missouri last hosted a national political convention. The city doesn't have the glitz of Las Vegas, New Orleans or some of the other places seeking to host the 2016 Republican National Convention. Yet Kansas City is mounting an aggressive campaign to be the winning city. A Kansas City delegation plans to personally deliver its bid Wednesday to Republican headquarters in Washington. City officials will then join others from across the country in making a presentation March 3 to Republican officials. Kansas City is hoping to host the event in the Sprint Center arena. It's touting a roughly $6 billion investment in a renovated downtown. And it's promoting the logistical ease of holding the convention in a Midwestern city.


KU Receives Gift to Fund Luxury Hoops Apartments

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas has received a lead donation from alumni Kent and Missy McCarthy to help finance the first phase of the Fieldhouse Apartments project, which will house basketball players and other students. The complex is expected to cost $17.5 million and will be built on Naismith Drive, just south of Allen Fieldhouse. The amount of the donation was not disclosed. The donation was announced during the fifth-ranked Jayhawks' game against Oklahoma on Monday night. The apartments will be home to 32 men's and women's basketball players and 34 non-athlete students. NCAA rules prohibit student-athletes from residing in dorms by themselves. Kansas coach Bill Self has said the project will give the school a significant recruiting advantage by offering a major upgrade over current student-athlete housing.


Southeast KS Town Tracking Counterfeit Money

ROSE HILL, Kan. (AP) — Police in the southeast Kansas town of Rose Hill say someone is trying to use fake money at the town's businesses. Police said Monday that at least three businesses have recently reported people using fake cash to pay for items. In one case, a clerk at the Rose Hill Apple Market grocery store noticed the $20 bills someone was using to obtain a $300 money order were counterfeit. The clerk refused to take the money and called police. KAKE-TV reports that fake money also was used at other businesses, including a Sonic restaurant and Casey's General Store. No one has been arrested.


Car Repossession Leads to Chase, Shooting

ANTHONY, Kan. (AP) — A south-central Kansas man has been jailed after he allegedly chased people repossessing his car, then shot at the vehicle, forced it off the road and hit the man who was seizing the car. Police say an employee of Xpress Recovery of Wichita repossessed the car from a home near Anthony Monday. The car's owner allegedly followed the vehicle, rammed it several times and forced it off the road. The man and a juvenile then allegedly shot at the car's windshield, pulled the driver out and hit him with a gun. The driver suffered minor injuries. The car's owner was booked into the Harper County jail on suspicion of aggravated battery, aggravated assault and criminal discharge of a firearm. The juvenile was taken to a juvenile facility in Reno County.


UPDATE: Southbound Interstate 35 in Kansas City Reopened

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The southbound lanes of Interstate 35 in Kansas City's downtown loop were closed for much of Tuesday morning after a fiery accident involving a tractor-trailer truck. The truck overturned and erupted in flames about 7 am Tuesday near the Cambridge Circle exit. One lane was reopened about 10 am Tuesday, with the second opened about an hour later. Missouri transportation officials say the tractor-trailer was hauling heavy rock and some of the rock was thrown out of the vehicle. At least six cars were hit with the contents. The driver was taken to the hospital after suffering minor injuries. The northbound lanes were briefly closed to pick up debris.

KS Native World War II Hero Dies at Age 92

LOS ANGELES (AP) — World War Two Medal of Honor recipient Walter Ehlers has died in California at age 92. Ehlers's wife, Dorothy says her husband of 58 years died Thursday at a hospital in Long Beach. The cause was kidney failure. In 1944, Ehlers was a 23-year-old Army staff sergeant when the Allies invaded the beaches of France in some of the war's deadliest fighting. According to his Medal of Honor citation, he killed seven enemy soldiers, knocked out two machine-gun nests and rescued a wounded comrade despite being shot in the back. His older brother, Roland, died during the D-Day invasion. Ehlers moved to California from his native Kansas after the war and worked for many years as a Veterans Administration benefits counselor. He took part in numerous D-Day memorials.

KU Fixes Problem Leading to Statewide Test Delays

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas says it has fixed problems with bandwidth the led to delays in schools across the state trying to administer practice reading and math tests. When students took the tests last week, they experienced long delays and other problems with the testing platform. The Center of Educational Testing and Evaluation at the university said Monday the problems occurred because so many schools tried to access the tests at the same time. Neal Kingston, co-director of the center, says the center doubled its bandwidth late last week, which seemed to resolve the problem. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that to ensure no further problems, the center will triple its original capacity this week.


PSU Breaks Ground on $13M Event Center

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Pittsburg State University has broken ground on a new $13 million event center. The Joplin Globe reports that officials from Pittsburg State, the city of Pittsburg, the Kansas Board of Regents and private donors attended the groundbreaking Tuesday. The center, which is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2015, will include a 100-yard turf field, a 300-meter track and seating for up to 1,500. It will also include locker rooms for football, men's and women's track, as well as offices and meeting rooms. Officials say the construction of the indoor event center was key in the NCAA's recent decision to select Pittsburg State to host the 2016 and 2018 Men's and Women's Indoor Track Championships.


Sumner County Jail Selling Inmates E-Cigarettes

WELLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — The Sumner County jail has begun offering inmates e-cigarettes as a way to offset costs for supplies. KAKE-TV  reports that inmates have been able to buy regular and menthol e-cigarettes through their commissary account since the first of January. The cigarettes sell for $12 each, and the jail makes about $4 profit on each one. The money is used to buy jail supplies like clothing, bedding and other items. Sheriff Darren Chambers says jails that offer e-cigarettes have noticed they have a calming effect on inmates, with fewer fights breaking out. E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that resemble traditional cigarettes. They heat a liquid solution, creating vapor that users inhale to get nicotine without the smoke of regular cigarettes. E-cigarettes for jails are made of soft plastic instead of metal.


Wichita State Trying to Lure Technology Companies

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State officials are negotiating with several technology companies to create an innovation campus at the university. University president John Bardo told faculty and students Monday that the school is talking to seven companies, with a goal of bringing new technology jobs to Wichita in the future. Bardo says the innovation campus would be a four-building complex on the southeast corner of the campus, on half of Wichita State's 18-hole golf course. The Wichita Eagle reports John Tomblin, an interim vice president, says the university is negotiating with companies from Wichita, the U.S. and outside the country. He refused to identify the companies but said negotiations are going well. Bardo says the campus would be a public-private partnership that would benefit both the university and the community.

Kansas Man Gets Life in Prison for Child Sex Crime

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 63-year-old Wichita man with a history of sex crimes against children has been sentenced to life in prison without parole for his latest conviction. The Sedgwick County District Attorney's office announced Monday that Kenneth Boysaw was found guilty of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. He was accused of fondling a 6-year-old girl in a Wichita home last April. The Wichita Eagle reports that Boysaw was previously convicted of attempted indecent liberties with a child in November 1979 in Topeka. He was later convicted of sexual assault of a child in February 1987 in Lincoln, Nebraska.


Olathe Man Sentenced to 4 Years for Child Porn

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 46-year-old Johnson County man man has been sentenced to four years in prison for possessing child pornography. The office of the U.S. Attorney for Kansas says in a release that James Christmas of Olathe pleaded guilty to one count of possessing child pornography. In his plea, prosecutors say he admitted he possessed more than 12,000 images and 26 videos of child pornography. Christmas was sentenced Tuesday and was also ordered to pay a $12,500 fine.


Hall of Famer Dawson to Receive Lamar Hunt Award

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Hall of Fame quarterback and broadcaster Len Dawson will be honored with the Lamar Hunt Award for Professional Football at the 101 Awards gala on Saturday. The award was created in 2007 to honor the life and legacy of the Chiefs founder. It goes to an individual or group that has played a role in shaping the NFL. Dawson led the Chiefs to its only Super Bowl championship and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1987. He began broadcasting Chiefs games in 1985, and in 2012 was awarded the hall's Pete Rozelle Award for radio and television contributions. Previous winners include The Foolish Club, the name taken on by the eight original AFL owners; coaches Tony Dungy and Don Shula; quarterback Roger Staubach; and Monday Night Football.

Kansas Dog Club to Host "Meet the Breeds" Event

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — If you are thinking of adding a dog to your family, this free event hosted by the Wichita Kennel Club may be for you. The club is putting on its annual "Meet the Breeds" event from 1-4 pm Sunday at the Century II Concert Hall Foyer. People from area clubs will be there with their dogs to answer questions and help visitors decide which breed is right for their individual households. The event is being held in conjunction with the annual canine art show which is dedicated solely to canine-related art. It is expected to include 180 pieces of original canine art created by national and international artists. The art will be on display through April 7.

Engineering Firm Proposes $130 Million Expansion

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The engineering firm of Burns & McDonnell is proposing a $130 million office addition to house 2,100 new employees it expects to hire in the next decade. The new building would be next to the company's world headquarters in Kansas City. The company says it plans to tear down a former synagogue it now owns to build a 450,000 square-foot office development and 800-space garage. The Kansas City Star reports that the company has thrived in recent years because of its involvement in the energy industry. It designs projects for oil and natural gas exploration and distribution; generating power, and rebuilding the nation's aging electrical transmission infrastructure. The company plans to ask for public incentives for the proposed development, although the type of incentives has not been determined.

Plans for Kansas City Commuter Rail Receive Boost

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A plan to build a commuter rail system in Kansas City has received a boost with a new option agreement for Jackson County (Missouri) to buy an important rail corridor. Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders called the memorandum of understanding between the county and Union Pacific Railroad the most significant milestone to date in the effort to connect Kansas City with its eastern suburbs by rail. He says the agreement makes the rail plan a real possibility. The Kansas City Star reports that the agreement would allow the county to buy two pieces of unused rail corridor totaling 19 miles. The price for both pieces would total $59.9 million, or about half of what UP had initially asked for the property at the start of nearly two years of negotiations.


10 Straight Big 12 Titles (and Counting) for KU

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas is putting the party on hold for a little bit. After wrapping up at least a share of their 10th straight Big 12 title, the Jayhawks decided against a celebration Monday night. They'd rather cut down the nets and have a proper fiesta when they win the title outright, something they can do Saturday at Oklahoma State. Still, the streak of titles puts KU in some rare company. The only two schools in men's Division I basketball with more consecutive conference titles are UCLA, which won 13 in the 1960s and '70s, and Gonzaga, which won 11 straight from 2000-11.


Chelsea Clinton Visits UMKC

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton helped the University of Missouri-Kansas City launch a new women's hall of fame. The Starr Women's Hall of Fame will recognize women from the Kansas City area and preserve the legacy of their accomplishments. The site is named for the late Kansas City philanthropist Martha Jane Phillips Starr. Clinton said at an event Monday in Kansas City that hall of fame will help young girls close the gap between what they aspire to and what's possible. The Kansas City Star reports that the first class won't be inducted into the hall until the fall. Chelsea Clinton works with her parents, former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, as vice chair of the Clinton Foundation.


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