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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, February 6, 2013



UPDATE: Revenue Secretary Takes on Business Tax Questions Before Kansas House

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House members are questioning why Republican Governor Sam Brownback's tax plan doesn't provide relief for corporations and oil producers. The issues arose Wednesday as Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan testified before the House Taxation Committee. Brownback wants to reduce individual income tax rates again after aggressive cuts last year. But Overland Park Republican Marvin Kleeb asked Jordan why the governor isn't proposing to reduce corporate income tax rates. Jordan says many businesses don't pay any taxes because of credits and incentives. Dighton Republican Don Hineman said he's concerned about last year's repeal of a severance tax exemption for some new oil production. Jordan said most industry officials didn't have a problem with the change. He also said it took advantage of a boom in production.


KS Revenue Department Study Shows Brownback Tax Proposal Would Benefit Poor

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An internal report shows that Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's latest proposals on income taxes would benefit the state's poorest taxpayers the most. Department of Revenue figures show that income tax filers with adjusted gross incomes of $25,000 or less would see their collective income tax burden drop 41 percent by 2017. The department's figures show the decrease for taxpayers earning more than $250,000 would be 39 percent. The figures also show the poorest taxpayers would fare significantly better than the wealthiest ones before 2017. The department released the figures Wednesday to legislative researchers and provided a copy to The Associated Press. Brownback wants to cut income tax rates further but eliminate two popular deductions for homeowners. However, the analysis does not address a Brownback administration sales tax proposal.

Supporters Testify on Kansas Union PAC Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Supporters of a proposed bill to end the practice of allowing Kansas government units to automatically deduct contributions to their political action committees say the measure is constitutional. Several representatives from business interests and attorneys told the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday that the measure would not limit the rights of unions or their members to participate in the political process. The issue, they say, is why the government should have any role in the process. However, Senate President Susan Wagle says she's concerned about a new definition of political activity in the bill, which she says may have cost the measure a few votes of support when it was passed in the House. The committee took no action on the bill after the hearing.


Kansas School Property Tax Up for Renewal

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers have begun the process of renewing a statewide property tax that helps fund elementary and secondary schools. The 20-mill tax raises about $575 million a year for public schools and must be renewed every two years. A mill equals $1 per $1,000 in assessed property value. The Senate Education Committee heard testimony on the renewal Wednesday. Support came from the Kansas Association of School Boards and the Kansas National Education Association. There was no opposition, and the committee took no action on it. Revenue from the tax is considered to be part of each school district's contribution to overall education spending.


Kansas Senate Debates Altering Renewable Energy Rule

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee is debating whether to delay or change requirements that the state's utility companies use more renewable fuels. The state required major utility companies to be able to generate 10 percent of their energy through a renewable source by 2011. Those requirements would increase to 15 percent by 2016 and 20 percent by 2020. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Senate committee on utilities is considering extending the 15 percent mandate to 2018 and the 20 percent requirement to 2024. And it would allow delaying any requirements if utilities can show good cause, such as increased costs to customers. The committee heard from supporters and opponents last week and on Tuesday. The Energy and Environmental Policy Committee will hear more testimony next Tuesday.


Overland Park Girl Reports Attempted Abduction

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Police in Johnson County are putting extra officers at schools and bus stops after the third report of an attempted child abduction in the region. The Kansas City Star reports the latest happened Tuesday in Overland Park. A 14-year-old girl said a man ordered a girl into his white pickup truck but drove off when the girl ran toward her bus stop. On January 25, a Shawnee girl told police three men in a gold sedan tried to abduct her on her way to school. The girl said she was chased as she ran away. A Shawnee boy reported February 1 that a man got out of an SUV and tried to grab him. Authorities say they don't believe the three cases are related.

State of Kansas Preparing to Sell Historic Home Near Capitol

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are trying to sell a historic home west of the Statehouse and have received bids from two prospective buyers. The Department of Administration said Tuesday a Topeka development firm has bid $205,000 and a law firm has offered $351,000 for the Hiram Price Dillon house. The state has owned the 12,000-square-foot house since 1998, when a nearby church traded the property for a parking lot. Dillon was a prominent attorney who worked for the Union Pacific Railroad. He built the home in 1913 in an Italian Renaissance revival style common at the time. The state has used the home for events, but a plan in 2010 to raise $4.6 million in private funds for renovations didn't come to fruition.

Commissioner: Stop Federal Takeover of Kansas Businesses

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas securities commissioner is proposing a constitutional amendment to prevent federal government takeovers of the state's businesses. Commissioner Aaron Jack said Tuesday the amendment would protect private property rights. He says the federal government should not be a vested owner in private enterprise. Jack told The Topeka Capital-Journal that the amendment would have inhibited the federal government's acquisition of shareholder stakes in more than 900 businesses — including 17 banks in Kansas — four years ago during the recession. The proposed constitutional amendment has been introduced in the House and Senate. It would need a two-thirds majority of both chambers before it would be placed on a statewide ballot. A simple majority of Kansas voters would need to approve it to amend the state constitution.

Senator Wants to Legislate Requirement for State Universities' Hoops Teams to Play

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A state senator wants the University of Kansas and Kansas State men's basketball teams to play Wichita State each year before the three schools begin conference play. Republican Senator Michael O'Donnell, of Wichita, introduced legislation Tuesday requiring the two Big 12 schools to do just that starting in 2014. Wichita State plays in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Shockers last met Kansas in 1993, losing to the Jayhawks 103-43. Kansas State and Wichita State last played in 2003. The Wildcats won that game 54-50 in Manhattan. O'Donnell's bill would let the schools decide where the mandatory nonconference games would be played.


Mortgage Scam Costs Kansas Man $110K

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Police in Riley County say an 80-year-old man lost $110,000 in just two months to a home mortgage scam. WIBW-TV reports that the scammers tricked the Manhattan man using what appeared to be paperwork from Bank of America. The man was warned that he was behind on his mortgage payments and about to lose his home to foreclosure. The victim provided his financial information, allowing the scammers to access his account. Police say the man was first contacted December 1. He reported the theft on Tuesday. The victim declined to be interviewed, except to tell WIBW he had been contacted both by phone and by mail.


New Kansas "Pet Friendly" License Plate to Help Veterinary Students

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansans can use their vehicles to show they support pets. Revenue from a new "I'm Pet Friendly" license plate will be used to reduce the stray animal population. Proceeds from the sale of the plates will support scholarships for Kansas State University veterinary students who will work with local animal shelters, particularly in spay/neuter programs. With a one-time production fee of $45.50 and an annual donation of $50, the new plate can be picked up at county tag offices across the state. The dean of K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine, Ralph Richardson, says the program can help improve the quality of animal health throughout the state.


Teens Arrested in Garden City Vandalism Case

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police have arrested four teenagers after a vandalism spree at a Garden City store, in which they allegedly dumped nearly 100 cans of paint on a concrete floor. Garden City police say they arrested a 17-year-old, a 14-year-old and two 13-year-old boys on Tuesday. Investigators entered the Menard's store overnight Saturday. The store is still under construction. The suspects apparently rode their bicycles through the store before using forklifts to spill five-gallon and one-gallon containers of industrial paint throughout the store. The forklifts were damaged and cardboard boxes were set on fire. And some support beams might have to be replaced. Police had estimated the damage between $30,000 and $300,000, depending on whether the paint can be removed from the floors. The teenagers are being held at the Southwest Kansas Juvenile Detention Center.


Appeals Court Disallows Evidence Against Kansas Veteran

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court has tossed out evidence against a 66-year-old Kansas military veteran convicted of possessing incendiary bombs in preparation for the end of the world. Alfred Dutton, an Army and Marine veteran from Eureka, is serving a 21-month sentence. He pleaded guilty earlier to unlawful possession of unregistered destructive devices. Dutton had sought to suppress evidence taken in 2011 from a storage unit where authorities found five jars of homemade napalm with fuses attached. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday reversed a lower court's denial of the motion and returned the case for more proceedings. The appeals court says authorities lacked reason to suspect criminal activity at the storage unit. His attorney says Dutton will withdraw his guilty plea. Prosecutors are reviewing Wednesday's ruling.


KSU-Developed Omega-3 Enhanced Ground Beef Hits Stores

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas State University researcher has developed a technique that enriches ground beef with omega-3 fatty acids. The enriched ground beef is named GreatO Premium Ground Beef. It is being sold through Manhattan-based company NBO3 Technologies LLC. K-State says in a news release that it will be available mid-February at select retailers in Buffalo, New York. The plan is to expand to retailers and restaurants nationwide later this year. Animal sciences and industry professor Jim Drouillard is credited with developing the technique for giving ground beef the same kind of heart-healthy fatty acids found in fish and plant oils. Drouillard says a quarter-pound hamburger made of the enriched ground beef has 200 milligrams of omega-3s and tastes the same as regular ground beef.

Reno County Residents Will Vote on Tax to Raise Revenue for Jail

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Reno County residents will vote on a proposed sales tax increase to fund improvements in the current jail or to build a new jail. The county commission voted Tuesday to put a half-cent increase in the county sales tax on the April 2 ballot. If approved, it would raise an estimated $28.9 million. The money would be used either to build a new jail or renovate the existing jail and annex. The Hutchinson News reports that the sales tax increase would take effect October 1. It would end when bonds issued to pay for the project are paid off, estimated between eight to 10 years. Supporters say the jail's capacity forces the county to house prisoners at other county jails. And they say the current jail has several design flaws.


Canadian Man Admits Picking Up Kansas Girl for Sex

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Canadian man who was found last year in Michigan with a 12-year-old Kansas girl he met on the Internet has admitted his intent was to have sex with the girl. Twenty-one-year-old Stewart Kenneth Cody McGill, of Bewdley, Ontario, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of travel to engage in illicit sexual conduct. Sentencing is April 24. Under the plea deal, the parties are asking the judge to impose an eight-year prison sentence. Authorities say McGill traveled in May 2012 to El Dorado to meet the girl. They were found a few days later near Potterville, Michigan. The girl told authorities at the time she went with McGill willingly. Prosecutors say McGill told police he met the girl playing "World of Warcraft" online and loved her.


Salina Woman Pleads Guilty in Fatal Car Crash

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina woman has pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and driving under the influence in a 2011 crash that killed a Hutchinson girl. The Salina Journal reports 18-year-old Tara Pfeifer entered the plea Tuesday just before a jury was to be chosen for her trial. Pfeifer was driving a car that went off the paved road around 3:40 am on May 26, 2011. The vehicle hit a concrete culvert and flipped. Her front-seat passenger, 15-year-old Journi Maas, was thrown out and fatally injured. The plea agreement calls for Pfeifer to receive consecutive sentences. She faces up to 18 months for vehicular homicide and up to six months for DUI. District Judge Jared Johnson also ordered her to pay the $650 cost to summon potential jurors.


Missouri Researchers Find World's Largest Prime Number

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — University of Central Missouri mathematicians have found the largest prime number ever identified, but good luck remembering it. The researchers identified the 17 million-digit number last month as the 48th known Mersenne prime. A different computer system running on different hardware confirmed that it is a prime number. Primes are whole numbers such as 3, 7 and 11 that can only be divided without a remainder by themselves and 1. This is the third Mersenne prime identified at the university in Warrensburg, about 50 miles east of Kansas City. Mersenne primes are named after their discoverer, 17th century French mathematician Marin Mersenne. They're expressed as 2P-1, or two to the power of "P'' minus one. P is itself a prime number. For the new prime, P is 57,885,161.

Former Kansas African American Museum Director Returns

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The former director of the Kansas African American Museum in Wichita has returned to the job. The museum announced Tuesday that Mark McCormick returned to lead the museum, beginning this week. He replaces Prisca Barnes, who resigned December 27. The Wichita Eagle reports that McCormick was director at the museum for about eight months in 2009 before being replaced by Barnes. McCormick is a former columnist at The Eagle and past communications director at the Kansas Leadership Center. He most recently was a reporter for the Springfield News-Leader in Missouri.


Topeka Man's Body Found in Salt Lake City Pond

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ Police in Salt Lake City say they have identified a man found floating in a city pond. Police say the body is that of 38-year-old James D. Panovich of Topeka. Authorities pulled his body from a city pond Tuesday morning.  Police also took another man to the hospital after he was found dripping wet nearby. Police say they are investigating the case as a suspicious death.


KBI Needs Help Finding Phony Police Officer

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is asking for the public's help in finding a man impersonating a police officer. The agency is trying to track down an ex-convict who's been traveling around the state posing as a law enforcement officer and cashing phony personal and payroll checks. The KBI has released a list of 24 cities throughout the state where 45-year-old Robert Wayne Helms, of Pittsburg, has either pulled or attempted to pull his scam.


KC Police Rescue Teen Handcuffed in Basement

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say they rescued a frail 17-year-old boy whom they found handcuffed to a pole in his parents' Kansas City, Missouri basement. Police said Wednesday that they are still investigating and haven't submitted a report to prosecutors to consider possible charges. According to a police report, an officer and social worker found the teen Monday after someone called in a tip. Upon entering the basement they heard someone cry out: "I didn't do anything. I didn't do anything. I didn't do anything." Police say the teen said he had been confined to the basement since his father pulled him from school in September. They say he looked very thin for his height and desperate. The report doesn't disclose the name of the teen or his family.


Kansas House Panel Taking Up Governor's Tax Proposals

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — With the Kansas Senate's work on tax legislation stalled, the House Taxation Committee is taking up Governor Sam Brownback's plan to revise sales and personal income tax laws. The House committee was hearing testimony Wednesday on the Republican governor's proposal to cut individual income tax rates further after cuts last year. But Brownback and lawmakers must stabilize the budget, too. The governor proposes to scrap two popular income tax deductions for homeowners and cancel a drop in the state sales tax scheduled by law for July. The Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee has finished its hearings on Brownback's plan, but it postponed a debate on them it had planned for this week. Members say they need more information and want to consider alternatives to the governor's ideas.

**This story has been updated. Please see above. 



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