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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, January 15, 2014


KS Gov Prepares to Deliver State of the State Address

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is preparing to give the annual State of the State address and outline his legislative agenda. The speech Wednesday evening will be to a joint House-Senate session in the House chamber. It also will be broadcast live on public television. Brownback has already proposed phasing in full state funding for public schools' all-day kindergarten classes at a cost of $16 million the first year. He's also outlined a $9 million initiative aimed at boosting fourth-graders' scores on standardized reading tests. The Republican governor is expected to tout the massive personal income tax cuts that Kansas enacted at his urging. The Democratic response to the address will be given by House Minority Paul Davis, of Lawrence, who's challenging Brownback's re-election this year.


KS Senate Panel Examining Crime Measures

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top prosecutors are urging a Kansas Senate committee to take a harder stance on certain murder sentences, including increasing the penalty for premeditated first-degree murder to a mandatory 50 years to life in prison. The proposed changes heard Wednesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee continued debates held in September when legislators met in special session to rewrite the state's "Hard 50" prison term. Legislators are considering other changes, such as making the minimum 50 years to life in prison the presumptive sentence. Currently the sentence is 25 years to life and prosecutors must convince juries to impose a 50-year minimum. The committee also heard testimony on changing the sentence for attempted capital murder to life without parole eligibility for 25 years, an increase from the current 12-year term.


KS Teen Accused of Planning School Shooting

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka teenager is charged with four felonies in what the Shawnee County District Attorney calls a planned school shooting. The 17-year-old was charged Wednesday with four counts of soliciting first-degree murder. District Attorney Chad Taylor says the teen was planning to shoot two administrators at Topeka West High School, a Topeka police officer and a school police officer working at the high school. Taylor did not release his name. Taylor says the teenager was arrested Tuesday evening outside Topeka. He has a detention hearing scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. Taylor wouldn't release many details about the alleged plan but said the threat was viable and the situation developed in mid-December. The defendant is being charged as a juvenile but Taylor says he'll seek to have him tried as an adult.


Health Officials: Influenza Widespread in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials say the state is seeing a high number of influenza cases, with three deaths directly attributed to flu since September 1. The state Department of Health and Environment reported Tuesday that 5 percent of visits to clinic sites it monitors were due to influenza-like illness. The agency says flu or pneumonia contributed to 510 deaths during the current season, which began September 1. The season has seen the re-emergence of the A/H1N1 strain as the dominating virus. The same strain caused a pandemic in 2009, hitting children and young adults especially hard. Health officials are encouraging everyone six months and older to get vaccinated. KDHE Secretary Robert Moser has asked businesses to consider recommending their employees get vaccinated and encourage them to stay home when ill.

KS Persuades US to Redeem Abandoned Savings Bonds

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The federal government has agreed to redeem almost $862,000 in abandoned U.S. savings bonds held by Kansas after a 14-year battle waged by the state's treasurers. Current Treasurer Ron Estes says he's hoping the government will redeem about $151 million more. The Wichita Eagle reports the 1,447 redeemed bonds include some that date back to World War I. They were recovered from abandoned safe-deposit boxes once rented by Kansas residents. It's the first time the federal government has agreed to cash out abandoned bonds. The state doesn't get to spend the money, but it's allowed to invest it and keep the interest and earnings. Estes says the state's unclaimed property fund now is at $260 million and generates $7 million to $8 million a year for the state budget.


KS Board Recommends Individual Study Plans

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas State Board of Education is "strongly recommending" that the state's schools develop individual plans of study for every high school student. However, the board declined Tuesday to require schools to form the plans. Board members noted many school districts don't have enough counselors to develop so many plans, known as ISPs. ISPs are usually based on a career interest surveys that students complete in the eighth grade. The students then select classes in high school to meet their career interests. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that a Department of Education survey found about 88 percent of school districts give students the chance to develop an ISP, but only about half prepare the plans for all high school students.

Fire Damages 3 Businesses, Lodge in Oskaloosa

OSKALOOSA, Kan. (AP) — A fire in the northeast Kansas town of Oskaloosa damaged three businesses and a Masonic Lodge but no injuries were reported. The fire Monday night extensively damaged a cafe and realty office and did minor smoke damage to a bank branch. Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Herrig says the Masonic Lodge about the cafe also was damaged. The cause of the fire is still under investigation but Herrig said it apparently started in the basement of the cafe. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that no damage estimates were available Tuesday.


Northeast Kansas Man Missing Since December 31

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — Police in northeast Kansas are asking the public's help in finding a 70-year-old man missing since December 31. Atchison Police Chief Mike Wilson told KAIR-FM on Wednesday that his department has received several leads since a Silver Alert for Garry Clyde Sandy was issued January 10. Wilson said there was a possible sighting of Sandy's gold-colored 2005 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup truck early Saturday in Newton, about 160 miles southwest of Atchison. Investigators are following that lead, among others, while also watching for any financial transactions. Sandy is described as 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighing 200 pounds, with thinning brown hair. Police said he always wears a Kansas City Chiefs ball cap and jacket and is known to frequent casinos. He has a heart condition and is diabetic.


Wichita Man Suspected of Impersonating Deputy

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in Sedgwick County say a Wichita man suspected of impersonating a deputy was arrested after calling 911 to say his pickup truck had been stolen. KAKE-TV reports that the incident began around 1 am Wednesday when a man driving a pickup truck with a siren and red-and-blue lights stopped another driver, who was a security guard. The two men got out of their vehicles and asked each other for identification. The security guard became suspicious and drove away with the phony deputy in pursuit. Real deputies chased the impersonator's pickup at speeds up to 110 mph before he lost them. He later called 911 saying his truck had been stolen and he was lost in a field, where officers found him and took him into custody.


Dodge City Police Arrest 6 in Illegal Liquor Sales

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Dodge City police arrested six people for allegedly selling liquor from their homes. Police Chief Craig Mellecker says the four women and two men were arrested Sunday for sales in four separate homes. He says they were selling alcohol after hours and on days when alcohol sales are illegal, as well as selling to minors. Mellecker says investigators found single cans of alcohol, 12-packs, 30-packs and two bottles of tequila, along with $2,711 in cash. The six people face multiple counts of furnishing alcohol to a minor, evasion of liquor tax, selling alcohol with no license and nuisances of place and property. Two also are charged with child endangerment and contributing to a child's misconduct after they allegedly allowed their minor child to sell alcohol for them.

KU Medical Center Wins $10M in Research Grants

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas Medical Center has received $10 million in federal research grants. Medical center officials announced Tuesday the grants will be used to research smoking cessation and chronic pain treatment, as well as funding a network to share patient data among research centers. The Kansas City Star reports that  the projects are funded through the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. That's an independent nonprofit organization authorized by the Affordable Care Act that receives federal funding.


Alaska Hires KU Group for Education Assessments

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — Alaska education officials have hired a new group to create English language arts and math assessments. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports the state announced it's leaving Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, and has hired Assessment and Achievement Institute. Alaska has been a member of the consortium since April. But it decided to go with a company that will tailor assessments based on new state standards, which vary from Common Core Standards used by the consortium. The state sought proposals from vendors, and chose Assessment and Achievement Institute, an organization with the University of Kansas. The five-year contract will cost Alaska about $5 million annually. The state has previously worked with another University of Kansas group, DLM Consortium, to create a new alternate assessment for students with severe cognitive disabilities.

2 KS Teachers Named as National Award Finalists

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas elementary school teachers are national finalists for a math and science award. The Kansas State Department of Education says the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching is given annually to outstanding teachers from across the country. The Kansas finalists are Shawnee Mission school district science teacher Lindsay Constance and Wamego school district math teacher Cathy Wilbur. They'll get an invitation to Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony and visit with members of Congress and President Barack Obama's administration. A panel of scientists, mathematicians and educators pick the winners following an initial selection process done at the state level. Each year the award alternates between educators teaching kindergarten through sixth grade and those teaching seventh through 12th grades.


ND Senator: Time for Decision on Keystone Is Now

WASHINGTON (AP) — North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp says the Obama administration should make a decision soon on the Keystone XL oil pipeline. And she says that decision should be to go ahead with the project. Heitkamp met Wednesday with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird and Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. Gary Doer. The Canadian officials and Heitkamp agree that the Keystone pipeline would be of great benefit to the U.S. and Canada. Heitkamp, a Democrat, says the process has taken too long. Heitkamp says the project would provide jobs and allow the United States to get oil from a country that shares its interests. Environmental groups oppose the Canada-to-Texas pipeline as a major contributor to global warming. Backers say it would create jobs and boost North American energy independence.



TransCanada Could Consider Rail Terminal Deal If Keystone rejected


TORONTO (AP) — The chief executive of TransCanada says that if the Obama administration doesn't approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, his company will look to build rail terminals in Alberta and Oklahoma. President Barack Obama is expected to decide early this year on Keystone, which is under review at the State Department. The pipeline would carry oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. TransCanada CEO Russ Girling said Thursday pipelines are "by far a safer alternative" to oil trains but says if customers want him to build rail terminals he will. He's in discussions with oil and rail companies. Concerns have been raised about the increasing use of rail to transport oil throughout North America. In July, 47 people were killed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, when an oil train derailed and exploded.


Sprint Center Brings $1.47M to KC Coffers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City received $1.47 million in revenue from events at the Sprint Center in 2013. The city has a revenue-sharing agreement with the Anschutz Entertainment Group, which manages the Sprint Center. Since the center opened in 2007, the city has earned $9.3 million from the agreement. The Kansas City Star reports that an industry trade publication, Pollstar, ranked the Sprint Center as the eighth-busiest arena in the country last year for live entertainment, which does not include sports events. The venues ahead of Kansas City were New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Nashville, Tennessee.

Airlines Warn Against High Costs at KC Airport

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Airline representatives are warning that a proposal to reconfigure Kansas City International Airport could lead to less service for passengers. A Southwest Airlines representative told a citizens task force Tuesday that airlines would not welcome changes that lead to substantially higher costs at the airport. Southwest executive vice president Ron Ricks said he was speaking for his airline, as well as Delta, United and American/US Air — the four major carriers at the airport. The task force is taking public comments on whether to change the airport's current structure of three separate terminals into one larger terminal. The Kansas City Star reports Ricks predicted that KCI will see only "incremental" passenger growth for the near future, with or without a new terminal.


MO Girl Charged with Manslaughter in Teen's Death

PLATTE CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 17-year-old suburban Kansas City girl has been charged with manslaughter in the death of a 15-year-old who overdosed on a synthetic form of LSD she sold him. Platte County prosecutor Eric Zahnd said Wednesday that Krista Meeks of Riverside admitted selling the imitation "acid" on October 3 to two boys, ages 14 and 15. Both were taken to Children's Mercy Hospital the next day after taking the drug. The older boy died, and the autopsy report listed intoxication from a synthetic compound in the drug as the cause of death. Police searched a Kansas City, Kansas home where Meeks said she bought the drug and found roughly 1,800 units. A state public defender listed as her attorney in online court documents was not available Wednesday for comment.


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