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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Kansas Income Tax Changes Take Effect

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Sweeping changes in the Kansas tax code went into effect Tuesday, with new rates for individual income taxpayers. The laws were approved by the Legislature in May and signed by GOP Governor Sam Brownback. They are part of the administration's efforts to improve the state's business climate and increase the amount of money residents keep in their paychecks. The top individual income tax rate drops to 4.9 percent from 6.45 percent. The owners of 191,000 businesses are exempt from income taxes. The changes are expected to cost the state about $4.5 billion over the next six years. Brownback hasn't ruled out keeping the sales tax rate at 6.3 percent to help with budgeting. The rate was increased in 2010 and is scheduled to drop to 5.7 percent in July.


Kansas Chamber to Support Loosening of Liquor Sales Laws

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Chamber of Commerce wants to allow the state's groceries and convenience stores to sell wine, liquor and full-strength beer. Chamber vice president Kent Eckles says the chamber will be part of a coalition urging legislators to rewrite laws on alcohol sales in the upcoming session. Kansas law allows only retail liquor stores to sell wine, liquor and full-strength beer, while groceries and convenience stores can sell only so-called weak beer, also known as cereal malt beverage. The restrictions are a holdover from a Prohibition past that included famed saloon-smasher Carrie Nation. Eckles said the chamber views the issue as one of free enterprise. Liquor store owners fear being pushed out of business by big retail chains, and proposals have failed the past two years.


Homeland Security Signs Land Transfer for KS Biosecurity Lab

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Department of Homeland Security officials have signed a land transfer agreement that will allow for the construction of a new federal animal research lab near Kansas State University in Manhattan. DHS will acquire about 46 acres of land near the north end of Kansas State for the lab. The transfer clears the way for construction to begin. Governor Sam Brownback and members of the state's congressional delegation announced Wednesday that the move indicated the federal department is committed to building the $1.14 billion National Bio- and Agro-defense Facility. Kansas was selected for the new animal research lab after a lengthy competition in 2009. The lab would replace an aging facility at Plum Island, New York, where research would be conducted on deadly animal pathogens, including foot and mouth disease.


Lawrence Police Officer Dies in Off-Duty Crash

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas police department says one of its officers has died in a one-car crash. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 29-year-old Officer Matthew Klock was off-duty when his car hit a traffic signal pole around 2 am Wednesday. The crash happened near an intersection in the western part of Lawrence. Klock was alone in the car. The Kansas Highway Patrol's report on the accident says he was not wearing a seat belt. Klock had been a member of the Lawrence Police Department since 2007.


2nd Sedgwick County Detention Deputy Charged

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A second Sedgwick County detention deputy has been charged with sexual misconduct involving inmates. The Wichita Eagle reports Sheriff Jeff Easter announced Wednesday that two male inmates complained in October of being subject to "lewd fondling" at a work-release center. Two counts of unlawful sexual relations were filed in November but didn't become public until Friday when James Conklin of Wichita made a first court appearance. Conklin's lawyer, Sal Intagliata, says Conklin has 19 years of "honorable service" as a detention deputy. The attorney also says he intends to challenge the credibility of the accusers. Conklin is free on bond awaiting a January 10 preliminary hearing. A former Sedgwick County jailer, David Kendall, is charged with sex crimes involving six inmates. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for January 23.

Lecompton Braces for Cut in Post Office Hours

LECOMPTON, Kan. (AP) — Residents of a northeast Kansas town are upset that the hours at their post office will be reduced five weeks earlier than expected. The U.S. Postal Service recently told residents of Lecompton that it will reduce the post office hours beginning January 26. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports residents said they were told the cutbacks would begin on March 3. Postal service spokesman Pete Nowacki says Lecompton residents were told at a November meeting that March was a likely date for implementation. He says the change was made so savings could begin immediately. The Postal Service announced in May that it would cut hours of retail windows at 13,000 post offices in the country, including 362 in Kansas. The move is expected to save the service $500 million a year.

KS Homeowner Shoots Suspect During Home Invasion

NEOSHO RAPIDS, Kan. (AP) — Lyon County authorities say a homeowner shot and injured one person breaking into his home and held another suspect at gunpoint until officers arrived. Sheriff Jeff Cope says the apparent burglary attempt occurred early Wednesday at the home of Ronald Sleisher about three miles north of Neosho Rapids. Cope says Sleisher heard a pounding on his door and a window breaking and fired at the intruders. KVOE reports that one suspect, a 35-year-old man from Council Grove, was taken to a Topeka hospital, where his condition was not available. A 30-year-old man from Dunlap was arrested. Sleisher and another person in the home were not hurt. Cope says there is no indication Sleisher or the other person in the house knew the suspects.

NE Kansas Mayor Leaving Office After 29 Years

LANSING, Kan. (AP) — The mayor of the northeast Kansas community of Lansing is preparing to leave the office he first won 29 years ago. The Leavenworth Times reports that Kenneth Bernard will retire Thursday as his successor, current City Councilman Billy Blackwell, takes the oath of office. Bernard has served as mayor of Lansing almost continuously since 1983. He took a short break from 1991 to 1993 before winning the office again. He decided against seeking another term in 2012. Blackwell was elected mayor in a three-way race in November. Bernard will be honored at a reception Thursday night in the Lansing community center. Lansing is a city of about 11,000 people, located on the Missouri River. The city is home to the Lansing Correctional Facility, formerly known as the Kansas State Penitentiary.


18 Pounds of Marijuana Found After I-70 Chase

ALMA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Highway Patrol troopers say they found 18 pounds of marijuana in a car after a dangerous chase along Interstate 70 in northeast Kansas. A 20-year-old man from Antioch, Tennessee was arrested Tuesday after a chase that mostly went east in the westbound lanes of the interstate in Wabaunsee County. Troopers say at one point the driver reversed direction and traveled west in the eastbound lanes. No one was injured. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the chase started when a trooper pulled the driver over for speeding and smelled marijuana. The man sped off and at times drove up to 130 mph. The car eventually went into a ditch near the exit for Maple Hill and St. Marys. The driver is in the Wabaunsee County Jail on $200,000 bond.

Recent Audit Examines Sale of Surplus State Property

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A recent audit finds the state could do a better job of selling its unused property. The Legislative Division of Post Audit found that the Department of Administration has failed to accomplish some key tasks. The report says the division lacks the authority to independently designate what properties are surplus. The audit also says the state's central asset inventory of real property is inaccurate and incomplete. And the process for selling surplus property includes disincentives. But the Lawrence Journal-World reports that there are obstacles in selling the properties. Some of the properties need title searches, others need appraisals, and some land is being leased for other purposes. The Department of Administration says it will put many of the audit's recommendations into action and report back to legislators by April.

State Seeks Child Support Payments from Sperm Donor

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man who answered an online ad to donate sperm to a lesbian couple is fighting the state's efforts to force him to pay child support for the girl subsequently conceived through artificial insemination. Department of Children and Families spokeswoman Angela de Rocha said Wednesday that the agency would not be pursuing payment if the state hadn't provided more than $6,000 in benefits for the child after the Topeka couple split. She says the state tries to establish a child's paternity when benefits are involved. Court records show that the sperm donor, 46-year-old William Marotta, signed an agreement in March 2009 giving up parental rights to the then-couple, Angela Bauer and Jennifer Schreiner. The agreement also absolves Marotta of financial responsibility. The state contends the agreement isn't valid.

Kansas Boy Scout Earns All 134 Merit Badges

ROSE HILL, Kan. (AP) — A southeast Kansas 18-year-old is among the elite in the Boy Scout world. Jeremy Ebert of Rose Hill is only the 180th person in the country to ever earn all 134 merit badges offered by the Scouts. His scoutmaster, Mark Esslinger, says Ebert is believed to be the first person in Kansas to earn all the badges. Ebert belongs to Troop 0626 in Rose Hill. Ebert told The Wichita Eagle that he was driven to acquire all the knowledge learned from working on the badges. He says the biggest obstacle was the archery badge because his left hand has palsy. A merit badge counselor taught him a new way to shoot an arrow at the right proficiency from about 100 feet away. Scuba-diving and water skiing were among his favorite badges.


New US Attorney Confirmed for Western Missouri  

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The U.S. Senate has confirmed the appointment of a veteran Jackson County (Missouri) prosecutor as the new U.S. attorney for the 66-county western district of Missouri. President Barack Obama nominated Angela Tammy Dickinson for the post in July. The nomination was one of dozens confirmed by the Senate on New Year's Day. The Kansas City Star reports the appointment will become official when Obama signs the necessary paperwork. Dickinson will replace David Ketchmark, who has served as acting U.S. attorney since 2011. Dickinson joined the Jackson County prosecutor's office in 1998 and has been the chief trial assistant in that office since 2002. She earned her law degree in 1998 from the University of Missouri-Columbia. The Justice Department's Western District of Missouri includes the cities of Kansas City, St. Joseph, Springfield and Columbia.

Kansas City's Homicide Rate Drops in 2012

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City officials are crediting a new anti-violence program for a slight drop in the homicide rate in 2012. The city recorded 108 homicides last year, six fewer than 2011 but two more than in 2010. The Kansas City Star reports that the total of 108 homicides is one more than the city's average annual total for the decade ending in 2009. Police Chief Darryl Forte says he's not satisfied with a small decrease in numbers. But the city announced last month that fewer homicides are occurring in urban core neighborhoods that once accounted for more than half the city's killings. Forte credits a program that increased enforcement in those neighborhoods. He says the lower overall numbers suggest the homicides aren't just moving to other parts of the city.


Low Water Disrupts a Kansas Tradition 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A float trip on the Arkansas River isn't much fun when your kayak scrapes the riverbed. A group called the Arkansas River Coalition has made a tradition of paddling the river in Wichita each New Year's Day. But months of drought created special challenges Tuesday.  The Wichita Eagle reports this year's trip had been scheduled for the nearby Little Arkansas, where the water is deep enough for kayaks and canoes. But the Little Arkansas was frozen over, so the paddlers launched in the main Arkansas River instead — only to hit sandbars or get stuck in mud. Several had to drag their boats over the mud to a channel deep enough to float. The Arkansas dried up completely in parts of Kansas over the summer.

New KU Curriculum to Begin in Upcoming Fall Semester

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas administrators say the school is preparing to implement a new curriculum in the fall. All freshmen will be required to take the new Core Curriculum, and some upperclassmen could opt into the new requirements. The new curriculum is the first to apply to all undergraduates, regardless of their school. The university says it will provide more flexibility and focus on skills the students will develop. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the current Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of General Studies degrees include requirements that can be met by only one or a limited number of courses. Most undergraduates pursue those degrees. The Core Curriculum includes 12 skill-based requirements, which students will have a number of options for fulfilling.

Midwest Economic Index Suggests Economic Slump to Continue

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A monthly economic index for nine Midwest and Plains states rose again last month but still suggests an economic slump will continue over the next three to six months. The Mid-America Business Conditions index hit 49.5 in December, up from November's 48.0 and October's 46.5. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he says he's expecting only small regional increases in the job market. The survey of business leaders and supply managers uses a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth while a score below 50 suggests decline for that factor. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

Winter Wheat Condition Declines Due to Dry December

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The condition of the Kansas winter wheat crop has deteriorated in the wake of December's limited rain and snow. Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reports that 31 percent of the state's wheat crop ended 2012 in poor to very poor condition. Forty-five percent was rated in fair condition, with 23 percent in good shape and 1 percent in excellent condition. The agency notes that only three of the 53 reporting stations around the state received more than an inch of precipitation from December 1 through December 30. Range and pasture conditions declined as well, with 84 percent in poor to very poor shape. Supplies of stock water are also a problem for livestock producers. The agency said supplies are short to very short across 77 percent of Kansas.

UMKC Researchers Make Insulin-Administration Discovery

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Researchers at the University of Missouri-Kansas City have found a way to use a beam of light instead of needles to inject insulin. They wrote about the advance for the chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie. The researchers with UMKC's School of Pharmacy call the new insulin administration method photoactivated depot. It allows insulin to be linked to an insoluble polymer by a connection that can be broken with light. The school says in a news release that insulin can then be released from the polymer by light irradiation through the skin.


Source: KC Chiefs Interview Andy Reid for Head Coach Position 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A person familiar with Andy Reid's plans tells The Associated Press that the former Eagles coach is interviewing with the Kansas City Chiefs for their open head coaching job. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the information was not made public. first reported that Reid was meeting with the Chiefs. Kansas City has also interviewed Atlanta offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, but Falcons coach Mike Smith said Wednesday that Koetter signed a new contract and would not be a candidate for head coaching jobs this season. The Chiefs fired Romeo Crennel on Monday after going 2-14 in his first full season.


Fiesta Bowl Gets Prime Matchup of Wildcats, Ducks

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) _ Kansas State and Oregon lost on the same day in November, all but ending their national championship hopes. The Wildcats and Ducks ended up with a nice consolation prize: Facing each other in the Fiesta Bowl on Thursday night. Number 5-ranked Oregon (11-1) is in its fourth straight BCS bowl, has fast and talented players, and one of the most dynamic offensive backfields in college football. Number 7-ranked Kansas State (11-1) doesn't play quite as quickly as Oregon, but meticulously grinds out yards and points. The Wildcats also have one of the nation's best players in quarterback Collin Klein, a finalist for the Heisman Trophy in his final season in Manhattan. It won't be for a national title, but this Fiesta Bowl should be fun to watch.

K-State Flourishing Behind Snyder's "16 Goals"

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Kansas State University head football coach Bill Snyder spent his three years away from the program devising a plan for success in football and life. When he returned to the Wildcats, he had his philosophy firmed up into a thesis of sorts, calling it his "16 Goals for Success." By setting goals like commitment, leadership and responsibility, Snyder pulled off the second program resurrection of his career. Orchestrator of one of the biggest turnarounds in college football history, the 73-year-old coach has led Kansas State...currently ranked number 7 in the nation...into one of the most anticipated bowl games of the season, against number 5-ranked Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl Thursday night. If the Wildcats beat the Ducks, K-State will have its first 12-win season in school history, capping another dramatic resurrection of the program by Snyder.


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