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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Hundreds Rally Against Abortion 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Anti-abortion leaders are telling hundreds of people at the Kansas Statehouse that history is on the side of abortion opponents as they work to eventually end the procedure nationwide. The rally Wednesday marked the 41st anniversary of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion across the nation. Since then, abortion opponents have enacted restrictions on abortion in many states, including Kansas. The rally heard from Governor Sam Brownback, U.S. Senator Pat Roberts and Congressman Tim Huelskamp, all anti-abortion Republicans. Many rally participants were students, and Brownback called young people the "pro-life" generation. Huelskamp compared Roe v. Wade to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1857 Dred Scott decision protecting slavery before the Civil War. Planned Parenthood executive Peter Brownlie dismissed Wednesday's events as political theater.


KS Abortion Laws Defense Tops $1M

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas attorney general's office is confirming that it has spent slightly more than $1 million on outside attorneys defending anti-abortion laws enacted in the past three years. Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office disclosed the figures Wednesday at the request of The Associated Press. The costs include $179,000 in attorneys' fees and expenses associated with federal and state lawsuits filed over restrictions enacted last year. Schmidt's office provided the numbers on the anniversary of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion across the nation. Hundreds of abortion opponents were converging on the Statehouse to mark the anniversary, and Republican Governor Sam Brownback was scheduled to speak at a rally. The state has faced multiple federal and state lawsuits since 2011, when Brownback took office and began signing anti-abortion measures.


KS Chief Justice Nuss Lauds Passage of Pay Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Chief Justice Lawton Nuss is thanking legislators for passage of a pay increase for certain non-judicial employees, hoping that the deal leads to resolution of other funding needs. Nuss said Wednesday during his annual State of the Judiciary address that a measure passed earlier in the day by the House would provide some salary increase for certain employees. But he cautions that the measure doesn't address a projected $8.25 million shortfall in the judicial branch budget in the next fiscal year. Nuss reiterated that without an additional appropriation, some court employees could be sent home without pay, forcing the court offices to close statewide. Employee costs account for 96 percent of the judicial budget, including judges and clerical staff. The courts were closed temporarily in 2010 and 2012.


Judge Sets Hearing in Voter Citizenship Lawsuit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has set an evidentiary hearing next month on requests by Kansas and Arizona for a court order forcing federal election officials to modify voter registration forms to require proof-of-citizenship documentation for their residents. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren on Wednesday scheduled a two-day hearing beginning February 11 in federal court in Wichita. The hearing comes after last week's decision by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission denying the requests. The agency found heightened proof-of-citizenship rules hinder eligible citizens from voting in federal elections. Kansas and Arizona require voters to provide a birth certificate, passport or other proof of U.S. citizenship when registering to vote. People who register using the federal form only sign a statement under oath that they are U.S. citizens.


Kobach: Birth-Records Scan Helps 7,700 KS Voters

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says reviewing the state's birth records will allow election officials to remove 7,700 people from the list of voters whose registrations are on hold for failing to meet a proof-of-citizenship requirement. Kobach told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he expects registrations for the new voters to be validated by local election officials within a week. He disclosed the development before formally announcing it during a Kansas House Elections Committee meeting. About 20,200 voters had their registrations on hold as of Tuesday for failing to provide a birth certificate, passport or other proof of their U.S. citizenship to election officials as required by law. Kobach said the state found birth certificates for 7,716 of them, or 38 percent, after beginning checks this month.


Ultrasounds, Surrogacy on KS Committee's Agenda

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas legislative committee has commemorated an abortion-related anniversary with a live demonstration of ultrasound tests on two pregnant women and by agreeing to sponsor a bill restricting surrogate parenting. The Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee's activities Wednesday came on the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 decision legalizing abortion across the state. Chairwoman Mary Pilcher-Cook is a strong abortion opponent. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Pilcher-Cook is pursuing the proposal to restrict surrogate parenting and said the measure will mirror a law in the District of Columbia banning surrogacy contracts. But Pilcher-Cook created a bigger buzz by arranging a demonstration of ultrasound technology and having two pregnant women undergo the tests. The women were behind a blue screen, while a large television monitor displayed the results.

Judge Rules KS Sperm Donor Owes Child Support

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge has ruled that a man who donated sperm to a lesbian couple after responding to their online ad is the father of a child born to the women and must pay child support. Shawnee County District Court Judge Mary Mattivi wrote Wednesday that because a licensed physician was not involved in the artificial insemination process, William Marotta is more than a sperm donor and thus responsible for the child. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Kansas Department for Children and Families filed the case in October 2012 seeking to have the Topeka man declared the father of a girl born to Jennifer Schreiner in 2009. Marotta argued that he didn't intend to be the child's father and signed a contract waiving his parental rights.


Corrections Seeking More Funding for Mentally Ill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Corrections is asking the Legislature for more money to react to a rapid increase in the number of mentally ill inmates in state prisons. Secretary of Corrections Ray Roberts told a Senate committee on Tuesday 38 that percent of the state's prisoner population is mentally ill, an increase of 126 percent since 2006. The Wichita Eagle reports that Governor Sam Brownback's proposed budget includes $3 million this year and another $4.1 million to fully fund the state's health care contract with Corizon, which includes mental health care. Corrections spokesman Jeremy Barclay says the department would hire more clinicians and offer mental health services to more inmates if the funding is approved.


Brownback Seeks to Boost Scale Inspections

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has proposed spending an extra $430,000 to hire more state inspectors to oversee the accuracy of thousands of scales and product scanners. The Topeka Capital-Journal  reports that the Kansas Department of Agriculture's Division of Weights and Measures licenses private companies and technicians to install and service scales. State inspectors then "spot-check" a fraction of the work. Brownback has said that when he initiated the program more than 20 years ago as the state's agriculture secretary it boosted compliance rates. But open records requests filed by the Topeka Capital-Journal last year revealed that the state's three inspectors had rejected almost three-fourths of the scales they spot-checked during a six-month period. The paper also reported there were almost no penalties for the companies whose work was found wanting.


AG Proposes Unit to Monitor Open Meetings

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office is supporting a proposal to form a two-person unit in the office to investigate possible violations of the state's open meetings and open records laws. Kansas Press Association executive director Doug Anstaett told the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday that having an open government unit in the attorney general's office would signify that open government is a high priority in the state. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the bill also would create an advisory group of citizens, media members and possibly legislators to help the new unit. The committee took no action on the bill until it received more information. The attorney general's office estimates the new unit would cost about $160,000 per year.


KS Bill Seeks More Notice About Offender Releases

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The mother of a drunken driving crash victim is urging lawmakers to support a bill that would require crime victims to receive at least two weeks warning, when feasible, before an offender is released. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Wichita teacher Avis Crosby testified Wednesday for the bill. She says she wasn't notified until August 29 that the driver who killed her son and another relative was set to be released September 5. Crosby said that because of the Labor Day holiday, she had only one business day to attempt to appeal the release. Her efforts led to the driver being re-routed to a Hutchinson work release facility. One of the people she sought help from was Democratic Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau, of Wichita, who pre-filed the bill.


Cove Searched for Missing Northeast KS Woman

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — There is no word on whether authorities plan to resume a search for a 56-year-old Kansas State University employee whose family has reported her missing. KMAN-AM reports that dozens of soldiers from Fort Riley joined law enforcement officers Tuesday in looking for St. George resident Jane Peterson, who works in the physics department at Kansas State. Peterson's truck was found Monday at Tuttle Cove on Tuttle Creek Lake, north of Manhattan. Riley County police said the search was suspended late Tuesday afternoon. There was no immediate word on whether it would resume Wednesday.


Northeast KS Couple Renews Fight Against Lion's Den

ABILENE, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas couple has renewed a fight against an adult store along Interstate 70 west of Abilene that sells sex toys and explicit videos. The Salina Journal reports that Phillip Cosby spearheaded protests and sought remedies after the Lion's Den Superstore opened in 2003. He and his wife, Cathy, moved to the Kansas City area and worked for various groups that promote family values by fighting pornography and obscenity. They returned to Abilene a year ago. Cosby says he has collected about 400 signatures on petitions seeking a grand jury to explore whether the store promotes obscenity. Cosby is state director of the American Family Association of Kansas and Missouri. He has fought similar battles against adult stores in Missouri.


Victim Approaches KC School After Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City high school was briefly placed on lockdown after a person was shot a couple blocks away and went to the school with another person seeking help. Police say the victim suffered a leg wound and that Wednesday's shooting had nothing to do with Cristo Rey. School spokeswoman Rebecca Summers says the school called for help when two people approached the school after the shooting. The people weren't allowed inside the building. Summers says a lockdown at the school lasted about 15 minutes, and classes were dismissed on time. An automated phone call was made to students' parents and guardians notifying them of the situation. Cristo Rey is a private Catholic school that serves students with economic need.


Salina Police Identify Toddler Killed by Falling TV

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Salina police have identified the 2-year-old girl who was killed when an older-style television fell on her. The Salina Journal reported Wednesday that the girl was Rayanna Harsh. She was fatally injured Tuesday while playing by herself in a Salina apartment. Her mother and aunt both were home at the time. The television that toppled onto her had been on a stand about 2 feet off the ground and weighed nearly 90 pounds. Captain Mike Sweeney says many older television sets tend to be heavier toward the front and that it would have had a lot of force when it hit the girl. Sweeney says that an autopsy will be conducted but that the girl's death appears to be accidental. He says authorities' condolences are with the girl's family.


Police: Oklahoma Man Drove Through Wichita Airport Fence

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say they're still trying to determine why a man drove his truck through a fence and onto a taxiway at a Wichita airport. Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lieutenant David Mattingly says that the 26-year-old man from Marlow, Oklahoma was arrested early Sunday after driving onto a taxiway at Mid-Continent Airport. The Wichita Eagle reports that the man was talking to himself and approached a small, private plane holding up papers with "unknown writings." A handgun and several knifes were found in this truck. Mattingly says that the man was never near the main runways or commercial aircraft. The man hasn't yet been charged and investigators don't believe the event was connected to terrorism. In December, an avionics technician was charged with trying to carry out a suicide bombing at Mid-Continent.


GM Fairfax Supplier to Open Plant in Warrensburg

WARRENSBURG, Mo. (AP) — A General Motors supplier that manufactures acoustic insulation plans to open a new plant in Warrensburg, Missouri. Michigan-based Janesville Acoustics announced Tuesday that the plant will supply the Chevrolet Malibu model built at GM's Fairfax plant in Kansas City, Kansas. The plant is expected to create 164 jobs in the next two years. The Kansas City Star reports that Janesville Acoustics plans to invest $13.4 million in Warrensburg, which is about 60 miles southeast of Kansas City. The plant in Warrensburg initially will produce trunk liners, specialized carpets and dash liners along with general acoustic insulation for the Malibu. The plant is expected to open in July.


KU Law School Graduate Gives $1M for Scholarships


LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A third generation University of Kansas Law School graduate wants to help aspiring attorneys pay for their educations. Attorney and commercial real estate investor Beau Gould of Seattle and his wife, Julie Gould, have donated $1 million to the law school. The university announced Tuesday that the money will be used to establish the Gould Family Scholarships. Gould's grandfather graduated from the law school in 1922 and his father in 1952. Both men were longtime attorneys in Dodge City. Gould says he worked several part-time jobs and benefited from scholarships before earning his law degree in 1989. He says it's important to give back now that he's able to do so. The family tradition might continue. Gould's two teenage daughters visited the school during Homecoming week.


Judge Refuses to Split Military School Abuse Suit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has denied a Kansas military academy's request to split up a lawsuit brought by 11 former cadets alleging the school fostered a climate of abuse. Attorneys for St. John's Military School in Salina contended each ex-cadet's claims were unique and that jurors in a single trial could get confused. But U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum ruled Friday that all the ex-cadets allege the school failed to protect them from abuse by other students. He says the claims involve common questions of law and fact. Lungstrum also said he was not persuaded that the risk of prejudice from a single trial is so great that the parties and the court should suffer the "great inconvenience and added expense" of 11 separate trials. Trial is set for March.

KS Teacher Gets 4 Years in Prison for Abusing Teenage Boys

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A former Johnson County teacher has been sentenced to more than four years in prison for having sexual contact with two 14-year-old boys he met after answering adult ads they placed online. The Kansas City Star reports 43-year-old Jeremy John Way was an award-winning science teacher at St. James Academy in Lenexa. He pleaded guilty in November to two counts of criminal sodomy involving the boys. In both cases the boys initially claimed to be 18. Court documents say that while Way knew they were younger than that after meeting them, he didn't know their actual ages. Way was sentenced Tuesday to four years and seven months. His attorney, former Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison, had asked the judge to consider a lesser sentence of three years.


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