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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, June 5, 2013



Kansas House Chairman Defends GOP's Latest Tax Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The chairman of the Kansas House committee on taxation says it's "misleading" for Democrats to describe newly approved tax legislation as a tax increase. Republican Richard Carlson said Wednesday that the plan approved over the weekend is part of a larger tax reform effort that began last year. This year's bill cancels most of a sales tax rollback scheduled for July and adjusts income tax laws to raise an additional $777 million over the next five years. In a fundraising email, Kansas Democratic Chairwoman Joan Wagnon described the measure crafted by Republicans as "tax hikes on working Kansans." But this year's tax bill followed legislation last year cutting income taxes by $4.6 billion over the next five years. Carlson said it's "disingenuous" to suggest Kansans are paying higher taxes.


Autopsy: Topeka Police Killer Shot 3 Times in Standoff

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An autopsy report says a man who killed two Topeka police officers in December was hit by three shots fired by other officers the following day. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the autopsy released Tuesday also said the officers opened fire on David Tiscareno when he came to the door of a home pointing a handgun at his head. Tiscareno had fled to the home after fatally shooting two Topeka police officers the night of December 16 in a grocery store parking lot. The coroner's report says a sniper shot Tiscareno's right hand, knocking the gun away, and Kansas Bureau of Investigation officers fatally shot him. The coroner reported finding methamphetamine and amphetamine in Tiscareno's system.


New NRA-Backed Kansas Law Seeks to Limit Lobbying

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is set to enact what appears to be a first-of-its-kind state law pushed by the National Rifle Association to restrict the use of public money on lobbying or advocacy on gun-control issues. The measure is seen as a strong statement on gun rights. But it also may be a hard-to-enforce limit on what public officials can do to advocate on either side of the gun debate. The law takes effect next month. It aims to prevent local governments and school districts from spending the state funds they receive to hire contract lobbyists to push or oppose gun-control policies at the local, state or federal level. The state also couldn't hire lobbyists on gun-control issues in Washington. The NRA sees the law as a model for other states.


Kansas Authorities Hope for Tips in 1989 Killings

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas sheriff's office has renewed its request for tips in the killings of two women 24 years ago. The body of Christina Brandolese was found in a rural part of southern Johnson County on May 30, 1989. The other victim, Candice Fisher, was found dead in the same area three days later. In a statement Tuesday, the sheriff's office said Johnson County deputies worked more than 190 leads over the years. They're hoping again for help from the public in Kansas and nearby Kansas City, Missouri, where both women had last been seen in the midtown area. Authorities believe the killings were connected. Both women died of blunt force trauma, and their bodies were in similar conditions when they were found within two miles of each other.

Galena Voters Approve $7.5 Million School Bond Issue

GALENA, Kan. (AP) — The Galena School District will begin improvement projects at some of its schools after voters easily approved a $7.5 million bond issue. The Cherokee County clerk's office said the issue passed Tuesday by a 346-135 margin. The Joplin Globe reports that the bond issue will pay for additional classroom space at Spring Grove Elementary and Galena High School and areas to be used as tornado shelters. The bonds also will pay for a new high school gymnasium with locker rooms, a concession area, a fitness room and a walking track. School officials say the projects should be completed by the start of the 2014 school year. The bond issue will raise the cost of a $100,000 home by about $92 a year.


2 Kansas Men Plead Guilty to Dogfighting Charges

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas City, Kansas men are facing up to five years in federal prison after pleading guilty to a charge accusing them of running dog fights. The office of the U.S. Attorney for Kansas said in a release Wednesday that 38-year-old Pete Davis Jr. and 42-year-old Melvin Robinson pleaded guilty to one count of transporting animals for participation in an animal fighting venture. Sentencing is Sept. 9. Davis and Robinson also face a possible fine up to $250,000. The two men were charged in March in a complaint alleging they owned dozens of dogs that they trained for dog fights. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said when the charges were announced that it removed about 70 dogs and a half dozen chickens involved in the venture.


Garden City Hoteliers Seek Change in Smoking Ban

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Some hotel operators in Garden City say they're losing business because of the local ban on smoking in most public places. The Garden City Telegram reports that eight hotel operators presented a letter to the City Commission on Tuesday asking the city to consider changing the ordinance. The 2007 restrictions ban smoking in such places as hotels, restaurants and bars, private clubs and public seating areas at ball fields and grandstands. Barrett Patel, with the Magnuson Hotel, says he's losing business from truckers and other travelers to hotels in Dodge City, Liberal and elsewhere that do allow smoking. The hotel operators noted that Kansas law allows hotels to designate up to 20 percent of rooms for smoking. They're asking Garden City to add that provision to the local ordinance.


Kansas Department of Labor Relocates Wichita Office

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Labor has relocated its offices in downtown Wichita, joining other agencies in a state office building nearby. The department says it finished the move to the Finney State Office Building just after the Memorial Day weekend. The department's space includes offices for administrative judges who consider workers' compensation claims and an office that deals with the tax paid by employers to help finance unemployment benefits. The department said its lease at the nearby Sutton Place building had expired. The Finney building housed a succession of department stores over several decades before the state spent $12 million to renovate it for office space. It reopened in 1994. It is named for the late Governor Joan Finney. She was governor from 1991 to 1995.

KU to Offer 15 New Online Programs over 5 Years

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas plans to offer 15 new online graduate programs through its School of Education. University officials say they have signed a contract with Illinois-based Everspring to offer the classes during the next five years. Currently, the university offers only two online programs. The university says Everspring will split the tuition revenue with the university. Kansas will be Everspring's first major client. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Everspring will package content and intellectual property already used by the university's education faculty for online classes. The company also will handle marketing and recruitment for the courses. The first new offering will be an online version of the university's master's degree program in special education. It will enroll its first students in January.

K-State to Offer MBAs Online Starting in Fall

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University will offer an online Master of Business Administration program beginning in the fall. The Manhattan Mercury reports that the university's College of Business Administration will work with the Division of Continuing Education to offer the online program. It is geared toward working professionals with at least three to five years of experience. The same professors who teach graduate courses at the Manhattan campus will teach the online courses. The university says online students will be required to attend a two-day regional student orientation. They must complete 45 credits, or as few as 30 credits depending on previous undergraduate business course work. The students also must take a faculty-led international trip and attend development and learning seminars.

Kansas Business Forum to Focus on Online Marketing

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The company whose name is on a PGA golf tournament in Wichita will also be offering a seminar for small-business owners about online marketing. The free forum hosted by will be held June 13 at the Crestview Country Club. That's also where the Air Capital Classic on the Tour will be played next week. Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh will open the small-business forum, followed by a presentation by a marketing executive. The Air Capital Classic is the new name for the tournament previously called the Wichita Open.

1st Infantry Division to Celebrate 96th Birthday

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — The Army's 1st Infantry Division celebrates its 96th birthday next week with a series of events at Fort Riley. The annual Victory Week activities begin Monday with a 4-mile run around Custer Hill. Nearly 13,000 of the 18,000 soldiers assigned to the division are expected to take part. Officials will cut a cake the following day at division headquarters. The 1st Infantry Division is known as "the Big Red One." It was established by the Army in 1917, making it the oldest division in the armed forces.


Monsanto: Modified Wheat 'Isolated Occurrence'

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The company that developed a genetically modified test strain of wheat that emerged to the surprise of an Oregon farmer says it has tested the parent wheat stock and found it clean. Representatives for Monsanto say the emergence of the genetically modified strain was an isolated occurrence and most likely resulted from an accident or deliberate mixing of seeds. Monsanto chief technology officer Robb Fraley says the company has a test it has shared with other countries that could "fingerprint" the exact variety of wheat that carried the gene. The wheat emerged in an Eastern Oregon field in early May and was resistant to the herbicide Roundup. Oregon State University researchers found the wheat had a genetic modification Monsanto used in field testing. A Kansas farmer has filed a lawsuit against Monsanto connected to the incident. The civil lawsuit filed by Elkhart wheat grower Ernest Barnes alleges the discovery drove down wheat futures prices and caused a backlash from some international markets, which suspended certain imports. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.


Kansas Prison Officials Tap Victim Services Director

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A longtime advocate for children and victims of domestic violence has been named director of victim services in the Kansas Department of Corrections. Department Secretary Ray Roberts announced the appointment of Audrey Cress on Wednesday. The Office of Victim Services provides information such as inmate status to the victims of offenders serving time in the Kansas prison system. Cress has worked since 2007 with SAFEHOME, a nonprofit organization that works to reduce domestic violence through a variety of programs. Before that she worked for The Family Conservancy, which promotes healthy childhood development.


Lawman's Defense Contends Wife Committed Suicide

KINGMAN, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys for a former Kansas police instructor accused of killing his wife are trying to bolster their suggestion that the death could have been a suicide. A handwriting expert returned to the stand Wednesday in the first-degree murder trial of Brett Seacat for the April 2011 shooting of 34-year-old Vashti Seacat. The husband is also charged with aggravated arson and two counts of child endangerment for allegedly setting fire to the couple's Kingman home while their two young sons were sleeping. Handwriting expert Avis Odenbaugh testified that the person who wrote entries in Vashti Seacat's journal also wrote a suicide note found in her car. That note promised the sons that she would be watching them from heaven. A prosecution witness testified earlier that someone else wrote the note.


Doctor's Killer Punished for Intimidating Woman

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas prison officials say the man convicted of killing an abortion provider violated prison rules by trying to intimidate the woman who reopened the doctor's clinic in Wichita. A spokesman for the Kansas Department of Corrections said Wednesday that Scott Roeder will be punished with 45 days in disciplinary segregation with no outside communication, followed by 60 days of loss of privileges and a $20 fine. The 55-year-old Roeder is serving a life sentence for fatally shooting Dr. George Tiller inside a Wichita church in 2009. Tiller was among the few U.S. doctors at the time performing late-term abortions. In a recorded jailhouse call, Roeder tells an anti-abortion activist that reopening Tiller's clinic "is almost like putting a target on your back." The other activist posted the call on YouTube.


Panel: US Should Let Nature Cull Wild Horse Herds

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A scathing independent scientific review of the U.S. government's management of wild horses says continued emphasis on mustang roundups to protect public rangeland in the West is doomed to financial, social and political failure. In short, the report released Wednesday that was two years in the making concludes it's probably time to let nature cull the herds given the skyrocketing costs of housing the animals. The 14-member panel was assembled by the National Science Academy's National Research Council at the request of the Bureau of Land Management. It concluded that over the long run, the Bureau of Land Management's removal of nearly 100,000 horses from the Western range over the past decade will probably have the opposite effect of its intention to ease ecological damage and reduce the size overpopulated herds.


Scholars Recommend Quotes for Future Eisenhower Memorial

WASHINGTON (AP) — Three historians are recommending using quotes from key speeches by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to help represent the 34th president at a planned memorial in Washington. The Eisenhower Memorial Commission is hosting a public forum Wednesday about which of Ike's words should be included in the memorial, the design of which has been hotly debated. The three historians studied Eisenhower's speeches to recommend six for consideration. There are two from Eisenhower as World War II general and four from Ike's presidency. The panel is recommending one passage from Eisenhower's D-Day address to his troops. "The tide has turned," Eisenhower said. "The free men of the world are marching together to victory!"


KCMO Man Sentenced to Prison for Mortgage Scam

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City, Missouri man accused of mortgage fraud has been sentenced to about a year in federal prison. The U.S. attorney's office for Kansas said in a release Wednesday that 36-year-old Michael D. Robinson was sentenced to a year and a day after pleading guilty earlier to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. The prosecutor's office says Robinson admitted that he bought houses that were being foreclosed, and provided false information to mortgage lenders. Robinson admitted putting money into a bank account in a buyer's name to make it appear to the lender that the buyer qualified for a loan. And he said the buyers had provided down payments when they had not.

Appeals Court Upholds Ouster of Northwest Missouri Mayor

TRACY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Court of Appeals has upheld a decision to remove the mayor of a northwest Missouri town from office. Rita A. Rhoads was ousted as mayor of Tracy last July for hiring her son-in-law to do repair work for the city. Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd argued Rhoads violated the Missouri Constitution's ban on nepotism when she paid her son-in-law $100 to fix a city sign. The appeals court on Tuesday upheld a Platte County judge's decision to remove Rhoads as mayor. Rhoads argued in her appeal that her son-in-law was acting as an independent contractor, meaning she didn't give him "employment" with the city. The court said it disagreed. The Kansas City Star reports that Rhoads previously had hired her son-in-law to perform other city work.

New Mexico Officials Encourage Prairie Chicken Feedback

CLOVIS, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Director Jim Lane says the state wants to keep a prairie grouse under state authority and keep the bird off the federal register. The Portales News-Tribune reports that Lane told eastern New Mexico residents Tuesday that New Mexico is working with Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado on a plan on the lesser prairie chicken. He says the plan outlines how ranchers, wind energy stewards and the oil and gas industry can operate and not negatively impact the chickens. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last month that it will reopen the comment period on the proposal to list the prairie grouse as a threatened species. Lane encouraged New Mexico residents to speak out on the proposed listing. A decision is scheduled for September.

Royals' Brett Back in Uniform at Kauffman Stadium

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — George Brett was back in uniform at Kauffman Stadium. The Hall of Fame third baseman that spent his entire career with the Kansas City Royals was made their interim hitting coach during their recent road trip. But their return Tuesday night to face Minnesota at the start of a nine-game homestand meant Brett was back wearing the home white uniform. Brett has remained close to the Royals over the years, serving as a vice president and helping out in spring training. But he had never been an in-season coach, which means the last time Brett wore a jersey at the K for a game that counted was Sept. 29, 1993 — his last home game as a player. Brett has been tasked with helping a struggling Royals offense that ranks near the bottom of the league in just about every statistical category, including walks and home runs.

Chiefs CEO Hunt Visits Mandatory Minicamp

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt made a rare appearance at mandatory minicamp Tuesday and walked away pleased with the progress the team has made under new general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid. Hunt has rarely attended practices the past few years, but said in January he wanted to take on a more visible role with the franchise that his late father Lamar founded during the AFL days. Hunt led the search for coach Romeo Crennel's replacement, and then hired Dorsey to replace Scott Pioli. So he was keen to see what the Chiefs have been up to since the NFL draft. Former Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil, a longtime friend of Reid, also dropped in on practice. It was Vermeil who helped convince Reid to take the job.

Stephenson Out After 36 Seasons at Wichita State

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Gene Stephenson has been fired as head baseball coach at Wichita State after a 36-year career. Athletics director Eric Sexton announced the decision Tuesday, saying it was the "proper time to move into a new phase of Shocker baseball." The 67-year-old Stephenson held a brief news conference, saying he had been forced to retire with a year left on his contract. Stephenson coached Wichita State to the 1989 national championship and seven College World Series appearances. He leaves with a career record of 1,837-675-3. But in their first tournament appearance since 2009, the Shockers were eliminated Saturday after two losses in the 2013 Manhattan Regional. Sexton said pitching coach Brent Kemnitz will take over daily responsibilities for the baseball program while the school looks for a permanent head coach. Sexton also said Kemnitz has removed himself as a candidate for that job.


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