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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, May 29, 2013



UPDATE: Kansas Lawmakers Postpone Talks on Taxes, Budget

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators aren't resuming negotiations yet on tax issues, and their work on the state budget has stalled. The House and Senate met only briefly Wednesday before adjourning for the day. Lawmakers were in the 96th day of their annual session, already six days past the number specified in the state constitution. The standstill came after the House rejected a proposal Tuesday from its Republican leaders to set the sales tax at 6 percent in July. The measure would have raised new revenues to prevent budget shortfalls while Kansas pursued fresh income tax cuts to follow up on massive reductions enacted last year. The sales tax is 6.3 percent, but it's scheduled by law to drop to 5.7 percent in July. Republican leaders can't agree on adjusting the tax.


Kansas House GOP's Survey Results in No New Tax Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick says no new proposal on taxes has emerged from his survey of dozens of fellow Republicans. Merrick met Wednesday with House Republicans in small groups Wednesday after the chamber rejected a proposal to the lower the 6.3 percent state sales tax to 6 percent in July. It's currently scheduled by law to drop to 5.7 percent on July 1. The Stilwell Republican said afterward that House GOP leaders don't yet have a new plan. Lawmakers involved in the meetings said House Republicans expressed a variety of positions. Most Republicans want to cut personal income taxes again after reductions last year. Republican Governor Sam Brownback wants to keep the sales tax at 6.3 percent to raise new revenues and head off budget shortfalls.


Kansas Democrats See Trouble in GOP Impasse on Taxes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top Democrats in the Kansas Legislature are criticizing what they describe as "gridlock" among Republicans on tax issues and suggest administrative problems could result. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka and House Minority Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence said Wednesday that the Legislature's research staff sees potential complications if the 2013 session drags into June. Republican legislators can't agree on adjusting the state sales tax to raise new revenues and prevent budget shortfalls while Kansas cuts income taxes. The sales tax is 6.3 percent but is scheduled by law to drop to 5.7 percent in July. Hensley and Davis noted that the state is required by law to give retailers a month's notice of a sales tax change before collecting the new levy.


Kansas Governor Optimistic Despite Stalled Tax Debate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback believes Kansas lawmakers are making progress in resolving tax issues even though the House and Senate have suspended negotiations for now. Brownback told reporters Wednesday that legislators are starting to work through their differences. He said, "It's going to happen." The biggest disagreement among Brownback's fellow Republicans is over the 6.3 percent state sales tax, which is scheduled by law to fall to 5.7 percent. Brownback has proposed keeping the sales tax at its current rate to raise new revenues and prevent budget shortfalls while Kansas cuts income taxes further. He and GOP leaders want to follow up on income tax cuts approved last year, but some House members have balked at cancelling the sales tax decrease.


Tornadoes Hit Northern Kansas

CORNING, Kan. (AP) — Tornadoes have been roaring over parts of northern Kansas for a second straight day. No injuries have been reported. Scattered property damage was reported late Tuesday afternoon in the small Nemaha County town of Corning. Authorities there said a tornado destroyed at least one home and damaged another, while several sheds and outbuildings were also hit. Farther west, a large tornado was reported north of Salina near the Ottawa County town of Bennington. The twister was initially spotted around 5:30 pm and hadn't lifted nearly an hour later. Tuesday's violent weather follows an outbreak Monday night that saw at least four tornadoes in northeastern Kansas counties. Two businesses and about 20 homes in Maryville were damaged or destroyed.


Tornado Threat Persists in Oklahoma, Kansas

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — The Storm Prediction Center says a severe weather outbreak is possible in the Southern Plains today (WED) as more storms take aim at the area. Forecasters say west-central Kansas and west-central Oklahoma are at a moderate risk of severe weather this afternoon and evening. The National Weather Service says the storms could bring baseball-sized hail, wind gusts of up to 70 mph and tornadoes. The moderate risk area includes Moore, Oklahoma, where 24 people were killed May 20 in a massive EF5 tornado. An area stretching from Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin south to Texas has a slight risk for severe weather Wednesday. Forecasters say the risk of nasty weather will persist throughout the week, with severe thunderstorms and isolated tornadoes possible Thursday in the central U.S.

Appeals Court Refuses to Ease Way for Kansas Power Plant

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court in Washington has refused to clear a potential obstacle to construction of a coal-fired power plant in southwest Kansas. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected a request from Hays-based Sunflower Electric Power Corporation to overturn a federal judge's ruling that put the construction plans on hold. Sunflower wants to build an 895-megawatt plant outside Holcomb. But U.S. District Judge Emmett Sullivan last year ordered the U.S. Agriculture Department's Rural Utilities Service to complete an environmental study before granting any approvals for the $2.8 billion project. The appeals panel on Tuesday rejected Sunflower's request on technical grounds. The company says it's reviewing the decision.

Lawrence Won't Comply with State Concealed Knife Law

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence city commissioners are refusing to change the city's laws to comply with a new state law that allows people to carry concealed knives. The commissioners on Tuesday criticized the law that allows people to bring switchblades, daggers and other knives into bars and public places. It takes effect July 1. However, The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the commission's actions will likely have little effect on residents' abilities to carry knives. Staff attorney Randy Larkin told commissioners that the new state law will supersede the city's code, making it impractical to enforce the city's ban on concealed knives. Commissioners said they voted against the new law to indicate their opposition and encourage other cities to do the same.


'In Cold Blood' DNA Testing Results Inconclusive

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas official says DNA testing is so far inconclusive about whether two men executed in Kansas for the 1959 killings that inspired the book "In Cold Blood" are linked to unsolved murders in Florida. Kansas Bureau of Investigation Deputy Director Kyle Smith said Wednesday that his agency will continue DNA testing on the remains of Richard Hickock and Perry Smith. The men were hanged in 1965, for the killings of Herb Clutter, his wife and two of their children in their farmhouse outside the southwest Kansas town of Holcomb. Weeks later, Cliff Walker, his wife and their two small children were killed in their home in Osprey, Florida. Investigators say Hickock and Smith fled to Florida after the Kansas killings, and then to Las Vegas, where they were caught.


Firefighters Battle Big Blaze in Southwest Kansas

MOSCOW, Kan. (AP) — A large grass fire in southwest Kansas has spread to thousands of bales of corn stalks stored at a facility in the Stevens County town of Moscow. KAKE-TV reports that the fire broke out late Tuesday and involved about 50,000 corn stalk bales by Wednesday. Moscow Mayor Billy Bell told the station that a bioenergy company had planned to use the stalks to produce ethanol. Bell says firefighters have contained the blaze, which investigators believe was intentionally set. The mayor also says no injuries have been reported and no structures were in danger, but residents have been told to prepare to evacuate if the wind changes direction. Local farmers also have their irrigation systems on standby to help out if necessary.


State Holding Kansas Disaster Training Event

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — First responders from throughout the state are taking part in a two-day mass disaster exercise in central Kansas. The exercise Wednesday and Thursday brings together more than 230 people from city, county and state agencies, including the Kansas Highway Patrol and search and rescue teams. The event takes place at Crisis City, located at the Great Plains Regional Training Center near Salina. Crisis City is operated by the Kansas Division of Emergency Management. Among its training sites are a collapsed building, piles of rubble, a simulated rail disaster and a high-angle rescue tower.


4 Victims of Kansas I-70 Accident Still Not Identified

ELLSWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Investigators are still working to identify four people killed in a traffic accident in Ellsworth County on Tuesday. Patrol trooper Ben Gardner said Wednesday the victims are believed to be from Colorado and authorities in that state are helping to obtain identities. Gardner says the victims' vehicle hit a semi-trailer truck that parked along Interstate 70 about eight miles north of Ellsworth after experiencing mechanical problems. Gardner says two people rescued a child, believed to be between 5 and 8 years old, from the van. The child is hospitalized in Wichita but investigators have not been able to talk to him yet. Gardner says the extent of the damage prevented emergency personnel from positively determining the ages or genders of the people in the vehicle. The truck driver wasn't injured.


Saline County to Send Juveniles to Junction City

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Saline County commissioners have approved a plan to house the county's juvenile inmates at a regional detention center in Junction City. The commissioner signed an agreement Tuesday to send juvenile inmates to the North Central Kansas Regional Juvenile Detention Facility. The county will pay a $10,000 membership fee and nearly $405,000 a year to house the inmates. Saline County Sheriff Glen Kochanowski closed the county's juvenile center last month, saying a lack of staff and overcrowding were creating safety issues. The Salina Journal reports that Saline County currently has 12 inmates housed in Junction City.

State Seeks Summary Judgment in Sperm Donor Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state of Kansas is asking a judge to rule in its favor without a trial in a case involving a sperm donor from Topeka. The Kansas Department for Children and Families wants the judge to declare that William Marotta must pay child support because he is the father of a 3-year-old girl born in 2009. Marotta argues that he donated his sperm to a lesbian couple and signed a contract that waived his parental rights and responsibilities. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the state argued in a motion filed Friday that the contract was moot. They say those involved didn't follow a state law that requires a licensed physician to perform artificial inseminations in sperm donor cases. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for June 5.

Woman Given 18 Years in Drug Case Tied to Death

OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — An Ottawa woman was sentenced to 18 years in federal prison for her role in a drug sale that led to a man's death. Prosecutors say 37-year-old Tamara Ledom crushed prescription drugs into a power that the man thought was methamphetamine. He died in May 2009 after using the drug and taking prescription pills. Ledom was sentenced Tuesday for one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute drugs that led to a death. The case includes eight other co-defendants who have either pleaded guilty or are awaiting trial. The leader of the drug ring, Connie Edwards of Ottawa, is serving a 25-year prison sentence.

KC Pet Shelter Plans 24-Hour Adoption Event

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City no-kill pet shelter plans to offer adoptions for 24 hours straight next weekend as part of its entry in the 2013 ASPCA Rachael Ray $100,000 challenge. Wayside Waifs is one of 50 shelters across the U.S. chosen to take part in the competition, which is aimed at getting more animals adopted or returned to their owners from June 1 through August 31. The shelter is charging $25 for adoptions, with the fee for a second adoption waived. The "Adopt-Around-the-Clock" event will start at 12:01 am Saturday and end at midnight. Wayside Waifs interim president Ellen Hanson says the group's goal is to find homes for 1,831 animals by August 31. She says Saturday's event is one of several adoption events planned during the contest period.


Kansas Car Theft Victim Run Over By Own Car

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas car theft victim is out of the hospital after paying a heavy price for trying to recover the vehicle herself. KFDI-FM reports that the 31-year-old Wichita woman had her 2011 Dodge Avenger stolen on May 23. She went looking for the car the next afternoon and found it — with another woman in the driver's seat. The Sedgwick County sheriff's office says the victim opened a door and told the driver to get out. The driver backed up, hit the victim and ran over her before driving off. The victim spent several days in Wesley Medical Center with serious abdominal injuries. She was released Wednesday. The Dodge Avenger is still missing, but investigators are looking for a 21-year-old woman described as the driver.


NW Missouri Man Sentenced to 20 Years for Road Rage

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A northwest Missouri man with more than 35 prior traffic convictions in Kansas and Missouri has been sentenced to 20 years in prison in connection with a 2010 road rage incident. Platte County prosecutor Eric Zahnd says 39-year-old Bradley Ise of Platte City was sentenced Tuesday after being convicted in February of second-degree assault, leaving the scene of an accident, two counts of first-degree property damage and driving while revoked. The charges were filed after a July 22, 2010, incident in which Ise intentionally rammed the back of a car on Interstate 635 north of Kansas City and moments later swerved into a car on Interstate 29. Online Kansas Department of Corrections records indicate a prison sentence Ise was serving for three counts of aggravated assault expired May 17.

Kansas City Barista Pete Licata Takes World Title

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A man from Kansas City is the world's best barista. Pete Licata, the quality assurance manager at Parisi Artisan Coffee in Kansas City, won the 2013 World Barista Championship on Sunday in Melbourne, Australia. He competed against champion baristas from more than 50 countries before taking the title. In April, Licata won the U.S. barista championship during competition in Boston. In Australia, each contestant discussed their drinks while preparing espressos, cappuccinos and an original signature drink. Licata's specialty was a non-alcoholic coffee cocktail using chilled palm sugar triple syrup combined with an espresso shot over ice and 2½ droppers of non-alcoholic bitters with orange peel and lemongrass. The Kansas City Star reports that Licata stayed in Australia for a few days and couldn't be reached for comment.

80 Kansas City Buildings to Use Solar Equipment

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City is making an aggressive push into the use of solar power. Officials have signed a deal to install equipment on 80 city buildings to increase the city's use of solar power. The Kansas City Star reports that the project will include installing solar equipment on all of the city's police and fire departments and most of its community centers. Brightergy, a solar installer, and Kansas City Power & Light will team up on the project, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year. City officials say the solar units will supply 2.5 percent of each building's power demands. The city estimates the project will save $40,000 in the first year, with annual savings increasing in the future.


Nebraska Lawmakers Pass Wind Energy Incentive Bill

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ A bill that would use sales tax exemptions to attract wind farms to Nebraska has won final approval from lawmakers. Senators voted 38-2 on Wednesday to pass the measure, as a Kansas-based company considers developing a wind farm in Dixon County, near the Iowa and South Dakota border. State Senator Steve Lathrop of Omaha says his bill is designed to keep Nebraska competitive with other high-wind states in the Plains that have offered tax incentives. Nebraska currently charges a sales tax on all equipment and materials used in wind-energy projects. Nebraska ranks as a top state in its potential to generate wind power, but 26th in what it can produce right now. Lawmakers rejected a proposed amendment that would have required companies to purchase Nebraska-made materials.

Regulation Panel Clears Proposed Sale of Sprint to Japanese Bank

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Sprint and Japan's Softbank say regulators haven't found any unresolved national security issues related to Softbank's proposed acquisition of Sprint. The companies say the Treasury Department's Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States has completed its investigation and that they've entered into a National Security Agreement with the U.S. government. As a result, Sprint and Softbank say they expect that the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security will soon notify the Federal Communications Commission that they've completed their national security review. Once that happens, the FCC can complete its review. Softbank wants to buy 70 percent of Sprint for $20.1 billion. That deal is set to close in July, but Sprint also has received a $25.5 billion bid from Dish Network for the entire company.

Music Festival at Kansas Speedway Called Off

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A two-day festival of alternative, pop and rap music at Kansas Speedway scheduled for late June has been called off. Organizers of Kanrocksas announced the cancellation Tuesday, citing low ticket sales. The festival was scheduled to open June 28th with a lineup that included Fun, Passion Pit, She and Him, Kendrick Lamar and Imagine Dragons. The cancellation was announced jointly by Midwest Music Festivals and Kansas Speedway. A message on the Kanrocksas website says there are no plans to reschedule the event. This year's festival would have been the second Kanrocksas. The first was held in August 2011, also at the NASCAR track in Kansas City, Kansas and attracted more than 30,000 fans with such acts as Eminem, Kid Cudi and the Flaming Lips.


Missouri High Court Will Hear KC Light Rail Challenge

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Supreme Court will hear an appeal of the Kansas City Council's decision not to put a plan for light rail in the city on the election ballot. The state Supreme Court said in an order Tuesday that it would hear arguments in activist Clay Chastain's long-running battle to put a light rail proposal before voters. The Kansas City Star reports that the court did not say when it will hear the case. In 2011, petitioners submitted enough valid signatures to put Chastain's proposal for a sales tax and light rail up for a vote. But the council refused, saying the ballot measure violated the state constitution because it didn't fully fund construction. A circuit court and an appeals court upheld the city's position.


Player from Small Kansas College Announces He's Gay

Jallen Messersmith of Benedictine College in Atchison has come out, and is believed to be the first openly gay player in U.S. men's college basketball. Messersmith told The Associated Press on Wednesday he revealed his sexual orientation to teammates at the NAIA school before last season and approached about telling his story. is a website that covers gay issues in sports. Messersmith said he's received nothing but positive feedback since the story was posted on Tuesday. He said he wanted to come out with the hope it helps other athletes feel comfortable about who they are. He said he decided to come out long before Jason Collins became the first active NBA player to announce he's gay.


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