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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013


UPDATE: KS Sees Only Slight Change in Revenue Estimates

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials have slightly reduced their projections for state revenues during the current fiscal year. But acting Budget Director Jon Hummel said Wednesday the state will still be able to sustain the spending in the budget for both the current fiscal year and the one that begins in July 2014. Fiscal forecasters said the state should collect $5.86 billion in revenues during the current fiscal year. That's $29 million lower than the previous projection of $5.89 billion. The previous estimate was made in April. The forecasters also issued the first projections for the next fiscal year. They're predicting that the state will collect $5.92 billion in revenues. The growth would be $61 million, or 1 percent.

KS Legislative Committee Holding School Finance Meetings

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Legislators are getting a lesson in the Kansas school finance formula as they open two days of hearings reviewing how public education is funded. The meetings Wednesday and Thursday by a special education committee started with a primer on how the state's formula distributes more than $3 billion in state aid to 286 school districts. Discussions later in the day will look at student achievement. The committee is led by Republican Kasha Kelley, chairwoman of the House Education Committee, and Republican state Senator Steve Abrams, a former State Board of Education member. Legislators will revisit school funding in 2014 after the Kansas Supreme Court issues its decision in an appeal of a lower court's ruling ordering the state to increase spending. The justices heard the arguments in October.

Venue Disputed for Suit over KS Voter ID Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Secretary of State Kris Kobach is embroiled in a legal dispute over which court should hear a challenge to a Kansas law requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls. Kobach's office moved successfully to have the lawsuit transferred from state court to federal court. Kobach says the lawsuit raises federal voting law issues. But Wichita attorney Jim Lawing responded with court filings that denied he's raising federal issues in representing two northeast Kansas residents challenging the photo ID requirement. Lawing asked to have the lawsuit returned to Shawnee County District Court. Lawing represents Arthur Spry and Charles Hamner of Overbrook. They're retirees, and their votes in the November 2012 general election weren't counted because neither had a government-issued ID card with a photograph.


Lawrence Man Charged in Wife's Shooting Death

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Police say a Lawrence man charged with fatally shooting his 61-year-old wife did so because of her "ongoing health concerns." The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 67-year-old Larry L. Hopkins appeared Wednesday via video from the Douglas County Jail to be charged. He faces one count of first-degree murder in Tuesday's killing of Margaret Hopkins. District Court Judge James George set bond at $150,000 and asked Hopkins if he had anything to say. Hopkins responded that even if he was released on his own recognizance, he had no place to go. A statement that prosecutors released Wednesday provided no details about the health issues that police allege played a role in the shooting. If convicted, Hopkins faces a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years.


City of Topeka Could Change Policy on Loaded Guns in Vehicles

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — At the request of top law enforcement officials, Topeka leaders are considering changing a decision to allow loaded guns in vehicles. Luther Ganienany Jr., the city's chief of prosecution, told city leaders Tuesday that motorists would still be allowed to have guns in their cars but the weapons would have to be unloaded and put away. Exceptions would be made for law officers and concealed-carry permit holders. He says the change would make Topeka streets safer for motorists and police officers. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Police Chief Ron Miller originally supported allowing loaded guns but he says he's changed his mind. The discussion came during a work session before the governing body's regular meeting. No action was taken.


4 Suffer Carbon Monoxide Exposure in Overland Park

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) _ Four people have been hospitalized in northeast Kansas for carbon monoxide poisoning that authorities blame on a car left running inside a closed garage. The fire department in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park says two adults and two children were taken from a home around 7:30 am Wednesday. Two people were reported in critical condition and two in serious condition. A passer-by noticed a sick teenager in the home's front yard. Emergency responders found the other three people inside the house. Family members said the car was accidentally left running Tuesday night inside the garage with the door closed. The level of carbon monoxide inside the house registered more than 40 times higher than safe exposure levels.


GE Selling Kansas Subsidiary to Tennessee Firm

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — General Electric is selling its Kansas-based air filtration business to Clarcor Incorporated of Franklin, Tennessee for $265 million. The Kansas City Star reported Wednesday that Clarcor expects the sale to be complete by the end of the year. The air filtration business is based in Overland Park, and is part of GE's Power and Water division. It supplies air filtration systems and filters for gas turbine generators and other industrial processes. The business has about 700 employees worldwide, with plants in Missouri, the United Kingdom and China, and generates about $230 million a year in revenue.


Restaurant Owner Charged with Harboring Immigrants

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The owner of two Chinese restaurants in Kansas and Missouri has been charged with harboring immigrant workers who were in the country illegally. A criminal complaint filed Wednesday in federal court names Wei Liu, owner of Wei's Super Buffet restaurants in Olathe and Kansas City, Missouri. Liu made a first appearance Wednesday in U.S. District Court on charges of knowingly employing, transporting and housing workers in the country unlawfully. His wife and four other people are also charged. Court records do not indicate any attorneys. A federal investigator says agents began surveillance in 2011, checking labor reports and interviewing managers of apartments that were rented for workers. Authorities said some of the workers were found Tuesday living at the homes of some of the defendants.


Driver Charged in Fatal Wichita Car-Horse Crash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A driver has been charged in a Wichita hit-and-run crash that killed a man on horseback and injured a boy riding with him. Twenty-six-year-old George Childers is charged in Sedgwick County with two felony counts of failure to stop at an accident and one misdemeanor count of the same violation. The Sedgwick County prosecutor's office said Wednesday that Childers has requested a public defender. Prosecutors allege Childers was driving a car that struck a horse carrying 49-year-old Lloyd Ferguson and 6-year-old Eddie Caddell the night of July 5.  Ferguson died, and the boy is recovering in a Nebraska rehabilitation hospital. The horse was euthanized. The prosecutor's office says three other people have been charged with interfering with law enforcement.


Committee to Consider Renaming Wichita Airport

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Mid-Continent Airport in Wichita might someday be named for President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Wichita city council members agreed on Tuesday to create an advisory committee to study renaming the city's airport. The council received petitions last month suggesting that the airport be named after Eisenhower, who grew up in Abilene. KFDI reports that the city's director of airports, Victor White, said renaming the airport could cost up to $728,000 in required, deferred and optional branding. The first immediate cost would be about $140,000 to change highway signs around the area. Other required sign changes could raise that cost to about $313,000. Members of the committee will be appointed in the next few weeks. No timetable was set for the committee to make a recommendation to the council.


Man Sentenced for Role in Fatal Wichita Robbery

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has been sentenced to 27 years in prison for his role in a home-invasion robbery that ended with police shooting an accomplice to death. The Wichita Eagle reports that 21-year-old Ronald Vaughn was sentenced Tuesday for seven counts of kidnapping and one count each of aggravated robbery, attempted aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary. Police said Vaughn was one of four men who held seven people at gunpoint during an April 13, 2012, robbery. Besides killing 17-year-old suspect Timothy Collins, police also wounded Vaughn. The officer who shot Vaughn said he opened fire after one of three robbers pointed a gun at him while running from the house. Vaughn testified that he was unarmed and that the officer fired without provocation. 


Brother-in-Law Sentenced in Topeka Woman's Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The brother-in-law of a Topeka woman was sentenced to nearly 15 years in prison for his role in her death. Twenty-year-old Gabino Alcala, of El Paso, Texas, was sentenced Tuesday to 14 years and eight months for the October 2012 death of Ashley Alcala at her home. He was also ordered to pay nearly $40,500 in restitution to Ashley Alcala's mother. Ashley Alcala's husband, Manuel Alcala, previously was sentenced to life in prison for shooting his wife. Gabino and Manuel Alcala's mother, Manuela Alcala, is serving two years and six months in prison for obstruction and other charges. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a fourth defendant, 20-year-old Benjamin Anaya, also of El Paso, Texas, is charged with premeditated first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.


Employee Dies in Accident at Hutchinson Business

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — An employee of a Hutchinson business died after he was hit in the head by a steel gas cylinder while at work. Hutchinson police say they were called to Hutchinson Airgas Tuesday afternoon. Police Detective Cory Ogburn says a valve on an oxygen cylinder malfunctioned, making the nearly 2-foot bottle spin "like a helicopter blade." Another employee suffered a minor injury to his lower leg. The company offered condolences in a statement Wednesday but declined to release the employee's name. The Hutchinson News reports the business was closed Wednesday while the accident is investigated.

Kansas City-Area Voters Reject Medical Research Tax

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jackson County (Missouri) voters soundly rejected a proposed half-cent sales tax to fund medical research. The Kansas City Star reports that unofficial returns showed 84 percent of Tuesday's voters opposed a plan to impose a half-cent, 20-year sales tax to fund research at two private hospitals and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The tax would have raised an estimated $40 million every year. Proponents had said the money would be used to recruit top scientists and make the county a leader in efforts to translate medical research into uses for patient care. Opponents argued that middle- and lower-income Jackson County residents shouldn't have to provide research dollars to Children's Mercy Hospital, St. Luke's hospitals and Missouri-Kansas City's four health professional schools.

KS Group Pushing for Marijuana Legalization

MULVANE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas group is planning to use a billboard campaign to push for legalizing marijuana in the state. Fire It Up Kansas says the ad on a digital billboard near the Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane is the first it plans to put up across the state in coming weeks. KSNW-TV  reports that the ad demands the Legislature legalize, tax and regulate the sale of marijuana. The group's co-founder, Mike Golden, says marijuana is now in a black market with no regulation. He says putting it in a legal market takes away the criminal element. The Silver-Haired Legislature of Kansas recently approved a non-binding resolution supporting legislation to let people use marijuana for medicinal purposes.


Wichita Statue Removed for Renovation

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A 100-year-old statue has been removed from its perch atop a Civil War memorial in Wichita and sent to mid-Missouri for repairs. The Wichita Eagle reports that the 13-foot-tall statue, titled "Liberty,'' usually occupies the pinnacle of the Soldiers and Sailors Civil War Monument outside the Sedgwick County Historic Courthouse. But this week, the metal statue was carried out on a flatbed trailer and will undergo restoration work at the shops of Russell-Marti Conservation Services in California, Missouri. The "Liberty'' statue was designed and built by the W.H. Mullins Company of Salem, Ohio. A century ago, the company specialized in making metal statues for Civil War memorials across the country. "Liberty'' was a popular standard design.


3 Teens Face Charges in Hutchinson Branding Case

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Three Hutchinson High School football players are charged with branding younger students with heated wire hangers. The Hutchinson News reports that Kendric Hudson and Jaiden Casanova, both 18, are free on bond after they were charged Tuesday with felony aggravated battery and misdemeanor hazing. The Reno County prosecutor's office says neither teen has an attorney listed. A 16-year-old suspect is being held in the Reno County Juvenile Detention Center on charges of aggravated battery and unlawful possession of tobacco. The Associated Press doesn't generally name juvenile suspects. Authorities received a report that four 14- and 15-year-old students were branded in the school's locker room last week when some freshmen moved to the varsity squad. The alleged victims were left with random designs on their stomachs.

Ex-Worker Admits Theft from Northeast KS Company

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A woman who fled Kansas before she could be arrested on suspicion of stealing from her employer has pleaded guilty to forgery and theft. The Leavenworth Times reports 36-year-old Jaime Warhurst pleaded guilty Tuesday to 48 counts. Prosecutors dropped 24 other counts. Warhurst was accused of stealing more than $34,000 in 2010 and 2011 while working as a payroll account for National Cold Storage in southeast Leavenworth County. Prosecutors said she forged signatures on at least 56 checks, then cashed them. The company reported the crimes in mid-2011, but Warhurst fled to Mississippi, New Mexico, Arizona and finally Utah, where she was arrested following an armed standoff. Her plea agreement calls for a 30-month sentence, but the agreement is not binding on the judge.

Most of Tardy KS Lawmaker's Claim Rejected

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas legislative committee has rejected most of a state senator's request for pay for a meeting he nearly missed by arriving late. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Kansas City Democrat David Haley appealed to the joint claims committee after failing to receive $291 for his salary, expense allowance and mileage for a December 2012 meeting of another panel. The claims committee says Haley should receive only $73 for mileage. Haley's claim was for a session of the joint health care oversight committee. Haley arrived shortly before it ended. Committee Chairwoman and Topeka Republican Sen. Vicki Schmidt took the unusual step of blocking Haley's compensation. Lawmakers aren't supposed to be paid without attending at least half a meeting, but Haley noted that the committee shortened its session unexpectedly.

Wichita Tow Truck Driver Killed in Hit-and-Run Accident

STAFFORD, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says a Wichita tow truck driver died when he was hit by a vehicle that then fled the scene. The patrol says 39-year-old Christopher Burton-Scott was hit Tuesday evening just west of Stafford. He was securing a tour bus to his tow truck at the time. The patrol is asking anyone with information in the case to call 316-744-0451.

Hickman Mills School Dress Code Dispute Turns Physical

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police say a dispute over a dress code in the Hickman Mills School Districts turned physical. The Kansas City Star reports that problems arose Tuesday afternoon after two parents were notified that their son's khaki pants violated the dress code because they had cargo pockets. A school official says the parents showed up at the school angry, and one of the parents pushed and chest-bumped the principal. A flower pot also was kicked over during the confrontation. Officers cited one parent with city violations of assault and property damage. She was taken to jail. The other parent was cited for disorderly conduct. She was given a signature bond and was allowed to take her son home.

Ex-Lee's Summit Man Pleads Guilty to Ponzi Scheme

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former Lee's Summit man already behind bars has pleaded guilty to defrauding 39 investors in a $3 million Ponzi scheme. The U.S. Attorney's office says 74-year-old Ronald Shepard pleaded guilty Tuesday to mail fraud and will be sentenced to two years in federal prison as part of a plea deal. The sentence will run concurrently with a five-year term Shepard is already serving in a different case. Prosecutors said Shepard conned clients into investing in his company, Safety Solutions LLC, which had developed a trailer hitch called Tow-Safe. He didn't tell them his patent request had been rejected, and the state had ordered him to stop selling unregistered securities. Prosecutors say he returned about $1.2 million to investors and lost or spent the rest.

Newborn Baby's Body Found Encased in Concrete

PLEASANT HILL, Mo. (AP) — Police in a northwest Missouri town are investigating the discovery of a newborn baby's body encased in concrete. Police Chief Robert Driscoll says the baby's body was found in a residential garage Monday evening. He did not provide the baby's gender or details of the child's death. No one has been arrested. Driscoll says officers went to the home as part of a stolen vehicle and drug investigation. While there, officers learned that a child who was born at the home in early October did not survive. Driscoll says the parents are cooperating with investigators. The child's mother is in the hospital. The Kansas City Star reports four children who had been in the home are now staying with a grandmother.



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