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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, November 6, 2013


KS Officials Drafting New Fiscal Forecast

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are drafting new revenue projections to guide legislators and Governor Sam Brownback in making budget decisions. Forecasters were meeting Wednesday to revise earlier projections for the current fiscal year. From July through October, tax collections were $27 million less than anticipated. The forecasters also plan to issue the first official revenue projections for the fiscal year that will begin in July 2014. They expect to release their numbers by mid-afternoon. The current forecast was issued in April and predicts state revenues of $5.9 billion during the current fiscal year. The figure is 7 percent lower than the $6.3 billion collected during the last fiscal year because of massive personal income tax cuts. The forecasters included legislative researchers, Brownback budget staffers, Department of Revenue officials and university economists.


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 Sen. 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.

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.

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, reported 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.

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.

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 the ad demands that 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.

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 that four children in the home are now staying with a grandmother.



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