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Your local and regional news for Northeastern Kansas and the surrounding communities, brought to you by the KPR news staff.

Regional Headlines for Monday, February 6, 2012

These are the regional headlines for Monday, February 6, 2012. 

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Kansas Governor Submits Order Reorganizing 3 Agencies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has formally submitted an executive order to legislators to reorganize three state agencies that deal with social services. The order signed today by Brownback is part of his administration's plan to overhaul the state's $2.9 billion Medicaid program, which provides health coverage for the poor, disabled and elderly. The changes sought by Brownback will take effect July 1, unless one chamber votes to reject his order by April 6. The order would shrink the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services so it would focus on services to children and families, removing it from involvement with Medicaid. Services for disabled and mentally ill would move from SRS into the Department on Aging, which also would pick up some regulatory responsibilities from the Department of Health and Environment.

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Legislators Begins Hearings on Proposed School Finance Formula 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Legislators are beginning to hear from the public about Governor Sam Brownback's plan to revamp the way Kansas funds public schools. The Senate Education Committee held the first of several days of hearings on today into the Republican governor's proposal, which includes changes in the way technical and vocational education courses are taught, as well as a new system for evaluating teachers. Brownback outlined his proposal during his State of the State address in January. The governor wants to change the funding formula to allow local districts more flexibility in how they raise and spend money. Members of the House Education Committee are also hearing testimony on parts of the plan this week. Legislators are hoping to have bills debated in the House and Senate by the end of February.

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Shawnee County D-A Seeks to Expedite Review of Disputed Meetings

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas prosecutor says he isn't looking for a confrontation with state legislators as he investigates the legality of meetings they had last month with Governor Sam Brownback at his official residence. Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, a Democrat, said today he's hoping to finish his investigation quickly. Brownback had seven meetings in January for fellow Republicans who serve on 13 legislative committees, and he and top aides have said they're confident the meetings didn't violate the Kansas Open Meetings Act. Taylor sent a letter to Brownback's office and all legislators, directing them to preserve records and electronic files that could be potential evidence. But House Speaker Mike O'Neal, a Hutchinson Republican, has criticized Taylor's tactics and wants to provide a single response from all lawmakers.

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Panel endorses Kansas House proposal

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee is signing off on a proposal to redraw the chamber's 125 districts to reflect changes in the 2010 census. The reapportionment committee took less than 10 minutes today to approve the map, endorsing it on a bipartisan, voice vote. There were no amendments offered to the plan, which would collapse three current House districts and create three new ones in the Kansas City metropolitan area. One district each would be lost in southeast, southwest and central Kansas, reflecting the population gains over the past decade in Johnson and Wyandotte counties. House Speaker Mike O'Neal, chairman of the redistricting committee, said the decision was quicker than he anticipated, but that it is possible that the full House could debate the proposal yet this week.

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Kansas Lawmakers Say Issues Arose at Cedar Crest Events

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Several Kansas legislators say Governor Sam Brownback raised issues such as tax cuts and water policy in private meetings with them at his official residence. But their accounts of the meetings differed today. Some Republican legislators who attended one or more of the gatherings with the GOP governor described them as purely social events. But several lawmakers interviewed by The Associated Press said Brownback made remarks about substantive issues. Brownback had seven meetings in January for Republicans on 13 legislative committees. He planned gathering planned Monday evening for a bipartisan group of lawmakers. Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, a Democrat, is investigating whether the gatherings violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act. Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag said the administration remains confident that the gatherings did not violate the law.

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Brownback Issues No Pardons in 2011

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansans who were denied pardons by Governor Sam Brownback in 2011 ranged from convicted murderers to alleged traffic law violators. Brownback denied all 39 pardon requests last year. The Lawrence Journal-World submitted an open records request to Brownback's office, which provided the letters from the governor's office to pardon applicants. The Kansas Prison Review Board, which reviews pardons before sending them to the governor, denied the open records request for the full pardon applications, citing an exemption in the Kansas Open Records Act. The pardon requests include 10 people convicted of murder or manslaughter and a 63-year-old Wichita man who says he was wrongly convicted of a right-of-way traffic violation. Eddie Mendia operates the nonprofit Homeless Search Corp., and says he was pulled over because of his Mexican heritage.

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Google Begins High-Speed Internet Construction in KCK

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Google is scheduled to begin construction today on its long-awaited super-speed Internet service in Kansas City, Kansas. The Kansas City Star reports that Kevin Lo, the Google executive heading up the project, announced the start of construction on the company's Google Fiber blog. Google plans to install the fiber infrastructure first and then connect Google Fiber into homes across Kansas City. Work to erect a network had been held up over issues about where Google would attach its fiber optic cables on utility poles owned by the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities. The 1 gigabit-per-second Internet connections is expected to offer steady downloads about 100 times faster than most Americans can get in their homes with existing broadband services.

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Suspect Killed after Firing on KS Officers

GODDARD, Kan. (AP) — A carjacking suspect has been killed after exchanging gunfire with law enforcement in south-central Kansas. The Hutchinson News reported that the suspect allegedly took a vehicle around 12:45 this afternoon in west Wichita. The pursuit began after police in Goddard tried to pull the vehicle over for a traffic violation. Reno County Sheriff Randy Henderson says the suspect left the vehicle north of Cheney Lake and started firing on officers. He was killed around 1 pm. The name of the suspect wasn't immediately released.

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New Northeast Kansas Casino Opening Stirs Gambling Concerns

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The new casino at the Kansas Speedway may bring big money to northeast Kansas. But social services experts say they're keeping an eye out for gambling's less desirable consequences. Doors opened Friday on phase one of the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway, carrying with it the promise of 1,000 jobs and an estimated economic impact of $220 million. Greg Kindle, president of the Wyandotte Economic Development Council, says that the casino symbolizes the county's growing economic muscle. But as in most areas where casinos open, there's concern about the toll gambling takes on social services, particular in the treatment of gambling addiction. Treatment providers say they're bracing for an uptick in the treatment of addicted gamblers.

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Topeka Woman Dies from Injuries Sustained in House Explosion

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An 81-year-old Topeka woman has died after being injured in a natural gas explosion at her home. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Lucinia Tolliver died on Friday. Tolliver had been admitted to The University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kansas after the explosion last Monday. Topeka Fire Department Investigator Mike Martin said a contractor excavating last Monday in a nearby yard hit a natural gas service line and caused it to separate from the main line about 6 feet underground. Martin said because the breach occurred deep underground, the gas could have entered Tolliver's home via such routes as a pipe, sewer line or cracks in the dirt.

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Douglas County Judges Using iPads for Warrants

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Douglas County judges have been getting a lot of use out of their new iPads. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that a main reason the county's six judges began using the iPads is because county prosecutors have cracked down on suspected drunken drivers who refuse to submit to tests. Prosecutors now have law enforcement automatically seek a judge's search warrant to draw blood from the suspect within two hours of the traffic stop. In the past, officers brought the paperwork to the judge to sign. But that created problems because officers would often have to find another officer to leave a suspect with or even bring the person in tow to a judge's neighborhood. Now, the judges can take care of the paperwork remotely through their iPads.

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KDHE seeking source of gas smell in Lebo

LEBO, Kan. (AP) — State health officials have been investigating a strong scent of gasoline in a southeast Kansas town. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says it's trying to determine the cause of the odor in Lebo. Coffey County emergency departments have also been working on finding the cause of the odor. KDHE says the odor is not a health hazard. The smell was reported January 26 by Lebo's city superintendent. KDHE says the department planned to cap an old sewer line that could be the pathway for the odor to get into buildings. The agency says crews have also been working to find the source of the odor.

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Slaughterhouse Workers Granted Class-Action Status for Lawsuit 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has granted conditional class-action status to a lawsuit filed on behalf of an estimated 700 workers at a slaughterhouse in south-central Kansas. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren ruled today that the class would include all hourly production employees subjected to allegedly unfair compensation practices at Creekstone Farms Premium Beef in Arkansas City for the past three years. The workers claim the company hasn't been paying employees for all the time they spend working. Creekstone contends it has paid employees for all time worked and any overtime they were entitled to get. Melgren ordered the company to give the plaintiffs the names and contact information for each member of the class and to post notice of the lawsuit in both English and Spanish at its facility.

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Pope Names Bishop for Salina Diocese

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI has named a new bishop for the Salina diocese. The Vatican said today that the pontiff selected Monsignor Edward John Weisenburger for the post. the 51-year-old Weisenburger has been serving as vicar general and rector of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral in the Oklahoma City diocese. A native of Illinois, Weisenburger was ordained in 1987. He has studied theology in Belgium and canon, or church, law at St. Paul University in Ottawa, Canada.

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Kansas Woman Takes Parking Ticket to Appeals Court

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Junction City woman has taken a $55 parking ticket all the way to the Kansas Court of Appeals — and won. Mary Somrak got the ticket for parking over the line in her parking space at a townhome complex. Somrak said she fought the ticket through three courts and almost two years because she didn't think it was right for the city to write tickets in a private parking lot at 2 am — especially when the car she parked too close to was her own second car. The Wichita Eagle reports Somrak also fought the ticket because her neighbors got similar tickets and many of them are military dependents. Local courts said she didn't file her appeal notice in time, but the appeals court ruled she did.

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Hearing Scheduled in Hutchinson Woman's Death

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A preliminary hearing is scheduled for two men charged with killing a 27-year-old Hutchinson woman. The Hutchinson News reports that the hearing for 48-year-old Billy Joe Craig Junior and 32-year-old Charles Logsdon is scheduled to begin today in Reno County court. Craig and Logsdon are charged with first-degree murder in the death last June of Jennifer Heckel. The judge in the hearing has to determine if there's probable cause that Craig and Logsdon committed the crime. If he finds probable cause, the case moves to trial and a date is set for arraignments, when pleas will be entered. Heckel was shot to death in her home on the north side of Hutchinson. Her 5-year-old son was in the home when the shooting occurred and alerted neighbors.

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KC Suburb Sets Homicide Record in 2011

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Olathe had six homicides last year, setting a record for the Kansas City suburb. The Kansas City Star reports there were 11 homicides in Johnson County in 2011, and six were in Olathe, which the 2010 Census said is also the fastest growing city in Kansas. The most homicides in Olathe since 1996 — the oldest records available — were four in 2010 and four in 2002. Officials say seven of the 11 Johnson County homicides, including five in Olathe, involved domestic violence. Olathe Police Sgt. Grant Allen said none of the six killings in Olathe was the random murder of a stranger, and it's not clear why the numbers are increasing.

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TAM 111 Top Wheat Variety in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service says a variety of wheat called TAM 111 is the most popular of all those planted in Kansas. The agency says TAM 111 has been seeded on 12.6 percent of the state's 2012 wheat acres. Coming in second in Kansas is the variety known as Everest, which is planted on 8 percent of the acreage. The variety called Armour moved up to third place, accounting for 7.5 percent of the state's acreage. Varieties of hard white wheat accounted for 2.2 percent of the state's acreage. Most of the white wheat in Kansas is planted in the southwestern portion of the state.

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Analysis: Kansas Governor Snared in Debate over Meetings

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback cites the "Road Map for Kansas" he outlined during his campaign as the template for his administration. It contains a promise to reform state government, declaring it should be accountable and transparent. But there are questions about the Brownback administration's commitment to transparency because of private meetings he's had at his official residence with fellow Republicans who hold majorities on specific legislative committees. The Shawnee County district attorney is investigating whether the gatherings violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act. Brownback and his top aides are confident the gatherings were legal. But details haven't fully emerged, and some accounts from legislators have differed. The dispute isn't likely to disappear soon because the district attorney expects his office to question dozens of legislators by Valentine's Day.

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Leader of KC Diocese Review Board Resigning

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The chairman of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Catholic Diocese review board dealing with sex abuse allegations has announced his resignation. The Kansas City Star reports that Jim Caccamo's resignation is effective February 22. Caccamo headed the diocese's Independent Review Board during a period that included a priest charged with child pornography and Bishop Robert Finn indicted for allegedly failing to report suspected child abuse. The board assesses child sexual abuse allegations and makes recommendations to the bishop on how they should be handled. The Reverend Shawn Ratigan has been charged with possession of child pornography. A grand jury in October indicted Finn and the diocese on misdemeanor counts of failing to report suspected child abuse in the case. Caccamo says he'll stay on until a replacement is named.

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Pittsburg Hospital Adds Protective Window Film for Safety

A close call with one of the dealiest tornadoes on record has led officials at a southeastern Kansas hospital to invest in a special window film designed to protect against flying glass. Nearly every window at St. John's Regional Medical Center in Joplin, Missouri was shattered when an EF-5 tornado struck the city last May 22. Winds of more than 200 mph propelled millions of glass shards into rooms and hallways. The Joplin Globe reports that tornado sirens also sounded in nearby Pittsburg. Officials at Via Christi Hospital in Pittsburg decided to protect its windows with security film. The film won't stop windows from shattering in tornadic winds, but it will catch and hold bits of glass. Hospital officials say the cost of the film for 88 windows came to $54,000.

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McCaskill in Kansas City to Discuss Postal Proposals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill seeks to avoid closing rural post offices under her proposal to maintain six-day mail delivery. The Missouri Democrat will be in Kansas City today to discuss the proposals she wants incorporated into the 21st Century Postal Service Act. She provided details of her plan in advance to The Associated Press. The U.S. Postal Service is expected to lose a record $14.1 billion this year as increased Internet use reduces mail volume. A plan to close mail centers and post offices has been put on hold until mid-May. McCaskill is proposing cutting costs by reducing agency payments that fund future retiree health benefits. She's also asking for a new business model that would return the agency to financial health within a year.

Regional Headlines for Sunday, February 5, 2012

 

Legislators Tackling Kansas School Finance Proposal

 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Kansas legislators will be cracking the books a bit harder as they begin a deeper review of Governor Sam Brownback's sweeping education proposal.

The Republican governor's plan calls for a departure in how school districts are funded and their source of new revenue. It also would make changes to the way technical education programs are taught and establishes a system for evaluating teachers.

The chairmen of the House and Senate education committees say while there is interest in taking action on some of the proposals, many of their colleagues are still wary of how the changes might impact individual school districts.

Brownback insists that legislators are welcome to add or subtract from his proposal.

 

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Man Pleads Guilty to Illegally Re-Entering U.S.

 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- A 29-year-old Mexican national who killed a woman in a 2005 Lawrence drunken-driving crash has pleaded guilty to illegally re-entering the country as a felon.

The Lawrence Journal-World reports Adan Cruz-Santos entered the plea Friday in federal court. His trial was scheduled to begin Monday.

Cruz-Santos was deported in February 2010 after serving prison time for involuntary manslaughter and DUI convictions. He struck and killed 25-year-old Jodie Hatzenbihler in April 2005. That was his second DUI conviction.

He was arrested last September again in Douglas County on suspicion of drunken driving. He pleaded no contest to his third DUI conviction for the September traffic stop, which is a felony.

He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison plus deportation again.

 

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Trash Truck Rolls Over, Kills Driver

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) -- Police in Shawnee say a 61-year-old trash truck driver died when his truck rolled over him.

The Kansas City Star reports that Gary Anderson of Ottawa died in the accident on Friday.

The accident occurred when Anderson was getting ready to back his truck down a street to pick up trash. Police said he got out of the unoccupied truck and the truck rolled over him.

A spokesman for Deffenbaugh Industries expressed sympathy for the family of Anderson, who had for them since April 2009.

 

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Topeka Group Aims at Proposed Hoodie Ordinance

 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- A Topeka group wants the public to attend an upcoming City Council meeting to protest the mayor's suggestion that the city adopt an ordinance to regulate the wearing of caps and hoodies in businesses with video surveillance.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Bias Busters of Kansas is asking the public to attend Tuesday's Topeka City Council meeting.

Mayor Bill Bunten says he's suggesting that the city allow a retail store to ask people who come in wearing a hooded sweatshirt or ball cap to take it off their head so surveillance cameras can see them. Police chief Ron Miller also recommended a similar measure to discourage robberies.

Sonny Scroggins, of Bias Busters, says he's urging residents to attend the meeting Tuesday as a way of voicing opposition to what Bunten is suggesting.

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KC Man Charged With Molestation HIV-Positive

 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Jackson County prosecutors say a former Kansas City drill team instructor charged with child molestation had HIV.

The Kansas City Star reports that 40-year-old Daniel Roberson was charged in December with sodomy and attempted sodomy involving two boys. On Friday, a grand jury indicted him on allegations that he molested a third boy and recklessly exposed one of the first two boys to the infectious virus.

Roberson now faces six felony counts. He's being held in the Jackson County jail on $75,000 bond.

Court records show that Roberson received treatment for HIV since at least July 2008 but didn't tell investigators.

Online court records do not list a lawyer for Roberson.

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Project Lets Kansas Students Find Civil War Graves

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Middle school students across Kansas are being encouraged to learn more about their history and communities by searching local cemeteries for the graves of Civil War veterans.

The two-year program, which started last week, is called "Sleeping Heroes:  The Impact of Civil War Veterans on Kansas Communities."

"This isn't unique, but it is personal to me," Attorney General Derek Schmidt said during a kickoff of the event at Memorial Hall in Topeka. "This is a terrific project."

Schmidt is a descendant of Peter Schmidt, who served in the Civil War and then settled in the Independence area. Kansas was known at the time as the Soldier State because so many veterans homesteaded in the state.

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No. 4 Missouri Rallies Past No. 8 Kansas 74-71

 

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- Marcus Denmon hit three 3-pointers in the final 2:05, the last for the go-ahead points, as No. 4 Missouri fought off No. 8 Kansas 74-71 in Game 1 of what could be the schools' final border showdown on Saturday night.

Denmon scored 29 points, two off his career best, and ended a long-range shooting slump with a career-best six 3-pointers in nine attempts.

The go-ahead 3-pointer came with 56 seconds to go for a one-point lead. Michael Dixon added a pair of free throws with 9.8 seconds left after an offensive foul on Tyshawn Taylor and Kansas' Elijah Johnson missed badly on a shot to tie at the buzzer.

Missouri (21-2, 8-2 Big 12) beat Kansas for only the second time in the last 12 meetings, and the Tigers' impending departure for the SEC added spice to the final conference meeting in Columbia, Missouri.

Thomas Robinson had 25 points and 13 rebounds for Kansas (18-5, 8-2).

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Kansas State Rolls Past Texas A&M 64-53

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) -- Will Spradling had a career high 19 points, Angel Rodriguez scored all 13 of his points in the second half and Kansas State rallied for a 64-53 victory over Texas A&M on Saturday.

The backcourt duo provided just enough offense to bail out the Wildcats (16-6, 5-5 Big 12), who were awful from the field in the first half. Spradling had four 3-pointers and Rodriguez added four assists as Kansas State avoided a third consecutive loss.

The Wildcats improved to 21-3 in February over the past three-plus seasons, including a 12-1 mark at Bramlage Coliseum, which is fast becoming one of the league's most difficult venues.

Elston Turner scored 18 and Naji Hibbert had 14 for the Aggies (12-10, 3-7), who will head off to the SEC having lost all nine games they've played on the road against the Wildcats.

The teams meet again in College Station later this month.

Regional Headlines for Thursday, February 2, 2012

 











These are the regional headlines for Thursday, February 2nd, 2012.

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Grain elevator explodes; 1 injured

ARLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — Federal inspectors have arrived at the scene of a central Kansas grain elevator explosion that injured one worker.

The explosion was reported early this morning at the Cairo Coop in Arlington, about 15 miles southwest of Hutchinson.

Reno County Sheriff Randy Henderson said one employee was taken to a Wichita hospital with burns. The Hutchinson News reports that the worker was seriously injured, and that investigators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have arrived at the scene.

Bill Guy, Reno County emergency management director, said the injured employee was at the base of the elevator when the explosion occurred. He said another employee at the elevator wasn't hurt.

He said the cause is under investigation.

Fire crews were also assessing the explosion site.

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Blue Cross Won't Bid for KS Medicaid Contract

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state's largest insurance company says it will not bid to be part of Governor Sam Brownback's proposal to overhaul the state's Medicaid program. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas said Wednesday that the effort to shift Medicaid programs to private health insurance companies would require it to dramatically change its businesses practices in less than a year. The governor wants the state to contract with three companies to manage Medicaid, which provides health coverage to poor families and disabled and elderly Kansans. Rep. Jim Ward, a Democrat from Wichita, says Blue Cross' decision raises questions about the financial feasibility of the governor's plan. The Wichita Eagle reports that Ward introduced a bill to require annual audits to ensure that private companies don't reduce benefits to Medicaid recipients.

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Overland Park Woman Missing for 2nd Time in One Week

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Overland Park police are looking for a woman who is missing for the second time in a week. Molly Jones was last seen near her home in Overland Park Wednesday evening. Police say Jones suffers from medical conditions that can cause her to become catatonic and unaware of her surroundings. She was last seen wearing a pink sport shirt and blue jeans. She is 5-feet-4 and 155 pounds, with red hair and blue eyes. She left with no purse or phone and her family says she has not taken medication that she needs. Jones reportedly went missing Saturday from the University of Kansas Hospital. She was found safe on Monday several blocks away from the hospital.

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Immunization Bill Unlikely to Get Vote in KS House

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill that would expand the number of exemptions allowed for parents who don't want their children to be immunized apparently will not go to a vote this year.  State Rep. Brenda Landwehr of Wichita said Wednesday that she doesn't intend to have the House Health and Human Services Committee work on the bill. She told The Kansas City Star that she sees little support on the committee for allowing more exemptions from mandatory immunizations. The bill drew a large crowd for a public hearing two weeks ago. Dozens of parents said they wanted to be allowed to reject the immunizations for reasons of personal conscience. But health officials told the committee that mandatory vaccine laws are critical to stopping the spread of disease.

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Blizzard Takes Aim at US Midsection, Could Affect NW KS

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A powerful winter storm system that could dump a dozen inches of snow and produce blizzard conditions has been forecast for Nebraska and portions of adjacent states. Forecasters say a blizzard is possible for three southwest Nebraska counties and nearby portions of Kansas and Colorado. The National Weather Service says the blizzard warnings take effect at 11 o'clock tonight (THUR). Winter storm warnings and watches have been issued to take effect later for the rest of Nebraska and much of southeast Wyoming, northeast Colorado, northwest Kansas and western Iowa. The service says the storm is expected to move into Nebraska late Thursday night and last into Saturday. Rain is expected to precede the snowfall in many areas.

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Auditors May Revisit Kansas Biosciences Report

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An investigator from an auditing firm that examined the Kansas Bioscience Authority says a supplemental report may be done to explain emails from the authority's former CEO. Jim Snyder, an auditor with BKD Forensic and Valuation Services, tells the Topeka Capital-Journal that an additional document may be produced to explain details about emails on a second computer used by Tom Thornton. Snyder says some 52,000 email files were discovered on the laptop. Thornton's second computer was mentioned in the January 23 report, but not in great detail. The audit looked at the KBA's operations and expenditures since it was established in 2004. While it largely found that the KBA was investing state dollars properly, it criticized Thornton's destruction of files on his main state-issued laptop.

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KS Water Policy Proposals Advance in Legislature 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two pieces of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's proposal to revise the state's policies on water use have cleared legislative hurdles. The House voted Thursday to eliminate a requirement that rights holders use a prescribed allotment of water or lose their rights. The 124-0 vote sent the measure to the Senate. Later in the day, the Senate voted 39-0 for a bill modifying a program that gives water right holders flexibility in how much of their allotment they use each year. It also provides for a percentage of that amount to be held in conservation. Brownback says his proposals would encourage conservation of groundwater, including the Ogallala Aquifer, to sustain agriculture production and related industries.

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KS Secretary of State Confirms He's Unpaid Adviser to Mitt Romney

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (KOH'-bahk) confirms that he's serving as an unpaid adviser on immigration issues to Republican Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. Kobach told The Associated Press Wednesday that he's been advising the former Massachusetts governor since the beginning of this year. Kobach said he started serving as an adviser even before he formally endorsed his fellow Republican last month. The Kansas secretary of state is a former law professor who's known nationally for advising state and local officials about cracking down on illegal immigration. He helped draft tough laws in Alabama and Arizona. Kobach said he advised Romney during Romney's unsuccessful 2008 campaign for the GOP presidential nomination.

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KS Senate Panel Approves Congressional Redistricting Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A redistricting bill approved by a Kansas Senate committee would give the state's senior Republican congresswoman a slightly more Democratic U.S. House district.  The Reapportionment Committee endorsed the measure Wednesday, sending it to the full Senate for debate. The Kansas Republican Party and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce quickly denounced the map as an attempt to hurt Republican Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, who represents the 2nd District of eastern Kansas. A key feature of the bill is that it would expand the 1st District of western and central Kansas to take in Manhattan — a change that Jenkins opposes. Figures from legislative researchers show 30 percent of the new district's voters would be Democrats, compared with 29 percent now. GOP voters would decline to 40 percent, from 42 percent. The measure had bipartisan support.

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Kansas National Guard Unit to Deploy

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas National Guard unit is preparing for its first deployment since Operation Desert Storm, heading to Southwest Asia for a base security mission. A public departure ceremony will be held February 12 at 10am in Salina for approximately 80 members of the 170th Maintenance Company. The soldiers will go first to Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center in Mississippi for more training specific to their assignment. The exact location of the deployment has not been announced. The unit was originally scheduled to go to Kuwait for a security mission. The 170th Maintenance Company is headquartered in Norton, with a subordinate unit based in Colby. The company is part of the Hays-based 287th Special Troop Battalion.

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Federal Inmates in KS Participate in Art Show 

 LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A group of artists who spend little time mingling with the public will be showing their works at an unusual exhibition and sale in northeastern Kansas. This weekend is the 30th annual "Hidden Art Locked Away" show in Leavenworth, featuring works by inmates at the U.S. Penitentiary and the military's U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth. The Leavenworth Times reports last year's show featured more than 150 works, including paintings, drawings and other two-dimensional forms. The show opens with a preview from 4 to 8 pm Friday and continues with a sale from 9 am to 5 pm Saturday at the Riverfront Community Center. The artists keep 80 percent of the sale price, with the rest going to the River City Community Players, a theater company that sponsors the art show.

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KS Abortion Insurance Case Assigned to New Judge

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A challenge to a new Kansas law restricting insurance coverage of abortion has been assigned to a new judge following the death of the federal judge who had been overseeing the case. U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown died last week at the age of 104. Nearly 100 civil cases that Brown was handling were reassigned Wednesday to other judges in the Kansas federal district. U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia in Kansas City, Kansas, will now preside over the abortion-related lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri. The ACLU questions the constitutionality of a Kansas law barring insurance companies from offering abortion coverage as part of general health plans. 

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Former Security Guard Admits to Robbing Missouri Bank

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas man has admitted holding up a western Missouri bank where he once worked as a security guard. The U.S. Attorney's office says 38-year-old Daniel Bryant Hill pleaded guilty Wednesday to robbing a Commerce Bank branch in the Kansas City suburb of Grandview, Missouri. Prosecutors said Hill, of Kansas City, Kansas admitted entering the bank on November 18th, 2011, and handing a teller a note demanding money. He fled with about $4,400. He was arrested the same day and told investigators he chose the bank because he was familiar with it, having worked there as a guard in 2005. Hill also admitted robbing a branch of U.S. Bank in Kansas City, Missouri in September 2011.

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Feds Plan to Reassess Earthquake Risk at Nuclear Plants

CHICAGO (AP) — The federal government says nuclear plants throughout the central and eastern U.S. must be reassessed within four years to determine how well they might withstand earthquakes. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission this week released an updated seismic risk model that plant operators must use to recalculate risks. Officials say the model has been in development for four years but took on a greater urgency after last year's nuclear disaster in Japan following an earthquake and tsunami. The NRC says plants in Illinois and Iowa are in areas where new geological data suggest earthquakes could be more frequent than previously believed. Exelon Energy's Dresden Nuclear Power Plant southwest of Chicago and NextEra Energy's Duane Arnold Energy Center outside Cedar Rapids, Iowa, also use the same type nuclear reactor that failed in Japan.

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Wichita Zoo Needs to Make Room for One More Elephant

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Sedgwick County Zoo needs to make its elephant exhibit larger or risk losing its two pachyderms. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is requiring that all zoos it accredits have space for at least three elephants by September 2016. Elephants are social animals, and the organization doesn't want them living alone. The Sedgwick County Zoo is trying to decide what it needs to do to keep the elephants that have lived there since 1972. A new exhibit would cost about $16 million, while a temporary fix — renovating the existing exhibit — would cost about $1 million. Officials say a full remodel would be tough until the economy improves, but there are concerns about putting money into such an old exhibit.

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KS Lawmakers Choose Acting Research Director

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An assistant director of the Kansas Legislature's nonpartisan research staff will serve as acting director for at least the next several months. Legislative leaders decided Wednesday that Raney (RAY'-nee) Gilliland will hold the top job while they seek a permanent replacement for Alan Conroy. Conroy is stepping down as research director February 10 to become executive director of the pension system for Kansas teachers and government workers. Gilliland has been an assistant legislative research director since 2004, overseeing staffers who handle policy issues. He joined the research staff in 1979.

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KS Town of Reading Continues Economic Recovery

READING, Kan. (AP) — Residents of an east-central Kansas town hit hard by a tornado last year are seeing more signs of recovery. More than half of the 101 homes and almost all of the businesses in Reading were destroyed May 21 when the EF-3 tornado smashed parts of Lyon County. One person was killed. KVOE-AM reports that residents held ribbon-cuttings this week for three businesses. The Miracle Café and Citizens State Bank and Trust had both been closed by the tornado. The third business — the Head, Hands and Feet Salon — is new to the town. Two churches are also being repaired. Reading's Methodist Church plans a rededication on February 19, and the Baptist church is getting new siding.

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Weis Assembles Unique Staff at KU

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Charlie Weis believes the biggest mistake he made during his failed tenure at Notre Dame was putting together a coaching staff that didn't quite fit.  He is confident he hasn't made the same mistake at the University of Kansas. The new staff met with the media for the first time Thursday. Among them is new defensive coordinator Dave Campo, the longtime member of the Dallas Cowboys who won three Super Bowl rings as an assistant and rose to become head coach. Other assistants include former Chiefs offensive lineman Tim Grunhard, former Notre Dame quarterback Ron Powlus and former Akron coach Rob Ianello. The staff landed its first recruiting class Wednesday, and plans to begin preparing for spring football next week.

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K-State Again Looks for Quick Fix from Recruits

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State coach Bill Snyder hopes to get the same kind of immediate contributions from this year's recruiting class as he did last season. High-profile transfer Arthur Brown, junior college cornerback Nigel Malone and freshman Tyler Lockett were part of a group that contributed to a 10-3 season and a berth in last month's Cotton Bowl. Snyder once more tapped into the junior colleges for the recruiting class that he unveiled Wednesday. Six players will arrive at Kansas State with college experience, including Marquez Clark, a highly sought wide receiver from Navarro Junior College. The Wildcats also reeled in Tavarius Bender, a quarterback from Lincoln, Nebraska. He fits the dual-threat mold of Collin Klein and others who have played the position at Kansas State.

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KU Football Recruiting Class Heavy on Transfers

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Charlie Weis is willing to go wherever necessary to find the talent to rebuild Kansas. The new coach of the Jayhawks unveiled his first recruiting class Wednesday, which he pulled together in the less than two months since he took over for the fired Turner Gill. The class of 20 includes high-profile transfers in former Irish quarterback Dayne Crist, Jake Heaps and Justin McCay, but also eight junior college transfers who Weis hopes can help immediately. Kansas finished just 2-10 last season, leading to Gill's ouster. Only three players are from the Kansas City area, and four from Missouri and Kansas. The rest are from as far away as Washington, South Carolina and California, though the most by state are the six players Weis landed from Texas.

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KC Club Attempting End-Run Around Adult Entertainment Laws

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A Kansas City adult entertainment business is showing videos of naked dancers next to the stage in an apparent move to get around new regulations concerning what dancers can wear. The Kansas City Star reports that Bazooka's offers videos of its nude and seminude dancers next to the stage while a dancer performs live with her intimate areas covered, as the law requires. The strategy may help the business sidestep a new state law requiring "sexually oriented businesses" to close at midnight. If the dancers exposed private areas they would have broken the law, or forced the club to close at midnight. The club's owner, Dick Snow, says they are legal because they appeared on screen. Others say Bazooka's may still be improperly open past midnight.

 

Regional Headlines for Wednesday, February 1st, 2012








 

Here are the headlines for Wednesday, February 1st, 2012 


KS Senate Panel Passes Congressional Remap Plan

 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has endorsed a redistricting bill that is likely to give the state's senior Republican congresswoman a more Democratic district. Reapportionment Committee members who supported the measure didn't mention opposition to it from Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, who represents the 2nd District of eastern Kansas in the U.S. House. Instead, they said it accounted for changes in population over the past decade while creating relatively compact districts. But the proposal moves the boundaries of the 1st District of western and central Kansas so that it sweeps in the northeast Kansas community of Manhattan. It also puts all of Democratic-leaning Lawrence in the 2nd District, instead of splitting it between two districts. Manhattan officials have said they want their community to remain in the 2nd District.

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Tax Refunds Cut into Kansas Revenues 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A high number of Kansas tax refunds added up to lower-than-expected state revenue collections in January The Department of Revenue said yesterday that overall receipts were $30.6 million less than anticipated, with individual income receipts off by $33 million.Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan says Kansas has seen a 25 percent increase in electronic tax filings and that many people are getting their refunds earlier than previous years. The agency said refunds are being paid within a week of electronic forms being filed. On the positive side, Jordan said use-tax collections exceeded estimates by $7 million in January. For the first seven months of the current fiscal year, overall revenue collections are up 6.2 percent, or $200 million, from the same period last year.

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Man Indicted in $3 Million Ponzi Scheme

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal grand jury has indicted a former Missouri man in a Ponzi scheme that prosecutors say defrauded 39 investors out of $3 million.  U.S. Attorney Beth Phillips says in a news release that 72-year-old Ronald W. Shepard, formerly of Lee's Summit, was charged Tuesday in a 15-count indictment.  The indictment says Shepard's company, Safety Solutions in Lee's Summit, developed and marketed a trailer hitch called Tow-Safe. A patent application for the device was rejected. Shepard also operated a real estate company and did tax returns for individuals. Shepard allegedly received about $3.2 million from investors. Shepard allegedly returned about $1.2 million to investors and lost or spent the rest. 

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 KS Bill Would Allow Rate Hikes Before State Gives Approval

 TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers have been considering a proposal that would allow utility companies to raise rates before the state approves the increases. The Wichita Eagle reports that the proposal for "interim rates" is contained in a House bill that was proposed by natural gas companies. It was the subject of a hearing this week in the House Energy and Utilities Committee. The measure would allow a utility company to increase rates 30 days after it files with the Kansas Corporation Commission for permission to increase rates. The commission has 240 days to consider rate hikes. The company would give refunds if the commission decides the utility is entitled to less than requested. If the utility can't find you, your refund goes into the state's unclaimed property fund.

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KS Secretary of State Touts Bill on Citizenship Rule

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Secretary of State Kris Kobach (KOH'-bahk) says Kansas legislators can show they're serious about fighting election fraud by passing his bill to speed up a requirement for some potential voters to show proof of citizenship. But the Republican secretary of state faced hostile questions today (WED) from Democrats during a House Elections Committee hearing. A law enacted last year says people registering to vote for the first time in Kansas must prove their U.S. citizenship, starting in January 2013. Kobach wants the rule to take effect by June 15, ahead of this year's presidential election. But state Rep. Ann Mah, a Topeka Democrat, predicted the state won't be ready to administer the rule so quickly and that it will be a problem for thousands of potential voters, which Kobach disputes.

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Governor Says He Warned Lawmakers about Open Meetings Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's staff says he warned lawmakers not to violate the state's open meetings law while attending dinners at Cedar Crest mansion. Caleb Stegall, the governor's counsel, said in a statement Tuesday that none of the private dinners attended by Republicans from 13 legislative committees violated the law. He said Brownback was careful to warn those attending the dinners that they could not discuss legislative business. The open meetings law prohibits a voting majority of any government group from discussing business without giving the public notice and access to the meeting.
Stegall says once lawmakers were warned, the dinners become informational presentations, which don't violate the law. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that some legislators who attended the dinners didn't mention being warned about following the law.

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Zombie Movie to be Filmed in Southeast KS

RIVERTON, Kan. (AP) — Zombies will be invading southeast Kansas this spring and summer. They'll be in the Riverton area for a low-budget zombie apocalypse movie called "Zompocalypso." Eric Anderson and his wife, Amelia Dellos, who own Chicago-based Corn Bred Films, are making the movie. Anderson, a native of Parsons, says he wants to highlight locations and actors in the Midwest. He says he hopes to use the family homestead outside of Riverton for the movie. The Joplin Globe reports the movie revolves around two brothers. One is a free spirit and the other believes that zombies will cause the end of the world supposedly predicted by the Mayan calendar. Anderson said he's hoping to release the movie to independent movie houses by the end of the year.

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Kansas Now Recognizes West Virginia Gun Permits

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginians with valid permits can now carry concealed handguns in Kansas. The reciprocity agreement also allows Kansas residents with valid permits to carry concealed weapons in West Virginia. West Virginia has similar agreements with 22 other states. Assistant Attorney General Will Valentino tells the Charleston Gazette that agreements with all the states aren't possible. Some states don't allow concealed weapons to be carried. Other states' laws vary too much from West Virginia's laws. State Police records show that at least 60,000 West Virginians have concealed weapons permits.

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Kansas Pork Producer Disputes Allegations of Pig Mistreatment

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A Kansas-based pork producer strongly disputes allegations it is mistreating pregnant pigs by keeping them in so-called "gestation cages."  The Humane Society of the United States lodged the allegations Tuesday against Seaboard Foods and North Carolina-based Prestage Farms. The group cited a video they say showed pigs standing or lying in cages and workers cutting the tails off piglets at production facilities in the Oklahoma Panhandle.  At a news conference in Oklahoma City, Paul Shapiro with the Humane Society said investigators worked for both companies and videotaped the conditions late last year.  Ron Prestage is a veterinarian for Prestage Farms, founded by his father. Prestage said in a statement that the company is committed to sound animal care.  Seaboard officials say they're pleased that their employees are following proper industry-supported protocols and procedures.

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Judge's Ruling Puts KS Power Plant on Hold

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal judge in Washington has put a proposed coal-fired power plant in southwest Kansas on hold until an environmental impact study has been completed.  U.S. District Judge Emmett Sullivan ruled Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service violated federal law by failing to perform such a study before giving Sunflower Electric Corporation permission to expand in Holcomb. RUS must sign off on decisions related to the Sunflower project because it provided past financial support and oversaw corporate reorganizations. Sullivan's ruling in a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club forbids the agency from issuing additional approvals for the plant or taking any other major federal actions until the environmental study is complete. Sunflower officials say it's too early to know how the ruling will impact the project.

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Clinical Research Center at KU Med Center Opens

FAIRWAY, Kan. (AP) — A new clinical research center in Fairway will provide a place for the earliest stage of new drug and treatment tests.  The Clinical Research Center started taking patients last week and held its official grand opening Tuesday.  The center is part of the University of Kansas Medical Center. The $19 million renovation project was funded by a one-eighth-cent sales tax approved by Johnson County residents.  The center's medical director, Raymond Perez, says the research building will give the Medical Center a place to conduct Phase 1 clinical trials on patients.  The Kansas City Star reports the center is starting with about 10 Phase 1 cancer trials. When it reaches full capacity in about seven years, Perez expects to have 25 to 30 cancer trials under way involving 300 or more patients.

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KS Senators Hear Plea for Anti-Bullying Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The father of a Wichita girl who committed suicide after being repeatedly bullied is urging Kansas senators to strengthen the state's anti-bullying laws.  Fourteen-year-old Rhianna Morawitz hanged herself in her bedroom in September after what her father said was repeated harassment at school and online.  The father, Rick Morawitz, told the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday that a 2007 state law doesn't go far enough to protect students who are victims of bullying.  The committee is considering legislation to require more reporting by school districts under a uniform anti-bullying policy and shorten the timeline for investigations. It also requires districts to report incidents to the State Board of Education.  Opponents say the proposal micromanages how districts respond to bullying and gets away from local governance of discipline.

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Former Guard Admits Robbing Missouri Bank

KANSAS CITY, MO.(AP) -- A Kansas man has admitted holding up a western Missouri bank where he once worked as a security guard. The U.S. Attorney's office says 38-year-old Daniel Bryant Hill pleaded guilty today to robbing a Commerce Bank branch in the Kansas City suburb of Grandview. Prosecutors said Hill, of Kansas City, Kansas, admitted entering the bank on November 18, 2011, and handing a teller a note demanding money. He fled with about $4,400. He was arrested the same day and told investigators he chose the bank because he was familiar with it, having worked there as a guard in 2005. Hill also admitted robbing a branch of U.S. Bank in Kansas City, Missouri, in September 2011. 

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Chiefs Offensive Coordinator Muir Retires 

KANSAS CITYMo. (AP) — Offensive coordinator Bill Muir informed the Chiefs today that he will retire after 34 years in the NFL, a move many had expected after Kansas City struggled much of last season. Muir joined the Chiefs as offensive line coach in 2009 and was elevated to offensive coordinator by then-coach Todd Haley, who was fired midway through this season. The longtime assistant also spent seven seasons in Tampa Bay, where he won a Super Bowl as part of Jon Gruden's staff. The Buccaneers won three division titles during his time there. Muir was not expected to remain the Chiefs' offensive coordinator even if he remained on staff. New coach Romeo Crennel has said he hopes to have that position filled sometime after the Super Bowl.

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Southeast KS Man Charged in House Fire that Killed Wife

FORT SCOTT, Kan. (AP) — A Fort Scott man who was seriously injured in a fire that killed his wife is jailed on $1 million bond after being charged with murder. Prosecutors say 25-year-old Brent Bollinger is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated arson, and aggravated child endangerment. His wife, Brenna Nicole Bollinger was found dead after a fire at the couple's home last October 13. Their 2-year-old son, Bryson Bollinger, was hospitalized for treatment of burns for about a month after the fire. Bollinger's attorney, Paul Morrison, said during a court appearance Monday that Bollinger suffered burns over 69 percent of this body and has undergone several surgeries. He also said prosecutors have only a circumstantial case against his client. The Fort Scott Tribune reports the next court date will be February 9.

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Wichita Man Pleads Guilty to Child Porn Charge

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man faces up to 10 years in prison after admitting he possessed more than 1 million images of child pornography.  The U.S. Attorney's office says 47-year-old Matthew Alter pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of possessing child pornography. Sentencing is set for April 16 in U.S. District Court.  Prosecutors say the investigation of Alter began after Italian police notified U.S. authorities that a computer in Kansas was accessing a child porn website. The trail led to Alter's Wichita home, where investigators seized computer hard drives containing more than 1 million images of child pornography. The children photographed ranged from 1 to 12 years old.  The U.S. Attorney's office says Alter had been collecting child porn for more than a decade.

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KS Department of Agriculture Downplays Talks about Immigrants

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Department of Agriculture spokeswoman says talks between Secretary Dale Rodman and federal officials about illegal immigrant workers were informal only. Spokeswoman Chelsea Good said Tuesday that Rodman has met several times with U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials about labor shortages in Kansas agriculture. But Good says the Kansas agency has not made a formal request for a federal waiver that would let businesses in Kansas hire illegal immigrants. Rodman told The Topeka Capital-Journal last week that a program allowing illegal immigrants to continue working in Kansas would be good for agriculture. But Governor Sam Brownback's office later said the idea did not come from the administration. A coalition of business groups plans to push for state legislation on the issue.

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Two Die in Wreck that Closed Part of I-35 in Kansas

GARDNER, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says one of two people who died after being thrown from a car on Interstate 35 was also struck by a minivan while lying on the pavement.  The accident happened around 1:45am Tuesday near the northeastern Kansas town of Gardner. Southbound lanes of I-35 were closed for several hours.  The Highway Patrol says a car driven by 32-year-old Jason Richard Mees, of Hiawatha, veered off the road, returned to the pavement and rolled over. The crash ejected Mees and his passenger, 32-year-old Jennifer Diane Curbow, of Edgerton. Officers say neither victim wore a seat belt.  Authorities were investigating why the car left the highway. The driver of the minivan that struck the car and one of the victims after the accident was not hurt.

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Motive Sought in Wichita Homicide

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita are seeking a motive in the city's fourth homicide of the year.  A relative found the body of 38-year-old Michael Salyer in his downtown apartment Monday afternoon, more than 16 hours after neighbors last saw him alive. The Wichita Eagle reports that an autopsy Tuesday showed Salyer had been stabbed to death. He also had severe head trauma.  Wichita police Lt. Ken Landwehr says there were signs of a brief struggle, but robbery doesn't appear to be a motive. No drugs or paraphernalia were found in the apartment, and Salyer's wallet, keys and other valuables were also left behind.  Investigators had no suspect as of Tuesday night.

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