Good afternoon! These are the regional headlines for Monday, January 30, 2012 from the Associated Press.
House Committee Proposes New Redistricting Map
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Three Kansas House districts in rural areas would be eliminated and three new districts would be created in the Kansas City metropolitan area under a plan emerging in the Legislature.
The House Committee on Redistricting introduced the map today (MON). Hearings on the plan will start Wednesday.
One district each in southwest, central and southeast Kansas would dissolve under the plan. The map creates two new districts in Johnson County and one in Wyandotte County.
The changes reflect shifts in population centers based on the 2010 census.
Republican incumbents Rep. Larry Powell in the southwest district and Rep. Tom Arpke in the central district are running for Senate seats. The southeast district could pit Democrat incumbent Representatives Bob Grant and Jerry Williams in a summer primary if both seek re-election.
Senate Reapportionment Committee Plans Vote on Congressional Redistricting
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas Senate committee expects to vote Wednesday on a plan for redrawing the state's four congressional districts.
The Reapportionment Committee plans to start with a proposal to expand the 1st Congressional District of western and central Kansas into northeast Kansas to pull in the Manhattan area.
Committee chairman Tim Owens, an Overland Park Republican, said today (MON) he's willing to have the panel consider alternatives. However, he doesn't support one alternative that keeps the Manhattan area with other eastern Kansas communities in the 2nd District but splits the Kansas City area among two districts.
Legislators must redraw political boundaries this year to account for shifts in the state's population over the past decade.
Officials in Manhattan say they'd prefer their community to stay in the 2nd District.
Birth Certificate Affadavits to Go Online
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ State officials say an affidavit needed to obtain a free Kansas birth certificate will be online sometime this week.
A birth certificate is one of the documents that can be used to acquire photo identification for new voters. Under a new state law, people may use a birth certificate to get a photo ID if they don't have any of the other 12 acceptable items to prove U.S. citizenship.
An application to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment is required to get the free birth certificate and have the usual $15 fee waived. People also must swear they will use the birth certificate to obtain a voter photo ID or to register to vote.
The Wichita Eagle reports the affidavits will be available at KDHE's website: kdheks.gov.
Pertussis Symptoms Spreading Through Riley County
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — At least eight people are now being treated in a northeastern Kansas county for symptoms of whooping cough, and health officials are urging residents to consider getting fresh vaccinations.
The Manhattan Mercury reports that five people in Riley County exhibited symptoms of the illness as of Friday. That number was up to eight by the time county health director Susie Kufahl briefed the county commission today (MON).
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a bacterial disease easily transmitted through the air. It's marked by weeks of a prolonged cough with a distinctive "whooping" sound, and is especially serious for infants.
Kufahl told commissioners that residents should consider being vaccinated against pertussis, even if they've been vaccinated in the past. That's because a new vaccine was developed in 2005.
Testimony on New KS Food Stamp Policy Continues
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A top Kansas social services official is telling legislators that a new policy reducing or cutting off food stamp benefits to hundreds of U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants is fairer than the previous policy.
Michelle Schroeder, public policy director for the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, also told the House Appropriations Committee today (MON) that federal rules gave the SRS few options.
An SRS policy enacted October 1 changed how household incomes are calculated for determining eligibility for food stamps. SRS officials have said the change ended a practice that favored families that included immigrants in the United States illegally.
Majority Republicans on the committee appeared to support the change, despite criticism from some social service advocates.
SRS says about 2,000 children have lost food stamp benefits since October 1.
KS Governor Names New Information Technology Chief
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has hired a new chief information technology officer.
Brownback said today (MON) that Anthony Schlinsog will be the permanent choice for the position. Schlinsog has been interim chief of information technology since November.
Schlinsog was named to the post on an interim basis after Brownback's first choice for the post resigned when questions were raised about his academic credentials.
Brownback signed an executive order in November requiring the information technology officers from all executive branch agencies, except the Kansas Board of Regents, to report to one information technology official.
Schlinsog previously had been the IT director for the Kansas Department of Transportation.
Explosion Levels Home in Southwest Topeka
Police in Topeka say natural gas is suspected as the cause of an explosion that leveled a home in the southwestern part of the city.
The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a woman who lives in the home was taken to a hospital after the blast around 11:30 this (MON) morning. The extent of her injuries was not immediately known, but police said she was conscious and alert.
Police say the explosion apparently occurred after a crew intalling a sprinkler system nearby hit a gas line. The blast blew out a window of a home across the street and shook the neighborhood.
The smell of natural gas lingered in the area for a few hours, and firefighters were still battling flames more than 90 minutes after the blast.
Warm Weather Sparks Winter Wheat Crop Worries
A new report says January's warm, dry and windy weather in Kansas is sapping soil moisture and hurting the state's winter wheat crop.
But in its report today (MON), the Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service also says the unusually mild weather is helping livestock producers as calving begins, and helping them stretch their hay and forage supplies.
The condition of the winter wheat crop declined this month, with 12 percent in poor to very poor condition as of yesterday (SUN). About 39 percent of the wheat was listed in fair condition, while 42 percent was rated as good and 7 percent excellent.
Job Recruiters Targeting Wichita Workforce in Response to Boeing Closure Plans
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Aerospace companies looking to hire engineers and other workers are stepping up recruiting in Wichita in response to the Boeing Company's plans to close its facility in that city.
Boeing announced earlier this month that it planned to close its Wichita defense plant and move the work to Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Seattle. Some of its Wichita workers may be offered jobs at other Boeing plants.
The Wichita Eagle reports Boeing's Wichita facility has gotten calls from companies looking for skilled employees. Boeing spokesman Jarrod Bartlett says the company is trying to help their workers find jobs within Boeing first before looking at other companies.
Eight aerospace-related companies will be in Wichita Wednesday for a job fair. Other companies are also touting their job openings.
Newest Kansas Casino Performs Test Run for Regulators
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Hundreds of people have gotten a look at Kansas's newest state-owned casino during a demonstration run, four days before the facility is to officially open.
Hollywood Casino is the third of four state-owned casinos approved by the Kansas Legislature in 2007. It overlooks Turn 2 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas.
Invited guests scattered around the casino's 2,000 slot machines and table games today (MON) as state regulators kept a close eye on operation. Today's (MON) test run was required by the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission ahead of the casino's Friday opening.
Proceeds from the event will be donated to Sunflower House, a charity that protects children from physical and sexual abuse in Johnson and Wyandotte counties.
Boot Hill Casino in Dodge City opened in 2009. The Kansas Star casino opened near Mulvane last month.
Record Number of Passengers Pass Through Hays Airport in 2011
HAYS, Kan. (AP) _ Hays Regional Airport says it recorded the most passenger boardings in its history in 2011.
City Manager Toby Dougherty says the nearly 11,000 passenger boardings will qualify the airport for up to $1 million in federal funding for improvements. The numbers were a 17.3 percent increase from 2010.
Dougherty attributed the increase to an aggressive marketing campaign and an improving economy.
The Hays Daily News reports that Dougherty says complaints about Great Lakes Airlines customer service had declined, thanks to a new manager for the regional air service provider.
He says runway reconstruction likely will begin late spring or early summer. The airport will remain open during the reconstruction.
Majority of Participants in KS Sexual Predator Program Never Released
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ The state's Sexual Predator Treatment Program is already overcrowded and state officials say they expect the problem to get worse.
The program was designed to treat sexual offenders so they can return to society. But data from the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services shows that those sent to Larned State Hospital for treatment are almost never released.
Since the program it started in 1994, only three people have been released.
The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 217 sex offenders are in the program. The SRS says current growth projections estimate that number will grow to more than 370 residents by 2020.
The state currently spends $13 million annually for the program. In September, SRS asked the Kansas Legislature for another $2 million for facility upgrades to accommodate the growth.
Sitting Judges Donate to Anti-Abortion Political Action Committee
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A newspaper is reporting that two sitting Sedgwick County judges contributed to the state's leading anti-abortion political action committee after hearing abortion cases.
The campaign finance disclosure statement for the Kansans for Life PAC shows that Judges Eric Yost and Jeffrey Goering each contributed $100 in 2011.
Goering issued a temporary order in January 2011 prohibiting a Wichita doctor from using her office for abortions because her landlord believed it would create a nuisance.
Yost, meanwhile, was involved in the long-running legal dispute between former Kansas attorney general Phill Kline and slain late-term abortion provider George Tiller.
Both judges said the donations were appropriate; no state laws or regulations bar them. But some legal scholars said they create the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Proposal Would Name Cairn Terrier Official State Dog
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The dog breed that played Toto in "The Wizard of Oz" might become a state symbol.
At the request of a constituent, State Rep. Ed Trimmer has introduced a bill that would designate the Cairn Terrier as the official state dog of Kansas.
Brenda Moore of Augusta, who works with the South Central Kansas Kennel Club, is pushing the idea.
She says the breed was chosen because of its role in the movie, to avoid any conflicts with owners of other dog breeds.
Trimmer says he knows the state faces serious issues and he hopes the Legislature does not spend a lot of time on the proposal.
But he says he introduced it because his constituents thought it was important.
KS Agriculture Secretary Seeks Federal Waiver to Allow Hire of Illegal Immigrants
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Facing pressure from large dairies and feedlots desperate for workers, Kansas Agriculture Secretary Dale Rodman is seeking a federal waiver that would allow companies to hire illegal immigrants.
Rodman has met several times with officials at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security about launching a pilot program that would place employers and illegal immigrants in a special state-organized network.
The goal is to create a legal, straightforward manner of organizing existing immigrant labor.
So far, Homeland Security has neither approved nor closed the door on the idea.
A coalition of business interests is preparing to tackle the issue in Topeka.
Details are expected to emerge this week about a bill establishing the outline of a state-managed worker program.
Analysis: Issues Indicate Doubt about Kobach Plan
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is eager to get a rule requiring some potential voters to prove their U.S. citizenship ahead of this year's presidential election, but skeptical legislators keep raising administrative issues.
Kobach has faced questions about how his office plans to educate Kansans about such a requirement. He also faces questions about whether a state computer upgrade will finish in time to allow the transfer of electronic copies of birth certificates, passports and other documents needed to obtain or renew a driver's license to election officials. Some lawmakers wonder whether the state will be ready to issue free birth certificates, should people need them to register to vote.
Kobach wants the rule in place on June 15th. Questions from legislators show that many remain wary.
KS Lieutenant Governor Touts Measure Encouraging Hiring the Disabled
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer is promoting a measure that he says will encourage private companies to hire disabled Kansans.
The bill is before the House Appropriations Committee and deals with rules for companies seeking contracts with the state.
The bill allows qualified companies to be awarded state contracts for bids that are up to 10 percent higher than the most competitive bid offered.
A company would qualify if it primarily does business in Kansas and at least 20 percent of its full-time employees are disabled. Also, the company would have to pay at least 70 percent of the total health insurance costs for its workers.
Colyer says the proposal would provide an off-ramp from state medical services.
Woman Forms Boxing Club to Aid Victims of Bullying
PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. (AP) _ Teenagers who work out at a new boxing club in Johnson County never spar with each other.
Instead, teens at the Fight Club in Prairie Village hit only punching bags and discuss ways to be emotionally and physically stronger. The club is offered free to teens who want to stand up to bullies, either to protect themselves or to help their friends.
Founder Holly Reynolds says the Fight Club is not a self-defense program and it's not about fighting. She tells The Kansas City Star that the boxing and kickboxing is designed to help teenagers deal with their negative feelings.
She says the club does not tell the teenagers to go out and fight but gives them confidence to handle themselves and bullies.
2 Kansas Junior Colleges Try Out 4-day Class Week
HAYS, Kan. (AP) _ Skipping Friday classes won't be a problem for students at two western Kansas community colleges.
Starting in fall 2012, Colby Community College will do away with the traditional Monday, Wednesday and Friday classes. Now, there will be Monday and Wednesday classes that will meet for the same amount of time as Tuesday and Thursday classes.
Garden City Community College won't do away with traditional Friday classes. But it began piloting a four-day class week this semester and plans to expand the number of classes that won't meet on Fridays this fall. The college also is expanding hybrid courses that involve a combination of classroom and Internet instruction.
The schools say the goal is to better serve working and commuting students. Faculty and staff at both schools will continue working Fridays.
Rebuilding KU Football
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ Charlie Weis is trying to rebuild his reputation right along with the football program at the University of Kansas.
The former Notre Dame head coach was fired after five mediocre seasons in South Bend, his once- gleaming reputation tarnished by his failure under the golden dome.
After a year with the Kansas City Chiefs and another as offensive coordinator at Florida, Weis has decided to make his final stand at KU, home of a football program that not so long ago won the Orange Bowl but historically has had scant success.
Weis says he's learned to show humility and has never lost his passion and drive to win.
He'll need it at a school with three winning seasons in the past 16 years.
KS Senate to Debate Redistricting Proposals
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas Senate committee is expected to debate proposals for redrawing the boundaries for the four U.S. House districts reflecting changes in the 2010 census.
Legislators must redraw the boundaries every 10 years to reflect population shifts.While Kansas does not lose a district in this year's process, the geographic shapes must change.
At issue in the Senate meeting will be the issue of where to place Manhattan, currently in the 2nd District.
In the Kansas House, a committee will meet to discuss early versions of that chamber's 125 districts. Most of the changes will center on where to create new districts near Wichita and in Johnson County.
The two metropolitan areas saw the largest population gains, meaning rural districts will shift from their current form.
KS House Panel to Review Policy on Food Stamp Benefits
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas House committee is reviewing a new policy that reduced or cut off food stamp benefits to hundreds of U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.
The Appropriations Committee is planning to question Michelle Schroeder, public policy director for the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.
An SRS policy enacted October 1 changed how household incomes are calculated for determining eligibility for food stamps.
SRS officials have said the change ended a practice that favored families with illegal immigrants.
Legislators say they're sympathetic to the goal, but some say the state could attack the problem without cutting off food stamps to children.
SRS says about 2,000 children have lost food stamp benefits since October 1.
Chiefs Hire Special Teams Coach; Other Assistants Dismissed
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs have hired Tom McMahon to coach special teams while cutting ties with three assistants from former head coach Todd Haley's staff.
McMahon will take over for Steve Hoffman, who was not retained after Romeo Crennel was elevated from interim head coach to the permanent job. Wide receivers coach Richie Anderson and assistant offensive line coach Pat Perles were also let go.
The team announced the moves today (MON).
McMahon has spent the past three seasons coaching special teams for St. Louis. He's also spent time with the Atlanta Falcons and in the college ranks with Louisville.
The Chiefs still have not decided on an offensive coordinator.