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

Brownback Medicaid Plan Drawing Concern from Experts

One of the goals of Governor Sam Brownback’s plan to overhaul Medicaid is to save money. As Jim McLean of the KHI News Service reports, that has experts urging caution.


Other stories related to this topic from KHI News:

Brownback Medicaid Makeover an “Ambitious” Plan

New Medicaid Waiver Process Stipulates Public Meeting and Comment

KanCare Concerns Voiced at Forum

Legislators to Propose KanCare Delay

 

 

 

Winter Wheat Looks Better, but Bugs Could Become Big Problem

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new report says Kansas' winter wheat crop continues to look better than last year's because of the mild winter temperatures. But in their report yesterday, state agriculture officials say the crop needs rain during the first weeks of emerging from dormancy.  Some wheat has begun joining in south-central and southeast Kansas.  Crop conditions declined slightly in the past week throughout the state. The latest ratings are 12 percent poor to very poor, 38 percent fair, 43 percent good 7 percent excellent.  At this time a year ago, the Kansas wheat crop was faring so badly that 40 percent was rated in poor to very poor condition.  Meanwhile, the mild and dry winter is giving insects a chance to survive and thrive, which could mean farmers are in for a tough spring season. Winter's cold and snow usually kills off many bugs, giving farmers a fresh start every spring. But one beekeeper in Niotaze, Kansas says he saw flies in February and bumble bees that usually don't appear until May or June. 

Regional Headlines for Tuesday, March 6, 2012

 

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Kansas House Member Faces Complaint over Tax Debate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Democrat in the Kansas House faces an investigation into whether he intentionally misled colleagues during a debate last month on property tax legislation. Twenty-six House Republicans filed a complaint Tuesday with the chamber's chief clerk against Representative Jim Ward, of Wichita. House rules require that a committee be appointed to investigate, but Ward says there was no wrongdoing. The Republicans want the House to consider removing Ward from his seat. The GOP lawmakers contend Ward misled them about an amendment he offered to a bill imposing a cap on local property taxes. Ward says Republicans didn't read the text of his amendment, which provided $45 million to local governments for property tax relief. The House passed the bill with Ward's amendment, but reversed course a few days later.

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Local Government Groups Oppose Kansas Property Tax Measure

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Groups representing Kansas cities and counties are trying to block a legislative proposal aimed at controlling property tax increases for home owners 65 and older. Lobbyists for the Kansas Association of Counties and the League of Kansas Municipalities testified Tuesday during a Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee hearing.
The groups oppose a proposed constitutional amendment to allow the Legislature to limit annual increases in values placed by county officials on homes owned by Kansans who are 65 or older. The constitution currently requires residential property to be valued uniformly. The lobbyists said taking such a step would be unfair to other taxpayers. But Senator Pat Apple, a Louisburg Republican, said the goal is to keep seniors in their homes. The committee took no action on the measure.

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Kansas Moves Closer to Ending Ban on "Happy Hour" Promotions

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas is moving closer to repealing a ban on happy hours at bars, taverns, clubs and restaurants. The state House gave first-round approval Tuesday to a bill repealing a law barring businesses that sell alcoholic beverages by the drink from setting different prices at different times of the day. The measure advanced on a voice vote with little debate. That struck some House members as unusual, given the state's decades of prohibition and it status as the place where Carrie Nation became famous for smashing saloons. But supporters said the free market ought to dictate when drink prices rise and drop. Also, they said, the existing law encourages merchants to offer cheap drinks all day, rather than just a few hours. Kansas has banned happy hour since 1985.

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Meeting in New Strawn to Discuss What's Wrong with Wolf Creek

Inspectors from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a public meeting tonight (TUE) to discuss problems at the Wolf Creek nuclear power plant.  The plant, near Burlington, has been idle for more than seven weeks.  Inspectors will present their findings and take questions from the public.  The meeting begins at 7pm at the New Strawn Community Center, located just off Highway 75, about five miles north of Burlington.

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KS Secretary of State Draws Criticism for Forming PAC

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is brushing off criticism over his forming his own political action committee.  Kobach says legislators are being hypocritical when they say it's inappropriate for the state's chief elections official to get involved in partisan election campaigns through a PAC.  Records of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission show that Kobach, a Republican, created the PAC — called Prairie Fire — on February 15, with himself as its chairman.  State Senator John Vratil, a Leawood Republican, said Kobach is supposed to be an unbiased elections official. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, said creating a PAC is highly inappropriate.  But Kobach said both are criticizing him because he's a conservative, and that they haven't said anything about political activities of past secretaries of state.

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Kansas Refinery Agrees to Fine and Pollution Controls

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Coffeyville Resources Refining & Marketing has agreed to pay a civil penalty and install new pollution controls and processes to settle alleged environmental violations at its Kansas refinery. The settlement announced Tuesday by the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency includes a $970,000 fine. It also requires the Coffeyville refinery to put in $4.25 million in upgraded pollution controls and $6.5 million in operating costs. Regulators say the improvements are designed to benefit the environment and protect the health of residents living near the facility. The agreement includes more stringent emission limits and more aggressive leak detection and repair practices. Environmental regulators say sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emitted from refineries can cause health problems and contribute to acid rain, smog and haze.

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GOP Presidential Candidate Gingrich Announces Kansas Stops

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is planning stops in all four Kansas congressional districts before and during the Saturday GOP caucuses. The former U.S. House speaker's campaign says Gingrich will visit Kansas Republican headquarters in Topeka at 9 am Friday, then meet with state lawmakers at the Capitol. Gingrich is scheduled to address the Kansas tea party convention in Wichita at 2:45 pm Friday. He and his wife, Callista, then plan to attend a Big 12 basketball tournament watch party at 8 pm Friday at Rookie's Sports Grille in Overland Park. On Saturday, Gingrich will speak to the Sedgwick County caucus in Wichita at 10 am and the Reno County caucus in Hutchinson about 90 minutes later. The caucuses will determine who wins the state's delegates to the GOP national convention.

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Suspect Pleads No Contest in McPherson Death

 MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) _ A McPherson man has pleaded no contest to first-degree murder in the death of a man whose body was dumped at Marion Reservoir. McPherson County Attorney David Page says 25-year-old Dustin Tyler Smith of McPherson entered the plea Monday in the May 2011 death of Justin Milne. In exchange for the plea, four other charges were dropped. KAKE-TV reports that Smith is scheduled to be sentenced May 7. Prosecutors say Milne was shot to death in McPherson and his body was taken to Marion Reservoir. The body was discovered in a campsite at the reservoir after Milne's burning car was found nearby.

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Kansas Woman Given 15 Years in Husband's Death

MARYSVILLE, Kan. (AP) _ A Marysville woman has been sentenced to nearly 15 years in prison in the death of her husband. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said 25-year-old Amanda Baynton was sentenced Tuesday for second-degree intentional murder and aggravated assault. Baynton pleaded no contest to the charges in January in the June 2011 death of her husband, 24-year-old Derek Bjorn Baynton. Marysville police have said Derek Baynton died after being shot several times at a home.

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Lawrence Woman Sentenced in Ex-Boyfriend's Death

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ A 32-year-old Lawrence woman has been sentenced to 50 years in prison for planning the murder of her ex-boyfriend in Missouri. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Annette Cross pleaded guilty last week and was sentenced for second-degree murder and other charges in the 2009 death of 37-year-old Andrew Day. Howell County, Missouri prosecutors accused Cross of driving her brother, Dale Cross, of Hannibal, to Day's his home outside Mountain View, Missouri. Dale Cross shot Day and they burned down the home, with Day's body inside. Dale Cross was given the same sentence earlier this year. The Crosses' mother, Joann Cross, and Dale Cross's fiancee, Kristin Smith, both of Hannibal, are serving 11-year and 10-year prison sentences respectively after they pleaded to conspiracy for their help buying the gun.

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Sedgwick County Deputies Cleared in Inmate's Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A Sedgwick County jury has cleared two jail deputies who were sued by the family of an inmate who died while in the jail. The family of Terry Bruner alleged in a lawsuit that deputies Mary Staton and Marque Jameson deliberately ignored Bruner's worsening health before he died in March 2008. The family sought up to $22 million in damages. The 46-year-old Bruner was in jail for driving under the influence. Bruner's attorney argued during the trial that the inmate was obviously ill for six days before his death and the deputies did not help him before an infection overwhelmed his body. The Wichita Eagle reports that attorneys for the deputies argued the deputies didn't know Bruner was ill and had no reason to deny him treatment.

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Wichita School Board Votes to Close 5 Schools

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ The Wichita school board has voted to close five schools and change school boundaries. The board's vote came after weeks of public controversy and emotional testimony at Monday's night's meeting. Wichita school board member Lanora Nolan said the board was forced to close four elementary schools and Northeast Magnet High School because of reductions in state funding in the past four years. The Wichita Eagle reports the vote came after several people stood and shouted in unison at board members before being ushered out by police. Board members and Superintendent John Allison say closing schools is necessary to open and operate five new schools being built as part of a $370 million bond issue. Opponents said the new schools aren't better than older, smaller neighborhood schools.

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Jury Rules for Ford in Leawood Man's Lawsuit over Fatal Accident

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A jury has ruled in favor Ford Motor Company in a lawsuit filed by a Kansas man who was seriously injured in an accident that also killed a Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper.
A Jackson County, Missouri jury ruled yesterday (MON) that Ford does not owe damages to Michael Nolte of Leawood, Kansas. He was severely burned in a 2003 accident that also killed Trooper Michael Newton.  Newton and Nolte were sitting in the trooper's Crown Victoria patrol car in May 2003 when it was hit from behind by a truck and burst into flames. Witnesses pulled Nolte from the wreckage.  The Kansas City Star reports that Nolte's attorney contended the vehicle's design caused the fire. Ford's attorneys said the distracted truck driver was to blame for the accident.

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KS Winter Wheat Looks Better, but Bugs Could be Big Problem

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new report says Kansas' winter wheat crop continues to look better than last year's because of the mild winter temperatures. But in their report yesterday, state agriculture officials say the crop needs rain during the first weeks of emerging from dormancy.  Some wheat has begun joining in south-central and southeast Kansas.  Crop conditions declined slightly in the past week throughout the state. The latest ratings are 12 percent poor to very poor, 38 percent fair, 43 percent good 7 percent excellent.  At this time a year ago, the Kansas wheat crop was faring so badly that 40 percent was rated in poor to very poor condition.  Meanwhile, the mild and dry winter is giving insects a chance to survive and thrive, which could mean farmers are in for a tough spring season. Winter's cold and snow usually kills off many bugs, giving farmers a fresh start every spring. But one beekeeper in Niotaze, Kansas says he saw flies in February and bumble bees that usually don't appear until May or June.

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Corps of Engineers: Missouri River Reservoirs Ready for Spring Runoff

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the Missouri River reservoirs have begun the spring runoff season with slightly more space than the normal amount for flood control storage. The corps says that as of Thursday, the system storage had an extra 300,000 acre-feet of storage. Runoff is expected to be near normal this year. Corps officials say the reservoirs were at desired levels last spring, but a late buildup of snow in the Rockies and heavy rains in Montana and other upstream areas in May led to record runoff. The corps was forced to release massive amounts of water from the dams, causing record flooding downstream. The more than 2,300-mile-long river flows from Montana through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri.

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TransCanada: New Pipeline Route to Be Ready in Weeks

HOUSTON (AP) _ An executive with the Canadian company seeking to build an oil pipeline across the United States to the Texas Gulf Coast says a plan for a new route around Nebraska's environmentally sensitive Sandhills region will be ready within weeks. TransCanada's president of energy and oil pipelines Alex Pourbaix said Tuesday that the company plans to resubmit its permit request to the U.S. State Department. He also says construction of the southern tier of the Keystone XL pipeline, which doesn't require a special permit, will begin by late spring or early summer. Pourbaix spoke at a panel discussion at an energy conference in Houston. He says the southern tier of the pipeline, from Cushing, Oklahoma through Texas, will help relieve but not completely eliminate a bottleneck at Midwest refineries.

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Fire Burns More than 2,000 Acres Near Fort Riley

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — Fire officials say a grass fire burned more than 2,000 acres near Fort Riley but did no damage to the fort or any of the fort's assets.  More than 40 firefighters from Fort Riley and the Geary County Rural Fire Department fought the blaze Sunday afternoon.  Fort Riley Fire officials say the blaze was a natural vegetation fire but it is unclear how it started.  KCLY News reports the fire occurred at US Hwy 77 and Kansas Hwy 82 along the northwest perimeter of the Fort Riley military training area.  About 2,036 acres burned and fire crews spent nearly 4½ hours on the fire line.

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Suspect in Manhattan Teen's Death Pleads Not Guilty

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A 15-year-old suspect in the shooting death of a Manhattan teenager has pleaded not guilty.  Cole Drake entered the plea yesterday (MON) to first-degree murder and aggravated robbery in the death of 14-year-old Tyler Dowling. Drake is being tried as an adult.  Dowling, a Manhattan High School freshman, was found dead last April in a field. Drake is also accused of taking items from Dowling, including his cell phone.  The Manhattan Mercury reports Drake's bond was set at $500,000.  His trial is scheduled to begin on September 24.

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Fort Riley Units Readying for Afghanistan

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — Ceremonies are planned at Fort Riley this week for two units of the 1st Infantry Division as they head for yearlong deployments to Afghanistan.  Tomorrow's (WED) event is for the division's headquarters unit, which will serve in a command and control capacity in Afghanistan. The division's headquarters served in a similar role in 2010 when it deployed to southern Iraq.  A second ceremony is planned Thursday for approximately 40 soldiers from the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment of the 84th Ordinance Battalion. While in Afghanistan, the unit will serve as the headquarters for six explosive ordnance disposal companies located throughout Regional Command East.  The unit will provide support for the 1st Infantry Division and work under Combined Task Force Paladin.

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Couple Gives $1.6 Million to Baker University

BALDWIN CITY, Kan. (AP) _ A couple from Wyoming has given $1.6 million to Baker University in Baldwin City. Baker University announced the gift Monday from Ross and Christine Hartley, of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Ross Hartley is a Baker alumnus who co-founded NIC Incorporated, an electronic government services company. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the money will bring Baker University close to its $10.3 million goal to fund a renovation and expansion of Mulvane Hall. The new 9,000-square-foot addition will be renamed Ross and Christine Hartley Hall.  The Hartleys are natives of Baxter Springs. They have previously donated $1 million to Baker to a library renovation project and founded the first endowed professorship at the Kansas University School of Nursing.

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KS Doctor Gets Probation for Bogus Research Data

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka doctor who conspired to falsify data in a 2010 clinical trial of an allergy pill on human subjects won't go to prison, but must make restitution to the pharmaceutical company that paid for the research.  The U.S. Attorney's office says 73-year-old Dr. Wayne Spencer was sentenced yesterday (MON) to one year of supervised release and $36,000 in restitution.  Spencer pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to defraud and failing to maintain records in a clinical trial as required by the Food and Drug Administration.  Another defendant, Olathe nurse Lisa Sharp, will be sentenced March 23.  Both worked for Lee Research Institute, which was paid by Schering-Plough to conduct the clinical trial on the allergy medication. Spencer was the principal investigator and Sharp was the lead research coordinator.

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Former Cessna Mechanic Gets 18 Months for Thefts

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Cessna Aircraft mechanic who fled to Ecuador after being charged with stealing aircraft parts has been sentenced in Wichita to 18 months in federal prison.  Diego Alejandro Paz Teran got the low end of sentencing guidelines for stealing parts and selling them on eBay. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot also ordered him to pay restitution of $130,000.  The 31-year-old defendant was on the lam for two years before returning to the U.S. to face charges. He'll be deported after leaving prison.  Teran said in court yesterday (MON) that he could not in good conscience avoid responsibility. He said he was a man of good moral character who made a mistake.  But Belot said he would not impose a sentence that did not reflect the seriousness of the crime.

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Michelle Obama Raises Funds in KC, St. Louis

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — First lady Michelle Obama traveled to Kansas City and St. Louis yesterday (MON) to raise funds and support for her husband's re-election campaign.  During a luncheon at the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City's 18th and Vine District, she extended her thoughts and prayers to the victims of the recent spate of deadly storms before delivering an endorsement of Barack Obama's presidency. The predominantly female crowd of about 300 people paid $200 and up for tickets.  Mrs. Obama's speech touched on immigration, health care, education and the president's nomination of two women to the Supreme Court. She also praised the auto bailout and said the president has the backs of American workers.  Some of the biggest applause came when she mentioned the killing of Osama bin Laden during last year's raid in Pakistan.

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KU Graduate Creates $100K Scholarship Endowment

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Georgia psychiatrist who holds bachelor's and medical degrees from the University of Kansas has donated $100,000 to the university's endowment.  The donation from Dr. Hugo Zee and his wife, Nora Dougherty Zee, of Atlanta, will create an endowed scholarship for medical students, with a preference for African-American students.  Zee emigrated to the U.S. from his native Holland in 1949, following World War II, and says he had his first exposure to racial separation on a train ride to Texas.  At St. Louis, he says, he noticed that the African-American passengers — including a man who had been especially kind to him — all moved to a separate train car.  Zee received his bachelor's degree from Kansas in 1954 and his medical degree from the School of Medicine in 1958.

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Brownback Signs Kansas Water Policy Changes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has signed to two bills in southwestern Kansas that he initiated to prolong the life of the state's water resources.  The Republican governor and key legislators were in Garden City yesterday (MON) to sign the measures that change how water-rights holders use their water.  One bill would repeal a 1945 law that required use of a certain amount of water each year under a so-called use-it-or-lose-it doctrine.  The other bill gives rights holders more flexibility in how they use their water each year. Brownback says it will allow for more water usage in dry years, with an eye toward conservation in wet years.  Both measures were part of the agenda Brownback outlined in January for the 2012 legislative session.

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UMKC to Break Ground on Entrepreneurship Hall

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Ground will be broken this week at the University of Missouri-Kansas City on a business school addition.  Called the Henry W. Bloch Executive Hall for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the addition will bear the name of the co-founder of the tax preparation company H&R Block.  Bloch will be on hand for Thursday's groundbreaking ceremony, along with Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and Tim Wolfe, president of the University of Missouri system.  Bloch has supported the UMKC's business school since he endowed it in 1986. Last fall, he announced that he was donating $32 million for the new hall. Officials have called it the largest outright gift in the university's history.  The new building is scheduled to open in fall 2013.

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Lovellette, Ewing Lead Class of 10 into College Basketball HOF

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Former University of Kansas star Clyde Lovellette and Georgetown Unniversity great Patrick Ewing lead a 10-member class that will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in November. The class was announced Tuesday in Kansas City. The two post players will be joined by North Carolina's Phil Ford, Wyoming's Kenny Sailors, Grambling's Willis Reed and Winston-Salem State's Earl Monroe. Also inducted will be Joe B. Hall, who followed Adolph Rupp as the coach of teh University of Kentucky, and Dave Robbins, who won more than 700 games at Virginia Union. Businessmen Jim Host and Joe Dean will enter the hall as contributors. The induction ceremony is scheduled for November 18 at the Midland Theatre in Kansas City. The following night, KU, Saint Louis, Texas A&M and Washington will play in the semifinals of the CBE Classic at the nearby Sprint Center.

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Unbeaten Baylor Headlines Women's Big 12 Tourney

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Baylor is chasing perfection in this week's Big 12 women's tournament. Most other teams are chasing bids to the NCAA tournament. The top-seeded Lady Bears can reach 40 wins with three in the league tournament in Kansas City and six more in the NCAA tournament. That would cap a perfect season and elevate them to the upper echelons of women's basketball history. Second-seeded Oklahoma and defending national champion Texas A&M appear to be safely in the NCAA tournament field. But things are wide open after that: Iowa State, Kansas State, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech could all play their way in. It should make for some tense drama at Municipal Auditorium.

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Newt Gingrich Names Kansas Election Team

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has named the members of his Kansas leadership team ahead of the state's upcoming GOP caucuses.  The former U.S. House speaker from Georgia has announced that Beverly Gossage and Mike Pirner will head his campaign efforts in Kansas.  Kansas Republicans are holding caucuses on Saturday to determine who wins the state's delegates to the party's national convention this summer.  Gossage will serve as statewide chairwoman for Gingrich. She is the owner of HSA Benefits Consulting and serves on the Kansas GOP executive committee.  Gingrich named Pirner as the state director of the campaign, assisted by Travis Couture-Lovelady and Rhandi Pendergrass.  Gingrich also named coordinators in each of the state's four congressional districts, as well as a 12-member legislative leadership team.

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KS Senate Panel to Consider Property Tax Measure

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee is considering a proposal aimed at controlling property tax increases on the homes of people 65 and older.  The Assessment and Taxation Committee scheduled a hearing today (TUE) on a proposed amendment to the state constitution. It would allow the Legislature to limit annual increases in values placed by county officials on homes owned by Kansans who are 65 or older.  The constitution currently requires residential property to be valued uniformly.  Homeowners can face property tax increases each year even if cities, counties and school districts don't increase their levies, because county appraisers can adjust home values. Supporters of the amendment want to protect retirees who live on fixed incomes.  Critics of such proposals have said a home's value shouldn't be divorced from its fair market value.

 

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Holds Public Meeting Regarding Wolf Creek Power Plant

 

Aerial view of Wolf Creek Nuclear Generating Station (photo courtesy of Westar Energy)Inspectors from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will conduct a public meeting this (TUE) evening near the Wolf Creek nuclear power plant.  As Kansas Public Radio’s Bryan Thompson explains, the meeting is being held to discuss the ongoing outage at the plant north of Burlington.

 

 

Harveyville Volunteers Encouraged to Contact Officials

Harveyville still needs volunteers for assistance with cleanup, but officials are asking those who want to help to get in touch with them first, before coming to the Wabaunsee County town. Kansas Highway Patrol trooper Mark Engholm is the public information officer for the recovery effort: 

 

 

KDOT says that the accelerated demolition and cleanup efforts have allowed Kansas Highway 195 through Harveyville to be reopened two days ahead of schedule. A memorial service for the man killed in the tornado, Richard Slade, is set for tomorrow (WED) at Mission Valley High School in Eskridge.

Volunteers are urged to call the United Way at 211 or to send an email to harveyvilletornado@gmail.com.

Lawrence Officials Review Policies in Ticket Scandal

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence officials are planning to review city policies after a scandal in which at least one police officer fixed speeding tickets in exchange for University of Kansas men's basketball tickets.  Police Chief Tarik Khatib says it's harder to fix tickets since his department started using electronic ticketing in 2006.  One police officer who was suspended resigned last month after the ticket-fixing issue was made public. City officials say the university official gave basketball tickets to the officer, who either dismissed or asked other officers to dismiss six tickets between 2000 and 2008.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports the city has said the person whose speeding tickets were dismissed is one of four Kansas Athletics employees in federal prison for their roles in a broader ticket scandal at the university.

Higley's "Home on the Range" Cabin Receives Grant

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The 140-year-old cabin where the words to what became the Kansas state song were written has received a grant to help restoration efforts, but more money is needed.  Brewster Higley wrote the words to "Home on the Range" in a cabin along Beaver Creek in Smith County in north-central Kansas. It is badly in need of repairs.  The Kansas State Historical Society recently announced a $24,600 grant to help with the restoration. But supporters say it will take an additional $50,000 to fix the cabin.  Two Kansas senators have sponsored a resolution that recognizes the historical significance of the cabin, and encourages Kansas students and others to help raise money for its restoration.

Annual Easter Egg Hunt at Cedar Crest Set for April 7

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and first lady Mary Brownback have announced the date for the annual children's Easter egg hunt at Cedar Crest, their official residence.  The event will take place at 11am on April 7, the Saturday before Easter. It's open to children ages 1 through 9, and a local radio station plans to broadcast live from the hunt and give away a bicycle.  Sponsors include the National Guard, the Kansas Capitol Police, Russell Stover Candies and Security Benefit Group, which has its headquarters about three-quarters of a mile to the west.  Shuttles from Security Benefit's parking lot to Cedar Crest will begin at 9am.  The governor's office says if there's rain, all candy will be donated to a local children's charity.

Regional Headlines for Monday, March 5, 2012

 






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Kansas Secretary of State Draws Criticism for Forming PAC
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has formed his own political action committee. Kobach faced bipartisan criticism Monday from legislators who said it's inappropriate for the state's chief elections official to possibly get involved in partisan election campaigns through a PAC. The Republican secretary of state did not immediately return messages seeking comment. Records of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission show that Kobach created the PAC — called Prairie Fire — on February 15, with himself as its chairman. State Senator John Vratil, a Leawood Republican, said Kobach is supposed to be an unbiased elections official. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, said creating a PAC is highly inappropriate. But House Elections Committee Chairman Scott Schwab, an Olathe Republican, says he's not bothered by Kobach's PAC.

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Kansas Democrats Urge Change in Corporate Influence on Campaigns
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Democrats in the Kansas Legislature say they'll push for a resolution urging Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to limit independent corporate campaign expenditures. The proposal comes from House Minority Leader Paul Davis, of Lawrence; Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka; and Senator Tom Holland, of Baldwin City. It would urge Congress to endorse a constitutional amendment overturning the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 decision in the case that's come to be known as "Citizens United.'' The court said corporations have the same free-speech rights as individuals, and their independent campaign expenditures can't be limited. The lawmakers say corporations shouldn't be treated as people. Kansas House Speaker Mike O'Neal, a Hutchinson Republican, calls the proposal an attack on small businesses and says the 2010 ruling ended limits for labor unions as well.

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Gingrich Names Kansas Election Team

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has named the members of his Kansas leadership team ahead of the state's upcoming GOP caucuses. The former U.S. House speaker from Georgia announced Monday that Beverly Gossage and Mike Pirner will head his campaign efforts in Kansas. Kansas Republicans are holding caucuses on Saturday to determine who wins the state's delegates to the party's national convention this summer. Gossage will serve as statewide chairwoman for Gingrich. She is the owner of HSA Benefits Consulting and serves on the Kansas GOP executive committee. Gingrich named Pirner as the state director of the campaign, assisted by Travis Couture-Lovelady and Rhandi Pendergrass. Gingrich also named coordinators in each of the state's four congressional districts, as well as a 12-member legislative leadership team.

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Weekend Shootings Claim 3 Lives in Kansas City, Kansas 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas City, Kansas police have identified three people who died in two separate shootings over the weekend.
Police say 21-year-old Keith E. Barnett and 21-year-old Ranisha Jones died at the Rosedale Ridge Apartments early Sunday. An 8-month-old was injured in the shooting. Police have said the infant was related to the deceased woman, but aren't saying how. No suspects have been arrested. In a shooting early Saturday, 48-year-old David E. Garner was found dead and a woman in her 30s was seriously injured. Police found them after responding to a home just after 1:30 am. Further information on the shootings has not been released.

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AP Analysis: Support Drops for KS 401(k)-Style Pension Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's support is keeping alive a proposal to start a 401(k)-style pension plan for new Kansas teachers and government workers as even fellow Republicans in the Legislature lose interest.  Public employee groups, their allies and increasingly skeptical GOP legislators have all but killed chances that Kansas will start a retirement plan similar to ones now common for private companies as a way of controlling the state's long-term pension costs.  House and Senate committees are working on alternatives to a 401(k)-style plan.  But their work will amount to little if they don't get Brownback on board, and he's not backing away from his support for a 401(k)-style plan. The possibility of a veto is a powerful incentive for Republicans who control both chambers to return to the 401(k) fold.  

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Compromise Seen on KS Hunting and Fishing Fees for Seniors

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A compromise may be in the works on a plan to start making older Kansans pay for hunting and fishing licenses.  The annual licenses cost $20.50 each. Kansas adopted a license exemption for people 70 and older in 1937, then dropped the age to 65 in 1971.  Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Secretary Robin Jennison says the exemption will cost his department more than $1 million in the coming years as the population ages. He has proposed ending the exemption — an idea that lawmakers say is highly unpopular.  But at a Senate committee hearing last week, Jennison said he's open to alternatives, such as raising the age for free passes to 75 or creating a half-price license for senior citizens.  Repealing the exemptions requires legislative action.

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Fire Burns More Than 2,000 Acres Near Fort Riley

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — Fire officials say a grass fire burned more than 2,000 acres near Fort Riley but did no damage to the fort or any of the fort's assets. More than 40 firefighters from Fort Riley and the Geary County Rural Fire Department fought the blaze Sunday afternoon. Fort Riley Fire officials say the blaze was a natural vegetation fire, but it is unclear how it started. KCLY News reports the fire occurred at US Hwy 77 and Kansas Hwy 82 along the northwest perimeter of the Fort Riley military training area. About 2,036 acres burned and fire crews spent nearly 4½ hours on the fire line.

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Brownback Signs Water Policy Changes into Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has signed two bills he initiated to prolong the life of the state's water resources.  The Republican governor and key legislators visited Garden City Monday to sign the measures that change how water-rights holders use their water.  One bill repeals a 1945 law that required use of a certain amount of water each year under a so-called "use-it-or-lose-it" doctrine.  The other bill gives rights holders more flexibility in how they use their water each year. Brownback says it will allow for more water usage in dry years, with an eye toward conservation in wet years.  Both measures were part of the agenda Brownback outlined in January for the 2012 legislative session.

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Sedgwick County Escapee Still at Large

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Sedgwick County authorities are asking for the public's help to find a man who escaped from the Sedgwick County Jail two weeks ago. KFDI reports that 33-year-old Sean McKenzie is still on the loose after walking away from the jail February 25. McKenzie was a trustee at the jail. He and two other trustees were taking out trash when McKenzie fled. He was being held on burglary, theft and drug charges. McKenzie is 5'11", 175 pounds, with blue eyes and brown hair. He has several tattoos, including the Alpha and Omega symbols on the rear of his calves, the English Lion on his right bicep, a large cross with circle on the left bicep, and the words "never, never, never give up" across his upper chest. 

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KC Hospital Offers Intestinal Center for Children

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City has opened a center to treat young children with relatively rare intestinal conditions that can be life-threatening.  And later this year, Children's Mercy plans to become only the third medical center in the country to perform bowel transplants on children.  The director of the center, Joel Lim, says the clinic sees children who need special feedings because their bowels have malfunctioned for different reasons. About 45 children currently are being treated at the clinic.  The Kansas City Star reports that some the children were born with intestines that cannot absorb nutrients adequately, while others have malformed bowels.  Lim says the children have complicated medical conditions that need specialized help, but many of them can eventually lead normal lives.

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KS Doctor Sentenced to Probation in Bogus Research Data Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka doctor who conspired to falsify data in a 2010 clinical trial of an allergy pill on human subjects won't go to prison, but must make restitution to the pharmaceutical company that paid for the research. The U.S. Attorney's office says 73-year-old Dr. Wayne Spencer was sentenced Monday to one year of supervised release and $36,000 in restitution. Spencer pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to defraud and failing to maintain records in a clinical trial as required by the Food and Drug Administration. Another defendant, Olathe nurse Lisa Sharp, will be sentenced March 23. Both worked for Lee Research Institute, which was paid by Schering-Plough to conduct the clinical trial on the allergy medication. Spencer was the principal investigator and Sharp was the lead research coordinator.

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Jury Selection to Begin in 2002 Double Slaying

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Jury selection gets underway this week in the trial of a former Kansas woman accused of killing her ex-husband and his girlfriend nearly a decade ago.  Prosecutors say 51-year-old Dana Chandler fatally shot the two July 7, 2002, after her ex-husband, Mike Sisco, told her he was going to marry his girlfriend, Karen Harkness.  Chandler is facing two counts of premeditated first-degree murder. Prosecutors say 47-year-old Sisco was shot seven times and 53-year-old Harkness was shot five times while they slept.  Chandler was living in Denver at the time of the killings, but was staying in a tiny Oklahoma trailer when she was arrested last July.  Both sides have said there has been no physical evidence linking Chandler to the murders. Jury selection begins today (MON) and is expected to last at least two days.

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Lawrence Officials Eye Policies in Ticket Scandal

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence officials are planning to review city policies after a scandal in which at least one police officer fixed speeding tickets in exchange for University of Kansas men's basketball tickets.  Police Chief Tarik Khatib says it's harder to fix tickets since his department started using electronic ticketing in 2006.  One police officer who was suspended resigned last month after the ticket-fixing issue was made public. City officials say the university official gave basketball tickets to the officer, who either dismissed or asked other officers to dismiss six tickets between 2000 and 2008.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports the city has said the person whose speeding tickets were dismissed is one of four Kansas Athletics employees in federal prison for their roles in a broader ticket scandal at the university.

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Former Cessna Mechanic Sentenced to 18 Months for Thefts

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Cessna Aircraft Company mechanic who fled to Ecuador after being charged with stealing aircraft parts has been sentenced in Wichita to 18 months in federal prison. Diego Alejandro Paz Teran got the low end of sentencing guidelines for stealing parts and selling them on eBay. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot also ordered him to pay restitution of $130,000. The 31-year-old defendant was on the lam for two years before returning to the U.S. to face charges. He'll be deported after leaving prison. Teran said in court Monday he could not in good conscience avoid responsibility. He said he was a man of good moral character who made a mistake. But Belot said he would not impose a sentence that did not reflect the seriousness of the crime.

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Michelle Obama Makes Fundraising Visit to KC 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — First lady Michelle Obama was in Kansas City on Monday for a fundraising trip for her husband. During a luncheon at the American Jazz Museum in the 18th and Vine District, she extended her thoughts and prayers to the victims of the recent spate of deadly storms before delivering an endorsement of Barack Obama's presidency. The predominantly female crowd of about 300 people paid $200 and up for tickets. "Your president has worked very hard to dig us out of this mess," she said. "We have a long way to go. We have work to do." Michelle Obama's speech touched on immigration, health care, education and the president's nomination of two women to the Supreme Court. She also praised the auto bailout and said the president has the backs of American workers. Some of the biggest applause came when she mentioned the killing of Osama bin Laden during last year's raid in Pakistan. Afterward she met one-on-one with some guests. Jillian McCallister, 11, of Kansas City, asked what it was like to meet pop sensation Justin Bieber, who has performed at the White House. Her father, attorney Brian McCallister, said the photographer hired to take pictures of the first lady with guests was giving Obama "the evil eye to move it along." "She says to him, 'We are talking about important things here, Justin Bieber. I'm not talking about health care right now. I'm talking about Justin Bieber.'" From Kansas City, Obama was flying to St. Louis to attend a reception at the Peabody Opera House in St. Louis.

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Crews Contain Propane Leak in Northern Oklahoma

MEDFORD, Okla. (AP) — Officials say Oklahoma Natural Gas crews have contained a propane leak that prompted a voluntary evacuation of a northern Oklahoma town.  ONEOK (WUN' oak) spokeswoman Megan Washbourne and Medford City Manager Dea Kretchmar said Sunday workers are still trying to cap the leak, but they were waiting on a part to finish the job. Washbourne said she couldn't identify what the part is.  The leak began last Tuesday at a fuel-storage plant owned by ONEOK, which is ONG's parent company. Residents were evacuated out of concern the vapors could pose a fire risk if a pocket of propane ignited.  The Environmental Protection Agency said contractors planned to pump a brine and mud mixture into an underground well to stop the leak.  Kretchmar says residents who left their homes in the Oklahoma town near the Kansas state line returned by Sunday.

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NWS Reviews Decisions on Tornado Warnings

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Meterologists in the Topeka bureau of the National Weather Service say the tornado that hit Harveyville last week formed too quickly to give them enough time to issue a warning.
The EF2 tornado killed one person, injured 11 others and damaged about 40 percent of the Wabaunsee County town last Tuesday.  Chad Omitt, meteorologist in charge of the Topeka branch, says the storm that had produced two tornadoes in Reno County appeared to be weakening. And radar did not show the rotation until the tornado was directly over Harveyville.  The Wichita Eagle reports that another problem was how quickly everything happened. The storm went from looking like a thunderstorm on one radar scan to showing a tornado in another scan four minutes later. On the next scan, the tornado was gone.

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Higley's "Home on the Range" Cabin Receives Grant

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The 140-year-old cabin where the words to what became the Kansas state song were written has received a grant to help restoration efforts, but more money is needed.  Brewster Higley wrote the words to "Home on the Range" in a cabin along Beaver Creek in Smith County in north-central Kansas. It is badly in need of repairs.  The Kansas State Historical Society recently announced a $24,600 grant to help with the restoration. But supporters say it will take an additional $50,000 to fix the cabin.  Two Kansas senators have sponsored a resolution that recognizes the historical significance of the cabin, and encourages Kansas students and others to help raise money for its restoration.

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Kansas Jayhawks Dominate Voting by Big 12 Coaches

DALLAS (AP) — Kansas forward Thomas Robinson has been voted the Big 12's best player by league coaches, while Bill Self was picked as co-coach of the year along with Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg.  Robinson was joined on the All-Big 12 first team on Sunday by teammate Tyshawn Taylor. The Cyclones' Royce White, Marcus Denmon of Missouri and J'Covan Brown rounded out the five-member squad.  Baylor's Quincy Acy and Pierre Jackson made the second team along with Missouri's Ricardo Ratliffe, Oklahoma State's Keiton Page and Rodney McGruder of Kansas State.  Bears forward Perry Jones III was joined on the third team by Iowa State's Scott Christopherson, the Jayhawks' Jeff Withey and Missouri guards Kim English and Phil Pressey.  Baylor's Quincy Miller and Oklahoma State's Le'Bryan Nash were co-freshmen of the year. White was the top newcomer, Withey the top defender and Michael Dixon of Missouri the best sixth man.

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KS Gov Announces Date for Annual Easter Egg Hunt at Cedar Crest

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and first lady Mary Brownback have announced the date for the annual children's Easter egg hunt at Cedar Crest, their official residence.  The event will take place at 11am on April 7, the Saturday before Easter. It's open to children ages 1 through 9, and a local radio station plans to broadcast live from the hunt and give away a bicycle.  Sponsors include the National Guard, the Kansas Capitol Police, Russell Stover Candies and Security Benefit Group, which has its headquarters about three-quarters of a mile to the west.  Shuttles from Security Benefit's parking lot to Cedar Crest will begin at 9am.  The governor's office says if there's rain, all candy will be donated to a local children's charity.

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School Tranfer Case with Implications for Kansas City District Begins

CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) — A St. Louis County judge has begun hearing arguments in a case that has the potential to allow thousands of Kansas City and St. Louis students to leave their unaccredited school systems. The hearing, which began Monday, involves a state law that requires unaccredited districts to pay tuition and transportation for students within their boundaries to attend accredited schools. After the St. Louis district lost its accreditation in 2007, several families in that district that had been paying to send children to the suburban Clayton School District decided they were owed free transfers. They sued when Clayton refused to send the tuition bills to St. Louis. The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in 2010 in the parents' favor, but sent the case back to St. Louis County Circuit Court for further consideration.

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Chiefs Receiver Dwayne Bowe Gets Franchise Tag

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Chiefs have made Dwayne Bowe their franchise player, keeping the impact wide receiver off the free-agent market this offseason. Kansas City made the move less than an hour before Monday's deadline, even though it had long been expected. Bowe is guaranteed a salary of about $9.5 million next season, though the Chiefs have indicated they would like to sign him to a long-term deal. Bowe could still field offers from other teams, but the Chiefs would have the right to match. If they decline, they would lose Bowe but receive two first-round draft picks. Bowe had 81 catches for 1,159 yards and five touchdowns last season, even though Kansas City struggled with injuries to quarterback Matt Cassel and running back Jamaal Charles. Bowe had 72 catches for 1,162 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2010, when he made the Pro Bowl.

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Former Cessna Mechanic Faces Sentencing for Thefts

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A mechanic who fled to Ecuador after he was charged with stealing aircraft parts is due back in federal court in Wichita to be sentenced.  Former Cessna Aircraft Company mechanic Diego Alejandro Paz Teran has asked for leniency at his sentencing today (MON) for selling stolen parts on eBay.  Teran was on the lam for two years before returning to the United States to face the charges.  His sentencing comes a week after U.S. District Judge Monti Belot angrily postponed a hearing over the testimony of a government witness.  The judge at the time berated the prosecutor over a Cessna employee who was unable to answer questions on the stand about the value of the stolen parts. The amount of the loss affects the possible sentence.

 

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KS Doctor Faces Sentencing for Bogus Research

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka doctor who conspired to falsify data in a 2010 clinical trial of an allergy pill on human subjects has asked a judge to spare him from prison.  The doctor, 73-year-old Wayne Spencer, faces sentencing today (MON) in federal court in Topeka.  He pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to defraud and failing to maintain records in a clinical trial as required by the Food and Drug Administration. Sentencing for Olathe nurse Lisa Sharp is March 23rd.  Both defendants worked for Lee Research Institute, which was paid by Schering-Plough to conduct the clinical trial on the allergy medication. Spencer was the principal investigator and Sharp was the lead research coordinator.  Spencer voluntarily surrendered his medical license in December.  


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