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

Geographer of the United States to Speak at Dole Institute

The "Geographer of the United States" is a little-known position at the U-S State Department -- and the man who holds that position is speaking tonight (TUE) at the University of Kansas. Dr. Lee Schwartz will deliver an address at 7:30 tonight (TUE) at the Dole Institute of Politics. KPR's J. Schafer reached him earlier today (TUE) at Reagan National Airport.

That's Dr. Lee Schwartz, Geographer of the United States. He was speaking with KPR's J. Schafer. Dr. Schwartz speaks tonight (TUE) at 7:30 at the Dole Institute of Politics. The event is free and open to the public.

House Speaker Defends Fast Start on Social Legislation

Kansas Republican House Speaker Mike O'Neal of Hutchinson is defending the Legislature's speedy action on bills addressing social issues such as abortion, as opposed to its actions on the state's economy. Democrats say GOP lawmakers are breaking campaign pledges to address jobs...but O'Neal says longstanding legislative rules force social issues to the beginning of the session.

Last Friday was the first of many major deadlines facing this session of the Legislature. It saw movement on a number of issues important to many Republicans, including abortion restrictions, election isses, and the selection of state court judges.

Kansas City Broadcasting Legend Dies

One of the best known voices in this part of the country was silenced over the weekend. Legendary broadcaster Bill Grigsby died at the age of 89. His longest association with one team was with the Chiefs, but Grigsby also broadcast the 1957 NCAA championship game between North Carolina and the University of Kansas. Kansas Public Radio's Greg Echlin has more.

Republican State Senator Wants to Save Arts Commission

State-supported funding for the arts is under attack in several states, including Texas, Michigan and... here in Kansas. Republican Governor Sam Brownback has already signed an executive order to abolish the Kansas Arts Commission and replace that state agency with a private, non-profit arts foundation. Lawmakers could intervene -- and members of the Kansas Senate may just do that. Public radio's Kurt Anderson, of "Studio 360" -- a program produced by WNYC radio -- recently interviewed one state Senator who's hoping to save the Arts Commission. Republican Roger Reitz, of Manhattan, says eliminating the Arts Commission is bad for Kansas culture and bad for the state's economy.

That's Republican state Senator Roger Reitz, of Manhattan. He was speaking with Kurt Andersen of "Studio 360" -- a public radio program from PRI and WNYC Radio. You can join the conversation at the website: www.Studio360.org

KS Dept of Corrections to Take Another Budget Hit

Another big budget reduction has been scheduled for the Kansas Department of Corrections...an agency that's already been targeted for budget cuts in recent years. Department spokesperson Jan Lunsford says that jobs are likely to be lost in this round of cutting.

One of three deputy secretary positions that is currently vacant will not be filled. Lunsford says the exact number of reductions has yet to be determined, as officials weigh how the cuts could affect public safety. Lunsford says that contrary to cuts in previous years, no operating correctional facilities are currently slated to be shut down.

Push Developing to Preserve Kansas Arts Commission

A behind-the-scenes effort to retain the Kansas Arts Commission is being led by a Republican lawmaker at the Statehouse. State Senator Roger Reitz of Manhattan says Governor Sam Brownback's decision to privatize the Arts Commission is bad for the state...and he says there is enough support to override the move.

Brownback is moving to eliminate the Kansas Arts Commission as part of a series of budget cuts. He says creating a privately-run foundation will mean that the arts will continue to have financial support in the state, and that allowing donors to contribute could mean more money for arts programs in the long run.

Emergency Responders Want Pension Plan Changes

Emergency responders in Kansas are asking state lawmakers to make changes to their pension plans. Under current law, police and firefighters reach their maximum retirement benefits after 32 years on the job. Kansas City, Kan., firefighter Bob Wing says the cap encourages healthy workers to retire earlier than they otherwise might.

The cap has been in place for decades. Similar caps exist for Kansas judges, but there is no limit for most other public workers.

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