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Regional Headlines for Friday, April 5, 2013



Kansas Proposal for $1.5B in Pension Bonds Advances

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has approved a bill authorizing $1.5 billion in bonds to bolster the short-term financial health of the state pension system for teachers and government workers. The Ways and Means Committee's voice vote Friday sends the measure to the Senate for debate, probably after lawmakers return from their annual spring break in May. The House approved the bill last week. The state pension system's assets now cover only 53 percent of its long-term obligations, and issuing bonds would allow the state to boost that percentage to 61 percent in 2015 and accelerate its rise to 100 percent by 2033. But the state would be gambling that its pension system would earn more from investing the bond funds than it would pay in interest to bond buyers.


Kansas Governor Has Misgivings About Pension Bonds

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says he's concerned about a bill authorizing $1.5 billion in bonds to shore up the state pension system for teachers and government workers. Brownback said Friday that such a measure needs to be coupled with other pension reforms. The governor commented shortly after the Senate Ways and Means Committee approved the bonding bill. The committee's voice vote sends the measure to the Senate for debate after lawmakers return from their annual spring break in May. The House approved the bill last week. The state pension system's assets now cover only 53 percent of its long-term obligations. Revenue from the bonds could boost that percentage to 61 percent in 2015 and accelerate its rise to 100 percent by 2033.


Kansas Senate Approves Gun Law Changes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has approved legislation that would let people carry concealed weapons into more public buildings and allow schools and colleges to arm employees. Friday's 32-7 vote sent the measure to the House, where a separate gun-related measure is pending. The concealed-carry bill would let people with permits bring firearms into public buildings deemed to have adequate security, such as metal detectors and trained guards. The bill includes the Statehouse, but only if legislative leaders decide the building is secure after a 10-year renovation is finished in 2014. The other bill declares that the federal government has no power to regulate guns, ammunition and accessories that are made, sold and kept exclusively in Kansas. The bill would make it a felony for a federal agent to enforce restrictions on such items.


Kansas Senate Approves Sweeping Anti-Abortion Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has approved a sweeping anti-abortion bill that blocks tax breaks for providers and outlaws abortions solely because of the baby's sex. The vote was 28-10 Friday on a compromise version of the bill reconciling differences with the House, where passage would send the bill to Governor Sam Brownback. The House could vote later Friday. Supporters expect the Republican governor to sign the bill. The measure also declares that life begins "at fertilization." Abortion opponents see that language as a statement of principle, but some critics worry it could have practical implications. The bill prohibits abortion providers from being involved in public school sex education classes and spells out in more detail what information doctors must provide to patients seeking abortions.


Kansas Senate Approves Liquor Law Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Senators have approved a bill that would make changes to Kansas liquor laws, including granting authority to legislative leaders to allow alcohol at approved Statehouse functions. The measure, which was approved 29-10 on Friday, grants the Legislative Coordinating Council the authority to allow liquor to be served in the building. The intent is to allow drinks to be served during an event in the Statehouse to mark completion of more than 10 years of renovations to the building. Critics argue that the language could be construed to allow drinking at any approved Statehouse function...possibly even the legislative session. Supporters, including Senate President Susan Wagle, said the intent was to allow alcohol only for the one-time celebration marking completion of the renovations.


Kansas Telecom Overhaul Approved; Heads to Governor

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have given final approval to a bill reducing state regulation of telecommunications while beginning to phase out state subsidies for telecom firms. The House passed the bill Friday on a vote of 99-20. The Senate passed it Thursday, 37-3. The measure is a compromise that reconciles differences between the two chambers and now heads to Governor Sam Brownback. Under the bill, some telecommunications firms could avoid minimum service quality standards or having to provide land-line service to all customers. But the measure also reduces the subsidies for universal land-line service financed through a charge on customers' bills. Affected companies include AT&T. The state's largest phone service provider pushed for the measure. Critics say the bill will hurt consumers. Backers say competition will protect customers.

Topeka Police Drop Edwards Assault Claim

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police say there's not enough information to continue investigating an alleged attack of Haysville Republican Representative Joe Edwards. Topeka Police Major Warren Wilson told WIBW that the case has been closed and will stay closed unless new information becomes available. Edwards told authorities in February that he was hit in the head and robbed while entering a Topeka hotel room after the State of the State Address. Wilson says hotel security reported that video footage and electronic key records showed Edwards entered his room alone that night. Edwards was hospitalized with a concussion after the alleged attack. Warren says the investigation couldn't be taken any further and has been forwarded to the district attorney's office. Edwards didn't immediately return a call seeking comment Friday.

Kansas Agriculture Department Moving to Manhattan

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Agriculture says it will move most of its programs to Manhattan by the summer of 2014. Agriculture Secretary Dale Rodman announced the decision Thursday, calling Manhattan the state's "value-added center for agriculture" because of the educational and bio-science entities located there. The agency will be housed in a new building at Kansas State University's research park. Also nearby are the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, on which construction is pending, and other agricultural entities. It wasn't immediately clear how many employees will be affected. The Agriculture Department will keep its main office in Topeka, where it now has 174 employees. Field offices in Stafford, Stockton, Parsons and Garden City will also remain open. The KSU Foundation will construct the building and rent it to the department.

Prospects for New KBI Crime Lab Improving

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — It appears more likely that a Kansas Bureau of Investigation forensics laboratory will be built at Washburn University after some lawmakers who had opposed it said they now support the project. The House Appropriations Committee twice rejected pleas for $3.5 million in planning and design money for the lab. On Thursday, some of those lawmakers announced their support. Representative Mark Hutton, a Republican from Wichita, says Washburn had answered many of his questions, including that the state would own the building once bonds are paid off. And the $3.5 million will be repaid to the transportation department by being rolled into the KBI lease. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the KBI says it has a large backlog of DNA testing because the current forensics lab is inadequate.

Research Firm Adding Division HQ in Kansas

STILWELL, Kan. (AP) — A worldwide agricultural research company has chosen northeastern Kansas for the headquarters of one of its divisions. California-based Syntech Research already has a laboratory in the Johnson County community of Stilwell. The Kansas Commerce Department and the Kansas Bioscience Authority said Thursday the company will also locate its contract research organization headquarters in Stilwell. Nearly 90 jobs are expected to be added over the next five years at the headquarters. SynTech does research for the agricultural, biotechnology and food industries. It has operations and field locations throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Tyson Agrees to $4M Penalty to Resolve EPA Case

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The U.S. government says Tyson Foods has agreed to pay roughly $4 million in civil penalties to settle alleged violations related to eight accidental releases of anhydrous ammonia that happened over a four-year span and caused one death. The Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency says the deal in a St. Louis federal court with the nation's biggest meat company involves alleged Clean Air Act violations at Tyson sites in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska. The government says the incidents in questioned happened between 2006 and 2010. Arkansas-based Tyson says it cooperated with the EPA and immediately addressed the agency's concerns. As part of the settlement, Tyson also will provide $300,000 to help purchase emergency response equipment for fire departments in nine communities where it has plants.

OSHA Fines Salina Roofing Company for Employee Fall

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina roofing company faces a proposed federal fine of $115,000 because an employee was left paralyzed after falling from a roof. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also cited Ryan Roofing with three willful safety violations after the worker suffered a broken neck and was paralyzed when he fell from the roof of a Hoisington building in 2012. OSHA says in a release Friday that the company didn't evaluate working conditions or provide workers with fall protection to prevent severe injuries. OSHA also says the company has been cited previously for lack of fall protection and training and is now in the federal agency's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which requires follow-up inspections. Ryan Roofing can contest the findings. The company didn't immediately return a call seeking comment Friday.


Driver Killed When '41 Packard Hits Wichita Home

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Investigators are checking whether a classic car had mechanical problems before it slammed into a northwest Wichita house, killing the driver. KAKE-TV reports that police on Friday identified the driver as 84-year-old Murvall "Gene" Dick. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash Thursday afternoon. Dick was at the wheel of a 1941 Packard convertible when it veered off a residential street and crashed into a home. A friend who was following in another classic car told police he saw the Packard accelerate suddenly before it went out of control. No one else was injured.


Man Sentenced to Nearly 24 Years in Topeka Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A man was sentenced to nearly 24 years in prison for a shooting death near a Topeka high school. Twenty-one-year-old Austin Tabor of Topeka was sentenced Friday for the October 2010 death of 20-year-old Matthew C. Mitchell and the wounding of 17-year-old Treshawn Wynne near Topeka West High School. Tabor pleaded no contest in September to second-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder and drug-related charges. Police say Tabor and others went to the school after it closed to buy marijuana. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Mitchell and Tabor had been friends from elementary school through high school.


Kansas Woman Charged with Picking Up Mailed Meth

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 41-year-old Topeka woman is charged with picking up a 7-pound package containing methamphetamine from a post office after law enforcement agents were tipped off the drugs would be there. Prosecutors say Maria DeSocorro Martinez was arrested March 18 after going into the Topeka post office to pick up the package. The item had been under surveillance for two days after an informant told officers a shipment from California contained the drugs. Martinez was charged in an indictment filed Wednesday with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. If convicted she could face a penalty of 10 years to life and a fine of up to $10 million. Her attorney was not available for comment after hours Thursday.

Atchison Police Seize Airplane Full of Marijuana

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — Police seized an airplane full of marijuana and arrested five people at a northeast Kansas airport. Atchison police Mike Wilson says investigators found 42 pounds of marijuana on the airplane Wednesday night at Amelia Earhart Airport. Wilson says police received information that the 1952 Beechcraft C-35 aircraft was headed to Atchison and a car from Kansas City would be waiting for it. When the plane landed, officers arrested three people from Colorado in the plane. A fourth Colorado resident and a Kansas City resident were arrested in the car. The St. Joseph News-Press reports that the suspects are in custody at the Atchison County Jail. The investigation is continuing.


Salina Police: Arrested Woman Had 4 Pounds of Marijuana

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Salina police say a 19-year-old woman was arrested after officers found about 4 pounds of marijuana in her car. Lieutenant Jim Norton says the woman was stopped Wednesday for speeding in a school zone. He says the officer was overwhelmed by the smell of marijuana as he walked toward the car. The Salina Journal reports that police found 3.8 pounds of marijuana and $3,200 in cash in the car. The drugs were packaged in large bags, small bags, metal containers, a cooler, backpack and purse. The suspect is a former Salina resident who lives in Colorado. Norton says the marijuana was purchased in Colorado for resale in Salina. Norton estimated the street value of the marijuana at $10,100.

Man Sentenced in Garden City Hospital Bomb Threat

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Garden City man was sentenced to 10 days in county jail and 36 months' probation for a bomb threat that briefly closed a hospital. The Finney County Attorney says 38-year-old Michael Clayton Mann was sentenced Thursday for aggravated criminal threat. Prosecutors say housekeeping found the bomb threat in July 2012 carved into a men's bathroom stall at St. Catherine Hospital in Garden City. Most of the hospital was closed while it was searched but no suspicious device was found. The Garden City Telegram reports that an investigation linked the threat to Mann, who worked in housekeeping at the hospital. As part of the plea deal, three other charges were dismissed including one involving a second threat made to the hospital in October 2012.

State Presenting Evidence Against Ex-Cadet

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A former cadet leader at a Kansas military school is due in court for a hearing on whether there's enough evidence to try him on charges of sexual battery against a younger student. The preliminary hearing for 18-year-old David James Burke, of McLean, Virginia was scheduled Friday in Saline County District Court. The case stems from incidents alleged to have occurred last October at St. John's Military School in Salina involving another cadet age 16 or older. Burke is charged with seven counts of aggravated sexual battery and one count of attempted aggravated criminal sodomy. A lawyer for Burke has said his client denies anything happened in the way of a felony. Court filings showed at least seven witnesses were subpoenaed to testify at the hearing.

KCK Mother Charged with Trying to Drown Girls

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas mother accused of trying to drown her two young children was on suicide watch a day after being charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder. Johnna Green made her first appearance on Friday in a brief teleconference in front of Fred Zimmerman, a Kansas City, Kansas attorney serving as a temporary judge. The 23-year-old mother is accused of attempting to drown her daughters, ages 1 and 4, on Tuesday before calling 911. The girls were taken to University of Kansas Hospital, where they remained in critical condition Friday. John DeMarco and former Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison have been hired to represent the family. DeMarco waived a reading of the charges at the hearing Friday and the case was put on a docket for next week.


KSU Finds Upside to Elevated Carbon Dioxide Levels

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas State University researcher has found an agricultural upside to elevated carbon dioxide levels in the earth's atmosphere. Agronomy professor Mary Beth Kirkham says experiments have shown that the elevated levels allow winter wheat and sorghum to use water more efficiently, which mitigates the effect drought has on those crops. She's written a book on the subject, using data going back to 1958, when the first accurate measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide were made. Data shows that carbon dioxide concentrations have increased from 316 parts per million to 390 parts per million from 1958 to 2011, the last year with complete data available. Kirkham says elevated carbon dioxide closes pores on the leaves through which water escapes. That means less water is used when carbon dioxide levels are elevated.

Winner of Lucas Council Seat Is Not a US Citizen

LUCAS, Kan. (AP) — The winner of a city council seat in a small north central Kansas town probably won't ever serve in office, at least until he becomes a U.S. citizen. Adam Baker is a British immigrant living in Lucas, a town of about 500 people in Russell County. He has applied for U.S. citizenship but has been waiting for two years to receive it. Baker won a city council seat in Tuesday's election after 62 people wrote in his name, giving him three more votes than the incumbent. Baker says he told people before the election about his citizenship status and that he likely wouldn't be able to be on the council. The Salina Journal reports  the Russell County commissioners will discuss the issue while canvassing votes next Monday.

Hurricane Irene Turns Out to Be Good Luck for Shockers

ATLANTA (AP) — As Hurricane Irene churned along the East Coast, flight after flight got canceled and Cleanthony Early remembers thinking to himself, "I'm stuck in Kansas." The talented forward from upstate New York was on a recruiting visit to Wichita State at the time. The first two days had gone well, though, and he was starting to think that he might someday play for the Shockers. Then he wound up stuck there for three more days, and he came away convinced. The rangy 6-foot-8 forward with the versatile inside-outside game spurned overtures from Baylor, Alabama and Missouri to commit to coach Gregg Marshall's rapidly improving program. The gamble paid off and now Early will be playing in a national semifinal Saturday night when the Shockers take on the University of Louisville Cardinals.



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