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Regional Headlines for Friday, February 1, 2013


Kansas AG Files Appeal of Ruling on School Funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office has filed its expected appeal of a ruling on school funding with the state Supreme Court. Schmidt's office took the action Friday in hope of overturning a decision last month by a three-judge panel in Shawnee County. The judges said the state isn't spending enough on public schools to meet its obligation under the Kansas Constitution to finance a suitable education for every child. Legislators would have to boost annual spending on schools by at least $440 million to comply with the order. The lower court ruling came in a lawsuit filed by 32 students, their parents and guardians and four school districts. Schmidt's office had promised an appeal. It's not clear when the Supreme Court will take up the appeal.


January KS Tax Collection Yields $62M More Than Expected

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas revenue officials say the state collected $62 million more in taxes than expected in January. A preliminary report Thursday from the Department of Revenue says January's tax collections totaled nearly $635 million — almost 11 percent above an official forecast for the month. The report also says the state collected about $3.7 billion in the first seven months of the current fiscal year. That's $95 million more than officials had expected. January's larger-than-expected collections are likely to dramatically shrink the projected $267 million gap between anticipated revenues and current spending commitments for the fiscal year that starts July 1st.

Kansas Revenue Chief Not Moved by National Tax Study

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan says he doesn't put much stock in a recent study from a non-partisan research group suggesting the state's tax system is unfair to the poor. Jordan said Thursday the Washington-based Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy praises states that rely heavily on personal income taxes for revenues while keeping their sales taxes relatively low. Jordan and Governor Sam Brownback argue that eliminating Kansas income taxes will spur economic growth and create jobs. Also, Jordan noted that under the institute's analysis, no state has the wealthiest 1 percent of residents paying the same percentage of their incomes in state and local taxes as the poorest 20 percent. The institute said Kansas had the 14th greatest disparity of any state.

Kansas Joins National Mortgage Settlement

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas and 45 other states have reached a settlement with a Florida company over allegations of improper signing of mortgage documents. Attorney General Derek Schmidt said Thursday the agreement requires Lender Processing Services Inc. to re-examine previously signed documents to ensure that the rights of homeowners were protected. The company will be required to review documents signed between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2010, to determine if they need to be corrected. The settlement requires proper execution of the documents and prohibits signatures by individuals without firsthand knowledge attested to in the documents. It also requires examining if any third-party fees paid for the documents were earned, reasonable and accurate.

KS House Bill Would Allow Religious Symbols on Public Land

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House is considering a bill that would allow some religious symbols on public lands. The religious symbols would be permitted if they are part of the community's history or heritage. The Wichita Eagle reports the bill is a reaction to an incident last summer, when a group threatened to sue the town of Buhler because its official city sign included a cross. The town replaced it with similar signs on private land. The bill would also allow religious displays in public schools, if they are part of a course of study. Representative Don Schroeder of Hesston told a House committee Thursday that he believed religious displays like Buhler's do not violate the U.S. Constitution. House Majority Leader Arlen Siegfried expects a vote on the bill next week.


State of KS Gets Record Number of Concealed Carry Applications

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state of Kansas received a record number of applications for concealed carry permits in January. Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office said Friday that 3,167 Kansans applied for the permits last month. That more than doubles the previous record of 1,651 in last March. The office says it received 1,593 applications in December and 1,344 in November. Gun sales and applications for gun permits have increased across the country in response to discussions about tightening gun regulations after a shooting at a Newtown, Connecticut school left 20 elementary school students and six teachers dead.


Kansas House Ballot Box to Be Named for Late Lawmaker

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House plans to name a handmade wooden ballot box that it uses in races for leadership positions for the late lawmaker who made it. The chamber's Federal and State Affairs Committee is sponsoring a resolution to bestow the honor on the late state Representative Bob Bethell, an Alden Republican. He died in a one-car accident last year driving home after the annual legislative session ended. Bethell had served in the House since 1999. Bethell, a Baptist minister and talented wood worker, made the ballot box in 2002 because he thought leadership elections deserved something better than the shoe boxes that had been used. He finished the project in 2004. The box is displayed in the Statehouse office of Legislative Administrative Services Director Jeff Russell.

Kansas Committee Endorses Anti-Racketeering Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has endorsed anti-racketeering legislation aimed at increasing sentences for convicted gang leaders. The Judiciary Committee's action Thursday sends the measure to the full Senate for debate. The Wichita Eagle reports the bill would create the Kansas Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, better known as RICO. The statute would resemble the federal RICO law, which was enacted to combat the Mafia and allows prosecutors to charge gang members for engaging in a string of criminal activity, rather than for individual crimes. A similar bill died in the House two years in a row but it's been updated with stricter provisions focusing mainly on serious felonies. Wichita Police Lieutenant Scott Heimerman helped draft the revised measure, which he says is aimed at gang leaders.

Kansas Congressman Named Vice-Chair of Ag Spending Panel

WASHINGTON (AP) — Kansas congressman Kevin Yoder is the new vice chairman of the U.S. House Appropriations subcommittee on agriculture. Yoder's appointment was announced Thursday by Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, a fellow Republican from Kentucky. Yoder is in his second term representing the Kansas 3rd Congressional District, which covers most of the Kansas City metro area. He chaired the Kansas House Appropriations Committee before being elected to the U.S. House in 2010. His latest appointment gives Kansas a voice in congressional oversight of farm programs and policy. Last month, another Kansas congressman — Republican Tim Huelskamp — was removed from the House Agriculture Committee by GOP leaders angered by his positions on issues. Huelskamp represents the largely rural 1st District of western and central Kansas.


Kansas Food Bank Distributing Record Amount of Food in Backpack Program

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Food Bank is giving out a record number of backpacks full of food to the state's school children. The group gives out the backpacks on Friday afternoons to provide some food for students during the weekend. Food Bank officials say the group is currently giving out 7,082 food packets per week to 395 schools in Kansas. Director Brian Walker says both numbers are records for the charity, which began in 2004. Walker says the numbers are increasing because of a rise in demand, and as more schools become part of the service. The Wichita Eagle reports that the food bank has delivered 120,741 backpacks in Kansas during the current school year through Thursday.

Kansas State University to Begin Sesquicentennial Celebration

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University is preparing to begin celebrating 150 years as the nation's first operational land-grant university under the Morrill Act. A sesquicentennial kickoff event will begin at 1 pm February 14 at Ahearn Field House. It will include music from university groups and displays about the university's history. The Call Hall dairy bar is mixing up a special ice cream treat named "Wildcat Birthday 150." The cake batter-based ice cream includes chunks of birthday cake, topped with royal purple sprinkles. Also on February 14, an opening is planned from 5 pm to 7 pm at the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art for an exhibition that will feature university artifacts. Called the "Museum of Wonder," the display will run until October 13. Kansas State was founded on February 16, 1863.


Judge Greenlights Hawker Beechcraft Reorganization Plan

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal bankruptcy judge has approved Hawker Beechcraft's reorganization plan, clearing the way for the aircraft-maker to exit bankruptcy later this month. Judge Stuart Bernstein ruled Friday that the company proposed the plan in good faith to maximize the value. The judge also said the plan was in the best interest of creditors and called the exit financing fair and reasonable. Hawker Beechcraft CEO Steve Miller says in a news release that the ruling marks a final significant step in the restructuring. He says the company's goal through the process has been to emerge in a strong operational and financial position, better able to compete into the future. The renamed Beechcraft Corporation will focus on turboprop, piston, and military aircraft, as well as its parts and maintenance business.


Report: Nation's Cattle Herd Smallest Since 1952

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A much anticipated government count shows the nation's cattle herd has shrunk to its smallest size in more than six decades amid a widespread drought that has forced ranchers to sell off their animals. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Friday that the U.S. inventory of cattle and calves totaled 89.3 million animals as of January 1. That is down by 1.5 million cattle, or 2 percent, compared with a year ago at this time. The agency says this is the lowest January cattle inventory since 1952. It does two counts per year, in January and July. A livestock analyst says fewer cows will mean less beef and higher prices coming down the line for consumers.

Kansas Forum Mulls Costs, Benefits of Wind Industry

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — An economic analysis estimates that Kansas wind energy projects have created nearly 13,500 jobs in the state. That's one finding from a report that was drawing business leaders from across Kansas to Newton on Friday. They were gathering for a forum on the economic impact of the 19 wind energy projects now operating or being built in Kansas. The analysis was prepared by the law firm Polsinelli Shughart in partnership with the Kansas Energy Information Network. The jobs numbers include 263 operation and maintenance jobs and 3,484 construction jobs. The rest are indirect jobs created by the industry. The report also says wind generation has yielded revenue of more than $273 million for landowners and more than $208 million for local governments and community groups.


Police: Kansas 3-Year-Old Shot Himself

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Police in Mission say a 3-year-old boy shot and wounded himself with a handgun his father had left unattended. Mission police said the boy remained hospitalized in stable condition Friday, a day after the shooting in the father's apartment. Investigators said in a statement the father was preparing to clean his Glock 9mm handgun and left it unattended within the boy's reach. While the father's back was turned, the boy pulled the gun toward himself. The gun discharged, sending a bullet through the child's forearm, into his abdomen and out of his lower body. No arrests have been made. Police said they would send their report to the Johnson County district attorney for a decision on filing charges.

Men to Face Trial in Tabor College Football Player's Death

MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — Two suspects in the death of a Tabor College football player will face trial. After a preliminary hearing ended Thursday, Alton Franklin and DeQuinte Flournoy were bound over for trial on charges of being accessories to second-degree murder. Twenty-six-year-old Brandon Brown was found unconscious September 16th at a McPherson Party. The redshirt defensive lineman from Tabor College died about a week later. The suspects both are former McPherson College football players from Dallas. Broadcaster KWCH reports that they remain jailed on $250,000 bond. During the hearing a forensic pathologist testified that Brown died from blunt force trauma to the head, and ethanol poisoning was a secondary cause of death.


Midwest Economic Index Suggests Slow Growth

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A monthly economic index for nine Midwest and Plains states rose above a growth neutral level last month, pointing to slow growth for the region over the next three to six months. The Mid-America Business Conditions index hit 53.2 in January, up from 49.5 in December and 48.0 in November. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he noted that the region's manufacturing sector "moved sideways to slightly down" over January. The survey of business leaders and supply managers uses a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth while a score below 50 suggests decline for that factor. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

Kansas Mentor Group Offers Volunteer Screening Help

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A group that connects Kansans who want to mentor youth with about 175 programs across the state says funding is available to help offset the cost of background checks. The Kansas Department of Education says the Kansas Mentors program was awarded $100,000 from Volunteer Kansas last year. Nearly $60,000 is available to distribute this year to Kansas mentoring programs conducting Kansas Bureau of Investigation background checks on mentors. Kansas State University football coach Bill Snyder is the co-chairman of Kansas Mentors. He says Kansas's mentoring programs are reporting significant declines in funding while demand for services increase. He says the grant will "ensure more young Kansans have access to a safe and caring adult role model."


Light Atop Liberty Memorial to Shine Again

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The restored torch at the top of the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City will be reignited with an improved system intended to save the memorial money. The steam "flame" has been visible for decades in Kansas City, but was largely shut down for about a year during renovation work. The Kansas City Star reports that the restored torch will be restarted Friday evening. It is the final piece in a nearly $5 million package of improvements that's also included repairing the monument's limestone. The lighting effect for the flame has cost the memorial about $100,000 a year in energy bills. But the work done to improve the system included adding a new sensor and valve system that could end up saving the memorial about $30,000 a year.


Pittsburg Theater to Hold First Event in 30 Years

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — An historic Pittsburg theater will hold its first public event in nearly 30 years in April. The 90-year-old Colonial Fox Theatre will be the site of a live antique auction on April 27. People who are working to restore the theater say they hope the auction is the first of a wide range of events at the theater. The Joplin Globe reports the theater was one of several buildings that anchored Pittsburg's downtown entertainment and nightlife district in the past. But it closed to the public in 1985 and fell into disrepair. A group of volunteers began working to restore the theater in 2006, and by 2008 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Cathedral in Wichita Scheduled to Reopen

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Catholic Diocese of Wichita will formally reopen the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Saturday with a dedication Mass. The Wichita Eagle reports the 100-year-old cathedral and adjacent diocese office buildings have been closed for more than a year for renovations. A service on Saturday morning will be opened only to diocese visiting clergy. The first public Mass will be at 5 pm Saturday, with a Spanish Mass at 7 pm.


Torn ACL Ends Season for KU's Natalie Knight

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas guard Natalie Knight will miss the rest of the season after tearing her right ACL, leaving the Jayhawks with just nine available players. Knight, a two-year starter from Olathe, hurt her knee during a 78-75 overtime victory over number 25-ranked Iowa State on Thursday. The sophomore had scored a career-high 21 points and led an 18-point comeback before hurting her knee with 1:46 remaining. Knight, who was averaging 8.3 points, is the fourth KU starter in the past five seasons to tear an ACL. Forward Carolyn Davis tore her right ACL and dislocated her knee last February 12, and fellow senior Angel Goodrich has torn the ACL in each of her knees. Connecticut Sun forward Danielle McCray tore an ACL while playing for the Jayhawks in 2010. The Jayhawks (13-6, 4-4 Big 12) visit Kansas State on Saturday.

Kansas Kangaroo Receives Stem Cell Treatment

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A kangaroo at a central Kansas wildlife refuge has undergone a stem cell treatment to repair an injured leg. The Salina Journal reports that vets at Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure performed the procedure Wednesday on the 6-year-old female red kangaroo. The operation was performed by Dr. Danelle Okeson, the zoo's veterinarian, and Dr. Larry Snyder, veterinarian from the University Bird and Small Animal Clinic in Topeka. The procedure was intended to regenerate a damaged joint that was causing the kangaroo to hobble around on one leg and her tail. Snyder says stem cell therapy has been a viable treatment for humans for decades but has only recently been used on animals, mostly house pets and horses. A refuge official says it may take days for zoo officials to notice any improvement.

DA Clears Wichita Police Officers in Woman's Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A prosecutor has cleared two Wichita police officers of wrongdoing for fatally shooting a woman last summer while investigating a domestic dispute. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett on Thursday released his office's finding in the July 10th shooting of 45-year-old Karen Jackson clearing the officers of any criminal conduct. Police Chief Norman Williams says his department will now conduct its own administrative investigation of the shooting to make sure the officers followed procedures. Williams said after the shooting that Jackson stabbed herself with a knife shortly after police arrived at the scene, then walked toward officers telling them repeatedly to shoot her. Police said the officers fired after Jackson ignored several orders to drop the knife. She died later at a Wichita hospital.


New BLM Policy Focus: 'Compassion' for Wild Horses

RENO, Nev. (AP) — The Bureau of Land Management is issuing new policy directives emphasizing "compassion and concern" for wild horses on federal lands in the West, in response to alleged abuse during roundups of thousands of mustangs in recent years. U.S. laws protecting wild horses since the 1970s require the government to treat them humanely when culling overpopulated herds to reduce harm to public rangeland. But BLM officials say a series of new internal policy memos issued Friday will better protect free-roaming horses and burros by centralizing oversight and stepping up daily reports at individual gathers across 12 Western states. Among other things, helicopter contractors will have to take extra care not to separate slower, newborn animals from their mothers during roundup stampedes.


Woman Gets 6 Years in Hutchinson Standoff Case

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Hutchinson woman who was involved in a six-hour standoff with police last summer has been sentenced to six years in prison. Twenty-four-year-old Kayla Salyer Rodriguez was sentenced Friday for aggravated kidnapping and two counts of aggravated assault. The standoff at a Hutchinson apartment began after police were told Rodriguez had forced another woman into the apartment with a gun. No one was injured. She also threatened two other women. Rodriguez's father, Paul Salyer, was convicted last September of interference with law enforcement for denying his daughter was inside the apartment when police called. The Hutchinson News reports prosecutors believe 27-year-old Jennifer Heckel was killed in June 2011 by three men who went to the wrong home while searching for Rodriguez to rob her of drugs and money.


Wichita Man Sentenced for Woman's Stabbing Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A mentally ill Wichita man was sentenced to 17 years and four months in prison for killing a woman he considered his grandmother. Twenty-four-year-old Marrell Tisdale, a paranoid schizophrenic, was sentenced Friday for killing 69-year-old Gertrude Lott in February 2011. Prosecutors say Tisdale thought killing Lott would give him the strength to kill himself. He had a self-inflicted cut on his neck when police found him. The Wichita Eagle reports that Tisdale pleaded guilty in September to second-degree murder in Lott's death and aggravated battery for attacking his mother with a meat cleaver the same day. The mother was not seriously injured. District Judge Eric Commer said a Larned State Hospital psychiatrist indicated Tisdale's mental health issues could be managed in prison.


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