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Regional Headlines for Friday, February 15, 2013



KS House GOP Leaders Doubt Sales Tax Proposal Can Pass 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican leaders in the Kansas House say there's very little support in their chamber for Governor Sam Brownback's proposal to raise additional sales tax revenue. House Speaker Ray Merrick of Stilwell and Majority Leader Jene Vickrey of Louisburg said Friday the measure proposed by the Republican governor does not appear viable. Brownback wants to cancel a decrease in the sales tax scheduled for July. Under current law, the 6.3 percent tax is set to drop to 5.7 percent. The governor would use the additional revenues to stabilize the state budget so that Kansas can pursue further income tax cuts after massive reductions last year. Meanwhile, Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka and House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence said they're working on tax proposals. They didn't give details.


Bill Would Address Legality of Cedar Crest Meetings

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill before the Kansas House would clarify that legislative dinners at the governor's mansion are legal under the state's Open Meetings Act. The bill sponsored by Representative Jim Howell, a Republican from Derby, is in response to a controversy last year, when the Shawnee County District Attorney investigated seven dinners at the mansion attended only by Republican lawmakers. District Attorney Chad Taylor determined the dinners likely were technical violations of the open meetings act. But he did not prosecute anyone because he said the lawmakers didn't intend to break the law. The bill would specify that the law doesn't apply to social gatherings at which those attending don't deliberate specific matters. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Kansas Press Association plans to vehemently oppose the bill.

Opponents Testify on Kansas Strip Club Regulation Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Opponents say there is little evidence that a bill to restrict where strip clubs can operate in Kansas is necessary to fight crime, disease or blight. The proposal would establish where adult businesses can be located, ban lap dances and regulate dancing onstage in various levels of undress. The Federal and State Affairs Committee heard Friday from Philip Bradley, who represents owners of adult entertainment clubs in Kansas. He presented studies that found that crime was lower in areas near strip clubs and that it is the economy that is putting the clubs out of business. Proponents testified Thursday the proposed Community Defense Act would help fight crime, preserve community values and protect women. A similar measure cleared the House two years ago but stalled in the Senate.

Kansas Bill Would Restrict Airport Searches

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some Kansas House members think pat-downs at the state's airports are getting out of hand. A bill sponsored by 21 House members would it illegal for Transportation Security Administration screeners to touch an airline passenger's private parts during a search. It also would bar the agents from taking a child under the age of 18 away from a parent or guardian to conduct a search. The Kansas City Star reported Friday that Kansas is joining other states in objecting to what they consider aggressive searches of people unlikely to be potential threats. But some experts say the law couldn't be implemented because the U.S. Constitution bars states from regulating the actions of the federal government. Between 100 and 110 TSA officers are stationed at seven Kansas airports.

Kansas Lawmaker Skips Meetings After Robbery Report

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas legislator from the Wichita area has missed a day of meetings after reporting he was mugged while entering his room at a Topeka hotel where dozens of lawmakers stay. Republican Joe Edwards of Haysville did not participate in Thursday's House session. House Speaker Ray Merrick says he visited Edwards Thursday morning at a Topeka hospital where Edwards was treated for a concussion. Merrick said Edwards planned to head home to Haysville. Edwards did not immediately respond to an email and a phone message left at his home later Thursday. Edwards told The Wichita Eagle that he went to his vehicle to retrieve some items Tuesday night and was hit in the head while entering his room at the Ramada Convention Center Downtown. He said he lost $260 in cash.

Kansas Agency Plans Listening Tour on Aging Services

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials will tour the state next month to gather suggestions and opinions on services funded by the Older Americans Act. Staff members from the state Department for Aging and Disability Services will hold hour-long meetings in five cities between March 5 and March 13. Lunch will follow each meeting. Services funded by the Older Americans Act are directed at people 60 and older. They include legal assistance, caregiver and in-home services, transportation help and nutrition programs. Department Secretary Shawn Sullivan says the agency wants to know what services older Kansans need to remain independent and stay in their homes for as long as possible. The agency must develop a four-year plan to receive federal funding. The meetings are scheduled in Dodge City, El Dorado, Topeka, Salina, and Kansas City.

Bill Seeks Adult Stem Cell Center at KU Med

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill introduced in the Kansas Senate would require the University of Kansas Medical Center to establish a center focusing on adult stem cell research. The bill is sponsored by 22 conservative Republican senators. It would create the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center at the medical center in Kansas City, Kansas. Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook of Shawnee, the lead sponsor of the bill, said Friday that it would make Kansas a center for effective medical treatments. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the bill would require the medical center to appoint a director to oversee patient treatment and research with adult, cord blood and other non-embryonic stem cells. It also would require a 13-member advisory board. Abortion opponents oppose human embryonic stem cell research because it involves the destruction of embryos.


Ex-Kansas Lawmaker's Use of Former Title Questioned

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Republican Party wants an investigation into a former Democratic lawmaker's use of official-looking letterhead for committee testimony. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that state GOP Executive Director Clay Barker said Thursday that the party will ask Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor to investigate former Rep. Ann Mah of Topeka. Both Mah and Taylor are Democrats. Mah lost her race for re-election last year by 21 votes. Mah has spoken several times in committee hearings, providing testimony on stationery featuring a drawing of the Statehouse and identifying her as a state representative. Barker noted that state law makes it a misdemeanor to impersonate a public official. Mah scoffed at the criticism. She said the GOP is trying to keep her from winning back her seat next year.


Topeka Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Murder

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man will spend the rest of his life in prison for trying to rape and then killing an 18-year-old jogger. Twenty-one-year-old Dustin Leftwich was sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole in the death of Brenna Morgart. He pleaded guilty in January to seven charges, including capital murder and attempted rape. Morgart died last May, less than a week after graduating from high school. Prosecutors say she was jogging when Leftwich hit her with his car, put her in the trunk, tried to rape her and then threw her in a creek. Leftwich also pleaded guilty to a separate attack a year earlier. He tried to run down a 14-year-old girl but she was able to escape.


1 of 9 Suspects Pleads in Topeka Woman's Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — One of nine people charged in the killing of a Topeka woman and the wounding of her partner pleaded no contest to four charges. Twenty-two-year-old Ronald Wakes of Topeka entered the plea Friday in the July 2011 death of 40-year-old Natalie Gibson and shooting of 43-year-old Lori Allison. The women were shot during a robbery attempt as they arrived at their home. Wakes pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter, aggravated robbery, aggravated battery and attempted aggravated intimidation of a witness. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Wakes is scheduled to be sentenced March 26. Attorneys have recommended a sentence of 103 months.


Wichita Toddlers Found Alone Overnight in Home

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita are looking into a possible case of child endangerment after finding two toddlers alone in their home overnight. KAKE-TV reports that a neighbor called police around 3:30 a.m. Friday with concerns about the children. Officers went to the southeast Wichita home and found the 1-year-old boy and 2-year-old girl alone. Police have since talked to the parents, but no arrests have been made. The children were initially taken into protective custody and were later released to relatives.


Missouri Mom Sold Meth in Front of Her Children

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City woman has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for selling methamphetamine while her children were present. The Kansas City Star reports that 35-year-old Lori C. Owsley was sentenced Thursday for selling the drug to an undercover officer at her home twice in the summer of 2011. The officer was part of the Clay County Drug Task Force. Clay County Prosecutor Daniel L. White says several of her children, including a 5-year-old, were present during one drug transaction. At the second drug sale, Owsley used four teens as lookouts while several police patrol cars were near her home. Owsley also pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts of child endangerment.


Report: Value of Kansas Crops Increased 11 Percent in 2012

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new report says the value of Kansas' principal crops rose 11 percent last year to $8.2 billion. The figures were reported Friday by Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service. The agency says prices were higher for all crops except sunflowers, dry edible beans, cotton and potatoes. Kansas winter wheat production was valued at more than $2.8 billion, followed by corn production at $2.7 billion. The state's soybean crop was estimated at nearly $1.2 billion, while sorghum trailed at $592.4 million.


Hutchinson Hospital to Expand Emergency Department

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas hospital will double the number of beds in its emergency department under a $5 million expansion and renovation scheduled to begin this fall. Officials of Hutchinson Regional Medical Center announced plans for the project Thursday, after a year of planning. Keith Miller, president and CEO of Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System, says the existing emergency facility has worked well for nearly 40 years. But Miller says it's too small for the number of patients it now sees. The expansion will increase the number of emergency department beds from 10 to 20, while adding two major trauma rooms and 14 private treatment rooms. There will also be an updated diagnostic imaging suite, two private patient triage rooms and an expanded lounge for visitors and guests.


KSU Breast Cancer Researcher Gets $1.2M Grant

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A breast cancer researcher at Kansas State University has received a $1.2 million federal grant. Anna Zolkiewska will use the four-year grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Cancer Institute to conduct research aimed at improving cancer survival rates. The associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics is focused on breast tumor initiating cells, also called cancer stem cells. These cells drive breast tumor progression and tumor recurrence or metastasis. Current treatments for breast cancer, such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, can destroy the majority of tumor cells. But these treatments cannot eradicate cancer stem cells. Zolkiewska says it's critical to find more effective treatments against them.


Man Who Designed the Dallas Cowboys' Logo Dies

DALLAS (AP) — The man credited with designing the famed blue star logo of the Dallas Cowboys has died. The Cowboys say Jack Eskridge died Monday at a Valley Falls, Kansas hospital. The funeral for the 89-year-old former Cowboys equipment manager is scheduled for Saturday morning at Carson-Speaks Chapel in Independence, Missouri. According to the team website, Eskridge was one of coach Tom Landry's first hires in 1959, the year before the Cowboys' debut season. It was he who designed the white-bordered blue star used after the Cowboys began with a white star. Eskridge remained with the Cowboys until 1973.


Kathleen Sebelius Appoints Stephene Moore to Head HHS Region

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A registered nurse and former congressional candidate from northeastern Kansas has been chosen to head a four-state region of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Department Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the appointment of Stephene Moore as director of HHS Region 7 on Thursday. The region covers Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska. Moore, of Lenexa, has been a senior adviser at HHS for the past year. She is the wife of Dennis Moore, a Democrat who spent six terms in the U.S. House representing Kansas's 3rd Congressional District. Stephene Moore won the Democratic nomination to succeed her husband in 2010 but lost the general election to Republican Kevin Yoder.

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