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Regional Headlines for Friday, February 8, 2013



Report Forecasts Extra Costs from Medicaid Expansion

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new report says Kansas would face about $600 million in additional costs over the next 10 years if it opted to expand Medicaid following the federal government's overhaul of health care. Republican Governor Sam Brownback's administration on Friday released a summary of a report prepared for the state by an Illinois-based consulting firm. The analysis looked at the potential costs in expanding Medicaid to provide health care coverage for additional needy residents. The federal government is encouraging states to expand Medicaid by promising to pick up almost all of the additional costs. The report says even if Kansas doesn't expand coverage, it faces additional costs of $513 million over the next decade. But if Kansas opts in, the figure rises to $1.1 billion.


Kansas House Has Dust-Up over Governor's Tax Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House debate over highly technical tax legislation has given Democrats a chance to take a poke at Republican Governor Sam Brownback. The measure discussed Friday fixes flaws in a law enacted last year to cut income taxes. The House gave it first-round approval, with a final vote expected Monday. Brownback wants to follow up on last year's tax cuts by reducing individual income taxes again. But he's also proposing to stabilize the budget by eliminating two income tax deductions for homeowners and canceling a scheduled decrease in the sales tax. Wichita Democrat Nile Dillmore offered Brownback's plan as an amendment to the bill fixing last year's measure. The House voted 118-0 against it. Republicans say the action was meaningless because the House Taxation Committee is reviewing Brownback's plan.


Kansas D-A to Request Supreme Court Hearing in Capital Murder Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Shawnee County District Attorney's Office plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision to overturn the capital murder convictions of a Topeka man. District Attorney Chad Taylor filed a motion late Thursday saying he will appeal the Kansas Supreme Court's decision to overturn the convictions of Phillip D. Cheatham. Cheatham was convicted in 2005 in the December 2003 shooting deaths of two women and the wounding of a third at a Topeka home. The Kansas Supreme Court overturned the convictions in January, saying Cheatham received ineffective counsel during his trial. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the filing also asks the Kansas Supreme Court to delay issuing a mandate that would allow a retrial to begin.


John Kerry Promises Keystone XL Decision in 'Near Term' 

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry promises a "fair and transparent" review of a Canadian company's plan to pipe oil from western Canada to refineries in Texas. In his first comments about the controversial Keystone XL pipeline since becoming secretary of state last week, Kerry said Friday he is waiting for a review begun by his predecessor, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and hopes to make a decision in the "near term." The State Department has jurisdiction over the $7 billion pipeline because it crosses an international border. Kerry praised Canada as a close ally and the largest energy supplier to the U.S. He didn't comment on the pipeline plan's merits. He discussed the issue Friday in a meeting with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird.


Kansas Senate Confirms Governor's Labor Secretary Nominee

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has confirmed Governor Sam Brownback's appointment of a former legislator as the state's labor secretary. The vote Thursday on Lana Gordon's appointment was 38-0. Brownback made the appointment last month, after Gordon had served as interim secretary for four months. Gordon took over the secretary's duties after Brownback abruptly removed Karin Brownlee from the post in September without comment. The Department of Labor has about 460 employees and a budget of roughly $495 million. Gordon, of Topeka, served 12 years in the Kansas House before deciding not to seek re-election last year. She had been placed in a district with two other incumbents when three federal judges redrew the state's political boundaries last year to ensure equal political representation.


Senate Adopts Gang-Related Changes to Kansas RICO Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Legislation intended to give Kansas prosecutors a new tool for curbing criminal gang activity has cleared the state Senate on a vote of 37-0. The vote Thursday sent the measure to the House. Attorney General Derek Schmidt has described the proposal as an anti-racketeering law that would let prosecutors go after gangs for alleged patterns of criminal activity as well as single criminal acts. The bill defines racketeering as an activity to collect unlawful debts, such as loans or gambling losses. It also includes activities to gain control of property or illegal businesses such as human trafficking and drug sales. The legislation includes criteria for establishing that someone is a gang member. Factors could include frequenting known gang areas or dressing in a gang's style.


Assisted Suicide on Legal Agenda in Several States, Including KS

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A push for the legalization of physician-assisted suicide is under way in a half-dozen states where proponents say they see strong support for it. The large number of baby boomers facing end-of-life issues themselves is seen to have made the issue more prominent in recent years. Groups such as Compassion & Choices, a national end-of-life advocacy organization, have been working to advance the cause. Bills legalizing aid-in-dying are being considered in Kansas, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, Hawaii and Massachusetts. There are also bills related to the issue under consideration in New Hampshire, New York, Arizona and Montana.


Pompeo Named to U.S. House Intelligence Committee

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo says he has been named to the House intelligence committee overseeing national security. The Kansas Republican said in a news release Friday that House Speaker John Boehner is putting him in the committee that provides oversight of the U.S. intelligence community. That includes the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and the Military Intelligence Program. Pompeo says he is honored to serve on the committee at a time when the nation faces great challenges abroad. He says he has great faith in the nation's intelligence services and is excited to work with them to ensure Americans' national security. The second-term congressman says his legal background will be an asset to the committee in ensuring a constitutional framework for intelligence gathering.


Wichita Police Detain 'Officer' Trying to Stop Car

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita say they may have solved three recent instances of someone impersonating an officer. KWCH-TV reports that a 40-year-old man was arrested Thursday night after speeding along a Wichita street in a Mercury Grand Marquis with a siren and red and blue lights. Police say the driver told the arresting officer he had been trying to pull over another vehicle that ran a red light. Officers checked the man's car and found a gun, belt, baton and some handcuffs. Investigators think the man may have been involved in two other police impersonations in Wichita. But they don't believe the case is related to the search for a man who has been cashing bad checks throughout the state while posing as a sheriff's deputy from a nonexistent Kansas county.


Judge Delays Hearing in KU Ticket Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has delayed a hearing for a former University of Kansas athletics consultant seeking a shorter sentence for his role in a ticket-scalping conspiracy. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot on Thursday put off the hearing for Thomas Ray Blubaugh until February 19. Blubaugh is serving a 46-month sentence for conspiracy to defraud the United States. He is the husband of Charlette Blubaugh, former ticket director for Kansas athletics. Belot also granted a prosecution request for copies of files from Blubaugh's previous attorney. The judge said Blubaugh waived attorney-client privilege when he claimed attorney Stephen Robinson did a poor job on his case. Robinson is expected to testify. The Blubaughs were among seven people convicted in a $2 million scheme involving the theft and sale of Jayhawk athletic tickets.


Pittsburg Company Doubling in Size, Adding Workers

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — A Pittsburg company is planning a $1 million expansion and more hiring to respond to a growing market. Officials at Atkinson Industries held a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday for an expansion that will add 10,000 square feet to its existing plant in the Pittsburg Industrial Park. Company officials say business has doubled in the last 18 months and the company has added 40 workers. The company, which has 111 employees, expects to add at least 20 more this year. The company, which opened in Pittsburg in 1919, makes metal buildings that house electrical equipment. The Pittsburg Morning Sun reports that Atkinson Industries recently received a contract to provide its Factory Fabricated Modular Enclosures to one of the largest solar power projects in the country. Atkinson declined to name the project.


KC Police Say Deaths of 2 Women Linked to Same Man

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police are asking for help finding a man believed to have killed two women and propping up their bodies near rural roads north of the city. The body of 40-year-old Tamara Sparks was found October 4, 2011, on the city's far northeast side, while 24-year-old Nicoleone Reed's body was found August 21 in rural Kearney. Police Sergeant Doug Niemeier says the two were found in similar poses, with their shirts pulled up and their pants pulled down. Both were last seen on St. John Avenue in Independence, where they worked as prostitutes. Niemeier says a third woman is believed to have been attacked by the same man, but survived. Police say the suspect was driving a white, late-1970s to early 1990s pickup truck with an off-color passenger door.


Salina Police Investigate Spate of Business Burglaries

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Salina police say two people arrested as they were breaking into a veterinary clinic might be connected to more than 30 burglaries at businesses in the city. Police Lieutenant Scott Siemens says an officer who noticed a door pried open at the Huseman Veterinary Clinic early Thursday caught the two people inside. Salina police have investigated more than 30 businesses break-ins since last September. KAKE-TV reports that police believe most of those burglaries are connected.


Salina Man Convicted for Killing in Go-Kart Dispute

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina man is guilty of killing another man in a dispute over a stolen go-kart. A Saline County jury found Kyle A. Nelson guilty Friday of voluntary manslaughter in the July 31 killing of 37-year-old Jeffrey B. Powell. The Salina Journal reports that Nelson was charged with second-degree murder, but jurors were allowed to consider voluntary or involuntary manslaughter verdicts. Sentencing is scheduled for March 25. Nelson testified during the trial that he shot Powell in self-defense during an argument over the go-kart, which had been stolen from Nelson's children. However, a witness who was in the car with the two men testified that Powell was not threatening Nelson before the shooting.


Man Sentenced to 25 years for Robbery, Shooting at Officer

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has been sentenced to 25 years in federal prison for shooting at police while trying to get away after robbing a fast-food restaurant. The U.S. Attorney's office says 56-year-old Paul Sifuentez was sentenced Thursday on several charges to which he pleaded guilty in November. The charges stemmed from a June 7 robbery at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Wichita. Prosecutors said Sifuentez threatened employees with a gun, the fired at a police officer as she got out of her car. The shot narrowly missed the officer but shattered the glass on a car door. Sifuentez was arrested after he was found hiding at an apartment complex where the getaway car was abandoned.


International Military Officers Tour Kansas Capitol

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — About four dozen international military officers have received a crash course in state government as part of a 10-month stay in Kansas. The officers are studying at the U.S. Army's Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. They spent Thursday in Topeka, touring state government buildings and meeting with leaders including Governor Sam Brownback, with whom they chatted briefly. Fort Leavenworth has been hosting international officers for more than a century.


Driver Charged in School Bus Hit-and-Run Incident

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man is charged with fleeing from a collision that tipped a school bus onto its side. Jackson County (Missouri) prosecutors on Friday charged 33-year-old Toryne Sanders with leaving the scene of an injury accident and driving while his license was revoked. Sanders is accused of crashing the car he was driving into the side of a school bus at an intersection Thursday afternoon. Some of the five children and two adults on the bus suffered minor injuries. Witnesses reported seeing the car's driver run away. Sanders was arrested at his father's home about three hours after the collision. He was also injured and was taken to a hospital. Sanders did not have a lawyer Friday, and a phone number for him could not be found.


Kansas Repair Shop Robbed of $5K in Diesel Fuel

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas truck repair shop has lost about $5,000 worth of diesel fuel to thieves who've probably been draining the tanks of semis for several weeks. KSNW-TV reports the crime at Central Power Systems and Services in Great Bend came to light earlier this week. Manager Ethan Rowley says employees found the tank nearly empty in one semi. Employees then checked the other five trucks awaiting repairs, and all had empty tanks. Rowley says each tanks holds 300 to 500 gallons. Great Bend police believe the tanks were emptied over the past month while the trucks were on the lot. Company officials say it's the biggest theft since it opened for business in the 1950s.


Corps Says Missouri River Remains at Low Levels

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Dry weather continues throughout the area that feeds into the Missouri River, so water levels will remain low. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicts that runoff into the river above Sioux City, Iowa, will be 80 percent of normal this year. So the Corps is expected to keep the amount of water it's releasing out of Gavins Point dam on the South Dakota-Nebraska state line at 14,000 cubic feet per second throughout February. Around mid-March, the amount of water will be increased to about 25,000 cubic feet per second to help support barge traffic on the river. But that will provide only enough water for a minimal channel 8-feet-deep and 200-feet-wide. A normal navigation channel is 9-feet-deep and 300-feet-wide. That means barges may not be able to carry full loads.



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