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Regional Headlines for Friday, March 29. 2013



Kansas Says Revenues Affected by Federal Tax Changes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are blaming a shortfall of nearly $57 million in state tax collections in March on delays in federal tax deadlines forced by congressional wrangling on fiscal issues. The Department of Revenue reported Friday that the state collected almost $364 million in taxes this month. It had expected to take in more than $420 million. But the department noted that collections for the fiscal year that started in July are slightly ahead of the state's projection that it would collect $4.24 billion through March. For the past nine months, the state is about $9 million ahead, or two-tenths of 1 percent. Congress settled some tax issues in January, forcing the federal government to delay some filing deadlines and resulting in later tax collections in Kansas.


Kansas Jobless Rate Steady in February

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — New unemployment figures show the Kansas jobless rate held steady last month at 5.5 percent, the same as in January but lower than in February 2012. The Kansas Department of Labor released the new statistics for February late Thursday. The agency says Kansas added 2,000 private sector jobs in February, continuing a string of four months of growth. Since October the state has added more than 12,000 private sector jobs. Seven of 10 private sector industries showed growth, led by professional and business services. One positive sign noted by the agency was that building permit data was increasing, suggesting that construction activity will pick up as the spring weather conditions improve. The 5.5 percent unemployment rate compares to 5.9 percent a year ago.


Leaders Say Kansas Democrats Won't Help GOP on Taxes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Democratic leaders say their party's lawmakers won't be pushed by potential budget problems into backing Governor Sam Brownback's proposal to cancel a scheduled decrease in the state sales tax. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka and House Minority Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence also said Friday that Democrats won't support further income tax cuts. The Republican governor wants to follow last year's personal income tax reductions with additional cuts. But the state must stabilize its budget. Brownback wants to keep the sales tax at 6.3 percent rather than letting it drop to 5.7 percent as planned in July. Hensley and Davis say both ideas are unacceptable. Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag said the state benefits most if all lawmakers are actively involved in setting tax policy.

Kansas GOP Leaders Back Another US Senate Term for Pat Roberts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The honorary committee formed by Pat Roberts for his U.S. Senate re-election campaign in 2014 includes fellow Republican statewide elected officials and the rest of the Kansas congressional delegation. Roberts's campaign announced Thursday that Governor Sam Brownback and Senator Jerry Moran will serve as the committee's co-chairmen. Others on board are Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer, Attorney General Derek Schmidt, State Treasurer Ron Estes and Secretary of State Kris Kobach. The committee also includes the state's four U.S. House members — Tim Huelskamp, Lynn Jenkins, Mike Pompeo and Kevin Yoder. The list suggests that Roberts won't face a serious challenge within the GOP from another elected official. The 76-year-old Roberts was first elected to the Senate in 1996 and is seeking his fourth term.

Kansas Reports Decline in Abortions for 2012

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials say that abortions in the state declined 5.4 percent last year, dropping the number to its lowest point in 25 years. And advocates on both sides of the abortion debate on Friday attributed the decline to ongoing efforts by abortion opponents to impose new restrictions on providers. But Executive Director Mary Kay Culp of Kansans for Life said another reason is that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment is providing information about fetal development on its website. KDHE reported that doctors reported performing 7,457 abortions last year, down 428 from 2011, when 7,885 were performed. National Organization for Women lobbyist Elise Higgins said multiple anti-abortion laws enacted since Republican Governor Sam Brownback took office in January 2011 are restricting women's access to health care.

Lawrence, University to Share Fiber Optic System

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — City commissioners in Lawrence have approved an agreement with the University of Kansas to share fiber optic cable systems throughout the city and campus. The agreement, approved by the commission on Tuesday, will increase the city's ability to connect public buildings, traffic signals and other facilities to a secure, high-speed network. University officials say the agreement is similar to those in other college towns, including Austin, Texas, and Seattle. Lawrence officials expect significant savings from using university infrastructure to route service throughout the city. They also say sharing a fiber optic conduit will reduce the need for installing separate lines to serve the city and the university.

Augusta on Edge After Trooper's Weapons Stolen

AUGUSTA, Kan. (AP) — A south central Kansas town is on edge after someone broke into a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper's home and stole his Taser and weapon. Augusta police Sgt. Michael Stueven says the break-in occurred sometime last weekend. He released few other details but he says cases are always a top priority when weapons are stolen. KAKE-TV reports that Augusta, about 10 miles east of Wichita, averages only two home burglaries a month. Patrols around the trooper's home have been increased after neighbors expressed concern the weapons might be used in other crimes.

Indoor Gardeners Claim Pot Search Was Illegal

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two former CIA employees whose suburban Kansas City home was unsuccessfully searched for marijuana claim they were illegally targeted, possibly because they had purchased indoor growing supplies to raise vegetables. Adelyn and Robert Harte sued Thursday to obtain records and are considering a federal civil rights lawsuit. The Johnson County Sheriff's Office searched the Harte's Leawood, Kan., home April 20. That's the day marijuana users have long designated to celebrate the drug. It's also a popular day for drug raids. Attorney Cheryl Pilate says no drugs were found and she wants to know why the home was searched. She suspects it's because the couple was growing tomatoes and squash in their basement. County and city officials declined to comment.


Manhattan Accountant Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An accountant from Manhattan admits that he embezzled more than $500,000 from the construction company where he worked. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said in a news release Friday that 63-year-old Larry D. Lord pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of filing a false tax return. He admitted he embezzled the money from 1995 to 2012 while working for Cheney Construction in Manhattan. Prosecutors say he used some of the money to pay personal expenses. He falsified the company's check register log to make it appear the checks were for a customer. He wrote checks totaling more than $535,000. He also didn't report the money on his income tax forms, avoiding nearly $104,000 in taxes for 2006 through 2011. Sentencing is set for July 1.


Federal Judge Allows Kansas to Correct Birth Record in Identity Theft Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge will let Kansas correct the birth certificates of two children of an illegal immigrant living in Topeka who stole the identity of a Texas teacher. Benita Cardona-Gonzalez was sentenced this week to 18 months in prison for assuming the identity of Candida Gutierrez, a schoolteacher in Houston. As part of the crime, Cardona-Gonzalez even filled in the other woman's name as the mother on the birth certificates of her two U.S.-born children. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren granted a request by the Kansas Office of Vital Statistics to change the certificates to show Cardona-Gonzalez as the children's mother. Cardona-Gonzalez, who is from Mexico, used the Texas woman's identity to get a job, a driver's license, a mortgage and medical care for her children.

Hutchinson Deals with Dilapidated Housing

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Hutchinson officials say the city faces a public safety problem posed by hundreds of dilapidated houses, some of which are still occupied by elderly residents. Fire Chief Kim Forbes told the Hutchinson Housing Commission that firefighters responding to medical calls have found five to 10 people living in houses without electricity, gas or water service. Forbes says the dilapidated housing is also a firefighting hazard because firefighters entering the decaying homes often can weigh as much as 300 pounds with all their gear. He says that weight puts firefighters at risk of stepping through a rotted porch or interior floor. The Hutchinson News reports that the commission has asked its housing program manager and city staff to develop a strategy and present it at a future meeting.

Life Sentence Recommended in KCMO Hotel Death

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Jackson County (Missouri) jury has recommended a life sentence for a man who killed a woman and left her body stashed in the stairway of a Kansas City motel. The jury convicted 36-year-old Christopher Sanders on Thursday of second-degree murder in the death of 39-year-old Sherilyn Hill. Investigators say Hill died in the November 2011 after a night of drinking, smoking and fighting at the Royale Inn in east Kansas City. Her body was found in the stairwell about two weeks after she died. During the trial, Hill's friends said Sanders beat her before she died. Prosecutors say Sanders strangled Hill with a sheet. The Kansas City Star reports that Sanders testified that he hit Hill in self-defense after she threatened him and tried to rob him.


Man Shot, Wounded by Wichita Police

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a man has been hospitalized with severe injuries after being shot by one or more officers. KWCH-TV reports that the shooting happened Friday afternoon while police were investigating a reported carjacking. It wasn't immediately clear if the man was a suspect in the carjacking, but police said he was running from officers when he was shot. There were conflicting reports on whether the man exchanged gunfire with police.


Several Hurt After Melee Breaks Out in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say shots were fired and fights broke out while about 1,300 people were leaving a concert at a Wichita club. KSN reports that the large crowd was leaving Club Rodeo early Friday when the fight started, with beer bottles and chairs thrown around. After the crowd refused orders to disperse, authorities released a smoke bomb and the fight broke up. Several people were hurt, with two taken to the hospital with serious injuries. While most of the crowd was in the parking lot, several shots were fired. It wasn't clear if the shots were fired at someone or into the air, and no one was injured. Police Lieutenant Jose Salcido says several people were taken into custody after the brawl.

Kansas Students to Compete in Geography Bee

ABILENE, Kan. (AP) — Students from across Kansas will be showing off their knowledge of geography next week. The Kansas Geographic Bee will be held next Friday at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene. The 102 competitors were selected after local contests at more than 200 schools in November. The contestants also had to pass a national qualifying exam. Students in grade 4 through 8 are eligible to participate. Winners will advance to the national competition May 20 - 23 in Washington, D.C. The top three national finalists will win scholarships of $25,000, $15,000 and $10,000. This is the 25th Anniversary year of the Geographic Bee, which was started by the National Geographic Society to address a lack of geographic knowledge among young Americans.

Salina Tech Expands Education for High Schoolers

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Salina Area Technical College has a deal for high school juniors and seniors who want to pursue technical careers. The college has allowed high school students to attend without paying tuition for years, but the students had to pay for books, uniforms and tools. The college now says it plans to waive those costs — generally around $1,000 — beginning this fall. Salina Tech president Greg Goode says the change will cost the school about $30,000 to $40,000 a year. But he expects the effort to help more people find good jobs and help Salina businesses find well-trained employees. The Salina Journal reports that the college is also spending $1 million to expand its welding program to accommodate 48 students, twice as many as it currently has enrolled.

KC Man Sentenced to 17 Years for Meth Distribution

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man will spend 17 years in prison with no chance of parole for his role in a methamphetamine distribution conspiracy. Federal prosecutors announced 51-year-old Luis Hernandez's sentence in a news release Friday. They say he was part of a distribution ring that brought in $809,000 in proceeds. Hernandez pleaded guilty in July to being part of a conspiracy with four co-defendants that distributed methamphetamine between January 2008 and August 2011. All of the co-defendants must a total of $809,200 to the government. Hernandez also must forfeit property at his car detailing business and his Ford F-150 pickup. His co-defendants will be required to forfeit six residential properties, a Cadillac Escalade and a 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air.

Brownback Sees Gay Marriage as Settled Issue in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback still supports a federal law against gay marriage that he backed as a member of Congress. But he says the issue is settled in Kansas because of the state constitution's ban on same-sex marriage. Brownback faced questions Thursday from reporters with two cases on gay marriage before the U.S. Supreme Court. Brownback, a practicing Roman Catholic, has long supported the traditional definition of marriage. In one case, the high court is being asked to strike down a gay-marriage ban in California enacted by voters. The other case is a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996. Brownback voted for the federal law while in Congress. He said the issue is resolved in Kansas because in a 2005 election, nearly 70 percent of voters approved a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Kansas Governor Says His Sales Tax Plan Fits with Budget

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says the reality of funding the state budget will push Kansas lawmakers toward approving his proposal to cancel a scheduled decline in the state sales tax. Brownback said Thursday that legislators have limited options for stabilizing the budget while they seek further cuts in individual income tax rates. Brownback hopes to follow last year's income tax cuts with additional reductions over the next four years. The Senate has embraced both that idea and keeping the sales tax at 6.3 percent instead of letting it fall to 5.7 percent in July as scheduled by law. The House wants to let the sales tax drop and cut income taxes less aggressively. Olathe Republican Scott Schwab says few of his fellow House members support keeping the sales tax where it is.

Kansas Farmers Plan to Sow Less Corn, More Sorghum

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas farmers are planting fewer acres of thirsty crops like corn and soybeans this spring and more acres of drought-tolerant crops like sorghum. Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reported Thursday that corn growers plan to plant 4.6 million acres. That would be down 2 percent from last year, but still the fourth highest corn acreage in Kansas since 1936. Soybean acreage is also expected to shrink 2 percent from last year with 3.9 million acres. It would be the fourth largest soybean acreage in Kansas history. By contrast, sorghum planting in Kansas is expected to climb 16 percent from last year, at 2. 9 million acres. Winter wheat accounts for the vast majority of Kansas farm acreage with 9.3 million acres planted last fall, down 2 percent from 2011.

Body Recovered from South Wichita Pond

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police are investigating whether a body found in a south Wichita pond is that of a man who may have jumped while running from police. KAKE-TV reports a passer-by flagged down an officer Thursday afternoon after seeing what looked like a body in the water-filled sandpit. Crews later pulled the body from the water. It's the same pond where a 27-year-old man disappeared from sight after running from police early on the morning of March 8th. Officers had been trying to stop the man's car for traffic violations. He crashed through a chain link fence, got out and ran. Authorities believe he jumped into the water and swam away. Divers and crews in boats searched the pond for several hours that day but found nothing.


WSU Shockers Roll to 72-58 NCAA Win over La Salle

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Wichita State went from sweet to elite, beating La Salle 72-58 on Thursday night to reach the final eight of the NCAA tournament for the first time in 32 years. Malcolm Armstead scored 18 points, Carl Hall added 16 points and freshman Ron Baker 13 for the ninth-seeded Shockers, who proved their upset of number 1-seed Gonzaga in the third round was no fluke. They never trailed in this matchup of small schools whose past NCAA tourney success was long buried in the history books. The Shockers advanced to Saturday's West Regional final against number 2-seed Ohio State, a 73-70 winner over Arizona in the first semifinal at Staples Center. Their yellow-clad fans, several waving handmade signs, made up nearly all of the smaller crowd that stuck around to see the end.


Wichita State's Hall Seeing Clearly for Shockers

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Carl Hall positions himself down on the block, spins to catch a pass and scores off a layin. That sequence ran on a loop in the opening minutes of Wichita State's regional semifinal against La Salle. He scored 10 of the Shockers' first 14 points, setting a dominant tone that carried them to a 72-58 victory and within a game of reaching the school's first Final Four since 1965. Hall's emergence in just two seasons at Wichita State couldn't have been more unlikely. The 6-foot-8 forward who speaks in a soft Georgia accent arrived in Kansas via two previous schools and a graveyard shift job in a light bulb factory. A heart condition nearly derailed his basketball career and his reluctance to wear glasses to correct his poor eyesight held him back on the court.


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