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Regional Headlines for Monday, April 30, 2012



UPDATE: Budget Negotiations Stall in House Committee

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas House committee will try again Tuesday to finish work on a proposed $14 billion state budget for the fiscal year that starts in July. The House Appropriations Committee met twice Monday but was unable to complete the budget. The full House can't debate a proposed budget until the committee produces a plan. The committee reaffirmed its earlier rejection of Governor Sam Brownback's proposal to increase funding for schools using the state's general revenues. Instead, the panel kept with an earlier decision to take the money from highway funds. The House panel also discussed the need for additional spending on public safety, including overtime pay for Kansas Highway Patrol troopers. The Senate is tentatively scheduled to debate its own budget bill on Wednesday.


UPDATE: Kansas Lawmakers Struggling with Effects of Tax Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators pushing for income tax cuts say they're willing to tinker with a compromise plan to avoid a future budget shortfall. House and Senate negotiators reviewed new projections Monday showing their compromise plan for cutting sales and income taxes would create a $161 million budget shortfall by July 2018. That scenario is more optimistic than an earlier forecast, but the lead negotiators both said they'd rather avoid any shortfall. The compromise plan would reduce individual income tax rates, phase out income taxes for 191,000 businesses and cut the sales tax to 5.7 percent in July 2013 from its current 6.3 percent.


Revenue Department: Kansas Revenues Flat in April

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Tax collections in Kansas in April are slightly lower  than anticipated, but state officials say the numbers remain strong compared to a year ago. The Department of Revenue says Monday that collections were off $1.4 million in April. The agency said taxpayers had two more days than last year to file their tax returns and that the department was still processing filings. Individual income tax collections were off $1.5 million from estimates. Kansas collected $723.1 million compared to the $724.5 million that was anticipated. Sales tax collections exceeded the estimate by nearly $1.3 million in April. That was still $15.5 million more than during April 2011. For the fiscal year that began July 1, Kansas has collected $280.3 million more than the same point in 2011.

Kansas Senate OKs Disaster Funds Bill 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has approved legislation creating a special fund to help cover the state's costs after a federal disaster declaration. The bill authorizes the transfer of up to $22 million a year from the state general fund to a new disaster fund administered by the adjutant general. The fund would be capped at $40 million. Interest on the money would go toward state emergency management and homeland security operations. Monday's 38-0 Senate vote sends the bill back to the House, which had approved transferring $12 million a year. A federal disaster declaration clears the way for federal assistance, with states paying back 25 percent — some of it coming from local governments.


Kansas Motor Vehicles Offices Closing This Week

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Anyone who has business with the Kansas Department of Motor Vehicles needs to get it done today (MON).  After today (MON), all DMV offices in Kansas will be closed for the rest of the week while the state installs a new $4 million computer system and employees learn how to use it.  Kansas Department of Revenue officials say the one week of disruption will be worth it, promising that the new system will make filing paperwork much more efficient.  Online voter registration in Kansas also will be unavailable starting at 7 o'clock this (MON) evening through May 7. That is part of the same modernization project.


KS Secretary of State Optimistic about Vote on Citizenship Rule

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Secretary of State Kris Kobach (KOH'-bahk) says he still anticipates another vote in the Legislature on his plan to move up the date when first-time voters are required to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship.  But legislators aren't sure it will happen.  Kansas has a proof-of-citizenship requirement for people registering to vote for the first time in the state, but it takes effect January 1, 2013. Kobach wants to move up the date to June 15, so the rule is in place ahead of this year's presidential election.  The House approved the change, but it stalled in the Senate.  House members backing Kobach's plan could push again but say they won't without a sign that the Senate would pass the measure. They haven't gotten it, but Kobach remains optimistic.


Supreme Court May Not Move KS Immigration Debate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kris Kobach and other Kansas officials who want the state to crack down on illegal immigration acknowledge they need more than a favorable ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.  Backers of tough immigration measures must overcome opposition from influential business groups and a rift among the Republicans who control the Legislature.  Kobach, a Republican serving as Kansas secretary of state, said he was encouraged by comments made by U.S. Supreme Court justices last week, suggesting they'd uphold a tough Arizona law that Kobach helped draft.  But he and his allies believe legislative elections this year — which could change the Legislature's makeup — will be crucial.  The GOP split over immigration has prevented legislation from passing this year. Lawmakers don't expect that to change before they adjourn in mid-May.


Groundbreaking for Learjet Expansion in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Learjet executives say an expansion at the company's plant in west Wichita could bring at least 450 new jobs to the city. Government officials and Bombardier Learjet executives held a groundbreaking ceremony Monday to launch the expansion, which is the largest in Learjet's history. The expansion includes a Flight Test Center, centers for Engineering and Information Technology and new facilities for paint and production flight testing. A new delivery center also is planned. The $52.7 million project will make room for Bombardier's newest business jet, the Learjet 85. The expansion is scheduled to be completed in 2014.


Kansas Senate Honors Chaplain Ahead of Retirement

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has honored its longtime chaplain, who's known for using humor and rhymed verse in his daily prayers.  Reverend Fred Hollomon, an 86-year-old Southern Baptist minister, plans to retire at the end of the current legislative session from the post he's held for 31 years. The Senate adopted a resolution Monday in his honor. Hollomon gives the Senate's daily invocations and serves as a spiritual adviser to its members. He served as a pastor for 50 years at eight churches, including congregations in Lawrence, Topeka, and Kansas City, Kansas, ending in 2002. Hollomon served as Senate chaplain from 1979 to 1982 and again from 1985 to the present. He's also published a book of his prayers.

Kansas School Accused of Deleting Images of Abuse

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Lawyers for former cadets who sued a Kansas military school over alleged abuse now say the school recently ordered all students to surrender their phones for a review of photos and videos. Documents filed Monday in federal court claim officials at St. John's Military School in Salina deleted hundreds of videos and photos related to the school from cellphones. The court filing says one of the videos showed a staff member abusing a student, while some others showed abuse of former cadets who have filed suit. In an emailed statement Monday, the school denied destroying evidence related to the litigation. It says a longstanding policy prohibits students from taking pictures or recording videos — and that it recently erased a video in accordance with that policy.

Woman Found Dead in Rain-Swollen SE Kansas Creek

INDEPENDENCE, Kan. (AP) — Emergency crews in southeastern Kansas have recovered the body of a woman whose truck hydroplaned into a flooded creek during a night of heavy rain. Montgomery County Sheriff Robert Dierks says the body was found Monday morning about a quarter-mile from where her truck turned up in the creek beneath a bridge on a rural county road. The woman's name was being withheld while relatives were notified. The sheriff says the woman called a relative around 10 p.m. Sunday saying her truck had washed off the road into high water while she was driving between Independence and Coffeyville. A night-long search began immediately, but Dierks says the floodwaters and heavy rain kept crews from spotting the truck.


Jill Biden, Assistant Labor Secretary Visit KC

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jill Biden has stopped in Kansas City as part of her "Community College to Career" tour. The wife of Vice President Joe Biden took part Monday in a discussion at Penn Valley Health Science Institute, which is part of the Metropolitan Community College system. Assistant U.S. Labor Secretary Jane Oates also took part. Jill Biden teaches English at a community college in Virginia and has called the schools "one of America's best-kept secrets." She is working to highlight the role of community colleges in preparing American workers. Monday's discussion focused on MoHealthWINs, a grant-funded Missouri program that matches college curricula with specific employer needs in health services jobs. Joe Biden was also in Kansas City on Monday for a fundraiser at a private home.

Air Force Releases Plan on Expanding Training Area

DENVER (AP) — The Air Force says the proposed expansion of a flight training area in eastern Colorado and western Kansas would have no significant environmental impacts. A draft environmental assessment was released Monday. A 30-day period for public comment on starts Tuesday. The current training area is about 2,500 square miles. It includes Cheyenne, Kiowa and Kit Carson counties in Colorado and Greeley, Logan, Scott, Wallace and Wichita counties in Kansas. The size of the proposed expansion wasn't immediately available. The draft environmental statement lists requirements from about 3,900 to 5,600 square miles for different types of training. The training area is used by F-16s from the Colorado Air National Guard at Buckley Air Force Base and by refueling tankers from the Kansas Air National Guard at Forbes Field in Topeka.


KU Fundraising Effort Halfway to $1.2 Billion Goal

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas officials say a campaign to raise $1.2 billion for the school is more than halfway toward its goal.  The campaign has brought in $612 million from private donors in the last four years. It was publicly launched at an event Saturday in Lawrence. The effort is scheduled to end in June 2016.  Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little says the university will look for ways to use the money beyond traditional efforts such as scholarships and renovating buildings. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that those efforts might include expanding study abroad and undergraduate research efforts.  So far, donors have supported the creation of 246 new scholarships and 14 new professorships.


3 Hutchinson Churches Vandalized in Last Month

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Hutchinson police are investigating the third church vandalism in the city in the last month.  The Hutchinson News reports that the latest vandalism was reported Sunday at Eastwood Church of Christ, where someone broke out windows and sprayed fire extinguishers throughout the building.  Last week, Grace Episcopal Church officials reported vandalism that included several thousands of dollars in damage to the stained-glass windows.  And on March 28, vandals clogged a toilet at Tenth Avenue United Methodist Church, causing flooding in large portions of the church. The church's office was also broken into, but nothing was stolen.


New Bishop to Be Installed at Salina Diocese 

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The Catholic Diocese of Salina will get a new bishop on Tuesday. Monsignor Edward Weisenburger will be installed as the 11th bishop of the diocese during a ceremony Tuesday at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina. The Hays Daily News reports nearly 200 priests, archbishops and bishops are expected to attend the ceremony. The Salina diocese has more than 80 parishes. Weisenburger will replace Bishop Paul Coakley, who left the diocese in February 2011 to become Archbishop of the Diocese of Oklahoma City. Weisenburger has served during that time as vicar general of the Oklahoma City diocese. A native of Illinois, Weisenburger was ordained in 1987.


Hundreds Attend Dedication of Vietnam War Memorial in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Several hundred people attended a private dedication of a war memorial paid for by Wichita's Vietnamese community. The memorial, alongside the Arkansas River, honors Americans and South Vietnamese who fought side-by-side in the Vietnam war. Yesterday's (SUN) dedication was private.  A public dedication will be held in July.


Missouri Woman Sentenced to 7 Years in Adoption Scam

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Missouri woman who lied about being pregnant with twins has been sentenced to slightly more than seven years for scamming 14 prospective adoptive couples in Kansas and other states. Thirty-five-year-old Roxanne Janel Jones, of Kansas City, Missouri, was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas. She pleaded guilty last year to two federal charges in the scheme. Co-defendant Taj Isaiah, a 29-year-old man from Kansas City, Missouri, received a two-year sentence Monday. Isaiah pleaded guilty last year to a single charge for helping in the swindle. Jones admitted contacting adoption agencies saying she was pregnant with twins and wanted to meet prospective adoptive couples. Once in contact, she asked the couples for money for rent and other expenses, which many of the couples helped pay.


KS Couple Weds on Tornadic Day

McPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — Most brides are nervous on their wedding day, but Kansas newlywed Amber Mattox had extra reasons to be stressed. She got married on a day when dozens of tornadoes pounded the state.  The McPherson Sentinel reports that the April 14 wedding went off as planned at a church in Smolan. But the pastor had just pronounced Amber and John Mattox husband and wife when a tornado warning sent everyone to the basement — except for the groom and a few others who stepped outside to watch a passing funnel cloud.  When they reached their reception hall at a Salina hotel, people were already inside. The hall turned out to be the hotel's tornado shelter, and hotel guests joined the reception twice more during the night.


More Families Building their Own Tornado Shelters

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — When deadly twisters chewed through the South and Midwest last year, thousands of people in the killers' paths had nowhere to hide. Now many of those families are taking an unusual extra step to be ready next time: adding tornado shelters to their homes.  Sales of small residential storm shelters known as safe rooms are surging across much of the nation, especially in cities such as Montgomery and Tuscaloosa in Alabama and in Joplin, Missouri, where the storms laid waste to entire neighborhoods.  Manufacturers can barely keep up with demand. Some states are offering grants and other financial incentives to help pay for the added protection.  The interest in shelters was renewed by the staggering death toll of 2011 — 358 killed in the South and 161 dead in Joplin.


State Moves Violent Inmates Out of County Jails

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State corrections officials says most inmates serving time in county jails for sex crimes or murder have been moved back to state prisons.  The move comes after four inmates, including one convicted of two murders, escaped from the Ottawa County jail earlier this month. The prisoners were all caught within three days. But the escape raised concerns about the types of criminals being transferred to county jails because of overcrowding.  Secretary of Corrections Ray Roberts told The Wichita Eagle that the state believes the county jails are secure. He says the inmates were moved to ease public concern about violent prisoners housed in jails in Ottawa, Butler, Cowley and Leavenworth counties.  Roberts says the four county jails all were built within the last decade and are newer than state prisons.


Small Town Prepares to Exhibit Mining History

FRANKLIN, Kan. (AP) — A small eastern Kansas town is planning for a big celebration of its mining heritage.  Franklin will open the Miners Hall Museum tomorrow (TUE) in a former coal mining camp's union hall.  Starting May 1, a year's worth of themed monthly exhibits will be featured at the museum. Those will culminate in May 2013 when a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit arrives in town for six weeks.  The museum was chosen as one of only six organizations to host the Smithsonian exhibit. The Franklin County town of 250 people is expecting thousands of visitors for the exhibit.  The Joplin Globe reports that the union hall where the exhibits will be displayed was destroyed by a 2003 tornado but rebuilt with federal money.


Emporia State Nabs 9th NCAA Softball Tourney Bid 

The Emporia State softball team will be playing in the NCAA Division II tournament for the ninth straight year. In the pairings announced today (MON), the Hornets will travel to Edmond, Oklahoma to play a regional mathcup against Abilene Christian. That game is scheduled for Friday afternoon at 4:30. The Hornets, who have a record of 39-and-9 this season, won the regular and post-season MIAA Conference championships. 


Kansas Center Preserves Stories of Local Farm Life

PARSONS, Kan. (AP) — Stories of southeast Kansas farm life during the Great Depression have been captured through an oral history project.  The Joplin Globe reports that researcher Pam Cress of the Southeast Kansas Farm History Center has spent two years collecting stories of 45 farm families. Interviews focused on farm practices, the social lives of farmers, and the impact that New Deal programs had on rural families.  Today, the histories are available to anyone with an Internet connection. Besides audio files and written transcripts of each interview, the collection includes archived historical photographs.  Axe Library at Pittsburg State University is serving as host to the collection. Funding for the project came from the Kansas Humanities Council.


Tourism Season Heating Up on Route 66

GALENA, Kan. (AP) — Businesses along the famed Route 66 are gearing up for tourism season, hoping for an annual boost in revenue from history buffs from inside and outside the U.S. The Carthage, Missouri Convention and Visitors Bureau is planning a Travel Workers Rally May 8 at the Boots Motel, an icon along the route that will open that day. The Joplin Globe reports some businesses have already had tourists this season. A business called Four Women on the Route in Galena, Kansas, welcomed visitors last week from France, Spain, Denmark and Australia. And Amanda Davis, director of the Miami, Oklahoma Convention and Visitors Bureau, says several groups have visited Route 66 stops in that town. Route 66 was the main route from Chicago to Los Angeles before the interstate system was built.


Wichita Police Say Squad Car Fire Intentional

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say someone intentionally ignited a police car that had been parked on a residential street over the weekend.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the officer who drives the car awoke shortly after 2am Saturday and found his cruiser engulfed in flames. Fire Department spokesman Lt. Kelly Zane says flammable liquid was present outside the vehicle, so there's no doubt it was set on purpose.  Police said it's possible the patrol car was targeted in retaliation for the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old boy by a police officer April 13. Eleven people have been wounded in officer-involved shootings in or near Wichita this year, including four who have died.  Zane said authorities have some significant leads, but no arrests have been made.


KS House Panel Resumes Budget Talks

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators resume work this week on a new state budget, aiming for the House and Senate to begin debating their respective versions in the next few days.  The House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to meet today (MON) to finish work on its version of the $14 billion budget. It includes more than $50 million requested by Governor Sam Brownback to meet increased demand for social services and maintain staffing levels at state hospitals.  A Senate panel completed its version of the budget Friday, following much the same blueprint that the House is using. The full Senate is tentatively scheduled to debate the measure Wednesday.  Once each chamber has approved its own budget bill, negotiators will meet to work out a compromise.

**this story has been updated. Please see above.


Kansas Lawmakers Struggling with Effects of Tax Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are still trying to pin down how a compromise plan for cutting income and sales taxes will affect the state budget. Resistance to the proposal appeared to be hardening Monday among Democrats and some Republicans who already were skeptical. But Governor Sam Brownback told The Associated Press that he's still confident that the tax plan won't cause major budget problems. The plan would cut individual income tax rates, phase out income taxes for 191,000 businesses and reduce the sales tax to 5.7 percent in July 2013 from its current 6.3 percent. Eventually, the tax cuts are expected to be worth $500 million a year. The proposal was drafted by House and Senate negotiators last week. They were scheduled to reconvene Monday afternoon to review numbers.

**this story has been updated. Please see above. 


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