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Regional Headlines for Monday, February 11, 2012


Analysis: Kansas Fiscal Work Hitting Key Phase

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are entering a crucial but messy phase of debates over conservative Republican Governor Sam Brownback's tax and budget proposals. Brownback is promoting his package of tax initiatives as a five-year plan for committing the state to eventually phasing out personal income taxes. It follows aggressive income tax cuts last year. But he's also proposing changes that will generate $1.1 billion in new revenues over the three years beginning in July to stabilize the budget, ahead of most of the relief he's promising. It's not hard for Brownback's critics to argue that his proposals are in trouble, given initial resistance even among his GOP allies. But Republican leaders are cautiously optimistic the differences can be resolved.


Abortion Foes Begin Push for New Kansas Laws

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Abortion opponents are urging a Kansas Senate committee to back legislation barring doctors from terminating pregnancies solely because a woman doesn't want a baby of a certain gender. Monday's hearing by the Public Health and Welfare Committee began a push by anti-abortion groups and legislators for new restrictions on abortion and abortion providers. The bill on so-called sex-selection abortions would make it a misdemeanor the first time a doctor was caught performing such a procedure. Doctors also could face lawsuits from family members of abortion patients. Proponents of the bill said in other countries, such abortions are usually done to prevent a girl's birth. No abortion rights groups testified Monday, but National Organization for Women lobbyist Elise Higgins questioned whether such a measure can be enforced.

Rolston Hopes to Be 2nd Democrat Ever Elected Kansas Secretary of State

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Johnson County businessman says he will seek the 2014 Democratic nomination for Kansas secretary of state in an attempt to unseat Republican incumbent Kris Kobach. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Randy Rolston of Mission Hills issued a news release saying he aspires to become only the second Democrat ever elected to the secretary post in Kansas. Rolston graduated from the University of Kansas and is president and co-founder of Victorian Trading, a Lenexa-based mail-order company. Among his proposals is a plan to increase youth participation in elections by allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote when they get their driver's licenses. Rolston has given his campaign a $200,000 loan and believes he will have to raise $1 million in donations to defeat Kobach.

Kansas Board to Study Regulations for Special Education Students

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas State Board of Education will consider new emergency intervention regulations on how special education students are restrained in the classroom. The board will meet Tuesday in Topeka for a public hearing on the standards, which would protect the students from physical restraint and seclusion. The board could vote on them Wednesday. Currently, the state encourages schools to follow standards but does not require it. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the new regulations would require all school districts to adopt formal policies, provide training in using the interventions and document every time they are used. Last year, parents testified that teachers sometimes used unnecessarily dangerous restraints or isolation rooms. Advocates for teachers warned that banning seclusion and restraint could force schools to call police when students have uncontrollable outbursts.

Kansas Public Broadcasters Face Budget Problems

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas public broadcasters are already struggling with budget problems, even before the Legislature considers again reducing their funding. Public broadcasting currently receives about $1.5 million from the state, which could be reduced to about $1 million this year. Last year, Governor Sam Brownback tried to eliminate all public broadcasting funding. But some lawmakers resisted and approved smaller cuts. This year, the governor is again seeking to reduce state funding, or change the funding source to state lottery proceeds. The Kansas City Star reports that managers of some public stations have cut staff, reduced programming or reduced their hours on air. Critics say they don't believe general fund money should be used to support public broadcasting. Supporters say the stations are especially important in rural areas where media choices are limited.


Kansas Democrats Touting 'Pro-Worker' Legislative Agenda

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democrats in the Kansas Legislature are pushing measures on wages, hiring and government procurement aimed at helping workers. Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley and House Democratic Leader Paul Davis outlined the proposals Monday at a news conference where they also criticized majority Republicans as unfriendly to wage earners. Their agenda includes measures that would require contractors on public projects to pay the prevailing union wage for certain jobs in a community and requiring Kansans to be hired first. Also, they're arguing that the state should boost its $7.25-an-hour minimum wage. But the Democratic leaders devoted much of their event to criticizing Republicans over several measures to limit the bargaining rights of public employee unions. Republicans have said they want to protect workers who disagree with their unions.

Bill Seeks Equal Kansas Teacher Union Access

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee is considering a bill that would let professional associations approach teachers and public school staff who might be interested in their services. Kansas law now requires districts to grant full access to teachers only to the designated "professional education organization" that negotiates teachers' contracts. The executive director of the Kansas Association of American Educators testified for the bill Monday before the House Education Committee. Garry Sigle said his organization isn't seeking to negotiate teacher contracts, just provide teachers information about other services. The Kansas Supreme Court has labeled Sigle's group a professional education organization. The bill before the committee would change the law to require districts to grant access to all PEOs, even those merely seeking to distribute information. The Kansas National Education Association opposes the bill.

Coalition Head: Kansas Religious Freedoms Act Now Addresses Anti-Gay Discrimination Concerns

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Gay rights activists say they are satisfied with a new version of the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act that has been introduced in the House this session. The bill was first introduced in last year's session. Representative Lance Kinzer, an Olathe Republican, tells the Lawrence Journal-World that the goal is to shield people who are concerned that government is infringing on religious liberties. But some gay rights advocates said last year's act would have allowed people to cite their religious beliefs to justify discrimination against gay people. Tom Witt, executive director of the Kansas Equality Coalition, says the new version of the bill adequately addresses those concerns.

Contractor Faces Sentencing for Smuggling Cash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A private contractor who admitted trying to smuggle $150,000 in undeclared cash from Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan to his ex-wife in Kansas is expected to soon learn his punishment. Donald Gene Garst will be sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Topeka. He pleaded guilty in November to one count of bulk cash smuggling. Prosecutors say the money is part of an illegal kickback scheme with an Afghanistan company that Garst used in 2011 to further his criminal activity at the expense of the U.S. government. But the 51-year-old Kansas man contends the money was gambling winnings. He also blames post-traumatic stress disorder for his mental health issues. Prosecutors are seeking a prison term of between 30 and 37 months. The defense wants probation.

Dodge City Clinic Seeks to Drop Funding Challenge

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Dodge City Family Planning Clinic is seeking to withdraw from a lawsuit challenging a state law stripping federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood clinics in Wichita and Hays and an unaffiliated clinic in Dodge City. A joint filing Monday at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals says the parties have entered into an agreement to dismiss the Dodge City clinic from the suit. The clinic closed December 31. The move has no impact on the claims by Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. The lawsuit stems from a Kansas law requiring the state to first allocate federal family planning money to public health departments and hospitals, which leaves no funds for specialty clinics. A judge found last year that the statute unconstitutionally bars the plaintiffs from eligibility.

2 Shot During Large Fight in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police say two suspects are in custody after shots were fired during fights that involved up to 15 people The fight Sunday night left two people with gunshot wounds, although the injuries were not considered life-threatening. Police Lieutenant Ron Gish said in a news release that officers received reports of a large group of people fighting in southeast Topeka, with some of the people involved armed with handguns. Gish says a 30-year-old female and 15-year-old boy were taken to hospitals with gunshot wounds. After the shooters' car was found, police took four people into custody. Police later said a 48 year-old male and 17-year-old male, both from Topeka, were the primary shooting suspects.

Documents Question Accuracy of 'In Cold Blood'

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Wall Street Journal has released documents casting doubt on the accuracy of events portrayed in Truman Capote's book recounting the 1959 murders of the Clutter family in southwest Kansas. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the documents — a Kansas Bureau of Investigation report — question the timeline of the investigation into the four murders in Holcomb. Capote long contended his 1964 book "In Cold Blood" was "immaculately factual," but the documents dispute his contention that KBI detective Alvin Dewey immediately acted on a tip that led to the arrest of Perry Smith and Richard Hickock. Instead, the documents suggest the agency waited five days after getting the tip before going to the Hickock farm, where he was last seen.

2 Hurt After Cars Crash into Cows in Kansas

BENTON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says four cars collided with cattle that wandered onto a southeast Kansas highway, sending two women to the hospital. The patrol says the accident occurred Sunday evening on Kansas 254 near Benton in Butler County The injured women, a 55-year-old from Wichita and a 53-year-old from Valley Center, were in separate cars. They were listed in fair condition Monday at Wichita hospitals. Two other women were not hurt when their cars hit the animals.


Overland Park Mineral Company Raises Dividend

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Compass Minerals International is raising its quarterly dividend by 10 percent to more than 54 cents. The company says results from its salt and specialty fertilizer business have remained strong despite mild winter weather that hurt sales of its deicing products.


Oklahoma Sheriff Arrests 8 at Keystone Pipeline Site

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma authorities say they arrested eight people at a construction site for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, including one man who locked himself to a piece of machinery. Seminole County Sheriff's Deputy Chris Conn says two women and six men were arrested Monday morning on trespassing complaints at the site near the town of Schoolton. Conn says one man who locked himself to a piece of machinery was removed after a local fire department used a pair of bolt cutters to free him. A spokesman for Calgary-based TransCanada says the incident was the second in Oklahoma in which protesters locked themselves to a piece of equipment. A group claiming responsibility for the protest, Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, cited environmental concerns and the oil extraction's impact on indigenous people.


3 People in Custody for Teen Handcuffed to Pole

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police say three people are in custody and charges could be filed by day's end in connection with a teenager who was found handcuffed to a steel pole in his basement last week. Police spokeswoman Sergeant Marisa Barnes says the three were taken into custody Monday afternoon, but no names or details about the arrests were provided. The case has been turned over to the Clay County prosecutor's office. The 17-year-old was found February 4 after a neighbor contacted a social services agency and said she suspected a boy was being abused. Police found him in the dark basement curled in a fetal position and appearing frail. He told investigators he had been kept in the basement since late September after his father pulled him out of school.

Police Say Woman's Death in House Fire Suspicious

COLBY, Kan. (AP) — Colby police are calling the death of a 27-year-old woman suspicious after she was found inside a house that was on fire. Emergency crews who responded to a fire call at 6:59 a.m. Saturday found the Colby woman near the front of the home. Police say she was not responsive and was taken to a hospital where she later died. The woman was not named in a news release from the Police Department. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation, State Fire Marshal's Office and Kansas Highway Patrol are helping with the investigation.

Newspaper: 19 Kansas Killers Paroled in Last 3 Years

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A newspaper's review of Kansas prison records has found 19 inmates serving life sentences for first-degree murder have been paroled over the past three years after spending an average of 23.8 years in custody. The Wichita Eagle reports the paroled inmates range in age from 35 to 92 and were convicted of killing 21 people between 1979 and 1995. Most were serving life sentences that made them eligible for parole after 15 years. Wichita defense attorney Richard Ney says the state never intended the inmates to be locked away forever, and their release shows they have been rehabilitated. The 19 paroled killers were among 221 inmates with first-degree murder convictions who went before the Kansas Parole Board or the Prisoner Review Board from January 2010 through September 2012.

Baker University President Will Resign in 2014

BALDWIN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Baker University President Pat Long says she plans to retire in June 2014. Long told the university's Board of Trustees about her plans on Friday. She has been president of the university in Baldwin City since 2006, when she became the institution's first female president. The trustees say they will start a national search for her replacement soon. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the 61-year-old Long said she planned when she was hired to serve as president for five to seven years. She says she wanted to give plenty of advance notice to allow the university time to find the best replacement. During her tenure, Baker spent $11.3 million renovating and expanding the university's science and mathematics facilities and constructed a new residence hall.

Corn Shortage Idles 20 Ethanol Plants Nationwide

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The persistent drought is taking a toll on producers of ethanol, with corn becoming so scarce that nearly two dozen ethanol plants have been forced to halt production. The Renewable Fuels Association, an ethanol industry trade group, provided data to The Associated Press showing that 20 of the nation's 211 ethanol plants have ceased production over the past year, including five in January. While most expect to resume, they won't likely do so until after 2013 corn is harvested in late August or September. Industry experts don't expect an ethanol shortage because millions of barrels are stockpiled and the remaining 191 plants are still producing. But there is growing concern about the high price of corn and what happens if the drought lingers through another corn-growing season.


Kansas Woman Gets 3 Years for Theft to Save Farm

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas woman who said she embezzled from the credit union where she worked to save the family farm has been sentenced to three years in prison. The U.S. attorney's office says 48-year-old Pamela Emig, of Solomon, must also pay $817,000 in restitution under the sentence she received Monday. Emig pleaded guilty in November to one count of embezzling from Enterprise Credit Union, in Enterprise, between 2005 and 2011. She was a manager and kited checks between accounts under her control to cover up the thefts. Defense attorney Christopher Joseph says in a filing that Emig was a conscientious employee for nearly 30 years until desperation influenced her "aberrant actions." The thefts began when she and her husband filed for bankruptcy and had no money to feed their cattle.

Kansas City Considering Selling Naming Rights to Some City-Owned Properties

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Some Kansas City officials are considering selling naming rights to parts of city-owned property. City Manager Troy Schulte wants to create a new position to establish a sponsorship and naming rights program in the city. The idea is being pushed by Oscar McGaskey, director of the city's convention facilities. He's not proposing that entire buildings be renamed, just sections or items within the buildings. For example, he says he doesn't want to sell naming rights to Bartle Hall. But he foresees having a corporation sponsor the building's ballroom. The Kansas City Star reports  McGaskey promises he will sell naming rights only to family-friendly companies. No beer ads or adult entertainment companies would be allowed. If the city council funds the new position, funds would be available May 1.


Kansas Man Pleads Guilty to Producing Child Pornography

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — An eastern Kansas man has pleaded guilty to producing child pornography and is expected to spend 20 to 30 years behind bars. Michael Arnett of Roeland Park entered his plea Monday in U.S. District Court. As part of the deal, prosecutors will drop one count of possessing child porn and one count of distributing it. The 38-year-old admitted taking pictures of children engaged in sexual conduct from 2000 to the summer of 2008. Investigators tracked him to Kansas after discovering a water bottle in a photo on a Wisconsin man's computer had the name of a swim and scuba center in Overland Park. Prosecutors say Robert Poe III, a friend of Arnett's who is accused of traveling to entice a minor for sex, will change his plea February 19.

South Dakota Jail Escapee Indicted on New Charges

HURON, S.D. (AP) — A man serving a two-year prison term in South Dakota for stealing a pickup truck and leading authorities on a chase last December faces new charges in connection with his escape from jail last month KOKK radio reports that 45-year-old Charles Beeney has been indicted on charges of escape, aggravated assault against a jailer and grand theft. He has not yet entered pleas Authorities say Beeney escaped the Beadle County Jail on January 8 after accosting a guard with a makeshift weapon. He was captured later the same day in Sioux Falls after allegedly stealing a pickup truck. Beeney also has a criminal history in Kansas and North Dakota, including an escape from a county jail in North Dakota and an attempted escape from the State Penitentiary in that state.

Fundraising Starts for Renovation of Kansas City's Fountains

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Many of Kansas City's signature fountains are badly in need of repair. The city's parks director, Mark McHenry, says about half of Kansas City's 48 public fountains need repairs that go beyond routine maintenance. The Kansas City Star reports that a preliminary estimate for repairs on just five deteriorating fountains exceeds $1 million. But the city has budgeted only $250,000 for fountain maintenance. To help fill the gap, a nonprofit group called City of Fountains Foundation is launching a fundraising effort to fix the structures. An exact money goal has not been determined. Supporters say the fountains are important because they give the public places to relax. And they say Kansas City has a reputation as the City of Fountains, which brings national recognition to the city.

KC Man Becomes Family's Latest Convicted Murderer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 37-year-old Kansas City man whose family includes four other convicted killers has been found guilty of second-degree murder in a 2009 robbery attempt. A Jackson County (Missouri) jury also convicted Diamond Blair of robbery and armed criminal action Friday night in the death of 22-year-old Montague Kevin Ashline on June 24, 2009, outside a Kansas City apartment complex. The Kansas City Star reports that Blair, whose uncle is serial killer Terry Blair, already is serving 23 years in prison for other convictions. His mother was charged with murder twice and convicted once for killing her drug-dealing boyfriend in 1989. Diamond Blair has a lengthy rap sheet that includes robbery, kidnapping, assault and weapons violations. His first arrest came when he was 6 years old.


Weis Makes Subtle Changes to KU Coaching Staff

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas Head football coach Charlie Weis made several changes to his coaching staff on Monday, including elevating defensive coordinator Dave Campo to assistant head coach. Campo will continue to coordinate the defense and work with defensive backs, while Clint Bowen will begin working with the Jayhawks' linebackers. Louie Matsakis has been hired as director of personnel, Max Onyegbule as a graduate assistant and Ty Greenwood as a quality control coach. Scott Vestal, who'd been assistant director of operations, will become assistant defensive backs coach and work with special teams. Rod Jones moves from graduate assistant to director of high school relations, and Maurice Crum Jr. becomes assistant director of operations. Matt Shula was promoted from quality control coach to graduate assistant and Mark Ross from an intern to quality control coach. 


Kansas City Royals Begin Spring Training

SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals have lost 90 or more games in eight of the past 10 seasons. A revamped rotation led by James Shields offers new hope for 2013. The Royals opened spring training Monday with 34 pitchers and seven catchers reporting, plus several position players are already in camp. Among the pitchers are four starters who were not with the club for spring training last year. They include Shields, who went 15-10 with a 3.52 ERA last season with Tampa Bay, Wade Davis, Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie. Shields and Davis were acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Rays. Santana was picked up in a trade with the Los Angeles Angels. Guthrie joined the Royals last July.

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