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Regional Headlines for Saturday, May 19, 2012



Congressional District Remapping Plan Approved by Kansas House

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has approved a plan favored by conservative Republican leaders for redrawing the state's four congressional districts. The House's 64-51 vote Saturday sent the measure to the Senate. Senate President Steve Morris, a moderate Hugoton Republican, said he won't block a vote, but he's skeptical that the plan can pass his chamber. A key feature of the map is how it splits Lawrence, home to the University of Kansas, between two districts. The city is now divided between the 2nd District of eastern Kansas and the 3rd District, which is centered on the Kansas City metropolitan area. The most recent proposal would keep part of Lawrence in the 2nd, but place other parts of the city into the 1st District, which is mostly located in central and western Kansas, containing rural communities that are in some cases 400 miles or more away.


Kansas Lawmakers Declare End to Debate on Tax Cuts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Leaders of the Kansas Legislature say its debate on cutting income taxes has come to an end. That means the state will enact an aggressive package of reductions that many lawmakers fear will create massive budget problems — and big spending cuts in the future. Lawmakers had been working on a less aggressive plan, but leaders of all factions said Saturday there will be no new plan. Republican Governor Sam Brownback believes the tax cuts will give Kansas among the most pro-growth economic policies in the nation. The Republican-controlled Legislature already has approved a bill cutting individual income tax rates and eliminating taxes for 191,000 businesses. Brownback had encouraged lawmakers to embrace an alternative plan phasing in the cuts over six years. But most senators balked, thinking the alternative was still too aggressive.

KS Governor May Seek Involvement in Senate Redistricting Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says he may try to get involved in a federal lawsuit over the Kansas Legislature's failure to redraw the state's political boundaries. The conservative Republican governor told reporters Saturday that he is still deciding whether he'll file a request for permission to intervene in U.S. District Court. Interested parties have until Monday to file such requests. Nine other people have filed such requests, including House Minority Leader Paul Davis and Senate Reapportionment Committee Chairman Tim Owens, a moderate Overland Park Republican. Three federal judges plan to begin a hearing on the lawsuit May 29. The lawsuit was filed earlier this month by Robyn Renee Essex, a Republican precinct committee member from Olathe. The defendant is Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

Kansas House Minority Leader Seeks to Join Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House's Democratic leader is seeking permission to join in a federal lawsuit over the Legislature's failure to approve political redistricting proposals. House Minority Leader Paul Davis, of Lawrence, filed his request Friday in U.S. District Court, along with former Democratic state Representative Bill Roy Junior, of Lenexa. Davis told The Associated Press in an interview Friday night that the lawsuit is likely to settle redistricting issues because lawmakers probably won't pass any proposals. He says he wants to be able to weigh in. Davis said he expects other parties to file similar requests. Overland Park business leaders Benjamin Craig and Larry Winn the Third also filed a request to join the lawsuit, as did Manhattan resident Frank Beer. The deadline to file such requests is Monday.

Kansas Senate Approves Remapping Plan Favored by Moderates

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has approved a proposal favored by the moderate Republican leadership for redrawing the chamber's 40 districts. Friday's 21-17 vote sent the measure to the House, where it's unlikely to pass. Senate President Steve Morris, a moderate Hugoton Republican, acknowledged supporters pursued the measure to give a federal court more options in settling a lawsuit over redistricting. GOP conservatives complained during Friday's debate that the measure is designed to keep current Senate leaders in power. Supporters denied they were gerrymandering. The measure would remove at least three conservative candidates from the districts of the moderate Republican incumbents they had planned to challenge. It would also put conservative Republican Senators Steve Abrams of Arkansas City, and Ty Masterson of Andover, in one district.

Kansas Legislators Strike Deal on Higher Ed Tweaks

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Negotiators have struck a deal to make tweaks to Kansas higher education laws to provide more tools for students who struggle to earn their degrees. The changes agreed to Saturday would require state universities to work with students admitted under exceptions to the state's qualified admissions standards. Those students would be required to develop an "individual plan for success" with an academic adviser and other university staff. The goal is to help students who may have not been prepared for the rigors of college to develop good study habits and strategies to make the grade and earn their degree. The proposal is part of a conference committee report that must be passed by the House and Senate before becoming law. The changes would take effect in 2014.

Senate Majority Leader Returns Home Following Hospital Stay

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Senate Majority Leader Jay Emler is resting at home after being hospitalized for high blood pressure. Emler's office confirmed Saturday that the Lindsborg Republican would not return to the Statehouse during the weekend after being absent since Wednesday afternoon. He was released Friday night from the Stormont-Vail Regional Health Center in Topeka. Emler, a 62-year-old attorney, was first elected to the Senate in 2000 and is serving his third term. He's in his second year as majority leader. He previously served as chairman of the budget-writing Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Judge: Abortion Clinics Must Pay Own Attorney Costs

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has refused to award attorney fees and court costs to Kansas abortion clinics who won an injunction that kept temporary state regulations from taking effect. The clinics were seeking more than $221,000 for last year's proceedings. U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia issued an order last July barring the state from enforcing temporary rules on the drugs and equipment that abortion clinics must stock and the sizes and temperatures of their rooms. On Friday, Murguia ruled that the circumstances of the federal proceedings did not qualify the clinics for attorney fees and court costs. Both sides have asked to have the federal lawsuit dismissed. The clinics are challenging a separate, final version of the regulations in state court in Topeka.

Former NE Kansas Postmaster Convicted of Embezzlement

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The former postmaster of a northeast Kansas post office has been convicted of embezzling. Federal prosecutors said in a release Friday that a jury found 50-year-old Terry L. Morris of Holton guilty on two counts of making a false writing and one count of embezzling public funds. Morris was the former post master for the post office in Whiting, a town of about 200 residents. Prosecutors said postal investigators found a shortage of more than $7,000 during an audit of the Whiting post office.


Defense Lawyer Wants Off Hutchinson Murder Case

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — An attorney representing one of the men charged with killing a Hutchinson woman last year says he wants off the case. Donald Snapp was appointed to represent 49-year-old Bill Joe Craig Jr., who is charged in the 2011 shooting death of Jennifer Heckel. The Hutchinson News reports that Snapp has filed a motion asking Reno County District Judge Tim Chambers to allow him to withdraw from the case, citing "numerous" conflicts of interest that have arisen. Craig's trial is set for July 17. Chambers has scheduled a hearing on Snapp's request for May 25. Craig and Charles Christopher Logsdon are charged with first-degree murder and several other charges in Heckel's death. They're both jailed on $500,000 bonds in the case.

Grain Company Races to Open Western Kansas Elevator

RIVERSIDE, Kan. (AP) — A new grain elevator is scheduled to open soon in west-central Kansas, just in time for the unusually early start of the wheat harvest. The Hays Daily News reports the elevator near the Ness County ghost-town site of Riverside will hold 400,000 bushels in its twin towers. Gary Gantz's company D.E. Bondurant Grain is building the elevator. He had hoped to stage a grand opening. But with the wheat harvest expected to begin within days in southern Kansas, his contractors are scrambling to get the elevator operational, perhaps by Friday. Gantz says the elevator will serve farmers in a major growing area. He says the closest elevators are located 11 miles north in Ness City and 15 miles south in Jetmore.

SPEEA Union Sues Spirit AeroSystems over Evaluations

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The union for engineers and technical workers at Spirit AeroSystems has filed suit seeking arbitration in a dispute over the way employees are evaluated.The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace filed the lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Wichita. The union contends that Spirit should have negotiated with it before implementing a performance improvement process for employees whose evaluations decline. The complaint seeks to force Spirit into binding arbitration, arguing the parties have been unable so far to resolve the grievance.

House Offers Education Funding Hike — With a Catch

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Negotiators in the Kansas House have given senators a proposal to solve the state's budget impasse, but it ties the issue to tax policy and education. In what is essentially a take-it-or-leave-it plan, the House offered Friday to give the Senate what it wants on education spending increases for the next fiscal year. In exchange, the House wants an alternative tax-cut bill passed and a string of school policy changes approved. Senators blocked debate on the tax plan earlier Friday. The plan would reduce the effects of tax cuts on future state budgets than the proposal currently awaiting Republican Governor Sam Brownback's signature. Legislators were to meet again Saturday to discuss the options.

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


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