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Regional Headlines for Thursday, January 17, 2013

KPR-News-SummaryGov's Budget Preserves Funding for KNI

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback once proposed closing a state hospital for the developmentally disabled in Topeka, but his latest budget proposals would keep it open through at least June 2015. Proposals released Wednesday by Brownback include a recommendation that the budget for the Kansas Neurological Institute remain roughly the same, about $28 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1 and for the following fiscal year. The hospital has about 150 residents and serves severely disabled patients. In 2011, in his first month in office, Brownback proposed shutting down KNI within three years and moving its residents to community programs or a state hospital in Parsons. The goal was to save the state money. But local officials and residents' families objected, and Brownback abandoned the idea.


Kansas Court System Seeks Boost in Funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court hopes to end emergency surcharges that people pay to file lawsuits and get marriage licenses. The court wants legislators to rely more heavily on state tax dollars to finance the court system. The judicial branch is proposing a 16 percent increase in the tax dollars it receives for the fiscal year beginning in July. The increase would be about $17 million, to $123 million from the current $106 million. The Supreme Court administers the court system. The increase would allow the courts to eliminate $11 million in extra fees. The judiciary's total budget would be about $135 million, an increase of $3 million, or a relatively modest 2.1 percent. Governor Sam Brownback was required by law to include the proposals in his budget recommendations.


KS Funding for Public Broadcasting Scrutinized

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is proposing a big cut in state funding for public radio and TV stations, but he also appears to have abandoned a previous effort to eliminate the funding altogether. Brownback told The Associated Press on Thursday that he tried to draft budget proposals for the next two fiscal years that can pass the Legislature. He added that his administration, in his words, "has a lot of irons in the fire." Brownback is proposing $600,000 in funding for public TV and radio in each of the next two fiscal years.The next fiscal year begins July 1. Two years ago, Brownback sought to end all funding for public broadcasting.


KS Governor's Budget Leaves Higher Ed Spending Flat

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's budget proposals would hold state spending on its higher education system flat over the two fiscal years that begin in July. The recommendations outlined Wednesday by Brownback would keep total spending on state universities, community colleges and vocational colleges around $2.5 billion for the fiscal year that begins in July and the following fiscal year. Current spending is a little more than $2.5 billion, or about 1.7 percent higher than Brownback is proposing for both of the following fiscal years. But his budget proposals assume less funding for infrastructure projects and don't include any further tuition increases. Both Kansas Board of Regents Chairman Tim Emert and University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said the proposals show the governor recognizes the importance of higher education.


KS Governor's Budget Would Divert Highway Dollars

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas would use some of its highway dollars to help cover the cost of busing children to and from public schools under Governor Sam Brownback's budget proposals. Brownback proposed Wednesday that the state divert $193 million normally set aside for highway projects to school transportation programs during the two years beginning in July. The diversion would be almost $97 million in each of the next two fiscal years. Brownback's administration said the state still will complete the 10-year, $8 billion transportation program that it started in 2010. When the state has faced budget problems in the past, it has raided highway funds to support general government programs. Budget Director Steve Anderson said Brownback is now seeking to divert highway funds to cover other transportation-related expenses.


KS Lawmakers Hear More on Judicial Selection Process

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Supporters of the method Kansas uses to put judges on its highest courts say there is no need to change the process. Lawyers, businessmen and the chief judge of the Kansas Court of Appeals testified Thursday before a Senate committee. They argued against changing the Kansas Constitution to give the governor and legislators more power over appointments to the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. Currently, applicants are screened by a nominating commission, which picks three finalists before the governor makes the appointment. Supporters say that method eliminates politics. The proposed change would still have the governor make the appointments, but the judges would have to be confirmed by the Senate. The proposed constitutional amendment would go before voters if it clears the Legislature.


Public Comment Sought on KS Science Standards

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas education officials are asking for public comments on new science standards for public schools. Comments received through January 29 will help refine a final draft of the Next Generation Science Standards. That's part of a state-led effort to create national standards for science education for kindergarten through 12th grade. The effort is similar to the Common Core standards adopted by states for reading and math. The new science standards should be completed in March.


Kansas Farm Groups Lobby Lawmakers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Members of several Kansas farm organizations will gather in Topeka next week to talk with lawmakers on issues vital to their industries. The Kansas Grain and Feed Association, Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association and the Kansas Cooperative Council are sending members to meet with legislators January 23 at the Topeka Country Club. Senate President Susan Wagle and other legislators will talk about their outlooks for the 2013 legislative session. Lobbyists from the farm organizations will give briefings on their top concerns.


West Texas Cargill Plant to Cut 2000 Jobs

PLAINVIEW, Texas (AP) — Cargill has announced it will idle a West Texas plant and lay off all 2,000 workers because of a tight cattle supply stemming from years of drought. A news release from the Wichita-based company Thursday says the Plainview, Texas workers will be laid off February 1. Other Cargill plants in the region and in other parts of the country will not be affected. The release said the company will work to relocate Plainview employees to its other plants. The nation's cattle herd is at its lowest level since 1952. Higher feed costs from drought in Texas and elsewhere and ranchers' selling off their cattle have reduced the number of animals headed to meatpacking plants. Cargill said it could reopen the plant if cattle numbers increase in coming years.

Topeka Man Convicted in Woman's Murder

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man has been convicted in a double shooting that left one woman dead and her life partner seriously injured. A Shawnee County jury on Wednesday convicted 19-year-old Jimmy Jermal Netherland of felony first-degree murder and five other charges. He will be sentenced March 8. Netherland was one of nine people charged in the July 2011 death of 40-year-old Natalie Gibson and the wounding of 43-year-old Lori Allison. The women were shot in their driveway after returning from a birthday celebration for Gibson. Prosecutors say the suspects drove to the women's home to steal a TV but the couple was shot when they arrived home. Netherland's attorneys contended he was not at the crime scene. Trials for two other defendants ended with hung juries on the murder counts.


Copper Thieves Target KS Irrigation Systems

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Copper thieves have been targeting pivot irrigation systems in rural Sedgwick County. The Wichita Eagle reports that the thieves are yanking copper wire from the pivots to sell as scrap. Sedgwick County sheriff's department Sergeant Scott Plummer said in a statement that there have been at least six confirmed thefts involving pivot irrigation systems in rural northwest Sedgwick County over the last three months. The thefts have caused more than $18,000 in damage and a loss of copper worth more than $15,000.


House Fire Kills 1 Near Columbus

COLUMBUS, Kan. (AP) — Cherokee County authorities say someone died in a house fire near Columbus. The fire was reported early Thursday at a home about three miles south of Columbus. Firefighters found the body of a deceased adult, but no name has been released. The body has been taken to Kansas City for an autopsy. The cause of the fire is under investigation.


Midwest Bankers Survey Suggests Continued Growth

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new survey of rural bankers suggests that growth in farmland prices, cash rents and farm equipment sales remain strong despite the continuing threat of drought in some Midwestern and northern Plains states. A report on the Rural Mainstreet Index released Thursday says the index hit 55.6 in January, down from 60.6 in December. It is the index's fourth straight month above growth neutral. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says the region's rural economy is still expanding at a moderate pace and that farm communities "appear to have shed the negative impacts of the 2012 drought." The index ranges from 0 to 100, with 50 representing growth neutral. It's based on a survey of rural bankers in Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.


Convictions of KS Doctor, Wife Upheld

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court has upheld the convictions of a Kansas doctor and his wife in a moneymaking conspiracy linked to 68 overdose deaths. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday sided with prosecutors in the case of Stephen and Linda Schneider, who ran a pain clinic in Haysville. The Schneiders were convicted in 2010 of conspiracy, unlawfully prescribing drugs, health care fraud and money laundering. Stephen Schneider was sentenced to 30 years, and his wife to 33 years. A three-judge panel agreed with the government that the Schneiders waived their right to conflict-free legal representation. New lawyers for the Haysville couple had argued the Schneiders' trial attorneys were little more than "mouthpieces" for a patient advocate who used the case to promote her own agenda.


KU's Debate Team Gets $500,000 Gift

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A University of Kansas graduate says he wanted to do something to support a team that has won five national championships and has 14 Final Four appearances. But David Pittaway wasn't thinking of the school's vaunted basketball program when he donated $500,000 to the university. Instead, he wanted to honor KU's nationally-known debate team. The university says Pittaway's donation is the largest ever given to the debate team. It will be used to create an endowed professorship for the team's head coach. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Pittaway is a senior managing director of a private equity investment firm. He was on the university's debate team when it won one of its national championships. He says the skills he learned from debate helped him throughout his career.

Livestrong, KC Sporting Sever Ties

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Sporting Kansas City CEO Rob Heineman says the loss of trust led the Major League Soccer team to sever ties with the cancer charity founded by Lance Armstrong. Heineman also said Wednesday the "tumultuous environment" that developed before the cyclist admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs also played into the team's decision to change Livestrong Sporting Park to Sporting Park. Heineman says the decision came after ESPN reported Livestrong said Sporting still owed the cancer charity $750,000 for 2012. Heineman says the team doesn't owe Livestrong any money. Armstrong admitted to Oprah Winfrey this week he used performance-enhancing drugs during his cycling career. Livestrong CFO Greg Lee says the organization doesn't discuss arrangements with its partners but he has "to ensure compliance by our corporate partners."


Federal Reserve Says Farm Income May Drop in 2013

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Federal Reserve says U.S. farm income could decline in 2013, but it depends upon whether the drought continues. The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Missouri said Thursday that if drought conditions persist, prices of corn and other crops would remain volatile because of tight supply. But if normal weather conditions return, crop prices would decline and lead to lower farm incomes. The USDA predicted farm income in 2012 would reach $114 billion, which would be the third-highest total on record. Crop insurance and high crop prices last year contributed to that. Current market prices suggest corn and soybean prices could be 10 to 15 percent lower by next fall. The 10th Federal Reserve District covers Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Colorado, northern New Mexico and western Missouri.


Operation Rescue Files Complaint About New Clinic

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Operation Rescue has filed a formal complaint with Wichita officials about ongoing renovations at the former clinic of slain abortion provider George Tiller. The anti-abortion group's policy director, Cheryl Sullenger, contended Thursday the building's new owners did not obtain required city permits to resurface the parking lot, do landscaping and remodel the clinic. The complaint also alleges the owners improperly completed architectural plans and met with contractors. The building was bought last August by the abortion rights group Trust Women Foundation Inc., which plans to offer a full range of reproductive health care services, including abortions. Trust Women's attorney, Robert Eye, says Operation Rescue's complaint lacks merit. He says the clinic owners are working with experienced people who know whether a permit is required for the work they are doing.


Wichita Police ID Man Found Dead Near Tracks

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita say a man found dead in a wooded area near railroad tracks had been reported missing days earlier. Construction workers came across the frozen body Wednesday morning in the northeastern part of the city. Police said Thursday they've identified the 34-year-old man, but his name was being withheld while relatives were notified. Investigators are calling the death suspicious, partly because there were signs the body had been moved from somewhere else. An autopsy was being conducted Thursday. Police said the man's girlfriend last saw him Friday at a business in west Wichita. She reported him missing on Sunday.


Former KS Executive Gets Probation for Fraud

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former executive of a struggling Kansas high-tech company has been given probation for defrauding the United States by creating false invoices on government contracts. Aaron Madison was executive vice president and chief operating officer of Manhattan-based NanoScale, a small company that makes advanced chemistry products. He pleaded guilty earlier to wire fraud. The U.S. attorney's office says Madison was sentenced Thursday to two years of probation and ordered to pay more than $17,000 in restitution. Federal prosecutors said 90 percent of NanoScale's business came from government contracts, most with the Defense Department. Madison was accused of manipulating contract costs between 2009 and 2011 and falsifying invoices to the government to help the company meet payroll and other expenses.


Salina Company Presses Jimi Hendrix Vinyl Records

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina company has been pressing two sets of vinyl records for a new album being released in honor of famed guitarist Jimi Hendrix. The new album of 12 previously unreleased studio performances is scheduled for release March 5 as a CD and double vinyl album, called "People, Hell and Angels." The occasion is what would have been Hendrix's 70th birthday. Hendrix died of an overdose in 1970 at age 27. Plating technicians at Quality Record Pressings in Salina are pressing about 30,000 vinyl records, with each album containing six tracks. The Salina Journal reports that Quality Record Pressings is a division of Acoustic Sounds, a Salina-based audio equipment and vinyl album pressing and distribution company.


Explosive Bottle Bursts at Wichita Wal-Mart

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita authorities are investigating after a bottle filled with an unknown liquid and aluminum foil burst inside a Wal-Mart. Police and fire responders were called to the store in west Wichita Thursday morning. No one was injured and the store was not evacuated after the 20-ounce bottle exploded. Police Sergeant Jerry Quick says store security tapes will be reviewed and the police department's bomb disposal team will investigate the device.


Survivor of Church Shooting Advocates Firearm Use, Safety

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — A woman whose father was killed during a 1988 shooting rampage at an Emporia church says the event made her an advocate for teaching proper use of firearms. Bev Hilbish was 18 when Cheun-Phon Ji entered the Calvary Baptist Church on March 6, 1988, and began firing. Hilbish's father, Thomas DeWeese of Americus, died and four others were wounded. Ji is serving life in prison. Hilbish tells The Kansas City Star that the shooting convinced her of the need for gun safety. She and her husband are certified 4-H shooting-sport instructors and coach many youngsters on handling firearms. And their 17-year-old daughter, Megan, is a national-class target shooter and good hunter. Hilbish says her dad wasn't a hunter but she thinks he would be proud of Megan's accomplishments.


Wichita Man Sentenced for Beating Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has been sentenced to more than 15 years in prison for a fatal beating in a dispute over a dog. Forty-one-year-old Samuel Sims was sentenced Wednesday in Sedgwick County District Court, where he pleaded guilty last month to involuntary manslaughter and two other felonies. Sims admitted taking part in the beating death of 47-year-old John Tolliver in July 2011. Police said Sims and another man, Nelson Glover, got involved in a dispute between Tolliver and his former girlfriend over possession of a dog. Tolliver was found dead in his Wichita home, where burglars had taken the dog. Glover has also pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. His sentencing is scheduled for January 24th.


Deadline for Appeal of Leavenworth Case Approaches

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — The Leavenworth County attorney says he's still deciding whether to appeal a court order that a woman convicted in her son's death be given a new trial. The Leavenworth Daily Times reports that Tuesday is the deadline for asking the Kansas Supreme Court to review the case of 31-year-old Monica Rivera, who was convicted in August 2010 of involuntary manslaughter and endangering a child. She is serving three years and five months in the 2009 death of her 4-year-old son, Gabriel. He died while Rivera's fiance, Jason L. Jones, was caring for him. Jones was convicted of second-degree murder. Last month, the Kansas Court of Appeals ordered a new trial for Rivera, citing errors in jury instructions and ruling that Rivera did not receive a fair trial.


Robbers Attack Blue Springs Couple

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. (AP) — Blue Springs police say they're investigating a home invasion in which two gunmen broke into a home, tied up a couple and shot the husband. The Kansas City Star reports that the robbery occurred Wednesday night while the couple's 4-year-old son was asleep in another room. The men stole several items and shot the husband. He was treated at a hospital for a minor gunshot wound. The woman and child were unharmed. Police said they used dogs to track the suspects and located evidence and items from the home.

Senator Moran Opens Manhattan Regional Office

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Senator Jerry Moran has opened a regional field office in Manhattan, giving the city two new congressional offices. Radio station KMAN reports Moran and his wife, Robba, were on hand for a ribbon-cutting Tuesday at the new office. The couple moved to the city last year from their longtime home in Hays. Moran's fellow Kansas Republican, U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp, recently opened his own regional office in Manhattan. The city was part of the 2nd Congressional District for decades but was moved by last year's redistricting to the sprawling 1st Congressional District. Moran is keeping his field office in Hays, along with others in Wichita, Pittsburg and Olathe.


KC Man Pleads Guilty to Sex Trafficking of Child

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man admits he filmed a 16-year-old girl having sex with another man and then tried to blackmail the man. Thirty-six-year-old Corey Monroe McKinney pleaded guilty Wednesday to production of child pornography and sex trafficking of a child. The Kansas City Star reports McKinney said he devised the scheme to get money to fix his car's brakes. Federal prosecutors alleged McKinney hid in a closet and taped the sexual encounter. The next day, McKinney told the 31-year-old man the girl was underage and demanded $500 in exchange for the video. The man paid $100, but when McKinney demanded $500 more, the man called police. McKinney was arrested after police set up a meeting to supposedly pay the money.


Sex Offender, KS Talent Scout Accused of Rape

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A convicted rapist who co-founded a Kansas talent agency after serving 20 years in prison is now accused of raping a 14-year-old girl he took to Tennessee to participate in a talent show. Nashville police say 55-year-old Robert Lile repeatedly attacked the girl while threatening her with a knife before leaving her Sunday in a local hotel. Police say he was the girl's manager. Lile was arrested Monday in Missouri. On Wednesday, he refused to be extradited, meaning Tennessee authorities will have to seek the governor's help. He's being held on $500,000 cash-only bond. Lile wasn't on the state or national sex offender list because his conviction pre-dated the law. While in prison, he unsuccessfully challenged the Kansas sex offender rehabilitation program before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2001.


Officer Helps Nab Burglars in Own Home

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A northeast Kansas police officer is getting credit from Missouri colleagues for helping make quick work of a burglary case. KMBC-TV reports the officer works for the Overland Park Police Department in Kansas but lives in Kansas City, Missouri. The officer was coming home late Wednesday morning when he noticed someone inside his own house, looking out. Kansas City police say the officer parked up the street, walked to his home and held one burglary suspect at gunpoint. Two other suspects ran but were quickly taken into custody. Investigators said the burglars apparently picked the officer's home at random and were looking for weapons and electronics.


McLemore Practicing for KU After Injury

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Ben McLemore has returned to practice after an ankle sprain and the leading scorer for the number 4-ranked University of Kansas expects to play at Texas on Saturday. Jayhawks coach Bill Self said Thursday that McLemore is "going to be close to 100 percent" against the Longhorns (8-8, 0-3 Big 12). The freshman is averaging 16.4 points, second best in the Big 12. McLemore hurt his right ankle during the 61-44 victory over Baylor on Monday night. Self said that McLemore did some shooting on his own during practice on Wednesday, but he was expected to return to full practice on Thursday for KU (15-1, 3-0).


Custody Fight over Belcher's Child Stays in Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Judges have determined that the custody fight over the daughter of dead Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher and his slain girlfriend will be waged in Missouri, not Texas. The custody fight is between the paternal and maternal grandparents of 4-month-old Zoey Belcher. She was orphaned on December 1 when her father fatally shot her mother at their home in suburban Kansas City, then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and killed himself. An attorney for the maternal grandparents, Jon Michael Franks, says judges in both states held a conference call Thursday with lawyers for the two families. Franks says the judges agreed to dismiss his clients' lawsuit in Texas and handle the custody fight in Missouri, where the infant's paternal grandparents filed their custody lawsuit.

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