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Regional Headlines for Thursday, March 28, 2013



Brownback Sees Gay Marriage as Settled Issue in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback still supports a federal law against gay marriage that he backed as a member of Congress and says the issue is settled in Kansas because of the state constitution's ban. Brownback faced questions Thursday from reporters with two cases on gay marriage before the U.S. Supreme Court. Brownback 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.


Senate Approves Changes to Kansas Turnpike

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has approved a bill that puts the Secretary of Transportation in charge of the Kansas Turnpike Authority. The bill approved Wednesday also prohibits the state from using toll revenue for anything other than operating the 236-mile Turnpike. Governor Sam Brownback had proposed putting the independent Turnpike Authority under control of the state transportation department. He said it would save the state $30 million over two years and avoid redundancies. Opponents who worried the state would use turnpike toll revenue for other purposes pushed the amendment to prohibit that from happening. But they said the turnpike authority's most important decision was hiring a chief executive, and the bill gives that authority to the transportation department. The bill now goes back to the House.

Senate Approves New Caps on Unemployment Benefits

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate approved a bill that would change the length of time Kansans can receive unemployment compensation. The bill approved Wednesday links the compensation to the state's jobless rate, and raises the surcharge employers pay into the unemployment trust fund. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the bill would allow Kansans to claim unemployment for the current standard of 26 weeks only when the jobless rate is above 6 percent. That would drop to 20 weeks if the unemployment rate was 4.5 percent to 6 percent. Benefits would stop at 16 weeks when the rate was under 4.5 percent. Supporters say the changes would motivate people who are out of work to find jobs. Opponents argued many unemployed people need the benefits to support their families.

Kansas Senate Advances Telecom Legislation

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A measure that would remove the obligation for telephone service carriers to provide service to rural and poor Kansas residents is a step closer to becoming law. The Kansas Senate approved a bill Wednesday that supporters say would change AT&T from a regulated phone company to an unregulated provider of services ranging from telephones to Internet access. The Wichita Eagle reports that opponents of the bill fear that the change will allow companies to shed service to less profitable rural customers and rural Kansas residents receiving a subsidized service. They also raise concerns about the impact on consumer protection. The Senate made amendments to a bill already approved by the House. If the House approves the changes, the bill goes to Governor Sam Brownback for his signature.


Backers Intensify Push for Kansas Medicaid Expansion

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Advocates of expanding Medicaid in Kansas under the federal health care overhaul have intensified their campaign to persuade state officials to embrace the idea. The Kansas Medicaid Access Coalition presented petitions favoring an expansion to Republican Governor Sam Brownback's office Wednesday. The petitions had almost 2,800 signatures. The 2010 federal law encourages states to broaden Medicaid coverage for the needy and disabled by promising the federal government will cover nearly all of the additional costs. Brownback is a critic of the federal law but has said that he'll leave a decision on expanding Medicaid to the Republican-controlled Legislature. Many GOP lawmakers are skeptical the federal government will keep its funding promises. The Kansas Medicaid Access Coalition has 40 member groups, including AARP Kansas and Kansas Action for Children.


UPDATE: Eyeballs Found in KC Gas Station Trash Not Human

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police say a pair of eyeballs found in a medical box in a Kansas City gas station's trash bin aren't human. Police spokesman Steve Young said Thursday that the police lab examined the eyeballs and determined they likely came from a pig. Young says a worker at a Conoco gas station in northern Kansas City called police after finding the cardboard box late Wednesday. The box was labeled, "Keep refrigerated." Surveillance video shows two men in a blue Toyota leaving the package on the trash bin. Young says police aren't investigating further because no crime appears to have been committed. Earlier, police had said that no eye banks or hospitals in the area were awaiting delivery of any eyeballs.

Indiana Fugitive Arrested Following Chase in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police say an Indiana fugitive is jailed after leading police on two brief car chases. Topeka police Lieutenant Ron Gish says 38-year-old Jamie Allen Sigman of Topeka was arrested Wednesday and faces several felony and traffic charges. Gish says Sigman had a fugitive justice warrant issued for him in Indiana, and a warrant with the city of Topeka, but he didn't know what the warrants were for. Gish says the chase began when officers tried to stop a pickup, which sped off and crashed into a curb. A passenger jumped out but the driver drove off again, only to collide with pickup about a mile away. The driver tried to flee on foot but was arrested. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the pickup truck driver suffered only minor injuries.

Salina Man Sentenced to Life for Rape of Minor

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A 53-year-old Salina man who had sex with an underage girl more than 100 times is sentenced to life in prison for rape. Saline County prosecutors say Gary Flores Perales was sentenced Wednesday to life without eligibility for parole for 25 years for rape. He also was sentenced to nearly 27 years for other sex crimes. The Salina Journal reports that Perales was convicted of eight counts in October 2012. Authorities allege that the crimes occurred between 2006 and 2010 when the victim was between 12 and 16 years old.

Feds Narrow Case, Charge Kansas Veteran with Unregistered Possession of Explosives

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors have narrowed their case against a 66-year-old Kansas veteran after an appeals court tossed out key evidence in a case charging him with unlawful possession of unregistered destructive devices. Alfred C. Dutton, an Army and Marine veteran from Eureka, now faces a single federal count of unlawful possession of unregistered destructive devices. The charge filed Tuesday accuses Dutton of having one or more grenade bodies and the parts needed to convert them into destructive devices. He has been summoned to appear in U.S. District Court on April 14. An earlier count of possessing five jars of homemade napalm with fuses attached has been dropped. His attorney has argued that Dutton collected military items and was preparing to sell decorative and inoperable World War II-vintage hand grenades on eBay.


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 that 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 8. 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.


Sentencing Postponed for Kansas Man in DUI Fatality Case

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Sentencing has been postponed for a 20-year-old Topeka man convicted of killing a teenage passenger while driving drunk. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Hunter Hillmer is now set to be sentenced May 17 in Shawnee County District Court. The proceeding had been scheduled for Thursday, but his new defense attorney sought the delay. Hillmer was convicted in December of reckless second-degree murder for a March 2012 accident that killed 15-year-old Madison Naill. He was also convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol and aggravated battery for injuries suffered by a second passenger. The crash left Hillmer paralyzed below the waist. He could face up to nearly 14 years in prison.


Free Pizza Hangs in the Balance for Shockers Fans

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Pizza Hut officials are promising a gift for Wichita State fans if the Shockers win the NCAA basketball tournament. The company says it will reopen its original restaurant on the Wichita State campus the Thursday after the NCAA tournament championship and feed the campus — if the Shockers capture the title. Wichita State plays La Salle Thursday night in the regional semifinals. Pizza Hut spokesman Doug Terfehr thinks a Wichita State championship is possible, saying, "The Cinderella, I think, is going to carry it all the way this year." The first Pizza Hut opened in 1958 in Wichita and was moved in 1986 to the Wichita State campus. Because the Shockers are seeded ninth, the chain also would offer a $9 pizza deal for those who sign up online.

Kansas Man Convicted in Fatal 2011 Wreck

PRATT, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man will be sentenced May 28 for involuntary manslaughter stemming from a wreck that killed an Oklahoma woman. The Kansas Attorney General's office says in a news release that 29-year-old Drew A. Haerle of Preston was convicted Wednesday in the 2011 death of 45-year-old Marla Frazier of Beaver County, Oklahoma. Frazier was a passenger in a van on Kansas 61 north of Pratt in May 2011 when a speeding car driven by Haerle ran a stop sign and hit the van. Two passengers in Frazier's vehicle also were injured. Tests taken after the accident found alcohol and marijuana in Haerle's blood.

Northeast Kansas Woman Dies in House Fire

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — A 75-year-old woman has died in a house fire in northeast Kansas. The St. Joseph News-Press reports that the fire broke out early Thursday in the two-story home in Atchison. Police Chief Mike Wilson identified the victim as Sharon D. Ferris. Fire Chief Mike McDermed says the fire appears to have started in a bedroom, and that firefighters found the victim on the second floor of the home. He says it appears she wasn't able to get out of the home. Fire crews extinguished the flames quickly, containing most of the fire to one of the bedrooms.

Storms Possible Saturday in Southern Plains

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Forecasters are warning of a chance of severe weather for portions of the Southern Plains during the Easter weekend. The Storm Prediction Center at Norman said Thursday that severe weather could occur from northwestern Texas across western Oklahoma into central and eastern Kansas. A cold front will be sweeping through the upper plains early Saturday, then move southeastward. A warm front will extend to the Tennessee and Ohio valleys. The atmosphere south and east of the fronts could be ripe for storm development Saturday afternoon. Hail and damaging wind gusts will be the biggest threats, according to the forecasters.


Fossett Fund Gives $1M to Salina Air Museum Effort

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Efforts to build an aviation museum at Salina Regional Airport are getting a boost from the Peggy and Steve Fossett Foundation. The foundation, named for the late adventurer and aviation pioneer, issued a $1 million challenge grant to help build the Wings Over Salina Museum and Aviation Experience. The grant will match contributions to the project. Salina was the site of two of Steve Fossett's aviation exploits. In 2005, he took off and landed at Salina in the first non-stop, non-refueled solo flight around the world. The flight lasted 67 hours and one minute and covered nearly 23,000 miles. The following year he used Salina as the starting point for a 25,294-mile flight, setting a world record for a closed-circuit flight. Fossett died in 2007 in a plane crash in California.

Emporia State University Offers New Mobile App

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Emporia State University has a new mobile application that allows students to look up details like their grades and class schedules. With a secure login, students also can use their smartphones or web-enabled devices to search course offerings and find out how much money is in their student accounts. The application also provides campus maps, access to news and events and faculty and staff directories. Staff in Emporia State's Office of Information Technology developed the application. It's currently available for Android and iOS devices. Emporia State plans to continue updating the app with new features based on input from the students and the campus community.


Chiefs Add Childress to Coaching Staff

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs have hired former Vikings coach Brad Childress, reuniting him with Andy Reid. Childress, who spent last season as the offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns, will be the Chiefs' spread game analyst and work on special projects. He spent five years as the Minnesota head coach (2006-10), a stint that included two division titles (2008-09). The team was 12-4 in 2009. Childress previously spent seven seasons (1999-2005) with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he worked with Reid, the new Chiefs head coach. Childress coached the quarterbacks for the first three years and spent the final four as offensive coordinator. The hire was announced Thursday. 


Festival Brings Children's Authors to Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Daniel Handler of "Lemony Snicket" fame is among the children's authors and illustrators coming to Kansas City next week. An independent bookstore, the Reading Reptile, is hosting a literature festival April 5 and 6 in association with Rockhurst University's education department. The festival includes events for children and adults. Handler writes the popular "A Series of Unfortunate Events" books. He'll be joined by Jack Gantos, whose "Dead End in Norvelt" won the John Newbery Medal for the best children's book of 2011. Other presenters include Jon Klassen, Laura Amy Schlitz, Herve Tullet and Peter Brown. Brown's New York Times best sellers include "Children Make Terrible Pets."

Kansas Gun-Rights Bill Aimed at Feds Still Alive

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Gun-rights supporters in Kansas are expecting to make a final push for a bill declaring that the federal government cannot regulate some firearms and ammunition manufactured in the state. Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce said Wednesday he expects his chamber to vote on the measure next week. The House has already approved it, and a Senate committee endorsed it this week. The measure is reaction to discussions of gun-control measures by federal officials following the mass elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in December. The bill says the federal government has no authority to regulate firearms, ammunition and accessories that are manufactured, sold and kept in Kansas. Supporters say it will block an overreach by the federal government. Critics see it as creating unnecessary conflict with Washington and possible litigation.

NW Kansas Man Convicted of Second-Degree Murder

OBERLIN, Kan. (AP) — A northwest Kansas man has been convicted of fatally shooting another man and wounding a woman as the couple slept. Twenty-five-year-old Dylan Coryell of Oberlin will be sentenced in June following his conviction Wednesday on charges of intentional second-degree murder and aggravated battery. It was the first murder trial in Decatur County in more than a decade. Coryell was charged with shooting 22-year-old Corey Cook, also of Oberlin, and a female acquaintance as they slept the morning of October 16th, 2011. The Salina Journal reported last week that witnesses testified Coryell had recently begun a relationship with the woman, who survived the shooting. Prosecutors said both men had been drinking and exchanging hostile text messages in the hours before the killing.

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