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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, February 12, 2013



KS Senate Tax Committee Endorses Most of Gov's Tax Proposals

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has endorsed most of Republican Governor Sam Brownback's tax plan. The GOP-dominated Assessment and Taxation Committee discussed Brownback's proposals for less than 10 minutes Tuesday before approving a bill on a voice vote. The action sends the legislation to the full Senate for debate, possibly next week. Brownback wants to position Kansas to eventually eliminate personal income taxes. His plan calls for phasing in cuts in individual income tax rates over the next four years. But the state also must stabilize its budget. The bill scraps an income tax deduction for interest on home mortgages and cancels a decrease in the state sales tax scheduled for July. The committee jettisoned only one proposal from Brownback's plan, which would have eliminated an income tax deduction for property taxes on homes.


Term-Limit Proposal Draws Little Interest at KS Statehouse

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Four proposals to limit the terms of some elected Kansas officials are drawing little interest. No one testified for or against the measures Tuesday before the Senate Ethics, Elections and Local Government Committee. The proposals would place limits on state legislators, members of the Kansas delegation to the U.S. House and Senate, as well as the state treasurer, attorney general, secretary of state and commissioner of insurance. Currently only the governor is limited to two consecutive four-year terms in office. State Senator Dennis Pyle, a Hiawatha Republican and chairman of the committee, said he didn't know if or when the bills would be taken up again. They will be available for debate and discussion for the next two legislative sessions.


Hearing Airs Concerns over Kansas At-Risk Student Funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — School officials are voicing opposition to a Senate bill that would change the way Kansas has distributed funds for students at risk of failure for more than 20 years. Administrators and education lobbyists told the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday that the definition used to hand out extra money to help schools serve poor students worked. They argue that students from low-income families traditionally struggle academically because they come to school with fewer skills. Under the Senate proposal, schools would continue to receive extra money to serve kindergarten through third-graders who qualify for government subsidized school meals. But from fourth to 12th grade the additional funds would be determined based on student test scores. Supporters say the change would be a better use of resources and reach all struggling students.


Aaron Jack Resigns as Kansas Securities Commissioner

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas securities commissioner has resigned and announced plans to pursue opportunities in the private sector. Aaron Jack's immediate departure was announced in a news release Tuesday. Jack is seeking the 2014 Republican nomination for state insurance commissioner. He previously served in the Kansas Legislature from 2009 to 2011. Jack says he has "greatly appreciated" the chance to serve. Governor Sam Brownback has appointed Josh Ney interim commissioner. Ney joined the commission as a staff attorney in 2011 after working in the Jefferson County attorney's office. Brownback praised Jack in the release, saying the securities office had made "great strides" during the past two years.


Kansas Refinery to Pay $2.3 Million for 2007 Spill

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Environmental regulators say a southeast Kansas refinery operator has agreed to pay more than $2.3 million in penalties and cleanup costs for an oil spill during the 2007 flood in Coffeyville. The Environmental Protection agency said Tuesday that figure includes a civil penalty of $556,244 to settle violations of the Clean Water Act at the facility operated by Coffeyville Resources Refining & Marketing. Most of the money goes to reimburse the federal response costs associated with the cleanup of the Verdigris River after the flood. Coffeyville Resources spilled about 2,145 barrels of crude oil, diesel fuel and oil water during the flood. EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks says in a news release the settlement also requires the company to upgrade its facility to protect people's health and the environment.

Kansas House Names Ballot Box for Late Lawmaker

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has honored a member who died last year by putting his name on the wooden ballot box he built for use in races for leadership positions. The chamber unanimously adopted a resolution Monday bestowing the honor on the late Representative Bob Bethell. The Alden Republican had served in the House since 1999 and died in a one-car accident while driving home after the 2012 legislative session ended. Bethell, a Baptist minister and talented wood worker, made the ballot box because he thought leadership elections deserved something better than the shoe boxes previously used. He finished the project in 2004. The box had been displayed in the office of the Legislative Administrative Services director. It's now in the care of the House sergeant at arms.

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.

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.

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.


Man Caught after Chase Through Entire Kansas County

WILLIAMSTOWN, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says a man was arrested after leading officers on a chase that spanned nearly all of Jefferson County. The chase began when a patrol trooper tried to stop the pickup outside of Topeka because its tag numbers and tail lights were covered. After the driver sped away, officers pursued him along U.S. 24 through Grantville, Perry and Williamstown at speeds that sometimes reached 110 mph. The pickup also went into fields and gravel roads during the chase. Patrol spokesman Don Hughes says the pursuit ended when the pickup caught fire as the man drove through a field southeast of Williamstown. The man got out of the vehicle and surrendered peacefully. The man was treated at the scene before being taken to the Jefferson County Jail.


Bank Robbery Prompts Lockdown of Mulvane Schools

MULVANE, Kan. (AP) — A bank robbery in Mulvane prompted the town's schools to go into lockdown for more than an hour. A Sedgwick County dispatch supervisor said the Carson Bank on Main Street was robbed at 10:44 am Tuesday. The Wichita Eagle reports that the suspect left in a red and white F-250 or similar large truck. District spokesman Tom Keil says students and staff were kept inside at all schools until police gave an "all clear" at 12:15 pm.


Kansas Towns Resurrect Main Street Organization

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Representatives of more than 20 Kansas downtown programs are working to restart the Kansas Main Street organization, which was shut down last year by the state. Before the program was ended, Kansas Main Street provided member communities with help for downtown revitalization and small-business development. The state Department of Commerce eliminated the program last year, citing budget problems. Directors from 25 Kansas downtown programs met last week in Hutchinson to sign articles of incorporation. The articles were signed by eight directors representing five geographical areas. The Garden City Telegram reports the group will meet again next week to finalize bylaws and relationships with groups that have offered help. Beverly Schmitz Glass, executive director of the Garden City Downtown Vision, says the group will not seek any state funds.


Contractor Gets Prison and Fine for Smuggling Cash

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A private contractor from Kansas has received a 30-month sentence for trying to smuggle $150,000 from Afghanistan back to his ex-wife, in a case the government claims was part of a larger kickback scheme. The U.S. attorney's office says Army veteran Donald Gene Garst was also fined about $52,000 at his sentencing Tuesday in federal court in Topeka. Garst pleaded guilty in November to one count of bulk cash smuggling, but he has recanted an earlier admission that the money came from a kickback scheme to steer subcontracts to an Afghan company. Instead, Garst says he won the money gambling at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, where he worked as a manager for a U.S. firm from 2009 to 2011.

Kansas Seeks Comment on Wichita Contamination Plan

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is seeking public comment on a plan to clean up contamination at the former Unocal Chemical Distribution site in Wichita. The public comment period on the draft plan posted on the agency's website opened Monday and closes March 12. The agency will also hold a meeting next month to outline its preferred cleanup plan and solicit public participation. The session is set for March 5 at 7 pm in the auditorium at Wichita's Office of Environmental Health.


Sisters of Kansas Dog Expert Increase Reward

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The sisters of a prominent dog show expert are increasing the reward for information leading to the arrest of his killers. Police announced Tuesday that two sisters of 69-year-old Peter Belmont Jr. have added $4,050 to the fund, bringing the reward to a total of $5,050. Belmont was found dead in his bedroom in Kansas City, Kansas bedroom in December. The Kansas City Star reports that Belmont was known internationally on the dog show circuit for his breeding of Afghan hounds under the kennel name of Elmo. Belmont taught art at all educational levels before retiring from Wyandotte County schools.


Man Arrested in Connection with Death of Kansas Woman in Burning Home

COLBY, Kan. (AP) — A 24-year-old man is being held in connection with the weekend death of a northwest Kansas woman found in her burning home. The Colby Free Press reports the woman has been identified as 27-year-old Teri Chase Morris, who worked at a Walmart in Colby and as an emergency medical technician for Thomas County. Morris died at a hospital after firefighters found her unconscious inside her burning home around 7 am Saturday. The cause of death has not been released. Morris's 11-month-old baby and the suspect were both found later Saturday about 80 miles away near the Phillips County town of Logan. The suspect is from Garden City and was being held Monday in the Thomas County jail. Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office is helping with the investigation.


Missouri Couple Charged with Handcuffing Teen to Pole

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri couple accused of handcuffing the husband's teenage son to a basement pole has been charged with child abuse. Forty-two-year-old David Martin and 41-year-old Pamela Martin were charged Tuesday in Clay County Circuit Court with felonious restraint and child abuse. Bond has been set at $50,000. The prosecutor's office didn't know if they had attorneys. The 17-year-old was found February 4 after a neighbor contacted a social services agency. Police found the boy in the basement curled in a fetal position and locked to a steel pole. He told investigators he had been kept in the basement since his father pulled him out of school in September. Court documents say the boy's weight had dropped from 130 pounds to 103 pounds. The couple says the boy has bipolar disorder.


English Runner Wins Trans-Atlantic Pancake Race

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — An English runner won the annual trans-Atlantic pancake race in record time Tuesday, beating the winner of the southwest Kansas leg of the race by 8.3 seconds. It was the second win for 19-year-old Devon Byrne of Olney, England. She carried a pancake in a griddle over a 415-yard course in 56 seconds, besting the time of Liberal winner, Caitlin Demarest, six hours later. Legend recounts that the race began in 1455 when an Olney housewife ran to Shrove Tuesday church services still carrying a pancake in a frying pan. Liberal made it a friendly international competition in 1950. Byrne's victory brings the total to 36 wins for Liberal and 27 for Olney. The race in 1980 didn't count because a media truck blocked the course in Olney.

Kansas Couple Watches Son Perform on Grammys

WESKAN, Kan. (AP) — A western Kansas couple is having fun and swelling with pride as they watch their son's career take off with the band Fun. The latest big moment was Sunday, when Ed and Cindy Harold of Weskan watched their son, Nate, play bass guitar with Fun during the Grammy Awards. The band won Grammys for song of the year and best new artist. The Hays Daily News reports the Harolds have twice gone to New York to see Nate in concert, and saw a show in Denver. Ed Harold says his son has repeatedly said that he never thought he would be playing the Grammys. Harold says he and his wife are having a lot of fun and are "proud as punch" of their son.


General Aviation Plane Shipments Increase Slightly in 2012 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The General Aviation Manufacturers Association says shipments of general aviation airplanes last year were up slightly at the same time billings decreased a bit. The trade group reported Tuesday that 2,133 airplanes were delivered in 2012 for an increase of just point-6 percent. At the same time, airplane billings declined slightly last year to $18.9 billion. That compares to billings of $19 billion in 2011. Deliveries of turboprop airplanes were up by more than 10 percent last year. That helped to offset fewer deliveries of piston planes and business jets. GAMA's chairman, Brad Mottier, says in a news release that general aviation is poised for a resurgence in the next few years as new technologies enter the market.

Plea Hearing Set for Kansas Woman in Child's Death

EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas woman who was scheduled for trial in the death of her young daughter will instead have a new plea hearing next month. Alyssa Haag of El Dorado was scheduled to go on trial Tuesday for first-degree murder in the March 2012 death of 18-month-old Jayla Haag. Instead, KAKE-TV reports a new plea hearing is set for March 15. Prosecutors allege Jayla Haag died of injuries caused by child abuse. Officials say the girl had bruises all over her body, multiple burn scars and six missing teeth.

KC Man Accused of Killing Girlfriend as Kids Watch

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man is charged with killing his girlfriend as his two young children watched. Jackson County (Missouri) prosecutors charged 43-year-old Ja (Jay) Ray Monday with first-degree murder in the stabbing and drowning of 21-year-old Essence Willoughby last November. Family members say Willoughby had ended her relationship with Ray but agreed to go to church with him and their two boys last November 11. Police allege Willoughby was killed after church in a nearby wooded area as their 3- and 2-year-old sons sat nearby. The Kansas City Star reports that the 3-year-old gave police details about the attack and helped officers find her body. Online court records do not indicate that Ray has an attorney.

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