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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, March 05, 2013



Kansas Lawmakers Take Break; Will Return Wednesday

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators will reconvene Wednesday after a short break following an important milestone in the 2013 session. The Legislature remained out of session Tuesday following last week's so-called "turnaround" deadline. That's the day most bills must clear their chamber of origin to remain under consideration this year. Lawmakers stopped the clock on their session after Friday, the 47th day of their session. Wednesday will be counted as the 48th day. Legislative leaders traditionally assume their session will last 90 days, although it sometimes runs longer. This year, leaders are hoping to wrap up business in just 80 days.


Kansas Insurance Regulator Backs Medicaid Expansion

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger says she supports an expansion of the state's Medicaid program encouraged by the federal government's overhaul of health care. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Praeger said Tuesday that Kansas is hurting poor residents by not expanding Medicaid coverage for the needy and disabled. The federal health care law promises to pay for most of the expansion. Praeger already has broken with many fellow Republicans, including Governor Sam Brownback, over the 2010 federal health care law. The insurance commissioner has praised the overhaul as a step toward universal access to health care. A resolution expressing opposition to expanding Medicaid is pending in the Kansas House. Brownback has not taken a position on the issue, saying he will leave it to the Legislature.

Kansas House Panel to Consider Law Upping Child Trafficking Penalties

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee is preparing to take up legislation increasing the penalties for child sex trafficking and providing help for victims of human trafficking. The Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee is scheduled to begin two days of hearings Thursday. The measure was sought by Attorney General Derek Schmidt and passed the Senate unanimously last month. The bill creates the crime of felony commercial sexual exploitation of a child, punishable by a minimum sentence of 25 years if the victim is less than 14 years old. It also establishes programs to help victims of human trafficking through the attorney general's office, the Department of Labor and the Department for Children and Families. The bill also increases penalties for those promoting the sale of sexual relations.


Kansas Considers Modifying Agriculture Tax Policy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are supporting a bill before the Legislature aimed at increasing investment in agriculture production, including more dairy and poultry operations. Republican Governor Sam Brownback and his administration are seeking changes in tax policy that would give more than $10 million in sales tax exemptions and corporate income tax credits to large firms involved in animal agriculture. The bill includes retroactive clauses that would allow businesses to get credit for investments made in 2012. Some lawmakers told the Topeka Capital-Journal that they have concerns the bill doesn't follow the spirit of the High Performance Incentive Program that was created to encourage future business expansion. Agriculture associations back the legislation. They say it makes the state's business policies more inclusive and will attract new investment in Kansas.


Kansas Lawmakers Mull Changing School Bargaining Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are considering major changes in a state law governing contract negotiations between teachers and school districts, prompting the state's largest teachers union to complain of what it calls a "war" on educators. Kansas National Education Association President Karen Godfrey said Monday the bill before the House commerce committee would hurt public schools. A hearing on the measure is set for Wednesday. The committee's chairman, Overland Park Republican Marvin Kleeb, says proponents of the bill want to give school districts more flexibility and encourage innovation. Under the measure, fewer issues would be subject to negotiations between teachers' groups and local school boards, but they would still include pay. School boards wouldn't have to negotiate how teachers are evaluated or the number of classes they must teach must per day.

State Officials Try to Stop Vulgar Plates

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Some Kansas residents apparently consider the state's list of banned words for personalized license plates a challenge. Revenue department officials say they are always on the lookout for Kansans who try to find a way around the list, which contains almost 1,200 entries. The Wichita Eagle reports that the list includes basic curse words, sexual innuendoes, racial slurs and drug references. Donna Shelite, director of vehicles, says drivers go to great lengths to get around the rules, such as using numbers for letters. And she admits she doesn't always understand some of the applications. Shelite says the state rejects about 300 of the 61,000 applications for personalized plates it receives every year. Personalized plates cost $45 in addition to registration, regular fees and taxes.

Report: Kansas Snowmelt Helps Soil, Ponds

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new report shows the recent snowfall in Kansas has helped relieve some drought conditions. Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service said Monday the melting snow has improved soil moisture in parts of the state. Water levels in stock ponds are also showing slight improvement. But the agency says more moisture is still needed. Topsoil moisture levels across Kansas are now rated 49 percent short to very short, while subsoil moisture levels are 83 percent short to very short. Stock water supplies are 85 percent short to very short. Meanwhile, 35 percent of the winter wheat crop is rate in poor to very poor condition. About 41 percent of the wheat is in fair condition, with 23 percent rated good and 1 percent in excellent condition.


Police Chase in Wichita Results in 1 Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say one person died after an accident involving a man fleeing from police. Police Captain Max Tenbrook says the chase began Tuesday when an officer saw a pickup truck that had been reported stolen. Police called off the chase after a short time because the driver was being reckless. Tenbrook says the truck ran a stop sign and hit another pickup. One of the drivers was killed and the other was injured. Further details were not immediately available.


Kansas State Parks Offering Open Houses

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Just in time to start thinking about getting outdoors again, Kansas is offering free admission and special activities at all 21 state parks on Saturday. The Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism says the open houses will include camping at offseason prices and the opportunity to reserve cabins and campsites for the season ahead. Hours and activities on Saturday will vary from park to park. At Cedar Bluff, there's a free hot dog feed starting at 11:30 am, while courtesy boat inspections will be offered at Crawford, Milford and Tuttle Creek. Elk City will have a one-mile nature hike and a fishing derby for kids. And several parks will have presentations or instruction on archery, fishing and other sports. Information about Kansas state parks is available on the department's website.


Kansas Charity Organization Getting New Director

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A parochial school leader is set to become the new director of Wichita's Catholic Charities. The Wichita Eagle reports that Mike Burrus will become director of the nonprofit agency on September 3. Bishop Michael O. Jackels and the Catholic Charities board made the announcement Tuesday. Burrus has been president of Kapaun Mount Carmel High School in Wichita for the past 12 years. Melissa Grelinger currently is acting as the nonprofit agency's interim director. She replaced Cynthia Colbert, who resigned in December to become the director of the Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.


Firearms Stolen in Central Kansas Burglary

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas sheriff's department is investigating the theft of more than a dozen firearms in a weekend residential burglary. The Hutchinson News reports the break-in happened Sunday at a home in northeastern Reno County. A list of the stolen weapons posted by the sheriff's department includes eight shotguns as well as rifles and .357-caliber revolver. Also taken were two compound bows and a Reconyx Hyperfire game camera. No other details about the burglary were released as of Monday.

Kansas Interstate Reopened After Trucker's Bomb Scare

HESSTON, Kan. (AP) — A section of interstate near Wichita has been reopened after a bomb squad investigated the cargo in a truck. Interstate 135 between Hesston and North Newton was closed for six hours overnight after a trucker reported he had received a call about suspicious materials in his semi-trailer. The trucker says he parked his vehicle and called 911 after receiving the call Monday evening. The Harvey County Sheriff's office says the trucker was driving for Hobby Lobby on a route from Oklahoma to Colorado.The driver pulled off the interstate and when Harvey County deputies arrived they were told there was a suspicious box in the cab of the truck. The Harvey County Sheriff's office says a Wichita bomb squad investigated but found no explosive device and the interstate was reopened.

Kansas Boy Warns Dad About Fire; 2 Brothers Saved

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — An 8-year-old Hutchinson boy is being credited with alerting his father to a house fire in time to save his two brothers. But the Hudson family lost their home and all their belongings in the Monday fire. The family says Tyler Hudson saw smoke and flames coming out of the roof of his home as he boarded the school bus. He called to his dad, who was able to run inside and rescue his 6- and 4-year old sons. The children's mother was at work. The Hutchinson News reports that the family's cat died in the fire, which is still under investigation. The family is staying at a hotel. They were already remodeling a new home and planned to move, although it will be some time before it's done.

Geologists Examining Sinkhole West of Galena

GALENA, Kan. (AP) — State geologists are studying a sinkhole near a highway in southeast Kansas. The hole is south of Kansas 66 at the western edge of Galena. Officials say the hole, which was found Sunday, is off the shoulder of the highway. Geologists were drilling Monday under the eastbound lanes of the highway, closing one lane to traffic. Kansas Department of Transportation spokeswoman Priscilla Peterson, says the geologists are trying to determine if there is a void under the highway, and how large it might be. The Joplin Globe reports sinkholes are not uncommon in the area because of abandoned mine shafts throughout the region.

Kansas Farmer Kills Suspect in Iowa Crimes

SOUTH HAVEN, Kan. (AP) — Sumner County authorities say a farmer who shot and killed a man wanted for several crimes in Iowa will not face charges. Sumner County Sheriff Darren Chambers says the farmer shot the 41-year-old man Monday in self-defense. His name was not released. The Kansas Highway Patrol searched for the man after he drove through a Kansas Turnpike toll booth without paying. When the car was found abandoned, law officers warned residents to watch for the man. A farmer saw the man near South Haven and thought one of his relatives might be in danger. The Wichita Eagle reports that the farmer and his 17-year-old son went to the relative's farmhouse. Chambers says the farmer was checking outbuildings when the suspect attacked him, causing him to shoot and kill the man.


Salina Takes Aim at Convention Center Bats

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Officials in Salina are happy to welcome thousands of visitors to the Bicentennial Center for conventions and sporting events every year, but there's one group they're trying to oust. The Salina Journal reports that several thousand bats have entered the Bicentennial Center through cracks and vents. They've taken up residence in the mezzanine level, right above the public restrooms. The City Commission voted unanimously Monday to pay a pest control company about $35,000 to remove the winged mammals. The company will also seal the cracks and vents and clean up the bats' droppings, as well as a type of insect that feeds on bats. The cleanup and treatment will continue for a year. The Bicentennial Center houses a 7,500-seat arena and an 18,000-square-foot convention space.


Couple Donates $1 Million to Nature Conservancy

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Nature Conservancy of Kansas has received a $1 million gift from the estate of a former Douglas County couple. The Wichita Eagle reports that the gift from John and Fran Peterson is one of the largest ever received by the organization. The Petersons' gift has been designated for land acquisition. John and Fran Peterson both worked for the federal government before moving to rural Douglas County when they retired in 1974. He died in 2009 and she died in 2012. The Petersons were longtime members of the Nature Conservancy, which has protected more than 95,000 acres in Kansas. The couple also donated $1.2 million to the University of Kansas College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the KU School of Music and the KU School of Dance.


Attorney Plans to Sue over Missouri River Flooding

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Some landowners inundated by Missouri River flooding in 2011 are preparing to sue the federal government. St. Joseph attorney Ed Murphy says he plans to file a case soon in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. He says plaintiffs could come from Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and possibly South Dakota. Murphy noted that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in December that the federal government is not automatically exempt from paying for damage caused by temporary flooding from its dams. In the summer of 2011, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released massive amounts of water from upstream reservoirs that had been filled with melting snow and heavy rains. The onslaught lasted for more than 100 days, causing extensive damage downstream. The corps said it couldn't comment on pending litigation. 

Kansas Woman Says She Didn't Understand Murder Plea

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Hutchinson woman is seeking to withdraw the plea she made more than a decade ago in the death of her mother. Tracie Lynn Miles testified Monday that she didn't understand the consequences of her no contest plea in the 1998 death of her mother, Sandra Miles, in Hutchinson. She says her attorney did not give her good advice. Miles and her boyfriend, Paul Nelson, both pleaded no contest to first-degree murder in Sandra Miles' strangulation and bludgeoning death. The Hutchinson News reports that Miles, who was 18 when she pleaded, said she incorrectly believed that she might face the death penalty if she didn't plead. She also believed she would be released from prison after 25 years. A Reno County judge said she would issue a ruling by Friday.

Kansas Farm Bureau to Discuss Crop Insurance, Leases

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas organization for women in agriculture plans to hold a meeting next month on crop insurance, along with a session on oil and gas leases. The meeting of Saline County Women in Agriculture takes place April 11 at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Salina. Mark Nelson, of the Kansas Farm Bureau, will lead the session on crop insurance. The presentation on understanding oil and gas leases will be given by Mike Irvin, also from the Kansas Farm Bureau.


Missouri Supreme Court Hears Challenge to School Transfer Law

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Supreme Court is considering the constitutionality of a 1993 law requiring failing school districts to pay for students to transfer to neighboring schools. The arguments Tuesday before the high court focused on whether the St. Louis Public School District should have to pay for two specific children to attend class in the Clayton School District. But the decision could have implications for thousands of families — not only in St. Louis, but also in Kansas City and any other district that loses state accreditation. The court is hearing an appeal of a May 2012 decision in which a judge ruled that the school transfer law imposed an unfunded mandate on districts, which violation of the state constitution and would be financially impossible to follow.

UMKC Nursing School Gets a New Name

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Nursing is getting a longer name. The school announced Monday that it's becoming the School of Nursing and Health Studies. Dean Lora Lacey-Haun says the school she leads has expanded beyond nursing. The school also trains people to oversee hospital and clinic operations, conduct community outreach, serve as patient advocates and health educators and manage electronic health record conversions. Lacey-Haun says the school wanted a name that more closely represents the breadth of offerings it provides.

Wounded Man Charged with Attempted Bank Robbery

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A northwest Missouri man is facing federal charges after being shot in the face during an alleged attempt to rob a Trimble bank with a fake gun. The U.S. Attorney's office says 34-year-old Michael Stephen Oliva, of Liberty, was charged Monday. Oliva remained hospitalized and has not appeared in court. It's not known if he has a lawyer. Prosecutors say Oliva entered First Security Bank in Trimble on Friday and drew what looked like a real gun. A teller dropped to the floor and crawled toward a second bank worker, who drew a .357-caliber revolver and fired twice. The first shot struck Oliva in the jaw. Oliva drove away but was caught after police who used spike strips to stop his car.



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