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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, May 8, 2012



UPDATE: Kansas House Debating Budget Measure 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has opened its debate on a proposed state budget by adding $50 million to school funding. The House measure would spend about $14 billion in the fiscal year that starts July 1. The extra money added Tuesday for schools would raise base aid from the state by about $37 per pupil. The Kansas Senate has already passed its own version of the budget. The Senate plan would spend some $14.4 billion and increase spending for public schools. Legislators are quickly approaching the 90-day limit of the session. Once the House approves a budget, negotiators from the two chambers will begin meeting to work out differences. The final agreement must pass the House and Senate on Friday at the latest for the session to end on time.


UPDATE: Kansas House Panel Backs Conservative Senate Remap

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee dominated by conservative Republicans has approved a plan for redrawing the boundaries of the state Senate's 40 districts. Many lawmakers believe the plan approved Monday on a 12-5 vote will help conservatives wrest control of the Senate from its moderate GOP leaders. The House is expected to debate the proposal Wednesday. It's an alternative to a bipartisan redistricting plan approved last week by the Senate. Lawmakers must redraw their districts to account for changes in population over the past decade. GOP conservatives argue they're trying to make all 40 Senate districts as close as possible to the ideal population of 71,000 residents and preserve Hispanic voting strength in southwestern Kansas. Critics of the plan say conservatives' main concern is helping challengers to moderate incumbent senators in GOP primaries.


UPDATE: Kansas Ed Board Member's Decision Helps Resolve Remap Issue in House Committee 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A decision by a State Board of Education member against running for re-election this year has solved a redistricting issue for a Kansas House committee. Wichita Republican David Dennis confirmed Tuesday he won't seek a second, four-year term on the 10-member board. Questions about his plans arose as the House Redistricting Committee considered a proposal redrawing the board's 10 districts to account for population changes. The proposal would put Dennis in the same district as fellow Education Board member Walt Chappell, also a Wichita Republican. Committee members didn't want to force the two to run against each other but endorsed the plan Tuesday after learning of Dennis's decision. Dennis cited business and personal commitments, including serving on the Wichita-area planning commission and organizing a major automobile show.


Kansas Lawmakers Progress Toward Tax Cut Votes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have cleared the way for final votes in the House and Senate on a plan for cutting income and sales taxes. Senate Majority Leader Jay Emler said those votes could come Wednesday. Two Democratic lawmakers involved in negotiations over the plan refused to sign off on it. The Legislature's rules mandate unanimous agreement among House and Senate negotiators, but both chambers voted Monday to suspend that requirement. The plan would reduce individual income tax rates, exempt 191,000 businesses from taxes and lower the sales tax to 5.7 percent from the current 6.3 percent in July 2013. Governor Sam Brownback, O'Neal and many fellow Republicans support the plan, saying it will stimulate economic growth. But some lawmakers, especially Democrats, worry that it will create future budget problems.


UPDATE: Kansas House Revives Kobach Voter-Citizenship Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Secretary of State Kris Kobach's proposal to start requiring first-time Kansas voters to produce proof of their U.S. citizenship next month has been revived in the state House. House members gave the measure first-round approval Tuesday on a 67-53 vote and expect to take final action Wednesday. Kansas has a proof-of-citizenship requirement for first-time voters, but it doesn't take effect until January. Kobach wants the rule in place June 15, in time for a normal surge of registrations before a presidential election. Critics say the requirement will suppress voter turnout. The House approved a version of Kobach's proposal in February, but that measure is stuck in a Senate committee. Supporters hope if the House passes another version, the Senate will approve the measure without having its committee consider it first. 


Kansas House Rejects Prison Inmate Policy Change 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — House members have rejected an amendment that would have restricted the types of inmates the Kansas Department of Corrections could house in county jails. The proposal rejected Tuesday was in response to the escape in April of four state prison inmates who were being held in the Ottawa County jail. The men were in the county jail as part of a contract to alleviate state prison overcrowding. The House rejected the amendment on a 79-41 vote, arguing that the issue would hamper the corrections secretary's ability to manage prison populations. The amendment would have prevented convicted rapists and murderers from being housed in county jails. One of the men who escaped was convicted of two murders in Sedgwick County. All four inmates were recaptured within three days.


Kansas Motor Vehicle Offices Reopen

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansans who had to wait a week to conduct business at state Division of Vehicles offices can get back in line. The offices will reopen across the state Tuesday, after being closed for a week while a new computer system was installed. The Kansas Department of Revenue is asking for patience from residents, saying employees will need time to adapt to the new $40 million computer system. The department says the new computer system will make filing paperwork more efficient and cost effective. 


AMC Reportedly Considers Sale of Company to Chinese Group

Accoridng to an article in the New York Times, Kansas City-based AMC Entertainment, which owns the second-largest movie theater chain in North America, is in talks to sell the company or a significant stake in it to the Wanda Group, according to people briefed on the discussions.  The Wanda group is one of China’s largest theater owners. If completed, the deal will begin a new phase in China’s push into the global film industry by sharply increasing its leverage with Hollywood and creating the first theater chain to have a commanding presence in the world’s two largest movie markets.  The people who described the discussions spoke to The New York Times on condition of anonymity because the talks are private and not finished. The off-and-on negotiations, they said, began more than a year ago, then became more serious in recent weeks, as AMC scrapped plans for a stock offering that would have raised as much as $450 million.  AMC has been owned since 2004 by an investment group that includes the Apollo Investment Fund, J. P. Morgan Partners, Bain Capital Investors, the Carlyle Group and others. Apollo and its founder, Leon D. Black, also had a major stake in the chain before it was sold eight years ago for about $1.7 billion to a group in which Apollo and J. P. Morgan are the largest holders, with about 39 percent each.  Neither Gerardo I. Lopez, AMC’s chief, nor a company spokesman responded to queries. A spokesman for Apollo declined to comment. Founded in 1920 by three brothers with a single Missouri theater, AMC later was a leader in building complexes to show more than one movie at a time. It now operates about 350 theaters with 5,050 screens.


Kansas AG Pays Almost $628K to Defend Abortion Laws

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas attorney general's office paid outside lawyers almost $628,000 through April to defend anti-abortion laws enacted last year. The office says it paid more than $327,000 to Foulston Siefken, a Wichita firm helping defend a budget provision denying federal family planning dollars for non-abortion services to Planned Parenthood. The group has a federal lawsuit against the measure. The attorney general's office paid about $193,000 to Thompson, Ramsdell & Qualseth, of Lawrence, to help defend health and safety regulations for abortion providers. Two Kansas City-area physicians challenged the rules first in federal court and then in state court.The same law firm also received more than $107,000 for work on a federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against a law restricting private insurance coverage for elective abortions.


3 Kansas House Members Oppose UN Resolution

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Three Kansas House members are pushing a resolution opposing a 20-year-old United Nations initiative that encourages nations to adopt environmentally sustainable development. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the House members on Monday joined a spokesman for Americans for Prosperity and several citizens to discuss their opposition to the U.N. initiative called Agenda 21. Republican House members Greg Smith of Olathe; Forrest Knox of Altoona and Dennis Hedke of Wichita testified that the initiative was supported by radical environmentalists who want to end private property rights. Agenda 21, which refers to the 21st century, encourages governments to use several methods to support environmentally sustainable development. The nonbinding U.N. agreement was signed by 178 nations in 1992. Implementation of the agreement is voluntary.


Kansas House Sends Anti-Abortion Bill to Senate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has approved a bill designed to prevent the state from subsidizing abortions even indirectly through tax breaks, but the measure's future in the Senate appears uncertain. The bill was adopted by an 88-31 vote on Monday in the House. It would prohibit Kansas taxpayers from claiming abortion expenses under a deduction for medical costs when filing their income taxes. It also would deny tax breaks to abortion providers, such as an exemption to the sales tax that nonprofit groups claim when purchasing goods. The measure also prohibits state employees from performing abortions on state property or state time. The House has a strong anti-abortion majority. Abortion opponents also appear to have a majority in the Senate, but that chamber hasn't reviewed the legislation.


NE Kansas County May Hold Liquor Referendum

TROY, Kan. (AP) — Commissioners in a northeastern Kansas county are weighing whether to let voters decide on allowing restaurants to serve liquor by the drink. Doniphan County is located on the Missouri River, across from Buchanan County and the city of St. Joseph, Missouri. KNZA-FM reports officials of three Doniphan County cities want a referendum in November on ending the county's dry status. Elwood city attorney Joel Euler first made the request last month on behalf of several business owners. Highland Mayor Ken Stewart told county commissioners this week his community fully supports the idea. Stewart and the mayors of Troy and Elwood said they would favor allowing liquor by the drink only in establishments where food accounts for 30 percent of gross receipts. Doniphan County Sheriff Jerry Dubach spoke against the possible referendum.


Leavenworth Woman in Court after Baby Found in Alley

A Leavenworth woman accused of leaving her 2-month-old son alone in a stroller in a dark alley has told a judge she’s a good mother.  Twenty-eight-year-old Elizabeth Michaud made the statement yesterday (MON) during an appearance in Leavenworth County District Court, where she is charged with aggravated child endangerment.  The Leavenworth Times reports a judge refused to release Michaud on her own recognizance, which would have let her leave jail without paying money.  A Leavenworth resident spotted the stroller and the baby late on the night of May 3 in an alley about three blocks from Michaud’s home. Police estimate the infant had been there at least three hours. He was slightly dehydrated.  Michaud told the judge Monday she was “under the influence” at the time.


BPI Closing 3 Plants, Blaming 'Pink Slime' Uproar

DAKOTA DUNES, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota beef company says it plans to close processing plants in three states because of the controversy surrounding a product that critics have dubbed "pink slime." Beef Products Inc. spokesman Rich Jochum said Monday that 650 jobs will be lost when it closes its plants in Amarillo, Texas; Garden City, Kansas; and Waterloo Iowa. The closures will be effective May 25. A plant in South Sioux City, Nebraska will remain open. The company blames what it calls unfounded attacks over a product that it calls "lean, finely textured beef." In the process, bits of beef are heated and treated with a small amount of ammonia. Beef Products is based in Dakota Dunes, South Dakota.


Historic Restaurant in Council Grove to Reopen

COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. (AP) — Five months after a devastating fire, the Historic Hays House 1857 Restaurant in Council Grove is about to reopen. The restaurant is believed to be the oldest continuously operated restaurant west of the Mississippi River. It was opened in 1857 by Seth M. Hays, the great-grandson of Daniel Boone. A fire on December 14 destroyed the kitchen and caused soot and smoke damage throughout the building. No one was injured in the fire, which began in a grease fryer. The Council Grove Republican reports the restaurant will reopen May 18. A group of 25 Council Grove residents bought the restaurant after the fire. Rick Paul, who owned and operated the business from 1988 to 2002, will return as general manager and head chef.


Kansas Education Board Reinstates Teacher's License

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Education has reinstated the license of a Wichita teacher who was accused of failing to promptly report the suspected abuse of a child. The Wichita Eagle reports the board voted unanimously Tuesday to withdraw the license revocation for 51-year-old Donna Ford. Ford had surrendered her teaching license last month. Ford had been a teacher for 17 years, most recently at Cleaveland Elementary School in Wichita. She said in a letter to the board last month that her resignation resulted from allegations that she delayed reporting alleged sexual abuse for two weeks. Ford wrote that she surrendered her license as a condition of her resignation with early-retirement benefits. Ford's attorney, Ron Lyon, says his client decided she would be better off working until retirement age.


Kansas Star Casino to Hire 300 More Workers

MULVANE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Star Casino is looking for 300 more workers as it begins a second phase of expansion. Officials of the casino south of Mulvane say most of the new employees will work in the food and beverage areas. The hirings are expected to begin this summer. A temporary casino in an equestrian arena opened in December. The permanent casino is scheduled to open by the end of the year. The Wichita Eagle reports the next phase of expansion will include a permanent gaming area, as well as a hotel and space for restaurants and bars. Iowa-based Peninsula Gaming is building and managing the casino for the state of Kansas. On Friday, Peninsula reported that the casino recorded $50.3 million in net revenue in its first full quarter.


Search Continues for Missing Overland Park Man

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Emergency crews are searching a northeast Kansas creek for a 35-year-old man who told his family he was going out to look at flood waters. Officers waded through high water in and around Indian Creek in Overland Park on Monday afternoon after the family of Jeffrey M. Bridge reported him missing. The search continued into the evening with divers and officers on horseback. Bridge left his Overland Park home around 7:30 p.m. Sunday, after several hours of heavy rain caused flash flooding around the Kansas City area. Relatives said Bridge often went out to look at flash floods, but his disappearance this time was unusually long. Around the same time Sunday night, two people were rescued from a park in nearby Leawood after their vehicle got stuck in high water.


Ex-Con Loses Request for Kansas Teaching License

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A man who served prison time on a federal drug charge won't get his Kansas teaching license back. The State Board of Application denied a reinstatement request Tuesday from 40-year-old Terrance Vick of Grandview, Missouri. The Kansas board found that Vick had misled potential employers about everything from his criminal past to his education credentials. Vick was a Wichita middle school teacher when he was arrested in 1997 as a suspected middleman in drug deals. He accepted a plea agreement the next year and was sentenced to three years in prison. Since leaving prison he has taught at a Missouri charter school but was fired for posting a recording on YouTube of his students chanting praise of Barack Obama.


Boulevard Brewing Founder to Be Honored with Entrepreneur Award

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The founders of Boulevard Brewing Company and C-SPAN will be the guests of honor at a University of Missouri-Kansas City entrepreneurship awards celebration. Boulevard Brewery founder John McDonald will be recognized as Regional Entrepreneur of the Year. C-SPAN founder and executive chairman Brian Lamb will be recognized as the International Entrepreneur of the Year. The selections were announced Monday by The Council for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management. A community service award also will be handed out during the October 16 event. The honorees are Robert, Victor A. and Catherine Regnier, who run a foundation named after their late parents.


New Charge Sought Against KC Bishop, Diocese

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jackson County (MO) prosecutors are asking a judge to add a second misdemeanor charge against Bishop Robert Finn and the Catholic Diocese of the Kansas City-St. Joseph. The prosecutor's office announced Monday that it had filed a motion to add a charge of failure to report suspicions of child abuse. The bishop and diocese already face one count of that charge over the way they managed the Reverend Shawn Ratigan, who is facing child pornography charges. Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said in a news release that the original charge covered events from December 2010 to May 2011. The new charge splits that span into two separate time frames. Baker says that is the best approach going into the trial. Both Finn and the diocese have denied any wrongdoing.


Murder Case Against KC Lawyer Dismissed

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City lawyer who was once convicted of killing his law partner is no longer facing charges. The Jackson County prosecutor's office announced the dismissal Monday, the latest development in a case that began in 2000 when Richard Buchli was accused of killing Richard Armitage in their Kansas City law office. Buchli's 2002 conviction was thrown out because prosecutors had not revealed some evidence to his attorneys. The Missouri Court of Appeals ruled in December that the state's continued failure to turn over evidence in a timely manner prevented Buchli from receiving a fair trial. The Missouri Supreme Court refused to review that ruling, leaving prosecutors with little evidence to use at trial. The Kansas City Star reports that decision prompted Jackson County (MO) prosecutors to dismiss charges.


Paramedics Injured in Wichita Crash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Sedgwick County paramedic remains hospitalized after he and a colleague were injured in a crash blamed on a car that ran a red light in Wichita. KWCH-TV reports the two paramedics were in an ambulance that tipped over after being struck around 4 am Monday. Investigators say the ambulance was broadsided by a speeding car that drove through a red light. One of the paramedics was released from a hospital after being treated for bruises. The other suffered a broken collarbone and a leg injury. The 25-year-old driver of the car was also hospitalized. The ambulance was not on call at the time and did not have a patient on board.


Kansas House Wants to Revive Voter-Citizenship Plan

The Kansas House is trying to revive Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s proposal to start requiring first-time voters to produce proof of their U.S. citizenship next month.  House members expected to vote on a bill today (TUE).  Kansas has adopted a proof-of-citizenship requirement for people registering to vote for the first time in the state, but it doesn’t take effect until January, 2013.  Kobach wants the rule in place June 15, in time for a normal surge of registrations before a presidential election. Critics say the requirement will suppress voter turnout.  The House approved a version of Kobach’s proposal in February, but that measure is stuck in a Senate committee.  Supporters hope that if the House passes another version, the Senate will approve the measure without having its committee consider it first.

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


Kansas House to Debate Budget Measure as Deadline Nears

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House is preparing to debate a proposed $14 billion state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Tuesday's debate will focus on spending priorities proposed by the House Appropriations Committee, including more money for social services to meet increased demand. The Senate has already passed its own version of the budget. The Senate plan would spend some $14.4 billion and increase spending for public schools. Legislators are quickly approaching the 90-day limit of the session. Once the House approves a budget, negotiators from the two chambers will begin meeting to work out their differences. The final agreement must pass the House and Senate on Friday at the latest for the session to end on time.

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

GOP Fight Could Leave Kansas Lawmakers Without Maps

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are growing increasingly concerned that a dispute among Republicans could prevent passage of any proposals for political redistricting. Legislative leaders said Tuesday they're contemplating how the courts could intervene if lawmakers fail to pass any redistricting measures. The leaders disagreed on whether the Kansas Supreme Court could step in under the state constitution. A lawsuit already has been filed in federal court. The main dispute involves redrawing the boundaries of the 40 state Senate districts. The Senate has approved a new map favored by the chamber's moderate Republican leaders, but the House is weighing a Senate map favored by GOP conservatives. Typically, redistricting plans would be reviewed by the state Supreme Court after legislative approval.

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

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