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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Kansas Governor Signs Controversial Medical and Emergency Worker Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has signed legislation aimed at protecting medical and emergency workers that also repeals a 25-year-old ban on quarantining people diagnosed with AIDS and HIV. Brownback signed the measure Wednesday, and the changes take effect in July. The bill directs the state health department to draft rules making it easier for medical and emergency workers to learn if they've been exposed to infectious diseases. The provision repealing the 1988 law protecting AIDS and HIV patients had faced strong criticism from gay rights advocates and civil libertarians. But the state health department promised legislators its new rules would continue a ban, and critics accepted the changes. Health department officials also said that even without a ban, it would never be medically necessary to quarantine AIDS or HIV patients.

Kansas to Ban Local Wage Rules Starting in July

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Cities and counties in Kansas will be barred from requiring private contractors to pay union-scale wages on public projects, starting in July. Governor Sam Brownback signed a bill into law Tuesday to prohibit local governments from requiring private firms to pay employees more than the federal minimum wage for work on public contracts. The legislation was aimed at local policies requiring contractors to pay prevailing wages. The federal Department of Labor sets those rates, and critics say they're often based on union scales. Wyandotte County has a prevailing wage policy that will be repealed by the new law. Brownback's fellow Republicans said such a law would lower the cost of public projects. Democrats said prevailing wage policies don't boost costs and ensure workers earn a decent living.

State Paid $13 Million in Overtime Last Year

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state of Kansas spent more than $13 million in overtime last year, and that does not include employees at universities. Data provided by the state shows most of the overtime was paid to employees at state-run mental health and correctional facilities. Those employees made $6.2 million in overtime last year. The Topeka Capital-Journal filed an open records request for the overtime information for the 2012 calendar year. Corrections and state hospital officials say most of the overtime is the result of an inability to fill positions at the facilities, which operate 24 hours a day. Officials with the corrections and mental health departments say overtime was reduced last year at several of the facilities.

Kansas Regents Chief Expects Change on Gun Policy 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents expects the board to reconsider its policy banning concealed weapons on state university campuses. Chairman Tim Emert told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the board will re-examine the policy because of a new law easing restrictions on concealed weapons in public buildings. Governor Sam Brownback signed the concealed carry legislation Tuesday. It takes effect in July. The new law still will allow state universities, community colleges and technical colleges to bar concealed weapons from their buildings only through 2017. Emert said he anticipates the regents adjusting the current policy before then for state universities because the board understands lawmakers approved the gun measure by wide margins. But Emert later added that he's not saying guns would be allowed on campuses.


Kansas Regents Discuss Higher Education Budget

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas higher education officials say funding cuts being considered by state legislators would hurt the quality and quantity of academic programs statewide. Presidents of the six public universities told the Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday that proposals to cut as much as 4 percent from their 2014 budgets would mean fewer course offerings and other campus programs. Republican Governor Sam Brownback wants to spare higher education from cuts in funding and is planning a statewide tour of campuses beginning next week to build support for his budget. Regents say they are confident the governor will make the case to avoid the reductions. Legislators are on a monthlong break and will resume their budget negotiations when they return to the Statehouse on May 8.


KU Breaks Ground on Athletic Complex

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas says it plans to have its new multi-million dollar athletic complex open in time for next year's Kansas Relays. University officials broke ground Tuesday on the Rock Chalk Park complex in northwest Lawrence. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the $40 million complex will include a track and field stadium, soccer fields, softball fields and other amenities. It is being built and financed by a private developer, who will lease it back to the university. The city of Lawrence is planning to build a regional recreation center next to the athletic complex. Athletic Director Sheahon Zenger says the university plans to use the facility to host conference and national events, particularly in track and field.


Police: Topeka Shooting Ruled a Double Homicide/Suicide

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Authorities have confirmed that a shooting at a central Topeka home was a double murder-suicide involving people who had a history of domestic violence. Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor said Wednesday that investigators determined 40-year-old Antwan Muhammad shot and killed 36-year-old Shawna Solis and 37-year-old Howard Givens on Friday before turning the gun on himself. Taylor said Muhammad and Solis had a history of domestic violence cases out of Johnson County. Givens was one of Solis's friends. One adult and five children ranging in age from 16 years to 9 months fled the house, taking refuge at Stormont-Vail Regional Health Center.


2 Plead Guilty in Arson That Killed KSU Researcher

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Two people have pleaded guilty in the arson death of a Kansas State University researcher. The U.S. attorney's office says 20-year-old Patrick Martin Scahill and 19-year-old Virginia Amanda Griese, both of Manhattan, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count each of arson resulting in death. The apartment fire killed Vasanta Pallem, a 34-year-old postdoctoral researcher in chemical engineering. In his plea, Scahill admitted to setting the fire in February to create a diversion that would prevent police from finding evidence of an armed robbery and other crimes. Prosecutors said Griese paid for the gas used to start the fire and drove around with Scahill looking for something to burn. They face a maximum sentence of life in federal prison. Sentencing is set for July 15. Three others are charged.


Appeals Court Hears Arguments in Courtney Case

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Attorneys for victims of a Kansas City pharmacist who diluted his patients' drugs for more than a decade argued before a Missouri appeals court that previous settlements in the case should be reopened. The arguments Tuesday concerned civil settlements reached against two drug manufacturers and pharmacist Robert Courtney, who is serving a 30-year sentence after pleading guilty in 2002 to diluting drugs. The victims' attorney argued Tuesday that too much court secrecy contributed to bad settlements in the case. A lawyer for the drug manufacturers argued the records should remain closed and it was too late to change the settlements. The Kansas City Star reports that  the court agreed to decide whether decisions made years ago to seal court records in the case were proper.


Court Appearance for Wisconsin Man Facing Charges in Koch Cyberattack

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A Wisconsin man accused of joining a cyberattack on Wichita-based Koch Industries has been prohibited from communicating with the computer hacker group Anonymous while out on bond. Thirty-seven-year-old Eric J. Rosol of Black Creek, Wisconsin, made a first appearance Wednesday in U.S. District Court on one count each of damaging a computer and conspiracy to damage a computer. Rosol was allowed to remain free on a $25,000 unsecured bond while awaiting trial. He and his lawyer declined comment following the hearing. The indictment alleges that Anonymous asked conspirators in February 2011 to launch a "Low Orbit Ion Cannon'' that sent a high volume of repeated requests to a Koch website. Numerous conspirators complied, and the company's website crashed. Defense lawyer Kurt Kerns said in an email that Rosol is innocent. Kerns says nothing was hacked and no information lost. He says the website received too much traffic for a few minutes. Rosol is also accused of sending a code that damaged Koch's computer.

Elderly Woman Taken Into Custody After Man's Death

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Kansas City police say an elderly woman has been taken into custody after a man in his 70s was found dead at a home the two are believed to have shared. Police spokesman Steve Young says officers were sent to a home in the 4300 block of Norton Avenue at 1 pm Wednesday. They found a man dead at the scene and took a woman in her 70s into custody. Young says the woman was transported to a hospital for evaluation. The two are believed to have lived at the residence and police aren't looking for any other suspects in the man's death.


SE Kansas Murder Suspect Arrested in St. Joseph

CHANUTE, Kan. (AP) — A suspect in the death of a southeast Kansas woman has been hospitalized after crashing his car during a police chase in northwest Missouri. KOAM-TV reports that the suspect is in serious condition in a St. Joseph hospital after the crash Tuesday. Sergeant Sheldon Lyon of the Missouri State Highway Patrol says Leavenworth authorities tried to stop the suspect's vehicle, but he fled until his SUV swerved and crashed. The suspect was ejected and a female passenger was seriously injured. Chanute police had been seeking the suspect since the death of Cristy Wiles, whose remains were found in February in a Chanute home destroyed by fire. A 21-year-old woman was arrested earlier in Wiles's death.


Kansas Burglary Nets $40K Worth of Rare Coins

DERBY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in south-central Kansas are looking for whoever broke into a home and stole an estimated $40,000 worth of rare coins. KFDI-FM reports that the burglary happened Monday at a home west of Derby. The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office says the thief or thieves broke in a back door and stole about $42,000 worth of property in all. The rare coins were contained in five briefcases. Also taken were an antique shotgun and a bag containing $1,200 worth of pennies.


Nebraska Opposition Muted Ahead of Keystone XL Hearing

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Opponents and supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline are preparing to face off in Nebraska once again, but a new route for the project has helped reduce some local opposition. Both sides will speak on the pipeline Thursday during a U.S. State Department hearing in Grand Island, Nebraska. The public forum comes before the department makes a recommendation to President Barack Obama on whether to build the $7.6 billion, Canada-to-Texas line. National opponents have formed a new group, the "All Risk, No Reward Coalition," which recently ran television ads in a dozen major media markets. The group planned to air the ads Tuesday in Nebraska. But local officials in several towns along the route say the pipeline no longer registers as a major concern.

Suspect in KC Airport Incident to Be Medicated

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A judge has ruled that a man accused of trying to take fake explosives through security at Kansas City International Airport will be forcibly medicated. Anthony Falco Jr., whose last known address was East Petersburg, Pennsylvania is charged with making false statements and creating a hoax on the 10th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks. U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Hays heard evidence last month that Falco is schizophrenic and refuses to take medication. Prosecutors wanted him to be medicated so he can be competent to stand trial. Hays ruled Tuesday that Falco should be medicated.

Kansas Teen in Custody After 6-Year-Old Girl Shot

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Police in northeast Kansas are trying to determine if the shooting of a 6-year-old girl by a 14-year-old cousin was accidental. The girl was wounded Tuesday morning while she and the boy were in the lobby of a chiropractor's office in Mission, a suburb of Kansas City. Mission Police Captain David Moloy says the girl was alert when she was taken to a hospital for treatment of a gunshot wound in her leg. Moloy says the teenager ran from the scene. He was taken into custody without incident about an hour later, less than a block away. Police haven't said who owned the gun used in the shooting or why it fired.

Man Acquitted in Death of Tabor Football Player

McPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — A former McPherson College football player has been acquitted in last fall's death of a player from a rival school. KWCH-TV reports that a jury deliberated less than two hours Tuesday before finding 20-year-old Alton Franklin not guilty of second-degree murder. Franklin was quickly freed from the McPherson County jail, where he'd been held since September. Franklin was accused of beating 26-year-old Tabor College defensive lineman Brandon Brown, who was found unconscious outside a party in McPherson last Sept. 16. Brown died six days later from blunt-force head trauma, with alcohol poisoning as a contributing factor. Two witnesses testified they saw Franklin hit Brown. But the defense said there was no evidence that Franklin had struck anyone. Franklin's co-defendant, former McPherson player DeQuinte Flournoy, pleaded no contest earlier to aggravated battery.

Topeka Man Gets 30 Years for Meth Trafficking

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man with a prior drug conviction is going to federal prison 30 years for trafficking in methamphetamine. The U.S. Attorney's office says 31-year-old James Justin Woods was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Topeka. A U.S. District Court jury convicted Woods in December of one count each of conspiracy and distributing methamphetamine. He also had a 2004 felony conviction in state court for possession of narcotics with intent to distribute. Prosecutors said Woods was part a drug trafficking organization that operated in the Topeka area from December 2010 to June 2011 in the Topeka area. Investigators monitored Woods with intercepted phone calls and other surveillance techniques as he set up meetings with buyers and sold drugs for money.


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