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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Gun-Rights Bills Nearing Final Passage in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are close to finishing work on gun-rights measures that are part of the Republican-dominated Legislature's response to the fatal school shooting in December in Newtown, Connecticut. House and Senate negotiators agreed Wednesday on the final version of a bill declaring that the federal government can't regulate guns, ammunition and accessories manufactured, sold and kept only in Kansas. The bill makes it a felony for a federal employee or agent to attempt to enforce a law, regulation, order or treaty affecting such guns. Lawmakers are still working on the final language for another concealed carry bill but expect to finish this week. The bill would allow public schools and colleges to arm individual employees with concealed guns and would permit concealed weapons in more public buildings.


Kansas Concealed Carry Applications Set New Record

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state of Kansas received a record number of applications for concealed carry permits in March, reaching a new high for the third consecutive month. Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office said Wednesday that 4,072 Kansans applied for permits last month. That's 14 percent more than the previous records of 3,573 set in February. The state received 3,167 applications in January. Before this year, the record was 1,651 in March 2012. Schmidt's office said that almost 53,300 Kansans already have permits. Gun sales and applications for gun permits have increased across the country in response to discussions about new federal gun-control measures. The discussions follow the December shooting that left 20 elementary school students and six teachers dead at a Newtown, Connecticut school.


Prospects for Arms Treaty All but Dead in Senate 

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate opponents of a treaty regulating the multibillion-dollar global arms trade say they have enough votes to block its ratification. Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah said Wednesday that the treaty overwhelmingly approved by the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday was deeply flawed. Lee became the 35th senator to back a resolution by Republican Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas. That resolution declares that the Senate should not ratify the treaty if it undermines Americans' constitutional right to bear arms. The Constitution requires two-thirds of the Senate — 67 votes — to ratify a treaty. The National Rifle Association backs Moran's resolution, which has the support of 33 Republicans and two Democrats — Max Baucus of Montana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.


KS Democrats' Motion to Join School Finance Case Denied

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has denied a request from Democratic legislative leaders to intervene in the appeal of a ruling on school finance. Wednesday's order rejects a motion from House Minority Leader Paul Davis and Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley to join the appeals process. A three-judge panel in Shawnee County District Court ruled in January that the state's current system of funding public schools violates the Kansas Constitution. The panel ordered increases in education spending. The state appealed, and lawyers for the state and the plaintiff school districts and parents have been in mediation toward a settlement. The Supreme Court said that in refusing to let the Democrat lawmakers join the appeal it was not limiting who could participate in the mediation, but leaving the decision to the attorneys.

Negotiators: Kansas Tax Plan Deal on Hold

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Negotiators for the Kansas House and Senate say agreement on a plan for more cuts in income taxes is unlikely until May. The two chambers have passed different versions of tax-cutting legislation. Negotiators have been trying to work out a compromise, but they said Wednesday a deal was unlikely before lawmakers begin a month-long break after this week. Legislators are scheduled to return to the Statehouse on May 8. The sticking point is what to do about a 2010 sales tax increase that is set to expire July 1. The House wants to let the sales tax drop from 6.3 percent to 5.7 percent as scheduled. The Senate and Governor Sam Brownback want to keep the higher rate, to help make up revenue that would be lost to further cuts in income taxes.


Kansas AG Hails Approval of Anti-Racketeering Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is praising legislators for giving final approval to a bill aimed at helping law enforcement fight gang activity, human trafficking and drug dealing. The bill would allow prosecutors to pursue a new set of felonies when a suspect repeatedly commits or attempts to commit crimes, or influences or coerces others to commit crimes or to benefit financially from crimes. The legislation was designed after the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, or RICO. Senators approved the measure Tuesday on a 38-2 vote, sending it to Governor Sam Brownback. The House approved it last week. Schmidt has been pushing the measure. He said in a statement that the bill gives Kansas law enforcement officials a new tool for fighting crime and criminal conspiracies.

Kansas Senate Rejects Measure to Lure New Casino

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has rejected a bill aimed at bringing a state-owned casino to southeast Kansas but killing any possibility of slot machines at dog and horse tracks. Tuesday's 25-14 vote against the measure came shortly after the chamber had given it first-round approval. The bill would have revised a 2007 law that authorized state-owned casinos and racetrack slots. Casinos have since been built in the Dodge City, Kansas City and Wichita areas. The law requires a developer for a Pittsburg-area casino to invest $225 million. Backers of such a project say the threshold is too high, and the bill would have dropped it to $50 million. Southeast Kansas lawmakers have sought the change for years. The trade-off for lawmakers who oppose expanded gambling was repealing the authorization for racetrack slots.


Kansas Senate Votes to Expand Rural Growth Program

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas senators have voted to expand a rural growth program aimed at helping counties with declining populations attract new residents. The 28-12 vote Wednesday would expand the Rural Opportunity Zone program from its current 50 counties to 73 counties. The measure now goes to the House for consideration. Republican Governor Sam Brownback initiated the program in 2011 to help counties that experienced population declines of 10 percent or more between 2000 and 2010. The program exempts new residents from income taxes for five years and helps with the repayment of student loans. Supporters say the program gives rural counties a tool for stabilizing their populations. Critics argue they need more information on whether the program is working.


Holland Elected Mayor of KCK

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas City, Kansas voters have chosen Mark Holland as their new mayor. Holland defeated Ann Murguia in Tuesday's election by a margin of 56 percent to 43 percent. After his win, Holland vowed to continue the city's recent economic progress, while also addressing challenges in underdeveloped areas of the city. Holland, a United Methodist pastor, will succeed Mayor Joe Reardon, who chose not to seek a third term. He will be sworn in April 25.

Lawrence Voters Approve $92.5 Million Bond Issue

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence voters have overwhelmingly approved a $92.5 million bond issue for the city's schools. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that unofficial early results showed the measure passing Tuesday with 72 percent of the vote. About $80 million of the money will be used for upgrades and renovations to the district's 14 elementary schools and two high schools. The district will use another $6.5 million for technology upgrades and $5.7 million for expanding career and technical education programs. The bonds will be phased in over three years and are not expected to increase taxes.

Voters Approve Tax to Build Reno County Jail

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Reno County voters are ready to pay higher taxes to for a new jail and improvements for other county offices. Voters on Tuesday approved a half-cent increase in the county sales tax to pay for a new 250-bed jail. Unofficial results showed the issued passed by a margin of 77.4 percent to 22.6 percent. The Hutchinson News reports that plans for the new project include the jail, a secure entrance to the courthouse and Law Enforcement Center and renovating the current jail annex into new officers for county officials. The current jail will be renovated for storage and more law enforcement offices. The $28.9 million cost of the project will be repaid by revenue the sales tax increase over eight to 10 years.


Man Pleads to Reduced Charge in Player's Death

MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — A former central Kansas football player has pleaded no contest to a reduced charge in the beating death of a player from a rival college and has agreed to testify against his co-defendant. The Hutchinson News reports that 20-year-old DeQuinte Flournoy pleaded no contest Tuesday to felony aggravated battery in the September 22 death of 26-year-old Brandon Brown, a defensive lineman at Tabor College. Flournoy and fellow McPherson College football player Alton Franklin were charged with second-degree murder in Brown's death after a September 16 altercation at a party in McPherson. A third former McPherson College player testified in January that Franklin struck Brown in the face and Flournoy held Brown down. Flournoy is expected to testify at Franklin's trial, scheduled to start Monday in McPherson. 


Inmate Claims Activist Hired Him to Firebomb House

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department says a Sedgwick County jail inmate has claimed that an anti-abortion activist hired him to firebomb the house of a Wichita doctor training to perform abortions. The agency's filing Wednesday offers a public glimpse into some of the government's evidence against abortion opponent Angel Dillard. The Justice Department sued her in 2011 for sending an allegedly threatening letter to Dr. Mila Means, who was planning to offer abortions after the 2009 murder of Dr. George Tiller. The defense argues the inmate attempted to blackmail Dillard. No firebombing took place. Dillard's lawyers claim her conversations with that inmate are protected by clergy-penitent privilege. Dillard is also using that argument to shield her communications with another inmate, Scott Roeder, who was convicted of killing Tiller.


Kansas Inmate Art Show Coming to Capitol

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — More than 50 artworks by Kansas prison inmates are going on display in the Statehouse. The works will be exhibited for a week beginning Friday on the second floor of the Capitol in Topeka. It's the second show of inmate art at the Statehouse in 18 months. A spokesman for the state Corrections Department says the first exhibition drew positive comments on the quality of the works and the importance of allowing inmates to express themselves creatively. The spokesman, Jeremy Barclay, says that some of the works incorporate their creators' regrets and remorse for their crimes.

Ogallala Aquifer Advisory Group to Discuss Options

SCOTT CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Ogallala Aquifer Advisory Committee plans to use its first meeting of 2013 to look at short- and long-term options for the declining Kansas aquifer and its users. The meeting is scheduled Monday at 10 am in Scott City at the Scott County Library. Topping the agenda are enhanced management updates by each groundwater management district. There will also be discussion of potential future changes to the multi-year flex account program that allows producers to better manage water use during drought years.

Nebraska Orders Republican River Water Release

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska irrigation district official says his area's next corn crop is threatened by a state order to release some reservoir water. The state is trying to comply with the Republican River Compact. The 1943 compact says Nebraska gets 49 percent of the Republican River's water, Kansas gets 40 percent and Colorado gets 11 percent. Kansas has repeatedly complained that Nebraska has used more than its share. A Kansas lawsuit alleging that Nebraska violated the compact is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Frenchman-Cambridge Irrigation District general manager Brad Edgerton is not happy about the release of more than 12,000 acre-feet of water. Edgerton told the Lincoln Journal Star that the release further threatens south-central Nebraska's next corn crop as the state struggles with drought.

Kansas Woman Pleads Guilty to Health Care Fraud

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A south-central Kansas woman has pleaded guilty to federal health care fraud for illegally receiving payments from the Kansas Medicaid program to care for a sister with Down syndrome. Prosecutors say 46-year-old Lupe Adela Mains, of Pretty Prairie, also pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of mail fraud. Mains acknowledged receiving Medicaid funds from October 2007 through March 2009 to provide home care for her sister while the sister was really receiving care from another family member in Wichita. Mains also admitted that she fraudulently continued to collect her sister's Railroad Retirement Board survivor disability benefits during that time. A plea deal recommends a sentence of one month incarceration, 13 months of community confinement and restitution of about $50,000. Sentencing is set for July 1.


Robbery Suspect Shot, Killed by Sheriff's Deputy

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Law enforcement authorities say a Sedgwick County sheriff's deputy shot and killed a suspect fleeing from a robbery at a credit union in Wichita. Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter says dispatchers received the robbery call early Wednesday. A deputy in the area saw a man running from the building. Easter says police are still investigating but he says the suspect had a weapon. The deputy shot the suspect, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Easter would not say whether the Credit Union of America branch was open at the time. Its website says the branch does not offer lobby services, and its drive-through window opens at 7:30 am.

KU Basketball Player Anrio Adams Transferring

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas freshman guard Anrio Adams has been granted a release to transfer to another school. Coach Bill Self says he met with Adams and believes it is in his best interest to look for a school closer to his Seattle home. Adams played in 24 games last season, averaging 3.5 minutes per game and scoring 27 points. His season high was 11 points against Texas Tech in the Big 12 tournament. Adams said he believes playing closer to home is better for him and his family.


Vermes, Moore Elected to US Soccer Hall of Fame

CHICAGO (AP) — Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes has been elected to the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame along with Joe-Max Moore, another former forward on the American national team Vermes, 46, had 11 goals in 67 international appearances from 1988-97 and played for the U.S. at the 1990 World Cup and the 1988 Olympics. He also played for the MetroStars, Colorado and Kansas City in Major League Soccer and has been Kansas City's coach since 2009. The 42-year-old Moore had 24 goals in 100 international appearances, including a pair against Jamaica in October 2001 that clinched a World Cup berth. He was on the U.S. team at the 1994, 1998 and 2002 World Cups. Moore had 53 goals in six seasons with MLS's New England Revolution and played for Everton, Saarbruecken and Nuremberg. Moore was elected on the player ballot and Vermes on the veteran ballot. Results of the vote, cast by Hall of Famers, administrators and media, were announced Wednesday.


Widow, Wrestling Conglomerate Settle Royalties Lawsuit

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — World Wrestling Entertainment and the widow of performer Owen Hart have settled a lawsuit over royalties and the use of Hart's image. The settlement was announced Wednesday by Martha Hart, WWE chief executive Vince McMahon, his wife and former CEO Linda McMahon, and the Stamford, Connecticut company. The two sides did not disclose details. Owen Hart died in 1999 while being lowered into the wrestling ring at Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri. He was 34. Martha Hart sued in June 2010, alleging that WWE did not pay royalty payments owed to Owen Hart's estate and violated a contract restricting the use of her late husband's name and likeness. Linda McMahon ran unsuccessfully as Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Connecticut in 2010 and 2012.


Missouri Senate Endorses Shake-Up of KC School Board

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Senate has given first-round approval to legislation shrinking the size of the Kansas City school board, effective in 2019. The measure endorsed Tuesday would reduce the Kansas City Public Schools Board of Directors from nine members to seven. The board would have two members elected at-large instead of the current three. The remaining five members would be elected from sub-districts. The legislation is sponsored by Democratic Senator Paul LeVota, of Independence. It needs one more Senate vote before moving to the House.


Missouri Prosecutor Won't File Charges in Girl's Death

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jackson County (Missouri) prosecutor Jean Peters Baker has decided not to file charges in the accidental shooting death of a 4-year-old Kansas City girl. A woman who was watching Trinity Ross and two boys on January 10 says she went outside to get something from the car when she heard a pop. When she came inside she found Trinity on the living room floor of the south Kansas City home with a gunshot wound to the head. She was taken off life support and died a week later. Baker says there was insufficient evidence to prove a crime was committed. She says the child's father told police the handgun used in the shooting was his and that he had accidentally left it at home in a jacket.

Kansas Senate Approves Sweeping Anti-Abortion Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has approved new restrictions on abortion providers, moving the most sweeping anti-abortion legislation in the state this year close to final passage. The vote Tuesday was 29-11 on a bill blocking tax breaks for abortion providers and prohibiting them from furnishing materials or instructors for sex education classes in public schools. The measure also spells out in greater detail what information doctors must provide to patients before performing abortions, including information about a disputed potential link between abortion and breast cancer. The House approved the legislation last month. Senators made technical changes, and House members must examine them before the measure can go to Governor Sam Brownback. But supporters expect the House's review to be a formality. The Republican governor is a strong abortion opponent.

Questions Linger in Wake of Former Kansas Sheriff's Ouster

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An eastern Kansas sheriff lost his job after telling his lover that she was the subject of a federal drug investigation. But questions linger about the future of the woman, who is now a prosecutor in suburban Kansas City. Jeffry Curry's resignation as Franklin County sheriff went into effect Monday after he agreed to 12-month diversion program in exchange for the dismissal of two criminal counts against him — felony interference with law enforcement operations and misdemeanor official misconduct. He had been accused of tipping off former Franklin County Attorney Heather Jones last May that she was the subject of a drug investigation. A confidential informant had told a sheriff's deputy that Jones purchased methamphetamine at least twice from an associate of the informant. Jones resigned from her Franklin County post about a week before the drug accusations arose to take a job as assistant district attorney in Johnson County. An attorney for Jones denies the drug allegations, and Jones has not been charged with any crimes. The allegations were included in a petition that current Franklin County Attorney Stephen Hunting filed in February seeking Curry's ouster. The petition was unsealed Monday at the request of several media outlets. Curry was charged with the misdemeanor for telling Jones about the investigation and the felony for lying to investigators about not having a sexual relationship with her.

Kansas Senate Approves Bill Barring Local Wage Rules

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has approved a bill barring cities and counties from requiring their contractors to pay union-scale wages. The 31-9 vote Tuesday sends the measure to the House. The bill would bar local governments from requiring private firms to pay employees more than the federal minimum wage for work on public contracts. It's aimed at local policies requiring contractors to pay so-called 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. Republicans said the bill will reduce the cost of public projects and argue that the market ought to set wages. Democrats said prevailing wage policies don't boost costs and ensure workers earn a decent living.

Kansas Focus of Discussion as Missouri Lawmakers Debate Tax Cut

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas remains the reference point as Missouri lawmakers consider whether to cut income taxes and raise the state sales tax. During a House committee hearing Tuesday, business groups argued Missouri must cut income taxes to keep employers from being lured across the western border by recent tax cuts in Kansas. But education officials pointed to budget gaps in Kansas and expressed fears that schools could lose funding if Missouri cuts its tax revenues. The hearing came as a St. Louis-based nonprofit group called The Missouri Budget Project began airing ads opposing the legislation while citing the potential loss of $960 million of revenues annually. Sponsoring Senator Will Kraus, a Republican from Lee's Summit, called the ads "misleading" and "distasteful." He cites estimates putting the lost revenues at half that amount.


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