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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, February 8th, 2012



Governor Brownback and GOP Leaders Press Need for KS Tax Changes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback, fellow Republicans and business groups are stepping up their pressure on legislators to make changes to the Kansas income tax code. During a news conference today outside his office, Brownback said the state needs to get its income rates down to stimulate job creation and create more personal income for all residents. The governor wants to reduce the number of income tax brackets from three to two and lower overall rates. His plan targets small businesses and eliminates a number of credits and exemptions. House Taxation Committee Chairman Richard Carlson, a St. Marys Republican, says a bill will be introduced today that eventually will contain the details of the House tax plan. Carlson declined to give details until they are finished, perhaps by Friday.


Kansas Income Tax Debate Accelerates

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Opponents of Governor Sam Brownback's proposal for cutting Kansas income tax rates say during a Statehouse event that Republican's plan is misguided and would punish working families.
Brownback and his supporters were planning a news conference of their own today, touting support for tax cuts. Both events were held ahead of the first of three planned days of hearings over the proposal by the House Taxation Committee. The governor proposes to collapse the state's three income tax brackets into two and eliminate a number of credits and exemptions, a move he says makes the Kansas tax system flatter and fairer. He's seeking to end the state's earned income tax credit for low-income residents, saying the money would be invested in other social programs aimed at the working poor.


Kansas Senate Approves Congressional Redistricting Plan 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has passed a congressional redistricting bill that has bipartisan support but has drawn criticism from the state Republican PartyThe bill, approved on a 23-17 vote, creates a slightly more Democratic district for Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, the senior member of the state's all-GOP U.S. House delegation. The proposal split the 32 Republicans in the 40-member Senate, with 15 of them supporting it. All eight Democrats voted yes before the bill went to the House. The proposal expands the 1st District of western and central Kansas to sweep in Manhattan, home of Kansas State University. Local officials want to stay in Jenkins's 2nd District of eastern Kansas. Supporters said they didn't have politics in mind in redrawing lines to account for population changes over the past decade.

House Gives Preliminary Approval to Proposed Redistricting Map

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas House has given first-round approval to a bill that redraws its members' districts and shifts power within the chamber from rural communities to the Kansas City area. House members advanced the bill on a voice vote today, setting up final action tomorrow. The bill is expected to pass with bipartisan support.
Lawmakers must adjust the boundaries of their districts and the state's four congressional districts to account for changes in population over the past decade. The plan for the state House eliminates a single district each in southeast, southwest and central Kansas, and adds districts in the Kansas City area. Senators were expected to consider multiple plans during their debate on congressional redistricting this afternoon.


Former Kansas Congressman Reveals He Has Alzheimer's Disease

Former Congressman Dennis Moore, who represented the state of Kansas for 12 years in the U.S. House, has announced that he has Alzheimer's. Moore, a Democrat from the 3rd District in Kansas, says in a statement that he is in the "early phases of Alzheimer's disease" and that he received the final diagnosis in 2011. The 66-year-old said he hopes to help "others in the same situation" by making his illness public. Moore, who did not seek re-election in 2010 after holding the seat since 1998, said he wanted to help draw attention to Alzheimer's and early-onset dementia. He and his wife, Stephene, plan to work with a local chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. Stephene Moore sought to replace her husband in Congress in 2010, but was defeated by Representative Kevin Yoder, a Republican. 


Kansas Teachers to Deliver Pension Petition to Governor

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A group of Johnson County teachers are headed to the Kansas Statehouse to deliver signatures they've gathered in protest of plans to change the state employee retirement system.  Tomorrow (THUR) at 1 o'clock, group members will present binders -- with more than 6,400 signatures from school employees from every district in Johnson County -- to Republican Governor Sam Brownback's office.  Brownback and the Republican-controlled Legislature are proposing to change the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System from a defined benefit program to a defined contribution program. The changes are designed to close a projected $8.3 billion gap between pension obligations and what the KPERS system is projected to have in assets over time. Legislators are debating the plan during the current session. School employees are covered by the pension system.


KS House Panel Endorses Kobach Citizenship Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has endorsed Secretary of State Kris Kobach's proposal to require some potential Kansas voters to prove their U.S. citizenship ahead of this year's presidential election. The Elections Committee approved a bill to impose the proof-of-citizenship requirement starting June 15 for people registering to vote in Kansas for the first time. The state enacted the rule last year, but it isn't scheduled to take effect until January 1, 2013. The committee's endorsement of the bill allows a debate in the House. Kobach has said he wants to impose the proof-of-citizenship rule ahead of schedule because voter registration peaks once every four years in the months before a presidential election. But critics say the bill will hurt voter participation.


GOP Lawmaker Uncomfortable with Gov's Private Meeting

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Republican Kansas House member says he was uncomfortable with a private meeting he and other lawmakers had in January with GOP Governor Sam Brownback at his official residence. Representative Charles Roth, of Salina, said Tuesday he thinks the January 9 session he attended violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act because a majority of the House Pensions and Benefits Committee was there. Roth said the lawmakers heard a pep talk from Brownback urging them to pass pensions legislation. It was the first of seven meetings Brownback had with GOP members of 13 legislative committees in January. Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag said she remains confident that the law wasn't violated. Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, a Democrat, is investigating the legality of the meetings.


Newspaper Attorney Still Convinced Gov's Meetings Were Illegal

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — As new details emerge, a Kansas newspaper's attorney remains convinced that private meetings legislators had with Governor Sam Brownback at his official residence were illegal. Topeka Capital-Journal attorney Mike Merriam said meetings in January violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act because a majority of some legislative committees were present and legislative issues were discussed. Brownback had seven meetings in January with fellow Republicans on 13 legislative committees. He had another meeting Monday evening for a bipartisan group of lawmakers not tied to specific committees. Brownback allowed The Associated Press to observe and later said the gathering was typical of previous meetings he had held. But Merriam said if that's true, the earlier meetings violated the law because Brownback talked about issues. Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag said the governor is confident the meetings were legal.


KS Lawmakers Surprised that Gov Sees Threat to NBAF

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some Kansas legislators are surprised by remarks from Governor Sam Brownback that the state and its congressional delegation face an ongoing fight to obtain federal funds for a new biosecurity laboratory.  State Rep. Don Hineman, a Dighton Republican, said Tuesday it's troubling to learn that the funding may not be as solid as previously thought. Hineman was one of two dozen legislators who attended a meeting with Brownback at his official residence Monday evening. Brownback said he expects the legislative battle over the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility to last another five years. A site in Manhattan, near the Kansas State University campus, has been cleared for construction of the $650 million biosecurity lab. Rep. Jan Pauls, a Hutchison Democrat, said she was surprised by Brownback's comments.


Elderly KS Man with Dementia Still Missing

KINGMAN, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation has issued a Silver Alert for an 89-year-old Kingman man who hasn't been seen since driving away from his home. Wallace "Gene" Fairchild left his home about noon Tuesday in Kingman in his 2005 red Ford Ranger. The license tag is WCJ-100. His family says he suffers from dementia and has vision problems that make it difficult for him to drive at night. Another resident saw Fairchild driving west on U.S. 54 in Kingman. Family members say he was wearing overalls. Anyone with information is asked to call Kingman police at 620-532-3138.


Santorum Wins Missouri's Nonbinding Presidential Primary

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum won Missouri's nonbinding Republican presidential primary Tuesday, claiming momentum in his challenge against national frontrunner Mitt Romney even though the victory won't earn him any delegates. Santorum was the only Republican candidate to campaign for Missouri's primary. He had expressed hope that it could help cement him as a conservative alternative to Romney heading into a big round of state primaries in early March. Missouri's primary was essentially a glorified public opinion poll. That's because state Republicans chose to award their delegates to the Republican National Convention using a caucus system that will begin in mid-March.


Donated Diamond Ring Brings More than $6,000 for Charity

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — A diamond that was dropped into a Salvation Army red kettle in Kansas has sold for more than $6,000. An unknown, out-of-state buyer paid $6,325 Tuesday in an eBay auction. The diamond, which was set in a ring donated by a Kansas City jeweler, drew 86 bids during a weeklong auction. It has a cut that is no longer used and is thought to have been cut more than 100 years ago. The Salvation Army in Kansas City, Kansas, said the proceeds would be used in Wyandotte County.


KS Prosecution of Genocide Case Proves Costly

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The government spent close to $1 million prosecuting a Kansas man suspected of participating in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Partial records obtained through an open records request by The Associated Press show the government spent $397,600 for travel, meals, hotels, translators, witness fees and transcription costs to prosecute Lazare Kobagaya. The one-page summary offers only a glimpse of partial expenses since the Justice Department withheld nine pages responsive to the AP request, claiming exemptions for "unwarranted invasion of personal privacy." Kobagaya's court-appointed attorney says defense costs and attorney's fees were more than $350,000. Jurors say the judge told them after trial that the government spent more than $1 million on the case. In the end, all charges were dismissed against Kobagaya, a Burundian immigrant who is a U.S. citizen living in Topeka.


Lawsuit Accuses George Brett of Making False Advertising Claims

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Lawyers are seeking class-action status for a lawsuit that claims Hall of Fame slugger George Brett has been falsely advertising bracelets and necklaces as being able to help improve health and sports performance. A lawsuit filed Monday in federal court in Des Moines claims that Brett Brothers Sports International, based in Washington state, has falsely claimed the products help customers relieve stiffness, recover from sports fatigue and improve focus. An Iowa man, Seth Thompson of Adel, says he bought one of the necklaces at the College World Series in Omaha but did not receive any of those benefits. His lawyers are asking a federal judge to approve a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all customers who have bought the products in the last four years.  The company had no immediate comment.


Arrest Made in Beating Death of KS Homeless Man

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A homeless man is jailed in the beating death of another homeless man. Wichita police say they arrested a 39-year-old homeless parolee Tuesday in the death of 41-year-old Marshall Hauschulz. Hauschulz was found dead last December 16 under a bridge along the river near the Keeper of the Plains statue. KFDI reports
that a motive for the killing has not been released.


Longoria Attorneys: Survey Indicates Client Can't Get Fair Trial in Barton County

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys for a man accused of killing a 14-year-old Great Bend girl say their client can't get a fair trial in Barton County because most residents already think he is guilty. There was no decision on today's request in Barton County District Court to move the trial of 37-year-old Adam Longoria. He is scheduled to go on trial March 26 on charges of capital murder and sex crimes for the August 2010 death of Alicia DeBolt. KWCH-TV reports Judge Hannelore Kitts said she would rule on Monday. A survey of 400 Barton County residents conducted through Pittsburg State University found all were familiar with the case and 94 percent thought Longoria was guilty. Prosecutors say the survey is not representative and argue Longoria could still get a fair trial.


Man Trying to Scam Churches in Kansas

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — A scam artist claiming to be a down-on-his luck military man is trying to scam some Kansas churches. The man claims his truck broke down while he was on his way home from his mother-in-law's funeral. The Newton Kansan reports that he says he attended the church a few times and asks that money be sent to Walmart or any place with wire transfers. Jason Reynolds, Harvey County sheriff's department chaplain and minister, says the man gets belligerent and threatens to go AWOL if he can't get the money. Reynolds says at least five churches in Newton have had contact with the man, as well as churches in Wellington, Wichita, Emporia and Udall. Law enforcement officers say never send a wire transfer to anyone unless you know them.


KC Museum to Mark Death of Last Known WWI Veteran

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The National World War I Museum in Kansas City is planning a wreath-laying ceremony to mark the death of the last known veteran of the Great War. The remembrance for Florence Green will take place today (WED) on a glass bridge that overlooks a field of 9,000 silk poppies. They represent the 9 million combatants who died in the fighting. Green was 110 when she died Saturday in eastern England. She was serving with the Women's Royal Air Force as a waitress when the guns fell silent in November 1918. The museum also had a ceremony to mark the February 2011 death of Frank Buckles, the last known American World War I veteran. Museum head Brian Alexander says it's more important than ever to keep the memory of the veterans alive.


Hutch Mayor Helps Capture Suspected Burglar

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Hutchinson Mayor Ron Sellers is being credited with helping nab a 19-year-old thief who stole two computers from the mayor's home. Sellers called police yesterday (TUE) when he saw suspicious people in his neighborhood. Police found a car filled with stolen items from several burglaries, including items that had been taken from Seller's own house. The mayor says he didn't know he'd been robbed while he and his wife slept.


KS Lt. Governor: Medicaid Firms to be Picked in Summer

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A key Kansas legislator says the state can't let a fear of change prevent it from overhauling its $2.9 billion Medicaid program. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Marc Rhoades responded Tuesday to criticism from fellow lawmakers and others that Governor Sam Brownback's administration is moving too quickly with changing Medicaid, which provides health coverage for the poor, disabled and needy. Rhoades, a Newton Republican, acknowledged concerns about Brownback's plan to have three private companies manage the program.
But he said the state can't sustain its current program because of rising costs and can't let fear lock it into doing nothing. Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer, who led the team that drafted the administration's Medicaid plan, says the state will award its contracts this summer.


KS Lawmakers Tackle Redistricting Issues

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Both chambers of the Kansas Legislature are tackling political redistricting issues. The House had a bill for redrawing the boundaries of members' districts on the agenda for today's (WED) session. The measure encountered little opposition in committee. Lawmakers must adjust the boundaries of their districts and the state's four congressional districts to account for changes in population over the past decade. The plan for the state House eliminates a single district each in southeast, southwest and central Kansas, adding districts in the Kansas City area.  Senators are expected to consider multiple plans when they debate congressional redistricting this (WED) afternoon.
Their bill expands the under-populated 1st District of western and central Kansas to sweep in the Manhattan area in northeast Kansas. Local officials want to remain in an eastern Kansas district.



Suspect in Great Bend Teen's Death to Return to Court

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — A man charged with killing a 14-year-old Great Bend girl is due in court as a judge considers his request to move the trial out of Barton County. The motion by attorneys for 37-year-old Adam Longoria is among a bevy of filings expected to be taken up during a hearing today (WED) in Barton County District Court. Longoria is scheduled to go on trial March 26 on charges of capital murder and sexual crimes for the August 2010 death of Alicia DeBolt. The girl's burned body was found at an asphalt plant near Great Bend where Longoria worked. Other pending motions deal with evidence, jury issues and trial proceedings. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty, although the capital murder charge remains. Longoria faces life in prison without parole if convicted.



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