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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, January 16, 2013



Total Kansas Spending Would Be Flat After 2 Years

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Budget recommendations from Kansas Governor Sam Brownback would leave total state spending flat after two years. Brownback outlined proposals Wednesday for spending for the two years beginning in July. He wants to increase total spending slightly during the fiscal year that begins July 1 and reduce it the following fiscal year. He's proposing that the state spend nearly $14.6 billion during the fiscal year that begins in July. That's a total increase of $186 million, or 1.3 percent, over the current budget of about $14.4 billion. But for the fiscal year that begins in July 2014, Brownback is proposing dropping total spending back down to $14.4 billion. Under his budget proposals, spending on highway projects would fluctuate in those years, which is common.


Kansas Governor Proposes Eliminating Mortgage Interest Deduction 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is proposing to eliminate a popular state income tax deduction for interest paid on home mortgages to help close a budget shortfall. Brownback on Wednesday outlined his budget proposals for the two years beginning in July. He also provided lawmakers with more details about his proposals to cut income tax rates further, following reductions last year. Documents show that he's proposing to phase in a new round of income tax cuts over three years, while keeping the state's sales tax rate at its current level, rather than letting it drop in July, as previously scheduled. His proposals provide an additional $541 million in revenues for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Lawmakers rejected the proposal to eliminate the mortgage interest deduction last year.


 Kansas Governor Seeks Modest Boost in School Funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's budget proposals would phase in a $76 million increase in aid to public schools over two years and use revenues from state-owned casinos to help fund teachers' pensions. Brownback outlined recommendations Wednesday for spending for the two years beginning in July. He proposed that the state keep its base aid for public schools at $3,838 for the fiscal year that begins in July and then increase it by $14, to $3,852 during the fiscal year that begins in July 2014. Both figures are still far short of the $4,492 in base aid per pupil ordered last week by a three-judge panel hearing an education funding lawsuit in Shawnee County. Brownback is also proposing that the state dedicate $77 million in casino revenues to teacher pensions during the next two fiscal years.


Kansas Governor Says Merger Would Save $30M over 2 Years

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says his proposal to merge the Kansas Turnpike Authority with the state Department of Transportation would save $30 million over the next two years. The Republican governor built those savings into the budget he released Wednesday. Brownback announced his proposal Tuesday evening during the State of the State address, saying Kansas doesn't need two transportation agencies. His goals became clearer with the release of his budget proposals. Brownback projects that the merger would save $15 million a year, and his budget recommendations assume that those dollars will be available for use elsewhere. The Department of Transportation oversees more than 10,000 miles of highway and thousands of bridges. The state created the turnpike authority in the 1950s to manage what so far is the state's only toll road.

Kansas Governor's Plans Defy Court Order on Schools

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Governor Sam Brownback is calling for a fresh round of aggressive cuts in Kansas income taxes and changes in the state Constitution to rein in the power of the judiciary branch. Brownback reaffirmed in his State of the State address Tuesday evening that his goal is to eventually eliminate income taxes. But his plan for further reductions is tied to keeping the state sales tax at its current rate, rather letting it drop in July as previously planned. Brownback's speech came just days after a three-member panel of trial judges ruled the state must boost its annual aid to public schools by at least $440 million. Brownback endorsed proposed constitutional amendments on education funding and the selection of judges for the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.

Brownback Proposes $12M for Reading Improvement

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback wants to spend $12 million to help Kansas elementary school students who struggle with reading. The governor called in his State of the State address for a three-part initiative called Kansas Reads to Succeed. Besides the funding to for programs to help struggling readers, Brownback is also proposing to require third-graders to demonstrate an ability to read as a condition of being promoted. Additional incentives would be provided to elementary schools that do the best at boosting fourth-grade reading scores. Brownback says 29 percent of Kansas fourth-graders can't read at a basic level. The governor says promoting elementary school pupils who can't read is "irresponsible and cruel."


Legislators Open Hearing on Kansas Judicial Changes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Several law professors say they would favor a different system for appointing judges to the Kansas Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court. The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony Wednesday on a proposed change in the Kansas Constitution to let the governor appoint appellate judges, with confirmation by the Senate. Voters would have to approve the constitutional change. Under the current system, the governor chooses appellate judges from slates of three finalists nominated by a special commission. The commission is made up of four non-lawyers appointed by the governor and five lawyers who belong to the Kansas Bar Association. University of Kansas law professor Stephen Ware says the current process shuts voters out from decisions on appointments to the state's highest courts.


Senator Jerry Moran Opens Manhattan Regional Office

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Senator Jerry Moran has opened a regional field office in Manhattan, giving the city two new congressional offices. Radio station KMAN reports that Moran and his wife, Robba, were on hand for a ribbon-cutting Tuesday at the new office. The couple moved to the city last year from their longtime home in Hays. Moran's fellow Kansas Republican, U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp, recently opened his own regional office in Manhattan. The city was part of the 2nd Congressional District for decades but was moved by last year's redistricting to the sprawling 1st Congressional District. Moran is keeping his field office in Hays, along with others in Wichita, Pittsburg and Olathe.


Kansas and Missouri Could Be Affected by Disaster Aid Fight

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Some Congressional representatives from Missouri and Kansas say they support federal aid for regions hit by disasters but insist lawmakers must continue to look for corresponding cuts in federal spending. The U.S. House on Tuesday passed a $50.7 billion aid package for northeastern states pounded by Hurricane Sandy last October. Two weeks ago, Missouri Representative Sam Graves and all four House members from Kansas voted against an initial $9.7 billion for a flood insurance program to pay Hurricane Sandy claims. In general, they contend government has to stop allocating such large sums without cutting spending by a corresponding amount. The Kansas City Star reports that some representatives from the northeastern U.S. resented those comments, noting Midwestern states had received millions in federal aid for tornadoes, floods and drought.

Kansas Officials Support Phasing Out Boat Taxes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's administration is proposing phasing out property taxes on watercraft by 2016. Watercraft is currently taxed at 30 percent, prompting criticism that boat owners often register their watercraft in other states to avoid the high taxes. In November, about 53 percent of Kansas voters approved an initiative to allow lawmakers to reduce property taxes on watercraft. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism announced a plan Monday to tax boats at 20 percent starting in 2014 and 10 percent in 2015. Watercraft would be exempt from property taxes beginning in 2016 and beyond. The department also proposed stricter laws for boating under the influence and requiring everyone to take boater education courses.

Kansas State Senator Considering Run for KCK Mayor

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A veteran state senator says he's considering running for mayor and CEO of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas. Kansas City Democrat David Haley says he'll make a decision by the end of the week. Last week, two-term Mayor and CEO Joe Reardon said he won't run for re-election because he wants to spend more time with his family. The mayoral primary is Feb. 26, with the general election set for April 2. The 54-year-old Haley was appointed to the Kansas House in 1994 and served there until he was elected to the Senate in 2000. He ran unsuccessfully for Kansas secretary of state in 2002 and 2006. Haley is the nephew of Alex Haley, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "Roots."


Kansas Soldier Finds Strange Woman in His Home

OGDEN, Kan. (AP) — An Army soldier called police after he found a woman in his Kansas home, possibly returning a laptop that had been stolen the day before. Riley County police say 34-year-old Christopher Soder reported his laptop was stolen from his Ogden home on Monday. On Tuesday, when Soder returned home he found a woman he didn't know in his home and saw that the laptop had been returned. A 30-year-old woman from Ogden was arrested. WIBW reports police say it's unclear what happened when Soder found the woman, partly because there apparently was a language barrier.


Mom Accused of Binding Kids Gets Probation

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ A suburban Chicago woman has been sentenced to one year of probation after two of her children were found last June bound and blindfolded in a Walmart parking lot in Lawrence. Deborah Gomez of Northlake, Illinois pleaded no contest in December to three counts of child endangerment. Her husband, Adolfo Gomez, has pleaded no contest to two counts of child abuse and three counts of child endangerment. Both parents have been in custody since they were arrested after a woman at a Lawrence Walmart reported seeing two children bound and blindfolded near the family's vehicle. Douglas County Judge Paula Martin sentenced Deborah Gomez on Wednesday to a year of probation. If she violates probation, Gomez will have to serve three years in jail. Sentencing for Adolfo Gomez is next month.


Sex Offender, Kansas Talent Scout Accused of Rape

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A convicted rapist who co-founded a Kansas talent agency after serving 20 years in prison is now accused of raping a 14-year-old girl he took to Tennessee to participate in a talent show. Nashville police say 55-year-old Robert Lile repeatedly attacked the girl while threatening her with a knife before leaving her Sunday in a local hotel. Police say he was the girl's manager. Lile was arrested Monday in Missouri. On Wednesday, he refused to be extradited, meaning Tennessee authorities will have to seek the governor's help. He's being held on $500,000 cash-only bond. Lile wasn't on the state or national sex offender list because his conviction pre-dated the law. While in prison, he unsuccessfully challenged the Kansas sex offender rehabilitation program before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2001.


Officer Helps Nab Burglars in Own Missouri Home

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A northeast Kansas police officer is getting credit from Missouri colleagues for helping make quick work of a burglary case. KMBC-TV reports that the officer works for the Overland Park Police Department but lives in Kansas City, Missouri. The officer was coming home late Wednesday morning when he noticed someone inside his own house, looking out. Kansas City police say the officer parked up the street, walked to his home and held one burglary suspect at gunpoint. Two other suspects ran but were quickly taken into custody. Investigators said the burglars apparently picked the officer's home at random and were looking for weapons and electronics.


Man Found Dead Near Wichita Railroad Tracks

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita are trying to identify a man found dead near railroad tracks in the northeastern part of the city. The Wichita Eagle reports police believe someone placed the body near the tracks — but they don't know when. Workers heading to a construction site came across the body shortly before 9 am Wednesday. Police Lieutenant Doug Nolte says an autopsy will show the cause of the death, but authorities are treating it as suspicious for now. A homeless shelter is located not far from where the body was found.


New Wichita Abortion Clinic Draws 3 Doctors

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The new owners of the former Wichita clinic of slain abortion provider George Tiller say they expect to open the facility during the first quarter of this year with one full-time and two part-time doctors. Trust Women director Julie Burkhart told The Associated Press Tuesday the clinic will offer comprehensive obstetrical and gynecological health care services as well as abortions. The clinic has contracted with the doctors and has hired most of the nine or 10 people it plans to employ. Representatives from the Feminist Majority Foundation are in Wichita this week to assess security measures at the clinic. They are also meeting with local, state and federal law enforcement officials and building community support.


Abortion Opponent Seeks to Shield Jail Visits

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An anti-abortion activist accused of sending a threatening letter to a Wichita doctor training to offer abortions wants a federal court to forbid the government from prying into her jailhouse ministry with the convicted murderer of Dr. George Tiller. Angel Dillard argues in a court filing Wednesday that the information sought by the government about her inmate counseling is protected by ministerial privilege and the First Amendment. She is seeking a protective order barring disclosure of the information. Her attorney argues a dangerous precedent would be set if the Justice Department can conduct wholesale inquiry into such counseling under the guise of trial preparation in a civil case. The government argues the in jail logs, Dillard described visits to convicted murder Scott Roeder as those of a friend, not minister.

Two Companies Agree to Pay Fines for Violating Telemarketing Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas attorney general's office says two companies have agreed to pay $10,000 each for violating the state's no-call telemarketing law. Attorney General Derek Schmidt identified the companies Tuesday as Prairie Life Fitness LLC, of Omaha, Nebraska, and Vandell Communications LLC, based in Illinois. Schmidt's office began investigating Prairie Life Fitness in early 2012 after an Overland Park resident complained of getting a solicitation by phone. The company acknowledged marketing its Kansas-based fitness centers to Kansas residents who had placed their numbers on the national do-not-call registry. The attorney general says Vandell Communications telephoned Kansas residents on the no-call list offering prizes on behalf of a Nevada company selling travel-related services. Schmidt says both companies agreed to pay the state $10,000 in penalties and fees for the violations.

Judge Rules Against Former Wife of Ex-KU Official

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has refused to amend his finding against the ex-wife of a University of Kansas athletics department official convicted in a ticket scalping scandal. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten on Tuesday again ruled for the government in its lawsuit against Ben Kirtland and his ex-wife, Mary Jean Kirtland, affirming that Mary Kirtland cannot keep assets fraudulently transferred to her in the couple's divorce settlement. Ben Kirtland is the former Kansas associate athletic director in charge of development. The government is now trying to collect more than $55,000 from Mary Kirtland. Marten also refused to allow her to appeal the judgment without posting any bond. Ben Kirtland was one of seven Kansas athletics officials convicted for the unlawful sale of Jayhawk football and basketball season tickets.

University of Kansas Gets Approval for $39M Project

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas received approval from the Lawrence city commission to begin construction on a $39 million complex that will include track and field, soccer and softball facilities. KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger announced Tuesday that the school had received the all-clear to begin construction on the facilities west of campus. Preliminary plans call for a track and field stadium with 7,000 permanent seats and room for 3,000 temporary seats. The new home of the Kansas Relays would mean the existing track could be removed from Memorial Stadium, where the Jayhawks play football. The new soccer stadium will seat 2,500 and the softball stadium will seat 1,500. School officials hope to have the facilities ready by spring 2014.

Kansas Man Sentenced on Bank Fraud Charges

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Johnson County man was sentenced to 15 months in prison and ordered to pay $1.3 million in restitution for his part in a scheme to fraudulently obtain millions of dollar in mortgage loans. Federal prosecutors say 55-year-old John Bradfield, of Overland Park, was sentenced Tuesday. He admitted that he submitted fraudulent information to mortgage lenders. One co-defendant, Paul Hartfield of Overland Park, obtained $4.9 million in loans to rehabilitate more than 40 homes in the Kansas City metro area. After he stopped rehabilitating the homes in October 2006, he persuaded friends and family to buy properties he claimed to fix. Hartfield was sentenced last October to about six years in prison and ordered to pay $2.6 million restitution. Two other men were convicted in the scheme.

Washburn's Lecture Series to Feature Author Sinha

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A professor of African-American studies at the University of Massachusetts will deliver the second installment of Washburn University's Lincoln Lecture Series. Manisha Sinha will present "Race and Equality in the Age of Lincoln" February 6 at 7 pm at the Memorial Union. Her lecture is free and open to the public. Yale University Press is publishing her soon-to-be released "To Live and Die in the Holy Cause: Abolition and the Origins of America's Interracial Democracy." She also wrote "The Counterrevolution of Slavery: Politics and Ideology in Antebellum South Carolina." Recently, Sinha was a featured commentator on "The Abolitionists," part of the "American Experience" series on PBS. The Lincoln Lecture Series is among a program of events leading up to Washburn University's sesquicentennial celebration in 2015.

Brown v. Board Case to Be Focus of JCCC Presentation

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The daughter of the lead plaintiff in the Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation case will discuss the case and the 14th Amendment next month at Johnson County Community College. Cheryl Brown Henderson is scheduled to speak about the landmark desegregation case Feb. 12 at Craig Community Auditorium on the Overland Park campus. She'll speak about the 14th Amendment during an appearance the following evening at the college's Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art. The Supreme Court's 1954 ruling in the Topeka case declared that separate schools for black and white children where inherently unequal. The event is sponsored by the community college's history department and the Kansas Studies Institute.

Missouri Man Sentenced for $3.5M Fraud Scheme

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A northwest Missouri man who stole about $3.5 million from friends and neighbors in an investment fraud scheme will spend 11 years in prison with no chance of parole. A federal judge sentenced 51-year-old Daniel Meredith of Excelsior Springs on Tuesday for promising his victims high profits on investments in a purported Bolivian land scheme and fake coffee house franchises. His victims lived mostly in Missouri and Kansas. One lost millions of dollars and at least one other had to declare bankruptcy. Federal prosecutors say Meredith claimed to have connections with former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and several other government officials. Meredith spent the money at casinos, on horses and for an extravagant home. Prosecutors say Meredith conducted the schemes between serving sentences for other cons.


Kansas Governor Outlining Budget Proposals for Lawmakers 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback is preparing to give Kansas legislators the details of how he proposes to protect core state services while making state government more efficient over the next two years. Budget Director Steve Anderson was scheduled to make separate presentations Wednesday to the House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means committees. The state must close a projected $267 million gap between anticipated revenues and existing spending commitments for the fiscal year that begins in July. The shortfall results from aggressive income tax cuts enacted last year to stimulate the economy. But Brownback's proposals will cover two fiscal years, outlining spending for state agencies through June 2015. He told legislators in his annual State of the State address that aid for public schools and key social services will be preserved.

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

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