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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, March 14, 2012



Tax Cut Bill Passes House, Despite Critics' Misgivings

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas House has approved a sweeping package of tax cuts, sending it to the Senate despite misgivings that it costs too much and favors the wealthy over poor residents. Supporters say the plan approved Wednesday is a step toward tax relief and job creation. Critics say some provisions favor the wealthy and businesses. Others say Kansas can't afford the plan, estimated to cost between $375 million to $425 million. It's the second plan approved by the House in two years to cut income taxes. Last year plan's never got a vote in the Senate. And on Wednesday, a Senate committee endorsed a separate income tax plan offered by Republican Governor Sam Brownback with minor changes. House Speaker Mike O'Neal says he's confident some form of tax relief will pass.


Kansas House Panel Settles on Congressional District Remapping Plan 

A Kansas House committee is narrowly backing a congressional redistricting proposal that would split the Kansas City area between two U.S. House districts. The Redistricting Committee approved the proposal Wednesday on a 12-11 vote, with House Speaker Mike O'Neal breaking a tie. O'Neal, a Hutchinson Republican, drafted the plan and serves as the panel's chairman. The vote indicates the proposal probably will go to the House for further debate. However, O'Neal said he'll hold another committee meeting Thursday to see whether another plan garners more support. His plan divides Wyandotte County in the Kansas City area, keeping part of it with neighboring Johnson County in the 3rd District. But some of the county's urban neighborhoods would be placed in an expanded 1st District, grouping them with western Kansas communities more than 400 miles away.  


Kansas Senate Panel Delays Votes on Remapping Plans

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has delayed voting until Friday on two bills redrawing state legislative districts. The Reapportionment Committee had been scheduled to take final action Wednesday on the measures. But Chairman Tim Owens, an Overland Park Republican, noted the committee needed to wrap up hearings on the measures first. One bill adjusts the boundaries of state Senate districts to account for changes in population over the past decade. The other bill follows a bipartisan plan for a new map of Kansas House districts. The House has already passed the measure, and — if tradition holds — the Senate will approve it without making changes.

State Computer Project Delay Could Affect Voter ID Law Implementation

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A delay in a major Kansas computer project is complicating Secretary of State Kris Kobach's effort to have a proof-of-citizenship rule in place for new voters ahead of this year's presidential election. A law taking effect January 1, 2013, will require people registering to vote for the first time in Kansas to prove their citizenship. Kobach wants to move the effective date of the rule to June 15. The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee learned Wednesday that a key phase of a $40 million upgrade of the Department of Revenue's computers won't be ready until at least August 1. Many senators have said if that phase is completed they can be sure the department can transfer electronic copies of documents used to prove voters' U.S. citizenship to election officials.

Suspect Held on $10M Bond in Topeka Slaying

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A suspect has been arrested and is being held on $10 million bond in the death and sexual assault of an 8-year-old Topeka girl. The suspect was booked into the Shawnee County jail late Tuesday in the death of Ahliyah Nachell Irvin. Matt Patterson, senior assistant district attorney, told The Topeka Capital-Journal that the suspect appeared before a judge Wednesday and an attorney was appointed for him. The Shawnee County court clerk's office said formal charges were still pending as of early Wednesday afternoon. Police found the child's body early Tuesday in the same southeast Topeka apartment complex where family members reported her missing about 45 minutes earlier. Authorities have not said how she was killed or exactly where in the apartment complex she was found. Funeral services are scheduled for Friday.

50 from DeSoto High School Band Trip Treated for Food Poisoning

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Fifty students and chaperones from DeSoto High School in Kansas have been treated for food poisoning symptoms at a western Pennsylvania hospital after they stopped on their way home from a band trip to New York when they became ill. A spokeswoman for Excela Frick Hospital says 40 students and 10 chaperones have been treated at the hospital in Mount Pleasant, about 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. The Pennsylvania and New York state health departments are investigating where the band ate. The group ate somewhere in New York before 164 of them headed home on three buses early Wednesday. Those sickened have been treated and have begun their return trip home.


Ex-Health Insurance Exec Questions Gov's Medicaid Overhaul Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former health insurance executive is raising questions about Governor Sam Brownback's plan to move the state's Medicaid program to a managed-care system. Wendell Potter spoke to advocates for the disabled and testified before a Kansas Senate committee Tuesday about his concerns over the proposal, called KanCare. He is a former public relations specialist for Humana and Cigna. Potter told the advocates that he does not question Brownback's motives for suggesting the changes. But he says there are better ways to serve vulnerable citizens than turning health care over to for-profit insurance companies.  Currently, five insurance companies are bidding for three state Medicaid contracts. KanCare is scheduled to take effect January 1. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Brownback officials said Tuesday that KanCare will provide better management of all services.


Woman Killed, Man Injured in Vehicle / Pedestrian Accident

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A woman was killed and a man suffered minor injuries when they were hit by a vehicle in Kansas City, Kansas.  Police said the woman and man were walking in the road when they were hit yesterday (TUE) evening.  The driver stopped and stayed at the scene until police arrived.  The women's identity has not been released.


Wisconsin Soldier Based at Fort Riley Dies in Afghanistan

HAZEL GREEN, Wis. (AP) — The Department of Defense says a military police officer from southwestern Wisconsin has died while serving in Afghanistan.  Thirty-year-old Staff Sgt. Jesse Grindey (GRIN'-dee) of Hazel Green died Monday in Kandahar province.  No details of Grindey's death were released. The U.S. Army is investigating.  Grindey was a military policeman assigned to the 287th Military Police Company, 97th Military Police Battalion based at Fort Riley.  It was his second deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.  Grindey joined the Army 10 years ago. His stepmother says he had just been deployed to Afghanistan on December 31.  Grindey was married and had two children. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Parents Claiming Sons Were Abused at Kansas Military School

SALINA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas military school is being sued by parents of cadets who say their sons were regularly abused by older students with the blessing of school officials. The Salina Journal reports the federal lawsuit was filed against St. John's Military School last week in Kansas City, Kansas. It claims the school allows older students, called "Disciplinarians," to discipline younger students who step out of line. The parents of four boys claim their sons suffered severe beatings by the Disciplinarians, and when the boys reported the abuse to school officials, the beatings got worse. School President Andy England says he was meeting with legal counsel and the school was doing "due diligence" before responding to the lawsuit. The lawsuit claims the school has settled nine similar abuse cases since 2006.

Salina Commission OKs Anti-Discrimination Ordinance

SALINA, Kan. (AP) _ The Salina Human Relations Commission is supporting a proposal to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city's anti-discrimination ordinance. The commission voted Tuesday to recommend that the Salina City Commission make the changes to discourage discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. The Salina Journal reports businesses with city contracts that have fewer than four employees and those who do less than $20,000 a year in business with the city would be exempt. Commissioners agreed to recommend the city take a year to make the changes in contracts for goods and services as the contracts come up for renewal. They also will recommend a 60-day period for more public education about the changes before they are implemented.


Football Game to Aid Harveyville Tornado Relief

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Ready for some football? How about if going to a semi-pro game would help families recovering from the Harveyville tornado? The Topeka Thunder will play the West Central Warriors of Belton, Missouri on Sunday afternoon in a benefit for Harveyville. The northeastern Kansas town sustained extensive damage and one death when it was hit February 28 by an EF-2 tornado. The Thunder and the Warriors play in the Central Plains Football League. The semi-pro association has more than a dozen eight-man teams throughout Kansas and Missouri that play a high-scoring, arena-style of game outdoors. Sunday's game will be played at the SportZone complex in Topeka. Donations of money, food, clothing and other items will be accepted for admission.


32-Year-Old Man Shot to Death in SE Kansas

GALENA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in southeastern Kansas have one person in custody as they investigate a fatal shooting.  The Cherokee County News-Advocate reports that several people called 911 shortly before midnight Monday reporting a shooting in Galena.  Officers found a wounded man at the scene and took him to a hospital in Joplin, Missouri, where he died early yesterday (TUE).  He's identified as 32-year-old Justin Eakes.  The Cherokee County Sheriff's Department says a 38-year-old man was arrested and held on suspicion of voluntary manslaughter. Charges are expected later in the week.  Details about the two men's relationship were being withheld while the investigation continued.


Man Convicted in Fatal Shooting, Attempted Robbery in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man will be sentenced May 8 for a fatal shooting during an attempted robbery.  Yesterday (TUE), a Shawnee County jury convicted Kyree Mashon McClelland of first-degree murder and four other felonies in the August shooting of 32-year-old Timothy James Stone.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that testimony at the trial indicated that Stone was shot during a struggle with McClelland and another man after McClelland had pulled a gun and demanded money.  McClelland was severely beaten and had to be put into a medically induced coma to help with recovery from blunt force trauma to the face and head.


KS Lawmaker Faces New Complaints from Activist

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A longtime Republican activist in Kansas has filed two ethics complaints against a state senator, accusing him of misusing campaign funds and filing a false campaign finance report with the state.  Kris Van Meteren, of Ozawkie, filed the complaints yesterday (TUE) against Sen. Dwayne Umbarger, a Thayer Republican, with the state Governmental Ethics Commission.  Van Meteren is a reviving a case he pursued unsuccessfully in 2008, but he's also added new allegations.  Umbarger called the complaints a waste of taxpayer dollars. He said it's a sign he's likely to face opposition in the GOP primary in August.  Van Meteren is questioning about $6,000 worth of expenditures made by Umbarger from his campaign fund from 2004 into 2009, alleging that Umbarger illegally converted campaign funds to personal use. Umbarger disputes the allegations.


Expansion Plans Discussed at University of Kansas Hospital

WESTWOOD, Kan. (AP) — Patient growth is prompting the University of Kansas Hospital to expand more quickly than planned.  In July 2010, the hospital's board approved a plan to open a 32-bed patient unit and build two new floors for future expansion at its Center for Advanced Heart Care in Kansas City, Kansas.  The new plan calls for adding 84 beds to the hospital on all three new floors. The hospital's authority board was told yesterday (TUE) that the entire space will be filled in by this summer.  Hospital officials say when the $56.7 million project is done, the hospital will ask the state to expand its limit on adult beds to 745 from 620. The hospital plans to hire 200 to 250 employees for the new space.


Salina Commission OKs Anti-Discrimination Change

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The Salina Human Relations Commission is supporting a proposal to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city's anti-discrimination ordinance.  The commission voted yesterday (TUE) to recommend that the Salina City Commission make the changes to discourage discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.  The Salina Journal reports that businesses with city contracts that have fewer than four employees and those who do less than $20,000 a year in business with the city would be exempt.  Commissioners agreed to recommend the city take a year to make the changes in contracts for goods and services as the contracts come up for renewal. They also will recommend a 60-day period for more public education about the changes before they are implemented.


Bungled Escape Attempt Leaves KS Teenage Girls All Wet

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita say three teenage girls who plotted to escape from a juvenile detention facility instead found themselves being evacuated wearing nothing but towels.  The Wichita Eagle reports the girls -- ages 16 and 17 -- soaked a washcloth in a flammable liquid and set it on fire in a vent Monday night. Police Lt. Doug Nolte says they planned to slip out when the center was evacuated because of the fire alarm.  When the smoke detector didn't immediately go off, they jumped into the shower to cover their absence.  That's when the fire alarm went off. The staff evacuated the 55 girls housed at the facility, including the three in the shower. All were returned to the center after the washcloth was found.


Drought Forces Relocation of Kansas Bison Herd

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — The ongoing drought prompted the state to temporarily move a bison herd from the Sandsage Bison and Wildlife Area near Garden City.  The 40 bison were moved to the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge in McPherson County.  The Garden City Telegram reports 10 bison were left at the Sandsage area. They'll be fed hay until enough forage grows for them to graze.  Tom Norman, area manager for the state wildlife department, says the drought has reduced forage in the Sandsage area. He says normal precipitation is 18 inches per year and the 3,670-acre wildlife area has not been able to recover from years of below-average precipitation.  The herd has been consistently reduced since 2002 but pastures still aren't able to keep up with the bison's forage needs.


Wichita Grocer Gets 6 Months in Prison for Food Stamp Fraud

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita grocery store owner will go to federal prison for his part in a scheme that paid customers cash for less than the value of their food stamps and pocketed the difference.
Ahmed Al-Maleki was sentenced yesterday (TUE) by U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten to six months in prison followed by six months of home detention. The owner of Kansas Food Market had pleaded guilty to conspiracy, wire fraud and food stamp fraud.  Marten also found that the loss to taxpayers amounted to $130,000, and ordered Al-Maleki to pay restitution in that amount.  Marten said there are consequences to breaking the law. But he also imposed a sentence below advisory guidelines because Al-Maleki's wife speaks no English and cannot drive, making it difficult to care for their five children.


Judge Sides with Nebraska Firm in Kansas Gas Lawsuit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has granted a Nebraska gas firm immediate access to 9,100 condemned acres in south-central Kansas at the center of a fight over gas seeping from the company's underground storage facility.  Yesterday (TUE), U.S. District Judge Monti Belot issued a preliminary injunction sought by Northern Natural Gas Company prohibiting owners of gas wells on the properties from using them to develop other underground formations.  Northern wants to use the existing wells to inject water underground to stem the seepage of gas from storage. It also wants authority to enter affected properties.  Belot's order requires the company to posts bonds of $7.8 million. That's in addition to depositing $2.67 million on which property owners can draw until compensation for the condemnation is resolved.

KCMO Begins Childhood Reading Proficiency Program

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Young Kansas City schoolchildren are the focus of a new program designed to improve their reading skills. Mayor Sly James says the effort to have all children reading at grade level by third grade is the most important economic development in the city. The plan will use social service groups, pediatricians, librarians, health care providers, summer school programmers, youth clubs, ministers, counselors and educators from multiple school systems. The Kansas City Star reports only one-third of the third-graders in public schools in Kansas City's city limits scored at a proficient level or better in 2011. That includes students from all or portions of 11 school districts, plus charter schools. About 30 people have been gathering data, setting baselines and looking for success stories to share with students.


Dallas Cowboys Sign Two Ex-Chiefs 

The Dallas Cowboys have already accomplished two of their primary goals in free agency, upgrading their secondary and getting a veteran backup quarterback. Cornerback Brandon Carr, who was apparently Dallas' top target, agreed Wednesday to a five-year deal, and quarterback Kyle Orton agreed to a three-year deal to be Tony Romo's backup. Both played in Kansas City last season. Dallas also announced the signings of unrestricted free-agent offensive lineman Mackenzy Bernadeau from the Carolina Panthers to a four-year deal, and fullback Lawrence Vickers from Houston for two years. Within hours after free agency began Tuesday afternoon, team officials visited with Carr at Cowboys Stadium.


California Man Sentenced for Dodge City Bank Holdup

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A California man is going to prison for the armed holdup of a Dodge City bank in October 2010.  The U.S. Attorney's office says 33-year-old Angel Garcia Aguirre, of Santa Paula, California, was sentenced yesterday (TUE) to 12 years and three months behind bars.  Garcia Aguirre pleaded guilty last year to one count each of bank robbery and brandishing a firearm, admitting he and another man robbed a Bank of America branch in Dodge City on October 21, 2010. He said he stood in the lobby while the other man jumped over a teller's counter and grabbed money.  Garcia Aguirre was shot and wounded by police the following day when they tried to confront him at a home.  Police shot Garcia Aguirre after he climbed out a window and tried to scale a fence.


KS Lawmakers Face Votes on Redistricting Plans

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Committees in the Kansas House and Senate are facing critical votes on legislation redrawing the state's political boundaries.  The House Redistricting Committee scheduled a debate and a vote today (WED) on a bill adjusting the outlines of the state's four U.S. House districts.  The Senate approved a bipartisan plan last month, but Republican Governor Sam Brownback and many GOP legislators don't like it. It would leave Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, the senior member of the state's all-Republican delegation in the U.S. House, with a slightly more Democratic district.  The Senate Reapportionment Committee's agenda calls for votes today (WED) on separate bills redrawing state House and Senate districts.  Kansas legislators are redrawing their own districts and the four congressional districts to account for changes in population over the past decade.


KS House to Take Final Vote on Tax Cuts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The first tax bill of the 2012 session is one House vote away from going to the Kansas Senate, where prospects are less than certain.  House members will take a final vote today (WED) on the measure that would reduce income tax rates and eliminate the sales tax charged on food. Passage of the bill would mark the second time in two years that the House has voted to cut income taxes.  The plan would also phase-out earnings taxes for thousands of partnerships, sole proprietorships and other small businesses.  Republican Governor Sam Brownback has pushed cutting tax rates as a top goal of the 2012 session as he seeks to revive the Kansas economy.  Critics of the bill say it will leave Kansas government with limited resources in future years. Meanwhile, critics on both sides of the Statehouse aisle are assailing a proposed $14 billion Kansas budget because it would push local school districts to tap cash reserves for higher-than-expected costs. The budget would eliminate $29 million in new money for the state's 286 school districts.  Governor Sam Brownback endorsed the spending.



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