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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, March 27, 2013



Kansas Governor Signs Court Change Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has signed a bill altering the way judges are appointed to the state Court of Appeals. The bill gives Brownback authority to make the appointments, subject to confirmation by the state Senate. The Republican governor signed the bill Wednesday. He says he would also like to see changes in how members of the state Supreme Court are selected. The measure does away with a special commission that nominated three candidates for the Court of Appeals. The governor made the appointment, with no role for the Legislature. Brownback wants Kansas to do away with the nominating commission that selects Supreme Court justices, which would require changing the Kansas Constitution. A measure to do that is stalled in the Legislature.

Kansas House Approves Drug Testing Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has approved a bill that would require unemployment and welfare recipients to undergo drug testing. Under a bill passed Tuesday on a 106-16 vote, anyone who fails a drug test would have to get drug treatment and job skills training, paid for by the state and federal government. Those who fail a second time would lose assistance for a year. The bill also would prevent anyone who is convicted of a drug felony after July from getting welfare for five years. A second conviction would mean a lifelong ban. House and Senate members also would be tested if there is a reasonable suspicion about their behavior. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Senate has approved the bill but will consider some minor changes in the House version.

Kansas Lawmakers Open Negotiations on Tax Proposals

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate's top negotiator on taxes says cancelling a scheduled decrease in the sales tax is vital to allowing future reductions in income tax rates. Wichita Republican Les Donovan defended the Senate's proposal to keep the sales tax at its current 6.3 percent rate as his chamber opened talks Wednesday with the House. The tax is set to decline to 5.7 percent in July by law. Republican Governor Sam Brownback and many GOP legislators want to follow up on personal income tax cuts with more cuts in income tax rates. But the state also must stabilize its budget. Brownback and the Senate want to cancel the sales tax decrease while reducing income taxes further. The House plan would drop the sales tax and cut income taxes less aggressively.

Kansas Senate Approves Expansion of Concealed Carry

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has approved a bill expanding the number of public buildings where concealed weapons are allowed and letting public school and college employees carry concealed firearms. The 35-5 vote Wednesday sends the measure to the House. The bill backed by gun-rights advocates comes as federal officials consider new gun-control measures following a deadly mass shooting at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school in December. The House already has approved its own version of the same measure, allowing local school boards and state colleges to designate employees to carry concealed weapons. Also, state and local governments couldn't prohibit holders of state concealed-carry permits from bringing their weapons into public buildings unless those places had security measures. Officials would have until 2018 to get those security measures in place.

House Approves Bill to Require Stem Cell Research

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has approved a bill that would require the University of Kansas Medical Center to start a center to promote research and use of adult stem cells, cord blood and related stem cell therapies. The bill would prohibit the center from using embryonic stem cells or cells taken from aborted fetal tissue. It also would require the medical center to appoint a director of the center to oversee patient treatment and research. However, the bill does not include any state funding for the proposed center. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center would require $1.1 million to renovate a lab and hire staff and $750,000 annually after that. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Manhattan Airport Tower Open Through September

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Manhattan Mayor Loren Pepperd says the city's air traffic control tower will stay open at least through September. The city commission decided Tuesday to postpone a decision on how to find funds to keep the tower open after September. The control tower at Manhattan Regional Airport is one of five scheduled to be closed in Kansas because of federal budget cuts. The others are in Hutchinson, Topeka and two airports in Olathe. Pepperd says the city has not determined how the contract covering the air traffic controllers would be funded, but the tower would operate through the end of the fiscal year, which is the end of September. The Manhattan Mercury reports that commissioners will discuss possible future funding of the tower at their meeting next week.


Study: Kansas Could See Rise in Health Claims Costs

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new national study says Kansas could see an increase of nearly 19 percent by 2017 in medical claims costs for individual insurance policies under the federal health care overhaul. That's better than the nationwide figure of nearly 32 percent forecast by the Society of Actuaries study. Kansas legislators from both parties said Wednesday they're not surprised some costs could rise under the 2010 federal health care law championed by President Barack Obama. Medical claims costs are a major driver of health insurance premiums. The study assumes all states expand Medicaid coverage under the federal health care law. Kansas hasn't made a decision on that issue, but many Republican legislators oppose an expansion. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the Obama administration questioned the design of the study, saying it ignores tax credits to help people pay premiums and special payments to insurers who attract more of the sick. Sebelius said that it's difficult to compare catastrophic plans being sold today to the comprehensive coverage that individuals will get under the law starting next year.


Westar Issues Caution on Impostor in Derby Area

DERBY, Kan. (AP) — The state's biggest electric utility is cautioning residents in south-central Kansas town about a man posing as one of its workers. Topeka-based Westar Energy said Tuesday it received a report of a man knocking on doors in the Derby area and asking to enter homes. The company says the man claimed to be a Westar employee performing home electricity audits. The utility says the man doesn't work for Westar or any of its partner companies. Westar workers carry company identification, and many wear clothing with its logo.


Sentencing Delayed for Man Accused of Binding Kids

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Sentencing has been delayed for an Illinois man who was arrested after two of his children were found bound and blindfolded in a Wal-Mart parking lot in eastern Kansas. Adolfo Gomez and his wife, Deborah Gomez, of Northlake, Illinois, were arrested June 13 in Lawrence after police found two of their children, ages 5 and 7, bound by their hands and feet in the store parking lot. Deborah Gomez was sentenced earlier to one year of probation after pleading no contest to child endangerment. Adolfo Gomez awaits sentencing after pleading no contest to felony child abuse and child endangerment. 6NewsLawrence reports Adolfo Gomez was scheduled to be sentenced this week, but the sentencing was canceled because Gomez requested a new lawyer. A status conference is scheduled for April 11.


Kansas Gun-Rights Bill Still Alive

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Gun-rights supporters in Kansas are expecting to make a final push for a bill declaring that the federal government cannot regulate some firearms and ammunition manufactured in the state. Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce said Wednesday he expects his chamber to vote on the measure next week. The House has already approved it, and a Senate committee endorsed it this week. The measure is reaction to discussions of gun-control measures by federal officials following the mass elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in December. The bill says the federal government has no authority to regulate firearms, ammunition and accessories that are manufactured, sold and kept in Kansas. Supporters say it will block an overreach by the federal government. Critics see it as creating unnecessary conflict and possible litigation.


Kansas Senate Revises Governor's Reading Initiative

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas senators have approved a heavily amended version of Governor Sam Brownback's reading initiative, putting the focus on first-graders. The measure passed 30-10 on Wednesday, sending it back to the House to consider the changes. Brownback and the House had proposed holding back third-graders who lack proficiency in reading. The Senate's version would require school districts to retain first-graders who don't meet proficiency standards. The Senate also added language to require multiple tests of student skills and to bring parents in on any decision to hold a student back. Brownback says the proposal would help improve overall student reading and academic performance.


Kansas Man Gets 36 Years in Girlfriend's 2006 Death

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 41-year-old Lawrence man was sentenced to more than 36 years in prison for death of his girlfriend, who died of an infection after she was beaten with the leg of a table. Christopher Belone was sentenced Tuesday in the 2006 death of Linda Begay of Lawrence. It was the second time he had been sentenced in the case. Belone was first convicted in 2006 but the Kansas Supreme Court ordered a new trial, ruling a jury should not have been allowed to hear a taped interview Begay gave investigators before she died. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Belone says his alcohol and drug use caused Begay's death. Belone has already served more than six years in prison.


NW Kansas Man Convicted of Second-Degree Murder

OBERLIN, Kan. (AP) — A northwest Kansas man has been convicted of fatally shooting another man and wounding a woman as the couple slept. Twenty-five-year-old Dylan Coryell, of Oberlin, will be sentenced in June following his conviction Wednesday on charges of intentional second-degree murder and aggravated battery. It was the first murder trial in Decatur County in more than a decade. Coryell was charged with shooting 22-year-old Corey Cook, also of Oberlin, and a female acquaintance as they slept the morning of October 16, 2011. The Salina Journal reported last week that witnesses testified Coryell had recently begun a relationship with the woman, who survived the shooting. Prosecutors said both men had been drinking and exchanging hostile text messages in the hours before the killing.


Man Sentenced to Nearly 9 Years in Topeka Slaying

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 22-year-old Topeka man was sentenced to nearly nine years in prison for his role in the shooting death of a woman and the wounding of her partner. Ronald Wakes was sentenced Tuesday in the July 2011 death of 40-year-old Natalie Gibson and the wounding of 43-year-old Lori Allison. He was one of nine people charged in the shooting, which occurred during a botched robbery at the women's home. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Wakes pleaded no contest in February to involuntary manslaughter, aggravated robbery, aggravated battery and attempted aggravated intimidation of a witness. Chris Biggs, assistant district attorney, said he agreed to the plea agreement because Wakes did not go to the women's home with criminal intent. Before sentencing, Wakes apologized for his role in the shootings.

Third of 4 Escapees from Kansas Jail Sentenced

MINNEAPOLIS, Kan. (AP) — The third of four inmates who escaped in April 2012 from a north-central Kansas jail was sentenced to 11 more years in prison. The Kansas Attorney General's Office says 24-year-old Alberto Barraza-Lujan was sentenced Tuesday for aggravated escape from custody. He'll serve the sentence after finishing a sentence of 11 years and four months for previous convictions. Barraza-Lujan and three others escaped from the Ottawa County jail in Minneapolis. They were being housed at the county jail to relieve overcrowding at the state prison. Barraza-Lujan was serving time for attempted aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer in 2011. He was recaptured in Ottawa County shortly after the escape. Two other defendants have been sentenced and the third is awaiting sentencing.


2 Charged in KC Home Invasion That Killed Student

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two Kansas City men have been charged in a home invasion that left a University of Missouri-Kansas City music student dead and three others wounded. The Jackson County prosecutor announced Wednesday that 21-year-old Anthony J. Williams and 20-year-old Alonzo D. Ruff face one count each of second-degree murder in the death of 23-year-old Aaron Markarian, of Warrensburg. They also are charged with first-degree assault, armed criminal action and robbery. The men were arrested Tuesday and prosecutors are requesting $500,000 cash bonds. Prosecutor's office spokesman Mike Mansur says he doesn't know if the suspects have attorneys. Police say intruders robbed eight people and shot four last Thursday at a home south of the Country Club Plaza. The occupants of the house were mostly students from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.


Kansas Military School Received 339 Abuse Complaints

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — About 340 current and former students have complained to a Kansas military school, saying they were beaten, hazed, harassed or abused over the past five years. Twenty-one said they were branded. The numbers surfaced last week in the latest documents filed in a federal lawsuit brought by 11 former cadets and their families against St. John's Military School. The document makes public for the first time the extent of abuse that the plaintiffs claim is part of the culture at the Salina boarding school. The school says the number reflects its concern for student safety because it investigates and records every complaint, no matter how minor. School president Andy England also said in an email to The Associated Press that some students see branding as "a badge of honor."


Alabama Airport Still Using Cabinet Like One That Killed KS Boy

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Birmingham's airport is still using a large panel of video monitors similar to one that tipped over and killed a 10-year-old Kansas boy last week. The approximately 9-foot-tall cabinet was flashing flight information on three screens near baggage claim Wednesday, five days after a similar display killed Luke Bresette one floor higher in the airport. A small warning sign tells visitors not to touch the cabinet. A portable metal fence on wheels is in place to keep people away. Airport spokeswoman Toni Herrera-Bast says a similar cabinet was removed from another area, but she didn't have any immediate information about the one still in use. The 300- to 400-pound steel cabinet fell Friday, killing the child as his family returned home to Overland Park from Florida. His mother and two brothers were hurt.

Teen Released in Columbia Shooting Arrested in KC

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A Columbia teen who was recently acquitted by a jury in a connection with a 2012 shooting at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant now faces two new felony charges related to an armed robbery of a Kansas City cellphone store. The Columbia Daily Tribune ( ) reports that 17-year-old James T. Miller was arrested Saturday, eight days after a Boone County jury found him not guilty of firing a .45-caliber handgun at the restaurant full of children. Miller spent nearly 13 months in the Boone County Jail awaiting trial in the Columbia case. He remained in the Jackson County (Missouri) Detention Center late Tuesday on a cash-only bond of $150,000.

William Allen White Home to Reopen for Spring and Summer

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — The Red Rocks State Historic Site, home of famed Kansas journalist William Allen White and his family, will reopen April 4 for the spring and summer travel season. White was editor of The Emporia Gazette and in his day hosted high profile political and literary people at his home in Emporia. Theodore Roosevelt was among the five U.S. presidents to visit Red Rocks. The Historical Society said Tuesday that visiting hours will be from 11 am to 5 pm Thursday through Saturday during the season, which ends October 26. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 students. Kansas Historical Foundation members and children five and younger are admitted free.

Small Kansas School Saved by Agriculture Charter

WALTON, Kan. (AP) — An east-central Kansas elementary school that nearly closed six years ago is bursting with students and has a long waiting list, and it's attracting visitors from as far away as New Zealand. The recovery started in 2007, when the Newton School District changed the K-4 school in Walton to a charter with an agricultural theme. Agriculture is used to teach all classes, and each class pairs with a local farm family. By 2005, only about 75 students attended Walton Elementary. Now, the 167 students attend the Walton Rural Life Center learn by doing all the chores associated with a farm. The waiting list goes to 2018. The Kansas City Star reports that since the charter opened, state assessment rates hover around 97 percent for reading and 100 percent for math.

Small College Might Open in KC-St. Joseph Diocese

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A nonprofit group from Texas is considering opening a small college in the headquarters building of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese. Diocese officials say The Walsingham Society of Christian Culture and Western Civilization wants to establish a Christ College in Kansas City. Diocese chancellor Jude Huntz says the group is considering leasing space in the diocese's 10-story headquarters. Brinton Smith, president of the Walsingham Society, told The Kansas City Star in an email that Christ College would offer a Catholic, seminar-based, Great Books course of study. He says the college would teach Catholic doctrine but otherwise be an independent institution. Smith says the plan is to start small and expand as needed. But he offered few other details, saying the proposal was a work in progress.

Wisconsin Man Indicted in Koch Industries Cyberattack

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Call this a classic Internet-era problem: A Wisconsin man has been charged with joining a cyberattack on Wichita-based Koch Industries organized by the computer hacker group Anonymous. The U.S. attorney's office said Tuesday that 37-year-old Eric J. Rosol, of Black Creek, Wis., was indicted on one count each of damaging a computer and conspiracy to damage a computer. The indictment alleges that Anonymous asked conspirators in February 2011 to launch a so-called 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. Rosol also is accused of sending a code that damaged the company's computer. A phone message left for Rosol at his home was not immediately returned. Prosecutors do not know whether he has retained an attorney.

Wichita Police Seek Suspect in 3 Holdups

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita are looking for a gunman suspected of robbing four people, including one who died of an apparent illness several hours later. KFDI-FM reports the 73-year-old man told police he was driving out of a parking lot in southwest Wichita about 8:30 pm Monday when the robber opened a passenger door and pointed a gun. The victim handed over some money and the robber left in another vehicle. The 73-year-old died several hours later of what was described as a sudden illness, but police don't believe the death and the robbery were related. The same gunman is suspected of robbing one person around 10:30 pm Monday and two victims at 3:30 am Tuesday, also in southern and western Wichita.


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