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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, May 2, 2012


New Kansas Figures Show Bigger Deficit from Tax Cuts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — New figures from the Kansas Legislature's staff project that a compromise plan for cutting taxes will leave the state with a budget shortfall exceeding $700 million by mid-2018. The new figures from the Legislative Research Department circulated Wednesday, two days after the same agency projected that the tax plan would create a budget shortfall of $161 million by July 2018. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the projections from a legislative source. Lawmakers in both parties say they need assurances that the tax plan they pass won't create a shortfall. The plan, drafted by House and Senate negotiators, would cut the state's individual income tax rates, exempt 191,000 businesses from income taxes and reduce the sales tax to 5.7 percent in July 2013 from its current 6.3 percent.


Kansas Governor's Team Contests Budget Gap Projections

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's administration is disputing new projections from legislative staff showing that proposed tax cuts would create a budget gap of more than $700 million in 2018. Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan said Wednesday he's confident an analysis by his office will show no shortfall if lawmakers pass a compromise tax-cut plan. Brownback has endorsed the plan. Jordan and Brownback's budget director said they disagree with the Legislative Research Department's methods for calculating the cumulative effects of tax cuts in future years. The administration expects to have its own projections Thursday. Lawmakers in both parties say they want to ensure that tax cuts don't create future budget problems.


Bill Would Allow Smoking in Some Kansas Bars

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A House committee has approved a bill that would allow smoking in Kansas bars.  The bill approved yesterday (TUE) by the House State and Federal Affairs Committee would allow smoking in any private business that has only patrons and employees who are at least of legal drinking age.  Rep. Steve Brunk, a Bel Aire Republican, is chair of the committee.  He said it's unlikely the bill will become law this year because it was introduced so late in the legislative session.  Brunk, who doesn't smoke, told The Wichita Eagle that he supports the bill. He says it is consistent with state law that allows smoking in state-owned casinos and it protects private property rights.  Kansas banned smoking in most private businesses in 2010.


Kansas Congressional Map Emerges from Committee

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Senate panel has endorsed a new congressional redistricting map that adjusts the lines of the four Kansas U-S House seats.The map was advanced Wednesday and could get a full Senate vote later this week. The proposal shifts the boundaries of the districts to reflect changes in the 2010 census. Among the issues resolved in the map is where to put Riley County and the shape of the 4th District, which centers on Wichita and Sedgwick County. Riley County would remain in the 2nd District. The county is home to Manhattan and Kansas State University. The 4th District shifts east, picking up additional counties in southeastern Kansas but shedding south-central counties that would become part of the 1st District.  


Kansas House Panel Introduces Rival Senate Map

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ In a rare move, a House committee has introduced a map that redraws Kansas Senate districts. Traditionally, the House and Senate draw redistricting maps only for their own chambers.  The House Appropriations Committee introduced the map of Senate districts Wednesday, a day after the Senate approved its own version of the map. House Speaker Mike O'Neal says the map approved by senators has problems and he doesn't think it would get much support in the House. O'Neal, a Hutchinson Republican, says the House proposal is similar to one drawn by Sen. Steve Abrams that merges two districts in south-central district instead of merging two in western Kansas. That plan was defeated during Tuesday's Senate debate, but the speaker says it may have support in the House.

Government Opposes Ex-KU Consultant Sentence Reduction Bid

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Prosecutors are opposing a request by a former consultant for the University of Kansas to have his sentence shortened for his part in a ticket scalping conspiracy that he helped conceal.  Thomas Blubaugh is asking that his 46-month sentence be reduced to 33 months. The government argued in a court filing Wednesday that Blubaugh's request must fall on "disbelieving ears." It urged U.S. District Judge Monti Belot to deny the request because it is without merit. Blubaugh argues the court improperly considered the value of tickets he had hidden in private storage. He also claims he had ineffective counsel and was promised probation. Blubaugh and his wife, Charlette, the university's former ticket director, were among seven people convicted in a scheme that cost the university athletic department $2 million.


House Panel Advances Proposed KS Budget

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House panel has finished writing a proposed $14 billion state budget for the fiscal year that starts in July.  The House Appropriations Committee made its final changes to the plan yesterday (TUE).  The measure also contains supplemental funding sought by Governor Sam Brownback for the current budget year, including $24.6 million for public schools.  Committee chairman Marc Rhoades said the House will probably debate the bill next week, although the chamber could take it up later this week.  The Senate expects to begin debating its version of the budget starting Wednesday.


Kansas Senate Expected to Vote on Anti-Abortion Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Abortion opponents in the Kansas Senate plan to force a vote on a bill giving greater legal protection to health care providers who refuse to participate in terminating pregnancies. Senator Garrett Love, a Montezuma Republican, said he'll ask for a vote Wednesday evening. The House already has approved the bill. Senate passage would send the measure to Republican Governor Sam Brownback, who's likely to sign it. Kansas law already says doctors and hospitals can't be penalized for refusing to participate in abortions or sterilizations. This year's bill would expand that protection to other health care providers, including clinics and pharmacists. It also would cover their refusal to dispense abortion-inducing drugs. Opponents contend the bill would restrict access to birth control as well.


KS House OKs Plan to Join Arts, Film Commissions

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has sent Governor Sam Brownback a measure establishing a new arts group that merges separate arts and film services.  The new Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission approved yesterday (TUE) was sent to the Republican governor, who proposed the idea in January. Senators have already approved the changes.  The final version was drafted by House and Senate negotiators.  The new commission would have 11 members and be part of the state Department of Commerce.  Brownback sought last year to abolish the Arts Commission. He vetoed its entire budget, costing the state $1.2 million in outside arts funds. Restoring some of the state funding for the arts is contained in another bill yet to be debated.


State of KS Takes Custody of Ex-Doctor's Discarded Abortion Files

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge has granted a state board temporary custody of a former abortion provider's patient files after hundreds of his records turned up in a recycling bin.  The State Board of Healing Arts went to court last week for custody of the discarded documents plus others still in the possession of Krishna Rajanna. Shawnee County District Judge Franklin Theis granted the board's request Monday.  The board revoked Rajanna's medical license in 2005. A woman later found hundreds of his files dumped in a recycling bin near his home in Overland Park, a suburb of Kansas City.  The state board expects to keep the records until it finds a permanent custodian or until they're more than 10 years old and can be destroyed.


3 Teens Charged in Break-in and Theft at Cabela's

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Three teenagers have been charged as juveniles in last week's break-in at a northeast Kansas sporting goods store where guns were stolen.  The Wyandotte County prosecutor announced the charges yesterday (TUE).  The three males — ages 14, 15 and 17 — were ordered held pending their next court dates later this month.  KCTV reports 11 handguns were taken during the April 26 overnight burglary at Cabela's in Kansas City, Kan. Officials say some of the guns have been recovered.  Cabela's is located in a retail complex near Kansas Speedway in western Wyandotte County.

Kansas Wheat Trek Finds Most Fields Maturing Early

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Participants in the annual Kansas winter wheat tour are finding most fields ripening two to three weeks early throughout the state. But the potentially record-setting yields that participants noted in northern Kansas on the tour's first day are being offset by the drought-stressed wheat they viewed Wednesday in the southwest portion of the state.  Aaron Harries, marketing director for the trade group Kansas Wheat, said Wednesday that members are getting a fuller picture  of the drought's effects from Garden City to the Great Bend and Hoisington area. Fields in that region are expected to yield 20 to 40 bushels per acre. That comes in sharp contrast to the estimate of 53.6 bushels per acre for fields in northern Kansas. The tour concludes Thursday at the Kansas City Board of Trade, where participants will offer estimates of total Kansas wheat production.

3 Suffer Minor Injuries in Helicopter Crash

VALLEY FALLS, Kan. (AP) _ Three people suffered only minor injuries when a helicopter crashed in northeast Kansas. The Kansas Highway Patrol said the privately-owned helicopter crashed about 9:45 Wednesday in Valley Falls, about 30 miles northeast of Topeka. The three people on board were taken to a Topeka hospital with minor injuries. Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Herrig says the helicopter missed several trees before landing on its side on an old railroad bed that has been converted to a walking trail. No one on the ground was injured. Herrig said the Bell Ranger 206 was owned by Hawkeye Aviation of Ottawa. He says the crew was checking pipelines when the pilot lost rotor speed. Witnesses reported the chopper was spinning before it crashed.


Kansas School to Be Featured on Missouri License Plate

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — The fierce face of a Kansas university's animal mascot will soon be appearing on specialty license plates issued by the state of Missouri. Pittsburg State University says about 1,700 Kansas vehicles already carry specialty Kansas plates featuring the red and gold image of the gorilla. The southeastern Kansas school says many of its nearly 10,000 graduates living in Missouri expressed interest in showing their gorilla pride the same way. Johnna Schremmer, director of alumni and constituent relations, announced this week that more than enough applications were submitted for Missouri to begin making the plate. Schremmer expects Missouri's first Pittsburg State plates to be on the road within two to three months.


U.S. Claims Father Illegally Moved Kids to Gaza

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. authorities have filed criminal charges against a divorced Palestinian father who took his three children from Kansas to live in his native Gaza in an alleged violation of his custody decree.  Bethany Gonzales wants her children back in America. The divorced Muslim parents lived in suburban Kansas City until Ahmed Abuhamda took their children to Gaza in February.  He was charged in a federal criminal complaint filed last week in U.S. District Court in Kansas with intent to avoid prosecution on three state felony counts charging him with aggravated interference with parental custody.  The mother says she signed off on passports so the children could attend a wedding and that the father indicated he would bring them back. The father says she knew he was moving them to Gaza.


"Doomsday Prepper" Heads to Prison for Prepping Bombs

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 65-year-old Army and Marine veteran from southeastern Kansas who was preparing for the end of the world will go to prison for possessing incendiary bombs. The U.S. Attorney's office says Alfred Dutton, of Eureka, has been sentenced to 21 months. He pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of unregistered destructive devices.


20 Years Later, New Information Released on I-70 Killings

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Twenty years after a series of murders by the so-called "I-70 killer," police in one St. Louis suburb are releasing new information in the cold case.  Tomorrow (THUR) marks the 20th anniversary of the death of 24-year-old Nancy Kitzmiller. She was found by customers at Boot Village in St. Charles, where she worked.  Kitzmiller was one of six people killed in five Midwestern cities in April and May of 1992. Four of the murders were at small shops along Interstate 70 — two in Missouri, two in Indiana. The other two were at a bridal shop near Interstate 35 in Wichita.  St. Charles police say that based on ballistic evidence and witness statements, the gun was .22-caliber, possibly an Intratec Scorpion or an Erma Werke Model ET 22.


Play Based on Greensburg Tornado to be Presented

GREENSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Some Greensburg residents will mark the fifth anniversary of a tornado that nearly wiped out their town with a play based on the experience.  The play, called "Rooted: The Greensburg Odyssey," is the creation of author Marcia Cebulska of Topeka. It is sponsored by The Cornerstone Theater Company and the William Inge Center for the Arts in Independence.  A cast of 22 will present the play at 7pm Saturday in the fellowship hall of First United Methodist Church in Greensburg.  Producer Lois Lessman told The Dodge City Daily Globe that the group wanted to perform the play when Greensburg's Twilight Theater was completed. But the group decided to go ahead with a dramatic reading of the play to mark the anniversary, even though the theater is not ready.


Wichita Police to Use Electronic Ticketing

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police will be able to write more tickets, more quickly when the department adopts an electronic citation system later this year.  KAKE-TV reports that the City Council has approved a contract for the new technology. The program will cost about $500,000, to be covered partly with a grant, but police officials expect it will save the city $1 million over five years.  Electronic ticketing spares officers from writing citations by hand. Instead, a driver's license is swiped through a machine that prints out the ticket.  Wichita Police Capt. Darrell Atteberry says the department expects to write an additional 1,700 tickets a year, since the e-citations will let officers get back on the road more quickly.


New Catholic Salina Diocese Bishop Ordained

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The Most Rev. Edward J. Weisenburger is serving his first full day as the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salina.  The 51-year-old Weisenburger was ordained yesterday (TUE) as the diocese's 11th bishop.  Weisenburger was the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City when he was chosen to become bishop in February.  He replaces Paul S. Coakley, who was named archbishop of Oklahoma City in 2010. The Rev. Barry Brinkman, Salina diocese administrator, was interim bishop until a successor was selected.  Weisenburger said his only goal as bishop is to encourage those in the diocese that the church has a bright future.  The Salina Journal reports that 26 bishops and archbishops and more than 150 priests attended the ceremony.


Wichita Lifts Ban on Burning

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita has lifted a burn ban that's been in effect since April.  The city said in a news release that residents can conduct outdoor burning within the city limits according to local and state laws. Residents can also use outdoor fire places, cooking grills and similar items.  Open burning in certain areas of the state, including Wichita, was restricted during April to address air pollution in the region.  The city said ozone is the top air pollutant for Wichita.


Fort Leavenworth MPs to Host Safety Day

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Military police at Fort Leavenworth will let their guard down on Friday to help families focus on summer safety.  The 15th Military Police Brigade at the northeast Kansas post is holding "Spring into Summer," a daylong event promoting safety.  The event will include displays and presentations on fire, watercraft, hunting, all-terrain vehicles, swimming, motorcycle riding and personal security. There will also be inflatable bounce houses for children and a motorcycle show.


Kansas Senate Approves Remap Plan Amid Acrimony

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has approved a plan for redrawing its 40 districts, but revisions aimed at appeasing conservative Republicans may not be enough to get it through the House.  The Senate passed the measure yesterday (TUE) on a vote of 21-19, sending it to the House.  Senate Republicans have been bitterly divided over redistricting. Critics argued the Senate map was designed to keep the chamber's moderate GOP leaders in power.  But those leaders backed successful amendments placing two conservatives in the districts of moderate Republicans they want to challenge in the party primary.  Senate GOP leaders say the changes were part of a deal with House Speaker Mike O'Neal, a conservative Hutchinson Republican, to smooth the plan's path to House passage. O'Neal denied there was an agreement.

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

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