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Your local and regional news for Northeastern Kansas and the surrounding communities, brought to you by the KPR news staff.

KS Travel Group Backs Immigrant Worker Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The trade group for travel and tourism businesses in Kansas has joined an effort to start a state program to place some illegal immigrants in hard-to-fill jobs. The Travel Industry Association of Kansas says it joined a coalition pushing state legislators to create such a program because it wants to address worker shortages in some industries. The coalition includes the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and agriculture groups. The travel association also says it wants to prevent harm to the tourism industry that might occur if legislators enact tough laws aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration. Legislators reconvene Wednesday to wrap up business for the year, but they've so far shown little interest in tackling immigration issues. Some critics consider the business coalition's plan to be a kind of amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Regional Headlines for Tuesday, April 24. 2012

Kansas Lawmakers Eye Frenetic End to 2012 Session

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislative leaders are expecting several busy and contentious days, if not weeks, as lawmakers prepare for the final segment of the 2012 session. The House and Senate return Wednesday from a three-week break with several major issues to resolve, including work on next year's budget and redrawing the state's political boundaries. The new districts must be completed by May 10 to avoid delays in the June candidate filing deadline and August primary. Democratic and Republican leaders said Tuesday the redistricting work has become highly partisan. House and Senate negotiators are expected to resume talks on proposals to reduce the state income tax for individuals and eliminate the tax for nearly 200,000 businesses. Republican Governor Sam Brownback remains committed to seeing tax cuts passed this session.

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Kansas Jail Escapee Charged with Carjacking

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — One of the four men who escaped from a north-central Kansas jail last week now faces a charge of carjacking. The U.S. Attorney's office says a federal grand jury indicted 22-year-old Eric James on the charge Tuesday. The indictment accuses James of assaulting a driver and stealing a 2002 Nissan Altima on April 18 in the Ottawa County town of Minneapolis. The carjacking occurred after James and three other men broke out of the Ottawa County jail, where they had been transferred from an overcrowded state prison. James was arrested two days later in Omaha, after officers in that city spotted the gold Nissan. James was the last of the escapees to be captured. He was serving a sentence for aggravated robbery, burglary and other crimes in southeastern Kansas.

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Panel Taking Nominations for Northeast Kansas Court Vacancy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A commission in northeast Kansas is taking nominations until May 24 for a seat on the state trial court that sits in Topeka. The new judge will replace Judge Charles Andrews, who retired from the Shawnee County District Court at the end of March. Nominations will be screened by a seven-member commission headed by Kansas Supreme Court Justice Marla Luckert. Attorneys can nominate themselves, or people can suggest candidates. Under state law, the potential judge must be at least 30 years old, live in Shawnee County and have actively practiced law for at least five years. The commission plans to meet June 11 to interview candidates. The panel will forward two or three names to Governor Sam Brownback, who will make the appointment.

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Kansas Travel Trade Group Backs Immigrant Worker Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The trade group for travel and tourism businesses in Kansas has joined an effort to start a state program to place some illegal immigrants in hard-to-fill jobs. The Travel Industry Association of Kansas says it joined a coalition pushing state legislators to create such a program because it wants to address worker shortages in some industries. The coalition includes the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and agriculture groups. The travel association also says it wants to prevent harm to the tourism industry that might occur if legislators enact tough laws aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration. Legislators reconvene Wednesday to wrap up business for the year, but they've so far shown little interest in tackling immigration issues. Some critics consider the business coalition's plan amnesty for illegal immigrants.

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Lawrence Police Investigating 2 Attacks on KU Campus

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Police say two female students have reported being attacked on the University of Kansas campus in the last week. One student said a man threw her to the ground last week as she walked outside Strong Hall. She was able to kick the man and get away. She described her attacker as a black man between 40 to 50 years old, average height and weight, black hair with graying tips and wearing a brown jacket. Early Saturday, another female student said she was briefly molested by a white man as she was walking outside Haworth Hall. She described the suspect as college-aged, between 6-foot and 6-foot-3, thin build, dark eyes and dark brown hair. He was wearing a green Ralph Lauren polo shirt and cargo shorts.

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Cerner Corporation Breaks Ground on New Kansas Office Complex 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Medical computer systems developer Cerner Corp. has broken ground on a complex in Kansas City, Kansas, with offices for 4,000 employees. Governor Sam Brownback took part in Tuesday's groundbreaking near Kansas Speedway. Cerner is headquartered in North Kansas City, Missouri, and has a second campus in Kansas City, Missouri. In Kansas, Cerner is building a $190 million complex with 660,000 square feet of space. The company expects to open the complex next year and have 2,000 workers there by the end of 2014, most of them new employees, with the number doubling within 10 years. Kansas lured the project with a $230 million package of incentives that also allowed construction of a new stadium for Major League Soccer team Sporting Kansas City. Two of the team's owners are Cerner executives.

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U.S. Senate Seeks to Slow Closing of Rural Post Offices 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has moved to impose new restrictions on the closing of rural post offices. Under the measure, the ailing U.S. Postal Service would be barred from closing post offices for one year if they are located in rural areas — those with fewer than 50,000 people. The exception would be if there was no community opposition. The measure was among revisions to a bill aimed at stabilizing the Postal Service. The main bill would provide a short-term cash infusion while delaying decisions on thousands of post office closings and ending Saturday mail delivery. A final vote is expected Wednesday. The mail agency says it needs to begin closings this year as part of a billion-dollar cost-cutting effort. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe previously agreed to delay closings until May 15.

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Baldwin School Wins National Aerospace Competition

BALDWIN, Kan. (AP) — Baldwin High School is celebrating its second national title in an aerospace technology competition. A team from the northeast Kansas school on Saturday won the national finals of the Real World Design Challenge in Washington D.C. The competition is sponsored by federal agencies, private aerospace companies and governments of participating states. The Lawrence Journal-World reports teams in the competition were required to digitally design tail sections and wings for a light-aviation aircraft. Teams then had to demonstrate their designs could fly from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina to Dayton, Ohio. Pam Davis is team coach. Baldwin competed in the final round against teams from Nevada and Pennsylvania. The three teams made the finals after competing Saturday morning with 28 other teams. Baldwin also won the national championship in 2010.

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3 Kansas Schools Win 'Green' Designation

WASHINGTON (AP) — Three schools in Kansas have been awarded "green ribbon" honors from the U.S. Department of Education. The department said in a release Monday that the schools are Eisenhower High in Goddard, Erie High in Erie and Brookwood Elementary in Leawood. The federal agency began the Green Ribbon Schools program last year. It honors schools that use a comprehensive approach to sustainability by cutting utility costs and providing healthy learning environments. The Kansas schools given the one-year designation were among 78 honored nationwide.

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NE Kansas Man to Be Tried on Child Sex Charge

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — A 73-year-old northeast Kansas man will go to trial on a charge of aggravated indecent liberties with a 9-year-old girl. KNZA-FM reports Norman Longbrake pleaded not guilty Monday in Atchison County District Court. The Atchison resident remains jailed on $200,000 bond. Longbrake was arrested by Atchison police in February. He's accused of engaging in unlawful sexual conduct with the girl the previous month. Conviction on the charge would bring a mandatory life sentence under a statute known as Jessica's Law, because the girl in this case was less than 14 years old.

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SBA Now Taking Applications for April Storm Recovery Loans

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Small Business Administration is now taking applications for low-interest federal loans to Kansas residents and business owners affected by recent storms. SBA representatives will also be available Tuesday to answer questions about the program. The disaster declaration makes the loans available to homeowners, renters, businesses and nonprofit groups whose property was damaged or destroyed by the April 14 storms. The SBA loans are available in Sedgwick, Butler, Cowley, Harvey, Kingman, Reno and Sumner counties. Cleanup efforts have now entered their second week. The Wichita Eagle reports The American Red Cross, Midway-Kansas Chapter has closed its shelter and site that offered meals. However, The Salvation Army still has a mobile truck providing sandwiches, water and snacks for volunteers in affected neighborhoods.

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Hall Family Foundation Makes $790K Donation to KU

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas has received a $790,000 gift from the Hall Family Foundation. The KU Endowment said in a release Tuesday that $430,000 will go toward renovating the university's Hall Center for the Humanities. Another $360,000 will go toward meeting a matching challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Victor Bailey, Hall Center director, said renovations will include creating a new seminar room and two office spaces. The NEH challenge grant of $425,000 requires $1.275 million in matching gifts by July 31, 2015. The grant will underwrite two new programs at the Hall Center. The Hall Family Foundation was started by the founder of Kansas City-based Hallmark Cards. KU Endowment is an independent organization that serves as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for the university.

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Annual Miller Moth Migration Strikes Western Kansas 

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Western Kansans are enduring the annual migration of miller moths, which overtake homes and crops as they head toward Colorado. Known as millers, the creatures are actually army cutworm moths. They migrate across Kansas every spring. The Hays Daily News reports the insects can be found in every nook and cranny during the migration. Western Kansans know that they can swat them or catch them in soapy water. But mostly the residents have to wait out the migration, which takes a few weeks. Ellis County Extension Agent Stacy Campbell says the moths like to feed on alfalfa and wheat. She says she has not received any reports of the insects damaging the young wheat crop.

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Judge Hears Arguments on Trying Child Sex Case

WINFIELD, Kan. (AP) — A south-central Kansas man accused of sexually abusing several children is asking a judge to throw some of the charges out. KAKE-TV reports Jerry Mills, of Arkansas City, had a preliminary hearing Tuesday in Cowley County District Court. Judge Jim Pringle must decide whether to order Mills to go to trial. Prosecutors offered graphic testimony to demonstrate they have sufficient evidence. But lawyers for Mills argue some of the charges fall outside the five-year statute of limitations because the allegations date back longer than that. Mills was charged after several people — some of them now adults — told authorities last year of being abused for years as children. Tuesday's hearing was closed to the public to prevent a potential jury pool from being tainted.

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Garden City Officials Pleased with New Air Service

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Garden City officials say early response to a new air service makes them hopeful the service will prosper. The aviation director at the Garden City Regional Airport says American Eagle flights from Garden City to Dallas were at maximum capacity last weekend. The American Eagle regional jet service to and from Dallas began on April 3. It replaced daily flights to and from Denver, which were operated by Great Lakes Aviation. The Garden City Telegram reports monthly passenger counts in April won't be available until mid-May. Brett Hooyerink, a senior manager with American Airlines, says the airline is elated with the early full planes. But he says advance bookings have gotten off to a slow start, so the airline feels it has more work to do to attract passengers.

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Kobach Says Status with Romney Camp Hasn't Changed

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says he remains an informal adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Kobach told reporters Monday that his status with the Romney campaign is the same as it has been for months. He was addressing speculation that his role is changing as Romney, the expected GOP nominee, prepares for the general election campaign. Kobach's ties to Romney are drawing national attention because Kobach is a strong advocate of state and local laws aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration. Kobach helped draft tough laws in Alabama and Arizona. And Kobach confirmed in February that he was an unpaid adviser to Romney's campaign. Kobach said Monday that he emails close Romney aides from time to time to offer his views on immigration issues.

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Kansas Chief Justice Postpones Court Furloughs

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss is postponing two of the remaining four days of court employee furloughs based on assurances from lawmakers that they will approve a funding request. The furloughs were scheduled for alternate Fridays. The first one occurred April 13 and closed courts throughout Kansas. Nuss said Monday he'll postpone the furloughs scheduled for April 27 and May 11, based on discussions last week by the House Appropriations Committee. Those planned for May 25 and June 8 remained unchanged. Nuss ordered the furloughs after legislators failed to approve $1.4 million in supplemental funding to keep the courts operating through June 30. He says if the funding doesn't come through, he'll reschedule the postponed furloughs for later dates.

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National Governors Association Regional Economic Summit Targets Federal Government, Regulations 

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Republican governors of Nebraska, Iowa and Michigan say the federal government cramps the states' ability to create new jobs and stimulate regional economies. Nebraska's Dave Heineman, Iowa's Terry Branstad and Michigan's Rick Snyder met Tuesday in Omaha with representatives of eight other states at the beginning of a two-day summit of the National Governors Association on regional economic development. The governors and representatives of Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and West Virginia are sharing best practices for creating jobs in their states. Heineman, who leads the association, held a news conference with Branstad and Snyder. The three say higher taxes, more stringent regulations proposed on businesses and the Obama administration's health care overhaul are hurting business growth in their states.

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Kansas City Chiefs Look to Fill Holes Along Line in NFL Draft

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs head into the NFL draft this week in an enviable position. General manager Scott Pioli believes he's filled most of the pressing needs on the roster — left tackle Eric Winston, running back Peyton Hillis, tight end Kevin Boss and cornerback Stanford Routt have all signed in free agency. That means Pioli has a bit more flexibility when the Chiefs go on the clock Thursday night. They have the number 11 pick and are expected to go after help at middle linebacker or along the offensive and defensive lines. But with all those major holes already filled, Pioli also has the flexibility to pick a quarterback or some other position if the right opportunity presents itself.

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Big 12 Coaches Using Spring to Fix Issues

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Nearly every coach in the Big 12 and beyond will swear that spring practice shows just how far away their team is from playing a real game. For some, like new University of Kansas coach Charlie Weis, it's far from hyperbole. Weis took over in the offseason after the Jayhawks fell to 2-10 under departed coach Turner Gill, and it didn't take long for him to see why. The Jayhawks have issues on both sides of the ball — including the nation's worst defense at nearly 44 points allowed per game in 2011 — and Weis took spring ball as an opportunity to start fixing what's wrong. Many of Weis's new colleagues have used the spring to settle on new quarterbacks. Baylor, Iowa State and Oklahoma State are among the Big 12 schools searching for signal callers.

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2 KU Football Players Dismissed for Violating Rules

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Sophomore linebacker Collin Garrett and freshman cornerback Chris Robinson have been dismissed from the University of Kansas football team for violating team rules. New coach Charlie Weis announced the dismissals Monday. He did not elaborate on what caused the players to be kicked off the team. Garrett played in six games as a freshman last season, making four tackles against Oklahoma and one tackle each in games against Kansas State, Baylor and Missouri. Robinson spent the season as a redshirt.

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Wichita Tornado Cleanup Enters New Phase

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Relief groups that responded to the April 14 tornado in southwestern Wichita are adjusting their efforts as the recovery enters a new phase. The United Way says the need for volunteers is declining as debris from damaged and destroyed homes is moved to curbsides. The agency says roads need to remain clear to accommodate heavy trucks collecting the debris. The American Red Cross said Monday it closed its shelter in Derby after everyone staying there was placed in other housing. The Red Cross ended its feeding service Sunday after dishing out more than 12,000 meals and snacks. But Red Cross volunteers are continuing to work in Wichita. And the Salvation Army is sending more volunteers from Kansas City to Wichita, where it still has a mobile kitchen serving survivors and cleanup crews.

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

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Kansas Lawmakers Prepare to Resume 2012 Session

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers resume the 2012 session Wednesday facing major unresolved issues, including passage of a state budget and redrawing the state's political boundaries. Legislators have spent the last three weeks on their traditional spring recess. House and Senate budget committees met during the break to work on the estimated $14 billion budget for the next fiscal year. The committees received word during the recess that state revenue over the next two years is expected to top earlier estimates by $252 million. House and Senate negotiators are expected to resume talks on proposals to reduce the state income tax for individuals and eliminate the tax for nearly 200,000 businesses. Lawmakers must also redraw the boundaries of the 125 state House districts, 40 Senate districts and four U.S. House districts.

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

Renovation of Topeka Zoo Rain Forest Exhibit Moving Quickly

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Tropical Rain Forest building at the Topeka Zoo is on track to reopen next month after a renovation that will make it lighter, brighter and wetter. WIBW-TV reports the $1.2 million project that began in November is running ahead of schedule. Officials were aiming for a Memorial Day opening but now say visitors could be welcomed inside by mid-May. The centerpiece of the work is replacement of the acrylic lenses that make up the geodesic dome. The Rain Forest was built in the 1970s, and the roof had become opaque over the years. Nearly 100 animals live in the building, including sloths, bats and tortoises. To give visitors a real feel for the tropical forest, the renovated building has new piping that will produce an occasional light rain.

American Royal Rodeo Event to Downsize, Change Venue

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The American Royal Rodeo will be a smaller event this year, and it will not return to the Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City. American Royal officials say the rodeo will move to Hale Arena in Kansas City's West Bottoms, rather than to its longtime home at Kemper Arena. The event also will not include any performances from main headliners such as last year's concert by Reba McEntire, but instead will focus on Kansas City and regional bands. American Royal President Bob Petersen says several factors, including scheduling conflicts with the Sprint Center and the rodeo calendar, prompted the changes. The Kansas City Star reports the rodeo is planned for September 27-29, which will make Kansas City the last major stop on the rodeo circuit before the national rodeo finals in Las Vegas.

Regional Headlines for Monday, April 23, 2012

 

Kansas Secretary of State Says Redistricting Delay Could Result in Constitutional Crisis 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is warning lawmakers that a potential constitutional crisis is brewing because they haven't yet redrawn political districts. But Kobach said Monday that he's also wary of a new proposal to postpone the state's primary election until the last week of August if lawmakers don't set new political boundaries soon enough. Lawmakers reconvene Wednesday for a wrap-up session that could continue through early May. Legislators must redraw state House, state Senate and congressional districts to account for changes in the state's population during the past decade. Kobach said the Kansas Constitution doesn't allow the state Supreme Court to draw lines for lawmakers. He says the court can only review what legislators have done. But he said delaying the primary would hurt the democratic process.

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Kansas A-G: Remapping Failure Could Bring Significant Legal Costs

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has told Governor Sam Brownback and legislative leaders that failing to agree on a congressional redistricting plan could prove expensive for the state. Schmidt says in a letter that if there is no agreement, the state is likely to face litigation, and Kansas could be forced to pay the legal fees of anyone who sues. That happened in 1982, when legislators approved a U.S. House redistricting plan that was vetoed by then-Gov. John Carlin. Two groups of residents sued the state, and a panel of federal judges drew new lines. The state faced $27,000 in legal fees. The Associated Press obtained a copy Schmidt's letter Monday. It's dated Friday and urges quick action on redistricting after lawmakers reconvene this week following a long break.

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KS Chief Justice Postpones Court Furloughs 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss is postponing two of the remaining four days of court employee furloughs based on assurances from lawmakers that they will approve a funding request. The furloughs were scheduled for alternate Fridays. The first one occurred April 13 and closed courts throughout Kansas. Nuss said Monday he'll postpone the furloughs scheduled for April 27 and May 11, based on discussions last week by the House Appropriations Committee. Those planned for May 25 and June 8 remained unchanged. Nuss ordered the furloughs after legislators failed to approve $1.4 million in supplemental funding to keep the courts operating through June 30. He says if the funding doesn't come through, he'll reschedule the postponed furloughs for later dates. 

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Kansas Senate President Says Manhattan District Shift Could Endanger NBAF Funding

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A top Kansas lawmaker says funding for a federal bioterrorism lab in Manhattan, Kansas could be in trouble if the city is moved to a different congressional district. Kansas Senate President Steve Morris says a split between conservative Congressman Tim Huelskamp and Speaker of the House John Boehner could have an impact on that funding. Huelskamp represents the 1st Congressional District, and one proposal for redrawn districts would move Manhattan from the 2nd District into the 1st. The Wichita Eagle reports Morris told members of the Wichita Pachyderm Club on Friday that Boehner might not support funding the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility if it's in Huelskamp's district. Huelskamp's spokeswoman says he has met with Boehner and does think a change of district would hurt the NBAF's funding prospects.

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Kobach Says Status with Romney Camp Hasn't Changed

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says he remains an informal adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Kobach told reporters Monday that his status with the Romney campaign is the same as it has been for months. He was addressing speculation that his role is changing as Romney, the expected GOP nominee, prepares for the general election campaign. Kobach's ties to Romney are drawing national attention because Kobach is a strong advocate of state and local laws aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration. Kobach helped draft tough laws in Alabama and Arizona. And Kobach confirmed in February that he was an unpaid adviser to Romney's campaign. Kobach said Monday that he emails close Romney aides from time to time to offer his views on immigration issues.

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Report: State Hospitals in Kansas Face Staffing Crisis

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Legislative staffers say an early retirement program launched last year by Governor Sam Brownback has resulted in major staffing problems at state hospitals. Legislative staffers told the Kansas House Appropriations Committee Friday that staffing is so tight at Larned State Hospital that the hospital could lose its federal accreditation. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the loss could cost the state $14.5 million in federal funds. The governor says more than 1,000 employees took advantage of the retirement program, which offered health insurance and one-time payment incentives to state workers. It is expected to save the state $34.5 million over two years. The report says low pay and long hours are making it difficult to recruit and retain workers at the hospitals.

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Hawker Beechcraft Issues Layoff Notices

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Aircraft maker Hawker Beechcraft says it has given 60-day layoff notices to about 350 workers at its plant in Wichita. Monday's letter from CEO Steve Miller and Chairman Bill Boisture tells employees that market conditions require adjusting production to ensure the company remains competitive. Hawker Beechcraft committed in 2010 to keeping its aircraft operations in Kansas for 10 years as part of a $45 million deal with state and local officials. The company agreed to maintain current aircraft lines and keep at least 4,000 jobs in Kansas until 2020. The company says even with the planned layoffs, it remains in compliance with the agreement.

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Missing MO Man Found in Refrigerator

DE SOTO, Kan. (AP) _ A man reported missing in Missouri several months ago has been found dead inside a refrigerator in northeastern Kansas. The Johnson County Sheriff's Department says the refrigerator was abandoned in a field near the town of De Soto. Authorities announced Monday the body inside was that of 33-year-old Gregory Price, whose disappearance was reported early last year to police in Independence, Missouri. The sheriff's department says Price's last known whereabouts were in the De Soto area. A tip led deputies to the field where they found the refrigerator and the body late last week. The cause of death has not been determined.

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Warm Weather Gives Boost to Kansas Parks Budget

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Unseasonably warm weather for the first three months of the year has resulted in a big revenue increase for the state's parks department. Wildlife and Parks Department Secretary Robin Jennison says January through March was the most lucrative start to a year in recent memory for the department. Parks director Linda Lanterman says revenues went up in February, alone, from just over $78,000 in 2011 to more than $261,000 this year. But the Topeka Capital-Journal reports things could change if the warming trend continues through the summer.

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Kansas Case Manager under Scrutiny 

The Kansas Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear a case brought by a woman who lost full custody of her child after a case manager recommended that custody be granted to the child's father. According to a report in the Topeka Capital-Journal, Karen Williams contends the March 2011 custody decision was based on confidential conversations between the judge and the case manager. Williams says she did not have a chance to respond to accusations made by the case manager, violating her right to due process. In Kansas, case managers are appointed by judges and are not required to be licensed. The Legislature is also considering a bill requiring specific qualifications for case managers. It would restrict the potential pool of judicial appointees to licensed psychologists, psychotherapists, counselors, therapists, social workers or lawyers. The appeals court is scheduled to hear the case May 15.

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Kansas Abortion Foes Struggle to Get Bills Passed

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Abortion opponents are struggling this year to push proposals through the Kansas Legislature. The agenda for lawmakers remains crowded with other big issues and even some anti-abortion legislators want to rest after a string of victories last year. A bill giving health care providers greater legal protections if they refuse to be involved in abortions has cleared the House, but it faces skepticism. A more sweeping measure designed to keep Kansas from subsidizing abortions even indirectly has stalled in the House. The contrast is sharp with last year. That's when lawmakers approved a series of measures that put the state at the front of a trend in which abortion foes capitalized on the election of sympathetic Republican governors like Kansas's Sam Brownback.

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KHP 75th Anniversary to Feature Retro Rides: All Hail the Return of the Crown Vic  

 SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas drivers might have flashbacks this year if they are pulled over by certain Kansas Highway Patrol troopers. The patrol has issued 14 cars to troopers that look like those used by the patrol in 1989. They are blue and gray Crown Victorias with a single red light on top. The cars are being used to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the patrol. The Salina Journal reports they will stay in the patrol's fleet until they are retired at 49,000 miles. The patrol says the cars might look old, but they have all the modern technology in other highway patrol cars. The anniversary cars are among the last Crown Victorias the Highway Patrol will own, because Ford stopped making the cars in 2011.

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KU Hospital to Redevelop Heart Transplant Program

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas Hospital has announced plans to redevelop its heart-transplant program, which closed in 1995. The hospital said Monday it has received a $1.5 million gift from William Reed, chairman of its department of cardiovascular disease, and his wife, Mary, to develop the program. The Kansas City Star reported that the hospital closed its heart-transplant program in 1995 after problems with the program were made public by the Star. From May 1994 to late March 1995, the hospital performed no transplants and turned away every donated heart. But it kept admitting patients and put others on waiting lists. In 1996, the hospital revamped its heart program and announced in 2000 that it was redeveloping the transplant program. But those plans were later put on hold.

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Parts of 2 Lawrence Streets to Honor Don Fambrough

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Sections of two streets in Lawrence will be renamed to honor former Kansas football coach and player Don Fambrough. The city of Lawrence and the University of Kansas will rename the two streets at a ceremony before the spring football game Saturday. The ceremony will be at the current intersection of 11th and Maine Streets. The city will rename a section of 11th Street "Fambrough Drive." The university also will rename a stretch of Maine Street behind the Memorial Stadium press box "Fambrough Way." The two streets will intersect. Fambrough died in September at the age of 88. He had two four-year stints as Kansas football coach in the 1970s and 1980s.

**editor's note: The main Kansas Public Radio studios are located at 1120 W. 11th Street in Lawrence. The street name change will NOT affect KPR's mailing address.

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Work Moving Quickly on Topeka Zoo's Rain Forest

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Tropical Rain Forest building at the Topeka Zoo is on track to reopen next month after a renovation that will make it lighter, brighter and wetter. WIBW-TV reports the $1.2 million project that began in November is running ahead of schedule. Officials were aiming for a Memorial Day opening but now say visitors could be welcomed inside by mid-May. The centerpiece of the work is replacement of the acrylic lenses that make up the geodesic dome. The Rain Forest was built in the 1970s, and the roof had become opaque over the years. Nearly 100 animals live in the building, including sloths, bats and tortoises. To give visitors a real feel for the tropical forest, the renovated building has new piping that will produce an occasional light rain.
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Filmmaker Focuses on Oklahoma's Dust Bowl Era

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns is turning his lens toward the Oklahoma Panhandle for a new four-hour documentary on the Dust Bowl and its impact on the region. Burns interviewed dozens of survivors, many of them in the Panhandle region of Oklahoma, for the documentary that is scheduled to air this fall on PBS. The film also covers the effect on nearby parts of Texas, Colorado, New Mexico and Kansas. In an interview with The Associated Press, Burns describes the Dust Bowl as the "greatest manmade disaster in the nation's history." The two-part series also includes a treasure trove of never-before-seen photographs and homemade films documenting the time in the early 1930s when a combination of drought and high winds pulled up thousands of tons of over-farmed prairie in the Southern Plains.

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American Royal Rodeo Downsizing

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The American Royal Rodeo will be a smaller event this year, and it will not return to the Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City. American Royal officials say the rodeo will move to Hale Arena in Kansas City's West Bottoms, rather than to its longtime home at Kemper Arena. The event also will not include any performances from main headliners such as last year's concert by Reba McEntire, but instead will focus on Kansas City and regional bands. American Royal President Bob Petersen says several factors, including scheduling conflicts with the Sprint Center and the rodeo calendar, prompted the changes. The Kansas City Star reports the rodeo is planned for September 27-29, which will make Kansas City the last major stop on the rodeo circuit before the national rodeo finals in Las Vegas.

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80-Foot Plate of Nachos Sets New World Record

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence has gained a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records after serving up a two-ton plate of nachos served at the Kansas Relays. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the 80-foot nacho plate was finished by noon Saturday and weighed in at 4,689 pounds. That easily beat the former record of 3,999 pounds set in October 2011 at a restaurant in Massachusetts. But breaking the record wasn't an easy task at all, especially after a cooler went out Saturday morning and 2,000 pounds of food spoiled. Organizers worked with local suppliers to replace the bad food, and about 70 percent of the feast was consumed. Kansas Relays ticket-holders paid a $1 donation or canned food item for their servings, with the proceeds going to the Lawrence Interdenominational Nutrition Kitchen.

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Thieves Strike "Cowboy Church" in Haysville

HAYSVILLE, Kan. (AP) — The pastor of a small Kansas church that serves cowboys and cowgirls says he's forgiven the thieves who caused thousands of dollars of damage at the church over the weekend. The thieves destroyed air conditioners at the Prairie Trail Cowboy Church in Haysville, just south of Wichita. They got away with only about 40 dollars worth of aluminum. KWCH reports church members found the damage as they arrived for services Sunday. A member of the congregation saw a truck near the church's air conditioner on Saturday afternoon but assumed it was a repairman. Pastor Chris Bray is offering forgiveness to the thieves. He says the church is ready to help anyone who is so desperate and obviously needs help.

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KC to Begin Enforcement of Illegal Signs Policy

Kansas City residents and businesses are being warned to remove any signs they've posted in public rights-of-way or on utility poles. A new ordinance that imposes fines for illegally placing the signs takes effect Monday. The fine for the first offense is $20, with subsequent fines ranging from $20 to $1,000 per sign. Kansas City crews and volunteers did a sweep last week, collecting 4,300 illegally-placed signs, which were destroyed. The Kansas City Star reports the signs have been prohibited on public rights-of-way since 1967, but the city has not had a way to enforce the ban. City officials say they'll concentrate on groups that place multiple signs and leave them up for days or weeks. 

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ND Official: Proposals Cut Need for Keystone XL

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota official says several pipelines that have been proposed could diminish the importance of the Keystone XL pipeline for his state's booming oil patch. Public Service Commissioner Kevin Cramer says the six proposed pipeline projects make the Keystone XL project less important to North Dakota in moving its oil to Gulf Coast and other U.S. refineries. However, Cramer tells the Dickinson (North Dakota) Press that the Keystone XL Pipeline is still important for national security and energy security. TransCanada Corporation's Keystone XL would move Canadian oil to Texas, but has been held up because it needs State Department approval to cross the U.S.-Canadian border. It also would transport oil from North Dakota and Montana across South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority, says the Keystone XL pipeline is unique because it has commitments from shippers.
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State Job Fair Moves to Dodge City

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Commerce says about 70 companies — and possibly more — are planning to take part in the agency's fourth annual statewide job fair. The event takes place Tuesday from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. at United Wireless Arena in Dodge City. The first hour is reserved for members of the military and their families. The Dodge City Daily Globe reports the Commerce Department chose Dodge City to make sure that residents in the southwestern part of the state have a chance at a job fair. The previous events were held at Fort Riley and in Salina and Overland Park. Commerce Department officials say at least 50 people were hired at last year's fair. The agency advises job-seekers to bring a resume and dress for potential interviews.

Regional Headlines for Sunday, April 22, 2012

GOP Candidates Asked to Pledge Loyalty

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican candidates for the Kansas Senate are being asked by their party's leadership to publicly declare their allegiance to the Senate's Republican leadership after the November election. Clay Barker, executive director of the state Republican Party, said Friday that letters seeking the pledge were sent this week to 31 official GOP candidates for the Kansas Senate. He says a similar loyalty appeal will be mailed next week to Republican candidates for the House.

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KCP&L Requests 13% Rate Increase

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Corporation Commission will consider a request from Kansas City Power and Light to raise rates 12.9 percent. The request, filed Friday by the utility, would raise an average residential customer's rate by nearly $150 a year. If it's approved, the Kansas request would take effect in January.

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Spirit AeroSystems Back to Work

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Spirit AeroSystems says its employees will return to work tomorrow, after a massive cleanup of tornado damage. Spirit CEO Jeff Turner says about 1,000 people worked to clean debris, test equipment and make other repairs since the Wichita company took a direct hit from an EF-3 tornado last weekend. The Wichita Eagle reports some production at Spirit resumed Friday.

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Sedgwick Co. Tornado Damage Tops $146 Million

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County officials say the tornado that hit Oaklawn and southeast Wichita last weekend caused an estimated $146.3 million in damage. County officials say the tornado damaged or destroyed 776 homes and 86 businesses, and affected another 3,481 residences and 165 businesses. That total includes 11 homes that were totally destroyed.


Regional Headlines for Saturday, April 21, 2012

 

Fort Riley Officer Dies in Afghanistan

Army officials say a Fort Riley officer has died while on deployment with the 1st Infantry Division in Afghanistan.  A release from Fort Riley says 31-year-old Captain Michael Braden was pronounced dead at a medical facility on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.  Braden was from Lock Haven, Pennsylvania.  Braden was found unresponsive in his living quarters Wednesday morning.

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Sporting KC on Verge of Tieing Soccer Record

Sporting Kansas City is on the verge of Major League Soccer history.  If they win tonight (SAT) against the Portland Timbers, the franchise will match the Los Angeles Gallaxy of 1996 as the only teams to win its first eight games in regulation play.  Sellout crowds have been packing Livestrong Sporting Park.

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Storm Victims Get Tax Help

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Residents of Kansas counties hit hard by last weekend's violent storms are getting guidance on replacing lost documents and filing their income taxes. Governor Sam Brownback said yesterday the state is waiving the fees to replace birth and marriage certificates, driver's licenses, non-driver ID cards and the titles for vehicle or mobile home.

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4th Escaped Inmate Apprehended

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The last of four inmates who escaped from a north-central Kansas county jail this week is back in custody. The state Department of Corrections says 22-year-old Eric James was apprehended around 5:30 p.m. yesterday in Nebraska and is now in the custody of Omaha police. Details on how he was captured were not immediately released.

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Sedgwick County Hit-and-Run Victim Identified

KECHI, Kan. (AP) — A jogger who was killed in an apparent hit-and-run accident during an evening run has been identified as a 65-year-old pediatrician in the Wichita area. The Sedgwick County sheriff's department says a man contacted authorities yesterday morning, saying he might have been the motorist who struck Dr. William Whiteside. Deputies are continuing the investigation.

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Sex Offender Sentenced in Overland Park Rape

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A registered sex offender will serve more than 51 years in prison without parole for the rape of a northeast Kansas girl. Forty-three-year-old Kevin Shives of Overland Park, was an acquaintance of the 13-year-old victim. Shives lured the girl to his apartment in April 2010 by telling her he had a web cam that she wanted to use. Judge Peter Ruddick sentenced him Thursday to concurrent life sentences.


Last of 4 Ottawa County Jail Escapees Captured in Nebraska

Eric James has been taken into custody. He is the last of a group of four men who escaped from the Ottawa County Jail earlier this week to be apprehended

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The last of four inmates who escaped from a north-central Kansas county jail this week is back in custody. The state Department of Corrections says 22-year-old Eric James was apprehended around 5:30 p.m. Friday in Omaha, Nebraska, and is now in the custody of Omaha police. Omaha police spokesman Michael Pecha says officers saw a gold 2002 Nissan Altima believed to have been stolen by the inmates in Minneapolis, Kansas, where they escaped on Wednesday morning. James was not inside the car, but officers made contact with the driver. That led them to a nearby house where they located James. He was arrested without incident.

Police are questioning the male who was driving the Nissan.

James was serving a state sentence for robbery and other crimes when he and three fellow inmates escaped from the Ottawa County Jail in Minneapolis, Kan., about 120 miles west of Topeka.

 

*****this story was updated. The prior version of this story, which aired on KPR prior to the capture of Eric James, may be found below. ****** 

 

Police have now picked up three of the four inmates who escaped from the Ottawa County jail. Convicted double murderer Santos Carrera-Morales was apprehended in Russell late last (THUR) night. Jeremy Barclay is a spokesperson for the Department of Corrections.

Authorities continue to hunt for 22-year-old Eric James, who may have been driving a stolen 2002 gold Nissan Altima with Kansas tags. James is a black male with a cornrow-type hair style. He's approximately 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighs about 180 pounds. James is serving time for an aggravated robbery and kidnapping conviction in Anderson County.


Kansas House Panel Rejects State Employee Pay Raise Proposal

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Republican-controlled House committee has rejected the idea of restoring a pay-raise program for some Kansas public employees. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the committee on Thursday voted down a motion to set aside $8.5 million to resume a plan to raise salaries of the state's lowest-paid government workers. The motion was defeated by a 9-11 vote. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Marc Rhoades, a Newton Republican, said state employees should consider moving to the private sector if they think that state pay is too low. Others raised concerns that the state was losing qualified employees, especially nurses at state hospitals, who leave for the private sector.


Escaped Convict Apprehended after Hitching Ride to Arrest Site


Santos Carrera-Morales

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A convicted murderer hitched a ride to a convenience store in the town of Russell, Kansas, where he was arrested after escaping from a county jail. Jon Quinday, Russell's police chief, told The Associated Press on Friday that escaped inmate Santos Carrera-Morales was taken into custody late Thursday by two police officers without incident at a store off of Interstate 70. Quinday said Carrera-Morales was north of Russell along Kansas 18 when he got his ride. Carrera-Morales is one of four prison inmates who escaped Wednesday morning from the Ottawa County Jail in Minneapolis. The inmates were being held there because of overcrowding at the state prison in Ellsworth. Two of the escaped inmates were apprehended Wednesday. One remains at large.

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