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

Frank Martin Officially Out, K-State Looks for New B-Ball Coach

 

Basketball Coach Frank Martin, who's leaving K-State for same job at South Carolina. (Photo credit: K-State)Kansas State Athletics Director John Currie says he talked about a contract extension with Coach Frank Martin during the men's basketball season. But that deal never materialized.  Today (TUE), Martin was officially introduced as the new head coach at South Carolina.  Currie feels he did all he could to coax Martin into staying in Manhattan. 


Currie says a search for Martin's replacement at K-State is his highest priority.

 

Who Knew? KU Takes "Rebuilding" Year to Build Final Four Team

Despite losing the core of last year's team, the Kansas Jayhawks were still co-favorites to win another Big 12 regular season championship this season.  And they did.  In fact, KU captured its eighth straight Big 12 title.  But few experts were able to predict just how far KU would advance in the NCAA tournament.  And now, this team is headed to the Final Four for the first time since the national championship four years ago.  Kansas Public Radio's Greg Echlin explains how it happened.

The 2nd seeded KU men take on 2nd seeded Ohio State at 7:30 Saturday night in New Orleans, as they try to advance to the National Title game.


Regional Headlines for Tuesday, March 27, 2012

 



UPDATE: Kansas House Advances Plan Targeting School Lawsuits

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas House members have given first-round approval to a proposed amendment to the state constitution aimed at blocking lawsuits over education funding. The measure advanced Tuesday on a 91-31 vote to final action, which is expected Wednesday. The amendment would declare that courts or the executive branch couldn't direct the Legislature to appropriate money. The proposal is backed by Republican Governor Sam Brownback and GOP leaders in both chambers. The Kansas Constitution currently says the state cannot spend any money unless the Legislature makes a specific appropriation. But in decisions in a school finance lawsuit in 2005 and 2006, the state Supreme Court told lawmakers they had to increase aid to public schools. The court also set specific figures. Supporters want to put the proposal on the November ballot.

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Kansas Lawmakers Begin Negotiations on Tax Cuts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House and Senate negotiators are working out a final version of legislation cutting sales and income taxes. Three senators and three House members met for about an hour Tuesday to review the two chambers' differences on tax-cutting measures. They're expected to meet again Wednesday. The House and Senate have both passed bills cutting the state's top individual income tax rates and eliminating income taxes for 191,000 partnerships, sole proprietorships and other businesses. Both also have passed proposals to reduce sales taxes, as well as measures aimed at holding down local property taxes. But the two chambers differ widely on parts of their proposals. Governor Sam Brownback is pressing for an overhaul of the state income tax code.

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Kansas House Bill Creating School Vouchers Fails

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill that would have created a tax break to allow students to attend private or parochial schools has been defeated. The House voted Monday to block a proposal to provide tax credits for contributions to scholarships for students in 18 struggling public school districts who wanted to attend private or parochial schools. Supporters argued the bill would give parents in low-performing districts the option of improving their children's education. But opponents of the bill said most poor people would not have been able to use the program, in part because the $4,000 scholarships would not cover full tuition at most private schools. Opponents also said giving tax credits would decrease state revenue that goes to public schools. The potential annual tax loss was estimated at $5 million.

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 Kansas SRS Secretary Names Regional Director

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The head of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services has named a permanent director for the agency's Kansas City region.  SRS Secretary Phyllis Gilmore has announced the appointment of Mike Myers. Myers has been the interim regional director since February. The regional office covers Atchison, Douglas, Johnson, Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties. The region serves more than 97,000 clients. Myers has more than 30 years of experience in management, human resources, budgets and business administration.

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Kansas Appeals Court Rejects False Teeth Argument

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Court of Appeals didn't bite on a man's claim that his false teeth caused his arrest for driving while intoxicated. Gary Bolton, of Morris County, argued his dentures might have trapped alcohol in his mouth when he took a breath test in 2008. Court records show his blood alcohol level was 0.24, far above the 0.08 limit for driving under the influence. The Wichita Eagle reports Bolton was trying to stop the state from suspending his driver's license. He argued police should have made him remove his dentures before the test. But the appeals court ruled Friday that police had complied with a requirement that drivers be observed at least 20 minutes to allow mouth alcohol to dissipate and make sure nothing is put in their mouths.

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UPDATE: Kansas DA Expects No Charges Over Questionable Disposal of Abortion Files

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas district attorney says he doesn't expect to file criminal charges against a former abortion provider who discarded patients' private medical records in a recycling bin outside a school in the Kansas City area. But Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said Tuesday his office will examine whether Krishna Rajanna's actions violated state consumer protection laws, which are enforced through civil lawsuits. Howe also said he may contact federal officials about potential violations of patient privacy laws. Rajanna confirmed that he discarded hundreds of patients' records in a recycling bin outside an elementary school blocks from his home in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, believing the bin would be emptied quickly. He did not immediately return a telephone message Tuesday afternoon, seeking a response to Howe's comments.

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Kansas Refinery Agrees to Pay $700,000 Penalty

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A petroleum refinery and underground storage facility in McPherson County has agreed to pay $700,000 in penalties to settle violations of federal and state laws. Under a consent decree filed Monday in federal court in Kansas City, The National Cooperative Refinery Association agreed to pay $475,000 to the United States and $225,000 to the state. It also agreed to spend about $745,000 on environmental projects such as the purchase of emergency response equipment and services for agencies in McPherson County. The government alleged National Cooperative Refinery Association polluted the air, failed to implement a risk management plan and didn't submit timely and accurate reports to regulatory agencies. The deal is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court approval.

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Attorneys Seek "Proper Care" for Suspect Charged with Iraq Shootings

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) _ Attorneys for an Army sergeant charged with shooting five service members in Iraq in 2009 are concerned about the soldier's medical treatment at the prison at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. Sergeant John Russell, of Texas, was moved to Washington in January from Fort Leavenworth. Civilian lawyer James Culp and military attorneys representing Russell filed a request with the Army's I Corps headquarters seeking "proper care" for their client. The 47-year-old Russell is accused of carrying out the deadliest act of soldier-on-soldier violence in the war in Iraq as he was nearing his third tour of duty. Culp said Russell is on anti-depressive and anti-psychotic drugs that are causing his health to deteriorate by elevating his heart rate, blood pressure and weight. Major Chris Ophardt, a spokesman for I Corps, declined Tuesday to comment about the attorneys' request.

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Pittsburg High Considering Random Drug Testing Policy

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) _ Officials at Pittsburg High School are seeking more input from parents before advancing a proposed drug-testing policy for any student participating in extracurricular activities. The policy would require students and parents at the southeast Kansas school to sign informed-consent agreements before the students can participate in activities. The agreement would make students eligible for random drug tests. Pittsburg High School activities director Doug Hitchcock says only about 20 people showed up for a session this month to discuss the proposal. Another meeting has been set for April 3. Hitchcock said administrators want community and parental input before sending a final version of the proposed policy to the school board for consideration.

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UPDATE: NE Kansas Killings Being Treated as Murder-Suicide 

EDWARDSVILLE, Kan. (AP) — Police in a Kansas City suburb say they're treating the deaths of two men inside a home as a murder-suicide. The men were found shot to death Monday afternoon by Edwardsville police responding to a 911 call. KCTV reports that investigators were not seeking any suspects Tuesday. A woman who lives in the house was there along with a 4-year-old child when the shootings occurred in the basement. Police say both men were in their late 20s to early 30s. One of them lived in the home and was the father of the 4-year-old. The men's names have not been released. Edwardsville is a community of about 4,500 people in Wyandotte County, just west of Kansas City, Kansas.

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Arkansas City Settles Discrimination Lawsuit

ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The City of Arkansas City has agreed to pay a former employee and her attorney $64,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit. The employee, Mary K. Bartlett, will receive $35,502 as her part of the settlement of a 2010 lawsuit. Bartlett claimed she was fired as secretary in the Public Services Department after disagreements with her supervisor over accommodations for her medical conditions. She also claimed retaliation for reporting that her supervisor violated a city policy. The Arkansas City Traveler reports the settlement was reached a month ago but it was not signed by Bartlett until last week. As part of the settlement, the city did not admit any wrongdoing. The city claimed Bartlett was not fired but quit because of her disagreements with the supervisor.

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KSU Athletic Director Denies Strife Led to Martin Departure

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas State athletic director John Currie denied Tuesday that a rift with Frank Martin was the primary reason the popular basketball coach left for the same job at South Carolina. Currie said he tried to offer Martin a chance to restructure his contract several times over the course of the season. That included a last-minute pitch Monday, when Martin called to inform K-State officials that he was accepting an offer from the Gamecocks. Currie was joined at a news conference Tuesday by Kansas State president Kirk Schulz, who offered support of his athletic director. Currie said he would begin the search immediately for a new coach. He would not say whether he has a list of potential candidates and declined to offer a timetable for the hiring. This will be the first time Currie has hired a major coach since taking over in 2009.

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UPDATE: Martin Introduced as Gamecocks Coach

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ Former K-State men's basketball coach Frank Martin says he's ready to take on the difficult task of turning around the University of South Carolina team. South Carolina placed last in the Southeastern Conference this year. Martin was introduced Tuesday as the Gamecocks new coach, leaving Kansas State after four NCAA tournament appearances in five years. Martin says while "some people run away from challenges,'' he runs to them, "I always have." South Carolina has been to the NCAA just once since 1998, but the Gamecocks gave Martin plenty of time to turns things turnaround. He was given a six-year, $12.3 million deal. Martin was 117-54 in five years with the Wildcats. They reached the NCAA regional finals in 2010 and lost to Syracuse in the third round this season.

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Jury Selection Slow in Kansas Capital Murder Case

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Opening statements are now expected Thursday in the trial of a central Kansas man accused of killing a 14-year-old girl and burning her body at the asphalt plant where he worked. Thirty-eight-year-old Adam Longoria, of Great Bend, could face life in prison without parole if he's convicted of capital murder in the death of Alicia DeBolt in August 2010. Questioning of prospective jurors in Barton County District Court began Monday and will continue Wednesday. Court adjourned Tuesday with six people still needed for the final pool from which 12 jurors and two alternates will be drawn. The court wants 42 people in the pool before attorneys exercise their right to dismiss prospective jurors without having to give a reason.

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B-2 Stealth Bombers to Get $2 Billion Upgrade

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An officer at Whiteman Air Force Base says B-2 stealth bombers soon will be undergoing the biggest and most complex update in the plane's history. The Kansas City Star reports the Pentagon is moving forward with a 10-year, $2 billion effort to modernize the defensive capabilities of the fleet, which is kept at the central Missouri base. Planned improvements include replacing analog equipment with digital, upgrading antennas and enhancing communications systems and pilot displays. Keeping the nation's 20 B-2's in top shape is a priority at Whiteman, since the bat-winged bombers are expected to be in use until 2058. Colonel Rob Spalding says some improvements already have been made by technicians at the base to keep the planes current with changing technologies.

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KU's Robinson Named to Wooden Award All-American Team

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Anthony Davis of Kentucky, Jared Sullinger of Ohio State and Thomas Robinson of the University of Kansas are among players chosen for the John R. Wooden Award All-American team. The Wooden All-American team was announced Monday. The others are Isaiah Canaan of Murray State, Jae Crowder of Marquette, Marcus Denmon of Missouri, Draymond Green of Michigan State, Kevin Jones of West Virginia, Doug McDermott of Creighton, and Tyler Zeller of North Carolina. All 10 members of the team have maintained at least a cumulative 2.0 grade point average and are making progress toward graduation, two components of the award that were insisted upon by the late UCLA coach, whose name is on the award.

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Commission Supports DC Eisenhower Memorial Design

WASHINGTON (AP) — Members of a federal commission working to build a memorial to President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington are issuing a unanimous statement supporting architect Frank Gehry and his design concept after hearing months of criticism.On Tuesday, the commission issued a joint statement saying Gehry has their "total and unqualified support." The commissioners say Gehry followed their direction and consulted with Eisenhower's family. Gehry's design calls for a memorial park framed by metal tapestries depicting Eisenhower's boyhood home in Kansas. Carved stones would depict Ike as president and World War II hero, along with a statue of a young Eisenhower. Eisenhower's family says it focuses on his humble roots, rather than Ike's accomplishments. The commission includes both Kansas senators and lawmakers from Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Rhode Island and Texas.

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3 Sentenced in Kansas for Methamphetamine Trafficking 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Three men who pleaded guilty in separate Kansas methamphetamine trafficking cases have been sentenced in federal courts. The U.S. Attorney's office says 44-year-old James Hald, of Wichita, was sentenced Monday to 17 years and six months for conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute meth. Hald admitted selling the illegal drug in the city over a three-month period last year.
In Topeka, a federal judge on Monday gave 44-year-old Jay Joynt an eight-year sentence for selling meth. The Topeka man and a co-defendant sold meth on seven occasions to undercover officers in 2009.
And a Leavenworth man was sentenced Monday in Kansas City, Kansas to 14 years for trafficking in methamphetamine. Forty-two-year-old Christian Agesen had pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy and possession with intent to sell the drug.

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Mushroom Hunter Finds Skull in Osage County

CARBONDALE, Kan. (AP) _ The discovery of a human skull on property in northeastern Kansas has authorities looking for more remains and an identity. A woman hunting for mushrooms on her Osage County property discovered the skull Saturday night behind a shed. There was no indication how long it might have been there. Osage County Sheriff Laurie Dunn said officers from several agencies were walking the property Monday seeking any clues about the skull and how it got there. The property is located northwest of Carbondale, about 15 miles south of Topeka.

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Trial Date Set for Former Lawman Accused in Wife's Death

KINGMAN, Kan. (AP) _ A former law enforcement instructor charged with killing his wife will go on trial August 20. Brett Seacat is charged with first-degree murder in the April 30, 2011, death of his wife, Vashti, at their Kingman home. KAKE-TV reports a Kingman County District Court judge on Monday scheduled Seacat's trial to begin August 20. The trial had been scheduled to begin on April 23. Seacat is also charged with aggravated arson and two counts of endangering a child. Prosecutors allege Seacat shot his wife and set the house on fire, two weeks after his wife had filed for divorce. Brett Seacat and the couple's two young sons escaped. Seacat pleaded not guilty to the charges. His attorneys say Vashti Seacat set the fire and then took her own life.

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K-State Men's Basketball Coach Frank Martin Leaving for Job with South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The University of South Carolina has hired Frank Martin to revitalize its basketball program. School trustees approved the six-year contract worth more than $2 million a year on average Tuesday morning. Martin is expected to be introduced by the school later today (TUE). The former Kansas State University coach will take over a team that finished dead last in the Southeastern Conference last season. Martin advanced to the NCAA tournament four times in five years at Kansas State. His Wildcats reached the regional finals in 2010. His overall record as a head coach is 117-54, and he is 6-4 in the NCAA tourney.

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

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Kansas House to Debate Plan Blocking School Funding Lawsuits

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas House members are preparing to debate a proposed amendment to the state constitution aimed at blocking lawsuits over education funding. The measure on the agenda would declare that courts or the executive branch couldn't direct the Legislature to appropriate money. The proposal is backed by Republican Governor Sam Brownback and GOP leaders in both chambers. The Kansas Constitution currently says the state cannot spend any money unless the Legislature makes a specific appropriation. But in decisions in a school finance lawsuit in 2005 and 2006, the state Supreme Court told lawmakers they had to increase aid to public schools. The court also set specific figures. Kansas faces another lawsuit from students and parents in four school districts, arguing that budget cuts in recent years have resulted in inadequate funding.

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

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Unredacted Abortion Records Found in Kansas Recycling Bin

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — More than 1,000 private abortion records from a defunct clinic were found discarded in a recycling bin outside an elementary school near Kansas City, Kansas, prompting a police investigation and outrage from people on both sides of the abortion debate. The patient records found Saturday came from Affordable Medical and Surgical Services in Kansas City, Kansas, which closed after its doctor, Krishna Rajanna, lost his medical license in 2005. The Kansas City Star reports the records include names, birth dates, telephone numbers, Social Security numbers and the patients' health history, including if any abortions were performed. The records included patients from almost every county in the Kansas City area and beyond, from Topeka to Freeman, Missouri. Between 2000 and 2005, Rajanna was either fined or disciplined four times by the Kansas Board of Healing Arts and inspectors who visited his clinic in 2005 and reported it was not clean. Rajanna said he threw the personal documents into recycling bins at Brookridge Elementary School on Friday. "I was under the impression that these would not be seen by anyone," said Rajanna. "I thought that these would be recycled away just like any other papers." The daughter of the woman who found the records contacted the Kansas City Star after Overland Park police initially declined to respond to her call — a decision Police Captain Erik Hulse later conceded was a mistake. The women did not want their names released. Overland Park police were investigating and other agencies, including the Johnson County district attorney's office and the Kansas Board of Healing Arts, were seeking information about the handling of the documents. Kansas law requires that all medical records be kept a minimum of 10 years. Hundreds of the discarded records were dated after March 2002, The Star said. Rajanna said he dumped the records because they were "old records that are out of date" and that he thought they would be picked up quickly. The bins are emptied monthly. The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, makes it a federal violation to release private medical information without patient permission or other authorization. The law does not dictate exactly how medical records should be destroyed but it specifically prohibits discarding records in public dumpsters unless they have been made unreadable. "This is a particularly egregious matter to have abortion records treated in this fashion," said Susan McAndrew, a deputy director in the U.S. Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights. "I'm glad this man is no longer practicing." Mary Kay Culp, executive director of the anti-abortion group Kansans for Life, said it was another example of how abortion providers don't really care about women. "This shows they don't have any real concern about women's privacy," Culp said. "What they have concern about is their own bottom line and distracting the public about privacy issues in order to avoid genuine investigations." Peter Brownlie, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, called the dumping of the records "awful." "What a gross violation of a woman's privacy," he said. "I've never heard anything quite like it." Brownlie said that his organization retains abortion records in secure long-term storage "forever." 

It is unclear what actions might be taken against Rajanna. Medical providers that don't transmit payment or other information to third-party payers electronically are not subject to HIPAA regulations. On Monday, Rajanna said his clinic was cash-only, although The Star reports that some of the retrieved records clearly showed photocopies of insurance cards on the back page. McAndrew said that the HHS office in Kansas City would have to determine whether to investigate.

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

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UPDATE: Legislators Seek Investigation of Abortion Records Dumping Incident 

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Anti-abortion lawmakers want the Kansas Legislature to investigate after a former abortion provider discarded hundreds of patients' medical records in a recycling bin outside a Kansas City-area elementary school. The general counsel for the state board that regulates doctors said Tuesday it will consider going to court for an outside custodian to oversee remaining records from the Kansas City, Kansas clinic formerly operated by Krishna Rajanna. The clinic closed in 2005, shortly after Krishna Rajanna lost his Kansas medical license. Rajanna told The Associated Press he still has documents stored in his home in Overland Park. The discovery of the discarded documents prompted an investigation by local police, the Johnson County district attorney's office and the state regulatory board. Rajanna said he'd expected the bin to be emptied quickly.

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

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2 Found Dead in NE Kansas Home

EDWARDSVILLE, Kan. (AP) _ Police in a northeastern Kansas town are investigating the deaths of two men found inside a home. Officers went to the house in Edwardsville after getting a 911 call shortly before 4:30 pm yesterday (MON). Police haven't said who placed the call. Investigators were trying to determine if the deaths were a murder-suicide or a double homicide. Edwardsville is a community of about 4,500 people in Wyandotte County, just west of Kansas City, Kansas.

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

Pittsburg High School Considers Drug Tests for Students

 

Pittsburg High School, Pittsburg, KS (Photo credit: USD 250)

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Officials at Pittsburg High School are seeking more input from parents before advancing a proposed drug-testing policy for any student participating in extracurricular activities.
The Joplin Globe reports that the policy would require students and parents at the southeast Kansas school to sign informed-consent agreements before the students can participate in activities. The agreement would make students eligible for random drug tests.  Pittsburg High School activities director Doug Hitchcock says only about 20 people showed up for a session this month to discuss the proposal. Another meeting has been set for April 3.  Hitchcock said administrators want community and parental input before sending a final version of the proposed policy to the school board for consideration.

Long Legislative Spring Session Expected in KS

(Photo Credit: kansastravel.org)
It could be a long spring at the Kansas Statehouse. As lawmakers approach their annual three-week recess before returning for the veto session, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka says an ominous sign of a lengthy session has appeared in his inbox: a memo to lawmakers from the Director of Administrative Services listing Topeka hotel rates and contact information.
 

The legislative session is only supposed to run 90 days, but a number of lawmakers are suggesting that won't be enough time for this year, due to a heavy policy agenda from Governor Sam Brownback and due to the length of negotiations over redistricting. The longest session in Kansas history was in 2002, when it took 107 days to adjourn.

 

Democrats Warn of Consequences on Tax Bill

(Photo Credit: kansastravel.org)

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, made clear his thoughts on a tax bill under consideration.  Lawmakers advanced a major bill last week to cut income and sales tax rates. The measure would cost the state some 800 million dollars in 2014. Hensley says the loss means lawmakers won't be able to increase education spending or fund a property tax cut that has already passed the Senate.

The House has passed its own tax plan. The bills are now going to a joint conference committee, where the two chambers will try to work out their differences. While a final product is likely to have a smaller pricetag, Hensley says he fears House lawmakers will threaten to pass the Senate bill in its current form.

Reports: Frank Martin Leaving K-State for Coaching Job at South Carolina

Kansas State basketball Coach Frank Martin (Photo courtesy of K-State.)

Ever since Kansas State lost to Syracuse in the NCAA men's basketball tournament, there’s been speculation about the future of K-State coach Frank Martin.  That speculation is apparently over because mulitple media outlets are now reporting that Martin will take over as head coach at South Carolina.  KPR’s Greg Echlin has more on Martin's time with the Wildcats.

 





 

 

Kansas Jayhawks Advance to Final Four

(Photo by Becky Sullivan)
A year ago, the Kansas Jayhawks basketball team was a prohibitive favorite to make it to the Final Four in Houston...but the team was ousted from the tournament with a loss in the Southwest Regional finals in San Antonio. This year was regarded as a rebuilding season for the Jayhawks...but 2012 is turning out to be a magic number for this comparatively unheralded team. Kansas Public Radio's Greg Echlin explains.

 

Regional Headlines for Monday, March 26, 2012

 

UPDATE: Kansas House Panel Endorses Splitting Topeka in Redistricting Plan  

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has approved a congressional redistricting bill that splits Topeka between two U.S. House districts. The measure approved Monday by the Redistricting Committee would move part of Topeka to the 1st Congressional District with western and central Kansas and leave the rest in the 2nd District of eastern Kansas. The bill now goes to the full Kansas House. Topeka lawmakers opposed the plan, but the committee voted 12-11 for it. House Speaker Mike O'Neal, a Hutchinson Republican who serves as the committee's chairman, broke a tie among its other members. Lawmakers must redraw the state's four congressional districts to account for changes in population over the past decade. The 1st District is nearly 58,000 residents short of the ideal population of about 713,000.

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"Pink Slime" Maker Halts Operations at Garden City Plant

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — The company that makes "pink slime" suspended operations Monday at three of four plants where the beef ingredient is made, saying officials would work to address recent public concern about the product. Beef Products Inc. will suspend operations at plants in Garden City, Kansas; Amarillo, Texas; and Waterloo, Iowa, according to Craig Letch, the company's director of food safety and quality assurance. The company's plant at its Dakota Dunes, South Dakota headquarters will continue operations. "We feel like when people can start to understand the truth and reality then our business will come back," Letch said. "It's 100 percent beef." Federal regulators say the ammonia-treated filler, known in the industry as "lean, finely textured beef," meets food safety standards. But critics say the product could be unsafe and is an unappetizing example of industrialized food production. The low-cost ingredient is made from fatty bits of meat left over from other cuts. The bits are heated and spun to remove most of the fat. The lean mix then is compressed into blocks for use in ground meat. The product is exposed to ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella. The result is a product that is as much as 97 percent lean beef, Letch said. The product has been used for years, but it wasn't until earlier this month that social media suddenly exploded with worry and an online petition seeking its ouster from schools garnered hundreds of thousands of supporters. The U.S. Department of Agriculture decided to allow school districts to stop using it and some retail chains have pulled products containing it from their shelves. About 200 employees at each of the three plants will get full salary and benefits for 60 days during the suspension, Letch said. The plants in Kansas and Iowa each produced about 350,000 pounds a day, while the plant in Amarillo produced about 200,000 pounds a day.

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Legislative Negotiators Begin Talks on KS Budget

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Negotiators for the Kansas House and Senate are working on the final version of a $14.1 billion state budget.  Three senators and three House members opened talks today (MON), aimed at resolving dozens of differences over a spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1. They're expected to negotiate most of the week.  The budget probably will cut overall state spending by at least $570 million, or about 4 percent. Lawmakers hope to leave the state with cash reserves of at least $400 million at the end of June 2013, though the amount will depend upon how much they cut taxes.  The House's version of the budget is less generous than the Senate's version.  But both stick closely to Governor Sam Brownback's recommendations in many areas.

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AP Analysis: KS Tax Cuts Require Whittling Down

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators must whittle down a long list of attractive proposals that have passed one or both houses if they're going to cut taxes this year.  And the work is likely to prove difficult.  Republican Governor Sam Brownback proposed overhauling the individual income tax code. But lawmakers have been aggressive as well in considering different scenarios for reducing different taxes.  Both the House and Senate have approved bills to reduce income and sales taxes, and both have passed measures aimed at holding down local property taxes. Their negotiators were scheduled to start meeting today (MON) to work on the final version of a package.  Each possible tax cut has significant support, but lawmakers can't include too much without pushing the state toward large budget cuts.

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KS Gov Supports Using Casino Funds on Pensions

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has endorsed a proposal to use revenues from state-owned casinos to bolster the long-term financial health of the pension system for teachers and government workers.  Brownback said in his most recent Statehouse news conference that a measure to divert some casino revenues to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System would help keep the state's credit ratings from slipping. The proposal has passed the House in a larger bill aimed at shoring-up KPERS.  The pension system projects an $8.3 billion shortfall between anticipated revenues and retirement benefits promised to public employees through 2033. Supporters think casinos could provide several billion dollars for KPERS over that time. Kansas has licensed developers to operate casinos in the Dodge City, Kansas City and Wichita areas.

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Mushroom Hunter Finds Skull in NE Kansas

CARBONDALE, Kan. (AP) — The discovery of a human skull on property in northeastern Kansas has authorities looking for more remains and an identity. A woman hunting for mushrooms on her Osage County property discovered the skull Saturday night behind a shed. There was no indication how long it might have been there. Osage County Sheriff Laurie Dunn said officers from several agencies were walking the property Monday seeking any clues about the skull and how it got there. The property is located northwest of Carbondale, about 15 miles south of Topeka. 

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Kansas State Student Killed in Colorado Ski Accident

DENVER (AP) — Authorities have identified a man killed while skiing in Colorado as a 19-year-old Kansas State University student.  KMAN Radio reports that the Mineral County Sheriff's Department said the victim is Garrett Spencer of Hesston, Kansas.  He was skiing with friends when he hit a tree at the Wolf Creek Ski Area in southwestern Colorado.  Resort owner Davey Pitcher told The Denver Post that the accident happened Saturday on a green run. He said the victim was skiing without a helmet.  Mineral County Sheriff Fred Hosselkus said Spencer received almost immediate attention, with a nurse happening by the scene. The ski patrol was alerted and arrived shortly. Attempts at CPR all the way down the slope failed.  An autopsy is planned.  

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Rally Planned in KC to Protest Florida Teen's Killing

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A rally is planned in Kansas City to protest the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a neighborhood watch captain in Florida.  The Kansas City Star reports that the event will start at 5:30pm today (MON) at the J.C. Nichols Fountain on the Country Club Plaza. Demonstrators are being asked to don hoodies because that's what 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was wearing when he was shot February 26 in the Florida town of Sanford.  Neighborhood crime-watch captain George Zimmerman has claimed self-defense and has not been charged in the shooting. State and federal authorities are investigating.  The case has sparked national anger and protests. President Barack Obama weighed in Friday, calling the shooting a tragedy and saying, "When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids."  

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Wife of Soldier Accused in Massacre: Murder Charges "Unbelievable"

SEATAC, Wash. (AP) — The wife of a U.S. soldier accused of killing 17 Afghan civilians defended her husband in an interview for NBC's Today show, saying she finds the charges "unbelievable."  Karilyn Bales told Matt Lauer that her husband, Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, is "very brave, very courageous."  The Washington state woman said her husband joined the Army after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, to "protect his family, friends and country. He wanted to do his part."  Officials say Staff Sergeant Bales wandered off base in southern Afghanistan earlier this month and killed eight Afghan adults and nine children.  Karilyn Bales said the accusations are "unbelievable to me."  Staff Sergeant Bales is being held at a military jail inside Fort Leavenworth.  

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Three KS School Districts Get Partial Waivers from NCLB

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Three Kansas school districts have received some of the waivers they sought from the No Child Left Behind federal education law.  The state says the McPherson, Kansas City and Clifton-Clyde districts won't have to use state tests for its eighth-grade and high-school students. Federal education officials will allow them to track the academic progress of older students using the ACT college entrance exam and another test designed for younger students called ACT EXPLORE.  The state asked federal officials to reconsider their decision to bar the districts from using alternative exams for their younger students. But the state learned last week that the appeal was denied.  McPherson was granted a similar waiver last year, although it allowed the district to use the EXPLORE exam for sixth- and seventh-graders.

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KU and UK Join Louisville and Ohio State in Final Four

One game is a grudge match between programs that know each other all too well. The other is a rematch between teams that aren't used to meeting this often.  The Final Four is set.  In one game Saturday at the Superdome in New Orleans, Kentucky will play Louisville in an intrastate rivalry that will pit Cardinals coach Rick Pitino against the school he once coached, then later alienated by returning to the Bluegrass to lead its archrival.  In the other semifinal, it will be Ohio State and Kansas, meeting for only the ninth time in their history but for the second time this season. The Jayhawks won the first game 78-67 in Lawrence back on December 10. It was the first time the teams had met since 2000.

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UPDATE: Kansas Man to Stand Trial in Slaying of 14-Year-Old Girl

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Jury selection has begun in the trial of a former asphalt plant worker accused in the 2010 killing of a 14-year-old Great Bend girl whose charred body was found at the plant. Thirty-eight-year-old Adam Longoria went on trial on Monday on revised charges of capital murder, vehicle burglary and theft. All 18 prospective jurors questioned Monday morning by the state had heard about the Aug. 2010 slaying of Alicia DeBolt. The defense will question the panel later Monday. Three potential jurors with health-related concerns have been excused so far. Several prospective jurors acknowledged they had opinions about the case but assured the court they could make a decision based on the evidence presented. But a single mother with two sick children said the media coverage would be too much for her to overlook.

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Salina Wraps Up Mediation on Former Air Base Cleanup

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Lawyers for Salina public entities have concluded mediation and are working toward finalizing a settlement with the federal government over cleaning up contamination at a former Air Force base. Officials from the city of Salina, the Salina Airport Authority, the Salina school district and Kansas State University-Salina filed a federal lawsuit in Kansas City, Kan., in 2010 over cleaning up pollution left decades ago at the former Schilling Air Force Base. A joint status report on the lawsuit says the parties have agreed in principle to settle the case and have signed non-binding proposed settlement papers. Tim Rogers, executive director of the Salina Airport Authority, said Monday settlement negotiations are now under way and the sides have been working toward a consent decree, which would resolve the long-running case.

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3 Sentenced in Kansas for Meth Trafficking

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Three men who pleaded guilty in separate Kansas methamphetamine trafficking cases have been sentenced in federal courts. The U.S. Attorney's office says 44-year-old James Hald, of Wichita, was sentenced Monday to 17 years and six months for conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute meth. Hald admitted selling the illegal drug in the city over a three-month period last year. In Topeka, a federal judge on Monday gave 44-year-old Jay Joynt an eight-year sentence for selling meth. The Topeka man and a co-defendant sold meth on seven occasions to undercover officers in 2009. And a Leavenworth man was sentenced Monday in Kansas City, Kansas to 14 years for trafficking in methamphetamine. Forty-two-year-old Christian Agesen had pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy and possession with intent to sell the drug.

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Trial Scheduled for Ex-Officer in Wife's Death

INGMAN, Kan. (AP) — A former law enforcement instructor charged with killing his wife will go on trial August 20. Brett Seacat is charged with first-degree murder in the April 30, 2011, death of his wife, Vashti, at their Kingman home. KAKE-TV reports a Kingman County District Court judge on Monday scheduled Seacat's trial to begin August 20. The trial had been scheduled to begin on April 23. Seacat is also charged with aggravated arson and two counts of endangering a child. Prosecutors allege Seacat shot his wife and set the house on fire, two weeks after his wife had filed for divorce. Brett Seacat and the couple's two young sons escaped. Seacat pleaded not guilty to the charges. His attorneys say Vashti Seacat set the fire and then took her own life.

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States Win Grant to Study Republican River Options

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A $413,000 grant will help Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas evaluate different options for managing the Republican River. The money may help the three states resolve their long fight over the Republican River's water. This is one of only five grants the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation plans to fund in 2012. The Republican River starts in eastern Colorado, flows into Kansas and up to Nebraska and returns to Kansas in Republic County. A 1943 river compact says 49 percent of the river's water is allocated to Nebraska, 40 percent to Kansas and 11 percent to Colorado. Kansas argues that Nebraska used more than its share of water in 2005 and 2006, and it is seeking damages in court. That dispute is expected to be heard by an arbitrator later this year.

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64-Year-Old Man Dies in St. Joseph Duplex Fire

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — A 64-year-old man has died in an explosion and fire at a St. Joseph duplex.  The St. Joseph News-Press reports that firefighters responded to the blaze around 4:45am Sunday. The man's 86-year-old father lived next to his son and survived. The father reported that the explosion pushed in his bedroom wall and knocked pictures off the wall.  St. Joseph Fire Department Battalion Chief Russell Moore says temperatures quickly soared and the roof collapsed. Because of the dangerous conditions, Moore ordered everyone out of the building and began focusing on keeping the fire from spreading.  An inspector estimated damages at up to $100,000.  The cause of the explosion and fire is under investigation. The name of the victim has not yet been released.  

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 Live Performances Suspended at Concordia Theater

CONCORDIA, Kan. (AP) — A 105-year-old restored theater in north-central Kansas has suspended live performances over concerns about the safety of its curtain rigging system.  The Salina Journal reports that crews have had problems raising and lowering the curtain at the Brown Grand Theatre in Concordia. Executive director Susan Cantine-Maxon says that some pulleys are starting to come apart and some ropes are fraying.  The Brown Grand opened in 1907 and was considered for a time to be the most elegant theater between Denver and Kansas City. It was later used as a movie house and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.  Along with live performances by regional and touring acts, the theater screens broadcasts of symphony and opera performances from around the world.

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High Stakes for Church in Case Against Missouri Bishop

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The charge is only a misdemeanor. But if prosecutors win a conviction against Roman Catholic Bishop Robert Finn in Kansas City, they could open a new front in the national priest abuse crisis.  Finn is accused of violating Missouri's mandatory reporter law by failing to tell state officials about hundreds of images of suspected child pornography found on the computer of a priest in his diocese.  Finn is the highest-ranking church official charged with shielding an abusive priest. Experts say a criminal conviction against him could embolden prosecutors elsewhere to more aggressively pursue members of the church hierarchy who try to protect offending clergy.  Finn has acknowledged knowing about the images for months before they were turned over to police.  Finn's attorneys say the law is unconstitutionally vague.

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New KS Grocery Store Symbolizes Community Effort

MINNEOLA, Kan. (AP) — The trip to the grocery store for residents of a southwestern Kansas town has been shortened by 40 miles, now that their only market has reopened.  And it was truly a community effort for the 740 residents of Minneola, who bought ownership shares at $50 apiece and donated labor to renovate The Hometown Market.  The Dodge City Daily Globe reports that the market opened March 7.  It offers everything from laundry detergent to milk to a deli counter — and a new gathering spot.  Minneola was left without a grocery store more than two years ago when the owner of its only market had to close for personal reasons. Mayor Carol Sibley says residents established a board and a corporation that sold about 4,000 shares in the community-owned store, raising about $200,000 for the renovations.

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Lawrence Woman Chronicles Brain Injury in Book

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 29-year-old Lawrence woman has chronicled her life-changing brain injury in a soon-to-be released book.  Louise Krug had just graduated from the University of Kansas with a journalism degree when she suffered from a brain bleed seven years ago. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the bleed caused weakness, dizziness, headaches and difficulty with hearing and vision.  At the time, Krug was living in California with her boyfriend and set to begin working as a reporter for the Ventura County Star.  Instead, she spent the next four years undergoing surgeries and tests. She had to relearn how to bathe, eat, walk and talk.  Now a married, new mother, she tells the story in "Louise: Amended" (Black Balloon Publishing). It will be released nationally April 17.

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Feds Announce Funding for Nebraska River Basin Study

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The federal government is providing $2.4 million for water studies in western river basins, including the Republican River basin in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska.  The federal money will come from the U.S. Interior Department's WaterSMART Basin Study program. The program offers tools to state and local governments to address water supply and demand concerns.  The Republican River Basin Study will receive $413,000 from the department, and $435,000 in non-federal funding from state agencies in Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas.  The Republican River flows from its headwaters in Colorado into northwest Kansas, through southern Nebraska, and back into north-central Kansas. It drains roughly 23,300 square miles of the three states and supplies water for cities, businesses, agriculture and recreation.

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KS Changes Crossbow Hunting Rules

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A state wildlife commission has changed the rules for allowing hunters to use crossbows to take down big game in Kansas.  The new change, approved last week by the Kansas Wildlife, Park and Tourism Commission, will make it legal for hunters 55 and older and those with a youth big game permit to use crossbows during archery big game and turkey seasons.  Chris Tymeson, Wildlife and Parks attorney, said regulation would not be in place before April 1, the opening of archery turkey season, but would be for fall seasons for antelope, deer and elk.  Kansas regulations have allowed use of crossbows for hunters unable to use traditional archery equipment. The Wichita Eagle reports that crossbows are legal for hunters in other states after a push from sportsmen and manufacturers.

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Longtime Publisher of Augusta Daily Gazette Dies

AUGUSTA, Kan. (AP) _ Carter J. Zerbe, the retired owner and publisher of the Augusta Daily Gazette, has died. The 72-year-old Zerbe died Saturday after collapsing at his home. Zerbe received numerous awards during his 46-year career with the Daily Gazette, where his father was also publisher. He retired as owner and publisher in October 2004.
Zerbe was a trustee at Butler Community College, where he served as president twice. He was on the Board of Directors at Elliott School of Communication at Wichita State University and the William Allen White School of Journalism at The University of Kansas, according to the Headley Funeral Chapel. He also was a regional director for the Kansas Press Association in the late 1980s. Services are Wednesday at the First United Methodist Church in Augusta.

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KS House Panel to Restart Work on Congressional Remap

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A committee in the Kansas House is preparing to restart work on a plan for redrawing the state's congressional districts.  The Redistricting Committee is meeting today (MON) because last week, the House rejected a bill for adjusting the four districts to reflect changes in population over the past decade.  Speaker Mike O'Neal, a Hutchinson Republican who's also the Redistricting Committee's chairman, dropped his push to split the Kansas City area between two districts. That's something local officials strongly opposed. The plan rejected by the House was an alternative, but it made dramatic changes in district lines in south-central and southeast Kansas.  The 1st District of western and central Kansas is nearly 58,000 residents short of the ideal population of about 713,000. The 3rd District, centered on the Kansas City area, is over-populated.

**this story has been updated. See above. 

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Court Summons 500 Prospective Jurors for Great Bend Murder Case

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — About 500 prospective jurors have been summoned to Barton County Court for the trial of a man suspected of killing a 14-year-old Great Bend girl whose charred body was found at an asphalt plant.  Jury selection begins Today (MON) for Adam Joseph Longoria. The 38-year-old man is accused of capital murder in the August 2010 death of Alicia DeBolt. He is also charged with attempted rape and criminal solicitation of a minor, among other charges.  A court spokesman says about 90 people were excused from jury service before the start of trial proceedings. Attorneys will question the first 36 prospective jurors today (MON) in the courtroom.  Jury selection is expected to take two to four days.

**this story has been updated. See above. 


Jayhawks Dunk UNC, Advance to Final Four and the Crowd Goes Wild!!

 

KU fans pour into downtown Lawrence as Jayhawks advance to Final Four. (Photo by No. 1 Jayhawk Fan Tracey Alderson)

The Kansas Jayhawks got top-flight performances from their powerful duo of Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson and defeated North Carolina 80-to-67 to advance to the NCAA's Final Four.  It's the 14th time KU has made the Final Four in school history -- and the second time under Coach Bill Self. The Jayhawks will now head to New Orleans for their first trip to the Final Four since winning the National Title in 2008.  Robinson had 18 points and nine rebounds.  But Taylor came through in a big way, leading KU with 22 points, six rebounds, five steals and five assists.  The senior from Hoboken, New Jersey, made 10-of-19 shots from the field on his way to his 22 points.  Kansas will now turn its attention to Ohio State for a Saturday evening matchup in the National Semifinals. The Jayhawks defeated the Buckeyes 78-to-67 in Lawrence last December, but Ohio state was without one of its best players during that game.

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