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Headlines for Friday, February 13, 2015

Kansas Lawmakers Move to Protect Highway Funds

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some Kansas lawmakers want to keep some money from being transferred away from transportation projects amid the state budget crunch. Governor Sam Brownback has recommended transferring $724 million from transportation projects to the state's main budget during fiscal years 2016 and 2017 to fill projected budget shortfalls. A House budget panel voted Thursday to reinstate about $280 million of that funding. Republican Representative Russell Jennings of Lakin says he proposed the amendment because the state has too often diverted money from infrastructure to cover budget holes elsewhere. He suggested the state raise revenues in other ways. The House Appropriations Committee will review the committee's budget recommendations Tuesday. Republican Representative J. R. Claeys of Salina said that if the move passed, it could force education cuts.

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Rules Dispute in Kansas Legislature Stalls Work in Senate 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A dispute over a common tactic used by Kansas lawmakers to rush bills to passage has prompted the Senate's majority leader to stop scheduling debates on legislation in his chamber. House and Senate negotiators met briefly Friday to work on the final version of the rules governing interactions between their chambers. Their only disagreement is over how much to restrict the bundling of multiple proposals into the final version of a single bill. The House wants stricter limits than the Senate. The practice occurs because the same senators and House members negotiate over multiple bills dealing on broad topics such as insurance or taxes. Critics contend the tactic leads to sloppy lawmaking. In the Senate, Majority Leader Terry Bruce has kept his chamber from debating legislation since February 5.

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Bill Would End Permit Requirement for Concealed Weapons in Kansas 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Gun-rights groups in Kansas are telling legislators that the state should allow its residents to carry concealed firearms without a permit. The Kansas Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee heard testimony Thursday on a bill ending a requirement for people wanting to carry concealed to get a state permit. A permit costs $132.50, and a person must undergo eight hours of training to get one. Lobbyists for the National Rifle and Kansas State Rifle associations noted that Kansas law has long allowed the open carrying of weapons and said people shouldn't need a state permit to exercise gun-ownership rights protected by the state and federal constitutions. But Salina resident and NRA member David Nichols says he doesn't want untrained people carrying concealed weapons.

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Gay-Rights Advocates Plan Rally at Kansas Statehouse

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Gay rights supporters are planning a weekend rally at the Kansas Statehouse to protest the end of anti-discrimination protections for gay, lesbian and transgendered workers in much of state government. The event at noon Saturday is a response to Republican Governor Sam Brownback's decision this week to narrow a policy that covers hiring and employment decisions in state agencies controlled directly by the governor. Brownback rescinded an executive order issued in August 2007 by Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. A state law barring discrimination in housing and private employment doesn't cover such bias, and Brownback said Sebelius acted unilaterally in her order. Brownback said the Legislature should decide whether to extend such protections to gays and lesbians in state government.

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Former Governor Sebelius Blasts Brownback's Policies

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius says she was surprised and distressed by Governor Sam Brownback's decision to rescind an executive order that offered protections for gay, lesbian and transgender state employees. In a speech at the Dole Institute in Lawrence Thursday, Sebelius also called Brownback's efforts to eliminate the state's income tax to increase business and job growth in Kansas "a colossal failure." Sebelius said she signed the executive order protecting LGBT state employees in 2007 to signal that Kansas wanted a diverse and talented workforce and was a tolerant state. Brownback rescinded the order Tuesday, saying that such changes should be made by the state Legislature. The former governor said she's concerned that the state is on a long-term downward economic spiral because of its multi-million dollar budget deficit.

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State Supreme Court Upholds Conviction in Boy's Death
 
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has upheld a murder conviction for a Wichita man who took part in the shooting death of a 13-year-old boy. The court on Friday rejected an appeal from Eli Betancourt, who was convicted of premeditated first-degree murder in the June 2010 death of Miguel Andrade. The boy was shot several times when he opened his front door after hearing sounds outside. Prosecutors say Betancourt and three other men fired on the wrong house as they sought vengeance for an attack on a relative of Betancourt's. He is serving a Hard 25 life sentence. Betancourt's attorney had argued that the Sedgwick County court made several errors during the trial, including admitting his police statement as evidence, and that there was not sufficient evidence to convict him.

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Kansas Senate Panel Approves Bill to Ban Abortion Procedure 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has approved a proposed ban on a procedure used in 8 percent of the abortions performed in the state. The Public Health and Welfare Committee's voice vote Thursday sends the measure to the Senate for debate. The bill was drafted by abortion opponents who describe the targeted procedure as dismembering a fetus. The bill would prohibit a procedure known as dilation and evacuation and designate it in state law as a "dismemberment abortion." Doctors would not be allowed to use forceps, clamps or other similar instruments to cut up a fetus and remove it from the womb in pieces. Abortion rights advocates say the procedure is sometimes the safest way to terminate a pregnancy and say it is also sometimes used during the first trimester.

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Kansas Birthing Center's License Suspended 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas birthing center licensed to deliver babies for healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies has been temporarily shut down and declared a public health risk by the state health department. The Birth and Women's Center in Topeka was placed under emergency suspension February 4 after an investigation determined the center had violated several stipulations of its licensing by failing to keep proper records or complying with quality assurance requirements. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says it received complaints of an unusually high incidence of medical problems in women and their children who had been delivered there. A woman who answered the phone at the center referred questions to Dr. Josie Norris, the practitioner who oversees the birth center. Norris didn't immediately return a phone call.

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Man Sentenced to Life in Killing of 8-Year-Old Kansas Girl 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A man convicted of kidnapping, raping and killing an 8-year-old Topeka girl before stuffing her body in a clothes dryer has been sentenced to life in prison without parole. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a Shawnee County District judge handed down the sentence Friday for 31-year-old Bill Frank Davis Jr. Prosecutors had sought the death penalty after Davis was convicted in December of 10 counts, including capital murder in the 2012 killing of 8-year-old Ahliyah Nachelle Irvin. But defense witnesses testified that Davis suffered from severe mental illness, and jurors couldn't unanimously decide to recommend execution. Along with his life sentence, Davis also received more than 60 years in prison for other convictions. Members of Ahliyah's family have said they're pleased Davis will spend the rest of his in prison.

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Mother Arrested on Suspicion of Threatening Jail Staff
 
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A mother has been arrested on suspicion of threatening staff at the Kansas jail where her son killed himself more than a decade ago. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that the woman was booked Friday into the Shawnee County Jail. No charges were listed against the woman in online court records. Major Tim Phelps said a woman called Friday morning and said she would come to the jail "with a high-powered rifle and kill us." For three hours, armed guards could be seen patrolling the perimeter and on top of the jail. A lockdown ended about 11:45 am. Phelps said the woman said she was upset the jail "brutally killed her son."

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Commune Leader Testifies in His Own Defense in Murder Trial 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The leader of a Kansas commune that lived off the life insurance payouts of its dead members has taken the stand in his own defense. Fifty-five year old Daniel Perez testified Thursday about his time in Texas where he met the woman he is now accused of killing. He is charged with first-degree premeditated murder in the 2003 drowning death of 26-year-old Patricia Hughes at the group's compound near Wichita. Other charges include rape, sodomy, criminal threat, lying on life insurance applications and credit applications and sexual exploitation of a child. Prosecutors say the group's wanderings across several states over a 15-year period were marked by sexual violence and the deaths of six people. His defense attorney says Perez didn't kill Hughes, and called the other deaths coincidental.

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Man Dies in Mobile Home Fire in Eastern Kansas

LANSING, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man has died in a mobile home fire in eastern Kansas. Chief Rick Huhn of Leavenworth County Fire District No. 1 said crews arrived on Thursday afternoon to find heavy smoke. He says the man's body was found inside the Lansing residence after firefighters were able to control the blaze. His identity wasn't released. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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Chelsea Manning's Hormone Treatment OK'd, but Not Long Hair 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The commandant of the military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, says convicted leaker Chelsea Manning can get hormone therapy for her gender identity disorder — but she can't grow out her hair. The memo obtained Friday by The Associated Press documents the military's first approval of such treatment for an active service member. It was first reported by USA Today. Manning and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit in September alleging the Army private formerly known as Bradley was at risk of self-harm without more focused treatment. The ACLU calls the decision an important first step. The memo says Manning's hairstyle will be revisited seven months after hormone therapy begins. The former intelligence analyst is serving 35 years for sending classified documents to the WikiLeaks website.

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Suspect Dies After Police Chase Ends in KCK

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A carjacking suspect has died after he was shot by police following a chase. Authorities say the suspect stole a van Friday morning from a pest control worker in Bonner Springs, Kansas. The suspect then led police on a chase into Kansas City, Missouri, before ending in Kansas City, Kansas, after about 30 minutes when the vehicle drove through a fence. Kansas City, Kansas, police spokeswoman Amber Hickerson says the driver tried to hit a Kansas City, Missouri, police vehicle. Hickerson says it is unclear whether the suspect fired at officers or only pointed his weapon at them. A Kansas Highway Patrol officer and three police officers shot him. The pest control worker was not injured. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is looking into the shooting.

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Speaker Enrolls Keystone Bill, Urges Obama to Sign 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The congressional Republican leadership has made it official, formally enrolling legislation to build the Keystone XL pipeline and urging President Barack Obama to sign it. In a ceremony on Friday, Speaker John Boehner put his signature on the bill and called on Obama to "do the right thing" and add his name. While the next stop for the measure is the White House — where Obama has threatened to veto it — Republicans will delay sending it over until after their weeklong recess. That's because they want to be in town when Obama vetoes it. First proposed in 2008, the pipeline if approved would connect Canada's tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries. The White House has said repeatedly it will wait to make its decision until after a State Department review.

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FAA Orders Inspections Following Fatal Colorado Chopper Crash 

DENVER (AP) — The FAA is ordering about 300 Enstrom helicopters to be inspected after investigators found that a crack in one chopper may have caused a crash that killed two people in Colorado. In an emergency directive issued Thursday, the FAA said that the investigation into the January 26 crash indicates that the helicopter's rotor blade came off because of a crack in the spindle, which holds the rotor blade in place. Twenty-three-year-old flight instructor Alex Viola, of Arkansas City, Kansas and 25-year-old student pilot Amy Wood, of Boulder were both killed.  Michigan-based Enstrom has also told its operators worldwide to do inspections as a precaution. President Tracy Biegler says there's no evidence this has been a problem on any other aircraft in the company's 55 year history. The lawyer for Viola's family, Gary Robb, praised the FAA for acting so quickly to try to prevent further crashes. He plans to file a lawsuit against the company.

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Central Kansas Man Found Guilty in Homicide

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) - A central Kansas man has been found guilty in the shooting death of a man in Great Bend in 2011. A jury found Jeffrey Chapman, formerly of Pawnee Rock, guilty of first-degree murder Thursday in the death of 25-year-old Damon Galyardt, whose body was found near Great Bend in November 2011. The defense argued Chapman shot Galyardt in self-defense. The Great Bend Tribune reports no date was set for sentencing. Chapman's case drew attention in 2013 when asked to have a tattoo of the mirrored image of the word "murder" on his neck covered or removed before his trial. He was allowed to wear a turtleneck during the trial.

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KU Assistant Coach Suspended After Pot Bust

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas men’s basketball assistant coach Jerrance Howard has been suspended for two weeks after coach Bill Self learned this week that Howard had been arrested last summer for marijuana possession. Howard was charged last July with misdemeanor marijuana possession in his hometown, Peoria, Illinois. He paid $1,178.26 in fines and was placed on six months of court supervision that was set to end Friday. Self said during his regular news conference Thursday that he was disappointed that Howard, who played for him at Illinois before joining his staff at Kansas last year, did not inform him about the incident when it happened. Howard will not participate in practices or games during his suspension, which includes Saturday's game between the eighth-ranked Jayhawks and No. 16 Baylor.

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Royals Agree to 2-Year Contract with Relief Pitcher Herrera 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals and reliever Kelvin Herrera have agreed on a $4.15 million, two-year deal that avoids arbitration. Herrera and the rest of the Royals' pitchers and catchers are due to report to spring training in Arizona next week. The 25-year-old Herrera made just $522,250 last season and was eligible for arbitration for the first time after compiling a 1.41 ERA. He filed for $1.9 million for this season and the Royals countered at $1.15 million. Herrera is expected to again handle the seventh inning this season ahead of setup man Wade Davis and All-Star closer Greg Holland.

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Closer Greg Holland, Royals Agree to $8.25 Million Deal 

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals and closer Greg Holland avoided salary arbitration when they agreed to an $8.25 million, one-year contract before their hearing. Under the terms of Friday's agreement, Holland will receive a $100,000 assignment bonus if he's traded. The 29-year-old right-hander was 1-3 with a 1.44 ERA for the AL champions and struck out 90 and walked 20 in 62 1-3 innings. He had seven more saves and a 0.82 ERA in the postseason. The Royals reached Game 7 of the World Series before losing to San Francisco. Holland made $4,725,000 last year and had asked for $9 million when the sides exchanged proposed arbitration salaries last month. The Royals had offered $6.65 million. He is eligible for free agency after the 2016 season.

 

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