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Headlines for Friday, January 27, 2017

Here's a look at area headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas Counties, Cities Go to Topeka to Object to Tax Lid 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Leaders of groups representing Kansas counties and cities are arguing for the repeal or overhaul of a state-imposed property tax lid. The Hutchinson News reports that they made their case this week to lawmakers. The tax lid took effect in January and requires voters to approve property tax increases above the rate of inflation. The law contains exceptions for bond payments, spending on court judgments and other items. It is meant to limit the growth of cities and counties. But Kansas Association of Counties executive director Randall Allen notes that the oil and gas downturn has affected a lot of counties. Greg Wellbrock is the county appraiser for several southwest Kansas counties, and says he's hoping they can just ride out the storm. He described the loss of property tax revenue as "dramatic."


Kansas Congresswoman Jenkins Creates Political Shakeup

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Representative Lynn Jenkins's announcement that she has no plans to seek office in two years shakes up the Republican gubernatorial race in which she had been expected to run. Kansas Republican Party executive director Clay Barker says Jenkins' decision to return to the private sector when her term ends came as somewhat of a surprise.Barker says the decision could set up wide-open primaries up and down the ballot in 2018. Although no one has made any announcement, names mentioned on the Republican side, either for governor or congress, have included Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Secretary of State Kris Kobach. If either of those opt to run for another office, that would set up open primaries for their current positions.  


Kansas Lawmaker Leaves Loaded Gun in Statehouse Room

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas legislator has confirmed that he inadvertently left a loaded handgun under a table in a Statehouse committee room that is open to the public. Republican Representative Willie Dove, of Bonner Springs, told reporters Thursday that the incident occurred after Tuesday afternoon's meeting of the Kansas House Education Committee. A secretary found the gun minutes later. Dove says he has a concealed carry permit and that he took the gun out of his leg holster because of a swollen ankle. He says he'll start using a shoulder holster and will be more careful. Firearms are allowed in the Statehouse. 


Self: No Player Discipline Yet as KU Campus Rape Probe Continues

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas coach Bill Self says a police investigation of an alleged rape at his team's dorm has given him no reason yet to discipline anyone as the second-ranked Jayhawks prepare to play at No. 4 Kentucky. Self on Thursday publicly acknowledged the investigation of the alleged sexual attack last month of a 16-year-old girl at McCarthy Hall has become a ``major distraction'' heading into Saturday's big game. No charges have been filed, and police have not publicly identified any suspects. Five of Self's players are listed as witnesses on the police report. Self is deferring to police in declining to publicly discuss what any of the players have confided in him about the matter he says he learned about from the athletics department the day it was reported December 18. Coach Self did announce the suspension of Jayhawks forward Carlton Bragg Jr. for unspecified violations but the coach says Bragg's suspension is not related to the sexual assault allegations.


Kansas Health Officials: Flu Spreading Across State 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials say the flu is spreading across the state. The state health department says six outbreaks have been confirmed so far during the 2016-17 flu season — two in Leavenworth County and one each in Osage, Harvey, Cherokee and Saline counties. The Wichita Eagle reports Via Christi and Wesley Healthcare in Wichita both report an increase in the flu, with a 50 percent increase at Wesley Healthcare since the same period last year. Health officials say it's not too late to get the flu vaccine because the disease might spread for two to three more months. The health department says Influenza or pneumonia contributed to or was the direct cause of 903 deaths of Kansas residents during the 2015-16 flu season.


Kansas Parties Set Dates to Pick Nominees for 4th District Seat

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The two major political parties in Kansas have set dates to pick their nominees for the congressional seat formerly held by CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Kansas Republicans are meeting February 9 and Democrats are convening two days later. The special GOP convention in the 4th Congressional District will be in Wichita at Friends University and starts at 7 p.m. Democrats plan to meet at 1 p.m. February 11 at the Sedgwick County Courthouse in Wichita. In both parties, local activists make the choice. Republicans expressing an interest in the seat include State Treasurer Ron Estes, former congressman Todd Tiahrt and Donald Trump campaign adviser Alan Cobb. The Democratic candidates are former State Treasurer Dennis McKinney, Andover police officer Charlie Walker and Wichita businesswoman Laura Lombard. Governor Sam Brownback has called an April 11 special election to fill the seat.


Kansas Lawmaker Pursuing Transgender Bathroom Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas lawmaker has introduced a bill to prevent transgender students in public schools from using facilities associated with their current gender identities. Republican state Representative John Whitmer of Wichita introduced the bill Thursday in the House. He argues the measure would protect students. Under the bill, schools could not allow transgender students to use bathrooms or locker rooms associated with the gender opposite of theirs at birth. The policy also would apply to overnight accommodations when student groups travel. Schools could provide "alternative facilities'' for transgender students. Those who think a school has violated the policy could file complaints with the attorney general's office, which would be allowed to take the school to court. LGBT advocate Tom Witt decried the bill as giving the attorney general unfettered prosecutorial power. LGBT rights advocates also denounced the bill as discriminatory and said it will lead to bullying of transgender students.


Payless Lays Off 110 Topeka Employees 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Payless ShoeSource announces plans to lay off 165 people, 110 of whom work at locations in Topeka. Spokeswoman Meghan Spreer tells The Topeka Capital-Journal that the positions are in corporate, distribution center and field leadership roles. She says the layoffs make up about 2 percent of the company's total associate base. Payless's headquarters are located in Topeka. GO Topeka and Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce leader Matt Pivarnik says that the community feels "the pain of these cutbacks," but GO Topeka is ready to assist laid off workers in several ways. Pivarnik says the competition from the industry can "lead to tough decisions." Spreer says these types of decisions are necessary for Payless to keep up in an evolving retail environment.


Kansas Seeks Citizenship Proof from Longtime Voter

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Attorney David Morantz has turned to Twitter to raise the public alarm after getting a notice from Johnson County election officials telling him he needed to submit proof of citizenship to register to vote. He tweeted a copy of it, asking ``What's up with this,'' and noting he has been a registered Kansas voter since 2002. The county election office tweeted back Thursday telling him to disregard the letter, saying it was mailed in error. Deputy Election Commissioner Debbie Tyrrel says it was a data-entry error that affected only Morantz. Morantz says he has real concerns about what he calls ``anti-voter laws,'' adding he wanted to alert others who got similar letters. The county has been sending out notices to people telling them to submit citizenship documents to complete registrations.  


First Hearing on 2018 Farm Bill to Be Held Next Month in Manhattan

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) _ U.S. Senator Pat Roberts says the first hearing on the 2018 farm bill will be held in Manhattan in February. Roberts, a Republican from Kansas, is chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry. He announced that the first hearing in the country on the farm bill will be held February 23 on the Kansas State campus. Roberts says agriculture officials want to come to Kansas to talk directly to producers and he says lawmakers need clear direction from producers on what is working and what isn't working in farm country. In December, Roberts said believes the current farm bill is too complex but he was hesitant about changing the bill too much. 


Kansas Prosecutor to Seek Death Penalty in Triple Homicide 

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas prosecutor plans to seek the death penalty against one of two people accused of killing three people before fleeing to Mexico. Harvey County Attorney David Yoder announced the plans to seek the death penalty against 35-year-old Jereme Nelson in a news release Friday. Yoder said he is still considering whether to seek the death penalty against 31-year-old Myrta Rangel. Nelson and Rangel are charged with one count of capital murder and three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of 33-year-old Travis Street, 37-year-old Angela May Graevs and 52-year-old Richard Prouty. The victims' bodies were found in October outside a rural home near Moundridge. An 18-month-old child was found unharmed. Nelson and Rangel were extradited Thursday to Kansas, and Yoder said they don't yet have attorneys.


Man Not Guilty Because of Mental Illness in Kansas Attack 

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A 22-year-old man who attacked and injured several children at a suburban Kansas City playground has been found not guilty by reason of mental illness. A Johnson County judge on Friday found Javan Lockett not guilty but ordered that he be committed to Larned State Hospital for evaluation. Police say that in March 2015, Lockett injured three children and endangered more than a dozen others at a playground near his home in Lenexa. The children suffered mostly cuts, bruises and scratches. Police arrested Lockett after receiving reports that a man was pointing a gun and throwing rocks at people. The Kansas City Star reports at a hearing in January, two mental health experts testified that Lockett was experiencing a schizophrenic episode at the time of the attack.


Kansas Casino Competitors Make Final Attempt to Stop Project 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two casino developers and Cherokee County have presented legal challenges to the Kansas Supreme Court for a state-owned casino as a final attempt to stop the high-stakes project. The Topeka Capital-Journal  reports the state's Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board chose a $70 million Pittsburg facility called Kansas Crossing in June 2015 when considering three proposals to build a casino. Wichita entrepreneurs Brandon and Rodney Steven, along with Cherokee County commissioners, filed lawsuits in an attempt to block the casino. They appealed to the Supreme Court after a Shawnee County judge dismissed the suits. Attorneys for the Steven brothers and for Cherokee County say the gaming board sided with Kansas Crossing without properly determining why. The Stevens had also proposed a casino to the gaming board called Castle Rock farther south in Cherokee County.


Eaton to Close Hutchinson Plant, Eliminate 100 Jobs 

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Eaton Hydraulics says it plans to close its plant in Hutchinson by October, eliminating 100 jobs. The Hutchinson News reports the plant makes components for piston and gear pumps for use in mobile and industrial hydraulic applications. It primarily serves construction and agriculture markets. Eaton spokeswoman Kelly Jasko says production of components made in Hutchinson will move to Mexico. She says agricultural equipment production has declined 21 percent and construction equipment production dropped 16 percent since 2013. Jasko didn't say when the layoffs will begin. In 2006, Eaton announced plans to close the Hutchinson plant but reconsidered after local and state officials offered $3.5 million in incentives and employees took wages cuts and freezes.


KU's Caboni Chosen as Western Kentucky University President 

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) — Western Kentucky University's Board of Regents has chosen Timothy C. Caboni from the University of Kansas to become Western's 10th president this summer. The 47-year-old Caboni will start work July 1, succeeding Gary A. Ransdell, who is retiring. Caboni is vice chancellor of public affairs at Kansas. He earned a master's degree in corporate and organizational communication from Western in 1994, a bachelor's from Louisiana State and a doctorate from Vanderbilt. He said in a news release from Western he is excited about returning to lead his alma mater. Before going to Kansas, Caboni was associate dean of Peabody College of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt. Ransdell is retiring after 20 years as Western's president.


Longtime Face of Victims' Advocacy Group SNAP Steps Down 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The man who has been the face of a national organization advocating for victims of abuse by clergy, especially those in the Catholic Church, has resigned from the organization. The Kansas City Star reports that David Clohessy of suburban St. Louis voluntarily resigned December 31 from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. The organization announced Clohessy's resignation this week, days after a former employee filed a lawsuit claiming SNAP was exploiting sexual abuse victims and receiving kickbacks from attorneys for directing clients their way. Clohessy called the case "preposterous" and said his resignation was unrelated to the lawsuit


27 Students Have Minor Injuries in Wichita School Bus Crash 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say 27 children suffered minor injuries and one was taken to a hospital for treatment after two school buses collided. Police Sergeant Kelly O'Brien says about 60 students were aboard the buses Thursday morning when one hit the other from behind as they slowed for traffic. Further details on the student taken to the hospital were not immediately released. The students were third- and fifth-graders from L'Ouverture Elementary school. They were returning to school from a symphony concert when the accident occurred. Other buses were sent to the scene to pick up the students.


Kansas City Man Sentenced to Multiple Life Terms in Triple Homicide

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Authorities say a 50-year-old man has been sentenced to three life terms plus another 105 years for fatally shooting a mother, son and family friend at a Kansas City house. Anthony Walker of Kansas City was sentenced Thursday for killing 62-year-old Donna Pike and her 41-year-old son Herschel Pike while robbing their home. Fifty-seven-year-old Edward Williams was shot when he went to the home to check on the Pikes and interrupted the crime. Besides the sentences for first-degree burglary, first-degree murder and armed criminal action, he also faces a 30-year sentence in federal prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm. The Kansas City Star reports that she said her family has "been in turmoil" since the killings.


Kansas Woman Pleads Guilty to Stealing Clothing, for the Fourth Time

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas woman already facing sentencing for stealing thousands of dollars in merchandise has pleaded guilty to another shoplifting charge. Kelli Jo Bauer's plea Thursday to felony theft was the fourth time since 2008 she had pleaded guilty to shoplifting clothes from Kansas City-area stores. The Kansas City Star reports the 47-year-old Bauer was arrested for stealing five bras from a Lenexa Kohl's story in November, the day before she was to be sentenced for stealing more than $25,000 from stores. In that case, police recovered truckloads of clothing from her home in an exclusive Overland Park neighborhood. Bauer pleaded guilty in May to felony theft and two misdemeanor theft counts. Sentencing in both cases will be March 24. She was also convicted of theft in 2008 and 2013.


KU's Bragg Suspended for Team Rules Violation 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas forward Carlton Bragg has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules. Coach Bill Self said in announcing the suspension late Thursday that the violation isn't connected to an investigation into an alleged rape at his team's dorm in December. No charges have been filed, and police have not publicly identified any suspects. Self says the investigation has given him no reason yet to discipline any players. Self also suspended Bragg last month after the 20-year-old sophomore was charged with misdemeanor battery. Bragg was reinstated when prosecutors dropped the charge and charged the woman who accused him of shoving her. Prosecutors said law enforcement obtained surveillance video showing a woman repeatedly striking a man. The No. 2 Jayhawks play at No. 4 Kentucky on Saturday.


Kansas Space Exhibit Recalls Apollo Accident 

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Hutchinson museum is opening an exhibit Friday to honor the 50th anniversary of the fatal Apollo 1 test mission. The Hutchinson News reports The Cosmosphere's new exhibit, "Apollo 1: Valiant Pioneer," tells the story of the cabin fire that killed three astronaut pilots on board during a launch rehearsal test. The exhibit also highlights changes made to space missions to ensure a similar accident doesn't occur. Apollo 1 was NASA's first manned mission in the Apollo program. It was created with the aim of landing a human on the moon. The exhibit features artifacts including emergency egress plans and thank-you cards sent by families following the deaths of Command Pilot Virgil I. Grissom, Senior Pilot Edward H. White II and Pilot Roger B Chaffee.


Kansas City Man Dies in Towing Accident 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A man was killed driving on a highway Thursday when a wheel from a trailer being towed broke loose and struck his windshield, causing him to crash into a concrete barrier. The Kansas City Star reports the victim has been identified as 67-year-old Michael J. Skali of Kansas City, Missouri. The Missouri Highway Patrol says Skali was driving southbound on Interstate 435 when the wheel from the trailer going northbound crossed the median and struck Skali's windshield on the driver's side. Skali then collided into the barrier on the left side of the road and died at the scene. The driver of the pickup truck towing the trailer was not hurt. Both men were wearing seat belts.


Royals Gather in Private to Remember, Celebrate Ventura 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals gathered together Friday to celebrate the life of pitcher Yordano Ventura, who died Sunday in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Manager Ned Yost told Royals teammates, coaches, executives and support staff that he has struggled since Sunday's accident to figure out how to deal with the hole the 25-year-old's death will leave. He says he believes God has a plan for everyone, and vowed the team's bond will become stronger as they lean on faith and happy memories. Pitcher Danny Duffy promised the Royals would use memories of Ventura's competiveness to play every game in the next season with passion. The meeting came hours before the team's annual FanFest, where more tributes to Ventura are planned.


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