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Headlines for Friday, January 29, 2016

Kansas News Headlines From the Associated Press

Kansas Lawmakers Discuss Shortening the Legislative Session 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers say that legislative sessions need to be curtailed to expedite decisions and save taxpayer money. The House Committee on Appropriations held a hearing Thursday to discuss a bill that would shorten the session in odd numbered years to 60 days. Even-numbered years would remain at 90 days as required by the Kansas Constitution. Republican Representative Marvin Kleeb from Overland Park was one of many members who testified that the shorter session would allow them to spend more time with their families and return to their businesses. They also said it would push lawmakers to discuss bills in a more efficient manner. Kleeb added that a shorter session could save taxpayers more than $1.9 million a year.

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Kansas Court Ponders Greenhouse Gas Limits for Coal-Fired Power Plant 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An environmental group is asking the Kansas Supreme Court to require state limits on greenhouse gas emissions for a new coal-fired power plant in southwest Kansas before it is built. The court heard arguments Thursday from attorneys in a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club in 2014 after the state Department of Health and Environment signed off on the $2.8 billion project. Sunflower Electric Power Corp. wants to build the facility next to an existing coal-fired plant outside Holcomb.  Environmentalists challenged the project and in 2013, the Supreme Court sent the permit back to KDHE. The health department issued a permit in 2010, just before the federal government began regulating greenhouse gas emissions. The KDHE contends that emissions limits aren't required for the plant because the permit was issued before the federal requirements were in effect.

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Lawmakers to Discuss Divisive School Consolidation Bill 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are scheduled to begin discussion of the controversial subject of school district consolidation next week. A bill proposed by Representative John Bradford would require districts to consolidate into countywide school districts. Bradford, a Republican from Lansing, says the bill would affect only central administrations and would not require school closings. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that any county with 10,000 or fewer students would have one countywide district. The Kansas State Department of Education says that would apply to 98 counties, 22 of which already are single-district counties. The Kansas Association of School Boards estimates the bill would reduce school districts in the state to 132 from the current 286. The House Education Committee is scheduled to open hearings on the bill Wednesday.

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Kansas Tax Boost Mulled to Help Pay for More State Troopers 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A $2 increase in Kansas vehicle registration fees would help pay for 75 more state troopers under a proposal in a state House committee. The Kansas City Star reports that the Kansas Highway Patrol's superintendent, Colonel Mark Bruce, told members of the House Transportation Committee on Thursday that the funding is needed to address low staffing. Bruce says the patrol's 400 troopers are about 100 short of what's considered full staffing. He says the staffing shortage means dozens of counties have no or only one trooper assigned to them, and that the fallout includes a drop in drunken driving and speeding arrests and longer response times. Bruce warns the patrol needs to be ready to respond to public safety emergencies such as active shooters and violent demonstrations.

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Obama Nominates Lawrence Attorney to Federal Bench 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — President Barack Obama has nominated a Lawrence attorney to serve on the federal bench in Kansas. The president announced Thursday that his choice of Terrence J. Campbell for the U.S. District Court. He would succeed U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil, who in 2014 took senior status, a form of semi-retirement. He must still be confirmed by the Senate. Campbell practices civil and criminal litigation at the law firm of Barber Emerson, L.C., a Lawrence firm he joined in 1999. His resume includes stints as a traffic judge pro tem for the District Court of Douglas County and as an adjunct professor teaching contracts at the University of Kansas School of Law. He began his legal career as a law clerk to U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum from 1997 to 1999.

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Kansas Senators Consider Firearms Non-Discrimination Act 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill in a Kansas Senate committee would protect firearms businesses from discrimination. The National Shooting Sports Foundation says a survey of gun dealers in Kansas shows they sometimes find it hard to get insurance, buy advertising or otherwise work with companies that oppose firearms. Gun-rights advocates spoke in favor of the bill at a Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs hearing Thursday. But the measure was strongly criticized by lobbyists who feared that it would create potential liabilities. Others testified that it would be unprecedented to add an industry to the state’s discrimination law while some citizens are not protected. Tom Witt, with the group Equality Kansas, says gay and lesbian Kansans are still not protected from employment and housing discrimination. A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood said the bill should protect organizations that offer health care for women. The chairman of the committee, Republican Senator Ralph Ostmeyer, says he doesn’t intend to add additional protections to the bill beyond firearms businesses.

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Kansas Senate Confirms Commerce Secretary, Higher Ed Regents

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Senate has approved Governor Sam Brownback's appointments of a new commerce secretary and three members of the board overseeing the state's higher education system. All four votes Thursday were 40-0. Antonio Soave has served as interim commerce secretary since December. He formerly was chairman and CEO of a company that helps businesses with mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures and expanding foreign markets.  Soave also previously coached college soccer and played professional soccer in Italy. The three Board of Regents members confirmed Thursday were appointed by Brownback in June. They are David Murfin of Wichita, Dennis Mullin of Manhattan and Daniel Thomas of Mission Hills. Murfin is CEO of an oil drilling and equipment company. Mullin is chairman of a steel and pipe supply firm. Thomas is a dentist. 

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Obama Nominates Lawrence Attorney to Federal Bench 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — President Barack Obama has nominated a Lawrence attorney to serve on the federal bench in Kansas. The president announced Thursday that his choice of Terrence J. Campbell for the U.S. District Court. He would succeed U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil, who in 2014 took senior status, a form of semi-retirement. He must still be confirmed by the Senate. Campbell practices civil and criminal litigation at the law firm of Barber Emerson, L.C., a Lawrence firm he joined in 1999. His resume includes stints as a traffic judge pro tem for the District Court of Douglas County and as an adjunct professor teaching contracts at the University of Kansas School of Law. He began his legal career as a law clerk to U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum from 1997 to 1999.

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Nearly 400 Now Report Illness in Kansas Norovirus Outbreak 

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The number of people sickened in a norovirus outbreak linked to an Overland Park dinner theater has grown to nearly 400. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said in a news release Thursday that the people who reported contracting the gastrointestinal illness attended performances at the New Theater Restaurant starting on January 15. Health officials are asking people who have attended a performance since mid-January to participate in an online survey. Rob McGraw, a vice-president at the dinner theater in Overland Park, says that only three employees have been confirmed for Norovirus.

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Ex-Kansas House Member Named Johnson County Elections Chief 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The new election commissioner in the most populous county in Kansas is a former legislator who is the local Republican Party chairman. Secretary of State Kris Kobach announced Friday the appointment of former state Representative Ronnie Metsker of Overland Park to the elections job in Johnson County. Metsker will replace Brian Newby, who left the post in November to become executive director of the federal Election Assistance Commission. The secretary of state appoints election commissioners for the state's four most populous counties. Elections in the other 101 counties are run by elected county clerks. Kobach also is a Republican. Metsker served in the House in 2007 and 2008 before becoming Johnson County GOP chairman. He also is president of a faith-based group advocating for civility in public debates.

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9 KCMO Police Officers Suspended During Investigation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The Kansas City Police Department says two sergeants and seven detectives in its Crimes Against Children section have been suspended with pay while the department investigates claims that some cases haven't been addressed in a timely manner. Officials at the Kansas City, Missouri department say it launched an internal probe after Chief Darryl Forte became aware of issues in the section. Other detectives with experience in Crimes Against Children cases will manage the section's caseload during the probe. Crimes Against Children investigates cases in which children are victims of physical or sexual abuse, neglect, endangerment, parental kidnappings and custody violations. 

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Brownback Fills Vacancy on Western Kansas District Court 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has filled a vacancy in a district court judgeship in southwest Kansas by promoting a local magistrate judge. Brownback on Friday announced the appointment of Ricklin Pierce of Garden City as a new Finney County district judge. Pierce replaces Judge Philip Vieux, who retired last year. Pierce has served as a magistrate judge in Finney County. He also is a former Finney County attorney, handling the prosecution of local criminal cases. Brownback's announcement cited Pierce's experience as a magistrate judge and his legal background. A magistrate handles small civil lawsuits, misdemeanor criminal cases and preliminary matters in felony cases. A local nominating commission named Ricklin and fellow Finney County Magistrate Judge Christopher Sanders as finalists for the district court judgeship.

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Lawrence Student Banned from Displaying Confederate Flag

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A high school student who was displaying a Confederate flag on the car he drove to school has been told he can no longer show the flag on school property. District spokeswoman Julie Boyle said that Free State High School decided not to allow the student to display the flag on school property because it was disrupting the learning environment. Boyle said that the student was not disciplined further. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the district doesn't have a specific policy regarding the Confederate flag but the school's student handbook promises a "discrimination-free" environment for students. Lawrence Superintendent Rick Doll says the school's administration considered the student's free speech rights before making the decision.

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Autopsy: Inmate Linked to 2 Killings Dies of Natural Causes 

LARNED, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Corrections says an autopsy shows that an inmate convicted of killing two children in 1986 died of unspecified natural causes. The Topeka Capital-Journal says Nolan Prewett was 66 when he died January 10 at the Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility. Prewett was serving time for crimes linked to the July 1986 suffocation deaths in Topeka of 3-year-old Shavon Mahomes and her half-sister, 6-year-old Shannon Mahomes. Their bodies were found in a home's basement. Prewett was convicted of two counts each of first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated criminal sodomy, rape and enticement of a child. He received two life sentences to be served simultaneously.

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KCMO Police Probe Motel Shooting Death 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police in Kansas City, Missouri, are investigating the shooting death of a man found wounded in the doorway of a motel room. Authorities have not publicly identified the victim of the shooting shortly before 2 am Friday at the Capital Inn. He was pronounced dead a short time later. There was no immediate word about any arrests.

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Woman Arrested in Wichita Wal-Mart Shoplifting, Police Chase 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 27-year-old woman has been arrested after police say she stole items from a west Wichita Wal-Mart and led officers on a chase. Wichita police Lieutenant Randy Reynolds says an officer pulled over a car for driving erratically and not using headlights around 11:20 pm Wednesday. The officer learned that the vehicle matched the description of one used by a shoplifter at an area Wal-Mart. When the officer asked the woman to step out, she drove away. Reynolds says a short chase ensued before the woman turned into a cul-de-sac and crashed. The Wichita Eagle reports that the officer found her 2-year-old daughter unrestrained in the back seat, along with evidence linking her to the shoplifting incident and drug paraphernalia. The child is in the care of protective custody.

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Teen Shot by Wichita Police Charged with Weapons Violation

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A 17-year-old who was shot and wounded by Wichita police has been charged with a misdemeanor weapons violation. The Wichita Eagle reports that the charge was filed Thursday in juvenile court. It carries penalties ranging from probation to 28 days in juvenile detention. Police said the black teen was armed and running toward the white police officer who fired at him. The shooting happened on the night of December 4 outside a high school where a girls' basketball game was underway. Police say the teen began running with a handgun when officers stopped a pickup truck that police thought contained a homicide suspect. The teen is accused of ignoring multiple commands to drop the handgun. Prosecutors haven't yet ruled on whether the shooting was justified.

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Cowley County Designated as 'Stone Bridge Capital' of Kansas 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Starting this summer, Cowley County in south-central Kansas will be designated by law as the state's stone bridge capital. Governor Sam Brownback signed a bill Friday to bestow the honor. It was first legislation signed by the governor so far this year, and it takes effect July 1. The measure says Cowley County is home to 18 stone arch bridges built before 1910, and all but one still carry traffic daily.

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Double-Fatality Victims Identified in Crash Near Cimarron 

CIMARRON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a motorist has slammed into and killed two people as they stood on the shoulder of a southwest Kansas highway. The Kansas Highway Patrol identified the victims as 27-year-old Christopher Louis Conrardy, of Cimarron, and 50-year-old Chris Alan Hamilton, of Garden City. The men were standing on the shoulder of U.S. 50 on Thursday after Conrardy's westbound pickup truck went left of center and struck the fourth and fifth axles of Hamilton's eastbound tractor-trailer. Conrardy's truck spun out and came to a stop in the westbound lane about five miles east of Cimarron. The patrol says the driver of another pickup truck tried to avoid Conrardy's vehicle and drove onto the shoulder, hitting the two men. The surviving driver was taken to a Dodge City hospital.

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Kansas City Woman Admits Setting House on Fire for Insurance  

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City woman has admitted to helping to burn down one home and plotting to burn another for insurance money. The U.S. attorney's office says 35-year-old Tina Shonk pleaded guilty Friday to two federal counts. Through her plea, she admitted to helping set an April 2014 fire in a home she was renting. Her landlord had been seeking to evict her because she owned more than $10,000 in rent. Beforehand, she helped haul broken electronics and appliances into the home so it would appear valuable items were destroyed. She shared the $57,364 insurance payment with two other people. The home's owner received a $173,100 insurance payment. Prosecutors say Shonk later plotted to burn down another home. She faces up to 25 years in prison. A co-defendant pleaded guilty earlier.

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Kansas Man Convicted of Murder for Killing Woman at Store 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 29-year-old man has been convicted of fatally shooting his girlfriend in the parking lot of a home improvement store in Kansas City, Kansas. The Wyandotte County prosecutor's office announced Friday that George Lingenfelser, of Bonner Springs, was found guilty of second degree murder in the December 2014 killing of 29-year-old Janet Billings. Lingenfelser was originally charged with first-degree murder for shooting Billings in the parking lot of a Lowe's Home Improvement store. Other customers were present at the time of the shooting. Sentencing is set for March 3.

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Manhattan Man Sentenced for Attempted Murder 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A 31-year-old Kansas man has been sentenced to more than 22 years in prison for stabbing a woman. Samuel Dartez was sentenced Friday in Riley County to 22 ½ years. He was convicted of attempted first-degree murder in the November 2014 attack on a 27-year-old woman in Manhattan. KMAN reports that Dartez will also have to pay $25,000 in restitution. The judge also denied a defense motion for a new trial.

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Report: Royals Have Biggest Attendance Increase over Decade 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A financial news and opinion company reports the Kansas City Royals have seen the biggest increase in fan attendance among all major professional U.S. sports teams over a 10-year span. The Internet content company 24/7 Wall St. says in a report released Wednesday that attendance at Royals home games rose 92.7 percent from 2005 to 2015, with an average attendance last year of 33,438. The report says average attendance at Kauffman Stadium in 2005 was 17,356 per game, second lowest total in the majors and just 42.5 percent of stadium capacity. It was the 20th straight year in which Kansas City missed the postseason. In 2015 the Royals filled 88.2 percent of Kauffman's seats as they finished with the best American League record and won the World Series.

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