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Headlines for Friday, March 24, 2017

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

Storms Could Spawn Tornadoes Across Parts of Midwest, South

Forecasters are warning of severe storms as a powerful weather system moves across the central United States.  The bull's-eye for some of the most fearsome weather — including possible tornadoes — is over parts of Louisiana, Arkansas and east Texas.  Meteorologists at the national Storm Prediction Center say nearly 19 million people living from Michigan to south Texas are at some risk of severe storms today (FRI) and maybe through the weekend.  The area around Shreveport, Louisiana; and the city of Texarkana on the Texas-Arkansas line faces an enhanced risk of severe weather. That zone is home to nearly 1.4 million people, and forecasters are warning them to expect storms and possible tornadoes late Friday.


Kansas Congressional Election Plagued by Polling Site Chaos

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Polling site changes will make it more confusing for more than 36,000 registered voters to cast a ballot in the race to fill the House seat vacated by CIA Director Mike Pompeo.  The April 11 election in Kansas falls during Holy Week, the annual Christian observance leading up Easter Sunday. The timing has bedeviled election officials because many of polling locations are in churches and some were unavailable on short notice for the special election.  The Sedgwick County election office says nine polling sites have been moved for the special election in Sedgwick County. That is affecting 36,417 registered voters across 50 precincts.  With less than two weeks before the election, officials are still scrambling to find one polling location.  The situation concerns the congressional campaigns and voting rights advocates.


Officials: Massive Overland Park Fire May Have Caused $25 Million in Damage

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Officials in a Kansas City suburb where a fire destroyed a multimillion-dollar apartment building under construction and spread to about two dozen homes estimate the blaze caused as much as $23 million to $25 million in damage.  The Kansas City Star reports that Overland Park based the estimate on exterior damage and property values, and that a more precise figure would emerge once insurance adjusters finish evaluating the fire's impact. Fire officials say a welder accidentally ignited wooden building materials on Monday at the CityPlace development.  The blaze destroyed the four-story apartment building, heavily burned a second and rained burning debris onto a nearby neighborhood, damaging at least 22 other homes.  Overland Park says the damage at the CityPlace site accounted for $20 million of the overall estimate.


Kansas Lawmakers Open the Door to Growing Industrial Hemp

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators who have resisted proposals to legalize marijuana for medical use are advancing a proposal aimed at making the state an industrial hemp powerhouse.  The state House gave first-round approval Friday on a voice vote to a bill that would allow state universities and colleges to grow industrial hemp and conduct research on it. The House plans to take a final vote Monday to determine whether the measure goes to the Senate.  A 2014 federal law allowed states to set up such programs. Supporters said hemp could become a big crop for Kansas farmers.  A majority of states have legalized medical marijuana, but even limited proposals have foundered in Kansas.  The House bill would define industrial hemp as cannabis containing 0.3 percent or less of the high-producing chemical THC.


Kansas Lawmakers Considering Pay Raises for Court Workers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are considering a proposal to increase pay for judges and other state court system workers by as much as 22 percent.  The issue arose Friday as the House Appropriations Committee worked on budget legislation.  Republican Representative Sean Tarwater of Stilwell proposed that the panel endorse pay raises proposed by the Kansas Supreme Court. His proposal would increase spending by $22 million annually.  The committee expects to vote on his proposal Monday.  Tarwater said the judicial branch has been underfunded for years. A study done for the high court last year showed that all jobs in the judicial branch pay below market rates.  But Kansas also is facing projected budget shortfalls totaling more than $1 billion through June 2019 and lawmakers are considering big tax increases.


Former Kansas Middle School Teacher Convicted of Battery

CHAPMAN, Kan. (AP) — A former middle school teacher in central Kansas has been convicted of misdemeanor battery in an incident involving a 12-year-old child.  The Salina Journal reports former Chapman Middle School seventh-grade math teacher Dick Everley was found guilty March 9 in Dickinson County District Court.  The criminal complaint states that Everley was charged in January with having physical contact with the child in an insulting or angry manner in December.
Roger Unruh, Everley's attorney, said Wednesday that his client is no longer employed at the middle school. He was removed from his teaching duties after charges were filed.  Everley faces probation to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Sentencing is scheduled for April 6.


Kansas Lawmakers Closer to Approving Medicaid Expansion

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas legislators are moving closer to approving an expansion of the state's Medicaid program to thousands of non-disabled adults, though the action could prove largely symbolic.  The state Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee endorsed a bill Thursday that would expand health insurance coverage to as many as 180,000 adults. The committee's voice vote advanced the bill to the full Senate for debate.  Senate leaders say that's likely to take place on Monday. The House approved the measure last month.  But Governor Sam Brownback opposes expanding Medicaid as encouraged by the federal health care overhaul of 2010. Republicans in Congress expect to repeal the law and a House GOP proposal includes a provision that would block the Medicaid expansion in Kansas.  Supporters of the measure said they can't predict what will happen in Congress.


Kansas Amusement Ride Bill Likely to Change Before Passage

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas lawmakers are pushing to ramp up amusement ride inspection requirements after a boy was killed on a water slide last year in Kansas City, Kansas. But the bill first could face amendments. The House Federal and State Affairs Committee heard a bill Thursday that would require rides be inspected by a qualified independent inspector.  The move comes months after Representative Scott Schwab's 10-year-old son, Caleb, was killed last August on the Verruckt water slide at Schlitterbahn Water Park. Kansas currently allows self-inspections of rides at amusement parks and the Verruckt water slide passed those inspections.  Lawmakers support increasing oversight, but the committee could consider industry members's request that people with ride safety certifications be able to inspect rides. The committee will hear more testimony today (FRI).


Kansas Lawmakers Embrace Old Concepts in New School Formula

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas legislators are moving toward distributing state dollars to public schools through a complicated per-student formula much like one they discarded two years ago. A special House committee outlined an education funding plan Tuesday that uses basic concepts from the state's previous funding formula. The panel plans held hearings Thursday and plans to continue today (FRI). The Kansas Supreme Court ordered lawmakers to enact a school funding law by June 30 after ruling that the state isn't spending enough on its public schools. Republican legislators in 2015 replaced the old formula with a system of ``block grants'' for school districts. The committee's proposal would set a funding amount for each student, then add extra resources for students with special needs. School districts would be required to impose local property taxes to help finance their operations. 


Chronic, Affluent, Johnson County Shoplifter Sent to Prison

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — An affluent suburban Kansas City woman with a history of shoplifting has been ordered to spend a year and seven months in prison for the thefts.  Forty-seven-year-old Kelli Jo Bauer, of Overland Park, also was ordered to pay more than $22,000 in restitution to merchants.  Bauer has admitted she stole tens of thousands of dollars of clothing and merchandise she was peddling out of her nearly $1 million home.  Bauer had two prior Johnson County theft convictions when she was charged in 2015 with felony theft. That was after police who searched her home found a large amount of stolen merchandise.  Last November, she was charged again after stealing bras from a Lenexa department store.


Kansas Board Paroles Man Imprisoned for 1995 Shooting Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A man imprisoned in Kansas since being convicted of a 1995 robbery and murder is getting paroled. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Kansas Prisoner Review Board has granted the release of 44-year-old Ramon Noriega Jr. Kansas Department of Corrections spokesman Todd Fertig says Noriega will be freed from a prison in El Dorado as soon as a parole plan is approved. Authorities say 56-year-old Sidney Robinson was shot and killed as Noriega and Douglas Abel committed aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery at his Topeka home. Noriega and Abel received life sentences for first-degree murder and shorter sentences on the burglary and robbery convictions. Abel is imprisoned in Lansing and next will be eligible for parole in July of next year.


Kansas House Race Heats Up in Contentious Forum

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Ron Estes and Democrat James Thompson squabbled over health care reform, Planned Parenthood funding and more during their first face-to-face encounter in the race to fill the seat vacated by CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Their contentious forum Thursday in the heavily Republican Kansas 4th district played out against the backdrop of GOP efforts in Washington, D.C., to repeal the nation's health care law. This special election to replace Pompeo is the nation's first congressional race since President Donald Trump's election. Estes says he supports the repeal and replacement of "Obamacare." Thompson says the country needs to work out the problems in the current health care system. He says health care should be "affordable and accessible for everybody." Estes supports defunding Planned Parenthood. Thompson says Planned Parenthood has done a lot of good.


Missouri Governor Greitens Joins Brownback in Support of U.S. Health Care Overhaul

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and Missouri Governor Eric Greitens both signed a letter backing the Republican's health care proposal in the U.S. House. Brownback and Greitens joined five other Republican governors in a letter sent Thursday to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan voicing support of the bill. The letter comes as President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers are scrambling to get enough votes in the U.S. House to pass the proposed replacement for the federal health care law enacted under former President Barack Obama. Greitens last week said he wants a program that offers flexibility to states to develop their own systems. That option was among changes unveiled this week and touted in the governors' letter. 


Kansas Senator Roberts Apologizes for Mammogram Remark

WASHINGTON (AP) —Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas is apologizing for his comment about the possibility the GOP health care bill would ease federal requirements on coverage of basic services like mammograms. In an interview with a reporter for Talking Points Memo on Thursday, Roberts was asked about potential changes in the health care bill regarding women's health. He said: "I wouldn't want to lose my mammograms." He later tweeted an apology: "I deeply regret my comments on a very important topic. Mammograms are essential to women's health & I never intended to indicate otherwise."


Dakota Ranchers Latest to Offer Help for Fire-Stricken Kansas Colleagues

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Ranchers in the Dakotas are helping colleagues in the Kansas and several other states who are dealing with the effects of devastating wildfires. Ranchers in Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado lost thousands of animals and suffered tens of millions of dollars' worth of damage in the wildfires that blackened thousands of square miles earlier this month. The North Dakota Stockmen's Association has pledged $15,000 to help ranchers in the affected states. The South Dakota Cattlemen's Association is paying state permit fees for anyone hauling donated hay through that state to the fire-ravaged areas. 


Kansas City, Missouri Police Chief Forte to Retire

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The first African-American to lead the police department in Kansas City, Missouri, is planning to retire. The Kansas City Star reports 55-year-old Darryl Forte announced that he plans to step down on May 20, after more than three decades in law enforcement. Forte has been credited for making changes at the department, such as training officers on de-escalation tactics and requiring officers to work in areas suffering from increased violent crime.  He also appointed a diversity officer to advance inclusion of minorities, women and others. Forte informed leaders of the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners about his decision on Tuesday. He did not give a specific reason for stepping down from his position. Forte is the city's 44th police chief.


Newton Prom Proposal Gains Internet Popularity

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) - A video of a Kansas high school student asking his friend's younger sister to prom has gone viral online. The Hutchinson News reports that Shaedon Wedel and Carson Wittman initially planned to both take Carson's 15-year-old sister, Carlie, to the school prom in Newton. But after her brother started dating someone, Shaedon decided he would take Carlie himself. Shaedon says Carlie, who has Down Syndrome, "wants to be Cinderella, and I want that for her." A video of the "promposal" shows Shaedon with flowers and a custom-made shirt that reads: "I know I'm NACHO typical Dorito but ... I'm going to be CHEESY and ask: Will you go to prom with me?" The video was shared on Facebook on March 17. By this week, it had been viewed more than 185,000 times.


Kansas Jayhawks Rout Purdue 98-66 to Reach Elite Eight

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Player of the year front-runner Frank Mason III poured on 26 points as Kansas turned on the jets in the second half and the top-seeded Jayhawks soared to a 98-66 blowout of No. 4 seed Purdue on Thursday night in the Midwest Regional semifinals at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. Devonte Graham also had 26 points and Josh Jackson had 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Jayhawks (31-4), who led by 7 at halftime before their pace finally wore down the Boilermakers. Kansas used two big runs, including an 11-0 charge highlighted by Lagerald Vicks' 360-degree drunk, to coast into a matchup with Number 3 seed Oregon on Saturday for a spot in the Final Four. The Ducks survived a nail-biter against Michigan earlier in the night. Caleb Swanigan had 18 points and seven boards for the Boilermakers (27-8).

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