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Headlines for Friday, May 1, 2015

Kansas Supreme Court Will Wait to Hear School Funding Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court plans to wait to take up a school funding lawsuit against the state. The high court issued an order Thursday saying a three-judge panel in Shawnee County District Court must finish hearing the lawsuit first. The lower court has scheduled a May 7 hearing. The lower-court panel ruled in December that the state must spend at least $548 million more a year on aid to public schools to provide a suitable education for every child. The state has appealed. Lawmakers in March enacted a new school funding law promising additional aid for each of the next two school years, but far short of what the lower court specified. The four school districts suing the state asked the lower-court panel to strike down the new law.

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High Court Puts Capital Case on Hold 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas's highest court has halted its review of the capital murder case stemming from a sheriff's death because the U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing other death penalty cases from the state. The Kansas Supreme Court issued an order this week stopping proceedings in the case of Scott Cheever. He was sentenced to die for the 2005 shooting of Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels during a drug raid. The Kansas court said both sides agreed the delay is appropriate because U.S. Supreme Court decisions in other cases could apply to Cheever's case. The nation's highest court has agreed to review Kansas Supreme Court rulings last year that overturned death sentences for three men. They included brothers Jonathan and Reginald Carr, who faced lethal injection over four killings in Wichita in 2000.

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Catholic Bishops in Kansas Call for Medicaid Expansion

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Catholic bishops in Kansas want lawmakers to expand Medicaid to provide health coverage for 130,000 low-income residents who don't have insurance. The Wichita Eagle reports the bishops released a statement Thursday supporting Medicaid expansion. The bishops listed several reservations about the expansion, including that it would include money for contraception and the program needs fiscal reforms. Despite the concerns, the bishops say the expansion would bring important aid to the state's most vulnerable citizens. Democratic Senator Laura Kelly said it was unlikely the bishops' endorsement would sway opponents, while Republican Representative Scott Schwab said the bishops are entitled to their opinion even though he believes Kansas cannot afford the long-term costs. Senator Jeff Longbine, also a Republican, said that even though he is not Catholic, he welcomes the endorsement.

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Kansas Collects $4.4M Less in Taxes than Expected in April 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas says it collected $4.4 million less in taxes than anticipated this month. But the Department of Revenue said Thursday that the lower-than-expected collections may be due to how tax returns have been processed since the April 15 filing deadline. Spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda said the agency can't predict which returns will be processed first. The state expected to collect nearly $516 million in taxes for the month. Instead, it collected $511.5 million. The shortfall was 0.9 percent. It was the first monthly report on tax collections since state officials issued a new, more pessimistic fiscal forecast earlier this month. Since the current fiscal year began in July, the state has collected about $4.5 billion in taxes. That's also $4.4 million less than expect, for a shortfall of 0.1 percent.

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Kansas Lawmakers Pass Bill to Overhaul Unemployment Program 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have approved a bill setting a new cap on benefits for unemployed workers and overhauling the collection of taxes from businesses to finance the aid. The Senate approved the bill on a 29-11 vote Thursday. The House approved it earlier this month, 85-36. The measure goes next to Governor Sam Brownback for his possible signature. The bill is designed to make the taxes paid by businesses more predictable by setting fixed rates in state law. The state currently set rates annually based on what it thinks will be needed to finance benefits. The maximum weekly benefit for workers would be 55 percent of the state's average wage. The cap is now 60 percent, but the bill says the new cap couldn't drop below the current figure of $474.

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Kansas Sex Predator Program Could Move Due to Labor Shortage 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Staffing problems at Larned State Hospital are driving up costs and leading some lawmakers to consider moving its sexual predator treatment program to a new location. House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs said Thursday that the Legislature needs to work on a "long-term, viable relocation" of the sexual predator program to an area that can support its workforce needs. The Kansas City Democrat declined to suggest a specific locale, saying any community potentially hosting it would need to be consulted first. Kansas currently commits sex offenders deemed to be sexual predators to the hospital, and a state audit report released Tuesday said the facility is already understaffed and its rural location 100 miles west of Wichita does not have enough potential workers to serve the program's increasing population.

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Someone Loosened Lug Nuts on Kansas Highway Patrol Vehicles

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person who removed and loosened lug nuts on patrol cars at its Training Academy in Salina. The patrol says all the lug nuts were loose or missing on all four tires of two vehicles on Friday. On a different vehicle, two lug nuts were removed from one tire and the other four were within a few turns of coming off. The incidents are believed to have happened sometime between April 20 and Friday. The patrol says there was no damage to any of the cars and nobody was injured. The Salina Police Department is investigating the case.

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Attorneys for Jewish Site Shootings Suspect Seek Change of Venue 

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys for the man charged with killing three people at Jewish sites in suburban Kansas City have filed 21 motions as they prepare for trial. The Kansas City Star reports attorneys are seeking a change of venue for Frazier Glenn Miller, who is scheduled for trial August 17 for capital murder for three deaths in Overland Park last April. Miller has said he was trying to kill Jews, although all of his victims were Christians. He told The Associated Press this week that he plans to plead guilty. One of the motions asks that Miller be able to do explain his actions during the penalty phase of his trial without being put under oath or cross examination. A motions hearing is scheduled for May 14. 

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16 Construction Projects Started at McConnell Air Force Base

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Preparations for a new line of KC-46A tankers are keeping construction workers busy at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita. Sixteen military construction projects are underway at the base, with a total estimated cost of $267 million. Ben Davis, project manager with the Kansas City district of the Army Corps of Engineers, says the projects are on schedule. McConnell was selected in 2013 to be the first active-duty base in the country to receive new KC-46A tankers, which will replace its aging fleet of 1950s-era KC-135 refueling tankers. The base will eventually receive 36 of the new tankers. The Wichita Eagle reports the first three hangars for the tankers are scheduled to be completed by March 2016 at the latest, with the following three completed about a year later.

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Woman Admits Defrauding Prospective Adoptive Parents
 
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A woman who pretended to be pregnant has admitted defrauding prospective adoptive parents in Kansas and elsewhere. Chrystal Marie Rippey, of Marshall, Texas, pleaded guilty Friday in federal court in Kansas City, Kansas. This time the 35-year-old woman entered her guilty plea without a deal in place with federal prosecutors. U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil rejected in January an earlier plea deal in which the parties agreed to a binding 48-month sentence. Rippey was indicted in February 2014 on charges of mail and wire fraud. Prosecutors allege Rippey contacted adoption agencies and individuals, pretending she was pregnant and seeking to give up her unborn child for adoption. The indictment contends prospective parents bought her meals and gifts, believing she was willing to let them adopt her baby after birth.  Sentencing will take place May 26. 

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Colorado Asks Court to Dismiss Sheriffs' Pot Lawsuit

DENVER (AP) — Sheriffs in Colorado and two other states may not like legal marijuana — but they don't have the ability to force Colorado not to allow it. That's Colorado's argument in a motion filed Friday asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit from 10 county sheriffs in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. The lawsuit is one of several legal challenges Colorado faces after legalizing recreational marijuana in 2012. The sheriffs say recreational pot burdens law enforcement and should be axed. Colorado asked the U.S. District Court in Denver to dismiss the claims. Colorado points out that medical marijuana would still be legal even if recreational pot regulations are thrown out. And Colorado insists that it is within its rights to regulate pot even as it remains illegal under federal drug law.

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State Supreme Court Upholds Wichita Man's Murder Conviction 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has upheld the first-degree murder conviction of a man who gunned down his wife in front of her children. The Topeka
Capital-Journal reports
that the court rejected 28-year-old Kishen Woods's mental health claim. He said he shouldn't have been found competent to stand trial because he has schizophrenia. Antonia Woods-Cratic died in November 2011. She was in the process of leaving her husband. Woods argued that the court-ordered competency evaluation was flawed. He also said that the trial judge should have ordered a second competency hearing after personally observing Woods's erratic behavior in court. Justice Dan Biles noted that Woods at first personally objected to any consideration of his mental competency and later told the court he believed he was competent to stand trial.

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Judge Blocks Release of Western Kansas Couple in Drug Money Laundering Case 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has blocked a Texas magistrate judge's order allowing the release of a couple accused of laundering cartel drug money at a small southwest Kansas bank. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten on Thursday revoked the release order for George and Agatha Enns of Meade. Prosecutors say the Kansas couple conspired with the former bank president of Plains State Bank to launder drug money for a Mexican cartel. Marten also ordered the couple be returned to Kansas, where the issue of their detention pending trial could be resolved. Prosecutors had vehemently opposed Tuesday's decision by a magistrate judge in El Paso, Texas, where they were arrested, allowing the couple to be released on bond.

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Former Bel Aire Police Chief Accused in Gun Sale Conspiracy Speaks

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The attorney for a former police chief indicted in a gun sale conspiracy at the Bel Aire Police Department says his client never intended to violate any law. Ex-chief John R. Daily acknowledged in a statement Thursday he signed paperwork to purchase the tax-exempt firearms, and said he accepts his responsibility. He says he put his trust in his staff. His attorney says hundreds of documents routinely came to the chief for his signature. He contends his client should have read every one more carefully, but he did not intend to defraud anyone. Daily was indicted Tuesday on federal charges of wire fraud and mail fraud. Prosecutors allege he and three other officers falsely represented the weapons were police department property to take advantage of special pricing and tax exemptions.

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Truck Driver Charged in 100-Pound Meth Bust in Kansas 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A California truck driver accused of transporting about 100 pounds of methamphetamine through Kansas faces federal charges. The U.S. attorney's office says the Kansas Highway Patrol found the meth Tuesday after stopping 41-year-old Domingo Uriarte in Kansas City, Kansas, for a traffic violation. He is charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute. His public defender didn't immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment. Prosecutors said 15 tightly-wrapped bundles of meth were found in a large wooden crate containing a metal lathe. Prosecutors said Uriarte tried to flee during the search but was recaptured. The charge carries a penalty of not less than 10 years and a fine of up to $10 million.

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Mental Health Awareness Walk Expects 300 Participants

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — More than 300 people are expected to take part in the National Alliance on Mental Illness' awareness walk. The NAMI Kansas Walk will kick off at 11 am Saturday. It will begin at the Gage Park amphitheater. More than 80 similar events will take place across the country throughout the year to demonstrate support for individuals living with mental illness. It also raises awareness about mental illness and the need to provide resources for treatment. NAMI is a national organization founded in 1979 that advocates for better treatment for those suffering from mental illnesses.

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April Economic Report Suggests Slow Growth Ahead in Midwest 

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new monthly survey report says April results suggest that slow economic growth remains ahead for nine Midwestern and Plains states. The survey report issued Friday says the overall Mid-America Business Conditions Index rose to 52.7 from 51.4 in March. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he says rising economic expectations from nonenergy firms, resulting from lower energy prices, "more than offset economic pessimism stemming from weakness in firms directly tied to energy." The survey results from supply managers are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests economic growth, while a score below that suggests decline. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

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Kansas City Chiefs Select Cornerback in Opening Round of NFL Draft 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — After filling their void at cornerback, the Kansas City Chiefs will begin addressing the rest of their needs as the NFL draft churns through two more rounds on Friday night. The Chiefs have nine more picks in this year's draft, including a second-round choice for the first time in three years and two third-round selections. With the number 18 overall pick, the Chiefs chose Marcus Peters of Washington. The talented cornerback was kicked off the Huskies' team this past season after a series of run-ins with coaches, but the Chiefs say he has matured. Now, the Chiefs turn their attention to filling holes at wide receiver, offensive line and inside linebacker, while adding depth along the defensive line and in the secondary.

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Haskell Indian Nations Athletics Conference Dissolving 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Haskell Indian Nations University officials are planning to meet with university athletes to determine if they will stay at the school after learning that its athletics conference will be dissolved. The school announced Thursday that it had been informed the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference was dissolving because has only three members and an effort to stabilize it failed. Haskell will compete independently in the next school year. The Lawrence Journal-World reports it is unclear if the school will join another intercollegiate athletic conference after the upcoming year. The Midland Collegiate Athletic Conference's other two remaining schools, Central Christian College of McPherson, Kansas, and the College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri, also will be independent next year.

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Cowboys RB Randle Will Not Face Charges in Dispute

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita city attorney's office says it will not bring charges against Dallas Cowboys running back Joseph Randle after a domestic disturbance in Kansas. A brief press release Friday says the city has completed its review of the February 3 incident involving Randle and the mother of his child at a hotel in Wichita. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said earlier this week there was not sufficient evidence to bring felony charges, leaving open the possibility of misdemeanor charges from the city prosecutor's office. A former girlfriend told police Randle brandished a gun and broke a car window during the altercation. Randle could still face punishment from the NFL under terms of its revised personal conduct policy.

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K-State Signs AD John Currie to Extension Through 2020 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas State athletic director John Currie has signed a restructured contract that includes an extension through the 2020 academic year and increases his base salary to $775,000 annually. The extension announced Friday removes athletically related bonuses from Currie's contract and turns the compensation into guaranteed salary. His previous agreement allowed him to earn up to 55 percent of his $575,000 salary in incentives up to a maximum of $316,250. Currie took over Kansas State's athletic department in May 2009, when it was struggling to break even financially. Since then, he has helped to wipe out the department's debt and initiated $190 million in facility improvements, primarily to Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The school has also built a basketball training facility, rowing center and tennis stadium.

 

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