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Headlines for Friday May 16, 2014


Brownback Signs Kansas Budget Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has vetoed a $5 million transfer from the state's share of a national tobacco settlement that legislators sought to divert to the Kansas Bioscience Authority. The governor announced Friday that he had made that veto and four others while signing the remainder of the last budget bill of the 2014 session. The bulk of the spending, more than $360 million, was earmarked for the state Department of Corrections. Brownback agreed with critics of the tobacco funds transfer that the $5 million was intended to be used for children's initiatives and shouldn't be diverted to other government programs. Kansas and other states receive annual payments from tobacco companies as part of a national settlement reached in 1998.

First Lady in Kansas for 2 Student Events

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — First lady Michelle Obama has met with a small group of Kansas high school students ahead of an evening speech at a ceremony honoring graduating seniors. Obama met Friday with 11 students at the national park site in Topeka dedicated to the Brown v. Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that declared segregated schools unconstitutional. Her visit took place the day before the 60th anniversary of the decision. The Brown site is in a former all-black elementary school. The afternoon meeting involved sophomores and juniors participating in a federally funded program helping at-risk kids prepare for higher education. Obama told them, "It's just going to be essential for you guys to succeed."


Teen to Face Trial for Death of Lawrence Businessman

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 19-year-old Lawrence woman has been order to stand trial for the throat-cutting death of a 52-year-old businessman in the home they shared. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Sarah Gonzales McLinn was bound over on charges of first-degree murder and theft following a preliminary hearing Friday. McLinn has never denied killing Harold Sasko, whose body was found January 17 by police after McLinn's family reported her missing. McLinn's attorney filed a notice of intent Friday to rely on a defense of mental disease or defect. Police testified Friday that Sasko was bound at the wrists and ankles, with his neck deeply severed from side to side. McLinn had worked for Sasko at one of three CiCi's Pizza restaurants he owned in Lawrence and Topeka. She was arrested after the killing in the Florida Everglades.


Lawrence Man Sentenced for Killing Ailing Wife

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ A 67-year-old Lawrence man who told investigators he killed his wife because of her many health problems has been sentenced to life in prison. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Larry Hopkins will be eligible for parole after 25 years under the sentence he received yesterday (THUR) in Douglas County District Court. Hopkins shot and killed 61-year-old Margaret Hopkins on November 5th, 2013, at their Lawrence home. He pleaded no contest earlier this year to first-degree murder, turning down a plea deal that included lesser offenses. In court Thursday, Hopkins read a statement describing the many ailments suffered by his wife of 24 years, including diabetes, multiple strokes and knee replacement surgeries. Larry Hopkins also had suffered a stroke and had heart problems as well.


Jenkins to Deliver Letter for Brown Anniversary

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ More than 170 members of the U.S. House have signed a letter commemorating the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in the case of Brown v. Board of Education. Kansas Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins planned to deliver the letter to Topeka's Brown v. Board National Historic Site on Friday, one day before the 60th anniversary of the ruling that outlawed segregated schools. The letter is signed by the Kansas House delegation, as well as House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The Brown site is housed in a former all-black school where the lead plaintiff's daughter and another plaintiff's child in the desegregation case were students. Exhibits tell the story of the 1954 decision.


Kobach Part of New Kansas Gun Firm

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says his involvement in a new firearms manufacturing firm in northeast Kansas stems from his interest in hunting and shooting and not to set up a challenge to federal laws. The Hutchinson News reports that Kobach is listed as a shareholder in Minuteman Defense, which hopes to begin making rifles by the end of the year in Overland Park. The firearms will be marketed to law enforcement in Kansas and nationwide. Kobach helped write a 2013 state law that states that Kansas-made firearms that have the proper stamping and never leave the state are free from federal regulation. He said Friday the law wasn't written for personal gain but to reaffirm the constitutional right to bear arms.


Kansas Sheriff Moves Toward Less-Lethal Ammunition

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A sharp increase in the number of physical confrontations between inmates and correctional officers has prompted a central Kansas sheriff to purchase less lethal ammunition to subdue prisoners. Reno County Sheriff Randy Henderson says his deputies have to use force to restrain inmates at the jail two or three times a week, compared to almost never a few years ago. The Hutchinson News reports the sheriff told county commissioners earlier this week his office would soon purchase less lethal ammunition that would allow deputies to restrain prisoners from a distance, rather than use hands-on measures. Henderson said the ammo likely wouldn't start being used in the jail for at least another six months.

President Obama to Host Brown v. Board Families, Lawyers

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark Brown vs. Board of Education school desegregation decision by meeting with families of the plaintiffs in the case as well as the lead attorneys and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Obama will host the group, including lawyers Jack Greenberg and William Coleman, in the White House East Room Friday afternoon. Greenberg argued the case; Coleman was a leading legal strategist in the case. First lady Michelle Obama was observing the anniversary by traveling Friday to Topeka, Kan., site of the lawsuit that initiated the case. The first lady was to meet with high school students in a college preparatory program and later was speaking at a pre-graduation event for seniors in the Topeka Public School District.


Kansas Summit Focuses Policies for Healthful Foods

IOLA, Kan. (AP) — The upcoming Southeast Kansas Farm-to-Fork Summit this month is focusing on policies to help Kansas farmers make healthful foods accessible and affordable for all residents. The event is hosted by the Kansas Rural Center and the Allen County Growing Rural Opportunities Works Council. The daylong gathering will take place May 29 at the Fellowship Regional Church in Iola. It's the second in a series of regional summits across Kansas this spring and summer intended to spur a dialogue about Kansas farms, food and community health. The first gathering last month in Greensburg focused on community food and water policy. The next summit is planned for June 25 in Colby.


Voter Citizenship Lawsuit Looms over 2014 Election

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ The League of Women Voters has told a federal appeals court that it has mostly confined its voter registration drives in Kansas to naturalization ceremonies where people readily have the proof-of-citizenship documents required to vote in Kansas. But the group told the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a filing Thursday that immigration officials have now prohibited it from copying or photographing naturalization certificates. The League argues that means new citizens face discrimination and significant roadblocks in registering to vote. The latest court filing by the voting rights groups portrays just a sample of the impact of the litigation. Kansas and Arizona are seeking to force the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to change its federal voter registration form instructions to require citizenship proof from residents of the two states.


Wichita Elementary Evacuates for Fake Grenade

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita elementary school was briefly evacuated after a student brought a fake hand grenade to school in his backpack. School district spokeswoman Susan Arensman says the evacuation at Enders Open Magnet Elementary School happened Friday after a second student learned of the fake grenade and told a teacher. Arensman told The Wichita Eagle in an email that police quickly determined the grenade was a fake. Students were back in class about 10 minutes after the school had a "fire drill" while the situation was being investigated. Arensman says disciplinary action was taken against the student who brought the fake device to school.


KS Unemployment Drops Slightly in April

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas jobless rate dropped a little in April. Unemployment was at 4.8 percent, down from March's 4.9 percent. State officials say Kansas has added about 17,000 jobs over the past year.


Kansas Feedlot Cattle Numbers Lowest Since 1999

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new government report shows major Kansas feedlots are feeding the fewest number of cattle since 1999 for the month of May. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Friday that feedlots with capacities of 1,000 or more head contained 2.01 million cattle on May 1. That inventory is down 3 percent from the same time last year. Placements of cattle into the feedlots in April totaled 325,000 head, also down 3 percent from a year ago. The agency reported that fed cattle marketings for April totaled 385,000 head, up 10 percent from last year.


KS Opening Law Enforcement Records to Public

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas will give its residents more information about the activities of law enforcement agencies under a new law taking effect in July. Governor Sam Brownback's office announced Thursday that he had signed the measure Wednesday. Under the new law, affidavits used to support arrest warrants and search warrants will be available upon request to the public. A decades-old statute had closed the records to the public unless a court otherwise ordered them to be unsealed. Supporters say the new law will make law enforcement agencies more accountable. Brownback says the new law still protects legitimate law enforcement interests. It allows prosecutors to seek to have records from arrests and search warrants sealed or redacted to protect sensitive information.


Judge Denies Making Sexual Comments to Prosecutors

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge has denied making offensive sexual comments to female prosecutors and says that some remarks were taken out of context. The Wichita Eagle reports that Sedgwick County District Judge Timothy Henderson told a disciplinary panel Friday he will ask to be reassigned from his current position as presiding judge of the juvenile court system. Four female prosecutors testified Thursday about the remarks before a panel of judges and lawyers in Topeka. Henderson also is accused of sending a biased email about a Wichita attorney. A third complaint alleges he asked a Wichita school board member to inquire for his wife about a teaching position. The complaints are being handled by the Commission on Judicial Qualifications, which helps the Kansas Supreme Court in judicial disciplinary matters.


Lawrence Officials Warn of Lifeguard Shortage

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence officials say a shortage of lifeguards could mean portions of the city's indoor and outdoor swimming pools might have to be idled this summer. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the city has only about 40 percent of the lifeguards it needs for the summer swim season, with little more than a week to go before opening day at the Lawrence Outdoor Aquatic Center. City officials have announced the starting salary for lifeguards has been increased to $8.25 per hour, which is $1 higher than in the past. Aquatics supervisor Lori Madaus says the city has about 100 positions it needs to fill for this year. Applicants have to be at least 16 years old and pass a lifeguard training course.


New KS Law Helps Cement Firm with Tax Dispute

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A new Kansas law will change how property at cement manufacturing plants is valued for tax purposes and help settle a dispute involving an Overland Park company. Officials at Ash Grove Cement estimate that the dispute could lower their property taxes in Neosho County by $4 million a year. The company has a plant in Chanute with about 140 employees. The issue has been how much property at the plant falls under the state's property tax exemption for business machinery and equipment. The company appealed to legislators, and they included a provision in a tax bill signed this weeks by Governor Sam Brownback.
The company says the change will protect jobs. Neosho County Appraiser David Thornton says it will shift the property tax burden to others.


KS Counties Brace for Loss of Mortgage Fees

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Governor Sam Brownback says phasing out the Kansas mortgage registration fee will help the state's economy grow, but counties fear they'll be forced to boost property taxes to make up the lost revenue. Brownback said Thursday that a home is the biggest purchase most people make and phasing out the fee will help borrowers a little bit. He signed legislation Wednesday to phase the fee out by 2019. The state imposes a fee of $2.60 for every $1,000 borrowed to register mortgages, and most of the money goes to the 105 counties. The new law will increase other fees, but the Legislature's staff projects that counties still will lose $53 million over the next five years. Some county officials believe those estimates understate the potential losses.


Topeka Man Admits Arranging Sham Marriages

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Topeka man has admitted arranging dozens of fraudulent marriages for foreign nationals. Federal prosecutors say Quong Bow Low charged thousands of dollars to find U.S. citizens to participate in arranged marriages. They say Low coached couples before their citizenship and immigration interviews and even let them list his home as their address.


Dole Criticizes Federal Action on Prairie Chickens

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas political icon Bob Dole says the federal government should not have listed the lesser prairie chicken as threatened. Dole said Thursday that the listing announced in March is an example of a growing federal government that's inserting itself into issues that should be left to states. The 90-year-old Dole is a former U.S. Senate majority leader and the 1996 Republican presidential nominee. He came Thursday to the Statehouse for the kickoff of GOP Governor Sam Brownback's re-election campaign. Brownback and other state officials argue that the listing for the lesser prairie chicken could lead to restrictions on farming, ranching an oil and natural gas production.  But federal officials say the designation is justified by a steep decline in the birds' population.


Boy May Get Found $10K After All

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A South Dakota boy who found $10,000 in a Kansas City hotel may be able to keep the money after all. Tyler Schaefer found the stacked bills in his hotel room last year. His father, Cody Schaefer, told his then 10-year-old son they couldn't keep the cash because they didn't know whose it was. The Kansas City Police Department is still storing the money, according to state law. If the owner doesn't come forward in four years the money will go to the state treasurer's office to be kept in a trust. But Missouri State Treasurer Clint Zweifel wrote Police Chief Darryl Forté asking police to turn the money over to his office so the office could start proceedings to allow the boy and his father to claim the money.


Judge: Kansas City Streetcar Proposal Legal

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Jackson County (Missouri) judge has ruled that Kansas City's proposal for a new tax district to extend streetcar lines is legal. The Kansas City Star reports that Jackson County Circuit Judge Marco Roldan ruled Thursday that the city's petition for the new streetcar district can be put to the voters. Roldan determined the district is not legally defective or unconstitutional and that the proposed funding methods don't pose an undue burden on specific property owners. The ruling is a step toward expanding the streetcar system, which now is limited to a downtown line that will run from River Market to near Union Station. The limited line is expected to open late next year. Unless there's an appeal, the ruling appears to clear the way for an election August 5.


Man Says He Climbed School Roof to Get High

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A man who is facing five misdemeanor charges for climbing onto a Kansas City middle school's roof says he was just looking for a place to get high. The Kansas City Star reports Clay County prosecutors on Thursday filed charges against 31-year-old Adam Caulkins in connection with an incident Monday at Eastgate Middle School. Caulkins told investigators he wasn't thinking about the students in the school, he just wanted to get high. Officers who climbed onto the roof with the help of a fire department ladder truck found him squatting behind an air conditioner with a needle in his arm. An officer used a stun gun to arrest the man, who was held on a parole violation until the criminal charges were filed. He has not obtained an attorney.


KC Man Charged with Killing Stepdad, Dumping Body

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 41-year-old Kansas City man is charged with second-degree murder in the death of his stepfather, whose body was found in a backyard swimming pool. A probable cause statement says Bryon Harvey told police he killed 70-year-old Hal Cornell on Saturday night with a hammer and sledgehammer before throwing the body into the pool. Cornell's wife told police Harvey took her to the pool on Tuesday and showed her the body. Harvey initially told police he had discovered the body a couple days earlier and didn't know what to do, so he left it there. An intern at the International House of Prayer church says Harvey confessed that he had killed his stepfather. Prosecutors have requested a cash bond of $250,000. Harvey hadn't obtained an attorney Friday morning.


2 KC Residents Charged in Craigslist Robbery

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two Kansas City residents are charged with first-degree robbery and armed criminal action after police say they stole a video game system at gunpoint from a man trying to sell it on Craigslist. The Kansas City Star reports 26-year-old Brittany Frazier and 28-year-old Dwayne Gordon were being held in lieu of $100,000 bond. Neither had obtained an attorney. The 40-year-old victim told police a woman contacted him about an ad for a Sony PlayStation 3 with two controllers and three games for $205. The victim agreed to meet the woman at an apartment building Tuesday morning. Police say the woman exited a building with a man who man later pulled a gun on the seller. Police identified the suspects' car on surveillance video and tracked it down soon afterward.


KC Church Prays for Water to Perform Baptisms

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City church says it might have to bring buckets of water to perform baptisms after the city shut its water off because of a pipe leak. The Reverend Darwin Neal says the small congregation at the Anointed House of Glory in the Martin City neighborhood can't afford a plumber. It also can't afford to dig into the street to get to the pipe, which the city says isn't on public property. WDAF-TV reports the problem began last summer when the city fixed a pipe near the church. A pipe connected to the repaired pipe started leaking recently so the city shut off the water. Neal says he doesn't know what to do about the baptisms planned on Sunday, but cancelling them will be a last resort.



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