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Headlines for Friday, November 8, 2019

Kansas Boosts Tax Collection Forecast $510 Million Over 2 Years

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials have issued new and more optimistic fiscal forecast boosting the state's projected tax collections by $510 million over two budget years. The forecast issued Thursday eases the budget picture as Democratic Governor Laura Kelly prepares to push to expand the state's Medicaid health coverage for the needy. But the better numbers also are likely to intensify an effort by Republicans to cut taxes. GOP Senate President Susan Wagle said there's no excuse not to return extra dollars to taxpayers. State officials boosted projected tax collections for the current budget year by $207 million, or 2.8%, predicting $7.7 billion. The new forecast predicts $7.9 billion in tax collections for the fiscal year beginning in July 2020. That's $303 million, or 4.1% more than the previous forecast issued in November.

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DA: Kansas Judicial Panel Did Not Violate Open Meetings Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A prosecutor says a commission that screens applicants for the Kansas Supreme Court did not violate the state's open meetings law in choosing three finalists for a vacancy. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said Thursday that the nominating commission took a final vote during a public meeting in October with a unanimous show of hands. He says other votes by paper ballot to narrow a list of 19 candidates to three for Democratic Governor Laura Kelly to consider were not binding actions. Senate President Susan Wagle filed a complaint with the attorney general's office this week over the paper ballots. Wagle, a Wichita Republican, urged Attorney General Derek Schmidt to declare the Open Meetings Act was violated and the commission's actions are void. Schmidt turned the investigation over to the Sedgwick County district attorney.  Wagle's office says it is preparing a response to the decision.

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Kansas City Council to Consider Ban on "Conversion Therapy"

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Kansas City would ban so-called gay conversion therapy for LGBTQ minors under an ordinance that is headed to the city council for consideration. KCUR reports that therapists who violate the ban could be fined up to $500 and spend as much as six months in jail under the ordinance that was passed by a committee Wednesday. The full council will hear the measure next week. More than a dozen states have already enacted laws prohibiting licensed therapists from trying to change a minor's sexual orientation. The American Psychological Association opposes the practice, saying it doesn't work and can cause harm. The college town of Columbia banned the practice last month after a measure that was introduced in this year's legislative session in Missouri failed to get a hearing.

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Three Detention Deputies injured in Fights at Sedgwick County Jail

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Authorities say three detention deputies have been injured in a pair of recent fights at the Sedgwick County Jail. The Wichita Eagle reports that the most recent attack happened Monday in the mental health pod. Colonel Brian White, of the sheriff's office, says the fight sent two deputies to a hospital with broken bones. The inmate, who had been jailed on assault and criminal trespass charges, hasn't yet been charged in the attack.  Another deputy sustained minor injuries in an October 31 attack in which two other inmates also were assaulted. Twenty-three-year-old William Farmer Jr. has been charged with two counts of battery and one count of battery of a law enforcement officer in that incident. Farmer was jailed at the time on misdemeanor contempt of court and traffic charges.

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State Concedes Law on Raw Milk Ads Is Unconstitutional

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas farm couple prevailed in a lawsuit challenging a state law that limited advertising of raw milk. Shawnee County District Court Judge Richard Anderson signed a consent judgment Wednesday ending a lawsuit filed by goat farmers Coraleen and Mark Bunner, who run Shepherd's Gate Dairy near Pfeifer. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the Kansas attorney general and agriculture secretary conceded the 50-year-old law was unconstitutional. Under the law, producers faced misdemeanor charges for advertising raw milk in any way other than a sign on the dairy's property. A law restricting the distribution of raw, unpasteurized milk to the producer's farm remains in place. Kansas Agriculture Secretary Mike Beam said the agency would urge the 2020 Legislature to change the law.

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Time Running Out for Proposed Kansas Coal-Fired Power Plant

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Time is running out to begin construction on a new coal-fired power plant in Kansas before its permit lapses. The battle over the plant has lasted more than a decade. By the time the Kansas Supreme Court cleared the way for construction in 2017, a company involved in it called the chances it would be built "remote." But The Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle report that documents they obtained show the utility spearheading the project told regulators that "significant interest" remains in building the plant. Sunflower Electric Power Corp. asked for an 18-month extension of a key permit "to finalize arrangements" for its construction. State regulators renewed the permit until March 2020 and warned they would not allow more time. Sunflower didn't rule anything in or out this week.

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Kansas Rep. Watkins Pays Account After Foreclosure Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Kansas Rep. Steve Watkins has paid what he owed to a homeowners association in Alaska that was seeking to foreclose on his condominium. A lawsuit alleges the first-term congressman owed the Loch Ness Manor Condominium Association $1,535 as of Oct. 1. Watkins did not respond Thursday when contacted by The Associated Press, but an email sent the next day by his property manager shows he called them that day to discuss the situation. The email, provided to the AP by Watkins's office, says his account is now in good standing. The lawsuit sought foreclosure of his condominium in Eagle River, outside of Anchorage. Records show the condo assessed at $166,500. The financial disclosure Watkins filed in May indicate he received between $5,000 and $15,000 in rental income from it in 2018.

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Association Seeks Foreclosure of Kansas Rep. Watkins's Alaska Condo

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A homeowners association in Alaska is seeking to foreclose on a condominium owned by Republican Kansas Rep. Steve Watkins. The lawsuit alleges the first-term congressman owes the Loch Ness Manor Condominium Association $1,535 as of Oct. 1. Watkins did not immediately comment. The complaint was filed Oct. 22. It seeks judicial foreclosure and sale of his property in Eagle River, outside of Anchorage. Watkins's 2018 financial disclosure form shows he owns two rental homes in Alaska. He also claimed a liability of more than $50,000 to the Alaska Homeowners Association due to an earthquake. Watkins pegged the value of his Eagle River condo at between $100,001 and $250,000. He reported receiving between $5,000 and $15,000 in rental income from it in 2018.

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Wichita Police Arrest 18-Year-Old in Social Media-Linked Shooting Death of Teenager

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have arrested an 18-year-old in the deadly shooting of a 15-year-old at a Wichita park during an ongoing social media dispute. Police said Thursday night that 18-year-old Malick Garrett was arrested on suspicion of second-degree murder in the death of Marion Wheaton. Police Captain Brent Allred says Wheaton was shot Wednesday night as he and two other teenagers walked to the park to a fight. Allred said the dispute was between them and another 15-year-old boy. The police spokesman says that when that boy arrived at the park with others in a car, one person from the car fired several shots, hitting Wheaton. He died later at a hospital.  Allred says some of those involved in the dispute were documented gang members.

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Fleeing Motorist Causes Deadly Topeka Crash, Patrol Says

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man driving a car linked to a bad-check cashing case has caused a deadly Topeka crash while trying to get away from a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper. Patrol Lt. Adam Winters says the chase lasted only a couple seconds Thursday before the fleeing driver ran a stop sign and crashed into a sport utility vehicle in the western part of the city. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the SUV's driver was rushed to a hospital and later died. The driver's name wasn't immediately released. The patrol says the driver of the fleeing car will be booked into jail when he is released from the hospital. A passenger in the fleeing motorist's car also was injured. Neither of their injuries were believed to be life-threatening.

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Court Documents: Wichita Toddler Dies of Blunt Force Trauma

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Court documents say the cause of death for a bruise-covered 2-year-old Wichita boy is blunt force trauma. KWCH-TV reports that the probable cause affidavit was released Thursday in the case against the boy's mother, 24-year-old Stephanie Aviles, and her boyfriend, 31-Bernardo Gonzalez-Mejia. They're charged with first-degree murder in the Sept. 29 death of Jacob Aviles. Stephanie Aviles told police that Gonzalez-Mejia called her while she was out, first to tell her the boy wasn't breathing and then to say he was turning yellow. She called 911. She said her son had been hurt before while with Gonzalez-Mejia, but that he would "explain it away." The affidavit says Gonzalez-Mejia initially denied injuring Jacob but then admitted that he hit the boy with a belt the night before because he wasn't eating.

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Fire Victims Include Former State Education Board Member

DEERFIELD, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified the victims of a western Kansas fire as a former Kansas State Board of Education member and her rancher husband. The Kansas State Fire Marshal's Office says the fire started early Tuesday in the garage of a home near the small Kearny County town of Lakin. It killed Jim and Reta Dale, who were both 84 years old. Two others escaped without serious injuries. The cause of the fire was classified as undetermined. Damages were estimated at $150,000. Reta Dale's obituary says she served on the Deerfield School Board, as well as the state board. Her husband's obituary says that besides farming and ranching, he also owned and operated J&R Ready Mix and Garden City Mack Truck during his career. They had been married for 58 years.

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NTSB: Loss of Control Blamed for Fatal Kansas Plane Crash

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Investigators say loss of control resulted in the 2017 crash that killed a Topeka physician. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the National Transportation Safety Board posted on its website that investigators had found "no mechanical anomalies." Topeka pulmonary physician William M. Leeds and his flight instructor, James K. Bergman, were killed in July 2017 at Topeka's Philip Billard Municipal Airport. The NTSB determined the accident's probable cause to be "the failure of the pilot and flight instructor to maintain aircraft control while maneuvering in the traffic pattern." It reached no conclusions as to why control of the 1965 Piper PA-30 fixed wing, multi-engine was lost.

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T-Mobile Promises Consumer Benefits if Sprint Merger Deal Approved

NEW YORK (AP) — T-Mobile promises a new $15 wireless plan if its $26.5 billion Sprint deal goes through. T-Mobile is also promising free internet to emergency first responders for 10 years and to low-income households with children for five years. The $15 plan is for anyone, but comes with just 2 gigabytes of data per month. Federal regulators have approved the deal. But attorneys general of 15 states and the District of Columbia aim to block it, saying it will raise prices for consumers. A trial is to start in December. T-Mobile has already made promises to get the deal done, including providing coverage in rural areas and not raising prices for three years. Regulators could fine T-Mobile for breaking the earlier promises, but T-Mobile isn't legally required to fulfill the new ones.

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Ex-Nurses' Aide Sentenced for Fraud, Mistreatment

TROY, Kan. (AP) — A former nurses' aide from Atchison has been sentenced to two years in prison for Medicaid fraud and other charges. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in a news release that 26-year-old Janelle Lynn Sakakihara was sentenced Thursday for fraud and two counts of felony mistreatment of a dependent adult. Investigators say Sakakihara abused several people in September 2017 while she worked as a nurses' aide at a Highland Health Care and Rehabilitation Center. She was among 10 people in seven Kansas counties charged in September 2018 as part of a statewide enforcement sweep that focused on people committing Medicaid fraud, stealing narcotics and/or mistreating dependent adults while working in health care facilities or board-and-care facilities that receive Medicaid funding.

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Kansas Man Arrested in Death of His Granddaughter

SILVER LAKE, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas man has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of his 4-year-old granddaughter. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay announced Thursday that 56-year-old Timothy Wayne Funk Sr., of Silver Lake, was charged in the July death of Brandy Funk. He is also charged with two counts of aggravated endangering a child. Brandy, of Beatrice, Nebraska, died July 23 at a Silver Lake home. Authorities did not release any further information Thursday. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Funk remains jailed in Shawnee County Jail Thursday afternoon on $500,000 bond. Funk was discharged from state prison in August 2012 after serving time for driving under the influence, fourth or subsequent offense in June 2008.

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Driver Killed in Crash After Attempted Traffic Stop

TOPEKA, Kan. — An officer with the Kansas Highway Patrol was attempting to stop a car yesterday (THUR) that was identified as a suspect vehicle in a criminal case reported to the Topeka Police Department when the driver sped away then failed to stop at an intersection and struck a pickup truck. KHP says the suspect and passenger in the car as well as the driver of the truck were transported to a local hospital for injuries sustained in the crash. The driver of the pickup truck later died from injuries sustained in the crash. The Kansas Highway Patrol’s Critical Highway Accident Response Team is investigating the crash. The driver of the suspect vehicle will be booked into the Shawnee County Jail upon his release from the hospital. The name of victim who died in the crash has not been identified.

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Lawmaker Ditches Bid to Name Stretch of Route 66 After Trump

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A Republican lawmaker has abandoned his effort to rename a stretch of old Route 66 in northeastern Oklahoma after President Donald Trump. State Senator Nathan Dahm told the Tulsa World that he's done trying to rename the 4-mile span of the historic highway in Ottawa County, which borders Kansas and Missouri. Dahm may find another spot to rename Donald Trump Highway, but it won't be associated with Route 66, known as the "Mother Road."  Republican Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell, who oversees Oklahoma's marketing and branding, swiftly rejected the idea of naming sections of Route 66 after Trump or any other political figure. "I don't care if you want to call it Mother Teresa Highway or Donald Trump Highway; there is only one thing to call it, and that's Historic Route 66," Pinnell said Wednesday at a ribbon cutting ceremony for a visitor's center in west Tulsa along the roadway, which once connected Chicago to Los Angeles. Pinnell and others have been working to establish the route of the former U.S. 66 for tourism. Pinnell said a "uniform branding" campaign would soon be rolled out.

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Chiefs' Mahomes to Start Against Titans, Barring Setbacks

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes will start for the Kansas City Chiefs against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, just over two weeks after the quarterback's season was jeopardized by a dislocated kneecap. Mahomes never missed a practice after hurting his knee on a Thursday night against Denver. Some thought the seriousness of the injury could sideline the league MVP for months. It turned out there was no structural damage, and it became a waiting game to see when Mahomes would take the field. He practiced on a limited basis the first week before being ruled out against Green Bay. He was limited against last week before being inactive against Minnesota. Matt Moore had started in his place, losing to the Packers and beating the Vikings.

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