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Headlines for Monday, June 24, 2019

Longtime Kansas Representative Jan Meyers Dies at Age 90

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Longtime Representative Jan Meyers, the first Republican woman elected to the U.S. House from Kansas, has died. Meyers died Friday at the age of 90 at a nursing home where she was living. The cause of death was not announced. A native of Nebraska, Meyers lived in Overland Park, Kansas, while representing the state's 3rd Congressional District from 1985 to 1997. Before that, she served in the Kansas Senate from 1972 to 1984. Kansas Governor Laura Kelly on Monday ordered flags flown at half-staff at the Capitol complex to honor Meyers. Kelly said in a statement she respected and admired Meyers, whom she called "a groundbreaking public servant." U.S. Senator Pat Roberts called Meyers a trusted colleague who set a great example for future generations. Funeral services are pending.

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Kansas Parks Tabulating Economic Losses from Floods

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — This spring's heavy rain and flooding will cause significant economic losses at many of the state's 28 parks, both from damage and from closures and refunds to disappointed campers, state parks officials said.  Brad Loveless, secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, said the losses will be clearer in a month or two when the cost of repairs and renovations are better known. The agency relies chiefly on entrance permits, campsite and cabin rental fees, and marina concessions to fund state parks.  Already, the agency's park fee fund is down about $100,000 for April and May compared with a year ago because of a loss in entrance fees and campsite fees. Income from cabin rentals is down by $30,000 for those two months compared with a year ago, The Hutchinson News reported .
Those figures don't include all the refunds the department has been processing, "which is significant in June," according to agency spokesman Ron Kaufman. Other losses occurred in marina concessions and from moving the Country Stampede's move from Tuttle Creek State Park to Topeka's Heartland Motorsports Park.  (Read more about this story.)

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Kansas to Allow Trans Residents to Change Birth Certificates

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas will allow transgender residents to change their birth certificates so that the documents reflect their gender identities under a legal settlement ending a federal lawsuit. LGBTQ-rights advocates said Monday that Kansas now will have a policy on birth certificates in line with most other states' policies. U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree signed an order Friday to make the agreement binding on Kansas Department of Health and Environment officials. The department issues birth certificates. Four transgender individuals and the Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project sued last year over the health department's policy of not allowing transgender residents to change the sex listed on their birth certificates after changing their names legally. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly applauded the agreement and called the old policy "outdated." She took office in January.

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Kansas Man Drowns Trying to Rescue Woman on Missouri River

NOEL, Mo. (AP) — A 26-year-old Wichita, Kansas, man died when he tried to rescue a woman on a Missouri river.  The Missouri State Highway Patrol says Jacob Farley drowned Friday while trying to rescue a woman near the Elk River Dam at Noel.  The patrol's report says the woman had been swept under water at the dam. Farley drowned when he jumped into the river downstream to try and rescue her.  Noel firefighters were able to rescue the woman using a throw rope.

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April Rampage Draws Attention to 2015 Kansas Disappearance

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An April rampage in which a man wounded two Kansas law enforcement officers, killed his father and then killed himself has drawn fresh attention to the 2015 disappearance of his girlfriend.  David Madden had a history of run-ins with the law before he was found dead after a standoff with law enforcement in Rice County, Kansas.  Friends and relatives say the 37-year-old former Marine had abused, locked up and kidnapped Megan Renee Foglesong before the then 21-year-old went missing. In one 911 call before her 2015 disappearance, a friend told a dispatcher that Madden had threatened to kill Foglesong.  Records show that despite being identified for years as a person of interest and later a suspect in Foglesong's disappearance, Madden was charged only with unrelated crimes.

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Proposed Raise for Lawrence City Commissioners Would Make Pay Among Highest in State

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) -- If a proposed pay raise for Lawrence city commissioners is approved, it would make commissioners among the highest paid in the state.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that, under the proposal, the pay for Lawrence city commissioners would trail only Wichita, which has about four times the population of Lawrence.  The newspaper reports that commissioners have gone 20 years without an increase in pay but a salary increase for the community's five city commissioners is now on the table.  City Manager Tom Markus’ recommended budget for 2020 is proposing the first salary increase for city commissioners since 1999, but commissioners disagree on how much salaries should go up.  The recommended budget calls for salaries to more than quadruple for commissioners, from $9,000 to $38,000 annually. Some commissioners said such a steep increase was too much, especially considering that the recommended budget also calls for a property tax and utility rate increase.  If the proposed increase were to be adopted, only the state’s largest city would have a higher annual salary for city commissioners than Lawrence. Wichita, which has a population of about 390,000, pays its council members about $43,000 annually.  The lowest-paid elected city leaders are in the smaller cities of Salina and Manhattan, where commissioners make $3,600 and $5,760 per year, respectively.  City officials told the commission that the proposed raise would bring commissioner pay more in line with Douglas County Commission salaries. In 2018, Douglas County Commissioners were paid $36,012, according to online open records.  (Read more in the Lawrence Journal-World.)

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Man on Trial over Fatal Kansas Shootings Claims Self-Defense

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A man on trial over an October 2017 shooting in downtown Lawrence that killed three people and wounded two others has testified he wasn't "thinking at all" when he fired his gun.  The Lawrence-Journal World reports that testimony ended Friday in the Douglas County District Court trial of 22-year-old Anthony Roberts Jr. of Topeka. The charges against him include two counts of first-degree felony murder.  Roberts contends he acted in self-defense after being confronted by a hostile group as bars prepared to close in a popular downtown area. Prosecutors contend Roberts and friends came to Lawrence to "settle a score."  The shooting killed 22-year-old Leah Brown of Shawnee; 20-year-old Colwin Lynn Henderson of Topeka; and 24-year-old Tre'Mel Dupree Dean-Rayton of Topeka.  The jury is set to hear closing arguments Monday.

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Report: Kansas Winter Wheat Harvest Way Behind Normal

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new government report shows just how far behind the Kansas winter wheat harvest is from normal. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that just 5% of the wheat in the state has been cut. That is far less than the 48% that was harvested at this time a year ago and the 36% five-year average. Widespread rains have left many fields too soggy to cut, but the wheat itself is also developing more slowly than usual. The agency reports that only 47% of it has matured, well behind the 82% that had matured by this time last year. Wheat condition was rated 4% very poor, 12% poor, 28% fair, 43% good and 13% excellent. Planting of soybeans, sorghum and sunflowers are also running slower than normal in Kansas.

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Kansas Grapples with Growing Number of Abandoned Wells

EUDORA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas residents and oil and gas leaders are calling on regulators to address the growing number of abandoned wells over the past five years. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Kansas is home to 22,000 deserted oil and gas wells. More than 19,000 of those reside in a 32-county area of eastern Kansas. Judith Wells says she bought property in Douglas County without being informed the land had unplugged wells. She's been fighting with the energy sector's oversight agency, the Kansas Corporation Commission, about how to deal with operators who abandon wells. Wells says a fund to finance well plugging hardly exists. The commission found that the fund isn't adequately keeping pace with the demand for plugging. Commission Chairman Dwight Keen says the agency doesn't have the resources to hold every absconder accountable.

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2 Mexican Nationals Sentenced in Kansas City Heroin Ring

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two Mexican nationals have been sentenced for their roles in a conspiracy that distributed more than 14 kilograms (30.86 pounds) of heroin in the Kansas City metropolitan area.  Federal prosecutors say 46-year-old Julian Felix-Aguirre was sentenced Wednesday to 24 years and seven months in prison without parole. And 38-year-old Martin Missael Puerta-Navarro was sentenced to 14 years and eight months without parole.  The two are among 26 people charged in the case, with 16 of them now sentenced.  Prosecutors say the drug ring worked with the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico to establish stash houses, build hidden compartments in vehicles, and receive and sell black tar heroin.  Court documents say 66-year-old Dennis McLallen, of Overland Park, Kansas, was the direct contact with Mexico-based drug suppliers. He is serving 15 years without parole.

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Portions of K-10 in Douglas County Reduced to One Lane Tuesday

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) — Motorists may want to avoid sections of Kansas Highway 10 on Tuesday.  A stretch of K-10 east of Lawrence over the Wakarusa River will be reduced to one lane in each direction from 9 am to 3 pm Tuesday (June 25).  According to the Kansas Department of Transportation, the lane reduction is located on K-10 in Douglas County, about three miles west of the Johnson County line.  KDOT says it's necessary to allow for pavement sensors to be installed in the bridge surface.  Motorists should be cautious and expect slow moving traffic around the work area.

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Kansas Unemployment Rate Remained at 3.5% in May; Jobs Grew

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is reporting that its unemployment rate remained at 3.5% in May and that the number of private sector jobs grew slightly over the previous year.  The state Department of Labor says the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in May was higher than the 3.3% rate in May 2018. The state's unemployment rate has remained below 4% for more than two years.  The department also says that the number of private-sector, nonfarm jobs was 10,300 higher than it was in May 2018, exceeding 1.16 million. The growth was 0.9%.  Companies providing support services for other businesses saw the biggest gain at 4.1%.  The state added 100 private-sector nonfarm jobs from April to May.  Only 14 of the state's 105 counties had unemployment rates above 4 percent in May.

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Sedgwick County Searching for Driver who Injured Deputy

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office is searching for a woman who injured a deputy while fleeing after being stopped.  Sgt. Justin Maxfield says the deputy was dragged about 100 feet and the vehicle ran over the deputy's foot during the stop Sunday. The deputy was taken to a hospital but is expected to recover.  Maxfield says the driver took off when the deputy asked her to get out of the vehicle. The deputy's was dragged when some equipment was caught on the car.  Maxfield says the driver was Melissa Heinzman. She was driving a white 1999 Ford Explorer with license plate tag number 317 GMM.  She is wanted on felony and misdemeanor warrants. Her felony warrant out of Sedgwick County is for violation of the offender registration act.

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Some USDA Researchers Reluctant to Move Cross Country

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Some U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers are reluctant to move cross county to the Kansas City area when two research agencies move there.  The USDA announced plans earlier this month to move the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture closer to farmers and agribusinesses they serve, and many employees have objected to the move from the Washington D.C. area.  USDA researcher Andrew Crane-Droesch tells the Kansas City Star the move is out of the question.  Crane-Droesch says the feeling in the office is a mix of "outrage and resignation" over the move.  He says he doesn't want to live far from his aging parents on the East Coast, and his wife has better career options in the Washington area. And the couple is in the middle of adopting.

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KCK Residents File Federal Lawsuit over Flooding in 2017

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Residents of a Kansas City, Kansas neighborhood have filed a federal lawsuit over flooding during the summer of 2017 that accuses businesses and local officials of negligence.  The lawsuit filed earlier this month by five residents in the U.S. District Court for Kansas accuses the companies of leaving debris in a drainage creek west of the Argentine neighborhood. It also names the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, as a defendant.  The Kansas City Star reports that the lawsuit claims the debris clogged the creek, resulted in significant flooding and property damage and wasn't cleared away until residents complained.  The Unified Government declined to comment. One of the companies being sued is the BNSF Railway and it said it was not responsible for the flooding.

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Sedgwick County Deputy Loses License for Bad Traffic Stops

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Sedgwick County deputy sheriff has lost his law enforcement certification for conducting illegal traffic stops and searches.  A state board revoked Joel Sutherland's certification last month, citing more than 30 unnecessary traffic stops or searches.  The Wichita Eagle reports the Kansas Commission on Peace Officers' Standards and Training says in the first six months of 2015, Sunderland stopped vehicles for violations that hadn't occurred and then conducted searches that weren't legal.  Sheriff Jeff Easter says Sunderland's job with the sheriff's office ended in 2015 but his license wasn't revoked until after federal prosecutors decided not to file charges amid an FBI investigation.  Sunderland was sued for excessive force in 2013, when he was accused of beating a drunken driver. The county settled the lawsuit for $75,000.

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Long Prison Sentences Upheld in McPherson County Killing

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has refused to shorten the time a man will spend in prison over a November 2014 murder in McPherson County that authorities say he planned.  The court ruled unanimously Friday against Samuel Darrah of McPherson. He pleaded no contest to charges including first-degree murder and attempted aggravated kidnapping in the stabbing of James Croft.  Authorities said Darrah plotted Croft's murder because he had given Croft $3,200 to buy drugs and Croft did not supply them. A friend of Darrah's stabbed Croft.  The trial-court judge sentenced Darrah to 25 years to life for murder and to eight-plus years for kidnapping and ordered the sentences served one after the other. Darrah said he should serve them at the same time.  The Supreme Court called the judge's action reasonable.

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ACLU Seeks to Force Missouri to Treat Inmates' Hepatitis C

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union is asking for an emergency court order to force Missouri prison officials to begin testing and treating inmates with hepatitis C.  The ACLU of Missouri says prison authorities have an effective cure for chronic hepatitis C but have given it to only 15 of the 4,590 inmates diagnosed with the condition.  KCUR Radio reports the ACLU sought the emergency order Monday to force prison officials and their medical provider, Corizon LLC, to begin testing and treating the inmates.  The ACLU's motion is the latest development in a class-action lawsuit alleging the Missouri Department of Corrections and Corizon have systematically denied medical treatment for prisoners with hepatitis C.  The state agency and Corizon declined to comment on the motion because of the ongoing litigation.

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Sedgwick County to Issue Veteran ID Cards

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County plans to start offering ID cards to military veterans.  Register of Deeds Tonya Buckingham proposed offering the cards through her office as a way to combat people who falsely claim to be veterans.  The Wichita Eagle reports the Sedgwick County Commission approved the plan on Wednesday. The cards will be free to veterans and Buckingham's office will pay the costs.  She expects to begin issuing the cards in about two weeks.  Buckingham says she got the idea from the Cook County deeds office in Chicago.  Sedgwick will be the first Kansas county to issue veteran ID cards.

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Former Missouri Football Coach Says Cancer has Returned

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Former Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel says he is being treated for cancer again.  Pinkel told ABC17 TV in Columbia Saturday that he had treatment last month after his cancer came out of remission for the first time in four years.  Pinkel retired after the 2015 season after announcing that he had non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He coached the Tigers from 2001 to 2016, compiling a 118-73 record.  He says his type of cancer will never be healed and he intends to keep fighting it.  Pinkel, who is 67, has been a fundraising liaison with the Missouri athletics foundation. He also started the "GP MADE Foundation" to raise money for cancer research and programs to help underprivileged and special needs children.

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Missouri Doctors Reluctant to Certify for Medical Marijuana

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missourians looking for physicians to certify them to buy medical marijuana when it becomes available next year are running into resistance from doctors who are reluctant to prescribe the substance.  Instead, would-be users are turning to pop-up and specialty clinics advertising certification for about $200 or less.  The head of the Missouri Medical Cannabis Industry Association says most doctors are uninformed on the use of marijuana as medicine.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Missouri is the 33rd state to legalize marijuana for medical use. In other states, most marijuana patients have been certified by a small number of independent physicians or marijuana-specific clinics.  To qualify for medical marijuana, a patient must have one of several conditions including cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, migraines or PTSD.

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