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Headlines for Monday, March 6, 2017

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

Tax Hike Appears Inevitable After Kansas Supreme Court Ruling on School Funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A big tax increase for Kansas appears inevitable as the state wrestles with budget problems. Even many Republicans are focused on rolling back past income tax cuts that are widely regarded as Governor Sam Brownback's biggest political legacy. A state Supreme Court ruling this week that the state isn't spending enough money on its public schools only bolstered many lawmakers' support for raising income taxes. The court directed legislators to enact a new school funding law by June 30 without setting a spending target. Lawmakers have been circulating figures involving hundreds of millions of new dollars. Democrats and moderate Republicans already were looking at boosting income taxes to close projected budget shortfalls totaling more than $1 billion through June 2019.

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22 Million at Risk for Bad Weather in Central United States

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Forecasters say tornadoes are possible from Arkansas and Oklahoma to Minnesota as warm weather reaches well into the nation's midsection. The area at the greatest risk Monday runs from near Tulsa and Joplin, into eastern Iowa and northwestern Illinois. Storms should begin late Monday afternoon and continue into the night. Some tornadoes could be strong, with winds above 111 mph. The storm threat covers 22 million people. Isolated storms with the potential to produce tornadoes are forecast to form in eastern Kansas and eastern Oklahoma and move into Missouri. Supercell storms are also possible in the upper Midwest. As a cold front approaches, high winds will be the greater threat. Strong winds from the south will carry a threat into Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin overnight.

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18-Year-Old Dead, 4 Wounded in Topeka Shooting

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Police say an 18-year-old woman has been killed and four others have been wounded in a Topeka shooting. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the woman who was killed was identified Sunday morning as 18-year-old Kianna Hodge. A police spokesman says the shooting happened late Saturday and a short time later, three men suffering from non-life threatening gunshot wounds arrived in the parking lot of a hospital emergency department. Officers found Hodge and another woman in a different vehicle around the same time. Hodge was pronounced dead at the scene, while the other woman suffered injuries not believed to be life-threatening. No arrests were immediately made. Authorities are urging anyone with information to come forward.

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Grass Fire Burns 6,000 Acres Near Hutchinson 

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say two grass fires have burned about 6,000 acres in central Kansas but no injuries and little damage has been reported. State officials say crews were using two helicopters Monday to dump water on the fires, which are 80 to 90 percent contained. The National Weather Service says dry, shifting winds, with gusts of up to 60 mph will complicate the firefight in Reno, Rice and McPherson counties. About 300 people are being allowed to return to their homes after an area north of Hutchinson that included a golf course was threatened by a fire that burned about 4,800 acres. The smaller blaze burned in a rural area near Hutchinson. Two homes and two outbuildings have been damaged. Governor Sam Brownback has signed a state of disaster emergency.

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Kansas Fire Near Cotton Gin Forces Road Closure 

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A stretch of a U.S. highway in south-central Kansas is closed because of smoke linked to a fire near a cotton gin and surrounding grassland. Pratt County's emergency services chief, Mark McManaman, says crews have managed to contain the blaze Monday to what he calls "a huge pile" of cotton burrs near the gin, which has escaped structural damage. But he says that winds gusting to 40 miles per hour spread that fire to nearby grass, forcing the indefinite closure of U.S. 54. Traffic was being rerouted. McManaman says fire crews are waiting for the flames in the cotton bales to burn out.

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Grass Fires Force Evacuation of 2 Tiny Kansas Towns 

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in Clark County, in south central Kansas, have ordered residents of two tiny towns to clear out as a precaution against approaching grass fires. The sheriff's department in the county, which borders Oklahoma, says in a posting on its Facebook page urged the roughly six dozen residents of Englewood and the 870 residents of Ashland — the county seat — to clear out. The posting instructs those in Englewood to head to Oklahoma, while Ashland residents were urged to go east to Coldwater. Millie Fudge is the county's emergency services manager. She says the fire began in Oklahoma, and "the bottom line is we can't stop the fire. So we're just trying to save houses and people."

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Kansas House Bill Aimed at Saving Lives Affected by Opioid Overdoses

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — With opioid abuse on the rise in Kansas, some officials are worried the state isn't adequately prepared. A measure passed by the House last week - and some preparations by state agencies - could help. The House bill would expand access to lifesaving drugs that stop overdoses by allowing first responders to carry and administer them. The state is also working to enhance addiction prevention and treatment. Overdose deaths in the state more than tripled between 1999 and 2015, but Kansas still sees far fewer deaths than parts of the Northeast and Southwest U.S. that have been hit even harder by opioid addiction. The state is working on an action plan to deal with rising overdose rates and could get federal funding through a grant for addiction prevention and treatment.

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Bar Shooting Suspect Asked Victims About Immigration Status

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — An Indian man wounded in an apparently racially motivated shooting that killed his friend at a suburban Kansas City bar has told detectives the gunman asked if their "status was legal." Johnson County court officials released a redacted affidavit Monday for 51-year-old Adam Purinton, who is charged with murder and attempted murder in the February 22 shooting at Austins Bar & Grill in Olathe, Kansas. The shooting killed Srinivas Kuchibhotla and wounded his friend, Alok Madasani. The FBI is investigating the incident as a hate crime. The affidavit says Purinton was escorted out of the bar after confronting the two Indian men and opened fire with a handgun after returning about 30 minutes later. A third man, Ian Grillot, was wounded when he intervened.

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'Missing' Pilot Explains Actions After Kansas Crash

ROXBURY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities were stumped when a damaged fixed-wing plane was found after an apparent crash landing in a field near Roxbury, Kansas, with no sign of the pilot. On Saturday, the pilot, Randy Shannon, a businessman from Drexel, Missouri, solved the mystery. He told The Kansas City Star the crash happened Thursday as he tried to land on a roadway near Roxbury, intending to glide to a parking spot. Because he wasn't hurt and no property was damaged, Shannon walked into Roxbury, told someone what happened and went to a business meeting. Later, he was taken to an airport where he had a truck and drove home. He says he called federal and aviation officials to report the crash. In hindsight, he says he also should have notified local authorities.

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Second Defendant Settles in Douglas County Inmate Death 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A second defendant in the ongoing civil lawsuit regarding a Douglas County Jail inmate's death has settled. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the confidential settlement offer by Dr. Dennis Sale was approved Thursday. Sale worked at the jail where Rachel Hammers died. Joe Harvey, Hammers's father, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court in April 2015 seeking more than $1.3 million from the county. Harvey said his daughter's death was needless, painful and preventable. The cause of Hammers's death remains in dispute. Another defendant, the county Visiting Nurses Association, offered a confidential settlement to Harvey in late 2016. Sale and the association provided medical services to the jail until July 2016. The association's settlement was also approved Thursday. Douglas County officials declined to comment on the lawsuit, but deny Harvey's claims in court filings.

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Former Kansas Town's Clerk Gets Prison Time for Embezzling 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas city clerk has been sentenced to a year and four months in federal prison for embezzling more than $100,000 from a real estate company and bilking her town of more than $75,000. Forty-two-year-old Janetta Marie Buttery of Bennington also was ordered Monday in Topeka to pay $184,000 in restitution. Bennington pleaded guilty in December to one count of interstate transportation of stolen funds, admitting that as Bennington's clerk from October 2014 to May of last year she misused credit cards belonging to the city and its recreation commission. Buttery already had pleaded guilty to charges that she embezzled $109,000 while she worked as a secretary, bookkeeper and executive assistant at Realty Associates of Salina.

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Report: Winter Wheat Condition Mixed Amid Warm, Dry Weather 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An early snapshot of winter wheat fields in Kansas shows wide variations as the majority of the state remains warm and dry. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that 22 percent of the wheat crop in Kansas is in poor to very poor condition. About 35 percent is rated as fair with 43 percent in good to excellent condition. Rain and hail were reported in only a few southeastern counties this past week. Elsewhere, high winds are raising concerns of wildfires. Topsoil moisture is rated as short to very short across 62 percent of the state. Livestock producers are now in the midst of their calving and lambing seasons. The agency is reporting calving progress as 42 percent, while lambing is 55 percent finished.

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Small Kansas Town Recovering from 2012 Tornado

HARVEYVILLE, Kan. (AP) — Five years after a tornado killed one person, injured about a dozen more and destroyed up to 40 percent of the small eastern Kansas town of Harveyville, officials are proud of the rebuilding progress but acknowledge more needs to be done. The EF-2 tornado hit Harveyville, in Wabaunsee County on February 28, 2012.  Harveyville residents and people from surrounding communities quickly came together to get the town back on its feet. Current Mayor Dustin Kuntz told The Emporia Gazette that the Harveyville Area Rebuilding Team, deserved much of the credit for consolidating resources to help get residents back on their feet. When the twister hit, residents were not warned because the tornado siren had to be activated manually and it wasn't. Now, the city has a new siren that can be remotely activated by the Wabaunsee County Sheriff's Office.

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Small Earthquake Reported in South-Central Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A small earthquake was felt in parts of south-central Kansas Sunday, but no damage was reported. The U.S.Geological Survey recorded the magnitude 2.6 earthquake shortly after 6 a.m. Sunday. The earthquake was centered about 6 miles northwest of the Oklahoma state line. Another small earthquake shook south-central Kansas Wednesday morning. According to the USGS, that 3.3 magnitude quake hit about three miles northeast of Anthony and was felt by people in Harper, which is about 10 miles north of the epicenter. 

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Man Accused in Teenager's Shooting Death in Wichita
 
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man is accused of fatally shooting a 16-year-old boy in what police say was a case of unsafe handling of a firearm. KSNW-TV reports that 42-year-old Fabian Griffin is charged with second-degree murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm. A Wichita police spokeswoman, Sergeant Nikki Woodrow, says Griffin, the victim and a 25-year-old man were in the house when the shooting happened late Friday. Woodrow says there was no disturbance at the house before the shooting, but that "the incident involved the unsafe handling of a weapon." The victim's name hasn't been released. Court records don't show whether Griffin has an attorney.

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Investigation Findings on Indicted Wichita Doctor Released 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new court filing details the investigation into a Wichita doctor accused of over-prescribing pain medication, including that authorities say a man fatally overdosed on drugs he prescribed. The Wichita Eagle reports that prosecutors filed the investigation report pertaining to 55-year-old Steven Henson last week. Henson has pleaded not guilty to 31 counts, including conspiring to distribute prescription drugs outside his medical practice and unlawfully distributing oxycodone, methadone and alprazolam. According to the filing, a pharmacist filed a complaint about Henson and investigators found he was giving pain-medication prescriptions for $300 in cash at the time. Authorities also determined that Nicholas McGovern, who received multiple prescriptions from Henson, died in June 2015 of an overdose of alprazolam and methadone. Henson's medical license has been suspended. His attorney says the prescriptions weren't illegal.

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