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Headlines for Monday, May 20, 2019

Here's the latest Kansas and regional news from the Associated Press compiled by KPR staff.

Kansas Governor Signs Budget but Vetoes Pension Payment

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has vetoed an extra $51 million payment to the state's public pension system while signing the bulk of the next state budget approved by the Legislature. The Democratic governor said Monday that an additional payment to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System is not prudent with other parts of state government facing additional needs. The extra payment was meant to offset past instances in which the state shorted its annual contributions. She also used her power to veto individual budget items to reject several other items included by the Republican-controlled Legislature. The budget provides more than $18.3 billion for state government for the fiscal year beginning in July. It includes a pay raise for state workers and extra money for prisons, social services and higher education.

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Flooding Possible in Kansas, Missouri After More Storms

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Forecasters are warning of possible flooding across a large swath of Kansas and parts of Missouri after another round of storms. In the Wichita area, the National Weather Service predicts strong to severe thunderstorms Monday night into Tuesday that may produce hail and wind gusts of up to 60 mph. Up to 6 inches of rain is possible in some localized areas. Forecasters say the heavy rainfall will cause significant rises on area rivers and creeks, with some overflowing their banks. The warnings were issued as Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly added 10 counties to the list of those where disasters have been declared from flooding earlier this month. The disaster declaration authorizes the use of state resources and personnel to assist with response and recovery operations.

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Survey Crews Report Damages but No Injuries from Kansas Tornadoes

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say there have been no reports of serious injuries from a spate of tornadoes that raked southwest Kansas over the weekend. The National Weather Service says eight tornado sightings were reported in the area Friday, including one near Dodge City. Emergency management offices in the area said several homes, some outbuildings and sheds were damaged in the storms. Officials reported that the twisters also knocked down power lines. The Kansas storms were part of a supercell that created dozens of tornadoes across the Midwest and Plains States, including an EF2 tornado in Geronimo, Oklahoma with winds up to 130 mph on Saturday morning. The National Weather Service says the twister traveled for about a half a mile in Geronimo, about 80 miles southwest of Oklahoma City, damaging two homes and sending one person to the hospital. In northwest Arkansas, a state official said multiple people were stranded on recreational trails due to downed trees.

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Kansas Unemployment Remained Steady at 3.5% in April, Jobs Grew

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is reporting that its unemployment rate remained at 3.5% in April and that the number of private sector jobs grew slightly over the previous year. The state Department of Labor is reporting that the seasonally adjusted April unemployment rate was slightly higher than the 3.4% rate in April 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 10,500 higher than it was in April 2018, exceeding 1.16 million. The growth was 0.9%. Construction experienced the biggest gain, 3.6%. The state also added 5,600 private-sector nonfarm jobs from March to April, for growth of 0.5%. Only 10 of the state's 105 counties had unemployment rates above 4 percent in April.

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Kansas Sends Business Recruiters in Texas and Missouri

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Department of Commerce plans to have business recruiting managers working in Missouri and Texas.  Commerce Secretary David Toland says two recent personnel moves are part of a larger restructuring aimed at strengthening his department's Business and Community Development Division. Toland says longtime department employee Alicia Janesko Hutchings will become business recruitment manager. The position has been vacant for nearly four years. Hutchings has been working on projects in Texas and will remain there. Toland also says that International Trade Representative Chang Lu will manage the recruiting of businesses from southern and central states. He will be based in Springfield, Missouri, but still will help foreign dignitaries prepare for meetings with Governor Laura Kelly. Toland says the changes will be effective June 15.
 
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Kansas Supreme Court: Man Accused in Child Rape Must Be Released

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A divided Kansas Supreme Court says a man accused of rape against a 3-year-old relative cannot be tried a second time and must be released from prison. A Saline County judge declared a mistrial in March 2018 trial of Rictor Bowman because the girl wouldn't take the oath to be sworn in as a witness. The judge ruled the state couldn't prove its case without the girl's testimony. In a 4-3 split decision, the Supreme Court ruled the trial judge should not have declared a mistrial. The justices said putting Bowman on trial a second time would violate his constitutional right against double jeopardy.

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Judge Delays Trial of Kansas Online Gamer in Deadly Hoax

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has again delayed the trial of a Kansas online gamer allegedly involved in a deadly hoax to give the parties time to finalize documents for an alternative to prosecution that could spare him from a criminal record. The trial for 20-year-old Shane Gaskill of Wichita had been scheduled to begin Tuesday, but his attorney asked the court for the continuance to finalize paperwork for pre-trial diversion that should be completed within days. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren set a new June 25 trial. Gaskill is charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice, wire fraud, and making false statement during an investigation. Prosecutors say he was playing an online game when a dispute sparked the false call that resulted in police shooting a man who lived at Gaskill's former Wichita home.

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Affidavit: $8 Xanax Deal That Went Bad Led to Kansas Killing

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a suburban Kansas City teen was killed when an $8 Xanax deal fell through. The Kansas City Star reports that the affidavit released Monday in the case against Matthew Lee Bibee Jr. says 17-year-old Rowan Padgett was killed in March after Bibee arranged to buy the anxiety medication through another suspect, 16-year-old Jordan Denny. Bibee, Denny and a third teen are charged with first-degree felony murder. Denny told authorities she kicked Padgett out of her Olathe house after he asked for sex. But he stayed in the area and was there when Bibee arrived with friends to get the Xanax. Denny told investigators that she asked Padgett to leave with Bibee because her supplier had fallen through and her father had called police. Padgett was killed after getting into the car with Bibee, who was wounded two days later in an exchange of gunfire with police.

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Wichita Police: Man Stabbed to Death over Loud Music

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a deadly stabbing at an apartment complex apparently was sparked by a dispute over loud music. Captain Brent Allred said officers responded to a call early Sunday and found 45-year-old Joseph Heiman in his apartment suffering from several stab wounds. He died later at a hospital. KAKE-TV reports Allred said the suspect, Darnell Jackson, called 911 to report the stabbing and was arrested at the apartment complex. He was booked into jail on suspicion of first-degree murder and remains jailed on $90,000 bond. Allred said investigators found that Jackson and Heiman had been arguing for several weeks over loud music played by Heiman.

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Dean: Planned Medical School in Wichita May Overwhelm Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The dean of the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Wichita says a private medical school proposed in the city could overburden the state's health care system and its capacity to train medical students. Dean Garrold Minns tells the Wichita Eagle that the planned Kansas Health Science Center would mean more hospitals, clinics and physicians' offices would need to handle the increase in students doing rotations. City spokeswoman Elyse Mohler says Wichita can't speculate how a new facility might impact clinical training rotations. Many Wichita leaders say the private school of osteopathic medicine could boost economic development. The City Council approved a nonbinding development agreement last week and hopes to finalize plans in the coming months. A memorandum of understanding says the new school could open by August 2022.

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FCC Chairman Backs T-Mobile, Sprint Merger

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission says he plans to recommend the agency approve the $26.5 billion merger of wireless carriers T-Mobile and Sprint, saying it'll speed up 5G deployment in the U.S. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai also said Monday that the combination will help bring faster mobile broadband to rural Americans. Pai said T-Mobile US Inc. and Sprint Corp. would suffer "serious consequences" if they don't meet their FCC commitments, including the possibility of having to pay billions to the Treasury Department.

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Property Damaged in Disturbance at Kansas Juvenile Lockup

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas prison officials say 10 young male offenders damaged property inside three living units at the state's juvenile corrections center during a Sunday evening disturbance. The state Department of Corrections said Monday that the disturbance at the Kansas Juvenile Corrections Complex in Topeka lasted almost an hour, but did not result in any injuries. Investigators are still trying to determine the extent of the damage. Photos released by the department showed paper littering floors, furniture in disarray and drawers removed from desks. The department said the offenders involved were 17, 18 or 19 years old. Spokeswoman Jeanny Sharp said investigators don't yet know what caused the disturbance or whether it was linked to a fight or fights among inmates. The complex holds about 170 young offenders, almost all of them male.

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Kansas Toddler Dies After Falling into Pool

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a 2-year-old boy has died after falling into a swimming pool in a residential area west of downtown Topeka. Shawnee County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Todd Stallbaumer says deputies and rescue workers responded about 4:30 p.m. Sunday and performed resuscitation efforts. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the toddler was rushed to a hospital, where he later was pronounced dead. The child's name wasn't being released.

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Nearly All States Use Drones for Range of Work

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A survey obtained by The Associated Press shows that public transportation agencies are using drones in nearly every state. The report being released Monday from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials shows a sharp increase in drone use over the last few years. It reflects the technology's rapid adoption by governments as well as hobbyists. In Utah, drones are hovering near avalanches to watch roaring snow. In North Carolina, they're searching for the nests of endangered birds. In Kansas, they could soon be identifying sick cows through heat signatures. Transportation officials say drones can make prosaic tasks like bridge inspections cheaper and take on work that's dangerous for people. In Utah, thermal drones monitor snowpack and measure avalanches to help keep snow slides from blocking roads in winter.

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Estate of KU Graduate Donates $1.4 Million to School

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - The University of Kansas says a graduate's estate donated $1.4 million to support the university's library system and to provide needs-based scholarships. The school says the gift comes from Martha "Matt" Mueller, who died in 2018 at the age of 83. She retired in 1994 as a librarian at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in Alfred, New York.  Mueller, who was from Joplin, Missouri, graduated from Kansas in 1955 with a bachelor's degree in education. She worked as an English teacher in Eureka, Kansas, before earning her master's degree in library science from the Carnegie Institute of Technology. The undergraduate scholarships for students in financial need will give preference to students from Eureka and Joplin.

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Larned Mental Health Facility Employee Charged with Sex Crimes

LARNED, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have charged a 31-year-old Kansas prison employee with having unlawful sexual relations with an inmate. Pawnee County Attorney Douglas McNett said in a release that Jennifer Stevenson, of Otis, is charged with one felony count of unlawful sexual relations. The alleged incidents occurred at Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility in August and September of 2018. Stevenson has been released from jail pending her preliminary hearing next week.
 
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Kansas Law Enforcement Opposition Thwarts Marijuana Legalization Efforts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Strong opposition from law enforcement groups has contributed to hesitation on the part of Kansas lawmakers' to legalize medicinal or recreational marijuana even as most other states have done so. Neighboring states Colorado, Oklahoma and Missouri have legalized some form of marijuana in recent years. Kansas is one of four states without a comprehensive medical or recreational marijuana program. Many of the state's law enforcement agencies and organizations say that even medical marijuana would increase car accidents and violent crime. They say marijuana is inherently tied to violence, especially from Mexican cartels. Kansas lawmakers have introduced 18 medical marijuana bills since 2006. One got a hearing at the Statehouse this year, but it didn't receive a vote after opposition from law enforcement.

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Body of Kansas Swimmer Recovered in Northern Oklahoma

ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says it has found the body of a Kansas man who disappeared while swimming with friends last week. The patrol says the body of 57-year-old Gary Reece of Arkansas City was found Saturday just south of the Oklahoma-Kansas state line. KAKE-TV reports his body was found tangled in debris under 4 feet of water less than a mile south of where he disappeared while swimming in the Arkansas River. Authorities say Reece was swimming with three friends on Thursday when he went under. His friends made it to safety.

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Wichita Residents Rallying Support for Popular Local Musician Seriously Injured in Crash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Wichita residents and businesses are doing what they can to support a popular Wichita musician who was seriously injured in a crash that killed her mother and niece. Jenny Wood is in the hospital in critical condition recovering from injuries she suffered in a crash May 5. Police say two people fleeing from police in a stolen car hit a car Wood was riding in. Wood's mother, 70-year-old Marie Wood, and her niece, 12-year-old Rosemary Wood, were killed. On Sunday, Mort's Cigar and Martini Bar in Wichita held a concert in Wood's honor, with all proceeds go to a fund to aid with her recovery. 

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Kansas State University to Remove Ash Trees from Campus

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Kansas State plans to remove most of the 251 ash trees on its Manhattan campus in advance of an expected infestation from the emerald ash borer. The insect is decimating the ash tree population as it moves west across the country. Dave Bruton, a forester with the Kansas Forest Service, says the ash borer is not yet in Manhattan. He says the university is removing the trees now so it doesn't have to take them all out at the same time when the emerald ash borer arrives. The Manhattan Mercury reports the trees that will be removed are those with poor structure, serious defects or in poor locations. Replacement trees will be planted. The ash trees will be milled for lumber to be used in design or capital building projects.

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Kansas Rare Prairie Chicken Conservation Boosts Tourism

SCOTT CITY, Kan. (AP) - Kansas is relying on its conservation effort to protect the lesser prairie chicken as an ecotourism attraction that is attracting birdwatchers from across the world. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism has been working with ranchers and tour groups to meet the high demand for areas to view the vulnerable species of grouse. The department says Western Kansas is one of the last remaining places with a sustainable native population of lesser prairie chickens. The state has seen the tourism aspect take off recently, and officials are working to pass on the project to private citizens.
 

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