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Headlines for Monday, May 4, 2015

Analysis: Kansas May Revisit Governor's Favored Tax Break

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top Republican legislators in Kansas appear increasingly ready to reconsider a business tax break that's been a cherished economic policy for GOP Governor Sam Brownback. Their push could make closing a projected budget shortfall more difficult. Brownback is clear that he wants to preserve an exemption from personal income taxes for 281,000 business owners and 53,000 farmers. He calls the policy a catalyst for job growth. But Republican allies who championed the same tax break three years ago said the GOP-dominated Legislature will seriously consider narrowing it to balance the budget. Several suggested the exemption was broader than they'd intended. They've raised the same questions about whether the policy is fair to working-class families that Democrats have. GOP legislators acknowledge they'll have to push Brownback into accepting changes.

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Texas, Kansas to Join Florida Lawsuit Against Obama 

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Governors in Kansas and Texas say they'll join Florida Governor Rick Scott's lawsuit against the Obama administration alleging that federal officials are coercing the state to expand Medicaid in order to get $1 billion in federal hospital funds. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback said Monday he plans to file an amicus brief in a fight to protect states' right to make their own decisions. Scott said Monday that he'd talked with Governor Greg Abbott, who also pledged support. The Republican governors point to a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision saying the federal government can't coerce states to expand Medicaid, which is exactly what he says the Obama administration is doing by withholding hospital funds. The Obama administration says it's more efficient to give people money to help buy health insurance than to pay hospitals for caring for the uninsured retroactively.

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Kansas House Panel Endorses Election Fraud Measure 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas's secretary of state would have the power to prosecute election fraud under a bill endorsed by a House panel. The House Judiciary Committee voted 14-8 Monday to advance the bill to the House floor. The measure would increase election fraud penalties to felony charges, and add the secretary of state to the list of officials allowed to bring criminal prosecutions for offenses. Democratic Representative John Carmichael from Wichita attempted to attach three amendments to the bill reducing its scope, but all failed. He said in committee debate that he believed it could be used to initiate felony prosecutions against people who did not intentionally break the law. Republican Representative John Rubin from Shawnee said the measure is necessary, calling such actions attacks on the state's democratic institutions.

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Kansas Senate Approves Bill Legalizing Fantasy Sports 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Fantasy sports would be declared legal under a bill approved by the Kansas Senate. The chamber voted 37-1 to send the bill to the House for consideration. Passage there will send the measure to Governor Sam Brownback. The bill is a response to the state Racing and Gaming Commission's announcement in August that it views fantasy sports leagues as illegal lotteries. Under Kansas law, only the state can run lotteries. The bill declares that the results of fantasy sports contests are determined by the skill and knowledge of the players. State Attorney General Derek Schmidt issued an opinion in April saying he believes fantasy sports to be legal games of skill. Fantasy sports players make up digital teams from a pool of real athletes and track how well they play.

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New Plan Would End Kansas Green Energy Mandate for Utilities 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Governor Sam Brownback has announced a proposal for ending a renewable energy requirement for Kansas utilities. The proposal he outlined Monday embodies an agreement between wind energy companies and critics of the green energy rule. The plan is designed to end an ongoing debate over a 2009 law that requires wind or other renewable sources to account for 20 percent of a utility's capacity for generating electricity by 2020. The proposal converts the mandate into a goal. But legislators would not pursue a new tax on electricity generated from renewable resources. Lawmakers also would rewrite laws dealing with property taxes on renewable energy projects. Brownback and groups on both sides said the plan would bring stability to the business climate for wind energy companies.

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Scrap Theft Bill Approved by Kansas House Panel 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Scrap thieves who do more than $5,000 worth of damage in stealing precious metals would face jail time under a bill endorsed by a House panel. The House Judiciary Committee endorsed the measure on a voice vote Monday. Supporters of the bill say that tougher penalties are needed because scrap thieves often do thousands of dollars in damage to worksites and agricultural equipment. The damage can sometimes disable equipment allowing crops to spoil before it can be repaired. Current state laws give such offenders probation if they do not have serious criminal records. The measure would put most behind bars. Some lawmakers expressed concern with the bill, however, because it is estimated that it would increase the state's already overcapacity prison population by 20 to 57 prisoners by 2025.

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Anti-Smoking Advocates Voice Support for Cigarette Tax Hike 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Health advocates say they support a proposed state tax hike to cigarettes. Representatives of Kansans for a Healthy Future said at a Monday news conference that increasing cigarette taxes would both bring in revenue and save the state money as it reduces smoking. The organization is a comprised of community anti-smoking advocates. Republican Governor Sam Brownback has proposed increasing the cigarette tax to $2.29 a pack from 79 cents. He has also recommended raising the tax on other tobacco products to 25 percent from 10 percent as the state looks to fill budget shortfalls of roughly $422 million. Terry Dunn, chairman of the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, said at the conference that the tax would make the state more proactive about health and competitiveness.

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More Information Released on Men Linked to Texas Shooting

A federal law enforcement official is confirming the identity of the second gunman in the shooting outside a contest for Prophet Muhammad cartoons as Nadir Soofi, according to AP reporter Eric Tucker in Washington. Several media organizations identified Soofi as Simpson's roommate. The official was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation by name and spoke on condition of anonymity. A search of federal court records did not reveal any criminal cases brought against a man by that name. A woman who answered the door at a suburban Kansas City address listed for Soofi's father, Azam Soofi, said the family did not want to comment. She declined to give her name.

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KU Task Force Suggests Changes in Sexual Assault Procedures

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A task force at the University of Kansas is recommending changes in how the university handles sexual assaults and rape on campus. The suggested changes include requiring all freshmen, including fraternity members, to live in residence halls. Other suggestions include creating an on-campus center for sexual assault prevention and education and clarifying that the university can discipline students for sexual violence that occurs off campus if the victim is also a student. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the task force report includes 27 recommendations. Alesha Doan, associate professor of political science, and co-chairwoman of the task force, says the recommendations focus on prevention of sexual assaults. 

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Old and New Tech Combine at KU MED to Research Genetic Disorders in Children

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Genetic disorders in children are being explored at the University of Kansas Medical Center with a pairing of next-generation and century-old research methods. The Lawrence Journal World reports that the new method is a roughly $1 million machine that can sequence a person's DNA in as fast as two days. The findings are used to create mouse embryos with genetic mutations matching the human profiles being studied. Once the special mice are born and mature, researchers will observe them for symptoms that match those reported in the sick child. Another technique that is used is the old-school maze. A healthy mouse would explore all the arms, while one with cognitive loss would not.

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Secretary of Homeland Security to Deliver Landon Lecture

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - The secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, will deliver a Landon Lecture on May 27 at Kansas State University. Before becoming the fourth secretary of homeland security, Johnson was general counsel of the Department of Defense. He also has extensive service in national security, law enforcement and as a private attorney. Kansas State spokesman Jackie Hartman noted in a news release that Johnson is visiting Manhattan as it prepares for construction of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility to begin next to the Kansas State campus this summer. The animal disease research laboratory will be part of the Department of Homeland Security.

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Scientists Working to Answer Bird Flu Virus Questions 

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — It's been five months since the H5N2 bird flu virus was discovered in the U.S., and producers have lost more than 21 million birds in the Midwest alone. Yet, researchers with federal agencies acknowledge they still know little about the virus' origin and how it spreads, especially with heightened biosecurity measures at commercial poultry farms and the apparent lack of widespread deaths in largely unprotected backyard flocks. A leader with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says not much is known about the virus because it only surfaced in the U.S. in early December. Unanswered questions include how exactly the virus finds its way into sheltered commercial chicken and turkey flocks and if wild birds spread the virus why more backyard flocks haven't died.

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KanCare Still Looking for New Leader 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Nearly a year after the leader of the state's managed care Medicaid program resigned, Kansas is still looking for his replacement. In June 2014, Phil Hermanson resigned as the KanCare inspector general after questions were raised about his lack of experience and past legal problems. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the lack of a leader for the $3 billion program drew attention from lawmakers last week. The inspector general is supposed to be a watchdog over three managed care companies who manage the health care program for the state. State health department deputy secretary Aaron Dunkel told lawmakers that the agency is recruiting for the position after facing delays. Multiple people have been interviewed and two people have been offered but declined the position.

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5 Teens to Stay in Custody for Hutchinson High School Threats

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Five teenagers charged in juvenile court with making threats to commit shootings on the last day of school at Hutchinson High School will remain in custody. After a Reno County judge ruled Friday that a 16-year-old boy would not be released from the juvenile detention center where he and four friends had been held since being arrested on Wednesday, the other four waived their hearings and will remain in custody. The five face felony charges of solicitation to commit first-degree murder and criminal threat. They are all ages 16 and 17. They were arrested after the school reported the threats posted on Facebook. Court records indicate the threats were not aimed at specific people. The Wichita Eagle reports the boys have all said the threats were a joke.

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Man Shot, Critically Injured by Wichita Police

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita police say a man was injured and another is custody after a shooting involving a police officer. Wichita Police spokesman Lieutenant James Espinoza says the incident began this (MON) morning when police tried to stop a vehicle, which took off and led police on a chase before it stopped in an alley. Espinoza says shots were fired and one suspect was hit. The suspect was listed in serious but stable condition Monday morning. Another person was taken into custody. No officers were hurt.

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Waitress to Governor: Give Tip to Kansas Schools

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A restaurant waitress says she left a message for Kansas Governor Sam Brownback on his receipt promoting more funding for schools. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Chloe Hough was working her last shift Saturday night at Boss Hawg's in Topeka when she waited on the governor. The newspaper said she later posted his receipt on Facebook, showing the line for the tip crossed out and the phrase "Tip the schools" written beside it. Hough declined to say how Brownback reacted to the receipt but said restaurant managers did not know about her plans. Schools across the state are facing tight or reduced budgets under funding changes supported by Brownback.

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Kansas City Woman Charged in Boyfriend's Stabbing Death 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City woman is accused of stabbing her boyfriend to death inside an apartment following an argument over the weekend. Forty-seven-year-old Emma Jean Hyson is charged with second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the death of 52-year-old Kenneth M. Wilcox. Her bond has been set at $250,000. Court records show Hyson told investigators that she grabbed a knife and stabbed Wilcox on Saturday before passing out for several hours. She called police after waking up and finding Wilcox dead. Kansas City police say Hyson claimed she stabbed Wilcox in self-defense. They say further information will be released as the investigation continues. It wasn't immediately clear if Hyson has an attorney.

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Man Stabbed While Arguing with Assailant's Mother 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man has been stabbed by the adult son of a woman he was arguing with in Wichita. According to Wichita police Sgt. Roger Runft, police responded to a call about "a couple arguing" early Saturday morning. He says a 36-year-old man and a 39-year-old woman were arguing when one of the woman's sons pulled out a knife and stabbed the man. The suspect and his brother fled the scene. Runft says the man suffered five cuts and two stab wounds and his injuries are serious, but not life-threatening. Authorities say the woman's two sons, who are 19 and 20, have not been located yet.

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General Motors to Invest $174 Million in Kansas Plant

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — General Motors officials visited the Fairfax plant in Kansas City, Kansas, to celebrate a production milestone and announce new investments to support production of the 2016 Malibu. They announced Monday the company will invest $174 million in the plant for new equipment and technology for production of the midsize sedan, which will begin later this year. CEO Mary Barra and GM North America and Global Chevrolet President Alan Batey also celebrated as the company noted production of 500 million vehicles in its history, about 12 million at the Fairfax plant. Barra says the company plans to build 10 million vehicles this year. The company surprised Iraqi war veteran Trent Brining with the symbolic key to a 2016 Chevrolet Malibu, which will be built later this year at the plant.

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Wheat Tour to Examine Damage from Drought and Disease

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Farmers and other agriculture industry leaders plan to fan out across Kansas in the coming days to examine the extent of damage to winter wheat from drought, disease and winterkill. The Wheat Quality Council's hard red winter wheat tour this year has already drawn a record number of expected participants with more than 90 people signed up. This year's four-day-long trek kicks off on Monday afternoon with a meeting in Manhattan. On Tuesday morning, attendees will split up and take various routes to Colby in northwest Kansas. On Wednesday the group takes different routes across western Kansas before ending up in Wichita. Then on Thursday, they head to Kansas City, Missouri, where they will announce the group's forecast for the state's 2015 wheat crop.

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Man Facing Child Porn Charges in Texas Arrested in Kansas 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A district attorney says a man facing child pornography charges in Texas fled to Kansas and worked as a school bus driver. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the 31-year-old was arrested shortly before 10 pm Sunday and is being held on a $50,000 bond. According to the district attorney's office in Coryell County, Texas, a warrant was issued for the suspect on Friday for possession of child pornography. Sergeant Patricia Griffith of the child exploitation unit in the district attorney's office coordinated with the Topeka, Kansas, Police Department to help arrest the man. Authorities say the suspect will be extradited to stand trial in Texas.

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Southwest Kansas Mom at Center of National Pot Debate

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — A southwest Kansas single mother who lost custody of her son for using medical marijuana to ease her Crohn's disease has gone from being a massage therapist eking out a living in the back of a health food store to a national figure at the center of the nationwide debate over medical marijuana. Thirty-seven-year-old Shonda Banda of Garden City has not been charged after police officers searched her home and found marijuana and cannabis oil last month. But authorities took her 11-year-old son away, put him into protective state custody and referred the case to the Finney County prosecutor for possible drug and child endangerment charges. Banda's story soon went global, with more than 84,000 people from around the world signing an online petition supporting her.

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Royals Lose to Tigers, 6-4, Split Weekend Series 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals 6-4 lost to the Detroit Tigers Sunday to split their four-game series with two wins each. Detroit's Anibal Sanchez had a perfect game into the sixth inning and Alex Avila drove in three runs for the Tigers. Kansas City nearly bailed out struggling pitcher Jeremy Guthrie (1-2) by scoring two runs in the seventh and two more in the eighth. But Tigers' reliever Tom Gorzelanny struck out Eric Hosmer to leave a Royals runner on base and shut down the Royals in the ninth.

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Sporting KC Defeats Chicago Fire, 1-0 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Paulo Nagamura headed in a second-half goal and Sporting Kansas City beat the Chicago Fire 1-0 on Sunday. Nagamura scored in the 75th minute, 10 minutes after entering as a substitute. The goal concluded a 12-pass sequence, including a perfectly placed cross to the penalty spot by Jalil Anibaba. Sporting KC (3-2-4) got its first win since April 5, while the loss halted a three-game winning streak for Chicago (3-4-0). 

 

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