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Headlines for Thursday, April 2, 2015

Kansas Senate Advances Stricter Rules for State Assistance

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has advanced tighter rules for the state's social services that include a $25-a-day limit on withdrawals with a cash-assistance card from ATMs. Senators gave first-round approval on a voice vote Wednesday to a bill that enshrines existing policies from Republican Governor Sam Brownback's administration into law, so they'll be harder to undo. The policies include a requirement for able-bodied recipients of cash assistance and food stamps to work or seek jobs. The bill also contains new rules, such as the limit on ATM withdrawals designed to prevent fraud. Another new rule would prohibit using cash assistance for sexually oriented materials or luxury items. Supporters said the bill will move people from social services to jobs. Critics called it mean-spirited. Senators planned to take final action Thursday.

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Kansas to Allow Carrying of Concealed Guns Without Permit 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas will become the fifth state to allow its residents to carry concealed firearms without a permit throughout the state. Republican Governor Sam Brownback on Thursday signed a bill ending the permit requirement. The change takes effect July 1. The National Rifle Association says Kansas joins Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming in having such a policy. The NRA says Montana and Arkansas have concealed carry without a permit, but not everywhere. Kansas still will issue permits for gun owners who want to carry concealed in other states that recognize Kansas permits. A person seeking a Kansas permit must undergo eight hours of firearms training. Brownback said gun owners have shown they are responsible. But Democratic state Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau of Wichita said the state still should require some training.

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Brownback Open to Hiking Sales Tax to Fill Budget Gaps
 
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says he is open to raising the sales tax to fill gaps in the state's budget. Brownback said during a news conference Thursday that over time he would like to shift the state from income and property taxes to consumption taxes. The state faces budget shortfalls of nearly $600 million in the fiscal year beginning July 1. The Senate passed a budget in March that does not balance without tax increases. The governor has recommended raising taxes on cigarettes and alcohol to generate the revenue needed to fill the budget gaps. He said Thursday that he hopes the Legislature will come up with a broad mix of consumption taxes and would be open to an overall sales tax hike.

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Kansas Lawmakers Seek to Freeze State Universities' Tuition

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ State universities in Kansas could not increase tuition for two years under a proposal drafted by legislators negotiating over budget issues. Three senators and three House members reached agreement Wednesday on a proposed $15.5 billion spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Higher education spending was a major issue for the negotiators. Their budget agreement largely adopts Republican Governor Sam Brownback's proposals to keep spending on the higher education system relatively flat, despite a projected budget shortfall of nearly $600 million. Negotiators agreed to avoid cuts in spending for the University of Kansas and Kansas State University but added a provision requiring universities to hold tuition at current levels through June 2017. GOP negotiators said they're concerned about how tuition increases would affect students and their families. 

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2 Kansas School Districts to Close Early to Save Money

CONCORDIA, Kan. (AP) - Two school districts plan to end the school year early to save money. The Concordia school district will release students on May 15, rather than May 21. And the Twin Valley School District, which includes Bennington and Tescott, will dismiss May 8, rather than May 20. The Salina Journal reports officials with both districts said the closings were necessary because of a reduction in state aid to schools. Concordia Superintendent Bev Mortimer says the district will save about $30,000. Twin Valley Superintendent Jan Neufeld declined to estimate how much that district will save.

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Proposal to Shield Campus Religious Groups Advances in Kansas 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have advanced a bill aimed at giving religious groups on state college campuses more control over their membership. The House Federal and State Affairs Committee approved a bill Thursday that's drawn criticism from gay-rights supporters who believe it will protect groups that bar gays and lesbians as members and cite religious reasons. The committee's 12-10 vote sends the bill to the House for debate. The Senate approved it two weeks ago. The measure would prohibit state universities, community colleges and technical colleges from refusing to recognize or withholding benefits to religious groups based on how they limit membership in line with sincerely held beliefs. Supporters said the bill protects groups' freedoms of association and worship. Critics said colleges would be forced to support groups that discriminate.

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Uber Says Proposed Kansas Insurance Requirement Could Force It to Leave State 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has approved changes to a transportation bill that car service Uber says could drive it out of the state. Changes to the bill the House approved on Thursday would require drivers from transportation network companies to hold additional insurance for the periods they are transporting riders for pay. It would also require companies to do background checks on their drivers through the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. The bill directly affects the company Uber, which connects independent drivers to riders through a smart device app. The company posted on its blog Monday that the bill would make it impossible for Uber to operate in Kansas. Republican Representative Scott Schwab said the bill would give fair regulation to Uber without giving the company special treatment.

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Kansas Among 15 States Urging Supreme Court to Uphold Gay Marriage Bans 

WASHINGTON (AP) — Eight states where same-sex couples can marry are among 15 states urging the Supreme Court to uphold gay marriage bans and leave the matter to voters and lawmakers. These states are telling the justices in a brief filed Thursday that the court would do "incalculable damage to our civic life" if it decides that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry nationwide. The states say they should be free to decide the issue for themselves. The eight states where gay and lesbian couples can marry after courts struck down bans on gay marriage are: Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Utah and West Virginia. Seven other states where same-sex marriage remains illegal also joined the brief. They are: Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas.

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Kansas City Bank Employee Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former Kansas City bank employee pleaded guilty to embezzlement and not paying taxes on the money. Federal prosecutors say 39-year-old Jennifer Regans, of Kansas City, pleaded guilty Thursday to embezzlement by a bank employee and filing a false tax return. Regans was an administrative assistant by Pioneer Services, the military banking division of MidCountry Bank in Kansas City until she was fired in July 2012. She admitted in her plea that she embezzled at least $500,000 from the bank. The U.S. Attorney's office says in a news release that prosecutors believe she embezzled up to $1 million. Prosecutors say it will be up to the court to determine the amount of actual loss when Regan is sentenced.

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Deadly Bird Flu Shows Up in South Dakota, 4th Minnesota Farm 

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A bird flu strain that's deadly to poultry has shown up in a commercial turkey flock in South Dakota and a fourth turkey farm in Minnesota. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Thursday it has confirmed the H5N2 strain in a flock of 53,000 turkeys in eastern South Dakota, and a fourth Minnesota case in the southwest part of the state involving a commercial turkey farm with about 21,000 birds. The birds at both places have been quarantined and will be killed to prevent the disease's spread. Minnesota was the first to see the H5N2 strain in the Mississippi Flyway, a major wild bird migration route, followed by flocks in Arkansas and Missouri. Kansas was the first to see H5N2 in the Central Flyway, now followed by South Dakota.

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Appeals Court Upholds 5-Year Sentence for Threatening Agent 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court has upheld the five-year sentence of a Nigerian man for threatening a federal agent's family. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected on Wednesday the challenge filed by Osayuwame Bazuaye arguing his sentence was overly harsh. He also lost his argument that U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren made a mistake by imposing a stiffer sentence in 2013 because he lied when testifying. The appeals court ruled the stiffer sentence was within the judge's discretion. A jury convicted Bazuaye of threatening to sexually assault the wife and daughter of a deportation officer with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. At the time he was in custody on a firearms charge after firing a handgun from the balcony of his Wichita apartment.

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Kansas House Panel Opens Inquiry into Democrat's Remarks

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Democratic lawmaker is under investigation after nine GOP lawmakers complained about comments she made during a committee hearing.  The panel of three Republicans and three Democrats selected to look into the complaint held their opening hearing Wednesday. It will meet again to begin the investigation April 30.  The complaint concerns comments Winn made during a House Education Committee meeting March 19. Winn criticized a bill to repeal a law giving a tuition break at public universities and colleges to young students living in the U.S. illegally. Winn is black and called the proposal racist. Winn declined to comment after the panel's meeting.  House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs said in a statement that the investigation is Republican attempt to silence a minority voice speaking out against discrimination. 

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2 Admit Taking Victim Across State Lines for Prostitution

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two Missouri residents have pleaded guilty in federal court to transporting a person across state lines for prostitution. U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson says 59-year-old Milton Charles Wilson of Kansas City and 19-year-old Kayla Pinkerton of Lee's Summit entered guilty pleas in separate appearances on Wednesday. The two admitted taking a person to Kansas to engage in prostitution in December 2013. Prosecutors say Wilson advertised the victim for prostitution on the Internet and paid for a hotel room at a North Kansas City motel. He also took Pinkerton and the victim to various other locations in Missouri and Kansas. Pinkerton admitted taking photographs of the victim and later uploading them to the website. Wilson will be sentenced to 10 years in federal prison, while Pinkerton is facing up to 10 years.

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Kansas City Chiefs Exec to Give Leadership Lecture at KU

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas City Chiefs President Mark Donovan is scheduled to give a lecture on leadership at the University of Kansas. The university announced Wednesday that the National Football League executive would speak on April 15 at KU's Lied Center at an event that will be open to the public. Donovan has been with the Chiefs since 2009 and previously served in leadership roles with the Philadelphia Eagles, as well as the marketing teams for the NFL and NHL. He was promoted from chief operating officer to president of the Chiefs in 2011. The lecture will begin at 7 pm and is a part of the J.A. Vickers Sr. and Robert F. Vickers Memorial Lecture series, presented by the University of Kansas School of Business.

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KDHE: Increased Use of Abortion Procedure in Kansas Last Year 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas saw an increase last year in the number of abortions using a procedure banned under a policy that is expected to take effect in July. The state Department of Health and Environment released statistics Wednesday showing that the dilation and evacuation method was used in 637 abortions in 2014. That was 8.8 percent of the 7,263 pregnancies terminated in Kansas. The health department reported 584 abortions using the method in 2013, accounting for 7.8 percent of the 7,485 abortions that year. The increase in such abortions was 53, or 9.1 percent.  The decrease in total abortions last year was 222, or 3 percent. Legislators passed a bill last week to redefine the procedure as "dismemberment abortion'' and outlaw it. Governor Sam Brownback has promised to sign it.

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KU Freshman Kelly Oubre Jr Headed for NBA Draft

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ University of Kansas swingman Kelly Oubre Jr. announced Wednesday he is leaving for the NBA draft, skipping his final three seasons of eligibility after an up-and-down freshman year. Oubre revealed his intentions in a statement released by the school. The 6-foot-7 guard started 27 games this past season, helping the Jayhawks win their 11th straight Big 12 title. He averaged 9.3 points and five rebounds. His decision to leave for the NBA is based more on potential than productivity. Oubre often disappeared in games last season, but scouts fell in love with his athleticism, defense and touch. Oubre is expected to be among the first 20 players chosen in the June draft. KU had two of the top three picks last year in Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid.
 

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