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Headlines for Thursday, February 2, 2017

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

Kansas Collected $24 Million More in Taxes than Expected for January

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is reporting that it collected $24 million more in taxes than anticipated in January as the Legislature wrestles with closing a shortfall in the current budget. The state Department of Revenue's report Wednesday was good news for lawmakers. It is the third consecutive month that tax collections have exceeded expectations. The department said Kansas collected $544 million in taxes last month. The figure is 4.6 percent higher than the $520 million anticipated. The revenue report came as a Senate committee reviewed budget-balancing proposals. Kansas still faces a budget gap of about $320 million for the current fiscal year ending June 30. The development suggests that a new, more pessimistic fiscal forecast issued in November could be close to the mark. The state previously missed its revenue targets regularly.

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Kansas GOP Lawmakers Divided over Proposed Budget Fixes 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are divided over what proposed fixes from Governor Sam Brownback they will jettison in closing a shortfall in the state's current budget. The Senate Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday began sorting through Brownback's proposals to close a gap of about $320 million in the budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30. The governor's proposals include scaling back contributions to public employee pensions and liquidating a state investment fund. The pension proposal drew heavy bipartisan criticism. But majority Republicans acknowledged that the alternative to such moves include immediate cuts in aid to public schools. 

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Kansas Lawmakers Consider Strengthening Open Government Law 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two bills before a Kansas Senate committee would make government meetings and records more accessible to the public. The Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee heard the bills Thursday. One bill, introduced by Lawrence Senator Marci Francisco and Louisburg Representative Molly Baumgartner, clarifies a law that requires government bodies to justify going into private meetings. The reason for the private meeting would have to be recorded in public minutes. The other bill reduces how much government entities can charge for public records. It caps the price per page and requires staff time be charged at the lowest hourly rate for a qualified employee. Committee Chairman Jacob LaTurner says the bills will be worked next week. LaTurner has advocated for legislation that would curb the costs of getting public records.

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Kobach Presses for Bills Involving Immigration Enforcement 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is asking lawmakers to pass two measures aimed at fighting illegal immigration. Republican state Representative John Whitmer, of Wichita, introduced two proposals in a House committee Thursday at Kobach's request. Republican state Senator Caryn Tyson, of Parker, introduced identical versions in a Senate committee. One measure would bar cities and counties from adopting sanctuary policies protecting immigrants in the country illegally and would require their cooperation with federal immigration and customs authorities. A similar bill got a hearing in a House committee last year but did not make it to the House floor. The other bill would require the Kansas Highway Patrol to partner with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on the "enforcement of federal immigration laws, detentions and removals, and related investigations."

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Kansas Lawmakers Send Asset Forfeiture Bills to Advisory Committee

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — House Judiciary Committee members will wait for input from an advisory committee before making any new policy regarding a law that allows police officers to seize and forfeit citizens' property. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Blaine Finch referred five bills for review to the Kansas Judicial Council, an advisory committee made up by the judiciary committees' chairs and chief justice appointees. Finch said in a statement he expected the group to make recommendations and "possibly draft legislation." He says it likely won't have a proposal this year. Critics of asset forfeiture say the practice violates property and due process rights by allowing officers to seize property from potentially innocent citizens and often keep the proceeds. Officers say it helps them stop profitable crime, like drug trafficking.

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Official Says Kansas Will Explore Building New State Prison 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas corrections secretary says the state is exploring the possibility of building a new state prison on the site of its largest lockup for adult inmates. Corrections Secretary Joe Norwood said Thursday that the Department of Corrections plans to solicit proposals for the construction of a new prison in Lansing. Department of Corrections spokesman Todd Fertig said the plan is to mothball historic, maximum-security units of the prison built in the 1860s and to raze lower-security units of the prison built more recently. The department is not saying how it would finance the new prison. Norwood said the project would be "budget neutral," with savings from more efficient operations covering new costs. The Lansing prison has space for about 2,400 inmates and is currently near its capacity.

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Kansas Leaders Don't Want Lesser Prairie Chicken Listed as Endangered

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Three top Kansas officials are asking the federal government not to list the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened or endangered species. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Department of Agriculture Secretary Jackie McClaskey made the request in a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. The Hutchinson News reports the officials argue that relisting the species as threatened or endangered would hurt Kansas' economy and agricultural industry. They also said it would impede Kansas' right to control how its land is used. The species was removed from the endangered species list in July 2016. Later that year, the service began to reassess the species' status after three environmental groups filed a new listing petition. That assessment is expected to be completed this summer.

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Kansas Civil Air Patrol Officer Resigns After 'Swing from a Tree' Post 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A lieutenant colonel in the Kansas Civil Air Patrol has resigned his command after posting on Facebook that a state lawmaker should "swing from a tree" for introducing a bill that would undo a law allowing concealed weapons on college campuses starting in July. The Civil Air Patrol also said in a statement that it "does not condone such behavior from its members." Jonathan Holder said in the initial post, which has since been removed, that he was offended that Republican Representative Stephanie Clayton, of Overland Park, proposed legislation that would undermine his constitutional rights. Overland Park police continue to investigate. Holder didn't immediately respond to an email message from The Associated Press. But he said Monday in a Facebook message that "I stand by what I said."

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May Trial Date Set for Topeka Man in Fatal Crash

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Topeka man charged with killing a passenger in another vehicle during a police chase will go on trial May 1. A Shawnee County District Court judge set the trial date on Wednesday for 21-year-old Marcos Adan Cruz Jr., who faces four felony charges, including first-degree murder in the commission of a felony. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Cruz's attorney was interested in taking part of mediation to resolve the case. A witness at a preliminary hearing testified a speeding car ran a red light and hit another car, which was forced into a fence at the Topeka Zoo. A passenger in that car, 69-year-old Edward Greene of Tecumseh, died at the scene. The driver was injured. Cruz's 8-month-old son was in his car but was not seriously injured.

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Former Church Pastor Pleads Guilty to Abuse of 2 Children 

PAOLA, Kan. (AP) — A church pastor and longtime eastern Kansas homeless shelter director has admitted that he sexually abused two children. The Kansas City Star reports that 58-year-old Jay Preston on Thursday pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated liberties with a child. Under his plea agreement, attorneys will recommend a prison sentence of 13 years. Preston was charged last July with the lewd fondling or touching of two children who were born in 2008 and 2006. He was pastor of Grace Revolution Church of the Nazarene and president and CEO of My Father's House, a homeless shelter in Paola. He was suspended from the church and shelter after his arrest.

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Damage Reported at Dodge City Airport After Police Chase

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) - Ford County Sheriff Bill Carr says a police chase damaged property at the Dodge City airport before two people were arrested. Carr says the chase began Wednesday when a deputy saw a man who had a warrant from the Kansas Department of Corrections in the car. During the 20-minute chase, the driver crashed through a fence at the Dodge City airport and crossed a runway. Two people were arrested when the chase ended on Highway 50 east of the airport. No one was hurt. Carr did not say how seriously the airport property was damaged.

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Suspect in Death, Baby's Kidnapping Returned to Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ The woman accused of murdering a Wichita woman and kidnapping her newborn baby is now in a Kansas jail. Online jail records show Yesenia Sesmas was booked Wednesday afternoon into the Sedgwick County Detention Center in Wichita. KAKE-TV reports the Dallas County Sheriff's Office says was released from that county's jail Wednesday morning to be taken to Kansas. Sesmas is accused of killing Laura Abarca-Nogueda at a Wichita apartment in November. She then allegedly took the woman's six days old daughter, Sofia. The 34-year-old Sesmas and the baby were found two days later in a Dallas home. The child was not injured and was returned to relatives in Wichita.

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Woman Injured During Fire at Kansas City's 18th & Vine District 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City officials say a woman was injured when fire damaged three vacant buildings in the city's historic Jazz District at 18th & Vine. Kansas City Fire Battalion Chief Mike Cashen says a woman was warming herself with a fire inside one of the buildings early Thursday when the fire got out of control. She was taken to a hospital but the extent of her injuries is not known. All the buildings were empty and belonged to the city. One building once housed the Deluxe Nightclub and another was the former Eblon Theater. KCTV5 reports that the buildings are part of a redevelopment plan and the fires won't change those plans. City officials say they plan to try to keep buildings' historic facade during the redevelopment.

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Agency Traces Listeria in Blue Bell Product to Iowa Supplier

BRENHAM, Texas (AP) — Federal inspectors have confirmed listeria found in a brand of Blue Bell ice cream that prompted another recall of its products originated with a third-party supplier. The Houston Chronicle reports that the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning letter last month to Iowa-based Aspen Hills detailing the company's failures in preventing contamination. The contamination that forced the Blue Bell recall in October was traced to Aspen Hills' chocolate chip cookie dough. Blue Bell credited its testing program with identifying the presence of listeria in the dough. At the time, Blue Bell was regaining some of its market share following a debilitating recall the year before resulting from 10 listeria cases in four states, including three deaths in Kansas. Aspen Hills ceased production at the end of December.

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Kansas City Man Accused of Shooting Death 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City, Missouri, man is accused of a shooting death that authorities say was captured by surveillance video. Jackson County (Missouri) prosecutors charged 53-year-old Thomas Midgette Jr. with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in connection with the January 21 death of Raymond Jones. Court documents allege that a friend of Jones told police that after Jones punched Midgette during a dispute, Midgette followed Jones and shot him after the victim fell to the ground. Authorities say that incident was recorded by the area's surveillance cameras. Online court records don't show whether Midgette has an attorney.

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Northeast Kansas House Fire Kills 86-Year-Old Man 

VERMILLION, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say an 86-year-old man was killed during a fire in his northeastern Kansas home. WIBW-TV reports that Donald Jacobson died at the scene of the blaze early Thursday near the small town of Vermillion. Jacobson's son managed to escape unharmed. WIBW reports that state fire investigators determined the fire's cause to be accidental.

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Suspects in Deadly Pawn Shop Robbery Returned to Mississippi 

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Two suspects in a Mississippi pawn shop robbery that left three people dead are back in the state after being captured in Kansas. News outlets report 35-year-old Jamison Townsend and 37-year-old Joshua Garcia face three counts of capital murder in the December 17 shooting deaths at Bill's Pawn Jewelry Coin/Stamp Exchange in Jackson. Police say 81-year-old Cleveland Mosley, 60-year-old Robert Ivy and 77-year-old Ted McLemore were killed during the robbery. Townsend and Garcia were arrested days later near Junction City, Kansas after an interstate chase. Both waived extradition from Kansas and were returned to Jackson police custody Thursday. They also face armed robbery charges. Police say Townsend and Garcia are also suspected in burglaries at two Gulfport pawn shops and a Pascagoula jewelry shop. It's unclear if they have attorneys.

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Kansas Jayhawks in First Place in Big 12 After Defeating Baylor, 73-68

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — KU's Josh Jackson had 23 points and 10 rebounds to help Kansas prevent No. 2 Baylor from getting off a potential tying shot in the closing seconds of the Jayhawks' 73-68 victory Wednesday night. Frank Mason III added 19 points, including two free throws to seal the win, and Devonte Graham scored 13 as the Jayhawks (20-2, 8-1) pulled a game ahead of the Bears (20-2, 7-2) in the Big 12 race. The game was tied 64-all with 2:23 left when Jackson went baseline for a dunk. After Mason made a couple of foul shots moments later, the teams began trading baskets down the stretch.

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Kansas State Loses to TCU 86-80 in Overtime

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) —  TCU defeated Kansas State 86-80 on Wednesday night in overtime. TCU's Kenrich Williams opened the overtime scoring with a 3-pointer after a three by Kansas State's Xavier Sneed made it 83-77 with 1:48 to play. The Wildcats closed it to 3 with 25 seconds to go after Wesley Iwundu had a dunk and made 1 of 2 free throws on the next possession but TCU's Alex Robinson made two free throws at 15 seconds and after K-State missed, TCU's Jaylen Fisher made a free throw with six seconds left. Robinson and Fisher had 12 points each for the Horned Frogs (15-7, 4-5 Big 12) and Williams had 11 and 10 rebounds. Kamau Stokes had 21 points and Sneed 19 for the Wildcats (15-7, 4-5).

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