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Headlines for Thursday, March 16, 2017

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

Kansas Supreme Court Appears Receptive to Protecting Abortion Rights 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The highest court in Kansas appeared receptive Thursday to declaring for the first time that the state constitution recognizes abortion rights, with a majority of the justices skeptical of the state's argument against the idea as it defended a ban on a common second-trimester procedure. The state Supreme Court heard arguments in a lawsuit filed by Kansas City-area father-daughter physicians against a 2015 first-in-the-nation law that has become a model for abortion opponents in other states. The key issue is whether the Kansas Constitution protects abortion rights independently of the U.S. Constitution, which would allow state courts to invalidate restrictions that have been upheld by the federal courts. Abortion opponents fear that such a decision by state courts could block new laws — or invalidate existing ones — even if President Donald Trump's appointments result in a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court. Abortion-rights supporters contend broad language in the state constitution's Bill of Rights protects a woman's right to obtain an abortion. 

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Kansas Senate President Has Trouble Selling Spending Cut 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle is having trouble selling a proposal to cut spending by $105 million to help the state avoid a budget deficit on June 30. The Wichita Republican presented her proposal for the cut to fellow GOP senators during a caucus before the chamber's debate Thursday on a bill aimed at getting the state through June. The measure would authorize internal government borrowing and short state contributions to public employee pensions to tide the state over until it can start collecting new revenue from higher taxes. Wagle said she wants to do some cutting to hold down the size of the tax increase. But several Republican senators said public schools and state agencies couldn't cope with a loss of funds so close to June 30.

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Kansas Agency: Budget Move Would Harm Services for Disabled 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas state agency says an action taken by a legislative committee would devastate in-home services for the disabled and their providers. Spokeswoman Angela de Rocha said Wednesday that the state Department for Aging and Disability Services would be forced to cut rates paid to providers of in-home services by 56 percent. In-home services include help with chores or personal care such as bathing to help the disabled stay in their homes. The Senate Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday removed $42 million from the agency's current budget before approving a bill that would keep the budget balanced through June. Committee members said they need more details about how the money would be spent and intend to add dollars back later when they have more information.

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Kansas Lawmakers Honor Victims of Olathe Bar Shooting 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers used resolutions to honor the victims of an Olathe bar shooting being investigated as a hate crime, and Governor Sam Brownback's proclaimed Thursday as Indian American Appreciation Day in Kansas. Brownback recognized the two survivors, Alok Madasani and Ian Grillot, and commemorated Srinivas Kuchibhotla, who died in the February 22 shooting at Austins Bar & Grill. The House and Senate also recognized the survivors and passed resolutions honoring them and Kuchibhotla. Brownback says the "senseless, violent actions" of one man won't divide the state. Witnesses say a gunman shouted racial slurs before opening fire on Kuchibhotla and Madasani, both Indian men. Grillot was shot when he intervened. Adam Purinton remains jailed in Johnson County on murder and attempted murder charges.

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Kansas Lawmakers Honor Victims of Olathe Bar Shooting 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers honored the victims of a shooting in Olathe that's being investigated as a hate crime with a ceremony and resolution in the House. House Speaker Ron Ryckman, Jr. recognized the two survivors, Alok Madasani and Ian Grillot, and commemorated Srinivas Kuchibhotla, who died in the February 22 shooting at Austins Bar & Grill. House members also passed a resolution honoring Kuchibhotla's life. Ryckman says there is no place in Kansas for acts of such evil. Witnesses say a gunman shouted racial slurs before opening fire on Kuchibhotla and Madasani, both Indian men. Grillot was shot when he intervened. Governor Sam Brownback and the Kansas Senate will honor the men Thursday afternoon. Adam Purinton remains jailed in Johnson County on murder and attempted murder charges

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Challenge to 2015 Ban Could Endanger Other Kansas Abortion Laws

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Abortion opponents have enjoyed a long string of legislative victories in Kansas in recent years. But now they worry that a legal challenge to a first-in-the-nation ban on a common second-trimester procedure could doom other restrictions they've won. The Kansas Supreme Court will hear arguments today (THUR) in a lawsuit filed by two Kansas City-area physicians against a 2015 law that is a model for anti-abortion laws in other states. The key issue is whether the Kansas Constitution protects abortion rights independently of the U.S. Constitution. A lower-court judge ruled that it does. If the justices agree with the lower court judge, state courts could invalidate other abortion restrictions that have been backed by federal courts. 

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Kansas Chief Justice Pleads With Lawmakers for More Money for Courts 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss is trying to persuade legislators to increase salaries for judges and pay for judicial branch employees. Nuss devoted much of his annual State of the Judiciary address to a joint session of the Legislature Wednesday to what he described as the serious need to increase pay within the court system. The Supreme Court is seeking to increase the court system's annual budget by about $22 million, or about 16 percent. Nuss told lawmakers that all judicial branch jobs pay below market rates, and some fall short by as much as 22 percent. He said nearly one-third of the court system's employees work outside jobs to make ends meet. 

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Kansas Waterslide Death Spurs Action on Ride Regulation 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Amusement park regulations in Kansas could be tightened after a lawmaker's son was killed last year on a water slide that a passed private inspection. House Federal and State Affairs Committee Chairman John Barker says he will hold hearings March 23-24 on a bill to strengthen inspection requirements of amusement parks. The bill would require the parks' insurance companies to hire engineers with some experience to inspect rides that can now be inspected privately. The current law came under scrutiny after Olathe Republican Representative Scott Schwab's son, Caleb Schwab, was killed last year on the Verruckt water slide at Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City. The slide had passed inspection by a private inspector. The ride has since been closed and will be torn down after the investigation is completed.

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Man Admits Making Threat Against Kansas Synagogue 

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A 41-year-old Kansas City man has pleaded guilty to making a threatening phone call to an Overland Park synagogue. Brian Wachter pleaded guilty Thursday to making a criminal threat, which is a felony. He admitted in his plea that he called in the threat last May to Congregation Beth Shalom. The Kansas City Star reports that prosecutors didn't say what the threat involved but court documents describe it as a "threat to commit violence." Sentencing is scheduled for May 9.

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Army Corps on Trial over Missouri River Flooding 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is defending itself at trial against more than 300 landowners who say the agency's management of the Missouri River has contributed to major flooding in five states, most notably 2011 flooding that caused billions of dollars in damage. The civil trial in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Kansas City, Missouri involves a 2014 lawsuit alleging the Corps has deemphasized flood control along the Missouri and put more emphasis on habitat restoration. The plaintiffs say that's led to more flooding. The U.S. government counters that authorities never promised to stop all Missouri River flooding. 

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Ranchers Deliver Hay to Kansas Ranchers Affected by Wildfire 

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Ranchers in northern Colorado have been helping out counterparts in southern Kansas who were affected by wildfires. The Steamboat Pilot & Today reports that a group of Routt County (Colorado) ranchers donated money and 15 tons of hay to ranchers in Kansas who lost livestock and property to the fires. Rancher Kyle Monger organized the humanitarian effort after he heard a friend had lost most of his ranch near Ashland, Kansas. Monger says he's grateful that the Routt County community quickly came together for those in need.  Hayden trucker Donnie Hayes says the family he delivered the hay to lost everything except for their vehicles and some cattle that had sought refuge in a pond as fire engulfed the ranch.

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Judge Allows Lawsuit to Proceed Against Butler County Deputy 

EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that a woman's lawsuit over an alleged rape while she was being held in the Butler County jail will move forward. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren on Wednesday rejected a former Butler County jailer's request to dismiss the lawsuit. Charles Chaney III argues in a court motion that he and the female inmate had consensual sex. The Wichita Eagle reports Melgren found the question of whether the sex was consensual is a "genuine issue" in the case. The woman alleges in her lawsuit that Chaney raped her in the jail library while she was an inmate in July 2015. Chaney is on the state sex offender registry with three counts of misdemeanor sexual battery.

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Kansas Lawsuit Adds to Woes of Man at Center of Lottery Scam 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A lawsuit by the state of Kansas accuses the man at the center of a multi-state lottery number-fixing scam of working with two others to redeem two bogus lottery tickets for $44,000. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced Tuesday he filed the Shawnee County lawsuit against Eddie Tipton and two others who Schmidt says turned in the tickets to the Kansas Lottery. Schmidt alleges Tipton used software manipulation to rig the tickets. Tipton, of Flatonia, Texas, once worked for the Iowa-based Multi-State Lottery Association, writing software designed to randomly pick numbers for lottery computers used for various games by 37 state and territorial lotteries. He was convicted in 2015 in Iowa of lottery fraud. 

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Father: KU Officials Didn't Seek Title IX Investigation 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The father of a University of Kansas women's basketball player says no one at the university sought a Title IX investigation after a confrontation between his daughter and Jayhawks basketball star Josh Jackson. Speaking by phone Tuesday, Tim Calvert told a Kansas Senate education committee that the university's Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access, which handles Title IX cases, had not requested an investigation. Calvert asked for an investigation after his daughter, McKenzie Calvert, said Jackson vandalized her car in December. Calvert says his daughter was treated unfairly after making the accusation. The Kansas City Star reports university policy requires coaches to report any incident involving Title IX, which prohibits gender discrimination in education, including sexual harassment and sexual violence. University spokesman Joe Monaco declined to discuss the investigation.

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Judge Denies Motion to Dismisses Part of Kansas State Title IX Case 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) ---€” A federal judge has dismissed part of a Title IX lawsuit filed against Kansas State University by two women who allege they were raped at off-campus fraternity houses. The Manhattan Mercury reports the court dismissed the claims of one former Kansas State student because her alleged assault occurred at a private apartment complex. But U.S. Judge Julie Robinson denied Kansas State's motion to dismiss the part of the lawsuit that deals with off-campus fraternity houses. The two students say in their lawsuit the university didn't investigate when they reported they were raped in off-campus fraternities. They argued the university has substantial control over off-campus fraternities and are required to investigate. Kansas State has argued laws don't require the university to investigate sexual assaults when they happen off campus.

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Woman Ordered to Stand Trial in Kansas Slaying, Abduction 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Mexican national charged with killing a Kansas mother and kidnapping the victim's newborn daughter has been ordered to stand trial. The Wichita Eagle reports that a Sedgwick County judge heard two hours of testimony Thursday before ordering 34-year-old Yesenia Sesmas to go on trial. She's charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated interference with parental custody. Prosecutors allege Sesmas fatally shot 27-year-old Laura Abarca of Wichita in November and abducted Abarca's 6-day-old newborn. Sesmas and the baby were found two days later at a Dallas home. The child was not injured and was returned to relatives in Wichita. The judge entered a plea of not guilty on Sesmas's behalf Thursday.

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Kansas City Police Positively Identify Body of Wichita Woman 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police have officially identified the body found in a car in the Missouri River as that of a missing Wichita woman. Police said Wednesday the body of 20-year-old Toni Anderson was inside her car, which was pulled from the river near Parkville Friday. Her parents had previously confirmed their daughter's death but police waited until receiving confirmation from a medical examiner. Anderson, a University of Missouri-Kansas City student, was last seen in the early hours of January 15 when she was stopped by a North Kansas City police officer for an improper lane change. The officer watched her drive to a nearby convenience store. Police have said they found no evidence of foul play. It's unclear how Anderson's car wound up at Platte Landing Park in Parkville.

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Dad: American UN Worker Kidnapped in Congo Was Striving for Peace 

HESSTON, Kan. (AP) — The father of an American United Nations worker who was among six people kidnapped in the Democratic Republic of Congo says his son has been doing humanitarian work and has had some success in persuading militia leaders to give up child soldiers. John Sharp, who lives in Hesston, told The Wichita Eagle that his 34-year-old son, Michael Sharp, is committed to finding nonviolent ways to end conflict. A Congo government spokesman said Monday that Michael Sharp and another U.N. worker, Zahida Katalan, of Sweden, were abducted along with three Congolese drivers and a translator while traveling through the Kasai Central province. John Sharp says his son, who was raised in Indiana and lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when not abroad, is resourceful and capable of finding a way out of his predicament.

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Push Underway to Get 5 Kansas Siblings Adopted Together 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Adoption officials in Kansas are hoping to find a permanent home for five siblings currently in foster care. The Kansas City Star says the children include two sisters and three brothers, ages 2 to 11. The Kansas Children's Services League's Corey Lada says the children are living in separate foster homes. Lada says placement workers hope to identify a family who will keep them together in Kansas. The league is part of an agency that contracts with the state to run AdoptKSKids.org. After the Star profiled the siblings last weekend, interested adopters filled the Kansas Children's Services League's voice mailbox. The league's email inbox also received 1,500 responses. Lada calls that response "pretty insane" and unlike anything she's seen in 13 years on the job.

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Salvador Perez Should Be Ready for Royals' Season Opener 

SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — All-Star catcher Salvador Perez should be ready for Kansas City's season opener after tests showed there was no structural damage to his injured left knee. The Royals, though, are still concerned about his hyperextended left elbow. Royals manager Ned Yost said Perez would probably be ready to play in a week. Perez returned to the Royals camp Wednesday after playing for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. He was injured Saturday in a collision at the plate with his Royals backup, Drew Butera, who was playing for Italy. Initially, the knee was Perez's main concern, and he had a second MRI on Tuesday. But the test only showed inflammation, not serious damage.
 

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