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Headlines for Thursday, March 27, 2014

Preliminary Murder Hearing Set for Lawrence Woman

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A preliminary hearing has been set for a 19-year-old Lawrence woman charged with murder in the death of her 52-year-old housemate. Sarah Brooke Gonzales McLinn is charged in the January death of Harold Sasko. The Lawrence Journal-World reports her preliminary hearing was scheduled Thursday for May 16. If she's convicted, prosecutors are seeking to have McLinn sentenced to life without parole for at least 50 years. Sasko owned pizza restaurants in Lawrence and Topeka. McLinn was an employee, and Sasko's relatives have said he let her move into his home while she was having personal problems. McLinn was reported missing around the time Sasko was found dead Jan. 17. McLinn was later arrested in Florida at Everglades National Park and is being held in Kansas on $1 million bond.


Kansas Unemployment Rate Up Slightly in February

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas labor officials say the state's unemployment rate increased in February to a seasonally adjusted 4.9 percent, up from 4.8 percent in January. That's the third consecutive month the rate has been below 5 percent. The Kansas Department of Labor announced Thursday that the state lost a seasonally adjusted 2,300 jobs in February, but had gained 12,200 private sector jobs since February 2013. A labor economist says Kansas has seen growth in each of the last five months in the number of people employed in the state, creating a positive outlook for future economic growth. As a result, the labor force has grown over the last three months as individuals look for potential employment opportunities.


Fugitive Arrested When Deputy Sees Him Eating

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A man wanted in Kansas and Oklahoma is likely wishing he had decided to eat in this weekend. Virgil Tillman was eating at a restaurant on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City Sunday when a U.S. Marshal who had been looking for him since February decided to go to the same restaurant. Tillman is wanted in Kansas on firearms, theft and drug charges. Oklahoma officials say he failed to appear in court on drug and illegal weapons charges. Matt Cahill, acting deputy U.S. Marshal in Kansas, says the deputy was off-duty when he spotted Tillman at the restaurant. He waited outside with Kansas City police and arrested Tillman as he left. The Kansas City Star reported the deputy then went into the restaurant and had his meal.


Kansas Senate GOP Unveils Schools Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican leaders in the Kansas Senate have outlined a new school funding plan that would give local districts extra authority to increase property taxes to supplement their state funds. GOP leaders unveiled the plan Wednesday in a caucus of Republican senators. The plan is designed to meet a Kansas Supreme Court mandate for the state to boost aid to poor districts. The proposal would provide $134 million to poor districts. It would allow school districts to use property taxes to raise a local option budget of 33 percent. The state currently allows 31 percent.


House Rejects Senate Plan for Kansas Energy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House members have rejected a Senate plan to end the state's renewable energy standards despite concerns that the policies are leading to higher utility rates for businesses and residents. The chamber voted 77-42 on Wednesday to reject an attempt to place the bill in a conference committee, where House and Senate members could negotiate a compromise. The standards require utility companies to provide 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. They were put in place in 2009 when legislators allowed the construction of a coal-fired power plant in southwest Kansas, as part of a trade-off struck by then-Gov. Mark Parkinson and power plant supporters. Critics argued Wednesday that the energy standards are unnecessary and lead to higher utility rates. Supporters say the standards promote economic growth.


Severe Weather Forecast from Kansas City to NW Arkansas

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — The Storm Prediction Center says there is a slight risk of severe weather in parts of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma later today. The greatest risk will be in western Arkansas, southwestern Missouri and eastern Oklahoma. Forecasters said heating within a 100-mile-wide corridor should make the atmosphere unstable ahead of an approaching cold front.  The forecasters say supercells could form and produce large hail and possibly tornadoes.  The threat will decrease overnight. 


Political Instability, Weather Spur Wheat Prices

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Market analysts say political instability in the Ukraine, freeze damage and drought are conspiring to drive up wheat prices. U.S. Wheat Associates, the industry's agricultural trade group, says in a recent report that concern over the political situation in Ukraine — which supplies 6 percent of the world's wheat export market — was one of the factors for the price spikes. But the group's market analyst, Casey Chumrau, also says fears about drought in the United States and other wheat-producing countries are pushing prices higher. Also spurring market concerns is the potential for freeze damage stemming from this year's frigid winter. It's unclear how much consumers will be affected by the increases, but analysts say U.S. farmers are poised to cash in on the uncertainty.


$270M Chocolate Plant Proof of US's Sweet Tooth

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Americans apparently aren't losing their taste for chocolate. Mars Incorporated is throwing a grand opening Thursday for a new $270 million plant in Kansas that will produce millions of chocolate bars and other sweets every day. Company officials say the plant exists mostly to meet U.S. demand for its M and M's- and Snickers-brand candy. It's the first new Mars plant in North America in 35 years. The plant will have the capacity to produce 14 million bite-sized Snickers bars and 39 million M and M's each day. Local and state officials will join the company at the grand opening of the 500,000-square-foot plant, which they also see as a sweet deal. The plant is bringing about 200 jobs to the Topeka area


Kansas House Approves Student Data Privacy Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has passed legislation aimed at restricting the identifiable information collected on public school students. The measure also specifies who may view such information, including parents and certain government agencies. Wednesday's 119-4 vote returns the bill to the Senate, which approved it earlier in slightly different form. Proponents said the bill would help protect students' identities and limit the disclosure of information collected about them to specific agencies, including local school districts, the Kansas education department and public health agencies. Legislators have raised concerns that data would be used inappropriately and shared with the federal government or other entities without parental consent. The bill requires a report on the law's implementation to be submitted to the governor and legislators in 201


Settlements Vary for 4 Juveniles in Kansas Suit

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Federal court records show settlements ranged from about $1.8 million to $55,000 for four juveniles who claimed a Kansas military school encouraged abuse by giving higher-ranking cadets authority to discipline younger cadets. Eleven former cadets filed a lawsuit in 2012 alleging that higher-ranking students abused younger students at St. John's Military School in Salina. The 126-year-old Episcopalian boarding school has long denied a culture of abuse exists. Parties in the case reached a settlement March 3rd, but details had not been previously released. Affidavits released Wednesday show the settlements for the four juveniles were for $55,000, $75,000, $100,000 and $1.8 million, about 40 prcent of which would go to lawyers. Settlement terms for the adult plaintiffs were not subject to court approval and haven't been disclosed.


Lawrence Officials Worry about Clinton Lake Level

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence city officials say the water levels at Clinton Lake are the lowest they have been since the lake was filled in 1981. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the lake is about 4.5 feet below normal levels. The city commissioners on Tuesday agreed to ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reduce the amount of water it releases from the lake during the spring and summer. The Kansas Water Office has already asked the corps to consider releasing less water from the lake during low water levels. Although the city gets about 60 percent of its treated water from the lake, officials say they aren't concerned about the city's water supply. City engineers say water can be drawn from the lake even when it is 23 feet below normal.


Kansas Voters to Decide Fate of Charitable Raffles

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas voters will decide in November whether to legalize charitable raffles. The state House adopted a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution on a 102-19 vote Wednesday. The Senate adopted the same proposal last week. If a simple majority of voters in the Nov. 4 general election approve, the constitution will be changed. Such an amendment is necessary because the constitution originally prohibited all forms of lotteries. Under existing Kansas law, raffles are essentially private lotteries. Kansas now has a state lottery and state-owned casinos, but they're permitted under a 1986 amendment making an exception to the overall ban.


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