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Headlines for Tuesday, December 13, 2016

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

Kansas Senate Leader Presses Governor for Budget Proposal

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Senate's top Republican says she and other lawmakers suspect Governor Sam Brownback isn't proposing a long-term fix for the state's budget problems because he's focused on getting a job in President-elect Donald Trump's administration. Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita and other lawmakers say they have grown frustrated by Brownback's decision to wait until January to propose a remedy for the state's $350 million budget shortfall for the current fiscal year. Wagle told reporters Monday that legislators "are very concerned the governor is looking for a ticket to D.C." In the fiscal year that begins July 1, the state's shortfall is expected to exceed $580 million. Brownback's office said Monday he will announce a plan to balance the budget when lawmakers begin their annual session in January. Brownback says he would consider proposals from Wagle or others beforehand. 

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Kansas Pension Chief: $177M in Extra Funds Needed Next Year

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The head of Kansas' state pension system says lawmakers will have to contribute $177 million more in funding next year to keep the system on track. KPERS director Alan Conroy told the pension system's board Monday in Topeka the figure represents a $61 million employer contribution increase called for in the fiscal year beginning in July 2017. There is also a $115 million payment due in June 2018 that lawmakers put off earlier this year. Conroy says the call for additional funding comes amid ``challenges'' with the state's general fund. Those include a $350 million shortfall in the current year and a reduction of more than $850 million in anticipated revenue for the next year.  Delayed and reduced payments may require greater future investments to catch up. 

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University of Kansas Leaders Oppose Guns on Campus

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ Elected leaders at the University of Kansas are voicing opposition to guns on campus. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the University Senate said in a resolution that it's opposed ``in the strongest possible terms'' to the carrying of firearms on campus. Starting in July, public universities in Kansas, must allow anyone 21 or older to have concealed firearms on campus in buildings that don't have security measures, including metal detectors. But the option is widely considered cost-prohibitive for most campus buildings. Despite the opposition, the University of Kansas and five other public universities in the state have been drafting policies to comply with the law. The Kansas Board of Regents is expected to approve them Wednesday.

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Lawrence School Board Meeting Disrupted over Teacher Resignation Dispute

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Lawrence school board abruptly adjourned a meeting amid a disruption sparked by frustration over the district's handling of a teacher accused of making racist comments during class. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that members of a group calling itself Black Lives Matter-LFK took over Monday's meeting, screaming and cursing near board members. The protesters also said they, not the board, were in charge of the meeting. Police responded but left at the request of a board member. The group accused the school district of protecting a South Middle School teacher who had recently resigned. Under a settlement agreement, the district agreed to withhold the results of its investigation in exchange for a promise from the teacher that the district wouldn't be sued. The teacher has denied the allegations.

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Conservative Kansas Group to Launch News Service

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The president of a conservative think tank has announced the organization is launching a news service.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Kansas Policy Institute president Dave Trabert made the announcement in a video on the organization's website. Trabert says the news service will be called the Sentinel. Trabert says the Sentinel is organized as a separate, nonprofit entity, although he and the Kansas Policy Institute's vice president and policy director James Franko serve on its five-member board. The Sentinel also contracts with the institute for fundraising. The Kansas Policy Institute describes itself as a "free-market" American think tank. 
   
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2 Discrimination Lawsuits Filed Against Emporia State 

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — A former Emporia State University assistant professor has refiled a federal discrimination lawsuit against the university and several administrators, and his wife has filed a separate lawsuit also claiming the school discriminated against her. Melvin Hale and his wife, Angelica, who are black, allege in lawsuits filed last week that the school discriminated against them after they complained about a racial incident in April 2015 while they worked in the School of Library and Information Management. The Hales said school administrators originally did nothing, then conducted a biased investigation and retaliated against them. Both lost their jobs and they no longer live in Emporia. Melvin Hale's original lawsuit was dismissed at his request in October. Emporia State says an investigation found no evidence of a hate crime against the Hales.

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5 Hurt in Kansas Oil-Drilling Explosion

SHARON SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) — Federal workplace safety officials are investigating a western Kansas oil field explosion that injured five workers, two of them critically. The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration says the accident Monday near Sharon Springs in Wallace County happened while workers were performing a drill stem test. The medical conditions of the victims, who according to OSHA were affiliated with Wichita-based Murfin Drilling Co., were not immediately available Tuesday. Phone messages that The Associated Press left with Murfin were not immediately returned. Fire Chief Jay Sharp says crews were working when gas made its way onto the deck floor of a warming hut, which included running heaters. Sharp says responding crews were able to put the fire out quickly.

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Man Pleads Guilty in Great Bend Bank Embezzlement 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A former employee at a bank in Great Bend has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $73,600 from that bank. KAKE-TV reports that 19-year-old Kaden Herman pleaded guilty on Monday to one count of embezzlement by a bank employee. Authorities say Herman gained access to a key and code that he used to open a Landmark National Bank ATM in May 2016 and remove cash. Herman's sentencing hearing is scheduled for February 2017.

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Man Shot, Injured in Topeka 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police are investigating after a man was injured in a shooting. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that authorities responded to Pine Ridge Manor Monday evening. Police Lieutenant Aaron Jones says the injured person told police that he dropped a gun which discharged, striking him in the leg. The man, whose identity hasn't been released, was taken to a Topeka hospital. His injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.

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Jury Awards Missouri Woman $20 Million in Employment Discrimination Suit

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A jury has awarded a Missouri woman $20 million in punitive damages from American Family Insurance, which she claimed discriminated against her. Deborah Miller, of Blue Springs, sued the company and its former Missouri state director for retaliation, age and sex discrimination. The jury also awarded her $450,000 in actual damages. A spokesman for the Wisconsin-based insurer said Monday the company disagrees with the verdict and is considering an appeal. Miller's attorneys argued that she was targeted by the company while it was trying to let go of older workers and replace them with younger people. Miller, who is 60, was removed from her management position during corporate restructuring but remains an American Family agent.

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KBI Probes Fatal Officer-Involved Shooting 

MEDICINE LODGE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says it is probing the death of a 24-year-old man during a shootout with police in Medicine Lodge. The KBI said in a statement Monday that Gary Leon Herd Jr. was fatally shot about 5 pm Sunday by a Medicine Lodge officer while a search warrant was being served. The KBI says an officer fired at Herd when he confronted the armed man in a bedroom, and that the two exchanged gunfire. Herd died at the scene. No officers were injured. The KBI says it will do a "thorough and independent investigation" and turn over its findings to Barber County prosecutors for review.

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Hugoton Ethanol Plant Sold as Company Deals with Bankruptcy

HUGOTON, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas energy company has sold its Hugoton cellulosic ethanol plant for $48.5 million as it deals with bankruptcy. Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas is a subsidiary of the Spanish alternative energy company Abengoa. It sold the plant, which produces ethanol from cellulose, to Synata Bio. The Kansas unit is selling off several assets through bankruptcy court, including a traditional grain ethanol plant in Colwich. The U.S. Energy Department gave the Kansas company a more than $130 million loan guarantee in 2011 to help with the constriction of the plant.

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Lawrence to Consider Students' Request for 'Sanctuary City'

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ City officials say they will review a request made by a group of about 20 high school students to make Lawrence a "sanctuary city'' to protect undocumented immigrants. The Lawrence High School students tell the Lawrence Journal-World that they were prompted to make the request in part by the election of Donald Trump. President-elect Trump spoke of mass deportations during his campaign. The students' request was a part of a petition presented to the Lawrence City Commission last week. The petition also asks for a statement of solidarity with people of color, immigrants, Muslims, refugees, LGBTQ people and other marginalized groups. City manager Tom Markus says city attorneys will review the request. The University of Kansas Student Senate passed a resolution last month also asking for the designation.  

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Couple Plead Guilty to Laundering Money at Kansas Bank

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A couple accused of laundering drug money for a Mexican cartel at a small southwest Kansas bank have admitted their roles in the conspiracy. George Enns and his wife, Agatha, of Meade, Kansas, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of money laundering conspiracy under a deal with prosecutors that spares them prison time. The couple acknowledged they deposited at least $1.6 million in cash and $5.2 million in third party checks brought in from Mexico at Plains State Bank. The account funds were used to buy corn seed which was then transported into Mexico. Prosecutors say the process is known as trade-based money laundering.  The couple face sentencing February 27.  Former bank president James Kirk Friend of Plains pleaded faces sentencing January 9 for failing to report failed suspicious activity. 

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Kansas Massage Parlor Owner Sentenced for Sex Trafficking

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A Wichita massage parlor owner was sentenced to two years of supervised release for harboring a Chinese woman who worked as a prostitute.  The U.S. attorney's office says in a news release that Samir F. Elias of Wichita has agreed to forfeit more than $32,000 in cash and a vehicle. The judge also imposed a $52,000 judgment against him. He pleaded guilty to one count each of harboring for financial gain an immigrant who was in the country unlawfully and one count of importation of an immigrant for prostitution. The crimes occurred while he was owner of GiGi's Elite Massage in Wichita. Prosecutors say Elias housed the woman at his home, driving her to work and back, and collected money from her that he knew were prostitution proceeds.  

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Missouri Woman Sentenced for Oxycodone Conspiracy

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Kansas City, Missouri, woman has been ordered to spend nearly four years in federal prison for her role in a $1.2 million plot to distribute illegally obtained oxycodone. Forty-six-year-old Michelle C. Newton was sentenced Monday to three years and 10 months in prison. Newton pleaded guilty in June to charges that from December 2013 to January of this year, she participated in a conspiracy to traffic oxycodone. Prosecutors say the conspirators acquired prescription-quality paper used by authorized health care providers to write oxycodone prescriptions. Authorities say they also obtained federal registration numbers of health care providers, which they used to prepare fraudulent prescriptions. Conspirators got the prescriptions filled and sold the pills for $15 to $25 each. Four other defendants have pleaded guilty and await sentencing.

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Kansas Woman Who Graduated from College at Age 95 Has Died 

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas woman who became national news when she graduated from college at the age of 95, and continued taking classes until she was 100, has died. Nola Ochs was 105 when she died Friday at a senior living home in Dodge City. The Beckwith Funeral Home in Jetmore says her funeral is scheduled for Thursday in Dodge City. Ochs earned a general studies degree with an emphasis in history from Fort Hays State University in 2007. At the time, the Guinness World Records said she was the oldest college graduate in the world. She then earned a master's degree in liberal studies with a concentration on history in 2010, at the age of 98. She continued taking classes until age 100 before returning to her family's farm near Jetmore.

 

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