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Headlines for Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Kansas Governor to Deliver State of the State Address January 10 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback plans to give the annual State of the State address January 10. Brownback said Tuesday that he has accepted an invitation from incoming House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. to address a joint session of the Legislature the day after lawmakers open their 2017 session. The speaker traditionally issues such an invitation because the address is in the House chamber. The 2017 speech is set for 5 pm. Governors use the address to outline an agenda for the Legislature's annual session and tout past policies. Brownback is a Republican and used part of his 2016 speech to criticize Democratic President Barack Obama on national security issues. Fiscal issues are likely to dominate the 2017 session. The state faces projected budget shortfalls totaling $1.1 billion through June 2019.


Analysts Raise Concerns About $12B Westar Sale

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — State analysts say Westar Energy is putting shareholder enrichment ahead of reasonable electric rates for customers with its proposed sale to Kansas City Power & Light. The Wichita Eagle reports that analysts representing the staff of the Kansas Corporation Commission and the Citizens' Utility Ratepayer Board raised the concerns in hundreds of pages of testimony filed late last week. Also expressing concerns were several consumer intervenors in the case. A Westar spokeswoman says the company remains confident of completing the merger next spring. KCP&L's parent company, Missouri-based Great Plains Energy, is seeking to buy Westar. The $12.2 billion transaction would involve taking on $3.6 billion in Westar debt. If the merger's approved, Westar and KCP&L will become a single electric company straddling the Kansas/Missouri border, with 1.5 million customers.


Staffing Vacancy Rates High, Improving at State Hospitals

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Staffing vacancy rates at Kansas state hospitals have improved amid efforts to boost morale and pay, although a top official acknowledges they remain too high. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services Secretary Tim Keck discussed the issue Monday with lawmakers. The hospitals have fewer openings for mental health technicians than in January, when Keck took over. The rate dropped to 24 percent from 40 percent at Larned State Hospital. The rate at Osawatomie is even lower — 10 percent. Larned has a physician vacancy rate of 60 percent currently, and a 28 percent vacancy rate for registered nurses. The figures are better at Osawatomie: 33 percent for physicians, 17 percent for registered nurses. Keck says overtime pay also has been trending downward.


Spirit AeroSystems Files $20M Construction Permit in Wichita 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Spirit AeroSystems has filed a $20 million construction permit for the building where it manufactures a part of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner in Sedgwick County. The Wichita Eagle reports the permit was filed last week. A Spirit spokesman says the permit is not specifically for a defense program, but for current and future growth opportunities. No other details about the project were available. The building is Spirit's Composite Manufacturing Facility, where is makes composite forward fuselages. Earlier this year, Boeing raised Spirit's monthly 787 production rate from 10 fuselages a month to 12.


2 Atchison Snowplows Involved in Separate Accidents 

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — Police say two city snowplows in Atchison were involved in separate accidents due to icy conditions. The St. Joseph News-Press reports police reports show the first incident happened Friday. Deputy public works director Clinton McNemee says the snowplow hit icy conditions as it traveled down the road, slid sideways, hit a shoulder and fell on its side. McNemee says the driver was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. A police report says the second accident happened Sunday, when a snowplow struck a vehicle parked along the road. There was damage to the vehicle.


Kansas Looks at Converting Juvenile Center to Predator Unit 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are looking at converting a soon-to-close juvenile corrections center into a new unit for holding sex offenders indefinitely for treatment after they leave prison. Acting Department for Aging and Disability Services Secretary Tim Keck said Tuesday the department is working with the state fire marshal's office to determine how the state's juvenile facility in Larned would have to be renovated. The Department of Corrections plans to close the juvenile facility in March. The state operates both an adult prison and a state mental hospital in Larned in western Kansas. The hospital includes the Sexual Predator Treatment Program. The number of patients in the sexual predator program continues to grow. Keck told a legislative committee that two dozen of them might be better served in a new medical facility.


Regulators: AMC Can Buy Smaller Movie-Theater Chain Carmike 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Federal regulators say movie-theater chain AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. can buy smaller rival Carmike Cinemas Inc. for $1.2 billion if it sells some theaters. The deal will make AMC the biggest U.S. movie theater operator. The U.S. Department of Justice says its approval hinges on AMC selling theaters in 15 markets where it competes with Carmike. The company, based in Leawood, also has to sell most of its holdings in National Cinemedia, a cinema advertising company, and transfer 24 theaters to a rival theater ad company, Screenvision LLC. The Justice Department says the deal would lead to higher prices for moviegoers without those conditions.


Kansas Man Gets 32 Years Prison for Robberies

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A southern Kansas man has been ordered to spend more than 32 years in prison for his role in abducting people he forced to withdraw money from their bank accounts. Twenty-three-year-old Kristopher Williams of Wichita was sentenced Monday in Sedgwick County. That's where he was convicted of kidnapping, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, aggravated assault and robbery. Those charges related to a Subway restaurant holdup in November of last year and robberies of people throughout Sedgwick County in December 2015 and April of this year. Prosecutors say that Williams accosted residents returning home after dark and forced them at gun point to get back into their vehicles and drive to automated teller machines to withdraw cash. A co-defendant is scheduled to be sentenced January 3.


Wichita Schools Superintendent to Become Olathe's Top Leader

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City school district has picked the leader of Kansas' largest district as its next superintendent. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Olathe district announced Monday that its school board has voted to hire Wichita schools superintendent John Allison. Allison will complete the current school year in Wichita before beginning work July 1 in Olathe. He is replacing Marlin Berry, who left to become superintendent in Rogers, Arkansas. With 30,000 students, Olathe is the state's second-largest Kansas school district. Wichita has about 50,000 students. The Wichita district is meeting Jan. 5 in closed session to discuss steps to replace Allison. He said last week that he sought the Olathe job in part to be closer to his aging mother, who lives in the Kansas City area.


Authorities Searching for Kansas Man Who May Be in Danger

GARNETT, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are searching for a Kansas man whose vehicle was found abandoned over the weekend. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Kansas Bureau of Investigation has issued an endangered person release for 24-year-old Devyn Long of Welda. His vehicle was found abandoned Saturday morning southwest of Garnett. He is believed to be in danger. Authorities are asking anyone who knows Long's whereabouts or who have had contact with him since Saturday to call the Anderson County Sheriff's Office.


Mexican Woman Sentenced for Gun Role Tied to Kansas Killing

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Mexican woman who tried to hide a gun her boyfriend used to fatally shoot a Kansas teenager has been sentenced to time already served and will undergo deportation proceedings. Twenty-two-year-old Azucena Garcia-Ferniza was sentenced Monday in federal court to the 15 months she already has been in custody. She pleaded guilty in October to a weapons count. Court documents say Garcia-Ferniza legally entered the U.S. at the age of 3 and had a permit to work in the U.S. at the time of her arrest, but her visitor visa expired in 1998. Authorities say 17-year-old Allie Saum was killed in 2015 in Salina while riding in a pickup truck mistaken for someone else's truck. Garcia-Ferniza's boyfriend, Macio Palacio Jr., has been sentenced to more than 50 years in prison.


The Latest: Some Boo as Kansas Electors Vote for Trump

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The votes cast by Kansas' six members of the Electoral College for President-elect Donald Trump have been greeted by boos from some of the dozens of people who watched. The Republican electors met Monday in the Kansas Senate chamber. Trump received nearly 57 percent of the vote in Kansas. About 80 people crammed into the Senate's west gallery to watch, and about 40 more people watched from the Senate floor. Some of the observers applauded the announcement that Trump had received the state's electoral vote. But others in the gallery shouted "Shame!" and "The blood is on your hands!" The Electoral College formally elects the president, and each state has as many votes as members in Congress. A candidate must win 270 of the 538 votes to be elected.


Kansas Crime Database to be Revamped

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigations is revamping its crime data system, which debuted in 1993. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the agency began the revamping process this past fall. It is expected to last through 2021, in time for new federal guidelines on indictment reporting. The system provides unspecified data like the total number offenses reported by each agency, but research analyst Bill Reid says the Kansas Bureau of Investigations routinely gets more complex questions from lawmakers and others. The about 420 law enforcement agencies in Kansas don't necessarily report statistics the same way, which can affect the way the system provides information. The first half of the new database is expected to be online by fiscal year 2019, and its costs will be funded by a more than $570,000 U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics grant.


Three Inmates Serving Time for Kansas Crimes Get Commutations

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Three federal inmates serving time in Kansas-related drug cases are getting their sentences shortened by President Barack Obama. Those commutations were among 153 announced Monday by the White House, along with 78 pardons. That's the largest number of individual clemencies in a single day by any president. Under Obama's action Monday, Demetri Alexander's 15-year sentence received in 2007 for the Kansas City, Kansas, man's cocaine and gun convictions will come to an end next April. So will Franklin Goodwin Jr.'s life term related to the Leavenworth, Kansas, man's 2009 cocaine-trafficking conviction. Obama also ordered that the life sentence Steven Speal of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, received in 1997 is serving on a Kansas drug and weapons charges expire in December 2018.


Physician's Assistant Sentenced for Illegal Cosmetic Treatments 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas physician's assistant has been sentenced to a year of probation for breaking federal law while treating patients with Botox and another drug used cosmetically to prevent wrinkles. The U.S. attorney's office says 53-year-old Joel Erskin, of Garden City, was sentenced Tuesday for one count of receiving and dispensing misbranded drugs. He admitted through his plea to purchasing cheaper versions of Botox and Juvederm from Canadian pharmacies while he owned and operated Renovo Medical. The business also is known as University Medical. The release says the Botox he purchased was misbranded and failed to meet labeling requirements. The Juvederm was adulterated and not approved for U.S. distribution. Erskin didn't inform his clients that the drugs were purchased from Canada and didn't meet federal standards.


Documents Detail Allegations Against ex-Kansas Sergeant

VALLEY CENTER, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas law enforcement officer is accused in court documents of using his authority to have sex with a woman in 2003 and 2004 and making a minor send him nude images. The allegations were made in two protection orders granted last week. The Wichita Eagle reports that it obtained the documents through a records request. The former Valley Center police sergeant and Sedgwick County sheriff's deputy is free on bond. He resigned from the Valley Center job earlier this month after being booked on suspicion of official misconduct, rape, sexual battery and sexual exploitation of a child. No charges had been filed as of Monday. Sheriff Jeff Easter says the arrest resulted from a complaint alleging that he possibly had inappropriate relationships with two Valley Center girls.


Police: Wichita Teen Dies After Accidentally Shooting Self

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita, Kansas, say a 16-year-old girl died after accidentally shooting herself. Wichita police Lt. Jason Stephens says 16-year-old Nautica Whittker shot herself unintentionally early Saturday when she and other teenagers were playing with a shotgun in the basement of a home she was visiting. Whittker died at the scene. Stephens says the shotgun belonged to a resident of the home.


GM to Temporarily Close Factories, Including KCK Plant

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors will temporarily close five factories next month as it tries to reduce a growing inventory of cars. Spokeswoman Dayna Hart says the factories will close anywhere from one to three weeks due to the continuing U.S. market shift toward trucks and SUVs. Just over 10,000 workers will be idled. The company's Detroit-Hamtramck and Kansas City, Kansas, factories will be shut down for three weeks, while a plant in Lansing, Michigan, will be down for two weeks. Factories in Lordstown, Ohio, and Bowling Green, Kentucky, each will be idled for one week. The factories make just about every car in the General Motors lineup. Last month, almost 62 percent of all U.S. vehicle sales were trucks and SUVs.

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