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Headlines for Tuesday, February 17, 2015

House Committee Restores Highway Funds Transfer

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A House panel reversed a decision made last week and decided to fully restore Governor Sam Brownback's request to use millions of dollars from the Kansas Department of Transportation to fill gaps in other state spending.  The governor wants to take $724 million from transportation projects. Last week, the House Transportation Budget Committee voted to reduce that amount by $280 million, allowing about $444 million to be transferred during fiscal years 2016 and 2017.  During a quick meeting on Monday, the panel voted to restore the $280 million fund transfer. The committee's Chairman, Representative J.R. Claeys of Salina, said more study is needed to determine the impact of removing fund sweeps on the budget.  He said the quick meeting was necessary because he had to attend another meeting.  

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Proposals Advance to Change How Kansas Picks Highest Court 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has approved rival proposals for changing how state Supreme Court justices are selected. Justices would be elected under one proposal clearing the Judiciary Committee. Under the other plan, the governor would appoint the justices directly, subject to Senate confirmation. Currently, a lawyer-led commission screens applicants for Supreme Court vacancies and names three finalists. The governor must pick one, with no role for lawmakers. Republican Representative Mark Kahrs of Wichita said Tuesday that the decisions of the Judiciary Committee represent progress in reforming judicial selection. But Democratic Reprsentative John Carmichael of Wichita said there's no reason to change the selection process. The House committee approved the two rival proposals Monday on 13-9 votes. Debates by the full House have not been scheduled.

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Kansas Lawmakers Find Agreement on Campaign Spending Raise

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas Republicans and Democrats can agree on one thing _ they want more campaign money.  Representatives of both parties' leadership testified Monday in favor of a bill before the House Elections Committee that would at least double contribution limits to most state campaigns. For example, the bill would increase individual contribution limits to $4,000 from $2,000 for gubernatorial candidates and $2,500 from $1,000 for state senators.  Kansas Democratic Party Chairwoman Joan Wagnon testified that the current limits, which have changed little since the 1970s, were unrealistically low.  Kansas Republican Party Executive Director Clay Barker told the committee that the drastic increase in spending on ads from outside groups has muddied campaign messages. He said voters want to hear more directly from the candidate's campaigns. 

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Kansas Lawmakers Settle Dispute over Rules, Bill Bundling 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers have approved rules limiting a common practice used to rush legislation to passage. The House voted 83-38 on Tuesday to approve rules governing interactions between the two chambers. The Senate approved the rules on a 27-7 vote Monday. The Senate was not scheduling debates on bills until the joint rules were settled. The two chambers disagreed over limiting the bundling of separate bills into the final version of a single measure on a broad topic such as insurance or agriculture. Critics say the practice leads to sloppy lawmaking. The joint rules will allow up to five bills to be bundled, with an exception for tax measures. The House had wanted to allow only two bills to be bundled, while the Senate initially sought no limit.

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Kansas Officials Call Immigration Ruling 'Victory' 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says that a federal court ruling that blocks an executive order on immigration vindicates his efforts. A federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked executive orders Tuesday that would have protected as many as 5 million people who entered the U.S. illegally from deportation. Kansas is one of 26 states that have challenged the orders as unconstitutional. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt on Wednesday called the ruling a preliminary victory in the case. He said the ruling will boost his state-level efforts to deny benefits to people in the U.S. illegally. Irene Caubillo, president of advocacy group El Centro, said she expected the ruling to be appealed and her organization would continue to aid those in the country illegally to gain legal status.

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Kansas Bill Would Require Parental Consent for Sex Education
 
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Schools would be barred from giving sex education lessons to students without their parents' consent under a bill before the Kansas Legislature. The House Education Committee held a hearing on the bill Tuesday that would require school districts to share any sexual education materials with parents and obtain their written consent before teaching it to their children. Several parents and teachers testified in favor of the bill, saying that while some districts have already instituted similar policies, many districts do not properly inform parents about potentially inappropriate material in curriculums. Opponents included two pastors and a priest, who testified the bill would deprive children of information important to their health. An identical bill was endorsed by the committee last year, but did not pass beyond the House floor.

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Kansas Bill Would Keep Fantasy Sports Legal Amid Dispute 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas lawmaker is moving to keep fantasy sports leagues legal amid a dispute with the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission. Republican Representative Brett Hildabrand of Shawnee submitted a bill to the Legislature Monday that would define fantasy sports as a game of skill. The distinction is important because the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission said in August that fantasy sports meet the criteria of a lottery, which would make them illegal. Under the Kansas Constitution, only the state is allowed to administer lotteries. Hildabrand said he introduced the legislation so ordinary Kansans who enjoy fantasy football would not become criminals. The federal government and 45 states consider fantasy sports legal games of skill. However, five states consider them illegal.

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Great Mall in Olathe Closing in Fall 2015

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — The Great Mall of the Great Plains in Olathe will close in mid-to-late fall. The owners of the 786,000-square-foot mall said in a statement Monday that economic realities such as the economic downturn and changing buying habits prompted the closing. The mall has struggled to remain profitable since it opened in 1997. VanTrust, the asset manager for the property, says it tried to find potential uses for the existing property but the structure, maintenance costs and layout making it unlikely the current building will be preserved. The developer is working with the Olathe Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council to find the best use for the property.

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Jury Reaches Partial Verdict in Lawrence Homicide

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ A Lawrence man will be retried on a first-degree murder charge after a jury reached a partial verdict in the case.  A Douglas County jury on Monday convicted 30-year-old Dustin Walker of aggravated burglary but could not agree on a verdict on a first-degree murder charge after about 11 hours of deliberation.  Walker is charged with killing 39-year-old Patrick Roberts in March. Prosecutors allege Walker and co-defendant Archie Robinson went to Roberts' home to steal cash and marijuana and that Walker shot Roberts during the crime. The defense claimed Roberts' brother attacked Robinson. Walker testified last week that Robinson was holding the gun when he was tackled and the gun went off, hitting Roberts. A new trial date will be set in May. 

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Man Convicted of 2 Bank Robberies in KC, Lawrence

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City, Kansas man already on supervised release for a bank robbery conviction pleaded guilty to robbing two more banks. Federal prosecutors say 36-year-old Antonio Gaitan pleaded guilty Wednesday to one bank robbery indictment in Missouri and one in Kansas. He admitted that he stole $4,114 from Country Club Bank in Kansas City, Missouri, and $5,130 from Truity Credit Union in Lawrence, Kansas. Both robberies occurred in April. Gaitan was arrested after the robberies in Nebraska.

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Jurors Weigh Case of Kansas Commune Leader Accused of Murder 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Jurors have begun deliberating in the trial of the purported leader of a Kansas commune who is accused of killing one of its members and living off life insurance payments. Fifty-five-year-old Daniel Perez is charged with first-degree premeditated murder in the 2003 drowning of 26-year-old Patricia Hughes at the group's compound near Wichita. District Attorney Marc Bennett told jurors Tuesday that Perez must be held accountable. Perez's attorney countered that the evidence and testimony don't warrant a conviction and that her client was only an employee rather than the leader of the commune. Several women testified that Perez coerced them into sexual encounters when they were underage. Others testified about millions in life insurance policies sold to people associated with Perez who later died. Perez has denied all the allegations.

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Liberal, KS Reclaims Pancake Race Crown

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — Without a three-time champion competing, a yearly pancake race between women from England's Olney and a southwestern Kansas town was a griddle riddle until Hannah Belton put that to rest for the Americans. The 24-year-old second-grade teacher and middle-school cross country coach from Liberal, Kansas, won Shrove Tuesday's International Pancake Day Race in her hometown. Olney's Emma Maitland finished six seconds slower. Shrove Tuesday traditionally is the last day for merrymaking before the start of Lent. Pancakes were thought to be a good way for Christians to consume the fat they were supposed to give up during the 40 days before Easter. The run's competitors wear aprons and scarves and run the course with a pancake in their pan, flipping it at the beginning and end of the race.

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English Mother and Daughter Travel to Kansas for Trans-Atlantic Pancake Race

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — An English mother and daughter who are both past champions of a trans-Atlantic pancake race were in southwest Kansas for this year's competition. The High Plains Daily Leader reports that 21-year-old Devon Byrne wasn't able to compete Tuesday because she won for a third straight time last year. So she did the next best thing and watched her mother compete in the Liberal leg of the Shrove Tuesday competition in which women from there and Olney, England, run the course with a pancake in their pan, flipping it at the beginning and end. Her mother, Lesley Byrne, won the international competition in 1988 and 1989. She also won the Olney leg in 1993.

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Steve Forbes to Give Landon Lecture at K-State

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Steve Forbes, chairman and editor in chief of Forbes Media, will give the first Landon Lecture of the year at Kansas State. Forbes, who is also an author, served as chairman of the Board of International Broadcasting under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He also ran for president in 1996 and 2000 with a platform that included a flat tax, medical savings accounts, a new Social Security system and a strong national defense, an agenda he continues to promote. The speech is scheduled for March 9 at 7 pm in McCain Auditorium.

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Man Fatally Shot by KS Police Identified

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man who was shot and killed by police last week was a 21-year-old from Kansas City, Kansas. Police on Monday identified Andres Lara-Rodriguez as the suspect who died after a chase on Friday after he carjacked a pest control truck. Officers pursued the truck for about 30 minutes from Kansas into Kansas City, Missouri, and then back to Kansas. The chase ended when the suspect crashed into a fence at a church in Kansas City, Kansas. Police say he showed a gun and a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper and three Kansas City police officers shot him. The shooting remains under investigation.

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Gates Bar-B-Q Restaurant in Independence Burns to the Ground

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — A Gates Bar-B-Q restaurant near the Truman Sports Complex in Kansas City has burned to the ground. Battalion Chief Mike Ditamore said an employee called firefighters about 1 am Tuesday after seeing a fire around the exhaust system above a grill. The fire spread to the building's attic and roof. No one was injured. Investigators say the exact cause is still unclear. The building is total loss. It was one of six Gates restaurants in the Kansas City area. It was popular with athletes, fans and celebrities who came from nearby Arrowhead Stadium and Kauffman Stadium. Founder Ollie Gates says it's too early to say if he will rebuild at that location but he will definitely have another restaurant in Independence.

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Kansas Man Who Played Santa Accused of Sex Charges
 
MARION, Kan. (AP) — A former sheriff's dispatcher who played Santa Claus for preschool children in central Kansas' Marion County is accused of sexually attacking an 8-year-old girl. KWCH-TV reports that prosecutors have charged 46-year-old Kenneth Newell of McPherson with 13 counts involving sexual misconduct. KWCH says Newell's December 23 arrest was revealed Monday night to Marion County commissioners. The sheriff says the county may have to continue paying $30 a day to keep Newell jailed in McPherson County because he's too familiar about operations of the Marion jail. A message left Tuesday with Newell's attorney, Steve Atherton of Emporia, was not immediately returned.

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Teen Hurt in Highway Crash near Holton

HOLTON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a 16-year-old girl was hospitalized after her car crashed on a snow-packed highway in northeastern Kansas. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the 16-year-old girl from Bellevue, Nebraska, on Sunday night was traveling north on U.S. 75 near Holton when she lost control of her vehicle and it landed in a ditch. The teen was wearing a seat belt and was taken to Holton Community Hospital for treatment of her injuries. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports her condition wasn't immediately known Monday morning. Troopers say there were no passengers in her vehicle.

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Nixon Restores State Funding for KC Sports Complex 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Governor Jay Nixon says he plans to restore nearly $5 million in state funding for the Truman Sports Complex and Bartle Hall in Kansas City. The money was eliminated in Nixon's proposed budget, without explanation. That caused concern for Jackson County and Kansas City officials who count on the state subsidy to run the home of the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals, and Bartle Hall, which attracts several conventions to the city. A spokesman for Governor Nixon says the funding was left out of the governor's budget proposal by mistake. Nixon announced Monday he planned to restore the money. The state has subsidized the venues since 1991.

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West Virginia Beats Jayhawks 62-61 in Final Seconds 

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Number 8-ranked Kansas lost in the final seconds of their game against number 23-ranked West Virginia last night. The Mountaineers' Juwan Staten made a layup with 4 seconds left to lift West Virginia to a 62-61 victory. Staten finished with 20 points to give the Mountaineers (20-6, 8-5 Big 12) their first 20-win season in four years. The Jayhawks' Perry Ellis finished with 19 points, Frank Mason had 18 and Kelly Oubre Jr. added 14 points for Kansas (21-5, 10-3).

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K-State Great Among Those Selected for College Hoops Hall of Fame 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two-time All-American John Havlicek, Indiana star Quinn Buckner and longtime coach Lou Henson are among the newest class to be enshrined in the College Basketball Hall of Fame. Their ceremony will take place November 20 at the Arvest Bank Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri. The latest group of eight basketball luminaries was revealed Tuesday during a news conference at the College Basketball Experience in downtown Kansas City. They join a fraternity that welcomed Shaquille O'Neal and Grant Hill this past year. Others selected for the 2015 class include former Kansas State star Rolando Blackman; Dayton coach Don Donoher; Langston coach C. Felton "Zip" Gayles; Long Beach State star Ed Ratleff; and North Carolina All-American Charlie Scott.

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