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Headlines for Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Brownback to Veto Income Tax Hike Meant to Fix Budget 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says he will veto a bipartisan bill that would roll back personal income tax cuts he's championed to help balance the state budget. The conservative Republican governor announced his planned action Tuesday, four days after the GOP-controlled Legislature approved the measure. The bill's tax increases would raise more than $1 billion over two years starting in July. Brownback has criticized the measure as harmful to middle-class families and small business owners. Supporters say it's necessary to help close projected budget shortfalls totaling nearly $1.1 billion through June 2019. Kansas has struggled to balance the budget since GOP lawmakers slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback's urging. The bill would increase income tax rates and end an exemption for farmers and business owners.

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Kansas House Committee Tables Medicaid Expansion

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers won't vote on expanding Medicaid until at least April 3. The House Health and Human Services Committee voted to table the bill right before the deadline for committees to pass bills onto the floor. That could kill the bill for this year. Committee Vice Chair Susan Concannon says she will try to get House Speaker Ron Ryckman to exempt the bill from deadlines so that it can be considered later this year. Expanding Medicaid would give coverage to people who earn up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. It has support from health care advocates, providers, business groups and patients. Conservative think tanks and a state agency overseeing the program oppose the bill.

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Kansas Rejects Higher Limits on Donations to Candidates 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have overwhelmingly rejected doubling most of the state's limits on contributions to candidates and political parties. The House voted 101-22 against giving a bill raising contribution limits first-round approval. Lawmakers had been encouraged to raise contribution limits by Kansas Republican Party Executive Director Clay Barker. He argued that the move would have diverted donor dollars from so-called independent, "dark money" groups. But critics in both parties mocked the argument. They said the bill would have made small contributions less meaningful and would have led to more expensive and nastier campaigns. The bill would have increased the contribution limits for gubernatorial candidates to $4,000. The limit for state Senate candidates would have increased to $2,500 from $1,000. The limit for state House candidates would have doubled to $1,000.

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Kansas House Votes to Restore Teacher Tenure 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has taken a step to restore guaranteed teacher tenure after GOP lawmakers ended it in 2014. The House gave first-round approval Tuesday after Prairie Village Democratic Representative Jerry Stogsdill attached the tenure bill as an amendment to another bill. Supporters say the amendment ensures due process for teachers but opponents say local school boards and districts should have control over tenure decisions. There is a tenure bill in the Education Committee but it hasn't received a vote. An upcoming deadline for bills to pass their committee of origin could have killed it. The teachers' union sued over the 2014 measure, saying it violated the Constitution because it was attached to a budget bill on the House floor. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in favor of the legislature.

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Kansas Lawmakers Wary of Projected School Spending Savings

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are skeptical of estimates for projected savings in spending on public schools included in Republican Governor Sam Brownback's budget proposals. The debate over the numbers came as legislative committees had hearings on proposals for elements of a new education funding formula. Brownback's budget proposals assume that two measures would save the state $47 million during the fiscal year that begin in July and $89 million in the fiscal year beginning in July 2018. One measure would have all 286 school districts participate in a single health insurance plan for their employees and another would centralize the purchase of some supplies and services. Brownback's figures are based on a 2016 efficiency study commission by the Legislature. But both districts and legislative auditors have questioned the numbers.

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Kansas House Advances Bill Limiting Access to Police Records 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has advanced a bill to allow the state commission that certifies law enforcement officers to close records about officers who have been fired or disciplined. House members gave first-round approval to the bill on a voice vote. The chamber expects to take a final vote Wednesday to determine whether the bill goes to the Senate. The bill was sought by Republican Representative John Whitmer of Wichita. He is chairman of the Kansas Commission on Peace Officers' Standards and Training. Supporters said the bill would protect officers' privacy. Critics worried about limiting access to information about police misconduct. The bill says records on fired or disciplined officers are personnel records, allowing them to remain closed. Complaints against officers with the commission would be investigatory records, limiting their release.

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Missouri Man Charged with Trying to Plan Terrorist Attack 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Federal officials say a Missouri man is charged with helping to plan what he believed would be a terrorist attack in Kansas City. Robert Lorenzo Hester Jr. was charged in federal court in Kansas City with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. The 25-year-old Hester of Columbia was arrested Friday and the criminal complaint was released Tuesday after he made his first court appearance. The U.S. attorney's office in Kansas City says Hester, who served less than a year in the U.S. Army, met several times with people he believed to be Islamic State group sympathizers. They were actually undercover FBI agents. Prosecutors say Hester agreed to participate in an attack scheduled for Monday that would injure or kill many people.

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Douglas County Identifies 18-Year-Old Missing in Lake 

BALDWIN CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Douglas County Sheriff's office says the 18-year-old last seen Saturday evening before the boat he was on capsized in a county lake was Cameron Kirchner of Gardner. Kirchner and a friend were on a boat the turned over on the Douglas County State Fishing Lake near Baldwin City Saturday. The other person, a 17-year-old, was able to swim to shore but Kirchner did not surface. Authorities originally said the missing person was 17. Divers searched for Kirchner throughout the holiday weekend and the search continued Tuesday. Officials said they consider it a recovery, rather than a rescue effort. Kirchner's family said in a statement they appreciated the efforts of law enforcement and support received from friends and strangers. The family asked for privacy and declined media interviews.

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Kansas Honor Flight Surprised With $15,000 Donation

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A group that takes Kansas war veterans on trips to Washington D.C. is celebrating a new donation. KAKE-TV reports Kansas Honor Flight was expecting a check for $5,000 from Allmetal Recycling. But a big response to fundraising efforts meant the organization received a $15,000 donation. Allmetal owner Clint Cornejo says the fundraising shows Wichita supports its veterans and the military. Kansas Honor Flight takes war veterans to Washington D.C., to visit war memorials. It costs $700 to send one Kansas veteran on an honor flight.

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Refugee Populations Drawing Doctors to Rural Kansas

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Somali refugees who have settled in a Kansas meatpacking town are the cornerstone of an innovative recruiting effort to entice new doctors to rural hospitals. It's an effort that grew out of the realization that many millennials graduating from medical schools have a burning passion for international humanitarian work. Hospitals that are involved in the effort are encouraging doctors to work with immigrant populations and learn the language and culture before heading overseas. They also offer generous time off for medical trips abroad. Twenty-five Kansas doctors have joined a loose network of physicians working across western Kansas. The group is working to solidify that arrangement by forming a nonprofit group. Their efforts come amid President Donald Trump's attempts to restrict the influx of refugees.

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Foundation Raises $25K for Injured Wichita Police Officer

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A foundation has raised about $25,000 for a Wichita police officer who was hit by a fleeing driver. The Wichita Eagle reports that $10,000 already has gone to the family of Brian Arterburn. He sustained injuries to his chest, abdomen and brain when he was struck Feb. 7 while putting tire-deflating spike strips on a road. A 31-year-old man is charged. Honore Adversis Foundation president and founder Paul Zamorano says the other $15,000 - and 100 percent of all funds received in the future - will go to the family when they need it. Zamorano says fundraising efforts have drawn "an overwhelming response" and that the $25,000 may not include all proceeds from various restaurant and business fundraisers. The foundation is an affiliate of the Wichita police union.

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Wichita Votes to Close 6 of 9 Public Swimming Pools 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita city officials plan to close six of the city's nine public pools by 2023. The city council voted Tuesday to close the pools, including the McAdams Park pool in northeast Wichita despite opposition from some black community leaders. The Wichita Eagle reports that the pools remaining open are College Hill, Harvest Park and Aley Park. Five of the pools being closed will be replaced by splash parks, which are children's play areas and not planned for swimming. Recreation director Troy Houtman says the splash parks are much less expensive to operate and don't require lifeguards or much staffing, so they can be open for longer hours and more days than swimming pools. Some opponents said closing the pools would hurt neighborhoods and increase use at the remaining pools.

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Wichita Native Appointed as New School Superintendent 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita schools will soon be led by a woman who grew up attending the city's public schools. The Wichita School Board voted Tuesday to appoint Alicia Thompson as the next superintendent of the state's largest school district. If her contract is approved Monday, Thompson would replace John Allison, who is leaving in June to become superintendent of Olathe schools. She would take over the job July 1. The Wichita Eagle reports the 47-year-old Thompson currently is assistant superintendent for elementary schools in Wichita. She began her education career in 1992 as a third-grade teacher in Wichita and served in several other positions. If her contract is approved, Thompson would be Wichita's first female and first black superintendent.

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Sandzen Paintings Get High Bids During Auction

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An auction of works by prolific Kansas painter Birger Sandzen drew a lot of interest and money over the weekend. The Wichita Eagle reports one oil painting Sandzen did in 1925 sold for $95,000, while another painting sold for $70,000. Jason Woody of Woody Auction Gallery in Douglass says the auction generated enough interest across the country that more Sandzen pieces might be auctioned in the future. The pieces auctioned on Saturday were owned by the late Emerson and Freda Moore of Wichita. Sandzen lived and taught in Lindsborg from 1894 until his death in 1954. He created more than 3,000 paintings, 328 prints and countless watercolors and drawings inspired by the French Impressionists.

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Missouri Truck Driver Pleads Guilty in Fatal Car Accident

PLATTE CITY, Mo. (AP) — A truck driver from Springfield was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty in a crash that killed a Kansas City, Kansas, woman. Forty-one-year-old Adam Shaw pleaded guilty Friday to involuntary manslaughter in the October 2013 death of 49-year-old Catherine Nienaber. The four-year prison term was part of his plea agreement. Prosecutors says Shaw's tractor-trailer truck struck the minivan Neinaber was in on Missouri 45 in southern Platte County. Shaw also pleaded guilty to two counts of assault related to injuries suffered by Neinaber's son and the driver of another vehicle. Authorities say Shaw was speeding and crossed the center line, hitting Neinaber's vehicle. His blood alcohol reading was .116, nearly three times the .04 limit for commercial truck drivers.

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Former Wichita Mayor Enters Kansas Governor's Race

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer is entering the race to be the next governor of Kansas. The 59-year-old Brewer said in a news release that he has the experience and passion to "get the state of Kansas back on track." Brewer was Wichita mayor from 2007 to 2015 and also served six years as a city councilman. Since leaving the mayor's office, he has been in government relations at Spirit AeroSystems. Brewer pledged to visit every corner of the state. He says he offers new leadership that will restore confidence in state government. Republican Governor Sam Brownback, who is in his second term, cannot seek re-election because of term limits.

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Secretary of State Investigates Douglas County Sheriff for Possible Voter Fraud

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Secretary of State's office is investigating Douglas County Sheriff Ken McGovern is being investigated for helping his mother obtain a ballot to vote even though she may live in another county. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Secretary of State's office is looking into McGovern's actions but Director of Elections Bryan Caskey says the sheriff's actions may not violate Kansas law. He says the law allows someone to vote in a county where they don't live as long as they intend to return to that county. More than a year before last year's primary election, Lois McGovern sold her house in Lawrence. It appears that she is living in a nursing home in Johnson County.

 

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