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Headlines for Tuesday, February 7, 2017

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

Report: Kansas Voter ID Law May Be Discriminatory

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A civil rights advisory panel says a Kansas law requiring people to show photo ID at the polls and provide proof-of-citizenship documents to register to vote may discriminate against minorities. It also urges the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division to investigate whether the Kansas law violates federal voting laws. The Kansas City Star first reported on the draft assessment from the Kansas Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights. The Safe and Fair Elections Act passed in 2011 has been championed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as a way to prevent voter fraud. Kobach calls concerns that the state law was written and implemented with discriminatory intent an outrageous accusation. A Democratic lawmaker introduced a bill on Monday to repeal it based on the report.


Sanders to Speak at Kansas Democratic Party Gathering 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Former Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders is scheduled to speak at the Kansas Democratic Party's Washington Days convention later this month. The party announced Tuesday that the Vermont senator will speak at the convention February 24-25 in Topeka but details of his appearance were not released. The Vermont senator faced Hillary Clinton in the nomination for Democratic presidential candidate. Sanders mounted a strong challenge to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic race for the presidential nomination before eventually losing to Clinton. Sanders soundly defeated Clinton in Kansas's presidential caucus last March, winning with 68 percent of the vote to 32 percent for Clinton.


Governor Knocks Kansas Senate Panel's Tax Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Governor Sam Brownback says budget-balancing proposals to increase Kansas personal income taxes would cut against national trends. Brownback said Tuesday that he thinks it's a mistake for lawmakers to consider broad increases in income taxes to help balance the state budget. The governor has criticized a plan from Senate GOP leaders to increase income taxes to raise $660 million in new revenues over two years. But the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee endorsed it anyway Tuesday. Brownback has noted repeatedly that President Donald Trump promised during his successful campaign to push for federal income tax cuts. He told reporters Tuesday, "This is going against national trends. It's going against what's in the best interest of Kansas to grow."


Kansas Senate Panel Endorses Education Cuts 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has endorsed cutting aid to public schools and higher education spending to help balance the state's current budget. The Senate Ways and Means Committee approved a budget-cutting bill Tuesday on a 9-4 vote. The votes against it came from the panel's three Democrats and moderate Republican Senator Vicki Schmidt, of Topeka. The bill trims $154 million in spending from the current budget and almost all of it comes from education funding. Public schools would lose $128 million. State universities and the Kansas Board of Regents would lose nearly $23 million. The committee also approved a one-year reduction in contributions to public employee pensions and some internal government borrowing to help close a projected $320 million shortfall in the budget for the fiscal year ending June 30.


Kansas Governor Willing to Mull Education Cuts 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —  Republican Governor Sam Brownback says he's willing to consider budget-balancing proposals advanced by a Senate committee to cut spending on public schools and higher education. The Senate Ways and Means Committee endorsed a bill Tuesday that would cut state aid to public schools by $128 million and funding for state universities by $23 million before June 30. It's part of a plan by the committee to erase a projected $320 million shortfall in the state's current budget. Brownback outlined accounting moves and internal government borrowing that would have avoided such immediate cuts. But Brownback told The Associated Press: "We'll look at it." The full Senate plans to debate the spending cuts Thursday along with proposals to increase personal income taxes to help keep the budget balanced after June 30.


Attorney for Kansas Districts Criticizes Aid Cut 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —  A lawyer representing four Kansas school districts suing the state has criticized a legislative proposal to cut education funding by this summer. Attorney John Robb said Tuesday that the measure endorsed by the Senate Ways and Means Committee is "tremendously ill-advised." It would reduce aid to the state's 286 school districts by $128 million, or $279 per student. Robb said: "That's moving the ball the wrong way down the field." The Dodge City, Hutchinson, Wichita and Kansas City, Kansas, districts sued the state in 2010. The Kansas Supreme Court is expect to rule soon on whether the state's total spending fulfills lawmakers' duty under the state constitution to finance a suitable education for every child. The state is spending about $4.1 billion a year, or $8,900 per student.


Kansas Senate's GOP Leaders Defend Budget Fixes 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —  Top Republicans in the Kansas Senate are defending their proposal to cut aid to public schools as part of a larger plan to balance the state budget through June 2019. Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita, Vice President Jeff Longbine of Emporia and Majority Leader Jim Denning of Overland Park said Tuesday that they're trying to find a permanent solution to the state's budget woes. Senate committees endorsed two separate bills Tuesday. One increases personal income taxes to raise $660 million over two years. Another cuts aid to public schools $128 million by July. The education cuts help head off a shortfall in the current budget while lawmakers consider tax increases to plug future budget gaps. Wagle said, "We're under water, and I can't backdate a tax plan."


Kansas House Committee Drafting Plan to Hike Income Taxes 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas House committee is preparing to be aggressive in drafting a plan to increase personal income taxes to address the state's ongoing budget problems. A majority of Taxation Committee members indicated during an informal discussion Monday that they're ready to propose raising taxes between $900 million and $1.2 billion over two years. The state is facing projected budget shortfalls totaling $1.1 billion through June 2019. Kansas has struggled to balance its budget since Republican lawmakers slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at GOP Governor Sam Brownback's urging. Senate Republican leaders have drafted a plan for income tax increases that would raise $660 million through June 2019. The Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee expects to debate it today (TUE).


Medicaid Expansion Clash Continues in Kansas Hearings 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The topic of Medicaid expansion continues to be a source of controversy as hearings on the topic begin. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the House health committee is holding hearings this week in relation to a KanCare expansion bill, which Governor Sam Brownback and conservative Republicans have opposed. The proposal lacks a Division of Budget statement estimating the potential costs or savings to the state. The Kaiser Family Foundation says that as of last month, Kansas is one of 19 states that haven't expanded Medicaid to cover more low-income residents. Medicaid expansion is designed to increase health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Arkansas Republican Senator Bryan King testified Monday that his state's Medicaid expansion "disincentivizes people to work." Washington University in St. Louis professor Timothy McBride countered by saying states that have expanded Medicaid are seeing positive effects.


Wichita Police: Suspect Runs over Officer with Vehicle 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a Wichita police officer remains in critical condition following surgery after being hit by a car driven by a fleeing suspect. Police spokeswoman Nikki Woodrow says officers were monitoring a house in south Wichita Tuesday where a stolen vehicle was seen and a known suspect with various felony warrants was located. She says a suspect fleeing the house ran over one of the officers with a vehicle. Another officer fired one round. Deputy Chief Jose Salcido says the shot did not hit either the suspect or vehicle. Police gave chase for several blocks, and the suspect ran into a business. He was taken into custody by an officer and his canine partner. No other suspects are being sought. The injured officer is a 25-year-veteran of the department.


Officials: NBAF Construction Proceeding on Time

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) _ Officials say construction of the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan is going well and is on time. The $1.25 billion research facility, or NBAF, will study diseases that can be spread from animals to humans. The Manhattan Mercury reports that  construction began in 2013 with the Central Utility Center, which is complete but won't be used until the laboratories are finished. Construction originally was scheduled to be completed last year but was delayed. The lab is now on track to be fully operational in December 2022. Martha Vanier, of the Department of Homeland Security says $266 million in construction has been completed so far. She says about 200 workers who are currently working on the construction but that number will grow to as many as 1,000. 


Kansas Railways to Expect Construction 

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — The BNSF Railway Company has announced plans to invest $125 million in Kansas this year to improve its railways in the state. The Emporia Gazette reports the investment is part of the company's $3.4 billion capital expenditure plan in 2017. Burlington Northern Santa Fe plans to expand a Kansas City, Kansas, auto facility and track maintenance work. The plan includes new rail ties and replacement of track portions between Wellington and Kansas City, and Emporia to Garden City. BNSF Railway Public Affairs Director Andy Williams says the maintenance on the section from Emporia to Newton will start later in February. According to Williams, the project should not drastically affect trains using the rails because BNSF has enough rails to re-direct trains in order to avoid delays.


2 Kansas Men Spared Prison in Prosecution over State Gun Law 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has spared from prison two Kansas men convicted of federal firearms violations after taking into account their mistaken belief that a Kansas law can shield from federal prosecution anyone owning firearms made, sold and kept in the state. The sentence handed down Monday by U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten still leaves intact the federal felony convictions against Shane Cox and Jeremy Kettler. Jurors in November found Cox guilty of making and marketing unregistered firearms, and found Kettler guilty of having an unregistered gun silencer. Both men thanked the judge in courtroom statements for not sending them to prison. The Kansas Second Amendment Protection Act says firearms, accessories and ammunition manufactured and kept within the borders of Kansas are exempt from federal gun control laws.


Wichita Parents, Teachers Concerned About Longer School Days 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Parents and teachers say they're facing challenges with children after Wichita Public Schools trimmed 15 days from the academic calendar and added 30 minutes to each school day. The Wichita Eagle reports the new schedule comes after last year's $3 million budget cut. With Kansas facing a potential $900 million budget shortfall over the next 18 months, the district is unsure if the school budget can improve. Parents and faculty say students are more tired, family time is rare and after-school activities are increasingly difficult to arrange. A focus group of high schools students said in October that the schedule has resulted in extra homework and a more frantic speed in classes. The district says it's collecting data on the effect longer days have on students and that it also plans to survey families about the new schedule.


Missing Inmate Returned to Jail in Winfield

WINFIELD, Kan. (AP) _ Authorities say an inmate has been returned to a Kansas jail after he was discovered missing. The Wichita Eagle reports that 44-year-old Jason Bell was found to be missing Monday from the Winfield Correctional Facility. Winfield police say he was back at the correctional facility Tuesday morning after Cowley County Sheriff's Office deputies found him north of the city. Kansas Department of Corrections records say Bell was picked up in August on a parole violation. Records say Bell was convicted in 2001 of attempted murder and aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer.


Police Identify Homicide Victim Found Beside Kansas City Interstate

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Authorities have released the name of a homicide victim who died after she was found along Interstate 29 in Kansas City. Police identified the woman Monday as 23-year-old Christina Cunningham. A Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper found her after pulling over near an entrance ramp to check on what he thought was a stranded motorist. He found her lying on the ground near an abandoned vehicle. Cunningham was taken to a hospital, where she later died. 


KU Basketball Player Takes Diversion: Bragg Can't Break Law for 6 Months 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas forward Carlton Bragg's drug charge will be dismissed in six months if he doesn't commit any other crimes. Bragg was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia last week. He was also suspended from the No. 3-ranked Jayhawks. Bragg was quickly granted and signed a diversion agreement. The agreement says he can't violate any laws during the six-month diversion period. At the end, his charges will be dismissed. If he breaks the agreement, the city will start prosecution for the drug charge. Five of Bragg's teammates are listed as witnesses in the investigation of an alleged rape in the players' dorm in December. Bragg is listed as a witness in a runaway case in the dorm on the same night.


Kansas City Man Fatally Shot During Police Standoff

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Authorities say a 68-year-old man was the person who was fatally shot during a weekend standoff with police in Kansas City. Police identified the man Monday night as Johnnie Harris Jr. Officers shot and killed him Saturday when he emerged from a home carrying a weapon. Kansas City police say officers were called to the home when bullet holes were found in a neighbor's home. Officers unsuccessfully tried to make contact with the resident of the home where the shots originated. During the hours-long standoff, officers heard periodic gunshots from inside the home as they unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate with Harris. He exited the home with a weapon, and officers shot and killed him.


Missouri Man Gets Probation in 8-Year-Old Driver's Death

TROY, Kan. (AP) — A Missouri man whose 8-year-old granddaughter died in a car wreck when he let her drive him home from church has been sentenced to one year of probation. Dennis Meers, of St. Joseph, was sentenced Monday after pleading no contest in December to child endangerment. Investigators say Meers's granddaughter, Cadence Orcutt, of Troy, Kansas, died in November 2015 when the car she was driving went down an embankment and overturned in Doniphan County, Kansas. The St. Joseph News-Press reports Meers will serve 11 months in prison if he fails his probation. Meers previously was sentenced to two years in the Missouri Department of Corrections for felony driving on a revoked license. In 1996 and 2001, Meers was convicted in Missouri of being a persistent offender for driving while intoxicated.


Topeka Man Sentenced for Role in Sex Trafficking Conspiracy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Topeka man was sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison for conspiring to operate an interstate sex trafficking business. U.S. Attorney Tom Beall said in a news release that 40-year-old Barry M. Johnson was sentenced Monday after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy. He admitted in his plea deal that he conspired with others to run a prostitution business based in Topeka that would operate in Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. At times, as many as 20 females were prostitutes in the organization. Johnson admitted he recruited and groomed potential sex workers for the organization. Four other conspirators are awaiting sentencing and a fifth is set for trial in March.  


Army to Allow Completion of Dakota Access Oil Pipeline 

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The Army has notified Congress that it will allow the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline to cross under a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota, completing the four-state project to move North Dakota oil to Illinois. The Justice Department filed court documents Tuesday including letters to members of Congress from Deputy Assistant Army Secretary Paul Cramer. The Army intends to allow the crossing under Lake Oahe as early as Wednesday. The crossing is the final big chunk of work on the pipeline. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe worries a pipeline leak could pollute drinking water. It's promised to continue legal challenges. Dallas-based pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners says the pipeline is safe.


Attorneys General Support University of Arkansas in Lawsuit 

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Attorneys general from Arkansas and six other states are supporting the University of Arkansas' request to dismiss a former student's lawsuit against the school. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed a legal brief Monday in support of dismissing the lawsuit. Attorneys general from Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina and Texas also joined in the filing. The lawsuit was filed by a woman who told police and school officials she'd been raped in her dorm room by another student in October 2014. The lawsuit says the university violated Title IX, a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination at schools that receive federal funding. Rutledge's office argues that the state's sovereign immunity, when a state is immune from civil suit or criminal prosecution, should force a federal appellate court to dismiss the lawsuit.


KU Jayhawks Top K-State Wildcats, 74-71 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — KU's Frank Mason III had 21 points, Josh Jackson added 18 despite dealing with foul trouble, and Kansas bounced back from a rare home loss to hold off Kansas State 74-71 on Monday night. The Jayhawks (21-3, 9-2 Big 12) beat the Wildcats (16-8, 5-6) for the fifth straight time and the 19th time in 22 meetings, though it was just as close as their last meeting in Lawrence. The game was tied 63-all with 2:50 left when Kansas ripped off six quick points, but the Wildcats kept hanging on. Kansas State's D.J. Johnson hit three of four foul shots down the stretch, and Kamau Stokes hit a 3-pointer from the wing to get within 72-69 with 19.2 seconds to go. But, KU's Devonte Graham hit two more free throws to put the game away. Dean Wade led the Wildcats with 20 points. Stokes added 16 points and eight boards, Johnson had 14 points and Wesley Iwundu contributed 13 points and 11 rebounds.


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