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Headlines for Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Kansas Budget Gaps Have Lawmakers Mulling Taxes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Projected budget shortfalls in Kansas have some Republican legislators weighing proposals to backtrack on tax-cutting policies championed by GOP Governor Sam Brownback. But House Appropriations Committee chairman and Wichita Republican Gene Suellentrop said Tuesday that such measures should be a last resort. Brownback and the Republican-dominated Legislature must close shortfalls in the current and next state budgets totaling more than $714 million after lawmakers open their annual session in January. Legislators aggressively cut personal income taxes at Brownback's urging in 2012 and 2013 to stimulate the economy. Overland Park Republican Senator Jim Denning said he wants to "smooth out" tax cuts lawmakers already have promised for the future. He also proposed taking away part of an exemption from personal income taxes granted to the owners of 191,000 businesses.


UPDATE: Kansas Supreme Court Allows More Gay Marriages

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has cleared the way for additional gay marriages in the state. The court on Tuesday evening lifted its hold on marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Johnson County. The justices last month blocked such licenses while reviewing a petition from Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt. But the Kansas court did not address whether the state's ban on gay marriage is constitutional and said it wouldn't consider the issue until the federal courts resolve a lawsuit filed month on behalf of two lesbian couples. The U.S. Supreme Court last week told the state it couldn't continue enforcing its gay-marriage ban while the ACLU's lawsuit makes its way through the federal courts. Since then, local officials have had different policies on marriage licenses to gay couples.


Report: Fewer Immigrants Living Illegally in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new study shows Kansas is among 14 states with a big decline in the number of immigrants who are living illegally in the United States. A Pew Research Center report released Tuesday estimates 20,000 unauthorized immigrants left Kansas between 2009 and 2012. The group estimates that 75,000 immigrants were living unlawfully in Kansas in 2012. The report attributes the immigrant population decreases in states like Kansas to a decline in the number of Mexican-born immigrants. Pew estimates unauthorized immigrants account 3.5 percent of the Kansas labor force and 2.6 percent of the state's population. About 7 percent of elementary and secondary school children in Kansas have a parent who is unlawfully in the United States. The undocumented immigrant population rose in seven states and leveled off nationally.


14 Couples Wed in Courthouse Ceremony in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A Wichita church has married 14 gay and lesbian couples on the steps of a historic courthouse building downtown. About 100 people attended the ceremony Monday evening by the First Metropolitan Community Church outside the old Sedgwick County courthouse. Among the couples were Scott and Raymond Tholl of Wichita, who've been together 12 years. Scott Tholl said they wanted to be part of something historic. The ceremony was briefly interrupted by a heckler who shouted, "God said, 'No.'" Several men removed the heckler and the crowd shouted, "God said, 'Yes." The ceremony came less than a week after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request from the state to continue enforcing its ban on gay marriage while a lawsuit challenging it is reviewed by the federal courts.


Kansas Court Has 2 Substitutes for Marriage Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Supreme Court has two substitutes participating in its discussions about allowing gay marriage in the state. Court spokeswoman Lisa Taylor said Monday that retired Douglas County District Judge Michael Malone and retiring Linn County District Judge Richard Smith are sitting with the court. The court is reviewing a petition from Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt seeking to block counties from issuing gay marriage licenses until a final U.S. Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of state gay-marriage bans. The Kansas Supreme Court has seven members, but one spot is vacant because the new Justice Caleb Stegall doesn't take his seat until December 5. Malone is taking his spot. Justice Lee Johnson removed himself from the case, without stating a reason. Smith is filling in for him.


3 Kansas Counties Denying Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) - Three south-central Kansas counties are denying applications for marriage licenses from same-sex couples. Chief District Court Judge David Ricke said in a statement Monday that Butler, Elk and Greenwood counties will keep complying with a ban on gay marriage in Kansas law and the state constitution. The counties make up the 13th Judicial District. Ricke says the district will continue to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples until he is convinced it falls under a binding court order that "clearly and unequivocally" requires its district court clerks to issue them. The U.S. Supreme Court refused last week to allow the state to keep enforcing its ban while a federal lawsuit proceeds.


Same-Sex Marriages on Hold in 2 North-Central Kansas Counties

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — District court clerks in two north-central Kansas counties are accepting applications for marriage licenses from same-sex couples but not approving them. Court Administrator Todd Heitschmidt said Monday that Chief District Judge Jerome Hellmer has directed that no action be taken on such applications in Ottawa and Saline counties until the Kansas Supreme Court decides whether gay marriages can go forward. Ottawa and Saline counties make up the 28th Judicial District. Heitschmidt said Saline county received four applications last week from same-sex couples. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that gay marriages could go forward while the federal courts review a lawsuit over the denial of marriage licenses to lesbian couples in Douglas and Sedgwick County. But the Kansas Supreme Court has yet to rule on its own gay-marriage case.


Judge Orders Clerks to Issue Marriage Licenses in Southeast KS

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) - The chief state district judge for three southeast Kansas counties has directed court clerks to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Chief Judge A.J. Wachter issued an order Monday covering the 11th Judicial District of Cherokee, Crawford and Labette counties. Wachter said in his order that two same-sex couples have applied for licenses in the district. His order is a response to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last week allowing same-sex marriages while the federal courst consider a lawsuit challenging the state's gay-marriage ban. Wachter said the U.S. Supreme Court's decision is binding. He acknowledged that the Kansas Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the state's ban, but said he doesn't expect a conflicting decision. Wachter also said there's no reason the gay couples should wait for a license.


Shawnee County Panel OKs $150K to Pay Prosecution

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials in a northeastern Kansas county have made additional money available to help finance the prosecution of three capital murder cases. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports district attorney Chad Taylor told the Shawnee County Commission in a recent memo that prosecution of the capital cases was stretching his office's resources. He said the capital murder cases would require overtime work for his office's support staff. He asked for the $150,000 in county contingency funds. Commissions budgeted $500,000 for that purpose this year. The panel voted 3-0 to approve the Taylor's request. Taylor wasn't at the commission's Monday meeting. County financial administrator Betty Greiner appeared on his behalf. Greiner said Taylor was busy working on one of the capital murder cases.


Defense Seeks Disclosures in Suicide Bomb Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Attorneys for a Kansas man accused with plotting a suicide bombing at a Wichita airport are asking a judge to order the government to disclose whether mass surveillance first led authorities to the avionics technician. The U.S. attorney's office declined to comment Monday on the latest court filing in the case of Terry Loewen, an avionics technician facing terrorism-related charges. Loewen has been jailed since his December arrest for allegedly trying to bring a van filled with inert explosives onto the tarmac at Mid-Continent Airport. His attorneys argued in a court filing Friday that prosecutors have given them no evidence indicating how Loewen first came to the attention of the FBI. The dispute is important because the defense wants to suppress evidence obtained or derived from any unlawful electronic surveillance.


$2,500 Reward Offered in Wichita Attack

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A $2,500 reward is being offered for any information leading to an arrest in the rape and burning of a Wichita woman. The victim of Friday's attack remained in critical condition Tuesday. No new information about the victim or the attack was released Tuesday. Police say the 36-year-old woman was raped, beaten and set on fire in Fairmount Park. She was burned over 55 percent of her body. The park is a block south of Wichita State University's main campus but investigators have said the victim is not a student and the crime was not associated with the university. Despite that, the university held a safety forum Tuesday and police have increased patrols on university properties.


Victim in Jerusalem Attack Was Kansas City Native

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — One of four people killed in an attack at a crowded Israeli synagogue was a native of Kansas City, Missouri. Fifty-five-year-old Rabbi Cary William Levine died when Palestinian attackers armed with meat cleavers and a gun burst into a synagogue in Jerusalem during prayers Tuesday morning. A man who answered the door Tuesday afternoon at the Kansas City address listed for Levine's parents said the family didn't want to talk. At least three people arrived at the home during a 15-minute period, including a woman who also declined to comment. Levine attended Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy in Overland Park, Kansas, before leaving the area in his 20s for Israel. The school said it was gathering information and planned a news conference later Tuesday.


Relative: Attack Victim Devoted Life to Israel

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — A Colorado brother-in-law of a victim of the deadly attack in a Jerusalem synagogue says he dedicated his life to the people and land of Israel. Jonathan Bein of Boulder said 55-year-old Rabbi Cary William Levine had lived in Israel since his 20s and taught at a seminary there. Levine's sister, Shelley Levine of Boulder, and family were grieving Tuesday. Levine was one of four people killed in a grisly attack during morning prayers. The two attackers were killed by police. Levine was a native of Kansas City, Missouri, who studied religion at the University of Southern California before leaving for Israel. Bein said Levine had nine children and five grandchildren.


Judge: Expelled KU Student Must Be Re-Admitted

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A Douglas County judge has ruled that a University of Kansas student who was expelled over tweets to an ex-girlfriend must be allowed to re-enroll. But Judge Robert Fairchild issued a stay of his ruling Monday to allow the university to appeal. The university says it expelled Navid Yeasin last November because he violated an order not to contact the ex-girlfriend by sending the tweets. Fairchild ruled in September that the university had not followed its own rules of student conduct because it did not show that Yeasin posted the tweets while he was on campus. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Yeasin, a senior in petroleum engineering, said no other school in the state offers the program he needs to graduate and he does not want to pay out-of-state tuition.


KU Fraternity Wants Suspension Ended

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A University of Kansas fraternity that was suspended over alleged sexual assaults says it wants the suspension lifted. Kappa Sigma representatives say the organization is not a danger to the campus. They contend an investigation into the alleged sexual assaults in late September is taking too long. Fraternity representatives plan to attend a hearing next week to ask that the suspension be lifted. Kappa Sigma has been on interim suspension since September 30, after the university received reports of "multiple instances of sexual misconduct" at the chapter house on or about September 27. The university's typical 60-day investigation time period would end by December 1, but the university has said it needs more time because the investigation is complex.


Kansas City Group Rescues Puppies from Cold

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Kansas City nonprofit group has rescued a litter of six stray puppies from the wintry weather. KMBC-TV reports Chain of Hope removed the black and brown puppies on Monday before temperatures reached as low as 15 degrees. The puppies are barely old enough to open their eyes and were found under a tarp in a wooded area. Director Kate Quigley says the group has unsuccessfully tried to trap the mother, who wouldn't leave her babies. She hopes they can capture the mother using fresh food now that her puppies have been rescued. Quigley says a bystander alerted the group to the animals. She says the puppies will be adopted when they're older.


Charges Dropped Against Missouri Woman

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Jackson County prosecutors have dropped charges against a woman who spent six days in jail after police said she injured an officer during a traffic stop. The 21-year-old woman was released over the weekend. Her mother says her daughter was at home asleep during the incident and that her temporary license tag had been stolen. Kansas City police say a silver Nissan struck the officer as its driver fled the traffic stop on November 8. Investigators linked the woman to the incident using the tag. The woman's mother says her daughter shouldn't have been charged without a "proper investigation." The extent of the officer's injuries is unclear.


Son of KC Mob Boss Sentenced for Theft from ATMs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The son of a former Kansas City mob boss has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for stealing more than $330,000 from automated teller machines he was hired to maintain. U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson says 47-year-old Anthony T. Civella Jr. of Kansas City was sentenced Tuesday and ordered to pay $70,000 in restitution on top of restitution already paid. Civella pleaded guilty in February to bank larceny and money laundering. Prosecutors say he owned a company that serviced 35 ATMs in the Kansas City metropolitan area, and that he moved money between the machines to conceal the theft. His father was Anthony "Tony Ripe" Civella, who died in 2006. He is the brother of Nick Civella, who is serving time in federal prison, and Carl and Vincent Civella.


Request to Demolish Vacant Salina Hospital Building Denied

SALINA, Kan. (AP) - A former hospital in Salina will not be demolished anytime soon. Salina City Commissioners on Monday denied a request by Salina Regional Health Center to demolish the former St. John's Hospital facility. KSAL reports the request was denied after a protest was filed suggesting that other uses could be found for the hospital campus. The St. John's campus has been vacant since 2010. The commission was told a previous plan to convert the hospital campus to affordable senior housing has been dropped. St. John's was started in 1914 by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia and operated by the Wichita-based Sisters of St. Joseph until 1995. The vote does not mean the hospital won't be demolished. The health center can reapply to have the campus torn down.


Kansas Winter Wheat Crop Looks Good So Far

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The latest government report shows most of the newly planted Kansas winter wheat crop is faring well so far. The National Agricultural Statistics Service rates 6 percent of the wheat crop in excellent condition and 56 percent as good. About 35 percent is in fair condition and just 3 percent is rated as poor. About 92 percent of the wheat crop has emerged. Growers in the state have now harvested 96 percent of the corn, 81 percent of the sorghum and 92 percent of the soybeans.


Chinese Company, Dairy Farmers Plan Kansas Plant

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Chinese company and the Dairy Farmers of America say they are planning a $100 million plant somewhere in Kansas but details are sketchy. The Dairy Farmers of America, a cooperative owned by 13,000 dairy farmers based, is based in Kansas City. It is working with the Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group. The two groups formed a partnership two years ago. The Kansas City Star reports the plant's location was not disclosed but it is likely to be in western Kansas, where most of the state's milk production occurs. The plant would produce up to 88,000 tons of milk powder a year. Rick Smith, president and CEO of Dairy Farmers of America, said Yili is a fitting partner because it is a leading Chinese dairy processor.


Kansas Governor's Campaign Spokesman Gets New Job

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The spokesman for Republican Governor Sam Brownback's successful re-election campaign has taken a similar job at the Kansas Department of Administration. Brownback's office said that John Milburn began work Monday as the department's communications director. Milburn is replacing Todd Fertig, who is moving to the state Department for Children and Families. The Department of Administration oversees contracting, personnel services and computer systems for state agencies under the governor's control and manages state office buildings. Milburn joined Brownback's campaign in July after working as a Statehouse reporter in Topeka for The Associated Press.


Man, 79, Charged in Pot Bust Challenges Search

BOSTON (AP) - A 2013 traffic stop in Junction City, Kansas, led police to Massachusetts and Arizona, where they found $15 million in cash, nearly 400 pounds of marijuana and ledgers they say detail drug deals going back to 1992. The driver, Marshall Dion, is now facing federal marijuana trafficking charges in Boston. The 79-year-old has had trouble with the law for decades. In 1985, Dion crashed a single-engine plane in Kenosha County, Wisconsin. The government seized nearly $112,000 in cash seized from the crash site after a judge found the money was likely drug proceeds. In 1989, he was convicted of trafficking charges after Boston police found more than 100 pounds of marijuana in his car. Dion's lawyer is arguing that the 2013 traffic stop was illegal and all the evidence seized should be thrown out.


Washburn Plans New Residence Hall to Meet Demand

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Washburn University's capital improvement plans now include a new $30 million residence hall and dining area. The hall will offer 350 beds in apartment-like settings on the Topeka campus. It will also include a dining area for about 300 people. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports 9 percent of undergraduate and graduate students live on campus and the university wants to increase that number. The residence hall is expected to be ready for students in the 2016-17 academic year. It is the latest in several capital improvement projects included in a new master plan, such as law school, recital hall, Welcome Center and indoor sports facility. And a new Kansas Bureau of Investigation lab on the campus is expected to open next year.


Kansas State Beats UMKC 83-73

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State beat Missouri-Kansas City 83-73 in the opening mainland round of the EA Sports Maui Invitational Monday. Trailing 45-39 early in the second half, Kansas State made three consecutive 3-pointers to take a 48-46 lead. UMKC's biggest first half lead, 26-15, came off of a 3-pointer with 9:48 left before the break, but Kansas State answered with an 11-4 run.


KC to Host Regional NCAA Games in 2017

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Brooklyn, New York, and Des Moines, Iowa, will host NCAA men's basketball tournament games for the first time in 2016. The NCAA announced Monday that the other 2016 preliminary round sites are Providence, St. Louis, Raleigh, North Carolina, Oklahoma City, Denver and Spokane, Washington. Regionals will be played in Philadelphia, Chicago, Louisville, Kentucky, and Anaheim, California. The 2017 tourney games will be played in Buffalo, New York; Indianapolis; New York; Greensboro, North Carolina; Milwaukee; Orlando, Florida; Salt Lake City; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Sacramento, California. Regionals will be in Kansas City; San Jose, California; Memphis, Tennessee; and New York. The 2018 early round games will be hosted by Boise, Idaho; Charlotte, North Carolina; Dallas; Detroit; Nashville, Tennessee; Pittsburgh; San Diego; and Wichita, Kansas. Regionals will be in Boston; Omaha, Nebraska; Los Angeles and Atlanta. Dayton, Ohio will host the First Four all three years.


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