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Headlines for Wednesday, April 19, 2017

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

Kansas Governor Signs Budget Fix to Fund State Until July

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas will use $291 million in internal government borrowing to avoid a deficit in its current budget and pay bills on time through June. Governor Sam Brownback signed the budget bill into law Tuesday. The measure allows the state to avoid short-term cuts in funding to public schools, social services and other programs. The state plans to liquidate a special investment fund and loan most of the proceeds to its main bank account to cover general spending before the fiscal year ends on June 30. The loan would be paid back over seven years. Kansas would still face projected budget shortfalls totaling $989 million for the two years starting in July. However, the budget gap could shrink after state officials and university economists issue new revenue projections tomorrow (THUR).

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Kansas Regulators Reject Utility Sale 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —  Kansas regulators have rejected the proposed sale of the state's largest electric company to a Missouri-based utility for $12.2 billion. The Kansas Corporation Commission issued an order Wednesday against the proposal from Great Plains Energy of Kansas City, Missouri, to buy Topeka-based Westar Energy. Critics of the deal argued that Great Plains would be paying as much as $4.9 billion too much. They said the combined company would be so economically fragile that utility regulators would be forced to boost rates for its 1.5 million customers from central Kansas to central Missouri. Both companies said the acquisition would create nearly $2 billion in efficiencies over the next decade and keep electric rates in check. Great Plains is the parent of Kansas City Power & Light Co.

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Kansas Grocery Stores to Start Selling Full-Strength Beer

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas grocery and convenience stores will be able to sell regular beer starting in 2019 after a years-long effort to get full-strength brews into the stores. Governor Sam Brownback signed a bill Tuesday allowing grocery and convenience stores to sell beer with up to 6 percent alcohol by volume. Currently, they can sell cereal malt beverages with 3.2 percent alcohol by weight. The House and Senate passed the bill earlier this month. Lawmakers have debated the issue for years.  Some said they were concerned large grocery chains would put independent liquor stores out of business. This year, grocery and liquor stores found a compromise. Liquor stores 2will be now be allowed to sell more non-alcoholic products, such as mixers, lottery tickets and tobacco products. 

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Kansas Governor Names Lawmaker as New State Treasurer 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has appointed a southeast Kansas legislator as the next state treasurer to replace Republican Ron Estes after Estes won a special congressional election last week. Brownback announced Tuesday that GOP state Senator Jake LaTurner of Pittsburg will serve the rest of Estes' four-year term as treasurer. LaTurner said he will seek a full term in 2018. Twenty-nine-year-old LaTurner has been active in Republican politics in southeast Kansas for at least a decade. He was elected to the Senate in 2012 and re-elected last year. The 60-year-old Estes was elected last week, in a surprisingly close race, to replace former Congressman Mike Pompeo in the 4th District following Pompeo's appointment as CIA director. 

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Firm to Stop Operating Topeka's St. Francis Hospital, With or Without a Buyer

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The owner of a nonprofit Catholic hospital in Topeka says it will stop operating the hospital whether or not it is successful in finding a buyer for the financially troubled facility. Denver-based SCL Health said in a statement Tuesday that it is willing to donate the St. Francis hospital to another organization to keep the 378-bed facility open. The company issued the statement shortly after Governor Sam Brownback said SCL has promised to work with state and local officials to find a way to keep the hospital open.  SCL has been looking for a buyer for St. Francis since May 2016. 

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Kobach Seeks to Stay Order over Plan Given to Trump 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas's top elections official has asked a magistrate judge to stay his order requiring him to turn over proposed changes to voting rights laws that he took to a meeting with President Donald Trump. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach filed the motion Wednesday. That was the deadline U.S. Magistrate James O'Hara had set to turn over two documents to plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging a state law requiring voters provide proof of their U.S. citizenship when registering. O'Hara gave the American Civil Liberties Union until Friday to respond to Kobach's request. Kobach wants time to appeal the magistrate's decision to U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson. After examining the documents, O'Hara ruled Monday that parts were relevant to the lawsuit and chastised Kobach for misrepresenting the contents.

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Kansas Lawmakers Fight over Animal Inspection Reform Bill 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Lawmakers in Kansas are debating the fairness of proposed inspection protocols and fee increases for animal breeders and shelters. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports some legislators want to pass a state law forbidding the Kansas Department of Agriculture, which inspects pet animal businesses, from giving breeders advance notice of inspections. They are also considering implementing a fee on facilities that skip inspections or need to be re-inspected after failing. Republican Representative Doug Blex of Independence says it would be ludicrous to apply the same surprise inspections used at child care centers to facilities devoted to raising puppies. The agriculture department has unsuccessfully sought to make these changes for at least five years. Any proposed bill would be acted on after the Legislature returns to Topeka on May 1.

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Renewal of Student Testing Contract Tabled After Problems 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas education officials are holding off on renewing a contract with the state's student assessment provider amid problems. State Education Commissioner Randy Watson told state school board members Tuesday that there are "many other options" for delivering the test. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Watson says officials "want things to be reliable." Following Watson's recommendation, board members pulled the renewal of the $6.2 million contract with the University of Kansas' Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation from the agenda. Technical issues began April 4 when 15,000 students were simultaneously taking the assessments. A testing center official says the problem was fixed the next day. Results of the 2014 tests were tossed because of cyberattacks and other technical issues. Problems also arose last year after a fiber cable was cut.

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Kansas Students Invited to Washington Correspondents' Dinner 

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Six Kansas high school journalists who published a story that led to the resignation of their school's new principal will be special guests at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. The Pittsburg High School students and their teacher, Emily Smith, are receiving an all-expenses paid trip to the April 29 dinner in Washington D.C., courtesy of the Huffington Post. The group made national news after a story published last month in the student newspaper questioned the credentials of Amy Robertson, who had been hired to become principal at the school. The questions eventually led Robertson to resign. Pittsburg Superintendent Destry Brown told the Pittsburg Morning Sun he's excited the students will get a "once in a lifetime" experience. The students will be in Washington from April 28 to April 30.

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Kansas State University Gets Fifth Sex Assault Investigation 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The federal government is opening another investigation on how Kansas State University handles reports of off-campus sexual assaults. The Manhattan Mercury reports the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights opened the recent investigation in late March. The office hasn't released any information pertaining to the new investigation. The university's policy for investigating sexual assault allegations off campus has been under scrutiny, with this being the fifth investigation launched. Two former students from the university are suing the school for not investigating their reports of being raped at Kansas State fraternity houses, saying it's the university's responsibility to investigate the reports. Kansas State declined to respond to the newspaper's request for comment.

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3 Kansas Universities Will Ban Guns at Large Sporting Events
 
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The state's three largest universities will be allowed to ban guns at large sporting events beginning in July. The Kansas Board of Regents' governance committee on Wednesday approved a request by The University of Kansas, Kansas State and Wichita State to install security measures such as metal detectors and guards — either temporary or permanently — at games. Kansas universities are required to allow concealed handguns on campuses beginning July 1 but the universities can ask for exceptions. The University of Kansas and Wichita State will ban guns from any event expected to draw more than 5,000 people. K-State will provide temporary security at its football and basketball stadiums for all ticketed athletic events. Emporia State, Pittsburg State and Fort Hays State did not seek approval to ban guns at any events.

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Cargill Gets $13.6M Property Tax Break in Wichita 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita City Council has approved industrial revenue bond financing and an estimated $13.6 million in property tax breaks to subsidize Cargill Protein Group's new headquarters downtown. The Wichita Eagle reports the council approved the tax breaks Tuesday as the company demolishes the current Wichita Eagle building to make way for its new corporate facility. City and state officials have negotiated an incentive package to keep Cargill in Wichita, a decision that was announced last year by Governor Sam Brownback and Mayor Jeff Longwell. A city estimate states that the tax abatement will be worth about $1.36 million a year to the company. A Wichita State University report says that keeping Cargill in the city will generate enough economic activity to offset the abatement. Cargill's protein group handles the company's meat, poultry and food service and distribution.

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Lawrence Agrees to Settle Hotel Lawsuit That Alleged Fraud 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence will slash incentives to developers of an upscale hotel to settle a lawsuit that alleged fraud and racketeering. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that commissioners agreed Tuesday to the settlement in the city's lawsuit against The Oread hotel near the University of Kansas campus. The city's attorney says the settlement makes financial sense. As part of the settlement, The Oread will have to reimburse the city $650,000 and agree to significant reductions in the hotel's multimillion-dollar incentives agreement. The city initially sought to terminate the agreement.The settlement also requires hotel developer Thomas Fritzel to resign as a manager of The Oread for the remainder of the hotel's 20-year incentives agreement. The lawsuit alleged Fritzel improperly collected tax rebates for unrelated purchases. The developers have previously denied the allegations.

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Shawnee Mission Superintendent Announces Retirement 

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The superintendent of the state's third largest school districts is retiring.The Shawnee Mission School District announced Wednesday that Jim Hinson's retirement takes effect June 30. The nearly 28,000-student district in suburban Kansas City says the 54-year-old Hinson wants to spend more time with his family and "pursue other lifelong goals." Hinson said in a statement that he is "proud of the district" and that he has had "terrific support." Hinson was the superintendent of the Independence, Missouri, district before accepting the Shawnee Mission job in 2013. The school board will discuss the appointment of an interim superintendent at a meeting Monday.

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Nebraska Mayor Complains to Kansas About Smoke

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The mayor of Nebraska's capital city has complained to Kansas officials about smoke from its agricultural burning that sometimes makes it unhealthy to breathe in some parts of Nebraska. The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department issued health warnings about the smoke three times earlier this month. Officials have said the smoke originates mostly in the Flint Hills area of Kansas, where farmers and ranchers burn grassland yearly to stave off invasive species, preserve pasture, improve cattle forage and limit fuel for wildfires. Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler suggested in a letter dated Tuesday that the Flint Hills smoke management plan should be revised to spread out the burning and the smoke and particulate levels that result. Kansas officials have said rainy weather compressed the period of burning this year.

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Feds Charge Kansas Teenager for Buying Explosive on Dark Web 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors have charged a Kansas teenager who used bitcoin to buy a grenade on the dark web. A criminal information filed Wednesday charges Carlos Francisco Martin of Coffeyville with receiving an explosive meant to destroy property. Defense attorney Steven Gradert says his client is just "kind of a dumb 18-year-old kid" who wanted to blow up a truck as revenge because someone had damaged his mom's car. He says his client plans to plead guilty. Gradert says the purchase initially drew the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's terrorism task force because of the method of purchase. Bitcoins is a digital currency for use in peer-to-peer online transactions. The dark web is a collection of websites on an encrypted network that cannot be found using traditional search engines.

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Decapitation Defendant Facing New Charge over Marijuana Pipe

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita woman charged in the decapitation killing of her ex-boyfriend's mother faces a new charge of trafficking in contraband in a correctional facility. The Wichita Eagle reports that the latest charge against 35-year-old Rachael Hilyard was filed Friday. She is accused of unlawfully introducing or attempting to introduce a glass marijuana pipe into the jail on April 9, when she was arrested in the killing of 63-year-old Micki Davis. Hilyard also has been charged with one count of first-degree murder. Her bonds total $226,000. Police say Davis was attacked with a knife when she and her 9-year-old grandson went to Hilyard's house to retrieve property. The boy fled the house and called for help. Hilyard also is charged with trespassing and other counts in an unrelated case.

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Kansas Volunteer Firefighters Say Departments Underfunded 

GREENWOOD, Kan. (AP) — Volunteer firefighters make up 90 percent of Kansas' firefighters and they say they are in need of additional funding. The Wichita Eagle reports that Kansas spends about $300,000 at the state level on firefighting, less than almost any other state. This resulted in local firefighters having inadequate help to fight the state's biggest wildfire in March, which burned more than 450,000 acres in Kansas. Much of volunteer firefighters' equipment often breaks down when because of old age. Departments end up spending much of their time repairing trucks because it's too expensive to replace them. Kansas State Firefighters Association President Kevin Flory says firefighters get most of their their money from local property taxes. Flory says they should more effectively lobby lawmakers in Topeka if the departments want more funding.

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Victims of Deadly KCK Crash Identified 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified the victims of a deadly Kansas City, Kansas, crash as two men in their twenties. Police said Tuesday that the victims were 28-year-old Samuel Vissepo-Quinones and 23-year-old Bryan Viera-Duran. The Kansas City, Kansas, men were in a sport utility vehicle that was struck Saturday while turning into an apartment complex. Both victims were taken to hospitals, where they died of their injuries. The driver of the car and three juveniles were taken to area hospitals with minor injuries. The accident remains under investigation.

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Wichita Police: Homeless Man Attacked with Baseball Bat 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita say they're seeking three men suspected in a baseball bat attack on a homeless man. KAKE-TV reports that the 53-year-old victim reported that he was under a bridge near the city's downtown early Wednesday when three men approached. The homeless man said one of them hit him on the back of the head with a baseball bat. Police say the victim was taken to a hospital with injuries not considered life-threatening. His medical status was not immediately clear later Wednesday. 

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Man Accused of Deadly Kansas City Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Kansas City, Missouri, man is jailed on $350,000 bond after being accused of fatally shooting one man and wounding another. Jackson County prosecutors have charged 36-year-old Gabriel English with second-degree murder and first-degree assault. Authorities allege that English shot and killed Steven Thompson early last Friday and wounded another man. Thompson died at the scene. Police later arrested English and seized a semi-automatic handgun from a car in which he had been riding.

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Missouri Murder Case Parolee Sent Back to Prison on Drug Charges

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A man who was paroled in 2015 after serving prison time for his role in a Missouri teenager's shooting death has been ordered to spend 11 years in a federal lockup for dealing cocaine. The Kansas City Star reports that 38-year-old Todd Boyd was sentenced Tuesday. Boyd pleaded guilty last year to cocaine distribution charges related to a series of drug sales to undercover police officers in December 2015. Boyd was sentenced in 2004 to 15 years in prison for the 2001 drive-by killing of 16-year-old Ronald Johnson outside the victim's Kansas City home. Authorities say Johnson was mistaken for someone else, and that Boyd was driving the car used in the shooting. The gunman was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

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First Case Begins Against Northeast Kansas Man Charged with Sexual Assaults 

HOLTON, Kan. (AP) — The first trial has started for a man who is charged with sexually assaulting a teenager and five women in a case that has divided the small Kansas town of Holton. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports   that the trial will focus on claims that 22-year-old Jacob Ewing sexually assaulted the teenager in a rural cemetery. He's charged with aggravated indecent liberties and aggravated criminal sodomy with a child under 14 years old. Ewing has entered not guilty pleas to all the charges. Other charges involving the five women will be tried separately. Finding jurors whose minds weren't made up was a struggle. About half of the 142 people who were part of the pool of prospective jurors in the small northeast Kansas town raised their hands when asked whether they know Ewing or his family.

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3 Arrested After Wrong-Way Pursuit on Interstate 135 Near Wichita 

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say three suspects have been arrested after a chase in which they drove the wrong way on Interstate 135 and ran other vehicles off the road. Newton police said on the department's Facebook page that pursuit began Tuesday morning after police received a call about three people attempting to break into an occupied home. The Wichita Eagle reports that the driver of the fleeing vehicle went through Newton before traveling south in the northbound lanes of I-135. Police say officers used a special device to deflate the vehicle's tires after it exited the interstate near the Wichita suburb of Kechi. The suspects are accused of fleeing from the disabled vehicle before they were taken into custody. One of the suspects had a handgun. No injuries were reported.

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Giants Beat Kansas City Royals 2-1 in 11 innings

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) —  The San Francisco Giants beat the Kansas City Royals 2-1 on Tuesday night to begin their two-game interleague set. The Giants' Nick Hundley doubled off Scott Alexander (0-1), the Royals' fifth reliever of the night, before Joe Panik hit an RBI single with two outs in the 11th inning. The ball dropped in front of center fielder Lorenzo Cain to score the go-ahead run run for the Giants. Derek Law (1-0) pitched two scoreless innings of relief for San Francisco, and Mark Melancon struck out Raul Mondesi with runners on first and second in the 11th for his third save of the year. The Giants were back at Kauffman Stadium for the first time since their 2014 World Series triumph.

 

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