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Headlines for Wednesday, April 26, 2017

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

GOP Lawmakers in Kansas Working on New Income Tax Proposals 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top Republican lawmakers in Kansas are working on new proposals for raising income taxes to fix the state budget that include a plan similar to one GOP Governor Sam Brownback vetoed. Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning said Wednesday that fellow GOP senators are drafting a plan to retain separate rates for lower- and upper-income earners. He said another plan would return Kansas to three tax rates. The governor vetoed a bill in February that would have done the same thing. Brownback told reporters Wednesday that he still likes the idea of a single rate for all filers. GOP lawmakers slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback's urging. But the state is facing budget shortfalls totaling $889 million through June 2019. Lawmakers resume their annual session Monday.


Kobach Says Staying in Kansas Is 'Best Thing for Me to Do'

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Secretary of State Kris Kobach says he's planning to remain in Kansas rather than take a job in President Donald Trump's administration. Kobach made the remark Tuesday morning during an interview on the Fox News program "Fox & Friends" about Trump's plans to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. Kobach advised Trump's campaign last year. Asked why he wasn't a part of the administration, Kobach said he has decided "the best thing for me to do right now is to stay in my home state of Kansas." He didn't mention plans to run for the Republican nomination for governor in 2018, but he's long been seen as a potential candidate. Governor Sam Brownback is term-limited. 


Kansas Republican Becomes Newest Member of U.S. House 

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Ron Estes, winner of a close congressional election in Kansas, has been sworn in as the newest member of the House. Estes's race attracted national attention because it was the first congressional election since Donald Trump became president and it was seen as a possible bellwether of the conditions Republicans will face in the 2018 midterms. Estes won the 4th Congressional District race by 7 percentage points after the president recorded a telephone pitch on his behalf and the national campaign arm for House Republicans pumped money into the race in the closing stretch. Estes has served as the state treasurer in Kansas since January 2011. He represents a congressional district in south-central Kansas formerly held by CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Republicans now hold a 238-193 majority in the House.


Ex-Lawmaker LaTurner Takes Office as Kansas State Treasurer 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Former Kansas state Senator Jake LaTurner has been sworn in as the new state treasurer. LaTurner took the oath of office Wednesday from Kansas Supreme Court Justice Caleb Stegall in a ceremony at the Statehouse. Dozens of family, friends and legislative and political colleagues watched. The 29-year-old Pittsburg Republican was appointed last week by GOP Governor Sam Brownback to replace former Treasurer Ron Estes. The 60-year-old Estes won a special congressional election in the 4th District in south-central Kansas after fellow Republican Mike Pompeo was appointed CIA director. LaTurner will serve the remainder of Estes's four-year term as treasurer and plans run for the office in 2018. Republicans in LaTurner's former legislative district in southeast Kansas will pick a new senator Sunday to serve until a special election next year.


Kansas Governor Sees No Reason for Topeka Hospital to Close 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says there's no reason for a financially troubled Topeka hospital to close because a California nonprofit group is interested in taking it over. Brownback told reporters Wednesday that Prime Healthcare Foundation is a legitimate potential buyer for the 378-bed St. Francis Health hospital in Topeka. The governor said other options for keeping St. Francis open could emerge. The rival Topeka-area Stormont Vail Health system also has expressed an interest. The owner of St. Francis is Denver-based SCL Health. It has said it will stop operating St. Francis this summer whether it has a buyer or not but is willing to donate the hospital to another organization. St. Francis's problems have reignited a debate over expanding the state's Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act.


Federal Audit Criticizes Private Detention Center in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ An audit says a private prison company was slow to address understaffing at a federal detention center in Kansas and once hid triple-bunking in two-person cells.  The report Tuesday from the U.S. Justice Department's inspector general also said the federal Marshals Service failed to provide adequate oversight for its Leavenworth Detention Center. The 1,033-bed center operated by Nashville-based CoreCivic is used mainly to house defendants awaiting federal criminal trials. The audit said the Leavenworth Detention Center closed some security posts in 2014 and 2015 because of staffing problems. The report also said that in 2011 the center removed beds from cells to hide triple-bunking before an American Correctional Association audit.  CoreCivic and the Marshals Service said in written responses that they have taken steps to address issues in the audit. 


Creek in Topeka Deemed Safe a Week After Sewage Spill 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Turnpike Authority has deemed water in a south Topeka creek safe again after it experienced a sewage spill last week. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that samples collected Monday indicated sewage levels in Shunga Creek have now dropped to a safe level. The public was alerted last Wednesday that the toxins in the creek were too high for public interaction. Rachel Bell, director of business services and customer relations for the Turnpike Authority, said last week that an unknown amount of sewage spilled into the creek on April 19 while crews with subcontractor RD Johnson prepared to relocate a sewage line on the south Topeka Interstate 470 interchange. The construction work includes toll plaza and bridge improvements, a realigned northbound exit ramp and improved drainage.


34-Year-Old Man Sentenced for Stealing Mail in Rural Kansas 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison for stealing mail while working as a mail carrier. The U.S. attorney's office says 34-year-old Gary Yenzer, of Derby, was sentenced Wednesday for one count of theft of U.S. mail. Investigators learned Yenzer looked for birthday and anniversary cards while delivering mail last year in rural Sedgwick County. Prosecutors say he kept the cash he removed and sold some of the gift cards for cash, but he did not use the gift cards for fear of them bring traced to him.


Kansas Student Tries to Keep Training Service Dog on Campus 

WINFIELD, Kan. (AP) — A student in Kansas is pushing back against a private college's policy to keep her "service dog in training" on campus. KSNW-TV reports that Southwestern College freshman Casey Cargill is a certified dog trainer with the nonprofit Training to Lead. Cargill began training a poodle named Ike in March, and says she sent the college a courtesy letter explaining why Ike would be living on campus and going to class with her. The dean of students sent a letter dated April 19 that said Cargill was no longer allowed to have her dog on campus because the school's policy only allows service animals on campus for people with disabilities, not trainers. Cargill, who has trained over 20 dogs, says she plans to fight the college's policy.


Health Care Operator Eyes Distressed Topeka Hospital 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A group that specializes in turning around distressed hospitals has expressed interest in acquiring a nonprofit Catholic hospital in Topeka. California-based Prime Healthcare notified Governor Sam Brownback last week that it has "potential interest" in "saving" St. Francis Health. St. Francis's Denver-based owner, SCL Health, said previously that it would stop operating the 378-bed hospital whether or not it is successful in finding a buyer. SCL Health spokesman Brian Newsome said in a statement that several groups "have come forth to discuss potential scenarios." Brownback's spokeswoman says there are "multiple options" for keeping St. Francis open. 


Former School Psychologist Sentenced for Pot Possession 

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A former psychologist for a Wichita high school has been sentenced to three years of probation after more than 14 pounds of marijuana were found in the trunk of her car as she and her husband returned from Colorado. The Salina Journal reports that 46-year-old Shelly Moore was sentenced Monday in Saline County. Jurors found the former Wichita Southeast High School psychologist guilty in February of charges that included possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. A deputy found the marijuana during a December 2015 traffic stop on Interstate 135. An affidavit says Moore told authorities she thought they had a personal-use amount. She said they'd texted a friend whose husband was dying of cancer as they drove back. Her husband's sentencing is set for May 22.


Anti-Semitic Sign Appears on Kansas State Campus 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — An anti-Semitic poster was put up on campus at Kansas State University during Holocaust Remembrance Day. Kansas State Associate Vice President Steve Logback tells the Manhattan Mercury that the university was alerted to the poster through social media that Monday morning and removed it from the telephone pole it was attached to. Logback says the situation was an unauthorized posting and, as far as he knows, an isolated incident. Greg Newmark, co-adviser of the university's Jewish student organization, says he doesn't believe the person behind the poster knew the significance of Holocaust Remembrance Day. He says the incident only highlights the purpose behind having such a holiday, which is "to not forget how quickly hate speech can become (dangerous)." Logback says that university police are currently investigating the incident.


Some High Plains Farmers Struggling After Fires, Drought

DENVER (AP) — Deep snow is melting into Western mountain streams, but some farmers and ranchers on the high plains are struggling amid a lengthy dry spell and the aftermath of destructive wildfires. A swath of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas has been in a drought or near-drought condition for six months, putting some of the winter wheat crop in doubt. The wildfires burned nearly 2,100 square miles (5,400 square kilometers) in the four states. Six people died. Agriculture officials say the fires also killed more than 20,000 cattle and pigs and damaged or destroyed about $55 million worth of fences. April rains in some areas have helped the grassland recover, but it could be weeks or longer before cattle can be turned out to graze, leaving some ranchers a choice of buying costlier feed or culling their herds.


Topeka Man Convicted of Murder in Child Slaying 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man who was charged in the death of a 14-month-old will be sentenced to 14 years in prison as part of a plea agreement. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports 28-year-old Michael Guerrero pleaded no contest April 17 to charges of reckless aggravated battery and reckless second-degree murder of the child. A charge of aggravated endangering of a child was dismissed. A police affidavit says Guerrero called 911 in June 2015 saying the child was choking on a french fry and that he was trying to save her by shaking her, giving her blows on the back and attempting CPR. The child was taken to a hospital with bruising and died three days later. A Children's Mercy Hospital official says CPR couldn't have caused that much bruising on a child. Guerrero will be sentenced in June.


4 More Sentenced in Missouri in Multi-Million Cerner Fraud Conspiracy

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Four more people have been sentenced for their roles in a multi-million fraud that involved impersonating employees of North Kansas City-based health information technology company Cerner Corp. The U.S. attorney's office says 67-year-old David Tayce, of Lucas, Texas, was sentenced Tuesday to six years and six months in prison and ordered to pay $19.2 million in restitution. Fifty-six-year-old David Hernon, of Fishers, Indiana, was sentenced during a separate appearance to four years and four months in prison and ordered to pay $6.5 million in restitution. Richard Bryant and his wife, Christina Bryant, both 41 and from Sachse, Texas, were each sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay $8.1 million in restitution. Prosecutors say they used the fraud to turn business deals, solicit investors and obtain bank loans.


Woman Accused in Kansas Triple Killing Facing Gun Charges

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A woman already charged in connection with a triple killing in central Kansas now is accused in a federal indictment of providing a gun to a co-defendant. The indictment returned Tuesday in Wichita accuses Myrta Rangel of four drug-related weapons counts and single counts of unlawful possession of a firearm following a felony conviction and of giving a firearm to a convicted felon. The indictment alleges the 31-year-old Wichita woman gave a .40-caliber handgun to Jereme Nelson. Rangel and Nelson are charged in Harvey County with one count of capital murder and three first-degree murder counts in last October's shooting deaths of three people at a rural home near Moundridge. 


Kansas Man's Illinois Contract Killing Plot Charges Dropped 

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors have dismissed charges against one of three Kansas men accused in an Illinois contract killing plot. The Salina Journal reports that the conspiracy to commit capital murder case was dropped Tuesday against 23-year-old Alex Karcher. Assistant Saline County attorney Amy Norton says a decision about whether to refile the case will be made after he returns to Illinois to face drug charges. The Illinois indictment says Karcher and four others stored marijuana at a rental home and intended to distribute it. Two men remain charged in the contract killing plot. Carbondale, Illinois, officer Trey Harris was wounded during the same time frame in which the men are accused in a criminal complaint of agreeing to travel to the state to kill three other men. No one was killed.


Iowa Man "Mourning" After Death of Giant Rabbit on Flight Headed for KCI

LONDON (AP) — An Iowa man who was getting a giant rabbit from Britain for his boss to show at the Iowa State Fair says "we're still in the mourning process" after hearing that the animal died en route. Bryan Bergdale of West Des Moines had driven last Thursday to Kansas City to pick up Simon, a 10-month-old, 3-foot continental rabbit, when he received a call from United Airlines. Bergdale says "we'd built a pen and had toys all ready." Bergdale, who manages farmland investments, says the rabbit cost his boss 415 pounds ($530) and shipping was 1,400 pounds ($1,800). He says he had a 5-foot-by-8-foot pen built in a farm garage in Norwalk and had planned for air conditioning to be piped in. Bergdale said the United Airlines representative who called was "very nice" but didn't say anything about compensating him. He says "we're not quite sure what we're going to do."


Woman Killed, Firefighter Hurt During Lawrence House Blaze

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Fire officials say an elderly woman was killed and a firefighter injured during a fire at a house in Lawrence yesterday (TUE) morning. Firefighters pulled the woman from the one-story home northwest of Kansas University early Tuesday morning, but she died at the scene. Officials could not publicly release the victim’s name until positive identification had been made, but they say that the family had been notified. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Douglas County property records indicate the house is owned by a woman named Hazel Stanley. Several neighbors said they believed the woman was in her 90s. The city said a firefighter sustained a minor injury. There was no immediate word on what may have started the fire.


2 Found Dead From Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Outside Kansas Wal-Mart

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - Authorities say carbon monoxide poisoning killed two people who were found dead in a sport utility vehicle in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Kansas City, Kansas. Police Chief Terry Zeigler announced the cause of death Tuesday on Twitter. The names of the two people who died weren't immediately released. They were found Sunday morning in the parking lot across the streets from the Legends Outlets shopping center near the Kansas Speedway. Zeigler said in a later tweet that he wasn't sure what caused the carbon monoxide levels to reach lethal levels. He said "an exhaust issue" was a possibility.


Some Midwest and Plains State Ranchers Still Struggling After Wildfires

DENVER (AP) - Some farmers and ranchers are struggling amid a lengthy dry spell and the aftermath of destructive wildfires in Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas. The region has been in a drought or near-drought condition for at least six months, putting some of the winter wheat crop in doubt. The wildfires burned more than 2,000 square miles in the four states. Six people died. Agriculture officials say the fires also killed more than 20,000 cattle and other livestock and damaged or destroyed about $55 million worth of fencing. April rains in some areas have helped the grassland recover, but it could be weeks or longer before cattle can be turned out to graze, leaving some ranchers a choice of buying costlier feed or culling their herds.


Royals Lose to White Sox, 10-5, and Drop to 0-6 on Road Trip

CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago White Sox beat the Kansas City Royals 10-5 Tuesday night in their second straight win over the Royals. A night after beating the Royals 12-1 and outhitting them 15-2, the White Sox outhit Kansas City 14-8. Chicago scored 10 or more runs in consecutive games for the first time since May, 2012. Kansas City is 0-6 on a seven-game trip, its longest skid since losing eight consecutive games last June. Last in the AL Central at 7-13, the Royals are off to their worst start since opening 6-14 in 2012. Chicago's Todd Frazier drove in three runs and his sacrifice fly tied the score in the third inning. The White Sox took a 4-2 lead in the fourth against Danny Duffy (2-1) when Omar Narvaez and Garcia hit consecutive doubles, and Tim Anderson followed with an RBI single.

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