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Headlines for Wednesday, April 5, 2017

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

Kansas Lawmakers Negotiate Tax Proposals with Governor Brownback 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top state legislators are negotiating with Governor Sam Brownback over raising taxes as they consider proposals for a flat personal income tax. The governor met last (TUE) evening with GOP legislative leaders. House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. said they didn't settle on any tax proposals. The meeting came after a Senate committee approved a bill for moving the state to a single personal income tax rate of 4.6 percent while raising new revenue to fix budget problems. The House has its own bill to abandon separate tax rates for higher and lower-income earners in favor of a single, 5 percent rate. Supporters see a flat tax as fairer. Critics contend middle-class families would be hit the hardest. Kansas faces projected budget shortfalls totaling more than $1 billion through June 2019.

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Kansas Governor Backs 'Flat' Income Tax Plan Budget Proposal 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has endorsed a proposal to use a "flat" personal income tax to raise new revenue to fix the state's serious budget problems. The conservative Republican governor said in a statement Wednesday that he would sign a bill like one that's before the state Senate. It would impose a 4.6 percent rate for all filers starting next year. That is the top rate for higher-income earners, and the bill would eliminate the 2.7 percent rate now in place for lower-income filers. The bill would also eliminate an income tax exemption for 330,000-plus farmers and business owners that Brownback has championed. Critics contend the bill would hit middle-class families hardest. It would raise about $652 million over two years. Kansas faces budget shortfalls totaling more than $1 billion.

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Kansas House Panel Wants to Phase in $750M Boost for Schools 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has drafted a plan to phase in a $750 million increase in state aid to public schools over five years. A special panel on education funding agreed Wednesday to a proposal to pump $150 million more into schools annually for each the next five years under a new per-student funding formula. The committee hasn't yet voted on the measure because some lawmakers want an attorney to look over the proposal to ensure that it will satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court. The court ruled last month that the state's education funding is inadequate. Republican Representative Melissa Rooker of Fairway says she's glad the committee agreed on a multi-year influx of new aid but can't say whether schools would get the money fast enough to satisfy the court.

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Judge Tells Kansas Official to Produce Plan Taken to Trump 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has ordered Kansas's top elections official to produce a plan on homeland security issues that he took to a meeting with President Donald Trump. U.S. Magistrate James O'Hara ruled Wednesday that the document from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach could be relevant to a federal lawsuit challenging a state law requiring new voters to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship when registering. O'Hara also ordered Kobach to produce a second, related document. The magistrate plans to review both privately. Kobach must produce them Thursday. Kobach met with Trump in November. An Associated Press photo showed Kobach holding a paper outlining a plan that could include changes in federal voting laws. The second document Kobach must produce is an internal proposal for changes in federal voting laws.

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State Contractors Could Not Boycott Israel Under Kansas Bill 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is on the path to join a growing number of states who won't award contracts to companies waging an "economic attack" on Israel. But pro-Palestinian groups say the law discriminates against businesses that practice their right to boycott. The House passed a bill 116 to 9 on Wednesday that would prohibit the state from participating in anti-Israel boycotts and contracting with businesses that participate. Supporters say the bill protects Kansas and Israel's trading partnership. The Kansas Department of Commerce says Israel hovers around the top 20 trading partners the state has each year. But so far, the department hasn't found any companies in Kansas publicly boycotting Israel. Opponents say the bill restricts companies' ability to protest Israel for its occupation of Palestinian-claimed lands.

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Judge Lets Attorneys Withdraw from Kansas Bomb Plot Case 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge says he is reluctantly granting the request from defense attorneys to withdraw from the case of a Kansas man accused of plotting to bomb an apartment complex filled with Somali immigrants. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren said Wednesday new court-appointed counsel would be selected for Patrick Stein while he continues efforts to hire his own private attorney. Stein and co-defendants Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen are accused of conspiring to detonate truck bombs at an apartment complex where Somali immigrants live in Garden City. Stein told the judge his court-appointed attorneys have limited criminal experience to handle a case of this magnitude when the rest of his life is on the line. He says lawyers quoted him prices of between $100,000 and $1 million to represent him.

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Debate Over Concealed Carry Stalls in Kansas House 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Opponents of Kansas's concealed carry law failed on Tuesday to force a debate over guns at college campuses and hospitals. The House voted 44 to 81 against a debate, leaving opponents and supporters to continue talks toward a compromise outside the formal legislative process. At issue is a law passed in 2013 that requires public buildings to allow concealed carry of firearms. Colleges and hospitals were allowed an exemption until July 1 of this year. Opponents of the law have looked for ways to soften or repeal it. Minority Leader Democrat Representative Jim Ward favored the debate on Tuesday, but Republican Majority Leader Representative Don Hineman says he wants to wait to debate until hospital and gun rights groups can come to a compromise.

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Ranchers in 3 States Get Grazing Assistance Due to Wildfires

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Ranchers in three states affected by recent wildfires have been given a temporary suspension of grazing restrictions. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday authorized emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve Program lands in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. The agency says wildfires in Kansas burned about 630,000 acres with estimated livestock losses of between 3,000 and 9,000 cattle. About $36 million worth of fencing was also destroyed.  In Oklahoma, where nearly 390,000 acres burned, the livestock loss was estimated at 3,000 head of cattle. Structure losses were estimated at $2 million with fencing losses at $22 million. Texas ranchers lost at least 3,000 cattle and 1,900 swine when some 550,000 acres burned. Acting Secretary of Agriculture Mike Young says ranchers are facing devastating conditions and economic calamity and need some relief.  

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Wichita Activists Resume Work to Relax Marijuana Penalties 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Activists in Wichita plan to resume efforts to reduce penalties for marijuana possession in the city. Janice Bradley and Esau Freeman asked the Wichita City Council Tuesday to pass an initiative to reduce the penalties as a charter ordinance. The Wichita Eagle reports the activists plan to start a third petition drive during Tuesday's special election to replace U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo. But the council could make that unnecessary by passing the charter ordinance. The group wants to reduce simple marijuana possession to a $50 fine, with a citation rather than an arrest. Wichita voters approved a similar initiative in 2015 but the state Supreme Court later struck it down on a technicality.

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Kansas Principal Resigns After Student Reporters Raise Concerns

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) - An incoming Kansas high school principal has resigned after student reporters raised questions about her credentials. The Pittsburg Morning Sun reports that school board members voted Tuesday to accept Amy Robertson's resignation as Pittsburg High School's principal. The main concern stemmed from her receiving her masters and doctoral degrees from Corlinns University, an unaccredited, online school. Robertson said she received her degree before the university lost accreditation. Superintendent Destry Brown says the district will probably be making changes to its vetting process. He also praised reporters with the student newspaper, "The Booster Redux," saying "our kids ask questions and don't just accept something because somebody told them." Robertson is currently working in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Want to read the students' investigation? Click here

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Kansas City Voters Approve Lower Penalties for Pot Possession

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Possession of small amounts of marijuana in Kansas City will no longer bring a large fine or the possibility of jail time. Kansas City voters on Tuesday approved a proposal that lowers the maximum fine to $25 from $500 and removes the possibility of up 180 days in jail. The Kansas City Star reports the change applies only to cases in municipal court in which defendants possessed 35 grams or less of marijuana — about 1 1/4 ounces. The measure also eliminated city charges for possession of marijuana-related paraphernalia. Twenty-nine states plus Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana either for recreational or medical use. Missouri this year eliminated jail time for first-time offenders convicted of possessing less than 10 grams of marijuana.

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Kansas City Voters Pass Ballot Issues for Infrastructure

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City voters put their money where their mouths were in Tuesday's election. Voters easily passed three ballot questions that will allow the city to borrow and invest $800 million over 20 years for infrastructure. It is the largest general obligation bond authorization in the city's history. The money will be used to improve roads, bridges, sidewalks and flood control, and to build a new animal shelter. The ballot issues each received more than 60 percent of the vote. More than 60,000 people voted, nearly twice the 34,000 who voted in the 2015 mayor's race. Voters also approved a one-eight-cent sales tax to fund economic development in the city's neglected central core. The tax is expected to raise $8.6 million annually for 10 years.

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Kansas City Man Charged with Fatally Shooting Uncle

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Kansas City man is charged with fatally shooting his uncle after disarming him during a fight. Thirty-seven-year-old Tirrell Middleton, of Kansas City, was charged Tuesday with second-degree murder in the killing of 54-year-old Samuel Lloyd. Middleton was charged previously with unlawful possession of a firearm. Bond is set at $50,000. No attorney is listed for him in online court records. Lloyd was shot Sunday in the basement of the home where he and Middleton lived. Court records say Middleton told police Lloyd fired at him during a fight. Middleton also said he could have "just walked away" after disarming Lloyd but shot him instead. Police removed a handgun from Middleton's jacket. A witness told police that Middleton had said he was going to shoot Lloyd.

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Woman Sentenced for Selling Drugs After Order from Inmate
 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas woman who sold methamphetamine after being told to by a jail inmate has been sentenced to four years in prison. U.S. Attorney Tom Beall says in a news release that 21-year-old Kraysalias Lynn Bernhardt, of Clearwater, was sentenced Wednesday for selling a pound of meth. Prosecutors say Bernhardt sold the drugs in January 2016 after talking by phone to Samuel Below, who was an inmate at the Sedgwick County jail. Below was storing the drugs at Bernhardt's home. Bernhardt pleaded guilty to one count of using a telephone in furtherance of drug trafficking. He was ordered to serve 10 years in federal prison for his role in the drug sale.

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Kansas City Police Find Body in Park, Suspect Homicide 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Police have started a homicide investigation after a body was found in a Kansas City park. WDAF-TV reports that police spokesman Kari Thompson says the male body was found Tuesday in one of the shelters at Minor Park on the city's south side. Police have not released the name of the victim.

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Lawsuit Claims KU Professor Sexually Harassed Theater Student 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A former University of Kansas theater student is suing the school, alleging it failed to investigate claims he was sexually harassed. The Kansas City Star reports the lawsuit alleges a professor invited the then-student to his home for dinner in 2015, wrongly telling him other students would also be in attendance. The man alleges the professor was intoxicated, forcefully kissed him and grabbed his genitals. The lawsuit says a university investigation of the incident was never completed, and that the professor was eventually fired. The university says it can't comment on pending litigation. The lawsuit accuses the school of creating an unsafe environment in violation of a federal law established to prohibit gender discrimination, including sexual harassment and sexual assault.

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Man Pleads Guilty in Merchandise Thefts from Kansas City Running Store

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ An Olathe man has admitted to stealing more than $275,000 in merchandise from a Kansas City area store. Federal prosecutors say 41-year-old Craig Sullivan pleaded guilty Tuesday to wire fraud. He admitted that he stole the merchandise from Garry Gribble's Running Sports, which has five locations in the Kansas City region. Sullivan oversaw merchandise arriving at the main store in Overland Park and was responsible for distributing merchandise to the other locations. In his plea deal, Sullivan admitted he stole merchandise, primarily Garmin GPS devices, and used Craigslist to sell them to a buyer in California. The buyer made 51 payments totaling $275,780. Sentencing is scheduled for July 10.  

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Boy, 12, Dies in Wichita in Apparently Accidental Shooting 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a 12-year-old boy has died in an apparently accidental shooting at a Wichita home. The Wichita Eagle reports that the shooting was reported around 6:30 pm Tuesday. Wichita police Sergeant Nikki Woodrow says it appears that the boy died after accidentally shooting himself. No other details were immediately released.

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2 Earthquakes Reported in North Central Kansas This Week 

MANKATO, Kan. (AP) — A second earthquake has been reported this week in north central Kansas. The U.S. Geological Survey reports an earthquake measuring 2.7 magnitude was recorded Wednesday morning, centered about 9 miles southeast of Mankato. The Hays Post reports that a quake measuring 3.4 magnitude was reported Tuesday about 5 miles southeast of Mankato. There were no immediate reports of damage from either quake. On Sunday, the agency reported a 2.8 magnitude earthquake was centered about 2 miles southeast of Medicine Lodge. The agency has recorded seven lower-magnitude earthquakes in March.

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Kansas Man Given Life Sentences for Child-Related Sex Crimes 

WAKEENEY, Kan. (AP) — A 54-year-old Kansas man will serve at least 50 years in prison for sex crimes against children. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said David Tidball, of WaKeeney, was sentenced Tuesday to two consecutive life sentences with a minimum of 50 years served. Tidball also was sentenced to a third life sentence and four years and four months in prison, which he will be served consecutively. Tidball was convicted by a Trego County jury in March of 10 charges involving crimes against children. Three of the convictions fall under Jessica's Law because the victims were younger than 14. The crimes occurred between July 2013 and July 2015.

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