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Headlines for Wednesday, August 31, 2016

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

Brownback Seeking Opinions, Ideas on Kansas School Funding 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback is making a point of soliciting opinions and ideas from educators, parents and others on school funding. Brownback had a news conference Wednesday to call for ideas and announce that he's urging groups and individuals to email their comments or proposals. He also sent a letter to more than 50 school districts and organizations. Brownback is asking people to submit their comments by November 30. The Republican governor and the GOP-controlled Legislature expect to write a new school funding formula next year. A group of Kansas school administrators has been working for months on a plan and unveiled its outlines Wednesday during a forum. The proposal would strip local school districts of their taxing powers and set a single statewide property tax for schools.


Kansas School Administrators Outline New Plan for School Funding
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A group of Kansas school administrators has outlined a school funding plan that is a radical departure from past policy. The plan outlined Wednesday would do away with a system of allowing districts to raise extra money beyond what the state provides. Instead the state would have a single property tax that, along with state aid, would cover districts' operating costs.  It was drafted by about 30 administrators and presented during a Kansas Association of School Boards forum. Kansas lawmakers in 2015 junked a per-pupil funding formula in favor of stable block grants for districts. Under the proposed funding system, local districts would no longer set their own property tax levies for schools. The plan also would return the state to a per-pupil funding system.


Lawrence Man Requests Grand Jury Investigation of Kobach's Office

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas House candidate has asked the state Supreme Court to order a grand jury to investigate Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Democrat Steven Davis of Lawrence filed his request last week after Douglas County Judge Robert Fairchild rejected Davis's petition for a grand jury and ruled that the allegations in Davis' petition weren't specific enough. Davis wants the grand jury to investigate whether the secretary of state or his subordinates mishandled online voter registrations. Davis circulated petitions after hearing about potential problems, but even some of Kobach's toughest critics say they haven't seen evidence of wrongdoing. Kobach’s office has said any allegations that they mishandled voter registrations are “nonsense.”


Kansas Works to Secure Voter Database 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has partnered with federal agencies to try and ensure the security of the state's voter database, as the FBI investigates security breaches in other states. Kansas director of elections Bryan Caskey says he participated in a conference call last week with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and election officials from other states "about threats that had been collected at the national level concerning election systems." The Wichita Eagle reports that security breaches occurred earlier this summer in Arizona as well as in Illinois, when a hacker was able to see information on data about 200,000 registered voters. According to Caskey, Kansas uses the same software vendor as Arizona for its voter database, but it has at least one significant layer of security above what Arizona has.


Judge Narrows Ex-Employee's Lawsuit Against Kobach's Office

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has narrowed a lawsuit filed by a former employee of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's office who claims she was fired for refusing to attend prayer services there. But Topeka attorney Gary Laughlin said Wednesday that U.S. District Judge Sam Crow's order allows Courtney Canfield to pursue her most important religious discrimination claim. Crow's order Tuesday dismissed three of the lawsuit's four claims. Canfield worked in the secretary of state's office for 9½ months in 2013 and alleges in the lawsuit that Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker ousted her because she "just doesn't go to church." Kobach has called the lawsuit baseless. His office has said Canfield was terminated over job performance issues. Kobach did not immediately a telephone message seeking comment Wednesday.


Opponents to Revisit Concealed Carry Law at Kansas Colleges & Universities 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas opponents of concealed weapons on college campuses are preparing to fight again against the law ahead of its implementation in 2017. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that state-run universities must begin allowing concealed weapons onto campuses next July. The next legislative session begins in January and lawmakers who want to stop concealed carry on campuses will have six months to change Kansas law. Democratic state Representative Barbara Ballard, whose district includes part of the University of Kansas, says lawmakers who oppose the law see better prospects for repealing it in the next legislative session, but they can't be sure. Republican state Representative Melissa Rooker says she supports Second Amendment rights for hunting and self-protection, but is concerned about firearms in a college environment. Rooker says she supports allowing universities to create site-specific guidelines.


Judge Tosses Kansas Jail Inmate's Religious Rights Lawsuit 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge in Topeka has thrown out a Muslim inmate's lawsuit that accused the Shawnee County Jail of violating the convicted killer's religious rights. U.S. Magistrate Judge David J. Waxse dismissed Eddie Gordon Sr.'s 2014 lawsuit against the county jail and its administrators. Acting as his own attorney, Gordon alleged he wasn't fed for 28 hours during the season of Ramadan, when Muslims for 30 days fast from dawn until after sunset. He also said jail officials served him cold, inedible meals so close to his prayer time that he couldn't eat them before fasting. Waxse dismissed the lawsuit after Gordon failed to show how the alleged conduct harmed him physically or intentionally interfered with his religion.


Kansas to Use More Than $1 Million in Federal Funds to Fight Zika

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas officials say they will use nearly $1.2 million in federal funds to fight the Zika virus. 11 people in the state have been infected with the virus, which is primarily spread through mosquitoes. The state has received the funds under cooperative agreements with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The funds are going toward public health preparedness and an epidemiology and laboratory program that includes participation in a nationwide Zika pregnancy registry. Surveillance, intervention and referral to services for infants with adverse outcomes linked to Zika will also be funded. Kansas's first case was reported in March. No cases of local transmission have been reported. Zika causes a mild illness in most people but can lead to severe brain-related birth defects if women are infected during pregnancy.


Kansas Teen Convicted of Murder in 2 Fire Deaths 

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A 17-year-old Kansas boy has been found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder for setting a fire that killed his mother and sister. The Hutchinson News reports that Sam Vonachen also was convicted Wednesday of aggravated arson and attempted murder. During closing arguments, prosecutors said the teen, who was 14 at the time of the September 26, 2013, blaze, wanted people to die. Vonachen's attorney countered that he had a mental defect and wasn't responsible for his actions. Prosecutors say Vonachen waited until his three family members went to sleep before pouring gasoline around the stairs in his home and lighting it on fire. His father, Steven Vonachen, escaped but his mother, 47-year-old Karla Jo Vonachen, and his 11-year-old sister Audrey died in the blaze.


Lawrence Plans $1 Million in Repairs For Bowersock Dam

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Lawrence is planning another $1 million of repair work on a 130-year-old dam across the Kansas River. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the goal is to reinforce the southernmost third of Bowersock Dam. The repairs are budgeted for 2018, although the ultimate decision of when it moves forward is dependent on budget decisions the City Commission makes next year. The first phase of reconstruction on the dam was done in 2010, after structural concerns were raised by the dam's chief regulator, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. At that time, the city paid for $2.2 million of repairs on the dam. The main element of that work was to stabilize the dam by replacing supports of wood and concrete with ones of steel piling and concrete.


Lawrence Firefighter Sues City over Arrest in 2014

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ A Lawrence firefighter has filed a lawsuit against the city accusing the police department of using excessive and negligent force against him during his arrest. Witnesses say police arrived at the city's Veterans of Foreign Wars hall to break up an argument on April 19, 2014, and one officer struck a man's head against a squad car. According to court filings, witnesses say the officer then beat firefighter Miguel Armenta, who was at the scene. Armenta was arrested and found guilty of interfering with his own arrest. Lawrence police say nobody was beaten and that officers acted within their rights to keep the peace. Armenta filed the civil lawsuit in October 2014 and the case is scheduled to begin in September. The lawsuit is seeking $225,000 in compensation for Armenta's injuries.


One Dead After Wounded Driver Runs Kansas City Red Light 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police say a Kansas City driver ran a red light after he was critically wounded in a shooting and caused a wreck that killed another driver. The wreck happened Tuesday night when the wounded 26-year-old driver's car hit a pickup truck. Kansas City police say the 24-year-old driver of the truck was declared dead at a hospital. The truck's driver had been at a rugby game with his brother, who was following behind him in traffic and witnessed the crash. Police are investigating the shooting that wounded the car's driver.


Kansas Man Pleads No Contest to Man's Pool Cue Death at Bar

EDGERTON, Kan. (AP) _ A 32-year-old Kansas man has pleaded no contest in the death of a bar patron who was struck in the head with a pool cue a week before Christmas. WDAF-TV reports Gregory Cooper of Edgerton was charged with second-degree murder and attempted aggravated battery in the death of 23-year-old Tyler Knudsen at an Edgerton bar on December 19. Johnson County prosecutors said Cooper ``unintentionally, but recklessly'' killed Knudsen when he swung a pool cue at another man's head but instead hit the victim. Family members say Knudsen was an innocent bystander just waiting to play a game of pool. Cooper entered his plea on Tuesday. His sentencing is scheduled for November 18.


Missing Girls Found After Walking Away from Home 

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. (AP) — Two suburban Kansas City girls with autism have been found in a wooded area near their Blue Springs home several hours after walking away overnight, possibly in search of food. Blue Springs police spokeswoman Jennifer Dachenhausen says a police officer found 14-year-old Katherine Oglesby and 11-year-old Annabelle Oglesby on Wednesday morning hiding in some woods. The two were reported missing after walking away from their home at 4:15 am Wednesday. The Missouri State Highway Patrol has cancelled a missing and endangered persons alert it issued earlier for the girls.


Kansas Orchard Grows Possible World Record Peach

BUCYRUS, Kan. (AP) —An eastern Kansas orchard may have raised a peach that has broken a world record. KSHB-TV reports a peach weighing more than 763 grams -- about 2 pounds -- was picked in August at Tubby Fruits Peach Orchard in Bucyrus. The current world record of 725 grams was set in 2002. Two certified scientists from the Johnson County Extension office weighed the peach using a verified scale provided by the USDA. The process was documented with both videos and photos. The Lady Nancy's peach had to be eaten as proof that the fruit wasn't altered to skew the results. Guinness World Records says it could take up to three months for it to determine if the peach has set a new record.


Kansas Cattle Drive to Mark Chisholm Trail Sesquicentennial 

ABILENE, Kan. (AP) — Longhorns will once again be driven through central Kansas to mark the approaching 150th anniversary of the famous Chisholm cattle trail. The Salina Journal reports that the cattle drive is part of a weekend celebration in Abilene marking the Chisholm Trail sesquicentennial. The drive will feature about 30 longhorns and will end at an attraction called Old Abilene Town after a parade. The festivities will mark the almost 20 year period when the trail, which started in 1867, was used to move millions of head of cattle from Texas ranches to Kansas railheads. The cattle then were sold and shipped eastward. Besides the longhorn drive, there also will be Native American dancers. Descendants of Jesse Chisholm, who blazed the trail, also will be in town for the festivities.


Yankees Shut Down Royals Comeback Bid to Win, 5-4 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The New York Yankees' Jacoby Ellsbury drove in the go-ahead run with two outs in the 10th inning to give the Yankees  a 5-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night. Dellin Betances (3-4) tossed two scoreless innings of relief for New York before Ben Heller loaded the bases with one out in the 10th. Chasen Shreve entered the game and struck out Kendrys Morales and got Salvador Perez to fly out, picking up his first major league save. Brian McCann and Chase Headley started the Yankees' go-ahead rally with singles off Joakim Soria (4-6), who recovered to strike out Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin. But after Soria walked Brett Gardner to load the bases, Ellsbury lined a single off Soria's leg for his fourth hit of the game. 


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