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Headlines for Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Kansas Budget Director to Outline Spending Cuts Thursday 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's budget director is preparing to outline $50 million in adjustments to keep the current Kansas budget from resulting in a deficit. Budget director Shawn Sullivan scheduled a news conference for 4 pm Thursday at the Statehouse. The governor's office said Sullivan would discuss recommendations for reducing costs and shifting funds within state government to cover general expenses. It was not more specific. Brownback did not plan to attend the news conference because he is planning to meet with Wichita business owners. GOP legislators counted on Brownback's administration making adjustments under a plan to balance the state's $15.4 billion budget that also increased sales and cigarette taxes this month. Budget problems arose after lawmakers cut income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback's urging to stimulate the economy.


GOP Legislators Block Audit of Kansas Foster Care System

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican legislators have blocked a state audit of the Kansas foster care system even though several of them acknowledged they have concerns about how it operates. A legislative committee that directs the work of state auditors voted 5-4 Wednesday against initiating a review of the foster care system sought by two Democrats. The no votes came from Republicans who noted that other reviews of the system already are planned. Democratic Representatives Ed Trimmer of Winfield and Jim Ward of Wichita wanted auditors to examine whether the Department for Children and Families is adequately protecting foster children and whether its contractors can provide adequate services. But the department has started its own review of foster care policies and legislative leaders have appointed a special committee to review foster care issues.


Voter ID Laws Focus of Kansas Civil Rights Committee 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas division of a federal civil rights commission says it will investigate whether Kansas voter identification laws have affected voter turnout. KCUR reports that the Kansas Committee of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission voted Tuesday to hold hearings to determine if voter turnout in some Kansas communities has been suppressed by the Kansas voter identification law. The committee also voted to ask Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the architect behind the state's voter ID requirements, to testify at its hearings, which are expected to take place early next year. Kobach's office said it would comment later Wednesday. Elizabeth Kronk, chair of the Kansas committee, says there's concern that the law could be impacting certain age groups and races.


Kansas Reviewing Foster Care Policies; Advocates Uneasy 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are reviewing the state's foster care policies, sparking concerns among some Democrat lawmakers and gay rights activists that the state will stop placing abused and neglected children with gays, lesbians and straight, single individuals. But Department for Children and Families spokeswoman Theresa Freed said Tuesday that the state review will be broad and cover more than who should serve as foster parents. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Douglas County District Judge Peggy Carr Kittel sent a letter last week to a regional DCF official asking whether the agency intends to allow only married couples to serve as foster parents. 


Emporia State Couple Claims Racial Harassment at University 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A black couple says officials at Emporia State University have ignored their complaints about a racial incident and are retaliating against them for complaining. Angelica Hale is an assistant to the dean of the School of Library & Management. She says the problems began when someone tampered with items in her graduate assistant's office in April and wrote a racial epithet aimed at Hale and her husband, Melvin Hale, an assistant professor. She says the school's dean, Gwen Alexander, originally promised to investigate but has not done so. The Hales contend the school has instead created a hostile work environment since they complained. Angelica Hale says she resigned Monday. The university says the incident is being investigated and appropriate action will be taken when that is complete.


Kansas Abortion Opponent Must Stand Trial for Threat Letter

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A federal appeals court has ruled a Kansas abortion opponent must stand trial over a letter she sent to a Wichita doctor saying someone might place an explosive under the doctor's car. On Tuesday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court's decision that the letter was constitutionally protected speech. A three-judge appeals panel said a jury should be allowed to decide whether the letter from anti-abortion activist Angel Dillard constituted a "true threat". The Justice Department sued Dillard in 2011 for sending the letter to Dr. Mila Means, who had been training to offer abortions. At the time, no doctor was performing abortions in Wichita in the wake of Dr. George Tiller's 2009 murder by an abortion opponent. 


August Court Hearing Set for Fort Riley Bomb Plot Defendant 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal court hearing is set for next month for a 20-year-old man charged with plotting to bomb an Army post in Kansas in support of the Islamic State group. John T. Booker Jr. of Topeka is to appear August 19 before U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia in Kansas City, Kansas. The judge plans to review the status of Booker's case. Murguia issued a sealed order Wednesday granting a motion filed Tuesday by a public defender representing Booker, also under seal. According to court documents, Booker was arrested in April while trying to arm what he thought was a 1,000-pound bomb inside a van near Fort Riley, about an hour west of Topeka. The charges against him include attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.


Judge Considers Motions in Salina Teen's Murder Case

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Saline County judge will determine if statements a teenager gave to investigators hours after her sister was killed can be admitted at trial. The Salina Journal reports the hearing in Saline County court is to determine if statements Sierra Niehaus gave to investigators hours after her sister was killed last summer will be allowed at her trial. Judge Patrick Thompson on Tuesday evaluated hours of video recordings of three interviews investigators had with then 14-year-old Niehaus on August 1, 2014. Niehaus, now 15, is charged as an adult with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of her 13-year-old sister, Galazia, at the family home in Saline County. Defense lawyers want the statements suppressed and are also seeking a change of venue for her trial.


Police: KCK Man Kills Boss Near KU Medical Center

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - Kansas City, Kansas, police are looking for a man they say fatally shot his boss outside a medical office building near University of Kansas Medical Center. Police were called to the scene just blocks from the Missouri state line at 12:20 pm yesterday (TUE). Police spokesman Patrick McCallop says an employee of First Class Medical Transportation had an ongoing feud with his boss before he shot and killed him Tuesday. McCallop says investigators don't know what the dispute was about. The shooting happened near the rear entrance of the University of Kansas Hospital's Rehabilitation Center.


Man Found Guilty in Bride's Death 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A man has been found guilty for the fatal drive-by shooting of a woman just hours after her wedding in Topeka. Awnterio Dwan Lowery was found guilty of several charges including first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder Tuesday for the slaying of 42-year-old Tiffany Davenport-Ray. Prosecutors say in May 2014, Lowery and two other men followed Davenport-Ray and her husband, Melvin Ray, as they were driving to a post-reception gathering and opened fire. Prosecutors say Melvin Ray, who was driving, returned fire and his wife was killed in the ensuing gunfight. Lowery was arrested and the two other men escaped. Lowery's sentencing hearing is scheduled for September 17.


Woman Charged in Robbery at Baldwin City Lake 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A 23-year-old woman has been charged in the robbery and beating of a man at Douglas State Fishing Lake near Baldwin City. The Lawrence Journal World reports 23-year-old Breanna Denise Parsons was charged with aggravated battery and aggravated robbery Tuesday. According to police, Parsons and Donnie Ray Plouffe attacked and robbed a man at the lake on June 24. The Douglas County Sheriff's Office says the man told authorities he was struck several times. He was taken to Lawrence Memorial Hospital for treatment. Parsons is being held on $25,000 bond. 


Wichita Settles Police Beating Lawsuit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The city of Wichita has settled a lawsuit accusing an 18-year veteran of the police department of beating a man over what began as an alleged parking violation. The Wichita Eagle reports the City Council last week approved paying Marcus McIntosh $325,000 to settle the suit against officer Brian Safris, former Police Chief Norman Williams and the city. The suit alleged that Safris saw McIntosh park in a handicapped parking space in August 2013 and go inside a bar. It claims Safris told McIntosh to go outside with him, and after the two cursed at each other, the officer used a stun gun on McIntosh before repeatedly stomping and kicking him. Safris is contesting his recent firing over the incident.


Topeka Man Sentenced for Sex Trafficking 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 25-year-old Topeka man has been sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for using a 15-year-old girl in a sex trafficking operation. The federal prosecutor's office in Wichita said Wednesday that Dominique Emanuel Tyson pleaded guilty to one count of sex trafficking a child and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Tyson admitted in the plea that he took the 15-year-old girl to a motel to meet a man who saw her photo in an online classified advertising website. The customer was actually working undercover for the Topeka Police Department and FBI. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the case began when a community corrections officer called police reporting that the girl had run away from her placement and authorities later found her photo in the online ad for escort services.


Effort Underway to Fight Kansas City's New Minimum Wage Law

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A group of business associations has started a petition drive to try to force a referendum election aimed at overturning Kansas City's new minimum wage law.  The Kansas City Star reports that the group has until August 25 to gather about 3,400 signatures to challenge the measure recently approved by the City Council. The measure raises Kansas City's minimum wage from $7.65 per hour to $8.50 per hour on August 24, with annual increases to $13 per hour by 2020.  The group, Missourians for Fair Wages, includes restaurant, hotel and other business associations. Spokesman David Jackson says the group wants to slow down the city action to make sure it doesn't hurt the local economy.  Minimum wage increase proponents condemned the group's effort and said they'll fight the petition drive.


Kansas Casino Company Seeks to Build 4-Story Hotel 

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Investors developing a state-owned gambling casino in southeast Kansas are seeking permission to build a four-story hotel. While area zoning restrictions limit buildings to 35 feet, or three stories, developers of the Kansas Crossing Casino & Hotel are planning to build a four-story, 123-room Hampton Inn & Suites. The Joplin Globe reports that the Pittsburg Board of Zoning Appeals is scheduled to vote on the request Monday.Work on the $70.2 million casino site near the junction of U.S. Highways 69 and 400 started soon after the project was recently approved by the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission. Developers say the casino site is expected to have 625 slot machines and 16 gambling tables and attract about 500,000 visitors a year.


Woman Finds Unexploded Mortar Round While Cleaning Home

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City woman cleaning out some of her husband's items found what is believed to be a live explosive in their home.  The Kansas City Star reports the Prairie Village woman called police Tuesday saying she had found an old military item that could possibly be an explosive.  Prairie Village police spokesman Captain Byron Roberson says Overland Park police's bomb squad determined the device appears to be an unexploded rifle-mounted mortar round.  Prairie Village police requested military personnel from Fort Riley come to the home and dispose of the item.  Police evacuated the house and blocked off the street. They also told neighbors what was going on and asked them to stay inside their homes — preferably in their basements.


Hosmer's Homer in 9th Helps Royals Beat Cleveland, 2-1 

CLEVELAND (AP) — Eric Hosmer's home run in the ninth inning lifted the Kansas City Royals to a 2-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night. Hosmer hit a 3-2 pitch from Trevor Bauer (8-8) over the right field wall for his 11th home run of the season. The Royals' Wade Davis (7-1) pitched a perfect eighth and Greg Holland worked the ninth, getting a game-ending double play, for his 22nd save as the Royals won their fourth straight game and 16th in the last 21 games. The Indians have now lost eight straight games at home, their longest home losing streak in 40 years. In another move before the trade deadline, the Royals acquired utility player Ben Zobrist from the Oakland A's. On Sunday, Kansas City traded three minor league pitchers to Cincinnati for pitching ace Johnny Cueto. Cueto, who won 20 games for the Reds last season, will make his debut for the Royals on Friday in Toronto.


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