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Headlines for Wednesday, May 24, 2017

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

GOP Holds Off Increase Size of School Aid Plan 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican legislators in Kansas have blocked an attempt by Democrats to increase the new spending on public schools provided by an education funding plan. The state House was debating a bill Wednesday that would phase in a $280 million increase in education funding over two years. Kansas currently spends about $4 billion annually on aid to its 286 school districts, but the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in March that education funding is inadequate. Democratic Representative Ed Trimmer of Winfield proposed phasing in a $600 million increase over three years so that the increase after two years would be $400 million. The House voted 75-47 against his amendment, and debate continued. Attorneys for four school districts suing the state have said the original plan is not sufficient. Many Republicans disagree.

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Kansas House Avoids Debate on 'Bathroom Bill' 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —  The Kansas House has refused to debate a transgender "bathroom bill." Freshman Republican Representative Trevor Jacobs of Fort Scott offered the proposal Wednesday as an amendment to an education funding bill. It would have mandated that transgender students use restrooms, locker rooms or other facilities according to the gender on their birth certificates. Under the measure, transgender and other students could ask to use separate, single-occupancy restrooms. His measure was similar to a bill in committee that has not received a hearing. The House Rules Committee declared Jacobs's amendment out of order. The House upheld that ruling on a lopsided voice vote.

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Kansas Lawmakers Delay Debates on Tax Hikes, School Funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are postponing debates on a new plan for raising taxes to fix the state budget and another measure that would boost spending on public schools. House and Senate negotiators were meeting again Wednesday to rewrite parts of a plan for raising $948 million over two years with income and liquor tax increases while also imposing the state's sales tax on some services. The House hoped to debate taxes Wednesday afternoon and then the school finance plan on the 100th day of the Legislature's annual session. The education measure would phase in a $280 million increase in spending on schools over two years. Kansas faces projected budget shortfalls totaling $887 million through June 2019, and the state Supreme Court has said funding for public schools is inadequate.

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Kansas Lawmakers Draft New Budget Plan with Mix of Tax Hikes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas legislators have drafted a new proposal for fixing the state budget that includes both income tax increases and hikes in other taxes. House and Senate negotiators agreed Tuesday night on details of a plan for raising $948 million over two years. The House would vote on the plan first and is expected to debate the plan today (WED). Most of the new revenue would come from boosting income tax rates and eliminating an exemption for farmers and business owners. But the plan also would raise liquor taxes and impose the state sales tax on a few services. Lawmakers are also considering a new measure that would boost spending on public schools. The Legislature is scheduled to debate those two major issues today (WED), the 100th day of its annual session. Kansas faces projected budget shortfalls totaling $887 million through June 2019, and the state Supreme Court has said funding for public schools is inadequate. 
 
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Insurer Withdraws from Kansas, Missouri Health Care Exchanges 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City is pulling out of the federal health care exchanges in Kansas and Missouri next year because of mounting financial losses. The company's announcement Wednesday makes it just the latest insurer to drop out of the government-backed marketplaces that were a pillar of the Obama-era federal health care overhaul law. The nation's third-largest insurer, Aetna, announced earlier this month that it will completely leave the exchanges for 2018. Blue KC President and CEO Danette Wilson said in a statement that the company had lost more than $100 million on the exchanges through 2016 and described the losses as "unsustainable." The exchanges began operating in 2014. The release says about 67,000 members in western Missouri and eastern Kansas would be affected.

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Iraq War Vet Explains Decision to Run for Kansas Congressional Seat

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A retired Army officer who works for the business networking site LinkedIn has announced he's seeking the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 3rd District.  35-year-old Joe McConnell is seeking the congressional seat held by Republican Kevin Yoder.  Also planning to seek the Democratic nomination are Jay Sidie, the Mission Woods businessman who lost to Yoder by a 10-point margin in November, and Reginald Marselus, who ran unsuccessfully in 2014 and 2016.  McConnell grew up in Overland Park, and after serving 14 months in Iraq, spent eight years in California. In April, he moved to Leawood with his wife and 2-year-old daughter. The district is a key Democratic target after Hillary Clinton carried it in the presidential race.

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Kansas Lawmakers Approve Outdoor Drinking Districts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas legislators have said "cheers" to allowing cities to designate districts where people can move among bars, restaurants and entertainment venues with libations in hand. The House approved the bill Tuesday on a 97-22 vote. The Senate passed the measure last week, so it goes next to Governor Sam Brownback for his signature. He has not stated a public position. The goal is to allow cities to create areas similar to the Power and Light District in Kansas City, Missouri, where patrons can move around a common area with their alcoholic drinks.  Local governments would set up clearly-marked common consumption areas. Each would need a state permit.  Lenexa city leaders sought the bill so vendors could sell liquor at a new public market set to open this summer. 

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Kansas Law Doesn't Address Children's Access to Firearms  

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Although Kansas has recorded four accidental shooting deaths of young children between 2014 and 2016, legislators have shown little interest in laws that would punish adults who allow children access to guns. Data compiled by The Associated Press and USA Network found at least 21 states and the District of Columbia have laws dealing with negligent storage of firearms. Researchers found the laws are enforced in widely varying ways. The Kansas law against child endangerment makes it a crime to "knowingly and unreasonably" cause or permit children to be situations in which the child is endangered. But the law doesn't mention firearms. Public health experts say child access laws could reduce unintentional shootings that kill and injure hundreds of children every year. Critics say the laws violate gun owners' rights.

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Westar Merger Still Off as KCC Rejects Utilities' Plea for More Time

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Corporation Commission won't allow Westar Energy and Great Plains Energy extra time to renegotiate a new merger.  After the commission in April rejected the proposed merger, the two companies filed a petition asking for extra time to revise the deal to meet commissioners' expectations.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the commission rejected the request Tuesday. The commission's staff has recommended the companies start an entirely new case for the merger.  Spokeswomen for both utilities said the companies are evaluating their options. Westar spokeswoman Gina Penzig says appealing the decision to the Kansas District Court would be an option but that decision lies with Great Plains.  The commission rejected the proposed sale because it said the price was too high and would leave the combined utility financially weaker than the separate companies.

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Manning's Conditions of Confinement Lawsuit Dismissed

WASHINGTON (AP) — A lawsuit brought by Private Chelsea Manning over the conditions of her confinement has been dismissed. Manning, the Army soldier who was sentenced to 35 years in a military prison for giving classified materials to WikiLeaks, was released May 17 from lockup at Kansas's Fort Leavenworth after President Barack Obama commuted her sentence before leaving office. One of her attorneys, Chase Strangio, wrote on Twitter on Monday that the case was dismissed because she is free. Strangio wrote: "She fought hard & we all benefited." Manning sued in federal court in the District of Columbia in 2014, asking a judge to order the Defense Department to provide hormone therapy and other treatment for her gender identity condition. The Army ultimately allowed her to receive medical treatment for her gender dysphoria.

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Judge: Evidence of Violent Porn Use Allowed in Rape Case

HOLTON, Kan. (AP) — A judge says he will allow evidence that a Kansas man watched hours of violent pornography at his upcoming sexual assault trial. Jacob Ewing sis scheduled for trial in June on charges of rape and aggravated criminal sodomy against two women. Jackson County District Judge Norbert Marek ruled Monday portions of seven video showing acts Ewing "is said to have replicated" will be used as evidence at the trial. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports special prosecutor Jacqie Spradling said in May that evidence showed Ewing viewed an average of four hours of violent pornography per day. Ewing's attorney, Kathleen Ambrosio, argued the porn would be highly prejudicial. Ewing faces trials in August and October in other sexual assault cases. He was acquitted last month of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl.

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Court: US Gun Ban Doesn't Apply to City Domestic Abuse Laws 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An appeals court says someone convicted of misdemeanor domestic battery under a city ordinance can legally have a gun. The ruling from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver could have broader implications for gun sales. The court on Tuesday threw out the case of a Kansas man who was convicted of violating a federal law that prohibits someone who's been convicted of domestic violence "under federal, state or tribal law" from owning a gun. Alexander Pauler had been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence under a Wichita ordinance. The appeals court found that the federal gun law doesn't apply to such municipal ordinances. Pauler's attorney, David Freund, says it's the first time an appeals court has directly addressed that argument. Prosecutors haven't decided whether to appeal.

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Regents Interviewing Finalists for University of Kansas Chancellor 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Board of Regents is scheduled to continue interviewing finalists today (WED) for the University of Kansas chancellor job. Interviews are scheduled for today at the board's offices in Topeka. Board spokeswoman Breeze Richardson says most of the meetings will be in closed session. She declined to say how many finalists will be interviewed. Once the interviews are complete, the board will schedule a special meeting to approve the new chancellor. The board said earlier its goal is to have a replacement hired in time to start July 1. Current Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little announced in September that she would step down this summer.

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Kansas City-Based Health System Signs Cancer Trial Agreement 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A health system based in Kansas City, Missouri, has signed an agreement with Washington University in St. Louis that gives patients access to clinical trials through the university's National Cancer Institute-supported research. The Kansas City Star reports the agreement between St. Luke's Health System and the university's Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center will take effect June 1. Patients should start having access to trials by late summer. The partnership puts St. Luke's in competition with the University of Kansas Health System, which has a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center. Siteman is considered a "comprehensive" cancer center, which is one step above Kansas's designation. National Cancer Institute spokeswoman Shannon Hatch says it's pointless to compare the two because each will offer some treatments that the other doesn't provide.

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Victim of Deadly Northeast Kansas Fire Identified

CARBONDALE, Kan. (AP) — Fire officials have identified the victim of a deadly northeast Kansas fire as an 89-year-old man. KSNT-TV reports that the Kansas Fire Marshal's Office has identified Roger Edgar as the man killed early Monday in Carbondale. A dog was also died in the fire. The cause of the blaze is undermined and still under investigation. The total property loss is $75,000.

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Man Charged in Shooting of Kansas City Church Greeter

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Kansas City man has been charged with shooting into a south Kansas City church, injuring a greeter. Orlando Gentry was charged Tuesday with assault, possession of a firearm, unlawful use of a weapon and carrying a loaded firearm in the shooting. Kansas City police say the 29-year-old Gentry fired the shots during a confrontation Sunday at the House of Refuge church. One of the bullets grazed Montell Bruce in the head and then he fell through a window in the sanctuary. Bruce was treated and released. The Kansas City Star reports that Gentry told investigators he got into a fight at the church but denied having a gun.

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Examiner: Wichita Woman's Death Accidental, Drugs Involved

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A medical examiner says the death of a Wichita woman who died when her car went into the Missouri River was accidental and involved drug intoxication.  The Jackson County medical examiner's office ruled Tuesday that 20-year-old Toni Anderson's death was accidental. She died from hypothermia and drowning at the Platte Landing Park near Parkville.  Authorities say ethanol, cocaine and amphetamine intoxication contributed to the University of Missouri-Kansas City student's death.  Anderson was last seen early on January 15 when she was stopped by a police officer in North Kansas City, who then watched her drive to a nearby convenience store.  It is unclear why she wound up at the park near Parkville. Her body and her car were recovered March 10.  Police say the investigation is now closed.

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Warrant Issued in Manhattan Man's Shooting Death
 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Riley County police say a missing 37-year-old Manhattan woman might be with a suspect in a homicide. Police say Cora Brown could be in danger if she is with 38-year-old Steven Harris. A warrant issued Tuesday accuses Harris of murder and attempted murder after the Sunday shooting death of 39-year-old German Gonzalez Garcia. A second man was shot and critically wounded. Harris is 5-feet-7-inches, weighing 145 pounds. He has short brown hair, brown eyes and distinctive tattoos on his head and neck. Brown is described as 5-feet-3-inches, weighing about 120 pounds. She has brown hair and blue eyes. Police did not say why they believe Brown might be with Harris. Police also are looking for a gold 2004 Buick Rendezvous in connection with Harris.

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New Records Suggest Years of Abuse for Kansas Boy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Newly released documents reveal that Kansas received reports that a boy who ultimately was murdered and fed to pigs was being physically abused years before his death. Documents released Tuesday also show that a social worker was in contact with the boy's father and his stepmother by phone more than a year after the state said it lost physical contact with the family.  The Kansas Department for Children and Families released more than 2,000 documents on Adrian Jones. Authorities say the boy's father and stepmother abused, tortured and starved him before his remains were found in a pig pen in Kansas City, Kansas, in November 2015.  DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore has said in the past that her agency's last physical contact with the family was in 2012 but one record shows a social worker talked to the boy's stepmother by phone more than a year later. Michael and Heather Jones are serving life prison sentences in the boy's death. 

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Former Lawrence Office Manager Sentenced for Theft

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A former office manager of a Lawrence property management company was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay more than $485,000 in restitution for stealing from the company. U.S. Attorney Tom Beall says 45-year-old Candy Gunderson, of Lawrence, pleaded guilty to one count of interstate transportation of stolen funds. In her plea, she admitted taking the money from Garber Enterprises between 2007 and 2015 while she was office manager. Prosecutors say she used several methods to take the money including depositing checks payable to Garber into her personal account, issuing forged company checks, using company funds to pay for work on rental properties she owned and using the company credit card for personal expenses.

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Former KU Basketball Player Josh Jackson Pleads Guilty to Misdemeanor 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Former University of Kansas basketball player Josh Jackson pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor traffic violation for backing into a car and driving away. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Jackson pleaded Tuesday in Lawrence Municipal Court to striking an unattended vehicle. Supervising City Prosecutor Elizabeth Hafoka said in an email that two other charges, inattentive driving and improper backing, were dismissed. Jackson, who is expected to be a top draft pick in next month's NBA draft, will be on probation for six months and must pay a $250 fine. If he violates his probation, Jackson would have to serve 30 days in jail. Kansas Coach Bill Self suspended Jackson for the opening game of the Big 12 Tournament because of the incident.

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Danny Duffy Leads Royals to 6-2 Win over Yankees

NEW YORK (AP) — Danny Duffy beat the Yankees for the second time in a week and rookie Jorge Bonifacio capped a three-run, seventh-inning rally with a go-ahead, two-run homer that led the Kansas City Royals over New York 6-2 on Tuesday night. Lorenzo Cain, Whit Merrifield and Mike Moustakas also homered late for the Royals, who went deep four times in a span of nine batters. New York rookie Jordan Montgomery took a one-hit shutout and 2-0 lead into the seventh before a solo homer by Cain, who had been hitless in 14 at-bats. The Yankees' usually reliable bullpen flopped: Adam Warren (1-1), Jonathan Holder and Chasen Shreve all allowed long balls. Home runs by the Yankees' Aaron Hicks in the fourth and Chris Carter in the fifth staked New York to a 2-0 lead against Duffy (4-3).

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