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Headlines for Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Here's what's happening.

Kansas Agencies Seek $274 Million in New Funding Next Year

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Only months after Governor Sam Brownback called the Kansas budget bloated, state agencies have asked for more than $274 million in new funding. The agencies are collectively seeking a 4.1 percent increase in spending in next year's general fund budget, The Wichita Eagle reported. The preliminary budget requests for the next fiscal year became public when the agencies presented them to a legislative committee last week. One agency seeks money to restore earlier cuts to universities. Another wants money to eliminate waiting lists for people with disabilities. A third wants more money for social workers. Those requests do not include additional spending for schools. The agency requests come just months after Brownback complained about excessive spending when he signed the current budget into law. "These types of budget enhancement requests happen annually, but agencies typically don't look at the whole of the budget and take into account the limitations of state resources and those requests should not be mistaken for the Governor's budget proposal," Brownback spokeswoman Rachel Whitten said in a statement. Legislative leaders have created a committee in the wake the Kansas Supreme Court decision last month that struck down the state's education funding formula as unconstitutional. Attorneys for the school districts who are suing say more than $600 million in additional spending may be needed. An increase that large would potentially require a tax increase or significant cuts in other government spending. The budgeting process comes as Brownback awaits U.S. Senate confirmation as an ambassador, leaving Lt. Jeff Colyer waiting to become governor. House Minority Leader Jim Ward said agencies may feel freer to ask for funding increases because of the prolonged transition in the governor's office. Colyer will not talk about policy while Brownback remains governor. "They see an opportunity to kind of put forward some ideas that they may have been doing internally, or backroom, but were getting shot down," Ward said. Agencies have seen rounds of cuts over the past few years as Kansas revenue collections fell short of projections. But the budget situation is improving after the Legislature approved income tax increases over Brownback's veto that are expected to raise $1.2 billion in additional revenue over two years.

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Kansas Removing More Children from Homes with Drug Abuse

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas has seen a 42 percent increase over the past five years in the number of children removed from homes in which a parent is using drugs.  The state Department for Children and Families reported Tuesday that the number of cases in which a child was removed and substance abuse was a contributing factor grew to more than 1,850 during the fiscal year ending in June. Five years ago, it was about 1,300.  The department reported the data amid questions from a legislative task force about why the number of children in foster care has grown steadily in recent years.  Some lawmakers see a potential tie between the increase and tougher rules for state cash assistance. Department officials said the agency's internal data does not suggest much of a link.

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Kansas Media Groups Drop Open Records Suit Against Governor 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Three Kansas media organizations have dropped a lawsuit against Governor Sam Brownback over his office's refusal to release records related to a state magistrate judge's appointment. The Associated Press, Hutchinson News and Kansas Press Association last week submitted an agreement with Brownback's office to dismiss the case in Shawnee County District Court. Judge Larry Hendricks approved it. The organizations sued in 2015 to obtain documents from applicants for a Reno County magistrate judge's position. Brownback's office argued they were personnel records exempt from disclosure under the Kansas Open Records Act. Hendricks put the case on hold in 2016 while the Kansas Court of Appeals reviewed another lawsuit over the same issue in the appointment of two Saline County commissioners in 2014. The appeals court ruled against the AP and Salina Journal in that case.

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Autopsy: Mother's Dismembered Remains Found in Storage Unit

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) _ Preliminary autopsy results confirm that dismembered human remains found inside a suburban Kansas City storage unit are those of a woman whose husband was living in the unit with his 4-day-old baby and 2-year-old child.  An arrest affidavit for 35-year-old Justin Rey was released Tuesday. He's jailed on $1 million bond in Johnson County, Kansas, on child endangerment charges.  He's not charged in the death of his wife, whom family identified as Jessica Monteiro Rey.  The dismembered remains were discovered October 24 inside a cooler and tote at a U-Haul Moving and Storage facility in Lenexa. Surveillance video showed Rey pulling a cooler when he checked out of a Kansas City, Missouri, hotel one day earlier.  A search warrant says Rey told authorities his wife killed herself after giving birth.  

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Lyon County Remains Unidentified 6 Months After Discovery

NEOSHO RAPIDS, Kan. (AP) — Human remains found more than six months ago in Lyon County still haven't been identified. A skull was found April 29 near the Neosho River just outside of Neosho Rapids. Lyon County officers later found more remains. The remains were wrapped in a bed sheet and comforter. A digital watch also was found. The Emporia Gazette reports an autopsy indicated the remains were a male who might have been of mixed race. He was between 5-feet-4 and 5-feet-6 and possibly of middle-to-late age. His long hair was blonde, white or gray. The man also had scoliosis. The man apparently died between 2013 and 2016. Lyon County Sheriff Jeff Cope said says a private lab is testing DNA to help with identification and national organizations for missing people have been notified.

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Kansas Man Sentenced to More Time in Case That Divided Town
 
HOLTON, Kan. (AP) — A man whose cases sharply divided his small Kansas town was given more jail time by a judge who departed from a plea deal. Jackson County District Judge Norbert Marek on Wednesday sentenced 23-year-old Jacob Ewing to a total of 7.5 years for attempted rape of a woman and child exploitation related to images he had of an underage girl. Ewing was sentenced in September to 27 years for raping and sodomizing two other women. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Ewing's attorney and the prosecutor had agreed the sentences could be served concurrently but Marek departed from that agreement. The sentencing ends a saga that roiled the town of Holton for more than a year. When Ewing was first arrested, many people in the town supported him and criticized his accusers.

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Kansas Contractor Fined for Deceptive Practices 

HAYSVILLE, Kan. (AP) — A Haysville contractor has agreed to pay more than $50,000 for deceptive practices against four consumers, three of whom were elderly. The Sedgwick County District Attorney's office said Wednesday that Bradley Rogers, the owner of Rogers Contracting, will pay the money for failing to give consumers notice that they had three days to cancel their contracts with his company. When one consumer chose not to hire his company after a free estimate, Rogers threatened to sue her. The district attorney said Rogers threatened to sue two other homeowners who complained the scope and price of their projects changed without their consent. Information on the fourth customer's case was not released. Rogers voluntarily entered into the consent judgment without admitting to the allegations.

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Police: Victim in Wichita Shooting Dies at Hospital

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a 51-year-old man has died following a shooting in south Wichita. The man came to a home to visit people at a home early Wednesday morning when a car pulled up. Police say he exchanged words with people in the vehicle, and was then shot by someone in the car. KWCH-TV reports he was rushed to the hospital where he later died. Police have not released his name. Authorities don't believe the shooting was a random act, but they do not have a motive. Wednesday's shooting is Wichita's 28th homicide of the year. It comes a day after a woman's body was discovered in a Wichita home in an earlier homicide.

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Illinois Election Board to Address Kansas-Based Voter Database Concerns Next Week

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois election officials say they'll review security questions raised about a multi-state voter registration database next week. A growing number of advocates and Democrats want Illinois to end its voluntary participation in the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program. The free Kansas-run program helps states clean voter records. But groups including the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, both of the state's U.S. senators and dozens of legislators want Illinois to withdraw. Their concerns were aired at Wednesday hearing where an Illinois Institute of Technology expert said the system doesn't meet industry security standards. Voter suppression is also a concern. Election officials say no Illinoisan is immediately removed from the rolls because of the database and its limitations are well known. The State Board of Elections will discuss the matter at a Monday meeting.

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Wichita Woman Dies After Being Run Over by Trash Truck 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a 79-year-old woman died when she was run over by a trash truck. Sergeant Kevin Tronsgard said the woman was walking on a road in east Wichita Wednesday afternoon when she was hit by the truck. Tronsgard said the truck was backing up because of congestion on the road and the driver didn't see the woman, whose name was not released. KWCH reports the woman was rushed to a hospital, where she died. Tronsgard said the woman was facing away from the truck when it backed up. Police and the Kansas Highway Patrol are investigating the death.

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Kansas State Gathers to Rally Against Racial Incidents

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Hundreds of Kansas State University staff and students, along with Manhattan residents, gathered on campus to hear speakers urge them to unite to make everyone feel welcome on campus.  The university took the unusual move of cancelling afternoon classes Tuesday so participants could walk together and attend a KSUnite rally.  Kansas State President Richard Myers urged the crowd to define the school by its common humanity and to not be dominated by fear.  The event comes after several incidents on or near campus.  A noose and racist flyers were found on the campus during the summer.  Two weeks ago, a 21-year-old defaced his own car with racist graffiti, which was investigated as a possible hate crime until the man, who was not a Kansas State student, admitted it was a Halloween prank.

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Woman Found Dead in Wichita Home, Suspect in Custody

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Police say a suspect is in custody after a 42-year-old Wichita woman was found dead in her home.  Police Lt. Todd Ojile says the woman's body was found early Tuesday. The suspect was arrested in Olathe.  Officers had been sent to the woman's home Monday night after officers in Andover found some of her property.  They left after not being able to make contact with the woman.  They returned to the home early Tuesday after Olathe police arrested the man, who was driving the woman's car and had some of her property.  Wichita officers found the woman's body after forcing their way inside the house. Ojile said she died of blunt force trauma.  No names have been released

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Police: Victim in Wichita Drive-By Shooting Dies at Hospital

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a man has died following a shooting in south Wichita.  Officers responding to a report of a drive-by shooting around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday found a man in his 30s or 40s with a gunshot wound lying on the curb.  KAKE-TV reports the victim was taken to a local hospital where he later died.  Police Sgt. Donald Kimball says the investigation is ongoing and investigators will be speaking with potential witnesses.  Wednesday's shooting is Wichita's 28th homicide of the year. It comes a day after a woman's body was discovered in a Wichita home in an earlier homicide.

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Attorneys: Topeka Seeks to Limit Access to Shooting Video

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Lawyers for the family of a black Topeka man fatally shot by police say the city is trying to prevent his parents from viewing officers' body camera footage.  Attorney Gillian Cassell-Stiga said Monday that the city initially agreed to allow Dominque White's parents to see the body camera footage. But she said the city later said Kansas law allows it be viewed only by White's four children, who range in age from 3 to 13.  Cassell-Stiga called that position "entirely ridiculous."  City spokeswoman Molly Hadfield said Kansas law allows parents to view footage when a minor is the subject. Also heirs or estate administrators can view footage involving someone who has died. She said talks with the family are ongoing.  The 30-year-old White was shot September 28 by two still-unidentified officers.

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Kansas Lawmakers Disagree on Funding for Water Resources

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - An interim legislative committee in Kansas is struggling to agree on where funding should come from to extend the life of the state's water resources.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the joint Special Committee on Natural Resources decided Monday not to recommend raising any fees to pay for projects that would prevent sedimentation in reservoirs or address blue-green algae.  The committee instead said the Legislature should fully fund its obligation to put $6 million of state general fund money into the water plan, along with $2 million of lottery proceeds.  Kansas' State Water Plan Fund receives money from the general fund, lottery proceeds and a wide assortment of fees charged to different classes of water users.  Lawrence Republican Representative Tom Sloan says he's disappointed by the committee's decision.
 
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$10 Million Grant for Johnson County Community College
 
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) - Johnson County Community College says it plans to use a $10 million gift from the Sunderland Foundation on a major campus renovation plan.  The college based in Overland Park said Tuesday the gift is a matching grant intended to spur other people and organizations to contribute to a $102.6 million renovation plan.  The donation will be applied toward the college's new Career and Technical Education Center.   The Kansas City Star reports the plan includes renovation and expansion of the Arts and Technology Building and the Welding Laboratory Building, a new entrance for the Student Center, upgrades to athletic facilities and consolidation of five academic resource centers.  Kent Sunderland said the gift was the largest in the  foundation's history.
 
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Coin Flip Decides Close Suburban Kansas City Council Race
 
MISSION WOODS, Kan. (AP) - A suburban Kansas City council race was so close that it took a coin flip to pick a winner.  The Kansas City Star reports that William Young won the toss Monday for an at-large seat on the council for Mission Woods, which has fewer than 200 residents. He called tails.  Voters were supposed to pick five winners out of six candidates. Young and Michael Knierim tied for last, with 35 votes each. And even after Johnson County officials added in provisional ballots and crunched the final official results on Monday, the tie still existed.  It's still possible that Knierim could request a recount because the race to represent the community in the northeast part of the county was so close. The deadline for doing so is late Tuesday.

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'Pink Slime' Worker Aid Application Deadline Approaches

DAKOTA DUNES, S.D. (AP) — An aid fund application deadline is looming for workers laid off by South Dakota meat producer Beef Products Inc. The company set up a $10 million fund in September for employees who lost their jobs after the closures of three plants in 2012. The plants were shut down after media reports of a lean beef product that critics called "pink slime" led to a loss of millions of dollars in sales and a defamation lawsuit. Applications for the support fund are due Saturday, the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan reported . The company has already received more than 600 applications, said Rich Jochum, BPI's general counsel. The company laid off more than 700 workers and closed plants in Texas, Kansas and Iowa in 2012. BPI alleged that ABC News' coverage of the company's finely textured beef product misled consumers into believing the product was unsafe. ABC News defended its reporting. BPI sought $1.9 billion in a 2012 defamation lawsuit against ABC News. The damage award amount could have tripled under South Dakota's Agricultural Food Product Disparagement Act. BPI and ABC News reached a confidential settlement in June. "As part of the figure received in its defamation lawsuit, BPI set up the $10 million fund," said Christine Campbell, BPI spokesperson. Applications will be evaluated based on a former employee's length of service, unemployment benefits or any other benefits received. Factors that indicate the impact of a plant's closure or job loss on an employee and their family will also be considered. The company has not yet determined whether the application deadline will be extended.

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Regents Approve Indoor Practice Facility for KU Football 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas can proceed with plans to build a $26 million indoor practice facility for its football team. The Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday unanimously authorized KU to change its current capital improvement program to include the practice facility. The university hasn't chosen a location for the building. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the KU Athletics Department wants to build the facility close to Memorial Stadium. The indoor practice facility is part of a $300 million renovation project planned for Memorial Stadium. Chancellor Doug Girod said the new facilities will help Kansas improve its struggling football program, noting that the Jayhawks are the only Big 12 team without a dedicated indoor practice facility. He said the university hopes to finish the project before the 2018 season.

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