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Headlines for Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Voters Approve Amendment to Change Kansas Redistricting Policy

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas has ended an unusual practice for redrawing the lines of legislative districts that has cost university communities political clout. Voters on Tuesday approved an amendment to the Kansas Constitution eliminating a requirement for the state to adjust federal census figures when the Legislature redistricts itself every 10 years. The adjustment counts college students and military personnel not where they're living but in a ``permanent'' home elsewhere. For thousands of people, that's outside Kansas.  Kansas is among only a few states that adjust federal census figures for redistricting, and before the practice started in the 1990s, the state did its own census for decades. Secretary of State Scott Schwab called the adjustment archaic and said it would have cost the state $835,000 ahead of redistricting in 2022.

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Brandon Whipple Defeats Incumbent Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic state Rep. Brandon Whipple has defeated the incumbent mayor in Wichita after a contentious race marked by partisan meddling. Mayor Jeff Longwell lost his bid in Tuesday's election to keep the office he has held since 2015. Unofficial results show Whipple received 46 percent of the vote to 36 percent for Longwell. Less than 18 percent wrote in a candidate for mayor. The race was inflamed by an online ad that falsely suggested Whipple had been accused of sexual harassment at the Statehouse. Republican leaders linked a GOP lawmaker to the ad and called for his resignation. Wichita mayoral candidates do not run representing political parties. Whipple emphasized his budgeting experience in the state Legislature. His opponent criticized Whipple's 2017 vote in favor of rolling back former Gov. Sam Brownback's tax cuts. Whipple was elected to the House in 2012 and is a lecturer at Wichita State University.

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Kansas City Considers Moving Forward After King Debate

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Representatives from both sides of a divisive campaign over naming a street in Kansas City for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. say they are ready to work together after voters approved a ballot measure replacing King's name with the street's original name. On Tuesday, Kansas City voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure to change Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard back to The Paseo, the street's name since it was completed in 1899. The city council voted in January to rename The Paseo for King, after years of advocacy from mostly black leaders in the city. Mayor Quinton Lucas, who supported the King name, said Wednesday he and city leaders must learn from the vote that they have to engage diverse segments of the community when deciding issues important to its citizens.

(– related –)

Kansas City Voters Approve Measure to Remove Martin Luther King Jr.'s Name from Historic Street

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Kansas City voters have overwhelmingly approved removing the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from a city boulevard in favor of the street's original name, The Paseo. Unofficial results show the vote to remove King's name received nearly 70% of the Tuesday's vote, with just over 30% voting to retain King's name. The vote came after months of heated debate that began shortly after the city council voted in January to name the 10-mile  boulevard that runs through a mostly black area of the city after the civil rights icon. Kansas City was one of the last large cities in the U.S. to name a street for King.  A group called "Save the Paseo" in April turned in far more than the 1,700 signatures needed to get the issue on the ballot. They argued the city council didn't follow proper procedures when it renamed the street. Mostly black civil rights leaders who worked for years to secure King's name accused "Save the Paseo" of being racist and warned the city's reputation would suffer if his name is removed.

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GOP Complaint Spurs Probe of Kansas Court Selection Process

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A top Republican legislator's complaint has launched an investigation into whether a commission that screens Kansas Supreme Court applicants violated the state's open meetings law. Senate President Susan Wagle is objecting to how the nominating commission used paper ballots in picking three finalists in mid-October for Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly to consider in filling a vacancy. How each member voted wasn't disclosed during the commission's public meeting. Wagle filed a complaint Tuesday with Attorney General Derek Schmidt. She urged him to declare the Open Meetings Act was violated and the commission's actions are void. Schmidt turned the investigation over to the Sedgwick County district attorney. Commission Chairman Mikel Stout said Wednesday that it is making information about how individual members voted available to anyone seeking records of the balloting.

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Kansas GOP Colleagues Spurn Davids's Request on Adoption Rule

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Republican Congress members are rejecting a request from the state's lone congressional Democrat that they join her in opposing a federal policy that will allow faith-based adoption agencies to get taxpayer funding even if they turn away same-sex couples. Rep. Sharice Davids sent a letter Tuesday asking GOP colleagues to use their relationships with President Donald Trump to help reverse the policy, which rolls back a regulation from former President Barack Obama's term barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Davids is among nine LGBTQ members of Congress. The Kansas City Star reports Kansas Reps. Roger Marshall, Steve Watkins and Ron Estes issued a joint response supporting the Trump administration's decision after receiving Davids's letter. Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts also say they support it.

(– earlier reporting –)

Davids Urges Colleagues to Speak Out on Adoption Rule

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas' lone congressional Democrat is urging her Kansas Republican colleagues to speak out against a policy that would allow faith-based foster care and adoption agencies to get taxpayer funding even if they turn away same-sex couples based on religious beliefs. The Kansas City Star reports that Representative Sharice Davids sent a letter Tuesday asking GOP colleagues to use their relationships with President Donald Trump to help reverse the policy, proposed by the administration on Friday. Davids is one of nine LGBTQ members of Congress. The proposed rule would roll back an Obama-era regulation barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Four of the five Republican members of the state's congressional delegation voiced support for the policy. Senator Jerry Moran has yet to respond.

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Lawrence Police Identify Suspect in October Shooting at McDonalds

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ Lawrence Police have identified 27-year-old Howard Levite of Leavenworth County as a suspect in the October 26 shooting at the McDonald’s on 6th Street in Lawrence. Levite was arrested in Jackson County, Missouri last Friday on unrelated charges. He is being held in Jackson County pending an extradition hearing. Just before 6:30 p.m. on October 26, Lawrence officers were called to the restaurant and discovered a 50-year-old male who had been shot in his car. The victim was treated at the scene and transported to an area hospital with significant injuries. He was later released from the hospital and is recovering. Levite faces charges of attempted aggravated robbery and aggravated assault.

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Corrections Official Says Mass Commutation Worth Considering

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The acting secretary of the Kansas Department of Corrections said a mass commutation of offenders was worth considering during his confirmation hearing. The Wichita Eagle reports that Jeff Zmuda was asked to comment Tuesday on what happened one day earlier, when more than 450 inmates walked out of the doors of prisons across Oklahoma as part of a massive commutation. Zmuda said Kansas officials are looking at several ways to make reforms and ease overcrowding and "that's certainly one that could be considered." Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning said releasing non-violent inmates "sounds like a fantastic idea," but cautioned that if someone who has been released early commits a violent act "there's hell to pay." The hearing ended with a Senate committee recommending that Zmuda be confirmed. The full Senate will vote early next year.

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Feds Charge Immigrant Whom ICE Agent Tried to Free in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors have filed federal identity theft charges against a Mexican immigrant whom a former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent tried to free from jail. The U.S. attorney's office said in a news release Wednesday that they have charged 33-year-old Juan Tapia of Mexico with one count each of using another person's Social Security number, aggravated identity theft and unlawful possession of a firearm. Prosecutors say former ICE agent Andrew Pleviak falsely identified himself as an ICE agent in a foiled effort in September to free Tapia from the Kingman County jail. Pleviak pleaded guilty last month to state charges of making false information and attempted aiding of escape. Pleviak also is awaiting trial for a federal indictment accusing him of false impersonation of a federal officer.

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Police: Kansas Robbery Recorded, Posted on Social Media

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Four Kansas high school students face charges for armed robberies on Halloween, including one that was recorded on video and posted on social media. Olathe police told the Kansas City Star that a video shared on social media was related to the robberies. The four suspects are high school students in Olathe, in suburban Kansas City. All four suspects have been taken into custody. They are charged in juvenile court, each with two felony counts of aggravated robbery. Victims of both crimes told police that the robbers took clothing and electronics. The suspects were arrested later that night.

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Prisoner Gets 19 ½ More Years for Attempted Sexual Assault

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — An inmate serving a life sentence for killing a Kansas teacher has been sentenced to an additional 19 ½ years for attempting to sexually assault a prison counselor. The Hutchinson News reports that the extra time was ordered for 42-year-old Tanner Green. He already is serving a "Hard 50" life term for the 2000 murder of Janice Vredenburg in her Goddard home. Green said during the hearing that he doesn't "deserve to be in society." Green wrote his wife before the attack, saying he saw a woman in the Hutchinson prison that looked like her and he was going to "give himself up completely to his innermost cravings" for his birthday. The prison counselor was able to fight him off and trigger a panic alarm on her belt.

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Police Identify Woman Found in Gas-Filled Topeka Home

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a woman found dead under "suspicious circumstances" in a natural-gas filled Topeka home was a Shawnee County Department of Corrections employee. Police identified the woman Monday as 36-year-old Brandi Prchal. Her cause of death is under investigation. Officers investigating reports of a gas leak in a central Topeka home found her dead inside the home. Police say a man found ill inside the home, 36-year-old Jeremy Lardner of Topeka, was treated and released from a hospital and then booked into jail. He faces possible charges of first-degree murder and criminal threat. Police have released no details about why the indicent was considered suspicious.

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Ex-Clerk of Kansas County Admits Misuse of Public Funds

MARYSVILLE, Kan. (AP) — The former clerk of a northeast Kansas county has admitted to spending more than $100,000 of taxpayer money for personal use. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in a news release that 44-year-old Sonya Laurette Stohs, of Marysville, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Marshall County District Court to felony misuse of public funds. Sentencing was scheduled for Jan. 7. A Kansas Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Secret Service investigation found that Stohs used more than $100,000 in county funds to pay for various personal items between May 2013 and April 2019.

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Oklahoma Vape Shop Owner Pleads Guilty to Murder Plot

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A 70-year-old northwest Oklahoma man has pleaded guilty to trying to hire his business partner in Kansas to kill a man in Oklahoma City. Court records show Vernon Wayne Brock of Alva signed a plea agreement Wednesday admitting he tried to "conduct a murder for hire" plot to kill the unidentified man. Prosecutors say Brock asked his business partner in vape shots to kill the boyfriend of a former employee who had ended a sexual relationship with Brock. The employee and the business partner are not identified in court documents. Brock was arrested and charged in April after giving the business partner a $5,000 check during a meeting in Kansas. As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors agreed not to pursue further charges in the case.

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Wichita Man Sentenced to Year in Jail for Intentionally Running Over Dog

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 20-year-old Wichita man who intentionally ran over a dog several times has been sentenced to a year in jail. Cole Ford Carter was sentenced Monday after earlier pleading guilty to cruelty to animals, criminal threat and a misdemeanor criminal carrying of a weapon. The Wichita Eagle reports Carter killed 13-year-old Benji in December 2018 after the dog escaped through a fence while his owners were visiting Wichita. Video showed Carter hit the dog, got out of his car and slammed Benji to the ground before stomping on him. Carter than ran over the dog several times. The motive for the attack is unclear. An affidavit says Carter later threatened to hurt a neighbor who reported him to police. Benji was a mix Bichon-Frise and Maltese and weighed about 15 pounds.

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Contract Worker Electrocuted in KC Suburb

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. (AP) — A contract worker is dead after coming into contact with power lines in a Kansas suburb of Kansas City. Police say the man in his 40s was electrocuted Tuesday afternoon in Prairie Village, a town in Johnson County. The victim's name has not been released. According to authorities, the man was in a bucket truck doing contract work when he made contact with the line. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Evergy workers were on the scene inspecting the power lines.

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Keystone Line to Remain Closed Until Corrective Action Taken

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Federal regulators have ordered the Keystone pipeline to remain shut down until its Canadian owner takes corrective action aimed at determining the cause of a breach that leaked an estimated 383,000 gallons (1.4 million liters) of oil in northeastern North Dakota. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued the order Tuesday to TC Energy. The action comes one week after the pipeline leak was discovered and affected about 22,500 square feet (2,090 square meters) of land near Edinburg. The order requires the company to send the affected portion of the pipe to an independent laboratory for testing. TC Energy says it has about 200 people are at the site "focused on clean-up and remediation activities." Regulators say about 252,000 gallons (954,000 liters) of crude oil has been recovered.

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Kansas Truck Driver Given 10 to 20 Years for Fatal Wyoming Crash

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) — A truck driver has been sentenced to between 10 and 20 years in prison for falling asleep at the wheel of her semitractor-trailer and causing a fatal crash in Wyoming. The Laramie Boomerang reports 48-year-old Tonya Hightower was sentenced Tuesday for the March 2018 accident that killed 57-year-old Vidal Madera of Laramie. The commercial truck driver from Kansas pleaded not guilty to aggravated homicide by vehicle. A jury found her guilty in August after determining her decision to drive on Interstate 80 while knowingly fatigued constituted recklessness. Hightower told a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper at the scene that she had taken leftover pills from a 2017 surgery including hydrocodone, a prescription opioid pain medication. Court records say she did not test positive for narcotics when blood was drawn later.

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Evergy: 3Q Earnings Miss Wall Street Expectations 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Evergy, Inc. (EVRG) on Wednesday reported third-quarter net income of $366.8 million. The Kansas City, Missouri-based company said it had net income of $1.56 per share. Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring costs, came to $1.57 per share. The results missed Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of five analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $1.59 per share. The electric utility posted revenue of $1.58 billion in the period, also falling short of Street forecasts. Four analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $1.62 billion. Evergy shares have climbed 11% since the beginning of the year. In the final minutes of trading on Wednesday, shares hit $62.93, a rise of 10% in the last 12 months.

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Alabama Tourism Agency Honored for Promoting Civil Rights Trail, Including Kansas Sites 

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama's state tourism agency is being honored for its work promoting civil rights travel in 14 U.S. states. The office was presented with an award recognizing its marketing campaign for the U.S. Civil Rights Trail during an industry trade show in London on Tuesday. The trail promotes museums, churches and other African American landmarks across the South. Promotional materials include video interviews with civil rights participants from the 1960s and photos of landmarks. Alabama oversaw the project in partnership with the Atlanta-based TravelSouth USA and the National Park Service. The trail includes sites from Kansas to Delaware, including all of the Deep South. The state won an award for best regional destination. A news release says other finalists included areas in Spain, India, the Canary Islands and the Netherlands.

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Chiefs, Team President Mark Donovan Sign Long-Term Extension

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs and team President Mark Donovan announced a long-term contract extension Tuesday. Terms were not disclosed. Donovan joined the Chiefs as chief operating officer in 2009 and was promoted to team president in 2011. "I'd like to congratulate Mark and his family on this well-deserved recognition," Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said. "Mark is an innovative leader and a talented executive who is widely respected in our industry and in the Kansas City community. I am thrilled that he will continue to be a key part of the leadership of the Chiefs for many years to come." Donovan spent six years with the Philadelphia Eagles following leadership roles in sales and marketing with the National Hockey League. The Pittsburgh native graduated from Brown University with a double major in political science and organizational behavior/management. He is a former quarterback for Brown and signed with the New York Giants as a free agent after graduation.

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Third-Ranked Kansas Loses to No. 4 Duke, 68-66

NEW YORK (AP) — Number four ranked Duke beat third-ranked Kansas 68-66 in the opener of the Champions Classic last (TUE) night at Madison Square Garden. Kansas committed 28 turnovers but despite all the miscues, the Jayhawks were able to stay in the game by hitting 10 of their 19 shots from the field. After a miss by the Blue Devils in the final minutes of the game, Kansas turned the ball over with 37 seconds left. Duke then converted two free throws with 26.2 seconds left.  "We had ourselves in good position in the second half and the game got away from us," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "It's a learning experience." Self said he wasn't happy with the turnovers, but said that it was the first game of the season and that his team's performance would improve. Tuesday's game marked the return of Kansas senior Udoka Azubuike, who played only nine games last year after tearing ligaments in his right hand. It also was the first game for Silvio De Sousa since the 2017-18 season. He was suspended for two seasons because of NCAA violations and sat out last year as Kansas was implicated in the FBI probe of college basketball. Kansas won an appeal that allowed De Sousa to play this year.

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