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Headlines for Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Here's what's happening in our area

Report: Kansas Government Has 2 Days' Worth of Cash Reserves 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A recent study says the Kansas government could run on its cash reserves for only two days. The Wichita Eagle reports that Pew Charitable Trusts analyzed cash reserves for all states at the end of the most recent fiscal years and estimated how long state government could continue to function if it relied on those reserves. Kansas ended the 2016 fiscal year in June with a $35 million balance. The study says the average state has about 29.2 days of reserve funds. Governor Sam Brownback's spokeswoman, Eileen Hawley, says the study reflects a steep drop off in the oil and agriculture economies. Hawley says other states with similar economies have also experiences declines in their state reserve funds.


Kansas Budget Director Says No Across-the-Board Cuts Planned

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's budget director is telling state agency secretaries that Brownback isn't planning to propose across-the-board cuts in their budgets next year. Budget Director Shawn Sullivan sent an email Tuesday to Cabinet secretaries saying some "reduced resources" proposals agencies submitted would be harmful. But Sullivan's email leaves open the possibility of Brownback proposing targeted budget cuts. Sullivan had asked state agencies to outline proposals for meeting a 5 percent reduction in state funding. The administration has said it will not make the recommendations from Cabinet agencies public, viewing them as internal documents not subject to the Kansas Open Records Act. Kansas has struggled to balance its budget since legislators slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at the governor's urging as an economic stimulus.


Kansas Universities Outline Effects of Potential Budget Cuts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Regents say the bulk of a potential 5 percent, or $28 million, cut in state aid for universities in the system would affect the University of Kansas, the University of Kansas Medical Center and Kansas State University. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the possible cuts were outlined in documents requested by Governor Sam Brownback's administration. Brownback isn't required to reveal his budget strategy until January. Kansas State University officials say the loss of $4.9 million in state funding would trigger reductions across the institution. University of Kansas Medical Center officials say the institution intends to shield its cancer treatment and research program from a $5.1 million reduction. The reduction would cause Wichita State University to freeze capital projects or equipment purchases and freeze or eliminate staff positions.


Kobach Ordered to Tell All Voters Their General Election Ballots Will Count

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge has ordered Secretary of State Kris Kobach to notify thousands of people who hadn't provided documents proving their citizenship that they will be allowed to vote for all offices in the November election. Shawnee County District Judge Larry Hendricks's order affects more than 19,545 voters who registered at motor vehicle offices or with a federal form without providing documentary proof of U.S. citizenship. The judge stopped short of issuing the permanent injunction sought by the American Civil Liberties Union. Kobach's office says it is reviewing the ruling. Dale Ho, director of the ACLU's voting rights project, says all the litigation has freed about half of voter registrants in Kansas from jumping through unnecessary bureaucratic hoops.


Lawyers in Challenge to Kansas Gay Marriage Ban Awarded $295,000

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has directed Kansas to pay $295,000 to attorneys who successfully challenged the state's ban on gay marriage in a lawsuit. U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree approved a request on Tuesday from American Civil Liberties Union lawyers and Kansas City-area attorney Mark Johnson. The lawsuit was filed in 2014 by five gay and lesbian couples against state officials in agencies that issue driver's licenses and maintain marriage and birth records. Kansas law and the state constitution prohibit same-sex marriage, but in 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such bans violate the federal constitution. Crabtree issued an order in July barring the state from treating same-sex couples differently than opposite-sex couples in allowing them to marry or extending other benefits.


Kansas to Drop Some Proposed Changes to State Worker Rules

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's administration says it intends to withdraw a proposed regulation limiting the amount of sick leave state workers could donate to peers and a rule reducing the opportunity to appeal annual employee evaluation ratings after. Officials say the decision was made based on feedback. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Kansas Department of Administration will go forward with other amendments, including establishing an exemption from layoffs for select employees regardless of performance scores, overriding a process entitling laid-off staff to priority status when rehiring occurs and authorizing paid administrative leave to be used as a reward mechanism. State officials say the changes are an attempt to make the terms and conditions of state government employment more comparable to the private sector.


Kansas Guard Investigates Private over Chalk Messages

LINDSBORG, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Army National Guard is investigating after a private admitted to being involved when chalk messages, including some that were racially offensive, were written on the sidewalks of Bethany College. The 19-year-old apologized to The Salina Journal for his involvement. He offered no details about what happened September 3 at the college in the central Kansas town of Lindsborg. The private wasn't a student there but is involved in the new alternative right group Identity Evropa, which the Southern Poverty Law Center is studying. Lindsborg Police Chief Tim Berggren says the messages aren't likely to result in charges. But Kansas Adjutant General's Office spokeswoman Katie Horner says Guard policy doesn't allow participation in group activities that advocate supremacist or extremist doctrine. She says "appropriate, swift action" will be taken.


Former Lawrence Mayor Admits to Stealing from Food Pantry 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A former Lawrence mayor has admitted to stealing money from his old job as executive director of a food pantry. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 33-year-old Jeremy Farmer pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in Topeka to one count of interstate transportation of stolen funds. He was hired at Just Food in 2011 and resigned from that position — and from his seat on the Lawrence City Commission — in August 2015. His resignation came about after it was revealed he had not paid more than $50,000 in federal and state payroll taxes on behalf of Just Food. At the time Farmer said the taxes were unpaid due to an oversight. Farmer now lives in Kansas City, Kansas. Sentencing will be set at a later date.


Worker at Kansas Fort Indicted for Setting Fire Targeting Co-Worker 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A civilian employee accused of setting a co-worker on fire at a health center at Kansas' Fort Leavenworth is facing an additional charge in a new federal indictment. Grand jurors on Wednesday in Kansas City, Kansas, indicted 54-year-old Clifford Currie of Leavenworth with one count each of assault with intent to commit murder and of assault with a dangerous weapon. The indictment replaces a complaint that charged Currie only with assault to commit murder. Prosecutors allege Currie threw a flammable liquid on his female supervisor, lit her on fire and assaulted her with a straight edge razor and scissors. Authorities say another worker was injured when she tried to stop the assault before other hospital employees subdued Currie. Messages left Wednesday with Currie's public defenders weren't immediately returned.


Teen Faces Charges After Reported Assault at Kansas School 

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have charged a teenager in connection with a reported sexual assault at a high school in suburban Kansas City. The Johnson County district attorney's office said Wednesday that the 15-year-old male is charged with aggravated indecent liberties with a child, which is a felony, and lewd and lascivious behavior, a misdemeanor. A female freshman at Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village reported being groped and fondled in a boys' bathroom at the school on September 14. The Kansas City Star reports that prosecutors did not release the name of the teen charged, and no court date has been set for him. School officials say internal disciplinary action was also taken as a result of the incident, but they could not comment because of privacy laws.


Police ID Parking Lot Shooting Victim as 21-Year-Old Man 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified a man killed in a Kansas City, Kansas, parking lot. Police said in a news release Wednesday that the victim was 21-year-old Clarence Buford, of Kansas City, Kansas. Officers responding to a shooting found him dead Monday from an apparent gunshot wound. The release says there is no suspect information and that Buford's death remains under investigation.


Relatives Mourn Toddler Killed in Topeka Animal Attack 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Relatives are mourning a 2-year-old girl who was killed in a Topeka animal attack. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that about 40 friends and family members gathered Tuesday to remember 2-year-old Piper Dunbar. She was found dead Saturday in a yard. Investigators believe two pit bulls attacked her. Police spokeswoman Amy McCarter says the Animal Control Unit seized both dogs, which belonged to a family friend staying at the home. Piper's mother, Stephanie Rhoads, says she will remember her daughter as being smart, loving and close to her father. Rhoads says she is enraged about what happened and hopes legal action is taken against the owner of the dogs blamed for Piper's death. Authorities say the case will be forwarded to the Shawnee County District Attorney's Office for review.


12-Year-Old Driver Hits, Injures Convenience Store Worker 

WALTON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a 12-year-old driver has struck a convenience store worker with a pickup truck, knocking the 71-year-old employee through a plate glass window. The Hutchinson News reports that the employee was sent to a Wichita hospital with a possible leg fracture after being hit Tuesday while picking up trash outside the store in the small town of Walton. The young driver reported hitting the gas instead of the brakes. She was taken to a different hospital to be assessed for possible injuries. Sheriff's office spokeswoman Melissa Flavin said in an email that authorities aren't sure whether she'll face charges. A licensed 16-year-old and unlicensed 17-year-old also were in the truck with the 12-year-old when the collision happened. The 16-year-old was ticketed for contributing to a child's misconduct.


Second Man Charged in Central Kansas Killing

BELOIT, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors say a second man has been charged in a central Kansas killing. The Salina Journal reports that the latest suspect to be accused in the July 2015 death of Darrell Hill is his ex-son-in-law, 56-year-old Merlyn Hoesly, of Simpson. Hoesly is jailed on charges of first-degree murder and felony interference with law enforcement. The original suspect is 29-year-old Trevin Spencer, of rural Cloud County. Spencer's murder trial had been scheduled to begin earlier this month but has been continued. Mitchell County attorney Mark Noah says Spencer was the only person present when the killing happened. Noah said the charges against Hoesly stem from "aiding and abetting" or being "an accessory." Hoesly's preliminary hearing is scheduled for Tuesday. Spencer's next appearance is set for October 5.


Defendant in 1988 Firefighters' Deaths Seeks Prison Release 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An attorney for a man serving a life sentence for his role in a 1988 explosion that killed six Kansas City firefighters has asked a federal judge to immediately release him. The Kansas City Star reports that Cynthia Short argues in motions on Bryan Sheppard's behalf that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in recent years that mandatory life-without-parole sentences of juveniles were unconstitutional. Now 45, Sheppard was 17 at the time of the blast. Short insists that under current law, Sheppard could only be sentenced to up to 10 years. Because Sheppard already has served more than two decades, Short says he should be freed "at the earliest possibility." Sheppard was one of five people convicted in the firefighters' deaths. They all have maintained their innocence.


Kansas Substitute Teacher Admits Sexual Contact with Former Student

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A Manhattan businessman who once was a backup quarterback at Kansas State faces November sentencing after admitting in court that he had improper sexual contact with a former high school student. Manhattan radio station KMAN reports that 38-year-old Zachary Burton pleaded guilty Monday in Riley County to one count of unlawful sexual relations. Authorities say the female student went to Riley County High School, where Burton was an assistant boys' basketball coach and substitute teacher. Burton owns a business called Fieldhouse Development Inc. Burton's sentencing is scheduled for November 15.


Kansas Supreme Court to Hold Special Session in Hutchinson

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases next week in Hutchinson after spending part of the day visiting area schools to discuss the role of courts in civilized society. The special session at Hutchinson Community College will begin at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in B.J. Warner Recital Hall and is expected to last about 90 minutes. One case involves a man who is appealing his conviction in Butler County for possession of methamphetamine. The other is an appeal from a Wichita home supply store seeking to recover money it says it is owed for drywall materials. Prior to the session, Supreme Court justices and Reno County judges will speak with area students about the importance of the judiciary.


Kansas City Residents Dealing with Oak Leaf Itch Mite

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Johnson County horticulturist says the number of people dealing with bites from the oak leaf itch mite has picked up this year. Dennis Patton, a horticulturist for the Johnson County Kansas State University Research and Extension Office, tells The Kansas City Star that the mites have been back in full force and that the number of calls from people who've been bitten has picked up in the last several weeks. Itch mites are associated with a wasp-like insect that forms galls on oak trees. When the insect stings the leaves, a gall forms around the insect's larvae. The mites then feed on the larvae and exit the gall in the fall. There has been a high number of galls forming on oak trees this year. Patton says the mites get on humans after being windblown.


Harvey County Seeking Funds to Help Victims of Shooting

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) - Harvey County is seeking federal money to help victims and first responders affected by a shooting at a lawn equipment factory in Hesston earlier this year. Authorities say Cedric Ford attacked the Excel Industries plant on February 25. Four people, including Ford, were killed and 14 others were injured. Harvey County Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Task Force applied for a $220,000 grant to help staffers oversee a resiliency program. The Wichita Eagle reports that the money would be used to pay for mental health and counseling services, victim advocate services, education, training and equipment for law enforcement and emergency responders. The county and the task force will also apply for other grants that would provide first responders with education and training on emergency management, mass violence, mental health and victimization.


Royals Top Twins 4-3 in 11 Innings

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Billy Burns' sacrifice fly scored Raul Mondesi in the 11th inning as the Kansas City Royals defeated the Minnesota Twins 4-3 Tuesday night, staving off postseason elimination.  The defending World Series champions are five games behind Baltimore for the second AL wild card with five to play. The Orioles lost 5-1 at Toronto on Tuesday night.  Mondesi drew a walk to lead off the inning, stole second and moved to third on Jarrod Dyson's sacrifice bunt. Whit Merrifield and Eric Hosmer were walked intentionally to load the bases before Burns hit a fly ball to center field that was deep enough to get Mondesi home.  Rookie Brooks Pounders (2-1), the eighth Royals pitcher, picked up the victory, getting the final two outs of the 11th inning.  Left-hander Tommy Milone (3-5) was charged with the loss.​


Chiefs' Charles Getting Closer to Return vs Steelers 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles could make his season debut Sunday night at Pittsburgh, though coach Andy Reid acknowledged that it would depend on how he practices this week. Charles has not played since tearing the ACL in his right knee in Week 5 last season. The Chiefs have the week off following the Steelers game, so holding the four-time Pro Bowl running back out would essentially give him two more weeks. But conversely, getting him onto the field for a taste of action would also mean extra time to recover afterward. The Chiefs have been cautious in getting Charles onto the field. Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West have proven to be solid replacements over the past season.


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