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Weekend Headlines for August 26-27, 2017

Pay Hike at Kansas Prisons Builds Pressure for Other Raises

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A move in Kansas to increase pay for corrections officers in prisons is building pressure on legislators to consider raises for all government workers. But lawmakers would have to figure out how to pay for the raises even after a significant tax increase this year. Budget director Shawn Sullivan told lawmakers this week that revenues must grow more quickly to sustain the spending lawmakers already have approved. Governor Sam Brownback earlier this month announced raises for uniformed officers following inmate disturbances at the prison in El Dorado. A state employees union and some lawmakers had said low pay made prison jobs hard to fill. Lawmakers in both parties say many state employees remain underpaid and they expect legislators to consider broad pay raises during their next session in January.

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Federal Officials Investigating Death of Lansing Inmate

LANSING, Kan. (AP) — Federal officials are investigating the death of an inmate at the Lansing Correctional Facility. A Kansas Department of Corrections spokesman says that 56-year-old James Beeson died March 26th under circumstances that were "out of the ordinary." No further details, including how Beeson died, were provided. Beeson had eight convictions since December of 1998 for a variety of child sex crimes in Osage County. Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson told The Kansas City Star the U.S. Attorney's Office is investigating Beeson's death. An autopsy is being conducted by the Leavenworth County coroner. The federal investigation into Beeson's death comes amid reports of several violent disturbances and staffing shortages at Lansing and other Kansas prisons.

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Brownback Signs Disaster Declaration for 8 Counties

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has signed an emergency disaster declaration in response to strong storms that have hit the state this month. The declaration covers thunderstorms, hail and flooding that hit Kansas beginning August 3rd. Counties included in the declaration include Barber, Douglas, Franklin, Greenwood, Johnson, Miami, Seward, and Trego. Additional counties may be added after damage assessments are completed. The Kansas Division of Emergency Management is working with county emergency managers to gather more damage information to determine if federal disaster assistance can be sought.

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Westar and Great Plains Seek Merger Approval

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Westar Energy and Great Plains Energy have formally asked the Kansas Corporation Commission to approve a merger between the two utility companies. The companies submitted a filing to the KCC Friday, seeking formal approval of a $14 billion merger announced in July. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the merger request comes after the commission earlier this year rejected a proposal to allow Great Plains to buy Westar for $12.2 billion. The commission said the proposed sale price was too high and would leave the combined utility financially weaker than the separate companies. The new transaction would require no cash exchange and no debt for the companies. Great Plains Energy, the parent company of Kansas City Power & Light, is based in Kansas City, Missouri. Westar is the largest utility in Kansas.

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Kansas Woman Sentenced in Husband's Death

STAFFORD, Kan. (AP) — A south-central Kansas woman has been sentenced to more than 21 years in prison for the death of her husband. 36-year-old Misty Salem was sentenced Friday for second-degree intentional murder in the March 2016 death of 41-year-old Samuel Salem at the couple's Stafford home. Police who responded to reports of gunfire found Samuel Salem dead on the living room floor with a gunshot wound. KAKE-TV reports police said officers had responded to the home several times after reports of domestic violence. Samuel Salem's death was the first homicide in more than 20 years in Stafford, which has about 1,000 residents.

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Last Defendant Sentenced in Death of Pittsburg Student

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — The last of five defendants in the death of a Pittsburg State University student has been sentenced. Tyler Smith was sentenced Friday to two years and four months in prison for conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery as his role in the 2014 death of 20-year-old Taylor Thomas. Smith also was ordered to pay $20,000 in restitution with other defendants in the case. The Pittsburg Morning-Sun reports Smith was accused of planning a robbery that led to Thomas' death. Authorities say Smith did not participate in the actual robbery. The other defendants broke into a home to steal money and drugs that belonged to Thomas' roommate. The roommate escaped from the house but Thomas was shot and killed. The other defendants have all pleaded guilty to various charges in the case.

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Former Kansas Lt. Governor Docking Dies at 63

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Former Kansas Lt. Governor Tom Docking's law firm says the Wichita attorney and son and grandson of governors has died. He was 63 years old. Docking died Thursday night after battling cancer. His death was confirmed by A.J. Schwartz, the CEO of Docking's law firm. Other details were not immediately available. Docking served as lieutenant governor from 1983 to 1987 during Democratic Governor John Carlin's second term. He was a member of the state's most prominent Democratic family. His father, Robert Docking, was governor from 1967 to 1975, and his grandfather, George Docking, held the office from 1957 to 1961. Tom Docking was the Democratic nominee for governor in 1986 but lost to Republican Mike Hayden. His wife, Jill, ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1996 and lieutenant governor in 2014.

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Couple Donates $3 Million for Kansas State Library Renovation

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A couple from Florida has donated $3 million for renovation of Kansas State University's Hale Library. The university said the gift from Dave and Ellie Everitt, of Marco Island, Florida, is first major donation toward the $6.5 million first-floor renovation and modernization project. The Manhattan Mercury reports the renovation will create a more accessible entrance. It also will add group study spaces, instruction rooms, more spaces for student services, exhibit space for special collections, a café and an event space. Ellie Everitt graduated from Kansas State in 1973 with a degree in clothing and textiles. Dave Everitt earned his degree in industrial engineering from the College of Engineering in 1975. The Everitts previously gave $2 million to the School of Leadership Studies and $1 million to the Kansas State Welcome Center.

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Plea Entered in Shawnee Parking Lot Shooting that Wounded Good Samaritan

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — A man has pleaded guilty to an attempted robbery outside a Walmart in Shawnee that ended with a good Samaritan wounded and a second suspect dead. The Kansas City Star reports that 28-year-old Arthur Fred Wyatt III, of Overland Park, pleaded guilty Thursday to charges that included second-degree attempted murder. He was originally charged with attempted first-degree murder. Investigators say Wyatt and another man attacked a woman on September 11, 2016, as she was putting her child in a safety seat in the parking lot of a Walmart in Shawnee, a suburb of Kansas City. A man in the lot intervened and was shot several times. Shawnee police say another Good Samaritan shot and killed one of the attackers, John Simmons of Kansas City. Sentencing is set for November 2nd.

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Pittsburg Casino Cuts Hours, Staff

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — A new, state-owned casino in southeast Kansas is trimming the hours it runs table games and cutting staff after failing to generate as much revenue as expected. The Joplin Globe reports that Kansas Crossing in Pittsburg was expected to rake in about $3 million monthly. In its first four months of operation, the casino has generated between $2 million and $2.4 million monthly. General Manager Doug Fisher says the casino has reduced hours to reflect customer interest and has laid off 10 employees out of about 400 staff members. Keith Kocher is the director of gaming facilities with the Kansas Lottery. He says casinos typically see revenue drop in the summer because regular customers are on vacation. Kocher says the state receives just over 20 percent of the casino's revenue.

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Former AP Topeka Correspondent Dies at 83

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Lew Ferguson, a journalist whose 42-year career included nearly three decades as the Associated Press supervisory correspondent in Topeka, Kansas, has died. He was 83 years old. Ferguson's daughter said he died Thursday night at an Oklahoma City hospital. No cause of death was given. He was an Oklahoma native who returned there after working for AP in Topeka and serving a four-year term on the Kansas Board of Regents. He became the Topeka correspondent in 1970 and helped train some 50 young writers before retiring in 1999. He was inducted into the Kansas Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2012. His long career in journalism included coverage of professional baseball and football in Minnesota and Kansas City, including coverage of three World Series and the Super Bowl in 1970.

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Kansas Joins 21-State Brief Against Gun Restrictions

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia's attorney general has filed a brief on behalf of a 21-state coalition urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear arguments against Maryland gun restrictions. The group is urging the top court to overturn the Fourth Circuit ruling and ensure Congress couldn't reinstate a similar ban nationally. The Maryland statute prohibits sale and possession of certain semi-automatic rifles and large-capacity magazines. West Virginia State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey says banning certain types of firearms "steps on" the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Kansas and Missouri joined the brief, along with Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

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KU Sorority Closes After Almost 100 Years

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A University of Kansas sorority is closing after more than 90 years on the Lawrence campus. The international headquarters of Alpha Gamma Delta says its local Epsilon Beta chapter is closing for good. It was established in Kansas in 1922. The Lawrence Journal-World reports a news release attributed the closing to "challenges" in membership recruitment but it did not elaborate. More than 2,300 women have been initiated into the sorority chapter.

 

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