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Weekend Headlines for February 10-11, 2018

House Bill Would Change Kansas Water Plan Funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill in the Kansas House would earmark $8 million in lottery proceeds to finance state water programs. The bill would require that $8 million in appropriations to the State Water Plan be drawn entirely from the Economic Development Initiatives Fund, which uses lottery revenue. Currently, state law requires that $6 million in general fund revenue and $2 million from the economic initiatives fund go to the water plan. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the new bill would take the entire $8 million from the EDIF. The bill's sponsor, Representative Tom Sloan, a Lawrence Democrat, says it would require that $3 million be used by Kansas Geological Survey, Kansas Biological Survey and Kansas State University for research on maintaining a reliable supply of quality water.

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Kansas Legislature Updates Harassment Policy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top Kansas lawmakers have updated the Legislature's policy against sexual harassment while acknowledging that the work is not finished. The new policy approved Friday by legislative leaders is more specific about how allegations of misconduct will be handled, particularly from legislative interns. It also specifically says lawmakers who violate the policy could face formal and public disciplinary action. But the new policy doesn't provide for a review of complaints outside the Legislature and still calls for handling them as privately as possible. House Democratic Leader Jim Ward of Wichita said the policy isn't strong enough. Yet he and other legislative leaders said it is an improvement over the previous policy drafted in 1994. Leaders in both parties said work will continue on the policy and future updates are possible.

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Homeless Man Gets Life Sentence for Murders of Newton Mother, Daughter

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — A homeless man who murdered a Kansas woman and her 4-year-old daughter has been sentenced to life in prison without parole. Keith Hawkins was sentenced Friday for capital murder in the August 2017 deaths of 24-year-old Alyssa Runyon and her daughter, Zaylynn Paz. The victims' bodies were found at their duplex in Newton, Kansas. Police said the girl was stabbed and her mother was strangled. Hawkins was arrested in Texas. Authorities said he was homeless and was visiting Runyon. The victims' families agreed to a plea deal that dropped two counts of first-degree murder in exchange for his guilty plea to capital murder. Authorities said Hawkins was a sex offender but his prior conviction was not placed on the public offender registry.

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Wichita State Defends Koch-Funded School Amid Criticism

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Officials at Wichita State University say a new private school being financed by members of the Koch family is a good fit for the university's campus. The Wichita Eagle reports that Chase and Annie Koch announced they're financing a new private pre-K through 12th-grade school called Wonder on Wichita State's campus. Critics of the proposed school say the public university that receives state funding shouldn't be the site of an exclusive private school. Steve Wentz, president of United Teachers of Wichita, says the school can't accurately test education strategies unless it includes children of all abilities and financial means. Wonder co-founder Zach Lahn says the school wants to expand access to benefit more students and eventually plans to have at least 25 percent of its students on scholarships or financial aid.

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Missouri River Reservoirs Ready for Spring Runoff

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The officials who manage the reservoirs along the Missouri River say the system is in good shape to handle this spring's runoff. John Remus with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the reservoirs are ready to reduce flood risk in the region even though runoff is expected to be slightly above average at 104 percent of normal. Some of the Plains snowpack has already melted and entered the reservoir system because of recent warmer periods. The releases from Gavins Point dam near the South Dakota-Nebraska border are expected to remain at winter levels of 18,000 cubic feet per second during February. The Missouri River should have enough water for full service navigation through at least the first half of the 2018 season.

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Kansas Teacher Charged with Sex Exploitation

DERBY, Kan. (AP) — A Derby Middle School teacher and coach who was arrested last month following a child pornography investigation has been charged with eleven counts of sexual exploitation of a child. The Wichita Eagle reports that 37-year-old Cody Chitwood made his first appearance in court Thursday morning. A preliminary hearing is set for later this month. Chitwood was a special education teacher, football, track and girls' basketball coach at the school. He's been suspended without pay. District spokeswoman Katie Carlson said the school is cooperating with police and that the charges against Chitwood do not involve any of the school's students. Derby was arrested January 23rd after a search warrant was served on his home.

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Wichita Firefighters say House Fire Claims One Life

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Emergency officials say one person has died in a house fire in north Wichita. The Wichita Eagle reports that fire was reported Friday evening. Firefighters say they saw no smoke or flames coming from the home when they arrived, but encountered thick smoke upon entering the house. Fire Chief Tammy Snow says the victim was found on the floor and removed from the house. The man was not breathing and did not have a pulse when rescued and was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after 7 p.m. Authorities had not released the victim's name by midday Saturday.

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Kansas Lawmaker: Kansas Needs Self-Financing State Auditor

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Republican senator says Kansas needs a state auditor, but only if the position uncovers enough corruption to pay for the office's budget. The Kansas City Star reports that Senator Dennis Pyle requested legislation this week to require the election of an auditor. The position would be for one four-year term that would end unless enough waste, fraud and abuse were uncovered to pay the bills. A state auditor's job includes probing agencies that skirt transparency laws. The push comes after legislative auditors found that the Kansas State Department of Education had been giving some school districts extra bus funding not authorized by law. Democratic Representative Kathy Wolfe Moore questions what she calls Pyle's "expiration mechanism." She says auditors should be finding fraud where it exists and not to justify a budget.

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Kansas Speedway Seeks Help Recovering Stolen Items

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Speedway officials are seeking information on who stole two trucks, a paint trailer and various tools last week from the speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. The Kansas City Star reports that speedway officials are offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest in the case. Speedway President Patrick Warren says in a written release that he would also like people to "keep their eyes open in case anyone attempts to sell any of these items and to contact the police immediately." The items, which were stolen on January 30th, are worth as much as $100,000. One of the trucks was abandoned and recovered. One still missing is a red 2001 Ford F250 that had a Kansas Speedway logo on the door.

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House Bill Would Change Funding for Kansas Water Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill in the Kansas House would earmark $8 million in lottery proceeds to finance state water programs. The bill would require that $8 million in appropriations to the State Water Plan be drawn entirely from the Economic Development Initiatives Fund, which uses lottery revenue. Currently, state law requires that $6 million in general fund revenue and $2 million from the economic initiatives fund go to the water plan. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the new bill would take the entire $8 million from the EDIF. The bill's sponsor, Representative Tom Sloan (D-Lawrence) says it would require that $3 million be used by Kansas Geological Survey, Kansas Biological Survey and Kansas State University for research on maintaining a reliable supply of quality water.

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Kansas Man Sentenced for Soliciting Nude Photos from Teenager

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 33-year-old man was sentenced to about 2.5 years in prison for soliciting nude photos from a 15-year-old girl. Sean Wenger, of Osage City, was sentenced Thursday for sexual exploitation of a child. He also must register as a sex offender for 25 years and will be on post-release supervision for the rest of his life. The Lawrence Journal-World reports prosecutors said they found 20 nude images of the girl on Wenger's phone. Texts between the two showed he had demanded the photos while she was in Douglas County. No physical contact between Wenger and the girl was alleged.

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Kobach on Board of Veterans' Group Accused of Wasting Money

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A watchdog report has found that only a small portion of money from a Missouri-based veterans' group that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is associated with actually goes toward helping veterans. The Kansas City Star reports that Kobach is listed as a member of the advisory board for Veterans in Defense of Liberty, a Springfield-based nonprofit with a stated mission of upholding the Constitution. Kobach is also running for governor of Kansas. The Better Business Bureau released a report this week giving the group a failing grade because only a small fraction of the nonprofit's money goes toward veterans' issues. Kobach said Thursday that the report is the first time he's learning about the group's lack of money going to veterans. He joined the group's board six years ago.

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Kansas Boy Wished for Snow; Dad Makes Snow

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas father who created a snow machine because his 6-year-old desperately wanted to play in snow during the holidays now has a business turning yards white. The Wichita Eagle reports that Toby Franke calls his snow-for-hire business Snow Bros. Franke says he grew up with a lot of snow and wanted his son, Bear Franke, to have it too. He is hoping to perfect the mixture of compressed air, compressed water and perfect weather to bring snow to his west Wichita yard and others who might also want to see some of the white stuff. Franke doesn't think he'll get rich with his idea but would love to just be able to pay for the equipment. Wednesday was Franke's fourth attempt at making snow.

 

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