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Headlines for Friday, January 17, 2020

As Winter Storm Hits, Schools Close and Planes Slide Off Taxiways at KCI

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - A number of school districts, including Lawrence and Topeka, have canceled classes today (FRI) as a mixture of freezing rain, ice and snow engulfs the area.  Universities across the KPR listening area have also closed, including KU, K-State, Washburn, Emporia State and Baker University.  See KPR's list of closings and cancelations.

Meanwhile...

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Authorities say a plane slid off the taxiway at Kansas City International Airport due to icy conditions as a sprawling winter storm hit large sections of the Midwest and beyond. The weather closed schools, universities and government offices. The Delta Airlines A319 was taxiing from the terminal Friday morning when the nose wheel dropped off the taxiway pavement. Officials say there are no known injuries. The closures come after the National Weather Service issued winter weather advisories, saying the storm will create hazardous travel conditions from the Plains into the Northeast through the weekend. There's a blizzard warning for parts of the Upper Midwest.

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Moody's Says Kansas Layoffs Threaten Government Tax Revenues

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Moody's Investors Service says that layoffs at Spirit AeroSystems are “credit negative” for the city of Wichita, Sedgwick County and local communities because the workforce reduction threatens retail sales. That lowers sales tax revenues that support government budgets. The credit rating service said Friday that most local governments in the Wichita area would be able to weather a short-term economic slowdown stemming from the layoffs. However, it anticipated that workers will move out of the area if the lower staffing at Spirit and other suppliers continues for an extended time.

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Kansas Abortion Measure's Fate May Rest on When Vote is Set

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The fate of a proposed anti-abortion amendment to the Kansas Constitution could depend more on when it would appear on the ballot than the language being considered by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Supporters of the proposal for overturning last year's Kansas Supreme Court decision protecting abortion rights announced Thursday that they want to put their measure on the August primary ballot. They believe the measure has a better chance of passing in that lower-turnout election than in the November general election. But some moderate Republicans want the question decided in the higher-turnout election and worry about the measure helping conservative candidates in a primary.

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Kansas Governor Wants to Use Cash Reserves to Pay Off Debt

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Governor Laura Kelly is proposing that Kansas burn through more than half of its cash reserves to pay off some debt early. The proposed budget she released Thursday would do that while taking longer to close a long-term funding gap for the state pension system for teachers and government workers. Kelly's budget director, Larry Campbell, outlined her spending blueprint during a joint meeting of the House and Senate budget committees. He told reporters that it "smooths out the ride" for state government. Her spending plan anticipates expanding Kansas' Medicaid program at a cost of $35 million a year to the state.

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Judge, Lawyer, AG's Staffer Finalists for Top Kansas Court

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A  Kansas Court of Appeals judge, a Lawrence attorney and a veteran prosecutor now working for the attorney general's office are finalists for a state Supreme Court seat. A lawyer-led state nominating commission on Friday sent the candidates' names to Gov. Laura Kelly. She has until March 17 to pick one. The finalists are Court of Appeals Judge Thomas Malone, Lawrence attorney Keynen Wall and Steven Obermeier, who worked three decades as a Johnson County prosecutor before becoming assistant state solicitor general in 2017. A seat on the seven-member court is open because former Chief Justice Lawton Nuss retired. 

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Advocates' Hopes High as Kansas Heads for Medical Pot Debate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers expect this year to have their most serious debate so far on medical marijuana. They're fueling high hopes for advocates who've been stymied by state's prohibitionist roots and a Republican-controlled Legislature. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly has said she would sign a bill. A House committee has committed itself to reviewing the issue, and its members had a brief, informal debate in the year's first meeting earlier this week. Legislators in both parties concede that they're being forced to consider the issue more seriously because conservative neighbors Missouri and Oklahoma legalized the medical use of marijuana through ballot initiatives.

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Kansas Property Managers to Pay $160,000 for Sex Harassment

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Department of Justice says a Wichita property manager accused of inappropriately touching female tenants and repeatedly asking them for sex will pay $160,000 in damages and penalties under a settlement. The federal lawsuit alleged Thong Cao sexually harassed tenants since at least 2009 at rental properties he owned or operated in Wichita. His wife was also named in the lawsuit because she owned or co-owned some of the properties. The consent order filed Friday requires them to pay $155,000 to 11 former tenants and a $5,000 civil penalty. It also bars them from managing residential properties in the future.

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Former Kansas Highway Patrol Superintendent Seeks Reinstatement

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas Highway Patrol superintendent is asking the state Supreme Court to force Governor Laura Kelly to reinstate him. Mark Bruce resigned under pressure in April after questions arose about an alleged domestic violence incident involving another official in the patrol. Bruce filed a petition Wednesday asking the state Supreme Court to order Kelly and the patrol to rehire him as a major. Bruce says he wants to clear his name. He says he's asked Kelly and the patrol to reinstate him several times but they have refused. Kelly spokeswoman Dena Sattler said the governor's office doesn't comment on pending litigation.

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Kansas Says It's Better Prepared Now for Aviation Layoffs

Kansas Labor Secretary Delia Garcia says the state is better prepared today to respond to layoffs from the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max than it was during the Great Recession, when it had to borrow money to prop up its unemployment insurance trust fund. That fund now has about $1 billion in it — money that could be tapped now for its shared work program that helps pay worker salaries to keep them on the job. Spirit AeroSystems announced last week plans to layoff off 2,800 workers. Since then, 10 companies have inquired about the program.

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Democrats Add Kansas Congressman Steve Watkins's Seat to List of Targets

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An arm of the national Democratic Party has added Republican Congressman Steve Watkins's seat in Kansas to its list of targeted congressional races this year. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said Thursday in a memo that the 2nd District of eastern Kansas "presents an opportunity." The group's announcement came less than two weeks after Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla launched her campaign for the seat as a Democrat. Watkins is a former Army officer who won the seat by less 1 percentage point in November 2018 after emerging from a crowded GOP primary with less than 27% of the vote.

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Man Booked into Jail After Sister's Body Found in Kansas

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A man has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of his sister in Overland Park. Twenty-seven-year-old Parker Mays of Lawrence, was charged Thursday in the death of 22-year-old Layne Mays. His is being held on $1 million bond. Police say Layne Mays's mother found her body Tuesday in her parents' Overland Park home. Police have not yet said how she died. A Kansas State University spokeswoman said Layne Mays was enrolled there through the fall 2019 semester but was not enrolled for the upcoming spring semester. She studied animal science and rode with the school's equestrian team.

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Attorney: KU Researcher Denies Concealing Work for Chinese

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An attorney for a Kansas researcher accused of concealing work he was doing for China while employed at the University of Kansas is hitting back against a new indictment against his client. Lawyer Peter Zeidenberg said Thursday that the case against Feng "Franklin" Tao has nothing to do with the Chinese government's alleged attempts obtain U.S. intellectual property. A superseding indictment charged Tao with two counts of wire fraud and one count of program fraud for failing to disclose on conflict-of-interest forms the work he was doing for China while employed at the University of Kansas.

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Former Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer to Sing Backup for Chaka Khan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Former Republican Kansas governor and plastic surgeon Jeff Colyer is about to add Chaka Khan backup singer to his resume. The Kansas City Star reports that Colyer is part of a student and faculty choir that will join the "Queen of Funk" on stage for a Martin Luther King Day event hosted by Georgetown University at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The performance will include African-American spirituals and a piece composed by Khan, who achieved success in the 1970s as a vocalist in the funk band Rufus and as a solo artist in the 1980s with her hit single "I Feel For You."  

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Leavenworth Murder Trial Postponed After New Evidence Found

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A 32-year-old Leavenworth man's murder trial in the Christmas 2017 death of a Kansas City man has been postponed. Ramaun Johnson was scheduled to go to trial Jan. 27 on a felony murder charge but a request for a continuance was granted Wednesday. Johnson is charged in the death of Shavar Walker, of Kansas City, who was shot outside a Leavenworth apartment complex. Prosecutors are not necessarily alleging that Johnson shot Walker, but that he was involved in a drug deal that led to Walker's death. Johnson's attorney said Wednesday a possible co-defendant has been identified but the person has not been charged. 

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Wichita Man Charged in Death of Man Whose Body Is Missing

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of a man whose body is still missing. The Wichita Eagle reports that the criminal complaint filed Thursday against 53-year-old Jeffery Lee Hill says 50-year-old Jeffery Jones, of Hutchinson, was killed on or around Dec. 9. Hill was booked into jail Monday, about two weeks after authorities received a tip that Jones was dead and his body was buried somewhere outside of town. The tipster told authorities Jones was killed at a home and Lee was involved. 

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Man Guilty of Starting Kansas Fire in Effort to Kill 2 Women

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Jurors have found a man guilty of starting a fire in a suburban Kansas City apartment in an attempt to kill two women who lived there. The Johnson County prosecutor's office says in a news release that 38-year-old Ronald Buchanan was convicted Wednesday of three counts of attempted first-degree murder, six counts of aggravated arson and one count of animal cruelty for the May 2018 fire at the Overland Park apartment. The Kansas City Star reports that all occupants of the building escaped. One child was treated for smoke inhalation and a dog died in the fire.  Sentencing is set for March 12. 

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Infant Wichita Boy Allegedly Abused by Father Dies

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a 2-month old boy who was injured along with his twin sister has died. Wichita police spokesman Charley Davidson says Marrell Williams died Thursday. His twin sister was also hospitalized with a healing broken femur. The children's father, Marlin Williams, was charged earlier this week with three counts of aggravated battery. KAKE-TV reports authorities say the case will be presented to the district attorney's office for upgraded charges. The children were found injured at their Wichita home last Friday.  In a second, unrelated case, a 9-month-old Wichita girl who was also injured last Friday died on Wednesday. 

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Hit-and-Run Driver Critically Injures Pedestrian in Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a hit-and-run driver has critically injured a pedestrian in Kansas City, Kansas. Police say a pickup-truck driver left the scene before officers responded Friday morning. The injured pedestrian is receiving treatment at a hospital. The crash is under investigation.  

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Missouri Governor Denounces Expanding Government Health Care

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Republican Governor Mike Parson says he'll fight efforts to expand the number of people eligible for government health care in Missouri. Parson told The Associated Press on Thursday that the state cannot afford to expand Medicaid. He plans to speak out against a proposed constitutional amendment on the issue. The measure would allow adults earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level to access Medicaid. The campaign manager for Medicaid expansion says they have gathered roughly 90,000 petition signatures so far. That's more than halfway to the target of about 172,000 needed to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

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Former Walmart Exec, Royals Owner David Glass Dies at 84

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Former Walmart Inc. chief executive David Glass, who owned the Kansas City Royals for nearly two decades before selling the franchise this past fall, died last week of complications from pneumonia. He was 84. The Glass family said the businessman died Jan. 9.  He had been dealing with health issues for some time. The Glass family said a memorial will be held Jan. 27 at Northwest Arkansas Fellowship Bible Church in Rogers, Arkansas. 

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KPR's daily headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and updated throughout the day.  KPR's weekend summary is usually published by 1 pm Saturdays and Sundays.

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