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Headlines for Friday, November 9, 2018

New Forecast Boosts Kansas Tax Estimate by $291 Million

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Governor-elect Laura Kelly has received good news about the budget picture in Kansas with the release of a new fiscal forecast for state government. Fiscal forecasters on Friday boosted the projection for tax collections expected during the current fiscal year by $291 million. That's 4.2 percent higher than the previous forecast made in April. The state now expects to collect $7.2 billion in general tax revenues for the fiscal year. The forecasters also are predicting modest growth in tax revenues for the next fiscal year that begins in July 2019. But the picture is not completely rosy. State Budget Director Larry Campbell said the forecasters expect economic growth to slow in 2021. Kelly promised during her successful campaign for governor to boost spending on public schools without increasing taxes.

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Kansas Voters May Give Kelly Leeway on Raising New Revenues

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor-elect Laura Kelly has pledged publicly to avoid increasing taxes but may have some leeway with voters. She and other officials were waiting Friday for a new fiscal forecast for state government. A majority of Kansas voters were at least somewhat supportive of increasing taxes to provide additional funds for public schools, according to AP VoteCast, a nationwide survey of about 139,000 voters and nonvoters. The survey, conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago, included 3,963 voters and 780 nonvoters in Kansas. Fifty-eight percent of voters said they strongly supported or somewhat supported raising taxes to boost education funding. A majority of them backed Kelly. Forty-one percent strongly or somewhat opposed a tax increase. Roughly two-thirds of them backed conservative Republican Kris Kobach.

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Governor-Elect Laura Kelly Hopes to Thwart Kansas Adoption Law Seen as Anti-LGBT

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas's new Democratic governor-elect says she will look to block enforcement of a new adoption law that she and LGBT-rights activists consider discriminatory.  That would be a sharp break with the state's two previous conservative Republican governors.  Governor-elect Laura Kelly said she will have her staff review how far the state can go to avoid enforcing the law. It was designed to provide legal protections to adoption agencies that cite faith-based reasons for refusing to place children in homes that violate their religious beliefs.  The debate centered on agencies that won't place children in LGBT foster homes on behalf of the state.  The Kansas Catholic Conference's executive director said it's not surprising that Kelly would, in his words, advance a radical agenda.

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Kansas Suit Challenges Anti-Abortion Clause in Telemedicine

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Center for Reproductive Rights has filed a legal challenge to an anti-abortion clause in a Kansas law that expands health coverage through telemedicine.  Its lawsuit was filed Thursday in Shawnee County District Court on behalf of Trust Women Wichita, which operates a clinic in Wichita that has offered abortions and other reproductive health care since 2013.  At issue is the Kansas Telemedicine Act scheduled to take effect on January 1.  The bill was signed in May despite concerns about a clause in it saying the law will be nullified if a court ever strikes down a passage forbidding abortions via telemedicine.  The lawsuit contends the law is unconstitutional because it treats women seeking abortions differently from other patients seeking medical care through telemedicine and creates an undue burden to abortion access.

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Vote Counting Error Upends Crawford County Commission Race

GIRARD, Kan. (AP) — Inaccurate election results apparently caused by human error left an election for Crawford County Commission up in the air. Crawford County Clerk Don Pyle said results from five of the county's 16 polling locations were counted twice after Tuesday's election. He said the person inputting data cards into software that count votes was interrupted and put some cards in twice. The Pittsburg Morning Sun reports the incorrect results had Republican Chad Ulepich defeating Democrat Jeremy Johnson for the commission seat. The race was tied after updated unofficial results. Pyle, who is a Democrat, said 330 provisional ballots that must still be processed could decide the winner. The commission voted Friday to hire an attorney to oversee canvassing of the ballots next Tuesday, and a member of the Kansas Secretary of State's office also will attend.

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LGBT Triumphs: 2 Governorships, at Least 9 Seats in Congress

LGBT candidates scored a raft of notable midterm election victories — winning two governorships, at least nine seats in Congress, and their first-ever legislative seats in Indiana, Kansas and Nebraska.  In Colorado, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis became the first openly gay man elected as a governor of any state. In Wisconsin, Tammy Baldwin — who in 2012 became the first openly gay person to win a U.S. Senate seat — easily won re-election despite being targeted by outside conservative groups that spent millions attacking her.  In races for the U.S. house, a record eight LGBT candidates won seats for the Democrats. Four incumbents will be joined in January by newcomers Katie Hill of California, Sharice Davids of Kansas, Angie Craig of Minnesota and Chris Pappas of New Hampshire

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Native American Women's Election Wins Follow Years-Long Push

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Two Native American women's historic congressional victories add them to a record number of women elected to the U.S. House, following an election cycle that also saw a significant boost in Native American female candidates at the state and local level.  The incoming Native American congresswomen Deb Haaland (HAAH-lund), of New Mexico, and Sharice (sha-REES) Davids, of Kansas, are Democrats.  Haaland, a former New Mexico Democratic Party chairwoman, is a Laguna Pueblo member. She won her race in a New Mexico district that includes Albuquerque, and credited a vast political network she built after nearly 20 years of working on other candidates' campaign, and her own hard work.  Sharice Davids, who is Ho-Chunk, and attorney and a former White House Fellow, beat Congressman Kevin Yoder to win her election for a district that includes suburbs of Kansas City.

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After Kansas Loss, Kris Kobach Could Join Trump Administration

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kris Kobach lost his bid for Kansas governor, but his hard-line approach could help him land his next political position, possibly in the Trump administration.  The Republican secretary of state rode his national reputation as an advocate for tough immigration and voting rules to a job atop President Donald Trump's short-lived election-fraud commission. His name immediately popped up Wednesday, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced to resign.  If Trump picks someone else to replace Sessions, Kobach's name is almost certain to surface again when Trump has another big post to fill.  John Whitmer is a GOP state representative from Wichita. He says if there's a place for Kobach in Washington, Trump will find it.  Kobach dropped no hints about his future in his concession speech.

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Judge Orders 3 Separate Trials in Fatal Lawrence Shooting

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The three suspects in a shooting that left three dead and two wounded in downtown Lawrence will have separate trials. The Lawrence Journal-World reports a mistrial was declared Thursday in a joint trial for the three suspects. Douglas County District Court Judge Sally Pokorny did not explain what caused the mistrial. On Friday, Pokorny ordered separate trials for 21-year-old Anthony Roberts Jr., 23-year-old Ahmad Rayton and 20-year-old Dominique McMillon. Roberts is charged with three murder counts and one attempted murder count in the October 2017 shooting. Rayton is charged with attempted murder, while the charges against McMillon include aggravated assault. New trial dates are being set for February, March and April. The victims were 22-year-old Leah Brown, of Shawnee; 20-year-old Colwin Lynn Henderson, of Topeka; and 24-year-old Tre'Mel Dupree Dean-Rayton, of Topeka.

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Racist Slur on Kansas State Campus Proves to Be a Hoax

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University police say a person who reported being the target of a racist slur admitted it was a hoax. The Wichita Eagle reports it was the second time in two years that a report of racist slurs at Kansas State was a hoax. Kansas State officers were called to the Jardine Apartment Complex on the Manhattan campus Monday, where a note containing a racial slur was hung on a door. Police said in a news release Thursday that during questioning the person who reported the note admitted creating and posting it. In November 2017, a man reported having racist slurs painted on his car in Manhattan. The FBI investigated the case as a possible hate crime. Riley County police says 21-year-old Dauntarius Williams, who owned the car, eventually admitted being responsible for the graffiti.

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Girl Dies of Suspected Abuse After Weeklong Hospitalization

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — A 3-year-old southwest Kansas girl has died of suspected abuse after she was hospitalized for more than a week.  KSN-TV reports that Liberal police say the child died Wednesday. Liberal police Capt. Robert Rogers said in a news release that officers were on October 28 to Southwest Medical Center for a report of child abuse. Family members had brought the girl to the emergency room.  The release says the child's condition worsened while at the Liberal hospital, and she was flown to a Wichita hospital. The release says her injuries appeared to be "intentional" and that other possible signs of abuse also were discovered.  The girl's 20-year-old mother has been arrested.

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Slain Woman Found with Order of Protection in Pocket

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Court records say a slain woman had an order of protection against the man charged with killing her in her pocket when her body was found in Kansas City.  The Kansas City Star reports that 42-year-old Gene Birdsong of Kansas City, Kansas, was charged Thursday with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the death of 40-year-old Tabitha Birdsong. No attorney is listed for him in online court records.  Court records in Kansas show the couple wed in 2009 and that Gene Birdsong was twice convicted of battering her. He spent 86 days in jail earlier this year after violating his probation for not complying with a protection order.  Under questioning, he told detectives it was "self-defense" before stopping the interview and requesting an attorney. The couple has a daughter.

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Federal Prosecution Begins Against Missouri Boat Captain in Fatal Accident that Killed 17

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A prosecutor says the indictment of the captain of a Missouri tourist boat that sank and killed 17 people marks "the beginning but not the end" of a federal prosecution in the case.  U.S. Attorney Timothy Garrison announced on Thursday that 51-year-old Kenneth Scott McKee had been indicted on 17 counts related to the July deaths, which included nine members of an Indiana family.  Garrison said he couldn't comment on specifics of the investigation. But he said McKee was indicted because "the captain of the vessel always has a duty to operate the vessel in a safe manner."  McKee's attorney declined comment Thursday.  The duck boat sank in July at Table Rock Lake, near the southwest Missouri tourist town of Branson. Duck boats are amphibious vessels originally used by the military during World War II, but some have been refurbished for tourism.

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Affidavit: Man Speeding Before 2 Killed in Hit-and-Run Crash

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Court records say a man accused in a suburban Kansas City hit-and-run crash that left two people dead had been speeding and "jockeying back and forth" with one of the victim's vehicles beforehand.  The Kansas City Star reports that prosecutors released the affidavit Thursday in the case against 45-year-old Bradley Woodworth, of Olathe. He is charged with leaving the scene of the Oct. 6 wreck that killed 18-year-old Matthew Bloskey and 20-year-old Samuel Siebuhr.  Woodworth is accused of driving the minivan that was seen jockeying for position with Siebuhr's car before the two vehicles made contact in Overland Park. Siebuhr's car then spun out of control and went over the median, where it was struck and knocked sideways. It then was hit by the vehicle that Bloskey was driving.

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Police: Off-Duty Officer Going Too Fast Before Deadly Crash

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police say an off-duty officer who caused a chain-reaction wreck that killed a Kansas teen was driving a department van too quickly when he slammed into the teen's car as traffic slowed to turn into Arrowhead Stadium for a Kansas City Chiefs game.  The Kansas City Star reports that the police report was issued Wednesday for the October 21 crash that killed 17-year-old Chandan Rajanna, of Overland Park, Kansas, and seriously hurt his father and older sister.  The document says witnesses reported that the van was going as fast as 70 mph when it started braking about 30 feet from the stopped traffic. It says the driver was "unable to stop, or avoid the vehicles in front of him."  Besides the van and car, two other vehicles also were struck.

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Kansas Man Gets Probation in Daughter's Accidental Shooting

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas father whose toddler was fatally shot by another toddler has been sentenced to probation for leaving a loaded semi-automatic handgun within the children's reach.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 33-year-old Chance Smith, of Lawrence, is barred from having guns while on probation under the sentence ordered Wednesday. He pleaded no contest in September to two counts of aggravated child endangerment. Prosecutors dropped an involuntary manslaughter charge as part of the plea.  Smith's daughter, Autumn Grace Smith, was a week away from her second birthday when she was shot in September 2017. Smith told police that he was outside for five or 10 minutes and didn't hear a gunshot. When he returned, he found a 2-year-old boy crying and Autumn upstairs, shot. Gunpowder was found on the boy's hands.

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Housekeeper Pleads Guilty to Stealing $500,000 in Jewelry

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A former housekeeper has admitted stealing more than $500,000 in jewelry while working for a woman in Stillwell. The Kansas City Star reports 43-year-old Sabina Garcia-Rivera, of Olathe, pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of felony theft and three counts of making a false writing. She was charged in January with stealing the jewelry over two years before the thefts were discovered in 2017. The false writing charges involve false statements Garcia-Rivera made while pawning some pieces of the jewelry. Prosecutors say she pawned several pieces for far less than they were worth. Under terms of the plea agreement, prosecutors will seek a sentence of three years and two months. The defense will ask for a two-year sentence. She will also be required to make restitution.

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Another Keystone XL Setback: Environmental Review Ordered

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a setback for the Trump administration, a federal judge has blocked a permit for construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada and ordered officials to conduct a new environmental review. Environmentalists and tribal groups cheered the ruling by a U.S. district judge in Montana, while President Donald Trump called it "a political decision" and "a disgrace." The 1,184-mile pipeline would begin in Alberta and shuttle as much as 830,000 barrels a day of crude through a half dozen states to terminals on the Gulf Coast. Trump has touted the $8 billion pipeline as part of his pledge to achieve North American "energy dominance" and has contrasted his administration's quick approval of the project with years of delay under President Barack Obama. The Trump administration has not said whether it would appeal the new ruling. The State Department said it was reviewing the decision, but declined further comment, citing ongoing litigation. The pipeline was first proposed by Calgary-based TransCanada in 2008. It has become the focal point of a decade-long dispute that pits Democrats, environmental groups and Native American tribes who warn of pollution and increased greenhouse gas emissions against business groups and Republicans who cheer the project's jobs and potential energy production.

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Dispatcher Helps Man Deliver Grandchild in Rural Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man in rural Kansas helped his daughter deliver a baby thanks to coaching from an emergency dispatcher. Harvey County Communications said in a Facebook post that the man called 911 around 3 a.m. Thursday to report that his daughter was about to give birth. The man followed the dispatcher's instructions to help deliver his granddaughter. Firefighters and paramedics showed up seven minutes later. The post says mom and baby were taken to a Wichita hospital in good condition. The post praised the dispatcher, as well as the infant's grandfather for "calmly" following instruction. A follow-up post reported that the grandfather said it felt like the dispatcher "had done this many times before." However, Harvey County Communications said it's the first time any of its dispatchers have helped deliver a baby.

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Woman Pleads Guilty in Death of Pregnant Woman, Unborn Child

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 26-year-old woman pleaded guilty for her role in the killing an expectant mother and her unborn child. Alora Mendoza, of Kansas City, Kansas, pleaded guilty Friday to two counts of reckless second-degree murder in the fatal shooting last June of 23-year-old Jocelyn Ybarra. Ybarra was 12 weeks pregnant and her unborn child also died. The Kansas City Star reports Mendoza was initially charged with two counts of first-degree felony murder and with attempted aggravated robbery. Assistant District Attorney Darrell Smith said Friday that Mendoza helped another person who allegedly shot Ybarra during an attempted carjacking. Mendoza will be asked to testify against her co-defendant as part of Friday's plea agreement. Her sentencing is scheduled for December 20.

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Man Sentenced in 2013 Stabbing Death in Independence

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — A 26-year-old Kansas City man has pleaded guilty to fatally stabbing another man in Independence in 2013.  John Seger pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the death of Corey Laykovich.  Seger was sentenced Thursday to nine years in prison.  Court documents show Seger and Laykovich argued and got into a physical disturbance that ended with Seger stabbing Laykovich in early 2013.  The Kansas City Star reports the case went uncharged for years and inspired Laykovich's mother to found the victim advocate group Corey's Network, Inc.  A break in the case came in early 2016, when Seger was arrested in an unrelated incident.

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Another Setback for Keystone XL Pipeline as Judge Orders New Environmental Review

NEW YORK (AP) — Environmentalists cheered a federal court order that blocks a Trump administration permit for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, pending an environmental review.  The pipeline would begin in Alberta and shuttle as much as 830,000 barrels a day of crude through a half dozen states to terminals on the Gulf Coast.  U.S. District Judge Brian Morris put on hold the $8 billion project, ruling that the potential impact had not been considered as required by federal law. Environmentalists and Native American groups sued to stop the project, citing property rights and potential oil spills.  Morris was appointed by President Barack Obama.  Becky Mitchell, chairwoman of the Northern Plains Resource Council, a plaintiff in the case, said that the organization is thrilled with the ruling.  TransCanada, which is pushing the project, did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Friday.  The company and opponents of the project have been in a decade-long dispute that has spanned several presidencies and involved standoffs between protesters and law enforcement.  In 2008, the U.S. State Department issued a presidential permit for the pipeline and TransCanada filed paperwork to expand the project. After years of legal wrangling, Barack Obama rejected the permit in 2015.  The company responded by seeking $15 billion in damages. President Donald Trump signed executive actions to again advance construction of the project in 2017.

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Record Soybean Harvest Expected Amid Continued Trade Dispute

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture says farmers are expected to harvest the largest soybean crop on record but must deal with a constricted market in which to sell the crop because of President Donald Trump's tariff battle with China.  In its latest update released Thursday, the USDA places the expected soybean harvest at 4.6 billion bushels, the largest ever.  Illinois leads soybean production with 688 million bushels and Iowa is second.  Selling soybeans to China has nearly halted with the tariff dispute resulting in a growing stockpile and the lowest prices for farmers in more than a decade.  Corn production is estimated at 14.6 billion bushels, the second largest crop on record.  Iowa remains the nation's leading corn producer with an expected 2.5 billion bushels.

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