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Headlines for Monday, December 3, 2018

Kansas House Elects New GOP Majority Leader, New Top Democrat

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republicans in the Kansas House elected a new, more conservative majority leader Monday and Democrats dumped their firebrand leader in the chamber in favor of lower-key veteran with a reputation for being able to work with the GOP. The selection of conservative Rep. Dan Hawkins of Wichita as majority leader for the next two years is likely to complicate Democratic Gov.-elect Laura Kelly's efforts to pass her legislative agenda, particularly a plan to expand the state's Medicaid health coverage for the needy. Defeated Majority Leader Don Hineman, a moderate Dighton Republican, has supported expanding Medicaid, while Hawkins strongly opposes it as chairman of the House health committee for the past four years. Republicans maintained their 85-40 majority in the House in this year's elections, but conservatives picked up at least six seats at the expense of GOP moderates. Hawkins prevailed over Hineman, 48-35, with one lawmaker absent and another not voting. House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., a conservative Olathe Republican, won a second, two-year term as the chamber's top leader, besting a challenge from conservative Rep.-elect Owen Donohoe, of Shawnee, on an 80-4 vote. But the result in the majority leader's race suggested that Democrats still have opportunities to form coalitions with GOP moderates to pass legislation sought by Kelly. To help shepherd Kelly's agenda through the Legislature, they turned to veteran Rep. Tom Sawyer over Rep. Jim Ward, who'd held the job for the past two years with conservative Republicans Sam Brownback and Jeff Colyer as governor. Both Sawyer and Ward are veteran lawmakers from Wichita, but Ward is far more likely to deliver fiery speeches during debates and has a reputation for being more confrontational. The vote among Democrats was 24-16 in Sawyer's favor. Sawyer was first elected to the House in 1986 and served as majority leader in 1992, when Democrats last controlled the chamber. He was minority leader from 1993 through 1998, stepping down for an unsuccessful run for governor against then-popular GOP incumbent Bill Graves. He returned to the House in 2003 and left in 2009 for a seat on the state parole board. When his term in that job was set to expire, he won back his House seat again in 2012.

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Kansas State Government Offices to Close Wednesday

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas state government offices will close Wednesday to honor President George H.W. Bush, who died on Friday. Governor Jeff Colyer on Monday made December 6 a legal holiday and ordered state offices to close. President Donald Trump has declared Wednesday a national day of mourning for the former president. Colyer served as a White House fellow under President Bush and President Ronald Reagan. Colyer noted that state offices also had been closed to mourn the deaths of Presidents John Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Reagan and Gerald Ford. Many — but not all — state courts also will close Wednesday. The Kansas Supreme Court gave judicial districts discretion to conduct court proceedings on Wednesday if they were needed. Anyone who has a court day scheduled Wednesday should check with the court to determine if it will be held.

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Kansas Tax Collections $2.5 Million More Than Expected in November

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is reporting it collected $2.5 million more in taxes than expected in November and extended its streak of better-than-anticipated figures to 18 consecutive months. It is the longest streak of better-than-expected tax collections in more than 50 years. An AP spreadsheet compiled from monthly reports shows the state hasn't seen such a streak since at least May 1966. The Kansas Department of Revenue reported Monday that tax collections were $500 million last month. The state's official forecast predicted $497.5 million. The monthly surplus was 0.5 percent. The state revised its fiscal forecast in November. Tax collections since the current fiscal year began in July have totaled $2.7 billion. Tax collections for the current fiscal year are $220 million ahead of the previous fiscal year's collections, up 8.9 percent.

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Trump to Visit Kansas City for Conference on Crime

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — President Donald Trump is set to visit Missouri for a conference on crime. According to the White House, Trump will speak Friday at the 2018 Project Safe Neighborhoods National Conference in Kansas City. Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker is among U.S. Department of Justice leaders slated to speak at the conference. The White House says the event is expected to draw hundreds of law enforcement officials, prosecutors and others focused on cutting back on crime. The George W. Bush-era Project Safe Neighborhoods faded during former President Barack Obama's administration. Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions revived it last year. Through the initiative, federal prosecutors have worked with local law enforcement agencies to target offenders in cases involving guns, drugs and gangs.

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Activist to Replace Lieutenant Governor in Kansas Senate

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Democrats have picked a self-described "social justice activist" who runs two stores selling legal products derived from hemp to replace Lt. Governor-elect Lynn Rogers in the Kansas Senate.  The Wichita Eagle reports that Democratic precinct committee members in Rogers' district in Wichita selected political newcomer Mary Ware during a weekend meeting. She will serve the final two years of Rogers' four-year term.  Ware runs two CBD stores offering oils from cannabis. Ware said that her top legislative priorities include legalizing marijuana, along with criminal justice reform and expanding the state's Medicaid health coverage for the needy.  She defeated four other candidates. Her opponents included Kelly Schodorf, an attorney and the daughter of former state Senator Jean Schodorf, who held the seat from 2001 through 2012.

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Kansas Sees LGBT Milestones, Yet Big Changes May Come Slowly

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas will swear in its first two openly LGBT state lawmakers next month and its new Democratic governor has expressed strong support for LGBT-rights measures. In addition to these breakthroughs, LGBT-rights activists want to expand the state's anti-discrimination law covering landlords and private employers. But Republicans still will have large majorities in the Legislature, and it will be a little more conservative after this year's elections. Kelly's election prevents new laws that LGBT-rights advocates oppose, but they are likely to struggle to undo policies enacted in recent years when Republicans held the governor's office.

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Kansas Lawmakers to Start Talking About Sports Betting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers will get a crash course in sports gambling this week as they consider how to capitalize on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in May that lifted a federal ban on it.  Seven states offer legal sports betting. Kansas is among numerous other states considering whether to jump on the bandwagon. The surge in interest comes after New Jersey successfully challenged the federal ban. That cleared the way for gambling on games to expand beyond Nevada.  Democratic Governor-elect Laura Kelly voiced support for it during her campaign.  Republican Senator Bud Estes, of Dodge City, said he doesn't want lawmakers to "skate on thin ice" on something they know nothing about. An educational session is planned for Tuesday and Wednesday.

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Sentencing Date Set for Militia Members in Kansas Bomb Plot

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new sentencing date has been set for next month in the case of the three Kansas militia members convicted of plotting to bomb a mosque and an apartment complex housing Somali immigrants. A court filing Monday shows the hearing for Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen will be Jan. 25 before U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren in Wichita. A federal jury in April convicted the three men of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against civil rights. Wright was also found guilty of lying to the FBI. The attack in the meatpacking town of Garden City was planned for the day after the 2016 general election. It was thwarted by another member of the group who tipped off authorities about escalating threats of violence.

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Arrest Made in Friday Shooting Death of Man in Salina

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a man has been arrested on charges in a Salina shooting death, the city's first homicide this year.  Television station KWCH reports that 25-year-old Mika Lee Thille was booked Friday afternoon into the Salina County Jail on charges of murder, burglary and robbery.  Thille and a 24-year-old woman were taken in for questioning Friday afternoon, hours after police found the body of 30-year-old Justin Willingham in a home after someone reported gunshots. Willingham had been shot to death.

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Lawsuit: Drill Bit Left During Repair Caused Cessna Crash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A drill bit left during repair of a single-engine Cessna aircraft is responsible for a 2015 crash in Arkansas that caused minor injuries to the pilot and destroyed the new $712,290 aircraft, a federal lawsuit alleged. The complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Kansas against Textron Aviation in U.S. by Mid-Continent Aircraft Corp. of Missouri and its insurance company involves the purchase of a 2014 Cessna T206H Stationair TC aircraft. The lawsuit alleges the misplaced drill bit was the cause of the crash and that Cessna's parent company Textron refuses to pay for the loss of the aircraft. Textron did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. During a pre-acceptance test flight, a problem was found in the left magneto, a self-contained electrical generator which fires the engine spark plugs. Wichita-based Cessna Aircraft Company replaced the faulty magneto and noted in the plane's maintenance logbook that aircraft was airworthy, according to the lawsuit. Mid-Continent took delivery of aircraft N164CS on April 3, 2015. The following month, the plane crashed during takeoff from Piggott Municipal Airport in Arkansas. The National Transportation Safety Board's report of the May 15, 2015, accident said the airplane was about 20 to 30 feet in the air when the engine "surged" before losing power. The airplane settled back down to the ground, but was traveling too fast to stop on the remaining runway. It came to rest in an irrigation ditch near the runway. The pilot's air bag deployed during the accident. When investigators took apart the failed magneto, they found a section of a drill bit about 3/8 of an inch long inside it, according to the NTSB report. Mid-Continent said in its lawsuit that its insurer, National Union Fire Insurance Company, paid $699,000 for the insured loss. Mid-Continent has another $13,290 in uninsured losses.

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Mother Accused of Driving Car into River Pleads Not Guilty

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 26-year-old Missouri woman accused of driving her car into the Kansas River has pleaded not guilty in her daughter's drowning. Scharron Dingledine, of Columbia, Missouri, pleaded not guilty Monday to first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Dingledine is accused of driving into the river near downtown Lawrence on Aug. 3 in an effort to kill her children and herself. Rescuers pulled Dingledine and her 1-year-old son, Elijah Lake, from the water soon but were not able to save her 5-year-old daughter, Amiyah Bradley. The child's body was recovered from the river the next day. Dingledine was found competent in August to stand trial. She remains in custody on $1 million bond.

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Minnesota Man with 471 Pounds of Marijuana Sentenced

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Minnesota man was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for driving a load of 471 pounds of marijuana to Kansas. U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said 40-year-old Mark Anthony Berg, of Coon Rapids, Minnesota, was sentenced Monday for one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana. He will serve three years of probation after serving his sentence. A Kansas Highway Patrol trooper stopped Berg's van in December 2017 on Interstate 70 in Ellsworth, Kansas. Berg told the trooper he had been in Las Vegas and drove through Denver on his way back to Minnesota. After a drug dog hit on the van, investigators and found the marijuana.

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$1.3 Billion Award Upheld Against Racecar Driver over Payday Loans

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A U.S. appeals court has upheld a nearly $1.3 billion award against a pro racecar driver convicted of deceiving consumers with his payday loan business. A unanimous three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that information Scott Tucker's companies provided consumers did not accurately disclose the loans' terms. The appeals panel also said a lower court did not abuse its authority when it ordered Tucker and other defendants to pay back nearly $1.3 billion in a case brought forward by the Federal Trade Commission. An attorney for Tucker, Paul C. Ray, said he was reviewing the decision. Tucker is from Leawood, Kansas and was sentenced in January in a related criminal case to more than 16 years in prison on fraud and other charges.

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2 Separate Animal Cruelty Cases Investigated in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are investigating two cases of animal cruelty. Officer Charley Davidson said Monday that a caller reported someone had slammed a small white dog onto the ground Sunday morning, and officers later found the dog dead. Davidson says 19-year-old Cole Carter was arrested on suspicion of animal cruelty and carrying a concealed weapon. In another case, 30-year-old Carlett McPherson was arrested during the weekend on suspicion of animal cruelty. Davidson said on Nov. 16, officers were told people were beating a dog with a tire iron. Three other dogs also allegedly were attacking the dog. When police arrived, they separated three "aggressive dogs" with the help of animal control officers. The victim dog later died. Wichita police are trying to contact another person involved in the second case.

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Report: Fall Harvest for Major Kansas Crops Nearly Finished

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The last weekly government report for the 2018 growing season shows fall harvest for the major farm crops in Kansas is nearly finished. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that the corn harvest is 96 percent in, while soybean harvest stands at 95 percent complete. About 89 percent of both sorghum and sunflower crops are cut. Winter wheat condition is rated as 16 percent poor to very poor. About 39 percent is listed as fair while 45 percent is in good to excellent condition. About 89 percent of the 2019 winter wheat crop has emerged.

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New Documentary Features Wichita Refugee Students

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two Wichita students whose families fled violence and civil war in their home countries are featured in a new documentary about refugee resettlement and its impact on the city's schools. The film produced by Kansas State University's College of Education is called "Refuge in the Heartland" and will premiere during a free screening Tuesday at Wichita Public Schools' headquarters, the Wichita Eagle reported. The film follows students Alain and Dorcas, who are among more than 130 refugees enrolled in Wichita schools. Their last names weren't included in the documentary. Alain's family lived in a refugee camp for 17 years and Dorcas resettled in Wichita after fleeing the civil war in Congo. The university focused on Wichita schools because of initiatives such as the Newcomers program, which helps new immigrants and refugees in their transition, according to district officials. "We hope people walk away with a renewed sense of community pride and appreciation for their teachers and schools after watching this documentary," said Debbie Mercer, dean of the university's College of Education. Trina Harlow, the university's art education instructor who taught refugee and displaced students in Uganda and Ecuador, wanted the film to serve as an instructional tool for educators, volunteers and others who worked with refugee families.

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2 Arrested in Death of 88-Year-Old Wichita Man

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police have arrested two men suspected of killing an 88-year-old man found dead inside a Wichita home this week.  The Wichita Eagle reports that police were called to the home Thursday night for a welfare check and found Floyd Gilbert gravely injured. Police have not described the nature of Gilbert's injuries. He was pronounced dead at the scene.  Police on Friday arrested 36-year-old Austin Stewart and 54-year-old Landon Onek, both of Wichita, on suspicion of felony murder. Both are being held in the Sedgwick County Jail. Court records show both men have served time for theft, drug counts and other crimes.  Gilbert's death is the city's 43rd homicide so far this year.

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Teen Pleads Guilty in Brutal Death of Lee's Summit Woman

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — A second teenager has pleaded guilty in the brutal stabbing death of a woman near a Lee's Summit car wash.  Joshua Trigg, who is now 16, pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree murder in the November 2015 death of Tanya Chamberlain of Lee's Summit. Trigg was 13 at the time Chamberlain was killed.  Trigg was prosecuted as an adult along with Trevon Henry, who was 14 at the time. Henry previously pleaded guilty.  The Kansas City Star reports Lee's Summit police said the two teens approached Chamberlain at the car wash and got into her car with her.  When an officer later stopped the car, the two teens fled. Chamberlain was dead inside. Testimony at a previous hearing revealed she had been stabbed or cut 49 times.

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Economist: Shortage of Skilled Workers Curbs Midwest Economy

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — An economist says a monthly survey suggests the economy continued to expand in nine Midwest and Plains states last month but was hampered by shortages of skilled workers.  A survey report issued Monday says the Mid-America Business Conditions Index dropped to 54.1 in November from 54.9 in October. The September reading was 57.5.  Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he says that in addition to the hiring problems, the supply managers who responded report mounting harm from tariffs and trade disagreements.  The survey results are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth. A score below that suggests decline.  The survey covers Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

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Kansas Cattle Drive Moving to Pretty Prairie Next Year

PRETTY PRAIRIE, Kan. (AP) — The annual Kansas Cattle Drive in Reno County is moving to Pretty Prairie next year.  The drive, which draws thousands of people, will be held February 16.  The Hutchinson News reports this will be the fourth annual Kansas Cattle Drive in the county, and the first one held outside Buhler.  The drive drew about 600 people its first year but that grew to between 5,000 and 6,000 people last year.  Reno County Extension agent Darren Busick, who is chief organizer of the event, says organizers always planned to move the event around Reno County. He says Pretty Prairie and three communities outside Reno County, wanted to host this year's drive.  The drive includes livestock, vendors, guest speakers, and activities for children.

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Kansas State Vet Medicine College Receives Large Donation

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State's College of Veterinary Medicine has received a $2.2 million donation from Hill's Pet Nutrition.  The $2.2 million gift is the largest corporate donation in history for the college.  The university says the money will be used to renovate the college's Mosier Hall to add about 16,000 square feet of clinical training, classroom teaching and research spaces. A 5,000-square-foot research suite will be added to the second floor of Moser Hall. The renovation also includes removing Frick Auditorium and creating the Hill's Pet Nutrition and Health Center.  The Manhattan Mercury reports a 270-seat auditorium will be built in a different area of the veterinary medicine complex.  Bonnie Rush, interim dean of the college, says she expects construction to begin in the summer.

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K-State Coach Bill Snyder Retires After 27 Seasons, 215 Wins

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Bill Snyder already was considered the architect of the greatest turnaround in college football history before he decided to return from a three-year retirement to resurrect Kansas State again.  Now, the 79-year-old coach is heading back into retirement.  Snyder decided to step away Sunday after 27 seasons on the sideline, ending a Hall of Fame tenure in Manhattan that began in the Big Eight and weathered seismic shifts in college football. Along the way he overcame throat cancer, sent dozens of players to the NFL and gave countless more an opportunity to succeed not only on the field but also in life.  "Coach Snyder has had an immeasurable impact on our football program, Kansas State University, the Manhattan community and the entire state of Kansas," Wildcats athletic director Gene Taylor said. "He and his family have touched the lives of so many people, from student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans, and he is truly one of the greatest coaches and leaders in college football history.  "His impact on college football is unmatched and legacy is one that will last a lifetime."  The Wildcats fell apart during a season-ending loss to Iowa State, leaving them 5-7 and at home for the bowl season. Snyder finishes with a resume featuring a record of 215-117-1, trips to 19 bowl games, two Big 12 championships and a legacy that will endure long into the future.  The highway leading into town already has been renamed in his honor, leading fans from Interstate 70 to the stadium that bears the name of his family. A large bronze statue of Snyder stands outside.  Taylor said the search for a new coach will begin immediately with help from Ventura Partners, and a clause in Snyder's contract indicates he will have input in the decision. Taylor also said Snyder will exercise a clause that allows him to become a special ambassador to the university at a yearly salary of $250,000 for "as long as he is physically and mentally able."  

"This university, this community and this state are deeply indebted to Coach Bill Snyder," Kansas State president Gen. Richard Myers said. "He came here, and stayed here, because of the people. He made us a family — a proud purple family who travel in record numbers to watch him lead the Wildcats to victories, bowls and rankings never achieved before."  Snyder arrived at Kansas State in the fall of 1988, a nondescript offensive coordinator from Iowa who once coached high school swimming before learning under legendary Hawkeyes coach Hayden Fry.  The Wildcats had just four winning seasons the previous 44 years, and they were in the midst of a 27-game winless streak. Dozens of confidants implored Snyder not to take over what "Sports Illustrated" famously called "Futility U," certain that it was a coaching dead end.

Snyder was still mulling his decision when he walked the campus one cold morning. He was smitten by the friendliness of the people, their earnestness and work ethic, and he accepted the job.  "I think the opportunity for the greatest turnaround in college football exists here today," he would say at his introductory news conference, "and it's not one to be taken lightly."  That news conference occurred 30 years ago Friday, beginning a turnaround of not only the long-languishing football program but a university in need of a boost.  Snyder introduced a new logo to distance the Wildcats from their losing past, and he began to heavily recruit junior colleges. He steadily improved the roster, beat North Texas that first year to end the long winless streak and slowly won over skeptical fans.  He did it with hard work, pure and simple. He was famous for eating once a day, lest he waste any time dining. He once consulted a sleep expert to divine a way to get by on four hours' a night. He demanded the same rigorous schedule of his assistants, a group that would include future head coaches Bob Stoops, Bret Bielema, Dan McCarney and Jim Leavitt.

The wins began to pile up: The Wildcats went 5-6 in Year 2, won seven games the next season and went 9-2-1 to earn their first bowl berth in 1993. It began a streak of 11 consecutive postseason trips, highlighted by three Holiday Bowl appearances, two Cotton Bowls and a pair of trips to the Fiesta Bowl.

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