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Headlines for Monday, July 2, 2018

Kansas May Be on Hook for More Costs in Voting Rights Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The ruling that struck down the state's proof-of-citizenship voter registration law leaves Kansas potentially on the hook to pay attorney's fees and costs for the winning side. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson granted Monday a joint request asking her to hold off awarding all fees and related expenses until appeals have been exhausted. The parties contend a final amount will depend on the time spent on the appeal. It also notes attorneys are still verifying Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's compliance with the latest ruling. This is separate from the more than $50,000 the American Civil Liberties Union seeks in attorney fees and other damages as punishment for Kobach violating an earlier order to fully register some voters. The judge has not yet ruled on the amount for contempt.


Kansas Year-End Tax Receipts Exceed Expectations by $318 Million

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas state officials say fiscal year-end tax receipts came in $318 million above projections. The Kansas Department of Revenue on Monday released a revenue report showing that fiscal year-end tax receipts were $1.2 billion above the previous fiscal year. The overall increase was not surprising since state lawmakers reversed past income tax cuts to deal with persistent budget woes. But Department of Revenue Secretary Sam Williams says that tax receipts were above expectations for every month during the fiscal year that ended June 30. The agency says receipts were especially strong in June, when receipts were $144 million more than projected. Williams says the increase indicates a rise in retail spending. He believes federal tax cuts passed late last year helped spur the economic growth.


Even in GOP Bastion Kansas, 2 Congressional Seats in Play

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Competitive races for two of Kansas's four U.S. House seats are making Republicans sweat to keep their all-GOP state delegation, a twist in a state where President Donald Trump won by nearly 21 points and a leading candidate for governor is gun-rights and immigration hardliner Kris Kobach. In one case, the Republican incumbent who faced a tighter-than-expected race two years ago faces a field of Democrats energized by dislike of Trump on issues including immigration, health care and the environment. In the other, potential big-name candidates opted not to run for the open seat, leaving a Democrat with the best name recognition. Republicans say they can feel their opponents' energy and have been issuing warnings to their conservative base for months. "Both of those races are ones that we have known we have to be diligent in and work hard," state GOP Chairman Kelly Arnold said. "Who has the motivation to come out? The party that's not in power usually picks up seats and some wins. That's what we're fighting against." To boost Democrats' chances in both districts, the House Majority super PAC announced plans to reserve $900,000 in television ad time in the Topeka and Kansas City markets in the weeks before the election, far more attention than Kansas Democrats running for Congress have received in recent elections. The conservative Congressional Leadership Fund then promised nearly $3 million worth of ad time. Democrats need to pick up 23 seats nationally to flip the majority in the House. Incumbent Republican Kevin Yoder was destined to be a midterm target after Trump narrowly lost his Kansas City-area 3rd District and its urban neighborhoods and comfortable-to-posh suburbs. Yoder himself fared worse than expected. Democrats sensed Trump might be a liability and both sides poured money into the race at the last minute in 2016, giving Yoder an 11-point margin against an unknown Democrat — less than half his previous average. But Democrats' chances could be better in the neighboring 2nd District, which covers most of eastern Kansas from the Nebraska border in the north to Oklahoma in the south. Incumbent Republican Lynn Jenkins opted not to seek re-election. Democrats have their ideal candidate in former state legislative leader and governor candidate Paul Davis. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee included Davis on its first list of 11 candidates in promising races for its "Red to Blue" program. Seven lesser-known Republicans are vying for their party's nomination. "Republicans, generically, have the wind in their face," said Patrick Miller, a political scientist at the University of Kansas. "If this were 2010 or 2014, we wouldn't even be talking about the 2nd District." Davis carried Jenkins's district during his narrow statewide loss to Sam Brownback in the 2014 race for governor. Republicans who might have had equally strong support — Attorney General Derek Schmidt and State Treasurer Jake LaTurner, for example — opted out, citing family or professional reasons. The GOP field has four state lawmakers, an ex-Kansas House speaker, a new-to-politics military veteran and a small-town city councilman-nurse-criminologist. The GOP candidates have scrapped for attention and more than half of their dollars through March came from their own pockets. Davis has raised more than $1 million. "He has name ID," Arnold said. "We don't know where we're at with our candidate because we don't know who it is yet." Yoder's aides and supporters say he's working hard to sidestep any potential Democratic wave. He began April with nearly $2 million in campaign cash. Nevertheless, six Democrats want a crack at Yoder, including labor lawyer Brent Welder, who drew the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and is listed among the group of "Justice Democrats" in the mold of 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated incumbent Rep. Joseph Crowley in the Democratic congressional primary in New York. Yoder also picked up two opponents for the Aug. 7 GOP primary. One, Trevor Keegan, an information technology consultant, describing himself as a moderate alternative. The heavy lift for the GOP in the congressional races comes even as the most talked-about candidate for governor is conservative Kobach, and state lawmakers have shown no sign of softening on issues that animate the base like immigration and guns. Wednesday's announcement that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is retiring is expected to energize GOP voters across the country, which could ease the Republicans' path in Kansas. And Republican congressional candidates are not breaking with the president, arguing that voters like his handling of North Korea and Iran and the income tax cuts he pushed. Trump carried Jenkins' district by nearly 17 points two years ago, and Republicans expect a revived national economy to help. Davis avoided bashing Trump in a recent interview, saying that Washington is dysfunctional and both parties share the blame. "Donald Trump is president, and if I'm elected, I'm going to do my best to work with him when he's doing good things," Davis said. "I'm going to call him out when he's doing harmful things."


Disturbance Reported at Troubled El Dorado Prison

EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — Inmates broke dozens of windows and set fires during a weekend disturbance at a maximum-security prison in south-central Kansas that has been the scene of other incidents, officials said Monday. Nobody was hurt in the fracas that started around noon Sunday in the recreation yard at the prison in El Dorado and lasted about 4 ½ hours, said Kansas Department of Corrections spokesman Samir Arif. Between 75 and 150 inmates were involved. State union president Sarah LaFrenz says a corrections officer who witnessed what happened told her around 40 windows were broken. She said two classrooms had fire and smoke damage, and one other building was set on fire. The officer also told LaFrenz that inmates got access to radio communication devices from the classrooms and an office. There was "much more damage" than what occurred at the facility during a disturbance there last year, she said. The county sheriff's office and Highway Patrol established a perimeter, and prison officials were able to establish control inside the prison quicker than in the past, she said. "This was a very bad situation and we were very lucky that there weren't any injuries," LaFrenz said. "It was very significant and very frightening and incredibly dangerous for everyone involved." Arif confirmed there were broken windows, as well as smoke and fire damage, but provided no specifics because the investigation was ongoing. Prison officials are still investigating what set off the disturbance, but LaFrenz said it apparently began after an inmate on the yard who had refused to comply with directions was restrained and moved. The other inmates on the yard then started the disturbance. Several disturbances also were reported last year at the prison in El Dorado, which is 33 miles east of Wichita, including one that led to a five-day lockdown.


Kansas Residents Still Concerned About Issues Raised by Proposed Poultry Plant

TONGANOXIE, Kan. (AP) — A city in eastern Kansas is still seeing political changes after plans for a massive chicken processing plant caused uproar last year.  The Kansas News Service reports that the $300 million Tyson project planned for the outskirts of Tonganoxie was canceled after residents protested the pollution and the strains on local infrastructure they expected the facility would bring.  Republican Rep. Jim Karleskint of Tonganoxie drafted a bill that would have given locals more say about proposed poultry operation. He says residents are still anxious about the issue.  Democrat Stuart Sweeney says Tyson is one of the reasons he decided to run for the Statehouse. Stuart is challenging Republican Representative Willie Dove.  Dove says he initially didn't take a stance on the project because he wanted more information. He ultimately opposed it.


Judge Sets September Trial for Online Gamers in Kansas Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has set a fall trial date for two online gamers whose alleged dispute over video game bet ultimately led police to fatally shoot a Kansas man while responding to a hoax call. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren on Monday scheduled a Sept. 4 jury trial for 18-year-old Casey Viner of North College Hill, Ohio, and 19-year-old Shane Gaskill of Wichita. They are charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice, wire fraud and other counts. Prosecutors allege Viner became upset while playing the Call of Duty WWII video game and asked 25-year-old Tyler Barriss of Los Angeles to "swat" Gaskill, the practice of making a false report to get emergency responders to descend on an address. A police officer fatally shot 28-year-old Andrew Finch after he opened the door.


Lawrence Officials to Consider Marijuana Law Changes

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — City leaders in Lawrence say they will consider lowering fines for people caught in possession of marijuana. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the current city law allows for fines of up to $1,000 for first-time offenders. A resident, Laura Green, recently presented a proposal to the Lawrence City Commission that would call for reduced fines and make other changes. The commission agreed to discuss the issue at an upcoming work session. Lawrence adopted its marijuana ordinance more than a decade ago. Green says attitudes toward marijuana have shifted in recent years. Under the current law, first-time offenders face a fine of between $200 and $1,000, and can be jailed for up to 180 days.


Ruling Revives Kansas Woman's Prayer Lawsuit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The lawsuit filed by a Kansas woman who claims police ordered her to stop praying in her home has been revived after the U.S. Supreme Court last week summarily reversed a lower court ruling that had thrown it out. Mary Anne Sause sued several Louisburg, Kansas police officers and city officials in 2015 alleging her civil rights were violated while police were investigating a noise complaint two years earlier. The lawsuit alleges an officer told her she was going to jail, and when she knelt down to pray another officer told her to stop praying. First Liberty Institute, a nonprofit which advocates for religious liberty, says in a news release it had asked the high court to reverse an appellate court's ruling that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity.


Man Accused of Dismembering Wife Found Competent for Trial

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A man arrested at a suburban Kansas City storage unit with two of his children and his dismembered wife's remains has been found competent to stand trial after undergoing a mental health evaluation. The ruling was made Monday during a hearing for Justin Rey in Johnson County, Kansas, where he's charged with child endangerment. He isn't charged in his wife's killing. Rey says she died after giving birth in October in a Kansas City, Missouri, hotel room. Investigators say he then went to the Lenexa, Kansas, storage unit where he was arrested with the newborn and the couple's toddler. He was preparing to catch a train. He's also charged in the death of a California man whose body hasn't been found. Rey told The Associated Press he didn't kill anyone.


Wichita Police Investigating 3 Fatal Weekend Shootings

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are investigating three fatal shootings that occurred within a couple of hours of each other. The Wichita Eagle reports that all three shootings occurred between 12:30 a.m. and 2 a.m. Saturday. In the first, 24-year-old Anthony Martinez was in a backyard when a cousin's gun discharged, fatally striking Martinez in the abdomen. The cousin was booked on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter. The other shootings occurred around 2 a.m. Officers found 29-year-old Michael Maxwell dead inside his vehicle. Police believe someone inside an SUV fired the fatal shots in a "targeted shooting." No arrests have been made. Police were called to an apartment and found 23-year-old Patrick Ball-Morse with a fatal gunshot wound to the head. Authorities are searching for the brother of Ball-Morse's girlfriend.


Student Who Changed His Failing Grades to A-s Gets Probation

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A former University of Kansas student who hacked the school's computer system to changing his failing F grades to As has been sentenced to probation. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 20-year-old Varun Sarja used a keystroke logger program to change his grades in the 2016-17 school year when he was a freshman studying engineering. Keystroke loggers enable hackers to obtain usernames and passwords by recording keystrokes on devices. Sarja, of Olathe, was placed on academic probation in spring 2017. When records revealed he had achieved an A in math, an academic adviser and the math professor investigated. Sarja pleaded guilty in May to felony identity theft and unlawful computer acts. During sentencing Monday, Sarja learned he faces an 18-month prison sentence if he violates the terms of his probation.


Report: Most of Kansas Winter Wheat Now Harvested

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The latest government snapshot shows the Kansas growers have harvested most of their winter wheat crops. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that the Kansas wheat harvest was 71 percent complete. That is ahead of the five-year average. About 97 percent of the state's wheat left in the field is now mature. The agency also says about 15 percent of the corn in Kansas is in poor to very poor shape with 32 percent rated as fair, 47 percent as good and 7 percent as excellent. Other Kansas crops are also making progress. About 97 percent of the soybeans planted have now emerged and about 20 percent of them are blooming. About 5 percent of the sorghum in the state has now headed.


Car Slams into Home After Kansas City Police Chase

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a driver has slammed into a Kansas City home while fleeing from police.  KMBC-TV reports that officers pursued the car for about 10 minutes Sunday night before the driver spun out after making a hard left. Police say no one inside the house was injured. But the two armed robbery suspects inside the car were taken to a hospital with serious injuries.  The home sustained extensive damage.


Ex-Kansas Teacher Gets Probation in Student Sex Case

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A former teacher at Gardner Edgerton High School has received a suspended prison sentence and three years' probation for having sexual contact with a student.  The Kansas City Star reports that 45-year-old Todd Burd was ordered Friday to serve 30 days in jail as a condition of his probation. He was also required to register as a sex offender.  Burd pleaded guilty in April to unlawful sexual relations. He had initially been charged with aggravated criminal sodomy after a 16-year-old boy reported being assaulted while sitting in Burd's pickup truck.  Burd taught music and was the choir director at Gardner Edgerton High School in late 2016, when the incident happened. Burd received the Gardner-Edgerton district's Teacher of the Year honor in 2015.


Immigration Rally Held in Dodge City

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Quiet reflection, not bullhorns and chants, was seen at a rally to protest the Trump administration's immigration policies in southwestern Kansas.  About 100 people turned out Saturday for a rally in Dodge City, Kansas. Sponsored by the local Catholic Church, the rally felt more like a Mass than a protest. Some people held signs with messages that read, "Children belong with families not it cages," and that included verses from a famous poem that appears on a plaque at the Statue of Liberty.  The rally was among hundreds across the U.S. urging the Trump administration to reunite families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.


Police: 3 Dead in 3 Separate Overnight Shootings in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in the southern Kansas city of Wichita are investigating the deaths of three people in separate shootings overnight.  Police said Saturday that the first happened around 12:30 am, when officers were called to hospital for a man suffering gunshot wounds to his arm and abdomen. Police say the man was at his house when his cousin showed him a gun. Police say the gun fired, hitting the victim, who later died at the hospital. The man's cousin is currently in police custody.  At 2 am, police say a drive-by shooting outside a house left a 29-year-old man with multiple gunshot wounds. The victim later died at a hospital.  Also at 2 am, police responded to a shooting at an apartment during a fight among several people. A 23-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene.  No arrests had been announced by late Saturday morning in the 2 am shootings.


Report: Many Child Trafficking Victims End Up Detained

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A newspaper investigation has found that one in five victims of possible child trafficking in Kansas are placed in juvenile detention, a process that experts say hampers the effort to heal them.  The Wichita Eagle obtained data from the Kansas Department for Children and Families outlining a system that often can further traumatize victims. Experts say placing victims in detention, whatever the reason, can lead to future criminal behavior and add to the risk that they will be victims of trafficking again.  Child victims of trafficking are placed in detention for various reasons. Police may suspect the child of committing a crime. He or she could be a runaway. They could be in detention because of a court order.


Kansas Mayor's Use of 'Tar Baby' Term Creating Outcry

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Salina Mayor Karl Ryan's use of the phrase "tar baby" during a city commission meeting is creating an outcry in his central Kansas community. The Salina Journal reports the furor stems from a June 25 meeting during which Ryan said, "Can I just be a tar baby for a minute," during discussion about authorizing the city manager to exceed his spending authority to pay for care for seized animals. Ryan, who is white, says his mother would call him a "tar baby" when he being difficult. He says he first heard the phrase in Joel Chandler Harris's "Uncle Remus" tales of Br'er Rabbit and Tar Baby. But others say the term has taken a derogatory meaning and say Ryan is racially clueless. Several plan to voice their displeasure at Monday's meeting.


Amtrak Explores Ending Passenger Service from Dodge City

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Amtrak is considering ending passenger train service from southwest Kansas to central New Mexico and instead implementing a bus connection on the route. The Hutchinson News reports that Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson revealed to lawmakers last week the train operator is looking into ending Southwest Chief service between Dodge City, Kansas, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. The announcement came after lawmakers asked the company to stand behind agreements it previously made to upgrade and maintain its route through the south-central U.S. Republican Senator Jerry Moran says he's disappointed in "the lack of commitment on the part of Amtrak to keep its word" on upgrading the Southwest Chief route. The nearly 2,300-mile passenger train service has run daily between Chicago and Los Angeles since 1974.


Man Sentenced to Life in Woman's Shooting Death in Emporia

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — A man has been sentenced to life in prison in the fatal shooting of a woman in her apartment near the Emporia State University campus. The Emporia Gazette reports that Sony Uk, of Emporia, won't be eligible for parole for 50 years under the sentence ordered Monday for first-degree murder. Judge Merlin Wheeler said there was "absolutely no reason or justification" for the March 2017 death of 38-year-old Mahogany Brooks. Uk declined to speak at the hearing. During his trial, the defense argued that the killing wasn't premeditated, which is required for a first-degree murder conviction. But the prosecution argued it was, saying Uk arrived at Brooks's apartment with a loaded shotgun and pulled the trigger multiple times.


Economic Growth Slows in Midwest States as Trade Fears Mount

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Business remains strong in nine Midwest and Plains states, but a new monthly survey suggests growth is slowing as concerns about trade and tariffs increase. The region's overall economic index decreased to 61.8 in June from May's 67.3, but any score above 50 indicates growth. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said the trade concerns and more interest rate increases are likely to slow the region's economy. "I expect expanding tariffs, trade restrictions and rising oil prices to slow growth and push inflation into a range leading to more aggressive Federal Reserve rate hikes," Goss said. The survey results are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth in that factor. A score below that suggests decline. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota. The employment index dipped to 61.9 in June from May's 66.3. "Overall employment growth in the region over the past 12 months has been healthy but expanding at a rate below that of the nation," Goss said. But business leaders remain optimistic about their prospects over the next six months. The region's confidence index declined to 59.8 in June from May's 66.3. The wholesale inflation index registered 86.9 in June, down slightly from May's 88.9. That reflects the increase in products that steel and aluminum and increases in shipping costs.


2 Dead, 4 Hurt in 3-Vehicle Crash in South Central Kansas

HAYSVILLE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say two women have been killed and four other people injured in a three-vehicle crash in south-central Kansas. KSNW-TV reports that the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office identified the two women as 42-year-old Michelle Lacey and 23-year-old Kayla Heim. Both are from Wichita. The crash happened around 10 p.m. Saturday in Haysville when the Nissan Murano in which the women were riding went through a stop sign and struck a Jeep. The Jeep then rolled over onto another SUV. The women were pronounced dead at the scene. Three others in the Murano also were injured — a 23-year-old man, a 5-year-old and a 16-month-old. The Jeep's driver sustained minor injuries, while the driver of the other SUV wasn't hurt.


University of Kansas Museum Marks Panorama's Anniversary

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas Natural History Museum is celebrating the 125th anniversary of a panorama with special exhibits and programs.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the wildlife panorama includes a painted backdrop and 121 taxidermy animals native to North America. Louis Lindsay Dyche unveiled the exhibit in 1893 at the Chicago World's Fair.  Leonard Krishtalka is director of the university's Biodiversity Institute. He says the diorama gave visitors an immersive experience of America's wilderness and highlighted the importance of preservation and stewardship.  The museum's new exhibit includes artifacts and photographs from Dyche's career. The museum also plans panorama-themed events.  Krishtalka says the museum hopes to restore the panorama to its original condition. A 2014 assessment estimates it would cost $500,000 to repair deterioration caused by changing temperatures, light and humidity.


Water Releases into Missouri River to Ramp Up in Coming Days

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it will more than double the amount of water released into the Missouri River from the river's lower-most dam over the coming weeks.  Releases from Gavins Point Dam, between Nebraska and South Dakota, were reduced to 24,000 cubic feet per second in mid-June due to high flows downstream of the Missouri River reservoir system.  The Corps said in a news release Friday that Gavins Point releases will be stepped up over the next several days, reaching approximately 50,000 cubic feet per second by early to mid-July, as downstream flows drop off.  The Corps says releases from all Missouri River reservoir system dams will be maintained at higher-than-average rates over the next several months.  The announcement came as the river at Omaha crested at nearly 29 feet due to recent heavy rains, causing minor flooding of low-lying areas, mostly on the Iowa side.  Levels downriver, including in Kansas and Missouri, will also be affected.


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