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Headlines for Saturday, May 11, 2019

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Kansas Supreme Court: Kelly Lacked Authority to Revoke Nomination

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Supreme Court ruling will force the state Senate to vote to reject a nominee for a lower-court judgeship if senators want to keep him off the bench because of his political tweets. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Friday that Gov. Laura Kelly did not have the authority to withdraw her nomination of Labette County District Judge Jeffry Jack for the state Court of Appeals. Kelly dropped Jack's nomination after political posts on his Twitter feed in 2017 came to light.Kelly chose a second nominee, but Senate President Susan Wagle argued that the appointment went to Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss. A 2013 law on appellate court appointments doesn't say what happens when a candidate withdraws. The Supreme Court said that means a nominee cannot withdraw.


Doors Unlocked Before Tiger Attack at Topeka Zoo

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A state report says that safety doors in a Sumatran tiger's enclosure at a Kansas zoo were left unlocked before the animal attacked and injured a veteran zookeeper. The report released Friday by the Kansas Department of Labor agreed with the Topeka Zoo's assessment that no equipment failure or other problem with the enclosure led to the April 20 attack. Zookeeper Kristyn Hayden-Ortega was hospitalized after suffering puncture wounds and lacerations to her head, neck and back. Hayden-Ortega had gone into the outdoor area of the tiger's enclosure to clean it. The animal was supposed to be in an indoor area, behind two doors. The report says the doors "had been locked in the open position." The report said the zoo is now requiring that two employees check the doors.


Kansas Governor Hopes Extra State Funding Prompt Tuition Cut

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Gov. Laura Kelly says she hopes that extra state funding for the Kansas higher education system will lead to lower tuition for students and their families. Kelly on Friday touted the additional $33 million included for higher education in a proposed $18.4 billion state budget for the fiscal year beginning in July. She said during a Statehouse news conference that legislators included the extra money hoping that the Kansas Board of Regents could keep university tuition flat. Kelly said she would like the regents to go further and reduce tuition. She said she's worried that students are being priced out of higher education. The regents have complained in the past that tight state funding has forced them to increase tuition to pay for vital programs on the campuses.


Kansas Turnpike Reopens Near Oklahoma after Flooding

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A stretch of the Kansas Turnpike has reopened near the Oklahoma border after a flooding creek inundated the roadway. The Kansas Turnpike Authorities said in a tweet Thursday night that, "The first 24 hours belonged to Mother Nature; the second 24 hours belonged to us." The tweet included a video of the flooding and crews working to repair the toll road, which had been closed south of the exit in Wellington. The area flooded Wednesday when up to 10 inches of rain fell across parts of the state in just 24 hours. Flooding also forced evacuations and school closures. Wellington is about 30 miles south of Wichita.


Call Center Workers: Veterans Short-changed by Time Limits

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Call center employees who work at the Colmery-O'Neil VA Medical Center say time limits on calls short-change veterans who are seeking assistance. Kelli Ross is vice president of Local 906 of the American Federation of Government Employees. He says the limit of just under 6 minutes per call was adversely affecting services being offered to veterans across the nation and putting call-taker jobs at risk. Ross says the time limit issue has been a sticking point for six years but recently came to a head when workers received a letter threatening termination for calls that go beyond the time limit. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports about a dozen employees protested outside the Topeka campus Wednesday. Call takers assist veterans with issues such as billing, prescription refills, eligibility and enrollments.


Government Forecasts Bountiful Kansas Wheat Crop

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A government report forecasts a bountiful Kansas winter wheat harvest. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Friday that this year's wheat crop is expected to be up 17 percent from a year ago. It predicted Kansas growers would bring in 323 million bushels. The agency forecast the state's average yield at 49 bushels per acre, up 11 bushels from last year. It also anticipated that grain would be harvested from 6.6 million acres in Kansas, down 700,000 acres from a year ago. The government's estimate is a bit more optimistic than the one put out by participants in last week's winter wheat tour who estimated the size of the Kansas crop at 306.5 million bushels.


Fleeing Driver Charged with Murder in Deadly Wichita Crash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A fleeing driver in a Wichita crash that killed two people and injured her passenger has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder. The Wichita Eagle reports that 24-year-old Mia Collins made her first court appearance Friday on nine counts, including aggravated battery, possession of methamphetamine and driving while license suspended. She is accused of leading officers on a chase Sunday in a stolen BMW. After about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers), the car collided with a car and another SUV at an intersection. The crash killed 70-year-old Maria Wood and 12-year-old Rosemary McElroy and critically injured Wood's daughter, 36-year-old Jenny Wood, a popular Wichita musician known for performing with children. The driver of the SUV that was hit also was hurt. Collins was on probation at the time.


Wichita Man Jailed on Suspicion of Fleeing from Police with Kids

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a suspected drunken driver who fled from police with two children in his car crashed into a parked vehicle outside a Wichita senior center. The Wichita Eagle reports that 34-year-old Markston Adkins, of Wichita, was booked into jail on suspicion of driving under the influence, aggravated child endangerment and several other charges. The Kansas Highway Patrol says a trooper attempted to stop him Wednesday for a traffic violation. The crash report says the trooper stopped the pursuit before Adkins's car jumped a curb and struck the parked vehicle. Adkins was taken to a hospital with a suspected minor injury. The crash log says a 3-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl in his car had complaints of pain, but the report indicates that they weren't taken to a hospital.


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