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Headlines for Thursday, April 26, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press

Adoption, Guns on Kansas Lawmakers' Plate with Fiscal Issues

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators could consider a gun-rights proposal and new legal protections for faith-based adoption agencies after reconvening this week. Republican Governor Jeff Colyer and the state's Catholic bishops are backing a Senate-passed proposal to allow state foster care contractors to do business with adoption agencies that refuse on religious grounds to place children in LGBT homes. Meanwhile, some lawmakers want to decrease the age at which gun owners can carry concealed to 18 from 21. Fiscal issues also are on legislators' plate when they return today (THUR) from their annual spring break. They expect to fix a flaw in a new education funding law that otherwise would cost public schools $80 million. They also could debate income tax cuts because of a revenue surplus caused by changes in federal tax laws.

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After Tax Cuts Many Saw as a Failure, Kansas May Cut Again

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has some financial breathing room less than a year after legislators reversed past income tax cuts to deal with persistent budget woes that followed what many voters saw as a failed fiscal experiment. Now some Republicans want to go back to slashing taxes. The state Senate's GOP leaders are pushing the idea. Their chances of success are good enough that critics are questioning whether lessons from the state's recent fiscal miseries sunk in after former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's policies made Kansas a national example of how not to do trickle-down economics. But top Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature feel compelled to act in an election year — like lawmakers in many other states — because of changes in federal income tax laws engineered by President Donald Trump. Those changes have some Kansas residents facing higher state income taxes after state lawmakers boosted their burden last year. "It's going to be a double whammy to all the taxpayers," said Senate President Susan Wagle, a conservative Wichita Republican who's leading the charge. After years of budget pain and disappointing tax collections, Kansas officials are feeling more optimistic. Last year's tax increase is filling the state treasury and the economy is stronger, with revenues exceeding expectations.

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Kansas Agency Could Fall Short on Nursing Home Inspections

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials say the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services is on track to fall short of federal requirements for inspection of 350 nursing home facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the agency's compliance record for annual inspections has grown worse since 2015, when state employees completed surveys at nearly 80 percent of the state's nursing facilities. Only 35 percent were inspected in 2017 and the state is on pace to conduct less than 40 percent for 2018. Department Secretary Tim Keck says the agency needs more inspectors to comply. Republican Senator Vicki Schmidt chairs the Legislature's oversight committee on Medicaid. She says the department not being in compliance is a public safety issue.

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LGBT Advocates Express Opposition to Kansas Adoption Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Gay rights advocates from across the country arrived at the Kansas Capitol to oppose an adoption bill that they see as a civil rights setback. The proposal would prevent the state from withholding grants or contracts to faith-based agencies that refuse to place children into homes that violate their religious beliefs. The measure needs approval in the House after passing the Senate. Supporters say the proposal helps secure the rights of the agencies themselves, the foster care system is overloaded and these protections are needs to insure faith-based agencies remain in service. Critics contend the bill will allow religious agencies to freely discriminate against same-sex Kansas residents looking to adopt. Last month, the state reported there are 7,540 children in foster care. The number was 5,711 a decade ago and has been consistently increasing.

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Court Gives Kansas AG More Time to File School Aid Defense

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court is giving Attorney General Derek Schmidt an extra week to file his legal defense for a new public school funding law because of a flaw in it. The court has revised its schedule for attorneys to file written arguments on education funding. Schmidt has until May 7 instead of April 30 to report on how legislators increased education funding. The court ruled in October that the state's current funding of more than $4 billion a year is inadequate. Lawmakers approved legislation aimed at phasing in a $534 million increase over five years. Officials later found a flaw that lowered funding by $80 million, and Schmidt then sought extra time to file his legal defense. Lawmakers reconvene Thursday and expect to pass a school funding fix.

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Proposed Kansas Wind Farm Prompts Iowa Plant to Rehire More than 100 Workers

FORT MADISON, Iowa (AP) — Siemens Gamesa says it plans to rehire more than 100 laid-off workers at its Fort Madison plant to make electrical turbine blades for a proposed Kansas wind farm.  The Hawk Eye reports that the company said Wednesday the workers will be employed full time because of the increased production demands. In January, Siemens laid off about 195 employees in Fort Madison, leaving about 330 still on the payroll at the 11-year-old plant.  The company says the turbine nacelles and hubs will be made in Hutchinson, Kansas. The wind farm location hasn't been disclosed.

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Rabbis Ask Kansas Legislator Not to Compare Holocaust, Abortion

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A group of rabbis wants a Kansas state senator and congressional candidate to stop comparing abortion to the Holocaust. The Rabbinical Association of Kansas City recently sent a letter asking Leavenworth Republican Senator Steve Fitzgerald, who is seeking the GOP nomination in Kansas's 2nd congressional district, to stop using the Holocaust for "political purposes." During a debate last month in the Kansas Senate about medical research on tissues from aborted fetuses, Fitzgerald compared the research to the work of Josef Mengele, the infamous Nazi doctor who conducted cruel experiments at concentration camps. And last year, he compared Planned Parenthood to the Dachau concentration camp. "Senator, your words abuse the memory of the murdered victims of the Nazi regime by using their deaths as a political weapon in our national debate," the letter said. Fitzgerald told The Kansas City Star Thursday that he appreciated the rabbis sharing their opinion and would take the letter "into consideration and under advisement" but he did not promise to stop referencing Nazis and the Holocaust during abortion debates. "I don't think anybody should accept arbitrary limits placed upon the exercise of their freedoms," he said. The rabbis said in their letter that abortion and the Holocaust are different issues. "We demand that you cease immediately making these offensive and divisive comparisons to the Holocaust for political purposes, and to find different language to discuss abortion, out of respect for the millions of victims of the Nazi Holocaust," the letter said.

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Former KU Chancellor Earns Same Salary in Adviser Role

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas officials confirm that the school's former chancellor is earning the same salary after stepping down and becoming a special adviser. KU officials tell the Lawrence Journal-World that Bernadette Gray-Little began her position as a special adviser last July. She announced in September 2016 that she would step down as chancellor after the 2016-17 school year. KU spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson says the salary of about $510,000 is the same amount she earned during her final year as chancellor. Gray-Little declined to comment on her role and referred the newspaper to the KU or the Board of Regents. Barcomb-Peterson says the board's terms of departure for Gray-Little said that her new role consists of "helping the new chancellor, at his or her request, become acquainted with the university's unique programs, its several campuses, and other areas."

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Manufacturer of Public Restrooms to Open Hutchinson Plant

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Nevada company that builds prefabricated public restrooms plans to open a plant in Hutchinson. Public Restroom Company says it will bring 33 jobs to the city when the plant opens in 2019, eventually increasing that to 75 jobs over five years. The company, based in Minden, Nevada, manufactures the concrete, steel and stone restrooms in several components, then ships them by truck nationwide to be assembled. The Hutchinson plant will primarily serve the Midwest and eastern sections of the country. The Hutchinson News reports the family-owned business plans to buy the former Mega Manufacturing building. Governor Jeff Colyer said in a news release the company plans to invest $2.5 million in the project. The company is working with the state, Hutchinson and Reno County to receive economic incentives.

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Former Pharmacist Admits to Fraudulently Obtaining Narcotics

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A state board has suspended the license of a former Kansas pharmacy manager after she admitted to creating fraudulent prescriptions. The Salina Journal reported Wednesday that 27-year-old Kirsty Hartley's license to practice was suspended last fall under an emergency order. The Board of Pharmacy hasn't scheduled a hearing to take final action. The emergency order said that after CVS officials confronted her in July, she signed a statement admitting to creating fake prescriptions to obtain thousands of tablets of the narcotic hydrocodone and the sedatives alprazolam and zolpidem. The order also said that she admitted to personally using some of the hydrocodone, but said most of the drugs were given to another person, whom she said was both selling and using the drugs. There's no record of charges against Hartley.

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Postal Employee, Contractor Charged with Mail Theft

VICTORIA, Kan. (AP) — A U.S. Postal Service employee and a contract employee are charged with stealing mail in Kansas. The U.S. attorney's office announced the indictments against 30-year-old Manuel De La Cruz, of Wichita, and 48-year-old Stormy Laflin, of Victoria, on Wednesday in a news release. The release says Cruz stole items from the mail, including parts for firearms and scopes for rifles, in 2016 and 2017 while working as a contract driver in Butler County. Laflin is accused of stealing money orders in August in Ellis County. If convicted, they face up to five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

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Police: 2 Young Boys with Handgun Rob Wichita Gas Station

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say two boys possibly as young as 15 and 12 robbed a convenience store. Officer Paul Cruz says the older of the two boys had a handgun when the robbed a Presto store Wednesday night. The boys fled after an employee gave them money. No one was injured. Police say the suspects were black. Cruz says the older boy was about 5-feet-2, 120 pounds and wearing a black hoodie with tan pants. The second robber was about 5-feet, 120 pounds and was wearing a black hoodie and grey sweatpants.

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Kansas Sheriff Charged with Selling Gun to Felon

NESS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A western Kansas sheriff has been charged with selling a gun to a felon and falsifying training records.  The U.S. attorney's office announced Wednesday that Ness County Sheriff Bryan Whipple was indicted on three wire fraud counts and one count of selling a firearm to a convicted felon. The indictment alleges that the 47-year-old sold a .45 caliber pistol and ammunition to a convicted felon and faxed reports falsely certifying that deputies had received training. Whipple isn't in custody and didn't immediately return a phone message.  Whipple faces up 10 years on the firearm charge and up to 20 years on each wire fraud count.  Ness County County Clerk Renee Kerr says Whipple remains sheriff but is barred from the sheriff's office. He's allowed to handle duties such as billing.

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Judge Dismisses Schlitterbahn Charge Against 1 Defendant

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A judge has dismissed an involuntary manslaughter charge against one of five defendants in the decapitation death of a 10-year-old Kansas boy on a water slide.  On Wednesday, Wyandotte County District Court Judge Robert Burns dropped charges against Schlitterbahn Waterpark of Kansas City, Kansas, in the 2016 death of Caleb Schwab on the Verruckt water slide. The Kansas City Star reports Schlitterbahn Waterpark does not exist as a legal entity. The park includes two entities: SVV 1, which owns the land, and KC Waterpark Management, which operates the park. Assistant Kansas attorney general Adam Zentner said he would seek a new grand jury indictment against the proper corporate defendant. Also on
Wednesday, two defendants waived their right to a speedy trial, which means the trial will not occur on September 10 as previously scheduled.

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Small Earthquakes Shake Residents in Northern Oklahoma

RENFROW, Okla. (AP) — The U.S. Geological Survey reports several small earthquakes in northern Oklahoma, including three near the tiny town of Renfrow, near the Kansas border and about 100 miles north of Oklahoma City.  The strongest temblor was magnitude 3.0 and struck at 9:45 pm Wednesday while magnitude 2.6 and 2.3 quakes were also recorded late Wednesday night and Thursday morning.  Geologists also report a magnitude 2.8 quake near Minco, about 32 miles southwest of Oklahoma City.  No injuries or damage was reported. Geologists say damage isn't likely in earthquakes below magnitude 4.0.  Many of the thousands of earthquakes in Oklahoma in recent years are linked to the underground injection of wastewater from oil and natural gas production. Producers have previously been directed to close wells or reduce injection volumes.

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KU Health System Buys Great Bend Regional Hospital

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas Health System is continuing its expansion outside of the Kansas City area by buying a hospital in Great Bend.  The health system announced Wednesday it will buy the Great Bend Regional Hospital and its affiliated clinics. The details of the agreement were not released. It's expected to be final this summer.  In recent years, KU Health has acquired or partnered with HaysMed in Hays, Pawnee Valley Community Hospital, a HaysMed partner in Larned and St. Francis Hospital in Topeka.  The Kansas City Star reports the 33-bed Great Bend hospital discharged about 1,400 patients and made about $91 million in revenue in 2016.  It's the last inpatient hospital in Great Bend, a city of about 16,000 about 252 miles west of Kansas City.

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PETA Offers Reward in Beating Death of Dog in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An animal rights organization is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the beating death of a Wichita man's dog during a break-in. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals offered the reward this week after the 10-year-old American bulldog, "Buffalo Boy," was killed. KAKE-TV reports the dog's owner, Robert Miller, found his dog dead Sunday amid debris left by people who broke into his home. PETA says the dog was beaten with a bat. Police say the break-in happened between Saturday evening and Sunday morning. No arrests have been made.

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Boyfriend Charged in Deaths of Kansas Woman, Unborn Child

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Johnson County authorities charged a 26-year-old Kansas City, Kansas man with capital murder in the deaths of a woman who was pregnant with his son. The Kansas City Star reports Devonte Dominique Wash will face the death penalty if he is convicted in the January death of 23-year-old Ashley Harlan of Olathe. She was found shot to death at her home. Harlan was about 20 weeks pregnant when she died. Kansas allows seeking a capital murder charge if the defendant knowingly or purposely killed or created a great risk of death to more than one person. Friends told the Star that Harlan moved from Manhattan to Olathe in early January to be nearer to Wash. She was living with her grandfather when she was killed.

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Drought, Wildfires Force Ranchers to Scramble for Feed

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Ongoing drought and wildfires have cattle ranchers in at least five Southwestern U.S. states scrambling for hay or pastureland, while others are selling off some of their herds.  Extreme drought conditions have contributed to wildfires in Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas and New Mexico, delaying the growth of -- or destroying -- grass and wheat used to feed cattle in spring.  Rancher Darrel Shepherd of Custer, Oklahoma, says finding hay in northwest Oklahoma is nearly impossible and two wildfires that burned about 545 square miles have destroyed pastures.  Federal agriculture officials in New Mexico say ranchers may not have feed to maintain their herd sizes and that some are already trimming their herds, while farmers along the Rio Grande are bracing for less water to irrigate their crops

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KCP&L Warns of Large Increase in Scams Aimed at Customers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Power & Light is warning customers it is seeing a dramatic increase in the number of scams directed at customers.  The electric company said Wednesday that it has tracked 326 attempted utility collection call scams in the first quarter this year. That's a 76 percent increase from 185 similar calls last year.  KCP&L officials say the scams generally involve someone posing as a KCP&L employee telling a customer a bill is past due and threatening to disconnect service if payment isn't made immediately. Generally, customers are told to buy prepaid cards, then call back and give the caller the card's number and PIN.  The utility says it does call customers but employees will never demand immediate payment or the purchase of a prepaid card.

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KU Health System Buys Great Bend Regional Hospital

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas Health System is continuing its expansion outside of the Kansas City area by buying a hospital in Great Bend. The health system announced Wednesday it will buy the Great Bend Regional Hospital and its affiliated clinics. The details of the agreement were not released. It's expected to be final this summer. In recent years, KU Health has acquired or partnered with HaysMed in Hays, Pawnee Valley Community Hospital, a HaysMed partner in Larned and St. Francis Hospital in Topeka. The Kansas City Star reports the 33-bed Great Bend hospital discharged about 1,400 patients and made about $91 million in revenue in 2016. It's the last inpatient hospital in Great Bend, a city of about 16,000 about 252 miles (405.54 kilometers) west of Kansas City.

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Ex-Wichita Police Officer Files Sex Discrimination Lawsuit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita police officer is suing the city and two police officials for sex discrimination. Tiffany Dahlquist, who was a patrol officer for six years, alleges in a federal lawsuit filed this week that the department discriminated against her after a teenager reported that Dahlquist hit her car and didn't stop in September 2016. The Wichita Eagle reports Dahlquist denied hitting the car and prosecutors declined to file charges, citing a lack of evidence. In her lawsuit, Dahlquist contends police conducted an unusually aggressive internal investigation before the criminal investigation was concluded. She was fired in February 2017 but three days later that decision was overturned and she was reinstated. Dahlquist later resigned because she said she didn't trust the department to protect her. Spokesman Charley Davidson said the police department doesn't comment on pending litigation.

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Officer Gets Probation for Groping Woman in Patrol Car

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas police officer has been sentenced to 24 months of probation for groping a woman while taking her to jail. The Pittsburg Morning Sun reports that 22-year-old Jesse Edward Lorenzo Davis, of Carthage, Missouri, also was ordered Wednesday to register as a sex offender after pleading no contest to aggravated battery. As part of the plea, aggravated sexual battery and official misconduct charges were dropped. Davis was fired from the Pittsburg Police Department after an investigation into the victim's August 2017 domestic disturbance arrest. The woman alleges in a lawsuit that she complied with the officer's groping demands out of fear. The suit says a friend heard what happened to the woman through her phone, which was in the patrol car. The friends were connected through Facebook Messenger.

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American Jazz Museum Director Says She Will Step Down by Mid-May

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The director of a financially troubled jazz museum in Kansas City's historic 18th and Vine district says she's stepping down. The Kansas City Star reports that Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner said Wednesday that she would leave the American Jazz Museum before its annual May 15 meeting but would "remain a champion" of the attraction. A major shakeup also is expected on the museum's board of directors. The leadership changes are among the recommendations made in a consultant's report issued last month. The report was highly critical of the museum for lacking a clear vision and identity, despite opening its doors 20 years ago. The museum's financial difficulties became apparent last year when checks written to performers at a museum-staged festival bounced. The city has stepped in to shore up the museum's finances.

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Pizza Hut Museum Opens on Wichita State University Campus

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The new Pizza Hut Museum has opened at Wichita State University. WSU Foundation CEO Elizabeth King tells The Wichita Eagle that staff from the school came together "to collaborate and create this fabulous museum that will be curated by the students." Brothers Dan and Frank Carney were students at the university in 1958 when they converted a beer tavern into the original Pizza Hut. The building was used for the museum, which opened Wednesday on the school's Innovation Campus. Dan Carney attended the opening ceremony, saying "I think they did a great job." The museum includes articles, memorabilia and photos of the brothers and takes visitors through the evolution of the pizza chain. There are 7,500 Pizza Huts nationwide and another 10,000 internationally.

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