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Headlines for Wednesday, December 5, 2018

New Kansas Governor Wants to Roll Back Cash Assistance Rules

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Governor-elect Laura Kelly wants Kansas lawmakers to roll back a work requirement and other rules for cash assistance recipients.  But new House Majority Leader and Wichita Republican Dan Hawkins said Tuesday that the idea is going to be difficult to sell to the GOP-controlled Legislature.  Kelly has long been a critic of the tougher rules imposed during former Republican Govervor Sam Brownback's administration. GOP lawmakers put Brownback's policies into state law in 2015 to make them harder to undo and tightened them in 2016.  The rules include not only a work requirement for able-bodied adults but a lifetime limit on benefits of no more than 36 months.  Kelly argues that the rules hurt poor families. Hawkins argues that the state is encouraging cash assistance recipients to become self-sufficient.

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Kelly Unhappy with Lack of Psychiatric Beds for Children

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Incoming Kansas Governor Laura Kelly said she is "stunned" by a state agency's lack of response to a shortage of residential psychiatric beds for children needing care in the state. During a meeting Tuesday of a task force studying the state's child welfare system, Kelly suggested she wants significant changes after she takes office in January, The Wichita Eagle reported .

"I'm stunned, honestly, that your agency has not done anything concrete to deal with that issue," Kelly told Susan Fout, deputy secretary of the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services. About 140 Kansas children are on waiting lists to receive care at the residential centers, which are known as PRTFs. Fout acknowledged the agency is having difficulty finding available residential beds. The psychiatric residential centers are privately owned and Fout said the agency can ask them to provide more beds but can't force them to do so. The number of centers, which can treat children for weeks or months, has dropped from 17 to 8 since 2011, with the number of beds reduced to 280 from 780. Fout said the agency has requested funds for a 24-7 crisis hotline. But when Kelly asked specifically what the agency had done about the lack of treatment facilities, Fout said "the beds are another story." She said she couldn't recall the agency's budget request of the centers, which annoyed Kelly.

"That has been the topic of conversation for 18 months. We have known prior to that, but certainly 18 months ago, that PRTF beds were a very high priority, that the lack of them is probably what's creating a lot of the kids in offices, kids in one-night stands — you know, we don't have any place to put them. We need those PRTF beds," Kelly said.

Other task force members echoed Kelly's frustration. Senator Vicki Schmidt, a Topeka Republican who will become the state insurance commissioner in January, said the agency's lack of action was "a failure of government." Kelly has not said who she will choose as secretary of the agency and the current secretary, Gina Meier-Hummel, has declined to say whether she wants to remain in the position.

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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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Bob Dole Salutes Former President Bush

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole has saluted President George H.W. Bush at the casket of the late president. Like Bush, Dole is a World War II veteran and represented Kansas in the U.S. Senate. He arrived in the Capitol rotunda Tuesday in a wheelchair pushed by an aide. At the casket's side, the aide lifted Dole, 95, into a standing position. Once steadied, Dole saluted. Bush achieved the office that Dole sought in 1996 as the Republican presidential nominee. Bush died on Friday at age 94.

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Triple Slaying Suspect's Defense Optimistic About Readiness

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The new attorneys for a man charged with fatally shooting three people and wounding two others in downtown Lawrence say they are optimistic that they will be ready for trial in two months. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Shaye Downing and another attorney were appointed to represent 21-year-old Anthony Roberts Jr. after his old attorney was kicked off the case over concerns about her competency. The concerns culminated in a judge declaring a mistrial last month. Downing said Tuesday that she intends to hire an investigator and ballistics expert. She says she is hopeful their work will be done in time for a Feb. 4 trial. Roberts is charged with three murder counts and one attempted murder count. Two other suspects face less serious charges in the October 2017 shooting.

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Kansas Man to Stand Trial in Woman's Death by Fire

COLUMBUS, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man who is accused of fatally burning a woman and injuring two police officers has been ordered to stand trial. The Joplin Globe reports that the preliminary trial for 50-year-old Harvey Raymond Ortberg, of Baxter Springs, ended Tuesday with a judge finding sufficient evidence for him to be tried on a first-degree murder charge and six other felonies. Body camera video showed two officers running inside 65-year-old Sharon Horn's trailer, where Horn's 15-year-old granddaughter was crying. The officers entered the bathroom, where Ortberg was seen with a gas can and lighter in his hands. One officer wrestled with Ortberg, who then doused himself and the two officers with gasoline before flicking the lighter to start the fire. Horn later died at a Springfield, Missouri, hospital.

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67-Year-Old Leavenworth Man Sentenced for Soliciting Teen

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A 67-year-old Leavenworth man has been sentenced to more than five years in prison for soliciting a 13-year-old girl on Facebook. Raymond Soden was sentenced Tuesday after pleading no contest in August to solicitation. He admitted in his plea that he knew the girl was 13 when he began exchanging messages with her offering to pay for nude photos of her and her friends as well a sex acts. Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson said in a news release that Soden had prior convictions for battery and for sexual battery. Prosecutors argued for a sentence of more than 13 years but Soden's attorney asked for probation.

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2 Men Charged with Killing 88-Year-Old During Robbery

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two convicted felons have been charged with killing an 88-year-old man in his Wichita home during a robbery. The Wichita Eagle reports that 54-year-old Landon Onek and 36-year-old Austin Stewart were charged Tuesday with first-degree murder, aggravated robbery and two counts of theft in the death of Floyd Gilbert. Bond is set at $500,000 for Stewart and $250,000 for Onek. Glibert's son, Abner "Corkey" Gilbert, went to his father's home Thursday night after not hearing from in two days and found his body. He said his father was a retired aircraft sheet-metal worker who lived alone. His father's car was missing. Court records show Onek and Stewart have served time for theft, drug counts and other crimes. And Onek's parole was revoked just last week in a drug case.

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2 Wichita Children Shot in Hands While Playing with Gun

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 26-year-old Wichita man has been arrested after two children, ages 2 and 4, arrived at Via Christi Hospital St. Joseph suffering from gunshot wounds to their hands. Wichita police spokesman Charley Davidson said the children were playing with a handgun Tuesday when they were each injured. Davidson said the 2-year-old was treated and placed in protective custody. The 4-year-old was still hospitalized Wednesday after surgery. Davidson said Delano Wayne Rogers and the children's 21-year-old mother were home while the children were playing with the gun. Davidson said Rogers is a friend of the children's mother. He drove the children and their mother to the hospital and left. The Wichita Eagle reports Davidson said Rogers was arrested Tuesday at his home. The children's mother has not been arrested.

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Kansas Man Bitten by Snake, Charged with Drug Possession

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Great Bend police who responded to reports that a man was bitten by a venomous snake allegedly found the snake decapitated and hallucinogenic mushrooms at his home. The department says on a Facebook post that officers went to the home of 25-year-old Ari Hooley on Tuesday after he was treated Monday for bite from a Coral Cobra, a venomous snake. It is illegal to own an exotic or venomous snake in Great Bend. KAKE-TV reports Hooley refused to cooperate with officers. When they returned later with a search warrant, officers found the snake decapitated and buried. Police say they also found "a large quantity" of hallucinogenic mushrooms, marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Hooley is facing several drug-related charges, including unlawful cultivation or distribution of controlled substances near a school.

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Teacher and Former Officer Pleads Guilty to Having Sex with Student

MAIZE, Kan. (AP) — A 45-year-old former Maize teacher and law enforcement officer pleaded guilty to having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student.  Prosecutors said Johnny Yelverton pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of unlawful sexual relations.  The Wichita Eagle reports an affidavit released earlier this year says Yelverton had sex with the female student in his classroom at Maize Career Academy and off campus between March and May 6, when the girl's mother and stepfather discovered their relationship.  Yelverton was arrested May 7 and resigned from his teaching position four days later. He taught fire science and law and public safety courses to Maize High School and Maize South High School students at the academy.  Before teaching, Yelverton worked for Augusta as a police officer.

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Pedestrian Struck, Killed on Interstate 49 in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police say a 75-year-old Kansas man died after being struck by a car has he tried to cross a busy highway. The victim was identified Tuesday as Ronald Smith of Topeka. Police say he was hit Monday evening in the southbound lanes of U.S. 71 in south Kansas City. Smith was on the inside shoulder of the highway and tried to cross the highway for unknown reasons. A Volkswagen traveling south was unable to stop and hit Smith, who died at the scene. The driver was not injured.

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Woman Killed in Lawrence Will be Honored in Rose Parade

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 22-year-old woman who was killed by a stray bullet in Lawrence will be honored in the Rose Bowl Parade.  Leah Brown, of Shawnee, will be one of about 40 organ, eye and tissue donors from across the country who will be remembered on a Donate Life Rose Parade Float on New Year's Day in Pasadena, California.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports the donors will be seen in "floragraphs," which are artistic portraits often designed by their family members. Organ recipients and other advocates will ride and walk alongside the float.  The Donate Life float website says Brown donated her corneas and tissues, which are helping at least 50 recipients.  Brown and two men from Topeka were fatally shot on October 1, 2017 when gunfire erupted in a crowd of people.

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Victim Identified in Shooting Outside Hospital 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say the victim of a deadly shooting outside a Kansas hospital was a 28-year-old man.  Police identified the man Tuesday as Dominic Garcia, of Kansas City, Kansas. Police say he and a woman apparently were wounded when gunfire erupted around 11:30 pm Monday in Kansas City, Kansas. Garcia then drove the woman about 2 ½ miles to the hospital for help with the gunman in pursuit.  Upon arriving, Garcia ran to the secured main entrance, where he was shot again before the gunman turned the gun on himself. The gunman's name wasn't immediately released.  The hospital says the woman's injuries aren't life-threatening. No hospital employees were hurt.

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Lawsuit: Kansas "Ag-Gag" Law Violates Free Speech Rights

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Animal rights groups are challenging a Kansas law banning secret filming at slaughterhouses and other livestock facilities.  At issue in the federal lawsuit filed Tuesday is the state's "Ag-Gag" law enacted in 1990. The law makes it a crime for anyone to take a picture or video at animal facilities without the owner's consent or to enter them under false pretenses.  The Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Food Safety and others contend in their lawsuit that undercover operations expose unsafe and inhumane conditions. They argue such investigations are a crucial form of free speech.  The Kansas attorney general's office said will defend the statute against this lawsuit.  Similar laws in Utah, Idaho and some other states have been struck down as an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment.

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University of Kansas Campus to be Wind-Powered by 2020

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas has signed an agreement with Westar Energy to have its Lawrence campus powered nearly 100 percent by wind energy by 2020.  The Kansas City Star reports the 20-year agreement is expected to lower the university's utility bills about 22 percent, from 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour to 1.8 cents.  Kansas State and Washburn universities have signed similar agreements with Westar.  The energy will come from the Soldier Creek Wind Farm northeast of Manhattan in Nemaha County.  The wind farm is expected to be operating by 2020.  The university says the Lawrence campus uses 130 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year.

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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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"Nutcracker" Prince Proposes to Stunned Dewdrop Fairy

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The prince in the "Nutcracker" had a special present for his favorite ballerina during a performance of the holiday classic in Kansas.  The Wichita Eagle reports that Allison Evans was playing the Dewdrop Fairy in the Metropolitan Ballet production Sunday in Wichita when her boyfriend, Dalton Rupp-Meinert, dropped to one knee and proposed. The moment was captured on video.  Even though he'd never danced ballet in his life, Rupp-Meinert broached the idea with choreographer Jill Landrith before rehearsals began this summer. They hatched a plan to make him the prince. Evans says she thought the decision was "hilarious."  Rupp-Meinert says the thing that made him the most nervous was remembering the choreography, not the proposal. The crowd included about 40 to 50 of their relatives and friends.

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