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Headlines for Thursday, February 19, 2015


Kansas Senate Advances Ban on Specific Abortion Procedure

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has given first-round approval to a bill to ban a procedure used in 8 percent of the abortions performed in the state. The measure, which advanced on a voice vote Thursday after a bitter and personal debate, would outlaw the dilation and evacuation procedure and redefine it in state law as "dismemberment abortion." Senators plan to take a final vote Friday to determine whether the bill goes to the House. Kansas City Democrat and abortion rights supporter David Haley criticized the measure's supporters. He suggested that abortion opponents were ignoring good science and the state would face an expensive court battle if the measure becomes law. Several senators who oppose abortion said Haley's remarks were insulting and castigated him. They said the bill bans a gruesome procedure.


4 Kansas Tribes to Share $1.7 Million in Federal Housing Grants

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Federal officials say four American Indian tribes in northeast Kansas will split $1.7 million in funds for affordable housing. The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Wednesday the money for Kansas tribes is part of a $651 million allocation of Indian Housing Block Grants to 636 Native American tribes in the U.S. The Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas will receive $846,597, The Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska will get $426,141, Prairie Band of Potawatomi Nation gets $249,430 and the Sac and Fox Nation will receive $212,772. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the department says the funds can be used for housing development, assistance to existing housing, housing management and crime prevention and safety.


Kansas Attorney General Appeals School Finance Ruling

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas has filed a widely expected appeal of a ruling that found the state isn't spending enough money on its public schools to provide a suitable education.  Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced Wednesday that the appeal had been filed after vowing last month to challenge the ruling.  The Shawnee County District Court panel declared in its December ruling that the current funding is ``inadequate from any rational perspective of the evidence.'' The panel said the evidence suggests base state aid should increase to at least $4,654 per student _ which would amount to about $548 million a year. However, the panel also suggested the figure could be much higher.  Kansas is facing a shortfall of nearly $600M in the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. 


Kansas District Court Judge Sues over State Law on Courts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas district court judge is challenging a law passed last year that moved authority to administer district courts away from the Kansas Supreme Court. The Brennan Center for Justice filed the lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of Kingman County District Judge Larry Solomon over a law that stripped the Supreme Court of its authority to appoint the chief judges in all the state's district courts. The chief judge now is selected by a vote of the judges within each judicial district. The lawsuit contends the new law violates a 1972 constitutional amendment that gives the state Supreme Court administrative authority over all courts in the state. Former Governor John Carlin says the 2014 law was designed to weaken the judiciary.


Kansas Changing Notification for Vehicle Tag Renewals

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state of Kansas plans to change the way it notifies motorists that they need to renew vehicle tags. Residents will receive postcards, rather than letters, from the Kansas Division of Vehicles. The move is designed to save the state money. The Hutchinson News reports the state estimates the change will save nearly $562,000 a year. Reno County Treasurer Jan Hull says the state is giving counties the option to send the traditional letters. But Hull estimated that would cost her county $35,000 a year, so she will use the state's postcards.


Kansas Senate Passes Bill Stiffening Scrap Theft Penalties 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Penalties for Kansas scrap theft would rise significantly under a bill passed unanimously by the state Senate. Thursday's move sends the measure to the Kansas House for consideration. Senators said during debate Wednesday that scrap thieves often do thousands of dollars in damage by removing metal components from equipment. The bill would make scrap theft a level six felony, putting repeat offenders behind bars. It also would create a scrap database to help authorities track down offenders and punish dealers trading in stolen goods. Lawmakers objected to an earlier version that would have made scrap theft a level five felony and put first-time offenders behind bars for 11 to 34 months. First-time offenders without prior convictions would get probation under the amended version.


Report: Number of Kansas Farms Declined in 2014 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new government report shows Kansas had 800 fewer farms last year compared to 2013. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Thursday that the state had 61,000 farms and ranches in 2014. A breakdown by size shows small operations with less than $100,000 in agricultural sales decreased by 900 farms from a year earlier. But the number of farm operations which had more than $100,000 in ag sales actually grew by 100 farms. The agency also reported that the state had 46 million acres of land in farms and ranches. That's down 100,000 acres from the previous year. Kansas farms averaged 754 acres, up 8 acres from the previous year.


Kansas Lawmakers Urged to Reject Increase in Alcohol Taxes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas legislators have been urged to reject Republican Governor Sam Brownback's proposal to increase alcohol taxes by beer and liquor industry lobbyists and even one of his former budget directors.  The House Taxation Committee had a hearing Wednesday on Brownback's proposal to raise the state's tax on packaged liquor, wine and beer to 12 percent from 8 percent.  The proposal is included in a bill that also would boost tobacco taxes, raising the cigarette tax to $2.29 a pack from 79 cents.  Former Budget Director Steve Anderson says the state should look at cutting spending first. Liquor and beer industry lobbyists say the alcohol tax increase would hurt businesses and consumers.  House Speaker Ray Merrick said before the hearing that he opposes the tax increases. 


KS Bill Would Task Utilities Regulator with Setting Pollution Rules  

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The group that regulates Kansas utilities would have the final say in preparing a greenhouse gas reduction plan under a bill in the state Legislature.  The House Energy and Environment Committee held a hearing Wednesday on a bill that would give the Kansas Corporation Commission final authority in presenting new greenhouse gas emissions standards. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has directed states to submit plans by June 2016, and states without a suitable plan will have federal regulations imposed upon them. Supporters of the bill said it would make future regulations more cost-effective. But Tom Gross of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment testified that taking proposals through the commission would slow the process and possibly cause Kansas to miss the federal deadline.


Kansas Panel Moves to Double Campaign Contribution Limits

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas House Elections Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a measure that would at least double campaign contribution limits for all state and county-wide offices. The biggest boost would go to county-wide office campaigns in counties with a population of 75,000 or more. That limit would increase to $2,500 from $500.   Representatives of the state Republican and Democratic parties testified earlier in favor of the bill, saying that the increases were needed to keep pace with the sharp rise in campaign spending by outside groups. 


KS Bill Would Tweak Worker's Compensation to Avoid Lawsuits


TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas would change its workers' compensation law back to older guidelines under a bill being discussed by the Legislature. The Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing Wednesday on a bill that would move the state back to the older guidelines on compensation for work-related injuries. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach testified in favor of the move, saying that in states like Kansas that have moved to the newest guidelines have faced an increase in negligence lawsuits against employers. A Florida court ruled in 2014 that deficiencies in the newest guidelines provide grounds for injured employees to sue. Kobach says he was worried Kansas courts would reach the same conclusion. Opponents of the bill say the newest guidelines are most in line with current medical costs.


Over 96,000 Sign Up in Kansas for Health Care

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Federal health officials say more than 96,000 consumers have signed up for health insurance coverage in Kansas through the federal marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act.  The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services announced Wednesday that 96,226 Kansas consumers either selected a plan or were automatically reenrolled in coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Nationally, HHS says about 11.4 million Americans selected plans or were automatically reenrolled.   The second year of open enrollment ended Sunday.  Of Kansas residents who either selected a plan or were automatically reenrolled, nearly 86,000 were in the Kansas City area.  The agency also reported that 80 percent of Kansas consumers who signed up by the end of January qualify for an average tax credit of $214 per month. 


KU Student Committee Proposes Sexual Assault Alerts 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - University of Kansas's Student Rights Committee has approved a resolution encouraging the Kansas Board of Regents to adopt a policy that would ensure that students expelled for sexual misconduct at one state school cannot enroll at another one without the new school being notified of their past. The Lawrence Journal World reports that the committee suggested to the Regents that nonacademic misconduct should be added to the transcripts of expelled or suspended students. The resolution also calls for those students to be prohibited from enrolling at another Regents school until the chief of student affairs officers at both schools approve the enrollment in writing. Under the current policy when university students are expelled for nonacademic misconduct, it is noted on their transcript. There is no specification of what kind of misconduct occurred.


Kansas City Police: Woman's Body Found in Riverfront Well 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City, Missouri, police are investigating the discovery of a woman's body in a 25-foot, city-owned well near the Missouri River. Police say workers with the Kansas City water department workers found the remains about 1 pm Thursday. Authorities have not said how the woman may have died or whether she has been identified. City officials say the body was in a flood-control well and not one relating to drinking water.


Man Found Dead in Kansas Was Wanted in Tulsa Slayings

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office has identified a 56-year-old man whose body was found near Wichita as a man wanted in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the shooting deaths of two women. The sheriff's office says the body found Sunday is that of Dale Childress of Tulsa and that a preliminary autopsy report says Childress died of a gunshot wound. The sheriff's office says it appears Childress was shot at the spot where he was found. Childress was named in a search warrant last month in connection with the shooting deaths of 37-year-old Jennifer Sudar and 26-year-old Amanda Douglas outside an east Tulsa apartment complex. The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office said in a news release Wednesday that investigators are trying to determine how Childress got to the Wichita area.


Man's Body Found Inside Burning Car Near Tonganoxie

TONGANOXIE, Kan. (AP) — Police say a male driver was found dead inside a burning pickup truck in Leavenworth County. Tonganoxie officials said witnesses reported two vehicles were speeding down a county road early Thursday when the truck driver lost control and it slammed into concrete highway pillars. The truck burst into flames and the man was dead when emergency crews arrived. The second car left the scene. Police do not have a description and are asking the public for help locating the driver. The man was from Tonganoxie but his name has not been released.


Wichita State Won't Appeal Loss of Baseball Victories...but Former Coach Will

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State won't appeal an NCAA ruling that it vacate its baseball wins in the 2012 and 2013 seasons, but the school's former baseball coach says he's challenging it on his own. Gene Stephenson tells the Wichita Eagle he knows the chances of the NCAA accepting his appeal are slim, he says it's important. University President John Bardo says he disagrees with the punishment but decided it wasn't in the school's best interest to appeal. The Shockers won 74 games in the two seasons. The NCAA placed the program on probation in January after finding the Shockers in 2012 and 2013 used 21 players who were given improper discounts on non-baseball merchandise from the program's athletic apparel manufacturer. The school also was placed on one year of probation.


Long-Lost Clown from Wichita Amusement Park Found 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Louie the Clown, who went missing from a closed Wichita amusement park more than a decade ago, has been found at the home of a sex offender who used to work at the park. The return of the mascot of the Joyland amusement park was such big news that it was re-introduced during a media briefing Thursday. Wichita police say officers found the clown statue Tuesday at a home of 39-year-old Damian Mayes, who is serving a prison sentence for a 2010 conviction for aggravated indecent liberties with a child and aggravated criminal sodomy. Mayes used to build and repair organs at the park. Louie disappeared from the Joyland property in 2005 or 2006 but wasn't reported stolen until 2010. Police say that the nearly 50-year-old clown is worth $10,000.


Hearing on Protection Order Sought Against Randle Postponed 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — NFL investigators were in Wichita on the day a hearing had been scheduled on a protection from abuse order sought against Dallas Cowboys running back Joseph Randle. Thursday's civil hearing on the protection order was delayed until March 12. Wichita Police Lieutenant James Espinoza says he talked with NFL investigators, who got public information. The attorney representing Randle's former girlfriend says the NFL has never contacted him or his client. The Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office plans to meet with police investigators Friday to consider whether to file criminal charges. Dalia Jacobs, the mother of Randle's son, told police he brandished a gun and broke a car window during a February 3 altercation at a Wichita hotel. His attorney has said Randle did not threaten the woman or show a gun.


Kansas Commune Leader Found Guilty of Murder


WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The leader of a Kansas commune that received millions of dollars in life insurance payouts from dead members has been convicted of murder in the drowning death of a female member. A jury on Wednesday found 55-year-old Daniel Perez guilty of first-degree premeditated murder for 2003 death of Patricia Hughes at the suburban Wichita compound that was home to the commune. Her death was considered an accident until 2011, when a woman who was 12 at the time told authorities the death was staged. He also was found guilty of all 27 other counts, including rape, aggravated criminal sodomy, sexual exploitation of a child and making false information. Perez testified during the trial that he was innocent of all the allegations.


Kansas Man Pleads Guilty in Arkansas Man's 2013 Death 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office says a Wichita man has pleaded guilty to several charges in connection to the 2013 death of an Arkansas man. Dallas Guy pleaded guilty Tuesday to involuntary manslaughter, robbery and attempted distribution of a controlled substance. He was one of four men charged in Paul Danny Khmabounheuang's death during a robbery at a rental house. The Wichita Eagle reports the victim was visiting a relative in Wichita when he was killed. Two of the other men, Orville Smith and Dijon Thomas, have already pleaded guilty in the incident. Corey Pollard was convicted of first-degree felony murder and aggravated robbery after a weeklong trial in December.


Royals Sign Eric Hosmer to $14 Million, 2-Year Contract

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — First baseman Eric Hosmer and the Kansas City Royals avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $13.9 million, two-year contract Wednesday. The 25-year-old hit .270 for the AL champions with 35 doubles, nine homers and 58 RBIs. He won his second straight Gold Glove. He made $3.6 million last year and had asked for $6.7 million when the sides exchanged proposed arbitration salaries last month. The Royals had offered $4.6 million.


TCU Beats Kansas State 69-55 

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) —  TCU beat Kansas State 69-55  Wednesday night, giving the Horned Frogs consecutive Big 12 victories for the first time since joining the league. This is the third Big 12 season for TCU (16-10, 3-10 Big 12) . The Horned Frogs went 0-18 in league play a season ago after a 2-16 debut in 2013. Kansas State (13-14, 6-8) scored 11 consecutive points in less than two minutes early in the second half. The Wildcats got as close as 41-35 when Nino Williams made a free throw after a technical foul against TCU with 11:52 left.


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