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Headlines for Wednesday, April 8, 2015


Severe Storms Possible over Much of Kansas 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State emergency management officials are monitoring a storm system that is expected to bring large hail, damaging winds and the possibility of tornadoes. Forecasters say the system is expected to form Wednesday afternoon in southeastern Kansas and expand to the north and west throughout the evening. The Kansas Division of Emergency Management said in a news release that severe thunderstorms may last through Thursday. Hail the size of baseballs is possible in south-central Kansas, and winds gusts of 60 to 70 mph are forecast for south-central and southeastern parts of the state. The system also brings the possibility of isolated tornadoes. In western parts of the state, fire is a danger because of dry, windy conditions. The forecast comes one day after a tornado touched down briefly in southeastern Kansas.


Kansas Legislators Moving Toward Changing Local Elections 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is moving to shifting city and local school board elections to the fall in even-numbered years in what many Republican legislators say is a push to boost voter turnout. House and Senate negotiators have drafted a plan to scrap the traditional scheduling of local elections in the spring of odd-numbered years. Their agreement came ahead of this week's voting in city and school board contests across the state. Local elections would be on the same schedule as contests for county, state and congressional offices. Under the plan, city and school board races would be listed first on the ballot. Supporters say the bill will increase turnout. Critics say administrative problems would arise and believe city and local education issues would get lost in the din of other campaigns.


Kansas Governor Signs Nation's 1st Ban on Common Abortion Procedure

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Governor Sam Brownback has signed legislation making Kansas the first state to ban a common second-trimester abortion procedure that critics describe as dismembering a fetus. Brownback signed the measure Tuesday in a private ceremony at the governor's residence. A photo posted by his office on Twitter shows him flanked by anti-abortion leaders and large photos of fetuses. The new law, which takes effect July 1, bans the dilation and evacuation procedure, and redefines the method as "dismemberment abortion." The method is commonly used in second-trimester abortions nationwide and in about 9 percent of the abortions in Kansas. Abortion-rights supporters say the method is sometimes the safest for a woman terminating her pregnancy. The National Right to Life Committee drafted the measure. Similar measures are being considered in other states.


US Senate to Discuss Funding Food Stamps Program with Block Grants

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - U.S. Senator Pat Roberts from Kansas says he will hold hearings on the possibility of funding the federal food stamps program through block grants to the states. Roberts made the comments Tuesday while touring Washburn Rural High School outside of Topeka. A federal agriculture official publicly contradicted Kansas Governor Sam Brownback at a March news conference in Topeka over his support for allowing states to administer their own food stamps program with federal grant money. Roberts said he is neither for nor against the idea, but said it would create a problematic "hodge-podge" of programs across the country. He said a unified federal system had merits. Roberts is chairman of the Senate Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry Committee, which he says will take up the issue in the coming weeks.


Wichita Seeks Ruling on Legality of Marijuana Initiative 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita is seeking a court decision on the legality of an ordinance approved by voters to reduce the penalties for possession for small amounts of marijuana. The city filed a legal action Wednesday in Sedgwick County District Court, a day after 54 percent of voters cast ballots in favor of it. It will make first-time possession a criminal infraction with a $50 fine. State law makes first-time possession is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and a year in jail. Attorney General Derek Schmidt has issued an opinion saying the ordinance conflicts with state law and a vote to adopt it would have no legal force. The city is asking the court to determine if the proposed ordinance is enforceable and whether it may be enacted.


Blue Bell Expands Recall of Ice Cream Made at Oklahoma Plant 

BRENHAM, Texas (AP) — Blue Bell Creameries says it's expanding its recall of products made at an Oklahoma plant after pints of banana pudding ice cream tested positive for listeriosis. The Texas-based dairy company announced in a statement Tuesday that no illnesses linked to those pints have been confirmed. The recall now includes the banana pudding ice cream pints and other products manufactured on the same line in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. The products were distributed to retail outlets across the nation. The company last month issued the recall after ice cream contaminated with listeriosis was linked to three deaths at a Kansas hospital. The foodborne illness was tracked to a production line in Brenham, Texas, and later to a second line in Oklahoma. The company suspended operations Friday at the Oklahoma plant.


Head of Eisenhower Memorial Commission to Step Down 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the commission working to build a memorial honoring President Dwight D. Eisenhower plans to resign and says a Kansas senator should lead the effort. In a letter Tuesday to the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, 93-year-old Rocco Siciliano of Los Angeles said he plans to step down as chairman. He said Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas should be the next chairman. Eisenhower grew up in Abilene, Kansas. Roberts says he would be honored to serve as chairman with the goal of ensuring a lasting tribute to Eisenhower on the National Mall. Siciliano served in the Eisenhower White House. He led the memorial commission for 15 years and oversaw hiring Frank Gehry as its designer. In recent years, the effort stalled amid objections to the design from Eisenhower's family.


Hutchinson Sports Arena Ballot Question Easily Passes

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - Supporters of a $29 million renovation plan for the Hutchinson Sports Arena scored an easy win in Tuesday's election. Unofficial returns show nearly 75 percent of the voters approved a 0.35 increase to local sales tax to update and add more space to the arena, which was built in 1953. The tax will take effect in July and remain in place for about 10 years. Hutchinson Community College has pledged $4.5 million for the project. The Hutchinson News reportsthe planned improvements include replacing the plumbing, electrical and heating systems, and new home men's and women's locker rooms. Other plans include a new main entrance, lobby and ticketing area, more restrooms, two full-sized practice gyms, a new weight room and more storage.


State Hospital May Freeze Admissions Due to Renovations

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Osawatomie State Hospital is being forced to transfer or discharge 21 patients as it prepares for renovations. The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services announced Tuesday that the facility's occupancy will be reduced to 146 from 167 until its ceilings can be upgraded to be safer. It also said it expects the hospital will have to stop taking additional patients until the renovations are completed in October. In the past six months federal officials have twice threatened to withhold federal funding from the hospital due to poor conditions and overcrowding.  KDADS spokeswoman Gina Meier-Hummel says the renovations will cost $3 million and that most of the affected patients will be moved to assisted living facilities, nursing homes and other community mental health centers. 


Former Altoona City Clerk Gets 6 Months in Fraud Scheme

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A U.S. attorney's office says a former Altoona city clerk has been sentenced to six months in jail after pleading guilty to one count of bank fraud. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said Tuesday that Chrystal Scherbarth also was ordered to pay more than $47,000 in restitution to the city of Altoona. Grissom's office said Scherbarth used her access to the city's accounts at First Neodesha Bank in the scheme. She fraudulently increased her hourly and overtime pay, and credited herself with unearned vacation and sick leave. Authorities say the crime cost Altoona more than $47,800.


Kansas Lifts Bird Flu-Related Restrictions in 2 Counties

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has lifted restrictions on the movement of poultry flocks in two counties imposed after a case of bird flu was confirmed last month. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the state Department of Agriculture lifted its restrictions for parts of Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties earlier this week. The department created a so-called surveillance zone in mid-March after samples from a flock with ducks and chickens in Leavenworth County tested positive for bird flu. The department said it responded to seven reported cases of sick birds but the tests for avian influenza were negative. The agency still is encouraging poultry owners to isolate new animals, move livestock away from property boundaries and thoroughly clean equipment and animal areas.


Crash Claims Life of 1-Month-Old Kansas Girl, Hurts 3 Others

PERRY, Kan. (AP) _ A 1-month-old girl is dead and three people were injured after a two-vehicle crash on US 24 in Jefferson County west of Perry. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Kaysein Harris of Lawrence was in her safety restraint when the accident happened just before 3 pm Monday. The Kansas Highway Patrol reports a westbound 2008 Honda Civic moved over to the gravel shoulder but the driver overcorrected and the car slid sideways into the eastbound lanes.  An eastbound 2010 Ford pickup truck struck the Honda's passenger side, killing Kaysein. A 3-year-old girl in the Honda and the car's driver also were injured.  The Patrol says 32-year-old Aaron Thakker of Eudora was driving the pickup truck and also was possibly injured.


Jury Finds Wichita Man Guilty of Killing Radio Station Co-Worker

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2014 slaying of a radio station employee. Twenty-five-year-old Daniel Flores was found dead in the basement of Steckline Communications on February 10 after being beaten on the head and face with a fire extinguisher. Prosecutors say Antwon Banks killed Flores in a fit of rage after the victim found Banks scrawling hate-filled messages in a hallway about his former girlfriend, also a Steckline employee. Defense attorney Lacy Gilmour argued during trial that Banks was at the building to search for personal papers left behind when he moved out of his former girlfriend's home. She also noted that there was no DNA evidence linking Banks to the crime. Sentencing is scheduled for May 22.


Woman Arrested for Attacking Grandson with Branch, Car

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A 68-year-old Wichita woman didn't take kindly to having her grandson swearing at her, so police say she hit him with a tree branch and tried to run over him with a car.  The Wichita Eagle reports the woman and her grandson's girlfriend were arrested on Monday after an incident that started as a domestic dispute escalated.  Police say the 27-year-old grandson accused his girlfriend of having an affair with their landlord at an apartment complex, prompting the 19-year-old to start throwing her boyfriend's belongings out of the apartment. Police say the man began arguing with his grandmother when he went into the apartment to retrieve his young child.  Police spokesman Lt. James Espinoza says the girlfriend was arrested for punching the man in the face during the argument.


University Senate Leaders Support Domestic Partner Benefits

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Leaders of the University Senate are urging the University of Kansas to offer domestic partner benefits to its employees. The senate's executive committee approved a resolution Tuesday supporting the benefits for domestic partners, either same or opposite sex. The full University Senate is scheduled to vote on the resolution on Thursday and is expected to approve it. The Lawrence Journal World reports the resolution follows a recent report from a senate committee, which concluded the university's lack of medical insurance and other significant benefits for domestic partners violates the school's anti-discrimination policy. University attorney Rachel Rolf has said state and federal laws restrict the university from offering such benefits, which could also create tax and regulatory challenges for the university.


Foundation to Pay for Kansas City Museum Renovation 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A foundation set up by the H&R Block co-founder and his wife will pay for a nearly two-year, $11.7 million renovation at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports that the Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation gift will bring into view 29 impressionist and post-impressionist works from the couple's personal collection. As part of the museums 75th anniversary in 2010, the family promised to donate the paintings from artists such as Manet, Monet, Gaugin, Cézanne, Degas and van Gogh. Work will begin this summer to reconfigure the museum's impressionism and post-impressionism galleries in the original Nelson-Atkins building. When renovations wrap up in spring 2017, the new works will be integrated into the museum's existing collection on the main floor.


Kansas Man Sentenced in Crash that Killed Former Cheerleader 

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A 33-year-old Kansas man has been sentenced to more than 15 years in prison for killing a former Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader in a traffic crash while fleeing from police. The Kansas City Star reports that Roy Lee Maney was sentenced Wednesday in Johnson County District Court to 154 months for reckless second-degree murder and 34 months for leaving the scene of an accident. Maney pleaded guilty to the charges in February stemming from an October 2013 incident that killed 30-year-old Tiffany Mogenson, a Blue Springs, Missouri, dance studio owner. Maney was driving an estimated 90 mph when his car crashed into the rear of Mogenson's car, which was stopped at a red light. The sentence was the result of a plea deal between prosecutors and Maney's attorney.


KU's Cliff Alexander Headed to NBA Draft

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas forward Cliff Alexander said Tuesday he is foregoing his three remaining years of eligibility and will enter the NBA draft. "I talked this over with my mom and dad and we decided the timing was right for me to enter the NBA draft," Alexander said in a statement. "Kansas has been a great experience." On February 28, Alexander was forced to miss the final few weeks of the season due to an investigation into improper benefits. "This should come as no surprise to anybody," KU coach Bill Self said in a statement. "Cliff had a very interesting and educational year. He was a major contributor to our team from the beginning of the season."  Alexander averaged 7.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game for the Jayhawks, who finished 27-9 and lost to Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament.


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