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Headlines for Friday, January 24, 2020

Snowplow Kills 2 Near K-State Campus After Midwest Storm

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A snowplow has killed two pedestrians in Kansas after winter storm coated roads across parts of the Midwest. The collision involving a Riley County plow truck happened shortly after 5 a.m. Friday. Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Ben Gardner said the victims were in their late teens or early 20s. Gardner says they appear to have been crossing the road when they were struck near the Kansas State University campus. The National Weather Service issued winter weather advisories for parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin and a large swath of Missouri.

Meanwhile, several schools in the KPR listening area canceled classes today (FRI), due to the winter weather.  

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GOP Kansas Rep. Watkins Changes Voter Registration 2nd Time

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A freshman Kansas congressman has changed his voter registration for the second time in six weeks after coming under investigation for potentially violating state election laws. Republican Rep. Steve Watkins has faced scrutiny because he previously listed a UPS Inc. store has his residence. The Kansas secretary of state's office confirmed that Watkins listed a Topeka apartment as his residential address in registration form filed Jan. 17. Watkins listed an address for the same complex's office when he previously changed his registration Dec. 6. Watkins is still using a box at the UPS store as a separate mailing address. 

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GOP Commentator Drops US Senate Bid to Run for Kansas Senate

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A conservative Republican commentator in Kansas has abandoned his campaign for the U.S. Senate to run for the state Legislature instead. Bryan Pruitt said Friday that he would seek the GOP nomination for the state Senate in the Manhattan-area 22nd District. The seat is currently held by two-term Democratic Sen. Tom Hawk of Manhattan. Pruitt had acknowledged that his bid for the higher office was a long shot. Pruitt returned to Kansas from Washington, D.C., last year and noted in running for the U.S. Senate that he would have been the first openly gay senator from Kansas if elected. 

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Kansas Lawmakers Discuss Labeling for Meat Alternatives

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are considering a bill to restrict how producers of meat alternatives could market their products in the state. The bill lists 22 meat-related terms that producers of alternative foods won't be able to use, such as jerky or burger, unless they label their products as “imitation” or add a phrase that the product does not contain meat. The bill is being pushed by the Kansas livestock industry, which argues it would eliminate consumer confusion about which products contain meat. Opponents say the proposal violates free speech rights by restricting how plant-based and other alternative products can be marketed. Lawmakers had a hearing on the bill Thursday.   

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Man Pleads Guilty to 2017 Triple Murder in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 29-year-old Kansas City man has admitted that he killed three people in 2017. Deaundre Brown pleaded guilty Thursday to three counts of second-degree murder and three counts of armed criminal action. Police say he shot two women and a man during a drug deal in east Kansas City. The victims were 30-year-old Jennifer Zimmerman, 30-year-old Victor Portillo and 25-year-old Yesseria Ahumada. Police said a witness told investigators he overheard a conversation between Portillo and Brown about the drug deal. The shootings happened during that meeting. The plea deal recommends 20 years for each count, to be served concurrently.

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Kansas City Homeowner Fatally Shoots Suspicious Person Outside His Home

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police say a homeowner shot and killed someone who he thought was acting suspiciously outside his home. The shooting happened Thursday morning in south Kansas City. Police officers in the area heard gunshots and when they went to the scene, the homeowner said he heard activity outside the house. Police say when he investigated, he fatally shot a person. The homeowner is cooperating with investigators. No further information was immediately available.

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Salina Man Charged with Threatening to Kill President Trump

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina man has been charged with threatening on social media to kill President Donald Trump. The Wichita Eagle reports that Aaron McDowell was charged Thursday in federal court with one count of threatening the President of the United States. Federal prosecutors said he wrote Tuesday on Facebook that he was going to kill the president at 7 pm that day. Another person commented on McDowell's post, stating "Yo prove it." A Secret Service agent wrote in the affidavit that McDowell responded with "You'll see it on the news."

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GOP Opposition Likely to Block New 'Netflix Tax' in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Opposition from top Republican lawmakers in Kansas appears to have doomed Democratic Governor Laura Kelly's plan to tax streaming services, e-books and movie and music downloads like most other states. Kelly and fellow Democrats pitch it as basic fairness. Consumers who buy a DVD of their favorite “Star Wars” movie pay the state's 6.5% sales tax but they don't if they stream the same movie or download it on a computer.  But GOP lawmakers in Kansas strongly oppose the idea and say it would have little public support. Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning said Thursday that it is “dead on arrival.”

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Kansas House GOP: Plan Helps Rural Areas, Spurs Home Buying

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republicans in the Kansas House have outlined a plan aimed at revitalizing rural areas, helping people to buy their first homes and lowering income taxes for seniors. GOP leaders said Thursday that they will pursue five bills. The package includes a proposal that would allow tax-deductible deposits to a savings account for buying or building a first home. Another proposal would create a $30 million fund to help rural hospitals hire consultants and plan for overhauling their operations to remain open in changing markets. The package also exempts more seniors from having to pay state income taxes on their Social Security benefits.

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PBS NewsHour Host and Kansas Native Jim Lehrer Dies at 85

NEW YORK (AP) — A longtime host of the nightly PBS “NewsHour” whose serious, sober demeanor made him the choice to moderate 11 presidential debates, has died. Jim Lehrer was 85. A native of Wichita, his family moved to Texas when he was a child. He and longtime partner Robert MacNeil began nightly reports on PBS in 1975. The show featured detailed reports and discussions of politics, international relations, science, and even the arts. MacNeil stepped down from the show in 1995. Tributes poured in from colleagues and watchers alike, including from Fox News’s Bret Baier, who called Lehrer “an inspiration to a whole generation of political journalists — including this one."

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Police in Wichita Explore Use of Genetic Genealogy Databases

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita are looking into using genetic genealogy databases to help solve murder and rape cold cases. Capt. Jeff Weible said the department isn’t ready to decide whether it will use the technique to solve any local crimes. But to help find out how the technique could be used, the department co-hosted a two-day training conference on it this week. The Wichita Eagle reported that it drew more than 60 people from law enforcement agencies and other organizations in Kansas, Wyoming and California to downtown Wichita. 

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Former Kansas State Student Sues Bar over 2018 Rape

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas State University student is suing a bar in the Aggieville entertainment district where she was raped almost two years ago.  The lawsuit alleges the bar lacked adequate security. The Kansas City Star reports that the lawsuit filed this week in federal court says the woman was at O’Malley’s bar after midnight in February 2018 waiting for a friend to get off work. She had half a drink before stepping into the bar’s restroom, where two men stepped in behind her when the door failed to lock. The suit says one man raped her while the other pinned her against a wall.  

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Fallout from Boeing 737 MAX Problems Spreads in Kansas, Oklahoma

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Layoffs at Spirit AeroSystems have spread to the airplane parts-maker's plants in Oklahoma amid the widening fallout in its home state of Kansas caused by the halt in production of the troubled Boeing 737 MAX. Spirit filed notice with the state of Oklahoma on Thursday that it plans to lay off about 130 employees at its plant in McAlester. The company says there will also be unspecified layoffs at its Tulsa. The announcement comes two weeks after Spirit said it would lay off 2,800 workers in Wichita, where it is based.

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Court: Kansas "Ag-Gag" Unconstitutionally Bans Free Speech

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that provisions in a Kansas law that ban the secret filming at slaughterhouses and other livestock facilities unconstitutionally criminalizes free speech. U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil mostly sided on Wednesday with a coalition of animal rights and consumer protection groups which had challenged the state's “Ag-Gag” law, which was 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 judge says the Kansas law only targets negative views about animal facilities.

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Woman Found Dead in Southeast Kansas Possibly Hit by Vehicle

OPOLIS, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a woman found dead in southeast Kansas might have been hit by a vehicle. The Crawford County Sheriff's office on Friday identified the woman as 35-year-old Brandi Moore, of Pittsburg. Her body was found Wednesday in Opolis, an unincorporated town in Crawford County. Sheriff Danny Smith said in a news release a pathologist indicated her injuries were consistent with being hit by a vehicle. An autopsy and official cause of death are pending. Smith says the driver of the vehicle has not been determined. It appears Moore was struck between 8 p.m. Tuesday to 6 a.m. Wednesday. 

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Proposals to Reverse Kansas Abortion Rights Ruling Advance

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican lawmakers have pushed two separate but identical versions of the same proposed anti-abortion amendment to the Kansas Constitution past their first hurdles in the GOP-controlled Legislature.  A House committee on Wednesday endorsed a measure that would overturn a Kansas Supreme Court decision last year declaring access to abortion a “fundamental” right under the state constitution. The amendment would declare that the Kansas Constitution does not “secure” a right to abortion and allow legislators to regulate it as far as federal court decisions allow. A Senate committee approved its own version of the same proposal less than two hours later.

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Abortion Rights Backers Unsure of Strategy in Kansas Fight

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Abortion rights backers are grappling with how to derail a proposed anti-abortion amendment to the state constitution. Abortion foes marked Wednesday's anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision by advancing two versions of the proposal out of committee Wednesday in the Republican-controlled Legislature. Top GOP lawmakers want to amend the state constitution to overturn a Kansas Supreme Court decision last year protecting abortion rights. Abortion rights lawmakers are pondering whether the measure will be objectionable enough to fail if it's left alone. Some want to rewrite the measure but doing so could help it pass the Legislature.

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Conservative Republicans Hope to Modify Kansas Medicaid Expansion Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Conservative Republican lawmakers are looking to modify a bipartisan plan for expanding Medicaid in Kansas by adding provisions that Democratic Governor Laura Kelly opposes. GOP conservatives want to insert a work requirement for able-bodied adults who receive the state's Medicaid health coverage under the expanded program.  They're also looking to add a "right of conscience" provision that would allow medical personnel to decline for religious reasons to provide services such as abortion, birth control and gender reassignment care. Chairman Gene Suellentrop said Tuesday that the Senate health committee will consider those ideas when it debates Medicaid expansion.

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Neil Armstrong Donates Personal Items to Cosmosphere Museum in Hutchinson

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The family of Neil Armstrong, the first man to step on the moon, is donating two items from Armstrong's personal collection to the Cosmosphere space museum in Hutchinson. The items are a 4-by-6 inch U.S. flag and a small piece of fabric from the wing of the Wright Flyer, the first flying machine built by the Wright brothers. Both of the items were taken aboard the Apollo 11 mission that reached the moon in 1969. Armstrong's two sons donated the artifacts, which will be put on public display at the museum later this year.

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Governor Names New Kansas Adjutant General

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An Air National Guard brigadier general will be the state's new adjutant general. Governor Laura Kelly announced this week that David Weishaar will replace current Adjutant General Lee Tafanelli, who plans to resign March 31. Weishaar commands the Air National Guard in Kansas as assistant adjutant general. He has served in the military for 39 years.  In Kansas, the adjutant general is the top military adviser to the governor, leads the state’s Army and Air Guard operations and directs the state’s division of emergency management and homeland security.

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Don't Demolish It! Consultants Recommend Renovation for Docking State Office Building

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Consultants are recommending that the state spend more than $100 million to renovate the Docking State Office Building in Topeka. Former Governor Sam Brownback's administration had recommended demolishing the building. But a report released Tuesday to a state Senate committee dismissed that idea. Instead, the report recommends either completely renovating the building or reducing the 12-story building to three floors and adding three floors of new construction. DeAngela Burns-Wallace, secretary of the Kansas Department of Administration, says the report gives lawmakers a starting point for discussing how the building can best be used for Kansas residents.

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KPR's daily headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and updated throughout the day.  KPR's weekend summary is usually published by 1 pm Saturdays and Sundays.

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