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Headlines for Thursday, January 23, 2020

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 Gov. 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.”


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. 


Kansas Supreme Court Dismisses Lawsuit over Court Funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas' top court has dismissed a lawsuit over funding for the state's court system filed by six trial-court judges against the Republican-controlled Legislature. The state Supreme Court said in a short order Wednesday signed by Chief Justice Marla Luckert that it is "confident" that allegations of underfunding of the court system are best handled through "cooperation" with the state's legislative and executive branches. The Supreme Court added that it must make a good-faith effort not to encroach on the Legislature's power over budget matters. The lawsuit threatened to complicate an often-tense relationship between the courts and the Legislature.


67-Year-Old and 14-Year-Old Killed in Northeast Kansas Crash

OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say two people have been killed in a northeast Kansas crash. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the crash happened just after 7 a.m. Wednesday when 67-year-old James Gregory Tracy lost control of the car he was driving on Kansas 68 and struck a guardrail 8 miles east of Ottawa. Tracy then veered into oncoming traffic and was struck by a sport utility vehicle. The crash killed Tracy and his 14-year-old passenger, Harry Ray Mock Jr. Both of them were from the town of Rantoul. The patrol says the SUV's driver sustained minor injuries.   


Kansas Mother Pleads Guilty in Abuse and Starvation of Child

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) - A 28-year-old Kansas woman has pleaded guilty in a case involving the starvation of a 5-year-old boy. Elizabeth Marie Francis, of Shawnee, pleaded guilty Tuesday to aggravated criminal sodomy and child abuse. She and her boyfriend, 36-year-old John Carter, were charged after the boy was taken to Children's Mercy Hospital in December 2018. The Johnson County District Attorney's office says doctors said the boy was bruised and malnourished from starvation. The staff said the child had lost 10 pounds since he had been in the hospital in September 2018. Francis will be sentenced March 9. Carter pleaded not guilty to child abuse and endangerment charges. His case is pending in court.


Wichita Man Charged in Death of 2-Month-Old Son

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his 2-month-old son. Twenty-three-year-old Marlin Williams was charged Wednesday after his son, Marrell Williams, died Jan. 16. Marlin Williams is also charged with three counts of aggravated battery. Wichita police say they were called to a home Jan. 10 on a report that a child was not breathing. The boy was taken to a hospital after being found unresponsive. He suffered critical injuries and medical personnel found he had previous injuries. His twin sister had a healing broken femur. Williams is being held on $500,000 bond.  


Big 12 Suspends 4 Players After KU / K-State Basket-Brawl in Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) —  The Big 12 has suspended four players from Kansas and Kansas State a combined 25 games for their roles in a melee that spilled off the court. The brawl erupted into a section of disabled seating in Allen Fieldhouse near the end of the third-ranked Jayhawks' win over the Wildcats. Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa was suspended indefinitely by Jayhawks coach Bill Self earlier Wednesday. He was given a 12-game suspension by the league office. His teammate, David McCormack, was suspended two games while Kansas State forward James Love received an eight-game suspension and Antonio Gordon a got three-game suspension.

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, alleging it lacked adequate security. The Kansas City Star reports that the lawsuit filed Tuesday 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.  


Fallout from Boeing 737 MAX 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. 


Kansas Deputy Wounds Fleeing Suspect After Carjacking Attempt

DIGHTON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Kansas sheriff's deputy shot and wounded a fleeing motorist after he attempted to carjack another vehicle when two of his own tires were flattened. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation identified the man Wednesday as 42-year-old Timothy Kellebrew, of Ashland City, Tennessee. The KBI says in a news release that a Ness County Sheriff's deputy attempted to stop Kellebrew Tuesday east of Ness City because he was driving a pickup that matched the description of one used in an armed robbery of a Dollar General store about 30 miles away in Dighton. Kellebrew was in fair condition Wednesday.


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.


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.


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.


GOP Right Looks to Put Own Mark on Kansas Medicaid Expansion

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.


Governor Names New Kansas Adjutant General

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An Air National Guard brigadier general will be the state's new adjutant general. Gov. Laura Kelly on Wednesday announced 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.


76-Year-Old Woman Dies After SUV Flips into Kansas Creek

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Kansas woman was killed when her sport utility vehicle overturned onto its top in a creek. The Kansas Highway Patrol identified the victim as 76-year-old Susan Lenoir, of Topeka. The patrol says she went off the side of U.S. 75 on Tuesday about a half mile south of Interstate 35 in Topeka. Her SUV then struck a road sign before going into Soldier Creek, where it flipped upside down and was submerged in water. 


Neil Armstrong Donates Personal Items to Cosmosphere Museum

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. 


Missouri Man Charged with Killing Man as He Walked His Dog

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man has been charged with fatally shooting a man who was walking his dog when he apparently interrupted a vehicle break-in. Prosecutors announced Tuesday that 25-year-old Malcolm Weston is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 51-year-old Ricardo Ortiz. He was shot in the leg in November and died at a hospital. His wife said he had been walking his dog before the shooting. His sport utility vehicle was found parked in the street outside his home with the rear driver's window shattered. Prosecutors requested a bond of $250,000 cash.


Court: GEICO Must Pay Injured Kansas Man for Care Administered by Wife

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled an insurance company must reimburse a Kansas man for the personal care his wife provided after he was injured in an automobile accident. The decision handed down Tuesday overturns a Court of Appeals panel ruling that GEICO General Insurance Co. did not have to pay insured customer Royce Williams because the wife's obligation to help her husband “was incurred as a result of the marital relationship itself.” The state's highest court disagreed and reinstated the $2,625 in benefits that the district court had initially awarded Williams.


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.


Lawrence Mayor Says Vandalism of Her Home Was Political

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Lawrence mayor is calling the vandalism of her home during a commission meeting that focused on homelessness politically motivated. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Mayor Jennifer Ananda said Tuesday that someone threw a brick through one of her home's windows last week in the midst of an at times tense discussion about funding for the local shelter. She said the brick contained a message related to the homeless issue. Speaking at the start of this week's meeting, Ananda said that though she understands and applauds conscious and heartfelt activism, the vandal’s violent actions were unproductive and harmful.


Man Sentenced in Scheme to Steal Tax Refunds; Cashing Checks in Kansas, Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A California man was sentenced to five years in federal prison without parole for his role in a scheme to cash more than $447,000 in stolen refund checks. Prosecutors say the multi-state scheme involved cashing the checks by using fake driver's licenses. Dante Chestnut, of Ontario, California, pleaded guilty in July to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. Chestnut admitted that he and others stole tax refund checks from the mail in April 2016. They then used fraudulent driver’s licenses and identification documents to cash the checks at Academy Bank branches in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas and Missouri.  


Leawood Police Dispatcher Suspected of Computer Crimes

LEAWOOD, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says a Leawood police dispatcher is charged after allegedly sharing confidential information with unauthorized individuals. The KBI says 39-year-old Kallie Turnbow, of Olathe, was arrested Tuesday. Johnson County prosecutors charged her with four felony counts of unlawful acts concerning computers and four misdemeanors of official misconduct. The KBI says it began investigating Turnbow in October 2019 after receiving a tip that she was sharing criminal histories and driver's license information. She was placed on administrative leave that month.  


U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Trims Water Flowing into Lower Missouri River

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The amount of water being released into the Missouri River from Gavins Point Dam will be reduced slightly to protect drinking water supplies even though the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is still working to eliminate water from last year. The Corps said Tuesday it is trimming the amount of water flowing out of Gavins Point to 27,000 cubic feet per second. Corps spokeswoman Eileen Williamson said the new lower releases will allow the level of Lewis and Clark Lake to stabilize and ensure communities will be able to continue drawing drinking water from the lake.


'NewsHour' Host and Debate Moderator 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."


4 U.S. Women's Team Members Play in ECHL All-Star Classic

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Annie Pankowski took part in the sharp-shooting competition and enjoyed playing with the guys at the ECHL All-Star Classic. Pankowski was one of four members of the U.S women’s team in the event Wednesday night played in collaboration with the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association in Wichita, Kansas. Dani Cameranesi, Kali Flanagan and Gigi Marvin also were members of the 2018 U.S. Olympic gold-medal winning team. Flanagan helped the Eastern Conference All-Stars win the four-team event. Pankowski played with a team of Wichita Thunder players, scored a backhanded goal and got a big cheer from the crowd. Cameranesi and Marvin also scored goals during the round-robin part of the tournament.


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