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Headlines for Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Kansas Lawmakers Consider Constitutional Change on Abortion

Abortion opponents and abortion rights supporters have packed the Kansas Legislature's largest committee room and two panels are reviewing a proposal for overturning a state Supreme Court decision protecting abortion rights. Anti-abortion groups want to amend the Kansas Constitution to declare that it does not grant a right to abortion and to allow lawmakers to enact restrictions. The state Supreme Court declared last year that access to abortion is a "fundamental" right under the Kansas Bill of Rights. If the measure before lawmakers Tuesday were approved by two-thirds majorities in both chambers, it would go on the August primary election ballot.

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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 two provisions that Democratic Gov. 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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Kansas Lawmaker Abandons Bid for State Senate Seat, Now Running for House Seat

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —  A lawmaker who made national headlines for switching to the Democratic Party has ended her campaign for a state Senate seat and will run for re-election to the House instead. Rep. Stephanie Clayton of Overland Park said Tuesday that Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly encouraged her last week to drop out. Clayton's decision to run for the Senate had set up an August primary contest with Ethan Corson of Fairway.  Corson is a former executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party. Clayton switched from the GOP at the end of 2018 and said her dissatisfaction with President Donald Trump was a factor.

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Consultants Recommend Renovating Docking State 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 Gov. 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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Marijuana Advocates Have High Hopes as Kansas Legislature Heads for Debate over Pot

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers expect this year to have their most serious debate so far on medical marijuana. They're fueling high hopes for advocates who've been stymied by state's prohibitionist roots and a Republican-controlled Legislature. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly has said she would sign a bill. A House committee has committed itself to reviewing the issue, and its members had a brief, informal debate in the year's first meeting earlier this week. Legislators in both parties concede that they're being forced to consider the issue more seriously because conservative neighbors Missouri and Oklahoma legalized the medical use of marijuana through ballot initiatives.

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Man Who Opened Fire at Club Had Past Weapons Charge Dropped

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A man who opened fire outside a Kansas City nightclub, killing a woman and injuring at least 15 other people before a guard killed him, had a past weapons charge dropped after lawmakers loosened the state's gun laws. Twenty-nine-year-old Jahron Swift had been in trouble with the law before he opened fire on people leaving or waiting to get into the 9ine Ultra Lounge in eastern Kansas City late Sunday. The shooting killed 25-year-old Raeven Parks, of Kansas City. He had two gun cases, but the second was dismissed after the Republican-led Legislature passed legislation loosening gun restrictions.

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Police: Guard "Saved Lives" in Kansas City Bar Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police say an armed security guard saved lives when he shot and killed a man suspected of fatally shooting a woman and injuring about 15 more people outside a bar in Kansas City, Missouri. Police Chief Richard Smith says the suspect, 29-year-old Jahron Swift, had several weapons when he opened fire just before midnight Sunday outside 9ine Ultra Lounge. Smith says a motive for the shooting remains unclear, and investigators are trying to determine if the victims were targeted or shot at random. The shooting came as people lined up to get inside the bar to celebrate the Kansas City Chiefs victory in the AFC championship game earlier Sunday.

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University of Kansas Closing Its Languages, Literatures and Cultures Schools

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas will close its Languages, Literatures and Cultures schools but departments within the school will continue to operate. John Columbo, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said in an email that budget cuts forced a change in the administrative structure of the school. He says the changes will not affect degree offerings or curriculum and students will not be impacted. The school has administrative oversight for six departments. The closing at the end of the academic year means one staff position will be cut but the director and co-director of the school will return to their respective positions in their academic units.

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Kansas Memorial Union Restaurant Tries Beer and Wine Sales

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP ) — The University of Kansas is allowing beer and wine sales at a restaurant in the Memorial Union. The Impromptu Cafe in the union began selling beer and wine Tuesday. David Mucci, director of the Union, said the cafe is the only place on campus where alcohol is sold in a retail setting. He says it's a way to “test the waters” for businesses on campus that could sell alcohol in those locations. Alcohol is also sold at the university's football stadium on game days. Mucci says he wants to use the alcohol sales in the Union to promote safe drinking habits. 

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Teen Dies After Shooting in Southeastern Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A teenager who was critically hurt during a weekend shooting in southeastern Kansas City, Missouri, has died. Kansas City, Missouri, Police say the victim died at a hospital after the shooting early Saturday. Officers found the victim lying on the ground with a gunshot wound in the 8400 block of East 109th Terrace around 2 am Saturday. The victim's identity wasn't immediately released, but police described him as being in his late teens.

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Deputy Shoots, Wounds Suspect in Central Kansas

RUSH CENTER, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says a sheriff's deputy shot and wounded a man following a vehicle chase in central Kansas. The agency says the man was shot Tuesday along Kansas 96 near Rush Center. The shooting occurred after a Ness County Sheriff's deputy pursued a vehicle. The male suspect was taken to a hospital. His condition was not immediately available. The KBI says no deputies were hurt. No further information was released. 

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Kansas City Police: Pedestrian Killed Trying to Cross U.S. Highway 71

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a pedestrian was killed trying to cross U.S. Highway 71 in south-central Kansas City. The man was struck by a northbound vehicle a little before 11 pm Sunday, a few blocks east of Forest Hill & Calvary Cemetery. Police say he was pronounced dead at the scene. Police haven't released the man's name nor that of the driver.

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Wichita Carjacking Victim Uses Phone App to Find Stolen Car

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a carjacking victim used an app to lead officers to her car and two suspects in the theft. Officer Charley Davidson says the 53-year-old victim was attacked and her car stolen Sunday in the parking lot of Trinity Lutheran Church. She called 911 Monday and reported she was tracking her vehicle with a Ford app. Police tracked the vehicle to a Quik Trip and detained 21-year-old Ryan Dittmer and an 18-year-old. Davidson says Dittmer was booked into jail on possible charges of aggravated robbery and a state parole violation. The 18-year-old has not been arrested.   

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1 Person Dead, 2 Escape Fire at Wichita Home

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita fire officials say one person died after being trapped in a house fire. Fire Division Chief Darrel Kohls say the person, who was elderly, was found dead in the fire Monday morning at a south Wichita home. Kohls says the body was found in the rear of the home near where the fire apparently started. Two other people were able to escape the home. Kohls says they are family members. Neither was hospitalized. No firefighters were injured. The cause of the fire and a damage estimate has not been determined.

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Nebraska Man Arrested After Police Officer-Involved Shooting Near Larned

LARNED, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says a Nebraska man involved in a fight with a sheriff's deputy who fired shots at him has been arrested. Authorities say the shooting happened early Saturday following a traffic stop near the west-central Kansas town of Larned. A KBI news release says a Pawnee County sheriff's deputy shot at a passenger in the vehicle following an altercation. The passenger then fled on foot. The KBI says the passenger, identified as 21-year-old Alejandro Alvarado, of Lincoln, Nebraska, was later found at Pawnee Rock, Kansas, and arrested. He had not been shot.

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Wichita Police Investigate Death of 7-Day-Old Boy

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are investigating the death of a 7-day-old boy. Police spokesman Kevin Wheeler says officers were called to a home in Wichita late Saturday. He says the child's father had just dropped they boy off at his mother's home. Police were called when the child would not take a bottle and then stopped breathing. The boy died at a hospital. Wheeler says investigators are awaiting a final autopsy but there doesn't appear to be evidence of child abuse at this time. The investigation is continuing.

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4.5 Magnitude Earthquake Shakes Southern Kansas

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A small earthquake has been reported in southern Kansas. The U.S. Geological Survey said a magnitude 4.5 earthquake struck near Hutchinson shortly after 1 pm Sunday. No damage was immediately reported. The Hutchinson News reports that the earthquake happened near where several others have happened in Reno County. Kansas began seeing a spike in earthquakes in 2014 that were blamed on wastewater injection wells from oil and gas production. The number of quakes began tapering off after oil prices dropped and regulations were enacted.

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Mistrial in 2nd Trial of Manhattan Man Accused of Killing Infant

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A mistrial has been declared in the second trial of a Manhattan man accused of killing a 2 1/2-month-old boy. The first trial of D'Khari Lyons ended in September with a hung jury. Lyons was charged after Michael Calvert Jr. died in November 2018 while Lyons was watching him for his mother. Authorities ruled that the infant died from blunt force or abusive head trauma. Riley County Attorney Barry Wilkerson told The Mercury on Friday that the judge granted the prosecutor's motion Thursday. Wilkerson says the prosecutor thought questions asked by the defense were inadmissible and and highly prejudicial.

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KU's Task Force on "Greek Life" Recommends Changes

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A task force that examined Greek life at the University of Kansas is recommending a return to Friday morning classes and a stronger effort to connect fraternities and sororities with the community. The university formed the task force in November 2018 to improve safety and efficiency in the Greek community. The task force said the Greek community must eliminate hazing. Its recommendations for achieving that goal includes forming a group to identify and address hazing and address the root causes. Chancellor Douglas Girod said the task force strongly supports fraternities and sororities despite national concerns about hazing and substance abuse.  In a published message, KU Chancellor Douglas Girod shared recommendations of the Sorority and Fraternity Life Task Force with the KU community.

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Kansas Electric Rate-Making Process Favors Utilities

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An independent review of Kansas's rising electricity prices shows the process that determines rates favors utilities over consumers and could be improved. According to the Kansas News Service, lawmakers concerned that electricity prices were no longer competitive with neighboring states requested the study by London Economics in a bill passed during the 2019 legislative session. The report concludes there is no single, easy fix, but offers three main suggestions. Legislators in the House and Senate Utilities Committees are expected to be briefed on the report's findings when the session begins next week.

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Corps 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.

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