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Headlines for Friday, April 29, 2016

Kansas news headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas Lawmakers Draft Plan to Reverse Tax Break 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —  A proposal that would reverse an income tax break for Kansas business owners has emerged from negotiations among legislators. Three senators and three House negotiators agreed Friday on a proposal to end a personal income tax exemption for more than 330,000 farmers and business owners enacted in 2012. The measure is designed to help balance the state budget. Legislative leaders appointed the negotiators to resolve differences between the House and Senate over a broad range of tax issues. The House would vote first on the new tax plan. Legislators must eliminate projected shortfalls in the state's current and next budgets totaling more than $290 million. The tax proposal would close only part of the gap, but it would help keep the budget balanced in the future.


Kansas Governor's Aide Criticizes New Tax Plan 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —  Republican Governor Sam Brownback's spokeswoman says reversing an income tax break for business owners would not help Kansas maintain a pro-growth environment. Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley also said Friday that the proposal being considered by legislators could make the state's tax climate unstable. The proposal emerged from negotiations between three senators and three House members on tax issues. The House planned to consider it later Friday. The measure would end a personal income tax exemption for more than 330,000 farmers and business owners enacted in 2012. Brownback championed the exemption. Legislators must eliminate projected shortfalls in the state's current and next budgets totaling more than $290 million. The tax proposal would close only part of the gap, but it would help keep the budget balanced in the future.


Group of Retailers Offers New Plan for Kansas Liquor Sales 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A group of grocery and convenience stores in Kansas has proposed a new plan for expanding liquor sales, saying it would generate a $41 million cash infusion toward the state's budget deficit. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Uncork Kansas coalition is proposing that large retailers would be able to buy full liquor licenses directly from the state. That would eliminate current laws that limit them to selling beer with an alcohol percentage less than 3.2 percent. The new plan abandons earlier efforts that would've required big-box stores to buy liquor licenses of small businesses. Those businesses are currently the only stores in the state allowed to sell full-strength beer, wine and spirits. Uncork Kansas represents major retailers, including Wal-Mart, Dillons and Hy-Vee, and convenience stores, such as QuikTrip.


Kansas to Text Parents Who Owe Child Support Payments 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- Kansas Department for Children and Families officials say it will begin texting parents who owe child support in an effort increase collections. The Wichita Eagle reports that the department started a pilot project with 100,000 Kansas residents to see if texting helps remind parents to pay child support. The department will also try using texts to remind people about court dates and other appointments. A news release about the program says that texts will be sent to remind non-custodial parents who haven't paid child support in the last 45 days. Department spokeswoman Theresa Freed says the programs costs the state less than $5,000, which comes from postal mail savings. Freed says that of the pilot proves to increase collections until June 30, the department will implement across the state.


Pot Penalties Would Decrease Under Kansas Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have approved a crime bill that would reduce penalties for first- and second-time possession of marijuana while increasing them for burglary. The House voted 96-23 in favor of the bill Friday after the Senate approved it 38-0. It goes next to Governor Sam Brownback. The bill reduces penalties for first-time marijuana possession, which currently can bring a year in jail. The new penalty would be no more than six months in jail. The penalty for a second offense would become the most serious misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail. It's now a low-level felony. The penalty for burglarizing an occupied dwelling would increase to a minimum of 38 months in prison. Under current law, a conviction can lead to probation instead of a prison sentence.


Kansas Man Admits to Illegally Double Voting 

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — A man who voted illegally in both Kansas and Nebraska in 2012 has been fined $5,500. Michael L. Hannum now lives in Omaha, Nebraska, and pleaded guilty Thursday in Johnson County, Kansas, to three misdemeanors. The convictions are the third under a new state law that gives Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach the power to prosecute election fraud allegations. Kobach says that the fine will "deter others." Hannum said earlier this year that he was traveling regularly at the time between a home in Johnson County, Kansas, and Omaha, Nebraska, to visit family following his 83-year-old father's death in early 2011. He said authorities previously told him they closed their investigations and wouldn't file charges because they didn't believe the double voting was deliberate.


Kansas Senator Roberts Blocks Vote on Army Secretary over Guantanamo Bay Dispute

WASHINGTON (AP) — Kansas Republican Senator Pat Roberts is blocking a vote on the nomination of Eric Fanning to be the next Army secretary.  At issue are efforts by President Obama to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and transfer detainees to the United States. Republican Senator John McCain tried to secure a vote on Fanning,  but Roberts objected saying he won't relent until the White House promises that no detainees will be moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Senator McCain says it's unfair to block Fanning's nomination over an unrelated issue. McCain calls it a distortion of the Senate's advise and consent role. Fanning has served in several roles at the Pentagon. If confirmed, he would be the first openly gay leader of a U.S. military service.


Nebraska, Oklahoma Join Kansas in Suit to Halt Colorado Marijuana Law

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson and his counterpart in Oklahoma are joining a lawsuit aimed at halting legal marijuana in Colorado. The Lincoln Journal Star reports  that the two states asked to be added as plaintiffs this month in a case being considered by an appeals court in Denver. The appeal combines two separate cases: one on behalf of a Colorado couple who own land near a recreational marijuana growing facility and another brought one by a group of sheriffs from Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. Oklahoma and Nebraska argue they have "unique sovereign interests" in stopping marijuana from crossing their state borders, and that they shouldn't be left out as the court weighs the issue. The U.S. Supreme Court denied considering a similar lawsuit by states in March.


Fort Leavenworth Commanding General Departs for Hawaii Post

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — The commanding general of Fort Leavenworth has been picked to lead the U.S. Army Pacific in Hawaii. The Army installation announced Friday that Lt. Gen. Robert B. Brown relinquished command Thursday after receiving Senate confirmation for a four-star promotion. As the commanding general of the U.S. Army Pacific, he will lead about 80,000 soldiers in an area stretching from the northwest coast of Alaska to Japan. Brown had served as the commander of Fort Leavenworth and a training facility called the Combined Arms Center since February 2014. He has been involved in developing a program to train people who assist sexual assault victims. Fort Leavenworth said in a news release that Brown also has overseen an effort to offer soldiers college credit and certification for their Army service.


Lawrence Man Sentenced to Life for Fatal 2014 Home Invasion

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has been sentenced to life in prison for a 2014 home invasion that left another man dead. The Kansas City Star reports 31-year-old Dustin Walker of Lawrence must serve 20 years before he is eligible for parole after being sentenced Friday. The life sentence was ordered to run consecutively with a sentence of 10 years and 10 months for aggravated burglary. Walker was found guilty last month of first-degree murder for the March 2014 killing of Patrick Roberts. Roberts was fatally shot inside a Lawrence apartment after two men broke in and demanded, "Where is it?" Roberts's brother wrestled the gun from one of the intruders, who fled. A co-defendant previously was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 20 years.


Franklin Graham Urges Christians to Vote at Topeka Rally 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The son of the Reverend Billy Graham is urging Christians in Kansas to vote for Christian political candidates who resist secularism. The Reverend Franklin Graham addressed thousands of people outside the Kansas Statehouse on Thursday. He was greeted with loud applause when he said he was running a campaign to put God back into the political discussion. Graham's Topeka stop was the 19th in his 50-State "Decision America Tour". His message is that the nation's forefathers opposed "state-controlled religion" but never intended for God to be completely removed from government. Graham weighed in on a number of controversial topics in this election year, including so-called bathroom bills that require transgender people to use the bathroom of their sex at birth. There are bathroom bills under consideration in several states including Kansas that would regulate which bathroom students can use. Critics of those proposals call them bigoted and say they expose transgender students to bullying and violence. Opponents of the legislation are holding a rally at the Statehouse today. (FRI).


Kansas House OKs Bill Cracking Down on Turnpike Scofflaws

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas House has signed off on legislation meant to crack down on people who purposely ignore paying tolls on the state's turnpike. The Wichita Eagle reports Senate Bill 373 would allow the Kansas Turnpike Authority to put a hold on a vehicle owner's registration when he or she owes more than $100 in unpaid tolls. The maximum toll for a passenger car is $12. As a member of the KTA board, Republican Representative Mark Hutton from Wichita calls the measure a leverage tool to help the state collect from repeat offenders. Democratic Representative Gail Finney of Wichita counters that she worries about what she considers ``such a stiff penalty'' for failing to pay a few dollars of tolls. The legislation now heads to the Senate for final consideration.


Groups Sue Kansas Sheriff over Jail's Postcard-Only Policy 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Civil rights advocates are suing the Wilson County sheriff over his jail's policy of allowing inmates to receive and send only postcards in the mail. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Social Justice Law Collective contend the policy violates the free speech and due process rights of prisoners and the people who write to them. Their class-action lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court of Kansas, seeks a court order that puts an end to the practice. Wilson County Sheriff Pete Figgins says the mail policy was put in place for security reasons to know what is being said in them. ACLU lawyer Doug Bonney says these policies create a huge problem for inmates and their loved ones because they don't allow enough space to correspond about anything meaningful.


Fire After Shootout at Topeka Motel Caused $350,000 in Damage

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Fire officials say a blaze that destroyed a Topeka motel following a shootout between federal agents and a suspect caused an estimated $350,000 in damage. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a gun battle erupted as agents were trying to arrest 28-year-old Orlando Collins, who was killed in the shootout at the Country Club Motel. A fire broke out in the gunman's room during the exchange of gunfire. Three federal agents were wounded in the Saturday night gun battle. Collins was being sought on a federal robbery warrant. Topeka Fire Marshal Michael Martin says the damaged building housed 20 motel rooms.  

Wichita Man Sentenced For Killing Estranged Wife

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has been sentenced to life in prison in the shooting death of his estranged wife. The Wichita Eagle reports that 29-year-old Pierre Ross Washington was sentenced Thursday for first-degree felony murder. Police say Diana Washington was 26 when she was killed in October at a Wichita park. Prosecutors say Washington had previously told one of her relatives that he was thinking about killing her and her new boyfriend. Police officers who responded to Washington's 911 call found his wife's body in a van parked about two miles from the park. Washington admitted shooting her when he talked to the emergency dispatcher. Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office spokesman Dan Dillon says Washington must serve 25 years of the sentence before he is eligible for parole.


Police Probe Kansas Theft of Blue Man Group Costumes

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Police in Wichita, Kansas, are trying to track down the person who made off with costumes of the Blue Man Group while the performance artists were working at a Wichita arts center this week. Police say the theft Tuesday night or Wednesday morning involved costumes worth more than $1,000. The theft was discovered about noon Wednesday. Police have publicly released a security camera photo on social media of a man shown walking through a hallway, carrying a laundry basket of stolen items. The Blue Man Group was in Wichita for two nights of shows. 


Cheyenne Bottoms Visitors to Learn About Shorebird Migration 

CHEYENNE, Kan. (AP) — An event at a wildlife refuge in Cheyenne will allow visitors to see and learn about thousands of shorebirds that have migrated to the rural Kansas area this spring. The Hutchinson News reports that the Great Migration Rally will be held this weekend at Cheyenne Bottoms, which usually sees a plethora of shorebirds from late April though early May. But Pam Martin, a Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism educator at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center, says this year is different as more than 150,000 shorebirds found refuge at Cheyenne Bottoms last week. The Nature Conservancy says Cheyenne Bottoms is a rest stop for nearly half of all American shorebirds during the migration season. Shorebirds also travel to nearby Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.


14-Foot Royals Cutout Surfaces After Theft from Billboard 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 14-foot cutout of a Royals player that was stolen from a billboard is safe at home in Kansas City. Bob Fessler, of Lamar Advertising, says the cutout was found Friday morning in good condition in a weedy area near the billboard that had been searched previously. He says the thieves apparently became nervous and returned it. The $7,500 cutout weighs 150 pounds and apparently went missing Thursday morning from its perch along Interstate 435. It's part of an advertisement for grocery store chain Hy-Vee and shows a center-fielder leaping against an image of the outfield wall at Kauffman Stadium, the Royals' home. Fessler says a witness who saw the cutout being removed thought company employees were involved. Jackson County (Missouri) Sheriff's Sergeant John Payne says no arrests have been made.

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