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Headlines for Friday, February 10, 2017

Here's a look at area headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas House Panel Moving Ahead with Tax Plan 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The chairman of the Kansas House Taxation Committee says it will debate proposals for increasing personal income taxes to help balance the state's budget. In the Senate, GOP leaders canceled a debate they had planned for Thursday on proposals to increase income taxes and cut education funding. The House committee is considering proposals to increase income taxes to generate $917 million in new revenues over two years, starting in July. The proposals include eliminating an income tax exemption for more than 330,000 farmers and business owners and the state's top income tax rate to 5.25 percent from 4.6 percent. The state faces projected budget shortfalls totaling nearly $1.1 billion through June 2019.


Kansas Senate Democrats Outline $1.2 Billion Tax Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democrats in the Kansas Senate have outlined a plan to increase personal income taxes and generate $1.2 billion in additional revenues over two years. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka released details of the plan Thursday after Republican leaders in the chamber canceled a debate over a smaller GOP plan. Kansas faces projected budget shortfalls totaling nearly $1.1 billion through June 2019. Senate Democrats' plan eliminates an income tax exemption for more than 330,000 farmers and business owners. It boosts income taxes for individuals with adjusted gross incomes of more than $35,000 a year and for married couples with incomes of more than $70,000. They would pay a top rate of 6.45 percent instead of the current 4.6 percent. But the plan also would expand deductions.


Rating Agency Downgrades Kansas Credit Outlook

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A major rating agency has revised the outlook on its credit rating for Kansas from "stable" to "negative." The action announced this week by S&P Global Ratings is not a credit downgrade. But S&P said in a report that the negative outlook reflects what it sees as weak economic trends and "structural budget pressures." The state's credit rating remains at AA-, among the lowest for a state. Kansas faces projected budget shortfalls totaling $1.1 billion through June 2019. The state has struggled to balance its budget since Republican legislators slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013. Many voters now say they see the tax-cutting measures as an unsuccessful attempt to stimulate the economy. S&P last downgraded its credit rating for Kansas in July 2016.


Kansas GOP Nominates Estes for US House Seat

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Treasurer Ron Estes is the Republicans' pick as their nominee for a special election to fill the Kansas congressional seat formerly held by CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Estes and his wife both were delegates at Thursday's party convention to choose a nominee.  The April 11 vote will be the nation's first congressional election since President Donald Trump's win. Estes was one of the Kansas electors who voted for Trump, and said he is pleased with the direction the new president has taken the country. Estes was elected treasurer in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. Republicans have held the 4th District seat since 1994. Pompeo won the state's 4th District seat in 2010, when the incumbent gave it up to run unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate.


Kansas AG Pushing to Strengthen Laws on Human Trafficking 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is pushing for changes that would strengthen the state's laws against human trafficking. The state Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday introduced a bill containing Schmidt's proposals. He said in a statement that the changes would put Kansas "in the top tier" of states in fighting trafficking. His proposed changes include specifically making it a felony to knowingly sell travel services for sex tourism and declaring in state law that minors can never consent to trafficking. Another change proposed by Schmidt would create a new felony crime of trading in child pornography over the Internet. The bill also would increase the penalties for buying sex with a minor so that the presumed prison sentence for a first-time offender would nearly double to almost five years.


Fighting 2016 Midwest Wildfire Cost Hardest-Hit County $1.5M

MEDICINE LODGE, Kan. (AP) — Fighting a wildfire that scorched nearly 600 square miles in Kansas and Oklahoma last year cost the hardest hit county $1.5 million. The Hutchinson News reports that Kansas's Barber County is seeking federal help to recoup part of the expense. The blaze started last March in Oklahoma and spread into rural Kansas. About $400,000 of the cost was for four National Guard helicopters, which dropped water on the fire over two days. County emergency management director Jerry McNamar says money also was spent for fuel, repairs, food and water. Little went toward wages because the county's volunteer firefighters earn just $15 a run. McNamar says 750 to 800 cattle died in the county. He also says at least 2,700 miles of fence — worth $27 million — was destroyed.


Kansas Conservation Service Offering Financial Help After Wildfire 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Natural Resources Conservation Service is taking applications for financial assistance for those affected by a wildfire in March of 2016 that burned more than 400,000 acres in Kansas and Oklahoma. The service says it will offer $2 million total in assistance over four years to help with conservation practices such as brush management, firebreaks, prescribed grazing and prescribed burning. The agency's offices are taking applications for this year's funds until March 17. The agency's spokesman, Monty Breneman, says if the demand exceeds the initial allocation, the Natural Resources Conservation Service will ask for more funding. The fire damaged more than 40 structures, miles of fencing and killed hundreds of cattle.


Kansas Lawmakers Consider Closing Police Commission Records

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas lawmakers are considering a bill that would exempt from the open records law a list of licensed law enforcement officers, information about officer terminations and complaints filed about officers maintained by a state commission. That information held by the Kansas Commission on Peace Officers' Standards and Training would be considered closed personnel and investigatory records. Lawmakers say law enforcement agencies that report terminations to the commission could release the records if they wanted to. Judiciary Committee Chairman Representative Blaine Finch says the bill will treat police officers like other employees who have an interest in keeping their personnel information private. Critics say it makes policing less transparent. 


Central Kansas School District Cancels Classes Due to Illness

LANGDON, Kan. (AP) - Students in a central Kansas school district are getting a day off because of an illness outbreak. The Hays Post reports that the Fairfield school district called off classes for Friday after more than 20 percent of students either stayed home Thursday or were sent home. The district has about 290 students and includes the communities of Abbyville, Arlington, Langdon, Plains, Sylvia and Turon. The district plans to use the break to thoroughly clean the facilities.


5 Mumps Cases Identified in Pittsburg

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) - Health officials say five cases of the mumps have been identified in Pittsburg and that more are expected.  The Crawford County Health Department says people began getting ill in early February. Mumps is a viral infection that causes swelling in the salivary glands and cheeks. Those infected are urged to stay home, cover their mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing, and frequently wash their hands. The Pittsburg Morning Sun reports that Sheri Tubach, of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, says the outbreak is linked to one in Arkansas. She says Pittsburg will be monitored, noting that the disease has a 25-day incubation period. She says if there are no new cases for 25 days then the outbreak will be considered to be over.


Suspect Charged After Wichita Police Officer Run Over 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The man suspected of running over a Wichita police officer during a pursuit is now charged with aggravated battery of a law enforcement officer. During his first appearance in Sedgwick County Court Friday, 31-year-old Justin Terrazas also was charged with fleeing and eluding police and various drug charges. Terrazas was arrested Tuesday after officer Brian Arterburn was injured when he was hit by a fleeing vehicle as he placed tire-deflation devices on a road in south Wichita. Arterburn, a 25-year veteran, remained in critical condition Friday at a Wichita hospital. He suffered injuries to his chest, abdomen and brain. Terrazas's next court appearance is scheduled for February 23. 


Kansas Police Chief Injured in Unusual Accident 

WILSON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says a central Kansas police chief was injured after an unoccupied police car struck him. The patrol say 69-year-old Wilson Police Chief Robert Charles Doepp was hurt early Friday on a highway one mile east of Wilson. The Hays Post reports a vehicle driven by 39-year-old Amanda Ann Thrasher, of Wilson, struck an Ellsworth County Sheriff's vehicle that was parked and unoccupied. That vehicle then hit an unoccupied Wilson police vehicle, which hit Doepp. Doepp was taken to Ellsworth County Medical Center, which declined to release his condition.


Kansas City Police Investigate After Man Found Dead on Street 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police are investigating a deadly shooting in Kansas City, Missouri. The Kansas City Star reports that officers found a man's body early Friday on a street. The man was in his mid-20s, but his name wasn't immediately released. Police did not have a suspect description. Anyone with information is urged to call the KCMO police tips hotline.


Kansas Man Pleads No Contest in Zombie Beating Death Case

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A 38-year-old man who said he beat his roommate to death because he thought she was a zombie pleaded no contest to second-degree murder. Christopher Duane Wallace entered the plea Friday in the January 2016 strangling and beating death of 35-year-old Jennifer Lopez in Overland Park. A Johnson County judge then found Wallace guilty of the charge and scheduled sentencing for April 3. The Kansas City Star reports ( ) Wallace told police he had fallen asleep after taking methamphetamine. Court documents say he said he began beating Lopez when she woke him up because he thought she was a zombie. He told police he kept beating Lopez until "something made him stop."


Kansas Teen Wounded in Apparent Accidental Shooting

WILSON, Kan. (AP) - Authorities are investigating after a central Kansas teen was wounded in what appeared to be an accidental shooting. Police Chief Bob Doepp says responding officers found the boy suffering from a gunshot wound to the chest Thursday afternoon in the Ellsworth County town of Wilson. He was taken to a Salina hospital with serious injuries. The Hays Post reports that Doepp says the shooting "appears to be accidental," although authorities are "still considering everything."


Lawyer Admits to Conspiracy with Former Law Partner 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City lawyer admitted conspiring with his former law partner to steal money from St. Luke's Health Systems. Mark Schultz pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy. His former law partner, Alan Gallas, pleaded guilty last April to mail fraud and was sentenced Friday to one year in federal prison. Gallas also was ordered to pay restitution of about $1.2 million. The Kansas City Star reports the men collected money for the health system from patients who were behind on payments. Rather than forwarding the money to St. Luke's, Gallas directed more than $1.2 million be transferred to the law firm. Attorneys don't agree on how much money Schultz helped withhold. Gallas has been disbarred in Kansas and Missouri. Schultz's law licenses are still active in the two states.


Superfortress Plane Caretakers Hope for Permanent Hangar in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A nonprofit that owns a restored Wichita-built Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber hopes to have a permanent home for the plane by next year. The Wichita Eagle reports the World War II-era warbird known as "Doc" is currently housed at Air Capital Flight Line in Wichita. Doc's permanent hangar will likely be at Wichita Eisenhower National Airport. Josh Wells is the spokesman for the nonprofit Doc's Friends. He says all of the airplane's maintenance will be done at the airport, which also has runways and public access that would allow visitors to see the plane when it's not flying. The exact location of Doc's permanent home is expected to be announced in the next few months. The plane was flown in July for the first time in 60 years, following a 16-year restoration effort in Wichita. 


Vintage Plane on Display at Aviation Museum in Wichita 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A nearly 90-year-old restored airplane has been dedicated in a new exhibit at the Kansas Aviation Museum. The Wichita Eagle reports the Watkins Skylark was first built in Wichita in 1931 and is the only one out of Everett Watkins' six planes to survive today. The grandson of Everett, Brad Watkins, says the plane was sold to Frank Powell of El Dorado in 1931 but was involved in a crash two years later. Everett decided to shut down his aviation company after the accident. Marvin Kline of Milan, Kansas, called the museum some years ago saying he had pieces of the plane stored on his farm from when his uncle collected them. After over a dozen years of rebuilding and restoration, the plane was unveiled at the museum Thursday.


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