UPDATED: Kansas Legislature Passes Big Income Tax Hike
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Legislature has approved a big increase in personal income taxes to help balance the state budget in a move that defies Republican Governor Sam Brownback. The Senate approved a bill Friday that would generate more than $1 billion over two years. The vote was 22-18. Senators acted the day after the House approved the measure, so the bill goes to Brownback. He has strongly criticized the bill and said he would not sign it, but he has so far stopped short of saying specifically that he would veto it. The bill would abandon core tax-cutting policies Brownback championed in 2012 and 2013 to help close projected budget shortfalls totaling nearly $1.1 billion through June 2019. Supporters did not have the two-thirds majorities necessary to override a possible veto.
Republicans in Kansas House Split over Tax Bill
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republicans in the Kansas House split over a bill passed by the chamber to increase income taxes. Forty of the chamber's 85 Republicans voted Thursday for the measure when it passed on a 76-48 vote. Thirty-six of the chamber's 40 Democrats supported the bill. GOP leaders were divided. Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. of Olathe and Speaker Pro Tem Scott Schwab of Olathe voted against the bill. But Majority Leader Don Hineman of Dighton and Taxation Committee Chairman Steven Johnson of Assaria voted for the bill. It would raise more than $1 billion over two years to help balance the budget through June 2019.
KU Campus Police Prepare for Concealed Carry
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas Office of Public Safety is planning to add more positions and new equipment to prepare for allowing concealed handguns on campus. Police Chief Chris Keary tells the Lawrence Journal-World that the office is adding three police officers to patrol busy areas of campus, four portable metal detectors and three security officers to man them. The additions were approved in the latest university budget to abide by a new state law that requires public universities to allow lawful carry of concealed handguns starting July 1. Under the law, buildings can prohibit guns only if the facilities are equipped with adequate security. Keary says no campus building will have permanent security measures. The portable metal detectors will help keep guns out of certain temporary events.
Judge Dismisses Part of Rower's Lawsuit Against Kansas
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed part of a lawsuit filed by a former University of Kansas rower who says a Jayhawk football player sexually assaulted her in 2015. The ruling Thursday by Judge J. Thomas Marten in a lawsuit filed by Sarah McClure mirrors Marten's ruling last week in a similar lawsuit filed by another rower, Daisy Tackett. She said she was assaulted by the same player in 2014. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that McClure's lawsuit against the university will continue. But she will not be able to argue that Kansas should have known there was an increased risk of sexual assault at apartments where football players lived with less supervision than in residence halls. No charges were filed against the player but he was banned from campus in 2016.
Day Without Immigrants Action in Kansas City
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The national "Day Without Immigrants" Thursday included actions in Kansas City, Missouri. The Kansas City Star reports that 400 to 500 protesters gathered near City Hall, many holding banners and signs such as "Somos America," which translates to "We're America." The protests are in response to President Donald Trump's pledge to increase deportation of immigrants living in the country illegally, build a wall along the Mexican border, and ban people from certain majority-Muslim countries from coming into the U.S.
Chinese National in Kansas Found Guilty of Stealing Engineered, Proprietary Rice
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Chinese national living in Manhattan, Kansas, is guilty of conspiring to steal proprietary rice seeds developed in the U.S. and giving them to visitors from China. A federal jury on Thursday convicted 50-year-old Weiqiang Zhang of conspiracy to steal trade secrets, conspiracy to commit interstate transportation of stolen property and interstate transportation of stolen property. Zhang was a rice breeder for Ventria Bioscience in Junction City, Kansas, which develops genetically engineered rice for use in therapeutic and medical fields. Trial evidence indicated Zhang took hundreds of seeds from Ventria and stored them at his home Manhattan. In 2013, officials with a crop research institute in China toured facilities in the Midwest with Zhang. Federal officials found Ventria seeds in the visitors' luggage as they prepared to return to China.
Kansas Loses 800 Small Farms, Bigger Operations Unchanged
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A government report shows Kansas had fewer farms and ranches last year and fewer acres used for agriculture. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Friday that the 59,600 farms counted in the state in 2016 was down 800 farms from the previous year. All of those losses came in operations that had less than $100,000 in agricultural sales. The number of farming operations with sales of more than $100,000 remained unchanged in Kansas. Land used in farms and ranches in the state totaled 45.9 million acres. That is down 100,000 acres from the prior year. Farms size averaged 770 acres, up eight acres from the year earlier.
Kansas Deputy Testifies About Alleged Sexual Assault
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas sheriff's deputy says two Kansas City-area men who are charged with kidnapping and raping her referred to each other by name during the attack. The 22-year-old Johnson County deputy testified Thursday in the preliminary hearing for 25-year-old William Luth, of Blue Springs, Missouri, and 21-year-old Brady Newman-Caddell, of Independence, Missouri. Each man is charged with aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sodomy and two counts of rape. The deputy said one of the men asked her for directions last October as she walked to work at the detention center in Olathe, Kansas. She says the man punched her and forced her into the car, where the two men sexually assaulted her before releasing her. She testified they called each other ``Will'' and ``Brady'' during the assault.
President Trump Gets Ahead of Himself on Pipeline
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump got ahead of himself Friday when he said he's approved construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Trump has signed an order asking the TransCanada pipeline company to "resubmit its application" for a permit to build the project, which it has done. And there's no question Trump is in favor of it. But his statement in South Carolina about the "Keystone pipeline I approved recently" was premature. There's still a regulatory process to go through and negotiations to be done. Trump has said he'd renegotiate some of the terms and is insisting that the pipeline be built with U.S. steel. TransCanada has said it would need time to review how any buy-American plan from Washington will impact the company. Late in his presidency, Barack Obama rejected Keystone XL on environmental grounds. Trump's order directs the State Department and other agencies to make a decision within 60 days of the application.
Topeka Police: Nearly 20 Bus Shelters Damaged
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police say nearly 20 bus shelters have been have been damaged since January 23. Police Lieutenant Colleen Stuart says 16 shelters had glass broken or cracked between January 23 and February 15. Three more were vandalized Thursday. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that police believe a pellet or BB gun is being used to break the glass in drive-by shootings. Susan Duffy, general manager of Topeka Metropolitan Transit Authority, says replacing the broken glass has cost the metro about $10,000 so far. Police say they have no suspects and are asking the public to provide any information.
Ventura Toxicology Report Won't Be Released to Public
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The toxicology report on Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura won't be released to the public following his death last month in a car crash in his native Dominican Republic. The Kansas City Star reports that authorities in the Dominican Republic said Thursday that the findings will only be released to Ventura's family and attorneys. Tessie Sanchez, a spokeswoman for the Dominican attorney general's office, said the toxicology report is not a public document. The results are an important piece in determining whether the Royals are obligated to pay the remainder of Ventura's contract, which is valued at $20.25 million. Royals officials initially said they were told toxicology results would be completed in about three weeks. Ventura was 25 when he died northwest of Santo Domingo on January 22.
Alumni Dispute Allegations That Frat Member Was Drugged
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Alumni of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at Creighton University in Omaha dispute allegations that a frat member accused of attacking another student was drugged as part of a hazing ritual. Nineteen-year-old Christopher Wheeler, from Kansas City, Kansas, is accused of using a pocket knife to cut another student's throat in her room Saturday. She was hospitalized. Wheeler faces felony assault and weapons charges. Wheeler's attorney contends Wheeler was forced to take a hallucinogenic drug before the attack and has no memory of the attack. A statement issued Thursday by alumni Bryan Mick and Eric Hamilton says an alumni investigation "does not support the allegations and speculation of the parents and counsel" of Wheeler. The statement also says any alcohol or drugs consumed by Wheeler appear to have been voluntary.
Fundraising for Wichita's Koch Arena Upgrade About Three-Fourths Done
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Wichita State's efforts to renovate and expand Koch Arena is nearing its fundraising goal. The university foundation and athletic department said in a statement Thursday they have raised nearly three-quarters of the $12 million need for the project. A recent pledge from Wichita-based Equity Bank brought the fundraising total to $8.8 million. The project would include construction of a student center, a conditioning center, training room and student lounge. Coaches and administrative offices would be renovated, and the retail store and hospitality room would be expanded. The last major project at the arena was in 2003-04. The project is one of the priorities of the Wichita State Foundation's $250 million fundraising effort called Shock the World.
Missouri Driver Killed in Crash with School Bus
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Police say the driver of a car has died in a head-on crash with a school bus in suburban Kansas City. The Missouri State Highway Patrol says 32-year-old John Gaage, of Independence, was killed when the car he was driving the wrong way on Missouri 291 collided with bus Thursday afternoon in Jackson County. The Kansas City Star reports that the driver of the bus was taken to a hospital with moderate injuries. The Wellington-Napoleon R-IX School District said in a statement that there were no serious injuries among students or staff members. They returned to the school after the crash, and the basketball game where they had been headed was canceled.
Wichita Police: Drive-Through Window Used in Pharmacy Theft
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Wichita police are looking for two males who entered a pharmacy through a drive-through window took about $10,000 in prescription medications. Sergeant Nikki Woodrow says the Walgreens pharmacy was closed when the theft occurred early Thursday. The thieves took drugs such as OxyContin, oxycodone and hydrocodone but didn't take any cash. Police did not release the race or approximate age of the suspects. One was wearing a camouflage hooded sweatshirt, a white T-shirt, dark pants and gloves. The other wore a dark hooded sweatshirt and dark pants.
Kemper Arena Sold to Developer of Amateur Sports Complex
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kemper Arena is one step closer to becoming an amateur sports complex. The Kansas City Council voted Thursday to sale the arena to Foutch Brothers developers for $1. That will allow Foutch to pursue about $8.3 million in historic tax credits and other financing. The Kansas City Star reports CEO Steve Foutch says construction could start by the end of April. The $25 million to $30 million project would more than double the arena's capacity for indoor soccer, basketball, volleyball, gymnastics and other sports. The arena will be renamed Mosaic Arena. Mosaic Life Care will have a public clinic in the arena that will include specialists in sports medicine. The 42-year-old arena has been mostly empty since the Sprint Center arena opened in downtown Kansas City in 2007.
Vacant Store Partially Collapses in Jazz District
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A vacant building has partially collapsed in the 18th and Vine jazz district in Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports that gusty winds caused the one-story, roofless brick structure to give way Thursday. City Manager Troy Schulte says crews were already deconstructing the walls but that the facade should be salvageable. The building opened in the 1920s as record store but had been vacant for years. It was not among the vacant structures that burned two weeks ago in the area, which the city is hoping will be redeveloped. Before falling into disrepair, the area east of downtown became world famous for the hard-swinging, blues-like jazz style played in its clubs. The jazz district is home to the American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball museum.
Baby Chimp Expected to Join Kansas City Zoo Exhibit
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A chimpanzee born at the Kansas City Zoo last year and raised so far by humans is expected to be in the public primate exhibit this weekend. The Kansas City Star reports that Ruw, pronounced "roo," is a female chimpanzee born on April 1. She was rejected by her mother days after her birth, so zookeepers are raising her in hopes to introduce her to the zoo's chimpanzee group. In a statement Thursday, the zoo said that Ruw "continues to grow and learn how to be a chimp from her surrogate moms." Ruw is expected to be in the public display with the rest of the primate troop Saturday afternoon and Sunday.