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Headlines for Friday, July 1, 2016

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

June Tax Receipts $34.5 Million Below Expectations 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas tax revenue receipts have come up $34.5 million short for June, pushing the fiscal year-ending shortfall to $76.2 million. The state Department of Revenue said on Friday receipts for corporate income taxes missed estimates by $20.3 million, or 25 percent. The department says those taxes were not part of the 2012 income tax reductions championed by Gov. Sam Brownback. The revenue gap is forcing the state to make adjustments previously outlined by budget director Shawn Sullivan to balance the fiscal year 2016 budget. The state is withholding $75 million from the June payment to schools and will distribute that on July 7. Also, a total of $23.6 million will come from the Department of Transportation, Department of Corrections and unspent funds from the Kansas State Department of Education.


Concealed Carry for Kansas Public Workers Begins Today 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — State and municipal employees will be able to conceal and carry on the job starting today (FRI). The Wichita Eagle reports that the measure is one of many newly passed laws that take effect July 1. Other measures include a shortening of the time someone can receive welfare and a ban on use of tanning beds by people under 18. Under the concealed weapon law, public employees won't need gun safety training to carry on the job. Supporters say this will allow public employees to protect themselves on the job. Opponents say it violates the personal property rights of homeowners and creates potential safety risks. Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell says it remains to be seen how many city employees will even take advantage of the right to carry.


Voting Rights Groups Appeal Federal Form Changes in Kansas, 2 Other States

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Voting rights groups are appealing a judge's order which they say threatens to disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters in three states in the upcoming November elections. A notice of appeal filed Friday to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia seeks a quick review of the actions of a U.S. elections official who added proof-of-citizenship requirements on a federal mail-in voter registration form. The groups seek to set aside the executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission's "unauthorized and unilateral" modification requiring citizenship documentation for residents of Kansas, Alabama and Georgia. Their filing contends the action — taken without public notice — violates federal law. It says that evidence of those violations is so overwhelming that the Justice Department agreed it should be immediately overturned.


Handful of Kansas Schools Could See Tax Changes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A handful of small, rural Kansas school districts face spikes in local property taxes or spending cuts because they're losing state aid under a new education funding law. But a few other rural districts could see tax levies decrease significantly. Dozens of districts of all sizes will see modest decreases because the state will give them additional aid for the 2016-17 school year. The new law that took effect Friday focuses on smoothing out the taxes imposed by school districts. It's part of an education funding system designed to prevent an over-reliance on local levies so that educational offerings across the state don't vary too widely. Districts that are losing some of the aid they'd been promised must increase taxes to make it up.


State of Kansas Seeks Dismissal of Discrimination Lawsuit 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas secretary of state's office has asked a judge to throw out the federal lawsuit filed by a former employee who claims she was fired for not attending Bible study sessions at the office. Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker argued in a filing Thursday that Courtney Canfield cannot prove discrimination and any remaining claims are barred by sovereign immunity. The state contends Canfield was terminated from her clerk's job because of disruptive workplace behavior, poor attendance and excessive personal phone use — not because of "religious animus." Kansas contends that that the only evidence of religious discrimination is a statement Rucker allegedly made to another woman that Canfield was fired because she did not go to church. Rucker argues he was not the decision maker in her firing.


Official: Medicaid Non-Expansion Had Role in Topeka Hospital Sale 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The president of a central Topeka hospital says the lack of Medicaid expansion in Kansas played a large role in the decision to sell St. Francis Health. The Topeka Capital Journal reports that SCL Health put the hospital up for sale in May. Hospital president David Setchel says that the facility forgoes up to $10 million in revenue each year because the state refused to expand KanCare, the state's privatized Medicaid program. SCL Health owns hospitals in multiple states, but Setchel said at a KanCare forum that its Topeka hospital is the only facility to operate in a state that hasn't expanded Medicaid. Governor Sam Brownback's office has argued expansion would prioritize those who choose not to work before people who are intellectually or physically disabled, as well as people who are frail, elderly or mentally ill.


Maximum-Security Unit at Kansas Prison on Lockdown 

LANSING, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Corrections says the maximum-security unit at the state's largest prison is on lockdown after "altercations" involving inmates and staff. Corrections spokesman Adam Pfannenstiel said in an email Friday the maximum-security unit at the Lansing Correctional Facility is on lockdown after four "separate incidents" early Thursday. He described the incidents as "altercations initiated by inmates against staff." He says there were no serious injuries, and the incidents appear unrelated. During the lockdown, which will be reevaluated Tuesday, inmates will remain in their cells and won't move throughout the facility. Visitation for the maximum-security unit is also canceled during the lockdown. The Leavenworth Times reports that the lockdown comes as Sam Cline became the prison's new warden last week, replacing former Warden Rex Pryor, who retired.


General Mills Expands Flour Recall 

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — General Mills is expanding its recall of certain types of flour in response to an ongoing outbreak of illnesses related to a strain of E. coli bacteria. The Minneapolis-based company on June 1 voluntarily recalled 10 million pounds of its Gold Medal, Signature Kitchens and Wondra flour that federal health officials say was the likely source of dozens of illnesses in 20 states. The flour is largely produced at the company's Kansas City, Missouri, plant. The company's announcement Friday expands the recall to include flour made earlier in the fall that might still be in consumers' pantries. The company said in a statement that the expanded recall was due to a newly reported illness that appears to come from consuming raw dough or batter linked to the flour produced last fall.


Kansas Teens at Center of Unequal Pay Dispute Find New Jobs 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas teens have new jobs after their firing from a pizza restaurant touched off a heated discussion about persistent pay inequality in the American workplace. The Kansas City Star reports that issues arose earlier this month within hours of Jensen Walcott and Jake Reed finding summer jobs at a Pizza Studio restaurant in Kansas City, Kansas. When Jensen asked why she was going to earn $8 an hour while Reed was set to earn $8.25, a female manager fired both 17-year-olds. The friends from suburban Bonner Springs were told it was against company policy to discuss wages. The California-based pizza chain has since said the manager has been let go and was wrong about the policy. The National Labor Relations Act allows employees to discuss compensation.


Company Tries Again to Build Power Line in Missouri

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A company is trying again to build a power line in Missouri for a multistate wind energy project. Houston-based Clean Line Energy Partners on Thursday reapplied to build the Grain Belt Express despite earlier rejection from state regulators. The power line would transmit energy from Kansas, across northern Missouri and Illinois to Indiana. Missouri utilities would have access to electricity. Governor Jay Nixon said Wednesday he supports the project. A group representing Missouri municipal utilities in June signed up for space on the transmission line. But some landowners have said it could hurt farming and property values. The Missouri Public Service Commission last year denied Grain Belt Express' application, citing landowner concerns and questioning the need for the project. Missouri is the only state that hasn't approved it.


Report: Kansas Farmers Planted More Corn, Soybeans 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new government report shows Kansas growers planted this spring more of their fields into corn and soybeans, and put in fewer acres of sorghum. The National Agricultural Statistics Service said Thursday that Kansas farmers planted 4.8 million acres in corn, an increase of 16 percent compared to a year ago. About 95 percent were biotechnology varieties. Also up in the state are soybean acres. The agency said Kansas had 4.15 million acres seeded in soybeans, an increase of 6 percent compared to last year. Plantings this spring of sorghum are down 7 percent to 3.15 million acres. Sunflower plantings plummeted 35 percent, down to 55,000 acres. Kansas farmers are now harvesting the 8.5 million acres of winter wheat seeded last fall.


Westar Energy Inc. Asks Kansas Agency to Approve $12.2B Sale 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A joint application to approve the $12.2 billion sale of Westar Energy Inc. has been filed with the Kansas Corporation Commission. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Great Plains Energy Inc., Kansas City Power and Light and Westar filed the application Tuesday. If approved, Westar would be sold to Great Plains. According to the filing, pre-tax savings and efficiencies for Great Plains and Westar are estimated to be about $65 million in the first year after the transaction closes. The companies say those savings are expected to increase to nearly $200 million annually. The filing says the transaction will create a significant state income tax benefit. The commission has 60 days to set a procedural schedule regarding the potential sale.


Midwest Economic Survey Points Toward Slow Growth

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Figures from a survey of supply managers in nine Midwest and Plains states have dropped slightly but still suggest economic growth ahead. A report issued Friday says the Mid-American Business Conditions index hit 50.1 in June, compared with 52.1 in May. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he says gains for nondurable-goods producers more than offset continuing losses for regional durable-goods manufacturers. The survey results are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests economic growth. A score below that suggests decline. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.


2 Die in Industrial Accident in South Wichita
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say two men have died at an industrial accident in south Wichita. The accident was reported Thursday morning at Occidental Chemical Corporation. They were contract workers at the plant. The men were pronounced dead at the scene. Their names have not been released. Sedgwick County Sheriff Lieutenant Lin Dehning says a preliminary investigation indicates some of the men's mechanical equipment failed. Dehning says no chemicals were released from the plant and the public was never in danger.


Teen Sentenced in Attack on Great Bend School Bus 

ELLSWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A Great Bend teenager has been sentenced to a year of probation for his part in an assault on another teenager on a swim team school bus. The 17-year-old was sentenced this week in Ellsworth County Court to unsupervised probation to end July 5, 2017. He was convicted in May of misdemeanor battery stemming from the assault as the team's bus went through Ellsworth County. A second teen was sentenced in May to a year's probation. The Hutchinson News reports the victim's mother has filed a civil lawsuit seeking about $400,000 in damages from 21 defendants, including the parents of the two teenagers, the Great Bend school district, the Great Bend High School principal, two swim coaches, a bus driver and members of the district's school board.


Man Dies While Evading Police in Newton

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man has died from a medical condition in east Newton while avoiding arrest by police. The Newton Police Department says officers stopped a vehicle in an alley around 11:30 pm Wednesday. A man and a woman fled the scene. The Wichita Eagle reports that one officer stayed with other occupants inside the vehicle while another officer pursued the woman. She was eventually taken into custody. The man went to an acquaintance's home. A resident called 911 after noticing he was in medical distress, but he died at the residence.


Man Convicted in Fatal Bank Robbery to Return to Nebraska

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A man convicted of fatally shooting bank employees during a robbery in Nebraska more than 50 years ago is set to be transferred from a Kansas federal prison. Deuel County Attorney Joel Jay applied for the transfer order on June 24. The North Platte Telegraph reports that 73-year-old Duane Earl Pope will be released from a Leavenworth, Kansas, prison Friday and transferred to the Diagnostic and Evaluation Center in Lincoln to serve out three life sentences he received after authorities say he robbed a bank in Big Springs. Three people died and one person was paralyzed in the June 1965 incident. Authorities say Pope drove from his Kansas home to the bank, where he demanded money and ordered four bank employees to lie on the floor before shooting each of them.


79-Year-Old Wichita Man Killed in Lawnmower Accident 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 79-year-old Kansas man is dead after his riding lawnmower rolled into a creek near his Wichita home and trapped him underneath. The Wichita Eagle reports that police responded to the 911 call around 3 p.m. Thursday after the man's wife found him. Police spokeswoman Nikki Woodrow says he was pronounced dead at the scene. It wasn't clear how long the man had been trapped. It was the second fatal Wichita lawnmower mishap in as many days. On Wednesday, a 63-year man who owns a lawn care business was trapped under a mower he was repairing at his home. The motor was still running when he was found. He also was pronounced dead at the scene.


KU Jayhawks Land Former 5-Star Basketball Recruit from Mississippi State 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Former five-star recruit Malik Newman is transferring to the University of Kansas, where he will be forced to redshirt during the upcoming season and be classified as a sophomore beginning in 2017-18. The 6-foot-3 Newman started 21 of 29 games as a freshman at Mississippi State last season, averaging 11.3 points. He hit seven 3-pointers and scored a career-high 25 points in a game against rival Ole Miss. Newman declared for the NBA draft following the season, but chose to return to school after the annual scouting combine. At that point, he decided to continue his career at a different school. KU coach Bill Self said he recruited Newman hard coming out of high school, and that his coaching staff jumped at getting a second chance with him. Self said the year Newman will spend as a redshirt will help him to address the things NBA scouts wanted to see out of him.


Kendrys Morales Leads Royals to 4-2 Win over Cardinals

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Kansas City Royals' Kendrys Morales homered and recorded his sixth straight multi-hit game to lead the Royals to a 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday night. Kansas City won for the fourth time in five games and took the two-city, four-game series three games to one. Wade Davis recorded his 19th save in 21 opportunities. Morales, a designated hitter playing right field for the second straight night, doubled in the sixth inning off Mike Leake (5-6) to push the lead to 3-1. Morales, who went 3 for 4, has 16 hits in 24 at-bats over the six-game run. He went 12 for 16 in the series and started in the outfield for the first time since 2008.


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