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Headlines for Friday, July 31, 2015

Here's a summary of the day's AP news headlines for our area, mostly Kansas.

July Tax Collections $3.7M Lower Than Expected 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas collected about $3.7 million less in taxes than it expected in July, largely because of lower-than-anticipated revenues from its newly increased sales tax. The state Department of Revenue reported Friday that the state collected $417.6 million in taxes, when officials projected $421.3 million. The shortfall is 0.9 percent. The report came a day after Governor Sam Brownback's budget director announced $63 million in adjustments to the state's $15.4 billion budget to lessen the chances of a deficit. Lawmakers last month increased sales and cigarette taxes as well. Sales tax collections were $189.1 million for the month, or $3.9 million less than expected. The shortfall was 2 percent. But the state's personal income tax collections were $3 million more than expected, at $153 million. The surplus was 2 percent.


Moody's View of Pension Bonds in Line with Kansas Rating 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A major credit agency is rating $1 billion in bonds that Kansas hopes to sell to bolster its pension system for teachers and government works in line with the state's existing rating. Moody's Investors Service this week assigned a rating of Aa3 to the bonds, which the state hopes to sell next month. That's one notch below the Aa2 rating for Kansas and a standard decrease when a state's legislature must appropriate money for annual bond payments. The ratings agency also said its outlook for the bonds is stable. The state pension system expects to earn significantly more from investing the funds raised by the bonds than the state will pay to retire the debt over 30 years. The state is limited to paying 5 percent interest to bond investors.


Kansas Governor Shifts Money, Implements $63 Million in Budget Changes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Governor Sam Brownback's administration has outlined nearly $63 million in adjustments to the current Kansas budget.  The measures unveiled yesterday (THUR) take advantage of unanticipated federal funds, unused agency funds and lower-than-expected spending by state agencies to lessen the chances of a deficit next year.  Brownback told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview that he is trying to ensure that Kansas residents don't see any effects on government services. Budget Director Shawn Sullivan announced the adjustments during a Thursday afternoon news conference.  The biggest change is the addition of nearly $18 million in federal funds for health coverage for children during the fiscal year beginning this month. Sullivan said the federal government increased funding for such coverage in late June, allowing the state to reduce its own spending.


Kansas Won't Bar Singles as Foster Parents

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Children and Families says it will not prevent single adults from serving as foster parents for abused and neglected children. Agency spokeswoman Theresa Freed said Friday that the department has never considered excluding single adults from being foster parents just because they are single. Freed first discussed the agency's position in an Associated Press interview. The department did not issue a public statement. Freed says the department isn't making any statement about its position on legally married same-sex couples serving together as foster parents. Before the U.S. Supreme Court last month legalized same-sex marriage, Kansas allowed gays and lesbians to serve as foster parents as single adults. Questions have arisen about the department's plans because it is reviewing foster care policies.


Finney County Disputes Immigrant Sanctuary Claim

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Fearing the possible loss of Federal Emergency Management Agency funds, Finney county officials are challenging Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder's assertion that their county is an immigrant sanctuary.  The Garden City Telegram reports that under legislation being pushed by Yoder, states, cities and counties who limit their cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security on immigration matters would not be eligible for FEMA grants for one year.  Finney County Sheriff Kevin Bascue insists his office does cooperate with federal officials but two recent court decisions addressing immigration detainers requests have left them legally unable to honor further holds.  Finney County Administrator Randy Partington argues his county should not be penalized for following the law.  Calls to the Department of Homeland Security and federal immigration officials were not returned.


80-Year-Old Accused of Threatening Animal Control Officers

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — An 80-year-old Kansas woman is accused of threatening animal control officers and firing a handgun as they were attempting to remove a dog from her property. The Hutchinson News reports the woman was arrested Wednesday evening on suspicion of disorderly conduct and other charges. Police say animal control officers were called to her rural Hutchinson home after a black Labrador bit a Reno County Area Transit driver. Sheriff's spokesman Darrian Campbell says the woman seemed OK with the dog being removed until the officers started tracking it with tranquilizer guns. Campbell says the woman went into her house and came out with a .22-caliber semi-automatic handgun, forcing the officers to take cover. He says the woman fired one round, but it's unclear if she was aiming at anyone.


Kansas Mother Accused of Trying to Poison Her 2 Daughters

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas woman has been arrested on two counts of attempted murder after one of her daughters told police she was trying to poison the girl and her sister. Topeka police were called to a home at 4:30 pm Sunday, where a 14-year-old girl told investigators her mother was trying to poison her and her 9-year-old sister with prescription medication. The teen said her mother had been making comments about wanting to die. All three were taking to local hospitals for treatment and the children were placed into protective custody. The 43-year-old mom was booked into the Shawnee County Jail on Wednesday and was being held on $500,000 bond. Official charges hadn't been filed as of late Thursday afternoon. Police say the names of the juveniles aren't being released.


Kansas Inmates Accused Severely Beating Fellow Prisoner
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas inmates who are accused of nearly beating a fellow prisoner to death last year have appeared in court on the charges. The Hutchinson News reports that 31-year-old Juan Garza and 22-year-old Jerrod Green appeared Thursday on charges of aggravated battery or in the alternate attempted capital murder. He's also charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated battery or in the alternate conspiracy to commit attempted capital murder. A count in the alternate means a jury can convict the men of one or the other count, but not both. The two are accused in the June 12, 2014, beating of Miguel Garcia inside Hutchinson Correctional Facility. Assistant Reno County prosecutor Andrew Davidson says Garza and Green "beat up the guy real bad" in prison.


7 Kansas Communities Receive Airport Project Funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state is awarding seven communities funding for airport projects. The $3.8 million in awards announced Friday by the Kansas Department of Transportation include two funds for Quinter, which will receive a total of nearly $2 million to construct a new airport. Other funds from the Phase II Kansas Airport Improvement Program will go to Fort Scott, Hugoton, Independence, Minneapolis, Moline and Rose Hill. Transportation Secretary Mike King says Quinter's airport will fill a gap in airport services to rural Kansans. Quinter is a Gove County town of about 900 residents in western Kansas. The programs first phase awarded funds to 21 projects earlier this year. The state reserves $5 million annually for the program. The department said in a news release it received 118 applications for 2016.


Woman Killed by Train While Walking Down Railroad Tracks 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a woman is dead after being struck by a train while walking on railroad tracks with headphones on. Police spokesman Sergeant James Krock says he was told the unidentified woman never looked back or heard the train coming Friday morning. The Wichita Eagle reports the engineer of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe train called to report the woman was struck around 6:50 am. Krok says the woman was pronounced dead at the scene by an EMS crew. Police say the woman was walking with a man but had outdistanced him because she was walking much faster. Her name has not been released as police try to track down her relatives. Krok says she was staying in a house in Sedgwick County.


1 Man Arrested, Another at Large After Kansas Home Invasion 

SOUTH HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — One of two men suspected in a Kansas home invasion makes a first court appearance while the second suspect remains at large. The Hutchinson Post reports a 32-year-old Hutchinson man has been arrested on suspicion of aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery and battery for an incident that happened Friday morning. He has not been formally charged. South Hutchinson police were called to a home shortly after 7 am Friday and were told two men had forced their way inside and demanded money and valuables. The two victims said they fought with the intruders before one of the suspects left and came back with a handgun, firing twice but not hitting anyone. The suspects fled but an officer found and arrested one of them. The other suspect hasn't been located.


Trooper's Lawyer Makes Conflict Claim in Personnel Matter 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A lawyer for a Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper, who criticized the agency after a handcuffed man fell from a patrol boat and drowned, said it's a conflict for state Attorney General Chris Koster to represent police in a personnel matter involving his client. The patrol said last month it was demoting Randy Henry to corporal. The Kansas City Star reports that he remains a sergeant pending his appeal. Koster is representing several patrol members in a lawsuit related to the drowning of Brandon Ellingson. Because Henry is a witness for the plaintiffs, attorney Chet Pleban claims Koster's office is "representing everybody who is at odds" with Henry. Pleban has filed a conflict-of interest motion to a patrol review board, which will recommend whether the discipline should stand. Koster's office has denied any conflict of interest.


Salina Man Gets 10 Years in Prison for Child Porn Possession

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for possessing child pornography.  According to a news release from U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom, 37-year-old Cory Dale McQuillan was sentenced on Wednesday. He had pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child pornography.  Prosecutors say McQuillan admitted to receiving images of child pornography on his cell phone while he was on parole in 2013.  Authorities also say they found child pornography on McQuillan's laptop.


Police: Man Arrested for Comments about Storming Courthouse

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man has been arrested for allegedly threatening to storm the Sedgwick County Courthouse and kill law enforcement officers if a man on trial for murder was found guilty.  Sheriff Jeff Easter said at a news conference yesterday (THUR) that the comments were part of an exchange on Facebook that discussed entering the courtroom while armed. Authorities say the comments were in reference to the trial of Kyler Carriker.  Carriker was on trial for the 2013 shooting death of Ronald Betts during a marijuana deal. Carriker was found not guilty Thursday afternoon.  Easter said several people reported the online comments to law enforcement and additional security was placed at the courthouse.


TriWest Healthcare Plans to Hire 500 People in Kansas City 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An Arizona-based health care services company for the military plans to open a service center in Kansas City and hire 500 employees. TriWest Healthcare Alliance, based in Phoenix, said Friday the center opening September 8 is the company's first center and administrative office in the Midwest. The company has already hired 160 employees and plans to add 340 in August. The company administers programs in 28 states for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The Kansas City site will serve veterans from throughout the Midwest. The state Department of Economic Development says TriWest could get more than $2.4 million of incentives if it meets job creation and investment criteria. TriWest already has an administrative center in Fort Leonard Wood that helps with appointments at the local hospital.


Judge: Salina Teen's Statement Can Be Used at Trial

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Saline County judge has ruled that statements a teenager gave to investigators hours after her sister was killed can be admitted at trial.  Judge Patrick Thompson ruled Wednesday that statements Sierra Niehaus made to four investigators over a period of nearly 15 hours will be allowed at her first-degree murder trial this fall.  Niehaus, now 15, is charged as an adult with first-degree murder in the August 2014 stabbing death of her 13-year-old sister, Galazia, at their family's home in Saline County.  The Salina Journal reports the judge ruled that statements then 14-year-old Niehaus gave to law enforcement in the hours after her younger sister was found stabbed to death were "freely and voluntarily given."  The judge ruled earlier that Niehaus will be tried as an adult.


Man Pleads Not Guilty to Killing Twin, Sister-in-Law

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has pleaded not guilty to killing his twin brother and his sister-in-law.  Luis Alvarado-Meraz is charged with capital murder in the January deaths of 24-year-old Manuel Alvarado-Meraz and 22-year-old Lucero Rodriguez. He is charged with two alternative counts of first-degree murder.  Prosecutors say Luis Alvarado-Meraz fired 21 shots at the couple at an apartment the three of them shared in south Wichita.  A trial was scheduled for October 13th.  The Wichita Eagle reports Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett plans to seek a separate sentencing hearing if Alvarado-Meraz is convicted of capital murder. That preserves prosecutors' ability to ask for the death penalty.


Canoeists Set New Record in Paddling from Kansas to Missouri

ST. CHARLES, Mo. (AP) — Two Texas men have set a new record in a race by canoeing the Missouri River from Kansas City, Kansas, to St. Charles, Missouri, in 34 hours and 34 minutes.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Phil Bowden and Chris Issendorf won first place Wednesday in the 10th annual MR340 race.  Over the next couple of days, hundreds of paddlers are expected to cross the finish line near Lewis and Clark Boat House and Nature Center in St. Charles. The 340-mile competition ends at midnight Friday. The two-man crew managed speeds of around 14 mph at times, and averaged nearly 10 miles per hour. A high, fast-moving river provided an extra push.  



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