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Headlines for Friday, June 12, 2015

UPDATE: Kansas Senate Approves Tax Bill, Concluding Record-Long Session 

Kansas legislators have approved increases in sales and cigarette taxes to erase a budget deficit and avert deep spending cuts. The Senate voted 21-19 Friday to approve a bill raising the sales tax to 6.5 percent from 6.15 percent. The House passed it 63-45 early Friday morning, and it goes next to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. The GOP-dominated Legislature also is sending Brownback a companion bill to increase the cigarette tax by 50 cents a pack to $1.29. The House passed it 63-44 early Friday, after the Senate's approval Sunday. The two bills together raise $384 million during the fiscal year that begins July 1 to balance the budget. The state's budget problems arose after lawmakers slashed income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback's urging to stimulate the economy.


Brownback Pleased with Tax Bill Passage 

Republican Governor Sam Brownback is praising Kansas legislators for passing what he calls pro-growth tax policy. The governor issued a statement Friday minutes after the Senate voted 21-19 to approve a bill raising the state's sales tax to 6.5 percent from 6.15 percent. The House approved it earlier Friday. The measure and a companion bill also going to Brownback would raise $384 million during the fiscal year that begins July 1. It would avert a budget deficit and deep spending cuts. Brownback said: "I congratulate them on coming together in a spirit of cooperation and compromise to do what is right for Kansas." But Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka accused Brownback of using fear-mongering to get Republicans to pass the bill. And Republican Sen. Jeff Longbine of Emporia likened tactics from the administration and fellow lawmakers to blackmail. Brownback's aides had warned about potential across-the-board spending cuts or vetoes of state university operating funds should lawmakers not approve tax increases.


House Passes Tax Plan in Early Morning Hours 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House members came to an agreement and passed a bill early this (FRI) morning for raising taxes to help erase a budget deficit. The vote was 63-45 and came just after 4:00 Friday morning after a marathon, all night session.  The measure passed by the House raises the state's sales tax to 6.5 percent from 6.15 percent. It also includes a tax increase of 50 cents a pack on cigarettes and no increase in taxes for business owners. It eliminates a tax break on food passed by the state Senate on Sunday. The bill raises about $384 million during the fiscal year that begins July 1. The House suspended a rule prohibiting them from working after midnight and negotiated through the night before passing the bill early this morning. 


LaPolice to Challenge Huelskamp in 1st District Seat Primary

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A third candidate is announcing plans to run in the Republican primary for the 1st District congressional race.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Alan LaPolice announced his candidacy Thursday night at the VFW post in Clyde.  LaPolice, a student retention specialist at Cloud County Community College in Concordia, lost to Representative Tim Huelskamp in the Republican primary last year. Huelskamp went on to defeat Democrat Jim Sherow and win a fourth term in Congress. Also running in the 2016 primary is Republican Roger Marshall, an obstetrician and gynecologist from Great Bend.  Candidates have until June 2016 to file a statement of candidacy for the congressional seat. The primary election will be held in August 2016 ahead of the November 2016 general election.


Driver Charged in Cycling Death of Washburn Professor

WALNUT, Kan. (AP) - A Chanute man has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder in the death of a Washburn University professor who was killed while competing in a cycling race in Crawford County. Kansas media outlets report the 37-year-old man was also charged Thursday with reckless driving, improper passing of a bicycle and driving on the left side in a no-passing zone. He has been released on a $75,000 bond. Authorities say 60-year-old Glenda Taylor of Topeka died in the accident June 7 in rural Walnut when she was struck by the suspect's pickup truck while she was warming up for the Kansas State Time Trial Championships. Taylor was a Washburn faculty member for 27 years.


Judge May Approve Bail for Couple in Money Laundering Case 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge says he is inclined to release pending trial a couple accused of laundering millions of dollars for a Mexican cartel drug at a small Kansas bank. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten told George and Agatha Enns of Meade, Kansas, during a detention hearing he would free them on a $50,000 bond each if updated information they provide about their assets appears to be satisfactory. An indictment alleges that between 2011 and 2014, the couple deposited more than $6.8 million into their account at Plains State Bank. The government contends the couple is hiding assets that they could use to flee. But a defense attorney says if it weren't for their 10 family members the couple wouldn't even have had the money to retain legal counsel.


Kansas High Court Holds for Student Injured in Crash 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that an insurance company should cover a student who was in a private vehicle when he was injured in a crash on the way to a soccer match. The ruling stems from a 2006 accident in which Jesus Rodriguez was seriously injured while traveling in a pickup to the first soccer match of his high school season. Rodriguez filed a claim under the Kansas State High School Activities Association's Mutual of Omaha insurance policy. Mutual of Omaha denied the claim. In a ruling released Friday, the high court reversed an appeals court decision and held that private vehicle transportation to a school soccer match during which a student is injured qualifies as "covered travel." The case returns to the district court in Kansas City.


Fort Riley Says Goodbye to Kiowa Helicopters 

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — Fort Riley troops stood in formation Friday as a fleet of Kiowa helicopters flew overhead in a symbolic tribute to the retiring aircraft. Unlike the heavily armored Apache helicopters, Kiowas are intended to be flown so low they've been outfitted with wire cutters in front of the cockpit in case the helicopter encounters power lines. Chief Warrant Officer Tim Riordan told The Manhattan Mercury that he's grown to love the Kiowa. But he said advances in drone technology and the need to trim costs have led the Army to replace the Kiowa with a combination of Apache helicopters and Shadow unmanned aerial systems. Riordan and other pilots will fly the unit's Kiowas to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, where the helicopters will be stored.


Catholic Convent in Wichita to Shelter Homeless Families

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - An order of nuns says it plans to allow a little-used convent in Wichita to become a shelter for homeless families. The Sisters of St. Joseph says it will hand over its 100-year-old convent to Catholic Charities. The shelter, which will be called the Mount, is expected to partially open in October or November. When a final phase opens in 2018, the building will house up to 150 residents. The Wichita Eagle reports the sisters decided to find a better use for the convent because of a dwindling congregation. Currently 75 sisters live in the convent but it could house 130 to 150 sisters. The convent is ready for homeless families to move in but new buildings for the sisters need to be constructed on the grounds.


Earthquakes in Kansas, Oklahoma Prompt Meeting over Fracking 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Environmental groups from Kansas and Oklahoma are hosting a public event this weekend that aimed at raising awareness about earthquakes and a hydraulic fracturing process commonly known as fracking. The Sierra Club chapters from the two states have scheduled the meeting Saturday at the Medford Civic Center in Medford, Oklahoma. Both states have seen a rise in earthquake activity. On tap for the event is the screening of the film, "Groundswell Rising," and a discussion with Todd Halihan, hydrogeology professor at Oklahoma State University. Fracking is the practice of injecting high-pressure water, sand and chemicals into oil- or gas-bearing rock to increase the flow. Injection wells are used to store waste water from that process, and to push waste fluids deep underground. The environmental groups have been pushing for a moratorium on injection wells in the states.


KDHE Issues Algae Bloom Warnings for 5 Kansas Lakes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials say five lakes around the state currently have toxic algae blooms. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says warnings for blue-green algae have been issued for Chisolm Creek Park Lake in Sedgwick County, Lovewell State Park Lake in Jewell County, Marion Reservoir in Marion County, Memorial Park Lake in Barton County and Norton Lake in Norton County. KDHE says lakes under a watches or warnings are not closed, but the public should be aware that high levels of toxic blue-green algae have been detected. The department says direct contact with the water is strongly discouraged for people, pets and livestock. 


3 Charged in Relation to Theft of 5,000 Oxycodone Doses 

NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Federal prosecutors have charged three people in connection to the theft of more than 5,000 doses of oxycodone from pharmacies in the Kansas City, Missouri, area. The Kansas City Star reports that 26-year-old Austin T. Bradbury, 25-year-old Danielle M. Bradbury and 20-year-old Christa M. O'Dell, all of North Kansas City, were charged Thursday with possession with the intent to sell oxycodone. Bradbury was also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. According to court documents, the suspects robbed pharmacies in Independence and Kansas City in May, and one in Liberty on Tuesday. Authorities say they served a federal search warrant at a residence Tuesday and arrested the suspects. More than 1,000 oxycodone doses and a handgun were recovered. It is not immediately clear if they have an attorney.


Construction to Hinder Interstate 70 Travel from KC to St. Louis 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri transportation officials are warning drivers that construction projects will cause delays on Interstate 70 between Kansas City and St. Louis this summer. The state is encouraging drivers to avoid using the interstate at peak travel times on Friday and Sunday afternoons. It says delays of up to an hour are possible in some areas. Alternate routes include U.S. 50 south of the interstate or U.S. 36 to the north. The Missouri Department of Transportation says the main cause of congestion will be work on bridges over the Blackwater River near Marshall Junction. Work on the westbound bridge is expected to be finished in mid-August, with the eastbound lane finished in mid-October.


Symphony in the Flint Hills Returns to Original Location

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - An annual outdoor symphony concert in the Flint Hills is expected to draw a crowd of 7,500 when it returns to Chase County for its 10th anniversary. The Symphony in the Flint Hills changes location each summer, but this year's event will be held Saturday at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, where the inaugural concert took place in 2006. Grammy Award-winning artist Lyle Lovett will perform at the event for the second time. The Wichita Eagle reports that Symphony in the Flint Hills is a nonprofit aiming to spur appreciation and knowledge of the tallgrass prairie by bringing people together to experience it. In addition to an evening concert, the event also features educational programs, walking tours, an instrument "petting zoo" and a silent auction featuring prairie-themed art and photography.


Police: Wichita Shooting Leaves Man Injured, Dog Dead

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man has turned himself in to police after a shooting in Wichita that left a man critically injured and a dog dead. Wichita media outlets report police responded to a disturbance outside a home around 6 pm on Thursday. Sergeant Nichelle Woodrow said when officers arrived, a 41-year-old man was found with a gunshot wound to the chest. He was taken to a local hospital in critical condition. According to Woodrow, a dog had been shot and killed. Authorities say the suspect turned himself in to police a short time later.


Kansas School Bans 'Dirty' Dancing 

HAVEN, Kan. (AP) - Students at Haven High School will have to look at each other while dancing next school year. The south-central Kansas school district says a type of dancing known as grinding will be banned at school functions. During a grinding dance, the students dance back-to-front with the person in back making a grinding motion. School board member Bobbie Rohling says the dancing is "X-rated" and too much of it is occurring at school dances. The Hutchinson News reports several other Kansas schools have banned the dance in recent years, including Inman, Goddard and McPherson.


Federal Funds, Conservation Group to Pay for Wetlands Restoration

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) - Three grants from a federal fund and donations from Ducks Unlimited and its partners will pay for nearly $9 million in habitat protection and restoration projects in Kansas. The Great Bend Tribune reports more than $2.9 million in funding to enhance 4,500 acres in central Kansas marshes will come from North American Wetlands Conservation Act grants. Ducks Unlimited and its partners are adding nearly $6 million to help pay for the project. NAWCA has provided more than $1.7 million in grant funds for wetland protection efforts in Kansas, with Ducks Unlimited and its partners matching NAWCA's contributions at least dollar-for-dollar and often far more. The North American Wetlands Conservation Act of 1989 was passed, in part, to support activities under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.


Kansas Woman Pleads Guilty in Fatal Traffic Accident

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) - A 36-year-old Kansas woman has pleaded guilty in an accident that killed a passenger on a motorcycle. Jaime Carter, of Tonganoxie, pleaded guilty Wednesday to involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence of drugs, aggravated battery and driving with a suspended license. Authorities say Carter hit a motorcycle in southern Leavenworth County in May 2014, killing 49-year-old Mary Steuber. Her husband, Kristopher, who was driving the motorcycle suffered serious injuries, including a broken neck and losing part of his left leg. The Leavenworth Times reports a toxicology report found several drugs in Carter's system. Wednesday's hearing was scheduled to determine if Carter was competent to stand trial, but her attorney said Carter wanted instead to withdraw an earlier not guilty plea and plead guilty.


KU Announces Roster to Represent US at World Tournament 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas has announced the 12-man roster it will use to represent the United States in men's basketball at the World University Games next month in South Korea. The school, chosen to serve as the national team, will field virtually its entire roster for next season. The only players unable to compete are those born outside the U.S., such as Ukrainian guard Svi Mykhailiuk and Cheick Diallo, an incoming freshman from Mali. With forward Brannen Greene out with an injury, Jayhawks coach Bill Self has also recruited SMU guard Nic Moore to join the team. He arrived in time to begin practicing Thursday. The team plays a pair of games against Canada next week before departing for South Korea on June 28. The U.S. begins competition on July 4.



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