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Headlines for Friday, June 3, 2016

Kansas news headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas Looks at Shuffling Funds to Close New Budget Gap 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A spokeswoman for Governor Sam Brownback says his staff is looking at shuffling funds within state government to cover a projected short-term budget deficit. But Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said Friday that budget-balancing measures won't be finalized until officials have a better picture of revenues this month. Tax collections fell $74.5 million short of expectations in May. That leaves Kansas with a projected deficit of about $45 million when the fiscal year ends June 30.  Hawley said the governor does not anticipate trimming spending to address the problem. But making cuts so late in a fiscal year is difficult anyway.  She said the governor's budget staff is looking at diverting fees collected in dozens of special funds into the state's main bank account, where the shortfall would occur. 


Retired Executive Tapped to Review Kansas Revenue Estimate Process

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has appointed the retired chief financial officer of an advertising and public relations agency to lead a review of the state's revenue-projection process. Brownback announced Friday that Sam Williams of Wichita will help budget director Shawn Sullivan in evaluating the forecasting process. The governor's office also said Williams will help analyze tax policy. The governor's budget staff, Department of Revenue officials, legislative researchers and university economists issue revenue forecasts for state government twice a year. Tax collections have fallen short of their projections 10 of the past 12 months. Williams is a former CFO for Sullivan Higdon & Sink who ran unsuccessfully for Wichita mayor in 2015. He also served as chairman of a task force set up in 2014 to look for efficiencies in public schools.


Kansas School Officials Uncertain Amid Funding Fight

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) _ School administrators across Kansas are trying to figure out how a recent state Supreme Court ruling will affect their ability to provide critical summer programs and prepare for the fall semester that begins in August. Some districts are taking a wait-and-see approach to a stalemate between the Legislature and the court, which threatened last week to cease all school functions on July 1 if lawmakers don't find a way to resolve shortcomings in the current funding formula. Other districts are busy creating contingency plans for what they will do if the issue is not resolved and the court follows through with its threat. Kansas Association of School Boards lobbyist Mark Tallman says the problem for most school districts is that they aren't sure what the court's ruling means. 


Former Owner of Topeka Racetrack Sues City for $4M

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The former owner of the Heartland Park Topeka racetrack is suing the city of Topeka for more than $4 million. Jayhawk Racing LLC and Heartland Park LLC allege in the lawsuit that the city breached its contract by not honoring an agreement to purchase the park and assume the plaintiffs' debt. They also claim the city charged for storm water services for more than 12 years but didn't ever provide the services. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that in June 2014, the city agreed to acquire Jayhawk's interest in Heartland Park and expand the park's STAR bond district. After several problems arose, the city decided in May 2015 not to finance the purchase with $5.5 million in STAR bonds.


OSHA Plans Probe of Kansas Worker's Scaffolding Death

LEAWOOD, Kan. (AP) — A federal workplace safety investigation is planned in the case of a man who fell to his death Friday from scaffolding during an apartment renovation in suburban Kansas City. The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration says it will scrutinize the death in Leawood, Kansas, of a Van Trust Real Estate LLC employee. The man's name, age and hometown have not been released. As OSHA's area director in Wichita, Judy Freeman says the agency extends its sympathies to the victim's family and friends. She says OSHA will thoroughly investigate whether any safety standards were violated.


Lawrence Man Sentenced for Fatal Stabbing 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence man was sentenced to more than 23 years in prison for stabbing a man to death in 2015. The Lawrence Journal-World reports 34-year-old Joshua Back was sentenced Thursday for intentional second-degree murder and theft. He was convicted in April of killing 45-year-old Tracy Dean Lautenschlager outside a home in May 2015. The victim was later found bleeding in the parking lot of a McDonald's restaurant and died hours later at a local hospital.  After sentencing Thursday, Back's attorney said he is planning an appeal.


Kansas Officials Warning About New, Dangerous Synthetic Drug 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is warning the public to be aware of a drug that has contributed to several accidental overdose deaths in the last month. KBI spokesman Mark Malick says the drug, U-47700, is a synthetic opioid analgesic drug that is nearly eight times more potent than morphine. It causes sedation and respiratory depression, which can be harmful or fatal. Malick says the drug can be obtained from several sources and is available in many forms. The shipments usually come from overseas, particularly China. It is sold in vials or plastic baggies that are labeled "Not for Human Consumption" or "For Research Purposes Only." Malick says the KBI is working with the Kansas Board of Pharmacy and several jurisdictions to quickly make the drug illegal in Kansas.


Missouri Utility Co-op Joins Transmission Line to Carry Kansas Wind Power

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A group representing Missouri municipal utilities has signed up for space on a transmission line that would carry wind power from western Kansas across Missouri and farther east. The Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission said Thursday it signed an agreement for up to 200 megawatts of transmission space on the Grain Belt Express. The commission represents municipal utilities that pool their resources to buy power. The Missouri Public Service Commission blocked the transmission line last summer after strong opposition from landowners along the line's proposed route. Texas-based Clean Line Energy, which is proposing the transmission line, says the agreement proves that there are customers for the line in Missouri. Grain Belt Express has already won approval from Kansas, Indiana and Illinois regulators.


Lawrence Woman Pleads Guilty to Killing Woman Who Helped Her 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A woman has admitted that she killed a Lawrence woman who had given her a place to live. Angelica Kulp pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree murder and aggravated burglary in a plea agreement that dropped a first-degree murder charge. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Kulp admitted to killing 56-year-old Christine Kaplan in July 2014. Police found Kaplan's body in her home. Prosecutor Eve Kemple says Kaplan was known for helping those in need and had given Kulp a place to stay. But Kaplan eventually asked Kulp to leave and said she was afraid of her. Several days after Kaplan's body was found, Kulp was arrested in Topeka after an unrelated burglary. Sentencing is scheduled for July 1.


Kansas Health Warning Issued over Algae Blooms in 3 Lakes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas health officials say three of the state's lakes are under health warnings because of high levels of toxic blue-green algae blooms. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said in a statement that the lakes under warning aren't closed, but that contact with the water can cause serious illness and should be avoided. KDHE says elevated algae levels have been found in Hiawatha City Lake in Brown County, Marion Reservoir in Marion County, and Plainville Township Lake in Rooks County.  KDHE says the water should never be consumed by humans, pets or livestock. 


Obama Signs Bill Protecting Children in Tribal Foster Care

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) _ President Barack Obama has signed into law a measure meant to bolster protections for Native American children placed into the tribal foster care system. The measure signed Friday requires background checks before foster care placements are made by tribal social services agencies. The agencies will review national criminal records and child abuse or neglect registries in any state in which a would-be foster parent has lived in the preceding five years. North Dakota's U.S. Senator John Hoeven says the measure ensures that Native American children living on reservations have all of the same protections when assigned to foster care that children living off the reservation have.  Federal experts say some children living on reservations experience a form of post-traumatic stress from exposure to family turmoil. 


Man Gets 23 Years in Prison in Kansas Stabbing Death 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A man convicted of fatally stabbing a man outside a fast-food restaurant in northeast Kansas has been ordered to spend 23 years in prison. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 34-year-old Joshaua Back was sentenced on Thursday in Douglas County. That's where he was convicted of intentional second-degree murder in the May 2015 death of Tracy Dean Lautenschlager. Authorities say Back stabbed Lautenschlager in the neck outside a Lawrence home. Lautenschlager was found bleeding in a McDonald's parking lot and was pronounced dead at a hospital. Back fled in a truck that he told authorities he planned to steal as collateral for a drug debt, and he was arrested two days later in Leavenworth County. The defense said the killing was an act of self-defense. Jurors also found Back guilty of felony theft.


Missouri Judge: Teen Won't Be Tried as Adult in Killing 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Jackson County judge has decided that a 15-year-old charged in the shooting death of another teenager won't be tried as an adult. The Kansas City Star reports that the defendant faces second-degree murder and tampering charges in the February 15 death of 15-year-old Raytown High School student Jaiair Strong. Witnesses told investigators that the defendant, Strong and other teenager went to an apartment to meet a fourth person they said was going to sell them marijuana. But court records suggest that investigators believe the three teens actually had gone there to steal a handgun from that youth. Strong was wounded as he and the youth struggled over the gun. The defendant's case will remain in family court, with a hearing scheduled for July 15.


Judge Rules Addition to Kansas Millionaire's Will Was Faked

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — A judge has ruled that a purported updated will from a Kansas multimillionaire was not valid and the man's former caretaker will not receive most of his $21 million estate. The Hutchinson News reports this week's ruling by Kansas Senior Judge William Lyle Jr. is a victory for the Fort Hays State University Foundation, the primary beneficiary of the estate of 98-year-old Earl O. Field, of Hays. Field's former caretaker, Wanda Oborny, said she found a letter typed on Field's stationery after his death. She says the letter said Field decided to give most of his estate to her, rather than to the foundation. Steve and Kathy Little, of Hays, who said they witnessed Field sign the new will, died in a murder-suicide in August 2015.


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