Kansas Lawmakers Closer to Finishing Work on Budget
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas legislators are moving closer to wrapping up work on state budgets for each of the next two fiscal years so that they can adjourn their annual session. The House approved a single bill with the next two annual spending blueprints for state government on a 99-23 vote Thursday evening. The Senate already has approved its own budget legislation. Negotiators for the two chambers will draft a final version and immediately began talks that continued late Thursday night. The final bill is likely to authorize about $15.5 billion in spending for the fiscal year beginning July 1 and about $16 billion for the following fiscal year. Senators have approved a 2 percent raise for most state workers during the next fiscal year. The House's bill contains no general pay raise.
Kansas Lawmakers Vote to Delay Part of Amusement Park Law
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have approved a bill that would delay part of a law that toughens regulations for amusement park rides. Provisions of the law that include stricter inspection requirements and more oversight of amusement park rides still would take effect July 1. The amended bill approved Thursday by the House would delay a provision that creates criminal penalties for operating a ride without a license until January 1. The bill now goes Governor Sam Brownback. The Senate passed it Friday, 33-6. The House approved it Thursday, 107-14. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the amended law also would prohibit the Department of Labor from enforcing penalties until new requirements and rules are published. The initial bill was passed in April after the death of Republican Representative Scott Schwab's son, Caleb, last summer at Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City, Kansas.
Kansas Man Faces Hate Crime Indictment in Bar Shooting
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas man charged with fatally shooting an Indian national at a suburban Kansas City bar has been indicted on federal hate crime and firearms charges. The Justice Department announced Friday that Adam Purinton, of Olathe, was indicted by a federal grand jury. The man allegedly killed and another wounded by Purinton on February 22 at Austins Bar & Grill in Olathe, were Indian nationals. The victim was Srinivas Kuchibhotla and the injured man was his friend, Alok Madasani. A third man, Ian Grillot, was shot and wounded when he intervened. The indictment alleges Purinton shot Kuchibhotla and Madasani because of their perceived race, color, religion and national origin. The Justice Department said in a news release that it will decide later whether Purinton will face the death penalty.
Democrats Criticize Kobach as GOP Gubernatorial Nominee
LENEXA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Democratic Party Chairman John Gibson says the Republican Party would continue to endorse "the failure of Sam Brownback" if Kris Kobach becomes the party's next nominee for governor. Kobach, the current Kansas Secretary of State, announced Thursday that he plans to run to replace Brownback in 2018. Gibson said in a statement that the Democratic Party's responsibility is to elect a governor who is "grounded in reality and represents the interests of all Kansans." He says Democrats look forward to a vigorous debate on the state's direction with whoever Republicans choose as their candidate. Kobach is leading President Donald Trump's commission on election fraud and has led national efforts to enact tough voter identification laws.
Financial Rating Agency Revises Kansas Credit Outlook to Stable
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A major financial rating agency says Kansas' credit outlook has stabilized after lawmakers overrode Governor Sam Brownback's veto of a bill that largely rolls back the income tax cuts he championed in recent years. The Kansas City Star reports that Moody's Investor Services affirmed the state's Aa2 credit rating and revised its outlook from negative to stable after the legislature's action Tuesday night. Kansas has experienced multiple credit downgrades in recent years. Moody's says the state has repeatedly hurt its credit outlook by depleting cash reserves and deferring pension contributions, but the $1.2 billion tax increase would ``go a long way toward solving the state's budget challenges.'' Moody's also upgraded the credit rating for the state's IMPACT bonds, which are based on income tax, from A1 to A3.
Kansas Health Officials Note First West Nile Case This Year
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has confirmed the first reported case of West Nile virus this year. The health department said in a news release Friday that the infected person lives in Barton County. The agency also said preliminary tests found the West Nile virus in four Culex species mosquito pools collected from traps in Reno, Shawnee and Johnson counties. Two birds in Shawnee County also tested positive for West Nile virus. The Culex species is known to transmit West Nile but does not transmit the Zika virus. West Nile symptoms range from a slight headache and low-grade fever to swelling of the brain or brain tissue and in rare cases, death. Last year, 34 cases were found in Kansas. Of those, 21 were hospitalized and five died.
Body of Kidnapped Topeka Woman Found; Police Search for Husband
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Authorities say the body of a Topeka woman has been found after a hunt that began when her estranged husband was accused of kidnapping her. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the body of 33-year-old Viviana Vazquez was discovered around 4:30 p.m. Thursday less than a half-mile from the residence of her 38-year-old husband, Pedro Enriquez. Police issued an arrest warrant for him after an injured Vazquez was abducted Wednesday from outside her home. Police say Enriquez remains on the loose and may attempt to flee to Mexico. Vazquez filed for divorce in April, and divorce records show that the couple had 3- and 10-year-old children. Authorities say two children were left behind during the kidnapping and weren't hurt.
Kansas Allows for Creation of 'Common Consumption' Areas
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas will now permit the consumption of alcohol outside of bars and restaurants in new designated districts. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Governor Sam Brownback has signed legislation which creates "common consumption" areas. Topeka leaders have been working to create the districts since 2008, with the hopes that it will add entertainment possibilities to the area. Vince Frye, who leads Downtown Topeka Inc., says the permanent districts will assist groups that currently apply for a permit every time they host an event. Mike Morse, of KS Commercial, says he hopes to create districts in the downtown area and the NOTO arts district. The Topeka City Council will need to approve such plans.
2 Injured from Ammonia Leak at Tyson Foods Plant
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) _ South Hutchinson authorities say two contract workers were injured after anhydrous ammonia leaked at a Tyson Foods plant in South Hutchinson. Police Chief Scott Jones says one of the workers was treated at the scene after the leak on Thursday morning. The other was taken to a hospital. That person's condition was not immediately released. The plant's employees were evacuated from the building while the leak was investigated. Jones says the leak was quickly contained. The plant, which produces pepperoni, precooked hamburger, sausage crumbles and meatballs, uses anhydrous ammonia as a refrigerant. The Hutchinson News reports that Tyson Foods paid a $3.95 million civil penalty in April 2013 for eight incidents between 2006 and 2010 involving accidental releases of ammonia.
Kansas City to Set Curfew for City Parks and Trails
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Kansas City, Missouri, is planning to expand its curfew plans to city parks and trails after several recent homicides occurred on or near the trails. The Kansas City Star reports that the ordinance was approved by the City Council's Neighborhoods and Public Safety Committee. The city ordinance closes the trails open between midnight and 5 a.m.. The committee also advanced a resolution directing the city manager to collaborate with the parks department on a safety plan over the next six months. The curfew is a reaction to four killings dating back to August on or near the trail system. The most recent was on Indian Creek Trail. The Kansas side of the trail closes the route from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise.
Former Vegas Strip Club Owner Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The former owner of a strip club in Las Vegas where a Kansas tourist was left paralyzed by employees in a 2001 beating over an $80 bar tab has pleaded guilty to felony tax evasion. Federal prosecutors said former Crazy Horse Too owner Frederick "Rick" Rizzolo faces two years in prison and restitution payments of $2.6 million to the Internal Revenue Service under terms of the plea deal reached Thursday. Rizzolo's attorney, Richard Tanasi, declined Friday to comment. Rizzolo is 58. He's scheduled for sentencing September 15 in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas. Rizzolo pleaded guilty to evading more than $1.7 million in employment taxes from 2000 to 2002 by paying employees in cash and failing to keep accurate records. He pleaded guilty in 2006 to a conspiracy charge, but prosecutors said he then concealed his assets.
Officials to Ride Possible Route for Wichita Amtrak Service
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita officials are riding a proposed route for passenger rail service today (FRI) to determine what is needed to bring the service to the city. The city officials are riding in an observation train from Oklahoma City through Wichita and Newton before heading to Kansas City. City council member Pete Meitzner says he is optimistic that passenger service could eventually return to Wichita after about 40 years, although he acknowledges it could require some financial assistance in the early years. Meitzner notes a new passenger train that passes through Newton, on its way from Los Angeles to Chicago, is financially viable. Last year Amtrak added a bus to connect passengers from Oklahoma City to Newton, and then ride to Kansas City and Chicago.
Fredonia Man Arrested for First Degree Murder
FREDONIA, Kan. (AP) - Authorities have arrested a 25-year-old man in a southeast Kansas killing. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says the body of 50-year-old Eddie Cohee was found around 9:30 a.m. Thursday when officers went to his Fredonia home to check on his welfare. The initial investigation indicates that he died earlier that morning from blunt force trauma. An autopsy is pending and Fredonia police have asked the KBI to assist the investigation. His son, 25-year-old Sean Cohee, of Fredonia was arrested and booked into the Wilson County Jail Thursday on suspicion of first-degree murder.
Coal-Fired Power Plant in Southeast Kansas to Be Demolished
RIVERTON, Kan. (AP) — Empire District Electric Co. plans to demolish its coal-fired power plant near Riverton, Kansas, sometime this month. The Joplin Globe reports the company isn't announcing the date of the demolition because it doesn't want to attract crowds. Empire said Thursday the $6.5 million project will demolish three units of the plant. The demolition comes after the utility opened its natural gas-powered generating unit in 2016. The parts of the plant being razed were all constructed around 1950. They were converted from coal-burners to natural gas in 2012 and retired in 2014 and 2015. Blake Martens, vice president of electric operations, says the natural gas unit is more efficient and uses cleaner fuel. Empire says the demolition is not expected to cause any service interruptions.
19-Year-Old Sentenced in Kansas City Gun-Sale Shooting Death
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man has been convicted in the fatal shooting of a suburban father who had been trying to sell a gun on a grocery store's parking lot. Jurors found 19-year-old Fazon Swinton guilty Friday of second-degree murder, attempted robbery, armed criminal action and leaving the scene of a shooting. Authorities say Jacob Branter of Lee's Summit was shot and killed in April 2016 outside a Price Chopper store. Prosecutors allege that Swinton made arrangements to buy a handgun from Brantner but stole it instead, running off before exchanging gunfire with Brantner. Swinton later was treated at a hospital for a bullet wound.
Missouri Man Freed After 17 Years in Prison for Robbery
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A man who spent nearly 17 years in prison for a 1999 robbery is free after supporters found another man who looked like him and lived near the crime scene. Richard Anthony Jones, of Kansas City, Missouri, was freed Thursday. He always maintained he didn't commit the robbery in Roeland Park and, after a hearing on Wednesday, a Johnson County judge ordered him released. The Kansas City Star reports that witnesses at Wednesday's hearing, including the robbery victim, testified they could no longer say if Jones committed the crime after seeing pictures of the two men. Johnson County District Judge Kevin Moriarty then ruled the new evidence made it unlikely that another jury would convict Jones of the crime. The other man testified Wednesday that he didn't commit the robbery.
Astros Score 5 in 9th Inning to Top Royals 6-1
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The Houston Astros' Lance McCullers took a no-hitter into the seventh inning as the Astros beat the Kansas City Royals 6-1 on Thursday night. Jose Altuve hit a two-run homer in a five-run ninth inning off Kelvin Herrera (1-2). Herrera has yielded seven home runs in 24 1/3 innings after giving up only six in 72 innings last season. Herrera retired only one of the five batters he faced and was charged with four runs, three hits and a walk. The Royals' Lorenzo Cain's one-out triple in the seventh ended McCuller's no-hit bid. Cain drilled a 3-0 pitch to center. He scored on Mike Moustakas' two-out single to tie the score.