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Headlines for Monday, April 20, 2015

Kansas Tax Revenue Estimates Off by $187M  

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are projecting that the state will collect $187 million less in taxes through June 2016 than previously anticipated. The new fiscal forecast issued Monday is likely to force Republican Governor Sam Brownback and the GOP-dominated Legislature to consider larger tax increases than they had expected to balance the state budget. State officials and university economists revised an economic forecast made in November. They reduced the estimate for total tax collections for the current fiscal year by nearly $88 million, to about $5.7 billion. They also cut the tax collection estimate for the fiscal year beginning in July by nearly $100 million, also making it about $5.7 billion. Before the new forecast, Republicans had been working on budget proposals requiring about $150 million a year in tax increases.

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Kansas Budget Director Says Lawmakers Must Fill $400M Hole 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's top budget adviser says Kansas legislators must find about $400 million through tax increases or spending cuts during the state's next fiscal year after the release of new, more pessimistic revenue projections. Budget Director Shawn Sullivan said Monday that the Republican governor is working on proposals to trim from $80 million to $90 million in spending from the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. He said much of the savings will come from lower-than-anticipated costs for social services. Sullivan said the governor wouldn't propose cutting aid to public schools. Republican legislative leaders had been working on budget proposals that would have required about $150 million in general tax increases to avoid a deficit. Brownback already has proposed raising alcohol and tobacco taxes.

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Brownback Vetoes Bill Upping Regulations on Uber Drivers 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governot Sam Brownback has vetoed a bill that would have increased regulations on ride-hailing companies like Uber. Brownback announced his decision in a statement Monday, saying the bill was "premature" and might stifle growth. The bill would require some drivers for Uber and other ride-hailing companies to provide proof of broader insurance and undergo state background checks. Uber connects drivers to riders through a mobile app and lobbied fiercely against the bill, saying its passage would have forced the company to leave the state. The bill passed with large majorities in both chambers and Republican Representative Scott Schwab from Olathe said the Legislature would attempt to override the governor's veto. This would require 84 votes in the 125-seat House and 27 votes in the 40-seat Senate.

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Fewer Earthquakes Reported After New Saltwater Injection Limits

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - Earthquakes appear to be striking Kansas less frequently but officials say it's too early to say whether new rules are the reason. The Hutchinson News reports the Kansas Corporation Commission issued an order on March 20 that set a new maximum daily amount of waste saltwater injection amounts in Harper and Sumner counties. State scientists and regulators have suggested the injections, which dispose of the saltwater byproduct of oil and gas production from hydraulic fracturing, are likely triggering the tremors along existing but previously unknown fault lines in the region. The order, which went into effect March 30, will cut injection in some wells by up to 60 percent when fully implemented by late June. According to the commission's documents, more than 110 million gallons of wastewater were injected beneath Harper and Sumner counties in 2014.

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Abuse a Key Reason Kansas Removes Children from Homes 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Abuse and neglect is the main reason the state of Kansas is removing children from homes, which is a change from the past. Statistics from the Department of Children and Families show during the current fiscal year, children were taken from homes 59 percent of the time because of abuse and neglect. Other issues, such as a child's behavior problems or a parent being in prison, accounted for the other 41 percent of the removals. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that in past years, non-abuse causes were the primary reason children were removed from homes. DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore says the agency is focusing on keeping families together if no actual safety issue, such as specific abuse, is present in the home.

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Environmentalists Contest Broadened Use of New Herbicide 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Environmentalists are contesting the federal government's decision to allow more widespread use of a new version of a popular weed killer. Motions filed Monday in the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco challenge the Environmental Protection Agency's handling of Enlist Duo. The weed killer is designed to be used with genetically modified corn and soybeans. But a coalition of environmental groups, including the Center for Food Safety, says it could endanger wildlife and public health. Environmentalists first sued after the EPA in October approved the herbicide's use in six states. The latest motions were filed after the EPA decided last month to allow its use in nine more states, including Kansas and Missouri. Dow AgroSciences has said the new version has been engineered to solve potential problems.

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Ex-Lawmaker Sentenced for Bank Fraud

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas legislator has been sentenced to 18 months in jail for defrauding a bank to help fund his political activities. Former Republican state Representative Trent LeDoux was sentenced Monday. LeDoux pleaded guilty last May to bank fraud and was ordered to pay about $461,000 in restitution to the bank under a deal with federal prosecutors. LeDoux allegedly obtained three bank loans to buy cattle, but failed to make payments and deposited $28,000 from the loans into his campaign account in late 2011 and 2012. He said after the sentencing hearing that he is truly sorry for his actions. Farmers & Merchants Bank President Brent Widedman approved the loans, and testified at the hearling for stiffer punishment. Wiedeman said it would take the bank years to recover its losses from the fraud.  

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Kansas A.G. to Issue Fantasy Sports Opinion 
 
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Whether fantasy sports leagues are predominantly won by skill or luck is taking on new meaning in Kansas as the state's attorney general investigates their legality. Attorney General Derek Schmidt could determine them to be primarily games of chance, and therefore illegal under the Kansas constitution. The constitution only allows the state to administer games that fit a broad definition of lottery. Players compete in fantasy leagues by drafting digital teams using data from real athletes, and then tracking their performance during real games. Leagues and fantasy sports websites often give cash prizes to the best performing teams. Republican Representative Mark Kahrs from Wichita has asked the attorney general to weigh in on categorization as a bill defining fantasy sports as legal games of skill moves through the Legislature. 

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Kansas Sampler Festival Returning to Wamego

WAMEGO, Kan. (AP) - After attracting a record crowd last year, the Kansas Sampler Festival will return to Wamego this year. The festival, which highlights products, traditions and the history of Kansas, will be May 2-3 in the Pottawatomie County town. About 12,000 people attended the festival last year, compared with 3,500 in 2013 and 5,500 in 2012 in Liberal. Festival attendance varied from 6,000 to 8,000 in previous years. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports 153 Kansas communities and 60 Kansas products will be represented at the Wamego festival. Some new exhibits this year include blacksmiths, spinning and pottery throwing demonstrations and performances by American Indian musician Dennis Rogers. The Kansas Sampler Festival is a project of the Kansas Sampler Foundation, an Inman nonprofit organization that works to preserve and sustain rural culture.

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K-State Veterinary Students Travel to Care for Shelter Animals

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Veterinary students at Kansas State University are going on the road to care for shelter animals. A new mobile unit will start heading out to shelters next month. The university says students are projected to perform 2,800 to 3,500 spay/neuter procedures in the first year. Agreements have already been established to provide services for nonprofit and municipal animal shelters in Manhattan, Junction City, Ottawa, Emporia, Topeka, Lawrence, Salina and Clay Center. The university says most shelter organizations in Kansas don't have a veterinarian on staff or on-site surgical facilities. Assistant clinical professor Brad Crauer says students will develop a strong appreciation for the magnitude of the homeless pet population. He says working in the mobile unit will prepare them to volunteer and advocate for shelters in their communities after graduation.

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Charges Added in Killing of Kansas Gun Store Owner 

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Four men charged with killing a suburban Kansas City gun store owner will face additional charges. The suspects were already charged with first-degree felony murder in the January shooting death of Jon Bieker in Shawnee, Kansas. He was killed while defending his wife during a robbery at the She's A Pistol gun store. His wife, Becky Bieker, suffered only minor injuries. A preliminary hearing scheduled for Monday was postponed until July 27 at the request of defense attorneys. The Kansas City Star reports that the suspects — Londro E. Patterson III, Deanthony A. Wiley, Nicquan K. Midgyett, and Hakeem W. Malik, — are now also charged with attempted aggravated robbery, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery and aggravated battery. All four suspects are being held in the Johnson County Jail.

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Hays Police Investigating Separate Stabbing, Beating Cases

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Hays police say they are investigating two apparently unrelated incidents that left two men hospitalized this weekend. Chief Don Scheibler says a 22-year-old man was arrested after a man was beaten and left unconscious in the parking lot of a Hays motel early Sunday. The suspect is being held on suspicion of aggravated battery after the 33-year-old victim was found in front of America's Best Value Inn. The victim was flown to a Wichita hospital. His name was not released. Also on Sunday morning, a man was found stabbed in the chest in an alley outside a nightclub. Scheibler says a preliminary investigation indicated the man had been stabbed inside The Home nightclub. He was taken to Hays Medical Center for treatment. No further information was released

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Man Shot by Police After Topeka Carjackings Dies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Shawnee County Coroner's Office says a man suspected of carjacking two vehicles before he was shot by police earlier this month has died. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports 38-year-old Richard B. Reed of Maple Hill died at a local hospital Saturday, according to a representative from the coroner's office. Reed was taken to a hospital April 10. Topeka police responded that morning to a reported carjacking. The suspect was gone but was seen driving erratically half an hour later before he lost control and crashed. Police say Reed started shooting at officers before carjacking a second vehicle. They say he was spotted driving a short time later, rammed two cars and fired again at police before being shot by officers. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is investigating the shooting.

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Kansas City Police Increase Security for Mayor Sly James 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police have increased security for Mayor Sly James after he received a threat through his campaign website. The Kansas City Star reports that the threat was received Sunday. James is seeking re-election. A police spokesman described the security increase as a "precaution" in an email to The Star on Monday. Police say detectives are investigating.

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Garden City Police Say Man Fatally Shot During Robbery 

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Garden City police say a 21-year-old man is dead after being shot several times during an attempted robbery in the western Kansas town. The victim of Sunday's shooting was identified as Karlton Waechter of Garden City. Police say in a news release that he was found suffering from several gunshot wounds and taken to a hospital, where he later died. A 32-year-old man from Garden City was arrested after a short foot chase. He is being held in the Finney County jail pending formal charges.

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Medical Marijuana Activist in Kansas Could Face Charges 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A medical marijuana advocate has lost custody of her 11-year-old son at least temporarily and could face possible charges following comments the boy made during a drug education program at his Kansas school. Garden City Police said the case of 37-year-old Shona Banda was forwarded Monday to prosecutors for a decision about any charges. Police said in a statement that possible charges include possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of drug paraphernalia and child endangerment. No arrests have been made. Police were called to the boy's school on March 24. A search of the house found marijuana and other drug-related items. The divorced Garden City mother says she did not regain custody of her son after a hearing Monday. She says she is not giving up.

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Wesleyan Working with Nursing Students over Accreditation

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Wesleyan University is trying to ensure that its nursing students are considered graduates of an accredited nursing program as it transitions from one accreditation program to another. In mid-March, Wesleyan withdrew from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, days before the commission voted on the renewing the Salina school's accreditation. Wesleyan is in the process of being accredited through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, which can take two years. Wesleyan has asked the ACEN to consider this year's senior nursing students as graduating from an accredited program, which can be important to employment or graduate school. The ACEN declined to comment on whether the request will be approved. The Salina Journal reports Wesleyan also is trying to help junior students transfer to other nursing programs.

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Christian Evangelical Group Visits Schools, Raises Concerns

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A group that caught the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union has put on character development assemblies in Topeka-area middle and high schools. Real Encounter Outreach is a self-described "evangelistic outreach" group known for its high-energy stunt BMX performances. The group's president and founder, Brad Bennett, said the organization knows there's a line it can't cross when visiting public schools. It reserves its evangelical performances for non-school events. A conglomeration of Baptist churches paid for the school and non-school Topeka appearances this month. ACLU attorney Doug Bonney reached out to the four districts Real Encounter visited to ensure the group's message wouldn't be religious. Associate Topeka High School principal Rob Hayes says the group delivered on its promise of not "offending anyone's faith."

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KU Hires Schneider to Coach Women's Basketball Team 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas has hired Brandon Schneider, who led Stephen F. Austin to the past two Southland Conference championships, to turn around its struggling women's basketball program. Schneider will be introduced at a news conference Tuesday. The Jayhawks fired Bonnie Henrickson last month after 11 seasons that included two trips to the Sweet 16, but not enough consistency to keep the program among the Big 12's best. Schneider should be familiar with the program. He won more than 300 games and the Division II national championship with Emporia State, which is located a short drive south of Lawrence. After taking over Stephen F. Austin, he led the program to 95 wins in five seasons, and made three appearances in postseason tournaments.

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KC Beats Oakland 4-2 After 5 Royals Ejected from Game

UNDATED (AP) — The Kansas City Royals overcame five ejections to beat the Oakland Athletics 4-2 Sunday afternoon. Royals manager Ned Yost and pitching coach Dave Eiland were ejected in the first inning after Lorenzo Cain was hit by a Scott Kazmir pitch and both teams were issued a warning by plate umpire Greg Gibson. After the warning was issued Sunday, Yost came out to argue and was immediately ejected by Gibson. In the eighth inning, Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera was ejected after throwing behind Brett Lawrie. Bench coach Don Wakamatsu, who was acting as manager after Yost's ejection, was also ejected during the argument along with injured Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar.
 

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