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Headlines for Monday, June 1, 2015

Kansas Senate Leaders Outline New Tax Plan to Balance Budget

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top Republicans in the Kansas Senate called off a debate early Monday morning on proposals to raise taxes to close a projected budget shortfall. Republican senators ended a marathon debate shortly after leaders outlined a plan to raise $411 million during the fiscal year that begins July 1st. That's just enough to close the estimated budget gap. The proposal includes parts of a plan Governor Sam Brownback presented to lawmakers Saturday. Brownback proposed boosting the sales tax to 6.65 percent from 6.15 percent. The new Senate plan would set the rate at 6.5 percent. But Majority Leader Terry Bruce said there wasn't enough of a consensus to pass the bill which included eliminating income tax breaks for 330,000 Kansas businesses and farms. 


Kansas Revenue Chief Says Brownback Will Veto Business Tax Proposal

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan told state senators Sunday that Governor Sam Brownback would veto any proposals to increase business taxes. GOP lawmakers are sharply divided over how to close a projected $406 million budget shortfall for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The shortfall arose after lawmakers cut income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback's urging to stimulate the economy. One 2012 policy allowed 281,000 business owners and 53,000 farmers to avoid income taxes on their profits. Brownback proposed Saturday that the state modify the policy to raise $24 million during the next fiscal year. Legislators are considering business-tax proposals raising as much as $101 million. Jordan told senators that Brownback would veto such proposals.


Statehouse Poll Shows House GOP Support for Sales, Business Tax Hikes 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An informal poll of GOP House members shows modest sales tax increases could be the most popular option for filling the state's budget shortfall. The chamber's GOP leadership released the poll results during a Monday meeting. It showed that members remain divided on how to fill a projected budget gap of $406 million in the fiscal year beginning July 1. Roughly half support hiking the state sales tax to 6.5 percent from 6.15 percent. About half also said they support a 2.7 percent tax on the net incomes from some businesses that were exempted in 2012. Deadlock over tax proposals has pushed the Republican-dominated Legislature into overtime. Monday was the 102nd day of the session and only two sessions have lasted longer in the history of the state.


Kansas State Workers Could be Furloughed if Budget Delayed

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Budget Director Shawn Sullivan says that if state lawmakers don't pass a budget by June 7th, all non-essential state workers will be immediately furloughed. Sullivan said during a meeting of GOP senators Sunday that some state agencies have already developed emergency plans. Sullivan says rules concerning pay periods for state workers dictate that if a budget is not passed by the Legislature by 11:59 pm on July 6, the state will no longer be authorized to pay them and furlough notices will be sent.


Kansas Lawmakers Approve Changes in Election, Lobbying Laws

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have given final approval to a bill requiring lobbyists to disclose whether any of their activities are financed with taxpayer dollars. The House approved the measure on a 66-48 vote Sunday. The Senate also approved the measure Saturday, so it goes next to Governor Sam Brownback. The new disclosure requirement for lobbyists would take effect in 2017. They would have to report funds they receive for their services from any government entity or publicly-funded association for government officials. The measure also revises laws dealing with lobbyists using  social media. The key change would exempt social media messages with up to 200 characters from a requirement for a disclaimer saying who paid for it. 


Kansas Lawmakers OK Bill Further Limiting Local Gun Rules

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Cities and counties in Kansas couldn't use zoning ordinances to limit gun sales or impose special taxes on firearms under a bill state legislators have approved. The Senate passed the measure on a 35-3 vote Monday. The House approved the bill on an 81-27 vote Saturday, and it goes next to Governor Sam Brownback for his potential signature. The measure follows up on a law enacted last year meant to nullify all city and county restrictions on the sale, possession and transportation of firearms. Gun rights supporters said the law was designed to prevent a confusing jumble of local rules. But the 2014 law didn't specifically address the power of local officials to levy taxes and fees or their power to restrict property use through zoning ordinances.


Kansas Lawmakers Approve $131M Budget for State Court System 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have approved a $131 million budget for the state court system for the fiscal year beginning July 1 to avoid the possibility that judicial offices would close otherwise. The House approved the proposed budget Monday on an 88-26 vote. The Senate approved it 25-14 on Sunday. The measure goes next to Republican Governor Sam Brownback. The budget would increase total spending on the courts by nearly $2.5 million, or about 1.9 percent. But the Kansas Supreme Court requested a budget of $149 million, so some lawmakers said the approved amount is inadequate. But it's the first piece of the next state budget to clear the Legislature. Budget Director Shawn Sullivan has said nonessential state workers will be furloughed if no budget is in place by Sunday.


Kansas Lawmakers Pass Limits on Rights for Sex Predators 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have approved a bill that would put new limits on appeals by sex offenders committed indefinitely to a state treatment program. The votes Monday were 36-2 in the Senate and 111-0 in the House. The measure goes next to Governor Sam Brownback for his potential signature. Offenders determined by a court to be sexual predators are committed to a treatment program after serving their criminal sentences. The bill would remove the right of confined offenders to request a jury trial when petitioning for release. It also would limit their right to file grievances on some issues. Democratic Reprsentative John Carmichael from Wichita said that he is concerned about the bill but some provisions that he believed to be unconstitutional were removed during negotiations between lawmakers from both chambers.


Key Tax Proposal Stalled in House, Senate Negotiations
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A proposal to levy a state fee on health care providers that is key to several tax plans remains deadlocked between negotiators. Lawmakers said Monday that negotiators from the House and Senate had failed to come to an agreement on a tax that would raise as much as $80 million. The tax would come in the form of a fee on three health care companies that administer the state's private Medicaid program. Those companies would later be reimbursed with federal funds. Republican Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook complained the House had reneged on an earlier agreement. Republican Representative Dan Hawkins leads negotiations on the House side and says he has not changed positions. He says he has insisted on a lower tax rate agreed upon in talks with the affected companies.


Kansas Lawmaker Protests Failure to Consider Pot Proposals 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate's approval of a bill for helping victims of human trafficking has come after a Democratic member protested a lack of action on proposals to liberalize marijuana laws. Democratic Senator David Haley of Kansas City on Monday wanted House and Senate negotiators who drafted the final version of the trafficking bill to insert marijuana proposals stalled in the Senate. One would decrease criminal penalties for marijuana possession and another would allow the limited production and sale of hemp oil to treat seizures. Both have passed the House. But Republican Senator Jeff King of Independence said putting those proposals into the human trafficking measure would violate the state constitution's requirement that each bill have only one subject. The Senate passed the bill 37-0, sending it to the governor.


Kansas Still Behind Other Regional States in Job Growth

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal report shows that private-sector job growth in Kansas has lagged behind other states in the region. Data from the Congressional Joint Economic Committee shows Kansas came in fourth in its five-state region in private-sector job growth since 2007. The report says that private-sector jobs had grown 1.6 percent in Kansas since the beginning of the recession in December 2007. That puts Kansas ahead of only Missouri but behind Colorado, which posted 6.3 percent; Oklahoma, 3.4 percent; and Nebraska, 3.2 percent.


Lawmakers Advance "Webcam" Abortion Ban

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas House approved a bill Saturday aimed at making it easier for the state to enforce a ban on what critics call "webcam" abortions. The procedure allows women to receive a prescription for an abortion inducing drug through an internet video connection with a doctor. The new measure would require a doctor to be in the same room when a patient takes the pill. The state first passed the law in 2011 but hasn't been able to enforce it because of lawsuits from abortion providers. The new measure modifies a provision of the law to create an exception for medical emergencies. 


Abortion Rights Group Challenges New Kansas Restrictions 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An abortion rights group is challenging Kansas's first-in-the-nation ban on a commonly used procedure to end second-trimester pregnancies. The lawsuit filed Monday in Shawnee County District Court by the Center for Reproductive Rights asks the court to declare the law unconstitutional. It also seeks to block implementation of the law, which is to take effect in July. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of doctors Herbert Hodes and Traci Nauser of the Center for Women's Health in Overland Park. A spokeswoman for Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said his office would issue a statement later. Anti-abortion activists describe the method as dismembering a fetus. The lawsuit contends it is the most commonly used procedure to end a pregnancy after 14 weeks, and is used in 95 percent of abortions nationwide.


Police Arrest Man with Unloaded Gun at House Building 

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. Capitol Police say they have arrested a Kansas man trying to enter a House office building with an unloaded gun. Lieutenant Kimberly Schneider says police arrested Joshua Wheeler of Atchison, Kansas, Monday morning as he entered the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill. The 25-year-old Wheeler allegedly was carrying an unloaded Smith & Wesson 9 mm handgun. Schneider says he was charged with carrying a pistol without a license and an unregistered firearm, and was taken into custody.


Kansas Woman Suing Archdiocese

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) - A Johnson County woman has filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Kansas City claiming that a false child abuse complaint was filed against her after she complained that her daughter was being bullied at a Catholic school. Melissa Schroeder of Shawnee also named Sacred Heart Catholic Church and its school principal in the suit. She says her 10-year-old daughter's health suffered because of bullying at the school and that school officials ignored her requests to protect her daughter. The lawsuit alleges that school officials retaliated by reporting to the Kansas Department of Children and Families that Schroeder was abusing and neglecting her daughter. The agency's investigation found no evidence of abuse at the home.


Kansas City, Kansas Say Teen Shot, Body Dumped in Street

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas City, Kansas, police say a 16-year-old girl was shot to death over the weekend before her body was dumped in a street from a car that drove away. Police identified the victim on Monday as Jamie Hernandez-Zubia, of Kansas City, Kansas. Officers who were called to investigate a report of shots being fired found the girl's body in a street early Saturday. Kansas City media report witnesses said a vehicle dumped the teen's body in the street and drove off. Police are searching for a white pickup truck that may have a bullet hole in its tailgate. It's believed to be a late-1990s or early-2000s Ford F-150 with flare sides, tinted windows, 20-inch chrome rims and a touch screen device in the cab.


Justices Reverse Deportation of Man over Minor Drug Crime

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned the deportation of a Tunisian man whose crime was possessing drug paraphernalia. Mones Mellouli was deported after he pleaded guilty to the minor drug crime in Kansas state court. The item in question was a sock that contained four pills of the stimulant Adderall. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the court Monday that federal law does not authorize deportation for such a minor offense. Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented.


Programs Aim to Help Inmates with Mental Illness

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Several groups in Shawnee County and Topeka are working to find ways to help with an increasing number of inmates with a mental illness. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the city and county are providing more thorough training for corrections specialists. The Topeka Police Department also has a designated Crisis Intervention Team officer. A collaborative effort between the Topeka Municipal Court, the city prosecutor's office, Shawnee County Jail and others aims to match defendants who have mental health needs with appropriate services. They're seeking to reduce recidivism rates and help create a safer community. Anyone who has a diagnosed, severe mental illness and is charged with a misdemeanor crime is eligible for the alternative sentencing court, which offers a probation program.


Police: 3 Robbed While Walking in South Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Three people have been robbed while walking in south Wichita. The Wichita Eagle reports two 18-year-old men and a 19-year-old woman were walking along a street around 12:40 a.m. Sunday when they were approached from behind by three men. Wichita police Sgt. Brian Sigman said one of the men had what was "described as a machine gun." The suspects ordered the victims to get on the ground and stole a phone and wallet. Police say the three men then fled on bicycles. Police do not have any suspects in custody. Sigman said one of the 18-year-old victims was struck by one of the suspect's weapons and received minor injuries. He was not transported to the hospital.


South Carolina Man Wanted for Kidnapping Arrested in Kansas

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A South Carolina man who was being sought for kidnapping and assaulting a woman has been arrested in Overland Park. The Kansas City Star reports a 51-year-old man was arrested without incident just before 6 pm Sunday and was taken to the Johnson County jail. The suspect had been sought by the U.S. Marshals Service and Kansas City-area law enforcement agencies. The suspect is wanted in Lexington County, South Carolina, where he's accused of assaulting a woman in March 2014. Authorities say the woman was tied, beaten and choked before she escaped. According to authorities, the suspect had been working as a maintenance worker at a Johnson County apartment complex.


Missouri Mail Carrier Pleads Guilty to Tossing Mail 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former northwest Missouri mail carrier faces up to five years in federal prison after admitting he threw away thousands of pieces of mail rather than deliver them. Federal prosecutors say 54-year-old David Thompson, of Warrensburg, pleaded guilty Monday to stealing U.S. mail. Prosecutors said that Thompson threw away an estimated 20,000 pieces of mail addressed to 5,571 recipients from May 2012 to January 2014. Investigators with the postal service placed a camera in Thompson's vehicle to investigate reports that he was drinking on the job. Prosecutors say the camera caught Thompson hiding mail at his home and in his car. The mail was later was found in a trash bin behind the Elks Lodge in Warrensburg. Thompson is no longer employed by the postal service.


Kansas City-Area Groups Seek to Increase Investment Funds 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City-area organizations dedicated to fostering startups in the region are planning to increase investment funds to help establish small businesses. The Kansas City Star reports that leaders of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and the entrepreneurial community are expected Monday to introduce a plan called "We Create Capital." The strategy also calls for increasing awareness about available startup funding sources. Financing experts say entrepreneurs aren't aware of all the resources and funding sources available to them. They add that there's not enough venture capital funds for an area the size of Kansas City metro. The chamber also is lobbying in Topeka, Kansas, and Jefferson City, Missouri, to help keep lawmakers aware of the need for government-backed startup loans and other funding.


Rain Boosts Wichita Water Supplies

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The recent rains in Kansas have boosted levels in Wichita's primary water sources and could also help the city during future droughts. Cheney Reservoir has gained 5.5 billion gallons of water since the beginning of May and is at 104 percent capacity. The underground Equus Beds Aquifer is now also 96 percent full. The city's Aquifer Storage and Recovery recharge is meant to help build future water reserves in case of drought. The process involves taking extra water from the Little Arkansas River, cleaning it to drinking water standards and putting it into the underground aquifer for long-term storage. The current phase allows the city to take water from the river at a rate of 30 million gallons a day when there's enough water in the river.


Royals Lose to Cubs, 2-1, in 11 Innings

CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Cubs' David Ross hit an RBI single with one out in the 11th inning Sunday, lifting the Cubs over the Kansas City Royals to win by a score of 2-1. The Cubs and Royals split the abbreviated two-game series. Saturday's game was rained out and will be made up at Wrigley Field during the last week of the regular season. Earlier in the 11th inning, Dexter Fowler was thrown out at the plate by left fielder Alex Gordon when he tried to score on a single. 


KU Lands Touted Ole Miss Basketball Transfer Dwight Coleby
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas men's basketball team has landed Ole Miss transfer Dwight Coleby, a highly touted center who will redshirt next season and have two years of eligibility remaining. The Jayhawks will lose a trio of forwards in Perry Ellis, Jamari Traylor and Hunter Mickelson after next season. The 6-foot-9, 240-pound Coleby should be able to help replenish the front court after playing in all 34 games for the Rebels last season. Coleby, a native of the Bahamas, averaged 5.4 points and 4.8 rebounds last season. He played 16.5 minutes a game for a team that was 21-13 and reached the NCAA Tournament. KU  coach Bill Self called Coleby "exactly what I think we need. He's a big guy that can play either bigs position. He's active. He reminds me a lot of a bigger Jamari."



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