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Headlines for Monday, June 8, 2015

Kansas Senate Approves Plan to Raise Taxes to Balance Budget

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has approved a new plan for raising sales and cigarette taxes to close a projected budget shortfall. The 21-17 vote Sunday represented the first time this year that the chamber has approved a plan for raising enough new revenues to balance the budget. The action came on the 108th day of an annual legislative session that is now the longest in state history. The plan would raise $423 million during the fiscal year that begins July 1st. The sales tax would increase to 6.55 percent from 6.15 percent and the cigarette tax would go up by 50 cents a pack to $1.29. The measure also would raise $24 million during the next fiscal year by increasing taxes for business owners. The plan goes next to the House but Republican Representative Marvin Kleeb of Overland Park, the House's top tax policy negotiator, says he doubts the tax plan can pass his chamber in its current form.


Kansas Legislators Complete Proposed $15.4B State Budget

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have finished work on a $15.4 billion state budget for the fiscal year beginning in July that would limit tuition increases at state universities. The Senate voted 23-11 on Sunday to approve a bill containing most of the spending blueprint for state government. The House passed it Wednesday, so the measure goes next to Governor Sam Brownback. The budget wouldn't balance without more than $400 million in tax increases. Total spending would then decline by 0.4 percent, or $55 million, during the next fiscal year. State spending on higher education would remain flat. The budget would prevent increases in tuition at state universities that are more than 2 percentage points above inflation as measured by the consumer price index. The figure would have been 2.8 percent for 2014.


Kansas Governor Signs Bills Changing State Election Laws

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has signed bills to change the timing of many local elections and to give the secretary of state the power to prosecute election fraud cases. Brownback had a signing ceremony Monday. Secretary of State Kris Kobach has sought prosecutorial authority for the four-plus years he's been in office. Kobach said his office is investigating dozens of potential cases. He said he could prosecute some personally. Brownback said Kobach took the issue to voters in winning two terms as secretary of state. But Kobach's critics worry that he'll abuse the power. The other bill signed by Brownback moves city and local school board elections from the spring to the fall of odd-numbered years. Supporters contend the change will boost turnout. Critics say the change will be disruptive.


Washburn University Art Professor Killed in Bicycle Accident

WALNUT, Kan. (AP) - The head of the Washburn University art department died when her bicycle was hit by a pickup truck in Crawford County. Authorities say 60-year-old Glenda Taylor of Topeka died in the accident Sunday in rural Walnut while she was competing in the Kansas State Time Trial Championships. The Crawford County Sheriff's department said in a news release the accident occurred when the truck driver struck Taylor's bike as he tried to pass her on Highway 146. The pickup truck driver and a passenger were not injured. Taylor was a Washburn University faculty member for 27 years. In 2013, she received the Muriel Clarke Student Life Award at Washburn for outstanding work with individual students, student groups and organizations.


Reno County Dealing with Whooping Cough Outbreak

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Reno County health officials are dealing with a whooping cough outbreak that includes 23 suspected cases of the illness. The Hutchinson News reports health officials are asking sick people to stay home and for health providers to relay information on suspected cases of whooping cough, which is characterized by intense coughing, fever and runny nose.  The health department says the county reported 3 suspected cases in mid-May, 18 in early June and 23 as of Monday. Ivonne Rivera-Newberry, the department's assistant director of clinical services, says people may not be taking the illness as seriously as they should. Whooping cough can be especially difficult for infants, the elderly or people with compromised immune systems.  She says vaccination rates overall are down and may be playing into the recent outbreak.


Police Search for Man Accused of Shooting Store Clerk

PLAINVILLE, Kan. (AP) — Law enforcement officers are searching for a man accused of shooting a convenience store clerk in Plainville, Kansas, about 25 miles north of Hays. Kansas media outlets report a man walked into a convenience store early Sunday and pointed a gun at the clerk. Authorities say that when the clerk reached for the gun, the suspect shot him in the right hip. The clerk was transported to Rooks County Health Center where he is in stable condition. Police say the suspect fled west across U.S. Highway 183 and continued into a residential area. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is assisting Plainville Police and Rooks County Sheriff's Office with the search.


Kansas Corn Check-Off to Increase to 1 Cent Per Bushel

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas corn check off rate will increase to 1 cent per bushel beginning July 1. The Kansas Corn Commission says that's the first check off increase in 25 years. Corn Commission Chairman Kent Moore says the increase will allow the commission to pursue more domestic and foreign markets for corn and corn products such as ethanol and red meat. Revenue from the check off will also be used to build demand for ethanol-blended fuels; ensuring the use of innovative technology and improving efforts to market corn to consumers. The Hutchinson News reports the increase will bring Kansas in line with most corn states that have check off rates higher than the half-cent-per-bushel rate.


Woman Admits Stealing $1.2M from Assisted Living Center 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A woman has admitted her role in the theft of more than $1.2 million from a company which owns assisted living centers in Kansas and Missouri. Lori Shryock of Augusta pleaded guilty to mail fraud Monday in federal court. Sentencing is August 24. In exchange for her plea, prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence at the low end of the guideline. Her husband, Brent Shryock, was the former information systems director for Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America where he was in charge of purchasing equipment. He pleaded guilty last month to mail fraud in a deal with prosecutors for a proposed 36-month prison sentence. Prosecutors say the couple created four fictitious companies to submit fraudulent invoices. Among them was LGR Technology, which stood for Let's Get Rich Technology.


Man Admitts Plotting Suicide Bomb Attack

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former avionics technician has admitted to plotting a suicide bomb attack at a Wichita airport. Terry L. Loewen pleaded guilty Monday to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, after striking a deal with prosecutors for a proposed 20-year sentence. It is up to U.S. District Judge Monti Belot whether to accept the agreement. If the judge rejects it, Loewen would be allowed to withdraw it. Belot told Loewen he was "almost certain" to accept it. Sentencing is set for August 31. The 59-year-old Wichita man was arrested in 2013 after allegedly trying to bring a van filled with inert explosives onto the tarmac at what was then Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport. Prosecutors say the plot was hatched during an undercover sting operation was aimed at inflicting "maximum carnage."


Former Pittsburg State Official Sentenced for Fraud 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former official at Pittsburg State University faces a year and a half in federal prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud and money laundering. The office of the U.S. Attorney for Kansas said in a release Monday that 61-year-old Michael Muoghalu was a former director of the masters of business administration program at Pittsburg State University. The prosecutor's office says he admitted the crimes occurred while he was responsible for managing the graduate student exchange program between Pittsburg State University and schools in Nigeria. Prosecutors say Muoghalu falsely told the Nigerian students they had to pay him or his associates a fee for representing them in their application process. In addition to the sentence, Muoghalu also has to repay about $148,000.


Kansas City Reaches Deal to Create 'Smart City' Network

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City has reached an agreement with Overland Park, Kansas-based Sprint Corp. and Cisco Systems to create a $15.7 million set of high-tech "Smart City" services along the 2.2-mile downtown streetcar line under construction. The Kansas City Star reports Sprint will spend $7 million to build and own a Wi-Fi network along the streetcar line. Cisco, whose equipment will be used for the network, is investing about $5 million, and Kansas City will provide $3.7 million. Sprint will spend $7 million to build and own a Wi-Fi network along the streetcar line. Cisco, whose equipment will be used for the network, is investing about $5 million, and Kansas City will provide $3.7 million. The high-tech system will include smart lighting, cameras and sensors, in addition to 25 interactive digital kiosks along the route to provide information about local events, food and entertainment. The features are expected to be operational when the streetcar opens to the public early next year.


Donor Wants Wichita Habitat for Humanity Houses to Honor Pope Francis

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Catholic Diocese of Wichita and Wichita Habitat for Humanity are teaming up to build two houses in honor of Pope Francis with the help of an anonymous donor. The Wichita Eagle reports Wichita is one of several cities across the country to receive $60,000 from the donor who wants the construction to take place in Pope Francis's honor. The two three-bedroom houses will be constructed during the pope's visit to the United States in September. Another $100,000 will be raised by the Wichita diocese for the project. Wichita Habitat for Humanity says similar donations to build "Pope Francis houses" have been received in cities including Sacramento, California and Washington, D.C., in the past year.


Rainfall Helps Kansas Wheat Crop 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Ample rainfall in recent weeks has helped much of the Kansas wheat crop recover as this season's harvest nears. The industry group Kansas Wheat said Friday that combines could begin cutting wheat soon in parts of south-central Kansas if it stays dry enough to do so in the coming days. The U.S. Department of Agriculture last week rated 30 percent of the state's wheat crop in good or excellent condition. Another 41 percent is in fair shape, and 29 percent is in poor to very poor condition. The agency is scheduled to release an updated prediction of the size of this wheat harvest on Wednesday that is expected to reflect a much improved production outlook.


Body of KCK Man Found in Missouri River
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have recovered the body of a 30-year-old man who police say was swept into the Kansas River late last month. The Kansas City, Kansas, police said in a release Monday that emergency crews responded on May 29 to a report of a vehicle with a person inside being swept into the river by heavy currents. Police say the the body of 30-year-old John R. Shead Jr. was found Friday about 60 miles away in the Missouri River between the towns of Lexington and Waverly. Police say Shead lived in Kansas City, Kansas. The Kansas River feeds into the Missouri River in the Kansas City area.


Girl, 7, Found in Lake Shawnee Has Died 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 7-year-old girl found floating face down in Lake Shawnee has died. WIBW reports Shawnee County authorities confirmed Monday that Alonna Elane Lake, who was found in Lake Shawnee on Saturday evening, was pronounced dead at a hospital later Saturday night. Shawnee County Park Police Chief Mike Cope says campers flagged down a park police officer Saturday evening and reported the child missing. The officer notified the Shawnee County Sheriff's office and other emergency personnel for assistance. The child was found a short time later face down in a lake embankment. Cope says onlookers performed CPR until emergency crews took over and brought the child to a hospital. The Shawnee County Coroner is conducting an autopsy.


Doonesbury Comic Strip Skewers Kansas Tax Policies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Doonesbury comic strip has taken on Kansas and the state's recent approach to taxes. The Topeka Capital Journal reported Sunday that the eight-frame strip shows a conversation between a student and a character called "Trickle-Down Dick." The student's school closed days early because of budget cuts. Trickle-Down Dick offers the student a lesson on math and supply-side economics that seems to the student to defy logic. But she's shut down when she speaks up to question the explanation. In the strip, Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau was apparently referencing the ongoing legislative fight over Kansas' gaping state budget deficit and the late-fiscal-year budget cuts to schools that prompted some to close their doors earlier than expected last month.


New Provost Named for UMKC 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An official with the University of Indiana has been named provost for the University of Missouri-Kansas City. University of Missouri-Kansas City said in a release Monday that Chancellor Leo E. Morton has appointed Barbara A. Bichelmeyer to become the university's executive vice chancellor and provost. Bichelmeyer was previously an executive associate vice president at Indiana University in Bloomington, where she was responsible for strategic oversight of academic affairs for the university's seven campuses. She also served for a year as interim chancellor of Indiana University Southeast. Bichelmeyer takes office at the University of Missouri-Kansas City in September. Bichelmeyer has a doctoral degree in Educational Communications and Technology from the University of Kansas and has also worked in private industry in the Kansas City area.


Black Civil War Soldier from Kansas Honored in Nevada

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A runaway slave who joined the Union Army during the Civil War and lost a leg after being wounded in battle finally received recognition Sunday, nearly 100 years after he died in Nevada. Nevada historians say they decided to hold a military funeral for Private Scott Carnal of the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry because it's unlikely he received any recognition after his 1917 death in Nevada. He was long forgotten until researchers discovered he belonged to the United States Colored Troops and was severely wounded in the 1863 Battle of Honey Springs in what is now Oklahoma. The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and the Historical Society of Dayton Valley helped organize the tribute.


Lee's Summit Drowning Victim Identified 

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City area teenager has drowned in a subdivision swimming pool. Police on Monday identified the victim as 17-year-old Emma Maddy-Ramsey of Lee's Summit. Police spokesman Sergeant Chris Depue said later Monday in an email that the teenager was also known as Emma Aronson. He said the teen was in the process of changing her last name to Aronson, and the family preferred that name be used for her. Emergency crews responded Friday evening to a report of an unresponsive person. Police say friends pulled the teen from the pool, and onlookers provided first aid until paramedics arrived. Police say the victim was pronounced dead at a hospital.


Perez Hits Home Run in 8th as Royals Beat Rangers, 4-3

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals' Salvador Perez hit a solo home run with two outs in the eighth inning Sunday, lifting the Royals over the Texas Rangers 4-3. Perez hit his eighth homer, sending a pitch from Keone Kela (4-2) into the Royals' bullpen. Wade Davis (3-1) picked up the victory after Greg Holland pitched a perfect ninth for his ninth save in 10 opportunities.


7 Kansas City Royals on Track to Start All-Star Game
NEW YORK (AP) — Seven players on the AL champion Kansas City Royals are on track to start in next month's All-Star game. Catcher Salvador Perez, first baseman Eric Hosmer, shortstop Alcides Escobar, third baseman Mike Moustakas and designated hitter Kendrys Morales all led their positions in voting totals released Monday. Lorenzo Cain was first among AL outfielders, with teammate Alex Gordon third, behind AL MVP Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels. Kansas City's Omar Infante was second among second basemen with 2.65 million votes, 150,000 behind AL batting champion Jose Altuve of Houston. Voting runs through July 2, and starters are to be announced the weekend of July 4-5. The game in Cincinnati is scheduled for July 14.


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