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Headlines for Saturday, April 30, 2016

Kansas Lawmakers Move Closer to Budget Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are close to having a final plan for closing projected shortfalls of more than $290 million in the current and next state budgets. Three senators and three House members negotiated yesterday (FRI) over budget issues. They plan to resume talks today (SAT). Top Republicans in the GOP-dominated Legislature hoped both chambers could vote on a plan later today (SAT).  Republican Governor Sam Brownback plans to delay major highway construction projects and divert road funds to general government programs. He's also planning to cut higher education spending during the next fiscal year beginning July 1.  The budget negotiators are considering a plan to delay state contributions to public employee pensions and pay them back later with part of the state's annual payments from a 1998 national legal settlement with tobacco companies.


Kansas House Rejects Repeal of Key Brownback Income Tax Cut

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have rejected a proposal to repeal one of Republican Governor Sam Brownback's signature personal income tax cuts as they struggle to find the money to close a major budget shortfall. The House voted 74-45 against a bill that would have repealed a personal income tax exemption for 330,000 farmers and business owners granted in 2012. The policy was part of a wave of personal income tax cuts enacted in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback's urging in an effort to stimulate the economy, and other states have watched the fiscal experiment closely. The tax cuts haven't worked as envisioned, and the state has struggled to balance its budget ever since.


Woman Pleads Guilty to Murder in Wichita Home Invasion

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 23-year-old Kansas woman has pleaded guilty to second-degree reckless murder and other charges in the death of a 66-year-old woman in a September home invasion. The Wichita Eagle reports the state plans to ask a judge to sentence Brittany McDay to 21 years and 5 months for her role in killing Jacquelyn Harvey in Harvey's home. Prosecutors say McDay and 22-year-old Jacob Strouse went to the neighborhood to collect a debt but kicked in the door to the wrong house and shot Harvey before realizing their mistake. Prosecutors dropped other counts against McDay in exchange for yesterday's (FRI) guilty plea to the murder charge, aggravated burglary and attempted criminal use of a financial card.  Strouse is scheduled for trial in August on first-degree murder and other felony charges.

Kansas to Text Parents Behind on Child Support

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Department for Children and Families officials say it will begin texting parents who owe child support in an effort increase collections. The Wichita Eagle reports that the department started a pilot project with 100,000 Kansas residents to see if texting helps remind parents to pay child support. The department will also try using texts to remind people about court dates and other appointments.  A news release about the program says that texts will be sent to remind non-custodial parents who haven't paid child support in the last 45 days. Department spokeswoman Theresa Freed says the programs costs the state less than $5,000, which comes from postal mail savings. Freed says that of the pilot proves to increase collections until June 30, the department will implement across the state.


Retailers Offer New Plan for Kansas Liquor Sales

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A group of grocery and convenience stores in Kansas has proposed a new plan for expanding liquor sales, saying it would generate a $41 million cash infusion toward the state's budget deficit. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Uncork Kansas coalition is proposing that large retailers would be able to buy full liquor licenses directly from the state. That would eliminate current laws that limit them to selling beer with an alcohol percentage less than 3.2 percent. The new plan abandons earlier efforts that would've required big-box stores to buy liquor licenses of small businesses. Those businesses are currently the only stores in the state allowed to sell full-strength beer, wine and spirits.  Uncork Kansas represents major retailers, including Wal-Mart, Dillons and Hy-Vee, and convenience stores, such as QuikTrip.


Cheyenne Bottoms Visitors to Learn about Shorebird Migration

CHEYENNE, Kan. (AP) — An event at a wildlife refuge in Cheyenne will allow visitors to see and learn about thousands of shorebirds that have migrated to the rural Kansas area this spring.  The Hutchinson News reports that the Great Migration Rally will be held this weekend at Cheyenne Bottoms, which usually sees a plethora of shorebirds from late April though early May.  But Pam Martin, a Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism educator at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center, says this year is different as more than 150,000 shorebirds found refuge at Cheyenne Bottoms last week.  The Nature Conservancy says Cheyenne Bottoms is a rest stop for nearly half of all American shorebirds during the migration season. Shorebirds also travel to nearby Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.


Royals Billboard Found after I-435 Theft

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 14-foot cutout of a Royals player that was stolen from a billboard is safe at home in Kansas City. Bob Fessler, of Lamar Advertising, says the cutout was found yesterday (FRI) morning in good condition in a weedy area near the billboard that had been searched previously. He says the thieves apparently became nervous and returned it. The $7,500 cutout weighs 150 pounds and apparently went missing Thursday morning from its perch along Interstate 435. It's part of an advertisement for grocery store chain Hy-Vee and shows a center-fielder leaping against an image of the outfield wall at Kauffman Stadium, the Royals' home. Fessler says a witness who saw the cutout being removed thought company employees were involved. Jackson County Sheriff's Sgt. John Payne says no arrests have been made.


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