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Headlines for Saturday, February 18, 2017

Kansas Senate Passes Big Income Tax Hike

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Legislature has approved a big increase in personal income taxes to help balance the state budget in a move that defies Governor Sam Brownback. The Kansas Senate approved a bill yesterday (FRI) that is expected to generate more than $1 billion over two years. The vote was 22-18. Senators acted the day after the House approved the measure, so the bill goes to Brownback. He has strongly criticized the bill and said he would not sign it, but he has so far stopped short of saying specifically that he would veto it. The bill would abandon core tax-cutting policies Brownback championed in 2012 and 2013 to help close projected budget shortfalls totaling nearly $1.1 billion through June 2019. Supporters did not have the two-thirds majorities necessary to override a possible veto.


Kansas Loses 800 Small Farms in 2016

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A government report shows Kansas had fewer farms and ranches last year and fewer acres used for agriculture. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported yesterday (FRI) that the 59,600 farms counted in the state in 2016 was down 800 farms from the previous year. All of those losses came in operations that had less than $100,000 in agricultural sales. The number of farming operations with sales of more than $100,000 remained unchanged in Kansas. Land used in farms and ranches in the state totaled 45.9 million acres. That is down 100,000 acres from the prior year. Farms size averaged 770 acres, up eight acres from the year earlier.


Judge Dismisses Part of Rower's Lawsuit against KU

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed part of a lawsuit filed by a former University of Kansas rower who says a Jayhawk football player sexually assaulted her in 2015. This week's ruling by Judge J. Thomas Marten in a lawsuit filed by Sarah McClure mirrors Marten's ruling last week in a similar lawsuit filed by another rower, Daisy Tackett. She said she was assaulted by the same player in 2014. The Lawrence Journal-World reports McClure's lawsuit against the university will continue. But she will not be able to argue that Kansas should have known there was an increased risk of sexual assault at apartments where football players lived with less supervision than in residence halls. No charges were filed against the player but he was banned from campus in 2016.


Topeka Police: Nearly 20 Bus Shelters Vandalized

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police say nearly 20 bus shelters have been have been damaged in the past three weeks. Police Lieutenant Colleen Stuart says 16 shelters had glass broken or cracked between January 23rd and February 15th. Three more were vandalized Thursday. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports police believe a pellet or BB gun is being used to break the glass in drive-by shootings. Susan Duffy, general manager of Topeka Metropolitan Transit Authority, says replacing the broken glass has cost the metro about $10,000 so far. Police say they have no suspects and are asking the public to provide any information.


Kansas Oil Rig Count Remains Unchanged as National Count Increases

HOUSTON (AP) — The number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. increased by 10 this week to 751. A year ago, 514 rigs were active. Houston oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. said yesterday (FRI) that 597 rigs sought oil and 153 explored for natural gas this week. One was listed as miscellaneous. Texas increased by 16 rigs and Utah gained one. Louisiana lost three rigs, New Mexico declined by two and Alaska, North Dakota and Oklahoma each lost one. Arkansas, California, Colorado, Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wyoming were all unchanged. The U.S. rig count peaked at 4,530 in 1981. It bottomed out in May at 404.


Chinese National in Manhattan Found Guilty in Rice Theft

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Chinese national living in Manhattan, Kansas, is guilty of conspiring to steal proprietary rice seeds developed in the U.S. and giving them to visitors from China. A federal jury on Thursday convicted 50-year-old Weiqiang Zhang of conspiracy to steal trade secrets, conspiracy to commit interstate transportation of stolen property and interstate transportation of stolen property. Zhang was a rice breeder for Ventria Bioscience in Junction City which develops genetically engineered rice for use in therapeutic and medical fields. Trial evidence indicated Zhang took hundreds of seeds from Ventria and stored them at his home Manhattan. In 2013, officials with a crop research institute in China toured facilities in the Midwest with Zhang. Federal officials found Ventria seeds in the visitors' luggage as they prepared to return to China.


Johnson County Deputy Testifies about Alleged Sexual Assault

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas sheriff's deputy says two Kansas City-area men who are charged with kidnapping and raping her referred to each other by name during the attack. The 22-year-old Johnson County deputy testified Thursday in the preliminary hearing for 25-year-old William Luth, of Blue Springs, Missouri, and 21-year-old Brady Newman-Caddell, of Independence, Missouri. Each man is charged with aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sodomy and two counts of rape. The Kansas City Star reports that the deputy said one of the men asked her for directions last October as she walked to work at the detention center in Olathe, Kansas. She says the man punched her and forced her into the car, where the two men sexually assaulted her before releasing her. She testified they called each other "Will" and "Brady" during the assault.


Drive-Through Window Used in Wichita Pharmacy Theft

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are looking for two males who entered a pharmacy through a drive-through window took about $10,000 in prescription medications. Sargeant Nikki Woodrow says the Walgreens pharmacy was closed when the theft occurred early Thursday. The thieves took drugs such as OxyContin, oxycodone and hydrocodone but didn't take any cash. Police did not release the race or approximate age of the suspects. One was wearing a camouflage hooded sweatshirt, a white T-shirt, dark pants and gloves. The other wore a dark hooded sweatshirt and dark pants.


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