Kansas Officials, Economists Release Dire Tax Revenue Forecast
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State officials and university economists have released the latest projections for state tax revenue collections. The forecast reduces projections by a total of $348 million through June 2017. Governor Sam Brownback says the state can still balance its budget by delaying some major highway projects and cutting funds for state universities. He says cuts to the state's K-12 school system are also possible. Democratic lawmakers say the governor’s 2012 tax cuts are to blame for the dire forecast and that increased revenue is the only way out of the state’s budget shortfall. Lawmakers instituted deep personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback's urging to stimulate the economy and Brownback says he still believes those tax cuts are working and stimulating business in the state. Democratic Senate Leader Anthony Hensley said the governor is in "denial" about the failure of his tax policies. Many Kansas Democratic and a growing number of Republican lawmakers now say they want to reverse the policy that exempts more than 330,000 farms and businesses from income taxes.
Kansas Panels Approve Extra $17M for State Mental Hospitals
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two separate Kansas legislative committees have approved proposals from Republican Governor Sam Brownback to provide an additional $17 million to the state's two mental hospitals. The decisions Thursday by the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee mean both chambers will consider the spending as part of broader budget legislation next week. The extra funds will provide pay raises and offset lost federal funds over the next 15 months. Most of the funds would be spent at Osawatomie State Hospital, about 45 miles southwest of the Kansas City area. The federal government decertified the hospital in December over the reported rape of an employee and other safety issues. But legislators also have been concerned about staffing shortages at Larned State Hospital in western Kansas.
Lawsuits Allege That Kansas State University Ignores Off-Campus Fraternity Rapes
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two female students have sued Kansas State University, alleging it has refused to investigate their rapes at off-campus fraternity houses. The two civil rights lawsuits filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Kansas contend the university's practice endangers students and violates federal law by creating a hostile learning environment for victims. Kansas State declined to comment. The suits say Kansas State is under a federal Title IX investigation. The students' attorney, Cari Simon, says the U.S. Department of Education has said schools have an obligation to respond to such complaints, even if they occur off campus. She says Kansas State's position is an outlier. The lawsuits cite police reports that indicate at least 11 rapes were alleged to have happened at Kansas State fraternities since 2012.
Missouri Lawmakers Reject Brownback's 'Border War' Proposal
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri lawmakers appear uninterested in Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's proposal to end the business "border war" between the two states. Brownback has offered to reduce his state's efforts to lure jobs away from the Missouri side of the Kansas City metropolitan area if Missouri's lawmakers would weaken a law they approved in 2014 addressing the issue. The Kansas City Star reports some Missouri legislators say Brownback's proposal wouldn't completely stop incentives for businesses to relocate from Missouri to Kansas. A current Missouri law offers a truce in the business fight if Kansas agrees to the law's terms by August 28. Missouri State Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, a Joplin Republican, says he has no desire to change the 2014 law in response to Brownback's offer.
Rural Survey Suggests Midwest, Plains Economy Remains Mired
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A survey of rural bankers in 10 Western and Plains states suggests the region remains stifled by relatively low agriculture and energy commodity prices. An April report released Thursday says the Rural Mainstreet Index fell to 38.2 from March's 40.2. It had risen the past two months. Survey officials say any score below 50 on any of the survey's indexes suggests that factor will decline. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the monthly survey, and he says that, compared to a year ago, prices for farm products are down 16 percent and energy products are down 8 percent. Nonetheless, the confidence index rose to 34.8 from 30.1 in March. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.
Between 50 and 60 Cattle Found Starved to Death in Southern Kansas
OFFERLE, Kan. (AP) — Officials are investigating after 50 to 60 cattle were found starved to death in southern Kansas. Sheriff Bryant Kurth says the cattle were found March 31 near Offerle in Edwards County. Edwards County Attorney Mark Frame says between 50 and 60 cattle were found dead or near death at a feedlot owned by Offerle rancher David Oliphant, who was hospitalized. Frame says the animals had water but no food. The Hutchinson News reports that area farmers are caring for another 50 to 60 cattle. He says farmers in the area have told him they would have helped if they had known the cattle needed feed. Frame said he couldn't comment on any possible charges because the case is still under investigation.
Wichita Ordinance Cracks Down on Sex Trade in Massage Parlors
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new Wichita ordinance bans all sexual activity in massage parlors and requires formal training for massage parlor employees. Under the ordinance, massage parlor owners, operators and employees must undergo an extensive licensing procedure. The measure also bans nudity while performing massages. The new law is intended to fight sex trafficking and prostitution. Kansas is one of a handful of states that does not regulate massage therapy. The push for regulations came after police reported an increase in the number of human trafficking cases at massage businesses. Wichita police report they arrested 22 people on suspicion of human trafficking at massage parlors last year.
Wichita Abortion Opponent Faces Trial in Threat Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has rejected a last-ditch effort to throw out a lawsuit against an abortion opponent accused of sending a threatening letter to a Wichita doctor saying someone might place an explosive under her car. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten has rejected claims by anti-abortion activist Angel Dillard that a law guaranteeing access to abortion clinics is unconstitutional. Dillard faces a jury trial May 3 in federal court in Wichita. The Justice Department sued Dillard in 2011 for sending the letter to Mila Means, who had been training to offer abortions. At the time, no doctor was performing abortions in Wichita in the wake of Dr. George Tiller's murder. Marten also ruled on what evidence jurors will hear to determine whether Dillard's letter constituted a "true threat."
Court Suspends Lawrence Attorney's License for 18 Months
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has suspended the license of a Lawrence attorney for 18 months amid complaints from her clients and other attorneys. Under an order issued last week, Joan M. Hawkins also was instructed to pay the costs for the disciplinary proceedings. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Hawkins is the owner of J Hawk law firm and handles family law cases. She didn't immediately return a phone message that The Associated Press left at her office seeking comment. The court's order said Hawkins had filed false pleadings in district court, delayed returning unearned legal fees to a former client and improperly called into question the veracity of a court employee. The court also found that she engaged "in behavior that unreasonably delayed the resolution of two legal matters."
Interim President at Kansas State Doesn't Plan Many Changes
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The new interim president of Kansas State University says he's not planning to make many changes while the Board of Regents searches for a permanent president. Richard Myers, a retired four-star general and the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday he has no interest in replacing Kirk Schulz, who stepped down in March to become president of Washington State University. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Myers acknowledged he has little experience in academia and promised he wouldn't "pretend to know things I don't know." Myers is a former combat pilot and winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He graduated from Kansas State in 1965 and joined the Air Force through the ROTC program at the university.
Hall Foundation Gives $8 Million to Kansas Cancer Center
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Hall Family Foundation has given an $8 million gift to help The University of Kansas Cancer Center receive a national cancer center designation. The cancer center in Kansas City, Kansas, is already a National Cancer Institute-designated center. It is now seeking to become an NCI Comprehensive cancer center, which is the highest recognition an academic cancer center can receive. The university and foundation said Wednesday that the higher designation would help the cancer center expand research funding and bring the most advanced cancer care to patients. Only 69 of the 5,000 cancer center in the U.S. are NCI-designated. Of those 69, only 45 have the comprehensive designation. The KU cancer center will apply for the designation in September.
Southern Plains Residents Warned of Potential Tornadoes Next Week
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — While Texans try to dry out from flooding rains, forecasters are telling people in the Southern Plains to review their tornado safety plans ahead of severe weather expected next week. The Storm Prediction Center says tornadoes are possible in southern Kansas, Oklahoma and northern Texas next Tuesday, with additional severe weather for those areas and Missouri later in the week. SPC operations manager Bill Bunting says one reason for noting the troubling forecast six days out is that people should review where they will obtain emergency information next week. Bunting said there isn't a need to be alarmed now, but the need for awareness is growing as the nation's midsection approaches its peak tornado season. Next week marks five years since a tornado outbreak across the South killed 316 people.
McDonald's Quashes All-You-Can-Eat Fries Reports
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — McDonald's Corporation is denying reports that a new McDonald's franchise restaurant in Missouri will test all-you-can-eat fries. The corporation says the endless spuds will be available for a limited time only to promote the site's scheduled July grand opening. The buzz is around a reported "test" of unlimited fries for customers at the pending location in St. Joseph. But McDonald's spokeswoman Lisa McComb says no such test is in the works. McComb says the 6,500-square-foot Missouri restaurant will be unique because it will allow its customers to place their orders at digital kiosks and customize their burgers and desserts.
Kansas City to Consider $27M for Jazz District Improvements
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City leaders are calling for $27.6 million in public funds to help complete revitalizations to the 18th and Vine jazz district. The Kansas City Star reports that City Manager Troy Schulte and a councilman who represents the district made the case to the City Council on Thursday for the public spending. They said the money could help leverage $12 million in private dollars. Before falling into disrepair, the area east of downtown became world famous for the hard-swinging, bluesy jazz style played in its club. Struggles remain despite more than two decades of work. Completed projects include the American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball museum. Schulte urged the city to "do it right and declare victory once and for all at 18th and Vine."
Charges Filed in 1988 Killings of 2 People in Kansas
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the 1988 shooting deaths of two people in Kansas City, Kansas. Wyandotte County authorities charged Melvin L. Shields Thursday in the deaths of 27-year-old Jolene Jones and 33-year-old Steve Ray. The Kansas City Star reports that the victims were longtime friends who had a daughter together. Their bodies were found in a secluded area near the Kansas River. Prosecutors say the initial investigation didn't identify a suspect. The investigation was recently reopened, which led to Shields' arrest. Prosecutors didn't say what evidence led to the charges. Shields is being held in Wyandotte County on $1 million bond. He was sentenced to prison shortly after the double killing for unrelated convictions and has a record of criminal convictions.
Missouri Seeking Death Penalty in Montgomery County Homicide
MONTGOMERY CITY, Mo. (AP) — A hearing for a Mexican national accused of killing a man in Missouri and four others in Kansas is being postponed, with prosecutors planning to seek the death penalty in the Missouri case. Court records show that a Montgomery County judge on Wednesday delayed Pablo Serrano-Vitorino's preliminary hearing from April 28 to May 12 at the request of Serrano's attorneys. Prosecutors didn't oppose the delay. The defense motion for the postponement cited conversations with a state assistant attorney general "indicating their intention to seek the death penalty" in the March 8 death of Randy Nordman at Nordman's home near New Florence. State and local prosecutors are not publicly discussing that case. Serrano also is accused in Kansas of killing four men the night before Nordman was slain.
New Game Offers Army Training on Sexual Harassment
LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) - An interactive video game has been developed to train Army command teams on how to respond to accusations of sexual harassment and sexual assault. ELITE SHARP CTT was introduced for Army use earlier this month. Army members can download the game for free. The Leavenworth Times reports the game was developed with help from the Games for Training Program at Fort Leavenworth. Major Greg Pavlichko, who heads the program, acknowledges some of the language in the interactive game is colorful, but says that makes the game more realistic. Pavlichko and other Army officials involved with the ELITE game say they are trying to educate the Army about the educational tool.
Kansas State Architecture School Receives $8 Million Gift
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University's College of Architecture, Planning & Design has received an $8 million gift, the largest in the design college's history. The university said in a news release Wednesday that the donors asked to remain anonymous. APDesign Dean Tim de Noble says the gift will be invested, with an expected distribution of about $400,000 annually. Most of the annual distributions will support full-ride scholarships for Kansas students with financial need and a minimum 3.5 grade point average who are in at least their third year of study in the design college. The donors also asked that part of the distributions for the dean's excellence fund, which helps address emerging opportunities and priorities. The gift is a part of Kansas State University's $1 billion Innovation and Inspiration Campaign.
McPherson College Music Fund Receives $1 Million Endowment
MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) - A Wichita businessman has established a $1 million endowment that will provide a new music series and a student scholarship at McPherson College. The Salina Journal reports that Steve Clark is using the endowment at the central Kansas school to honor his mother, Fern Lingenfelter. The music series will include two annual music performance events with special emphasis on piano. It will be followed by the creation of the Fern Lingenfelter Scholarship in Music, an annual merit-based scholarship for one or more McPherson students majoring in music. Lingenfelter earned a certificate in piano in 1924, a bachelor of music degree in 1925 and a Bachelor of Arts in 1938, all from McPherson. She taught piano in McPherson for many years. Clark is the chairman of the Clark Investment Group.
Person of Interest in Wichita School Sexual Battery Jailed
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have booked into jail a 28-year-old man who has been identified as a person of interest in a sexual battery at a Wichita high school. The Wichita Eagle reports that the man is being held on suspicion of multiple charges, including sexual battery and criminal discharge of a firearm. Jail records show the man was booked into jail Wednesday and is being held on a $65,000 bond. Authorities began investigating in September after an 18-year-old student told administrators that a stranger approached her in Wichita East High School and asked her where the gym was located. Police said the teen alleged that the man followed her into a bathroom and sexually battered her as she attempted to return to the hall. The school has adopted stricter security measures.
Man Found Not Guilty in Death of Kansas City Survey Worker
INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — A man accused of killing a Kansas City survey worker in 2004 has been found not guilty. A Jackson County (Missouri) jury returned the verdict Thursday in the first-degree murder trial of Jeffrey Sauerbry. He was accused of killing 54-year-old Summer Shipp, who vanished in December 2004 while conducting door-to-door surveys in a neighborhood in Independence where Sauerbry lived. Her dismembered body was found four years later. Sauerbry was charged in 2012, hours after he was convicted of murder in an unrelated 1998 case. He is serving a life sentence for that crime. A witness testified Sauerbry told him that he had killed Shipp. Sauerbry insisted he had nothing to do with Shipp's disappearance. His attorney argued the witness was unreliable and no physical evidence tied Sauerbry to the crime.
Great American Eclipse Draws Tourists to Path of Totality
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Hotel rooms already are going fast in Wyoming and other states along the path of next year's solar eclipse. The total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017, will be the first in the mainland U.S. in almost four decades. Communities from Oregon to South Carolina are billing themselves as the best places to view the rare event. All are located within a 65-mile-wide path that will experience total eclipse — skies so dark stars will be visible at midday. A national astronomy convention has reserved the largest hotel in Casper, Wyoming. Madras, Oregon, is planning a SolarFest with camping, music and beer gardens. Hopkinsville, Kentucky, boasts it is in the zone that will experience the longest duration of total eclipse: 2 minutes, 41 seconds.
Kansas QBs Cozart, Ford Receive Hardship Waivers
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ University of Kansas quarterbacks Montell Cozart and Deondre Ford were granted hardship waivers Wednesday after sustaining injuries last season, giving both redshirt juniors two years of eligibility remaining. Cozart started three of the first four games before sustaining a season-ending shoulder injury in a game against Iowa State. He was 66 of 105 for 752 yards with two touchdowns while running for another touchdown. Ford appeared in two games before a season-ending thumb injury. The quarterback job appears to be wide open heading into next season. Ryan Willis started when Cozart and Ford went down, but he's been dealing with a wrist injury. Young prospects Carter Stanley and Keaton Perry have also shown promise, though both were inconsistent during spring practices. KU opens its season September 3 against Rhode Island.
Detroit Tigers Top KC Royals, 3-2
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Detroit's Jordan Zimmermann made his third straight scoreless start, Victor Martinez drove in the 1,000th run of his career and the Detroit Tigers held on to beat the Kansas City Royals 3-2 Wednesday night. The Royals' Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez both hit solo home runs in the ninth but still fell short after Mike Moustakas struck out leaving runners on first and second. Zimmermann (3-0) scattered seven hits and a walk over 6 1/3 innings, striking out eight. He has yet to allow a run over 19 1/3 innings. The Tiger's win over KC starter Ian Kennedy (2-1) evens the series at one win each. The Royals face off against the Tigers again tonight (THUR) at Kauffman Stadium.