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Headlines for Thursday, April 28, 2016

Kansas news headlines from the Associated Press

Groups Call for Repeal of Kansas Income Tax Cuts 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —  Groups that have been critical of Republican Governor Sam Brownback's income tax cuts are calling on Kansas legislators to repeal all of them. The nonprofit Kansas Center for Economic Growth said Wednesday that its proposal could raise $1 billion a year in new revenue and permanently fix the state's budget problems. Officials from the center were joined during a news conference by organizations representing teachers, state government employees and construction contractors, as well as the CEO of the advocacy group Kansas Action for Children. The state has struggled to balance its budget since the income tax cuts were enacted in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback's urging in an attempt to stimulate the economy. Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley called the groups "desperate to grow the government."


Bill Would Reinstate Income Taxes on Some Kansas Businesses

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Three Republican senators are proposing a bill to reinstate income taxes for more than 330,000 Kansas business owners. The Senate Tax Committee reviewed the proposal Thursday as lawmakers try to address the state's $290 million budget deficit in an election year. State budget officials say reinstating the tax on farmers and business owners would bring in an estimated $170.6 million in fiscal year 2017. The bill would tax 70 percent of their income. The Wichita Eagle reports business groups strongly oppose reversing the tax exemption. Democrats and others say the bill doesn't go far enough to solve the state's budget problems. Governor Sam Brownback proposed the tax exemption as part of a package slashing personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013, which he said would stimulate the state's economy.


Kansas Legislative Negotiators Broker Open-Records Changes 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Negotiators with the Kansas House and Senate have reached a deal on a package of open-records reforms, setting it up for final votes in the state Legislature. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the agreement Wednesday would open up for public access emails sent by public workers about state business. That's even if the electronic correspondence is sent on private accounts. The deal also would define police footage from dashboard and body cameras as investigative records under the open records act. The deal, if passed by the Legislature, would culminate more than a year of legislative effort. It's not immediately clear how soon the Legislature might vote on the reforms.


Heavy Rains Damage Railroad Track Sections, Cause Sewer Overflow in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Heavy rain has washed out several sections of railroad track, damaged a small bridge and caused about 2.4 million gallons of untreated wastewater to be released into the Kansas River. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the heavy rains fell from Monday night through Wednesday morning. Union Pacific spokeswoman Calli Hite says the rains washed out multiple small sections of track in Shawnee County. She says water also damaged a small bridge near Willard. Hite says Union Pacific doesn't have an estimated date for reopening the track, and the extent of the damage remained unclear. The rains, along with a mechanical failure, also led to a sanitary sewer overflow in Topeka. City spokeswoman Aly Van Dyke says the rainfall caused higher than normal wastewater and stormwater flow volumes.


Report: Kansas Regional VA Office in Manipulated Data on Appeals 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A government review shows a Veterans Affairs regional office in Kansas listed erroneous medical conditions for three dozen patients who filed appeals after having their claims rejected. In a report released Tuesday, the VA's inspector general's office says management instructed staff at the Wichita facility to enter the same "placeholder" diagnostic code for a specific bone infection on 36 appeal claims. None of the patients had the listed condition. Investigators found that a backlog of mail may have contributed to the erroneous records. They found the claim assistants weren't trained on how to enter accurate patient conditions into the computer system. The VA did not immediately return phone messages seeking comment. A veterans' advocacy group says data manipulation has been a national problem recently amid greater scrutiny of the VA.


Kansas Senator Pat Roberts Blocks Vote on Army Secretary over Guantanamo Bay Closure  

WASHINGTON (AP) — Kansas Republican Senator Pat Roberts is blocking a vote on the nomination of Eric Fanning to be the next Army secretary.  At issue are efforts by the president to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and transfer detainees to the United States. Republican Senator John McCain tried to secure a vote on Fanning, who if confirmed would be the first openly gay leader of a U.S. military service. But Roberts objected on Thursday, saying he won't relent until the White House promises no detainees will be moved to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. McCain says it's unfair to block Fanning's nomination over an unrelated issue. McCain calls it a distortion of the Senate's advise and consent role. Fanning has served in several roles at the Pentagon.


Groups Sue Kansas Sheriff over Jail's Postcard-Only Policy 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Civil rights advocates are suing the Wilson County sheriff over his jail's policy of allowing inmates to receive and send only postcards in the mail. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Social Justice Law Collective contend the policy violates the free speech and due process rights of prisoners and the people who write to them. Their class-action lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court of Kansas, seeks a court order that puts an end to the practice. Wilson County Sheriff Pete Figgins says the mail policy was put in place for security reasons to know what is being said in them. ACLU lawyer Doug Bonney says these policies create a huge problem for inmates and their loved ones because they don't allow enough space to correspond about anything meaningful.


After Fanfare, Forecasters Review Talk of Storm 'Outbreak'

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — U.S. forecasters will review whether they went too far out on a limb to warn people about bad weather that didn't fully develop. The Storm Prediction Center had said last week there was a good chance the central U.S. would see huge hail, high winds and strong tornadoes on Tuesday. For the first time, forecasters talked of a "possible outbreak" six days ahead of the storms. The hail and winds came as promised, but tornadoes were small. A social scientist says the National Weather Service should review how the public processed the information. Many criticized the forecast as a "bust," even though it was largely correct. Another researcher said many people think mainly of tornadoes whenever severe weather is mentioned. Forecasters received more than 500 reports of severe weather Tuesday.


Graham Urges Christians to Vote in Kansas 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The son of the Reverend Billy Graham is urging Christians in Kansas to vote for other Christians who resist secularism. The Reverend Franklin Graham on Thursday addressed thousands of people waving miniature American flags outside the Kansas Statehouse. He was greeted with loud applause when he said he was running a campaign to put God back into the political discussion. Graham's Topeka stop was the 19th in his 50-State Decision America Tour. His message is that the nation's forefathers opposed "state-controlled religion" but never intended for God to be completely removed from government. Graham says he disagrees with a Charlotte, North Carolina, city ordinance that allowed transgender people to enter the bathroom of the gender with which they identify. The state's legislature overturned the ordinance in late March.


Kansas House OKs Bill Cracking Down on Turnpike Scofflaws 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has signed off on legislation meant to crack down on people who purposely ignore paying tolls on the state's turnpike. The Wichita Eagle reports Senate Bill 373 would allow the Kansas Turnpike Authority to put a hold on a vehicle owner's registration when he or she owes more than $100 in unpaid tolls. The maximum toll for a passenger car is $12. As a member of the KTA board, Republican Rep. Mark Hutton from Wichita calls the measure a leverage tool to help the state collect from repeat offenders. Democratic Rep. Gail Finney of Wichita counters that she worries about what she considers "such a stiff penalty" for failing to pay a few dollars of tolls. The legislation now heads to the Senate for final consideration.


Fire After Shootout at Kansas Motel Caused $350,000 in Damage

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka fire officials say a blaze that occurred at a motel following a shootout between federal agents and a suspect caused an estimated $350,000 in damage. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports three members of a federal fugitive task force were wounded Saturday night while trying to arrest 28-year-old Orlando Collins, who was killed in the shootout at the Country Club Motel complex. A fire broke out in the gunman's room during the exchange of gunfire. Topeka Fire Marshal Michael Martin says the damaged building housed 20 motel rooms. He says the blaze was started with "common combustibles" that could include paper or a mattress. Collins was being sought on a federal robbery warrant. Topeka police have said Collins also was wanted for questioning about a tobacco store robbery.


Eaton to Cut 42 Jobs at Hutchinson Hydraulics Plant 

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Eaton Corporation says it is cutting 30 percent of its jobs at a Hutchinson hydraulics plant, affecting 42 workers. The Hutchinson News reports that the company announced the job cuts this week to workers at the plant that makes gears and piston pump parts for agricultural and construction equipment. Kelly Jasko is spokesman for Eaton's industrial sector. He says in a statement that the move is attributed to an anticipated second year of down markets, with no immediate prospect of a significant turnaround. The company says it is offering "voluntary separation" incentives involving a lump-sum payment of $3,500 for specific positions. Workers interested in that option, which would disqualify them for unemployment benefits, have until Friday to accept.


Lightning Blamed in Overland Park House Fire

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have confirmed that lightning caused a fire that destroyed a suburban Kansas City home. The Overland Park Fire Department said in a news release that the lightning struck the electrical service on the outside of the house before crews arrived early Wednesday morning. Because the home was vacant, the fire wasn't noticed immediately. The home was a total loss. The fire didn't spread to neighboring homes, although they were evacuated while crews fought the blaze. No injuries were reported.


Thieves Steal 14-Foot-Tall Royals Cutout from Billboard 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Thieves took mischief to new heights when they absconded with a 14-foot-tall cutout of a Kansas City Royals from a billboard near the franchise's hometown. Authorities say the 150-pound, roughly $7,500 image went missing Wednesday night or Thursday morning from its perch along Interstate 435. The cutout is that of a center-fielder leaping against an image of the outfield wall at Kauffman Stadium, the Royals' home. As vice president of Lamar Advertising, Bob Fessler says he's been in the business for three decades and has seen the handiwork of vandals, but never anything like this theft. Fessler says the billboard's lights go off about midnight, leading him to believe the caper took place after that. Jackson County (Missouri) authorities are reviewing surveillance video from a nearby gas station for any clues.


Police Probe Kansas Theft of Blue Man Group Costumes 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita are trying to unravel who made off with costumes of the Blue Man Group while the performance artists were there this week. Police say theft Tuesday night or Wednesday morning involved costumes worth more than $1,000 from a performance arts center. The heist was discovered about noon Wednesday. Police have publicly released on social media a picture of a man shown walking in what appears to be a hallway, carrying a laundry basket of items stolen. The Blue Man Group was in Wichita for two nights of shows. It was not immediately clear if the theft affected their ability to perform.


2 Kansas Men Plead Guilty in Iowa Murder

NODAWAY, Iowa (AP) — Two Kansas men have pleaded guilty in what authorities say was the drug-related slaying of an Iowa man. Authorities in Iowa say 42-year-old Jon Rubendall and 40-year-old James Bost were convicted of second-degree murder after prosecutors lowered the charges. The Hiawatha, Kansas, men are scheduled to be sentenced May 16. Investigators say they killed 44-year-old Allen Pafford last June. A court document says authorities found Pafford tied up in a workshop near his mother's home in Nodaway, with a bullet wound in the back of his head. The document says Bost told authorities that Pafford owed Rubendall $3,000 for drugs.


Haskell Commencement Speaker Leading Redskins Mascot Fight

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A Haskell Indian Nations University graduate who is at the forefront in the fight to change the name of the Washington Redskins NFL team is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the university's commencement. Amanda Blackhorse and four other American Indians filed the lawsuit that led to the June 2014 decision of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Trial and Appeal Board to cancel the professional football team's trademark registration. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the board's decision didn't force the team to change its name, but supporters hope it will strengthen the argument to do so. Blackhorse will be the featured speaker at Haskell's commencement, which starts on May 6 at the Coffin Sports Complex in Lawrence.


Historic Statue Returns to Civil War Memorial in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A historic statue has been returned to a Civil War memorial in Wichita after undergoing a nearly three-year renovation. The Wichita Eagle reports that a crane hoisted the statute, named "Liberty," into place Wednesday. It occupies the pinnacle of the Soldiers and Sailors Civil War Monument at the Sedgwick County Historic Courthouse. Sedgwick County project services program manager Tania Cole says the statue was restored for $32,880. "Liberty" had some structural issues and was coming apart at the seams near her feet. Russell-Marti Conservation Services Inc. of California, Missouri, performed the restoration. The "Liberty" statue was designed and built by the W.H. Mullins Co. of Salem, Ohio, about a century ago. The company specialized in making metal statues for Civil War memorials.


2 Dodge City Men Charged with Hate Crimes Against Somalis

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Two southwest Kansas men have been charged with federal hate crimes after prosecutors say they attacked three Somali men last year. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Wichita says 31-year-old Omar Cantero Martinez and 24-year-old Armando Sotelo, both of Dodge City, were charged Wednesday with three counts of causing bodily injury to a victim because of race and national origin. Prosecutors say Martinez and Sotelo attacked the three Somalis, who were in the country legally, in June 2015. Two of the victims were attacked with a broken bottle. U.S. Attorney Tom Beall of Kansas and Vanita Gupta, head of the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, announced the charges. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. It was unclear if either suspect had obtained an attorney. 


Angels Sweep Series Beating Royals, 4-2 

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — The Angels' Mike Trout hit a tying two-run homer to power Los Angeles to a 4-2 victory over Kansas City Wednesday night. Yunel Escobar, the Angels' leadoff hitter, drove the Royals' Chris Young's pitch to center field for his third homer of the season leading off the sixth to put the Angels ahead 3-2. He had four hits in Tuesday night's 9-4 victory. LA's Andrelton Simmons ended the scoring in the seventh with his first homer as an Angel. Angels' pitcher Fernando Salas (1-1) was credited with the victory. The Royals will now travel up the West Coast to start a three-game series versus the Seattle Mariners Friday night.

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