Kansas Legislature Continues Work on Tax and Budget Measures
The Republican-controlled Kansas Senate has rejected a Democratic plan for increasing personal income taxes to help balance the state budget. Senators voted 30-10 on Thursday against giving a bill containing the plan first-round approval. The measure would have raised $1.2 billion over two years by rejecting core tax policies championed by Republican Governor Sam Brownback. The Senate's action came the day before the chamber was expected to debate a bipartisan tax plan approved by the House. The House plan would raise more than $1 billion over two years, starting in July. Democrats wanted to return the state's top income tax rate to its 2012 level of 6.45 percent. The current rate set after Brownback-inspired tax cuts is 4.6 percent. The House plan would set the top rate at 5.45 percent.
The Kansas Senate has rejected a plan for increasing personal income taxes outlined last week by the chamber's Republican leaders. Senators rejected the measure on a unanimous voice vote Thursday after Minority Leader and Topeka Democrat Anthony Hensley offered the proposal as an amendment to a tax bill. Hensley wanted the amendment to fail. The underlying bill contained a tax plan from Democrats to raise $1.2 billion over two years. The plan from Senate GOP leaders would have raised $660 million over two years. Top Republicans abandoned it last week because of opposition to the budget-balancing package's education funding cuts. Senate Majority Leader and Overland Park Republican Jim Denning said he couldn't vote for the tax increases alone because they were meant to be coupled with the cuts.
The Kansas House has given first-round approval to a bill authorizing $317 million in internal borrowing to allow the state to pay its bills through June 30. The House's voice vote Thursday advanced the bill to a final vote set for Friday. Passage then would send the bill to the Senate. Republican Governor Sam Brownback proposed the internal borrowing. The measure would allow the state to get to July without a budget shortfall or education funding cuts. Lawmakers are considering income tax increases but can't generate any of the new revenue before July. The bill would allow the state to liquidate an investment portfolio. Money from the sale of the assets would then be loaned to the state's main bank account and paid back over seven years.
The Kansas House has approved a bill that would increase personal income taxes to help balance the state budget. The vote Thursday was 76-48 and sends the measure to the Senate. The bill would raise more than $1 billion over two years, starting in July. It would abandon core policies championed by Republican Governor Sam Brownback. Supporters had eight votes less than the two-thirds majority of 84 necessary in the GOP-controlled, 125-member House to override a Brownback veto. The bill's backers also lost seven votes overnight. The House gave the bill first-round approval Wednesday on an 83-39 vote. Brownback has said he would not sign the bill because he opposes broad income tax increases like those in the measure. The Senate expects to debate the bill Friday.
Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle says her chamber will move with unusual speed to consider a House bill raising personal income taxes if the House approves it. Wagle said the Senate already has made plans to debate and take a final vote on the House bill Friday. The House was taking final action on the bill Thursday after members gave it first-round approval Wednesday on an 83-39 vote. The bill seeks to balance the state budget through June 2019 by raising more than $1 billion in new revenues between now and then. The measure would abandon core tax policies championed by Republican Governor Sam Brownback in 2012 and 2013. He said Wednesday that he would not sign it. Wagle said she believes the House bill also could pass the Senate.
Brownback Says He Won't Sign Kansas House Tax Bill
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says he would not sign a bill advanced by the Kansas House that would increase personal income taxes to help balance the state budget. While Brownback stopped short Wednesday of saying he would veto the bill, he strongly criticized the measure during a speech to members of the National Federation of Independent Business. He urged NFIB members to lobby against it. The House gave first-round approval Wednesday to the bill. It would raise more than $1 billion over two years and abandon core tax policies Brownback successfully pushed in 2012 and 2013. Brownback said in a statement that the bill would hurt middle-class families.
Kansas Governor Confirms Office Calls Intercepted by Feds
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says his office has received a letter from the U.S. Justice Department about the federal government intercepting calls to his office from an ex-legislator's number. Brownback said his office received the letter Wednesday about calls from a number that in 2015 went to then-Senator Michael O'Donnell, a Republican from Wichita. O'Donnell said Wednesday he was shocked to learn his phone was tapped in 2015. The governor says his letter is similar to letters sent to reporters in Wichita, where businessman Brandon Steven has confirmed he's the subject of an inquiry into his efforts to open a casino in southeast Kansas in 2015. An aide to Senate President Susan Wagle says her office also received a letter.
Kansas House Panel Rejects Anti-Concealed Carry Bill
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers who oppose concealed guns in hospitals and on university campuses have failed to revive legislation that would keep such weapons out after June. The House Federal and State Affairs Committee rejected a bill Wednesday to allow the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas, to continue banning concealed guns. The 11-11 vote keeps the bill stuck in committee. A state law will require those institutions and state universities and colleges on July 1 to allow adults 21 and older to carry concealed weapons into buildings that don't have security measures such as guards or metal detectors. An effort to expand the House committee's bill beyond the medical center to other hospitals failed. A Senate committee earlier this month rejected broader limits on concealed carry.
Kansas Lawmakers Consider Potentially Costly Immigration Bills
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas law enforcement officers would be required to help immigration officials under two bills before a Kansas Senate committee. One bill would compel the Kansas Highway Patrol to look into an agreement allowing its officers to be trained in federal immigration laws so they could help enforce them. The other would crack down on jurisdictions that don't comply with immigration authorities' requests to detain immigrants who are in the country illegally. The bills are backed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has championed tough voting and immigration bills. But opponents say resources for the highway patrol would be expensive. They also raised concern about the expense of detainments and that the detainments could lead to costly litigation.
Wichita Businessman Wink Hartman Announces Run for Kansas Governor
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita oilman Wink Hartman says he is entering next year's Kansas gubernatorial race. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Hartman announced Wednesday that he is starting a campaign for the Republican nomination. Governor Sam Brownback can't seek a third term, which leaves the job open for the first time since Democratic Governor Mark Parkinson declined to run in 2010. Hartman is an oil industry business owner and GOP donor. He sought the 4th District seat in the U.S. House in 2010, but lost to Mike Pompeo in the Republican primary. Pompeo recently resigned to accept an appointment as CIA director under President Donald Trump. Hartman says he's "watched the dysfunction in Topeka with increasing frustration." He says Topeka is "creating uncertainty" and "making things more difficult" instead of "improving the quality of life for Kansans."
Campus Police Prepare for Concealed Carry
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas Office of Public Safety is planning to add more positions and new equipment to prepare for allowing concealed handguns on campus. Police Chief Chris Keary tells the Lawrence Journal-World that the office is adding three police officers to patrol busy areas of campus, four portable metal detectors and three security officers to man them. The additions were approved in the latest university budget to abide by a new state law that requires public universities to allow lawful carry of concealed handguns starting July 1. Under the law, buildings can prohibit guns only if the facilities are equipped with adequate security. Keary says no campus building will have permanent security measures. The portable metal detectors are expected to help keep guns out of certain temporary events.
Chinese National in Kansas Guilty in Engineered 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, Kansas, 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.
Kansas 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.
Wichita Police: Drive-Through Window Used in 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. Sergeant 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.
Day Without Immigrants Action in St. Louis, Kansas City
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The national "Day Without Immigrants" includes actions in both of Missouri's metropolitan areas. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Cherokee Street, the hub of traditional Mexican cuisine in St. Louis, was mostly quiet at lunch hour Thursday after several restaurants closed in solidarity. Meanwhile, the Kansas City Star reports that 400 to 500 protesters gathered near City Hall, many holding banners and signs such as "Somos America," which translates to "We're America." The protests are in response to President Donald Trump's pledge to increase deportation of immigrants living in the country illegally, build a wall along the Mexican border, and ban people from certain majority-Muslim countries from coming into the U.S.
Water Levels Rise in Two Central Kansas Aquifers but Ogallala Continues to Decline
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Central Kansas farmers are shutting down their wells more often as two aquifers saw water levels rise from last year's rains. The Kansas Geological Survey released data on aquifer levels this week. The state collects the data annually in early January to monitor the health of the multi-state High Plains Aquifer, which comprises three smaller aquifers in Kansas. The Great Bend Prairie Aquifer rose more than half a foot, while the Equus Beds Aquifer rose an average more than 2 feet. The Hutchinson News reports the increases come after a multiyear drought that lowered water levels in 2011 and 2012. Levels in the Ogallala Aquifer in western Kansas are still on the decline, a trend that has continued for the past 70 to 80 years. Water-data manager Brownie Wilson says water levels in that aquifer have fallen an average 40 feet since 1996.
Topeka Restaurant/Nightclub Damaged in Fire
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A fire that badly damaged a restaurant and nightclub near downtown Topeka is under investigation. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the fire at the Famous Door & Thelma's Corner was reported early Wednesday morning. Damage is estimated at $125,000. No one was hurt. Dispatchers received several calls about the fire from motorists on Interstate 70 who spotted the blaze. Topeka Fire Department officials say flames were through the roof when firefighters arrived. A possible electrical malfunction is among the causes being investigated.
Salina Airport to Honor Pilot with Sculpture
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The Salina Airport Authority has decided to create a public viewing area that includes a 16-foot sculpture memorializing record-setting aviator Steve Fossett. The Salina Journal reports that Executive Director Tim Rogers told the airport's board on Wednesday that the area will be built using endowment money and a construction fund with the Greater Salina Community Foundation. About $350,000 is available, most of it coming from the construction fund. Fossett was the first person to fly nonstop around the world without refueling, starting his journey from the Salina airport on Feb. 28, 2005, and returning March 3. The pilot also set many other aviation records before he died in a 2007 plane crash. Rogers says storyboards describing Fossett and his records will also be on display in the viewing area.
Teenager Arrested in Southern Kansas Killing
CANEY, Kan. (AP) - Authorities say a 17-year-old has been arrested in a southern Kansas killing. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation announced Wednesday that the teenage boy has been booked into the Southeast Kansas Juvenile Detention Center on suspicion of first-degree murder in the death of 25-year-old Brock Sanders, of Caney. Sanders was last seen leaving his home on the evening of February 8. His family reported him missing to the Caney Police Department three days later. Police contacted the KBI for assistance this week in investigating what they believed to be suspicious circumstances. The KBI says the investigation is ongoing will be turned over to Montgomery County Attorney when completed.
Fundraising for Koch Arena Upgrade About Three-Fourths Complete
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State's efforts to renovate and expand Koch Arena is nearing its fundraising goal. The university foundation and athletic department said in a statement Thursday they have raised nearly three-quarters of the $12 million need for the project. A recent pledge from Wichita-based Equity Bank brought the fundraising total to $8.8 million. The project would include construction of a student center, a conditioning center, training room and student lounge. Coaches and administrative offices would be renovated, and the retail store and hospitality room would be expanded. The last major project at the arena was in 2003-04. The project is one of the priorities of the Wichita State Foundation's $250 million fundraising effort called Shock the World.
Trial Date Set for Man in 2006 Death of 2-Year-Old Topeka Boy
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas judge has found sufficient evidence for a Missouri man to be tried in the 2006 killing of the 2-year-old son of his then-fiancee. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 32-year-old Johnathan Mango was bound over Wednesday in Shawnee County on a reduced charge of second-degree murder, rather than first-degree murder. District Judge Nancy Parrish said she didn't find there was intentional child abuse in Eli Clemens' death, which was needed for the first-degree murder charge. Mango was arrested last year in Florissant, Missouri, after new evidence tied him to the crime. Former Shawnee County coroner Donald Pojman testified at the preliminary hearing that the boy died of blunt-force trauma to the head and abdomen. Mango is scheduled to go on trial in October.
Video Shows Man Shot on Kansas City Bus
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Surveillance video shows that a fight on a RideKC bus in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, ended with a man being shot. The Kansas City Star reports that the video shows the victim fighting with another man Sunday on a bus also carrying other passengers. Police say the man hit the victim several times with a handgun, shooting him and leaving the bus. A witness told police that before the shooting, the victim was being physically aggressive and tried to assault the alleged gunman. The witness said the victim was shot in the back. The alleged gunman was reportedly later taken into custody. Investigators allege the man who was shot also tried to assault an officer trying to talk to him. The man was placed on the ground until he was taken to a hospital.
K-State President Asks Fans to Stop Vulgar Chants
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The president of Kansas State University has asked Wildcat basketball fans to stop using vulgar chants targeted at the Kansas Jayhawks when the rivals meet in Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan. The Wichita Eagle reports that Kansas State President Richard Myers spoke out against the chants Wednesday in a letter to the public posted on the university's website. He described the chants as "personally embarrassing." Kansas State students chanted an expletive followed by "KU" in a variety of songs when the Jayhawks visited Manhattan on February 6. Kansas pulled away late in the game, winning 74-71. Myers says friends across the country reached out to him, expressing dismay about the conduct. The university has tried in the past to address the chants by promoting sportsmanship and eliminating some songs from the arena's playlist.
K-State Men Lose to Iowa State at Home, Women's Team Loses at West Virginia
MANHTAAN, Kan. (AP) — Iowa State held on through a furious second half rally from Kansas State to defeat the Wildcats 87-79 on Wednesday night in Manhattan. Iowa State's Solomon Young scored a season-high 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds. Deonte Burton added 17 points for the Cyclones (16-9, 8-5 Big 12). Barry Brown had 21 points for Kansas State with Wesley Iwundu adding 16 with 13 rebounds. A rally by the Wildcats (16-10, 5-8) in the second half rally got them to within seven points with 12:27 to play, but the Cyclones pushed the lead back to 15. In Morgantown, West Virginia last night, after trailing by as many as 19 the Kansas State women's team battled back to within two points in the fourth quarter but West Virginia held on for a 66-59 win. Kansas State (18-8, 8-6 Big 12) had two players reach double figures, as senior guard Kindred Wesemann tallied 14 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals. The Mountaineers (18-8, 6-8) had two players record double-doubles as Chania Ray recorded 14 points and 10 assists while Lanay Montgomery carded 12 points and 12 rebounds.