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Headlines for Thursday, June 11, 2015

Kansas House Rejects Bill Raising Taxes to Close Budget Gap

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has rejected a bill increasing sales and cigarette taxes to erase a projected budget deficit and avert deep spending cuts.  The vote was 94-21 Thursday against a measure that would raise more than $400 million during the fiscal year that begins July 1. The tax increases would have balanced a $15.4 billion budget already approved by the Republican-dominated Legislature.  The state's budget problems arose after legislators slashed income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at GOP Governor Sam Brownback's urging.  The Kansas Constitution prohibits the state from running a deficit. Brownback's budget director warned lawmakers this week failing to pass a tax bill would lead to across-the-board spending cuts.  House GOP leaders held the roll open for four hours over two days but couldn't get the votes.


Kansas Governor Disappointed by House Rejection of Tax Plan 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says he is "very disappointed" in the Kansas House's failure to pass a tax plan, but he still is focused on filling the state's looming budget deficit through tax increases rather than budget cuts. Brownback described the House Thursday as "fractured," but he said he still thinks a compromise can be reached. Legislators are at an impasse over tax and spending proposals aimed at filling a projected $406 million shortfall in the fiscal year beginning July. The deadlock has stretched the legislative session to 112 days, making it the longest in state history. Brownback downplayed the possibility of the Legislature adjourning without a solution. In such a case, the governor would be forced to call a special legislative session or make broad cuts to the budget.


Kansas Budget Crisis Could Hurt Bond Rating 

Officials in Governor Sam Brownback's administration say Kansas's bond ratings would likely be downgraded if the Legislature does not balance the state's budget with tax increases. Secretary of Administration Jim Clark told a joint meeting of Republican legislators Thursday that rating agencies would likely act because of budget uncertainty. Bond ratings determine how much the state must pay in interest on its debt. The state has been working to issue $1 billion in bonds to add funds to its pension system and boost its earnings. Clark said a downgrade could increase the state's interest costs by $50 million a year. Legislators have passed a $15.4 billion budget, but it requires about $400 million in tax increases to balance. The budget problems arose after lawmakers slashed income taxes at Brownback's urging.


Brownback to Consider Slashing University Funding 

Governor Sam Brownback says he would consider cutting $394 million from funding for state universities if the Legislature does not pass tax increases to balance the state's budget by Monday. Brownback said Thursday during a meeting of Republican legislators that vetoing universities' funding is one of his options. The Legislature has passed a $15.4 billion budget that requires about $400 million in tax increases to balance. Budget Director Shawn Sullivan said the governor also could veto the budget and call a special legislative session or enact an across-the-board cut to all state agencies. If Brownback opted to veto universities' funding, they'd lose money for operating expenses. Sullivan said they still could continue to pay staff from tuition funds, but not for long.


Kansas House Lets GOP Member Switch Vote to No on Tax Bill 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has allowed a Republican member to switch his vote to 'no' on a bill increasing sales and cigarette taxes. The decision Thursday changed the official tally but not the result. The House rejected the bill. The new official tally is 95-20 against it. Republican Representative Dennis Hedke, of Wichita, said he was initially supporting the bill Thursday because it would balance the state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 by raising more than $400 million. But he said he had misgivings about parts of the bill and if it wasn't going to pass, he saw no sense in voting for it. He attempted to switch his vote when the roll was open but wasn't recognized in time, leaving the first official tally at 94-21 against.


Kansas Judge Denies Records Request from Student

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ A judge has denied a University of Kansas student's request to have records from a research center subject to open records laws. A student group is seeking the release of hundreds of pages of emails and other documents to determine what ties exist between Art Hall, executive director of an economic research center, and billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Douglas County Judge James McCabria on Tuesday denied student Schuyler Kraus's request to deem those records subject to the Kansas Open Records Act, which would allow the university to release them. McCabria says more evidence is needed to resolve disputed facts, including whether Hall's a public employee. Hall's lawyer says his client's a private individual and that needs "further exploration'' in a trial setting.


West Nile Virus Reported in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Health officials say Kansas has its first case of West Nile virus for 2015. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said Wednesday that an adult from Lincoln County has tested positive for the virus, which can be spread to people from infected mosquitoes but is not contagious from person to person. In 2014, Kansas reported 54 cases of West Nile virus among people.


LaPolice Running Again Against Huelskamp

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A third candidate is announcing plans to run in the Republican primary for the 1st District congressional race.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Alan LaPolice will formally announce his candidacy Thursday night in Clyde. LaPolice, a student retention specialist at Cloud County Community College in Concordia, lost to Representative Tim Huelskamp in the Republican primary last year. Huelskamp went on to defeat Democrat Jim Sherow and win a fourth term in Congress. Also running in the 2016 primary is Republican Roger Marshall, an obstetrician and gynecologist from Great Bend.  Candidates have until June 2016 to file a statement of candidacy for the congressional seat. The primary election will be held in August 2016 ahead of the November 2016 general election.


Man Accused of Jewish Site Shootings Appears in Court 

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Law enforcement officers are testifying during a hearing for an avowed white supremacist accused of killing three people at Jewish sites in Kansas. The hearing held Wednesday was to consider motions in the case against 74-year-old Frazier Glenn Miller Jr. He's asking the judge to bar witness identifications of him from being used during trial. The officers testifying responded to the deadly shootings at the two sites in Overland Park. Miller is charged with capital murder in a shooting spree that killed a 69-year-old man, his 14-year-old grandson and a 53-year-old woman. Miller has said he is dying from emphysema and went to the sites to kill Jewish people. 


Wichita Man Charged in Wife's Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man accused of shooting his wife has been charged with second-degree murder. Wichita media outlets report 31-year-old Derek Campbell is being held on $200,000 bond at the Sedgwick County Jail. Police say Campbell told them he accidentally shot his wife, Rebecca, in April when he removed his gun from its holster. Officers found the victim dead in the living room. Campbell was booked into the jail following the incident, but was released pending further investigation. Lieutenant Todd Ojile said a 5-year-old girl was asleep inside the house at the time of the incident. She was placed in the custody of relatives. Campbell, who is being represented by a court-appointed attorney, is scheduled to appear in court again June 23rd.


Topeka Jewelry Store Owner Admits Buying Stolen Jewelry

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Topeka jewelry store owner has pleaded guilty to charges accusing him of knowingly buying stolen jewelry. The office of the U.S. Attorney for Kansas said in a release Wednesday that 53-year-old John O. Dasher, of Silver Lake, pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of transporting stolen goods. The federal prosecutor's office says Dasher admitted the crimes occurred from 2010 to 2013 when he owned The Diamond House in Topeka and that he knew he was buying stolen jewelry taken in home invasions. A sentencing date hasn't been set.


2 Victims Found After Rural Kansas Fire Were Shot 

BUCYRUS, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say two bodies found in the remnants of a burned house in rural Miami County in Kansas had been shot. The Kansas City Star reports that the sheriff's office made the announcement Thursday. The identities of the victims haven't been confirmed. Their bodies were discovered Monday after firefighters extinguished a blaze that destroyed the house and a barn. Firefighters reported that ammunition was exploding inside both structures. Preliminary autopsy reports received Wednesday indicated that both victims died from gunshots. The cause of the fire is under investigation.


Humane Society Offers Reward for Information in Wichita's Fatal Dog Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the fatal shooting of a dog last month.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the Humane Society of America announced the reward Wednesday. Sedgwick County Sheriff's Lieutenant Lin Dehning says someone shot a 10-year-old female blue heeler named Pepper on May 30. The wounds were so severe that a veterinarian euthanized the dog. Dehning says a necropsy suggested a high-velocity pellet gun was used in the shooting.  The Humane Society's Kansas state director, Midge Grinstead, called the shooting "awful" and said the "perpetrators were blatant in wanting the dog and the owners to suffer."  Anyone with information is asked to call law enforcement or Crime Stoppers.


Symphony in the Flint Hills Returns to Original Location 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An annual outdoor symphony concert in the Flint Hills is expected to draw a crowd of 7,500 when it returns to Chase County for its 10th anniversary. The Symphony in the Flint Hills changes location each summer, but this year's event will be held Saturday at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, where the inaugural concert took place in 2006. Grammy Award-winning artist Lyle Lovett will perform at the event for the second time. The Wichita Eagle reports that Symphony in the Flint Hills is a nonprofit aiming to spur appreciation and knowledge of the tallgrass prairie by bringing people together to experience it. In addition to an evening concert, the event also features educational programs, walking tours, an instrument "petting zoo" and a silent auction featuring prairie-themed art and photography.


OSHA Cites Ford, Construction Company in Kansas City Death 

CLAYCOMO, Mo. (AP) — A federal agency has cited Ford Motor Company and a Kansas City company for violations after the death of a 52-year-old contractor crushed by a piece of equipment at the automaker's Kansas City assembly plant. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Thursday the December 2014 accident was preventable. The accident occurred when a 7,600-pound piece of equipment broke loose and hit the worker. OSHA said Thursday it cited Ford for a serious violation and Kansas City-based KCI Incorporated for a willful safety violation. The worker killed was employed by KCI, which OSHA says was rebuilding the assembly line. OSHA proposed fines of $7,000 for Ford, and $70,000 for KCI. Ford said in a statement the automaker "fully cooperated" in the investigation. KCI didn't respond to a request for comment.


Wesley to Begin $28M Children's Hospital Renovation in Fall

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita hospital is beginning work this fall on a $28 million renovation of its pediatric area. The Wichita Eagle reports that Wesley Medical Center unveiled its Children's Hospital logo at a symbolic groundbreaking event Wednesday. The actual renovation won't start until around September. Work includes updating facades and revamping rooms so each one will have a TV, computer, Xbox, games and a Murphy bed to pull down for family members to spend the night. The pediatric unit will have 30 rooms, the same number as in the current facility, but the intensive care unit will gain three beds from its current 12-bed layout. Wesley hopes to finish the project by fall 2016.


Man, 58, Critically Injured in Garage Fire Near Haysville

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A garage fire near a Wichita suburb has left a 58-year-old man in critical condition. The Wichita Eagle reports that the fire crews were called Wednesday night to the 24-by-24-foot detached garage south of Haysville. Stewart Segraves, a division chief at Sedgwick County Fire, described the victim as a caretaker for the property. He had burns on his leg, and Segraves estimated his body was approximately 9 percent burned. He was transported in critical condition to Via Christi Hospital St. Francis. Segraves said he did not think the man's injuries were life-threatening but noted that "burn injuries can cause months and months of rehab." The cause of the fire is under investigation.


Longtime President of William Jewell College to Retire 

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — The longtime president of William Jewell College in suburban Kansas City has announced plans to retire in August 2016. The liberal arts college in Liberal said in a news release Thursday that David Sallee has led the school since August 2000. The release said Sallee is the longest serving president among Kansas City area colleges and universities. William Jewell credited Sallee with raising the profile of the school and the availability of technology. Sallee previously was vice president for enrollment management at Luther College in Iowa and at Oklahoma Baptist University. The school's Board of Trustees is forming a committee to search for his replacement.


Report Offers More Upbeat Forecast for Kansas Wheat Crop 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new government report paints a more upbeat forecast for the size of the Kansas winter wheat crop in the wake of plentiful rains this past month. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Wednesday it anticipates this year's wheat production at 314.5 million bushels in Kansas. Its updated estimate reflects the impact of timely rains as the Kansas crop finished maturing. The new forecast is well above the 272 million bushels the agency forecast just a month ago. If realized, this year's Kansas winter wheat will be a vast improvement over last year's drought-plagued crop of 246.4 million bushels. This year's winter wheat across the nation is now anticipated to bring in 1.51 billion bushels, up 2 percent from last month's forecast.


Freight Train Cars Derail in Houston 

HOUSTON (AP) — A number of freight train cars derailed while rolling across a bridge above a Houston highway. Houston Fire Department officials say nobody was hurt in the accident Thursday morning. No cargo spilled. A statement from Kansas City Southern Railway Company says one locomotive and nine freight cars derailed, including two that fell from the rail bridge. One derailed car ended up on the embankment. The other car landed on Old Katy Road, blocking highway traffic. The cause of the derailment remains under investigation. The train had a two-person crew and was bound from Beaumont to Kendleton, with two locomotives and 84 cars. A company official says no hazardous materials were involved in the accident around 8:30 am CDT Thursday as the train hauled various types of freight.


Kansas City District Picks CFO as Interim Superintendent 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City school district's board of directors has tapped its chief financial officer to serve as interim superintendent. The district announced Thursday that the board voted Wednesday night to approve Allen Tunis's temporary appointment. He will oversee operations while the district searches for a permanent replacement for outgoing Superintendent Stephen Green. Last month, Green announced that he was departing to take the superintendent's job at the DeKalb County School District in Georgia. The district said in a news release that a board-approved timeline projects that a permanent superintendent will be named in the late spring of 2016. The board also selected a consulting firm to assist with the search.


Missouri Trooper Who Criticized Highway Patrol Demoted 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper who was critical of the agency after an Iowa man drowned at the Lake of the Ozarks last year has been demoted for speaking out. An attorney for Randy Henry says the trooper was moved from the Lake of the Ozarks, where he had patrolled for nearly three decades, and demoted from sergeant to corporal. The Kansas City Star reports attorney Chet Pleban of St. Louis issued a news release Thursday describing his client as a whistleblower after the death of Brandon Ellingson. The 20-year-old suburban Des Moines man was handcuffed and in the custody of a state trooper when he fell from the boat and drowned. Henry told Missouri lawmakers road troopers who occasionally helped the Water Patrol didn't receive enough training.


Police: Man Dead in Kansas Is Suspect in Vermont Killing

WINDSOR, Vt. (AP) — Authorities say an investigation has confiirmed that a Vermont man suspected of killing his estranged girlfriend killed himself following a high-speed chase in Kansas. Vermont State Police say 27-year-old Jason Kendall was wanted on a second-degree murder charge in the death of 22-year-old Molly Helland on Monday in Windsor. On Wednesday, the Kansas Highway Patrol spotted a vehicle matching the description of Kendall's car, with stolen Massachusetts license plates. When troopers tried to pull the vehicle over, they say Kendall sped off, leading them on a high-speed chase. It ended when the car crashed. Kendall was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police say a weapon found in the vehicle is believed to have been used in both the killing of Helland and Kendall's suicide.


Children Begin First Day at Year-Round Elementary Schools 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City school district has opened a pair of year-round elementary schools in an experiment that's proving popular with families. More than 750 children arrived Wednesday at the Winnwood and Crestview schools to start an academic year, which will run through the summer and continue alongside all other schools' regular academic calendar until May 2016. The Kansas City Star reports that the children in the year-round schools will get 31 more days of instruction, totaling 208. The chief financial officer for the North Kansas City School District says the extra days of learning come at an estimated cost of $575,000 in salaries and services. The district picked Winnwood and Crestview partly due to the majority of their students qualifying for free or reduced-priced lunches.


Royals Beat Twins 7-2, Sweep 3-Game Series

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Alex Gordon hit a three-run homer and Edinson Volquez struck out six batters over seven innings as the Kansas City Royals beat Minnesota 7-2 on Wednesday to finish the first series sweep this season of the Twins at home. The win handed the division lead back to Kansas City. The Twins' frustration was evident in the eighth inning, when Torii Hunter was ejected by the home plate umpire for arguing a called third strike.  Twins' Manager Paul Molitor was also given his first career ejection during the conflict.



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