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Headlines for Thursday, June 2, 2016

Kansas news headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas Legislature Formally Adjourns Session

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Legislature has formally adjourned its annual session. Lawmakers convened Wednesday for an adjournment ceremony, but they also overrode Governor Sam Brownback's veto of a tax bill, and the Senate approved a resolution condemning a recent federal directive to public schools on accommodating transgender students.  The House adjourned at 1:45 pm. The Senate gaveled out of session at 2:35 pm. It was lawmakers' 74th day, making it the shortest annual session since 1974. Legislators did not consider any proposed responses to a recent state Supreme Court decision rejecting education funding changes made earlier this year. That could lead to a special session later this month. After lawmakers adjourned their session, Governor Sam Brownback said that he hasn't yet decided whether he'll call the Legislature into special session to respond to the state Supreme Court order on public school funding. The governor said he will work with legislative leaders and Attorney General Derek Schmidt to respond "aggressively" to any action by the court to close the state's schools.


Kansas GOP Lawmakers Say Court Ruling Was Political

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Top Republican legislators are accusing the Kansas Supreme Court of issuing its latest education funding ruling to help justices survive attempts to oust them in the November election.  Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce said Wednesday that he believes the court is trying to shift voters' attention away from unpopular past decisions that struck down death sentences in capital murder cases. House Speaker Ray Merrick also said the school funding decision was political. The court did not respond to a request for comment. The court on Friday rejected some education funding changes approved by legislators earlier this year and warned that schools won't reopen if lawmakers don't make additional fixes to help poor school districts by June 30. Five of the court's seven justices face yes-or-no retention votes in November.


Kansas School Officials Uncertain Amid Funding Fight 

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — School administrators across Kansas are trying to figure out how a recent state Supreme Court ruling will affect their ability to provide critical summer programs and prepare for the fall semester that begins in August. Some districts are taking a wait-and-see approach to a stalemate between the Legislature and the court, which threatened last week to cease all school functions on July 1 if lawmakers don't find a way to resolve shortcomings in the current funding formula. Other districts are busy creating contingency plans for what they will do if the issue is not resolved and the court follows through with its threat. Kansas Association of School Boards lobbyist Mark Tallman says the problem for most school districts is that they aren't sure what the court's ruling means.

Kansas Revenues for May Far Below Estimates 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas is reporting that its tax collections last month were $74.5 million lower than anticipated. The Department of Revenue reported Wednesday that the state collected $469.5 million in taxes in May, when the official projection was $544 million. The shortfall was 13.7 percent.  The state has failed to hit its revenue projections 10 of the past 12 months. State officials and university economists issued a new, more pessimistic revenue forecast in April. The Department of Revenue blamed slumps in agriculture, energy production and aircraft manufacturing for the state missing its projections for  ncome tax collections in May. 


Kansas Lawmakers Override Brownback on Tax Veto

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Legislature has voted overwhelmingly to override Governor Sam Brownback's veto of a bill involving a multi-million dollar tax dispute between the state and a retired pizza franchise entrepreneur. The votes Wednesday were 39-1 in the Senate and 120-0 in the House. Brownback rejected the bill over a provision dealing with how tax disputes are handled. The override was an unusual rebuke for the Republican governor. The provision would have ensured that any taxpayer losing a dispute before the Board of Tax Appeals could have another full trial in district court before a limited review by the state Court of Appeals. The debate comes as former Pizza Hut mogul Gene Bicknell is asking the Kansas Supreme Court to order the state to refund $42.5 million in income taxes.


Kansas Developer Indicted on 13 Bankruptcy Fraud Counts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Topeka real estate developer has been indicted by a federal grand jury on 103 counts of bankruptcy fraud. Sixty-four-year-old Kent Lindemuth filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November 2012, claiming he had more than $3.5 million of debt. Federal law stipulates that any property obtained after the filing belongs to the bankruptcy estate but Lindemuth is accused of buying more than 100 firearms valued at more than $80,000 in 2013 and 2014.  Lindemuth didn't tell his creditors or the bankruptcy trustee about the firearms or the money used to buy them. 


Judge Rules Addition to Kansas Millionaire's Will Was Faked

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — A judge has ruled that a purported updated will from a Kansas multimillionaire was not valid and the man's former caretaker will not receive most of his $21 million estate. The Hutchinson News reports this week's ruling by Kansas Senior Judge William Lyle Jr. is a victory for the Fort Hays State University Foundation, the primary beneficiary of the estate of 98-year-old Earl O. Field, of Hays. Field's former caretaker, Wanda Oborny, said she found a letter typed on Field's stationery after his death. She says the letter said Field decided to give most of his estate to her, rather than to the foundation. Steve and Kathy Little, of Hays, who said they witnessed Field sign the new will, died in a murder-suicide in August 2015.


Former Kansas Police Chief Admits Role in Gun Scheme

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former police chief of a town near Wichita has admitted in federal court that he played a role in a scheme to buy and sell discounted firearms by falsely claiming they would be used for law enforcement purposes. Former Bel Aire chief John Daily pleaded guilty Tuesday in Wichita to a count of theft of government money, property or records. Prosecutors say Daily admitted that twice in 2012, he misrepresented firearms as being solely for law enforcement purposes, wrongly exempting the guns' makers from paying about $300 in taxes to the U.S. government. Daily faces up to a year in prison and as much as $100,000 in fines when sentenced on August 17. Bel Aire a small suburban community just north of Wichita.


Kansas Senate May Vote to Condemn Transgender Decree, AG Says State Will Sue 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate is considering a resolution condemning a recent Obama administration decree that public schools allow transgender students to use restrooms that match their gender identity, not the sex designated on their birth certificates. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says Kansas will be joining litigation against the federal government over the transgender bathroom directive.  Texas and 10 other states already have filed suit against the federal government over the directive.  Equality Kansas, the state's leading LGBT rights group, held a rally at the Capitol on Wednesday to oppose the resolution. Tom Witt, the group's executive director, says transgender students are often the targets of harassment, bullying and violence and the state's actions will make life harder for them.


Congressmen Question Voter Registration Actions by Elections Official 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Three Democratic U.S. congressmen have asked a federal agency whether a top elections official had the right to unilaterally change voter registration forms in three states to require proof of citizenship. Representatives Elijah Cummings, Robert Brady and James E. Clyburn asked the chairman of the Election Assistance Commission on Wednesday for records connected to EAC executive director Brian Newby's amendment of forms in Kansas, Alabama and Georgia. The group is seeking documents relating to requests from the three states to modify voter registration forms; all analysis of the impact of modifying federal voter registration forms; and all documents giving Newby the authority to unilaterally make the changes. Voting rights activists criticized the changes Newby made in February as a "secretive move" that created additional barriers for potential voters


Architects Discuss Options for Renovating Topeka's Docking Office Building

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - State officials say they are meeting with architects to discuss plans for renovating the Docking State Office Building in Topeka.  A legislative committee heard testimony Wednesday that options for the building including a complete renovation or removing several of the building's dozen floors. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports architect Keith Blackburn said a complete renovation would cost about $84.5 million. Reducing the building to four stories would cost $49.1 million, while three floors would cost $44.7 million and making it a single-story building would cost $30 million. Blackburn said under any of those options, the state will have to do abatement work to remove asbestos and lead paint. A majority of the hundreds of state employees who work in the building will be moved to another state building through spring 2017.


Kansas Health Warning Issued over Algae Blooms in 3 Lakes 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials say three of the state's lakes are under health warnings because of high levels of toxic blue-green algae blooms. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said in a statement that the lakes under warning aren't closed, but that contact with the water can cause serious illness and should be avoided. KDHE says elevated algae levels have been found in Hiawatha City Lake in Brown County, Marion Reservoir in Marion County, and Plainville Township Lake in Rooks County. KDHE says the water should never be consumed by humans, pets or livestock.


Platte County Treasury Loses $48K in Email Scam

PLATTE CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Platte County treasurer's office says it was the victim of an email scam that resulted in the loss of more than $48,000. County Treasurer Rob Willard says his office received an email Friday that appeared to be from Presiding Commissioner Ron Schieber, instructing him to wire transfer $48,220 to a bank in Florida to pay a state tax consultant. Willard said Wednesday that several emails were exchanged and he fulfilled the request because of the transaction's urgent nature. Willard says he then received a phone call from Schieber, who was out of town, and informed Schieber that the transaction was complete. Schieber told the treasurer that he hadn't requested a wire transfer, which prompted Willard to alert the sheriff's office and file a complaint with the FBI. County commissioners met Wednesday to discuss the incident.


Man Charged in 2-State Rampage Pleads Not Guilty in Missouri

MONTGOMERY CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Mexican national charged with five shooting deaths pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of a Missouri man. KRCG-TV reports Pablo Serrano-Vitorino entered the plea Wednesday during a brief arraignment in Montgomery County Court. Prosecutors allege Serrano-Vitorino shot four men to death in Kansas City, Kansas, March 7 and then fled to Missouri. They allege he shot and killed Randy Nordman the next day during a confrontation in Nordman's garage in New Florence. Montgomery County Prosecutor Nathan Carroz has said he will seek the death penalty for Serrano-Vitorino in Nordman's death. Serrano-Vitorino's next court appearance is scheduled August 3. He also is charged with four counts of first-degree murder in Kansas. Prosecutors haven't announced whether they will seek the death penalty in Kansas.


Royals Top Rays 6-3 to Complete 6-0 Homestand

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Royals' Danny Duffy pitched six effective innings and rookie Whit Merrifield had two hits and one run as the Kansas City Royals beat the Tampa Bay Rays 6-3 on Wednesday night to sweep the series and complete a 6-0 home-stand. The last time the Royals had a home-stand of 6-0 or better was June, 1988, when they went 7-0. Duffy (1-0) yielded three runs and seven hits, while walking none and striking out six over six innings, his longest outing since moving into the rotation on May 15. Royals' relievers Joakim Soria, Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis held the Rays scoreless over the final three innings. Rookie outfielder Merrifield has hit in his first 11 career starts, which is a Royals' record.


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