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Headlines for Thursday, September 1, 2016

Here's a look at area headlines from the Associated Press

UPDATE: Kansas Tax Collections $10 Million Short of Expectations in August

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas says its tax collections in August fell $10 million short of expectations and Republican Governor Sam Brownback blames a soft economy.  The state Department of Revenue report Thursday marked the fourth consecutive month that Kansas has failed to hit its revenue projections. Tax collections have fallen short 10 of the past 12 months.  The state collected $427 million in taxes last month. A fiscal forecast made in April predicted the state would take in more than $437 million. The shortfall is 2.3 percent.  Kansas has struggled to balance its budget after GOP lawmakers heeded Brownback's call to slash personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 as an economic stimulus.  But Brownback said this week that slumps in agriculture and energy production are to blame for disappointing revenues.

(earlier version)
Kansas Set to Release Tax Revenue Numbers for August

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is preparing to disclose whether its tax collections in August fell short of expectations for the fourth consecutive month.  The monthly report due this (THUR) afternoon from the state Department of Revenue could complicate the state's financial picture.  Tax collections have fallen short of expectations 10 of the past 12 months.  In July, they were nearly $13 million below the official state projections made in a forecast issued by officials and university economists in April. The shortfall was 2.9 percent.  A larger shortfall in June prompted Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's administration to delay $260 million in state aid payments to public schools. The state also diverted money for highway projects to help avoid a deficit at the end of the state's 2016 fiscal year on June 30.


Overland Park Police Find Missing Woman's Body

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Police in Overland Park say they've found the body of a woman who went missing last month, and a male suspect is in custody.  Authorities say police investigation a report of a foul odor in a wooded area found the body of 46-year-old Julianna Pappas late Wednesday. She was last seen alive on August 22.  Jail records show that a 22-year-old man was booked into the local jail early today (THUR) on suspicious of first-degree murder.


Former Kansas Inmate Awarded $2.5 Million in Prison Sex Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has awarded a former inmate at the Topeka Correctional Facility a $2.5 million judgment against a man who taught at the women's prison, but it's unclear if she will see any of that money.  On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree issued the ruling against Ananstacio Gallardo for $750,000 in actual damages and $1.5 million in punitive damages for sexually assaulting the woman in October 2007.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Gallardo was a vocational plumbing instructor at the all-woman prison when he forced the victim to have sex with him. She became pregnant and alleged Gallardo tried to get her to have an abortion.  Gallardo later pleaded guilty to one felony count of unlawful sexual relations with an inmate and two counts of trafficking contraband.


3.2 Magnitude Earthquake Shakes Part of Northern Kansas

ELLIS, Kan. (AP) - A 3.2 magnitude earthquake shook part of northern Kansas Wednesday. The Kansas Geological Survey says the quake struck in Ellis, about 15 miles northwest of Hays. No damage or injuries were reported. Scientists say damage is unlikely in earthquakes below magnitude 4.0. The quake was centered about 200 miles west of Topeka and about 150 miles away from the southern Kansas counties of Harper and Sumner where numerous earthquakes have been reported over the past several years. Geologists say the sharp spike in seismic activity in southern Kansas is linked to the underground disposal of wastewater used in the hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking", process in oil and gas extraction.


Brownback Seeks Input on Kansas School Funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Governor Sam Brownback is soliciting opinions and ideas from educators, parents and others on school funding. Brownback held a news conference Wednesday to announce that he's urging groups and individuals to email their comments or proposals. He also sent a letter to more than 50 school districts and organizations. Brownback is asking people to submit their comments by November 30. The governor and the Legislature expect to write a new school funding formula next year. A group of Kansas school administrators has been working for months on a plan and unveiled its outlines Wednesday during a forum. The proposal would strip local school districts of their taxing powers and set a single statewide property tax for schools. 


Kansas School Administrators Outline New Plan for School Funding
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A group of Kansas school administrators has outlined a school funding plan that is a radical departure from past policy. The plan outlined Wednesday would do away with a system of allowing districts to raise extra money beyond what the state provides. Instead the state would have a single property tax that, along with state aid, would cover districts' operating costs.  It was drafted by about 30 administrators and presented during a Kansas Association of School Boards forum. Kansas lawmakers discarded a per-pupil funding formula in 2015 in favor of stable block grants for districts. Under the school administrators' funding proposal, local districts would no longer set their own property tax levies for schools. The plan also would return the state to a per-pupil funding system.


Opponents to Revisit Concealed Carry Law at Kansas Colleges & Universities 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas opponents of concealed weapons on college campuses are preparing to fight again against the law ahead of its implementation in 2017. State-run universities must begin allowing concealed weapons onto campuses next July under the current law. The next legislative session begins in January and lawmakers who want to stop concealed carry on campuses will have six months to change that law. Democratic state Representative Barbara Ballard, whose district includes part of the University of Kansas, says lawmakers who oppose the law see better prospects for repealing it in the next legislative session. Republican state Representative Melissa Rooker says she supports Second Amendment rights for hunting and self-protection, but is concerned about firearms in a college environment. Rooker says she supports allowing universities to create site-specific guidelines.


Kansas Works to Secure Voter Database 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has partnered with federal agencies to try and ensure the security of the state's voter database, as the FBI investigates security breaches in other states. Kansas director of elections Bryan Caskey says he participated in a conference call last week with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and election officials from other states "about threats that had been collected at the national level concerning election systems." The Wichita Eagle reports that security breaches occurred earlier this summer in Arizona as well as in Illinois, when a hacker was able to see information on data about 200,000 registered voters. According to Caskey, Kansas uses the same software vendor as Arizona for its voter database, but it has at least one significant layer of security above what Arizona has.


Midwest Economic Survey Shows Slight Improvement

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Figures from a survey of supply managers in nine Midwest and Plains states have risen slightly but still suggest slow or no economic growth ahead. A report issued today (THUR) says the Mid-American Business Conditions index inched up to 47.8 in August from 47.6 in July. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey. He says he expects the regional economy to underperform the national economy because of the region's heavy dependence on manufacturers linked to the weak sectors of agriculture and energy. The survey results are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests economic growth. A score below that suggests decline. The survey covers Kansas, Missouri and seven other states.


Judge Narrows Ex-Employee's Lawsuit Against Kobach's Office

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has narrowed a lawsuit filed by a former employee of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's office who claims she was fired for refusing to attend prayer services there. But Topeka attorney Gary Laughlin said Wednesday that U.S. District Judge Sam Crow's order allows Courtney Canfield to pursue her most important religious discrimination claim. Crow's order Tuesday dismissed three of the lawsuit's four claims. Canfield worked in the secretary of state's office for 9½ months in 2013 and alleges in the lawsuit that Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker fired her because she "just doesn't go to church." Kobach has called the lawsuit baseless. His office has said Canfield was terminated over job performance issues. 


Teen Convicted of First-Degree Murder for Setting Deadly Hutchinson Fire

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) _ A 17-year-old Kansas boy has been found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder for setting a fire that killed his mother and sister. The Hutchinson News reports Sam Vonachen also was convicted Wednesday of aggravated arson and attempted murder. During closing arguments, prosecutors said the teen, who was 14 at the time of the September, 2013 fire, was intentionally trying to kill his family. Prosecutors say Vonachen waited until his three family members went to sleep before pouring gasoline around the home and lighting it on fire. Vonachen's attorney countered that he had a mental defect and wasn't responsible for his actions. His father, Steven Vonachen, escaped the fire but his mother, 47-year-old Karla Jo Vonachen, and his 11-year-old sister Audrey died.

Man Dies After Traffic Stop and Crash in Wichita 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Authorities say a man has died after a Wichita traffic stop led to a shooting and crash. A spokeswoman for the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office says shots were fired after a deputy stopped a driver early this (THUR) morning. It wasn't immediately clear whether the suspect or the deputy fired the shots. After the shots were fired, the vehicle left and struck a house a short time later. The man was taken to a hospital where he died. No other information was immediately available. Authorities are planning a media briefing later today (THUR) to release more details.


Kansas City Man Charged with Assaulting Mail Carrier

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Authorities say a Kansas City man has been charged with assaulting a mail carrier. The U.S. attorney's office says 52-year-old Timothy LaBlance was indicted Wednesday. He is accused of using a firearm to assault a U.S. Postal Service mail carrier last October while the carrier was on duty. The U.S. Postal Inspections Service is investigating the case.


Yankees Overcome 4-Run Deficit to Beat Royals 5-4 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The New York Yankees' Brian McCann delivered a sacrifice fly in the top of the 13th inning and Dellin Betances shut down the Kansas City Royals in the bottom half to give the New York Yankees a 5-4 victory Wednesday night. Royals' reliever Chris Young (3-9) gave up a single to Didi Gregorius and a double to Starlin Castro to lead off the decisive inning. New York designated hitter Matt Strahm lofted a fly ball to left field to score the go-ahead run. Ben Heller (1-0) pitched a perfect 12th to earn his first major league win, while Betances wrapped up a winning series for the Yankees by working around a leadoff walk for his seventh save. Castro hit a two-run homer for the Yankees. Kendrys Morales hit a solo home run for Kansas City.

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