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Headlines for Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Here's what's happening in our area, according to staff and AP wire reports.

Kansas Lawmakers Drop Tax Plan, Work Toward New One 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators on Tuesday morning dropped a negotiated proposal to fix the state budget with income tax increases because some lawmakers don't think it raises enough revenue. The Senate's Republican leaders said that the chamber wouldn't vote on the proposal from House and Senate negotiators. Their bill would have raised $879 million over two years. The measure would have rolled back past income tax cuts championed by Republican Governor Sam Brownback. It was similar to a bipartisan bill vetoed in February by Brownback.  But the Kansas Supreme Court has ruled since that state funding for public schools is inadequate. Democrats and GOP moderates said any tax plan must raise enough revenue to increase education funding while also closing projected budget shortfalls totaling more than $885 million through June 2019.
      
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Kansas Lawmakers to Try Again on Tax Increase 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are preparing to draft another plan for raising income taxes to fix the state budget after top Republicans abruptly dropped a proposal negotiated earlier. House and Senate negotiators planned to meet Tuesday evening. The same negotiators drafted a proposal Monday evening to raise $879 million over two years by rolling back past income tax cuts championed by Republican Governor Sam Brownback. Senate GOP leaders had wanted to expedite a vote but canceled it Tuesday morning when support for the plan collapsed. Democrats and moderate Republicans said the plan didn't raise enough new revenue to cover the state's budget shortfalls and also provide additional funds for public schools. Kansas faces budget shortfalls totaling $887 million through June 2019 and the Kansas Supreme Court has said education funding is inadequate.

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Kansas Tax Collections $1.8 Million Better Than Expected in April 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas collected slightly more in taxes than had been expected in April. The state Department of Revenue reported Monday that tax collections last month were $1.8 million more than anticipated. The state collected about $639 million in taxes when it had anticipated about $637 million. The surplus for the month is 0.3 percent. The report comes less than two weeks after state officials and university economists revised revenue projections through June 2019. The new forecast was a little more optimistic than the previous one issued in November. Kansas has faced projected budget shortfalls totaling $889 million through June 2019. Lawmakers reconvened Monday after their annual spring break to finish work on closing the budget gaps. 

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Unused IT Equipment from Scrapped Project Worries Lawmakers 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Lawmakers are expressing concerns that the state still has millions of dollars in unused information technology equipment that was bought before a cloud computing plan was scrapped. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a bipartisan group of lawmakers asked to view the equipment Monday while touring the Docking office building. But the state officials giving the tour didn't have the key. Kansas Office of Information Technology Services reports show that about $17 million was spent on the project before the first quarter of 2016, when the initiative was described as "on hold." The agency told a Senate panel last month that about $6.3 million worth of expenses was used for other projects. Democratic Senator Marci Francisco, of Lawrence, says the state should have offloaded the unused equipment by now.

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Spring Blizzard Worries Many Wheat Farmers in Western Kansas 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A recent late-spring blizzard could prove to be disastrous for farmers in far western Kansas. The Wichita Eagle reports that some western Kansas farmers are reporting that much of their wheat was damaged or killed by the weight of wet snow over the weekend. A more exact answer will come as dozens of agricultural analysts and industry experts examine hundreds of fields in central and western Kansas. They'll issue a forecast on the state's wheat condition and yield Thursday. The Kansas wheat harvest had a value of about $2 billion last year. The National Weather Service in Dodge City reports that the weekend's snow mostly affected a line of counties near the Colorado state line. The deepest accumulation was 16 to 18 inches.

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Path Forward Uncertain for Kansas Concealed Carry Opponents 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers who oppose concealed guns at state hospitals have yet to settle on a path forward, though they've likely ruled out spending $24 million to secure the facilities. Spending committees in the House and Senate have decided they won't fund GOP Governor Sam Brownback's proposal that the state pay for metal detectors and armed guards at state-run hospitals for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled. Under a 2013 law Brownback signed, the hospitals will have to allow guns starting July 1 unless they provide security measures. Opponents of concealed carry say they want at least a partial rollback of the policy that requires public hospitals, nursing homes and universities to allow concealed guns or provide security. But they have not settled on a strategy to change the law. 

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Newest Member of Kansas Senate Takes Seat 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -  A southeast Kansas insurance agent is the state Senate's newest member. Republican Senator Richard Hilderbrand of Baxter Springs was sworn in Monday. His wife, Marisa, held a Bible as the oath was administered by Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss. The 48-year-old Hilderbrand replaced former GOP state Senator Jake LaTurner of Pittsburg. Governor Sam Brownback appointed LaTurner as state treasurer last month to replace Republican Ron Estes. Estes won a special congressional election to fill the seat formerly held by CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Republicans in the 13th Senate District picked Hilderbrand as the new senator Sunday. He'll have to run in a special election in 2018 to keep the seat for another two years. Hilderbrand previously served seven years on the Cherokee County Commission.

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81-Year-Old Topeka Man Arrested in Killing 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Police say an 81-year-old Topeka man has been arrested in the deadly shooting of another man. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the suspect has been booked into jail on suspicion of aggravated assault and first-degree murder in the Monday night killing in the southwest part of the city. Captain Jana Harden says police already had been contacted about gunfire when the suspect called police to report that he was the one who had fired gunshots. The victim was found on the sidewalk leading up to the suspect's home. His name wasn't immediately released. Harden says the suspect and victim knew each other but she didn't know the relationship between them.

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Man Pleads Guilty in Conspiracy to Rob Escort Customers 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An Independence man has admitted to being part of a conspiracy to use online escort ads to lure victims to the Kansas City area to be robbed. Federal prosecutors say 35-year-old Sage Harrison entered the plea Tuesday to robbery conspiracy and to two counts of aiding and abetting robbery. He admitted he was part of conspiracy that used several websites to arrange meetings with escorts in the Kansas City area. When the customers arrived, the armed conspirators would be waiting and rob them. Harrison also admitted that helped in two specific robberies in Independence in October 2015. Prosecutors say records obtained from Google revealed dozens of e-mail confirmation notices from Kansas City area hotels, along with numerous e-mail notifications from craigslist.org and backpage.com of men responding to ads.

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Police Release Identities in Fatal Shooting at Topeka Home 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Authorities have released the names of a suspected gunman and three victims who died in a weekend attack at a Topeka home for people with special needs. Police identified the victims in Sunday's attack as 29-year-old Larry Gueary, 20-year-old Soren Galvez and 64-year-old Jesus Galvez. They identified the suspected attacker as 25-year-old Joshua Gueary and say he apparently killed himself. Another victim was injured in the attack but is expected to survive. Pedro Irigonegaray, an attorney for the group home, says the suspect was the brother of one of the victims, who worked at the home. Irigonegaray, who represents the home's owners, Jonathan and Gina Allen, says Joshua and Larry Gueary were brothers and that Jesus and Soren Galvez were Gina Allen's father and brother. 

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Police ID Kansas City Murder Victim as 18-Year-Old Woman

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Police have released the name of the woman who was killed while stopped at a red light in Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports that the victim has been identified as 18-year-old Isabell Adison. Police say someone in another vehicle shot her Sunday night as her car was stopped. She died at the scene. Police say that after the shooting, the driver of the vehicle from which the shots were fired sped away and crashed into another vehicle. An occupant of the suspect vehicle was taken into custody, while someone inside the vehicle that was hit was taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Police are asking anyone with information to call the KCPD crime tips hotline.

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Wichita Police Arrest 2 in Connection with Killing

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita, Kansas, say they've arrested two people in connection with last week's stabbing death of an 86-year-old man. Police say a 28-year-old man and 18-year-old woman were booked on suspicion of first-degree murder and robbery. It was not immediately clear Monday if the two had been formally charged. Police said Otto Meyer was found dead Friday at a Wichita house he owned and that he had been repeatedly stabbed. Police declined to discuss Meyer's possible relationship to the suspects.

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Kansas College Ends Journalism Classes Prematurely 

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Some Hutchinson Community College journalism classes have ended prematurely and the student newspaper will not publish its final issue of the semester in the wake of its adviser's suspension. Alan Montgomery is faculty adviser to The Hutchinson Collegian and the college's journalism instructor. He told The Hutchinson News on Monday that he had been suspended. The college isn't commenting on his reported suspension, but says students will be given grades based on completed coursework. The last issue of the student newspaper included a front-page story about Montgomery complaining to the U.S. attorney's office in Wichita about the treatment of his students by administrators. Collegian editor Loribeth Reynolds says security guards confiscated that issue of the newspaper. The papers were later distributed Monday by Student Government Association members.

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Salina Woman Sentenced to More Than 30 Years for Murder 

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina woman was sentenced to nearly 31 years in prison for her role in the death of a Nebraska man. Twenty-five-year-old Amber Craig was sentenced Tuesday in the death of 32-year-old Adonis Loudermilk, of Lincoln, Nebraska. He was killed in April 2016 in the parking lot of a Starlite Motel in Salina. The Salina Journal reports Craig pleaded no contest in February to second-degree murder, aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery. She settled a separate case by pleading no contest to trafficking methamphetamine in jail May 6. Co-defendant DiAntre Lemmie, who shot Loudermilk, will be sentenced June 19 for first-degree murder and five other charges. Prosecutors say Loudermilk was shot during a botched robbery committed by Lemmie and Craig.

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Kansas Man Pleads Guilty in 2015 Fatal Attack 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A second defendant who took part in a fatal attack on a man whose body was found in a Wichita suburb has pleaded guilty to amended charges. According to the Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office, 30-year-old Jose Antonio Rojas will be sentenced June 15 for aggravated assault and aggravated battery. Court records show he pleaded guilty Monday before has was to be tried on more severe counts of first-degree premeditated murder and aggravated kidnapping. The Wichita Eagle reports Rojas is one of five people arrested in connection with the December 2015 death of 42-year-old Moises Arias-Aranda. Authorities have said Arias-Aranda was lured to a residence in Wichita because a friend claimed he had raped someone. He was beaten, strangled and stabbed nearly 40 times. Arias-Aranda was discovered dead in an SUV in Park City with electrical cords wrapped around his feet and hands.

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Wichita Council Approves Star Bonds for New Baseball Stadium 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new ball park to replace Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in Wichita is one step closer to reality. The Wichita City Council on Tuesday approved a sales tax bond district to fund about half the projected cost of replacing Lawrence-Dumont. The Wichita Eagle reports the goal is to replace the 82-year-old stadium with a modern baseball park that could also be used for soccer. Star bonds are expected to pay about half of the expected $40 million cost. City officials hope that will be enough to build a new stadium, although a major renovation could be an alternative. City officials also want to replace the Wingnuts, the current baseball tenant at Lawrence-Dumont, with a higher-level minor-league baseball team affiliated with a Major League Baseball franchise.

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Court Delays 1st Lawsuit Against Syngenta over China Trade 

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The first of tens of thousands of lawsuits against Swiss agribusiness giant Syngenta for introducing a genetically engineered corn variety before China approved it for imports has been pushed back to July. The test case had been due in Minnesota state court starting last week. Attorney Lew Remele says the court had already picked a jury April 26, when the judge restarted the process because some jurors claimed financial hardships. He says juror notification requirements and scheduling conflicts forced a delay until July 10. The delay means the first case up will be in federal court in Kansas City, Kansas, June 5. About 60,000 cases have been filed in Minnesota alone. The lawsuits allege Syngenta wrecked China as an export market for U.S. corn. Syngenta denies it caused farmers any losses.

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Kansas Chiropractor Settles with Federal Prosecutors in Fraud Case 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas City-area chiropractor has agreed to pay more than $1 million to settle allegations that his offices submitted false claims to Medicare for treating certain patients. Federal prosecutors in Kansas City, Kansas, on Monday announced the deal involving Brian Schnitta and his Natural Way Chiropractic Center clinic. Schnitta owns offices in Overland Park and Lenexa, and in Lee's Summit, Missouri. Authorities allege that from July 2011 through May 2013, Schnitta and the clinic claimed they provided treatments for peripheral neuropathy and charged Medicare for procedures not medically necessary or otherwise covered by the program. Peripheral neuropathy affects nerves in the hands and feet. During the investigation, Medicare suspended payments to the clinic for the questioned services. As part of the settlement, Schnitta and Natural Way deny wrongdoing.

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Conservative Kansas Group Looks to Start New Legal Institute 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A conservative Kansas think tank is hoping to help launch a new legal institute next year to represent people who have conflicts with state and local governments. The Kansas Policy Institute announced Monday that it is fundraising for a new Kansas Justice Institute and is hoping the institute can begin operations next year. KPI President Dave Trabert said that while his small-government, anti-tax organization would help the nonprofit justice group get started, the legal group would be independent and have its own board of directors. Trabert said the new institute would help people who have disputes over occupational licenses or face having possessions seized despite not having been convicted of a crime. He also said the institute would also represent parents who do not believe their children are getting the public education they deserve.

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Kansas City, Kansas, Archdiocese Severing Ties with Girl Scouts 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The archdiocese covering the Kansas City, Kansas, region and much of the eastern part of the state is severing ties with Girl Scouts and urging an end to cookie sales. The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas announced Monday that Girl Scouts is "no longer a compatible partner in helping us form young women with the virtues and values of the Gospel." The Kansas City Star reports that the archdiocese is switching its support to a 22-year-old, Christian-based scouting program, American Heritage Girls. American Heritage Girls has become an option for those who claim Girl Scouts has turned too liberal and has relationships with organizations that don't share traditional family values. The Girl Scouts deny those accusations.

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Missouri Woman Sentenced to 8 Years for Embezzlement 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri woman who embezzled from Black & Veatch and Garmin International was sentenced to eight years in federal prison. Patricia Webb, of Lee's Summit, Missouri, was sentenced Tuesday for embezzling more than $1.5 million while working in the payroll departments of the two companies. Webb pleaded guilty last year to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. The Kansas City Star reports Webb will pay restitution of about $1.5 million. Prosecutors say she embezzled more than $1.2 million from Garmin between February 2012 and May 2014. She then took a job at Black & Veatch, where she embezzled more than $300,000 before the crimes were discovered. Webb previously was prosecuted under the name of Patricia Holmes for forging checks while working at John Knox Village in Lee's Summit.

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States Look to Provide Drug Treatment to More Inmates

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Officials say Virginia is joining in an effort to expand access to opioid addition treatment for prisoners. The Virginia Department of Corrections says Virginia is one of eight states picked by the National Governors Association for the "learning lab." Officials say the states will learn about initiatives in place in Massachusetts and create plans for how to get more offenders in opioid addiction treatment. Virginia Department of Corrections Director Harold Clarke says nine inmates have died in the state's facilities since 2015 due to heroin or fentanyl overdoses. Clark says he wants that number "reduced to zero." The other states participating in the program are Alaska, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey and Washington.

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Missouri Woman Sentenced for Immigration Plot

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Kansas City, Missouri, woman has been ordered to spend two years in federal prison for marrying a Kenyan man so he could stay in the United States. Forty-four-year-old Traci Porter was sentenced Monday in Kansas City. She pleaded guilty in January to charges that she participated in a conspiracy to help African nationals circumvent immigration laws through fraudulent marriages. Five other defendants have pleaded guilty and await sentencing as part of the plot, which involved dozens of fraudulent weddings. The African nationals paid as much as $2,000 for the sham marriages. Prosecutors say Porter married a man from Kenya in 2008, but officials later determined that the man still had another wife. Porter and the man later remarried, and he was granted permanent resident status in the U.S.

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Survey Suggests Improvement in Midwest Economic Conditions

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Results from a monthly survey of business supply managers suggest a slight improvement in the economic conditions in nine Midwest and Plains states. The Mid-America Business Conditions Index report released Monday says the overall economic index for the region rose to 61.4 in April from 60.1 in March. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he says the figures suggest strong growth through the third quarter of this year. Goss says the Kansas economy is growing by most leading indicators including production, sales, employment and inventory. But, Goss says, the figures are weighted more heavily toward cities than rural areas. The monthly survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

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Former KC Chiefs Standout Jamaal Charles Signs 1-Year Deal with Denver Broncos 

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Jamaal Charles, the Kansas City Chiefs' all-time rushing leader, has signed with the AFC West rival Denver Broncos. "Excited to have Jamaal Charles join the Broncos," general manager John Elway tweeted Tuesday afternoon upon signing Charles to a one-year, incentive-laden deal. "A great addition to our backfield, and we're thrilled we won't have to play against him!" The Chiefs cut the 30-year-old running back in a cost-cutting move this winter. He played in just eight games over the last two seasons after tearing his right ACL in October 2015. Charles ran for 7,260 yards and 43 touchdowns in nine seasons with the Chiefs, who ended Denver's five-year run as division champs last year.

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Royals Beat White Sox, Putting Brakes on 9-Game Losing Skid

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City's Eric Hosmer and Jorge Bonifacio each hit two-run homers as the Royals snapped a nine-game losing streak with a 6-to-1 win over the Chicago White Sox on Monday night. Bonifacio homered with two outs in the fourth after Alex Gordon doubled. It was his second home run in eight games since being promoted April 21 from Triple-A Omaha. Hosmer's two-out homer in the seventh inning with Christian Colon aboard finished the night for White Sox rookie starter Dylan Covey (0-2). A single from Salvador Perez in the fifth struck the third base bag and scored Alcides Escobar and Mike Moustakas with two outs. Royals' left-hander Jason Vargas (4-1) allowed one run on five hits and three walks over six innings to pick up the win. 

 

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