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Headlines for Tuesday, April 4, 2017

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

Kansas Tax Collections Nearly $12 Million Short of Expectations in March

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is reporting that its tax collections in March fell nearly $12 million short of expectations.  The Department of Revenue said Monday that the state collected almost $429 million in taxes last month when it had projected it would take in more than $440 million. The monthly shortfall was 2.7 percent.  State tax collections had exceeded expectations the previous four months. Even with the shortfall in March, the state's tax collections are still nearly $57 million ahead of expectations for the current fiscal year that begins in July 2016.  Legislators had seen the previous greater-than-expected tax collections as a positive sign as they consider raising taxes to fix the state's serious budget problems. Kansas is facing budget shortfalls totaling more than $1 billion through June 2019.


Debate Over Concealed Carry Stalls in Kansas House 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Opponents of Kansas's concealed carry law failed on Tuesday to force a debate over guns at college campuses and hospitals. The House voted 44 to 81 against a debate, leaving opponents and supporters to continue talks toward a compromise outside the formal legislative process. At issue is a law passed in 2013 that requires public buildings to allow concealed carry. Colleges and hospitals got until July 1 of this year to comply. Opponents of the law have looked for ways to soften or repeal it. Minority Leader Democrat Representative Jim Ward favored the debate on Tuesday, but Republican Majority Leader Rep. Don Hineman says he wants to wait to debate until hospital and gun rights groups can come to a compromise.


Kansas Senate Committee Advances Plan for 'Flat' Income Tax 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has approved a bill for moving the state to a single personal income tax rate while raising new revenue to fix budget problems. It wasn't clear whether a flat tax proposal can pass as the Assessment and Taxation Committee voted Tuesday to send its bill to the Senate. The House has its own bill to abandon separate tax rates for higher and lower-income earners. But GOP leaders could drop the idea for lack of support. Kansas faces projected budget shortfalls totaling more than $1 billion through June 2019. Many Republican see a flat income tax as fairer. Critics said middle-class families would be hit the hardest. The Senate committee's plan adopts the current top rate of 4.6 percent for all. The House plan is 5 percent.


Shoe Chain Payless Files for Bankruptcy Protection 

NEW YORK (AP) — Shoe chain Payless ShoeSource is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, becoming the latest retailer to succumb to increasing competition from online rivals like Amazon. The Topeka-based retailer said Tuesday that it will be closing nearly 400 stores as part of the reorganization. It has over 4,400 stores in more than 30 countries and was founded in 1956. Payless plans to reduce its debt by almost 50 percent, lower how much it pays in interest and line up funds. The company says some of its lenders have agreed make available up to $385 million to keep the stores running.


University of Kansas to Start Liquor Sales at Campus Events

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas is piloting the sale of alcoholic beverages at some on-campus events in order to compete with off-campus experiences.  Beer and wine are now being sold at performances held at Lied Center and Murphy Hall. The sales are part of a trial that is likely to expand in the future.  Other than the sales at the two centers, which began in fall 2016, university policy prohibits alcoholic beverage sales to individuals on campus. Policy does allow alcohol service at approved university events, and alcohol consumption at events like tailgating at football games.  Unions director David Mucci says that as of January 1, 13 Lied events brought in about $4,300 in alcohol sales revenue. He says no problem behavior or underage drinking has been observed so far.


Kansas Lawmakers Fail to Override Veto of Medicaid Expansion

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have sustained Republican Governor Sam Brownback's veto of a bill that would have expanded the state's Medicaid program.  The House voted 81-44 Monday to override the veto shortly after the conservative governor announced it. Backers of the measure fell three votes short of the two-thirds majority necessary to overturn a veto.  The bill would have extended the state's health coverage for the poor, disabled and elderly under former President Barack Obama's health care law to cover up to 180,000 more adults.  Brownback is a critic of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.  He argued in his veto message that expanding Medicaid would burden the state with what he called "unrestrainable" costs. Supporters said it would be a net plus for the state.  


Kansas Senator Steve Fitzgerald is Running for Congress

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Conservative state Senator Steve Fitzgerald is running for the congressional seat that incumbent Lynn Jenkins will vacate when her term expires.  The Leavenworth Republican filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission. He also told supporters in an email Saturday that he will seek the 2nd District seat Jenkins is vacating in January 2019.  Fitzgerald briefly sought the same Republican nomination in 2014 but dropped out before the primary.  Fitzgerald is a strong abortion opponent who called Planned Parenthood "much worse" than a Nazi concentration camp last month. He also has proposed legislation to ban sex-selective abortion and create death certificates for unborn children. In November, Fitzgerald bested Democratic challenger Bill Hutton by 508 votes to narrowly win re-election.


Ticket-Fixing Alarms Raised Before Investigation Began 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Newly released documents show that a detective raised concerns about traffic tickets being fixed in exchange for University of Kansas basketball tickets a year before police started investigating. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that it reviewed records after former Sergeant Mike Monroe asked for a new investigation at a city commission meeting last month. Monroe filed an unsuccessful wrongful termination suit against the city, alleging he was subjected to disproportionate discipline. The scandal ended with five university athletics department employees going to prison for the loss of between $1 million and $3 million worth of sports tickets. Besides Monroe's firing, another officer resigned. Records also show that three officers and a sergeant also were implicated in the scandal. The city attorney didn't immediately return a message from The Associated Press.


K-State Coach Bill Snyder Back at Work After Cancer Scare 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Bill Snyder doesn't spend as much time in the office these days, and it gnaws at him just as much as an overthrown pass, missed tackle or blown blocking assignment. The longtime Kansas State coach with the infamous work ethic has been limited the past few weeks by treatments for throat cancer — or more specifically, the side effects from the treatment. The diagnosis came shortly before the Wildcats' bowl game and the chemotherapy regimen began earlier this year. Snyder recently went through the final round of treatment. Still, it hasn't kept the 77-year-old away from the Wildcats as they begin preparing for the season. He's been on the field the first four spring practices, meticulously dissecting each of them, just as he has been for nearly three decades.


Ranchers in 3 States Get Grazing Assistance Due to Wildfires 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Ranchers in three states affected by wildfires have been given a temporary suspension of grazing restrictions. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday authorized emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve Program lands in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. The agency says wildfires in Kansas burned about 630,000 acres with estimated livestock losses of between 3,000 and 9,000 cattle. About $36 million worth of fencing was also destroyed. In Oklahoma, where nearly 390,000 acres burned, the livestock loss was estimated at 3,000 head of cattle. Structure losses were estimated at $2 million with fencing losses at $22 million. Texas ranchers lost at least 3,000 cattle and 1,900 swine when some 550,000 acres burned. Acting Secretary of Agriculture Mike Young says ranchers are facing devastating conditions and economic calamity and need some relief.


Man Pleads Guilty in Merchandise Thefts from Running Store 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — An Olathe man has admitted to stealing more than $275,000 in merchandise from a Kansas City area store. Federal prosecutors say 41-year-old Craig Sullivan pleaded guilty Tuesday to wire fraud. He admitted that he stole the merchandise from Garry Gribble's Running Sports, which has five locations in the Kansas City region. Sullivan oversaw merchandise arriving at the main store in Overland Park and was responsible for distributing merchandise to the other locations. In his plea deal, Sullivan admitted he stole merchandise, primarily Garmin GPS devices, and used Craigslist to sell them to a buyer in California. The buyer made 51 payments totaling $275,780. Sentencing is scheduled for July 10.


Kansas Wind Farm Developers Optimistic About Market

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wind energy officials say the push for more wind farms in Kansas won't slow down despite the biggest wind energy buyer halting for now.  The Wichita Eagle reports that various local, state and corporate officials, as well as local landowners will gather Wednesday in Kingman County to dedicate the Kingman and Ninnescah wind farms.  Westar, the company generating about 40 percent of all Kansas wind power, recently increased operations on its Western Plains wind farm near Dodge City. Westar spokeswoman Gina Penzig says that for the time being, the company is done purchasing.  Bryan Garner, spokesman for wind farm developer NextERA, says the wind energy market is still strong. He says the company, which developed the Kingman County wind farms, is "very bullish about renewable energy" and will keep investing in Kansas.


Wichita Activists Resume Work to Relax Marijuana Penalties 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita marijuana proponents plan to resume efforts to reduce penalties for marijuana possession in the city. Janice Bradley and Esau Freeman asked the Wichita City Council Tuesday to pass an initiative to reduce the penalties as a charter ordinance. The Wichita Eagle reports the activists plan to start a third petition drive during Tuesday's special election to replace U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo. But the council could make that unnecessary by passing the charter ordinance. The group wants to reduce simple marijuana possession by people over 21 to a $50 fine, with a citation rather than an arrest. The group's first petition drive didn't collect enough signatures. Voters approved the second initiative in 2015 but the state Supreme Court later struck it down on a technicality.


Man Sentenced for Bringing Meth Into Kansas City Area

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A man in the United States illegally has been sentenced after bringing a shipment of methamphetamine into Kansas inside a car's spare tire. Prosecutors say 33-year-old Juan Antonio Herrera-Zamora was sentenced Monday to 35 years in prison for drug trafficking and illegal possession of a firearm. The Kansas City Star reports that Herrera-Zamora is a citizen of Mexico. He was found guilty last year. Prosecutors say Herrera-Zamora brought 26 pounds of the drug into the Kansas City area by using the tire. He was arrested at a Kansas City, Kansas, tire shop where the drugs were unloaded. Law enforcement officers found a gun hidden in a baby's diaper bag when he was arrested.


Kansas Man Convicted in Roommate's Beating Death

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — An Overland Park man who said he beat his roommate to death because he thought she was a zombie was sentenced to nearly 17 years in prison.  Christopher Duane Wallace was sentenced Monday for second-degree murder in the January 2016 death of 35-year-old Jennifer Lopez.  The Kansas City Star reports court documents indicate Wallace was under the influence of methamphetamine and told police he attacked Lopez because he thought she was a zombie. He called police to the apartment after Lopez was killed.  The 38-year-old Wallace pleaded no contest in February. He was sentenced Monday in Johnson County District Court to 16 years and 11 months in prison.


Wichita Man Dies in Shooting; Suspect Arrested 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police have arrested a suspect in a shooting that left a young man dead. Police Lieutenant Todd Ojile says 18-year-old D'Shaun Smith died Monday when he was shot as he and a female sat in a car while trying to buy marijuana. Ojile says during the transaction, a suspect tried to rob Smith and the female and a shot was fired. Smith was found shot to death in the vehicle. The female taken in for questioning. KAKE-TV reports that the 18-year-old suspect was arrested later Monday at a Wichita home. He was booked on a first-degree murder charge.


Man Convicted in Drive-By Shooting Death of Kansas City Girl

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Jackson County jury convicted the second of two men accused of fatally shooting a 6-year-old girl in Kansas City.  Howard Chase IV was found guilty Monday of second-degree murder, unlawful use of a weapon and two counts of armed criminal action in the October 2014 death of Angel Hooper.  Angel was shot in the head as she held her father's hand while leaving a 7-11 convenience store in south Kansas City.  Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker has said the shots from a passing car were intended for someone else.  In February, Leandre Smith was sentenced to 23 years in prison after pleading guilty to the same charges Chase faced.  No sentencing date has been set for Chase.


Kansas Officer Hurt When Patrol Vehicle Was Stolen

IOLA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Kansas police officer was hurt when his patrol vehicle was stolen.  The Kansas Highway Patrol says the theft happened Sunday morning in Allen County. The patrol says the Iola police officer was injured after letting go of the stolen vehicle and skidding down the road. The vehicle came to a stop when it hit a tree about three miles south of Iola.  The officer and the Oklahoma suspect were taken to a hospital. Authorities haven't said what led up to the vehicle theft.


Kansas City Voters to Decide 3 Ballot Issues

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City voters will decide whether to approve a bond issue for infrastructure improvements, a sales tax measure for development in a neglected area, and reduction of penalties for some marijuana possession.  The City Council is asking voters on Tuesday to approve the borrowing and spending of $800 million on the city's infrastructure during the next 20 years. The money would be used for streets, bridges, flood control and city buildings including a new animal shelter.  Social justice advocates are pushing a 10-year, one-eighth-cent citywide sales tax to generate about $8.6 million annually for economic development in the central city.  A third ballot measure would, if approved, lower the maximum municipal fine from $500 to $25 and eliminate jail time for possession of 35 grams of marijuana or less.



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