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Headlines for Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Kansas Tax Collections for November Exceed Predictions

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is reporting that it collected $8 million more in taxes than anticipated in November, with both income and sales taxes exceeding expectations. The state Department of Revenue said Tuesday the state collected $430 million in taxes last month instead of the $422 million projected in a new fiscal forecast issued earlier in the month. The surplus is about 1.9 percent. Since the current fiscal year began in July, the state has collected $2.24 billion in tax revenues. It was the first monthly report since the new and more pessimistic forecast for tax collections was issued. Tax collections had fallen short of expectations the previous eight months. Kansas has struggled to balance its budget since personal income taxes were dramatically cut in 2012 and 2013 to stimulate the economy.


Kansas Still Doesn't Have Figure for Tax Amnesty Income 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials still don't know whether a six-week tax amnesty program raised the $30 million that legislators anticipated. Department of Revenue spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda said Tuesday that the agency is still processing paper amnesty applications. Previously, the department said a figure for what the program raised might be available in mid-November. A law enacted by legislators earlier this year allowed the department to waive interest and other penalties for anyone who paid back taxes from September 1 through October 15. The amnesty program was part of a larger package of measures for balancing the state budget that included increases in sales and cigarette taxes in July. Some legislators thought the $30 million projection for the amnesty program included in the budget was too optimistic.


Kansas Lawmaker to Take Job with National Rifle Association 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas lawmaker who helped pass a law that allows people to carry concealed weapons without a permit has taken a lobby job with the National Rifle Association. The Wichita Eagle reports that Republican state Representative Travis Couture-Lovelady announced this week that he would give up his House seat before the 2016 session take a job with the NRA. He said he would begin serving as the organization's state liaison this week. Couture-Lovelady successfully carried a bill on the House floor that made Kansas one of six states to allow people to carry concealed weapons without a permit. House Speaker Ray Merrick says Couture-Lovelady has been a strong advocate for pro-Second Amendment legislation, and he wishes him all the best. Couture-Lovelady's replacement will be chosen by a Republican precinct committee to represent House District 110 in western Kansas through 2016.


Parents Ask US Supreme Court to Take Kansas Education Funding Case

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Parents from the Shawnee Mission School District are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider their case challenging a state cap on the amount of local property tax money that the district can spend on education. The Kansas City Star reports that the parents filed a lawsuit in 2010 arguing that the state could not limit local school district funding because it creates a new inequality that punishes school districts. The Legislature put the cap in place to help equalize economic disparities among Kansas's 286 school districts. In June, the U.S. Appeals Court in Denver ruled that the federal court couldn't override the state's funding plan. The parents are now asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case. The court's decision could come early this month.


Survey Gives Yet Another Sign of Midwest Economic Slowdown

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Figures have plunged in a fourth straight monthly survey of supply managers in nine Midwest and Plains states, providing more evidence of a slowdown in the region's economy. A report issued Tuesday says the overall Mid-American Business Conditions Index dropped to 40.7 last month from 41.9 in October, 47.7 in September and 49.6 in August. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he again cites the strong U.S. dollar among the reasons for the region's economic slide. 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 Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.


Demand for Farm Loans Surges Amid Low Crop, Cattle Prices 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The nation's net farm income is the lowest since 2002, and with another year of low commodity prices, demand for agriculture loans is surging as farmers struggle to make ends meet. A Kansas banker says today's grain prices will bring in enough to pay for basic operating costs, but it's not enough for farmers to make payments on equipment loans or even pay themselves. A recent U.S. Agriculture Department's Economic Research Service report showed U.S. farm debt is forecast to increase 6.3 percent in 2015. And net income has plummeted by a staggering 55 percent since 2013 to $55.9 billion this year. The USDA's Farm Service Agency saw demand for loans across the nation soar over two from nearly $4 billion in 2013 to more than $5.6 billion in 2015.


U.S. House Considers Requiring Search Warrant to Get Old Emails 

WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawmakers are talking about requiring a search warrant for the government to obtain copies of a person's old emails. The bill, introduced by Republican Representative Kevin Yoder of Kansas, is being discussed by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. It seeks to close a loophole in a nearly 30-year-old law that allows the government to use subpoenas to third parties like Google or Yahoo to see emails more than 180 days old. Such emails were considered "abandoned" under the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, back when there was rarely enough storage space to hold emails older than six months. The Securities and Exchange Commission, which is considered a civilian law enforcement agency, has opposed the measure because it says it can't obtain a criminal warrant.


Kansas Man Gets Probation for Suggesting Courthouse Attack 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man who suggested attacking the Sedgwick County Courthouse as a murder trial was ending was placed on probation. The Wichita Eagle reports that Samuel McCrory was also ordered Tuesday to complete anger management classes and to surrender his firearms. McCrory pleaded guilty in October to one count of criminal threat and three counts of criminal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, Authorities say he posted comments on Facebook asking if it was "out of line to storm the courthouse" and saying the "only way to defend yourself from a cop is to kill the cop." McCrory also drew attention when he was seen carrying an assault rifle and other weapons at protests and other events in downtown Wichita in the year before his arrest.


Kansas Committee Weighs 2 Education Funding Studies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A special legislative committee studying options for reformatting K-12 public education funding in Kansas is preparing to review conflicting research studies. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the 15-member committee's task is to lay the foundation of a new school finance formula. The Kansas Policy Institute is pushing a report that points to the inability of the state's $3.6 billion program targeting at-risk students to close the academic gap between poor and wealthy students. The Kansas Association of School Boards released a report this month arguing a link exists between funding of schools and student performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Legislators and Governor Sam Brownback eliminated the old finance formula and imposed a block-grant system for two years. A three-judge panel in Shawnee County District Court ruled the system was unconstitutional, but the decision is being appealed.


Advocates Push for Changes to Kansas Open Records Act

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ Public records advocates are pushing for state legislators to bring the Kansas Open Records Act regarding disclosure of police records more in line with open record laws in other states. The changes in the law are supported by Harold and Alberta Leach, the Kansas Press Association, the Kansas Association of Broadcasters and the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government. The Leaches feel authorities were secretive about the investigation of their teenage son's 1988 disappearance. Randy Leach went missing from a graduation party along with the family's car. Authorities refuse to release the investigative records to the Leaches. State Representative John Rubin said he will hold hearings, possibly in January or February, to receive input from the public, prosecutors and law enforcement with the hope of drafting a bill to correct some problems with the law.


KU Chancellor Addresses Diversity Issues, Provost Search 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas chancellor says hiring a new provost and addressing campus concerns about race are among her top priorities. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said she expects it to take six to nine months to hire a new provost. A national search will be conducted to find a replacement for Provost Jeff Vitter, who is leaving the school to become chancellor of the University of Mississippi. Gray-Little said she is also hoping to make progress in addressing race-related issues at the university. She says addressing student retention is a key issue in bolstering diversity efforts, citing the gap in retention rates between black students and all other students. Gray-Little was hired by the university in 2009. 


Coroner: Wyandotte County Remains Are from a Juvenile

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A coroner says human remains found at a Kansas barn are those of a juvenile, but tests to determine whether they belong to a missing 7-year-old boy will take weeks. Police found the remains after investigating a domestic disturbance at the home of the boy's father, when they were notified the boy was missing. Michael A. Jones has been charged with child abuse, aggravated battery and aggravated assault with a firearm. Wyandotte County Coroner Alan Hancock said Tuesday the remains are of a juvenile and they've been sent to a forensic anthropologist who will determine the child's age. Hancock will do additional DNA testing aimed at identifying the child. It's unclear if Jones has a lawyer. His father, Jerome Jones of Baltimore, says his son would never hurt a child.


Doctors Say Baby Girl Died of Severe Abuse

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Doctors have concluded a 17-month-old girl died of severe child abuse after being left in the care of her mother's boyfriend. A police report released Monday says hospital staff found bruises and bite marks on the girl's body, swelling and bleeding of her brain, a fractured leg and a cut in one of her internal organs that came from a direct blow to her abdomen. The Wichita Eagle reports that Grace Harris died at a local hospital on November 14, five days after she was taken there by paramedics when she was found unresponsive. A coroner determined she died of blunt-force trauma to her head and neck. Her mother's boyfriend, 21-year-old Michael C. Ross, faces first-degree felony murder and child abuse charges in her death. Ross has previously told police that the little girl fell.


KU Business School Receives $7.2 Million Gift 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas says a $7.2 million gift will be used to create a new center within the university's School of Business. The university on Tuesday announced that Roger and Julie Davis of Chicago donated $250,000 plus committed $7 million from their estate for a Center for Figure Sense, which will teach students how to use complex data to make better business decisions. The university says no new classes will be created but the money will fund the hiring of an academic director to work with faculty and staff. Roger Davis is owner of Paxton/Patterson in Chicago. The couple previously donated $1 million toward construction of Capitol Federal Hall. The new center will be formally announced at a ceremony on Friday and is expected to open in spring 2016.


Inmate Punished for Role in Iowa Prison Scandal 

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The inmate at the center of a cellphone smuggling investigation at an Iowa prison was punished with confinement and a return to his home state of Kansas. Records released Tuesday to The Associated Press identify the inmate as Wesley Ziegler, who's serving a Kansas sentence for robbery and kidnapping. Ziegler had been incarcerated at the Anamosa State Penitentiary in Iowa under a transfer agreement. The discovery of Ziegler's cellphone last year prompted a lengthy investigation. Four guards eventually pleaded guilty to charges while nine employees lost their jobs. Records show Ziegler is the only inmate to face discipline. Prosecutors say he worked with a guard to smuggle in phones in exchange for a $200 payment. Ziegler was sentenced to detention in October and transferred to a Kansas prison.


Kansas Man Sentenced for Possessing 16,000 Child Porn Images 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Garden City man was sentenced to more than six years in federal prison for having more than 16,000 child pornography images. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says 43-year-old James E. McGary was sentenced Monday to 6½ years in prison for possession of child pornography. Grissom says in October 2012 an investigator with the Ford County Sheriff's Office found a computer sharing pornography on a file sharing network. When investigators searched McGary's home, they found a laptop containing about 16,000 images of child pornography.


K-State to Begin Next Phase of Football Stadium Renovation 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State will break ground on the latest renovation to Bill Snyder Family Stadium before Saturday's regular-season finale against West Virginia. The third phase of a massive renovation to the football stadium will enclose the northeast corner of the stadium, creating a continual concourse for the first time. The project will begin after the season and be finished by the start of next season. The section will create a permanent seating section for the marching band, new visitor locker rooms, training and official areas, and a video board to complement one in the northwest corner. Once complete, the school will have spent $180 million on renovations to the football stadium, all of which has been raised through private contributions.


Jayhawks Prepare for First Game with Diallo on Floor 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Even though the NCAA has cleared five-star prospect Cheick Diallo to begin playing for No. 4 Kansas this week, it hasn't stopped Jayhawks coach Bill Self ripping its investigation. During a news conference Monday, Self called the months-long saga an exercise in frustration, and that "I don't think anything done by the NCAA was done in the kid's best interest at all." The NCAA forced Diallo to miss the first four games this season while examining coursework from a New York prep school. Ultimately, it ruled he had accepted a small amount of improper benefits and docked the 6-foot-9 forward from Mali a fifth game. With all of that in the past, Diallo finally will take the floor tonight (TUE) when the Jayhawks (4-1) play Loyola at Allen Fieldhouse.


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