Kansas December Revenues Tops Estimates by $6 Million
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas revenue officials say the state slightly exceeded revenue estimates in December. The Kansas Department of Revenue said Tuesday tax collections in December were nearly $531 million, exceeding revenue estimates by about $6 million, or about 1 percent. Combined with higher than expected revenues in November, the state's budget shortfall in the current fiscal year is now about $342 million. The new numbers come after state officials drastically reduced the revenue forecasts in November. The biggest gains in December were in individual income taxes, which came in $2.2 million, or nearly 5 percent, above the official estimates. They were nearly 7 percent higher than in December 2015. Acting Revenue Secretary Sam Williams says he hopes the new numbers indicate improved purchasing power in the agriculture and oil and gas sectors.
Kansas Lawmakers' Work to Be Shaped by Big Fiscal Questions
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Big questions about taxes and spending will shape the Kansas Legislature's work after its annual session opens January 9. But the biggest question might be how much GOP moderates work with conservatives and how often they seek deals with Democrats. Lawmakers and Governor Sam Brownback must close a projected shortfall of more than $345 million in the current budget and estimated gaps in funding for existing programs that total almost $1.1 billion through June 2019. It's not clear whether the Legislature will increase taxes or pressure Brownback to rethink the income tax cuts he championed in 2012 and 2013. Also, with a Kansas Supreme Court ruling on education funding expected soon, lawmakers will face pressure to provide more money for public schools.
Schools, Abortion, Death Penalty Top Kansas Court's Docket
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court is heading into a year in which it could shape policy with major rulings on school funding and abortion. The court heard arguments in September on whether Kansas is spending enough money on public schools to provide a suitable education for every child. It could rule any time. In that case, four school districts sued the state in 2010. They argue that the $4.1 billion a year Kansas spends on schools is roughly $800 million short of what's required. The court could reshape abortion policy with a decision in a lawsuit filed by two doctors challenging a ban enacted in 2015 on a common second-trimester procedure. The court also could decide capital punishment cases, and Chief Justice Lawton Nuss will push legislators to increase court employees' pay.
Kansas Legislature to Stream Live Audio of Committee Hearings
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Legislature is planning to begin streaming live audio of committee hearings over the internet. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the three rooms that host the most high-profile committees will have live audio this month. The other 10 rooms used for hearings are expected to have live audio before the end of the 2017 session. Kansas open government advocates have long sought streaming audio, which was mandated in the final budget bill lawmakers passed last year. The program is funded by a three-year, $199,000 grant from the Information Network of Kansas, which helps public entities launch e-government services. Residents have been able to listen to Kansas Senate or House sessions in real time on the internet for several years. State officials say there aren't immediate plans to begin streaming video because it would be too expensive.
Kansas Agency Increases Number of Revoked Officer Licenses
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An independent state agency has more than quadrupled the number of law enforcement officer's licenses it has revoked each year since 2011. The Kansas Commission on Peace Officers' Standards and Training has increased the number of actions it takes from about eight a year to about 35 a year. The Wichita Eagle reports that last year the agency took action against one in about every 200 officers employed in the state. In one case, an officer issued a traffic ticket but then took it back after the offender contacted his wife about an affair the officer was having. In another, a sheriff was convicted of distributing methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a school. Officials say the increase in disciplinary actions can be partially attributed to increased funding for the Commission.
Man Pleads Guilty to Killing Kansas Police Detective
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A man accused of killing a Kansas police detective has pleaded guilty to capital murder. Curtis Ayers pleaded guilty Tuesday to gunning down Kansas City, Kansas, Detective Brad Lancaster on May 9. He also pleaded guilty to nine other charges related to Lancaster's death. The 28-year-old Ayers agreed to serve life without parole on the murder count. He could face additional prison time on the nine other charges when he is sentenced March 14. Prosecutors say Lancaster was shot seven times when he exchanged gunfire with Ayers near the Kansas Speedway. Ayers then stole the detective's car before carjacking another vehicle and then stealing a third. He drove into Kansas City, Missouri, where police shot and wounded him before taking him into custody.
Report: Kansas Wheat Condition Mixed as State Remains Dry
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The government's January crops snapshot says most of Kansas has remained dry this past month, prompting some concerns about development of the state's winter wheat. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Tuesday that wheat condition is rated as 5 percent very poor and 14 percent poor. About 37 percent is in fair condition with 42 percent in good and 2 percent in excellent shape. About 92 percent of the cotton crop has now been harvested in the state. Calving is also underway in Kansas with 7 percent complete. Lambing progress is 3 percent complete.
Wichita Eagle to Move to New Headquarters in Old Town
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita Eagle will move its news operations to Old Town Square, an entertainment and shopping district in downtown Wichita. President and publisher Roy Heatherly announced Tuesday that the Eagle had signed an agreement to move its business and about 100 employees to Old Town. The Eagle reports that the building is expected to be ready by April. Heatherly says the new location will help the Eagle emphasize its digital and multimedia operations, including digital screens on the front of the building that will project the paper's website and breaking news. Heatherly is still looking for a second building for a distribution center. The newspaper moved its printing operations to Kansas City last year. The Eagle's current building will be converted to headquarters for Cargill.
Midwest Economic Survey Suggests Improvement in December
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Soaring numbers in a monthly survey of business supply managers suggest economic conditions are improving in nine Midwest and Plains states. The Mid-America Business Conditions Index report released this (TUE) morning says the overall economic index for the region jumped to 53.1 in December from 46.5 in November. The October figure was 43.8. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he says the December and November increases reflect an improving regional manufacturing economy. The survey results are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Any score above 50 suggests growth while a score below that suggests decline. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
Attorney for Nevada Man Faults Kansas Forfeiture Law
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An attorney for a Las Vegas man who had $32,000 seized says the Kansas Highway Patrol is getting away with "highway robbery" through its asset forfeiture program. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the money was taken from Salvador Franco in March when he pulled into a central Kansas rest stop. No charges have been filed, but court documents allege Franco's money is tied to controlled substances. Franco, however, says he intended to buy a truck in St. Louis, where he thought he could get a better deal than in Las Vegas. In Kansas, law enforcement can seize a person's property or money if it's suspected of having a connection to criminal activity. And an individual doesn't have to be charged or convicted of a crime.
Hays, University of Kansas Hospitals Partnership Official
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas Hospital and Hays Medical Center are officially partners. The partnership was announced in September but became official with the new year. The Kansas City Star reports that the agreement more closely aligns the Hays hospital with the state's only academic/teaching hospital and allows University of Kansas medical residents to work in Hays. The two hospitals are consolidating their financial statements. They also will have a new operations council to direct the partnership. Hospital staff will continue to be employed by their current organizations. And the Hays Medical Center Board of Directors will remain in place.
Kansas Residents Turn to Airbnb for Extra Income
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas residents are increasingly finding a new source of income in Airbnb, which allows travelers to rent space in private homes. Airbnb says Kansas residents hosted 20,000 guests in 2016. That's a 175 percent increase from 2015. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the number of Kansas residents hosting visitors doubled to 600 in 2016, with half renting out an extra room in their homes and others renting entire homes. The company brought in $2.1 million in Kansas last year. Airbnb says Lawrence residents made $440,000 being hosts through Airbnb last year, the highest amount in the state. Overland Park had the second highest Airbnb income at $307,000. Worldwide, Airbnb has more than 2 million listings in about 34,000 cities and 191 countries.
Car Lands in Arkansas River in South Wichita
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A driver has been hospitalized after his car landed in the Arkansas River in south Wichita. The Wichita Eagle reports that the driver was able to make it to shore on his own after his car wound up in the river last (MON) night. The car appeared to be hung up on a sandbar in the river's shallow waters. A 911 dispatch supervisor says one person was transported to a hospital.
Northwest Kansas Woman Dies in House Fire
HOXIE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Fire Marshal is investigating to determine the cause of a fire that killed a northwest Kansas woman. Sheridan County authorities say 61-year-old Linda Cook died in a fire at her home about 12 miles south and just east of Hoxie. KAKE-TV reports when firefighters arrived, they were told a person might be inside the home. Cook's remains were found inside the residence.
2 Killed When Car Hits Kansas City Building
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City, Missouri police say two people died when their car crashed into a building early Monday. The accident occurred at the Samuel H. Rogers Health Center, east of downtown Kansas City. Police say two people were in a vehicle when the driver lost control of the car, which ran over a bus stop bench and two fences before hitting the building. Police believe the driver was speeding. The passenger died at the scene and the driver died later at a hospital.
Kansas Jayhawks Hold Number 3 Spot in AP Poll
UNDATED (AP) - The University of Kansas Jayhawks held onto third place in this week's Associated Press Top 25 college basketball poll. Villanova's impressive win at No. 10 Creighton kept the Wildcats at No. 1 for a fifth straight week, while Baylor made the jump from fourth to second. The only new member of the AP Poll is Virginia Tech, which beat Duke 89-75. The Hokies (12-1) jump in at No. 21, their first ranking since the opening week of the 2010-11 season. Villanova (14-0) received 59 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel Monday to easily outdistance the Baylor Bears (13-0), who got the other six votes for No. 1. While Kansas remained in third, UCLA, which lost to Oregon, fell from second to fourth. Gonzaga and Kentucky both moved up two spots to fifth and sixth. Gonzaga (14-0), Villanova and Baylor are the lone unbeaten teams in Division I.