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Headlines for Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Kansas Governor Signs Bills Increasing Taxes to Fix Budget 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has signed bills raising sales and cigarette taxes to balance the state's next budget. The Republican governor announced the signings Tuesday, only hours after he had a Statehouse news conference to defend the higher taxes. Brownback said the bills don't really represent a tax increase because of past income tax cuts he pushed successfully through the GOP-dominated Legislature in 2012 and 2013. A budget shortfall arose after those income tax cuts, and the two bills passed this year together raise $384 million during the fiscal year beginning July 1 to avert a deficit. One bill increases the sales tax to 6.5 percent from 6.15 percent. The other increases the cigarette tax by 50 cents a pack to $1.29. Both laws take effect July 1.


Governor Signs Bill for Elimination of ATM Welfare Withdrawal Limit 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Governor Sam Brownback has signed a bill that allows the state to change controversial limits on the amount of money welfare recipients could withdraw from ATMs. The bill allows the secretary of the Department for Children and Families to increase or eliminate the $25-per-day limit on ATM withdrawals with a state cash assistance card. S08upporters of the legislation said it would prevent fraud but critics called it mean-spirited. After the bill passed in April, lawmakers became aware that it might violate federal law, raising the possibility the state could lose $102 million in federal aid. 


Kansas Drops Plans to Change Vehicle Renewal Notices

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Revenue is dropping plans to change how it reminds residents to renew their vehicle tags. Department spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda confirmed Tuesday that the state will not replace 2.6 million personalized vehicle renewal letters with a generic postcard reminder beginning in August. The proposed change was announced in May as a way to save the state $500,000. The Manhattan Mercury reports the plan was dropped because a new tax law passed by the Legislature requires the state to send notices that include all information needed for the owner to register the vehicle and pay the tax by return mail. The postcards would not have contained all the information and would have required citizens to print their renewal notices off of a state website.


Brownback Appoints CEOs, Dentist to Kansas Board of Regents 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Governor Sam Brownback has named three new members to the Kansas Board of Regents, and one is a CEO involved in the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and an anti-tax group. Brownback on Tuesday announced his appointments of David Murfin of Wichita, Dennis Mullin of Manhattan and Daniel Thomas of Mission Hills to the nine-member board that oversees higher education. They were appointed to four-year terms. Murfin is the president and CEO of Murfin Inc., which has interests that include oil drilling and the sale of construction equipment. He also is a member of the Kansas Chamber's board of directors and has served as president of the Kansas Club for Growth. Mullin is chairman and CEO of Steel and Pipe Supply Co., and Thomas is a dentist.


Quapaw Tribe Seeks Dismissal of Kansas Lawsuit over Casino Plans

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The Quapaw Tribe wants a federal court to toss out the lawsuit Kansas filed seeking to block the tribe from expanding its Downstream Casino in Oklahoma into southeast Kansas. The court filing cites tribal sovereign immunity in seeking the dismissal of claims against tribal officials and entities named in the lawsuit. Kansas is challenging a National Indian Gaming Commission decision allowing gambling on land in Cherokee County, Kansas. The tribe is planning a $15 million addition offering table games not allowed in Oklahoma. A spokeswoman for the Kansas Attorney General's office says the office will "vigorously oppose" the tribe's motion for dismissal.


Woman, Son Sentenced to Life for Killing Kansas Couple

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A California woman and her biological son have been sentenced to life in prison in the deaths of the son's adoptive parents. The Wichita Eagle reports that Kisha Schaberg of San Diego, and her 20-year-old biological son, Anthony Bluml, were sentenced Tuesday to life in prison in the November 2013 deaths of his adoptive parents, Roger Bluml and Melissa Bluml. The couple, who adopted Schaberg's two sons when they were young children, were shot in the head outside their home in rural Valley Center. Schaberg and Anthony Bluml pleaded no contest earlier to capital murder and aggravated robbery to avoid the death penalty. Under the sentencing, neither Schaberg or Anthony Bluml will have any options for parole.


Wichita Family Seeks $5M in Fatal Police Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The family of a Wichita man killed by police wants $5 million from the city. Authorities say that police shot and killed 26-year-old Icarus Randolph on July 4, 2014 when he came toward officers with a knife and after a Taser failed to stop him. District Attorney Marc Bennett announced Friday that no charges will be filed against police in Randolph's death. A claim is required before a lawsuit can be filed. The city didn't release a copy of the claim document, which spells out the family's position.


Bird Flu Likely Spread on Equipment, Workers, Rodents, Wind

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ Bird flu that's devastated Midwestern farms likely spread by several means, including on machinery and workers, by rodents and possibly even by the wind. That's according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released Monday. The agency studied genetic properties of virus samples on more than 80 turkey and chicken farms.  USDA scientists say wild birds introduced the virus onto farms, but it appears the virus spread in other ways once there. The scientists found lapses in biosecurity on farms and environmental factors likely contributed to the spread of the disease. More than 49 million birds died or were euthanized in 15 states this spring as the virus spread from the Pacific Northwest into Midwest farms. It's the nation's worst outbreak of bird flu.  


Authorities Identify Deceased Couple Found After Fire 

BUCYRUS, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified a couple who were found shot to death in their rural Kansas home last week. The Miami County Sheriff's office said Monday the victims were 62-year-old Michael G. Jerden and 58-year-old Sandy J. Jerden. Their bodies were found on June 8 in a home in rural Miami County. Dental records were used to identify the couple. The sheriff says last week they were killed by gunshots. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.


Former Nurse Accused of Sexually Assaulting More Kansas Patients

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) - A former nurse charged last year with sexually assaulting patients at a Kansas City, Kansas, hospital is now accused of sexually assaulting patients at a Johnson County hospital. The Kansas City Star reports 47-year-old Dennis E. Clark was arrested Monday in a case involving three women at Menorah Medical Center in 2010 and 2011. Clark is charged with two counts of aggravated sexual battery, aggravated criminal sodomy and attempted aggravated criminal sodomy. The Kansas State Board of Nursing said last year that it had received complaints about Clark when he worked at Menorah, but the incidents could not be substantiated and no disciplinary action was taken. Overland Park police also investigated the complaints, but no charges were filed. The suspect was terminated from Menorah in 2012. Clark said in a Monday court appearance that he would hire his own attorney.


Federal Judge Tosses Kansas City Discrimination Case 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed a class-action lawsuit filed by two African-American men who claimed there was a pattern of racial discrimination at a downtown Kansas City entertainment district. The Kansas City Star reports that U.S. District Senior Judge Ortrie Smith on Monday threw out the second count of the two-count lawsuit filed on behalf of Dante A.R. Combs, of Overland Park, Kansas, and Adam S. Williams of Edmond, Oklahoma. The other count was dismissed last year. Combs and Williams claimed they were victims of discrimination while visiting the Kansas City Power & Light District in 2010 and 2011. In his order filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Smith said he found no evidence to support their claims against Power & Light owner Cordish Company and its affiliates.


Antique Store Owner Pleads Guilty to Theft in Kansas

DERBY, Kan. (AP) — The owner of an antique store in Derby has pleaded guilty to three counts of theft. The Wichita Eagle reports that Sandra Ostrander, owner of Derby Antiques and More, pleaded Monday. She agreed to reimburse more than $13,000 to clients as part of a plea bargain. In exchange, Ostrander agreed to a recommendation that she be placed on probation and be allowed to live in Georgia. According to Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett, Ostrander was ordered not to own or operate any business in Kansas as part of the plea deal. Bennett says Ostrander sold items on consignment and was accused of taking money from the sales of those items without forwarding the corresponding payments to the people who provided the goods for sale.


Kansas Couple Seeking Return of Stolen Airstream Trailer

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. (AP) — A Prairie Village couple is pleading for the return of their stolen 26-foot-long vintage Airstream trailer. The Kansas City Star reports that the 1962 Airstream Overlander belonged to Catie Ebert's grandfather. She had spent about six years and thousands of dollars restoring it. The trailer also contained family historical documents and pictures, including her grandparents' Airstream membership numbers. She and her husband, Clint, left the trailer overnight outside a Kansas City, Kansas, business recently where they had just had counter tops installed. The next morning it was gone. Ebert and her husband have taken to social media, hoping someone might spot the trailer and call police. The trailer had a Texas tag of 5DF284.


Rains Stall Winter Wheat Harvest in Kansas 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The winter wheat harvest has gotten off to a soggy start in Kansas. A few spots in south-central and southeast Kansas have seen very limited harvest activity. The industry group Kansas Wheat says one farmer as far north as Salina reported cutting last week. The group's marketing director Aaron Harries says the wheat is ready in much of southern Kansas, with the exception of southwest Kansas. But he doesn't know of any harvest going on anywhere on Monday. Heavy rains across much of Kansas in recent days have brought harvest to a screeching halt. Scott Van Allen started cutting his acres in south-central Kansas last Tuesday and got three good days of harvest before the rains came. He has harvested 500 acres, and has nearly 2,000 more to go.


Kansas Church Settles Lawsuit over Dispute for New Zoning

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A small southeastern Kansas congregation has settled its federal lawsuit stemming from a zoning dispute over church property.  A court filing Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Kansas indicates the parties have agreed that Liberty Baptist Church can use land it owns in Crawford County for a new church outside Pittsburg city limits. The judge's order dismisses the lawsuit.  The congregation of 15 members sued the county in April after it was denied a conditional use permit, claiming the zoning laws violate the First Amendment and federal law. Pastor Sandy Stallings commended the commissioners in a news release for not dragging the case out at "great public expense.'' The church agreed to plant some shrubs across its southern border and the county agreed to compensate it for some costs.


Manfred on 8 Royals' Leading All-Star Vote: 'Open to Change' 

BOSTON (AP) — With eight Kansas City Royals leading in fan voting for starters at the July 14 All-Star game, baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred says he is "open to change." Speaking to reporters Tuesday at Fenway Park, Manfred says it is too early to draw conclusions. "We have 16 days left," he said. "Lots of years we've worried about lots of things about fan voting, but in general fans have done a good job. We'll see how it all turns out. ... We are responsive and open to change if we get a result that is not consistent with the goals of the system that is in place." Fans elected seven Reds to start the 1957 game in St. Louis, but after concluding half the fan ballots came from Cincinnati, baseball commissioner Ford Frick added Willie Mays and Hank Aaron to the NL lineup in place of Reds outfielders Gus Bell and Wally Post.


Cain Homers to Help Royals Beat Brewers, 8-5

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Lorenzo Cain hit a two-run homer as the Kansas City Royals held off the Milwaukee Brewers for an 8-5 win Monday night. The Royals won in manager Ned Yost's first regular season game back in Milwaukee since being fired by the Brewers late in 2008. But the victory was more difficult than expected after the Royals entered the bottom of the ninth with an 8-2 lead. Milwaukee got three runs off Greg Holland but Wade Davis retired the next three hitters for his eighth save.


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