Kansas Tax Collections $54M Below Expectations in February
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is reporting that it collected $54 million less in taxes than anticipated in February, and the shortfall creates new budget complications. The report Tuesday from the state Department of Revenue came only two weeks after the Republican-dominated Legislature passed a bill to eliminate a projected budget deficit of nearly $200 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1. But the state now must act again to avoid a deficit on June 30, before the new fiscal year begins. The department said the state collected $303 million in taxes last month instead of the $357 million projected in a November fiscal forecast. The shortfall is 15 percent. Since the current fiscal year began in July, the state has collected $3.68 billion in taxes. That's $80 million less than anticipated.
Kansas Governor Cuts Higher Ed After Revenue Shortfall
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Governor Sam Brownback has cut higher education spending by $17 million in response to a shortfall in tax collections for February. Brownback announced Tuesday that he ordered a 3 percent cut in the higher education system's allocation of state tax dollars under this fiscal year's budget. The Board of Regents and state universities will have to make the adjustments over the next four months. The governor acted after the Department of Revenue reported that the state collected $54 million less in taxes than anticipated in February. The state must now act to prevent a deficit on June 30. Brownback's action would not fully balance the budget. The department said the state collected $303 million in taxes last month instead of the $357 million projected in a November fiscal forecast.
Sanders, Rubio and Cruz Planning Visits to Kansas Before Caucuses
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Republican hopefuls Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are planning to come to Kansas this week ahead of the state's presidential caucuses. Sanders campaign state director Shelby Iseler said Tuesday that the Vermont senator plans to have a rally Thursday evening in Lawrence at the 4H Building on the Douglas County Fairgrounds. Some Kansas Democrats are predicting a close race in Saturday's caucuses between Sanders and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Ted Cruz's campaign will host a rally at Johnson County Community College on Wednesday evening, according to the JCCC website. Rubio's campaign says he will be traveling Friday to Wichita for a rally, but the details haven't been settled. The event would be the day before Kansas Republicans also caucus. The Florida senator is battling businessman Donald Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz for the state's national convention delegates.
Democrats See Close Race in Kansas Between Clinton, Sanders
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic elected officials and party establishment figures like former Governor Kathleen Sebelius are working to see that Hillary Clinton wins Kansas's presidential caucuses. But they acknowledge that Clinton is in a tough race against Bernie Sanders. Party activists who gathered in Topeka for a recent two-day state convention described the support for Sanders as "organic." The Vermont senator's supporters say the nation needs a progressive political overhaul. Clinton's allies argue that the former U.S. secretary of state's experience and pragmatism are more likely to advance progressive goals on issues such as wages and health care. Both Democrats and Republicans in Kansas have presidential caucuses Saturday. In the GOP race, supporters of Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Texas Senator Ted Cruz don't know whether they can prevent a Donald Trump victory.
Kobach Endorses Trump in Kansas GOP Presidential Caucuses
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is endorsing Donald Trump for president. Kobach cited Trump's "aggressive" stance against illegal immigration in announcing his endorsement of the billionaire New York businessman's bid for the Republican nomination yesterday (MON). Kobach is a former law professor who gained a national reputation for helping states and cities draft laws cracking down on illegal immigration before being elected secretary of state in 2010. He is the first major Kansas elected official to endorse Trump ahead of the state's GOP presidential caucuses Saturday. Republican Governor Sam Brownback said last week that he'd vote for Trump if Trump were the GOP nominee, but the governor has endorsed Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Yesterday (MON), State Treasurer Ron Estes also endorsed Rubio.
Kansas Lawmakers Consider Bill Redefining Abandoned Property
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate bill would allow cities and nonprofit organizations to gain temporary ownership of abandoned houses to rehabilitate them. The measure would change the definition of abandoned property to include blighted real estate that has been unoccupied for a year. Critics worry the measure would unfairly target disadvantaged people who can't afford to maintain their homes. Under the bill, a local government or nonprofit organization could seek temporary possession of the property in district court to use it for housing. The Senate voted 32-8 in favor of the bill last week, sending it to the House for further consideration. Current law allows only organizations, and not local government, to request temporary ownership of homes that have been vacant for 90 days and are two years delinquent in taxes.
Kansas Coalition Pushes for Criminal Justice Reform
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Lawyers, a prison rehabilitation organization and faith communities are creating a coalition to push for changes to the Kansas criminal justice system. Kansans for Smart Justice announced a series of measures that include reducing sentences for nonviolent drug offenders at a Statehouse news conference yesterday (MON). The American Civil Liberties Union is among 13 organizations seeking to educate the community about the prison system. Micah Kubic from the ACLU says the coalition will highlight trends including a rise in the state's prison population despite the falling crime rate. Benet Magnuson, a representative from the civil rights organization Kansas Appleseed, championed the full Senate's recent vote to overhaul the juvenile justice system. He says the adult system also would benefit from placing low-risk offenders in community-based programs instead of jails.
Court Lets Woman Who Bought Guns Used in Hesston Shooting Out on Bond
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal magistrate judge has set a $10,000 bond for the woman accused of buying the guns used in last week's mass shooting at the Excel Industries factory in Hesston. More than a dozen family members and friends of Sarah Hopkins came to her hearing yesterday (MON) in U.S. District Court in Wichita, but refused to talk to the media. Her attorney, Douglas Adams, declined comment. Prosecutors did not seek her detention. The 28-year-old Newton woman is charged with knowingly transferring a firearm to a convicted felon. Prosecutors say she gave shooter Cedric Ford an AK-47 type semi-automatic rifle and a 40-caliber handgun. Four people, including Ford, were killed and 14 others were injured. Adams told the court he expected Hopkins would be indicted Tuesday. Her next hearing is March 9th.
Lawrence District Prepares to Launch Open-Source Class
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Lawrence school district is preparing to roll out its first class that uses only open-source learning material written by experts, vetted by their peers and posted for free downloading. To get ready, several administrators and teachers participated in a conference last week in California. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the conference was part of a U.S. Department of Education campaign, #GoOpen, to encourage states, school districts and educators to use openly licensed educational materials. In October, it was announced that the Lawrence school district was one of 10 districts nationwide to take up the #GoOpen challenge to replace at least one textbook with openly licensed educational resources within the year. District administrators have selected seventh-grade English language arts as the subject area for the #GoOpen initiative.
Sedgwick County Will Try to Sell or Lease Former Boys' Ranch
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County is making another attempt to find a taker for the closed Judge Riddel Boys Ranch near Goddard. The Wichita Eagle reports that the county is putting out a request for proposals to sell or lease the property to developers or nonprofits. Facilities director Steve Claassen said at a county staff meeting Monday that the intent is to see what kind of interest there is in the property. The county closed the ranch in 2014 after unsuccessfully trying to persuade the Kansas Legislature to increase funding sent to the county, which operated the ranch. The county then asked for proposals to lease the property but didn't receive any that September. The ranch served about 40 boys considered at medium to high risk of committing additional crimes.
NTSB Says Pilot Error Likely Cause of Fatal 2014 Plane Crash
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The National Transportation Safety Board says pilot inaction was the likely cause of an October 2014 plane crash in Wichita that left four people dead, including the pilot. The Wichita Eagle reports the NTSB report issued Tuesday says 53-year-old pilot Mark Goldstein failed to follow emergency procedures after the plane lost power in its left engine. The NTSB says the Beechcraft King Air B200 crashed into a FlightSafety building at Wichita Eisenhower National Airport. In addition to those who were killed, six others were injured in the crash. A Texas aviation company had purchased the airplane two days before the crash. NTSB says it doesn't know why the engine lost power because a post-crash inspection didn't reveal anything that would have precluded normal operation of the aircraft.
Midwest Economic Survey Index Rises for 2nd Time in 2 Months
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Figures from a survey of supply managers in nine Midwest and Plains states have risen for the second month in a row, suggesting more improvement in the regional economy. A report issued Tuesday says the Mid-American Business Conditions Index climbed to 50.5 in February from 48.3 in January. 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. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he says a strong U.S. dollar and economic weakness among the nation's chief trading partners remain a restraint on regional growth. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
22-Year-Old Man, 21-Year-Old Woman Found Dead in Topeka
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have released the names of two people whose deaths in a central Topeka apartment are being investigated as "suspicious." Topeka police identified the deceased as 22-year-old Robert A. Fink Jr. and 21-year-old Ashlie Hundertfund. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that police found the bodies Monday morning when they went to check on the welfare of a resident who hadn't shown up for work. Topeka police Lt. Colleen Stuart says there was no immediate word on the cause of the deaths but foul play hasn't been ruled out.
3 Kansas Newspapers Change Hands in Deal Between Families
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A group that publishes the Emporia newspaper once edited by late journalism icon William Allen White has bought two family-owned newspapers and a weekly in Kansas. John Montgomery says he plans to retire and has sold the Junction City Daily Union, Abilene Reflector-Chronicle and the weekly Wamego Smoke Signal to Chris Walker's White Corp. The deal took effect Tuesday. Though financial terms were not disclosed, Montgomery said he plans to keep a Daily Union office and remain in an advisory capacity. Seventy-five-year-old Montgomery is a fourth-generation newspaperman in a family that has been in publishing for 134 years. He's also a 2012 inductee into the Kansas Newspaper Hall of Fame. Walker is the great-grandson of Pulitzer Prize-winning Emporia Gazette editor William Allen White, who bought the newspaper in 1895.
Kansas Man Arrested on Suspicion of 34 Child Sexual Offenses
ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — An Arkansas City man has been arrested on suspicion of 34 sexual offenses, including rape. The Arkansas City Police Department said Monday that the man was arrested Friday during a controlled traffic stop. Police said they were notified Wednesday of an adult male having an inappropriate relationship with a girl. Authorities say that during their investigation, they identified another juvenile victim. Police say some of the offenses occurred in Arkansas City and others took place in rural parts of Cowley County. The man faces three counts of aggravated criminal sodomy, 12 counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child, three counts of criminal sodomy, 10 counts of indecent liberties with a child, and six counts of rape.
Topeka Kidnapping Suspect's Death Ruled Hypothermia
HOLTON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say hypothermia killed a kidnapping suspect whose body was found in a wooded area of northeast Kansas. On Monday, Jackson County Sheriff Tim Morse released the findings of an autopsy report on the death of 32-year-old Jon Sumpter, of Silver Lake. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a hunter found Sumpter's body January 31 about a half-mile south of the Nebo State Fishing Lake. Morse said Sumpter was believed to be the suspect in a December kidnapping in which the victim escaped. The following day, the stolen sport utility vehicle that was believed to have been used in the kidnapping was found. It was located about three-fourths of a mile from where Sumpter's shirtless body was later found. Authorities believe Sumpter died weeks before his body was discovered.
Man Wanted in 2014 Pittsburg Homicide Arrested in Mexico
PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — The fourth suspect in a 2014 home invasion that led to the death of a Pittsburg State University student has been taken into custody in Mexico. The Pittsburg Morning Sun reports that 20-year-old Bryan Levi Bridges was arrested in Juarez, Mexico, on Sunday night. He was wanted in Kansas on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated burglary and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery in the October 2014 home invasion that left 20-year-old Taylor Thomas dead. Crawford County Attorney Michael Gayoso says he hopes to have Bridges back in the county early next week for a first court appearance. Prosecutors say Bridges was in the home with three other men as the group attempted to steal marijuana from Thomas' roommate when Thomas was shot.
Kansas County Treasurers Complain About Toll Collection Measure
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — County treasurers are complaining about a bill that would help the Kansas Turnpike Authority collect fines. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the KTA would like the authority to place holds on vehicle registrations as a way to ensure revenue. Shawnee County Treasurer Larry Mah is among the treasurers who have said the plan would bog down local motor vehicle offices. Turnpike spokeswoman Rachel Bell says the bill is part of a larger turnpike modernization plan. At some stations, the state is transitioning to an open-tolling system, where cameras scan license plates as cars pass. Bills are sent to drivers who don't have an electronic toll collection device known as a K-TAG. Mah says he likes the open-toll plan, but revoking vehicle registration shifts the responsibility to motor vehicle offices.
Lawrence Considers Accepting Canned Food for Parking Fines
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence is considering allowing people to pay parking tickets with canned goods or monetary donations to food pantries. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that city commissioners will consider the issue today (TUE). Currently, the fines cost $3. The city had projected bringing in $545,202 to the parking fund from overtime parking violations in 2016. Staff projects that the city would receive $30,000 less annually in parking fines, assuming about 6 percent of parking violators participated in the alternative payment option. The money pays for three police officers and several other staff members. Options the council will consider include a pilot program. Alternatively, the program could be offered year-round with fines staying the same or increasing to $5 to offset the revenue loss.
Third Jackson County, Missouri Sheriff's Employee Claims Harassment
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A third female employee in the Jackson County, Missouri, sheriff's office is alleging sexual harassment in a discrimination complaint. The Kansas City Star reports that the latest complaint comes from an administrative assistant. She's seeking more than $25,000 in damages. Her suit comes a year after the county made the first of two payouts totaling more than $150,000 to settle sexual harassment complaints from two former sheriff's department staffers. In the latest complaint, the woman says she was harassed by the two women who received the settlements and others. She says one of the women who later received a settlement falsely accused her of sexual assault. The county denied the latest allegations in a court filing this month. The allegations from the other two women were never specified because the county settled.
Companies Continue Drilling Despite Low Oil and Gas Prices
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Contracts with landowners are forcing a small number of companies to drill for oil and natural gas regardless of unfavorable market conditions. The Wichita Eagle reports that producers are required by contract to drill in a newly acquired lease within a few years in order to maintain the land lease. Kansas Independent Oil & Gas Association President Ed Cross says forcing producers to be picky about their leases keeps them thinking about the long-term success of their companies. But other producers are taking advantage of lows costs in hopes for future profit. Some, like Rod Andersen of Kansas Petroleum Resources of Wichita, are testing wells at discounted prices and leaving the good ones uncompleted until oil and gas prices turn up.
Kansas Teen, Missouri Man Killed in Southeast Kansas Crash
ARMA, Kan. (AP) — Two people have died in a crash near the southeast Kansas town of Arma. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the crash happened Sunday on U.S. Highway 69 when a car crossed the center line and struck a pickup truck. Killed was the car's driver, 17-year-old Derek Curtis Brumbaugh, of Pittsburg, and the truck's driver, 56-year-old David Glen Kessler, of Kearney, Missouri. A 16-year-old passenger in the car also was injured.
Warm Kansas Temperatures Prompt Winter Wheat to Break Dormancy
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Unseasonably warm temperatures have prompted winter wheat to break dormancy early in Kansas. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that rain is needed to support growth and development of the crop. The agency rated winter wheat condition as 6 percent poor to very poor. About 35 percent is in fair shape, with 51 percent rated as good and 8 percent as excellent. Mild weather conditions have been good for calving season, which is about 24 percent complete in Kansas.
Kansas Jayhawks Back at #1 in AP Men's Top 25
Kansas is back on top of the men's college basketball poll by The Associated Press. Villanova had been Number 1 the past three weeks. The Jayhawks are 25-4 and were Number 1 for two weeks in January. Yesterday (MON), they were a runaway choice, receiving 63 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel. Michigan State is 24-5 and was Number 1 for a season-best four weeks. The Spartans drew the other two first-place votes. Villanova lost to Xavier last week and fell two spots to third. The Wildcats were followed in the top 10 by Virginia, Xavier, Oklahoma, Miami, North Carolina, Oregon and West Virginia. This is Oregon's first appearance in the top 10 this season. California was ranked in three polls earlier this season and is the week's only newcomer at Number 25. The Bears replace Notre Dame, which fell out from 23rd.
Nebraska, Kansas Agree to Meet in Basketball Next 2 Seasons
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska and Kansas have signed a two-year agreement to begin a home-and-home men's basketball series starting next season. The two schools were conference mates for more than a century before Nebraska joined the Big Ten. The teams last met in 2011 when both were in the Big 12. Cornhuskers coach Tim Miles said Tuesday his program is excited to "revive a classic Big 12 matchup." He said the games would strengthen the Huskers' nonconference schedule and put the Huskers in better position for Big Ten and postseason play. The Huskers will travel to Lawrence for the first game on December 10. The Jayhawks will play in Lincoln on December 16, 2017. Kansas leads 170-71 in a series dating to 1900.
Chiefs Place Franchise Tag on All-Pro Safety Eric Berry
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs placed the franchise tag on Eric Berry on Tuesday, ensuring the All-Pro safety who overcame from cancer last year will remain under a Chiefs contract through next season. The 27-year-old Berry will make $10,806,000 under the franchise tag. It's the fourth time in five years that Kansas City has designated a franchise player. Berry was diagnosed with lymphoma in late 2014 and immediately began treatment. He was deemed cancer-free last summer, reported to training camp on time, and proceeded to have arguably the best season of his six-year career. He made 55 tackles and two interceptions while playing in every game. His performance earned Berry the AP's Comeback Player of the Year award. The Chiefs have until mid-July to work out a long-term contract with Berry. Otherwise, he would play for the tag salary. He can't talk to other clubs.