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Headlines for Wednesday, December 2, 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.


Slow Progress Syncing K-Tag with Other States' Toll Roads 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Turnpike Authority says it might not meet a federal deadline for allowing people to use the state's electronic transponders, known as K-Tag, on other states' toll roads. The federal government wants all state toll highways to be "inter-operable" by October 1. KTA spokeswoman Rachel Bell says the agency is working with other states and agencies but the federal legislation doesn't specify exactly how the systems are supposed to work together. And states have different types of automatic pay systems. Some were developed by private companies and serve several states, while others — such as K-Tag — are developed and owned by a specific state. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that K-Tag is linked with Oklahoma's system and the state is working with two systems used by commercial truckers.


Accused Councilman Gets Thousands in Child Support Subsidies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A court document shows Topeka councilman Jonathan Schumm and his wife receive a monthly government subsidy of more than $4,600 for 15 children who live in the family's home. The couple has been accused of abusing and endangering some of the kids in their care. They have biological and adopted children and foster kids.


Kansas Lawmaker Calls for Audit of Child Welfare Agency 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas lawmaker plans to ask for an audit to determine whether the Kansas Department for Children and Families discriminates against same-sex couples in foster care and adoption cases. Representative Jim Ward, a Democrat from Wichita, said he will ask for the audit December 10 when the Legislative Post-Audit Committee meets. The Wichita Eagle reports that Ward's request comes after a Topeka city councilman and his wife were granted custody of a child over a lesbian couple from Wichita last year based on a recommendation from the state agency. The lesbian couple had cared for the child for 11 months. The Topeka couple, Jonathan and Allison Schumm, were charged in November with one count each of aggravated battery and four counts of endangering a child.


Officials Approve Garmin Expansion

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Officials have approved Garmin's plan for a major expansion in Olathe. The city council has approved the tech giant's plan for a huge warehouse and manufacturing center near its headquarters in the Kansas City suburb. Some neighbors complain the building is too large and will be too close to their homes. The company hasn't set a date for starting construction.


Lawrence Man Will Be Tried for 3rd Time in Homicide 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence man charged in a 2014 shooting death will be tried for a third time. The Douglas County District Attorney's Office announced Wednesday it would try Dustin D. Walker on a felony murder charge in the death of Patrick Roberts. Jurors in the first trial found Walker guilty of aggravated burglary but could not agree on the felony murder charge. The second jury also could not agree on the felony murder charge. Prosecutors allege Walker and a co-defendant broke into Roberts's home to steal money and marijuana and Walker shot Roberts. Walker's attorney said the two men did not break into the apartment, which would nullify the underlying felony of aggravated burglary for a felony murder charge. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the third trial is scheduled for March 7-11.


Junction City Man Sentenced for Murder of Informant 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Junction City man was sentenced Wednesday to life in federal prison for killing a woman to stop her from giving information on his drug trafficking to federal law enforcement officers. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says Marcus D. Roberson was convicted in March 2014 of murder, and conspiracy to distribute crack and powder cocaine. Prosecutors say Roberson shot Fisher four times in central Junction City. Her body was found in her vehicle and the murder weapon was found in a pond behind a Junction City Walmart. Prosecutors also presented evidence of Roberson's involvement in a ring that distributed powder and crack cocaine in the Junction City area. Seven co-defendants have been sentenced in the case.


Kansas Police Chief to Resign After Drunken Driving Arrest 

ARMA, Kan. (AP) — Arma Mayor Buddy Bualle says the town's police chief is on unpaid leave and plans to resign after his arrest in a single-car accident. Pittsburg police reports say chief Jeremy Allen was arrested after his car hit a cow early Friday. The reports say Allen was arrested and booked into the Crawford County Jail after he failed a field sobriety test. The Pittsburg Morning-Sun reports Bualle said Allen has put himself on unpaid leave and plans to resign. Bualle says he plans to present the resignation to the city council on Monday. Allen became police chief in September 2013. The cow was uninjured.


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.


University Creating Policy to Reduce Drone Use on Campus 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas is working on a new policy to reduce the use of drones on campus. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the policy is intended to ensure anyone who wants to fly a drone on campus has Federal Aviation Administration approval. Amy Smith, policy office director, says concern was raised because drones were flying over the last commencement. Ron Barrett-Gonzalez, a professor of aerospace engineering, says the policy is being formed without any consultation with the university's aerospace faculty. He's concerned it would hamper research and violate academic freedom. The draft policy would require anyone wanting to operate an unmanned aerial system on or over campus to have written approval from the university.


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.


4 in Custody After Police Pursuit Ends in Kansas Crash

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) -- Police say shots were fired during a pursuit that ended with the suspects' vehicle crashing into a tractor-trailer in Kansas City, Kansas. KCTV-TV reports that the pursuit started Tuesday in Kansas City, Missouri, after undercover officers spotted four people running behind a house while patrolling in the area. Sergeant Kevin Kilkenny says police began following their vehicle because they were suspected of committing a burglary. Police say no officers were wounded when shots were fired from the suspects' vehicle. Four men were arrested after the pursuit ended in a crash. Police said the suspects sustained only minor injuries.


2 Missing Children Found in Stolen Vehicle in Kansas

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) -- Authorities have found two missing children in a stolen vehicle in suburban Kansas City. Olathe police said in a news release that the children disappeared Tuesday night after the suspect attempted to steal a vehicle from a car dealership. After a witness confronted him, the suspect abandoned the stolen vehicle. Police said he then walked to a nearby tire shop where he got into a running vehicle with two girls already inside and drove away with the 2- and 6-year olds. Officers located the vehicle parked at a retirement home about 2 ½ hours later with the children safe inside. The suspect hasn't been found. Police said the investigation is ongoing.


Man Pleads Guilty to 2013 Robberies at Wichita Bank

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- A man has pleaded guilty to two bank robberies at a south Wichita grocery store more than two years ago. The Wichita Eagle reports that 45-year-old Frederick Aaron Cunningham admitted to robbing the Intrust Bank inside a Dillons Store on October 9 and October 28, 2013. Cunningham is charged with one felony count of bank robbery. Cunningham was linked to the crimes after investigators tested DNA on a hat and shirt he discarded in a nearby neighborhood. He is scheduled for sentencing before a federal court judge in Wichita February 18. Attorneys involved in the case will ask the judge to sentence Cunningham to 10 years in federal prison. The plea agreement says Cunningham will be asked to pay more than $2,000 in restitution.


3 Sought in Fatal Shootings at House in East Wichita
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are seeking three people in a shooting that left two people dead in east Wichita. KSNW-TV reports that a 55-year-old woman and a 24-year-old man died in the Tuesday afternoon shooting. Witnesses told police that there had been a confrontation between two men at the home and another man that came over to drop off a woman. Wichita police Lieutenant Todd Ojile says that 30 minutes later, the man who dropped off the woman returned in a car with two people with him. Ojile says a fight broke out and then shots were fired toward the home from the street. The woman died at the home, and the man died at a hospital several hours later.


Authorities Investigate Discovery of Human Remains 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating the discovery of human skeletal remains in a wooded area of Sedgwick County. The sheriff's office says the sheriff's office was notified Tuesday night after a hunter found the remains. No other information was immediately available, including the identity of the victim.


Kansas Museum Restores Stearman Model 4D Plane 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Aviation Museum now houses the world's newest restored Stearman Model 4D airplane. The Wichita Eagle reports that the "Texaco 11" was scheduled to be dedicated to the museum Tuesday night. The museum's historian, Walt House, says it took nine years to restore the plane. Officials say 40 of the planes were built in Wichita from 1929 through 1931, and only 14 still exist. The plane first served as a fleet plane for Texaco, then as a crop duster in Mississippi before being sold to the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1941. Records show it was dismantled and salvaged in 1965. The museum acquired the plane's remnants in 1998, donated by Bruce Bissonette, a retired aviation writer from El Paso. The Women of Wichita foundation donated $20,000 for the plane's restoration.


Royals Acquire Catcher Cruz from Cardinals for Minor Leaguer 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Royals have acquired backup catcher Tony Cruz from the St. Louis Cardinals for minor league infielder Jose Martinez while designating catcher Francisco Pena for assignment. The teams announced the trade Wednesday. Cruz hit .204 with two homers and 11 RBIs in 9 games for the Cardinals. The 29-year-old, who can also play third base, could compete with Drew Butera for the backup catcher job behind Sal Perez. Butera is eligible for arbitration after arriving in Kansas City in a trade this past season. Cruz also is arbitration eligible. The 19-year-old Martinez spent most of last season at rookie-level Burlington, hitting .243 with four doubles, a homer and 24 RBIs in 57 games.


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