Kansas Collected $24 Million More in Taxes than Expected for January
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is reporting that it collected $24 million more in taxes than it anticipated in January as the Legislature wrestles with closing a shortfall in the current budget. The state Department of Revenue's report Wednesday was good news for lawmakers. It is the third consecutive month that tax collections have exceeded expectations. The department said Kansas collected $544 million in taxes last month. The figure is 4.6 percent higher than the $520 million anticipated. The revenue report came as a Senate committee reviewed budget-balancing proposals. Kansas still faces a budget gap of about $320 million for the current fiscal year ending June 30. The development suggests that a new, more pessimistic fiscal forecast issued in November could be close to the mark. The state previously missed its revenue targets regularly.
Kansas GOP Lawmakers Divided over Proposed Budget Fixes
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican legislators in Kansas are divided over what proposed fixes from GOP Governor Sam Brownback they will jettison in closing a shortfall in the state's current budget. The Senate Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday began sorting through Brownback's proposals to close a gap of about $320 million in the budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30. The governor's proposals include scaling back contributions to public employee pensions and liquidating a state investment fund. The pension proposal drew heavy bipartisan criticism. But majority Republicans acknowledged that the alternative to such moves include immediate cuts in aid to public schools. The task did appear to get a little easier Wednesday when the Department of Revenue reported that Kansas collected $24 million more in taxes than anticipated in January.
Kansas Lawmakers Send Asset Forfeiture Bills to Law Experts
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House Judiciary Committee members will wait for input from an advisory committee before making any new policy regarding a law that allows police officers to seize and forfeit citizens' property. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Blaine Finch referred five bills for review to the Kansas Judicial Council, an advisory committee made up by the judiciary committees' chairs and chief justice appointees. Finch said in a statement he expected the group to make recommendations and "possibly draft legislation." He says it likely won't have a proposal this year. Critics of asset forfeiture say the practice violates property and due process rights by allowing officers to seize property from potentially innocent citizens and often keep the proceeds. Officers say it helps them stop profitable crime, like drug trafficking.
Kansas Campus Carry Repeal Bill Stuck in Committee
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill that would exempt Kansas colleges from a mandate that they allow concealed carry of handguns is stuck in committee after failing to win approval Tuesday. The Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee opted not to advance a bill from Wichita Democratic Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau. The bill provides a permanent exemption for public colleges and several types of medical facilities from a 2013 law that requires public buildings to either allow concealed weapons or provide security measures, like guards and metal detectors. Campuses had until July 1, 2017, to comply. Faust-Goudeau says she might introduce legislation that would require gun owners to get a license and training before carrying a concealed weapon.
Metal Detectors, Guards Likely at KU Athletic Events
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - The University of Kansas is likely to use security measures such as metal detectors at Allen Fieldhouse and Memorial Stadium beginning in the fall. The change comes as a law that requires Kansas universities to allow concealed handguns on campuses begins July 1. Guns can be banned in buildings where the universities provide other security, such as the metal detectors. Details are not final but Kansas expects to ban guns from athletic events where more than 5,000 people are expected to attend. Deputy athletics director Sean Lester says fans attending Jayhawk men's basketball games will likely encounter wands and portable metal detectors before they enter. The number of entrances also might be reduced. Similar measures are expected for football games at Memorial Stadium.
Civil Air Patrol Officer Resigns After 'Swing from a Tree' Post
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A lieutenant colonel in the Kansas Civil Air Patrol has resigned his command after posting on Facebook that a state lawmaker should "swing from a tree" for introducing a bill that would undo a law allowing concealed weapons on college campuses starting in July. The Civil Air Patrol also said in a statement that it "does not condone such behavior from its members." Jonathan Holder said in the initial post, which has since been removed, that he was offended that Republican Rep. Stephanie Clayton, of Overland Park, proposed legislation that would undermine his constitutional rights. Overland Park police continue to investigate. Holder didn't immediately respond to an email message from The Associated Press. But he said Monday in a Facebook message that "I stand by what I said."
Judge Rules Federal Firearms Regulations Trump Kansas Gun Laws
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A federal judge has rejected arguments that a Kansas law can shield from federal prosecution anyone owning firearms made, sold and kept in the state. The ruling casts doubt on the legality of similar laws in nine states across the nation. The decision handed down Tuesday by U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten allows federal firearms charges against Shane Cox and Jeremy Kettler to stand. Jurors in November found Cox guilty of making and marketing unregistered firearms, and found Ketter guilty of having an unregistered gun silencer. Lawyers for the two men argued that the National Firearms Act was unconstitutional under the government's taxing authority and raised Second Amendment and state rights issues. Marten cited Supreme Court precedent in rejecting their arguments.
Kansas City Health Care Foundation Settles Lawsuit Against HCA
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A lawsuit filed seven years ago over the acquisition of the former Health Midwest hospital chain in the Kansas City area is settled. The Kansas City Star reports that the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City will receive about $160 million from its lawsuit against the Hospital Corporation of America. The lawsuit alleged HCA didn't meet a capital improvement commitment it made as part of its purchase of the hospital chain. It follows another $15 million settlement in 2015 over whether HCA met its agreements on uncompensated care.The foundation awards grants to area nonprofits that provide health care services. Foundation officials said the total $175 million will be used to continue promoting quality health for the uninsured and underserved.
Judge Sets Hearing for Kansas Man Accused in Bomb Plot
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has set date to hear arguments this month on whether to keep jailed pending trial a Kansas man accused of plotting to attack Somali immigrants. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren scheduled a February 24 hearing for Patrick Stein, whom prosecutors say was the leader of a militia group called "The Crusaders." The move comes a day after his attorney asked for a review an earlier detention order. In October, U.S. Magistrate Gwynne Birzer found he poses "a grave danger" to the community. Prosecutors allege Stein and co-defendants Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen plotted to detonate truck bombs at an apartment complex where 120 Somali immigrants live in the meatpacking town of Garden City. They have pleaded not guilty to conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction.
Kansas Pilot Program to Improve Rural Food Access
ST. JOHN, Kan. (AP) — The Sunflower Foundation has approved a statewide pilot program to help fund community-based strategies for addressing food access in rural Kansas. The Hutchinson News reports that the $120,000 pilot project called Project HERO — Healthy Eating: Rural Opportunities is planning to initially fund efforts in eight communities. The 12-month pilot is allowing St. John to receive a $60,000 Sunflower grant to open a grocery store in the town of less than 1,300 people. Stafford County Economic Development Executive Director Carolyn Dunn says that after the town's only grocery store closed almost one year ago, residents have had to drive 12 miles into Stafford to find the closest grocery. GROW Hodgeman and the Harvey County Food and Farm Council are also receiving HERO grants.
Report: Kansas Player Vick Likely Hit Female Student
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas found that sophomore basketball player Lagerald Vick likely committed domestic violence against a female student in 2015 but it is unclear if Vick was punished. The Kansas City Star reports the university's Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access recommended two years of school probation for Vick after investigating a report that that Vick hit the female in the arm more than once and kicked her in the face. However, it's unclear if Vick was ever put on probation. He has not been charged with a crime. University officials and basketball coach Bill Self declined to discuss the incident. KU forward Carlton Bragg was suspended this week from the team after being charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.
Kansas Hunting Guide and Others Face Charges
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Federal prosecutors have indicted a Kansas hunting guide, two of his employees and a customer from Georgia on charges of violating federal hunting laws. U.S. Attorney Tom Beall announced Tuesday that 34-year-old Josh Hedges of Grenola, who owns Eagle Head Outfitters, was indicted on 12 counts of unlawful sale and transport of wildlife and one count of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. One of his employees, 32-year-old Allen Stroot of Park City, is also accused of violating the Migratory Bird Act. Another employee, 25-year-old Jerad Stroot, of Colwich, faces six charges of unlawful sale or transport of wildlife. And 61-year-old Steve Seagraves of Douglasville, Georgia, a customer of Hedges' business, is charged with one count of violating the Migratory Bird Act.
Midwest Economic Survey Suggests Improvement in January
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Results from a monthly survey of business supply managers suggest economic conditions continue to improve in nine Midwest and Plains states. The Mid-America Business Conditions Index report released Wednesday says the overall economic index for the region rose to 54.7 in January from 53.1 in December. It's the highest figure since February 2015 and the third monthly increase in a row. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he says the increases point to an improving regional manufacturing economy. The survey results are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth in that factor. A score below that suggests decline. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
Suspect in Death, Baby's Kidnapping Returned to Kansas
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The woman accused of murdering a Wichita woman and kidnapping her newborn baby is now in a Kansas jail. Online jail records show Yesenia Sesmas was booked Wednesday afternoon into the Sedgwick County Detention Center in Wichita. KAKE-TV reports the Dallas County Sheriff's Office says was released from that county's jail Wednesday morning to be taken to Kansas. Sesmas is accused of killing Laura Abarca-Nogueda at a west Wichita apartment in November. She then allegedly took the woman's daughter, Sofia, who was six days old at the time. Sesmas and the baby were found two days later a Dallas home. The child was not injured and was returned to relatives in Wichita. The 34-year-old Sesmas was in custody in Dallas and was served extradition papers January 6.
Wichita Man Wins Lifetime of Super Bowl Tickets
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man says his phone has been "blowing up" since he won a Bud Light promotion giving him Super Bowl tickets for life. The Wichita Eagle reports that it all started at Christmas time when 52-year-old Lyle Randa made a quick beer run. The 30 pack he purchased contained a gold can that allowed him to enter a drawing. Six other contestants won a pair of season tickets to their favorite team for the 2017-18 NFL season. But only Randa's gold can was the Willy Wonka golden ticket for a lifetime of Super Bowl attendance for two — up to 51 years from now. Randa plans to put the gold can in a shadow box along with all his Super Bowl tickets. He described what happened as "bright-lights-kind-of-crazy."
KU Basketball Player Granted Diversion for Drug Charge
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. has been granted diversion for after being charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. Lawrence Municipal Court Administrator Vicki Stanwix confirmed Wednesday that an agreement had been reached in Bragg's case. She did not comment on the terms. Bragg was suspended from the third-ranked Jayhawks for the drug charge. The paraphernalia was found during the investigation of an alleged rape in December at McCarthy Hall, a dorm that houses the basketball team and other male juniors and seniors at the university. The KU Public Safety Office says there is no indication the two cases are related. Calls to the city prosecutor and associate athletics director Jim Marchiony were not immediately returned. Bragg's attorney Hatem Chahine declined to comment.
Royals Announce $12 Million, 2-Year Deal with Brandon Moss
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals announced their $12 million, two-year contract with first baseman and outfielder Brandon Moss on Wednesday, a deal that includes a mutual option for 2019. The sides agreed to the contract earlier this week, but Moss still needed to pass a physical. He gets $3.75 million this year and $7.25 million in 2018, and the mutual option is for $10 million with a $1 million buyout. Moss can earn $500,000 annually in performance bonuses based on plate appearances: $50,000 each for 275 and each additional 25 through 500. The 33-year-old is likely to fill the designated hitter spot vacated by Kendrys Morales, who became a free agent and signed with the Blue Jays. He hit .225 in 128 games with the Cardinals last season, but he also had 28 homers and 67 RBIs. His power was coveted by the Royals, who have relied on grinding out runs for years. Moss hit 30 homers with Oakland in 2013, and has hit 123 of them since the start of the 2012 season.