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Headlines for Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Here's a look at area headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas House Panel Rejects Anti-Concealed Carry Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers who oppose concealed guns in hospitals and on university campuses have failed to revive legislation that would keep such weapons out after June. The House Federal and State Affairs Committee rejected a bill Wednesday to allow the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas, to continue banning concealed guns. The 11-11 vote keeps the bill stuck in committee. A state law will require those institutions and state universities and colleges on July 1 to allow adults 21 and older to carry concealed weapons into buildings that don't have security measures such as guards or metal detectors. An effort to expand the House committee's bill beyond the medical center to other hospitals failed. A Senate committee earlier this month rejected broader limits on concealed carry.


Kansas Legislature Continues Work on State Budget 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Latest on the Kansas Legislature's debate over increasing taxes to balance the state budget (all times local):

5:40 p.m.

Republican Governor Sam Brownback says he would not sign a bill advanced by the Kansas House that would increase personal income taxes to help balance the state budget. While Brownback stopped short Wednesday of saying he would veto the bill, he strongly criticized the measure during a speech to members of the National Federation of Independent Business. He urged NFIB members to lobby against it. The House gave first-round approval Wednesday to the bill. It would raise more than $1 billion over two years and abandon core tax policies Brownback successfully pushed in 2012 and 2013. Brownback told reporters afterward he has never been for income tax increases. He said in a statement later that the bill would hurt middle-class families.

2:55 p.m.

Republican Governor Sam Brownback says a bill advanced by the Kansas House that would increase personal income taxes is "a big step backwards." Brownback made his comments in a speech Wednesday at the Statehouse to members of the National Federation of Independent Business. His remarks came after the House gave first-round approval to a bill that would increase income taxes by raising more than $1 billion over two years. Supporters are promoting it as the best way to balance the budget. The bill would abandon core policies Brownback pushed in 2012 and 2013. He said, "This is just really going the wrong way." Brownback contends tax cuts previously championed have created economic growth. But the state has struggled to balance its budget since.

11:55 a.m.

The Kansas House has given first-round approval to a bill that would increase personal income taxes to help balance the budget by raising more than $1 billion over two years. The vote Wednesday was 83-39, setting up a second final vote Thursday to determine whether the measure goes to the Senate. The bill would abandon core policies championed by GOP Gov. Sam Brownback. While Republicans in the House were split, enough of them voted with Democrats to give the bill its strong margin. Kansas faces budget shortfalls totaling nearly $1.1 billion through June 2019. The state has experienced persistent financial problems since Republican lawmakers slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback's urging.

11:45 a.m.

The Kansas House is debating a bill that would increase personal income taxes to balance the state budget. The measure before the Republican-controlled chamber Wednesday would raise more than $1 billion in new revenues over two years, starting in July. The bill would abandon core policies championed by GOP Gov. Sam Brownback. The measure has bipartisan support but Republicans in the House are split. Kansas faces budget shortfalls totaling nearly $1.1 billion through June 2019. The state has experienced persistent financial problems since Republican lawmakers slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback's urging. The bill would end an exemption for more than 330,000 farmers and business owners and boost income tax rates. The top rate would rise to 5.45 percent from 4.6 percent.

9:55 a.m.

Two key Republican lawmakers say a Democratic budget-balancing proposal to increase personal income taxes could pass the GOP-controlled Kansas Senate. The tax increase before the Senate is larger than an income tax increase the House was planning to debate Wednesday. The House plan would raise more than $1 billion over two years starting in July. The proposal from Senate Democrats would generate $1.2 billion in new revenues over two years. But GOP Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning of Overland Park and tax committee Chairwoman Caryn Tyson of Parker said they believe the Democratic plan could pass with the help of new Republican senators. Kansas faces budget shortfalls totaling nearly $1.1 billion through June 2019. Lawmakers in both parties are trying to balance the budget without cutting education funding.

8:25 a.m.

The Kansas House is considering proposals to balance the state budget that are designed prevent a cut in aid to public schools. House members planned to debate a bill Wednesday that would raise personal income taxes to raise more than $1 billion over two years starting in July. They planned to debate another bill Thursday that would permit $317 million in internal government borrowing. Kansas faces budget shortfalls totaling nearly $1.1 billion through June 2019. Lawmakers do not believe they can raise revenues quickly enough to close a gap of about $320 million projected for June 30. Senate Republican leaders were pushing a budget-balancing plan last week that included a $128 million education funding cut. But they canceled a debate on it when support for the measure collapsed.

5:52 a.m.

Kansas legislators who favor balancing the state budget with a big income tax increase are preparing to test fellow lawmakers' appetite for such a fix. The state House was planning to debate a bill Wednesday that would boost personal income taxes to raise more than $1 billion over two years, starting in July. The measure would abandon core policies championed by Republican Governor Sam Brownback. The measure has bipartisan support but Republicans in the GOP-controlled House are split. Kansas faces budget shortfalls totaling nearly $1.1 billion through June 2019. The state has experienced persistent financial problems since Republican lawmakers slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback's urging. The bill would end an exemption for more than 330,000 farmers and business owners and boost income tax rates.


Kansas Senate to Debate Democrats' Income Tax Hike Proposal

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has advanced a budget-balancing proposal from Democrats to raise $1.2 billion over two years by increasing income taxes. The Assessment and Taxation Committee on Tuesday forwarded a bill to the Senate that contains the plan. But the Republican-controlled panel specifically did not endorse the measure in its voice vote. Majority Leader and Overland Park Republican Jim Denning said the Senate would debate tax issues Thursday. The bill ends an income tax exemption for more than 330,000 farmers and business owners and restores a third tax bracket eliminated in 2012. It sets the top rate at 6.45 percent instead of the current 4.6 percent. The committee refused to advance a plan from Governor Sam Brownback to boost cigarette and liquor taxes and business filing fees.


Kansas Governor Confirms Office Calls Intercepted by Feds 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says his office has received a letter from the U.S. Justice Department about the federal government intercepting calls to his office from an ex-legislator's number. Brownback said his office received the letter Wednesday about calls from a number that in 2015 went to then-State Senator Michael O'Donnell, a Republican from Wichita. O'Donnell said Wednesday he was shocked to learn his phone was tapped in 2015. The governor says his letter is similar to letters sent to reporters in Wichita, where businessman Brandon Steven has confirmed he's the subject of an inquiry into poker and his efforts to open a casino in southeast Kansas in 2015. A Justice Department spokesman in Wichita didn't return messages seeking comment. An aide to Senate President Susan Wagle says her office also received a letter.


Kansas Lawmakers Consider Potentially Costly Immigration Bills 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Law enforcement officials would be required to help immigration officials under two bills before a Kansas Senate committee. One bill would compel the Kansas Highway Patrol to look into an agreement allowing its officers to get training in federal immigration laws so they could help enforce them. The other would crack down on jurisdictions that don't comply with immigration authorities' requests to detain immigrants who are in the country illegally. The bills are backed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has championed tough voting and immigration bills. But opponents say resources for the highway patrol would be expensive. They also raised concern about the expense of detainments and that the detainments could lead to costly litigation.


Wichita Police: 2 Officers on Leave Pending Investigations

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say two officers are on administrative leave pending the outcome of internal and criminal investigations. The department released no details other than saying it possibly involves misconduct and the move was prompted by another agency's criminal probe. The Wichita Eagle reports that some 2015 phone calls of former state Senator Michael O'Donnell, now a Sedgwick County commissioner, were intercepted by investigators. The paper says two former employees were sent letters by the Justice Department saying their calls with him had been intercepted. O'Donnell did not respond to a message seeking comment. Wichita businessman Brandon Steven told the paper he is the subject of an inquiry into poker and efforts to open a casino. Federal officials notified several parties that calls with him also were intercepted.


Kansas Still Studying Fiscal Impact of Medicaid Expansion

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials and Medicaid expansion advocates are at odds over what it would cost to expand KanCare, the state's privatized Medicaid program. Proponents say the expansion would be at least budget neutral and possibly profitable because of the money it would bring in from the federal government, fees from managed care organizations and potential jobs created. The state's estimate on the cost is being reviewed, delaying a discussion House Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Representative Daniel Hawkins said was going to occur today (WED). Hawkins said he hopes to have the estimate by the end of the week to continue work on the bill.


Central Kansas Sees Water Levels Rise, Ogallala Declines 

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Central Kansas farmers are shutting down their wells more often as two aquifers saw water levels rise from last year's timely rains. The Hutchinson News reports the Kansas Geological Survey released data on aquifer levels this week. The state collects the data annually in early January to monitor the health of the multi-state High Plains Aquifer, which comprises three smaller aquifers in Kansas. The Great Bend Prairie Aquifer rose more than half a foot, while the Equus Beds Aquifer rose an average more than 2 feet. The increases come after a multiyear drought that lowered water levels in 2011 and 2012. The Ogallala Aquifer in western Kansas continues to shrink, a trend that has continued for the past 70 to 80 years. Water-data manager Brownie Wilson says water levels in that aquifer have fallen an average 40 feet since 1996.


K-State President Asks Fans to Stop Vulgar Chants 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The president of Kansas State University has asked Wildcat basketball fans to stop using vulgar chants targeted at the Kansas Jayhawks when the rivals meet in Bramlage Coliseum. The Wichita Eagle reports that K-State President Richard Myers spoke out against the chants Wednesday in a letter to the public posted on the university's website. He described the chants as "personally embarrassing." Kansas State students chanted an expletive followed by "KU" in a variety of songs when the Jayhawks visited Manhattan on February 6. Kansas pulled away late in the game, winning 74-71. Myers says friends across the country reached out to him, expressing dismay about the conduct. The university has tried in the past to address the chant by promoting sportsmanship and eliminating some songs from the arena's playlist.


Kansas Post-Secondary Degrees Struggle to Match Workforce 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Education Commissioner says the state isn't keeping up with getting the number of students with post-secondary degrees to match workforce needs. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Commissioner Randy Watson presented state Board of Education members with National Student Clearinghouse data at their monthly meeting Tuesday. The statistics show that of the nearly 65 percent of Kansas' 2010 high school graduates who immediately went to a post-secondary institution, less than half of them stayed in school for a second consecutive year. Factoring in 2010's 14 percent high school dropout rate in Kansas, Watson says the state's workforce needs to have "some kind of skill beyond high school." Board members like Janet Waugh say the data's concerning, and that it shows the state is "not doing a good enough job."


Topeka Restaurant/Nightclub Damaged in Fire 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A fire that badly damaged a restaurant and nightclub near downtown Topeka is under investigation. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the fire at the Famous Door & Thelma's Corner was reported just before 6 a.m. Damage is estimated at $125,000. No one was hurt. Dispatchers received several calls about the fire from motorists on Interstate 70 who spotted it. Topeka Fire Department Battalion Chief Chris Herrera says flames were through the roof when firefighters arrived. A possible electrical malfunction is among the causes being investigated.


Body Found in Creek Was KC Woman Missing Since January 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A body found in a Kansas City creek has been identified as a 63-year-old woman missing for a month. The Kansas City Star reports that the body found Monday is that of Inous Revels. Kansas city Fire Department crews recovered the body from Brush Creek. Police announced her identity on Wednesday. Police say there are no obvious signs of foul play. The cause of death is being investigated by the medical examiner. Revels lived in the area where her body was found.


Kansas City Woman Acquitted in Killings of Father and His Girlfriend

LEBANON, Mo. (AP) - A Kansas City-area attorney has been acquitted in the killing of her millionaire father and his girlfriend at their Missouri lake house. The Kansas City Star reports that jurors found Susan "Liz" Van Note not guilty Tuesday of two counts of first-degree murder in the 2010 attack on 67-year-old William Van Note and 59-year-old Sharon Dickson. Dickson was stabbed and shot at the Lake of the Ozarks house and died at the scene. William Van Note died four days later at a hospital, where authorities say his daughter produced a document suggesting she had power of attorney. Investigators say she requested that the ventilator keeping him alive be shut off. Authorities allege Van Note was in debt and angry that Dickson would have inherited the bulk of her father's estate.


Wichita Store Sued by Family of Woman Killed on Property 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The husband of a woman killed in a Dillons parking lot is suing the grocery store for negligence. The Wichita Eagle reports 60-year-old Annette Hedke died in February 2015 after slipping in the parking lot and then struck by a vehicle driven by Dillons employee Christopher Schrader. Schrader was charged with involuntary manslaughter, driving under the influence and other crimes. He was sentenced to nearly six years in prison. Sean Brennan, Dennis Hedke's attorney, says it's unclear whether Schrader was working at the time of the accident. The suit, asking for more than $75,000, says Dillons should have been aware of Schrader's alcohol problem that's shown from a previous felony DUI conviction. Dillons spokeswoman Sheila Lowrie said she could not comment on the suit, but that the company "remains deeply saddened by the tragic death of Mrs. Hedke."


Missouri Man Admits to Stealing $86,000 from 2 Churches 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City man has pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $86,000 from two churches. The U.S. attorney's office says 59-year-old David Townley, of Raytown, admitted Tuesday to one count of wire fraud, one count of mail fraud and one count of tax evasion. Prosecutors said Townley skimmed money from cash tuition payments while working as the business manager for the Nativity of Mary church and school in Independence. Prosecutors also allege that Townley stole from the Sacred Heart of Guadalupe church in Kansas City while volunteering to pay the church's bills, make financial committee reports and file the church's tax returns.


Minimum Wage Won't Be on Kansas City's April Ballot 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City residents will not vote in April on a proposed minimum wage increase. A Jackson County Circuit Court judge on Tuesday denied an effort to put the minimum wage ordinance on the April 4 ballot, saying the issue needed to go through the city's ordinance approval processes. The Kansas City Star reports Judge Margene Burnett said she also has no authority to order the ordinance placed on the August ballot. She said it was up to the city to ensure the proposal gets through the process to be available for the August ballot. Voters would be asked to decide whether the city should raise its minimum wage of $10 per hour annually until it reaches $15 in 2021. The state's current minimum wage is $7.70 an hour.


Goal Met in Fundraising for KU-Salina Medical Building

SALINA, Kan. (AP) _ Leaders of a fundraising campaign say they have reached their goal for establishing a new home for the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Salina. A news release from Tom Martin, executive director of the Salina Regional Health Foundation says the group has raised more than $7.6 million. Its original goal was just over $7.5 million. The campaign total includes a $2 million gift from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation in Logan. The new center will be in a former bank building in downtown Salina. Demolition work started last fall and new construction is expected to begin soon.  The building is expected to open in June 2018. The Kansas-Salina campus welcomed its first class in July 2011.  


10 Sandzen Works to Be Auctioned This Weekend in Wichita 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Fans of Kansas artist Birger Sandzen will be able to bid on 10 of his works later this month. Sandzen taught in Lindsborg from 1824 until he died in 1954. He created more than 3,000 paintings, 328 prints and countless watercolors and drawings that hang in buildings across Kansas and the world. The Wichita Eagle reports the pieces for sale were owned by Emerson and Freda Moore of Wichita. Emerson Moore died last month and his daughter, Terry Moore, decided to auction them. The auction is scheduled Saturday at the Woody Auction Gallery in Wichita. The collection includes four oil paintings with a starting bid of $7,500 each, three lithographs with a starting bid at $250, one drypoint and one watercolor.


Travis Wood, Royals Finalize $12M, 2-Year Deal 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Left-hander Travis Wood and the Kansas City Royals have finalized a $12 million, two-year contract. Wood gets $4 million this year and $6.5 million in 2018, and the agreement includes and $8.5 mutual option for 2019 with a $1.5 million buyout. The 30-year-old was 4-0 with a 2.95 ERA in a career-high 77 appearances with the Chicago Cubs last season. He held lefties to a .128 average. A 2013 NL All-Star, Wood spent the last five seasons with the Cubs after arriving in a trade with Cincinnati in 2011. He has a 43-52 career record with a 4.00 ERA in 133 starts and 126 relief appearances. Since transitioning to the bullpen in 2015, he is 7-2 with a 2.95 ERA in 122 appearances. Pitcher Brian Flynn was placed on the 60-day disabled list with a back injury.


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