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Headlines for Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Kansas news headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas Tax Collections Fall $74.5M Short in May 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is reporting that its tax collections last month were $74.5 million lower than anticipated. The Department of Revenue reported Wednesday that the state collected $469.5 million in taxes in May, when the official projection was $544 million. The shortfall was 13.7 percent. The state has failed to hit its revenue projections 10 of the past 12 months. And state officials and university economy issued a new, more pessimistic revenue forecast in April. The state missed its projections for individual and corporate income tax collections in May by wide margins. The department blamed slumps in agriculture, energy production and aircraft manufacturing.


Kansas Legislature Adjourns 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Legislature has formally adjourned its annual session. Lawmakers convened Wednesday for an adjournment ceremony, but they also overrode Republican Governor Sam Brownback's veto of a tax bill, and the Senate approved a resolution condemning a recent federal directive to public schools on accommodating transgender students. The House adjourned at 1:45 pm. The Senate gaveled out of session at 2:35 pm. It was lawmakers' 74th day, making it the shortest annual session since 1974. Legislators did not consider any proposed responses to a recent state Supreme Court decision rejecting education funding changes made earlier this year. That could lead to a special session later this month.


Kansas GOP Lawmakers Allege Court Ruling Political

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top Republican legislators are accusing the Kansas Supreme Court of issuing its latest education funding ruling to help justices survive attempts to oust them in the November election. Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce said Wednesday that he believes the court is trying to shift voters' attention away from unpopular past decisions that struck down death sentences in capital murder cases. House Speaker Ray Merrick also said the school funding decision was political. The court did not respond to a request for comment. The court on Friday rejected some education funding changes approved by legislators earlier this year and warned that schools won't reopen if lawmakers don't make additional fixes to help poor school districts by June 30. Five of the court's seven justices face yes-or-no retention votes in November.


Kansas Senate Condemns Federal Transgender Student Directive 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has condemned a recent federal directive requiring public schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms and other facilities associated with their gender identities instead of their birth genders. The vote Wednesday was 30-8, with all of the no votes coming from the chamber's Democrats. The chamber's effort to criticize the directive was spearheaded by Senate President Susan Wagle. The Wichita Republican said the directive is an overreach by the federal government and the resolution is in response to the desire of parents to protect their children. Republican Senator Steve Fitzgerald, of Leavenworth, called transgenderism "insanity," saying many transgender individuals are denying reality. Democrats argued that the resolution was a distraction when lawmakers should be boosting state aid to poor school districts in response to a state Supreme Court ruling. They also said it was discriminatory.


The Latest: AG Says Kansas Will Sue over Transgender Bathroom Directive

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says Kansas will be joining litigation against the federal government for a directive that public schools allow transgender students to use the restrooms that match their gender identity, not their sex at birth. Schmidt's announcement Wednesday came ahead of a Senate debate on a nonbinding resolution that condemns the recent directive from President Barack Obama's administration. Texas and 10 other states already have filed suit against the federal government over the directive. Schmidt said in a statement that Governor Sam Brownback also favors joining the list of plaintiffs against the federal government. Schmidt said he is now considering whether Kansas will join the same lawsuit with the 11 other states or if it will pursue its own.


Activists Rally Against Restroom Resolution 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —  Transgender activists and religious figures have met at the Kansas Statehouse in opposition to a Senate resolution rebuking the Obama administration's directive that public schools allow transgender students to use the restrooms that match their gender identity. Equality Kansas, the state's leading LGBT group, held a rally to oppose the nonbinding resolution, which the Senate was to vote on today. Activist Sandra Meade calls the resolution a ploy to distract from the urgent need to act on school funding. The Kansas Senate is set to vote on the bathroom resolution Wednesday, the final day of the legislative session. Lawmakers abandoned an effort Wednesday to pass school funding legislation to respond to the state Supreme Court's Friday ruling that the existing funding system is unconstitutional.


Kansas Lawmakers Override Brownback on Tax Veto

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Republican-dominated Kansas Legislature has voted overwhelmingly to override GOP Gov. Sam Brownback's veto of a bill enmeshed in a multi-million dollar tax dispute involving a retired pizza magnate. The votes Wednesday were 39-1 in the Senate and 120-0 in the House. Brownback rejected the bill over a provision dealing with how tax disputes are handled. The override was an unusual rebuke for the GOP governor. The provision would have ensured that any taxpayer losing a dispute before the Board of Tax Appeals could have another full trial in district court before a limited review by the state Court of Appeals. The debate comes as ex-pizza magnate Gene Bicknell is asking the state Supreme Court to order the state to refund $42.5 million in income taxes.


Congressmen Question Voter Registration Actions by Elections Official 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Three Democratic U.S. congressmen have asked a federal agency whether a top elections official had the right to unilaterally change voter registration forms in three states to require proof of citizenship. Representatives Elijah Cummings, Robert Brady and James E. Clyburn asked the chairman of the Election Assistance Commission on Wednesday for records connected to EAC executive director Brian Newby's amendment of forms in Kansas, Alabama and Georgia. The group is seeking documents relating to requests from the three states to modify voter registration forms; all analysis of the impact of modifying federal voter registration forms; and all documents giving Newby the authority to unilaterally make the changes. Voting rights activists criticized the changes Newby made in February as a "secretive move" that created additional barriers for potential voters.


Flour Recalled by General Mills Largely from Missouri Plant 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — General Mills says the 10 million pounds of its flour recalled over a possible link to an E. coli outbreak in 20 states largely was produced at the company's Kansas City, Missouri plant. But company spokesman Mike Siemienas says the E. coli strain hasn't been found in any General Mills flour products or at the Missouri site. The recall announced Tuesday is for several varieties of Gold Medal and Signature Kitchens flour that were sold at Safeway, Albertsons and other supermarkets. The company said 38 people were sickened from mid-December through May 3. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that half of the people used flour before getting sick, some of it a General Mills brand. General Mills said some also may have eaten raw dough or batter.


Kansas Developer Indicted on 13 Bankruptcy Fraud Counts 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka, Kansas, real estate developer has been indicted by federal grand jurors on 103 counts of bankruptcy fraud. Sixty-four-year-old Kent Lindemuth filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November 2012, claiming he had more than $3.5 million of debt. While federal law stipulates that any property obtained after the bankruptcy filing belongs to the bankruptcy estate. But Lindemuth is accused in Wednesday's indictment of buying more than 100 firearms valued at more than $80,000 from August 2013 to late 2014. Lindemuth didn't tell his creditors or the bankruptcy trustee about the firearms or the money used to buy them. Online court records don't show whether Lindemuth has an attorney.


University of Kansas Seeks Dismissal of Rape Lawsuit

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - The University of Kansas is asking a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a former student who alleges she was raped by a football player on the Lawrence campus. The university says in a federal court filing that the school was not at fault in the alleged rape of Daisy Tackett. Tackett's lawsuit says the university didn't properly respond to her rape report or protect her from retaliation by the man and her rowing coaches. The university's motion for dismissal says the school is liable for harassment only when it knows about it and is deliberately indifferent. The motion says the university did not now about any prior sexual assaults by the person Tackett has accused. The football player has not been named.


Man Frees Kansas Judge After Several-Hour Hostage Standoff

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) _ Police in Garden City says a gunman who held the county's chief judge hostage over a child custody matter eventually surrendered and released the victim without harm.  Authorities say the standoff began about 7 am Tuesday, when the suspect forced his way into 61-year-old Wendel Wurst's home and confronted the man and his wife at gunpoint.  The gunman released the woman a short time later, and she called police from a neighbor's home. The standoff ended peacefully several hours later. Police say the suspect was upset over a custody case Wurst handled as Finney County's chief judge. There was no immediate word about any charges resulting from the incident.

Former Kansas Police Chief Admits Role in Gun Scheme 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former police chief near Wichita has admitted in federal court that he played a role in a scheme to buy and sell discounted firearms by falsely claiming they would be used for law enforcement purposes. Former Bel Aire chief John Daily pleaded guilty Tuesday in Wichita to a count of theft of government money, property or records. Prosecutors say Daily admitted that twice in 2012, he misrepresented firearms as being solely for law enforcement purposes, wrongly exempting the guns' makers from paying about $300 in taxes to the U.S. government. Daily faces up to a year in prison and as much as $100,000 in fines when sentenced on August 17. Bel Aire is a small suburban community just north of Wichita.


Man Charged in 2-State Rampage Pleads Not Guilty in Missouri

MONTGOMERY CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Mexican national charged with five shooting deaths pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of a Missouri man. KRCG-TV reports Pablo Serrano-Vitorino entered the plea Wednesday during a brief arraignment in Montgomery County Court. Prosecutors allege Serrano-Vitorino shot four men to death in Kansas City, Kansas on March 7 and then fled to Missouri. They allege he shot and killed Randy Nordman the next day during a confrontation in Nordman's garage in New Florence, Missouri. Montgomery County Prosecutor Nathan Carroz has said he will seek the death penalty for Serrano-Vitorino in Nordman's death. Serrano-Vitorino's next court appearance is scheduled August 3. He also is charged with four counts of first-degree murder in Kansas. Prosecutors haven't announced whether they will seek the death penalty in Kansas.


Midwest Economic Survey Index Rose in May

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Figures from a survey of supply managers in nine Midwest and Plains states have risen, suggesting economic growth ahead. A report issued Wednesday says the Mid-American Business Conditions index hit 52.1 in May, compared with 50.1 in April and 50.6 in March. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he says the region's manufacturing sector is expanding. 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. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.


Kansas Education Commissioner Calls for More Counselors
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The top education official in Kansas says he fears that school counselor positions in the state have become too focused on administrative tasks. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that education commissioner Randy Watson addressed more than 350 school counselors from across the state at an annual conference Tuesday in Manhattan organized by Kansas State University. Kansas data indicates that each public school counselor in the state handles about 440 students each. Watson says the state needs to decrease that number. Watson says counselors often pour many hours into administrative duties that detract them from fulfilling their mission of helping students build social and emotional skills and explore options for after high school. He says Kansas schools need to rethink the number of counselors they employ as well as what tasks they assign to counselors.


Missouri Man Accused of Beating Toddler Who Later Died 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 31-year-old Kansas City, Missouri man is accused of beating a 15-month-old boy who later died of his injuries. Jackson County (Missouri) Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker charged Nathaniel Littlefield with child abuse and child endangerment. Those charges were filed before the child died early Wednesday. According to court records, Littlefield was supervising the boy and his brother Sunday while their mother, who was Littlefield's girlfriend, worked. The mother later found the 15-month-old unresponsive and took him to a hospital. Doctors say the boy sustained severe head trauma and a lacerated liver. Littlefield reportedly told investigators he hit the boy in the head to resuscitate him, and that he left the children home alone while he picked up their mother from work. Online court records don't show whether Littlefield has an attorney.


Kansas Woman Admits Shoplifting Thousands of Dollars in Merchandise 

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) _ A suburban Kansas City woman has admitted in court that she stole tens of thousands of dollars of stolen clothing and merchandise she was peddling out of her nearly $1 million home.  Forty-six-year-old Kelli Bauer of Overland Park, Kansas, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Johnson County to a felony theft charge. It alleged she stole between $25,000 and $100,000.   Bauer also pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor theft counts.  Bauer was charged last year after police found stolen merchandise in her home during a search prompted her Facebook posting for the private sale of more than 1,000 pieces of ``high-end'' women's clothing.  As part of the investigation, detectives also followed Bauer and said they saw her stealing items from several stores.   Sentencing is scheduled for July 20. 

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