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Headlines for Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Kansas House GOP Outlines Changes to Clear Way for Tax Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican legislators are proposing changes to a plan for raising Kansas sales, cigarette and business taxes aimed at winning final approval for the tax increases to balance the budget. GOP House members presented their changes Wednesday to negotiators on tax issues for their chamber and the Senate. Their proposals are mostly technical changes to policy measures added to a Senate-passed bill increasing the sales tax to 6.55 percent from 6.15 percent and boosting the cigarette tax by 50 cents a pack to $1.29. The plan also would raise business taxes by $24 million during the fiscal year beginning July 1, the biggest increase Republican Governor Sam Brownback will accept. If negotiators agree to the changes, both chambers would consider them separately from the sales, cigarette and business tax increases.


Leader of Kansas House GOP Group Relents on Business Taxes 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A leader of a group of House Republicans has acknowledged it will not win approval for a larger increase in taxes for business owners than GOP Governor Sam Brownback wanted. Republican Representative Mark Hutton of Wichita said Wednesday that increasing taxes for business owners by $24 million during the fiscal year beginning July 1 is the best his group can do. Hutton and other House Republicans were pushing for an increase of as much as $101 million. But Brownback had promised to veto any increase greater than $24 million. A 2012 policy championed by Brownback ended income taxes on the profits of 281,000 business owners and 53,000 farmers. Hutton said it's time for lawmakers to move on and close a projected budget shortfall. They're considering sales and cigarette tax increases.


Kansas Higher Ed System Would Lose $48M Under Potential Cuts  

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Board of Regents says the state's higher education system would lose $48 million from potential spending cuts if legislators do not increase taxes to close a budget shortfall.  Regents spokeswoman Breeze Richardson said Tuesday that the board and universities face difficult conversations about priorities if the cuts occur. Budget Director Shawn Sullivan on Monday told some House Republicans that Governor Sam Brownback's most likely option for balancing the budget would be across-the-board cuts of 6.2 percent. He said spending would be reduced by $400 million to avert a deficit for the fiscal year beginning July 1. University of Kansas spokesman Tim Caboni said its Lawrence campus would lose $8.3 million and its Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas, would lose $6.7 million, for a total of $15 million.

Kansas Education Officials See Cuts Affecting Classrooms

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A lobbyist for Kansas school boards and a state Department of Education official say potential spending cuts outlined by Gov. Sam Brownback's budget director would be felt in classrooms. Kansas Association of School Boards lobbyist Mark Tallman said Tuesday that public schools would be forced to consider holding positions open and allowing class sizes to increase. Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis said school districts would lose funds for utilities and transportation as well.  Budget Director Shawn Sullivan on Monday said if lawmakers don't pass a bill increasing taxes, Brownback's most likely option is an across-the-board cut in state spending of 6.2 percent. Sullivan said the cuts would total about $400 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Sullivan said public schools would lose $197 million in state aid. 

Kansas Prison System Could Face Program and Staff Cuts 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Corrections could be forced to eliminate programs and cut staffing if the Legislature can't pass tax increases to balance the state budget. Spokesman Adam Pfannenstiel said Wednesday that such cuts would compromise public safety. Governor Sam Brownback's budget director has said that Brownback would most likely cut $400 million from the budget approved by lawmakers for the fiscal year beginning July 1 if they don't raise taxes to avert a deficit. Agencies would lose 6.2 percent of their state funds. Pfannenstiel said the Department of Corrections could eliminate several programs aimed at transitioning prisoners into productive civilian life. He said the prison population would rise. He said at least 70 vacant corrections officer positions could be eliminated and many probation officers could be laid off.


Budget Cuts Would Cost Kansas State Hospitals $46M

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Governor Sam Brownback's budget director says state hospitals for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled and the agency that runs them could lose a total of nearly $46 million if lawmakers don't increase taxes.  Budget Director Shawn Sullivan said Tuesday that the state Department for Aging and Disability Services would lose $41 million during the fiscal year beginning July 1. Its four hospitals would lose nearly $5 million. Sullivan has told lawmakers that if they don't approve tax increases, Brownback's most likely option for balancing the budget is an across-the-board cut of 6.2 percent to save $400 million. The state's hospitals for the mentally ill in Larned and Osawatomie would lose almost $3.5 million. State hospitals for the developmentally disabled in Parsons and Topeka would lose nearly $1.3 million. 


Court Dismisses Union's Lawsuit over Kansas Law on Tenure 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Shawnee County court has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the state's largest teachers' union over a new state law that ended guaranteed tenure for public school teachers. The Legislature passed a law in April 2014 that increased state aid to poor school districts. The law included other education policy changes, including the anti-tenure provision. The Kansas National Education Association sued last August. The union contended lawmakers violated the state constitution by including the new policy in an education funding measure. The constitution requires most bills to contain only one subject. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports an order dated June 4 dismissed the lawsuit. The court said it could not determine that the new law was only an appropriations bill, which meant the tenure provision could be included.


Kansas Judge Denies Records Request from Student 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A judge has denied a University of Kansas student's request to have records from a research center subject to open records laws. A student group is seeking the release of hundreds of pages of emails and other documents to determine what ties exist between Art Hall, executive director of an economic research center, and billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Douglas County Judge James McCabria on Tuesday denied student Schuyler Kraus's request to deem those records subject to the Kansas Open Records Act, which would allow the university to release them. McCabria says more evidence is needed to resolve disputed facts, including whether Hall's a public employee. Hall's lawyer says his client's a private individual and that needs "further exploration" in a trial setting.


3 Kansas School Districts Approve Bond Issues

HAVEN, Kan. (AP) - Residents in three Kansas school districts approved bond issues for capital improvements in the districts. Voters in Haven on Tuesday approved a $12 million bond issue for athletic facilities including a gymnasium, baseball and softball fields and a new weight room/tornado shelter. In Haysville, voters approved a $59 million bond issue for 16 projects, including a new school, tornado shelters and secure entrances at all district schools. The proposed projects will be scheduled at different times but all major projects are expected to be completed by 2017. Also on Tuesday, voters in the Maize school district approved a $70.7 million bond issue for several projects including storm shelters and an early childhood center. But voters rejected a proposal to fund a swimming pool and natatorium complex.


Kansas Governor Signs Bill Limiting Appeals for Sex Predators 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Governor Sam Brownback has signed a bill putting new limits on appeals by sex offenders committed indefinitely to a state treatment program. The measure was passed overwhelmingly by both chambers and Brownback signed it Tuesday. Offenders determined by a court to be sexual predators are committed to a treatment program after serving their criminal sentences. The bill would remove the right of confined offenders to request a jury trial when petitioning for release. It also would limit their right to file grievances on some issues. Brownback also signed a bill helping victims of human trafficking by allowing them to file civil lawsuits against perpetrators and collect damages. Both new laws take effect July 1.


Kansas Poultry Shows Cancelled to Prevent Spread of Bird Flu

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas agriculture officials have issued an order prohibiting movement of Kansas poultry in a move to prevent the spread of a devastating form of bird flu. The order announced Tuesday effectively cancels all poultry-related shows and events through the rest of this year. That includes regional and county fairs, festivals, the Kansas State Fair, swap meets and live bird auctions. The order was signed by Kansas Agriculture Secretary Jackie McClaskey. The department says the measure is an effort to prevent the spread of highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza. Deputy Animal Health Commissioner Justin Smith says the decision was not made lightly, but says it was necessary to do everything possible to protect the Kansas poultry flock.


Man Accused of Jewish Site Shootings Appears in Court 

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Law enforcement officers are testifying during a hearing for an avowed white supremacist accused of killing three people at Jewish sites in Kansas. The hearing being held Wednesday is to consider motions in the case against 74-year-old Frazier Glenn Miller Jr. He's asking the judge to bar witness identifications of him from being used during trial. The officers testifying responded to the deadly shootings at the two sites in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park. Miller is charged with capital murder in a shooting spree that killed a 69-year-old man, his 14-year-old grandson and a 53-year-old woman. Miller has said he is dying from emphysema and went to the sites to kill Jewish people. All three victims were Christians. Miller is representing himself, although attorneys are on stand-by.


Lawrence Commission OKs Regulations for Taxis, Excludes Uber

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - The Lawrence City Commission has approved new regulations for taxi companies that do not apply equally to ride-sharing companies such as Uber. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the regulations will require background checks for taxi drivers and sets required insurance rates. The vote on Tuesday comes after the Kansas Legislature passed a new law that limits how cities can directly regulate ride-sharing companies. Taxicab owners say the state law regulates ride-sharing companies less strictly than taxicab companies. Uber stopped operating in Lawrence and other Kansas cities in April after the legislative debate over regulating ride-sharing companies. Since a new law passed, the company is again listing Lawrence as a city it serves.


Report Offers More Upbeat Forecast for Kansas Wheat Crop 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new government report paints a more upbeat forecast for the size of the Kansas winter wheat crop in the wake of plentiful rains this past month. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Wednesday it anticipates this year's wheat production at 314.5 million bushels in Kansas. Its updated estimate reflects the impact of timely rains as the Kansas crop finished maturing. The new forecast is well above the 272 million bushels the agency forecast just a month ago. If realized, this year's Kansas winter wheat will be a vast improvement over last year's drought-plagued crop of 246.4 million bushels. This year's winter wheat across the nation is now anticipated to bring in 1.51 billion bushels, up 2 percent from last month's forecast.


Missouri Father, Son Accused of Defrauding Farmers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri father and son face federal charges accusing them of defrauding farmers out of about $860,000 in a hay-selling scheme that spanned several states. Federal prosecutors in Kansas City say 50-year-old Mark Henry of Cameron, and his son, 28-year-old Mark Henry Jr. of Lucerne, face 15 counts, including conspiracy to defraud and wire fraud. Online court records don't list lawyers for either defendant. They're accused of advertising hay to sell to farmers dealing with drought from 2010 to 2012. Prosecutors say they required farmers to pay in advance for hay that was advertised to be of good quality but actually "consisted of weeds, sticks, bushes, small trees, briars, thistles and woody stems." Their customers were in Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas, Wyoming and New Mexico.


Man Uses Candy Bar to Feign Weapon 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a man used a candy bar in place of a weapon in what a manager thought was a robbery at a Wichita convenience store that was robbed the day before. Wichita media outlets report that around 3 a.m. Tuesday, the man walked into the store and pulled what the manager thought was a handgun and pointed it at him, saying "Freeze! Get on your knees!" Lieutenant James Espinoza said when the suspect began laughing, the manager looked up and saw that the man was actually holding a Kit Kat candy bar. Espinoza said the suspect then left the store without taking anything. Espinoza said the incident does not seem to be related to the robbery that took place the day before.


Girl Pulled from Kansas Hotel Pool, Taken to Hospital

MULVANE, Kan. (AP) — A 4-year-old girl has been taken to a hospital after being pulled out of a hotel pool in Mulvane, Kansas. Wichita media outlets report the girl is in serious condition after being pulled from the pool at a hotel near the Kansas Star Casino Tuesday night. Dave Williams, Mulvane's public safety director, said the girl had been removed from the pool before emergency personnel had arrived. Williams said she was "conscious and breathing and crying." The victim was transported to Wesley Medical Center with injuries that are not life threatening. Williams said there was no lifeguard at the pool.


Kansas Barn Featured in New Coca-Cola Commercial 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 114-year-old barn in central Kansas is the setting for a new Coca-Cola commercial. The Wichita Eagle reports that the 59-second commercial has garnered thousands of views since it was released Monday afternoon. It shows a man and his grandson restoring a 1965 Ford Mustang in the weathered barn. Volunteers spent more than 500 hours reconstructing the interior of the barn to the specifics that New York City film director Zach Lowry needed. In February 2014, Lowry sought help finding a barn from the Kansas Sampler Foundation, whose mission is to preserve and sustain rural culture. More than 2,500 responses came pouring in. But the Dickinson County barn near Chapman was Lowry's favorite. Lowry called Kansas "wonderful" and said he'd "never experienced before such a whole collaborative process."


Kansas City Man Charged in Water Resort Shooting 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 24-year-old Kansas City man has been charged in a fatal shooting at a water park resort. The Jackson County prosecutor's office said Wednesday that Divonte Lewis is charged with second-degree murder in the May 16 shooting of 19-year-old Ryshun Bell at the Coco Key Water Resort. He also faces charges of assault and armed criminal action. A second man was wounded in the shooting. The prosecutor's office says witnesses told police that Lewis and one of the victims argued near the pool area of the water park and when the victim tried to leave, they began arguing near the main entrance, where the shooting is said to have occurred. Prosecutors have requested a $250,000 bond. Online court records don't list a lawyer for Lewis.


Missouri Man Accused of Giving Kids Phones to Watch Porn 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former youth volunteer at a Catholic parish in Kansas City is accused of encouraging children to watch sexually inappropriate material on cell phones he gave them. Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd said Wednesday that 30-year-old Anthony R. Snyder is charged with promoting obscenity and sexual exploitation of a minor. Zahnd says Snyder's accused of encouraging boys to view sexual material on cell phones and computers he provided. Online court records don't list a lawyer for Snyder, who has no listed phone number. He's being held on $200,000. Zahnd says Snyder was a youth ministry volunteer at St. Therese Parish in Platte County from 2006-2008. Archbishop Joseph Naumann said in a letter to parishioners Wednesday when the church was told May 13 about Snyder's "suspicious behavior" officials reported it "immediately."


Cardinals and Royals Fans Show Their Pride 

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Fans of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals are showing off their memorabilia heading into a high-profile matchup. The Columbia Missourian reports that this weekend could be the second time this year the Interstate 70 rivals will play while first in their divisions if the Royals maintain their one-game lead in the American League Central. The series starts Friday in St. Louis. The Missourian went in search of fans, photographing 66-year-old Don Boes of Jefferson City in front of memorabilia, some of it from the 1985 World Series. Photographers also captured 55-year-old John Thessen, of Taos, with a collection that includes seats from the old Busch Stadium. The Cardinals and Royals also had the best records in Major League Baseball when they played in May.


Royals Defeat Twins, 2-0 

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Royals' pitcher Chris Young took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and Salvador Perez homered to help the Kansas City Royals to a 2-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night. Young (5-2) gave up a triple to Trevor Plouffe with one out in the seventh for his only hit of the game. Young struck out two and walked three to bounce back from a pair of ugly starts and put the Royals in a position to sweep the Twins with a win on Wednesday. The Twins' Trevor May (4-4) gave up one run on seven hits with five strikeouts and three walks in six innings. The Twins have scored just five runs in their last four games.



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