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Headlines for Wednesday, June 17, 2015

No Charges after Federal Probe into Kansas Lt. Governor's Campaign Loans to Governor

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's office says federal prosecutors have brought no charges after completing their investigation into loans that the state's lieutenant governor made to the ticket's re-election campaign.  In a statement, the governor's office said the U.S. attorney's office was bringing no charges after completing its investigation "regarding campaign finance matters."  Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer did not respond to messages from the Associated Press seeking comment. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office had no immediate comment.  The three loans totaling $1.5 million raised eyebrows not only because their size is unusual in Kansas politics but because the first two were repaid within days. Some Democrats speculated the loans were an attempt to bolster Brownback's fundraising totals to make the campaign appear in better shape.


Kansas Universities Seek 3.6% Tuition Hike for Coming Year

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Public universities in Kansas are all seeking a 3.6 percent tuition increase.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the University of Kansas and the state's five other Board of Regents schools want 3.6 percent tuition increases for in-state undergraduate students for the coming school year.  At the University of Kansas Lawrence campus, standard tuition for full-time in-state students would increase from about $4,400 to about $4,500 per semester.  In addition to tuition increases, the colleges also are proposing fee increases, which the Board of Regents members also are expected to vote on this week.  Combined tuition and fee increases at the University of Kansas would boost the total amount that students pay by 4.9 percent for in-state undergrads.


Army Corps Declares Flood Emergency in Kansas City, Manhattan

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) —The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has declared an emergency throughout its Kansas City District because of high river levels and a rainy forecast in northwest Missouri. Judd Kneuvean, emergency management director for the Kansas City District, says the corps has delivered 43,000 sandbags for use in the Blue River Basin. The corps also sent 1,000 sandbags to Manhattan, Kansas. Kneuvean says rivers throughout the district are prime for flooding after weeks of intermittent rains. He says part of the problem is water backing up into streams and rivers because of high waters in the Missouri River.


Kansas Governor Signs Bills Increasing Taxes to Fix Budget

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has signed bills raising sales and cigarette taxes to balance the state's next budget. The governor held a Statehouse news conference Tuesday to defend the higher taxes. Brownback said the bills don't really represent a tax increase because of past income tax cuts he pushed successfully through the Legislature in 2012 and 2013. A budget shortfall arose after those income tax cuts, and the two bills passed this year together raise $384 million during the fiscal year beginning July 1 to avert a deficit. One bill increases the sales tax to 6.5 percent from 6.15 percent. The other increases the cigarette tax by 50 cents a pack to $1.29. 


Brownback Signs Bill Changing Rules for Budget Cuts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -  Governor Sam Brownback signed a bill Tuesday giving him more discretion in making some budget cuts during the next fiscal year while protecting aid to public schools. It will remain in effect only during the next fiscal year that begins July 1. The Kansas Legislature passed a plan for raising taxes by $384 million to balance the budget during the next fiscal year. But GOP lawmakers said Brownback still may have to trim spending up to $50 million. Current state law allows Brownback to make cuts but requires them to be across the board. The new law will allow targeted cuts. But the measure also protects aid to public schools, the court system's funding, the Legislature's budget and payments for public pensions.


Brownback Appoints CEOs, Dentist to Kansas Board of Regents

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Governor Sam Brownback has named three new members to the Kansas Board of Regents, and one is a CEO involved in the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and an anti-tax group. Brownback  announced the appointments Tuesday of David Murfin of Wichita, Dennis Mullin of Manhattan and Daniel Thomas of Mission Hills to the nine-member board that oversees higher education. They were appointed to four-year terms. Murfin is the president and CEO of Murfin Inc., which has interests that include oil drilling and the sale of construction equipment. He also is a member of the Kansas Chamber's board of directors and has served as president of the Kansas Club for Growth. Mullin is chairman and CEO of Steel and Pipe Supply Company, and Thomas is a dentist. 


Kansas Commerce Secretary Resigning to Take Non-Profit CEO Job 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Commerce Secretary Pat George plans to step down in July to become the CEO of a nonprofit group that provides alcohol and substance abuse treatment in seven states. Governor Sam Brownback announced today (WED) that George is resigning. George has led the Department of Commerce since Brownback took office in January 2011. The governor's office said George will become president and CEO of the Valley Hope Association. It has five treatment centers in Kansas and others in Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. Brownback said George turned the Department of Commerce into a "world-class operation." 


Kansas Drops Plans to Change Vehicle Renewal Notices

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Revenue is dropping plans to change how it reminds residents to renew their vehicle tags. Department spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda confirmed Tuesday that the state will not replace 2.6 million personalized vehicle renewal letters with a generic postcard reminder beginning in August. The proposed change was announced in May as a way to save the state $500,000. The Manhattan Mercury reports the plan was dropped because a new tax law passed by the Legislature requires the state to send notices that include all information needed for the owner to register the vehicle and pay the tax by return mail. The postcards would not have contained all the information and would have required citizens to print their renewal notices off of a state website.


Federal Judge Tosses Kansas City Discrimination Case 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed a class-action lawsuit filed by two African-American men who claimed there was a pattern of racial discrimination at a downtown Kansas City entertainment district. The Kansas City Star reports U.S. District Senior Judge Ortrie Smith threw out the lawsuit filed on behalf of Dante Combs, of Overland Park, Kansas, and Adam S. Williams of Edmond, Oklahoma. Combs and Williams claimed they were victims of discrimination while visiting the Kansas City Power & Light District in 2010 and 2011. Former Power & Light District employees testified that managers instructed them to use various tactics to limit the number of black patrons in the district's bars including using security guards to initiate confrontations with African-American patrons then having them ejected. The judge said he found no evidence to support the claims against Power & Light owner Cordish Company and its affiliates.


Man Pleads Guilty in Death of Wichita Restaurant Owner

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A 47-year-old Wichita man has pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the death of a Wichita restaurant owner. Curtis Mitchell was charged with first-degree murder in the June 4 death of Tanya Tandoc. He pleaded guilty in a court hearing Tuesday. Mitchell was a housemate of Tandoc's. In a plea agreement with prosecutors, Mitchell told authorities that in the days before her death, Tandoc had asked him to move out of her house. Mitchell's plea came against the advice of his defense attorney, Mark Rudy. Mitchell is scheduled to be sentenced July 23


Old Wichita Airport Demolition Divided to Lower Costs

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The Wichita Advisory Board has decided to split the demolition of the old Mid-Continent Airport into two projects in an effort to lower costs. The Wichita Eagle reports the board made the decision during a Tuesday meeting. By splitting the project into two, the board will be able to take advantage of an $11 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA will fund one of the projects. The first project put out for bid will be 90 percent supported by FAA funds and will include demolition of the old east and west terminals and the remaining 10 percent will be covered by the city budget. The second project will be the demolition of the main terminal building


Testimony Begins in Civil Case against Royals, Mascot

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Jurors are hearing testimony in a lawsuit against the Kansas City Royals by a Kansas man who was struck in the eye by a foil-wrapped hotdog flung by the team's mascot. John Coomer of Overland Park, Kansas, says he suffered a detached retina at a September 2009 Royals when Sluggerrr chucked a hotdog behind his back and struck him in the eye. The team claimed the so-called "baseball rule" was in effect and that Coomer should have been aware of what was going on around him. Coomer sued, but a Jackson County jury sided with the team in 2011, saying Coomer was at fault for his injuries. An appeals court overturned the decision in 2013, and last year the Missouri Supreme Court sent the case back to Jackson County.


Young Drives in 3 Runs as Royals Beat Brewers, 7-2

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Chris Young became the first Royals pitcher to drive in three runs in a game since 1972 and pitched seven innings of five-hit ball Tuesday night, leading Kansas City to a 7-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers of the National League. Young had a two-run single in the fourth inning and an RBI single in the fifth. The Royals have now won six of eight games after a 2-9 losing skid. Young (6-2) struck out three without any walks to improve to 12-2 in interleague starts in his career. Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas each homered for Kansas City. The Brewers' Matt Garza (4-8) allowed six runs and a career-high 13 hits over 6 innings. Chris Young will not be batting tonight when the Milwaukee Brewers visit Kauffman Stadium and play under American League rules for the final two games in the series.


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