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Headlines for Wednesday, March 15, 2017

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

Kansas Senate Leader to Seek Across-the-Board Spending Cut 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate's top Republican says she'll propose cutting spending across the board to help the state get through June without a budget deficit. Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita said Wednesday that lawmakers should approach the state's budget problems like families do and trim unnecessary spending first. The Senate plans to debate a bill Thursday that would close a projected $281 million shortfall in the current budget with internal government borrowing and by shorting contributions to public employee pensions. The plan avoids cuts. Wagle has not said how much she'll seek to reduce spending. But her idea is generating bipartisan opposition. Some senators contend agencies can't realistically make cuts so close to the June 30 end of the state's fiscal year. Others dismissed Wagle's idea as political theater.

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Some GOP Lawmakers Float Idea of 'Flat' Kansas Income Tax 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some Republican legislators are floating the idea of having Kansas adopt a "flat" personal income tax as lawmakers consider raising taxes to fix the state's budget problems. Conservative GOP Senator Ty Masterson of Andover said Wednesday that his colleagues are increasingly interested in moving to a single personal income tax rate for all filers. The state faces projected budget shortfalls totaling more than $1 billion through June 2019. Legislators are looking at rolling back past income tax cuts championed by Republican Governor Sam Brownback. The state slashed tax rates in 2012 and 2013, went from three tax brackets to two and granted an exemption to more than 330,000 farmers and business owners. Masterson said he might support ending the exemption if the state went to a single tax bracket.

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Kansas Chief Justice Pitches Lawmakers on Court Pay Hikes
 
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss is trying to persuade legislators to increase salaries for judges and pay for judicial branch employees. Nuss devoted much of his annual State of the Judiciary address Wednesday to what he described as the serious need to increase pay within the court system. He spoke to a joint session of the Legislature. The Supreme Court is seeking to increase the court system's annual budget by about $22 million, or about 16 percent. Nuss told lawmakers that all judicial branch jobs pay below market rates, and some fall short by as much as 22 percent. He said nearly one-third of the court system's employees work outside jobs to make ends meet. But some legislators see the spending increase as a tough sell.

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Kansas Lawmakers Advance Budget Plan to Avoid School Cuts 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are advancing a new budget-balancing proposal to allow the state to pay its bills through June without cutting public school spending. The Senate Ways and Means Committee unanimously endorsed a bill Tuesday that would temporarily short state contributions to public employee pensions and use internal government borrowing to get through June. The full Senate expects to debate the plan Thursday. The state is facing a projected shortfall of $281 million in its budget for the current fiscal year ending June 30. It faces total budget gaps of more than $1 billion through June 2019. The plan approved by the committee Tuesday assumes that lawmakers will increase taxes to raise $763 million over two years, starting in July. But new revenue would not flow before July.

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Kansas Agency: Budget Move Would Harm Services for Disabled 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas state agency says an action taken by a legislative committee would devastate in-home services for the disabled and their providers. Spokeswoman Angela de Rocha said Wednesday that the state Department for Aging and Disability Services would be forced to cut rates paid to providers of in-home services by 56 percent through June. In-home services include help with chores or personal care such as bathing to help the disabled stay in their homes. The Senate Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday removed $42 million from the agency's current budget before approving a bill that would keep the budget balanced through June. Committee members said they need more details about how the money would be spent and intend to add dollars back later when they have more information.

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Kansas Considers Taking Over Federal Workplace Regulation 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are looking to a state-run workplace regulation program as a tool to ease the burden of federal regulation on businesses. Opponents say the program could water down safety regulation oversight. The bill will be heard later today (WED). Supporters say a state-run program approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would ensure local control over regulation and that it has to be at least as effective as the federal program under law. But opponents say some state programs are underfunded and they also took issue with the lower fines imposed by state programs. Twenty-four Senate Republicans ran on a platform that included regulation reform. The federal government would have to approve the state's plan.

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Kansas Supreme Court Hears Convicted Killer's Porn Appeal 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court is weighing an imprisoned convicted killer's claims that investigators illegally seized his computer, leading to an additional prison term for child pornography. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports  that an attorney for Jason Hachmeister told the state's high court Tuesday that the seizure of his client's computer during the homicide investigation defied common sense. Hachmeister was sentenced in 2015 to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 50 years in the 2011 killing of 58-year-old Sheila Hachmeister, who was stabbed and strangled. That sentence was to run simultaneously to the seven-year prison he got for convictions of 105 counts of possession of child porn. A Shawnee County prosecutor argued Tuesday that the confiscation of the computer and ensuing searches of it were handled appropriately.

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Kansas House Passes Sales Exemption for Fencing Supplies 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House unanimously passed a sales tax exemption for supplies and services to repair or construct fencing for agricultural land. The bill passed Tuesday by the House is in response to fires that burned hundreds of thousands of acres in Kansas last week. The fires destroyed miles of fencing on ranches and farms, mostly in Comanche and Clark counties. The Wichita Eagle reports the legislation exempts from sales tax goods and services purchased to help repair or rebuild fencing. The House gave the bill early and final approval Tuesday. It now heads to the Senate. The Kansas Department of Revenue estimates the sales tax exemption would cost the state about $4.6 million.

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Kansas Waterslide Death Spurs Action on Ride Regulation 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Amusement park regulations in Kansas could be tightened after a lawmaker's son was killed last year on a water slide that a passed private inspection. House Federal and State Affairs Committee Chairman John Barker says he will hold hearings March 23-24 on a bill to strengthen inspection requirements of amusement parks. The bill would require the parks' insurance companies to hire engineers with some experience to inspect rides that can now be inspected privately. The current law came under scrutiny after Olathe Republican Representative Scott Schwab's son, Caleb Schwab, was killed last year on the Verruckt water slide at Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City. The slide had passed inspection by a private inspector. The ride has been closed and will be torn down when an investigation is completed.

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Man Gets Life in Prison for Killing Kansas Detective 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A man who admitted killing a Kansas police detective has been sentenced to life in prison without parole. Curtis Ayers was sentenced Tuesday in the May 9 shooting death of Kansas City, Kansas Police Detective Brad Lancaster during a confrontation near the Kansas Speedway. Prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty when the 29-year-old Ayers pleaded guilty in January to capital murder. Ayers also was sentenced for nine other felonies, including burglary, robbery, battery, kidnapping, assault and weapons counts, all committed after Lancaster was shot. He was arrested in Kansas City, Missouri, after he was shot by a police officer while allegedly trying to steal a woman's car. Ayers still faces charges in Jackson and Leavenworth counties.

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Pittsburg Approves $31 Million Bond Issue for Schools 

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Pittsburg residents have approved a $31 million bond issue that will be used to expand the district's six schools. Unofficial results show the bond issued passed Tuesday in a special election by a 1,542-641 margin. The Pittsburg Morning Sun reports funds from the bond will be used for projects such as heating and air conditioning and renovating the cafeteria and band rooms at Pittsburg High School. Several science classrooms at the high school will also be upgraded. Other projects include adding rooms at elementary schools and expanding the gymnasium at the middle school. All of the additions will also be storm shelters. Superintendent Destry Brown says construction could take up to three years to complete.

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Kansas Lawsuit Adds to Woes of Man at Center of Lottery Scam 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A lawsuit by the state of Kansas accuses the man at the center of a multi-state lottery number-fixing scam of working with two others to redeem two bogus lottery tickets for $44,000. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced Tuesday he filed the Shawnee County lawsuit against Eddie Tipton and two others who Schmidt says turned in the tickets to the Kansas Lottery. Schmidt alleges Tipton used software manipulation to rig the tickets. Tipton, of Flatonia, Texas, once worked for the Iowa-based Multi-State Lottery Association, writing software designed to randomly pick numbers for lottery computers used for various games by 37 state and territorial lotteries. He was convicted in 2015 in Iowa of lottery fraud. A message seeking comment was left Wednesday with his Iowa attorney.

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Dad: American UN Worker Kidnapped in Congo Was Striving for Peace 

HESSTON, Kan. (AP) — The father of an American United Nations worker who was among six people kidnapped in the Democratic Republic of Congo says his son has been doing humanitarian work and has had some success in persuading militia leaders to give up child soldiers. John Sharp, who lives with his wife in Hesston, told The Wichita Eagle that his 34-year-old son, Michael Sharp, is committed to finding nonviolent ways to end conflict. A Congo government spokesman said Monday that Michael Sharp and another U.N. worker, Zahida Katalan, of Sweden, were abducted along with three Congolese drivers and a translator while traveling through the Kasai Central province. John Sharp says his son, who was raised in Indiana and lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when not abroad, is resourceful and capable of finding a way out of his predicament.

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Father: Kansas Officials Didn't Seek Title IX Investigation 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The father of a Kansas women's basketball player says no one at the university sought a Title IX investigation after a confrontation between his daughter and Jayhawks star Josh Jackson. Speaking by phone Tuesday, Tim Calvert told a Kansas Senate education committee that the university's Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access, which handles Title IX cases, said no university official had requested an investigation. Calvert asked for an investigation after his daughter, McKenzie Calvert, said Jackson vandalized her car in December. Calvert says his daughter was treated unfairly after making the accusation. The Kansas City Star reports that university policy requires coaches to report any incident involving Title IX, which prohibits gender discrimination in education, including sexual harassment and sexual violence. University spokesman Joe Monaco declined to discuss the investigation.

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Bethany College Audit Shows First Positive Balance in 8 Years 

LINDSBORG, Kan. (AP) — An audit of Bethany College is showing a positive financial balance in the school's fiscal year 2016 for the first time in eight years. The Salina Journal reports the audit by accounting firm Swindoll Janzen Hawk & Lloyd found Bethany improved its net operating assets from a negative $5.5 million in fiscal year 2015 to positive $77,000 last fiscal year. Bethany President Will Jones says that the administration and board of directors first looked for help from alumni and friends, raised $2.3 million from an annual fundraiser and eliminated multiple faculty positions. In addition to the good financial news, Jones says the school's Good Life free-tuition scholarship, announced in December, has resulted in over 120 high school seniors applying to the college.

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Man Charged in Emporia Shooting Death 

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) - A 30-year-old man is jailed on $500,000 bond after being accused in last week's shooting death of a woman in east-central Kansas' Emporia. The Emporia Gazette reports that Lyon County prosecutors charged Sony Uk on Tuesday with first-degree murder. During a brief court appearance Tuesday, a judge scheduled Uk to appear for a preliminary hearing April 12. Authorities allege that Uk killed 38-year-old Mahogany Brooks last Thursday in an apartment building near Emporia State University. 

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Goodyear: Worker Killed at Plant in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Federal workplace safety officials will investigate a contractor's death at a Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. plant in Topeka. Officials identified the victim of the Tuesday morning incident as 61-year-old James Lay Jr., a temporary worker for Kansas Personnel Services Inc. Goodyear and Kansas Personnel Services did not immediately offer details about circumstances involving Lay's death. Scott Allen, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said investigators with that agency were headed to the plant.

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Kansas City Police Positively Identify Body of Wichita Woman 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police are officially identifying the body found in a car in the Missouri River as that of a missing Wichita woman. Police said Wednesday the body of 20-year-old Toni Anderson was inside her car, which was pulled from the river near Parkville Friday. Her parents had previously confirmed their daughter's death but police waited until receiving confirmation from a medical examiner. Anderson, a Missouri-Kansas City student, was last seen in the early hours of January 15 when she was stopped by a North Kansas City police officer for an improper lane change. The officer watched her drive to a nearby convenience store. Police have said they found no evidence of foul play. It's unclear how Anderson's car wound up at Platte Landing Park in Parkville.

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Kansas City​ Scrap Metal Business Owner Admits Tax Evasion

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The owner of a Kansas City, Missouri, scrap metal business that operated largely on a cash basis has admitted in federal court that he evaded more than $350,000 in federal income taxes. Thirty-one-year-old Joseph Lee Scott Deardorff of Kansas City pleaded guilty Tuesday. He also admitted that he hid assets from the Internal Revenue Service. Prosecutors say that as owner and operator of Total Recovery and Recycling LLC, Deardorff earned $194,067 in taxable income in 2011 and owed $65,067 in federal income tax that year. The total tax loss, including relevant conduct during tax years 2007 through 2012, is $355,310. Deardorff admitted he tried to hide the nature and extent of his assets from the Internal Revenue Service. Deardorff's sentencing was not immediately scheduled.

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Former Kansas Lt. Gov. John Crutcher Dies at 100

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ John Crutcher, a Republican Kansas state senator who later went on to serve as lieutenant governor for four years in the 1960s, has died. Crutcher was 100 when he died Monday at his home in Jefferson, North Carolina. Crutcher was a Kansas state senator from 1953 to 1957, then served as lieutenant governor for two two-year terms from 1964 through 1968. He later served 11 years on the federal Postal Rate Commission after time as an administrative assistant to then-U.S. Senator Bob Dole of Kansas, and as an appointee to the former Office of Economic Opportunity. Crutcher was a Navy veteran of World War II. A memorial service is scheduled for Thursday at Jefferson United Methodist Church in Jefferson, North Carolina.

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Bald Eagle Dies After Being Injured During Missouri Tornado 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri Department of Conservation says efforts to save a bald eagle injured during a tornado earlier this month near Kansas City have failed. The department said Tuesday that the eagle found with a wing damaged in the March 6 tornado near Smithville Lake died of the injuries Sunday. A passer-by found the injured eagle along a road. The bird later was taken by a conservation agent to a wildlife rehabilitation expert, then on to the University of Missouri Veterinary Health Center in Columbia. That's where the eagle died. The department says Smithville Lake typically has three or four active eagle nests, meaning eagles still will be in that area this spring.

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K-State Beats Wake Forest 95-88 in First Four

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — The Kansas State Wildcats' Kamau Stokes scored 19 of his 22 points in the second half of a wide-open game on Tuesday night, and Kansas State's balance was the difference as the Wildcats pulled away for a 95-88 victory over Wake Forest in the First Four. Eleventh-seeded K-State (21-13) got its first NCAA Tournament win in five years and a trip to play No. 6 Cincinnati on Friday in Sacramento as part of the South Regional. In a matchup of two versatile offenses, the Wildcats had the most options and hottest shooters. Wesley Iwundu added 24 points, and D.J. Johnson scored 18.

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Salvador Perez Should Be Ready for Royals' Season Opener 

SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — All-Star catcher Salvador Perez should be ready for Kansas City's season opener after tests showed there was no structural damage to his injured left knee. The Royals, though, are still concerned about his hyperextended left elbow. Royals manager Ned Yost said Perez would probably be ready to play in a week. Perez returned to the Royals camp Wednesday after playing for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. He was injured Saturday in a collision at the plate with his Royals backup, Drew Butera, who was playing for Italy. Initially, the knee was Perez's main concern, and he had a second MRI on Tuesday. But the test only showed inflammation, not serious damage.

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