Kansas Lawmakers Promote Bill to Reverse Business Income Tax Cuts
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Three Republicans in the Kansas Senate have introduced a proposal to reverse an income tax cut for business owners supported by Governor Sam Brownback. Senate Vice President Jeff King of Independence and Senators Jim Denning and Greg Smith of Overland Park described the measure they unveiled Tuesday as a proposal to promote tax fairness. Their bill would undo a 2012 policy that exempts more than 330,000 farmers and business owners from state income taxes and would tax 70 percent of their income. The state has struggled to balance its budget since enacting the business tax cuts and the three senators said it will continue to do so as long as the full tax break remains in effect. But Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said the governor will not support a tax increase on small businesses.
Kansas Lawmakers Consider Moving Up Property Tax Lid Inception Date
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee is weighing a proposal to move up the effective date of a property tax lid from 2018 to later this year. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the lid passed by lawmakers last year bars counties and cities from increasing property taxes above the rate of inflation without a vote. The legislation's language makes holding an election during the current budget cycle difficult. Sedgwick County offered an amendment it says will ensure the ability to have election on property tax increases if needed. Supporters of accelerating the implementation of a property tax lid have argued that a shortened timeline will fight current incentives counties and cities have to boost taxes. A city of Topeka report urges lawmakers to allow local governments to retain control over taxes.
Top Kansas GOP Lawmakers Pursue Rival School Funding Plans
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The chairmen of the budget committees in the House and Senate are working on their own education funding plans aimed at helping poor school districts. Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Ty Masterson said Wednesday that he hopes to have plan drafted yet this week. The Andover Republican says it will be an attempt to meet a Kansas Supreme Court order within the state's existing resources. The House Appropriations Committee already has agreed to sponsor a plan from Chairman and Olathe Republican Ron Ryckman Jr. His plan would boost school districts' aid by about $37 million. The Supreme Court ruled last month that a 2015 school funding law violated the state constitution because it shorted poor districts on aid. The court gave lawmakers until July to fix the problems.
Kansas Minors Could Be Barred from Using Tanning Beds
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas minors could be barred from using tanning beds and sunlamps under a measure that won first round approval Wednesday in the House. A salon owner who allowed a person younger than 18 to use one of the devices could receive a fine of up to $250 fine and disciplinary action under the measure. Representative Kathy Wolf Moore, a Democrat from Kansas City and supporter of the bill, says those who use tanning beds are 59 percent more likely to develop melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. But Republican Representative Randy Powell, of Olathe, says the bill would infringe upon parents' rights to make decisions for their children. A final vote in the House is expected Thursday.
Kansas Senate Committee Approves Diverting Family Planning Funds
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas Senate committee has voted to permanently divert federal family planning funding from organizations like Planned Parenthood which provide abortions along with other health care services. The Senate Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday approved a bill that would make permanent a 2011 provision that distributes funding for Title X, a federally financed family planning program. The provision gives funding priority to public health departments and clinics ahead of private family planning clinics. Senator Marci Francisco, a Democrat from Lawrence, opposed the measure and suggested a change that would expand access to contraception, but the committee voted against the proposal. Planned Parenthood challenged the provision in federal court and ultimately lost in the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver in 2014.
Kansas Senate Panel Delays Vote on Judicial Impeachment Bill
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has delayed its debate on a bill expanding the legal grounds for impeaching and removing judges and state Supreme Court justices from office. Chairman Jeff King postponed the Judiciary Committee's scheduled debate Tuesday until Thursday so that it can consider amendments. Lawmakers are considering the bill after many Republicans have criticized the Supreme Court over school funding and death penalty rulings. Kansas is at the center of efforts by conservatives to remake state courts. The bill's list of impeachable offenses would include attempting to "usurp the power" of legislators or the executive branch. The Kansas Constitution says public officials can be impeached only for bribery, treason and other high crimes and misdemeanors. The new bill provides a longer list of specific grounds for impeachment for the judiciary.
Kansas House Panel's Leader Has New Proposal on School Bonds
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A House committee's leader has outlined a new proposal for giving the state more oversight of local public school construction projects. Education Committee Chairman Ron Highland said Tuesday that his panel will vote on the proposal Friday. It would have a joint legislative committee review projects before voters in local school districts decide whether to authorize bonds for them. The state helps poorer school districts pay off such debt, and costs have climbed, frustrating Republicans who control the Legislature. The committee started with a bill that would create a new state board to review school construction projects. But Highland said some lawmakers questioned the idea and noted that the work could be done by an existing legislative committee. Critics see such measures as an attack on local control of schools.
Wichita School District to Consider Teacher, Staff Layoffs
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita school district official says leaders will have to consider laying off teachers or other personnel as it faces up to $30 million in cost increases next school year and no additional state funding. The district's chief financial officer, Jim Freeman, projects that the cost increases for the 2017 fiscal year, beginning in July, could range from $16 million to $30 million. The Wichita Eagle reports that revenue is expected to be flat under the state's new block grant funding system. Freeman says the district avoided layoffs last year by tapping into its contingency reserves and cutting other areas, such as adult education programs and classroom supplies. School board members will meet March 21 to begin building the budget and consider options for cuts. The board may also consider moving to four-day school weeks.
Planned Parenthood Still Gets Medicaid Funds Despite Threats
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Planned Parenthood official says Kansas hasn't cut off Medicaid reimbursements even though Republican Governor Sam Brownback declared two months ago that he'd quickly end the funding. Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri President Laura McQuade told The Associated Press on Wednesday that her organization is still providing services to Medicaid participants — and getting state reimbursements — at five clinics in Kansas and the Kansas City, Missouri, area. The vocal anti-abortion governor declared in January during his annual State of the State speech that Kansas would deny the funding to Planned Parenthood. In a letter, he directed state health officials to "take all necessary steps" to end the funding. Brownback's spokeswoman said she was looking into the situation Wednesday. Other states have faced court fights over the issue.
Mexican National Formally Charged for Missouri Killing
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 40-year-old Mexican national charged with killing four people in Kansas City, Kansas, has been formally charged in the killing of a man in Missouri. Online court records show that Pablo Antonio Serrano-Vitorino was charged Wednesday in Montgomery County, Missouri, in the death of 49-year-old Randy Nordman. Nordman was shot Tuesday at his rural home near New Florence, about 70 miles west of St. Louis. The records don't list a lawyer for Serrano-Vitorino, who also faces charges burglary and other charges in Montgomery County. Serrano-Vitorino is also charged with four counts of first-degree murder in Kansas. Authorities there say he gunned down a neighbor and three other men late Monday before fleeing. Investigators haven't discussed a possible motive for the attacks.
ICE Admits Error in Detention Request for Man Accused of Multiple Murders
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The federal agency that handles immigration says it made a mistake when it sent a September order to detain a man accused of killing five people earlier this week. Pablo Antonio Serrano-Vitorino has been charged with first-degree murder in the Monday shooting deaths of his Kansas City, Kansas, neighbor and three other men and the killing of a man in central Missouri early Tuesday. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in an email that Serrano-Vitorino was deported from the U.S. in 2004, but was fingerprinted in Overland Park, Kansas, in September 2015 after a traffic violation. ICE says that fingerprinting generated an ICE order to detain Serrano-Vitorino, but that the agency "erroneously issued" the detainer to the Johnson County Sheriff's Office instead of the Overland Park Municipal Court, which had handled his traffic violations.
Police ID Victims of Kansas Quadruple Homicide
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in Kansas have released the names of four men who they say were gunned down by a neighbor accused of later killing another man in Missouri. Wyandotte County prosecutors have charged Pablo Antonio Serrano-Vitorino with four counts of first-degree murder in the killing of the men at his neighbor's home late Monday. Police identified them Wednesday as his neighbor, Michael Capps, as well as Jeremy Waters, Clint Harter and Austin Harter. They were ages 27 to 41. Serrano-Vitorino also is suspected in the shooting death of 49-year-old Randy Nordman in Montgomery County, Missouri, on Tuesday. He was arrested in that county Wednesday during a manhunt. Serrano-Vitorino had not been charged in Nordman's death as of Wednesday morning. Authorities haven't discussed a possible motive.
BATF Begins Investigation of Serrano-Vitorino
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Federal investigators are trying to determine how a Mexican national suspected of five shooting deaths in Kansas and Missouri acquired an assault-style rifle found on him when he was caught. John Ham, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives office in Kansas City, said Wednesday that federal law barred Pablo Antonio Serrano-Vitorino from legally owning a gun because he is in the country illegally. Serrano-Vitorino is charged with four counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of four men late Monday at his neighbor's house in Kansas City, Kansas. He's also suspected in the Tuesday morning shooting death of a man in Montgomery County, Missouri, where he was arrested early Wednesday and remains jailed. Authorities have not discussed a possible motive for the attacks.
66-Year-Old Kansas Man Arrested in Wife's October Killing
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have arrested a Kansas man in the killing of his wife in northeast Kansas. Jackson County (Kansas) sheriff Tim Morse said in a news release that the 66-year-old man was arrested Tuesday. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the sheriff's office received a 911 call in October from the couple's home. The husband told dispatchers he had found his 61-year-old wife unresponsive. She died the next day at a Topeka hospital. The sheriff's office opened an investigation, and an autopsy indicated the woman died from trauma to the spleen. A search warrant on the husband's residence was served Tuesday morning.
Suspect Charged in Lincoln County Man's Death
WESTFALL, Kan. (AP) — A man has been charged with intentional second-degree murder in the death of another man at a farmhouse in southeastern Lincoln County. Lincoln County Sheriff Mike Weigel said Tuesday that 36-year-old Joseph Schultz was arrested in the death of 33-year-old Kevin Kubick. Schultz has asked to be appointed an attorney. The Salina Journal reports that Lincoln County deputies were sent to the farmhouse one-and-a-half miles southwest of Westfall at 1:45 am Saturday after receiving a 911 call from a woman. Weigel said that when authorities arrived, Kubick was found unresponsive and pronounced dead at the scene. Weigel said Kubick lived at the farmhouse with the woman who made the 911 call. Authorities say that there is a possibility that firearms were involved in the incident. Schultz's bond was set at $800,000.
KU School of Medicine Alumna Donates $1M for Building
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — One of just two women to graduate in 1964 from a 100-member University of Kansas School of Medicine class is making a $1 million donation. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Diane Klepper's gift to the KU Endowment will help fund the KU Medical Center's Health Education Building. The KU Endowment announced Tuesday that the building is under construction in Kansas City, Kansas. After a fellowship in pulmonary disease at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, she became the dean of admissions and student affairs at the school. The Health Education Building is expected to be complete by summer 2017. The $75 million facility is being funded by state bonds, KU funds and private donations.
Arrested Hutch Teens Accused of Threatening Staff, School
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Police have arrested two teens who are accused of plotting to attack a Kansas high school. The Hutchinson News reports that the 15- and 14-year-old Hutchinson boys were taken into custody Tuesday. They're being held on suspicion of conspiracy to commit capital murder at Hutchinson High School. Captain Troy Hoover of the Hutchinson Police Department said the suspected plot included plans for a pipe bomb and named specific faculty members as the first targets. Hoover says some of their writings taken as evidence were at the school. Hoover says one of the teens was the younger brother of a student accused of making similar threats against the school last spring. In the earlier case, Hutchinson police arrested five teens. They were sentenced to probation after entering no contest pleas.
Former Topeka Store Clerk Sentenced in ATM Worker Robbery
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former Topeka store clerk has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for helping to arrange a robbery of a man who stocked ATMs with cash. The U.S. attorney's office says 21-year-old Ahmad Salim Salti, of Topeka, was sentenced Tuesday for conspiracy to commit robbery. Topeka police were called in September 2014 when a masked gunman brandishing a firearm entered the store where Salti worked just as the victim was beginning to fill an ATM. The gunman took the money and the keys to the victim's van before escaping in the vehicle. Investigators learned that Salti had helped to plan the robbery by providing the date and time the victim would fill the ATM. The robber has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
Judge Denies Request to Stop Elephants' Transport to US Zoos
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has denied an animal rights group's request to stop an import of elephants from Swaziland to three American zoos, including the Sedgwick County Zoo. The Wichita Eagle reports that Friends of Animals' wildlife law program filed a federal lawsuit to stop the importation of 18 African elephants. The group opposes keeping elephants in zoos because they are migratory and social animals. Court records say that with a court hearing looming, the three zoos moved on Tuesday to anesthetize and load the elephants for a flight to the U.S. The animal-rights group found out and asked for a restraining order to halt the transfer. A U.S. District Court judge denied the order, saying that sedating elephants again for a later transfer would be unsafe.
Kansas Factory Reopens After Workplace Shooting
HESSTON, Kan. (AP) — A south central Kansas lawn equipment factory will open for business tomorrow (THUR) for the first time since a gunman fatally shot three employees at the Hesston facility in February. KSNW-TV reports that employees and their families are invited for an open house to tour the Excel Industries plant today before resuming operations Thursday. The company has been closed since the February 25 shooting that left three dead and 14 injured. Police fatally shot the suspect, employee Cedric L. Ford. The company set up a hotline offering to help employees after the incident. So far the facility has only been reopened to allow employees to gather their belongings.
Hesston Police Chief Who Killed Gunman Says He's No Hero
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A police chief who rushed without backup into a Kansas lawnmower factory and fatally shot a gunman who had killed three people and wounded 14 more, says he is no hero. Hesston Police Chief Doug Schroeder said Tuesday that any police officer would have acted as he did in those circumstances. In his first public statement since the February 25 shootings at the Excel Industries factory in Hesston, Schroeder said God had prepared him throughout his life and career to deal with that situation. About 300 people were working second shift at the factory when Cedric L. Ford opened fire killing three people and wounding 14. Hesston is about 30 miles north of Wichita.
It's a 'B' Game: Swarm of Bees Delays Rockies-Royals Game
SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) _ There was quite a buzz to the Rockies-Royals spring training game on Tuesday. A swarm of bees sent Kansas City manager Ned Yost, members of his coaching staff and fans scurrying early in the exhibition matchup. Yost and his coaches like to sit on folding chairs outside the dugout, and the bees caused them to duck for cover and stopped the game at Surprise Stadium for a brief delay in the third inning while the bees were removed. Lowell Hutchinson, a retired beekeeper from St. Joseph, Missouri, came out of the stands to assist with the removal of the bees. Bee delays seem to occur almost every spring in Arizona during at least one game.
Chiefs Penalized Draft Picks, Fined for Maclin Tampering
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs were penalized Wednesday for violating the NFL's anti-tampering rules for having impermissible contact with wide receiver Jeremy Maclin during last year's free agency. The Chiefs were stripped of their third-round pick this April and sixth-round pick next year and fined $250,000. Chiefs coach Andy Reid was also fined $50,000 and general manager John Dorsey fined $25,000. Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said in a statement the club intends to appeal the penalties. The Chiefs are accused of having direct communication with Maclin, who played for Reid in Philadelphia, during the league's negotiating period. That communication is a violation of NFL tampering rules. Maclin later signed a $55 million, five-year deal with Kansas City.