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Headlines for Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Kansas Senate Committee Advances Plan for Increasing Taxes 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has advanced a plan to increase a variety of taxes to close a projected state budget shortfall. The Assessment and Taxation Committee voted 6-4 on Tuesday to send the plan to the full Senate. The plan would raise $496 million during the fiscal year that begins July 1. Legislators must close a projected budget shortfall of $406 million for the next fiscal year. The plan would increase the sales tax to 6.5 percent from 6.15 percent but drop the rate on food to 6 percent. It would repeal a 2012 policy that exempted the profits of more than 330,000 business owners and farmers from income taxes. The plan also would raise tobacco and gasoline taxes.


Kansas Governor Says He's Not Drawing Clear Lines on Taxes 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Governor Sam Brownback says he's not drawing clear lines on what he'll accept as the GOP-dominated Kansas Legislature considers backtracking on one of his major economic initiatives. Brownback said Wednesday that such an approach is more helpful as lawmakers work on a plan for raising taxes. They must close a projected $406 million budget shortfall for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The House Taxation Committee was working on a plan to raise the state's sales tax to 6.5 percent from 6.15 percent. But the plan also would tax some business income exempted by lawmakers in 2012. Brownback championed the 2012 policy as an economic stimulus. It exempted the profits of 281,000 business owners and 53,000 farmers from income taxes. Influential business groups want to preserve the tax break.


KS Lawmakers Advance Bill to Boost Secretary of State's Power 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The House has advanced a bill that would give the Kansas secretary of state the power to prosecute election fraud. The chamber gave the measure first-round approval Wednesday. Several lawmakers questioned the necessity of the bill, given the relatively few recorded instances of election fraud. Others expressed concern that the Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach might bring charges when prosecutors believed people did not intentionally break the law. The measure gained 63 votes Wednesday, which is the minimum needed for it to pass during the final vote expected Thursday. Democratic Rep. John Carmichael from Wichita said he voted for the bill to attempt a procedural tactic, but will vote against the bill Thursday. The bill would go to the governor if approved.


Kansas House Panel Working on Budget Balancing Plan 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas House committee is working on a plan to raise the state's sales tax and boost income taxes for some business owners to help balance the state budget. The Taxation Committee is convening Wednesday to consider revenue-raising proposals. The state faces a projected budget shortfall of $406 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The plan before the House committee would raise the sales tax to 6.5 percent from 6.15 percent but drop the rate on food to 5.9 percent. It also would increase cigarette and gasoline taxes. It also would raise $23 million during the next fiscal year by taxing some income earned by business owners that was exempted in 2012. 


Brownback Signs Bill Asserting Legality of Fantasy Sports

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -  Governor Sam Brownback has signed a bill clarifying the legality of fantasy sports leagues. Brownback's office announced he signed the bill into law Tuesday. The legality of fantasy sports leagues has been in dispute because the Kansas Constitution allows only the state to administer games fitting a broad definition of a lottery. The state's gambling regulator announced in August that it viewed fantasy sports as illegal lotteries. Attorney General Derek Schmidt released an opinion in April saying legislators could legalize fantasy sports leagues by declaring that the outcomes depend upon the knowledge and skill of the players. The bill that does so passed with large majorities in each chamber.


Kansas Legislature Approves Regulatory Compromise with Uber

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Senate has approved a compromise on regulations that ride-hailing company Uber says will allow it to stay in the state. The Senate passed the legislation 37-0 on Tuesday after the House approved it 119-3 earlier in the day. Uber announced in early May that it had ceased operations in Kansas after the Legislature overrode the governor's veto on regulations the company opposed. Under the new measure, Uber and other ride-hailing companies could do private background checks on their subcontracted drivers under the bill. But they could face lawsuits from the attorney general if drivers were found to be operating with a criminal background. The compromise will now go to the governor. Republican Senator Jeff Longbine says he believes the governor will sign it. 


Kansas House to Consider Stiffer Penalties for Scrap Theft

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Scrap thieves who do more than $5,000 worth of damage when stealing valuable metals would face jail time under a bill before the Kansas House. The chamber was set to vote Wednesday on the measure, which also would create a system to track scrap metal through dealers. Supporters of the bill say tougher penalties are needed because scrap thieves often do thousands of dollars in damage to worksites and agricultural equipment. Farm organizations testified that the damage frequently hurts crops and cattle because it can take days or weeks to repair. Some lawmakers expressed concern that the bill could increase the state's already overcapacity prison population.  The bill has already been approved by the Senate. 


Feds Accuse Man of Assaulting Immigration Enforcement Agent

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors have accused a Mexican man living illegally in the United States of assaulting an immigration enforcement agent who arrested him for deportation. A criminal complaint filed Tuesday in federal court in Kansas accuses Emmanuel Rodriguez-Torres of assaulting a federal officer involving physical contact. Prosecutors allege he tried to kick the agent in the head and face. He is also accused of twice spitting on the officer's face and clothing. No defense attorney is listed for Rodriguez-Torres in court records. The case stems from a May 6 incident during which agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement went to Great Bend to arrest him. A court filing says Rodriguez-Torres had been previously convicted of violent offenses such as assault and battery and was therefore eligible for immigration removal.


4 of 5 Hutchinson Teenagers Plead Not Guilty in Alleged Plot

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Four of five teenagers accused of conspiring to carry out a shooting at Hutchinson High School have pleaded not guilty in juvenile court. The Hutchinson News reports three of the suspects denied the charges in court Tuesday, while a fourth suspect previously denied the charges in writing. The fifth suspect is scheduled for a court hearing Wednesday. All five are charged with solicitation to commit first-degree murder and criminal threat. They were arrested in April after Hutchinson High School officials were alerted to postings on Facebook that threatened a mass murder at the school. They have all been held in juvenile detention since their arrests. Reno County prosecutors said the state was not ready to schedule the cases for trial because they are waiting for more information from Facebook.


Loaded Gun Found at Wichita Airport Security Checkpoint

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Security officers have found a loaded handgun in a carry-on bag at Wichita's Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport. Local media outlets report a .380 caliber Smith & Wesson Bodyguard firearm was found loaded with six rounds on Monday. Wichita Airport Police took the weapon and interviewed the passenger, who was allowed to continue on his flight. The Transportation Security Administration says firearms are allowed in checked bags, if declared to the airline and properly packed in a locked, hard-sided container. TSA can levy a civil penalty of up to $11,000 against a passenger who brings a firearm through a security checkpoint. This is the third firearm discovered during a checkpoint security screening at the Eisenhower National Airport this year.


Kansas Takes Over Nursing Home Because of Operator's Insolvency 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The state has temporarily taken over a Topeka nursing home after its owners couldn't make payroll and no one else stepped forward to run the facility. Officials with the Kansas Department on Aging and Disability Services met Monday with residents of the Washburn Community Care Center and their families. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the 26 residents have 60 days to relocate. Agency official Joe Ewert said the state intervened after the operator, Deseret Health Group, said it was financially insolvent and couldn't make payroll. He said a new operator agreed to take over a Deseret facility in Wichita. Besides the Utah and Kansas facilities, Deseret also operated in Minnesota, Nebraska and Wyoming. 


Heartland Park Pedestrian Bridge Collapses 
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A pedestrian bridge at a Topeka's Heartland Park race track collapsed Tuesday as a dump truck loaded with dirt crossed it. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the driver wasn't injured when the city-owned truck fell off the wooden bridge. City spokeswoman Aly Van Dyke says the bridge is primarily used for foot traffic and vehicles such as golf carts. The bridge collapse comes as workers prepared for this weekends' NHRA drag racing. Plans are being made for a contractor to evaluate the damaged bridge and another smaller bridge at the track for safety.


Smoking Will Be Limited at Kansas State Fair Starting in 2016

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - Smokers who attend the Kansas State Fair will be required to use designated smoking areas, beginning in 2016. The state fair board narrowly approved the change after a lengthy debate Tuesday. The policy will not be in effect this year to give state fair staff time to suggest the designated areas and determine how the policy will be implemented. Currently, smoking is banned only inside fair buildings and the grandstand seating area. Fair Manager Denny Stoecklein said other details, such as whether to allow smoking at outdoor eating establishments, will also have to be decided. The Hutchinson News reports Kansas will join more than 15 other state fairs in the country that restrict smoking on the fairgrounds.


United Way to Help 7 Wichita Schools Tackle Absenteeism
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Seven elementary schools will receive over $300,000 to help tackle chronic absenteeism. The Wichita Eagle reports a grant from the United Way of Wichita/Sedgwick County will be used to establish a network of coordinators, mentors and volunteers to decrease chronic absenteeism in the primary grades. Harry Street, Dodge Literacy Magnet, Franklin, Gardiner, Payne and Stanley elementary schools will get the grant next school year. Schools define chronic absenteeism as missing 10 percent or more of school time, and this includes all absences, excused or unexcused. According to district records, 16.8 percent of Wichita students were considered chronically absent last school year.


Construction Begins on Reno County Veterans Memorial

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — After several years of planning, construction is set to begin on the Reno County Veterans Memorial. A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for Thursday at the site of memorial in South Hutchinson. Committee member Kelly Danyluck says site preparations are expected to be finished in about six weeks. Concrete work is planned for next spring. Installation of the seven memorial walls inscribed with veterans names will depend on fundraising. Committee Chairman Matt Stiles says if fundraising is successful, the walls may be installed next year. The Hutchinson News reports Stiles estimated planning for the memorial began in 2010.


Northwestern University Student Found Dead in Dormitory 

EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — Authorities say a Northwestern University student has been found dead in his Evanston campus dormitory. The university and Cook County medical examiner say 20-year-old Jason Arkin was pronounced dead Tuesday afternoon at Evanston Hospital. An autopsy was scheduled for Wednesday. Arkin was a third-year student studying engineering. He was from Overland Park, Kansas. Northwestern Dean of Student Todd Adam sent a note to student asking anyone who needed help to let him know. Northwestern said in a statement that the cause of Arkin's death isn't yet known. School spokesman Bob Rowley says there was no indication of foul play.


Person of Interest Questioned in Shooting at Water Park 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities are questioning a person of interest in connection with a shooting in the lobby of a water resort in eastern Kansas City. Police said Wednesday in a news release that the unidentified person is being held for an unrelated probation violation. Nineteen-year-old Ryshun Bell of Kansas City died at a hospital after he was shot Saturday evening. Police said a second person went to a hospital with an injury that wasn't life-threatening. The shooting sent CoCo Key Water Resort patrons running into the parking lot. The resort is connected to the Adams Mark Hotel and is across Interstate 70 from Kauffman Stadium, where fans were arriving to watch the Royals play.


Ginormous Reptiles Found in KC Home 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say three large reptiles that are similar to alligators have been found at a Kansas City home. The Kansas City Star reports an AT&T worker saw the 3- to 6-foot long caimans while working on cable lines in the backyard of the home. Caimans are typically found in Central and South American and can grow up to 8 feet in length. Officers were called to the home around 10 pm Tuesday and were allowed inside. One of the caimans lived in the basement but was able to get into the backyard through a cutout in the door. A police report said animal control workers will determine if the animals can be kept at the house.


Minor Flooding on the Missouri River; Minimal Damage 

HERMANN, Mo. (AP) — Recent heavy rains have pushed the Missouri River above flood stage at several locations in Missouri. Information from the National Weather Service indicates minor flooding Wednesday in the Kansas City area, Boonville, Hermann and Washington. No significant damage was reported, though some agricultural land was flooded. Parts of western Missouri received up to 6 inches of rain last weekend. With more rain in the forecast, the river is expected to remain high for several days. Other rivers are high, too. The Grand River near Sumner in western Missouri is 7 feet above flood stage, but dropping fast. It is expected to dip below flood stage by Friday. Minor flooding is also happening along the Osage River in southwest Missouri.


Royals Shut Out Cincinnati Reds, 3-0

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura (3-3),allowed four singles, struck out six and walked no batters as the Kansas City Royals beat the Cincinnati Reds 3-0 on Tuesday night. The Royals, who beat the New York Yankees 6-0 on Sunday, logged consecutive shutouts for the first time since September,1992. Ventura who was 0-3 in his five previous starts since a victory on April 12, lowered his ERA to 4.56. Mike Moustakas went 3 for 4 with two doubles and drove in two runs. The Royals face the Reds again tonight at Kauffman Stadium.


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