UPDATE: Kansas Senate Rejects 401(k) but Passes Pension Bill
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has rejected a proposal for a 401(k)-style retirement plan for some public employees but approved other changes for the state pension system. An amendment creating a 401(k)-type plan for teachers and government workers hired after 2013 failed Thursday on a 20-20 vote. But a larger bill meant to bolster the state pension system's long-term health passed on a vote of 32-8 and now goes to the House. The measure is not a 401(k)-type system, but it does require new hires to join a plan that departs from the traditional guarantee of benefits based on salaries and years of service. Officials of the pension system expect an $8.3 billion gap between anticipated revenues and benefits through 2033.
UPDATE: Kansas Lawmakers Revise Deal on Proposed Tax Cuts
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House and Senate negotiators have revised a tax-cutting plan to address concerns about possible future budget problems. The negotiators agreed Thursday on language reducing individual income tax rates less aggressively than earlier planned. The measure will also phase out income taxes for 191,000 businesses and reduce the state sales tax to 5.7 percent from the current 6.3 percent in July 2013. The negotiators revised the plan after legislative analysts said an earlier version could create a budget shortfall of $712 million by mid- 2018.
Hawker Beechcraft Files for Bankruptcy Protection
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Aircraft maker Hawker Beechcraft has filed for bankruptcy protection as it works to restructure its massive debt amid sluggish demand for the military planes and business jets it makes. The Wichita-based manufacturer said in a statement Thursday that it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New York. Hawker Beechcraft says it entered an agreement with a majority of its senior secured lenders and bondholders to eliminate $2.5 billion in debt and $125 million of annual cash interest expenses. It says it obtained a commitment for $400 million in financing to enable it to continue paying employees, vendors and others. It says it filed for bankruptcy to implement the terms of its prearranged restructuring. The company listed a total debt of more than $2.3 billion at the end of 2011.
Anti-Abortion Bill Passes KS Senate, Heads to Governor
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill giving more legal protection to Kansas health care providers who refuse to participate in abortions is on its way to Governor Sam Brownback. The Senate approved the so-called "conscience" measure on a 23-16 vote Wednesday. The House passed the measure last month and is expected to be signed by Brownback, who strongly opposes abortion. Kansas law already says doctors and hospitals can't be penalized for refusing to participate in abortions or sterilizations. This year's bill extends the protection to other health care providers. It also covers refusal to prescribe abortion-inducing drugs or to refer patients to providers to terminate pregnancies. Critics worry the legislation is broad enough to restrict access to birth control.
Kansas Woman Files Federal Suit over Redistricting
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas woman has filed a federal lawsuit over the state Legislature's failure so far to redraw the state's political boundaries. Robyn Renee Essex, a resident of the Kansas City suburb of Olathe, filed her litigation Thursday in U.S. District Court. She argues the state's existing political boundaries violate her constitutional rights because they haven't been adjusted yet to account for changes in population over the past decade. One of her attorneys, Brent Haden, of Columbia, Missouri, is a former chief of staff to Kansas House Speaker Mike O'Neal, a Hutchinson Republican. In the lawsuit, Essex expressed doubt that legislators will be able to break a stalemate on redistricting. She suggests that one option would be for a panel of three federal judges to set new legislative and congressional districts.
Brownback Economic Team Disputes Budget Gap Projections
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's administration is issuing its own projections to argue that proposed tax cuts wouldn't create budget problems in future years. Top aides to the governor Wednesday disputed new projections from legislative staff showing that the cuts in income and sales taxes would create a budget gap of more than $700 million in 2018. The Department of Revenue issued two new forecasts, based on slightly different assumptions. The first showed the tax cuts creating a shortfall of $121 million in by July 2017, with that gap shrinking a year later. The second forecast is more optimistic about increased economic activity in 2013 and 2014. It predicts no budget shortfalls for the next six years and a surplus of $138 million in July 2018.
UPDATE: Anti-Abortion Group Says It Has Patient Records
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The leader of a Kansas anti-abortion group says unredacted abortion records it received recently aren't the first to be discovered by the confidential informant who provided them. Operation Rescue president Troy Newman told The Associated Press on Thursday that the same man found similar records last summer and turned them over to the state, but it did nothing. Newman says the man two weeks ago gave his group the records of 86 female patients treated in April at a Kansas City, Kansas clinic. He says the man didn't say how he got the records but that he claimed he obtained them legally. Clinic officials say someone broke into a locked trash bin on their property last week, but that records like Operation Rescue purports to have wouldn't have been there.
Kansas to Honor Fallen Law Enforcement Officers
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback will be in attendance Friday for the annual Kansas Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony on the Statehouse grounds. Brownback and Attorney General Derek Schmidt are both scheduled to speak, and the names of all Kansas law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty will be read. The name of Atchison police Sergeant David Enzbrenner will be added to the 266 others on the monument. Enzbrenner was killed December 9 while helping code enforcement officers serving a nuisance order. He was the only Kansas officer killed on duty last year.
Tornado-Stricken Kansas Town Receives Large Grant
HARVEYVILLE, Kan. (AP) — A northeastern Kansas town recovering from a February tornado has received a grant to repair its wastewater treatment system and remove storm debris. The state Commerce Department said Thursday the nearly $246,000 awarded to Harveyville comes from the Community Development Block Grant program. About 40 percent of the buildings in Harveyville sustained significant damage when an EF-2 tornado struck the Wabaunsee County town of about 300 people on February 28. The twister killed one person and injured 13. Kansas officials say the grant will help finance repairs to the water treatment system's pump house building, alarm dialer and other components.
Alert Issued After Man Found in Women's Restroom
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A northeastern Kansas community college has issued a campus alert after an employee found a man with a camera inside a women's restroom. Johnson County Community College in Overland Park issued the alert Wednesday and released a surveillance photo of a man considered a person of interest. The Kansas City Star reports the man was described as white, in his mid-20s, about 6 feet tall and 150 to 165 pounds. He has short black hair and was wearing glasses and a white shirt.
Koch Gives Smithsonian $35M for New Dinosaur Hall
WASHINGTON (AP) — An energy businessman is donating a record $35 million to the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History to build a new dinosaur hall on the National Mall. The Smithsonian is announcing the gift Thursday from David H. Koch, the executive vice president of Koch Industries Incorporated of Wichita. It is the single largest gift in the museum's 102-year history. The Smithsonian Board of Regents voted Monday to name the new dinosaur hall in Koch's honor. Koch, an engineer, is a billionaire who lives in New York City. He was the Libertarian Party's vice presidential candidate in 1980 and has been a major donor to conservative political causes. Koch gave the Smithsonian $15 million in 2009 to build a new exhibit hall exploring human evolution over 6 million years.
Experts Forecast Big Increase in Kansas Wheat Output
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Experts who spent three days viewing Kansas winter wheat fields are predicting sharply higher production this year over the drought-damaged 2011 crop. Participants in the Kansas Wheat Quality tour on Thursday forecast total production of 403.9 bushels — 40 percent higher than the 276.5 million bushels harvested last year. Average yields across Kansas were forecast at 49 bushels per acre. Members of the tour traveled about 4,000 miles throughout Kansas before convening Thursday at the Kansas City Board of Trade to offer forecasts. The warm spring has hastened ripening by two to three weeks, making it easier to predict potential production more accurately. Kansas Wheat marketing director Aaron Harries says the crop looks better than average. But he also says drought-stressed southwestern Kansas needs rain in the next week to reach projections.
Lawrence Police Shift Focus on Curbing Underage Drinking
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A crackdown on underage drinking in Lawrence is moving from bars to parties and neighborhoods gatherings where teens may think they're likely to escape the notice of police. The Lawrence Journal World reports a task force of city and University of Kansas police, along with state alcohol control officers, patrolled areas around the Oread neighborhood last Friday night. Some of the officers were in plain clothes. Lawrence police Sergeant Trent McKinley says they issued eight citations for minors in possession of alcohol and four for using or possessing fake ID or driver's licenses. The task force focused during the fall semester on underage drinking at Lawrence bars. McKinley says the team will be out this spring looking for underage drinking amid proms, graduations and college parties.
Man Charged in 2 Deaths in Separate Shootings
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 19-year-old man has been charged with killing two people and wounding two others in separate shootings in Kansas City, Kansas. Wyandotte County prosecutors charged Eric D. Clay Wednesday with two counts of first-degree murder in the March 4 shooting deaths of 16-year-old Renesha Jones and 21-year-old Keith E. Barrett. Barrett, of Kansas City, Kansas, and Jones, of Kansas City, Missouri, were killed at an apartment in a shooting that also wounded a baby. Prosecutors also charged Clay with two counts of criminal discharge of a firearm for shootings in January and February that injured two women. The Kansas City Star reports Clay's bond is $750,000. He is in custody on unrelated charges. A court appearance on the new charges has not been set.
Kansas Man Receives Advanced Foot Prosthesis
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 68-year-old Kansas man who lost his lower left leg to diabetes has a new generation microprocessor-controlled foot — the first of its kind in Kansas. Ignacio Guerroro demonstrated his new foot Thursday at Topeka's Hanger Clinic, where he was outfitted with the device. The computer-controlled foot, called an elan, is attached to a metal "calf" with an electronic suction device at the knee. It adjusts to angles and movement as Guerroro walks, improving his mobility on uneven terrain like stairs. Hanger says while other microprocessor-controlled feet are in use in Kansas but the elan is the most current variety. It costs between $15,000 and $20,000. The Amputee Coalition, a national group that advocates for people who have lost limbs, says there are about 2 million amputees in the U.S.
Auto Sale Scammer Sentenced in Kansas
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A Colorado man suspected in several states of scamming people selling motor vehicles online has been sentenced in Kansas to five years and three months in prison. The Kansas City Star reports 33-year-old Othello K. Bland, of Aurora, Colorado was sentenced Thursday in Johnson County District Court. Besides the prison time, he was ordered to pay more than $42,000 in restitution. Bland was convicted earlier this year of 16 counts of theft and identity theft. Prosecutors said Bland, or someone working with him, contacted people who advertised cars for sale on Craigslist or Autotrader. The victims were paid with counterfeit insurance checks, and the criminals then sold the vehicles online for cash. Johnson County authorities say Bland is suspected of similar crimes in Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska and Oregon.
Judge: Kansas Restaurant Failed to Pay Back Wages
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal magistrate has found a Wichita restaurant in contempt for failing to pay workers more than $223,000 in back pay and damages. U.S. District Judge Karen Humphreys had given the China Star and its owners until Monday to pay the money awarded in a 2008 consent judgment or submit a payment plan. Defense attorney Joseph Cassell told the judge this week his clients were unable to pay the judgment or start a payment plan that would be acceptable to the court. The U.S. Labor Department announced the contempt order Wednesday. The agency says its investigation found that China Star's workers were paid a flat rate in cash, often less than the minimum wage and without compensation for overtime work.
Child Whose Story Touched Many Dies
BELTON, Mo. (AP) — A northwest Missouri boy whose desire to see the ocean before he died of a rare disease touched people around the world has died. Tadan Foss, a 5-year-old from Belton, died last week of leukodystrophy, a disease that progressively causes loss of brain functions. A ceremony to remember his life is planned for Friday in Olathe. His mother, Carisa Rockers, wanted her son to see the ocean before he died. The volunteer group called Elves of Christmas Present eventually organized a trip through St. Louis, the Grand Ole Opry, Washington D.C. and other cities. Everything was donated. And Tadan got to play in the ocean in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in June 2011. The Kansas City Star reports Tadan's trip made headlines and brought support from around the world.
Wichita Man Pleads Guilty to $1M Bank Fraud
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has pleaded guilty to bank fraud in which he stole more than $1 million. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said in a statement Thursday that 59-year-old John Kammerer pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud. Kammerer admitted that while working as a controller for Network Results of Kansas, he accessed the company's bank account to steal more than $1.2 million. The fraud involved Kammerer issuing checks to the account of HMK Enterprises, which he controlled. Sentencing is set for July 19. He faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison and forfeiture of $1.2 million.
Wig-Wearing Bank Robber Sentenced
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Missouri man who twice dressed as a woman to hold up a northeastern Kansas bank is going to prison for 37 months. The U.S. Attorney's office says 20-year-old Joshua Parker of Kansas City, Missouri was sentenced Wednesday. He pleaded guilty earlier this year to two counts of bank robbery. Parker's disguise included a woman's wig and dark sunglasses when he entered a U.S. Bank branch in Prairie Village last October 21st, jumped on the counter and said, "I'm back." A teller recognized him as the same wig-wearing person who robbed the bank two months earlier. Police chased a getaway car for a few blocks before Parker got out. He ran through a residential neighborhood wearing only shorts and socks before being arrested in a creek bed.
NCAA Denies Transfer Waiver to Former Sooner Football Player
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The NCAA has denied an eligibility waiver filed on behalf of University of Kansas wide receiver Justin McCay that would have allowed him to play during the 2012 season. McCay transferred from the University of Oklahoma at the end of last semester so that he could be closer to family in suburban Kansas City. He filed a waiver request with the NCAA under personal hardship guidelines so that he would not be forced to sit out a season under normal transfer rules. The initial waiver was declined, and McCay appealed to the NCAA subcommittee for legislative relief, which ruled Wednesday that the former top recruit must sit out the upcoming season. McCay will be eligible to play for the Jayhawks in 2013 as a junior.
Group Says It Received Dumped Abortion Records
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — An anti-abortion group says it has been given abortion records that were improperly discarded at a clinic in Kansas City, Kansas. Operation Rescue said Wednesday a confidential informant delivered the records from Central Family Medicine to the organization. The records involve 86 women and minors treated at the clinic in April. The Kansas City Star reports clinic officials said Wednesday that a locked trash bin was broken into last week but no records were improperly discarded. The clinic's attorney said Kansas City, Kansas police and the FBI have been notified. Operation Rescue president Troy Newman says the records are being kept in a secure location and have been offered them to state officials. He said the organization has no intention of making the records public.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.
Kansas Senate Approves $14.4B Budget Plan
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has approved a $14.4 billion state budget for the next fiscal year after adding money for public schools and property tax relief. Wednesday's 34-5 vote sends the bill to the House, where a separate spending plan for the fiscal year that starts in July is awaiting debate. Senators amended the budget to add $50 million to increase base state aid for schools, plus $27 million to equalize school aid payments among poorer districts. Language authorizing the increases is in another bill already approved by the Senate but still pending in the House. The Senate also added $45 million for cities and counties to reduce property taxes. The money restores a revenue-sharing program that began in 1938 but was suspended in 2002 when the state faced financial difficulties.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.
Kansas Senate to Debate 401(k)-Style Pension Plan
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate's leading advocate of starting a 401(k)-style pension plan for new teachers and government workers says he'll push fellow senators to endorse the idea. State senator Jeff King, an Independence Republican, says he'll offer such a proposal during Thursday's debate on legislation designed to bolster the long-term financial health of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. The pension system projects an $8.3 billion gap between its anticipated revenues and the benefits promised to public employees through 2033. The bill before the Senate would require new hires to join a plan that's not a traditional one guaranteeing benefits up front based on their salaries and years of service. But it's also not a 401(k)-style plan, in which benefits are tied to investment earnings.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.