Kansas Lawmakers Postpone Debate on Governor's Tax Plan
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee's chairman has postponed its debate on Republican Governor Sam Brownback's proposals to cut income tax rates and scrap two popular tax deductions for homeowners. Chairman and Wichita Republican Les Donovan had said the Assessment and Taxation Committee would begin debate Tuesday. The Senate's official calendar mistakenly said hearings would continue. But Donovan acknowledged that senators want more information about the governor's proposals and are drafting amendments. The debate may not begin until next week. Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka said Republicans are floundering. Brownback wants to further reduce income tax rates after aggressive cuts last year. But he and lawmakers must find revenue to stabilize the state budget. Brownback also wants to cancel a drop in the state sales tax scheduled for July.
UPDATE: Missing 92-Year-Old Paola Man Found Dead
PAOLA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a 92-year-old man who walked away from his assisted living home in the northeast Kansas town of Paola has been found dead. Police said the body of Earl "Andy" Anderson was found Tuesday less than a mile from the Country Club Estates. Anderson, who suffered from dementia, walked away from the center Monday evening. An exact cause of death and other details were not immediately available.
Attorney, Kansas Senate Leader Spar over Union Bill
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A labor attorney and the Kansas Senate president sparred during a committee hearing over a bill that would limit the ability of unions to collect funds from employees' paychecks for political activities. Rebecca Proctor and Senate President Susan Wagle argued Tuesday over the use of tax dollars from public employees to finance political activities. The Senate Commerce Committee is considering a House bill that would end the practice of allowing government employers to automatically collect the contributions for unions, including teachers. Proctor argues that employees should be able to use their paychecks as they desire. Wagle counters that taxpayers have a right to say how their taxes are spent, including if they are used for political activities.
Resolution Challenges Proposed Kansas Prison Merger
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House member says he wants the state's juvenile justice system to remain separate from the adult prison system. Representative Jim Ward, a Democrat from Wichita, has introduced a resolution to challenge Governor Sam Brownback's plan to merge the Juvenile Justice Authority with the Department of Corrections. The governor's office says the merger will improve security in the juvenile facilities without hurting rehabilitation programs for minors. The Wichita Eagle reports that Ward said he is concerned that budget problems will cause the corrections secretary to cut juvenile treatment programs instead of reducing the number of adult criminals in prison. Hearings on the proposed merger are scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. No hearing on Ward's resolution has been scheduled before the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice.
Kansas House Considering Law on State-Made Weapons
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House is considering a bill that would exempt firearms, firearm accessories and ammunition made in the state from federal regulations. The "Made in Kansas" bill also would prevent physicians — other than psychiatrists — from asking patients if they have firearms in their homes. The Hutchinson News reports that the bill has 50 sponsors from both parties. Supporters say it is aimed at protecting both gun owners' rights and states' rights. A similar bill introduced last session passed in the House but stalled in the Senate. An initial hearing in the House Federal and State Affairs Committee is expected to be held next week.
Overland Park Girl Reports Attempted Abduction
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Police in Johnson County are putting extra officers at schools and bus stops after the third report of an attempted child abduction in the region. The Kansas City Star reports the latest happened Tuesday in Overland Park. A 14-year-old girl said a man ordered a girl into his white pickup truck but drove off when the girl ran toward her bus stop. On January 25, a Shawnee girl told police three men in a gold sedan tried to abduct her on her way to school. The girl said she was chased as she ran away. A Shawnee boy reported February 1 that a man got out of an SUV and tried to grab him. Authorities say they don't believe the three cases are related.
Kansas Crane Operator Killed After Machine Tips Over
BURLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas man has died after a crane he was operating at a construction site tipped over and he was pinned beneath it. The Coffey County Sheriff's Office says 51-year-old Eric Spaar of Holton was killed in the accident at a bridge replacement site north of Burlington in southeast Kansas. Spaar was found underneath the 50-ton crane after the sheriff's office was notified of the accident Monday afternoon. He was employed by MidWest Construction Company in Holton. The sheriff's office and Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating the accident.
Ogallala Aquifer Levels Drop in Kansas
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Geological Survey says water levels in the Ogallala aquifer have dropped significantly in sections of Kansas since last year. Rex Buchanan, interim director of the KGS, recently completed an annual tour of the 1,400 wells that tap into the Ogallala in western Kansas. He says overall levels in January 2013 dropped about 3½ feet. Declines in January 2012 averaged 4.25 feet. Buchanan told The Lawrence Journal-World that the water level declines were sharper in northwestern Kansas, which was especially dry in 2012. In southwestern Kansas, which saw a little more rain last year than the year before, the decrease wasn't quite as severe. In a normal year, the aquifer recharges at an annual rate of only about a half-inch, and even less during drought.
Kansas Board of Education Member: School Security a Local Issue
CLAY CENTER, Kan. (AP) — A member of the State Board of Education says arming teachers or guards in Kansas schools should be a local decision. The Clay Center Dispatch reports Deena Horst addressed the issue during a weekend legislative forum in the north-central Kansas community. Horst is a retired teacher from Salina who also served 16 years in the Kansas House. She says she's "personally fine" with having armed security in schools. But she believes it should be up to local districts to decide if they want to arm teachers or have armed guards in schools. Horst also says the Board of Education has found that all districts have the opportunity to get some training with Homeland Security in Kansas, but only a few have done so.
Lawrence Downtown Could Become 'Cultural District'
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence cultural and arts organizations want the city's downtown to be designated as a cultural district. Supporters say the designation would not require rezoning or any major changes. But they hope the city will develop a plan to improve lighting, sidewalks and provide pathways to connect historic, arts, natural and cultural heritage sites. The Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission met with more than two dozen groups that support the proposal on Sunday and agreed to forward it to the City Commission. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the details and potential costs of designating a cultural district have not been outlined. But requests from some of the supporters include repairs to streets and alleys, public art, solar-powered lighting, free Internet access and hiring a city arts and culture administrator.
Body Pulled from Utah Pond Identified as Kansas Man
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Salt Lake City police have identified a man found floating in a city pond as 38-year-old James D. Panovich of Kansas. Salt Lake City police say they pulled Panovich's body from a pond at that city's Fairmont Park Tuesday morning. They also took another man to the hospital after he was found dripping wet nearby. Detective Dennis McGowan says they are investigating it as a suspicious death. The medical examiner's office is doing an autopsy to determine the cause of death. Police say that two people feeding ducks reported the suspicious scene about 9 pm Monday. Authorities say the two spotted a body floating in the water, and a second man on the bank who was acting strangely and was possibly drunk.
Opponents Present Rezoning Petition, Hoping to Block New Clinic
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Abortion opponents have delivered a rezoning petition with about 14,000 signatures to the Wichita City Council in a move to block the opening of a clinic at the building once owned by slain abortion provider Dr. George Tiller. Kansans for Life plans to add hundreds more signatures and present them to the local zoning commission later this month. Petition organizer David Gittrich says residents don't want an abortion clinic in the neighborhood. The council asked staff to research the issue. The abortion rights group Trust Women bought the building and plans to offer reproductive health care services, including abortions, at the site. Their attorney, Robert Eye, says there is no legal basis that will justify rezoning the land. He says rezoning motivated by a political purpose is improper.
Vandals Damage Garden City Home Improvement Store
GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — A large home improvement store scheduled to open in April in southwest Kansas has been heavily damaged by vandals. Garden City police say someone entered Menards through an unlocked door late Saturday or early Sunday. The person or persons used two forklifts to spill 86 five-gallon containers of industrial paint and 11 one-gallon containers of the paint throughout the store. KSNW-TV reports the paint damaged about 25,000 square feet of concrete flooring. The forklifts were also damaged, and cardboard boxes were set on fire. Police estimate the damage at $30,000 to $300,000, depending on whether the paint can be removed from the floors. Garden City officials have intended Menards to be the centerpiece of a new retail development.
Missouri Man Charged Following Shooting at Super Bowl Party
RIVERSIDE, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man is jailed on involuntary manslaughter charges after he allegedly shot a friend to death during a Super Bowl party. The Platte County prosecutor's office charged 34-year-old Joshua W. Bailey on Monday in the death of 22-year-old Joshua Anderson of Riverside. Investigators say Bailey was drinking and smoking marijuana at the Super Bowl party at his home Sunday when he took out a handgun to show his guests. He reportedly thought the gun was empty when he fired it, hitting Anderson in the head. The Kansas City Star reports that police believe the shooting was accidental. Bailey is a convicted felon who is not allowed to possess a firearm. Bailey is being held on $500,000 bond. Online court records do not indicate that he has an attorney.
Man Serving 27 Years for Nude Photo Drops Appeal
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man serving nearly 27 years in prison for getting a 14-year-old girl to text him a nude photo of herself has dropped his appeal. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a request Tuesday from 26-year-old Shane McClelland to dismiss his appeal. A federal judge in Wichita sentenced McClelland last year as a repeat sex offender, saying the long prison term was necessary to deter him from further crimes and to protect the public. McClelland's lawyer argued the sentence for a single nude photo amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. A jury found McClelland guilty of one count of obtaining a picture of the exposed genitals of a 14-year-old girl from upstate New York via Yahoo! messaging. He was acquitted of a similar count involving another teen.
Kansas Man Charged with Killing Woman, 2-Year-Old
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City, Kansas man has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of his 34-year-old girlfriend and her 2-year-old niece at a local apartment complex. Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome Gorman says 37-year-old Curtis Horn also is charged with one count of aggravated arson and 15 counts of child endangerment in the fire early Saturday morning. Gorman says Horn killed Brandi Johnson before setting a fire at the apartment complex that also killed Johnson's niece, Amiyah McClenton. Officials say the fire started around 5:45 am at Legend Oaks Apartments. Neighbors were alerted by a smoke alarm and escaped unharmed. Gorman says 15 children under 18 years old were in the apartment building when the fire started. Horn hadn't obtained an attorney Tuesday afternoon.
Agency Seeks Comment on Lesser Prairie Chicken Policies
GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is holding a public meeting in southwest Kansas on the proposal process for listing the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species. The meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening at Garden City Community College. A final decision on listing the lesser prairie chicken as threatened under the Endangered Species Act is expected later this year. Kansas has the largest concentration of lesser prairie chickens. The birds are also found in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado. The five states are also involved in an effort to develop a range-wide conservation plan to address the birds' decline and to keep the lesser prairie chicken from becoming a threatened species.
Couple Going to Hospital for Birth Have Van Stolen
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita couple is always going to have a bizarre story to tell about their child's birth. The couple was preparing to head to the hospital early Tuesday when a determined thief stole their only means of transportation, a van warming up in the driveway. During the ensuing chase, police spiked the van's tires. But the thief kept going on just rims, not stopping until the van was so damaged the front wheel shattered, grinding the brakes down to the axle. KFDI reports that the man had several warrants out for his arrest and had violated probation. While police were chasing the van, an ambulance took the mother to the hospital. Police later took the father to join her. It's not known if the woman has had her baby.
Topeka Executive Sentenced to Federal Prison for Medicaid Fraud Scheme
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former Topeka executive has been sentenced to three years in federal prison for a Medicaid scheme. The U.S. Attorney's office for Kansas says that 44-year-old Jason Sellers of Lyndon also has been ordered to pay more than $2 million in restitution. He pleaded guilty in October to one count of wire fraud for diverting Medicaid funds to his own use when he was chief financial officer of Kansas Health Solutions. Prosecutors said Sellers fraudulently billed Kansas Health Solutions for information technology services performed by a fake business. Some of the stolen money was used to build and furnish a 3,755-square-foot home on 11 acres in Lyndon valued at $375,000.
Kansas Man Gets Prison Time for Tax Evasion Connected to Porn Website
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 39-year-old Wichita man has been sentenced to two years in prison for evading taxes on income linked to pornographic websites. The U.S. Attorney's office says Dallen Harris must also pay $827,000 in restitution under the sentence he received Monday in U.S. District Court. Harris pleaded guilty earlier to one count of tax evasion, admitting he earned more than $1 million in 2010 but reported income of just $164,000. Prosecutors dropped three other counts of tax evasion in return for the plea. In a related civil case, the government describes Harris as a webmaster who owned the domain names of various pornography sites. Prosecutors are seeking forfeiture of houses, vehicles and bank accounts in that case.
Police Search for Missing 92-Year-Old Paola Man
PAOLA, Kan. (AP) — Police and friends are looking for a missing 92-year-old man who walked away from his assisted living home in the northeast Kansas town of Paola. Police say Earl "Andy" Anderson suffers from dementia. He left the Country Club Estates on Monday evening and was last seen at a Casey's General Store in Paola. Anderson is 5 feet 5 inches tall, 167 pounds and has gray hair. He was wearing a light gray sweatshirt, suspenders, dark-colored pants, a dark-colored coat and glasses.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.