Kansas Legislators Finish Rules Revision
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are done revising their rules, and one new provision limits the consideration of new spending when the House and Senate debate budget bills. The Senate voted 28-12 on Tuesday to approve rules governing interactions between the two chambers. The House approved the same measure Monday on a vote of 81-41. The biggest change is a joint rule barring members of both chambers from proposing increased spending during budget debates without proposing an offsetting cut elsewhere. The Kansas House had such a rule in place for the past two years. The Senate didn't, but GOP conservatives took over the chamber this year. House members approved the rules for their own chamber Monday on an 82-40 vote. Senators approved rules for their chamber two weeks ago.
UPDATE: Kansas Revenue Chief Touts Governor's Tax Proposals
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan is telling legislators that Kansas must further reduce individual income tax rates to remain competitive economically. Jordan testified Tuesday before the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee on its first of three days of hearings on tax proposals from conservative Republican Governor Sam Brownback. Brownback wants to phase in additional cuts in individual income tax rates over three years, following up on aggressive income tax cuts last year. But to keep the budget stable, he also wants to eliminate two popular income tax deductions for homeowners and raise additional sales tax revenues. Jordan says Brownback's goal is to phase out individual income taxes. Republican governors and legislators in other states also are talking about slashing state income taxes after the cuts in Kansas last year.
Bill to Regulate Adult-Oriented Businesses in Kansas Resurfaces
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill that seeks to regulate strip clubs and other adult businesses in Kansas has resurfaced in the Kansas House. The measure would regulate where adult businesses can be located, and ban lap dances and dancing onstage in various levels of undress. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a hearing on the measure is planned for February 14 in the House Federal and State Affairs Committee. But Representative Arlen Siegfreid, an Olathe Republican, says he's unsure how eager lawmakers will be to vote on it and it's unclear if the committee will work on the bill this year. When the bill was considered in Kansas in 2010 and 2011, it passed the House but died in the Senate.
Kansas Lawmakers Planning Extra-Long Spring Break
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators plan to take an unusually long spring break before returning to wrap up business this year. House Speaker Ray Merrick of Stilwell said Monday the change is part of efforts by his fellow Republican leaders to shorten the time in session from the traditional 90 days to 80 or even fewer. The House and Senate will begin the annual break April 6. Normally they would be gone 2½ weeks and return April 24. But this year, they'll reconvene May 8. By then, Merrick says, any deadlines for Governor Sam Brownback to veto bills will have passed. Merrick says the goal is to limit the wrap-up session after the break to considering vetoes. The schedule also would allow lawmakers to attend two national conferences. Merrick said that's a coincidence.
Kansas Bill Would Strengthen Human Trafficking Penalties
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill proposed in the Kansas Senate would increase penalties for human trafficking and try to protect victims under the age of 18. The bill introduced Monday would create the new crime of commercial sexual exploitation of a child. It also would allow authorities to treat those caught in human trafficking as victims. It would also create coordinated training for human trafficking enforcement. The Wichita Eagle reports that a main part of the bill is creating response teams that would provide various placement options for victims. And it would create a human trafficking victim assistance fund. The bill would make promoting prostitution a felony, with fines ranging from $2,500 to more than $5,000. Patronizing prostitutes would be a misdemeanor with a fine of $2,500 unless it involves a repeat offender.
Consulting Firm Director Seeks Kansas Insurance Commissioner Post
EUDORA, Kan. (AP) — The director of a northeast Kansas health insurance consulting company is running for next year's Republican nomination for state insurance commissioner. Beverly Gossage, of Eudora, announced her candidacy in a statement Monday. Gossage describes herself as a conservative Republican who opposes abortion. She's also a critic of the 2010 federal health care overhaul championed by President Barack Obama. State Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger has said she's not likely to run again next year. Praeger is a moderate Republican from Lawrence and was first elected commissioner in 2002. Gossage is director of HSA Benefits Consulting, which helps other firms find affordable health insurance and set up health savings accounts for employees. She has also testified on health care measures in both Kansas and Missouri. Kansas holds party primaries in August 2014.
Kansas Republican Party Gets New State Chairman
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Republicans have picked a Wichita party activist who serves as Sedgwick County clerk as the state GOP's new chairman. Kelly Arnold was the Kansas GOP's vice chairman for the past two years. He has been both executive director and chairman of the Sedgwick County party. He also was the Kansas GOP's finance director and the treasurer for the National Young Republicans. The Republican State Committee elected Arnold during the party's annual convention over the weekend in Hutchinson. Arnold will replace Amanda Adkins, who chaired the state party for four years before deciding to step down. Adkins is an executive for the health information technology firm Cerner Corporation. Arnold is 34 years old. He was first elected Sedgwick County clerk in 2008 and won re-election last year.
Escaped Kansas Inmate Last Seen in Augusta Area
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are searching for a 25-year-old inmate who escaped from a north-central Kansas jail. Joseph Mosier was being held at the Osborne County Detention Center on charges from Sedgwick County. The Sedgwick County sheriff's office says Mosier escaped sometime over the weekend from the fenced-in exercise yard at the Osborne facility. His disappearance wasn't noticed until a head count at 10 pm Sunday. He was last seen Monday afternoon in the Augusta area of Butler County, where he has friends and family. Authorities believe Mosier stole a truck in Osborne that was found Monday in Augusta, as well as a dark blue 1996 Ford Thunderbird that was stolen in Augusta. Mosier was charged in Sedgwick County with burglary, criminal damage to property, attempted theft and parole violations.
UPDATE: Israeli Ambassador Fine with US Cabinet Changes
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Israel's ambassador to the U.S. says he expects to have a continued good working relationship with President Barack Obama's administration despite changes in the U.S. diplomatic corps. Michael Oren said Tuesday after delivering a Landon Lecture at Kansas State University that he did not expect much change if Senator John Kerry is confirmed to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. The ambassador also said Israeli officials have met with Chuck Hagel, who has been nominated to lead the Department of Defense. He says Israel has been assured that Hagel considers Israel a partner with the United States. Hagel, a former Republican senator, has been criticized for statements he has made regarding Israeli influence in Washington and how to deal with Iran.
Test Confirms Wolf Killed in Kansas Last Month
WAKEENEY, Kan. (AP) — A state parks official says tests have confirmed that an animal killed by hunters in Trego County in December was a wolf. DNA testing conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed the animal was a western Great Lakes wolf, a subspecies of the gray wolf. Ron Kaufman, a spokesman for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, says officials haven't determined if the wolf was wild or had been in captivity. The Hays Daily News reported Monday that the last confirmed killing of a gray wolf in Kansas was during the winter of 1938-39. The animal's body has been turned over to the federal wildlife agency. Gray wolves are a protected species outside extreme northern United States. The hunters have not been identified.
Kansas Driver Charged in Fatal Crash
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas driver has now been charged for a crash that killed a 6-year-old girl last summer in southeast Wichita. KAKE-TV reports that 19-year-old Raudel Sandoval was charged Tuesday with second-degree reckless murder. He was being held on $100,000 bond. The little girl, Feodora Two-Hatchett, was killed the night of June 26 when her mother's car was hit by another vehicle in the middle of an intersection. Witnesses said Feodora's mother might not have completely stopped at a stop sign, but they also said the other car was speeding. Police said Sandoval was driving 60 to 70 mph in a 35 mph zone. Sandoval is expected to have a preliminary hearing on February 12. He did not yet have a lawyer.
Whole Foods Recalls 4-oz. Smoked Salmon Product
DENVER (AP) — Whole Foods Market says it is voluntarily recalling some 4-ounce Whole Catch Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon, cold-smoked and sliced, after a sample tested positive for listeria. Some of the recalled items were sold in stores in Kansas and other states. The lot code for the recalled smoked salmon is 7425A2298B. The UPC code is 0 99482 40880 0.
Kansas Woman Sentenced for Medicaid Fraud, Mistreating Daughter
MOLINE, Kan. (AP) — A southeast Kansas woman will serve 30 days in jail and pay nearly $36,000 in restitution for mistreatment of her disabled adult daughter, Medicaid fraud and animal cruelty. KAKE-TV reports that 61-year-old Bonnie Newman was sentenced Monday after being found guilty in November 2012. Law enforcement and social services removed Newman's disabled adult daughter from her home in Sedan in March 2009 due to unsanitary conditions. Numerous animals were also seized at the home. She was ordered to pay $35,869 to the Kansas Medicaid program, Rainbow Meadows Equine Rescue and investigative costs of the Kansas Attorney General's office. Newman's other daughter, Cheri Newman, also pleaded guilty to mistreatment of a dependent adult and conspiracy to defraud the Medicaid program. She was ordered to repay $9,743 to the Kansas Medicaid program.
Hostess Set to Announce Bidder for Twinkies
NEW YORK (AP) _ The indestructible Twinkie appears to be one step closer to a comeback. Hostess Brands is close to announcing that it has picked two investment firms -- C. Dean Metropoulos & Co. and Apollo Global Management -- as the lead bidders for its Twinkies and other snack cakes, according to a source close to the situation. The joint "stalking horse'' bid would set the floor for an auction process that lets competitors make better offers. A judge would have to approve any final sale. After years of management turmoil and turnover, Hostess declared it was going out of business and selling its brands in November. Hostess has already picked separate lead bidders its Drake's cakes and breads, which include Wonder. Hostess Brands was formerly known as Interstate Bakeries Corporation and was based in Kansas City, Missouri until 2009. The company's headquarters are now in Irving, Texas.
Dodge City Gang Member Sentenced for Racketeering
DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Dodge City gang member was sentenced to nearly four years in prison after a fight between gang members. Twenty-year-old Humberto Ortiz was arrested as part of a federal racketeering case targeting gang members. Ortiz was sentenced Monday to three years and 10 months in prison after pleading guilty earlier to assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering. Federal prosecutors say Ortiz admitted that he and other gang members assaulted people they thought were members of another gang in Dodge City in August 2011. Ortiz admitted his gang, the Nortenos, was part of a continuing criminal enterprise that used violence, including murder and robbery. Four others are awaiting trial. They were among 23 people who were charged under the federal racketeering laws.
2 More Hutchinson Churches Burglarized
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Hutchinson police are investigating burglaries at two more churches. One of the churches, Trinity United Methodist, has been burglarized four times in nine months. The other church burglarized Saturday was the Christian Science Church. Police Detective Jamie Schoenhoff says the burglaries are similar to more than a dozen church burglaries last year. Four people were arrested in those burglaries. KWCH reports the burglars also hit a Dillon's store across from the Christian Science Church. The Christian Science Church did not have services on Sunday because of the break-in.
Kansas Wheat Condition Deteriorating
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new report says January's limited moisture across most of Kansas has caused the winter wheat crop to deteriorate. The Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that 39 percent of the crop was already in poor to very poor condition. Forty-one percent is rated as fair, with 19 percent in good shape and 1 percent in excellent condition. The lack of significant rainfall has also affected livestock producers. Stock water supplies are short to very short across 78 percent of Kansas. Many ranchers are hauling water for livestock. Stock ponds are low or dried out. Concern is also building over pasture conditions amid the lingering drought. The agency reports that 85 percent of Kansas pastures are in poor to very poor shape.
NTSB Issues Report on Deadly Helicopter Crash
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Federal investigators say checklists for mechanics and inspectors might have helped catch maintenance errors like one that caused the crash of a sightseeing helicopter near Las Vegas. A Kansas couple and three other people died in the December 2011 crash.
Israeli Ambassador to Speak at K-State
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Israel's ambassador to the United States is delivering the latest Landon Lecture at Kansas State University. The speech by Michael Oren, titled "Israel, The Ultimate Ally," was scheduled for midmorning Tuesday at the Student Union. Oren was appointed Israel's ambassador to Washington in 2009. He was born in upstate New York and grew up in New Jersey, then moved in Israel in 1979. He holds multiple degrees from Columbia and Princeton universities. He has written several books. The last two are "Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East from 1776 to the Present" and "Six Days of War," which were both New York Times best-sellers. Oren's appearance at Kansas State comes as the U.S. makes changes in its foreign policy team, including new secretaries of state and defense.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.
Kansas Senate Panel to Examine Governor's Tax Plan
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee is holding two days of hearings on Governor Sam Brownback's tax plan amid questions about whether it is fair to the state's poorest residents. The Republican-dominated Assessment and Taxation Committee was beginning its review of the GOP governor's proposals Tuesday morning. Brownback wants to phase in more income tax cuts over the next three years to follow up on reductions approved last year. But to stabilize the budget, Brownback also wants to eliminate two popular income tax deductions for homeowners and keep the sales tax at its current rate, rather than letting it drop in July as planned. The plan is drawing criticism from the Washington-based Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a nonpartisan research group that says the plan favors the wealthy. Brownback's administration disputes that allegation.
**This story has been updated. Please see above.