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Headlines for Friday, May 4, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas House Rejects Tax Cuts on Tie Vote

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have narrowly rejected a bill cutting income taxes because some lawmakers worried that it would create future budget problems. The vote Friday in the House was 59-59 on a bill that would save taxpayers an estimated $78 million during the state's next budget year that begins in July. The measure was a response to a change in federal tax laws last year that would force some individuals and corporations to pay more to the state. Many Republicans argued that the state should return the unanticipated "windfall." But GOP legislators were split. Critics argued that the bill could lead to budget shortfalls as early as next year. Legislators earlier increased public school funding to meet a court mandate and added money to other parts of the budget.

3:48 p.m.

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top Republicans are struggling to push a bill cutting income taxes through the Kansas Legislature because some lawmakers worry that it would create future budget problems. GOP leaders hoped the House would vote Friday on a bill that would save taxpayers an estimated $78 million during the fiscal year beginning in July. The measure is a response to changes in federal tax laws last year that would force some individuals and corporations to pay more to the state. The Senate approved the bill early Friday, 21-19. Republicans are split and Democrats oppose the measure. Critics argue that it would create budget shortfalls as early as next year. Legislators also have increased spending on public schools to meet a court mandate and added money to other parts of the budget.


Kansas Lawmakers Approve Extra Money for Higher Education and Pay Raises for State Workers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators on Thursday approved pay raises for state workers, setting aside money for school security upgrades and reversing past spending cuts on state university campuses.  But top Republicans also pursued income tax cuts that could endanger their ability to sustain the extra spending and an increase in funding for public schools approved last month in hopes of satisfying a Kansas Supreme Court mandate.  

The House and Senate approved a bill Thursday that would add millions of new dollars to the budgets approved by lawmakers last year for the state's current fiscal year and the next fiscal year beginning in July. The current budget would top $16.3 billion, and the one for the next fiscal year would be nearly $16.8 billion in total spending.  The votes were 98-23 in the House and 26-14 in the Senate. The measure goes next to Colyer, who is all but certain to sign it but has the power to veto individual spending items.  The measure had bipartisan support because many legislators believed the extra spending addressed areas of state government that had been neglected in previous years. The state experienced persistent budget problems after lawmakers slashed income taxes in 2012 and 2013, and legislators reversed most of the past cuts last year.  

Projections this week from the Legislature's research staff suggested that the state can't sustain all the new spending and cut taxes without causing budget shortfalls as early as next year. But the state's economy has improved, and tax collections have exceeded expectations for 11 consecutive months, with a $66 million surplus in April alone.  The budget bill provides an additional $15 million to state universities to help them recover from cuts in their operation budgets in 2016. A majority of the cuts, but not all of them, would be restored.

State workers would get at least a 2.5 percent pay raise. Uniformed corrections officers and employees who did not get a raise last year would receive 5 percent.

The bill also includes $5 million for grants for security upgrades at public schools. It was part a safety plan House GOP leaders drafted following a deadly mass shooting in February at a Florida high school.  Legislators last month approved phasing in a $534 million increase in aid to the state's 286 school districts over five years. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in October that the state's current education funding of more than $4 billion a year is not sufficient under the state constitution.


Restitution for Wrongfully Imprisoned Heads to Kansas Governor

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Wrongfully imprisoned Kansans would be eligible for restitution under a bill that's headed to the desk of Governor Jeff Colyer.  The Kansas City Star reports that the bill that won legislative approval Thursday would provide those inmates $65,000 for each year they served. It would help inmates like Lamonte McIntyre who spent 23 years in prison for a double homicide he didn't commit. When he was released in October, the state of Kansas gave him absolutely nothing in compensation.  McIntyre would be eligible for almost $1.5 million: a one-time payment of about $373,000 and then $80,000 a year for the next 14 years. McIntyre, now 41, called the compensation a "a good start."  Other benefits include state health care for roughly one year and tuition assistance.


Kansas, Oklahoma Approve Religious Veto on LGBT Adoptions

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas and Oklahoma lawmakers have passed legislation to grant legal protections to faith-based adoption agencies that won't place children in LGBT homes.  The Kansas Senate approved a bill early Friday that would prevent agencies from being barred from providing adoption services for the state if they refuse to place children in homes violating their religious beliefs.  The vote was 24-15. The House approved it earlier on 63-58 vote. It goes next to Republican Governor Jeff Colyer, who supports it.  In Oklahoma, the state House approved similar legislation on a 56-21 vote Thursday and sent it to GOP Governor Mary Fallin.  Supporters argued that the measures would protect the right of adoption agencies to follow their religious beliefs. Critics said they would sanction taxpayer-funded discrimination.  


Missouri to Hold Special Session to Consider Impeaching Governor

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Legislature will convene later this month to consider impeaching Governor Eric Greitens following allegations of sexual misconduct and misuse of charity resources.  House and Senate leaders announced Thursday that they had enough petition signatures of lawmakers to convene a special session on May 18 — just 30 minutes after the regular session ends.  It will mark the first time in Missouri history that a Legislature has called itself into a special session.  The move comes as Greitens faces two felony charges — one related to a 2015 extramarital affair and the other to using a charity donor list for his gubernatorial campaign.  If the House votes to impeach Greitens, the Senate would choose a judicial panel to conduct a trial on whether to remove him from office.


Man Sentenced to Life in Prison in Shooting at Kansas Bar

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man who fatally shot an Indian national and wounded two other men in an apparent hate crime has been sentenced to life in prison. Adam Purinton was sentenced Friday for premeditated first-degree murder in the February 2017 death of Srinivas Kuchibhotla. Kuchibhotla's friend, Alok Madasani, was wounded. Another man, Ian Grillot, was shot when he tried to intervene. Witnesses said Purinton, who is white, yelled "Get out of my country" before firing at the two tech workers from India who had stopped for a drink at Austin's Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas. Purinton was also given two sentences of about 14 years for the wounding the two men. He wouldn't be eligible for parole for 77.5 years. Purinton still faces hate crime charges in federal court.


Sedgwick County Commissioner Indicted for Financial Crimes

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal indictment charges Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O'Donnell with financial crimes related to campaign funds. The indictment unsealed Friday includes five counts of wire fraud, five counts of bank fraud and two counts of money laundering. The 33-year-old Wichita man was issued a summons to appear May 9 in court. O'Donnell did not respond to phone and email messages, and court records do not indicate an attorney. Prosecutors allege O'Donnell put campaign money into his personal bank account and filed false reports with the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission. O'Donnell was elected to the Kansas State Senate in 2012 for a term that ended in January 2017. He did not run for re-election and instead was elected to the Sedgwick County Commission for a term set to expire in 2020.

More information on this story is available here from the Kansas News Service. 


Emporia Commissioners Approve $4 Million Warehouse Expansion

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — A city commission in east-central Kansas has approved an incentive compliance agreement on a $4 million warehouse expansion for a food products supplier. The Emporia Gazette reports that Emporia City Commission approved the agreement for the Cargill warehouse Wednesday. The decision comes after a recommendation from Kent Heermann, president of the Regional Development Association of East Central Kansas. The 50,500-square-foot warehouse will be on nearly 6 acres of land owned by Emporia Enterprises. The facility also includes a 10-year tax abatement. Cargill has invested more than $5 million worth of equipment and upgrades over the last several years. Heermann says the project would bring at least $330,000 in additional payroll to Emporia. Vice Mayor Jon Geitz says the expansion has been in the works for at least 10 years.


Kansas Wheat Harvest Expected to Fall Far Short of Year Ago

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Participants in this year's Kansas winter wheat tour are forecasting a far smaller harvest this season in the state.  The group estimated on Thursday the size of the Kansas wheat crop at 243.3 million bushels based on conditions they observed during the three-day tour. If realized, that would be far smaller than the 333.6 million bushels cut last year in Kansas.  Scouts also forecast an average yield statewide of 37 bushels per acre. That is well under the 48 bushels per acre average for wheat harvested in 2017.  Aaron Harries is the marketing director for the industry group Kansas Wheat. He says the take-away is that the wheat is short in stature and it is going to be short in bushels.


Emergency Medical Technician Charged with Drug Tampering

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Federal officials say an emergency medical technician from Jackson County, Kansas, is charged with stealing morphine from ambulances or offices.  The U.S. Attorney's office said in a news release that 32-year-old Colby Vanwagoner, of Mayetta, is charged with two counts of tampering with consumer products and one count of making a false statement to federal investigators.  A grand jury indictment returned April 26 and unsealed Wednesday alleges the crimes occurred when Vanwagoner was working for the Jackson County Emergency Medical Service in Holton.  Prosecutors say Vanwagoner would replace morphine with saline solution and return the vials to narcotic boxes. The concentration of morphine in some vials was 1 percent or less.  Online court records do not name an attorney for Vanwagoner.


Police: Body in Car Might be Kansas Woman Missing 2.5 Years

MERIDEN, Kan. (AP) — Jefferson County authorities say a body found in a submerged car might be that of a woman who disappeared 2.5 years ago.  Sheriff Jeff Herrig says the body was found Wednesday inside a vehicle belonging to 70-year-old Joan Reber, a Meriden woman who was reported missing in September 2015. The car was pulled from a pond less than 1.5 miles from the VFW post where Reber was last seen.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reported a landowner noticed the corner of a vehicle sticking out of the pond and a dive team was called. The license plate number matched one belonging to Herrig.  Herrig says a positive identification hasn't been made. But he added the discovery was going to be a relief for everyone involved in trying to find Reber.


Police Believe Kansas Woman Missing for 1 Year is Dead

MAIZE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say they believe a 30-year-old Maize woman who disappeared last year is likely dead. Maize police Detective Jeff Piper said Friday investigators think 31-year-old Kendra Nystrom was the victim of foul play. She disappeared May 4, 2017, while walking away from her parents' home. She walked away with her dog but left behind her cellphone, wallet, car and clothing. Piper says after months of searching, investigators believe she didn't disappear voluntarily and she is likely dead. Investigators throughout Sedgwick County have followed up on numerous leads and reports of sightings in the last year, to no avail. Piper and Nystrom's mother, Judith Nystrom, asked the public for help in determining what happened to her.


Arkansas Regulators Want Takeover of 2 Skyline Nursing Homes

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas regulators say they want to find new operators for two nursing homes amid questions about the financial stability of their parent company. The state Department of Human Services says Office of Long Term Care surveyors have been at the Spring Place Health & Rehab center in Hazen and the Dierks Health & Rehab center since Thursday. The facilities remain open, serving 39 residents in Hazen and up to 52 at Dierks. The sites are owned by Skyline Health, which operates 19 other homes and rehab centers around the state. DHS says it had been monitoring Skyline since financial problems emerged elsewhere this spring. Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota regulators have taken similar steps. A Skyline official in South Dakota said this week the company was moving on toward receivership there.


Officer Shoots, Kills Man During Drug-Arrest Confrontation

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Kansas City, Kansas, police officer shot and killed an armed man during a drug-arrest confrontation.  Police say the shooting occurred Wednesday evening during a narcotics investigation.  The Kansas City Star reports police haven't identified the man. But an attorney says the victim was Manuel Palacio. Attorney Tom Porto says he represented Palacio in an excessive force lawsuit against Kansas City, Missouri, police in 2014. Palacio won a $300,000 settlement in that case. Porto says he has been in contact with Palocio's family since the shooting.  The officer who shot Palacio is a 21-year veteran of the department. He is on administrative leave, which is typical after fatal shootings.  Police Chief Terry Zeigler says no officers involved in the confrontation were injured.


Man Wounded by Police in Kansas Charged with 5 Felonies

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City man who was shot and wounded by police has been charged with ramming several patrol cars with a stolen vehicle.  Twenty-year-old Taylor Joseph Greenhalgh, of Lenexa, Kansas, is charged with five felonies, including aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and felony theft. Bond is set at $250,000. Prosecution also filed a motion to revoke his probation in an unrelated theft case. No attorney is listed for him in online court records.  Police said in a news release that officers surrounded a vehicle that had been reported as stolen Tuesday night in a Lenexa parking lot. The release says the driver was shot when he speed off and hit the patrol cars. The wounded driver then led officers on a 3 ½ mile pursuit before surrendering.


TV Footage Shows Missouri Police Apparently Beating Suspect

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A man who was shown on video being hit and kneed by Kansas City police has been charged with resisting arrest, armed robbery and armed criminal action.  Jackson County prosecutors charged Troy Anderson on Thursday.  The 32-year-old Independence man was arrested Wednesday after a 30-minute car chase that was caught on video by news helicopters. The footage appears to show two officers hitting and kneeing Anderson while he was on the ground with his hands behind his back.  Police spokesman Capt. Lionel Colon says the officers are expected to return to full duty while an internal police investigation is conducted.  Anderson is being held in Jackson County on a $100,000 bond. No court date has been set.  Online court records do not indicate that Anderson has an attorney.


Police Look for Man Charged in 2012 Throat-Slashing Killing

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are making another push to find a man charged in a 2012 throat-slashing killing in the southern part of the city. Thirty-seven-year-old Rathanak Chea left Wichita after he was charged with first-degree murder in the death of 35-year-old Pheng Xiong (fehn ZHAN'). Wichita police said Xiong was killed by four men - three of them Asian Boys gang members - who broke into his home. Police said two of the men held Xiong down on his bed as another asked him if he had any last words before slashing his throat, nearly decapitating him. The killing was revenge for an earlier confrontation. The other three suspects pleaded guilty previously. Anyone with information about Chea is asked to call Crime Stoppers or 911.


Police: Vermont Suspect May Have Committed Robberies in Multiple States, Including Kansas

VERGENNES, Vt. (AP) — Police in Vermont are searching for a Texas man who they say committed robberies in several states. The Warren County Sheriff's Office tells WCAX-TV 46-year-old Mark Triolo, of Lewisville, Texas, robbed Small City Market in Vergennes, Vermont, on Tuesday after robbing a gas station near Lake George, New York, the previous day. Police say Triolo is also suspected in bank robberies in Kansas and Tennessee. Authorities say Triolo is armed and dangerous. Investigators believe he is driving a stolen Kia Sorento with the Texas license plate DH5-L669. Police say anyone who sees Triolo should call 911.


A 23-Year-Old American Black Bear at Topeka Zoo Has Died

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka Zoo officials say a 23-year-old American black bear died after an eye condition rapidly deteriorated.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the bear, called Sneak, possibly poked herself in the eye while playing with a stick on Monday.  Topeka spokesman Molly Hadfield says injury quickly grew worse and the bear was taken to a veterinary hospital Wednesday.  Sneak quit breathing as she was being intubated and her heart stopped. Hadfield says the bear didn't respond to emergency drugs or resuscitation efforts.  Sneak arrived at the Topeka Zoo in 1996 from Wildlife Prairie State Park in Peoria, Illinois, with her sister Peek, who died in 2015.  In 2014, the zoo rescued two orphaned black bears and Hadfield says Sneak became the cubs' adopted mother.


Ex-JE Dunn Recruiter Sentenced for Fraud Scheme

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former job recruiter was sentenced to one year and one day in prison for defrauding a Kansas City construction company.  The Kansas City Star reports 46-year-old John Kirwin, of Lee's Summit, was sentenced Thursday and ordered to pay restitution of $800,400.  Kirwin recruited employees for JE Dunn for construction projects.  Prosecutors say he conspired with outside job recruiters from Oklahoma and Texas, who filed fraudulent invoices with Dunn. When Dunn paid the recruiters, Kirwin received some of the money. He received illegal kickbacks of more than $400,000.  A co-conspirator, 50-year-old Brian Newkirk of Houston, was sentenced Thursday to 45 days in custody, and ordered to pay $427,000 restitution.  Another outside job recruiter from Oklahoma, Debi Jordan, was previously sentenced to 30 days in custody and ordered to repay $348,450.


Missouri Attorney General Must Pay Bulk of Tab to Send Investigator to Mexico

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A St. Louis judge will allow lawyers for a man accused of a two-state murder spree to send an investigator to Mexico to research the man's childhood and background, and he has ordered the Missouri attorney general's office to pay most of the cost. Pablo Serrano-Vitorino goes to trial in October in the March 2016 death of a Montgomery County, Missouri, man. He also is accused of killing four men in Kansas City, Kansas. He could face the death penalty in the Missouri case. Serrano-Vitorino is a Mexican nationally who was in the U.S. illegally when the killings occurred. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Judge Steven Ohmer has ruled that the attorney general's office must pay up to $40,000 of the estimated $59,000 price for the investigation in Mexico.


2 Low-Intensity Tornadoes Confirmed in Southwest Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a spring storm dropped two low-intensity tornadoes in southwest Missouri but no major damage was reported.  National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Griffin says the two tornadoes touched down early Thursday.  An EF1 tornado about 100 yards wide stayed on the ground north of Ozark for about a mile, causing mostly cosmetic damage to homes.  Griffin told The Springfield News-Leader the same storm produced an EF0 tornado a few minutes later southwest of Rogersville. That tornado damaged several trees, outbuildings and a barn.  At least one tornado was reported Wednesday night near Belton, in suburban Kansas City, causing no major damage.  The weather service also confirmed that an EF1 tornado touched down Wednesday night in Johnson County, Kansas, causing minor damage to trees and power lines.  No injuries were reported from any of the tornadoes.


Lawsuit: Kansas City Sold Impounded Cars, Didn't Tell Owner

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal lawsuit alleges that Kansas City sold several impounded vehicles without notifying the owner.  The Kansas City Star reports that used car dealer John Hinz filed the lawsuit against the city, the Police Department and the Board of Police Commissioners. The suit also alleges there have been about 50 instances in the last four years where the city sold cars without the rightful owners' knowledge and consent.  Hinz reported five stolen vehicles to police in 2013. Police recovered the cars and placed them in the city's tow lot during an investigation. The theft case was dismissed in 2014, and the city sold the vehicles two months later.  Hinz alleges he wasn't notified about the dismissal or the sale.  The Attorney General's Office says Hinz didn't properly title the vehicles.


IHOP Fires Server over Racial Slur on Customer's Receipt

GRANDVIEW, Mo. (AP) — A pancake restaurant chain has fired a black server at a suburban Kansas City restaurant after she printed a racial slur on a black customer's receipt.  The Kansas City Star reports that IHOP (EYE'-hop) President Darren Rebelez said in an email that the server's action last month at a restaurant in Grandview, Missouri, was "inexcusable." The 19-year-old customer's mother posted a photo of the receipt to social media.  IHOP is run by International House of Pancakes LLC. The company is among several U.S. food chains to come under scrutiny because of the way black people were treated. In March, the company apologized after a waitress in Auburn, Maine, asked black teenagers to pay upfront for a meal.  IHOP has more than 1,750 locations worldwide.



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