Kansas Tax Collections $7M Below Expectations Last Month
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is reporting that it collected about $7 million less in taxes than anticipated in January, with corporate income and sales taxes falling short of expectations. Monday's report of a shortfall came as legislative budget committees prepared to discuss proposals for closing a projected shortfall approaching $200 million in the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The Department of Revenue says the state collected $535 million in taxes last month instead of the $542 million projected in a November fiscal forecast. The shortfall is 1.3 percent. Since the current fiscal year began in July, the state has collected $3.38 billion in taxes. That's $26 million less than anticipated. The department noted that personal income tax collections exceeded expectations in January but not for the entire fiscal year.
Kansas House GOP Testing Support for Supreme Court Changes
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top Republicans in the Kansas House plan to test support this week for changing how state Supreme Court justices are selected. House Speaker Ray Merrick said Monday that GOP leaders want to see "where people are" on the issue. House Republicans have scheduled Tuesday and Wednesday caucuses to discuss judicial selection. Republican Governor Sam Brownback has repeatedly called for changing how the justices are selected. He calls the current system undemocratic, but changing it will require amending the state constitution. A nominating commission led by lawyers screens applicants for Supreme Court vacancies and submits three finalists to the governor. The governor must pick one, and there is no role for legislators. Some Republicans want to abolish the commission and have the governor make the appointments, subject to state Senate confirmation.
Kansas Lawmakers Moving Quickly to Balance State Budget
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Republican leaders expect two Kansas legislative committees to approve plans next week for closing a projected $190 million deficit in the state's next budget. The House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means committees will be starting from GOP Governor Sam Brownback's proposals for juggling funds and capturing unanticipated savings. Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce said the goal is for the Republican-dominated Legislature to finish work on a budget-balancing plan by the end of February. GOP leaders said closing the budget shortfall quickly will allow lawmakers to focus on fixing long-term inefficiencies in state government. Legislators in both parties worry that budget work will be complicated by month-to-month revenue shortfalls. For 2014 and 2015, tax collections fell short of expectations most months; officials expect to learn today (MON) how the state fared in January.
Bill Would Allow Same-Day Voter Registration in Kansas
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill in the Kansas Legislature would allow people to register to vote on Election Day and cast a ballot the same day. "Same-day registration" is allowed in 10 states and the District of Columbia, but Kansas law requires voters to be registered at least 21 days before an election. Representative Gail Finney, a Wichita Democrat, is sponsoring the same-day voter registration bill, which would allow voters to go to their county election office within 20 days before an election, or to their local polling place on Election Day, and cast a ballot at the same time they register. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says he is opposed to the measure. Kobach says he believes same-day voter registration can lead to people voting more than once.
Kansas Lawmakers of Both Parties Seek Transparency Reform
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are pledging support of legislation that seeks to make state government more transparent. The Wichita Eagle reports that Republican state Representative John Rubin and Democratic state Representative John Wilson signed a pledge to support these efforts. The pledge was drafted by Open Kansas, a nonprofit that supports government transparency. The organization says Kansas was among 11 states to receive a failing grade when the Center for Public Integrity rated state transparency last year. One of the Senate bills would address a loophole in the state's records law that allows officials to conduct public business on private email. Another would change the Open Meetings Act so public bodies have to disclose more information when they go into closed sessions. A House bill would enable live audio streaming of committee hearings.
Kansas Legislators Hears Testimony on New Crimes for Sexting
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are discussing a House bill that that would create new penalties for transmitting and possessing nude photos of children between the ages of 12 and 19 years old. Republican Representative Ramon Gonzales of Perry introduced the bill last year in the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice. He called the measure an alternative to current laws that make first-time sexual exploitation of a child under 18 years old a felony. Those laws apply only to adults over the age of 18 and do not address the practice of sending to others sexually suggestive messages or photos, commonly known as sexting. Lawmakers heard testimony Monday about how the measure deals with transmitting and possessing nude images of children.
Winter Storm Forecast for North-Central and Northwest Kansas
GOODLAND, Kan. (AP) — A winter storm with heavy snow is expected to hit western and northern sections of Kansas. The National Weather Service on Sunday issued winter storm warnings and watches for sections of the state from early Monday through noon Tuesday. The weather service says some areas could get up to eight inches of snow. The heaviest snowfall is forecast Monday night into Tuesday for areas north of Interstate 70. Winds gusting up to 30 miles per hour are also expected with the storm, which could reduce visibility and make travel hazardous.
Jury Selection Begins in for Trial of Quadruple Murder Suspect in Kansas
OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — Jurors are being selected for the trial of a man accused in the 2013 killings of four people at a Kansas farm, including an 18-month-old girl. The selection process began Monday in the case against Kyle Trevor Flack. He is charged with capital murder in Franklin County in the shooting deaths of Kaylie Smith Bailey and her young daughter. He's also charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Andrew A. Stout and Steven White. Stout, White and Kaylie Bailey were found dead at Stout's farm in Ottawa, about 50 miles southwest of Kansas City. Bailey's daughter's body was found a few days later in neighboring Osage County. Flack has been in custody since shortly after the bodies were discovered. Authorities say jury selection could take two weeks.
Driver Runs over Himself During Topeka Police Chase
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A man has been rushed to a hospital after jumping out of a sport utility vehicle while fleeing from police. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the vehicle the man was driving ran over him. Topeka police Lieutenant Jennifer Cross said in a news release that the chase started early Sunday after police attempted to stop the SUV driver for running a red light. Authorities had been looking for the SUV because it was thought to be connected to a domestic dispute. Police say the pursuit ended when the man jumped out of the driver's side. He was transported to a local hospital.
FAA Allows Rule Exemption for Westar Energy Drones
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Westar Energy is set to deploy drones to help the electric company perform a variety of tasks like pinpointing storm damage and inspecting wind turbine blades. The Wichita Eagle reports that the utility obtained a rule exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration last week to begin using two remote-controlled aerial drones. The utility is awaiting final approval from the FAA. Jason Klenklen, one of Westar's two qualified drone pilots, says using the drones to do things like inspecting utility towers and lines is safer. Westar plans to initially focus on using the drones for emergency line inspections because they can be deployed quickly, which will help restore power faster. Westar has been working with Kansas State University since 2013 to develop its unmanned aerial program.
Wichita City Council to Consider $33M Library Project
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita City Council is set to decide the fate of a new $33 million central library project. If approved, the project would be financed with city bonds. The Wichita Public Library Foundation has raised some of the money - about $5.5 of an $8 million campaign. The Wichita Eagle reports that the city approved initial plans for a new library about 10 years ago and bought the land for $3.69 million in 2008. Council members will vote Tuesday on letting the project to bid. If that passes, they'll have to vote again later to approve a contractor. Supporters say the new library will be an advanced learning center with new technology and community gathering spaces. But some City Council members still question whether the new library is necessary.
Manhattan to Host Centuries-Old Book with Shakespeare Plays
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A nearly 400-year-old collection of William Shakespeare's plays is making a stop in Manhattan. An exhibition featuring a "First Folio" of the Bard's plays goes on display Thursday at Kansas State University. The exhibit last through the end of the month. The folio was assembled by two of Shakespeare's actors in 1623 and is an original printing of the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays. Included are plays such as "Macbeth," ''Julius Caesar" and "The Tempest." Of about 750 copies made originally, it's estimated 233 remain. One site in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico was chosen to host the traveling exhibit. The tour is organized by the Folger Shakespeare Library, in partnership with the Cincinnati Museum Center and the American Library Association.
Measure Seeks Suicide-Awareness Training for Kansas Teachers
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas lawmaker wants to require two hours of suicide-prevention training for teachers as a way to reduce the number of teen suicides. Republican Senator Greg Smith is a high school teacher in Shawnee Mission and a former police officer who thinks the free training under his bill could help teachers better spot warning signs in troubled students. During a recent Senate Education Committee hearing on the issue, several Kansas parents whose sons and daughters took their own lives pressed the need for the training. Smith's bill is modeled after the Jason Flatt Act already in effect in 16 states. The act is named after a 16-year-old Tennessee boy who killed himself in 1997.
Lawrence Students Petition to Ban Confederate Flag
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Students at Free State High School in Lawrence want to ban the Confederate flag throughout the school district. The students have started a petition to ban the Confederate flag and plan to present it to the Lawrence school board next week. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the move comes after school administrators told a student he could not fly a Confederate flag on the vehicle he parked in the school parking lot. Abena Peasah, one of the students who drafted the petition, says she wants the entire district to ban the Confederate flag. The petition has more than 200 signatures. Peasah says she's working to add the proposal to the Lawrence school board's agenda for its next meeting February 8th.
Speedy Cash Blames Slow Tax Season, Regulations for Layoffs
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Payday lender Speedy Cash blames the coming slow tax refund season and regulatory challenges for layoffs at its corporate office and U.S. call center, both located in Wichita. The company said Monday it eliminated about 7 percent of the jobs at its corporate office and 6 percent of jobs at its call center last week. That amounts to fewer than 50 lost Wichita jobs. The move comes a month after the company laid off about 50 people in the United Kingdom when it closed 10 of its retail locations there. Speedy Cash employs just under 5,000 people across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Its chief marketing officer, Bill Baker, says its customers' access to mobile devices is changing the company's products and how it offers them.
Lawrence Says "No" to Cemetery Wedding
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence couple who sought permission to get married in a local cemetery will have to find another venue for their wedding. Abbie Stutzer told the Lawrence Journal-World she thought Oak Hill Cemetery would provide a "nice, memorable" venue for a Halloween evening wedding this fall. The Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department denied the request. Mark Hecker, assistant director of Parks and Recreation, said the cemetery wedding just wasn't a good idea, particularly if a funeral was also scheduled for that day. Hecker said getting married on land owned by Parks and Recreation actually doesn't take a special permit, though reservations are required for certain facilities.
Midwest Economic Survey Figures Rise
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - January results from a survey of supply managers in nine Midwest and Plains states suggest some improvement in the regional economy but not enough to generate optimism. A report issued today (MON) says the Mid-American Business Conditions Index jumped to 48.3 in January from 39.5 in December - the first increase in six months. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he says falling agriculture and energy commodity prices and global economic uncertainty continue "to restrain supply managers' expectations of future economic conditions." The survey results are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests economic growth. A score below that suggests decline. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
Body Found Near Nebo State Fishing Lake in Jackson County
LARKINBURG, Kan. (AP) - A body has been found near the Nebo State Fishing Lake in Jackson County. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Jackson County Sheriff's Office says the body was found Sunday afternoon about one-half mile south of the lake near Larkinburg. The body, which has not been identified, was transported to Kansas City for an autopsy. The case is under investigation.
Wichita Council to Consider $33M Library Project
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita City Council is set to decide the fate of a new $33 million central library project. If approved, the project would be financed with city bonds. The Wichita Public Library Foundation has raised about $5.5 million in a fundraising campaign with a goal of $8 million. The Wichita Eagle reports the city approved initial plans for a new library about 10 years ago and bought the land for $3.69 million in 2008. Council members will vote Tuesday on letting the project to bid. If that passes, they'll have to vote again later to approve a contractor. Supporters say the new library will be an advanced learning center with new technology and community gathering spaces. But some City Council members still question whether the new library is necessary.
Police Announce Arrest in 1996 Slaying of 15-Year-Old Girl
FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — Frederick, Maryland police are announcing an arrest in the 1996 slaying of a 15-year-old girl. Frederick Police Department Lieutenant Clark Pennington said Monday that 52-year-old Lloyd Harris was arrested last week in Kansas City, Missouri, in the death of Stacy Lynn Hoffmaster. Harris is being held at the Clay County jail in Liberty, Missouri, pending extradition proceedings. Pennington says a Frederick County grand jury indicted Harris January 22 on charges of first-degree murder, first-degree rape and third-degree sex offense. Hoffmaster was reported missing in October 1996. Her body was found that December under a moving blanket in a wooded area where Pennington says Harris was living. She had been strangled. The case isn't listed yet in Maryland online court records. It's not clear if Harris has an attorney.
NCAA Board Votes to Extend President's Contract Through 2020
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The NCAA says its board of governors has voted to extend the contract of President Mark Emmert three years, through October 2020. In a statement released by the NCAA on Monday, Kansas State President and board chairman Kirk Schulz says Emmert is "integral in leading the association forward as we navigate the complex and challenging way ahead, while better supporting student-athletes." The board approved an extension during the NCAA convention last month in San Antonio. The vote included an option to add another year to the deal. Emmert has led the NCAA since 2010. He was previously the president of the University of Washington. His tenure has been marked by dramatic changes in the way the NCAA does business and near constant pressure from lawsuits against the association.
Duke Out of AP Men's Top 25 Poll for 1st Time in over 8 Years; KU Ranked Number 7
For the first time in more than eight years, Duke is not in The Associated Press Top 25. The Blue Devils are 15-6 and have lost four of five, including two home games. They had been in every men's poll since the preseason rankings of 2007-08. The record run is UCLA's 221 straight polls from 1966-80. Oklahoma is 18-2 and is No. 1 for the third straight week, receiving 45 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel on Monday. North Carolina is 19-2 and stays second, with 20 No. 1 votes. Villanova jumps three places to third and is followed in the top 10 by Maryland, Iowa, Xavier, Kansas, Texas A&M, Virginia and Michigan State.