Kansas Revenues Come in Over Projections
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas is reporting that it collected $66 million more in taxes than anticipated in April. That makes eleven months in a row that revenues have been better than expected. The Department of Revenue said Tuesday that the state collected $932 million in taxes last month and the official forecast was $866 million. The 7.6 percent surplus was notable because it was the first monthly revenue report since state officials and university economists issued new and more optimistic projections April 20th. The state's tax collections are 20 percent higher than they were a year ago. Lawmakers last year increased income taxes to help balance the state budget.
Kansas Lawmakers Looking to Cut Income Taxes
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are looking to cut income taxes between $70 million and $85 million a year because some individuals and corporations would otherwise pay more to the state following changes in federal tax laws. House and Senate negotiators agreed Wednesday evening on the details of tax-cutting legislation. Their measure could be considered in both chambers Thursday. The negotiators agreed that Kansas filers should be allowed to claim itemized deductions on their state tax forms even if they don't itemize on their federal forms. They can't do that now. The federal changes last year limited some deductions and raised the federal standard deduction. That would cause fewer Kansans to itemize on their state forms. The negotiators also agreed on changes in business taxes aimed at avoiding a "windfall" in state revenues.
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are moving ahead with proposals to cut income taxes so that some individuals and corporations don't pay more to the state because of changes in federal tax laws. House and Senate negotiators agreed Wednesday on several proposals during ongoing talks on the final version of tax-cutting legislation. Lawmakers hope to approve a tax bill this week. The negotiators agreed that Kansas filers should be allowed to claim itemized deductions on their state tax forms even if they don't itemize on their federal forms. They can't do that now. The federal changes limited some deductions and raised the federal standard deduction. That would cause fewer Kansans to itemize on their state forms. The negotiators also agreed on changes in business taxes aimed at avoiding a "windfall" in state revenues.
State Lawmakers Drop Effort to Make Kobach Pay Contempt Fine
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas lawmakers have dropped an effort to force Secretary of State Kris Kobach to personally pay the costs of being held in contempt of court. The Kansas House last week approved a rule that would have prohibited statewide elected officials from using state money to pay for contempt findings, court costs or attorneys' fees. The move came after a federal judge in April found Kobach in contempt of court in a voting-rights lawsuit and ordered him to pay court costs and attorney's fees. Budget negotiators dropped the provision on Tuesday after a letter from Kobach's office to top Republicans contended the ban would be illegal and the state would pay a significant amount in a "futile attempt" to defend it.
Kansas Governor Helps Former Criminals Seeking State Jobs
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer issued an executive order Wednesday to prevent state agencies from automatically disqualifying ex-criminals from thousands of state jobs. The new "ban the box" policy will prevent agencies from requiring people seeking many jobs to disclose whether they've had a past criminal conviction. The order applies to about 20,000 state jobs in agencies under Colyer's direct control. The Republican governor said the order will make it easier for former inmates to find work after their release from state prisons or county jails, so that they will be less likely to commit new crimes. State agencies still will be able to ask applicants about past criminal convictions during interviews, and the order does not cover jobs that cannot legally be filled by people with criminal convictions. "Given the time and opportunity, those offenders who have jobs live better lives and become a full member of our community," Colyer told reporters during a Statehouse news conference. Thirty-one other states have "ban the box" policies for government hiring, according to the National Employment Law Project, which supports them. Also, Wichita, Topeka and Kansas City, Kansas, have enacted their own policies. Colyer's actions drew praise from Koch Industries, the Wichita-based energy conglomerate, and legislators from both parties joined the governor for his news conference. "This measure will allow individuals to get their foot in the door, to get that interview," said state Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, a Wichita Democrat who has advocated such policies. "I have heard from individuals that they know that their application has been tossed in the trash and they don't get that opportunity." Representative Gail Finney, another Wichita Democrat, introduced a bill last year that would prevent state and local government agencies from asking about an applicant's criminal history until the applicant received a conditional job offer. The House Judiciary Committee had a hearing on the measure but never voted on it. "We believe in forgiveness, and we believe in new beginnings and fresh starts," said Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican. "I think this is going to lead to legislation that does the same thing." But Colyer's willingness to issue a "ban the box" order when lawmakers have failed to pass a law contrasts with his lack of action on banning discrimination against LGBT applicants and workers in state hiring and employment decisions. Former Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who later became U.S. health and human services secretary, issued such an executive order in 2007. Former conservative Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, an opponent of same-sex marriage, rescinded the directive in 2015 and said such a policy should be set by the Legislature, not through an executive order. Colyer said his administration won't condone discrimination and, "If there's an issue out there, we're happy to deal with it." "This is an opportunity for people to be reintegrated into society and to get a job," Colyer said.
Kansas Legislature Approves Bill on Body Cameras, Child Deaths
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas legislators have approved a bill that would provide greater access to law enforcement officers' body camera footage and information about foster children who die in state custody. The Senate approved the measure unanimously Tuesday after the House approved it with no dissenting votes Monday. It goes next to Governor Jeff Colyer. One part of the bill is a response to inconsistent practices across the state for allowing the families of suspects who've been fatally shot by officers to view body camera footage. It would require law enforcement agencies to allow the families to view the footage within 20 days of a request. Another provision says that if the state receives an open records request for information about a deceased foster child, it must release basic details.
Kansas Lawmakers Approve Measures to Allow Self-Serve Beer Taps, Earlier Opening Hours
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas legislators have approved a bill to allow self-serve beer taps and longer hours for bars and taverns. The Kansas House approved the measure Tuesday on a 94-28 vote. The Senate approved it Monday on a 34-4 vote, it goes next to Governor Jeff Colyer. Kansas is among a few states that do not allow self-serve beer taps in restaurants and bars. The move to legalize them was spurred by the prospects of a new restaurant in downtown Topeka, blocks from the Statehouse. Bars, taverns and restaurants licensed to sell alcohol can't open until 9 a.m., but the bill would allow them to start serving at 6 a.m. Supporters say the proposal would allow night shift workers to have a drink after work. Critics say the provision is a public safety threat. The Kansas House and Senate have both approved the bill so it goes next to Governor Jeff Colyer.
FBI Investigating Potential Hate Crime in Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The FBI says it is investigating a potential hate crime at a community college after a female Muslim student reported falling down stairs after being hit in the face. The incident at Metropolitan Community College's Penn Valley Campus in Kansas City happened April 3. FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton said in a statement Wednesday the agency is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the man involved. The student reported to police that she was walking in a stairwell of the humanities building when she heard a male make a derogatory statement. She turned and was hit in the face, which caused her to fall. The incident occurred on "Punish a Muslim day," when anonymous letters in London offered points for violence or intimidation against Muslims.
LGBT-Rights Group's Ad on Kansas Adoption Bill Scrutinized
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A group representing some of tech's biggest names, including Apple and Google, isn't happy that an LGBT-rights group listed member companies in a newspaper ad attacking Kansas legislation on faith-based adoption agencies. The bill would prevent agencies from losing state contracts or grants if they won't place children in LGBT homes or other homes violating their religious beliefs. Supporters distributed the internal TechNet email Wednesday in the House. The email said the Human Rights Campaign didn't have TechNet's approval to list its 80-plus members in a Topeka Capital-Journal ad. The ad highlighted a TechNet letter calling the bill discriminatory. Supporters contend the bill protects religious liberties. The email said publishing members' names was a "major" breach of trust. TechNet's president reiterated its strong opposition to the bill in a follow-up email.
Indictment: Kansas Emergency Medical Tech Diluted Drugs
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors have charged a Holton emergency medical technician with diluting morphine sulfate used for ambulance service calls and then lying to investigators about the crimes. An indictment unsealed Wednesday charges Colby W. Vanwagoner with two counts of tampering with consumer products and one count of making a false statement during an investigation. Court records do not indicate whether he has a defense attorney. Vanwagoner was an EMT with Jackson County Emergency Medical Services in Holton. Prosecutors allege vials containing injectable morphine sulfate were diluted with saline and then re-glued to conceal the tampering. The vials were then placed back in ambulances or the office stock. The indictment says Vanwagoner eventually admitted he tampered with nine vials discovered in April 2017 and three vials discovered in November 2017.
2 Suspects Arrested in Shooting of Wichita Menards Employee
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Both suspects in the shooting of a loss prevention officer at a Wichita Menards store are in custody. Police spokesman Charley Davidson said an 18-year-old male was arrested Wednesday in Hays. Details of the arrest were not immediately released. A 17-year-old girl was arrested Tuesday after crashing a stolen Mercedes in Derby. Police began searching for them after the employee was shot Monday in northwest Wichita. Investigators say the employee confronted the two after seeing them leave the store without paying for a home security system. At some point, the male allegedly drew a gun and shot him. The employee was treated and released at a Wichita hospital. The female suspect was hospitalized Tuesday and later booked into a juvenile detention center on possible charges of aggravated battery, auto theft and fleeing.
Topeka Asks Kansas Supreme Court to Hear Smoking Case
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The city of Topeka is asking the Kansas Supreme Court to hear a case over its efforts to increase the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. The city is appealing a Shawnee County District Court ruling in March that the ordinance city officials passed in December exceeded authority given to Kansas municipalities in the state's constitution. The city filed a motion Monday to bypass appeals courts and transfer the case to the state Supreme Court, contending that public health and similar laws in 15 Kansas cities are at stake. Robert Duncan, an attorney for a tobacco retailer that sued the city over the ordinance, told The Topeka Capital-Journal he expects to prevail in the case, whether it's in the appeals court or the Supreme Court.
Bank Takes Ownership of Schlitterbahn Water Park at Auction
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — A bank that held roughly $32 million in debt by the Schlitterbahn Riverpark & Resort in Texas' North Padre Island has taken ownership of the park at a foreclosure auction. San Antonio lawyer Jon Lowe, who conducted the auction, told the San Antonio Express-News that IBC Bank made a $20 million "credit bid" as the lone bidder for the park. IBC CEO Dennis Nixon says the Laredo, Texas-based bank hopes to find a new owner quickly. The sale comes a year after a bankruptcy filing by the park's owners, Schlitterbahn principals Gary and Jeffrey Henry and North Padre Island landowner Paul Schexnaider. A grand jury indicted Jeffrey Henry in March on second-degree murder and other charges in the 2016 death of a 10-year-old boy on a slide at Schlitterbahn's Kansas City, Kansas, water park.
Kansas Winter Wheat Tour Finds Drought-Plagued Fields
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Participants in this year's Kansas winter wheat tour have now spread out along various routes between Colby and Wichita as they trod through the state's drought-plagued fields. Wednesday's swing through southwest and south central Kansas marks the second leg of the annual event. Tour scouts made 317 stops at wheat fields across north central and central and northwest Kansas on Tuesday. The industry group Kansas Wheat said in a news release that the calculated yield the first day from the 24 cars participating was 38.2 bushels per acre, but acknowledged that yield estimate may be too high. Plant development is about three weeks behind normal and the wheat is short. Tour participants are expected to release their forecast for this year's crop at the end of the three-day tour.
Kansas College Gets Letter from WSU over Culinary Program
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas college has pulled its culinary program out of a plan to take over an old fire station after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Wichita State University and WSU Tech. The Wichita Eagle reports that Butler Community College's Hospitality and Culinary Arts program was one of two contenders to take over the fire station in Wichita. But the college withdrew its name last week after receiving a letter signed by WSU General Counsel David Moses. The letter says state law and Kansas Board of Regents policy require approval by WSU and the Board of Regents for Butler to offer courses outside its service area. Butler spokeswoman Kelley Snedden says the school withdrew from the fire station plan because it needs more time to work on collaboration with the institutions.
Woman Sentenced in $4.3 Million Drug-Trafficking Operation
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A northwest Missouri woman has been sentenced to nine years in federal prison without parole for participating in a $4.3 million heroin and methamphetamine ring. Federal prosecutors say 41-year-old Sabrena Lynn Morgan, of Kearney, was sentenced Tuesday. She is one of 21 people who have pleaded guilty to distributing the drugs in northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas. Morgan admitted she received the meth from suppliers and gave it to others to distribute. The drug ring sold more than $4.3 million in meth and heroin between 2010 and 2015. Morgan also pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm after officers found a pink pump-action shotgun at her home.
First Tornadoes of the Year Hit Kansas and Oklahoma
CONCORDIA, Kan. (AP) _ More than a dozen tornadoes were reported yesterday (TUE) afternoon and last night across central and northern Kansas including a large twister featuring multiple vortexes in rural Cloud County south of Concordia. Most of the damage in Kansas was minor but the large tornado south of Concordia snapped power poles and downed power lines. The National Weather Service says a home near the central-Kansas town of Tescott was damaged, but no injuries were reported. The 19 tornado reported just after 8 p.m. Tuesday included 14 in Kansas and five in Oklahoma. Kansas hadn't reached May without a tornado since 1980 and Oklahoma has never gone this far into a calendar year without a tornado touching down.
Weather Service Forecasts Severe Storms for Kansas, Plains
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The National Weather Service is warning of strong storms and possibly tornadoes in the southern Plains. The Weather Service says potentially severe storms are expected to develop this (WED) afternoon and continue through the night into Thursday morning, ranging from north Texas, across Oklahoma, through eastern Kansas, and into Nebraska. The Storm Prediction Center says the area covers over 103,000 square miles and affects almost 7 million people.
Uptick in Kansas Earthquakes Marked by Geologists
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) Geologists are blaming an uptick in small Kansas earthquakes on an underground pressure wave that is slowly creeping northward from the Oklahoma border region. The Wichita Eagle reports that there were 13 earthquakes that originated in Kansas last month. There were just a combined total of 10 earthquakes for the first three months of 2018. On the Oklahoma side of the border, the U.S. Geological Survey recorded another 57 quakes for April, many of which were felt in southern Kansas. Oklahoma's quake rate has stayed consistent so far this year, averaging about 50 temblors of 2.5 and above per month. Quakes in the two states have been tied to underground injections of wastewater from oil and gas drilling.
Lenexa Officers Shoot, Wound Suspect Driving Stolen Vehicle
LENEXA, Kan. (AP) _ Authorities say a Lenexa Kansas police officer has shot and wounded a suspect who is accused of hitting several occupied patrol cars while fleeing in a stolen vehicle. Police say the shooting happened last (TUE) night in Lenexa after officers stopped the stolen vehicle in a parking lot. Police say the suspect struck several patrol cars before the officer shot and wounded the suspect, who then led officers on a 3 1/2 mile pursuit before surrendering.
Wichita Officials Approve Tougher Fireworks Regulations
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita city officials are planning to put a damper on residents who want to use large or illegal fireworks this Fourth of July. The city council voted Tuesday to toughen the city's ordinance banning big fireworks. The Wichita Eagle reports the new ordinance sets a fine of $250 for most violations involving possession or use of larger fireworks, including those that are legally purchased in suburban cities. The city allows only small fireworks such as handheld sparklers and "fountains" that throw sparks less than 6 feet. The city also will use unmarked police and firefighting motor pool cars to respond to fireworks complaints. Officials said residents often were able to get rid of their fireworks when they saw marked cars coming toward them.