UPDATE: House Passes Tax Bill; Governor Urges Lawmakers to Keep Working
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says Kansas legislators should keep working on tax issues even though they've already sent him a bill reducing income and sales taxes. The measure cleared the House Wednesday on a 64-59 vote, and Brownback says he's prepared to sign it. The Senate had approved it earlier, though many members didn't like much of it and worried it could create budget problems. The bill reduces individual income tax rates, eliminates income taxes for 191,000 businesses and lowers the 6.3 percent sales tax to 5.7 percent in July 2013. But the Legislature's staff has predicted the cuts will create a budget shortfall that could exceed $2.7 billion by July 2017. The House's action prevented the Senate from voting on a less aggressive alternative.
Kansas Dept of Revenue Figures Say Tax Plan Helps All
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — New figures from the Kansas Department of Revenue suggest that a plan legislators are considering to cut income and sales taxes would benefit all classes of taxpayers. The department released the figures Wednesday just hours before the Senate was to vote on the plan. The Associated Press obtained the figures from the agency before they were turned over to the Legislature. The figures show that some of the state's poorest taxpayers, who now receive income tax refunds, would receive smaller refunds under the plan. However, the department projects that change would be offset by a reduction in the sales tax. The plan reduces individual income tax rates; phases out income taxes for 191,000 businesses and drops the sales tax to 5.7 percent in July 2013 from its current 6.3 percent.
UPDATE: Kansas House Delays Debate over Senate Redistricting
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has postponed debate on proposed new boundaries of the state Senate's 40 districts. House leaders cited scheduling issues in delaying Wednesday's planned debate until Thursday. Many legislators believe the map being considered by the House would help conservatives wrest control of the Senate from its moderate GOP leaders in this year's elections. Conservatives contend a bipartisan redistricting proposal approved last week by the Senate is designed to keep the chamber's current leaders in power. The dispute over Senate redistricting has stalled action on redrawing House, State Board of Education and congressional districts. If the impasse drags on, the state could postpone its August 7 primary election.
UPDATE: Kansas House Approves Accelerated Implementation of Voter-Citizenship Law
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has approved Secretary of State Kris Kobach's proposal to require first-time voters to prove their U.S. citizenship starting June 15. The vote Wednesday was 72-51. The measure goes next to the Senate. Kansas already has the rule for people registering to vote for the first time in the state, but it doesn't take effect until January 2013. Kobach wants the rule in place for the normal surge of voter registrations ahead of this year's presidential election. Critics argue it will suppress voter turnout. The House approved an earlier version of Kobach's plan in February, but the measure stalled in a Senate committee. Kobach's allies hope senators will vote on the latest version without sending it to committee.
Man Gets Life in Prison for Topeka Murder
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man was sentenced to life in prison for killing a man during an attempted robbery. Thirty-three-year-old Kyree Marshon McClelland was sentenced yesterday (TUE) for first-degree murder and other charges in the death of 32-year-old Timothy Stone. Stone was shot in August 2011 during a break-in at the home of a friend. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that McClelland also was severely beaten during the break-in. He was placed in a medically-induced coma to recover. McClelland, who had drugs and alcohol in his system during the crime, apologized for the killing and said he can't remember what happened.
Northeast Kansas Families Seek Change in School District Boundaries
BERN, Kan. (AP) — The decision by a northeastern Kansas school district to close a school left many parents unhappy, and some of them are now trying to get their property absorbed into a different district. The board of Prairie Hills USD113 voted in March to close the Bern School at the end of the current academic year. The school serves pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. KNZA-FM reports that some Bern residents are unhappy that their children will be sent to school instead in Sabetha. They want their land transferred to Nemeha Central USD11, where their children would attend school in Seneca. Leaders of the effort told the Prairie Hills board this week that 157 property owners are requesting the transfer. Both districts and the State Board of Education would have to agree.
Reno County Commission Won't Reinstate Christian Prayer
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Despite pleas to reject a complaint from a national group, the Reno County Commission will not reinstate sectarian prayer before its meetings. Yesterday (TUE), the commission
asked County Counselor Joe O'Sullivan to draft a new policy on prayers at meetings. The move comes after the Americans United for Separation of Church and State objected to the tradition of ministers offering prayers before the meetings. The Hutchinson News reports that most commission members favor asking professionals to offer nonsectarian prayers. If no minister or speaker is available, a commissioner could say a prayer or ask for a moment of silence. Americans United for Separation of Church and State told the commission last month that it had received a complaint about the prayer tradition.
Number of Hutchinson Church Burglaries Reaches 4
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Hutchinson police are hoping for clues from blood found at the scene of one of a string of burglaries at churches. The Hutchinson News reports an employee of The Father's House discovered a break-in Monday morning. Nothing was taken, but it was the fourth burglary of a Hutchinson church since March 28. On April 29, someone broke windows and sprayed fire extinguishers throughout Eastwood Church of Christ before Sunday services. That was four days after thieves broke stained-glass windows at Grace Episcopal church and stole money and an iPad. The person who smashed a window to get inside Tenth Avenue Methodist Church on March 28 left drops of blood behind. Police have sent a sample for testing and possible links to other cases.
Thousands of Rural Post Offices Will Stay Open, at Least Part Time
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Postal Service is backing off of its plan to close as many as 3,700 low-revenue post offices sometime after next week. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, citing strong community opposition, now says the agency will maintain a part-time post-office presence in rural areas, with access to retail lobbies and post office boxes. Under the new strategy, no post office would be closed -- but more than 13,000 rural facilities could see reduced operations of between two and six hours. Communities would also have the option of closing a post office in one area while keeping a nearby one open full time. Another alternative would be creating a Village Post Office in which postal services are offered in libraries, government offices or local stores. The mail agency says it expects to save more money from the new plan, partly by weeding out full-time postmasters and replacing them with part-timer workers. It plans to offer buyouts for the nation's more than 21,000 postmasters. The agency has forecast a record loss of more than $14 billion by the end of the year. Without changes, it says losses will exceed $21 billion by 2016. Some communities in Kansas had been included on the list of those slated to have their post offices closed.
Northeastern Kansas County May Hold Liquor Referendum
TROY, Kan. (AP) — Commissioners in a northeastern Kansas county are weighing whether to let voters decide on allowing restaurants to serve liquor by the drink. Doniphan County is located on the Missouri River, across from Buchanan County and the city of St. Joseph, Missouri. KNZA-FM reports officials of three Doniphan County cities want a referendum in November on ending the county's dry status. Elwood city attorney Joel Euler first made the request last month on behalf of several business owners. Highland Mayor Ken Stewart told county commissioners this week his community fully supports the idea. Stewart and the mayors of Troy and Elwood said they would favor allowing liquor by the drink only in establishments where food accounts for 30 percent of gross receipts. Doniphan County Sheriff Jerry Dubach spoke against the possible referendum.
Kansas Delegation Seeks Medal for Late Priest
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas congressional delegation is making its case to President Barack Obama that a Roman Catholic priest deserves a Medal of Honor for his heroism during the Korean War. A letter from delegation describes how the Reverend Emil Kapaun pulled wounded soldiers to safety and attended to their injuries while serving as an Army chaplain. Before dying in a prison camp in May 1951, he stole food from nearby farms to bring back to starving prisoners. The letter described Kapaun's service as "selfless and heroic." Kapaun was from the Kansas town of Pilsen. He has been classified a Servant of God by the Vatican, the first step in the process to sainthood.
K-State Football Coach Honored by KS Legislators, Governor
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University football coach Bill Snyder continues to pick up honors for the Wildcats' successful 2011 football season. Legislators and Governor Sam Brownback congratulated Snyder on Wednesday for the team's 10-3 season with proclamations in both chambers and ceremony in the governor's office. Snyder was named Big 12 Coach of the Year by The Associated Press and by the Big 12 coaches. He was also named the 2011 Woody Hayes National Coach of the Year. Kansas State earned a trip to the Cotton Bowl for the first time since 2001, losing 29-16 to Arkansas. Snyder has 159 victories as head coach at Kansas State, which ranks 11th among active NCAA Division I coaches. He is credited with reviving the football program in Manhattan since arriving in 1989.
Children's Education Advocate Brings Message to KC
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The architect of an educational program that has lifted the lives of people in a large swath of Harlem will be in Kansas City to discuss the importance of childhood education. Geoffrey Canada started the Harlem Children's Zone in 1997. It now serves more than 8,000 children and their families in 100 city blocks. The system coordinates efforts of schools, social services and health clinics. The Kansas City Star reports that Kansas City lost a bid for federal funding from a program based on the Harlem model. Canada will be in Kansas City tomorrow (THUR) to encourage city and school leaders to continue their efforts. He'll speak at a luncheon in support of the Kansas City summer Freedom Schools.
Mulvane Voters Pass $13.4 Million School Bond
MULVANE, Kan. (AP) — Voters in Mulvane overwhelmingly approved a $13.4 million bond issue to pay for school additions and improvements. The Sedgwick County Election office says the issue was approved yesterday (TUE) by a more than two-to-one margin. The special election drew 25 percent of the area's voters. The Wichita Eagle reports that the bond money will go to pay for school additions and improvements at Munson Elementary School, Mulvane Grade School and Mulvane Middle School. It also will fund expansion at the district's transportation building. The Mulvane School District covers Sedgwick, Sumner and Cowley counties and serves about 1,880 students.
Baxter Springs Approves $8 Million Bond Issue
BAXTER SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) — Baxter Springs voters easily approved an $8 million bond issue to expand the city's schools. Unofficial results from yesterday's (TUE) special election showed the bond issue passed by a 63 percent to 37 percent margin. The Joplin Globe reports the bond issue will finance new additions at Baxter Springs High School, Central Elementary and Lincoln Elementary. It also will add storm shelters at two schools. The new additions will eliminate the need to use Baxter Springs Middle School as a school. The 1918 building currently houses sixth through eighth grades. The bond issue will require a property tax increase of 9 mills, to 51 mills. Construction on the projects is expected to begin in January, with completion expected in time for the second semester of the 2013-14 school year.
MLB to Build 9 Homes in Tornado-Ravaged Cities
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Major League Baseball and a charitable foundation for players are working with Habitat for Humanity to build nine homes for the tornado-ravaged cities of Joplin and Tuscaloosa, Alabama. About half the funding will come from insurance company State Farm. Officials said Wednesday in Kansas City they want to use the effort to remind fans that the communities still need help. To spotlight the need, crews will build frames for two of the homes outside Kauffman Stadium during baseball's All-Star game on July 10. Five of the Habitat homes will go to Joplin, which lost an estimated 7,500 homes in the EF5 tornado last May that killed 161 people. The other four will go to Tuscaloosa, where more than 50 people died in an EF4 tornado in late April 2011.
University of Missouri-Kansas City May Change Name
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — The University of Missouri-Kansas City is considering changing its name to the University of Kansas City. Officials at the Kansas City school say the name change would help it emerge from the sizable shadow of the Missouri campus in Columbia. The school has used its current name since it joined the four-campus University of Missouri system nearly 50 years ago. But Chancellor Leo Morton is suggesting the school return to the name it used when it was founded in 1929. A UMKC name change would have to be approved by the university system's Board of Curators. No formal proposal has yet been submitted. University name changes have become increasingly common in Missouri. The Missouri system's Rolla campus changed its name to the Missouri University of Science and Technology in 2008.
KC Official to Missouri Legislature: Local Control Important for Schools
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The president of the Kansas City school board says local control is necessary to improve student achievement in the troubled school district. The Missouri House Education Committee considered legislation Wednesday that would allow state education officials to intervene sooner in failing school districts. Currently, school districts that lose state accreditation are given two years to improve before state officials step in. The proposed legislation would remove the waiting period. The Kansas City School District became unaccredited this year. Two other Missouri school districts also are not accredited. Board President Airick Leonard West says local control is a key to improving schools in Kansas City. He says policies that reduce the community's obligations hurt schools and students.
Kansas Senate Leaders Expect Close Vote on Tax Cuts
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate expects its vote to be close on proposed income and sales tax cuts. Senators were set to vote Wednesday afternoon. The plan is expected to provide about $60 million in tax relief for the fiscal year beginning July 1, with the total eventually rising to $600 million annually. The plan reduces individual income tax rates, phases out income taxes for 191,000 businesses and other businesses, and drops the state's sales tax to 5.7 percent in July 2013 from its current 6.3 percent. But a Washington-based think tank has said the plan would favor the wealthy over the poor. If senators pass the plan, the House will vote, possibly as early as Wednesday evening. Its approval would send the measure to Republican Governor Sam Brownback.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.
UPDATE: Kansas Senate, House in Standoff on Tax Cuts
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House and Senate are locked in a high-stakes battle over cutting income and sales taxes. The Senate was debating a compromise tax plan Wednesday, and members expected the vote to be close. Negotiators for the two chambers drafted the legislation. The compromise cuts individual income tax rates, phases out income taxes for 191,000 businesses and reduces the 6.3 percent state sales tax to 5.7 percent in July 2013. But before the Senate began its debate, the House began voting on a more aggressive alternative, with the outcome determining whether the bigger tax cuts would go to Republican Governor Sam Brownback. House leaders kept the voting open as senators began their debate, building pressure on the Senate to approve the less aggressive tax plan.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.
Kansas House Bypasses Tax Deal, Approving Bigger Cuts
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has bypassed a compromise plan for reducing income and sales taxes and instead approved larger cuts, sending them to Governor Sam Brownback. The House voted 64-59 for legislation cutting individual income tax rates, exempting 191,000 businesses from income taxes and reducing the sales tax to 5.7 percent in July 2013 from its present 6.3 percent. The measure would to provide $233 million in tax relief for the fiscal year beginning July 1, with the figure growing to $911 million after four years. The Legislature's research staff also said the plan approved by the House would create a budget shortfall of more than $2.7 billion by July 2017. The Senate had previously approved the package. The House acted before senators could vote on a less aggressive alternative.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.
Kansas House Taking Up Voter-Citizenship Implementation Bill
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House is preparing for a final vote on Secretary of State Kris Kobach's proposal to require first-time voters to prove their U.S. citizenship starting next month. The measure on Wednesday's agenda would impose the proof-of-citizenship requirement on June 15. Kansas already has the rule for people registering to vote for the first time in the state, but it doesn't take effect until January 2013. Kobach wants the rule in place for the normal surge of voter registrations ahead of this year's presidential election. Critics argue it will suppress voter turnout. The House approved an earlier version of Kobach's plan in February, but the measure stalled in a Senate committee. Kobach's allies hope senators will vote on the latest version without sending it to committee.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.
KS House to Debate Senate Redistricting Plan
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Conservative Republicans are pressing ahead with efforts to have the Kansas House draw new districts for the state Senate. A bill up for debate today (WED) in the House would adjust the lines of the 40 Senate districts to account for changes in population over the past decade. Many legislators believe the map would help conservatives wrest control of the Senate from its moderate GOP leaders in this year's elections. But conservatives contend a bipartisan redistricting proposal approved last week by the Senate is designed to keep the chamber's current leaders in power. The dispute among Republicans over Senate redistricting has stalled action on redrawing House, State Board of Education and congressional districts. If the impasse drags on, the state could postpone its August 7 primary election.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.