Headlines for Thursday, January 1, 2015
Kansas Taxes $15M Short of Expectations for Month
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas says its tax collections in December fell $15 million short of expectations and the state's top revenue official is blaming lower-than-expected corporate income tax revenues. The Department of Revenue reported Wednesday that the state collected $553 million in taxes during the month when it expected to take in $568 million. The difference is 2.7 percent. Corporate income tax collections in December were $56 million, or nearly $20 million short of expectations. Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan said such tax collections are volatile. For the fiscal year beginning in July, tax collections were $12 million, or four-tenths of 1 percent, less than anticipated. During those six months, the state has collected $2.7 billion in taxes. The December tax-collection shortfall could complicate efforts to address state budget shortfalls.
Judge Moves to Expedite Kansas Gay Marriage Suit
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A federal judge has taken steps to speed up a ruling on the remaining legal issues in a lawsuit challenging Kansas' gay-marriage ban. U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree on Wednesday directed opposing attorneys to narrow factual disputes and to propose a schedule at the end of January for him to hear legal issues. Both the state's attorneys and lawyers challenging the ban want to expedite the case. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in October for couples denied marriage licenses. The U.S. Supreme Court blocked Kansas from enforcing its ban while the case goes forward and the ACLU expanded its lawsuit to force the state to recognize the resulting gay marriages. Separately, the U.S. Supreme Court could rule before July on whether states can continue banning gay marriage.
Kansas Lawmakers Expected to Tackle Broad Variety of Issues
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas legislators are expected to debate a wide variety of issues after opening their annual 90-day session January 12. They include: education standards; election fraud; immigration; judicial selection; and marijuana decriminalization. On education standards, many conservative Republicans are opposed to the multistate Common Core standards for reading and math. As regards election fraud, Secretary of State Kris Kobach plans to seek the authority for his office to prosecute election fraud cases. He narrowly missed obtaining that power in 2013. On the immigration issue, the city of Wichita plans to lobby legislators to allow immigrants living in the U.S. illegally to receive driver's permits. On the issue of judicial selection, GOP conservatives want to give the governor more control over Kansas Supreme Court appointments, subject to Senate confirmation. Lawmakers currently have no role. And as pertains to marijuana decriminalization, it is possible that proposals to decriminalize marijuana for medical and possibly even recreational use could surface, but don't appear to have much political traction at this time.
New Abortion Restrictions Expected When State Lawmakers Convene
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas legislators may soon consider proposals to ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected early in a pregnancy and to require women to wait three days before obtaining abortions. The Wichita Eagle reports that Chairman Steve Brunk of the Kansas House Federal and State Affairs Committee expects the panel to have informational hearings on fetal heartbeat legislation. Brunk also said lawmakers could consider a proposal to expand the waiting period for an abortion from 24 hours to 72 hours. Missouri enacted a 72-hour waiting period in September. Abortion rights advocates say they are bracing for the debates. The Republican-dominated Legislature has strong anti-abortion majorities on both chambers, but fetal heartbeat legislation previously has split abortion opponents. Lawmakers open their annual 90-day session on January 12.
Kansas Democratic Party Chairwoman to Step Down
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Democratic Party's chairwoman says she's not seeking a third, two-year term in the job and is looking for a successor. Joan Wagnon said Wednesday that she always intended to serve only four years as the state Democratic Party's top leader. She was elected to the job in 2011. The party's leaders faced criticism from some Democratic activists after Republicans swept all statewide and congressional races in November's election. Wagnon's replacement will be chosen by the party's State Committee during a March 7 meeting in Topeka. It is part of the annual Washington Days convention. Wagnon was Kansas revenue secretary from 2003 through 2010 and served as Topeka's mayor from 1997 to 2001. She served in the Kansas House from 1983 through 1994.
Topeka Reports Fewest Slayings in Almost 10 Years
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka has recorded the lowest number of homicides in nearly a decade with seven reported in 2014 in the Kansas city. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that's the fewest slayings since 2005, which also had seven. Kansas Bureau of Investigation records show 11 homicides occurred in 2013. There were 15 in 2012 and 2011, the highest number of slayings in the past decade. Killings in 2014 include the fatal shooting of Topeka police Corporal Jason Harwood, who was shot while making a car stop Sept. 7. Ross Preston Lane was charged with capital murder for the 15-year police veteran's death.
Topeka Man Accused of Shooting at Vehicles
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man is facing charges for allegedly shooting at vehicles on New Year's Eve. Authorities say 51-year-old Cory Huff was in his vehicle, shooting at other vehicles heading north on U.S. 75 near the 94th Street intersection Wednesday afternoon. The motive wasn't clear and no injuries have been reported. Jackson County (Kansas) Sheriff Tim Morse says Huff was arrested later Wednesday. He is being held at the Jackson County jail.
7 Pounds of Meth Found in Kansas Drug Bust
MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — An 18-year-old is jailed after authorities in east-central Kansas confiscated seven pounds of methamphetamine, one of the largest meth busts ever in the region. The Hutchinson News reports that Antonio Orona was arrested Monday for possession of meth with intent to distribute. He is jailed on $300,000 bond. McPherson County Sheriff Larry Powell says it is the largest drug bust in which he has ever participated. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says the meth had a street value of $1.75 million. McPherson County deputies responded to a call about a vehicle driving without headlights and tailgating. A 2008 Chevrolet Silverado was stopped on Interstate 135 near Moundridge. The sheriff's department says deputies found seven packages of meth.
Kansas Plans First Veterans Court Program
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) - Veterans court programs have sprung up in 40 states since 2008, an alternative to jail for some veterans who get into trouble. Kansas may be next. The Kansas City Star reportsthat planning has begun for a veterans court in Johnson County, and a committee ordered by the Kansas Supreme Court will propose standards and study costs. About 250 veterans court programs exist nationwide, specifically for those whose drug habits, injuries or stress related to military service may have contributed to civilian trouble with the law. On the Missouri side of the Kansas City area, about 80 veterans are enrolled in treatment instead of being jailed. Kansas' delay in adopting the program puzzles some, given the state is home to three large military posts and about 220,000 veterans.
Homicide Investigation Underway in Overland Park
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) - Suburban Kansas City police are investigating a fatal shooting in Overland Park. Investigators say 49-year-old Steven Sawyer was killed Wednesday morning after he went outside just after 6:00 am to warm up his car. Witnesses say they heard shouting and several gunshots and saw a car speeding away. When police arrived they found Sawyer dead in the street. The Kansas City Star reports that Sawyer was an Air Force veteran and an engineer at Cargill. The Star says he went to high school in Tonganoxie before attending college at the University of Central Missouri. Detectives are asking anyone with information to come forward.
Topeka Man Sentenced in "Bad Trip" Killing
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Topeka man has been sentenced to nearly 13 years in prison for killing his girlfriend. The sentence for 23-year-old Trevor William Adkins was handed down Wednesday. He pleaded guilty in November to intentional second-degree murder in the death of 22-year-old Lacie Atchison. Atchison's body was found at the top of a wheelchair ramp outside their home in September. She had been stabbed 50 times. Officers were called after neighbors reported seeing a naked man fighting with another man in the neighborhood. The couple's young daughter was inside the home but was not hurt. Adkins told police he was on a ``bad trip'' after consuming methamphetamine and other drugs. Adkins was originally charged with first-degree murder before reaching a plea deal with prosecutors.
2 Wichita Men Acquire Former Boeing Site
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Two Wichita men have acquired the former Boeing Co. site in the southern part of the city and plan to fill it with new office and aviation tenants. The Wichita Eagle reports that Air Capital Flight Line closed Wednesday on the acquisition of the 413-acre site. Johnny Stevens of Air Capital Flight Line called the 1.9 million square feet of manufacturing, office, storage and hangar space "a great asset." His partner, Dave Murfin, said it was a ``civic opportunity.'' Stevens and Murfin declined to disclose the financial terms of the acquisition. A Boeing spokeswoman declined to disclose the terms as well. In January 2012, Boeing announced it would close its Wichita facilities and move work to Oklahoma City, San Antonio and the Seattle area.
Kansas City on Pace for Lowest Homicide Count in 47 Years
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Kansas City finished 2014 with its lowest number of homicides in nearly five decades. The city recorded 76 homicides last year. The last time the murder count was lower was in 1967, when 66 people were killed. Only 10 years since 1967 have ended with fewer than 100 homicides. In 2013, 106 people were murdered in the city. City law enforcement leaders say a 2-year-old anti-violence program called the Kansas City No Violence Alliance, or NOVA, helped but they caution the city's historically high murder rate is far from under control. NOVA relies on "focused deterrence," in which police talk to members a criminal network - including those who haven't yet committed serious crimes - about the possible consequences of their actions.
KC Parish Revives Tradition for First Responders
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A Catholic church in Kansas City has revived a tradition that died out in the 1960s. The Kansas City Star reports that it all started about five years ago when the Reverend Ernie Davis asked a couple volunteers to clean an old chalice at St. Therese Little Flower Catholic Church. A faint inscription found on the chalice mentioned a former Kansas City police officer who was fatally wounded on New Year's Eve 1923. The founding priest of St. Therese Little Flower, Maurice Coates, marked the anniversary of the officer's death with a special New Year's Day Mass until his own death in 1962. Davis revived the tradition in 2010 and expanded it. The New Year's Day 2015 event will feature bagpipes and a gospel choir.
Georgia Bulldogs Beat K-State Wildcats, 50-46
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Charles Mann had 17 points and Marcus Thornton had 11 points as Georgia knocked off Kansas State 50-46 yesterday. Mann led the Bulldogs in scoring for a second consecutive game and fourth time this season. Kansas State has dropped back-to-back non-conference home games for the first time since 1987. Thomas Gipson led Kansas State with 19 points but the Wildcats' 12 first-half points were the second fewest in school history, falling behind an 11-point first half against Oklahoma State on January 6, 1992.