Headlines for Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Kansas Revenues Take Major Hit from Plummeting Oil Prices
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Although falling gas prices are reducing the amount of oil severance taxes Kansas is expected to collect, state lawmakers say there's a bright spot to the otherwise dim projections. Residents will have more money in their pockets to spend on other things. Kansas Legislative Research Department economist Chris Courtwright appeared Tuesday before the House Appropriations Committee. He says forecasters in November revised their estimate of how much severance tax money would come in by nearly $8.2 million, based on oil prices of $80 a barrel. But with the price of Kansas oil at $35.75 a barrel as of Tuesday, Courtwright says severance tax receipts are bound to go much lower but he says there's a chance the low prices could stimulate the economy and raise tax revenues elsewhere.
Abortion Foes Seek Ban on "D & E" Procedure
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Abortion opponents want Kansas lawmakers to ban a procedure they say accounts for about 8 percent of all abortions in the state. Kansans for Life and state Senator Garrett Love, a Montezuma Republican, on Wednesday announced a measure crafted by the National Right to Life Committee that would ban abortions using what they called the "dismemberment" method. Kansans for Life lobbyist Jeanne Gawdun says 578 abortions were performed in the state in 2013 using a "dilation and extraction" procedure that she says is common for second-trimester abortions. The Legislature passed a measure in 2011 that banned abortions in the state after the 21st week. Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri spokeswoman Elise Higgins says the measure is an attempt to pass an unconstitutional early abortion ban that her organization opposes.
Kansas Ethics Official Doesn't Appear Before Grand Jury
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas ethics official subpoenaed as part of an inquiry into loans to Governor Sam Brownback's re-election campaign hasn't appeared before a federal grand jury. Governmental Ethics Commission Executive Director Carol Williams confirmed she was in her office Wednesday morning when the grand jury appeared to be meeting at the federal courthouse in Topeka. She attended a legislative committee meeting in the afternoon. She declined to comment further. Williams received a subpoena last month, commanding her to appear before the grand jury and produce documents. The subpoena did not specify which loans the grand jury is examining, but the only ones listed in reports for 2013 and 2014 were three, separate $500,000 loans from Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer and a $200,000 loan from Brownback and his wife.
Justices Sympathetic to Man Deported for Minor Drug Crime
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court has been receptive in recent years to immigrants who are fighting deportation from the United States over minor drug crimes. On Wednesday, the justices entertained the least serious transgression yet — the case of a Tunisian man who was deported after he pleaded guilty in Kansas state court to possessing drug paraphernalia. The item in question was actually a sock that contained four pills of the stimulant Adderall. The justices sounded almost incredulous that the Obama administration deported the man, Moones Mellouli, over the conviction and that it was defending its actions in the Supreme Court.
School Efficiency Panel Suggests Forming 2 New Committees
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers have agreed to consider two bills that would create new commissions to find ways to operate schools — as proposed by a task force appointed to identify efficient ways to spend school funds. At a joint meeting of the House and Senate Education committees on Wednesday, K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission chairman Sam Williams presented dueling reports from commission members. He says many of the issues the panel debated were decided on 5-4 votes, so the group decided to offer both a majority and minority report. The majority report asked lawmakers to create a task force to establish best practice guidelines, and a second that creates a commission to come up with measurable standards. The education committees agreed to consider both of those bills.
Man Faces Capital Murder Charge in Shooting of Topeka Officer
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A man will face a capital murder charge when he is tried next year in the fatal shooting of a Topeka police officer. Ross Preston Lane was bound over for trial after a preliminary hearing Tuesday in the death of Topeka Police Corporal Jason Harwood. The trial was scheduled for January 11. Coroner Charles Charles Glenn testified that the 40-year-old Harwood was shot three times on September 7, 2014, after stopping Lane for a routine traffic violation. Harwood was wearing a bulletproof vest but the shots hit him in the neck and abdomen. Randy Ridens, who gave Lane a ride out of Topeka, will be sent to Larned State Hospital after being found incompetent to stand trial for obstructing apprehension of a fugitive and possession of stolen property.
Study: $18B to Divert Missouri River to Irrigate Farms
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A new study estimates it would cost $18 billion to reroute water from the Missouri River to help irrigate farms in western Kansas, and an additional $1 billion each year to operate the system. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that the 360-mile aqueduct would cost $12.2 billion to build over 20 years and $5.8 billion in interest. The Kansas Water Office posted the report online this month. A state committee asked for the study because water levels are declining in the Ogallala Aquifer, which farmers across the region use for irrigation. Experts say current use of the aquifer for agriculture is unsustainable. The proposed channel would start near White Cloud, along the Nebraska border, and end near Utica. A similar 1982 analysis estimated that construction would cost $3.6 billion.
Lottery Sales Spike in Kansas, Casino Revenues Drop
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansans spent over a million dollars more last year to buy lottery tickets than they did the previous year. The Kansas Lottery's report to the Legislature Tuesday shows sales of lottery tickets totaled $245.7 million last year. That is the second-highest amount in the 27-year history of the lottery. About half of the money from ticket sales was paid out as prizes and the lottery transferred $74.3 million to the state after paying commissions to retailers. But revenues were down at two of the state's three casinos. The Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane and the Boot Hill Casino in Dodge City saw revenue declines in 2013. The Hollywood Casino in Kansas City, Kansas, was the only one to report an uptick in revenues.
$5,000 Reward Offered for Information in Kansas Infant's Death
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - The reward for information to help solve the shooting death of a 7-month-old Kansas City, Kansas, boy has increased to $5,000. An anonymous donor added $3,000 to the reward fund Tuesday seeking leads to lead to an arrest in the death of Ja'Quail Mansaw. The boy died January 4 in a drive-by shooting at his family's home. His mother was slightly wounded when the shots hit the home. Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-8477.
Low-Income Housing Project Proposed in Hutchinson
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A non-profit group is proposing a new effort to improve housing stock in a low-income area of the city. Interfaith Housing Services would begin with modular homes on three vacant lots in the southern part of Hutchinson, with the possibility of adding up to 30 housing units in the future. Ron Fisher, director of operations, says Interfaith wants to have a major impact on the city's revitalization area, rather than taking small steps. The Hutchinson News reports that to get the plan started, Interfaith is applying for a $190,000 grant from the Kansas Housing Resources to partially fund the three modular homes. If that project is successful, Interfaith will apply for a larger grant to help build up to 30 more housing units, mostly duplexes and fourplexes.
Maryville Council Approves Bonds for Kawasaki Expansion
MARYVILLE, Mo. (AP) — Maryville leaders are backing a plan to issue up to $25 million in bonds for a major expansion of a Kawasaki Motors plant in the city. The Maryville City Council has approved a resolution to begin the process of issuing the industrial development bonds for a 100,800-square-town expansion that will create up to 30 new jobs. The addition will provide production space for motor components. Kawasaki produces small, general-purpose gasoline engines at the plant. The Maryville Daily Forum reports it is the first time Maryville has ever issued IDB bonds. Kawasaki Motors plant manager Steve Bratt says the company has expanded 12 times since it opened near Maryville and this is the first time it asked for any kind of tax abatement or development incentive.
Kansas Farm Groups Set Annual Commodity Classic Event
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas farm groups are planning to gather next month for their annual Commodity Classic convention. The free event begins at 7:30 am on February 6 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Manhattan. Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Jackie McClaskey will be speaking at a joint morning session with the Women Managing the Farm conference. Other speakers include Chris Standlee, executive vice president of global affairs for Abengoa Bioenergy. He plans to talk about the company's Hugoton project and the future of cellulosic ethanol. Other featured speakers include Rod Snyder president of The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture's Field to Market project. Barry Flinchbaugh, an agricultural economy professor at Kansas State University, will present what he calls the lessons learned from the three-year debate on the 2014 farm bill.
Court Upholds Expulsion of KU Law Student
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court has upheld the expulsion of a student at the University of Kansas School of Law who lied about his criminal history on his application. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed on Tuesday the district court's summary judgment against former law student Robert Brown. Brown did not dispute that he had falsified answers in his application where law school applicants were supposed to disclose any criminal history. He began classes, but later amended his application to disclose criminal convictions for domestic battery and driving under the influence. The law school expelled him after determining in 2010 that his application would have been rejected had his criminal past been known. A three-judge appeals court panel rejected Brown's arguments that the school had denied him due process.
University of Kansas Medical Center Gets $1M Gift
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A former University of Kansas professor and his wife are donating $1 million to the University of Kansas Medical Center. Keith and Laurie Tennant, of Vero Beach, Florida, say in a news release Tuesday that the gift is thanks for life-saving care Keith Tennant received at the medical center. The gift will go toward research at the medical center's Cardiovascular Research Institute in Kansas City, Kansas. Keith Tennant, now 72, underwent two heart surgeries at the medical center, the first when he was 46. Both Tennants were faculty members at the university's Department of Health, Sport and Exercise Science. Keith Tennant was a professor from 2002 until he retired in 2012. Laurie Tennant taught in the department from 2002 to 2011.
Trial Begins for Alaska Fisherman Charged in KS Man's Death
KETCHIKAN, Alaska (AP) — The trial of a 33-year-old commercial fisherman from Ketchikan, Alaska charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in the death of a diver has begun with a focus on the air compressor he used during dive operations. The Ketchikan Daily News reports that Joshua Wodyga is charged in the death of 32-year-old Levi Adams, of Leawood, Kansas, who died October 8, 2013, while harvesting sea cucumbers. Assistant District Attorney Ben Hofmeister in his opening statement Tuesday told jurors that Wodyga's failure to keep his air compressor in good condition played a significant role in sending carbon monoxide to Adams instead of oxygen. Hofmeister also says the air compressor was designed for pneumatic tools, not diving. Defense attorney Mark Osterman says a "terrible accident" took Adams's life.
Suspect Shot by Police Charged with Bank Robbery, Carjacking
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Federal prosecutors say a Kansas City, Missouri, man shot by police last week has been charged with bank robbery and carjacking. Twenty-nine-year-old Steven Marquain Davis is accused in a criminal complaint filed Tuesday of using a bomb to rob the Commerce Bank in Kansas City, Missouri. The affidavit filed alleges Davis entered the bank Friday holding a remote control device and placed a duffel bag on the counter. Davis allegedly told the teller to "gimme everything." The teller, believing the robber was referring to a bomb, placed $29,689 in the bag. The complaint alleges Davis tried to get into three cars into the area before police arrived. He was wounded by police after allegedly pointing a gun at officers. Agents later located an explosive device in the bank lobby.
Royals Extend Manager's Contract Through 2016 Season
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The AL champion Kansas City Royals and Manager Ned Yost have agreed on a one-year contract extension that will keep Yost with the franchise through the 2016 season. Yost said after leading the Royals to an improbable pennant win last season that he hoped to manage a few more years. His contract had been set to expire after the 2015 season. Yost became the Royals' manager in May 2010 and presided over a massive rebuilding effort that culminated with the end of a 29-year playoff drought. The Royals took the San Francisco Giants to the seventh game of the World Series before their season finally ended. The longest-tenured manager in club history, Yost will soon become its winningest. He has 373 victories, trailing only Dick Howser (404) and Whitey Herzog (410).
Kansas Jayhawks Beat Oklahoma State, 67-57
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Frank Mason III had 16 points and nine rebounds and Kelly Oubre Jr. added 14 points as ninth-ranked Kansas beat No. 24 Oklahoma State 67-57 on Tuesday night to remain perfect in the Big 12. The Jayhawks (14-2) moved to 3-0 in league play for the ninth straight year. Kansas was 32 of 46 on free throws while attempting just 43 field goals in a game made choppy by the abundance of fouls. Le'Bryan Nash scored all but two of his 21 points in the second half for Oklahoma State (12-4, 2-2).