Headlines for Tuesday, January 20, 2015
KU Students, Staff Get First Chance at Tickets for Obama Visit
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - University of Kansas students, faculty and staff are getting first dibs on tickets to see President Barack Obama in Lawrence on Thursday. The president is expected to discuss themes from his State of the Union address. The university says students and faculty started picking up their free tickets at 9 am Tuesday at the box office in the Kansas Union. A limited number of tickets will be available for the general public starting at 5 pm at the Dreher 4-H building at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. Obama is scheduled to arrive in Lawrence on Air Force One on Wednesday evening and will speak at Anschutz Sports Pavilion next to Allen Fieldhouse at 11:20 am Thursday. No signs or banners will be permitted and attendees are asked to limit personal items and not bring any bags to the event.
Kansas Governor's Pension Plans Would Boost Long-Term Costs
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have learned that Republican Governor Sam Brownback's proposals for reducing the state's annual payments for public pensions would increase long-term costs by $3.7 billion. The House Appropriations Committee received a briefing Tuesday about Brownback's proposal to extend the time for closing a long-term funding gap for the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. A 2012 law commits the state to increasing payments to KPERS to eliminate a $9.8 billion shortfall in the pension system by 2033. Brownback wants the payoff date to be 2043 to lower the state's annual costs. He's also proposing to issue $1.5 billion in bonds to give KPERS an infusion of funds. But the changes would require larger-than-planned contributions to KPERS after 2032. Some lawmakers said they're concerned about the higher long-term costs.
Kansas Transportation Officials Reassure Lawmakers on Budget
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas transportation officials are reassuring state lawmakers that they will not be forced to cut projects, despite major drops in funding. Governor Sam Brownback has recommended transferring state transportation funds into general state coffers to fill shortfalls over the next three years. A total of $412 million would be transferred in fiscal year 2015 and $362 million in both 2016 and 2017 under his recommendations. Transportation Secretary Mike King told the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday that the department will be forced to delay some projects to preserve roads and bridges in the state. But King says the department expects to have the funds to complete those projects by 2020. He says the department also will supplement its funds next year by issuing $250 million in bonds.
Prosecutors Seek DNA over Theft of Dead Boy's Identity
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors asked a federal judge to order collection of a DNA sample from a man in Kansas accused of assuming the identity of a dead Texas boy. Teodoro Erasmo Luna initially had requested through his attorney that his January 13 trial be delayed to allow the testing, and the judge agreed. But in a court filing Tuesday. prosecutors say Luna balked when his jailers tried to collect the sample, even after his defense attorney met with him. The government is now asking the court to direct the U.S. Marshals Service to immediately obtain a swab of his saliva for use in DNA testing. His defense did not immediately return an email seeking comment. Luna is charged in a 17-count indictment with aggravated identity theft and related crimes.
Kansas Lawmakers Seek Jail Time for Scrap Metal Thefts
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are considering a bill that would toughen punishments for scrap metal theft amid a sharp increase in the crime statewide. Law enforcement officials and representatives of utility companies testified during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday that millions of dollars in damage are being done to businesses and homes each year by scrap thieves seeking precious metals. They said existing laws fail to adequately address the issue. Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce criticized the bill, saying its proposed punishments were excessive. Under the bill, first time offenders would face 11 to 34 months in jail, while repeat offenders could face more than 11 years behind bars. The bill would also set up a database that would help law enforcement track metal transactions by scrap dealers and recycling centers.
Kansas Company Sues Missouri Utility over Wind Energy
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - The owners of a Kansas wind farm say that City Utilities of Springfield, Missouri, did not buy the amount of energy required under an agreement. Smoky Hills Wind Project says in its lawsuit that City Utilities bought $1.7 million less energy than the wind farm had expected. Smoky Hills says reduced use of wind energy caused the company to receive less value in tax benefits. CU spokesman Joel Alexander said the utility denies the claims and will defend itself in court. Smoky Hills is accusing the utility of two counts of breach of contract. It is asking that City Utilities be required to pay for the loss and other relief.
Kansas Offers Program to Help Pay Heating Bills
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A government program that helps people pay winter utility bills will begin taking applications this week. The Low Income Energy Assistance Program is offered to those with disabilities, the elderly, or families with children who meet income eligibility standards. The Kansas Department for Children and Families will take applications today (TUE) through March 31. The Wichita Eagle reports that more than 48,000 households used the program last year, with an average benefit of $522. Program applicants must show they have paid energy bills for two of the past three months.
Governor Brownback Proposes Cuts for Affordable Airfares Program
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A program that brings lower airfares to Wichita and Garden City might be grounded in the near future. Governor Sam Brownback is proposing a reduction of state funds for the Kansas Affordable Airfares Program. The governor wants to reduce the current $5 million state funding to $4 million in fiscal year 2016 and $3 million the next fiscal year. Jason Watkins, spokesman for the program, says officials will propose ending the state funding for the program after fiscal year 2016. The Wichita Eagle reports the program pays the difference between airline monthly costs that exceed revenue. Southwest Airlines, the main recipient in Wichita of state funds from the program, says it is too early to know how ending the program would affect its service.
2 Injured in Separate Hunting Accidents in Kansas
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say two people are in the hospital after they were injured in two separate hunting accidents on the same day. According to Jackson County (Kansas) Sheriff Tim Morse, a 15-year-old male was shot in the leg while turkey hunting with three other boys on Sunday. Morse says a shotgun accidentally discharged and hit the teen. He was taken to a Topeka hospital and is in stable condition. The sheriff didn't give a specific age for the boy carrying the shotgun but says he's no older than 10. Less than five hours after the first incident, The Topeka Capital Journal reports another person was injured after falling from a tree stand. The male, whose name or age wasn't released, was taken to a hospital and is in stable condition.
Wichita Teenager Stabs Burglar
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita police say a teenager stabbed a burglar in his home while his brother alerted authorities. The suspect is hospitalized recovering from the stab wounds he suffered during the attempted burglary Monday. His condition was not released. KAKE-TV reports 17-year-old Austin Schierkolk encountered the burglar early Monday in west Wichita. He says he stabbed the man in the neck and shoulder. The fight continued until the man fled through a back door. At the same time, 15-year-old Luke Schierkolk was on the phone with police. Austin suffered only minor injuries. Police say the suspect was arrested after he crashed a stolen SUV at a nearby apartment complex. The boys' mother, Tonya Schierkolk, says she's grateful the boys knew what to do.
School Supplies Company Opening Center in Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - An online company that sells classroom supplies plans to open a distribution center in south Kansas City, bringing 44 jobs to the region. Connecticut-based ReallyGoodStuff.com says the center will open in June. It will distribute products, mostly geared toward elementary school teachers, across the United States and Canada. The Kansas City Star reports the center will be located at the CenterPoint Intermodal Center at the site of the former Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base. Officials say the company will make a $3.36 million investment in the project and will share space with another tenant. ReallyGoodStuff will receive about $170,000 in state incentives if it meets job creation and investment criteria. The company's corporate headquarters is in Monroe, Connecticut.
Bills to Require Body Cameras Get Support, Raise Questions
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Legislation requiring Kansas law enforcement officers to be equipped with body cameras has gained bipartisan support in the first days of the new session, but questions about costs have raised some concerns. A bill backed by Democratic Representative Gail Finney of Wichita likely will be considered in the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee, whose chairman supports the cameras but thinks the measure might be an unfunded mandate. Finney says Wichita has experienced a number of officer-involved shootings and could potentially have an incident like in Ferguson, Missouri, where sometimes violent protests followed the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer. Democratic Senator David Haley of Kansas City is pushing a similar proposal.
Police Arrest Homeless Man in Kansas Double Stabbing
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 34-year-old homeless man has been arrested for attempted murder after police say he stabbed two people in Kansas last week. The man was booked early Sunday morning in the Shawnee County Jail on charges of attempted first-degree murder and aggravated battery. Police officers who arrived Thursday afternoon to the home say they found 54-year-old Sheila Kay Alexander suffering from a stab wound to her neck and 28-year-old Jason Lewis Alexander with a stab wound on his leg. Officials say the mother and son were taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. A motive hasn't been released in the attack.
Salina Program Helps People Learn to Use New Technology
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The Salina Library is offering help to all those people who have no idea how to use the electronic gadgets they got for Christmas. The library offers a class called "I Got This Thing as a Gift, Now What Do I Do With It?" Even when the small, free classes aren't available, Helen Gregg, technology center trainer, offers one-on-one help. The Salina Journal reports that Gregg says younger people who give the gifts often aren't very good teachers because they grew up with technology and don't have the patience to teach someone who didn't. And she says her older students usually don't give themselves enough credit for what they know, or how easily they can learn new information.
Ex-Tech Director for Lenexa Sentenced for Fraud
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The former technology director for the city of Lenexa has been sentenced to prison for fraud. Forty-four-year-old Andrew Davey, of Overland Park was sentenced Tuesday to a year and a day in prison and ordered to pay $103,000 in restitution. He pleaded guilty in October to wire fraud. Prosecutors say Davey would take city-owned technology such as iPads, computers and televisions and give them to friends and family, or sell them online and keep the profits. He worked for Lenexa from 2010 to 2012.
Kansas City Police Identify Man Killed in Shooting
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Police have identified a 30-year-old man who died after a shooting in Kansas City that also left one woman injured. Authorities said Monday that officers found James M. Williams and the woman suffering from gunshot wounds at a home early Sunday morning. Williams died at a hospital. The female victim, whom police say is around 50 years old, is in serious but stable condition. Authorities say witnesses told them an argument led to the shootings. Police say a suspect fled on foot and they ask anyone with information to call the department.
Kansas Jayhawks Rally to Beat Oklahoma, 85-78
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Jayhawks' Kelly Oubre Jr. scored 19 points, converting two driving layups in the closing minutes as No. 11 Kansas held on for an 85-78 victory over No. 19 Oklahoma on Monday night in Lawrence. The Jayhawks blew a 20-point first-half lead as the Sooners nearly pulled off an improbable comeback, going on a 21-3 run early in the second half to get back into the game. But with just under 4 minutes to go, the Jayhawks pushed to regain control and put the game away from the foul line in the final minute. KU's Perry Ellis added 16 points, Cliff Alexander had 13 points and 13 rebounds, and Brannen Greene scored 12 for the Jayhawks (15-3, 4-1 Big 12), who bounced back from a loss Saturday night at Iowa State by beating Oklahoma (12-6, 3-3) for the 14th straight time at Allen Fieldhouse.
Chiefs QB Bray Tears ACL; Team Signs 19 to Futures Contracts
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Chiefs announced Tuesday that Tyler Bray has torn the ACL in his left knee, putting his future with the franchise in doubt and creating space for Terrelle Pryor at backup quarterback. Bray spent last season on injured reserve after spraining an ankle in preseason. The move allowed the Chiefs to keep him along with Alex Smith, Chase Daniel and Aaron Murray. Pryor, a former Raiders quarterback, recently agreed to a deal with the Chiefs. Among the players that Kansas City signed to futures deals was wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers. The former star began his career at Tennessee but transferred to Tennessee Tech after admitting to failing several drug tests. He played for Buffalo and Indianapolis. In five games with the Colts, he had 14 catches for 192 yards.