Headlines for Friday, May 8, 2015
More Storms Coming as Midwest Reels from Tornadoes, Floods
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The nation's midsection is bracing for another bout of severe weather, but many residents in Oklahoma are still cleaning up from a rare combination of tornadoes and flash flooding. Storms that spawned 51 tornadoes in several Plains states late Wednesday also brought torrential downpours in central Oklahoma that led to one death. Authorities say a 43-year-old Oklahoma City woman drowned after becoming trapped inside her underground storm cellar. One owner of a storm shelter company described such accidents as extremely uncommon. But Blake Lee of F5 Storm Shelters & Safe Rooms says people should inspect their shelters every few months for leaks. Meteorologists say conditions on Friday and Saturday appear ripe for storms that could produce even more powerful tornadoes across southern Kansas, western Oklahoma and parts of North Texas.
Kansas Lawmakers Consider Proposals for Raising Taxes
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are sifting through proposals to increase taxes but aren't yet raising enough revenue to close a budget shortfall. The House and Senate tax committees considered various measures Thursday. Legislative researchers have said lawmakers must close a $422 million budget shortfall for the fiscal year beginning July 1st. The shortfall arose after lawmakers cut personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 to boost the economy. The Senate committee previously endorsed proposals to raise about $50 million. The panel Thursday approved Republican Governor Sam Brownback's plan to waive penalties for people with unpaid taxes to pick up another $30 million. But senators didn't agree on any other proposals. The House committee had a hearing on a bill to backtrack on a tax break for business owners enacted in 2012.
Renewable Energy Compromise Approved by Kansas House
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has approved a compromise between the wind energy industry and critics of the state's green energy mandate. The House voted 107-11 to pass the deal Thursday. It would remove a requirement that renewable resources account for 20 percent of utilities' capacity to generate electricity by 2020. The measure now goes to the Senate for consideration. The mandate would become a nonbinding goal, but legislators would drop a proposal to impose a 4.33 percent tax on the electricity generated from renewable resources in return. The agreement also would give all new green energy projects tax-free status for their first 10 years and require them to pay commercial property taxes thereafter. Renewable power plants are currently exempt from property taxes.
Kansas House Approves Broad Marijuana Bill
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has approved a measure that would decrease penalties for marijuana possession, allow the limited use of medical marijuana and study the use of industrial hemp. House members voted 81-36 Thursday to send the bill to the Senate for consideration. First- and second-time marijuana offenders without serious prior convictions would avoid jail time under the bill. That would decrease the population in the state's overcrowded prisons and save more than $1.7 million over the next two fiscal years, according to state estimates. Two amendments to the bill also would legalize the sale and production of hemp oil for seizure treatments and initiate a state study into industrial hemp. Opponents say they're worried that the bill would open the door to wider marijuana legalization.
Kansas Legislators Approve Bill Legalizing Fantasy Sports
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have given final approval to a measure declaring fantasy sports a legal game of skill. The House approved the measure on a 98-21 vote Thursday. The Senate approved it on a 37-1 vote Monday, so it goes next to Republican Governor Sam Brownback. The bill would bring clarity to an ongoing dispute over the legal status of fantasy sports leagues. The Kansas Constitution allows only the state to administer games fitting a broad definition of a lottery. The state's gambling regulator announced in August that it viewed fantasy sports as illegal lotteries. Attorney General Derek Schmidt released an opinion in April saying the state could legalize fantasy sports if they were games of skill. Legally, the results of a lottery are determined by chance.
Listeria Contamination in Blue Bell Plants Goes Back 2 Years
WASHINGTON (AP) — A government investigation found Blue Bell Creameries knew there was listeria in one of the company's plants as far back as March 2013. But the company didn't issue any recalls or shut down production until after the products were linked to listeria illnesses this year — including three deaths in Kansas. The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday released results of investigations into Blue Bell's plants in Oklahoma, Texas and Alabama. The most extensive violations were found in Oklahoma, where the FDA listed 17 positive tests for listeria on equipment and around its plant there from March 2013 through February 2015. Neither Blue Bell nor the FDA has said why the Oklahoma plant was not closed after repeated findings of listeria, which was found in multiple locations around the plant.
Police: Ellsworth Inmate Tries to Escape from Hospital ICU
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a man serving a sentence at Ellsworth Correctional Facility for attempted murder tried to escape Thursday while being treated at Salina Regional Health Center. Captain Mike Sweeney of the Salina Police Department said 26-year-old Paul Stotts was being treated in the hospital's intensive care unit when he pushed a nurse and "started running down the hall with a guard in pursuit." The guard, with the help of two nurses, tackled Stotts, who tried to grab the guard's gun. The Salina Journal reports police arrived to help handcuff the inmate, who was transported back to prison. According to Todd Britton, public information officer for Ellsworth Correctional Facility, Stotts had been at Salina Regional for two days. Sweeney said it's likely police will ask that the inmate be charged with battery.