Headlines for Monday, May 11, 2015
Kansas House Panel Passes Bill to End Business Tax Break
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has approved a bill to end a business tax break championed by Republican Governor Sam Brownback. The Taxation Committee's 13-8 vote Monday sent the measure to the House for debate. The committee is considering proposals to raise taxes to close a budget shortfall. Legislative researchers said the projected deficit is $406 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The bill clearing committee would raise $134 million during the next fiscal year. The measure repeals a tax break for 333,000 business owners and farmers enacted in 2012 at Brownback's urging to boost the economy. The policy exempted their business income from taxes. The bill imposes a 2.7 percent tax on most of the income and a 4.6 percent tax on rents and royalties.
Kansas Lawmakers Must Finish Business This Week to Avoid Overtime
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas legislators must wrap up their business for the year before the end of the week to avoid having their annual 90-day session go into overtime. Lawmakers are returning today (MON) to the Statehouse without having drafted a plan for raising taxes to close a budget shortfall and with a full slate of other issues. It's the 85th day of their annual session. Legislative leaders traditionally schedule 90-day sessions each year, though the state constitution doesn't limit the length in odd-numbered years. The 90th day would be Saturday. Legislators have remained in session more than 90 days in 29 of the past 40 years. The longest session was in 2002, at 107 days. Last year's session was the shortest since 1974, at only 79 days.
Kansas House Panel Considers Tweaks to Pension Rules
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House panel is considering lacing limits how much government employees would be able to boost their pension benefits by accumulating unused vacation days. The House Commerce and Economic Development Committee held a hearing Monday on a bill that tweaks benefits rules for government employees hired before 1993. The bill would allow those state and local government employees to accumulate only 240 hours of vacation and sick leave to boost the value of their pension payments. Republican Representative Jerry Lunn from Overland Park told the committee the change would improve the health and stability of the pension fund by avoiding excessive payments. But Chairman and Republican Representative Mark Hutton from Wichita said the proposal needs more work, and indicated that it may not be brought up again in this legislative session.
Kansas Legislators Agree on Local Elections Compromise
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have agreed to move local elections to the fall in odd-numbered years. Representatives from the Senate and House came to a compromise Monday after each chamber passed different versions of the same elections reform bill earlier in the session. Republican Representative Mark Kahrs of Wichita says the move would boost turnout to between 30 percent and 40 percent — more than double the turnout in most recent local elections. The bill also would bar general election candidates from dropping out of the race unless experiencing "severe medical hardship." Presidential primaries in the state also would be canceled under the bill. The compromise would become law once it is approved by both full chambers and signed by the governor.
Time Running out for Uber Compromise, Kansas Senator Says
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas state senator says time is running out for ride-hailing company Uber to come to a compromise with the Legislature over regulations. Republican Senator Jeff Longbine from Emporia said Monday that he and representatives from the insurance and banking sectors continue to negotiate with Uber after it announced May 5 it was leaving the state. The company said it decided to immediately cease operations in Kansas after the Legislature overrode Governor Sam Brownback's veto of regulations it found excessive. A spokeswoman for the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Longbine said the sides will likely have to come to agreement by Tuesday in order for the Legislature to have time to pass any changes to the earlier regulatory bill.
Broad Marijuana Bill Attracts GOP Votes in Kansas Legislature
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A broadly worded bill that would ease marijuana laws is working its way through the Kansas Legislature. Supporters claim it's a narrow enough that conservative Republicans can vote for it. They also say it demonstrates a shift in the long-running discussion over medical marijuana in the state. Kansas' GOP-dominated House passed the bill by a wide margin Thursday, making it the state's most serious push to liberalize its marijuana policies in decades. The bill would decrease penalties for first and second offense marijuana possession, launch a study of industrial hemp production and legalize the limited production and sale of hemp oil for certain seizure treatments. Democratic Representative Gail Finney from Wichita, who has long supported comprehensive marijuana legislation, said the vote shows that efforts to "educate" the Legislature have "paid off." The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Topeka Homeless Shelter Breaks Ground on Day Care Facility
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Topeka homeless shelter has started work on a $3.6 million day care facility. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that children from the Topeka Rescue Mission participated in a groundbreaking Friday for the Children's Palace. It will provide daytime care to homeless children up to age 5. Director of children's ministry Jessica Hosman says the Children's Palace is slated to be completed in April 2016. It will be able to serve 124 children. The day care is part of a building campaign that also will include new shelter space and a renovation of the current shelter to house a larger adult training area and bigger kitchen and medical clinic. The final phase will be an addition to the Children's Palace that will house after-school and summer programs for school-aged children.
Kansas State to Add Drone Cybersecurity Training in Salina
SALINA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas State University is expanding into drone cybersecurity training. The concentration will be available starting in June for students enrolled in a master's degree program at its Salina campus. The cybersecurity courses will be offered online. The university says unmanned aircraft systems use computer networking for critical control systems, communication, navigation, payload delivery and intelligence coordination. Concerns have arisen about potential takeover of the information control systems. Kansas State Salina's associate dean of research and engagement, Kurt Barnhart, says it's increasingly important that students are taught to ``have a better grasp of the vulnerabilities of these systems and how to protect them to prevent misuse.''
KU Unveils Bee Habitat on Field Station Trail
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ The University of Kansas has added a bee hotel to its Field Station trail north of Lawrence to raise awareness about native bee species. The habitat is a wooden structure with a glass side that provides a nesting site for bees and will allow hikers to observe the inside of an operating bee colony. Bee populations are declining nationwide largely due to a loss of natural habitat space. University researchers say they hope the bee hotel will help visitors learn about the importance of bees as pollinators. The bee hotel was built as volunteer project through the U.S. Green Building Council's Green Apple Day of Service.
Report: Traffic Calming Could Cost $200K in Lawrence
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ A report from the city of Lawrence says it may need to spend $200,000 to alleviate an increase in traffic on one street due to the closure of part of another. The Lawrence Journal-World reports traffic on 27th Street has doubled to about 6,000 cars per day since part of 31st Street was closed. The City Hall report estimates about $200,000 worth of traffic circles, speed cushions and other devices could help slow traffic. The report also says $140,000 could help to build a new sidewalk on the north side of the street and a new pedestrian activated bridge. These improvements, if approved, would not be completed before midsummer, which is when the Kansas Department of Transportation expects to reopen the portion of 31st Street.
Government Groups Work Across State Lines in Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The four largest government units in the Kansas City metropolitan area are working together to address issues impacting the region on both sides of the Kansas/Missouri state line. The group, called Core4, comprises the two Kansas Citys, Jackson County, Missouri and Johnson County, Kansas, which are home to about 80 percent of the region's population. The Kansas City Star reports that in the last couple of years, Core4 has upstaged the area's long-established policy agency called Mid-America Regional Council, or MARC. The Core4 members work independently and still work with MARC, which has more than 100 other members from other communities. But the four top administrators meet regularly for lunch and dozens of top managers in city halls and county buildings regularly work on solving problems.
KC Mayor Praises $300M, 800-Room Downtown Hotel Project
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Mayor Sly James is praising a newly announced $300 million, 800-room downtown hotel project. James said in a news release Monday that the project has been needed for several years. Meeting planners say a lodging shortfall has caused numerous conventions to look elsewhere. Plans call for the hotel to open in 2018 across from the Kansas City Convention Center's Grand Ballroom. Hyatt has been selected to be the hotel operator. The release says the city investment of $35 million is fixed, and will be financed with revenues from existing taxes paid predominantly by out-of-town visitors. Taxpayers will not be responsible for any project cost overruns. James called the project the "right development at the right location with the right hotel operator."
Teen Fatally Shot During Dispute at Birthday Party
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 17-year-old Wichita boy is dead after being shot in the head at a private birthday party during an argument that didn't involve him.
The Wichita Eagle reports that Leon McClennon died shortly before 3 am Saturday in the basement of Parrot-fa-Nalia, where about 20 people had gathered for the party. Police say an argument involving two men escalated until one of them pulled out a gun and fired shots, hitting McClennon. Police spokesman Lieutenant Jason Stephens says there was a wide range of ages at the party, including people in their 40s. Stephens says McClennon simply was in the wrong place at the wrong time. A person of interest has been identified in the shooting but no charges have been filed.
Suspects in Salina Girl's Death Make First Court Appearance
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Four men accused in the shooting death of a 17-year-old Salina girl in what police say was a case of mistaken identity have been charged with first-degree murder. The men made their first court appearance Monday and are being held on $1 million bond each in the death Wednesday of Allie Saum. A woman was charged with obstruction of official duty. Another suspect, a 17-year-old, faces first-degree murder and obstruction charges in juvenile court. Authorities say Saum was killed when one of the suspects fired at a pickup truck she was riding in with her boyfriend. The suspect apparently mistakenly thought the boyfriend had been involved in a fistfight with him earlier that evening. The four men charged with murder are Macio Palacio, Stephen Gentry, Daniel Sims and Jerome Forbes.
Some Tonganoxie Residents Unhappy with Roaming Buffalo
TONGANOXIE, Kan. (AP) - Some buffalo are roaming just a little too far for people around Tonganoxie. A herd of buffalo have been kept in a pasture on property east of Tonganoxie along U.S. 24/40 for 10 to 15 years. But recently, some of the animals have periodically been seen wandering outside the pasture. Last week, that almost led to tragedy. Two of the animals were killed when they were hit by a tractor-trailer. The driver was not hurt. The Kansas City Star reports that was the latest in a recent string of escapes. The owners of the 140 acre property in Leavenworth County say they have tried to fix any breaches in the fences but their efforts, at least lately, have not been working.
Royals Edge Tigers 2-1 After Long Rain Delay
DETROIT (AP) - Greg Holland worked out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam in the bottom of the 10th inning, and the Kansas City Royals held on for a 2-1 win over the Detroit Tigers early Monday in a game that was delayed for more than 100 minutes by rain. Omar Infante's sacrifice fly in the top of the 10th put the Royals ahead, but Holland allowed a single and two walks to start the bottom half and the Tigers loaded the bases. Holland then struck out Yoenis Cespedes for his sixth save in six outings. The Royals' Jason Frasor (1-0) got credit for the win. After the game finally concluded, the Royals flew to Texas where they start a four-game series versus the Rangers tonight.