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Headlines for Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Kansas Legislators Considering Tax Proposals 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas legislators are continuing to discuss proposals to raise taxes to fill a projected budget shortfall as the end of their annual session nears. The House Taxation Committee is expected to review proposals today (WED) for raising revenues to close a projected $406 million deficit in the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Republicans on the committee planned to discuss a proposal to raise the state's sales tax to 6.85 percent from 6.15 percent. The plan would also reduce the state's lowest personal income tax rate to 2.55 percent from 2.7 percent. The Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee has a proposal before it to raise the sales tax to 6.5 percent. Both committees are considering proposals to drop the sales tax on food.


Kansas Governor Focused on Consumption Taxes to Fix Budget 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Governor Sam Brownback says Kansas legislators shouldn't abandon what he calls a pro-growth policy of moving away from income taxes even as they raise new revenues to balance the state budget. Brownback said Wednesday that he's pushing legislators to increase consumption taxes such as the state's sales tax to fix the budget. The state faces a projected $406 million shortfall for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Some GOP legislators advocate repealing a 2012 law that exempted the profits of more than 330,000 business owners and farmers from income taxes. Brownback championed the policy as an economic stimulus. Brownback told The Associated Press that moving away from income taxes toward consumption taxes is the best pro-growth policy and it would be unwise to move away from that approach.


Brownback Mum on Possible Veto of Tax Break Repeal  

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is not saying whether he would veto a revenue-raising plan from legislators if it repeals a tax break he's championed for business owners and farmers. The governor shrugged off that question Tuesday as the House Taxation Committee worked on a plan to close a projected $406 million budget shortfall for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The committee on Monday approved a bill repealing a tax break enacted in 2012 for more than 330,000 business owners and farmers. It exempted their profits from personal income taxes. Brownback pushed for the tax break as an economic stimulus and opposes repealing it. Asked about the House committee's action Monday, the governor said he wants to see what emerges from the lengthy process of passing a tax plan.


Kansas Club for Growth Airing Cable Ads Favoring Tax Break  

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ An anti-tax group has launched a statewide cable television ad campaign to pressure legislators into preserving an income tax exemption for more than 330,000 business owners and farmers. Kansas Club for Growth lobbyist Mark Dugan said the group began the television spots Tuesday and plans to run them at least a week. The ads began a day after the House Taxation Committee approved a bill to repeal the tax break to help close a budget shortfall. The break was enacted in 2012 and exempted farmers' and business owners' profits from personal income taxes. Governor Sam Brownback championed it as an economic stimulus, and the ads say it has helped small businesses grow. Dugan declined to say how much the Kansas Club for Growth is spending on the ads.  


Kansas Senate Approves Bill Moving Local Elections to Fall 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has agreed to a compromise moving local elections to the fall in odd-numbered years. The chamber voted 22-13 on Wednesday to accept the changes. The bill will go to the governor if it is approved by the House. The bill also would cancel the state's presidential primaries and bar general election candidates from dropping out of a race unless experiencing "severe medical hardship." Legislators have canceled the past five primaries because of their cost, opting for caucuses funded by the Republican and Democratic parties. Republican Senator Carolyn McGinn of Sedgwick says she opposes the changes because they would force elected school board members to take office in the middle of fiscal years. She says that would disrupt the budgeting process.


Kansas Supreme Court to Hear Marijuana Ordinance Dispute 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court says it will decide whether a voter-approved ordinance in Wichita reducing criminal penalties for marijuana possession is legal. The court ruled Wednesday that it will retain jurisdiction under its authority to hear issues of sufficient public concern. It kept in place a stay of district court proceedings. It also noted that Wichita has already agreed that enactment of the ordinance should be put on hold until the courts rule. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt contends the ordinance is void because it conflicts with state law. The ordinance imposes up to a $50 fine for first-time possession of a small amount of pot. State law deems it a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Oral arguments will be in September.


Kansas Senate Approves Process for Emissions Control Plan 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill approved by the Kansas Senate would require legislators to sign off on the state's plan for complying with a federal rule aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The chamber voted 35-1 on Wednesday to approve the latest version of the bill. If the House approves it, the measure would go to the governor to sign. The bill allows the secretary of health and environment to draft a plan for complying with the new rule from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. States that do not draft their own plans will have a federal plan imposed on them. Kansas's plan could include agreements with utilities to lower carbon emissions, but an 11-member legislative committee would have to approve it before the state submits it to the EPA.


Kansas Abortion Foes Seek Change in Law to Help with Lawsuit 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Abortion opponents in Kansas are pushing legislators to rewrite a provision in a 2011 law imposing health and safety regulations on abortion providers. The Kansas Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee approved the proposal Wednesday on a voice vote, sending it to the chamber for debate. Supporters said they're hoping to eliminate an issue in a lawsuit that's kept the rules from being enforced. The measure makes a technical change concerning the use of abortion-inducing drugs. It's designed to clear up an issue raised by attorneys for two doctors who sued over the law nearly four years ago. But an attorney representing the doctors said the change will multiply the issues in the lawsuit. A hearing in the lawsuit is scheduled for July 17 in Shawnee County District Court.


Kansas Senate Panel Approves Bill to Revive KCK Racing Park 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has approved a bill aimed at reviving a dog and horse racing complex in Kansas City, Kansas, with slot machines. The Federal and State Affairs Committee's voice vote Wednesday sends the measure to the full Senate for debate. A 2007 law allowed slots at dog and horse tracks but said the state would claim 40 percent of the net machine revenues. Track owners have said the state's share is too high for slots to be profitable. The bill would decrease the state's share to 22 percent for The Woodlands in Kansas City, Kansas. The park closed in 2008. No one opposed the bill in committee Wednesday. But some lawmakers have worried that slots at The Woodlands would hurt a nearby casino owned by the state lottery.


Pilot of Missing Helicopter in Nepal Earthquake from Kansas


WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The father of the Kansas man who was flying a helicopter missing in Nepal says he is confident his son will be found OK. Ronald Norgren said Wednesday his 31-year-old son, Captain Chris Norgren, was flying the U.S. Marine helicopter that disappeared Tuesday while delivering disaster aid to earthquake victims. The helicopter was carrying six Marines and two Nepalese soldiers. He says Marine Corps officials came to the family's house in Wichita to inform him and his wife that their son was missing and reassured them there are no indications the aircraft crashed. Norgren says his son is a smart kid with degrees in aerospace engineering and mathematics. He says his son is a survivor and that is why he believes he will make it back.


Study: Spring Heat Poses Danger to Wheat Yields 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new study says spring heat poses a greater danger to winter wheat crops than early freezes in the fall. Researchers at Kansas State University examined results from experimental field trials and matched that data with weather information at those sites. The data spanned from 1985 through 2013 in 11 locations. The research found that a 1-degree increase in heat in the spring would decrease yields by 7 percent. Agricultural economist Andrew Barkley says researchers expect new wheat varieties to be more heat resistant in the future. He says that is the take-home message of this study. He says damage from hotter temperatures can be partially offset with more precipitation. Hot, dry springs would mean higher losses. The research is being published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Report: Kansas Wheat Crop Forecast at 272M Bushels

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The National Agricultural Statistics Service is forecasting that the nation's winter wheat crop will be up 7 percent this year. Their official production estimate of 1.47 billion bushels released Tuesday is based on average yield forecast of 43.5 bushels per acre. For Kansas, the agency estimated the state will bring in 272 million bushels of winter wheat. That is up from the 246.4 million bushels cut during last year's drought-plagued season. But the government's initial forecast is less optimistic than the 288.5 million bushels estimated by participants in last week's wheat tour. NASS is forecasting the average Kansas yield at 32 bushels an acre. Their estimate for the nation's hard red winter wheat crop is up 16 percent to 853 million bushels. 


Union Pacific to Spend $120M on Kansas Rail

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Union Pacific says it plans to spend about $120 million this year in Kansas to improve the state's rail infrastructure. The company announced in a news release Tuesday that it will spend almost $110 million to maintain railroad track. Other expenditures include $2.2 million to improve its signal systems and $7.5 million to maintain or replace bridges in the state. The company also plans to make improvements to surfaces at numerous road crossings in the state. The Kansas work is part of $4.2 billion Union Pacific says it plans to invest across its network this year.


Fort Riley Adjusts Entry Gate Procedures 

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) - Fort Riley officials say they have adjusted entry procedures at the base after increased security measures clogged Interstate 70 earlier this week. The U.S. military raised the security status for all bases in North America on Friday. The Manhattan Mercury reports long lines at the Henry gate entrance on Monday stretched onto I-70 in both directions and brought interstate traffic to a standstill. Base spokesman Bob Everdeen says Fort Riley is trying to balance the need to protect both the fort and people driving on the interstate. He says lines to enter the post were back to normal on Tuesday morning. Officials declined to discuss procedures that were changed because of the elevated security status.


Woman Arrested After Trying to Cash Stolen Lottery Ticket

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Hutchinson police say a woman was booked into jail after she tried to cash in a lottery ticket that she had stolen.  Police allege the 31-year-old woman stole several lottery tickets from a convenience store on Sunday in Hutchinson by asking the clerk to retrieve another item and then running out the door with the tickets.  Police Lieutenant Marty Robertson says when the woman tried to cash in a winning ticket on Monday at a different location, the serial number came up as stolen and the clerk called police. When the police arrived, the woman tried to flee with two small children in her car.  The Hutchinson News reports that the woman is a suspect in earlier thefts at three other stores and in drug cases.


Man Charged with Trying to Lure Girl into Restroom at Lawrence Restaurant

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 42-year-old registered sex offender is accused of trying to lure a 10-year-old girl into the men's restroom at a downtown Lawrence restaurant.  6NewsLawrence reports Jonathan Stephen Nelson was charged in Douglas County Court on Tuesday with aggravated indecent solicitation of a child.  Police say Nelson approached the girl across the restaurant from where her mother was sitting on Sunday, put his hand on her shoulder and asked her to follow him into the men's restroom.  Police spokesman Sergeant Trent McKinley says Nelson was intoxicated and uncooperative with officers.  His bond was set at $125,000. It wasn't immediately clear if he had obtained an attorney.  The Kansas Bureau of Investigation website shows Nelson was convicted in 2010 of sexually exploiting a 5-year-old girl in Olathe in November 2007.


Man Who Videotaped Dressing Rooms Pleads to More Charges

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence man who was convicted last year of secretly videotaping people in dressing rooms in downtown Lawrence has pleaded no contest to charges of attempted rape and aggravated criminal sodomy. Thirty-seven-year-old Orion M. Graf had been scheduled to stand trial Monday before taking a plea agreement. The Lawrence Journal reports authorities found evidence against 37-year-old Orion M. Graf while investigating his previous case. Photographs that appeared to show a female unconscious while "sexual acts" were being performed were discovered. Authorities say the victim was 18 years old when the incident occurred. Assistant Douglas County District Attorney Amy McGowan has asked for Graf to receive a sentence of about 18 years in prison. Graf's sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 22.


Kansas Officials Urge Schools to Teach Financial Literacy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- The chairmen of the Kansas House Education Committee and the State Board of Education are urging local school districts to teach financial literacy. Republican state Representative Ron Highland of Wamego and GOP state board member Jim McNiece of Wichita signed a joint letter Wednesday to local school board presidents and superintendents. Their letter said financial literacy is an essential part of a sound education. The House Education Committee had hearing earlier this year on a bill to require students to pass a financial literacy course in 11th or 12th grade to graduate from high school. But Highland and McNiece said in their letter that they're urging districts to teach financial literacy instead of seeking a mandate. They said the state board and the House committee would monitor districts' efforts.


Southwestern College in Winfield Names New President

WINFIELD, Kan. (AP) — Southwestern College of Winfield has chosen a college administrator from Wisconsin to become its new president. The college announced Tuesday that Brad Andrews, a senior vice president at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin, will become president of Southwestern on July 1. Andrews replaces Dick Merriman, who resigned after 17 years at Southwestern to become president of the University of Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio. Andrews earned his bachelor's degree in English from the University of Missouri and a master's degree in education from Drake University. In 2009 he earned a Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy analysis from the University of Wisconsin.


Salina Man Found Guilty Again for 2 Murders in 2009

SALINA, Kan. (AP) - A jury has found a Salina man guilty of killing two men after the Kansas Supreme Court threw out his original convictions. The Salina Journal reports 33-year-old Willie J. Parker was convicted of second-degree murder Tuesday for the 2009 slayings of 24-year-old Alfred Mack Jr. and 22-year-old Justin Letourneau. In his first trial, Parker was found guilty of premeditated first-degree murder of Mack and of intentional second-degree murder of Letourneau. The Kansas Supreme Court reversed Parker's previous convictions in December, citing errors that occurred in Parker's trial. Those included the exclusion of certain testimony, faulty jury instruction and inadequate investigation of a juror's allegation of misconduct by other jurors. A sentencing hearing is set for June 12.


KC School Leader Vying for Job Leading Atlanta-Area District 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The superintendent at the helm when the Kansas City school district shed its unaccredited label is vying for a job leading an Atlanta-area district. DeKalb County, Georgia, School District spokesman Quinn Hudson says the Board of Education plans to announce at a Wednesday night meeting that Kansas City school leader Stephen Green is the sole finalist. Hudson says he can't provide further details. The board attorney handling the superintendent search process didn't immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press seeking comment. Kansas City district spokesman Ray Weikal says a news conference will be held at its headquarters building before the DeKalb board meeting starts to discuss Green being picked as a finalist. Kansas City has about 17,000 students; the DeKalb County school system has 101,000.


Gordon Homers in 10th for Royals 7-6 Win 

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Alex Gordon homered on the first pitch of the 10th inning as the Kansas City Royals beat the Texas Rangers 7-6 Tuesday night. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas also homered for the Royals. The Rangers' Adrian Beltre's two-out RBI single in the bottom half tied the game again. After Greg Holland (1-0) took over in the ninth and blew his first save in seven chances this year, the right-hander returned to throw a perfect 10th. It was his first outing this season that lasted more than one inning.


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