Headlines for Thursday, May 14, 2015
Kansas Senate Still Has No Tax Plan for Closing Budget Hole
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has been tinkering with a plan for raising taxes to close a budget shortfall but isn't ready to pass it. Chairman Les Donovan adjourned the Assessment and Taxation Committee's meeting Thursday after about an hour of debate. He said the panel was moving toward a dead end. The committee started with a plan from Donovan to raise $520 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1. It would have increased the state's sales tax, as well as taxes on income, property, liquor, tobacco and gasoline. The committee stripped out proposals to raise liquor taxes. It also rejected proposals backed by Johnson County senators to impose a new $3-an-acre tax on land and repeal an exemption from the sales tax farmers receive when buying machinery.
Kansas Governor Urges Lawmakers to Focus on Consumption Taxes to Fix Budget
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - 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 urging 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.
Kansas Governor Signs Bill Overhauling Civil Service System
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is likely to reduce the number of state workers in its civil service system after Republican Governor Sam Brownback signed legislation allowing his administration to do it. Brownback signed the measure Thursday, and the new law will take effect July 1. It embodies a proposal from the Department of Administration. Newly hired state workers won't be covered by the civil service system and current employees will be allowed to voluntarily move into non-civil service jobs. More than 30 agencies will be allowed to convert vacant positions to non-civil service jobs. Supporters say the changes will put state agencies more in line with private industry and make it easier to tailor jobs to staffing needs. Critics say many of the state's 13,000 civil service employees will lose job protections.
Kansas Lawmakers Approve Bill on State Power Plant Emission Control
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have approved a bill to require them to sign off on a state plan for complying with a federal rule designed to lower carbon emissions from power plants. The House approved the measure Thursday on a 121-1 vote, a day after the Senate passed it, 35-1. The bill goes to Governor Sam Brownback for his possible signature. The measure authorizes the state's health and environment secretary to draft a plan for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases linked by scientists to climate change. The plan could include agreements with utilities to lower emissions. But an 11-member legislative committee would have to approve the plan before the state could submit it to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. States without a plan will have a federal plan imposed on them.
Kansas House to Vote on Bill Moving Local Elections to Fall
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House is expected to vote on a measure that would move local elections to the fall in odd-numbered years. If the chamber approves the latest version of the bill Thursday, it will go to the governor. The Senate voted 22-13 on Wednesday to approve the measure, which also would cancel the state's presidential primaries. Legislators have canceled the past five primaries because of their cost, opting for caucuses funded by the Republican and Democratic parties. The bill also would bar general election candidates from dropping out of a race unless experiencing "severe medical hardship." Critics of the bill have said it might force elected school board members to take office in the middle of fiscal years, which could disrupt the budgeting process.
Kansas Senate to Debate Bill for Reviving KCK Racing Park
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate is preparing to debate a bill designed to revive a Kansas City-area dog and horse racing park with slot machines. The Senate was taking up the measure Thursday, a day after a committee approved it. The bill would help The Woodlands in Kansas City, Kansas. The park closed in 2008. A 2007 law allowed slot machines 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. No one opposed the bill in committee, but some lawmakers have worried that its passage would hurt a nearby casino owned by the state lottery.
Wichita Helicopter Pilot Missing in Nepal
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, U.S. Marine Captain Chris Norgren, was flying the 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 survivor and that is why he believes he will make it back.
Man Accused in Jewish Site Shootings Fires Attorneys
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A Missouri man charged with killing three people at two Jewish sites in suburban Kansas City last year has fired his attorneys and will defend himself in his death penalty case. Johnson County District Court Judge Kelly Ryan ruled during a motions hearing Thursday that defense attorneys for Frazier Glenn Miller can still help him with procedural aspects of the case, such as filing motions. Miller is charged with capital murder in the April 2014 shooting deaths of 69-year-old William Lewis Corporon, 14-year-old Reat Griffin Underwood and 53-year-old Terri LaMano, in Overland Park, Kansas. Miller, of Aurora, told The Associated Press last month that he plans to plead guilty to capital murder. He has said he wants to use his sentencing hearing to voice his anti-Semitic beliefs without interruption.
Ex-Worker Admits Stealing $1.2M from Assisted Living Center
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former information systems director has admitted stealing more than $1.2 million from a company which owns assisted living centers in Kansas and Missouri. A court filing Thursday shows Brent Shryock of Augusta pleaded guilty Wednesday to mail fraud in a deal with prosecutors for a proposed 36-month prison sentence. He also agreed to forfeit real estate, vehicles and other property. His sentencing is August 6. His wife, Lori Shryock, is scheduled for a change-of-plea hearing May 22. The indictment alleges the crimes were committed while Brent Shryock was employed as information systems director for Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America. He was in charge of purchasing equipment. Prosecutors say the couple created four fictitious companies to submit fraudulent invoices. Among them was LGR Technologies, which stood for Let's Get Rich Technology.
Judge Tosses Investor Lawsuit Against Spirit AeroSystems
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has thrown out the class-action lawsuit brought by investors of aircraft parts maker Spirit AeroSystems. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren on Thursday dismissed the 2013 lawsuit alleging the firm and four of its officers made misleading statements that artificially inflated the stock price before the company recorded a $590 million loss on six contracts in October 2012. Spirit AeroSystems' stock price dropped 30 percent following that announcement. Melgren ruled shareholders failed to show misleading statements were material to an investor deciding whether to buy or sell stock. The judge also noted it's unclear whether the company and officers had anything to gain by delaying the announcement of the loss. CEO Jeffrey Turner announced his resignation shortly after the announcement.
Part of Ceiling Collapses at Wichita Recovery Center
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Part of a ceiling has collapsed in a substance abuse recovery center in Wichita, leaving multiple people with minor injuries. Local media reports say a section of ceiling in the DCCCA's Women's Recovery Center collapsed late Wednesday. Wichita Fire Battalion Chief Tom Carney said a 15-by-30-foot section of the plaster fell into the room below due to water that had accumulated and leaked through the roof. As many as 25 people had gathered in the room below. The Wichita Eagle reports 12 people had minor injuries. According to Carney, the dormitories inside the center, which offers services to women struggling with substance addiction, were not affected by the collapse so residents will not have to be relocated. Maintenance crews will assess the damage Thursday morning.
Bigger Planes to Land at Manhattan Airport in September
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Passengers will be able to board larger airplanes on some flights out of Manhattan Regional Airport beginning in September. Airport Director Peter Van Kuren told the Manhattan City Commission Tuesday that American Airlines will begin using planes with 65 seats or more on September 9. The planes will be used on at least 25 of its 90 monthly round-trip flights out of Manhattan. The Manhattan Mercury reports construction on the second phase of an airport terminal expansion project should begin in June. The first phase was essentially completed in February. The project will more than triple the size of the old terminal once it is finished. Phase two will include a space for people waiting for arriving passengers, a restaurant, a gift shop and a baggage claim area.
Bethany College President Takes Job in Alabama
UNDATED (AP) — Bethany College President Edward F. Leonard III is resigning to become president of a college in Alabama. Leonard, who has been Bethany president since August 2007, announced Wednesday that he will become president of Birmingham Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama, this summer. The Salina Journal reports enrollment has grown at Bethany during Leonard's tenure from 537 to 717, several new buildings have been constructed and a major fundraising campaign exceeded its $20 million goal by $2 million. However, the school has also consistently reported operating deficits. For the 2012-13 school year, the college reported $17.6 million in revenue and $19.2 million in expenses. The Higher Learning Commission recently recommended that Bethany be put on notice to take steps to address its financial situation.
2 Dead, 3 Injured in Shawnee House Fire
SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — A fire broke out in a Shawnee home, killing two people and injuring three others. The Kansas City Star reports (http://bit.ly/1E7s84w ) the fire was reported early Thursday in the Kansas City suburb. The two victims are believed to be a man in his 60s and a child. Shawnee Fire Marshal Corey Sands says firefighters found the dead man and boy near each other in a hallway. The injured were taken to the University of Kansas Hospital for treatment. Sands says investigators had not determined the cause of the fire or whether the home had working smoke detectors. He says clutter in the house made rescue efforts difficult.
Kansas Supreme Court to Hear Wichita Marijuana Dispute
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Supreme Court says it will decide whether a voter-approved ordinance in Wichita lessening 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. The court 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 maximum $50 fine for first-time possession of a small amount of pot. State law deems the same offense punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
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.
Manhattan Mayor Supports Adding Sexual Orientation to Anti-Discrimination Policy
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - The mayor of Manhattan says she supports adding sexual orientation as a protected class to the city's anti-discrimination hiring policy. Mayor Karen McCulloh told the city commission that adding sexual orientation to the list of protected classes would be a positive move for many Manhattan citizens. The Manhattan Mercury reports Commissioner Usha Reddi noted other major groups in Manhattan, such as Fort Riley, the Manhattan-Ogden School District and Kansas State University already have sexual orientation listed as a protected class in their hiring policies. Commissioner Mike Dodson said he wants to know more about any potential legal ramifications before amending the policy and Commissioner Wynn Butler said he would like to see evidence that a problem existed.
3 Kansas Universities Selected for Aerial Drone System Team
SALINA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas' three largest universities have been selected by the Federal Aviation Administration to be a part of a team that will help integrate unmanned aerial systems into the nation's airspace. The Salina Journal reportsKansas State University, the University of Kansas and Wichita State University have been named members of the FAA's Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems. The center will focus on research, education and training for the systems that are also known as drones. The news release says research areas will initially include detect-and-avoid technology; low-altitude operations safety; control and communications; spectrum management; and compatibility with air traffic control operations.
Body of Missing Man Found in Western Kansas Lake
DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — The body of a Dodge City man has been recovered from a lake in western Kansas. The Dodge City Globe reports that fishermen found Wesley Robins's body Tuesday at Ford County Lake. Robins's car was found Saturday in the lake. Ford County Sheriff Dean Bush says Robins is presumed to have drowned but an autopsy will be performed.
Kentucky's Visit to Kansas Highlights Big 12-SEC Challenge
IRVING, Texas (AP) — Kentucky's visit to Kansas highlights the first Big 12-SEC Challenge to be held while both conferences are in the middle of their league schedules. The two winningest programs in college basketball will meet for the second straight season on Jan. 30, when all 10 of the matchups will be held. The Wildcats lead the series 22-6 and have won the past three meetings, including the NCAA title game in 2012. But the Jayhawks have beaten Kentucky three straight times at home. Other first-time matchups in the third year of the challenge series are Georgia-Baylor, Tennessee-TCU, Iowa State-Texas A&M, Oklahoma-LSU, West Virginia-Florida, Oklahoma State-Auburn and Texas Tech-Arkansas in the 96th meeting between former Southwest Conference rivals. It's the second meeting in the series for Vanderbilt-Texas and Mississippi-Kansas State.
Royals Lose to Texas Rangers, 5-2
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The Texas Rangers beat the Kansas City Royals 5-2 Wednesday night. The Rangers' Shin-Soo Choo hit a leadoff home run for the second straight game, slamming a 98 mph fastball from Yordano Ventura into the right-field seats. Prince Fielder gave the Rangers a 4-0 lead with a two-run homer in the second inning. Texas pitcher Yovani Gallardo (3-5) took a shutout into the seventh inning before allowing run-scoring doubles by Kendrys Morales and Salvador Perez. Ventura (2-3) gave up at least four runs for the fourth time in five starts. The Royals have one more game versus the Rangers this afternoon (THUR) in Texas before coming home for a 3-game stand versus the New York Yankees starting Friday night.