Headlines for Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Kansas House Panel Advances Plan to Raise Taxes, Fix Budget
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has advanced a plan for balancing the state budget that increases the sales tax and reverses one of Republican Governor Sam Brownback's key economic policies. The Taxation Committee voted 8-6 Tuesday to send a bill to the House for debate without a recommendation on whether members should pass it. The bill would narrow a tax break enacted in 2012 at Brownback's urging. The state exempted the profits of more than 330,000 business owners and farmers from income taxes. The committee's plan would raise $101 million during the fiscal year beginning July 1 by taxing those profits again. The plan also would boost the sales tax to 6.45 percent from 6.15 percent. Lawmakers must close a projected $406 million budget shortfall for the next fiscal year.
Kansas State Hospitals Face Staffing Shortages
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — New data show that state hospitals in Kansas face persistent staffing shortages. Figures provided by the Kansas Department on Aging and Disability Services show continued staffing shortfalls at several state hospitals. Osawatomie State Hospital has a nearly 40 percent staff vacancy rate and Larned State Hospital has a nearly 35 percent employee vacancy rate. KDADS, the agency that oversees the facilities, says that patients are still receiving appropriate care. Agency spokeswoman Cara Sloan-Ramos says Larned and Osawatomie are both located in small communities and that recruiting and retention of staff is always a priority.
Kansas Agency Plans to Change Vehicle Renewal Notices
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Revenue is planning to change the way it notifies residents that they need to renew their vehicle tags. The Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/1FBiwTM ) reports that the department wants to replace 2.6 million personalized vehicle renewal letters sent annually to residents with a generic postcard reminder. Revenue department spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda says the move is aimed at saving money. The letter-to-postcard swap is expected to save the state around $500,000. The department is leaving it up to counties to absorb the cost if they want to continue the previous method of printing and mailing the letters.
Kansas to Expand Free Summer Meal Program
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas will offer free meals to children this summer at 100 more sites than last year. The Wichita Eagle reportsthat the meals are for children who count on free breakfasts and lunches during the school year. Peggy McAdoo, assistant director of child nutrition and wellness for the Kansas Department of Education, says there may be more than 450 sites statewide this year, nearly 100 more locations than last summer. The Kansas Food Bank also will supply meals to 19 sites in rural communities. The program is open to children younger than 18 and doesn't require any paperwork
Kansas Marijuana Bill Hits Roadblock in State Senate
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill that would ease many of Kansas's marijuana laws has stalled in the Senate and likely won't be considered again this year. Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce said Tuesday the bill needs time for careful consideration and the chamber is currently attempting to wind down the session and focus on taxes. The bill would decrease penalties for marijuana possession, order a state study of industrial hemp and allow limited production and sale of hemp oil to treat seizures. It passed the House in a surprise vote earlier this month and represents the most serious push in decades to liberalize Kansas's marijuana policies. Bruce says the Senate will seek to separate the different portions of the bill next year and discuss them individually.
Lawrence Police Investigating Fatal Stabbing
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence police are investigating a fatal stabbing. Lawrence police Sergeant Trent McKinley said the stabbing was reported early Monday morning in the 700 block of Arkansas Street. Police and medical personnel were called to the parking lot of the McDonalds at 1309 W. Sixth St. after a 911 caller reported a person outside the restaurant was bleeding. The man was taken to Lawrence Memorial Hospital, where he later died. The crime is being investigated as a homicide because of the victim's injuries. Investigators believe the crime occurred at or near a home in the 700 block of Arkansas Street. McKinley says the victim is a man in his 40s. The victim's name hasn't been released and no arrests have been made.
Body Identified as Long-Missing Kansas Man
PAOLA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a car pulled from a northeast Kansas lake last week contained the body of a man missing since 1992. An autopsy identified the remains as 57-year-old Fremont O'Berg, who was living in rural Paola, Kansas, when he disappeared. The Miami County Sheriff's department said in a news release Tuesday that the body was found after a fisherman using underwater sonar equipment detected a submerged vehicle in Hillsdale Lake. When the vehicle was pulled from the lake, O'Berg's remains were found in the driver's seat. The Kansas City Star reports that information circulated after O'Berg's January 1992 disappearance noted he suffered from heart and liver issues as well as acute bronchitis. His family released a statement saying the recovery answers many questions and also asking for privacy.
Man Dies in Small Plane Crash in Southwestern Kansas
SYRACUSE, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Highway Patrol says a 54-year-old man died when a small plane crashed in southwestern Kansas. The patrol says Anthony Englert, of Syracuse, died in when his Yak-52, a small trainer plane, crashed in Hamilton County on Monday. The patrol says the plane had flown only a short distance before hitting the ground nose first about one mile south of the intersection of U.S. Highway 50 and Kansas Highway 27. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash.
Demolition of Docking Building Delayed Until 2016
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The demolition of the Docking State Office Building is not expected to begin until at least the summer of next year. The Brownback administration has wanted to demolish the building in Topeka for some time. Department of Administration spokesman John Milburn says the budget under negotiation for the next fiscal year doesn't include an appropriation for tearing down the building. The project is expected to cost an estimated $7.5 million. Milburn says the department has the authority to use its funds to pay for the demolition. The Topeka Capital-Journal reportsSenate negotiators proposed a one-year delay of the demolition, which House negotiators rejected. Senator Laura Kelly said a compromise would allow the demolition but prohibit the state from giving up or selling the land.
Fire Reported at Pet Store; Crews Work to Save Animals
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Veterinarians and emergency officials worked to save animals after a fire broke out at a Kansas pet store. Lawrence police Sergeant Trent McKinley says the fire started noon Monday at Pet World in Lawrence. The store was closed for the holiday at the time The Lawrence Journal World reports that rescue workers brought out 20 to 30 tarantulas, a large python and other reptiles. Some rats, a few hamsters and gerbils stored in a separate structure were also rescued. Other animals died in the fire, but it was unclear how many. The cause of the fire is under investigation. Veterinarians and shop workers set up a makeshift triage area where animals could be iced down and given oxygen.
Olathe Girl in National Spelling Bee for 5th Time
OXON HILL, Md. (AP) — Thirteen-year-old Vanya Shivashankar of Olathe is participating in the National Spelling Bee for the fifth and final time. Her sister Kavya won the event in 2009. The spellers will get their first crack at the national stage Wednesday. The semifinals and finals are Thursday. The Spelling Bee has a new component -- a test that examines comprehension and vocabulary skill. Shivashankar says she misses the simplicity of the old format, which she called "spelling till you drop." Now, there are two semifinal rounds, and test scores determine who makes it to the finals. Vanya was eliminated at that stage last year. But this year, for the first time, the test scores will be announced, and spellers in the semifinals will know where they stand.
Kansas Man Dies in Car Crash in Oklahoma
PAWNEE, Okla. (AP) — A Kansas man has died after a car crash on the Cimarron Turnpike east of Pawnee, Oklahoma. The Oklahoman reports 19-year-old Levi Charles Hampton of Goddard, Kansas, was driving eastbound on U.S. Highway 412 Monday when his vehicle crossed the median and struck another car. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says the victim died at the scene. Troopers said the driver of the other car, as well as two passengers, were taken to a local hospital for treatment and released.
Security Guard Attacked by Naked Man in Wichita
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A security guard has been hospitalized after being attacked by a nude man in Wichita. Wichita media outlets report a 61-year-old security guard was taken to a local hospital with a possible concussion. Sergeant Roger Runft, spokesman for the Wichita Police Department, said the victim responded to a noise complaint at an apartment complex early Sunday. Police say she arrived at the complex to find a man who was not wearing any clothing. According to authorities, the 20-year-old suspect attacked the guard by punching and kicking her multiple times. Police said residents heard the guard's screaming and called 911. Officers say when they arrived, the suspect was acting "extremely irrational." The suspect was taken to a hospital for treatment. Police say he could face battery charges.
Royals Trounced in New York, 14-1
NEW YORK (AP) — The Kansas City Royals were roughed up by the New York Yankees Monday, losing the game by a score of 14-1. New York's Brett Gardner, Brian McCann and Chase Headley all homered during an eight-run first inning and Stephen Drew added another three-run homer off the Royals' Jeremy Guthrie (4-3) in the second. New York, coming off a sweep by Texas, snapped a six-game skid, winning for just the second time in 12 games. They beat the team that began the day with the best record in the major leagues. The three-game series continues in New York tonight
Community College Women's Basketball Team Under Investigation
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The Hutchinson Community College women's basketball team is under investigation for alleged improper benefits to players. The National Junior College Athletic Association confirmed Tuesday that it is investigating the program. Assistant executive director Mark Krug says an issue was brought to the organization's attention last week. He declined to comment further. Hutchinson coach John Ontjes says the school has until June 5 to respond to the NJCAA. In eight seasons under Ontjes, the Blue Dragons are 257-26 and have won five consecutive Jayhawk West titles. This season, Hutchinson's only loss was in the NJCAA national championship game to Chipola, Florida.