Headlines for Thursday, June 4, 2015
New Plan Emerges for Raising Taxes to Balance Kansas Budget
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislative negotiators have drafted a proposal for balancing the state budget by increasing the sales tax and suspending the state's "march to zero" on income taxes. Three senators and three House members agreed Thursday on a plan that would raise the sales tax to 6.65 percent from 6.15 percent in July but drop the rate on food in January to 5.9 percent. Tobacco taxes also would rise. The House could vote on the measure later Thursday. The plan would raise $432 million during the fiscal year beginning July 1 to close a budget shortfall that arose after lawmakers cut income taxes in 2012 and 2013. Legislators also committed to eventually phasing out income taxes. The plan would allow income tax cuts in 2019 and 2020 but not after that.
Kansas Senate Will Not Debate Budget, Majority Leader Says
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate is not planning to debate any budget proposals despite the threat of state worker furloughs on Sunday. Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce said Thursday that the chamber would wait until it could pair a budget with other policies to ensure it would balance. The House approved a budget proposal Wednesday that would shrink the state's projected deficit for the fiscal year beginning July 1 to about $406 million. But it would require tax increases to cover the rest. Bruce had said earlier that the Senate would consider a budget proposal that would avoid tax increases by imposing a 5.9 percent across-the-board cut to all government spending except debt payments. Administration officials have said state workers would be furloughed Sunday without a budget deal.
Kansas Democrats Announce Interim Plan to Avoid Furloughs
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Democrats have announced a plan to avoid state worker furloughs if a budget deal is not passed by June 7. House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs said Wednesday the measure would prevent state workers from being held hostage by the budget deadlock. Administration officials have said that the state does not have the authority to pay non-essential workers if a budget is not passed in time. The Democratic proposal would provide enough money for employee salaries over the next eight weeks. The Kansas House GOP responded that the House is scheduled to vote on a budget that would avoid furloughs. But that budget would need to also be approved by the Senate and signed by the governor before the Sunday deadline.
Feds Seek to Block Kansas Lawsuit Against Tribe over Casino
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The specter of a possible furlough of state government workers is affecting the lawsuit filed by Kansas against an Oklahoma tribe over a proposed casino. Kansas sued the Quapaw tribe to keep it from expanding its casino into southeastern Kansas, arguing it would harm that state's current efforts to build its own casino in the area. Also named as a defendant is the U.S. Department of Interior. But Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has now asked the court to extend next week's looming deadline to answer a Justice Department motion seeking to dismiss the state's lawsuit. The state told the court in a filing Tuesday it needs more time to conduct extensive legal research and says its attorneys face a possible work furlough due to legislative conflict over the budget.
Protesters Question Douglas County Commission on Kobach Zoning Exemption
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Douglas County commissioners are keeping a building code that requires a mandatory penalty for constructing a home without a permit amid claims of favoritism toward Secretary of State Kris Kobach. The commission on Wednesday heard from a boisterous crowd who questioned why Kobach wasn't fined after be started constructing a residence inside a building classified for agricultural use only. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Kobach told the county codes department in 2013 he was planning to build a 2,250-square-foot steel barn on his 159 acres in Douglas County. But in spring 2014 a county inspector found contractors building a 1,250-square-foot, two-bedroom living space inside the barn. Kobach later received an occupancy permit even though he didn't have an approved water source and the plumbing beneath the concrete foundation hadn't been inspected.
Wichita Airport Officially Opens New Terminal
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new terminal at the Eisenhower National Airport in Wichita is officially open. State and local officials were on hand Wednesday morning as the terminal mark its first day of business. Wichita media report the first flight was supposed to be an American Airlines flight to Dallas but that was delayed because of a power problem on the plane. A United Airlines flight to Chicago became the first plane out of the terminal. The new terminal has 12 gates on two levels, although three of the gates won't be open until further work is done, which could take up to a year.
Mom and Baby Survive After Being Ejected in I-70 Collision
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Topeka woman and her 5-month-old daughter have survived after being ejected from their SUV when a truck struck it from behind on the shoulder of Interstate 70. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Passion Hendricks was feeding the baby in a Chevrolet Suburban parked alongside the highway with mechanical problems around 7 p.m. Tuesday. The Kansas Highway Patrol says Michael Saulsbury of Kansas City, Missouri, was westbound when his GMC Sierra left the road and struck Hendricks' vehicle. The impact sent the SUV onto its side and into the ditch, ejecting Hendricks as she held the baby. A 16-month-old girl who was restrained in a child seat remained in the SUV. Saulsbury's vehicle also overturned. All four were taken to a Topeka hospital, where they were treated and released.
Archaeologists Searching for Kansas Native American Artifacts
ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - Archaeologists from across the U.S. are in south-central Kansas this week searching for artifacts that would confirm a five-mile stretch was once home to a Native American tribe of 20,000 people. Volunteers have found small pieces of tools and pottery in a dusty Arkansas City field that are believed to be from a settlement discovered by Spanish explorer Juan De Onate in 1601. Another group nearby is using a sensor that detects magnetic fields and has found what it believes to be homes, storage areas and a dancing ground. A third site is believed to be where Spanish explorers battled a Native American tribe. Local residents hope the area will become one of the country's major historic sites.
Wichita Zoo Raises $10.6M for New Elephant Exhibit
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The Sedgwick County Zoological Society has completed its $10.6 million fundraising campaign for construction of the new Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley exhibit in Wichita. The Wichita Eagle reports zoo officials announced Wednesday that almost 700 donors contributed to the project. Sedgwick County contributed $5.3 million. Sedgwick County Zoo director Mark Reed said he hopes construction of the elephant exhibit can be completed by the end of this month. Zoo officials say the exhibit will be slightly more than five acres, and will be the first in the world to feature boat rides that will allow visitors to be in the same water as elephants.
2 Wichita Teens Accused of Making False 911 Calls
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say two teenagers who were caught out after curfew are responsible for several false 911 calls that had emergency personnel scrambling for hours. An officer who picked up the teens around 3 am Wednesday found a cellphone linked to at least six false 911 calls made late Tuesday night and early Wednesday. The Wichita Eagle reports the boys, ages 16 and 17, also admitted to setting three fires in March. Among the false reports were two house fires, an automobile accident, shots fired, a suspicious person and a man threatening to hurt himself. Police spokesman Lieutenant James Espinoza says it took so long to link the calls to the cellphone because different dispatchers received them and officers in different bureaus were being sent to the locations.
Flooding Reported Following More Rain in Missouri
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Rain-swollen creeks and rivers are overflowing their banks across parts of Missouri. National Weather Service hydrologist Scott Watson says voluntary evacuations were underway Thursday in the northwest Missouri town of Mosby after the Fishing River overran its banks again. About three dozen homes in the town of about 190 residents flooded last month. Watson says a few roads also are impassible around the nearby town of Kearney because a creek that is a tributary of the Fishing River is flooding. Minor to moderate flooding also is being reported in several spots along the Missouri River. Rains have been heavy this spring. Watson says the Kansas City International Airport has received 12.5 inches of rain over the past six weeks, which is about 6.750 inches above average.
Wichita University Apologizes for Mistakenly Failing 67
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Students who audited a Wichita State University course have received hand-delivered chocolate bars and written apologies after a computer glitch mistakenly informed them they failed. The Wichita Eagle reports 67 people who audited a class called "Controversies in Kansas History" received letters that said their cumulative GPA was zero and they were placed on financial aid suspension. Since they were taught as auditors, there was no GPA requirement and no financial aid at stake. About half of the students are residents at a retirement community called Larksfield Place, where the class was taught. But the class was open to anyone who wanted to take it and others from around the Wichita area took the course. Reg Hislop with Larksfield said no offense was taken after the school apologized for the mistake.
Suspect in Oklahoma Officer's Shooting Charged in Kansas
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A suspect in the shooting of an Oklahoma police officer is facing charges for crimes he allegedly committed in Kansas while trying to flee police. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt on Thursday charged 22-year-old Alejandro Arturo Garcia-Garcia with attempted capital murder, kidnapping, burglary and interference with law enforcement. Garcia-Garcia, also known as Alex Garcia or Alejandro Garcia, was arrested May 29 near Liberty, Kansas, when law enforcement officers found him hiding in a closet. Prosecutors allege an Oologah, Oklahoma, police officer was shot while chasing Garcia-Garcia and two other people. After they arrived in Kansas, Garcia-Garcia allegedly shot another man to steal his truck, then shot at a Montgomery County deputy before hiding in the house. Schmidt said the two other suspects are awaiting extradition to Oklahoma.
Wichita Man to Stand Trial in Twin, Sister-in-Law's Killings
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has found sufficient evidence for a Wichita man to stand trial in the fatal shootings of his identical twin and sister-in-law. The Wichita Eagle reports that Luis Alvarado-Meraz was bound over for trial Thursday in the deaths of 24-year-old Manuel Alvarado-Meraz and Manuel's 22-year-old wife, Lucero Rodriguez. He could face the death penalty if convicted of capital murder. He also is charged with two alternative counts of first-degree murder. A trial date hasn't been set. The twins' father, Jesus Alvarado-Meraz, discovered the bodies January in a Wichita apartment. The brothers and Rodriguez lived together. The affidavit said the suspect said "something about evil spirits" and that he shot his twin during a "desperate phone call" to a friend.
MLB Apologizes to Royals for Glitch in Replay System
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Major League Baseball has apologized to the Kansas City Royals for a breakdown in its replay process during a crucial moment in Tuesday night's 2-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians. The breakdown occurred in the eighth inning of a tied game when the first base umpire ruled the Indians' Jose Ramirez had beaten out a relay throw to prevent a double play. Replays showed Ramirez was out, but the call stood after a review and the Indians scored the winning run later in the inning. The MLB blamed technical problems with its video connection to a replay review crew in New York. They said the communication was delayed so umpires in Kansas City had to render a decision without that information.
Royals Beat Indians 4-2 in Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jason Vargas pitched six sharp innings as the Royals beat the Cleveland Indians 4-2 on Wednesday night. The Kansas City offense came alive against Cleveland pitcher Corey Kluber as Mike Moustakas drove in a run in the first inning, and Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and Kendrys Morales hit consecutive RBI doubles off Kluber (3-6) in the third. Vargas (4-2) held onto the lead in his second start after returning from the disabled list. The left-hander limited the Indians to two runs on eight hits while striking out three without a walk. Greg Holland pitched a perfect ninth inning for his eighth save.