Headlines for Friday, June 5, 2015
Kansas House Rejects New Plan to Raise Taxes as Budget Fix
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has rejected a new plan for raising taxes to balance the state budget that would have defied a veto threat from Gov. Sam Brownback. The vote Friday was 82-27 against a measure drafted by three Senate and three House negotiators. It would have raised business taxes by $101 million during the fiscal year beginning July 1. The Republican governor has threatened to veto any plan raising business taxes by more than $24 million. The plan also would have increased the sales tax to 6.45 percent from 6.15 percent. Brownback proposed boosting the tax to 6.65 percent. Negotiators expected to resume talks Friday night in hopes of drafting another plan. Lawmakers must raise taxes by more than $400 million to close a budget shortfall.
At Least 24,200 Kansas State Workers Get Furlough Notices
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — At least 24,200 workers at Kansas state government agencies and state universities have received notices that they'll be furloughed if lawmakers don't approve a budget by Sunday. Figures provided Friday to The Associated Press showed that almost 71 percent of those employees work at a state university. Department of Administration spokesman John Milburn said about 7,100 employees in agencies under Governor Sam Brownback's direct control received notices. The University of Kansas reported sending furlough notices to almost 5,300 workers. Notices went to another 2,600 workers at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Kansas State University announced it sent notices to more than 8,700 employees. The number at Pittsburg State University was 530. Lawmakers have yet to approve a complete state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Union Head Vows Response Against State
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The largest union in Kansas for state employees says it will file legal actions against the state if it furloughs workers. Rebecca Proctor of the Kansas Organization of State Employees said Friday that she will file actions on a number of levels if an emergency furlough of nonessential state workers takes effect Sunday. Proctor says her organization is prepared to file labor grievances as well as legal actions against the state. She says she also would arrange to bus public workers to rallies in Topeka to pressure legislators. State lawmakers have been deadlocked over taxes and spending proposals to close a budget deficit for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Without a budget, the state cannot pay state workers beyond Saturday and all nonessential employees will be furloughed.
House Republicans Urge Senate to Debate Budget Proposals
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas House leaders are urging the Senate to pass a budget to avoid state worker furloughs. Administration officials have said that nonessential state workers would be furloughed if a budget is not signed by Sunday. The state House rejected a plan Thursday to raise sales and tobacco taxes and suspend the state's business income taxes to balance the budget. The Senate has not debated a comprehensive budget proposal since March. House Speaker Ray Merrick said Friday that state workers should not be furloughed because the Senate stalled its budget talks.
Reopening of Topeka Veterans Hospital Emergency Room Delayed
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A data software problem will delay the opening of the emergency room at a Topeka veterans hospital for at least six weeks. The announcement comes just over a week after Senator Jerry Moran and Representative Lynn Jenkins were told a staffing shortage at the Colmery-O'Neil VA Medical Center emergency room had been fixed and it would open when the hospital received reauthorization paperwork. Officials had expected it to open by the end of May. However, the Topeka Capital-Journal reports the Veterans Affairs Central Office in Washington D.C. has ordered Colmery-O'Neil to spend six weeks updating the emergency room's data software, which collects patient data. The emergency room was closed in January 2014 after several physicians departed, leaving the emergency room critically understaffed.
Federal Court Tosses Challenge to Kansas Gun Law
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has tossed out a legal challenge from a national gun control group of a Kansas law that asserts the federal government lacks authority to regulate firearms made, sold and kept only in the state. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson ruled Friday that the Washington-based Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence failed to show that the state law's enforcement inflicts an actual or imminent injury on any of its members. Robinson said the federal court therefore lacks jurisdiction to consider the merits of the lawsuit. She granted the state's motion to entirely dismiss the case without prejudice, meaning it could be refiled. The 2013 state law at issue makes it a felony for any U.S. government employee to attempt to enforce federal regulations for Kansas-only firearms or ammunition.
3 Men Charged with Wounding Off-Duty Kansas Sheriff's Deputy
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — One Missouri man and two Kansas men have been charged with attempted capital murder in the shooting of a sheriff's deputy. The Wyandotte County district attorney's office said Friday that 18-year-old Charles D. Bowser, of Kansas City, Missouri, and 24-year-old Dyron M. King and 35-year-old Cecil D. Meggerson, both of Kansas City, Kansas, are being held on $1 million bond. Wyandotte County officials say an off-duty deputy was shot and severely wounded when he walked in on a March 4 robbery at a 7-Eleven in Kansas City, Kansas. The prosecutor's office didn't immediately respond to an email asking if the suspects had attorneys. The men previously were charged with the March 3 robbery of a Family Dollar store in Kansas City, Kansas.
Man Accused of Bomb Plot at Kansas Airport to Change Plea
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man accused of plotting a suicide bomb attack at a Wichita airport has told the court that he intends to change his plea. A docket notation Friday shows the change-of-plea hearing for Terry Loewen is set for Monday afternoon before U.S. District Judge Monti Belot in federal court in Wichita. Loewen was arrested in December 2013 when the former avionics technician allegedly tried to bring a van filled with inert explosives onto the tarmac at what was then Mid-Continent Airport. He is charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to use an explosive device to damage property and attempting to give material support to al-Qaida. His defense attorney did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment, and the U.S. attorney's office declined comment.
Charges Filed Against Medical Marijuana Advocate in Kansas
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors have filed criminal charges against a medical marijuana advocate who lost custody of her 11-year-old son following comments the boy made during a drug education program at school. The Finney County district attorney announced Friday that charges have been filed against 37-year-old Shona Banda related the March 24 incident. The divorced Garden City mother has been at the center of a social media storm after going public with her story. She faces five criminal counts, including possession with intent to distribute and unlawful manufacture of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and endangering a child. Her attorney did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment. Banda is a motivational speaker and author of a book that recounts her use of concentrated cannabis oil to treat Crohn's Disease.
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. 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.
OSHA Recommends Fines after Explosion at Atchison Railcar Company
ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) - Federal labor officials are recommending a northeast Kansas railcar company be fined $46,900 for violations found after an explosion in December injured nine employees, two seriously. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says it found 11 serious safety violations while investigating the explosion at the GBW Railcar Services plant near Atchison. Federal investigators say the blast was caused by an electrical heater igniting flammable gas vapors as a railcar was being prepared for cleaning. Two workers who suffered second-degree burns underwent weeks of skin graft surgery and physical therapy to recover from second-degree burns. The seven others were treated for less-serious injuries. The company has 15 days to determine if it will challenge the findings.
Man Accused of Wichita Airport Bomb Plot Changes Plea
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A man accused of plotting a suicide bomb attack at a Wichita airport has told the court that he intends to change his plea. A change-of-plea hearing for Terry L. Loewen is set for Monday afternoon before U.S. District Judge Monti Belot in federal court in Wichita. Loewen was arrested in December 2013 when the former avionics technician allegedly tried to bring a van filled with inert explosives onto the tarmac at what was then Mid-Continent Airport. He is charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to use an explosive device to damage property and attempting to give material support to al-Qaida.
Hutchinson Prison Hosts Annual Wild Horse Adoption Event
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - The Hutchinson Correctional Facility is set to host its annual Wild Horse Adoption and Open House. Kansas media outlets report the open house will be held Friday and Saturday. Inmates at the facility train the horses as part of a rehabilitation program. The correctional facility is home to hundreds of trained and untrained wild horses through a partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. About 300 untrained horses can be adopted for $125 each. According to a news release from the bureau, the wild horses were removed from federally protected public lands in the West where they ran free to maintain "herd health and ecological balance." Bureau spokesman Paul McGuire says the agency has several partnerships with correctional facilities across the country that have horse training programs.
Survey: Agricultural Lenders Report Lower Farmland Values
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Agricultural lenders are reporting lower farmland values and an uptick in delinquent farm loans. That is according to a survey conducted in March by the Kansas State University's Department of Agricultural Economics that was released Thursday. The university says its results are a continuation of a trend it found in the end-of-year survey done in 2014. Lenders cited lower commodity prices, rising operating costs and softening cash rents. All that combined with a decrease in farmland prices is behind the concern about the long-term financial health of the farming sector. Department head Allen Featherstone says he believes the market is just cycling back to a normal state in regards to the loan delinquencies. The survey included responses from 39 lending institutions.
Wichita Art Museum Spends $3M for Sculpture Garden
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The Wichita Art Museum is spending $3 million to add new gardens, pathways and an amphitheater to its outdoor sculpture display. The space, called the Art Garden, will open at the end of September. Eleven works already on display outdoors will be reinstalled, including bronze sculptures from Tom Otterness and Henry Moore. The outdoor art collection also includes steel, aluminum and marble sculptures. The museum says the art will be spread over nine landscaped acres, which will feature more than 80 species of trees, shrubs and perennials. The garden also will feature a new amphitheater for outdoor performances and weddings.
Royals Lose to Indians 6-2 in Rain-Shortened Game
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Cleveland Indians beat the Kansas City Royals 6-2 on Thursday night in a game called in the eighth inning because of rain. Cleveland's Trevor Bauer (5-2) allowed only a long two-run homer by Lorenzo Cain over 6 innings. After struggling to score the previous night, the Indians pounded away against the Royals' Chris Young (4-2) over the first five innings. The game was delayed with one out in the bottom of the eighth as lightning and heavy rain rolled into the area. The umpires waited 44 minutes before calling Cleveland's sixth win in eight games.