Headlines for Tuesday, June 9, 2014
Leader Doubts Kansas Senate Could Pass New Tax Plan
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Majority Leader Terry Bruce says the Kansas Senate might not pass another tax plan after a tight vote advanced a package this weekend. The Nickerson Republican said Tuesday that he believes the bill to increase sales and cigarette taxes is fair and should be approved by the House. The House postponed a vote on the plan Monday and it wasn't clear that members would debate it Tuesday. Bruce said that if the House re-opens negotiations with the Senate over tax issues, he is not sure any modified plan could win Senate approval. Lawmakers have been unable to agree on raising taxes by about $400 million to prevent a budget deficit. The $15.4 billion budget lawmakers have approved for the fiscal year beginning July 1 does not balance otherwise.
Kansas Governor Says He Would Sign Tax Plan
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says he would sign a bill before the Kansas House that would increase sales and tobacco taxes to erase a projected budget shortfall. Brownback told reporters Monday that he thinks the measure is a good plan and it is past time for lawmakers to finish work on tax issues. Tuesday is the 110th day of an annual legislative session that is now the longest in state history. The Senate approved the measure Sunday, 21-17, and House passage would send it to Brownback. The bill increases the sales tax to 6.55 percent from 6.15 percent and raises the tobacco tax by 50 cents a pack to $1.29. It also increases business taxes by $24 million.
Budget Cuts Would Cost Kansas Agency, State Hospitals $46M
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's budget director says state hospitals for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled and the agency that runs them could lose a total of nearly $46 million if lawmakers don't increase taxes. Budget Director Shawn Sullivan said Tuesday that the state Department for Aging and Disability Services would lose $41 million during the fiscal year beginning July 1. Its four hospitals would lose nearly $5 million. Sullivan has told lawmakers that if they don't approve tax increases, Brownback's most likely option for balancing the budget is an across-the-board cut of 6.2 percent to save $400 million. The state's hospitals for the mentally ill in Larned and Osawatomie would lose almost $3.5 million. State hospitals for the developmentally disabled in Parsons and Topeka would lose nearly $1.3 million.
Kansas Higher Ed System Would Lose $48M Under Potential Cuts
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Regents says the state's higher education system would lose $48 million from potential spending cuts if legislators do not increase taxes to close a budget shortfall. Regents spokeswoman Breeze Richardson said Tuesday that the board and universities face difficult conversations about priorities if the cuts occur. Budget Director Shawn Sullivan on Monday told some House Republicans that Governor Sam Brownback's most likely option for balancing the budget would be across-the-board cuts of 6.2 percent. He said spending would be reduced by $400 million to avert a deficit for the fiscal year beginning July 1. University of Kansas spokesman Tim Caboni said its Lawrence campus would lose $8.3 million and its Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas, would lose $6.7 million, for a total of $15 million.
Budget Cuts Would Cost Largest Kansas School Districts $67M
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The seven largest school districts in Kansas would lose a total of $67 million in state aid if Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is forced to cut spending $400 million because legislators don't pass tax increases. The state Department of Education says Wichita would lose $22 million of the aid it has been promised for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Budget Director Shawn Sullivan has said an across-the-board cut in spending would be Brownback's most likely option if lawmakers don't increase taxes to balance the next budget. Schools would lose a total of $197 million. Kansas City, Kansas, would lose $10.8 million. In Johnson County, Olathe would lose $10.2 million; Shawnee Mission, $8.3 million, and Blue Valley, $6.1 million. Topeka also would lose $6.1 million and Lawrence, $3.8 million.
Kansas Education Officials See Cuts Affecting Classrooms
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A lobbyist for Kansas school boards and a state Department of Education official say potential spending cuts outlined by Governor Sam Brownback's budget director would be felt in classrooms. Kansas Association of School Boards lobbyist Mark Tallman said Tuesday that public schools would be forced to consider holding positions open and allowing class sizes to increase. Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis said school districts would lose funds for utilities and transportation as well. Budget Director Shawn Sullivan on Monday said if lawmakers don't pass a bill increasing taxes, Brownback's most likely option is an across-the-board cut in state spending of 6.2 percent. Sullivan said the cuts would total about $400 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Sullivan said public schools would lose $197 million in state aid.
Brownback Signs Bill Changing Land Annexation Laws
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Governor Sam Brownback has signed a bill to require cities to get approval from counties before annexing land in some cases. The measure signed Monday by Brownback takes effect July 1. County commissioners will have to approve any proposed annexations by cities when the property is not adjacent to a city's existing territory. Supporters say the new law will protect the property rights of county and township residents by giving them a voice in annexation decisions through county officials. The bill emerged in response to cases in which cities were viewed as overreaching in annexing land for a landfill or an airport.
Court Dismisses Union's Lawsuit over Kansas Law on Tenure
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Shawnee County court has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the state's largest teachers' union over a new state law that ended guaranteed tenure for public school teachers. The Legislature passed a law in April 2014 that increased state aid to poor school districts. The law included other education policy changes, including the anti-tenure provision. The Kansas National Education Association sued last August. The union contended lawmakers violated the state constitution by including the new policy in an education funding measure. The constitution requires most bills to contain only one subject. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that an order dated June 4 dismissed the lawsuit. The court said it could not determine that the new law was only an appropriations bill, which meant the tenure provision could be included.
Murder Charge Filed in Death of Wichita Restaurant Owner
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County authorities have charged a man in the death of a Wichita restaurant owner. KSN-TV reports that Curtis Mitchell was charged Tuesday with one count of first-degree murder in the death last week of 45-year-old Tanya Tandoc. Mitchell appeared Tuesday in Sedgwick County court before Judge Joe Kisner, who read Mitchell the charge and advised him to get a lawyer before entering a plea. The judge said Mitchell's bond is $500,000. Tandoc, owner of Tanya's Soup Kitchen, was found dead in the basement of her home last Thursday night.
2 Bodies Found in Rural Kansas House Fire
BUCYRUS, Kan. (AP) — Officials say two bodies have been found in the remnants of a house fire in rural Miami County in Kansas. Kansas media outlets report fire crews from Louisburg, Paola and Johnson counties responded to the fire early Monday morning. Authorities say the first victim was discovered around 1:20 pm and the other was found around 5:30 pm. No information about the victims has been released. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Great Bend Man Sentenced, Fined in Kansas Bank Fraud Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Great Bend man has been sentenced to six months in prison and six months of home detention for bank fraud. Wichita media outlets report 56-year-old Brian W. Harrison was sentenced Monday and ordered to pay $124,000 in restitution and $50,000 in a personal forfeiture judgment. He had pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud. Prosecutors say that while working as a loan officer at the Farmer's Bank and Trust in Great Bend from 2004 to 2012, Harrison made false statements to the bank to hide poor-performing loans that he had made. According to prosecutors, he also falsified credit and loan applications, promissory notes and security agreements without giving debtors proper notice.
Ruling Prohibits Blanket Ban on Internet Use for Parolees
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court says a blanket ban on Internet use unlawfully deprives parolees of more liberty than necessary because the Internet has become a necessary component of modern life. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the wording in a standard restriction used by the U.S. Probation Office in Kansas conflicts with its previous ruling in a 2001 decision. The court notes that Internet use since then has become even more central to civic and economic life in society. However, the appeals court ultimately let stand some restrictions against Kansas parolee Ronald Ullmann in the case at hand. That is because the lower district court had modified them to clarify that it was restricting — not prohibiting — his use of the Internet and Internet-capable devices.
Report: More Winter Wheat Headed as Harvest Nears
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The latest government snapshot of farm crops across Kansas reflects the wet conditions across much of the state. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday some areas in northeast Kansas have gotten up to six inches of rain, raising concerns that flooding may force some farmers to replant their corn. Corn planting is 93 percent complete across Kansas. Corn condition was rated as 13 percent poor to very poor, 39 percent fair, and 48 percent good to excellent. Winter wheat harvest is getting closer with this latest report showing 98 percent of the Kansas crop has now headed. The agency rated wheat condition as 29 percent poor to very poor, with 41 percent in fair shape. About 30 percent of the wheat is in good to excellent condition.
Man Admits Plotting Suicide Bomb Attack
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former avionics technician has admitted to plotting a suicide bomb attack at a Wichita airport. Terry L. Loewen pleaded guilty Monday to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, after striking a deal with prosecutors for a proposed 20-year sentence. It is up to U.S. District Judge Monti Belot whether to accept the agreement. Belot told Loewen he was "almost certain" to accept it. Sentencing is set for August 31. The 59-year-old Wichita man was arrested in 2013 after allegedly trying to bring a van filled with inert explosives onto the tarmac at what was then Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport. Prosecutors say the plot, hatched during an undercover sting operation, was aimed at inflicting "maximum carnage."
Kansas Order Effectively Cancels 2015 Poultry Shows, Events
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas agriculture officials have issued an order prohibiting movement of Kansas poultry in a move to prevent the spread of a devastating form of bird flu. The order announced Tuesday effectively cancels all poultry-related shows and events through the rest of this year. That includes regional and county fairs, festivals, the Kansas State Fair, swap meets, exotic sales and live bird auctions. The order was signed by Kansas Agriculture Secretary Jackie McClaskey. The department says the measure is an effort to prevent the spread of highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza. Kansas had a positive case of it this year in Leavenworth County. Deputy Animal Health Commissioner Justin Smith says the decision was not made lightly, but says it was necessary to do everything possible to protect the Kansas poultry flock.
Preliminary Report: 99 Tornadoes Reported in Kansas in May
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - Preliminary data shows storms that hit Kansas in May prompted reports of 99 tornadoes in the state. The National Weather Service says the number is likely to drop as multiple reports of the same tornado are eliminated. But meteorologist Greg Carbin says he doesn't expect the number to drop below 50. He says that May might not be a record month for tornadoes but will likely above normal. The Hutchinson News reports a breakdown on the tornadoes severity wasn't immediately available but most were reported in rural areas and did little major damage. The state recorded tornadoes on nine dates in May.
Kansas Judge Doesn't Want Capital Case Documents Unsealed
OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas judge says he won't allow some documents in a quadruple murder case to be unsealed. Kyle Flack is charged in the deaths of two men, one woman and the woman's 18-month-old daughter in May 2013. The adults' bodies were found outside Ottawa. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Franklin County District Court Judge Eric Godderz said Tuesday he would reschedule a hearing on sealed documents in the case until June 30. But Godderz also was clear that he wouldn't unseal documents detailing proposed jury questionnaires and instructions because he doesn't want those ``published on the front page of the newspaper.'' The Ottawa Herald filed a motion seeking a court order, saying the court had failed to justify sealing court records in the case.
Wichita Police Seek More Body Cameras
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Wichita police want the city to spend $2.2 million on body cameras for officers over five years. The Wichita Eagle reports the cost would include buying the cameras, licensing fees and data storage in the first year for $712,000, and licensing and data storage fees of $360,000 for subsequent years. Captain Brian White presented the recommendation to the city council Tuesday and said police recommend that the city buy Taser's Axon system. White says the department is also seeking federal grants and plans to also use narcotics seizure funds to help offset costs. He says the department has 60 body cameras now, and there's a waitlist of officers who want to use them.
Holdout Businessman in Blighted Oklahoma Town Dies at 60
PICHER, Okla. (AP) _ A businessman who refused to leave the Oklahoma ghost town of Picher has died. The Thomas Funeral Home confirmed Gary Linderman's death. According to an obituary on its website, he died Saturday at age 60 after a sudden illness. Linderman ran the Ole Miner Pharmacy, the last business in Picher. He was known as the "last man standing'' or "Lights Out Linderman.'' Customers from miles away visited the pharmacy in the once-booming lead- and zinc-mining town about 20 miles southwest of Joplin, Missouri. Most residents left after the Environmental Protection Agency declared Picher a federal Superfund site in the 1980s. A 2008 tornado devastated those who remained. The town ceased municipal operations in 2009. Friend Sherry Mills told The Miami News-Record newspaper that Linderman loved to talk about Picher.
Woman Admits Stealing $1.2M from Assisted Living Center
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A woman has admitted her role in the theft of more than $1.2 million from a company which owns assisted living centers in Kansas and Missouri. Lori Shryock of Augusta pleaded guilty to mail fraud Monday in federal court. Sentencing is August 24. In exchange for her plea, prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence at the low end of the guideline. Her husband, Brent Shryock, was the former information systems director for Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America where he was in charge of purchasing equipment. He pleaded guilty last month to mail fraud in a deal with prosecutors for a proposed 36-month prison sentence. Prosecutors say the couple created four fictitious companies to submit fraudulent invoices. Among them was LGR Technology, which stood for Let's Get Rich Technology.
Reno County Dealing with Whooping Cough Outbreak
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) _ Reno County health officials are dealing with a whooping cough outbreak that includes 23 suspected cases of the illness. The Hutchinson News reports that health officials are asking sick people to stay home and for health providers to relay information on suspected cases of whooping cough, which is characterized by intense coughing, fever and runny nose. The health department says the county reported 3 suspected cases in mid-May, 18 in early June and 23 as of Monday. Health Department officials say people may not be taking the illness as seriously as they should. Whooping cough can be especially difficult for infants, the elderly or people with compromised immune systems. Officials say vaccination rates overall are down in the county and that may be contributing to the recent outbreak.
Former Pittsburg State Official Sentenced for Fraud
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A former official at Pittsburg State University faces a year and a half in federal prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud and money laundering. The office of the U.S. Attorney for Kansas said in a release Monday that 61-year-old Michael Muoghalu was a former director of the masters of business administration program at Pittsburg State University. The prosecutor's office says he admitted the crimes occurred while he was responsible for managing the graduate student exchange program between Pittsburg State University and schools in Nigeria. Prosecutors say Muoghalu falsely told the Nigerian students they had to pay him or his associates a fee for representing them in their application process. In addition to the sentence, Muoghalu also has to repay about $148,000.
Kauffman Foundation Names New CEO
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation has named a longtime foundation employee as its president and chief executive officer. The Kansas City Star reports that Wendy Guillies was named Tuesday to lead the foundation, which has about $2 billion in assets and focuses on educational and entrepreneurship research and initiatives. Guillies had been serving as acting president and CEO of the foundation for about a year, while a nationwide search was conducted to to find a replacement for former CEO Tom McDonnell. Guillies has been with the foundation since 2000 and also previously served as its top communications officer. The foundation is named for Ewing Kauffman, founder of Marion Laboratories and former owner of the Kansas City Royals.
Earthquake Awareness Event Planned for Northern Oklahoma
MEDFORD, Okla. (AP) - Earthquakes that have shaken parts of Oklahoma and Kansas will be the focus of an event dedicated to raising awareness about earthquakes and their connection to drilling techniques used by the oil and natural gas industry. The event is scheduled on Saturday in the northern Oklahoma city of Medford, just south of the Kansas border. The free event is sponsored by the Oklahoma Sierra Club and the Kansas Sierra Club. Residents of the region are invited to discuss the ongoing threat of earthquakes and examine the practice of hydraulic fracturing which utilizes underground injection wells to dispose of drilling wastes and by-products. The governments of both Kansas and Oklahoma have acknowledged that the use of underground injection wells may be linked to the surge of earthquakes experienced in both states.
Judge Declares Mistrial in Missouri Murder Case
LEBANON, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri judge has declared a mistrial in the case of suburban Kansas City lawyer accused of killing her millionaire father and his girlfriend. Susan Elizabeth Van Note of Lee's Summit was scheduled to stand trial this week on charges of first-degree murder in the October 2010 shooting deaths of her father, 67-year-old William Van Note, and his 59-year-old girlfriend, Sharon Dickson. But before a jury was selected Tuesday, Laclede County Circuit Judge Kenneth Hayden said the defense requested a mistrial and that he granted the request because potential jurors had been discussing the case. The judge says it's unclear when the trial will be rescheduled, but also said his calendar is full until the end of 2016. Lawyers for Van Note declined comment.
7 Kansas City Royals on Track to Start All-Star Game
NEW YORK (AP) _ Seven players on the AL champion Kansas City Royals are on track to start in next month's All-Star game. Catcher Salvador Perez, first baseman Eric Hosmer, shortstop Alcides Escobar, third baseman Mike Moustakas and designated hitter Kendrys Morales all led their positions in voting totals released Monday. Lorenzo Cain was first among AL outfielders, with teammate Alex Gordon third, behind AL MVP Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels. Kansas City's Omar Infante was in second place among second basemen behind AL batting champion Jose Altuve of Houston. Voting runs through July 2, and starters are to be announced the weekend of July 4-5. The game in Cincinnati is scheduled for July 14.
Royals Win Opener vs. Twins 3-1, Move into AL 1st Place
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Jason Vargas threw six shutout innings and Kendrys Morales hit a long home run to push the Kansas City Royals to a 3-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Monday night. Vargas (5-2) gave up five hits and struck out two, Morales hit a two-run shot in the second inning and Eric Hosmer drove in another run in the eighth to move the AL champion Royals (32-23) ahead of the Twins (33-24) for first place in the AL Central. Greg Holland got his 10th save in 11 chances. The Twins' Phil Hughes (4-6) had one of his strongest outings of the season, but didn't get enough help from his offense. Hughes gave up three runs on seven hits and struck out three.