Headlines for Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Kansas Supreme Court Stays Lower Court's Order on School Aid
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has put on hold a lower court's order for the state to immediately increase aid to public schools by roughly $50 million. The high court issued a one-page order Tuesday, a day after a request from Attorney General Derek Schmidt. A three-judge panel in Shawnee County District Court last week invalidated key parts of a school funding law enacted by the Republican-dominated Legislature this year. The lower-court judges ordered Kansas to provide more money to districts using the state's previous school funding formula. The new school funding law scrapped the old per-student formula for distributing aid in favor of predictable grants for each district. The lower-court panel said the changes violated the state constitution by not providing equal educational opportunities for all students.
Kansas Collects $22M Less in Taxes Than Expected This Month
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has collected about $22 million less in revenues than anticipated this month. The state Department of Revenue reported Tuesday that the state took in a little more than $529 million in taxes in June. The state's official fiscal forecast predicted more than $551 million. The shortfall for the month was 4.1 percent. June was the last month of the 2015 fiscal year. For the entire fiscal year, the department reported tax collections of $5.5 billion that were $33 million short of expectations, or about 0.6 percent short. The lower-than-anticipated tax collections complicate the budget picture. Legislators raised sales and cigarette taxes to avert a deficit in the new fiscal year but didn't expect to leave much of a cushion of cash reserves at the end of June 2016.
All Counties in Kansas Allowing Same-Sex Marriage Licenses
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Same-sex couples can get marriage licenses in all 105 Kansas counties. But the state on Tuesday wasn't yet allowing gay and lesbian spouses to change their last names on driver's licenses or file joint income tax returns. Several officials said Governor Sam Brownback's administration is still studying the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared same-sex marriage legal across the nation. The Republican governor supports Kansas's ban on gay marriage. He has noted repeatedly that voters in 2005 overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state constitution to reinforce it. Before the latest U.S. Supreme Court ruling, same-sex marriage licenses were being issued in 21 of 31 judicial districts covering 61 counties. As of Tuesday, all 31 districts said they were issuing same-sex marriage licenses or were prepared to do so.
Court Ruling on Air Standards May Save Westar Millions
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Westar Energy says a U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on toxic emissions at power plants could save the company millions. The Supreme Court ruled Monday that the Obama administration should have considered potential costs when it issued rules regulating toxic emissions from power plants.Westar spokesman Brad Loveless says the utility already spent $16 million to bring its four coal-powered plants in Kansas into compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency's mercury-reduction rules. The ruling delayed implementation of the regulations, although they are in force while a lower court reconsiders the issue. The Wichita Eagle reports that the court decision will — for now— save the utility $8 million on the project, plus another $5 million a year for supplies. The utility will take no further action until the rules are clarified.
49 Suspected Cases of Whooping Cough Reported in Reno County
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The Reno County Health Department says it has received reports of 49 cases of whooping cough in the county. The Hutchinson News reports that the state has confirmed 18 positive cases. Ivonne Rivera-Newberry, of the county health department, says the cases are random. One day, the county might get several reports and another day no reports come in. The health department administered 127 free TDaP vaccinations during a clinic last week. Health officials will meet again soon to decide how to get more vaccinations distributed.
Franklin County Judge Denies Request to Unseal Documents
OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — A Franklin County District Court judge has denied a request to unseal dozens of documents in the case of a man charged with killing three adults and a child. Kyle Flack is charged with capital murder in the 2013 slayings of a 21-year-old woman and her 18-month-old daughter, and with premeditated first-degree murder in the deaths of two men. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that District Court Judge Eric Godderz said Tuesday that granting a motion to unseal 68 documents would represent "a clear and present danger" to the trial. The judge also denied a defense request to move the trial outside of Franklin County. The judge is also considering a request from Flack's lawyers for a postponement of the trial to April 2016. It's currently scheduled to begin in September.
USDA: Record Soybean Crop Planted, Progress Slowed by Rain
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A record 85.1 million acres of soybeans are in the ground in the U.S., though a wet few months have kept farmers from planting in some states. The planted soybean acreage is 2 percent more than in 2014, with the largest increases found in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Tennessee. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's report was released Tuesday. May started with good planting conditions for soybeans, but a rainy pattern in June slowed progress. More than a third of the intended crop remains unplanted in Missouri and 14 percent in neighboring Kansas. Farmers unable to get fields planted by Wednesday may be forced to use crop insurance. The full extent of crop loss isn't reflected in the report. Planted corn acres are the lowest since 2010 at 88.9 million acres.
Kansas Growers Plant More Sorghum, Fewer Soybean Acres
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A government report shows Kansas farmers have planted a lot more sorghum this year, and put soybeans on fewer acres compared to a year ago. The number of corn acres in the state is unchanged. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Tuesday corn growers in the state planted 4.05 million acres this year, using biotechnology varieties on 95 percent of the area planted. Sorghum acreage in Kansas was estimated at 3.3 million acres for a 16 percent increase over last year. Meanwhile, soybean plantings were down 8 percent to 3.7 million acres. The agency says Kansas farmers seeded 9.4 million acres last fall into winter wheat, and are now harvesting an estimated 8.8 million acres. Kansas growers also planted more sunflowers and hay than a year ago.
Body Pulled from Missouri River
SUGAR CREEK, Mo. (AP) — Crews from the Missouri State Highway Patrol have pulled a body from the Missouri River near Sugar Creek. The Kansas City Star reports that a person noticed what appeared to be a body and reported it to authorities early Tuesday. Patrol spokesman Sergeant Bill Lowe says water patrol officers found the body and pulled it from the water. He says the body is being sent to the Jackson County (Missouri) medical examiner's office to determine the person's identity and cause of death. Sugar Creek has about 3,300 residents and is located about 8 miles east of Kansas City.
Overland Park Giving $25K to Skywalk Memorial
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The Overland Park City Council has agreed to give $25,000 to a planned memorial commemorating a 1981 hotel disaster in Kansas City.The skywalks at the Hyatt Regency Hotel collapsed July 17, 1981, killing 114 people. The skywalk collapse remains among the deadliest structural collapses in U.S. history. Overland Park said in a release Sunday that the city council approved a one-time grant of $25,000 to the Skywalk Memorial Foundation for construction of the memorial near the site of the disaster. The planned memorial is intended to honor first responders, rescuers and victims of the Hyatt hotel skywalks collapse, and will be part of a larger park near Children's Mercy Hospital.
Cherokee County Wants Commission to Block Crawford County Casino
COLUMBUS, Kan. (AP) — Cherokee County commissioners have voted to ask the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission to reject a casino recommended for Southeast Kansas. The Joplin Globe reports county commissioners voted 2-0 Monday to request blocking the recommendation for the $70.2 million Kansas Crossing Casino & Hotel in Pittsburg in Crawford County. Cherokee County will also ask the commission to start the selection process all over again. Cherokee County Commission chairman Richard Hilderbrand says the county argues that the Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board did not follow state law. The county favors a $145 million casino that was proposed for Cherokee County. A spokeswoman for Kansas Crossing said the review board studied the proposed casinos and picked the one that was the right size and location to benefit Kansas. The state gaming commission is scheduled to meet Thursday in Topeka.
Most Farm Crops Faring Well in Kansas This Season
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- Spring-planted crops in Kansas are for the most part faring pretty well in Kansas so far this growing season in the wake of all the rain that hit when many were emerging. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that 56 of the corn crops in the state are in good to excellent condition. Another 34 percent of them are rated as fair with 10 percent in poor to very poor shape. The agency also said in its weekly update that 71 percent of the sorghum in Kansas is in good to excellent condition. About 49 percent of the soybeans also are rated as good to excellent, along with 70 percent of the sunflowers.
Topeka Man Among 18 Receiving Carnegie Medal for Heroism
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Topekan Bryon Snyder is one of 18 people being honored today (TUE) with a Carnegie Medal for heroism. Snyder, who is 36, saved a 44-year-old woman from an armed assault in June 2014. The Carnegie Medals are named for Pittsburgh steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. He was inspired to endow an award in his name by stories of heroism during a coal mine disaster in 1904 that killed 181 people, including a miner and an engineer who died trying to rescue others. The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission awards medals and cash several times a year.
Wichita Woman Sentenced to Probation for Stealing Mail
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita woman has been sentenced to five years of federal probation for stealing mail and cashing counterfeit checks. Federal prosecutors say 35-year-old Jennifer R. Harper was sentenced Monday for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and conspiracy to steal mail. She admitted that she and two men stole the mail from postal boxes and took information and checks from the mail. They would then use the information to create counterfeit checks. A co-defendant, Justin Anderson was sentenced earlier to 6 ½ years. Another man, Jeremy Robinson, was sentenced to one year, three months in federal prison.
Kansas City Man Sentenced to Life for Grandmother's Death
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri judge has sentenced a 19-year-old Kansas City man to life in prison for stabbing his grandmother to death a day after she celebrated her 70th birthday. Corey Barrett was convicted in May in Jackson County (Missouri) Circuit Court of second-degree murder, first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary and two counts of armed criminal action. Prosecutors say he killed Marise Barrett in March 2013. A deputy Jackson County medical examiner testified during the bench trial that the victim was stabbed 32 times. The prosecutor's office said Tuesday that Barrett was sentenced to life for second-degree murder and he also got another life sentence for armed criminal action.
Texas Man Pleads Guilty to Bank Fraud in Sherman County
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Texas man accused of possessing dozens of counterfeit credit cards has pleaded guilty to federal bank and wire fraud charges in Sherman County. The Salina Journal reports that 29-year-old Justin R. Bennett pleaded guilty to several charges including bank fraud, wire fraud and using an embossing machine to create counterfeit credit cards. The office of U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said in a news release that Bennett was arrested in September in Sherman County. The release says officers seized 47 counterfeit credit cards, an embossing machine, thousands of blank credit cards and other materials used to create counterfeit cards. Authorities say Bennett used the counterfeit cards to rent vehicles, obtain cash advances and purchase items that he sold online. Bennett's sentencing is set for September 14.