Headlines for Thursday, October 1, 2015
Kansas Tax Collections $31M Short of Expectations Last Month
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas collected $31 million less in taxes than anticipated last month, a shortfall that could tighten the state's budget picture. The state Department of Revenue reported Thursday that the state took in $534 million in taxes, when its official fiscal forecast projected $565 million. The shortfall was about 5.5 percent. Tax collections were almost equally as short of expectations in August, but the department attributed that month's shortfall to larger-than-expected income tax refunds. Since the fiscal year began in July, tax collections have been $67 million short of expectations, or about 4.7 percent off at about $1.37 billion. Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan noted that taxes from oil and gas production failed to meet expectations in September because of fallen energy prices. He also said farm income has declined.
Kansas Officials to Begin Culling Incomplete Voter Forms
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Election officials across Kansas are expected to begin removing the names of more than 31,000 prospective voters from their records in line with Kansas's tough voter identification law, which requires applicants to prove their citizenship before casting a ballot. Secretary of State Kris Kobach has directed county election officials to discard applications from prospective voters who after 90 days did not provide all the required information and documents. Most were people who hadn't documented their U.S. citizenship. The proof-of-citizenship requirement took effect in 2013. Only four states have a similar requirement, which advocates support as an effective tool against voter fraud but opponents consider a ruse for discouraging voting by the poor and minorities. The culling of applications is the first since the law went into effect.
Voters Challenge Kansas Citizenship Rule
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas residents have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the state's proof-of-citizenship requirement for new voters and its plans to remove people who haven't complied from voter registration rolls. The two Douglas County men filed the lawsuit Wednesday against Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the architect of a law requiring people registering for the first time in Kansas to document their U.S. citizenship. Kobach also enacted a regulation requiring county election officials to purge voter rolls of incomplete registrations after 90 days. Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis will serve as one of the plaintiffs' attorneys. Prospective voters Alder Cromwell and Cody Keener sought to register months ago but haven't met the proof-of-citizenship requirement. They're seeking a court order to block the purge and the proof-of-citizenship requirement.
Kansas Panel Considers State Response to EPA Carbon Rules
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are grappling with the state's possible response to new federal rules aimed at reducing carbon emissions from power plants. The Topeka Capital Journal reports that lawmakers expressed frustration Thursday with the regulations at the first meeting of a committee created earlier this year to review any plan for complying with the rules from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. EPA told states earlier this year that by 2022, they must start reducing carbon emissions linked to climate change. The EPA's target for Kansas is a 43 percent reduction by 2030. Kansas is expected to submit its initial plan, along with an extension request, in September 2016. The Kansas attorney general's office plans to challenge the federal rules in court after the final rule is published.
Report: Kansas Economic Growth Slower Than US
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Researchers at Wichita State University released a report this morning (THUR) indicating that the Kansas economy is growing at a slower pace than the rest of the nation. The report by Wichita State's Center for Economic Development and Business Research also forecasts sluggish growth for the state next year. The center's director, Jeremy Hill, says employment nationwide increased by 2.1 percent the past 12 months, while Kansas employment increased by less than 1 percent, or 0.9 percent. The report forecasts Kansas employment next year to grow 1.4 percent. If realized, that would mean 19,958 jobs. Hill attributed the slow growth to problems in the agriculture, oil and manufacturing industries. Wages for 80 percent of workers have shown no real growth, hurting the retail industry.
Survey Gives Another Sign of Midwest Economic Slowdown
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A second straight monthly survey of nine Midwest and Plains states suggests a slowdown in the region's economy. A report issued Thursday says the overall Mid-American Business Conditions Index dropped to 47.7 last month, compared with 49.6 in August. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he cited the strong U.S. dollar and global economic weakness among the reasons for the region's economic slide.The survey results from supply managers are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests economic growth. A score below that suggests decline. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
State Employees Facing Higher Insurance Premiums, Costs
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas employees will be faced with higher deductibles and premiums under the state's new health insurance plan. Enrollment for the 2016 health plans begin next month. State workers will get to choose between two providers, each of which will offer two coverage plans: Plan A and Plan C. According to the Wichita Eagle, Plan A premiums will increase slightly, but workers on Plan C will see premiums nearly triple. Deductibles will increase across the board. Kansas Organization of State Employees argues the move is a backdoor pay cut for state workers. Meanwhile, officials at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment claim the higher premium rates are caused by regulations found in the Affordable Care Act.
146-Bed Moratorium to Continue at Osawatomie State Hospital
OSAWATOMIE, Kan. (AP) — A moratorium on involuntary hospital admissions will continue at Osawatomie State Hospital as mandated renovations are wrapping up. The Wichita Eagle reports that the facility in Miami County has been limited to 146 beds since June, when the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ordered the renovations. The hospital still has been accepting patients with mental illnesses, but not before they're placed on a waiting list. Although renovations are expected to end Thursday, the beds won't open up until inspectors from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services can visit the facility. Osawatomie State Hospital is one of two state mental hospitals in Kansas. It serves patients from 46 counties in the eastern third of the state.
Gay Couple Takes Legal Action over Son's Birth Certificate
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A same-sex couple is seeking to force the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to issue a birth certificate listing both women as the parents of their baby boy. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Jessica and Casey Smith of Lawrence married in 2013 in California. Casey Smith gave birth September 16 at Shawnee Mission Medical Center, which declined to list both women as parents on the birth certificate. The couple filed an "emergency petition for the determination of parentage," and a judge directed the state health department to issue a birth certificate listing both women as the child's parents. But the department refused, saying it wasn't notified of the women's petition. The women's attorney filed a motion to join the department in seeking a legal decision on the issue.
Affidavit: Suspect 'Laughed' About Bleeding Homicide Victim
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A recently released affidavit says a man charged in a Lawrence killing laughed about the victim bleeding to death. The affidavit supporting the arrest of 34-year-old Joshua Lee Back says officers followed a blood trail from where officers found 45-year-old Tracy Dean Lautenschlager bleeding in May. The Lawrence Journal-World reportsthat the trail ended at a home, where a witness told police that Lautenschlager, Back and a third man had smoked methamphetamine the night before. The affidavit says the meth-smoking companion told officers that Back said he had "cut a person's throat and laughed about the amount of blood squirting from the wound." Back, of Oskaloosa, is charged with second-degree murder and jailed on $750,000 bond. His defense attorney didn't immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press.
Woman Convicted in Homeless Advocate's Death to Be Released
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A homeless woman previously sentenced to life in prison in the killing of a Topeka homeless advocate is expected to be released soon.The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 36-year-old Kimberly Danielle Sharp was resentenced Wednesday after her earlier convictions were overturned. She's already been behind bars longer than the sentence of eight years and fourth months that was imposed. Sharp initially was convicted of first-degree murder and kidnapping for her role in the death of 38-year-old David Owen. He disappeared in June 2006, and his body was found the next month. But an appeal court ruled in July that her confession was involuntary and couldn't be used against her during retrial. Sharp pleaded no contest on September 15 to reduced charges of voluntary manslaughter and aggravated battery.
Kansas Democrats Expected to Pick Veteran Activist as Leader
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Democrats are expected to pick a longtime Wichita-area activist as their new state chairman this weekend after the resignation of a leader who suggested rebranding the party. Prominent Democrats say Derby attorney Lee Kinch emerged quickly as the favored candidate for the job. The party's state committee plans to meet Saturday in Salina to select the new leader. Kinch said during an interview this week that he would focus as chairman on fundraising, recruiting candidates and picking up seats in the Legislature. The 76-year-old Kinch is a former party vice chairman and Democratic National Committee member. Former Chairman Larry Meeker resigned in August after less than six months on the job. Meeker upset other Democrats by talking about rebranding the state party and distancing it from national Democrats.
Legislative Past Recorded in Kansas Oral History Project
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An oral history archive of Republican and Democratic legislative leaders is in the works in Kansas. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that former Kansas Sen. Robert Storey is among 10 former Kansas legislators to participate in a pilot project. Storey, now a Topeka attorney, shared his thoughts about the current batch of lawmakers Tuesday at the Capitol. He says they appear to lack the dedication to dig deeply into issues. Also participating is Rochelle Chronister, the first woman to chair the House budget committee and who was assistant majority leader for three years. She says compromise "is not a dirty word" and "is the way you accomplish things for people." The Kansas Humanities Council and Shawnee County Historical Society are sponsoring the project. Interviews are recorded, transcribed and archived.
Deere Has Tentative Labor Agreement with UAW Workers
MOLINE, Ill. (AP) — Deere & Co. says it has reached a tentative agreement with the United Auto Workers union, which represents 10,000 Deere employees at 12 factories in three states. The Illinois-based manufacturer of farm equipment and other motorized gear announced the agreement Thursday. The new contract replaces a six-year contract that expired Wednesday at midnight. The new contract is for six years and will be voted on by union members. It covers manufacturing employees at John Deere facilities in Davenport, Ankeny, Dubuque, Ottumwa and Waterloo, Iowa; East Moline, Moline and Milan, Illinois; and Coffeyville, Kansas. Terms of the agreement weren't released.
Donations Sought for Shooting Victim Who Underwent Amputations
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Donations are being sought for a middle school counselor who underwent a quadruple amputation after a shooting at a south-central Kansas store. The Wichita Eagle reports that about $28,000 has been raised so far for Julie Dombo. The 61-year-old was wounded in August during a robbery at a Derby AT&T store. Because of oxygen deprivation to her limbs while in the hospital, her hands and legs required amputation in early September. A blood drive was held in Dombo's honor on Labor Day, and a run/walk was held on Sunday as a fundraiser for her medical bills as well. Money also is being raised through a GoFundMe page.
Judge: Enough Evidence to Try Kansas Man for Capital Murder
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge ruled on Thursday there is enough evidence to try a 27-year-old for capital murder and rape in the death of a woman who was set on fire at a Wichita park. The Wichita Eagle reportsCornell McNeal faces a Nov. 12 arraignment in the November death of Letitia "Tish" Davis. The 36-year-old mother of four suffered burns on more than half of her body and cuts on her head in the attack. She died about a week later. The critically injured victim couldn't say much to investigators after she was found near a charred area in Fairmont Park, but witnesses say she kept repeating she had been raped, beaten and set on fire. Affidavits show a damaged cellphone and DNA evidence connected McNeal to the attack.
Lawrence Man Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison in Drug Scheme
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — One of two northeast Kansas twin brothers has been sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for his role in a multistate marijuana-trafficking operation. The Lawrence Journal-World reports 33-year-old Los Rovell Dahda was sentenced Wednesday and fined almost $17 million. Dahda and his brother Roosevelt Rico Dahda, both of Lawrence, were found guilty last year of conspiracy. They were among 43 people accused in Kansas and California in connection with the trafficking ring. Authorities say the ring brought 8,000 pounds of marijuana, much of it from California, into Lawrence and the Kansas City area over seven years until 2012. Investigators say they seized almost $17 million in drug proceeds in the case. Roosevelt Rico Dahda was sentenced to more than 19 years in federal prison on Tuesday.
World War II Legend Celebrated on 100th Birthday
GARDNER, Kan. (AP) — The 100th birthday celebration for a legendary World War II pilot concluded Sunday after festivities that lasted for several weeks. Former Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Richard Cole is one of the last surviving members of the famed Doolittle's Raiders. The squad flew the first U.S. air raid on the Japanese homeland in April,1942. Cole was copilot of the first plane leading the historic attack. The Joplin Globe reports Cole received a standing ovation at a Kansas City Royals game last week, then was presented with the key to the city of Olathe. The celebration continued Sunday at the airport in Gardner, Kansas, where Cole was treated to a flight in a World War Two era PT-19 aircraft.
Experts to Test Section of US 69 Near Mining Area
BAXTER SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) — Scientists plan to conduct additional tests on a five-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 69 near the Oklahoma border to determine if it is safe for traffic. The Joplin Globe reports that the area in southern Cherokee County has been heavily mined for lead and zinc, so safety experts want to know if the rock above the mined area is susceptible to collapse. A previous survey of this section of U.S. 69 was completed in 2009. That report found no reason for concern, but did identify some spots where rock layers appeared to be weakening. A final report on U.S. 69 is due next June, but Kansas officials say they should have some indication of the road's condition by December.
Police: Man Struck by Wichita City Bus in Planeview
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a man is in critical condition after being run over by a city transit bus in Planeview. The Wichita Eagle reports the bus made a left turn Tuesday morning and struck 75-year-old Hai Huynh, who had been standing in the road near a curb and talking to a motorist. Wichita police Lieutenant James Espinoza said the bus knocked Huynh down and then ran over "his lower extremities." Huynh was taken to Wesley Medical Center for treatment. City officials say the 51-year-old driver of the bus is currently on leave. Espinoza said an investigation is ongoing.
Man Shot in KC Flags Down School Bus for Help
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A man wounded in a Kansas City shooting has received help after flagging down a school bus.The Kansas City Star reports that the man works for the city and told police he was shot just before 7 am.Wednesday while driving to work. The man said that before he realized he had been wounded he saw a group of men and heard gunfire. Police say the victim drove a few more blocks before flagging down the bus. Emergency workers took the victim to a hospital for treatment of critical injuries. Authorities are urging anyone with information about the shooting to come forward.
Rail Corridor Purchase Could Link Kansas City to St. Louis
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jackson County, Missouri and the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority have announced the $52 million purchase of a rail corridor from Lee's Summit to near the Truman Sports Complex. The Kansas City Star reports that should the deal go through, the new link would connect Kansas City with Missouri's cross-state Katy Trail, allowing cyclists to ride all the way to St. Louis. Commuter rail service could also access the corridor if financing is found for the project. Under the agreement, Jackson County will borrow money to buy the rail corridor, but the transport agency will share in making debt payments totaling $2.8 million annually for 30 years. No tax increases are anticipated, officials said. And they hope the corridor will eventually produce revenue to help pay down the debt.
Motorsports Appeals Panel Upholds Penalties Against Bowyer and MWR
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — An appeals committee has upheld penalties against Clint Bowyer and Michael Waltrip Racing that effectively ends any shot Bowyer had at winning the Sprint Cup championship. The three-person National Motorsports Appeals Panel on Wednesday ruled NASCAR was correct in penalizing the No. 15 team for an illegally modified part two weeks ago at Chicagoland Speedway. Bowyer was docked 25 points, which dropped him to last in the 16-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field. Four drivers will be cut from the field after this weekend's race in Dover, Delaware. Crew chief Billy Scott will begin a three-race suspension this weekend. He was also fined $75,000 and placed on probation for six months.
Former Chiefs QB Kenney Pleads Guilty to DWI
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Former Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Bill Kenney has pleaded guilty to drunken driving in Missouri's capital city, where he now serves as a state utility regulator. The Jefferson City News Tribune reports that Kenney pleaded guilty Wednesday to a misdemeanor driving while intoxicated charge and was placed on two years unsupervised probation. Jefferson City police say Kenney was discovered passed out and slumped over the steering wheel of his car in a Taco Bell parking lot in March. The 60-year-old Kenney is a member of the Missouri Public Service Commission. He was a Chiefs quarterback from 1979 to 1988. He then became a real estate developer in the Kansas City area. Kenney served in the Missouri Senate from 1995 to 2003, representing eastern Jackson County.
Royals Beat White Sox 5-3 in 10 innings
CHICAGO (AP) — The Kansas City Royals' Eric Hosmer hit a two-run homer in the top of the 10th inning as the Royals beat the Chicago White Sox 5-3 on Wednesday night to clinch home-field advantage in an AL Division Series. It was Hosmer's 18th home run of the season. Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas also homered for Kansas City, which had already clinched the AL Central title. They will host the first two games of their ALDS, and a Game 5 if necessary.
KU Still Awaiting Clearance for Touted Freshman Diallo
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Touted freshman Cheick Diallo has been cleared to begin practicing with the University of Kansas men's basketball team this week. The forward is still awaiting word from the NCAA on whether he can play this season. The five-star prospect from Mali attended Our Savior New American, a private high school in Centereach, New York. But the legitimacy of the school's classes has come under scrutiny by the NCAA, and Alabama and Oklahoma State have had recruits from there ruled ineligible. Jayhawks coach Bill Self said Thursday on the eve of practice that he is confident Diallo will be cleared. But he also said there is also no timetable for a decision. KU plays its exhibition opener against Pittsburg State on November 4.