Headlines for Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Kansas Governor Cuts Higher Ed Spending After Revenue Shortfall
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Governor Sam Brownback has cut higher education spending by $17 million in response to a shortfall in tax collections for February. Brownback announced Tuesday that he ordered a 3 percent cut in the higher education system's allocation of state tax dollars under this fiscal year's budget. The Board of Regents and state universities will have to make the adjustments over the next four months. The governor acted after the Department of Revenue reported that the state collected $54 million less in taxes than anticipated in February. The state must now act to prevent a deficit on June 30. Brownback's action would not fully balance the budget. The department said the state collected $303 million in taxes last month instead of the $357 million projected in a November fiscal forecast.
Bulk of Kansas Higher Education Cuts Coming from KU, K-State
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Regents says the bulk of Republican Governor Sam Brownback's higher education cuts will come from the state's two largest universities and their affiliated programs. The board released figures Wednesday showing that the University of Kansas and its Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas, together will lose almost $7.2 million. Kansas State University, its veterinary school and its agricultural extension research programs will lose $4.9 million. Brownback on Tuesday imposed $17.2 million in cuts in the universities' current budgets after state tax collections in February fell nearly $54 million short of expectations. The universities must make the cuts between now and June 30. The regents said Wichita State University will lose $2.2 million; Pittsburg State, almost $1.1 million, Fort Hays State, $992,000 and Emporia State, almost $922,000.
Cruz, Sanders, Rubio Plan Visits to Kansas Before Caucuses
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Republican hopefuls Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are planning to come to Kansas this week ahead of the state's presidential caucuses. Cruz's campaign has scheduled a rally this (WED) evening for the Texas senator at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park. Sanders state director Shelby Iseler saidthe Vermont senator plans to have a rally Thursday evening in Lawrence at the 4H Building on the Douglas County Fairgrounds. Rubio's campaign said the Florida senator will have a Friday afternoon event at Jabara Airport in Wichita. Both parties are having their Kansas caucuses Saturday. Rubio and Cruz are battling businessman Donald Trump for the state's national convention delegates. Some Democrats are predicting a close race between Sanders and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Kansas Lawmakers Consider Bill Redefining Abandoned Property
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate bill would allow cities and nonprofit organizations to gain temporary ownership of abandoned houses to rehabilitate them. The measure would change the definition of abandoned property to include blighted real estate that has been unoccupied for a year. Critics worry the measure would unfairly target disadvantaged people who can't afford to maintain their homes. Under the bill, a local government or nonprofit organization could seek temporary possession of the property in district court to use it for housing. The Senate voted 32-8 in favor of the bill last week, sending it to the House for further consideration. Current law allows only organizations, and not local government, to request temporary ownership of homes that have been vacant for 90 days and are two years delinquent in taxes.
Senate Bill Seeks Municipalities' Traffic Ticket Revenues
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee is considering a bill that would require municipalities to give the state more of the money they receive from traffic tickets. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the measure would require cities to cough up any traffic ticket proceeds that exceed 10 percent of their annual revenues. The bill before the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday also would require municipal courts to hand over 70 percent of all revenue they collect from traffic violations on highways. All of the money from the municipalities would go into the state's general fund. If a city refused to follow the new law, its municipal court would be temporarily shut down. A long list of opponents of the bill waited to testify Wednesday, while no one spoke in favor.
Lawrence Nixes Plan for Paying Parking Fines with Food Donations
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence has decided against allowing people to pay $3 parking tickets with canned food donations. The Lawrence Journal-World reportsthat commissioners decided Tuesday to table the issue after concerns were raised. Commissioner Matthew Herbert presented the idea as "an opportunity to be somewhat revolutionary as a community." But city staff recommended against it, stating in a city memorandum that it would bring in $30,000 less in annual revenue and require more work from municipal court clerks. The money pays for three police officers and several other staff members. Mayor Mike Amyx suggested that Herbert reintroduce the issue during 2017 budget talks.
Kansas Sheriff's Detective May Have Falsified Information
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors say a Shawnee County sheriff's detective may have falsified information in charging affidavits. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Shawnee County district attorney's office sent a notice to defense attorneys. The notice says the detective stated she had spoken with people with whom she hadn't actually talked and that the information was used in a charging affidavit. It wasn't immediately clear which case was tied to the allegation of misconduct. Prosecutors are required to notify defense lawyers about witnesses, including law enforcement officers, whose credibility may be in question because of misconduct. Sheriff Herman Jones said only that "an individual" has been placed on paid administrative leave, and his office is investigating. A Kansas Bureau of Investigation spokesman says the agency is looking into a matter in Jones's office.
Fort Riley Soldier Killed in Wrong-Way Crash on I-70
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A woman who was killed in a wrong-way crash on Interstate 70 has been identified as a Fort Riley soldier. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the military installation identified the victim Tuesday as Pfc. Coral Lynn Clark. The 24-year-old was a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist from Fort Worth, Texas. Clark joined the Army in March 2014. She was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade at Fort Riley. The Kansas Highway Patrol says she was riding in a Honda Civic on Sunday when a Kia Sorento that was headed in the wrong direction collided head-on with the Honda. Clark died at a hospital from her injuries. Both drivers also were injured. The crash shut down the interstate for several hours.
Missing Woman's Body Found in Reno County Wheat Field
NICKERSON, Kan. (AP) — The body of a missing woman has been found in a wheat field in rural Reno County. The Reno County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday that 23-year-old Kati Salmans was reported as a missing person to the Hutchinson Police Department on Feb. 22. Her body was found Monday about three miles southwest of Nickerson. Authorities said that Salmans may have been driving a vehicle that was found wrecked in the area on February 7. The Sedgwick County Forensic Science Center identified Salmans's body. The cause of Salmans's death has not been determined.
2 People Dead After Trench Collapse in Ellis County
HAYS, Kan. (AP) — The bodies of two workers have been recovered from a sewage trench that collapsed in the Ellis County city of Hays. Hays Director of Finance Kim Rupp said that emergency crews responded to a 911 call shortly after 1:30 p.m. Tuesday and found three people trapped in the collapsed trench. Rupp said the first body was recovered around 5:45 pm and the second body was recovered just before 10 pm. One person was rescued and taken to a hospital. That person's condition is not immediately known. The city has not released the names of the three people. The city said that sewer line repairs were taking place in the area at the time of the incident.
Fed Survey Finds Weaker Exports Hurting Manufacturers
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve says the economy was expanding in most of the country in January and February, helped by gains in consumer spending and home sales. But there were also rising headwinds from falling oil prices and a strong dollar that held back some sectors. The Fed's latest survey of business conditions in its 12 regions found moderate gains in most regions. Two areas — New York and Kansas City — described activity as flat. Kansas City, a region hurt by weakness in energy and farming, reported a modest decline. The Fed survey, which will be discussed at the central bank's next meeting in mid-March, says overall manufacturing activity was flat amid weaker exports.
3 Kansas Newspapers Change Hands in Deal Between Families
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A group that publishes the Emporia newspaper once edited by late journalism icon William Allen White has bought two family-owned newspapers and a weekly in Kansas. John Montgomery says he plans to retire and has sold the Junction City Daily Union, Abilene Reflector-Chronicle and the weekly Wamego Smoke Signal to Chris Walker's White Corp. The deal took effect Tuesday. Though financial terms were not disclosed, Montgomery said he plans to keep a Daily Union office and remain in an advisory capacity. Seventy-five-year-old Montgomery is a fourth-generation newspaperman in a family that has been in publishing for 134 years. He's also a 2012 inductee into the Kansas Newspaper Hall of Fame. Walker is the great-grandson of Pulitzer Prize-winning Emporia Gazette editor William Allen White, who bought the newspaper in 1895.
Quapaw Tribe Seeks Dismissal of Gaming Suit Against Kansas
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An attorney for the Quapaw tribe has agreed in federal court documents that the tribe's gambling lawsuit against Kansas should be dismissed. The tribe, which operates Downstream Casino Resort in Oklahoma, sued Kansas in January, asking that a judge order the state to negotiate an agreement with the tribe within 60 days that would allow it to offer gaming in Kansas. The lawsuit could still pave the way for the tribe to ask the secretary of the Department of the Interior to issue guidelines for casino gaming on the Kansas side of Downstream's property. Currently, the Kansas side of the resort's property is used for parking lots. A spokesman for Kansas Attorney General's office says it will continue to oppose gaming on the land. A Downstream spokesman declined to comment to The Joplin Globe.
Wichita Man, 24, Charged in Bank & Jewelry Store Robberies
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 24-year-old man has been charged in four bank robberies and a jewelry store robbery in Wichita. Terence L. Thomas is charged with four counts of bank robbery, one count of robbing a commercial business, one count of brandishing a firearm during a robbery and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm following a felony conviction. If convicted, Thomas faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison for the counts of bank robbery and robbing a commercial business. For the charge of brandishing a firearm during a robbery, he faces no less than seven years. He also faces up to $1,750,000 in fines.
Sedgwick County Will Try to Sell or Lease Former Boys' Ranch
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County is making another attempt to find a taker for the closed Judge Riddel Boys Ranch near Goddard. The county is putting out a request for proposals to sell or lease the property to developers or nonprofits. Facilities director Steve Claassen said at a county staff meeting Monday that the intent is to see what kind of interest there is in the property. The county closed the ranch in 2014 after unsuccessfully trying to persuade the Kansas Legislature to increase funding sent to the county, which operated the ranch. The county then asked for proposals to lease the property but didn't receive any that September. The ranch served about 40 boys considered at medium to high risk of committing additional crimes.
Lawrence District Prepares to Launch Open-Source Class
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Lawrence school district is preparing to roll out its first class that uses only open-source learning material written by experts, vetted by their peers and posted for free downloading. To get ready, several administrators and teachers participated in a conference last week in California. The conference was part of a U.S. Department of Education campaign, #GoOpen, to encourage states, school districts and educators to use openly licensed educational materials. In October, it was announced that the Lawrence school district was one of 10 districts nationwide to take up the #GoOpen challenge to replace at least one textbook with openly licensed educational resources within the year. District administrators have selected seventh-grade English language arts as the subject area for the #GoOpen initiative.
Royals' Perez Gives $1 Million to Urban Youth Academy in KC
SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez is donating $1 million to the Urban Youth Academy, a 21-acre development of playing fields and other park amenities near downtown Kansas City, Missouri. The news Wednesday came one day after Perez signed a $52.5 million, five-year contract that will keep him with Kansas City through the 2021 season. It also coincided with a City Council committee vote to endorse more than $2 million in city funds toward the $7 million first phase. Other funding has been supplied by the new MLB-MLBPA joint youth development initiative. Perez, who will have a field named after him, said he wanted to donate to the project to give back to Kansas City. The Royals signed him as a 16-year-old prospect out of Venezuela, and he's become a fan favorite while helping the franchise win the World Series title last year.