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Headlines for Friday, December 11, 2020

 

State Has Millions to Help Kansans Facing Eviction but Deadline to Apply for Assistance Is Tuesday

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) — Thousands of Kansans have lost their jobs since the pandemic began and many are now facing eviction.  A state agency may be able to help, but a deadline to apply for assistance is fast-approaching.  Ryan Vincent, the executive director of the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation, says those facing eviction could be eligible for up to $5,000 in assistance. One caveat is that the eviction must be related to the coronavirus pandemic. That could include the loss of a job, the loss of work hours, a medical expense related to COVID-19, or even the need to stay home to take care of children who are attending school remotely.  Kansas has millions of dollars in funding available but the deadline to apply for eviction assistance is next Tuesday (Dec.15th). Applications and more information can be found online at kshousingcorp.org

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Kansas Lieutenant Governor Appointed as Next State Treasurer

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly has named Lt. Governor Lynn Rogers as the next state treasurer.  Rogers said Thursday that he hopes to expand state programs designed to help farmers and prospective homeowners obtain low-interest loans. The Democratic governor cited her 2018 running mate’s nearly 40-year career in banking as a key reason to appoint him treasurer. The office will become vacant January 2, when Republican State Treasurer Jake LaTurner steps down to take the Kansas 2nd District Congressional seat in the U.S. House. Rogers said he will seek a full, four-year term in 2022. Rogers left banking after winning a Kansas Senate seat in 2016.

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Kansas Governor Makes Racial Justice Recommendations

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has released a report outlining more than 60 recommendations to the state Legislature and local government officials on how to tackle racial justice issues. The recommendations released Thursday were crafted by a commission Kelly appointed in response to the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The panel recommends against driver’s license suspensions for people who fail to pay fines or fees and against no-knock warrants in drug cases. Kelly had asked the panel to focus on relationships between law enforcement agencies and the communities they police.

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Justice Department Studies Kansas City's Contract Practices

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department says it is investigating whether Kansas City's public contracting and procurement practices are discriminatory. The department said in a news release that the city's practice of setting aside about 30% of its public contract funds for minority or female contractors might violate anti-discrimination protections. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas responded that President Donald Trump's administration has investigated several affirmative action policies. He said studies have shown small businesses owned by minorities and women received significantly fewer contracts and funding than would be expected in the area. Lucas also said the city will continue to work to remedy discrimination in contracting and procurement.

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COVID-19 Case Total in Kansas Exceeds 185,000

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS/KPR) - Kansas has recorded over 185,000 COVID-19 cases.  Health officials reported Friday that Kansas had identified 185,294 coronavirus cases and 2,072 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began.  That's an increase of 5,491 cases and 131 deaths since Wednesday.  Another update of Kansas COVID-19 cases is expected Monday.

( - Related - )

Kansas Sets Tougher COVID-19 Testing Rules for Nursing Homes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has imposed stronger coronavirus testing rules for several hundred state-licensed nursing homes that will have most of them testing their employees twice a week. Kelly issued an executive order Wednesday on testing as Kansas waits to receive its first shipments of a vaccine made by Pfizer, possibly by the end of next week. The order on nursing homes applies to more than 470 facilities and imposes the same testing requirements already faced by about 360 homes in Kansas licensed by the federal government. The rules require greater testing of employees if a county's rate of positive tests grows.

Kansas Won't Provide Personal Data About Vaccine Recipients

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas does not plan to send personal information to the federal government about residents who receive coronavirus vaccines, though it has signed a data-use agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Lee Norman, the top administrator at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said this week that the state was “very reluctant” to share personal information. A department spokeswoman said Thursday that the department signed a data-use agreement with the CDC “a while ago” but “won’t be providing any identifying information.” The CDC’s standard agreement calls collection of data about vaccine recipients “critical ” to the pandemic response.

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Kansas Board of Education: Continue In-Person Elementary Classes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state school board is recommending that Kansas elementary schools continue in-person classes even if the spread of the coronavirus in their communities is so great that schools otherwise would close. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the State Board of Education on Tuesday updated its pandemic guidance. The change comes after a surge in coronavirus cases across the state over the past month prompted some districts to return to online classes for many or all of their students. The state health department reported that as of Monday, only 3.3% of the state's 174,000 cases and none of its more than 1,800 deaths were in children 9
years old or younger.

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Probe: Kansas Foster Care Provider Falsified Visit Documents

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas says employees of one of the state's largest foster care management providers falsified documents to show visits with families that never took place. The Kansas Department for Children and Families said Friday in a news release that it has taken action to address the allegations about St. Francis Ministries and requested information related to fiscal mismanagement at the Salina-based organization. One St. Francis employee did not visit 28 children who were living with 11 different foster care providers. That worker falsely documented 165 contacts with those children between February and October that did not occur. Another employee had failed to meet with foster care providers.

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Andover Latest Kansas City to Remove Ban on Pit Bulls

ANDOVER, Kan. (AP) — Andover is the latest Kansas city to repeal a ban on pit bulls, after the city council voted this week to repeal a decades-old ordinance against the dog breed. City administrator Jennifer McCausland said the issue gained momentum this year after the city annexed land where some residents owned pit bulls. Midge Grinstead, Kansas director of the Humane Society of the United States, said she had been involved in overturning about 24 bans in Kansas in recent years. She estimated between 80 to 90 pit bull bans still exist in the state. 

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2 Georgia Men Seriously Injured When ATV Collides with Deer

LOGAN, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says two men from Georgia were seriously injured when their all-terrain vehicle hit a deer in northwest Kansas. The patrol says the crash occurred Thursday evening about 6 miles south of Logan in Phillips County. The ATV hit the deer on a county road, went into a ditch and rolled several times. The driver, 19-year-old Tucker William Mobbs, and 51-year-old Herman Van Mobbs, both of Cedartown, Georgia, were taken to Phillips County Hospital in Phillipsburg with serious injuries. 

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Wichita Area Hit with 7 Small Earthquakes Since Thanksgiving

WICHITA, Kan. (AP/KPR) — At least seven small earthquakes have rattled the Wichita area since Thanksgiving, the latest two happened Thursday morning.  But an earthquake expert says residents of the state's largest city shouldn't be overly alarmed. Rick Miller is a senior scientist with the Kansas Geological Survey. He says the area has a long history of minor earthquakes. So far this month and last, there have been no reports of damage or injuries.  The highest magnitude quake registered 3.3.  Miller says it's always possible a more damaging earthquake could occur but it's unlikely. 

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Former Missouri Police Officer Charged with Statutory Rape

TRENTON, Mo. (AP) — A former north central Missouri police officer has been charged with statutory rape. Twenty-five-year-old Mike Wilson, a former officer with the Trenton police department, was arrested this week and is being held without bond in the Grundy County Jail. Trenton Police Chief Rex Ross said Wilson had been fired after working for the department since July 2018. Wilson had also been investigated for messaging a minor on Snapchat. Ross declined to say if that minor was connected to the statutory rape case. Online court records do not identify an attorney to speak for Wilson. Trenton is about 94 miles northeast of Kansas City.

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Watchdog Raises Possible Jared Kushner Connection to $700 Million Rescue Loan for Overland Park-Based Trucking Company 

WASHINGTON (AP) — A congressional monitor of federal pandemic aid is raising the possibility of a link between President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and a $700 million relief loan to a struggling trucking company. A Democratic member of the Congressional Oversight Commission raised the possible Kushner connection at a hearing on the controversial government rescue loan. Kushner is also a Trump adviser. Four members of the panel from both parties have challenged the Treasury Department’s decision to award the loan to Overland Park-based trucking company YRC Worldwide. The taxpayer-funded loan was made on the grounds that its operations are critical for maintaining national security.
 

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Missouri House Considers Letter Questioning Joe Biden's Victory

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP/KPR) — Some Missouri Republican lawmakers are calling on Congress to reject presidential electoral votes from swing states that went for President-elect Joe Biden. Republican state Rep. Justin Hill on Thursday filed a nonbinding resolution questioning the results of this year's election. President Donald Trump and his allies have lost dozens of times in courts across the country and have offered little evidence of widespread fraud. But Hill's proposal calls on state lawmakers in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia, Arizona, and Nevada to investigate. A Missouri House committee is holding a public hearing on the resolution Monday. It's unclear if it will go before the full House. House lawmakers have already left Jefferson City after finishing a special session on the coronavirus.

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Kansas Joins GOP Effort to Overturn Results of Presidential Election

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP/KPR) — The Republican attorney general of Kansas has brought the state into an effort by GOP officials across the nation to reverse President Donald Trump’s election loss. Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced Wednesday that Kansas is among 17 states asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case filed by the Republican attorney general of Texas, attacking election procedures in four battleground states where Democrat Joe Biden prevailed. The Texas lawsuit alleges voter fraud and makes claims about illegal mail-in balloting. Schmidt said the case presents “important and potentially recurring constitutional questions” but some legal experts see it as a long-shot bid to overturn the election.

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Domestic Battery Charge Against City Councilman Dismissed

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A Johnson County judge has dismissed a misdemeanor domestic battery charge against an Overland Park city councilman but said prosecutors could refile the case later. Councilman Scott Hamblin was charged after police were called to his home on July 21. No injuries were reported. Johnson County Judge James Phelan dismissed the case Thursday after denying the prosecutor's request for a continuance. Prosecutors said a police officer who was an essential witness couldn't testify because he is quarantined after exposure to COVID-19. They also said police had not been able to serve the victim a subpoena to testify.

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Lawsuit Seeks Compensation from State over COVID-19 Restrictions

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita fitness studio’s owner and his business are suing Kansas for compensation for being forced to shut down and reopen with restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic. The lawsuit filed this week in Sedgwick County District Court by Ryan Floyd and Omega Bootcamps Inc. argues that the state used his and the business’ private property “for the benefit of the general public.” The lawsuit cites part of the state’s emergency management law that says people can pursue claims for compensation in court if their property is “commandeered or otherwise used” by state or local officials. The Kansas attorney general’s office declined comment, saying it was reviewing the lawsuit.

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Murder, Arson Charges Filed After Fatal Joplin House Fire

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — Two women are charged with murder and arson after a fire in Joplin killed a 68-year-old man. Elizabeth Baez, of Joplin, and Tiffany Lukasiewicz, of Pittsburg, Kansas, were charged Thursday in the death of David Crowder, who died in the house fire on Dec. 4. Crowder was trapped inside the house. Firefighters rescued him but he died later at a hospital. Joplin police said an autopsy performed Monday showed Crowder died of smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning. Two women were found injured outside the home but police have not said if those women were Baez and Lukasiewicz.

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Theft Charge Dismissed Against Former KU Researcher

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Attorney General's office is moving to dismiss a felony theft case against former University of Kansas researcher Liuqi Gu. However, Assistant Attorney General Paul Brothers said in the motion that the case could be refiled. The motion filed Tuesday says the state needs more time to investigate because of “recent developments” in the case. Prosecutors have alleged Gu used his university discount to get steep cost reductions on scientific equipment, which he then sent to China. Gu was charged in December 2019 with four felonies and two misdemeanors. An evidentiary hearing in the case had been scheduled for Thursday.

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Deputies Arrest Man Riding Lawnmower on Kansas Highway

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — It's not unusual for officers to pull over suspected drunken drivers on the highways of Kansas. But it is fairly rare to bust a suspected drunken driver while he's driving a riding lawnmower. That's what Shawnee County Sheriff's deputies say they encountered Wednesday afternoon when they spotted a man driving a lawnmower on the southbound shoulder of U.S. Highway 75 near Topeka. KSNT TV reports that the 25-year-old man was stopped and arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence after he failed a field sobriety test.

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Governor Announces New Pretzel Production Facility in Lawrence 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - Governor Laura Kelly has announced that a snack food production facility will soon be built in Lawrence.  The company, Pretzels, LLC, will construct a 146,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Venture Park.  The 42-year-old Indiana-based snack company sells pretzels under the Harvest Road brand. Its product lineup also includes corn snacks made with real cheese, corn puffs, crunchy cheese curls, and other snack items.  “Food manufacturing has been growing at an incredible rate in Kansas, and we’re proud to add Pretzels, LLC to our roster,” Kelly said. “This project will create good-paying jobs and generate a significant investment for Kansas."

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Kansas City Fire Department Accused of Long-Standing Racism 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ City officials in Kansas City, Missouri, are pushing the fire department to address complaints about longstanding discrimination against Black firefighters. Fire Chief Donna Lake told the City Council Thursday that she has been directed to initiate a plan to address discrimination. The discussion comes after The Kansas City Star published the results of a year-long investigation, which found the department had tolerated harassment and racism against Black and female firefighters for decades. The investigation found Black firefighters had been put in danger, kept from favored stations and passed over for promotions. Lake, who is white and has been chief for a year, acknowledged the problems and vowed reform. 

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Kansas Mayor's Perjury Charge Stems from Open Records Filing

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — A court document shows the perjury charge filed against Shawnee Mayor Michelle Distler stems from an open meetings complaint she allegedly filed using the name of another person without his permission. The probable cause affidavit released Tuesday shows the investigation was opened on March 10 after a local government “watchdog” informed police in Shawnee, Kansas, that he had received an email from the state attorney general’s office confirming receipt of an online open records complaint that he had not filed. An investigator with the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office subsequently obtained the IP address associated with the open records complaint and traced it to Distler.

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Blitz-Happy Dolphins Will Try to Slow Mahomes and the Chiefs on Sunday

MIAMI (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs have the better quarterback, but the Miami Dolphins might have the superior defense, which lends intrigue to Sunday’s game against the reigning Super Bowl champions. The Dolphins have allowed the second-fewest points in the NFL, and wins in seven of the past eight games have vaulted them into contention for their first playoff berth in four years. But they’re stepping up in class against Patrick Mahomes and the high-scoring Chiefs, who have already clinched a postseason spot by winning their past seven games.

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