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Headlines for Monday, May 31, 2021


Kansas GOP Leaders Vote to End COVID State of Emergency

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A group of top Republican legislators have voted for a short-term extension of the state’s pandemic emergency declaration. Eight of the Republican-controlled Legislature's leaders approved a shorter extension of the state of emergency than Democratic Governor Laura Kelly wanted. The governor wanted to extend the declaration until June 27th but Republicans who control the panel voted to extend the emergency through June 15th, and to rescind some of the state’s eviction protections. The state of emergency was set to expire last Friday and state law required Kelly to get the Legislature's approval to retain it. Democrats say it's still too early to end the emergency declaration. The emergency status allows access to federal money and resources like National Guard members who can help run vaccination clinics. The council also voted to rescind Governor Laura Kelly’s executive order blocking some foreclosures and evictions for Kansans who’ve financially suffered during the pandemic.


Advocates Worry about End of Kansas Ban on COVID Evictions

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Advocates for renters in Kansas are troubled by the end of the state’s ban on evictions and foreclosures on home mortgages for people who are struggling financially because of the coronavirus pandemic. Top Republican lawmakers on Friday rescinded the executive order from Democratic Governor Laura Kelly imposing the ban. Republicans have long argued the state’s moratorium prevents landlords from getting paid. But the Topeka Capital-Journal reports that advocates said ending the state’s ban is troubling because a nationwide ban through June from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could be nullified by a lawsuit.


Kansas License Suspension Reforms Stumble in Legislature

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Supreme Court staff stepped in this spring to oppose legislation meant to address issues surrounding drivers license suspensions for unpaid traffic fines. Some measures passed and became law, but other efforts to eliminate some fees and to replace some fines with community service stalled after a court official told lawmakers that collecting fewer dollars through reinstatement fees would threaten the courts’ ability to remain open and pay employees. Some advocates say that the court system is overly reliant on impoverished and minority populations for funding. It's part of a national conversation in which activists say fines and penalties for not paying them criminalize poverty.


Missouri Supreme Court Lifts COVID Directives for Judiciary

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Supreme Court is lifting directives for the state’s courts aimed at protecting the safety of employees and the public during the coronavirus pandemic. The Jefferson City News Tribune reports that court officials said the restrictions were being lifted June 15th because of a decrease in the national and local levels of COVID-19 cases and the effectiveness and availability of vaccines. The Supreme Court last revised its directives in March, saying local courts could operate in one of four operating phases. Each phase reflected differing approaches to in-person proceedings, personnel and staffing, and courthouse operations.


Plan Would Return Kansas Statehouse Prayer Room to Original Location  

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Republican legislators have hatched a plan for returning the Kansas Statehouse's meditation room to its original spot after Democratic Governor Laura Kelly moved it to create more space for her staff. Senate President Ty Masterson outlined the proposal last week during a meeting of top lawmakers. The meditation room was on the second floor near offices for Kelly and her staff. Lawmakers mandated in past state budgets that it stay there but forgot last year. That allowed Kelly to commandeer the space for members of an expanded constituent services staff during the coronavirus pandemic. Masterson's plan gives her staff another suite and shuffles various offices throughout the building. 


Prosecutor Says Cases That Fired Employees Handled to be Reviewed

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - An outside agency will review cases handled by two employees who were fired from the Wyandotte County District Attorney's office earlier this month. The county prosecutors office said the review is intended to "ensure transparency and trust" in the unit that investigates accusations of excessive police force or misconduct. The former employees were fired because of inappropriate comments they made on an audio recording, but officials didn't describe what they said. The prosecutor's office said that officials had reviewed cases and determined that the former employees didn't handle cases involving persons or groups that were targets of their offensive remarks. 


County Seeks Repayment from Special Prosecutor in Rape Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Jackson County, Kansas officials are seeking to recoup about $80,000 in public money paid to a special prosecutor accused of mishandling a controversial case where a man's rape convictions were overturned on appeal. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the county hired Jacqie Spradling in 2017 to serve as special prosecutor in the criminal case against Jacob Ewing. Later that year, Ewing was convicted of two counts of rape and four counts of criminal sodomy, among other counts. But the Kansas Court of Appeals threw out those convictions in 2019 and ordered a new trial, finding that Spradling made a half-dozen errors and misled the jury by making assertions during her closing argument that were not supported by the evidence. 


Missouri Lawmakers Fail to Cancel Debts from Unemployment Overpayments

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — State lawmakers left tens of thousands of Missouri residents facing big debts by failing to pass a seemingly popular measure to stop the state from clawing back mistaken overpayments of unemployment benefits. The General Assembly’s session ended this month about four hours early because of a fight over abortion, blocking the measure to waive unemployment debts. The Kansas City Star reports that roughly 46,000 Missourians could be affected. The department suspended most collections in April as lawmakers discussed their debt-forgiveness measure. Department officials haven’t said whether they’ll resume. Meanwhile, Parson’s administration and business leaders blame extra unemployment benefits provided by federal government for employers being unable to attract workers.


3 Killed, Including Pastor and His Child, in Kansas Crash

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says three people died — including a central Kansas pastor and his 10-year-old daughter — in a head-on crash on Interstate 135 near Salina. The patrol says the crash happened around 1:30 p.m. Sunday about 8 miles south of Salina. Investigators say a northbound pickup truck driven by 24-year-old Christopher Giroux, of Salina, crossed the interstate median into southbound lanes and collided with another pickup truck. Giroux was killed, as was the other driver, 39-year-old Phillip Hett, and his daughter, 10-year-old Abigail Hett. Phillip Hett's 13-year-old daughter also was in his truck and was rushed to a hospital with serious injuries. KAKE reports that Phillip Hett was a pastor at a Lindsborg nursing home. 


Topeka Police Investigate Fatal Weekend Shooting

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Topeka police are investigating a fatal weekend shooting at a mobile home park. Police said the shooting was reported around 5 Saturday morning in north Topeka. Officers who responded to the area found a victim with a gunshot wound who died at the scene. On Sunday, police identified the victim as 32-year-old Shakeita Young of Topeka. No arrests have been reported. 


Two Escaped Inmates from Kansas Recaptured in Oklahoma

COLUMBUS, Kan. (AP) - A suspect in a double homicide and another inmate who escaped from jail in Kansas earlier this week were recaptured in Oklahoma. The Cherokee County Sheriff's office said Friday that Mark Gerald Hopkins II and Michael Wayne Martsolf were arrested in Ottawa County, Oklahoma. They escaped from the county jail on Monday, prompting a massive search. Authorities did not provide details of how they were captured. Hopkins of Columbus, was charged with capital murder in the shooting deaths of two men in southeast Kansas in June 2020. Martsolf was being held on drug charges. Authorities previously arrested 26-year-old Tasha Young, of Weir, for her alleged role in the escape.


Police: Wichita Man Arrested Following Deadly Weekend Crash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a Wichita man has been arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated and causing a crash that killed a woman and seriously injured others. The Wichita Eagle reports that the crash happened around 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Wichita. Police say a vehicle driven by 32-year-old Michael Wayne Walker was on the wrong side of the road when the crash occurred, killing 74-year-old Rita Hawkins, of Wichita. Police say Hawkins was among three people injured in the wreck who were taken to hospitals. She later died of her injuries. Police say Walker was later booked into the Sedgwick County Jail on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and several other counts.


Kansas Senators Vote Against January 6th Commission

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - Both U.S. senators from Kansas voted against the creation of a bipartisan panel to study the January 6th attack on the Capitol. Senator Jerry Moran and Roger Marshall joined with other Senate Republicans Friday to block consideration of the bill that passed the House of Representatives last week. The three Kansas Republican congressmen -- Ron Estes, Jake LaTurner, and Tracey Mann -- voted against the measure when it came up in the U.S. House of Representatives on May 19th. Democratic congresswoman Sharice Davids, who represents the Kansas 3rd District, voted for that measure. 


Olathe “Proud Boy” Pleads for Release from D.C. Jail

OLATHE, Kan. (KNS) - The Olathe man charged in the January 6th storming of the U.S.Capitol is once again asking to be released from lock-up.  William Chrestman has been identified by federal prosecutors as a Proud Boy – a group of far-right extremists who supported former President Trump. He was arrested in February along with three other Kansas City-area men for their role in the Capitol insurrection. He’s now being detained in Washington D.C. and was denied release in February. On Thursday he asked the D.C. court to let him out of jail because he has some medical conditions, including back pain. Chrestman says he’s on several pain medications and was getting care from the Veteran’s Administration. He also said the Olathe home he shares with his common-law partner and their six children is in danger of foreclosure. 


Kansas COVID-19 Case Count Approaching 314,000; Death Toll Rises to 5,076

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported Friday that there have been 313,997 COVID-19 cases in Kansas, including 5,076 virus-related deaths, since the pandemic began. That's an increase of 277 cases and nine new deaths between Wednesday and Friday. Case totals were not updated today (MON) due to the Memorial Day holiday. 


KDHE Head Says Lottery Prizes Under Discussion to Boost Vaccination Rates 

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) – Kansas health officials are discussing some type of prize drawing to boost COVID-19 vaccination rates. Dr. Lee Norman says the state health department is in talks with Kansas Lottery officials. Norman says the state will not offer a $1 million dollar prize, like Ohio and Colorado are doing. But he says some type of prize drawing for people who are vaccinated is likely.  About 42% of Kansans have received at least one dose of the vaccine. That trails the national average of about 50%.  Norman says the number of daily vaccinations in Kansas continues to fall.


Mother of Man Convicted of Killing Father Sentenced to Jail

LYONS, Kan. (AP) - The mother of the man who killed his father and shot two Rice County police officers in 2019 will go to jail for providing a gun to her son. Shirley Loder, who was 67 when she was charged in January, has been ordered to serve 60 days in jail before serving probation for the rest of a year after she pleaded no contest. Prosecutors allege Loder gave her son, David Madden, a weapon he used in April 2019 when he shot and killed his father and also shot two Rice County Sheriff's Department officers before killing himself. Madden was a convicted felon who was not legally allowed to have a gun. 


Man Dies After Shooting at Popular Lake of the Ozarks Bar

LAKE OZARK, Mo. (AP) - A man is dead after a shooting at a popular Lake of the Ozarks bar on Saturday night. The Camden County Sheriff's office said the shooting was reported shortly before 11 p.m. Saturday at the Lazy Gators entertainment venue near Lake Ozark, Missouri. Authorities said a 27-year-old Black man was found shot. He was taken to a hospital where he died. The sheriff's department has not released his name. Two suspects have been arrested in the shooting, but the sheriff's department said investigators were still looking Sunday for a third person suspected to be involved in the shooting. Authorities did not identify the suspects. 


Kansas City Police Investigate Fatal Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Police in Kansas City, Missouri, say a man has been shot to death in the city's Ivanhoe Northeast neighborhood. Police say in a news release that officers responded to the area following a report around 2 a.m. Monday of shots fired. Arriving officers found a man in a vacant lot suffering from gunshot wounds. Police say the man was pronounced dead at a hospital. His name has not been released. The Kansas City Star says the death marked the city's 63rd homicide of the year, compared with 76 homicides by May 31, 2020. 


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