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Headlines for Saturday, January 30, 2021

Governor Appoints New Secretary of Labor

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Gov. Laura Kelly has tapped a Lawrence woman with a technology background to run the Kansas Department of Labor. Amber Shultz will lead an agency that has struggled for months to process a surge in claims from workers left unemployed by the coronavirus pandemic. The governor said yesterday (FRI) in a news release that Shultz will serve as acting labor secretary until the Kansas Senate confirms her as the new head of the agency. Kelly’s first labor secretary, Delia Garcia, resigned in June amid problems with the system for distributing unemployment benefits. Shultz most recently worked as general manager of municipal services and operations department for the city of Lawrence.

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Frustration, Lines Common as Kansas Expands Vaccine Rollout

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — A long line of seniors, some clutching walkers, waited in the cold this week when Kansas’ largest county began vaccinating its oldest residents against the coronavirus. Johnson County isn’t alone in struggling with demand as the state moved beyond vaccinating health care workers and long term residents. Health officials and hospitals are being deluged with calls, and appointment slots are filling up in minutes. The challenge is that the second phase is massive, including about 1 million people, or about one-third of the state’s residents. It prioritizes those 65 and older, essential workers such as teachers and police and those living in communal settings such as prisons and homeless shelters.

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Attorneys Seek Nearly $3.3 Million in Kansas Voting Rights Suit

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas could be on the hook for nearly $3.3 million in attorney fees and expenses after losing a lawsuit that challenged a state voter registration law.  The law, championed by former Secretary of State Kris Kobach, required documentary proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. The filing Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union asks the U.S. Court for the District of Kansas to award the plaintiffs’ attorneys fees of more than $2.9 million and non-taxable expenses of nearly $383,000. The U.S. Supreme Court last month rejected an appeal from Kansas that sought to revive the law after the federal appeals court declared it unconstitutional.

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Troubled Kansas Foster Care Agency Gets Boost from Nebraska

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska has agreed to pay millions more to a troubled Kansas-based foster care contractor that was rapidly running out of money after significantly underbidding the company that used to provide child welfare services in the Omaha area. KMTV reports that the total cost of the new 25-month contract with St. Francis Ministries totals more than $147 million. St. Francis won the Nebraska job in 2019 by offering to do it for less than 60% of the bid from PromiseShip, the Omaha-based agency that held the previous contract.   At the time, PromiseShip executives and some state lawmakers questioned how St. Francis could provide care in Douglas and Sarpy Counties for that much less money. As it turned out, they couldn’t.

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KCK Fire Department Seeks Minority Recruits

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas City, Kansas fire department is taking steps to improve recruitment and retention of minority and female candidates. Chief Michael Callahan said in a news release Thursday this year's recruit class did not come close to meeting the department's goals for increasing inclusivity. The department received a $2.3 million grant last year to add 18 firefighters. The initial pool of applicants included 48% more minority or female candidates, but when the candidates were selected, only 32% were minority and none were female. Callahan says the department plans to improve preparation for the physical agility test, restart a trainee program and eliminate past marijuana use as an automatic disqualification.

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Kansas Treatment Clinic Owner Faces Drug Trafficking Charges

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The operator of an Olathe drug treatment clinic has been indicted on federal charges of drug trafficking. Federal prosecutors for western Missouri said in a news release Thursday that 44-year-old Trevor Robinson has been indicted on one count each of possessing methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, fentanyl and ecstasy, with the intent to distribute the drugs. Robinson is listed as the office manager of Nuvista, an an opioid addiction clinic in Olathe. Prosecutors say the case got its start in October when Kansas City police stopped a 2014 Maserati driven by Robinson and found methamphetamine, pills, cocaine, heroin, a digital scale and more than $12,500 in cash.

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Lawrence Police Find Body of Woman Following Tip

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Police in Lawrence have found the body of a woman in her home and are investigating her death as a homicide after police in Topeka contacted the Lawrence department with a tip in the case. Lawrence police say in a news release that Topeka police officials reported they had a man in custody for an unrelated investigation who may have been involved in the killing of a Lawrence woman. Lawrence officers who went to the woman's home on Wednesday found the body of 41-year-old Jennifer Marie Mosby. Police are investigating her death as a homicide, but have not said how she died. Police in Topeka were holding the 43-year-old man as a suspect in Mosby's death.

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Kansas Lawmakers Put Anti-abortion Measure on 2022 Primary Ballot

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican legislators in Kansas have put a proposed anti-abortion amendment to the state constitution on the ballot for the state’s August 2022 primary election. The Senate approved the measure Thursday on a 28-11 vote that gave abortion opponents one more vote than the two-thirds majority they needed. The House approved the measure last week. Approval by a simple majority of voters would change the Kansas Constitution. The measure would overturn a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court decision that found that access to abortion is a “fundamental” right. The measure would not be an abortion ban but would allow lawmakers to enact one if the U.S. Supreme Court allowed it.

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