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Headlines for Sunday, May 30, 2021

Plan Would Return Kansas Capitol Prayer Room to Original Spot

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 this 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.


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.


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 Top Republican lawmakers on Friday rescinded the executive order from Democratic Governor Laura Kelly imposing the ban.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.


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 Tribute 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.


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.


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