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Headlines for Thursday, January 14, 2021


Kansas Senate Votes to Extend COVID Emergency, Limit Kelly

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Health care workers are working to speed up the vaccine rollout as the Kansas Senate has given first-round approval to a bill that extends a state of emergency for the pandemic while limiting Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s power to direct the state’s response. The law enacted in June limits Kelly’s ability to close businesses and allows counties to opt out of health orders she issues. The law and a state of emergency that makes it easier for officials to deal with the pandemic are set to expire Jan. 26. The bill would extend both through March 31. A final vote is expected in the Republican-controlled Senate later Thursday. Businesses, nursing homes and medical providers are granted some protections from lawsuits under the law.


Majority of Kansas Congressional Delegation Votes "No" on Impeachment

WASHINGTON, DC. (KNS) - Kansas members of the U-S House of Representatives voted along party lines in the second impeachment of President Trump Wednesday. Republican Representatives Tracey Mann of western Kansas, Jake LaTurner of eastern Kansas and Ron Estes of south-central Kansas voted against impeachment. Democratic Representative Sharice Davids, from the Kansas City area, voted in favor. U-S Senators Roger Marshall and Jerry Moran, both Republicans, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Kansas News Service,


Kansas Expects Protests; Governor Limits Statehouse Access

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Gov. Laura Kelly is restricting access to the Kansas Statehouse over the possibility of an armed protest in the coming week. Her office told state lawmakers Thursday that an event is planned for Sunday, with “other potential gatherings” possible next week. The Democratic governor’s chief of staff sent a memo Thursday to the Republican-controlled Legislature’s top Republican and Democratic leaders announcing that access to the building will be restricted from Friday through Jan. 22. The memo said law enforcement also will have an increased presence at the Statehouse. The House speaker told colleagues in an email that officers will be stationed at each door on the first and second floors.

(– Related –) 

Kansas Officials Increase Capitol Security Ahead of Threats 

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) —State government officials in Topeka are increasing security in the capital in preparation for rumored protests next Wednesday when President-Elect Biden is sworn in as president in Washington. Governor Laura Kelly said during a news conference that officials are keeping an eye on the situation. “We will step up security precautions as necessary," Kelly said.  National law enforcement agencies and experts on extremism have warned that right-wing groups may be planning violent protests at some state capitals. House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., an Olathe Republican, said he has asked for extra security from the Kansas Highway Patrol.  A spokesperson for Governor Laura Kelly said her office is taking all potential threats seriously. 

Talk of More Kansas Statehouse Security Doesn't Dispel Fears

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Assurances from Gov. Laura Kelly and other Kansas officials that Statehouse security is being heightened haven't dispelled concerns that the state isn’t doing enough to prepare for a possible armed protest in the coming days. The Democratic governor and top GOP and Democratic legislative leaders held a private, half-hour virtual security briefing Thursday with the Kansas Highway Patrol and the state Adjutant General’s Department. Legislators who participated have revealed little about the meeting. Sen. Cindy Holscher, an Overland Park Democrat, says she’s frustrated by the lack of information and that if security is being heightened, it's not noticeable.


Governor: Kansas Officials Must 'Set Example' After DC Riot

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly has told fellow Kansas residents that her usual yearly call for bipartisanship is not enough in light of last week’s mob violence in Washington and said the state’s leaders “must commit ourselves to set an example.” Kelly focused much of the annual State of the State address Tuesday night on the COVID-19 pandemic and avoided outlining broad new initiatives outside of promising to push again for Medicaid expansion. The Democratic governor turned near the end of her speech to the failed insurrection last week in which extremist supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol. She said: “This isn’t like any other moment."

You can watch a video of Governor Kelly's address on her YouTube channel or at the Governor's Facebook page


Kansas Lawmakers Open Session Clouded by Coronavirus, DC Violence

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators opened their annual session with new leaders in the Senate, new lawmakers in a quarter of the seats and a top Republican acknowledging that he’s asked for extra security. The House and Senate sessions Monday afternoon were for swearing in members and ratifying Republican lawmakers' selection of each chamber's top leaders. The new Senate president and majority leader are Wichita-area Republicans Ty Masterson and Gene Suellentrop. The new Senate minority leader is Lenexa Democrat Dinah Sykes, a former Republican. Twenty-eight of the House's 125 members are new. Fourteen of 40 senators are new, though seven previously served in the House. The 90-day session began amid the COVID-19 pandemic and under the shadow of last week’s mob violence in Washington. 


Kansas Governor's Budget Includes Proposals GOP Has Rejected

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly has outlined a proposed annual budget that includes a tax increase and two other major initiatives likely to be rejected by the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature. Kelly on Wednesday outlined a $20.9 billion spending plan for the budget year that begins July 1. Among other things, it would protect a previously promised increase in spending on public schools. But the governor also proposed expanding Medicaid and cutting the state's annual contribution to pensions for teachers and government workers, and GOP leaders oppose both ideas. Kelly wants to impose the state sales tax on online music and movies purchases, and Republicans criticized the idea last year.


Kansas Lawmakers Move Quickly on Local Tax 'Transparency'

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are moving quickly to try a different approach in seeking to limit city and county taxes. The Senate voted 34-1 on Thursday for a proposed transparency law that would require local officials to notify their constituents and hold a public hearing if they intend to spend extra dollars raised with property taxes. The bill would repeal what many lawmakers see as an ineffective a lid on city and county property taxes that took effect in 2017. The Republican-controlled Legislature approved a similar transparency bill last year, but Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed it. She said this week she was worried about administrative burdens for local officials.


Kansas House Democrats Move to Oust Member over Issues with Women

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have started the process to oust a newly elected lawmaker over multiple issues that include the 20-year-old’s rhetoric on Twitter and allegations that he harassed and threatened girls and women. House Democrats filed a formal compliant Tuesday about State Representative Aaron Coleman, kicking off a bipartisan investigation culminating in a recommendation and vote on his future in the Legislature. A two-thirds majority in the House would be needed to oust him. Coleman, of Kansas City, Kansas, was elected as a Democrat, but he tweeted Tuesday that he was unaffiliating with the party.


Kansas Abortion Opponents See Mandate from 2020 Elections

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Abortion opponents say elections last year that made the Kansas Legislature more conservative showed that voters support putting a proposed anti-abortion amendment to the state constitution on the ballot next year. Anti-abortion lawmakers introduced separate but identical versions of their proposal in the House and Senate. The measure would overturn a Kansas Supreme Court decision in 2019 that declared access to abortion a “fundamental” right under the state constitution. Abortion opponents failed last year to get the same proposal on the ballot when a few House Republicans resisted having voters decide its fate in the August primary instead of the November general election.


Legislative Hotline Now Open for Kansas Residents

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The State Library of Kansas is reminding Kansans that information about the 2021 Kansas Legislature is only a phone call away.  The number for the Legislative Hotline is (800) 432-3924.  The Hutchinson News reports that calls are answered by state librarians who are experienced with the legislative process.  Frequently asked questions include, "Who is my legislator?" and "What is the status of this bill?"  Reference librarians at the State Library take questions by phone, email and chat. Kansans can leave brief messages for their legislators or request copies of bills and other legislative documents.  In addition to calling the hotline, Kansans can chat with a librarian in real-time through the library’s Ask A Librarian service.  The Legislative Hotline is available weekdays from 8 am to 5 pm.  


U.S. Carries Out 1st Execution of Female Inmate Since 1953

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) — The U.S. government has carried out its first execution of a female inmate in nearly seven decades. Authorities executed a Kansas woman who strangled an expectant mother in Missouri and cut the baby from her womb while the mother was still alive.  Lisa Montgomery was pronounced dead at 1:31 am Wednesday after receiving a lethal injection at the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. Montgomery killed 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett in Skidmore, Missouri. She was the 11th prisoner executed since July, when President Donald Trump resumed federal executions following 17 years without one. President-elect Joe Biden, a death penalty opponent, will be sworn-in next week. A federal judge on Tuesday halted two other executions scheduled for this week after the inmates tested positive for COVID-19.


COVID-19 Caseload in Kansas Tops 250,000; Virus-Related Deaths Over 3,300

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Health reported Wednesday that there have been 252,041 cases of COVID-19, including 3,355 deaths, since the pandemic began. That's an increase of 4,539 cases and 100 deaths since Monday. KDHE will release another update of the statistics on Friday.


Kansas COVID-19 Hospitalizations Fall from Last Month's Peak

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Coronavirus hospitalizations have fallen in Kansas from their high last month. Staffing is under less strain as the shaky vaccine rollout gains momentum. But overall case numbers remain stubbornly high. Kansas Department of Health and Environment data shows that 889 adults were hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases as of Tuesday. That's down 30% from a high of 1,282 on December 2. It was the lowest COVID-19 patient count since early November. The drop is good news for fatigued staff, who had to work overtime while co-workers were infected or quarantined. The situation grew so dire that staff at small hospitals were spending hours on the phone looking for places to transfer their sickest patients.


Slow Return to Normal for Some Kansas Schools, Bars

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Students in Wichita are resuming in-person learning and some bars and restaurants in the Kansas City area are extending their hours as the bumpy COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues. The Wichita district, which is the state’s largest with about 47,000 students, brought elementary students back to class Wednesday.  These young students had been sent home late last year because of a lack of substitutes and rising COVID-19 cases. The district also plans for middle and high school students, who have been remote learning since the start of the academic year, to return later this month in a hybrid mode. Bars and restaurants in Kansas City, Missouri, and its surrounding county will be allowed to stay open a little later. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas announced during a news conference Wednesday that bars and restaurants can now stay open until midnight. The previous curfew, aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, was 10 p.m. The curfew was implemented in November. Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. also announced that establishments in the county can serve food and alcohol until midnight starting Thursday. 


Kansas City Police Have Body Cameras, More Are Coming 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Kansas City police officials say all patrol officers in the city are expected to be equipped with body worn cameras by March. Police spokesman Sergeant Jacob Becchina said Wednesday 340 officers are already using the cameras, and another 475 cameras should be ordered soon. Community leaders have pushed for officers to wear body cameras for years, and the effort grew after social unrest protests last year. The city had delayed buying the cameras because of funding issues. In June, the police department received a $1 million donation from the DeBruce Foundation, with another $1.5 million from other groups to fund a body camera program. 


Kansas Man Sentenced to Prison, Fined $310,000 for Poaching

MEDICINE LODGE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has been sentenced to prison and fined $310,000 for poaching 60 deer over several years. John Blick Jr., of Sharon, pleaded guilty in November to 139 charges after killing deer by using artificial light and hunting from a vehicle. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism said Thursday Blick was sentenced to 14 months in prison. He must pay the state agency $310,000, which is the estimated value of the deer. The 139 charges originated in Barber County. Blick also was charged with 33 misdemeanors in Harper County after the killing of three trophy deer there.


3 Law Enforcement Officers Charged in Hit-and-Run Crash

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas sheriff’s office investigator has been charged in a hit-and-run crash and two other law enforcement officers have been charged with interfering with the investigation. Wyandotte County Prosecutor Mark Dupree announced Wednesday that sheriff’s office Det.ective Michael Simmons Jr. is charged with a misdemeanor count of leaving the scene of the December 13, 2019, crash on Interstate 70 involving a county-owned vehicle. Two others – former Kansas City, Kansas, police detective Sarah Panjada and Wyandotte Sheriff’s Office Major Andrew Carver – were charged with one count each of official misconduct and interference, both misdemeanors.


Recovered Midwestern Bird Soars off Endangered Species List

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Federal officials say a bird called the interior least tern is being dropped from the endangered species list. The small, fish-eating bird lives along rivers, lakes and wetlands in the Great Plains and Lower Mississippi Valley. Its numbers plummeted in the late 19th century as its feathers became popular for women's hats. Later, it was harmed by dam construction and other river engineering. Conservation efforts have boosted the interior least tern's numbers in recent decades. Environmental groups support the decision to remove federal protections. Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma, New Mexico and several other states are all known to have colonies of the bird.


Lawrence Police: Woman Dies After Being Hit by Train 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ Police in Lawrence say a woman has died after being hit by a train late Wednesday night. The incident happened at the BNSF tracks near Second and Indiana streets. Officers and medics were called to the scene by someone reporting that a person had been hit by a train. Arriving officers found a gravely injured woman. Medics attempted life-saving measures, but the woman died at the scene. Her name was not immediately released. 


Wichita Man Sentenced to 225 Years in Prison for Child Abuse

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 61-year-old Wichita man will have to serve up to 225 years in prison for sexually abusing three children of women he knew or dated. Nathan Brazille was sentenced Tuesday for the abuse of three children as young as 6 or 7 between 2016 and 2018. Brazille was convicted on nine counts in September 2019. Sedgwick County District Judge Jeffrey Syrios ordered Brazille to serve nine consecutive life sentences. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said that because the sentences are consecutive, Brazille would not be eligible for parole for 225 years.


Wichita Stabbing Victim Identified, Cousin Arrested

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say the cousin of a man who was stabbed to death has been arrested. Police say 39-year-old Jason Payne was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of first-degree murder. Early Wednesday, police found Payne lying facedown in a street. Payne was treated and released at a hospital. Investigators went to a home connected to Payne and found 34-year-old Michael Montgomery dead. Police spokesman Officer Charley Davidson said Payne and Montgomery had an altercation at the home and Payne stabbed Montgomery. Police did not say why Payne needed medical condition before his arrest.


Man Dies After Being Shot in North Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _  Police say a man has died after being shot in northeast Kansas City. The shooting was reported around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday along Thompson Avenue. Officers who arrived at the scene found evidence of a shooting, but no victims. A short time later, police were contacted by fire officials who said that firefighters had been flagged down nearby by a person reporting a man in her car suffering from a gunshot wound. Firefighters began life-saving measures, but the victim _ later identified as 36-year-old Keith Lars _ died at the scene. Police believe Lars had been shot at the Thompson Avenue scene. No arrests have been reported. 


Kansas City Police: Man Found Dead After Standoff

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Police say a man has been found dead following an hours-long standoff and fire at a Kansas City apartment complex. Police say in a news release that the incident began around 1 a.m. Thursday when a woman called 911 to report an escaped fugitive in her apartment. Police say the man refused to peacefully leave the apartment, telling officers he had a gun. A SWAT team was called in, and police believe the man started a fire inside the apartment. Fire crews worked to extinguish the blaze, and both firefighters and police entered the apartment, where they found the man dead. Police did not immediately release his name. No one else was injured in the standoff or fire. 


Kansas Game Warden Frees Tangled Deer with Single Gunshot

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas game warden is getting attention for a video that shows him firing a single shot from a handgun to disentangle the antlers of two whitetail stags. The Kansas Wildlife, Parks & Tourism agency released the video from the warden's body camera showing his sharpshooting skills. Neither deer was hurt in the effort. The agency says a bow-hunter contacted a game warden about the entangled deer. Two game wardens responded and threw a towel over the animals' heads to get them to freeze. One warden then took careful aim and shooting part of one deer's antler off, freeing the animals.


KPR's daily headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and updated throughout the day. KPR's weekend summary is usually published by 1 pm Saturdays and Sundays.

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