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Headlines for Thursday, May 27, 2021

 

2021 Kansas Legislative Session Ends with No Veto Overrides

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas lawmakers officially wrapped up their work and adjourned the 2021 session Wednesday without overriding any of the governor's vetoes, but they did ask her to trim back unemployment benefits.  Both chambers of the Kansas Legislature passed a resolution calling on Democratic Governor Laura Kelly to opt-out of the additional $300 per week unemployed Kansans can currently get from the federal government.  The resolution isn’t binding, so Kelly can ignore it. But Republican Senate President Ty Masterson says it sends a signal.  “The intentions were good in the beginning, and the need was there, but we’re at the point where this extra program has become a bit of a perverse incentive to our employment,” he said.  Republicans argue the extra benefits are keeping people from taking open jobs but Democrats say there are other factors to consider like childcare and low wages.  Twenty-three states with Republican Governors, including Missouri, have ended benefits before they were set to expire in September.

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Kansas House Weighs in on Gaza War with Pro-Israel Statement

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Republicans have pushed a resolution through the Kansas House expressing solidarity with Israel on behalf of the state and condemning Hamas militants as "terrorists" after an 11-day war this month in the Gaza Strip.  On Wednesday, the Kansas House voted 83-27 for the resolution, and it is to be sent to Israeli government representatives in the U.S. The measure inspired a brief but intense debate as two of the Legislature's most liberal members argued that it ignored abuses by the Israeli government against Palestinians. Republican lawmakers also intensified pressure on Democratic Governor Laura Kelly to end extra unemployment benefits by passing a resolution through both chambers calling for that action.

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Wichita Democrat is 3rd in Kansas House to Resign This Month

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A state lawmaker from Wichita is giving up her seat and she's the third Democrat in the Kansas House to step down this month. Rep. Elizabeth Bishop told colleagues Wednesday that she wanted to retire and it was her last day in the Legislature. It also was lawmakers’ last day in session for the year. Bishop was first elected to the House in 2016. Democratic state Reps. Brett Parker and Stephanie Day of Overland Park announced earlier this month that they would be stepping down as well. Democrats in Bishop's district will pick a replacement to serve through the 2022 elections.

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National Weather Service Confirms Tornadoes in Nebraska, Kansas

BENKELMAN, Neb. (AP) — The National Weather Service has confirmed strong storms that raked rural areas of southwestern Nebraska and northwestern Kansas spawned at least two tornadoes in mostly uninhabited parts of each state. The service's office in Goodland says the first tornadoes reported Wednesday hit around 3:30 pm in fields north of Benkelman in Nebraska. Two more were reported about an hour later northwest of Herndon, in Kansas. Meteorologist Jesse Lundquist says the service received a report of one homestead near Herndon possibly being damaged by a tornado, but has received no reports of injuries. Lundquist says the storms also dropped large hail and heavy rain in the region.

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Magnitude 4.1 Earthquake Rattles Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas

UNDATED (KPR) - The U.S. Geological Survey reported that shaking from a 4.1 magnitude earthquake was felt roughly 100 miles from the quake's epicenter.  An earthquake struck west of Shattuck, Oklahoma, Tuesday afternoon but the shaking was felt by residents in neighboring Kansas and Texas.  There were no immediate reports of damage in the small town of 1,300, roughly 150 miles northwest of Oklahoma City.  NBC news reports that from 2014 to 2017, Oklahoma had more magnitude 3 and larger quakes than famously earthquake-prone California.  

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Masks No Longer Mandatory on KU's Lawrence, Edwards Campuses

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - The University of Kansas has rescinded its mandatory face mask policies for its Lawrence and Edwards campuses.  Effective immediately, KU officials say masks are now optional – not required – for all individuals on campus.  Exceptions include public transportation and campus healthcare facilities, which will still require masks. Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control issued new recommendations that people who are vaccinated for COVID-19 can resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing. That same day, Governor Laura Kelly adopted the CDC guidance for the state of Kansas and on Wednesday, Douglas County officials followed suit, letting the county health order expire.  Since the pandemic began, KU officials say there had been no known COVID-19 transmissions within the school's classroom or research settings, and no outbreaks stemming from university events.  KU officials say individuals who are not vaccinated are still strongly encouraged to continue wearing masks and to get vaccinated as soon as possible.  For more information about the change in mask policy and other health and safety topics, visit protect.ku.edu.

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UPDATED: Kansas COVID-19 Case Count Approaching 314,000; Death Toll Rises to 5,067

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reported Wednesday that there have been 313,720 COVID-19 cases in Kansas, including 5,067 virus-related deaths, since the pandemic began. That's an increase of 446 cases and nine deaths since Monday.  Another update on case numbers is expected Friday.

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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 percent of Kansans have received at least one dose of the vaccine. That trails the national average of about 50 percent.  Norman says the number of daily vaccinations in Kansas continues to fall.

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Police: Olathe Officer Shoots Man Who Pointed Weapon

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Police in suburban Kansas City say an Olathe officer shot and wounded a man who pointed a gun at another officer. Olathe police say the shooting happened late Wednesday afternoon when officers were sent to check on an unresponsive man inside a parked vehicle. Police say officers checking on the man spotted a gun inside the vehicle and say the man picked it up and pointed it at an officer. Police say an officer then shot the man, and the man fled the scene on foot. He was found a short distance away and arrested, then taken to a hospital for treatment. Police say the man is expected to make a full recovery.

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Nashville-Area Man Killed in Shootout with Kansas Police

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) - Police in Lenexa say a 34-year-old man from Tennessee died in a shootout with police at a hotel.  Police say 34-year-old Darren Dejuan Chandler, who was from the Nashville area, died in the shooting at the Extended Stay America hotel early Tuesday. Police were called after receiving several calls about a man and woman fighting inside a hotel room. Police say officers were trying to contact the people involved when they encountered Chandler, who they said had a gun. Two officers exchanged shots with Chandler, who died at the scene. No officers were injured.

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2 Kansans Arrested After 17 Dogs Removed from Their Home

HARTFORD, Kan. (AP) — Lyon County authorities say two people from Hartford face possible animal cruelty charges after 17 dogs were removed from their home. Lyon County Sheriff's deputies and animal control officers went to the home Wednesday to serve a court order to remove all but five animals from the home. The Hartford Municipal Court order said the animals were a nuisance and part of an unauthorized kennel. Deputies found poor living conditions in the home and removed 17 dogs, 14 of which were a dog-wolf breed. The homeowners, Thomas and Rhonda Staggs, are jailed in Lyon County on unrelated warrants. Guardian of the Wolves animal rescue is caring for the animals.

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Suspect in Salina Mother's Killing Arrested After Standoff

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Law enforcement officers say a suspect in a Salina woman's killing who eluded capture for three months is in custody. Thirty-five-year-old Nelson Gerrod Hull III surrendered to police after a standoff in Salina on Wednesday. He is charged with first-degree murder in the February death of 36-year-old Courtney Ann Hoffman in Salina, who was found shot to death inside a vehicle. Officers determined Wednesday that Hull was at a home in Salina. City, state and federal agents surrounded the home and negotiated with Hull for two-and-a-half hours. He surrendered after chemical agents were used in the house. He is being held in the Saline County Jail.

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Ex-School Resource Officer Sentenced to Life in Prison for Child Sex Crimes

NORTON, Kan. (AP) _ A former school resource officer in Kansas City, Kansas, has been sentenced to life in prison for repeatedly raping and abusing a child younger than 14. The Kansas Attorney General's Office says in a news release that 32-year-old Mark Scheetz was sentenced Tuesday in Norton County District Court after a jury in April found him guilty of two counts of aggravated criminal sodomy with a child younger than 14, two counts of rape, sexual exploitation of a child and intimidating a witness. Scheetz's was sentenced under Jessica's Law, which calls for harsh sentences for people convicted of sex crimes involving young children. He must serve 50 years before he's eligible for parole. 

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2 Fired from Unit that Investigates Police Misconduct

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - Two employees of an independent unit that investigates accusations of excessive police force or misconduct in Wyandotte County have been fired because of comments that were made on an audio recording. The county prosecutor's office says that the remarks "violated the office's code of conduct." The news release issued by prosecutors didn't provide the names of the former employees of the Community Integrity Unit or describe what they said.  The news release only said that the recording was made during working hours and that the prosecutor's office was made aware of it last week.

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Kansas Congressman Wants to Trim Subsidies for Electric Vehicles

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - A Kansas congressman wants to trim back federal subsidies for electric vehicles.  Representative Ron Estes has introduced two bills to cut the incentives.  The Wichita Republican says federal electric vehicle tax credits have too many loopholes and mostly benefit the wealthy.  His first bill would reduce or eliminate the $7,500 federal tax credit for people in states that have their own subsidies. Kansas and Missouri do not have state EV incentives. The second plan would eliminate the credit if the buyer of an EV is the state or federal government.  Estes says the bills are partly a reaction to President Biden’s proposal to spend $174 billion dollars on electric vehicle rebates, tax incentives and charging infrastructure.  Biden’s new plan would likely only provide rebates for less-expensive electric vehicles.  

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Feds Move to Protect Lesser Prairie Chicken; Kansas Senators Object

UNDATED, (KNS) - A federal agency wants to designate the lesser prairie chicken a threatened species in western Kansas. That could make it harder to convert grassland to new farmland.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist Clay Nichols says the proposal would include exceptions that allow crop farmers to continue routine activities on existing farmland, even if those incidentally harm the birds or their habitat.  “We've been having discussions over the past couple of years with different agricultural groups. And we hope those continue, and we'd like to see additional conservation options developed for the species across the range," he said.  Both of the state's Republican U.S. senators, Roger Marshall and Jerry Moran, almost immediately criticized the effort to protect the grouse. They say such a move could hurt farmers, ranchers and the oil and gas industry.  The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will hold two virtual public hearings in the next 60 days before making a final decision about the listing.

(AP version)

U.S. Wildlife Managers Propose Protections for Rare Chicken

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - U.S. wildlife managers are proposing federal protections for the lesser prairie chicken. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday said it will consider public comments and scientific information over the coming months before making a final determination. Once listed as a threatened species, the chicken's habitat spans parts of five states - including a portion of the oil-rich Permian Basin. Environmentalists have been pushing to reinstate protections. Landowners and the oil and gas industry have been working on voluntary conservation programs. Still, federal officials say threats remain. They are proposing to list the northern population as threatened and those in eastern New Mexico and the southern Texas Panhandle as endangered.

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KCK Police: One Man Killed, One Injured in Double Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Police in Kansas City, Kansas, are investigating a double shooting that left one man dead and another man critically injured. Police say the shooting happened Tuesday afternoon in a residential area a couple of blocks north of Silver City Park. Police were called to the area by a person who reported hearing gunshots, and arriving officers found two men outside a home suffering from gunshot wounds. Police say one man died at the scene. The other man was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries, but was later listed in stable condition. Police had not released the names of the men or reported any arrests in the shooting by Wednesday morning. 

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Kansas Man Charged After Neighbor Killed by Stray Bullet

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas City, Kansas, police say a man has been charged in the death of a neighbor who was hit by a stray bullet while standing in his house. James Edward Merrick Jr., is charged with first-degree murder in the March 31 death of 50-year-old Mark Winner. Police say Merrick was involved in a shooting outside Winner's home when a stray bullet went through a window and hit Winner, who died at the seen. Merrick fled but was arrested earlier this month in Topeka. The investigation into the shooting is continuing.

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Topeka Police: Man Fatally Shot in Central Park Neighborhood

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police say officers found a man fatally shot early Thursday morning in the city's Central Park neighborhood. Police say in a news release that the shooting was reported around 4:45 a.m. Thursday. Officers who responded to the area, which includes a mix of businesses and homes, found the man with gunshot wounds and rushed him by ambulance to a local hospital, where he died. The victim was identified as 49-year-old Aaron D. Shepherd, of Topeka. Police did not announce any suspects or arrests in the case.

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Report: EPA Officials Improperly Influenced Dicamba Decision

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — An internal Environmental Protection Agency report says agency officials during the Trump administration in 2018 improperly influenced a decision to re-approve use of dicamba, a herbicide blamed for crop damage in hundreds of lawsuits. The EPA's Office of Inspector General report was released Monday. Dicamba is found in several products and used on tens of millions of acres of soybeans and cotton nationwide. It has been the subject of multiple lawsuits, mostly by farmers whose crops are not dicamba-resistant, but whose land sits next to farms using the weedkiller. The lawsuits claim that wind blows dicamba onto their land, damaging and often killing their crops.

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Remains of Soldier Found in Korea Identified as Oklahoman

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Remains turned over to the United States by North Korea have been identified as those of a soldier from Oklahoma who disappeared during the Korean War. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said Thursday that the remains are those of Army Pfc. Bill Hobbs of South Coffeyville. Hobbs was 20 when he was reported missing in action on Nov. 30, 1950, when his unit was attacked near the Chosin River in North Korea. The remains are among 55 boxes of remains returned in June 2018 and identified using methods like DNA analysis. Burial is scheduled for June 26 in Coffeyville, Kansas.

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Man Gets Prison for Fatally Throwing Man from Truck on I-435

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A Kansas City man has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for intentionally swerving on Interstate 435 and fatally throwing a man from the back of his pickup truck in 2019. The Kansas City Star reports that 22-year-old Skylar Waddell was sentenced Tuesday to 12 years on a manslaughter conviction and three more years for leaving the scene of a crash. Authorities say the incident happened in November 2019, when 48-year-old Steve Norris found Waddell stealing items from Norris' disabled truck on the side of I-435. Police say Norris jumped on the back of Waddell's truck as Waddell sped away, and Waddell reacted by violently swerving and crashing, sending Norris flying into the southbound lanes of the interstate. 

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Four Suspects Arrested After Man Shot to Death in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita police say four people are under arrest after the shooting death of a 22-year-old man. Police Captain Jason Stephens said Jose Covarrubias died after being shot late Monday at an apartment complex. He said investigators learned four suspects met Covarrubias for a drug deal. A fight broke out and one of the suspects fired at the victim. Authorities say 22-year-old Luis Martinez, 18-year-old Nicholas Olmos and 20-year-old Jaylon Pete were booked Tuesday on a possible charge of first-degree murder in commission of a felony. A 16-year-old suspect was also arrested.

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Northwest Kansas Man Sentenced to More than 43 Years in Prison for Murder, Kidnapping

NORTON, Kan. (KPR) - A northwest Kansas man has been sentenced to more than 43 years in prison for convictions of second-degree murder and kidnapping. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says 44-year-old Damien Shields, of Norton, was sentenced Tuesday for second-degree murder and kidnapping in the death of his wife, 38-year-old Lori Shields.  The crimes took place in April 2019 at a residence in Norton County. The day after his wife was killed, police found Damien Shields in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, suffering from a self-inflicted injuries.  Shields pleaded guilty to the charges in February.  

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Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners Considers Lawsuit over Change in Police Funding

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The state-controlled board that oversees Kansas City's police department has voted to initiate legal action over city leaders' decision to change how some of the department's budget gets spent. Minutes posted on the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners website said board members voted Monday in a closed meeting to authorize a potential lawsuit to enforce their authority over the police department. The vote was in response to two ordinances passed last week by the city council that would reallocate about $42 million of the department's budget for social services to help address root causes of the city's violent crime. Opponents charge the change is a roundabout way to "defund" the police department.  

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Winningest Coach in Kansas Retires

OLPE, Kan. (KSNT) - The state's winningest high school girl’s basketball coach will be retiring after 44 years.  KSNT TV reports that Olpe High School girl’s basketball coach Jesse Nelson announced his retirement with four state championships and 951 wins to his credit.  For his part, Nelson credits the students he coached, as well as their parents and assistant coach, Caroline Davis.  Davis was a freshman player on Nelson’s first team as a head coach. She's also retiring this year.  In 2012, with his 732nd win, Nelson became the winningest girl’s basketball coach in Kansas history.  In 2021 the Olpe Eagles girl’s basketball team won the 1A Division state championship with a 25-0 record.

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Pork Group Asks USDA to Support Faster Slaughterhouse Speeds

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A trade group for port producers is asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to appeal a recent federal judge's order that struck down a federal rule allowing pork processing plants to speed up processing. The National Pork Producers Council says that a Minnesota judge's ruling in March ordering a return to slower processing line speeds will cost farmers $80 million in reduced income. Meatpacking worker unions challenged the faster speeds, saying they put workers' health and safety at risk. The pork producers group is asking the USDA to appeal the ruling and seek a stay so six plants now operating at faster speeds may continue under the new rules finalized by former President Donald Trump's administration in 2019.

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Reid: Chiefs QB Mahomes 'Full-Go' During Voluntary Workouts

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has been “full-go” during the first week of voluntary workouts, three months after surgery for turf toe and a full month ahead of the original schedule. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said that Mahomes has been “doing everything” while players worked out in shorts at the team’s facility near Arrowhead Stadium. Players aren’t allowed to wear pads or hit, but the very fact that Mahomes is back on the practice field bodes well for his availability for next month’s mandatory minicamp.

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Kokoska, Goodwin Hit Back-to-Back Homers in K-State Win over Baylor

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Caleb Littlejim hit a three-run homer to cap a seven-run seventh and No. 7 seed Kansas State beat No. 6 seed Baylor 9-4 in the Big 12 Tournament. Kansas State was down 3-0 until Zach Kokoska and Nick Goodwin hit back-to-back home runs in the sixth. They became just the fourth duo in tournament history to accomplish the feat. Kokoska and Goodwin both went 2 for 5 — combining for three RBIs. Carson Seymour (4-4) threw six innings of relief, retiring the final six Baylor batters. Kansas State will play again on Friday. Baylor has been eliminated from the championship.

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Kansas Officially Signs 2 of Top College Hoops Transfers

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas head men's basketball coach Bill Self acknowledged in the aftermath of one of the worst NCAA Tournament losses in program history that the Jayhawks had to get more athletic and more dynamic if they wanted to once again be title contenders. They took a big step toward accomplishing that goal Wednesday. The Jayhawks announced high-scoring Arizona State transfer Remy Martin and versatile Iowa State guard Jalen Coleman-Lands had officially signed their transfer paperwork to join the program.

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