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Headlines for Tuesday, June 15, 2021

BREAKING: Top Kansas GOP Lawmakers End State of Emergency for COVID

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top Kansas Republicans are ending the state of emergency for the coronavirus pandemic. They refused today (TUE) to consider Democratic Governor Laura Kelly's arguments that an extension is still necessary for vaccinations and some testing for COVID-19. Senate President Ty Masterson announced the cancellation of a meeting of eight legislative leaders set for this (TUE) afternoon. A law enacted in late March required the legislative leaders to sign off on an extension. Masterson's announcement means that the state of emergency would expire by day's end after being in place since March 2020. The Andover Republican other Senate GOP leaders said in a statement that, "It is time for Kansas to return to normal."

(–Related–) 

GOP Ends COVID Emergency in Kansas; Kelly Sees 'Obstruction'

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A top aide to Democratic Governor Laura Kelly says Kansas will struggle more to get residents vaccinated and thousands of families will lose extra food aid. Kelly chief of staff Will Lawrence said Tuesday that those problems will increase because top Republican legislators ended a state of emergency for the coronavirus pandemic. Senate President Ty Masterson announced the cancellation of a Tuesday afternoon meeting of eight legislative leaders. A law enacted in March required top lawmakers to sign off on an extension, and the state of emergency was to expire at the end of the day Tuesday after being in place since March 2020. Masterson said in an issued statement, "it is time for Kansas to return to normal."

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Longtime Sandia Labs Airline Safety Research Center Moving to Wichita State University

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A decades-old program at Sandia National Laboratories that focused on new innovations in airplane inspection will be taking flight elsewhere. The Albuquerque-based weapons research and development facility announced Tuesday that the Federal Aviation Administration Airworthiness Assurance Center will relocate to Wichita State University. The program will be part of the university’s National Institute of Aviation Research. Officials say the move follows structural shifts at both Sandia and the FAA. Sandia Labs has operated the center for the FAA for 30 years. Under the program, researchers worked alongside aircraft manufacturers, industry experts and regulatory agencies to enhance airplane inspection and maintenance systems.

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1 Kansas City Man Killed, 5 Hurt After Small Plane Crashes at Texas Airport

MADISONVILLE, Texas (AP) — Authorities say one person was killed and five others injured when a small airplane crashed at a municipal airport in Texas. The crash happened at about 1 am today (MON) at the airport near Madisonville, about 90 miles north of Houston. Sgt. Justin Ruiz of the Texas Department of Public Safety identified the person killed as the 68-year-old pilot, Apolo Diaz of Kansas City, Missouri. Ruiz said Diaz was trying to land when the single-engine Piper PA-32 struck trees and crashed about 300 yards short of the Madisonville Municipal Airport runway.

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Firefighters: 2 Critically Injured in Wichita Fire

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say two people have been critically injured in an apartment fire. Television station KAKE reports that firefighters were called around 3 am Tuesday to the complex near the Kellogg and Interstate 135 interchange. Arriving firefighters discovered a person trapped in the apartment, and another person had jumped out of the building to escape the flames. Both people were taken to a hospital with critical injuries. Firefighters say a pet cat also died in the fire, but crews were able to rescue another cat and resuscitate a dog found not breathing. Two apartment units were damaged in the fire. Officials are investigating the cause of the blaze.

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Activists Call for 21-Day Cease-Fire to Address Kansas City Violence

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A group of clergy and civil rights activists are pushing for a 21-day cease-fire in an effort to ebb Kansas City's violent crime. Advocates will offer conflict resolution and on-call spiritual counseling for people who are stressed to the point of violence. The 21 days started at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, and the city recorded another homicide at 10 a.m. The Rev. Vernon Howard, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City, said Monday the advocates are trying to take action because residents in the city's most violent areas have been forgotten by local, state and federal political leaders.

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Kansas City Man Charged in Death of Mother of His Children

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities have charged a Kansas City man in the shooting death of the mother of his children. The Jackson County Prosecutor's office said 33-year-old Christopher Spears was charged Monday with second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the death of 32-year-old Andrea Dean. She was found dead in a Kansas City home on Sunday. Prosecutors said Dean's children told police their father shot their mother during an argument. Hours later, Spears turned himself in at a Kansas City fire station and said he had killed the mother of his children. Prosecutors recommended a $250,000 bond.

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2 Teens Shot, 1 Seriously Injured, in Topeka over Weekend

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police say two teens were shot in separate incidents over the weekend in Topeka and that one suffered life-threatening injuries. Police say in a news release that officers called Saturday morning to an area along SE 31st Street found a 13-year-old girl with a gunshot wound. The girl was rushed to a hospital in critical condition. Police say her injury is being investigated as an accidental shooting. Hours earlier around 9:30 p.m. Friday, a 15-year-old boy was shot in one of his arms. Police say he is expected to recover. Police have not released the names of the teens shot and say the shootings aren't related.

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Kansas COVID-19 Case Count Exceeds 316,000; Death Toll Tops 5,100

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported Monday that there have been 316,014 COVID-19 cases in Kansas, including 5,125 virus-related deaths, since the pandemic began. That's an increase of 245 cases and 19 deaths since Friday. Another update is expected Wednesday. 

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Utility's Green Energy Plan Fuels Debate in Kansas, Missouri

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The largest electric company in Kansas expects to make its first big investments in solar energy over the next three years and is looking to produce no net carbon emissions by 2045. The goal was included in a long-term plan outlined by Evergy for regulators in Kansas and Missouri. Some environmentalist groups don’t think Evergy is moving quickly enough on clean energy initiatives. Conversely, other critics worry that the plan could make electricity more expensive and less reliable. Utilities across the U.S. and investors increasingly see green initiatives as good for a company's bottom line. Evergy has about 1 million customers in Kansas and another 600,000 in Missouri.

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Motion Filed to Join Lawsuit over Kansas City Police Funding

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The head of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City wants to represent taxpayers in a lawsuit over proposed police budget spending. Urban League president Gwen Grant said in a statement Monday that the city's current policing structure does not represent the needs of Kansas City citizens, particularly minorities. The Board of Police Commissioners sued Mayor Quinton Lucas, the city council and two other city officials last month after the council approved ordinances to move about $42 million of the police budget to a new fund, which would be targeted for social services and intervention programs. The state-appointed board of commissioners controls the department, including its budget.

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Wichita Police Officer Charged with Child Sex Crime

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A five-year veteran of the Wichita police force is charged with one count of sexual exploitation of a child. The Sedgwick County District Attorney charged Officer Thomas Wallace on Tuesday. Police spokesman Charley Davidson said in a news release that the police learned earlier this year that Wallace was possibly stalking a woman he knew. That allegation stemmed from a Sedgwick County Sheriff's investigation of another Wichita police department employee late last year. That investigation prompted the charges filed Tuesday. Wallace was placed on unpaid leave Tuesday, pending the outcome of the investigation.

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Leavenworth Woman Charged in Stabbing Death of Fiance

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) _ A 39-year-old Leavenworth woman is charged with stabbing her fiance to death. Eva Banks is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 44-year-old Jerrold Rhodes. Police say Rhodes was stabbed to death Saturday at a home the couple shared in Leavenworth. Police Chief Pat Kitchens says investigators believe Rhodes's death was the result of domestic violence. Banks made her first appearance via video in court on Monday. She said she planned to hire an attorney. 

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McCall Plant that Prints National Sewing Patterns to Close

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A plant in Manhattan that prints sewing patterns for most of national sewing pattern companies is closing after more than 50 years. McCall Pattern Company officials announced this week the plant will close by the end of the year. It currently employs 85 workers. A spokeswoman for Design Group, which owns McCall, says the work will be transferred to Neenah, Wisconsin. At its height the plant printed and folded about 200 million patterns a year. That's dropped to 20 million to 30 million today. McCall's printing plant has been based in Manhattan since 1969.

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Plan Would Restore Rail Service to Big Swath of the Midwest

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Proponents of expanding passenger rail service through Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas hope an anticipated influx of federal infrastructure funding will get the the long-discussed route off the ground. The project, which is among 39 new routes that Amtrak has proposed, calls for extending the Heartland Flyer. The train now travels south from Oklahoma City in the morning and returns in the evening, with an afternoon layover in Fort Worth, Texas. With the expansion, one trip would start and end in Newton, Kansas, in the early morning. The expansion also would add two more round trips daily between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth.

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Kansas Public Radio Aims for More Sustaining Members

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - After getting a $216,000 budget cut from the University of Kansas, Kansas Public Radio is hoping to make up the difference by holding a special two-day fund drive later this month. KPR's goal is to increase membership by 300 new or upgrading sustainers. Sustainers are donors who sign up for automatic monthly contributions to the radio station. The recent budget cut from KU is the largest in the 69-year history of the station and represents about 70% of the station's annual funding from the university. The on-air portion of KPR's two-day fund drive begins Thursday, June 24, but fundraising is already underway. KPR supporters have pooled their money to create a $30,000 matching grant when KPR receives 300 new or upgrading sustainers during the month of June. 

(Anyone can pledge anytime to KPR on the station's website: KansasPublicRadio.org.)

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