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Headlines for Wednesday, January 13, 2021

 

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 today (WED) 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.

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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

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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.

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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. House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., an Olathe Republican, said he has asked for extra security from the Kansas Highway Patrol. A spokesperson for Democratic Governor Laura Kelly said her office is taking all potential threats seriously. The Senate's top leaders were all new to their jobs, and 42 lawmakers were new to their seats.

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Kansas House Dems 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 Rep. 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.

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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 Tuesday in the House and Senate. It 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.

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Kansas Governor to Try Again to Reorganize Social Services

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Governor Laura Kelly plans to try a second time to reorganize Kansas’s social services after the Republican-controlled Legislature blocked the move last year. Kelly announced Monday that she will issue an order next week creating a single Department of Human Services to administer programs for children, families, the disabled and older Kansas residents. Her plan would combine the Department for Children and Families with the Department for Aging and Disability Services. Kelly said a single department would provide “easier access” to services but Republicans have been skeptical. They can prevent a reorganization by voting it down in one chamber. The House blocked Kelly's plan last year.

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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.   

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Kansas Man Ordered to Pay $81,000 in Securities Fraud Case

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has been found guilty of federal securities fraud and sentenced to four years' supervised probation. The office of Kansas attorney general Derek Schmidt says in a news release that 64-year-old Michael Davin, of Olathe, also was ordered Monday to pay more than $81,000 in restitution to a former client. Davin pleaded no contest to a single count back in December. Prosecutors say Davin failed to disclose to the investor that he had prior felony convictions, including two for theft. The securities case was initially filed in October 2018.
 

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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.

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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 Dec. 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.

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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, is bringing elementary students back today (WED).  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.

(-Related-)

Wichita School Board Votes to Let Students Return to In-Person Classes

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) —The largest school district in Kansas voted Monday to let students return to the classroom. Wichita Public Schools closed its doors to all students in early December — not for student safety, but because so many teachers were quarantining that it didn’t have the staff needed for all of its classrooms. The board voted 5 to 2 Monday to bring students back, in part because of the decline in new COVID-19 cases since the November spike. Elementary students will return today (WED) with middle and high school students returning January 25th. Parents who opted to have their students learn remotely can continue that option. Students at other large school districts in Kansas returned to classrooms last week, including schools in Topeka and Olathe. 

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Washburn, Kansas State Universities Start Semester Late Due to COVID-19

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State and Washburn universities will begin the spring semester online as the pandemic rages. The first two weeks will be virtual at Kansas State, but it isn't clear when in-person learning will resume at Washburn. Dr. JuliAnn Mazachek, vice president of academic affairs at Washburn, said in a statement that the decision about classes will be reviewed weekly and that "the university will return to face-to-face classes as soon as possible." Kansas State said in a statement that the goal was to mitigate continued spread of COVID-19.

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Judge Suspends Evictions in Jackson County, Missouri for Two Weeks

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A judge has suspended evictions in Jackson County, Missouri for the next two weeks. Circuit Judge J. Dale Youngs said Monday he was halting evictions until January 24 because the coronavirus pandemic and recent social unrest could endanger the lives of county employees who deal with evictions. The order comes after two Jackson County court deputies shot and injured a man last week during an eviction in Blue Springs. Police said the man aimed at gun at workers serving an eviction notice. KC Tenants, a tenants' rights organization, has repeatedly urged court and government officials to halt evictions to help tenants hurt by the virus and economic downturn. 

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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 Sgt. 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. 

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Kansas City Councilman Calls for Police Chief's Resignation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City Councilman says Police Chief Rick Smith should resign or be fired. On Tuesday, councilman Eric Bunch said Smith should leave office because of his department's use of force against citizens and increasing gun violence in the city. Some civil rights leaders have wanted Smith to resign for years, and the calls grew louder after social unrest demonstrations during the summer. Bunch said Smith is “not doing the job we need him to do.” Police spokesman Capt. David Jackson said Smith does not intend to resign. The city council has no authority over the police department, which is governed by a board appointed by the governor.

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Police Find Large Stash of Stolen Property in Kansas

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — Law enforcement agencies in Kansas and Missouri expect to spend most of the week sorting through stolen property worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Police say officers found hundreds of items at a property in Shawnee — including ATVs, tools, trailers and weapons. The property was found after Lenexa police received a tip during the weekend. On Monday, Kyle Davey, of Shawnee, was charged with two counts of felony theft and two drug charges. The items were stolen from several cities in Johnson County and from Jackson County, Missouri. Investigators have returned items to 11 victims so far.

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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. Michael Simmons Jr. is charged with a misdemeanor count of leaving the scene of the Dec. 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 Maj. Andrew Carver – were charged with one count each of official misconduct and interference, both misdemeanors.

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Southeast Kansas Teacher Pleads Guilty to Molestation of Student

WEBB CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former southwest Missouri junior high teacher has pleaded guilty to third-degree child molestation. Twenty-nine-year-old Nicholas Popejoy, of Arma, Kansas, agreed to a plea agreement Monday. A second count of sexual contact with a student was dropped. Popejoy was a science and math teacher, freshman boys basketball coach and coed track coach at Webb City, Missouri, Junior High School before he was fired in November 2019. A probable cause statement said Popejoy inappropriately touched a boy under the age of 14 on school grounds. A sentencing hearing was scheduled for March 1.

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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.

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Missouri Lake Where 17 Drowned Could Get New Duck Boat Tours

BRANSON, Mo. (AP) — A company says it is planning to bring “unsinkable” amphibious boat tours back to a Missouri lake where 17 people drowned. The owners of Branson Duck Tours say they want to restart the tours on Table Rock Lake in Branson this spring. They say their boats will not resemble the World War II-era amphibious duck boats in use when a boat sank in July 2018 during a storm. The company plans to use Hydra-Terra amphibious vessels, which include foam-filled compartments in the hull for buoyancy. However, Branson spokeswoman Melody Pettit said the city has not received a business license application or heard anything about the proposal from Branson Duck Tours.

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Garden City Police Search for Suspect in Shooting Death

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Garden City police are looking for a suspect after a 39-year-old man was shot and killed. Police say emergency responders found Jose Gonzalez suffering from a head wound and a gunshot about 3 am Monday. He died at a hospital. A preliminary investigation determined that Gonzalez got into an altercation with someone during a small gathering at his home and was shot. The suspect fled before officers arrived.

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Environmentalists Fight Move to Reduce Beetle's Protections

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — An environmental group is challenging a recent U.S. government decision to reclassify a large scavenging beetle as threatened instead of endangered with a lawsuit. The Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity said Tuesday it plans to sue over last fall's move to list the American burying beetle as threatened. It had been considered an endangered species since 1989, and the location of its habitat in Plains states helped create issues for the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Federal officials have said that conservation efforts over the past 30 years have helped the beetle’s population recover. It can now be found in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Massachusetts.

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St. Joseph Officials Worried About Low Missouri River Level

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Flooding has been a consistent concern in the St. Joseph, Missouri area, but this year, leaders of the community have the opposite worry — the unusually low level of the Missouri River. The St. Joseph News-Press reports that Buchanan County commissioners have sent a letter to U.S. Representative Sam Graves raising worries about the river level, which was just about 3 feet on Monday. It was just two years ago that record flooding along the Missouri River swamped parts of northwestern Missouri, southwestern Iowa, northeastern Kansas and southeastern Nebraska. But in recent months, shipments through the St. Joseph Port Authority have been grounded by low water.

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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 bowhunter 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.

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Oklahoma State Upsets No. 6 Kansas 75-70 in Stillwater

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Cade Cunningham scored 18 points, and Oklahoma State held off a late rally to defeat No. 6 Kansas 75-70. Kansas trailed by three in the closing seconds and had possession. Oklahoma State's Bryce Williams stole the ball, drove the length of the floor and and dunked as time expired. The Cowboys blew a 19-point lead in a loss to West Virginia eight days earlier and squandered a 16-point lead in the second half of this one before scoring the game's final eight points. David McCormack scored a season-high 24 points for Kansas.

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