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Headlines for Monday, January 2, 2023

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Drought Emergency Order for Kansas Remains in Place as New Year Begins

TOPEKA, Kan. (Kansas Reflector) - As the New Year begins, the state of Kansas remains under a drought declaration. The Kansas Reflector reports that the order, covering all 105 Kansas counties, was first issued by Governor Laura Kelly in October. The governor's order was based on a drought map that placed 67 counties on emergency status. All other counties were placed under drought watch or warning status. The declaration is in response to severe drought conditions associated with a dry spring, hot summer and below-normal precipitation through the end of December.

The National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska reported drought conditions in the past four weeks had worsened in portions of northwest and western Kansas and improved in eastern Kansas along the border with Missouri.

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Grocery Bills Expected to Fall as Kansas Food Sales Tax Cut Begins

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) - Grocery bills in Kansas should be slightly less going forward. As of January 1, the state sales tax on grocery food dropped from 6.5% to 4%. On a grocery bill of $100, that means the buyer will save about $2.50 in taxes. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that this is the first installment of a gradual reduction that is scheduled to fully eliminate the state portion of the sales tax on January 1, 2025.

Governor Laura Kelly made the tax issue a core part of her re-election campaign and has urged lawmakers to speed up the full elimination of the sales tax on food. "When the Kansas Legislature comes back in January, I will push again for the complete and immediate elimination of the state’s sales tax on groceries," she said. The tax cut includes food from a grocery store, but not restaurant food. Non-food items at the grocery store will still be taxed. Likewise, any local sales taxes will still be in place.

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Lawrence Accident Leaves One Dead, One Injured

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW/KPR) — An early morning, two-vehicle crash in Lawrence left one person dead and another critically injured. The accident happened just before 2:00 am today (MON) at the intersection of 6th and Iowa Streets. The Lawrence Journal World reports that firefighters extricated the critically injured person from a car before transporting the person to Stormont Vail Hospital in Topeka. Lawrence Police tell KPR News that all streets in the area have now reopened.

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Olathe Police Fatally Shoot Man Who Threatened Officers

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Police in Johnson County shot and killed a man who approached them with - what investigators are calling - an “edged weapon.” Officers were called to a domestic disturbance on New Year's Eve at a home in Olathe. As officers arrived, they say a 27-year-old man inside the home pulled out the weapon and moved toward the officers. Authorities say the officers first tried to subdue the man using a stun gun but he continued to advance toward them and threatened them with the weapon. One Olathe officer shot the man, and he died at the scene. No officers were injured. The deceased man's name has not been released. The officer who shot the man has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation.

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KCK Police: Officers Shoot and Kill Man Who Drove Off in Patrol Car

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KMBC) — Police in Kansas City, Kansas, say multiple officers were involved in a shooting that left one man dead Friday morning. KMBC TV reports that authorities have not specified exactly how many officers were involved. Police say they were responding to a call when an officer got out of a police car and approached another vehicle that appeared to be abandoned. A man then approached the running police car, pointed a gun at the officer and drove off in the patrol vehicle. Other law enforcement officers were able to stop the car quickly just a few streets away. But police say the man got out of the patrol car and again pointed a gun at officers. At that point, authorities say multiple law enforcement officers shot and killed the man. No officers were injured. The unidentified man was declared dead at the scene.

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Drug Convictions in Kansas Mean Lifetime Ban on Food Assistance

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas currently bans people convicted of some drug charges from receiving food assistance, but that could soon change. The Kansas
Legislature may consider changing the food stamp program when the session starts this month. Getting two drug felony convictions in Kansas means no food benefits for life. Advocacy groups want that lifetime ban eliminated. They say the ban on food stamps is overly harsh because people convicted of felonies might struggle to find jobs due to their criminal record and denying them food assistance could cause them to
turn back to crime. Advocates pushed to change the state law last year but their attempts failed. There is now some bipartisan support for lifting the ban.

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Kansas Governor Imposes TikTok Ban on State-Issued Devices

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has become one of the first Democratic governors to ban the use of TikTok on state-issued devices. Her action last week to restrict the popular social media app came five days after Congress approved the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill that banned TikTok from most U.S. government-issued devices for employees. Republican governors in at least 15 states have imposed such restrictions. In Louisiana, the state's commissioner of administration, a Republican appointee of Democratic governor John Bel Edwards, imposed restrictions with the governor's approval. Kelly is citing the same concerns that other officials have about security and the privacy of users' data.

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Kansas Section of Keystone Pipeline Back in Service as Oil Spill Clean-Up Continues

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP/WIBW/KPR) — The Kansas section of the Keystone Pipeline is back in service, even as clean-up operations continue in Washington County, where a massive spill dumped 14,000 barrels of crude oil into a creek. The owners of the pipeline, Canada-based T.C. Energy, says it had completed repairs, inspections and testing the pipeline. The 2,700-mile Keystone system carries heavy crude oil from western Canada to the Gulf Coast and to central Illinois. The spill occurred December 7 in a rural area of north-central Kansas.

Meanwhile, the extreme cold in late December slowed oil recovery operations at the site of the spill. A spokesperson for the Environmental Protection Agency confirmed that the extreme cold affected some of the clean-up equipment. TC Energy claims nearly 730,000 gallons of oil-water mixture has been recovered so far. The EPA says it will continue to oversee and monitor the clean-up operations.

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Feds Levy $30,000 Fine Tied to Kris Kobach's 2020 U.S. Senate Bid

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Incoming Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach has agreed to help pay a $30,000 penalty to resolve a Federal Election Commission complaint. The FEC says that it had approved an agreement with Kobach, and the group "We Build the Wall" that raises money for a privately built wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The agreement resolves a complaint over Kobach’s use of funds from the group for his unsuccessful 2020 run for the U.S. Senate. The FEC says the money amounts to an illegal campaign contribution from the group.

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Escaped Federal Fugitive Who Led Missouri Drug Ring Located in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KC Star) - A Kansas City man who escaped custody after being found guilty of money laundering and drug charges has been arrested. The Kansas City Star reports that Trevor Sparks had been on the run since December 7th. In November, he was convicted in federal court of leading a criminal conspiracy tied to two murders, multiple assaults, and the distribution of methamphetamine. He was apprehended on Friday. Prosecutors say Sparks led a multi-million dollar drug trafficking ring, spreading meth across Kansas City, Springfield, St. Joseph and St. Louis.

Authorities say the mother of Trevor Sparks, 54-year-old Dawn Branstietter, of Blue Springs, Missouri, has been charged with helping her son escape from the jail in Cass County, Missouri. Meanwhile, another inmate who also escaped from the Cass County Jail, 43-year-old Sergio Perez Martinez, of Panorama City, Californina, remains at large.

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Topeka Zoo Accepting Used Christmas Trees

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – Wondering what to do with this year’s Christmas tree? The Topeka Zoo will be happy to take it off of your hands. WIBW reports that the many of the zoo’s animals love to play with the decaying trees before they are mulched and put to use by the zoo’s grounds keepers. The zoo will accept any live trees through January 8. They can be dropped off at the zoo’s back gate on Munn Memorial Drive.

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Lawrence Transit to Offer Free Bus Fares in 2023

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) —Good news for people who ride the bus in Lawrence. It's now free. The Lawrence Journal World reports that the city has started a year-long pilot program making it free to ride city buses in all of 2023. The free ride program includes regular fixed-route bus service as well as the city’s paratransit service. An increase in federal transit funding is making the Fare Free Pilot Program possible. The volume of Lawrence transit riders declined significantly during the height of the pandemic and city leaders say ridership has not fully recovered. Fare free programs in other cities have resulted in ridership increases of between 20% and 60%. The Lawrence Transit system is funded by local sales tax revenue and state and federal funds with fare revenue accounting for only about 6% of operating costs. The program will be re-evaluated in Fall 2023 to determine the feasibility of extending the free ridership program.

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Public Meetings Planned for Proposed Wind Farm in Douglas County

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW/KPR) —Douglas County residents will have the opportunity to comment on a proposed revision to Douglas County’s existing regulations for wind farms. The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission is hosting a public meeting about those regulations this month. The Lawrence Journal World reports that the Planning Commission recently reviewed a draft of the amended
regulations. The public meeting planned for January 12 will be the first of six opportunities for the public to comment on the proposed changes. A Florida-based company, NextEra Energy, is proposing the construction of a 2,000 acre solar panel installation that would span southern Douglas and Johnson Counties. The wind farm would be the largest in Kansas, generating 320 megawatts of electrical power. A draft of the revised regulations is available on the city’s website and residents are encouraged to submit comments regarding the draft language.

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Kansas City Beats Denver, Improves to 13-3

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KPR) - It was another close game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos but by the end of the game Sunday, the Chiefs prevailed 27-24. The game at Arrowhead Stadium featured four lead changes but Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and KC cornerback L’Jarius Sneed made sure Kansas City wouldn’t lose this division rivarly. Mahomes passed for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, while Sneed came up with an interception to help give the Chiefs a sweep of the annual two-game series. The Chiefs improved to 13-3, their fifth such record in franchise history.

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Sugar Bowl Leaves Sour Taste for K-State Fans

NEW ORLEANS, La. (KPR) - Kansas State wrapped up its football season at the Sugar Bowl over the weekend in New Orleans and saw its early hopes of winning the game quickly vanish in the 45-20 loss against 5th-ranked Alabama. The Wildcats grabbed an early 10-0 lead, but the Crimson Tide rallied and led 21-10 at halftime Saturday. K-State tried to get back in the game with an onside kick to open the second half, but Alabama recovered and the game slipped further away. Afterwards, Wildcats coach Chris Klieman said he stood by his strategy. "We came here to win, man, we didn’t come here to try to keep this thing close. We came here to win and that was, we thought, the best opportunity," he said. The Wildcats finished the season with a 10-4 record.

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These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre, and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays, 11 am weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR members. Become one today. And follow KPR News on Twitter.