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Headlines for Friday, March 24, 2023

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K-State Beats Michigan State 98-93 in OT to Advance to Elite Eight

NEW YORK (AP) — Markquis Nowell broke the NCAA Tournament record for assists in a game with 19, his last two on spectacular passes in the final minute of overtime, and Kansas State beat Michigan State 98-93 on Thursday night in a Sweet 16 thriller at Madison Square Garden. Playing in his hometown and fighting through a second-half ankle injury, Nowell found Keyontae Johnson for a reverse alley-oop with 58 seconds left in OT to give the Wildcats (26-9) the lead for good in this back-and-forth East Region semifinal. He then threw an inbound pass to Ismael Massoud, who knocked down a jumper with 15 seconds left for a 96-93 lead. With Michigan State needing a 3 to tie, Nowell stole the ball from the Spartans' Tyson Walker and drove for a clinching layup at the buzzer. The 5-foot-8, Harlem-raised Nowell finished with 20 points and five steals in a signature performance at one of basketball's most famous arenas. Johnson scored 22 points for the Wildcats. A.J. Hoggard led Michigan State (21-13) with 25 points.


Bill Lowering Child Care Regs Passes State Senate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Child care regulations would be lowered in Kansas under a bill that has won Senate approval and created a debate over how best to address a shortage of day care spots without compromising safety.

The 21 to 17 vote Thursday sends the measure, backed by the parents of two young children, to the Kansas House, the Wichita Eagle reports.

The bill would roll back some of the changes put in place under a law named after Lexie Engelman, a 13-month-old child who suffered fatal injuries in a Johnson County day care in 2004. It would decrease training and continuing education requirements from teachers and staff in child care facilities while increasing the child-to-adult maximum ratio requirement for facilities.

“The current system is causing people to seek unregulated care," said Republican Sen. Kristen O’Shea of Topeka.

She and fellow Republican Sen. Chase Blasi of Wichita described their bill as the beginning of an answer in Kansas to a shortage of child care spots.

The state needs more than 85,000 new child care slots to meet existing demand, according to Child Care Aware of Kansas, a chapter of a national organization aimed at promoting quality child care.

But Kelly Davydov, executive director of Child Care Aware of Kansas, said the changes made after Lexie’s Law put Kansas at the top of the nation in terms of child safety.

“It really at that time launched us to the front of the line in terms of quality early care and education,” Davydov said. “Some of the changes in this bill are moving us away from national health and safety standards and best practices.”

Furthermore, Davydov said, the decreased continuing education could put Kansas out of compliance with existing requirements to receive federal child care funding.

Blasi said any issues regarding federal funding could be addressed as the bill works its way through the statehouse. He argued Kansas is more stringent than most other states, and the bill would bring the state’s requirements closer to the national averages.

But Sen. Mary Ware, a Wichita Democrat, called the bill rushed. While it may create more slots, she said it might do so by harming the safety of children and workers.

“It is not child-centered. It isn’t even child care worker-centered,” Ware said.

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, a Democrat, has prioritized child care in her second term and announced a task force earlier this year to study the child care system in Kansas.

Her office said in a statement she would evaluate the legislation if it reaches her desk. Last year the Kansas Department of Health and Environment considered ratio changes similar to what was proposed in the bill. But those regulatory changes were halted after some providers expressed concern.

In a statement Matt Lara, a spokesman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said the agency is currently conducting a comprehensive review of existing regulations.


Kansas House Passes Education Budget, Without Special Ed Funding

TOPEKA (KNS) – The Kansas House approved an education budget plan Thursday that funds public schools without increasing special education spending next year. Democrats had attempted to add nearly $600 million of special needs funding to the bill. But lawmakers voted down the additional spending. Critics argued that a special education funding increase is already included in another bill that lets families use tax dollars to send students to private schools. Democrats say the House needs to make sure the state helps students with special needs. But, Republican Representative Brenda Landwehr says the increased cost would result in lost funding for oter state programs. “Where do we get $600 million?” Landwehr asked. “I’ll tell you where you get it. Foster care and nursing homes.” The bill also includes some policy provisions such as allowing private and home-school students to participate in public school activities, including sports, and letting school districts pay board members. The bill is likely to be vetoed by Democratic Governor Laura Kelly.


Kansas House Approves Investment Restrictions for State Agencies

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The Kansas House has given initial approval for a bill banning state agencies from using investment strategies that focus on social activism. The bill says funds like the state pension plan cannot make investments based on considerations like diversity or environmental causes. The state pension fund oversees about $25 billion in assets. Republican Representative Bob Lewis of Garden City says the state should only focus on getting the best financial return on its investments. “The concern is the investments we were in would be promoting a social policy objective, which is inconsistent with maximizing the return on investment.” Critics argue the bill is an unnecessary political move against progressive causes. The House still needs to take a final vote before sending it to the Senate.


Kansas Senate Committee Votes to Broaden Vaccine Exemptions

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — A bill that would broaden vaccine exemptions in day care, schools and workplaces in Kansas cleared a legislative committee on Friday. The Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee sent the bill to the full Senate. A law enacted in 2021 already allows Kansas workers to refuse the COVID-19 vaccine if it’s against their religious beliefs without question from an employer. The bill passed Friday morning would extend that to all vaccines and added children. For kids, those vaccines would include measles, mumps, tetanus and more. The legislation would take current law further by saying people would merely need to say they have a moral objection, rather than requiring some documentation that a religion they belong to opposes vaccinations.


Kansas House Passes "Born Alive" Abortion Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — The Kansas House has passed legislation requiring doctors to care for infants born alive after an attempted abortion. But, the bill would have limited practical impact because such births are extremely rare and are usually limited to abortions prompted by fetal abnormalities and performed after viability. Abortions that late in a pregnancy are illegal in Kansas. But supporters say it’s important to give all unborn children legal protections. Critics say it could prevent doctors from giving comfort care to infants with no chance of survival. The bill now heads to the Senate.

(–Additional Reporting–)

Kansas Could Soon Approve "Born Alive" Abortion Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas proposal based on the disputed claim that providers leave infants to die after they're born during certain types of abortions is nearing legislative approval, as Republicans pursue limited anti-abortion measures following a decisive statewide vote last year protecting abortion rights.

The Kansas House voted 88-34 on Wednesday to approve a bill declaring that when there's a live birth during an abortion procedure, medical personnel must take the same steps to preserve the newborn’s life as “a reasonably diligent and conscientious” provider would with other live births. The law would apply to any “complete expulsion or extraction” of a fetus from the mother, including labor and delivery abortions during which a doctor induces labor. The measure is similar to a proposed Montana law that voters there rejected in November and laws in 18 states, including Arizona, Florida, Ohio and Texas.

The U.S. Supreme Court declared in June that states can ban abortion, and the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature has long had strong anti-abortion majorities in both chambers. But a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court decision protected abortion rights and in August 2022, voters rejected a proposed change to the state constitution to overturn that decision and give lawmakers the power to greatly restrict or ban abortion.

Supporters of the “born-alive infants protection” bill argued during a House debate Tuesday that the measure would survive a court challenge because it doesn't limit abortion itself. But a few Republicans touched on their moral opposition to abortion as a reason for backing the bill.

“If you truly want to hold effective conversations about the indiscriminate and brutal acts of violence in our society today, we must teach others to hold life as precious and sacred," state Rep. Rebecca Schmoe, a Republican from northeastern Kansas, said during a debate Tuesday before voting for the bill Wednesday.

Abortion providers and abortion rights advocates contend measures like the ones in Kansas and Montana are designed only to give abortion care a false and negative public image. They also argue that current state laws against homicide and child neglect, as well as laws on doctors’ duties, are sufficient to address any real problems.

House passage sent the measure to the Senate, where GOP leaders have also signaled that they see it as a priority.

“I pray for the day where we would stop killing our own children and ask God for forgiveness and mercy,” said southeastern Kansas Rep. Trevor Jacobs, explaining his “yes” vote along with six other GOP conservatives.

Supporters of the bill portrayed it as saving infants born during unsuccessful or botched abortions. But it would apply to cases in which doctors induce labor to deliver a fetus that won't survive outside the womb, often because of a severe medical issue, with the expectation that the newborn will die within minutes or even seconds.

Like the laws in the 18 other states, the Kansas measure would require the hospitalization of infants born during unsuccessful abortions and impose criminal penalties for doctors who don’t try to save them. In Kansas, failing to attempt to save such a newborn would be a felony, punishable by a year's probation for a first-time offender.

“This bill takes away the right of a mother to make her own private medical decisions in the most complicated and heartbreaking of cases,” state Rep. Lindsay Vaughn, a Kansas City-area Democrat, said, explaining her “no” vote Wednesday. “This is a right the overwhelming majority of Kansans voted to protect.”

Like most states, Kansas doesn’t collect data on births during induced abortion procedures.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than 1% of the more than 600,000 abortions a year occur after the 21st week of pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says almost no fetuses are viable before the 23rd week of pregnancy.

Kansas law bans most abortions after the 22nd week of pregnancy, and no abortions after that point have been reported since at least 2016.

Zack Gingrich-Gaylord, a spokesperson for Wichita abortion clinic operator Trust Women, said the facility has never seen an abortion result in a live birth in the nearly 10 years the clinic has been open.

“This is just this fantasy,” Gingrich-Gaylord said. “It’s simply not true that there’s any kind of danger of this happening.”

Not providing this care after unsuccessful abortions was already outlawed under a 2002 U.S. law, but it doesn't contain criminal penalties. The Republican-led U.S. House passed a measure in January to add penalties, but it's not expected to pass the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate.

Opponents also said if the legislation passes, doctors would be forced into futile and expensive attempts to prolong dying infants' lives, and those medical interventions would deny parents opportunities to hold dying babies and to say goodbye. The same argument was made ahead of Montana's vote.

Such laws also don't tell doctors when they are allowed to stop medical interventions for a dying infant, said Hillary-Anne Crosby, who coordinated the campaign against Montana's proposed law. She said doctors would be forced to choose between medically appropriate care in line with a family's wishes and “safe” actions that avoid legal problems.

Supporters of the Kansas bill rejected such arguments.

State Rep. Leah Howell, a Wichita-area Republican who voted for the bill, said she had a baby die in the 20th week of pregnancy.

“Believe me, when this bill came to my attention, the very first thing I checked for was that this law would allow moms to hold their dying babies in their arms and tell them they loved them and to say goodbye,” she said, her voice wavering.


Survivors of Child Sex Abuse Progress in Statute of Limitations Battle

TOPEKA (TCJ) – Survivors of child sexual abuse and their advocates in the Kansas Legislature are closer today to changing the legal statute of limitations for those types of crimes. The Topeka Capital Journal reportsthat the Senate Judiciary Committee heard a new version of the proposal yesterday. Democratic supporters say it represents a compromise with Senate Republicans. The initial bill called for allowing civil claims and criminal charges to be largely unlimited by how much time has passed. The new plan expands the current age limit for filing civil cases from 21 to 31 years of age. An, it completely removes the statute of limitations for cases of sexual violence against children. The committee heard testimony from numerous survivors of sexual abuse as children and many said they were not able to realize what had happened to them and decide to report the abuse for, in some cases, 20 to 30 years or longer. Currently, that’s far beyond the legal time limit for pursuing prosecution. Advocates told the senate committee that Kansas has become safe haven for sexual predators.


Kansas Board of Regents Approves KU Criminal Justice Degree

TOPEKA (KNS) – The Kansas Board of Regents has approved a new criminal justice degree at the University of Kansas, despite concerns about duplicating programs at other state schools. Wichita State University and Fort Hays State University both opposed the move, saying the state doesn’t need another criminal justice program to compete with the programs they already offer. But, the Regents approved the measure and KU’s program will be available online and at the university’s Edwards Campus in Overland Park. University of Kansas Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer says duplication isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “There’s also duplication based on need, and there’s certainly market data to show that there’s a great need and there’s a lot of support for this,” Bichelmeyer said. The Regents approved a new criminal justice program at Kansas State earlier this year. All six of the state’s major universities now offer four-year degrees in criminal justice.


Kansas House Bill Would Create 28th State Park

TOPEKA (KSNT) – A bill that would create a new state park in Kansas is moving closer to Governor Kelly for final approval. The House bill would establish the 28th state park of Kansas in Allen County at the Lehigh Trails. The House passed the measure last week. It was referred to the Senate’s Committee on Commerce for further discussion. KSNT reports that park supporters from Allen County told lawmakers that a new state park at Lehigh Trails would create new traffic for local businesses and growth in the community. The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks also supports the bill.


Kansas Bank Robbery Suspect Dies in Oklahoma Shootout

PERRY, Okla. (AP) — Authorities say a suspect in a Kansas bank robbery died Friday after a shootout with troopers in neighboring Oklahoma. The suspect in the Wellington, Kansas, bank heist fled south on Interstate 35 into Oklahoma where authorities had been alerted to be on the lookout. A pursuit ensued and shot were exchanged. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol said in a news release that the chase ended near the intersection of I-35 and U.S. 412 when the suspect fled on foot. The release said more shots then were exchanged and that the suspect died. The name of the suspect wasn’t immediately released. No troopers were hurt.


US Department of Labor Cites Two KC Area Restaurants for Wage Violations

KANSAS CITY, Mo. —(KMBC) The U.S. Department of Labor is suing he owner of two Kansas City- area Mexican restaurants for alleged violations of the federal minimum wage laws involving overtime pay and record keeping requirements. KMBC reports that Alfonzo Herrera Hernandez owns the El Toro Loco restaurants at Legends in Kansas City, Kansas and in Lenexa. The lawsuit was filed after an investigation by the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The investigators found violations in the way servers were paid, including paying them $2.30 per hour and that servers, kitchen workers, hosts and others were paid for 80 hours each pay period no matter how many hours they actually worked.


Lawrence Man Sentenced to Nine Years for Fatal DUI Crash

LAWRENCE, Kan. (WIBW) – A Lawrence man convicted of killing another in a New Year’s Eve drunk-driving crash has been sentenced to nearly nine years in prison. WIBW reports that 39-year-old Adrian J. Martinez, of Lawrence, has been sentenced for involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence and aggravated battery while under the influence resulting from an incident that happened just after midnight on west 6th Street in Lawrence on January 1, 2022. Police say Martinez was driving west at a high speed when he crossed the center line and hit an eastbound vehicle with three people inside. 20-year-old James Henderson Jr. of Lawrence, died in the crash. Two of the occupants of the other vehicle survived with serious injuries. Martinez faces 38 to 172 months in prison for involuntary manslaughter DUI and 31 to 136 months for aggravated battery DUI.


Haysville Postal Worker Charged with Stealing Gift Cards

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A postal worker in Haysville has been accused of stealing gift cards from the mail. A federal grand jury in Wichita returned an indictment charging 39-year-old Paula Kendall of Haysville with stealing gift cards from the mail as a USPS employee. Kendall was indicted on three counts of theft of mail for allegedly stealing mail between November and December 2022. The U.S. Postal Service is investigating the case.


KBI Arrests Six for Meth Distribution in East Central Kansas

PAOLA, Kan. (AP) – The Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) with officers from Miami and Linn Counties arrested six people Wednesday for distribution of methamphetamine and other charges. A news release from the KBI says agents executed arrest warrants at one residence in rural Osawatomie, and at two residences in La Cygne. During the searches, officers located about 1.5 pounds of methamphetamine and more than $12,000 in cash. Authorities say some of the meth is believed to contain fentanyl. Six suspects were arrested for distribution of a controlled substance, conspiracy, and other charges. The subjects were each booked into the Miami County Jail.


Survey: VA Health Care Workers Need Boost in Pay to Promote Retention

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The Department of Veterans Affairs has seen its job vacancies in Topeka nearly double in a year. A new survey indicates that the Veterans Administration is suffering from a severe staff shortage and recommends increasing pay for health care workers more to boost hiring and retention. The quarterly report from the American Federation of Government Employees and the Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute shows about 300 vacancies for nurses, psychiatrists, social workers and other positions at the VA hospital in Topeka. The survey by the unions published this week showed nearly two-thirds of VA workers are considering quitting. The report found that hiring delays have discouraged potential workers. Union officials say the hiring process might take as long as nine months for a doctor or nurse and, by that time, they have found other jobs. The report calls for Congress to increase collective bargaining rights at the VA, arguing that would boost pay and attract more workers.


Kansas Lawmakers to Discuss Accommodations for Trans Students on School Trips

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Some Kansas parents want school districts to provide separate overnight accommodations for students based on their biological sex. Supporters of a bill that would mandate separate accommodations told lawmakers that the bill was prompted by a situation last year in Eudora. They said a female student was directed to share a bed with a transgender student during a spring break trip. Timothy Graham with the Kansas NEA teachers union says local school boards should work with parents on overnight trip policies. “But other people that have decided to push this law in the Legislature want to use it as a political tool,” Graham said. The proposal comes after Democratic Governor Laura Kelly vetoed a bill banning transgender female athletes from competing against women or girls in school sports.


Kansas Governor Vetoes Bill that Bans Biological Males from Female School Sports

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has vetoed a bill banning biological men from competing in girls' and women's sports in public schools. The veto now sets up a showdown with the Republican-dominated Kansas Legislature. Kelly says she rejected the bill because it would harm the mental health of Kansas students. Republican lawmakers had argued athletes assigned male at birth have a biological advantage when they play on girls’ and women’s teams. The Legislature will now need to garner a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate to override the governor's veto. If lawmakers are successful in overriding the veto, Kansas would join 18 other states with similar laws, including Iowa, Oklahoma and Texas.


Kansas Corn Farmers Worry About Spread of “Tar Spot” Disease

UNDATED (HPM) - Farmers in the Midwest and Great Plains will have to worry this year about a corn disease known as tar spot. The fungal disease has spread from Mexico to several Midwestern states - including Kansas. Tar spot spreads through spores that are carried by the wind and farm equipment. The disease first appeared in the U.S. in Indiana and Illinois in 2015. It attacks leaf tissue and can rapidly cause the plant to die. Rodrigo Onofre, a professor at the department of plant pathology at Kansas State University, says it has the potential to be really destructive. “At this point it's more being aware," he said. "And, as I mentioned, gearing up for tar spot in Kansas, because as soon as we find it, there are ways to manage (it).” Farmers can keep an eye out for tar spot, report any sightings to the local extension agent and manage the disease using fungicides.


K-State's Keyontae Johnson Thriving 2 Years After Collapse

NEW YORK (AP) — Florida Atlantic coach Dusty May had a hard time keeping his emotions in check as he spoke about Kansas State forward Keyontae Johnson.

May's near-tears had nothing to do with preparing his Owls (34-3) to face Johnson and the Wildcats (26-9) in the East Region final on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden with a trip to the Final Four on the line.

Johnson is a special person to May and his family.

As an assistant coach at Florida, May recruited Johnson, met his family and played a major part in getting him to join the Gators. May ended up leaving for the FAU job for the 2018-19 season.

Two year later, Johnson's life changed. During a game against Florida State on Dec. 12, 2020, he collapsed and was rushed to a hospital, where he spent three days in a medically induced coma. He sat out the rest of that season and all of the next, then transferred to Kansas State, where he began playing again this fall and became one of the most important players on a team that reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

The third-seeded Wildcats got there with a 98-93 overtime victory over Michigan State on Thursday night, with Johnson scoring 22 points and getting the go-ahead basket on a reverse dunk after taking an alley-oop pass from Markquis Nowell.

During the game, May said Johnson had noticed his family among the 19,624 fans in the crowd and smiled at them.

“I said, ‘Why wouldn’t he be cherishing every moment with what he’s been through!’” May said. “To come back and play this game on this stage, there’s no other way but embracing and enjoying every single moment. And he’s obviously doing that.”

Johnson said he spoke with at least three doctors when he considered returning to basketball. Two of them said he could play.

"So I just went with what the two doctors said and trusted in God and trusted my faith just with everything," he said Friday after practice. “Just my circle kept me positive and just kept me in an uplifted mood, and it just got me through a lot.”

On the court, Johnson — who's averaging team-highs of 17.4 points and 6.9 rebounds — seems to be having a blast.

“I just always try to keep a positive energy around me, always let the guys see I’m happy,” Johnson said. "I can’t be blessed enough to be here, so just trying to enjoy life, enjoy the moment."

Johnson still had some concerns about his health when he started practicing again last summer. But as he ramped up his work, his stress levels eased and his trust in his doctors grew.

The one person worried at that point was first-year Kansas State coach Jerome Tang, who said Johnson had promised an answer about whether he planned join the Wildcats before the staff took a summer break.

Johnson then took a late visit to Nebraska and didn't decide to attend the school in Manhattan, Kansas, until just before the start of the year.

Johnson said his return serves as motivation for people looking to overcome adversity.

“I don’t really think about it, I just go out there and play,” Johnson said. “Everything happens for a reason, but I’ve just got my faith in God and I know he’s going to lead the way and not fail me.”

Johnson could apply for a medical redshirt that would give him another season at Kansas State, but he could also choose to go to the NBA.

“Basketball was almost taken away from me,” he said, “so I go out there to have fun and show my teammates the love and joy that I have for them.”


Wichita State Hires ORU's Paul Mills to Lead Hoops Program

UNDATED (AP) – Wichita State hired Paul Mills away from Oral Roberts on Wednesday, hoping to turn around its languishing men’s basketball program. The Shockers landed what has been one of the hottest names among mid-major coaches. Mills led the the Golden Eagles to two of the past three NCAA Tournaments. He engineered upsets of Ohio State and Florida as a No. 15 seed in 2021 before going 30-5 this past season and losing to Duke as a No. 5 seed. He replaces Isaac Brown, who was fired after three seasons. The Shockers are trying to position themselves at the forefront of a new-look American Athletic Conference that is poised to lose powerhouse Houston to the Big 12 after this season.


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