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Headlines for Tuesday, February 20, 2024

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Emily Fisher

2 Adults Charged with Murder in Connection with Chiefs Parade Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri prosecutors said Tuesday that two men have been charged with murder in last week’s shooting that killed one person and injured 22 others after the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl parade. Both adults are charged with second-degree murder and other charges. They have been hospitalized since the shooting, Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said during a news conference. The new charges come after two juveniles were detained last week on gun-related and resisting arrest charges. Authorities said more charges are possible.

Police have said a dispute among several people led to the shooting, which happened even as 800 police officers patrolled the celebration. The 22 people injured range in age from 8 to 47, according to police Chief Stacey Graves. Lisa Lopez-Galvan, a mother of two and the host of “Taste of Tejano,” was killed.

The shooting was the latest at a sports celebration in the U.S. A shooting wounded several people last year in Denver after the Nuggets’ NBA championship. That led Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas to wonder whether it’s time to rethink championship celebrations, even as he promised last week that the city will continue to celebrate its victories. Next month’s St. Patrick’s Day parade will go on as scheduled, Lucas said.

The Kansas City shooting occurred in a state with few gun regulations and a city that has struggled with gun violence. In 2020, Kansas City was among nine cities chosen by the U.S. Justice Department in an effort to crack down on violent crime. In 2023, the city matched its record with 182 homicides, most of which involved guns.

On Monday, Missouri’s Republican-led House on a bipartisan vote passed a ban on celebratory gunfire in cities following debate that ranged from tearful to angry. A similar measure was passed last year as part of a sweeping crime-related bill, but GOP Gov. Mike Parson vetoed the legislation. He cited issues with other crime provisions in the bill unrelated to celebratory gunfire.


Kansas House Republicans Fail to Override Governor's Veto of Tax Cut Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) – Kansas Republicans on Tuesday failed to override Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s veto of a major tax-cutting package. The Kansas News Service reports that Republicans in the Kansas House fell three votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto and send it to the Senate. Five Republicans voted with Democrats against an override. The package included a number of proposed tax cuts. The most controversial was a single-rate income tax, often called a flat tax. Both parties say tax cuts are a priority because of a healthy budget surplus, but it’s unclear whether they’ll be able to reach a deal. Kelly says she’ll call lawmakers back to Topeka for a special session if they fail to pass tax relief.

(–Additional reporting–)

Republican Dissenters Sink a GOP Tax Plan in Kansas by Upholding the Governor's Veto

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Republican plan to cut taxes in Kansas died Tuesday in the GOP-controlled Legislature when enough members concluded that it would favor wealthy taxpayers too much and upheld the Democratic governor's veto.

The vote in the state House was 81-42, leaving GOP leaders three votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed to override Governor Laura Kelly's veto last month. The plan would have provided nearly $1.6 billion in income, sales and property tax cuts over the next three years.

Republican leaders haven't been able to overcome Kelly's opposition to their plan to move Kansas to a single-rate or “flat” personal income tax from its current three-tier system. The top rate now is 5.7%, and the GOP plan would have made the single rate 5.25%.

The same impasse last year prevented large tax cuts when Kelly and Republican leaders said they wanted them. Surplus revenues are expected to reach $4.5 billion at the end of June, or 17% of the state's current $25 billion budget. Meanwhile, a dozen other states cut taxes last year, according to the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation.

“We can work it out,” the House's top Democrat, Rep. Vic Miller, of Topeka, told his colleagues, referencing a Beatles song. “We have plenty of time to reach a compromise.”

Lawmakers don't wrap up the year's business until early May.

After Tuesday's vote, Kelly called on them to consider her plan without a flat income tax, cutting $1 billion over the next three years. But it's not clear there's room for compromise. GOP leaders have insisted a flat rate must be included in any plan, and Kelly has said she won't accept that.

Kelly warned that the GOP plan would cause budget shortfalls within five years while the bulk of the income tax cuts, in terms of total dollars, went to top earners. Republicans dismissed her projections and said their plan helped everyone.

After Tuesday's vote, the House's top Republicans issued a statement accusing Kelly and her allies of “gamesmanship” and blaming them for the lack of tax relief so far.

“The Democrats' games are played at the expense of real people who need real relief right now,” the House speaker, speaker pro tem and majority leader said in a joint statement.

But Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers and could have overriden Kelly's vetoes if the GOP were fully unified. In the House on Tuesday, five Republicans voted no.

One of them, southeast Kansas Republican Rep. Trevor Jacobs, among the House's most conservative members, said the plan would shift most of the state's income tax burden to the working class, an argument other Republicans dispute.

“Real work needs to be accomplished for the relief of all Kansans, not just a select few,” he told his colleagues.

Even if the House had voted to override Kelly's veto, Republican leaders would have faced a tough vote in the Senate. The state constitution would have allowed the Senate to wait until March 22 to vote — greatly narrowing the window to consider another tax plan if the effort to override failed there.

“While I am neutral on the flat tax, I cannot continue down this path to failure,” said Republican Rep. Randy Garber, a northeast Kansas conservative, explaining his no vote.

Republican leaders had sought to entice Kelly by including provisions she proposed or endorsed. The GOP plan would have eliminated the 2% sales tax on groceries on April 1, cut property taxes for homeowners and made all retirees' Social Security benefits exempt from income taxes.

The GOP plan also would have exempted the first $20,300 of a married couple’s income from state taxes, more if they have children, with the amounts rising with inflation after 2025.

Republicans initially said an additional 310,000 poor and working class Kansas filers would no longer have to pay personal income taxes and took to wearing green buttons saying, “310K." But that figure was a misreading of state data, and the actual figure is about 110,000.

Still, Republicans said, their plan helped the state's poorest residents. House Taxation Committee Adam Smith, a Republican from western Kansas, unsuccessfully urged his colleagues to overlook any flaws by also quoting a legendary rock band, the Rolling Stones.

“You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need,” he said. “Kansans need tax relief.”


Voting Rights Groups Ask Kansas Supreme Court to Block Law They Say Impedes Voter Registration

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) – Voting rights groups are asking the Kansas Supreme Court to block a law that prohibits impersonating an election official. The Kansas News Service reports that the groups say it’s unconstitutional. The law makes it a crime to pretend to be an election official… or cause somebody to believe that you’re one. Voting rights groups say it’s so broad that it effectively bans voter registration drives, because their volunteers are often mistaken for election workers. Bradley Schlozman is an attorney for the state. He told the court the law is intended to reduce fraud. “The focus of the statute is trying to prohibit individuals from confusing voters.” The law is part of a wave of election restrictions Republicans have supported across the country after the 2020 election to combat claims of widespread voter fraud, which remain unproven.


Kansas Lawmakers Consider Grants for Home Daycare Programs

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas lawmakers are considering a new grant program aimed at increasing the amount of home-based daycares. The program would provide grants to agencies that help train and assist home-based child care providers, starting as soon as this summer. Kansas has a significant shortage of child care, and options that are available can cost parents as much as a mortgage payment every month. The proposed grant program has support from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers. They say it would help recruit new providers and retain existing ones. If lawmakers approve the grant program, it would receive about $10 million in annual funding. The state could start distributing grants as soon as this summer. Colton Gibson is a lobbyist with Wonderschool, a company that supports child care businesses and helps parents find child care. "Meeting the demand in a state as vast and diverse as Kansas does require a greater mix of both center-based and family-based providers," he said.


Kansas Legislature Mulls Bill to Allow Chaplains in Public Schools

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Public schools in Kansas would be able to hire chaplains under a measure being considered by state lawmakers. The bill echoes one passed by Texas lawmakers last year. It would allow unlicensed chaplains to volunteer or be hired as school counselors if they get approval from a local school board. Republican Rep. Bill Rhiley of Wellington says chaplains would not espouse a specific religion. He says they would provide much-needed mental health support for students and teachers. “Chaplains will be in schools as a moral compass and a moral spiritual guide.” Opponents say the bill does not require any training or oversight for chaplains working in schools. They say chaplains should not take the place of school counselors and social workers.

Leah Fliter, with the Kansas Association of School Boards, opposes the measure. She says unlicensed chaplains could impose their religious beliefs on kids. “We would not like to see the presence of a chaplain end up substituting for the school mental health professionals that are working in our schools," she said. Since Texas passed a similar law last year, more than a dozen states have floated similar proposals.


Registration Deadline for Kansas Presidential Primary Election Is Tuesday

UNDATED (KNS) – In Kansas, Tuesday, February 20, is the last day to register to vote, or update your registration, before the presidential primary. The Kansas News Service reports that it’s also the last day to apply for an advance voting mail ballot. The presidential primary will assign delegates to candidates, and those delegates will then nominate a presidential candidate at their party’s national convention. Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab says it’s possible that this year the party’s nominees will already be secured by the Kansas presidential primary on March 19th. “It’s always good to go vote if you get a chance to vote, right? But the point of the vote is to do whatever you can to get your person to win. And if your person is no longer even running, I don’t know what you do,” he added. This year, it’s a state-run primary. Voters must be registered as a Republican or Democrat to vote in this primary. Unaffiliated voters can choose to join a party on Election Day and then vote in the presidential primary. Voters can check their registration online at VoterView via the Kansas Secretary of State's office.


Kansas Legislation Would Stop HOA Bans on Rooftop Solar Panels

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A bill in the Kansas legislature would stop homeowners associations from banning rooftop solar panels. The bill comes from state representative Adam Thomas, an Olathe Republican, who has a constituent at odds with an HOA that made him take down solar panels. Missouri passed a similar law in 2022. Malcolm Proudfit runs a solar company in Lawrence and recently testified in favor of the bill. “Dozens and dozens of our customers have been denied the privilege of installing solar on their home due to HOA restrictions," he said. Solar installers say they don’t oppose rules to keep rooftop panels visually subtle. For example, installers can lay panels flush with roofs and hide the wiring. No one testified against the bill.


Kansas Lawmakers Mull Task Force to Develop Book Rating System

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas lawmakers are considering a bill that would create a task force to develop a rating system for books in public school libraries. Republican Representative Adam Thomas proposed the measure. It would require school districts to implement a library rating system by the 2025-26 school year. Opponents say local school boards and librarians handle book challenges. But Thomas says Kansas needs statewide guidelines. “We do want our locals to take action on this. The issue that we’re having is, a lot of the times, parents go to their boards - I’ve gone to mine - and there’s no action taken," he said. The nine-member task force would include one librarian. Texas lawmakers passed a rating system last year in an effort to keep sexually explicit books out of school libraries.


Kansas Awards Foster Care Contracts

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - The Kansas Department for Children and Families has awarded new contracts for agencies that provide foster care services. The existing four contractors - (TFI, KVC Kansas, Cornerstones of Care, and Saint Francis Ministries) - will continue their work, with one exception. In Sedgwick County, EmberHope will replace Saint Francis Ministries as the provider of foster care services. Nearly 6,000 (5,895) children are currently in foster care in Kansas. That's the fewest in 10 years.


KC's Union Station Memorial Continues to Grow

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCUR) - The KC Strong memorial at Union Station in honor of the people injured and killed at last week's shooting continues to grow. Gary and Janeil Egger from Kansas City added flowers to the memorial that also has candles, balloons and posters. They say they were at Wednesday’s rally and the rally last year. Gary says they’re broken hearted. “We were so happy to be able to see the celebration and then this happened and it just devastated us.” Children’s Mercy Hospital says it has discharged everyone admitted there after the attack and all should make a full recovery. University Health says it’s still treating three victims including one in critical condition.

People have been adding candles, balloons and posters to the memorial at Union Station. Janeil Egger and her husband Gary, from Kansas City, dropped flowers at the memorial on Sunday. They were at the Chiefs Super Bowl victory celebration and say they are heart broken at the violence that took place after the event. “It’s devastating what happened, hard to believe it really. Kansas City is such a friendly, sweet, warm city. It’s just, it’s inconsistent with what you might think," Janeil Egger said. Children’s Mercy Hospital says it has discharged everyone admitted there after the attack and all should make a full recovery. University Health says it’s still treating three victims including one who remains in critical condition.


Group of Moms Rally Against Violence in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCUR) - Nearly 200 people gathered across from Union Station over the weekend to bring awareness to gun violence in Kansas City and call for policy changes in the wake of last week's shooting at the Chiefs Super Bowl victory celebration. The shooting left one woman dead and 22 injured, including 11 children. Tara Bennett is a volunteer for Moms Demand Action, the gun safety group that organized the rally. “How many more people have to get shot before they will listen? Does it take a major shooting at an event of national and international importance?," she said. Two juveniles have been charged in the shooting.


Missouri House Votes to Ban Celebratory Gunfire Days After Chiefs' Parade Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's Republican-led House on Monday passed a bill to ban celebratory gunfire in cities less than a week after a deadly shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs' Super Bowl parade left some attending lawmakers hiding in bathrooms. Kansas City police have said the shooting appeared to stem from a dispute between several people and not celebratory gunfire. One woman was killed and 22 people were injured. About half of the injured people were under the age of 16.

But the largely bipartisan-supported bill on celebratory gunfire represents a rare effort to regulate guns in a state with some of the most expansive laws on firearm ownership. Already emotional Republicans and Democrats used Monday's debate on the measure to fight over the best way to address last week's shooting, and gun violence more broadly.

Kansas City Democratic Rep. Patty Lewis spoke through tears as she described hiding in an alcove to avoid being trampled. "What made me most sad was fear that nothing was going to happen," Lewis said, referencing state gun laws. "I've seen it happen over and over."

Republican Rep. Ben Baker spoke against reacting emotionally to the shooting as Democrats shouted at him from across the House floor. "There's always a call for stricter gun laws. It's the almost immediate reaction by many in this body when something happens like this," Baker said. "But the fact is, no law that we could pass in this body would have prevented the terrible tragedy that happened last week." Lawmakers shortly after voted 120-26 to make shooting a firearm within city limits a misdemeanor for the first offense, with exceptions.

The measure was named after 11-year-old Blair Shanahan Lane, who was dancing with a sparkler on July 4, 2011, outside her suburban Kansas City home and was struck in the neck by a stray bullet. Missouri lawmakers had passed Blair's Law last year as part of a sweeping crime-related bill, but GOP Governor Mike Parson vetoed the legislation. He cited issues with other crime provisions in the bill unrelated to celebratory gunfire. GOP Rep. Chad Perkins on Monday slammed some Democrats for voting against the bill last year, highlighting tensions between the two parties on the issue. "I am disgusted at the hypocrisy from the other side," Perkins yelled into a microphone. "It is this side that voted for a gun bill."

Majority Leader Jon Patterson, who lives in a Kansas City suburb, on Monday told reporters that House Republicans are "pretty adamant" in their support for "law abiding citizens' Second Amendment rights." But he said lawmakers should be open to wide-ranging policy solutions in response to the shooting. "What happened last week was tragic," Patterson said. "So, we should be willing to look at gun policy, social policy, mental health policy, public safety and crime policy to address those problems."


Inmate Dies at Lansing Prison

LANSING, Kan. (KPR) - An inmate at the Lansing Correctional Facility (LCF) has died. The Department of Corrections says 28-year-old Kaydin Varland-Hazelton died Saturday. The cause of death is pending the results of an independent autopsy, but a preliminary assessment indicates the death was not related to COVID-19. Varland-Hazelton was serving a seven year sentence for several drug convictions one count of battery in Sedgwick County.


Feds Consider Expanded Passenger Rail Service from KC to OK City

TULSA, Okla. (KOKI) - The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has released a new map that proposes a route connecting Kansas City with Tulsa and Oklahoma City. KOKI TV in Tulsa reports that the route would be an extension of the Heartland Flyer that currently connects Fort Worth, Texas, with Oklahoma City. Right now, the train doesn't go any further than that. The map is only preliminary, but passenger rail advocates say it shows the federal government is open to the idea of expanding Amtrak service.


Nitrates Likely on the Rise in Rural Kansas Drinking Water

LIBERAL, Kan. (KNS) - Water monitoring suggests some small towns in Kansas could see an increase of nitrate in their drinking water, largely due to farming practices. The small town of Satanta in southwest Kansas was recently notified by the state of high nitrate levels in its drinking water. It’s not the first time. The town had the same problem in 2015. Most of the contamination comes from fertilizer used on crops like corn that seeps into the soil. Matthew Kirk, a geology professor at Kansas State University, says that due to unregulated fertilizer use, the chance of seeing more contamination as time goes on is likely. “There's a good chance of that. It's called the nitrate time bomb. I know it's a little bit, it's hyperbolic. But like, this is something that's out there," he said. High nitrate levels can have a serious impact on health. Kansans living in rural communities are usually affected the most.


This summary of area news is curated by KPR news staffers. Our headlines are generally published by 10 am weekdays and are updated through 7 pm. This ad-free news summary is made possible by KPR members. Become one today. And follow KPR News on Twitter.