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Headlines for Wednesday, February 21, 2024

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Emily Fisher

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

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR/AP) – Kansas Republicans have failed to override Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s veto of a major tax-cutting package. 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.

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

“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.

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.


One Man Charged in Chiefs Parade Shooting Makes Initial Appearance in Court

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — One of the men charged in a Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl victory celebration shooting that killed one person and injured two dozen others made a first appearance in court. Lyndell Mays, of Raytown, told a judge on Wednesday that he understood the charges against him in the Feb. 14 shooting outside Kansas City’s historic Union Station. Mays recently came off probation for pulling out a gun during a dispute over a basketball game. A statement from Belton police said Mays displayed a handgun during the basketball game dispute at a community center, causing people to run for safety out of the gym. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in February 2022.


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.

Flags have been flying at half-staff all across Kansas in honor of the shooting victims in last week's fatal shooting in downtown Kansas City. On Tuesday, Governor Laura Kelly ordered flags to be lowered to half staff through sunset on Saturday.


Kansas House Passes Bill to Shorten Early In-Person Voting Period

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) – Lawmakers in the Kansas House voted Wednesday to shorten the duration of early in-person voting. The Kansas News Service reports that under current state law, early voting is held until noon the Monday before an election. The bill that passed the House would cease early voting one day sooner, on Sunday. Some county election officials say they struggle to staff early voting the Monday before Election Day. But critics say the change could confuse or disenfranchise voters. The bill requires counties to host early voting the Saturday before an election to make up for lost voting time on Monday. If the bill becomes law, it will take effect at the start of 2025.


Special Education Funding Debate Continues at Kansas Legislature

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) – Public education advocates in Kansas are pushing for more funding for special education. But some lawmakers say the money is already there. The Kansas News Service reports that legislators are considering a bill that would change the way school funding levels are calculated to show more money going to special-ed. Dave Trabert of the conservative Kansas Policy Institute holds the opinion that schools already get enough special-education funding. “All I’m recommending is that the Legislature get credit for all of the SPED funding that they provide,” he said. Opponents say the proposal is an accounting trick that shortchanges schools. A group created by lawmakers to study special education has urged the Legislature to increase funding by $350 million over four years.


State of Kansas Testing New System for Managing Foster Care Cases

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KC Beacon) – Kansas courts are testing a new method of handling foster care cases. This Family Treatment Court has helped more families get back together. The Kansas City Beacon reports that the new court model will have families check in with a judge more often and give caseworkers lower caseloads. The hope is that more communication will mean better outcomes. The court will focus on families with substance use issues or mental health needs. Andrew Brown is the deputy secretary for the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services. He says this court will help state agencies approach more families to provide treatment. “There’s going to be continuity, that the patient is going to be showing up for treatment, they’re not going to have missed appointments and things like that.” The pilot program launches in three rural county courts this September.


Wichita Man Draws 25-Year Prison Sentence in Fentanyl Death

WICHITA, Kan. (KPR) - A Wichita man has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for giving a fentanyl-laced pill to another man, which caused his death. Federal prosecutors say 35-year-old Tyler Ralls pleaded guilty to one count of the distribution of a controlled substance which resulted in death. In July of 2019, Ralls gave 35-year-old Michael Marsalla a pill that Ralls knew was laced with fentanyl. Marsalla later died from the dose. The 25-year sentence is one of the most severe handed down for a fentanyl-related death in Kansas. Prosecutors say it should serve as a warning to others who traffic in fentanyl.


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.


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.


Koch Industries Fertilizer Plant Deal Raises Monopoly Concerns

UNDATED (HPM) – Koch Industries announced late last year a 3.6 billion dollar deal to buy a fertilizer plant in Iowa. Harvest Public Media reports that some agricultural leaders worry that could create a monopoly. The purchase of the Iowa Fertilizer Company is still awaiting federal review before the deal closes. A spokesperson for the USDA says when dominant middlemen control so much of the fertilizer supply chain, producers and consumers “bear the brunt.” Jason Sporrer is a sales manager for a CO-OP that serves western Iowa. He says when the Iowa Fertilizer Company opened in 2017, it brought more competition to the marketplace, but that in his opinion, “...some of that now is going by the wayside.” Democrats in the Iowa statehouse also have questions about the acquisition. They want federal and state regulators to investigate the impact consolidation would have on prices and the 260 employees of the facility.


Former Kansas City Royal Eric Hosmer Retires from Baseball Following a 13-Year Career and a World Series Title

UNDATED (AP) – Eric Hosmer announced his retirement from baseball Wednesday following a 13-year career that included winning four Gold Gloves and helping lead Kansas City to victory in the 2015 World Series.

Hosmer, 34, was released by the Chicago Cubs on May 25 after hitting .234 with two home runs in 31 games. The first baseman decided not to pursue any other playing opportunities.

“You have to be 110% committed and doing what is necessary both physically and mentally to play at the major league level and I reached a point where I wasn’t there anymore,” Hosmer said. “I’m very satisfied with my career. I feel like I accomplished a lot, was around a lot of great people and have a lot of good stories to tell.”

Hosmer will begin telling those stories on air after partnering with former minor league teammate Anthony Seratelli to form MoonBall Media, which is launching a podcast called “Diggin’ Deep.” Hosmer will be one of the show’s hosts.

“Now that the playing days are over, I feel like I have so many fun stories that I want to give back,” Hosmer said.

Kansas City selected Hosmer third overall in the 2008 amateur draft and he made his major league debut three years later. He spent seven seasons with the Royals before signing an eight-year, $144 million contract with San Diego before the 2018 season.

Hosmer played five seasons for the Padres before being traded to Boston in 2022, then finishing up with the Cubs last year. He had a .276 career batting average and 198 home runs.

Hosmer was named the MVP in his lone All-Star Game appearance in 2016.


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.