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Headlines for Thursday, February 22, 2024

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Emily Fisher

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.


Republicans Introduce Bills in Kansas Legislature to Place More Restrictions on Abortion

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) – Pregnant women in Kansas would have to get an ultrasound before having an abortion under a bill introduced by Republican lawmakers. The Kansas News Service reports that's one of two abortion restrictions introduced this week. Abortion opponents say an ultrasound can help detect potential safety risks before an abortion. But critics call the bill an extreme attempt to interfere in private medical decisions. Lawmakers can't ban abortion because of protections in the state constitution, but they can still try to restrict the procedure. Another bill would establish a felony offense for coercing someone to obtain an abortion.


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.


Johnson County, Kansas Has Shredded Old Ballots as Required by Law, Despite State Attorney General and Sheriff Demands to Save Them

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The most populous county in Kansas has rejected demands from the local sheriff and the state's attorney general to preserve old ballots and records longer than legally allowed, shredding materials sought for an election fraud investigation that has yet to result in any criminal charges.

Johnson County in the Kansas City area issued a statement Thursday that its election office finished Wednesday destroying ballots and other records from 2019, 2020 and 2021, under the direction of the secretary of state, the top elections official in Kansas. State law directed local election officials to shred such materials by the fall of 2022, but the Johnson County election office held off because of an investigation its local sheriff, Calvin Hayden, launched in the fall of 2021.

Hayden, a Republican, has questioned the integrity of the county’s 2020 elections even though there's been no credible evidence of significant problems and none statewide. In the summer of 2022, he also participated in a conference for a group that promotes a dubious theory that sheriffs have virtually unchecked power in their counties.

Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach sent the county a letter in December, telling it that it should preserve the records, saying that allowing Hayden to complete his investigation would promote public confidence in elections and would be “in the interests of justice.” Kobach, also a Republican, was an early supporter of former President Donald Trump who has for years described election fraud as a serious issue. Kobach also served as secretary of state from 2011 through 2018.

But the county's brief statement said that its election office did the required shredding in the presence of a bipartisan team of observers and “in compliance with Kansas statute.” Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab's office said in a statement that there was no legal barrier to the destruction of the materials.

“All 105 Kansas counties are now in compliance with state law regarding ballot retention and destruction,” the statement said. “Legal compliance has always been a priority for the Secretary of State’s office.”

Schwab also is a Republican but he has strongly defended the integrity of Kansas elections, receiving criticism from lawmakers and others who've embraced baseless election conspiracy theories.

Hayden has said he received scores of tips about potential irregularities starting in the fall of 2021, and his office said in December that the investigation was still ongoing. He did not have an immediate comment Thursday, though his office said he planned to respond.

Kobach's office also did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Hayden is elected independently from the county commission. Under Kansas law, the secretary of state appoints election commissioners in each of the state's four most populous counties, and Schwab appointed Johnson County Election Commissioner Fred Sherman.

Andy Hyland, a spokesperson for the county, said that after December, it had not heard further about the old ballots and records from either Hayden or Kobach.

Kansas law requires election officials to destroy the ballots for local elections after six months unless a result still is being contested. Ballots in state and national elections must be destroyed after 22 months. Under those rules, all ballots for 2020 and 2021 were to be destroyed as of September 2022.

But baseless conspiracy theories have circulated widely among Republicans since the 2020 elections and prompted the GOP-controlled state Legislature to tighten election laws in the name of restoring public confidence.

Trump also continues to falsely claim that he won the 2020 election, and Hayden has said he began to question the previously solidly Republican county’s elections when Trump lost there. The county’s politics have become more Democratic over time — in part because of some suburban voters’ distaste for Trump.

While secretary of state, Kobach served as the vice chairman of a short-lived Trump presidential commission on election fraud. He also championed tough voter ID laws, one of which required new voters to show papers documenting their U.S. citizenship when registering and was struck down by the federal courts.


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.


Bill Would Allow More Choices for Older Foster Care Teens

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (KNS) Kansas teens in foster care may soon be able to choose relatives or close friends to become their custodial parents. The Kansas News Service reports that the Kansas House approved a bill on Thursday that would give foster children over the age of 16 a new option for a permanent home. The bill would allow the teens in Kansas foster care to choose multiple adults to serve as a custodian. And also would require the teen's consent to the arrangement. Older foster children can be placed with foster parents or adopted. But many children end up bouncing around homes and aging out of care without being adopted. Republican Representative Susan Concannon says the change would provide foster children a stronger support system and a better future. “And to become productive members of a much needed workforce and to develop healthy families of their own.” Supporters say Kansas would be the first state to establish this arrangement. The bill now heads to the Kansas Senate.


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.


Naloxone Vending Machines Coming to Kansas, Including Lawrence and Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) – Free naloxone vending machines are being placed across Kansas, including Wichita, to combat the growing number of opioid overdoses. The Kansas News Service reports that the vending machines are one of the latest tools used to distribute the lifesaving medicine that reverses an opioid overdose. Machines were installed in Reno County and downtown Wichita. Residents can access the naloxone by simply inputting their ZIP codes into a keypad. Brian Baier from Blue Cross Blue Shield says in Kansas, nearly 400 people die of an accidental opioid overdose a year. “Behind that statistics, those are, those are sons, daughters, parents, neighbors. We all know somebody who has been afflicted.” Another vending machine is located in Douglas County at the Lawrence Transit Center. More machines are expected in northeast Kansas and Crawford County in the southeast part of the state.


Folk Alliance Conference Comes to Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KPR) - Over the next few days, parts of downtown Kansas City will be filled with the sounds of banjos, guitars and mandolins. The Kansas City based Folk Alliance International is hosting its annual conference at Crown Center. Thousands of musicians and bands are expected to attend. The focus of the 36th annual Folk Conference is to “present, promote and preserve” folk music. That term has expanded over the years to include many diverse sub-genres including blues, bluegrass, Americana, Celtic, zydeco and numerous global music styles. More than 2,000 public and private performances are on the schedule. Organizer Jennifer Roe says the conference offers unique networking opportunities. “Whether it's finding a new agent, or manager, or just collaborating with other artists and, of course, finding folks to put them on a stage," she said.

The conference features panel discussions and a keynote address by Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary. Most of the conference is only for industry professionals but this year, a limited number of tickets are available for the general public. The conference runs through Sunday at Crown Center. Find more information at folk.org.


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.


EPA Approves Year-Round Ethanol Blend Gasoline Sales in 8 Midwestern States

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Drivers in eight Midwestern states will be able to fuel up with a higher blend of ethanol throughout the year under a final rule announced Thursday by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The biofuels industry and farming groups, with support of Midwest governors, sought the end of a summertime ban on sales of gasoline blended with 15% ethanol for years. The higher blend has been prohibited because of concerns it could worsen smog during warm weather.

The move reflects the importance of ethanol to agriculture. The fuel additive consumes roughly 40% of the nation's corn crop, so higher sales of ethanol could mean greater profits for corn farmers.

The rule, which takes effect in April 2025, will apply in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Those states grow the bulk of the U.S. corn crop and are home to much of the nation's ethanol production.

The EPA said it delayed implementation of the new rule because of concerns there wasn't enough supply to meet demand this summer. Ethanol producers welcomed the change but criticized the EPA for that delay.

“While we are pleased to see EPA has finally approved year-round E15 in these eight states, we are extremely disappointed by the agency’s needless decision to delay implementation until 2025,” the Renewable Fuels Association, a trade group, said in a statement. “It’s helpful to finally have some certainty about 2025 and beyond, but what happens this summer?”

Most gasoline sold across the country is blended with 10% ethanol, though 15% blends are becoming increasingly common, especially in the Midwest. E15 summer sales still will not be allowed in most of the country during summer, though agricultural groups are pushing for a nationwide policy change.

The biofuels industry and politicians of both parties have portrayed ethanol as a product that helps farmers, reduces prices at the pump and lessens greenhouse gas releases because the fuel burns more cleanly than straight gasoline. However, environmentalists and others have said increased ethanol production can increase carbon releases because it results in more corn production, leading to increased use of fertilizer and greater releases of nitrate. Synthetic and natural fertilizers also are a leading source of water pollution.

The EPA has approved sales of E15 for cars and trucks manufactured after 2000. Grow Energy, another bioenergy trade association, estimates the higher blend will cost consumers 15 cents a gallon less than 10% ethanol.

Petroleum refiners have opposed the Midwest-specific rules, saying a special blend in one region would increase costs and could lead to tighter fuel supplies.

The American Petroleum Institute, a trade group, said a national standard was needed.

“We are concerned this piecemeal approach could weaken the resiliency of the region’s fuel supply chain," Will Hupman, a vice president at the group said in a statement. "We continue to call on Congress to pass the bipartisan Nationwide Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act, which would bring much needed consistency to the marketplace by allowing for the year-round sale of E15 nationwide, preserving access to E10 and eliminating the need for regional or state-specific waiver petitions.”


Man Taken into Custody After Lawrence Woman Found Stabbed in Tent

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KCTV) - A man has been detained in Lawrence after a woman was found dead with multiple stab wounds in her tent. KCTV reports the Lawrence Police Department says that around 4:20 a.m. on Thursday, law enforcement officials were called with reports of a medical emergency. Officers arrived in the 100 block of Maple, just north of the city’s sanctioned camp area, and found a woman with apparent stab wounds. She was pronounced dead at the scene. The Lawrence Police Department has confirmed the identity of the woman as Crystal White, 51, of Lawrence. Later Thursday morning, police said a person of interest was found in Burcham Park and detained. Investigators continued to speak with witnesses while the person of interest was brought to police headquarters. LKPD says its investigation will continue, and officials do not believe there is an ongoing danger directly related to the crime.


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.”

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


Chiefs Sign Punter Matt Araiza, Who Was Dropped from Lawsuit in December After Alleged Rape

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs are signing punter Matt Araiza, who was dropped from a lawsuit in December that had been filed by a woman who alleged she was raped by San Diego State football players in 2021.

The signing was announced by Araiza's agent, Joe Linta, and confirmed a short while later by the team.

“I am proud and honored to sign a contract with the Chiefs,” Araiza said in a statement. “I am thrilled to be able to continue my NFL career. I want to thank my family, who have been my rock and my many friends who have been unwavering in their support. I am excited to begin the next phase of my career with the Super Bowl champs!”

Araiza earned the nickname the “Punt God” at San Diego State while earning All-America honors during the 2021 season, when his massive kicks helped the Aztecs go a school-best 12-2 his senior season. He was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL draft, but he was released two days after the woman filed her lawsuit.

She alleged that she was 17 and attending an off-campus party in October 2021 when Araiza, then 21, had sex with her in a side yard at an off-campus house. The woman then claimed he brought her to a bedroom, where a group of men took turns raping her, but Araiza has said he never entered the home during the party and left before the alleged rape occurred.

The woman reported the alleged assault to San Diego police the following day, and her lawsuit was filed in August 2022.

Araiza and most of the other players named in the lawsuit claimed that their encounters with her were consensual.

After a month-long investigation, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office said in December it would not file criminal charges. An audio recording was released of a meeting between prosecutors and the woman in which deputy District Attorney Trisha Amador said she concluded, based on a witness statement, that Araiza “wasn’t even at the party anymore” when the alleged rape could have occurred and he wasn’t visible in videos that were recovered.

The woman agreed to dismiss Araiza from the lawsuit, and he agreed to dismiss a defamation countersuit against her.

“Matt has been forced to defend himself for the last 16 months against false accusations and a campaign to ruin his career in the NFL. He will never get this time in his life back,” Araiza's attorneys, Dick Semerdjian and Kristen Bush, said at the time.

Last year, the New York Jets hosted Araiza for a workout at the team’s facility, six days after a San Diego State investigation found no wrongdoing by him in connection with the alleged rape. He did not sign with the team.

Araiza now appears to be getting his long-awaited shot in the NFL with a team coming off back-to-back Super Bowl titles.

Tommy Townsend, a first-team All-Pro in 2022, will be a free agent next month. The Chiefs are hard-pressed for salary cap space, and it appears they have decided they can save money by signing Araiza to replace their punter from the past four years.


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.