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Headlines for Friday, April 23, 2021

Kansas Governor Vetoes Measures to Tighten Election Laws

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly has vetoed two Republican-backed election bills, including one that would have limited most individuals to delivering 10 ballots during each election, and required candidates to deliver ballots only from immediate family members. The other would have barred the governor, secretary of state or the courts from changing election rules. The Republican-controlled Legislature approved the bills this month, but did not have the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto. Republican lawmakers pushing the ballot-collection bill say they’re making it less likely that ballots will go missing or get altered, while Democrats counter with cases of voters who don’t have reliable transportation.


Kansas Governor Vetoes Bill to Lower Concealed Carry Age

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly has vetoed a bill that would allow people as young as 18 to carry concealed weapons after Kansas legislators approved the bill by margins that weren’t large enough to override a veto. The legislation would have created a provisional license for those 18 to 21, issued by the state attorney general. Permit holders would have had to complete a background check and undergo gun safety training. Some Republican legislators say 18-year-old Kansans can already carry firearms in the open and those as young as 18 are allowed to serve in the military. Democratic lawmakers argued that those under 21 are less mature and more prone to risk-taking.


Kansas Governor Vetoes Ban for Transgender School Athletes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has vetoed a measure that would have banned transgender athletes from girls' and women's school sports. The Democratic governor's action Thursday thwarted an effort by conservative Republican lawmakers to make Kansas the latest state with a GOP-controlled legislature to enact such a ban, with more than 20 considering it. Kelly's veto was widely expected because she had labeled the bill “regressive” and suggested it would hurt the state's ability to recruit businesses. Conservative Republican lawmakers did not have the two-thirds majorities necessary in both chambers to override a veto when they pushed it to passage earlier this month.


Missouri House Votes to Ban Trans Athletes on Girls Teams

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Transgender girls would be banned from playing on girls' sports teams under a bill advancing in the Missouri House. House lawmakers voted 100-51 on Wednesday to add the proposal to another bill. Republican supporters argued the change is needed to protect girls in sports. They decried the risk of being called bigots, hateful or transphobic for proposing the rule. Democrats at times wept and said the rule change could push transgender children to kill themselves. Missouri’s current public high school sports rules already prohibit transgender girls from competing on girls teams unless they’re undergoing hormone therapy.


Kansas Governor Vetoes GOP-Backed Education Measures

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly has vetoed two Republican-backed education bills. One of the measures the Democratic governor vetoed Thursday would have required high school students to pass a civics test to graduate. The other would have allowed districts to incorporate gun safety courses into their curriculums. The Republican-controlled Legislature approved the bills this month, but not by large enough margins for override attempts to succeed. It wasn’t immediately clear if anyone who opposed either bill initially might back one or both bills in an override attempt, or even if attempts would be made. Some Republicans who opposed the bills agreed with state Board of Education members who said the measures would have infringed upon the board’s constitutional authority to set graduation requirements.


State's Most Populous County Considers Allowing Mask Order to End

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Elected officials in the most populous Kansas county are considering whether to get rid of a mask mandate, as a growing number of communities have done in recent weeks, and health officials aren’t opposing the move. WDAF-TV reports that the issue goes before the Johnson County commission next Thursday, one day before the current mask order is set to expire. The county’s current order includes a goal of vaccinating about 50% of the county’s residents who are 16 and older with at least one dose before lifting the mask mandate. Currently, that number stands at 45%. Other counties that have ditched or weakened mask orders in recent weeks include Sedgwick County in the Wichita area and Shawnee County in the Topeka area.


Supreme Court Reverses Murder Conviction in Wichita Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday reversed the first-degree murder conviction of a Wichita man. Mark Holley III was convicted in the 2017 death of 18-year-old D’Shaun Smith during a botched drug deal. The court said the Sedgwick County District Court should have presented a self-defense argument during jury instructions. Holley argued that he shot Smith after Smith tried to rob him and pointed a gun at him. The court upheld Holley's convictions on child endangerment charges, arising from a separate incident in which Holley robbed a man while the victim's young children were sitting in the backseat of his car. The murder case now goes back to the district court for further proceedings.


Autopsy Indicates Topeka Inmate Died from Natural Causes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says a preliminary autopsy indicated a 35-year-old female inmate at the Topeka Correctional Facility died of natural causes related to heart failure. Jessica Chapman died Monday after she collapsed at a scheduled appointment at the prison's medical clinic. The KBI says Chapman had received medical treatment the previous weekend for chest pains. A corrections department spokeswoman says Chapman's death is not believed to be related to COVID-19. The KBI investigates all deaths of inmates at prisons or jails, unless the person is under the care of a doctor. Chapman was serving time for a drug conviction in Barton County and forgery from Rice County.


Inmate Escapes Kansas Jail, Threatens Officer with 2x4; Still at Large

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are searching for an aggravated robbery suspect who is accused of threatening an officer with a piece of lumber after escaping from a Kansas jail. The Atchison County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post that 20-year-old Taggart Darnell Lee was able to manipulate a door lock and make his way into an unsecured area of the Atchison County Jail around 1:30 am Thursday after staff failed to follow several security procedures. From there he made his way outside, where an officer chased him for several blocks. The post said Lee, who had been in custody since January, got away after picking up the 2x4 foot piece of lumber and using it to threaten the unarmed officer. The post said the sheriff’s office considers Lee dangerous and that he has a history of being armed.


Mushroom Hunters Find Human Skull Southwest of Salina

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The Saline County Sheriff's Department says mushroom hunters in a rural, wooded area in central Kansas found a human skull. The Salina Journal reports that the discovery was made by the two men Tuesday evening about 10 miles southwest of Salina. Sheriff’s deputies secured the area, and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation was expected on the scene Wednesday to collect the skull and search for any additional evidence. Sheriff Roger Soldan says there is no information available to identify the skull, but said it appeared to have been sitting undisturbed for a long time.


Mass Vaccination Clinic Slated to Use J&J Vaccine Canceled

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A mass vaccination clinic that was planned at the stadium where the Kansas City Chiefs play has been canceled due to the suspension of the use of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. KSHB-TV reports that the clinic had been planned for April 29-30. But the Jackson County Health Department said it had to be canceled because Arrowhead Stadium and National Guard were not available to administer a second dose if they were to use the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Use of the J&J vaccine was put on hold last week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said they were investigating reports of rare but potentially dangerous blood clots. Other appointments are still available in both Kansas and Missouri.


Most Kansas Counties Turn Down Vaccine over Past Month

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — About three-quarters of Kansas counties have turned down new shipments of the coronavirus vaccine at least once over the past month as demand slows. State data shows that six counties have rejected allocations for four straight weeks.  Only 24 counties, mostly the larger ones such as Shawnee, Johnson and Sedgwick, haven’t turned down any vaccine shipments. The slowdown is coming even though just 37% of the state’s residents have received at least one vaccine dose, state data shows.


U.S. Drop in Vaccine Demand Has Some Places Turning Down Doses

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Demand for the coronavirus vaccine has fallen off in some places around the United States to the point where some counties are turning down new shipments of doses. More than half of all U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine dose. But administering the shots remains a challenge.  In Iowa, nearly half of its counties have declined new shipments of doses. About three-quarters of Kansas counties have turned down new shipments of the coronavirus vaccine at least once over the past month. And the state of Louisiana turned down new shipments this past week. Said one pharmacist: "I would like to have some on hand, but I don't want them to go out of date because they're just sitting there."

COVID Vaccine Increasingly Available Without Appointments

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas counties are increasingly allowing people to walk in to get a coronavirus vaccine without an appointment as interest wanes. In the Lawrence area, mass vaccination clinics, which had been immunizing almost 700 people per hour at their peak, are coming to an end next week. They'll be replaced next month with five-day-per-week drive-thru clinics that will deliver 200 to 300 vaccinations per day to people without being scheduled in advance. The health department in Johnson County also opened a mass vaccination clinic in Lenexa to walk-ins on Wednesday and Thursday. In the Wichita area, appointments will not be needed starting Monday to get a vaccination at the former downtown library. Wyandotte County also has opened its three clinics to people who don’t have appointments.


Kansas COVID-19 Case Total Surpasses 307,000 as Death Toll Closes in on 5,000

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reports there have been 307,372 cases, including 4,968 deaths related to the virus, since the pandemic began. That's an increase of 489 cases and seven deaths since Wednesday.  Another update is expected Monday.


Missouri Governor Hopes to Pick New Missouri Health Director Quickly

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Governor Mike Parson says he hopes to have a new health director within the next two months. Parson said Thursday that he thought it was in the best interest of his office and Cabinet to part ways with former health director Randall Williams. The governor did not elaborate on on specific reasons but noted that the coronavirus pandemic had created a “stressful environment” and he pushes his Cabinet members hard. The governor's office announced Williams' resignation on Tuesday. He had led the Department of Health and Senior Services since being appointed by former Governor Eric Greitens in 2017.


Kansas Schools Get COVID Stimulus Money

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) — Kansas public schools will get nearly $1.3 billion to address learning losses and other effects of the pandemic. Most of the money will go directly to local school districts. They have to spend it by 2024 and show how the funds will help students make up learning lost during the pandemic. Susan Willis, budget director for Wichita schools, said, "that’s going to be a very big component as we vet through all of these ideas: Can we draw these lines to COVID and our COVID recovery plan?" Districts must seek input from students, teachers and community groups. About $60 million in federal aid is earmarked for special education. Schools can’t use the money to cover part of their existing budgets. State Education Commissioner Randy Watson said, "First the confusion was the pandemic. Now it’s, ‘How will you distribute federal funds and do it appropriately and meet the letter of the law?'’" 


Kansas Officials Revise Shooting Claim in New Year's Day Killing

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in Wichita now say a homicide victim found on a downtown street on New Year's Day had not been shot, but bludgeoned to death in a possible gang initiation. The Wichita Eagle reports that new arrest documents filed by police say a medical examiner found no evidence that 21-year-old Gabriel Campos-Torres has been shot. Instead, his death was ruled the result of blunt force injuries to the torso. Police had issued public statements that Campos-Torres had been shot. But officials say what appeared to be a gunshot wound on the left side of his mouth was a cut that had torn through his cheek. Three people have been charged in Campos-Torres's death.


Indiana Prosecutor: Police Justified in Fatal Shooting During Chase; Wichita Resident Killed

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) — A prosecutor says police were justified in fatally shooting a man during a chase and gun battle in east central Indiana. Delaware County Prosecutor Eric Hoffman said in a report Wednesday that the two officers who shot at 28-year-old Jonathan Levi Allen "unquestionably and without a doubt did so in self-defense and in the defense of others." Allen, a 28-year-old former Muncie resident who was living in Wichita, died March 10, one week after the March 3 shooting in Muncie. Indiana State Police say Allen was shot in the head by a Muncie officer and crashed his SUV into a parked vehicle.


Missouri House Expels Lawmaker Accused of Abusing His Kids

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri House has expelled a lawmaker accused of sexually and physically abusing his children years ago. On Wednesday, the GOP-led House voted almost unanimously to kick out Republican Rick Roeber. His now-adult children testified to House investigators this year that he sexually abused two of them at the ages of 5 and 9. The committee found records that show his children reported the abuse years ago but that prosecutors didn’t file charges. Roeber didn't immediately respond to an Associated Press request for comment. He previously told the committee that he didn't sexually abuse his children.  


Kansas Woman Who Fatally Beat Ex's Dog Gets Probation

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita woman has been sentenced to probation for beating a man's dog to death with a baseball bat, reportedly in a jealous rage. The Wichita Eagle reports that 32-year-old Hilda Noordhoek was sentenced Wednesday to two years' probation. Prosecutors say she broke into the man's home in 2018 by smashing a window, stole a computer and headphones and fatally bludgeoned the man's bulldog with a bat. A witness told police that Noordhoek killed the pet because she was mad that the man — with whom she was romantically involved — was seeing another woman. Noordhoek denied committing the crimes to police, but pleaded no contest in February to burglary, theft and cruelty to animals.


Black Ex-Firefighter Awarded $2.43 Million in Discrimination Case

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A federal jury has found a Black Kansas City firefighter was subjected to racial discrimination then fired in retaliation for his complaints. The Kansas City Star reports that jurors on Thursday ordered the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, to pay Jyan Harris more than $2.43 million for back pay, future pay and compensatory damages. The trial shone a spotlight on systemic racism within the department. Witnesses testified at trial that Black firefighters are frequently moved into one fire station, are often passed over for promotions and are not actively recruited to serve in the racially diverse city.


Kansas City Police Set New Policies to Improve Interactions

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City police department is unveiling several new policies in response to citizen complaints in the aftermath of last summer's racial injustice protests. The department also announced Thursday about 900 of its officers are now equipped with body cameras, which was one of several demands made by community activists. The announcement comes a day after Mayor Quinton Lucas and Police Chief Rick Smith met privately with community activists who had made several demands for police reform since the protests. On Thursday, several civil rights groups who did not attend the meeting sent a letter criticizing Lucas and saying the changes are ineffective and inadequate.


Remains Identified as Sedalia Man Missing Since 2015

SEDALIA, Mo. (AP) — Pettis County authorities say skeletal remains found in 2018 were those of a Sedalia man who has been missing for six years. Pettis County Coroner Robert Smith identified the remains as 39-year-old Timothy Gibson, who was last seen on March 26, 2015, when he was taken to a hospital and then released. The coroner said he was not able to determine a cause of death because of the condition of Gibson's remains but there was no evidence of foul play. A Missouri conservation agent found the remains on October 27, 2018, in a densely wooded area.


Mormon Sex Therapist, Formerly from Kansas, Ousted from Faith for Critiques

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A sex therapist in Utah who has publicly challenged her faith’s policies on sexuality has been kicked out of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Natasha Helfer received a letter Wednesday from a church official, explaining the reasons for her removal from the Salt Lake City-based church. Helfer has been outspoken on sexual issues and supports same-sex marriage. She counsels that masturbation is not a sin and says pornography should not be treated as an addiction. Helfer was disciplined by church leaders in Kansas, where she lived before moving to Utah in 2019.


Missouri House Passes Bill Approving Guns in Churches, Buses

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's GOP-led House has passed a bill that would allow guns in churches and on public transportation. The House voted Monday to send the proposal to the Republican-led Senate. Currently, people need permission to bring firearms into places of religious worship. The bill would allow people with concealed carry permits to bring guns into churches, synagogues and mosques regardless. Another provision in the bill would ensure that gun stores are considered essential businesses. That means the state and cities couldn’t order them closed during emergencies such as the coronavirus pandemic.


Canadian Pacific Attacks Rival Bid for Kansas City Southern

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Canadian Pacific railroad has continued its assault on rival Canadian National’s competing $33.7 billion bid to buy Kansas City Southern railroad in a formal letter to regulators. Canadian Pacific urged the Surface Transportation Board to closely examine Canadian National’s offer to buy Kansas City Southern. It says that deal would hurt rail competition throughout the central United States and destabilize the balance between the industry’s six largest players. Meanwhile, Canadian National maintains that the bid it announced Tuesday is superior to the $25 billion cash and stock deal that Canadian Pacific announced last month.


Kansas Teacher Asks Kids to Be in Wedding on TikTok

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Students squealed with delight when their newly engaged Kansas teacher asked them to be in her wedding in a TikTok video that has more than 10 million views. The Wichita Eagle reports that Alexandra Stamps popped the question to her class of fifth-graders at McLean Science and Technology Magnet Elementary School in Wichita this week as Kina Grannis’s cover of the Elvis Presley ballad “Can’t Help Falling in Love” played in the background. When the camera turns on her junior bridesmaids and groomsmen, they’re cheering and jumping with joy. Some of her 19 students are even sobbing.


Fundraising Underway to Erect Statue Honoring Topeka Mariachi Musician

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — Fundraising is underway in Topeka for a statue recognizing a pioneering mariachi musician.  The late Teresa Cuevas was a founding member of Mariachi Estrella, an all-women mariachi band from Topeka that broke into a male-dominated genre.  But in a video produced for the Kansas Humanities Council, Cuevas said the group didn’t set out to do that.  "We just wanted somebody that played the instruments that we needed. We never said that we wanted all women.  After it was all women, oh, we all got so happy it was all women,” Cuevas said.  She was badly injured during the 1981 skywalk collapse at the Hyatt Regency in Kansas City that killed more than 100 people. Cuevas died in 2013 at the age of 93. Fundraising is underway to build a statue honoring her, which could cost $80,000. It would be the first statue honoring a woman in downtown Topeka.


CONCACAF Avoids Northeast, West Coast for Gold Cup; KCK Gets a Match 

MIAMI (AP) — CONCACAF is avoiding the large population areas of the Northeast and West Coast for the Gold Cup, a championship many top players are likely to skip. The New York area, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., were omitted from the venues, as were Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago. The Confederation of North and Central American and Caribbean Association Football said matches will be played at Arlington, Austin, Houston, Dallas and Frisco in Texas; Glendale, Arizona; Kansas City, Kansas; and Orlando, Florida, in addition to the final on Aug. 1 in Las Vegas, which was previously announced.


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