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Headlines for Friday, April 9, 2021

GOP Ousts Kansas Senate Leader Charged with DUI from Post

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republicans have ousted a powerful Kansas lawmaker charged with drunken driving from his leadership job. The move against Kansas Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop on Friday followed the release of a document saying he taunted the Highway Patrol trooper who arrested him and called the officer “donut boy.” It was the first time in at least several decades that a Kansas legislative leader’s colleagues pushed him out before the end of his or her term. Suellentrop is a Wichita Republican who had been set to be majority leader through 2024. Republican senators voted 22-4 to remove Suellentrop during a 50-minute meeting that was closed to reporters and the public. Suellentrop will remain in the Senate.

(–Earlier reporting–)

BREAKING, 6:45 PM: Suellentrop Ousted as Kansas Senate Majority Leader 

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) – Kansas Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop has been removed from his leadership position by the other members of the Republican Party in that chamber. A closed-door meeting of the Senate Republicans took place after today's session concluded. Suellentrop, a Wichita Republican, was arrested on charges of evading the police and drunk driving after a high-speed chase on Interstate 70 in Topeka last month. Suellentrop did not resign as Senate Majority Leader, but was removed following the Republican caucus vote. Suellentrop will remain as a state senator, but will no longer hold his leadership position. 

Kansas Senate GOP Leader Charged with DUI Faces Ouster Vote

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republicans will vote on removing a powerful Kansas lawmaker charged with drunken driving from his leadership job. The plans for a vote follows the release of document saying he taunted the Highway Patrol trooper who arrested him and called the officer “donut boy.” The move against Senate Majority Leader and Wichita Republican Gene Suellentrop would be the first time in at least several decades that a legislative leader faced an ouster vote before the end of his or her term. Senate President Ty Masterson committed Friday to an as-yet-unscheduled vote after a freshman GOP senator called for it during a morning caucus.

Records: Kansas Lawmaker's Blood Alcohol Was Twice Legal Limit

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — Legal affidavits say Kansas GOP Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop's blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit when he was arrested while driving the wrong way on a Kansas interstate in March. The affidavits released Thursday also say Suellentrop taunted the Kansas Highway Patrol trooper who arrested him. Suellentrop faces five charges, including driving under the influence and a felony offense of trying to elude law enforcement. The affidavit says that while a blood test was being administered, Suellentrop called the trooper “donut boy” and said he could “take him" in a fight. Suellentrop office said he would issue a statement later Thursday.


Push for "School Choice" Measure Hits Snag in Kansas Senate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A split among Republicans has blocked a proposal from conservative Kansas lawmakers to allow parents of academically struggling students to pay for private schooling with state dollars normally earmarked for public schools. A bill that ties public school funding to the proposal failed on a 20-20 vote in the GOP-controlled Senate. The chamber had voted 19-19 against the measure Thursday night. It would set up education savings accounts for students at risk of failing in public schools. The measure included Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s proposal for $5.2 billion in state aid for public schools. Democrats said the measure could take millions of dollars from public schools for the savings accounts.


Kansas Lawmakers Pass Proposal Targeting "Ballot Harvesting"

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republicans have softened a proposal to make it harder for people and groups to collect and deliver voters’ absentee ballots. But they did not address objections from Democrats before the measure cleared the GOP-controlled Legislature on Thursday. GOP lawmakers said they’re trying to prevent “ballot harvesting” by candidates and special interest groups. Democrats said it would hinder legitimate get-out-the-vote efforts. The bill would make it a misdemeanor for people to deliver more than 10 absentee ballots for others. An earlier version of the bill would have limited people to delivering five ballots and a violation a felony. The votes were 27-11 in the Senate and 80-42 in the House.


Passage of Kansas Bill on Trans Athletes Won't be Veto-Proof

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas conservatives appear likely to push a proposed ban on transgender athletes in girl’s and women’s school sports through the Republican-controlled Legislature. But they don't appear to have enough support to overcome a possible veto by Democratic Governor Laura Kelly. The House approved the bill late Thursday, 76-43. The Senate was expected to follow sometime Friday. Kelly typically does not say what she’ll do with legislation before it reaches her desk, but she has dropped strong hints that she plans to veto such a ban. Supporters of the bill were eight votes short in the House of the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto. 


2 Kansas Police Officers Allege Discrimination in Lawsuit

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Two female police officers allege in a lawsuit that the Overland Park, Kansas, police department discriminated against them when it repeatedly passed over them for promotions in favor of younger, less experienced men. The Kansas City Star reports that Captain Kathleen Morgan and Sergeant Tirsa Otero filed the lawsuit alleging discrimination based on their race, age and gender. Police spokesman Officer John Lace declined to comment on the ongoing lawsuit.


Topeka Police: 1 Pedestrian Dead, Another Critically Injured

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Topeka say two people have been hit by at least one vehicle along Interstate 70, and one of them has died. Police say in a news release that officers were called to the area late Thursday night and found two people in the eastbound lanes of the interstate. Police say one of the victims, 28-year-old Ellen Keo, of Horton, was pronounced dead at the scene. The other victim, 25-year-old Dalton Herwig, of Horton, was taken to an area hospital with life-threatening injuries. Police said Herwig was in serious but stable condition by early Friday afternoon. Police say it appeared several vehicles were involved in the crash. Officials have not said whether the vehicles involved stayed on the scene. Police closed the eastbound lanes of the interstate for several hours.


Bill to Drop Concealed Carry Age Advances in Kansas Senate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has advanced a bill that would lower the legal age to carry concealed firearms in Kansas from 21 to 18. The Republican-controlled Senate on Thursday voted 30-8 for the bill, which would require permit holders to complete a background check and undergo gun safety training. The measure would increase the number of university and college students eligible to carry concealed firearms on campus, but education groups say it wouldn’t change current laws that allow high schools to prohibit guns on school grounds. The bill now goes to the House, which has passed a similar bill this session.


LSU Athletic Official Files Federal Suit Accusing Les Miles of Misconduct

BATON ROUGE, La. - (LJW/AP/KPR) - An associate in the athletics department at Louisiana State University has filed a $50 million federal lawsuit alleging the university discriminated against her after she reported inappropriate sexual conduct and alleged racist remarks by then football coach Les Miles. Miles was the head football coach at LSU and later at the University of Kansas. The Lawrence Journal World reports that the lawsuit, filed by LSU Associate Athletics Director Sharon Lewis, alleges she was denied pay raises and subjected to verbal abuse after she reported Miles to school officials for allegedly engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct involving students. Attorneys for Miles call the allegations (quote) "A work of fiction " and they deny all the charges.  (Read more.)


Ex-Kansas Sheriff's Official Faces Child Porn, Sex Counts

WAKEENEY, Kan. (AP) — A former official with a western Kansas sheriff's office has been arrested on charges of trafficking in child pornography and sex crimes involving children. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says 62-year-old Blaine Dryden, of WaKeeney, was arrested Wednesday on a warrant charging him with aggravated internet trading of child pornography and several counts of sexual exploitation of a child. Investigators say the alleged crimes occurred between November 2019 and last June, while Dryden was a lieutenant with the Ellis County Sheriff's Office. Dryden was placed on administrative leave when the department learned of the investigation, and his employment with the office ended in July. Dryden is being held in the Graham County Jail on $750,000 bond.


KCC Orders Evergy to Refund Charges for Solar Customers

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) —  State regulators in Kansas are ordering electric utility company Evergy to refund customers for a rate it charged them that was later deemed illegal. For nearly 11 months, Evergy charged a special fee to some of its customers who use their own solar panels to produce electricity. The charge was an effort to make sure those customers were paying a fair share of the cost of connecting to the grid. But the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the fee was illegal. Now, state regulators want Evergy to refund solar customers the difference between the illegal rate and what they would have paid under the standard residential rate. There were a few solar customers who saved money using the now illegal rate, but regulators will not require them to pay back the difference to Evergy.


Kansas COVID-19 Case Total Passes 304,000, Including 4,938 Deaths, Since Pandemic Began

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR/AP) - The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reports that there have been 304,236 cases of COVID-19 in the state, including 4,938 deaths, since the start of the pandemic. That's an increase of 469 cases and six deaths since Wednesday. Another update will be released Monday. 


Kansas Expects Thousands Fewer Johnson & Johnson Vaccines

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials say the state is expecting to receive significantly fewer Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines in the coming weeks. The Department of Health and Environment says Kansas expects to receive 5,000 doses next week and 1,700 each of the last two weeks of April. Kansas previously expected to receive 15,800 doses during those weeks. The health department didn't give a reason for the reduction, but Johnson & Johnson had to discard 15 million doses because a batch made at a Baltimore plant didn't meet quality standards. Vaccine supplies from Pfizer and Moderna are expected to remain consistent in coming weeks.


Judge: 2019 Ruling Nullifies Ban on Kansas Abortion Procedure

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP/KPR) — A judge has ruled that a Kansas law banning a second-trimester abortion procedure is “unconstitutional and unenforceable” under a 2019 state Supreme Court ruling protecting abortion rights. Shawnee County District Judge Teresa Watson’s decision Wednesday was the first on abortion from a lower court since the decision from the state’s highest court. But Kansas has been unable to enforce the law since it was enacted in 2015 because of a lawsuit from two abortion providers. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that access to abortion is a “fundamental” right under the state constitution but returned the case to district court for further review of the law. Opponents of the abortion procedure refer to it as a "dismemberment abortion."


Chip Shortage Forces More Production Cuts by General Motors

DETROIT (AP) — The global shortage of semiconductors is forcing General Motors to further cut production at six North American factories as chip supplies seem to be growing tighter. The shutdowns likely will crimp dealer inventory of vehicles made at the plants, but GM says it has managed to keep factories humming that make hot-selling and profitable full-size pickup trucks and SUVs. The chip shortage has already been rippling through various markets since last summer, but it has hit the global auto industry hardest. GM says Thursday that production cuts will take place at its Spring Hill, Tennessee; Ramos Arizpe, Mexico; Ingersoll, Ontario; Kansas City, Kansas, Fairfax; Lansing, Michigan, Delta Township; and Lansing, Michigan, Grand River factories.


Man Who Repeatedly Stabbed Woman He Didn't Know Convicted

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man accused of stabbing a woman he didn't know has been convicted of attempted second-degree murder. A Sedgwick Count jury convicted Wade Dunn Thursday. He stabbed the 28-year-old woman 30 times in September 2019 as she unloaded items from her car. Dunn said he was high on K2 and methamphetamine when he saw the woman as he walked in her neighborhood. The victim survived her injuries. The jury initially convicted Dunn of first-degree attempted murder but told the judge not everyone agreed. After being sent back to deliberate again, the jury returned with the second-degree attempted murder conviction.


Wichita Aerospace Supply Company Files for Bankruptcy

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita aerospace supply company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection following losses it blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic and suspension of Boeing's 737 Max plane. TECT Aerospace filed for the protection on Tuesday, which also covers the company's facilities in Park City, Wellington and Everett, Washington. It does not cover a facility in Nashville, Tennessee. The company said in its filings that it will continue its work during the bankruptcy reorganization and plans to separately sell its Kansas and Washington state operations. Court documents say among its creditors, TECT owes about $18.3 million to Boeing and $4.2 million to Spirit AeroSystems.


No One in Small Southwest Missouri Town Voted on Tuesday

LA RUSSELL, Mo. (AP) — Most local elections in April attract low voter turnout. But the small southwest Missouri town of La Russell set a new low, when not one of the town's 70 residents voted in Tuesday's election. Jasper County Clerk Charlie Davis says his office checked several times to confirm that no ballots were cast. La Russell voters have to travel 7 miles to Sarcoxie to vote. The main issue was whether La Russell should annex itself into the Avilla Fire Protection District. Avila fire officials say they'll provide fire protection for La Russell until the issue can be put on a future ballot.


KPR's daily headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and updated throughout the day. KPR's weekend summary is usually published by 1 pm Saturdays and Sundays.

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