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Headlines for Friday, November 12, 2021

 

Kansas Legislature to Have Special Session on COVID Mandates

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican lawmakers have succeeded in forcing a Thanksgiving-week special session of the Kansas Legislature to consider financially protecting workers who refuse to comply with federal vaccine mandates. GOP legislative leaders announced that all Republicans in both the House and the Senate have signed a petition demanding a special session starting November 22. Governors call special sessions, but the Kansas Constitution requires them to do it if two-thirds of both chambers demand it — and the GOP holds more than enough seats. There are GOP proposals to make it easier for workers to claim religious exemptions to vaccine mandates and to provide unemployment benefits to employees fired for not getting inoculated.

(–Related–) 

GOP Proposals on COVID Mandates Worry Kansas Business Groups

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Influential Kansas business groups have strong misgivings about Republican proposals aimed at financially protecting workers who refuse COVID-19 inoculations. A joint legislative committee had hearings Friday on a proposal to make it easier for workers to claim religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and another to provide unemployment benefits to workers who are fired for refusing to get vaccinated. Both are a response to federal mandates. Both drew opposition from the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business. Their lobbyists said businesses shouldn't have to choose between complying with federal mandates or state rules. Anti-mandate activists think the measures aren't strong enough.

GOP Wants Kansas to Move Against Vaccine Mandates This Month

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican lawmakers in Kansas are pushing to enact new state laws before Thanksgiving to protect workers financially if they refuse to comply with federal mandates to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Top GOP leaders called Tuesday for lawmakers to have a special session to consider proposals making it easier for workers to claim religious exemptions from vaccine mandates and providing unemployment benefits to workers who are fired for refusing to get inoculated. Both proposals emerged from a legislative committee meeting Tuesday and are a response to vaccine mandates announced in September by President Joe Biden. Lawmakers can force a special session if two-thirds of them sign a petition.

Kansas Joins States Challenging Biden's Vaccine Mandate for Health Workers

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A coalition of 10 states has filed a lawsuit challenging a new rule by President Joe Biden's administration requiring millions of health care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The suit filed Wednesday in a Missouri federal court follows similar ones filed by Republican-led states against Biden's vaccine requirements for federal contractors and businesses with more than 100 employees. The latest suit contends the vaccine requirement issued by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid is unprecedented, unreasonably broad and infringes on states' rights. Biden's administration has said its rules supersede state policies and are necessary. Joining the lawsuit were the attorneys general of Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

(–Earlier Reporting–)

Kansas Lawmakers Closer to Special Session on COVID Mandates

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Support is growing among Republicans to call the GOP-controlled Kansas Legislature into a special session before Thanksgiving to enact new laws for protecting workers who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Senate President Ty Masterson said Tuesday that he wants lawmakers to reconvene Nov. 22 to consider proposals he outlined to make it easier for workers to claim religious exemptions from vaccine mandates and to give workers unemployment benefits if they’re fired for refusing to get inoculated. The measures are a response to mandates from President Joe Biden. Masterson and other GOP leaders had been wary of pushing for lawmakers to reconvene before they're set to meet again in January.

GOP Leader Pushing to Protect Kansas Workers Refusing Shots

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A top Republican lawmaker is pushing to protect the ability of Kansas workers to claim religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccine mandates and to provide unemployment benefits if they won’t get inoculated. Senate President Ty Masterson outlined his proposals Tuesday during a meeting of a joint legislative committee looking for ways for Kansas to resist COVID-19 vaccine mandates imposed by President Joe Biden. The committee was expected to take up Masterson’s proposals. Masterson told reporters during a break in the committee’s meeting that he’s more seriously considering having lawmakers call themselves into special session to consider such proposals. The full GOP-controlled Legislature isn’t scheduled to reconvene until January.

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New Forecast Boosts Kansas Tax Revenue Projections by $1.3 Billion

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new Kansas fiscal forecast predicts that state government will be awash in cash more than enough to allow big tax cuts that Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and Republican legislators already planned to pursue. The new forecast increased the projection for the state’s total tax collections by $1.3 billion for the current 2022 budget year that began July 1. The new projection of $8.9 billion is 17.1% higher than the $7.6 billion predicted previously. The forecasters also predicted a 3.2% increase in tax collections for the 2023 budget year. Kelly wants to eliminate the state sales tax on groceries and Republicans like that idea and cutting income taxes as well.

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Wichita State Lab to Begin Charging for COVID Tests

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) —A lab at Wichita State University is one of several that will soon start charging for COVID-19 tests.  Pandemic relief funding that has bankrolled COVID-19 tests at several labs in Kansas is ending at the end of this month (NOV) and that means labs will have to pass on the costs to local businesses and organizations. The tests cost between $75 and $100 each and the lab at WSU has averaged 6,000 tests per week. Funding from the state department of health let local businesses and organizations get employees tested there at no cost but that money is running out and the cost for keeping the Wichita State lab running at the same level would be nearly a half a million dollars each week. Sedgwick County Commissioner Jim Howell said he’s frustrated the money is running out as the pandemic drags on. “I don't understand why there's any shortfall for testing for COVID. That to me, of all the things we do priority-wise, that's top of the list,”  Howell said. The lab at WSU has processed more than 250,000 COVID tests since opening last fall. COVID testing will continue to be free for schools because funding is still available for that service.

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No COVID Test for Kansas Governor After Lawmaker Is Positive

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has dropped plans to take a rapid COVID-19 test even though a lawmaker who attended one of her public events tested positive. Kelly’s office issued a statement Wednesday afternoon saying that she received medical advice that a test wasn’t necessary because she wasn’t showing any symptoms and had not been in close contact with the infected lawmaker. Kelly spokesperson Sam Coleman had said earlier that the governor had decided to get tested upon learning that the lawmaker had tested positive after attending a Kelly news conference Monday at a north Topeka grocery. Kelly announced a proposal for eliminating the state’s sales tax on food

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Wichita School District to Help Vaccinate Students

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ The largest school district in Kansas plans to open a COVID-19 immunization site after the vaccine was approved for kids aged 5-11.  Wichita district spokeswoman Susan Arensman said the school system hasn't administered any shots yet to the 5-11 group and won't be going school-by-school with vaccines. Instead, the district will set up a vaccination station at district headquarters that will serve the school community, including students, parents and unvaccinated employees. The Wichita Eagle reports that, earlier in the pandemic, the district developed COVID vaccination capabilities to immunize teachers and staff

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Kansas District Resumes Checkouts After Book Challenge

GODDARD, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas school district has agreed to resume allowing its libraries to check out books that a parent had challenged. The Goddard district wrote in an email that school principals and librarians made the decision during a meeting Wednesday. The Wichita Eagle reports that the email encouraged parents to ``contact them directly if they have questions about the books being challenged nationally.''  Issues had arisen when one parent in the Goddard district objected to language he found offensive in ``The Hate U Give,'' a novel about the aftermath of a police officer killing a Black teenager.  The parent then submitted a list of 28 other books he questioned, and district officials agreed last week to halt checkouts and complete a review.

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Kansas School District to Give Overwhelmed Staff 2 Days Off

LANSING, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas school district is giving overwhelmed staff some extra time off heading into Thanksgiving break by using two of the extra days it had built into its schedule in case it had to close because of snow. WDAF-TV reports that the Lansing board of education’s decision to give staff November 22 and 23 off as wellness days was based on the recommendation of Superintendent Dan Wessel. He said that staff has been “presented with an overwhelming amount of responsibility this school year amid the ongoing pandemic." The school district said that if the school district reaches the maximum number of snow days it will make them up before the end of the year.

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2 Men Charged with Native American Art Exhibit Theft

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Two University of Kansas students have been charged with stealing part of a Native American art exhibit that also was vandalized while displayed outside a campus museum. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Samuel McKnight and John Wichlenski were charged Wednesday in Douglas County District Court with theft of property of a value of at least $1,500 but less than $25,000. The exhibit, titled “Native Hosts,” by artist Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds, is installed outside the Spencer Museum of Art. One of the pieces went missing in late September, several weeks after four pieces were vandalized.

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Woman Sentenced to Life in 2012 Killing After Rejecting Plea Deal

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) _ A Kansas City, Missouri woman who rejected a plea deal that would have freed her if she admitted that she killed her husband in 2012 has been sentenced to life in prison. The Kansas City Star reports that Clay County Judge Shane Alexander sentenced Viola Bowman on Wednesday for first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the fatal shooting of 53-year-old Albert ``Rusty'' Bowman. She was convicted by a jury in September. Viola Bowman has steadfastly maintained her innocence, and in court Wednesday she again denied killing her husband.  An appeal is planned. She was accused of shooting her husband in the couple's home to collect a life insurance policy and then making it look like there had been a break-in.

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Imprisoned Lottery Computer Tech Seeks to Overturn Sentence

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A man who is serving a 25-year prison sentence for rigging computers to win lottery jackpots for himself, friends and family is suing Iowa, claiming he was pressured four years ago to plead guilty to crimes he did not commit. Eddie Tipton filed documents starting the lawsuit from prison in January 2020. He wants the court to halt all restitution he's been ordered to pay until a trial is held. A lawyer from the Iowa attorney general's office asked a judge to dismiss Tipton’s lawsuit as frivolous. Tipton in 2017 accepted a plea agreement and was ordered to repay $2 million in ill-gotten winnings from lotteries in Colorado, Wisconsin, Kansas and Oklahoma.

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Hearing Concludes for Missouri Inmate in 1978 Triple Murder

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The fate of a Kansas City man who has been in prison for more than 40 years for a triple murder many people believe he didn't commit is now up to a judge. An evidentiary hearing ended late Wednesday in the case of Kevin Strickland, who has been in prison since 1979. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said during closing arguments that Strickland was guilty of hanging out with people who committed the murders, but her review of the case convinced her a terrible mistake was made.  Attorneys for the Missouri attorney general's office said suggestions that the only survivor of the shooting recanted her identification of Strickland as the shooter were hearsay.

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Kansas City Police Officer's Shooting Trial Goes to Judge

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The fate of a white Kansas City police detective charged in the fatal shooting of a Black man is now in the hands of a judge. Closing arguments were held Friday in the involuntary manslaughter trial of Eric DeValkenaere. Prosecutors said DeValkenaere violated the rights of Cameron Lamb when he shot him in December 2019 as Lamb sat in a pickup truck in his backyard. They say two detectives who saw Lamb speeding followed him into his yard and shot him and suggested that police might have planted evidence. Attorneys for DeValkenaere argued that he fired because he believed Lamb was pointing a gun at another detective.

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Police in Southwest Missouri Fatally Shoot Man After Park Ranger Wounded

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) _ Authorities say police fatally shot a man after he wounded a park ranger outside a Springfield book store. Springfield police Lt. Mark Foos said the park ranger was transported to a hospital, where he was listed in stable condition after Thursday's shooting. Foos said the Springfield officers were wearing body cameras, and detectives would be looking into whether any surveillance footage from nearby businesses would be helpful in the investigation. 

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19-Year-Old to Graduate from Washburn's School of Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A 19-year-old is getting ready to graduate from Washburn University's School of Law in Topeka. The Hutchinson News reports that Braxton Moral's parents have long known he was gifted. He skipped fourth grade and then took his first undergraduate class at Harvard University while still in sixth grade. As he got older, he spent his summers at Cambridge.  But when the school year started he switched to online classes so he wouldn't miss out on experiences like prom and homecoming at Ulysses High School. Next month, Braxton Moral will receive his juris doctor degree. In February, he will take the bar exam.

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Former US Defender Besler Retires After 13 Years in MLS

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Former U.S. men’s national team defender Matt Besler announced his retirement Wednesday after 13 seasons in Major League Soccer. Besler was a five-time MLS All-Star. The 34-year-old spent most of his career with Sporting Kansas City before signing this season with Austin. Besler played 47 matches for the national team from 2013-2017. That includes all four matches of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where the U.S. advanced to the round of 16. He was the MLS defender of the year in 2012 and helped Kansas City win the league championship in 2013.

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M-Con Rallies, Keeps Lead at Key West Powerboat Races

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) — Myrick Coil and Tyler Miller maintained their dominance of the Super Cat class Friday during the second competition day for powerboaters at the Race World Offshore Key West Championships in the Florida Keys. The day’s most dramatic incident occurred during the Stock V competition when boat with two men from Key Largo, Florida aboard flipped. They were uninjured. Racing concludes in the 14 classes on Sunday. Coil is from Osage Beach, Missouri and Miller is from Wathena, Kansas. 

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Longtime Royals Baseball Scout Art Stewart Dies at 94

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Longtime baseball scout Art Stewart has died at the age of 94. Stewart just completed his 52nd year with the the Kansas City Royals. He began his career with the New York Yankees in the 1950s before becoming the longest-tenured member of the Royals organization. Stewart scouted more than 70 players who reached the big leagues including Bo Jackson, Kevin Appier, Mike Sweeney, Johnny Damon and Carlos Beltran. He was instrumental in helping sign the talent that led the Royals to the 1985 World Series title and Stewart was still part of the front office when they won their second title 30 years later. The Royals say Stewart died Thursday.

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Raiders Host Chiefs in AFC West Battle

UNDATED (AP) – The Las Vegas Raiders look to bounce back from their first loss in three games under interim coach Rich Bisaccia when they host the AFC West rival Kansas City Chiefs. Kansas City is 12-4 against the Raiders under coach Andy Reid but the teams split a pair of high-scoring games last season with the Chiefs losing at home and winning in Las Vegas.  Both trail the Chargers in the AFC West, where all four teams have winning records.

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Pressure Rising on Chiefs' Mahomes to Turn Things Around

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes is coming off perhaps the worst game of his professional career. And perhaps the worst two-game stretch. And, well, he’s in the midst of the worst season since he became the starter in Kansas City. The saving grace for the Chiefs right now is that their defense finally seems to be turning things around. But it raises an important question: Can the Chiefs get to their third consecutive Super Bowl without Mahomes playing at the same level as years past? 

Two years ago, when the Chiefs won the Super Bowl, Mahomes threw 19 TD passes that traveled at least 20 yards, and he averaged 8.8 air yards per attempt and 6.5 per catch. Last year, when the Chiefs returned to the title game, Mahomes hit on 15 TD passes of at least 20 yards and averaged 8.4 air yards per attempt and 6.3 per catch.

This year he has six TD throws of at least 20 yards while averaging 7.8 air yards per attempt and 5.1 per catch.

“Every team has kind of their own little thing they do here and there, but it's a lot of the same defenses that we've seen all year long,” Mahomes said. “It just comes down to execution, and I keep saying it over and over again, but when you don't execute in this league, you don't score points. You've seen that these last few weeks, and you saw in the weeks when we were executing we were scoring points. That's just on us to execute at a higher level. And that starts with me.”

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These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today!  

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