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Headlines for Monday, July 20, 2020

AP: It's Not Easy to Review the Financial Interests of Kansas Lawmakers Online

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A review of records by The Associated Press shows that Kansas residents who want to learn about their state legislators' financial interests have about a 50% chance of finding the information online. To see a report that's not online, a resident must visit or call the secretary of state's office in Topeka and request a copy at 50 cents a page. Secretary of State Scott Schwab's office says the issue is that about half of lawmakers file the disclosures on paper rather than online, and outdated equipment prevents staff from uploading the forms to the computer system that can be quickly accessed by voters. An office spokeswoman says they're working on the issue.


Kansas Congressman Blamed Voter Registration Issue on Staff

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A prosecutor says that a freshman Kansas congressman misled a sheriff’s detective by blaming staff for a problem with his state voter registration form that  led to three felony criminal charges. Republican Rep. Steve Watkins listed a Topeka UPS Inc. store postal box as his residence for voter registration purposes for more than three months starting in late August 2019. The charges against him in Shawnee County include hampering law enforcement by providing false information to the sheriff’s detective in a February interview. A deputy Shawnee County district attorney provided new details about the allegation in a Monday court filing. Watkins has called the charges “bogus.” 


Kansas Reports Over 23,000 COVID-19 Cases, Including 307 Fatalities

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — Kansas health officials have recorded 23,334 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.  State health officials reported Monday that the virus, now confirmed in 102 of the state's 105 counties, has also claimed 307 lives. Johnson, Wyandotte, and Sedgwick Counties have the most cases. The next update is expected Wednesday.    

(Kansas health officials release new data on COVID-19 case numbers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.


UPDATE: Kansas Governor Requires Masks, Checks for Fever at Schools

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly has issued an order requiring masks and daily temperature checks in the state’s K-12 schools. Kelly on Monday set some coronavirus-inspired rules that are stricter than guidelines adopted by the Republican-controlled State Board of Education. Kelly also released the text of a proposed order to delay the reopening of public and private elementary, middle and high schools for three weeks from mid-August until Sept. 9. Kansas law requires the state school board’s approval for a delay and it is scheduled to meet Wednesday morning. The Democratic governor’s actions are inspiring criticism from Republican legislators and conservatives outside state government. 

(–earlier reporting–)

Kansas COVID-19 Cases Above 23,000 Amid Debate over Schools

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Another surge in coronavirus cases has pushed the number reported in Kansas during the pandemic past 23,000 and reported COVID-19-related deaths past 300. The report of another increase in cases came as Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly prepared to issue an order aimed at delaying the reopening of the state’s K-12 public schools for three weeks from mid-August to after Labor Day. The state health department said Monday that Kansas's total cases grew by 6.2% since Friday. The department said there were 1,369 new cases to bring the total to 23,334. The agency reported eight new COVID-19-related deaths for a total of 307. 


Missouri Adds 958 COVID-19 Cases, Largest Single-Day Jump

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri has set another record for daily increases in new coronavirus cases as the total jumped Saturday by 958. The new confirmed brought the state total to 32,248 and exceeded Missouri’s previous one-day high for new cases of 936 on Tuesday. As of Saturday, the seven-day average of new cases reported by the state is 731, up from 560 a week ago. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said the number of deaths also increased by nine to 1,130.


Despite COVID-19 Spike, Kansas Faces Push to Reopen Schools

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Republican-controlled Kansas Board of Education is facing pressure from conservatives to scuttle Democratic Governor Laura Kelly's plan to delay the reopening of K-12 schools, even as a resurgence in coronavirus cases intensifies. The 10-member State Board of Education can block Kelly's plan under a law enacted last month. Kelly plans to issue an order today (MON) to delay the reopening of schools from mid-August until after Labor Day. Senate President and conservative Wichita Republican Susan Wagle has called on people to urge the board to reject Kelly's proposed delay. So has the small-government, free-market Kansas Policy Institute think tank. Seven board members are undecided.


Kansas Professors Protest Return to In-Person Classes on Campus

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) - A group of Kansas professors is protesting the return of in-person classes on campus this fall.  The Kansas Conference of the American Association of University Professors said in a written statement that it's time to rethink reopening plans, especially as case counts of COVID-19 continue to rise in Kansas.  The group's president, Mohamed El-Hodiri, says college faculty felt left out of discussions on coming up with reopening plans.  He says faculty members want to choose whether they will teach in person, online or some hybrid of the two. "We're not just worried about our own personal safety even though we are.  We are worried about safety of our coworkers and our students." Meanwhile, Kansas State University is now facing a lawsuit over the switch to online only classes in the spring, with lawyers arguing students should be reimbursed for tuition.


Kansas TSA Official Says He Raised COVID-19 Concerns Early

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The top federal Transportation Safety Administration official in Kansas says he raised concerns about the need for coronavirus precautions at airports early on during the pandemic and pushed the agency to put them in place nationally. The Wichita Eagle reports that Wichita-based TSA Federal Security Director Jay Brainard moved to make sure that employees used masks and hand sanitizer in Kansas airports by March. He said that when he didn't see those practices adopted nationally, he used whistleblower complaints to push the issue. TSA spokesman Mark Howell said in a statement that coronavirus precautions were in the works before Brainard raised his concerns.


Sedgwick County Has No Plans Now for More COVID-19 Measures

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Sedgwick County Commission has no immediate plans to follow a White House task force report that lays out additional measures county officials should take to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. A White House Coronavirus Task Force report by the Center for Public Integrity says communities and states were considered in the red zone if they had more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people in the week prior to the July 14 report. Sedgwick County is in the "red zone" for coronavirus cases. The report calls for more restrictive public health mandates in red zones, such as closing bars and limiting public gatherings.


Shooting Leaves Man Dead at Kansas City Gas Station

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police are investigating a shooting at a Kansas City gas station that left a man dead.  Police say officers were dispatched to a gas station in Kansas City, Missouri, just before 3 pm Sunday on a disturbance with a person armed with a gun. Officers found a man unresponsive next to a vehicle. He died at the scene. The person who called police told them the victim had gotten into an altercation with another person. Police stopped a vehicle that had been described by witnesses as leaving the scene before police arrived. Its occupants are in custody pending further investigation.


Kansas City Police: Man Killed During Attempted Robbery

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police say an attempted robbery turned deadly early Sunday in Kansas City, Missouri.  Officers responding to a call about an assault in progress around 1:20 am found an unresponsive man in the street next to vehicle. Police say he was declared dead at the scene. Witnesses told police the man had been stopped inside a vehicle when he was confronted by one or more suspects and an altercation ensued. The initial investigation indicates this was an attempted robbery. Detectives are still gathering information and looking for witnesses.


Police Investigate Fatal Shooting in Kansas City, Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police say a man working in his garage was fatally shot Sunday in Kansas City, Kansas. The Kansas City Star reports the shooting was reported shortly after 10 am.  Police say two men had been at the home working in the driveway and inside the open garage when they were approached by a man dressed in dark clothes. The man shot at them before fleeing in a vehicle. A 43-year-old man who lives at the home was shot multiple times in his midsection and died at the hospital from his injuries. The other man was not injured.


11 Arrested in Kansas City During Protests over Federal Anti-Crime Program

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Eleven people have been arrested during a protest calling for an end to a federal initiative that will send 225 federal enforcement agents into Kansas City, Missouri. The Kansas City Star reports that the arrest came after some spray painted profanities and anti-police sentiments Friday on the headquarters building and a statue honoring Kansas City officers who died in service. Police say protesters also punched and pushed some officers. Kansas City police spokesman Sgt. Jacob Becchina said some of those arrested were facing misdemeanor charges while others were being investigated for possible felony charges.


Settlement Resolves Dispute over Protests at the Kansas Statehouse

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A civil rights group says it has resolved a lawsuit challenging a blanket ban on signs and restrictive permits for protests at the Kansas Statehouse. The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas says that under the terms of the dismissal, individuals and groups no longer need a permit or a legislative sponsor to reserve space. Hand-held signs are no longer banned. And a person can only be banned from the Statehouse if they break the law, not just for a rules violation.  “Our clients got essentially everything they'd sought through the lawsuit,” said Lauren Bonds, legal director for the ACLU of Kansas. “We are happy with the outcome and we are happy that Kansans can fully exercise their right to protest in the people's house.”  The litigation stems from an incident last year involving three Kansas State University students who briefly hung large banners in the Capitol rotunda saying Republican legislators who oppose expanding Medicaid have “blood on their hands.”  The students — Jonathan Cole, Katie Sullivan and Nathan Faflicki — were banned for a year from the Statehouse. The ACLU sued on their behalf.


Officials: 19-Year-Old Kansas Man Killed in Gardner Crash

GARDNER, Kan. (AP) — Police in the Kansas City suburb of Gardner say a 19-year-old man has died in a crash.  Television station WDAF reports that the crash happened around 2:30 am Sunday on Interstate 35. Investigators say the man's northbound car missed an exit, launched into a grassy area and rolled. The man was pronounced dead at the scene. His name has not yet been released.  An investigation into the crash continues.


Lenexa Man Dies in Fiery Crash Near Clay Center

CLAY CENTER, Kan. (KAKE) - A 63-year-old man has died after authorities say his vehicle crashed and caught fire along a highway in north-central Kansas.  KAKE TV reports the accident happened around 10 am Sunday on U.S. Highway 24 about 10 miles west of Clay Center. The Kansas Highway Patrol says Wesley Alexander, of Lenexa, was heading east when his Jeep Wrangler left the roadway and hit a tree before coming to rest on its driver's side. The vehicle then became "fully engulfed in flames." Alexander died at the scene. It's unclear what caused his Jeep to go off the road.


Suspect in Shooting of Western Kansas Deputy Found Dead Inside Home

CIMARRON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man suspected of shooting and wounding a western Kansas sheriff’s deputy has been discovered dead inside the home after a standoff. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation said Sunday that Gray County sheriffs’ deputies entered the home Saturday after becoming concerned for the safety of the 49-year-old homeowner, Kevin Trahern when responding to a domestic disturbance call. Trahern fired shots through the basement door, striking a deputy in his legs and foot. A standoff ensued. The deputy has been released from the hospital. Law enforcement officers entered the residence Saturday and found Trahern dead inside from what is believed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.


Unemployment Rate Falls to 7.5% in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) -  The Kansas Department of Labor says the state's unemployment rate improved from May to June.  The latest figures show a seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate of 7.5 percent for June.  That's a decrease from 10% in May, but still higher than the 3.1% unemployment rate a year ago.  Kansas has recovered 37.4 percent of the jobs lost in March and April.   


Spirit AeroSystems Seeks Voluntary Layoffs in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Spirit AeroSystems sent some employees notices about voluntary layoffs, citing the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and the grounding of the 737 Max.  The five-page notice says both reduced overall demand for new commercial airplanes, and that as a result, "production rates for commercial aircraft have fallen from historic highs to much lower volumes. The notice says there is "no expectation for a quick recovery." It is unclear how many employees are affected. The announcement follows months of layoffs and furloughs in the aviation industry.


Police: Wichita Sex Offender Tried to Kidnap 10-Year-Old Boy

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a 62-year-old man has been arrested after allegedly trying to abduct a 10-year-old boy who was walking on a sidewalk in Wichita. The Wichita Police Department said Monday that 62-year-old Webb Ketcherside has been booked on suspicion of aggravated indecent solicitation of a child and attempted aggravated kidnapping. Ketcherside is accused of approaching the boy at about 4:50 p.m. Sunday, making sexually explicit comments and grabbing his arm. The boy was able to break free and run to a QuikTrip for help. An investigation led police to Ketcherside, a registered sex offender who was arrested without incident. 


Affidavit: Suspect Said He "Emptied a Whole Clip" at Wichita Police

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man charged with shooting at police during protests last month told a co-worker that he "emptied a whole clip" on officers after his sister was hit with a rubber bullet while holding a baby. The Wichita Eagle reports that an arrest affidavit released Friday in the criminal case against 28-year-old Henry Parker says he admitted to the co-worker that he'd fired on officers early on June 2 but told her "don't tell on me." Parker has denied any involvement in the shooting. He is with 19 counts of aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer and three other counts.


Former Guard Charged in Inmate Beating Picked as Kansas High School Coach

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A fired Kansas jail guard who is charged in the beating of a handcuffed inmate has been picked to help coach a high school soccer team. The Kansas City Star reports that David Toland has been appointed assistant coach for the Bonner Springs High School's soccer team. The criminal affidavit said Toland was charged in November after he was accused of punching an inmate and slamming the prisoner's head against an elevator door while he was a sergeant at the Wyandotte County Adult Detention Center. The charges of felony aggravated battery and misdemeanor mistreatment of a confined person are pending.


Body Found in Rural Area of South-Central Kansas

AUGUSTA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating after the body of an elderly man was found in a rural area of south-central Kansas along with some bicyclist equipment. KAKE-TV reports that Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet said Friday afternoon that a man and a woman found the body while working on a fence southwest of Augusta. The body has not been identified. Herzet is asking anyone who knows of a missing bicyclist to contact law enforcement.


Kansas Dog Makes 50-Mile Trek to Her Old Home in Missouri

LAWSON, Mo. (AP) — A dog named Cleo who disappeared from her home in Kansas earlier this month turned up a few days later at her old home in Missouri, about 50 miles away. Colton Michael told television station KMBC this week that the 4-year-old Labrador retriever-border collie mix showed up on his family's front porch in Lawson, Missouri. He says she was scared at first and wouldn't let anyone near her, but he eventually gained her trust and had her checked for a microchip. It showed that she belonged to the family that had owned his home before he bought it nearly two years ago. They were amazed when he called with the good news.


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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