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Headlines for Saturday, May 22, 2021

Kansas Governor Vetoes GOP COVID Relief Plan for Businesses

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Governor Laura Kelly has vetoed a Republican proposal to set aside hundreds of millions of the federal coronavirus relief dollars received by Kansas to compensate small businesses. The plan Kelly rejected yesterday (FRI) was meant to help businesses that faced restrictions earlier in the pandemic. Kelly said she is not opposed to compensating businesses after the state, cities or counties forced them to shut down or limited their operations. But she said the GOP plan’s process for paying claims wasn’t open enough and the measure might violate federal law. Her action was certain to spark criticism from the Republican-controlled Legislature.


Governor Kelly Okays Extra Funds for Courts, Higher Education

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Budget legislation signed by Governor Laura Kelly increases funding for Kansas courts, provides extra dollars for higher education, and funds a new state health laboratory. The measure signed yesterday (FRI) contains a piece of a nearly $21 billion spending blueprint for state government for the budget year beginning July 1st. The measure has an additional $53 million for state universities and colleges and $17 million to increase state court employees' pay and hire 70 new court services officers. The measure also authorizes $120 million in bonds to renovate an office building near the Statehouse and $65 million in bonds for a new state Department of Health and Environment lab.


Lawrence Police Report Increase in Drug Overdoses

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - The Lawrence Police Department is reporting an increase in the number of drug overdoses, some of them fatal.  Lieutenant Amy Rhoades said in a press release that the police suspect some batches of heroin circulating in Lawrence contain higher and sometimes deadly amounts of fentanyl.  Rhoads added that fentanyl is difficult to detect with the naked eye and users often don't know if or how much fentanyl was added to the heroin.  Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic and is lethal in very small quantities.


USDA to Begin Paying Off Loans of Minority Farmers

Minority farmers who for decades have faced systemic discrimination will begin to receive debt relief beginning in early June under what Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack calls one of the most significant pieces of civil rights legislation in decades. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency announced yesterday (FRI) that it has published the first notice of funding availability under the American Rescue Plan Act for borrowers with qualifying direct farm loans. A subsequent notice for farmers with government-guaranteed loans held by private lenders will be published within 120 days. Vilsack has called the debt relief a “major civil rights victory,” saying it responds to systemic discrimination perpetrated against farmers and ranchers of color by the Agriculture Department.


KBI: Nebraska Man Dies after Purposely Struck by Car

HOLLENBERG, Kan. (AP) — Kansas authorities say a Nebraska man died when he was intentionally hit by a car during an argument with the driver. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says officers were called Thursday to a home in Hollenberg, in northeast Kansas. Deputies found 32-year-old James Hicok, of Steele City, Nebraska, dead in a street. A preliminary investigation indicates Hicok and another man argued with the driver of a car that drove by the home several times. The KBI says investigators believe the driver, 25-year-old Aaron Milldyke of Hollenberg. intentionally hit Hicok. Milldyke is being held in the Washington County jail on a possible charge of second-degree murder.


Kansas Welfare Bill Named after Murdered Boy Signed into Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas’ child welfare department and law enforcement officers soon will be required to visually observe a child when they’re investigating allegations of abuse or neglect. Governor Laura Kelly yesterday (FRI) on Friday signed a measure known as “Adrian's Law" that will take effect by mid-June. The new law is named for a 7-year-old Kansas City, Kansas boy whose body was fed to pigs after he was starved, tortured and murdered. Department for Children and Families records released in 2017 showed that the department did not have physical contact with the boy after February 2012. The new law also creates a joint legislative oversight committee on child welfare.


Report: School Principal, Buss Driver Harassed Student

AMERICUS, Kan. (AP) — Education officials say two North Lyon County school employees violated federal and district policies when they suspended a student for saying “I'm a lesbian” on a school bus. The Kansas Association of School Boards investigation found that school bus driver Kristi Gadino and Corey Wiltz, principal at North Lyon County elementary, committed sexual harassment against the student and violated federal Title IX and district policies. The family of Izzy Dieker, an eighth-grader, filed a complaint after she was suspended from using the school bus on January 27th. The report said Gadino ignored profane language from other students on the bus. It said Wiltz should did not handle the situation properly.


Kansas Man Faces 155 Child Pornography Charges

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors say a 71-year-old Cedar Point man is jailed on 155 counts after child pornography was found in his home. Leland Zachariah Taylor was charged last week with sexual exploitation of a child. The Chase County Sheriff's office said in an affidavit that deputies were called to Taylor's home on May 8th by Taylor's son and the son's girlfriend. They reported finding the child porn on his laptop and flash drive as they were cleaning his home. Taylor was hospitalized at the time recovering from injuries suffered in a car crash. He is currently jailed in Chase County. His next court appearance is scheduled for Monday.


Hutchinson Woman Pleads Guilty in Fatal Crash

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A 31-year-old Hutchinson woman has accepted a plea deal in a crash that killed one person and injured six others. Viola Rhodes pleaded guilty Wednesday to involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence and six counts of aggravated battery. In exchange, prosecutors agreed not to charge her with reckless second-degree murder. Investigators said Rhodes was driving toward Hutchinson on December 5th when her vehicle ran off the road and overturned. One passenger, 44-year-old Brian Bookout, was thrown from the car and later died from his injuries. Two other people were hospitalized and four others were treated at the scene. Sentencing was scheduled for July 9th.


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