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Headlines for Thursday, June 4, 2020

UPDATE: Supporters Ram Coronavirus Plan Through Kansas Legislature

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Supporters of a bipartisan plan to give Kansas lawmakers some oversight of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s response to the coronavirus pandemic have rammed it through the Republican-controlled Legislature. The Senate voted 26-12 for a bill containing a plan negotiated by Kelly and her staff with top Republican legislators. Supporters allowed no debate, cutting off any chance for opponents to try to amend the bill after the House passed it Wednesday night, 107-12. Kelly has pledged to sign it. Republican critics do not think the bill would go far enough to prevent coronavirus-related lawsuits against nursing homes. Some Democrats complained it went too far in shielding businesses from lawsuits. 

(–earlier reporting–)

Kansas House Passes Compromise Coronavirus Response Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill giving Kansas lawmakers some oversight of the state's coronavirus response cleared the House Wednesday night and is headed to the Senate.  Some Democrats said they wanted new protections for workers infected with coronavirus while on the job.  And advocates of expanding the state's Medicaid program say they haven't given up on passing it during the special session now underway in Topeka.  Some Republicans thought their leaders went too far in compromising with Governor Laura Kelly on the virus response bill.  The Legislature began its special session Wednesday, after Kelly vetoed a sweeping coronavirus bill GOP lawmakers approved in May, just moments before adjourning their annual session. The governor's staff and top Republicans negotiated a new plan.


Republican Controlled Kansas Senate Rejects Democrat Governor's Nominee for Appeals Court

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Republican-led Kansas Senate has rejected Democratic Governor Laura Kelly's latest nominee for the state Court of Appeals.  On Wednesday, the state Senate rejected Kelly's nomination of state and federal public defender Carl Folsom III.  The Wichita Eagle reports that Folsom was rejected largely because he represented a client convicted of possessing child pornography.  Republican Senator Molly Baumgardner criticized Folsom for arguing for a reduced sentence for his client. Democratic Senator Vic Miller challenged Baumgardner, noting that public defenders don't choose their clients. Kelly chalked up Folsom's rejection to "political games."


Kansas Food Plant Shuts Down After Workers Contract Virus

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A food plant is shutting down in the capital city after several workers tested positive for the coronavirus. KSNT-TV reports that the Reser's Fine Foods plant closed Wednesday. It will remain closed for two weeks while all employees get tested. The plant makes prepared entrees and side dishes. Reser's didn't specify how many employees have tested positive so far.  KSNW-TV reports that Sedgwick County is offering coronavirus testing to 1,600 random residents next week. Residents who get a call from the health department will be offered testing regardless of whether they have symptoms of COVID-19. The goal is to track the spread of the virus.  Testing will be held June 18 through June 20. Health officials are planning another round of random testing in mid-July to see if the virus is still spreading.  


Kansas Cases of COVID-19 Exceed 10,100, Including 222 Deaths 

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — On Wednesday, state health officials reported 10,170 cases of COVID-19, including 222 deaths.  Cases have been reported in 89 of the state's 105 counties.  (Updated COVID-19 case numbers for Kansas are released Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.)  


Virus Outbreak at Kansas City Paper Plant Infects 200-Plus

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A coronavirus outbreak at a Kansas City paper plant has infected more than 200 people. The Kansas City Health Department announced the outbreak at Aspen Paper Products on Tuesday night. The department said the first employee tested positive in mid-May. As cases continued to increase, Aspen tested all its employees on Friday and Saturday. The Kansas City plant employs about 850 people. Health officials are working with Aspen to increase cleaning and personal protection equipment.


Windows, Doors Broken, 3 Hurt in Kansas Prison Riot

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Part of a Kansas prison has been placed on lockdown after a riot in which windows were broken and two staff members and one inmate were hurt. The Kansas Department of Corrections said in a news release that the melee started around 5:15 pm Wednesday with a physical altercation between two inmates in the dining hall at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility. The release said that a "chemical agent was deployed to help gain control of the situation" and that the remaining offenders were moved to a yard for decontamination. Another altercation then erupted in the yard between two offenders, leading about 40 other inmates to start throwing objects at corrections officers.     


5 People Swept into the Kansas River and then Rescued

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Officers assisted in a water rescue in the Kansas River area Wednesday.  WIBW TV reports that two boys were fishing in the Soldier Creek area when the current swept them off their feet and into the Kansas River.  Cody Cott, a Topeka resident and friend of the boys, saw the boys and told them to link arms while he swam across the river to rescue them.  When Cott reached the boys they saw two other people out in the river, also needing assistance. Cott and his party called 9-1-1 to assist a father and son that had been swept out. The pair was later identified as Tony Brown and his son.  Stacy Brown, wife of Tony, was at work when she received the call that her husband and son had been swept out in the river as well. “I felt like my world had just turned upside down and I had lost everything,” she said.  Family members said Brown, who just had knee surgery, was in the creek when the current caught him and he started calling for help. One of his sons jumped in the creek to save him when they were both swept into the river.  The Shawnee Heights Fire Department Chief, Rick Deibert, said they were not sure exactly where the father son duo was so they deployed the boats on the river to find them.  Multiple law enforcement agencies assisted in the rescue.


Black Leaders in Kansas City Seek Police Chief's Resignation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Civil rights organizations and a group of mostly black pastors are demanding change in how Kansas City police treat black citizens. The Urban League of Greater Kansas City, the NAACP’s Kansas City, Missouri branch, and More2 on Wednesday called for Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith to resign. They also called for several changes in how the city oversees the police department. The group of pastors made similar demands earlier Wednesday, although they did not call for Smith's resignation. The complaints come after Kansas City endured five days of protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.


Protests Against Police Brutality Reach Small City in Kansas

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Big crowds are protesting police brutality in a small Kansas city. Kansas News Service reports more than 1,000 people demonstrated Wednesday in Garden City. Roughly 26,000 people live in the city in western Kansas. A high school senior organized the protest. Demonstrators marched around a Garden City park and chanted “I can't breathe.” Protests around the world were sparked by the death of George Floyd. The handcuffed black man died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for minutes, even after he stopped moving.  (Click here to view a Kansas News Service photoessay on the Garden City protest.)


Kansas City Prosecutor Urges Reporting of Police Misconduct

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Jackson County (Missouri)'s prosecutor is reaching out to Kansas City protesters who believe they were victims of police misconduct, urging them to report their allegations online. Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said in a news release Thursday that her office is reviewing allegations of police misconduct during recent protests sparked by the death of George Floyd. The handcuffed black man died after being restrained by Minneapolis police on May 25. People who believe they've been victimized by police are encouraged to provide evidence, including videos, of excessive force on a web page linked to the prosecutor's website. 


Kansas City Advances Measure to Protect Those Recording Police

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (The Kansas City Star) — Kansas City officials have advanced a measure meant to protect people who record police interactions with the public even if they're ordered by officers to stop. The move follows the conviction of a man who recorded the violent arrest of a transgender woman by Kansas City officers who have since been charged with assault in the arrest. The Kansas City Star reports that 52-year-old Roderick Reed last year recorded of the arrest — video that was key to indicting the officers. But Reed was later convicted of failing to obey a lawful order after police told him to stop recording and leave. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail for the misdemeanor. He remains free during his appeal.


Officials Blame Arson for Blaze that Destroyed Topeka Business

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Fire officials in Topeka say a blaze that destroyed an unoccupied business on the south side of the city was intentionally set. The Topeka Fire Department said Wednesday that the fire at the payday loan business was reported around 11:30 pm Tuesday. Arriving firefighters found smoke and flames coming from the building, which was once a gas station. A fire report says an initial investigation showed the fire was intentionally set.  No one was injured. Fire officials say it was the second fire at the business in recent months. A fire in late February at the Loansmart business caused some $100,000 in damage.


Kansas Asking U.S. Supreme Court to Save State's Voter Citizenship Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Republican attorney general of Kansas plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to allow the state to require new voters to provide papers documenting their citizenship when first registering to vote.  Attorney General Derek Schmidt has announced he will appeal a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in April that said the state could not enforce a proof-of-citizenship law. An appeals-court panel said the law violated the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal legal protection as well as a federal voter registration law. The law was championed by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as a way to combat voter fraud.


KCK's Long-Closed Woodlands Race Track Listed for Sale

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — After failing to convince lawmakers to change the state's gambling laws, the owner of a long-closed Kansas horse and dog racing track is selling the property. The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, said in a news release Wednesday that Las Vegas casino owner Phil Ruffin is tentatively selling the former Woodlands racetrack to Scannell Properties, which proposes building a warehouse distribution facility and office park with retail development.


Walnut Valley Festival Postponed 

WINFIELD, Kan. (KPR)  — Officials with the Walnut Valley Association have announced that the 49th annual Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, scheduled for September 2020, has been postponed until September of 2021. The festival, traditionally held on the 3rd weekend of September, generally draws between 10,000 and 15,000 people for the popular acoustic music event. Plans for this year now call for a series of virtual concerts and events to take place this September, with donations going to support performers and others who have experienced financial or other hardships because of the coronavirus pandemic. More information about ticket refunds and upcoming festival plans is available at

Russell Stover Chocolates Closing Colorado Plant over Virus

DENVER (AP/KPR) — Russell Stover Chocolates has announced that its candy plant in Montrose, Colorado, will close seven months ahead of schedule because of the coronavirus pandemic. That means that 217 employees will lose their jobs. The Kansas City, Missouri-based company had announced in January that the plant and a Montrose retail store close by March 2021, with operations shifted to Kansas and Texas.  The process was accelerated because of COVID-19. The plant employed about 400 people when the company first made the announcement. But many employees already left for other jobs. The remaining 217 workers will be let go by the end of August.  The company has deep roots in both Colorado and Kansas.  The founder, Russell Stover, was born in western Kansas.  He and his wife first began selling their candies in Colorado.  


Nebraska Truck Driver Killed in Northern Kansas Crash

JEWELL, Kan. (KSAL) — Authorities say a Nebraska truck driver has been killed in a crash in northern Kansas. Salina radio station KSAL-AM reports that the crash happened around noon Wednesday on K-14 Highway in rural Jewell County, killing 50-year-old Scott Sell of Hastings, Nebraska. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the southbound semitrailer Sell was driving veered onto the highway shoulder, overcorrected and went into the opposite ditch. The truck overturned in a pasture, and Sell was pronounced dead at the scene.


Kansas City-Area Police Deal with Homicides Amid Chaos

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — In the midst of civil unrest that has descended on cities across the nation in recent days, police in the Kansas City area are also handling a number of homicide investigations. Kansas City police on Monday afternoon were called to the Forgotten Homes neighborhood for a shooting. Arriving officers found one person dead at the scene. Police say a preliminary investigation showed two people were involved in an altercation before the shooting. In the Kansas City suburb of Independence, police say a shooting around 2 pm Monday in a store parking lot left another person dead. Police have not released the names of those killed in either case, and no arrests in the shooting deaths have been reported.


GOP Reckons with Polarizing Candidates Amid Civil Unrest

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans are facing a reckoning as they contend with some divisive candidates during the country's struggle through civic unrest. So far the results are mixed. Iowa congressman Steve King lost his bid for a 10th House term Tuesday after losing his committee assignments over racist comments. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo decided against seeking a Senate seat representing Kansas, meaning a lightning rod conservative hard-liner might instead win the nomination. And President Donald Trump has favored confrontation over compassion in how cities are handling protests sparked by the police killings of black men.


NASCAR Announces Another Wave of Races Through August

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — NASCAR’s All-Star Race will be a midweek event on July 15 at Charlotte Motor Speedway as part of a new revision to the schedule that runs through the first weekend of August. The revisions involve Pocono Raceway and the speedways in Indianapolis, Kentucky, Texas, Kansas and New Hampshire. NASCAR made no mention of whether spectators will be allowed at any of the events but Indianapolis, Kentucky and Kansas all said their events would not have fans. NASCAR leadership has not been available for public comment since May 17. 


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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