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Headlines for Thursday, September 16, 2021

 

GOP Leader Questions Plans to Settle Afghan Evacuees in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A top Republican lawmaker in Kansas says he’s concerned about President Joe Biden’s plan to resettle almost 500 Afghan evacuees in the state because he doesn’t know how well they’re being vetted. Senate President Ty Masterson said Wednesday that he's worried both that the evacuees could come to Kansas with COVID-19 infections and that vetting by Biden’s administration won’t keep terrorists or terrorist sympathizers out. Biden's administration began notifying governors Wednesday of where it plans to resettle nearly 37,000 Afghan evacuees, and 490 are set to come to Kansas. Democratic Governor Laura Kelly's office declined comment, but she said last month that Kansas would welcome Afghan evacuees.

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Judge Refuses to Block Enforcement of Kansas Election Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge is allowing the state to keep enforcing a new election law and has expressed strong doubts about arguments that it hinders efforts to register and educate voters. Shawnee County District Judge Teresa Watson on Thursday denied four groups’ request to temporarily block the law. She concluded that they are unlikely to prevail in their lawsuit seeking to have it struck down. The groups are challenging a provision making impersonating an election official a felony. They argued that routine registration and education activities could be interpreted as impersonating election officials. Watson disagreed, saying someone has to knowingly impersonate an official to break the law.

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AG: Spike in Natural Gas Prices Appears to Break Kansas Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Attorney General Derek Schmidt says that sharp spikes in natural gas prices last winter appear to violate Kansas law and he is seeking outside legal help to investigate them. Schmidt's office says it is looking to retain a law firm with expertise in the natural gas marketplace to help investigate and with any potential civil litigation aimed at enforcing the state’s anti-profiteering law. Schmidt says state law prohibits unjustified price increases for necessary goods and services during a declared state of disaster emergency.

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Democratic Governor Laura Kelly Wary of President's Vaccine Mandate

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly is indicating that she’s wary of President Joe Biden’s mandate that companies with 100 or more employees require their workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Kelly said she needs to hear more details.  Her office issued a statement last week to that effect. But the Journal-World reported that Kelly later made comments indicating that a mandate may not be her preference. She said she prefers that Kansas continue to work cooperatively with businesses. Most Republicans in the Kansas congressional delegation and Kansas Legislature have condemned the president's mandate.

(–Additional reporting–)

Kelly Unlikely to Issue Teacher/Staff Vaccination Mandate

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly says she’s unlikely to follow President Joe Biden’s advice and require that all teachers and school staff be vaccinated. Kelly says she prefers to continue pushing voluntary vaccinations, even though the number of people in the state getting the shots has leveled off. About half of eligible Kansans have had at least one COVID-19 shot. The governor says she will continue to push for voluntary vaccinations. Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt said he plans to quote, “vigorously challenge” new federal vaccine mandates. The Biden administration now says all large employers must require workers to get vaccinated or be tested regularly for COVID-19.

(-Related-)

Kansas Senator Roger Marshall Objects to President's Vaccine Mandate

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Kansas Senator Roger Marshall is demanding a Congressional review of President Biden’s recent COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The Republican senator says he wants Congress to review the president’s directive ordering vaccinations for private employees before it goes into effect. Marshall says the mandate is unlawful and unnecessary. WIBW TV reports that Senator Marshall also contends the mandate threatens to worsen the current labor shortage. On September 8, President Biden issued a vaccine and testing mandate for private businesses with more than 100 employees. The mandate carries a $14,000 fine for businesses that refuse to comply. Marshall says the order will affect more than 80 million Americans.   

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Task Force to Examine Data on Mask Policies & Outbreaks

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) —Schools in Kansas continue to deal with COVID-19 cases and quarantines. A new task force plans to look at the relationship between outbreaks and mask policies. Governor Laura Kelly’s Safer Classrooms Workgroup met this week for the first time. Members learned that out of 179 active COVID cases that originated in schools, only 15% were in districts where masks are required. So far, at least four Kansas school districts have temporarily closed some or all of their schools because of COVID outbreaks. About half of all Kansas students are required to wear masks.

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Kansas Schools See Increasing Number of COVID-19 Outbreaks

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas schools are seeing a growing number of COVID-19 outbreaks, and school-aged children are getting infected more frequently than any other age group. The state Department of Health and Environment’s latest data shows 63 active COVID-19 clusters in schools across the state as of Wednesday. Those clusters were responsible for 408 cases and one hospitalization. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the number of active clusters is up from 31 with 179 cases last week. Also, 34 of this week’s reported clusters are new. The state's data shows there were 450 new cases per 100,000 children aged 5 through 17 during the week of Sept. 5.

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Outbreaks Strand Some Students at Home with Minimal Learning

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — As coronavirus outbreaks driven by the delta variant lead school districts around the U.S. to abruptly shut down or send large numbers of children into quarantine, some students are getting minimal schooling at home. Despite billions of dollars in federal money at their disposal to prepare for new outbreaks and develop contingency plans, some governors, education departments and local school boards have been caught flat-footed. Also, some school systems have been handcuffed by state laws or policies aimed at keeping students in classrooms and strongly discouraging or restricting a return to remote learning.

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Judge: Kansas Must Pay $1.42 Million to Voting Rights Attorneys

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge ordered Kansas to pay $1.42 million to attorneys who succeeded in getting the federal courts to strike down a state law requiring new voters to show papers documenting their U.S. citizenship when registering. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson ruled Wednesday that the attorneys suing the Kansas secretary of state’s office over the law should receive more than $1.07 million to cover their fees and another $350,000 for litigation expenses. The law was championed by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who led former President Donald Trump’s now-defunct voter fraud commission. Kobach is running for Kansas attorney general in 2022.

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KU Hires New Campus Police Chief

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) _ The University of Kansas has chosen a new chief for the university’s police department. Nelson Mosley will also take over as director of the Office of Public Safety. He comes to the job with more than 30 years of law enforcement experience after rising through the ranks of the Wichita Police Department from patrol officer to Deputy Chief.  The Lawrence Journal World reports that Mosley has also served as adjunct professor of criminal justice at Wichita State University and was a trainer on ethics, diversity and racial profiling with the Wichita department.  Mosley will leave his current job as chief of the Rose Hill Police Department in Butler County to take the position at KU. He replaces retiring Chief Chris Keary.

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Data: Federal Aid Helped Keep Kansans Out of Poverty

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — New numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau show that federal tax dollars kept more Kansans from sinking into poverty during the COVID-19 pandemic. Census officials say the poverty rate would have gone up in 2020 if not for federal stimulus checks and beefed-up unemployment benefits. Analysts with the Washington-based advocacy group First Focus on Children say the child poverty rate in Kansas would have jumped by double digits.  The revised numbers for Kansas reflect $2.3 billion in stimulus payments and nearly $2 billion in higher unemployment benefits.

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More Black Foster Parents Sought by State Contractor

OLATHE, Kan. (KNS) - A foster care contractor in Kansas is using a new advertising campaign to encourage more Black families to become foster parents.  The contractor, KVC Kansas, says only about 3% of their foster homes have Black parents, but more than 20% of foster kids are Black.  KVC is working to address that disparity with an outreach campaign encouraging Black parents to get involved. Megan Maciel leads the recruitment and community engagement team at KVC Kansas. She says keeping children in their community helps preserve their culture. “We believe that there are families in our community of all different backgrounds, ethnicities, and races that can provide those homes” Maciel says. This is KVC’s first advertising campaign that focuses on attracting a specific demographic to serve as foster parents.  

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Former Sedgwick County Sergeant Sentenced for Stalking

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Sedgwick County Sheriff's sergeant has been sentenced to a year of probation after pleading no contest to stalking an ex-girlfriend. Justin Maxfield was sentenced Wednesday for the misdemeanor charge. An affidavit says Maxfield was charged after his ex-girlfriend told police in April that he sent unwanted text messages to her and had visited her home and workplace after being asked to stay away. Maxfield, a 12-year veteran of the sheriff's department, was suspended when he was arrested in April. He resigned in May.

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Kansas, Oklahoma Continue Uptick in Abortions Following Texas Law 

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Abortion clinics in Kansas and Oklahoma say they're still seeing a high volume of patients from Texas as a new state law there banning most abortions remains in effect. The Biden administration this week sued Texas over the law, arguing it was enacted “in open defiance of the Constitution." The Justice Department is asking a judge to quickly declare the law invalid, although it is unknown how quickly a court might rule. In the meantime, the Trust Women abortion clinics in Kansas and Oklahoma say at least half their patients at both locations last week were from Texas. And appointments are booked through the end of the month.  

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Kansas Man Sentenced to 40 Years for Producing Child Porn

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 49-year-old Ellis man has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for producing child pornography. Acting U.S. Attorney Duston Slinkard's office said Thursday that Clinton Wade McElroy was sentenced after pleading guilty in May to one count of production of child pornography after a prior conviction. Court documents said McElroy admitted that he persuaded an 8-year-old child to produce sexually explicit images and send them to him.

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Cost of Living on the Rise in Parts of Rural Kansas 

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) — The latest Cost of Living Index shows some parts of rural Kansas are relatively expensive. Place like Dodge City are becoming more costly. Jeremy Hill leads the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University. He says the cost of living has been consistently higher in western Kansas than it is in some other parts of the state, partly because of supply issues. “Because of the remoteness of each of those communities, the cost of getting goods there is higher," Hill said.  But prices are not rising as quickly in all rural areas. Pittsburg, near Joplin, Missouri, and just a few hours from Kansas City, benefits from more competition.  A dentist visit costs $130 in Dodge City but only $90 in Pittsburg. A loaf of bread goes for $3.59 in Dodge City and $3.19 in Pittsburg.

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Ruling on Who Will Hear Motion in Kevin Strickland Case Expected Friday

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A judge says he will rule on Friday whether all Jackson County, Missouri, judges should be disqualified from hearings to determine if a Kansas City man could go free after serving more than 40 years in prison. At a hearing on Monday, Circuit Court Judge Kevin Harrell heard arguments in the case of Kevin Strickland, who Jackson County prosecutors have said did not commit a triple murder in Kansas City in 1978. Attorney General Eric Schmitt is seeking to have the Jackson County judges removed from further hearings in Strickland's case because of perceived bias in Strickland's favor.

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7-Year-Old Arizona Girl Killed in Head-On Crash in Kansas

WICHITA, Kansas (AP) — A 7-year-old Arizona girl was killed in a head-on crash on U.S. Highway 50 in southwest Kansas. The Kansas Highway Patrol says that the child, Isabella Rodriguez-Rivera, was a passenger in a Volkswagen Tiguan that tried to pass a vehicle Tuesday afternoon near the highway’s intersection with County Road 118 in Ford County. A 29-year-old woman from Mesa, Arizona, who was driving the Volkswagon east on the highway, struck a Ford Transit 250 head-on on the westbound shoulder. The Wichita Eagle reports both vehicles went into the ditch. The child, also of Mesa, died. Both drivers were hospitalized.

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Man Pleads Guilty in Crash that Killed Officer and His Son

VALLEY CENTER, Kan. (AP) — A 39-year-old Valley Center man will be sentenced in November for causing a crash that killed an off-duty Wichita police officer and the officer's 10-year-old son. James Dalrymple pleaded guilty Friday to two counts of involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence in the death of 37-year-old Stacey Woodson and his son, Braeden, in April 2018. Prosecutors said Dalrymple pulled his pickup truck in front of Woodson's motorcycle at a Wichita intersection. Court records say Dalrymple had alcohol and drugs in his system at the time of the crash. Woodson was a 16-year veteran of the Wichita police force.

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Invasive Insect Spotted in 4-H Entry at Kansas State Fair

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - Kansas State Fair officials judging the 4-H entomology entries last week discovered an invasive insect that prompted quarantines elsewhere. Fair Board member Gregg Hadley says the student who caught the bug didn't know it had prompted quarantines in at least 45 counties in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to try to stop its spread. Hadley, who is Director for Extension with Kansas State's Research and Extension, said it's not clear how the invasive bug made it to Kansas, but it may have hitched a ride on a camper. Federal officials will now try to learn how the insect reached Kansas. 
 
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Buffalo Carved from Butter Featured at Kansas State Fair

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The official state animal of Kansas, the buffalo, is being celebrated at the State Fair this year with a 700-pound butter sculpture. The Hutchinson News reports that a sculptor from Iowa, Sarah Pratt, had to do some research on buffaloes before she designed this year’s butter statue. Pratt said that if she winds up with any extra butter she may add a buffalo calf or some sunflowers. Pratt, who teaches school by day, lives in West Des Moines with her husband and three children, all of whom help her out with sculpting for several state fairs. 

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Trial Date Set for Former Chiefs Assistant Charged with DWI

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Former Kansas City Chiefs assistant coach Britt Reid is scheduled to go to trial in April after a crash last year that seriously injured a 5-year-old girl. Reid, the son of Chiefs Coach Andy Reid, will go on trial April 18. The trial date was set during a virtual hearing Thursday.  Prosecutors say Reid was speeding and under the influence of alcohol when he hit two cars on an Interstate 435 entrance ramp near Arrowhead Stadium. A child in one of the cars, 5-year-old Ariel Young, suffered a traumatic brain injury. The trial is expected to last about a week.

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Chiefs' Coach Andy Reid Deflects Attention as NFL History Approaches

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Good luck getting Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid to ruminate on the fact that he’s nearing NFL history, just one win away from becoming the first to reach 100 wins with two different franchises. Reid always deflects any such attention to his players, assistant coaches and others within the organization. Yet it's Reid who is closing in on the No. 5 spot in career wins as the Chiefs prepare to visit Baltimore on Sunday night. With a win, he'll have 100 victories with the Chiefs to go with 140 that he racked up during 14 seasons leading the Philadelphia Eagles.

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Royals Promote Dayton Moore to President, Picollo to GM

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals are promoting general manager Dayton Moore to club president. The team is also elevating longtime assistant GM J.J. Picollo to GM. The 54-year-old Moore presided over one of the most remarkable turnarounds in baseball history, leading them to consecutive World Series and the 2015 title. Picollo has long been considered Moore's heir apparent in Kansas City. The team is showing signs of another rebirth after a long rebuild.

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Royals Evaluate Stadium Options, Downtown Ballpark Possible

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals are evaluating options for once their lease expires at Kauffman Stadium. Owner John Sherman says a new downtown ballpark is a possibility. The Royals are tied to the 53-year-old stadium until 2031 under terms of a public-private partnership. The team must make a decision in the next couple of years to look elsewhere or press on with more renovations at Truman Sports Complex, which is also home to Arrowhead Stadium and the Kansas City Chiefs.

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Big 12 Coaches Says Swift Expansion Solidified League Future

UNDATED (AP) – Big 12 coaches feel the league is solidified for the long haul after the conference's swift action to expand. Kansas State coach Chris Klieman says the Big 12 got four really good programs with the additions of BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston. That quartet got invited to the league six weeks after Oklahoma and Texas accepted invitations to join the Southeastern Conference by 2025. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy says the league hit a home run, keeping the Big 12 status and getting back to 12 teams from 10.

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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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