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Headlines for Thursday, September 29, 2022

 

Kansas Gets Ready to Help Small Businesses Hurt by Pandemic Orders

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - Financial help is now on the way for small business owners in Kansas, specifically for those who didn't get much help from the government during the height of the pandemic. Kansas Public Radio reports that small business owners can recoup some of their COVID-19 pandemic losses through a program established by the Retail Storefront Property Tax Relief Act, passed in the final days of the Kansas Legislature’s 2022 session and signed into law by Governor Laura Kelly in June. The law earmarks $50 million in federal COVID tax dollars for partial property tax refunds to retail businesses forced to close or cut occupancy during the pandemic. Businesses with pandemic-related losses in 2020 and 2021 are eligible for up to $10,000 – $5,000 for each year. The Kansas Department of Revenue will start processing refund applications in October. Revenue Secretary Mark Burghart said the agency is putting the finishing touches on a one-page application that business owners will complete online. A date hasn’t been set for the start of applications, he said, because the agency is still testing its website. (Read more.)

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Kansas Attorney General Among Those Suing Biden Administration over Student Loan Plan

WASHINGTON (AP) — Five states with Republican attorneys general are suing the Biden administration to try and halt its plan to forgive student loan debt for millions of Americans. They're accusing it of overstepping its executive powers. It’s at least the second legal challenge this week to the sweeping proposal laid out by President Joe Biden in late August, when he said his administration would cancel up to $20,000 in education debt for millions of borrowers. The announcement became immediate political fodder ahead of the November midterms while fueling arguments from conservatives about the program’s legality. The suit was filed by attorneys general from Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Carolina, along with legal representatives from Iowa. 

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KBI: Topeka Police Officer Injured in Deadly Shootout with Murder Suspect

TOPEKA, Kan. (KAKE) - The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says a Topeka police officer was shot and injured this (THUR) morning during a shootout with a murder suspect. KAKE TV reports that police officers responded early this (THUR) morning to the report of a shooting in the 3500 block of SW Kelly Avenue. Officers arrived to find one person dead and another injured. The KBI says the shooting appeared to be the result of a domestic dispute. Multiple agencies, including the Shawnee County Sheriff's Office, responded to the scene, where the suspect fired at law enforcement officers several times. Multiple officers returned fire. At least one officer was struck by gunfire during the incident. That officer is receiving medical treatment. It's unclear whether the suspect is now in custody. More details are expected this (THUR) afternoon.

(–AP Version–)

Murder Suspect, Officer Injured in Downtown Topeka Shootout

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A man suspected of murder and a police officer were injured during a shootout in downtown Topeka. That shootout Thursday morning came after the suspect led officers on a chase through Kansas’ capital city, firing at them as he drove. Topeka Police Chief Bryan Wheeles said police sought the suspect over the shooting of two people at a south Topeka home. One of those victims died, and the other has been hospitalized. An officer spotted the suspect's car, and a 4-mile chase ensued. The suspect is hospitalized in critical condition, and a woman riding with him also is hospitalized. The injured officer was treated at a hospital and released.

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Former Free State High School Educator Convicted of Child Sex Crimes

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - A former para-educator at Lawrence Free State High School has pleaded no contest in Douglas County District Court to lewd touching of one child and to sexually exploiting another. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 29-year-old Jalil Lynn Brown, of Lawrence, entered the plea agreement Wednesday to one felony count of aggravated indecent liberties with a child and one felony count of sexual exploitation of a child. Both charges are midlevel felonies. The indecent liberties charge is a level-four felony and is a presumed prison sentence, while the exploitation charge is a level-five felony that is on the borderline between prison and probation sentences for someone with no criminal history, according to Kansas sentencing guidelines. Brown was originally charged with five counts of exploitation of a child by promoting an explicit performance, one count of aggravated indecent liberties with a child and one count of electronic solicitation, according to charging documents. As previously reported by the Journal-World, Brown worked as a special education para-educator at Lawrence Free State High School from September 9, 2019 until his termination on January 25 of this year. His sentencing date has not been scheduled.

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Enrollment Numbers Decline at Most Kansas Colleges and Universities but Not at Wichita State

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) - Enrollment at most Kansas universities fell again this fall. The Kansas News Service reports that the latest enrollment numbers released Thursday show increases at some schools but significant declines at others. Over the past five years, enrollment at the largest universities in Kansas is down 6%. The data from community colleges is even worse — a decline of more than 15%. The largest drop at a Regents school was at Fort Hays State, which enrolled 8% fewer students this fall and is down more than 14% over the past five years. K-State’s enrollment has dropped almost 14% over five years. KU’s has fallen 4%. Wichita State University is bucking the trend — up more than 12% over the same time period. WSU officials credit their recruiting efforts and partnership with WSU Tech, which is up nearly 18% over the past five years.

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About 20 Kansas School Districts Seek Tax Hikes

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) - About 20 school districts in Kansas have asked voters for tax hikes this year to fund school improvements - even as fewer children are enrolled in public schools across the state. The Kansas News Service reports that the sales tax in Hays will go up a half-cent this weekend to pay for a new high school and other projects. It was one of several bond issues approved by voters in local elections this year. At least five more are on the ballot in November. Public school officials say they need to raise taxes and borrow money to deal with aging or overcrowded buildings. Voters in two western Kansas districts — Hays and Quinter — approved sales tax and property tax hikes. Leaders of the state’s largest district in Wichita hinted at a potential bond issue recently. They say millions of dollars in federal COVID relief don’t address brick-and-mortar issues.

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Western Kansas Lake Offering Fish Free-for-All... Before All the Fish Die

ELLIS COUNTY, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas is letting people grab as many fish as they want from a shrinking western Kansas lake — where the animals will likely die soon anyway. The Kansas News Service reports that anyone can grab fish at Ellis City Lake by hand, or by scooping them them up with a net, or by just reeling them in with a pole.  The state really doesn’t care. State wildlife officials say people can take as many as they want because officials expect the bass, bluegills and other fish in the lake will soon die. The same severe drought that is affecting western Kansas crops is preventing the 30-acre lake west of Hays from getting the recharge water it needs. Weather scientists expect the drought to continue for months more. (Read more.)

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Feds Sue Dodge Dealership in Independence, Missouri, Alleging Discrimination

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KPR) – A federal agency has filed suit against Landmark Dodge and Landmark South, an Independence, Missouri, auto dealership for allegedly violating federal law. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) accuses Landmark Dodge of segregating its sales and office employees by sex, hiring only men for sales jobs and only women for office jobs. Furthermore, the lawsuit claims Landmark Dodge retaliated against employees who challenged the company's discriminatory practices.

According to the lawsuit, Landmark Dodge and Landmark South exclusively hired men for auto sales jobs and filled positions in its business development center with women. Cashier, clerical, and other office positions were also filled only with women. When a new human resources director and a new recruiter were hired in the fall of 2017, the companies’ owner and other managers told them to screen applicants based on sex because they believed women don’t make good salespeople, and the dealership was a male-centric environment. The agency further alleged that when the human resources director and recruiter opposed these practices, they were harassed and eventually forced to quit.

The lawsuit seeks back pay and punitive damages for two employees and damages for applicants who were denied jobs because of their sex. The EEOC’s St. Louis District Office oversees Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and a portion of southern Illinois.

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Lawrence Group Plans Candlelight Vigil to Shine Light on Domestic Violence Awareness

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - To mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the group #BeMoreLikeClaire is organizing a candlelight vigil in Lawrence next month. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the event is slated for 5:30 to 7 pm on Thursday, October 6.  It will be held on the east side of South Park. According to a release from the nonprofit, the vigil will provide an opportunity for the community to remember victims, honor survivors and explore ways to act and make a difference. Live music, speakers and the candlelight vigil are set to begin at 6:15 pm but some activities will start before then.  The Lawrence nonprofit works to carry on the legacy of its namesake, Claire Van Landingham, a 27-year-old University of Louisville graduate who was killed by her ex-boyfriend.

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Seaman School Board Votes to Remove Book from School Library

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) - The Seaman Board of Education in Topeka has voted to remove one book from school library shelves but split their votes on challenges to two other books. The Topeka Capital Journal reports that the board ultimately voted to remove only one of the three books that were challenged by parents - Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews. The board split 3-to-3 on removing two other books, The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold, and Perfect, by Ellen Hopkins. The tie votes fell short of the four-vote majority needed to remove the books. Board members who voted to remove the books were reluctant to use the word "censorship," arguing that the books would remain available to Seaman High School teenagers at the Topeka Public Library.

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Six Kansas Creeks Renamed After Concerns Were Raised

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) _ Six creeks on federal land in Kansas, which had names that included the word "squaw," now have new names. The Topeka Capital Journal reports that the U.S. Department of Interior’s Board on Geographic Names approved new names for nearly 650 geographic features around the country that formerly contained the word that is considered derogatory to Indigenous women. In Kansas, the creeks with new names include: Oaks Creek in Brown County, Potato Creek in Cherokee County, Hogback Creek in Chautauqua County, Elk Creek in Montgomery County and Horseshoe Branch in Norton County.  The word "squaw" was formally declared derogatory last November in an order issued by Deb Haaland, the nation's first Native American secretary of the interior.

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Kansas Public Radio Searches for New Statehouse Bureau Chief

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas Public Radio (KPR), at the University of Kansas, is seeking a new Statehouse Bureau Chief.  This position works primarily at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka. The position duties include managing all aspects of KPR’s capital news bureau, which provides broadcast and digital news reports to a number of radio stations in Kansas and Missouri. This position is primarily responsible for reporting on all aspects of state government. This includes but is not limited to covering the Kansas legislative session, the governor, attorney general, supreme court, the state’s congressional delegation and statewide elections. The KPR Statehouse Bureau Chief researches, writes, reports and produces spot news, digital stories and long-form audio features for KPR and its reporting partners. Learn more about this position.

The University of Kansas prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, age, ancestry, disability status as a veteran, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, gender identity, gender expression, and genetic information in the university's programs and activities. Retaliation is also prohibited by university policy.

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Kansas Law Enforcement Agencies Hope to Replace Aging Fingerprint Software System

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The project to replace the fingerprint system in Kansas is running nine months behind schedule. The Kansas News Service reports, this system stores and compares prints used in criminal investigations and in background checks. Kansas is the last state in the nation using a soon-to-be-obsolete fingerprint software. That system was supposed to stop working at the end of 2022. Then, a new system would take over, but that new system is not expected to be ready until late next year. If the system goes down, it would hamper law enforcement investigations. KBI Executive Officer Robert Jacobs recently briefed state lawmakers on the delay. “We have been very concerned about the progress of this project. As previously mentioned, we have tried to keep on top of it," he said. The contractor making the switch, Idemia, has agreed to keep the almost outdated system running until the new one kicks in.

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States Spend Federal COVID Aid on Roads, Buildings, Seawalls

UNDATED (AP) - States are spending billions of dollars of federal pandemic relief funds on infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges and public buildings. The American Rescue Plan law signed by President Joe Biden last year provided $350 billion to states and local governments to respond to the coronavirus and shore up their economies. An Associated Press review of reports submitted by states shows they are spending more on infrastructure projects than on public health purposes. States are taking advantage of U.S. Treasury Department rules that grant broad flexibility to spend money on almost any government services as an offset to reduced revenue growth.

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Kansas Congressional Race May Test Which Matters More: Economy or Abortion?

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP/KPR) — Kansas' only Democrat in Congress is hoping abortion-rights voters remain fired up enough to save her swing-district seat, even if some of them blame her party for skyrocketing housing, grocery and gas prices. Democrat Sharice Davids is seeking a third term in office. Her opponent is Amanda Adkins, a former corporate executive and former chair of the state's Republican Party. Adkins says President Joe Biden and Democratic incumbents have ruined the national economy. Democrats are painting Adkins as an anti-abortion extremist. She supported a failed proposal to amend the Kansas Constitution to allow the Republican-controlled Legislature to restrict or perhaps ban abortion, while Davids opposed it.

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Rail Unions Emphasize Positives of Their Tentative Deals

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The two biggest U.S. railroad unions are fighting rumors that they might impose a contract on their members even if they reject the deals that prevented a nationwide strike that could have devastated the economy. The unions are emphasizing the potential benefits of the contracts that include 24% raises. They are also explaining that the only way a deal would get imposed is if Congress intervenes to block a strike. One of the 10 other rail unions — the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers — voted Wednesday to join two smaller unions in accepting its deal with the railroads that include BNSF, Union Pacific, CSX, Norfolk Southern and Kansas City Southern.

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Federal Court Finds 3rd Iowa Ag-Gag Law Unconstitutional

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A federal judge in Iowa has struck down the third attempt in recent years by the Iowa Legislature to stop animal welfare groups from secretly filming livestock abuse, finding once again that the law passed last year violates free speech rights in the U.S. Constitution. The decision Monday rejected the law approved by lawmakers and signed by Governor Kim Reynolds in April 2021 that makes it a crime to trespass on a property to place a camera to record or transmit images. The law made the first offense punishable by up to two years in prison and subsequent offenses a felony. The case is one of many so-called ag-gag laws that have surfaced in the U.S. in recent years that pit the right of farmers to protect their property from trespassers against animal welfare advocates.

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Long Overdue Video Tape Returned to Johnson County Library

JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. (UPI) - Officials at a Johnson County library received an unusual surprise when a patron returned a VHS tape that had been checked out 19 years ago. The Johnson County Central Resource Library says the tape, a Russian film titled Burnt by the Sun, was checked out on a 7-day loan in 2003. The library usually imposes a 30-cent-per-day fine on late materials, but the fees are capped at $6 per item. The Shawnee Mission Post reports that it’s unclear whether the patron will be fined for the return. Library officials say they hope the unusual return will serve as inspiration for any other library patrons to return their long-overdue items.

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Big 12 Football's First Full League Weekend Features Title Game Rematch

UNDATED (AP) - The first full weekend of conference games in the Big 12 includes a rematch of last year's championship game as ninth-ranked Oklahoma State plays at 16th-ranked Baylor. The Bears won the title game last December on a last-second fourth-down stop near the end zone. Oklahoma State is the league's highest-scoring team at nearly 52 points a game and is coming off an open date. Baylor opened Big 12 play with a win at Iowa State. Still-undefeated Kansas, with standout quarterback Jalon Daniels, is at home this week against the Iowa State Cyclones. No. 18 Oklahoma plays at TCU; No. 25 Kansas State hosts Texas Tech; and West Virginia takes on Texas.

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Chiefs Hopeful Star Kicker Harrison Butker Can Play Against the Tampa Bay Bucs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs are hopeful that Harrison Butker, their big-legged kicker whom they so sorely missed last week in Indianapolis, will be able to play when they face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. The Chiefs waived Matt Ammendola after he missed a chip-shot field goal and an extra point in last week's 20-17 loss in Indianapolis. If Butker remains out for the third straight week, the Chiefs would turn to Matthew Wright, whom they signed to the practice squad. Wright appeared in three games for Pittsburgh two years ago and 14 games for Jacksonville, where he connected on 21 of 24 field goals and 13 of 15 extra points. The former Central Florida standout's career long is 56 yards.

This weekend's game is supposed to be played in Tampa Bay, but ESPN reports that Minneapolis has been chosen as a contingency site if the Chiefs-Buccaneers game has to relocate because of Hurricane Ian.

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Longtime Royals Catcher, Manager John Wathan to Retire

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Longtime big league catcher and manager John Wathan announced he's retiring after the season — and after spending 47 of his 51 years in professional baseball with the Kansas City Royals. Wathan was a first-round pick of the Royals in 1971 and spent 10 seasons behind the plate for them, including their 1985 World Series title season. Wathan went into coaching and managed the Royals from 1987 into the 1991 season before spending part of the 1992 season managing the Angels. He also did some broadcasting work for Kansas City before returning to the Royals in a player development role, helping the club win two AL pennants and the 2015 World Series.

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Proud to Be an American: 76ers Star Joel Embiid Now U.S. Citizen

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Joel Embiid is an American citizen. Embiid said he was sworn in as a citizen two weeks ago in Philadelphia. Embiid is a native of Cameroon and also has French citizenship. Embiid said it's way too early to think about which country he could potentially represent in international basketball. Embiid played one season of college basketball at the University of Kansas. The 28-year-old Embiid averaged a career-best 30.6 points in 68 games and won the NBA scoring title.

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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, 11 am weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today. And follow KPR News on Twitter.

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