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Headlines for Tuesday, November 16, 2021

 

Kansas Governor Gets COVID Booster, Urges Vaccinations

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has received her COVID-19 booster shot and is urging others to get vaccinated as well. Kelly said in a statement that she “wouldn’t ask any Kansan to do something I wasn’t willing to do myself” after getting the Moderna booster Friday. Federal health officials recommend boosters for people who received Pfizer or Moderna vaccinations at least six months ago if they’re 65 or older, or are at high risk of COVID-19 because of health problems or their job or living conditions. Any Johnson & Johnson recipient can get a booster at least two months later.  

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Biden Infrastructure Bill Includes Nearly $4 Billion for Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) —The $1 trillion infrastructure bill that President Joe Biden signed yesterday (MON) includes nearly $4 billion for Kansas. The federal funding will be spent on a long list of improvements to everything from highways to water pipes.  Kansas will get at least $2.7 billion over the next five years to spend on highways, crumbling bridges and airports.  About $450 million is on the way to improve the safety of drinking water in towns and cities with aging lead pipes.  $100 million will be used to fill gaps in the state’s spotty broadband network.  Millions more dollars are earmarked for wildfire prevention, cyberattack protection and the expansion of electric vehicle charging stations.  U.S. Representative Sharice Davids, a Democrat from the Kansas City area, was the only Kansas member of Congress to support the massive bill.  The rest of the delegation, all Republicans, voted against it because they said it was too expensive.  

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Judge Blocks Tax Cut Rule in American Rescue Plan

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A federal judge has blocked the U.S. Treasury from enforcing a provision of the American Rescue Plan  that prohibited states from using the pandemic relief funds to offset new tax cuts.  U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler ruled Monday that Congress’s exceeded its power under the Constitution in putting the so-called tax mandate on states. Thirteen states had filed a lawsuit in federal court in Alabama challenging the provision of the pandemic relief package.  The American Rescue Plan steered $200 billion in relief funds to states but specified that states could not use it as a means to cut taxes and then use the federal relief dollars to offset the revenue reduction. The lawsuit was filed by Alabama, Arkansas, Alaska, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and West Virginia.

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2nd Group of States Challenges Health Worker Vaccine Mandate

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A second set of states has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers. The suit filed in Louisiana on behalf of 12 states was dated Monday. It comes less than a week after another lawsuit challenging the rule was filed in Missouri by a coalition of 10 states, including Kansas. Both lawsuits say the rule issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services violates federal law and unconstitutionally encroaches on powers reserved to the states. In addition to Louisiana, the latest suit covers Montana, Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia.

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Affidavit: Kansas Lawmaker Hit Brother in Fight over Baptism

MISSION, Kan. (AP) _ Newly released court documents say a 21-year-old Kansas lawmaker who is charged with domestic battery pushed, hit and spit on his 18-year-old brother in a fight that erupted because the brother was going to get baptized. The probable cause affidavit that was released Tuesday also says Representative Aaron Coleman of Kansas City was ``uncooperative'' with police during the October 30 fight. Coleman has acknowledged past abuses against girls and young women. And he took a temporary ``leave of absence'' earlier this month following a Johnson County district judge's order that he undergo a mental health evaluation. 

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Threat Charge Against Topeka Developer Dropped

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — After seven years of legal battles, a criminal threat charge against Topeka developer Kent Lindemuth has been dismissed. Lindemuth was scheduled to go on trial on Monday. But an order of dismissal filed Friday said the victim in the case asked that the charge be dropped and two witnesses recently became uncooperative with prosecutors. The charge dismissed Friday alleged that Lindemuth threatened the owner of an Oklahoma company in 2014. He was convicted of one count of making a criminal threat. An appeals court later overturned the conviction, and the Kansas Supreme Court sent the case back to Shawnee County, which continued to pursue it until Friday's dismissal.

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Wichita Man Accused of Killing Man Who Had Shot Himself

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say they have arrested a man who shot a 27-year-old roommate who was suicidal and had just shot himself. Police said 28-year-old Charles Burnham was arrested Tuesday and is being held on $500,000 bond facing a possible charge of first-degree murder. Officers who went to a home early Tuesday found a 27-year-old man dead. Captain Jason Stephens said officers learned the victim was suicidal and had shot himself once in the head. Stephens said Burnham then took the gun and shot the man two more times. First-degree murder requires premeditation. Stephens said Burnham and the man had a conversation that led to Burnham's involvement in the shooting.

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Police Say Man in Wheelchair Fatally Hit by Car in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man in a wheelchair has died after being hit by a car as he crossed a street in Wichita. Police say the crash happened around 8 p.m. Monday in a business district just northwest of the Wichita State University campus. Police say the man was crossing Hillside Street when a northbound car hit him. The man was declared dead at the scene. Police have not released the man's name, but say he was in his 60s. The driver of the car remained at the scene of the crash and is cooperating with police. Investigators are trying to determine whether the man killed was crossing the street outside of the designated crosswalk.

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Striking Deere Workers in Kansas Prepare to Vote on 3rd Contract

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Deere & Co. and union officials have reached a third preliminary contract agreement that workers who began striking four weeks ago will vote on soon. The United Auto Workers says that the proposed contract with the agricultural machinery giant “includes modest modifications” to the latest rejected proposal, which included immediate 10% raises. The union described the new proposal as the company’s “last, best and final offer." The contract, which union members will vote on on Wednesday, would cover more than 10,000 Deere workers at 12 facilities in Kansas, Iowa, and Illinois who make the company’s iconic John Deere green tractors and other equipment.

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Lawrence School Board Extends Thanksgiving Break

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Another Kansas school district is extending its Thanksgiving break to a full week to give overwhelmed staff a reprieve. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the school board approved a plan Friday to turn November 22nd and 23rd into wellness and self-care days. Staff already had the rest of the week off. Superintendent Anthony Lewis told the board during the meeting that the time off was needed because faculty and staff were at a breaking point from the stress and other difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Independence, Missouri, Latest to Ban LGBTQ “Conversion Therapy”

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) _ The Kansas City, Missouri, suburb of Independence is the latest in the metropolitan area to ban conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth. The City Council voted unanimously Monday night to prohibit mental health professionals from using conversion therapy. Those who violate the ordinance could see fines of up to $500. The goal of conversion therapy is to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. Several other cities in Missouri have banned the practice, including Kansas City, Columbia, and St. Joseph. Prairie Village, Roeland Park and Lawrence are among the cities in Kansas that have banned the controversial therapy. 

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Records Found of Native American Students who Died at Nebraska School

GENOA, Neb. (AP) - Researchers say they have uncovered the names of 102 Native American students who died at a federally operated boarding school in Nebraska.  The Omaha World-Herald reports that the discovery comes as ground-penetrating radar has been used in recent weeks to search for a cemetery once used by the school that operated in Genoa from 1884 to 1934.  So far, no graves have been found.  The Genoa school was one of the largest in a system of 25 federally-run boarding schools for Native Americans.  A number of Genoa students transferred to the Haskell Institute in Lawrence.

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Kansas Legislature to Have Special Session on COVID Mandates

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican lawmakers have succeeded in forcing a Thanksgiving-week special session of the Kansas Legislature to consider financially protecting workers who refuse to comply with federal vaccine mandates. GOP legislative leaders announced that all Republicans in both the House and the Senate have signed a petition demanding a special session starting November 22. Governors call special sessions, but the Kansas Constitution requires them to do it if two-thirds of both chambers demand it — and the GOP holds more than enough seats. There are GOP proposals to make it easier for workers to claim religious exemptions to vaccine mandates and to provide unemployment benefits to employees fired for not getting inoculated.

(–Related–) 

GOP Proposals on COVID Mandates Worry Kansas Business Groups

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Influential Kansas business groups have strong misgivings about Republican proposals aimed at financially protecting workers who refuse COVID-19 inoculations. A joint legislative committee had hearings Friday on a proposal to make it easier for workers to claim religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and another to provide unemployment benefits to workers who are fired for refusing to get vaccinated. Both are a response to federal mandates. Both drew opposition from the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business. Their lobbyists said businesses shouldn't have to choose between complying with federal mandates or state rules. Anti-mandate activists think the measures aren't strong enough.

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Wichita Activists Push Evergy to Help with Upgrades for Low Income Households

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - Community activists in Wichita want the state’s largest electric utility to help low-income households pay for energy efficiency upgrades. Two nonprofit groups, Prairie Roots Kansas and the Climate + Energy Project, held a press conference on Monday. They are calling on electric company Evergy to adopt the “People’s Energy Plan,” which they say would lower utility bills for those most disproportionately impacted by high energy costs including households in traditionally low-income areas. The groups say residents of some neighborhoods can barely pay their utility bills, let alone afford upgrades. The community organizations want Evergy to establish a program that would pay for upgrades such as better insulation or newer air conditioners and furnaces by using the future energy savings to minimize costs to customers. Evergy says it’s working on a package of programs to help low income customers and will attend a virtual town hall with the Wichita groups are holding Thursday.

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Students Sue Kansas City School District After Being  Disciplined over Hoax 'Slavery' Petition'

RIVERSIDE, Mo. (AP) - Four students at a Kansas City school district who were disciplined after a petition to "Start Slavery Again" are suing the district. The lawsuit alleges that the posting started as private bantering between a biracial student and a Black student. The lawsuit claims that officials at the Park Hill, Missouri, school district overreacted after the posting went viral and drew national attention.  An attorney said the four male students are seeking to be reinstated and to have the incident removed from their school records. A spokeswoman for the district says officials acted appropriately when they expelled one student and suspended three others for 180 days. 

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Mayor of Wichita Suburb Arrested on Suspicion of DUI

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The mayor of a Wichita suburb was arrested Saturday on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  A report released by the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office Sunday shows that Goddard Mayor Hunter Larkin was arrested by the Kansas Highway Patrol Saturday near the intersection of Tyler Road and Kellogg Drive in Wichita. The Wichita Eagle reported that no other details about the 22-year-old's arrest were immediately available Sunday morning. Larkin did not immediately respond to phone and email messages from the newspaper. Larkin was appointed Goddard mayor in August 2020. He had previously served as president of the Goddard City Council. 

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Man Convicted in Assault on Corrections Officer Sentenced

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 58-year-old Kansas inmate convicted of attempted murder for assaulting a corrections officer in 2019 has been sentenced to more than 54 years in prison for the attack. Ray Miles, of Topeka, was convicted in August of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated battery and battery against a corrections officer. Prosecutors said Miles tried to stab Shawnee County corrections officer Kourtney Flynn several times with a pen in July 2019 before other workers restrained him. Miles was in the jail to serve the remaining year of his sentences for attacking several employees of a Topeka television station in 2012, stabbing two of them.

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Woman Charged in Shooting Death of Church Volunteer

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 29-year-old woman is charged with killing a Kansas City, Kansas, woman who was on her way home from volunteering at church. Authorities announced Monday that Melanie Perry is charged with first-degree murder and criminal discharge of a firearm. Investigators allege she killed 62-year-old Lillian Jackson on September18. Jackson was driving home from Mount Zion Baptist Church when she was caught in a rolling gun battle. Her car was hit several times, killing her instantly. Perry, of Kansas City, Kansas, faces other unrelated charges and has been in the Wyandotte County jail since October 20.

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More Women Turn to Abortion Pills by Mail, with Legality Uncertain

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - COVID-19 and state abortion restrictions, like a near total ban that took effect in Texas in September, have women with unwanted pregnancies increasingly considering getting abortion pills by mail. The legality of mail delivery is uncertain in much of the U.S. because of the patchwork of state abortion laws, and Republican lawmakers and governors in Texas and five other states have moved this year to specifically ban delivery by mail. The co-founder of the abortion medication information website Plan C says the site had nine times as many hits in September as it had before a near-ban on abortion took effect early that month. 

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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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