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Headlines for Tuesday, October 26, 2021


Kansas Court Wonders: Is It Too Late to Rule on COVID Law?

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court is wrestling with a decision on whether the state constitution allows people to keep getting quick judicial decisions in lawsuits against COVID-19 restrictions. The court heard arguments from attorneys Tuesday on a law requiring district courts to rule within 10 days when someone sues over a county restriction. Three of the seven justices expressed skepticism that the law is constitutional. But the court is considering an appeal in a lawsuit against a school district's mask mandate, and school districts are covered by a different law that expired in June. The issue is whether that case was dead before it came to the justices.


Study: Prolonged Heat & Drought Will Affect Corn, Soybeans

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - A better understanding of the link between heat and drought shows that Kansas corn and soybean farmers will be hurt by climate change in the coming decades. The Kansas News Service reports a new paper from Columbia University shows that heat and drought will decrease Kansas corn and soybean yields by as much as 30% by the end of the century. The paper looked beyond rising temperatures, which have been widely researched. It found a link between heat and increased drought. Add the two factors together and the risk of yield losses nearly doubles in Kansas from what was previously expected. Kansas corn growers say technology should help them overcome some of those changes in climate. The development of more drought tolerant corn varieties has already helped increase yields and driven up the number of acres of non-irrigated corn planted in the state over the past 15 years. (Read more.)


Ex-Kansas Senate Leader Pleads No Contest to DUI

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita Republican who once was one of the Kansas Legislature’s most powerful lawmakers has pleaded no contest to driving under the influence and reckless driving. Former Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop appeared in a Topeka court Monday to formally accept a deal with prosecutors that dropped a felony charge of trying to elude law enforcement while speeding the wrong way on highways in Topeka. A Shawnee County District Judge found Suellentrop guilty and sentenced him to 6 months in jail for the DUI and 90 days for reckless driving. The bulk of the jail sentences were suspended but he will serve 48 hours in jail.


KU Employees Given More Time to Make Insurance Choice as LMH Battles with Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - A financial battle between Lawrence’s only hospital and the state’s largest health insurance network has left thousands of area residents uncertain about whether they should keep their longstanding health insurance plans for 2022.  But, as the Lawrence Journal-World reports, University of Kansas employees and other State of Kansas workers have been given a temporary reprieve on figuring out whether Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas (BCBS) and LMH Health will reach a deal for 2022. Kansas officials have extended the open enrollment deadline for signing up for the state’s health insurance program to November 5. The original deadline was October 31. The extension gives what is likely thousands of Douglas County households extra time to consider how to proceed with their health insurance plans. BCBS of Kansas has been the top choice for many, but a primary reason behind that choice is that virtually every doctor and hospital in the state is included in the BCBS network. If LMH Health and BCBS of Kansas don’t reach a deal before December 31, that won’t be the case.  LMH Health, in addition to operating the city’s only hospital, owns the largest number of doctor’s offices and specialty clinics in the county. Without an agreement, the hospital and those health care offices would be considered out of the BCBS of Kansas network. That would mean that BCBS of Kansas customers could still receive care at those facilities, but they would be charged higher prices than if they were in network.  At issue is how much BCBS of Kansas will pay LMH Health for the types of services it provides to patients. LMH leaders say they have used federally mandated websites that show how much hospitals received from insurers for certain procedures to know that LMH is receiving less money than many hospitals in the region.  (Read more.)


Student Found Dead in KU Dorm Room; Foul Play Not Suspected

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - Authorities say a female student at the University of Kansas was found dead in her dorm room over the weekend, but foul play is not suspected.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports the student's body was found Sunday night in Lewis Hall. The cause of her death is under investigation.  KU officials said they would not release the student's name out of respect for her family.


KBI: Man Kills Self After Kidnapping, Standoff in Glen Elder

GLEN ELDER, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says a suspect in a kidnapping died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after a long standoff. The KBI says a 78-year-old man contacted Mitchell County authorities on Saturday to report he had been kidnapped at gunpoint and held for 26 hours by an acquaintance, 59-year-old John Roudybush, of rural Glen Elder. When officers tried to serve a search warrant at Roudybush's home on Sunday evening, he refused to come out. The KBI says after hours of negotiations, officers heard a gunshot early Monday and found Roudybush dead inside the house. No shots were fired at officers. An investigation is continuing. 


Police: 2 People Shot, 1 Killed, in Kansas City, Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ Police in Kansas City, Kansas, are investigating after finding two people shot, one fatally, in the city's Quindaro Bluffs neighborhood. Police say the shooting happened around 10:30 Monday night.  Arriving officers found two people with gunshot wounds, including one who died at the scene. The other person was taken to a hospital with injuries not believed to be life-threatening. Police say a person of interest in the shooting was taken into custody. Police have not released the names of any of those involved.


Patrol: 8-Year-Old Killed in ATV Crash in Ford County Field

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says an 8-year-old boy has died after the all-terrain vehicle he was driving in a southwestern Kansas field crashed. The patrol says the crash happened Monday night in a Ford County farm field. Investigators say the ATV flipped, killing 8-year-old Nicholas Williams, of Offerle. Officials say the boy was not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.


One Dead, Two Hurt in Truck-Train Collision Near Maize

SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan. (AP) — The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Department says a woman has died and two juveniles are critically injured after the truck the woman was driving struck a train near Maize. KWCH-TV reports that the sheriff’s office said the juveniles were passengers in the truck that collided with the train Tuesday afternoon. The railroad crossing has no arms or lights, according to the sheriff’s office. The department is investigating the collision.


Kansas City Landlord Charged in Tenant's Death After Argument over Heat

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Prosecutors in Clay County, Missouri, say a 44-year-old Kansas City landlord is charged with second-degree murder after one of his tenants was stabbed to death, allegedly in a dispute over heating at the tenant's residence.  Gordon McBeth was charged Monday in the death of Darryl Gilland. Officers responding to a call at the home in northern Kansas City found a bystander pointing a gun at McBeth.  Witnesses told officers McBeth stabbed Gilland. KSHB-TV reports Gilland had been stabbed more than 30 times.  Gilland's girlfriend told investigators the couple had been working with McBeth on a problem with their heating when he came to the home and attacked Gilland.  


Police: 2 Killed Sunday in Separate Shootings in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Kansas City Police are investigating the killings of two people in separate shootings.  Officers were called to a gas station Sunday night near the city's Citadel neighborhood. Witnesses reported the victim walked into the gas station, asked for help and then collapsed. Police found him unresponsive in the parking lot with a gunshot wound. He was rushed to a hospital, where he died. Later that night, police were called to a neighborhood in the far south end of the city for another shooting and found a wounded man who died at the scene. Police say witnesses indicated a disturbance occurred between the man and others that led to that shooting.


KC Plans to Submit Bid to Host GOP National Convention in 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KSHB) - Kansas City plans to submit a bid to host the 2024 Republican National Convention.  KSHB TV reports that the office of Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas confirmed the news Monday.  City officials say the GOP National Committee recently contacted them asking for the city to submit a bid to host the political convention.  A delegation from the city is meeting with RNC officials in Washington, D.C. today (TUE). Kansas City will have until December 1st to formally submit a bid.  


Kansas Audio-Reader Network Celebrates 50 Years on the Air

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - The Kansas Audio-Reader Network is celebrating its 50th year on the air with a party in Lawrence next month.  Audio-Reader is a reading and information service for blind, vision-impaired and print-disabled people in Kansas and Missouri.  Fifty years ago this month, Audio-Reader began broadcasting from the KU campus.  And next month, the service will celebrate.  Audio-Reader is holding its 50th anniversary party at Abe and Jake's Landing in Lawrence on Friday, November 5th.  Among the honored guests will be Academy Award-winning KU film professor, director and screenwriter Kevin Willmott.  The Junction City native's 8-and-a-half pound Oscar statuette will be on display.  In addition to its other services, Audio-Reader provides descriptive services to audience members at the Lied Center, Theater Lawrence and Starlight Theater in Kansas City, ensuring that visually-impaired theater-goers can also enjoy live performances.

More information about Audio-Reader's 50th birthday party can be found online at READER.KU.EDU.


Kansas Economy Rebounds Amid Pandemic

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - The Kansas economy has almost fully recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic. But some challenges remain.  Several factors have helped the state’s economy rebound, says Donna Ginther, a University of Kansas economist.  The biggest, she says, is billions of federal dollars from two massive relief bills passed by Congress. “That federal money was critically important," she said.  Especially, Ginther says, the $6.6 billion dollars in Paycheck Protection loans doled out to Kansas small businesses. “That PPP money preserved hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state," she said. Remaining challenges for the economy include a labor shortage caused in large part by the retirement of thousands of Baby Boomers. “35,000 Kansans at least have retired in the past year. You know, this was going to happen, but because of COVID it happened all at once," she said. The labor shortage has led many Kansans in low-wage jobs to look for better ones. And that, Ginther says, is causing a lot of churn in the labor market.  A lack of affordable childcare and spotty broadband coverage are also holding back the recovery in some parts of the state.

Biden Sued by 12 States, Including Kansas, over Reversal of Trump-Era Abortion Referral Ban

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s top lawyer has filed suit against the Biden administration seeking to restore a Trump-era ban on abortion referrals by family planning clinics that was reversed earlier this month. The action by Republican Attorney Dave Yost was joined by 11 other states. It says new federal regulations at the Department of Health and Human Services that return the Title X federal family planning program to the way it ran under the Obama administration prevents states from determining violations of a federal prohibition on clinics using taxpayer money for abortions. Former President Donald Trump set the ban in 2019. States joining the challenge are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and West Virginia.


Kansas National Guard to Use Federal Funds for Vaccination Compliance

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The Kansas National Guard says it will use federal funds to make sure service members are vaccinated against COVID-19. That comes after state lawmakers raised concerns about the mandate. Kansas legislators passed a law against using state money to enforce vaccine mandates. So Leavenworth Republican Pat Proctor wrote to the Kansas National Guard, contesting its vaccine requirement. But Kansas Adjutant General David Weishaar, says the requirement is funded with federal dollars. The vaccine requirement is part of the U.S. Department of Defense’s mandate that all service members get vaccinated.


Overland Park Police Expand Mental Health Response for Calls

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) - The Overland Park Police Department is expanding a team that responds to police calls involving mental health crises. The mental health unit will have more than a dozen members and six co-responders. The change comes after the Overland Park City Council voted in September to raise property taxes to fund the unit, and the city received a nearly $250,000 federal grant. When the mental health team responds to a call, it will be joined by a clinician from Johnson County Mental Health.  Police officials say the department's goal is to let the mental health team help while officers keep everyone safe.


Woman Pleads Guilty to Soliciting Lansing Inmate's Murder

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) - A 44-year-old Kansas City woman has pleaded guilty to solicitation of capital murder after she helped set up a plan to kill an inmate at the Lansing Correctional Facility. Renee Johnson-Fritz admitted that she sent a message to inmate Andrew Hogue ordering the death of another inmate. The target inmate was attacked in April 2019 but survived. Johnson-Fritz's husband, Frederick Fritz, is also charged with solicitation of capital murder.  Prosecutors say he sent his wife a letter demanding the death of the Lansing inmate. Witnesses at a preliminary hearing said Frederick Fritz is a leader of the Aryan Brotherhood of Kansas. Hogue is charged with attempted capital murder.  


Allegations of Police Bias in Kansas Yield Few Sanctions

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The vast majority of complaints of bias made against Kansas law enforcement agencies are not found to have merit. An Associated Press review of data shows agencies have received hundreds of complaints of bias over the past 10 years, but records available to the public show only two alleging racial bias resulted in consequences for officers.  Advocates for racial equality question how that could be the case and suggest that law enforcement investigating complaints against other officers and a lack of transparency are problems.  Representatives of law enforcement say police investigators that look into bias complaints receive specialized training and that proving bias is extremely difficult.


Oklahoma Cities, Others Join in Effort to Overturn McGirt Decision

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Two northeast Oklahoma cities, state law enforcement and business groups and the states of Texas, Kansas, Louisiana and Nebraska have filed briefs supporting the state's request that the U.S. Supreme Court overturn its decision that some tribal reservations were never disestablished. The cities of Tulsa and Owasso filed friend of the court briefs Thursday alleging crimes such as domestic violence have not been prosecuted because of what is known as the McGirt decision. A federal prosecutor and the Cherokee Nation dispute the claims. The McGirt decision found that Oklahoma has no jurisdiction over crimes committed by or against Native Americans on tribal reservations.


Stadium Planned for Kansas City's Women's Pro Soccer Team

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The owners of Kansas City's professional women's soccer team plan to build a $70 million stadium for the team. Owners of Kansas City NWSL announced Tuesday the 11,000-seat stadium is expected to open in 2024 at a site along the Missouri River near downtown. The stadium will be the first built in the U.S. specifically for a professional women’s soccer team. Kansas City NWSL officials say the stadium will be privately financed, with the ownership group signing a 50-year lease. The team's owners have previously announced plans for a $15 million training facility in suburban Kansas City.


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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