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Headlines for Wednesday, December 22, 2021


Kansas Governor Proposes One-Time Income Tax Rebates of $250

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Governor Laura Kelly is proposing to give Kansas residents who pay income taxes a one-time rebate of $250. Kelly outlined the proposal Wednesday heading into a difficult reelection campaign next year. The Republican-controlled Legislature would have to approve the plan, and GOP lawmakers are expected to have proposals for ongoing income tax cuts instead of one-time rebates. Lawmakers' next annual session convenes January 10. Kelly said such rebates would be possible because Kansas has been collecting more in tax revenues than expected for months. Her proposal would provide $250 to individuals and $500 to married couples filing jointly. About 1.2 million filers would receive a total of $445 million.


Prosecutors: Kansas Lawmaker Shouldn't Get Diversion

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas prosecutors say a 21-year-old Democratic state lawmaker who is charged with domestic battery in a disturbance involving his brother is no longer eligible for diversion. Johnson County Assistant District Attorney Samantha Shannon said in a Zoom hearing on Wednesday that the issue is that a warrant was issued for Aaron Coleman after a motion to revoke his bond was filed in the wake of his arrest last month on suspicion of drunken driving. But Coleman’s attorney, David Bell, said he didn’t know what had changed to prevent diversion. A hearing is set for January 7.


Kansas Supreme Court Considers State's Eviction Process

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The Kansas Supreme Court has created a group to review the state's eviction process and look for ways to make it more fair and equitable. The Kansas News Service reports that the group will offer recommendations in February. More tenants and renters are representing themselves in court for the eviction process. Judge Sarah Warner doesn’t know why this is happening, but she says it became more common during the pandemic. This is just one issue the committee will examine.  COVID changed how courts operate, and Warner says now is a good time to rethink the eviction process. “This pandemic is not the disruption that any of us wanted in the court system. But perhaps it was the disruption that we needed," she said. The review also comes months after the moratorium on evictions was lifted. Warner says the number of eviction cases has risen, but it has not exceeded pre-pandemic levels.  


Commission Calls for End of Native American Mascots in Schools

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A commission created by Governor Laura Kelly is calling for the end of Native American mascots in schools and sports teams, an expansion of Medicaid and increased access to contraceptives. The Kansas News Service reports that the commission has released dozens of other recommendations focused on racial justice. The commission offered recommendations on policing in 2020, but released dozens of new recommendations in its latest report: increasing vaccine equity, diversifying workforces and not allowing police school resources officers to discipline students. The 100-page report focused on social determinants of health. It proposed changes to child care, education policies and tax policy. The recommendations aim to help state and local governments consider new legislation.


Native American KU Students Want a Say in Criminal Cases

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Some Native American students at the University of Kansas want a say in criminal cases involving vandalism and thefts at the “Native Hosts” art exhibit. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that members of the First Nations Student Association have asked the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office to include them in processing of the criminal cases. Doctoral student D’Arlyn Bell says the crimes made Native American students feel “targeted.” Both crimes happened in September. Two students are charged in the thefts. No charges have been filed in the vandalism.


Kansas Forest Service Revises Acreage Burned in Wildfires

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Forest Service has revised downward the number of acres burned in last week's wildfires. The agency posted on Facebook Tuesday that around 163,000 acres burned on December 15, not the 400,000 that was first estimated.  The Forest Service says that as heat, dust and smoke cleared, "the satellite was able to get a clearer picture of the landscape.'' The fires claimed two lives and hundreds of livestock, including cattle and horses. The Forest Service released a map showing the number of burned acres in each county. The Forest Service and the National Interagency Fire Coordination Center are using a new satellite data system to map ongoing wildfires. The technology also showed that some of the fires' perimeters were calculated twice.

(AP Version...)

Forest Service Revises Estimates for Acres Burned in Kansas Wildfires

RUSSELL COUNTY, Kan. (Hays Post) - The Kansas Forest Service has revised its estimate for the number of acres burned by last week's wildfires out west.  Initially, the Forest Service estimated that more than 400,000 acres had burned.  Now that the smoke has cleared, officials say approximately 163,000 acres burned. As the air cleared of heat, dust and smoke, new satellite imaging provided a clearer picture of the landscape. Two men were killed in the wildfires in western Kansas and hundreds of livestock were lost to the flames.


Kansas Lawmakers Express Concern over State Pay Hikes

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas lawmakers fear Governor Laura Kelly’s plan to temporarily increase pay for some state workers will eventually lead to a wave of resignations from prisons and other facilities that operate 24/7, facilities that already have high vacancy rates. During a committee meeting Monday, state Senator Rick Billinger said Kelly’s plan won’t solve the problem. "My concern is the day you tell them you are no longer get this. How many of them are sticking around?,” he said. Governor Kelly issued an executive order temporarily raising pay and offering bonuses to state employees to help attract and retain workers. But lawmakers worry staff will just quit when those increases are removed. State Budget Director Adam Proffitt defended the raises before a legislative committee. He says the situation is dire and something needed to be done. "If we can get this stabilized, people can start to get some of their life back as well as not being at work 12 hours a day, six, seven days a week," he said. Lawmakers support pay increases for staff but wonder if other alternatives could have been proposed, like sign-on bonuses. Proffitt says strict guidelines on temporary pay increases limited what the governor could do. Plans for long-term solutions could be proposed during the legislative session starting next month.


Victims Identified in Fatal Wrong-Way Accident in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Police in Wichita have identified two men killed in a wrong-way accident. The wreck happened shortly after 9 am Tuesday. Police say a pickup traveling eastbound in the westbound lanes of Kellogg Street struck several vehicles before colliding head-on with another pickup. Police say the man driving in the wrong direction was 37-year-old Brandon White of Wichita. He died at the scene. The driver of the other pickup, 60-year-old Rayburn Langston of Wichita, died at a hospital.


Man Pleads No Contest in Shooting Death of 19-Year-Old Woman

INDEPENDENCE, Kan. (AP) — Sentencing is scheduled for Februqary 15 for a Coffeyville man who pleaded no contest to first-degree murder in the 2019 shooting death of a young woman in Independence. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt on Tuesday announced the plea by 20-year-old Benjamin Job Mason II. The case was prosecuted by Schmidt's office. Kimberly Meeks was shot to death on December 14, 2019, as she and a man were walking. Authorities said the shooter fired at them and drove away.


Missouri Supreme Court Overturns Man's Murder Conviction

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri Supreme Court has overturned a man's murder conviction in a deadly 2018 shooting outside a suburban Kansas City shopping mall because he wasn't allowed to argue at trial that he acted in self-defense. The high court ruled Tuesday that the trial judge hamstrung Tyler Gates' attorneys by not allowing them to argue it was self-defense, therefore violating the man's constitutional rights. Jurors convicted Gates of second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the death of 17-year-old Matthew Haylock at the Independence Center. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Gates' attorney says she's pleased by the high court's ruling and that "fairness requires a new trial."  


Two Found Fatally Shot Inside Home in Fort Scott

FORT SCOTT, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and Fort Scott police have arrested a person of interest after two people were found shot to death inside a home. Police were called Tuesday night after someone found a woman had been shot. Arriving officers then found a man who also had been shot. Both victims, identified as 48-year-old Melissa L. Mitchell and 53-year-old Leonard D. Zimmerman, were pronounced dead at the scene. KBI spokeswoman Melissa Underwood said in a news release that 23-year-old Dawson J. Mitchell was arrested Wednesday afternoon on charges including possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He has not been charged in connection with the deaths.  Dawson Mitchell had been sought as a person of interest in the case.


Arrest Warrant Issued in Arkansas for Ex-Nursing Home Owner

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An arrest warrant has been issued for a former nursing home owner on eight Medicaid fraud charges involving his facilities in Arkansas. The Arkansas attorney general's office says Joseph Schwartz also faces two counts of state tax violations for failing to pay taxes that were withheld from employees’ paychecks. Schwartz operated Skyline Health Care. Schwartz's attorney, Bill James, says his client is expected to surrender in January and will plead not guilty to the charges. Schwartz was also sued in federal court in 2020 by former employees in Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Arkansas who claimed that they were left without health insurance even though money was deducted from their paychecks.


Quick Thinking Kansas Deputy Helps Woman Hit by Train

PARSONS, Kan. (AP) - Authorities are crediting a quick-thinking deputy with saving the life of a woman who was struck by a train in southeast Kansas. The Labette County sheriff's office says Deputy Gabe Vitt was in Parsons when he heard dispatchers tell emergency crews that the woman had been hit late Sunday while on foot. Vitt was only a couple blocks away from the crossing and arrived in time to apply a makeshift tourniquet to the woman's partially severed leg. The deputy consoled the woman until other rescue crews arrived. Officials say Deputy Vitt kept the woman "calm and coherent during a life threating event."


Kansas Woman Gets 31-Year Sentence in Death of 3-Year-Old

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas woman has been sentenced to more than 31 years in prison for killing a 3-year-old girl in a case that drew attention to the agency responsible for overseeing young children in the state. The Kansas City Star reports that Jacqulyn Kirkpatrick was sentenced in Kansas City, Kansas, Monday a little more than a month after pleading guilty to second-degree murder and interfering with a law enforcement investigation. Olivia Ann Jansen of Kansas City, Kansas, died in July 2020. A medical examiner's report showed that she had signs of physical abuse and died of a brain bleed. The child's father, Howard Jansen III, also is charged with murder and goes to trial in May.


Family Disappointed After Killer Sentenced to 6 Years

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Relatives of a slain Kansas City man expressed frustration Wednesday after the killer was sentenced to six years in prison. The Kansas City Star reports that Jackson County Judge Bryan Round told the family of Cameron Douglas that his hands were tied before he sentenced Jason Cook to the maximum term allowed. Cook initially was charged with second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the January 2019 apartment complex killing. But a Jackson County jury instead decided to convict Cook of involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action after his defense attorney argued that Cook was acting in self-defense. The jury recommended that Cook serve three years on each count.


Retired Dallas Morning News Reporter Dies in Car Crash

DALLAS (AP) — Retired Dallas Morning News reporter Wayne Slater, who covered the rise of Texas governors Ann Richards and George W. Bush, has died in a car crash. He was 74. A Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman says Slater died Monday after his vehicle collided with a pickup. The crash happened near Florence, north of Austin and where Slater lived. Slater retired from the newspaper in 2014 after three decades there. Slater previously worked for The Associated Press in West Virginia, Kansas, Illinois and Colorado. He co-wrote two books about Bush adviser Karl Rove. Former president Bush called Slater “a hard-working and insightful reporter.”


December Storms Across North-Central U.S. Classified as Derecho

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) - A line of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes that swept across the north-central U.S. last week has been classified by the National Weather Service as a serial derecho - the first on record December. At least 45 tornadoes have been preliminarily confirmed in the Dec. 15 storms that crossed the Great Plains and Midwest amid unseasonably warm temperatures. Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota took the brunt of the damage. Five deaths were blamed on the weather. A derecho shares similarities to a hurricane, but it has no eye and its winds come across in a line. The similarity is in the damage, which is likely to spread over a wide area.


Missouri Supreme Court Overturns Mall Shooting Conviction

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) _ The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned the conviction of a man in a deadly 2018 shooting outside a suburban Kansas City shopping mall because he was not allowed to argue that the shooting was self defense. The ruling from the full court said the prohibition hamstrung 19-year-old Tyler Gates's defense attorneys and violated Gates's constitutional rights. Jurors found Gates guilty in June 2019 of second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the death of 17-year-old Matthew Haylock at the Independence Center. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison. 


Medical Pot Sales in Missouri Top $200 Million

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Medical marijuana sales in Missouri have reached a milestone, now topping the $200 million mark. According to state officials, 14 months after sales began, Missouri now has more than 158,000 patients who are active in the state's medical marijuana program, along with 3,200 caregivers.  Missouri voters approved medical marijuana in 2018 and the state implemented the program in about 23 months. Twenty-one states have implemented medical marijuana laws since 2005. In Missouri, residents with cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma and 20 other qualifying conditions are eligible to use marijuana.  


Bus Fire Briefly Strands Newman University Basketball Team in Nebraska

HOLDREGE, Neb. (AP) — A bus carrying a Kansas college basketball team caught fire, leaving players and staff briefly stranded in a central Nebraska town. The Holdrege Daily Citizen says the Newman University men’s basketball team from Wichita was heading from Kearney, Nebraska, to Hays on Saturday when the fire occurred. The bus was carrying 15 basketball players, three coaches and an athletic trainer. No one was injured. Holdrege volunteer firefighters received the call at around 1:40 pm Saturday. Head Coach R.J. Allen says the only personal items lost in the fire were phone chargers, pillows and blankets. Allen says the team was headed to a practice before a game against Fort Hays State University.


Chiefs with No New COVID-19 Positives; Gordon, Gay Return

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Chiefs had no additional positive COVID-19 tests Wednesday, one day after seven players were added to the reserve list, a promising sign that an outbreak that infected 16 players in all may have subsided. Now, the question facing the Chiefs is whether they will have such stars as wide receiver Tyreek Hill, tight end Travis Kelce and defensive tackle Chris Jones available in time for Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh. They did get some positive news with wide receiver Josh Gordon and linebacker Willie Gay Jr. testing negative and returning to practice, but there are still plenty of holes in the roster and the Chiefs are running out of time to get those players back.


Kansas City's Tyreek Hill Among 21 NFL Players Added to COVID-19 List

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Another 21 NFL players were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday, including Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill, cornerback Rashad Fenton and tight end Blake Bell. They were among nine players, including two on the practice squad, who joined tight end Travis Kelce and kicker Harrison Butker on Kansas City’s growing list. The Chiefs also have Charvarius Ward on the list, which means two of their top three cornerbacks are in the league’s virus protocol, along with defensive tackle Chris Jones, linebacker Willie Gay Jr. and wide receiver Josh Gordon. Linebacker Nick Bolton, offensive lineman Kyle Long, right tackle Lucas Niang and safety Armani Watts also were added to the list on Tuesday.


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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