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Headlines for Wednesday, January 19, 2022

 

GOP Redistricting Plan in Kansas Splits Democratic Congresswoman's District

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican legislators in Kansas are pursuing a redistricting proposal that would remove Democratic voters from the Kansas-City area swing district currently held by the state’s only Democratic member of Congress. Democrats fear that new political boundaries will make it harder for Democratic Congresswoman Sharice Davids to win reelection in Kansas’ 3rd District. GOP lawmakers on Tuesday made public their first congressional redistricting proposals during meetings of committees in the state House and Senate. One plan outlined by key Republicans would split up the state's portion of the Kansas City metropolitan area and draw part of the Democratic stronghold of Wyandotte County out of Davids' district.

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KS GOP Redistricting Plans in Would Split Kansas City Swing District; Would Move Much of Lawrence into Big First 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican legislators in Kansas are pursuing a redistricting proposal that would remove Democratic voters from the Kansas-City area swing district currently held by the state’s only Democratic member of Congress. The plan unveiled Tuesday also would move Lawrence, home to the main University of Kansas campus, into the sprawling and largely rural district covering western and central Kansas. The city is known for its liberal politics, while former President Donald Trump carried many western Kansas counties with more than 80% of the vote in 2020.

The debate in Kansas comes with Republicans hoping to regain a U.S. House majority in this year’s mid-term elections. Democrats fear that new political boundaries will make it harder for Democratic U.S. Representative Sharice Davids to win reelection in Kansas’s 3rd District, and are focused on keeping most of Johnson and Wyandotte counties together. Those two counties contain most of the state’s side of the Kansas City metropolitan area, and Wyandotte County is among a few Democratic strongholds in Republican-leaning Kansas. The proposal was introduced during separate meetings of the state House and Senate redistricting committees, first by House committee Chair Chris Croft, an Overland Park Republican, then by Senate President Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican. Both dismissed the idea that politics lay behind the division of the Kansas City area, though Davids would lose the northern half of Wyandotte County and its Democratic neighborhoods and pick up territory in three GOP-leaning counties. “A lot of it’s population driven,” Croft told reporters after the House committee’s meeting. “There’s a lot of factors that go into it.” Davids’s district is almost 58,000 residents over the ideal district population of about 734,000. The other three districts are underpopulated, with the already-sprawling 1st District of western and central Kansas needing to pick up close to 34,000 people for all four districts to be as equal in population as possible. Masterson said because of population growth in the Kansas City area, Davids’s district must lose either part of Johnson or part of Wyandotte County. He also argued that Davids and the state’s three GOP congressmen still would be reelected with the new lines. “We’re just interested in fairness,” he told reporters.

Democrats are skeptical that GOP proposals on congressional redistricting aren’t driven by a desire to wound Davids politically. Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes, a Lenexa Democrat, and Democratic state Rep. Tom Burroughs, of Kansas City, unveiled their own proposals, and both keep all of Wyandotte County in Davids’s district while splitting off western and southern Johnson County.

LGBTQ-rights advocates also are watching redistricting closely because Davids is the first and only LGBTQ person to represent Kansas in Congress. “The LGBTQ community deserves the same seat at the table as everybody else in this country,” said Tom Witt, executive director of the advocacy group Equality Kansas. “We’re going to fight to preserve it.” And Democratic Governor Laura Kelly, who can veto redistricting measures, told reporters last week: “What should happen is that they should shrink it in a way that maintains that community interest there in the KC metro area.”

Top Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature hope to avoid the meltdown that occurred in 2012, the last time lawmakers faced redrawing political boundaries to account for shifts in population. A bitter fight over legislative districts between conservative and moderate Republicans kept any proposal from passing — and three federal judges drew all the lines.  The plan outlined by Masterson and Croft would put northern Wyandotte County into a redrawn 2nd District with Topeka and most of southeast Kansas, and would come closer to resembling twisting districts in other states. Lawrence would be at the ending eastern tip of the 1st.

A second GOP proposal came from Republican Rep. Kyle Hoffman, of Coldwater, and it would move all of Wyandotte County into a 1st District that would stretch from the Colorado to the Missouri border in the north part of the state. He said it was based on a proposal that won House approval in 2012.  “I’m not really introducing it because I’m in love with it,” Hoffman said. “It’s more of a map to just give us an idea and a baseline.”

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KCK Police: Woman Killed, 4-Year-Old Severely Beaten

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police in Kansas City, Kansas, have arrested a man on suspicion of killing a woman and severely beating her 4-year-old daughter over the weekend. The Kansas City Star reports that 28-year-old Jose Escalante-Corchado was charged with first-degree murder and four other felonies after the body of 24-year-old Mackenzie Hopkins was found submerged in a bathtub in her home on Saturday. Hopkins' 4-year-old daughter was found on a bed suffering from severe head trauma and remains hospitalized. Police say bloody shoe prints throughout the house were traced to a pair of cowboy boots belonging to Escalante-Corchado and that surveillance video shows him in the area at the time of the attack.

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Prosecutor: No Charges in Black Kansas Teen’s Custody Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas prosecutor says he won't file charges over the death of a Black 17-year-old who became unresponsive while being restrained after an altercation with staff at a Wichita juvenile center in September. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett made the announcement in a Tuesday news conference. Cedric Lofton died at a hospital two days after the altercation at the Sedgwick County Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center.  A December autopsy report contradicted an earlier, preliminary finding that the teenager hadn’t suffered life-threatening injuries. The autopsy ruled the death a homicide. Bennett says the state’s “stand your ground” law prevents him from bringing any charges.

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Kansas Will Stop 'Futile' COVID-19 Contact Tracing

UNDATED (AP) – Kansas health officials say the state will stop contact tracing for COVID-19 next month. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said Tuesday that contact tracing has become futile because of increased COVID-19 cases and the public's declining interest in participating. The change means people who test positive for the virus will be responsible for notifying their close contacts about possible exposure. If the person has been exposed at high-risk settings such as schools or daycares, state or local health departments will notify the setting, which will be responsible for notifying close contacts about the potential exposure. The change takes effect on February 1.

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Bond Set in 1 Count for Missouri Boarding School Doctor

UNDATED (AP) - A judge set bond for a doctor accused of child sex crimes involving students at a Missouri boarding home but it is unclear if he will be released from jail. Greene County Circuit Judge Ronald Carrier on Tuesday set a $250,000 bond for David Smock and ordered him to wear a GPS monitoring device if he is released. However, Smock also faces charges in Cedar County. The Kansas City Star reports a Cedar County judge has not issued a decision on whether Smock should be given bond in that county. Smock faces a total of 11 child sexual abuse counts involving residents of Agape Board School.

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Marshal's Task Force Member Shoots Man in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Authorities say a member of a U.S. Marshal's Task force shot and injured a man in Kansas City. Missouri State Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Bill Lowe said the suspect was shot Wednesday in eastern Kansas City. The man's injuries were not believed to be life-threatening. Lowe says the task force was looking for the suspect on a federal probation violation and a Jackson County warrant. He says the officer fired his weapon after the man reached for a handgun as he was fleeing from officers. One officer was injured by glass while struggling with the suspect during the arrest. That officer was taken to a hospital for observation. 
 
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Freed Missouri Inmate Sues over Medical Care in Prison

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A Missouri inmate who was freed from prison in November after serving more than 40 years for a triple murder he didn't commit is suing a company that provides medical care to inmates. Kevin Strickland alleges in his lawsuit that medical decisions made by Corizon while he was in prison left him dependent on a wheelchair. KMBC-TV reports the lawsuit alleges Corizon workers at the Crossroads Correctional Center and Western Missouri Correctional Center repeatedly denied, delayed or rejected his requests for medical care for spinal stenosis and neurologic problems. Strickland is seeking a jury trial and damages related to his treatment. Corizon officials did not immediately return a message seeking comment. 

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Wichita Police: 2 Teenagers Killed in Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita say a shooting on the south side of the city has left two teenagers dead. Police say 17-year-old Alexis Cervantes-Martinez and 16-year-old Mariah Zamora, both from Wichita, were found Monday night suffering from gunshot wounds inside a vehicle that had crashed into a storage unit at an apartment complex. Police spokesman Trevor Macy said Cervantes-Martinez died at the scene and Zamora died later at a hospital. Macy said the two teenagers were at the scene for a drug deal when someone fired several shots at them. No arrests have been announced.

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Former Priest Named in Dozens of Child Abuse Lawsuits Dies

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former Roman Catholic priest who was named in dozens of child sex abuse lawsuits has died. Kansas City police say 80-year-old Thomas Reardon was found dead Sunday at a south Kansas City senior living facility. Reardon was among 12 current and former priests named in a sexual abuse case filed by 47 plaintiffs that the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese settled for $10 million in 2008. He also was part of a $10 million settlement by the diocese in 2014 that covered 32 sexual abuse lawsuits involving 14 current and former priests. Kansas City police say there was no sign of foul play or suspicious circumstances in Reardon's death.  

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Potential Settlement in Lawsuit Against Kansas City Police

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police on Tuesday agreed to pay $110,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a teenage girl who was sprayed with pepper spray during a racial injustice demonstration in 2020. The proposed settlement must still be approved by a circuit court judge. The lawsuit alleged the teen and her father, Tarence Maddox, were hit with pepper spray during a demonstration at Kansas City's Country Club Plaza in May 2020. One officer, Nicholas McQuillen, was seen on video pulling the girl toward him and spraying the pepper spray in her eyes from about 4 inches away. McQuillen was later charged with fourth-degree assault, a misdemeanor.

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Police Identify Victim of Fatal Shooting on Amtrak Train in Kansas City Area

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. (AP) — Police have identified the victim of a fatal shooting on an Amtrak train as a 30-year-old man from Independence, Missouri. Police were called Friday night to the Amtrak station in Independence where they found that Richie T. Aaron Jr. had been shot while the train had been stopped earlier at the Lee’s Summit station. Sgt. Chris Depue of the Lee’s Summit Police Department says police are looking for the suspect, who was also riding the train and fled in Lee’s Summit. The Kansas City Star reports that police say people on the train did not immediately recognize that a person had been shot.” The train traveled north to Independence where life-saving efforts were attempted before Aaron was pronounced dead.

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Large Kansas School Districts Shuttered as COVID Surges; Some Wichita Schools Close

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Schools in Olathe and Kansas City, Kansas, canceled classes as COVID-19 cases surge among staff and students in the districts. The Kansas City Star reports that Olathe Public Schools and Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools canceled classes Tuesday and Wednesday. Olathe Superintendent Brent Yeager said more than 800 school employees — about 20% of Olathe schools' staff — were out sick heading into this week. Yeager says more than 1,500 students had the virus last week. Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools reported it had 200 teaching positions unfilled Friday. Three public and three Catholic elementary schools closed in Wichita Tuesday, with two of the Catholic schools also said they'd be closed Wednesday.

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COVID Task Force Issues Recommendations for Small Businesses

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A task force created by Missouri Governor Mike Parson is recommending several steps that could help small businesses in the state recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The task force's final report was issued Monday. The recommendations include improving childcare availability and affordability; expanding hospitality industry apprenticeships; and promoting and enhancing existing state programs that support small, women-owned and minority-owned businesses. Members of the task force met with small business owners in seven Missouri cities and conducted a statewide survey of business owners. The group also worked with the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis to analyze the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the state's small businesses.

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Why Airlines Fear 5G Will Upend Travel This Week

UNDATED (AP) - The airline industry is raising the stakes in a showdown with AT&T and Verizon over plans to launch new 5G wireless service this week, warning that thousands of flights could be grounded or delayed if the rollout takes place near major airports. CEOs of the nation's largest airlines say that interference from the wireless service on a key instrument on planes is worse than they originally thought. The pushback this week from airlines follows an agreement earlier this month in which AT&T and Verizon agreed to delay the launch of a new slice of 5G service by two weeks.

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Chiefs Keep Leaning on McKinnon, Other Unsung Players

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jerick McKinnon probably shouldn’t have been surprised to spend all season buried on the Kansas City Chiefs depth chart. The journeyman running back had been passed over plenty of times before. But he also wasn't surprised when he finally made the most of his chance in a wild-card win over the Steelers. He carried 12 times for 61 yards, caught six passes for 81 yards and a score and gained more yards from scrimmage than anybody else in the playoffs last weekend. It was the latest starring turn for an unsung player on a team that has plenty of high-profile talent.

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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 and 11 am on weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today! 

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