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Headlines for Wednesday, June 3, 2020


5 People Swept into the Kansas River and then Rescued

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Officers assisted in a water rescue in the Kansas River area today (WED).  WIBW TV reports that two boys were fishing in the Soldier Creek area when the current swept them off their feet and into the Kansas River.  Cody Cott, a Topeka resident and friend of the boys, saw the boys and told them to link arms while he swam across the river to rescue them.  When Cott reached the boys they saw two other people out in the river, also needing assistance. Cott and his party called 9-1-1 to assist a father and son that had been swept out. The pair was later identified as Tony Brown and his son.  Stacy Brown, wife of Tony, was at work when she received the call that her husband and son had been swept out in the river as well. “I felt like my world had just turned upside down and I had lost everything,” she said.  Family members said Brown, who just had knee surgery, was in the creek when the current caught him and he started calling for help. One of his sons jumped in the creek to save him when they were both swept into the river.  The Shawnee Heights Fire Department Chief, Rick Deibert, said they were not sure exactly where the father son duo was so they deployed the boats on the river to find them.  Multiple law enforcement agencies assisted in the rescue.


UPDATE: GOP Leaders Work to Sell COVID-19 Deal with Kansas Governor

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top Republicans in the GOP-controlled Kansas Legislature are working to sell a compromise with Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly for giving lawmakers some oversight of the state’s coronavirus response. Some Democrats on Wednesday wanted new protections for workers infected on the job, and advocates of expanding the state’s Medicaid program hadn’t given up on passing it. Some Republicans thought their leaders went too far in compromising with Kelly. The Legislature convened for a special session called by Kelly after she vetoed a sweeping coronavirus bill GOP lawmakers approved in May moments before adjourning their annual session. Her staff and top Republicans negotiated a new plan. 


Kansas Special Session Underway; Lawmakers, Governor, Work on New Pandemic Measures

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Governor Laura Kelly and top Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature are working on a compromise coronavirus measure. It would give lawmakers some oversight of the spending federal relief funds and protect businesses from pandemic-related lawsuits. Kelly called lawmakers back to Topeka for a special session that convened this (WED) morning.  Kelly called the special session after she vetoed a sweeping coronavirus bill they approved May 21 before adjourning their annual session. The new bill is similar to the bill Kelly vetoed but differs in enough details for GOP leaders to hope she would sign it. Kelly wants lawmakers to extend a state of emergency currently set to expire June 10.  

Kansas Governor's Team Discusses Federal Relief Funds; Adopts Plan to Send $400 Million to Counties

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP / The Morning Sun) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly says a team she appointed to help her plan for the state's economic recovery from the pandemic is discussing how to spend $1.25 billion in federal relief funds. The Democratic governor also says she's confident that she can work out an agreement with the Republican-controlled Legislature to give them some oversight over how the funds are spent. Kelly said the money has to be distributed by the end of the year, and she expects the first round of spending to include payments to cities and counties to cover their coronavirus-related costs.  

The Pittsburg Morning Sun reports that the governor's task force adopted a plan Tuesday during its first meeting for distribution of $400 million in federal disaster aid to county governments for economic and health costs of the lingering pandemic.  The executive committee of SPARK, otherwise known as Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas, carved a chunk from $1 billion in CARES Act assistance sent to Kansas. The cash can’t be used to fill city or county tax revenue shortfalls, but must be applied to expenses incurred during the pandemic and spent by end of the year.  “We want to make these funds available, so communities can address current challenges and jump start our economic recovery,” Kelly said.  

The task force earmarked $350 million to 103 of the state’s 105 counties. It amounted to $194 per person. Johnson and Sedgwick counties, because both have more than 500,000 residents, received a total of $216 million in federal funding directly from Washington, D.C.  The governor’s task force also made $50 million in “impact” funding available to all Kansas counties with exceptional increases in unemployment or high rates of COVID-19 infection. Seven Kansas counties have at least 500 confirmed cases of coronavirus, while 17 counties have no reported cases.  In Kansas, COVID-19 has killed nearly 220 people and infected more than 10,000 statewide.


Kansas Cases of COVID-19 Exceed 10,100, Including 222 Deaths 

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — On Wednesday, state health officials reported 10,170 cases of COVID-19, including 222 deaths.  Cases have been reported in 89 of the state's 105 counties.  (Updated COVID-19 case numbers for Kansas are released Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.)    


Kansas Food Plant Shuts Down After Workers Contract Coronavirus

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka food plant is shutting down after several workers tested positive for the coronavirus. KSNT-TV reported the Reser's Fine Foods plant closed Wednesday. It will remain closed for two weeks while all employees get tested. The plant makes prepared entrees and side dishes. Reser's didn't specify how many employees have tested positive so far. KSNW-TV reports that Sedgwick County is offering coronavirus testing to 1,600 random residents next week. Residents who get a call from the health department will be offered testing regardless of whether they have symptoms of COVID-19. The goal is to track the virus's spread.


Kansas Governor No Longer Shielding People from Evictions, Foreclosures

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly is no longer shielding renters and homeowners who are financially strapped because of the coronavirus pandemic from being evicted or having lenders foreclose on their mortgages. Kelly allowed an executive order banning new evictions and foreclosures to expire May 26. The Wichita Eagle reports that her office confirmed Monday that the executive order is no longer in place. Renters' advocates warned that unemployment benefits and one-time federal stimulus checks won't be enough to keep people in their homes. Landlords and apartment owners said evictions are likely weeks away and that they're willing to work with tenants who've fallen behind.


Kansas Governor Vetoes Property Tax Bill, 2 Other Measures

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Governor Laura Kelly has vetoed a property tax bill and two other measures approved by the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature. Kelly said each of the bills could create financial problems for state and local governments stressed by economic woes tied to the coronavirus pandemic. One bill would have required cities and counties to take public votes when spending extra property tax revenues. Another measure would have given banks a tax credit. The third bill would have created a report card on the state's foster care system, and Kelly said that could cost millions of dollars. 


Arrests in Topeka, Wichita Mar Peaceful Protests in Kansas

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — Seven people were arrested in Topeka and two others were arrested in Wichita after protesters threw rocks and debris at officers. The confrontations Monday night were the first major violence reported from demonstrations in Kansas over the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. The disturbance in Topeka came hours after several hundred people demonstrated peacefully. Topeka police Capt. Mike Cross said some officers were hit with bricks but were not seriously injured. Wichita police chief Gordon Ramsey said officers moved in to disperse between 50 and 70 people after they became hostile toward officers. Three Wichita officers suffered minor injuries.


Kansas Asking U.S. Supreme Court to Save State's Voter Citizenship Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Republican attorney general of Kansas plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to allow the state to require new voters to provide papers documenting their citizenship when first registering to vote.  Attorney General Derek Schmidt has announced he will appeal a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in April that said the state could not enforce a proof-of-citizenship law. An appeals-court panel said the law violated the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal legal protection as well as a federal voter registration law. The law was championed by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as a way to combat voter fraud.


Sedgwick County Will Randomly Test for Coronavirus

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials want to randomly test Sedgwick County residents to determine the spread of coronavirus in the area. KSNW-TV reports the local health department will offer testing to 1,600 random residents next week. Residents who get a call from the health department will be offered testing regardless of whether they have symptoms of COVID-19. Testing will be held June 18 through June 20. Health officials are planning another round of random testing in mid-July to see if the virus spreads.


Virus Outbreak at Kansas City Paper Plant Infects 200-Plus

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A coronavirus outbreak at a Kansas City paper plant has infected more than 200 people. The Kansas City Health Department announced the outbreak at Aspen Paper Products on Tuesday night. The department said the first employee tested positive in mid-May. As cases continued to increase, Aspen tested all its employees on Friday and Saturday. The Kansas City plant employs about 850 people. Health officials are working with Aspen to increase cleaning and personal protection equipment.


Officials: Blaze That Destroyed Business Intentionally Set

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Fire officials in Topeka say a blaze that destroyed an unoccupied business on the south side of the city was intentionally set. The Topeka Fire Department said Wednesday in a news release that the fire at the payday loan business was reported around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday. Arriving firefighters found smoke and flames coming from the building, which was once a gas station. A fire report says an initial investigation showed the fire was the result of arson. No one was injured. Fire officials say it was the second fire at the business in recent months. A fire in late February at the Loansmart business caused some $100,000 in damage.


Ex-Kansas City Officer Pleads in Fatal Wreck near Arrowhead

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former Kansas City police officer pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in a 2018 wreck near Arrowhead Stadium that killed a Kansas teenager. Police allege 35-five-year-old Terrell Watkins was speeding in a police van in October 2018 when he hit the back of a car as traffic backed up to get into a Kansas City Chiefs game. The crash killed 17-year-old Chandan Rajanna, of Overland Park. Rajanna's father and sister, and Watkins were seriously injured. Investigators say Watkins was speeding, recklessly changing lanes and using his phone shortly before the wreck. 


Kansas Man Killed in Rollover Crash in Pratt County

PRATT, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says a man has died in a rollover crash in south-central Kansas. Wichita television station KAKE reports that the crash happened around 4 p.m. Tuesday in northeastern Pratt County. A patrol report says 35-year-old Jacob Davis, of Macksville, was driving a sport utility vehicle southbound on a rural road when the SUV went into a ditch and rolled several times. The patrol says Davis was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash. He was pronounced dead at the scene.


Russell Stover Chocolates Closing Colorado Plant over Coronavirus Pandemic

DENVER (AP) — Russell Stover Chocolates has announced that its candy plant in Montrose, Colorado, will close seven months ahead of schedule because of the coronavirus pandemic. That means that 217 employees will lose their jobs. The Kansas City, Missouri-based company had announced in January that the plant and a Montrose retail store close by March 2021, with operations shifted to Texas and Kansas. The process was accelerated because of COVID-19. The plant employed about 400 people when the company first made the announcement. But many employees already left for other jobs. The remaining 217 workers will be let go by the end of August.


Kansas City-Area Police Deal with Homicides Amid Chaos

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — In the midst of civil unrest that has descended on cities across the nation in recent days, police in the Kansas City area are also handling a number of homicide investigations. Kansas City police on Monday afternoon were called to the Forgotten Homes neighborhood for a shooting. Arriving officers found one person dead at the scene. Police say a preliminary investigation showed two people were involved in an altercation before the shooting. In the Kansas City suburb of Independence, police say a shooting around 2 p.m. Monday in a store parking lot left another person dead. Police have not released the names of those killed in either case, and no arrests in the shooting deaths have been reported.


KPR's daily headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and updated throughout the day.  KPR's weekend summary is usually published by 1 pm Saturdays and Sundays.  

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