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Headlines for Wednesday, March 17, 2021

 

Kansas Governor Says She Intends to Sign Emergency Extension

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Governor Laura Kelly says a measure approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature to rewrite Kansas's emergency management laws is “reasonable.” Legislators sent her the bill Tuesday and she said she’s inclined to sign it, “given what I know.” The measure would preserve the control that legislators gave county officials last year over mandating masks and restricting businesses and public gatherings, and it would allow legislative leaders to block the governor’s executive orders starting in April. It also would strip appointed local health officers of their power to impose restrictions, leaving decisions to elected county commissions.

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GOP Leader Steps Away from Some Duties; Kansas Patrol Says Basic Report Not Ready Yet 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Highway Patrol official says basic information won’t be available for more than a week on its arrest of a top legislative leader. Senate Majority Leader and Wichita Republican Gene Suellentrop was arrested early Tuesday on suspicion of driving under the influence and attempting to flee from law enforcement while driving the wrong way on a highway in Topeka. The patrol's general counsel said Wednesday that the public portion of the arrest report would be available “on or before” March 26. Suellentrop issued a written statement saying he was stepping aside from most of his office's duties until matters involving his arrest are resolved.

(–Related–)

Kansas Senate Majority Leader Arrested for DUI, then Released by Judge in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR/KNS) - The majority leader in the Kansas Senate was arrested early Tuesday morning on charges of driving under the influence, attempting to flee law enforcement officers and other crimes.  But a judge later released the legislative leader, saying there wasn’t probable cause for making the arrest.  Republican Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop, from Wichita, was booked into the Shawnee County Jail around 4 am Tuesday.  The Kansas Highway Patrol says he was allegedly driving the wrong way on Interstate 70 in Topeka and was arrested following a short pursuit. But a judge said there were problems with the arrest report and released Suellentrop. It’s not clear if prosecutors will continue pursuing the charges. Suellentrop has been in the Legislature since 2009 and is in his first term as the Senate’s majority leader.

(AP version)

Judge Orders Release of Kansas Senate Leader After DUI Arrest

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A judge ordered the release of a Kansas Senate leader from a Topeka jail after finding that there was not enough evidence to support his arrest hours earlier on suspicion of driving under the influence and attempting to flee from a law enforcement officer. Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop was booked into the Shawnee County jail just before 4 am Tuesday, following his arrest on Interstate 70 by the Capitol Police.  Police say the Wichita lawmaker had been traveling the wrong way on I-70.  But just hours later, a Shawnee County District Court Judge ordered Suellentrop's release.  Judge Penny Moylan ruled that a Capitol Police officer's report did not include "pertinent information" about Suellentrop's arrest.  It remains unclear whether Shawnee County prosecutors will pursue the case.

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Kansas House Rejects Idea of Requiring In-Person Classes this Month

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The Kansas House has defeated a bill that would have forced schools to offer full-time, in-person classes later this month.  Tuesday's vote came after the bill easily passed the Kansas Senate, where supporters said some students are suffering because of online learning.  Democrats and some Republicans ultimately banded together to defeat the bill in the House. Democratic Representative Cindy Neighbor said local school districts should decide when it’s safe for classes to resume, not state lawmakers.  Many schools have already resumed in-person classes for at least some students.

(AP version)

Kansas Lawmakers Reject Requiring In-Person Classes March 26

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Republican proposal to require all Kansas public schools to offer every student full in-person classes by March 26 has failed in the Kansas House. Some lawmakers had complained that it would take too much power away from local school boards.  The GOP-controlled House's 69-55 vote against the measure Tuesday showed that some Republicans had misgivings. The bill would have overridden a few local school districts' decisions to wait longer because of the coronavirus pandemic. Senate President Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican, pushed for the mandate, and his GOP-controlled chamber approved it earlier this month with no Democratic support.  

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Treasury Says Some State Tax Cuts OK Under Biden Relief Act

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The U.S. Treasury Department says states can cut taxes without penalty from a federal pandemic relief law — so long as they use their own funds to offset those cuts. Republican governors, lawmakers and attorneys general in numerous states...including Kansas...have expressed concern about the relief act signed by President Joe Biden. It prohibits states from using federal aid “to either directly or indirectly” offset a reduction in tax revenue. A Treasury spokesperson tells The Associated Press the provision isn't meant as a blanket prohibition on tax cuts; states just can't use the relief funds to pay for them.

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Will St. Patrick's Day Bring Snow? Maybe Tonight

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - Rainy, stormy, windy conditions are in store for eastern Kansas on this St. Patrick's Day and the area could even see up to an inch of snow.  The National Weather Service in Topeka says rain showers could switch over to snow late tonight (WED) leaving about an inch of accumulation across much of eastern Kansas.  Snow could also be in the picture for early Thursday morning.  

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Kansas COVID-19 Case Total Approaches 300,000

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR/AP) - The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reported Wednesday that there have been 298,904 cases of COVID-19 in the state, including 4,837 deaths, since the start of the pandemic. That's an increase of 686 cases and two deaths since Monday. Johnson County continues to report the highest number of cases in Kansas, with 55,457. Another update will be released Friday.  

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Kansas Governor Calls Bill on Trans Athletes 'Regressive'

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Governor Laura Kelly is calling a proposal to ban transgender athletes from girls’ and women’s school sports in Kansas “regressive” and predicting it would hurt the state’s ability to recruit businesses. Kelly stopped short of promising a veto Wednesday but pointed to a past executive order on LGBTQ rights as signaling her position. In January 2019, she prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in state hiring or employment decisions. Conservative Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature argue that the proposal would preserve fair competition. The Senate is expected to take a final vote Thursday on a bill enacting such a ban.

(–Related–)

Kansas Senate Panel Approves Bill Banning Trans Athletes from Competing Against Women

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A Kansas Senate committee has advanced a bill that would bar transgender athletes from competing in girls' and women's sports.  Supporters say biological males have an unfair advantage when competing against biological females in high school and college sports. Republican state senator Brenda Dietrich opposed the measure during Tuesday's debate.  She said athletic associations already have guidelines for allowing transgender athletes to compete.  Critics argue the bill discriminates against transgender students and could increase bullying and harassment. Tuesday's approval by the committee sends the bill to the full Kansas Senate for consideration.

(AP version)

Kansas Advances Plan to Bar Trans Athletes from Girls' Teams

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Conservative Republicans have advanced a proposal that would ban transgender students from girl's and women's sports in Kansas schools and colleges. Supporters are confident they'll overcome arguments that there's no need for such a measure. The state Senate Education Committee approved the bill on a voice vote after a brief debate Tuesday, sending it to the full Senate, where GOP leaders have identified the measure as a priority. Republicans in Congress and more than 20 state legislatures are pushing for similar bans.  Supporters largely haven't been able to cite examples of transgender students' participation causing problems but argue they're promoting fairness in sports.

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Sedgwick County Officials: Schools Can Opt Out of Mask Mandate

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - Sedgwick County leaders say local schools can opt out of the county’s latest health order. The new order begins Sunday. Although it removes capacity limits for businesses, it keeps requirements for facemasks and social distancing. County commissioners voted Tuesday to let local school boards and private schools decide whether to have students and employees wear face masks.  The majority of commissioners said schools should make their own policy on the issue.

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District Named After Ku Klux Klan Leader to Weigh Possible Change

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Leaders of a Kansas school district that is named for an early 20th century Ku Klux Klan leader have created an advisory task force to consider a potential name change. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the task force will provide a report, but not a recommendation, to the board. The issue gained attention after student journalists at Seaman High School used newspaper clippings from the 1920s to confirm last fall that the district’s namesake, Fred Seaman, had been an “exalted cyclops,” or chief officer, in the Topeka KKK.  A few dozen students, teachers and community supporters protested Monday, demanding change, before the board decided to create the task force.

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New Trial Ordered for Man in Lawrence Rape Case

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A judge has granted a new trial for a man serving a 12-year sentence in a rape case, finding that his trial attorney failed to review hundreds of text messages from his accuser whom he met at at popular bar near the University of Kansas campus. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Douglas County Judge Sally Pokorny will soon order Albert Wilson transferred from a prison in Hutchinson back to Douglas County for a new bond hearing and the setting of a new trial.

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FBI: Man Said He Asked Officer If He Could Enter U.S. Capitol

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Court records say a Kansas man arrested in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol told the FBI that an officer shrugged his shoulders when he asked whether he could join the throngs streaming into the building. Mark Roger Rebegila, of St. Mary’s, was taken into custody Monday in Topeka on charges of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. No attorney is listed for him in online court records. He's among five people from Kansas and dozens nationwide who have been charged in the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

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Police: Woman in Wichita Street Hit, Killed by Pickup Truck

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita say a woman trying to flag down a vehicle following a minor crash was instead hit and killed when she walked into the roadway. Police say the incident happened around 9 p.m. Tuesday in south Wichita. Officers who arrived at the scene say a pickup truck was eastbound on Pawnee Street when it hit the 54-year-old woman. Investigators believe the woman had just been in a minor crash when she walked into the road. Lt. Krys Henderson tells KSNW that she “attempted to make contact” with the truck driver and was hit by the truck. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Her name was not immediately released.

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Federal Prosecutor Removed from Cases

UNDATED (KNS) - A federal prosecutor long criticized for unethical behavior has been removed from all her criminal cases. Assistant U.S. Attorney Terra Morehead has been removed from more than 20 criminal cases and is now prosecuting civil cases. The move by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Kansas comes after Morehead’s methods have been questioned in several cases, most notably when she prosecuted Lamonte McIntyre for a crime he did not commit. Niko Quinn says Morehead threatened her into giving false testimony in that case. She says Morehead’s punishment should have been more severe. “I’m glad she cannot abuse her power, but feel like that’s just a little tap on the hand. She should have been fired,” Quinn said.  Lamonte McIntyre spent 23 years in prison and was freed in 2017.

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KBI Helps Investigate Suspected Homicide in Osage County

BURLINGAME, Kan. (AP/KPR) - Authorities are investigating the death of an Osage County woman as a homicide. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says it's working with local police and Osage County Sheriff's deputies in investigating the death of 49-year-old Cristina Pratt, whose body was found Monday morning in her Burlingame home.  Police say they were called Sunday night to check on Pratt by a friend who hadn't been able to reach her. Police received no response when they knocked on her apartment door that night. They went back the next day and found her dead inside. Police have not said how Pratt died, but said she appeared to be victim of foul play.  

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Black Woman Becomes Face of New Tourism Campaign in Missouri
 
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Black woman has become the face of Missouri's tourism campaign, nearly four years after the NAACP warned travelers that their civil rights may not be respected if they visit the state. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Missouri Division of Tourism kicked off the campaign Monday. The woman, dubbed Mo, is featured in a promotional video hiking, watching a baseball game and riding a roller coaster. Pictures also show her posing as a Foodie Mo, Barbecue Mo, Lake Mo, History Mo and more. Missouri NAACP President Nimrod Chapel says the group's travel advisory will remain in effect until the state makes "meaningful progress in the systemic abuses affecting people of color."  

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Full Missouri State Fair Scheduled this Year

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Officials are planning for a full Missouri State Fair after the event was canceled last year because of the coronavirus. Missouri Agriculture Director Chris Chinn on Tuesday confirmed plans to bring the fair back this year. Officials canceled the event last year over concerns about safety during the pandemic. The Sedalia fairgrounds was instead used for a smaller youth livestock show in 2020. This year's fair is scheduled for August 12 through August 22. Virus cases across the state have been dipping since COVID-19 peaked in November.  

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Wichita State Follows Tumult with Familiar Place in NCAA Men's Tournament 

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — For a team that’s been a NCAA Tournament regular much of the past decade, Wichita State is still a bit taken aback by its latest appearance. The Shockers seemed an unlikely participant following a tumultuous offseason featuring players exits and the resignation of longtime coach Gregg Marshall amid misconduct allegations. Isaac Brown took over on an interim basis but is now the Shockers' permanent coach after guiding them to their first AAC regular season title. They enter the tournament as a No. 11 seed and will face Drake in a First Four play-in game.

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AP Source: Chiefs Agree to Deal with Pro-Bowler Kyle Long to Help Offensive Line

UNDATED (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs have agreed to a $5 million contract for next season with three-time Pro Bowler Kyle Long, who will come out of retirement to help their rebuilt offensive line, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on Wednesday night. The Chiefs also agreed to one-year deals to keep running back Darrel Williams, linebacker Ben Niemann and defensive end Taco Charlton, sources told The AP. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the deals have not been announced.

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