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Headlines for Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Kansas Lawmakers Propose Refunds for Businesses Hurt by State Pandemic Rules

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas lawmakers are moving to give refunds to retailers for taxes paid when they were shut down or restricted during the pandemic. State senators voted Tuesday to let businesses apply for tax refunds if they were closed or had their capacity reduced by government orders. Republican Senator Caryn Tyson says health orders from the state and local governments hurt Kansas businesses. “Their income was completely shut off. Their financial obligations were still owed.” Tyson said. “Their utility bills were still owed. Their property taxes were still due.” The retailers could receive up to $7,500 for the current year and another $7,500 for last year. Opponents raised concerns about the cost, estimated at $70 million over two years. Local county governments would be responsible for one third and the state would pay the rest. Supporters say it could be paid with federal coronavirus aid.

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UPDATE: GOP's Split Halts Push in Kansas for Convention of States

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Conservative Republicans have split and halted the push in Kansas for a convention of states to propose changes to the U.S. Constitution. The state Senate spent nearly three hours during the final days of its annual session to consider a resolution asking Congress to call a convention. But senators voted 21-19 to send the resolution back to committee. Convention backers envision a one-vote-per-state gathering that proposes “fiscal restraints” on the federal government and term limits for Congress. The Kansas Constitution says a call must get a two-thirds majority in both chambers, but convention backers argue that conflicts with what the U.S. Constitution requires. That issue dominated Wednesday's debate.

(–Earlier Reporting–)

Push for Constitutional Convention of States Splits Kansas Conservatives

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are taking time in the final days of their annual session to consider calling for a constitutional convention of the states with the goal of helping to settle a legal question vexing some conservatives. The state Senate on Wednesday debated a resolution calling on Congress to call a convention of states to propose changes in the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Constitution says Congress shall call a convention if two thirds of the states seek one. Convention backers believe it requires a simple majority in both legislative chambers, but the Kansas Constitution specifies two-thirds majorities. Kansas supporters of such a convention are hoping to spark a lawsuit that settles the issue.

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Kansas Lawmakers Override Vetoes on Taxes, Guns, Elections

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican lawmakers in Kansas have cut income taxes, lowered the age for carrying a concealed gun and tightened state election laws by overriding Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s vetoes of those measures. A series of votes Monday in the GOP-controlled Legislature demonstrated that its Republican supermajorities can control policy if they hold together. The tax measure will provide $284 million in relief over three years. The gun legislation will allow 18-, 19-, and 20-year-olds to carry concealed firearms. The elections bill will make it harder for people to collect absentee ballots from voters and deliver them to election officials.

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Medical Marijuana Bill Advances in Kansas House

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A bill to legalize medical marijuana has advanced to the Kansas House. The bill is restrictive and most patients would only be eligible for a medical marijuana recommendation after they’ve had a relationship with a doctor for six months. There are some exceptions, such as one for military veterans who are being cared for by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Republican Representative Blake Carpenter proposed some of the amendments to the bill and says the newest version is one that even conservative state lawmakers can support. “I think that we’ve come a lot closer and we have a good amendment to make the bill superior,” Carpenter said. “I think it’s ready for the house floor.” But, Senate President Ty Masterson says he doubts his chamber will take up the bill before the session ends. Kansas remains one of only a few states without a medical marijuana law.

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GOP Leaders Close to Control over Kansas COVID Relief Funds

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican legislators are poised to give their leaders the final say over how Kansas spends federal coronavirus relief funds. Some also pushed Tuesday to set aside hundreds of millions of dollars of that money for small businesses. The Republican-controlled state Senate is expected to override Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s veto of a provision in budget legislation leaving to top lawmakers the final decisions on spending $4.8 billion in federal funds. The GOP-controlled House voted 86-38 on Monday to overturn the veto. The Senate also debated a bill to set aside $700 million in coronavirus relief funds for small businesses. Senators whittled down a plan for $2 billion in compensation.

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Treasury: Some Tribes Will Get More Money from CARES Act

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Some Native American tribes will receive more money from a federal virus relief package approved last year. The U.S. Treasury Department recently revised its methodology for distributing some of what remains from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The department had distributed 60% of the funding set aside for tribes, or $4.8 billion, to tribal nations based on federal population data. Three tribes sued over the methodology, alleging the data didn't reflect their actual tribal enrollment numbers. The Treasury Department filed a revised methodology Monday in the court case and said payments would go out starting this week.

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Push Against Trans Athletes in Girls' Sports Fails in Kansas as Legislators Fail to Override Veto

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Conservative Republican legislators in Kansas have failed to override Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s veto of a proposed ban on transgender athletes in girls' and women’s school sports. The Senate’s vote Monday to override Kelly was 26-14 and left backers of the measure one short of the necessary two-thirds majority and blocking an attempt in the House. More than 20 states have considered such proposals this year, as Republican lawmakers have pressed the issue. Kelly called the Kansas measure “regressive,” said it would send a message that Kansas was not a welcoming place. Backers of the bill said they were trying to protect fair competition and opportunities for female athletes.

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Kansas Legislature Passes Law Allowing 18-Year-Olds to Carry Concealed Weapons

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas lawmakers overrode a veto Monday from Governor Laura Kelly on a bill that will let people as young as 18 carry concealed weapons. Most people over 21 in Kansas can already carry a concealed weapon without a permit. Soon, people from ages 18 to 20 will also be able to if they get a state license. Republican Representative John Barker says 18-year-olds can carry a firearm openly, so it makes sense to allow concealed carry with a permit. “This requires them, if they’re going to get a concealed weapon, to get training and to get a permit and to have a background investigation through the attorney general’s office.” Barker said, “I think that’s a positive move.” The governor said the new law could mean more guns on college campuses.

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Kansas Lawmakers Override Governor, Bring Back Tax Cuts

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Tax cuts are coming back to Kansas. Republican state lawmakers overrode Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s veto of their tax bill. The bill would increase the standardized deduction for individuals and also let some people itemize their deductions in Kansas even if they don’t on their federal income tax returns. Democrats say the bill returns the state to Brownback-era tax cuts, but Republican Tax Committee Chair Caryn Tyson says the state will be better off for keeping money in the pockets of taxpayers. “That’s money that’s gonna come back into the Kansas economy, not be used to grow government” Tyson said. The new law is expected to cut state tax collections by hundreds of millions over the next several years.

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Two GOP Lawmakers Considering Bids for Kansas Attorney General

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Republican legislators are considering running for Kansas attorney general in 2022. House Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch of Ottawa said Tuesday that he is looking at the race and will decide after lawmakers finish this month with their business for the year. Senate Judiciary Chair Kellie Warren of Leawood said people are encouraging her to run, but she hasn’t made a definitive decision. Attorney General Derek Schmidt is seeking the Republican nomination for governor. Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach announced his candidacy for attorney general last week. Finch has served in the House since 2013 and Warren was first elected to the Legislature in 2018.

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Man Who Fatally Shot Three People at Kansas Jewish Sites Dies in Prison

UNDATED (AP) – An avowed antisemite who testified that he wanted to kill Jews and was sentenced to death after he fatally shot three people at Jewish sites in Kansas has died in prison. The Kansas Department of Corrections said in a news release Tuesday that 80-year-old Frazier Glenn Miller Jr. died Monday at the El Dorado Correctional Facility. Miller, who was also known as Frazier Glenn Cross Jr., was sentenced to death for the killings in 2014 in suburban Kansas City. The corrections department says preliminary indications were that Miller died of natural causes. Miller said during his trial that he didn’t expect to live long because he had chronic emphysema. A corrections department spokeswoman declined to comment further on his cause of death or his medical condition.

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Kansas COVID-19 Case Count Tops 310,000; Death Toll at Brink of 5,000

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reports there have been 310,115 cases of COVID-19, including 4,999 deaths related to the coronavirus, since the pandemic began. That's an increase of 470 cases and 14 deaths since Monday. Another update is expected Friday. 

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US Parents Excited over Prospect of Virus Shots for Children

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Many parents and educators are excited over the news that the Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine by next week for youngsters ages 12 to 15. Officials are hoping that extending vaccinations to children will drive down the nation’s caseload even further and allow schools to reopen with minimal disruption this fall. It could also reassure parents and teachers alike. While children are less likely to get seriously ill from the coronavirus, they can still get sick and spread it to others, too.

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Coronavirus Variants Surge, Vaccine Distribution Slows in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials say vaccinations to protect the public from COVID-19 slowed in April, even as more contagious variants of the coronavirus surged and hospitalizations from the disease rose in the state. The Wichita Eagle reports that Kansas Department of Health and Environment numbers show about 91,000 fewer people received first doses of the available vaccines in April than in March. Officials say there were 520 new hospitalizations and 157 new ICU admissions in April, compared with 438 new hospitalizations and 150 new ICU admissions in March. Meanwhile, confirmed variant cases nearly tripled over the last three weeks of April. Officials did see a decrease in deaths from COVID-19 in April, at 69, compared with 170 deaths in March.

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Missouri Governor Orders State Workers Back to the Offices

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Missouri Governor Mike Parson has directed all state employees to return to in-person work in the office by May 17, after many spent most of the past 14 months working remotely. Parson's order, announced Wednesday, also requires that all state buildings be open and accessible to the public during normal business hours. The governor cited the decreasing number of cases and the availability of vaccine. His office says COVID-19 screening and testing protocols will remain in place and the state is encouraging all employees to consider vaccinations. 

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Sedgwick County Jailer Accused of Sex with Inmate Arrested

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Sedgwick County Sheriff’s detention deputy accused of having a sexual relationship with an inmate has been arrested. The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office announced on Wednesday the arrest of Deputy Tony LoSavio. A news release said a tip received Tuesday about the relationship led investigators to arrest LoSavio on suspicion of having unlawful sexual relations with a woman being held at the jail. Authorities say he faces eight counts and has been placed on unpaid suspension.

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Kansas AMBER Alert Cancelled After Child Taken During Car Theft Found Safe

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Law enforcement in western Kansas say a 14-month-old boy who was inside a sport utility vehicle when it was stolen from a driveway early Wednesday morning has been found safe. An Amber Alert was issued for the toddler after his mother reported that she had strapped him in to the SUV in the driveway of her Garden City home around 5 a.m. Wednesday to take him to a babysitter. The mother said that when she briefly went back inside, she saw the SUV drive away. About three hours later, police found the SUV with the child still inside abandoned a short distance away within Finney County.

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Kansas Man Convicted in Plot to Kill Attorney, Informant

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas man has been convicted of trying to hire someone to kill an assistant Geary County attorney and a confidential informant. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said Tuesday that 31-year-old Samuel Ibarra-Chu was convicted on 21 charges including conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. The plot was formed between July 2018 and August 2018 but was discovered before the murders occurred. Ibarra-Chu is scheduled to be sentenced June 25. Court cases are pending for two other people charged in the conspiracy. 

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Police Identify Teen Fatally Shot at Wichita Car Wash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police have identified a teen fatally shot earlier this week at a south Wichita car wash. Wichita police say in a news release that 18-year-old Fernando Recio, of Wichita, died from his injuries in the late Monday night shooting. Officers called to the area found Recio with a gunshot wound to his neck. Police say the teen was taken to a nearby hospital, where he later died from his injuries. Homicide detectives are investigating and say they don't believe the shooting was random. No arrests had been reported or suspects named by Wednesday afternoon.

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Six Kansas Hospitals Receive Top Ratings from Federal Agency

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KNS) _ Six Kansas hospitals have received top five-star ratings from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The six are AdventHealth Shawnee Mission in Merriam; NMC Health in Newton; Pratt Regional Medical Center; Saint John Hospital in Leavenworth; Saint Luke's South Hospital in Overland Park; and University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City. CMS rated more than 4,500 hospitals nationwide with 455 rated as top hospitals based on performance in several categories: mortality; safety of care; readmission; patient experience; and timely and effective care. Consumers can look up the ratings by going to the ratings by going to the Medicare.gov. website and clicking on the tab for “find and compare.”

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Police Announce Charges in Grandview Shooting Death

GRANDVIEW, Mo. (AP) - Police in the Kansas City, Missouri suburb of Grandview say they've arrested a suspect in the shooting death of a man whose body was found inside a crashed car early this week. The Kansas City Star reports that prosecutors charged 21-year-old Davion Fugate, of Grandview, with second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the death. Police say officers were called to the scene around 1:40 p.m. Sunday and found a vehicle that had crashed into a tree. Officers found the body of a 23-year-old man who had been driving inside the vehicle and say he had been shot several times. Police have not released the victim's name. Fugate is being held on a $100,000 cash-only bond. 

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UMKC Student Charged in March Shooting Death 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A grand jury has indicted a University of Missouri-Kansas City student on second-degree murder and armed criminal action counts in a March shooting death over what police called a gambling feud. The Kansas City Star reports that 21-year-old Zyan Teague is charged in the March 20 death of 31-year-old Byren Dennie. Officers found Dennie lying in the grass in the Ivanhoe Southwest neighborhood with gunshot wounds. He was taken to a hospital, where he died. Witnesses told police that Teague had fought with Dennie outside Dennie's home following a night of gambling. Police say shell casings and a shoe left behind at the scene were matched to a gun, ammunition and the other shoe found in Teague's dorm room. 

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Wichita’s Textron Aviation Will Switch to Bio-Fuel for Jets

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Wichita-based Textron Aviation will start putting a new type of jet fuel made from things like cooking oil into its planes to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The biofuel is made from renewable waste such as cooking oil. Textron officials say the move could reduce the overall carbon footprint of regular jet fuel by 80 percent. Unlike some other solutions, the sustainable aviation fuel made by Finnish oil refining company Neste is approved for use in standard jet engines, meaning it can be used without any kind of modifications or updates to the planes or their engines. Textron will use the fuel at its Wichita headquarters for new aircraft deliveries and demonstration flights. Aviation accounts for about 2 to 3 percent of total global carbon emissions every year.

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Evergy Moves up Timeline to Close Coal-Fired Plants

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Evergy officials say the utility plans to close two coal-fired plants in the next nine years as part of its effort to reduce its use of fossil fuels. The company said in a report to regulators filed Friday that it will close its coal-fired plant near Lawrence by the end of 2023. The plant is the utility's oldest, with some units dating back to the 1960s. Evergy also will close Unit 3 of the Jeffrey Energy Center near St. Marys, Kansas, in 2030, rather than 2039 as originally expected. Evergy's plan is to reduce its carbon emissions by 70% by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2045.

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American Rescue Plan Offers Help for Those Seeking ACA Health Coverage

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Most uninsured people qualify for subsidized health coverage and 40% of them can get a plan through the Affordable Care Act for free or nearly free. The American Rescue Plan that Congress passed in March offers more help for buying insurance over the next two years. If you couldn’t get a subsidy on the ACA exchange before, you might be able to now. Others who get partial subsidies can now get plans for free. People without health insurance can adjust their health plan at HealthCare.gov.. The tax credits will be retroactive to the start of this year. The deadline to buy or update a plan is mid-August.

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Monthly Midwest Economic Survey Index Soars to All-Time High

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new monthly survey shows the economy in nine Midwest and Plains states roaring back to life in the wake of a devastating global pandemic, with the survey's overall index soaring to its highest reading since it began almost three decades ago. The Creighton University Mid-America Business Conditions for April released Monday came in at 73.9 from March’s 68.9. Any score above 50 on the survey’s indexes suggests growth, while a score below 50 suggests recession. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey, says the region has regained more than half the 106,000 manufacturing jobs lost to the pandemic in April 2020. The monthly survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

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Iowa Man Charged with Killing Inside Kansas Apartment

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say an Iowa man has been charged with killing an eastern Kansas man found fatally shot in his suburban Kansas City apartment last week. Johnson County prosecutors have charged 58-year-old Michael Balance, of Des Moines, Iowa with first-degree murder in the death of 70-year-old John Hoffman, of Prairie Village. Officers found Hoffman's body Saturday evening in his apartment and say he had been shot several times. Prairie Village police quickly identified Balance as a suspect in the shooting and contacted Des Moines police, who arrested him. Balance is being held in the Polk County Jail in Des Moines on $1 million bail.

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Former Missouri Teacher Pleads Guilty to Child Porn Charges

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A former paraprofessional in suburban Kansas City has pleaded guilty to producing and distributing child pornography after investigators say they found thousands of images and videos at his home of infants and toddlers being sexually assaulted. Federal prosecutors say 45-year-old Steven Allen, of Independence, Missouri, pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court to two counts of producing the child pornography and a single count of distributing child pornography over the internet. Allen was employed by Blue Springs High School when he was arrested in late 2019 after a raid on his home, and he has been in federal custody since. Allen faces a minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison when he's sentenced at a later date.

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