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Headlines for Wednesday, October 27, 2021

 

Kansas Court Wonders: Is It Too Late to Rule on COVID-19 Law?

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court is wrestling with a decision on whether the state constitution allows people to keep getting quick judicial decisions in lawsuits against COVID-19 restrictions. The court heard arguments from attorneys Tuesday on a law requiring district courts to rule within 10 days when someone sues over a county restriction. Three of the seven justices expressed skepticism that the law is constitutional. But the court is considering an appeal in a lawsuit against a school district's mask mandate, and school districts are covered by a different law that expired in June. The issue is whether that case was dead before it came to the justices.

(Additional reporting...)

Kansas High Court Wrestles with Pandemic Restrictions

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The top court in Kansas is wrestling with a question about pandemic restrictions.  The justices are trying to decide whether the state constitution allows people to keep getting quick judicial decisions in lawsuits against COVID-19 restrictions.  On Tuesday, the Kansas Supreme Court heard arguments from attorneys on a law requiring district courts to rule within 10 days when someone sues over a pandemic restriction.  Three of the seven justices expressed skepticism that the law is constitutional. But the court is considering an appeal in a lawsuit against a school district's mask mandate, and school districts are covered by a different law that expired in June.  At issue now is whether that case was dead before it came to the state's highest court.

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Kansas Lawmaker Russ Jennings Dies from Cancer at Age 66

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas state Representative Russ Jennings has died. House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. on Wednesday announced that sixty-six-year-old Jennings, a Lakin Republican, died from cancer on Wednesday morning. Ryckman said he learned of the death from the Jennings family. Jennings was elected to the Legislature in 2012. He served as chairman of the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee for the past three legislative sessions. Before his election, Jennings served as commissioner of juvenile justice for the Kansas Juvenile Justice Authority from 2007 to 2010. In previous years he was also a deputy sheriff and a magistrate judge, and had served as the director of the Southwest Kansas Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

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Republican Attorneys General Criticize Biden Vaccine Order

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Twenty-one Republican state attorneys general -- including Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt -- have sent a letter to President Joe Biden criticizing his COVID-19 vaccination mandate for federal contractors. The Wednesday letter is signed by attorneys general from Texas, Mississippi, Alaska and other states, including Kansas. They say the mandate “stands on shaky legal ground,” is confusing to contractors and could worsen supply-chain problems. They wrote that companies could be blacklisted for federal contracts unless they get their workers vaccinated on “an unworkable timeline.” Some legal experts say they think the Biden administration is on strong legal footing with the mandates to protect public safety. The letter was sent by the Attorneys General for Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming. You can read a copy of the letter here

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NWS: 12 Tornadoes from Sunday Storms in Missouri, Illinois, and Kansas

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The National Weather Service has confirmed 12 tornadoes hit parts of Missouri, southwest Illinois and northeast Kansas on Sunday. The St. Louis office of the service said Tuesday EF3 tornadoes tore through St. Mary, Missouri, across the Mississippi River and over Chester, Illinois. The other hit Fredericktown, in southeast Missouri. The weather service office in Kansas City confirmed seven tornadoes in northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas. The strongest of those was an EF-2 near Purdin, Missouri. No serious injuries or deaths were reported from the tornadoes, which caused power outages, damaged some buildings and downed trees. 

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Progress on National Bio-Defense Lab in Kansas Delayed Again

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Federal officials say progress on a national bio-defense lab in Manhattan is being delayed. Officials said earlier this year the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility would be substantially completed this month. Federal officials now say the construction is expected to finish next spring, with the laboratory commissioned in the summer. The Manhattan Mercury reports the Department of Homeland Security says technology upgrades and equipment installation are taking longer than expected. Once it's completed, researchers at NBAF will study diseases that can be spread from animals to humans. 

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Attorney: Deputy Who Ran over Black Man Now Works at Prison

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — The attorney for a Black man who was run over by a Kansas deputy in an encounter caught on dashcam video says he was shocked to learn the deputy is now employed as a master sergeant at the Hutchinson prison while under criminal investigation. Lionel Womack alleges in an excessive force lawsuit filed last year that Kiowa County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Rodriguez intentionally drove over him in August 2020. Rodriguez has denied he intentionally swerved his truck to run over him. Womack's attorney urged Kansas prison officials to discuss the ongoing criminal investigations with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

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Eight Members of Religious Group Charged with Child Abuse

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors allege eight people connected to an organization based in Kansas City, Kansas, forced children to work without pay and abused them for years. An indictment unsealed on Tuesday charges the organization, formerly known as the United Nation of Islam, with conspiracy to commit forced labor and forced labor. A federal judge in Kansas labeled the group a cult in 2018. The group was founded in the 1970s by Royall Jenkins and is also known as the Value Creators. The indictment alleges that since at least 2000, the organization ran businesses in several states using unpaid labor from followers and their children. Prosecutors also allege the children were abused.

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KBI: Man Kills Self After Kidnapping, Standoff in Glen Elder

GLEN ELDER, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says a suspect in a kidnapping died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after a long standoff near Glen Elder. The KBI says a 78-year-old man contacted Mitchell County authorities Saturday to report he had been kidnapped at gunpoint and held for 26 hours by an acquaintance, 59-year-old John Roudybush, of rural Glen Elder. When officers tried to serve a search warrant at Roudybush's home Sunday evening, he refused to come out. After hours of negotiations, officers heard a gunshot early Monday morning and found Roudybush dead inside the house. No shots were fired at officers. An investigation continues.

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Company Challenges Seizure of Marijuana Proceeds in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A cash management company is asking a federal court to return nearly $166,000 in proceeds seized in Kansas from sales at Missouri medical marijuana stores. The Dickinson County, Kansas, sheriff's office seized the money in May as it was being driven through Kansas to Colorado. Medical marijuana is legal in Missouri and Colorado, which also allows recreational use. Marijuana use is illegal in Kansas. The driver, who has not been charged, worked for Empyreal Logistics. Authorities in Kansas contend in court filings that the money was made by activities that are still illegal under federal law. A federal judge has set a hearing on the dispute for January 4.

(–additional reporting–)

Feds Seek Cash Forfeiture from Kansas Traffic Stop
 
UNDATED (KCUR) - A van headed to a credit union in Colorado to deposit cash collected from medical marijuana dispensaries in Kansas City was stopped in Kansas, where marijuana possession, distribution, and use is not legal. Now, the U.S. Attorney in Kansas is seeking forfeiture of the cash. Missouri legalized medical marijuana in 2018 but federal law still regards it as a controlled substance. And the U.S. Attorney claims in court papers that the money was received in exchange for a controlled substance, in violation of federal law. Robert Mikos is a Vanderbilt University law professor who is an expert on federalism and drug law. He notes that Congress for the last few years has barred the Justice Department from spending money to block implementation of state medical marijuana laws. “I don't know why a U.S. Attorney would bother to bring this.” The U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment on the case.

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Dodge City Police: 5 Critically Sickened by Carbon Monoxide from Exhaust

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police in southwestern Kansas say five family members are fighting for their lives after being sickened by carbon monoxide. Police were called Monday to a home in Dodge City, where they encountered thick vehicle exhaust and found five men unconscious and critically ill. Police say all five were quickly removed and taken to hospitals, where they remain in critical condition. Investigators say the poisoning was an accident caused when one of the men left a vehicle running in the home's closed garage, allowing fumes to fill the home. Police say four of the men are brothers and the fifth is the adult son of one of the men.

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One Dead, Two Hurt in Truck-Train Collision Near Maize

SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan. (AP) — The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Department says a woman has died and two juveniles are critically injured after the truck the woman was driving struck a train near Maize. KWCH-TV reports that the sheriff’s office said the juveniles were passengers in the truck that collided with the train Tuesday afternoon. The railroad crossing has no arms or lights, according to the sheriff’s office. The department is investigating the collision.

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Patrol: 8-Year-Old Killed in ATV Crash in Ford County Field 

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says an 8-year-old boy has died after the all-terrain vehicle he was driving in a southwestern Kansas field crashed. The patrol says the crash happened Monday night in a Ford County field. Investigators say the ATV flipped, killing 8-year-old Nicholas Williams, of Offerle.  Officials say the boy was not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.

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Ex-Missouri High School Teacher Charged with Sex Misconduct

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) - A former Missouri high school math teacher has pleaded not guilty to sexual misconduct charges. Thirty-year-old Bryant Hummel was a high school teacher in Kearney, Missouri.  He was in court this week after being charged last month with exposing himself to two 17-year-old female students he was supposed to be helping with homework assignments after school. According to a probable cause statement, Hummel also threatened to ruin the girls' sports careers and fail them in class if they reported the incident. The girls told investigators Hummel later asked them to come to his home. School officials alerted police to the complaints in April. 

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Several Cities in Kansas Land on 2021 List of 100 Best Places to Live

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (WDAF) - Overland Park has once again been named one of the best places to live in the United States. That’s according to Livability.com’s annual ranking that analyzed over 1,000 small to mid-sized cities on factors like safety, affordability, recreation and accessibility.  Last year, the giant Johnson County suburb came in at No. 7 on Livability’s list, but this year it’s climbed even higher — reaching the No. 3 spot.  WDAF TV reports that only Madison, Wisconsin, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, were ranked higher.  The Livability website praised Overland Park for its great schools, affordable homes and entertainment and recreation options, including the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.  Overland Park also ranked at No. 7 on Money’s list of the 50 Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2021.

Home of the University of Kansas, Lawrence also landed on Livability’s 100 Best Places to Live list at No. 84. The site says even if you’re not a KU student, you’ll love living here.  “Lawrence has great schools, a strong economy, tons of entertainment and outdoor options, and an affordable cost of living – median home values here are around $204,000,” Livability writes.  Outside the greater Kansas City area, two other college towns in Kansas and Missouri were named among the 100 best places to live.

Columbia — home of the University of Missouri — ranked at No. 40, praised for its thriving downtown, arts and culture scene, and relatively low cost of living.

Manhattan, where the Kansas State Wildcats call home, came in at No. 81. Livability notes this Kansas city appeals to college students just as much as it appeals to retirees and veterans.  "The Little Apple" is an affordable place to live with high-quality health care and great access to education,” the site says.

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KU Employees Given More Time to Make Insurance Choice as LMH Battles with Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Kansas 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - A financial battle between Lawrence’s only hospital and the state’s largest health insurance network has left thousands of area residents uncertain about whether they should keep their longstanding health insurance plans for 2022.  But, as the Lawrence Journal-World reports, University of Kansas employees and other State of Kansas workers have been given a temporary reprieve on figuring out whether Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas (BCBS) and LMH Health will reach a deal for 2022. Kansas officials have extended the open enrollment deadline for signing up for the state’s health insurance program to November 5. The original deadline was October 31. The extension gives what is likely thousands of Douglas County households extra time to consider how to proceed with their health insurance plans. BCBS of Kansas has been the top choice for many, but a primary reason behind that choice is that virtually every doctor and hospital in the state is included in the BCBS network. If LMH Health and BCBS of Kansas don’t reach a deal before December 31, that won’t be the case.  LMH Health, in addition to operating the city’s only hospital, owns the largest number of doctor’s offices and specialty clinics in the county. Without an agreement, the hospital and those health care offices would be considered out of the BCBS of Kansas network. That would mean that BCBS of Kansas customers could still receive care at those facilities, but they would be charged higher prices than if they were in network.  At issue is how much BCBS of Kansas will pay LMH Health for the types of services it provides to patients. LMH leaders say they have used federally mandated websites that show how much hospitals received from insurers for certain procedures to know that LMH is receiving less money than many hospitals in the region.  (Read more.)

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Kansas City Plans to Submit Bid to Host GOP National Convention in 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KSHB) - Kansas City plans to submit a bid to host the 2024 Republican National Convention.  KSHB TV reports that the office of Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas confirmed the news Monday.  City officials say the GOP National Committee recently contacted them asking for the city to submit a bid to host the political convention.  A delegation from the city is meeting with RNC officials in Washington, D.C. today (TUE). Kansas City will have until December 1st to formally submit a bid.  

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Kansas Audio-Reader Network Celebrates 50 Years on the Air

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - The Kansas Audio-Reader Network is celebrating its 50th year on the air with a party in Lawrence next month.  Audio-Reader is a reading and information service for blind, vision-impaired and print-disabled people in Kansas and Missouri.  Fifty years ago this month, Audio-Reader began broadcasting from the KU campus.  And next month, the service will celebrate.  Audio-Reader is holding its 50th anniversary party at Abe and Jake's Landing in Lawrence on Friday, November 5th.  Among the honored guests will be Academy Award-winning KU film professor, director and screenwriter Kevin Willmott.  The Junction City native's 8-and-a-half pound Oscar statuette will be on display.  In addition to its other services, Audio-Reader provides descriptive services to audience members at the Lied Center, Theater Lawrence and Starlight Theater in Kansas City, ensuring that visually-impaired theater-goers can also enjoy live performances.

More information about Audio-Reader's 50th birthday party can be found online at READER.KU.EDU.

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Study: Prolonged Heat & Drought Will Affect Corn, Soybeans

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - A better understanding of the link between heat and drought shows that Kansas corn and soybean farmers will be hurt by climate change in the coming decades. The Kansas News Service reports a new paper from Columbia University shows that heat and drought will decrease Kansas corn and soybean yields by as much as 30% by the end of the century. The paper looked beyond rising temperatures, which have been widely researched. It found a link between heat and increased drought. Add the two factors together and the risk of yield losses nearly doubles in Kansas from what was previously expected. Kansas corn growers say technology should help them overcome some of those changes in climate. The development of more drought tolerant corn varieties has already helped increase yields and driven up the number of acres of non-irrigated corn planted in the state over the past 15 years. (Read more.)

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UAW Member Hit, Killed by Car near John Deere Picket Line in Illinois

MILAN, Ill. (AP) — Police say a vehicle struck and killed a United Auto Workers member as he was walking to a picket line outside a John Deere plant in Illinois. Milan, Illinois, Police Chief Shawn Johnson said the man was struck Wednesday morning near a road that leads to the John Deere Parts Distribution Center in the northwest Illinois city. He says authorities to not believe the fatality was intentional but that the investigation is ongoing. The UAW leadership in Detroit said in a statement that the man had worked at the plant for 15 years. Workers are on strike at 14 Deere factories in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Colorado and Georgia.

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Biden Sued by 12 States, Including Kansas, over Reversal of Trump-Era Abortion Referral Ban

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s top lawyer has filed suit against the Biden administration seeking to restore a Trump-era ban on abortion referrals by family planning clinics that was reversed earlier this month. The action by Republican Attorney Dave Yost was joined by 11 other states. It says new federal regulations at the Department of Health and Human Services that return the Title X federal family planning program to the way it ran under the Obama administration prevents states from determining violations of a federal prohibition on clinics using taxpayer money for abortions. Former President Donald Trump set the ban in 2019. States joining the challenge are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

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Overland Park Police Expand Mental Health Response for Calls

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) - The Overland Park Police Department is expanding a team that responds to police calls involving mental health crises. The mental health unit will have more than a dozen members and six co-responders. The change comes after the Overland Park City Council voted in September to raise property taxes to fund the unit, and the city received a nearly $250,000 federal grant. When the mental health team responds to a call, it will be joined by a clinician from Johnson County Mental Health.  Police officials say the department's goal is to let the mental health team help while officers keep everyone safe.

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Stadium Planned for Kansas City's Women's Pro Soccer Team

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The owners of Kansas City's professional women's soccer team plan to build a $70 million stadium for the team. Owners of Kansas City NWSL announced Tuesday the 11,000-seat stadium is expected to open in 2024 at a site along the Missouri River near downtown. The stadium will be the first built in the U.S. specifically for a professional women’s soccer team. Kansas City NWSL officials say the stadium will be privately financed, with the ownership group signing a 50-year lease. The team's owners have previously announced plans for a $15 million training facility in suburban Kansas City.

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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. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today!  

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