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Headlines for Thursday, August 4, 2022



Kansas Abortion Vote Sparks New Hope for Democrats in Midterms

NEW YORK (AP) — Democrats displayed a newfound sense of optimism about the election-year political climate after voters in traditionally conservative Kansas overwhelmingly backed a measure protecting abortion rights. At the White House, President Joe Biden hailed the vote in Kansas as the direct result of outrage at the Supreme Court’s decision in June to repeal a woman’s constitutional right to obtain an abortion. Republicans and the high court “don’t have a clue about the power of American women,” Biden said. “Tuesday night in Kansas, they found out.”  On Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., boasted of the political winds “blowing at Democrats.”  "The people of Kansas sent an unmistakable message to Republican extremists,” he said. “If it’s going to happen in Kansas, it’s going to happen in a whole lot of states.” With three months until the November election, the optimism may be premature. But it represents a much-needed break for a party that has spent the better part of the past year reeling from crisis to crisis, including the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan and rising prices for gasoline and other goods. Those developments have contributed to Biden’s low approval ratings, leaving Democrats without a unifying leader in a position to rally voters before the election, with control of Congress at stake.


What's Next in the Kansas Abortion Debate?

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Both abortion activists and opponents are shifting their focus after voters rejected an amendment that would have stripped the right to an abortion from the state constitution. The Kansas News Service reports that anti-abortion groups called the vote just a temporary setback and promised to come back with new strategies for reducing abortions. Abortion activists celebrated and called for expanding abortions across the state. Ashley All, of Kansans For Constitutional Freedom, which opposed the amendment, says the group will need to continue advocating for abortion rights. She says abortion opponents may still try to pass new restrictions. “I have no doubt that there will be additional bills put forward in the spring to limit access in other ways," she said. The group is also campaigning to support Kansas Supreme Court justices who will face retention elections this fall. Anti-abortion groups may push to remove them to reshape the court.

Dirty Tricks in Kansas Via Text: Does Yes Actually Mean No?

UNDATED (AP) – The day before Kansas voters rejected a ballot question that could have eroded abortion rights, many people in the state reported receiving anonymous text messages with misleading information about the vote. The texts urged recipients to vote “yes” to support choice, but voting that way would actually have empowered lawmakers to restrict or even outlaw abortion. The tactic reflects the growing use of text messages to spread disinformation about voting and politics. Experts say text messages can be just as effective or even more effective than social media when it comes to disseminating falsehoods, and the anonymity of wireless communication can make it much harder to identify the source. Kansas voters on Tuesday ended up rejecting the measure.

Will Abortion Be on More State Ballots After Kansas Vote?

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Abortion rights opponents were shocked and abortion advocates energized by a decisive statewide vote in heavily Republican Kansas this week in favor of protecting abortion access. Yet that's not likely to translate into new abortion votes across the U.S. this November. While California, Kentucky and Michigan are likely to vote in the fall on abortion access, other states probably won't follow, at least not immediately. In states that allow citizens to put questions on the ballot without going through the Legislature, deadlines for doing it have already passed. Kansas voted because lawmakers who put the question on the ballot expected it to prevail.

Missouri Democrats Turn to Illinois, Kansas for Abortion Help

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A top Democratic state lawmaker is asking Illinois and Kansas to cover emergency abortions for Missouri Medicaid patients. Missouri House Democratic Minority Leader Crystal Quade on Wednesday asked the Democratic governors of Kansas and Illinois to get Medicaid waivers for out-of-state abortion seekers. Democratic President Joe Biden announced the Medicaid waivers Wednesday to help pay for abortions in cases of medical emergencies and for rape and incest survivors. Abortion is outlawed in the Republican-led state of Missouri except to save the life of the mother. But neighboring Kansas on Tuesday voted to keep the right to an abortion enshrined in the state Constitution. Abortion also is legal in Illinois.


Kansas GOP Uses Texts to Hinder Independent’s Gubernatorial Bid

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Republican Party tried Thursday to undercut a state lawmaker’s independent candidacy for governor by texting people who signed his petitions for the November ballot to urge them to remove their names. The texts told the signers for state Sen. Dennis Pyle’s bid that their names are on petitions to help Democratic incumbent Laura Kelly win reelection. Pyle, from Hiawatha, has clashed with GOP leaders and was a Republican until June. He called the text message “a blatant lie.” Pyle submitted petitions with nearly 8,900 signatures to the Kansas secretary of state’s office on Monday for verification that the signers are registered voters, as required. State law requires 5,000 valid signatures, and typically exceeding that number by several thousand gets someone on the ballot. State law gave signers until midnight Thursday to reconsider. His run would complicate GOP nominee and state Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s efforts to unseat Kelly. Some Democrats hope Pyle and Schmidt would split conservative Republican votes enough for Kelly to win a second four-year term, and the governor’s allies helped gather signatures for Pyle. As of Thursday evening, only one name had been removed by request.

Schmidt’s campaign has dismissed Pyle as a “fake conservative” and a “vanity candidate.” Shannon Pahls, the state GOP’s executive director, said it received a list of some signers through an open records request and began texting them. Pahls defended the texts, saying they were a response to the efforts by Kelly’s allies to help Pyle. “We believe Kansans should be aware of that, and aware of their right to remove their name,” she said in a statement. Pyle is a strong abortion opponent and advocate of spending and tax cuts who has publicly doubted the validity of the 2020 election. Schmidt, too, opposes abortion and describes himself as a conservative. But Schmidt worked for moderate Republican U.S. senators at the start of his career, and doubts about him have lingered among hard-right Republicans. Pyle describes both Kelly and Schmidt as liberals, predicted he will unite conservatives and said GOP leaders accept that Schmidt’s nomination was “a huge mistake.” “They need to stop whining about me being a spoiler, and they need to put on their big boy pants,” he said.


Woman Arrested in Leawood for Allegedly Attacking Pro-Life Teenager Who Was Canvassing for Kansas Abortion Amendment

LEAWOOD, Kan. (KC Star) An 18-year-old woman from Austin, Texas, allegedly was assaulted Sunday afternoon in Leawood while canvassing to encourage people to vote “yes” on Kansas’ Amendment 2. The Kansas City Star reports that the teen contacted police Sunday afternoon and told them that about an hour earlier, she had been canvassing door-to-door for the group Students for Life Action when she was allegedly attacked. Captain Brad Robbins, a spokesman for the Leawood Police Department, said the teen was told by the woman who answered the door that she did not want to discuss the topic. As the teen was walking away, she told police that another woman yelled at her and then started hitting her. A 37-year-old woman, whose name was not released by police, was arrested and charged in Leawood Municipal Court with misdemeanor battery and released. ( Read more.)


Kansas Collects Tax Revenue Above Expectations for 24th Consecutive Month

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - The state of Kansas has reported tax revenue collections above expectations for the 24th consecutive month. The state brought in $127.6 million more in tax receipts than anticipated in July, for an estimated total of about $586 million. Governor Laura Kelly touted the news as an example of the state’s economic successes. The revenue report indicated higher-than-expected corporate tax receipts, reflecting optimism that corporate profits will remain stable, Kelly said. Corporate income tax collections were $36.6 million, or 66% more than the estimate.


Two Conservative Republicans Oust Incumbents on Kansas Board of Education

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Two conservative Republicans have ousted incumbents in the primary and secured seats on the Kansas Board of Education. The Kansas News Service reports the new members could push to reshape what’s taught in schools. Dennis Hershberger’s four children were home-schooled in a small town outside Hutchinson. He ran for state school board because he says he doesn’t like what’s happening today in public schools. "Kindergartners coming home reporting to their parents that they spent the day celebrating Pride Month – I mean, what does that have to do with learning?," he said.  Hershberger beat school board member Ben Jones in Tuesday’s GOP primary. Board member Jean Clifford lost her seat to Cathy Hopkins. Both conservative candidates oppose lessons on racism or sexuality. They don’t face challengers in November, so they will take their seats in Topeka next year.


2 Kansas State Lawmakers Who Faced Legal Issues Ousted

UNDATED (AP) – Two Kansas state lawmakers who have faced legal troubles since they were elected have lost their primary races. Freshman Rep. Aaron Coleman, of Turner, who was reprimanded by his party over his legal problems, was defeated in Tuesday's Democratic primary by Melissa Oropeza. Coleman agreed in March to undergo mental health counseling after being accused of misdemeanor battery involving his brother. He also admitted to abusing girls and young women before he was elected. And Republican Rep. Mark Samsel, of Wellsville, who pleaded guilty to three misdemeanors involving his treatment of two students, was ousted by conservative Carrie Barth, of Baldwin City.


Lawrence Man Facing Double Murder Charge, Attempted Murder

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KCUR) - A Lawrence man has been charged with first-degree murder and attempted capital murder after fleeing from and shooting at Lawrence police Sunday. The Douglas County District Attorney's Office has charged 51-year-old Rodney Marshall with two counts of first-degree murder in separate killings that took place just two miles apart early Sunday morning. Marshall fled from police when they tried to pull him over and began firing from his car window. For that, he is charged with one count of attempted first-degree murder and five counts of attempted capital murder. Marshall was eventually arrested after hitting stop sticks on Kansas Highway 10 near Eudora. His bond is set at one and a half million dollars.


Lawrence Woman Arrested on Fraud Charges, Identity Theft

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) – A Lawrence woman has been arrested on charges of fraud and identity theft.  Investigators arrested 25-year-old Billie Jean Peterson for allegedly taking advantage of co-workers, acquaintances and a neighbor. Police say she stole their personal information and fraudulently charged thousands of dollars to their accounts over the course of several months. Peterson was taken into custody and charged with felony theft. She's also facing numerous counts of identity theft, criminal use of a financial card and other crimes involving multiple victims. Police say the investigation began in March when a small group of women who worked with Peterson at a local dental office compared notes about fraudulent charges on their bank cards.


Haskell Indian Nations University Nets Major NSF Award

LAWRENCE, Kan. (Indian Country Today/KPR) – Haskell Indian Nations University has been named as the recipient of a $20 million award from the National Science Foundation. The award is the largest research award ever granted by the NSF to a tribal college or university. Indian Country Today reports that the award-winning project is called "The Large Scale CoPe: Rising Voices, Changing Coasts: The National Indigenous and Earth Sciences Convergence Hub." Its purpose is to create a hub for university-trained social, ecosystem, and physical earth systems scientists and students to exchange and develop information coming from Indigenous people from diverse coastal regions. This will allow those groups to work together in a systematic way to address coastal hazards related to climate change. Haskell Foundation Director Aaron Hove said the award "cements Haskell's leadership role in Indigenous Climate Change research, and demonstrates what a small institution can accomplish when it builds relationships internationally known research institutions like the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Scripps Research Institute, and large research universities." Haskell Indian Nations University is the lead institution in the hub project. 

(Additional reporting...)

Haskell Indian Nations University Gets $20 Million Award to Fund Science Hub on Climate Change

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - Haskell Indian Nations University has received the largest National Science Foundation award ever granted to a tribal college or university, a $20 million award to fund an Indigenous science hub project.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the five-year award is funded under the American Rescue Plan Act and was announced Wednesday by Bryan Newland, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s assistant secretary for Indian affairs. The project will create a hub at Haskell called “Rising Voices, Changing Coasts: The National Indigenous and Earth Sciences Convergence Hub.”  Newland says the hub is designed to support tribal communities as they address challenges from a rapidly changing climate. Longtime Haskell professor Daniel Wildcat will serve as the hub’s lead investigator. ( Read more.)


United Way of Douglas County Plans to Merge with United Way of Greater Topeka

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - The United Way of Douglas County and the United Way of Greater Topeka announced Wednesday that the two nonprofit groups plan to merge. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the resulting organization, the United Way of Kaw Valley, would serve four counties: Shawnee, Jackson, Jefferson and Douglas. Leaders from both organizations say the two groups are in the final stages of authorizing the merger. Jessica Lehnherr, the current CEO of the United Way of Greater Topeka, will serve as the CEO of the new organization. The organizations will hold final approval votes next month for the merger and plan to file with the Kansas secretary of state this fall. ( Read more.)


Chiefs' Travis Kelce Aims to Finish Career in Kansas City

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Andy Reid will always have a special fondness for Travis Kelce, one of the first players that the Kansas City Chiefs drafted after the coach took over a downtrodden franchise following his own frustrating finish in Philadelphia. But now that Kelce is one of the league’s elder statesmen, and the longest-tenured member of the Chiefs, it is only natural to begin wondering how long the tight end will continue to perform at the highest level. He turns 33 in October, though he's also coming off one of the best seasons of his nine-year NFL career.


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, 11 am weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members.  Become one today. And follow  KPR News on Twitter.