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Headlines for Wednesday, August 17, 2022



Kansas Representative Claims Victory but GOP Treasurer's Race Not Quite Over

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - State Representative Steven Johnson has claimed victory in the close Republican primary for Kansas Treasurer. But his opponent has requested a recount in some counties. The Kansas News Service reports that in the final tally, Johnson finished ahead of state Senator Caryn Tyson by less than 500 votes. It took weeks to determine a winner because counties needed to sort through tens of thousands of provisional ballots. But the race is not completely over. Six rural counties are recounting votes by hand at Tyson’s request. That seems unlikely to change the outcome because Tyson lost by more than double digits in each of those counties. But it is the last step in the process.


New Position in KCK Court System Works to Keep Minor Offenders Out of the System

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KNS) - A new position in the Kansas City, Kansas, court system will work to reduce the burden of fines and fees for people facing charges. Brandy Nichols-Brajkovic, a judge in the KCK Municipal Court system, says this new position will help tailor the court’s response for people facing minor charges like theft. The thinking behind the approach is that community service may be better than imposing fines that the defendant can't afford to pay.  “We're actually going to look at the person and say, ‘What do you need, so that you do not need to be in the system?," she said.  She argues that when a court gives someone a fine they can’t pay, that often leads to defendants accumulating debt from the compounding fees.


Nine Kansas Counties Recount Ballots in Abortion Amendment Vote

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Some Kansas counties are preparing to recount ballots on the abortion amendment question after advocates raised $120,000 to pay for it. Ultimately, the effort is unlikely to change the outcome because voters rejected the amendment by a large margin. The nine counties, including Johnson, Sedgwick and Shawnee, have been calling election staff, retraining works and planning the logistics of a recount. After the announcement, Douglas County Election Commissioner Jamie Shew said he has a board of Republicans, Democrats and other parties who will handle the counting. “What we're kind of waiting on is instructions from the secretary of state's office and when to get started," he said. "I have the board ready to go." Advocates for the recount pointed to unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud and raised enough money to pay for a recount in nine counties. State law says the counting must be finished by Saturday. ( Read more.)

(Additional reporting...)

Kansas Abortion Vote: Why Recount with Such a Large Margin?

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has begun a partial hand recount of this month's decisive statewide vote in favor of abortion rights. Nine of the state's 105 counties were forced to do the recount by two Republican activists. Voters earlier this month rejected a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution that would have allowed the Republican-controlled Legislature to further restrict abortion or perhaps even ban it. The measure failed by 18 percentage points or 165,000 votes statewide. But state law allows any registered voter to ask for a recount on a statewide ballot question, and the two GOP activists provided credit cards to cover the roughly $120,000 in costs.

(Earlier reporting...)

Abortion Foes Tap Credit Cards to Get Partial Kansas Recount

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP/KPR) — Kansas plans to do a partial hand recount of this month's decisive vote in favor of abortion rights but it's unlikely to change the outcome. Abortion opponents charged almost $120,000 Monday to credit cards to cover the cost. The Kansas secretary of state's office said the recount will be in nine of the state's 105 counties accounting for more than half of the votes cast on the August 2 abortion ballot question, including four of the state's five most populous counties. Voters who want to keep the abortion rights allowed under the Kansas constitution prevailed in eight of the nine counties. Abortion opponents had sought a recount in every county but couldn't come up with the $229,000 needed to cover the costs.


Clergy, Social Workers Fear Fallout from Oklahoma Abortion Laws

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Strict anti-abortion laws that took effect in Oklahoma this year led to the quick shuttering of every abortion facility in the state. But questions remain for those who work directly with women who may seek their advice or help getting an abortion out of state. Clergy members, social workers and even librarians have raised concerns about being exposed to criminal or civil liability for even discussing the topic. University of Oklahoma law professor Joseph Thai says those fears are well founded. He describes Oklahoma's anti-abortion laws as the strictest in the nation so far and sweeping in both substance and scope. The criminal provisions make it a felony to "advise" a woman or provide any means to help her get an abortion.


Starbucks Asks Labor Board to Temporarily Halt Union Votes

UNDATED (AP) - Starbucks is asking the National Labor Relations Board to suspend all union elections at its U.S. stores. The request came this week in response to a board employee's allegations that regional NLRB officials improperly coordinated with union organizers. In a letter sent to the board, Starbucks said an unnamed career NLRB official told the company about the activity, which happened in the board's St. Louis office in the spring while it was overseeing an election at a Starbucks store in Overland Park, Kansas. The labor board says it doesn't comment on open cases. More than 220 U.S. Starbucks stores have voted to unionize since late last year. The company opposes unionization.


Missouri Halts Solar Tax Break as Federal Incentives Expand

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri court has ended a property tax break for solar power as the federal government is expanding incentives for renewable energy. President Joe Biden signed legislation Tuesday expanding federal tax breaks for solar and wind power as part of a $375 billion investment into initiatives designed to fight climate change. The legislation passed Congress last week, around the same time the Missouri Supreme Court struck down a 2013 state law granting a property tax exemption for solar energy systems. The ruling came in a case involving a solar farm that supplies electricity for Springfield, but it also could affect others across the state.


Kansas Farmland Value Increases More Than Any Other State

HAYS, Kan. (KNS) - The price of Kansas farmland increased by more than 35% over the past two years. That’s more than any other state in the nation. The rise in Kansas cropland values marks a sharp shift. Land here had actually decreased in value several years prior to 2020. But as prices for grains like wheat and corn increased, farmland became a more profitable asset, for both farmers and outside investors. The Farmers Business Network, which released the report, says farm economists expect the price of Kansas farmland to continue rising as the global economy demands more food. The report says the high land prices are good news for farmers who already own a lot of land, but could price out smaller farms looking to expand their business. It also will likely mean higher rents for farmers who lease land.  Nearby states saw big increases as well, with farmland values jumping more than 20% in Missouri, Nebraska and Texas. 


Federal Inflation Reduction Act Has Implications for Farmers of Color

CHAMPAIGN-URBANA, Ill. (HPM) - . The Inflation Reduction Act has major implications for farmers of color who have been waiting for more than a year for debt relief promised to them in the American Rescue Plan Act. That act earmarked $4 billion in debt relief for quote, “socially disadvantaged” farmers. But the money got caught up in the court system after white farmers sued claiming discrimination. The Inflation Reduction Act cuts that money by $1 billion and opens it up to quote, “economically distressed” farmers, of any race.  John Boyd Jr. is the president of the National Black Farmers Association. He says he’s frustrated with the change. “When subsidies come down the pike and they’re signed into law, within days, the relief was in white farmers’ mailboxes and in their checking accounts. Why is it so different when there’s aid targeted to Black and other farmers of color?” The latest legislation includes another $2 billion for compensation for discrimination in federal farm programs.


Kansas Department Stopped Compiling Annual Reports of Child Sex Abuse for Six Years

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ/KNS) - The Kansas Department for Children and Families stopped compiling required annual reports on child sex abuse cases just as allegations were rising. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the lapse lasted six years. The state should have compiled the number of sexual abuse allegations reported by abortion providers in Kansas. The department had the information, but only updated the report when the Topeka Capital-Journal asked about it. The agency does not have an explanation. The lapse started in 2016 under Republican Governor Sam Brownback and it continued under current Democratic Governor Laura Kelly. The new numbers show sexual abuse allegations increased from 10 in 2018 to 56 most recently.


Kansans to Vote on Giving Legislature Power over Governor’s Administrative Rules

TOPEKA, Kan. (KC Star/KPR)  — A constitutional amendment on the November 8 ballot in Kansas would give the Legislature veto power over rules and regulations issued by Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s administration, if she’s reelected.  The measure was originally proposed by Kelly’s Republican opponent, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt.  If it passes, the amendment would allow the Legislature to revoke or suspend rules and regulations by governors of either party. The amendment would hand the Legislature final control over rules and regulations issued by state agencies – on everything from fireworks manufacturing to the cleaning of livestock feedlots. Proponents say the measure is intended to ensure executive agencies follow legislative intent in establishing regulations and don’t create new laws. But opponents point to it as an example of the Legislature seeking to expand its own power.  Kelly and Schmidt have taken different positions on the amendment. Schmidt is in favor of the proposal; Kelly opposes it.  ( Read more in Governing magazine.)


Health Officials Urge Education, Awareness as Kansas Keeps Monkeypox at Bay

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - With monkeypox declared a public health emergency, people around Kansas might wonder how worried they need to be.  The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reports only two cases in the state: one in Johnson County in mid-July, and the other in Shawnee County last week.  WIBW TV reports that the steady rise in monkeypox cases in the U.S. since May 2022, a virus that has been rare in this country, has public health officials keeping a close watch. Monkeypox symptoms usually surface 7 to 14 days after exposure. It starts with typical symptoms associated with a viral illness, like a fever, headaches or sore throat. Several days later, a rash develops. While Kansas has had only two cases, the U.S. topped more than 10,000 cases in all last week. The CDC’s map showed three cases in Kansas, but KDHE has only announced two. While there’s been much talk about the high number of cases among gay men, health officials stress anyone can get it.


Six Kansas Creeks and Streams Will Get New, Less Offensive Names

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) - Next month, federal officials are expected to rename five creeks and a stream on federal land in Kansas because their names include a slur for Native American women. That word, "squaw," was formally declared derogatory last November in an order issued by Deb Haaland, the nation's first Native American Secretary of the Interior. Haaland said the term is an ethnic, racial and sexist slur, particularly for Indigenous women.  The  Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Haaland ordered the Board on Geographic Names, the federal body tasked with naming geographic places, to find replacement names for more than 660 geographic features bearing that term, including the six sites in Kansas.  The term "squaw" originated from the Algonquian word for "woman," but its meaning has been skewed for centuries by white people, Haaland said.

Here are the places in Kansas that are expected to receive new names, including their locations:

  • Squaw Creek / Location: Brown County
  • Squaw Creek / Location: Brown and Doniphan counties
  • Squaw Creek / Location: Chautauqua County
  • Squaw Creek / Location: Montgomery County
  • Squaw Branch / Location: Norton County
  • Squaw Creek / Location: Cherokee County


Kansas Law Enforcement Steps Up Enforcement Efforts Against Drunk Driving

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Police departments across the state of Kansas are joining together as a part of a campaign called "You Drink. You Drive. You Lose.”  Television station KSNW reports that the campaign is aimed at removing impaired drivers from roads. Authorities say one person is killed in a drunk-driving crash every 52 minutes in the U.S.  The Kansas campaign hopes to lower the number of fatalities related to drunk-driving. The statewide campaign runs from August 20 through Labor Day, September 7.


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.