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Headlines for Thursday, August 18, 2022



UPDATE: Kansas Attorney General's Office Finds Problems with Sports Betting Measure 

UNDATED (KNS) – In a statement, the Kansas attorney general’s office said staff had identified problems with the regulations during a normal review. The statement says the review is being expedited, and suggestions for fixing the problems could come within days. It’s not clear if the legal problems will delay the start of gambling. The four state-operated casinos are planning to begin taking bets online and in person on September 1st. People must be 21 and within the state of Kansas to place bets. The state estimates legal betting will bring in up to $10 million of tax revenue a year.

(–Earlier Reporting–)

Sports Betting Set to Begin in Kansas State-Owned Casinos September 1

UNDATED (AP) – State officials say sports fans should be able to place legal bets in Kansas beginning on Sept. 1. Kansas Lottery executive director Stephen Durrell said in a video announcement Thursday that a “soft launch" will begin at noon Sept. 1, with a full launch on Sept. 8. A law passed by this year by the Kansas Legislature allows betting in person or via mobile apps at Kansas' four state-owned casinos in Dodge City, Mulvane, Pittsburg and Kansas City, Kansas. Governor Laura Kelly said in a news release that tribal casinos are working on contracts with the state to allow sports wagering at those businesses.


Kansas Counties Spending More than Expected on Recount Procedures 

UNDATED (KNS and The Kansas City Star) – Two Kansas counties have spent more money recounting the abortion amendment than expected. That means the local election office will foot the remainder of the bill. The Kansas City Star says Lyon and Johnson County underestimated the cost of a recount. Neither county said how much more it will cost. Lyon County originally projected a recount would cost $500 while Johnson County first estimated $75,000. In Douglas County, Clerk Jamie Shew says he is not sure if he will go over projections because his county only gave the secretary of state an estimate on the costs for recounting the GOP treasurer's race ballots, not the abortion amendment ballots. The Kansas News Service reports that ballots recounted so far have confirmed the landslide rejection of the amendment.


KU Opens New Research and Office Building to Attract Tech Companies

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - University of Kansas officials say a $24 million research and office building will house nearly a dozen tech companies and eventually add more than 200 employees to KU's west campus. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that an opening ceremony for the recently completed building at KU Innovation Park attracted many of the state’s top leaders Wednesday.  “As I’ve dug into the numbers, I’ve seen the importance of this innovation campus,” Governor Laura Kelly told the crowd, which also included Kansas Senator Jerry Moran, and multiple leaders of the Kansas Legislature.

The new 66,000-square-foot building — the third phase of KU Innovation Park, which is on a portion of West Campus north and west of 23rd and Iowa streets — is known as a “graduation facility.” It's designed to take companies that are outgrowing their space in the business incubator building of KU Innovation Park and move them into larger space with more extensive laboratories.

Leaders of KU Innovation Park said 10 companies already have signed on to locate in the building, with one already in operation in the facility and others in the process of moving in and putting the finishing touches on laboratory space. An 11th company — an architectural and engineering firm — is in the final stages of completing a deal to move to the site. When that deal is done, the facility will be nearly fully leased.  KU Chancellor Doug Girod said the idea behind Innovation Park is to allow both students and faculty to interact with the private sector in ways that are beneficial to all involved. ( Read more.)


Former Hutchinson Police Officer Charged in Connection with Series of Rapes

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (The Hutchinson News) - A former longtime Hutchinson Police officer has been arrested for allegedly taking part in a series of sexual assaults that occurred in Hutchinson between 2012 and 2018, while he was working for the department.  The Hutchinson News reports that the assaults ended when the city’s new police chief revealed to the public that a serial rapist was attacking women in Carey Park, and the suspect quit the department. Police arrested 51-year-old Todd W. Allen Wednesday afternoon on 17 felony counts and more than a half dozen misdemeanors, including five counts of rape or attempted rape, one count of indecent liberties and two counts of kidnapping. Allen was expected to make an initial appearance in court Thursday morning.  Allen had served on the Hutchinson Police Department for more than 20 years when he resigned in 2018 after authorities disclosed a string of sexual assaults. ( Read more.)

(–AP Version–)

Former Kansas Police Officer Charged in Serial Sex Assaults Case

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A former Hutchinson, Kansas, police officer is suspected of committing a series of sexual assaults between 2012 to 2018 while he was working for the department. Fifty-one-year-old Todd Allen was charged Thursday with 24 counts, including 17 felonies. The charges include rape, kidnapping and aggravated indecent liberties with a child. The sexual assaults stopped in 2018, when in Allen resigned from the department. Police Chief Jeff Hooper said Allen was identified as a suspect in the assaults after he was stopped recently for questioning after a series of “window peeping” calls. Hooper would not say if Allen was in uniform at the time of the alleged crimes. It was not immediately clear if Allen has an attorney.


Kansas State Senator Tyson Concedes GOP State Treasurer Race to Rep. Johnson

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - State Senator Caryn Tyson has conceded defeat to state Rep. Steven Johnson in the race for the Republican nomination for Kansas State Treasurer. WIBW TV reports that Tyson thanked her supporters for fighting hard for her campaign. “We ran a great, grassroots campaign based on facts,” Tyson said. “While our campaign is over, I will continue to work to protect our freedoms and to make Kansas a shining state in the Nation.” Tyson requested a recount in six counties as the margin remained tight throughout the vote canvassing process. By the time all 105 counties reported official results, Johnson held the edge by 475 votes.

Johnson posted to his social media account Tuesday night, claiming victory. “Now that the votes have been counted, we are working harder than ever to win in November,” he wrote. Johnson moves on to face current treasurer, Democrat Lynn Rogers, on the November ballot. Tyson will continue her service in the Kansas Senate. State Senate seats are not up for election this year.


Kansas Gov: Wyandotte, Johnson Counties Will See Economic Benefit from Panasonic Plant

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (Wyandotte Daily) - Kansas Governor Laura Kelly says the $4 billion Panasonic project to be built in De Soto should also benefit the rest of Johnson County, as well as Wyandotte County and the surrounding area. The governor said as much in an interview with the Wyandotte Daily newspaper. “It will have a huge ripple effect through Johnson County, Wyandotte County and beyond,” Kelly said. She’s also expecting it to benefit Lyon, Miami and Franklin counties, all within a driving distance. The new plant will make electric vehicle batteries.

The project will bring in 4,000 jobs, and following them will be other companies that make more capital investments, Kelly said. She is anticipating approximately another 4,000 jobs for the suppliers who will set up shop in and around northeast Kansas. The governor is currently making an economic development tour of the state, in a sort of victory lap, discussing the recent economic gains for the state. She is scheduled to make a stop in Kansas City, Kansas, Thursday.  Wyandotte County should expect to see people moving in, and will probably need more housing, with schools seeing an increase in enrollment, and businesses should have more customers as a result of the new Panasonic plant, she said.

Kelly said the $825 million in incentives that Kansas offered Panasonic will be worth it. And, she said, there are guardrails in place around the incentives, so the plant will not get any incentives until it produces, builds a facility and hires people. “Panasonic is a well-established, reputable company that doesn’t do anything second-rate,” she said. They won’t make an investment and decide to pull up roots shortly afterward, she said. When they make an investment, they’re in it for the long haul.  Every year Panasonic is up and running, they’ll see $2.5 billion in economic activity in the state of Kansas, Kelly said. ( Read more.)


Governor Appoints Three Nominees to Kansas Board of Regents

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has picked three new nominees for the board that oversees the state’s public universities and community colleges. One pick for the Board of Regents is Blake Benson, the president of the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce. Kelly also nominated John Dicus, chairman and CEO of Capitol Federal Savings in Topeka. The governor's third pick is Diana Mendoza, who directs diversity programs and English for Speakers of Other Languages in the Dodge City school district. The nominees will go before the Kansas Senate for confirmation. They’ll replace Bill Feuerborn, Allan Schmidt and Mark Hutton — all former members of the Kansas Legislature. Their terms ended in June.


Kansas Deputy Injured by Buffalo Now Recovering at Home

ELLSWORTH COUNTY, Kan. (TCJ) — An Ellsworth County sheriff's deputy, who was tossed 10 to 12 feet into the air by a buffalo last week, is now recovering at home. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Sheriff Murray Marston shared further details about the incident which took place earlier this month.  The sheriff said a charging buffalo had to be put down after seriously injuring Deputy Jerry Slaight. The buffalo's owner, 56-year-old Scott Schroeder, of rural Bushton, was found dead the next morning, apparently having been gored by that same buffalo. Slaight responded after a caller reported that the buffalo was out on K-4 highway. ( Read more.)


Kansas School Districts: Parents Can Review Books Checked Out by Students

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) - Some Kansas school districts are reminding parents that they can see what books their children check out of school libraries. The Kansas News Service reports that the move has raised concerns about student privacy. The Goddard district, west of Wichita, emailed families a guide for accessing their child’s library history. They can log in to see the past 500 books the child checked out. A district spokesman says parents have had access for years. But recent, high-profile book challenges prompted the reminder. Sara Moesel, an assistant director of a public library in Mulvane, says many students assume their reading material is confidential. “So unless the librarians have been telling them all along, ‘Hey, you know, your parents have access to these records. Just be aware,’ it just becomes a real risk for children who are in vulnerable situations," she said. Library histories are part of a student’s school record and normally provided to parents who ask.


Police: Two Men Fatally Shot Outside KCK Home Wednesday Evening

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KC Star) - Police say two men were killed in a shooting that unfolded outside of a Kansas City, Kansas, home Wednesday evening.  The Kansas City Star reports that officers were called around 5 pm to the 1500 block of Haskell Avenue on reports of a shooting. Both men were found dead when officers arrived. Police did not disclose any information regarding a suspect or suspects. The killings marked the city’s 26th and 27th homicides so far in 2022, according to data maintained by The Star. Last year, Kansas City, Kansas saw a total of 51 homicides. ( Read more.)


Kansas City Police: Toddler Dies with Drugs in System

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police say a woman has been jailed after her 2-year-old son was found dead in a home strewn with apparent drugs and drug paraphernalia. The Jackson County prosecutor's office announced Thursday that 36-year-old Michaela Chism was charged with two felony counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Police say Chism's son was found dead Wednesday inside the Kansas City home. Police say tests indicated the boy had amphetamines in his system. A probable cause document says Chism acknowledged that she consumed drugs, including methamphetamine and fentanyl, while living at the home. Police say a 3-year-old child found inside the home also tested positive for amphetamines.


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.


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.)


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.)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Chiefs' George Karlaftis Could Become NFL's Own Giannis Antetokounmpo-Like Greek Sensation

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — George Karlaftis took a circuitous route to the NFL, but he's making the most of his opportunity now that he has arrived. The first-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs had a sack in his preseason debut last weekend in Chicago, and he has drawn rave reviews from teammates and coaches alike in training camp. It's hard to believe that Karlaftis, who was born in Greece, did not even try football until moving to the U.S. in middle school less than a decade ago.


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.