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Headlines for Wednesday, January 4, 2023

News Summary updated image
Emily Fisher
/
KPR

Kansas Lawmakers Get Back to Business Next Week with More Money in the Bank

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas lawmakers get back to work on Monday. Whatever state lawmakers decide to do this year, they should have more money to do it. Total state tax collections for the month of December came in at $1.1 billion. That's $140 million above expectations. Governor Laura Kelly will outline her budget priorities to state lawmakers next week when she delivers her State of the State address. Kansas Public Radio plans to carry her speech Wednesday at 6:30 pm.

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Can Kansas Do More to Ease Teacher Shortage?

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - One of the issues lawmakers are expected to consider this session? The state's teacher shortage. This school year, Kansas school districts reported more than 1,600 vacancies.Deans of education at public universities in Kansas say the state could ease the teacher shortage by lowering college costs for people who want to become teachers. A task force created by the Kansas Board of Regents wants to expand a state scholarship program for teachers. The program is currently available only for hard-to-fill positions in parts of the state. Task force chairman Rick Ginsburg is dean of education at the University of Kansas. He says the state should also start paying student teachers. “We are one of the only fields where people do internships that they don’t get paid for, and they actually pay for credit hours to do it," he said. A draft report offers 15 recommendations to reduce the teacher shortage in Kansas. Lawmakers will review the suggestions.

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Kansas Lawmakers Will Revisit Medical Marijuana in 2023

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - State lawmakers in Kansas will try again to bring medical marijuana to the state after attempts failed in recent years. Senator Rob Olson chairs a special committee that looked into the issue in advance of lawmakers returning to the Statehouse next week. His plan will include strict regulations on things like who can grow medical marijuana. “The bill I’m going to write is, I think, going to be fair to the state, very tight, very regulatory," he said. The restrictions could help attract more Republican support. It’s not yet clear if that will be enough to win the support of GOP leaders. One Democratic lawmaker wanted the bill to include changes to criminal justice issues including expunging past marijuana convictions.

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TC Energy Diverts Kansas Creek as Oil Spill Clean-Up Continues

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Kan. (KNS) - Canadian oil company TC Energy will divert a creek in northern Kansas to help clean up oil that spilled out of the Keystone pipeline last month. TC Energy already installed emergency dams to stop thousands of barrels of oil in Mill Creek from moving downstream. This stops oil that floats on the water’s surface. But the creek continues to flow through large underwater holes in the dams. Scientists warn that the kind of oil released in Washington County gradually sinks and then spreads underwater. TC Energy says it will temporarily divert the stream to bypass a four-mile stretch of oil-filled creek that needs intensive cleanup. The company hasn’t said how long it expects the work to take.

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Tribe Asks to Take over Former Boarding School in Kansas

FAIRWAY, Kan. (AP) — The Shawnee Tribe is asking to take over ownership of a historical site in Kansas that might contain unmarked graves of Native American students. The site, formerly known as the Shawnee Indian Manual Labor School, was one of hundreds of schools run by the government and religious groups in the 1800s and 1900s that removed Indigenous children from their families to assimilate them into white society and Christianity. It is owned by the Kansas Historical Society. The city of Fairway manages daily operations.

In October, state officials announced that they planned to conduct a ground study to search for unmarked graves on the 12-acre site. That process stalled after the Shawnee Tribe said it had not been consulted enough and raised questions about the proposed study. Tribal leaders contend that state and Fairway officials have not properly maintained the site.

The Kansas City Star reports that the tribe released an architectural survey Tuesday that found the three buildings remaining at the Shawnee Indian Mission in Fairway need millions of dollars in repairs.

The Oklahoma-based tribe commissioned the study from Architectural Resources Group last year because leaders are "concerned about the future of this historic site," Chief Ben Barnes said in a statement Tuesday. "Over the last year, we have had numerous conversations with the city and state about the need to save this special place," Barnes said. "When it became clear that there was no plan in place, we began conversations about the possibility of the Shawnee Tribe assuming responsibility for restoring and repairing this site."

Officials with the Kansas Historical Society and the city of Fairway rejected the suggestion that the site be transferred to the tribe. Patrick Zollner, acting executive director of the Historical Society, said the organization has already made several improvements, is planning more restoration work and remains committed to telling the history of the site.

In a statement released Tuesday, Fairway officials questioned whether the tribe had the resources to pay for needed renovations and repairs. They also questioned what the tribe would do with the land, and said the city and state may not have any authority over how the land was used.

Tribal leaders estimate the repairs would cost up to $13 million. If given ownership, the tribe said it would repair the buildings in multiple phases while meeting historical preservation requirements.

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Former Kansas Attorney General Bob Stephan Dies

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR/TCJ) - Former Kansas Attorney General Bob Stephan has died at the age of 89. The Republican was the longest-serving AG in state history, serving 16 years in office, from 1979 to 1995. Outgoing Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt issued his condolences in a statement Tuesday, praising Stephan for his contributions to crime victims rights and consumer protection. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Stephan, a Wichita native and first-generation college student, earned bachelor and law degrees from Washburn University and became one of the most prominent Lebanese-American figures in the state.

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Many Statewide Issues Remain the Same for the 2023 Kansas Legislative Session

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - After the November elections, little has changed with state government in Topeka. Governor Laura Kelly will begin her new term in office and many of the same lawmakers will return to the Kansas Statehouse. In addition, the legislative dynamics will remain largely unchanged from the past two years. The GOP retained its super-majority in both legislative chambers and the party is likely to continue clashing with the Democratic governor on a variety of issues. Part of the governor's agenda will include the complete elimination of the state sales on food. That plan is already in the works, but the governor hopes to speed up its implementation. Kelly will also push for increased funding for special education and medicaid expansion. Republican lawmakers will pursue their own goals including school choice expansions and steeper, long-term tax cuts. Though both sides have indicated some appetite for compromise, Kelly has made it clear she plans to use her veto pen if necessary.

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The 2023 Kansas Legislative Session Begins Monday

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) - Kansas lawmakers return to Topeka next week to begin their annual legislative session. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the session begins Monday at 2 pm and is scheduled to last 90 days. The exact timetable is generally fluid, with a month-long break in April. Last year, the Kansas Legislature adjourned for the year on May 23, though the exact date changes from session to session. Republicans maintain a super-majority in both chambers of the state Legislature, meaning they can theoretically override Democratic Governor Laura Kelly's vetoes, as long as too many members do not defect. Senate

President Ty Masterson, R-Andover, will be back for another session as presiding officer in the Kansas Senate, as will Senate Majority Leader Larry Alley, R-Winfield, and Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes, D-Lenexa.

The Kansas House will have a set of new legislative leaders. Both parties will have new leaders for the first time in several sessions. The new House speaker is set to be Rep. Dan Hawkins, R-Wichita, who previously served as majority leader. His replacement will be Majority Leader Chris Croft, R-Overland Park. The new presiding officer will be House Speaker Pro Tempore Blake Carpenter, R-Derby. On the Democrat side, there will also be change after Rep. Tom Sawyer, D-Wichita, opted not to seek another term as leader. His replacement will be House Minority Leader Vic Miller, D-Topeka, and his assistant will be Rep. Valdenia Winn, D-Kansas City.

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Fort Hays State Football Player Shot and Killed in Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY. (AP) _ A football player at Fort Hays State University was shot and killed outside an Oklahoma City bar on New Year's Day. Oklahoma City police say 22-year-old Daniel Howard died and four others were injured in the shooting outside Sunset Patio Lounge. Police say the shooting occurred after a fight broke out inside the bar and several people were kicked out. Shots were fired when the argument continued in a nearby parking lot. Police say some of the injured were bystanders. Howard played two seasons at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M before transferring to Fort Hays State in Kansas in the spring of 2022.

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Drivers Identified, Details Released in Fatal Lawrence Crash

LAWRENCE, Kan. (WIBW) - Lawrence police have identified the victims as well as more details into a fatal, early-morning crash. Police say it was just before 2 am Monday when a Nissan Maxima, driven by 39-year-old Katoya Leasa Owens, of Lawrence, collided a Jaguar driven by 36-year-old John Grant Redding, of Lawrence. WIBW TV reports that the collission took place near the intersection of 6th and Iowa. Owens, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was pronounced dead at the scene. Officials say Redding was wearing a seatbelt and was taken to a local hospital with serious injuries.

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Woman Found New Year's Day in Miami County Ditch with Life-Threatening Gunshot Wound

MIAMI COUNTY, Kan. (KSHB) — Miami County Sheriff's deputies found a woman in a ditch New Year's day with life-threatening gunshot wounds. KSHB TV reports that the woman was found in rural Paola (in the area of 299th Street and Somerset Road). She was taken by ambulance to a hospital. The victim, said to be in her 40s, has not been identified. The sheriff’s office says there's no known threat to the public.

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Transgender Missouri Inmate Executed for Rape, Fatal Stabbing

BONNE TERRE, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri inmate was put to death Tuesday for a 2003 killing, in what is believed to be the first execution of a transgender woman in the U.S. The 49-year-old inmate, who goes by the name Amber McLaughlin, was convicted of stalking and killing a former girlfriend, then dumping the body near the Mississippi River in St. Louis. McLaughlin's fate was sealed earlier Tuesday when Republican Governor Mike Parson declined a clemency request.

McLaughlin spoke quietly with a spiritual adviser at her side as the fatal dose of pentobarbital was injected. McLaughlin breathed heavily a couple of times, then shut her eyes. She was pronounced dead a few minutes later.

"I am sorry for what I did," McLaughlin said in a final, written, statement. "I am a loving and caring person." A database on the website for the anti-execution Death Penalty Information Center shows that 1,558 people have been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in the mid-1970s. All but 17 of those put to death were men. The center said there are no known previous cases of an openly transgender inmate being executed. McLaughlin began transitioning about three years ago at the state prison in Potosi.

The clemency petition cited McLaughlin's traumatic childhood and mental health issues, which the jury never heard during her trial. A foster parent rubbed feces in her face when she was a toddler and her adoptive father used a stun gun on her, according to the petition. It cited severe depression that resulted in multiple suicide attempts, both as a child and as an adult. The petition also included reports citing a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, a condition that causes anguish and other symptoms as a result of a disparity between a person's gender identity and their assigned sex at birth. But McLaughlin's sexual identity was "not the main focus" of the clemency request, her attorney, Larry Komp, said.

In 2003, long before transitioning, McLaughlin was in a relationship with Beverly Guenther. After they stopped dating, McLaughlin would show up at the suburban St. Louis office where the 45-year-old Guenther worked, sometimes hiding inside the building, according to court records. Guenther obtained a restraining order, and police officers occasionally escorted her to her car after work. Guenther's neighbors called police the night of November 20, 2003, when she failed to return home. Officers went to the office building, where they found a broken knife handle near her car and a trail of blood. A day later, McLaughlin led police to a location near the Mississippi River in St. Louis, where the body had been dumped. Authorities said she had been raped and stabbed repeatedly with a steak knife.

McLaughlin was convicted of first-degree murder in 2006. A judge sentenced McLaughlin to death after a jury deadlocked on the sentence. Komp said Missouri and Indiana are the only states that allow a judge to sentence someone to death. A court in 2016 ordered a new sentencing hearing, but a federal appeals court panel reinstated the death penalty in 2021. "McLaughlin terrorized Ms. Guenther in the final years of her life, but we hope her family and loved ones may finally have some peace," Parson said in a written statement after the execution.

McLaughlin began transitioning about three years ago, according to Jessica Hicklin, who spent 26 years in prison for a drug-related killing before being released a year ago. Hicklin, now 43, sued the Missouri Department of Corrections, challenging a policy that prohibited hormone therapy for inmates who weren't receiving it before being incarcerated. She won the lawsuit in 2018 and became a mentor to other transgender inmates, including McLaughlin. McLaughlin did not receive hormone treatments, however, Komp said.

Perhaps the best-known case of a transgender prisoner seeking treatment was that of Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who served seven years in federal prison for leaking government documents to Wikileaks until President Barack Obama commuted the sentence in 2017. The Army agreed to pay for hormone treatments for Manning in 2015. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice wrote in a court filing that state prison officials must treat an inmate's gender identity condition just as they would treat other medical or mental health conditions, regardless of when the diagnosis occurred.

The only woman ever executed in Missouri was Bonnie B. Heady, put to death on Dec. 18, 1953, for kidnapping and killing a 6-year-old boy.

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Kansas City, Kansas, Police Identify Man Killed by Officers

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police in Kansas City, Kansas, have identified the man killed last week after a confrontation with police. The man was identified Monday as 53-year-old Thomas Marshall of Kansas City, Kansas. Police say the incident began around 8 am Friday in Kansas City, Kansas, when a man called police looking for help after his car broke down. An officer arrived and police say a man emerged from the woods pointing a gun before taking the police car, prompting a chase. The man eventually stopped, exited the vehicle and pointed a gun at officer. A police spokesman said multiple officers opened fire, killing the man. The officers who fired shots are on administrative leave pending an investigation.

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Ex-Boyfriend Charged in Death of Nebraska Woman

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A man has been charged with murder in the death of a Nebraska woman whose body was found last month in Kansas. Authorities say 47-year-old Aldrick Scott had previously been charged with kidnapping Cari Allen, of Omaha. She disappeared in November. Prosecutors said during a previous court hearing that Scott and Allen dated before she broke up with him about two weeks before she was reported missing on November 20. Officers searched Scott's home in Topeka November 21. He was arrested December 7 in Belize. Allen's body was found in a shallow grave December 21 near Topeka. Officials have not said how she died. In Nebraska, the Douglas County Attorney's Office announced that Scott has been charged with murder, use of a firearm to commit a felony and tampering with evidence.

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KCK Police Investigate Death of Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Deputy

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KC Star) - Police in Kansas City, Kansas, are investigating the death of a Wyandotte County sheriff’s deputy. The Kansas City Star reports that 60-year-old Sonny Johnson died Sunday while he was off duty. He was discovered at home during a welfare check. KCK police say the initial investigation does not indicate foul play. Johnson started at the sheriff’s department in 2008.

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Annual Survey Finds Spike in Kansas Drug-Related Deaths in 2021

TOPEKA, Kan. (Kansas Reflector) — Last year, Kansans had the highest number of drug-related deaths recorded in the past 20 years. That's according to a recently released summary of the year’s statistics from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Heart disease remained the leading cause of death for Kansans in 2021, followed by cancer. But the Kansas Reflector reports that in 2021, the state saw the highest number of drug-related deaths recorded in Kansas in the past two decades, with opioid cases almost doubling between 2020 and 2021. Kansas deaths from suicide also rose slightly between 2020 and 2021, rising to 555.

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Shawnee County Sheriff's Office Announces Drug Seizures and Arrests for 2022

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Shawnee County Drug Enforcement Task Force seized more than 2,500 fentanyl pills, more than 486 pounds of marijuana and more than 7 pounds of methamphetamine in 2022. WIBW TV reports that the statistics for last year show the county's Drug Enforcement Task Force made a total of 94 arrests and seized more than $130,000 in cash. The task force also confiscated 73 firearms along with heroin, cocaine and LSD.

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Kansas City Records Another Violent and Deadly Year in 2022

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KC Star) - In 2022, Kansas City suffered its second-deadliest year in recorded history with 171 killings. That includes three fatal police shootings. The Kansas City Star reports that 2022 was the third year in a row with staggering rates of violence in the city. The highest number of homicides ever recorded in Kansas City was in 2020, when 182 people were killed.

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Kansas Senator Jerry Moran Announces Federal Funding for New Barracks at Fort Riley

FORT RILEY, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas Senator Jerry Moran has announced a $15 million federal investment to build new military barracks at Fort Riley. The investment was included in the Fiscal Year 2023 Appropriations Package. Moran says he worked closely with the Department of Defense to invest in Fort Riley’s infrastructure, including the new barracks as well as new middle grade and elementary schools and renovations to the Irwin Army Hospital. Fort Riley, home of the First Infantry Division, is also home to 15,000 active duty service members.

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Russell Post Office Renamed to Honor Bob Dole

RUSSELL, Kan. (KPR) – The U.S. Post Office in Russell will soon have a new name. The name will be changed to the Robert J. Dole Memorial Post Office Building. Kansas Republican Congressman Tracey Mann sponsored the legislation to honor one of the state’s favorite sons. Senator Dole was born and raised in Russell. He was awarded two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for his service in World War II. Dole served in Congress, representing the same "Big First" Congressional District now held by Mann. Dole also served in the U.S. Senate and became the GOP's nominee for President in 1996. Congressman Mann said naming a post office after Dole in his hometown is "small but meaningful way to pay tribute to a Kansas giant and American hero.”

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Kansas State Football Running Back Deuce Vaughn Declares for NFL Draft

MANHATTAN, Kan. (TCJ) - Deuce Vaughn, the second-leading rusher in Kansas State football history, has played his last game as a Wildcat. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the two-time consensus All-American is passing up his senior season and entering the 2023 NFL draft. Vaughn rushed for 1,558 yards this season, moving into second place on the school career chart with 3,604. Only former All-American and K-State Hall of Famer Darren Sproles had more. Vaughn, who repeatedly brushed aside questions about his future until the end of the season, made his announcement two days after rushing for 133 yards, including an 88-yard touchdown, in K-State's 45-20 Sugar Bowl loss to Alabama.

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Kansas Jayhawks Move Up One Spot in AP Poll, Now Ranked #3

UNDATED (AP/KPR) - The Kansas Jayhawks have moved up a spot in the latest AP men's college basketball poll. KU ius now ranked #3 in the nation. Purdue has solidified its No. 1 ranking in the AP poll. The Boilermakers remained No. 1 for the fourth straight week. They received all but one first-place vote from a 61-person media panel in the poll released Monday. No. 2 Houston and No. 3 Kansas each moved up a spot, and No. 4 UConn dropped two spots after losing to Xavier. Arizona rounded out the top five.

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Chiefs Keep Stacking Up Wins After Difficult Off-Season Decisions

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs keep winning and Patrick Mahomes keeps making history and both are doing so despite some difficult off-season decisions that have prolonged their ability to do so. The biggest, of course, was the decision to trade Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins. Rather than lavish on the game-breaking wide receiver a massive contract that would have made it difficult to maneuver financially for years to come, they traded him for a package of draft picks. Those have helped to fortify the roster while giving the Chiefs salary cap flexibility for years to come. The Chiefs not only gained salary cap flexibility with the move, but also five draft picks that helped to fortify other areas of the roster.

That includes the defense, which is vastly improved and has helped the Chiefs squeak out wins — such as their 27-24 victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday — even when their high-octane offense starts to sputter. "When you win and you don't play your best ball — you don't feel like you play your best ball — that's always a good thing," Mahomes said afterward. "Fourth quarter, we played well. But at the end of the day we have to find a way that for four quarters we play our best football whenever we get to the playoffs, and I feel like we still haven't done that yet."

Yet, the Chiefs played well enough to start the season 13-3, clinch the AFC West with plenty of time to spare, and head into their regular-season finale Saturday in Las Vegas knowing a win could give them the No. 1 seed and a postseason bye. Not many thought the Chiefs would be in that situation when they traded Hill in the offseason. Nor did many people think Mahomes would put up MVP-caliber numbers again.

He's thrown for 5,048 yards to join Drew Brees and Tom Brady as the only quarterbacks with multiple seasons of at least 5,000 yards. He has 40 touchdown tosses, joining Brees as the only QBs with two seasons of 5,000 yards and 40 TD passes. And he needs 186 yards running and passing to surpass Brees for the most combined in an NFL season. "He ended up 28 for 41, still over 100.0 passer rating and 322 yards," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said after the win over the Broncos. "There were some plays that he definitely would like to have back, but that's how picky we are, right? You start nitpicking these things, as he does. But that's what great players do."

The Raiders-Chiefs game was one of two that the NFL moved to Saturday.

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