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Headlines for Friday, January 6, 2023

A graphic representation of eight radios of various vintages, underneath the words "Kansas Public Radio News Summary"
Emily Fisher

KBI Releases Report on Catholic Clergy Abuse

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A Kansas Bureau of Investigation report released late Friday documents a chronic pattern of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the state, and the church’s history of protecting its clergy. The report released by the state attorney general’s office said dioceses across Kansas frequently failed to follow church policies regarding allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. The task force that conducted the overview said efforts to prosecute cases was frustrated by actions of the church, by expiring statutes of limitations and the deaths of both alleged abusers and their victims.


Warning about Aquifer's Decline Sets Up Big Fight in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP/KPR) — Kansas water experts are sounding an alarm decades in the making: Farmers and ranchers in western Kansas must stop pumping so much water out of the vast Ogallala Aquifer. If they don't, experts warn, they risk the economic collapse of a region important to the nation's food supply. That warning is setting up a big and messy fight for the annual session of the Kansas Legislature, which begins Monday. The Kansas Water Authority is telling lawmakers that Kansas needs to break sharply with its decades-long policy of slowing depletion while still allowing water levels to drop.

Ogallala Aquifer covers roughly 175,000 square miles in the western and Great Plains states of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming and South Dakota.

The Kansas Geological Survey has a team in western Kansas this week, measuring water well depths for updated information.


SCOKAN Rules on Open Records Suit

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Open government advocates are lauding Friday's opinion by the Kansas Supreme Court surrounding open records law. The court ruled that government agencies must provide access to public records in the same format that those records are maintained. That means agencies can't, for example, print out a screenshot of an Excel spreadsheet, which could make it harder for journalists and others to use that information. Max Kautsch with the Kansas Coalition for Open Government says the decision will help make Kansas government more transparent.


Kansas Medical Marijuana May Be Doomed this Year

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS/KPR) - A shakeup in a legislative committee could spell bad news for those who want to see medical marijuana legalized in Kansas. Republican state Senator Rob Olson has been leading a special committee on medical marijuana and drafting a plan for lawmakers to consider. But he will no longer chair the Senate’s Federal and State Affairs Committee. Instead, Senator Mike Thompson has been appointed to take over. And, without Olson, it's unclear whether the committee will even consider the issue.


AG Derek Schmidt: Consumer Protection Division Recovers Nearly $250 Million in 2022

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) – Outgoing Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says his office recovered nearly $250 million for Kansas consumers and taxpayers last year. He says that's a new, single-year record for his Consumer Protection Division. The 2022 tally is more than four times the previous, single-year record. During his 12 years in office, Schmidt says his office recovered more than $514 million, by far the most of any Kansas attorney general's administration.

The largest component of the 2022 recoveries is the more than $194 million Schmidt’s office recovered through multiple multi-state settlements with opioid manufacturers and distributors that contributed to the opioid addiction crisis. The proceeds from these settlements will be used to address substance abuse and help ensure addiction services are provided throughout the state.


Fort Scott Woman Sentenced to Prison, Ordered to Pay $500,000 for Mistreating Elderly Person

FORT SCOTT, Kan. (KAKE) - A Fort Scott woman has been sentenced to prison and ordered to pay more than $500,000 in restitution for the mistreatment of an elderly person. Prosecutors say 65-year-old Kenna G. Smith was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison and ordered to pay $510,492.86 in restitution. Smith pleaded no contest to the charge in April 2022. KAKE TV reports that the case stems from an investigation that determined Smith mistreated an elderly Bourbon County resident between 2014 and 2017.


Former Johnson County CFO Sentenced for Embezzling Millions

JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. (KC Star) - A former business executive for a Kansas City company has been sentenced to more than six years in prison for embezzlement. Richard Scott Simkins, of Overland Park, pleaded guilty a year ago to embezzling more than $3 million from the company where he served as chief financial officer. The Kansas City Star reports that the 57-year-old Simkins was sentenced Thursday to 6.5 years in federal prison.


Flags Ordered to Half-Staff in Honor of Bob Stephan's Passing

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Following the death of former Kansas Attorney General Bob Stephan, Governor Laura Kelly ordered flags to be flown at half staff. WIBW TV reports that flags across Kansas will fly at half-staff until the day of interment in honor of the longest-serving attorney general in state history. Stephan died Tuesday at the age of 89. Stephan took over the AG’s office in 1979 and held it for 16 years.


Once-in-a-Lifetime Comet Returns to Kansas, Missouri Skies

TOPEKA, Kan. (WDAF) — A rare comet will soon be visible across the skies of Kansas and Missouri. The last time anyone saw this astronomical event was during the time of the Neanderthals - and that was 50,000 years ago. WDAF TV reports that now, the comet is returning to Earth's orbit. The comet was discovered in early March 2022. The comet is embarking on a trip through our inner Solar System and will make its closest pass to the sun on January 12. It will then make its closest pass to Earth on Wednesday, February 1. This means that there will be numerous opportunities to see this phenomenon. If the comet continues brightening at its current pace, then there’s even a chance you’ll be able to see it with your naked eye.


Johnson County Resident Claims $92 Million Powerball Jackpot

TOPEKA (KSNT) – After waiting more than a month, the Kansas winner of a $92 million Powerball jackpot has finally stepped forward. KSNT reports that a Johnson County resident waited 47 days before anonymously claiming the top prize. The winner won the Powerball November 19. Kansas Lottery officials say the jackpot winner plans to donate some of the winnings to charities and set aside the rest for family. The winning ticket was sold in Overland Park.


State of Kansas Pays $10,000 to Inmate Attacked in Prison

TOPEKA, Kan. (Kansas Reflector) - Kansas will pay a former inmate $10,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging he was stabbed by white supremacists while serving time in a state prison. The lawsuit claimed that the Kansas Department of Corrections violated the inmate’s civil rights. The Kansas Reflector reports that Michael Rogers, a former inmate in the El Dorado prison, was repeatedly stabbed by other inmates in a white supremacist gang. The report says the attack was in retaliation for Rogers cooperating with prosecutors in drug and gang cases. The lawsuit argued prison officials knew Rogers would be in danger if he were placed in the prison’s general population Rogers was eventually transferred to another facility in Arizona.


Topeka VA Area Selected for New Kansas Veterans Home

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) - Topeka could soon be the site of a new veterans home serving northeast Kansas. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that land adjacent to the Colmery-O’Neil U.S. Veterans Affairs Medical Center was selected for the new veterans home. Govenor Laura Kelly announced the news Wednesday. "As the daughter of a Purple Heart recipient, I am committed to honoring the service of Kansas’ veterans and their families," Kelly said.

The veterans home will have 72 private rooms divided into "households" and "neighborhoods" intended to increase community while providing services. One household comprised of 18 beds will be a dedicated memory care unit. Construction of the home is contingent on federal VA funding. The governor's office said it expects to learn this spring whether the VA will fund the project in fiscal year 2024. The cost of the project is estimated at $49 million. The state has already secured $17.2 million in matching funds required by the VA. Kansas Senator Jerry Moran vowed to help secure federal funding. Moran is the top Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committees.


FDA Allows Abortion Pills at Pharmacies - with Restrictions - in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW/KNS) - The Food and Drug Administration has said it will allow retail pharmacies to dispense abortion pills. But the Kansas News Service reports the move will only have a small effect in Kansas. Pharmacies will be able to apply for certification to dispense mifepristone, also known as RU-486, as part of a two-pill regimen approved to end pregnancies in their first 10 weeks. Currently, Kansans can only get the drug from a clinic or doctor. It will still require a prescription. But patients in Kansas would still need to visit a clinic in person and undergo an ultrasound before getting that prescription. Dr. Iman Alsaden is the chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood Great Plains. “How much it will actually have impact in Kansas just remains to be seen," he said. Representatives for CVS and Walgreens, two of the state’s largest pharmacies, said they’re reviewing the FDA announcement. Abortion pills are used in around two-thirds of Kansas abortions. Doctors say the change at FDA will do little to expand abortion access in Kansas. Abortion remains legal in the state up to 22 weeks.


Kansas State Senator Richard Hildebrand to Step Down

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) - A top Republican lawmaker has retired from the Kansas Senate less than a week before the start of the next legislative session. The Topeka Capital Journal reports that Republican Senator Richard Hilderbrand, of Baxter Springs, resigned his office effective Sunday. The legislative session starts Monday. Hilderbrand did not say why he’s stepping down. He has served in the Senate since 2017 and was elected to a leadership position as majority whip. He chaired the Public Health and Welfare Committee during the COVID-19 pandemic, moderating testimony and debate over proposed legislation on mask mandates, vaccines, and related issues. He also chaired the Kansas Senior Care Task Force and was vice chair of the influential Federal and State Affairs Committee.


Mega Millions Lottery Jackpot Nearing $1 Billion for Next Drawing

DES MOINES, Iowa (KPR) - Feeling lucky? You might want to buy a Mega Millions lottery ticket. The jackpot for Friday night's drawing is nearly one billion dollars! The odds of winning still aren't good - about 1 in 302 million. Still, at some point, one or more winning tickets will be sold. At $940 million, Friday night's Mega Millions jackpot ranks as the sixth largest in U.S. history.


Kansas Man Finds Live Grenade in Garage

HOISINGTON, Kan. (KSNW/KPR) — A potentially explosive situation developed in central Kansas this week. A man in Hoisington found a live grenade in his garage. KSNW TV reports that the man discovered the grenade Wednesday morning while cleaning out his garage (in the 500 block of E 1st Street). When officers arrived on the scene, it was confirmed that the hand grenade was live with the pin still in it. The McConnell Air Force Base Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Team in Wichita immediately responded. The team took the grenade to a Hoisington compost site where it was destroyed.


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.