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Headlines for Wednesday, March 8, 2023

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Emily Fisher
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Kansas Governor Pushes Medicaid Expansion as Way to Help Address Mental Health Issues

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Governor Laura Kelly wants to expand Medicaid because she says the state’s mental health performance is "pathetic." A nationwide report recently ranked Kansas last in the country for access to mental health services. Kelly says Kansas taxpayers are already paying into Medicaid but not getting the benefits without expansion. “Simply put, we do not currently have resources to treat them without the billions of dollars - our own taxpayers dollars - we are currently leaving behind in Washington D.C.," she said. The group Mental Health America ranked Kansas last in the country in access to mental health care. “As a country, we are at a crisis point when it comes to mental health," Kelly said. She wants to see the state expand Medicaid so more Kansans can afford mental health services. She also called for better funding of mental health services in schools. Kelly has tried and failed to push expansion in the past. Republican leaders in the Statehouse oppose it. The Legislature is considering other proposals that address mental health, like a bill adding money for youth crisis centers. Lawmakers could approve that plan in the coming weeks.


Iranian Community Rallies at KU for Human Rights on International Women's Day

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - The Iranian Community is holding a rally on the campus of the University of Kansas to highlight continued human rights abuses by the government of Iran. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the rally is scheduled to be held in front Wescoe Hall Wednesday afternoon (1-2 pm), which is also International Women’s Day. Organizers say the event is meant to show solidarity with a nation that is being terrorized by its own government. The rally will also honor Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman who died last September in police custody after she was arrested for violating the country’s hijab laws. Amini’s death has sparked massive public protests. The KU demonstrators say they will also honor the many other Iranians who have been oppressed, imprisoned and even publicly executed by their government.


Oklahoma Voters Reject Recreational Marijuana

OKLAHOMA (AP/KPR) — Oklahoma voters have rejected the legalization of recreational marijuana, following a late blitz of opposition from faith leaders, law enforcement and prosecutors. The vote Tuesday means Oklahoma won't become the 22nd state to legalize adult, recreational use of cannabis. Other conservative states, like Missouri and Montana have approved similar proposals in recent years.


Kansas Lawmakers Consider Bill to Legalize Fentanyl Test Strips

TOPEKA (KSNT) — Fentanyl deaths are on the rise in Kansas. Now, state lawmakers are considering a bill that could save lives by legalizing the test strips used to test for the synthetic opioids. Those materials are currently considered illegal drug paraphernalia. KSNT reports that the Kansas House has passed the Kansas Overdose Fatality Review Board Act. It would exempt test strips for fentanyl from the drug paraphernalia definition and allow police officers to carry fentanyl test strips for use in the field. Supporters say the bill would help combat the growing fentanyl crisis and protect law enforcement. Many officers are now required to carry Narcan, a nasal spray that can treat narcotic overdoses in an emergency, but officers don’t have a way to test a substance for fentanyl before handling it. Law enforcement officials say Fentanyl has become very dangerous for officers. It's so potent that a very small amount can be deadly for those who touch it.


Kansas Lawmakers Look to Cap Length of Trains Traveling Through State

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - For many Kansans, waiting 15-plus minutes at a train crossing isn’t an unusual experience. KWCH TV reports that some Kansas lawmakers are now looking to cap the length of trains traveling through the state. A representative from BNSF Railway says the federal government would be the ones in charge of determining any limits on a train’s length, not the state. It’s an argument that courts have backed. However, some state lawmakers and a union representative for rail workers counter that Kansas has this right as similar bills concerning train length are discussed in other states. They also point out that the federal government hasn’t issued any regulations on this. A bill under consideration in Kansas would limit trains to 8,500 feet, or 1.6 miles. A hearing on the bill was held Tuesday.


Washington State Authorities Identify Body of Topeka Native After 45 Years

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A Medical Examiner’s Office in Snohomish County, Washington, has identified the remains of a man found there in the late 1970s as a Topeka native. WIBW TV reports that investigators used DNA technology to identify the body of Gary Lee Haynie nearly 45 years after his remains were found. Haynie went missing near Everett, Washington, in the late 1970s. A duck hunter found the body. The cause of death at the time was listed as undetermined. Officials were unable to identify the body and it was buried by a local funeral home. As new DNA technology emerged, cold case investigators began to examine unidentified person cases. In 2021, the sheriff’s office, collaborating with a genealogy database, were able to use an advanced DNA profile to identify Haynie. Authorities say Haynie was born in Topeka and traveled the world with his parents. His step-father had been in the Air Force. Both parents have since died and the circumstances of Haynie’s disappearance remain unknown.


Proposal Aims to Help Police Weed-Out Bad Applicants

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas could soon make it easier for police departments to weed-out bad job applicants. A proposed law would require police departments to share job application materials with other agencies, something like a background check. Currently, someone could be rejected from one police department, apply to another agency and that agency would have no idea why the applicant had been rejected elsewhere. Former Topeka Police Chief Ed Klumpp says the bill would fill a gap in the current system. “If they haven’t been hired by those agencies, there may be a very good reason," he said. Kansas already has laws on sharing personnel files so agencies can see if an officer was suspended. But police say this is a gap in the current system that should be filled.


Lawrence School Board Announces Dates for Meetings on School Closures

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - The Lawrence school district has scheduled public hearings on the potential closures of two elementary schools. The Lawrence Journal World reports that the public hearing for the potential closure of Broken Arrow elementary is scheduled for Saturday, March 25 at 10 am at the school. The public hearing for the potential closure of Pinckney will take place at 2 pm the same day in the school gymnasium. Lawrence school board members voted in February to hold public hearings for the proposed school closures. They also voted to move ahead with a reduction of 50 teachers in the district’s middle and high schools.


Kansas Man Drowns in Alabama

GULF SHORES, Ala. (WKRG) — A Kansas man is dead after drowning in Alabama. WKRG TV reports that officers with the Gulf Shores Police Department said they received a call about a swimmer in distress Sunday afternoon. Officers responded to the call and found the man in the water off Gulf Shores. Authorities did not immediately identify the man but said he was in his late 60s. The area in which he was swimming was part of an unguarded beach.


KC Area Woman Faces Drug Charges Following 18-Hour Standoff

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) - A Kansas City area woman is facing drug charges in connection with last week's shooting and wounding of three Kansas City police officers. WDAF TV reports 34-year-old Ashley R. Davis is charged with possessing fentanyl. She was arrested last week following an 18-hour standoff at a suspected drug house on Blue Ridge Boulevard. She's scheduled to appear in court Wednesday. Authorities say someone inside the house shot at police officers as they approached the house to execute a search warrant. Three officers were injured but survived. Authorities say meth and fentanyl were found inside the home.


Deadly Crash Involving Two Semis Closes Part of Turnpike Near Emporia

LYON COUNTY, Kan. (KWCH) - A fatal crash involving two semi-trucks on the Kansas Turnpike has claimed the life of a Missouri man. The Kansas Highway Patrol says 35-year-old Yuriy Lendel, of Nixa, Missouri, was killed when the semi he was driving struck a semi-truck parked on the shoulder of the turnpike near Emporia. KWCH TV reports that the collision happened a little after 10 pm Monday. The driver in the parked semi suffered minor injuries. The crash shut down northbound lanes of the turnpike near Emporia for several hours.


EPA to Permit More Ethanol Sales, A Boost to Kansas Corn Growers

UNDATED (HPM) - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has granted a request to allow several midwestern states to sell gasoline with 15% ethanol year-round. But the new rules don’t take effect until the summer of 2024. Troy Bredenkamp is the vice president of public policy for the Renewable Fuels Association, an ethanol trade group. He's happy about the ruling but frustrated by the delay. “It's just very unfortunate and disappointing, to see the one year delay because it leaves a lot of retailers in the lurch in terms of what to do this summer," he said. Bredenkamp says his group has started lobbying the Biden administration for a waiver that would allow E-15 to be sold immediately. Ethanol producers are a major customer for Kansas corn growers. The state’s 12 ethanol plants produce more than 600 million gallons of ethanol fuel each year.


Community Blood Center Declares First Blood Emergency of 2023

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KPR) - Area hospitals are running low on blood supplies. The Community Blood Center (CBC) has declared its first blood emergency of the year. The shortage is due to several factors, including cold and flu season, a high number of lapsed blood donors and a decrease in young and first-time donors. The number of blood donations still are not back to pre-pandemic levels. Officials say the need is constant, but the supply is not. Those wishing to help should visit savealifenow.org to schedule an appointment to donate, or call 877-468-6844. The CBC provides more than 90% of the blood used by area hospitals, including LMH Health.


Wichita Teacher's Union Wants to Ban Cell Phones in Schools

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - The union representing Wichita teachers is asking the state’s largest school district to ban cell phones from classrooms. The proposal from United Teachers of Wichita comes as several districts across the country have tightened their policies regarding cell phones. The union wants to eliminate cell phones in classrooms. Wichita schools currently allow them for instructional purposes with a teacher’s permission. High school students are also allowed to use cell phones before and after school, between classes, and at lunch. Union officials say they want to limit distractions and improve student behavior and safety. The North Kansas City school district recently banned cell phones during the school day. Students there are required to secure phones in their lockers or backpacks.


EPA to Permit More Ethanol Sales

UNDATED (HPM) - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has granted a request to allow several midwestern states to sell gasoline with 15% ethanol year-round. But the new rules don’t take effect until the summer of 2024. Troy Bredenkamp is the vice president of public policy for the Renewable Fuels Association, an ethanol trade group. He's happy about the ruling but frustrated by the delay. “It's just very unfortunate and disappointing to see the one year delay because it leaves a lot of retailers in the lurch in terms of what to do this summer," he said. Bredenkamp says his group has started lobbying the Biden administration for a waiver that would allow E-15 to be sold immediately. Ethanol producers are a major customer for Kansas Corn. The state’s 12 ethanol plants produce more than 600 million gallons of ethanol fuel annually.


Survey: Lawrence Ranked #2 on List of Best College Basketball Cities

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) — The period of college basketball frenzy known as March Madness is almost here. The Big 12 Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments tip off in Kansas City this week. In two weeks, the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City will host the NCAA Men’s Midwest Regional games. Now, the personal finance website WalletHub has released a ranking of the best cities for college basketball fans. Lawrence comes in at number two on the list just behind Durham, North Carolina, home of the Duke Blue Devils. WalletHub analyzed a number of factors from census information on nearly 300 U.S cities. The analysis included the number of college basketball teams, the performance level of the teams, the number of basketball championship wins, and general fan enthusiasm and engagement.


Kansas Out to Defend Big 12 Tournament Title in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Top-seeded Kansas will begin defense of its Big 12 Tournament title on Thursday against the winner of the West Virginia / Texas Tech game in Kansas City. Those two meet in the first game of a first-round doubleheader Wednesday night. The Jayhawks already have defended their Big 12 regular-season championship, winning the toughest league in the country by almost any measure in outright fashion. And beginning next week, Jalen Wilson and the Jayhawks will begin defense of the national title they won with a thrilling comeback victory over North Carolina last April.


AP Source: Chiefs Sending Orlando Brown, Frank Clark into Free Agency

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A person familiar with the decisions says the Kansas City Chiefs plan to decline using the franchise tag for the second consecutive year on left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., and they will release pass rusher Frank Clark. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither of the moves has been officially made. The moves leave the Super Bowl champions with gaping holes on both sides of the ball but also frees up millions of dollars in salary cap space ahead of free agency.

The Chiefs and Brown's representatives spent all last season working on a long-term deal for him, but the two sides never could reach an agreement and he wound up earning about $16.6 million on the franchise tag. Brown would have made more under second-year franchise tag rules and the Chiefs were unwilling to go there with his salary. The deadline for teams to use the franchise tag is late Tuesday. And the Chiefs and Browns could still agree to a long-term deal before then.

The Chiefs, who also could lose right tackle Andrew Wylie to free agency, sent a package of draft picks to the Ravens to acquire Brown ahead of the 2021 season. He went on to start every game but one over two seasons in Kansas City, earning Pro Bowl nods each year and helping the Chiefs beat the Eagles in the Super Bowl last month.

As for Clark, the Chiefs were hoping to restructure a contract that would have been prohibitive for next season — the pass rusher would have counted nearly $29 million against the salary cap. They were able to do that last season and keep Clark in the fold, but they were unable to come to a similar agreement over the past two weeks.

The 29-year-old Clark had five sacks this past regular season before adding 2 1/2 more in the playoffs, moving him into third in postseason sacks since the NFL made them an official statistic in 1982. The victory over the Eagles also gave Clark his second Super Bowl ring in four years in Kansas City.

"I actually talked to him at the (Super Bowl victory) parade," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said last week. "He had to do some stuff for the actual exit physical, but I had a good talk with him. I love Frank Clark. It's just, you know, Veach has got to juggle all these different things going on. But Frank, he's a top-notch guy. I love him. Love him to death." Much like Brown, the Chiefs would be keen to reach an agreement with Clark once he hits free agency. He became a locker-room leader this past season, and rookie George Karlaftis praised Clark for helping him adapt to the NFL.

For now, parting with Brown and Clark leave the Chiefs with gaping holes on each side of the ball. But the moves also free up more than $40 million to use in free agency, and the Chiefs are expected to have 12 selections — once compensatory picks are awarded — to further fill holes when Kansas City hosts the NFL draft next month for the first time.


This summary of area news is curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Tom Parkinson and Kaye McIntyre. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays. These ad-free headlines are made possible by KPR members. Become one today. And follow KPR News on Twitter.