Headlines for Thursday. March 9, 2023
KU Coach Bill Self Out with Illness, Will Miss Big 12 Tourney Game
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas coach Bill Self is going to miss the No. 7 Jayhawks' quarterfinal game against West Virginia in the Big 12 Tournament with what the school called an undisclosed illness. Kansas officials say assistant Norm Roberts will serve as the acting coach. Roberts also was the acting coach earlier in the season, when Self served a school-imposed four-game suspension. The Jayhawks are the defending Big 12 Tournament champions and are trying to secure a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament, where they will attempt to defend the national title.
The Jayhawks are the defending Big 12 Tournament champions and are trying to secure a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament, where they will attempt to defend the national championship they won last April. "Self is doing well and receiving great care at the University of Kansas Health System," the school said Thursday in a statement. It did not say whether Self would be back should the Jayhawks advance to the semifinals.
The 60-year-old Hall of Fame coach led Kansas to the regular-season championship in the toughest conference in the nation this season despite losing several key players from the team that beat North Carolina the national title.
He was present for a shoot-around at T-Mobile Center on Wednesday and appeared to be in normal condition. He met with reporters for about 20 minutes outside the locker room and said his team was ready for another March run. "We've talked about we're going to Kansas City to try to put ourselves in position to win this thing, but knowing we better take one game at a time," he said. "I've put the emphasis on let's go play our best. What the (Big 12) tournament does, it can validate what your regular season's been. And this is an opportunity to validate it."
KU and K-State Women Face Big Matches at Big 12 Tournament
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KPR) - Both the Kansas Jayhawks and the Kansas State Wildcats are facing “must-win” games in the Big 12 Women’s Basketball tournament, which begins Thursday night in Kansas City. The Kansas Jayhawks are entering the tournament as the No. 7 seed, but they’re projected to become one of six teams in the conference that will qualify for the NCAA women’s basketball bracket. Jayhawks guard Chandler Prater, a junior from North Kansas City High School, says KU can solidify its status by defeating TCU, the last-place team. "The way I feel and the way my teammates are uplifting each other, and showing each other joy and excitement, I couldn’t be more satisfied with how we’re playing going into March," she said. The KU game begins at 7:30 pm, following a matchup between K-State and Texas Tech. The Wildcats, with a record of 16 and 15, face more of an uphill battle for NCAA Tournament consideration.
Meanwhile, both Kansas and Kansas State men’s teams also begin Big 12 play Thursday in Kansas City. The top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks will begin their defense of the Big 12 Tournament title against West Virginia at 2:00 pm. The K-State Wildcats face TCU Thursday night.
Kansas House Debates Transgender Legislation
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas lawmakers have advanced a bill that would prohibit transgender women from using women’s bathrooms, locker rooms and domestic violence shelters. A Kansas House committee voted to send the bill to the House floor for a vote after the Senate passed the legislation last month. Supporters call the legislation a women’s "bill of rights" and say it would protect women from discrimination and violence. Brenda Landwehr is a Wichita Republican and chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee.“Women have fought for over 50 years to gain certain rights in this country," she said. "And these rights are being eroded.” Critics say the bill is a political attack on trans people. And those who operate domestic violence and rape crisis shelters say it could jeopardize their federal funding by forcing them to defy non-discrimination rules. Wichita resident Tammy Quayle is the mother of a transgender woman. “I fear that what this bill seeks to do is to keep transgender people out of the public eye by limiting their access to the most basic of necessities — a bathroom that matches their gender," she said. Republican senators already approved the bill last month - just one vote shy of a veto-proof majority.
Kansas Legislature Moves Several Major Bills
TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Kansas Legislature is moving forward with several major bills. WIBW TV reports that the Senate advanced a bill Wednesday that would allow the Kansas Attorney General to prosecute any crime that transpires across multiple counties. Elsewhere, the House Health and Human Services Committee advanced a bill which would legally define the biological sexes for government use. The Senate will vote on that bill Thursday. Another House bill directs the Department for Children and Families to promote and fund alternatives to abortions, including pregnancy support centers and programs for counseling and adoption assistance.
Kansas Dedicates More Money for Suicide Prevention
WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW/LJW) - Kansas is sending more money to community-based services to address the rising number of deaths by suicide. According to federal data, the annual number of deaths from suicide in Kansas rose more than 60% from 2000 to 2020, reaching 530 that year.
Fifteen organizations across the state will get $35,000 each and continued support. The groups will asses their communities and design a framework for reducing suicides. Governor Laura Kelly says the grants are part of the state's effort to improve mental health. She also says the number of psychiatric beds in Kansas is up by more than 30% over the last four years. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that two Lawrence agencies will each receive a grant.
Company Ordered to Reduce Pressure Along Keystone Pipeline
WASHINGTON COUNTY, Kan. (KNS) - The federal government has ordered Canadian company TC Energy to lower the operating pressure along more than 1,000 miles of the Keystone pipeline following a massive spill in northern Kansas. The EPA says clean-up operations in Washington County will continue for several more months.
The U.S. Department of Transportation says oil spills on the pipeline are becoming more frequent. The Kansas spill in December was the worst yet. The department is ordering TC Energy to stick to a lower operating pressure. A faulty weld contributed to the pipeline leak in Kansas, and the company will now have to file reports on welding quality. TC Energy must also hire a company to review how it protects the pipeline from shifting ground and similar hazards.
TC Energy pegs the clean-up cost at nearly half-a-billion dollars. It’s unclear whether that figure includes the taxpayer money spent by state and federal agencies that responded to the spill - part of which the company will be forced to repay. (Read more.)
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. There's a dispute regarding who has the authority to make such regulations - state lawmakers or the federal government. Nonetheless... a bill under consideration in Kansas would limit the length of trains to 8,500 feet, or about 1.6 miles. A hearing on the bill was held Tuesday.
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.
Business Backlash in Kansas Pushing GOP to Weaken Anti-ESG Proposals
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP/KPR) — Conservative Republicans who want to thwart socially and environmentally conscious investing are now being pushed to water down their proposals by backlash from powerful business groups and fears that state pension systems could see huge losses. In both Kansas and Indiana bankers associations and state chambers of commerce criticized the strongest versions of anti-ESG legislation before each state's Republican-controlled legislature as anti-free market. ESG stands for environmental, social and governance. In Kansas, opposition from business groups prompted a Senate committee's chair to drop the toughest version of the bill before hearings began this week. In Indiana, supporters rewrote a House bill before the chamber passed it.
In Kansas, their opposition prompted a Senate committee's chair to drop the toughest version of its bill — applying anti-ESG rules to firms handling private investments — before hearings began this week. He also canceled a Thursday discussion of a milder version of an anti-ESG bill after the head of the state pension system for teachers and government workers warned that it could see $3.6 billion in losses over 10 years if the bill were passed.
And last month, legislative researchers in Indiana reported that its pension system expected the first version of a House bill to cost the system $6.7 billion over 10 years, prompting lawmakers to rewrite it before the chamber passed it.
ESG stands for environmental, social and governance and those factors' increased use in investing in recent years inspired GOP attempts to thwart it. Now, those efforts are riling groups long allied with Republicans in backing less government regulation. "This is the underlying political nature of this," said Bryan McGannon, acting CEO and managing director for US SIF: The Forum for Responsible and Sustainable Investment. "They really aren't thinking about the consequences of the kind of the real world impacts of what this means in the financial system." About one-eighth of U.S. assets being professionally managed, or $8.4 trillion, are being managed in line with ESG principles, according a report in December from US SIF, which promotes sustainable investing.
At least seven states, including Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia, have enacted anti-ESG laws in the past two years. GOP Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Gianforte of Montana also have moved to ensure their states' funds aren't invested using ESG principles. Critics of ESG contend that using investments to move the U.S. away from fossil fuels, address gun violence or protect abortion rights sacrifices earnings for investors and undercuts the finances of public pensions. "The agent who is representing or investing on behalf of the principal has a fiduciary duty to put the principal's interest over the agent's interest," Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach, a conservative Republican, told the state Senate committee this week. "That principle is a core of American law."
Anti-ESG efforts also draw support from companies and industries that feel under attack, such as oil and natural gas producers. During an Indiana House committee hearing last month, lawmakers heard a litany of complaints from businesses, including those in coal mining and firearms production, about difficulties they blame on corporate ESG policies. "This is, again, a social agenda chasing something that they shouldn't be chasing," Kansas Senate committee Chair Mike Thompson, a Kansas City-area Republican who labels ESG investments as "potentially dangerous."
Public pension funds are caught in the debate as big institutional investors: The Kansas system has $25 billion in assets and Indiana's has $45 billion. NASRA, the association representing U.S. state pension fund administrators, opposes any move — including on either side of the ESG debate — away from making the security of pension fund assets "the paramount goal."
In Kansas, Thompson scrambled Wednesday to set up behind-the-scenes talks to address the state pension system's concerns. His committee's top Democrat, Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, of Wichita, said Thursday that she needs the pension system to sign off to consider voting for the bill.
Its executive director, Alan Conroy, testified that Kansas lawmakers' current proposals are so broad that the state pension system couldn't hire or retain an investment manager who did "anything in that ESG world." The pension system would have to fire them all, hire new ones and likely settle for lower investment returns, he said. Similar concerns played out in Indiana, but the pension system there backed off its figure for estimated losses after House members revised their bill.
Supporters say ESG isn't about boycotting certain industries or companies but of doing a better job assessing future risks, such as costs from major accidents or pollution, or a diminishing local water supply. They argue that considering such factors is part of an investment manager's obligation to get the best returns possible.
Kansas Lawmakers Consider Bill to Legalize Fentanyl Test Strips
TOPEKA, Kan. (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 Push NRA Safety Class in Schools
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas lawmakers are again pushing to require schools to use a National Rifle Association gun training program - if those schools want to offer gun safety lessons for younger students. Currently, Kansas schools are able to design their own gun safety curricula. The Kansas House voted to approve a bill that would require the State Board of Education to create a curriculum based on the NRA’s "Eddie Eagle" gun safety program. If schools wanted to offer gun safety for students in fifth grade or younger, they'd have to use that NRA program. Republican Representative Patrick Penn says the NRA program is the best option. “This was the gold standard that actually has results," he said. But not all Republicans support the bill. Representative Mike Dodson says parents should be the ones to teach kids about gun safety. “We don’t want any political organizations in our schools," he said. The governor has vetoed similar bills in the past.
Iranian Community Rallies at KU for Human Rights on International Women's Day
LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW/KPR) - The Iranian community and its supporters rallied on the University of Kansas campus to highlight continued human rights abuses by the government of Iran. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the rally was held in front of Wescoe Hall Wednesday afternoon, on the same day as 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 also honored Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman who died last year in police custody after she was arrested for violating the country’s hijab laws. The woman's death sparked massive public protests inside and outside of Iran. The demonstrators at KU say they also wanted to honor the many other Iranians who have been oppressed, imprisoned and even publicly executed by their government.
Kansas Man Drowns in Alabama
GULF SHORES, Ala. (WKRG) — A Kansas man is dead after drowning in Gulf Shores, Alabama. WKRG TV reports that officers received a call about a swimmer in distress Sunday afternoon. Officers responded to the area and found the man in the water. Authorities did not immediately identify the man but said he was a Kansas man in his late 60s. The area in which he was swimming was part of an unguarded beach.
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.
Allen Fieldhouse Set for Upgrades
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP/LJW) — Allen Fieldhouse, the home of the national champion Kansas Jayhawks, will soon undergo a significant renovation to upgrade its fan amenities, hospitality spaces and premium seating options. The multi-million dollar project, which will be funded by private donations, will include state-of-the-art videoboards, a new sound system and new lighting. Allen Fieldhouse opened in 1955 for a game against rival Kansas State. Since then, the iconic building is consistently ranked among the top venues in college basketball. The Fieldhouse has gone through a number of renovations over the years, most recently in 2009. KU has also announced long-awaited renovations to Memorial Stadium and other football facilities. (Read more and see photos in the Lawrence Journal-World.)
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.