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Headlines for Monday, March 13, 2023

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

Kansas Bill Prohibits Communities from Banning Any Type of Business

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - A bill in the Kansas Legislature would prohibit cities and counties from banning any type of business in their communities. The bill is in response to a proposed ordinance in Wichita that would have banned retail sales of animals like dogs and cats because of concerns over how they’re treated. Becky Hertel owns a pet store in Wichita. She says the city should not be able to stop pet stores from operating. “These people had the ability to kill my business," she said. "If I can’t do what my business plan is, my doors will close.” Opponents say the bill is too broad and would have unintended consequences, including blocking communities from banning unwanted businesses, like strip clubs. Democratic Governor Laura Kelly has opposed some bills that crack down on "home rule" or local authority. She vetoed a bill last year that would have prohibited cities from banning plastic bags.


Kansas Lawmakers Consider Changes to Proposed Tax Cuts

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - The Republican chair of the Kansas House Tax Committee says the panel will likely make changes in tax cuts recently approved by the state Senate. The committee will start its work on the bills this week with an eye toward reducing the total cost. The package of bills passed by the Senate would replace the state’s three-tiered income tax with a single-rate flat tax, exempt all retirement income from taxation, and accelerate the repeal of the state sales tax on groceries. The measures would cost the state treasury about $1 billion a year. Republican Representative Adam Smith thinks the package is too expensive. Like Democratic Governor Laura Kelly, Smith says the proposed cuts could - over time - make it hard to maintain funding for schools, highways and other priorities. Smith says his committee will rework the package. He says the revised version will likely retain language aimed at reducing taxes on Social Security benefits and could include a less expensive version of the flat tax.


K-State Research: Trees Taking over the Prairie

MANHATTAN, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas State University scientists say saving the prairie from encroaching trees is even harder than they thought. The trees taking over the Great Plains grasslands are sometimes called the “Green Glacier.” At K-State, scientists have been cutting back junipers, dogwoods and other invaders along streams near Manhattan - and replanting prairie grasses. But humans have changed the environment so much that woody plants have the upper hand. Climate change is one factor. As trees spread, the prairie can’t support as many cattle. And streams are shrinking because the woody plants use so much water. K-State biology Professor Walter Dodds says removing the invaders along streams near Manhattan and replanting prairie grasses doesn’t seem to stop the problem. “We’re shifting. And even if we hit it really hard, we still can’t get it back off that trajectory," he said.


Inmate Dies at El Dorado Correctional Facility

EL DORADO, Kan. (KPR) - An inmate has died at the El Dorado Correctional Facility. The Kansas Department of Corrections says 35-year-old Marcos Issac Delarosa died today (MON). He was found unresponsive in his housing unit. The cause of death is pending the results of an independent autopsy but a preliminary assessment indicates his death was not related to COVID-19. Delarosa was serving a 9-and-a-half year sentence for drug convictions in Ford County. Per protocol when an inmate dies in state custody, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation will look into the death.


Former Nurse Sentenced for Stealing Opioids from Kansas Hospital

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KPR) - A Kansas man has been sentenced to 1.5 years in prison - and lost his nursing license - for stealing prescription drugs from his employer. Federal prosecutors say 32-year-old Alec Ramirez, of Overland Park, removed vials of fentanyl and another drug from an automated dispensing cabinet at Menorah Medical Center in Overland Park and replaced the substances with an alternate liquid before returning the vials to the cabinet. In December 2022, Ramirez pleaded guilty to one count of tampering with a consumer product and one count of possession of fentanyl by deception and subterfuge.


One Man Dead in Overland Park Following Long Standoff with Federal Agents

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (KPR) — One man is dead following a weekend standoff with federal agents in Overland Park. Authorities say the man died from a self-inflicted gunshot would while authorities tried to gain entry into an apartment. The incident began around 5 pm Friday in the parking lot of the Villa Medici apartments. The suspect exchanged gunfire with U.S. Marshals and the FBI while they tried to serve a felony arrest warrant. Reports indicate the suspect was wounded in the leg but managed to barricade himself inside his father's apartment until Saturday evening. That's when authorities tried to gain entry into the home. At some point, authorities say the suspect died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at the scene.


Mountain Lion Sightings on the Rise in Kansas

TOPEKA (KSNT) – Mountain lions are on the prowl and showing up more often in Kansas. KSNT reports that the big cats have been spotted roaming near populated areas with greater frequency in just the past few years. Biologist Matt Peek, with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, says sighting of the large cats are still rare in Kansas but they have increased recently. And, he says, people often report seeing a mountain lion when, in reality, they saw a bobcat, coyote or some other animal, which makes confirmed sightings more difficult to track. Peek says his agency has always kept tabs on mountain lion activity in the state and has noticed an increase in recent years. The first confirmed sighting of a mountain lion in modern times occurred in 2007 when one was shot and killed in Barber County. Before that, the last mountain lion documented in Kansas was killed in 1904 in Ellis County.


Union Pacific Freight Train Derails, Spills Toxins in Downtown McPherson

MCPHERSON, Kan. (KWCH) - A Union Pacific train derailed Sunday in McPherson, in south-central Kansas, leaking highly flammable denatured alcohol just south of downtown McPherson. Denatured alcohol can contain toxic substances such as methanol, acetone, or gasoline. McPherson county officials say the leak is not a threat to the community. KWCH TV reports that the leaked material did spill into a
stream that feeds into Wolf Creek. Emergency responders and police are helping clean up and contain the leak. This was the second Union Pacific derailment in Kansas in just over a week. The other one happened last weekend in Sumner County.


In Wake of Ohio Train Derailment, Will Rail Safety Be a Priority in Kansas?

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) - The derailment of a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous chemicals in East Palestine, Ohio, has raised concerns about rail safety across the country, including in Kansas. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that there's no reason a similar accident couldn't occur in Kansas. Brandon Nunnenkamp, who has worked as a railroad engineer for 26 years, says "It is extremely possible." "We haul the same hazardous materials through Kansas," Nunnenkamp said. States across the country are considering improvements to rail safety in the wake of the East Palestine accident. Nationally, 15 states have introduced legislation to limit train length, increase safety mechanisms and ensure adequate crew sizes. In Kansas, such ideas have long been proposed but have not gotten much traction due to long-running legal concerns.

On average, one train derails in Kansas every month. The Federal Railway Administration says there were 53 train derailments in the state between 2018 and 2021, though none were as serious as the Norfolk Southern accident in Ohio. One factor that some believe played a role in the Ohio accident was the sheer length of the train, which stretched to 150 cars long. Residents and rail workers have expressed concern over train lengths in Kansas. While freight companies insist that longer trains have no bearing on safety, some Kansas lawmakers are unconvinced. Legislation in the Senate Transportation Committee would prohibit freight companies from running trains of over 8,500 feet in length.


KU Women's Basketball Team Will Play in WNIT

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - After the Kansas Jayhawks were left out of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, KU accepted a bid to play in the W-N-I-T. KU was listed among the first four teams left out of the NCAA bracket. Women’s committee chair Lisa Peterson says the choice from the Big 12 came down to KU or West Virginia. "West Virginia had the better regular-season conference record," she said. "Then, the way that Kansas lost in the first round of their tournament was the differentiator between Kansas and West Virginia." KU lost to last-place TCU in the first round of the Big 12 tournament last week. KU, with its 19-11 record, and K-State will participate in the W-N-I-T, which has 64 teams.

Meanwhile, in men's action... KU takes on Howard in the second round of the NCAA tournament Thursday at 1pm. Howard's last appearance in March Madness was in 1992, when it also faced KU. The Jayhawks won that match-up 100-67. The Kansas State Wildcats will take on Montana State Friday night.


Kansas Coach Bill Self Out of Hospital After Heart Procedure

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas coach Bill Self was discharged from a Kansas City-area hospital Sunday, and the Hall of Famer plans to rejoin the No. 3 Jayhawks as they begin defense of their NCAA championship this week. Self went to the emergency room Wednesday night complaining of chest tightness and concerns with his balance. Doctors at the University of Kansas Health System said he underwent a standard heart catheterization and had two stents placed to help treat the blocked arteries. The Jayhawks lost the Big 12 championship game to No. 7 Texas but are still considered a national title threat.

The Hall of Famer will rejoin the No. 3 Jayhawks for the defense of their NCAA championship this week. Self's longtime assistant, Norm Roberts, said Sunday night Self would probably be back in the office on Monday to begin preparing for Howard. That's who the top-seeded Jayhawks will open the NCAA Tournament against on Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa, after they were surprisingly put in the West Region by the selection committee.

Self went to the emergency room Wednesday night, shortly after watching the Jayhawks in a final shootaround ahead of their Big 12 Tournament quarterfinal, and was complaining of chest tightness and concerns with his balance. Dr. Mark Wiley, the chief of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Kansas Health System, said the 60-year-old Self underwent a standard heart catheterization and had two stents placed to help treat the blocked arteries. "Coach Self responded well to the procedure and is expected to make a full recovery," Wiley said.

Roberts also served as acting coach earlier in the season, while Self was serving a school-imposed four-game suspension. Kansas beat West Virginia and Iowa State in the Big 12 tourney with Roberts again on the bench before getting blown out 76-56 by seventh-ranked Texas in Saturday night's championship game.

Now, Self is back. "I'm so thankful for the amazing staff at the University of Kansas Health System for the excellent care I received," Self said in a statement. "I am proud of our team and coaching staff for how they have handled this and am excited to be back with them as the best time of the season gets underway."

Self is 581-130 during two decades at Kansas, and 788-235 in 30 seasons as a head coach, which includes stops at Oral Roberts, Tulsa and Illinois. He led the Jayhawks to the national title in 2008 with an overtime win over Memphis. Kansas then hung a sixth championship banner in Allen Fieldhouse after its win over North Carolina last April. The Jayhawks, who won the regular-season Big 12 title, hardly seemed to be bothered by their lackluster loss to Texas, when they also were missing injured defensive stopper Kevin McCullar Jr. Instead, they were looking forward to the NCAA tourney and getting both McCullar and their coach back on the court.


Kansas Bill Seeks Changes in Hemp Regulations

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) - A bill seeking to change regulations in the industrial hemp industry is moving forward in the Kansas Legislature. The legislation aims to allow the fiber, grain and seeds of industrial hemp to be used as food for livestock, poultry and pets. KNST reports that the bill, sponsored by Republican Representatives Kristey Williams and Tory Blew, would reduce the license and registration fees for hemp producers and exempt some providers from background checks. Passage of the bill would require the hiring of four, full-time state employees to register and review more than 3,500 new hemp products.


Dozen of Stolen Vehicles Located in Miami County

OSAWATOMIE, Kan. (WDAF/KPR) - Three people are under arrest after nearly a dozen stolen vehicles were found in Miami County. WDAF TV reports that the Miami County Sheriff's Office executed a search warrant on property in rural Osawatomie and found stolen trailers, cars, an RV, and a motorcycle with a total value of more than $100,000. Two men and one woman face multiple charges in connection with the stolen vehicles. They are also facing drug charges.


Wichita State Fires Isaac Brown After 3 Seasons

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita State has fired coach Isaac Brown. The Shockers were bounced from the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament on Friday. Two years ago, Brown was voted the league's coach of the year. He was the lead recruiter and a top assistant for then-Shockers coach Gregg Marshall, who resigned in November 2020 after allegations of verbal and physical abuse of players. Brown took over and led the team to the NCAA Tournament. Wichita State fired coach Isaac Brown on Saturday, one day after the Shockers were bounced from the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament and two years after he was voted the league's coach of the year.

The Shockers finished 16-6 in Brown's first season, which ended with a heartbreaking loss to Drake in their First Four game played an Indianapolis-area COVID-19 bubble. His top player, Tyson Etienne, was voted the AAC player of the year. The 53-year-old had never been a head coach at any level and in February 2021 was given the permanent job by then-athletic director Darron Boatright and rewarded with a five-year contract. But the Shockers soon slid back to mediocrity, going 15-13 last season and finishing 17-15 this season. Boatright was fired in May and Kevin Saal was hired from Murray State to replace him a month later. Saal will be tasked with finding a coach who can restore the Shockers to the upper tier of a new-look American Athletic Conference. The league will lose top-ranked Houston, Central Florida and Cincinnati to the Big 12 after this season, and welcome six schools from Conference USA: UAB, Florida Atlantic, Charlotte, Texas-San Antonio, Rice and North Texas. (Read more.)


Wichita Schools Hire New Superintendent

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW/KNS) - Wichita public schools have a new superintendent. Last week, the Wichita school board unanimously appointed Kelly Bielefeld to its top post. He will replace Superintendent Alicia Thompson, who is retiring this summer. Bielefeld is the district’s director of college and career readiness. He has also served as a teacher or principal at several smaller suburban districts, including Goddard, Clearwater and Derby. He emphasized the need to expand the number of students earning college credits or industry credentials. “We need students that graduate with the skills — the employability skills, the technical skills and the academic skills — to be successful. So, we can only do that together," he said. Wichita has the state’s largest school district, with about 47,000 students. (Read more.)


Kansas Senators Push Bipartisan Bill to End Embargo on Cuba

WASHINGTON, D.C. (KPR) - Kansas Senators Jerry Moran and Roger Marshall are calling on the nation to lift its trade embargo against Cuba. The Republican senators joined several Democrats to introduce the bipartisan legislation. The "Freedom to Export to Cuba Act" would eliminate legal barriers preventing Americans from doing business in Cuba. The act would also be a boost for agricultural exports from farm states like Kansas. While the legislation would repeal key provisions of the existing embargo, it would keep in place laws that address human rights and property claims against the Cuban government. The U.S. trade embargo against Cuba has been in place since 1961.


KU Report: Large Divide in Broadband Access in Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) - A new report from the University of Kansas shows a continuing divide between rural and urban areas when it comes to broadband access. Residents of rural Kansas usually pay more money and get slower Internet speeds. Donna Ginther is director of the KU Institute for Policy and Social Research. She says around one million Kansans live in places that lack access to high-speed broadband. “Repeatedly people would say, ‘I have to drive to town to go to the library or to go to McDonald’s to do my job or to do my schoolwork,' even simple things like downloading a recipe from the internet," she said. Ginther says the private sector often doesn’t want to build into sparsely populated areas because it’s not as profitable. Officials recently distributed nearly $50 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to improve broadband access in Kansas. But KU researchers say the state still isn’t getting its share of federal money because federal maps undercount the number of people without access.


Kansas Senator Voices Support for Nuclear Energy

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW/KNS) - Kansas Republican Senator Roger Marshall says he hopes to see nuclear power become a dominant energy source in the future. He made the comments during a stop Friday in Wichita. "I really think that nuclear modural reactors are the solution," he said. "I can see a time in Sedgwick County and in Wichita, Kansas, where we’re running off of some type of modular nuclear reactor, which are so much safer than the other reactors." Marshall added that he would support replacing coal-fired power plants with natural gas to reduce carbon emissions. He also said he supports renewable energy sources like solar and wind but doesn’t think they are reliable enough to stand alone. Harvey County recently placed a six-month ban on renewable energy construction in response to concerns over local wind energy projects.
Kansas currently gets nearly 50% of its electricity from wind, 30% coal and 17% from nuclear energy.


Kansas Gets No. 1 Seed in NCAA's Stacked West Region

UNDATED (AP) - Kansas is the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament's West Region and will have coach Bill Self back on the sideline. Self missed the Big 12 Tournament after undergoing a heart procedure, but the school has announced he will return to lead the third-ranked Jayhawks against Howard in Des Moines, Iowa on Thursday. Kansas won its first two games at the Big 12 Tournament without Self before losing 76-56 to No. 7 Texas in the title game. The stacked West Region includes No. 2 UCLA, No. 9 Gonzaga, No. 11 UConn, No. 16 Saint Mary's and No. 22 TCU. Kansas did not get a No. 1 seed in the Midwest, costing the Jayhawks a chance to potentially play the regional round just down the road in Kansas City. The Jayhawks are still a No. 1 seed, however, and will have their coach back for their bid to repeat as national champions.

The Jayhawks appeared as though they would slip to a No. 2 seed when top-ranked Houston got the top spot in the Midwest, but the NCAA selection committee still made them the No. 1 in a West Region that ends in Las Vegas on March 23-25. "I'm just shocked we didn't get the overall No. 1 seed, but that happens sometimes," Kansas forward K.J. Adams said. "They mark it how they feel and we're just going to do what we need to do to get where we need to be." Kansas, the bracket's third overall seed, faces a difficult road in its bid to become college basketball's first repeat champion since Florida in 2006-07.

The stacked West Region includes No. 2 UCLA, No. 9 Gonzaga, No. 11 UConn, No. 16 Saint Mary's and No. 22 TCU. Get by Howard, which is in its first NCAA Tournament since 1992, and the Jayhawks will get a stiff test in the second round against Arkansas or Illinois. The Illini and Razorbacks limped to the finish of the regular season, but have talented rosters and will be tough outs for any team.


Kansas' road to the national championship may be the toughest among the No. 1 seeds. Get out of the first two rounds, the Jayhawks could end up facing Saint Mary's or UConn in Las Vegas. After that it could be UCLA, Gonzaga or TCU with a trip to the Final Four in Houston on the line. "The region is very strong," Kansas assistant and acting head coach Norm Roberts said. "There's just so many good teams.


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.