Headlines for Thursday, March 30, 2023
Kansas Jayhawks Advance to WNIT Championship
LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) – The University of Kansas women's basketball team has advanced to the championship game of the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT). KU defeated the Washington Huskies in the semifinal round of the WNIT, 61-36, Wednesday night at a packed Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence. With the victory, KU's record climbs to 24-11. The Jayhawks will now play in the championship game this weekend. KU will host the Columbia Lions Saturday in the WNIT finals in Lawrence. Tipoff is set for 4:30 pm. Ticket information and more is available at kuathletics.com.
Lawrence Man Pleads No Contest After Woman Nearly Thrown off Bridge
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence man has pleaded no contest to attempted second-degree murder after he tried to throw a woman off a bridge into the Kansas River. In exchange for his plea Wednesday, three felony charges of criminal threat were dismissed against 38-year-old Adam Blake Amyx Jr. Prosecutors said a group of women were walking across the bridge on April 14, 2022, when they encountered Amyx yelling and cursing. When one of the women approached him, Amyx tried to pick her up and throw her off the bridge.
Senior District Attorney David Greenwald said the woman escaped and called police. Greenwald said the fall likely would have killed the woman. Before he entered his plea, Amyx told the judge that he has mental health problems but he was on medication and was confident he could make the plea decision. Amyx is being held in the Douglas County jail on $50,000 bond. He will be sentenced May 26.
Kansas Lawmakers Approve Bill Requiring Medical Care for Infants Who Survive Abortion Procedure
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas lawmakers have passed a bill requiring doctors to provide medical care to infants born alive following an attempted abortion. Those births are rare, but sometimes occur after late-term abortions. Critics say the bill could force doctors to take infants who have no chance of survival away from grieving parents. But supporters say it's important to strengthen legal protections for all infants. A veto-proof majority of lawmakers in both houses approved the bill. It now heads to Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s desk.
Kansas House Okays Bill Requiring Doctors to Tell Patients Abortion Pills May Be Reversible
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The Kansas House has advanced a bill that would require doctors to tell patients that abortion pills may be reversible, despite safety concerns. Kansas doctors would have to tell people that it may be possible to reverse the effects of mifepristone. The pill blocks an essential pregnancy hormone. Proponents of the bill say some women can continue their pregnancies after taking the pill if they receive a high dose of that hormone. But major medical groups say that treatment doesn’t meet clinical standards, and a recent study was halted due to safety concerns. The bill received a veto-proof majority in the Kansas House and now goes to the Senate. Lawmakers passed a similar bill in 2019 but fell just short of overriding a gubernatorial veto.
Kansas Senate Advances Bill Making It Easier to Get Religious Exemptions from Vaccine Requirements
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The Kansas Senate has approved a bill making it easier to get a religious exemption from vaccine requirements. The bill makes it harder for child care facilities, schools and employers to require vaccinations because it would be easier to get an exemption. The bill still has to pass the Kansas House but faces an uphill battle to become law. The bill did not pass the Senate with enough votes to override a likely veto from Democratic Governor Laura Kelly. Republican state Senator Kristen O’Shea was one of seven Republicans who joined Democrats opposing the bill. “I oppose efforts by those who would wipe out innocent life through abortion, and I stand opposed to those who would allow innocent children to suffer and possibly die when these life-saving vaccines have been safely used for decades and remain available," she said. Supporters of the bill say the change is necessary to protect individual freedoms.
Kansas House Votes for Work Requirements for Some Older Kansans on Food Assistance
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS/KPR) - The Kansas House has approved a bill that would add work requirements for some older Kansans on food assistance. The measure would require people age 50 to 59 without dependents to work 30 hours per week or get job training. That's already a requirement for younger people. Lawmakers in favor of the requirement say it helps people become financially self-sufficient so they no longer need assistance. Haley Kottler, with the advocacy group Kansas Appleseed, says the requirement might end up kicking people off assistance rather than getting them jobs. “It's going to put more people in a place of economic instability and insecurity," she said. Kottler says the requirements could negatively impact older adults who care for grandkids that are not considered dependents. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Kansas Moves to Help Survivors Pursue Child Sex Abuse Claims
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Abuse survivors and advocates who've pushed for legislation making it easier in Kansas to prosecute abusers and file lawsuits decades later have achieved a breakthrough in the Legislature, where the proposal is advancing quickly.
The bill would remove limits on how long prosecutors have to file charges against suspects for any of a dozen violent sexual offenses against children, including indecent liberties, aggravated human trafficking and internet trading in child pornography. It also would give abuse survivors more time to file lawsuits seeking monetary damages.
Reports across the U.S. of abuse by Roman Catholic clergy have spurred interest in making it easier to pursue criminal prosecutions or lawsuits over cases of abuse dating back decades. In January, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation reported that it had identified 188 Catholic clergy suspected of crimes stretching back to the 1950s and submitted 30 affidavits to prosecutors. No criminal charges resulted, largely because of the state law limiting how long prosecutors have to pursue cases, the KBI said.
The state Senate voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve the bill, six days after a committee hearing. The measure went to the House, which could vote on it next week.
“I am sad to say the person who sexually assaulted me is still out in the public and has never been held accountable,” Earl McIntosh, a 57-year-old Topeka resident molested by a teenage neighbor when he was 10, told a Senate committee.
McIntosh testified of his fellow abuse survivors, “They deserve justice.”
For violent sexual crimes against children other than rape and aggravated sodomy, Kansas prosecutors currently can file criminal charges until the victim turns 28 or up to a year after DNA evidence establishes a suspect, whichever is later. The bill would eliminate those time limits.
The bill would give abuse survivors until they turn 31 or three years after the abuser is convicted of a sexually violent crime against a child. Lawsuits currently must be filed by the time a survivor turns 21 or three years after a survivor “discovered or reasonably should have discovered” that childhood abuse caused an injury or illness.
The measure does not include another proposal survivors have pursued, requiring clergy to report allegations of child abuse to authorities.
Eighteen states have eliminated their statute of limitations for child sex crimes, according to Child USA, a Philadelphia think tank that focuses on laws dealing with child abuse. The group says 15 states have no statute of limitations for filing at least some abuse-related lawsuits.
Survivors and advocates told legislators that survivors often wait well into adulthood — often into their 50s — to disclose abuse because of the trauma, which often comes with shame and a fear of retaliation.
Advocates for changing Kansas law had trouble in recent years even getting a hearing for their proposals.
In January, they announced bipartisan efforts seeking to change state law. Survivors set up a table in the Statehouse visitor's center each day lawmakers were in session this year, and legislators had to pass it going between their parking garage and their offices. Survivors met with Senate President Ty Masterson, a Wichita-area Republican, and he recently helped draft the current proposal.
No one testified against the measure, though some influential players were neutral.
An association for insurance companies expressed concern about a provision eliminating a $500,000 cap on damages in lawsuits against government agencies, arguing that insurance costs would rise and drive companies out of the state. The league representing Kansas cities said the bill could result in them paying damages "simply because a bad actor chose to commit their crime on city property.”
But the Kansas Catholic Conference said in a statement that the bill appears to give survivors “more tools in seeking justice."
“There is no time limitation on when the Catholic Church will offer services and support to clergy abuse victims,” the statement said.
During the Senate's debate Wednesday, state Sen. Cindy Holscher, a Kansas City-area Democrat, speaking in favor of the bill, told colleagues that when she was 5 years old, a man who often worked on her family's farm tried to sexually assault her in a barn. She said the noise of her home's back screen door banging against a wall interrupted him and allowed her to escape. She said she avoided telling the full story for nearly 50 years, until this week's debate.
“For years, I didn’t even recognize this as an attempted assault and attempted sexual assault, not until I had my own children. Yes, I kept thinking I did something wrong,” Holscher said. “My mind keeps trying to shield me from the embarrassment, the shame, the trauma of that day.”
FDA Approves Over-the-Counter Narcan
WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW/KNS) - The Food and Drug Administration has approved overdose-reversing drug Narcan as an over-the-counter medication. By the end of the summer, it’s expected that anyone who wants to receive Narcan can go to their local pharmacy without a prescription. The decision by the F-D-A also makes it easier for community groups to distribute even more of the lifesaving medicine. Aonya Barnett is with Safe Streets, one of the many groups statewide that will benefit from the decision. She says with the medicine readily available, it can save more lives. “I think what this looks like is that we are finally trying to combat this growing overdose crisis," she said. Kansas, particularly Sedgwick County, has seen a sharp increase in the number of overdose deaths in recent years.
Kansas Senate Approves Bill for State-Run Presidential Primary
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The Kansas Senate has approved a plan to hold state-run primary elections for the 2024 presidential nomination process instead of party-run caucuses. The bill would allow the Republican and Democratic parties to use the state voting system. That’s more convenient for voters than most party caucuses. Supporters of the plan argue it would allow more Kansans to participate. Democratic Senator Marci Francisco says her party saw increased voter turnout when it used a mail-ballot primary in 2020. “And it really was more convenient to people than the caucuses had been. We got a lot more participation," she said. The state estimates it would cost up to $5 million. Critics of the plan say the money would be better spent elsewhere.
Kansas House Approves $4.8 Billion Budget
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The Kansas House has approved a $4.8 billion budget proposal that likely sets the Legislature on the path to final negotiations over spending. The Senate recently approved its own budget and will conference with the House soon to craft a final plan. The House plan includes some of Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s recommendations that the Senate rejected, like adding $500 million to the state’s rainy day fund. But the plan doesn't include school funding. Lawmakers moved that into a separate bill and paired it with some school policy changes.
Kansas Moving to Raise Age for Buying Tobacco from 18 to 21
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is moving to increase the legal age for buying cigarettes, electronic cigarettes and other tobacco products to 21 from 18. The federal government and most other states have already done so. This week, the Kansas Senate approved a bill to raise the age on a 28-11 vote, sending it Governor Laura Kelly. The House had approved it earlier this month on a 68-53 vote. Kelly has not said whether she will sign the bill, but officials in her cabinet support the measure. Public health officials believe raising the age to purchase tobacco products will reduce their use and the resulting health care costs.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death, disease and disability in the U.S. and nine out of 10 adults who smoke started by age 18. Forty-one other states have increased their legal age to 21, including the tobacco-producing states of Kentucky and Virginia. The federal government raised its age to 21 in 2019 and told states they'd have to enforce the higher age to receive federal funds for substance abuse programs.
Illegally Started Fire Burns Out of Control in Riley County
RILEY COUNTY, Kan. (KSNT) – An illegally started fire in Riley County consumed 60 acres of land and threatened two homes Wednesday. Riley County firefighters responded to an area southwest of Tuttle Creek Lake Dam where a fire had been reported. Upon arrival, officials determined it was an illegally set outdoor burn that had grown out of control. An estimated 60 acres were consumed before crews could bring the fire under control. Two homes were threatened but no evacuations were ordered, and no structures were damaged. No one was injured.
This latest fire comes after three other wildfires burned large parts of Riley County earlier in March. Dangerous fire conditions are expected to last for several days across much of Kansas.
Riley County officials say all burn permit holders must notify local authorities before outdoor burning can begin and only when weather conditions allow. Permit holders are required to have adequate equipment and manpower to conduct the burn safely. The property owner in this case did not follow the rules and was issued a citation.
Kansas Medicaid Patients Struggle to Obtain Medical Equipment
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Medical equipment - like wheelchairs, walkers or bath chairs - can make a big difference in the quality of life for people with disabilities. But Kansans who are on Medicaid often face red tape and that can cut them off from the equipment they need. Doctors, therapists and advocacy groups say the delays and denials of prescriptions for medical equipment are happening much too often. Rocky Nichols, executive director of the Disability Rights Center of Kansas, says the issue got worse when Kansas privatized its Medicaid system 10 years ago and handed over management to insurance companies. “There’s been a lot more problems," he said. "It's a lot more difficult for people with disabilities or parents of kids with disabilities to get what they need under Medicaid. We don't have the right incentives in the contract that the state controls, to ensure that things are provided promptly.” Nichols says the state needs to force insurance companies to pay for necessary medical equipment more quickly. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says it is working to raise reimbursement rates through Medicaid. It did not respond to questions about long wait times and denials. (Read more.)
Kansas Legislature Takes Up Controversial Child Care Regulations
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas lawmakers could approve a controversial bill aimed at expanding child care access this week, sending it to the governor for consideration. The proposal would allow child care centers to take in more kids with the same amount of staff. State senator Chase Blasi says child care for two kids will cost him more than his mortgage. That’s because child care is in high demand, and he says removing regulations will address the shortage. “The child care crisis affects all demographics (so) this shouldn’t be a partisan issue," he said. "This should be an issue we can work together to address.” Opponents of the change say that puts kids in danger. Multiple proposals are in the mix, but they all face a possible veto from Democratic Governor Laura Kelly. Her administration is hoping to create a new state agency to address this issue.
Kansas House Votes to Prohibit Bans on Plastic Bags, Straws
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The Kansas House has voted to prohibit local governments from banning single use plastics, like plastic bags and straws. But the bill fell short of a veto-proof majority and may not survive. Democratic Governor Laura Kelly vetoed a similar measure last year. Supporters argue plastic bans hurt small businesses that would need to spend more money on alternatives. Republican Representative Pat Proctor says many restaurants could even go bankrupt. “Restaurants operate on a razor thin margin. And we’ve already had to raise our prices because of the cost of eggs, the cost of meat," Proctor said. Critics say the bill takes away local control from city and county governments. The bill now heads to the Senate.
Kansas Senate Approves Adoption Tax Credit
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The Kansas Senate has given initial approval to a bill increasing state tax credits for adoption. Under the measure, those who adopt children would get almost $15,000 per child. The Senate also made the tax credit refundable. That means parents eligible for the tax credit would receive it in one payment from the state, rather than using it to reduce their income taxes for several years. Republican Senator Caryn Tyson opposed making the tax credit refundable. She says a single payment would be too costly for the state. “The state could be writing each family that adopts a $14,000 check," she said. "Our tax code is not a welfare program.” Supporters say the plan encourages adoption and provides better access to the benefit for parents with lower income. The Senate still needs to take a final vote on the bill.
Man Dies, Weeks After Alleged Kansas Road Rage Attack
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 68-year-old Kansas man involved in what police described as a road rage attack has died. Gregorio Castillo died March 23. Topeka police announced his death Wednesday. Castillo, of Topeka, had been hospitalized since February 15 after allegedly being attacked by another man in what police believe was a road rage incident. Details about that attack have not been released. A GoFundMe page for Castillo said he suffered a brain injury and underwent two surgeries. Police say they've forwarded the case to the Shawnee County District Attorney's Office to consider charges. The name of the other man allegedly involved in the altercation has not been released.
KBI: Two Arrested on Drug Charges in Baxter Springs
CHEROKEE COUNTY – Two people have been arrested on drug charges in Baxter Springs. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and local police conducted a traffic stop and executed a search warrant at the residence in Baxter Springs (400 Washington Avenue). During the search, police discovered pills believed to contain fentanyl. They also located cocaine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia. A man and woman were taken into custody. Police say 26-year-old Braydon J. Krokroskia and 22-year-old Brittany A. St. Clair, both of Baxter Springs, were arrested on drug charges. Both were booked into the Cherokee County Jail.
Used Car Prices Surge, Sending Buyers and Dealers Scrambling
UNDATED (AP) – Well, it was nice while it lasted.
For nearly a year, the average used vehicle in the United States had been edging toward affordable again for millions of people. The relief felt belated and relatively slight, but it was welcome nonetheless.
From an eye-watering peak of $31,400 in April of last year, the average price had dropped 14% to $27,125 early this month.
Now, with the supply of used vehicles failing to keep up with robust demand, prices are creeping up again, with signs pointing to further increases ahead. So many buyers have been priced out of the new-car market that fewer trade-ins are landing on dealer lots. Deepening the shortage, fewer used vehicles are coming off leases or being off-loaded by rental car companies.
Average list prices for used car have edged up by about $700 in the past month, and Alex Yurchenko, chief data officer for Black Book, which tracks prices, expects them to keep rising at least into summer.
“If you have to buy a used vehicle," he suggested, "right now would be a good time.”
Pete Catalano, a dealer in Independence, Missouri, near Kansas City, has been struggling to get his hands on enough affordably priced cars. Typically, Catalano and his daughter, who co-own Stadium Auto, would have about 50 vehicles on their used-car lot near Arrowhead Stadium. They now have only about half as many. Some of their rival dealers, Catalano said, enjoy a competitive advantage because they can afford to offer financing to buyers with poor credit.
Squeezed by higher prices for gasoline, groceries and utilities, many of Catalano's customers can’t afford either new or late-model used vehicles. Some would-be buyers he knows are using tax refunds just to make ends meet instead of buying a needed car.
“A used inexpensive car is now becoming more and more of a luxury,” Catalano said. “What the market wants right now is not available, and that’s $3,000, $4,000 and $5,000 cars.”
Behind the vehicle shortage and inflated prices is simple supply and demand. Much of the problem stems from the surging prices of new cars. In February, according to Edmunds, the average new vehicle in the United States sold for nearly $48,000 — beyond the reach of many consumers.
Though the supply of new vehicles has inched up, they remain relatively scarce and expensive. Automakers still lack sufficient computer chips to produce enough vehicles to meet demand, a lingering consequence of pandemic-related supply shortages. Sales of new vehicles last year were about 3 million below normal levels. Fewer new-car sales mean fewer trade-ins, which mean fewer used vehicles for sale.
With used prices rising again, analysts say buyers who can afford to do so should buy soon. Auto loan rates may continue rising this year as the Federal Reserve keeps raising interest rates.
On used lots these days, bargains are hard to find. Even after accounting for the price drops of the past year, the average used vehicle remains about 35% above where it was before the pandemic erupted three years ago. At that time, the average price was $20,425.
Once the government sent stimulus checks to most American households, demand for autos rose as many people spent their money. As they did, the supply of used vehicles fell and prices surged. By early last year, the average used-vehicle price was more than 50% above its pre-pandemic point.
Worsening the shortfall was a scarcity of affordable new vehicles. Automakers were using their tight supply of computer chips to build pricier and more profitable SUVs and pickups. They built fewer affordable new models — a trend that sent more buyers to used-car lots. The result was increased demand and higher prices for used vehicles.
All of which left people like Carol Rice struggling to find a decent affordable used vehicle. Rice, 65, endured a long period of frustration while shopping for a used small pickup for her farm near Carbondale, Kansas. For six months, she found little.
“I'm retired, and I can't afford to buy a new vehicle,” she said. “There weren't that many used vehicles, and if there were used vehicles, they were quite expensive.”
Last month, she finally found a 2003 Ford Ranger on Catalano's website that she liked and could afford. She bought it for $7,700. Though it’s 20 years old and has 140,000 miles on it, the Ranger is in solid condition and has the all-wheel-drive that Rice wanted.
“It was a good-looking vehicle, and the price was right,” she said.
In the immediate future, few analysts expect price declines for used vehicles. Catalano doesn’t foresee any sustained price drops for perhaps the next year or two.
Others say it's hard to predict. Amy Gieffers, a senior vice president at Vroom, an online auto buying site, notes that some market forces could continue to keep supply down and prices up: Fewer trade-ins, less leasing, lower fleet sales by rental car companies.
On the other hand, she says, more expensive vehicles and higher loan rates could depress buyer demand. Eventually, dealers might be forced to cut prices.
“It’s really complex right now," she said, “because you have some competing forces.”
Both Yurchenko of Black Book and Charlie Chesbrough, a senior economist at Cox Automotive, say they expect used-vehicle prices to rise through summer before easing slightly as part of a normal late-year depreciation cycle.
At the start of this year, Chesbrough said, he thought higher loan rates would chase away buyers from both the new and used markets. Instead, robust demand from affluent buyers for pricey late-model used vehicles has strengthened sales in the United States.
Many of these buyers are paying cash to avoid higher interest rates. Edmunds.com says the average loan rate on a used vehicle is now 11.3%, up from 8.1% when the Fed started raising rates a year ago.
Because demand is intense and vehicle supplies short, Chesbrough doesn't foresee sales dropping even if the economy were to slide into a recession. Though many buyers with lower credit scores have left the market, sales remain solid.
With used-car inventories likely to remain crimped for the foreseeable future, Chesbrough doesn't expect prices to ever fall back to near their pre-pandemic levels.
“We just haven't been creating enough personal transportation in the last couple of years,” Chesbrough said.
Royals' Sherman Optimistic About New Ballpark, Current Team
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Royals owner John Sherman believes that plans are progressing toward a new downtown ballpark, which would replace the nearly 50-year-old Kauffman Stadium as early as 2027 or 2028. The club has had dialogue with fans, business leaders and politicians about potential sites, though none has been decided. The idea is to build a $1 billion stadium as the centerpiece of a $1 billion residential and commercial development. Meanwhile, the owner is similarly optimistic about the current team, which lost nearly 100 games a year ago. The Royals have a new manager in Matt Quatraro and several promising young prospects that they believe will continue to develop throughout the upcoming season, which begins Thursday against Minnesota.
Royals Make Salvador Perez 4th Captain in Franchise History
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals made seven-time All-Star catcher Salvador Perez the fourth captain in franchise history before their opener against the Minnesota Twins on Thursday, rewarding one of the club's most popular players with the rare title.
Unlike football or basketball, the captain title is bestowed upon players that have either achieved a tremendous amount or displayed exemplary leadership over a lengthy period of time.
Perez fits both of those categories.
Along with his near-annual trips to the All-Star game, the affable catcher has won four Silver Slugger awards, five Gold Glove awards and was the MVP of the 2015 World Series, when the Royals beat the Mets for their second championship.
He is also among the most popular players in the Royals clubhouse. Perez's gregarious nature immediately puts young players at ease, which is a good thing for a club in the midst of a major youth movement, and he's always willing to sign autographs and take photographs for fans that show up long before the first pitch.
"Salvy is a Royals icon, a Kansas City icon and a baseball icon,” Royals general manager J.J. Picollo said. “This honor reflects not just his place in Royals history but just as importantly the work he puts in and the leadership he provides our organization.”
Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett and longtime star Frank White were the first Royals captains. They both held the title from 1989-90, when White retired, and Brett carried it on until his own retirement after the 1993 season.
Mike Sweeney was the last Royals captain, holding the honor from 2003 until leaving for Oakland for the 2008 season.
Aaron Judge of the Yankees was the only other MLB player with a captain title heading into this season.
The 32-year-old Perez was batting third and behind the plate for the Royals' opener against the Twins. He's coming off a season in which he hit .254 with 23 homers and 76 RBIs while playing just 114 games.
Perez was the club's nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award in 2001, and last year, he won the Lou Gehrig Award, which is presented annually to a Major League Baseball player who best exemplifies the character of the late Yankees star.
Pablo Lopez, Twins' Bullpen Blank Royals 2-0 on Opening Day
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Pablo Lopez pitched two-hit ball into the sixth inning of his Twins debut, and Trevor Larnach and pinch-hitter Donovan Solano each drove in a run as Minnesota beat the Kansas City Royals 2-0 to open the season. Lopez walked three and struck out eight while outpitching former Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke on a breezy afternoon at Kauffman Stadium. Lopez left after 5 1/3 innings, and the Twins' bullpen did the rest. Jhoan Duran pitched the ninth to earn a save. Greinke allowed both runs in an otherwise solid start to his 20th big league season for the Royals. Salvador Perez and Kyle Isbel had their only hits.
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 and updated throughout the day. These ad-free headlines are made possible by KPR members. Become one today. And follow KPR News on Twitter.