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Headlines for Friday, May 19, 2023

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Emily Fisher

KCK Shooting Leaves Two People Dead, Two Injured

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KMBC) - Authorities in Kansas City, Kansas say two people are dead and two others injured after a shooting late Thursday night in Kansas City, Kansas. Officers were dispatched to a rural area northwest of the Legends shopping complex around 11 pm. KMBC TV reports that police found three adult women outside with critical injuries. The victims were taken to a local hospital where one later died. One of the women remains in critical condition and a third has non-life threatening injuries. Police say they found the suspected shooter, an adult male, dead inside the home. The incident is under investigation.


KCMO Police Involved in Fatal Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KSHB) — Police officers in Kansas City were involved in a fatal shooting in a residential neighborhood near the city’s Crossroads district. KSHB TV reports that officers responded to a report of gunshots late Thursday night. When officers arrived, they say someone fired shots inside a residence then allegedly fired toward the officers. After SWAT team officers arrived, the suspect continued firing at the officers. They returned fire and the unnamed suspect was pronounced dead at the scene. No officers were injured. The Missouri State Highway Patrol will conduct the investigation.


Remains of WW II Airman Killed in Romania Returning to Kansas

WASHINGTON (KSNT) — The remains of a U.S. Army airman from Kansas killed in action in Europe in 1943 have been identified. The Department of Defense says Army Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert C. Elliott was originally from the town of Plains, in Meade County. KSNT reports that Elliott was 24-years-old in the summer of 1943 and served as an engineer on a B-24 bomber. The plane was shot down by anti-aircraft fire in Operation Tidal Wave in Romania. The mission has been called the “bloodiest air battle” of World War II. 90 bombers were downed and 300 airmen were killed or listed as missing in action, including Elliott. Investigators used advanced DNA analysis to finally identify Elliott. His remains will soon be returned to Kansas. His burial is planned for August 1 in Plains.


Kansas Governor Vetoes Part of School Funding Bill, Setting up Likely Legal Battle with GOP

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP/KPR) — Kansas's Democratic governor on Thursday vetoed parts of the Republican-backed $6 billion funding plan for the state's K-12 schools, setting up a likely legal battle that will test her office's powers. Governor Laura Kelly, who won reelection in the conservative state in November, issued a statement explaining her decision to take the unprecedented step of vetoing parts of the proposed education budget, saying she objected to one provision, in particular, that she says would cut funding for rural public schools, which have been dealing with declining enrollment. “This provision pulls the rug out from rural school districts at the 11th hour,” Kelly said. “If the provision is enacted, it will bring dangerous and devastating consequences for our rural districts.”

Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson and House Speaker Dan Hawkins, leaders of the GOP-controlled Legislature, quickly issued a joint statement criticizing Kelly, saying the state's constitution limits line-item vetoes to appropriations. "We strongly encourage the Attorney General to immediately review this unconstitutional overreach,” they said.

The spending plan, which would provide the bulk of the money that the state's 286 school districts rely on, would also expand a program aimed at providing private school scholarships for low-income families. Although Kelly opposes that provision, she didn't veto it.

Kelly said that because the bill mixed policy with funding, the Kansas Constitution allows her to veto parts but not all of the bill, as it does with legislation setting the state's annual budgets. Top Republicans are likely to object and to challenge the assertion in court. The issue has never been tested legally, creating uncertainty about how much money school districts might have and what policies they might face the next academic year.

In her statement, Kelly said the GOP-backed bill would change the way districts count their enrollment, which determines their funding. Currently, districts are allowed to use one of the two previous school years to determine how much money they will receive. The new education bill requires districts to use the current or previous year's enrollment to determine appropriations. That provision would force districts with declining enrollments to immediately make changes to budgets they have already approved for the upcoming year, she said. Kelly also noted that the Kansas Supreme Court has upheld the current method for determining enrollment, and she said changing the formula would raise questions over the state's compliance with that law. Education groups had pushed Kelly to veto the bill even though it would increase the state’s total aid to districts by about 4% for the next school year. The increases would vary by district, with 29 — most with fewer than 700 students — receiving less aid than they did this school year.

Kelly has signed education bills with a similar marriage of funding and policy in the past. But she and top Republicans clashed repeatedly over her handling of the coronavirus pandemic. GOP lawmakers forced her to accept a whittling away of the powers of her office and of local officials to close schools and businesses and impose mask mandates. If Kelly had vetoed the entire bill, she would have forced a special legislative session to ensure that schools are funded for the next school year because lawmakers have adjourned for the year. If she were to lose a court battle over her vetoing parts of the bill, it's unclear if the entire bill would become law or if it would die altogether. (Read more.)


State Employees in Kansas Will See a Salary Bump

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — State employees in Kansas will be getting a pay raise this year. They'll be earning more than last year after an audit found that some state jobs pay 30% less than similar jobs found elsewhere. Pay raises for state employees were included in this year's budget. Many worker salaries will jump 5%, except for those paid significantly below market rates. Those employees will get larger pay bumps. Republican Representative Troy Waymaster says some state workers are paid well, but the plan approved by the Legislature will help lower wage earners. “We have employees that are severely under market... we are going to be bringing those under market employees up to try to balance out our under market and over market employees," he said.

One agency getting extra salary money is the Department of Corrections. Corrections employees will get a 5% raise on top of market adjustments. The state prison system has seen some recent success in hiring, bringing on 53 new hires in the last few months. But about one in five positions in the corrections department remain unfilled. Lawmakers also set aside $13 million for public universities to use as merit-based raises.


Millions in Taxpayer Spending Planned to Get KC Ready to Host 2026 World Cup

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KNS)— Politicians from Missouri and Kansas on Thursday touted the spending of millions of tax dollars and unveiled a new nonprofit organization to get Kansas City ready to host men’s World Cup matches in 2026. The city was chosen as one of the host sites for the event in the United States, Mexico and Canada. The soccer tournament is the largest sporting event in the world and has been promoted as an economic boon for the region. The Kansas News Service reports that Kansas and Missouri plan to spend a combined $60 million — $50 million from Missouri and $10 million from Kansas — on the project for stadium and infrastructure support. Officials have unveiled a new nonprofit organization - KC 2026 - to lead the charge in preparation to host the men’s FIFA World Cup, which is expected to bring fans from around the world to Kansas City. KC 2026 is a nonprofit organization made up of sports and business leaders and government officials from both states. (Read more.)


2 Arrested in Death of Kansas 6-Year-Old Gunned Down While Playing Outside

UNDATED (AP) – Two suspects have been arrested in the death of a 6-year-old boy nearly two weeks after he was gunned down as he played in the yard of a Kansas home with his uncle and a 7-year-old cousin, police announced Thursday. Police said 20-year-old Lakevis Sloan and a 17-year-old were taken into custody Tuesday evening as they exited a Greyhound bus in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. They are awaiting extradition, charged with second-degree murder in the May 3 shooting death of 6-year-old Sir’Antonio Brown. Charging documents show that Sloan also is charged with aggravated child endangerment. “These arrests doesn’t take the pain away, but they bring a little comfort,” his godmother, Shyneisha Hill, said.

Police, meanwhile, used the arrest to ask for help locating a third, not-yet-identified suspect. "Don’t wait any longer, because we will arrest anybody and everybody who is housing or covering for this child killer,” Det. Mark Bundy said. Police said previously that the suspects came to the Kansas City neighborhood with the intention of targeting someone, although they provided no additional details. The Wyandotte County prosecutor’s office spokesman said he didn’t know if they have attorneys.
Hill believes they were after the child's uncle, whom she described as “in a lot of mess.” He was sleeping in his truck, she said, parking it in front of another relative’s home at night. “Nobody really knows what the beef is,” she said. “We just are really trying to figure out, like, how it was that serious? Whatever it was, was it that serious to disregard the lives of children?”

The gunfire erupted as her own son, Qwamayne Frazier, was in the backyard playing with Sir’Antonio, who was called Sir by his family, she said. The children's homes are across the street from one another and they attended the same school. After they got off the bus, they would change clothes and rush outside to play. They were "just doing what they do normally, just out there playing, riding the bike, jumping on the trampoline, running around in the yard,” Hill said. Sir’Antonio's mom was at work but Hill was home when a car came to a stop, she said. “This wasn’t just a random drive by shooting," she said. "The suspects actually got out on foot, out of their car, seeing our kids out there.”

She said the suspects fired down the street, hitting Sir’Antonio but no one else. The shooting left her son unable to sleep alone, clingy, unwilling to go outside, simply repeating: “I know what happened to Sir. I can tell what happened to Sir," she said. When the crime scene tape disappeared, she said, he asked her: “How are we going to be protected?” She vowed to safeguard him with her life, she said, but the promise felt hollow initially, with the suspects still on the lose. “We don’t know if they’re going to come back,” she said at the time. "We just don’t know.” She said the children were best friends, describing themselves as brothers. “That’s just how we raised them,” Hill said. Hill recalled Sir’Antonio as “the best kid ever,” happy, outspoken and athletic. Every Sunday, he was in church, emptying his pockets at offering time. “He was such a gentleman," she said. "He always made himself present, and he was just always there for everybody.”


KCC Schedules Public Hearings on Evergy's Request for Rate Hike

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) – The Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) has scheduled three public hearings in July to give Evergy customers an opportunity to learn more about the company’s recent rate increase request and to make comments before the Commission. Evergy is requesting a rate increase of $14.24 per month for Central customers and $3.47 for Evergy Metro customers. The Evergy Central service area includes Topeka, Lawrence, Olathe, Leavenworth, Atchison, Manhattan, Salina, Hutchinson, Emporia, Parsons, Wichita, Arkansas City, El Dorado, Newton, Fort Scott, Pittsburg and Independence, among other towns and rural areas. The Every Metro service area includes Lenexa, Overland Park and other communities near the Kansas City metro area.

Public hearings will be held in Topeka, Overland Park, and Wichita.

Tuesday, July 11 at 6:00 p.m.
Washburn Institute of Technology
Main Conference Center, Building A
5724 SW Huntoon St., Topeka, KS

Thursday, July 13 at 6:00 p.m.
KU Edwards BEST Conference Center
12600 S. Quivira Rd., Overland Park, KS

Thursday, July 27 at 6:00 p.m.
Wichita State University, Low Auditorium
Hughes Metropolitan Complex
5014 E 29th St. North, Wichita, KS

For those unable to attend in person, a virtual option via Zoom is available to allow remote participants to comment. Advance registration on the KCC’s website is required for those participating by Zoom. The hearings will be broadcast on the KCC’s YouTube channel for viewing only. The Commission will also accept written comments regarding the rate increase request through September 29, 2023, on its website or by mail to the Commission’s Office at 1500 SW Arrowhead Rd, Topeka, KS 66604-4027. The Commission will issue an order on the application on or before January 4, 2024.


Kansas Wheat Harvest Looks Grim

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — As Kansas farmers prepare for harvest, this year’s wheat crop does not look good. Experts say it could be the smallest wheat crop since 1963. KSNW TV reports that crop observers have been seeing a disappointing wheat crop across the state. Aaron Harries, vice president of research and operations for Kansas Wheat, says they've "got 105 people making hundreds of stops across the state each day at random wheat fields, and the drought is just very evident.” Harries say teams have had a hard time finding wheat fields that aren’t abandoned. Fields across Kansas are looking short and sparse, with some not tall enough to be harvested. The Wheat Quality Council will create a final report Thursday morning.


Crews Battle Fire at KCK Recycling Plant

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KCUR) — Crews with the Kansas City, Kansas, Fire Department have been battling flames at a recycling plant. The fire broke out Friday morning at Advantage Metals Recycling. KCUR reports that the smoke drifted miles away from the site and has affected air quality in the area. The Johnson County Health Department told residents to stay indoors if they smell any fumes. Assistant fire chief Scott Schaunaman says that combustible materials at the recycling facility, like residual fuel in cars, make the fire difficult to contain. "I would anticipate a fire department presence here late into tonight (FRI) just to monitor and to make sure that it doesn't reignite," he said. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also on the scene to investigate air quality. Those with respiratory or heart issues are at a higher risk of health problems from smoke inhalation from this fire.


Despite Recent Rains, Drought Is Getting Worse in Some Parts of Kansas

UNDATED (KNS) — Drought in some parts of Kansas is getting worse and is more severe than it was last summer. The Kansas News Service reports that last summer, the map from the U.S. Drought Monitor showed vast dryness in Texas, Kansas, California and all the states in between. The situation is now better in many places. But a look at the current drought conditions shows Kansas is about the worst spot in the nation. Nebraska and Oklahoma are also significantly dry. The National Weather Service’s long-term forecast is not predicting an extra rainy spring, so the situation may not improve soon anytime soon.


List Released of Most Popular Baby Names for Boys and Girls in Kansas

TOPEKA (KSNT) – Government officials have released a list of the most popular names Kansans are selecting for their newborns. The Social Security Administration reports that the most popular boy name used for babies in 2022 was Liam. For girls, the top name was Olivia. KSNT reports that Liam and Olivia have remained the most popular baby names in Kansas since 2018.

The Top 10 List of most popular names for boys: Liam, Oliver, Henry, Theodore, Noah, James, Elijah, Asher, Hudson and William.

The Top 10 List of most popular names for girls: Olivia, Charlotte, Amelia, Emma, Harper, Evelyn, Eleanor, Hazel, Ava and Isabella.

The Social Security Administration started gathering baby names into lists in 1997 with names dating back to 1880. Every year, the list shows the impact of pop-culture on naming trends. Along with lists of each state’s most popular baby names, the SSA also keeps information on the nation's 1,000 most popular boys' and girls’ names.


Wichita Men Indicted in Separate Cases for Drug Trafficking and Making Threats Against the President

WICHITA, Kan. (KPR) – A federal grand jury in Wichita has returned an indictment charging a Kansas man with trafficking methamphetamine. According to court documents, 47-year-old Noel Carias Marin, of Wichita was indicted on four counts of distribution of meth. Prosecutors say Marin has been known to also go by the name Ruben Gonzalez Lopez. The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the case.

In a separate case, federal prosecutors say 27-year-old Cody McCormick, of Wichita, was indicted on three counts of making a threat against the President of the United States. The U.S. Secret Service is investigating that case.


Douglas County Approves First Solar Project Under New Regulations

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - Douglas County leaders have approved the first solar facility in the county since new regulations for solar projects were implemented last year. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the 12-acre project, known as “Stull Solar Farm,” will be located just south of Lecompton. At Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners approved a conditional use permit for the project. It’s a collaboration between Evergy and FreeState Electric Cooperative, a rural electric cooperative that serves nine counties in eastern Kansas, including Douglas County.

Commissioners spent an ample amount of time discussing agrivoltaics — the simultaneous use of land for solar energy generation and agriculture. In this case, Evergy plans to work with the Kansas Biological Survey to develop a vegetation plan and seed mix for the site so it can also be used as a pollinator habitat. Previous plans called for allowing grazing on the project site, but representatives at Wednesday’s meeting said that’s no longer being pursued for the time being.

Although the plan ultimately won unanimous approval, all three commissioners seemed to agree that it didn’t go far enough as far as agrivoltaics are concerned — and they’ve all got much higher aspirations concerning any future projects, especially those planning on operating at a larger scale.


Temple Grandin Delivers K-State Address, Advocates for Diversity

MANHATTAN, Kan. (KNS) - Animal behavior expert and autism spokesperson Temple Grandin says animal medicine needs a greater variety of people to help solve health and safety issues. Grandin gave the commencement address for the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine late last week. K-State awarded Grandin an honorary doctorate in veterinary medicine during the event. It’s something she says she couldn't accomplish because her autism caused her to struggle with the math requirements. Grandin says there needs to be more work to include people like her in veterinary medicine programs. “The veterinary profession needs visual thinkers because you have to be a sensory-based thinker to understand how an animal thinks," she said. Grandin also spoke on the importance of animal welfare and spoke against some animal breeding practices.


KDADS Awards $65 Million to Select Kansas Healthcare Facilities to Expand Services

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Around $65 million in grants has been distributed to a select number of Kansas healthcare facilities to help expand services. WIBW TV reports that the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services awarded the grants to help close service gaps. About $15 million will go to the University of Kansas and Wichita State University to build a joint health sciences education center (HSEC) in Wichita. Nearly $13 million will go toward a new psychiatric hospital in Olathe. And about $5 million will to the Kansas College of Osteopathic Medicine in Wichita. (Read more.)


Authorities Seize 70 Animals from "Deplorable" Conditions in Southeast Kansas Home

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Two Coffeyville residents have been arrested on charges of cruelty to animals. On Tuesday, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and the Kansas Department of Agriculture served a search warrant at a rural Coffeyville home. KSNW TV reports that detectives seized more than 70 animals, including dogs, cats, birds, snakes, chickens, ducks, rabbits, and a lizard. Several other animals were found dead. Sheriff Ron Wade says the animals had no food or clean water and were living in feces. A veterinarian evaluated the animals. Many are now housed in shelters. The two residents of the home were booked on suspicion of cruelty to animals.


Nebraska Expected to Pass Combo Bill on Abortion, Gender-Affirming Care for Minors

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Conservative Nebraska lawmakers are expected to have just enough votes to pass a bill Friday that combines a ban on gender-affirming care for minors with a 12-week abortion ban. The mood in the Nebraska Capitol since the hybrid measure was advanced Tuesday by a single vote has been volatile. Lawmakers have traded insults and promises of retribution on the legislative floor, and protesters have shown up to loudly voice their displeasure in the days after vote. The bill needs a supermajority of 33 votes Friday to end debate, after which it can be passed by a simple majority of the body's 49 lawmakers.

Omaha Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh has led an effort to filibuster nearly every bill this session — even ones she supports — to protest the ban on gender-affirming care for minors. She has railed against conservatives who voted for the hybrid bill and warned that people, medical professionals and businesses will leave the state over it.

Cavanaugh declared in early March that she would "burn the session to the ground over this bill," and she and a handful of progressive allies have followed through since. They have introduced hundreds of amendments and motions to slow every bill at every stage of debate, impeding the work of the Legislature and sending leadership scrambling to prioritize which bills to push through.

The day after lawmakers merged the abortion limits with the trans health bill, she clashed with Sen. Julie Slama, who insinuated that conservatives were supporting the ban on gender-affirming care to retaliate against Cavanaugh. Slama noted that the ban did not initially have the 33 votes needed to survive. "But then Machaela Cavanaugh got up and ran her mouth because she was just overjoyed that the national media was here to give her some more attention," Slama said. "So, that gave us 33 votes." Cavanaugh responded that she was willing to suffer conservatives' scorn. "But it's going to cost you something, colleagues," she said. "I am going to take all of the time. Every single, solitary minute of it to make sure the speaker has to decide what actually gets scheduled in these last handful of days."

Conservatives in the one-house, officially nonpartisan Legislature announced early this month that they would amend the trans health bill to squeeze in the abortion restrictions, creating a bill that combines the two most contentious measures of the session. That unconventional move came after conservatives failed to advance a bill that would have banned abortion once cardiac activity can be detected — which happens around six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant. Nebraska currently bans abortions starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Legislative rules state that a bill failing to defeat a filibuster must be tabled for the year. So, opponents were surprised when conservatives announced a plan for a 12-week ban. Progressive lawmakers say it was an underhanded way to ramrod through a ban after the issue had already failed. Conservatives say they view it as a compromise.

A supermajority of 33 votes are needed Friday to end debate, after which a simple majority of the Legislature's 49 lawmakers can pass the hybrid bill. Republican Governor Jim Pillen has said he would sign it into law. Because an emergency clause is attached to the bill, it will take effect immediately.


EPA: Oil Cleaned from Kansas Creek

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Kan. (KNS) - Federal inspectors say a creek in northeast Kansas that was polluted with oil in December’s Keystone pipeline break is now at least visually clear from the spill. The Kansas News Service reports that the spill in Washington County was the Keystone pipeline’s biggest ever. Pipeline operator TC Energy had to isolate and drain part of Mill Creek to clean up more than 500,000 gallons of crude oil. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) helped inspect the work. It says the creek is now visually free of oil. State officials oversee lab work on water, soil and sediment at the site that would confirm the pollution has been cleaned up. State officials didn’t immediately respond to questions.


Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes Wants NHL's Coyotes to Move to Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CBS) - The quarterback for the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs says he's like to see a professional hockey franchise relocate to the city. NFL superstar Patrick Mahomes thinks Kansas City should be the next home for the Arizona Coyotes. On Wednesday, Mahomes called on the NHL to move the franchise to K.C. If the NHL is going to relocate the Coyotes, CBS Sports reports that it could do a lot worse than Kansas City. The geographic location could create a natural rivalry with the Dallas Stars, and sports teams in the city have done quite a bit of winning in the last decade. The Royals and Chiefs have combined for three championships in the last eight years.

Voters in Tempe recently rejected a plan from the Arizona Coyotes to build a new arena and entertainment district in the city, making the future of the franchise extremely murky. No relocation plans have been formally announced (yet), but that hasn't stopped people on social media from speculating where the franchise could potentially move if they leave Arizona.

This would not be the first time the NHL attempted to bring a team to Kansas City. The Kansas City Scouts were founded in 1974, but the franchise spent just two years there before moving to Denver, becoming the Colorado Rockies. Eventually, the Rockies relocated to New Jersey and became the Devils.


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.