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Headlines for Friday, September 8, 2023

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Emily Fisher

Kansas Lawmakers Discuss Changes to Suspended Driver License Laws

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) — State lawmakers are discussing ways to help low-income people avoid losing their driving privileges if they can't afford to pay off a traffic ticket. The Topeka Capital Journal reports that more than 20,000 drivers in Kansas have a suspended license and nearly 60% of those are due to unpaid tickets. That’s according to data from the Kansas Department of Revenue. Lawmakers are considering a proposal that would allow people with suspended licenses to get restricted driving privileges that would permit them to go to the grocery store, take children to school and drive to work.

Members of the Special Committee on Restricted Driving Privileges are largely in agreement that people living in poverty should not have their lives ruined by a traffic ticket. They heard testimony from people who have lost their jobs and, in some cases have become homeless, merely because they couldn't afford to pay their traffic tickets. The special committee is set to meet again on October 10th.


Commission Considers Whether Kansas Lawmakers Should Get an Increase in Pay

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — A new Kansas commission is meeting to consider increasing state lawmaker pay. Legislative leaders say a raise would remove barriers for potential candidates to run for office. The Legislature created the commission to review how much lawmakers make and possibly increase their pay when they return to Topeka after the 2024 election cycle. Kansas awmakers earn an average of $29,000 a year. Supporters have suggested raising it to an average annual pay of up to $50,000. Jason Watkins is a former lawmaker who now works with the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce. He says pay is too low for many people to serve. “Nobody should get rich serving at any level of government," he said. "But people shouldn't have to go broke either.” The Legislature created the commission to avoid the risk of angering voters by boosting their own pay.


Study Shows Increase in Out-of-State Patients at Kansas Abortion Clinics

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) — New research estimates Kansas abortion providers saw thousands more patients than usual in the first half of 2023. That's likely driven by a surge of patients traveling from states with abortion bans. Kansas saw a 114% increase in abortions during the first half of this year compared with 2020. That’s according to a new study from the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights. Zachary Gingrich-Gaylord is with the Trust Women clinic in Wichita. He says the fall of Roe v. Wade has translated into skyrocketing demand from out-of-state patients. “Still getting far more phone calls than we can answer every day," he said. "I think right now we're averaging over 5,000 phone calls a day.” He says between 70% and 75% of the clinic’s patients are now from out-of-state.


One Year After Launch, How Is the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Doing?

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) — A panel of experts says the new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline seems to be working well. A special panel organized by the Kansas Health Institute met Thursday in Topeka to discuss the effects of the first year of its implementation. WIBW TV reports that the 988 line aims to provide comprehensive crisis care for people experiencing mental health distress. Experts on the KHI panel said the new 988 system was working well. According to the latest data, more than 20,000 Kansans have called the 988 number, an average of 1,600 calls a month, since August 2022. Most calls were answered in about 20 seconds.


One Person Killed, One in Custody in Fatal Topeka Shooting

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Topeka police are investigating a deadly shooting that happened Thursday afternoon in southeast Topeka. The shooting was reported around 3:00 pm in the Hi-Crest neighborhood. Police found one person suffering from a fatal gunshot wound. The victim's name has not been released. KSNT TV reports that a suspect is in custody. Thursday's homicide was Topeka's 23rd so far this year.


Kansas City Has Nation's Highest Spike in Rent Rates

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) — Rental rates have skyrocketed across the country and the Kansas City Metro is feeling it more than most. KCTV reports that the metro has seen the nation's most significant yearly rate increase. According to research from Rent.com, Kansas City has jumped 16.17% in just a year for monthly rental costs.


USDA: Midwest Corn Crop in Trouble

UNDATED (HPM) — The Midwest corn crop shows distress. That's according to the latest report by the USDA. Farmers in the western and central sections of the Midwest - including Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska - are seeing the biggest problems. Higher yields are expected in the eastern section of the corn belt, such as eastern Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Nebraska has been hit with some of the highest levels of drought seen in decades. Eric Hunt, a University of Nebraska Extension educator, says conditions are critical. “I believe we have underestimated the impact of the more recent heat and dryness, " he said. As of September 3rd, the USDA reports the national average for corn is rated 53% good to excellent. That’s down five points in two weeks. Kansas and Missouri saw the worst-rated corn, with only 33% reported as good to excellent.


Kansas Property Tax Increases Alarm Homeowners, Lawmakers Consider Options

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR/KNS) — Kansas taxpayers are lining up at public meetings to voice frustration over increasing property taxes. State lawmakers are taking notice and may consider new restrictions on tax increases. Despite record-breaking temperatures, an overflow crowd of frustrated taxpayers recently crammed into the Shawnee County Commission chambers to voice concerns about rising property taxes, driven largely by growing home values. The majority of people spoke against the $140.7 million budget, a 10.4% increase over the previous budget. It’s a scene playing out across the state as local governments hold public hearings on their budgets required by state law. (Read more.)


State Commission Wants to Know Why Judge Signed Off on Police Raid of Marion Newspaper Office

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — A state commission is asking a judge who signed off on the search for a Kansas newspaper office to explain her decision. Magistrate Judge Laura Viar authorized a search of the Marion County Record and the home of its publisher and a Marion councilwoman in August. The Kansas Commission on Judicial Conduct is considering a complaint against Viar and is requesting a response from her. In a letter to Topeka resident Keri Strahler, who filed the complaint, the commission said it placed the matter on the agenda for its November meeting. The raid in Marion was widely criticized around the world as an attack on press freedom. A county attorney revoked the warrants, citing insufficient evidence to seize computers, personal cell phones and other equipment.


U.S. Senators: Why Should Kansans Subsidize Energy Costs in Other States?

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The two U.S. Senators from Kansas are speaking out against a recent federal rule that could force Kansas taxpayers to subsidize wind energy used in other states. A press release from GOP Senator Roger Marshall's office says he and Senator Jerry Moran co-signed a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The letter urges an adjustment to the electricity transmission costs that will disproportionately affect Kansas residents. The letter from Marshall and Moran says that Kansans pay about 67% of the transmission costs for wind energy to other states but only use about 30% of that energy. The Kansas senators say it's unfair for Kansas ratepayers to be penalized for providing energy for the rest of the country.


Report: 2 Fatalities, 16 DUI Arrests in Kansas over Labor Day Holiday Weekend

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Highway Patrol reports there were two fatal vehicle crashes during the long Labor Day holiday weekend. Neither fatality involved alcohol. In addition, state troopers made 16 DUI arrests and issued 687 speeding tickets from Friday, September 1st through Monday of this week. Troopers also assisted more than 770 motorists during that same time period. Click here to see the full report.


Kansas State Fair Begins 10-Day Run in Hutchinson Friday

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — The Kansas State Fair is underway in Hutchinson. The 10-day fair is a showcase of Kansas agriculture, industry and culture. The annual event features food, music, displays, vendors, carnival rides and games. On September 15th, the Kansas City Chiefs' Super Bowl LVII Trophy will be on display. Attendees will have an opportunity to get up close and personal with the trophy (from 2-6 pm) that Friday afternoon at the House of Capper. For more information about the events, concerts and attractions, visit KansasStateFair.com.


No GMOs! Mexico Bans Genetically Modified Corn from U.S.

UNDATED (HPM) — A report from the U.S. Grains Council says the nation exported nearly 17 billion metric tons of corn to Mexico last year. But Mexico’s president has been trying to ban the import of GMOs, or genetically modified organisms - in this case, corn. Much of that GMO corn comes from the U.S. and Mexico’s position is endangering a major trade agreement. Nancy Martinez, with the National Corn Growers Association, says a ban could really hurt American farmers. “If we can't export the majority of our GM corn, we'd have to find other available markets to put it. And that's not something that you can stand up overnight," she said. The U.S. has requested formal trade consultations with Mexico but so far, there has been little progress in resolving the dispute. (Read more.)


Detroit Lions Spoil Season Home Opener for Kansas City Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Detroit Lions rallied for a 21-20 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs to ruin the Super Bowl champions' celebration on the NFL's opening night. Jared Goff threw for 253 yards and a touchdown while new Lions running back David Montgomery reached the end zone for the go-ahead score late in the game. Detroit then held the Chiefs on the next possession to put it away. Kansas City had won eight straight openers while the Lions had lost their last five. The Chiefs played without injured All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce and All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones, who is in a holdout over contract negotiations.


Travis Kelce had a bone bruise and some swelling in his knee, though tests taken after the injury in practice showed no ligament damage. He went through a workout early Thursday to see whether he could move well enough to play, but Reid and Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder decided to give Kelce time to recover with their next game 10 days away.


The Chiefs visit Jacksonville September 17 for a divisional playoff rematch.


No. 15 K-State Tries to Avoid Another Non-Conference Letdown with Troy on Deck

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — No. 15 Kansas State hosts Troy on Saturday. The Wildcats will try to avoid repeating a non-conference letdown from last season, when it lost at home to Tulane. Kansas State opened the season with a 45-0 rout of Southeast Missouri State, while the Trojans are coming off a win over Stephen F. Austin. Kansas State rebounded from its loss to the Green Wave last year by beating TCU in the Big 12 championship game. The Wildcats will need to maintain their focus against the Trojans because they have a trip to former conference rival Missouri looming next week.


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. You can also follow KPR News on Twitter.