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Headlines for Thursday, November 16, 2023

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Emily Fisher

St Marys Library Removes Some Controversial Books

ST. MARYS, Kan. (KNS) — A library in northeast Kansas has removed some LGBTQ books after city leaders threatened to cancel the library’s lease. City leaders in St. Marys, northwest of Topeka, have battled the library for more than a year, ever since a local parent took issue with a graphic book about a transgender child. They extended the lease but ordered a committee to identify books deemed to be against community standards. The group searched the library’s catalog for terms like “gay” and “transgender” and removed about a dozen books from the shelves. Library director Judith Cremer says the titles are still available through other branches. “We’re just trying to keep that balance, so that every parent has the right to decide what they want their families to have," she said.

Cremer said she felt compelled to appease residents who voiced concerns. “The people who don’t find what they want on the shelf, we’re going to get it for them. And the people that don’t want to see it on the shelf, well, we tried to compromise on that, too," she said. Among the books removed were the popular young-adult novel, “They Both Die at the End,” and the “Red Scrolls of Magic” series by Cassandra Clare.


Kansas Revenue Forecast Goes Down but State Still Has Budget Surplus

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — Kansas lawmakers will still have a healthy budget surplus despite the state’s first revenue forecast decrease since 2016. New estimates show a $68 million drop in the state’s estimated tax collections. But it still comes with a budget surplus of $2.8 billion at the end of the fiscal year in June. Edward Penner, with the Kansas Legislative Research Department, says the decrease is partly due to economic growth slowing down. “We aren’t forecasting a recession by any means," he said. "But we do think the next 20 months are going to be relatively slow growing times for the Kansas economy.” House leaders say the massive budget surplus means more tax relief should be the focus of the 2024 session. Republican lawmakers have pushed for income tax cuts. Governor Laura Kelly is expected to craft her own tax cut plan.


KBI Releases Revised Kansas Crime Report: Violent Crime Is Actually Up Nearly 3%

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation has released an amended crime report for 2022, after Wichita media and the Wichita Police Department reported errors in the original report. The amended report shows that violent crime actually increased statewide by almost 3% from the previous year. The original report said violent crime decreased by 4%. Property crime declined statewide and reached its lowest mark since the 1970s. But overall crime declined statewide by 10% when looking at the 10-year average, which experts say provides a better snapshot of crime trends locally. The figures reported earlier this year by Wichita Police showed that crime statistics were undercounted or not reported to the KBI.

(Additional reporting...)

KBI Releases Amended Kansas Crime Statistics

TOPEKA, Kan. — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) has released an amended 2022 Kansas Crime Index Report. The report says violent crime in Kansas increased nearly 3% from 2021. It increased in each of the categories of violent crime except for murder. In all, nearly 14,000 violent crimes were reported in Kansas in 2022 in the categories of murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault and battery. Violent crime in Kansas has been steadily rising each year since 2014.

In 2022, overall property crimes declined by 4%, though property crime offenses are assumed to be under-reported to local law enforcement.

The Kansas Crime Index Report compiles crime statistics reported to the KBI by state and local law enforcement agencies throughout Kansas.

(NOTE: Data from the report is dependent on victims reporting crimes to law enforcement. The report is compiled to provide a historical assessment and snapshot of crime trends. It is often not possible to draw further interpretations or conclusions from the data. The KBI cautions against using data to make direct comparisons between jurisdictions. Often these comparisons are not valid as the factors influencing crime vary widely between communities.)


Authorities: Suspicious Letter Sent to Kansas Officials Appears Harmless

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The substance in a suspicious letter sent to the top elections agency in Kansas doesn't appear to have been hazardous, and the mail appeared unrelated to threatening letters sent to election offices in other states, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation said Wednesday.

The letter delivered Tuesday to the Kansas secretary of state's office prompted authorities to evacuate its building just before noon and keep it closed for the rest of the day. The KBI said it has identified a suspect in Tuesday’s incident, though no arrest was announced.

The KBI also said it has no reason to believe the letter was connected to threatening letters containing a harmless white powder sent in June to dozens of Republican legislators in Kansas, Montana and Tennessee.

While authorities are still waiting on final tests of the substance in Tuesday's letter, preliminary testing indicated it was not harmful, KBI spokesperson Melissa Underwood said in an emailed statement. The secretary of state's building reopened Wednesday morning.

“Law enforcement has identified the person they believe sent the suspicious letter,” Underwood said. “The investigation is ongoing.”

Tuesday's incident in Kansas occurred less than a week after election offices in at least five states received threatening mail, some containing the potentially dangerous opioid fentanyl. The motivation of anyone responsible for suspicious mail in the other states was unclear.

The KBI did not disclose a potential motive for the latest Kansas letter, and no arrests have been announced over the letters sent in June. Secretary of State Scott Schwab is a Republican who has pushed back against baseless theories about the 2020 election being stolen.

The secretary of state's building is near the Kansas Statehouse and also houses the offices of the state's attorney general.

“Threats such as this and all forms of political intimidation are unacceptable and must always be strongly condemned,” Kansas House Speaker Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican, tweeted Wednesday morning.


GM Becomes 1st Detroit Automaker to Approve Deal with UAW

DETROIT (AP) — United Auto Workers union members have voted to approve a new contract with General Motors, making the company the first Detroit automaker to get a ratified deal that could end a contentious and lengthy labor dispute. The contract passed with 55% voting in favor. The contract also appears to be headed for approval at Ford and Stellantis as well. Voting continues at Ford through early Saturday. At Stellantis, voting tallies are expected to be complete by Tuesday.


Kansas Board of Regents Approves $100 Million Plus Price Increase for KU Football Stadium

EMPORIA, Kan. (LJW) — The Kansas Board of Regents has approved a $100 million-plus price increase for the University of Kansas football stadium renovation and campus gateway project. During its regular monthly meeting, which was held in Emporia Wednesday, the Regents approved a new budget of $448 million for the project, which will renovate David Booth Memorial Stadium at KU, adding a conference center in the area around 11th and Mississippi streets. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the new budget is a major jump from the previous estimate of $335 million. KU officials say no tuition dollars, nor general state higher education funding dollars will be used to pay for the project.

As for why the project costs have increased so much, KU officials say construction materials have been affected by inflation. Another factor adding to the cost is the inclusion of a conference center, which is expected to have seating for 1,000. Saturday’s football game against Kansas State will be the final opportunity to see the stadium in its current form. In the days following the game — which is the last home game of the regular season — crews will start major work to begin transforming the stadium. Work is expected to last at least until August 2025. The stadium renovations are expected to be done by that time, but other work on surrounding amenities may still be underway.

In other business, the Regents also unanimously approved a budget of $250 million for a new cancer center building on KU’s medical center campus in Kansas City, Kansas.


Topeka Man Charged in Fatal October Shooting

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) — A man accused of fatally shooting a 23-year-old Topeka man in his front yard has been charged with murder as law enforcement officials continue to search for another suspect. The Shawnee County District Attorney’s office says that criminal charges have been filed against 32-year-old Aaron A. Serrano in connection to the October shooting death of 23-year-old Jackson Danner. WIBW TV reports that investigators are also attempting to locate a second suspect in the incident, 29-year-old Tremale Serrano of Topeka. Police say that Jackson Danner died as the result of multiple gunshot wounds in the front yard of his home near central Topeka on October 15th. Police say a search found evidence that a party involving drug and alcohol use had been held at the house before the incident. Aaron Serrano remains in custody on a total bond of $1,005,000.


KHP Seeks Public Help in Identifying Driver from Fatal Hit-and-Run

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (KC Star) — The Kansas Highway Patrol is asking for help from the public for help locating an SUV involved in a hit-and-run crash that left a 79-year-old woman dead Tuesday in Overland Park. The Kansas City Star reports that the crash happened around 5:45 p.m. at the on-ramp from 75th Street to the northbound lanes of Interstate 35. It involved a red Chevrolet Suburban that was struck from behind and fled the scene. The Suburban sought by police had Missouri license plate number LD4 Z864. Police say they hope to gather more information from witnesses about the crash and locate the Suburban. The woman killed Tuesday was 79-year-old Sharon Bybee of Lenexa. She was a passenger in a 1969 Chevrolet Corvair, which was driven by 81-year-old Fred Bybee. He suffered minor injuries. Anyone with information is urged to contact the Kansas Highway Patrol.


Kansas Officials Warn Drivers to Watch for Deer

TOPEKA (KSNT) — Watch out for deer! That's a warning for motorists from the Kansas Department of Transportation, AAA Kansas, the Kansas Turnpike Authority and the Highway Patrol. Highway Patrol Captain Candice Breshears says if a deer enters the roadway in front of your car, it’s best to hit the animal and not swerve to avoid it. Breshears said more serious crashes occur when drivers swerve to miss the deer, potentially losing control of the vehicle and leaving the road or veering into oncoming traffic. KSNT reports that last year, six people were killed in collisions with deer and 575 people were injured. Officials advise motorists to be especially watchful at dawn and dusk when deer are more active and to reduce speeds near wooded areas and near water sources such as streams and ponds.


KPR Searching for New Statehouse Reporter

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) — Kansas Public Radio is seeking a new Kansas Statehouse Bureau Chief (SBC) to manage all aspects of KPR’s capital news bureau in Topeka. This position works primarily at the Kansas Statehouse and is responsible for reporting on all aspects of state government. The SBC researches, writes, reports, and produces spot news, digital stories, and long-form audio features for KPR and its reporting partners at the Kansas News Service. To be considered, one must apply online at https://employment.ku.edu/jobs/staff/kansas-statehouse-bureau-chief/26495br. Application review begins in November and continues until a pool of qualified applicants is identified. KU is an EO/AAE. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), age, national origin, disability, genetic information or protected veteran status.


Kansas Public Radio Seeks New Membership Director

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) — Kansas Public Radio is seeking a new Membership Director to serve on its Development team. This position oversees various campaigns to raise funds to support KPR. Responsibilities also include accounting for contributions, maintaining the membership database, and organizing on-air membership drives. To be considered, one must apply online at https://employment.ku.edu/jobs/staff/membership-director/26505br. Application review begins in November and continues until a pool of qualified applicants is identified. KU is an EO/AAE. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), age, national origin, disability, genetic information or protected veteran status.


Drought-Related Crop Insurance Payments Increase in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW) — Crop insurance payments to Kansas caused by drought increased by more than 1000% from 2001 to 2022, according to a new report. The D.C.-based Environmental Working Group analyzed how much states received in crop insurance payments in the last 20 years due to drought, hail, heat, freezes and excess moisture. Kansas received more than $9 billion dollars in payments due to these five weather-related causes, with the majority coming from drought. The state had the second-most drought payments nationally. Anne Schechinger, the Environmental Working Group's Midwest director, says crop insurance payments have increased due to climate change, which causes extreme weather. "In Kansas, 87% of crop insurance payments to farmers came from just these five weather related causes of loss," she said. Changes in crop prices and farmer participation can also increase crop insurance payments to a state.


WIC Programs Funded Through December, but Advocates Still Concerned

UNDATED (HPM) — An emergency resolution passed by Congress back in September funds the food assistance program commonly called WIC, whether the government shuts down or not. However, advocates say a more permanent funding solution is needed. Harvest Public Media reports that USDA officials say the emergency funds dodged the worst case scenario for food assistance programs if the government shuts down. But Congress needs to act quickly and do more in the next funding bill to fully fund WIC and provide certainty for women, infants and children.


No. 23 K-State Still Has Eyes on Big 12 Title Shot

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — No. 23 Kansas State still has hopes of defending its Big 12 title as it prepares to visit Kansas on Saturday for the latest edition of the Sunflower Showdown. The Wildcats need to beat the Jayhawks this week and Iowa State in their regular-season finale, and get some help to have a shot. Kansas State has dominated the Jayhawks, winning the last 14 in the series, and the last four under Wildcats coach Chris Klieman have been by an average margin of more than four touchdowns. The Jayhawks are 7-3, though, just like the Wildcats, and only a game behind them in the Big 12 standings.

The Sunflower Showdown between Kansas State and Kansas hasn't been much of a showdown over the past decade or so. That's because the Jayhawks have rarely shown up. The Wildcats have not lost to their rival since the 2008 season, just before Hall of Fame coach Bill Snyder returned for his second stint in charge. And nothing changed when Chris Klieman took over four years ago, adding four wins to make it 14 straight and by an average margin of more than four touchdowns per game. Yet few think their matchup Saturday will be just another blowout.

While the No. 23 Wildcats (7-3, 5-2 Big 12) are tied for second in the conference and still in the hunt to defend their Big 12 title, the Jayhawks (7-3, 4-3) are among the teams one game back. And with identical overall records, the two teams are on remarkably even footing as they resume the fourth-oldest continuously played rivalry in the Bowl Subdivision.

"We're just going to keep working on closing that gap and see where it turns out," Jayhawks coach Lance Leipold said. "It was our responsibility to make this rivalry a better game and I think we're taking those steps, but we have to go out and play that way." It won't be easy if the Jayhawks are missing Jason Bean.

Bean was No. 2 on the depth chart to start the season, but he's deftly guided Kansas most of the way while starter Jalon Daniels deals with a back injury. Then came last Saturday's game against Texas Tech, when Bean sustained what Leipold called "a head injury" and walk-on freshman Cole Ballard played the rest of the way in a last-minute 16-13 loss.

Leipold expressed optimism Monday that Bean would be able to play, then backtracked the following day on a local radio show, saying that "Cole will be ready to go, and that's probably the direction we're going to have to plan on at this moment."

Kansas State could still wiggle its way back into the Big 12 title game but needs to beat Kansas and Iowa State the next two weeks and get some help. The Wildcats and Cyclones are in a logjam of 5-2 teams with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, one of the two conference teams — Big 12-leading Texas is the other — to beat Kansas State this season.

Along with Bean, the Jayhawks are uncertain whether they will have reliable wide receiver Luke Grimm available. Kansas State will be without Jake Clifton, who joined fellow linebackers Daniel Green and Asa Newsome with season-ending injuries.

It will be the final game for many Jayhawks, such as safety Kenny Logan Jr., who helped to turn around the program. Logan played two seasons under Les Miles before he was fired, then played for Leipold the past three. This will be the first time in his five years on campus that the Jayhawks will finish with a winning record.

The game also will be the last game at Memorial Stadium, which opened in October 1921 and is among the oldest in major college football, before a massive renovation completely transforms it. The construction will begin after the game and continue through next season before finishing up in time for the start of the 2025 season.

Kansas State has won all five of its home games easily this season, but the road has been a different matter. They lost on a last-second 62-yard field goal at Missouri, then fell behind early at Oklahoma State and Texas before comeback bids came up short. Their only road win came at Texas Tech, when they trailed in the third quarter before scoring three unanswered touchdowns.


Big 12 Quarterbacks Have Taken More than Their Fair Share of Lumps; 8 Teams Have Lost Starters

UNDATED (AP) — Starting quarterback has been a precarious position in the Big 12. Whether due to injuries or coaching decisions, staying on the field has been a challenge for many of the league's quarterbacks who started the season No. 1 for their programs. Injuries have knocked out starters at some point in the season for Texas, Kansas, BYU, Baylor, Texas Tech, TCU, West Virginia and Central Florida — more than half the league.

Oklahoma State's quarterback carousel lasted through the first few games before coach Mike Gundy settled on Alan Bowman. Even Kansas State, which won last season's Big 12 championship game behind veteran Will Howard, put in freshman Avery Johnson when Howard struggled. The senior responded with his best play of the season. The position has been as jumbled as the league standings. Seven teams are within two games of conference leader Texas.

Oklahoma and Iowa State have been injury- and rotation-free and the Sooners and Cyclones are still in the mix for the league championship. Dillon Gabriel has been exceptional at times for the Sooners, leading a win over Texas and setting school records last week against West Virginia,

Iowa State's Rocco Becht was thrust into the starting role because Hunter Dekkers was snagged by the state investigation into Iowa and Iowa State athletes engaging in sports wagering. Dekkers pleading guilty to underage gambling and paid a fine, and hasn't played while serving an NCAA suspension.

League front runner Texas won two games with backup Maalik Murphy in for injured starter Quinn Ewers. Ewers returned last week for the 29-26 win over TCU, but Longhorns coach Steve Sarkisian praised his team's ability to win with Murphy.

Texas has Ewers back on the field for two critical games, against Iowa State and Texas Tech. Texas is pursuing its first Big 12 title since 2009 in what will be the program's last season in the league before heading to the Southeastern Conference along with Oklahoma next summer.

“I think he was a little sore” after the TCU game, Sarkisian said. “But as the weeks go on, if we can continue to protect like we did the other night, he’s going to continue to get healthy.”

BYU's first season in the Big 12 included a plan to redshirt junior college transfer Jake Retzlaff as an understudy to Kedon Slovis. That plan blew up with an injury to Slovis' throwing arm, and Retzlaff struggled in losses to West Virginia and Iowa State.

UCF's Big 12 debut saw starter John Rhys Plumlee knocked off the field for a month with a knee injury.

TCU has lost three in a row behind freshman Josh Hoover, who took over for Chandler Morris (knee sprain). Morris was the starter in 2022 when he was injured in the first game. Max Duggan took over and led the Horned Frogs to the national championship game.

“I think that's just kind of the nature of college football and, you know, just look around the league and again, starting with us, there's a lot of starting quarterbacks that have gone down,” TCU coach Sonny Dykes said. “It's just kind of the nature of the beast.”

No team has had more hard luck at quarterback than Kansas.

The Jayhawks had the preseason offensive player of the year in Jalon Daniels in Lance Leipold's emerging program. But he has played only three games because of back problems and was a pre-game scratch before a 40-14 loss to Texas. He hasn't returned.

Jason Bean has started in his place and led the program's historic win over Oklahoma. Bean sustained a head injury last week against Texas Tech. That left the Jayhawks with walk-on Cole Ballard, the son of Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard, playing most of the game in a 16-13 loss.

Leipold said he is “very optimistic” Bean will return this week.

Texas Tech can almost match that misery and musical chairs at QB.

Starter Tyler Shough broke his left leg at the end of September. It was the third consecutive season the sixth-year transfer has missed significant time due to injury. Since then, Behren Morton took over, then had a shoulder sprain and freshman Jake Strong had to start a game.

Morton has returned but Texas Tech is one of nine schools to start at least three quarterbacks this season.


This summary of area news is curated by KPR news staffers. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and updated throughout the day. This ad-free news summary is made possible by KPR members. Become one today. And follow KPR News on Twitter.