Governor’s Aide: GOP Plan May Slow Kansas Emergency Response
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A top aide to Democratic Governor Laura Kelly warned Republican legislators Thursday that a proposal to curb the power of the governor and other Kansas officials could seriously hamper the state’s response to future public health emergencies. Kelly’s chief of staff Will Lawrence objected to key portions of a bill from the state Senate’s top Republicans that would rewrite the state’s emergency management laws. He said the oversight by the attorney general and the Legislature required by the bill could delay a response to an emergency. Republicans were skeptical of that argument. Lawrence also urged legislators to extend a state of emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kansas Republicans Propose Amendment Aimed at Limiting, Blocking State Regulations
TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR/KNS) – Republican state lawmakers have introduced a constitutional amendment that would let the Kansas Legislature block regulations from agencies controlled by the governor and other state officials. State regulations cover everything from health and safety policy to environmental protections and voting rules. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt wants to amend the state constitution so lawmakers can block regulations if they don’t approve. “There simply is no check and balance that’s functional over agency regulations,” Schmidt said. Democrats argue it’s a move by Republicans to grab more power and undermine the Democratic governor. Republican lawmakers and Democratic Governor Laura Kelly have clashed over some of her policies, but supporters of the amendment say the legislation is not directly aimed at her.
Kansas Lawmakers Consider Legislation to Respond to Issues Arising from Pandemic
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are moving ahead with two measures that are a response to issues arising during the COVID-19 pandemic. One measure considered Wednesday is designed to help courts and prosecutors deal with a backlog of criminal cases. Another is a proposal to limit state and local officials’ power in setting restrictions in future pandemics. The House gave first-round approval to a bill that would suspend, until May 2024, a law that sets deadlines for criminal trials to protect defendants’ constitutional right to a speedy resolution of their cases. The Senate Judiciary Committee had a hearing on a bill rewriting the state’s emergency management laws.
Law Enforcement Expresses Opposition to Medical Marijuana Legalization
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — Representatives from Kansas law enforcement groups spoke to the Kansas Legislature Thursday in opposition to a proposed bill that would legalize medical marijuana. Graham County Sheriff Cole Presley, representing the Kansas Sheriffs’ Association, said legal medical pot could open the door to even looser marijuana laws. “Almost every state that we’ve seen go down this path, this is just one step closer to legalizing recreational marijuana” Presley said. Other law enforcement concerns include more people driving under the influence. The legislation includes some provisions aimed at minimizing opposition. For instance, it would stipulate that physicians only prescribe the drug for certain conditions, and only to patients who’ve been in their care for at least a year.
Underground Water Supply Dwindling in Central and Western Kansas
JOHNSON CITY,, Kan. (KNS) — The amount of water beneath the state of Kansas decreased in the last year after three years of slight gain. Average groundwater levels in western and central Kansas are down by nearly a foot compared to last year. That means water is being used more quickly than it’s being replenished. Rain and snow totals were 25% to 50% below average last year in parts of western Kansas, and when there’s little precipitation, farmers pump more water from the ground to irrigate crops. The Kansas Geological Survey combines measurements from 14 hundred wells to create a database that informs the state’s water management decisions. Since the program began 25 years ago, average water levels have dropped about 12 feet.
KCC Rejects Evergy’s Proposals on Rates for Solar Users
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Corporation Commission has rejected two proposals from Evergy involving rates for solar users. The commission said Thursday it would be better to wait until Evergy’s next general rate case to address how residential solar users are billed. One Evergy proposal would have charged solar panel users a monthly grid access fee of $3.00 per kilowatt, even if the home didn’t use the electrical grid. Another proposal would have charge all customers a minimum bill of $35 per month. Evergy argues it needs to recover the cost of providing on-demand electricity for solar-equipped homes that don’t use many kilowatts.
Kansas Legislative Audit: Bogus Unemployment Claims May Have Cost the State $600 Million
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A legislative audit says Kansas may have paid $600 million worth of bogus claims for unemployment benefits last year. The report released Wednesday by the GOP-controlled Legislature’s nonpartisan auditing division gave a figure that’s more than double the state Department of Labor’s estimate. The report suggested that nearly one in four unemployment claims paid last year could have been fraudulent amid a surge in filings during the COVID-19 pandemic. The department on Tuesday estimated last year’s fraudulent claims as worth $290 million. The department strongly disputed the audit’s figure. But Republican lawmakers saw the audit as likely to be more accurate. (Read more in the Lawrence Journal-World.)
Kansas Records Nearly 293,000 COVID-19 Cases, Including 4,724 Deaths, Since Start of Pandemic
TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reports there have been 292,837 cases of COVID-19, including 4,724 deaths, since the start of the pandemic. Johnson County has the highest number of recorded cases, with more than 54,000. KDHE will provide another update on Friday.
Kansas Man Convicted in Death of His Girlfriend in Iowa
WEBSTER CITY, Iowa (AP) — A 34-year-old Kansas has been convicted of killing his girlfriend in Iowa in 2018. Zackery Bassett, of Elwood, Kansas, was found guilty Tuesday of second-degree murder in the September 2018 death of 50-year-old Andrea Solokowski, in Webster City, Iowa. Bassett was originally charged with first-degree murder in the case. Prosecutors said Bassett had abused and stalked Solokowski, of Sioux City, for more than a year before her death. An autopsy found injuries consistent with asphyxiation but Solokowski’s cause of death was listed as undetermined. The maximum sentence possible for second-degree murder is 50 years in prison. Bassett is scheduled to be sentenced April 5.
Manhattan Woman Killed in Crash Near Topeka After Semi Lost Load of Metal Pipes on I-70
SHAWNEE COUNTY, Kan. (KPR) – One person died in an accident Wednesday afternoon in Shawnee County. The Kansas Highway Patrol reported a semi truck, driven by 38-year-old Jesse C. Vannoy, of Knob Noster, Missouri, was eastbound on Interstate 70 near SW Topeka Boulevard. The semi lost its load of large, metal pipes which bounced over a concrete barrier wall and into the westbound lanes. The loose pipes caused a number of wrecks including one fatal accident, which claimed the life of 29-year-old Brooke N. Rees, of Manhattan.
Student Arrested at Kansas High School with Gun in Backpack
SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) – Police in Shawnee say a high school student found with a handgun in his backpack at school has been arrested. The Shawnee Police Department said in a news release that the gun and other contraband were found by Shawnee Mission Northwest High School staff Thursday morning in a search of the student’s backpack. Principal Lisa Gruman said in a note to parents that the search was conducted and gun found during an investigation involving an unrelated matter. Police confiscated the gun and arrested the student, who is under 18 and whose name was not released.
Police Say Pedestrian Killed in Kansas City Hit-and-Run
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Police say a man who was walking along Blue Parkway in a commercial district of Kansas City, Missouri has been killed in a hit-and-run crash. Police say the crash happened around 8 p.m. Thursday at 63rd and Blue Parkway. Investigators say another person who was walking with the victim at the time of the crash was not injured. Police say the driver of the vehicle did not stop, and detectives are searching for that driver. The name of the man killed was not immediately released.
Police: Man Charged in 2018 Death of Kansas City Woman
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police have announced that a man has been charged in the 2018 killing of a Kansas City woman whose body was found in rural wooded area months after she disappeared. Television station KCTV reports that 32-year-old Kenneth Wilson Jr., of Cameron, has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of 18-year-old Vernece Brown. Brown’s remains were found by mushroom hunters in May 2018 in a wooded area near Harrisonville, about 35 miles south of Kansas City. She had been missing since Valentine’s Day of that year. Police say cellphone data shows Brown had been communicating with Wilson and that their cellphones were in the same location about the time she disappeared.
Bill Addressing Collegiate Sports Name-Image-Likeness Issues Would Allow College Athletes to Return from Draft
UNDATED (AP) — The latest federal bill related to college sports would allow athletes to earn money from endorsements, loosen restrictions around transfers and permit players to return to school after entering a professional league’s draft. The proposed legislation introduced Wednesday by Kansas Senator Jerry Moran also would require the wealthiest athletic programs to increase spending on long-term medical care for athletes. The bill is the fourth to emerge from the Senate since December and second from a Republican. Most recently, Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy introduced a bill narrowly focused on giving college athletes the right to earn money off their names, images and likenesses.
4 Mississippi Hunters Fined $48,000 for Kansas Violations
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge banned four Mississippi men from hunting anywhere in the world and fined them a total of $48,000 for violating wildlife laws in Kansas. Federal prosecutors said Wednesday the men pleaded guilty to conspiring to kill wild turkeys in excess of the legal limit and taking the birds across state lines. The men are accused of bagging at least 26 wild turkeys during an eight-day trip in 2018. Kansas limits hunters to two wild turkey kills per hunter per season. The hunters also took frequent hunting trips to Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska but did not have the required hunting licenses.
Missouri House Passes Voter Photo ID
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Republican-led Missouri House has passed another bill to require voter photo identification at the polls. Lawmakers voted 109-46 in favor of the legislation. The bill is aimed at addressing a Missouri Supreme Court ruling last year that permanently blocked a central provision of a 2016 voter ID law. That law required voters without a photo ID to make a sworn statement to cast a regular ballot. The new bill would give voters two options: either show a photo ID to cast a regular ballot or cast a provisional ballot.
Missouri GOP-led House Advances Private School Funding Bill
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Poor Missouri families could get money for private school through a tax credit program advancing in the state House. The Republican-led House voted in favor of the measure Wednesday. Under the program, private donors would give money to nonprofits that would dole out scholarships to low-income families. Donors would get state tax credits equal to the amount they donate. Only students in cities with populations of 30,000 people or more could access the scholarships. Democrats argued Republicans are imposing the program on big cities and urban areas even though some don’t want it in rural Missouri.
Anti-Hunger Groups, Agriculture Advocates Fight to Save Program Launched by Trump Administration
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Agricultural groups and anti-hunger organizations are pushing the Biden administration to continue a program launched by President Donald Trump that spent $6 billion to prevent farmers from plowing under food and instead provide it to millions of Americans left reeling by the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. Department of Agriculture began the Farmers to Families Food Box program in April 2020 after many people were shocked to see farmers destroy crops even as food banks were being overwhelmed by demand from people suddenly out of work. If the USDA extends the program, it will be a rare example of the new administration retaining rather than dismantling a Trump initiative.
KPR’s daily headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and updated throughout the day. KPR’s weekend summary is usually published by 1 pm Saturdays and Sundays.