Kansas House Approves Full-Time, In-Class School Bill
TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) – Full-time, in-person learning may soon be coming to a school near you. After previously rejecting the idea, the Kansas House has approved a bill requiring schools to offer full-time, in-person classes. This new bill would only force schools to offer the option of in-person classes for the current school year. The previous legislation would have required that permanently. Republican Representative Charlotte Esau supported the bill because she says parents in some areas want full-time classes but can’t get them. Critics say even the watered-down bill takes away local control, removing the ability of individual school districts to decide when it’s safe for their students to return to the classroom. Many schools have already brought students back. The plan approved by the Kansas House is different from a stricter bill that passed the Senate, so the two chambers will need to hammer out a compromise.
Sedgwick County Reconsiders Mask Mandate
TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) – Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has not yet signed a bill restricting state and local government response to the pandemic, but it already may be prompting some counties to reconsider COVID safety rules because the bill lowers the bar for winning lawsuits over policies like business shutdown orders. Commissioners in Sedgwick County pointed to the bill this week as a reason to drop their mask mandate so they don’t face lawsuits. The bill sets new rules for lawsuits aimed at overturning public safety orders including limiting business hours. House Democratic Leader Tom Sawyer supported the bill as a compromise. He says local governments can still approve protections with justification. “They need to base everything on the science. As long as they listen to the health directors and base everything on the science, they should be fine,” he said. Kelly is expected to sign the bill, which includes the new restrictions but also extends her disaster declaration.
Sedgwick County May Drop Mask Mandate
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Officials in Sedgwick County are considering dropping a mask mandate. County commissioners blame changes in laws on managing the coronavirus pandemic and other emergencies approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature and awaiting Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s signature. The Wichita Eagle reports that commissioners say the measure essentially keeps them from restricting businesses for the rest of the pandemic because it allows people to file lawsuits challenging restrictions.
St. Joseph, Columbia Ease Coronavirus Restrictions
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) – Face masks are no longer required in St. Joseph and Columbia, Missouri. With COVID-19 cases on the decline and vaccinations on the rise, those two mid-sized Missouri cities are now easing restrictions. The St. Joseph News-Press reports that the city’s mayor, Bill McMurray, ended the city’s mask requirement. The easing of pandemic restrictions in both St. Joe and Columbia come as newly confirmed cases of the coronavirus and hospitalizations have dropped sharply and, as more people have been vaccinated.
Kansas COVID-19 Case Count Tops 300,000 Since Start of Pandemic
TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR/AP) – The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reported Monday that there have been 300,125 cases of COVID-19 in the state, including 4,850 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Johnson County continues to report the highest number of cases, with more than 55,600. Another update will be released later today (WED).
Death of 18-Year-Old Found in Dodge City Home Investigated
DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police in southwest Kansas are investigating the death of a teen whose decomposing body was found inside a Dodge City home. Wichita television station KAKE reports that the body of 18-year-old Zacarias Giannino, of Dodge City, was found Sunday night by officers after someone reported knowledge of a body at the residence. An examination by the Ford County coroner determined Giannino had been dead for several weeks. Police say an autopsy was performed on Tuesday, but Giannino’s cause of death has not been released. Police have not announced any arrests or suspects in the case.
Opponents of Wind Farm Bill Testify at Kansas Legislature
TOPEKA, Kan (KPR) – Kansas lawmakers are considering a bill that would dramatically limit where wind turbines can be placed. Opponents told a legislative committee Tuesday that local leaders should make that decision. The proposal under debate would prevent any new wind turbines from being built closer than 1.5 miles from an existing building. That’s nearly three times the largest setback any individual county has set. Jack Thimesch is a county commissioner from Kingman County in south central Kansas. “Leave our local control alone,” he said. “We can work with our people. Yeah, we’re not going to make everybody happy and somebody is going to be mad, but as of right now, we’re moving forward with more wind farms.” Supporters of the bill say it would help protect people from the affects wind turbines have on quality of life and property values.
FBI: Toxic Substance Mailed to County Officials in Kansas
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A federal terrorism task force is investigating after mail — laced with a dangerous toxin — was sent to the Sedgwick County courthouse. The county’s finance department received the three-page letter on Monday. It was coated in a white powder substance later determined to be a chemical used in making dye. Employees who handled the letter experienced coughing and skin irritation. One employee was treated at a hospital and is now recovering at home. Three other county employees experienced minor symptoms but continued to work.
Kansas City OKs Police Policies on Protests, Body Cameras
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Kansas City police officials have approved policies governing officers’ response to public demonstrations and the use of body cameras. The city’s Board of Police Commissioners has approved a policy that limits the use of less-lethal munitions such as tear gas and other tactics to break up unruly protests. Officers are required to focus on people breaking the law and allow others to exercise their free speech rights. The policy came after police were criticized for their handling of social justice demonstrations in Kansas City last year. A second policy requires police to activate body-worn cameras in every interaction with the public.
Man Convicted of Rape in Lawrence Might Avoid Second Trial
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) – Douglas County officials say a Wichita man who was serving a 12-year sentence for rape might not face a second trial. Last week, a judge ordered a new trial for Albert Wilson. During a hearing Tuesday, Douglas County District Attorney Suzanne Valdez said her office plans to work with Wilson’s attorney to resolve the case without a second trial. Wilson was granted a new trial after Douglas County Judge Sally Pokorny ruled his original attorney provided ineffective counsel. Wilson was convicted in 2019 of rape after his accuser said he assaulted her after they met at a Lawrence bar in 2016.
Kitchen Worker Arrested After Kansas Jail Contraband Probe
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) – Authorities say a contract kitchen worker has been arrested on suspicion of bringing drugs into the Sedgwick County jail. The sheriff’s office says 42-year-old Natalie Willis has been arrested for possession of hallucinogenic drugs, trafficking contraband and possession of a controlled substance. Willis was employed by Summit Food Service. Contract employees go through a background check before they are allowed to work inside the detention facility.
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.