Kansas Governor Directs State Agencies to Resume Remote Work
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly has directed Kansas state employees to resume working remotely if possible because of the more contagious COVID-19 delta variant. Kelly’s announcement Wednesday came after two months of steadily rising numbers of new COVID-19 cases that have stressed hospitals and led some public schools to require masks indoors. Kelly’s directive applies to state agencies under her control; employees must resume remote work by September 3 and continue at least through October 4. A memo from Kelly’s administration secretary said any employee who was able to work remotely earlier should do it again. Many state employees spent more than a year working remotely and normal operations resumed in June.
Governor Laura Kelly Directs Some State Agencies to Return to Remote Work
LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly on Wednesday afternoon released new guidelines directing state agencies that report to the Executive Branch to resume remote work operations in places where that is possible. The remote work option is set to take effect by no later than close-of-business on Friday, September 3, and will remain in place through October 4th. You can see a complete text of the order online at governor.kansas.gov.
Kansas Can Enforce COVID-Inspired Limits on Officials’ Power
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — People who oppose mask requirements or restrictions on public gatherings imposed by Kansas counties can challenge them in court and obtain a ruling within 10 days. That’s the result of a decision Tuesday by the state Supreme Court. The court said the state for now can enforce a COVID-19-inspired law enacted in March by the Republican-controlled Legislature to restrict the power of Democratic Governor Laura Kelly and county officials in emergencies. A judge in Johnson County declared last month that the law violated the state constitution, but GOP state Attorney General Derek Schmidt appealed. The Supreme Court is blocking the county judge’s order while it considers the appeal.
KU Shows Strong Interest in Vaccine Mandates, but Contends State Law Prohibits Them
LAWRENCE, KAn. (LJW) – University of Kansas officials say they’re interested in a vaccine mandate for students returning to campus, but don’t look for one to be implemented any time soon. A KU spokeswoman said the university still believes Kansas law precludes state universities from implementing vaccine mandates, and the recent FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine does nothing to change that status. “KU would strongly consider a vaccine mandate if it were an option,” KU spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson told the Lawrence Journal-World on Tuesday. “But it is not an option at this point given state law.” KU for weeks has been saying state law limits its ability to mandate that students and staff receive vaccinations or provide proof of vaccination. However, some faculty members and others have questioned whether the state laws in question actually apply to KU and other state universities. KU on Tuesday, however, showed no signs of reconsidering its legal analysis of the vaccine mandates. Some universities across the country began implementing a vaccine mandate after the FDA gave the Pfizer vaccine full approval, removing its emergency status label. KU is strongly encouraging students to get vaccinated. Earlier this month it announced a program offering about $235,000 in incentives — including drawings for free tuition and other prizes — for students who voluntarily provide proof of vaccination. (Read more.)
Missouri Attorney General Sues to Stop School Mask Mandates
UNDATED (AP) – Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has filed a lawsuit that seeks to stop school districts from enforcing mask mandates, requirements aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19. The lawsuit filed Tuesday names Columbia Public Schools along with the district’s Board of Education and board members, but is a class action lawsuit that would apply to any Missouri district requiring masks. President Joe Biden’s press secretary said during a briefing that Biden finds such lawsuits unacceptable and has told his education secretary to use all his authority to help school districts protect students across the country.
Southwest Missouri Health System Requires Employee Vaccines
JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — One of Missouri’s biggest hospital systems says it will require its employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The announcement Monday from CoxHealth came just hours after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave its full approval to Pfizer’s version of the drug. CoxHealth, which is based in Springfield but has several other facilities in southwestern Missouri, says workers have until October 15 to get at least their first vaccine dose or risk losing their jobs. CEO Steve Edwards says “careful consideration” will be given to requests for exemptions for religious or health reasons, and that anyone granted exemptions will be required to undergo coronavirus testing. CoxHealth officials say about 70% of the system’s employees are already vaccinated.
Report: Most Federal Election Security Money Remains Unspent
A federal report finds that in the run up to the 2020 presidential election U.S. states and territories had spent less than a third of the $805 million Congress had provided to shore up security for state and local election systems. A state-by-state snapshot released last month by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission shows they had spent a little more than $255 million allocated under the Help America Vote Act. Officials say many states were focused on the coronavirus pandemic last year and received much of the money too late to use before the 2020 election.
Wichita Council Sets $15 Minimum Hourly Wage for Employees
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita City Council raised the minimum hourly wage to $15 for full-time city employees as part of the city’s new $670 million budget. The vote on Tuesday comes as the city plans to begin filling several positions that were kept vacant to save money. Officials had predicted the city would face a $10 million to $11 million shortfall because of the coronavirus pandemic. But Wichita will receive $70 million in federal COVID-19 funds and unexpected increases in sales tax revenue. City officials plan to start filling 139 civilian positions, and add seven police officers. Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple said the current minimum wage is between $12 and $13 per hour.
Topeka Police Say Shooting Leaves 37-Year-Old Man Dead
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Topeka say a local man died in a shooting at a motel. The shooting happened Tuesday afternoon, when officers were called around 1:45 p.m. to Travelers Inn for reports of a shooting. Arriving officers found a man with gunshot wounds, and paramedics pronounced the man dead at the scene. Police identified the victim as 37-year-old James Epps Jr. Police later arrested 19-year-old Isaiah Krainbill, of Topeka, on suspicion of first-degree murder in the case.
2nd Hiker Dies Within Days in Death Valley National Park
DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — Death Valley National Park rangers are reminding visitors to limit stressful activities during summer heat after another hiker died along the same trail within days. Authorities say 52-year-old Blake Chaplin of Leawood, Kansas, was found dead August 21 along the Golden Canyon Trail. The temperature on Aug. 21 was 109 degrees, below the normal high of 115, but still requiring precautions. On August 18, 60-year-old Lawrence Stanback of San Francisco died of suspected heat stroke. The park urges summer visitors to limit hiking to the relatively cooler morning hours, drink plenty of water, eat salty snacks and stay close to air conditioning.
Man Pulled from Burning Shawnee Home Dies at Hospital
SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — Officials say a man pulled from the basement of a burning home in Shawnee has died from his injuries at a hospital. The Shawnee Fire Department says firefighters were called to the home on West 52nd Terrace Street late Monday night. Officials say four of five people in the home were able to safely escape, but firefighters had to enter the house to try to rescue 53-year-old Matthew Deckard from the basement. Firefighters pulled him from the home, started CPR and rushed him to a Kansas City hospital in critical condition. Officials say Deckard died at the hospital the next day.
Pilot Killed in Small Plane Crash in Western Missouri
ADRIAN, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say the pilot of a single-engine plane was killed when the aircraft crashed into a cornfield in western Missouri’s Bates County. The crash was reported late Monday morning after the Piper J3C-65 was reported overdue Sunday afternoon. Another pilot in the area spotted the wreckage in the field northwest of Adrian and landed to help direct emergency responders to the site. A Bates County sheriff’s deputy also used a search and rescue drone to help guide other deputies, state troopers, police and medics to the crash site. Officials say the plane had taken off from a private airstrip, and the pilot was the only person aboard the plane. Authorities have not released the pilot’s name.
Informal Talks Take Place on Building a 3,000-Acre Solar Panel Farm Near the Douglas / Johnson County Line
LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) – The Lawrence Journal-World reports that a 3,000-acre solar panel farm, the largest in the state, could be coming to an area along the eastern edge of Douglas County. While official plans for the project have not been filed, informal talks about the project have taken place. The Journal-World reports that planning commissions in both Douglas and Johnson counties have been holding such discussions for the past several months. A Florida-based energy company hopes to build a large solar farm that would straddle parts of the border between Douglas and Johnson counties. Officials with NextEra Energy are actively planning for a project that would be located several miles east of Baldwin City. NextEra estimates the solar farm would produce enough renewable energy to power about 40,000 homes. (Read more.)
Missouri Man Drowns in Lake Michigan After Saving Boys
RACINE, Wis. (AP) — A Missouri man who died after rescuing two young relatives from the choppy waters of Lake Michigan is the fourth person to drown in the lake this summer in the southeastern Wisconsin city of Racine. Racine County sheriff’s officials on Monday identified the man who drowned Sunday as 40-year-old Thomas Walker, though they didn’t say where in Missouri he lived. Authorities say Walker went into the lake at North Beach to rescue the boys. The children made it out of the water, but Walker did not. The National Weather Service warned of dangerous swimming conditions that day.
Special Prosecutor Appointed in Kansas City Police Shooting
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A judge has approved a request by Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate a fatal police shooting in Kansas City. St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell’s office has appointed Rachel Smith as special prosecutor to determine if the shooting of 31-year-old Malcolm Johnson in March was justified. She says her office had charged Johnson in a 2014 fatal shooting, and she was concerned that previous interaction with Johnson could be seen as a conflict of interest in the shooting investigation. A group of Kansas City clergy and civil rights advocates is questioning the police department’s version of Johnson’s shooting.
Topeka Police Find Kansas Baby Safe After Car He Was Riding in Was Stolen
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Topeka say a 2-month-old infant who was in the back of a car when it was stolen has been found safe. Police say the incident happened late Monday morning, when the vehicle was reported stolen near 6th and Clay streets. Police say the vehicle was found a short time later with the baby still inside and unharmed. A few hours later, police arrested a 47-year-old Topeka man on suspicion of robbery, vehicle burglary, kidnapping and child endangerment.
Man Who Impersonated Wichita Police Officer Gets Probation
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man who impersonated a police officer will serve a year of probation. Daniel J. Corrieri was charged with 10 misdemeanor counts after police received several reports of him impersonating an officer. Corrieri pleaded guilty earlier this summer to driving under the influence and false impersonation. A court affidavit says in one incident, Corrieri pulled behind two teenagers working on a car and activated flashing lights on his car. He told the teenagers to get out of the street, while holding a gun and wearing body armor. Corrieri was arrested after a person who was suspicious followed him. He was jailed after failing a sobriety test.
USDA: Cropland Values Rise in Kansas
WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) _ The value of an acre of cropland in Kansas has increased 14 % this year compared to 2020. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an acre of farmland is now selling for an average of $2,400. Rising land values can be good for farmers who own land, but make it more expensive to expand operations or rent land for farming. The USDA says a majority of farmers lease at least some of the land they farm. Other agricultural costs are also rising. The price of fertilizer next year is expected to double due to COVID-related supply shortages and increased demand. The Kansas Farm Bureau says rising land prices coupled with increased inflation could make 2022 a difficult year for farmers.
Kansas State Will Limit Beer Sales During Football Games
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas State University football fans will have to search a little harder for beer and alcohol during football games this season. A year after allowing beer and wine sales throughout Bill Snyder Family Stadium, the university says it will return to a previous practice of limiting alcohol sales to specific areas. Kansas State athletic director Gene Taylor said 60% of fans who answered a survey said they preferred limited beer sales and combined exit/re-entry over beer sales at every concession stand and no re-entry. The university said it will open a third beer garden at the stadium this season.
Nine Women Now Serving as Governors in U.S., Tying a Record
UNDATED (AP) – New York Governor Kathy Hochul is beginning her term in office with plenty of challenges. But she also is starting with an historic opportunity as the first woman to hold one of the most prominent governorships in the U.S. When Hochul took over Tuesday for resigned Governor Andrew Cuomo, she became the ninth woman currently serving as governor. That ties the previous record, first set in 2004 and then matched in 2007 and 2019. Hochul already has said she will run for a full four-year term next year. Women also have a chance to make gains in 2022 in several states where governors are term-limited. In Kansas, Governor Laura Kelly is the third woman to hold the state’s top executive job. The first woman elected governor in Kansas was Joan Finney, who served from 1991 to 1995.
Oklahoma Man Charged in January 6th Assault on AP Photographer
PHOENIX (AP) — An Oklahoma man seen on video pushing an Associated Press photographer over a wall outside the Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot has been arrested. Benjamen Scott Burlew of Miami, Oklahoma, is the second person to be charged with attacking photographer John Minchillo, who was documenting the mob of former President Donald Trump’s supporters that day. Burlew is accused of yelling at, grabbing, dragging and ultimately pushing Minchillo over a low stone wall on the Capitol grounds. Burlew’s attorney didn’t respond to requests to comment Tuesday on the allegations against his client. Last month, Alan William Byerly of Fleetwood, Pennsylvania, was arrested on charges of assaulting Minchillo and police officers during the riot.
These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today!