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News to Know (6/22/21)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A big win for college athletes. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled the NCAA’s strict limits on benefits to student-athletes violates Federal Anti-Trust Law. The ruling focuses on how schools reimburse players for things such as computers, science equipment and musical instruments. The narrow ruling does not directly address athlete compensation, but it could ultimately change the landscape of college sports.  Supreme Court win for college athletes in compensation case

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A court trial over Missouri officials’ refusal to expand Medicaid is underway. Voters last year amended the state constitution to expand access to the health insurance program to hundreds of thousands more low-income adults, including three women who are now suing Governor Mike Parson’s administration. The governor says he won’t expand Medicaid because the legislature refused to pay for it. Two single mothers and another low-income woman in response sued to force Missouri to provide coverage as called for in the state constitution. Missouri governor drops voter-approved Medicaid expansion

JOPLIN, Mo. – The Joplin City Council herd a presentation on an alternative mode of transportation, scooters. Bird scooters, specifically. They’re looking to come to town. The scooters utilize an app. That app allows residents to rent the scooters for a short period of time. When the person who is traveling by scooter is done, they leave it for the next rider or to be picked up by a Bird contractor for repair or charging. Last night the city council decided to move forward on negotiations with Bird scooters. Current 4-State scooter programs receive positive reviews

CHEROKEE COUNTY, Kan. – Harvest is underway in the 4-States and hay season is in full swing. Use caution when traveling around farm trucks, tractors, combines, or other implements. First, don’t assume the farmer knows you are there. Pass with extreme caution. When a farm vehicle pulls to the right side of the road, it does not mean it is turning right or allowing you to pass. Due to the size of some farm equipment, the farmer must execute wide left turns so allow it plenty of room and time to turn. Be alert to see if they might be turning into a driveway or field. Don’t assume that a farmer can move aside to let you pass.

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Kansas officer critically hurt, suspect dead after shootout

WICHITA, Kan. – A Kansas police officer is in critical condition and the person who fired at officers is dead after a shootout in Wichita, authorities said.

Two police officers were checking on the welfare of a 32-year-old woman and her 13-year-old daughter at a home in south Wichita around 10:15 p.m. Saturday when the shooting began. Police said the woman reported having a physical fight with her boyfriend before officers arrived, but she thought the man had left.

Wichita Deputy Police Chief Jose Salcido said officers found the man, 28-year-old Tyler Hodge, hiding in a shed in the backyard with a rifle. Body camera footage released Sunday showed Hodge ignoring officers’ commands to put the gun down before he stood up and opened fire.

One of the officers was hit several times and was rushed to a hospital. He remained in critical but stable condition Sunday.

As additional officers arrived, Hodge continued shooting at them. Police said he fired 18 rounds total and also struck a police car and three homes in the area.

Police returned fire, and Hodge was struck once. He died at the scene.

Two officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave, which is standard department protocol, and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation is investigating the shooting.

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News to Know (6/18/21)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Obamacare has survived another major legal challenge. The Supreme Court dismissed a third effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. The court ruled seven-to-two that Texas, along with other Republican-led states and two individuals had no right to bring their lawsuit in federal court.

JOPLIN, Mo. – A Joplin man gets life in prison with the possibility of parole for killing his son’s long-time girlfriend. Rickey Lamb pled guilty to Second Degree Murder back in April in the death of Sarah Tyminski. It happened in June of 2019. The Newton County prosecutor says Lamb told authorities he went to his son’s house to scare him over a custody dispute. Authorities say the men then exchanged gunfire and Lamb shot his son’s girlfriend Sara Tyminksi. Lamb says he believed Tyminski was going to get a weapon. Joplin man pleads guilty in 2019 murder of Sarah Tyminski

NEODESHA, Kan. – An international company is bringing its first North American facility to Neodesha, Kansas. Sicut Enterprises is the European market leader in recycled plastic composite railroad ties. The company is buying the vacant Neodesha Plastics Facility for its North American manufacturing hub, and bringing with it, 135 jobs. The Kansas Department of Transportation has provided a $300,000 grant to build a rail spur to connect the railway to the building.

JOPLIN, Mo. – As we head into summer, we may be enjoying more activities outdoors. But it’s important to note the risks associated with too much sun exposure. One Freeman Hospital Emergency Room doctor says although people may be going to pools to cool down, it’s still possible to get overheated and dehydrated in the water. To stay hydrated you should drink a minimum of eight to ten glasses of water a day, if you are outside, that number goes up to ten to 12 glasses. Also take a break about every hour. How to stay safe in the summer heat

KOAM InstaPoll: Should congress repeal the authorization of military force in Iraq? http://koamnewsnow.com/vote

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News to Know (6/17/21)

JEFFERSON, Mo. – The Justice department issues a warning to officials in the state of Missouri that it can’t ignore federal law. This comes after the signing of a Missouri bill last week that bans police from enforcing federal gun rules. The DOJ says the “Supremacy Clause” in the U.S. Constitution outweighs the measure signed into law Saturday. The letter sent to Governor Mike Parson and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt says the state must clarify the law to the federal government.

LONE TREE, Co. – Two people are dead after a plane crash in Colorado. The plane took off from Neosho, Missouri. The Federal Aviation Administration says the single-engine aircraft, which took off from Neosho, hit power lines and crashed while approaching the airport in Lone Tree, Colorado. First responders say they found two human bodies at the crash site. They have not yet been identified. A dog also died. Investigators from the NTSB and the FAA are looking into the accident.  Neosho, MO resident among two dead in Colorado plane crash

PITTSBURG, Kan. – A person is taken to the hospital after a crash on the Highway 69 bypass near Centennial in Pittsburg. An officer on the scene says a semi and car crashed head-on and the truck burst into flames. That truck was carrying recycled paper products. The semi driver appears to be ok. The driver of the car has been taken to the hospital, there’s no word on the extent of the injuries.

JOPLIN, Mo. – For the first time in more than 50 years, a hotel will be opening in downtown Joplin. The Robertson Hotel was first opened in 1917, and served as a bustling part of downtown Joplin into the early 2000’s. It’s been closed for a number of years, but is about to get a new lease on life. Radisson Hotel Group America’s just signed the building onto their Radisson Individual’s line of hotels. The company hopes to have renovations complete by the fall of this year. Joplin’s Robertson Apartments to be transformed into business class hotel

KOAM InstaPoll: Should NCAA athletes be allowed to earn money from their name, image and likeness? http://koamnewsnow.com/vote

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GOP ends COVID emergency in Kansas; Kelly sees ‘obstruction’

This morning, Senate President Ty Masterson announced the cancellation the Legislative Coordinating Council meeting.  A law enacted in late March required the legislative leaders to sign off on an extension. Masterson’s announcement means that the state of emergency will expire at the end of June 15, 2021. It’s been in place since March 2020.

Democrat Response

The governor’s chief of  staff says the state will no longer be able to use its National Guard to distribute vaccines or personal protective equipment. Democrats say addressing COVID-19 is “just going to be more difficult.”

Kelly accused Republicans of “political obstruction.” She said last week that she wanted the state of emergency to continue at least through August.

“A state disaster response has never been, and should not be, political,” Kelly said in a statement. She released the full thing on Twitter.

Republican Response

Six of the eight legislative leaders who were to meet Tuesday are Republicans. Top GOP senators’ opposed the extension.

President Masterson, Vice President Rick Wilborn and Majority Leader Larry Alley have issued the following joint statement:

“At last month’s LCC meeting, a majority of legislative leaders made it clear that June 15th was likely to be the end of the state of emergency – that after 15 months, it is time for Kansas to return to normal. As such, the LCC recommended the governor develop an exit strategy to end the emergency – however, after reviewing the governor’s letter, it appears the governor opted for an extension strategy.

“The legislature and the LCC have granted the governor every extension request over the last year, but the current circumstances surrounding COVID-19 no longer necessitate a statewide disaster emergency.  The governor has not provided adequate justification for the LCC to grant her request for yet another extension, and all remaining efforts related to COVID-19 can and should take place under our normal procedures. As such, the statewide disaster emergency will expire as planned.”

Lawrence said Kelly will find ways to keep addressing COVID-19. Top Republicans said she could manage the winding down of Kansas’ response without a state of emergency.

The Debate of an Extension

The governor and Republican lawmakers have been at odds over her administration’s response to the pandemic nearly since spring 2020. Republicans have created more limits on the governor’s power to keep the state of emergency in place.

Kelly sent top lawmakers a letter Friday outlining a plan to wind down emergency operations and said she would let seven executive orders expire.

The letter said Kelly would keep only two executive orders in place. One mandated that state-licensed nursing homes test their residents and staff regularly for COVID-19, and another granting temporary permission for medical personnel and students to give COVID-19 vaccinations.

Lawrence said if those expire, medical and nursing students and paramedics won’t be able to give COVID-19 shots. He said the state Department of Health and Environment might have the authority to issue nursing home testing.

He also said the state will lose $14.5 million a month in extra federal aid. That’s an average of $230 a month per household.

“Sixty-three thousand households in Kansas are going to be impacted by this decision very directly and pretty immediately,” Lawrence told reporters.

But top House Republicans said Kelly failed to make a strong case for continuing the state of emergency. They pointed out that she was letting most of her executive orders expire regardless.

“There are adequate medical personnel to meet the current demand for vaccines and the regular authority available to the governor under the laws of our state is sufficient to meet these needs,” House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., of Olathe; Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch, of Ottawa, and Majority Leader Dan Hawkins said in a statement.

Kelly wanted legislative leaders to approve a 30-day extension, through July 15, the maximum allowed at one time by law. Top lawmakers refused late last month to give Kelly the maximum extension. Republicans signaled that they did not plan to grant another one.

Covid-19 Vaccinations in Kansas

Meanwhile, COVID-19 immunizations in Kansas have declined since early April. They went from a peak average of 29,380 shots a day for the first seven days of that month, to 5,523 for the seven days ending Monday. That’s according to state Department of Health and Environment data.

The department said 43.3% of the state’s 2.9 million residents or about 1.26 million people had received at least one of two shots as of Monday. The state still had nearly 584,000 unused vaccine doses after asking for only 10.2% of its federal allocation last week.

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News to Know (6/15/21)

PITTSBURG, Kan. – The Barton County, Missouri Sheriff is searching for a suspect in a Pittsburg shooting that happened Monday evening. Authorities say the suspect, a white man wearing a red shirt and black shorts, ran from police after a car chase that started in Pittsburg and ended in Barton County. Another suspect was taken into custody after a crash at the intersection of Southwest 160th lane and Southwest 50th road. The Sheriff’s Office says the suspect, who is still on the loose, is considered armed and dangerous. Area authorities search for suspect in chase and shooting

MIAMI, Okla. – Today the Miami Housing Authority will be hosting a rental housing, rights, responsibility and remedies training class. The course is open to landlords and tenants in Miami and the surrounding area. The Miami Housing Authority says this was the best way to educate Oklahomans on the state’s newest fair housing updates and Landlord Tenant Act of Oklahoma. The housing course will be hosted at the E Street Plaza Safe Room in Miami from 10:00am to noon today. Miami Housing Authority to host housing rights training class

COLUMBUS, Kan. – Covid-19 numbers are increasing in the 4-States. In Southeast Kansas, Crawford County saw a 20 case increase at the beginning of June. And from May to June, Cherokee County saw a 35 case uptick. Now they’re at 40 active cases. Cherokee County Sheriff David Groves says he thinks the increase is coming as summer gets into full swing. We have more covid case numbers from around the 4-states on our website at koamnewsnow.comFour-states counties see uptick in COVID-19 cases

BRUSSELS, Belgium – President Biden is meeting with European leaders again today. At a NATO security summit on Monday, the President reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to its military allies. Tonight, President Biden will travel to Switzerland ahead of Wednesday’s sit down with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

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Worker shortage causes long waits for child psychiatric care

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Psychiatric facilities have enough beds to treat children in Kansas in need of intensive mental health care, but a worker shortage means that about 100 of those spots remain empty.

Kansas News Service reports that in recent years, children have often waited months for openings in specialized facilities that offer long-term psychiatric care. In mid-2018, the average wait was nearly 200 days.

The wait time fell in 2019 and 2020, and as of last month, the average wait was 44 days. Yet 146 children remain in line for their turn, even though 104 beds are open.

Residential care centers are struggling to fill jobs that are physically and emotionally taxing, yet sometimes pay less than $15 an hour.

KidsTLC in Olathe is urging the state to help with incentives that could range from college tuition waivers and signing bonuses to subsidies for health insurance or child care.

KidsTLC bought land in March 2020 to add another 50 beds for children, and that work was finished in December, nearly doubling KidsTLC’s residential capacity. Forty-five of the new beds remain empty.

“We had space, we were licensed, and were feeling just exceptional about that and being able to make a significant dent in that waitlist,” CEO Erin Dugan said. “And then it became really hard to hire staff.”

Nonprofit facilities offer more than 400 beds for long-term psychiatric youth care in Kansas. Many of those slots were added within the past 18 months as the administration of Gov. Laura Kelly worked to license more beds and reduce wait times.

Andrew Brown, the state’s commissioner of behavioral health services, said the state would like to get to a point where the average wait time is a week or less.

KidsTLC has almost 300 workers but wants about 425. It has not struggled to hire and retain therapists and other salaried specialists. But hourly staff trained to work on site around the clock are a different matter.

Dugan said her organization offers starting pay of $14 an hour. It is now considering raising that to $16 an hour, but doing so would require significant fundraising by KidsTLC, which gets paid for its patients by Medicaid. Medicaid rates are widely considered low compared to private health insurance.

“How does KidsTLC find a couple million dollars?” Dugan asked. “It’s not sitting around.”

Meanwhile, the state has called on one of its Medicaid contractors to reduce wait times.

KanCare, the state’s Medicaid system, is privatized and run by three companies: Aetna Better Health of Kansas, Sunflower or UnitedHealthcare.

Those companies review and approve applications for residential treatment, but the state’s tracking of wait times that began in 2019 found that children with Aetna waited significantly longer than the others. The state found that Aetna appeared to have problems promptly gathering paperwork such as parental releases to get children in line for care.

“We hope that we will see improvements,” Brown said.

Aetna said it took swift action after the state pointed out the problem.

“We immediately took steps to review our process, identify causes for delays, and implement the changes necessary to minimize interruptions in care for our members,” a company statement said. “As a result of our internal review we have modified our processes to eliminate avoidable delays.”

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Judge asks Kansas attorney general to review pandemic law

MISSION, Kansas (AP) — A judge has asked the Kansas attorney general to weigh in on “significant constitutional problems” raised by a state law that gives those who object to pandemic restrictions such as mask requirements the right to trigger a 72-hour review.

David Hauber, a Johnson County judge, said Tuesday that the law — which places the burden of proof on officials to demonstrate that rules protect public health in the least restrictive way possible — “tips the scales of justice toward the plaintiff.”

Hauber was ruling in a lawsuit filed by parents Kristin Butler and Scott Bozarth who challenged the Shawnee Mission School District’s mask requirement for students. Hauber said their challenge was moot since classes had already ended for the year. The case is among several the Johnson County court has handled since the law took effect in March.

“The nature of the pandemic and its now-shifting guidelines makes it highly doubtful that the pandemic policy that was enacted in the darks days of uncertainty, will be the same policy, if any, in the months ahead before schools reopen in the fall,” Hauber said.

Most of Hauber’s ruling was devoted to expressing concerns about the law itself.

“It provides short deadlines and an immediacy that appears intended to short-circuit other court cases which often have emergent issues, such as domestic violence or business restraining orders,” Hauber said.

It was passed by a GOP-controlled Legislature that has criticized Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly throughout the pandemic, suggesting she overreacted by closing schools and imposing a statewide stay-at-home order for five weeks last spring.

“The court is convinced that SB-40 presents significant constitutional problems that require the intervention of the Kansas attorney general.” He sent a notice to the attorney general Thursday.

The office of Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in a court filing that Schmidt would file a memorandum addressing the issue soon.

“The current state of disaster emergency related to the COVID-19 health emergency will expire on June 15, 2021, unless further extended,” according to the filing. “The Attorney General’s submissions will address any factual developments in this regard, as well as the potential mootness issue if the disaster declaration expires without any extension.”

Officials in several counties, including Sedgwick County in the Wichita area, have cited the law and the threat of litigation in voting to do away with COVID-19 restrictions earlier this spring.

According to the lawsuit, Butler’s 7- and 10-year-old children received exemptions from wearing masks but were distanced from other masked children. Butler said they “suffered psychological harm and ended up wearing masks so that they would fit in.”

Bozarth chose not to obtain an exemption for his 14-year-old “because he objects to the policy itself,” Hauber said.

One of the youngsters is attending a district-run band camp, but Hauber notes that the camp is not required like school and that it is unclear what the coming months will bring.

The Shawnee Mission district said in a statement that it was pleased with the ruling, writing that Hauber “recognized that the legislature improperly denied due process to school districts that are doing their best to navigate through a difficult and unprecedented public health emergency.”

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News to Know (6/11/21)

JASPER COUNTY, Mo. — Missouri Highway Patrol says a Wichita, man died in a crash involving a semi and MoDot vehicle.  It happened a little after 3:00pm yesterday afternoon on Highway M 10 miles north of Joplin.  Police say 54 year old Bryan Crow’s semi traveled off the right side of the roadway, over corrected then rolled over and struck a MoDot vehicle driven by 52 year old James Lawrence of Alba, Missouri.  Crow was pronounced dead at the scene.  Lawrence was uninjured.

BARRY COUNTY, Mo. – Authorities arrest two suspects in a Barry County, Missouri murder. The suspects are Carlos Gutierrez and Jonathan Marquez. They’re charged with Second Degree murder, First Degree Robbery, and Tampering with Physical Evidence in a felony prosecution in the death of Daylon Anderson. Anderson was found dead from a gunshot wound on May 28th. A third suspect, Dylan Williams, is charged with Second Degree Murder and Armed Criminal Action. Homicide investigation in Barry County

CRAWFORD COUNTY, Kan. – Crawford County, Kansas is ahead of the curve when it comes to coronavirus vaccinations. The Director of the Crawford County Health Department says, 50 percent of the county’s population has been vaccinated against the coronavirus, which is 7% higher than Kansas’ state-wide rate. She credits her team at the health department, as well as those holding vaccination clinics like the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas and local pharmacies. But the director also warns that the pandemic is far from over and even with a promising vaccination rate, Crawford County suffered a covid-19 case spike following Memorial Day. Crawford County Health Department talks vaccination phases

LONDON, U.K. – President Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the leaders of Canada, France, Italy, Germany and Japan kick off their G-7 summit today in the U.K. President Biden has said he intends to strengthen alliances that were tested during President Trump’s time in the White House.

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‘Sunflower-safe’ to provide rebate for safe rooms in homes

TOPEKA, Kan. – Residents can apply for a rebate if they buy and install a residential safe room in their home. But, the deadline is coming up.

The Kansas Division of Emergency Management initiated its Sunflower-safe program in January. Homeowners can apply through July 19, 2021.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) states that safe rooms can provide “near absolute protection” based on current knowledge of tornados and hurricanes. Kansas is offering this rebate program through the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), contingent upon funding, and must comply with all federal grant regulations, to include eligibility of properties and other required documentation.

You can apply here.

The Sunflower-safe rebate program is currently taking applications for homeowners that reside in Kansas. In order to determine eligibility, they ask that you read the program handbook.

Note that eligible applicants are randomly selected as funding becomes available and eligibility does not guarantee funding.

You can learn more here.

  • Provide paid receipts for the installation of residential safe room within the program dates specified by the Recipient/Sub-recipient. Rebate will be paid per safe room address or Lat/Long location and be based upon 75% of the approved costs paid by the Sub-recipient up to a maximum of $3,500, whichever is less.