Kansas News Service

LAWRENCE, Kansas — The dynamics of U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins’ run for re-election continue to shift in the wake of felony charges filed last week after he listed a UPS storefront in Topeka as his address on a voter registration form.

High-profile endorsements quickly gravitated to his top challenger in the Republican primary, Kansas Treasurer Jake LaTurner.

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kris Kobach, a lightning rod throughout his political career, finds himself at the center of a Republican primary battle for the U.S. Senate. That includes independent groups spending millions on ads for and against him.

LAWRENCE, Kansas — As an inmate at the Wichita Work Release Facility with only a few months left on his sentence, Timothy Lesher enjoyed freedoms that many in prison don’t. He was a line cook at a Wichita restaurant and bought saline solution from Walmart to clean his CPAP machine, which helps him breathe at night.

WICHITA, Kansas — Fearing what the coronavirus might do to the power industry, six electric cooperatives in Kansas applied and received up to $20 million total in loans as part of the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

“It looked pretty bleak,” said Doug Jackson, the general manager of Rolling Hills Electric Coop based in Beloit. It received $1.19 million to help sustain 42 full-time employees.

Just weeks before his first primary to defend his congressional seat, U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins is facing multiple charges stemming from him registering to vote using the address of a UPS storefront.

The charges were filed Tuesday before the freshman Republican appeared in a debate with two GOP challengers.

LAWRENCE, Kansas — Freshman U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins is in two unusual situations: His re-election bid for the 2nd Congressional District seat is being complicated by two primary challengers and opposition from some in the GOP establishment.

But Watkins is also charged with three felonies related to registering to vote using a Topeka UPS store as his address.

WICHITA, Kansas — Jennifer Mathes kept her expectations for the spring low.

A sudden, pandemic-driven shift from classrooms to online instruction was bound to throw the Blue Valley school district a curve. That would be a loss for the quality of teaching she could expect for her daughter.

But for the fall?

LAWRENCE, Kansas — The state of Kansas has settled a class-action lawsuit with attorneys who represent Kansas foster children.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that Kansas has been added to the state’s travel advisory, along with Oklahoma, Delaware and 16 other states previously on their list.

Anyone traveling to New York from Kansas must quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — Four Republicans and two Democrats are running for Kansas’ 1st Congressional District seat. It’s open because Republican U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall hopes to win the  U.S. Senate seat held by Pat Roberts, who is retiring.

As the 2020 election season approaches, KMUW's Election Blueprint will bring you the news and information you need to be an informed and engaged voter. This first video addresses how to check your voter registration status, how to update your registration, and how to register.

Here are some helpful links:

WICHITA, Kansas — A month ago, the University of Kansas Hospital had as few as nine of its beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. Now, it’s about twice that.

When the coronavirus-driven statewide shutdown began to go away in mid-May, clinicians in Kansas were confirming about 100 new infections a day. Now, that number has tripled.

Virtually everyone in Kansas is under an order to wear masks when they’re in public starting Friday.

Yet the executive order, officially issued by Gov. Laura Kelly on Thursday, comes with exceptions.

A Miami entrepreneur who led a rural hospital empire was charged in an indictment unsealed Monday in what federal prosecutors called a $1.4 billion fraudulent lab-billing scheme.

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansans from Liberal to Leavenworth will need to wear a mask in public starting Friday.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly said she will issue a new executive order later this week requiring masks. While the State Finance Council will review the order — a Republican-majority panel of legislators that she has clashed with during the pandemic — they cannot revoke it. Only the full Legislature has the ability to do that with a concurrent resolution Kelly's office said.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday striking down a Louisiana abortion restriction means similar provisions in Missouri and Kansas are no longer enforceable.

In a 5-4 decision, the court found unconstitutional a Louisiana law that requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Had the court upheld the Louisiana law, the state would have been left with just one abortion clinic.

Fifty-two University of Kansas department chairs have signed a letter challenging the school’s requirement that most classes this fall be offered in person. The faculty members insist they should have the option of teaching online.

The letter, addressed to Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer, was sent after Chancellor Douglas Girod announced last week that KU would hold in-person classes starting on Aug. 24 as part of a shortened semester ending before Thanksgiving. Students will be encouraged to leave the campus after the holiday to minimize the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus.

TOPEKA, Kansas — Facing the prospect of standing in line at polling places amid the coronavirus pandemic, requests from Kansans for mail ballots continue to come in at a record clip.

As of June 17, more than 142,000 Kansans had filed applications for advance ballots for the Aug. 4 primary. That far exceeds the 54,000 requested at the same point in the last presidential election year.

The Netflix show "Tiger King" caught the attention of millions of viewers back in March. The “murder, mayhem and madness” suggested in its subtitle collided in a human train wreck of a drama — but it got Steve Klein’s attention for a different reason.

TOPEKA, Kansas — The head of the agency that’s overseeing Kansas’ response to historic unemployment rates during the coronavirus pandemic resigned Monday.

Governor Laura Kelly said in a statement that Kansas Department of Labor Secretary Delía García “inherited an agency that had its funding, its technology and its staff gutted by the previous administration."

She did not say whether García’s resignation was requested, and at a news conference later Monday, she said: “I met with Secretary Garcia Sunday night, and she offered her resignation and I accepted it.”

Amid a pandemic that has slowed efforts to count Americans, more than a third of Kansas households haven’t yet responded to the U.S. Census.

In some counties, especially in rural areas, less than half of the population has filled out the forms that help steer billions in federal dollars and resources to the state each year.

LAWRENCE, Kansas — Activists and citizens from Dodge City to the Kansas City suburbs are reconsidering the involvement of police in their communities — including whether officers should continue to help respond to mental health crises.

The Kansas Board of Regents approved tuition hikes for four state universities, while the University of Kansas and Kansas State University held their tuition flat.

KU announced its plans not to raise tuition last month, saying the school needs to stay competitive. But it also said it wasn't right to raise tuition as students and their families deal with lost jobs and income caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

K-State gave similar reasons.

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas officials will distribute $1 billion of federal aid to help cope with the fallout caused by the coronavirus, but Republicans and the Democratic governor disagreed on where some of the initial funding should go — to the unemployed? to businesses? to private universities?

Gov. Laura Kelly and the legislative leaders that make up the State Finance Council met this week and are targeting local governments with the first $400 million going toward health care needs, like county health departments, protective equipment or other coronavirus-related costs.

Two men convicted of the rape and murder of Kansas children more than two decades ago are among four men scheduled to be put to death in the first federal executions scheduled to take place in 17 years.

WICHITA, Kansas — At the beginning of the year, independent consulting firm London Economics released a study of Kansas electric rates — how they’re developed, why they’re more expensive than neighboring states and some suggestions on how to change that.

Legislators seemed poised to act on some of the recommendations until the coronavirus struck and shortened their session by several weeks. Some consumer and environmental advocates say the abrupt stop cut the time and energy given to critical policy aimed at reducing your utility bills.

COUNCIL GROVE, Kansas — Cornell University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and 30 other schools owe at least part of their existence to land taken from Kansas’ indigenous people.

As demonstrations against police brutality and racism have rocked the world, some Kansans have protested in hopes of pushing reforms at home.

Since Memorial Day, thousands of people have attended rallies and marches across the state, from Garden City to Kansas City, protesting the deaths of George Floyd and other black people at the hands of the police.

And like many other communities in the U.S., Kansas activists and law enforcement are taking another look at policing in their communities.

Corinne Boyer / Kansas News Service

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — A legal dispute between two business partners has stalled the construction of a sports complex partially funded by $25.4 million in sales tax money.

That fight over finances, and the pending lawsuit it spawned, could jeopardize the completion of Sports of the World. The project is financed by Kansas Sales Tax Revenue Bonds, or STAR bonds, and championed as a regional tourist draw for western Kansas.

The Kansas Board of Regents met with Wichita State University President Jay Golden on Wednesday, but took no action over the furor caused by Golden removing a prerecorded message by Ivanka Trump from WSU Tech’s commencement ceremony.

The Regents spent more than four hours in executive session with Golden. They then adjourned and directed people watching the virtual meeting to a statement.

The statement read:

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