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Nick’s Picks | Masks on Trial in Missouri

Your Guide to the Week Ahead in News

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Above image credit: "Kansas City Week in Review" host Nick Haines. (John McGrath | Flatland)

Can school districts require their students to wear masks? It’s a question that will be tested in a Missouri courtroom this week. 

A circuit court judge on Tuesday will hear arguments in a lawsuit filed by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt.

Schmitt claims “forcing children to wear masks in school all day flies in the face of science and could hinder crucial development by eliminating facial cues and expressions.”

Gas Pains

If you buy gas in Missouri, you may notice a bump in prices at the pump this week.

A new 12-cent increase in the Missouri gas tax kicks in on Friday. But Missouri lawmakers decided to phase-in the increase, so this week you’ll only have to pay an extra nickel per gallon.

Missouri currently has the second lowest gas tax in the nation, after Alaska.

This new tax is expected to bring in $500 million a year to help improve the state’s highways and bridges.

By the way, there is a way for you to avoid paying the extra tax altogether.

Under the new law, you can get a 100% rebate if you keep your receipts. The state Department of Revenue will release a rebate form shortly. 

By the way, you don’t have to live in Missouri to qualify for a refund check. Kansas drivers are also eligible for the rebate program.

Missouri Medicaid Expansion 

It’s been one delay after another when it comes to implementing Medicaid expansion in Missouri. Now, nearly 14 months after voters approved the measure, the state is finally opening up enrollment. 

Sign-ups start this Friday for an estimated 275,000 low-income Missourians. 

You have to earn less than $18,000 a year to qualify for the health benefits. 

Initially, state lawmakers said there was no money to fund the measure and battled its implementation in court. 

More recently, state officials say training and computer changes delayed enrollment.

For more information about how to apply, visit https://mydss.mo.gov/healthcare/apply

Government Shutdown? 

Are we about to experience another federal government shutdown?

It could happen if a budget deal isn’t reached by the stroke of midnight on Thursday.

President Joe Biden has vowed to avoid a shutdown, but passing the budget has been entangled in debates over raising the nation’s debt ceiling and a White House push to pass a $3.5 trillion economic rebuilding plan.

Kansas City’s largest employer is the federal government, so any temporary closing of federal agencies will be felt here. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 28,000 federal workers call Kansas City home.

They work in dozens of agencies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the IRS.

City Hall Watch

The Kansas City, Missouri, City Council is set to weigh-in on a number of hot-button issues this week.

KCI: Topping the agenda is finding agreement on a contractor to run food, drink and retail concessions at the new-look Kansas City International Airport. A recommendation to hand the contract to a Canadian company has been met with accusations of secrecy and unfairness. And last week, Chick-fil-A was dumped from the project after pushback over its donations to groups perceived by some as anti-LGBTQ.

Housing: The influential renter’s advocacy group, KC Tenants, is putting more pressure on the city. They’re demanding a meeting this week with the City Manager. They want him to launch an audit into how the city has spent its rental assistance money. The group is also calling for the city to initiate a cap on rent increases. In April, a report released by Apartment Guide, claimed one-bedroom rentals in Kansas City jumped 33.5%. That was the biggest increase among the 100 largest cities in America.

Redistricting: On Wednesday, a newly formed Kansas City Redistricting Commission will meet. Up for consideration is a proposal to ditch the current six council districts and replace them with 12 smaller council seats. Currently, half the council serves “at-large.” In other words, all voters get to choose them. That would disappear under the plan. It’s thought the change will make it easier to put together a Latino-majority district and also help the Northland, which would likely see expanded representation. 

You can watch the weekly redistricting commission meetings live on the city’s YouTube channel. Meetings are held Wednesday afternoon from 4-6 p.m.

City Hall
It’s a busy week at City Hall. (File photo).

Vaccine Card to Get a Drink

This might be a first for an outdoor event in Kansas City, but organizers of this weekend’s Oktoberfest at Crown Center are requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to get in.

What’s curious is that there were close to 80,000 Chiefs fans at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday and no masks or vaccines were required. 

So what’s the difference? 

Both events take place outdoors. And while Oktoberfest will see copious amounts of alcohol being consumed, there’s no shortage of beer and other adult beverages being guzzled at Arrowhead.

The only explanation comes from the top of the Oktoberfest website that states, “the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the Kansas City area has caused wellness concerns among our staff, volunteers and vendors.”

The two-day event starts on Saturday. 

Ghost Stories

No proof of vaccination is required to sit on a chair on the south lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art this week. 

That’s the setting for the latest production of the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. 

Though it may be more than 90 degrees outside, The Rep wants to send a cold shiver down your spine as they present, “Ghost Light: A Haunted Night of Songs and Stories.” 

According to The Rep, you should, “Come ready to have your imagination transported by original songs and new versions of traditional ghost stories created just for the evening by some of KC’s most compelling storytellers and musicians.”

This is not a free event. In fact, tickets cost $30. But when the event was announced last year, every ticket sold out in a matter of hours.

So if this is of interest to you, get in quick. The first show is this Thursday night. It runs through Oct. 17. 

Royals

If you haven’t taken in a game at Kauffman Stadium this year, time is running out.

This Sunday is the last game of the season.

The Royals take on the Twins in the season-ender Sunday at 2:10 p.m. 

Kauffman Stadium
The Kansas City Royals close out the 2021 season this Sunday at Kauffman Stadium. (Contributed)

‘Happiest Place on Earth’

It may not seem like “the happiest place on earth” when you’ve been waiting more than an hour to get on a ride, but Disney World is celebrating its 50th birthday this week. 

The park opened on Oct. 1, 1971. That makes this Friday the official 50th anniversary day. 

Back then, tickets cost $3.50 for adults. Kids under 12 paid $1.

Times have definitely changed.

The cheapest one-day pass you can buy today is $109.  But there is a discount for kids under 10. They only pay $104 each!

Can you think of a place that makes you just as “happy” without the $100 price tag?

Nick Haines dissects the week’s most impactful local news stories, Fridays at 7:30 p.m. on Kansas City PBS.

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