Friday, April 30, 2010

Accused killer of Carthage couple has probation revoked

Barton County Circuit Court Judge Charles Curless has revoked the probation of one of the two men accused of murdering Bob and Ellen Sheldon of Carthage in October 2008.

According to online court records, Curless sentenced Darren Winans, 22, Jasper, to serve the remainder of his five-year sentence on a felony charge of stealing a motor vehicle. Winans had served only four months of the sentence before being released on probation just two months before the Sheldons, owners of the Old Cabin Shop in Carthage, were murdered.

Winans is scheduled to go to trial March 30, 2011, in Jasper County Circuit Court, on two charges of first degree murder, two counts of armed criminal action, and a single count of burglary.

In previous Turner Report posts, it has been noted that the murders were not the first reported probation violations against Winans. From the Sept. 1, 2009, Turner Report:

An examination of Winans' records indicate that at the time he is alleged to have murdered the Sheldons, he should have been behind bars, since he has a history of probation violations.

Winans pleaded guilty in Barton County Circuit Court March 21, 2006, to stealing a motor vehicle and was sentenced to five years in prison by Judge Charles Curless. At that point, the sentence was suspended and Winans was placed on supervised probation for five years.

His first probation violation was reported Nov. 3, 2006. At a hearing 11 days later, Judge Curless continued the probation. The next violation was filed Jan. 2, 2008, and another filed Jan. 30. No hearing was held for the first violation. The second violation appears to be his arrest on drug charges in Jasper County. Judge Richard Copeland signed off on a deal that let Winans plead guilty to a misdemeanor and sentenced Winans to one year in the county jail, then suspended the sentence and placed him on unsupervised probation for a year. After that, a probation violating hearing was held in Barton County where Curless sentenced Winans to prison for five years, but kept the case on a 120-day callback. Winans' prison stay began May 1, according to court records, and concluded Aug. 28, six weeks and two days before the Sheldons were murdered.

Winans' next probation violation was reported three days after the murder, according to court records, with two more violations reported Oct. 30 and Dec. 9. The records do not indicate that hearings were scheduled for any of the three alleged violations.

In the meantime, Jasper County Circuit Court records show Winans' "ex-spouse" asked for a child protection order to be issued May 19. During a May 27 hearing, Winans denied her allegations, but Judge Stephen Carlton issued the full order of protection. Whatever the allegations were, online records do not show that any probation violation was filed.

Salazar murder case to be held in Jasper County

Judge Gayle Crane overruled a motion for a change of venue in the murder case against Eddie Salazar, Carthage, so the trial will be held in Jasper County.

A hearing to set the trial date has been scheduled for 9 a.m. June 21.

Salazar is accused of killing his eight-month-old son, Eddie Salazar Jr., whose body was found in February in Spring River. The autopsy determined the infant died from blunt force head trauma.

Jetton trial date to be set May 11

A hearing to set the trial date for former Speaker of the House Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, will be held 10 a.m. Tuesday, May 11, in New Madrid County Circuit Court, where the case is being tried on a change of venue from Scott County.

Jetton is charged with second degree assault in connection with alleged rough sex with a Sikeston woman on Nov. 15.

Cameras to be in courtroom for Pete Newman sentencing

When former Kanakuk Kamp director Pete Newman is sentenced during a 9 a.m. June 9 hearing in Taney County Circuit Court, it appears television cameras will chronicle the event.

Online court records indicate Judge Mark Orr issued an order Wednesday allowing media coverage.

Newman pleaded guilty to numerous sex crimes involving underage boys.

Hartzler: Skelton dropped ball on Fort Hood probe

In a news release issued today, Fourth District Congressional candidate Vicky Hartzler, a former Republican state representative, charged Congressman Ike Skelton with dropping the ball and protecting President Obama when it comes to the investigation of the shooting of soldiers at Fort Hood:

GOP congressional candidate Vicky Hartzler said today that 17-term Democrat Ike Skelton should call on President Obama to stop stonewalling the bipartisan Senate probe of failures that led to the massacre of American soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas. Hartzler is seeking the Republican nomination to the U.S. House for Missouri’s Fourth District.
Army Major Nidal Hasan is in custody and under charge in the shooting rampage at Fort Hood in November 2009. His past associations with radical Islamic teaching were quickly discovered by the news media.
Hartzler said: “This liberal Congress is failing at many of the most basic jobs, including strong oversight of the Obama Administration. This must change, and Senator Collins and Senator Lieberman now are pressing the Administration hard for information that Congress obviously must have about Fort Hood. They now have been forced by the Administration’s indifferent silence to proceed to a subpoena. I call on Mr. Skelton to help them by endorsing this bipartisan insistence on knowing all the facts, and by his prompt demand that the White House stop the stonewalling.
“Many of us hoped for more from Mr. Skelton than he provided at his House hearing in January. The House hearing was notable mainly for reciting what everybody knew – that ‘mistakes were made,’ as they say in Bureaucrat Land, and changes would be made or attempted. The House hearing also provided the Administration with a launching pad for the rightly criticized West-Clark report, which spent a ton of time on trying to not address the issue of radical Islamic terrorism in the United States.
“The safety of the dedicated men and women serving our country and their families living on our military installations is a priority to me and of the people of the Fourth District.  Those who sign on to defend our country need to know that their best interests are being protected by their superiors and that all steps are being taken to ensure their safety.  We need to know what went wrong at Ft. Hood in order to ensure that a similar tragedy does not occur elsewhere.
“I truly hope Mr. Skelton will step up and do two things, now that the Obama Administration has clearly failed any test of reasonable patience. First, I call on him to state his support for the Collins-Lieberman subpoenas and their insistence on the complete facts about Fort Hood. Second, I call on him to tell his White House that oversight and accountability are real, and that we expect and deserve an end to stonewalling on Fort Hood. If Skelton believes the Administration’s is right to refuse to provide this information to Congress, I assume he will tell us why.”

Crowell: A thank you to our teachers

In his latest Crowell Connection, Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, expresses his appreciation of teachers:

Next Wednesday, May 5, is Teacher Appreciation Day.  I hope you will join me in thanking a teacher.  Teachers are the backbone of our schools.  They are the ones who teach our students the lessons that will benefit them for the rest of their lives and expect more of us than we expect of ourselves. 
          Our schools could not be successful without the time and efforts of our teachers. 
          “Thank you” are the two most powerful words anyone can say to another.  I hope you will join me on May 5th in thanking a teacher, and I hope you will continue to join me throughout the year in saying, “thank you”.
Here are some ways that you can say “thank you” to a teacher:
·        Put flowers, snacks, and gourmet coffees and teas in the teachers’ lounge during Teacher Appreciation Week.
·        Ask each teacher what his or her favorite book is and donate a copy to the school library.
·        Give teachers the gift of time by organizing volunteers to help out in classrooms throughout the year.
·        A hand-written thank you note or personal visit to a teacher can make a significant difference in their day.
·        Make sure teachers hear the value of their work from the students themselves. Encourage current students you know to share their thanks.
More ideas are available at

Blame it on the teachers

Every evil that faces the United States can be laid at the doorstep of public schoolteachers.

It hurts to write those words, since I have had the privilege of teaching in public schools for the past 11 years, but a thorough examination of the legislation that has been passed, both on the state and federal levels over the past couple of decades can lead to no other conclusion.

Federal programs such as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top target the classroom teacher when students fail to achieve at a certain level.

Undeniably, the classroom teacher is the most important ingredient in the educational recipe, but I have yet to see any of the other important contributors to children’s success even addressed. Apparently, such factors as poverty and poor parenting should not even be considered. The 50 minutes a classroom teacher has the student each day (if the student is able to make it to school, or shows up for the class) outweighs any other factor that might keep a child from learning.

When someone dares mention that these conditions play a role in the child’s education, he is immediately slammed as a slacker who is trying to avoid taking responsibility. Then someone will find one of those rare poverty area schools where test scores are above average and use it to show that it is indeed the teachers who are at fault.

What I have always found fascinating is that, despite the seeming contempt legislators have for classroom teachers, every time there is some public crisis that needs to be addressed, it is thrown to the teachers to handle.

The most obvious example of that has been sex education, where educators are supposed to overcome the home and cultural environments to teach about sex (or not having sex, as the case may be).
And now the latest cause du jour is bullying.

You won’t find a classroom teacher anywhere who is in favor of bullies, but apparently legislators think the responsibility for curbing the problem is another one that should be handed to teachers.

That is the case in Massachusetts, where the legislature unanimously passed a bill this week, which calls for a massive crackdown on school bullying, following the suicides of two students.

The bill calls for each incident of bullying to be reported. No problem there. That is being done in most school districts on an everyday basis.

This bill, however, goes far beyond having teachers and administrators control what is going on in their buildings. Consider this passage from this morning’s Boston Globe article:

The bill defines bullying as repeated acts that cause physical or emotional harm, place students “in reasonable fear of harm,’’ or create an “unwelcoming or hostile environment at school for another person.’’

It prohibits bullying on school grounds, on school buses, at school-sponsored activities, and through electronic communications. Bullying via e-mail or social networking sites such as Facebook would fall under the purview of the schools when it creates a hostile school environment, legislators said.

So now, teachers are going to be asked to be responsible for children’s behavior at home?
One more time, legislators have taken the easy way out. They have taken another societal problem, handed it to the teachers, and now they can pat themselves on the back and get back to the regular business of blaming those same teachers for low test scores.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Nodler: Workers Memorial Day

In this week's report, Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, pays tribute to Missouri workers who were killed on the job:

Recently, many of us watched the tragedy of America’s worst coal mine accident in four decades unfold in West Virginia.  There were 29 victims in that disaster and the entire country mourned the loss.  While not of this magnitude, some Missouri families have also experienced the tragedy of losing a loved one who was killed while working on the job, and we honored those lives this week. 
Lawmakers, the Missouri Labor Department, and families joined together on the Capitol lawn to remember Missouri workers who have been killed on the job.  “Workers Memorial Day” recognizes workers who have been killed or injured while working.  In 2009, more than 109,000 Missouri workers were injured and 116 lost their lives in the workplace.
Family members of the deceased workers from throughout the state received special recognition at the Capitol.  I presented Missouri flags to the families of three local workers.  Andrew Wade of Seneca, Robert Warren of Joplin, and Jesse Collier of Neosho lost their lives while doing their jobs.  You can see a tribute to them as well as other Missourians who died at the workplace by visiting
Workers Memorial Day was first observed April 28, 1989.  The date is particularly important because it also observes the anniversary of the creation of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the U.S. Department of Labor. Every year on this day, hundreds of communities and work sites throughout the nation recognize workers who have been killed or injured on the job.
Workers Memorial Day also promotes workplace safety.  The state of Missouri has resources to help Missouri employers keep their businesses safe.  The Division of Labor Standards’ On-Site Safety and Health Consultation Program is a free and confidential service to help Missouri employers comply with federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations. Safer workplace practices can lead to lower workers compensation insurance costs and can help improve attendance, productivity and morale. More information on the program is available by visiting
On average, 16 workers in the U.S. die each day from injuries sustained at work.  These deaths are tragic and, often times can be prevented.  I encourage everyone in the 32nd Senatorial District to take the time to focus on workplace safety this week—your efforts could save lives. 

Humphreys contributes a quarter of a million in effort to scrap Missouri's judicial selection plan

It has been couched as an effort to bring democracy to the process of choosing judges in Missouri, but the forces who are attempting to scrap Missouri's much-praised judicial selection process seem to be the kind who are willing to spend every dollar to mold our courts into the best (for them) money can buy.

With his $100,000 contribution to Show Me Better Courts Wednesday, David Humphreys of TAMKO in Joplin has now contributed a quarter of a million dollars to the effort, according to Missouri Ethics Commission records.

The group has received $300,000 in oversized contributions from the Better Courts for Missouri group in the last few days, according to the Ethics Commission documents, which is interesting since the last time the group filed anything but a limited activity report with the Commission, it showed $28.05 on cent.

No oversized contributions have been received in recent months, according to the Commission documents, so where did the $300,000 come from?

On Better Courts for Missouri's website, the following passage can be found:

Every Missourian is harmed when government does its business behind closed doors. Unfortunately, the judges that decide our most important cases are currently selected by a Commission that conducts every aspect of its business in absolute secrecy, allowing special interest groups and corruption to take hold. We believe the same open records laws that apply to the rest of government should apply to the Commission that selects judges.

I would counter that every Missourian is harmed when efforts to dismantle our government go on behind closed doors, headed by the very businesspeople who would benefit from that dismantling.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Crime Scene blog: Pete Newman sentencing postponed

The sentencing of former Kanakuk Kamp director Pete Newman on sex charges involving underage boys has been postponed, and as you might expect, it is Newman's side that asked for the delay.

The Crime Scene Blog reports a witness for the defense was unable to make it to the scheduled hearing, which was originally scheduled for Friday in Taney County Circuit Court. The hearing is now set for June 9:

Previous Turner Report posts on the case can be found at this link.

Globe discovers Kennedy named CNHI Journalist of the Year

The Joplin Globe has posted a story today about veteran reporter Wally Kennedy being named CNHI Journalist of the Year.

Didn't I read that somewhere else three days ago?

KODE unveils new set

KODE unveiled its state-of-the-art set tonight, devoting a couple of segments of its 10 p.m. newscast to the change.

The set is a bit overwhelming, but immediately provides a much brighter look to the newscasts, and seems guaranteed to energize the staff.

The set goes along with the more energetic production KODE has had in recent months and should  help showcase the positive changes the station has made.

I didn't catch the entire flashback to past KODE newscasts, but I did hear a fond reference to the late Bob Phillips and caught a glimpse of former anchor Tracy Stark and sportscaster Russ Riesinger in the clips that were shown.

With the combination of young and veteran reporters KODE has, I would love to see the station take a few chances with its coverage and distinguish itself from its sister station KSNF. Perhaps some longer , more detailed looks at some of the news events and issues that are being covered.

With the combination of strong reporting and 21st century graphics, plus the energy KODE has, it has an opportunity to bring a new style of television journalism to the four-state area.

The packaging is there and the product has been on a sharp upward incline for the past several months. I look forward to watching the next chapter in KODE News  history unfold.

Goodman touts bill allowing pregnant women to use deadly force

The way Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, a candidate for Seventh District Congress, makes it sound, his successful stewardship of HB 2081, which allows pregnant women to use deadly force to protect themselves is landmark civil rights legislation.

To me, it sounds suspiciously like yet another unnecessary bit of election year legislation. From his news release:

Senator Jack Goodman (R-Mt. Vernon) today played a major role in passing a bill that allows Missouri mothers to protect their unborn children from violence without fear of legal repercussions.
Senator Goodman handled HB 2081 in the Senate, a bill that permits any pregnant woman to use deadly force to protect her unborn child from attack. The bill stems from the case of a pregnant woman in Michigan who was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to prison time after using deadly force to defend her unborn baby against her boyfriend who was repeatedly punching her in the abdomen. The case was eventually overturned, but HB 2081 is a proactive attempt to guarantee that mothers in Missouri may defend their babies from an attack. 
“Fear of criminal prosecution should not prevent women from using full force to defend their unborn children,” Sen. Goodman said. “This important legislation ensures that Missouri mothers have an undeniable right under the law to protect themselves and their babies from violence.”
House Bill 2081 now awaits the governor’s signature before it will be enacted into law on Aug. 28, 2010.

Missouri GOP tags Carnahan as "Rubberstamp Robin"

Now that the disbanded ACORN doesn't seem to be much of a campaign issue any more, the Missouri Republican Party has labeled Senate candidate Robin Carnahan as "Rubberstamp Robin," assuming that Missourians are going to vote against anything associated with Barack Obama. The following news release was issued:

One day after more than 1,100 patriotic Americans rallied against his job-killing, big-government policies at the Stand Up for Freedom rally in Macon, Barack Obama heaped praise on Robin Carnahan during their joint appearance in Northern Missouri.
For Obama, politics came before jobs at today's campaign-style event. Obama praised Robin Carnahan, calling her “one of my favorite people” and saying that she would make an “outstanding” U.S. Senator. (Translation: Obama knows that Carnahan would be an automatic vote as he attempts to enact his radical liberal agenda, including a job-killing cap and trade national energy tax.)
“It’s not surprising that President Obama thinks Robin Carnahan is one of his ‘favorite people,’” said Lloyd Smith, Executive Director of the Missouri Republican Party. “After all, Carnahan has given her rubberstamp support to every major component of Obama’s job-killing, big-government agenda—including the government takeover of health care, the failed stimulus bill, the devastating cap-and-tax energy scheme, and the transfer of some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists to American soil. Carnahan would remain one of Barack Obama's favorite people if she goes back to Washington, DC, to advance the radical agenda of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barack Obama.”
It’s no wonder Obama calls Carnahan one of his “favorite people:”

  • Carnahan donated money to his 2004 campaign for U.S. Senate (FEC Records)

  • Carnahan threw her “complete support” behind Obama’s presidential campaign in June 2008

    • AP, June 4, 2008: [Carnahan said] Obama has her “complete support” and will receive her vote as a super delegate at the Democratic National Convention.

  • Carnahan campaigned with Obama in Rolla, MO in July 2008 (The Daily Guide, July 31, 2008)

  • Carnahan campaigned with Obama in St Louis in August 2008 (Post-Dispatch, August 19, 2008)

  • Carnahan attended an event with Obama marking his first 100 days in office.

    • Obama: Carnahan is “somebody I think may turn out to be pretty good in Washington.” (Video)

  • Carnahan benefited from a fundraiser headlined by Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel in June 2009 (Post-Dispatch, June 15, 2009)

  • Carnahan benefited from a fundraiser with Vice President Joe Biden in October 2009 (Post-Dispatch, October 13, 2009)

Carnahan has announced that she would rubber stamp every major component of the Obama agenda:

  • Carnahan would rubber stamp the health care bill

    • Carnahan: “this legislation takes important steps…” (Carnahan statement, December 24, 2009)

  • Carnahan would rubber stamp the public option

    • St Louis Beacon, November 11, 2009: Robin Carnahan reaffirmed her support Wednesday for some sort of a public option when it comes to health-care coverage. "I'm less concerned about what we call it, than what it does," said Carnahan during a brief interview

  • Carnahan would rubber stamp the so-called stimulus bill

    • Carnahan: “I don’t think it was an option to do nothing… People who kept saying no to everything … don’t have a lot of credibility on this stuff.” (Post-Dispatch, March 7, 2009)

  • Carnahan would rubber stamp cap-and-tax

    • Columbia Missourian, July 21, 2009: Carnahan said she could "support some kind of cap-and-trade" energy policy

  • Carnahan would rubber stamp card-check

    • St Louis Beacon, April 21, 2009: "Robin is supportive'' of the Employee Free Choice Act,'' said campaign spokesman Tony Wyche.

  • Carnahan would rubber stamp the closure of Guantanamo Bay

    • Carnahan: “The Guantanamo Bay issue is one that we really need to get past. It has been used according to military experts, as a recruiting tool to get more terrorists to attack us, and so we need to do things that reflect our values. One of those is not to have these kind of off-shore prisons.” (Springfield News-Leader, February 7, 2010)

Blunt to appear on KZRG Morning Newswatch Thursday

Seventh District Congressman and U. S. Senate candidate Roy Blunt will be on KZRG's Morning Newswatch 7:10 a.m. Thursday.

According to KZRG, Blunt will discuss "immigration, health care, and more."

Ruestman defends School Construction Act

The latest Ruestman Report features Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, defending her School Construction Act:

I’ve recently come under attack from a Kansas City labor union for a bill I’m sponsoring that would lower your taxes and help our schools.  They claim I support the hiring of illegal immigrants to work on our school buildings.  Not only have I been a strong advocate of ending our illegal immigration problem, I cosponsored the toughest immigration reform in Missouri, House Bill 1549

In 2008, HB 1549 was passed and signed into law creating the strictest immigration policy Missouri has ever had.  I cosponsored it and I voted for it.  Among other things, it provided for the following:

Allowed the Highway Patrol to dedicate specific patrolmen to be trained in enforcing federal immigration laws;
Prohibited any county, city, town or village from enacting sanctuary policies.  Any municipality that does so would be ineligible to receive state grant money;
Illegal aliens are prohibited from receiving any state or local public benefits;
Requires certain employers to e-verify citizenship status of employees;
Prohibits the Department of Revenue from issuing drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens and does not recognize licenses issued to illegal aliens from other states.
Denies illegal immigrants bail;
Created the crime of transporting illegal aliens; and,
Requires arresting law enforcement agencies to verify the immigration status of a person charged with a crime.

The School Construction Act, HB 1960, allows school districts to opt out of mandated wage requirements.  Labor unions are fighting this bill because their prevailing wage law artificially inflates wages to their benefit.  This bill supports free enterprise solutions for our schools in this time of budget constraints, by reducing the cost of constructing new buildings.  It allows local construction companies to bid and consequently hire more local workers, create more competition and reduce construction costs on a taxpayer-funded project.

My record stands for itself.  There is no reason to believe this bill would cause an influx of illegal immigrant workers.  Beyond that, it is a violation of state and federal laws to hire an illegal immigrant!  Laws are in place to prevent such things from happening and inspections abound.

The School Construction Act would allow schools to decrease the costs of school buildings by up to 25% and save YOU, the taxpayer, money!  It would allow more projects to go forward in this poor economy which would create jobs!  Perhaps it is that the labor unions support higher taxes and fewer jobs?  Why is a Kansas City labor union worried about rural school districts saving some money?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

McCaskill rips into "Wild West gamblers" during opening of Goldman Sachs hearing

Blunt addresses anti-Obama tea party rally in Macon

Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt was among those addressing an anti-Obama, tea party rally in Macon today, on the same day the president is in Missouri. From the GOP news release:

More than 1,100 tea party patriots and concerned Missourians rallied for freedom in Macon on Tuesday—just down the road from the site of President Barack Obama’s visit.
Several special guests addressed the Stand Up Missouri Rally, including Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer, Congressman Roy Blunt, Carl Bearden, state director of Americans for Prosperity-Missouri, former State Rep. John Loudon, and conservative activist Paul Curtman.
 “Our common concern is that the country is literally being bankrupted by foolish ideas,” said Cindy O’Laughlin, an organizer of the rally. “Tonight, people from all around Missouri have spoken—and we are upset with the direction of this county!  More than 1,100 people made our voices heard loud and clear, and Barack Obama can certainly hear us now!”
Speakers took issue with the Washington Democrat agenda—particularly the cap-and-tax energy scheme that would devastate rural Missouri.
 “People are fed up with President Obama’s job-killing, big-government agenda.  He would know that if he stopped long enough to listen to the concerns of real Americans,” said Lloyd Smith, Executive Director of the Missouri Republican Party. “It’s time to bring sanity back to Washington, DC—stop runaway spending, stop the government power grabs, stop the proposed tax increases that will hurt families and cripple businesses.  Until he does this, President Obama will be met with overwhelming opposition, and demonstrations like the StandUp Missouri Rally, wherever he goes.”

Goodman: The harmful effects of gambling and okaying deadly force for pregnant women

In his latest report, Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, a candidate for Seventh District Congress, advocates allowing pregnant women to use deadly force when in danger, something that seems to be a bit of a waste of time since they already can, and limiting the extension of gambling in Missouri, an issue on which I agree with him. Of course, it is also an issue that is a favorite of Branson interests, who would be competing against any casinos established in that area:

While the budget has been the primary focus of the 2010 legislative session so far, your Legislature is still working to address other important issues for Missouri families. Last week, the Senate General Laws Committee, which I chair, advanced two bills that I strongly support.

The first is House Bill 2081, a measure I will be handling in the Senate. This legislation would allow any pregnant woman to use deadly force to protect her unborn child. In instances where a woman and her unborn baby are seriously threatened, fear of criminal prosecution should not prevent the woman from defending herself and her child.
The bill stems from the case of a pregnant woman in Michigan who was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to prison time after using deadly force to defend her unborn baby against her boyfriend who was repeatedly punching her in the stomach. Though the case was eventually overturned, we should take proactive steps to guarantee that mothers in Missouri may defend their babies from attack.  This important legislation would make that right crystal clear in state law.
I am determined to make swift progress on this bill to ensure it has time to be discussed on the Senate floor and given an opportunity to receive a vote. The General Laws Committee received the bill on April 20, and I scheduled a public hearing for the next day, April 21. Shortly after the hearing, the committee voted to pass the bill, sending it to the Senate floor the same day. With only three weeks left in the legislative session, there is no time to lose. 
Last week, I also amended a bill to include a provision that would help limit the expansion of gambling in Missouri. Essentially, my amendment to HB 1893 would make it more difficult for the Missouri Gaming Commission to quickly issue a license for a new gambling boat in our state. Prior to any new gaming license being considered, the commission would be required to conduct a comprehensive study to determine the economic and financial impact of issuing an additional gaming license. The commission should consider these findings before determining whether an additional license should be issued.
Missouri must strongly regulate and restrict the growth of the gambling industry, particularly in these uncertain economic times. Gambling can have potentially destabilizing effects on local economies, as well as disastrous consequences for individuals and families, so I hope that my colleagues in the Legislature will seriously consider this bill when it comes to the Senate floor.

House members return ethics bill to debate calendar

Fifty-six Democrats and three Republicans moved ethics legislation back to the House floor today, thwarting the efforts of House GOP leaders to kill any bill that would restore campaign contribution limits. From a Democratic party news release:
One day after Republicans on the House Rules Committee on a straight party-line vote sent an important bipartisan ethics reform bill back to another committee to be gutted of meaningful provisions, 59 state representatives exercised their constitutional authority to move the bill to the House debate calendar.
Fifty-six Democrats and three Republicans signed a petition to strip the House Special Committee on Government Accountability and Ethics Reform of further consideration of Senate Bill 577, which the committee previously approved on a 12-0 vote on April 13. The Senate unanimously approved its version of the bill, which is sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, on March 4.
 “With less than three weeks remaining in the legislative session, this bill should move forward in the process, not backward,” said state Rep. Terry Witte, D-Vandalia and author of the petition. “The government accountability committee spent weeks crafting a strong bill that members of both parties agreed to. It is well past time for this bill to move forward.”

The Rules Committee voted 7-4 on Monday to remand the bill to the original committee. Republicans Rules Committee members said they wanted provisions reinstating campaign contribution limits stripped from the bill. Missouri voters overwhelmingly imposed contribution limits in 1994, but the Republican-controlled General Assembly repealed them in 2008.

 “For Republicans on the Rules Committee to send the bill back is a blatant subversion of the committee process,” said House Minority Leader Paul LeVota, D-Independence. “As House Speaker Ron Richard said in a recent interview with the Missourinet: ‘There is a right way and wrong way to do things around here.’ Stalling meaningful ethics reform is the wrong way to do things. Preventing the full House from considering contributions limits and other reforms Missourians want is the wrong way to do things.”
 Article III, Section 22 of the Missouri Constitution allows 55 House members to remove a bill from committee and place it on the House debate calendar. The provision exists to enable lawmakers to overcome obstruction or stalling of legislation at the committee level. Although lawmakers have the constitutional power to advance bills to the House calendar, under chamber rules House Majority Leader Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, determines what bills are actually debated.
  “This bill has been thoroughly vetted and unanimously approved by a House committee. If certain members want provisions added or removed, the best way to do that is on the House floor with all members involved,” said House Minority Whip Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhart. “The ball is now in the majority leader’s court: He can either allow the House to debate and pass a strong bill or he can do the bidding of wealthy donors who oppose reform. If he chooses the latter, the failure of ethics reform this year will be squarely on his shoulders.”
 House members also discharged House Bill 2300, another ethics reform measure, from the House Rules Committee, where it has languished without action since March 25.
 When asked at a news conference on the first day of the 2010 session what provisions of an ethics reform bill he would support, House Speaker Ron Richard, R-Joplin, said: “I will support whatever comes out of our bipartisan committee – whatever comes out.”
 “Speaker Richard, without reservation or limitation, said he would support whatever bill came out of the government accountability committee,” said Assistant House Minority Leader J.C. Kuessner, D-Eminence. “It is time for the speaker to keep his word and support this bill.”
 Added state Rep. Jason Kander, D-Kansas City: “I support moving ethics reform forward despite obstacles erected to prevent progress by those who thrive under the current system.”

Speck the Silent speaks

Embattled Missouri Southern State University President Bruce Speck outlined a way of dealing with the dissension that has ripped through his campus since he first took over the university in 2008.

A university must be run civilly, Speck said. "It's not a matter of playing political games with each other, it's about a little bit of transparency, If you've got to put a lid on something then there's some problem that needs to be addressed."

It would be nice if those words had been issued by Speck while emerging from the cocoon that either he or his bosses, the Board of Governors, has placed him in during the past few weeks. During that time, Speck's words have been issued through spokesman Rod Surber, a reversal of the normal practice of the ventriloquist putting the words into the mouth of the dummy.

Yes, it would be nice, but those words were spoken three years ago today as Speck was unsuccessfully interviewing for a provost position at Roanoke University in Virginia.

In that article, Speck talks about mining private sources for money for a university, something he has done little of since he took the reins at MSSU, unless, of course, you count the money raised to spur along the construction of a Joplin medical school which would have only had tenuous ties with the university.

(Photo: A rare photo from the days when Bruce Speck actually spoke.)

Layoffs ahead for Kansas CIty Star?

The Bottom Line Communications blog says more layoffs are coming for the Kansas City Star, including 10 from the editorial side:

What is particularly frustrating for employees is many were lead to believe the financial outlook at the paper was improving and felt their jobs were safe.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A blast from the past: Missouri Speaker of the House Richard strikes a blow for ethics

As Speaker of the House Ron Richard, R-Joplin, puts the screws to ethics legislation to protect the oversized contributions he and other politicians have been receiving, it seems to be the perfect time to flash back to Richard's first prominent appearances in The Turner Report.

As prefiling for bills for the 2007 legislative session, Richard showed his dedication to ethics and to the needs of his constituents, as I noted in the Dec. 18, 2006, Turner Report:

While some Missouri state representatives have pre-filed one bill after another, Rep. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, has thus far limited his focus to one bill, a shining example of meaningful legislation designed to improve the lot of his constituents.
HB 150 apparently came after a long investigation by Richard into what issues concerned the residents of the district her serves in Jasper and Newton counties> Consider this segment of the bill, which specifies a certain area Richard believes deserves to be exempt from sales tax:

"all purchases of equipment, machinery, materials, supplies, fixtures, and shoes by the owner or operator of a facility used for the sport of bowling where sales tax is collected and remitted on all amounts charged for participation in such sport, including amounts paid for the rental of items used to participate in such sport."

How does this affect Richard? Consider these items from his website:

1991 to present
Full duties with C & N Bowl Corporation.
Additional duties of Vice President and Secretary of C & N Bowl Corporation, Senior Managing Officer responsible for overall activities over five Bowling Centers in two states. Assumed further duties associated with financial side of operations and planning.
Duties were added of Chief Financial Officer of two Joplin, Missouri, locations, Ft. Smith, Arkansas, and two Little Rock, Arkansas bowling locations.
1985 to 1987
Bowling Center Manager of new facility, Carl Richard Bowl East, Joplin.
1978 to 1987
Assistant Financial Officer of C & N Bowl Corporation.
Joined C & N Bowl Corporation as Assistant League Coordinator and Food and Beverage Supervisor.
1965 to 1971
During high school worked in all areas of Bowling Centers including construction, janitorial, maintenance, sales and service; U.S. Post Office, processed mail and unloaded trucks.

Richard has served in various capacities on the Legislative Committee of the Bowling Proprietors' Association of America, including currently serving on that organization's Legislative Committee.

Richard withdrew the bill the following day after he received considerable unfavorable publicity from The Turner Report post.

The following day, Associated Press ran an interview with Richard, in which he explained how it was just a coincidence that his initial legislation for 2007 involved his own business. That was something that had never even occurred to him. He only withdrew the bill so he could wait and see what Gov. Matt Blunt had in mind for tax policy:

Richard said he decided to wait and see what tax policy changes Gov. Matt Blunt proposes next year and determine if his bowling tax break idea fits in.
But he said he sees no problem with proposing a law exempting bowling alley owners from paying state and local sales taxes on purchases for their business even as he runs running a bowling company.
"I guess it indirectly would help me," he said. "I don't care about all that. I'm chair of Economic Development (Committee). Anytime I can help small businesses stay in business, I'm in favor of that. If it turns out to be controversial to keep Mom and Pop doing business, that's OK with me."

Can anyone be surprised that Ron Richard is a roadblock in the way of ethics reform in Missouri?

Burnett calls it on ethics bill chicanery

When he issued his weekly report this weekend, Rep. John Burnett, D-Kansas City, hit the nail on the head as far as the fate of ethics legislation in the Missouri House was concerned:

But right now the Rules Committee is boxing up the ethics bills at the request of the House Repub leaders. May get out this week. Rumor is they are holding it to kill it and so the Repubs who oppose campaign donation limits will not have to vote that publicly.

Today, the Rules Committee voted 7-4 to send the legislation back to the special Ethics Committee headed by Rep. Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Wally Kennedy named CNHI Reporter of the Year

Veteran Joplin Globe reporter Wally Kennedy was honored as Reporter of the Year among larger newspapers in Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.

The Best of CNHI Awards were announced this week.

School censorship continues in 2010

The first encounter I had with the censorship of books in school libraries came 25 years ago, when I was editor of the newspaper in Lamar, Missouri, population 4,000.
The book in question was one that has been at the top of banned book lists for the past half-century, The Catcher in the Rye.

The chronicle of Holden Caulfield’s coming of age was included in a list of books that Lamar High School students could read for their English classes. As is usually the case when the fires of censorship spread through a school or community, the controversy began with a parent seeing four-letter words in a book, and then not bothering to read the book to see the context because “I don’t read any book that has words like that in it and neither will my child.”

One particular board member, a professional in the community, led the opposition forces.

The high school library was packed with parents, most opposing Catcher in the Rye, but a hardy few supporting the book. After they had all been heard from, the board voted unanimously to remove the book from the reading list, but to allow the librarian to keep it behind the counter where those who wished to read it could check it out, as long as it was not being used for classroom purposes.

Who knows how many times that scenario plays out in communities across the nation? Sometimes it is language, sometimes it may be sex, or it may even be violence. But somehow there are always people (many of whom are watching far worse on network and cable television) who want to play morals chairman for the rest of the community. In most cases, the media never becomes aware of the situation.

And it is not just books like Catcher in the Rye. The lists of books that concerned parents want removed from school library bookshelves includes classics such as Huckleberry Finn, which has almost been totally sacrificed at the altar of political correctness and the Harry Potter books, which, of course, convince children that they can conduct spells and play games in mid-air.

I can’t say that it is an isolated incident, for most assuredly that would be incorrect, but another book-banning incident took place this last week in Stockton, Missouri, about 40 miles from Lamar.

This time the book in question is of a more recent vintage. The Stockton R-2 Board of Education voted unanimously to remove the 2007 winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, from the library entirely.

The saga began, as usual, with a parent complaint about the book, which contains some strong language and brief sexual content. According to the community newspaper, The Cedar County Republican, the school superintendent appointed a committee, which included the high school principal, English teachers, a board member, two parents, and a young adult, to study the book and make recommendations.
The panel recommended that the book be removed from the classroom reading list, but be kept in the library.

The board rejected that view. From the Cedar County Republican article:

The board was presented with this assessment by the committee during the meeting. After a pause, board member Rod Tucker spoke up against the book, “I brought my kids here to protect them as much as I could from city atmosphere,” he said. “I vote we remove the book from the school.” After a quick motion and second by Dean Pate, the banning of the book was unanimously passed.

“I thought the content was inappropriate,” school board member and committee member Shipley said. “I can only speak for myself, but I assume others on the board had heard enough about it from other people to want to pull it out of the school. I encourage people to read it and judge for themselves if they think it’s appropriate.”

The English teachers were upset that some of the board members cast their negative votes without ever bothering to read the book.

Veteran English teacher Kim Chism Jasper was one of those who was upset by the decision:

“This book is a National Book Award winner for Young People’s Literature, and it is taught in many schools throughout the country, often at the ninth-grade level,” Jasper said. “It has been challenged in many places, but that is not unusual for books that promote discussion. In fact many books — including “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Of Mice and Men,” “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “Macbeth,” “The Diary of Anne Frank,” “Fahrenheit 451,” “Little House in the Big Woods” and the Bible — have been challenged. The book focuses on a 14-year-old who has hopes and dreams of leaving the poverty of his reservation and making something of his life. Education and reading open the door to those dreams. In light of that, denying access to reading material is ironic. I hope people in the community will read this book. And, of course, I hope people who believe in the students’ right to read will contact board members.”

Mrs. Jasper should not expect the board to change its decision. That rarely happens. In a day and age when we English teachers have a hard enough time getting students to read, it is a sin to remove the kind of literature that could actually turn them into lifelong readers and improve their chances of success in high school, college, and life.

Still, my expectation is that many Stockton High School students will find a way to get their hands on The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian.

After all, when the Lamar R-1 Board of Education voted a quarter of a century ago to remove Catcher in the Rye from the classroom and put it behind the library counter, the first student to check out the book was the son of the school board member who led the opposition against it.

Nodler: I can have my cake and eat it, too

Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, had no problems letting everyone give him the credit for the Missouri Southern "storm shelter" and an appropriation for Joplin-based Eagle Picher, but now that it has become a campaign issue, Nodler is attempting to distance himself from the so-called earmarks.

In a thorough article in today's Springfield News-Leader, political reporter Chad Livengood explores the earmark issue:

The first line-item appropriation from 2008 was $2 million for a storm shelter at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin that still hasn't been constructed. Nodler is widely credited for the storm shelter, which may eventually dual as an athletics locker room.

Nodler's fingerprints weren't directly on this line-item funding because former Gov. Matt Blunt added it to his original budget request.

But then Nodler admits that he asked Blunt's office to put the funding request into their 2009 fiscal year budget.

"The reality is, that line item was requested by the governor," Nodler said. "It's not something I created and inserted in the budget."

Perhaps the senator should reconsider Congress and take a shot at Dancing with the Stars.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

East Newton gifted students need money to attend Odyssey of the Mind world championships

Our band, Natural Disaster, had the pleasure of performing at a fundraiser for the East Newton Quest (gifted education) students Friday night as they continue working toward raising enough money to attend the Odyssey of the Mind world championship at Lansing, Michigan.

Due to continuing budgetary problems, the school district is unable to finance the trip, and even after the fundraiser, more money is needed to make the trip possible for the students.

Those interested in contributing to this worthy cause can do so by sending a check to East Newton Quest Students, 22808 E. Highway 86, Granby, MO 64844. Mark it "Attn: Livvia Seufert."

The accompanying video shows a portion of the students' reader's theater performance of a scene from "Hamlet."

Tragedy strikes Wal-Mart CEO

Business reporters are normally a jaded bunch.

Over the past couple of years, they have written one story after another about the tough economic times that have fallen upon the United States. We have learned of banks that cannot be allowed to fail, state governments that have to trim the fat to avert bankruptcy, and proclamations that continuing to cut taxes will stimulate investment in our economy.

Many times these stories are told without putting a human face to them, without letting us know that real people are suffering.

That changed this week.

Michael Duke is one of those real people who are suffering. Duke is a man who is at an age, 60, when he cannot afford to lose his job. If he is put out on the street as a result of our current economic situation, he may not be able to land another job. So, in order to pay his bills and maintain his dignity as the head of the household, he has done everything he can to hold on to the current job.

Unfortunately, as is the case with many of us, Michael is underappreciated by his bosses, the board of directors for his company. In their quest for the almighty dollar, Michael's board, despite knowing that the company is his sole means of support, slashed his pay 32 percent last year. Because of this, Michael has been forced to clip coupons, carpool to work, and order from the dollar menu at McDonald's.

After all, as the previously jaded business reporters wrote after learning of Michael Duke's can one man, even if he is the CEO of Wal-Mart, survive on $19.2 million a year in today's economy?

A proxy filed this week with the Securities and Exchange Commission shows Duke "only' received that amount last year after hitting a high of $28 million the previous year.

Financial reporters must have considered it a tragedy. Consider the following:

Reuter's- "Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) CEO Michael Duke received a compensation package worth a bit more than $19 million in the fiscal year ended in January, down from $28.2 million a year earlier when he received a big stock award related to his promotion to chief executive."

Marketwatch- Marketwatch's article features the headline "Wal-Mart CEO Duke's compensation package shrinks."

Wall Street Journal headline-"Wal-Mart CEO Duke FY10 Total Pay Down 32% at $19.2M"

Nowhere in those three articles or in the dozens of others that I read about the "tragedy" in the Duke home was one word mentioned about the 700 to 800 people who in February became victims of Duke's decision to develop a leaner, meaner business operation for Wal-Mart, despite the company's continued outsized profit margins.

In a message to Wal-Mart associates dated Feb. 10, Duke explained his reasoning for the cuts:

We do not make these decisions lightly, and every individual decision was carefully considered. We recognize this is a difficult development for the members of our Wal-Mart family who will be leaving the company. While the number of associates that will be impacted by the restructuring is very small compared to the 2.2 million associates we have worldwide, I can assure you that we will treat them with care and dignity and help support them during their transition, consistent with our basic beliefs and respect for the individual.
If there is one constant in our organization, it is change. We are committed to our purpose of helping people save money so they can live better and we will continue to take appropriate steps to further align our support structure with our business plans. We must also challenge costs in every corner of the company in order to keep our business strong today and well into the future.
We care about our associates, especially during times like these. Thank you for everything you have done and will do to serve our customers and help make our company better.

Nor do any of the article about the trimming of Michael Duke's compensation package mention the 11,000 Sam's Club managers who were fired earlier this year.

The employees who were fired are given some severance pay, which won't last long, and are left to fend for themselves in an economy that is overflowing with workers desperately seeking their next jobs.

Of course, the same thing could happen to Michael Duke someday. Wal-Mart could fire Duke and he would be out on the street just like the thousands of employees he cut loose this year.

All alone, pounding the pavement...just Michael Duke and the $2.4 million his contract guarantees he will receive if Wal-Mart kicks him to the curb.

Skelton calls for expanding investigation of Goldman Sachs

The following news release was issued Friday by Fourth District Congressman Ike Skelton:

In a letter to SEC Chairwoman Mary Schapiro, Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) joined 29 Congressional colleagues in calling for an expanded Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation into the activities of Goldman Sachs and any fraudulently obtained taxpayer dollars the Wall Street firm may have received. In a statement about the letter, Congressman Skelton said:

"I am pleased that the SEC is finally working to crack down on Wall Street misdeeds. The allegations of fraud by employees at Goldman Sachs are troubling and highlight the 'get rich at all costs' mentality that permeates Wall Street and helped to create the recent economic crash.

"It is clear that the values of responsible, hardworking Missourians are not shared by the Wall Street bankers whose tricks almost destroyed the American economy. In fact, only the sacrifices of taxpayers prevented the complete collapse of our financial markets. That is why the SEC needs to be very thorough in its investigation and recover any federal tax dollars that may have been involved in the alleged illegal actions of Goldman Sachs."

The SEC has filed a civil complaint against Goldman Sachs relating to allegedly fraudulent credit default swaps. Insurance company AIG, which insured Goldman’s transactions, transferred $12.9 billion to Goldman Sachs to cover losses associated with Goldman's bets. Given the taxpayer support to keep AIG from collapsing the nation's financial system, it is imperative that the SEC pursue whether Goldman received reimbursements from the taxpayer through AIG.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Chart editorial: Speck refusal to talk to media not leadership, just juvenile

In the latest of a series of hard-hitting editorials, Missouri Southern State University's newspaper, The Chart, ripped into President Bruce Speck's policy of refusing to talk to the media:

This week we wanted to get a reaction from this school’s president on a unanimous decision by a Kansas City medical school not to partner with Southern to bring a branch school to Joplin. Speck has pushed this partnership for a year, and when things were looking up, he always had something to say about the proposal. But Tuesday, when the 14-0 vote came down from Kansas City, Speck was nowhere to be seen, and unavailable for comment. We asked Surber for an interview with Speck, to get his thoughts on the vote, and how he planned to lead this institution forward as alternatives are considered. Instead we were told Speck would be unavailable, and that Surber didn’t know why.
That’s not leadership, that’s juvenile.
It’s time for the Board of Governors to decide whether Bruce Speck — or Rod Surber — will speak for this University.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Nixon, education leaders ask for tax credit reform

Richard opposes tax credit reform

Gov. Jay Nixon and education proponents asked that expanding tax credits, which have taken money from schools be brought under control. Speaker of the House Ron Richard, R-Jopiln, offers his response in this video:

Transgender Senate candidate begins nuclear disarmament walk

Hard to believe, but while the media has covered every move of U. S. Senate candidates Roy Blunt and Robin Carnahan, even Chuck Purgason, there has been almost no mention of transgender candidte Midge Potts. So here is the lowdown on the candidate's nuclear disarmament walk:

Goodman: We're on the move

In his latest column, Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, a candidate for Seventh District Congress provided an update on the race:

We approach the final 3 months before the August 3 primary election with powerful momentum: more than 1,300 volunteers, 60 county officials and most of the state legislators of the 7th Congressional District are working to help us win. Beyond that, we have raised more than $332,000 so far.

Laura and I have committed to uproot our family and rearrange our lives, because we believe the battle to save American freedom and opportunity is that important! We cannot do it alone. Fortunately, you have shown us that you are with us in the fight. Many of you are hosting "meet & greets" in your homes, canvassing door-to-door, helping with events and contributing financially. Thank you!

Your efforts with us are paying off. Last week, a major conservative talk radio station in Joplin conducted an online poll for this race. There are 9 candidates in this primary and two of them are from Jasper County. I am excited to let you know I led the poll, with the next candidate more than 10 points behind!

As we enjoy this groundswell of support across southwest Missouri, much work remains to be done. My family and I are in this fight because we are worried about the future of America. We want our children and grandchildren to have the same opportunities that so many generations have taken for granted. Our founding fathers and generations of American veterans risked everything to create and protect the American dream for generations they would never see. If we are to be worthy of their sacrifice, we must do all we can to preserve American freedoms and opportunities for the generations to come.

America is on the precipice of fundamental change: change from a nation led by representatives of the people to a nation governed by a ruling elite who disregards the will of the majority. I firmly believe it is up to our generation to revive and protect the way of life our founding fathers designed for us. To do that, Americans must elect candidates that are more worried about the future of this great country than they are about their own re-election. We must have public servants who offer more than rhetoric & charisma. We need someone with a real track record of fixing what's broken in government. I have earned that record in Jefferson City, and I am fighting to do that for you in Washington, D.C. I will fight to rein in spending, create jobs, reduce the role of government in our lives, and keep America the strongest and safest nation in the world!

Cynthia Davis: Say no to Race to the Top

Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon, does not like the so-called Race to the Top solution the Obama Administration offers to solve public education's alleged shortcomings, and she is absolutely right, though I do not necessarily agree with all of her reason. Race to the Top is just No Child Left Behind with a different title, but the same worshipping at the unholy temple of standardized testing. From Mrs. Davis' latest weekly report:

Some call it “Race to the Flop” because it trades away our educational freedom for a “money grab”. It appears that our state will be spending staff time to apply for the next round of “Race to the Top” money even though other states like Kansas are getting out of the race: Kansas says "Keep your race to yourself"

This has some parallels to the national healthcare bill in that those who are obligating us have no idea what they will be getting into until after the ink has dried.

We do not need unelected bureaucrats to relinquish the current oversight vested in the legislative branch of government and our local school boards. This week I filed a House Concurrent Resolution advising our Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education to retain flexibility to opt out from any agreement that removes our ability to define our standards as it pertains to how we educate our public school children. Additionally, this resolution advises our congressional delegation to be cautious pertaining to the next round of “No Child Left Behind” money. We ought not to idly sit by while our legislative jurisdiction continues to be eroded away.

Mrs. Davis' resolution is printed below:

Whereas, the United States Department of Education states that "Education is primarily a state and local responsibility in the United States. It is states and communities, as well as public and private organizations of all kinds, that establish schools and colleges, develop curricula, and determine requirements for enrollment and graduation. The structure of education finance in America reflects this predominant state and local role." (The Federal Role in Education); and

Whereas, in 1965, the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act launched a comprehensive set of programs, including the Title I program of federal aid and in that same year, the Higher Education Act authorized assistance for postsecondary education, including financial aid programs for college tuition; and

Whereas, in 1980, the United States Congress established the United States Department of Education as a Cabinet-level agency; and

Whereas, nowhere in the United States Constitution is the United States Congress granted authority to oversee education, and the United States Department of Education is continuing to take upon itself an ever increasing role of encroaching on the jurisdiction that belongs to the states; and

Whereas, the Missouri General Assembly has a constitutional responsibility to establish and maintain free public schools for the general well-being of the state; and

Whereas, Missouri's school districts and educational methodologies are extremely diverse and the Missouri General Assembly has been careful to avoid broad-brush state mandates, favoring local control starting with the most local of all, that being the family; and

Whereas, the federal "No Child Left Behind" law is viewed by many teachers and administrators as a failure, doing more harm than good in our nation's public schools because the test-and-punish approach to school reform relies on limited, one-size-fits-all tools that reduce education to little more than test preparation, thereby requiring unproven, often irrational "solutions" to complex problems; and

Whereas, the United States Department of Education is administering the educational stimulus package known as "Race to the Top", for which Missouri made a first-round application in December 2009; and

Whereas, those in Washington, D.C. may not understand or respect the uniqueness of Missouri and why we are better off establishing our own standards that are defined by the needs of our individual school districts, are tailored to encourage parental involvement, and maximize and enhance flexibility for the local school boards that are accountable to the parents; and

Whereas, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is refining its application for the second round of applications with a deadline of June 1, 2010; and

Whereas, the timing and process of the application has made it difficult to ensure legislative awareness of, participation in, and approval of the state's application process in addition to circumventing the input of parents, teachers, and local school board members, which turns a blind eye and a deaf ear to those closest to the source who may have vital and practical information on what has proven to be the most beneficial practice; and

Whereas, those areas as described by the United States Department of Education have been predetermined by the federal government as policy areas of emphasis, which may ignore and circumvent the proper role of the states and the priorities of the State of Missouri as defined by the people of Missouri; and

Whereas, with federal funds comes federal requirements, of which some may be more costly to implement than the remuneration received; and

Whereas, some of these requirements may obligate our state, both financially as well as in mandated program implementation that may residually harm our budget and our autonomy for years beyond the sunset of the "Race to the Top" program; and

Whereas, whenever we delegate our decision-making authority from the legislative branch of government to unelected bureaucrats, we lose our accountability to our constituents and diminish our residents from the satisfaction that their values are being represented; and

Whereas, government exists to serve the people and application for any funds cannot diminish the right of the citizens or the school districts to educate their pupils in accordance with the agreement of the parents of those children and the voters of that district who elected their school board members:

Now, therefore, be it resolved that the members of the House of Representatives of the Ninety-fifth General Assembly, Second Regular Session, the Senate concurring therein, hereby advises the Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education to review carefully the policy implications of Missouri's second application for Race to the Top funds to ensure that:

(1) Federal goals do not override state goals that have been legislatively established;

(2) The state does not cede any portion of control over our education policy to the federal government;

(3) Proposed implementation provides all the current flexibility afforded to Missouri's school districts;

(4) The Missouri General Assembly reserves the right to opt out at any time; and

Be it further resolved that the Missouri General Assembly advises our Congressional Delegation to respect the four principles set forth above in its deliberations on the reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act; and

Be it further resolved that the Chief Clerk of the Missouri House of Representatives be instructed to prepare properly inscribed copies of this resolution for Dr. Chris Nicastro, the Commissioner of Education; the State Board of Education, and each member of the Missouri Congressional Delegation.

Crowell: The money you work hard to earn is yours

In his weekly, report, Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, offers some thoughts on taxation:

Last week was tax day, and Americans paid more in taxes than they will spend on food, clothing and shelter combined. In fact, it took you working from January 1 until April 9 just to earn enough money to pay for your tax obligation at the federal, state, and local levels. And if the government actually decided to require you to pay for all government spending, including the $1.3 trillion federal budget deficit, you would have had to work an additional 38 days until May 17th just to pay your taxes. The 137 days of hard work you have to put in just to pay for government spending is what economist Milton Friedman said is “a system that increasingly taxes work and subsidizes nonwork.”
I am a fiscal conservative. I believe you put in the hard work and therefore the money you earn is yours; not the governments. The government will never spend someone else’s money as carefully as you spend your own and to take it away from you to eventually mismanage and give to another is wrong.
I recently read a story that focuses the truth of free markets and fiscal conservatism:

“An economics professor was told by his students that socialism worked and that wealth distribution would mean that no one would be poor and no one would be rich.
This professor decided on an experiment where all grades would be averaged and everyone would receive the same grade so no one would fail and no one would receive an A. For the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were thrilled. For the second test, the students who studied little for the first test studied even less, and the ones who studied hard the first time around decided they wanted a free ride too. The second test average was a D.
When the third test rolled around, the average was an F. All the students failed and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great; but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed.”

Margaret Thatcher once put it that “the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” Because leaders in government are spending other people’s money, they lack budget discipline resulting in the government becoming overextended and unable to meet all its commitments.

In my opinion, a responsible government operates with the core principle that the money you work hard to earn is yours. This means policymakers must make sure government lives within its means. Economic growth is a function of the private sector and not of government. Therefore, instead of spending money we borrow from China or call for new taxes to fund new wealth redistribution dreams, government needs to become more efficient in how we spend your money.

It is critical we listen to the warning of Thomas Jefferson when he said that “a government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.” I hope you will join me in remembering government works for you; you don’t work for government. Thank you for reading and let me know what you think.

Nodler: Federal healthcare mandate creates a troubling future

In his weekly report, Sen. Gary Nodker, R-Joplin, addresses the federal healthcare plan in his latest weekly column:

This week, the Senate continues to try to find ways to cut spending in the state. In order to balance the budget, the Senate made nearly $500 million in cuts to the governor’s original proposal. The budget is now in conference and House and Senate members are working hard to create a balanced spending plan for our state. This work has me looking to the future when, according to the federal healthcare plan passed by Congress, Missouri will need to come up with billions of dollars in additional revenue to fund expanded Medicaid eligibility. This ticking time bomb of fiscal irresponsibility is going to cause serious budget destruction down the road.

President Obama signed the federal healthcare legislation this year. The bill contains a significant expansion in Medicaid eligibility, adding 255,000 Missouri adults to the state-sponsored healthcare system by increasing eligibility caps by 113 percent. The federal government has tried to silence some state’s protests over the unfunded mandate by covering the costs of the expansion for the first three years it is in effect, but federal support will not always be available. Once Missouri has to start footing the bill, the Department of Social Services estimates the plan will cost our state an additional $1.34 billion from 2017 to 2023—a devastating price tag for our finances. These are Missouri taxpayer dollars that the federal government is forcing us to pour into healthcare costs.

This expansion is costly and fiscally irresponsible, but the federal government has stripped control away from our state. This action threatens the availability of healthcare as well as the health of Missouri’s future finances. No matter what actions we take in the coming years to balance our books and cut spending, this aspect of our budget will be out of our hands come 2017 when we will have to spend an additional $99.2 million to meet federal regulations. We have created a tradition of fiscal responsibility in Missouri, but our careful planning will be for naught if we are forced to spend taxpayer dollars on federal mandates.

States throughout the nation are in fiscal crises, and I am proud to say that Missouri is fairing better than many other states in the nation. During my time as appropriations chairman in the Senate, we maintained one of the highest carryover balances in Missouri's budget history, held on to Missouri's AAA bond rating, and passed responsible, sustainable budgets. However, forcing us to pick up the cost of expanding healthcare will be detrimental to our careful efforts. Asking the states to shoulder the burden of this federal mandate just shows that the healthcare plan passed by Congress is short-sighted and detrimental.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Emerson: Revisions, reform possible for health care bill

To be politically incorrect, the fat lady has yet to sing as far as the federal heath care bill is concerned, according to 8th District Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson:

“Last week, Congress put the finishing touches on a health care bill. I have now voted against four major articles of health care overhaul legislation, despite the fact that hundreds of opportunities exist to lower costs and to bring positive changes to our American continuum of care. It is, beyond a doubt, the biggest missed opportunity I have ever witnessed in a career of fighting for improvements to our health care system.

With passage of the health care bill, the conversation has shifted from stopping the bill to undoing the bad provisions in it. Politically, making changes to the law will be difficult since the majorities in the House and Senate and the White House have all endorsed the bill. But changes in the political landscape may make future revisions, reforms and repeal possible.

Surely, changes to the law will be made. The bill passed in the House had the bipartisan opposition of every Republican member of Congress and 34 Democrats. All of us who voted against it have concerns about the trillion-dollar cost of the bill, special deals for special interests, and the intervention of the federal bureaucracy in the daily health care decisions made by millions of Americans. Everyone who opposed the bill ought to remain united to amend the law in the future.

The question is where and how to begin.

My staff and the staffs of a number of House committees have already begun to comb the law for sections we can change or eliminate. We are also working to explain the ramifications of the bill to the Americans who are directly and immediately affected by its provisions. Though we have started to work on this task immediately, we do have some time before the vast majority of new insurance rules and regulations take effect in 2014.
It is important to remember that some of the goals of the health care bill are shared by members of both parties: stopping denials for insurance coverage based on pre-existing conditions, eliminating restrictions that prevent Americans from buying insurance across state lines, and establishing basic ways in which we can bring more competition to the health care market. None of these reforms is particularly controversial, and most Americans can agree that these steps can dramatically expand access to insurance coverage.

If the bill had stopped there, it would have passed overwhelmingly. Instead, the legislative language is controversial, mostly by ignoring what every American with or without health insurance worries about each time they visit a doctor, a pharmacy or a hospital – the cost of their care.

States, too, will bring lawsuits against the law. The mandate on every American to purchase health insurance may not pass constitutional muster, and state attorneys general will also sift through the law for violations of states’ rights. In Congress, federal legislators will certainly weigh in on these efforts and lend support, too.

Though the bill barely passed, there are dedicated lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who are going to fight for revisions to the law. I am one of them. And the place we will start is obvious – we will begin by working to reduce the cost of this enormous new mandate on the American people.”