Friday, December 06, 2019

Attorney General sends letter supporting Cameron football team's voluntary prayer sessions outside of games

(From Attorney General Eric Schmitt)

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt today sent a letter to Dr. Matt Robinson, superintendent of the Cameron R-1 School District, supporting the school football team’s voluntary prayer sessions outside of games. On October 28, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to the Cameron school district decrying their prayer sessions before and after games.

In the letter, which can be found here, Attorney General Schmitt cites multiple U.S. Supreme Court decisions that uphold the historic role of public prayer and the freedom of religion rights of public school students and organizations.

In the letter, Schmitt states, “Our understanding is that no coach or other Cameron official has forced any football player to participate in prayer or taken any action against any player who chose not to participate. The prayer occurs outside of the football game.








"The prayer is not broadcast over stadium loudspeakers, and fans evidently cannot hear any part of the prayer. The school district reports that it received no complaints from anyone about the prayer, and FFRF does not reference any complainant in their letter. 

"Evidently, FFRF’s threat does not reflect any discomfort with the prayers in the local community. Rather, it reflects only FFRF’s radical agenda. And without a complainant, FFRF lacks standing to sue the school district, no matter how strongly it objects to this voluntary prayer. But if FFRF seeks to silence voluntary prayer outside of Cameron’s football games through a lawsuit, we will support your football team’s lawful, voluntary decision to pray.”

Additionally, Schmitt highlights the hollowness of FFRF threats, citing FFRF’s demand that Clemson University football’s team stop team prayers, demands to stop schoolchildren from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, efforts to erase “In God We Trust” from our currency, and more.

Bill to ban all texting while driving prefiled in Missouri House

(From Missouri House Communications)

The House of Representatives will consider extending Missouri’s ban on texting while driving to drivers of all ages in the legislative session that begins January 8.Representative David Evans (photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Missouri law only bans texting while driving for those 21 and younger. House Bill 1290 would extend that ban to all drivers. It would also allow local jurisdictions to enact their own laws and ordinances on the use of hand-held electronic communications devices.










Representative David Evans (R-West Plains) filed HB 1290. He said it simply doesn’t make sense to ban only younger drivers from texting while driving.

“Being one of the older people with grandchildren I can honestly say my grandkids learned to use computers and start texting and typing as young as 2 or 3 whereas I’m still struggling to do so, and it would distract me far more to text and drive than I’m sure it would most 16, 17, 18 year olds today,” said Evans.

Evans said he wanted to propose what would be the “least intrusive” expansion of the texting while driving law. After reviewing past legislation on the matter he chose to offer the same language as 2019’s House Bill 896, filed by Representative Rory Rowland (D-Independence).

“It’s really a safety issue. It’s important to me as a parent, it’s important to me as a grandfather. As a former judge, you see so many of these cases these days of folks that are distracted by driving. One of the most time-consuming and distracting things you can do is look away and type,” said Evans. “It’s an activity we need to regulate in some fashion. I’m not going overboard here but simply saying hey, that extreme activity of texting and driving is something you’ve got to be more careful about and [the bill would] save lives and save accidents.”

The Department of Transportation backs extending the texting while driving ban to all drivers. Nicole Hood, State Highway Safety and Traffic Engineer, said that would make roads safer for drivers and MoDOT workers. The Department reports that since 2014, cell phone-related crashes in Missouri have increased by 31-percent, reaching nearly 2,500 last year.

“We continue to have record numbers of traffic fatalities. For the past three years Missouri alone has had over 900 people that have been killed in traffic crashes and every one of those deaths affects a family and a community,” said Hood. “Distracted driving, it can be a leading cause of some of these crashes, and using those cell phones and texting can definitely be a contributing factor.”

Similar legislation has received little or no attention from the legislature in recent years. Evans said he will talk to House leaders soon in hopes of getting this bill some traction.

“It will save lives and it will save accidents, so I think it’s a good thing and I think leadership will see that,” Evans said.

Violations of Missouri’s texting while driving ban result in two-point violations against a driver’s license. Accumulation of points can result in a license being suspended or revoked.

Author Mike Lear

Springfield man accused of killing this 2-year-old girl, sentenced to two life sentences for severe beating of 8-year-old daughter

By the time Kenneth Robert Davis, 33, Springfield, goes to trial June 1, 2020 in Webster County Circuit Court, for killing his girlfriend's two-year-old daughter Kinzlea Kilgore (pictured), he will have already served the first six months of the two consecutive life sentences he received today after a Greene County jury convicted him on seven counts of felony child abuse for torturing and beating his eight-year-old daughter.

Greene County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Mountjoy handed down the sentence after a trial in which "independent witnesses, including a separate seven year old girl, testified that they had seen the defendant punch the victim in the head and grab the victim by the neck and throw her to the ground," according to a news release from the Greene County Prosecuting Attorney's office.








"The victim had a multitude of significant injuries on all planes on her body including a fractured nose, two black eyes, swollen and bleeding lips, bruises and abrasions on her neck consistent with strangulation marks, large bald spots on her head consistent with her hair being pulled out, bruising and laceration to her buttocks consistent with being struck repeatedly with a belt, and bruises and abrasions to her back, arms, and legs.

"Cindy Tull, a nurse practitioner with the Child Advocacy Center, testified that, in her opinion, the injuries suffered by the victim were the result of child abuse and that '[i]n 10 years of being at the CAC, [she had] never seen the extent of these injuries except for textbooks or through training and research.' "

The trial included riveting testimony from the child in which she said Davis "smacked" her in the mouth, spanked her until she was bleeding, hit her in the face with a phone charger, pulled her hair and then hit the brakes of the van throwing her forward and causing her face to hit the vehicle's console.

Testimony also indicated Davis choked the child with a seat belt.

The beating and torture of Davis' daughter took place June 30, 2018, when he was already a suspect in Kinzlea Kilgore's murder, which happened May 13, 2018, when he was left alone with the girl on Mother's Day weekend approximately seven weeks earlier in Buffalo.




















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Two murders that shocked southwest Missouri- two children, two small towns changed forever. Lost Angels: The Murders of Rowan Ford and Doug Ringler is available in paperback and e-book formats from Amazon.

Billy Long: We cannot afford to ignore pressing matters for the sake of an impeachment witch hunt

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

On January 20, 2017, the Washington Post’s headline read “the Campaign to Impeach President Trump has Begun,” before President-Elect Trump had even placed his hand on the Bible.

This headline would go on to perfectly summarize the Democrats crusade to overturn the results of the 2016 election, and proves that for Democrats, impeachment has always been their ultimate goal. 

Since Speaker Pelosi announced that she was launching an impeachment inquiry, the House has become fixated on this circus, unable to do the work Americans hired us to do: legislate. 

As legislation has come grinding to a halt and Democrats turned their focus exclusively to impeachment, the American people will be the ones to pay the ultimate price as the legislation they want collects dust on the Speaker’s desk.








We are in the final days of the first session of the 116th Congress, yet we have only passed 77 bills compared to the average of 417 bills passed in previous Congresses over the past twenty years. 

The Democrats’ obsession with impeachment has brought the House to a screeching halt, with countless hours being dedicated to hearings filled with hearsay rather than considering legislation. 

Unfortunately, the American people are the ones who suffer from this the most, forced to listen to divisive rhetoric rather than see the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) ratified, the passage of a bipartisan drug pricing bill or improved security on our southern border.

Over a year ago, President Trump signed the USMCA, and it is up to Congress to ratify the trade deal. 

Despite its wide bipartisan support and an initially promising remark that Speaker Pelosi was on a “pathway to yes," very little progress has been made. 

Last week, Mexican President Obrador penned an open letter to the Speaker urging her to ratify this deal, as Mexico and Canada are in a holding pattern until each country’s legislative branch passes it. 

His letter came on the heels of the Speaker’s announcement that despite having had over a year to bring USMCA to a vote, the House would not be voting on USMCA this year. This trade agreement is estimated to create over 175,000 new jobs as well as generate billions in revenue, yet it seems that for the Speaker and her colleagues, impeachment is their sole priority. 

Given that Mexico and Canada are our two biggest partners in trade and support countless jobs across our country, we cannot afford to put this carefully crafted agreement on the back burner.

Unfortunately, many other critical issues are also taking a backseat to this impeachment inquiry. 

Americans have widely expressed a desire to see Congress tackle prescription drug pricing, one of the few issues Democrats and Republicans agree on. 








We had the willing participants and the framework to draft bipartisan legislation to address this issue, but Speaker Pelosi scuttled bipartisan talks. Further, we’ve made little progress on border security, denying U.S. Customs and Border Patrol the resources they desperately need and allowing our crisis at the border to go unchecked.

It is incredibly frustrating to see pressing issues like the crisis at our border, drug pricing, and ratifying USMCA fall by the wayside in favor of an unfounded impeachment inquiry. 

House Democrats have been obsessed with overturning the outcome of the 2016 election, and have consequently neglected their duties to the American people to legislate. We cannot afford to ignore pressing matters for the sake of a witch hunt, and I will continue to work with my Republican colleagues to urge the Speaker to pass bills the American people care about.

***
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The first signing for The Buck Starts Here: Harry S. Truman and the City of Lamar will be held tonight (Thursday, December 5) from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Mary K. Finley Library in Lamar.
The book is also available at the Lamar Democrat office and can be purchased online in paperback or as an e-book from Amazon at the links below.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Sam Graves: Putting a stop to illegal robocalls

(From Sixth District Congressman Sam Graves)

We’ve all been there. The phone rings and it’s a number you don’t recognize. The odds are good the “person” on the other end of the line wants to update your car warranty, help you get a free vacation or check your credit score.

Other times, it’s far more insidious. These unknown callers say they are from the IRS or the Social Security Administration and ask for highly personal information. They sound like they could be legitimate, but they definitely aren’t. Unfortunately, many fall prey to these phone scams every day.

These calls aren’t just unwarranted and unwanted, many are highly illegal. It’s estimated that nearly 45% of calls to cell phones this year will be from scam callers. Even with the Do Not Call Registry, which was implemented in 2003, these scammers have found ways to get around the law, or they simply don’t care about paying the current fines.








Earlier this year, before all the impeachment hoopla, the House set out to change that by passing good legislation to address illegal robocalls. I was proud to support the original bill and the version we finally got around to passing this week after months of delay. The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (TRACED) Act will make several key reforms to strengthen our laws and help law enforcement agencies clamp down on illegal robocalls.

First, the TRACED Act establishes nationwide caller authentication system. This will significantly reduce the chances that the number that appears on your caller ID is coming from someone it’s not—targeting scammers who use falsified caller ID information to trick Americans into revealing personal information over the phone.

Second, this legislation allows folks with landlines to block unlawful calls in a consistent and transparent way. While folks with cell phones currently have the ability to block numbers, many with landlines aren’t afforded that opportunity without paying extra. The TRACED Act changes that, allowing folks with landlines this service for no extra charge.

Finally, illegal robocallers have made it clear that the current fines and enforcement measures aren’t strict enough to keep them from breaking the law. Going forward, law enforcement and the FCC will be given additional tools to go after law-breaking robocallers. Those who violate the law could be fined up to $10,000 per call. With increased enforcement and higher fines, hopefully those looking to perpetrate these scams will think twice.

If there is one issue that all Americans can agree on, it’s that these unrelenting robocalls are frustrating, annoying and need to be stopped. I was proud to vote to pass the TRACED Act this week to do just that—and finally hang up on scam robocalls.

First signing for The Buck Starts Here: Harry S. Truman and the City of Lamar today at Lamar Library

A reminder: I will be at the Mary K. Finley Library in Lamar from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. today for the first signing for The Buck Starts Here: Harry S. Truman and the City of Lamar.

While I am in Lamar, I will also leave more copies at the Lamar Democrat office since the copies I left there last week have already sold out.

The first Joplin signing for The Buck Starts Here is scheduled for 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, December 14 at Always Buying Books.







The book is available locally at the Lamar Democrat (or at least it will be after I leave the copies today), and Always Buying Books, Changing Hands Book Shoppe and The Book Guy in Joplin.

The book is also available online in paperback and e-book formats at Amazon.com

Court ruling: State auditor can protect whistleblower from Greene County Sheriff

(From State Auditor Nicole Galloway)

State Auditor Nicole Galloway today released a statement after a judge ruled against Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott in his lawsuit challenging the State Auditor's duty to protect whistleblowers.

In the ruling, the court confirmed the actions of the Auditor's office were lawful and upheld the office's legal duty to protect the identity of whistleblowers.

In 2017, Auditor Galloway received whistleblower complaints about possible misuse of public resources in Greene County in connection with a tax ballot issue. 

After asking the commission to authorize the audit, the State Auditor's Office received Sunshine Law requests for documents concerning the Greene County Sheriff's Office or Sheriff Arnott. 










The office fulfilled the requests but omitted any documents that are confidential and closed pursuant to law, including information that could reveal whistleblower identities. Sheriff Arnott's lawsuit challenged the Auditor's duty to ensure those who report concerns of government wrongdoing are protected from retribution.

After the composition of the commission changed this past January, a resolution for an audit was approved. Audit work in Greene County began this summer and remains underway.

Auditor Galloway issued the following statement:

"The court's ruling upholds this office's legal duty to protect those who report government waste, fraud and abuse. Taxpayers have a right to hold their government accountable. When whistleblowers come forward to my office, they expect protection. Without the information provided by whistleblowers and the legal safeguards that shield those individuals, the audit of Greene County may not have happened."

The judgment can be found here.

Former Webb City Junior High teacher/coach charged with sex crime involving child posts bond

Former Webb City Junior High School teacher/coach Nicholas Popejoy is under house arrest at his parents' home in Arma, Kansas, after posting a $25,000 bond.

Popejoy is charged with felony statutory sodomy, with the crime allegedly involving a student on the school campus November 15.

Popejoy's preliminary hearing is scheduled for 3 p.m. February 3 in Jasper County Circuit Court.


Lamar R-1 Board accepts head football coach Scott Bailey's resignation

The Lamar R-1 Board of Education officially accepted the resignation of head football coach Scott Bailey during a special board meeting Wednesday afternoon, the Lamar Democrat reports.

Bailey had already resigned as athletic director, but will continue in that position until the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

The board also accepted the resignation of middle school football coach Iver Johnson. Johnson will continue to teach in the district.

Bailey, a Lamar High School graduate and former Pittsburg State University football player, guided the Tigers for 14 years, including a national record seven consecutive state championships between 2011-2017.

***
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The first signing for The Buck Starts Here: Harry S. Truman and the City of Lamar will be held tonight (Thursday, December 5) from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Mary K. Finley Library in Lamar.
The book is also available at the Lamar Democrat office and can be purchased online in paperback or as an e-book from Amazon at the links below.



Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Joplin R-8 Board hires two teachers, 25 classified employees, 18 substitute teachers

During a closed session November 26, the Joplin R-8 Board of Education, the following employment actions were taken:

Certified Employments: Katherine Honeywell and Olivia Smith

Resignations: Emily Heard and Jerry Savage

Retirement: Nancy Koester








Classified Employments: Joshua Anderson, Daniel Bare, Lindsay Boman, Serena Brown, Melanie Bryan, Jace Cooke, Alexander Deville, Sheila Dilley, Rebecca Dudley, Onyeka Etuonu, Keisha George, Joshua Hooker, Athena Hunt, Brian Knight, Renee Landsaw, Candice Long, Justin Marshall, David Mize, Kendra Moore, Christina Myers, Jayme Pearce, Jessica Peterson, Trueman Satterwhite, Tina Stone, and Annie Stover

Substitutes: Deonna Newton, Wendy LeDuc, Nataly Patterson, Stephen Harrel, Kendra Heiskell, Dana Newman, Mackenzie Braden, Baylee Cartwright, Katelyn Lewis, April Englebert, Ian Derrickson, Tiffani Roberts, Victoria Rigdon, Karen Kelly, Anthony Miller, Dana Maupin, Graham Chambers, and Allee Maronde