Saturday, December 04, 2004

Pre-filing of bills for Missouri's 2005 legislative session began Dec. 1 and State Senator Gary Nodler of Joplin has been busy.
One of three bills pre-filed by Nodler was obviously inspired by the July 31 death of a Neosho man and his seven-year-old granddaughter. Nodler's bill would increase the penalty for involuntary manslaughter under certain circumstances.
Those circumstances, as outlined in the bill summary, would be if the person has a blood alcohol level that is one and a half times the legal limit or if a fatality occurs when the person's vehicle leaves a public thoroughfare.
Both circumstances apply to the case against Edward Meerwald, 50, Noel, who faces involuntary manslaughter charges in connection with the deaths of James Dodson and his granddaughter. Of course, if the bill is passed, it would have no effect on the Meerwald case, but it would apply to all future cases in which such criteria would apply.
Nodler also re-filed a bill from the 2004 session, which would remove a portion of I-44 that has been designated George Washington Carver Memorial Highway. That portion of highway was already designated as the Congressman Gene Taylor Highway. Nodler was Taylor's legislative assistant.
The other Nodler bill, if approved, would increase the number of voting members of the Missouri Southern State University governing board from seven to eight.
Another busy legislator has been Rep. Ed Emery of Lamar, though you don't see his name as sponsor on any bills at this point. Emery is co-sponsoring two bills which appear to be more than a little bit controversial.
Both bills were sponsored by Rep. Cynthia Davis, a Republican from O'Fallon.
One would appear to be putting Missouri square in the middle of the growing evolution controversy. According to the bill, "All biology textbooks sold to the public schools of the state of Missouri shall have one or more chapters containing a critical analysis of origins. The chapters shall convey the distinction between data and testable theories of science and philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy, such as biological evolution, the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society."
The other bill would strictly regulate how sex education is taught in Missouri schools. Among the bill's requirements, schools must:
-Present abstinence as the preferred choice of behavior because it is "the only method that is 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and the emotional trauma associated with adolescent sexual activity, and advise students that teenage sexual activity places them at a higher risk of dropping out of school because of the consequences of sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancy."
-"Stress that sexually transmitted diseases are serious, possible, health hazards of sexual activity.:
-"Present students with the latest medically factual information regarding both the possible side effects and health benefits of all forms of contraception, including the success and failure rates for the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases."
-"Include a discussion of the possible emotional and psychological consequences of preadolescent and adolescent sexual activity and the consequences of adolescent pregnancy, as well as the advantages of adoption, including the adoption of special needs children, and the processes involved in making an adoption plan.
-"Teach skills of conflict management, personal responsibility, and positive self-esteem through discussion and role-playing at appropriate grade levels to emphasize that the pupil has the power to control personal behavior. Pupils shall be encouraged to base their actions on reasoning, self-discipline, sense of responsibility, self-control, and ethical considerations, such as respect for one's self and others. Pupils shall be taught not to make unwanted physical and verbal sexual advances or otherwise exploit another person. Pupils shall be taught to resist unwanted sexual advances and other negative peer pressure."
Another Senate bill, which probably will go nowhere, would change the teacher tenure law in Missouri. Presently in Missouri, teachers have to have taught five years at a school, then become tenured on the first day of their sixth year. Unfortunately, many good teachers have been victimized by unscrupulous superintendents who save money by eliminating teachers after their fourth or fifth year, then replacing them with cheaper first-year teachers. It has also been used as a tool by superintendents with self-esteem issues to remove teachers who disagree with them (I have no one in particular in mind.)
Unfortunately, when these teachers go to another school, they have to teach another five years to become eligible for tenure.
St. Louis Democratic Senator Pat Dougherty's bill would grant tenure after five years of teaching service, though a teacher would have to go through a one-year probationary period at a new school. Should a teacher leave teaching for more than five years, this law would allow that teacher to return and regain tenure after a one-year probationary period.
The fact that the bill is being presented by a Democrat in a Republican-controlled Senate probably spells doom for it. Also, the fiction persists that the tenure laws keep bad teachers in the classrooms. Bad teachers can always be removed, though it sometimes is a hassle. The people tenure protects are good teachers are targeted by school officials who want to hire teachers for lower salaries or who want to remove people with whom they have personality conflicts.
Obviously, I have a bit of a conflict of interest writing about this bill. I am in my sixth year of teaching, yet I will have to teach three more years after this one to get tenure for the first time. I have to be a probationary teacher for nine years even though so far I have had only good evaluations at both Joplin and Diamond.
Another bill would allow for the recall of school board members. A recall election would be held if at least 25 percent of the number who voted in the last school board election sign a petition. If the voters decide to keep the board member in office, that member cannot be subjected to another recall during his or her term. A similar bill didn't make the cut in 2004.
Wal-Mart has become the number one retailer in America over the past two decades, but it also has an important role in the Chinese economy, according to China Business Weekly. "If Wal-Mart were an individual economy, it would rank as China's eighth-biggest trading partner, ahead of Russia, Australia, and Canada," the article quotes Xu Jen, Wal-Mart China's director of external affairs as saying.
Remember that the following information comes from China's perspective. "So far, more than 70 percent of the commodities sold in Wal-Mart are made in China. Experts say Wal-Mart's plan of increasing its procurement from China has granted the firm a positive corporate reputation in the country," according to the article.
Wang Yao, China General Chamber of Commerce director of information, said, "Buying more products in China means more job opportunities, which helps the firm win not only the government's hearts, but also the customers' appreciation."
While Wal-Mart's strategy has undoubtedly made its stockholders and executives wealthier, it has also served to put many Americans out of work or into lower paying jobs. That should have been a major issue in our most recent presidential campaign instead of whether our president served in the National Guard when he was supposed to in the 1970s or what Senator Kerry did in Vietnam three decades ago.
Third quarter earnings for CBL & Associates, the new owners of Northpark Mall in Joplin, are up.
According to the company's filing with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, total revenues increased 19.3 percent in the third quarter 2004 to $194,227,000 from $162,859,000. Same store sales in CBL's malls were up more than four percent.
The company also noted success with remodeling of the malls it owns. This strategy has enabled it to attract top-drawer tenants, which should be good news for Joplin.
A decision by Jasper County Associate Circuit Court Judge Richard Copeland apparently kept a Miami,OK woman driving long enough for her to be arrested for DWI.
According to court records, Tondra Jo Phillips, 28, has a pre-trial conference set for 9 a.m. Dec. 21, on charges of driving while intoxicated and failure to drive on the right half of the roadway. Her case will be heard in front of Judge Joe Schoeberl.
Ms. Phillips had her license revoked earlier this year after refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test. Judge Copeland has granted two stay orders preventing the revocation from taking place. Court records indicate that the second one was granted Aug. 27, less than two months before she was charged with DWI.
Ms. Phillips is scheduled to go before Judge Copeland 1:30 p.m. Dec. 17, just four days before her pre-trial conference in the DWI case, for a final decision on whether she should keep her driver's license.
Judge Copeland has a reputation for using technicalities to return the driver's licenses of those who had them taken away after alcohol-related offenses. For more information, check back postings on The Turner Report.
The Lamar Democrat on Wednesday trumpeted the story of the recall of 150 workers who had been laid off at O'Sullivan Industries. It was a big story and deserved the prominent page-one placement.
But once again, there has still been no mention of the resignation of Dan O'Sullivan, son of the founder of the company, from his position as chairman of the board of directors, nor has there been any comprehensive coverage of what has happened at O'Sullivan the past few months, except for information that has been spoonfed to the newspaper by company officials.
From Wednesday's article, "The corporate offices of O'Sullivan Industries are now located in Atlanta, Ga., where there is greater opportunity for recruiting sales and marketing personnel. The new executive team has been working to improve strategic planning, to make the manufacturing process more efficient and to improve the management of capital following four years of declining sales for the company."
I put the material in the preceding paragraph in quotes simply because it came directly from the Democrat article. There are no quotes around it in the article, which was written by Democrat Editor Rayma Bekebrock Davis. It appears to be her stating her opinion, even if that is not the case.
This is the first time I can recall that an O'Sullivan article has run on page one that featured a Democrat byline and was not simply a verbatim press release from the company. Unfortunately, it still sounds like a verbatim press release from the company. Company officials' viewpoints need to be featured in the local newspaper, but they need to be weighed along with other sources of information that are not being provided.

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