Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ethics Committee Chairman takes more than $4,000 in lobbyists' gifts

2008 was a banner year for Rep. Steve Tilley, R-Perryville.

The majority floor leader, who also serves as Ethics Commitee chairman, received $4,190.08 worth of lobbyists' gifts during the year, including $1,059.15 in December, according to documents posted earlier this evening on the Missouri Ethics Commission website.

Some of that total was noted in the Jan. 17 Turner Report:

Missouri Ethics Commission documents indicate House Majority Floor Leader Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, brought in the new year with a little help from his friend- Ameristar Casinos lobbyist Jorgen Schlemeier.

Schlemeier paid $1,742.28, $580.76 apiece in "lodging, meals, and entertainment" for Tilley, Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau; and former Speaker of the House Rod Jetton to celebrate the ringing out of the old and the ringing in of the new at Ameristar Casino in Kansas City, the Gamble and Schlemeier client that footed the bill for the excursion, according to the Ethics Commission documents

Tilley started and ended December with big gifts from lobbyists. Ethics Commission records show that on Dec. 3, Anheuser-Busch lobbyist Ted Powers provided Tilley with $417 worth of tickets to Sea World.

Earlier Turner Report postings about Rep. Tilley's gifts from lobbyists and campaign contributions can be found at this link.

Hunter dethroned; Richard tops area legislators in lobbyists' gifts

It must be the newly found magic of holding the Speaker of the House position.

For all five years plus that the Turner Report has been covering lobbyists and their gifts to Missouri legislators, Steve Hunter has easily garnered more lobbyists' gifts than other Joplin-area legislators.

In his last year in the Missouri House of Representatives, however, Hunter has been dethroned.

Ron Richard, R-Joplin, received $3,821.10 in lobbyists' gifts in 2008, finishing the year with a flourish, adding $770.74 in December. Documents posted moments ago on the Missouri Ethics Commission website show that on Dec. 29, lobbyist Matthew Morgan provided Richard with $404.24 worth of travel and lodging to Big Cedar Lodge, described on its website as a "wilderness luxury resort."

The Ethics Commission report shows Morgan was representing his own lobbying firm, but the Big Cedar Lodge and its owner Bass Pro are on Morgan's client list.

On the same day, Richard, who was speaker-elect at the time, also latched onto a $22.29 meal at the Candlestick Inn, with Ford Motor Company lobbyist Tony Reinhart footing the bill.

The wilderness luxury resort was not the only travel destination Richard had paid for by lobbyists in December, the Ethics Commission filing shows. On Dec. 9, lobbyist Rodney Boyd paid for travel and a hotel charge for an unspecified meeting representing Sonnenschein, Nath, and Rosenthal.

Richard also received a Christmas ham worth $20 from Smithfield Foods lobbyist Jewell Patek.

Hunter finished a distant second to Richard with $2,466.49 for the year, including just one gift during the last four months of the year and none in December.

Ed Emery, R-Lamar, finished third among the Joplin-area contingent with $1,639.80 in gifts, including $20.85 in the final month of 2008.

Bryan "Big Gun" Stevenson, R-Webb City, collected $1,134.71, including $24.50 in December.

Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, had $858.56, including $44.50 in December, and Rep. Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, trailed the locals, taking just $542.64 all year and no gifts in December.

Turner Report adds links

I have spent some time today weeding out some outdated links (some of which I will monitor and restore if they begin posting fresh content.

After the elimination process was completed, 13 links were added. Two of them have been on The Turner Report previously. Dad's on a Rant Again and Blue Girl, Red State, have both been publishing fresh content of late. Of course, Blue Girl has been posting material on other blogs all along.

The 11 new additions are:

-Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian: If the Joplin Globe wants to know how to publicize its new blogs, it need only look at the design of the Southeast Missourian's website.

-Capitol Calling: Jason Rosenbaum may not be with the Columbia Tribune any longer, but he continues to offer excellent coverage of Missouri politics.

-Homeroom: This is the new education blog at the Columbia Daily Tribune.

-Joplin Globe Blogs: So far, I have been a little disappointed in Editor Carol Stark's offerings, amazed that anyone would offer a Booze Beat blog at a family newspaper, hoping that Jessica Schreindl will address matters that are more of local interest, enjoying Joe Hadsall's efforts (thought wanting to see a little more attitude) and surprised to find that Wally Kennedy has provided the most interesting material.

-Observations on the Edge: Missouri Southern education student, wife, and mother Diane Phipps has been writing this for a while, but sorry to say, I only recently came across it.

-Ozarks Law and Economy: Lawyer Harry Styron, a Granby native, offers thoughts on those subjects.

-Styron Observer and Commercial Appeal: The Styron family of Granby, including my former editor at the Newton County News, Emery Styron, and the abovementioned Harry Styron, have started this project, which offers something for everyone.

-The Grade: This is the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's education blog.

-Gannett Blog: Anyone wanting to know about what is going on at the Springfield News-Leader's home company should check out this blog, which, of course, is not sanctioned by Gannett.

-Far Out on the Farm- MSSU employee and McDonald County resident Brenda Kilby offers her thoughts on various subjects.

-What I'm Talking About: This is the new blog started by Neosho Daily News Publisher Rick Rogers.

Life of Jason blog: KTTS number one in Springfield Arbitron ratings

The Life of Jason blog has the November Arbitron ratings for the Springfield market. As usual, KTTS topped the list.

Bray bill would re-establish campaign contribution limits

It doesn't have a chance in the world of passing, but Senate Bill 270, sponsored by Joan Bray, D-St. Louis County, which received its first reading Thursday, would restore campaign contribution limits in Missouri.

The bill description reads:

SB 270 - The act imposes contribution limits for individuals and committees in support of candidates running for public office. Surcharges will be imposed upon committees that accept or give contributions exceeding the limits.

The limits are as follows for contributions made by or accepted from any person other than the candidate and all committees:

• $1,275 for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Auditor, or Attorney General.

• $650 for Senators.

• $325 for Representatives.

• $325 any other office, including judicial office if the population of the area is under 100,000.

• $650 any other office, including judicial office if the population of the area is between 100,000 and 250,000.

• $1,275 any other office, including judicial office if the population of the area is over 250,000.

K. C. Star columnist profiles Richard

Kansas City Star political columnist Steve Kraske profiles Speaker of the House Ron Richard in his latest effort:

Enter Richard, who pledges a more bipartisan approach to governing, just as the nation struggles with its dire economy.

“The times demand that we work together,” Richard said. “I won’t be calling you names behind your back. I don’t operate that way.”

He’s unusually accessible to lawmakers and reporters alike, and he’s planning breakfast sessions to keep correspondents up to speed. He shut down “The Vault,” the second-floor hideaway office that Jetton set up for closed-door meetings and turned it back into a storage room.

Instead, he thinks the speaker’s spacious office will do the trick just fine.

Gannett earnings down 36 percent

Fourth quarter earnings for Gannett, owner of the Springfield News-Leader, were down 36 percent:

Gannett, the largest U.S. newspaper publisher, said preliminary net income fell to $158 million, or 69 cents per share, in the fourth quarter, down 36 percent from a year ago, as advertising revenue continues to take a beating because of the recession.

To realign costs with reduced revenue, Gannett slashed the work force at most of its U.S. newspapers by 10 percent and cut newsroom jobs at USA Today by about 5 percent late last year. Those moves, which preceded a one-week unpaid furlough that Gannett is imposing in the first quarter of 2009, resulted in pre-tax charges of $56 million.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Flanigan offers views on State of the State message

In his weekly column, 127th District State Representative Tom Flanigan offered his views on the governor's State of the State message:

This week, in his State of the State address, Governor Jay Nixon revealed his budget plans for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2009.

The Missouri Constitution charges the Governor to “submit to the general assembly a budget for the ensuing appropriation period, containing the estimated available revenues of the state and a complete and itemized plan of proposed expenditures of the state and all its agencies, together with his recommendations of any laws necessary to provide revenues sufficient to meet the expenditures.” Missouri Constitution Article IV, Section 24.

The Committee on Budget then has the responsibility of filing all appropriation bills, assigning of those bills to the appropriate appropriations committees. They shall report upon all bills recommended to it by the respective appropriation committee and any other bills, measures, or questions referred to it pertaining to the appropriation and disbursement of public money. After the General Assembly passes this finalized budget, the “Governor may control the rate at which any appropriation is expended during the period of the appropriation by allotment or other means, and may reduce the expenditures of the state or any of its agencies below their appropriations whenever the actual revenues are less than the revenue estimates upon which the appropriations were based.” Missouri Constitution Article IV, Section 27.

As the Governor Nixon’s budget details begin to roll out, a clear picture of the direction in which the Governor wishes to move the state will emerge. A quick examination reveals that the state’s economic situation is serious. The Governor has proposed cutting over 1,300 state jobs and shutting down or eliminating over 50 state programs. Many of those proposed job cuts come from the Department of Corrections, Highway & Transportation Department, and the Department of Conservation.

As a member of the House Budget Committee, I will be working to assure the people of Jasper County that our tax money is properly accounted for and responsibility budgeted.

Also this week, I joined with 129 other members of the House to reject a pay hike for judges and members of the General Assembly. It was and will continue to be the right thing to do.

More thoughts on MSSU Board of Governors

I overlooked an interesting post on the Show-Me Opinions blog, which offers some thoughts on just what it is that a Board of Governors does.

The post refers to the revelation in the Joplin Globe that Missouri Southern State University President Dr. Bruce Speck decided on his own to eliminate the Child Development Center and men's soccer programs, with the board having nothing to do with his decision:

So, the Board doesn't have any control on the direction of the University? That is what it sounds like to me. Either that or they just aren't wanting to be associated with the decisions being made by Dr. Speck. Of course, could you blame them?

While I have no problem with hiring someone to make the decisions, decisions that involve the welfare of students and the livelihoods of employees should at least be discussed by the board in open session just in case the president, especially someone who is so new to this area, has put the university on the wrong path.

Of course, the Southern Watch blog and some commenters on the Joplin Globe website have noted the statement that the elimination of the soccer team is not saving any money at all, but simply transferring it somewhere else in the athletic budget.

It's time for Dr. Speck or Board President Dwight Douglas to tell us what was so important in the athletic budget that it required the elimination of a long-standing university sport.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Blunt: Vote against digital conversion delay was a vote for safety

The following news release was issued by Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt following his vote against extending the digital conversion date for four months. The delay failed to gain the needed two-thirds majority in the House:

Missouri Congressman Roy Blunt today voted against delaying the transition from analog to digital television broadcasting, recommended by the 9/11 Commission.

"My vote today was primarily about public safety," Blunt said. "Every day that goes by without this transition is another day that our firefighters, policemen and EMTs cannot effectively communicate.

"I'm glad the House defeated this unnecessary delay, but we need to do more to ease this change for consumers. TV stations are ready; first responders are ready; now, we need to continue to ensure that consumers are ready."

The transition to digital television was recommended by the 9/11 Commission to free up parts of the valuable broadcast spectrum for public safety communications and allows first responders nationwide to communicate on a unified public safety channel.

Blunt also supports legislation to help correct an accounting problem stemming from the way the government-established coupon program, developed to defray the consumer cost of purchasing digital converter boxes, is administered. If passed, the legislation will clear the current backlog of coupons.

Today's vote follows a letter from the Fraternal Order of Police expressing public safety concerns that a delay will cause.

The conversion to digital television only affects consumers receiving their television signal from over-the-air antennas instead of cable or satellite.

Three more $10,000 contributions for Nixon

The money keeps flowing into Gov. Jay Nixon's campaign account.

Documents filed today with the Missouri Ethics Commission show Nixon received $10,000 contributions Monday from Motorola, Schanmburg, Ill.; Bank of America Missouri, St. Louis; and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, Bloomington, Ill.

Thirty-one representatives vote for pay raise

At a time when people are losing their jobs right and left, and state agencies are having to sharpen the budget knives, 31 representatives, 28 Democrats and three Republicans, voted Monday to give themselves four percent pay increases. The only area representative to vote against the resolution eliminating the pay increase was Rep. Bryan "Big Gun" Stevenson, R-Webb City.

The good news is they failed by a 129 to 31 margin. The vote came on a House Concurrent Resolution from Rep. Mike McGhee, R-Odessa, to disapprove the recommendations of the Missouri Citizens' Commission on Compensation of Elected Officials. The vote to disapprove the four percent cost of living increase came less than four weeks after the legislators received a 14.5 percent pay increase, putting them at $35,915 per year. Legislators meet for 75 days per year.

The following legislators cast their votes for the increase:

Bert Atkins, D-Florissant
Shalonn Curls, D-Kansas City
Jacob Hummel, D-St. Louis
Albert Liese, D-Maryland Heights
Ray Salva, D-Kansas CIty
Gina Walsh, D-St. Louis
Patricia Yeager, D-St. Louis
Rachel Bringer, D-Palmyra
Curt Dougherty, D-Independence
Tishaura Jones, D-St. Louis
Timothy Jones, R-Eureka
Beth Low, D-Kansas City
Michael Spreng, D-Florissant
Rochelle Gray, D-St. Louis County
Michael Brown, D-Kansas City
Tim Flook, R-Liberty
Tom McDonald, D-Independence
Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City
Steve Webb, D-Florissant
John Burnett, D-Kansas City
Ted Hoskins, D-St. Louis
Roman Lee LeBlanc, D-Kansas City
Kate Meiners, D-Kansas City
Mike Talboy, D-Kansas City
Ed Wildberger, D-St. Joseph
Mike Colona, D-St. Louis
Jonas Hughes, D-Kansas City
Paul LeVota, D-Independence
Sharon Pace, D-St. Louis County
Michael Vogt, D-St. Louis
Terry Witte, D-Vandalia

Richard: Bipartisanship is alive and well in Jefferson City

In this audio clip from the Missouri House of Representatives website, Speaker of the House Ron Richard reacts to Gov. Jay Nixon's State of the State Message.

Muschany trial scheduled for March 19

Jury selection for the trial of former Rep. Scott Muschany, R-Frontenac, is scheduled for March 18 in Clay County, with his trial beginning the next day in Cole County Circuit Court.

Muschany is charged with the deviate sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl. The crime allegedly occurred May 17.

GateHouse Media seeks amendment to credit facility

GateHouse Media, saddled with millions in debt, has a new plan to ease its burden, according to a filing today with the Securities and Exchange Commission:

GateHouse Media, Inc. (the “Company”) announced today that it has launched an amendment to its $1.195 billion senior secured credit facility (the “Facility”). The amendment would, among other things, allow the Company to repurchase outstanding term loans under the Facility at prices below par through a modified Dutch Auction through December 31, 2011. The Company is seeking the consent of the requisite lenders by 5:00 pm (Eastern Time) Monday, February 2, 2009, in order to effect the amendment.

The Company can give no assurance whether the amendment will be approved by the requisite lenders and, if approved, if and when the Company will effect any such repurchase. If the amendment is approved by the requisite lenders, the Company will do the appropriate regulatory and informational filings.

A few thoughts about Bob Pyle

My condolences go the family of Bob Pyle, 54, Nixa, formerly of Carthage, who died Monday from brain cancer.

Though I never knew Bob, two of his children, Brooke and Matthew Pyle, worked for me at The Carthage Press in the late 1990s. Both were hard working, polite, and respectful, qualities which they obviously learned at home from Bob and his wife, Cathy.

Matthew handled film developing chores, and was one of a group of four led by Stacy Rector, who published a weekly section called Teen Tuesday in The Press. Matthew and Stacy were honored for their work in the fall of 1998 when they received the first place award for community service from the Missouri Press Association.

Brooke started out taking calls from customers whose papers had not been delivered on time. From there, she gradually moved into the news room. Though her primary interest was photography, she eventually wrote a number of features and was involved along with Ron Graber and me in the coverage of Janet Kavandi's first space shuttle launch. During the summer of 1998, Brooke, who was a 1997 Carthage Senior High School graduate, and Jana Blankenship, a 1998 Webb City High School graduate, helped Ron and me provide news coverage as we waited for the right people to become available to strengthen the staff. Eventually, in August of '98, we hired Jo Ellis, Rick Rogers, and John Hacker to fill out the news staff.

Brooke and Matthew, the two oldest of Bob and Kathy Pyle's four children, have gone on to success in their adult lives. Brooke is a lawyer in Springfield, and Matthew is stationed on the U. S. S. Ronald Reagan.

Obituary information is printed below:

Robert Franklin Pyle was born Sept. 30, 1954, in Rapid City, S.D., to Shirley Pyle, currently of Carthage and Ben Pyle, Columbia.
He has one brother, Steve Pyle, also of Carthage.

He lived in Carthage most of his formative years attending school there and graduating in 1973 from Carthage High School. He later obtained his B.S. in Information Systems from Missouri Southern State University in 2005. He was a member, Sunday School teacher and deacon of First Baptist Church of Carthage.

He married Cathy Pyle in 1977. He is survived by his wife and four children: Brooke Smith and her husband, Scott of Springfield; Matthew Pyle, currently on active duty on the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan; and Evan and Kieffer Pyle of the home. Cathy and Bob moved their family to Ozark, Mo., in 2008, where they are members at Parkcrest Baptist in Springfield, Mo.
Bob passed away Monday, Jan. 26, 2009, after a short illness with brain cancer.

Services will be at 4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30, 2009, at First Baptist Church in Carthage with visitation from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations, in honor of Bob, to the American Cancer Society, Community Hospices of America or the American Red Cross.

Arrangements are under the direction and care of Knell Mortuary, Carthage, Mo.

Nodler: No laptops in Senate, reportedly claims "these new-fangled horseless carriages are a fad"

The Senate Rules Committee approved a resolution permitting laptops on the Senate floor.

The modern wing of the party, including Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, and Sen. Norma Champion, R-Springfield, opposed this view, according to an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The resolution now goes before the complete Senate:

The resolution could face an uphill battle. It passed the Rules committee only after Shields urged senators to allow it to get to the floor for debate. In the committee, Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, Sen. Norma Champion, R-Springfield, and Sen. Joan Bray, D-University City, all said they opposed the use of laptops on the floor.

“I personally don’t want computers in the chamber,” Bray said.

Nodler was even tougher. “I don’t like them under any circumstances,” he said.

That was the only Nodler quote featured in the article. Despite rumors, these are things that Nodler did not say Tuesday, though it is easy to believe that they came out of his mouth:

-"No laptops and none of this women's lib. In my part of Missouri, we like to keep our women barefoot and...well, just barefoot until we think of something."

-"No one can say I am not wired into the 21st Century. I will be the first in line to buy the Microsoft Abacus."

-"And you say this machine will replace the 1-900 numbers?"

-"It's not too early to call me Congressman."

="Are you sure that little tramp was Charlie Chaplin?"

Strip Club killer thwarted in suicide attempt

Killeen, Texas strip club killer Richard Tabler has been moved to a psychiatric unit after attemptng suicide earlier this month.

Tabler was sentenced to death for murdering two people connected to the Teazers Strip Club in November 2004. His accomplice in the crime, 2004 East Newton High School graduate Timothy Doan Payne, a soldier at Fort Bragg at the time, was sentenced to life in prison.

Tabler was also at the center of a recent controversy concerning cellphones being smuggled to prisoners.

(KEYE photo)

Saga Communcations climbs back above $1; Nexstar up five cents

Saga Communications, which fell below $1 at the close of trading Monday, climbed 12 cents to $1.10 per share Tuesday. Saga owns KOAM and KJFX in the Joplin/Pittsburg market.

Nexstar Broadcasting, owner/operator of KODE and KSNF in the Joplin market and KSFX and KOLR in the Springfield market, was up another five cents Tuesday to 74 cents per share.

The last big sting for Jim Murray

(The following is my column for this week's Newton County News.)

The Internet has been responsible for many wonderful things, but almost from its creation, there has been a seamy, sordid side - the perverts who cruise cyberspace looking for underage victims.
Former Diamond Police Chief Jim Murray brought several of these men to justice over the past few years and his work will continue in the future, despite his recent retirement.
After his tenure as chief, Murray continued to work for the Diamond Police Department, spending most of his time establishing a new police beat. Every person who has been caught in one of Murray’s internet stings has either pleaded guilty or has been found guilty.
That number includes former Collins Mayor Allen Kauffman , a minister, who pleaded guilty Dec. 1 in Newton County Circuit Court to sexual misconduct or attempt involving a child under 15. Hopefully, Kauffman will have the book thrown at him when his sentencing takes place, though his lawyer, Dee Wampler, is fighting to have his client placed on probation, saying Kauffman feels remorse over what he has done and will never break the law again.
Wampler worked his magic on Kauffman’s behalf last year, convincing Cole County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Richardson to give Kauffman a slap on the wrist.
Kauffman pleaded guilty and was given a suspended sentence almost before the process in his case had even started. Cole County Circuit Court records indicate Kauffman was bound over for trial and then pleaded guilty on July 21, the date of his arraignment, a speed almost unheard of in Missouri courts.

And who could blame Kauffman for jumping quickly at the sweetheart deal offered by Richardson? Kauffman, facing a charge of sexual misconduct involving a child younger than 14, received a suspended sentence, was placed on supervised probation for five years, must complete 100 hours of community service, and have "no internet use." He has also been required to register as a sex offender. Kauffman was also caught in a sting as he tried to arrange sex with an underaged girl.

Richardson's plea arrangement with Kauffman might be understandable if this offense was an isolated incident, but according to circuit court records, it took Richardson more than a year to file charges against Kauffman. The crime Kauffman committed occurred March 21, 2007, according to court records. It took nearly a year and two months, until May 14, 2008, for Richardson to file charges.

What makes this omission even more glaring is that it allowed Kauffman to continue to attempt to lure underage girls for sex, according to the charges filed against him in Newton County. The local crimes took place Nov. 16, Dec 11, and Dec. 12, 2007. It took less than a month after the Dec. 12 date for former Newton County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Watson to file charges against Kauffman. Despite these felony charges in Newton County, it took another four months for Cole County Prosecutor Richardson to get around to filing charges against Kauffman.

Kauffman’s sentence is likely to be the last for one of Jim Murray’s internet sting arrests. For the protection of the public, it would be nice if Allen Kauffman is behind bars following his sentencing hearing. I fully expect Newton County will not follow the example of Cole County since our local prosecutors have been fighting for prison time for Kauffman since day one.

As for others who might be tempted to prowl the dark side of the internet now that Jim Murray is no longer standing guard, they had better think twice.

Over the past few years, Murray has trained police officers across the state so that our youth can be protected, and in articles about his retirement, Murray indicated he will continue to offer this type of training.

Here’s hoping that Jim Murray will enjoy his retirement and can continue to take pride as the officers he trained keep cyberspace safe.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

State GOP criticizes Nixon address

Tonight Governor Nixon revealed his plan for dealing with the state’s budget deficit: Print More Money.

“Missourians should be concerned that Jay Nixon hasn’t provided any specifics on the required state spending,” said Tina Hervey, communications director Missouri Republican Party. “Calling for expanded entitlement spending in this time of deficit can only mean that Nixon is relying on Washington, D.C. to print more money to pay for his spending plan. The current budget shortfall presents us with an opportunity. We can keep government spending at a reasonable level, trim the fat, and make government run more efficiently than ever before without being dependent on federal bailout money that may or may not come.”

State Treasurer praises Nixon's State of the State message

The following news release was issued by State Treasurer Clint Zweifel:

State Treasurer Clint Zweifel congratulated Governor Nixon on his State of the State speech, and pledged his full support of Governor Nixon’s proposal to fund the creation of Missouri Promise. Governor Nixon called for the program’s full funding during tonight’s State of the State address. Zweifel previously sponsored the program’s creation in 2008 while he was a member of the Missouri House of Representatives (HB 1693).

“As a state representative, during my campaign for state treasurer and now as state treasurer, Missouri Promise continues to be an important piece of my plan to increase college affordability,” Zweifel said. “Governor Nixon and I agree that affordable higher education is a critical part of ensuring Missourians have a solid foundation to succeed when they enter the workforce.”

Missouri Promise is a program designed to allow Missouri students to obtain an affordable degree at a four-year college or university in Missouri. To qualify for the program, a student must successfully complete the A+ Schools Program, maintain solid grades and give back to his or her community in the form of community service. “The Governor gave a fantastic speech tonight, and I look forward to working with him to increase college affordability, to create jobs and to strengthen Missouri’s economy,” Zweifel said.

Kinder offers response to State of the State Address

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder offered the following response to Gov. Jay Nixon's first State of the State Address earlier tonight:

Good Evening. I’m Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder and I’m honored to speak to you from your state capitol.

Our state faces many challenges. These aren’t new challenges, and they won’t be our last. But despite what the future may hold, I believe that as we work together we can make Missouri a better place to call home.

Today, we are faced with many tough decisions. This is a challenge no different than the one faced by families across our state each and everyday: tightening the belt on spending and balancing the checkbook.

You expect your government to be responsible. You expect your elected representatives to find common sense solutions to the problems we face. And you expect that, even if the decisions we make aren’t popular, we will shoot straight. Our party will be honest about the challenges we face, and we will set politics and personality aside to work together for the betterment of our state.

Like many of you, I am a lifelong Missourian. This is our home; the place our families have chosen to go to work, to church and attend school. Our state faces this global economic crisis on better footing than most other states in our union.

The challenges we face here in Missouri aren’t unique. But we face our problems better prepared for the tough road ahead. This is due in large part to the conservative fiscal decisions that we have made over the past few years.

Tonight, Governor Nixon presented to you and your legislators his proposal for next year’s state budget. These are rough economic times, and with that come greater restraint in spending.

But I also know that you’re not only watching tonight to hear about “fiscal discipline” or “balanced budgets.” You listened to what the Governor had to say because you want to know how it affects you and your family.

Republicans will make you this promise: that no matter what you want to call it or how you want to say it, we wont raise taxes on hardworking Missourians. Our message is simple, “No New Taxes.” When the government “of the people” has to balance the budget in a down economy, we should never do that by taking another hard earned dollar out of your wallet.

We must deal with this budget responsibly, and we have taken the first of many steps to do that. Our legislators in the House and Senate will reject pay increases that are normally automatic. It doesn’t make sense for folks at the State Capitol to get a raise while hard working Missourians have lost their jobs.

We will confront Missouri’s job market and job losses head-on. Our state is competing with all other states, and many foreign countries, for jobs. Our number one priority is to make Missouri a state that investors and businesses want to call home.

Our Republican legislators are leading the effort to expand Missouri’s Quality Jobs Act to attract more business to our state. The folks at the Missouri Department of Economic Development are the ones tasked with finding new, innovative ways to brings jobs to our communities. But tonight, the Governor has cut over $23 million from that department. That’s $23 million being taken from future jobs and businesses in Missouri.

We all know that there is no magic bullet to fix these economic problems overnight, but I believe there are better solutions.

Today, legislators are working quickly to pass House Speaker Ron Richard’s “Family Recovery Plan” into law. To create and keep jobs in Missouri, we must first keep businesses in our state. This plan would create financial incentives for companies looking to operate in Missouri. Representative Tim Flook from Liberty is working on legislation to create new job training programs to help hardworking Missourians take on new careers and endeavors in the workplace. And I believe that as we work together, we can bring Missouri back… one job and one healthy company at a time.

We all know that having a job means much more than just a paycheck. Your job means personal dignity, food on the table and a roof over your head. But it also means health care and college tuition for your children and long term care for your parents.

Across this state, many Missourians find themselves unable to afford quality healthcare.

So, let me tell you what Republicans are doing to make sure that you can afford and find quality healthcare in your community. Part of our plan is to continue to expand the network of healthcare centers around the state that treat children from low-income families. Five years ago, when I was leader of the Missouri State Senate, we dramatically increased funding for healthcare centers in our state to treat low-income, uninsured families. This has been an ongoing project to make sure children in all parts of our state can get the healthcare services they need. Now, we have been able to expand healthcare access across this state to almost all children from low-income families within driving distance of their homes.

For many of you, this may be the first time you’ve heard of this program. Your family may qualify for this healthcare coverage based on your income. You can find out more tonight online at,, that website again is

We must also provide quality services for our most vulnerable Missourians. This includes better care in nursing homes and hospices across the state. But tonight, the Governor has cut nearly $24 million from the Department of Mental Health; over $7 million from services targeted for developmentally disabled adults. And he has proposed dramatic staffing cuts at mental health centers in our state.

We respectfully oppose these cuts, and it is my hope that through the coming legislative session we can continue to make healthcare more affordable and more accessible for families throughout Missouri.

We must also work to make education after high school more affordable for every child in Missouri. Last week, Governor Nixon announced a plan with Missouri colleges and universities to not cut funding next year if they promised not to raise tuition for college students. This was a promising plan. But tonight, the Governor has cut over $33 million from higher education classrooms in Missouri. It will be a difficult task for Missouri’s colleges and universities to train students for the jobs of tomorrow when they are facing such a tremendous cut.

Over the last few years, we have significantly increased funding for each student in each kindergarten through high school class room in Missouri. But tonight, Governor Nixon has cut over $7 million from the public schools our children attend. This will be tough for schools that already have overcrowded classrooms and many who have had to cut music and art programs.

We all want a better life for Missouri’s children. But to get there, they must have the fundamental skills for the jobs of tomorrow.

I am also concerned that the Governor has decided to withhold nearly $15 million from law enforcement, rescue personnel and first responders throughout our state. We all know that we live in a world of uncertainty. But the citizens of this state should never have to question how equipped we are to keep our communities safe or how prepared we are to deal with an emergency. Last week, the Governor put a hold a state contract to create a statewide radio system that would allow all emergency services to communicate with each other. New York City firefighters were not able to communicate with the police department on September 11. For that reason, many firefighters lost their lives because they never heard the police warning that the building was beginning to crumble. At this very moment, we have the same communication problem in many parts of our state. Your legislators are responsible for making sure that this state remains a safe place to raise a family. Have no doubt; our legislators take that responsibility very seriously.

Finally tonight, I think we all have concerns about the budget message that we’ve just heard. The Governor has proposed a state budget built around the hope of federal stimulus dollars.

What if these dollars don’t arrive? What if we don’t get nearly as much as expected? Can we really spend our way back to prosperity?

Then our entire budget would have been written on a bad check. A budget based on a one time bailout is NO long-term plan. We need an enduring vision for our state’s economy, not a budget propped up on debt that will have to be paid back by our children and grandchildren. But, while we may object to the way this budget was put together, you elected us to find solutions. So, here’s what we’re going to do:

We will ensure that if the Governor DOES pump federal stimulus dollars into Missouri, we will use every single dollar available. There is no reason why folks in California, Illinois or New York should get the tax money that you have worked so hard for. At this hour, we have formed special committees to examine the best way to invest federal money in Missouri.

Next, we will look at programs ranging from defense and education, to energy and transportation. As we examine each area of public services, we will fund programs that will not only benefit Missourian’s today, but will make a lasting impact in the Show-Me State. Because, the decisions we make today are decisions that may be felt for a generation.

One day, your son our daughter might work in this very office in the state capitol, and if they do, I hope they are better situated for a greater future because of the challenging decisions we made here today.

Thank you for taking time out of your evening to participate in this important discussion on how YOUR state government will move forward. The Governor has often said that “budgets are about priorities.” Well, we believe that budgets AND priorities should be about people.

Over the next few days and months we will examine the Governor’s priorities and, whenever possible, will work together to move our state forward for a better tomorrow.

Through hard work, commitment, dedication to the common cause we share, we will work to move our state forward towards a better tomorrow. Remember, we’ve been here before. But with common sense solutions, we will make this state a better place for each of our families.

Thank you, God Bless you and goodnight.

Transcript provided for State of the State Address

Thank you Speaker Richard, President Pro-tem Shields, Leaders LeVota and Callahan, Justices of the Missouri Supreme Court, Lieutenant Governor Kinder, statewide officials and Members of the General Assembly. I also welcome the many thousands of Missourians who are tuning in on TV, on the radio, or online.

It also gives me great pleasure to introduce Missouri’s First Lady, Georganne Nixon, and our two sons, Jeremiah and Will.

We come here tonight in the spirit of public service, and public service often requires sacrifice. I'd like to offer a special welcome to someone who truly represents sacrifice and dedication to service - Staff Sergeant William Boyd.

A proud Member of the Missouri National Guard from Centertown, Sergeant Boyd served our nation in Iraq. In February 2005, Sergeant Boyd was riding in a convoy when his vehicle hit a hole left by a roadside bomb. The vehicle overturned several times, and broke two bones in the Sergeant’s left leg.

Sergeant Boyd underwent two surgeries in Iraq and a third in Germany, where they inserted a metal rod into his leg. Upon arrival back in Missouri where he would undergo extensive physical therapy, his doctors told him he would not be able to rejoin his unit in Iraq.

He asked the doctors if he could return to Iraq if he made a full recovery. They said no, but Sergeant Boyd resolved to change their minds. By June, he was running again, and the doctors gave their approval for him to return to duty. So Sergeant Boyd headed back to Iraq and served with his unit through the end of their deployment.

In the spirit of recognizing those who sacrifice to serve, and to give thanks to the many brave Missourians who are in harm’s way this very evening, please join me in welcoming Sergeant Boyd. Sergeant, we are honored to be in your presence.

Fifteen days ago, we stood together on the steps of the Capitol to mark a "New Day for Missouri." We declared it a new day for every Missouri family that holds out hope for a better future.

A new day for the 219,000 Missourians out of work, the highest unemployment rate in 25 years. And for the 729,000 who have no health coverage. And the 42,000 families who have had their homes foreclosed last year.

And on those Capitol steps two weeks ago, we also declared it a new day for bipartisanship here in Jefferson City. These are historically difficult times, and they will require historic levels of cooperation.

Some doubted a new tone in Jefferson City was possible. So far, I am pleased to report that together, we're proving the nay-sayers wrong. Sure, it's been just two weeks. But they've been two productive weeks. We're rolling up our sleeves. We're getting to work, and we're doing it together.

This new tone is possible, I believe, because we start with a set of shared principles. Shared by me, the members of the General Assembly and most importantly - shared by the people of Missouri.

First. We believe in the value of a hard day's work. But too many Missourians are unemployed - or fear they may soon become unemployed. We must help small businesses grow. And we must invest in technology, science, and innovation to create the next-generation jobs we need to compete in the 21st-Century. We must create new jobs and we must do it now.

Second. We believe in fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets. We face a significant budget shortfall, but we will bring our budget into balance by making difficult decisions, and by making government more efficient. Not by putting the burden on the backs of the weakest among us. And, not by raising taxes on Missouri families or businesses.

Third. Education is the key to our future. From pre-school to college, we must prepare every child to compete. We must support our teachers. And we must make the dream of a college education a reality for more Missouri families.

Fourth. A healthier workforce is a more productive workforce. And a strong health care system will help lure new businesses to our state. We must expand access to affordable health care, particularly for the 150,000 Missouri children who are uninsured today.

And fifth, the people of Missouri must be given reason to trust their elected officials and have faith in their work. That means a more open, transparent and accountable government.

These five principles don't represent Democratic values or Republican values. They're Missouri values. They're our values. And they've guided me in laying out next year's budget.

Tonight, as I put forward my plan to address many of our critical challenges, I do so in the spirit of cooperation and bipartisanship. We were all elected by the people of Missouri, and we all share the common goal of serving the people of Missouri.

If one of you has a better way to fix our health care system, I'm ready to listen. If someone else has a cost-effective way for the state to create new jobs, let's hear it. Many of the best ideas come from outside the halls of government. And the challenges we face are too steep to worry about who gets credit for the solution.

Times are tough. We all know that.

The national economic meltdown is creating serious challenges for Missouri families. Jobs are being lost. Homes are being foreclosed. Retirements are being delayed. And everyone is concerned about what the future will bring.

Jobs are the lifeblood of our economy. When jobs are lost and businesses shut down, communities suffer and people start losing hope. To start turning this economy around, we must take immediate action on our first shared principle and join together to get Missourians back to work.

Several weeks ago, I laid out the initial pieces of our Show Me Jobs plan. A series of steps that we can take to create jobs and stimulate economic growth. It's a fiscally responsible plan, and I've been encouraged by the bi-partisan support that it has received thus far.

And because immediate action was needed, one of my first acts as Governor was to sign three executive orders to help spur job creation.

Many of our new jobs will come from small businesses. So we proposed a new low-interest loan program for Missouri small businesses - to make it easier for them to expand and grow, or in some cases, easier to just keep their doors open.

From DeSoto to Chillicothe. From Cape Girardeau to St. Joe. Barber shops. Coffee shops. Hardware stores. The places where we've shopped since we were kids. Small businesses give our communities character and they make our Main Streets vibrant. We must renew our efforts to help small businesses thrive and prosper.

We must ensure that opportunity and job growth takes place in all of our communities. That's why we must support our women and minority-owned businesses so that they can continue to grow and create jobs.

It's not just small businesses that are facing tough times in this economy. The American auto industry is in peril, and Missouri has felt the pain as much as anyone. In the past two years, thousands of Missouri autoworkers and auto industry employees have lost their jobs. I've met with many of these men and women. They're the most skilled autoworkers in the nation. They take a great deal of pride in their craft, and they're anxious to get back to work.

Giving up on Missouri's auto industry is not an option.

That's why I have ordered the creation of an Automotive Jobs Task Force to make sure that we're in the best possible position to revitalize the automobile industry in Missouri. In the years to come, America will produce a new generation of automobiles - electric cars, trucks powered by fuel cells. We must ensure that those new cars and trucks are built right here in Missouri.

Every idea must be considered as we seek to create the jobs our state so needs. We are discussing some new ideas tonight. Programs that don't work will be ended. But when we know something works, we will increase our investment.

The Quality Jobs Act has incentivized business owners to create thousands of high-paying jobs that offer health care. Good middle-class jobs. The Quality Jobs Act has worked. We must not only continue this program, we must expand it.

Programs like the Quality Jobs Act are one important tool in our toolbox for creating jobs. But our strongest asset is and always will be our people. I've said it many times: Missouri is home to the best workers, the best craftsmen in the world. But the set of skills that meant guaranteed employment in the past, now offers no such certainty in this new economy. To seize the economy of the future, we must ensure that our workers have the skills and training for the jobs of tomorrow.

We're joined tonight by Patrick Davis, a young man from Ferguson. Patrick had worked for 14 years at the Ford Plant in Hazelwood, but like many of his brothers and sisters, he was laid off when the plant closed in 2006. But Patrick dusted himself off and took action to learn a new skill. He enrolled at a worker retraining program at Florissant Valley Community College, and learned to convert the craft he knows - building cars -- into a craft that landed him a next-generation job building F18s, one of the best fighter jets the world has ever seen.

Please join me in welcoming Patrick tonight.

We must help more Missourians look down the road and stay ahead of the curve, just like Patrick has. Identifying next-generation jobs and making sure our workers are ready to compete. Jobs in technology, innovation and lifesaving research.

The "green jobs" that will create new energy solutions. Jobs building wind turbines, hydroelectric facilities, solar panels, next generation batteries, more efficient window and doors. The list goes on and on. And so do the opportunities.

Right now, we have far too many jobs in health care that we can’t fill right here in Missouri because we can't find people with the right skills. We need nurses, pharmacy workers and rural health care workers. Filling those positions is critical to both our economy and our health care system. That's why I've called for the creation and funding of the Caring for Missourians program - an initiative that will coordinate efforts between our two and four-year institutions to train our next generation of health care workers.

We have hardworking Missourians ready to fill these skilled jobs - they just need a little help getting there.

So my budget invests in people.

We'll build a workforce ready to tackle the challenges of this new economy. I believe Missouri's economic future depends on the strength of Missouri's people. When a company wants to build a new plant or open a new office, they'll want to come to Missouri, not just because they get the best deal, but because they'll get the best workers.

That's why, despite the budget problems we face, I have called for an increase in funding for job development and training programs of 38 percent.

And as we invest in Missouri's people, no one should be left behind. Under my proposed budget, I have called for increased funding to help Missourians with developmental disabilities earn a living and contribute to society.

On that point, I'd like to introduce you to a gentleman named Glenn Cromley. Glenn is now 61 years old, and was diagnosed with a cognitive disability when he was a child. Like many parents with children who have disabilities, his parents worried about whether Glenn could lead a productive and happy life. When Missouri launched the Sheltered Workshop program in 1966, Glenn's parents signed him up. The workshop provides an opportunity for Glenn to work and contribute each day, preparing first aid kits for local distributors.

Please join me in welcoming Glenn, his mother Sue, and his workshop supervisor, Roger Garlich.

Every Missourian is unique and valuable, and every Missourian must have the opportunity to realize the value of a hard-day's work. Now, some have called for the Sheltered Workshop Program to be eliminated. Let me tell you - that's not going to happen. Not while I serve as your Governor.

Quite the contrary, in order to ensure that more Missourians like Glenn have the opportunity to live independent and successful lives, my budget proposes increasing funding for our Sheltered Workshop program.

Now we all know we cannot move our economy forward without moving Missouri agriculture forward. We must ensure that Missouri's family farmers and agri-businesses are ready to compete in this new economy. Branding Missouri products and increasing opportunities to export them. Making sure that every dairy farmer, row cropper and livestock seller has access to world markets, and has the technology to connect to those markets.

We know that within Missouri's own agricultural capacity lies a possible solution to our nation's energy crisis. Missouri must remain on the leading edge of efforts to develop the renewable energy sources of our future. That's why my budget provides full funding for ethanol and bio-fuels.

And in 2009, there is no reason why some of our rural areas still don't have access to high-speed Internet. The information super-highway must be accessible to all Missouri families.

Protecting and creating jobs must be our top priority. We must take quick action. Tonight, I repeat my request: Send me an emergency jobs plan before the March break. I'll sign a comprehensive, fiscally sound package. And together, we'll start getting Missouri back to work.

Now, the economic challenges we face are significant. Just as Missouri families are readjusting their budgets to deal with economic realities, the state must do the same. Everyone is forced to make difficult choices.

But as I said earlier, we balance our budgets here in Missouri. Fiscal responsibility is a principle that we share.

So here is something we can all agree on. We will balance our budget, this year, next year, and the year after that. We won't place the burden on the weakest among us. We won't abandon our priorities or shared principles. And we won't raise taxes.

We face an immediate shortfall in FY09 of more than a quarter of a billion dollars. I've already begun to implement the tough decisions necessary to make our government leaner and more efficient. We'll balance our books without cutting important public services.

But even larger economic problems loom ahead for the next fiscal year.

To tackle the budget challenges we face in FY10, we are embarking on an unprecedented initiative to make government leaner and more efficient.

To bring about this needed reduction, my budget eliminates or cuts 50 programs. Many bureaucratic positions will be consolidated or eliminated altogether. Hundreds of additional positions that are currently unoccupied will not be filled.

In total, my FY10 budget proposes the elimination of more than 1,300 positions. We will cut nearly $200 million from overhead by eliminating these positions and cutting bureaucracy. After just two weeks in office, we are proposing the smallest state bureaucracy that Missouri has seen in a decade. The reduction I am proposing today represents the largest single reduction in the state's bureaucracy in modern history.

And because Missourians will get a government that's smarter and more efficient, most families will not see changes in the services they count on.

Make no mistake, I value our state workers, and these cuts will not be easy.

We must always remember that public service is among the most honorable lines of work. The folks who protect our families and keep our parks clean. The brave men and women who help our communities overcome natural disasters. As their chief executive, I stand with our state employees today and always.

We will take action to make government smaller, but that alone will not be enough. We must also make government more efficient. Now more than ever, we must stretch every dollar Missouri taxpayers send us.

In the coming weeks I will appoint a Taxpayer Protection Commission to implement widespread performance reviews. Top-to-bottom reviews of every agency and program to identify what's working and what's not working. What could be run more efficiently and where we can consolidate.

For example, the Taxpayer Protection Commission's work will include a strict and thorough review of every tax credit program.

Let me be crystal clear on this point. Tax credits are for creating jobs and strengthening communities, not for padding the pockets of the wealthiest among us. In addition, I have ordered the review of all long-term government contracts. We must get our arms around this budget shortfall before we continue committing our state to future spending.

And in the General Assembly, Republicans and Democrats must work together to send me a budget that reflects our need to be more fiscally responsible.

Now, we have every reason to believe that a federal recovery package will soon be passed by Congress, and money will be sent to the states to help create economic growth. We've been working closely with the Obama Administration and our Congressional delegation on this matter. And I have established an Economic Stimulus Coordination Council to ensure that Missouri is prepared to wisely invest the assistance that comes from Washington in a way that is efficient, fiscally responsible and consistent with our shared principles.

While the budget I submit tonight includes significant cuts, we will not put the burden on the backs of our young students.

We all share the belief that education is the key to ensuring economic strength long into the future. Missouri's pre-K-through-12 education system is the foundation of all efforts to prepare our young people to compete in the 21st Century. And only a strong education system will ensure that all Missouri children can achieve their full potential.

So even in these difficult economic times, we must fully fund the education foundation formula. That is not negotiable.

Under the budget I submit to you, Missouri classrooms will receive more than 3 billion dollars in state aid.

In addition, I propose a larger investment in early childhood education. We must continue to support funding for career education, the Parents as Teachers program and the Small Schools program. And I have called for increased funding for First Steps, a critical program that helps so many Missouri children get off on the right foot.

We must give our public school teachers the tools they need to educate our children. And make sure that every child has a productive learning environment. That's why I've called for an increase in funding for the "Safe Schools" program, which promotes alternative schools for disruptive students.

When a kid consistently acts up in class, we want them to go to an alternative place where they can learn - not to the street corner.

Every child in Missouri deserves the opportunity to succeed. And that means a quality education for all children - no matter what zip code that child lives in, or what that child's parents do for a living. Education must be the great equalizer.

But we know that in the 21st Century, a pre-K-through-12 education is only the beginning. For many, a college degree can be critical to competing in a modern economy.

That degree is out of reach for too many Missouri families. Unaffordable. And the cost of college forces a difficult decision for too many Missourians.

It's a decision much like the one that Marcus and Rachelle Brent from St. Louis recently faced. Marcus and Rachelle had dreamed of sending their daughter Keirstin to college - and worked hard all their lives to make it happen. But just a few weeks ago, they both unexpectedly lost their jobs, and it turned their world upside down. They were left with a difficult decision: Should they take money out of their 401Ks in order to help Keirstin go to college? Or should they ask their daughter to give up her dreams of a college degree?

Marcus and Rachelle decided that their daughter's education comes first. And today Keirstin is a freshman at Harris Stowe State University in St. Louis.

We welcome Keirstin here tonight, and we salute Marcus and Rachelle's dedication to her future.

Families across the state are postponing retirements, taking out second mortgages, doing whatever they can to make college a reality for their children. It shouldn't have to be this way.

Even with her parents' help, Keirstin will still graduate with thousands of dollars of debt. She'll have a hard time buying that new house or new car. Instead of pumping money back into our economy, she'll be paying off the degree that's hanging on her wall.

Tuition has skyrocketed in part because the state has slashed its support for colleges and universities. In the past, when the state has faced challenging economic times, higher education has often been the first target for cuts. Not this time.

Under my proposed budget, Missouri's state colleges and universities will receive the same level of support next year that they currently receive.

And in exchange for the state's continued level of support, the presidents of the state's public colleges and universities have agreed not to increase tuition on Missouri students.

Students in other states will see their tuition continue to skyrocket this year. But not here.

Under my proposed budget, not one Missouri student at a public Missouri college, university or community college will see their tuition go up next year. And that is a major victory for Missouri families.

But for many middle-class Missourians, even the current cost of tuition at our public four-year colleges and universities is unaffordable.

To highlight this point, I'd like to tell you about a young lady I met a few months ago. Her name is Jennifer Long. Jennifer grew up in Pleasant Hill but she currently attends Pittsburg State University in Kansas. I asked her why she - or any Missourian - would choose to go to college in Kansas. She told me that she wanted to stay here in Missouri, but she qualified for in-state tuition in Kansas because she lived in a nearby county. And, the schools in Kansas are more affordable.

Jennifer had gone to community college in Missouri on an A+ scholarship - but then had to leave the state in order to afford her four-year degree. That shouldn't happen.

That's why my budget includes funds for my plan called the Missouri Promise. It builds upon our current A+ Schools Program, which allows students at eligible high schools to get their two-year degrees at community colleges tuition free.

The Missouri Promise allows those students who take advantage of A+ scholarships to continue at a Missouri public college or university - and complete their four-year degree debt free.

So now, as long as they keep a B average and give back to their community, students like Jennifer Long will have a pathway to earn a four-year degree and graduate debt free, right here in Missouri.

Please join me in welcoming Jennifer, who joins us tonight. Thank you for coming. We wish you all the best at Pittsburg State. But when you graduate, we need you to come back home and help our economy here in Missouri.

In addition to the Missouri Promise, we'll continue funding other important scholarship programs - like the Missouri Teacher Education Program, Bright Flight, the Missouri Minority Teaching Program, and the Urban Flight and Rural Needs Program.

And we will continue to honor our heroes in the Missouri National Guard as they return home from overseas by fully funding tuition assistance programs. Despite these tough economic times, the State of Missouri will keep its end of the bargain for those who fought for our freedom and safety.

Now, our state's health care system has been broken for some time. And lately, matters have only been getting worse. More than 729,000 Missourians are uninsured, including 150,000 children. Families who have insurance are struggling to afford it. Hospitals are struggling to keep up with the lines at Emergency Rooms.

Nobody should feel good about the state of our health care system. Nobody should feel good that we have 150,000 uninsured children in Missouri. Thousands of parents in our state have to worry about letting their children play outside with their friends after school - because one slip and fall could mean bankruptcy for the family.

In Missouri, there are 100,000 children among our uninsured who are right now eligible for health coverage under Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program, but are not signed up. That's unacceptable.

We need to identify these families, and put together a coordinated effort to recruit them. We'll eliminate premiums for some kids and create a level premium for the rest. We're going to tear down the roadblocks that are preventing eligible families from registering their children for S-CHIP. And we'll seek to form public-private partnerships to assist families that can't afford S-CHIP premiums.

Tomorrow, I'll propose a supplemental budget recommendation so that we can immediately begin the process of getting these children the health care they deserve.

Not only is it unacceptable that so many of our neighbors live without access to affordable health care, this broken system directly impacts our state's economy. New companies aren't coming to Missouri and employers are not adding workers because the cost of health care is just too high. We cannot get this economy moving until we get the cost of health insurance under control. And we cannot get the cost of health insurance under control until we reduce the number of Missourians who don’t have it.

Reducing the number of uninsured Missourians is not just the right thing to do for our neighbors. It is the smart thing to do for our economy.

So, we must begin the process of reducing the number of uninsured. It's a massive problem, and in these difficult times, we won't fix it overnight. But we must make progress, and start heading in the right direction once again.

There are many options on the table, and I am open to all good ideas that achieve our common goal - providing more Missouri families access to health coverage that they can afford at a cost that the state can afford.

That's why, in my budget, I've begun the process. Tonight I am offering a plan to expand health coverage to 62,000 more Missourians - that's 35,000 working adults and 27,000 children. We'll pay for much of the cost of this expansion by drawing down additional federal matching dollars.

But let's be clear. While this is the logical first step towards expanding health coverage, it won't be the last step. We must continue to work together to further expand coverage and further drive down costs for Missouri families.

I look forward to working with the legislature to find common ground on this critical issue for our state. And make no mistake, we must take action to address the health care crisis in Missouri this year.

Working together, we can accomplish a lot to bring about the change our state needs. But at a very fundamental level, we must also regain and retain the trust of the people of Missouri.

We can all agree that our government must be more open, more transparent, more responsive and more accountable.

The people of Missouri have had reason to be skeptical of their government in recent years. Legislators doubling as political consultants. Special access for the special interests. A campaign finance system that allows unlimited contributions to flow into candidates' coffers.

That all must stop.

Two weeks ago, I officially put an end to the antiquated system that allowed Governors to give away license fee offices to their political allies. It was a system reminiscent of the political machines and the smoke-filled rooms of the past. Those days should be long behind us.

For as long as I'm your Governor, license fee offices will go to the people or organizations that will run them most effectively and provide the best service to Missourians. I'm encouraged by the bi-partisan support the new system has received, and I hope the General Assembly will send me a bill to make this change permanent.

Elections should be competitions of ideas, not competitions to recruit the largest number of wealthy donors. The people of Missouri have gone to the polls and spoken on this issue: They want strict contribution limits. I agree with them. There is no reason that special interest groups from across the country should be pouring millions of dollars into local elections here in Missouri. That’s why I believe we must pass a real campaign finance reform bill during this session.

It's difficult to overstate the seriousness of the challenges we face.

In the coming weeks, we will make the tough decisions needed to tackle our economic challenges. Those decisions won't be easy, and they won't come without sacrifice. Even in these historically tough times, we must continue moving forward. We must all work together to make our state a better place.

The economic climate may have changed in recent months, but the principles we share have not.

We are all in this together.

We all see a future where every Missourian who works hard has a place to work. And where parents can sleep at night knowing that their children will have the medical care they need. A state where every young person has a chance to realize their dreams, and where we know that our government is always on our side.

The solutions to our problems are within reach. And the only thing that can stop us is the same thing that always stops progress: a failure to listen, a failure to compromise, or a failure to walk a day in someone else's shoes.

By working together, we will tear down old barriers and tackle the challenges we face.

United by the principles we share today, Missouri will come back stronger tomorrow.

It is a new day for the Show-Me State, and we're excited by what the future will bring.

Thank you and God bless the great state of Missouri.

GateHouse Media, New York Times reach settlement

The copyright infringement lawsuit filed by GateHouse Media against the New York Times company has been settled. Terms of the settlement can be found at this link.

Top MSSU official takes issue with Speck's elimination of Child Development Center, men's soccer team

A top official at Missouri Southern State University has ripped into the type of management shown by Dr. Bruce Speck when he eliminated the Child Development Center and men's soccer team last week. (Of course, there remains a question about whether Speck actually took those actions on his own or if it was a board decision, or the decision of just one board member, handed down to Speck.)

The official indicated Speck had a responsibility to listen to all sides before making any kind of decision on eliminating the programs.

"We need to have a strategic plan so that it is visible to everyone, so that we know where we are going, and so we know how to assess our resources. "

The official added that it is not just those at the college who should become involved, but those in the surrounding community. "We want (their) participation because we believe that what we do here extends beyond the perimeter of this campus."

An open decision-making process, something that Speck did not follow during the process that led to the elimination of the programs, is a necessity for Missouri Southern State University, the official said.

"When you open up discussion, you allow all kinds of voices to be involved in that discussion. It is very easy to begin to view someone as an enemy if they have a different view than you do, especially if they happen to be a bit ruckus, and that is unfortunate. In my view, open discussion means that we are soliciting people's view, regardless of finesse of delivery or accuracy of information and it is our responsibility in this discourse community to listen and take account of what they are saying."

And no, this official is not hiding behind a mask of anonymity to rip into Bruce Speck. The top official who made the comments was Dr. Bruce Speck and they are featured in this article from the Joplin Business Journal archives.

Saga Communications stock dips below $1; Nexstar stock falls to 69 cents

Saga Communications stock fell 13 cents Monday, closing at 98 cents per share. Saga owns KOAM and KJFX in the Joplin/Pittsburg market.

Nexstar Broadcasting, owner/operator of KODE and KSNF in the Joplin market and KOLR and KSFX in the Springfield market dropped six cents to 69 cents per share.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Winner of this year's Hans Christian Andersen Award

"The board isn't going to micromanage the school," Missouri Southern State University Board of Governors Chairman Dwight Douglas told the Joplin Globe.

Douglas claims the Board of Governors never decided to eliminate the Child Development Center and the men's soccer program...that was done by University President Bruce Speck on his own:

“(The board) hired the administration to run the school, and we had communicated that we were concerned about the deficit budget, but they got to make the decision,” Douglas said about the specific programs that were cut. “The board isn’t going to micromanage the school.”

Douglas said he did have a telephone conversation with Speck a couple of days before he announced the specific cuts last week, and that Speck informed him of his plan.

“The board supports that we have got to get this budget balanced,” Douglas said.

If the board did not discuss the elimination of these programs, then why does the board even exist? Apparently, it is only to meet, feast, and serve as a rubber stamp to the chairman.

Article: GateHouse Media lawsuit provides danger to online publishers

An article from Great Britain's Econsultancy notes the dangers GateHouse Media's lawsuit against the New York Times company has for online publishers:

Indeed it would. As services that 'aggregate' content have become far more prevalent on the internet and more old and new media outlets alike adopt the practice, a debate over the fine line between fair use and copyright infringement has emerged. At what point does copying headlines and story excerpts go beyond friendly promotion of someone else's content and become theft of someone else's content? There are arguments to be made on both sides.

Supporters of the practice make a valid point when they note that links from aggregators can boost traffic for the publisher whose content is being aggregated. But there can also be no denying that many websites use aggregation to become content destinations in their own right. And when it comes to SEO, I've personally heard complaints that popular aggregators which duplicate content sometimes appear higher in SERPs than the original publishers of that content, so an argument could be made that, in some cases at least, the practice robs original publishers of SEO benefits.

The trial is scheduled to begin today.

Globe editor still hitting the booze

The Joplin Globe's attempt to modernize itself with edgy blogs continues with Internet editor David Woods continuing to throw his all into coverage of the booze beat:

I’ve always been more of a beer guy, than a wine guy. Cocktails have never really interested me either. But, in the last year or so, I’ve developed a taste for the grape. I was surprised. When my wine-wise friends rush to share a bottle over dinner, I’d get a beer.

Judging from the decisions that have been made at the newspaper over the past few years, Woods is not the only one prowling the booze beat.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

$20,000+ judgment entered against Richards Republican

Judge James Bickel entered a $20,248.81 judgment against Rep. Barney Fisher, R-Richards Dec. 2, according to Vernon County Circuit Court records.

The judgment was stayed on the condition that Fisher begin paying $130 per month on what he owes CACV of Colorado, a collection agency, beginning Dec. 15, court records indicate.

Three other civil suits have been filed against Fisher. Cavalry Portfolio Services won a $6,134.60 judgment against the representative in 2004, while a judgment of $14,273.35 was entered against Fisher in June 2007.

Smith bill addresses problem of school bullying

SB 132, offered by Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, is designed to protect children from bullying at school:

Smith's bill was described in the following news release:

Senator Smith recently filed Senate Bill 132, which would expand Missouri schools’ anti-bullying policies to include discrimination or any action that substantially interferes with a student’s educational performance or a school’s safe and orderly operation.

“All students deserve a safe learning environment,” Sen. Smith said. “Unfortunately, bullying is a very real and growing problem and we need to curb it where it generally occurs — at school.” The proposed legislation would require school districts to adopt policies prohibiting bullying, including a definition of bullying and procedures for reporting acts of bullying, responding to confirmed incidents of bullying, and conducting prompt investigations. The measure would also require anti-bullying policies are made public, and ensure employees and volunteers receive training on anti-bullying policies.

Under the proposal, the State Board of Education would develop model anti-bullying policies to assist school districts no later than Sept. 1, 2010.

“Bullying can adversely affect a student’s performance, self-esteem, and sometimes result in tragic consequences,” Sen. Smith said. “Research shows that when there is a commitment by schools, teachers, students and parents, bullying can be drastically reduced, and student safety increased.”

Message to Scott: Don't we already have these rights?

From the latest column by Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City:

Freedom of speech and expression is one of our fundamental rights upheld in our country’s Constitution. Despite this amendment that has been established since 1791, there has been some confusion in terms of expressing religious beliefs in Missouri schools.

The United States Supreme Court has used the separation of church and state doctrine more than 25 times in rendering its decisions. Separation of church and state establishes that government and religious institutions will be kept separate and independent from each other. In Missouri, our courts use Article I, sections 5, 6, and 7 of the Missouri Constitution as the basis for Missouri’s separation of church and state.

I want to ensure our religious freedom by filing Senate Joint Resolution 12. Joint resolutions are used to submit a proposed constitutional amendment to a vote of the people. It requires the same treatment as a bill in its passage through both the Senate and House of Representatives and has the force of law, but does not require the governor’s signature.

Upon voter approval, Senate Joint Resolution 12 reaffirms a citizen’s right to free expression of religion. The amendment states that you have the right as an individual or part of a group to pray in all private or public areas, as long as the prayer does not disturb the peace, disrupt a public meeting or assembly, or block public access.

Senate Joint Resolution 12 would also allow students to be engaged in private and voluntary prayer, acknowledgement of God, or other religious expressions, individually or in groups, and express their religious beliefs in school assignments without discrimination based on the religious content of their work.

And finally, Senate Joint Resolution 12 explicitly prohibits the establishment of any official state religion and any state coercion to participate in prayer or other religious activities. According to the resolution, the General Assembly and other governing bodies may have ministers and clergy persons offer invocations or prayers at meetings or session. Before the start of each legislative workday, my colleagues and I begin with a special prayer. I could not imagine having restrictions in regards to sharing in God’s grace before discussing and debating on important and sometimes difficult issues facing our state. Passage of Senate Joint Resolution 12 would ensure everyone’s right to free religious expression.

Nodler keeping an eye on Washington

With Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt considering a run at the U. S. Senate position currently held by retiring Kit Bond, one of the names mentioned prominently for Blunt's Congressional seat is Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin.

Nodler was defeated by Blunt for that position in 1996.

In Nodler's latest report to constituents, he does not say he is running for Congress if Blunt decides to go for the promotion, but Nodler says he will keep an eye on Washington:

While our new president has yet to prove his long term leadership skills in order to accomplish the goals he has set forth, Missouri will soon be losing one of our most solid leaders. U.S. Senator Christopher S. Bond recently announced that he will not be running for reelection in 2010. Sen. Bond is a sixth generation Missourian, who was born in St. Louis and grew up in Mexico, MO. His career of service to our state included time as the Assistant Attorney General, State Auditor, and Governor of the state of Missouri — the youngest Governor the state has ever had. In 1986, he was elected to the United States Senate for the first of four six-year terms.

During his more than 20 years of service in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Bond has protected and advanced Missouri’s interests and served as a national leader. The state of Missouri owes him a debt of gratitude, and I would like to personally offer my thanks for his efforts to strengthen and serve our state. I am grateful that Sen. Bond will be there for the next two years to continue to offer steady leadership to our state and nation during these critical times.

Over the next several months, our state is sure to be affected by the many changes to be made by the federal government. I will continue to keep a close watch on the events in Washington D.C. while continuing my work to meet the most pressing
needs of our state.

Bartle bills aim to close loopholes

Two bills filed by Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Jackson County, aim to close loopholes in state laws.

SB 180 would close a loophole that allows drug dealers to not be charged with dealing within a school zone if they were not aware it was a school zone.

The second, SB 181, offers a judge discretion to reveal the name of defendants in domestic assault cases.

Bartle explained the bills in his latest report to constituents:

Keeping Missouri’s laws current is a continual process. As laws go into effect, the need for changes often comes to light. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, it is my responsibility, along with my fellow committee members, to ensure that Missouri’s civil and criminal laws are effective and efficient. Such is the case with two bills I’m sponsoring this session, which address issues that recently arose during the course of two Missouri Supreme Court cases.

Some time back, a law was passed that makes it a class A felony in Missouri to sell drugs within a certain distance of a school or park, creating a buffer zone around these areas. However, the court interpreted the law to require prosecutors to prove, not only that the drug dealer intended to sell drugs, but also that he intended to be in the buffer zone in
the first place.

This loophole needed to be fixed to make it easier for prosecutors to get convictions in these cases. The bill I filed (Senate Bill 180) removes the requirement that a dealer know that he is within a buffer zone and says that actually committing the criminal act is proof enough of intent. The legislation also applies to certain sexual offenses, such as sex offenders who loiter near schools, in an effort to avoid a similar loophole in these cases.

Another issue that arose during a recent court case involved domestic assault and the victim’s right to privacy. The statute in question was intended to protect a victim’s identity, however, the defendant, who was also a lawyer, twisted the law to keep his name private and to save himself some embarrassment. He argued that if his name was revealed, it would also reveal the name of the victim—his wife—who shared the same last name. The court reluctantly agreed and refused to allow his name to be entered in court records, but urged the Legislature to fix the statute since it was never intended to protect perpetrators of crimes.

Senate Bill 181 would fix this loophole in the law by giving the judge presiding in a domestic assault case discretion to publicly disclose information regarding the defendant, which could be used to identify the victim. The victim may provide the court with a statement regarding whether he or she wishes such information to remain closed. In these cases, the judge may consider the welfare and safety of the victim when deciding how much information to release.

Article features former Joplin police officer

The first days on the job for new Onalaska, Wisconsin Police Chief Jeff Trotnic, a 20-year veteran of the Joplin Police Department, are chronicled in an article in today's LaCrosse Tribune:

While Trotnic had 20 years on Joplin’s police force, he said coming into a different community has made him feel somewhat like a rookie. He not only had to learn the new department, but a whole slate of new laws and municipal ordinances.

“It’s just getting to figure out how things are done here,” he said.

But Trotnic said the biggest challenge has been making time to get to know his officers. “I try not to forget what it’s like to be a uniformed officer on the road,” he said.

That’s why on Christmas morning, instead of staying home with family, he took his youngest daughter to the station to greet the 6 a.m. shift with doughnuts.

“It was a lesson to Aubrey not to forget those who have to be out there,” he said.

Show-Me Opinions: Dr. Speck, take a paycut

The blogosphere has been reacting to Thursday's announcement by Missouri Southern State University President Bruce Speck that the Child Development Center and the men's soccer program are being eliminated. The Show-Me Opinions blog addressed the topic with a suggestion for Speck:

Here's a novel idea Dr. Speck... why don't you take a pay cut? Oh wait, that's right. You would rather pass along the inconvenience to the single mothers who needed the child development center so they could continue their education. Well, here is an idea: maybe those mothers should look elsewhere to a college or university that cares about their well being. I realize times are hard and the decisions made in this financial environment are never easy, but I haven't seen one indication that you are willing to make sacrifices to your cozy lifestyle but you would rather pass the burden along to your faculty, staff, and students.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ameren UE contributes $10,000 to state Democratic Committee

I am skeptical when Speaker of the House Ron Richard, R-Joplin, says that Ameren's political contributions have no effect on pushing forward a plan for construction of a new nuclear plant.

If that's the case, then that leaves us to believe the company simply makes contributions out of a sense of public spirit and expects nothing in return.

As Jon Lovitz' character used to say on Saturday Night Live, "Yeah, that's the ticket."

Ameren is fattening the bank accounts of politicians on both sides of the aisle. I noted in an earlier post, the $15,000 Richard has received from the company (which doesn't have any affect on his decisions whatsoever).

In fairness, it should be noted that the State Democratic Committee received a $10,000 contribution from the company Thursday. My guess is it won't have any affect on Democrats' votes either.

Why did MSSU officials choose to eliminate Child Development Center, soccer team?

As I noted in my last post, Dr. Bruce Speck, the president of my alma mater, Missouri Southern State University, announced the elimination of the Child Development Center and men's soccer program Thursday.

Why were those particular programs selected?

It would appear that neither program has prominent supporters among the community elite, which makes both programs inviting targets.

The kinds of people who use the Child Development Center do not appear to be those who will often be invited to dine with University Board President Dwight Douglas.

As for the men's soccer program, its inclusion appears to be more of a public relations effort to show that sports programs will not be exempt from the budget knife, and few visiting bigwigs or high-dollar donors are going to be taken to soccer matches. Entertaining always takes place at football and basketball games.

However, the board should consider the message that eliminating the world's number one sports sends about the university's international program.

Then again, perhaps that is exactly the message Douglas and Dr. Speck wanted to send.

MSSU cuts indicate Sunshine Law violation

When Missouri Southern State University President Dr. Bruce Speck announced the elimination of the Child Development Center and the men's soccer program Thursday, the first question that came to my mind was a simple one.

How in the world could the Board of Governors make this decision without discussing it in an open session? After all, this is a far-reaching decision that adversely affects a number of lives. These people and their supporters deserved an opportunity to have their say in front of the board...and more importantly, they had a right to look the board members in the eyes as the cuts were made.

And why in the world has the traditional media rolled over and not asked this question? As far as I can determine, the local television stations, Joplin Globe and Carthage Press have not asked the question. My understanding is the question will be posed, if it has not been already, by the campus newspaper, The Chart.

It is not hard to predict what university officials' response will be- The deliberations and decision could be made in secrecy because it involved the jobs of identifiable workers. Sorry, but that is not the way the Sunshine Law works. If you are talking about hiring and firing specific workers for cause, or if you are talking about making decisions to eliminate certain workers from a department during hard economic times, those are things that can be discussed behind closed doors.

That does not cover this situation.

Eliminating programs is something that must be discussed and voted on in open session. The decision by a board, which is headed by a lawyer who should know better (and probably does) is shameful.

KOAM parent company fires long time radio personality as he waits for kidney transplant

Talk about cold-blooded.

Saga Communications, which owns KOAM and KFJX in the Joplin market, ordered the firing of Steve Gibbons, the long-time voice of its radio station in Des Moines, Iowa, KRNT...even though he is on the waiting list for a kidney transplant:

Gibbons was off the air at 10 a.m. Thursday, concluding his four-hour shift. The new boss called him in at 10:10.

A few minutes later, he was gathering his belongings. "They told me to clean out my desk, which is kind of funny because I didn't have a desk," he says.

He picked up his briefcase and his headphones and was out the door by 10:30. Gibbons never saw it coming.

"I thought I had more value than that," he says. "Everybody does when they're let go. I always felt I was giving them more than they were paying me. But there comes a point when the stockholders have to get some kind of return."

He says he thought he'd work two more years and retire.

"I thought I'd slowly land the plane and get off in Social Security land," he says. "What really hurt is I never got to say goodbye to the audience."

The station general manager, Jeff Delvaux, who has been there all of two weeks, had this explanation for the firing:

"We're hunkering down like any other company," Delvaux says. "We don't want to make any cuts, but it's not realistic."

While Steve Gibbons is on the lookout for a kidney, it appears that Jeff Delvaux and his superiors at Saga Communications, could use a heart.

Leggett & Platt schedules fourth quarter conference call

Carthage-based Fortune 500 company Leggett & Platt issued the following news release announcing the fourth quarter earnings call:

Leggett & Platt, Incorporated (NYSE: LEG), a diversified manufacturer of engineered products serving several major markets, will hold its quarterly conference call to discuss fourth quarter results on Wednesday, February 4, 2009, at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time (8:00 a.m. Central Time).

This call will be webcast by Thomson Financial and can be accessed from the Investor Relations section of Leggett's website at