Monday, February 28, 2011

Kinder: Public employee collective bargaining is money laundering for the Democratic Party

In this audio, posted on YouTube by Fired Up Missouri, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder worships Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin and continues to demonize public employee unions, describing collective bargaining as "money laundering" for the Democratic Party.

We're number one: Missouri LIfe names Joplin top city in state

Springfield Business Journal is reporting that Missouri Life has named Joplin the top city in the state:

Beyond population counts, the magazine used several factors to determine the Top 10 urban clusters, including:

Education- Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education blue ribbon standard recognition for school districts, the districts' frequency in the department's Missouri Assessment Program, and how often a school was on a Missouri Assessment Program listing;

Crime - property and violent crimes weighted in relation to population, compiled through 2009 data from the Missouri Statistical Analysis Center;

Unemployment - ranked on a 10-point scale, with the unemployment rate subtracted from 10; and
amenities - bookstores, restaurants, public libraries, movie theaters, performing arts, trails, parks, religious denominations, recycling, green energy, sales tax, median household income and air quality.

Route 126 bridge to close in Barton County


The Route 126 bridge over North Fork Spring River west of Route 71 will close March 7 for replacement as part of MoDOT's Safe & Sound Bridge program. The bridge will be closed until early May. The official detour route is Route J to Route H to Route 71.

Killer of Carthage couple pleads guilty

In a plea hearing today in Jasper County Circuit Court, Darren Winans, Jasper, admitted to killing Bob and Ellen Sheldon of Carthage, and that admission is going to keep him alive.

Winans pleaded guilty to two counts of second degree murder, two counts of armed criminal action, and one count of burglary.

The death penalty was taken off the table for Winans in exchange for his guilty plea. Sentencing will take place 9 a.m. May 4. Judge Gayle Crane ordered a sentencing assessment to be conducted by the Board of Probation and Parole to be submitted by April 4.

She will defer her acceptance of the plea agreement until May 4, according to online court records.

If the plea is accepted, it will bring an end to a case that shocked Carthage to its core. Winans and Matthew Laurin both pleaded guilty to the October 2009 murders of the Sheldons, who owned The Old Cabin Shop.

Laurin, 20, Springfield, pleaded guilty in 2010 and hung himself the next day in the Jasper County Jail.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tornado spotted four miles south of Lamar, warning extended to 10 p.m.




Tornado warning for Barton, northern Jasper County until 9:30 p.m.

From the National Weather Service:





The stench in Jefferson City isn't coming from hog farms

(My column for this week's Newton County News and KY3/KSPR)

One of the most frustrating things Missouri citizens have had to face the past few years is that the people who should be protecting them from odors and environmental hazards, their elected officials and the state Department of Natural Resources, are the ones who are enabling the top polluters.

During my time at The Carthage Press, I wrote about a man who was given the go-ahead to operate a landfill in Jasper County (thankfully, that never came about) even though he had been convicted of a felony involving the environment.I wrote about numerous situations in which corporate hog farms enveloped areas in odor and damaged the environment, while the DNR claimed that is allegedly was unable to do anything. Not so coincidentally, the man who was in charge of the DNR during much of that time, David Shorr, has since become a lobbyist and lawyer for many of the same polluters he was supposed to be protecting us from.

However, the problem is not limited to the legislature. This past week,bills were passed in the Missouri House and Senate, which would severely limit citizens' rights to hold corporate farming operations accountable for their transgressions.

Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah, who sponsored the bill in his chamber, said it was all about jobs. "Nuisance lawsuits" as he termed them were going to run the corporate farmers out of the state and put Missourians on the unemployment line.

Associated Press quotes Lager as saying, "For years and years, the farmers of our state have been able to produce food for our tables,but in recent years, agriculture has come under attack by essentially out-of-state lawyers."

What Lager fails to mention is that his biggest contributor is Smithfield Foods (something which sadly David Lieb, the Associated Press reporter) also failed to mention.

In the month prior to last year's election, Lager received three contributions, totaling $10,000 from Smithfield, $4,000 on Sept. 27, another $4,000 on Oct. 20, and $2,000 five days later.

In its coverage of the bills, Missourinet also neglected to mention the financial contributions Smithfield Foods made to the sponsor of the House bill, Rep. Casey Guernsey, R-Bethany.

The following passage comes from the Missourinet article:

The sponsor, Rep. Casey Guernsey (R-Bethany), acknowledges that he wants to protect PSF (Premium Standard Farms, a subsidiary of Smithfield) and the jobs it creates in his district, but he insists that his bill also protects family farmers from lawsuits filed by city dwellers moving into rural Missouri.

What is not mentioned is that Smithfield Foods has also been the biggest contributor to Guernsey's campaign, giving him $4,000- $2,000 on Oct. 24 and another $2,000 on Oct. 29.

It should be noted that the contributions given to Lager and Guernsey would have been illegal when Missouri had campaign contribution limits. Unless it laundered the money through committees, Smithfield could have only given Guernsey $325 and $675 to Lager.

Obviously, the stench in Jefferson City is not coming from hog farms.

Tornado watch issued for Joplin area until 3 a.m.

The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch until 3 a.m. for the following southwestern Missouri counties:


Hartzler: It's fun cutting spending

Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler took full advantage of her centerstage role at Lincoln Days in Springfield over the weekend.

Mrs. Hartzler related the accomplishments of Republicans during the first few weeks of the 2011 session, which she says included reading the U. S. Constitution on the House floor to show respect for it, and saving more than $600 billion.

Mrs. Hartzler said it has been fun cutting spending.

"We got out our mops and brooms and we're going to clean up their mess," she said, referring to the former Democratia majority.

Another goodbye to Bill Grigsby

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Peggy Newton: What the hell is wrong with me?

Businesswoman Peggy Newton, who faces 25 counts of fraud and forgery in connection with embezzlement from her downtown Joplin business, Evergreen and Amber describes herself as "scared" and "greedy" in letters and Facebook messages examined by the Joplin Police, FBI, and Secret Service during their investigation.

The letters go into some specifics, sources close to the investigation tell The Turner Report, and they show a distraught Mrs. Newton, wife of Joplin jeweler Brian Newton,admitting that she is the cause of problems with her business and family and asking family members and her business partner for forgiveness.

In a Facebook message examined by investigators,Mrs. Newton explained $400,000 in credit card charges by saying "The bad thing is I have done so much wrong, I can't even remember all of it. The credit cards I used for personal items were the Chase, American Express, Discover, and Bank of America, and I was an authorized user, but I took advantage of that privilege."

The Facebook message was sent before it was discovered, according to the same sources, that there were a dozen other credit cards, allegedly created by Mrs. Newton.

Mrs. Newton added, "My whole life has been telling lies; it has always been easier for me to lie than to tell the truth."

In a March 18, 2009, letter to her business partner, Mrs. Newton indicated her own "reckless behavior" was responsible for the financial conditions that forced Mrs. Pyle to declare Chapter Seven bankruptcy four months later.

"I am so stupid," Mrs. Newton wrote. "What the hell is wrong with me?"

In that letter, Mrs. Newton indicated that her "reckless behavior" had causwed a rift in her family and that though her husband was standing by her, the rest of his family had different feelings. "Basically, they are done with me and I really understand why. I don't blame them. How selfish of me. My bad, reckless behavior has made Brian suffer and be stuck in the middle."

"Will I ever overcome my guilt?" she wrote.

Investigators also examined a letter addressed by Mrs. Newton to her husband, business partner, and three other people in which she says she needs help and indicates she can't help spending money anywhere she can get her hands on it.

"I have lied since I can remember. I don't do it to hurt anyone intentionally; I just do it."

She adds, "I want to stop, lying, hiding, and sneaking."

Mrs. Newton waived the reading of the grand jury indictment Feb. 14, and pleaded not guilty to 25 counts of fraud and forgery during a 10-minute arraignment in federal court in Springfield.

After the government made no detention request, Mrs. Newton was released on a personal recognizance bond.

Mrs. Newton, 38, allegedly bilked Mrs. Pine out of approximately $300,000, allegedly forging Mrs. Pine's signature on various checks, creating credit card accounts in Mrs. Pine's name, and buying personal items with company money.

Previous Turner Report posts on Peggy Newton can be found at this link.

Schweich tells Lincoln Days crowd how state auditor's office is changing

At Lincoln Days, State Auditor Thomas Schweich reviewed what has been done in his office since he took the reins last month:

Kinder praises Wisconsin governor: A new star is born

During his half-hour speech at today's Lincoln Days in Springfield, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder received applause after praising Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

In the great Badger state of Wisconsin, a new star is born," Kinder said, praising Walker for his "firm, principaled leadership," for his role in attempting to break the state's unions.

BIlly Long at Lincoln Days: We got the $100 billion cut

Seventh District Congressman Billy Long, R-Springfield, told those attending Lincoln Days in Springfield today "We got the $100 billion cut. It's like Bette Davis said, 'Fasten your seatbelts; it's going to be a bumpy ride."

Bill Grigsby recalls favorite Chiefs memories

In this video from a couple of years ago, the late Bill Grigsby recalls memories of his storied broadcasting career:

Remembering Bill Grigsby

Though I listened to Bill Grigsby and his elongated "be-you-ti-ful" weather pronouncement as he broadcast Kansas City Chiefs games over the years, I only met the former Joplin Miners broadcast one time, when he was in Carthage in June 1998 to broadcast the KOM Old Timers Game.

So I am leaving it to this area's foremost custodian of the lore and knowledge of minor league baseball, former Carthage Cubs batboy John Hall to recall the inimitable Mr. Grigsby, who died today at age 89. The following comes from Hall's KOM Report:
Yours Truly first knew of Bill Grigsby when he announced the Joplin Miner games in 1950 on WMBH radio. He had one of those voices that you never forgot and over the years I heard him on radio broadcasting major league sports in Kansas City.

In 1998, a dream came true for Yours Truly. The largest of all KOM league reunions was held in Carthage. WMBH radio promoted the event and even volunteered to carry the old-timers game at that event, live, if I could find an announcer. Immediately, I got on the telephone and asked Grigsby if he’d like to return to “the scene of the crime.” When he found out that a lot of the former KOM leaguers also played for the Joplin Miners and/or in Western Association, he was happy to drive down from his Parkville, Mo home.

Oh, one more thing. He insisted that I be his play-by-play color man. That was more than I could have ever anticipated. When the time for the game arrived I still had the choice of remaining on the field and participate in the old-timers game, as a batboy, or going to the press box and joining Grigsby for the broadcast. The press box was my choice and it was filled with former writers for the KOM league teams or people connected with the league in some respect.

A tape machine was placed in a strategic place for Yours Truly to record the game. The radio signal from Joplin to Carthage, while only 20 air miles away, at most, was not that strong. However, I was able to capture the game on tape and what startled me was WMBH never paused for station identification in a broadcast that lasted over two hours. That day I learned the secret of radio. The announcers can create verbal scenes that have nothing to do with reality. In one segment on that tape I’m heard asking Grigsby what he estimated the attendance to be and he replied “Probably, between 30 and 35 thousand. I can only imagine motorists on I-44 and Highways 66 and 71 hurrying to get past Carthage before that large throng began filling out the stadium. There may have been 300-400 people at the stadium that day and most of them were former players. (For verification purposes the readership is encouraged to check the story through Jim Ellis of the Miami, Oklahoma News-Record for he almost drove off the road, on his way back to Miami, when he heard it on his car radio.)

At the end of that broadcast he asked if I’d like to say anything and I recall mouthing this unrehearsed disclaimer. “This broadcast is authorized under the authority granted by the KOM league and its President, the late E. L. Dale, solely for the enjoyment of the listening audience. Any reproduction, description or other use, of this broadcast without the express written consent of Mr. Dale, or the KOM league Inc. is strictly prohibited.” The only comment Grigsby had when I finished was “Man you’re crazy.” And, not only was he a great broadcaster he was very perspicacious.

During that reunion Grigsby made a speech to kick off a banquet telling the assembled throng (yes, they were throngs back then) how blessed they were to have played the game in the era they did and how great it was for them to have a chance to assemble and remember those days. One of the regrets I have of those reunions is that Grigsby’s remarks were not recorded. I had someone who was supposed to be doing that with a camcorder but they were asleep at the wheel.

As much as I like Len Dawson and Mitch Holtus, Chiefs' broadcasts have not bee the same since Mr. Grigsby retired in 2009 after broadcasting the team's games for 47 years. Though in his last few years, he mostly did pre-game material (and those great Williams Chili Seasoning commercials), his voice still added a special element to the Chiefs' games.

(Photo: Three Kansas City Chief champions- Len Dawson, Hank Stram, Bill Grigsby)

McCaskill: It is time for tough choices on budget cuts

Sen. Claire McCaskill is asking Missourians to give their input on what priorities we should have when it comes to the national budget. From her newsletter:

It is time for the tough choices on budget cuts.

I’m not going to mince words or try to sugarcoat it -- just like millions of Americans in this tough economy, Congress and the president have to bite the bullet and work together to get our $1.5 trillion budget deficit under control.

President Obama's new budget reflects our new economic reality -- it includes some cuts, and avoids others. However, I’m not sure it goes far enough.

But, I do agree with the president that just because we have to make big cuts doesn’t mean we have to take a hacksaw to everything. Now is the time to get our priorities straight. And it's important that we don't make essentially all the cuts in the smallest parts of the budget -- as the Republicans in the House have done.

What do you think should be at the top of the "protect list"?

Corporate Tax Breaks and Subsidies ($116 billion in budget)
Education ($77.4 billion in budget)
Foreign Aid ($50.9 billion in budget)
Funding for the Arts and Sciences ($8.759 billion in budget)
Homeland Security ($43.2 billion in budget)
Medicare ($485 billion in budget)
Military and Defense Programs ($703 billion in budget)
Social Security ($12.7 billion in budget -- note, this does not include the money Americans pay into the Social Security Trust Fund that is used to pay beneficiaries; this only includes the general revenue funds dedicated to certain annual Social Security costs, such as administrative expenses)

We no longer have the luxury of easy choices on budget cuts, but we simply have to suck it up and make the call. We can’t just keep kicking this can down the road.

Now, as we get ready for the budget fight, I’d like to hear from you: We’ve got big cuts coming -- and lots of programs will take at least a small hit.

What do you think we should do our best to protect? What is the top priority on your "protect list"?

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me -- we have some tough debates and tough choices ahead of us, and knowing what you think helps me immeasurably.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Hartzler: Our top priority is creating jobs

In her weekly report, Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler notes that her top priority is creating jobs:

This was a week to meet with the good citizens of the 4th Congressional District and to talk about our historic U.S. House vote to rein in wasteful government spending of money we don't have and to restore fiscal sanity. That vote came very early Saturday morning - around 4:30am to be precise - following more than 100 hours of debate. There's the old saying that you never want to see how sausage or legislation is made - and that might be true to some degree. But this process gave members the opportunity to put forward hundreds of amendments voted on by the House. Unlike the operations of the House under former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, this process was fair and open.

As I have mentioned in the past, our top priority is helping to create jobs for the good citizens of the 4th District who have lost their jobs or can't find work because of the stagnant economy. I had a chance to speak to business leaders this week when I addressed the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Jefferson City. My message was plain and simple: Government regulations and red tape stand in the way of private sector job creation. We must remove these burdens on business if we want the private sector to do what it does best - create jobs and grow the economy.

I told the gathering that as a businesswoman I understand their frustrations with government edicts that are both costly and time consuming. I explained how I am a co-sponsor of the Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act which is aimed at removing the unnecessary 1099 form reporting for low-value transactions. This onerous reporting requirement was slipped into the ObamaCare bill and we have bipartisan support to get rid of it. Once again it was up to the House to undo the damage caused by the Obama Administration and its lack of understanding of the importance of the business community to the job picture and to the overall economy.

I took that message to state lawmakers this week, as well, as I met with State Representatives and State Senators at the Capitol in Jefferson City. More than one legislator asked that I remain true to my conservative roots and to vote accordingly in Congress. That is something I am absolutely committed to doing! Your state legislators are grappling with many of the same concerns that are taking center stage in Washington. We have to spend tax dollars wisely and run government in a cost-efficient manner.

The message we are getting from legislators and people throughout the 4th District is that we are on the right track with such measures as banning all earmarks, voting to cut new spending by $2.6 trillion over ten years and reducing the deficit by $700 billion when we repealed ObamaCare, and voting to cut current government spending back to Fiscal Year 2008 levels or less, which will reduce non-security discretionary spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels. And, yes, they are very supportive of our efforts to cut more than $100 billion in spending from last week's continuing resolution. That 4th District logic is apparently shared by most Americans. A new Gallup Poll shows that by a 2-to-1 margin Americans want Congress to slash spending without shutting down the government. That is what I am committed to doing.

Next week we return to Capitol Hill concerned the Senate will force a government shutdown. The House has done our part: We passed a continuing resolution which will fund the government through the end of the year. It is up to the Senate to take up the bill and pass it by Friday. Senate Leader Harry Reid has already said our budgetary common sense approach is "dead on arrival." I certainly hope Senator Reid will change his way of thinking and not shut down the government. We, in the House, have done our work to ensure that Social Security checks will be mailed on time and other government services will continue uninterrupted. We certainly hope the Senate has the same concern for pensioners and others and will pass this important measure. If not, the House is prepared to offer a very temporary resolution to keep the government up and running. But the Senate could ease the concerns of a lot of Missourians and Americans throughout the country by agreeing to the fiscally responsible steps taken by the Republican-controlled House.

Rest assured that I'll continue to advocate for efficient, effective government that doesn't spend money we don't have. We've got to do it for our children and grandchildren. I'll keep you up to date as events unfold in the coming week.

Engler explains his patient protection bills

Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, explains the two patient protection bills he has filed. From his latest report:

At this writing, 350 bills and 39 resolutions have been introduced in the Senate....with almost 700 filed in the House. This week, I added to this list of proposed legislation by introducing two new patient protection bills on the floor of the Senate.

Senate Bill 303 would strengthen the authority of the Board of Healing Arts to take action when a doctor is becoming a danger to their patients. Senate Bill 303 would also allow the public to learn if any disciplinary action has been taken against a doctor in Missouri or another state.

A recent investigation by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch found multiple situations where substantiated complaints against doctors to the Board of Healing Arts have gone nowhere. This is an important patient protection bill that needs to be enacted so bad doctors do not continue to put patient’s health in danger.

I also filed Senate Bill 302, which would affect some associations that provide medical malpractice insurance.

To reduce their medical malpractice costs, some doctors are buying into plans that underinsure them. Without these new regulations, these associations could run out of cash if they had to pay out multiple claims. Senate Bill 302 will require them to maintain a surplus of at least $600,000 in order to ensure that they have the assets to handle major claims. We are all required to have a minimum amount of car insurance to cover reasonable claims and doctors should also have a malpractice insurance minimum. This will ensure that doctors and patients are protected alike.

There is an issue that has been ongoing since the Civil War, when the state took control of the St. Louis police force. This week, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would allow the City of St. Louis to take control of its own police force. A similar bill, Senate Bill 23, was voted out of the Senate committee this week, showing that the legislation is gaining steam this year. I think we need to be sure to evaluate the issue carefully and decide what will be best for the police officers and citizens of St. Louis City.

Two bills approved by the Governmental Accountability Committee this week convey land in our area. Senate Bill 96 would convey state land in Farmington to the Habitat for Humanity of St. Francois County, and Senate Bill 97 would convey state property in Farmington to the city of Farmington for an outer road. These bills were placed in the Senate Consent Calendar, meaning they are noncontroversial and are on the fast track to be voted on by the full Senate.

Stouffer offers the ins and outs of school reform

Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, offers his take on school reform in his latest column, and as you might expect, it is all about school choice and charter schools:

When it comes to providing a world-class education to all Missouri students, the stakes are extremely high. If we are to compete in the global economy, we must have a skilled work force.

While some politicians are looking to reduce the amount of days that students spend in classrooms this year as part of a “snow day bailout,” other decision makers are working hard to ensure every second our students spend in a classroom is making a difference. Among the issues related directly to this topic in 2011 is a look at charter schools.

First opening their doors in Kansas City in 1999, and a year later in St. Louis, charter schools are a relatively new approach to education in Missouri. A charter school is the same as a public school, with the exception of its organization. A charter public school is governed by an independent school board. Just like standard public schools, charter schools are free and open to all students in the districts where they operate, and are held accountable for the results they produce.

This year, school and parent choice are taking shape in the Missouri House of Representatives. Among the bills that have caught the attention of educators and parents is House Bill 393, which would establish the “Parent Empowerment and Choice Act,” or the “Parent Trigger Act.” This would allow parents to shut down a school if it is struggling to the point that children are suffering academically.

In other words, parents could “pull the trigger” to stop the way a school is operating, and then re-open the school with either a new staff or as a charter school. Other states have started using this policy. Parents are fed up with lackluster schools and teachers who do not seem to care about anything more than their paychecks, pensions and when the next vacation day will be. Fortunately, I do not believe we have schools like this in our area. This law would allow parents to take action and fight for the future of their child’s education.

Another proposal, House Bill 473, would expand charter schools to all of Missouri. Currently, charters can only be found in St. Louis and Kansas City. Charter schools are working in these cities to improve the odds for local students. Today, we estimate the number of prisons we will need based on the reading performance of our young students. I believe every kid deserves a fighting chance in life. This new option may also provide opportunities for teachers looking for creative ways to educate students of varying backgrounds. Of course, all of the discussion around charter schools — like traditional public schools — should include accountability and performance.

I look forward to debating these ideas, and others that may also be taken up this session. Anything we can do to expand world-class educational opportunities in Missouri has to be looked at. We are in a battle with not just other states, but other nations, when it comes to producing the best people we can for the jobs of the future. I am very interested in doing what is right for these kids and their parents, regardless of the political consequences.

Dempsey: Planning for Missouri's energy future

In his latest report, Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Peters, talks about Missouri's energy policy:

With the turmoil in the Middle East, oil prices are nearing record highs once again. Today, the price of gas is over $3 per gallon and many of us are concerned about how much higher the cost will get. These headlines underscore a very important point. Now more than ever, the United States needs to become energy independent. It’s a matter of national security. Furthermore, with additional efforts put into exploration, production, and new infrastructure, thousands of new jobs would be created nationwide.

In Missouri, we have our own energy policy to pursue. We export a substantial amount of energy to our neighbors, which, in part, allows us to have lower electrical costs than most states.

This situation could change, however, as federal lawmakers support policies to phase out coal-burning plants. Eighty-two percent of our energy is produced by decades-old, coal-fired plants. Modifications to reduce pollution will extend the life of those facilities, but that’s not a long-term solution to our energy needs. The desire for cleaner burning energy production has forced us to begin planning for a future that includes less energy production from coal.

Legislation filed this session would begin the process of building a second nuclear power plant in Missouri. It is clean and safe. While a nuclear plant is the most expensive technology to build, it is relatively cheap to operate. Investments in wind, solar, biomass, and other renewable energy sources can be expanded too, but those methods are unable to supply the dependable base load generation our economy demands.

As we consider the legislation, we need to make certain that safeguards are in place to protect ratepayers. It is my hope that we can move forward with an efficiently-run building project that would employ thousands of Missouri workers and provide low-cost, cleaner-burning energy long into our future.

April 13 sentencing scheduled for former Anderson Guest House owners

An April 13 sentencing date has been scheduled for Anderson Guest House owners Robert and Laverne Dupont, according to a memorandum filed today in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

Dupont will be sentenced at 1 p.m., according to the memorandum with sentencing for Mrs. Dupont set for 2 p.m. at the federal courthouse in Springfield.

Judge Greg Kays found the Duponts guilty of two fraud charges Sept. 30, issuing the following verdict:

Specifically, the indictment charges that the Duponts concealed that Mr. Dupont had been convicted of a health care related offense and was excluded from participation in federal health care programs.

The evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Dupont was a principal of Joplin River of Life Ministries, Incorporation (“JROL”) at all relevant times. Mr. Dupont incorporated JROL after his initial conviction for health care fraud. Shortly before Mr. Dupont’s imprisonment, Mr. Dupont directed that Mrs. Dupont be installed in his former position as Executive Director. The evidence revealed that Mr. Dupont continued to function as a de facto Executive Director during his prison term and after his release. During this time, the Duponts actively concealed his role as a de facto principal.

The Court relied heavily on the testimony of Walter Taylor and Susan Greene in making the determination regarding Mr. Dupont’s role at JROL. Mr. Taylor worked for JROL as a manager of several of the Guest Houses. Later, he served as a JROL board member. He testified that Mr. Dupont attended the board meetings and made “suggestions” as to how the company should be run, and that the board never contradicted his wishes. Specifically, he testified that since the other two board members were Mr. Dupont’s sons-in-law, even if he disagreed with Mr. Dupont, he knew that he would be outvoted. Among his many duties, Mr. Taylor was in charge of Medicaid billing for the Guest Houses. He took his billing documents to the Duponts for review, and Mr. Dupont often questioned his billing methods. In addition, Mr. Dupont threatened to fire, fired, and rehired Mr. Taylor on a regular basis, suggesting that Mr. Dupont
exercised authority over personnel. Mr. Dupont’s involvement with billing, personnel issues and
the board of directors all took place after he returned from prison. Mr. Taylor testified that while
Mr. Dupont was technically his wife’s assistant, in reality she was just there “for show” and Mr. Dupont was actually in charge of JROL. The Court found Mr. Taylor’s testimony credible.

Ms. Greene, a former Guest House administrator, testified that she reported primarily to Mr. Dupont after he got out of prison. Mr. Dupont supervised the payroll and made personnel decisions, including rehiring people that she had fired—effectively overruling her personnel decisions. The Court found Ms. Greene’s testimony credible.

In contrast to the testimony of Mr. Taylor and Ms. Greene on Mr. Dupont’s role, the Court gives very little weight to the testimony of Lionel Smiles. Mr. Smiles was a JROL employee who also happened to be in prison with Mr. Dupont on unrelated charges. Mr. Smiles’s testimony tended to support the Defendants’ version of events—that Mrs. Dupont was the Executive Director and that Mr. Dupont was her assistant. The Government impeached Mr. Smiles’s testimony by eliciting that he previously stated that Mr. Dupont was in charge. Mr.Smiles admitted that he made the previous statement but denied a contradiction because he felt
that he had also said that Mr. Dupont assisted his wife. In addition, Mr. Smiles initially denied having spoken with Mr. Dupont for several weeks, but later admitted that he had spoken with him after his interview with the FBI. When asked to explain these inconsistencies, Mr. Smiles denied that Mr. Dupont had influenced his testimony or told him what to say. The Court finds Mr. Smiles’s testimony largely incredible due to these inconsistencies and his general manner while testifying.

The Court finds Mr. Dupont’s testimony largely irrelevant to the question of whether he was acting as a principal or operator. He denied that he engaged in direct patient care—an issue which does not seem to be in dispute. This is likely because the parties’ defense is focused on the language of the exclusion letter. Ex. 1 at ¶ 29. Furthermore, Mr. Dupont lauded his wife’s business acumen as a means of refuting the Government’s position that she was merely a figurehead while he was the operator of JROL. The Court does not find this relevant for the reasons discussed below. The Court also notes that Mr. Dupont’s bankruptcy petition, filed in 2004, lists his occupation as JROL’s “Exec. Director.” Ex. 28 at 16.1

Based on these witnesses, the Court finds that the credible evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Robert Dupont was, at the very least, sharing the operating and principal responsibilities with his wife during and after his prison term. Though the parties focused on the language of Mr. Dupont’s exclusion letter and his subjective understanding of it, the issue before the Court is whether the Defendants’ conduct satisfies the elements of health care fraud. Based on their concealment of Mr. Dupont’s role as principal, the Court finds beyond a reasonable doubt that the Duponts executed a scheme or artifice to defraud the Missouri Medicaid program.

On multiple occasions, Mrs. Dupont affirmatively stated that no “operator or principal” was excluded from participation in Medicaid or had been convicted of an offense related to the operation of a long-term care facility. Exs. 21-24. Mrs. Dupont made these statements in October 2005 and February 2006, after Mr. Dupont’s exclusion. Id., Ex. 1 at ¶¶ 26-27. Since the Court has found that Mr. Dupont was a de facto principal or operator, these statements were false.

As to Mr. Dupont’s role in this scheme, the Court finds that he used his influence over the board to have Mrs. Dupont installed as Executive Director. The Court does not accept the Government’s position that Mrs. Dupont was merely a figurehead. However, the statements she made denied that any principal or operator had a health care offense conviction or was an excluded provider. It is not necessary that Mr. Dupont was the only principal or operator in order for these statements to be part of a scheme or artifice to commit health care fraud. Mr. Dupont further participated in this scheme by presenting himself to others, such as his probation officer, Adam Szura, as his wife’s assistant while he was actually acting as, at least, Co-Executive Director. Mr. Szura testified that he spoke to Mrs. Dupont as Executive Director and that his understanding of Mr. Dupont’s employment plan was that he would be “working at” JROL. Mr. Szura also testified that Mr. Dupont was not forthcoming with documentation regarding his employment, such as pay stubs and tax returns. Regarding the second element, this scheme or artifice was clearly in connection with the delivery of health care benefits. The parties have stipulated that the specific statements the Court has referenced were Missouri Medicaid licensure applications, which obviously involve health care benefits.

The Court finds that the Government has proven beyond a reasonable doubt Robert and Laverne Dupont executed a scheme or artifice to defraud the Missouri Medicaid program by concealing Mr. Dupont’s role as a principal in the operation of JROL’s long-term care facilities, and that this scheme was executed in connection with the delivery of health care benefits The Court finds Robert J. Dupont, Jr. GUILTY of health care fraud as charged in Count Two.

The Court finds Laverne D. Dupont GUILTY of health care fraud as charged in Count Two.

Since that time, the government has accused Dupont of trying to coerce Walter Taylor into changing his testimony.

Richard: Senate bill would create task force to study teacher effectiveness

In his weekly report, Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, looks at a Senate bill that would create a task force to study teacher effectiveness:

Much of our focus this year has been on economic development and attracting businesses to our state to create jobs, but we also need to focus on investing in our future workforce through education. One of the best investments we can make is in properly educating the next generation.

This week, the Senate worked on Senate Bill 13, a measure that focuses on evaluating the way we pay our teachers in this state. The bill would create a task force to meet this summer and fall to look at issues of teacher compensation and effectiveness. The panel would be made of 14 members including legislators, state officials, experts, and educational professionals. Discussions could include different methods of teacher evaluation, methods to improve effectiveness, and the best ways to share effective practices with educators throughout the state.

The purpose of Senate Bill 13 is to give lawmakers, state officials, and policy analysts the opportunity to work with teachers, administrators, and other educational professionals to discuss the issue of how educators should be compensated in order to get the best result in our classrooms. The task force would then work to submit a final report with their findings and recommendations by Dec. 31, 2011.

Senate Bill 13 brings to light an important issue for education in our state — we must continue to evaluate our system of education and find ways to make it more efficient and effective. Making sure that every student in the state, regardless of where they are, has access to a quality education is our goal, and there are many ways that we can continue to improve the system. In the Senate, we worked on this goal with the Rebooting Government initiative earlier this session, and we are now working on much of the legislation that came out of the education working group’s recommendations (you can view information on all of the rebooting government recommendations at

Education is an issue that stretches across many areas — policy in K-12 classrooms, funding for elementary and secondary education, transportation to get students to and from school, scholarships to help students pursue a higher education, and funding for the state’s technical schools, colleges, and universities are just a few areas that are covered by the all-encompassing phrase “education.” In the Senate this year, there were 35 bills introduced that deal with elementary and secondary education alone, with another 12 proposing changes to higher education in the state. It is important that we examine these ideas and be open to ways we can pursue our goal of giving students in Missouri a world-class education.

State audit cites Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals for inadequate documentation

A state audit issued today cites the Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals for providing inadequate documentation in numerous areas, including timesheets and leave records.

The complete audit can be found at this link.

House approves employment law reform bill

Former Granby teacher examines attacks on Wisconsin teachers

Former Granby Junior High teacher C. L. Tanner examines the attack on Wisconsin teachers in this op-ed article:

I've seen on the news about the things happening in Wisconsin in regard to the governor trying to save money. His plan for the state employees to pay more toward their health care and retirement and to end collective bargaining has a large number of people very upset. Not only in his state but in many other states as well. I see that the unions have agreed to paying more toward health care and retirement, but not to end collective bargaining.

The governor's plan to end collective bargaining only applies to some state employees but not to others. Local police, firemen and state troopers will retain their collective bargaining powers. Not so with school teachers. The school teachers make up 57% (218,585) of state employees in Wisconsin. The figures I found that the plan would cut the average teacher making $48,700.00 a year (ranked 24th in the nation) would have their wages cut 15% or $7,300.00 a year. That is a sizable pay cut. From my own teaching experience, during the first 10 years that I taught I earned my masters degree, and at the end of those ten years my salary equaled what I was making as a maintenance mechanic for the La-Z-Boy chair company which I left to teach.

People would argue that the police, firemen and state troopers jobs are extremely important and they are. Does this mean the teacher's jobs are less important? One thing everyone must remember, while the cost of education is high, there is one thing that cost more, IGNORANCE

Blunt: Cut government spending; jobs will be created

In this Missouri Chamber video, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-MO. preaches the gospel of cutting spending to create jobs.

Joplin officials ponder whether to challenge census count

Joplin officials are considering whether to challenge the U. S. census results, which had the city cracking the 50,000 population barrier.

Earlier Census estimates indicated the city should have more residents. From the news release:

Although pleased that Joplin was noted as the fastest growing metro city in Southwest Missouri, City officials are expressing concern about the initial announcement of Joplin’s population by the U.S. Census Bureau. The estimates of total population that the Bureau provided for Joplin in July 2009 exceeded the population number that they recently published.

“We have been studying our City’s growth for the past few years, as well as closely watching the annual population estimates released by the Census, in anticipation of the 2010 numbers being announced,” said City Manager Mark Rohr. “We were pleased that our growth is up, but according to their annual reports, and our own historical trend analyses of Joplin’s increased numbers, the Census’ final numbers are lower than we anticipated. Because of this, we will examine the prospect of using the challenge process set forth by the Census.”

According to the Census Bureau’s Annual estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places in Missouri, Joplin’s population was noted as 50,208 for July 1, 2009, which projects out to an annual percentage rate of 1.07%, and brings the population total to 50,743. The 2010 Census states that Joplin’s population is 50,150.

“Although some may say there is just a small discrepancy, it is the City’s role to interpret these numbers in order to maximize the benefits to our citizens,” said Rohr. “The numbers can be critical for cities to receive the appropriate recognition of its size for many reasons, including assistance programs, economic development opportunities and educational programs, all of which benefit our citizens.”

Census numbers are used for calculating funding levels for various community programs and services offered in Joplin, including financial assistance programs for housing and utility payments, as well as meal assistance programs offered to students in local schools. The data is also important in determining funding and locations for housing, child-care centers, shopping centers, roads and more. These improvements can have a significant impact on the lives of everyone in the community.

According to the 2010 Census, Joplin experienced a growth rate of 10.2 percent, almost double the growth rate in Springfield. Their report stated Joplin’s population grew from 45,504 in 2000 to 50,150 in 2010.

“We are also pleased to see that the percentage of growth for Joplin in 2006 through 2009 is nearly twice as much than the pace of growth earlier in the decade,” he said.

Rohr noted that he and Troy Bolander, Planning and Community Development Manager for the City, will continue the review process to determine whether it would be prudent to challenge the 2010 Census count for Joplin.

Bolander concurs with Rohr’s assessment of the figures and said, “In past years, the Census Bureau has offered cities an opportunity to contest the figures. In this case, it might benefit the City to do so, but we still need to do a complete review in order to make that determination.”

“This is a very important decision,” said Rohr. “This information doesn’t just affect us today, but it impacts the City for the next ten years. It is critical for Joplin to be positioned for development and improvements not only today, as we’ve seen throughout the community, but also for the future in order to benefit our families and future generations. ”

Nixon to MO Chamber: You know how to turn big ideas into results

In this Missouri Chamber video, Gov. Jay Nixon outlines the state's economic priorities.

Cleaver: I will continue to stand with the unions

In his weekly EC from DC column, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo. offers a history lesson about the important role unions have played and notes that while workers have been the target of attempts to balance the budget, the richest have not sacrificed a penny:

This afternoon it was my great pleasure to join Congressman Yoder from Kansas’ Third District on KCUR’s Up to Date. It was a good reminder that we indeed have more matters in common than we do in conflict. While we might take different paths to get there, we have the same goal: a more prosperous, stronger, safer and more just country for our children. It was nice to return to talk with Steve Kraske and many of you about the important issues of the day. I look forward to continuing to build a good relationship with Congressman Yoder in the months and years to come.

This Sunday, I will have the opportunity to talk again about many of the issues Congressman Yoder and I discussed today on NBC’s Meet the Press. I will be joined by the former head of the RNC, Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS); host of MSNBC's "The Last Word," Lawrence O'Donnell; president of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka; and editorial board member and columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Kim Strassel to discuss government spending, the budget, potential government shutdown, and the protests in Wisconsin. This is the second time this year I have been asked to join the roundtable on the nation’s longest running news program. It is truly an honor.

For those of you who listened to this afternoon’s broadcast of Up to Date, we started our conversation talking about what is happening in the streets of Madison, Wisconsin and in capitals across America. It is important. There are absolutely political overtones to what is happening in Wisconsin. However, I do not want to focus on those strictly political calculations. Rather, what I would like to take a moment to talk about this week is the disappearing middle class and its effect on our nation’s economic and social health.

In this country of opportunity and equality, there is a widening gap between the rich and the poor. As we talk about workers’ rights and their importance in our economy, we must keep in mind this ever-growing gap between the haves and the have-nots.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the birth of America’s middle class is due in large part to unions and collective bargaining. As we began to industrialize and men and women moved from rural to urban areas, working in stores and factories, unions arose as a counterbalance to the power and might of industry. They worked for the safety and well-being of the workers.

Individually, the average factory worker at the turn of the century had very little power, but together, they could demand changes in wages and working conditions. Factory shutdowns meant losses in profits, and the titans of industries at first fought ruthlessly against workers uniting together.

In 1894, the American Railway Union conducted the nation’s first large scale strike. Workers who made the famous Pullman Palace Rail Cars went on strike after their wages were cut. George Pullman refused to speak with the laborers’ representatives about the wages and safety conditions at the plant. Understand, as well, that the workers at the the railcar factory lived in a company town called Pullman, where they paid rent and bought food and clothes from the Pullman company. At the same time their wages went down, rent went up. The company was pinching at both ends and the ensuing strike shut down rail travel west of Chicago. At its height, 250,000 railroad workers across 27 states went on strike in sympathy to the workers at the Pullman company. Switchmen across the nation refused to move any train carrying a Pullman car.

President Cleveland, siding with his friend George Pullman, dispatched the US Army to break the strike. Thirteen strikers were shot and killed by the time the strike was broken. Rents were not lowered, but the courts later ruled that “company towns” like Pullman where contrary to the American tradition.

Perhaps the largest impact of the Pullman strike was less immediate. The power of workers uniting was undeniable. The American Railway Union inspired the creation of more unions in more industries.

Those unions gave us the eight-hour work day, the five-day work week, the weekend, the minimum wage, child labor laws, maternity leave and most recently, equal pay for equal work.

The civil rights movement used strategies learned from the labor movement. Unions are a part of our national fabric and truly created our middle class. Decent wages for a hard day’s work was the driving force for the labor movement, and their advocacy balanced the corporate interests that dominated industry and politics of post Civil War America.

Organizing is a means by which people set aside their individual interest and advocate together for the good of the whole. That has resulted in higher wages for both union and non-union employees in areas where the two are in competition. It has forced companies and government alike to address safety and health concerns in the workplace, and has led to a better standard of living for the typical American worker.

The labor movement was founded on, and continues to believe that, neither the government nor corporations inherently are interested in the well-being of workers. History has born that out. There is strength in their numbers, but as the American workforce has changed, so has the make-up and membership of American unions.

In 1935, when the National Labor Relations Act was signed, guaranteeing every American worker the right to organize and collectively bargain, nearly 36 percent of the nations workers were in unions. That number is now a little over 11 percent.

What is more alarming, and what I hope this history of the union movement has brought us to, is that our nation’s workers are making less and worker longer and harder than ever. The top income-earners are making more than they have in history and the middle-class continues to pay the price. The middle is not the middle any longer.

If we define the “middle class” even loosely as the middle 60 percent of wage earners, notice in the first chart how little of the nation’s wealth is controlled by that middle 60 percent. The top 20 percent of all wage earners control 85% of the nations wealth, leaving the lower 80 percent with just the remaining 15 percent. The bottom chart that shows what Americans would like the distribution to be more like also shows the wisdom of the people of our nation. The bottom chart is a far more healthy and sustainable long-term economic model with the middle class controlling 60 percent of the nation’s wealth.

As the bargaining power of American workers has diminished, it has not been all bad for everyone.

While we are talking about once again cutting the pay of teachers, nurses, and public workers, from sanitation workers to public defenders, those who received one of the largest tax cuts in history at the end of 2010 have wages that are 185 times those of average workers that continue to bear the brunt of “shared sacrifice”.

We absolutely need to balance our budgets, both nationally and at the state level, but we are making decisions that very clearly indicate where our national priorities are. While we attack public servants at all levels, we gladly give revenue away to those in the very top income brackets. You will notice in the list of cuts proposed by the Continuing Resolution we passed, without my support, there was no talk of raising fees on oil company leases. No, Head Start funding and home heating assistance were “necessary” cuts, but subsides to oil companies could not be contemplated.

The lobbies for corporations in Washington and in our state capitals are very good and well-funded. Sadly, the lobby for the poor and the young is much weaker.

Which brings me back to our nation’s unions. For over 100 years, they have often been the lone voice for the poor and the young, advocating for education, public safety and a stronger middle class. Which is why I will continue to stand with them.

Hartzler: Good news for business- Republicans are here to save the day

In this Missouri Chamber video, Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler rips into the Obama Administration and talks about the economic saviors who were elected in November.

Steelman: Missouri must become a right-to-work state

For the third straight day, former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman attempted to stoke her U. S. Senate campaign bid with an attack on unions. From her op-ed:

"I want to help lead the great American comeback and believe me this country will come back. The first step that Missouri has to take to regain its competitive advantage is to become a Right to Work state. For too long we've seen jobs leave our country, and now its not just China we have to compete with, it's the 22 States that have instituted free-market principles by passing Right to Work legislation. We should not be forcing workers to join unions. It is an infringement on their freedom. Missouri employers and workers deserve a competitive economic landscape."

There are two primary reasons Missouri should implement Right to Work legislation.

One, it will allow us to regain our competitive advantage with the states touching our border. The National Institute for Labor Relations Research (NILRR) recently released a study showing the tangible effects of Right to Work legislation. Their research shows that States that have passed Right to Work legislation enjoyed a 3.7% increase in non-farm private sector employment while non Right to Work states have lost 2.8% of those same jobs over the same period (1999-2009). The study also finds that real personal income has grown by 28.3% in Right to Work states while forced-union states have only seen a 14.7% increase (1999-2009).

Two, it's a matter of freedom. It is our duty to protect the freedom of our workers to make their own decisions, whether it is to join a union or not.

"We have to change the way we do business in this state. Right to Work not only allows more freedom to choose for workers, it also improves the economic landscape by attracting more workers and more business to the State. I applaud the effort of President Pro-tem Senator Rob Mayer and other legislators who are working hard to get this legislation passed."

McCaskill speaks to Chamber

In this Missouri Chamber video, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-MO addresses business issues facing the nation:

Winter weather advisory issued for Joplin area

It does not sound half as bad as what we went through a couple of weeks ago, but a winter weather advisory has been issued for southwest Missouri. From the National Weather Service:







Changes made in accountability portal; hearings center on charter schools

The Missouri House of Representatives this week dealt with changes in the state's Accountability Portal and held hearings on proposed changes for charter schools.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Blunt to appear on KZRG Morning News Watch

Senator Roy Blunt, R-Mo. will be on KZRG's Morning News Watch at 7:10 a.m. Friday (tomorrow).

Steelman continues attack against unions

As the battle rages on in Wisconsin, U. S. Senate candidate Sarah Steelman is taking advantage of it in Missouri.

For the second straight day, the former state treasurer attacked organized labor in a fundraising letter:
The actions of Governor Walker in Wisconsin will spread across the country as a growing number of states, burdened with huge pension and health benefit liabilities for public employees, face bankruptcy. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is taking a strong stand to do what is right - to do what he has to do - balance the state's budget.

The Pew Center on the States estimates that state unfunded liabilities for pension funds amount to $1 trillion in this country. Some of this is due to collective bargaining agreements. Governor Walker has the foresight to know that future administrations cannot sustain these kinds of unfunded benefits without causing state bankruptcy and handing the bill to the taxpayers. He wants it stopped, and I support his efforts.

Why does that matter to us in Missouri? Because Democrats in Washington, controlled by union bosses, want taxpayers to bail out these pension funds. Senator McCaskill is supported by more than $400,000 in campaign contributions from labor. (She also supports employee card check, which allows union employees to bypass the secret ballot process.)

In Missouri, we fought hard to stop public employee unions from taking union fees out of public employees' paychecks in 2004. It is just plain wrong to use taxpayer money to fund union activities. As a member of the State Senate, I voted twice to stop that kind of misuse of taxpayer dollars and that is what I will do as your U.S. Senator.

Families who are struggling to make ends meet every day should not be asked to bail out states that have allowed unions to take control of their budgets. As your next U.S. Senator, I will not support collective bargaining for federal employees that commit billions of taxpayer dollars to higher and higher benefits and wages of an ever expanding government that cannot be sustained.

Please join with me to fight to protect hard-earned taxpayer dollars from being raided by Washington Democrats protecting unreasonable union labor demands. We cannot sustain another bail out in the name of bad choices, mismanagement and unreasonable demands by public employee unions.

We know we can do better, but the fight must be joined by all of us to make it happen. Your contribution to this campaign is your voice being heard. Our future is at stake. It is up to us.

It is Our Freedom and Our Fight. Please visit my website at to make a donation of any amount. I am very grateful for your support and together we can make the difference.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hartzler- Free businesses; get rid of burdensome government regulations

Businesses are being held back by the government, Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler said at a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Jefferson City today. From the news release:

Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (MO-4) is calling for the easing of burdensome government regulations that are standing in the way of private sector job creation and economic growth. Hartzler spoke to business leaders today in Jefferson City at a Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry symposium, making it clear she stands with them in their desire to prosper.

“As a small business owner I am fully aware of the time-consuming and costly regulations that government forces on our nation's job creators," said Hartzler. "Adding reams of government red tape will not solve our economic and unemployment problems in this country. We must let the private sector do what it does best – create wealth and prosperity. Onerous government rules and regulations impede private-sector job creation, discourage innovation and entrepreneurial activity, and hurt economic growth and investment by needlessly raising prices."

“These regulations also force businesses to spend time and energy doing paperwork to satisfy the demands of bureaucrats,” added Hartzler. “These federal regulations increase the cost of doing business and destroy jobs. We are fighting back, doing what is necessary to make it less costly for American companies to conduct business.”

The U.S. House recently voted overwhelmingly to pass a resolution which is a critical first step in removing burdensome regulations and red tape harming both large and small employers. In addition, Congresswoman Hartzler has co-sponsored several bills designed to ease the burdens on business. They include legislation to repeal job-destroying ObamaCare, the Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act to do away with unnecessary 1099 form reporting, and legislation to repeal both the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax.

Steelman uses Wisconsin situation to ratchet up contributions

Following up on last week's tweet when she backed the anti-union stand of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman, a candidate for U. S. Senate, throws herself completely on the anti-union side and makes a pitch for contributions to boot:

The actions of Governor Walker in Wisconsin will spread across the country as a growing number of states, burdened with huge pension and health benefit liabilities for public employees, face bankruptcy. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is taking a strong stand to do what is right - to do what he has to do - balance the state's budget.

The Pew Center on the States estimates that state unfunded liabilities for pension funds amount to $1 trillion in this country. Some of this is due to collective bargaining agreements. Governor Walker has the foresight to know that future administrations cannot sustain these kinds of unfunded benefits without causing state bankruptcy and handing the bill to the taxpayers. He wants it stopped, and I support his efforts.

Why does that matter to us in Missouri? Because Democrats in Washington, controlled by union bosses, want taxpayers to bail out these pension funds. Senator McCaskill is supported by more than $400,000 in campaign contributions from labor. (She also supports employee card check, which allows union employees to bypass the secret ballot process.)

In Missouri, we fought hard to stop public employee unions from taking union fees out of public employees' paychecks in 2004. It is just plain wrong to use taxpayer money to fund union activities. As a member of the State Senate, I voted twice to stop that kind of misuse of taxpayer dollars and that is what I will do as your U.S. Senator.

Families who are struggling to make ends meet every day should not be asked to bail out states that have allowed unions to take control of their budgets. As your next U.S. Senator, I will not support collective bargaining for federal employees that commit billions of taxpayer dollars to higher and higher benefits and wages of an ever expanding government that cannot be sustained.

Please join with me to fight to protect hard-earned taxpayer dollars from being raided by Washington Democrats protecting unreasonable union labor demands. We cannot sustain another bail out in the name of bad choices, mismanagement and unreasonable demands by public employee unions.

We know we can do better, but the fight must be joined by all of us to make it happen. Your contribution to this campaign is your voice being heard. Our future is at stake. It is up to us.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lincoln Days speaker will not run for president

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. the keynote speaker for this weekend's Lincoln Days activities in Springfield, will not run for president in 2012:

The South Dakota senator, in an announcement on his website, said he felt he was best-suited to remain in the Senate.

"[A]t this time, I feel that I am best positioned to fight for America’s future here in the trenches of the United States Senate," Thune wrote.

The senator had previously promised to announce his intentions by the end of February.

Former police officer's sexual harassment lawsuit against City of Granby settled

A sexual harassment lawsuit filed against the city of Granby and city officials by former police officer Whitney Dodson was officially dismissed today, according to documents filed in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

The documents say a settlement has been reached, though no details on that settlement were provided.

In the lawsuit, which was filed Dec. 1, 2009, Ms.Dodson claims she was sexually harassed by Alderman Jeremy Hopper almost from the time Hopper took office in April of that year.

According to the petition, Hopper continually made remarks about Ms. Dodson's body, propositioned her numerous times, asked her to perform a sexual act on him, and bragged about the size of his sex organ.

Ms. Dodson claims the harassment began about two months after she started working for the city:

On or about April 16, 2009, Plaintiff Whitney Dodson was asked by Alderman Jeremy Hopper to come to his residence to speak to him and Mayor Paul Ferguson because she missed the mandatory meeting held earlier that day by Mayor Paul Ferguson. Both Ferguson and Hopper were newly elected officials. 11. While at Alderman Hopper’s residence, he made remarks to Plaintiff Whitney Dodson about her body and also made sexual jokes towards her. Mayor Ferguson was present during these remarks and laughed at them.

During the first week of May, 2009, Alderman Hopper increased his flirtation with Plaintiff Whitney Dodson and told her that he wanted to have sex with her and also told her that he, Mayor Ferguson and Alderman Sparnicht could do anything they wanted with the City. Hopper also told her that the last female officer (performed an oral sex act on him) and that he had told other city officials that she was caught having sex with another city employee, which led to her resignation. Hopper had also told Plaintiff Whitney Dodson “I have a huge (sex organ)”; “I want to see you naked”; “I would (crude four letter word for a sex act) you in a heartbeat”.

Ms. Dodson says she told Police Chief Gail Bass about the harassment and she was moved from the midnight shift to the day shift. During that period, she says, Hopper began sending her "sexually explicit text messages and kept repeating that he wanted to have sex with her."

In May, Hopper came to the police station at a time when Ms Dodson was working alone, the lawsuit says.

He made sexual jokes to her and asked her about her sex life. He again told her about his “large (sex organ)” and began to unzip his pants. Dodson ran into the bathroom and locked the door.

Hopper started laughing and told Dodson it was okay to come out and that he was just joking around. Dodson told Hopper that it didn’t look good for him to be at the station with her there by herself and that he should probably leave. Hopper told her that since he was now an Alderman for the City that no one could touch him and that he and the Mayor were “best buddies”.

During the rest of the month, the lawsuit says, Hopper kept asking Ms. Dodson for sex, and then he started claiming that she was having sex with Police Chief Bass.

During the month of June, 2009, Alderman Hopper invited Plaintiff Whitney Dodson to come over to his house and sleep instead of her driving home. Hopper told her that he was “going to slide his (sex organ) into her” and told her again that he wasn’t joking and that he would “stick his (sex organ) into her”.

Plaintiff Whitney Dodson continued to resist Hopper’s remarks and on or about
June 18, 2009, Hopper ordered Chief Bass to move Dodson back to the midnight
shift. Chief Bass was fired on June 23, 2009.
Ms. Dodson says she took her complaints about Hopper to Mayor Ferguson the day after the police chief was fired. "Mayor Ferguson told Dodson to give him “solid proof” of Hopper’s remarks and behavior and that he would have Hopper impeached."

The problems with Hopper escalated after Ms. Dodson investigated fireworks that had been set off illegally after midnight in the Fastrip parking lot and Hopper admitted he was the one who did it, according to the lawsuit.

Whitney Dodson reported to Mayor Paul Ferguson the firework incident and was told that he would investigate and would issue Hopper a citation if warranted. Dodson questioned the appropriateness of the Mayor investigating an alderman and suggested an outside agency be given the report and conduct an investigation. The mayor declined her suggestion."

Whitman fired Ms Dodson Aug. 19, the lawsuit said. The letter announcing the firing:

"informed Plaintiff Whitney Dodson that her job was being terminated because “it would not serve in the best interest of the Granby Police Department to attempt to train an inexperienced officer with limited resources to do so” and “one on one training from a senior officer of this department would not allow (the Chief) to maintain adequate shift coverage”. That the reason given by Chief R. Scott Whitman is pre-textual and retaliatory in that Plaintiff Whitney Dodson had accused Alderman Hopper of sexual
harassment and Mayor Paul Ferguson clearly had no intention of curtailing Hopper’s behavior; that Mayor Paul Ferguson clearly had no intention of investigating the firework incident involving Hopper; and now the City of Granby was short police coverage due to Plaintiff Whitney Dodson taking off work for medical reasons brought on by the hostile work environment.

Ms. Dodson claimed the city of Granby provided a "hostile work environment," and says she has suffered "emotional, psychological, and physical trauma," as well as economic losses.

Ms. Dodson initially asked for damages in excess of $75,000.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

KC charter schools' excuse for poor performance: It's the kids' fault

For years, we have had to listen as politicians sang the praises of charter schools, and how much of an improvement they are over regular public schools.

Now that a new study has shown that has not been the case in Kansas City, the accompanying video gives charter school proponents' reasons why they did not do as well as public schools.

Why, these kids were two to three years behind grade level when they came to the charter schools, so you can't expect miracles. It was the traditional public schools that failed them. Or even worse, it was the kids themselves.

If that is the case, then why is it that the traditional public schools did better than the charter schools on tests. I find it hard to believe that the charters deliberately chose the lowest scoring students.

The sad news is that the traditional public schools and the charter schools, which are also public, which do not have to follow all of the rules and regulations, all fell short on the tests.

It is time that our politicians stop mouthing the same tired platitudes about education and admit that the real key to improving education is to improve the conditions in which these children are living. There are problems in public education, but as long as we allow the issue to be defined as being limited to bad teachers (or perhaps I should say teacher unions), the problem will never be solved.

All we will have once the teacher unions are destroyed, is an even worse version of what is going on now in American education- the rich will get educated and the poor will be condemned to stay that way.

Hartzler: Obama budget continues destructive policies of reckless spending

In her weekly newsletter, Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler criticizes President Obama's budget and notes the importance of getting the deficit under control:

It’s been another eventful and productive week in Congress as the House of Representatives took solid steps to address the nation’s financial crisis and to help the many Americans who are out of work and looking for jobs. It was also the week we heard from President Obama who delivered his 2012 budget to Congress. The contrast between the two branches of government could not have been clearer: President Obama’s budget proposal continues the destructive policies of reckless spending, borrowing more money from other countries, and taxing our people. At a time when the President's Administration revealed that our nation's deficit was expected to reach a record high $1.65 trillion this year, he puts forth a plan to take us farther down the road to bankruptcy as a nation.

In the House, we took a different tact. We took up the continuing resolution to fund our government for 2011 - a task handed to us from the last Congress when it failed to pass a budget last year. Last year's Congress merely passed a 'continuing resolution' to fund the government through March 4. It is up to us as the new Congress to fund it through the end of the fiscal year which ends September 30. We simply cannot continue to head down the road to bankruptcy. We cannot keep borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend. It is irresponsible to saddle our children and grandchildren with this huge debt which has risen to record levels equaling $45,500 of debt for every man, woman, and child in Missouri's 4th District or $122,000 per Missouri family. Someone must say ‘enough is enough’ and the House is doing just that by voting to trim $100 billion from the President's budget for this year. It was not easy and there were tough choices, but we've got to do it.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to get our national debt under control. Prosperity and job growth do not come from the government’s power to tax, borrow, and spend. These policies are bankrupting the country and damaging job prospects by creating uncertainty among employers. For 21 straight months our national unemployment rate has been at 9 percent or higher – making it the longest stretch the jobless figure has been at that level since the Great Depression! Unemployed Missourians in the 4th District and jobless Americans throughout the country want to get back to work and we cannot end the unemployment nightmare with reckless policies that harm job creators. Our votes this week were an important step to get Washington out of the way and allow the private sector to do what it does best – create jobs and promote prosperity.

In other news, Major General David Quantock, the Commanding General at Fort Leonard Wood, visited my Capitol Hill office this week to give me an update on rebuilding efforts following the December 31st tornado that touched down at the post. While there were no deaths or serious injuries at the Fort the damage was extensive. General Quantock informed me recovery efforts are going well, even though the full cost of reconstruction is still being assessed. I learned that our military is taking some positives from the disaster by sharing with other military installations the lessons learned from this disaster and how other installations can mitigate for future storms of this magnitude. Part of the proposal calls for the construction of storm shelters to fully protect our men and women in uniform and their families in the event of a tornado. I am fully behind this effort and relayed to General Quantock my commitment to a complete recovery at Fort Leonard Wood. I am confident, due to the fine leadership at Ft. Leonard Wood and dedication of our men and women in uniform, that Fort Leonard Wood will be rebuilt not only better, but also safer.

Akin fights for the "plain old light bulb"

Video: Hartzler's attack on Planned Parenthood

McCaskill criticizes Republicans for cutting funding for border security

Cyberbullying, driver's exams in English among items addressed by House this week

Friday, February 18, 2011

Hartzler: Planned Parenthood turned a blind eye on young women

Rep. Vicky Hartzler's criticism of Planned Parenthood continued with a speech on the House floor, according to a news release:

As debate over legislation to fund the federal government for the remainder of the year moved into the late night hours on Thursday, Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (MO-4) addressed the U.S. House, entreating her colleagues to support an amendment ending taxpayer funding of abortions at Planned Parenthood - America’s top abortion provider.

"Planned Parenthood isn't about health, it's about profit," Hartzler told the chamber. "They have a record of preferring abortion over the truth. I have seen firsthand their view of truth.”

Hartzler then went on to share that when she was teaching child development as a school teacher, one of her students came to her with the revelation that she was pregnant and had just visited Planned Parenthood to discuss options. When the girl asked the Planned Parenthood counselor what ‘it’ looked like, she was told ‘it’ was ‘just a blob of tissue’ and ‘not to worry.’ The student asked Hartzler for pictures of what ‘it’ looked like. After seeing pictures of the fingers, eyes, and beating heart of a four-week old fetus, the girl exclaimed, ‘That’s not a blob of tissue; it’s a baby!’ She then asked Hartzler a piercing question about Planned Parenthood’s tactics, ‘Why did they tell me that?’ It’s a question that resonates today.

"They didn't care about the truth," Hartzler continued. "They didn't care about the young woman before them. They cared about a profit. This pattern continues with recent revelations that they were willing to cover up child sexual trafficking and child sexual abuse and aid and abet prostitution. Where was Planned Parenthood when they had a chance to protect young women? They turned a blind eye."

Hartzler completed her comments, questioning the logic behind the 363 million taxpayer dollars being given annually to this organization.

"Hard-working men and women in this country should not have to write a check on April 15th to fund these abominable practices," concluded Hartzler. "At a time when we are borrowing 40 cents out of every dollar we spend and running a huge deficit we need to look for savings to the taxpayer wherever we can. Certainly, saving $363 million form this abortion provider is a smart and is a right thing to do."

The amendment passed overwhelmingly.

Cleaver: The damage budget cuts will do

In his latest from EC from DC report, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo. explains the serious effects federal budget cuts will have on Missouri:

The House is currently debating the Continuing Resolution (CR) that I wrote you about last week. We have 18 more hours of debate scheduled. The Majority Leader just came to the floor to announce that there are 103 amendments left to discuss. Ordinarily, votes on amendments are “15-minute votes” which means that Members have 15 minutes to cast their votes before the total is announced. Currently, we are voting on amendments every two minutes.

That is how “thoughtful” the majority is being right now. Three days of debate sounds like a lot, except that with hundreds of amendments there is not a great deal of time to discuss and make good decisions.

As I explained last week, this Continuing Resolution process has not been strong on good policy, but rather is focused on good politics. It is a fast and furious display of all the tried and true social conservative hot-button issues. An amendment to strip funding from all Planned Parenthood services was passed. This will hurt over 50,000 women in Missouri. In an effort to stop the federal proceedings against the immigration laws passed by Arizona, an amendment was offered to restrict the Department of Justice from pursuing ANY lawsuits against Arizona for ANY reason. That expansive amendment was rejected as out of order. An amendment to prohibit the Department of Health and Human Services from using any funds to implement the Affordable Health Care Act just passed.

We will continue down the list of amendments, striking and forbidding, objecting and condemning, until we are through and no one will know what has or hasn’t been funded. And all of this energy, effort and enthusiasm will be for naught. None of this work will pass muster in the Senate. The President has issued a veto threat. In the end, we will either find a compromise with the other legislative partners as prescribed by the Constitution, or the federal government will shut down on March 4th.

Understand that everything that is happening today makes no progress towards actually funding the government.

Both sides play this game, but rarely is the potential to hurt so many as evident as it is in today’s discussion. I would like to say it was worse when I first arrived in Washington, but in my three terms, I have never seen anything like this. The disconnect between the affluent men and women with their government health care and comfortable lives who are casting their votes today, and the men, women and children who are struggling to make ends meet has never been larger.

The Continuing Resolution cuts key infrastructure investments, which will lead to the loss of more than 2,387 jobs in Missouri, primarily in the private sector.

The measure slashes the maximum Pell Grant by $845 -- from the current maximum of $5,550 to $4,705. The bill will lower the amount of aid that 179,451 college students in Missouri are projected to receive.

In the state of Missouri, 4,190 children will be immediately dropped from the Head Start program, as a result of a $1 billion cut in this bill. Nationwide, 55,000 teachers, teacher assistants and related staff would lose their jobs.

Under the measure we are “debating” today, federal support for K-12 education would be severely cut. The bill includes cuts of over $11 million in help in reading and math for disadvantaged children in Missouri.

Those cuts mean the reduction or elimination of extra academic support for 17,205 poor students in Missouri. Additionally, Missouri school districts would lose 175 teachers. All Fifth District schools would be impacted. Nationwide, about 9,000 teachers and aides would be laid off.

Additionally, federal support for special education through IDEA funding would be severely cut. The Continuing Resolution includes cuts of an additional $11 million in assistance to children with special needs in Missouri. Those cuts would shift the program funding responsibility to the school districts for 6,379 students in Missouri. Additionally, Missouri school districts would potentially lose 175 special education teachers. Again, all Fifth District schools would be impacted. Nationwide, about 7,155 special education teachers could be laid off.

We did not look at defense cuts, or wasteful war spending as part of this CR. Rather, the majority focused all $61 billion in cuts in 12% of the budget ($81 billion was cut from nonsecurity spending and security related programs were reduced by $19 billion – according to House Approps Committee).

Under the cut, the Department of Education would lose $6.2 billion, the Department of Housing and Urban Development would lose $5.7 billion, and the Department of Transportation would lose around $3 billion.

The single biggest program to lose funding would be the Department of Health and Human Services’ budget for the National Institutes of Health. Funding for health research and training would be slashed $4.1 billion under the cut. This is money that supports pre-doctoral and post-doctoral training opportunities across the country, and funds research on cancer, autism, Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and a host of other important medical areas. Cuts of this magnitude would roll back grants for health research and training, and would undoubtedly result in a slowdown of medical knowledge and breakthroughs.

The next largest program to be hit would be funding under HUD’s Public and Indian Housing Program for tenant based rental assistance, which would be cut $2.4 billion. Tenant based rental assistance is a subsidy that helps households afford various housing costs including rent, utility costs, and security deposits, by helping low-income families make up the difference between housing costs and what a family can afford to pay. Rental assistance helps prevent homelessness and other hardships – which have increased substantially during the economic downturn. Recent reports have shown that the number of homeless families has risen significantly, by 3% between 2008 and 2009. The number of Americans who have doubled up in homes rather than live on the street increased by around 12% over the same time period (National Alliance to End Homelessness).

The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education within the Department of Education would lose $2.1 billion from their “Accelerating Achievement and Ensuring Equity” program. This program targets elementary, secondary, and vocational education, and serves a number of purposes, including awarding Title I Grants to local educational agencies (which provide supplemental education funding in high-poverty areas and extra academic support to help raise the achievement of students at risk of educational failure) and providing financial assistance to state educational agencies (for improving educational programs for children of migratory farmworkers and fishers). Among a host of other services, this program also provides education services to neglected and delinquent youth in local state-run institutions.

Popular programs would suffer as well. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CBP) would lose $66.7 million. CBP promotes public telecommunications services, investing in more than 1,000 local radio and television stations, and reaching almost every household in the country. Cuts to this program would stand in the way of CBP’s mission to both develop and ensure access to non-commercial, high-quality educational programming.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to conduct oil spill response, through their Pollution Control and Abatement activities, would be cut $2.3 million. EPA was instrumental in responding to the BP oil spill last summer, monitoring air, water, sediment, and waste generated by cleanup operations. If it were decided that politically sensitive programs, such as this one, should be exempted from cuts, it would only mean greater cuts to the rest of the non-security discretionary budget.
What my colleagues in the House fail to understand is that right now, our number one priority needs to be getting the economy moving again. We need to get people back to work. As the experts at the hearings I held on the deficit told us, focusing on deficits in this way actually undermines the goal of generating more jobs.

Quite the opposite of creating jobs, if the crazy CR we are debating today actually becomes law, these cuts would reduce the number of jobs available significantly. Economists tell us that the rule of thumb is when gross domestic product (GDP) declines, there is an increase in unemployment. If this $60 billion in cuts go into effect the result would be a loss of around 590,000 jobs.

And what would we gain? Even if the majority would be able to meet their stated goal of cutting $100 billion to the non-security portion of discretionary spending, it would barely dent the debt obligations. It will, however, have a significant negative impact on government programs, state budget crises, and employment.