Sunday, March 31, 2013

Natural Disaster at EMS Benefit Show, Part 2

This video features the final six songs from our December 1 benefit show performance at East Middle School, including our versions of Bob Dylan's "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," Elvis' "Jailhouse Rock," the Beatles "From Me to You," Charlie Rich's "Big Boss Man," the rock standard "Do You Wanna Dance" and Johnny Rivers' "Secret Agent Man."

Natural Disaster at EMS Benefit Show, Part 1

It took me long enough to post this, but here is the first half hour of Natural Disaster's performance at the December 1 benefit show at East Middle School. Money raised at the show went to the EMS Student Council to buy toys for the Joplin Fire Department's Christmas for Kids program.

Songs performed in this part of the show are covers of Johnny Rivers' "Memphis," Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," Nat King Cole's (and so many others) "Route 66," Elvis' "Suspicion," Johnny Rivers' "Poor Side of Town," Jay and the Americans' "This Magic Moment," the Everly Brothers' "All I Have to Do is Dream," Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away," and Elvis' "Blue Hawaii."

Group leader Richard Taylor is on rhythm guitar, Charlie Brown on lead guitar, Tracy Minear on bass, Andy Stowe on drums, and Richard and I do vocals.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

One-day hearing set in August for killer of Carthage couple

Killer Darren Winans' attempt to get a new trial will receive a one-day evidentiary hearing before Judge David Dally Wednesday, August 7, in Jasper County Circuit Court.

Winans is attempting to have his sentence overturned even though he was the one who pleaded guilty to the brutal October 2008 murders of Bob and Ellen Sheldon, owners of the Old Cabin Shop in Carthage.

Winans, 24, pleaded guilty Feb. 28, 2011, to the crimes in a plea deal that kept him from facing the death penalty. His co-defendant, Matthew Laurin, Springfield, pleaded guilty earlier and then committed suicide in the Jasper County Jail.

Winans also received 20-year sentences on two armed criminal action charges and 15 year for burglary, with those sentences to run consecutively with the life sentences for killing the Sheldons.

The taxpayers are footing the bill for Winans' appeal.

Tilley hearing on traffic charge reset to April 23

The next hearing on former Speaker of the House, now lobbyist, Steve Tilley's traffic charge is scheduled for 9 a.m. April 23, in St. Louis County Circuit Court.

Tilley is charged with exceeding the posted speeding limit by 20 to 25 miles per hour, a misdemeanor charge. The traffic stop was made by Missouri Highway Patrol.
The case was sent to circuit court after Tilley pleaded not guilty December 20 in the traffic fine court to the charge, according to online court records.

This is the third traffic violation for Tilley in the past 10 years, according to online records. On two earlier occasions in St. Genevieve County, once in 2003 and the other time in 2006, Tilley pleaded guilty to "operating a motor vehicle which emitted excessive and unnecessary noise," and paid fines. One stop was made by the Highway Patrol, the other by the Ste. Genevieve County Sheriff's Office.

Missouri holds first Vietnam Veterans Day

Bahr: Let's fire those liars

Leave it to Rep. Kurt Bahr, R-St. Charles, to bring a sense of dignity to the uproar over the Missouri Department of Revenue's alleged cooperation with the federal government to deliver personal information about gun owners.

Once again, we are wasting time sparring with the federal government when Missouri has many serious economic issues that need to be addressed.

This portion of Bahr's most recent newsletter was titled "Firing Liars."

Pursuant to this constitutional provision and in response to the illegal activities of the Department of Revenue, I have filed HB 886. This bill provides a process allowing the General Assembly to fire Department heads and Deputy Department Heads who lie to the Legislature (as DOR did to the Senate), violate the law (as DOR did by purchasing and using facial recognition cameras and sending that personal information to the federal government) or engaging in other offenses an elected official may be impeached for. This bill will require a private hearing for the official to have an opportunity to defend them self and then require approval of both the House and the Senate. This bill will enable the Legislature to have a check and balance on the Executive department to ensure we are provided truthful information so we may make informed decisions on important State issues.

Bahr's bill reads as follows:

            Section A. Chapter 106, RSMo, is amended by adding thereto one new section, to be known as section 106.215, to read as follows:
            106.215. 1. The general assembly is hereby authorized to remove from employment or service any department director or deputy director when it determines that such removal is necessary for the betterment of the public service in a manner consistent with the provisions of this section.
            2. A petition signed by sixteen members of the house of representatives and filed with the chief clerk of the house containing allegations supporting the need for removal of the director or deputy director shall initiate the process. After the removal petition has been filed, the chief clerk shall give a written notice to the secretary of the senate and the director or deputy director of the intention to remove him or her from office.
            3. If the requirements under subsection 2 of this section have been met the house standing ethics committee shall gather information regarding the allegations set for in the petition and shall conduct at least one hearing to allow the director or deputy director to present a defense to the allegations against him or her. This hearing shall be a closed meeting and not open to the public. Within thirty days of its first meeting, the committee shall file a report of its findings with the chief clerk of the house and the secretary of the senate.
            4. After the committee has filed its report, the members of the house of representatives shall vote on the removal of the director or deputy director. If a majority of the members of the body vote to remove the director or deputy director, then the senate shall vote on the removal. If the majority of the whole number of votes of both houses is in the affirmative, then the director or deputy director shall be relieved of his or her employment with the state immediately and shall be removed from the position he or she holds.
            5. For the purposes of this section, “betterment of the public service” shall include instances of misconduct, perjury before any committee of the general assembly, violation of any state statute, a conviction or plea of guilty for committing any crime, habitual drunkenness, willful neglect of duty, corruption in office, incompetency, or any offense involving moral turpitude or oppression in office.

Roy Blunt: I'll defend your right to own assault weapons

(From Senator Roy Blunt)

“Like all Americans, I was shocked by the incredible tragedy in Newtown, and I’m committed to finding ways to prevent these senseless acts of violence. Unfortunately, President Obama is once again calling for gun control policies that restrict law-abiding Americans’ Second Amendment rights and fail to prevent tragedies like Sandy Hook.

“I won’t support any proposals that infringe on Americans’ constitutional rights or ultimately prevent two neighbors from trading shotguns. Instead, I’m focusing my efforts on improving mental health policies to ensure we’re spending federal dollars more wisely when it comes to identifying, treating, and caring for people who are mentally ill.”

Scars, Spirit of Hope, 5:41 rank one-two-three on Amazon list

I would be lying if I said I hadn't hoped this would happen at some point.

The new book, Scars from the Tornado: One Year at Joplin East Middle School, and the two books I co-authored with Carthage Press Managing Editor John Hacker, 5:41: Stories from the Joplin Tornado and Spirit of Hope: The Year After the Joplin Tornado, are ranked one-two-three on the rankings among the 13 books about the tornado that are available on Amazon.

John Hacker and I set out to chronicle the stories of the tornado in 5:41 and then realized the story would not be complete without writing about Joplin's amazing recovery and that book became Spirit of Hope.

I promised from the first that money from 5:41 would be used to tell the tornado stories of East Middle School students and the first year in our warehouse school and that happened earlier this month when Scars from the Tornado was published.

Unless some mainstream publisher wants to put the three books together, or combine 5:41 and Spirit of Hope, I am finished writing about the Joplin Tornado, except, of course, on the Turner Report.

The rankings for this week are listed below:

1. Scars from the Tornado, Randy Turner, 62,978
2. Spirit of Hope, Randy Turner and John Hacker 79,784
3. 5:41: Stories from the Joplin Tornado, Randy Turner and John Hacker 441,337
4. Joplin 5:41, Kansas City Star, 500,589
5. Singing Over Me, Danielle Stammer, 709,998
6. When the Storm Passes, Julie Jett, 738,990
7. 32 Minutes in May, Joplin Globe, 815,533
8. When the Sirens Were Silent, Mike Smith, 892,079
9. Miracle of the Human Spirit, Mark Rohr, 1,174,021
10. 5/22: Stories of Survival, Stories of Faith, Scott Hettinger, 1,533,808
11. Joplin Tornado House of Hope, Tim Bartow, 1,980,608
12. EF-5 at 5:35, Kathryn Sandlin, 3,692,825
13. Mayday in Joplin, Donald Clugston, 3,806,484

Severe thunderstorm watch issued for Joplin area

(From the National Weather Service)


Friday, March 29, 2013

St. Louis newspaper archives offer revelations about Emmett Till murder

In his latest blog entry, Jackson Clarion-Ledger reporter Jerry Mitchell, whose dogged reporting helped reopen many long-closed civil rights murders and bring the killers to justice, writes about how long-missing files from a St. Louis African-American newspaper have added new information to the Emmett Till murder case:

(A)nother African-American newspaper, The St. Louis Argus, had covered the trial.
He ordered a copy of the Argus microfilm from 1955 — only to find a curious gap where the trial took place. ”Every time I interlibrary loaned the Argus, same gap,” he said. “Every time.”
Finally, an undergraduate student at Florida State, Jessica Primiani, found the missing issues at the State Historical Society of Missouri.
And what a find it was — the Argus’ publisher attended the trial along with a reporter and photographer.
“The Argus was the best represented among a very small contingent of the black press,” Houck said. ”It’s clear in examining the documents that the black community of St. Louis had a special investment in the murder of Emmett Till and the search for justice in the case.”
There are never-before-seen photographs, including a few of Mississippi NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers, who investigated Till’s killing.
Devery Anderson, who is working on a book titled, The Boy Who Never Died: The Saga of the Emmett Till Murder, said the trial coverage helped to answer questions, such as what the African-American business district in this area looked like.

Virginia teacher helped Joplin after tornado with Donors Choose

Kansas bill would allow teachers to bring guns into class

Here we go again. The last thing we want or need is to have teachers carrying guns.

Missouri House passes medical malpractice limits

Missouri House approves 2014 budget

Ed Emery: Protecting your gun rights and quoting George Washington

In his latest column, Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, says that Missourians' rights to own assault weapons (since that is the only type of weapons anyone is talking about limiting) are vital and quotes George Washington's views on guns. Emery fails to quote a couple of other things George Washington said. “Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism," and “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” (Emery has often spoken of God and the Founding Fathers.)

This week, the Senate addressed an initiative that is critically important to many citizens across the state. Missourians are frustrated over the threat the federal government poses to our state sovereignty and constitutional liberties. The federal government has touted increased gun control for citizens across the country. Although gun violence is an issue, taking away citizens’ firearms will not solve the problem. Furthermore, eliminating the people’s rights to own firearms is a direct violation of the constitution. The Missouri Senate is taking action to ensure your right to keep and bear arms remains as strong as when established in the day of our Founding Fathers.

Senate Joint Resolution 14 would place a proposed constitutional amendment before the people stating that a citizen has the right to keep and bear arms in defense of his or her family, in addition to that person’s current rights to defend themselves, and his or her home and property. Also, the amendment provides that the rights guaranteed under this provision of the Missouri Constitution are unalienable. Missouri is obligated to uphold these rights and under no circumstances decline to protect against their infringement. 

If the people vote “yes” at the ballot box, our Second Amendment rights of gun ownership will be more secure than before. The state of Missouri will be explicitly charged with defending our unalienable rights. All too often, the federal government’s predictable response to the actions of a criminal is to infringe upon the rights of law-abiding citizens. For instance, if an intruder with firearms enters an establishment and commits acts of tragic violence, the federal government oversteps its bounds and proposes to limit all citizens’ access to guns. This is not a solution and would not help secure the people’s safety. This course of action would only penalize law-abiding citizens and leave them defenseless against criminals who do not obtain firearms legally. 

We need to preserve for our children and grandchildren the liberties that our Founding Fathers set in stone for us — it would be a travesty for them to only learn about the free America in history books, instead of enjoying those freedoms in their everyday lives. 

To quote President George Washington once more, “When any nation mistrusts its citizens with guns, it is sending a clear message: it no longer trusts its citizens, because such a government has evil plans.”

Gannett CEO has $46 million termination package

At numerous points in a definitive proxy statement filed March 22 by Gannett, it was mentioned that CEO Gracia Martore had voluntarily given up 10 percent of her salary, opting to take one for the team and receive only $900,000 instead of $1 million.

The sacrifice, however, was just a drop in the bucket since the SEC filing indicates Ms. Martore's pay package amounted to more than $8.4 million.

And while she has been at the helm during a time when thousands have lost their jobs due to her decisions and all Gannett employees have had to take one or two weeks of unpaid furloughs per year, if Ms. Martore ever loses her job because of a change in ownership, she will receive a termination package totaling more than $46 million.

I would guess that Ms. Martore's $100,000 sacrifice was probably not appreciated much by those who have lost their jobs or had to take those frequent furloughs under Ms. Martore's stewardship.

The SEC filing shows Gannett, owner of the Springfield News-Leader, provided Ms. Martore with a pay package totaling $8,453,598, close to $4 million more than the $4,693,809 she received in 2011.

The amount included a $1.6 million bonus, $2,929,316 in stock awards, $2,924,307, listed as "change in pension value, and nonqualified deferred compensation earnings," as well as $117,283 in "other compensation."

The other compensation, according to the filing, included a $31,340 life insurance premium, $7,500 for her 401K plan, premiums for supplemental medical coverage, a company-provided automobile, occasional personal use of company aircraft, legal and financial services, and a $15,000 contribution to a charity of Ms. Martore's choice.

As someone who spent more than two decades as a newspaper reporter and editor, topping out at $26,000 a year as managing editor of a small southwest Missouri daily, you might think I would be happy to see that so much money is being spent by a newspaper company, especially at a time when newspapers are widely considered to be a dying breed.

Unfortunately, this is is not good news. During the time in which Ms. Martore's compensation increased by nearly $4 million, Gannett reduced the number of people employed in its newspaper division by 2,800.

While those 2,800 people were sent back into job search mode under Ms. Martore's reign, usually with a meager severance package, she will have no such worries if the day ever comes when she and Gannett part ways.

The definitive proxy statement indicates she will receive a termination package totaling more than $20 million. If something unfortunate should happen and Ms. Martore dies, her family will receive almost $30 million and Ms. Martore would receive about the same amount if for some reason she becomes disabled.

And as noted above, if the company changes hands and she loses her job, she gets $46 million, including a pension worth $17,745,638 and $7,650,000 in severance pay.

Of course, readers of Gannett newspapers can rejoice since obviously this concentration of wealth in the hands of Ms. Martore and her fellow executives has resulted in dramatically improved products that benefit the communities in which they operate.

Contrary to popular opinion, it isn't the internet that has killed newspapers; it is greed.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Scars from the Tornado featured on Addicted to E-Books site

The book Scars from the Tornado: One Year at Joplin East Middle School is featured on the front page of the Addicted to E-Books Website and will have its own page on the site.

The book, some of which was written by me and some by students from the 2011-2012 year at East Middle School, details tornado stories and the challenges of attending school in a converted warehouse.

The book is available as both an e-book and a paperback. A link to the book's Amazon site can be found on the upper right hand side of this page.

Cynthia Davis: Supreme Court needs to keep its hands off our heterosexual marriages

Dempsey: We will get to the bottom of DOR violation of gun owners' rights

A part of the weekly report of Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Peters, is devoted to his promise to leave no stone unturned in finding out the truth behind the scandal of DOR officials collecting information about law abiding gun owners (Are there any other kind where the GOP is concerned?). If Dempsey and his fellow legislators showed this kind of devotion to finding jobs for Missourians, we would have 100 percent employment.
One area of consistent concern has been the overreach of government, be it in Missouri or Washington D.C. Three weeks ago, the Missouri Senate learned the Missouri Department of Revenue had taken the extraordinary step of requiring individuals going in for a license renewal or a Concealed and Carry permit to provide the government with a copy of their birth certificate or passport they could scan and then keep in a database. The extreme steps didn’t stop there, and unfortunately we have learned the Department of Revenue, through a Homeland Security grant, is taking biometric photographs of Missouri residents simply looking to receive a Concealed and Carry permit or update their licenses.
 Beyond concern for privacy, these actions by the Department of Revenue have resulted in Missourians having to wait weeks to receive updated licenses through the mail as opposed to same-day printing. These actions by the Governor’s employees are unnecessary, wrong, and likely illegal. In my capacity as Senate President, I approved and delivered a subpoena for documents in order to begin uncovering what occurred and why. Beyond the subpoena, we have held hearings on the issue and I called upon our Attorney General to do his job and defend Missourians from this ridiculous overreach. Infringement upon personal freedoms and the attacks upon the second amendment cannot stand.

Search warrant at Sandy Hook killer's home unearths NRA certificate

While I am certain that an overwhelming majority of National Rifle Association members are decent and law-abiding people who would never think of misusing a gun, it can't do the organization any good when the police search of Sandy Hook killer Adam Lanza's home revealed an NRA certificate and the NRA Guide to the Basics of Pistol Shooting.

The information was included in a report from The Smoking Gun website.

Ellington: GOP vote to turn down federal funds cutting off Missouri's nose to spite its face

In this news release, Rep. Brandon Ellington, D-Kansas City, criticizes the House vote rejecting a Medicaid expansion funded by federal dollars.
“Expanding Medicaid eligibility under the federal Affordable Care Act should be an easy decision for every Missouri lawmaker. Over the next several years, it would leverage $8.2 billion in federal investment in our state to spur an additional $9.6 billion in private economic activity, create 24,000 new jobs and provide financial relief to vulnerable rural hospitals. The federal government would pay the full cost of the expansion for the first three years, with the state chipping in no more than 10 percent of the cost thereafter. And the economic boom created by the expansion would generate new state tax revenue that would more than pay for Missouri’s eventual costs.
 “By repeatedly voting against jobs, economic growth and rural hospitals with as much contempt as they can muster, House Republicans are stubbornly cutting off Missouri’s nose to spite its face. Their intransigence notwithstanding, the choice remains a simple one: Expand Medicaid and reap the benefits of new jobs and economic growth or forgo expansion and face the consequences of fewer jobs and closed rural hospitals.”

Attack on Missouri classroom teachers delayed

Don't let anyone tell you that charter schools are public schools in anything more than name. Opposition by charter schools, slowed a House bill that would throw public schoolteachers under the bus and hamstring local boards of education with mandates on how to pay and promote teachers. The bill passed a House committee yesterday, but returned to the committee today, because charter schools were not happy about an amendment that would force them to play by the same rules as every other public school.

(From Missouri NEA)

The House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee voted 13-11 to approve an HCS version of HB 631 (Kevin Elmer) on March 27, but the House Rules Committee sent the bill back on March 28 for further consideration.  The bill would impose intrusive state mandates on the evaluation, hiring, promotion, firing, layoff and compensation of public school teachers. One provision requires at least one-third of teachers' evaluations to be based on student test scores on state assessments.  

Reps. Elaine Gannon, Lyle Rowland and Mike Thomson joined the minority caucus members in standing up for students and public schools and opposing this harmful bill.  

The Association strongly opposes this massive imposition of unproven mandates and elimination of local control and decision-making.  The bill would interfere with the piloting of new teacher and administrator evaluation systems all over the state.  The bill contains a number of provisions similar to HB 1526 from 2012.  

The main change in committee was the adoption of HCA 1 (Genise Montecillo) to ensure that the evaluation mandates apply to public charter schools as well as district schools. Opposition from charter schools caused the House Rules Committee to vote on March 28 to send the bill back to the Elementary and Seocndary Education Committee for further consideration, presumably to remove or revise that provision.

Committee finalizing plans for two-year anniversary of Joplin Tornado

(From the City of Joplin)

As the second anniversary of the May 22, 2011 tornado approaches, the committee that was formed to plan last year’s “Day of Unity” memorial event is now finalizing details to again recognize that significant day in Joplin’s history.
The public is invited to visit Cunningham Park on Wednesday, May 22 to visit various tents focusing on Resilience, Resolution, and Realization – the characteristics of our citizens that have helped shape the rebuilding of Joplin and Duquesne. These areas open at 4 p.m. and close at approximately 7 p.m. during the event. A brief program will be held at 5:30 p.m. and conclude with a moment of silence at 5:41 p.m., the time that the EF-5 tornado touched down in western limits of Joplin.
“Based on the planning group’s input, this year’s anniversary event will be more subdued than the first year’s activities,” said City Manager Mark Rohr. “The Walk of Unity was historical in marking the first year of progress and recognized the healing our community had made in just 12 months. This year is geared toward a family picnic type event, allowing people to observe that significant day in the manner most fitting for them. We are recalling May 22, 2011 while focusing on Joplin’s future.”
Areas represented during the event in large open tents throughout the park include the Long Term Recovery Committee (LTRC), housing, schools, healthcare, trees, trails, volunteers, Ministerial Alliance, arts, and the commercial and business redevelopment with focus on the master plan with Wallace Bajjali. The tents be scattered among the park grounds allowing people to visit them, as well as the Memorial Fountain and Plaque that commemorates the 161 lives lost due to the tornado, the Volunteer Memorial that recognizes the thousands of people who came to our area to help the community recover, and the playground areas. Designed as a come-and-go event in the park, some may choose to gather with family and friends in the Park for reflective time and/or to visit the different areas on the grounds.
The City will provide water to those attending. The public is encouraged to bring picnic type foods for their families to enjoy in the park. Although food vendors will not be allowed to sell items to the public at this event, some have indicated an interest in providing items to the crowd. Details for this have not been confirmed, and if this develops, the City will announce this in future releases about the event.
“Cunningham Park is open dawn to dusk, seven days a week, and we invite everyone to use the park for their enjoyment anytime,” said Rohr. “However on this day, the second anniversary, we are also offering a story of progress, our progress as a community, while also remembering the loved ones we lost and the lives that were changed on that eventful day.”

Lichtenegger on Medicaid no vote: Somebody's always going to be poor

(In her weekly report, Rep. Donna Lichtenegger, R-Jackson, explains why she voted against the Medicaid expansion- there are always going to be poor people and you have to draw the line somewhere.)
 For many years now Missourians have recognized that the Medicaid program needs reform. In fact, it’s so terrible that doctors nationwide have publically said they will no longer take on new Medicaid patients. Furthermore specialty care, which is expensive and often crucial to treating our medically underserved, is limited by Medicaid’s burdensome federal regulations and requirements.   Medicaid is failing in at least three areas: cost to taxpayers, access for the underserved and healthy outcomes. 
     We must face these difficulties with political courage and perseverance in order to produce a solid, viable, long-term solution. In other words, we should cure the wounded program, not just put a fiscal bandage on it.  The program Governor Nixon proposes will significantly increase the already massive Medicaid state budget dollars which stands at $8,495,897,923 (yes, that is more than 8 billion dollars!) for the fiscal year 2013 for 957,211 Medicaid-eligibles.  Even if we take out the federal-fund contributions (which we still pay for with federal taxes) the number is still more than $4 billion in state revenues. A genuine, wise and efficient Medicaid program reform should result in improved systemic operation, healthier Missourians and a substantial taxpayer-dollar savings.
     Republicans and Democrats in Florida, Louisiana, Kansas, Texas, and Wisconsin have noticed Medicaid’s vast shortcomings.  Instead of just throwing more money at the problem, these states have offered realistic solutions.  With a pragmatic approach, they have instituted reforms that have promoted stronger patient outcomes, increased doctor participation, and reduced burdensome restrictions on delivered care.  We can bring those solutions to Missouri and that’s what many legislators are working toward this session.
     Because we all want to see those who have a genuine economic need receive it, the issue of serving them is obviously an emotion one. But the rhetoric that those of us who push for reform hear is that we don’t care about them. This is the uninformed and therefore irresponsible message coming from a few media sources and blog comments. The frightening truth is if we do not produce an efficient, stable, reformed Medicaid we will find ourselves in a bankrupt state that cannot serve but a select few!
    There is another factor to consider: There will always be someone just above the eligibility “line” no matter where you draw it. Someone will always be “the poor among us”. As a generous, “civilized” society we can do our part in our communities to assist for the greater good. Tally up the number of non-profits both state and nation wide and you will be pleasantly surprised at the great number that exist, and you will be further surprised at the number of persons they serve. Take Lutheran Family & Children’s Services (LFCS) as an example. There are four regional offices that cover the entire state of Missouri. If you visit their website you’ll notice that they have 11 major programs each of which provide countless services. Organizations such as the LFCS not only provide significant services and support they really save Missouri taxpayers a lot of money. The Missouri Department of Social Services will concur with that statement; I know this first-hand because I’m on the Appropriations Committee for Health, Mental Health and Social Services. I encourage you to contact the Cape Girardeau Southeast office* and ask how many clients they serve on average per year, the various ways they serve/support them (goods and services) and ask them the average amount spent per client.  Even better go visit their facility and learn firsthand the benefits to those they serve. While you’re there how about volunteering your time and / or other resources? If you do this, you’ll begin to get a sense of how valuable are these non-profits.
      Having been myself involved with LFCS and Boy & Girls Club, I can testify that organizations such as these produce long-term positive outcomes for those who may otherwise have become a long-term poverty statistic.
      This is why the state House legislators recently passed (with near-unanimous bipartisan support) House Bill 87 that re-establishes or extends the sunset date on many Benevolent Tax Credits to December 31, 2019. The tax credits impacted by this legislation include the income tax credit for the surviving spouse of a public safety officer who has not remarried, the children in crisis tax credit, the disability access residential renovations tax credit, the pregnancy resource center tax credit, and the income tax credit for a donation to a food pantry.
     These tax credits encourage investments from private citizens for programs that benefit many of our most needy citizens. It will help many of our charitable organizations gather resources to provide much needed assistance to low-income families. These benevolent tax credits are a fiscally responsible way of assisting Missourians who are in need.
     Times are tough in Missouri and across our nation. However, encouraging private citizens to support the many charitable organizations who are providing much needed resources to pregnant women and hungry children is good public policy (and by the way they also employ a great many persons). It is not just the smart thing to do; it is the right thing to do.

Kelley: Why I voted against taking money from feds for Obamacare

In his weekly column, Rep. Mike Kelley, R-Lamar, explains his vote against accepting money from the federal government to implement Obamacare.
This week the Missouri House of Representatives cleared a large amount of work off its plate when it sent its version of the state budget to the Senate.  Most of the debate centered around whether or not Missouri would take money from the Federal Government to implement its version of Obamacare.  On mostly party line votes, every proposal to implement this program was voted down.
 I voted against the proposals for a couple reasons.  For one, no matter if the money comes from the federal or state government, it still comes from the pockets of the taxpayer.  Also, as I mentioned last week when I met with United States Senator Claire McCaskill, forty cents of every dollar the federal government spends is borrowed, most likely from China.  This is not a sustainable business model.  Finally, once a program is begun, it is very difficult to end. 
 Because of term limits, there are very few legislators still around that were here when the legislature removed quite a few people from the welfare rolls.  Representative Kevin Engler (R-Farmington) was in office at that time.  During the debate, he stood up and asked how many legislators would be willing to end benefits in three years when the state will be asked to pick up more of the tab.  He said he had made the tough decisions several years ago and did not want to go through that process again.
 I realize we cannot stand by and do nothing.  The system is broken and needs some reform.  We have a piece of legislation authored by Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) that would bring significant improvements to the program.  It would not be as expensive and would maintain a level of control for the state.  Even though this issue was not incorporated into the state budget, I don’t think we are finished dealing with it this session.
In the Senate a bill was heard in committee that would place restrictions on where Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards could be used.  It also would specify they could only be used to purchase healthy food items.  EBT cards have taken the place of food stamps.  Recently it was discovered that Missouri EBT cards have been used in every state, including Alaska and Hawaii. 
 While most members embraced the concept of taxpayer dollars not being used to purchase unhealthy items, there was concern over who would decide what would qualify and what would be prohibited.  There were also questions of how grocers would program their systems to adapt to the new requirements.
 The portion of the bill limiting where EBT cards could be used met with more favor.  Restricting their use to Missouri and surrounding states appeared to gain consensus with the committee members.  Most agreed there was little reason that benefits paid for by Missouri taxpayers should be accessed and spent in states like Florida, California, and New York.
 The Legislature is now in its final seven weeks of the legislative session.  Bills passed by the House have been sent to the Senate and Senate bill are appearing here in the House.  Conference committees will begin meeting and compromises will be forged.  After that it will be up to Governor Nixon whether the work of the Session will become law or fall to the veto pen.

Legislators gunning for teacher pensions

Missouri has some of the lowest paid teachers in the nation, but it has always had a decent retirement plan. Naturally, the same legislators who have made a habit of downgrading teachers every chance they get have targeted the teacher retirement plan.

(From Missouri Retired Teachers Association)

On March 25th, Jim Kreider, Executive Director of the Missouri Retired Teachers Association (MRTA), delivered a petition with 29,998 signatures from MRTA members, supporters, and families to Governor Nixon; Senator John Lamping (Saint Louis County - Ladue), Chairman of Pensions Committee; and members of the Senate Pensions Committee. This petition is asking that four pieces of legislation detrimental to education and retirees' pension benefits, which are being pushed by Senator Lamping, be defeated or set aside.
 "It was a total surprise," commented MRTA Director Jim Kreider regarding the number of signatures and support gathered. I was expecting a maximum of 5,000 signatures. "I think this outcry from teachers, staff and retirees was phenomenal! It is my hope the Senators will listen to their voters."
 Missouri currently ranks 48th in the nation in teacher salaries. Missouri's decent and hard-earned retirement benefits for educators are the number one incentive for experienced educators to stay in the classroom. The children of Missouri benefit the most from experienced educators providing a quality public education stated Kreider.
 The Missouri taxpayer is being provided a world class education at a bargain price. Missouri is ranked 41st in per pupil spending whileMissouri schools are doing good work. Over the past 20 years in Missouri, ACT scores and high school graduation rates have gone up, while the dropout rate has steadily declined. Active educators and retired educators are a big reason why we have such good public schools.
 MRTA is a grassroots not-for-profit association consisting of over 22,000 members with 151 chapters or units statewide. The mission of MRTA is to serve and not to be served. Our members strive to uphold and improve the integrity, value, and missions of our public schools so that all school personnel may live healthy, vital lives and be secure economically, socially, and professionally in retirement.

Brattin: I will fight for law-abiding gun owners

In his latest newsletter, Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, talks about panicked citizens buying up ammunition because they are afraid the federal government is coming to take away their guns. What Brattin fails to mention is that it is he and his fellow legislators who are ratcheting up the fear for their own political gain.
In recent weeks the attention of many law-abiding Missouri gun owners has been focused on a lawsuit filed by a Southeast Missouri man from Stoddard County against the Missouri Department of Revenue. Eric Griffin filed his lawsuit after he took issue with a new policy put in place by the department that required his personal information to be scanned and saved in order for his concealed carry endorsement to be added to his driver’s license. He believes, as do I and as do most Missourians, that our private information should remain private. Instead, his information was being sent to a third-party vendor outside the state, and the potential existed for that information to ultimately end up in a federal gun owner database.
I am proud to say the state legislature has responded quickly to this potential infringement on the privacy of Missouri citizens by taking the department to task. We had a series of hearings in the state Capitol where my legislative colleagues were able to question officials from the department on their current policies. They also made it abundantly clear that the state legislature will not tolerate any private information being shared with out-of-state parties. To reinforce that, I have joined several of my colleagues in filing legislation to remove any doubt law-abiding Missourians may have in regard to how their personal information is being handled.
Already, the Speaker of the House has said my legislation will be fast tracked through the legislative process. The bill (HB 859) would do away with the concealed carry endorsement that appears on a driver’s license and would allow anyone with an endorsement to convert it to a permit at their local sheriff’s department. It’s a change that would take the process away from the Missouri Department of Revenue and put it in the hands of local authorities who are here to protect our rights rather than violate them. It is a change that would ensure our private information remains private without being a major inconvenience for law-abiding gun owners.
I believe my bill represents a step in the right direction for our state, but I also see it as just one part of the bigger picture effort we must have to protect our Second Amendment rights. The overreaching actions of the federal government have scared law-abiding citizens into believing their rights may be taken away. We have seen ammunition shortages here in Missouri and across the country as a result of the panicked effort of law-abiding citizens to stock up on items they are worried the federal government will outlaw. As a state, we must make it clear that we will stand in defense of these rights – that we will turn back all efforts by the bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. to disregard and destroy the freedoms given to us by our founding fathers. It’s a fight I am proud to wage on your behalf, and on the behalf of all law-abiding gun owners here in Missouri.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tim Jones: We'll help you send kids to private schools, homeschool them

For the record, Speaker of the House Tim Jones, R-Eureka, did mention public schools in his speech today to Americans for Prosperity, but he made it clear he and the Republican supermajority are going to work just as hard to funnel taxpayer funds to private schools, home schoolers, and those whose children attend charter schools.

The education mentions come at this end of this six minute Progress Missouri audio.

Billy Long: I'm still against Obamacare

In his latest newsletter, Seventh District Congressman Billy Long reminds us that he is still against Obamacare.

Three years ago Obamacare became law, and I remain as committed to repealing and replacing it with patient-centered reform now, as I did when I first took office.  
I’ve voted to repeal or defund part or all of the president’s health care law, which increased federal spending by $2.6 trillion.  The bill gave unprecedented control of the American health care system, approximately 1/6 of the economy, to the federal government.  The largest portions of the bill won’t be implemented until 2014, but we are already seeing the negative effects.
Even though the administration expects to give out $1 trillion in subsidies, Americans across the country can expect to pay higher premiums in 2014 due to Obamacare’s unaffordable mandates and regulations.  The middle class may be the hardest hit from these regulations, since they likely will not qualify for any assistance.  Sadly, nearly every American in any income level could see a huge premium increase.  Even after receiving subsidies, Americans earning $25,000 will still pay higher premiums.  These premium increases will hit Missouri families hard, and estimates show that they could see their premiums increase anywhere from 60 to over 100 percent. A constituent who raises Polled Herefords stopped me the other day to relate that his insurance agent called to say his family’s rates will increase over 100 percent, an increase his family cannot afford.                                     
As we continue to uncover the hidden taxes and fees, it becomes even clearer that Obamacare hurts Missouri families.  It’s time to not only defund or repeal it, but to replace it with market-based, conservative reforms. 
As I have said before, there are parts of the law I agree with, like providing people with pre-existing conditions access to affordable health care and allowing students to remain on their parents’ health insurance.  But the law in its entirety is severely flawed and needs to be replaced with patient-centered reforms.
It is my hope that any new health care reform will achieve these goals while preserving the first-class quality of our health care system. Additionally, as a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, I will work with my colleagues in providing rigorous oversight of the Obama administration as the 2014 target date for much of law’s implementation draws closer.

Event recognizing second anniversary of Joplin Tornado planned

(From the City of Joplin)

As the second anniversary of the May 22, 2011 tornado approaches, the committee that was formed to plan last year’s “Day of Unity” memorial event is now finalizing details to again recognize that significant day in Joplin’s history.
The public is invited to visit Cunningham Park on Wednesday, May 22 to visit various tents focusing on Resilience, Resolution, and Realization – the characteristics of our citizens that have helped shape the rebuilding of Joplin and Duquesne. These areas open at 4 p.m. and close at approximately 7 p.m. during the event. A brief program will be held at 5:30 p.m. and conclude with a moment of silence at 5:41 p.m., the time that the EF-5 tornado touched down in western limits of Joplin.
“Based on the planning group’s input, this year’s anniversary event will be more subdued than the first year’s activities,” said City Manager Mark Rohr. “The Walk of Unity was historical in marking the first year of progress and recognized the healing our community had made in just 12 months. This year is geared toward a family picnic type event, allowing people to observe that significant day in the manner most fitting for them. We are recalling May 22, 2011 while focusing on Joplin’s future.”
Areas represented during the event in large open tents throughout the park include the Long Term Recovery Committee (LTRC), housing, schools, healthcare, trees, trails, volunteers, Ministerial Alliance, arts, and the commercial and business redevelopment with focus on the master plan with Wallace Bajjali. The tents be scattered among the park grounds allowing people to visit them, as well as the Memorial Fountain and Plaque that commemorates the 161 lives lost due to the tornado, the Volunteer Memorial that recognizes the thousands of people who came to our area to help the community recover, and the playground areas. Designed as a come-and-go event in the park, some may choose to gather with family and friends in the Park for reflective time and/or to visit the different areas on the grounds.
The City will provide water to those attending. The public is encouraged to bring picnic type foods for their families to enjoy in the park. Although food vendors will not be allowed to sell items to the public at this event, some have indicated an interest in providing items to the crowd. Details for this have not been confirmed, and if this develops, the City will announce this in future releases about the event.
“Cunningham Park is open dawn to dusk, seven days a week, and we invite everyone to use the park for their enjoyment anytime,” said Rohr. “However on this day, the second anniversary, we are also offering a story of progress, our progress as a community, while also remembering the loved ones we lost and the lives that were changed on that eventful day.”

Former Speaker Tilley lands first southwest Missouri client

Former Speaker of the House Steve Tilley, now a lobbyist, has landed his first southwest Missouri client.

Missouri Ethics Commission records indicate Tilley registered Gardner Capital, Springfield, on March 22.

Nixon avoids questions on gay marriage

(A St. Louis Beacon video)

Nixon makes emotional plea for Medicaid expansion

(A St. Louis Beacon video)

Capri Motel demolished

(A Joplin Globe video)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

McCaskill measure encouraging hiring of veterans passes Senate

GateHouse Media CEO: Bankruptcy among options being considered

The Big Nickel is not only a GateHouse Media publication, but the price the company's stock closed at Monday following word that bankruptcy might be on the horizon.

The company lost one-third of its stock value during the day, dropping from six cents to four cents per share before rallying to close at five.

The Wall Street Journal quoted the company's CEO, Michael Reed, as saying that different strategies are being looked at to tackle the ticking time bomb that is the company's billion dollar plus debt.

GateHouse's note is due next year and since the company continues to lose money quarter after quarter, it is obvious GateHouse is not going to be able to pay what it owes.

In addition to a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, GateHouse is exploring attempts to have its debtors settle for 33 cents on the dollar.

Fortunately for Reed and other top officials at GateHouse, the company's overwhelming debt has not kept its board of directors from handing them hefty bonuses year after year, including $1,495,000 in bonuses in 2012, with Reed receiving $800,000 of that total.

In addition to the Big Nickel, GateHouse Media owns the Carthage Press, Neosho Daily News, and Pittsburg Morning Sun in this area.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Kansas City Star book tops Amazon Joplin Tornado rankings

Joplin 5:41, the Kansas City Star's account of the May 22, 2011, tornado, ranked number one among Amazon Joplin Tornado books for the second straight week.

1. Joplin 5:41, Kansas City Star, 117,397
2. 5:41: Stories from the Joplin Tornado, Randy Turner, John Hacker, 136,295
3. Singing Over Me, Danielle Stammer, 493,961
4. 32 Minutes in May, Joplin Globe, 578,779
5. Scars from the Tornado, Randy Turner, 627,254
6. When the Sirens Were Silent, Mike Smith, 863,440
7. Miracle of the Human Spirit, Mark Rohr, 1,134,050
8. When the Storm Passes, Julie Jett, 1,140,206
9. Spirit of Hope, Randy Turner, John Hacker, 1,174,936
10. 5/22: Stories of Survival, Stories of Faith, Scott Hettinger, 1,426,902
11. Joplin Tornado House of Hope, Tim Bartow, 1,809,765
12. EF5 at 5:35, Kathryn Sandlin, 3,682,157
13. Mayday in Joplin, Donald Clugston, 3,798,824

Court document: Sarcoxie School Board member is a threat to the community

Sarcoxie Board of Education member John Lewis is a threat to the community and should remain bars while awaiting trial, the government said in a document filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

The document was filed in response to a motion by Lewis' attorney to have the subject of bond for Lewis reconsidered. Lewis is charged with receiving pornographic material and

In her response, U. S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson said, "It is clear defendant has demonstrated by his behavior that he is unwilling to abide by the law. This 66-year old defendant is a manifest risk to the safety of the community, generally, and, particularly, to the multiple minor victims to whom he exposed himself to which he had access through his position as a member of the school board for the Sarcoxie Public Schools."

Ms. Dickinson wrote, "(T)he defendant has visited approximately 30 foreign countries; he currently holds a passport, which he told the interviewing Pretrial Services Officer was stolen, then told the Court it was misplaced; he recently applied for a new passport; he has substantial financial resources that could be put toward travel; his estate is worth approximately $2.2 million; he lacks significant family ties in the area; he reported to the Pretrial Services Officer that he is not close to any of his extended family members; evidence was presented that he exposed himself to two sixteen-year-old boys who worked on his farm, and that the defendant possessed photographs of unclothed young men from the area, who may not have been above the age of consent at the time the photos were taken; and he is known to possess a significant number of firearms."

Lewis' next court date is Tuesday, April 2, the same day Sarcoxie voters will determine whether he remains on the board of education.

Kimberling City rep: They're taking our bullets

In his latest report, Rep. Don Phillips, R-Kimberling City, offers an update on gun legislation.

Gun legislation will also be considered during this second half of the session. We have plenty of gun laws already in place and probably don’t need to add many more aside from protecting ourselves against the seizure of guns. I predicted when I was first elected into office, in 2010, that if the guns couldn’t be controlled then the ammunition would be, by pricing it out of reason, making it difficult to afford. I think we’re seeing that very thing occurring but more disturbing is the buying of twobillion rounds of ammunition by federal non-military agencies in a 10 month period!  President Obama’s administration says federal law enforcement agents need the ammunition for “mandatory quarterly firearms qualifications and other training sessions.”  Sounds a little suspicious to me but I guess it takes a lot of ammo to keep 120,000 federal officers on the ready. The timing of such an enormous purchase of ammunition is what seems odd. The shelves are nearly bare at most of the sporting goods stores for the rest of us.  There seems to be plenty of shotgun shells but bullets are in short supply.

Tim Jones: Grading your schools and eliminating prevailing wage and we're just getting started

(One section of Speaker of the House Tim Jones' latest newsletter is devoted to the wonderful things House GOP members have done to benefit education.)

There are a myriad of opinions that are promoted in the halls of our Capitol aimed at bettering the education of our youth.  There can be little debate, however, over the fact that a parent should be informed about the performance of their child’s school.  
Rep. Swan introduced an innovative proposal that the House has already taken up and moved forward in her freshman year.  HB 388 is simple:  each school receives a letter grade just like their child.  Utilizing performance reports that are already published, schools will receive this easy to understand grading system that will allow parents to know how their school stacks up.  As a parent myself, it is no surprise this legislation was quickly adopted and is now in the Senate for their consideration.

Another important piece of legislation that the House has already weighed in on is HB 34, proposed by Rep. Guernsey.  This measure would allow certain school districts, with board approval, to be exempt from prevailing wage requirements on construction and maintenance costs.  Maintaining a quality environment for our children to learn is pivotal in our educational system.  Missouri’s schools should not have to be held hostage to extraordinary labor rates that do not reflect the true wage of their local economic environment. Just like the other prevailing wage proposal the House has passed, this reform will likewise encourage more projects to be undertaken (because greater funding will be available) along with the creation of more jobs.

I am looking forward to these bills moving forward in the Senate along with continued debate on the host of other education ideas that are being debated at the Capitol. 

McCaskill: Our government should not tell people who they have the right to marry

(From Sen. Claire McCaskill)

The question of marriage equality is a great American debate. Many people, some with strong religious faith, believe that marriage can only exist between a man and a woman. Other people, many of whom also have strong religious faith, believe that our country should not limit the commitment of marriage to some, but rather all Americans, gay and straight, should be allowed to fully participate in the most basic of family values.
I have come to the conclusion that our government should not limit the right to marry based on who you love. While churches should never be required to conduct marriages outside of their religious beliefs, neither should the government tell people who they have a right to marry.
My views on this subject have changed over time, but as many of my gay and lesbian friends, colleagues, and staff embrace long term committed relationships, I find myself unable to look them in the eye without honestly confronting this uncomfortable inequality. Supporting marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples is simply the right thing to do for our country, a country founded on the principles of liberty and equality.
Good people disagree with me. On the other hand, my children have a hard time understanding why this is even controversial. I think history will agree with my children.

Nixon: Strengthening Medicaid is the smart thing to do

(The following is a newsletter Gov. Jay Nixon sent out today.)

As you may know, a critical decision lies in the hands of your representatives here in Jefferson City.  Right now, we have the opportunity to bring billions of your tax dollars back from Washington to Missouri, creating 24,000 jobs and providing health coverage to an additional 300,000 Missourians – at no cost to the state for the next three years. 
300,000 Missourians. 24,000 jobs.  Zero state dollars.
Never before in my 26 years of public service, and possibly never again in our lifetimes, will the state of Missouri be able to do so much good, for so many people, at so little cost.   
That is why I’ve been traveling to every corner of Missouri – 21 stops so far – to make the case that strengthening Medicaid is the smart thing to do for our economy and the right thing to do for the people of the Show-Me State.
The response we’re receiving is overwhelming – business organizations, labor unions, law enforcement, health providers and everyday Missourians – from St. Louis to St. Joseph, and dozens of towns in between, are all coming out to show their support for strengthening Medicaid.
It’s the right business decision and the right human decision. And we know the majority of Missourians agree.

But this plan can only move forward if the General Assembly passes a bill to authorize it by the end of the legislative session in May.  Otherwise, on January 1, 2014, the dollars that Missouri taxpayers send to Washington will begin to be spent in other states. They’ll get the benefit, and we’ll get the bill.
With stakes this high and time running short, we need your help.
Follow me on Twitter @GovJayNixon and spread the word to your friends, family, co-workers and – most importantly – to your legislators.  Tell them you want your tax dollars spent in your community, not in some other state.
Because we’ve worked together these past five years to keep our budget balanced and fiscal house in order, we’re turning our economy around.  Our unemployment rate has been below the national average for 42 straight months, and last year Missouri employers added 40,000 jobs.

But we can’t stop now.
We must make the smart business decision and bring our tax dollars back home to Missouri to strengthen our health and our economy.

Thank you for standing with me.

Message to Mike Moon: "I pay taxes" is not ringing endorsement of public education

Reading through the Joplin Globe article on the debate between Republican Michael Moon and Democrat Charles Dake in the 157th District brings back memories of Moon's unsuccessful candidacies for the Seventh District Congressional seat.

Moon always talked glowingly of his wife and his "five homeschooled children." The wording never varied in the times I saw him in person, at the Farm Bureau event at Memorial Hall in Carthage, the watermelon feed at Big Spring Park in Neosho, or at the candidate debate at Missouri Southern State University.

It was never "my wife and children," or "my wife and my five children," it was always "my wife and my five homeschooled children."

The same phrasing was used in all of Moon's news releases, including this one, which I printed in the July 29, 2010, Turner Report.

In the July 20, 2010, Turner Report, I commented on Moon's continued emphasis on homeschooling:

Perhaps it is just because I am a public schoolteacher, but Moon's comments about how well he had done homeschooling his children didn't sit well with me. There is absolutely nothing wrong with homeschooling and many children have thrived in such situations, but to talk about how cheap, but to talk about how cost effective it is really seemed out of place in this forum.

Moon certainly had every legal right to teach his children at home.

But when he is asked about his support of public education and he says he supports it because "I pay taxes," it is an indication that those who support public education may have yet another problem on their hands if Mike Moon joins the House of Representatives.

Those looking for more information on how Mike Moon stands on education and other issues will not find any help on Moon's website. He devotes one sentence to each issue.

On education, he says, he "opposes federal takeover of local schools."

That does not tell us anything about Moon other than that he, like many of the people with whom he wants to serve in Jefferson City, plans to serve with the same 10th Amendment mindset that has kept the last few legislatures from accomplishing anything.

Moon and Dake are the candidates in a special election next month to succeed Rep. Don Ruzicka, R-Mt. Vernon, who resigned after being appointed to a state government position.