Friday, June 23, 2017

McCaskill; Stand up to the Republican health care plan

(From Sen. Claire McCaskill)

It's now or never.

Senate Republicans are about to bring their disaster of a healthcare bill to the floor. They've been working behind closed doors for weeks, and now we know why they kept it a secret: This plan will raise costs for older Americans, strip protections away from people with preexisting conditions, and leave millions without health insurance. It's just as bad as we thought – and according to POLITICO, it's coming to a vote AS EARLY AS NEXT WEEK. We're running out of time to stop it.

If you care about protecting healthcare coverage for millions, now is the time to make your voice heard. Add your name to tell the Senate: Stop the GOP healthcare plan!

Sign the Petition

Thanks for speaking out.

Twenty more Sears stores to close- Joplin store not on list

The number of Sears store closings has climbed to 265 with the announcement Thursday to employees that 20 more stores have been added to the list.

The list does not include the Sears store at Northpark Mall in Joplin.

This is the fourth round of closings that have been announced in 2017.

With the closings, the number of Sears stores in the United States has dropped from 2,073 to 1,180 in the last five years.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Reader: Ace Mohr is redeemable; Turner is a sad, haunted, negative human being

One week ago, the Turner Report featured a post noting that Ace Mohr, 24, Carthage, facing multiple felony charges and having recently had his bond revoked, had been released on his own recognizance on the condition that he enroll in a drug rehabilitation program at "The Road."

In a comment to that post received a few moments ago, a person claiming to be the founder and director of The Road took issue with the earlier post.

In addition to printing his comments on that blog post, they are also printed below:

As the Founder and Director of The Road I have seen many men change that were deemed unchangeable. Maybe Ace is one of them and maybe he's not, but what I believe is that every human being is valuable and capable of redemption. 

Ace has broken laws, burned bridges, and been locked up many times. All of the negative things he has done was under the influence. 

If we can support this young man and help him find sobriety and purpose then he will be a success. If we lock him up (and maybe he deserves to be locked up) then the odds are that he will reoffend and not get proper recovery. We are and have been one of the most successful recovery programs in the state (rated by the DMH - MRSS) for several years. 

If he can't succeed here then he will probably not succeed anywhere. How about send a prayer for this dude that begins his new journey today. 

And as for Mr. Turner, it seems that your life is built on pessimistic criticism. Must be a sad and haunting existence to be such a negative human being. Many, if not the majority, of your articles are based on how "bad" people are. 

Why don't you look for the good? 

An example would be Judge Mouton. Judge Mouton is one of the fairest, nicest, smartest, gentlest, souls I have ever met. It's not just because his wife was my kindergarten teacher that I say such a thing, but because he and his wife try to inspire and draw out the best in children and "misfits" believing in second, third, and even tenth chances in order to try to redeem the "small" people in this world. 

They do more for our community in one calendar year than you have done in your whole life. Take notes and emulate people such as them, for you come across as a judgmental, doomsday, hater. Find some humanity, find some grace, and find some love.

State auditor issues report on impact of tax credits

(From State Auditor Nicole Galloway)

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway has released an examination of the state's tax credit programs. The audit, which was conducted as part of the State Auditor's Budget Integrity Series, shows a $3 billion tax credit liability that extends at least into the next 15 years due to credits that have been authorized by the legislature, but not yet redeemed. In addition, tax credit programs have cost the state $5.4 billion over the past decade.

Tax credits are authorized by the General Assembly to give businesses or individuals a break on taxes owed to the state. Tax credits are not considered state expenditures and may be redeemed years after issuance. The impact on the budget can be volatile and even if the number or amount of tax credits were reduced immediately, the state's financial obligation would continue well into the future.

"Tax credit programs serve a purpose, but each one must be regularly analyzed for efficiency, effectiveness and to ensure they meet desired purposes," Auditor Galloway said. "Budgets are about priorities and the impact tax credits have on the budget has to be considered."

Tax credits have been redeemed at a growing rate in Missouri, with a 20% increase in redemptions of all tax credit programs in the state over the past 10 years. The examination noted the current process makes it difficult for policymakers to get access to information about the cost of the tax credits because of incomplete or inaccurate information provided by the Department of Economic Development and other state agencies. The audit noted a $50 million understatement of outstanding tax credits reported in fiscal year 2016. Additionally, legislators do not have a clear picture of the amount of tax credits allowed under the law because funding limits are unclear for some programs and non-existent for others.

"Policymakers need accurate and realistic data on tax credits in order to weigh the social and economic benefits against the impact on the state's finances," Auditor Galloway said. "The General Assembly must demand more from the agencies that are charged with administering these programs. My report provides clear recommendations to improve this process and the administration of tax credit programs."

The report makes recommendations to address costs and improve data integrity, including reducing the amount of time tax credits can be carried forward, along with more clearly defining annual or cumulative cost limits. Auditor Galloway is also pushing for new processes to ensure accurate benefit-cost analyses, since the Department of Economic Development reports a majority of tax credit redemptions have negative benefit-cost ratios.

The audit primarily reviewed seven high-cost tax credit programs in Missouri, which account for more than 75% of all tax credit redemptions in the state over the past 4 fiscal years, including the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, Senior Citizen Property Tax Credit, Historic Preservation Tax Credit, Missouri Quality Jobs, New Market Tax Credit, Infrastructure Development Tax Credit, and Missouri Works.

A complete copy of the report is available online here.

Health and Human Services secretary Price, Hartzler tell Missourians Obamacare is abandoning them

(From Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler)

A group of Missourians from the Fourth District met with Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in Washington, D.C. Wednesday to share their concerns about the continued implosion of the Affordable Care Act. These Missourians all live in counties where they will no longer have access to health insurance on the ACA exchange when Blue Cross Blue Shield leaves the market by the end of the year.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield decision to exit the Affordable Care Act exchanges will leave 77 of Missouri’s 114 counties with only a single insurer, and some 31,000 Missourians in another 25 counties with no coverage options, including Bates, Benton, Henry, Johnson, Pettis, St. Clair, and Vernon Counties in the Fourth District. According to Health and Human Services, premiums in Missouri have gone up an average of 145% over the last four years.

“Obamacare is collapsing, and Missouri families are being hit hard,” said Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) who met with the constituents to hear how the ACA has impacted their lives. “It seems like every week there is a new insurer abandoning Obamacare and leaving Americans high and dry. We have to do something quickly before more Missourians lose access to coverage and premiums skyrocket anymore.”

Nationwide, a third of counties in the country only have one insurer on the ACA exchange.

“When I speak with my fellow Missourians, they tell me their health insurance is being taken away from them, and this is unacceptable,” Hartzler added. “It is imperative we repeal Obamacare and institute policies that will drive down costs and increase access to coverage for Missouri families. I’m so glad some Missouri Fourth District citizens got to come and share their stories.”

“That’s my major concern, no coverage, and then will we get penalties for not having something that is not in place?” said Candace Fowler, a Missourian from Henry County who met with Hartzler and Price Wednesday. Fowler has a neurological condition that will render her blind if not controlled but faces losing coverage.

“I felt like it was kind of an Abraham Lincoln moment … by the people,” Fowler said. “I got to be the people. I got to be by the people for the people, and I’m one of those people. Who am I, this woman from rural Missouri to be in the White House? I felt the responsibility of trying to represent the people who are my friends who are losing coverage. I felt like there was sincerity around the table as far as listening to us.”

White House Advisor Kellyanne Conway and CMS Administrator Seema Verma also attended the meeting, where Secretary Price listened to Americans who are experiencing the negative effects of the collapsing healthcare law.

“Get rid of the problem, now,” said Benton County resident Jim Blundell, who will lose his insurance when Blue Cross Blue Shield exits the Missouri exchange. “Because it is just going to continue to fester. It is just going to grow.”

Greitens signs Foster Care Bill of Rights legislation

(From Gov. Eric Greitens)

Today Governor Eric Greitens signed the Foster Care Bill of Rights at The Central Missouri Foster Care & Adoption Association.

At the signing, Governor Greitens said, “Our state has 13,000 children in the foster care system. They are, both in law and spirit, Missouri's children. Our kids. We recognize the potential of kids in foster care. We honor hard-working foster parents. And we've got a lot of work to do in Missouri to fight for, work with, and build a better system for our foster families.”

Senate Bill 160 sets forth a list of rights to ensure that children are being protected. The bill also provides more tools to protect children from traffickers, and bans people convicted of sex offenses against children from coming within 500 feet of children’s museums. Senate Bill 160 was sponsored by Sen. David Sater and carried in the House by Rep. Diane Franklin.

Reception to be held for Ridder, Paul Barr

Dr. Norm Ridder's time as interim superintendent of the Joplin R-8 School District is coming to an end at the end of this month.

At the same time, Chief Financial Officer Paul Barr will retire, ending two decades with the district.

A reception for Ridder and Barr will be held 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 27, in the Memorial Administration Building cafeteria.

Joplin High School sinkhole repairs cost $17,000+

The Joplin R-8 Board of Education is expected to approve spending $17,148.40 to repair a sinkhole at Joplin High School when it meets 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Memorial Administration Building.

The 30x30 sinkhole developed April 21 on the north side of the high school, according to a report submitted by Facilities Director Dave Pettit and included in the board's documentation for the meeting.

"For the safety of students and staff at Joplin High School, the sink hole repair had to be addressed the same day it was discovered," the report says. "Therefore, no bids were obtained for repairs."

Pettit asked Asbell Excavating, which was working on a project at another district site, to make the repairs.

The funding will come from the 2017-2018 capital outlay budget, according to the documentation, requiring a budget adjustment and taking the money from district reserves.

(KZRG Photo)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

So you want to be a Joplin R-8 middle school athletic director

The Joplin R-8 School District posted an advertisement on its website today.

Job Description
Salary RangePer Year
Shift TypeFull-Time

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Greitens signs four bills into law

(From Gov. Eric Greitens)

Governor Eric Greitens signed four bills into law relating to enforcing public safety, growing tourism, decreasing burdensome regulations, and supporting Missouri’s Organ Donation Fund.

HB 190 sponsored by Rep. Kathie Conway gives community college police officers jurisdiction to enforce speed limits and issue tickets to those who break the law. This bill will help to keep our students and public safe while they are on Missouri’s community college campuses.

SB 161 establishes the Ozark Exploration Bicentennial Commission, which is tasked with celebrating the exploration of Missouri’s Ozarks. This celebration is intended to increase tourism to Missouri’s Ozarks and highlight Missouri’s natural beauty. SB 161 was sponsored by Senator David Sater and supported by Rep. Lyle Rowland.

County commissioners have struggled to keep up with maintenance and other costs associated with public cemeteries, due to restrictive government regulation. HB 51 removes these restrictions by expanding the investment tools county commissioners can use to raise funds. This will help maintain the beauty and dignity of our public cemeteries. Representative Allen Andrews and Senator Dan Hegeman were instrumental in passing this legislation.

SB 248 repeals the sunset date for tax refund contributions to the Organ Donor Program Fund allowing the fund to continue to accept donations in support of a program that has helped many Missourians. This bill was sponsored by Senator Will Kraus and guided through the House by Representatives Warren Love and Steve Cookson.

High school photographer sentenced to 24 months in prison for internet stalking

(From the Department of Justice)

Christian Trey Ashcraft, 42, of Pine Bluff, the owner of Ashven photography and a former high school photographer in the Pine Bluff, Arkansas area, was sentenced to 24 months’ imprisonment for internet stalking.

On January 5, 2016, a federal Grand Jury returned an indictment charging Ashcraft with one count of lying to a federal agent and one count of internet stalking. On February 22, 2017, Ashcraft pleaded guilty to internet stalking. Ashcraft’s conduct spanned from January 2005 to December 2014.

Today, United States District Judge Kristine G. Baker sentenced Ashcraft to 24 months’ imprisonment, three years of supervised release, and a $1,000 fine. In sentencing Ashcraft, Judge Baker told Ashcraft that only one word could describe his almost decade-long actions—“despicable.” The sentence of 24 months was the top end of the advisory federal sentencing guideline range for this crime.

“Ashcraft’s sentence shows that people who commit cowardly acts behind a computer screen will be identified and prosecuted,” Harris said. “I agree with the Court that Ashcraft’s conduct was despicable, and he is now being held accountable for using the internet to torment a young, innocent victim.”

At his change of plea hearing on February 22, 2017, Ashcraft admitted to using the e-mail account to send sexually explicit photographs of an adult female he was pretending to be—referred to in the Indictment as J.D.—to several individuals over a significant period of time. Agents then discovered the identity of J.D. and subsequently interviewed her.

During the interview, J.D., who is now in her mid-twenties, disclosed that she met an individual who identified himself as “Chad Reynolds” on a website known as when she was 15-years-old. Between the times J.D. was 15- and 22-years-old, “Chad Reynolds” and J.D. engaged in an online relationship without J.D. ever seeing “Chad Reynolds” in person. J.D. admitted to sending “Chad Reynolds” sexually explicit photographs of herself while she was a minor.

J.D. explained to investigators that after she turned 18, “Chad Reynolds” asked her to take part in a photo shoot at a local hotel. Upon arrival at the hotel, “Chad Reynolds” was not there, but Ashcraft, posing as a photographer friend of “Chad Reynolds,” told J.D. that “Chad” wanted her to start the photo shoot without him. During the photo shoot, the photographer had J.D. take multiple sexually explicit photographs. J.D. identified a photograph of Christian Trey Ashcraft as the photographer.

Soon after the photo shoot, J.D. ended her online relationship with “Chad Reynolds.” After J.D. ended her online relationship, the sexually explicit photographs taken from the hotel room were sent to multiple acquaintances of J.D. from an individual purporting to be J.D. via the account.

Ashcraft later admitted to being the user of and sending the sexually explicit images of J.D., while pretending to be her. A search of Ashcraft’s computer revealed approximately 800 images of J.D., many of which were sexually explicit.

During the investigation, agents learned that Ashcraft communicated via with multiple individuals while he posed as young teenage girls.

This investigation was conducted by the Arkansas State Police and HSI. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kristin Bryant.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Joplin City Council approves $3.7 million contract for senior center construction

The Joplin City Council tonight unanimously approved a contract with R. E. Smith Construction Company for $3,740,000 to build a senior center, which will be located next to Mercy Park.

The project will be funded through a Community Development Block Grant.

Greitens announces formation of innovation task force

(From Gov. Eric Greitens)

Governor Eric Greitens announced the launch of the Governor’s Innovation Task Force. The Governor has charged the Task Force with assessing the current state of innovation in Missouri, analyzing best practices from other states, and developing specific recommendations for what the State can do to promote innovation and new technology start-ups. Governor Greitens has asked the State’s Chief Operating Officer, Drew Erdmann, to sponsor the project with the help of the nonpartisan Hawthorn Foundation. The Task Force will bring together private, nonprofit, and public sector leaders from across the State to help improve Missouri’s competitiveness. As part of its work, the Task Force will engage innovators, entrepreneurs, civic leaders, scholars, and others in workshops in St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, Columbia, and Cape Girardeau. The Task Force will complete its work by the end of August.

Governor Greitens released the following statement: “Accelerating the growth of good paying jobs is critical to Missouri’s future. Missouri must find smart, efficient ways to support innovation, entrepreneurs, and new technology start-ups. While Missouri has emerged as a hub for innovation in the Midwest, more must be done if we are to remain competitive and reach Missouri’s full potential as a national leader. The work of the Governor’s Innovation Task Force will ensure that Missouri’s strategy is informed by the best minds from business, nonprofits, and government.”

Dan Mehan, President and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, released the following statement: “Start-ups are critical to Missouri’s success today and in the future. Missouri entrepreneurs are leading the way in St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, and across the state. Established high tech leaders like Microsoft are also recognizing that Missouri is a great place for them to build their businesses. But we have to keep pace. I look forward to working with other leaders from across the state to make the Governor’s Innovation Task Force a success.”

Donn Rubin, president and CEO of BioSTL, builder of the St. Louis bioscience industry, released the following statement: “I have seen firsthand the growth of entrepreneurship and innovation in Missouri during the past decade. However, we still have gaps and challenges to solve as we strive to be a global leader. I’m optimistic that the Task Force process, which is shaping up to be comprehensive and inclusive, will help define the State of Missouri’s roadmap to innovation-driven economic growth.”

See the Hawthorn Foundation's website for additional information at

Graves: Rural hospitals need our help

(From Sixth District Congressman Sam Graves)

Rural hospitals are a literal lifeline for tens of millions of people across this country. In communities that don’t have enough primary care doctors or health facilities, rural hospitals provide a critical, lifesaving service that otherwise would not be here for us.

Unfortunately, about 80 rural hospitals have closed since 2010. What’s worse, one third of all rural hospitals in the U.S. could close in the next few years. That’s 12 million Americans at risk of losing access to the closest emergency room. A devastating number, and something we can’t allow to continue in rural America.

Cuts to hospital payments have worsened the problem, and as populations decrease in rural communities, so-called “medical desserts” are popping up across rural America. It leaves people living on farms or in small towns dangerously vulnerable to medical emergency - particularly older Americans.

This week, I am joining with my colleague from Iowa, Dave Loebsack, to introduce the Save Rural Hospitals Act. This bipartisan bill looks to reverse the trend of rural hospital closures, in part by eliminating unrealistic federal regulations like the “96 hour rule,” which forces rural hospitals to move a patient within 96 hours in order to get reimbursed by Medicare.

The average rural hospital creates 195 jobs and generates $8.4 million in annual payroll. But more than that, these facilities make communities livable, ensuring a doctor isn’t far away when a medical emergency strikes.

This bill shines a light on the rural health crisis in Missouri and across the country. If we accept this reality - and neglect this much needed conversation - rural hospitals in Missouri will continue to close. This leaves thousands without access to health care, putting lives in jeopardy and affecting every family in Middle America. That’s simply not acceptable.

SEMA flood recovery update

(From SEMA)

FEMA has now approved more than 1,200 applications for assistance from Missouri flood survivors and more than $7.8 million in assistance grants to survivors.

Here are other updates:

The National Flood Insurance Program has received more than 1,200 claims from Missouri policy holders and payments currently total more than $28 million.

Two new Disaster Recovery Centers open Tuesday, June 20, in Gasconade and St. Louis counties. DRCs offer in-person assistance to flood survivors from FEMA and SBA. Get details on locations, operating hours and other disaster recovery centers at
A FEMA Disaster Recovery Center opened Monday in Jasper County.

Note: DRC locations and scheduled opening hours are regularly changing now. Check before you go. Flood survivors are encouraged to register for assistance before going to a recovery center, but can register there, too.

More than 760 households applied for Disaster Food Stamp benefits during a special sign-up push the Missouri Department of Social Services made during the week of June 12-16. June 16 was the deadline for this one-time benefit.

On June 19, SEMA began a series of meetings with local governments and nonprofit agencies that are considering federal assistance for damage to public infrastructure and emergency response costs as a result of the flooding and severe storms from April 28 to May 11. The meetings, called Applicant Briefings, are only for potential applicants like school and road districts and eligible nonprofits and are not for the general public. Three briefings were held Monday. Ten more will be held in disaster designated counties through Friday. Because major changes have been made to the Public Assistance program, all potential applicants, including applicants from previous disasters, are urged to attend an Applicant Briefing before submitting an application. Find the schedule on the SEMA website here.

This information is available online at

Small Town News available as free e-book download

My first book, Small Town News, originally published in 2005, is available now through Thursday as a free e-book download.

Small Town News was inspired by events that took place Oct. 31, 2001, in Diamond when the bank was robbed and the school superintendent, Dr. Greg Smith, disappeared on the same day. At first, media reports seemed to link the two events, though later it turned out there was no connection at all. Dr. Smith's body was found the following week, in his car at the bottom of a pond just outside the Diamond city limits. Newton County Coroner Mark Bridges eventually ruled that Dr. Smith committed suicide.

At the time, I was teaching current issues, a writing-intensive class, at Diamond Middle School. In one of my classes, we discussed the situation and I was surprised by the vehemence of the opinions students had about the behavior of the media during the whole situation. They were particularly disturbed by the way Dr. Smith's widow was treated and the scope of the questions with which she was bombarded. Almost 100 percent of the students thought the media should leave the woman alone.

The student comments got me thinking about writing the book, which is a fictionalized version of those events. The focus is on the media, as seen through the eyes of a student, a high school junior named Tiffany Everett who has a one-week internship with one of the three local television stations.
Within the 196 pages of the book, the way the media handles news in a small town is scrutinized though the actions of the high school junior, her teacher, the television reporter to whom she is assigned, and the editor of the town's newspaper.

Three of my other books, Scars from the Tornado, Let Teachers Teach, and Best of Sports Talk, are also available as free e-book downloads through Thursday, while Spirit of Hope: The Year After the Joplin Tornado, a book I wrote with Carthage Press Managing Editor John Hacker, is available as a free e-book download through Tuesday.

Kansas City Democrat: Greitens calling expensive special sessions to promote his political career

(From Rep. Ingrid Burnett, D-Kansas City)

I’m pretty certain that those who are reading this are aware of Governor Greitens’ affection for calling special sessions as a way to elevate his ongoing campaign for his political career, and to attempt to shame and punish those who disagree with him. Now, a bipartisan group of senators is seeking an investigation of the Governor.

Four Republican and two Democratic senators filed a resolution on June 12, seeking an investigation into Republican Gov. Eric Greitens for possible ethical – and potentially criminal – violations relating to his campaign’s procurement and use of the donor list from a non-profit organization Greitens founded.

On April 28, Greitens admitted to violating state campaign finance laws by failing to disclose his campaign’s use of a donor list from The Mission Continues, a charity for aiding former veterans that Greitens ran until his run for governor. Greitens’ campaign was fined $1,000 by the Missouri Ethics Commission and amended its campaign finance reports to claim the donor list as an in-kind contribution from the charity.

How Greitens’ campaign obtained the donor list remains unclear. If The Mission Continues gave it to Greitens, it would forfeit its tax-exempt status under federal law. A spokeswoman for The Missouri Continues told The Kansas City Star that it didn’t provide the list to Greitens or his campaign. However, if the campaign didn’t obtain the list with permission, the only alternative explanation appears to be that it was stolen.

The Senate resolution would establish a five-member committee to investigate the matter, with full power to subpoena witnesses and records. While Senate Republican leaders said the measure won’t advance during the current special legislative session, they left open the possibility of it being considered during next year’s regular legislative session.

Which brings me to my next topic - Special Sessions


Before even signing the legislation that was passed at the first Special Session in May, on June 7, Governor Greitens called a second special legislative session asking lawmakers to nullify a St. Louis City ordinance prohibiting employment and housing discrimination against women who are pregnant, use contraception or have had an abortion. Greitens, a Republican, also asked lawmakers to impose various new restrictions on facilities that perform abortions.

This Special Session began last week on June 12 and will be continued on into this week. The targeted St. Louis ordinance, which the Board of Aldermen enacted in February, expands the city’s anti-discrimination law to prohibit employers from firing or refusing to hire women because they are pregnant, use contraception or have had an abortion. It also bars such discrimination in housing, including the refusal to rent or sell property to women based on those reproductive decisions. The ordinance includes an exemption for religious organizations. You can view it here if you are interested.

There is so much ridiculousness around this it’s hard for me to know where to start. First of all, the supposed primary purpose of this is to protect women. Again, the St. Louis ordinance prohibits discrimination of women because of their reproductive decisions. Secondly, house members who do not sit on the Children & Family Committee where bills were heard, were not encouraged to attend or paid for their time if they did. So legislators, witnesses and Capitol staff all stopped what they were doing and put in hours of extra work - to be dismissed. Furthermore, the disgusting display of incivility on the part of the Chairwoman toward witnesses and committee members who were opposed was vulgar. Finally, Governor Greitens called this special session on abortion after similar legislation failed to pass during this year’s regular session. I believe this is an abuse of the special session provision, which under the state constitution is only supposed to be invoked on “extraordinary occasions.” Some critics contend the special session is primarily for Greitens to establish political credibility with anti-abortion groups after he was the only one of the four Republican gubernatorial candidates last year who wasn’t endorsed by Missouri Right to Life.

Our State budget is really hurting. We had to make severe cuts that help support some of our most vulnerable. Next year, more tax breaks that were enacted in 2014 will start to kick in leaving us even less to work with. Special legislative sessions cost taxpayers roughly $25,000 for each day both chambers are in full session. Actual costs are less, however, on days when only one chamber meets.

One bit of good news….


On June 12, Governor Greitens signed a bill into law that seeks to bring Missouri driver’s licenses into compliance with the federal REAL ID Act of 2005. Although many states initially resisted the federal law due to privacy concerns, that resistance dwindled to the point where Missouri was one of just four states that still hadn’t complied.

The approval of a REAL ID compliance bill marks a sharp reversal for the Republican-controlled General Assembly, which in 2009 went so far as enacting a statute outright prohibiting state compliance with the federal law, which sets standards for security features on government-issued identification cards.

However, with the federal government warning that as of Jan. 22, 2018, it won’t allow people to use non-compliant state-issued IDs to board commercial aircraft or enter federal facilities, most of the resistance from Republican lawmakers crumbled. With the signing of House Bill 151, it is expected that the federal government will grant Missouri a temporary waiver from the REAL ID requirements to give the state time to implement its new law.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A complete breakdown: Scars from the Tornado available as free e-book download

My 2013 book Scars from the Tornado: One Year at Joplin East Middle School is available as a free e-book download now through Thursday.

Give it a try and if you like it, please consider spreading the word about it.

The book includes the following:

Foreword- This features a story that a former East student, Joplin High School sophomore Rylee Hartwell, wrote about the school shortly after the tornado.

A Teacher's Story- Over several chapters, I write about the last day at East before the tornado hit, the tornado and my first trip back to the school, the meeting at Missouri Southern where Principal Bud Sexson outlined what the warehouse school was going to be like, our return to school, the first day and much more.

Tornado Stories- This section features the students recounting their tornado stories. Some were right in the middle of it. Others feared for their friends. It affected all of them. Former students with stories in this section include Jennifer Nguyen, Nick Shellenbarger, Abi Killinger, Alexandra Stelts, Donna Tomlinson, Maggie Baker, Cami Sanders, Kaley Moser, Amber Fleming, Desirae Orlaski, Taylor Robinson, Keisha Grunden, Courtney Hunt, Victoria Stehm, Garrett Severs,  and Ryan Ball.

The School Year- This section features stories from the students about our year in the warehouse, with some commenting about the school. Those contributing stories include Sarah Peterson, Megan Hickey, Amy Koch, Jennifer Nguyen, Annie Strickling, Stella Ndauwa, and Melinda Adams. Megan, Amy, and Jennifer contributed multiple stories in this section.

Parting Shots- This section includes a longer story that I wrote about the people from around the world who let us know that we were not alone in our battle. My story centers around our 86-year-old penpal from Santa Barbara who came to mean a lot to my students. The section also has shorter comments from Cara Marshall, Jimmie Willerton, Audrey Kanan, Taelor Stone, Logan Whitehead, Amelia Street, and Madison Meinhardt.

Tornado Poems- Among those contributing to this section are former students Mykah Campbell, Michaela West, Sean Harrison, Ashton McGehee, Karly Weber, Jacy Welch, Mackenzie Gunderson, Bridget Ingham, Jerry Bland, Joseph Fry, Beth Dulinsky, and teacher Kathy Weaver.

The book also includes a photo section.

Stacey Newman: Estimated $160,000 being spent on Governor's special anti-abortion session

(From Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis)

I'm not kidding.  
$20,000 per day of your taxpayer dollars in order to a) repeal the St. Louis City reproductive anti-discrimination ordinance (how on earth does that affect any other community?) and b) pass more unconstitutional restrictions on abortion providers.
Rep. Barnes (R-Jefferson City) said in the House hearing last Wednesday that his bill, HB6 - "is the legislative response to the U.S. District Court's decision" (injunction against Missouri's current Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers).  
Does that make any sense?  A federal judge strikes down our current unconstitutional restrictions so the Governor & the GOP demand we pass more?
Tuesday June 14th: The Senate heard 3 GOP bills sponsored by Senators Bob Onder (St. Charles), Bob Dixon (Springfield) and Koenig (St. Louis County in a nonstop hearing lasting over 5 hours with numerous witnesses testifying against - including Drs Colleen McNicholas and Caitlin Parks, NARAL Prochoice Missouri, ACLU of Missouri, Planned Parenthood and Robin Utz who told her painful pregnancy loss story.

Wednesday, June 15th: The House Children & Families Committee heard 4 GOP bills - HB3 (Swan -Cape Girardeau), HB6 (Barnes - Jefferson City), HB7(Franklin - Camdenton) and HB9 (Kelly -Mountain Grove) in a SEVEN hour hearing with no breaks.  HB's 7 and 9 were voted out during a quick Executive Session and sent to a oversight Rules Committee.
Meanwhile the Senate delayed their session Wednesday from 9am until midnight when they passed SB5 (Koenig - R, St. Louis County) with no debate by a vote of 20-6. Good news - the emergency clause of the bill  (which would make the bill take effect immediately upon signing rather than 90 days later) failed to receive a two-thirds required majority vote. The Special Session had been called for Sen. Onder's legislation but after hours of negotiation all day Wednesday, by complete surprise his bill died! 

Monday , June 19th: The House Children & Families Committee is noticed up to meet at 11am in Hearing Room 3 to hear SB5. They are also scheduled to vote out HB3 and HB6 which are expected to be amended. The oversight Rules Committee is noticed up to meet at 2pm in Hearing Room 7 or 30 minutes upon adjournment of Children & Families Committee

Tuesday, June 20th: The House is expected to meet at 10am for full debate on SB5 and any House bills referred from the Rules Committee.  If no amendments are added to SB5 - it will go directly to the Governor.  If the bill is amended, it will need to go back to the Senate for additional votes.

Thursday, June 22nd:  The Senate is noticed to convene at 9am for potential debate.
Please check and daily for updated notices.
Anticipated: NINE Days of the 2nd Extraordinary Session at an estimated cost of $160K.  Just peachy, right?

Let Teachers Teach, a collection of my best writing on education and teaching, is available as a free e-book download from now through Thursday, June 22.

Carthage murder, Ace Mohr, Dr. Carroll's death, missing Joplin woman top Turner Report/Inside Joplin links for the week

The shocking murder of 22-year-old Tayler Anderson of Carthage captured the attention of readers of the Turner Report/Inside Joplin blogs this week with the not guilty plea of Anderson's accused killer ranking as the most visited post of the week on the Turner Report just barely beating out another Carthage story- the news that Ace Mohr, 24, is back on the streets again.

Tayler Anderson also had the second most visited obituary on the Inside Joplin Obituaries page.

The most visited obituary was that of the much-respected Dr. Thomas Carroll of Lamar (pictured). Dr. Carroll not only served his community as a physician, but was also a longtime leader in Democratic Party politics and he served his country in the U. S. Army during World War II.

The Turner Report

1. Accused killer of Carthage man pleads not guilty

2. Back on the streets: Ace Mohr released on his own recognizance

3. MSSU education student, Lamar student teacher arrested on child pornography charges

4. Joplin man indicted for using nine-year-old to produce child pornography

5. Carl Junction man bound over for trial on rape, sodomy charges

6. Federal grand jury indicts Granby postal carrier for stealing mail

7. $150 million lawsuit claim: Vernon County deputies held prison fight nights for entertainment

8. State audit discovers inadequate safeguards for birth, death, marriage, divorce records

9. Agenda posted for Joplin City Council Monday meeting

10. KOAM, KSN, KZRG, KNEO receive awards from Missouri Broadcasters Association

Inside Joplin

1. Joplin Police searching for missing woman

2. Jasper County Marriage Licenses

3. Barton County Sheriff's Office Report

4. Joplin Police Department Arrests June 15-16

5. Joplin Police Department Weekend Arrests

6. Jasper County Dissolution of Marriage Petitions

7. Joplin Police: Do you know this man?

8. Joplin Police Department Arrests June 12-13

9. Jasper County Sheriff's Office Arrests

10. Joplin Police Department arrests three on meth trafficking, possession charges

Inside Joplin Obituaries

1. Dr. Thomas Carroll

2. Tayler Anderson

3. Josh Hynes

4. Scott Tatum

5. Zackariah Walton

6. Rose Johnson

7. Randy Hay

8. Toni Masters

9. Debbie Wyrick

10. Carolyn Cook

  Scars from the Tornado: One Year at Joplin East Middle School is available as a free e-book from now through Thursday, June 22. The book features students who were attending East when the tornado hit on May 22, 2011, telling their stories about the tornado that destroyed their school and 
their first year attending classes in a warehouse.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Severe thunderstorm watch issued for Jasper, Barton counties

1015 PM CDT SAT JUN 17 2017




BARTON               BENTON              CAMDEN
CEDAR                HICKORY             JASPER
MILLER               MORGAN              ST. CLAIR

Elevated hail, significant lightning risk for Joplin area

St. Clair-Hickory-Camden-Pulaski-Phelps-Barton-Cedar-Polk-Dallas-
900 PM CDT Sat Jun 17 2017

This Hazardous Weather Outlook is for portions of the Missouri
Ozarks and extreme southeast Kansas.

.DAY ONE...Tonight.

Weather hazards expected...

  Elevated Hail risk.
  Elevated Thunderstorm wind damage risk.
  Limited Flooding risk.
  Significant Lightning risk.


A complex or line of storms is expected to continue to develop
across northern Missouri and eastern Kansas and spread southeast
into the area later this evening by 10 to 11 pm. The storms will
then move through the rest of the outlook area overnight. These
storms will gradually begin to weaken as they move through
southern Missouri.

There will again be a strong to severe storm risk across the
area, especially along and north of I-44. Damaging wind gusts up
to 70 mph and hail to the size of quarters will be the main severe
weather risks. Frequent lightning and locally heavy rainfall can
also be expected, with a limited risk for flooding.

.DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN...Sunday through Friday.

A few storms may be possible during the middle of next week but
the better chances should remain north of the outlook area.
Additional thunderstorm chances will then be possible next


Spotter activation may be needed tonight for hail and wind damage

Turner Report passes 9 million visitors

I wasn't paying attention, but about a week ago, the Turner Report passed the nine million mark in unique visitors to the website.

The blog has steadily increased readership from its creation in 2003 from approximately 35 visitors a day during its first few months to nearly 6,000 a day and often surpasses that total on big news days, including 15,736 Friday.

Thanks for your continued support.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Heat advisory issued for Joplin area

Bourbon-Crawford-Cherokee-Benton-Vernon-St. Clair-Hickory-Barton-
Including the cities of Fort Scott, Pawnee Station, Chicopee,
Lone Oak, Pittsburg, Baxter Springs, Lowell, Riverton, Columbus,
Neutral, Sherwin, Stippville, Warsaw, Whitakerville, Cole Camp,
Crockerville, Mora, Edmonson, Lincoln, NEVADA, Tiffin,
Appleton City, Johnson City, Weaubleau, Hermitage, Quincy,
Wheatland, Cross Timbers, Kenoma, Lamar, Cedar Springs,
El Dorado Springs, Filley, Arnica, Caplinger Mills, Stockton,
Bolivar, Joplin, Carthage, Greenfield, Lockwood, and Meinert
239 PM CDT Fri Jun 16 2017


* TEMPERATURE...Temperatures will warm into the low to middle
  90s as heat index values will be around the 105 degree mark.

* IMPACTS...These hot and muggy conditions will increase the
  potential for heat related illness for portions of
  southeastern Kansas and western Missouri Saturday afternoon.


A Heat Advisory means that a period of hot temperatures is
expected. The combination of hot temperatures and high humidity
will combine to create a situation in which heat illnesses are
possible. Drink plenty of fluids, stay in an air-conditioned
room, stay out of the sun, and check up on relatives and

  Take extra precautions, if you work or spend time outside.
When possible, reschedule strenuous activities to early morning
or evening. Know the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and
heat stroke. Wear light weight and loose fitting clothing when
possible and drink plenty of water.

  To reduce risk during outdoor work, the occupational safety
and health administration recommends scheduling frequent rest
breaks in shaded or air conditioned environments. Anyone overcome
by heat should be moved to a cool and shaded location.   Heat
stroke is an emergency, call 9 1 1.

This week in the Missouri Senate

Cleaver: Baseball field shooting should be a wakeup call for America

(From Fifth District Congressman Emanuel Cleaver)

As many of you know, this has been a troubling week. Congressman Steve Scalise, Majority Whip of the House of Representatives, remains in the hospital after a cowardly act of violence. Four others, including two Capitol Police officers, a congressional staffer, and a former congressional staffer suffered injuries as well.

I’ve thought about just how horrific the scene would have been if those two Capitol Police officers were not there. Special agents Crystal Griner and David Bailey are true heroes--putting their lives on the line to protect others. I wish them a full and speedy recovery. I’m also grateful for the response of the Alexandria, VA police and others law enforcement officers who ran into danger to protect my colleagues.

The shooting should be a wake-up call for America. A difference of opinion should not lead to violence. The hate filled language, the vitriol, and the nastiness in Washington must stop. Standing up for your beliefs can be done without stepping down on someone who believes differently. Regardless of political viewpoint or party affiliation, violence is never the answer.

I attended the Congressional Baseball game last evening and was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support. As the players came onto the field and stood side by side for the national anthem, I was reminded of how important it is for Members of Congress to act as role models for the rest of the country. We must treat our colleagues as friends, not enemies. We must engage in civil dialogue, not name calling. We must show the country that a diversity of ideas leads to the strongest results. This is civility. If America sees that we can get along, that we can compromise, maybe others might follow.

This is a wake-up call America. We must stop the hate on social media, during town halls, and on the House floor. Be passionate and steadfast about your beliefs, but don’t hate the other person who doesn’t feel the same way. It’s time to embrace our differences and treat one another with respect, compassion, and civility.

Billy Long: I agree with President Trump on energy

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

Renewable energy continues to be a topic of discussion in the news and in Congress. I am a member of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy, which has jurisdiction over our nation’s energy policy. The Subcommittee has held numerous hearings on modernizing energy infrastructure and expanding hydropower generation.

President Trump and I agree that the United States should have an all-of-the-above approach to energy. This includes investing in hydropower infrastructure that comes from the energy of moving water, a clean renewable resource. Currently there are over 90,000 dams in the U.S., yet less than three percent of these dams produce electricity. By 2025, 70 percent of these dams will be over 50 years old and in need of updating. President Trump ran on the promise of rebuilding American infrastructure. Updating our nation’s dams and expanding hydropower for existing dams is a common-sense opportunity to fulfill this promise and add more renewable domestic sources into our energy supply.

This non-polluting energy source converts 90 percent of the energy it creates into electric energy, yet hydropower accounts for just six percent of the country’s energy and less than half of the country’s electricity generation from renewable energy sources. With more investment into hydropower infrastructure, the Department of Energy (DOE) predicts that U.S. hydropower production could increase by almost 50 percent.

However, that requires updating out-of-date facilities and adding hydropower generation to dams not currently outfitted for electricity generation, which takes a considerable amount of time and money. The complex licensing process for updating and creating new hydropower plants can last over a decade and cost millions of dollars, which has led to delays in investments and obstructed projects altogether.

Hydropower does more than just provide a cleaner energy alternative. It also has promising advantages that will lead to more jobs and economic investment. According to the DOE, there will be 120,500 hydropower related jobs by 2050.

Missouri is no stranger to hydropower. Ameren, a Missouri based power company, owns two hydropower plants in Missouri: Bagnell Dam in Osage County and Taum Sauk Energy Center in Reynolds County. The Bagnell Dam produces as much power as 225,000 tons of coal or one million barrels of oil. The Taum Sauk Energy Center on the other hand is primarily used only when the demand for electricity is at an all-time high. This center is used on a peaking basis and allows for energy to be stored.

Hydropower is critical for an all-of-the-above approach to energy. Confronting the challenges of hydropower expansion head-on will benefit generations to come. As Congress begins to tackle infrastructure, I will work towards common-sense solutions to streamline the growth of hydropower projects that can help us achieve energy independence.

SEMA schedules applicant briefings for government, non-profits in flood-damaged areas

(From SEMA)

The State Emergency Management Agency will conduct Applicant Briefings for local government and nonprofit agencies in 46 counties applying for federal assistance for damage to roads, bridges and public infrastructure and emergency response costs as a result of flooding and severe storms from April 28 to May 11.

The applicant briefings will be conducted in 13 locations across the federally declared disaster area from Monday, June 19 to Friday, June 23. All eligible agencies that plan to apply for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are strongly encouraged to attend any one of the briefings, which explain program changes, eligibility information, the federal reimbursement process, documentation requirements and other essential program information. All Requests for Public Assistance must be submitted to FEMA within 30 days of the June 2 disaster declaration date, or July 1. Applicants should note that the Requests for Public Assistance (RPAs) must first be received by SEMA, processed, and then submitted to FEMA by the July 1 deadline, and plan accordingly.

(The Applicant Briefings are not for the general public and there will not be any information related to the FEMA Individual Assistance program, which provides assistance to individuals and families.)

Governmental agencies – including special districts like road districts, and water or sewer districts – and nonprofits that incurred disaster-related expenses should attend, including those that are unsure of their eligibility status, from the following counties included in the federal Public Assistance disaster declaration: Barry, Barton, Bollinger, Butler, Camden, Carter, Cedar, Christian, Cole, Crawford, Dade, Dallas, Dent, Douglas, Dunklin, Franklin, Gasconade, Howell, Iron, Jefferson, Lawrence, Madison, Maries, McDonald, Miller, Morgan, Newton, Oregon, Osage, Ozark, Perry, Phelps, Pike, Pulaski, Ralls, Reynolds, Ripley, Shannon, St. Louis, Stone, Taney, Texas, Washington, Wayne, Webster, and Wright.

Here are the locations of the 13 meetings scheduled between June 19 and June 23:

June 19, 2017
8:00 a.m.
Thiebaud Center Auditorium
Main Auditorium
105 East 11th Street
Lamar, MO 64759
June 19, 2017
8:00 a.m.
River Center at the Landing
110 East Carter Street
Van Buren, MO 63965
June 19, 2017
9:00 a.m.
Knights of Columbus Hall
2280 N. Grand Avenue
Poplar Bluff, MO 63901
June 20, 2017
8:00 a.m.
Wright Conference Center - Farber Hall
Crowder College
601 Laclede Ave
Neosho, MO 64850
June 20, 2017
9:00 a.m.
West Plains Civic Center
Dogwood Room
110 Louis Street
West Plains, MO 65775
June 20, 2017
9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Black River Electric Cooperative
Meeting Room (Back Entrance)
2600 Highway 67
Fredericktown, MO 63645
June 21, 2017
8:00 a.m.
New Beginnings Fellowship Church
151 Elm Street
Hollister, MO 65672
June 21, 2017
9:00 a.m.
Mountain Grove High School Cafeteria
420 North Main
Mountain Grove, MO 65711
(Entrance is on the back side of the building-East Side)
June 21, 2017
8:00 a.m.
Eureka Fire Protection District Training Center
18765 Historic Route 66
Pacific, MO 63069
June 22, 2017
9:00 a.m.
Camdenton R-3 School District
Little Theater
172 Dare Boulevard
Camdenton, MO 65020
June 22, 2017
8:00 a.m.
Phelps County Courthouse
Multipurpose Room
200 N. Main Street
Rolla, MO 65401
June 22, 2017
9:00 a.m.
Louisiana City Hall
Council Chambers
202 S. 3rd Street
Louisiana, MO 63353
June 23, 2017
9:00 a.m.
Missouri National Guard Headquarters
1st Floor Auditorium
2302 Militia Drive
Jefferson City, MO 65101

SEMA encourages public officials and community leaders in the 46 affected counties to share information about the Applicant Briefings with all potential applicants to ensure they have an opportunity to attend and submit a request for FEMA Public Assistance.

Additional information about the Applicant Briefings and the FEMA Public Assistance program is available on the SEMA website at or directly on the program page:

For questions about the Applicant Briefings or the Public Assistance program call (573) 526-9234.