Sunday, October 21, 2018

DeVos dark money group appears poised to pour more money into Ben Baker, Dirk Deaton campaigns

The American Federation for Children, a dark money group founded by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos' family that promotes the privatization of education, expansion of charter schools and using tax money for private schools, appears poised to contribute more money to local House campaigns.

Missouri Ethics Commission documents show the organization contributed $40,000 to the Brush Fires PAC, which lists a Webb City address.

When the American Federation for Children contributed $45,000 to Brush Fires July 26, the money was used to make sizable contributions to the campaigns of five House candidates, including three in the Joplin area- Neosho Mayor Ben Baker, the 160th District candidate $10,042.06, 162nd District candidate Robert Stokes, R-Carl Junction $9,605.04 and 159th District candidate Dirk Deeton, R-Noel $4,000.


Under Missouri election law, the Brush Fires PAC can spend as much money as it wants to support a candidate as long as it does not coordinate with the candidate's campaign.



Ethics Commission records indicate Baker, who received a $600 contribution the same day the PAC received the $45,000 from the American Federation for Children, is the only candidate who has received a direct contribution from Brush Fires.

Though Stokes lost his primary election to Bob Bromley, American Federation for Children, in a news release dated August 6 praised the election of Baker and Deeton, referring to both as candidates who strongly favor educational choice, the preferred euphemism for the anti-public education agenda of the organization.

The news release only features information about Baker and Deaton that can be found on their websites, which would indicate their understanding that the two men favor the organization's agenda had to come from another source, since neither mentions the issue specifically.

Nancy Hughes: He understands my prayer

“Praise be to God, who has not rejected my
prayer or withheld his love from me!”
Psalm 66:20 (NIV)


Everyone takes turn praying at mealtime in my daughter’s home. And that includes the youngest – but only after he declared one day that he was “old nuf” to pray. So with all heads bowed, two-year old Jude put his hands together and took a deep breath:

“Loh-dur-lawd-hop-yur-ha-da-gur-da. Amen.”

He opened his eyes and smiled in triumph at his first prayer attempt and everyone smiled back. But no one understood a word he said. Except Jude. He knew exactly what he had prayed.

A few days later before supper it was Jude’s turn again. Excitedly he bowed his head and closed his eyes as, once again, he lifted up his prayer: “Loh-dur-lawd-hop-yur-ha-da-gur-da. Amen.”



This went on for several days with no resolution as to what Jude was saying. Finally his dad could not resist any longer. “I couldn’t quite understand what you said, Son,” he told Jude. “Could you slow your prayer down just a little so I can hear it better?” Jude was happy to oblige: “Hello there, Lord, hope you had a good day.”

Can I get an amen?

Even though Jude’s family couldn’t understand him, I am sure God knew exactly what he had said and His day was made better by that heartfelt prayer.

I wonder if the Psalmist who wrote today’s Scripture had offered more than one prayer up to the Lord but felt like it just didn’t make any sense or that he hadn’t uttered the right words? And, more importantly, have you ever felt that way?

On any given day I search for words and lose my train of thought and fumble and mumble as I talk to the Lord. I pray with anger and resentment and a judgmental attitude hidden in a corner of my heart (or at least I think it’s hidden) and have to repent and start over.
I cannot count the number of times that I have brought a list of “wants” into my prayer closet and never even stopped to listen to God the Father sharing His love and will with me.
And, please forgive me, but I have prayed in a group and wondered if my words would be accepted by those with me.

And yet, according to Psalm 66:20, God doesn’t reject our prayers or stop loving us just because what we say is not picture perfect or acceptable to those around us. If God heard and answered prayers based on words being “perfect” we would all be in a lot of trouble.

Today, this very minute, let us all praise God for loving us as we are and for listening to our prayers lifted to Him. He understands us, even when we don’t understand ourselves. And I’m with Jude: “Hello there, Lord, hope you had a good day.”

Father, I praise you for hearing my sometimes feeble attempts at prayer and for loving me, even when I struggle with my words. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

R.A.P. it up . . .

Reflect

Have you ever felt like your prayers weren’t “good enough” for God?

Have you thought that if you prayed “perfectly,” that God would love you more?

Application

Begin your prayer time with praise to the Lord for His unconditional love and mercy.

Pray your words from your heart; then be still and listen for His answer to you.

Power Verses

Psalm 66:20 (NIV) “Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!”

Ecclesiastes 5:2 (NIV) “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.”

Romans 8:26 (NIV) “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”

(For more of Nancy Hughes' writing, check out her blog, Encouragement from the War Room.)

Kim Frencken: Classroom breakfast

For lack of a better term I'll use the word dumb. That's right. Dumb. Dumb things that educators do. Take for instance bell ringers. What if you don't have a bell system? What do you call it then? Nothing sounds quite as cute as bell ringer.

 Or what about a no tardy policy? Literally. Students could not be counted tardy because there was a no tardy policy. So even though they were late to class they were not tardy. Why? You got it. Because we have a no tardy policy. 

 Or what about the concept that we let kids be kids. Sounds good. Maybe. Sounds trendy. For sure. Sounds dumb. Definitely. Kids are kids. We don't let them be anything. They are what they are. Kids. But does that mean we let them play in the street? No. 



Here's one that takes the cake. At least for me. Breakfast in the classroom instead of the cafeteria. Why? Instead of having spilled milk in one room, you have spilled milk in several rooms. Have you ever smelled milk that was spilled a day or two later? Not so pleasant. There are enough odors going on in classrooms full of kids in which we are letting kids be kids without adding the rank odor of spoiled milk. I don't mean that we leave it there in a puddle, just waiting for it to dry. Oh, no. We have mops and wipes and towels and sprays to clean up messes. But there is always that little drop that goes unnoticed. The heat comes on as temperatures dip. That little drop heats up and becomes one big toxic stink.

It never fails that little hands that can't open milk cartons or juice cups, can't hang on to them either. That's a no brainer. But neither can teens who are too busy socializing and being kids. Oops! There went my applesauce. Accidentally knocked it off my desk. 

Of course, the plastic container explodes when it hits the tile floor projecting sweet, sticky applesauce in a 3 mile radius. Don't worry. If you miss a spatter or two, it will show up as this lovely shade of blue-black mold in a few weeks. Probably on the side of your file cabinet.

Let's not forget the reading rooms. Rooms where reading is made more inviting by placing pieces of comfy furniture and carpets in atheistically pleasing arrangements to encourage kids to love reading. Don't you just love spills on your rug? That stain will always remind you of the delicious breakfast burrito that was smashed into the fibers while your kids were being kids. Memories.

Who thinks up these things anyway? I want to know. I want to invite these rocket scientists into my room to do a study of kids (being kids) while eating their breakfast in a classroom just so they won't be tardy to class. And while they are there I'll be sure to let them help clean up. I have an extra broom. I'm good at sharing. Besides, I don't want to have all the fun.

(For more of Kim Frencken's writing, check out her blog, Chocolate For the Teacher.)

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Jalen Vaden trial judge changes, Billy Long's $4,000 plus two-day Vegas junket among top Turner Report/Inside Joplin posts

Hopefully, when the next judge is assigned to the Jalen Vaden murder case, it will put a stop to the merry-go-round that has led to six judges since the case was bound over for trial.

The case has been sent to the Missouri Supreme Court, which will assign an out-of-county judge.

The ongoing developments in the judge saga topped the most-visited posts on the Turner Report this week, landing the top position and three other spots in the top 10.

The only post preventing the Jalen Vaden murder case from landing the top three slots was an investigation, using Federal Election Commission documents into Seventh District Congressman Billy Long's latest Las Vegas junket.

Each time I write something about our congressman's penchant for trips to Sin City, one reader feels he or she is absolutely obligated to comment "Who cares?"

I am not able to give a definitive answer on how many people care, but I do know thousands of people visited the post, so they must be interested.

I understand that there are a certain number of readers who do not care if Billy Long goes to Vegas as as long as he remains "fed up,' votes to back President Trump and remains on the Republican ticket. I am betting, however, there are a number of Republicans who are embarrassed by Long's excesses, his occasional lack of seriousness and the fact that even if the September 24-25 Vegas trip was the only one Long had taken thanks to his contributors' generosity, it would still be more times than he has held town hall meetings during his eight-year tenure.



You can find the Top 10 lists for the Turner Report, Inside Joplin and Inside Joplin Obituaries and links to the posts below.

***
A week from today, Saturday, October 27, I will participate in the second annual Joplin Public Library Writers' Faire. The event lasts from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Authors will give readings and for those of you who show up for the beginning of the event, I am the leadoff act, speaking from 10 to 10:20 a.m.

I will have copies of the Joplin Tornado books, Newton County Memories, the education books, my novels, plus some Turner Report t-shirts. (Buy one and wear it to the Joplin Globe office- they will appreciate it.)

For those of you who have read my books, and I am hoping to add to that number, do you have any suggestions on any particular readings you would like to hear from my books? I still haven't made any decisions.

About two dozen authors will have books available and other organizations with connections to writing will also have tables.

See you there!

***
Once again, thanks to those of you who showed your appreciation for this one-man news operation, through sharing posts, through word of mouth and even a few of you through subscriptions and contributions.

Keep sharing those posts you think will interest your friends and if you can spare an extra dollar or two (or a couple of hundred), please consider using the PayPal buttons below the links or sending your contributions to Randy Turner, 2306 E. 8th, Joplin, MO 64801

The Turner Report

1. Fifth judge recuses from Jalen Vaden murder trial

2. Four days after accompanying Trump to Vegas, Billy Long spends 4K+ for meals, limo service on return trip

3, Out-of-county judge, seventh so far, to be assigned to Jalen Vaden murder case

4. Sixth judge assigned to Jalen Vaden case

5. Lawsuit claims Joplin R-8 officials' indifference, failure to establish safe bus stops, led to hit-and-run death of Destiny Chambers

6. Who will be the seventh judge for the Jalen Vaden murder trial, Hensley recuses

7. Illinois truck driver charged with felony after hit-and-run death of Joplin eight-year-old free on bond

8. Dark money group founded DeVos family spent $10,000+ promoting Ben Baker candidacy

9. Bond reduction hearing set for Joplin man who allegedly used church connection to molest underage boys

10. Joplin's Northpark Mall Sears store not among 142 that will close following Chapter 11 bankruptcy

Inside Joplin

1. Oronogo Police: Do you know this man?

2. Baxter Springs residents arrested on meth, marijuana charges following search warrant execution

3. Suspected drunk driver leaves SUV on its top, flees, brags that he "beat the DWI" and spits on JPD officer

4 Joplin Police Department speed trailer stolen

5. Galena teen second suspect arrested for failed burglary attempt

6. Joplin Police Department Arrests October 15-16

7. Galena Police: Do you know this man?

8. Carl Junction man injured in accident on Harp's Grocery parking lot

9. Joplin Police Department Arrests October 17-18

10. Oronogo Police: Do you know these people of interest in theft from business?

Inside Joplin Obituaries

1. Dakota Menear

2. Judy Johnson

3. Marcia Kimbrough

4. Bertha Burton

5. Lynn Jones

6. Waldo Spotted Calf

7. Carol Edwards

8. Jim McGruder

9. J. H. Phipps

10. Kenneth Keely

***


Ponds drained as Joplin Police Department searches for Tracy Pickett, missing since 1992

(From the Joplin Police Department)

The Joplin Police Department has been investigating the missing person case of Tracy Pickett, missing since August 12, 1992.

Through the course of the investigation, dozens of leads have been followed up on. Earlier this year two ponds northwest of Joplin were scanned with side scan sonar by the department of natural resources as part of the investigation. 

For the last three days of this week, the two ponds were drained and hand searched with the assistance of Joplin Public Works Employees and PWC equipment (particularly a new 6 inch water pump and an underwater camera system provided by the Sewer Department). 

PWC employees worked side by side with our detectives and were a great resource in this task. No evidence in this case was located, but we greatly appreciate their assistance. We continue to investigate, and the full details of the case are below:

August 8, 2016 Press Release: Missing Person Tracy Pickett (Missing Since August 12, 1992)


The Joplin Police Department is requesting public assistance in obtaining information related to the missing persons case of Tracy A. Pickett. 

Tracy was reported missing August 12, 1992. Over the past 24 years, investigators have followed dozens of leads.

As another anniversary of the disappearance approaches, we strongly encourage anyone in the community who has any information to come forward.

Tracy Pickett was 14 when she disappeared. She is a white female with blonde hair and brown eyes. At the time of her disappearance, she was 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighed 115 pounds.





On August 11, 1992, Tracy Pickett spent the night at a friend's residence in Webb City, Missouri. The morning of August 12, 1992 another guest offered to take her to her home in Joplin. The subject claimed he dropped Tracy off safely near a pawnshop in Joplin. Tracy has never been heard from again. It is believed Tracy disappeared involuntarily.

Media Inquiries
Contact: Captain Trevor Duncan
417-623-3131 ext 600

Tips/Information on case
Contact: Captain Larry Swinehart
417-623-3131 ext 434







Jason Smith: President Trump and I have put taxpayers and job creators back in the driver's seat

(From Eighth District Congressman Jason Smith)

Missourians work hard day in and day out for their money, and they should have a government that watches over their dollars as carefully and responsibly as they do at home.

We don’t mind paying our fair share to live in a safe nation, to have a judicial system that maintains law and order, or for public infrastructure improvements. 

But in Missouri we don’t have the appetite for a massive government that wants to use our hard-earned tax dollars on inefficient government programs and handouts. Your money belongs in your pocket, not in Washington’s coffers.

President Ronald Reagan once said the most nine terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” 


Too many families in Missouri know exactly what he meant by this, with an overbearing government that makes it harder to go about their lives, not easier.

Raising a family, building a small business, and the freedom to work your land are the opportunities that make our country great. But 70,000 pages of the old tax code were stacked against working Missourians, full of loopholes and tax breaks designed to help special interests instead of families. That changed when President Trump and I wrote the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which lowered taxes for families, small businesses, and farms of all sizes and allows a family of four to make up to $55,000 tax free.

When we were writing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the opposition showed a fundamental lack of respect for the taxpayer’s time and hard work. To San Francisco millionaires like Nancy Pelosi, the largest tax cut in 30 years was ‘crumbs.’ They think the same way about raising taxes – taking more ‘crumbs’ here and there to pay for wasteful programs in faraway cities, with your family picking up the tab. I know that $1,000 isn’t crumbs to a rural Missouri family, and I know the pain that Washington creates when it raises taxes. When budgets have gotten too big, I’ve stood up to leaders in both parties to say enough is enough, we need to cut the spending.

The government should be as serious and responsible about spending taxpayer dollars as Missourians are about budgeting for their farms, small businesses, and families.

The government shouldn’t spend any more than it takes in, something Missouri families manage to do every day. I continue to advocate for a balanced budget requirement for federal government because the results of your hard work should grow our communities, not feed Washington’s spending addiction.

And if the government isn’t working, elected officials shouldn’t receive pay. That’s why when Senate obstructionists prioritized illegal immigration over funding the government and forced a government shutdown earlier this year, I gave up my salary.

Too many people in Washington forget who is paying the bills and recklessly spend your money and write more rules. It is refreshing to work with a President who has a business background and understands the need to clean up the books and let the country get back to work.

The Trump administration saved the economy $23 billion in regulatory costs in the last year alone by getting rid of the most burdensome, unnecessary regulations. Without this burden on the economy Americans can add new jobs, expand businesses, and have an easier time creating new ones. I’ve authored and passed legislation to save millions of taxpayer dollars by scrubbing unnecessary regulations from the books and cutting red tape, and I support commonsense work requirements for government aid to rein in entitlement spending. That’s why I am honored to have received the “Taxpayers’ Friend Award” from the National Taxpayers Union.

If Washington exercised the same fiscal restraint Missourians do, our country would be much better off. President Trump and I have booted the bureaucrats and put taxpayers and job creators back in the driver’s seat of the economy, and this week the United States became the most competitive economy in the world again for the first time since 2008. That’s a taxpayer accomplishment, not a government one.

Campaign report: Josh Hawley not draining the swamp- he's taking a long, luxurious bath in it

In a September 25 tweet, Attorney General Josh Hawley took his U. S. Senate opponent Claire McCaskill to task over the harm he says she is done to Missourians with her loyalty to the Affordable Care Act.
After you lied about drug prices going down. After you lied about cutting $716 BILLION from Medicare. Your record on healthcare is a travesty
When Josh Hawley tweets about high drug prices, Missourians have to take it seriously. After all, he has a lot of people who are keeping him on the straight and narrow where drug prices are concerned.

The cash contributions on Hawley's quarterly campaign finance report, filed this week with the Federal Election Commission, come from a litany of spccial interests, including a who's who of lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry.



Hawley received at least $55,962.50 from 46 lobbyists, including 26 who work for pharmaceutical interests.

And that's just in the last three months.



Some of the names on the list offer an indication that far from going to Washington to help Donald Trump drain it, Josh Hawley may be preparing to take a long, luxurious bath in the swamp.

One of Hawley's contributors, giving a maximum $2,700 contribution, is Vicky Hart of Hart Health Strategies, a lobbying firm whose clients are in the pharmaceutical and health industries.

Hart was recently in the news when she leased an expensive condo to former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for $50 a night, far less than it was worth ... at a time when her husband, Steve Hart, also a lobbyist, had business pending before the EPA. The Harts paid a $2,034 fine for engaging in a business without a residential license.

Steve Hart, for good measure, also gave the maximum $2,700 to the Hawley campaign.

Another lobbyist whose client list includes Bayer , Sen. Roy Blunt's son, Andrew Blunt, contributed $1,350.

Andrew Blunt is not the only lobbyist with a connection to a powerful senator who has drug companies on his client list.

Kyle Simmons, former chief of staff for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, left his Senate job to cash in on the experience he picked up on the taxpayers' tab by forming a lobbying firm. Simmons represents Eli Lilly and the Pharmaceutical Research. Simmons gave $1,000 to Hawley.

Other drug lobbyists who gave to Hawley between July 1 and September 30 included the following:

-David Bockorny- CVS Health, Pharmaceutical Care Management $500

--Henry Bradley- Bayer $500

-Michael Buchanan- Amgen, Pfizer $500

-Brad Card- Pill Pack $500

-Kirsten Chadwick- Sun Pharmaceutical Industries $2,700

-Chris Cox- Johnson & Johnson (also the chief lobbyist for the National Rifle Association) $1,000

-Brian Diffell- Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Alliance for Biopharmacy $2,700

-Raissa Downs- Amgen, AstraZeneca, Jazz Pharmaceuticals, Eli Lilly, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, Merck, Pfizer, Vertex Pharmaceuticals $1,700

-Kenneth Duberstein- Amgen, Pfizer, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association $1,000

-Todd Eardensohn- Amgen, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association $1,000

-Missy Edwards- Genentech $500

-Andy Keisler- Johnson & Johnson $500

-Malloy McDaniel- Walgreen $1,000

-Loren Monroe- Amgen, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association $1,000

-James Pitts- Johnson & Johnson $500

-Dave Schiappa- Pfizer, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association $1,000

-Charles Stewart- Eli Lilly, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association $500

Bill Viney- Amgen, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Merc, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association $1,000

From the appearance of his campaign reports, someone examining it might believe Josh Hawley does not want people to know he accepts money from lobbyists.

Of the 46 lobbyists who contributed to the Hawley campaign, only one was listed as "lobbyist" in the occupation area of the report. Others were listed under such titles as "principal," "government relations executive," "founding principal," "consultant," "self-employed government relations," "government affairs" and "managing partner."

Friday, October 19, 2018

Four days after accompanying Trump to Las Vegas, Billy Long spends $4K+ on meals, limo service on return trip

As President Donald Trump regaled the audience at the Las Vegas Convention Center September 20 with the thrilling story of how he won the 2016 election, Seventh District Congressman Billy Long was there to bask in his reflected glory.

Trump ripped into the Democrats.

"Today's Democrat party is held hostage by left wing haters, angry mobs, socialist fanatics, deep state bureaucrats and their fake news allies," Trump said to the delight of Billy Long and the partisan crowd.

After another lengthy "Make America Great Again" rally speech and an evening in Sin City, Trump flew to Springfield for another rally, accompanied by Billy Long on Air Force One.



At the Springfield rally, Long was the opening speaker and when it was over, the president headed back to Washington.

Billy Long headed back to Vegas.

It took a couple of days for the Congressman to get back to Las Vegas, but when he returned on Monday, September 24, he made up for lost time.

Long's quarterly financial report, filed October 15 with the Federal Election Commission shows he spent more than $4,000 for meals, drinks and limo service over a two-day period, all thanks to those who contributed to his re-election campaign.

Long's two-day adventure included $623 for "food/beverage" at Joe's Seafood and Prime Steak and Stone Crab, $360 paid to Executive Star Limo, and a whopping $2,297.42 for a meal at Craftsteak on September 24, followed by a $1,037.95 meal at Charlie's Bar and Grill on Tuesday, September 25.


Long appears to have checked in at the Flamingo Hotel, spending $250.13 for lodging, according to the report.

The records also include six uses of "Taxi Pass," spending just under $200.

There is no indication that anything that took place during Long's two extra days in Vegas is related to his campaign, which could be a violation of campaign finance laws, as could most of the nearly two dozen Vegas trips the Congressman has taken over the past eight years.



The FEC website offers the following guideline for use of campaign funds.

The campaign may not pay for admission to sporting events, concerts, theater and other forms of entertainment. Campaign funds may be used, however, if the entertainment is part of a specific officeholder or campaign activity. They may not be used for a leisure outing at which the discussion occasionally focuses on the campaign or official functions.

During the three-month period covered by the report, Long spent $13,738.83 for 76 meals, something which could also be a campaign finance violation.

From the FEC website:
Campaign funds may be used to pay for meals during face-to-face fundraising events. By contrast, a candidate may not use campaign funds to take his or her family out to dinner.


Billy Long: I thank President Trump for his strong leadership on lowering drug prices

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

Earlier this year, President Trump rolled out his American Patients First blueprint to lower drug prices, which have steadily increased over the years. One of his priorities within the plan was to prohibit “gag clauses” within health insurance contracts that prevent pharmacists from letting their patients know that it would be cheaper for them to pay cash for their prescription rather than using their insurance.

In the U.S., nearly 60 percent of Americans take prescriptions drugs. From 2006 to 2015, prescription drug spending increased on average nearly five percent a year, with the highest increase in spending occurring in 2014 at 12.4 percent. In 2016 alone, Americans spent over $325 billion on retail prescription drugs, which was nearly 10 percent of all health care costs.

These alarming numbers got our attention in Congress, and we quickly began working on ways to fix this problem. In September, the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, which I sit on, held a hearing that addressed eliminating “gag clauses.” The legislation discussed would prevent group health care plans, individual health care plans and Medicare Part D plans from barring pharmacists from informing their customers about lower-cost prescription drug options.



Soon after our hearing, similar legislation, S. 2553, Know the Lowest Price Act, and S. 2554, the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act, were passed in both the House of Representatives and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support. On October 10, President Trump signed both bills into law, finally allowing pharmacists to relay common sense information to their customers about prescription drug prices. Now, when a consumer goes to purchase their prescription drugs, they will be given all of their options.

President Trump and Congress will continue to focus on solutions to lower drug prices. Breaking down communication barriers that can prevent lower drug prices is a common-sense approach. The American people deserve a health care system that works for them and not against them. I applaud my colleagues in both chambers for their hard work and I thank the president for his strong leadership on this issue.

Ed Emery: This is how I will vote on constitutional amendments

(From. Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar)


We are beginning to receive lots of questions about the ballot measures that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot. If you are unable to vote that day, absentee voting is currently underway. Please go to the courthouse and vote absentee. This is not an election to sit out.

There are four constitutional amendments and three statute changes being proposed. Constitutional amendments become effective 30 days after the election, if passed. The “propositions” would be effective immediately, if passed.

Some callers have asked for my position on the proposals. The short answer is that I will vote no on each one.

My reasons for each are not identical, but a theme that is shared by most is extreme complexity leading to dangerous confusion. Some are collections of often unrelated amendments that have been assembled to garner support from multiple special interest groups. Proponents are likely anticipating that those groups will not look beyond their own issue. Following is a list of the ballot measures with my (usually abbreviated) comments.



To view the fair ballot language for all of the proposals on the Nov. 6 ballot, please visit the secretary of state’s website at www.sos.mo.gov.

Amendment 1

This is on the ballot by petition and includes what is by far the most harmful of any of the ballot measures: the change to how political districts will be drawn. The stated goal is to eliminate districts that are currently dominated by either political party and replace them with districts that are equally divided. Existing House and Senate districts would no longer be adjusted because of population change, but neutralize any political affiliation. For example, if the redistricting czar didn’t think there were enough members of one party in your district, he/she would just draw whatever extraordinary district needed to bring in more. The ramifications are multiple and corrupt. There are other harmful elements of this proposal, (one court took it off the ballot due to multiple subjects) but this element alone is enough for me to work against it. Check your local paper or the secretary of state website for the full text; it is lengthy and confusing.

Amendment 2

Amendment 2 is by petition and is one of three proposals to allow “medical marijuana” use in Missouri, despite federal law against its use. Two of these (Amendments 2 & 3) would impose complex and lengthy additions to the Missouri Constitution. The third, Prop C, would write medical marijuana into statute. At least, in statue, the Legislature could more easily correct problems that might develop. Because there are three similar, but differing, marijuana proposals, if more than one should pass, the one with the most “yes” votes will be adopted.

The arguments against medical marijuana are extensive, from multiple conservative think tanks, but one threat seen, if you examine the 30 states that have authorized medical marijuana, is that within an average of 12 years, the state expands use to recreational. My opposition herein is abbreviated and understated, but I am firmly a no on all three “medical” marijuana usage proposals. Just try reading and understanding the full text of any of these.

Amendment 3

This amendment is also by petition and changes the Missouri Constitution to allow marijuana usage “medically.” It has different taxation and regulation details, but my opposition is the same as for Amendment 2.

Amendment 4

This relates to bingo regulation and is proposed by the Legislature. I voted no in the Senate because I see it as an expansion of gambling, but it may be the least harmful of the proposed constitutional amendments. Bingo is already regulated in the constitution, so changes must be written there. This proposal removes language that limits bingo game advertising and allows members of an authorized organization to manage the bingo games within six months of employment, rather than waiting the two years currently required.

Proposition B

Another proposal by petition, Prop B would change Missouri law to mandate wage increases for private businesses regardless of the impact on jobs or the economy. It would impose annual increases up to $12.00 per hour by 2023. I have always preferred the free market to dictate business decisions rather than government mandates. If we just consider our national debt and the government waste that is regularly exposed, I cannot understand why we would want the government running our state’s businesses.

Proposition C

This is yet another “medical marijuana” proposal placed on the ballot by petition. It imposes a change in law, rather than constitution, but none of the three marijuana proposals was debated or vetted by the Legislature. I oppose it for the same reasons already stated, but it would be more easily amended if its passage resulted in unanticipated consequences.

Proposition D

This change in Missouri law is proposed by the Legislature, but I voted against it in the Senate and will again. It has been identified by some as a bit of a “bait and switch,” even though it attempts to address a genuine problem: Missouri needs to invest more tax dollars in infrastructure. Our roads, bridges, and river ports need improvements that seems unaffordable under our existing fuel tax structure. However, labeling this as a law enforcement tax and “buying off” county and municipal officials with millions of state taxpayer dollars does not build public trust, in my opinion.

Fundamentally, I believe Missouri citizens and businesses are taxed enough to pay for infrastructure, but we are simply redistributing far too much of your taxes on welfare programs rather than spending it on roads and bridges. My public position on similar proposals has been that I would not filibuster a fuel tax increase if it went to a vote of the people, and I wouldsupport a fuel tax increase, if paired with an offsetting income tax decrease.

Prop D increases the fuel tax by 10 cents over four years. It also captures electric vehicles with comparable “fuel” tax policy, which is important. Once fully implemented, according the figures being reported, Missouri cities and counties will be dividing up about $124 million, the Highway Patrol will be receiving about S28 million, and transportation funding will be an estimated 260 million dollars. Even after sitting through a lengthy presentation, I am not a hundred percent confident of these numbers, but that is the best I can do. Missourians are becoming increasingly frustrated with deteriorating roads and may be ready to increase their taxes. Either way, they should be asking why current taxes are insufficient and where this money is going, instead of roads. 

Lawsuit claims Joplin R-8 officials' indifference, failure to establish safe bus stops led to hit-and-run death of Destiny Chambers

Joplin R-8 School District officials ignored complaints by parents about unsafe bus stops and that inaction led to the September 27 hit-and-run death of eight-year-old Destiny Chambers, according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed Tuesday in Jasper County Circuit Court,

The lawsuit, which was filed by Walter Chambers, the Soaring Heights Elementary third grader's father, claims the district failed to provide for the safety of its students in its decision on where to place a bus stop location which "exposed (Destiny Chambers) to the hazard of being struck by a motor vehicle."

According to authorities, a tractor-trailer unit driven by Lance Lee, 49, DeKalb, Illinois, struck the child and killed her. Lee did not stop until he reached Strafford and has been charged with felony leaving the scene of an accident.


The petition claims "Destiny Chambers was assigned to a bus stop location that exposed her to being hit and killed by a motor vehicle."

The second count claims district officials ignored complaints from parents about the safety of the pupils when they asked to have stops put on the residence side of the roadway.

Defendant showed complete indifference to our conscious disregard for the safety of its pupils in general, and Destiny Chambers in particular, when it failed to train its school bus drivers to establish residence-side stop locations.
 
At the time defendant established a bus stop location unsafe for its pupils, requiring pupils to cross a highway, including on the day of the collision,  it knew, or should have known, it created a high probability of injury or death to their pupils in general, and to Destiny Chambers in particular, and thereby showed complete and reckless indifference to, and conscious disregard for, the safety of their pupils and thus warrants damaged based on aggravating circumstances.

Chambers is represented by the Hershewe Law Firm of Joplin.

Destiny Chambers' mother, Jennifer Leger, represented by Bradley Bishop of the Bishop and Hayes Law Firm of Joplin, filed a motion to intervene, asking to be included in the lawsuit.

On October 11, Judge Dean Dankelson dismissed an earlier wrongful death lawsuit filed by Chambers against the driver, Lance Lee, and the trucking company he worked for, USF Holland, at Chambers' request, though it can be refiled.

At the time, Chambers was represented by Joplin attorney Anita Oakes, according to Jasper County Circuit Court records.

(Disclaimer: I am currently involved in a lawsuit against the Joplin R-8 School District.)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Remembering a play at home plate

A favorite ritual from summers growing up in Newtonia was the nightly trek to the Midway baseball field.

The distance was about a mile all told, walking down a dirt road, unless we grew adventurous and cut through the Neosho Nurseries field.

Often those trips marked the second time we had been to the ballfield since many summer afternoons we commandeered the field and played until someone came to get it ready for the regularly scheduled games.

Having the field nearly right on top of the Neosho Nurseries offered many advantages. People did not have to come to the park on the more heavily traveled 86 highway, but could take advantages of the dirt side roads created by Neosho Nurseries for its own use. During those dry summer months, the cars stirred up an incredible amount of dust, not a good thing, but something we were willing to tolerate for the convenience.



The close proximity of the growing area was a boon for us because it kept us from having to pay for baseballs. Though it was not supposed to be like the major leagues where fans can keep the balls that go into the seats, we still treated it that way.

Each time a foul ball popped over the screen and into the nurseries, we leaped from the bleachers, scurried into the darkness, hunted down the baseball, then carefully hid it in a predetermined place where you could pick it up after the game and then bring it back to the park the next day for the afternoon action.

Sometimes, we were also the ones playing in those evening games and one such game took place approximately 50 years ago this summer.

Unfortunately, in those days I had a well-deserved reputation as a kid with a horrible temper, but that trait did not play a part in the events of that evening- the first time I was ever kicked out of a baseball game.

The Little League archrivals, the Tigers and the Lumberjacks were playing that evening and during that part of the year we were the doormats of the league. Coach Brad Letts did a great job with us and had us winning by the end of the season, but not at that point and this was not a particularly good game for the Tigers.

I was not having a particularly good evening at the plate and I came up for the third time in the fifth inning. We were five or six runs down and had a runner on third base with nobody out.

I took the first pitch, which was right around the ankles, and the umpire, Mark House, called it a strike.

"Don't you think that was a little low, Mark?" I asked and though half a century has passed, I recall that I posed the question politely.

"Turn around and hit," Mark replied.

The Lumberjacks' catcher Mike Brock chuckled.

The next pitch arrived shortly above the shoulders and I let it go.

"Strike," Mark called out.

I turned and said, "Don't you think that was a little high?"

I couldn't figure out what was going on.

Once again, I was polite, but Mark wasn't having any of it.

"If you say one more word, Randy, you're out of the game."

Mike Brock chuckled.

On the next pitch, the ball was in the dirt and the runner on third, and sad to say I can't remember who it was, broke for home. Mike retrieved the ball, got back to the plate and was bowled over by the runner, but he held onto the ball and Mark called the runner out, the final out of the inning.

The runner jumped up and headed for the dugout.

Mike Brock was still on the ground by home plate, shaken up.

"Are you all right, Mike?" I asked.

"Yeah."

And from behind me, Mark House roared, "You're out of the game."

I don't know if he thought i was arguing the call. I tried to tell him I wasn't arguing, but Mark was having none of it. I had been kicked out of a game for the first, but unfortunately not the last, time.

And Mike Brock, who was back on his feet, chuckled.

I thought about that play a few years ago when Mark House died, far too young.

The memories came flowing back again this evening as I learned of the death of Mike Brock, a fellow member of the East Newton High School Class of '74.

The Neosho Nurseries, which provided a first job to Newtonia and Stark City teenagers for decades, closed long ago.

The Midway ballpark no longer exists. For years after the last game was played there, the fencing, the dugouts and the lights still stood, but those also vanished decades ago.

That play at home plate, inconsequential as it was. remains indelibly etched in my memory, a place where Mike Brock, Mark House, the Neosho Nurseries and that wonderful ballpark, the center of the universe during my formative years, will live forever.

***

Missouri to replace bluebird license plates with bicentennial issue

(From the Missouri Department of Revenue)

The Department of Revenue held a press conference Tuesday at the state Capitol to highlight the start of Missouri’s bicentennial license plate reissuance.

Speakers included Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, and Rep. Glen Kolkmeyer, R-Odessa. Celebrating 200 years of Missouri statehood, the bicentennial license plate design is now in circulation.





To commemorate Missouri’s bicentennial, the Legislature passed a law in 2016 requiring the Department of Revenue to begin a reissuance of license plates with a new, bicentennial design. The Department started issuing the bicentennial design this month to ensure everyone will receive their new plates by Missouri’s bicentennial on Aug. 10, 2021.

Department Director Joel Walters opened the press conference, recapping the history of the bicentennial license plate and thanking many of those involved throughout the project. “Yesterday we celebrated the kickoff of an exciting project that’s been several years in the making — the Missouri bicentennial license plate,” said Walters. “The bicentennial license plate will ultimately give millions of Missourians the opportunity to directly be a part of the bicentennial celebration and this unique, special time in Missouri history.

“I want to thank everyone who’s dedicated their time to this project, the State Historical Society and Division of Tourism for their partnership, as well as Lt. Gov. Kehoe, Sen. Rowden and Rep. Kolkmeyer for helping us commemorate this important milestone in Missouri’s larger bicentennial celebration.”

The bicentennial design replaces the Missouri bluebird license plate introduced in 2008. The materials used for license plates have an average lifespan of six years; after which, they can begin to deteriorate. As Missouri’s last reissuance was in 2008, many of the current bluebird license plates have been on the road for close to 10 years.

The bicentennial license plate officially entered into circulation Oct. 15, 2018. Most Missouri registration holders will be required to purchase the new, bicentennial license plates when their license plate registration comes up for renewal. However, individuals with specialty license plates, as well as permanent or historic registrations will be exempt. Specialty license plates are not the same as personalized license plates.

“It’s an important time in our state to look at the history we’ve been through, the history this bicentennial license plate reflects, especially with the strength of our rivers that run through our state,” said Kehoe. “By the time Missouri’s bicentennial comes, Missourians will be able to see at every street corner a reflection of what our history is about and remember how deep and rich our history is.”

Registration holders will receive their bicentennial license plates at their next regularly scheduled registration renewal falling on or after Oct. 15, 2018. The Department encourages its customers to watch for their renewal notice in the mail, or simply check their plates for the expiration date. When it is time to renew, they should go to their local license office, or they can get their new plates by mail.

“I heard it said the other day that it’s important to give our state’s history a future, and I think the bicentennial license plate is one of the things that does that,” commented Rowden.

A small reissuance fee covers the cost of the license plate materials and labor. The cost for one embossed plate is $1.68 and a set is $3.36. The cost for one flat plate is $3.77 and a set is $7.54.

“The bicentennial license plate has been a neat project from start to finish, and I’m honored to be a part of it. I think this license plate is really something to be proud of, and I hope everyone enjoys it,” added Kolkmeyer.

The Department also unveiled its “History That Moves You” public awareness campaign, during the press conference. The campaign brings together the bicentennial license plate with various modes of transportation important to Missouri history, such as Lewis and Clark’s keelboat, an old farm truck, a steam engine and more.

Jackie Bemboom, director of the Motor Vehicle and Driver Licensing Division, provided the closing remarks and introduced the History That Moves You ad. “The Department of Revenue has had over 20 employees working on the bicentennial project since the beginning of 2017,” Bemboom said. “Thank you to all our Department staff and partner organizations who made the bicentennial license plate reissuance possible.”

The Department reports that it will have to produce over 12 million plates and distribute them to 177 license offices throughout the state. The public is encouraged to surrender their old plates to a local license office for recycling at the time they obtain their new plates.

For more information about the Missouri bicentennial license plate reissuance, visit https://dor.mo.gov/motorv/bicentennial.php. View the History That Moves You Ad at https://youtu.be/DK2ic-Tp4Dg.

ACT scores released for Missouri students

(From the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education)

More than 68,000 members of the Missouri graduating class of 2018 took the ACT as 11th graders and earned an average composite score of 20. Nationally, 55 percent of the class of 2018 took the ACT, with a composite score of 20.8.

Missouri was among 17 states in which 100 percent of the graduating class took the ACT. The state composite score of 20 was the sixth highest among those states, tying with Montana and Wyoming. These results are from the final state-paid census testing.



It is important to note that nearly half of the Missouri class of 2018 took the ACT more than once. ACT reports the most recent score rather than the highest score. Missouri uses a student’s highest score in its college and career readiness measures for accountability. More than 34,000 graduates in 2018 took the ACT two or more times for an average composite score of 22.6, compared to an average of 17.6 for graduates who took the test only once.

Here are Missouri average composite scores as calculated by ACT in every subject:

English – 19.5
Math – 19.7
Reading – 20.5
Science – 20.0

Twenty-three percent of the Missouri class of 2018 met all four ACT college readiness benchmarks. In math, 33 percent of the graduates met the college readiness benchmark, and 56 percent of Missouri graduates met the English benchmark. In 2018, 41 percent of Missouri graduates met the ACT Reading benchmark.

Students who took more advanced coursework in math and English demonstrated markedly higher average scores than those who did not. Sixty-five percent of students who took at least four years of English met the benchmark, compared with 35 percent of students who took less than four years of English. In math, 41 percent of students who took three or more years of math classes met the benchmark, compared with 4 percent who took less than three years of math. Interestingly, 47 percent of students who took three or more years of social studies met the reading benchmark, in contrast with 31 percent of students who took less than three years of social studies.

Missouri uses the ACT as one measure of college and career readiness in its continuing effort to ensure that all Missouri students graduate from high school ready to succeed in college or the workplace.

Missouri unemployment lowest it has been since 2000

(From the Department of Economic Development)

Employment in Missouri grew by 3,300 jobs in September, and the state’s unemployment rate edged down another tenth of a point to 3.2 percent, the lowest it has been since 2000.

Nonfarm payroll employment in Missouri increased by 3,300 jobs in September, on a seasonally adjusted basis. With an upward revision of 1,800 in the August data, non-farm payrolls have grown by 6,100 jobs since July.

In September, employment grew in durable goods manufacturing (+2,200); construction (+1,300); transportation, warehousing, and utilities (+1,200); and accommodation and food services (+1,200).



September’s job gains helped push the over-the-year growth figure up to 39,300 for September, an increase of 1.4 percent from year-earlier employment.

Over-the-year job growth was noted in most reported industries:

professional and business services (+11,500)
health care and social assistance (+9,800)
durable goods manufacturing (+6,200)
accommodation and food services (+4,500)
financial activities (+2,300)

At 3.2 percent, Missouri’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is now 0.4 points lower than it was a year ago and is at its lowest level since January 2000, when the rate was 3.1 percent.

The state’s rate is half a percentage point lower than the comparable U.S. rate and has been lower than the national rate for 41 consecutive months.

Missouri’s not-seasonally-adjusted rate for September was 2.6 percent; the comparable U.S. figure was 3.6 percent.

Standard & Poor lowers City of Joplin's credit rating

(From the City of Joplin)

As part of a normal, periodic review process, Standard & Poor recently announced its Global Ratings on the City of Joplin. The City’s long-term rating on the City’s certificates of participation (COPs) is noted as ‘A+’ from its previous ‘AA-’, and its issuer credit rating (ICR) has moved to ‘AA-’ from ‘AA’.

A municipal credit rating is a current opinion of a municipality’s overall financial capacity to pay its financial obligations based upon relevant risk factors. Credit ratings are widely accepted by investors as efficient tools for differentiating creditworthiness.

According to S&P, the City’s rating was lowered by one level due to their view of a weak economy within the city, however they stated that the outlook is stable.





“In its review of the City’s standing, many factors are considered, and this change reflects how S&P views the overall economy of the Joplin area,” said City Manager Sam Anselm. “Although there are concerns about the area’s economy and our pension plan, within their report they note the City’s management as strong with good financial policies and practices as a credit positive factor. There are other noteworthy items in the report that affirm the City’s rating in the ‘AA’ category.”

S&P comments that the City’s budgetary flexibility and liquidity is strong, along with the its debt and contingent liability profile. The City has an existing rapid amortization of debt, with 68.5% retired in ten years. This is in part due to the final payments for the purchase of the Newman Building, which serves as Joplin City Hall.

Within the report, S&P notes a credit weakness due to Joplin’s large pension and other post-employment benefit (OPEB) obligation, noting the poor funding ratio for the Police and Fire Pension Plan is 62.4%.

“This should come as no surprise to those who have been following recent meetings of the Joplin City Council,” said Anselm. “In past years, the Police and Fire Pension Plan has been discussed and most recently has been identified within budget work sessions to determine a long-term funding resolution.”

S&P Rating Services has recently updated their methodology and assumptions for assigning issuer credit ratings. The following seven key factors are used in the assessment and scoring:
Institutional framework (10%)
Economy (30%)
Management (20%)
Budgetary Flexibility (10%)
Budgetary Performance (10%)
Liquidity (10%)
Debt and contingent liabilities (10%)

Scores for each factor range from '1' (the strongest) to '5' (the weakest). The economy score receives a 30% weight and management receives 20%. These scores receive the highest weight because of management's ability to tap the local economic base for additional revenues if it chooses to do so in a timely manner. The remaining categories each have a 10% weight in the score.

Illinois truck driver charged with felony after hit-and-run death of Joplin eight-year-old free on bond

The Illinois truck driver charged with felony leaving the scene of an accident in connection with the
September 27 death of Destiny Chambers, 8, Joplin, a third grader at Soaring Heights Elementary School, is free on bond.

Jasper County Circuit Court records indicate Lance Lee, 49, DeKalb, posted a $10,000 surety bond October 11.

Initially, Lee's bond had been set at $10,000 cash only, but Judge Joseph Hensley reduced it during an October 10 hearing. Hensley's ruling indicated Lee that only $500 in cash would have to be posted.


In his ruling, Hensley indicated he did not believe Lee would be a flight risk and that he had no previous criminal record. He noted the felony charge against Lee did not include any allegations of alcohol or drug use while he was driving.

Hensley imposed the following conditions:

1) Defendant will have no direct or indirect contact or communication in any manner or medium with any of the alleged victim's family in this case;

2) Defendant will reside in DeKalb, Illinois, and may not return to Jasper County, Missouri except for future court appearances;

3) Defendant shall not possess or consume alcohol while on bond. Failure to adhere to any of these special conditions will result in an immediate revocation of Defendant's bond.


The probable cause statement alleges Lee struck the girl then continued driving until he reached Strafford.

At first, Lee told the Highway Patrol he thought he hit a deer on I-44, but he changed his story, admitted being on Newman Road and said he thought he hit a mailbox. Lee said he told his employer that he hit a deer because he could have been charged with hitting a mailbox.

Northpark Mall owner sells Georgia shopping center

(From CBL Properties)

CBL Properties, owner of Northpark Mall in Joplin, today announced that it closed on the sale of Parkway Plaza, a community center located in Ft. Oglethorpe, GA, for $16.5 million, in cash.

The center was purchased by United Properties Corp., a privately held real estate investment group based out of East Meadow, NY. Proceeds from the sale were used to reduce outstanding balances on the Company’s lines of credit.



“We are pleased to close on the sale of Parkway Plaza, bringing our total disposition activity year-to-date up to nearly $80 million,” said Stephen Lebovitz, chief executive officer.

“Our non-core property sales have provided an attractively priced source of equity to supplement our strong cash flow. Proceeds from these transactions contributed towards debt reduction and investments in redevelopments as we transform our core properties with new dynamic uses.”

Parkway Plaza is anchored by Hobby Lobby, Marshalls, Petco, Rack Room Shoes and Ross Dress for Less. The center is located on Battlefield Parkway next to the Walmart shopping center in Fort Oglethorpe, GA.

Out-of-county judge, seventh judge so far, to be assigned to Jalen Vaden murder case

After the recusal Wednesday of Joseph Hensley, the last Jasper County judge eligible to hear the Jalen Vaden murder trial, the case will be assigned to an out-of-county judge.

Jasper County Circuit Court online records show Presiding Judge David Mouton has asked the Missouri Supreme Court to appoint a special judge to handle the case.

Vaden, 23, Carl Junction, is charged with second degree murder and felony child abuse in connection with the December 1 death of Jayda Kyle, 3, at the home Vaden shared with the child's mother, Devyn Kyle.



The first judge assigned to the case in the trial division was Dean Dankelson. Vaden's attorney, Tracey Martin, filed a motion asking Dankelson to recuse because of his friendship with the victim's grandfather, attorney Judd McPherson.

When Dankelson overruled the motion, something that does not happen often, Martin used her one automatic change of judge request and the case was assigned to David Mouton, who recused October 1.

Since that time, the case has seen brief intervals with Gayle Crane, John Nicholas, Stephen Carlton and Hensley as judge.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Former Joplin Globe statehouse reporter lands interview with Rosenstein on Mueller probe

Former Joplin Globe statehouse reporter Sadie Gurman, now a reporter for the Wall Street Journal landed the big interview today, snaring a rare sit down with Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the man who is in charge of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

Among the revelations in the interview is that Rosenstein defended the investigation as "appropriate and independent,"  when the investigation is over the public will have confidence that the "cases we have brought were supported by the evidence," and that it was "an appropriate use of resources."

Rosenstein offered no timetable as to when the investigation would be finished.

Gurman, who has come a long way since working for the Globe while she was attending the University of Missouri, has been at the Journal since April.