Monday, February 24, 2020

Anti-public school senator Ed Emery pushing education savings accounts again

It constantly amazes me how Missourians keep electing these people who make no secret of their scorn for public schools (and usually have never had any real association with them) like Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, and Rep. Ben Baker, R-Neosho.

Thankfully, Emery has only a brief amount of time left to do any harm as a senator before his final term ends.

In the accompanying podcast beginning shortly after the three-minute mark, Emery promotes his so-called "empowerment scholarship accounts," which would enable parents to set up these accounts with taxpayer money and use it to pay tuition for their children to attend private schools and private religious schools.

Emery attacks the school board and superintendent associations for fighting his measure and accuses them of not telling the truth and bristles with contempt when he says "the public schools quote 'have to educate every student' and says there are schools where the students are not being educated, citing failing marks on standardized tests.

"In the charter world, those schools would have to be closed," Emery said.

State audit: Missouri law enforcement seized $5.9 million worth of property in 2019

(From State Auditor Nicole Galloway)

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway today released a compilation of property seizures made under Missouri's Criminal Activity Forfeiture Act (CAFA) in 2019.

The Auditor's report shows law enforcement officials seized an estimated $5.9 million worth of property in 493 seizures. Those were decreases from 2018, when law enforcement officials seized approximately $9.1 million worth of property in 699 seizures.

Under the Criminal Activity Forfeiture Act, law enforcement officials may take possession of property or cash believed to be involved in or related to a crime. 

State law requires prosecuting attorneys and the Attorney General to file information about reported seizures each year with the State Auditor's Office.

Approximately 45% of the total seized in 2019 was transferred to federal agencies. The remainder was either returned (13%), transferred to the state (1%) or still pending a final decision (40%). Approximately .1 percent of reported seizures did not include the disposition of the seized property.

Additional information is available in the compilation report, which is available online here. This report covers forfeitures under Missouri's CAFA. A report on activities under federal forfeiture laws will be released later this year.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Kay Hively: Better uses for the money

The 20/20 Super Bowl is over. Congratulations to the Chiefs.

Before the game, everywhere I went, everything I read, or everything I heard was about the event. Sports experts had the game covered from every angle, including such things as how often the official coin turned up “tails” to how long the half-time show would run.

But it was most astonishing me that so much money was spent to actually go to the game. I heard that some premium seats were selling for $50,000. I don’t know how many were priced at that level, but I cannot imagine anyone wanting to go that badly.

Even for “regular” prices, it was an expensive tab. If you had to travel, the cost of an airline ticket or the cost of driving and parking, or the cost of a hotel, if you had a spend the night, would have crushed many a wallet.

The basics of going to a game would be quite a bit, even if you didn’t eat and drink much, didn’t attend any of the parties, or make a bet of some kind.

I have no idea how much was spent nationwide on the game. However, I can think of many other ways to spend that much money and still enjoy the game on television.

It seems I am really getting old as I don’t like traffic, crowds, drunken fans, or loud music. I lost interest in the halftime show when they started keeping the marching band on the benches and got too many screwballs to sing the National Anthem.

There are some worthy causes right here in Southwest Missouri that could use a little of that money that is going for Super Bowl entertainment.

Many local historical societies could use some extra cash. Area museums need help, funds for scholarships are needed at the Carver National Monument, and there is always a need to provide Christmas dinners and gifts.

Civic groups such as Lions Clubs are always needing funds. This group provide eye exams and glasses for kids in need. All civic clubs in the area have good causes and need our help.

I could go on and on, naming animal shelters, school groups, scouting groups, and churches. Maybe if you feel you overspent a little too much for Super Bowl activities, you can scale back a little next year and help out our local groups and projects.

Just between you and me, that makes a lot of sense.

(Kay Hively is a historian, author, and former editor, reporter and columnist for the Neosho Daily News and Neosho Post.)

Nancy Hughes: Out of the mouth of ... a donkey

“The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey,
which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I
been in the habit of doing this to you?”
Numbers 22:30 (NIV)

A talking horse . . . who would have thought it! But “Mister Ed,” a popular television show when I was a little girl, used that concept to capture the hearts of thousands of children. The horse – Mister Ed – spoke only to his owner, Wilbur Post.

Throughout the series, there was no explanation offered for Mister Ed being able to speak to Wilbur.

In fact, in the very first episode, when Wilbur stated aloud that he was unable to understand how his horse could talk, Mister Ed offered this bit of wisdom: “Don’t try. It’s bigger than both of us.”

The Scripture in Numbers 22:30 also involves a conversation with an animal: a donkey. Let me explain. It seems that Balaam, at one time a man of God, was contacted by King Balak of Moab who asked him to curse Israel. The king was afraid of the Israelites because of their large numbers and because he saw what they had done to the Amorites when they came up against them.

The king’s plan was this: find a prophet who would get God to curse the Israelites so that he and his kingdom would be safe from harm. Enter Balaam. King Balak sent princes to Balaam to persuade him to curse the Israelites. Balaam asked them to wait overnight while he got an answer from God.

The next day he gave them God’s answer: “You must not put a curse on these people, because they are blessed.” (verse 12) They left, only to be replaced with other, more distinguished princes who returned with an offer of a substantial reward if he would carry out their request. And what did Balaam do? He went to God again, trying to persuade Him to change His mind.

One would suspect the offer of a reward was surely a big factor in Balaam’s decision. This time the Lord, though angry with Balaam, gave permission for him to go with the men back to King Balak but told him to only do what He, God, told him to do.

That’s where the talking donkey comes in.

As Balaam is riding along the road on his donkey, God placed an angel in his path. Balaam could not see it but the donkey could. Three times the donkey tried to turn from the path and each time Balaam beat her with his staff.

Finally the donkey turned to look at Balaam and spoke. “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?” The Lord then allowed Balaam to see the angel in front of him, sword in hand. Had he gone on, Balaam would have been killed. 
We have been given the Holy Spirit in our lives to direct our paths. But sometimes we want something so badly that we do not listen as He tells us to take a different path. We need to remember that there are times that God places roadblocks in the path that we are choosing. 

Perhaps, like Balaam, He is trying to protect us. Or it could be that the timing is not yet right for us to go in that direction.

My encouragement today is to listen to the gift of the Holy Spirit that we have been given as we face decisions in our lives. He will direct our pathways every single day.

Father, thank you for giving me the Holy Spirit to guide my decisions each day. Help me to open the ears of my heart to your will for my life. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

R.A.P. it up . . .


Have you ever wanted something so badly that you ignored the “warning signs” of the Holy Spirit that perhaps your choice was not a wise one?

If you ignored the warnings and went ahead with your plans, what was the outcome? Everything you thought it would be or disappointment?


Journal decisions that need to be made in your life and the possible answers to those decisions.

During prayer time, ask the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart and guide you toward the answers that He has for you. Listen for His guidance through the Word.


Numbers 22:30 (NIV) “The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”

John 8:47 (NIV) “He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

Ezekiel 3:10 (NIV) “And he said to me, “Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you.”

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

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Diamond man pleads not guilty to child pornography charge

During a three-minute hearing Friday morning in U. S. District Court in Springfield, Terry Miksell, 63, Diamond waived the reading of his indictment and pleaded not guilty to child pornography charges.

Miksell, who was already awaiting trial in the Greene County Jail, was indicted Wednesday. The two-count indictment replaces the earlier federal criminal complaint that was filed against Miksell January 28.

Miksell is charged with one count of producing child pornography and one count of using the internet and a cell phone to attempt to induce a minor to engage in sexual activity.

Sentencing memorandum: Joplin sex offender should receive 10 years on child pornography charges

(Note: This post has been changed since it was originally published. The photo that originally was published and some of the background information was for the wrong person, who had the same first, middle and last names as the person who is being sentenced Wednesday. I apologize for the error.)

In a sentencing memorandum filed Friday in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, the government asked that Richard Allen Miller, 32, Joplin, be sentenced to 10 years for receiving and distributing child pornography.

"The defendant sought out and deliberately downloaded depictions of children, some as young as infants, being raped, sodomized, and otherwise subjected to unthinkable acts of sexual and physical abuse," the memorandum reads.

The recommended sentence, 120 months, is only one month less than the maximum the government can recommend under federal sentencing guidelines.

The memorandum noted what the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force discovered during its investigation.

The defendant’s illicit activities were uncovered after uploading a large number of files depicting child pornography. One such file depicted a prepubescent female, wearing a mask, bound by both wrists and ankles. 

The child is forced to perform oral sex on an adult male and is later anally penetrated by a sexual device. 

Investigators were able to identify the defendant as the source of the imagery, resulting in the issuance of a warrant to search the defendant’s Dropbox account. 

The defendant was later questioned by investigators and readily confessed to ingesting methamphetamine and viewing depictions of child pornography. Disturbingly, the defendant also admitted to exchanging images with a minor female.

His sentencing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in Springfield.

Multi-million dollar lawsuit filed against City of Joplin, police officers for actions taken the morning Trevor Webb died

A multi-million dollar lawsuit alleging actions taken by Joplin police officers contributed to the February 22, 2015 death of Trevor Webb was filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

The suit, which was filed by Trevor Webb's father, Scott E. Webb, representing his son's estate, was filed on the last day before the action would have been prohibited by the five-year statute of limitations.

Webb, 30, was stabbed at the Bykota Mobile Home Park and died later that day at Freeman West Hospital.

The man who stabbed him, Ryan Smith, Joplin, 21 at the time, was initially charged with murder in the first degree and armed criminal action, but under a plea agreement with the Newton County Prosecuting Attorney's office pleaded guilty to second degree murder and is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence.

The lawsuit, which was filed by Joplin attorney Steven A. Hays, claims Joplin police officers contributed to Webb's death when they pulled over the vehicle that was taking him to the hospital and caused a lengthy delay while Webb was bleeding from the multiple stab wounds that eventually took his life.

The four-count civil rights lawsuit alleges negligent supervision, failure to train and supervise, failure to attend to serious medical needs and failure to provide medical care while in custody.

Listed as defendants are the City of Joplin and police officers Keaton Burke, Trevor Duncan and "John Doe police officers whose identities are unknown at this time."

The petition details the events that led to Trevor Webb's death:

On February 22, 2015 in a community immediately east of Joplin, Missouri city limits Trevor S. Webb was stabbed in the in the upper mid chest and in the left upper quadrant of the abdomen by Ryan R. Smith. 

After the stabbing event Trevor S. Webb entered a vehicle driving by Christian Ritter and proceeded towards a Joplin, Missouri hospital. 

While driving to the hospital and in an anxious and excited state Christian Ritter called 911 reporting that his “friend” had been stabbed. While talking with the 911 operator Christian Ritter was confused as to where the hospital was located and requested assistance on what to do. 

During Christian Ritter’s conversation with the 911 operator, another 911 operator dispatched City of Joplin police officers to the assumed location of Christian Ritter’s vehicle stating there was a stabbing victim within the vehicle. 

After some dialog, the 911 operator informed Christian Ritter that he must pull his vehicle over and allow Joplin police officers to assist him. 

Following the direction of the 911 dispatcher and having observed police lights behind him, Christian Ritter pulled his vehicle over at or near the intersection of East 32nd Street and South Minnesota Avenue. 

Immediately thereafter at 08:06 a.m., Officer Keaton Burke, (hereinafter Officer Burke), came upon Christian Ritter’s vehicle and pulled behind it. Christian Ritter exited his vehicle and began walking back towards Officer Burke waving his arms. 

Officer Burke called for “Code 2” and drew his firearm from its holster and placed it into a low ready position. Officer Burke then gave verbal commands to Christian Ritter to sit down on the side walk. Christian Ritter complied. 

Officer Burke observed a baggie containing what appeared to be a green leafy substance fall out of the vehicle when Christian Ritter exited. 

Christian Ritter pleaded for Officer Burke to assist his friend “Tony” (Trevor S. Webb was known to Christian Ritter as Tony) because he had been stabbed multiple times. 

After securing Christian Ritter on the curb, Officer Burke proceeded to the vehicle Trevor S. Webb was in and observed a black male in the front passenger seat clearly in distress. 

Trevor S. Webb’s head was nearly to the driver’s seat angled towards the door and a large amount of blood was coming from his torso area. 

Only at that moment did Officer Burke request a METS ambulance to run lights and sirens to Officer Burke’s location. 

Sergeant Trevor Duncan, (hereinafter Sgt. Duncan), arrived on scene and announced the ambulance had arrived. 

After immediate assessment, Trevor S. Webb was placed into the ambulance and transported to Freeman Hospital arriving at 08:21 a.m. After initial emergency care, Trevor S. Webb had a return of circulation and was taken to the operating room by general surgeon Dr. Alan M. Buchele. 

While in the operating room, after additional emergency and surgical care, Trevor S. Webb was pronounced dead at 09:19 a.m.

West Plains Republican's bill designed to protect Missourians from sex offenders

(From Rep. David Evans, R-West Plains)

It will be another busy week in the Capitol.

On Tuesday, February 25, I’m scheduled to present HB 1289 on the House Floor for perfection, and House Bills 1519 and 1520 in the Judiciary Committee for hearing. Please note that you can always check it out and watch live House debate and hearings on the internet by going to the state House website.

I was asked by the Missouri Highway Patrol to file HB 1289, and it is one of their department priorities this year. The Missouri Highway Patrol is required by law to oversee the Sexual Offender’s Registry for the State of Missouri as well as the federal registry.

This bill both strengthens and clarifies the registry. I filed this bill late last year, and it passed the House with only 1 dissenting vote. However, it is a complicated bill and didn’t get through the Senate before the end of session. We are hoping that an early start this year will make the difference.

HB 1519 and HB 1520 are companion bills that I filed for the first time this year. You may have recently heard on the news that sheriffs and other law enforcement officers have been seriously concerned about the “catch and release” problem in Missouri. The complaint is simple—we must do a better job of protecting our communities. Specifically, offenders (especially repeat offenders) are being released from jail and prison without proper safeguards in place. Since the end of last session, this is something I’ve been receiving complaints about and have been working hard to help better protect our communities and victims.

If as some argue, the hands of local judges and probation and parole officers have been tied, these bills seek to untie those hands. These bills require judges and probation/parole officers to consider in each and every case any and all important safety (and danger) facts. If he or she is a repeat offender, it must be considered. If already on probation and a new crime is charged, then that must be considered. If there is violence involved, it must be considered in setting release terms. The bills assure that local judges, probation officers, and parole officers have the discretion to make common sense local bond and release decisions. Again, the two bills are set for hearing in House Judiciary Committee on February 25 starting usually at 4 pm. You are invited to watch on-line.

I’ll also mention a big change in how our criminal laws work in this state that becomes effective the end of this year. In 2018 (before my time in the House), a bill was passed and enacted that changed our juvenile and criminal procedures. Beginning January 1st of this coming year and for all criminal purposes, a juvenile or “child” is defined as a person under the age of “18” while under current law its under “17.” As an example today, if a 17 ½ year old commits a serious crime or offense, then that adult goes to adult criminal court as a defendant. On 1/1/21, if a 17 ½ year old commits a crime, then the juvenile goes to juvenile court as an alleged delinquent. The purpose of juvenile court is rehabilitation and treatment not punishment. Juveniles also have different rules that apply because of their age. A juvenile cannot be placed in an adult jail, and other placement options must be considered. Treatment options and additional supervision strategies must be considered and budgeted. There are also different questioning requirements of juveniles that apply to law enforcement officers.

I’ll be working with a group in the House over this session to help plan for everything that needs to change in both the juvenile and adult systems before the 2018 law goes into effect at the end of the year.

Bill White: Senate legislation protects homeless children

Friday, February 21, 2020

Billy Long: The real cost of sanctuary cities

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

During his State of the Union address, President Trump not only celebrated our nation’s accomplishments but reminded us that there is work still left to be done, including addressing our immigration crisis. The president campaigned on building a wall to help curb illegal immigration.

Yet, Democrats have blocked his efforts at every turn, even going so far as to encourage people to come to this country illegally. 

I believe that we have a crisis at our southern border and ignoring it, as Democrats propose, will come at a considerable cost to the American people. It is time that we adopt policies that put American citizens first, and I intend to work with President Trump and my colleagues to reform our immigration system.

As you may know, sanctuary cities are municipalities that refuse to enforce federal immigration law by deliberately failing to communicate with federal agencies on the immigration status of individuals in their jurisdiction. 

Additionally, these cities refuse to aid federal law enforcement agencies in the apprehension of criminal aliens. These cities allow illegal immigrants to remain in their jurisdiction even if they are violent criminals, drug dealers, gang members or have been previously deported.

The only sanctuary these cities create is a sanctuary for violent criminals. That is why Attorney General Bill Barr recently announced a slew of sanctions against these left-wing local and state governments who unconstitutionally interfere with federal immigration enforcement. 

These sanctuary policies are generally about protecting criminals that law enforcement has already arrested for local crimes which pose a major threat to domestic security. The DOJ has filed a federal complaint against the state of New Jersey for forbidding state and local law enforcement from sharing vital information about criminal aliens with DHS and has filed another suit against King County, Washington for unlawfully prohibiting DHS from deporting illegal aliens from the U.S. through King County International Airport. 

While the Constitution does give states police power and doesn’t require states to implement or enforce federal immigration law, it clearly prohibits them from actively sabotaging federal immigration officials, which is exactly what these so-called “sanctuaries” are doing.

I am strongly opposed to cities and municipalities declaring themselves sanctuaries for those who would deliberately violate our laws. In an effort to end sanctuary cities, I am proud to be an original cosponsor of H.R. 516, the Ending Sanctuary Cities Act. 

This bill would make cities that violate our nation’s immigration laws ineligible for federal financial assistance. Last year, New York became the 13th state to give illegal immigrants driver’s licenses, while still prohibiting federal immigration officials from accessing Department of Motor Vehicle data. 

These actions may seem harmless until you take the time to consider the ramifications. In New York, Department of Motor Vehicle data was used to “arrest 149 child predators, identified and rescued 105 victims of exploitation and human trafficking, arrest 230 gang members, and seized 6,487 pounds of illegal narcotics, including fentanyl and opioids,” according to DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf. 

Unfortunately, we could see a significant reduction in these success stories as New York’s new green-light law threatens to terminate the federal-state cooperation necessary to make these arrests.

We are a nation of immigrants; however, those who wish to come to the United States should do so through the proper channels and respect our laws. We must address our antiquated immigration laws and improve security at our southern border; we must also pass laws that make it harder for states to undermine our national security. I will continue to work with my colleagues to pass laws that safeguard national security policies and put American citizens first.

Former Lamar priest pleads not guilty to felony sexual abuse, forcible sodomy, statutory sodomy charges

A retired priest whose last assignment was at St Mary's Catholic Church in Lamar waived his arraignment and pleaded not guilty in Stoddard County Circuit Court Thursday to felony charges of forcible sodomy, sexual abuse and two counts of statutory sodomy.

Frederick Lutz, 76, Springfield, is being held on a $125,000 cash only bond. A bond hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. February 25.

 The charges involve crimes that took place in 2000.

The probable cause statement alleges Lutz was drinking and watching gay pornography, tried to get a 17-year-old boy who was working in the St. Joseph Parish rectory in Advance, Missouri, to drink with him. After the boy refused, Lutz allegedly kept him from leaving and forced him into an oral sex act.

He let the boy leave after the boy promised to bring marijuana to him the next day.

From the Kansas City Star account:

The teen told his father, who notified a religious education teacher. Later, Lutz called the father to his office and apologized, telling him that he was drinking and just broke up with a boyfriend who lived with him at the rectory, according to court documents.
Court documents show investigators also learned of a 1972 incident in which Lutz allegedly attended an event with another man and a 17-year-old boy.

The next morning, the boy awakened to find Lutz masturbating him.

When the boy went to Mass on Sunday morning, Lutz handed him a Bible and told him “what happened never should have happened,” according to court documents. Then he wished the boy “good luck” in college.
In addition to Lamar, Lutz served as pastor in Greenfield, Mount Vernon, Pulaskifield and Cassville.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Sentencing memorandum: Former Joplin police officer asks for reduced sentence on child pornography charges

In a sentencing memorandum filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, former Joplin Police Department officer and business owner Gary McKinney asked to be sentenced to 15 years in prison for receiving and distributing child pornography.

In the memorandum, McKinney's attorney, Branden Twibell, Springfield, cites the death of McKinney's son, who was found frozen in a ditch in Oregon in 2017, post traumatic stress syndrome related to his being involved in a shooting in 2003 when he was a police officer and mental health issues as mitigating factors.

McKinney, 43, could be sentenced to as much as 20 years in prison.

From the sentencing memorandum:

Gary McKinney has accepted responsibility by entering a guilty plea on August 12, 2019, to the charge of receipt and distribution of child pornography. 

The offense that Gary was charged with and has plead guilty to is the possession of approximately 506 images and 148 videos that contained unlawful images. Gary’s only adult criminal convictions are for not having a valid license plate, two speeding tickets, and, most recently, a display of state license plate violation in 2015. He has no juvenile adjudications, no other criminal conduct, no pending charges, and no arrests. 

On December 27, 2017, Gary’s son, Robert McKinney, was found frozen to death in a ditch in Oregon. The death of Robert greatly affected Gary, causing him to have suicidal thoughts and to consume a fifth of whiskey a day for almost the entire year following Robert’s death. 

Additionally, Gary’s wife filed for divorce from Gary in September of 2019. Gary has not spoken to his two other sons,since being arrested in this case. Moreover, Gary suffers from several mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder from being involved in a shooting as a police officer in 2003, and depression and anxiety. 

However, Gary does have his GED and completed the Missouri Southern State University law enforcement academy’s 500-hour program in 1997. Gary’s employment record shows a long history of serving several communities as a law enforcement officer officer for approximately 17 years. 

Gary is asking this Court to sentence him to 15 years in prison without parole. His ability to communicate, and have any type of a relationship, with his two teenage sons will be severely limited. Additionally, his wife of over 25 years has left him because of this charge. Thus, these factors reflect the seriousness of the crime in this case, promote respect for the law, and provide just punishment. 

The above-stated consequences are adequate to deter others who may not be aware of the serious criminal penalties for receiving and distributing child pornography. 

The PSR does discuss the impact that Gary, and anyone in receipt of child pornography, had on the child victims in this case. Gary’s illegal action was to be in receipt of child pornography; therefore, Gary being sentenced to 15 years in prison will be sufficient to deter him from committing any future crimes. 

Additionally, Gary being ineligible for probation and sentenced to 15 years in prison, away from his sons, without parole, will be sufficient to deter him from committing any future crimes. 

Gary would benefit from obtaining sexual offender treatment, as well as counseling, therapy, and substance abuse treatment. The bureau of prisons may provide some of these services. 

McKinney is the former owner of McKinney Plumbing and also served on the Webb City and Duquesne police departments.

McKinney's hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday, February 26, in Springfield.

Sam Graves: Celebrating our nation's public schools

(From Sixth District Congressman Sam Graves)

In America, 9 out of 10 students are educated in a public school. I’m included in that number, as are my children, some of whom have gone on to teach in that same school system.

Our public schools and educators across the nation do incredible work every single day and it’s important to recognize that fact. Because I believe in public education, I’m proud to once again be a Congressional Co-Chair of National Public Schools Week which takes place the week of February 24th-28th.

We've got to ensure that our schools are providing a great education, no matter the location or size of the school. We also have to make sure our students are getting educated in the knowledge and skills they will need to succeed in life. 

If you look around North Missouri, you can see that happening in our public schools every day, where they consistently rise to meet the growing needs of our students.

One of the areas where our public schools have jumped up to meet a critical need is career and technical education, which has experienced a comeback as shortages in critical fields continue to grow. High schools across North Missouri are now providing a wealth of training in highly-sought after careers. I was fortunate enough to visit one such facility this last week in Blue Springs where they offer a unique Aviation Education program. As a pilot, I hear frequently about shortages of pilots and mechanics. The program at Blue Springs can help fill that gap, providing students college credit in the process.

While you won’t find an aviation program in most North Missouri high schools, you will find programs that give students the opportunity to build a house from the ground up, graduate with welding skills that will immediately put them to work, become a licensed cosmetologist, or develop in-demand computer programming skills—just to name a few.

The list of high-quality career education programs across North Missouri is far too lengthy to mention. Let me just say this: there is a definite need out there right now for skilled workers and our public schools are adapting to meet that demand, just like they are producing quality graduates who will go on to a 4-year university.

Our public schools in North Missouri are incredibly important, adapting and adjusting successfully to an ever-changing education landscape.

Our educators see the needs of students and the challenges facing public education, and they continue to meet them head on. I know I speak for a majority of North Missourians when I say that we appreciate the quality education produced by our public schools every single day.

House Republican leadership offers updates on this week's actions

In the accompanying video, Speaker of the House Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, answers questions from reporters at the weekly press conference, while Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage, offers updates on the appropriations and budgeting process.

R-8 proposal would replace Joplin High School MAC laptops with Google Chromebooks

The switchover from MAC laptops to Google Chromebooks, already completed at Joplin middle schools, will take place at the high school, if approved by the R-8 Board of Education when it meets 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Memorial Education Building.

This will be the third time the laptops, which were first purchased for all Joplin High School students with a $500,000 donation from United Arab Emirates following the May 22, 2011 tornado, have been replaced.

The previous purchases were all of Apple products, with the most recent purchases being the expensive MacAir laptops.

Documentation provided to the board indicates the replacement of MACs at the middle school level has been successful.

The following reasons were given for the switchover:

-Chromebooks are an appropriate and effective device to address the curriculum needs for our students for our 1:1 student to device program.

-Chromebooks are more cost effective than MacBook Airs.

-Google makes managing Chromebooks quite easy from an instructional technology department perspective.

-Chromebooks have proven to be a great tool for testing. (NWEA, MAP, etc.)

-Chromebooks are less likely to get viruses. MAC viruses are starting to outpace Windows viruses 2-1.

-Students will be able to keep their Chromebooks through the summer because of automatic upgrade capability. (The current computers required IT personnel to upgrade them during the summer months.)

-The cost of accident forgiveness for the devices will be reduced from $50 per device to $10 per device, thus easing the burden on families.

The board documentation notes that the Springfield, Webb City and Carl Junction school districts are using Google Chromebooks.

The cost to resign with Apple for a five-year cycle would be $2,028,600 while the Chromebooks, which would be a four-year replacement cycle, would cost $763,600.

Missouri House Democratic Caucus will stand with LGBT community against Republican bills

In this week's minority press conference following the conclusion of the legislative session for the week, Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, addressed a number of issues, including a series of Republican bills that she characterized as "anti LGBT."

"The Democratic caucus is here to stand with the LGBT community," Quade said.

Quade also addressed the Missouri Ethics Commission's findings on the complaint against former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who claimed exoneration when the Commission fined his campaign organization $178,000 for accepting illegal contributions, but said it could find no evidence that Greitens knew about those contributions.

"I find it hard to understand how the former governor can equate a large fine of that amount to being exonerated."

Quade noted that you don't get a fine of that size "if you didn't do anything wrong."

Bill toughening penalties for violent crime passes Missouri Senate

(From Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville)

Legislation sponsored by state Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, that toughens penalties for violent crime has passed the Missouri Senate and now moves to the House of Representatives. Senate Bill 600 combines several proposals aimed at addressing rampant crime in Missouri’s metropolitan areas.

The legislation requires persons convicted of second-degree murder and other violent crimes to serve prison time, closing the revolving door that releases dangerous offenders on probation. The measure increases the penalty for armed criminal action and requires sentences for that offense to be served consecutive to any sentence for related offenses. Senate Bill 600 also increases penalties for felons in possession of a firearm and provides greater flexibility for prosecutors to bring charges against gang members.

A recent study published by USA Today listed three Missouri metropolitan areas among the 25 most dangerous cities in America.

St. Louis came in at No. 5, Kansas City ranked sixth and Springfield was listed in 14th place. Senator Luetkemeyer’s legislation, which also now defines carjacking as a distinct criminal offense, has been praised by prosecutors and law enforcement officials alike.

“Many of the violent crimes we see occurring are committed by repeat offenders who are undeterred by lenient sentencing,” Sen. Luetkemeyer said. “This legislation strengthens the penalties for violent behavior and begins to address the lawlessness in our cities.”

“Missouri ranks in the top 10 for violent and dangerous felonies. Senate Bill 600 takes a meaningful approach to aiding law enforcement and helping keep those criminals off our streets,” Rolla Police Chief and Missouri Police Chiefs Association President Sean Fagen said.

The organization representing Missouri’s 115 elected prosecuting and circuit attorneys also endorsed the legislation. 

“On behalf of Missouri’s prosecutors, we are proud to stand behind Sen. Luetkemeyer’s efforts to battle violent crime,” said St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney and Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys President Tim Lohmar. 

“This legislation will provide us with much needed tools to combat criminal organizations, and to ensure that violent offenders are taken off the streets. Senator Luetkemeyer’s legislation is a win for public safety in the State of Missouri.”

Winners and losers from last night's Democratic presidential debate

I first came across Fred Thompson in 1973 when he was the Republican counsel for the Senate Watergate Committee and saw him go back and forth between acting and politics for the next few decades, including a stint as District Attorney Branch on one of my favorite shows Law and Order.

He was a serviceable actor, but never really that special. He conveyed authority in that role, but he was never as good as the original DA Adam Schiff played by Steven Hill.

Before Thompson assumed that role, he had been in a number of movies and had served in the U. S. Senate, so when he announced he would run for the Republican nomination for president in 2008, there were some who thought he had such star power he would be a shoo-in to face Hillary Clinton in November.

His debut on the debate stage was highly anticipated. After all, this guy was not only a senator, but a movie star.

He was also a dud.

He was so dull, he made it seem that Mike Huckabee and Sam Brownback oozed with charisma. (Hillary didn't make it past the primaries, either, and had even less charisma.)

Fred Thompson was still 10 times more exciting than Michael Bloomberg was during the Democratic debate in Las Vegas last night.

You would think a man who has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on television could have spent two bucks and bought a clue.

While there have been moments during the earlier Democratic debates that were entertaining, last night's debate was the most enjoyable one I have seen in a long time.

It was a free for all from beginning to end, but if the former New York mayor thought he was going to skate it through it unscathed, Elizabeth Warren made it clear in the first minutes that was not going to happen.

I wanna talk about who we’re running against.A billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians. And no I’m not talking about Donald Trump, I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.
Of course, it was scripted, but so was "You're no John Kennedy," when Lloyd Bentsen nailed Dan Quayle with that line in 1988 and people still remember it.

The only thing you can fault Warren for was her lack of decorum.

She failed to offer Bloomberg a blindfold before she executed him.

The Democrats continue to break new ground. Yes, Mayor Pete is the first openly gay person to participate in a presidential debate, but leave it to Elizabeth Warren to one up Mayor Pete by bringing in horsefaced lesbians.

Now for some winners and losers from last night's debate:


Elizabeth Warren- This was her debate. While the continued dominance of Bernie Sanders and the money and media infatuation with Bloomberg have made her seem like an afterthought, she reestablished herself last night. She also showed anyone who had any concerns that she couldn't stand up to Donald Trump, they need no longer have those concerns.

Bernie Sanders- Though Mayor Pete took some shots at him, for the most part everyone else trained their fire on Bloomberg. Sanders has been consistent through all of the debates, not winning over any converts necessarily, but not losing anyone either.

Tom Steyer- With the way Elizabeth Warren was ripping apart billionaires last night, he was lucky he did not quality for this debate, though it is doubtful he has any horsefaced lesbians in his past.


Pete Buttigieg- It wasn't his debate performance that put him into this category. He was on top of his game and landed a telling blow when he noted that the two perceived leaders for the nomination are a Republican (Bloomberg) and a Democratic socialist who has never joined the Democratic party.
I can't see any way for Buttigieg to last much longer, but then I thought McGovern would win by a landslide in '72 and lest anyone forget I was Gary Hart's Barton County coordinator in 1984. I also felt his attempt to derail Amy Klobuchar's candidacy to clear a path for him to survive was unsuccessful.

Joe Biden- The good news- the former vice president had his best debate performance thus far. The bad news- as Peggy Lee sang in 1969 "is that all there is."

Amy Klobuchar- She also had a solid performance and I am hoping I am wrong about this, but it appears to me that when Elizabeth Warren turned her fire toward Bloomberg, she did just as much damage to Klobuchar, Buttigieg and Biden.

Michael Bloomberg- He's not going anywhere. He's a billionaire with an ego who wants to one up Trump by becoming the first actual billionaire to be elected president. His money will keep him in and may well buy him the nomination, but any idea that this guy can stand his ground against President Trump in a debate vanished last night.

Chuck Todd- It irritates me when Todd mutters through a candidate's answer, especially toward the end of the allotted time.

All of NBC's questioners- We have had the debates on health care over and over. Why aren't they asking questions about foreign policy, the rule of law and other things that quite obviously are going to be major issues come the general election?

And while I shouldn't do this because I am bound to be wrong, here are a few predictions:

-The pundits were quick to declare Sanders a winner, as did I, because no one really took him on last night. After last night though, is there anyone out there who does not think Elizabeth Warren is going to turn her fire on him next week. Bloomberg's entry into the debates was a gift for her at exactly the right time. She has made herself palatable to more moderate Democrats, maybe shutting the door on Joe Biden's candidacy and possibly doing the same to Klobuchar. Buttigieg will likely last longer.

-Biden's South Carolina fade is going to continue with Tom Steyer gaining a chunk of his voters, as well as Sanders and Warren. Steyer has spent Bloomberg-type money in South Carolina.

-Bernie Sanders' road to the nomination will not be as easy as everyone seems to think. Bloomberg has the money to stay in until the end, Warren's candidacy also appears to be built for the long haul and one of the three others (not counting Steyer or Tulsi Gabbard) Biden, Buttigieg or Klobuchar will find a way to hang in there waiting for lightning to strike.

What do you think will happen?

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Carthage R-9 Board renews Baker's contract, accepts resignations, hires three teachers

(From the Carthage R-9 School District)

The Carthage R-9 Board of Education met in regular session on Monday, February 17, 2020, 6:00 pm, at the Early Childhood Center. Present were Board members Jeff Jones, Lee Elliff Pound, Niki Cloud, Bill Lasley, Tony Diggs, Elizabeth Streich, and Wayne Jones.

Carthage Early Childhood Center students led the Pledge of Allegiance and performed songs under the direction of Miss Emily Beaver, Early Childhood Center teacher. 

The Board approved the Consent Agenda for the purpose of approving the meeting agenda, minutes of previous meeting, payment of bills, financial report, date for Board reorganization, contracts for school buses, and approve request for proposals for employee health insurance services. 

Artist of the Month awards were presented to February winners. 

February 9 through 15 was designated as School Board Recognition Week. Dr. Baker presented each Board member a certificate of appreciation from the Missouri School Boards’ Association. Kirby Newport, co-chair of Carthage Chapter of the National Education Association (CNEA), and Jennifer Wagoner, chair of Carthage Community Teachers’ Association (CCTA), thanked the Board for its strong leadership and commitment to the children of Carthage. Donations from CNEA and CCTA were made to the Carthage R-9 School Foundation to honor the Board for their many sacrifices. 

After providing an opportunity for public comment for the proposed 2020-2021 school calendar in accordance with state law, the Board adopted the calendar as presented. The 2020-2021 school calendar is posted on the district’s website at or you may contact the District Office, 710 Lyon Street, 417-359-7010, to request a copy. 

Dr. Scott Ragsdale, Carthage Intermediate Center Principal, provided an evaluative report on At-Risk, Missouri School Improvement Program Areas I-3, G-6. The graduation rate continues to increase reporting 93.4% in 2018-2019. Attendance district-wide in 2018-2019 was 93.4%, which remains above the MSIP accountability measure set at 90%. 

The Virtual Learning Center served 323 students, including 162 students graduating with VLC credit. Summer school attendance district wide decreased from 2,128 students in 2018 to 1,952 students in 2019. There were 38 students enrolled in the Missouri Options Program with a 91% passing rate. The student learner/work program served 44 students. 

Dr. Mark Baker, Carthage Superintendent of Schools, provided an evaluative report on Personnel, MSIP Area TL-1. 

To attract and retain highly-qualified employees, the district seeks to provide competitive salaries and benefits for all staff members. The district’s 2018-19 base teacher salary of $37,000 ranked ninth out of 124 school districts in Southwest Missouri, fifth out of nine Central Ozarks Conference (COC) schools, and second as compared to ten area school districts. 

Comparing maximum salaries, the district was 22 out of 124 school districts in Southwest Missouri and seventh out of nine COC schools. Stipends and incentives are offered to bilingual certified and support staff based on their proficiency of verbal and writing skills. 

Mrs. Elliff Pound provided a Carthage R-9 Foundation update. The Carthage R-9 Foundation is in the process of reviewing scholarship applications. Award winners will be announced in May during Academic Awards Night. 

Dr. Baker provided a recap of the Carthage 2020 and Beyond meetings, priorities, recommendations, and community survey results. 

Dr. Baker discussed the need to add additional classrooms to the Early Childhood Center. Jane Goade, Parents as Teachers Director, and Kamie Bourgault, PAT teacher, discussed Parents as Teachers visits and the importance of early interaction between a parent and child. 

Kim Ensminger, Early Childhood Center Director, discussed the services offered to their students, the importance of additional instructional time, and the need for additional space. 

Brittiany Nixon and Michelle Hyder, Tiger Prep Academy teachers, discussed the success of the Tiger Prep Academy, the advantages offered to children participating in the program as they prepare them for kindergarten, and the need to expand the program. 

Dr. Baker updated the Board regarding the following items: 

 The Tiger Activity Center has proven to be a valuable resource for the district. Many groups including physical education classes, team practices, archery, and a career fair have utilized the facility. 

 Extended a thank you to the Board of Education for their service. 

 A South Technical Center expansion and North Technical Center remodel bond issue will be decided on the April 7, 2020, General Municipal Election ballot.

 2020 and Beyond discussions in March will include increasing civic and community minded attitudes, improve communication between home and school, improve communication regarding scheduling and required courses, and better promotion of school activities and achievements. 

The Board met in closed session immediately following the regular meeting to discuss legal, personnel, and student matters in compliance with Section 610.021 (1), (3), (6), and (13) of the Revised Statutes of Missouri. 

In closed session, the Board renewed the contract of Dr. Mark Baker, Superintendent of Schools, and approved the following personnel actions: 


Certified Staff 

Michael Crider Counselor Intermediate Center 
Daniel (Zach) Holden Library Media Specialist Intermediate Center 
Yessenia Viera Third Grade Dual Language Fairview 
All Administrators 

Support Staff 

Shawna Bailey Bus Aide 
Jennifer Monzon Paraprofessional Steadley 
Amy Pinkley Paraprofessional Steadley 
Sarah Polley Paraprofessional Steadley 
Philip Syching Custodian Junior High 
Lydia VanTassel Food Service Intermediate Center 

Substitute Teachers 

Sydni Beck 
Emily Brown 
Joshua Carter 
Lynne DeVrieze
Stasia Fisher 
Sydney Holden 
Mariah Stilabower 

Retirement/Resignation of Certified Staff

Retirements (effective end of 2019-20 school year)

Amy Atnip Third Grade Steadley 

Resignations (effective June 1, 2020)

Amy Ryder School Psychologist District 

Resignations (effective end of 2019-20 school year) 

Whitney Pekarek Special Education Junior High 


Brittany Bridges Assistant Principal Junior High (Former- District Instructional Facilitator) 
Kenny Brown ISS High School (Former Social Studies/High School) 
Becky Chadd Assistant Principal Steadley .50 FTE/Columbian .50 FTE (Former-Instructional Coach -Pleasant Valley/Steadley) 
Caitlin Devillers Library Media Specialist Sixth Grade Center (Former Art/Steadley) 
Michelle Hensley Assistant Principal Fairview .50 FTE/Sixth Grade Center .50 FTE (Former-Instructional Coach/Fairview) 
Beth Jones EL Sixth Grade Center (Former-EL/Intermediate Center ) 
Lisa Moore EL Sixth Grade Center (Former-CIC/Sixth Grade) 
Lisa Morris Third Grade Steadley (Former-First Grade/Steadley) 
Stephanie Ray Head Softball Coach High School (Former-Asst. Softball Coach/High School)

Federal grand jury indicts Diamond man for sexual exploitation of a minor

A Diamond, Missouri, man was indicted by a federal grand jury today for the sexual exploitation of a minor.

Terry Lee Miksell, 63, was charged in a two-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Springfield. Today’s indictment replaces a federal criminal complaint that was filed against Miksell on Jan. 28, 2020.

Miksell is charged with one count of producing child pornography and one count of using the internet and a cell phone to attempt to induce a minor to engage in sexual activity.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the original criminal complaint, Facebook initiated two CyberTips in September 2019 after locating sexually explicit messages and images between Miksell and a 16-year-old victim, identified in court documents as Jane Doe.

Miksell allegedly asked Jane Doe in Facebook Messenger chats to send him sexually explicit images and videos. She told investigators she sent those images and videos at his request.

Officers executed a search warrant at Miksell’s residence on Jan. 16, 2020, and seized several devices, including a cell phone. According to the affidavit, the cell phone contained a pornographic video of the child victim.

The charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ami Harshad Miller. It was investigated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force.

So you want to be a full-time Joplin R-8 Bright Futures coordinator

Mercifully, it has been almost five years since the departure of former Joplin R-8 Superintendent C. J. Huff, but it appears that more money is about to be injected into the pet project that dominated his last five years in the district.

Joplin R-8 posted an advertisement Tuesday seeking applications for a full-time "community engagement coordinator" whose job will be to "manage the day-to-day operation of Bright Futures.

Do we really want to go down this path again?

Community Engagement Coordinator
Job Description
Salary RangePer Year
Shift TypeFull-Time

Weldon Spring Republican's resolution would let Missourians vote on eliminating personal property taxes

Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, has filed Senate Joint Resolution 44, which would place his proposal, a constitutional amendment to eliminate personal property tax on the ballot.

"I want to cut your taxes," Eigel told those attending a rally for the proposal at the State Capitol, describing personal property taxes as the most unpopular taxes in Missouri.

"It primarily targets middle and working class households."

Eigel noted that only 21 states have personal property taxes and that Missouri has the third highest rate among those 21 states.

St. Louis Senator: We have to address the root causes of crime

The Missouri Senate is crafting legislation to address the ever-increasing crime rate, but the solutions being offered are the same ones that have been tried before and have not worked, according to Sen. Karla May, D-St. Louis.

In her latest podcast, Sen. May suggests that we are not going to successfully deal with the issue until we address the systemic problems that lead to crime, including Missouri's high poverty rate and the inability for those who have been in prison to find jobs after they are released.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Paul Richardson: First rule- keep right

When at the ripe age of eleven your Grandpa ask if you want to drive, you either hop on that offer like a goose on a June bug or wuss out and go forth with a life of regret. I took the goose on a June bug approach.

It was a straight shot, no curves and only one turn that took us into my Grandpa’s driveway. His van was an automatic, but he put it into gear and all I had to do was operate the accelerator pedal, the brake and keep it between the centerline of the roadway and the ditch on the right.

It was only a couple years later, actually three years, when I was fourteen that my dad started putting me behind the steering wheel on some of his trucks. 

These were big old trucks. Dump trucks with a five-speed transmission and a granny gear with a two-speed rear end to boot. 

Those reading this who didn’t follow that last bit of information, well just ask someone nearby to help you out. He also had an old International A-Frame that came out of the Oklahoma oil fields. This was one big, heavy chunk of steel. Slow, but dependable and got a lot of use. From those I graduated to driving his pickup that sported a three-speed on the column.

As I neared the age of sixteen and the opportunity to drive legally, my dear mother took on the task of instructing me on the proper way to drive a vehicle with an automatic transmission.

“You only need one foot to drive this”, she said, “There is no clutch pedal, so use the right foot only and move it back and forth between the accelerator and the brake”. Following my truck training, this was pretty simple as the vehicle was smaller and driving didn’t require the use of every possible appendage.

It was near the beginning of the school year following my sixteenth birthday. I had driven my parents' car to school for some event that I can no longer recall. What I do recall, however, is that when leaving the event, I approached the highway on the wrong side of the entrance. At the same time an upperclassman was trying to turn into the entrance and there I sat in his path. Since it was warm, all the car windows were down and I could hear him yelling at me, “Keep to the right, (additional words deleted)!” That I remember and that stuck!

Even in Wal-Mart while walking the aisles, with or without a cart, I keep to the right. Aisles that accommodate two-way traffic, I keep to the right. Wide aisles that resemble a four-lane highway with assorted kiosk down the center, I keep to the right. While most of the people in the store are darting around like a herd of cats, which I am certain reflects the way they drive, I keep to the right.

I just have one statement, “First Rule, Keep Right!”

(Paul Richardson's column, The Horse I Rode In On, is published weekly in the Neosho Daily News, Seneca News-Dispatch, Aurora Advertiser and on the Turner Report.)

Black history diversity program topic of Southwest Missouri Democrats Town Hall

(From Southwest Missouri Democrats)

Southwest Missouri Democrats February Town Hall will be held Wednesday, 7 PM, at the Minnie Hackney Community Service Center at 110 S. Main St., Joplin.

February is Black History month but as a party we strive to honor diversity and racial equity every day. Southwest Missouri Democrats has committed to building communities where all recognize Black Lives Matter and we are very excited to have D'Andre L. Jones lead a conversation about what this means for Democrats at our Town Hall.

 D’Andre L. Jones – PLMSW, MA, BSE joins us as our presenter for a Diversity Workshop. As Northwest Arkansas continues to experience unprecedented growth, D’Andre’s leadership and efforts championing diversity, inclusion and equity contributes in a powerful way.

D’Andre Jones is a native of Joiner, and is a licensed social worker in the state of Arkansas. He served on the Joiner City Council for three terms and served as staff liaison for US Congressman Marion Berry 1st Congressional District. 

First Senate hearing held on student athlete compensation

(From Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas)

On Tuesday, I chaired a hearing titled “Name, Image, and Likeness: The State of Intercollegiate Athlete Compensation,” where my subcommittee heard from the chancellor from my alma mater, the University of Kansas, the president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the commissioner of the Big 12, the director of National College Players Association and the former chair of Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

This hearing examined how student-athletes are currently restricted from profiting from their name, image, or likeness to supplement the scholarships and benefits they receive. 

Understanding how state and federal laws and regulations on name, image, and likeness of student-athletes would affect the existing intercollegiate athletic system is critical in shaping Congress’ efforts on this issue. 

Some of the complexities surrounding this issue include the use of third-party agents, the possible elimination of athletic programs, current definitions of amateurism and allowable incentives made available to today’s college athletes.

College athletics teach young men and women values and skills that serve them throughout their life, but most importantly they are first a student-athlete. 

As the chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade, and Consumer Protection, with jurisdiction over amateur athletics, I look forward to continue working with my colleagues to address this issue that will have an impact on the college athletics system and the student-athletes that make it up.

Creve Coeur Democrat: Senate bills designed to favor corporations, special interests over Missourians in lawsuits

(From Sen. Jill Schlupp, D-Creve Coeur)

Often times the civil court system only becomes relevant to us when a wrong has occurred in our own life. It's common to overlook the magnitude of the impact changes to our civil court system, known as tort law, can have. The way the courts are structured now serves the important purpose of allowing wronged individuals to be made "whole" again.

Bit by bit, the civil court system is being undermined by legislation put forward by my majority-party colleagues to favor the wrong-doer over the injured party. Last year, there was a shift in balance that prevents individuals from joining together against big corporations in class action suits.

This year, on the table and moving through the process is a bill limiting the awarding of punitive damages which will only make it easier for big companies to avoid risk when they are acting in ways that hurt real Missourians.

Senate Bill 591, if passed, will make it harder for injured Missourians to receive punitive damages when they win a lawsuit. When the bill was heard in committee, it totaled nine pages, focusing on one topic. Shortly thereafter, when the senator brought the bill to the floor of the Senate, he substituted the bill expanding its scope, with a new version containing nearly 50 pages of bill text. Described by one lawmaker as the “Son of Franken-Tort,” This legislation protects corporations where decisions were made that hurt consumers.

The bill requires the injured party to prove a higher legal standard for punitive damages. The bill makes it harder for consumers to obtain compensation in cases of unlawful merchandising and encourages cases to go to arbitration, which commonly favor the defendant (the wrong-doer.)

Unfortunately, also in the realm of tort, was this week's debate on Senate Bill 575, which requires victims of asbestos exposure to file their claims against an asbestos trust, rather than taking their case directly to the entities that caused the exposure. This law is a direct carve out to delay and draw out lawsuits filed by individuals with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Once diagnosed, people with asbestos-related diseases generally live a year or less. Drawn-out lawsuits mean the victim is unlikely to benefit at all from the outcome of the suit.

Both SB 591 and SB 575 were met with filibusters from our Democratic caucus, causing the measures to be laid over. I’m afraid we haven’t seen the end of Franken-Tort measures, but count on me to actively oppose these changes that will hurt already-injured Missourians

Missouri Senate Republicans: Forget the will of the people, we're doing things our way

Missouri Senate Republicans, apparently assuming 62 percent of state voters did not know what they were doing when they passed the Clean Missouri Act last year, passed Senate Joint Resolution February 10 to force Missourians to vote on it again with changes made that are more to their liking.

If that does not work, perhaps they will try it again next year.

After all, what's a little gerrymandering among friends?

The vote was 22-9 with area senators Bill White, R-Joplin, and Ed Emery, R-Lamar, voting for the resolution.