Wednesday, March 31, 2021

No McDonald County residents hospitalized with COVID-19, one new case confirmed


Joplin Schools Transportation receives Fleet Excellence award for 25th straight year

(From Joplin Schools)

Joplin Schools Transportation has achieved a 97 percent on our annual state bus inspections. We have received the "Fleet Excellence award" once again. 

Michael Bevis, director of transportation and Justin Henson, assistant director of transportation have done a fantastic job keeping our district buses safe.

Our transportation mechanics are the best in the business, John Greninger, Joe Dorsey, Eric Hudson and Dan White.

This makes 25 years in a row that Joplin Schools Transportation has achieved this award.

Greene County Health Department reports two COVID-19 deaths

(From the Springfield-Greene County Health Department)

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department is saddened to announce the deaths of two Greene County residents from COVID-19. These losses were reported to us between Wednesday, March 24 and Tuesday, March 30.

Our community lost:
A man in his 70s
A woman in her 80s

We extend our condolences to everyone impacted by these losses. We take each loss personally and our hearts are with you.


A total of 424 Greene County residents have died from COVID-19.

Profiles of those we’ve lost 

Both fatalities occurred in March.

Both individuals had underlying health condition that put them at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and were associated with long-term care.

Jasper, Greene, Dade County health departments launching regional COVID-19 vaccination call center

(From the Springfield-Greene County Health Department)

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department, in partnership with other public health agencies in the area, is launching a regional call center to connect residents of southwest Missouri with COVID-19 vaccination appointments in their area.

Residents of southwest Missouri can call (417) 874-1211 to ask questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and to get scheduled for an appointment in their area.

The Southwest Missouri COVID-19 Call Center was created in partnership with several local health departments:
Christian County Health Department
Dade County Health Department
Hickory County Health Department
Jasper County Health Department

Lawrence County Health Department
Polk County Health Center
Stone County Health Department
Webster County Health Department

Residents of these or other counties can call to get registered and scheduled for appointments in these areas.

“The effects of this virus extend beyond the county line, so our approach to fighting it should as well,” said Acting Health Director Katie Towns. “The Southwest Missouri COVID-19 Call Center represents a collaborative step forward in the effort to return the entire region to a sense of normalcy.”

All partnering agencies will be utilizing Missouri’s Vaccine Navigator for vaccine registration and scheduling. Individuals wishing to schedule online must first visit to get registered. They will then receive an email allowing them to schedule an appointment.

Branson man indicted for threatening Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department employees

(From the U. S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri)

A Branson, Missouri, man has been indicted for threatening on the internet to injure employees of the Los Angeles County, California, Sheriff’s Department.

Joshua L. Bippert, 26, was charged in a single-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Springfield, Mo., on March 23, 2021. The indictment was unsealed and made public on Tuesday, March 30, following Bippert’s arrest and initial court appearance.

The federal indictment alleges that Bippert communicated the threat over the internet to the Sheriff’s Department between Sept. 20 and 21, 2020.

The charge contained in this indictment is simply an accusation, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charge 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 Casey Clark. It was investigated by the FBI and the Los Angeles County, Calif., Sheriff’s Department.

Joplin man sentenced for illegally possessing firearm

(From the U. S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri)

A Joplin, Missouri, man was sentenced in federal court today for illegally possessing the firearm stolen from a vehicle in the parking lot at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Mo.

Jeffrey Ray Dean Ford, 28, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge M. Douglas Harpool to five years in federal prison without parole. The court ordered Ford’s federal sentence to be served consecutively to his undischarged terms of imprisonment in two separate state cases.

On Nov. 20, 2020, Ford pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm.

According to court documents, the investigation began on Oct. 15, 2019, after two vehicles were burglarized at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners. A Smith and Wesson semi-automatic .40-caliber firearm was stolen from one of the vehicles. FBI agents identified a suspect vehicle from surveillance cameras. Later the same day, Republic, Mo., police officers reported attempted automobile burglaries in which witnesses identified the same vehicle.

Agents contacted Ford at his workplace as he arrived, driving the borrowed vehicle that had been identified in surveillance video. Agents found the stolen firearm in the vehicle.

Under federal law, it is illegal for anyone who has been convicted of a felony to be in possession of any firearm or ammunition. Ford has 11 prior felony convictions, including possession of methamphetamine, burglary, tampering with a motor vehicle, possession of a stolen vehicle, several instances of felony theft, and several instances of receiving stolen property. Ford also has 23 misdemeanor convictions.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Carney. It was investigated by the FBI, the Springfield, Mo., Police Department, the Republic, Mo., Police Department, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Carthage Republican: Medicaid expansion is wrong for Missouri

By Rudi Keller

The Republican majority in the Missouri House on Tuesday beat back every attempt by Democrats to restore funding for Medicaid expansion to the budget for the coming fiscal year.

The House spent more than seven hours debating the 13 spending bills that comprise Missouri’s $32 billion spending plan for fiscal 2022 state operations. On voice votes, the House gave first-round approval to all 13 bills, plus a supplemental budget bill for the current year.

(House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage, left, watches floor debate on state spending with Speaker Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold. Photo by Tim Bommel/Missouri House)

On Thursday, roll call votes on all 14 bills will send the budget to the Senate for its input.

The House version of the budget is $2.2 billion below the proposal made in January by Gov. Mike Parson, and the biggest difference is the absence of $1.9 billion for expanded Medicaid eligibility.

Democrats started early and took every opportunity to put the money back – including an attempt to tap money promised by the $1.9 trillion federal COVID-19 relief bill passed early this month – but could persuade only a handful of Republicans to break ranks with the majority.

“I think Medicaid expansion is wrong for Missouri,” House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage said. “I think it is wrong for the state budget.”

Throughout the debate, Democrats argued the state’s unprecedented surpluses would be increased, not diminished, by approving the program. But Republicans argued that tight state finances won’t allow the new expense.

“It is just stubbornness and cruelty to refuse this money,” said state Rep. Sarah Unsicker, D-Shrewsbury.

The Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, promised that states would pay no more than 10 percent of the cost of expanding Medicaid eligibility to households with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty guideline, or about $17,775 annual for a single person and $36,570 per year for a family of four.

The state pays about 35 percent of the cost of the existing Medicaid program.

After years of fruitlessly trying to persuade the Republican-led legislature to accept the deal, proponents used the initiative petition process to put it on the ballot and it passed in August with 53.3 percent of the vote.

Parson’s budget estimated that 275,000 Missourians would receive coverage, at a cost of $120 million in general revenue and $1.9 billion overall. Since the budget was proposed, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan, which offers states that have not expanded Medicaid an incentive to do so by cutting the state’s share of the existing program by 5 percent.

That change is worth about $1.15 billion to Missouri over the next two years.

For education, the budget granted initial approval in the House includes $3.6 billion for public schools under the foundation formula, increases basic support for colleges and universities to the fiscal 2020 appropriation levels, an increase for all the institutions because a portion of that money was withheld.

The budget also includes a 2 percent pay raise for state employees, plus additional raises for workers in the Department of Corrections to aid in recruiting corrections officers. It also has money for implementing the law to stop automatically charging 17-years olds as adults.

Throughout the day, Democrats complained that billions of dollars are being allowed to accumulate unspent in the state treasury. The state general revenue fund is expected to have a surplus of more than $1 billion on June 30, while other unrestricted funds, some related to federal COVID-19 relief, are amassing balances approaching $500 million.

The $1.9 trillion relief bill approved earlier this month will bring about $2.8 billion to the state for its general needs.

“We are sitting on a billion dollars plus and we have more coming in and it is time we started spending it,” said state Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, as he unsuccessfully sought $50 million to eliminate rider fares on mass transit for a year.

Smith, however, said he has no confidence that federal spending can be sustained.

“They are deficit spending at an unprecedented rate,” he said.

Rudi Keller covers the state budget, energy and the legislature. He’s spent 22 of his 30 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics, most recently as the news editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune. Keller has won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

69-year-old man is Joplin's 130th COVID-19 death

(From the Joplin Health Department)

The Joplin Health Department is sad to report the death of a Joplin resident with coronavirus being a significant condition contributing to the death. This announcement brings the total count to 130 deaths in Joplin. The resident was a 69-year-old male.

City statistics are listed on the COVID-19 dashboard at . The dashboard is a collaborative project of the Joplin Health Department and University of Missouri Extension Office’s “All Things Missouri."

Nancy Hughes: Remember the trophies

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” Colossians 3:23 (NIV)

The trophies were everywhere in our house: on the bookshelves, above the fireplace on the mantle; in the utility room; in boxes under every bed. Big ones. Little ones. Some with gold lettering and some with silver but all designed with the image of a dog standing on its hind legs at a tree, barking at a raccoon.

My husband was an avid hunter and spent considerable time and money on coon hunting in Missouri as well as other states. And he became quite good at it, as evidenced by the number of trophies in our home.

I was never able to understand the whole coon hunting experience. I truly tried. Once. There was just something about running around in the woods at night, listening to dogs barking on the trail of a coon in very cold weather that encouraged me NOT to hunt.

Not only did the hunting have zero appeal, the trophies did not seem like a big deal to me. But to my husband? To him, each one had a story to tell. A victory to share. “See that tall blue and gold trophy?” he would ask me. “That was the hunt in Nashville. I took a chance at the last minute with treeing my dog and won the whole event.”

Then he would point out another one: the trophy that was not quite as large but had a First Place plaque on it. “That’s when Smokey won the Iowa hunt. Got my name in the paper, too,” he would smile. And the red and silver trophy? “Best hunt ever in Kansas.”

Every trophy had a special memory for him because of the importance of what had happened at each hunt to obtain it. The trophies also served as a reminder of the successes he had and an encouragement to keep trying when a hunt ended not quite so successfully. But they were also a result of months of hard work as he trained his dogs to search for their prey and never give up.

Colossians 3:23 is a huge encouragement to us as Christians to put everything we have into sharing Jesus with the lost, no matter the response. We absolutely must work at it with every bit of energy that we possess. And we must never give up.

In this world, we are going to have victories and we are going to have defeats. Oh the victory when we send a note of encouragement to someone with cancer and they are refreshed! How exciting to share the power of the cross with someone who is spiritually lost and see her begin to understand the love of God.

And sometimes there is a defeat: the loved one who refuses to turn his life over to the Lord; the language we use when we are caught in slow traffic. But with each defeat, all we need to do is remember the victories – the “trophies” – and we are encouraged to keep trying to be Jesus to everyone around us, no matter how long it takes.

I challenge you today, no matter where you are or what you are doing, to remember the “trophies” and keep working for the Lord with all your heart!

Father, thank you for your spiritual “trophies” to remind me of your victories whenever I face a defeat as I share you. In Jesus’ Name Amen.

R.A.P. it up . . .


Have you ever been so focused on a spiritual defeat that you completely forgot your spiritual “trophies” or victories?


The next time you are faced with a tough situation, picture those “trophies” or successes that you have had in the past and remember what God has done through you.

Be encouraged by what you see and pray as you tackle new opportunities to win a “trophy” for the Lord.


Colossians 3:23 (NIV) “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”

II Corinthians 2:14 (NIV) “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.”

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

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

Paul Richardson: It's a happy little delusion

The good wife has a happy place. It is not so much of a physical location as a state of mind. 

Part of her happy place can be accessed on a specific channel of our satellite provider where you will find her focused on the television every Saturday morning and often on a day of the week when a group of episodes are highlighted. 

This happy place is visited by a mass of people, and I would dare say that most are women following the leadership of the one that I prefer to reference as their “cult leader”.

She has never met her guru face to face although she has made several attempts to be in the right place at the right time. It is fortunate, or perhaps unfortunate, that there is a physical location and it’s quite popular nationwide and possibly worldwide. 

In my travels escorting the good wife back and forth to this location, I often see groups of women that have made the pilgrimage, but I also see other men, presumably husbands or subservient partners, who like myself have accompanied their own followers. 

This is probably done in part to bring enjoyment into the lives of the followers, or at least chalk up some points on the old score board. The other possibility is that it is done out of fear. Fear that if they don’t accompany the follower, the follower might just stay there and never return home. If they didn’t attempt to ever leave the promise land and return home, we would miss them. 

By the way, you might chalk up a lot of points, but I found out that you can never redeem them. They are like possessing S&H Green Stamps in the 2021. They are a unique and clever little oddity, but of no value.

I don’t want to sound too negative about this obsession, as I have benefited greatly from its existence. Not only have I benefited, but many friends, acquaintances, passers-by, and even people that have been contracted to install items or to complete construction duties on our house. 

The good wife will feed anybody and everybody. She was always a good cook, even bordering between above average and great, but this obsession has really improved her game. Due to her upgrade in technique, utensils, tools, and the expansion of her repertoire, the net effect is a furthering of my fleshing out experience.

And so, the good wife continues in her happy little delusion, holding on to her obsession with a death grip. All the while, I continue to provide transportation services back and forth to the promise land where she can sample the fruits from the mother tree. 

It’s not a bad gig, and I am sure that the object of her obsession is fine, upstanding individual, who hasn’t attempted to lead the followers into any areas of concern but is assisting them in fattening up everyone in the household as if for further processing. 

I don’t know whether to be concerned or just lay back and be fat and happy, joining in the happy little delusion!


Kansas City Democrat: Republicans defying will of the people by blocking Medicaid expansion

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

It seems unbelievable. 

Fifty-three percent of Missourians — 676,687 people in this state — protected Medicaid expansion under the Missouri Constitution last August when they approved Amendment 2 to our State Constitution. Then, on Thursday, 3/25, led by the House Budget Committee Chairman, Cody Smith, 20 Republican legislators undercut voters because they think they know better than almost 700,000 of their fellow citizens and voted to reject funding it. 

This action came on a straight party-line vote, with Democrats supporting the funding bill that was written and sponsored by Chairman Smith and Republicans opposing it – including Chairman Smith himself. Republicans simply spat in the face of Missouri voters, full stop.

Under the federal Affordable Care Act, states can expand their Medicaid eligibility threshold to 138 percent of the federal poverty level and the federal government will pay 90 percent of the cost in perpetuity. 

An additional 275,000 Missourians will become constitutionally eligible for Medicaid with the start of the new fiscal year on July 1. Gov. Mike Parson even included funding for expansion in his proposed budget for the upcoming 2022 fiscal year. 

Chairman Smith described it as the expansion of “Obamacare for able bodied adults who choose not to work,” and described their action as “standing up to liberal special interest groups.” (I guess that means voters?) 

If the legislature passes a final budget without Medicaid expansion funding, a lawsuit forcing the state to implement expansion anyway is virtually guaranteed since the new Medicaid eligibility threshold is now fixed in the state constitution and lawmakers have no discretion to lower it through the budget process. 

Medicaid expansion would give health insurance to over 200,000 Missourians who desperately need coverage. 

Currently, Missouri is in the bottom 10 states on health care, according to the 2020 U.S. News and World Report. Not only that, but Medicaid expansion would save the state money and prevent Missouri tax dollars from going to other states. 

The Parson administration even recognized when they allocated money for Medicaid expansion that they would not need to dip into other parts of General Revenue to expand Medicaid, which has been the major boogeyman of Republicans in expanding Medicaid in the past. 

As we move through the budgeting process, be assured that House Democrats – including yours truly - will be doing everything in our power to get this back in the operating budget during floor debate on Tuesday, and the Senate could also add that funding back in and force a conference. 

If they don’t, then the fight will head to court and the General Assembly will be forced to follow the Constitution.

Mega COVID vaccination event planned in Springfield

(From the Springfield-Greene County Health Department)

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department, Missouri State University and area partners invite our community to a COVID-19 vaccine mega event at Hammons Student Center on the Missouri State campus on April 8-9, 2021.

Our goal is to vaccinate 10,000 individuals over the two-day event, which would be the largest single-site event to date in the State of Missouri.


The Health Department encourages all individuals to get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect yourselves and your loved ones, even if you have already had COVID-19. This is especially important as variants of the virus continue to surge in some states. The sooner that individuals in our community get vaccinated and continue to follow guidance, the sooner we will be able to lift restrictions and return to a sense of normalcy. Don’t Wait! Vaccinate!

Individuals interested in receiving vaccine during this event must first register through Missouri’s Vaccine Navigator program at They will then receive an email from the MO DHSS Vaccine Navigator system to schedule an appointment. Individuals must be 18+ and a resident of Missouri.

Although this event will require an appointment, the Health Department can help with registration!

Individuals without internet access or who need assistance registering or scheduling an appointment can call the Health Department’s COVID-19 call center at (417) 874-1211 Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. You may also visit for registration and other information.

Individuals will not be charged anything out-of-pocket to receive vaccine.

Joplin Regional Airport adds flights to Houston

(From Joplin Regional Airport)

The Joplin Regional Airport is pleased to announce Houston will be a third hub option for travelers when United Express service starts here on June 1, 2021. Earlier this month, the City announced daily flights to both Chicago and Denver with United Express, operated by SkyWest Airlines.

“This is an exciting time with three great hubs for the Joplin market,” said Steve Stockam, Manager of the Joplin Regional Airport. “The locations and schedules will benefit our customer. Whether traveling for business or pleasure, they’ll have some options to make connections they’ve been seeking.”

The new United Express flights will be on board a 50-seat regional jet with daily trips to Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Denver International Airport (DEN), and George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH). 

Individuals wanting to book flights out of Joplin can do so starting April 6, 2021.

Stockam noted that recent reports are showing signs of the travel industry shifting upward. “We are optimistic. We’re excited for this new era with United giving area travelers some options to strong hubs. We encourage everyone to look to Joplin as the first option in their travel needs.”

Only 16 active COVID-19 cases in Joplin, four confirmed Monday

The COVID-19 statistics for Joplin continued to show a marked improvement Monday with only four new cases confirmed and 16 active cases.

Joplin hospitals have 14 coronavirus patients, with three of them from Joplin.

The city has recorded 16 new cases over the past week and has 5,991 to date.

Joplin R-8 hires 13 teachers, accepts three resignations, two retirements, renews 231 probationary teachers

During a March 16 closed session, the Joplin R-8 Board of Education hired 13 teachers and 10 classified employees, accepted three resignations and two retirements and renewed the contracts of 231 probationary teachers.

Certified Employments: Caitlyn Costello, Hallee Hinds, Mary Johnson, Amanda Stewart, Sherry Whiteman, Libbie Burd, Shelby Frakes, Chee Harris, Courtney Krug, Taylor Oslakovic, Morgan Schlueter, Jodi Stewart, and Cristopher Young

Separations: Alison Clyburn, Audrey Hogan, and Courtney Escoto (Resignations)
Johanna Day, and Melissa Heilbrun (Retirements)


Classified Employments: Charles Browning, Shannon Caylor, Samantha Cleveland, Sharon Crawford, Keyven Dunn, Sara Harbaugh, Scott Hasty, Brandt Lloyd, Melanie Strickland, and Travis Whited

Substitutes: Sara Danner, Alexis Gulick, Jelica Montelongo, Holly Brock, Kayla Spence, Alexis N. Smith, Maghen Dresslaer, Daniel L. Stanley, Rodney Lewis, Justin Gill, Kelly Hemperley, Christi Sapp, Linda Reed, Jaycee Henderson, Elizabeth Dubois, Hunter Olson, Amber Copple Cheyenne Salazar, Paul Junker, Tracy Reeder, and Jessica Faucett

Probationary Teacher Renewals:
Robyn Acker, Caroline Adams, Kathleen Allen, Elizabeth Anderson, Noah Andrews, Misti Ard, Makayla Armstrong, Elizabeth Arnold, Miranda Ash, Caiton Bandy, Shantel Barker, Douglas Barto, Jana Bates, Charli Baugh, Samantha Beeson, Chloe Bell, Heather Bennett, Kasondra Boone, Mackenzie Bowers, Katie Bozarth, Kimberly Brewer, Deborah Brill, Jessica, Brockman-Herron, Nash Brodsky, Shawna Brooks, Bailey Brown, Julie Brown, Samantha Bruner, Ryan Burnside, Jessica Burroughs, Nichole Butcher, Ariel Carnes, Adrienne Carson, Joshua Carter, Alex Cawood, Andrew Cherry, Misty Clark, Cara Clark, Kylie Compton, Brock Compton-Hamiel, Laurel Cook, Jessica Davidson, Benjamin Davis, Todd Delph, Lindsay Dewelt, Andrea Dicharry, Kari Dietrich

Magan Dillahay, Brad Douglas, Janet Dowell, Morgan Doyle, Shelly Dunn, Brendan Durbin, Caleb Durr, Dora Eastin Jennifer Eckhardt, Haley Elliot, Kerri Fields, Kaley Figueroa, Jeremy Finley, Karen Fitzsimmons, Jessica Fletcher-Fierro, Emmannuel Flores, Luke Floyd, Joseph Flynn, Joshua Franklin, Lauren Frieden, Morgan Frossard, Catherine Gabler, Kristen Gavenda, Zachary Gibson, Melinda Gibson, Tarryn Gilbert, Miranda Glaser, Jennifer Glenn, Emily Golden, Jordan Gossard, Madison Goswick, Molly Graham, Linda Gray, Syeda Greenlee, Shelly Greninger, Meggan Hall, Jennifer Hancock, Lori Hannon, Katherine Hargrove, Tylan Harris, Chee Harris, Nicole Hart, Heather Hawn

Vivian Hays, Noah Hembree, Jessica Henson, Myra Hidalgo, Jennifer Hill, Cynthia Hilsabeck, Heidi Hodges, Chelsy Hole, Katherine Honeywell, Kurt Hopson, Ashlee Horton, Tracy Horton, Parker Howard, Juliana Hughes, Carrie Hutter, Krista Ideker, Katryn James, Betsy James, Alexandra Johnson, Amanda Jones, Samantha Jordan, Michael Juergens, Katie Juergens, Brian Kelley, Melissa Kendall, Aaron Ketcher, Zachary King, Shelby Koeshall, Lindsey Koucky, Tabitha Lackey, Morgan Lamar

Teresa Lamberson, Lauren Lant, Alexis Leonhart, Jamie Lorimer, Olivia Lotven, Ryan Lovell, Zachary Loving, Sophia Martin, Tara Marty, Roxcee McCully, Kate McDonald, Monica McGriff, Jason McKinney, Misti Meads, Chelsea Meyer, Sara Meyer, Melissa Miller, Rebecca Miller, Eryn Miller, Kira Mitchell, Jennifer Mock, Kristen Moore, Rebecca Morin, Elsie Morris, Patricia Murray, Hannah New, Ashley Ohlman, Tina Olson, Megan Olson, Laurie Orr, Victoria Overton, Cheyanna Padilla

Julie Pagan, Amy Paige, Robert Parsons, Micah Patterson, Marsha Pemberton, Logan Perdue, Autumn Pounds, Amanda Powell, Amy Price, Somer Quade, Melanie Ramos, Morgan Ramsey, Marly Ramsour, Stephanie Raney, Katie Rattles, Claire Raum-Miranda, Ann Reece, Amanda Rich, George Richardson, Jill Riley, Jaxon Roberts, Jodi Rogers, Jessica Rogers, Shawna Sampson, Barry Sanborn, Brenden Schneider Rachel Schnelle Alexandra Schrunk, Andrew Seavy, Carmen Seeley, Nichole Selvey, Jessica Sewing, Preston Sharp, Brandi Shipley, Cheryl Sieber, Laura Simon, Toby Sissons, Lori Situ

Olivia Smith, Caitlan Smith, Alex Smith, Kelly Speelman, Heather Stackhouse, Joy Stafford, Elizabeth Stewart, Jodi Stewart, Dana Stokesbary, Dereka Swaim, Rhoda Swann, Tawnee Tabor, Andrea Taylor, Mary Thomason, Marvin Tindall, Stacey Tracy, Amanda Trevino, Travis Trueblood, Jessica Tupper, Donald Turnbull, Stacy Turner, Marissa Vancleave, Tyler Vancleave, Kevin Vannoy, Kelsey Vene, Blair Wallace, Behtany Walles, Tom Walters, Ranesa Ward, Jennifer Wardlow, Kathy Webb, Bethany White, Audrey White, Aaron White, Mary White, Megan White, Janel White, Courtney Whitehead, Jennifer Williams, Jessica Woods, and Cheri Wright

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Jason Smith: I will always fight for our Second Amendment rights

(From Eighth District Congressman Jason Smith)

Former Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was famous for saying, “Never let a crisis go to waste.”

Washington Democrats and their allies in the media have internalized this advice so well that their playbook is completely predictable. Over the past two weeks, we’ve seen tragic shootings in Atlanta and in Boulder, Colorado. 

My heart breaks for the victims of these shootings, and the criminals who committed these acts deserve to face the maximum punishment available.

But before the investigations were complete and before the motive was known, activists already decided that America is a violent, racist nation and new gun control laws were needed. As we’ve seen so many times before, these narratives collapse completely under closer inspection.

Let’s look at the facts: Federal law already requires background checks on every single commercial gun purchase in America. Any licensed dealer is prohibited by Federal and state laws from transferring a gun to a prohibited person. Careful review of the facts surrounding recent mass shootings shows that nothing Democrats have called for would have prevented these tragic events. Both shooters underwent background checks and purchased their guns legally. What their policy priorities would do is violate the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.

After many high profile media personalities blamed angry white males for the shooting in Boulder, we learned the shooter was a 21-year-old from Syria who regularly posted his anti-Trump, pro-Islam views online and was known for his history of violent outbursts. After many of these same figures suggested the Atlanta shooter targeted his victims because of their race, we learned the suspect had previously been treated for sex addiction and that appears to be the most likely motive for his crime.

None of this has slowed Washington Democrats’ push to restrict the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans. Recently, I was proud to stand up to support Americans’ constitutional rights by voting against H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446, bills that would delay legal firearm purchases and take the first steps to creating a national gun registry. If either one of these bills became law, it would be the equivalent requiring sober drivers to pass a breathalyzer to crack down on drunk drivers.

As if these bills aren’t bad enough, there are proposals that are worse still. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) has introduced H.R. 127, the Sabika Sheikh Firearm Licensing and Registration Act, which would require every firearm in America to be registered. I will do everything in my power to ensure this bill never sees the light of day.

In fact, I actually believe we should make commonsense changes to laws that unnecessarily restrict the 2nd Amendment rights of Americans, specifically members of the United States Armed Forces. For that reason, last week I joined Senator Josh Hawley in introducing H.R. 1858, the U.S. Military Right to Carry Act to ease the burden active duty military servicemembers face when renewing concealed-carry licenses. This legislation allows servicemembers to renew their permits by mail and requires states to treat members of the military equally to state residents in issuing concealed carry permits. The job of the men and women of the U.S. military is to keep us safe, and there is no reason their right to carry should be denied or inhibited just because of where they’re stationed.

The residents of the State of Missouri can rest assured I will always fight for their Second Amendment rights.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Paul Richardson: You mean that was it?

It’s a world divided. If you don’t get the truth out, there are people ready and willing to perpetuate a story of their own version and most likely a false narrative to boot. 

Social media and an abundance of quasi news sources bombard the internet where they find a population that is ready receive and believe.

My eccentric daughter and I have had a series of discussions about how and where to validate information that we view on the internet. While we may have different philosophies and viewpoints on several subjects, she understands that I don’t rely on just one source. 

Despite the source, or their world view, I have found that bias always finds a way to slip through. My method is to look at a minimum of three sources, some which I know have conflicting biases, find the common threads, pull them for each tapestry and then pursue the facts from these, hopefully arriving at something that at least resembles the truth.

It’s a lot of work and effort, but at this point, it has kept me from falling prey to information that is clearly developed from an opinion and then presented in a way that some readers bypass the caveats and assume that it is fact. 

Sometimes those caveats are simply mere phrasings that keep the presenter above any legal repercussions but are so subtle that they are lost behind the information that is presented, but only is an opinion and not fact. 

My dear mother recently brought up an item that she had assumed was truth and even had based that decision on the fact that another family member had also heard the same thing. This particular statement was not reported or supported by any other news source, indicating to me that it was suspect. As a few days passed and things remained the same, it became evident that this information was the projection of an opinion.

This same type of burrowing by the mental moles has been taking place regarding the vaccines. Yes or no, up, or down, whether or not people choose to take any of the vaccines is purely a matter of choice to me. 

Having said that, the good wife and I made our decisions and were fortunate enough to get a call weeks ahead of the time that we expected. It is done. We went, we got stabbed, we survived, we are alive!

The experience that we encountered in no way resembled the information that was presented by every source. No long lines, no “must apply for appointment online”, no drama. 

In fact, we put my dear mother’s name on the list and two days later she got the call and received her dose. My eccentric daughter called me to see how I was doing. She couldn’t find a provider in Joplin, so she and Stretch drove to our pharmacy and got vaccinated four days after she put her name on the list.

It was all very anticlimactic. No fuss, no muss and I’m left saying, “You mean, that was it?”

Nancy Hughes: Weighing the worth

"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other,
just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)

A round oak table was something I had wanted for years. We started our marriage with a wobbly little table that was always falling apart. I honestly thought the legs were made of aluminum foil because simply placing a paper plate on top of it would cause the table legs to bend and the need for additional screws, a nail and a tube of super glue.

But one Saturday at an auction we saw it: a beautiful round oak table with 3 leaves . . . exactly what I had dreamed about for years! It had been refinished by the previous owner and did not have one scratch or water spot on it. 

My husband bid more than he should have – probably because I kept bumping his elbow to bid higher –and the table became ours! We proudly placed it in the kitchen and every time I walked by I would slow down just long enough to run my fingers across the beautiful smooth surface.

Not too long after our purchase, my mother-in-law came to visit for a week. She was an amazing cook and we loved her “everything-from-scratch” meals that she made. We knew when we both got home from work her first day there, we would be met with the aroma of chicken and homemade noodles, rolls and apple dumplings for dessert. What we didn’t think about was that we would be met with something else: scratches, long and deep, on the surface of our new table.

I knew immediately what had happened when I saw my mother-in-law’s face as I walked in the door and she pointed at the table, head bowed. “You are going to be so mad at me,” she quietly cried. “I cut the noodles on your table. I didn’t even think about my knife making any marks on it. Look what I have done. I am so sorry.” Deep cuts, sliced in a crisscross pattern in every direction, marred the beautiful table top.

Can I be honest with you here? My very first thought was “What in the world were you thinking?” and it was a high-pitched voice inside my head. Nice thing for a Christian to be thinking, huh. 

But God, in His wonderful wisdom, whispered something to me that immediately calmed the voice: “It’s only a table, Nancy. It’s only a table. Someday it will belong to someone else and the marks will not be important. But what you say to your mother-in-law right now IS important.”

I looked at the table and then smiled at my mother-in-law: “Are you kidding? It’s not a big deal. You came all the way here to stay with us and made homemade chicken and noodles for supper. I love how much you love us.” As I gave her a hug, praises went up from my heart as I thanked the Lord for reminding me that “It’s only a table.”

If only I could tell you that I always showed compassion in other situations as well. My heart hurts to think of other times when I was more focused on things of no value compared to the hearts of my husband, children or friends. Can you identify with me?

As a Christian, I absolutely have to remember that in life, words spoken carelessly in anger cut deeper than cuts accidentally made on a table. My encouragement when things happen is to take a deep breath, remember Ephesians 4:32, and be quick to hug and love as you remind yourself “it’s only a table.”

Lord, how many times I have been upset over something that truly is unimportant. Forgive me for focusing on temporary things instead of hearts. Help me to look at everything in my life through your eyes. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

R.A.P. it up . . .


How often do you get upset or frustrated over situations that happened accidentally and say the first thing that pops into your head?

What is the reaction of the person or persons you spoke to about the situation? Hurt and broken? Or happy and relieved?


The next time a situation occurs and you are angry or frustrated, silently ask the Lord “Is this only a table?” and if it is, focus on the person in front of you and their feelings.

Write down Scripture to keep with you to pull out when you are tempted to say or do something that will only cause heartache or hurt feelings.


Ephesians 4:32 (NIV) "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Proverbs 15:1 (NIV) "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."

Colossians 3:13 (NIV) “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Friday, March 26, 2021

Webb City administrator named assistant superintendent at Monett

(From Monett R-1 Schools)

The Monett Board of Education and school administration are pleased to announce Dr. Melissa Huff as the incoming Assistant Superintendent for the 2021-2022 school year.

Dr. Melissa Huff has served the Webb City School District in Webb City, MO, in several capacities during the past nine years. Dr. Huff was previously a fourth-grade teacher, Title instructional coach, district instructional coach, and an assistant principal at Webb City Middle School.

Prior to joining the Webb City team, Dr. Huff was a teacher and principal in the Fairview School District in West Plains, MO. 

She has served as a curriculum specialist and has facilitated professional development for local and national organizations in curriculum development, early childhood, new teacher development, student-led conferences, and technology integration.

Dr. Huff completed her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from the Southwest Baptist University; her Master's in Educational Administration from Missouri State, Specialist in Educational Leadership from William Woods University, and her Doctorate in Educational Administration from Lindenwood University.

Dr. Melissa Huff said, "I am honored to have been selected as the Monett School District's Assistant Superintendent. I look forward to working with a great team of educators as we help our students develop greatness."

Dr. Huff will officially begin her duties as the Assistant Superintendent on July 1, 2021, as she succeeds Dr. Mark Drake, who will be moving into the Superintendent role. Dr. Huff is a servant leader committed to the mission and vision of the Monett School District.

Push to limit local health orders during pandemics fails in Missouri Senate

By Tessa Weinberg

More than a year into the COVID-19 virus’ spread in Missouri, a push to restrain local officials’ authority to issue restrictions in future pandemics died on the Senate floor early Thursday morning after it failed to receive enough votes needed to win initial approval.

Senate Bill 12, a combination of a handful of bills sponsored by members of Missouri’s Conservative Caucus, returned to the Senate floor Wednesday night in a more pared-down version.

Despite nearly eight hours of debate on a single amendment, lawmakers failed to reach a compromise, with initial approval failing on a bipartisan vote of 11 to 19.

Nine Republicans joined every Democrat in voting against the bill.

First heard in committee late January, the bill was first debated by the full Senate last month but set aside after four hours of discussion.

Under the version reintroduced Wednesday, health orders issued by local officials during a declared state of emergency would be limited to 15 days in a 180-day period and require approval from local governing bodies to be extended.

The bill stipulated that local health orders could only be subsequently extended for two additional 15-day periods in the 180-day period if they receive approval from two-thirds of the local jurisdiction’s governing entity. Meanwhile, orders limiting a specific business could be renewed indefinitely every 30 days by a same vote of the body.

That same entity could also terminate an order upon a simple majority vote.

Amid the pandemic, state leaders have justified forgoing statewide restrictions because of a need to prioritize local control.

Rather than limiting local officials’ control, the bill was returning oversight to local governing bodies elected by residents, said Sen. Bob Onder (pictured), a Republican from Lake St. Louis and the bill’s sponsor.

“Although it puts limits on the total duration of these shutdown orders, it empowers the locally elected legislative body that are accountable to the people,” Onder said. “And they can weigh the costs and benefits, the risks and the return of these really drastic orders that have so much effect on people’s lives and livelihoods, their dreams, their life savings, the profession they choose to pursue”

However, local health officials and lawmakers opposed to the bill worried it was too reactive to the pandemic at hand, and that its severe restrictions would hinder local officials’ response come the next one.

In an effort to limit the legislation’s scope to the current pandemic, Sen. Steven Roberts, a Democrat from St. Louis, proposed an amendment that would have ended the provisions limiting local health orders one-year after the bill goes into effect.

“But what about the next pandemic?” Roberts said. “If we’re dealing with something more serious, I wouldn’t want us to be short sighted and making something where we’re limiting our local governments to act quickly.”

Under the bill, local jurisdictions would also be prohibited from limiting travel based on having a form of a vaccine passport or from dictating the number of people in a private home. And both state agencies and local officials would be barred from imposing restrictions on the free exercise of religion, including orders that affect attending religious services.

Businesses could also receive a tax credit if their property was affected by city-wide or county-wide restrictions that lasted for more than a cumulative 15 days.

The version up for debate Wednesday left off a number of measures that had been a sticking point for some lawmakers in earlier discussions, like a provision that would have required approval from both chambers of the Missouri General Assembly for any additional extensions on health orders.

Fury over local restrictions and what Sen. Andrew Koenig, a Republican from Manchester, described as “unfettered power” focused primarily on those issued by St. Louis County Executive Sam Page.

Restaurant owners in the St. Louis area previously testified to lawmakers about the difficult decisions shutdowns forced them to make. Lawmakers said health officials need to take into account the economic impacts of their choices, too.

But opponents to the bill wondered if the bill’s sponsors were taking a “shotgun approach.”

Sen. Barbara Washington, a Democrat from Kansas City, said lawmakers may regret applying “that anger and irrational and rushed thought” directed at one entity to the entire state.

Debate on the amendment stalled into the evening and shortly after 1 a.m. Sens. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, and John Rizzo, D-Independence, said it was time to vote after a compromise could not be reached. Roberts withdrew his amendment.

Supporters of the bill argued that lengthy lockdowns aimed at staving off the virus’ spread abused residents’ rights.

“If we’re going to take people’s rights away, if we’re going to take people’s property away, it should be a high standard,” Koenig said.

But Sen. Karla May, a Democrat from St. Louis, said it’s more than just an abstract argument around liberty and comes down to “a callous disregard” for others’ lives when restrictions are ignored.

“These adults who act like children… talking about their freedom and all of this crazy stuff when people are dying all around them,” May said. “It’s just amazing to me.”

Local public health departments and some of the largest cities and counties the bill would impact said the legislation could potentially cost them millions of dollars and would likely lead to an increase in COVID cases and subsequently contract tracing.

Based on 2020 property taxes, Springfield officials anticipated a tax credit of six months of occupancy restrictions could cost up to $4.5 million, according to the fiscal analysis for an earlier version of bill.

“According to the City of St. Louis Assessor’s Office, there is not enough information to even ‘guestimate’ the fiscal impact of this proposed legislation, but the impact could be substantial, if not exorbitant for the City,” the analysis read.

Ste. Genevieve County Collector’s Office officials said their software wouldn’t have the capability to issue a tax credit on any tax bill, let alone just the city or county portion, according to the analysis.

It remains to be seen if the Senate will consider a similar bill restricting the length of public health orders that was passed by the House earlier this month.

Tessa Weinberg covers education, health care and the legislature. She previously covered the Missouri statehouse for The Kansas City Star and The Columbia Missourian, where her reporting into social media use by the governor prompted an investigation by the Attorney General’s office. She most recently covered state government in Texas for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Joplin Health Department offers COVID vaccinations as Phase 2 opens for Missouri

(From the Joplin Health Department)

The City of Joplin Health Department will offer an opportunity to receive the Covid vaccination on Tuesday, March 30. 

Health Department staff will offer 200 first-dose Moderna vaccines from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. to those adults eligible according to Missouri’s Covid-19 Vaccination Plan. 

These appointments will be on the campus of Missouri Southern State University. ALL individuals MUST have an appointment to receive a vaccine.


This clinic is open to individuals 18 years old and above who are in the Phase 1 category and the newly opened Phase 2 category. Phase 2 includes adults who are in the following sectors:

Chemical Sector
Commercial Facilities Sector
Critical Manufacturing Sector
Defense Industrial Base Sector
Financial Services Sector
Food & Agriculture Sector 2
Higher Education
Disproportionately Affected

All Missourian adults become eligible on April 9. For details of the Priority Phases, visit the State’s website at

To schedule an appointment for this indoor vaccine clinic, go to the scheduling tool found on the City’s website at . For those without computer access, please call 417-623-4973.


This walk-up indoor vaccination clinic will be held on the Missouri Southern State University campus in the FEMA storm shelter. The address is 1012 N. International Avenue, Joplin, MO 64801. Parking for the clinic will be in the parking lot to the west of the building and can be accessed by entering the Criminal Justice parking lot from Newman Road.

Once an individual schedules an appointment, they will receive a confirmation email with more details about their appointment.

“This clinic will be a good vaccine opportunity to those who are in this newly opened Phase 2 category,” said Ryan Talken, Director of the Joplin Health Department. “If citizens do not get an appointment at this clinic, we encourage them to keep watching for future clinics. We will host these as we receive vaccine supply. Citizens can also check with their pharmacy and other health providers for available vaccination opportunities.”

Because of the limited inventory, clinics may not be offered in a pattern, but when supply and resources are available. The City will announce the dates and hours through the local news media and City website. Citizens can sign up to receive City news releases to get notifications about future clinics by using the Notify Me feature of the City’s website at . Select the News Flash option and then City News category. When entering their contact information, they can choose to receive a text or an email when a news release is posted on the City’s website.

Talken reminds the public that only those people who have an appointment for the clinic will receive the vaccine. Individuals who come to Missouri Southern State University and do not have an appointment will be turned away.

Billy Long: While we're building bridges, let's build one to unity

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

In Washington, DC the flavor of the month is partisanship anytime and all the time. One exception to the rule may be in addressing our long overdue infrastructure issues. 

How many more bridges must collapse before we wake up and smell the coffee? Be it roads, bridges, airports, schools, or broadband, our nation’s infrastructure is aging and desperately needs an overhaul. Congress is in a position to come together in the best interest of our citizens and finally do something about it.

For years I have been pushing the White House and Congressional leaders to get serious about taking up an infrastructure package. Time is certainly of the essence and for years I've been saying we needed to do this yesterday. I hear it all the time back home "I really want you all in Congress to work together and quit fighting!" 

A long overdue stab at addressing infrastructure in this country would give us a credible way to work across the aisle in a bipartisan way. With the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel getting brighter, an infrastructure package will bring much-needed jobs to local communities and bolster economic recovery. This is something that Democrats and Republicans can and should do together.

Republicans have made their willingness to work in a bipartisan fashion on infrastructure well known. For years we have been reaching out to the other side to get a bill passed. Right now, Democrats hold the key to unity, but they seem to be fumbling it. 

Media reports and a hot mic between a Democratic Senator and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg revealed that Democrats have no intention of involving Republicans on their infrastructure package. This is extremely disappointing as infrastructure is an issue that will have an impact on everyone, and everyone’s voice deserves to be heard. 

It is especially disheartening here in Missouri since our own MO-06 Congressman Sam Graves is the Ranking Member on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Sam would have a tremendous influence on the final package and make sure Missouri's priorities are well represented if only he were allowed to have a voice.

In a bipartisan infrastructure bill, every member would be able to listen to the voices of their constituents and contribute. 

For example, I introduced H.R. 2095 in response to the deaths of 3 kayakers all in the same spot on Bull Creek just north of Branson in Taney County. This bill asks the Army Corps of Engineers to determine what resources, personnel and monetary, they need to be able to include public safety as a condition for authorizing proposed projects and to inspect every structure after it's completed. 

It is my hope that this bill would be included in an infrastructure package passed by Congress. If Democrats decide to move forward with a completely partisan infrastructure package, this and many other non-partisan proposals introduced by Republicans that can benefit the public would be left out.

President Biden ran on unity. He made unity the focus of his inaugural address, but so far, his words have proven to be empty. 

Passing a bipartisan infrastructure bill is a chance for President Biden and Congressional Democrats to prove that they are capable of working across the aisle for the good of all - not just their friends and allies. I am ready and willing to work with them. As I said before, the key to unity is in the hands of the Democrats, they can either open the door to bipartisanship or continue to fiddling around with the keys.

Springfield-Greene County Health Department ready to vaccinate newly eligible workers next week

(From the Springfield-Greene County Health Department)

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department will offer COVID-19 vaccines to essential workers in Phase 2 beginning Monday, March 29. Eligible individuals can now schedule appointments for the Health Department’s next vaccination clinic on Wednesday, March 31.

This phase of eligibility will allow many who work in industries that have been economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic to receive vaccine, including those who have frequent close contact with the public due to their roles. 

The activation of Phase 2 will allow for an equitable recovery and take us one step closer to lifting restrictions and returning to a sense of normalcy.


Using Missouri’s COVID-19 vaccination priority phase definitions, SGCHD has determined that Phase 2 includes workers in the following workplaces:
Banks, credit unions, insurance agencies, and other financial services
Event venues and other entertainment and public assembly establishments
Higher education
Hotels, motels, and other lodging
Personal care services
Restaurants and bars

Phase 2 also includes individuals experiencing homelessness and disproportionately affected populations.

To schedule a vaccination appointment, eligible individuals should first complete the Missouri Vaccine Navigator registration and obtain a patient ID. Those who have already registered should have received an email with their patient ID and can call the State of Missouri hotline at 877-435-8411 if they are unable to locate it.

An appointment can then be made for one of the multiple COVID-19 vaccine clinics scheduled by visiting Individuals who do not have access to the internet, or who need assistance completing the Missouri Vaccine Navigator or scheduling an appointment can call our call center Monday-Friday, 8 am to 5 pm at 417-874-1211.

Employers or organizations who would like more information on COVID-19 vaccination options and resources for their employees or individuals can complete this form:

Parson signs executive order extending state of emergency in Missouri

(From Gov. Mike Parson)

Today, Governor Mike Parson signed Executive Order 21-07 extending the state of emergency in Missouri through August 31, 2021, to help accelerate COVID-19 recovery.

“For over a year now, we have worked nonstop to take a balanced approach, fight COVID-19, and keep Missourians as safe as possible,” Governor Parson said. 

“We have made incredible progress in a short amount of time, and we must continue doing all that we can to support Missouri citizens, business, and communities throughout the recovery process.”

The state of emergency extension will allow the state continued flexibility in providing resources and easing regulatory burdens to further assist Missouri’s COVID-19 recovery efforts. This also allows for continued utilization of the Missouri National Guard and federal funding for COVID-19 response efforts.

Governor Parson initially declared a state of emergency on March 13, 2020, with the signing of Executive Order 20-02. Since that time, nearly 600 state statutes and regulations have been waived or suspended to increase efficiency and effectiveness in responding to COVID-19.

Executive Order 21-07 keeps many of the previous measures in place, including those related to telemedicine, motor carrier limitations, the sale of unprepared foods by restaurants, and remote notary access for certain legal documents such as estate planning.

Over 200 waivers are currently in the rescission process as the state continues to recover and the need for certain waivers diminishes. However, the Governor’s Office will continue to work with state agencies to identify regulations that can be permanently eliminated or streamlined moving forward.

To view Executive Order 21-07, click here.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Republican lawmakers vote down funding for voter-approved Medicaid expansion

By Rudi Keller

A partisan battle over Medicaid expansion in the House Budget Committee ended Thursday with a vote against spending $1.9 billion to implement the medical program approved by voters in August.

The arguments for and against a special spending bill that separated expansion costs from other Medicaid budget lines echoed the debates of past years – Republicans argued that it cost too much and would force cuts in other areas while Democrats contended that the state has plenty of cash and expansion would save money for state taxpayers.

The committee voted 9-20 against the spending bill that allocated $130 million of general revenue and $1.9 billion overall to expand coverage to households with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty guideline.

The vote came as the committee was working through proposed changes to the $34.1 billion budget proposed in January by Gov. Mike Parson. The full House will debate the budget in floor sessions next week.

Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage, argued the Medicaid program already costs too much and needs changes to control costs and streamline services.

“If we expand Medicaid without doing that we are simply pouring gasoline on the fire of problems that could come along due to increased spending,” Smith said.

The committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Peter Merideth of St. Louis, said the state’s share will be minimal and that the state has a healthy financial balance. Expansion will mean a healthier state, financial support for providers and a stronger economy as the federal support is spent, he said.

“We are being offered a false choice and a false narrative,” Merideth said. “We are acting like even this $100 million of general revenue is a fiscal crisis.”

Medicaid is a shared obligation of the state and federal government, but Missouri’s current program, called MoHealthNet, offers few services that are not required to participate in the program.

Adults with children and no other qualifying conditions such as a disability are covered only if their income is less than the family would receive in cash welfare benefits, $292 a month for a single-parent household with two children. No working age adults without children are covered unless they qualify for another reason.

Almost 1 million people are currently covered by the program.

Amendment 2, approved by voters last year, requires the state to offer coverage to approximately 275,000 people with annual incomes up to $17,744 for an individual and $35,670 for a family of four. But rather than settling the debate that has raged in the state since passage of the Affordable Care Act, Amendment 2 instead added a new layer of disagreement to the familiar debate.

Opponents cited the relatively close vote – 53 percent of voters supported Medicaid expansion – and the lack of a funding source for the state’s share. Proponents said that by approving the constitutional amendment, lawmakers were obligated by their oath of office to fund it.

The Missouri Constitution prohibits initiatives that require lawmakers to make new appropriations without also providing a source of money. The Western District Court of Appeals rejected a pre-election challenge to Amendment 2 because it did not explicitly require a new appropriation. Whether that was true would be determined when the amendment was implemented, the court said.

Republicans contend that if lawmakers do not appropriate specifically for the expansion, it cannot take place.

“If we want initiatives with appropriations, we need to be honest with the people and say where the money is coming from,” said Rep. David Evans, R-West Plains. “If they had drafted it, including what the constitution actually requires, it may not have gotten over that 50 percent mark.”

Democrats said that federal changes to Medicaid, including a boost in the federal share of the existing program for states that expand coverage, means that while the state may spend more overall, it will spend less from general revenue for Medicaid with an expanded program.

“Report after report, from state after state, is showing that this is the fiscally responsible thing to do,” state Rep. Maggie Nurrenbern, D-Kansas City.

Medicaid expansion means more access to health care statewide, Nurrenbern siad.

“We see our rural hospitals hanging on by their fingernails and asking, ‘please let us provide vital health care to our communities,’” she said.

Instead of separating it out to a standalone spending bill, the governor’s proposed $34.1 billion budget for fiscal 2022 wrapped the cost into existing Medicaid spending for appropriation purposes.

Overall, the budget proposal calls for $14.1 billion for Medicaid, including $2.7 billion in general revenue, according to budget documents. Medicaid in Missouri cost $10.8 billion in fiscal 2020, about 4 percent more than the previous year.

The general revenue cost of Medicaid, however, went down in fiscal 2020 because of changes in federal support due to the pandemic. And because of the pandemic, it is likely it will cost much less general revenue than Parson’s budget indicated.

The cost of the existing program is shared with the federal government, and for the current year, Missouri’s stated share is about 35 percent. Because of the pandemic, that share was cut to about 29 percent starting in March 2020 and that emergency support will continue through the end of the year.

For people enrolled under the expansion program, the Affordable Care Act sets the federal share at 90 percent.

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan bill signed into law earlier this month by President Joe Biden included an incentive for the 12 states that haven’t expanded Medicaid coverage to do so. The federal share of the existing program would be increased by 5 percent, estimated to produce a savings for Missouri of more than $1 billion over the next two years.

Missouri already has a record budget surplus in the general revenue fund, which stood at $1.9 billion on March 1 and is expected to have $1.1 billion unspent at the end of the fiscal year. The federal stimulus bill also includes $2.8 billion in general support for Missouri state spending.

“Stop acting like we don’t have money because you don’t want to give health care to people,” Merideth said. “It is a lie and ignoring what Missourians told us to do.”

But Republicans said obtaining more federal funds will expand the national budget deficit and by refusing to appropriate the money, Missouri can help control federal debt.

“Are we willing to see the debt rise further?” said Budget Committee Vice Chairman Dirk Deaton, R-Noel. “Are we willing to take that vote, weaken our country at the expense of the Chinese and others?”

Rudi Keller covers the state budget, energy and the legislature. He’s spent 22 of his 30 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics, most recently as the news editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune. Keller has won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.