Friday, April 30, 2021

Billy Long: Gov. Parson's COVID vaccination plan has worked extremely well

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

Several weeks ago I wrote about the breakthrough that is mRNA vaccines and their safety and efficacy. Thanks to President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed, the United States has led the way in vaccine manufacturing, distribution, and administration. 

From the moment we knew an effective vaccine was on the horizon, Missouri Governor Mike Parson and his team came up with a plan to get vaccines into peoples arms while the federal government worked on getting vaccines to the states. The plan that state government officials came up with and executed has worked extremely well.


Like many states, Missouri administered its vaccines in phases, first going to the most vulnerable in our population and health care workers, then to at-risk individuals, then to front-line workers, and finally to any individual who wants one. 

Missouri moved through these phases quickly to ensure that the state could get to a point where vaccines are available to every resident. 

The Governor and his team have also been transparent with the data and vaccine availability throughout every step of the process. COVID-19 vaccination data is updated regularly and is publicly available at for anyone to see. At this dashboard, anyone can monitor the state’s vaccination rate and view data based on age, sex, race, or ethnicity. You can also view county-level vaccination rates.

Missouri has made great progress in getting vaccines into arms. As of this week, over 3.8 million doses have been administered and over 1.6 million people have completed vaccination. Overall, 37.1% of Missouri residents have initiated or completed their vaccinations. 

These numbers are even more impressive for the elderly. 62.7% of residents between the ages of 65 and 74 have completed vaccination and 65.7% of residents between the age of 75 and 84 have completed their vaccination. In the most populous county in Southwest Missouri, Greene County, 1 in every 4 individuals has completed vaccination. These numbers are impressive, and I am glad to see the elderly population embrace the vaccine, but there is still work to be done.

For example, we can make getting a COVID-19 vaccine easier and more convenient. In Joplin, a drive-thru clinic has made it so you never need to leave your car to get vaccinated. This is a model that some clinics are already doing and can be replicated on a larger scale. Convenience is a good way to get folks to turn out for a vaccine. If getting a vaccine is a hassle, people may not go out of their way to get vaccinated. Convenience and simplicity are key, and Missouri is making great progress on that front.

These COVID-19 vaccines have been tested, approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and are proven to be safe and effective. I consulted with my doctor to make sure taking the vaccine was the right thing for me to do. 

After being assured it posed no risks to me I did go ahead and receive my vaccine and I encourage everyone who is able to sign up to receive theirs after consulting with their doctor. 

The state has made the process of registering to receive your COVID-19 vaccine straightforward and simple. You can register at where you will be asked to submit some information about yourself. 

You will be able to identify vaccination events in your area and schedule an appointment. You can also call Missouri’s COVID-19 hotline at (877) 435-8411 to sign up and schedule your appointment.

I have said before how there is light at the end of the tunnel, and thanks to the effort of Governor Parson and his team, that light is even brighter for Missourians. Infection rates and hospitalizations in Missouri are down and folks are getting their vaccines. If you haven’t received your vaccine yet, I would encourage you to either sign up through the state’s portal or find a vaccinator near you. You can find a local vaccinator at

Man in his 50s is Jasper County's 156th COVID-19 death


The Jasper County Health Department reported a death due to COVID-19 today.

The victim was a man in his 50s and was the county's 156th death.

The department confirmed 15 cases Thursday and the county has had 9,296 cases to date, including 35 active cases.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Roaring River campgrounds closed due to flooding

(From Missouri State Parks)

Due to recent record flooding in the park and surrounding area, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has temporarily closed the campgrounds at Roaring River State Park. 

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) will continue to allow fishing, though angler access may be restricted in some areas due to flood clean-up efforts.
Flood damage will also impact the ability of MDC staff to stock fish in certain locations.

If the floodwater recedes to safe levels and cleanup goes well, the park’s campgrounds may open as early as Sunday, May 2. However, park staff will know more as the cleanup progresses and may have to move back the campground opening date accordingly. Missouri State Parks has notified everyone who had camping reservations through the night of May 1 about the campground closure.

The park’s campgrounds and fishing areas were quickly and safely evacuated early April 28 after heavy overnight rains caused severe flash flooding on the Roaring River and area waterways. While flash flooding is not uncommon in the area, this was the first time floodwater reached the park’s office. Due in large part to the recently completed renovations at MDC’s Roaring River Hatchery, hatchery staff reported minimal loss of fish inventory.

For more information on state parks and historic sites, visit Missouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Missouri offers excellent trout fishing throughout the state on rivers and streams that support naturally reproducing trout. For more information on trout fishing in Missouri, visit

Sam Graves: What President Biden should have said last night

(From Sixth District Congressman Sam Graves)

President Biden finally addressed a Joint Session of Congress this week.

While we can sit here and debate what the President could've said and what he should've said all day, it isn't going to change what he did say. And, it isn't going to change what happens tomorrow.

President Biden failed to lay out a clear vision on how to move America forward. He didn't offer any actual solutions to get Americans back to work and get our country back on track. Heck, he didn't even offer a plan to end the humanitarian and national security crisis he let spiral out of control at the border. 

Instead, he spent roughly an hour talking about how he wants to spend $6 trillion of your money to grow the federal government. That’s the plan—spend more money we don’t have. That's the last thing we need right now.

What we do need is real leadership—the kind President Biden promised us on day one of his administration. We need more than empty platitudes about bipartisanship, we need real tangible action.

There's no better place for the President to start than with infrastructure. It’s an issue where I think we can find common ground. Both parties agree we need to fix America's highways, waterways, bridges, ports and improve our rural broadband infrastructure. Roads, rivers, rail, routers…that’s infrastructure.

It's also clear that we can't afford a bunch of wasteful spending right now. American businesses, American workers, and American families are still suffering. We shouldn't be talking about an infrastructure bill that spends almost twice as much on building electric car charging stations as it does on fixing roads and bridges.

We should be talking about targeted investments, cutting red tape, and finding common ground on how we can fix our infrastructure without breaking the bank. We simply can't afford to mortgage our children's and grandchildren's future to foot the bill.

Make no mistake, there's plenty of common ground to be found. With just a little common sense, we can find it. I just hope the President is willing to seek it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Democrats vow court battle if legislature doesn't approve Medicaid expansion

By Rudi Keller

With the Missouri Senate poised for what promises to be a lengthy debate over Medicaid expansion, legislative Democrats said Tuesday that the fight over funding will move to the courts if lawmakers don’t approve money for the new coverage.

During a rally on the Capitol Building lawn, Senate Democrats promised to push for adding the $1.9 billion expected cost to the state budget. 

(Photo- House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, speaks at a rally intended to push the Missouri Senate to fund Medicaid expansion in the coming year- Rudi Keller/Missouri Independent).

During debate in the Senate Appropriations Committee, a proposal from Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, to include Medicaid expansion funding in the budget failed on a tie vote, with Hough and two other Republicans voting with Democrats in favor of the spending.

The Senate on Wednesday will debate the 13 spending bills that fund state operations in the year beginning July 1. The House-passed version did not include funding for Medicaid expansion to cover approximately 2750,000 people.

Sen. Barbara Washington, D-Kansas City, asked the approximately 100 people at the rally to visit Senate offices to lobby for votes. Democrats hold 10 seats in the 34-member Senate. If the three Republicans don’t change their votes, five more GOP Senators would be needed to give expansion an 18-vote majority in the Senate.

Four more votes would put the decision in the hands of Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, who only votes to break ties. Kehoe declined to say how he would vote when asked by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“We just need 18 votes to say fund Medicaid expansion and do what the people who sent you here told you to do,” Washington said.

In his budget plan, Gov. Mike Parson proposed using $130 million in general revenue, and spending $1.9 billion overall, to cover expansion costs. Asked on Tuesday whether he expects the final budget proposal to include that money, Parson said he didn’t know.

Parson, who opposed Medicaid expansion prior to the August passage of Amendment 2, has not lobbied lawmakers in favor of his budget proposal.

“In the last two weeks of the session a lot of things happen, so we will just have to wait and see what happens,” Parson said.

Medicaid is a shared obligation of the state and federal government, and 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.

Under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, states that expand Medicaid coverage to people earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty guideline pay only 10 percent of the cost. Missouri pays 34 percent of the cost of the traditional Medicaid program.

Expansion would cover working-age adults who earn up to $17,774 a year, the equal of working about 33 hours a week at the state minimum wage of $10.30 per hour. For a single parent with a child, the limit rises to $24,039 a year, or the equivalent of working full time for $11.55 per hour.

“We are not talking about giving free health care to millionaires here,” House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said. “We are talking about the person working two part-time jobs, 40 hours a week, pulling in under $18,000 a year.”

Before the August vote, Republicans contended passage would force the state to increase taxes or cut programs such as public schools to cover the cost.

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.

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.

There is no question that the state has the money needed for its share – the general revenue fund will end this year with a $1 billion surplus, according to Parson’s budget projection. In addition to that money, the state is sitting on almost $500 million from an increased federal share of Medicaid due to the COVID-19 pandemic and would receive a 5 percent cut in its share of traditional Medicaid – equal to about $1.2 billion over two years – by expanding Medicaid coverage.

“The false narrative being sold that Missouri cannot afford to invest in the health of its residents and afford to invest in our children’s education is a lie,” Quade said.

The rally, small and socially distanced because of the COVID-19 pandemic, drew people from both the large urban areas that supported expansion and smaller communities that did not.

Susan Drummond of Boonville lives in the 19th Senate District, represented by Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia. While Cooper County, where Drummond lives, voted against Amendment 2 by almost a 2-1 vote, it received an equally strong vote in favor in Boone County, where Rowden lives.

The district as a whole voted for Medicaid expansion, with 63 percent in favor.

One argument being made by Republicans opposed to expansion is that because Amendment 2 did not include new revenue, lawmakers are not obligated to appropriate funds for it.

Drummond said Pinnacle Regional Hospital in Boonville closed in early 2020 in part because of a financial crunch created by the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid.

“I think Missouri voters have already said yes to this and I don’t see why the assembly wants to ignore us,” Drummond said. “I would say to Caleb Rowden we need to get our hospital up and running again in Cooper County.”

Amendment 2 directs the executive branch to change eligibility standards and did not direct the legislature to spend any money. If legislators refuse to pay for it, the next step is the courts, state Rep. Barbara Phifer, D-St. Louis, said.

“The fight has not ended,” she said. “This fight is going to go all the way to the Supreme Court of Missouri if we need it to and the people will win.”

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.

Greene County reports two COVID-19 deaths

(From the Springfield-Greene County Health Department)

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department is saddened to announce the death of two Greene County residents from COVID-19. These losses were reported to us between Wednesday, April 21 and Tuesday, April 27.

Our community lost:
A man in his 60s
A man in his 90s

One individual had an underlying health condition that put them at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. One individual was associated with long-term care.

Both fatalities occurred in April.

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

A total of 429 Greene County residents have died from COVID-19.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Oklahoma man sentenced for role in shooting at Seneca police officer

(From the Newton County Prosecuting Attorney's Office)

An Oklahoma man entered an Alford plea of guilty in Newton County Circuit Court for his part in shooting at a Seneca police officer and was sentenced to 18 years and 15 years in the Missouri Department of Corrections.

Kenneth Cecil Nelums, 61, Picher, Oklahoma, was sentenced by Judge Gregory Stremel of the 40th Judicial Circuit on Monday, April 26 to 18 years in prison on one count of assault in the first degree and to 15 years in prison on one count of unlawful use of a weapon. An additional count of armed criminal action was dismissed.

On September 12, 2020, a Seneca police officer was attempting to make a traffic stop of the vehicle carrying three suspects when he observed a back window open and a flash come from the vehicle, followed by bullets hitting the officer's patrol vehicle.

The vehicle proceeded through a fence and into a field where the occupants were able to evade pursuit. The vehicle was later located, in which officers found numerous weapons, spent bullet casings and bullet holes in the tailgate of the vehicle.

Nelums and two other suspects were later apprehended.

Co-defendant Bradley Ray Holmes, Jr. pleaded guilty on February 1, 2021, and co-defendant Tony Lucian Helm pleaded guilty on March 5, 2021 and both received a 15-year sentence in the Department of Corrections for their roles in the shooting.

The Alford Plea entered by the defendant allows him to plead guilty and admit there is sufficient evidence to convict without admitting guilt.

"Police are under fire both on the streets and in the media every day. We stand by our officers and we will serve out harsh penalties for those that endanger them," said Newton County Prosecuting Attorney William Lynch.

"These large sentences should send a message to anyone who would hurt a police officer; it will not be tolerated in Newton County.

The case was investigated by the Seneca Police Department and prosecuted by William Lynch and Sarah Crites of the Newton County Prosecutor's Office.

Joplin R-8 Board hires 21 teachers, accepts 11 resignations, one retirement

During an April 20 closed session, the Joplin R-8 Board of Education hired 21 teachers and accepted 11 resignations, one retirement.

The board also hired 14 classified employees and hired summer school teachers.

Certified Employment- Alex Bahl, Tabitha Bogar, Shalae Brown, Garrett Clark, Keely Frazee, Johnathan Gardner, Micah Hashman, Jennifer Journeycake, Natlie Kayser, Patricia Murray, Rebecca Olivares, Laura Phillips, Julie Russell, Morgan Secrist, Julie Burk, Daniel Gilbert, Peyton Hall, Hannah Horn, Jessica Irvin, Mia McFerron, Rebel Walton.

Kimberly Brewer, Matt Crane, Annette Elam, Anthony Ficken, Olivia Lotven, Eryn Miller, Dakota Newby, Marly Ramsour, Barry Sanborn, Connie Wilkinson, Christina Leonard

Retirement- Sally Junkins

Classified Employment- Shawn Berryman, Kristie Brannon, Sabrina Buzzard, James Clark, Brenda Cogbill, Sharon Crawford, Walter Dobbins, Hailey Johnson, Amber Pitts, Bridget Scheuerman, Chuck Sexson, Melanie Strickland, Charli Thurman, Michaela Glensky

Summer School Employment- Douglas Barto, Jana Bates, Jessica Brockman-Herron, Heather Brodrick, Christina Brown, Adrienne Carson, Amber Chandler, Matthew Crane, Jessica Davidson, Kelly Davis, Kristopher Dishman, Eric Doennig, Abbie Durr, Annette Elam, Shelby Frakes, Lauren Frieden, Ginger Gibson, Kim Gilmore, Jessica Henson, Jessica Hilton, Bobbie Hoag, Abbey Holloway, Sara Jackson, Julie Jasper, Melissa Kendall, Amanda Kent, Brandi Landis, Sarah Long, Ryan Lovell, Chelsea Meyer, Sara Meyer, Jennifer Mock, Darren Morgan, Teresa Morris, Sarah Nagle, Elizabeth Nichols, Linda Norwood, Laurie Olson, Carrie Owen, Amanda Pal, Gina Pendrak, Nicole Peters, Shelly Riddle, Carmen Seeley, Toby Sissons, Olivia Smith, Mary Thomason, Jordan Toscano, Katie Tupper, Tyler VanCleave, Jason Vieselmeyer, Aaron White, Erin White, Mary White, Courtney Whitehead, Jessica Woods

Nancy Hughes: Time to clean out the junk

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

The drawer on the left side of my sink had become a junk magnet. I don’t know when it happened. It seemed like a perfect place for pens and pads of paper. But in the blink of an eye it had morphed into a mismatched collection of “stuff” so massive that I struggled to close it without pushing and shoving the contents back in.

One morning I had had enough and decided to empty the drawer to see exactly what was in there. 

I found waded up gum wrappers, a fork and spoon with different patterns, 7 sticky pennies (I have no idea how they got that way and probably don’t want to know), 8 car keys (I have one vehicle), a nail file, 14 ink pens (half didn’t work) and 22 pads of paper from Phil’s Place (never been there – wherever it is).

As I dug deeper, I discovered an ash tray (I don’t smoke), scissors, a hammer, toothpicks, a mouse sticky trap (not used), a “genuine” 2 carat diamond ring (well, maybe not the “genuine” part), double-sided tape (stuck to everything around it), matches, a toothbrush, one puzzle piece, an old half-eaten bag of M&M’s (before there were colors), a phone charger (haven’t had the phone for 3 years), and the warranty to a refrigerator I owned 22 years ago. Mercy!

Here’s the thing: I did not intend for any of that junk to be there. I planned for only pens and paper to fill that space. Instead, every time I opened it, hundreds of other items got shoved in until there was no room for the only thing I wanted to be in the drawer in the first place.

Proverbs 4:23 is a reminder that “junk” can happen to my heart, too. Instead of keeping it free from anything except the presence of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word, I allow worldly “items” to creep in. Who am I kidding? I invite them in! Just a tiny dab of gossip – doesn’t take up much space. And then I’ll toss in just a few pads of judgment and a pen or two of anger. Jealousy shouldn’t take up too much space along with an old half-empty bag of regrets . . . get the picture?

Before long God’s Word has been squeezed out by Satan’s lies and I no longer hear the Holy Spirit over everything else vying for my attention. Proverbs 4:23 is a warning to us all. We have to intentionally guard our hearts from all the junk in this world. If we don’t, we will soon find that “the wellspring of life” will be dried up and replaced with worldly things that only do harm to our relationship with Jesus.

I need to continually clean out the junk in my kitchen drawer. But more importantly, I need to do a daily deep cleaning of the junk in my heart.

Father, please reveal to me all the junk in my heart that I need to throw away. Help me to be more like you every day. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

R.A.P. it up . . .


Have you ever noticed that you are struggling with hearing the Holy Spirit speak to you during prayer time?

What worldly “junk” can you identify in your heart that is smothering God’s direction for your life?


Journal conversations that you have had in the last week that might have allowed “junk” to find a place in your heart.

Beside each journal entry, put the date that you threw it out of your heart and ask the Lord to replace it with His Word.


Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

Psalm 119:11 (NIV) “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

Philippians 4: 7 (NIV) “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

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

Paul Richardson: The art of symbiotic relationship

In review, my multi-decade relationship with the good wife has been a mutually balanced event. While I am probably not an enlightened member of my gender, I do share and take ownership of many of the household chores. In like nature, the good wife takes on some outside chores that our neighbors would designate as “the husband’s job”.

This came to light in the early days of our relationship, when this tiny little nymph attempted to do my laundry. I have always preferred button-down shirts and in those days, I wore a lot of blue chambray shirts. 

One must understand that I had been doing my own laundry for at least eight years prior to meeting this girl. During that time, I had developed my own processes, methods, and preferences, including viable shortcuts.

As I bring the true details of the event to light, the good wife has a slightly modified version of the story, I arrived at a time when my clothing had been laundered and certain items, including the shirts, were hanging to dry. I never have and still don’t put my button-down shirts in the dryer, so as was my method, the shirts were hanging to dry. 

However, it was apparent that these shirts had been simply extracted from the washing machine and placed on the appropriate hanger and then to the rack, wrinkles, and all. 

In my apparent ignorance of how to properly establish and maintain a relationship with a girl that was definitely out of my league, I stated, “Thanks for the help, but I shake these out and straighten them to remove the wrinkles, thus cutting down on the ironing.” 

This is when I learned that: 1. She doesn’t iron, and 2. If I don’t like the way that she laundered my clothes, well, I could just do it myself! 

In defense of my case, one must understand that the good wife has abstained from the task of ironing since she left the residence of her parents.

I have been doing my own laundry, with that exception and only a couple of other exceptions, for the last, well now, forty-eight years. (Bless my dear mother for the years leading up to college.)

While that may have been the beginning of chores with no definition of gender, it is not the catalyst for this mental meandering. I was sitting after I had just completed the dishwashing, yes, dishwashing, my personal laundry, vacuuming, cleaning the downstairs bathroom, and certain other household chores are my unspoken but dedicated task, contemplating how the good wife and I share in many of the tasks around the homestead. 

While I have taken on the aforementioned items, she does all of the lawn mowing among other duties. This is not because I don’t like to mow, in fact I do, but my asthma and allergies propel this to a life-or-death event. 

So, the good wife mows the lawn, the neighbors drive by and then meddle with questions like, “So you make your wife mow the lawn, do you?” 

All the while they will never understand the Art of a Symbiotic Relationship!


Parson refuses to release contents of health director's resignation letter

By Tessa Weinberg
Missouri Independent

A week out from Randall Williams’ resignation as Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s health director, there remains little clarity on what spurred his sudden departure.

On Monday, the governor’s office refused to release a copy of Williams’ resignation letter, arguing that it was considered a closed record under the state’s Sunshine Law.

That follows a formal announcement last week that Williams resigned — without any reason given or any statement from Williams.

(Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services testifies before the House Special Committee on Disease Control and Prevention on Nov. 10, 2020. Photo by Tim Bommel/House Communications)

Days later, Parson praised Williams’ performance as director of the Department of Health and Senior Services but offered little explanation for the reasons he asked him to step down without a replacement in place.

Caroline Coulter, the deputy general counsel for the governor’s office, said Monday that Williams’ resignation letter is closed in its entirety. She cited a section of the Sunshine Law that permits closure of “individually identifiable personnel records, performance ratings or records pertaining to employees or applicants for employment.”

“No record will therefore be provided,” Coulter wrote in a letter in response to The Independent’s request.

Resignation letters from cabinet officials and agency heads have been released and made public in prior administrations.

In response to an open records request for the letter, Lisa Cox, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Senior Services, said “we do not have this in our possession.”

The Office of Administration, which oversees personnel issues in state government, did not locate a record in response, said Chris Moreland, the agency’s spokesman. Moreland said typically, resignation letters from other departments would not be submitted to the Office of Administration.

Williams did not respond to requests for comment over the course of the last week.

Parson told reporters Thursday that he asked both Williams and his former Chief Operating Officer Drew Erdmann to resign.

“We talked about things,” Parson said, “the future, we thought it was the best thing to do to part ways at this point.”

Parson noted that the last year has been both stressful and “extremely difficult” for members of his cabinet, who have been on the front lines of responding to the pandemic.

“I think it’s important to realize that they never had a break, never had the opportunity they couldn’t come to work,” Parson said, later adding: “And I’ll say this as governor, I expect so much out of my cabinet. I truly do. I push and I push hard. But also, I expect high quality work. I expect people to do their jobs.”

Parson stressed that both Williams and Erdmann have done “outstanding work” for him and wished them well. Both officials moved to Missouri in 2017 under former Gov. Eric Greitens, who appointed Williams and created the position of COO for Erdmann.

Williams’ resignation capped a contentious four years as Missouri’s top health official, in which he was embroiled in controversy for issues ranging from allegations of conflicts of interest surrounding the state’s nascent medical marijuana program to national headlines accusing him of tracking women’s menstrual periods.

Most recently, he became one of the most prominent faces of Missouri’s pandemic response and COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Adam Crumbliss, the director of DHSS’ Division of Community and Public Health, said during a Thursday meeting of Missouri’s Advisory Committee on Equitable COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution that Williams was returning to North Carolina to spend time with his elderly mother and family.

Robert Knodell, Parson’s deputy chief of staff, was named acting director of DHSS.

Knodell has played a key role in overseeing the state’s vaccine distribution and quickly jumped into his new position. On Wednesday, he was part of a White House forum outlining Missouri’s efforts to reach people with disabilities amid the rollout.

Williams was an obstetrician and gynecologist, and while Knodell has no medical background, Parson said he was “a logical candidate” because of his role closely overseeing the vaccine’s distribution. Parson said that when the deputy director position for DHSS was eliminated by legislators, that left a gap to replace Williams.

“But look, this is a very temporary assignment,” Parson said, “and I needed to put somebody over there just stability-wise to make sure I had a good idea to make sure things are going okay in the Department of Health, and I thought it was important to send one of my own people in there.”

Parson said he hopes to recruit a new department director within the next two months, and suggested he had previously wanted a change earlier.

“Frankly, when you’re going through the election process, it’s very hard to recruit anybody, not knowing whether you’re going to be elected governor or whether you’re not in a political year,” he said.

Parson did not definitively say whether Erdmann’s role will be replaced, which has been a point of contention for lawmakers who have long questioned the value of the job itself.

Jean Maneke, attorney for the Missouri Press Association, said the provision cited by the governor’s office to withhold Williams’ letter has not been tested by the courts in terms of how it applies to resignation letters.

The provision is cited often when school boards deliberate resignation letters in closed session during meetings, Maneke said.

“If you resigned, you’re done. You’re out. And I don’t really see that that has any personal information in it that justifies closing,” Maneke said.

On the other hand, Maneke said the legislature’s refusal to accept Rep. Rick Roeber’s resignation earlier this month could make a case for arguing a resignation can be refused in some instances.

“What is there in that letter that would constitute personal employee information that would justify closing it?” Maneke said. “Now, I suppose I might feel a little differently if we find out that there are a lot of details in that letter, and this is a person who’s a whistleblower. That, clearly, there’s some protection for.”

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 man who used church connection to molest underage boys sentenced to 22 years in prison

A Joplin man who used his church connection to prey on underage boys was sentenced to 22 years and six months in prison Monday in Jasper County Circuit Court.

Matthew Galati, 31, withdrew his not guilty plea and under a plea bargain agreement pleaded guilty to three counts of statutory sodomy with a boy under 12 years old.

In exchange for the plea, four counts of child abuse were dismissed.

Galati used his connection with the New Beginning Church in Miami, Oklahoma to gain access to underage boys, then molested them, according to the probable cause statement. The crimes took place in 2017.

On two occasions at Galati's home, the statement said, he touched an underage boy's sex organ. On a second occasion, the boy stayed overnight with Galati, who touched the child's sex organ while the two were watching a movie.

During that same time period, according to the statement, the boy and two other underage boys were sexually touched by Galati at his home, with the four of them naked in Galati's bed. At least two of the boys were in Galati's church group.

A felony charge of first degree sodomy is still pending in Newton County, where Galati allegedly took an 11-year-old boy into a Jacuzzi and then sexually assaulted him in a room at the LaQuinta Hotel, 3320 S. Range Line on September 16, 2017.

The probable cause statement said Galati and the boy were naked in the bed when Galati performed a sexual act on the boy with his hand. Hotel staff confirmed Galati checked into the hotel on September 16 and checked out September 17.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Trial of Joplin man charged with multiple counts of statutory rape, child molestation, sodomy to begin Tuesday

The trial of Daniel Franklin, 62, Joplin, who is charged with 10 felonies, including three counts of statutory rape, two counts of child molestation, two counts of statutory sodomy and single counts of statutory sodomy with more than one victim, enticement of a child and unlawful use of a weapon is scheduled to begin 9 a.m. Tuesday in Jasper County Circuit Court.

Judge Dean Dankelson will preside.

The trial was originally scheduled for October, but a mistrial was declared when Franklin had a medical emergency.


Three days have been set aside for the trial.

The charges involve three girls who were between the ages of 11 and 13 when the alleged crimes occurred in 2017.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Billy Long: I will continue to stand against the Affordable Care Act

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

March 23 was the eleven-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which most folks refer to as Obamacare. While I've always supported certain aspects of it such as guaranteeing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and allowing children to stay on their parent's insurance policy until they turn 26 years old, we can do better. 

We would be better served to replace the current law with legislation that still provides protections for people with pre-existing conditions but actually works for the American people and our healthcare system. You hear regularly that Obamacare is broken, but what exactly is broken about it? Please allow me to break it down here.


Obamacare on average more than doubled the cost of individual market health insurance – you heard that right, it doubled people's cost at a minimum. In 2013, the average premiums paid in the individual marketplace was $244, by 2019 average premiums had increased by 129% to $558. In the meantime, during that same period premiums for plans on large-group employer markets increased by an average of 29%. 

This is a stark contrast that shows that purchasing health insurance on public exchanges is proving to be more costly than Democrats expected when they passed Obamacare on a party-line vote with a promise that costs would actually go down. 

When looking at Missouri, these numbers are even worse. From 2013 to 2019, the average premium paid on the individual market increased from $197 to $595, an increase of 202%. The reality is that these stark increases in premiums are forcing people to put more and more money towards their health insurance every year, taking away from other expenses and bills. 

It's written into the law that Senators and Congressmen are required to buy Obamacare and not allowed to purchase the group insurance that every other government employee buys. 

So I know firsthand how much the cost of coverage has escalated. 

Many Americans received a reduction in taxes when President Trump signed his signature tax cuts into law but that same year most all of them saw their Obamacare premium escalated more than their tax savings. You read that right. It is simply unacceptable that Missourians have seen our insurance premiums triple.

If a drastic increase in premiums wasn't enough, how about the little-known nightmare that is the navigator program. When Obamacare was passed, there was $100 million included in its budget for “navigators." 

Navigators were tasked with helping people sign up on the public marketplace. Another caveat is that the navigators hired to help you could have no nexus to the insurance industry. Translation: if you're knowledgeable about health insurance, you need not apply - we're looking for rank amateurs here. In essence, people were hired to explain insurance plans to you that had no previous knowledge about health insurance coverage. 

This program has proven to be ineffective and wasteful, and the funding for this program is taken from fees the government takes from insurers participating in the exchange. In 2016, 17 navigators enrolled 100 people each. The average cost per enrollee was $5,000. One navigator received $200,000 from the federal government and successfully enrolled a grand total of one individual.

When navigators received funds, they were given goals they were supposed to meet. It turns out that a whopping 78% of navigators were not able to meet their enrollment goals, despite receiving over $50 million. In fact, navigators enrolled less than one percent of enrollees. 

Despite the navigator program’s failure, liberal groups are still promoting it as a way to enroll individuals in Obamacare. Their solution is to throw $100 million more to navigators because apparently $5,000 per enrollee is a good use of federal dollars.

I have supported various efforts to replace Obamacare with a more patient-friendly system, unfortunately, these efforts never came to fruition and we are still stuck with a corrupt and broken healthcare system. 

Americans desperately need their premiums to be competitive with private or employer health insurance plans and right now, that just is not the case. We need to stop waste within Obamacare by completely ending funding for programs such as the navigator program. 

Left-leaning groups that are friends of the White House and Congressional Democrats shouldn’t be rewarded with taxpayer dollars for their failure to enroll people in health insurance plans. Ultimately, the navigator program has proven to be a slush fund to dole out taxpayer dollars to liberal groups.

Obamacare is broken and needs to be replaced. We need to work towards building a healthcare system that is fair for doctors and patients and is more competitive. Premiums need to be reduced and corruption needs to come to an end. I will continue to stand up against the ACA and support replacing this flawed legislation. A 202% average increase in premiums for Missourians is unacceptable and I will continue to push for reform.

Joplin Health Department schedules COVID vaccine clinic for walk-in traffic or by appointment

(From the Joplin Health Department)

The City of Joplin Health Department will offer an opportunity to receive a Covid vaccination on Tuesday, April 27. Health Department staff will offer first-dose Moderna vaccines from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. to 18-year old adults and over. Identification will be required.

Everyone 18 and over is now eligible to receive this vaccine according to Missouri’s Covid-19 Vaccination Plan. These appointments will be on the campus of Missouri Southern State University.


Health Department staff are encouraging those needing a vaccination to take advantage of this clinic. Appointments are encouraged; however, the Clinic is also open to walk-in traffic while vaccine supplies last.

“People have busy schedules and sometimes life is unpredictable,” said Joplin Health Director Ryan Talken. “We understand that and want to make the vaccine available to those who sometimes don’t know their schedules in advance. The Clinic is open in the morning through early afternoon to help accommodate those seeking a proactive approach but have not been able to set a specific time.”

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. It is located behind the Criminal Justice center and drivers should enter from Newman Road onto the Criminal Justice lot and take the road east of the building to the storm shelter’s parking lot behind the justice center and west of the shelter facility.

For citizens wanting to make an appointment, health officials encourage them to utilize the COVID-19 Vaccine Navigator option that the State of Missouri developed. Individuals can go to or they can call the Southwest Missouri Regional COVID-19 Call Center at 417-874-1211 to register for a vaccination. Once an individual schedules an appointment, they will receive a confirmation email with more details about their appointment.

All Missourian adults became eligible on April 9.

Vicky Hartzler: It's time to put Missourians in charge of setting school lunch prices


(From Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler)

Throughout our nation and here at home, schools seek to provide nutritious lunches for our children at affordable prices. 

We know students learn best when their fundamental needs are met. But if our state is forced to comply with burdensome federal regulations which increase costs, our children may be priced out of their current food program, creating unnecessary waste and hungry children. 

That’s why I introduced the School Lunch Affordability Act which permanently puts the folks who know our kids best back in charge of their school lunch prices: Missourians — not Washington.

This legislation amends the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to allow our local school districts who are operating in the black to continue serving school lunches at affordable prices, free from federal government burdens which would hamper the success of the program.

It’s time to stop Washington’s one-size-fits-all mandates and return local control back to local schools where it belongs.

Joplin man sentenced to seven years on child pornography charge

 A federal judge sentenced a Joplin man who possessed child pornography and molested a seven-year-old boy to seven years in prison on a child pornography charge during a hearing today in U. S. District Court in Springfield.

After his sentence is completed, David Pierce, 53, will be on supervised probation for 15 years.

Pierce used his status as the live-in friend of a Joplin babysitter to gain access to the children, according to the plea agreement.

The Joplin Police Department's investigation into allegations against Pierce began after a hotline call was made about a seven-year-old boy's inappropriate actions at school, according to the complaint.

Under questioning at the Children's Center, the boy said he had watched videos of sex and graphically described their content and that Pierce had showed them to him on his phone while the boy was at the babysitter's house, the complaint said.

The boy said "Dave" also touched him inappropriately.

The babysitter acknowledged that she took care of the boy, as well as another boy.

Pierce denied showing the boy pornography, but he said he let the seven-year-old use his phone to play games and watch YouTube videos.

When Detective Adam New asked Pierce if he had fondled the boy, Pierce "replied that he never intentionally touched (the boy) inappropriately."

Questioning of the second child indicated Pierce had shown that boy pornography, as well, according to the complaint.

After obtaining a search warrant, investigators did a forensic examination of Pierce's phone and found 1,217 child pornography images, the complaint said.

Bill banning transgender students from sports teams passes Missouri House

By Tessa Weinberg

After hours of fierce debate that spanned the course of two days, the Missouri House on Wednesday signed off on a prohibition on transgender students participating on the sports teams that match their gender identity.

The provision, offered as an amendment by Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, to House Bill 1141 was adopted by a vote of 100 yes to 51 against, with one member voting present.

(Photo: Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, presents HJR 53 before the House Emerging Issues Committee on March 3, 2021- by Tim Bommel/House Communications)

Yet for the second time in two days, the underlying bill was tabled before it could be granted initial approval by the House. This time, debate stalled over an amendment that would have barred school districts from teaching curriculum on critical race theory or the 1619 Project by The New York Times, that detailed the United States’ legacy of slavery.

Lawmakers in support of the measure insisted the move was not intended to discriminate against transgender youth, while those in opposition became emotional as they shared the experiences of their own transgender family members and warned the provision would cost lives.

Rep. Ian Mackey, D-St. Louis, cited a 2015 study that found 40 percent of transgender people surveyed had attempted suicide.

“Can we agree that people in our state deserve dignity and respect, especially under the color of law, and on a topic that is so unfamiliar to us,” Mackey said, noting there are no transgender lawmakers in the House.

Basye has sponsored a version of the language as a constitutional amendment that would allow voters to decide the issue. House Joint Resolution 53 was passed out of the rules committee earlier this month, but has yet to be heard on the House floor.

“I’m not a homophobe. I’m not a transphobe,” said Basye, who shared that his younger brother is gay.

Basye argued it comes down to protecting the integrity of women’s sports and stressed that transgender students could still play in co-ed sports leagues.

“I care about everybody. I love everybody,” Basye said. “This is not about ill feelings. This is about doing the right thing and protecting girls.”

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said she had been assured the amendment would not resurface Wednesday afternoon after the House had voted to expel a Republican member who had been accused by his adult children of sexual and physical abuse.

With less than a month left in the session and after conversations with the Senate, “we all know in this body this bill is not going to become law,” Quade said. Instead, she said, the conversation was spanning the course of two days for the sake of political futures and upcoming elections.

“I ask that you think about the children who are listening, the same children that we voted to protect this morning who are deeply at risk,” Quade said.

Transgender youth and their family who testified against the bill last month said it was a solution in search of a problem — noting that the Missouri State High School Activities Association already has a policy in place outlining requirements for transgender youths’ participation.

The association requires an approved application and transgender girls must go through one year of “documented” hormone therapy before they may participate on girls’ teams.

And once granted, transgender girls must document that “the appropriate hormone levels are being maintained,” according to the policy.

Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, said he disagrees with Basye’s amendment and asked if Basye planned to still offer the language as a constitutional amendment, which would put the question on the statewide ballot for voters to decide.

“I would like to do both,” Basye said.

Dogan warned of the potential economic impacts, citing the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s threat that it may move to pull championship tournaments from states that pass such bans.

A wave of anti-trans legislation has been filed in statehouses nationwide this year, with similar bills restricting transgender youths’ participation recently signed into law in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Dogan urged lawmakers to put themselves in others’ shoes, noting that for many of the lawmakers — who are straight, white males — they are in the majority.

“I wonder how many of you have ever walked into a room and been the super minority among people who look like you? Certainly doesn’t happen in this chamber,” Dogan said. “Have you ever been a super minority in terms of the color of your skin, particularly in a room of powerful people? Have you ever been a super minority in terms of who you love? Have you been the only straight person in a room full of gay people? Have you ever been the only super minority in terms of how you express your gender?”

At times amid the debate some Republican lawmakers alluded that allowing transgender youth to participate on teams that match their gender identity would lead to increased sexual assault or indecent exposure in locker rooms.

“As a female, a God-given (gender) that was assigned to me at birth… I represent all the females in Missouri that want to compete and not be forced to be subjected to unpleasant views of male genitalia or anything like that,” said Rep. Suzie Pollock, R-Lebanon, who has sponsored a bill that would prohibit medical care for transgender youth for the purpose of gender confirmation. “Women’s rights are something that we have fought for for years and I think this is a regression on those women’s rights.”

Lawmakers with transgender family members of their own urged their colleagues to consider how the legislation would affect them personally.

“I will look at you. I’ll remember. This is about human rights. It’s about fair treatment. It’s simply being good policymakers. That’s all we’re asking here,” said Rep. Doug Clemens, D-St. Ann, whose brother’s child is transgender. “I get where you’re coming from. I just ask you to have an open mind and learn before jumping to writing something in the law books or changing our constitution for God’s sake.”

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.

Missouri Medicaid expansion fails Senate Committee on tie vote

By Rudi Keller

The Senate Appropriations Committee set the stage for a lengthy floor debate on Medicaid expansion, with a split vote late Wednesday on a plan offered by Republican Sen. Lincoln Hough of Springfield (pictured).

Hough, vice chairman of the committee, and two other Republicans joined with all four Democrats in support of a proposal that would have implemented the expanded eligibility enacted by voters in 2020. But with all seven other Republicans on the 14-member committee opposed, the proposal failed on a 7-7 tie vote.

For Democrats, the issue was a matter of heeding the will of voters and taking care of working-age adults who have no other access to coverage.

“Now if we expand it we can allow them an opportunity to actually get up, feel like grown men and women and responsible citizens and earn a living chance to get up and, oh my god, put some sales tax and income tax back into our budget,” said Sen. Barbara Washington, D-Kansas City.

For Republicans who were opposed, the reasons ranged from reflecting how their districts voted to objecting to how the ballot measure was drafted and anger at the cost of the current program.

“I don’t support putting a single dollar into Medicaid expansion,” said Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring.

Hough and his GOP backers offer practical reasons for approving his plan to allocate $60 million in general revenue, which with other available funds would draw $1.6 billion in federal payments, to expansion costs.

If eligibility does not open July 1, the state will certainly be sued. A court could order the state to provide coverage and the treasury would be obligated to cover the costs, Sen. Mike Ciepiot said, alluding to the desegregation orders that took billions from the state treasury without appropriations from the 1980s into the 1990s.

And Hough pointed out the practical benefit of a bigger federal share of the current program offered in the most recent COVID-19 relief bill to states that expand Medicaid. That is worth $1.2 billion over two years, he said.

“I wouldn’t put this plan before the committee if I didn’t believe this was the right path to go down,” Hough said.

The committee held the debate after 10 p.m. when members returned to work on the $32.2 billion budget passed by the Missouri House earlier this month. Chairman Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, made it the first order of business when the committee returned rather than deal with it in piecemeal fashion in spending bills for the mental health and social services departments.

“I know there is a lot of passion on both sides of this issue, great depths of passion,” Hegeman said, asking members to be as brief as possible with their remarks. “I fully expect this debate to be held with the body as a whole on the floor with the Senate.”

Hegeman opposed including Medicaid expansion funding in the budget plan.

Amendment 2, placed on the 2020 ballot by initiative petition, directs the state to offer Medicaid to anyone with an income of 138 percent of the federal poverty level or less. The provision is expected to make 275,000 working age adults eligible for coverage.

Under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will pay 90 percent of the cost for covering that population. The program takes effect July 1, the first day of fiscal 2022.

Parson’s proposed $34.1 billion budget for fiscal 2022 set the cost of Medicaid expansion at $1.9 billion, including $120 million in general revenue. That estimate included administrative costs. The House Republican majority refused to fund expansion in the budget it sent to the Senate.

Hough focused his arguments on the practical benefits to the state of accepting the decision of voters. He proposed allocating $60 million from general revenue, and tapping almost $2 billion in federal funds that will flow to the state to offset future costs.

“I wouldn’t put this plan before the committee if I didn’t believe this was the right path to go down,” Hough said.

Medicaid is a shared responsibility of state and federal governments. Each state pays a share of the traditional program based on personal income as a share of national income. For Missouri, that means the federal government pays 66 percent of the cost.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government is picking up an extra 6.2 percent and Missouri has been banking that additional help, amassing a fund of $500 million, Hough said. The fund will collect about $500 million more by the end of the year.

That money, along with the Medicaid expansion incentive in the federal COVID-19 bill, Hough said, would give the state a fund of about $2 billion to modernize Medicaid and stabilize the costs.

The constitutional argument against funding is based on how measures proposed by initiative are supposed to be drafted.

Sen. Denny Hoskins of Warrensburg, in arguments echoed by others, said the constitution prohibits initiative proposals that spend money without providing a source of revenue.

Amendment 2 did not direct lawmakers to appropriate money but instead directed the executive branch to set a new eligibility level. The Western District Court of Appeals refused to consider in advance of the vote whether that would be the effect of Amendment 2.

Lawmakers can refuse to appropriate money that would implement Medicaid expansion because of the prohibition on spending by initiative, Hoskins said.

“I believe that the constitution is on the side of those of us who don’t want to expand Medicaid,” he said.

Republicans in the legislature have opposed expanding Medicaid since it was first proposed by Gov. Jay Nixon in 2013, arguing that it is too expensive and the current program is already too costly and inefficient.

Medicaid in Missouri cost $10.8 billion in fiscal 2020, which ended June 30, including $1.98 billion in general revenue.

Overall, Parson’s budget proposal called for $14.1 billion for Medicaid, including $2.7 billion in general revenue, according to budget documents.

The committee continued working into the early hours Thursday. Hegeman told members he intends to wrap up work on individual spending items and other matters later in the day Thursday.

Lawmakers face a May 7 deadline for completing work on the budget for the coming fiscal year.

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.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Sam Graves: Cutting the red tape from infrastructure projects

(From Sixth District Congressman Sam Graves)

America used to be a country of doers.

We built the roads, bridges, and the entire interstate highway system. Now, instead of building, we’re busy digging through endless piles of paperwork.

A complex highway project takes an average of 7 years to go through the review process. That’s a long time. Think about that for a minute. If a project review starts when your child is in kindergarten, it likely won’t be done until they’re in middle school. That’s all got to happen before we can break ground and start work.

That’s if they’re on average pace. Many of these projects get caught up in paperwork and bureaucracy for decades. These project delays aren’t just frustrating. They have a real cost—$3.7 trillion in foregone economic gains. Ironically, these drawn-out environmental reviews are even bad for the environment. These delays leave Americans stuck in traffic, wasting over 3 billion gallons of gas every year, by some estimates.

It doesn’t have to be like this. There is a better way. Other countries, including Canada, Australia, and Germany, can get these project reviews done in far less time with far better environmental outcomes. We can too. That’s why I was proud to introduce the Building U.S. Infrastructure through Limited Delays & Efficient Reviews (BUILDER) Act with my colleague on the Transportation Committee, Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana.

The BUILDER Act would streamline the outdated environmental review process, the biggest hurdle for new infrastructure projects getting done on time and on budget. Cutting these unnecessary delays will have the same impact as increasing infrastructure funding, while preserving critical environmental protections. That’s good for the environment, good for taxpayers, and good for everyone that uses our nation’s roadways.

We need to get back to doing, to building things and restoring our infrastructure. The best way to do that is by cutting the unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy that slows down infrastructure projects. We can’t afford just to throw a few bucks at the problem and expect it to go away.

We still embody the spirit of generations past—the builders and doers. We just have to put in the work, look at what we’re doing right, and what we’re doing wrong. Clearly, we need to add some common sense into the environmental review process. If we want to rebuild America’s infrastructure, we should start by fixing that process and getting a bipartisan surface transportation bill done.