Monday, February 28, 2022

Ingrid Burnett: Republicans finally fund Missouri Medicaid expansion; now they're working to eliminate it

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

Of course, the big news from last week was the final approval of the Emergency Supplemental Budget Bill that I have been writing about. 

You will recall that right after the session began in January, Governor Parson presented the $4 billion bill that would provide appropriations to give state workers a pay raise of 5.5% and create a base pay rate of $15/hr. 

It also contained $2 billion of federal spending authority from Biden’s pandemic relief funds to local public and private schools which were set to expire on March 24 if not appropriated by then. 

Finally, along with funding for other health and social services, it will fully fund the State’s Medicaid program for the rest of the FY 2022 fiscal year. Parson wanted the bill finalized by February 1 so that the raises could take effect then, but after stalling for weeks, the House Budget Chair brought his own version forward which cut the base pay to $12/hr and reallocated some of the Education Department funds to create a scholarship program to be managed by a 3rd party vendor.

In the meantime, the Senate was involved in a spat among the Conservative Caucus members and their Republican colleagues about Congressional Districts which devolved into an argument about proper chamber attire and decorum and resulted in legislation being held up for days at a time. 

It did not stop the bill from going to the Senate Appropriations Committee, however, and that committee restored the Governor’s recommendation for funding the higher wages and removed the restrictions on the Education dollars. 

While the hardliners ultimately allowed the bill to come to a final vote, they all voted against it. When the bill came back to the House on February 24, one day after the Department of Education ran out of spending authority for the school lunch program, the changes were accepted, and by a vote of 133-12, it passed, and was signed by the Governor that day.

Republicans Attempt to Undo Medicaid Expansion by Undermining Voters

Passing the Emergency Supplemental bill within the next few weeks also prevented the state Medicaid program from exhausting its spending authority. 

Majority Republicans intentionally underfunded Medicaid in the FY 2022 state operating budget in a last-ditch attempt to thwart a voter-mandated expansion of the program’s eligibility, but the Missouri Supreme Court later ruled the state was still constitutionally required to provide services to the expanded population. 

Now, the next attempt is a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at undoing a voter-mandated expansion of eligibility. HJR 117 would accomplish what the Supreme Court said isn’t currently allowed by amending the constitution to grant lawmakers the power to block services to the expanded population by withholding funding. 

The House voted 95-45, also on February 24 to advance HJR 117 to the Senate. If the Senate also approves HJR 117, it would go on the Nov. 8 statewide ballot for voter ratification.

House Republicans Propose to Gut the Initiative Process

The House of Representatives on Feb. 24 granted first-round approval to another proposed constitutional amendment that would make it virtually impossible to amend the Missouri Constitution via the initiative petition process. 

It marked the second time in as many weeks that the chamber endorsed legislation to gut the state constitutional right to initiate legislation independently of the General Assembly – the process which was used to bring Medicaid expansion to a vote of the people. 

The latest attempt, House Joint Resolution 91, would drastically increase the minimum number of signatures of registered voters required to use the initiative to place a constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot to about 350,000 – more than double what’s required today. 

It also would create a confusing system under which some proposals that managed to qualify for the ballot would need the support of two-thirds of voters to be ratified while others could still win ratification with a simple majority. A second vote is required to send HJR 91 to the Senate, and if passed by the upper chamber, the measure would go the Nov. 8 statewide ballot and require just a simple majority for ratification.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Nancy Hughes: The fine print

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

When my oldest daughter became engaged, she immediately attended every wedding fair and bridal show within a 200-mile radius. Part of the attraction of many of the booths were free drawings for everything from a honeymoon to wedding photos to cakes.

The only requirement for each one was to sign your name, address, and phone number on entry tickets. So, she signed up for literally hundreds of “free” offers. There was only one problem – but it ended up being a big one.

A free signup for a wedding dress had a very small sentence with an even smaller font at the end of the form which stated, “The signer agrees to switch his/her phone service to Rainbow Phone Exchange.”

My daughter had not read the fine print of that sentence and had signed her name along with my home phone number. Imagine my surprise when, a month later, I received my phone bill from a new company with double the rate of the previous one.

It occurred to me that Ephesians 2:8-9 does not contain any hidden fine print, but I often act as if it is there when it comes to God’s gift of grace to me.

My human thinking says that somewhere in the Word there must be tiny letters at the end of a chapter that state “Come to me after you have taught a Bible study and fed the poor and not missed a day of church and not sinned for an entire day, and I will accept you.” In other words, after you have done a certain number of good deeds, you will have earned your salvation from God.

Nowhere in the Bible are there hidden conditions to God’s gift of grace. When you become the “signer” and hand your life over to the Lord in faith, you do not have to fear the hidden fine print with a list of “must be good enough first” items. Grace cannot be earned and is not deserved. But it IS a gift of love given to us, through faith, from our Father.

It took several days of long phone conversations for me to get my phone returned to the original company and the form with the fine print to be deleted. But it only takes an act of faith to receive the gift of grace from God.

Father, I do not understand your love gift of grace but I accept it now and thank you with all my heart. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

R.A.P. it up . . .


· Have you ever felt like you needed to “do” something to earn grace from the Lord?

· Does Scripture say anywhere that grace must be earned?


· Journal Ephesians 2:8-9 and underline the word “grace.”

· Thank the Lord that salvation does not depend on you but rather on God’s desire to save you by His grace.


· Ephesians 2:8 (NIV) “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

· II Corinthians 12:9 (NIV) “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”

· Romans 11:6 (NIV) “And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.”

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

Kim Frencken: Your colleagues- love 'em or leave 'em?

Do you like the people you work with? Or do you merely tolerate them? Are they annoying or amazing? An enjoyable work environment makes all the difference. Supportive co-workers can get you through the worst year ever while negative comments can make it the longest year ever. Having at least one or two trusted colleagues makes all the difference.

I've said it before (and I'm sure I'll say it at least a million more times)... I LOVE MY JOB! Tell me, how many teachers are saying that, especially now. I love my job because I LOVE MY TEACHERS! I work with friends. Some closer than others, but all supportive and helpful. I know you're probably wondering what I had for breakfast this morning to make me so chipper, but it's true.

I do work in a unique environment - small school working part-time. That does make things a bit different. But even in larger schools you can find your special niche of buddies. Your own support team. The ones who know all your dirt (and love you anyway!). The ones who can offer suggestions, listen, cry with you, or make you laugh. I'm going out on a limb... but if you don't have that you may be at the wrong school.

I've worked in a larger school. I've always been blessed to have a special circle of friends around me. Friends that are still friends 20+ years later. We may not see each other daily but we stay in touch. They had my back then and now. I know I can trust them and go to them.

Even during my last year in the larger district I had my group of besties. And that's saying a lot if you know just how toxic that work environment was!

The year I removed myself from that mess approximately 35% of the staff left. The numbers were higher in the entire district. People continued leaving the following year, for various reasons. For many, the fight to get up and go to work was just too much. The negative environment was too stressful and too draining.

Teachers are under tons of stress and it just keeps getting worse. Without a supportive group of co-workers it's impossible to keep going. You might make it one or two years, but eventually the strain will wear you down. Good teachers are leaving the profession for lack of support in super stressful situations. If you have support, you can get each other through it.

Laughter really is the best medicine. There isn't a day go back at work that I don't laugh about something. Maybe I just happen to work with the funniest group of people in the world or maybe it's just that our joy is contagious. I think it's the second reason.

I really believe that the more you laugh or the more you are happy or the more you look for the bright side the easier it becomes to see good things and spread some joy. And the kids notice it. They notice that their teachers like each other. They watch our interactions. Our kids feel safe and content at school. Our entire work environment, from the top down, has been changed because of our positive choices.

I know some of you are saying, "Well, that's great for you Pollyanna, but I teach in a tough school with tough kids and even tougher colleagues. I don't have time to get to know my colleagues. Laugh? You've got to be kidding. I'm just surviving. I don't have time to laugh."

And I would answer, "It's time to find a new job. Life's too short to just survive. There are other jobs that pay more. Look for other opportunities. I've been there. Crying on the way to work. Crying on the way home. Forcing myself to get up after hitting snooze 15 times. Dragging myself kicking and screaming to my car. Then sneaking into the building to avoid the pit bull that called himself a principal. Making it safely to my room only to have it invaded with some kids that couldn't wait to go to the office to tattle on their teacher if I actually told them they had an assignment that was due today or they couldn't play video games in class. Been there. Done that. Left it behind and never regretted it. Not all schools are that way. Find yourself a new home away from home. "

The choice is yours. It isn't easy. I don't intend to make it easy. But landing in a place that you love, where you can actually teach is the most amazing experience in the world. You have to decide... will you love 'em or leave 'em?

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

Max McCoy: Europe is again at war: The example Ike set is more important than ever

By Max McCoy

There’s a lot of talk these days about leadership, but damned little of the stuff to be found.

Never have we needed effective leadership more than now, as we watch Russian tanks rumble into Ukraine, in the biggest military offensive since World War II. 

The number of troops, estimated at up to 190,000, is about the number of Allied soldiers that hit the beaches at Normandy. 

(Photo- Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower addresses American paratroopers on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The night before, Eisenhower had penciled a note, to be read publicly and placing the blame on himself in the event the invasion failed.-U.S. Army/Library of Congress)

The Russian invasion, aimed at crushing a fledgling democracy, signals the end of the relative geopolitical stability we have known for a lifetime. While still far away in a country that most Americans can’t identify on a map, this new European war will bring challenges yet unimagined. If we are lucky — and by that I mean smart and lucky — we will manage to avoid World War III.

What kind of leaders do we need?

Not the kind that praises dictators, certainly, or one that has a disturbing affection for strongmen in general. Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo, once a Kansas congressman, recently called Vladimir Putin a talented and savvy statesman, and Donald Trump routinely expresses admiration for leaders like Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Not long ago it would be difficult to imagine any American politician who expressed such views remaining politically viable for long, yet here we are.

Years of political division and pandemic have turned our conventional ideas of leadership inside out. It’s easy to find various theories of leadership online, from accidental leaders to adaptive ones, and each school has its own list of desired traits. Such rubrics are typically used in leadership workshops or self-help books aimed at shaping a particular type of leader: an entrepreneur, a civic leader, a teacher. The goal is to shape leaders committed to the common good. But now the most effective leaders (if you measure effectiveness as influence) are grubby, empty-headed hucksters and would-be authoritarians.

What passes for leadership tends toward public displays of power, in which people who in other contexts would be called bullies are elected or promoted to positions of authority, and they throw their weight around while mouthing empty slogans about choice and freedom. The Kansas Legislature is lousy with these types, and they get behind whatever half-baked and fear-mongering slogan finds the most traction on social media. They continue to succeed because they manage to frame the message, whether it’s misunderstood “critical race theory” or baseless claims of voter fraud.

It’s a poor excuse for leadership.

Contrast this with the career of Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower, probably the best leader to ever come from Kansas. Ike was, of course, president from 1953 to 1961. But in his old job as the supreme Allied commander during World War II, he was responsible for the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944, the turning point that broke the Nazi stranglehold on Europe.

Born in 1890 in Texas, Eisenhower came to Kansas as a child with his family and always considered Abilene, Kansas, as his hometown. He grew up with six siblings and as a boy spent his days fishing and playing baseball. He pursued a calling as a soldier, in spite of his mother being a pacifist, and graduated from West Point. During World War II, he oversaw the invasions of North Africa and Sicily before being named supreme commander. He was confident and inspiring. But the night before D-Day, Eisenhower made a hasty note in pencil for himself, to read in the event the Allied invasion was a failure.

“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops,” the note said. “My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”

The note is now housed at the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum, and Boyhood Home at Abilene. Historian Tim Rives has called the note the crown jewel of the collection because it is a glimpse into Eisenhower’s character. Rives has explained Eisenhower made similar notes before every major battle, but tore them up after victories.

Such willingness to shoulder blame after defeat seems alien today, but is indicative of the mettle of a Kansan who would become president — and also, perhaps, of the generation that defeated the Third Reich.

Let’s hope that we won’t need another “Ike” to lead us in another fight against fascism.

I don’t know how we can instill the kind of leadership that Ike possessed. I doubt that it can be taught in a workshop, or learned from a book. It might be something a person is born with, or perhaps comes to them in a time of need. Trying to define leadership makes Justice Potters of us all, because we know it when we see it.

And we haven’t seen the kind of leadership we need on Ukraine for the past three administrations. Since 2014, when Russia invaded and “annexed” the Crimean peninsula, U.S. leaders (and the world) have watched the unfolding of one of the most predictable global crises. Despite the heaviest sanctions imposed since the end of World War II, Putin kept Crimea — and harbored a taste for the rest of the country.

Ukraine is a country of 44 million bordering the Black Sea in eastern Europe and is between Poland, Romania and Moldova in the west and Russia in the east. It is slightly smaller in land area than Texas. Since the 1850s, it has been the flashpoint for conflicts that have defined Europe. To get an idea of what war looked like in the Crimea during the Victorian era, take a look at the photographs of Roger Fenton.

After the collapse of czarist Russia in 1917, according to the CIA World Factbook, Ukraine endured two devastating forced famines between the world wars and lost up to 8 million more people as it was crushed between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. Although it gained its independence in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it has struggled with the legacy of state control and endemic corruption. A pro-West president was elected in 2014, after mass protests for democracy shook the country. Two separatists regions in the eastern part of the country, Donetsk and Luhansk, have been the source of skirmishes since 2014. Ukraine’s current president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, was elected in 2019 and is a former actor and comedian.

Perhaps sensing weakened opposition because of two years of pandemic and growing authoritarian movements that threaten to destabilize western governments, Putin acted last week on his long-held desire to take Ukraine. He used the excuse of “peacekeeping” in the separatist territories as cover for the invasion, although that is widely recognized for the canard it is.

What is currently happening in Ukraine — a hot war with a flood of refugees packing roadways and bus stations in an attempt to escape to the west — is the result of weakened resolve in the west to deploy diplomatic and economic pressure to protect democracy. Brexit contributed to this weakening, as did political polarization here. Russia was indeed listening, all along, to everything.

That’s what makes our current partisan divide so dangerous. It emboldens the wicked.

Calling our current situation a divide is not entirely accurate, because that implies both sides have become equally extreme. It’s more of a tectonic shift, with the left staying relatively the same — liberals want about the same things we did 50 years ago — but with the right moving so far to the extreme that it now tolerates former presidents and secretaries of state praising maniacs like Putin.

If we don’t end the almost casual erosion of democracy here, we can never hope to help shore up freedom elsewhere. The darkness is never as far away as you think it might be, and too many of us are unwittingly inviting it home, through the support of candidates who have a weak grasp of history and the social media we choose.

We do not yet need an Eisenhower to direct an allied military force to defend democracy, but we do need his postwar vision and confidence. While Ike was a soldier, he did not love war, and as president he used American influence judiciously. He was a leading proponent of NATO. He rarely committed American troops abroad. He supported science education, signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and sent the Army to Little Rock to enforce it. He also warned of the “military industrial complex” as a threat to democracy in his farewell address. Ike was not a perfect leader, because he naively considered the use of nuclear weapons to end the Korean War, which he inherited. But his leadership was effective and contributed to the imperfect but striving America in which many of us grew up.

We do not need perfect leaders now.

But we do need effective ones, and those committed to core democratic principles, in offices from city hall to the Statehouse to Capitol Hill. Joe Biden has sanctioned Russia, but he needs the support of Congress and the American people if we are to achieve lasting and meaningful solution to the crises in Eastern Europe. To avoid World War III, we must choose strength over appeasement.

So, here’s to Ike, the kid from Abilene who helped save the free world. Visit his boyhood home and presidential library, if you have the chance. It might just give you an idea of the kind of leadership that sustained us during the worst of World War II, when failure was always a possibility, and in the tenuous peace which followed.

Max McCoy, who worked as an investigative reporter at the Joplin Globe, is an award-winning author and journalist. A native Kansan, he started his career at the Pittsburg Morning Sun and was soon writing for national magazines. His investigative stories on unsolved murders, serial killers and hate groups earned him first-place awards from the Associated Press Managing Editors and other organizations. McCoy has also written more than 20 books, the most recent of which is "Elevations: A Personal Exploration of the Arkansas River," named a Kansas Notable Book by the state library. "Elevations" also won the National Outdoor Book Award, in the history/biography category. Max teaches journalism at Emporia State University.

Mike Moon explains why he fought against Parson's health director choice

(From Sen. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove)

A recent (February 10, 2022) article in the Branson Tri-Lakes News entitled “Does Moon’s DHSS grandstanding hurt his district?,” Jason Wert asserts that actions taken “against a man who was more than qualified … to lead the Department of Health and Senior Services, … wasted … political capital” and “will hamper [my] ability to help advance legislation which could actually provide economic help and jobs to the residents of southwest Missouri.”

While I recognize the importance of jobs in the MO 29 Senate District (and the economic benefit accompanying them), there is, perhaps, something far more important: the protection of the people of Missouri from despots.


In the case of Mr. Don Kauerauf, the former appointee to head the DHSS, we must consider his background, his ability, and his intent. I met with Mr. Kauerauf on two separate occasions – both in my Capitol office. I found him to be pleasant and extremely bright. We talked about family (he is a father of triplets), hobbies (he is a fitness enthusiast) and, of course, public health.

Since I have a daughter who, along with her husband and children, are missionaries to Australia, I asked Mr. Kauerauf what he knew about the countries’ health policies. (Government officials in Australia are enacting some of the most severe COVID restrictions in the world.) 

Specifically, I mentioned a program called SHIELD (often referred to as SHIELD USA, SHIELD T3 and in the state of Illinois as SHIELD Illinois). SHIELD incorporates features such as contact tracing, proximity tracing, and test-to-stay (a test required in order to determine whether or not an individual has COVID). 

SHIELD Illinois is being utilized in Illinois (Mr. Kauerauf’s wife, Judy, was involved in establishing SHIELD Illinois, as part of her responsibility in the IL Department of Public Health). During one of our conversations, he took a smart phone from his pocket and pointed to an app used for contact tracing.

Mr. Kauerauf had previously made statements, such as, Missouri’s vaccination rates were atrocious and that he would like to see 100% of Missourians vaccinated. To be fair, he also stated that he was against mandates.

I mentioned to Mr. Kauerauf that I would likely asked him some hard questions during the confirmation hearing. He responded by stating he expected to be questioned.


During the hearing, I asked Mr. Kauerauf many questions. Among them, in reference to the appalling percentage of vaccinated Missourians, I asked about his goal of 100% vaccination. His response reduced the goal to 75%.

When I referenced our conversations in my office (a DHSS staffer and two of my staff were present), specifically regarding the SHIELD program and the contact tracing app (on his phone) he denied any knowledge of the program (or phone app).

It concerned me that, in public, he had changed his previous answers.

Mr. Kauerauf often stated in public that he was pro-life. In the hearing I asked him what being pro-life meant to him. He responded by saying that all children should be cared for after birth. (His response led me to believe that, as the director of the state public health department, he might not be willing to protect a developing human baby still in the womb.)

I asked Mr. Kauerauf when life begins. He stated that he could not answer the question. I persisted by asking, if he were confirmed as the DHSS Director, would he approve the funding of entities which either provided abortions or support abortions. Again, he would not answer the question.

These unanswered questions caused me to wonder why he was being deceitful (lying) and what else might he be hiding. Would he attempt to enact public health policy which would be detrimental to Missourians?


I could not risk allowing Mr. Kauerauf’s nomination to be confirmed by the Senate.

So, if taking firm action to stop the confirmation of a gubernatorial appointee, in order to protect Missourians from a heavy-handed government, is “wasting” political capital, I’ll do it again in a heartbeat!

As for my quote by the AP (leave it to the press to pick and choose parts to include and parts to omit), my full statement was, “It was a sweet victory for the people of the state.” I’ll stand with the people any day!


Just recently, a letter was received from a MO DHSS employee. In the letter, the employee stated:

“I am… an employee of Missouri, in the Department of Health and Senior Services. A few months ago, the department instituted a “procedure” which requires all employees who interact with the public to show vaccines cards, or be tested weekly, or be terminated. There are no exceptions, not even for those of us who already had Covid.”

This was not written in department policy (otherwise, it would have been public knowledge). This was done while Mr. Kauerauf was acting DHSS director. This “private” department policy could easily become public policy if Don Kauerauf had been confirmed as the director.

Perhaps, my action was the correct one after all.

Jason Smith: Putin is only acting this way because he doesn't think Biden has strength, courage or will to push back

(From Eighth District Congressman Jason Smith)

This week, millions of people around the globe watched in disbelief as Russian President Vladimir Putin declared an unprovoked war on Ukraine. 

This marks the first major full-scale invasion by a major power in Europe since World War II. While the tragic events are just beginning, the impacts – both economic and human – will be felt immediately.

As one of the world’s top oil and gas suppliers, Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine is already having devastating impacts on America’s energy prices. 

Remember, on Day One of his Administration, Joe Biden canceled the Keystone XL Pipeline, halted oil and gas leasing on federal lands, and enacted burdensome regulations to make domestic energy production much more difficult and make us more reliant on foreign sources of oil. Instead of being insulated from a crisis like this, Joe Biden’s policies are directly resulting in more American suffering through pain at the pump.

Consider this: under President Trump, the U.S. was producing more oil and gas than Russia or any of the Arab nations. In fact, in 2020, the U.S. was a net exporter for the first time in 50 years. But just this month, the U.S. Energy Information Administration released a report projecting that the U.S. will become a net importer of petroleum in 2022. 

And thanks to President Biden’s reckless policies, America is now importing an additional 239,000 barrels per day over President Trump’s average for his four years in office. That is directly funding Putin’s war, to the tune of an additional $22 million per day, based on the last price of crude oil.

What’s especially outrageous about this administration’s policies is that they were working to kill the Keystone XL Pipeline and stop oil and gas drilling here at home, they were simultaneously working to ensure Germany could get the Nord Stream 2 pipeline online, which brings Russian oil directly to Germany. 

As part of the sanctions that are being put in place in response to Russian aggression, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is being shuttered, and it should be. But because it’s been completed, Putin has reason to believe it will be allowed to operate again at some point in the future. Republicans fought the administration over the past year to prevent completion of the pipeline, but the Biden administration strategy of appeasement has now led to yet another crisis.

If Biden weren’t completely beholden to his wealthy environmentalist friends, there are actions we could be taking right now that would help Americans and put more pressure on Russia. For example, the governor of South Dakota, Kristi Noem, outlined a commonsense, six-point plan. 

First, we could cut the red tape and get the Keystone XL Pipeline up and running – which would have the capacity to deliver 830,000 barrels per day, more than we currently import from Russia on average. 

Second, the president should rescind his executive order and reopen federal lands and the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas lease, drilling and exploration. 

Third, with an executive order, the president could eliminate needless red tape that prevents energy production, refinement, and transport. 

Fourth, we should work with Europe to replace their Russian energy with American energy. 

Fifth, we should enact significant and painful sanctions on the Russian energy sector. 

And finally, our other Western allies need to step up and stop Russia from participating in the Western economy – whether it’s banking, access to capital or whatever. Joe Biden has options, but the bottom line is he needs to embrace American energy for any of them to succeed.

Putin’s aggression absolutely needs to be dealt with, but it’s very clear he is only acting this way because he doesn’t think Joe Biden has the strength, courage, or will to push back on Putin’s actions. Regardless, I’ll continue fighting this Administration’s reckless agenda that has devastated hardworking American families and left us more vulnerable to tyrannical foreign governments.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Billy Long: President Biden did little to stop attack on Ukraine

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

Missouri Congressman Billy Long issued the following statement following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“The intelligence Congress was privy to was stellar,” Congressman Long said. “Unfortunately we knew for months that this invasion was coming, and the Biden Administration did very little to stop it. 

"We should have issued severe sanctions against Russia before this invasion occurred, and not waited until after the fact. President Biden has not shown leadership throughout this situation, and it all started when he weakened our national security by reducing American energy production, which increased our reliance on Russian oil. 

"This, coupled with President Biden’s lifting of Nord Stream 2 sanctions, gave Putin exactly what he wanted: more control over Europe and the United States. President Biden should never have lifted those sanctions and lessened our energy independence. This is exactly why energy independence is important to our national security.”


Jill Schlupp: "So-called Conservative Caucus" bringing shame to Missouri Senate

By Sen. Jill Schlupp, D-St. Louis County)

Divided, dysfunctional, dystopian; none of these adjectives adequately describe the devolution of the Missouri Senate. Literally, since the first day of the session, the upper chamber has been held hostage by a handful of hardliners who can’t even attract members of their own party to their cause.

Over the last few weeks, the Senate’s self-described “Conservative Caucus”— a small, but extremely vocal faction of the majority party — blocked progress on a bipartisan plan to redraw Missouri’s eight congressional districts to reflect our state’s changing population. 

Despite receiving backing of the Senate’s majority party leadership, the measure hit a brick wall of obstruction and self-interest as a small cadre of extremists held out. 

Even with the deadline for candidate filing having opened this week on 2/22/22, district boundaries are still undetermined as this group of senators rejected a compromise map created by the House of Representatives. It was a 6-to-2 partisan map, reflecting the status quo in Missouri. 

During a filibuster that stretched more than 30 hours over several days, this group openly called for gerrymandered districts to ensure seven of our state’s eight congressional seats would be filled by conservatives. 

With the sole exception of only one St. Louis-area district that is protected as a majority-minority seat by the federal Voting Rights Act, they argued for districts ripe for candidates who share their extremist pro-life, pro-gun, anti-voting rights views.

The redistricting stunt is just the latest example of the tyranny of this small minority in the Missouri Senate. 

A few weeks ago, this same group shamefully blocked the confirmation of a well-qualified candidate to head the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services. 

Despite this individual being selected by a governor of their own party, and the candidate publically voicing opposition to mask and vaccine mandates, they scuttled the nomination and sullied a good man’s name, while protestors ginned up by divisive social media rhetoric screamed in the hallway outside the hearing room. 

In my opinion, their actions brought embarrassment to the governor, shame to the Senate and left Missouri with no one in charge of public health at a time when a deadly pandemic still rages.

How the rest of the 2022 legislative session proceeds is anyone’s guess. If the first five weeks are any indication, it’s looking grim. Just when we think the discourse has reached a new low, the hardliners dig deeper. This is my 14th year as a member of the Missouri General Assembly. 

During that time, I have never witnessed the dysfunction we’ve seen the past several weeks. Personal vendettas are being aired on the Senate floor, and routine procedural motions are being held up while senators pontificate. If what we’ve seen so far continues, it’s going to be a long session.

And still, I remain hopeful that our state can and will be better.

Billy Long: It's time for Democrats to move on from defund the police to fund the police

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

Americans deserve to feel safe in their own communities. However, millions of Americans are scared in those communities for the first time in their lives. This of course is due to a dramatic spike in violent crime that is gripping nearly every major American city. 

Smash and grabs, car jackings and murders have increased exponentially along with all manner of violent crime. It all started with the insane notion that we should not fund our police departments. This along with no bail policies and weak-kneed prosecutors puts us in an untenable pickle. 

Folks are wondering what can be done to stop the violence. Well number one we need to criminalize crime again and by all means provide the police with the funds they need to protect us.

The tragic death of George Floyd in police custody sparked national protest movements by Black Lives Matter. These movements led to calls to "Defund the Police" by Democrat politicians, progressive activists and various fringe groups like Antifa. 

Many cities did defund their police departments to a large degree and it didn’t take long for the chickens to come home to roost. Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Seattle, Portland, and other Democrat led cities all experienced huge jumps in crime, according to statistics from the F.B.I. and the defunded police departments themselves.

As it turns out, when you strip funding from police forces, violent crime goes up. This problem is not isolated to the big cities – it is happening everywhere. 

In my hometown of Springfield Missouri, our police department is 55 officers short of being fully staffed. With less staff, the remaining officers are working overtime to make up the difference. Not only that, but their jobs are becoming more and more dangerous due to the increase in violent crime. We are asking police officers to work longer hours, with less funding in more dangerous conditions than ever before. It’s no wonder that so many officers have decided to hang up their badges for safer occupations.

If we want to solve this crisis, we need to give proper funding to the police once again. It’s simple, when you give the police the necessary resources to fight violent crime, the crime rate goes down. 

Many Democrat mayors are waking up to this reality because they don’t want to see the violence on their streets. The voters are also tired of the violence. New York City, one of the most progressive cities in the country, just elected a pro-police former Captain in the New York City Police Department as their mayor. 

When even residents of New York are voting to put in pro-police politicians, you know the situation has gotten out of hand. Unfortunately, the White House hasn’t quite gotten the message yet. Just a few weeks ago, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki mocked Fox News for covering the crime wave. And still many Democrats in Congress are doubling down on their broken policies, completely oblivious to the devastation they have caused. It’s time for them to move on from “Defund the Police”, and instead to “Fund the Police." It’s the only way this massive spike in violent crime will end.

Sam Graves: Putin's unprovoked military aggression has gone unchecked for far too long

(From Sixth District Congressman Sam Graves)

Life for forty-four million Ukrainians changed dramatically this week. They have been fighting Russian-backed separatists for control of two break-away territories in eastern Ukraine for eight years. Now, they're fighting for their freedom and the future of their entire country.

Vladimir Putin ordered Russian forces into a full-scale invasion of the eastern European country. That's a break from the comparatively smaller-scale invasions into eastern Ukraine and Georgia in 2014 and 2008. An assault of this scale will mean exponentially more bloodshed and could drag out for months, if not years. We haven't seen anything like this in Europe since World War II.

Our response must reflect the magnitude of this assault on freedom. Putin’s unprovoked military aggression has gone unchecked for far too long. We must relegate his regime to the status of an international pariah. We must swiftly impose the strongest possible sanctions on Vladimir Putin's regime to cripple his ability to make war.

The will of the Ukrainian people is strong, and they will not slip silently into the night. Despite being outnumbered and outgunned, they will fight with everything they have to defend their homes, their families, and their freedom. We’ve already seen so many incredibly heroic examples of Ukrainian patriots staring down impossible odds and fighting to protect their homeland. Our prayers are with them in this darkest hour.

There will be plenty of time to dissect this crisis and cast blame on those responsible in the coming weeks and months. For now, we must work together to support our NATO allies in the region and condemn the man ultimately responsible for this unprovoked attack on the free people of Ukraine—Vladimir Putin.

Vicky Hartzler: I stand firmly with the Ukrainian people

(From Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler)

On Wednesday night, the world watched in horror as Russia unprovokedly attacked Ukraine, a free and independent nation. This heinous invasion by Vladimir Putin warrants a fury of sanctions to be imposed on the Russian regime.

This moment is yet another test for President Biden on the world stage. China and our other adversaries are closely watching our nation’s response. 

I urge the president to enact severe sanctions to swiftly decimate Putin’s further capabilities.

Now, more than ever, Biden must also embrace energy independence for America.

I stand firmly with the Ukrainian people and pray for their health, safety, and freedom as they defend their homeland from this baseless Russian invasion.

Government recommends 2-year sentence for Sarcoxie sex offender

In a sentencing memorandum filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, the assistant U. S. attorney is recommending a two-year sentence for a Sarcoxie man who pleaded guilty July 21 to a charge of failing to register as a sex offender.

A detention motion filed in May indicated Jacob Zuber, 33, lived in Jasper and Lawrence counties since 2016 without telling authorities he was a sex offender as required by law.

Zuber's previous offenses were spelled out in the detention motion:

On or about May 21, 2008, Jacob ZUBER pled guilty to two counts of sexual abuse in the first degree in the Lincoln County Circuit Court, 17th Judicial District of Oregon.

The charges of the indictment that the defendant pled guilty to read as follows:
COUNT 3: SEXUAL ABUSE IN THE FIRST DEGREE (ORS 163.427 F/B) The said defendant, on or about April 2005, in the County of Lincoln and State of Oregon, did unlawfully and knowingly subject [Jane Doe], a person under the age of 14 years, to sexual contact by touching her genitalia, a sexual or intimate part of [Jane Doe].

COUNT 4: SEXUAL ABUSE IN THE FIRST DEGREE (ORS 163.427 F/B) The said defendant, on or about April 2005, in the County of Lincoln and State of Oregon, did unlawfully and knowingly subject [Jane Doe], a person under the age of 14 years, to sexual contact by touching her breasts, a sexual or intimate part of [Jane Doe]. He was sentenced to 75 months in the Oregon Department of Corrections and 10 years post-prison supervision.

ZUBER was released from the Oregon Department of Corrections on October 11, 2013. On June 6, 2008, ZUBER completed his initial Oregon Sex Offender Registration Form which clearly outlined the penalties for failing to comply with the requirements of the sex offender registry.

On December 11, 2015, ZUBER completed and signed his last recorded Oregon Sex Offender Registration Form. He specifically initialed the section that stated, “no more than 3 days after moving to another state . . . I must report to law enforcement in that county, in person, and complete registration.”

On January 15, 2020, Deputy United States Marshal (DUSM) Cole Faulconer was assigned to investigate a possible Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act violation by ZUBER. DUSM Faulconer obtained ZUBER’s 2017 and 2018 Jasper County Property Tax Assessment Lists.

On his 2017 personal property declaration, ZUBER declared an address of 10055 Maple Road, Carthage, Jasper County, Missouri. On the 2018 personal property declaration, ZUBER declared that he had changed his address to 13632 Lawrence 1022, Sarcoxie, Lawrence County, Missouri.

On that form, ZUBER listed the date he moved from Carthage, Missouri, to Sarcoxie, Missouri, as August 2017. DUSM Faulconer also received information from the Missouri Department of Employment, the Missouri Department of Conservation, the United States Postal Inspectors, the Missouri Department of Revenue, Missouri State Highway Patrol, and the Lawrence County Assessor’s Office, that all demonstrated that ZUBER was living and working in Missouri, specifically, in Jasper County and Lawrence County.

DUSM Faulconer confirmed with the Missouri Information Analysis Center, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office, and the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office that ZUBER had not registered as a sex offender and remained unregistered as of December 28, 2020.

Zuber's sentencing hearing is scheduled for 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, March 9, in Springfield.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Parson signs supplemental budget bill, more money for schools, child care services

(From Gov. Mike Parson)

Today, Governor Mike Parson signed the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 supplemental budget bill, HB 3014, that was passed by the General Assembly this morning. The bill allows for current operations of state government to continue through FY 2022.

"We are happy to sign the supplemental budget bill into law today," Governor Parson said. "This bill not only gives our dedicated state team members a long overdue pay increase, but also appropriates critical funding to our K-12 schools and child care system. We thank the General Assembly for working to get this important piece of legislation passed and to my desk."


HB 3014 totals over $4.6 billion, including $401.5 million in general revenue, $4.1 billion in federal funds, and $45.3 million in other funds. The supplemental budget bill includes funding for several high priority areas:
A statewide pay plan for state team members, including a 5.5 percent cost of living adjustment
$1.9 billion for distribution to local public school districts
Nearly $100 million for distribution to non-public schools
$444 million for child care services
$219 million for school food programs
Funding for MO HealthNet, including funding to ensure eligibility re-determinations are done in a timely manner

For more information on HB 3014, click here.

FY 2022 Supplemental Budget Signing.JPG

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Federal grand jury indicts Joplin man on meth trafficking, weapons charges

A four count grand jury indictment of a Joplin man was unsealed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

According to the indictment, Keith T. Richey, 32, was distributing meth between January 1, 2021 and June 22, 2021, possessed meth with intent to distribute on June 22, possessed a firearm and possessed the firearm during commission of a felony.

Federal grand jury indicts former H. E. Williams employee on child porn charges

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

A Carthage, Missouri, man was indicted by a federal grand jury today after child pornography was found on his workplace computer.

Shane Tyler Barton, 55, was charged with receiving and distributing child pornography in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Springfield, Mo. 

Today’s indictment replaces a criminal complaint that was filed against Barton on Feb. 14, 2022.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the original criminal complaint, the director of information technology for H.E. Williams, Barton’s employer, was alerted to a suspected virus on Barton’s company-issued computer that was in Barton’s office and connected to the business network. 

On Jan. 5, 2022, he observed an unauthorized anti-virus program on the computer and discovered numerous files that contained adult and child pornography. He notified management of the violation of company policy. 

While doing so, he noticed the files were being deleted. Fearing that Barton was possibly tampering with evidence, he locked Barton out of the network and his company-issued computer.

Barton was placed on leave, the affidavit says, pending the resolution of an internal investigation. He was instructed to turn over his company-issued iPhone. A forensic examination of the computer identified approximately 10,000 images and approximately 100 video files of suspected child pornography, the affidavit says, as well as additional video files of suspected child pornography on the iPhone.

Barton resigned from his position with the company a couple of weeks later.

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 Jessica R. Sarff. It was investigated by the FBI and the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Agenda posted for Joplin R-8 Board of Education meeting

The Joplin R-8 Board of Education meeting will make final decisions about the district's COVID-19 plan when it meets 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Memorial Administration Building.

A closed session is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. to discuss legal, real estate and personnel matters.

A. Call to Order
1. Roll Call

B. Pledge of Allegiance

C. Approval of Agenda

1. Reports
a. Board President's Report
1. Celebrations - Info. (Koch)
b. Superintendent's Data Report

1. Construction Update -(Crossland Construction)
2. Health Insurance and Dental Care Insurance Reports
3. Financial Statements

D. Public Comments Regarding Posted Agenda Action Items

E. Consent Agenda
1. Minutes
2. Tyler SISFIN Software Support Renewal
3. Purchase of one (1) John Deere 75 HP Tractor
4. Purchase of one (1) John Deere Flex Wing Rotary Cutter
5. Purchase of One (1) Gooseneck Flatbed Trailer 
6. Contract Lawn Care Service 
7. Purchase of Custodial Equipment
8. Declare FTC Equipment Surplus
9. JHS Javelin Runway Surface Project 
10. Purchase of Fitness and Weight Training Equipment for Weights Classroom at JHS
11. T-Mobile Student Hotspot Service Payment 

12. Replacement Wi-Fi Controller 
13. FTC Adult Education Practical Nursing Program Request to Purchase ati Software and Predictive Exams 
14. Policy Updates for Second Reading
a. Policy BBB: School Board Elections
b. Policy DCB: Political Campaigns
c. Policy JHDE: Behavioral Risk Assessment

F. Regular Agenda

1. Consider Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Service Plan
2. AMI Payroll Approval for Staff
3. Two Additional Sick Leave Days
4. Consider Missouri Capital Asset Advantage Treasury (MOCAAT) Program Board Resolution
5. Accounts Payable 
6. Capital Expenditures for 2022-2023
7. Budget Adjustments
8. Purchase Center Hung Scoreboard, Timing System, and Display Director Software for Kaminsky Gym
9. Transportation Tyler Drive and On-screen Solution for District School Buses
10. Adopting the 2022-2023 Calendar

G. Plus/Deltas

H. Adjourn

Max McCoy- Lawmakers are looking to muzzle teachers; Kansans who love unvarnished fact mush push back

By Max McCoy

Teachers are the enemy.

That’s the message a pair of bills debated in back-to-back hearings Wednesday in the Kansas Legislature sends. The proposed laws, which came out of GOP-controlled education committees, would stifle the ability of K-12 teachers to teach historical fact and diverse points of view, eliminate the affirmative defense for educators, and broaden the ability of parents to challenge books and just about everything else in school libraries and classrooms.

One of the bills would make it a crime for teachers to use material deemed “obscene” under the longstanding Supreme Court definition, which uses a three-part test that includes prevailing community standards.

That last part is redundant, because it’s already a crime to expose minors to obscenity. But it plants the suspicion, doesn’t it? Just what are those teachers showing our kids? It could be pornography without redeeming social or artistic value, according to the Miller Test, and we must stop it!

The bills, HB 2662 and SB 496, appear to be modeled after other proposed legislation spewing from the conservative Heritage Foundation, according to reporting from Kansas Reflector’s Tim Carpenter. The Washington, D.C., based think tank has a nice logo — a Liberty Bell —and has been influential since the days of Ronald Reagan. Until recently, its primary mission was climate change denial, but lately it’s jumped on the critical race theory firewagon. It claims that American institutions are not inherently racist because, hey, wasn’t that settled during the Civil War?

Only seven people testified in favor of the “parental rights” and “transparency” bills on Thursday, while more than 100 opposed them. The lead for Team Christ was taken by Brittany Jones, an attorney with Kansas Family Voice, a Topeka outfit that says its vision “is a Kansas where God is honored, religious freedom flourishes, families thrive, and life is cherished.” Jones said the proposed legislation would give parents an opportunity to shield children from objectionable material. An opposing voice belonged to Chapparal High School senior Mattelyn Swartz, who plans to become a teacher. She said the Senate bill would limit educational opportunities for students, tie the hands of educators, and prevent a “learning environment that is engaged and individualized.”

But really, that’s the point.

These hardcore GOP poohbahs would like to inject themselves between you and every aspect of civic and cultural life. They have largely succeeded here in Kansas. They have managed to strip the governor of her emergency powers to deal with the pandemic; rammed through legislation during a historic special session to resist federal vaccine mandates; and prescribed punishment for employers who refused to grant vaccine exemptions based on a declaration of faith. One of the education bills debated Thursday would shield conservative-minded teachers from consequences, such as negative evaluations or job loss, if they refused to teach ideas that conflicted with their religious or moral beliefs.

These folks talk a lot about freedom, but what they really mean is the ability to do just what they want while making other folks — teachers, professors, medical boards — bend to their will. And it goes nearly without saying that when they talk about God, they mean the white Christian ideal, a kind of long-haired favorite uncle standing in a wheat field who understands that sometimes temptation is just too much.

The tone across a broad range of legislation has been consistent, that government (except for their own brand) needs reined in, expertise is not wanted and that any declaration of religious faith is enough to opt you out of any shared civic or social responsibility. At this rate, it won’t be long before a baptismal certificate will be accepted in lieu of having a valid insurance card in your Kansas registered vehicle.

The proposed legislation probably won’t pass, at least not this time, but that shouldn’t make you feel any better about the theocrats in the Statehouse trying to control our public schools. They are anti-education, just as the Tennessee Board of Education was when, in 1925, it passed a law forbidding the teaching of evolution, leading to the Scopes trial. At the trial, a young high school teacher named John Scopes was prosecuted by William Jennings Bryan, a three-time presidential loser from Nebraska, a commanding orator and the leading fundamentalist Christian in America.

The proponents of the bills could have used Bryan’s testimony at the hearings Thursday, if only he hadn’t died a few days after the verdict in the Scopes trial. His prosecution rested on the assertion that the law forbidding the teaching of evolution was necessary to defend parental rights, wasn’t trying to force religion on anybody, wasn’t bigoted. He defended miracles and attacked science. He dismissed expertise, appealed to patriotism, and recited a Robert Burns poem to rustic and simple pleasures.

“What right has a little irresponsible oligarchy of self-styled ‘intellectuals’ to demand control of the schools of the United States, in which 25 millions of children are being educated at an annual expense of $2 billion?” Bryan asked the jury during his closing argument. “Evolution is not truth; it is merely a hypothesis — it is millions of guesses strung together.”

It took a jury less than one minute to convict Scopes, who was fined $100.

In 1968, the Supreme Court finally ruled, in a case from Arkansas, that forbidding the teaching of evolution in public school was unconstitutional because it violates the establishment clause. The First Amendment guarantees Americans the right to practice religion — or not — but it also forbids the government from establishing a religion. In the case of our theocrats, they demand preferred and deferential treatment, pass laws to provide the broadest possible shields to political allies and true believers, and say to hell with the rest of us. We already have religious exemptions from mask wearing and COVID-19 vaccinations granted solely by a claim of a severely (I’m sorry, sincerely) held belief.

This is not the way it’s always been.

Up until the 2014 Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court had weighed the sincerity of belief, from a 1905 smallpox vaccination case to conscientious objectors to the draft during the Vietnam War. In Hobby Lobby, the court said a for-profit company could deny its employees health coverage for contraception based on the religious objections of the owners, and the question of sincerity was not disputed.

To all you parents out there who are truly concerned about filthy books in your schools, let me say this: There is one book that can be found in every school library across the land, and it has some of the most disturbing things you’d never want to read. There’s a story where this old guy offers up his daughters to strangers, and another in which the daughters get the old man drunk and have sex with him, and father children by him. There are tales in which it’s hard to keep an accurate body count. There are passages in which innocents are massacred and punishment for supposed sin is passed from generation to generation.

“It is full of interest,” observed Mark Twain. “It has some noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies.”

Twain was referring, of course, to the King James Bible.

So here we are.

It’s not possible to have a safe, responsible society when a large faction of us are given the equivalent of a “Get Out of Jail Free” card in the form of unquestioned religious exemptions. What is in the hearts of men and women is known only to themselves, and perhaps their gods, but it is unreasonable for declared but unproven belief to be the shield against every form of accountability, from helping fight a global pandemic by being vaccinated to teaching students that scientific consensus says evolution is a real thing. Ditto with manmade global warming. For an educator to do otherwise is irresponsible.

This is not discrimination. It’s an existential test for our species.

And we’re failing it.

Nearly all of the stuff in the bills debated on Thursday, from parental rights to transparency, is already on the books in Kansas. When pressed for evidence parents were being denied access to educational materials, Kansas Policy Institute lobbyist Mike O’Neal talked himself into a knot before finally admitting he had no evidence, other than some anecdotes and a “suspicion of what is going on.”

The public has extraordinary public input into local school boards, so much so that it’s sometimes difficult these days for boards to function. Teachers are vetted by universities and licensed. The vast majority are professionals who take their jobs seriously, strive to give the students their best and would never think of using the classroom as a vehicle for personal or political objectives.

So, why the furor?

Because some Kansas lawmakers would like not only to micromanage classrooms, but to whitewash American history. Racial inequality is baked into the system, no matter what Heritage Foundation might say. Bigotry did not end with the Civil War, or when the Ku Klux Klan was outlawed in Kansas, or when Barack Obama was elected president. It persists as an appalling fact in American life, and a pressing problem that must be addressed before it poisons us all.

Ignorance is not the answer.

Max McCoy is an award-winning author and journalist and former investigative reporter for the Joplin Globe. A native Kansan, he started his career at the Pittsburg Morning Sun and was soon writing for national magazines. His investigative stories on unsolved murders, serial killers and hate groups earned him first-place awards from the Associated Press Managing Editors and other organizations. McCoy has also written more than 20 books, the most recent of which is "Elevations: A Personal Exploration of the Arkansas River," named a Kansas Notable Book by the state library. "Elevations" also won the National Outdoor Book Award, in the history/biography category. Max teaches journalism at Emporia State University.

Mike Moon on overalls controversy: It's an attempt to silence me

(From Sen. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove)

On February 10, a mentorship program was kicked off at your State Capitol. The intent of the program is to offer high school students an opportunity to see first hand how the legislature works. Two other legislators, Representatives Mitch Boggs and Susie Pollock, and staff are participating as mentors in the program.

Beginning last session, our office serves breakfast to the representatives of the 29th Senate District as well as Senators and staff, maintenance personnel, research and other support staff. The breakfast consists of pancakes or waffles, bacon, and eggs to order. I begin cooking at 7 am, dressed in overalls.

The day our mentorship program began, I had an early committee hearing, so instead of taking time to change clothes, I donned a tie and sport coat and headed to the meeting.

When I returned to my office after the meeting, I found five students, three chaperones, and four staffers crowded in my office. (Since my office doubles as my changing room, I didn’t change clothes.) When session began, I was still in my overalls, tie, and sport coat.

Little did I know that my doing so would lead to such a fuss (and, the eventual removal from the most important of my seven committees).

With roll call complete, I sat at my desk in the Senate chamber and listened to the conversation between the Senators. Soon, Senator Dave Schatz (the President Pro Tem – equivalent to the House Speaker) approached me from behind. He asked, “What are you doing, Mike?”

“I’m listening to the debate,” I responded.

Senator Schatz repeated his first question to which I gave the same response.

He then stated in a scolding tone, “You’re making a mockery of the Senate!”

“By sitting in my chair, listening to debate, I’m making a mockery of the Senate,” I snapped back!

Then, to my surprise, Senator Schatz told me that if I didn’t change clothes immediately, “Their will be ramifications!”

I stood from my chair to face him. I asked, “What ramifications?”

“You’ll find out,” he told me.

With that, I turned toward the dais and sought recognition from the President of the Senate, Lt. Governor Kehoe. I asked him if I had broken a rule, tradition, or violated decorum. (Lt. Governor Kehoe was a part of the Senate for at least eight years. I expect he would know whether or not I had broken a rule of some sort.) Lt. Governor Kehoe answered my question, “I have not been advised of any violation, Senator.”

With that, I sat down.

Events Leading to Committee Debacle

Most, if not all, of the events I’ll mention have been detailed in past Capitol Reports. If you’d like more information, contact me and I will respond with more information.

In my first Senate session, I quickly learned what appeared to be expected of me (i.e., Senate Rules). I soon found that even though a rule exists, it may not be a good idea to use it.

For example, once when I didn’t agree with the President Pro Tem’s (Senator Dave Schatz) ruling on point of order, I appealed the ruling. I was “invited” to a meeting with Senator Schatz. He told me, in no uncertain terms that my action often is met with consequences, such as, removal from committees. A year ago, I was first threatened with the stripping of my committees.

During the September Veto Session, while attempting to make a motion to override a Governor’s veto, I was informed by Lt. Governor Kehoe that I was not recognized to make the override motion. My persistence, along with the help of Senator Bill Eigel, led to a five-hour debate on Senate tradition, rules, and the MO Constitution (and, the question has not yet been settled).

This session began with tense moments the first day (and, often tension has been so high it could “be cut with a knife”). The redrawing of congressional districts has brought with it tense additional stress. Due to what seems a desire to disregard the wishes of many outside the Capitol (and pass a congressional redistricting bill passed by the MO House – HB 2117), a filibuster was conducted by some of the Conservative Caucus members. The purpose of the filibuster was, at least, two-fold: hold the floor long enough to allow sufficient time for negotiations to be had; and, prevent the House bill from being passed – a stronger bill is a possibility. What I find odd is the fact that in the past, when Republicans are negotiating, since we are the majority party, a recess can be called for (eliminating the need for a filibuster). In this case, the Senate leaders wanted to pass HB 2117. We had to hold the floor or risk passing a bad bill.

Since I participated in the filibuster, add yet another strike against me.

Just prior to the filibuster, I led a filibuster to stop the nomination of the Governor’s choice for the Director of the Department of Health and Senior Services. After approximately three hours of holding the floor, the Senate leaders were convinced to not confirm the nomination.

Again, I was in hot water: This time with the Governor.

Add to all this my wearing of overalls during session and the proverbial lid blew off.

Double Standard?

Just after I sat down (following my question to Lt. Governor Kehoe), Senator Mike Cierpiot rose from his chair to introduce a “guest.” The guest was former Senator Jim Lembke. Senator Cierpiot disparaged Mr. Lembke in front of the Senate and guests in the chamber – including students.

Afterward, and to this day, nothing has been done to discipline Senator Cierpiot. Oddly, the following day, an attempt to amend the journal with detail of the actions taken by Senator Cierpiot. However, by a majority vote the attempt was quashed.

So, there you have it, the wearing of overalls during session is met with punishment. The belittling of a former Senator results in a majority of Senators ensuring the journal is void of any record (kind of reminds of bit of the book, “1984”).

The "Overall" Reason

Most, including me, find it hard to believe that one is punished for something as benign as wearing overalls. The underlying reason, I think, is an attempt to silence me (and, to send a warning to other Senate conservatives: “Don’t Cross Us!”). Don’t worry, I’m not listening! (And, I don’t believe any other Conservative Caucus member is concerned by the idle threat either!)

What’s Next?

It is my belief that I was punished not so much because I wore overalls, but because I’ve been a constant thorn in the flesh of moderate Republicans. During my years in the MO House, I constantly kept the Constitution at the forefront of the debate (to the chagrin of many – especially Republicans).

In the Senate, I’ve made many of the same arguments and due to the increased influence, it’s much more difficult to be controlled by the Senate leaders. By their current actions, they are attempting to flex their muscle. However, this latest attempt to silence me has failed. In fact, I’ve been empowered. An extraordinary amount of support has been showered upon me by many outside the Capitol – from across the state of Missouri!

Whether or not my committee assignments will be returned, I cannot say. In the meanwhile, there’s much work to be done – to stop bad bills and support bills which protect liberty and freedom!