Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Missouri Senate leader’s tweet about drag performance helped kickstart controversy


By Rudi Keller

With a single tweet, Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden turned a local controversy over what Columbia Public Schools told parents about the drag entertainment at a city diversity breakfast into a state issue.

At 8:44 p.m. on Jan. 19, Rowden wrote that his “office has been inundated with calls & emails re: grade school kids being forced to sit through a drag show” at the annual Columbia Values Diversity breakfast that morning.

(Photo- Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, speaks to the Missouri Senate- Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent)

But in response to a Sunshine Law request filed by The Independent, Rowden’s office produced no emails received earlier than 9:04 a.m. Jan. 20 — more than 12 hours after his tweet. And that first email voiced support for having children experience the drag performance by Nclusion Plus.






 

“I have attended this event in the past. I’m sorry I missed this year’s exciting entertainment,” wrote Rebecca Shaw, who identified herself as a parent with two children in Columbia schools who did not attend.

In an interview, Rowden said the records produced in response to the Sunshine Law request do not reflect calls and messages he received through non-public channels prior to his Jan. 19 tweet.

There were calls to his personal phone, messages on campaign-related social media, emails to his campaign account and calls to his office that were answered directly by staff. Rowden said he does not believe those records are covered by the Sunshine Law’s requirements for disclosure.

Between 10 a.m., when he received the first call about the breakfast, and when he sent his tweet, Rowden said he received approximately 20 messages, including “six to 10” calls to his Capitol office.

“All were either upset about the event or more informative to make sure we knew about it,” Rowden said, later adding: “We got a lot of people who were up in arms. I wanted them to know I was aware of it and taking it seriously.”

Among the records obtained by The Independent are 23 emails from constituents in Boone County, which Rowden represents in the Senate.

Two that were critical of the district were from teachers, one retired and one working. The teacher currently working for the district did not attend the diversity breakfast but said she was told about it by students who did.

She was “completely upset and appalled” at what she heard, she wrote.

“I hope you represent angry parents and teachers (both taxpayers) and sue CPS,” the teacher wrote. “I’m so sick of how liberal CPS has become.”








The 21 other emails were almost evenly split between those upset about the performance and those upset with Rowden’s criticism. Among those 21 emails, nine were from parents who said they had children attending Columbia Public Schools.

Two were from parents who had children who actually attended the breakfast and offered mixed opinions. So did the two from people who gave addresses outside the Columbia district. The four recorded voice messages were from people who thought the performance was not appropriate for school children.

The Columbia Values Diversity breakfast is a city-government sponsored event timed to be held near the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Children from several schools, private and public, attended, including a group of 30 Columbia public schools middle school students and a handful of students from other schools by invitation.

To attend, parents had to sign a permission slip that indicated their child could expect “songs and performances” as part of the celebration of diversity without stating specifically what performance would occur.



Videos of the performance show nothing overtly sexual in the four songs in the show. The performers did circulate through the audience and accept tips.

Of the parents of a child who attended, Tara Arnett told Rowden her son is severely autistic. She emailed Rowden to discuss both the breakfast and her other bad experiences with the school district.

In an interview on Friday, Arnett said she would not have consented to having her son attend if she had known the drag performance would occur. Her son was invited by his principal to represent the diversity at his middle school, Arnett said, but the limited space meant she could not attend.

To accommodate his severe autism, she worked through several potential issues, including arranging to have him and his principal seated at a table at the edge of the event, in case it became too much for him.

No one mentioned that there would be a drag performance, she said.

“I don’t believe children should be taken to a drag performance without it being OK’d by parents,” Arnett said. “I am not saying the city should not put on a drag performance.”

The other parent who wrote about her child attending, Molly Lyman, said her son thought the performance was “cool” but didn’t understand what a drag performance was.

“To him…they were just three performers who were really fun to watch!” Lyman wrote.

It was the first thing he told them about when he got home that day, she wrote.

“Parents getting so upset about this blows my mind,” Lyman wrote.

In an email to The Independent, Lyman said she wrote to Rowden in response to news reports about his critical tweet.

“I knew they were being inundated with emails condemning CPS and the Diversity Breakfast,” Lyman told The Independent, “and I knew some of the loudest and angriest people didn’t even have students there.”

A parent whose child did not attend the performance, Marisa Hagler, emailed Rowden accusing the district of deliberately withholding the fact that a drag show was planned from parents.

In an interview with The Independent on Friday, Hagler reiterated her accusation.

“Everybody, unless you have been living under a rock, knows how controversial drag shows have become and taking kids to them,” Hagler said.

Shaw, the first person to email Rowden’s office after his tweet, said she decided to write to her state senator after seeing news stories about his criticism of the event. She wanted him to know that the opposition was not universal, she said.



“There was a lot of push for people to be outraged about this,” Shaw said.

Among those outraged were Gov. Mike Parson, who wrote on his Twitter account that Columbia school children “were subjected to adult performers” at the breakfast. “








This is unacceptable,” Parson wrote.

A Missouri House committee held a hearing on legislation last week that would define drag performances as adult entertainment and bar attendance by anyone under 18.

And Attorney General Andrew Bailey, who sent letters to Columbia city officials and Yearwood accusing them of violating laws protecting children from sexually explicit material, followed that up with a call for school officials who knew a drag performance would occur to resign or be fired.

Bailey wrote that the “adult themed drag show endangered children, represented an indoctrination program that runs counter to the educational mission of our schools, and deprived parents of an ability to knowingly consent to their children’s attendance at this event.”

Rowden has not joined the calls for resignations. He met Thursday afternoon with District Superintendent Brian Yearwood and Board of Education President David Seamon.

“I think we are moving in a good direction,” Rowden said. “It is not my desire or my goal to make more out of this than it needs to be. It is about parents who feel they are not being communicated with.”

Seamon and Yearwood did not make any specific commitments to Rowden, district spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said.

“Respectful open dialogue and discourse at all levels is a good thing for everyone,” she said.

In a letter to Parson, Yearwood said the district was reviewing its processes so it could “effectively share the advance information we do have with our students and families” about outside events with district participation.

Prior to Rowden’s tweet, Baumstark said, the district heard from two parents who were upset with the performance their child attended and another parent who objected but did not have a child attend. After, she said, the district received numerous complaints, many from outside the district and some from outside Missouri.

Rowden said he would not, for now, talk about the specifics of the discussion.

“There are action steps I asked them to take,” Rowden said. “I don’t want to give details until I see if they do it or not.”

It is the lack of detail in the communication with parents before the breakfast, and how the district addressed criticism afterward, that he wants to fix.



“People misunderstood what the issue was,” Rowden said. “This has very little to do with drag, to me.”

Missouri Republican pushes to legalize magic mushrooms to treat depression, PTSD


By Rudi Keller

The magic in “magic mushrooms” may be the ability to defeat post-traumatic stress disorder, and a St. Charles County Republican lawmaker wants to make them legal in a treatment setting.

State Rep. Tony Lovasco of O’Fallon isn’t a hippie. He says he’s never taken psilocybin mushrooms or smoked a joint.

“I’ve never even smoked a cigarette,” he said in an interview with The Independent. “I’m a pretty boring guy.”

(Photo- State Rep. Tony Lovasco, R-O’Fallon, speaks during floor debate in May 2022 in the Missouri House- Tim Bommel/Missouri House Communications)

But he’s convinced that a growing body of research – and increasing interest from federal regulators – means Missouri should make treatment with the psychoactive mushrooms legal for people over 21.








In addition to PTSD, Lovasco’s bill would allow psilocybin to be used by people with treatment-resistant depression or who have a terminal illness. The administration of the drug would be by medical professionals in a clinic, hospice or nursing home.

“These are very sympathetic people that, you know, are not the kind of folks that you would look at that are drug addicts, or people that are looking to find some loophole in the system to get high,” he said. “These are people who want treatment, they want to get better.”

Psilocybin and other hallucinogens are legal in a handful of locations in the United States.

Beginning this month, psilocybin is legal in Oregon in a therapeutic setting for people over 21. In December, police in Portland raided a shop that was selling mushrooms under the name of ‘Shroom House’.

In November, Colorado voters approved a ballot measure removing the criminal penalties for possession of psilocybin and other psychedelic drugs. The New Hampshire Supreme Court in 2020 overturned a conviction on the grounds of the right to use and possess psilocybin for religious purposes.

Lovasco’s bill defines psilocybin as “natural medicine.” In a bill he filed last year, that term had a much broader meaning. It allowed mescaline, ibogaine, and dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, the psychoactive chemical in the ayahuasca brew NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers consumed on trips to Peru in 2020 and 2022.








Lovasco said he hopes limiting the proposal to psilocybin will make it more palatable to his colleagues.

“For the purposes of getting people treatment, now, psilocybin is the most studied, the most proven, the safest, I think of the substances that I’ve been made aware of,” Lovasco said. “I think it’s the starting point that a lot of people are most comfortable with.”

Federal agencies are exploring when and how psychoactive substances can help treatment of mental health and substance abuse. In June, the chief of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration wrote to U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean that FDA approval of psilocybin to treat depression was likely within the next two years.

Faced with high rates of substance abuse and mental health issues “we must explore the potential of psychedelic-assisted therapies to address this crisis,” Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use, wrote to Dean.

More than 1,000 people take their own lives in Missouri every year, putting the state about 25% above the national average for suicides. The suicide rate among veterans in Missouri is nearly double the state rate and one of the highest in the country.

An interim committee led by state Rep. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City, found that one of the biggest obstacles to preventing veteran suicides is the reluctance to seek treatment. The committee is recommending a beefed-up 988 suicide and crisis hotline, asking for an additional $27 million for the program.

During one hearing over the summer, Griffith said Tuesday to the House Health and Mental Health Committee, a the wife and daughter of a Springfield police officer and National Guard colonel testified about his suicide.

“They knew that he had issues, but they didn’t really want to bring it forward because he was afraid about losing his job,” Griffith said.

There are numerous studies showing the effectiveness of psilocybin to treat addiction and last summer, a study showed that it had promise in controlling alcoholism.

When he first decided to work on the bill, Lovasco said, his purpose was to make it a liberty issue. The state’s high suicide rate, and the elevated rate among veterans, makes it a life-and-death issue.

Two years or longer for FDA approval is a long time to wait, he said.

“The folks that are coming back from war, that are in desperate need of care, a lot of them aren’t going to be around in three years,” Lovasco said. “We’ve got, what 20-something veterans per day committing suicide? That’s a tremendous amount of loss while we wait for the government to do some paperwork.”

Monday, January 30, 2023

Carthage man charged with manslaughter in connection with crash that killed Marshfield woman


The Greene County Prosecuting Attorney's office filed manslaughter charges Monday against a Carthage man who was allegedly driving 98 miles per hour in a 40 mile per hour zone when his car struck another vehicle and killed the driver.

In addition to manslaughter, Alan Gray Jones, 22, is charged with assault and tampering with physical evidence.







The accident that killed Rita Deckard, 57, Marshfield, is described in the probable cause affidavit:

On December 3, 2022, at approximately 1518 hours a two-vehicle crash was reported at N. Glenstone Avenue and the eastbound ramps of I-44 in the city of Springfield, Missouri. The crash was called in by multiple 911 callers. N. Glenstone at this location is posted 40 miles per hour. The intersection is controlled by a traffic signal which at the time of the crash was green for traffic on N. Glenstone Avenue and a flashing yellow arrow for traffic turning left from southbound on N. Glenstone Avenue to the eastbound ramp of I-44.

Alan G. Jones was driving a Tesla Model 3 northbound on N. Glenstone Avenue and passed a 40 MPH speed limit sign 0.58 miles prior to the crash.

R. D. was making a left turn from southbound on N. Glenstone Avenue to eastbound on I-44. R. D. sustained fatal injuries as a result of crash and was pronounced dead on scene.

It was determined through investigation the Tesla attained a speed of as much as 98 miles per hour in the five seconds prior to the crash and was traveling at 94 miles per hour at the time of the crash event. The first recorded braking was at 0.6 seconds prior to the crash event.

Prior to the crash Jones had been northbound in the left lane. Jones then changed lanes to the right lane and passed a non-contact vehicle. Jones then began to change back to the left lane before swerving back to the right lane and colliding with R. D.'s vehicle.







Both vehicles ran off the right side of the roadway before coming to a stop.

The passenger in the Tesla, H. R. sustained the following injuries as a result of the crash:

-Broken right collar bone

-Broken left radius and ulna

-Compression fracture of L3

-Chance fracture at L1

H. R. underwent two surgeries to stabilize her left forearm and one to stabilize her lumbar spine.

The crash occurred during daytime hours with moderate traffic and pedestrians walking in the immediate vicinity of the crash.

After the crash and while still on scene but prior to Jones and H. R. being transported to the hospital a media drive was removed from the Tesla's glove box. The media drive is where Tesla vehicles store video from the dash camera and sentry system for users to access.

According to the probable cause affidavit, the media drive was not turned over to the Springfield Police Department until December 12 until the department requested it from Jones' attorney.

A $10,000 open court only bond has been set for Jones with conditions that he be placed on home supervision with the use of a GPS monitoring device and can only leave to travel directly to and from meetings with his attorney, medical appointments and to the grocery store nearest his home.

***

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Irving Elementary teacher charged with DWI following post-midnight crash after leaving party


The initial appearance for Irving Elementary teacher Katryn "Katy" James on a charge of driving while intoxicated was postponed today due to the closing of the Newton County Courthouse.

James was also scheduled to have a pre-trial hearing on a charge of careless and imprudent driving. Both charges were in connection with a rollover crash that occurred November 6 on Iris Road east of Otter Drive after James left a party.

The allegations against James, 31, Neosho, were detailed in the probable cause statement written by the Highway Patrol trooper who investigated the accident.







On November 6, 2022, at approximately 0030 hours, Troop D Radio Communications personnel advised me of a single vehicle, non-injury, rollover crash on Iris Road east of Otter Drive in Newton County. I responded to the scene. 

Upon arriving on-scene, I observed a silver Chevrolet Equinox at rest in the roadway, on the driver's side, facing northwest. 

Evidence at the scene indicated the Equinox had traveled off the left side of the road, collided with a barbed wire fence, collided with a tree and overturned. I made contact with the driver and obtained preliminary crash information and made a wrecker request for the driver. I asked the driver for her driver license and proof of insurance for the Equinox. 

She stated her driver license was somewhere inside the Equinox. Her husband, who was on-scene, provided current proof of insurance. I identified the driver as Katryn L. James, via her name and date of birth which she provided verbally to me. 

While speaking with James I smelled a moderate odor of intoxicants on her breath. I also noticed her eyes were bloodshot and glassy. I asked James to seat herself in the front passenger seat of my patrol vehicle, which she did. 

While inside my patrol vehicle, I obtained additional crash information from James. I asked James what happened and she said, "I was driving home. I never drive this road. I was taking it because there was a semi on the road and I was trying to, you know, cut time I guess. And I saw a deer and I tried to get away from the deer and I knew I f - - - ed up the second I saw the deer and I tried to swerve." 

I asked James how much alcohol she had, and she said, "I've had like five drinks." 

I asked James what she had been drinking and she said, "Um, I had White Claws and I had two beers."
I asked James how long ago she finished drinking and she said, "Um, probably two hours from my last time I had from my last beer that I had before I left the party." 

Upon my request, James submitted to the following field sobriety tests: horizontal gaze nystagmus, recite the alphabet from C to Y, count backwards from 47 to 32, and a preliminary breath test. 

While administering the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, I noted James' eyes tracked equally, her pupils were of equal size, and did not exhibit resting nystagmus. Both of James' eyes exhibited a lack of smooth pursuit. Both of James' eyes exhibited distinct and sustained nystagmus at maximum deviation. The preliminary breath test was positive for alcohol and revealed a result of O.151 %. 

At approximately 0106 hours, based on the totality of the circumstances, I determined James was intoxicated and placed her under arrest for driving while intoxicated and for operated a motor vehicle in a careless and imprudent manner - involving an accident. I transported James to the Newton County Jail. 








After arriving at the Newton County Jail I inspected James' mouth to ensure there was no foreign material inside. Satisfied, I began the 15-minute observation period at approximately 0128 hours. I advised James of Missouri Implied Consent at approximately 0131 hours. 

At approximately 0144 hours James submitted to a chemical test of her breath. Her blood alcohol content was measured to be 0.128. 

James was fingerprinted, photographed, and issued citations for driving while intoxicated and for operated a motor vehicle in a careless and imprudent manner - involving an accident. James was released from the jail on citations.

James is represented by Joplin attorney Phil Glades.

***
The Joplin Globe charges $200 a year for subscriptions and offers little investigative reporting. The Neosho Daily News charges more than $100 a year for subscriptions and offers none.

Neither newspaper offers free obituaries.

There is no pay wall for the Turner Report, Inside Joplin or Inside Joplin Obituaries and there never will be. 

Investigative reporting, commentary, free obituaries and much, much more. 

If you think more people should be reading the Turner Report, Inside Joplin and Inside Joplin Obituaries, spread the word to your friends and relatives. Share the stories that interest you and keep the news tips coming. They don't always make it into the blog, but they often do.

And if you appreciate this locally owned news operation, consider taking a voluntary subscription or making a contribution of any amount, large or small at the PayPal buttons below or by mailing your contribution to Randy Turner, 2306 E. 8th, Apt. A, Joplin, MO 64801. Thanks!

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Afton man pleads guilty to sexually abusing child and filming the abuse


(From the U. S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma)

An Afton man pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court for filming himself sexually abusing a young child that he had handcuffed and gagged, announced US Attorney Clint Johnson.

Glenn David Nickols, 40, pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual abuse of a minor under 12 years of age in Indian Country and sexual exploitation of a child.








In March of 2021, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) received a CyberTipline report regarding an email account used by Nickols to transmit more than 100 videos and images of child sexual abuse. However, agents noticed that several files were not of previously identified victims of child sexual abuse material. Those images and videos showed multiple instances of a man wearing a hat with the name “Buckster” sexually abusing a child with tape over her mouth and whose arms and legs had been restrained with handcuffs and shackles.

After identifying Nickols and his address, OSBI conducted a search warrant on his home where they seized evidence of the abuse. Agents were also able to identify the young Native American victim and ensure she was safe from any future harm.








Nickols was arrested and interviewed by OSBI agents. During the interview, he identified himself as the adult male seen in the videos, that his nickname was “Buck,” and that he was the owner of the account. He told agents the abuse took place at his home in Afton, within the bounds of the Cherokee Nation.

The OSBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Nassar is prosecuting the case.

Kansas City Democrat: Republicans seeking to eliminate corporate taxes, drag shows and initiative petitions


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

As I was headed into the building on Thursday morning, I rode the elevator with another building employee – perhaps an LA or staff member for another rep. 

As our conversation morphed from weather to building security and accessibility, she began to explain to me that the real threat we face is the coming of the anti-Christ who is coming to destroy Christians and make them subservient to his will. 







Once we made it inside, I excused myself and went into the cafĂ© to purchase a cup of coffee. They stream a music service that plays classic hits from the 60s & ’70s and I often get my ideas for my music reference from this encounter. This day, the song that was playing was The Eve of Destruction, by Barry McGuire. It was a weird way to start the day.

Widgets and Wedges Dominate the Week


For the most part, it’s been budget appropriation committees that have dominated the calendar. Speaker Plocher has introduced a different approach to the way the budget will be developed by giving more authority to budget subcommittees. 

Each subcommittee will amend the budget bills in their possession before sending them to the larger “Big Budget” committee. 

While some subcommittee members are also members of Big Budget, not all are. Thus, subcommittees are larger than before with more assembly members investing in the process. I am a member of Big Budget, and I also sit on the Education Approps committee and am the Ranking Member on the Agriculture, Conservation, Natural Resources and EcoDevo Approps Committee. We are through the lion’s share of the department requests and Governor recommendations and will start our amending process probably by the second week of February.

As you heard in his State of the State address, Governor Parson outlined his spending priorities for the upcoming fiscal year including:

· $859 million to expand and rebuild portions of Interstate 70;

· $275 million for capital improvement projects at Missouri's public higher education institutions;

· $250 million to continue broadband internet expansion efforts;

· $233 million to help public schools meet their transportation needs;








· $78 million to increase childcare subsidy rates and to establish three new childcare tax credit programs;

· $56 million to expand pre-kindergarten options for all four-year-old-children eligible for free and reduced lunch;

· $50 million for school safety grants;

· $38 million for MoExcels workforce development projects on college campuses;

· $35 million to update railway crossings throughout the state; and

· fully fund the school foundation formula.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee endorsed gutting the initiative process and voted to advance four proposed constitutional amendments that either seek to effectively gut the initiative petition process, make it more difficult to amend the Missouri Constitution, or both. 

Majority Republicans supported the measures, while minority Democrats opposed them. The initiative petition process empowers Missourians to propose and enact legislation independently of the legislature. 

In recent years, it successfully has been used to enact several issues the Republican-controlled General Assembly had long blocked, including Medicaid expansion, legislative ethics reform and legalizing medical and adult recreational marijuana use.

As a result of being bypassed on these and other issues they oppose, Republicans have prioritized making it virtually impossible to enact laws or constitutional changes through the initiative. While some measures would raise the minimum number of signatures required for an initiative to qualify for the ballot, most would impose some kind of supermajority requirement for ratifying constitutional amendments, thus allowing a minority of voters to thwart the will of the majority.

The more straightforward of the proposals would require a two-thirds supermajority of votes cast for ratification. Others are more creative, with one requiring the support of both a simple majority of the statewide vote and majority approval in at least 82 of Missouri’s 163 House Districts to effectively create a rural veto. 

Two proposals would require amendments to receive support from a simple majority of registered voters, rather than of votes cast, which would set such a high ratification threshold that nearly all ballot measures would fail – even those that somehow managed to achieve 100 percent voter support.

Most of the supermajority requirements would apply only to amendments proposed by the initiative process, while those the legislature put on the ballot could still pass with a simple majority of votes cast. Any of the measures that clear the legislature automatically would go on the November 2024 ballot for voter ratification using the existing simple-majority threshold.

Because restricting or eliminating the initiative process likely isn’t popular, the proposals include deceptive ballot language falsely telling voters they would allow only U.S. citizens to vote on ballot measures. However, the Missouri Constitution already restricts voting to citizens.

Republican bills target transgender children, drag shows

During a 10-hour hearing that stretched into the early morning hours of Jan. 25, the House General Laws Committee considered six Republican bills tightly restricting medical care for transgender children and limiting their participation in youth sports, along with two bills to criminalize drag performances. The bills are part of a national GOP push against LGBTQ rights. 

In an attempt to reduce public participation, the hearing was announced with just barely more than the 24-hour minimum public notice required by law. As has happened in previous years, however, the tactic didn’t work and transgender children, along with their parents and supporters, still flooded the Capitol to oppose the bills, far outnumbering the handful of bill proponents who showed up to testify.








Three of the bills seek to ban transgender children from participating in girls’ sports, while another three would prohibit transgender children from receiving gender-affirming medical care. 

While the bill’s sponsors said they are necessary to protect children, opponents said they would interfere with the ability of transgender children to live their lives as who they are, jeopardizing both their physical and mental well-being. 

The remaining two bills would make it a crime for someone to perform in front of children dressed as a member of the opposite sex – legislation that seems to ignore the long tradition of drag performances in the mainstream, all-ages entertainment that includes several Shakespeare plays, comedian Milton Berle’s 1950s variety show, the long-running TV series M*A*S*H in the 1970s and the hit films Tootsie and Mrs. Doubtfire in the 1980s and 1990s, respectively.

The committee took no immediate action on any of the bills but is expected to advance at least some of the eight measures at a later hearing. A link to the archived video of the hearing can be found here.

Because of a new policy enacted by the Speaker, except for the Budget Committee, each committee will only be allowed to advance two bills for floor debate prior to Spring Break in March. Therefore, we should expect bills that touch on the same subject to be combined into one.

Meanwhile, the Senate Considers Corporate Income Tax Elimination and Curriculum Bans

On the heels of a $2-billion-a-year individual income tax cut primarily benefiting the wealthy that’s expected to put the Missouri government on shaky financial ground within the next couple of years, the Senate Economic Development and Tax Policy Committee on Jan. 24 heard legislation to completely eliminate the state’s corporate income tax, estimated to cost the state another $712.14 million a year in lost revenue.

Missouri first enacted its corporate income tax, along with the state’s individual income tax, in 1917. The corporate rate topped out at 6.25 percent in 1993 and remained at that level until a series of reductions over the last decade dropped it to the current rate of 4 percent. Starting in 2024, Senate Bill 93 would reduce the corporate rate by one percentage point each year until the tax was completely eliminated in 2027.

The committee also considered a proposed constitutional amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 3, to authorize the legislature to levy sales taxes on digital services, licenses, and subscriptions. Such taxes currently are prohibited under an earlier constitutional amendment Missouri voters ratified in 2016 with 57 percent support. The committee took no immediate action on either SJR 3 or SB 93, both of which are sponsored by Republicans

Committee advances prohibition on teaching about racism


The Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee on Nov. 24 voted for a bill that would prohibit public schools from teaching about the past and present impact of racism on society and require them to teach “the principles of American civics and patriotism.”

Senate Bill 4 would ban K-12 schools from teaching “critical race theory,” a concept taught in some law schools that examines racism’s impact on institutions but that is not taught in Missouri elementary or secondary schools. However, many Republican lawmakers here and elsewhere commonly mischaracterize CRT as part of an effort to prohibit any discussion of race or racism in public schools.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Webb City superintendent to interview for Fayetteville job


Webb City R-7 Superintendent Anthony Rossetti is one of six candidates who will interview for superintendent of the Fayetteville, Arkansas school district, according to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The six were selected from among 31 who applied for the position, which became open due to the impending retirement of Superintendent John L. Colbert.

Rossetti, who was formerly superintendent of the Miller R-2 School District, has been Webb City's superintendent since 2010 when he replaced longtime superintendent Ron Lankford.







The other finalists for the Fayetteville post are Marie Feagins, assistant superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District, Keith McGee, superintendent of the Helena-West Helena School District; Jonathan Mulford, deputy superintendent-operations- Springfield Public Schools; Jeannine Porter, chief of marketing, communications and strategic initiatives, Irving Independent School District, Irving, Texas; and Brad Swofford, superintendent, Branson R-4 School District.

The board is expected to make its selection in mid-February.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Nancy Hughes: If you could read my mind

“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Matthew 15:8 (NIV)

Glasses that allow you to read minds? Sounds great, doesn’t it, and what a novel idea! Or maybe not. 

That was the concept for a television show several years ago. An elderly lady found a pair of reading glasses in the back of a dresser drawer in her home. 

She discovered that when she put them on, she could hear what people were actually thinking while they were speaking to her. She was totally confused at first.






 

For example, when she put the glasses on, she heard her grandson say “Man, I hope the old gal falls down those stairs. Can’t wait to get my inheritance!” She was shocked and quickly pulled the glasses off and asked “What did you say?” Her grandson replied, “I said to please be careful coming down the stairs so you don’t fall.”

Thinking she had simply misunderstood, she put the glasses back on and glanced at her grandson’s girlfriend, only to hear her say “You old goat! Wish you would die already!” In shock, she pulled off the glasses and said “Excuse me?” and heard the young lady say “I said that I want you to be careful, too.”

The elderly lady suddenly realized the value of the glasses: when she was wearing them, they had the ability to show her what a person was really thinking, no matter what they were saying.

It isn’t a big leap to apply that scenario to our lives today, is it. We are all guilty of saying one thing while totally thinking the opposite. No? What about telling a friend how much we love her new dress and how we would like to have one just like it but inside we are thinking “I would n-e-v-e-r buy something that ugly!” Or perhaps we tell someone we will be praying for them concerning a situation but inside we think “You know, you really got what you deserved. You should have made better choices.”








Jesus dealt with people who said one thing but only gave “lip service” to Him. He called them hypocrites. Ouch. In Matthew 15:8 He said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” He knew that what we think in our minds comes directly from our hearts.

Please understand: Allowing critical thoughts and judgmental opinions space in our hearts will give them permission to reside in our minds. In the same way, if kindness and compassion occupy our hearts, they will be a part of our lives. There is nothing wrong with saying “That dress is beautiful on you.” or “You are facing a tough situation. I will pray for you” But we need to learn NOT to add both a critique and critical thoughts, which may simply be an opinion.

I cringe as I consider those times when I said one thing and thought something totally different. What if the person could hear what I was actually thinking? How embarrassed and ashamed I would be! In addition, I would be dishonoring God with my comments, as well, because He sees my heart and my intentions. We all need to allow the Lord to create pure hearts in each of us (Psalm 51:10) and to make sure that the words we speak AND think will be pleasing to Him.

Father, I do not always serve you with my thoughts and my words. Please forgive me and help me to honor you with everything in me. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

R.A.P. it up . . .

Reflect


Can you think of a time that you spoke one thing but were thinking something totally different?

Would you have been embarrassed if the person you were thinking about could actually hear those thoughts?

Apply


Memorize Matthew 15:8.

Stop and consider comments before you make them to make sure you are not saying one thing but thinking another.

Power

Matthew 15:8 (NIV) “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.

Psalm 51:10 (NIV) “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Psalm 19:14 (NIV) “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

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

Friday, January 27, 2023

Sunshine Law violations by AG’s office under Josh Hawley could cost Missouri $300K


By Jason Hancock
Missouri Independent

Following a Missouri judge’s determination that the attorney general’s office “knowingly and purposefully” violated the state’s open records law while it was being run by now-U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, plaintiffs in the case say they are owed more than $300,000 in legal fees.

In November, Cole County Judge Jon Beetem determined the attorney general’s office violated the Sunshine Law by taking steps to conceal emails between Hawley’s taxpayer-funded staff and his political consultants during his 2018 campaign for U.S. Senate.






 

The motivation for breaking the law, the judge concluded, was concern that releasing the records could harm Hawley’s campaign.

Beetem ordered the attorney general’s office to pay $12,000 in civil penalties — the maximum allowed under state law — plus attorney’s fees.

The plaintiffs in the case, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, filed a motion for attorneys fees earlier this month asking the judge to award $306,000. Hourly rates for the attorneys involved in the litigation ranged from $550 an hour up to $1,200 an hour.

The full amount should be awarded, the plaintiffs argue, because “DSCC obtained complete success on all of its claims, an outcome that reflects the high quality of the services rendered by counsel in this case.”

Additionally, the attorney general’s office “vigorously defended this matter, forcing DSCC to incur significant fees.”

The judge recognized how important the case was, the plaintiffs argue, when he levied the maximum possible fine.

“This case is particularly important given both the (attorney general’s office’s) role as the entity charged with enforcing the Sunshine Law, and the practical results of the (office’s) decision to withhold these documents from then-Attorney General Hawley’s political opponent,” they wrote in their court filing.

Eric Schmitt became attorney general in 2019, after Hawley was sworn into the U.S. Senate. Andrew Bailey took over as attorney general earlier this month after Schmitt also joined the U.S. Senate.






 

A spokeswoman for Bailey said the previous administration under Schmitt “elected not to appeal the ruling.”

“As stewards of taxpayer dollars,” she said, “our office will always work to protect Missourians’ hard-earned money from exorbitant attorney’s fees.”

The emails in question were requested by the DSCC in late 2017. Hawley’s office told the DSCC at the time that it had “searched our records and found no responsive records.”

But a year after the request was denied, The Kansas City Star revealed Hawley and his staff had used private email rather than their government accounts to communicate with out-of-state political consultants who would go on to run Hawley’s U.S. Senate campaign.

Among those included in the private email discussions was Daniel Hartman, who at the time was the attorney general’s office’s custodian of records.

The DSCC filed a lawsuit in 2019.

In his November order, Beetem agreed that Hartman was aware communications responsive to the DSCC request existed and should have turned them over. It appears he didn’t, Beetem concluded, because it could have been politically damaging to Hawley.








“Then-Attorney General Hawley was actively running for U.S. Senate at the time of these requests, which were submitted by a national party committee supporting his opponent,” Beetem wrote in his ruling. “The requested documents showed — at a minimum — questionable use of government resources.”

Further, Beetem wrote, the fact that public business was being conducted on private email accounts — in violation of the attorney general’s office’s own policy — is “itself evidence of a conscious design, intent or plan to conceal these potentially controversial records from public view.”

Walmart reducing pharmacy hours beginning in March


Walmart pharmacies will close two hours earlier beginning in March.

Walmart officials confirmed the change to Axios. Weekend hours will remain the same.

The changes are being made, officials from both companies said, due to the difficulty of filling open positions.


Noel Republican's bill would cut corporate income taxes in half, reduce sales tax


(From Rep. Dirk Deaton, R-Noel)

The Special Committee on Tax Reform, for which I serve as Vice-Chairman of the committee, will soon be holding a hearing on my House Bill (HB) 816. HB 816 as introduced would cut Missouri’s corporate income tax from its current rate of 4% to 2% beginning January 1, 2024. 

If in a subsequent year corporate income tax grew by $50 million or more there would be an additional 1% cut which would take the rate from 2% to 1%. 

This would give us the lowest corporate tax rate in the U.S., below North Carolina which currently has a 2.5% corporate tax rate. Cutting this tax would bring more business investment into our state. Furthermore, it would allow Missouri businesses to cut prices for their customers, pay their employees more, and invest more in their local communities.






 

HB 816 would also cut the state sales tax from 4.225% to 3.8%. This would help Missouri consumers pay less on thousands of items purchased every day, allowing you to keep more money in your pocket and less in Jefferson City.

The first step in the process is a public hearing where people can testify for or against the legislation. This step will be completed in the coming days. At this step in the process non-partisan legislative staff will issue a “fiscal note” to report how much state revenue might decrease under this proposal. I will report that to you and other things learned from the public hearing very soon in a future issue of The Deaton Report.

HOUSE COMMITTEE ADVANCES INITIATIVE PETITION REFORM LEGISLATION

Legislation designed to protect the sanctity of the Missouri Constitution is moving quickly through the legislative process and is now on track for discussion on the House floor. House Speaker Dean Plocher and Speaker Pro Tem Mike Henderson said as early as next week the House will consider a constitutional amendment that would allow voters to change the initiative petition process.

“It’s important that we protect the right of Missouri citizens to make their voices heard while also preventing our initiative petition process from being abused by out-of-state money that has no ties to our state and no interest in working on behalf of Missouri families,” said Plocher.

He added, “Our constitution is a sacred document that should be treated with respect and amended only when absolutely necessary. By implementing commonsense reforms we can continue to give Missourians a voice but minimize the influence of special interests from outside our state.”








This week HJR 43 was approved by the House Committee on Elections and Elected Officials. If approved by the legislature and voters, the proposed constitutional amendment would change the threshold required to approve changes to the state constitution. Currently, changes to the constitution require only a simple majority for approval. HJR 43 would raise the threshold to 60 percent voter approval for passage.

Henderson, who sponsors the legislation, said, “I see the constitution as a living document but not an ever-expanding document. We have one of the largest state constitutions in the country and that’s because we keep adding and adding to it.”








He added, “Since our current constitution was written in 1945 it has changed more than 60 times. In comparison, the United States Constitution has been amended 17 times since 1791. It takes 38 states to ratify an amendment to the constitution.”

Henderson noted Missouri is currently one of only 18 states to allow initiative petitions for a constitutional change and has one of the easier processes in the country for amending the constitution.

HJR 43 was approved by the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee by a vote of 11-5. It now moves to a House Rules Committee, which must approve the bill before it moves to the floor for discussion. The committee also passed three other proposed constitutional amendments (HJR 30, HJR 24, and HJR 25) that would modify the requirements to approve constitutional amendments.

Carthage, Neosho FFA chapters receive state grants


(From the Missouri Department of Agriculture)

Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn announced that 22 youth groups from across Missouri were awarded grants from the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s 2023 Building Our American Communities grant program. Eleven local chapters of the National FFA Organization and 11 Missouri 4-H clubs statewide have been awarded funds for their community service projects this year.

“Missouri FFA and 4-H programs continue to enrich and cultivate a strong passion for agriculture and service in our youth,” said Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn. “These groups demonstrate leadership, generosity, and personal growth through their projects. Their hard work inspires me and does not go unnoticed. I applaud each FFA chapter for ‘Living to Serve’ and each 4-H club for devoting their ‘hands to larger service’ every day.”








Each of the 2023 awardees will receive $500 toward their projects, which may include upgrades or additions to existing facilities, grounds or buildings, such as fairgrounds, parks or community centers used by local organizations. The 2023 grant recipients are:

FFA Chapters

Ste. Genevieve FFA, Ste. Genevieve (Ste. Genevieve County)
Fredericktown FFA, Fredericktown (Madison County)
Chilhowee FFA, Chilhowee (Johnson County)
Tipton FFA, Tipton (Moniteau County)
West Platte FFA, Weston (Platte County)
Ashland FFA, Ashland (Boone County)
Centralia FFA, Centralia (Boone County)
Steelville FFA, Steelville (Crawford County)
Cuba FFA, Cuba (Crawford County)
Neosho FFA, Neosho (Newton County)
Carthage FFA, Carthage (Jasper County)

4-H Clubs

Country Kids 4H Horse Club, Lebanon (Laclede County)
Hickory Grove 4H Club, Pleasant Hill (Cass County)
Nobles 4H Club, Tuscumbia (Miller County)
Pocahontas 4H Club, Jackson (Cape Girardeau County)
Iron County 4H Arcadia Valley, Arcadia (Iron County)
Home Pioneer 4H Club, Atlanta (Macon County)
Azen Jolly Timers 4H Club, Downing (Scotland County)







Final Drive 4H Club, Cuba (Crawford County)
Blue Ribbon Kids 4H Club, Leasburg (Crawford County)
Guys & Gals 4H Club, Richmond (Ray County)
Dale Patton 4H Club, Richmond (Ray County)

The Building Our American Communities program has been supporting youth projects since the 1970s. Each year, youth organizations throughout Missouri submit proposals for consideration for the grants that support specific projects within each community. The grants are funded through Missouri’s Agriculture Development Fund under an agreement with the USDA.

4-H clubs and FFA chapters awarded grants this year must complete their projects no later than Aug. 1, 2023.

For more information on the department and its programs, visit agriculture.mo.gov.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Judge says Missouri House rule limiting access to public records is constitutional


By Jason Hancock

A Cole County judge has concluded that a rule implemented by the Missouri House in 2019 allowing lawmakers to withhold certain information from public records does not violate the state constitution.

The lawsuit was filed by Mark Pedroli, founder of the Sunshine and Government Accountability Project. He challenged a rule adopted by the Missouri House allowing legislators to “keep constituent case files, and records of the caucus of the majority or minority party of the House that contain caucus strategy, confidential.”






 

The rule was in direct response to a constitutional amendment overwhelmingly approved by Missouri voters a few months earlier in 2018. Among other provisions, the amendment required the legislature to abide by the state’s Sunshine Law.

Previously, some lawmakers had considered themselves exempt from open records laws.

Pedroli sued, alleging the rule defied the will of the voters and violated the constitution.

Cole County Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetem did not agree, issuing a three page ruling dismissing Pedroli’s lawsuit last Thursday.

Missouri’s constitution gives the legislature the power to set the rules of its own proceedings.

The 2018 constitutional amendment may limit the legislature’s ability to exclude its records from the definition of a public record, Beetem wrote, but nothing in the amendment “prevents the General Assembly from closing those records, either directly or indirectly by House rule.”








“The Sunshine Law requires access to those public records which are not closed, i.e., open records,” Beetem wrote in his ruling. ”The Sunshine Law clearly acknowledges the ability to protect records from disclosure by law.”

Pedroli said he was reviewing the ruling before making any decision about an appeal.

David Roland, director of litigation for the libertarian Freedom Center of Missouri, said Beetem’s ruling “obliterates the amendment that voters adopted in 2018 that required legislative records to be subject to public records laws.”

The 2018 amendment was designed, Roland says, to prevent the legislature from trying to “exempt itself from public records requirements simply by adopting a rule.”

If the legislature wants to limit access to public records, it should have to pass a bill through both the House and Senate, get the governor’s signature and then allow it to be subject to repeal by the voters through a referendum, Roland said. Instead, one legislative chamber can act without any checks through its rules.

“What Judge Beetem’s ruling says is that this amendment in 2018 didn’t change anything at all,” Roland said, adding that the ruling is “just a clear misreading of the language and intent” of the constitutional amendment.

Roland hopes the ruling gets appealed, and it “certainly should be overturned.”

The lawsuit was inspired by a 2019 St. Louis Post-Dispatch story about Missouri lawmakers getting letters — purportedly from constituents — asking them to support legislation making it harder to file lawsuits against out-of-state companies.








But many of the constituents said they never sent the letters, which used language from a U.S. Chamber of Commerce website.

Pedroli was contacted by one of the people who had a letter sent in their name, prompting him to look into “misappropriated constituent names, identity theft and fake emails used to influence Missouri elected officials.”

He sent Sunshine requests to Missouri House members, asking for emails similar to those sent to Missouri elected officials without the knowledge or consent of constituents. Some legislators produced the emails. Others refused to produce the records without redacting email and postal addresses of the purported authors.

Four bills making initiative petition process harder passed by Missouri House committee


By Rudi Keller

A Missouri House committee approved four versions of proposals to overhaul the initiative petition process Thursday on party-line votes, despite warnings of well-funded opposition if lawmakers put one on the ballot.

The differences among the competing proposals were enough that House Elections Committee Chairwoman Peggy McGaugh, R-Carrollton, said she didn’t feel comfortable combining them.

(Photo- Rep. Mike Henderson, R-Bonne Terre, during a 2022 committee hearing on his proposal to change the initiative petition process- screenshot).

“I thought there were enough nuances that we needed to have options,” McGaugh said after the four 11-5 votes in her committee.








The vote was taken in a special meeting of the committee less than 48 hours after a lengthy public hearing on the proposals. That sped up the normal process, which would have seen votes taken at the committee’s regular meeting next week.

Rep. Joe Adams, D-University City, criticized that speed, arguing it gave Democrats little time to prepare amendments, which under House rules have to be ready 24 hours before a committee vote.

And alluding to warnings of a major opposition campaign, Adams said he hopes that the “resounding defeat” he expects at the polls will put an end to debate on changing citizen-led issue campaigns.

But he’s not certain even a defeat can end the push to change the initiative process.

“There are some pieces of legislation that are zombies and vampires, that no matter how many times you kill them, they come back,” Adams said.

Since early in the 20th century, Missouri voters have had the ability to propose new laws and constitutional amendments – and challenge laws passed in the General Assembly – by gathering signatures to put issues on the ballot.

Currently it requires signatures equal to 8% of the vote cast for governor in six of the state’s eight congressional districts to propose a constitutional amendment and 5% in six districts to propose a change in state law.

Republicans have made it a priority to change the thresholds for getting constitutional amendments on the ballot and to pass them. A constitutional amendment has become the preferred way of proposing initiatives because it takes a second statewide vote to change anything passed by voters, while a statutory change can be altered by lawmakers with a signature from the governor.








All initiatives, like ballot measures proposed by lawmakers, require only a simple majority to pass.

The first proposal approved in the committee Thursday, sponsored by House Speaker Pro Tem Mike Henderson, R-Bonne Terre, was amended to keep the current threshold for ballot access while adding a 60% majority requirement for amendments proposed by initiative. Henderson’s original bill increased the requirement for ballot access to 10% of the vote cast for governor in all eight congressional districts to be placed on the ballot in addition to the 60% majority on election day to pass.

The changes proposed in the other plans approved by the committee vary in the ways they raise the bar. One would keep the simple majority for statewide passage but also require that it receive a majority in 82 of 163 Missouri House districts. Another would require a constitutional amendment to receive a majority equal to more than half of all registered voters, making it impossible to pass anything when turnout is less than half of the electorate.

Any significant change will draw opposition from groups that have used the ballot to limit new taxes, expand Medicaid or legalize marijuana in recent elections. The Missouri Association of Realtors, which spent more than $10 million over two elections on successful initiatives, has already said it is ready to oppose changes.

The Senate will likely wait for a House bill before conducting floor debate. Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said Thursday that Republicans will not be deterred by promised opposition.

He did, however, acknowledge that will make it more difficult to pass at the polls. Rowden noted that “it’s really easy for the other side, just to say, hey, these crooked politicians are taking away your voice. So if that message has a bunch of money behind it, yeah, I think it makes it harder for that to pass.”

Senate Democratic Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, said if voters can’t sidestep legislators by taking issues to the ballot, they will start changing the legislature.

“Last I checked, they were in the majority,” Rizzo said. “So if they’re gonna change the legislature, it won’t be beneficial to them.”