‘Ballot candy?’ Missouri GOP adds citizen-only voting into initiative petition changes

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Rep. Jamie Burger, R-Benton, seated, listens as Speaker Pro Tem Mike Henderson, R-Bonne Terre, answers a question on Feb. 1, 2023 (Tim Bommel/Missouri House Communications).

Missouri Republicans have long argued a successful 2018 initiative petition establishing a nonpartisan redistricting process duped voters by pairing it with politically popular proposals like limits on lobbyist gifts to legislators. 

Two years later, the GOP got in on the act, pushing its own ballot measure repealing the nonpartisan plan by tying it to a complete ban on lobbyist gifts. 

Now the debate over so-called “ballot candy” — pairing a popular idea with a more controversial one in a ballot measure as a way to win over voters — is back. 

The Missouri House passed legislation this week aimed at making it harder to amend the state constitution through the initiative petition process. The Republican-backed bill would increase the threshold needed for voter approval of a proposed constitutional amendment from a simple majority to 60%. 

But the change needs voter approval, and the first bullet point in the summary crafted by Republican lawmakers that would be placed on the statewide ballot doesn’t mention initiative petitions at all. 

Instead, it asks Missourians whether the constitution should be amended to “allow only citizens of the United States to qualify as legal voters.”

That one line dominated House debate this week.

“We know it’s put in there to be deceptive to voters,” said House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield. 

Republicans deny they are attempting to trick anyone. But they don’t offer much in the way of explanation for the ideas’ prominent placement. 

“I couldn’t tell you,” said House Speaker Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres, when asked Thursday why the citizen-voting question was placed at the top of the ballot summary. 

“I mean, it’s something we believe in strongly,” he said. 

Missouri House gives initial approval to raising bar for voters to amend the constitution

Democrats call the proposal a cynical ploy to exploit anti-immigrant sentiment in order to trick voters into accepting an otherwise unpopular idea. Adding to their angst is the fact that election experts say the state constitution is already clear that only citizens are allowed to vote in Missouri. 

“Article VIII, Section 2 of the Missouri Constitution limits the right to vote to U.S. citizens,” said Travis Crum, professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis.

The right to vote for immigrants in Missouri who had declared their intent to become citizens was removed from the state constitution in 1924.

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Aschroft’s office has previously clarified that current state law also says “you have to be a citizen to register to vote.”

“There is zero evidence of wide-scale non-citizen voting in Missouri,” Crum said. “The specter of non-citizens voting has been a boogeyman for years around the country, and no one who’s pushing this theory has come up with any proof that it’s a systemic problem.”

Rep. David Tyson Smith, D-Columbia, said he has asked Republicans — in committee, as well as during floor debate — why the citizenship question needed to be the first bullet point in the summary. 

“They won’t answer the question,” Smith said. “Everyone in this building knows what’s going on. They know that they’re just trying to get this through, and this is the way to do it. And it’s wrong and it’s misleading.”

Republicans say the change is a needed constitutional clarification, from “all citizens” are allowed to vote to “only citizens.”

During debate, some GOP legislators pointed to examples like San Francisco, where in 2016 voters passed an ordinance allowing non-citizen parents of children in schools to vote only in school board elections.

A local judge overturned that ordinance last year, saying it violated California’s constitution. That ruling is currently before an appeals court. 

Republican Rep. Mike Henderson of Bonne Terre, who sponsored the proposed changes to Missouri’s initiative petition process, said that even without his legislation, non-citizens are already unable to vote in Missouri.

But he insisted the provision should be included, and he opposed Democratic efforts to move the citizen-only language lower in the ballot summary. He said the language has been vetted by attorneys in order to ensure it could withstand a legal challenge. And he reminded Democrats this year’s version is the same as has been passed by the House in previous years. 

“We’ve worked hard on this ballot language,” he said, “and I’d like to keep it right where it is.” 

The summary appearing on the ballot is capped at 50 words, Plocher said, and he doesn’t think Missouri voters will stop reading after the first bullet point. 

“It’s only 50 words,” Plocher said. “It’s not hard to read 50 words. I think  citizens will read all 50 words. I mean, what do you go to the ballot box for, to just read the first two words? Because if that’s the case, the first person on the ballot would win every time.”

The change is crucial, Plocher said, to “better articulate who should be able to vote in the initiative petition process. It is essentially part and parcel to everything we’re trying to accomplish.”

And ballot candy doesn’t always work. Missouri voters soundly rejected a gas tax hike in 2018 despite it being sold as a way to increase funding for law enforcement.  

Missouri realtors vow to fight GOP push to make it harder to amend state constitution

The push to make it harder to amend the state constitution has been a GOP priority for years. 

Over the last decade, the initiative petition process has been used to make an end run around the legislature to successfully amend Missouri’s constitution to raise the minimum wage, expand Medicaid eligibility and legalize marijuana. 

Plocher said the current version of the Missouri Constitution has changed more than 60 times since it was written in 1945. In comparison, he said, the U.S. Constitution has been amended only 17 times since 1791.

“Our constitution is meant to be a sacred document,” he said, “but is now one that has grown dramatically in size because of out-of-state interests that have spent millions of dollars here in Missouri to change our way of life,”

Henderson said he trusts Missourians to make the final decision on his bill. 

“We’re going to ask the people to vote,” Henderson said. “The people of Missouri will decide if we are right or wrong. We are not overstepping the people. We are going to the people and asking them to say what is your opinion of this? Should it be changed to 60%?”

Republicans are trying to trick Missouri voters with the citizenship language, Quade said, but it won’t work. She noted voters rejected similar proposals in Arkansas and South Dakota by overwhelming margins. 

“We know all across the country, “she said, “where they have tried to go after the ballot initiative process, voters are with us in saying that they want to continue to have a voice in democracy.”

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State medical cannabis programs failing to make enough progress, advocacy group finds

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In 2018, 66% of Missouri voters signed off on putting a medical marijuana program into the state’s Constitution. Last year, 53% approved adult-use recreational marijuana (Getty Images).

WASHINGTON — A report from a patient advocacy group found the future of medical cannabis in the states is hazy unless costs are decreased, product safety standards are improved, and civil rights are strengthened for patients and prescribers.

Americans for Safe Access issued its annual State of the States report on Thursday. The organization, a nonprofit, has put out the document to advocates and state policymakers since 2014, as a tool to “assess and improve medical cannabis programs.”

ASA Executive Director Debbie Churgai said that one of the main surprise findings of this report was the lack of progress being made to strengthen and develop the medical cannabis sector.

“This was the first report that we saw the fewest improvements in the states,” Churgai said. “So much so that I felt a little shocked at first.”

The five states with the highest-graded medical cannabis access programs were Illinois, Michigan, Maryland, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Of the five, Maryland had the highest score, receiving a 75.7% on the group’s scale.

ASA issued 13 failing grades to state medical cannabis programs: Texas, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. The lowest-scoring states were Idaho and Nebraska, which both received a 0 for a lack of medical cannabis programs.

Missouri scored 65.14%, earning a C+ in the report.

“Despite a slow and rocky start to the implementation of medical cannabis in Missouri, the program is finally functional and providing access to patients across the state,” the report states.

ASA issued letter grades to all state medical cannabis programs in the report, based on a 0 to 100 scale. The programs were evaluated on the metrics of: patient rights and civil protection, accessibility, program functionality, affordability, health and social equity, consumer protection and product safety, and penalties.

The report does not evaluate recreational or adult-use cannabis programs.

ASA found that the number of medical cannabis patients continues to expand across the country, now numbering more than 6 million. That represents an increase of close to 1 million patients from the 2021 State of the States report.

The authors said that two states have added legal medical cannabis access programs in 2022, bringing the total to 48 states plus the District of Columbia, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.

Churgai noted that when the group started issuing the report, only 14 states had medical cannabis legislation.

How grades are computed

(Ethan Miller/Getty Images).

The letter grades distributed to states in the report range from B, meaning a strong medical cannabis program, to F, for a fatally flawed or absent program. Churgai explained that an A represents the “ideal medical cannabis law,” and no state received one.

“We know that we already know that some things do not exist in states, like coverage under health insurance for cannabis products,” Churgai said. “We base everything on a perfect program that we know cannot exist right now without federal oversight.”

As such, ASA graded on a curve in the 2022 report, allowing states that offer a full range of access and protections to the best of their ability a passable grade.

Still, even with the adjusted system, no state earned a grade above a B-, or 76% on ASA’s medical cannabis grading scale.

The report also highlighted individual “gold standard” provisions in each program.

For the civil rights and patient protections category, Arizona received the highest score, at 96%. The national average score in this category was 58%.

Maryland received the highest score for consumer protection and product safety, at 84.5%, compared to the national average of 44.8%.

Illinois and Virginia scored the highest in the affordability category, with a score of 65%. The national average score for affordability was 39.6%.

For access to medicine, Maine received the highest score at 95%. The national average in this metric was 42.13%. In the health and social equity category, Ohio received the top score of 90%, while the national average was 45.82%.

Missouri got its lowest scores on affordability, though the report suggested lawmakers focus on policies that “protect medical cannabis patients in the state, like employment and parental right protections.”

ASA averaged the 56 state and territory grades to find that medical cannabis access in the United States only received 46.16% or a “D+” on ASA’s grading scale. The authors said that the score marked a 2-point improvement from 2021.

“We’ll take that,” Churgai said. “But one of the themes actually in this year’s report was our surprise that more states are not making improvements.”

 Affordability, consumer safety

The ASA leaders said issues with affordability and consumer safety remain commonplace nationwide.

For the second year in a row, affordability for state medical cannabis programs recorded the lowest national average score among the categories measured by ASA.

“In our patient feedback section, in almost every state, we have at least a few responses that talk about how affordability is an issue for patients,” Churgai said. “So it’s definitely a huge problem.”

The executive director noted that registration fees are “still too high,” ranging from $50 to $350 for patients, as are costs for targeted medicines.

“It’s a huge, huge burden for patients all across the country,” Churgai said. “This is a medicine that they’re using not only daily, but sometimes every day for the rest of their lives. And the fact that there’s no insurance coverage, this is all out-of-pocket, and expensive.”

Churgai and Steph Sherer, president of Americans for Safe Access, also lamented the lack of collective safety standards and training in the medical cannabis industry.

“If you go through this report and look through everything that we grade, it’s astounding how different the states are in every little aspect of testing and labeling standards,” Churgai said. “We need some national standards. We really need some kind of federal oversight that really guarantees that patients are protected and safe.”

Other challenges ASA noted included lacking employment protections, insufficient retailers and restrictions on patient cultivation programs.

Still, the group did note some progress in improving arrest protections, increased adoption of adult-use cannabis and low-THC strains from more conservative states, and growing reciprocity programs.

Competition with recreational cannabis

Amendment 3 asked voters last November whether to amend the Missouri Constitution to remove bans on marijuana sales, consumption and manufacturing for adults over 21 years old, with some caveats (Rebecca Rivas/The Missouri Independent).

More than anything, the ASA team emphasized the growing challenges represented by the recreational market.

Missouri voters approved recreational marijuana last year, and sales begin on Monday.

“This is a huge trend that we’re seeing as more states are allowing adult use,” Churgai said. “Unfortunately, they’re giving a regulatory preference to it, so much so that they’re ignoring or pushing aside the patient medical program.”

The report says that as Missouri works to implement its recreational program, legislators need to ensure that “the adult use/recreational cannabis program and the medical cannabis program remain distinct, as each consumer base has separate needs that must be addressed.”

The executive director noted that 14 states were penalized on their report cards this year for giving regulatory preference to adult-use cannabis operations. Churgai added that the ASA analysis also showed states lumping their medical and recreational cannabis programs together, and not comprehending patient needs and protections.

“It’s not the regulators’ fault, or policymakers’ fault,” Churgai said. “I believe that they think that they’re still helping people. But they don’t understand the needs of patients, and why patients actually still want a medical program, and they still need a medical program.”

Sherer added that the consolidation of these cannabis programs is leading to consolidation of product for cost-saving purposes, as companies fire their chief medical officers, and compete with the upstart cannabinoid market. Cannabinoids are cannabis-derived chemicals, like Delta-8 THC and cannabidiol, or CBD. Products containing these substances can be sold in grocery stores and gas stations, and have no federal age requirement.

“I think that what we’re seeing is that without these companies being able to increase their available market size to a federal market, they’re really struggling to stay in business,” Sherer said. “They’re finding that they often have to serve the adult-use population in order to pay for the business altogether.”

This decision ultimately harms medical cannabis patients, as their needed medicine gets sold as a consumer product.

The ASA leaders offered policy ideas, including increasing insurance coverage of cannabis, expanding medical cannabis licensing, standardizing lab testing, and reducing taxes along the supply chain.

“It’s really important to understand that we’re not just telling states what they’re doing wrong, or what they could be doing better,” Churgai said.  “But we actually give them ways to improve the law for patients.”

“The big elephant in the room for these programs is that when we first created access programs to medical cannabis, they were meant to be a type of triage, to get patients off the battlefield of the war on drugs while we changed federal law,” Sherer said.

“And 25 years later, states have done a lot to navigate this very odd situation of regulating an illegal substance. It’s really time for the federal government to move forward with the comprehensive program for medical cannabis.”

The first medical cannabis laws in the United States were implemented 26 years ago.

Consumption and sales of medical cannabis are illegal under federal law.

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CPR Classes Available

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The St. Charles County Department of Public Health is hosting several CPR/AED and First Aid classes in 2023. Upon completion of the class, participants will earn an American Red Cross training certificate valid for two years from the date of completion.

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Recorder of Deeds Offering Fully Online Marriage License Process

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The St. Charles County Recorder of Deeds office is one of two offices in the state beta testing a new system that enables the processing of electronic marriage license applications without the need for either applicant to appear at the office in person.

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An Update on Construction at I-70 and Cave Springs and Zumbehl

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If you’ve driven on I-70 in the St. Charles area in the last several months, I’m sure you’ve noticed the ongoing construction at and leading up to the Zumbehl and Cave Springs roads exits. While the frustrations of driving through construction traffic are likely your first thought when passing through these areas, I hope to encourage you about the improvements this construction will bring once the projects are complete!
The bridges at Cave Springs and Zumbehl are just pieces of the bigger picture: Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT)’s I-70 Cave Springs to Fairgrounds Design-Build Project [https://i70csfg.com/] aims to enhance connectivity, improve safety, and provide much needed updates to this corridor. These interchanges have a higher than average crash rate, at two crashes per day on average between 2013 and 2017. Traffic jams flowing from outer roads and the interstate cause congestion, especially during rush hours. The existing infrastructure has been quickly outgrown by the number of businesses and residential areas located in this corridor, and the stretch of Cave Springs to Fairgrounds roads needs to meet the success of that.
MoDOT is expected to complete the first half of both these bridges in the spring, with traffic switching over to the new bridges this summer. The old bridges will then be demolished, making room for the second half of each to be built. You can track ongoing progress on the project website [https://i70csfg.com/] , and follow MoDOT on social media [https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100064415246709] for construction updates impacting travel.
A lot of our residents and businesses have wondered what the traffic flow at these bridges will look like. These are designed to be Single Point Urban Interchanges (SPUI), similar to what you see at I-70 and First Capitol/Route 94. MoDOT is targeting the new interchanges to be in place by the beginning of 2024, with full completion of the project by June 2024.
Please take extra care while driving through these construction zones and be alert for lane closures and changes to traffic flow. I hope you enjoy viewing the progress as we get closer to project completion!

A Message from the County Executive: Advancing DNA Technology Solving More Crimes

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In the coming months, the St. Charles County Police Department Criminalistics Laboratory will add another resource to its toolkit in solving crimes in the area, specifically enhancing the reliability and validity of complex DNA samples.
A new DNA analysis software, called ArmedXpert™, will allow the Crime Lab to more efficiently and effectively identify DNA profiles that involve multiple contributors. While the Lab’s accredited DNA analysis staff can do this now, the software assesses the DNA components much faster and even more accurately than by human review. I talked with Crime Lab Director Bryan Hampton to understand what this means for our police department and for St. Charles County as a whole.
He told me the software conducts a deconvolution process; it takes information from complex DNA mixtures and parses it out to organize the sample into identifiable profiles at a much higher speed than we can currently. It allows us to extract more information from the data, and garner more usable profiles from complex samples that have multiple contributors, or subjects.
Bryan says this technology will play an important role in cases such as burglaries, stolen vehicles and even homicides.
When there is a mixture of DNA in a sample, Bryan said it is a tedious process to analyze and accurately glean a usable profile to identify which DNA belongs to which individual. The Crime Lab has the capability to do that already, but the complexity and length of time of the process is greatly reduced with this software—from hours down to minutes.
Why does this matter for a St. Charles County resident? This means our Crime Lab can process more forensic evidence, more efficiently. With a workload of more than 2,500 cases each year, there is no shortage of evidence to examine and analyze. Any link from evidence to existing data, or addition of new data, helps cut down the time it takes to charge and prosecute suspects, and fairly and expeditiously aid the judicial process.
Regionally, DNA profiles, fingerprints and ballistic evidence uploaded by the department to investigative databases have provided links between cases. In 2022 alone, 162 DNA profiles uploaded by the Lab to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database “hit” to prior offenders, arrestees, and crime scene samples from across the country. This valuable information has an impact on current cases, but also has helped solve cold cases, such as the 1993 kidnapping and murder of Angie Housman [https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/photos-convicted-child-predator-charged-with-1993-murder-of-angie-housman/collection_a2ffdf69-e439-57f5-bfeb-0f5604c3f8cb.html#1] , the 1984 murder of Eleonora Knoernschild [https://www.ksdk.com/article/news/local/one-of-two-brothers-found-guilty-in-1984-st-charles-murder/63-594818048] , and the 1990-1991 “package killer” murders of five women [https://news.stlpublicradio.org/show/st-louis-on-the-air/2022-09-23/how-gary-muehlberg-was-revealed-as-st-louis-package-killer] .
Bryan says this new software will potentially allow the Lab to upload more DNA profiles into CODIS that otherwise may not be eligible. With that, there could be more database hits and the department could make more contributions to solving crime regionally as well as nationally.
While we take pride in keeping our county safe, it’s no secret that crime has impacted our region, and criminals hold no regard for jurisdictional boundaries when committing a criminal act or attempting to flee. We should all be proud of the work of our Crime Lab and how valuable it is in assisting in fighting crime. It is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) National Accreditation Board (ANAB) and has been continuously since 2007. The Lab is staffed by six full-time scientists, a part-time firearm examiner and a part-time evidence clerk with nearly 120 years of combined forensic science experience.

200,000 Missourians estimated to lose Medicaid as eligibility renewals resume

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Todd Richardson, left, director of the MO HealthNet Division, with Patrick Luebbering, chief financial officer of the Department of Social Services, pictured in March 2022 (Rudi Keller/Missouri Independent).

The director of Missouri’s Medicaid program said he expects “about 200,000” Medicaid enrollees to lose coverage over the course of a year as a result of the state resuming annual eligibility renewals after a three-year pause. 

The state’s Department of Social Services has not previously provided a public estimate of those projected to lose coverage. DSS said Wednesday it expects Medicaid enrollment numbers to “level off” approaching this July, and then “slowly ramp down” by around 200,000 people over the course of the next fiscal year, which lasts from July 2023 to July 2024. 

Since the federal public health emergency was declared in March 2020, states have been barred from removing enrollees from Medicaid, in exchange for enhanced federal funds. 

That pause on conducting eligibility redeterminations will end April 1. States will resume conducting eligibility checks and can again remove participants from their rolls who are deemed ineligible. 

Some Missourians could lose coverage because they are no longer eligible. For example, if they now make too much money to qualify, they could be disenrolled. 

Others who continue to be eligible could lose coverage because of procedural errors, such as failing to return proper paperwork. States are working under federal guidelines to limit those types of procedural disenrollments.

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When the public health emergency began, in March 2020, there were just over 900,000 Missourians enrolled in Medicaid. Now, there are over 1.4 million enrolled — a result of the federal continuous coverage rules during the pandemic, as well as Missouri’s expansion of Medicaid to low-income adults in late 2021. 

I don’t think there’s any doubt that Missouri, like every other state in the country, expects to see enrollment come down once a full set of the redeterminations are done,” Todd Richardson, the director of Missouri’s Medicaid program, MO HealthNet, said at a Wednesday hearing of a Missouri House subcommittee on appropriations.

Richardson told Republican lawmakers — who raised concerns about the increasing state Medicaid budget — that those enrollment declines will reduce overall state Medicaid spending. 

“As we come out of the [public health emergency], we expect to see that enrollment decline, we expect to see our budget return to more of a definable range, that’s not so much driven by that single component,” Richardson said. 

The proposed Medicaid budget for next fiscal year is $15 billion, the majority of which — $9 billion — would be from federal funds. A proposed $2 billion would be from state general revenue. 

Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs, said since in his “short lifecycle in the building” — he was elected in 2018 — he had seen the Medicaid budget grow from $10 billion to $15 billion, and the number of enrollees from under a million to 1.4 million. 

“This is somewhat of a sustainability question,” Richey said, also raising concern that proposed legislation to expand postpartum Medicaid eligibility from 60 days to one year after birth would increase costs further. 

“What would be a good ballpark…that would be the anticipated increase in costs for the maternal mortality effort?” Richey asked. (Richardson referred him back to the fiscal note in that legislation.)

Richardson told lawmakers rising costs in the overall Medicaid budget have largely been a result of the increased number of enrollees during the public health emergency.  

The “overwhelming majority of the increase you’ve seen in the budget over the last three and a half years has been driven by enrollment,” Richardson said.

Since Missouri implemented voter-approved Medicaid eligibility to low-income adults, nearly 300,000 have enrolled from that population, as of last month.

The federal government funds 90% of the costs of expansion, and a Kaiser Family Foundation review of the literature found expansion often offsets state costs in other areas, and can save money longer-term by reducing mortality. 

The other source of increased enrollment — the continuous eligibility rules which barred states from removing participants during COVID — also has been largely federally-funded, another KFF study found. 

Regarding the projected participation decline, Richardson added “we do expect that decline to be meaningful…and as a result, a meaningful reduction overall in where our budget is.”

‘To lessen the burden’ of renewals

Missouri has been singled-out for its bureaucratic hurdles to renewal before, which Department of Social Services leaders say they have made efforts to remedy (Getty Images).

A major concern among health care advocates is that the renewal process will erroneously kick people off Medicaid who are still eligible. National studies have warned that many of those who lose Medicaid coverage during the unwinding of the continuous coverage rules could remain eligible but will be dropped off the rolls due to administrative issues. 

Participants’ renewal date will, in most cases, be the anniversary month of when they originally enrolled in Medicaid, the department has said, and it has urged participants to update their contact information to receive the necessary mailed communication.

Kim Evans, director of the state’s Family Support Division, laid out for lawmakers last week initial details of the state’s plan for resuming Medicaid redeterminations and avoiding procedural disenrollment. Family Support Division handles Medicaid applications and eligibility, while MO HealthNet is responsible for services.

“We want to make every effort we can to not make this a burdensome process and create what we call churn,” Evans said last week. 

“Churn” refers to the number of people who fall on and off Medicaid due to procedural issues — often because they do not return the forms, or the information is lost, which in turn increases the number of applications that staff need to process.

Missouri has been singled-out for its bureaucratic hurdles to renewal before, which Evans said her agency has made efforts to remedy.

“We’re talking about children here, we’re talking about families and, you know, adults who are disabled or elderly who need that coverage,” Evans said. 

In 2019, the state came under scrutiny for significant enrollment declines. Missouri Budget Project, a liberal public policy think tank, determined that families were often kicked off Medicaid despite being eligible for coverage because of challenges with the annual renewal process, including that they did not receive the proper paperwork or submitted the paperwork only for it to be lost or not processed. 

States are required to attempt to renew participants’ eligibility using existing data, called ex-parte renewals, before contacting enrollees to complete forms or documentation themselves. But Missouri has historically used this streamlined renewal process at a low rate. In January 2020, Missouri was one of seven states that processed fewer than 25% of renewals automatically

But during the unwind of the continuous coverage provisions, the state will increasingly rely on electronic sources, Evans said.

The “whole process is new,” Evans said when Rep. John Voss, R-Cape Girardeau, asked if any elements of the renewal process were new.

Missouri will first use the United States Post Office’s national change of address database to update participants’ addresses automatically, and will then go on to attempt to electronically verify their eligibility information, such as income levels.

The earliest renewal will be for a participant with a June renewal, who will receive a letter from the state in May and, if the state requests more information, will need to respond by the end of June. 

Evans explained the state’s timeline using the June renewal group as an example. In March, the department will check the addresses for that group against the federal postal data, then in April it will start the ex-parte electronic verification process. In May, the department will mail a decision letter, if the automated information was sufficient to render a decision, or send a form to request more information if it was not. If the state sends a form, the participant will need to return the information by June 30. 

Evans said the Department of Social Services cannot yet estimate the portion of renewals that will be conducted automatically, using electronic verification, and thus not require participants’ response.

Previously, “we have sort of inched our way to electronic verification,” Evans said.

Those electronic sources the state plans to use for data include income data from other state programs and federal eligibility data. 

Evans also listed third-party databases — which Georgetown’s Center for Children and Families wrote can “quickly go awry” — including LexisNexis. The Kansas City Star last year found LexisNexis erroneously flagging in-state Missouri Medicaid participants as out-of-state and terminating their coverage. (Evans defended their use of LexisNexis in the hearing as a “good indicator.”)

She also said the state will launch an online portal for Medicaid participants to access information about the timing of their renewals, and how far along the state is in terms of processing their information — which she hopes will be a form of “self-service” that could reduce the burden on the Medicaid call centers. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Social Services said the portal is expected to launch at the end of April.

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Trade agreements, access to foreign markets debated in U.S. Senate farm bill hearing

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The Farm Bill provides funding for federal crop insurance, SNAP benefits, international food aid, and farm resource conservation, among other programs. The bill is renewed about every five years, and includes mandatory spending that must be in line with previous farm bills (Getty Images).

WASHINGTON – In its first meeting of the new congressional session, the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry gathered Wednesday for a hearing on the trade and horticulture titles in the upcoming farm bill.

The legislators prioritized enforcing the nation’s agricultural trade agreements, expanding access to international markets and supporting underserved producers.

“The success of our agricultural economy requires continued investments in markets and opportunities for farmers,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat and chairwoman of the committee. “The farm bill helps farmers put food on tables here and around the world.”

The farm bill is an “omnibus, multiyear law that governs an array of agricultural and food programs,” according to the Congressional Research Service. 

The legislation provides funding for federal crop insurance, SNAP benefits, international food aid, and farm resource conservation, among other programs. The bill is renewed about every five years, and includes mandatory spending that must be in line with previous farm bills.

The current baseline expenditures for the 2023 farm bill are at roughly $648 billion over the next five years.

In the last farm bill, projected spending under the horticulture title was roughly $1 billion over five years, and projected spending under the trade title was roughly $1.375 billion over five years.

Stabenow credited the programs under both titles in helping to generate a record $191 billion in U.S. agricultural exports in 2022, amid a war in Ukraine and supply chain challenges.

“These titles represent the breadth of American agriculture,” Stabenow said. “Supporting our specialty crop and organic farmers, strengthening our local food systems, building new markets abroad for all of our commodities and products, and delivering critical food aid across the globe.”

Mixed picture on trade

The Senate committee received a mixed update on the state of U.S. agricultural trade from Department of Agriculture officials.

Under Secretary of Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Alexis Taylor spoke to the economic activity driven by last year’s record-high agricultural exports, which represented a 14% increase from the previous year. She said that 1 million jobs were supported last year by the agricultural export industry.

Yet despite these sizable numbers and record farm income, USDA Under Secretary of Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt pointed out 89% of American farmers are supplementing their income with off-farm jobs.

“Over the past few years, we have seen the challenges that farmers and ranchers face, particularly in accessing markets to capture their fair share of the food dollar,” Moffitt said.

The under secretary added that strengthening local food systems remains an ongoing priority for the farm bill and broader USDA.

She highlighted the work of Eastern Market in Detroit and an Alabama farm-to-school initiative in combining state and federal funding to build local food systems.

“Leveraging resources in support of better and more competitive markets for us farmers, ranchers and consumers is in the best interest of our nation’s economy, our nation’s food system and the environment,” Moffitt said.

Eliminating trade barriers

During the hearing, a bipartisan group of senators highlighted problems with uncontested barriers to trade, including Mexico’s potential blockade of genetically modified corn.

In December 2020, the president of Mexico issued a decree calling for GMO corn to be phased out of human consumption nationwide by 2024.

Ninety percent of U.S. corn is grown with GMO seeds, and Mexico is the largest importer of American corn, comprising 27% of all U.S. exports.

Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa, Roger Marshall of Kansas, John Thune of South Dakota, and Deb Fischer of Nebraska voiced concerns over the ban. They asked that the USDA commit to rejecting Mexico’s position, and file for legal remedies via the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

“Our farmers feel like that this administration is putting Mexican assembly workers ahead of farmers,” Marshall said. “What are we waiting for, to trigger this mechanism? I’m tired of talking about it. We think there’s time for action.”

In response, Taylor said that the USDA is “urgently negotiating” with Mexico, and that the department will assert its “science-based rights” to GMO corn exports.

Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith of Minnesota spoke to the challenge of geo-indicators that put barriers on dairy exports to the European Union.

A geo-indicator on food is a name that reflects place of origin, like Asiago or Parmesan cheese. U.S. farmers can’t label an exported product as “Parmesan cheese,” for example, since it is not from Parma, Italy.

Taylor committed to fighting for the rights of U.S. dairy producers in the face of these restrictions. She said the Department is negotiating with the World Trade Organization, Asia Pacific Economic Cooperative Forum, and European Union to reduce stringency for the dairy industry.

“I have yet to see feta on a map,” Taylor said. “We are engaging to make sure that intellectual property rights are being respected, but that these generic names that we use do not become a barrier for our trade.”

Diversifying international markets

Several committee members articulated national security interests in developing new markets for U.S. agricultural goods, especially given international competition and disagreements over biotechnology.

“I’m concerned about this administration’s lack of attention to expanding market access for US agricultural products,” said Thune.

Taylor said that the USDA believes Southeast Asia is a target sector for exports, noting that the region has the highest rate of economic growth globally. She added that Vietnam will have more than five million middle-class households in the next five years.

“We have an opportunity today and early on to create consumers, lifelong consumers of American agricultural products,” Taylor said. She added that ongoing work in the Indo-Pacific Economic Agreement will be key to maximizing opportunities.

Taylor also pointed to Africa as a developing market for American agricultural goods, noting that Kenya is an “exciting market,” and continued U.S. technical support in the African Continental Free Trade Act.

Helping small farmers

Other committee members also pointed to challenges for small and underrepresented farmers to take advantage of USDA programs in the last farm bill.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said that the USDA and legislators needed to fix the Local Agriculture Market Program.

“I’ve heard concerns from organizations in Ohio about the application process,” Brown said. “The program can be too difficult to access for lower-resourced and underserved communities. I know we can fix that.”

The horticulture title of the 2018 farm bill created the program, which combined and expanded existing USDA farmers’ market, local food marketing, and value-added processing grant programs. It was allocated $50 million in annual mandatory spending in the 2018 law.

Taylor responded that in 2023, the application process will be more streamlined. She added that the USDA has worked with universities and producers to create guidebooks to help communities access the resources.

Senator Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, asked Moffitt about the status of the burgeoning hemp industry, and steps being taken to guide farmers through the process of starting up an operation.

“Farmers in Colorado were eager to plant and grow it,” Bennett said. “Unfortunately burdensome testing requirements and lack of processing facilities have stunted the potential for this versatile crop that people all over the country are interested in growing.”

Moffitt responded that the USDA has taken steps to streamline and simplify the regulatory process for upstart hemp producers, and released the first National Hemp Report last week to provide market information to producers.

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Biden, McCarthy hold ‘productive’ and ‘frank’ debt limit talks as fiscal cliffs loom

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U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy answers questions from reporters at the U.S. Capitol about debt limit talks at the White House, on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023 (Jennifer Shutt/States Newsroom).

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden and U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy huddled behind closed doors at the White House on Wednesday in the first of what will likely be several conversations as the country approaches two fiscal cliffs this year amid divided government.

The top issue at the moment is when and how to address the nation’s borrowing ceiling, known as the debt limit, ahead of an expected summer deadline.

Biden has remained adamant he won’t negotiate with Republicans on the debt ceiling and that talks about government spending need to move on a separate track.

But the two issues are linked for McCarthy and many in the Republican Party, who want to see an agreement about spending cuts before they vote to address the debt limit, which provides borrowing authority for spending Congress already approved.

“I was very clear that we’re not passing a clean debt ceiling. We’re not spending more next year than we spent this year,” McCarthy told reporters following the meeting, linking the two separate issues of debt limit and government spending.

‘Productive conversation’

McCarthy said he would like to get to a place where House Republicans and Democrats, who control the Senate and the White House, know what they’re going to spend during the next two fiscal years.

McCarthy said he didn’t want to give any “misimpression” on the meeting with Biden, which lasted a little over an hour, but said the talk was better than he thought it was going to be.

“I thought this was a very productive conversation,” McCarthy said. “Now, you know, in all these different things, if you had a productive conversation, and you both walked out saying, ‘Let’s continue it,’ that’s a positive for today.”

Biden called McCarthy “a decent man” during a fundraising event Tuesday evening in New York City, though he questioned the deals McCarthy struck to hold the speaker’s gavel. There were 15 ballots before McCarthy was elected.

“Look what he had to do,” Biden said. “He had to make commitments that are just absolutely off the wall for a speaker of the House to make in terms of being able to become the leader.”

A White House “readout” of the meeting said Biden and McCarthy “had a frank and straightforward dialogue.”

“The President welcomes a separate discussion with congressional leaders about how to reduce the deficit and control the national debt while continuing to grow the economy. This conversation should build on the President’s leadership in delivering a record $1.7 trillion in deficit reduction in his first two years in office.”

Schumer calls for GOP plan

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said Wednesday morning that House Republicans were “struggling to grasp a harsh reality about being in the majority — there is no good substitute for having a plan.”

“This is especially true when it comes to the debt ceiling,” Schumer said. “For days, Speaker McCarthy has heralded this sit down as some kind of major win in his debt ceiling talks, but Speaker McCarthy is forgetting something obvious to everyone else; if you don’t have a plan, you can’t seriously pretend you’re having any real negotiation.”

Schumer said Democrats’ plan is to “raise the debt ceiling without brinkmanship or hostage taking, as it’s been done before.”

Schumer’s comments came around the same time House Republicans were huddled behind closed doors in the basement of the U.S. Capitol building, trying to hash out their plans for the debt limit and possible negotiations with Democrats.

House Budget Chair Jodey Arrington said following the meeting he believes McCarthy was taking more specifics to Biden than he was willing to discuss publicly and that the invite represented a win for Republicans.

“I think the first objective was to make sure that we got our Democratic colleagues to the table to have a conversation about responsibly raising the debt limit,” Arrington said.

The Texas Republican said it would be irresponsible and reckless “to just blow by this opportunity and have a clean debt ceiling raised without any consideration for reducing spending or other fiscal reforms.”

“That’s been his position. That’s been my position,” Arrington said. “And I think we can already say that we have one step of success and one step in the right direction because the president is having the conversation with the speaker.”

Extraordinary measures employed

The U.S. reached its debt limit of $31.385 trillion in mid-January, after which the Treasury Department has been using accounting maneuvers called extraordinary measures to keep paying all the country’s bills in full and on time.

Secretary Janet Yellen expects that authority will run out sometime this summer, though not before early June, giving Congress and the Biden administration time to pass legislation addressing the debt limit.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, reiterated Tuesday that it’s up to McCarthy and Biden to broker a debt limit agreement this time around.

“I think a deal has to be cut, obviously, between the House majority and the Democratic president in order to have a chance to survive over here,” McConnell said. “We’re all behind Kevin and wishing him well in negotiations.”

While McConnell has mostly bowed out of talks over the debt limit, 24 of his members sent a letter to Biden last week to voice support for pairing “structural spending reform that reduces deficit spending” with legislation to suspend the debt limit.

Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Indiana Sen. Mike Braun, Alabama Sen. Katie Britt, North Carolina Sen. Ted Budd, Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford, Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Nebraska Sen. Pete Ricketts, Idaho Sen. James Risch, Florida Sen. Rick Scott, Missouri Sen. Eric Schmitt, Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville and Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance were among the Senate Republicans who signed the letter.

Speaking from the Senate floor on Wednesday morning, McConnell said it is “right, appropriate and entirely normal that our need to raise the debt limit would be paired with negotiations around” government spending.

Budget resolution

Florida Rep. Byron Donalds said Wednesday morning after the House GOP’s closed-door meeting that it’s “possible” the party puts forward its full proposal for the debt limit in the fiscal year 2024 budget resolution that will likely be released in April.

That tax and spending blueprint, which moves as a concurrent resolution and not a bill, will need to include House Republicans’ plans for defense spending, a topic Donalds said the party hasn’t really talked about yet. Several high-ranking Republicans, however, have said the party won’t move to reduce defense spending.

Donalds also said it would be challenging to try to balance the budget resolution by cutting just domestic discretionary spending.

“It makes it difficult. You’re gonna have to have some of the things in there, like growth projections,” Donalds said. “What are we going to do on tax policy over the next decade because the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is going to start to expire, which is something we should address.”

Discretionary spending funds the vast majority of federal departments and agencies annually, including the departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs.

While Republicans have taken cuts to Medicare and Social Security off the table, Donalds said, it wasn’t clear if they’d move to change the structure of Medicaid, the health care program for low-income people and people with disabilities.

Those three programs mostly run on autopilot, meaning payments and increases to the total amount of funding they require happen unless Congress intervenes.

Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, chair of the Rules Committee, said the House GOP huddle on Wednesday morning was a “really good educational meeting.”

Cole, who is also chair of the Appropriations subcommittee that funds the departments of Transportation as well as Housing and Urban Development, said he expects House Republicans will move to hold down discretionary spending during the next fiscal year.

“I suspect we’ll put the brakes on discretionary spending,” Cole said. “Probably, worst case scenario, from a Republican’s standpoint, you’d end up in a CR, so it’s not going to go up. It’s going to stay where it’s at. So we’re going to make progress.”

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MoDOT: Chestnut Expressway Safety & Operational Improvements In Springfield

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MoDOT: Chestnut Expressway Safety & Operational Improvements In Springfield
Visitor (not verified)
Thu, 02/02/2023 – 11:40

Focus of Virtual Public Meeting February 16-March 2

Springfield, Greene County – Those interested in a project to improve traffic flow along Chestnut Expressway (Loop 44/Business Route 65) in Springfield are invited to view the proposed improvements and project information via a virtual (online) public meeting from Thursday, February 16 until Thursday, March 2, the Missouri Department of Transportation said.
Starting Thursday, February 16, the virtual public meeting can be accessed here: http://www.modot.org/southwest
For those unable to access the online meeting, contact MoDOT’s Southwest District Office at 417.895.7600 and accommodations will be made to share the information and gather feedback.
Project highlights:
Proposed improvements on Chestnut Expressway (Loop 44/Business 65) from I-44 to Eastgate Avenue in Springfield include:
Signal improvements at various locations
Sidewalk (ADA) improvements at various locations
Intersection improvements at various locations
Improve safety and traffic operations by managing access
Operational improvements at US Route 65 diverging diamond interchange
Install mid-block pedestrian hybrid beacon
Resurfacing and pavement marking from Lulwood Avenue to Eastgate Avenue
Expected traffic impacts during construction:
Nighttime work hours from 8 p.m. – 6 a.m.
Lane closings on Chestnut Expressway (Loop 44/Business 65) at times
Narrowed lanes and traffic shifts on Chestnut Expressway (Loop 44/Business 65) at times
During higher traffic volume times, drivers can expect occasional delays
During the intersection work, turn lanes may be closed at times
Crews and equipment close to traffic in areas
Drivers may need to seek alternate routes to get to their destinations
Construction is scheduled to begin in Spring 2024.
The estimated project cost is $7.9 million.
END  (For more information, call MoDOT in Springfield at 417-895-7600 or visit www.modot.org/southwest)  (Follow MoDOT’s Southwest District: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube)
(Take the Challenge! Buckle Up/Phone Down)

Districts Involved

Southwest

Published On
Thu, 02/02/2023 – 05:35

New Website Launched to Help Prevent Suicide among Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families

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New Website Launched to Help Prevent Suicide among Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families

johnathan.shiflett

Thu, 02/02/2023 – 09:20

February 2, 2023

Jefferson City

Today, Governor Mike Parson announced that the Missouri Governor’s Challenge Team to Prevent Suicide among Service Members, Veterans, and their Families has launched a new website to further the state’s efforts in reducing suicides: www.mogovchallenge.com.
The site provides general information on the team’s projects and strategic priorities, the impact suicide is having on the military community, and resources for both members of the military community and for anyone wishing to support them. The website also offers access to free online military culture and suicide prevention training through PsychArmor for health care providers, Veterans, employers, military family members, and others.
Missouri established a Governor’s Challenge team in 2021 under Governor Parson’s leadership. The Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide Among Service Members, Veterans, and their Families is a non-partisan state interagency team created to collaborate, plan, and implement suicide prevention best practices and policies for service members, Veterans, and their families across the state.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration originally launched the Governor’s and Mayor’s Challenges to bring together leaders in community and state governments to prevent suicide among service members, Veterans, and their families.
The Missouri Governor’s Challenge Team consists of members from the Governor’s Office, Department of Mental Health, Department of Social Services, Missouri Veterans Commission, Office of the State Courts Administrator, Missouri National Guard, Department of Corrections, Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development, American Legion – Missouri, Compass Health Network, Missouri AgrAbility, Missouri Behavioral Health Council, Missouri Institute of Mental Health – Safer Homes Collaborative, Missouri Suicide Prevention Network, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Stay connected on Facebook & Twitter: @MOGovChallenge.
For more information contact info@mogovchallenge.com.

Black Senators block Missouri GOP’s critical race theory legislation

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Missouri State Sen. Barbara Washington points to a letter written by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King she printed out as Sen. Andrew Koenig quotes a speech by Dr. King on the Senate floor Wednesday. (Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent)

Black Democrats in the Missouri Senate held the chamber for roughly three hours Wednesday as they condemned a Republican-sponsored bill targeting diversity training and race curriculum.

The debate at times got heated, such as when Democratic Sen. Barbara Washington accused Republican Sen. Rick Brattin of disrespectfully interrupting her during discussion of the civil rights movement.

“This is why kids need to learn this,” she said, accusing Brattin of racial and gender bias.

The interruptions continuing and Washington’s irritation mounting, the legislator presiding over the Senate pounded the gavel ordering them to settle.

Because no Black senators serve on the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee, Wednesday’s discussion was the first time this year they were able to bring their perspectives to the bill publicly. 

It also happened to be the first day of Black History Month.

“How incidental that we’re talking about this on the first day of Black History Month,” said Sen. Karla May, a St. Louis Democrat. “Why are we trying to prevent educators from teaching anything in regard to Black history?”

The bill, proposed by Republican Sen. Andrew Koenig of Manchester, seeks to restrict educators from teaching certain concepts, such as “individuals of any race, ethnicity, color, or national origin are inherently superior or inferior.” It also contains “Parent’s Bill of Rights” legislation and would create a transparency portal with teaching materials.

Missouri State Senators Andrew Koenig and Rick Brattin discuss critical race theory on the Senate floor Wednesday (Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent).

The legislation does not define critical race theory, but the buzzword overwhelmed hearings on the bill.

“Some may say it’s [critical race theory], but really we don’t define it in our bill,” Koenig said Wednesday.

“[Critical race theory] left the universities long ago and has infiltrated the culture ever since.”

Koenig has been asked to define critical race theory during debate, including on the Senate floor Wednesday, but gave examples from his bill instead .

May read a definition of critical race theory Wednesday: “Academic and legal framework that systemic racism is embedded in society.”

She said it is clear that racism is around today.

Koenig’sbill prohibits teachers from placing blame on a collective group or race for the “actions committed in the past by others.”

May told him racism is still happening, so people today must take responsibility.

“If the people today have no ownership over the things that happened yesterday, then why is it still being perpetuated?” she said.

Sen. Brian Williams, a University City Democrat, said something similar as he questioned a provision that fines teachers that violate this bill.

“If there’s going to be a consequence for an educator to force this guilt on a student, then if a student chooses to carry this racist or oppressive attitude from the past forward, there needs to be a consequence for that student,” he said.

After her inquiry with Brattin, Washington read pieces of Missouri history pertaining to slavery, while Sen. Steve Roberts, D-St. Louis, read news articles that say that critical race theory is not taught in schools.

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Washington said she “prepared for this bill for the past year.”

In the face of Democratic resistance, the Senate set the bill aside for the evening.

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Three sentenced for murder of 20-year-old on I-270 in Hazelwood

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Darrius Jones, Isaiah Keys and Courtland Kent all pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the fatal highway shooting.

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Missouri lawmakers warn lack of confidence in MoDOT could stall funding for major projects

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Warren Erdman of Kansas City, left, a nominee for the Highways and Transportation Commission, listens as Sen. Greg Razer introduces him Wednesday to the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee (Rudi Keller/Missouri Independent).

The state Senate’s top leader delivered a stern warning Wednesday to the governor’s nominees for the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, saying lawmakers have “no confidence” in the transportation department’s leadership and that could stall plans for major highway investments.

The warning came during the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee hearing for Brian Treece, a former Columbia mayor, and Warren Erdman, a top executive of Kansas City Southern railroad. 

Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, a Columbia Republican who is also chairman of the committee, said the fate of Gov. Mike Parson’s request for nearly $1 billion for improvements to Interstate 70 is at stake in their nominations.

“I would hate for an uncommunicative and bloated bureaucracy to be the thing that stands in the way of the people of Missouri seeing significant successes for I-70 and I-44,” Rowden said.

Erdman, responding to Rowden, said he will retire soon from the railroad and put his focus on improving the department’s image. He said he has no loyalties to any person or any policy put in place prior to his appointment.

“I will do my dead-level best to be an ombudsman for members of the General Assembly, with open lines of communication, and I expect the same from the staff and the management at MoDOT,” Erdman said.

The Senate is under a strict deadline to confirm the nominations made by Parson last fall. While no objections were raised in the committee, which voted to confirm Treece and Erdman along with four other appointees, any delay at this point could mean they can never be commission members.

Under the state constitution, appointments made while lawmakers are not in session must be confirmed within 30 days of the opening of the legislative session. If either is not confirmed, and Parson does not withdraw the nomination, they cannot be appointed to the commission in the future.

It was uncertain as late as Tuesday morning whether Treece and Erdman would even get a hearing. They were listed in the initial agenda, then removed, then added back at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.

Perhaps the biggest issue between legislators and MoDOT is an unresolved lawsuit over pay rates for department employees. Filed in December 2021, the lawsuit claims the commission has the right to spend more on payroll than approved by lawmakers, claiming constitutional language that the road fund “stands appropriated without legislative action” gives it that authority.

In a letter to the highways commission sent in January 2022, Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin and five other GOP senators demanded that MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna either resign or be fired. O’Laughlin is now Senate Majority Leader, the second highest-ranking position in the chamber after Rowden..

“It is no secret that there are challenges and there are folks who have serious concerns about the current state of MoDOT,” Rowden said during the hearing.

During the hearing, O’Laughlin, who also serves as vice chair of the committee, said little and raised no objections to voting on Treece and Erdman along with the other nominees.The nominations will now go to the full Senate for a vote on Thursday.  

The commission’s pay raise plan is intended to stem a growing exodus of experienced workers in the department’s 5,000-person workforce. The commission approved a “market adjustment” plan. The goal was to get 65% or more of MODOT employees at or above the midpoint in the pay range for their job.

From front-line maintenance employees who plow snow and fix potholes to engineers who oversee complex construction projects, MODOT lost enough experienced employees to lower the median tenure from 11.3 years to 8.3 years between fiscal 2018 and fiscal 2022.

Cole County Circuit Judge Cotton Walker heard arguments in the lawsuit on Feb. 10, 2022, but has not issued a ruling. 

Brian Treece of Columbia, left, a nominee for the Highways and Transportation Commission, listens as Sen. Caleb Rowden introduces him Wednesday to the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee (Rudi Keller/Missouri Independent).

To smooth relations as they seek confirmation, both Treece and Erdman have met with most, if not all, members of the Senate and each has long-term relationships with many. 

Treece, an executive with EquipmentShare in Columbia, was a lobbyist for more than 25 years. Erdman, prior to his employment with the railroad, was chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Kit Bond.

Parson is seeking $859 million from lawmakers for a project to add lanes to I-70 in three congested areas near Kansas City, St. Louis and Columbia. It is the first installment on a plan to widen the interstate highway to three lanes in each direction, estimated to cost $2.7 billion overall.

He is also asking lawmakers to add $379 million to the general state road program, plus $35 million for railroad crossing safety improvements.

Treece emphasized the importance of collaboration between MoDOT and local governments, noting that cooperation helped push up a project to build a new bridge over the Missouri River and a new terminal at Columbia Regional Airport.

“I hope that collaboration can encourage other communities to accelerate their investment in their priorities,” Treece said.

Committee members kept returning to their frustration with MoDOT during the hearing.

“We need commissioners who are going to hold the department accountable,” said Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville.

Erdman promised to make that his top priority.

“I intend to be a very aggressive overseer of MoDOT,” he said, “and address some of the communication issues that have come to my attention.”

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Missouri House gives initial approval to raising bar for voters to amend the constitution

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Missouri House

The House chamber on Jan. 18, 2022 (Tim Bommel/Missouri House Communications).

Legislation to make it harder for voters to amend the state constitution through the initiative petition process won initial approval in the Missouri House on Wednesday. 

After more than two hours of debate, the legislation sponsored by House Speaker Pro Tem Mike Henderson was approved 106-50. It will need to be approved one more time by the House before going to the Senate. 

If it passes both chambers it would still need to be approved by voters on the statewide ballot. 

Republicans have been unsuccessfully pushing changes to the initiative petition process for years, largely in response to successful ballot measures in recent years that repealed a right-to-work law, expanded Medicaid eligibility, raised the minimum wage and legalized marijuana. 

I believe that the Missouri Constitution is a living document, but not an ever expanding document,” said Henderson, R-Bonne Terre.

The bill approved Wednesday would raise the threshold needed for an initiative petition to require 60% of voters to approve of any proposed constitutional amendment. 

Currently proposed amendments need only a simple majority for approval. 

Henderson said too often, out-of-state groups spend millions to put issues on the ballot and into the constitution. He hopes by raising the bar for passage, that practice will be discouraged. 

I don’t think our Constitution should be for sale,” he said. 

Democrats panned the legislation as a power grab by Republicans who are tired of seeing voters go around them to impose their will. 

They noted that if Henderson’s bill goes on the ballot, the first thing voters will read has nothing to do with the initiative petition process. Instead, the first bullet point will ask voters if Missouri should, “allow only citizens of the United States to qualify as legal voters.”

The constitution currently says “all citizens” are entitled to vote. Missouri law explicitly says that only United States citizens may register to vote. 

Henderson said Wednesday that even without his legislation, non-citizens are already unable to vote in Missouri. 

By leading with the citizenship issue, Republicans are trying to inject the immigration issue into the discussion to trick voters, said Rep. David Tyson Smith, D-Columbia. 

“You’re talking about misleading voters,” he said. 

Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, said the citizen-voting language is dishonest “ballot candy” aimed at trying to get voter approval of an otherwise unpopular proposal. 

“They list something first that is essentially meaningless,” Meredith said. 

Democrats offered an amendment to reorder the language on the ballot so the citizen voting provision was no longer first. They then offered an amendment removing it completely. 

The Republican majority rejected both ideas. 

Voters wouldn’t have to resort to changing the constitution, Merideth said, if the legislature could be trusted not to repeal statutory changes enacted through the initiative petition process.

A high profile example of that phenomenon came in 2011, when the legislature repealed and rewrote puppy mill regulations approved by voters just a year earlier. 

“When voters do statutory changes on the ballot,” Meredith said, “the legislature comes along to undo it.” 

Rep. Ed Lewis, R-Moberly, said amending the constitution should be something that is only done with the support of a broad swath of the state. By raising the threshold, Lewis argued the voices of rural Missouri would be heard, not just voters in the urban centers. 

Adding fuel to the push for change among Republicans is the likelihood abortion-rights supporters may turn to the initiative petition to roll back Missouri’s near total ban on the procedure. 

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that abortion is not a constitutional right. Missouri acted quickly to implement a ban on abortion except for medical emergencies. 

Soon after, voters just across the state line in Kansas rejected an effort to follow Missouri’s lead, raising the hopes of abortion-rights proponents in Missouri that the issue could have resonance even in a deeply red state. 

Also hanging over Wednesday’s debate was a threat by the Missouri Association of Realtors that it would oppose anything more than tinkering with the way the constitution is amended by voters.

The Realtors organization spent more than $10 million over two elections on successful initiatives, ensuring a vigorous — and well funded — opposition to the GOP’s plan. 

Last year in both Arkansas and South Dakota, voters overwhelmingly rejected GOP-backed proposals that would have required ballot initiatives to pass with 60% support instead of a simple majority.

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Questions about street lights or highway construction? Ask the Road Crew, live now

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Ask the experts from the Missouri Department of Transportation, St. Louis and St. Charles counties and St. Louis City your questions about highways and roads. The live chat starts at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

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Lawmaker proposes tool to fill ‘hard-to-staff’ positions in Missouri school districts

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Chris Roepe, a lobbyist representing the Kansas City School District, testifies before the Missouri House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee Wednesday (Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent).

A Missouri House committee heard a bill Wednesday that seeks to give school districts a way to recruit educators into “hard-to-staff” positions – though some worried it could have ill effects on teachers of popular subjects.

State Rep. Ed Lewis, R-Moberly, told the Missouri House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee that his legislation has the potential to remedy high teacher vacancy rates in certain schools and positions.

Current law prohibits school districts from stepping outside of their specified salary schedule, but the bill would give districts an opportunity to increase pay for positions with high vacancy.

Testimony on the bill related it to the teacher-retention shortage in the state, a problem districts are attempting to solve with four-day school weeks, long-term substitute teachers and hiring under-qualified educators. According to Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education data, seven out of every thousand teachers in grades 1-6 are under-qualified, as of December 2022.

Dava-Leigh Brush, a retired educator, thought the legislation could create a game of “Whac-A-Mole.”

“I think that iIt’s going to have people say, ‘Hey, you’re going to pay me more if I went to this school, so I’m going to go to this school.’ Now, I’m going to create a paucity in this school,” she said.

She said districts already negotiate by placing teachers in different areas on the salary scale even if they have the same amount of experience.

“I see the need for this [legislation] in smaller rural districts, but I don’t know that they’re going to be able to have the funding to be able to do it and not pit teacher against teacher,” Brush said.

Rep. Maggie Nurrenbern, D-Kansas City, said some teachers whose positions don’t qualify as hard to staff also take on more than other educators, such as those with large classes with English language learners and students with individualized learning plans.

“I just wanted to be very cognizant of the work that they’re doing,” she said, “and not pitting teachers against each other and saying, ‘Well, now I need to move so I can make more money.’”

Lawmakers agreed that some districts “haggle” by placing educators in varying places on the salary scale.

“Some feel that they already have this right as it is, and some use it already, even though others then say it’s not explicitly stated,” Lewis said. “This would explicitly state that to make sure that people can [differentiate pay].”

Nurrenbern said charter schools did not have a clear salary schedule, and it created tension among staff. She was glad to see Lewis’s bill focus on explicit salary schedules.

But she and Rep. Paula Brown, D-Hazelwood, said they wanted an amendment to make clear that districts can’t discriminate.

“I certainly would like to see an amendment in place here that explicitly states that we’re going to ensure that we’re protecting against discrimination of race, class, and gender and certainly sexual orientation,” Nurrenbern said. “We’ve seen, far too often, openly gay teachers being fired from their districts.”

Both Mike Wood, lobbyist for Missouri State Teachers Association, and Otto Fajen, Missouri’s National Education Association legislative director, questioned the bill’s removal of the words “applicable to all teachers” when describing the salary schedule.

“When you eliminate the words ‘applicable to all teachers’ in the bill, I’m afraid you end up with districts without any salary schedule,” Wood said.

He was also afraid that shifting resources toward “hard-to-staff positions” would take money away from teachers in positions that are more competitive.

“It’s easy to do this wrong, and you end up doing a lot more harm to the culture of the district and the staff and the schools than good,” Fajen said.

Chris Roepe, a lobbyist representing the Kansas City School District, said the charter schools in the area often recruit the district’s high-need teachers.

“There’s been many instances where we think we have our teacher still for the year, in June going into the school year, and then they’ll get offered more money and go to one of the charter schools,” he said. “We’d like that same flexibility so we can keep our best teachers, especially in some of these hard-to-fill areas and some of these very challenging schools in our community.”

The committee did not take action on the bill during its meeting Wednesday.

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Billions in federal farm payments flow to a select group of producers, report shows

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The federal government paid more than $478 billion from 2015 to 2021 in farm support for crop insurance, disasters, conservation payments and subsidies for certain crops like corn and soybeans(Scott Olson/Getty Images).

WASHINGTON — The top 10% of recipients of federal farm payments raked in more than 79% of total subsidies over the last 25 years — producing billions of dollars for a relatively small group of U.S. producers, according to a new analysis of federal data from an environmental group.

In total, the federal government paid more than $478 billion from 2015 to 2021 in farm support for crop insurance, disasters, conservation payments and subsidies for certain crops like corn and soybeans, according to the analysis of federal data the Environmental Working Group released Wednesday.

The U.S. Agriculture Department programs support hundreds of thousands of producers across the country. But a select group of super collectors is bringing in an outsized portion of farm subsidies.

The top 1% collected 27% of total subsidies between 1995 and 2021, according to the report.

Some of the farm payments are more opaque. The government does not release information on all of the individuals who receive support for crop insurance. And the Trump administration changed how it reported some farm subsidies, so it lists them by banks instead of individuals, making it harder to see who received some of the payments from 2019 to 2021.

More than half of farm subsidies over the last 25 years were commodity payments to crops like corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and rice, according to the EWG database.

“Based on what we do know, we can still see the most successful farm businesses are still collecting the lion’s share of subsidies … while the vast majority of farmers are getting little or nothing,” said Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, an independent nonprofit that conducts extensive research.

The biggest of those were corn subsidies.

Federal spending on crop insurance has grown in recent farm bills, and crop insurance payments now make up a quarter of all subsidy payments.

In Iowa, the family farm that is managed by the son of Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, a farm policy leader, received more than $1.4 million from 1995 to 2021, the report shows. The payments included disaster, corn, soybean and oat commodity subsidies.

The payments are listed for Robin Grassley, the family farm manager. Chuck Grassley and Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa both sit on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Pat Grassley, a state representative in Iowa and the senator’s grandson, collected $55,500 in federal payments since 2005. Most of those were relatively small commodity payments from $700 to $2,000 a year — with the exception of 2020, when he received $20,000.

The database compiles data collected from federal reporting and Freedom of Information Act requests.

Harvesting federal support

The distribution of farm subsidies does not necessarily follow the amount of agricultural production in a state.

For instance, California is the most agriculture-producing state, according to the USDA, but is 11th on the list for subsidy payments.

North Carolina is in the top 10 for agriculture production but ranks 20th for farm subsidy receipts. Instead, more money goes to Texas, Iowa and Illinois, where large farms grow subsidized commodity crops, like corn and soybeans.

The top 15 states with the most total farm subsidies distributed from 1995 to 2021, ranked by payments, were:

  1. Texas ($44.5 billion)
  2. Iowa ($39. 6 billion)
  3. Illinois ($32.7 billion)
  4. Minnesota ($28.1 billion)
  5. Kansas ($27.7 billion)
  6. Nebraska ($27 billion)
  7. North Dakota ($26.6 billion)
  8. South Dakota ($21 billion)
  9. Missouri ($17.4 billion)
  10. Indiana ($16.5 billion)
  11. California ($16.3 billion)
  12. Arkansas ($15.9 billion)
  13. Ohio ($12.8 billion)
  14. Wisconsin ($11.7 billion)
  15. Oklahoma ($11.5 billion).

Pennsylvania, a major agricultural state, is 29th on the list with $3.4 billion from 1995-2021. The biggest subsidy programs in the state are for dairy farmers.

But 80% of Pennsylvania’s producers do not receive federal farm subsidies, according to the report.

Producers in House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn Thompson’s congressional district in Pennsylvania received nearly $35 million in commodity payment support from 1995 to 2021, according to the database. The largest of those went to Long Acres Potato Farms in Tionesta, which collected more than $1.5 million over that time period.

Farm bill debate launches

The report comes as Congress kicks off its rewrite of the sweeping federal farm bill, which will set both policy and funding levels for farm, food and conservation programs for the next five years. The Senate Agriculture Committee held its first farm bill hearing of the year Wednesday. The current farm bill expires at the end of September.

Originally a product of the New Deal, the first farm bill in 1933 focused on commodity price support to provide relief for farmers and ensure a steady domestic food supply for Americans during the Great Depression.

Since then, lawmakers have passed 18 farm bills and greatly expanded the reach of the legislation.

For example, Congress added a conservation section to the farm bill in 1985 with payments for farmers who conserve soil, idle land for wildlife habitat or employ certain conservation practices.

But the biggest spending in recent farm bills is not on farms at all but in the nutrition title, which includes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps.

The politically fraught process of authoring a new farm bill faces extra challenges this year from a divided Congress, a looming debate over the federal debt ceiling and the potential for extended amendments in the House.

The leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture committees, Thompson and Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, have each said they will aim to finish a new farm bill on time but acknowledged it will be a challenge this year.

“We know because of the timeline and all of the complexity of everything going on and the challenges in the House that it may take a little bit longer, but we’re committed to getting it done,” Stabenow said in a January interview on the web broadcast Agri-Pulse newsmakers.

Crop subsidies could face attacks

Crop subsidies come under fire in every farm bill debate — both from environmental groups that would like to see the money invested elsewhere and budget hawks who want to trim federal spending.

The Republican Study Committee, whose members make up 80% of all Republican members of Congress, proposed drastic cuts for the farm bill and limits on some farm subsidies in the draft budget it released last summer as a “Blueprint to Save America.”

But Agriculture Committee leaders have not indicated they intend to undertake any massive overhaul in this farm bill.

Thompson has said he does not want to dismantle farm supports, which he and other farm state lawmakers see as a safety net critical for producers and rural communities.

Democrats on his committee have not shown enthusiasm for an overhaul of farm subsidies, either.

In a recent list of farm bill priorities, Georgia Rep. David Scott, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, did not include changes for farm subsidies other than extending programs for livestock producers and  small farmers.

Georgia Republican Rep. Austin Scott, who will chair the subcommittee that oversees farm commodities, said at a farm bill listening session last month that he wants to look at the reference prices that trigger payments for row crops but has not expressed interest in a massive subsidy overhaul.

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Crews closing intersection of Watson Drive and 19th Street in Kearney, Missouri, Feb. 7 – June 1

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Crews closing intersection of Watson Drive and 19th Street in Kearney, Missouri, Feb. 7 – June 1
Visitor (not verified)
Wed, 02/01/2023 – 14:15

MoDOT plans to CLOSE the intersection of Watson Drive and 19th Street in Kearney, Missouri for construction of new round-a-bout near construction of the new I-35 and 19th street interchange. As part of this work 19th Street will be closed at Paddock Drive heading west and north onto Watson Drive. Watson Drive will be closed from 19th Steet to west 11th Terrace. Please note that this is a complete closure of City of Kearney roadways. This closure will be in place from approximately Feb. 7- June 1, 2023. All work is weather permitting.
This work is part a larger project, which is in partnership with the City of Kearney, MoDOT will construct a new interchange on I-35 at 19th Street (144th Street) approximately 1 mile south of Route 92.  The new interchange will cross over I-35 and will include ramps to/from I-35. The improvements will also include bike lanes and accommodate pedestrians with trail and sidewalk. 
Motorists are reminded to slow down and pay attention while driving in work zones. Not all work zones look alike. Work zones can be moving operations, such as striping, patching or mowing. They can also be short term, temporary lane closures to make quick repairs or remove debris from the roadway.
 
For more information about MoDOT news, projects or events, please visit our website at www.modot.org/kansascity. For instant updates, follow MoDOT_KC on Twitter, or share posts and comments on our Facebook at www.facebook.com/MoDOT.KansasCity/. MoDOT Kansas City maintains more than 7,000 miles of state roadway in nine counties. Sign up online for workzone updates or call 888-ASK-MODOT (275-6636).

Districts Involved

Kansas City

Published On
Wed, 02/01/2023 – 08:12

MoDOT schedules day and night closures on I-270 and New Florissant Road (Route N) February 5 -11

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MoDOT schedules day and night closures on I-270 and New Florissant Road (Route N) February 5 -11
Visitor (not verified)
Wed, 02/01/2023 – 14:05

ST. LOUIS – Drivers who regularly use New Florissant Road (Route N) near I-270 should be aware of upcoming day and night closures during the week of February 5. Between February 5 and February 11, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) will intermittently close I-270 and New Florissant Road at I-270 in both directions. Closures are as follows:
Each day, between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m., crews will close one lane on New Florissant Road in each direction. One lane on eastbound and westbound I-270 also will be closed as needed.
Each night, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., crews will close all lanes on new Florissant Road between Dunn and Pershall roads. Up to two lanes of I-270 in each direction also will be closed as needed.
The closures will allow work crews to complete the final stages of construction for the new I-270 bridge over New Florissant Road.
Detours for New Florissant Road are as follows:
Southbound traffic will bypass construction by traveling west on Dunn Road, south on Hanley Avenue/Graham Road and east on Pershall Road back to New Florissant Road.
Northbound traffic will bypass construction by taking Pershall Road east to access the U-turn bridge near Washington Street/Elizabeth Avenue to travel west on Dunn Road back to New Florissant Road.
The closure and construction work are part of the $278 million I-270 North Project infrastructure upgrades. To stay updated on the status of this closure and to view a project overview and graphic displays of planned construction, please visit the I-270 North Project website at: www.i270north.org.  Travelers can also contact MoDOT’s customer service center at 1-314-275-1500 or the I-270 North Project Team at:I270North@modot.mo.gov.
###
 
 

Districts Involved

St. Louis

Published On
Wed, 02/01/2023 – 08:01

Governor Parson Grants 18 Pardons for Month of January

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Governor Parson Grants 18 Pardons for Month of January

johnathan.shiflett

Wed, 02/01/2023 – 12:46

February 1, 2023

Jefferson City

For the month of January 2023, Governor Mike Parson granted 18 pardons pursuant to Article IV, Section 7 of the Constitution of the State of Missouri. Official documents have been filed with the appropriate government agencies and have been sent to the individuals. Families have been or are in the process of being notified. 
Governor Parson has instructed his legal team to continue reviewing clemency files and working to eliminate the backlog inherited by his administration.
To review the names of the individuals granted clemency, please see attached.
1-31-2023 Pardons.pdf

Bipartisan set of bills would extend post-pregnancy healthcare

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      A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is sponsoring legislation that they hope will save the lives of women and infants in Missouri, and in doing so, move the state farther from the bottom in the nation in infant and maternal mortality.       Their proposals would extend MO HealthNet or Show-Me Healthy Babies coverage for … Continue reading “Bipartisan set of bills would extend post-pregnancy healthcare”

Questions about street lights or highway construction? Ask the Road Crew, 1 p.m.

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Ask the experts from the Missouri Department of Transportation, St. Louis and St. Charles counties and St. Louis City your questions about highways and roads. The live chat starts at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

For the complete story from the Post click on the title at the top of this article.  Help support LOCAL journalism by subscribing to the Post Dispatch by clicking HERE

St. Louis Work Zones February 2-8

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St. Louis Work Zones February 2-8
Visitor (not verified)
Wed, 02/01/2023 – 10:25

ST. LOUIS – Drivers who regularly use New Halls Ferry Road at Interstate 270 should be aware that crews will close the roadway under the I-270 bridge in both directions, between Dunn and Pershall roads, starting at 8 p.m. Friday, February 3.

New Halls Ferry Road will reopen by 5 a.m. Monday, February 6. During the closure, crews will complete the second stage of bridge removal to prepare for the new I-270 New Halls Ferry Road Bridge.

Drivers are encouraged to use Dunn and Pershall roads between West Florissant Avenue and Old Halls Ferry Road throughout the closure.

Drivers on Route 67 should be aware of overnight closures through the Lindbergh Tunnel weeknights between February 6-10.

Drivers on I-255 near Koch Road in south St. Louis County should be aware of some overnight ramp closures for guardrail work:

On Monday, February 6, starting at 9 p.m. crews will be close the ramp from eastbound I-255 to Koch Road. The ramp will reopen by 5 a.m. Tuesday, February 7. To get to Koch Road from eastbound I-255 during this closure, exit at Telegraph (Exit 2, Route 231) and take Kinswood to Koch Road.
On Tuesday, February 7, starting at 9 p.m. crews will close the ramp from westbound I-255 to Koch Road. The ramp will reopen by 5 a.m. Wednesday, February 8.  Illinois drivers heading to Koch Road will need to continue on westbound I-255 to Telegraph (Exit 2, Route 231), loop around and take eastbound I-255 and exit at Koch Road.
For more on roadway closures due to construction, additional work zone information and real-time roadway weather conditions, go to http://traveler.modot.org/map.  For real-time traffic, visit www.gatewayguide.com. All work is subject to change and may be shifted due to inclement weather.

Motorists should be aware of the following on-going closures: 

I-55, St. Louis City, two left lanes closed northbound and southbound between Gravois to Weber until summer 2023.
I-55, St. Louis City, the ramp from Germania to northbound and the ramp from Loughborough to northbound will be closed through 2023.
I-55, St. Louis City, the ramp from northbound to Loughborough will be closed through 2023.
I-55, St. Louis City, one left lane northbound closed from Bayless to Arsenal through spring 2023.
I-55, St. Louis City, the ramp from Lafayette/Truman and the ramp from Cherokee to southbound I-55 closed through December 2023.
I-70/44, St. Louis City, express lanes and the ramp from the express lanes to Broadway are closed through spring 2023.
I-70/44, St. Louis City, Biddle on-ramp to 70/44 closed through spring 2023.
I-70, St. Louis City, southbound Broadway bridge over the interstate is closed through spring 2023.
I-170, St. Louis County, the Lackland Bridge over the interstate will be closed through July 2023.
I-170, St. Louis County, one southbound right lane will be closed at Lackland through July 2023.
I-270, St. Louis County, one lane is closed on the one-way outer road (Pershall Road) from West Florissant to New Halls Ferry through summer 2023.
I-270, St. Louis County, one lane is closed on the one-way outer road (Pershall Road) at Ford Road through April 2023.
I-270, St. Louis County, one lane is closed on the one-way outer road (Dunn Road) from New Halls Ferry to Washington/Elizabeth through mid-summer 2023.
Route 67, St. Louis County, one northbound and southbound lane closed north of Route 94 until April 2023.
Route 100, St. Louis County, one westbound lane closed between Hanley and Brentwood through summer 2023.
Route 100, St. Louis County, multiple single lane closures eastbound between McKnight and just east of Hanley through summer 2023.
Route 94/364, St. Charles County, exit ramp to Jungs Station Road/Heritage Crossing closed through spring 2023.
Route 94, St. Charles County, one westbound lane closed between Pralle Lane to Muegge Road through June 2023.
Route M, Jefferson County, one eastbound and one westbound lane closed from St. Lukes to east of Moss Hollow through December 2023.
Route HH, Franklin County, all lanes closed over Calvey Creek through May 2023.
 

Please see the list of daily road closures, weather permitting:

Thursday, February 2

I-64, St. Louis City and St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one lane closed eastbound and westbound for a moving operation between Route 61 and I-44.
I-170, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one lane closed northbound and southbound for a moving operation between I-270 and I-64.
I-255, St. Louis County, 5 a.m. to 3 p.m.., one eastbound lane closed at Jefferson Barracks Bridge and Koch Road Bridge.
I-255, St. Louis County, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., one westbound lane closed at Jefferson Barracks Bridge and Koch Road Bridge.
I-270, St. Louis County, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., one eastbound and westbound lane closed at New Florissant.
Route 100, St. Louis County, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., one lane closed westbound between McKnight and Brentwood.
Route 100, St. Louis County, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. one eastbound lane closed between Bopp Road and Romine Drive.
Route 180, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one lane closed between Route 67 (Lindbergh Boulevard) and I-270.
Route 340, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. one eastbound lane closed between the north end of Chesterfield Parkway East and Appalachian Trail.
Route CC, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one lane closed between I-64 and Chesterfield Elementary.
Route 94, St. Charles County, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., one lane closed eastbound between Sherman and I-70.
Route 94, St. Charles County, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., one additional lane (two total) closed westbound at Muegge Road.
Route 61, Jefferson County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one lane closed eastbound and westbound at Joachim Creek.
Route 61/67, Jefferson County, 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., one northbound and southbound lane closed from the Meramec River to Tenbrook.
Route 110, Jefferson County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one lane closed at Route 67. Flaggers will direct traffic through the work zone. 
Friday, February 3

I-64, St. Louis City and St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one lane closed eastbound and westbound for a moving operation between Route 61 and I-44.
I-170, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one lane closed northbound and southbound for a moving operation between I-270 and I-64.
I-255, St. Louis County, 5 a.m. to 3 p.m.., one eastbound lane closed at Jefferson Barracks Bridge and Koch Road Bridge.
I-255, St. Louis County, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., one westbound lane closed at Jefferson Barracks Bridge and Koch Road Bridge.
I-270, St. Louis County, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., one eastbound and westbound lane closed at New Florissant.
I-270, St. Louis County, 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. Monday, one lane closed westbound at New Halls Ferry Road.
Route 100, St. Louis County, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., one lane closed westbound between McKnight and Brentwood.
Route 100, St. Louis County, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. one eastbound lane closed between Bopp Road and Romine Drive.
Route 180, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one lane closed between Route 67 (Lindbergh Boulevard) and I-270.
Route 340, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. one eastbound lane closed between the north end of Chesterfield Parkway East and Appalachian Trail.
Route AC, St. Louis County, 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. Monday, all lanes closed northbound and southbound under I-270 between Pershall and Dunn Road.
Route CC, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one lane closed between I-64 and Chesterfield Elementary.
Route 94, St. Charles County, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., one lane closed eastbound between Sherman and I-70.
Route 94, St. Charles County, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., one additional lane (two total) closed westbound at Muegge Road.
Route 61/67, Jefferson County, 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., one northbound and southbound lane closed from the Meramec River to Tenbrook. 
Saturday, February 4

I-255, St. Louis County, 5 a.m. to 3 p.m.., one eastbound lane closed at Jefferson Barracks Bridge and Koch Road Bridge.
I-255, St. Louis County, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., one westbound lane closed at Jefferson Barracks Bridge and Koch Road Bridge.
I-270, St. Louis County, until 5 a.m. Monday, one lane closed westbound at New Halls Ferry Road.
Route 100, St. Louis County, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., one lane closed westbound between McKnight and Brentwood.
Route 100, St. Louis County, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. one eastbound lane closed between Bopp Road and Romine Drive.
Route AC, St. Louis County, until 5 a.m. Monday, all lanes closed northbound and southbound under I-270 between Pershall and Dunn Road. 
Sunday, February 5

I-270, St. Louis County, until 5 a.m. Monday, one lane closed westbound at New Halls Ferry Road.
Route AC, St. Louis County, until 5 a.m. Monday, all lanes closed northbound and southbound under I-270 between Pershall and Dunn Road. 
Monday, February 6

I-64, St. Louis City and St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one lane closed eastbound and westbound for a moving operation between Route 61 and I-44.
I-170, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one lane closed northbound and southbound for a moving operation between I-270 and I-64.
I-255, St. Louis County, 5 a.m. to 3 p.m.., one eastbound lane closed at Jefferson Barracks Bridge and Koch Road Bridge.
I-255, St. Louis County, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., one westbound lane closed at Jefferson Barracks Bridge and Koch Road Bridge.
I-255, St. Louis County, 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., the ramp from eastbound to Koch Road will be closed.
I-270, St. Louis County, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., one eastbound and westbound lane closed at New Florissant.
I-270, St. Louis County, 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., up to two eastbound and westbound lanes closed at New Florissant.
I-270, St. Louis County, 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., all lanes on New Florissant under I-270 between Pershall and Dunn will be closed.
Route 67, St. Louis County, 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., all northbound lanes at the Lindbergh Tunnel will be closed.
Route 100, St. Louis County, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., one lane closed westbound between McKnight and Brentwood.
Route 100, St. Louis County, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. one eastbound lane closed between Bopp Road and Romine Drive.
Route 180, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one lane closed between Route 67 (Lindbergh Boulevard) and I-270.
Route 340, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. one eastbound lane closed between the north end of Chesterfield Parkway East and Appalachian Trail.
Route CC, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., one lane closed between I-64 and Chesterfield Elementary.
I-70, St. Charles County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one eastbound lane closed at Cave Springs.
I-70, St. Charles County, 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., one westbound lane closed at Cave Springs.
Route 94, St. Charles County, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., one lane closed eastbound between Sherman and I-70.
Route 94, St. Charles County, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., one additional lane (two total) closed westbound at Muegge Road.
Route 61/67, Jefferson County, 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., one northbound and southbound lane closed from the Meramec River to Tenbrook. 
Tuesday, February 7

I-64, St. Louis City and St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one lane closed eastbound and westbound for a moving operation between Route 61 and I-44.
I-170, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one lane closed northbound and southbound for a moving operation between I-270 and I-64.
I-255, St. Louis County, 5 a.m. to 3 p.m.., one eastbound lane closed at Jefferson Barracks Bridge and Koch Road Bridge.
I-255, St. Louis County, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., one westbound lane closed at Jefferson Barracks Bridge and Koch Road Bridge.
I-255, St. Louis County, 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., the ramp from westbound to Koch Road will be closed.
I-270, St. Louis County, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., one eastbound and westbound lane closed at New Florissant.
I-270, St. Louis County, 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., up to two eastbound and westbound lanes closed at New Florissant.
I-270, St. Louis County, 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., all lanes on New Florissant under I-270 between Pershall and Dunn will be closed.
Route 67, St. Louis County, 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., all northbound lanes at the Lindbergh Tunnel will be closed.
Route 100, St. Louis County, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., one lane closed westbound between McKnight and Brentwood.
Route 100, St. Louis County, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. one eastbound lane closed between Bopp Road and Romine Drive.
Route 180, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one lane closed between Route 67 (Lindbergh Boulevard) and I-270.
Route 340, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. one eastbound lane closed between the north end of Chesterfield Parkway East and Appalachian Trail.
Route CC, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., one lane closed between I-64 and Chesterfield Elementary.
I-70, St. Charles County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one eastbound lane closed at Cave Springs.
I-70, St. Charles County, 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., one westbound lane closed at Cave Springs.
Route 94, St. Charles County, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., one lane closed eastbound between Sherman and I-70.
Route 94, St. Charles County, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., one additional lane (two total) closed westbound at Muegge Road.
Route 61/67, Jefferson County, 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., one northbound and southbound lane closed from the Meramec River to Tenbrook. 
Wednesday, February 8

I-64, St. Louis City and St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one lane closed eastbound and westbound for a moving operation between Route 61 and I-44.
I-170, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one lane closed northbound and southbound for a moving operation between I-270 and I-64.
I-255, St. Louis County, 5 a.m. to 3 p.m.., one eastbound lane closed at Jefferson Barracks Bridge and Koch Road Bridge.
I-255, St. Louis County, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., one westbound lane closed at Jefferson Barracks Bridge and Koch Road Bridge.
I-255, St. Louis County, 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., the ramp from westbound to Koch Road will be closed.
I-270, St. Louis County, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., one eastbound and westbound lane closed at New Florissant.
I-270, St. Louis County, 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., up to two eastbound and westbound lanes closed at New Florissant.
I-270, St. Louis County, 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., all lanes on New Florissant under I-270 between Pershall and Dunn will be closed.
Route 67, St. Louis County, 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., all northbound lanes at the Lindbergh Tunnel will be closed.
Route 100, St. Louis County, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., one lane closed westbound between McKnight and Brentwood.
Route 100, St. Louis County, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. one eastbound lane closed between Bopp Road and Romine Drive.
Route 180, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one lane closed between Route 67 (Lindbergh Boulevard) and I-270.
Route 340, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. one eastbound lane closed between the north end of Chesterfield Parkway East and Appalachian Trail.
Route CC, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., one lane closed between I-64 and Chesterfield Elementary.
I-70, St. Charles County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one eastbound lane closed at Cave Springs.
I-70, St. Charles County, 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., one westbound lane closed at Cave Springs.
Route 94, St. Charles County, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., one lane closed eastbound between Sherman and I-70.
Route 94, St. Charles County, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., one additional lane (two total) closed westbound at Muegge Road.
Route 61/67, Jefferson County, 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., one northbound and southbound lane closed from the Meramec River to Tenbrook.
# # #

Districts Involved

St. Louis

Published On
Wed, 02/01/2023 – 04:22

Of more than 7,500 threats against members of Congress in 2022, just 22 prosecuted

This post was originally published on this site

In 2022, the U.S. Capitol Police presented 313 cases to U.S. attorney offices after determining that they represented criminal threats against members of Congress.Twenty-two of those cases were prosecuted, though it wasn’t immediately clear how many resulted in plea deals or convictions (Getty Images).

WASHINGTON —  Members of Congress receive thousands of threats a year, though just a fraction of the people who call, mail or email will ever be prosecuted — a situation that’s of great concern to the police who guard members.

Just 22 of the 7,501 threats lobbed at members during 2022 led to prosecution, the U.S. Capitol Police confirmed to States Newsroom on Tuesday. It’s a statistic the chief of police has said needs to change.

“Recognizing that threat cases are difficult to prosecute, it is disheartening to me that our prosecution rate remains low,” USCP Chief Thomas Manger said during a recent congressional hearing while talking about the 2021 numbers.

In 2022, the USCP presented 313 cases to U.S. attorney offices after determining that they represented criminal threats against members of Congress, according to a USCP spokesperson.

Twenty-two of those cases were prosecuted, though it wasn’t immediately clear how many resulted in plea deals or convictions.

The goal in many cases is to get mental health treatment, according to the USCP. Sending people who threaten members of Congress to prison “is not always the best route,” the spokesperson said.

‘Huge caseload’

The USCP referred 458 threat cases for prosecution during 2021, with 40 of those leading to a court case, according to Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, chair of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which held the hearing at which Manger testified.

“The FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office are very helpful, but they have a huge caseload and for us, a threat against a member of Congress is our highest priority. It’s not always their highest priority,” Manger said.

“So if we have our own folks to make sure these things get prosecuted, I think it’s a big step in the right direction for us.”

Manger said USCP has made “significant inroads” on prosecutions by getting three U.S. attorneys dedicated to prosecuting threat cases against members of Congress.

He argued that prosecutions have a “deterrent effect” and said he’s working with the U.S. Department of Justice to allow the U.S. attorneys to work across state lines as needed.

“It would be nice to be able to send them where we need to send them so we can get more of those cases prosecuted,” Manger said.

The number of threats made against members has fluctuated in recent years, reaching a peak of 9,625 threats in 2021 — an average of slightly more than 26 per day.

That number was up from the 8,613 threats made in 2020, the 6,955 threats in 2019, a total of 5,206 in 2018 and 3,939 in 2017, according to USCP.

Paul Pelosi attack

Threats against members of Congress have become an unsettling reality of the everyday lives of lawmakers and staff, as has deciphering which people are likely to follow through on those threats.

The security of members and their families came to the forefront, once again, in October when a man broke into the home that former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shares with her husband, Paul. The man then allegedly attacked Paul Pelosi with a hammer while searching for the longtime Democratic lawmaker.

The man, who was quickly arrested by police inside the San Francisco home, told investigators during an interview that after he found Speaker Pelosi, if she told the “truth,” he planned to let her go, but that if she “lied,” he was planning to break “her kneecaps.”

The incident took place about three months after a man attacked New York Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin during a campaign event near Rochester while he was running in a bid for governor.

The man later told law enforcement he had been drinking, didn’t know who Zeldin was or that he was a politician, and said he “must have checked out” after watching a video of the incident, according to The Associated Press.

Kansas Republican Rep. Jake LaTurner testified earlier this month against a man who was later convicted of calling in a threat to one of the congressman’s offices.

Prosecutors played a voicemail during the trial, showing the man threatened to kill LaTurner and all other members of Congress after he had declared he was the “son of God” and “Messiah,” according to The Kansas City Star.

In April 2022, a Florida man pleaded guilty to one count of threatening a federal official for sending an email to Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar in July 2019 threatening to kill her.

The 67-year-old man sent an email with the subject line, “(You’re) dead, you radical Muslim,” after watching a press conference on television that Omar attended along with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

In the email, the man referred to Omar and the other lawmakers as “radical rats,” and claimed he was going to shoot them in the head, according to a press release from the U.S. Justice Department.

“Threatening to kill our elected officials, especially because of their race, ethnicity or religious beliefs, is offensive to our nation’s fundamental values,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a written statement at the time.

“The Justice Department will not hesitate to prosecute individuals who violate federal laws that prohibit violent, hate-motivated threats. All elected officials, regardless of their background, should be able to represent their communities and serve the public free from hate-motivated threats and violence.”

The man was later sentenced to three years probation and fined $7,000, according to The Tampa Bay Times.

Enhancing security

Manger said during the hearing that the USCP hopes to enhance security for lawmakers’ homes and district offices as well as for members of leadership.

“As a result of the number of threats that are coming in and the number of credible threats that we have some concern about, I believe that we need to strongly expand the number of protection agents that we have,” he said.

Manger noted that at the moment, the USCP doesn’t “provide the level of protection to some of the leadership that perhaps we should.”

“It’s certainly not on par with what is done in the executive branch,” Manger added.

He also told the panel he’s asked the USCP board “to do for the entire Congress what the House has begun to do for their members.”

“Every member of Congress would have a security system in their home, in their district offices; so that it would add a layer of protection for not only the member but their family and their staff as well,” Manger said.

Part of that process, he said, would include setting up a protection operations center where civilian employees working for the USCP would monitor the security systems as well as employees for the security system company.

“To have that redundancy and to have that instant recognition if there’s a problem and the instant response if there’s a problem, I think, provides exactly what we need in terms of enhancing the protection,” Manger said.

The post Of more than 7,500 threats against members of Congress in 2022, just 22 prosecuted appeared first on Missouri Independent.

For the complete story from MissouriIndependent.com click on the title of this article or click on the "post" link above

MoDOT to close New Halls Ferry Road under I-270 Friday Feb. 3 through Monday Feb. 5

This post was originally published on this site

MoDOT to close New Halls Ferry Road under I-270 Friday Feb. 3 through Monday Feb. 5
Visitor (not verified)
Tue, 01/31/2023 – 18:40

ST. LOUIS – Drivers who regularly use New Halls Ferry Road at Interstate 270, should be aware that the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) will temporarily close both directions under the I-270 bridge, between Dunn and Pershall roads, from 8 p.m. Friday, February 3 to 5 a.m. Monday, February 6. During the closure, crews will complete the second stage of bridge removal to prepare for the new I-270 New Halls Ferry Road Bridge.
Drivers are encouraged to use Dunn and Pershall roads between West Florissant Avenue and Old Halls Ferry Road throughout the closure.
The closure and construction work are part of the $278 million I-270 North Project infrastructure upgrades. To stay updated on the status of this closure and to view a project overview and graphic displays of planned construction, please visit the I-270 North Project website at: www.i270north.org.  Travelers can also contact MoDOT’s customer service center at 1-314-275-1500 or the I-270 North Project Team at:I270North@modot.mo.gov.
###

Districts Involved

St. Louis

Published On
Tue, 01/31/2023 – 12:38

New U.S. House Natural Resources chair opposes limits on fossil fuel development

This post was originally published on this site

U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Arkansas) speaks at a House Republican news conference on energy policy at the U.S. Capitol in March 2022. Westerman is the new chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images).

The incoming chairman of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee wants to allow more mining and believes technology — not limitations on fossil fuel production — is the best way to address climate change.

As part of their organization of the chamber they now control, U.S. House Republicans selected Arkansas’ Bruce Westerman to lead the panel that oversees the U.S. Interior Department and the U.S. Forest Service and has a major role in shaping federal energy and environmental policy.

Its power, though, will be severely checked for at least the next two years by a Democratic Senate and president.

In an interview with States Newsroom, Westerman, a forester with a background in engineering, said his direction for the panel would depart from that of Democrats.

He’d rather focus on technology — including nuclear energy, carbon sequestration and biochar, a 2,500-year-old technique of heating wood, manure and other biomass to create carbon charcoal with multiple uses — to reduce carbon emissions and atmospheric buildup, than on limiting industry.

Westerman also said he’d work to open more mining development to gather resources like cobalt, nickel, copper and others needed to build electric vehicles and additional tools of an energy transition, though he added electric vehicles’ potential to reduce carbon emissions was overstated.

Congress should have a role in shaping a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, he said, but lawmakers should be mindful that it’s a global issue and that developing countries are not trading their own economic growth to limit emissions –— and perhaps the United States shouldn’t either.

“We can’t wreck our economy for something that’s not going to be a valid solution,” he said.

The following interview, conducted by phone on Jan. 26, has been condensed and edited for clarity.

States Newsroom: Just to start out, what are your priorities for the committee’s work this Congress?

Bruce Westerman: You may or may not be aware of our Commitment to America (House Republicans’ proposed agenda heading into the 2022 midterms) that we put out. Part of that is energy security, national security, energy independence.

And that’s really a broad subject. It involves not just oil and gas, but also all the mining and critical minerals that are needed for the electrification that’s being proposed and ties in with Chinese supply chains.

So there’s a lot of things tied up in our Commitment to America that the Natural Resources Committee will have a role in. Energy and mining is a huge one of those.

The United States has been blessed with natural resources. There’s been a mentality that we’re going to lock those resources up and not use them — kind of a not-in-my-backyard mentality — mainly coming from the left. But the fact is that if we’re not producing them here, they’re being produced somewhere else in the world and they’re being produced in a less environmentally friendly way, and less environmental, health and safety regulations on it.

SN: Are you talking about the rare earth metals or other types of mining? Or what in particular?

BW: All of the above.

If you look at China in particular, and their supply, the amount of rare earths and other minerals that they mined and supply to the world, they’re almost on a different scale on the charts. And we’re very dependent upon products that are made with processed minerals out of China.

We still have a large part of our economy that’s based on that. But I think it’s pretty low compared to the Chinese economy. We use about $900 billion of processed minerals in the United States a year, and we generate about $3.3 to $3.4 trillion of GDP on that, so it’s still a huge part of our economy.

But we’re also importing a lot of those processed minerals from China. And we’re also buying a lot of products that are manufactured in China, which is essentially exporting our wealth to the Chinese government.

We can look at natural resources as a way to leverage our U.S. economy against the Chinese economy.

We can talk about Russia in that as well, with oil and gas.

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SN: Just to go back for a second. You talked about the mining needed for “the electrification that’s being proposed.” Like, more electric vehicles? Or what did you mean by that?

BW: All of the above. You can’t have electric vehicles without having a place to plug them in. And you can’t have a place to plug them in without increasing the size of the grid. You’ve got to be able to generate more electricity.

If you’re going to generate it with wind and solar, you’re going to have to have a tremendous amount of things manufactured from elements and minerals to generate that electricity, or we’re going to be generating it the way we’re generating 69% of it right now and that’s with fossil fuels.

So it’s a very complicated network of interactions there and all of it is dependent upon energy and minerals.

I think the problem with the Democrats’ and the Biden administration’s approach is that — what I’ve been saying is they have two problems. I think they have not defined the problem correctly. Hence, they’re trying to go about solving the problem in the wrong way.

I think electric cars are fascinating, but electric cars in the United States are going to do very, very little, if anything, to decrease global carbon emissions. And if all the eggs are in that basket in the U.S., there’s going to have to be a tremendous amount of mining for lithium and copper and cobalt, nickel, a lot of ingredients that go into an electric car.

And then at the end of the day, it could have an impact of less than 1% global greenhouse gas reductions, if you were able to convert every passenger car and light-duty truck in America to an electric vehicle overnight.

That’s less than 15% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are emitted from the United States. Twenty-seven percent of that comes from all of transportation, then 57% of that comes from light-duty trucks and passenger vehicles. So now you’re down to a little over 2%. And then you look at the fact that only 31% of our electricity comes from a non-carbon-emitting source.

So you’re below 1% global impact on carbon emissions and I don’t think we’re going to get the bang for our buck putting all our eggs in the basket of electric vehicles.

Plus, if you want carbon-free energy, wind and solar, they’re two sources, but they’re just a blip on the chart. It’s going to have to be something like nuclear power or someday maybe fusion power to generate enough electricity to offset the electricity that’s being produced by coal, oil and natural gas and biomass right now.

SN: So if Democrats are not defining the question correctly, how would you define it?

BW: That’s a great question, I’m glad you asked.

I think Democrats have defined the problem in the context of: The climate is changing. It’s changing because of carbon in the atmosphere. We must stop all carbon from going into the atmosphere.

The part they’re leaving out of that is that the quality of life in the world is increasing because of innovation in energy. There’s a developing world out there that wants to have the same kinds of energy and the benefits that come from having energy. And the world has an insatiable appetite for more energy.

The Democrats’ approach is to remove fossil fuels, which maybe someday we can do that, but we’re a long way from getting to that point.

And if you look globally, developing countries are building energy-generating systems which utilize fossil fuels much faster than we’re building windmills or solar farms, which have much less energy density.

So, we’ve got to work on a couple of different fronts, innovation being one of them. What the world wants is reliable and affordable energy, and we’ve got to be the innovators that figure out how to make that clean.

The technology we’ve got right now, you go down the logic diagram, and you end up with nuclear power, because, quite frankly, you can’t build enough windmills and solar farms to offset the amount of energy that’s produced from fossil fuels right now.

But people have a problem with nuclear power. The largest component of green power that we have right now is hydropower. And you have people wanting to tear dams down. So that’s going the opposite direction.

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SN: Should we be working to reduce carbon emissions? Or is that sort of secondary to having plentiful energy supplies?

BW: We’ve got to work to reduce carbon emissions, but you’ve got to do it in the context of reality that there’s a world that has an insatiable appetite for energy.

And when China builds a new coal-fired plant every week, which they’ve been doing for the past several years, it absorbs any carbon reduction benefits that we’ve created here in the U.S.

There’s too much focus on electric cars, and it’s like a red herring that you do this, and it’s going to fix the problem and it’s not. Show me the math that says it’s going to fix the problem. It’s much larger scale than that. And if we cut our fossil fuel usage, the rest of the world’s not going to.

SN: But does that mean it’s not worth doing? It seems like if it’s a worldwide effort, that the United States could be a leader in that effort worldwide.

BW: We’re already a leader.

We’re relying on technology that has to be subsidized. India doesn’t have money to subsidize wind farms and solar panels. African nations can’t do that.

And you just look at the order of magnitude of how much energy you can produce from a windmill and a solar farm, and, again, we’re trying to solve the wrong problem.

The other side of that is we got to work on ways to get carbon out of the atmosphere that’s already there. That’s why I’m a big proponent of natural solutions and why I think forestry and innovative products like biochar can play a huge role in removing carbon from the atmosphere.

You got to look at both sides of the equation. How much are you putting up, and how much are you taking out?

SN: It sounds like you’re saying it’s less worthwhile to try and artificially limit fossil fuel supply and usage and more about working on research and development to make energy cleaner and on a larger scale. Is that fair?

BW: We’ve got to work on it every day, making every form of energy we’ve got cleaner and safer and healthier.

Now, the problem is there has to be a transition time. There may be a day when we can have carbon-free energy, but the reality is it’s nowhere close. Not even remotely close. And we can’t solve that in the United States by building electric cars.

SN: But do you think Congress should be working toward that transition and that should be an objective?

BW: I think it should, but it has to be in the realm of reality. It has to be with eyes wide open, knowing that somebody in a developing country that doesn’t have the quality of life that they see the rest of the world having, they don’t really care about how much carbon is in the atmosphere.

I mean, look no further than China and the number of coal-fired plants they’re building so they can generate electricity to create jobs, to manufacture stuff to ship to the rest of the world.

So, I just want people to take a realistic approach to it and not just push stuff that I would call eyewash. It’s not a valid solution. My background is in engineering, my undergraduate degree’s in engineering. And they teach you problem-solving process and the first thing you have to do to solve a problem is to define the problem correctly.

And I think that our current policy in the country has greatly missed what the definition of a problem is and therefore we’re working towards solutions that aren’t going to solve any kind of a problem anytime soon.

And it’s more than reality. It’s, it’s not realizing that people desire to have energy, they desire to have a better way of life. And they can’t afford it.

SN: When you talk about like the developing world and China and India, are you saying that because their carbon emissions we have no control over and they’re likely to grow, maybe grow very fast, that then we shouldn’t make a tradeoff to limit our own emissions in the United States? Is that sort of what you’re getting at?

BW: No. We can’t wreck our economy for something that’s not going to be a valid solution.

The hope is that America would be the innovators, that we would continually work to make the energy sources we have cleaner and that eventually we’ll develop the technology that the rest of the world adopts that is reliable and affordable and that happens to be clean as well.

But the path that we’re on is one that would do great harm to our economy and do harm to our ability to actually solve these problems in the future. I wish we were in person; I’ve got a chart I can show you the global demand for energy global consumption by source. And you just about need a magnifying glass to see where wind, solar, and other renewables fit on the chart.

And it’s growing at an exponential rate. The world consumption of energy doubled from 1800 to 1900. It doubled again in 1942 and doubled again in the mid-60s, doubled again in the ‘80s and doubled again in 2021. And by 2035 we’re projected to be 50% higher on global consumption of energy than we are now.

And by far the largest source of energy is coal, oil and natural gas.

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SN: Obviously, it’s a divided government. Republicans have a slim majority in the House. Are there things that you think you can work with Democrats on?

BW: The (Strategic Petroleum Reserve) bill on not selling oil to China has huge bipartisan support.

The president went into it calling it a partisan issue. But I think we see it had huge bipartisan support.

Specifically with the Natural Resources Committee, I think there are a lot of things we can work on. When it comes to forestry and natural climate solutions, that can be bipartisan. I think if we get the facts out there, the impact of using U.S. energy versus foreign energy, we could get bipartisan support to do that.

There was a lot of money put out in the Infrastructure and Jobs Act, which I think was misnamed, and there was a lot of money put out in the Inflation Reduction Act, which again I think was misnamed. So there’s a lot of money out there to build quote green infrastructure.

But people are finding out the green infrastructure people are having the same problems the other kind of infrastructure folks are having and it’s that they can’t get a permit. You can’t build anything because you can’t get a permit. And our laws have been weaponized.

So I think there could be bipartisan support to go in and fix some of these regulations with common sense so that you can build solar farms and transmission lines and you can build pipelines and you can manage a forest and do things that are part of the big equation on how you address climate.

SN: Sen. Joe Manchin III (a West Virginia Democrat who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee) had a proposal on that last year. Is that something you’d be interested in revisiting? Or would you all take a different approach to permitting reform?

BW: He and I are supposed to get together here pretty soon and I’m sure we’ll talk about permitting.

We’ve got ideas here in the House. Garret Graves of Louisiana has something called the BUILDER Act that we think has some common-sense reforms in it.

I just saw a story somebody forwarded to me earlier about the number of whales that we think are being harmed by offshore wind energy, so there’s a lot of things that we’ve got to consider and we’ve got to get the facts and the data and really make a full-faith effort to do what’s right. For the country and for the environment and for the future.

SN: You were a forester before you got into politics and I’ve heard you talk about forest management, and wildfires is of course a huge issue. How do you think the federal approach to forest management could be improved?

BW: Well actually, I’m still a forester. I renewed my license at the end of the year. I’m still a licensed engineer and a licensed forester.

But this is an area that I really hope to see some progress on. A bill that I’m very excited about is one that we call the Save Our Sequoias Act. Worked very closely with Scott Peters, (Democrat) from California on this bill.

Actually, Speaker (Kevin) McCarthy and Scott Peters were the cosponsors of the bill in the last Congress. Most of the sequoia groves are in McCarthy’s (California) district. And we went out to look at what’s happening in our sequoia groves and how we had lost 20% of these iconic trees in like two or three years. And when you get out and see what the issues are and academics and Forest Service and Park Service employees pointing out that here’s the problem: These trees have grown up without fire for over 100 years in an environment where they used to get fire every three years or so. It creates ladder fuel (vegetation that allows a fire to move from a forest floor to tree canopies).

And the result of that is we got a good bill last Congress that had 25 Democrats, 25 Republicans and was endorsed by Save the Redwoods League, the Nature Conservancy and the Environmental Defense Fund. So, I think it requires doing the hard work and really looking at the facts. I’m excited to get that bill filed again. Hopefully we’ll get through committee. We couldn’t even get a hearing on it in the last Congress.

SN: And how is your approach different from how things have been done?

BW: On this particular bill, it would declare a congressional emergency for the sequoia groves. And they’re unique and they’re very well-defined. There’s like 70 of them and sequoias don’t grow off of those sites.

So we are declaring a congressional emergency for all the sequoia groves and we’re giving the Park Service and Forest Service — there’s a little bit of tribal ownership of sequoias and a little bit of state of California ownership of sequoias — but we’re giving them the tools and the resources to go in and restore the forest to how it was like in the early 1800s so that they can reintroduce fire to it without destroying the whole forest. And it’s following very rigorous science on forest management.

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SN: When you restore the forest to its state in the 1800s, is that through thinning?

BW: It requires mechanical thinning. So, what happened after the gold rush in California, Native Americans quit using controlled burns and then the Forest Service came along early 1900s, 1901 or whatever, and they started putting out every fire.

So, you have what’s called shade-tolerant species, like white fir and different kinds of pine, that grow very slowly in the understory of these giant sequoias. And what would happen, for centuries, they averaged about 31 fires per century in the sequoia groves. Then it went to three fires per century.

So, these slow-growing trees were over 100 years old, they’re pretty good-sized trees, and they got tall enough that the tops of them are in the lower crown of the sequoia.

Then you get wildfire that comes through that then runs up the tree because they’ve got ladder fuel and it gets into the crowns of the sequoias. And we saw a whole grove of sequoia trees that were totally destroyed by forest fire.

I mean, these things can live to be 3,000 years old … Trees are like a history book. Because of their annual rains and fire scars, you can do amazing research on what happened over time.

The simple solution is, you go in and cut down these white fir trees and pine tree that are growing up into the crown of the sequoias. And then you’ve got it where you can use controlled burns, and the fire goes through low to the ground and cleans up the fuels. And that’s the way the forest had been managed for millennia.

SN: OK, we better wrap it up here. Is there anything else you wanted to mention?

BW: We did talk about biochars in passing, so if you want to research that we can have a very in-depth conversation.

SN: Biochar? C-H-A-R?

BW: Yeah, biochar. The Incans were making it over a thousand years ago. And you can still dig it up. And when we talk about carbon sequestration, this gives us a way to remove overstocked vegetation from the forest, make a product out of it that’s almost pure carbon. Put it in the soil, make the soil more productive and make renewable fuel out of it in the process.

So that’s the kind of innovation I’m talking about when we talk about the big picture of climate.

The post New U.S. House Natural Resources chair opposes limits on fossil fuel development appeared first on Missouri Independent.

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

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

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.

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.

Nclusion Plus peformers Artemis Grey, KayCee and Faye King perform Thursday morning at the Columbia Values Diversity breakfast in Columbia (Photo courtesy Nclusion Plus).

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.”

The post Missouri Senate leader’s tweet about drag performance helped kickstart controversy appeared first on Missouri Independent.

For the complete story from MissouriIndependent.com click on the title of this article or click on the "post" link above

MoDOT and City of Kansas City Partnering to Stop Downtown Graffiti

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MoDOT and City of Kansas City Partnering to Stop Downtown Graffiti
Visitor (not verified)
Tue, 01/31/2023 – 15:15

Looking to the Public for Help

Cleaning up graffiti in the downtown area is a focus of staff from the Missouri Department of Transportation with support from the City of Kansas City. Recently, MoDOT crews began removing graffiti on Interstate 35 south along Southwest Boulevard in its first effort to clean up the downtown loop over the next few weeks. This will be the first of many efforts in the downtown highway system.
 “We are working to clean up our great city not only for all our civic pride, but in anticipation of several major downtown events coming soon,” said MoDOT KC District Engineer Chris Redline. “We want to clean it and keep it that way, but we need the public’s help.”
Graffiti on public property is illegal, unsafe and doesn’t reflect well on Kansas City. Graffiti appears all over on places like walls, columns, signs, and other areas. Removing graffiti is an expensive and arduous process involving staff time for multiple employees, physical resources and equipment, and traffic impacts to the public when work zones are set up to complete the jobs. Costs can lead into the thousands when all work is complete.
Both the city and MoDOT are asking the public to help curb this illegal activity and contact the Kansas City Police Department at 816-234-5111 when they see anyone defacing downtown public property, whether it’s city or state owned.
“This is time and money we could be using elsewhere on our system,” Redline said. “We support prosecution in matters like this because taxpayer money is used to remove graffiti. And it’s not only expensive to remove, but restitution costs for anyone caught could be extremely high.”
Safety is also a concern for everyone involved. “Many times, vandals put themselves in danger by operating close to traffic, high on a wall or structure,” Redline explained. “These same difficult spots cause similar concerns for our employees when they work to remove graffiti.”
Cleaning graffiti is just one thing MoDOT is focusing on to improve KC – other efforts include sweeping barriers, brush control and trimming, and litter pickup. The department contracted with an external company to begin picking up litter beginning in June 2022 on 40 miles of interstates in the urban Kansas City area. By the end of 2022, 73 tons of litter (11,000 bags) have been removed.  
Motorists are reminded to slow down and pay attention while driving in work zones. Not all work zones look alike. Work zones can be moving operations, such as striping, patching or mowing. They can also be short-term, temporary lane closures to make quick repairs or remove debris from the roadway.
For more information about MoDOT news, projects, or events, visit our website at www.modot.org/kansascity. For instant updates, follow MoDOT_KC on Twitter, or on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MoDOT.KansasCity/. MoDOT Kansas City maintains more than 7,000 miles of state roadway in nine counties. Sign up online for work zone updates or call 888-ASK-MODOT (275-6636).
 

Districts Involved

Kansas City

Published On
Tue, 01/31/2023 – 09:11

Lindbergh Tunnel to Close Nightly Feb. 6-10 for DMS Board Replacements

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Lindbergh Tunnel to Close Nightly Feb. 6-10 for DMS Board Replacements
Visitor (not verified)
Tue, 01/31/2023 – 14:50

ST. LOUIS – Motorists who travel through the Lindbergh tunnel are to be aware of upcoming closures to replace Digital Message Signs (DMS) in and around the tunnel. The work will require closure of all lanes in one direction at a time.
From 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday-Wednesday, Feb. 6-8, the northbound lanes of the tunnel will close.  The southbound lanes will close from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. Thursday and Friday, Feb. 9-10.  Detour signs will direct motorists around the closure.
All work is weather permitting.
###

Districts Involved

St. Louis

Published On
Tue, 01/31/2023 – 08:45

Replacement of Two Cedar County Bridges Focus of Virtual (Online) Public Meeting Feb. 1-14

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Replacement of Two Cedar County Bridges Focus of Virtual (Online) Public Meeting Feb. 1-14
Visitor (not verified)
Tue, 01/31/2023 – 12:55

Cedar County – The public is invited to a virtual (online) public meeting starting Wednesday, February 1, to learn more about a project to replace two (2) bridges in Cedar County, the Missouri Department of Transportation said.
The project includes these bridges:
Route M over Bear Creek near Stockton
Route AA over Turkey Creek near Humansville
The meeting will be available for two weeks beginning Wednesday, February 1 until Tuesday, February 14, and can be accessed at https://www.modot.org/cedar-county-bridge-replacement-projects.
The public is invited to make comments and/or ask questions about the project.
Those unable to access the online meeting are encouraged to contact MoDOT’s Southwest District Office at (417) 895-7600 and accommodations will be made to share the information and gather feedback. 
 
(For more information, call MoDOT in Springfield at 417-895-7600 or visit www.modot.org/southwest)
(Follow MoDOT’s Southwest District: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram |YouTube)
(Take the Challenge! Buckle Up/Phone Down)

Districts Involved

Southwest

Published On
Tue, 01/31/2023 – 06:51

Missouri lobbyist vs. Federalist Society: AG rivals building 2024 campaign war chests

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Will Scharf, left, and Attorney General Andrew Bailey (photos submitted).

In the likely 2024 GOP showdown for the Missouri attorney general’s office, the fundraising race has already begun. 

Attorney General Andrew Bailey, who was appointed to the office when his predecessor was elected to the U.S. Senate, began raising money through an independent political action committee even before officially launching his campaign last week

Will Scharf, a former assistant U.S. attorney and policy director in Gov. Eric Greitens’ brief administration, started raising money in November and is expected to officially announce his bid for attorney general Tuesday evening.

With other potential candidates waiting in the wings, Bailey and Scharf are wasting no time building campaign war chests. And so far, Scharf has a massive fundraising advantage. 

Bailey is getting fundraising help from Steve Tilley, a former speaker of the Missouri House and lobbyist who held a fundraiser for the attorney general last month at a hangar his lobbying firm co-owns at Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield. 

A candidate committee for Bailey wasn’t formed until last week, so the money raised at the fundraiser went to Liberty and Justice PAC, a committee connected to Tilley that was created in November.  

It reported raising $72,000 at the fundraiser, with most of the money coming from Tilley’s clients or a constellation of PACs funded by Tilley’s clients. 

Meanwhile, Scharf reported raising nearly $300,000  in December. Though he hasn’t said he’s officially running for attorney general, Scharf bragged in his release that the total was a “quarterly fundraising record for an attorney general candidate.”

In January, Scharf chipped in $500,000 of his own money into his statewide campaign. 

Among Scharf’s donors is Leonard Leo, co-chairman of the conservative legal organization The Federalist Society who, according to The New York Times, controls more than $1.6 billion in conservative donor funds.

Leo is considered one of the main architects of conservatives’ efforts to reshape the American judicial system, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

Help from Steve Tilley

Tilley helping Bailey is no surprise.  He has in recent years become a formidable fundraiser for Missouri politicians, despite more than a decade of rumblings about FBI scrutiny of his activities. No charges have ever been filed in any matter involving Tilley, and he has long denied any wrongdoing.

His fundraising prowess relies on a unique setup, where his lobbying clients funnel money into one of a handful of political action committees, which in turn distribute checks to candidates. 

Six Tilley-connected PACs wrote $5,000 checks to Liberty and Justice PAC in December. All but one is based in Tilley’s hometown of Perryville, and four share the same P.O. Box address. 

Andrew Bailey begins fundraising for Missouri AG campaign with help from lobbyist

MO Majority PAC was founded in 2015 with a $560,000 contribution from Tilley’s now defunct campaign committee. 

Missouri Growth PAC’s president and treasurer is Tilley’s father. 

Missouri C PAC, Missouri Senior PAC, Missouri AG PAC and Missouri Shield PAC were either organized or are run by John Burcham, a former employee of Tilley’s lobbying firm, or his father, Tom. 

Tom Burcham is a longtime friend of Tilley’s and was involved in his first public brush with FBI scrutiny back in 2009. While Tilley was serving as majority leader of the Missouri House, the FBI questioned lawmakers about his role in blocking legislation that would have undercut lawsuits filed by Burcham. 

Brittany Robbins, communications director for Tilley’s company, Strategic Capitol Consulting, said in an email to The Independent that each of the PACs that donated to help Bailey are independent of the lobbying firm. 

“We make recommendations,” Robbins said, “but we do not have control over final decisions.”

In addition to the $30,000 from the six Tilley-connected PACs, Bailey also got a little over $10,000 in December from Tilley clients.

That includes $1,000 from Warrenton Oil, which sued the state in 2021 in order to stop a crackdown on so-called gray market slot machines in its convenience stores. The Missouri attorney general’s office is defending the state in Warrenton Oil’s lawsuit, which was filed in conjunction with the company that owns the slot machines, Torch Electronics. 

Last summer, Warrenton Oil cut a series of $15,000 checks to MO Majority PAC, Missouri Growth PAC, Missouri C PAC, Missouri Senior PAC and Missouri AG PAC, totaling $75,000. Torch Electronics donated $40,000 to each PAC during that time, totaling $200,000.

Former Attorney General Eric Schmitt returned political donations he received in 2021 from the owner of Torch Electronics after criticism that, because of the ongoing litigation, they could be a conflict of interest.

But the Schmitt donations were to his campaign committee. Warrenton Oil’s $1,000 check went to Liberty and Justice PAC, which is an independent spending committee that Bailey can coordinate with to raise money but can’t control. 

A spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office directed questions to Bailey’s campaign, which did not respond to an email seeking comment. 

‘Friend and mentor’

In addition to his own money, Scharf is getting support from some of his former colleagues in the Greitens administration. 

Scharf served as policy director in the governor’s office for the 17 months Greitens served before being forced to resign to avoid impeachment and settle felony charges in June 2018.

Austin Chambers, Greitens’ former campaign manager, donated $2,650 to Scharf. So did Nick Maddux, Greitens’s former deputy chief of staff who now works for the political consulting firm helping run Scharf’s campaign. 

A big donor who isn’t tied to Greitens was West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who gave Scharf $2,000.

Former aide to Greitens plans bid for Missouri office in 2024

But the donation getting the most attention is the $2,650 check from Leo. 

Scharf has been active in The Federalist Society for years, and worked on the confirmations of Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. He told the Post-Dispatch that Leo is “a dear friend and mentor.” 

Leo has been credited with helping lead efforts to put conservative judges on the bench, and has quietly built a sprawling political network fueled by millions in anonymous dollars. He was the beneficiary of the largest known political donation in U.S. history, when industrialist Barre Seid seeded a nonprofit run by Leo with $1.6 billion. 

According to The New York Times, Leo has helped marshal half a billion dollars in resources over the last decade to bankroll legal, policy and political fights around the country over issues ranging from critical race theory to transgender rights to election law. 

“I have never run for political office before,” Scharf said in a press release announcing his quarterly fundraising total. “I am humbled by the support that we have received so far, and I am deeply grateful to those who have stepped up to support our bid for statewide office,” Scharf said.”

The post Missouri lobbyist vs. Federalist Society: AG rivals building 2024 campaign war chests appeared first on Missouri Independent.

For the complete story from MissouriIndependent.com click on the title of this article or click on the "post" link above

Missouri unveils plans to fight hypoxic dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico

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Missouri unveils plans to fight hypoxic dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico
Karen Kremer
Tue, 01/31/2023 – 11:05

Release Date
Tuesday, January 31, 2023

JEFFERSON CITY, MO,  JAN. 3 n1, 2023 – Missouri and 11 other states bordering the Mississippi River are working together to address the different factors that together create seasonal dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico. Each partner state has developed and announced specific strategies that will be implemented over time using targeted federal funding. Last month, Missouri unveiled its state work plan to fight the dead zones and also received its first year of funding totaling nearly $1 million.

Every summer, thousands of acres in the Gulf of Mexico are severely impacted by seasonal temperature shifts combined with an influx of excess phosphorous, nitrogen and other nutrients. Transported by the Mississippi River, these nutrients increase the growth of dense algal blooms that spread throughout the Gulf, depleting oxygen and making a vast area of water deadly for fish and other marine life. This dead zone is known as the Gulf Hypoxic Zone.

As the steward of the Missouri Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, the Department of Natural Resources will implement five separate projects under the Gulf Hypoxia Program. In December, EPA awarded Missouri $965,000 to kick off these projects:

Nutrient Reduction Progress Tracking Dashboard. This new tool will track nutrient reduction progress of state-level water quality and conservation programs. The dashboard will help to better target efforts locally, understand how well current practices are performing and allow for better-informed decisions.
Expansion of Missouri’s Ambient Stream Nutrient Monitoring. This effort will increase monitoring capabilities at four U.S. Geological Survey water quality monitoring stations. The four stations were selected to better capture water quality conditions of the Missouri, Mississippi and Grand rivers.
Missouri Municipal Wastewater Nutrient Optimization Pilot. This new project will assess the efficiency of different alternative wastewater treatment strategies for reducing nutrient loads without requiring municipal treatment facilities to make large capital expenditures. 
Gulf Hypoxia Outreach and Education Exhibit located at the St. Louis Science Center. The department will work with the science center to develop a new public education exhibit to raise awareness of nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River Basin and Gulf hypoxia, as well as actions the public can take to help reduce their nutrient pollution footprint.
Refining Nutrient Reduction Models with Subsurface Nutrient Transport Measurement. Lincoln University will receive grant funding for a targeted research project, which will create a better understanding of hydrologic flow paths and more refined nutrient tracking models. Thanks to this research, management practices will be better assigned to specific land use situations, which ultimately will lead to more accelerated nutrient loss reductions.
“We hope to share this work not only within our own state, but also to collaborate with other states that are conducting similar projects,” said Chris Wieberg, director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Water Protection Program and Missouri’s lead representative on the Hypoxia Task Force.

In November, the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act authorized $60 million in federal funding over five years to states and tribes combatting the Gulf Hypoxic Zone. Missouri, along with its counterparts, will use the funding to develop innovative approaches to reduce nutrient loading from their respective states.

These approaches represent the department’s diverse approach to furthering the goals of Missouri’s Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, bringing together adaptive approaches to reduce nutrient pollution from point and nonpoint sources. The overarching goal is to improve local water quality and reduce statewide nutrient pollution that ends up in the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico.

To access a summary of Missouri’s Gulf of Mexico hypoxia plan, as well as Missouri’s complete Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, go to dnr.mo.gov/water/what-were-doing/water-planning/nutrient-loss-reduction-strategy.
 

Contact Information

Communications Office

Address
PO Box 176
Jefferson City, MO 65102
United States

Main

573-751-1010

Toll-free

800-361-4827

Email

communications@dnr.mo.gov

MoDOT TRAFFIC ALERT: Eastbound I-44 Lane & Ramp Closure at West Bypass In Springfield

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MoDOT TRAFFIC ALERT: Eastbound I-44 Lane & Ramp Closure at West Bypass In Springfield
regan.mitchell
Tue, 01/31/2023 – 09:50

During Nighttime Hours January 31- February 1

Where: Eastbound I-44 right driving lane and U.S. Route 160 (West Bypass) to eastbound I-44 on ramp CLOSED (mile marker 75) in Springfield

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, January 31 to 3 a.m. Wednesday, February 1

What: Crews to remove an overturned semi-truck

Traffic Impacts:

Eastbound I-44 right driving lane Closed (mile marker 75)
U.S. Route 160 (West Bypass) to eastbound I-44 on ramp CLOSED (mile marker 75)
I-44 OPEN
Drivers may encounter flaggers directing traffic through the work zone where crews are working
No signed detours, drivers are urged to find alternate routes
Signs and message boards will alert drivers to work zone
Check MoDOT’s Traveler Information Map for road closings/traffic impacts
(Weather and/or construction delays will alter the work schedule)

END 
(For more information, call MoDOT in Springfield at 417-895-7600 or visit www.modot.org/southwest) 
(Follow MoDOT’s Southwest District: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram |YouTube)

(Take the Challenge! Buckle Up/Phone Down)

Districts Involved

Southwest

Published On
Tue, 01/31/2023 – 03:48

2023 Missouri Lunar New Year Celebration Video Series Available

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2023 Missouri Lunar New Year Celebration Video Series Available
nomland
Tue, 01/31/2023 – 08:51

January 31, 2023

Jefferson City – A series of videos celebrating the Lunar New Year holiday and highlighting Asian traditions and cultural celebrations are now available. The series also includes a special video from Governor Mike Parson.

After canceling a Jan. 25 celebration at the Missouri State Capitol due to weather, Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe and Missouri Department of Labor & Industrial Relations Director Anna Hui met to place the final two squares of the ceremonial red banners on the Governor’s double doors.

“Missourians share many common values that are showcased during the Lunar New Year festivities, including a focus on family and hard work,” Lt. Governor Kehoe said. “This is a great way to show citizens and visitors how our state values the diversity of Missouri’s people, cultures, and talents.”

The Lunar New Year, which has been observed for thousands of years, is the most celebrated Asian festival in the world. The 2023 Lunar New Year began on Jan. 22, initiating the Year of the Rabbit, which exemplifies longevity, discretion and good luck.

“With roughly 185,000 Missourians identifying as being of Asian descent, the Lunar New Year marks a great opportunity to highlight the rich heritage of these communities,” Director Hui said. “The Lunar New Year is a special time for my family and me, one that I’m honored and grateful to share with Lt. Governor Kehoe and many others around the state.”

A digital flipbook is also available to accompany the videos and can be found along with related materials at labor.mo.gov/lunar-new-year.

Communications Staff

Department of Labor and Industrial Relations573-751-4091communications2@labor.mo.gov

U.S. House Oversight chair’s agenda: Hunter Biden, COVID origins, classified documents

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Flanked by House Republicans, U.S. Rep. James Comer (R-KY) speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 17, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images).

WASHINGTON — House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chair James Comer on Monday previewed his priorities for this Congress, which he says will include a heavy focus on the handling of classified documents, the origins of the COVID-19 virus, and what he described as possible “influence peddling” by Hunter Biden.

The Kentucky Republican addressed reporters and the public at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., taking audience questions and vowing to lead a “substantive committee.”

The panel will begin its work this session with a hearing Wednesday that will examine potential fraud and abuse of federal pandemic relief dollars, including small business loans and unspent funds left over in federal accounts.

“Unfortunately, over the last two years, there hasn’t been a single hearing in the Oversight Committee dealing with the pandemic spending, even though [the federal government] spent record amounts of money. That’s very concerning. I feel like we’re two years behind in oversight. So we’re gonna have to go back two years to try to get caught up,” Comer said.

The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis under Democratic control during last Congress held hearings including on efforts to prevent pandemic relief fraud and examining anti-poverty pandemic initiatives.

For example, issues have surfaced after the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP loans, that were meant to keep struggling business owners afloat during the economic tumult of the global pandemic.

About 92% of those loans have been forgiven partially or in full, including the funds given to wealthy companies, according to an analysis of Small Business Administration data by NPR.

Classified documents

Reflecting on recent scandals involving classified government material found in the homes and personal offices of former and current U.S. leaders, Comer said Republicans and Democrats alike “all agree there’s a problem.”

After disclosures this month that classified documents were located in President Joe Biden’s think tank office and home, Comer sent letters to the White House and the U.S. Secret Service, requesting more information about who might have had access to the material.

Comer told the press Monday that the White House and the committee have not yet discussed a time to meet about the matter.

“We have to reform the way that documents are boxed up when they leave the president and vice president’s office and follow them in the private sector,” he said.

The committee, as soon as this week, plans to meet with the general counsel for the National Archives and Records Administration, the agency tasked with managing presidential documents.

Comer said he “wasn’t alarmed” by the news that Biden had classified documents in his Penn Biden Center office dating back to his vice presidency and in his Delaware home dating back to his days in the Senate. Department of Justice officials searched Biden’s home earlier this month, in what the president said was a voluntary search.

“I just thought it was ironic that the president was quick to call Donald Trump irresponsible for his handling of classified documents, and then he has the same thing happen,” Comer said.

The FBI in August executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, former President Donald Trump’s Florida home and private club, and found about 100 documents with classified markings out of thousands searched.

“When Mar-a-Lago was raided, I went on TV… and I said ‘Look, this has been rumored to have been a problem with many former presidents about inadvertently taking documents,’” Comer said.

Biden family probe

However, Comer repeatedly said his committee will be taking aim at Biden — not solely over classified documents, but over whether the president benefited from his Yale-educated lawyer son Hunter’s business dealings with foreign powers.

Hunter Biden once sat on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma and became connected with a Chinese energy tycoon who was later reportedly detained as part of an anti-corruption investigation.

“We’re investigating the president — this isn’t a Hunter Biden investigation, he’s a person of interest in the investigation of Joe Biden,” Comer said.

The White House has characterized the investigation as a conspiracy theory.

COVID origins

Another issue that Comer said he hopes will be bipartisan: the origins of the COVID-19 virus.

A select committee to examine the topic will be housed under the Committee on Oversight and Accountability.

“No Republicans are accusing Democrats of starting COVID-19. We’re wondering if COVID-19 started in the Wuhan (China) lab, so no one said ‘Oh, that was started by a Democrat.’ But for whatever reason there were never any bipartisan hearings on the origination of COVID,” Comer said. “… It should be bipartisan. Hopefully this won’t be a select committee like (the) January 6th (select committee), which was considered overtly partisan.”

A March 2021 report by the World Health Organization found that it was “likely to very likely” that an animal host carried the virus and transmitted it to humans, but a source was not definitively identified. The United States and several other countries expressed concern about delays and access to data used in the report.

For all of its wide-ranging examinations, there are two topics the Oversight Committee won’t be raising: the 2020 election results and police reform.

“At the end of the day, we’ve got our plate full with excessive spending and public corruption,” Comer said.

In light of this month’s brutal beating and death of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police, Comer said any discussion of police reform remains under the Judiciary Committee.

“We don’t want to reach into other committees’ areas of jurisdiction,” Comer said. “… Certainly there are bad apples in every profession, bad politicians, bad police officers, and they need to be held accountable.”

The Committee on Oversight and Accountability will hold its first full committee organization meeting at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

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Winter Preparedness

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When the weather outside gets frightful, we know to bring ourselves inside for shelter and warmth. However, it is also up to owners to protect their pets from cold temperatures and dangerous winter storms.

For the complete story from St. Charles County click the title at the top of this post or click on the post link above.

USDA to use outdoors recreation to boost economy around national forests, grasslands

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A stand of aspen trees at Glacier National Park in Montana reaches toward the sky (National Park Service photo).

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture began planning this month to develop outdoor recreation opportunities near national forests and grasslands, part of a broader Biden administration push to help communities reap economic rewards from the growing recreation sector.

Three USDA agencies — the U.S. Forest Service, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Office of Rural Development — signed a memorandum of understanding last fall pledging to collaborate on plans to develop outdoor recreation economies in “gateway communities” near national forests and grasslands, according to a Jan. 19 press release.

The agency selected its final team to begin developing the first annual plan in mid-January, a Rural Development spokesperson said. The spokesperson declined to be identified by name.

“We know that when we invest in rural and tribal communities and people, we create an economic ripple effect that benefits everyone,” the spokesperson said in a written statement to States Newsroom.

Many of the rural communities near national forests and grasslands have experienced significant economic downturns in recent years. The multi-agency effort is meant to help those communities harness the economic power of outdoor recreation.

“We want to be intentional about making sure that they are getting economic, social, and physical benefits,” Toby Bloom, the national program manager for travel, tourism, and interpretation with the Forest Service, said.

Some communities may have been reliant on a large employer that closed, forcing people to find work elsewhere and leading to a shrinking workforce that discourages further investment, Bloom said.

“If we can address that vicious cycle by creating opportunities, creating jobs, there’s a huge amount of jobs that are generated by recreation every year,” she added.

Bloom highlighted a mountain biking trail network near Ironton, Ohio, as an example of a community reorienting its economy around outdoor recreation tourism.

The USDA program is an acknowledgement from the government about the clear economic benefits of the outdoor recreation sector for rural areas, Chris Perkins, the senior director at the industry and nonprofit coalition group Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, said.

“What this partnership will do is just make the process of economic development around outdoor recreation a possibility for more communities,” Perkins said. “That will help demystify the process. And it will help them access funding and take on challenges before they arise.”

The great outdoors: A booming economic sector

Funding for the initiative will come from existing USDA grant, loan and service programs, though specific figures have not been set, the Rural Development spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that the agencies will prioritize projects that advance Biden administration goals to address climate change, environmental justice, racial equity and improved market opportunities.

Bloom explained that this is the first time the partnership will push recreation opportunities as projects for funding.

“Previously, we never thought about using a recreation lens,” Bloom said. “And we’re seeing now what an important piece of the economy it is.”

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis found that outdoor recreation produced $454 billion in economic activity, accounting for 1.9% of the nation’s gross domestic product in 2021. The agency also found that employment in outdoor recreation grew by 13.1% from 2020 to 2021. The sector supports close to 6.1 million jobs directly nationwide, according to the USDA.

Interest in outdoor activity is only accelerating, Perkins said. The sector grew at three times the rate of the larger U.S. economy last year, as people turned to the outdoors as a tool for physical and mental health, he added.

Rural communities close to public lands also tend to have a lower tax base, as no one is building on the land, Bloom said.

“This is really an attempt to help those communities that are near public lands and water capitalize on the financial opportunities that exist,” the program manager said. “Yes, you may have a smaller tax base, but you have these recreation amenities that have the potential to generate as much, if not even more, income.”

COVID-19 highlighted the importance of outdoor recreation, Bloom said. The pandemic’s early months saw an explosion in outdoor recreation. And while some rural communities handled the influx of tourists effectively, others were left scrambling to accommodate the jump in visitor numbers, she said.

“It’s kind of like America rediscovered its outdoors,” Bloom said. “And so as federal agencies, we need to help both the visitors have their best peak experience and also help those communities that are receiving visitors be able to manage that visitation and also benefit from it.”

The roots of the USDA initiative 

President Barack Obama launched the Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation in 2011. The council, made up of representatives from USDA, and the departments of Interior, Commerce and Defense, conducted the country’s first wide-scale economic analysis of the recreation economy.

Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, disbanded the council when he took office in 2017.

The Biden administration re-established the council last summer, laying the groundwork for the renewed partnership, Bloom said.

The council helped raise the recreation sector’s profile with politicians, Bloom said, setting the stage for the USDA agencies to bring their own expertise to the project.

‘Open the faucet’

The agencies will help communities plan to create or enhance outdoor recreation opportunities. They will also provide funding for development programs and help communities apply for federal grants.

As the agencies develop their annual plans, an emphasis will be on “sustainable growth,” according to the release. That means helping the local outdoors sectors grow at a pace the communities can handle, while also keeping in mind resilience to climate change and natural disasters.“Anybody who opens their eyes has seen the impact of natural disasters on our country,” Bloom said. “We really need to start thinking about how we are going to approach recreation, knowing that we have these challenges ahead of us.”

Priorities for the first plan will include development of affordable housing around gateway communities and giving more opportunities for people of color, low-income residents and members of the LGBTQ community to visit outdoor recreation spaces.

Affordable housing and accommodations for the existing local workforce should be priorities in the plan, Perkins said, as should equitable access to funding and the planning process for local residents.

“The communities that do best in developing these recreation economies are the ones that have everyone at the table,” Perkins said. “So many people are craving recreation right now, it’s tough to close that faucet.

“But if you can think about how you want to open the faucet and invite people to your community, and the messaging you want to share with them about how to be a responsible visitor, that’s where this work really benefits everyone.”

The program is already attracting attention from state-based groups such as the Alaska Outdoors Association and other agencies within the Forest Service, she said.

The program’s goal is to boost both environmental stewardship and economic benefit, Bloom said.

“You can’t ask people to decide between putting food on the table and conserving nature,” she said. “But if I can help somebody put food on the table by conserving nature, that’s a success for me.”

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Five boys taken into custody after trooper grazed by fleeing car in St. Charles County

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“It’s sad to think we have young men doing things like this in our city,” said Cpl. Dallas Thompson of the Missouri Highway Patrol.

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

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

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.”

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.”

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Crews will CLOSE portion of southbound U.S. 169 beginning Feb. 6 until Fall 2024

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Crews will CLOSE portion of southbound U.S. 169 beginning Feb. 6 until Fall 2024
Visitor (not verified)
Mon, 01/30/2023 – 16:00

Motorists are advised to detour via I-29/I-35 (Christopher Bond Bridge)

Project
Buck O’Neil Bridge Design-Build Project

 

JACKSON AND CLAY COUNTIES – Crews with the Buck O’Neil Bridge project will be making significant traffic pattern changes beginning in February. This includes the TOTAL CLOSURE of southbound U.S. 169 from the Charles Wheeler Downtown Airport to Fifth Street in downtown Kansas City beginning on Monday, Feb. 6, until Fall 2024. This more than 600 day closure is part of the construction of the new U.S. 169 Buck O’Neil Bridge and will allow crews to tie the new southbound bridge into the new flyover ramps to Interstate 35. Traffic control for this work will require various lane closures beginning overnight on Saturday, Feb. 4. Motorists can expect southbound U.S. 169 to be closed no later than rush hour on Monday morning, Feb. 6. More details will be announced soon. All work is weather permitting.

Northbound U.S. 169 will remain OPEN to traffic during this time.
Southbound U.S. 169 traffic will be detoured to I-29/I-35 (Christopher Bond Bridge).
Access to and from the Charles Wheeler Downtown Airport will be available via southbound U.S. 169 at MO Route 9.
Southbound U.S. 169 south of MO Route 9 will be open for airport access only. There will be no access across southbound U.S. 169 via the Buck O’Neil Bridge.

NEW: Beginning at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 7, crews will CLOSE the northbound U.S. 169 ramp to Richards Road until 3 p.m. to set up temporary barrier.
NEW: Beginning on Thursday, Feb. 9, crews will CLOSE Richards Road at the Harlem Roundabout to Lou Holland Drive until approximately Aug. 2023 for bridge construction.
Motorists should also note that beginning in approximately March 2023, the following ramps will be closed until Dec. 2023:

The ramp from westbound I-70 to southbound I-35.
The ramp from Fifth Street to southbound I-35.
The current Buck O’Neil Memorial Bridge is a triple arch bridge carrying U.S. Route 169 over the Missouri River, and serves as a key regional connection between downtown Kansas City and communities north of the river. While safe, the bridge is nearing the end of its projected service life.

 #BuckBridge

Motorists are reminded to slow down and pay attention while driving in work zones. Not all work zones look alike. Work zones can be moving operations, such as striping, patching or mowing. They can also be short term, temporary lane closures to make quick repairs or remove debris from the roadway.

For more information about MoDOT news, projects or events, please visit our website at www.modot.org/kansascity. For instant updates, follow MoDOT_KC on Twitter, or share posts and comments on our Facebook at www.facebook.com/MoDOT.KansasCity/. MoDOT Kansas City maintains more than 7,000 miles of state roadway in nine counties. Sign up online for workzone updates or call 888-ASK-MODOT (275-6636).

Districts Involved

Kansas City

Published On
Mon, 01/30/2023 – 09:56

Lane closures scheduled for updates to KC Scout digital sign boards

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Lane closures scheduled for updates to KC Scout digital sign boards
Visitor (not verified)
Mon, 01/30/2023 – 15:10

CLAY COUNTY – Crews will work to update information technology systems related to digital sign boards for KC Scout. The following areas will have one lane closed on the dates and times listed below as crews complete the updates. All work is weather permitting.
US 169 southbound at NW 62nd Street, Jan. 31 from 9 a.m. until 3 pm.
I-35 NB at Poe Street, Feb. 2 from 9 a.m. until 3 pm.
I-435 NB at NE 53rd Steet, Feb. 7 from 9 a.m. until 3 pm.
Motorists are reminded to slow down and pay attention while driving in work zones. Not all work zones look alike. Work zones can be moving operations, such as striping, patching or mowing. They can also be short term, temporary lane closures to make quick repairs or remove debris from the roadway.
For more information about MoDOT news, projects or events, please visit our website at www.modot.org/kansascity. For instant updates, follow MoDOT_KC on Twitter, or share posts and comments on our Facebook at www.facebook.com/MoDOT.KansasCity/. MoDOT Kansas City maintains more than 7,000 miles of state roadway in nine counties. Sign up online for workzone updates or call 888-ASK-MODOT (275-6636).

Districts Involved

Kansas City

Published On
Mon, 01/30/2023 – 09:08

Lengthy timeline for DACA legal fight puts lives on hold for years

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DACA recipients and their supporters rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on June 18, 2020 (Drew Angerer/Getty Images).

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U.S. Route 24 in Chariton County to narrow near Brunswick

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U.S. Route 24 in Chariton County to narrow near Brunswick
Visitor (not verified)
Mon, 01/30/2023 – 12:25

Guardrail to be completed at Palmer Creek Bridge

Project
Chariton County U.S. Route 24 Palmer Creek Bridge Rehabilitation

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – The final work on the Palmer Creek bridge deck replacement project will be completed next week. Emery Sapp & Sons, Inc., working under a contract with the Missouri Department of Transportation to replace the Palmer Creek Bridge, will conduct guardrail work at the bridge on Chariton County U.S. Route 24 west of Route MM near Brunswick.

One lane of U.S. Route 24 at the bridge will close Tuesday, Jan. 31, and Wednesday, Feb. 1, during daylight hours. A 14-foot width restriction will be in place with flaggers directing motorists through the work zone.

All work is weather dependent, and schedules are subject to change.

MoDOT asks drivers to work with us by always buckling up, keeping your phone down, slowing down and moving over in work zones. Know before you go and check what work zones you might encounter at traveler.modot.org.

While at modot.org, sign up online for work zone updates. Information is also available 24/7 at 888-ASK-MODOT (275-6636) or via social media.

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Take the Challenge! Buckle Up/Phone Down

###

Districts Involved

Northwest

Published On
Mon, 01/30/2023 – 06:20

Push for open enrollment picks up steam as Missouri GOP focuses on education bills

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Around 70 school-choice advocates rally under the Missouri Capitol rotunda Tuesday as part of National School Choice Week (Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent).

The push to allow Missouri students to transfer out of their home district and direct tax money toward their new school of choice is picking up momentum, with a state Senate committee set to approve a pair of bills this week.

The bills — one that would allow public districts and charter schools to open to nonresidents and another that would give families a tax credit to use toward any school — were debated by the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee last week. It was the same day advocacy organizations rallied at the Missouri Capitol for National School Choice Week.

“Sometimes kids need a change,” Rep, Andrew Koenig, a Manchester Republican and chair of the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee said as he introduced his bill. “Sometimes kids are being bullied and they need a fresh option.”

Koenig’s proposed legislation is similar to a bill sponsored by Rep. Brad Pollitt, a Republican from Sedalia and chair of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. The House committee held a public hearing for Pollitt’s bill Wednesday.

Both Koenig and Pollitt propose a voluntary open-enrollment program, which would allow school districts to decide if they want to allow nonresident students to apply to their schools.

Both specify that districts would not be required to add staff to serve the children who apply —which means that school districts with full caseloads in special education would not be required to accept students who need disability services.

In Koenig’s bill, resident school districts can limit the number of students that can transfer out to 5% in the first two school years. Pollitt allows resident school districts to enforce a cap of 4% for four years.

During last week’s public hearing, Sen. Lauren Arthur, a Kansas City Democrat, asked about the bill’s potential to create racial divides.

“It would be an unintended consequence, but it could create segregation of communities,” she said. “And I think we can find guardrails against that.”

Koenig noted that his bill allows districts to deny transfers as part of a diversity plan, a program school boards sometimes adopt on their own to avoid isolating minorities.

The primary difference between Koenig and Pollitt’s proposals is that the Senate version would allow students to transfer into charter schools while Pollitt did not include charters.

Sweeping education bill clears Missouri Senate committee without anti-transgender provision

Rep. Mike Haffner, a Republican from Pleasant Hill, said his support for Pollitt’s bill was “tepid” because of the lack of charter schools and pressed him on why these schools are not included. Pollitt said he didn’t want to spread the students, and therefore the money, too thin between resources.

“I would like to try to fix the issues that we have within the system… I would rather do this with the public school system we have now than open that up to additional buildings and additional staff and an additional administration and spread that money out,” Pollitt said.

Public testimony on Pollitt’s bill was split evenly between those in favor and in opposition of the legislation. Many in support of the bill represented advocacy organizations while school administrators opposed the legislation.

Kyle Kruse, superintendent of the St. Clair School District, said he anticipates losing 100 or more students throughout the district if the bill passes.

“Because they’re scattered throughout the district, where do you make cuts?” he said. “If this bill gets passed, the ‘haves’ gets more, and the ‘have-nots’ get less.”

Rep. Marlene Terry, a Democrat from Bellefontaine Neighbors, said the state should be focusing on the students with fewer resources to improve the educational system.

“It’s really the ‘have-nots’ we need to be focusing on to make our schools better,” she said.

Even more choice

Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman enters the Missouri Senate on the first day of the 2023 legislative session (Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent).

The other Senate bill expected to be voted out of committee Tuesday is sponsored by Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, an Arnold Republican. Her legislation stretches throughout schooling options, including homeschool students, with minimal government oversight.

“This bill is a simple bill,” she told the committee last week. “It just says that money should follow the child and that parents are the best ones to determine who they think should teach their children.”

Her bill gives 100% of the state’s funding formula to the parent’s school of choice. If a family educates their children at home, they are eligible to receive all educational expenses in a tax credit.

Parents could claim their state aid to apply the funds to a private school, another public school or a parochial school. The transferring students’ resident districts would not be able to count them for state and federal aid.

Koenig asked Coleman if there is oversight of the funds.

“The parents are the best ones to decide if the education system is working for their children,” Coleman said. “So yes, the oversight is the parent of the child.”

Jamie Morris, executive director of the Missouri Catholic Conference, said his organization is in favor of giving parents the decision.

“In my discussions with a lot of our network, I do appreciate that she’s also looking out for the homeschoolers as well that have always come to me and asked, ‘What are we doing for the homeschool families that don’t really have an option as far as the funding mechanism?’” he said.

Coleman, who attended public schools herself, said she does not anticipate a “mass exodus” from resident districts. “I think they’re working for most of our kids,” she said.

She said giving parents an option to move their children to other schools would solve “other cultural fights that are taking place in the building,” like demands over curriculum transparency.

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Capitol Perspectives: Improving Missouri’s Sunshine Law

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The Missouri state flag is seen flying outside the Missouri State Capitol Building on Jan. 17, 2021 in Jefferson City (Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images).

The 50-year golden anniversary of Missouri’s Sunshine Law has led me to reflect on what could be done to restore the vision of Missouri’s original Sunshine Law sponsors.

Recent news stories and editorials of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Kansas City Star concluded the Sunshine Law needs an “overhaul.”

I could not agree more strongly.

Various actions by public officials have undermined the vision of the leaders of the 1973 legislative measure to make government records and meetings available to the public.

The Star’s editorial cited the “exorbitant fees for copies of documents that are reviewed for months before release.”

The Post-Dispatch cited examples of digital technology used by state officials to block public access to the public’s business.

Digital methods that did not exist in 1973 now provide easy methods for evasion of the Sunshine Law as some state officials have used transmitting emails through a private mobile phone that leaves no government public record for disclosure.

There’s even an app used to delete the message when read by the recipient.

I have several ideas to reinforce the vision of the original Sunshine Law sponsors.

My first suggestion would be to put the Sunshine Law into the state Constitution. That would protect it from legislative tampering without voter approval.

In addition, a constitutional amendment would cover the legislature itself.

That would address a recent state appeals court decision which effectively held that the Sunshine Law can not restrict the General Assembly’s constitutional power to govern its own proceedings.

My first suggestion would be to put the Sunshine Law into the state Constitution. That would protect it from legislative tampering without voter approval.

Another significant change I suggest would be to remove enforcement of Sunshine Law violations from the state attorney general.

That would address an obvious conflict of interest cited by various news accounts about allegations that former Attorney General Josh Hawley and his governmental staff used private mobile phones for sending messages that left no public record subject to disclosure.

A Kansas City Star editorial proposed Sunshine Law enforcement be placed in the hands of the Missouri Ethics Commission.

MEC has extensive experience enforcing campaign finance and lobbyist reporting requirements and putting that information online for anyone to see.

Having MEC review Sunshine Law complaints would avoid the expensive and time-consuming legal process now required to get a judicial ruling on the public’s right to government information.

That would not be too different from an unsuccessful 2003 bill sponsored by Sen. Mary Bland, D-Kansas City, to create a bipartisan board with subpoena powers to monitor Sunshine Law compliance.

Another component could be to require public records regularly be submitted to MEC for preservation.

That might address a problem the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Tony Messenger reported about St. Louis jail records.

In his column, Tony wrote he was informed that “the city doesn’t have any of the monthly use-of-force reports from 2022, and regularly destroys videos of use-of-force incidents.”

His column demonstrates that any constitutional amendment needs to have explicit requirements for preservation, along with access to both government text and digital records.

Given today’s technology to preserve and store digital records, it would be far easier than in the era of the original Sunshine Law advocates.

Maybe every state and local government agency should be required to have an independent staffer responsible for turning over records to MEC along with possible civil or criminal penalties for failure to comply.

Another significant change I suggest would be to remove enforcement of Sunshine Law violations from the state attorney general. That would address an obvious conflict of interest cited by various news accounts about allegations that former Attorney General Josh Hawley and his governmental staff used private mobile phones for sending messages that left no public record subject to disclosure.

There are legitimate privacy, law enforcement and public safety concerns about unrestricted public access to some government records. But Missouri’s Sunshine Law already provides for several exemptions for areas such as health and student records.

The recent effort by legislators to include an exemption for constituent communication to legislators raises a fascinating question.

I understand the desire to avoid public disclosure of personal details that a constituent might include in an email to a legislator.

On the other side, a statehouse reporting colleague once told me that access to those emails gave him information to contact the authors for information to make a news story more powerful.

Compounding the question are emails to legislators from businesses, advocacy groups and lobbyists. Should those emails be confidential?

This is just one of the issues that need to be explored for a Sunshine Law constitutional amendment submitted to the voters.

Maybe a bipartisan government board similar to Bland’s bill could be a vehicle to achieving a compromise proposal.

Ultimately, letting Missouri voters decide upon a constitutional amendment establishing the public’s right to public documents, meetings and digital records seems to me to reflect the original vision of the Sunshine Law sponsors I covered so many decades ago.

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White House launches new push to help states remove lead pipes that carry drinking water

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An individual holds a lead pipe, a steel pipe and a lead pipe treated with protective orthophosphate. The Environmental Protection Agency is only now requiring water systems to inventory their lead pipes decades after new ones were banned (Photo courtesy of EPA).

WASHINGTON — The White House on Friday announced plans to speed up the use of infrastructure law funds to replace lead pipes in underserved communities, with a focus on Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin beginning this year.

The four states, each led by Democratic governors, will be part of what’s called the Lead Service Replacement Accelerators program in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Labor.

The administration characterized it as a way to “drive progress” in using the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funding dedicated to removing and replacing lead lines that carry drinking water to homes and schools. Exposure to lead in drinking water, particularly in children or pregnant women, can cause lasting neurological damage.

“​​Our Lead Service Line Replacement Accelerators demonstrate our commitment to ensuring every community has access to safe, clean drinking water,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement Friday.

“By leveraging the historic investment made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are moving one step closer to achieving President Biden’s vision of 100% lead-free water systems for all.”

Help for communities

The new initiative is meant to bring “hands-on support” and technical assistance from the EPA to guide communities through the lead service line removal process. That assistance might include help completing federal grant and loan applications, or expertise in finding labor and contractors.

Up to 10 million households and 400,000 schools and child care centers have lead service lines, according to the White House.

Some of the communities set to participate in the new plan include:

  • East Newark and Newark, New Jersey
  • Erie County and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Edgerton, Kenosha, Madison, Milwaukee, Sheboygan and Wausau, Wisconsin

“It should be a right of every occupant of this earth and certainly of our country to have clean water, let’s just start there. Then let us understand, because many may not be aware, sadly, that it is not a right that is guaranteed to all the occupants of our country,” said Vice President Kamala Harris at the Accelerating Lead Pipe Replacement Summit held Friday at the White House.

“In many communities, families, children, parents cannot take for granted that they will turn on a tap and that clean water will come out. And I think we would all agree there is nothing about this that should be considered a luxury or an option,” Harris said during the summit’s keynote conversation with Regan.

Invited guests who attended the summit included mayors, philanthropic organizations, advocacy groups and community leaders.

Harris sent a letter to governors across the U.S. inviting them to join a wider, overarching coalition called the Biden-Harris Get the Lead Out Partnership.

So far it has brought together 123 municipalities, water utilities, community organizations and labor unions that have agreed to deploy federal funds to replace lead pipes, according to the vice president’s office.

“We have labor, nonprofits, our agencies, and the private sector, all who are here with one thing in mind, and that’s to get lead pipes out of all of our communities,” Regan said Friday.

How funds are divided

The administration budgeted $15 billion in infrastructure funds over several years for the EPA to divvy up among states for lead service line replacements.

Another $11.7 billion was directed toward the EPA’s state revolving fund meant to support a range of water quality projects, including lead pipe replacements.

In 2022 the administration allocated a portion of the funds to states and territories to cover the next five years of lead line fixes.

The states that received the highest allocations were California, Texas, New York, Illinois, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina and Massachusetts.

“Pennsylvanians have a constitutional right to clean air and pure water, but far too many communities here in Pennsylvania suffer from old and outdated lead pipes that endanger the health of our children and families,” Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro said in a statement Friday about being named to the accelerator program.

“My Administration is ready to work with President Biden, Vice President Harris, and our federal partners to make life-saving investments that will deliver clean drinking to families across the Commonwealth, especially in communities that have been left behind for too long.”

Allotments for 2023 are expected to be announced in the spring after the EPA publishes its latest, legally required Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs and Survey Assessment, according to the agency.

Some advocacy organizations, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, criticized the breakdown of last year’s funds, arguing that states with the most lead pipes — like Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Ohio — were receiving fewer funds per replacement than states with fewer lead pipes.

“Every state has lead service lines, but some have significantly more than others. The highest concentration of lead service lines delivering water to homes are in the upper Midwest and Northeast states as well as Texas,” the NRDC’s Cyndi Roper wrote in July.

Risks of childhood lead poisoning not equal

Not all children and families are equally susceptible to lead exposure. The risk is greater for those who live in low-income households and in older homes where lead plumbing fixtures, pipes and lead-based paint have not been replaced or remediated.

Research as recent as 2021 continues to show that Black children and children in low-income communities consistently show higher blood lead levels than their non-Hispanic white counterparts.

“It is up to communities to hold our elected officials accountable [for] implementing the infrastructure bill. It’s up to utilities to share what they need to ramp up their lead service line [replacement] programs. Most importantly, it is up to our government agencies and mayors and governors to act with a sense of urgency to prioritize removing every single lead service line,” Deanna Branch, of the Milwaukee-based Coalition for Lead Emergency, said at Friday’s White House summit.

Branch was accompanied at the podium by her 9-year-old son, Aiden, who at the age of 2 was hospitalized with lead poisoning.

No level of lead is safe for children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC estimates that about a half a million children in the U.S. have elevated blood lead levels, meaning the amount of lead found during a blood test is higher than most other children.

Some of the most common sources of exposure include lead paint in older housing stock, water carried through lead pipes, soil and dust near industrial sites and imported toys or jewelry.

Children under age 6 are most at risk for lead poisoning because of their hand-to-mouth behavior and because their developing nervous systems are vulnerable to what can be permanent effects of lead exposure, including lower IQ, behavioral problems, developmental delays and learning difficulties.

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CWD deer management planned at Prairie State Park

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CWD deer management planned at Prairie State Park
Karen Kremer
Mon, 01/30/2023 – 10:59

Release Date
Monday, January 30, 2023

JEFFERSON CITY, MO, JAN. 30, 2023 – Missouri Department of Conservation officials found a CWD-positive deer during firearms season on private land near Prairie State Park. In an effort to keep the disease from spreading, MDC is planning a controlled culling of deer within the park.

Chronic wasting disease, or CWD, is a fatal, neurological illness that affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. This contagious disease can be transmitted freely within and among deer populations.

Controlled culling will begin Feb. 1 and continue throughout the month. Portions of the park may be closed and visitors should check the Park and Site Status Map at modnr.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=0cc1b6513d6e407694aede7b7bdbde93 before visiting.

Based on available scientific information, MDC officials said they believe localized removal of deer through targeted culling is an effective means to minimize the spread of CWD and reduce the rate the disease spreads through the deer population. Removing a greater number of potentially infected deer from the population can slow disease growth rates and minimize the amount of CWD contamination in the environment. Removing additional deer from where CWD has been detected can also help reduce disease transmission within the local population. Limiting population reductions only to areas where CWD is present helps reduce impacts to populations in the surround areas.

As a reminder, hunting is prohibited in state parks, except for specially designated hunts and culling operations. For inquiries about CWD culling, contact MDC at 417-209-6876. For information on trail closures, call the park office at 417-843-6711 or visit the website. Prairie State Park is located at 128 NW 150th Lane in Mindenmines.

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

Contact Information

Tisha Holden

Division Information Officer

Address
Missouri State ParksPO Box 176Jefferson City, MO 65102United States

Office

573-751-6510

Toll-free

800-334-6946

Email

tisha.holden@dnr.mo.gov

Roaring River and Montauk state parks release campsites

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Roaring River and Montauk state parks release campsites
Karen Kremer
Mon, 01/30/2023 – 10:47

Release Date
Monday, January 30, 2023

JEFFERSON CITY, MO, JAN. 30, 2023 – Missouri State Parks announces campsites previously on hold at Montauk State Park and Roaring River State Park will be released for guests to reserve in March and April. 

Both campgrounds will undergo improvements later in 2023, but will be temporarily available until construction dates are determined. The campsites released will be in campground Loop 4 at Montauk State Park, which will undergo an electrical upgrade from 30 amp to 50 amp sites; and in campground Loop 3 at Roaring River State Park, which will be converted from basic sites to sites with sewer, electric and water. Both projects are in the design phase and should be sent out for bid later this spring. 

Roaring River State Park is located in Cassville, while Montauk State Park is located in Salem.

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

Contact Information

Tisha Holden

Division Information Officer

Address
Missouri State Parks
PO Box 176
Jefferson City, MO 65102
United States

Office

573-751-6510

Toll-free

800-334-6946

Email

tisha.holden@dnr.mo.gov

Former St. Louis news anchor Vic Faust sued by berated co-worker

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Crystal N. Cooper alleges that on Sept. 13, while she co-hosted Faust’s radio show on KFNS, Faust defamed her, assaulted her and restrained her from leaving the broadcast booth.

For the complete story from the Post click on the title at the top of this article.  Help support LOCAL journalism by subscribing to the Post Dispatch by clicking HERE

MoDOT to close lanes on I-270 eastbound between New Florissant Rd and Washington/Elizabeth, Jan. 28

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MoDOT to close lanes on I-270 eastbound between New Florissant Rd and Washington/Elizabeth, Jan. 28
Visitor (not verified)
Fri, 01/27/2023 – 14:15

ST. LOUIS – Drivers who regularly use eastbound I-270 should note that the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) will close two highway lanes between New Florissant Road and Washington Street/Elizabeth Avenue, between 4 a.m. and 12 p.m., Saturday, January 27. Drivers will still have access to I-270 eastbound during the closure, however, the eastbound exit ramp at Washington Street/Elizabeth Avenue will be closed.
The closures will allow crews to perform an emergency repair on a section of temporary pavement on eastbound I-270.
The lane closures and construction work are part of the $278 million I-270 North Project infrastructure upgrades. To stay updated on the status of this closure and to view a project overview and graphic displays of planned construction, please visit the I-270 North Project website at: www.i270north.org.  Travelers can also contact MoDOT’s customer service center at 1-314-275-1500 or the I-270 North Project Team at: I270North@modot.mo.gov.
 
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Districts Involved

St. Louis

Published On
Fri, 01/27/2023 – 08:11

Planned Roadwork for Northeast Missouri, Jan. 30 – Feb. 9

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Planned Roadwork for Northeast Missouri, Jan. 30 – Feb. 9
Visitor (not verified)
Fri, 01/27/2023 – 13:35

HANNIBAL – The following is a list of general highway maintenance work the Missouri Department of Transportation has planned in the Northeast Missouri region for Jan. 30 – Feb. 9.
All road closures and planned roadwork may be viewed on the Traveler Information Map at http://traveler.modot.org/map/.
Inclement weather may cause schedule changes in some of the planned work. There may also be moving operations throughout the region, in addition to the work mentioned below. MoDOT asks drivers to work with us by buckling up, putting your phone down, slowing down and moving over in work zones.
Audrain County
Route K – Feb. 6-9, the road will be CLOSED from Audrain Co. Road 649 to Audrain Co. Road 553 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. daily for core drilling operations.
Lincoln County
U.S. Route 61 (Southbound) –Jan. 30 & 31, the road will be reduced to one lane from Lincoln County Route C to Lincoln County Route U between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. for bridge maintenance.  There will be a width restriction of 10 feet in place while work is being completed.
U.S. Route 61 (Northbound) – Feb. 1 & 2, the road will be reduced to one lane from Lincoln County Route U to Lincoln County Route C between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. for bridge maintenance.  There will be a width restriction of 10 feet in place while work is being completed.
Marion County
Route MM –Jan. 31 & Feb. 1, the road will have short-term CLOSURES at various locations between Veterans Road and Paulina Drive in Hannibal between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. for brush cutting operations. 
Monroe County
Route V –Jan. 30 – Feb 1, the road will be CLOSED to from U.S. Route 36 at Hunnewell to Monroe County Route FF between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. for pavement patching operations.
Montgomery County
I-70  Westbound Ramps (MM 175) – Feb 2, the ramps will be CLOSED between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. for pavement repairs.
I-70  Eastbound Ramps (MM 175) – Feb 2, the ramps will be CLOSED between 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. for pavement repairs.
Warren County
Missouri Route 94 – Feb. 1 & 2, the road will be reduced to one lane one-half mile before to immediately after the bridge just east of Rush Island Road between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. for bridge maintenance.  There will be a width restriction of 10 feet in place while work is being completed.
Missouri Route 94 – Feb. 1 & 2, the road will be reduced to one lane one-half mile before to immediately after the bridge just west of Massas Creek Road between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. for bridge maintenance.  There will be a width restriction of 10 feet in place while work is being completed.
Winter is here!  Are you prepared?  The predictions for the weather this winter include a lot of snow, and MoDOT needs your help to stay safe.  Follow these safety tips to help us get through the season: Winter Driving Tips | Missouri Department of Transportation (modot.org).

Districts Involved

Northeast

Published On
Fri, 01/27/2023 – 07:33

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

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U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley speaks during U.S. Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland’s confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on Feb. 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Demetrius Freeman-Pool/Getty Images).

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.

Missouri judge rules AG’s office under Josh Hawley ‘knowingly’ violated transparency laws

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. 

GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

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.”

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Planned Roadwork for Northwest Missouri, Jan. 30-Feb. 5

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Planned Roadwork for Northwest Missouri, Jan. 30-Feb. 5
Visitor (not verified)
Fri, 01/27/2023 – 13:00

St. Joseph, Mo. – The following is a list of general highway maintenance and construction work the Missouri Department of Transportation has planned in the Northwest Missouri region for the week of Jan. 30 – Feb. 5.
All road closures and planned roadwork may be viewed on the Traveler Information Map at http://traveler.modot.org/map/.
Inclement weather may cause schedule changes in some of the planned work. There may also be moving operations throughout the region, in addition to the work mentioned below. MoDOT asks drivers to work with us by buckling up, putting your phone down, slowing down and moving over in work zones.
Buchanan County
U.S. Route 36 – Bridge rehabilitation project over the Missouri River is currently suspended for winter. Work will resume spring 2023. Westbound is narrowed to one lane with a 12-foot width restriction through June 2023. (Contractor: Comanche Construction, Inc.)
Missouri Route 759 – RAMP CLOSED for a bridge rehabilitation project over the Missouri River. The ramp from Route 759 to westbound U.S. Route 36 is closed through June 2023. (Contractor: Comanche Construction, Inc.)
Route M – Utility work from 66th Street to Nichols Road, Jan. 30 – Feb. 3
 Carroll County
Route UU – CLOSED for a bridge deck replacement project over Turkey Creek and Big Creek, through January. (Contractor: Capital Paving & Construction, LLC).
Route WW – CLOSED for a culvert replacement from 2nd Street to south Main Street in Tina, Jan. 30 – Feb. 3
Chariton County
U.S. Route 24 – Guardrail work at the Palmer Creek Bridge, Jan. 31 – Feb. 1. A 14-foot width restriction will be in place. (Emery Sapp & Sons, Inc.
Clinton County
I-35 – Pothole patching southbound from mile marker 47 to mile marker 36. Southbound will be narrowed to one lane with a 12-foot width restriction daily, Jan. 30 – Feb. 3
Gentry County
Route YY – CLOSED until further notice at the Bear Creek Bridge due to deterioration. This bridge is included in a replacement project scheduled to be a part of the September 2023 letting for contractor bids.
Grundy County
U.S. Route 65 – Bridge rehabilitation project over Route 6 in Trenton, through February. Temporary traffic signals will guide motorist through the work zone. A 17-foot width restriction is in place. (Contractor: Capital Paving, Inc.)*
Route W – CLOSED for a bridge replacement project at the Gees Creek Bridge, south of Route F, through early April 2023. (Contractor: Lehman Construction and Wilson & Company)**
Harrison County
Route D – Pothole patching from  Route 46 to U.S. Route 136, Jan. 30
Linn County
Route WW – CLOSED for a bridge replacement project at the Van Dorsen Creek Bridge, 3 miles east of Marceline, through May 2023. (Contractor: Lehman Construction and Wilson & Company)**
Route 5 – Pothole patching from U.S. Route 36 to the Chariton County line, Jan. 30 – 31
Livingston County
Route C – CLOSED until further notice at the Shoal Creek Bridge, north of Route DD, due to deterioration. A bridge replacement project was part of MoDOT’s November 2022 letting and awarded to L.G. Barcus and Sons, Inc. A start date for the project has not yet been determined.
Route C – CLOSED for a bridge replacement project at the bridge over Shoal Creek, just west of Dawn and east of Route DD, through April 2023. (Contractor: Lehman Construction and Wilson & Company)**
Nodaway County
Route 46 – CLOSED for a bridge replacement project at the bridge over the Nodaway River, near Quitman, through early June 2023. A signed detour is in place. (Contractor: Emery Sapp & Sons, Inc.)*
Sullivan County
Route E – CLOSED for a bridge replacement project at the West Locust Creek Bridge, 8 miles northwest of Milan, through May 2023. (Contractor: Lehman Construction and Wilson & Company)**
Worth County
Route W – Pothole patching from Nodaway County line to Route YY, Jan. 31
Route PP – Pothole patching from U.S. Route 169 to Pebble Avenue, Feb. 3

* This bridge is included in Gov. Mike Parson’s $351 million Focus on Bridges program, which will repair or replace 250 bridges across the state.
** This bridge is part of the FARM (Fixing Access to Rural Missouri) Bridge Program. More info: FARM Bridge program web page
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Districts Involved

Northwest

Published On
Fri, 01/27/2023 – 06:58

Teachers would get $60K minimum salary under bill in Congress making grants to states

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The bill, if passed, would authorize the federal government to create four-year grants for states to enact and enforce minimum school teacher salary requirements of $60,000 or more. The program would start in fiscal 2024. It would not mandate teacher raises (Getty Images).

WASHINGTON – A panel of policymakers and educators, including author Dave Eggers and former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, gathered at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to promote the American Teacher Act.

The bill, if passed, would authorize the federal government to create four-year grants for states to enact and enforce minimum school teacher salary requirements of $60,000 or more. The program would start in fiscal 2024. It would not mandate teacher raises.

“We’re here today to advocate for our teachers, our educators, our saving grace that rescues families and our children every day,” said Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Florida, sponsor of the bill and a former school teacher. “We want our teachers to be paid a livable wage. A wage that is fair, a wage that is commensurate with today’s economy.”

Rep. Wilson introduced the American Teacher Act in the House of Representatives on Dec. 14, and is expected to re-introduce it in this Congress, though it’s likely to run into opposition from Republicans who control the chamber.

The legislation states that 15% of the four-year federal grants could support state-level educational agencies, while the remaining 85% must go directly to a state’s local school districts.

The bill includes a cost-of-living adjustment that would peg teacher salaries to inflation, along with a clause allowing for a national awareness campaign on the importance and work of teachers.

Phelton Moss, a senior policy adviser to Wilson, said that the bill also incorporates a maintenance-of-effort provision that requires states not to pull back on their commitment to a $60,000 minimum salary, if they are to keep their funding. Additional language inside the bill would ensure states prioritize Title I schools and districts in distributing funds.

In the 2020-2021 school year, public school teachers made $61,600 while working 52 hours per week, on average. Yet there is significant variation in teacher salary between states.

Mississippi, the lowest-paying state for teachers in the 2020-2021 school year, paid an average of $46,862, according to the National Education Association. Meanwhile, in New York, the average teacher salary sat at $90,222.

‘Heroes’ struggle to stay afloat

Wilson commended the dedication of school teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic, who taught online or went door-to-door to instruct students who lacked access to technology.

”It was during this time that the world finally saw what we’d known for years, that teachers are heroes,” she said. “They deserve a livable, competitive salary that accurately reflects the importance of their role in society.”

Wilson said that 1 in 5 teachers across the country currently works a second job to supplement their income, and over 9,000 districts across the country pay teachers less than $40,000 per year.

She said this lack of adequate pay is largely contributing to some reports of a teacher shortage affecting school districts.

“We should be embarrassed,” Wilson said. “The teacher shortage is among the most pressing threats to education access today. And we must address it. Our classrooms are at stake, our children are at stake, and the future of our country is at stake.”

As Missouri has struggled with teacher retention issues, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson hopes to continue a program that pays 70% of the cost for schools to pay every teacher at least $38,000 a year. The statewide average pay for teachers is $51,557 – 47th in the nation.

Ellen Sherratt of the Teacher Salary Project said that over her 20 years of experience as an economist analyzing teacher salaries and shortages, the pay gap and morale of teachers is the worst it has ever been.

Last fall, the Economic Policy Institute performed an analysis of teacher pay trends from 1970 to 2021, and found that teachers earn 23.5% less on average compared to their peers of similar educational backgrounds.

Sherratt also said that 62% of parents surveyed in a PDK poll on public schools last year said they did not want their child to go into teaching, with low pay the top-listed reason.

Rodney Robinson, the 2019 National Teacher of the Year, estimated that roughly 50% of the Ubers and Lyfts he takes during the week are driven by schoolteachers. The Richmond, Virginia resident added that one of these Uber drivers was a former teacher in Alabama. The driver was studying to be a principal, and had to quit his job as a teacher to pay for school.

“We really need to re-examine what we are doing as a country,” Robinson said. “If teachers — who are our most prized possessions, who raise the next generation — have to quit or take on another job just to make ends meet.”

Nicholas Ferroni, a history teacher at Union High School in Union, New Jersey, added that teaching is one of the few jobs in which people can have the greatest impact on the greatest number of people. Ferroni lamented the fact that teachers have to use GoFundMe to “beg for supplies.”

“I’m just here because I don’t want to marry rich, become an administrator, or switch jobs,” Ferroni said. “I do want to stay in the classroom.”

Teachers and students’ futures

Duncan, the former education secretary, said the impacts of a good teacher are not just test scores and graduation rates, but financial security. He said that an economic analysis from Raj Chetty showed that one good middle-school teacher raised the lifetime earnings of a given class by $250,000.

“So you think about putting two good teachers back-to-back, or three good teachers back-to-back,” Duncan said. “What does that do for young people in perpetuity?”

Duncan also spoke to the institutional barriers to socioeconomic equity that high-quality education can surmount.

“No kid grows up wanting to be poor,” Duncan said. “The only way I know how to break the cycles of poverty and create upward mobility is to create opportunity. Getting great teachers where we need them most is critically important.”

Robinson said the bill could reduce barriers for people of color in entering the profession, and eroding the national achievement gap.

“People don’t understand the extra burden for people of color to take on more student loan debt,” Robinson said. “We know having educators of color, teachers that look like their students, is the most important thing to lowering that achievement gap and increasing graduation rates.”

“By increasing teacher salaries, we can make a dedication to increasing diversity in the teacher workforce.”

Blowback predicted 

Moss said that there are still details yet to be finalized in the teacher salary bill, including the concrete definition of “teacher” and provisions for veteran educators.

Robinson added that he sees this bill inevitably facing resistance, yet that blowback should not deter its supporters.

“You know, pious D.C.,” Robinson said. “‘How are we gonna pay for this? How are we gonna do this?’”

“How can we afford not to pay for this? This is an issue of national security.”

Duncan challenged claims from some teachers that the American Teachers Act represents federal overreach. “Education is the ultimate bipartisan issue,” Duncan said. “This is nation-building. Our teacher workforce in our country is the best offense for our nation.”

Robinson added that the bill will put pressure on states to raise and maintain wages even after the grant is over, as they face competition from other states paying teachers more, who leave to work in a higher-paying community.

Eggers praises his teachers 

After the roundtable, Eggers talked about the “uninterrupted string of extraordinary teachers” in his education during an interview with States Newsroom. The author said that he still sends his books in manuscript form to a former high school English teacher, Peter Ferry, who is one of his first readers.

“Every single study that has ever tested what’s the most important thing in a student’s education —  it’s not the color of the paint on the walls, or the facilities,” Eggers said. “The very most important thing is the teachers. It’s a school. It has to be teachers first.”

The author emphasized that if the pay schedule for teachers rises, talent will enter and stay in the profession, and the nation will grow to recognize the value of what teachers bring to the table.

“We know there’s a crisis,” Eggers said. “ We have hundreds of thousands of empty classrooms.  We have schools that only have one or two qualified teachers. This is maybe the most urgent moment in the last 150 years. And so there isn’t any other option. We have to start somewhere.”

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Democrats in Congress condemn Biden administration expansion of Title 42

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Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., speaks at a U.S. Capitol press conference on the Title 42 immigration policy, with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Rep. Greg Casar, D-Texas, Jan. 26, 2023 (Ariana Figueroa/States Newsroom).

WASHINGTON — Nearly 80 Democratic members of Congress sent a letter to the White House expressing their “great concern” that the Biden administration is walking back on its promise to restore migrants’ access to asylum.

In the letter, they also condemned the administration’s expansion of a controversial policy that immediately turns away migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, known as Title 42, and does not allow them to claim asylum.

During a Thursday press conference outside the U.S. Capitol, New Jersey Democratic Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker argued that asylum was a right granted by Congress. The administration initially promised to end the use of Title 42, a health policy put in place to prevent non-U.S. citizens from entering the country during a health crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic, they said.

“We are seeing the extension of Title 42 that, ultimately, is putting people in crisis and in danger of facing persecution and violence,” Booker said.

The policy has been in place since 2020, and more than 2 million migrants have been turned away at the U.S. border, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data.

The letter to President Joe Biden acknowledges the new legal pathways created by the Biden administration for Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans, modeled off the current parole programs for Venezuelans.

But Democratic lawmakers expressed concern that those legal pathways “come at the expense of the legal right to seek asylum at the southern border.”

Right to seek asylum

The right to seek asylum was codified into international law after the Holocaust, the mass murder of European Jews and other groups by the Nazi Germans before and during World War II.

The U.S. passed the Refugee Act of 1980, which allows people fleeing persecution based on the “account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion,” to claim asylum and ensures that those seeking asylum in the U.S. or at its border do not get sent back to the place they are facing persecution.

In early January, the administration announced dual immigration strategies that would increase expulsions of migrants who attempt to cross the southern border, while also expanding opportunities for migrants from several countries to legally enter the country.

In an attempt to limit migration at the border, the new policy will allow up to 30,000 migrants each month from Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua who have U.S.-based financial sponsors and have passed a background check to enter the country legally and would allow them to work temporarily for two years.

However, if migrants do not follow the new procedures and try to cross the border without authorization, they will be immediately expelled to Mexico.

“We are therefore distressed by the deeply inconsistent choice to expand restrictions on asylum seekers after your administration determined it was no longer necessary for public health,” members of Congress said in the letter.

Democratic Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri also criticized the administration for employing Title 42, arguing that she doesn’t believe the administration is using it to prevent COVID-19.

Humanitarian crisis

Freshman Democratic Rep. Greg Casar of Texas, the House Progressive Caucus whip, said the expansion of Title 42 will not solve the humanitarian crisis at the border, where in his home state, 53 migrants, including five children, were found dead in a tractor trailer.

He said that in his community of San Antonio, because of the expansion of Title 42, fewer and fewer migrants are going through the orderly process of seeking asylum at a port of entry.

“Those folks that are fleeing disaster, that are spending night after night on the top of trains crossing hundreds or thousands of miles, fleeing for their lives, will now be forced to risk drowning in the river, to risk crossing in the desert or to get in the back of a tractor trailer,” he said. “It will not solve the humanitarian crisis. This decision has been driven by the politics of (the) extreme right wing.”

Lawmakers in their letter also expressed concern over the Biden administration’s announcement to begin the rule-making process to require those seeking asylum to first apply for “asylum in a transit country, instead of allowing them to seek their legal right to asylum at our southern border.”

“This, in effect, is a transit ban,” they wrote.

Menendez, who chairs the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, urged Biden to not go through with that proposal, and instead continue to fight in the courts to end Title 42 and work with Congress on immigration reform.

“The administration also cannot have it both ways when they claim to be committed to restoring access to asylum, and then they callously block access to asylum and posing a transit ban policy that forces migrants to first seek humanitarian protection in a third country,” Menendez said.

A district court judge struck down the use of Title 42 in November, but a month later the U.S. Supreme Court decided to keep the policy in place until the justices can review whether the pandemic-era program should be lifted or continue.

The court is expected to hear oral arguments on the case in February.

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Governor Parson Announces Three Judicial Appointments

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Governor Parson Announces Three Judicial Appointments

johnathan.shiflett

Fri, 01/27/2023 – 12:23

January 27, 2023

Today, Governor Mike Parson announced three judicial appointments to the 21st, 23rd, and 31st Judicial Circuits.

Today, Governor Mike Parson announced three judicial appointments to the 21st, 23rd, and 31st Judicial Circuits.
The Honorable Nicole S. Zellweger, of Ladue, was appointed as Circuit Judge for the 21st Judicial Circuit.
Judge Zellweger currently serves as an Associate Circuit Judge in the 21st Judicial Circuit. She holds Bachelors of Arts in sociology and religion, political science, and criminal justice from the University of Georgia, a Master of Arts from Yale Divinity School, and a Juris Doctor from Washington University in St. Louis. She will fill the vacancy created by the appointment of the Honorable Renee Hardin-Tammons to the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District.
The Honorable Shannon R. Dougherty, of Dittmer, was appointed as Circuit Judge for the 23rd Judicial Circuit.
Judge Dougherty currently serves as an Associate Circuit Judge in the 23rd Judicial Circuit. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Missouri and a Juris Doctor from Saint Louis University. She will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of the Honorable Troy Cardona.
Daniel R. Wichmer, of Springfield, was appointed as Circuit Judge for the 31st Judicial Circuit.
Mr. Wichmer currently serves as the Executive Director of Legal Services of Southern Missouri. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Truman State University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Missouri. He will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of the Honorable Jason R. Brown.

A lot of hot air from the gas stove debate

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Our latest political spat happens to be about whether or not Biden is coming for gas stoves, as Sean Hannity claims (Photo Illustration by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images).

Growing up in West Texas, our family tells a story about a lightning strike that either hit, or nearly hit, a billboard in our neighborhood.

It said: “Gas Cooks Better Than Electricity.”

In our contemporary era where anything can be an outrage, our latest political spat happens to be about whether or not Biden is coming for gas stoves, as Sean Hannity claims.

As with any conspiracy theory, there is at least a kernel of truth.  Richard Trumka Jr., of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, suggested banning new gas stoves for health reasons.

Yet as is almost always the case, the story is spun so wildly that any watcher of the 24-hour news cycle is now convinced Biden, Black Hawk helicopters, the U.N., or some nameless faceless entity is about to seize all existing gas stoves in America.

Simple logic would tell you that a government that can’t even seize assault weapons probably isn’t going to be able to have jack-booted thugs from the ASF swoop in to steal your stove.  That’s the Bureau of Alcohol, Stoves and Firearms, by the way.

Still, just to try and allay people’s fears, both the CPSC and the Biden Administration announced they weren’t coming for anyone’s stove, according to the Wall Street Journal.

That didn’t stop The Washington Times from reporting “More than 3-in-4 respondents, 77%, predicted in a survey by Texas electricity provider Payless Power that the independent Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) will institute a ban on the methane-emitting appliances at some future date.”

In fact, National Public Radio tracked the story, noting how such conspiracy theory stories are more about generating clicks, viewers on Cable shows, and even revenue for some.  That’s little consolation for the Americans currently sleeping in shifts, guns drawn, waiting for Uncle Sam to kick down the door and toss in a flash-bang to steal the stove in the ensuing chaos.

What we’re really missing is probably an intelligent debate about what gas stoves are doing.

Yeah, I have relatives with them. Had one in graduate school. Been on scouting trips with them. Never really had a problem with them or electric stoves.

There is some research indicating some kids may be susceptible to asthma problems, in some cases. What we really should do is research if there’s a problem, when it occurs, and what we can do about them.

The current hubris on the right is kind of the polar opposite of this rational approach.

Here’s also another example of irrationality.

Every government bureaucrat, business CEO, or pretty much anyone even close to having any sort of decision making power should realize that America’s on the edge right now.

It’s incumbent upon you to think through what you’re suggesting. Bounce ideas off others to realize the full ramifications of what you even suggest.  Understand that in this hair-triggered country, a sizeable percentage is on the verge of breaking out the torches and pitchforks, while others behind them cash in on the paranoia.

Let’s try not to trigger them any more than they already are with even a well-intentioned idea.

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Route AH In Stoddard County Closed for Railroad Maintenance

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Route AH In Stoddard County Closed for Railroad Maintenance
Visitor (not verified)
Fri, 01/27/2023 – 10:30

SIKESTON –Route AH in Stoddard County will be closed as railroad crews perform railroad maintenance on the tracks.  
This section of the roadway is located from U.S. 60 to Route 114 near Grayridge, Missouri.  
Weather permitting, work will take place Monday, February 13 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.  
The work zone will be marked with signs. Motorists are urged to use extreme caution while traveling near the area. 
For additional information, contact MoDOT’s Customer Service Center toll-free at 1-888-ASK-MODOT (1-888-275-6636) or visit www.modot.org/southeast. 
 
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Fri, 01/27/2023 – 04:26

Route 153 In Stoddard County Closed for Railroad Maintenance

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Route 153 In Stoddard County Closed for Railroad Maintenance
Visitor (not verified)
Fri, 01/27/2023 – 10:15

SIKESTON –Missouri Route 153 in Stoddard County will be closed as railroad crews perform railroad maintenance on the tracks.  
This section of the roadway is located from Route 60 to Route 114 near Essex, Missouri.  
Weather permitting, work will take place Friday, February 10 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.  
The work zone will be marked with signs. Motorists are urged to use extreme caution while traveling near the area. 
For additional information, contact MoDOT’s Customer Service Center toll-free at 1-888-ASK-MODOT (1-888-275-6636) or visit www.modot.org/southeast. 
 
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Fri, 01/27/2023 – 04:12

Route 53 in Butler County Reduced for Approach Repairs

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Route 53 in Butler County Reduced for Approach Repairs
Visitor (not verified)
Fri, 01/27/2023 – 08:10

Sikeston-Route 53 in Butler County will be reduced to one lane as contractor crews perform approach work.  
This section of the roadway is located between Westwood Boulevard and Fair Street in Poplar Bluff, Missouri.  
Weather permitting, work will take place Friday, Feb. 10 through Friday, March 31 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.  
The work zone will be marked with signs. Motorists are urged to use extreme caution while traveling near the area.  
For additional information, contact MoDOT’s Customer Service Center toll-free at 1-888-ASK-MODOT (1-888-275-6636) or visit www.modot.org/southeast. 
 
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Fri, 01/27/2023 – 02:08

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

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

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.

“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, would make it harder to get on the ballot and harder to pass. As approved in the committee, it would require signatures equal to 10% of the vote cast for governor in all eight congressional districts to be placed on the ballot and a 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.”

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Missouri child welfare agency pitches plan to ‘rebuild’ overburdened foster care system

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The state removes children at a rate nearly twice the national average, even when accounting for poverty, according to the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.(Getty images)

The director of Missouri’s child welfare agency told lawmakers this week that the state has “effectively legally orphanized” around 1,500 children.

Those children have had their legal ties to their biological parents severed — by a court, in what’s called termination of parental rights — but the social services agency had no adoptive parents ready to take their place. 

They wait, in foster care, to be adopted or age out of the system.

“If you know anybody who wants to adopt a child, an older child who’s got that situation, let us know, because those kids need to be moved on,”  Darrell Missey, director of Children’s Division,  told lawmakers at a House budget subcommittee hearing for the Department of Social Services.

Those “orphanized” children, in limbo, are part of the broader issue Missey laid out for lawmakers: Too many kids enter foster care, and once entangled in the system, they linger. 

There are over 13,300 kids in foster care in Missouri — which includes placement settings such as temporary care with relatives, traditional foster families with strangers and group residential homes.

Only around 45% of foster children returned home safely to their parents within 12 months in 2021, the most recently available data — far below the federal benchmark of 75%.

The state removes children at a rate nearly twice the national average, even when accounting for poverty, according to the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.

The reason, Missey said, is twofold. 

At the front-end, Missouri does too little to prevent kids from entering foster care in the first place, he said, and at the back-end, there are too few resources to move foster kids to stable, permanent homes.

Often, when kids come into care, Missey said, it’s a result of “poverty, mental illness, and addiction.

“If you put services on the front end to prevent those things from getting to a place where a child had to be removed, that’s a much better expenditure of money,” he said, adding that each child in foster care costs the state around $25,000 per year.

“It more than pays for itself over time,” Missey said, of prevention efforts.

Social services leadership pitched lawmakers on a new philosophy to “rebuild and reform” Children’s Division, as part of the overall agency’s budget proposal for next year which features funding 100 new Children’s Division staff as “phase one.”

State Rep. Sarah Unsicker, D-Shrewsbury, who sits on the committee which heard the social services budget, said in an interview with The Independent the preventative services outlined in the budget are “definitely a step forward, but I think a lot more needs to be done.”

In the hearing, she pointed to the limited funding for a crisis program, which is designed to provide temporary child care relief for parents facing crisis, to avoid their children being taken into foster care. 

DSS leadership said the issue is that the providers for that program are limited, so they didn’t request a funding increase. 

“[Missey is] asking for what he is hoping he can get right now,” Unsicker said in an interview. 

Unsicker also pointed to a need to bolster Missouri’s social safety net more broadly. Because poverty is often conflated with child neglect, ensuring adequate housing assistance is available, for instance, could prevent children from being taken out of their homes for their poor living conditions, Unsicker said — although that wouldn’t be in DSS’s direct purview.

Missey said he hopes this is the beginning of a shift in the department’s priorities for years to come.

“I’ve had people already ask me, ‘Do they think this is enough?’” Missey said, “And as I’ve explained to people, this is just the first step.”

He added, “I think it’s going to lead to great practice once we can get there.” 

‘Phase one’

Robert Knodell, acting director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, addresses a group of state employees on May 24, 2021 (photo: Missouri Governor’s Office).

One challenge of having so many kids in state care is that it requires a lot of staff to manage them, which Missouri’s Children’s Division does not have, causing unmanageable caseloads, low morale, and high turnover rates and vacancies. 

As “just phase one” of the plan to reform the department, Missey said, the department hopes to hire 100 more staff, using part of the $22 million Gov. Mike Parson recommended be allocated to the division in his budget proposal last week for “Children’s Division Reconstruction and Reform.”

Missey said that phase is “completely dependent” on the legislature enacting the governor’s recommendation to increase state workers’ pay across-the-board by 8.7%, so they can fill those positions and retain existing staff.

The starting salary for an entry-level Children’s Division worker now, with a cost-of-living boost from the governor last year, plus a 10% boost Children’s Division allocated to caseworkers from their vacancy-related savings, is $39,390.96.

With the 8.7% raises, Missey said, Missouri will “approach” the average salaries of the surrounding states’ child welfare workers, but not meet it.

“Approaching it is far better than we are now, which is nowhere near it.”

Missey said the real number of new employees they need is much higher: they have around 1,800 workers in the agency but by some estimates, need closer to 3,400, primarily to handle the large foster care caseload. To be on par with neighboring Arkansas, Missey said, they would need 1,000 more workers than they currently have.

“I’m not asking for 1,000 people,” Missey said. 

‘This job is impossible’: High turnover, low morale plague Missouri child welfare agency

Missey said for the additional 100 staff, the general idea would be to use them in one of two ways: to “increase efficiencies for everybody with regard to the work they do now” — meaning to lower existing caseloads — “and the other is to further the work we do toward prevention,” he added.

The new workers would be utilized “in a way designed to bring the number of kids in care down,” Missey said, although he also said the department is still working “to piece that together” and not “count our chickens before they’ve hatched.” 

The state has shrunk most of its prevention-oriented workforce, called Family Centered Service workers. Those staff are called in when the state has concerns that don’t rise to the level of removing the child — but most have been moved away from that work, to cover child abuse and neglect investigations and foster care case management because of staffing issues, Missey said at the hearing. The number of open Family Centered Service cases has dropped over the last five years, according to DSS’s annual reports. 

Longer-term, reducing the number of kids in care could allow more staff to be moved to prevention work, Missey said.

Parson cut 96 jobs from Children’s Division in 2020, citing COVID-related declining revenue, though they were mostly supervisors and mid-level management rather than frontline workers. 

The same month, former director Jennifer Tidball turned down a Senate committee’s offer to help staff more positions

During the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Tuesday, Chairman Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, noted that the governor is asking for 100 new employees in the Children’s Division even though the division turned down 50 that year.

“What has changed from when we tried to add 50 positions and were told they were not needed?” Hough asked.

Budget Director Dan Haug answered: “We have new leadership over there that has taken a fresh look at it.”

Robert Knodell took over as acting Department of Social Services director in October 2021. Soon after, Missey stepped down as a circuit judge in Jefferson County to become head of Children’s Division.

Missey said eventually, he may try to target the new prevention-oriented staff to the geographic areas with the highest rates of foster children in care.

“Should we target those people there and do it all at once? If we did it all at once, this would be much bigger,” Missey said, adding that if the legislators decide Children’s Division needs more workers faster, “we would take them.”

With the governor’s recommendations, Knodell said, he believes that “will make our child service worker salaries more competitive.”

“But ultimately the solution to our problem is really more prevention,” Knodell later continued, “and fewer children having to come into care.” 

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Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, has disagreed with Missey’s emphasis on hiring more workers, arguing instead that the best preventative services would include providing emergency help directly to families. 

By email, Wexler said he believes Missey’s new plans continue to be misguided. 

All those new hires will only wind up widening the net of needless intervention into families,” Wexler said, “and you’ll get the same lousy system only bigger.”

Instead of spending money to hire 100 more people, Wexler said the funds should be directed into “emergency concrete help for families: Child care aid, rent subsidies, one-time emergency cash.”

And those funds, he argued, should be administered by community-based, community-run organizations.

“That would significantly reduce cases in which poverty is confused with neglect,” Wexler said.

“Instead of increasing the supply of caseworkers, reduce the demand for caseworkers by directly helping families.”

‘Return on investment’

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson delivered his annual State of the State Address on Jan. 18, 2023, where he recommended $22 million in funding for Children’s Division Reconstruction and Reform (Tim Bommel/Missouri House Communications).

The budget would provide a slight boost to existing contracted preventative services, through a rate increase for third party providers — but Missey indicated more significant prevention efforts would come down the line, once the bare minimum workforce needs were met and more Children’s Division staff could be shifted to prevention work.

The governor recommended rate increases of 13% for contracted providers, DSS officials explained, which would include a handful of contractors who provide preventative services now.

Children’s treatment services includes contractors who provide mental health assessments, parent aide and education services, and the home-based crisis intervention program to keep families together, called intensive in-home services. 

Intensive in-home services, which consists of weeks-long intensive support for qualifying families when a child is at immediate risk of being removed, often including help connecting the family with community resources, generally has fewer openings than demand and served around 1,500 families in 2021. 

In 2021, the latest state data, 19 children were not accepted to intensive in-home services due to a lack of openings and were then placed in state custody. 

Chief Financial Officer of DSS Patrick Luebbering said the children’s treatment services providers have not received a rate increase since 2007 and many of the services “are prevention — this is where we want to put more bang for the buck, to keep kids out of care.”

With the governor’s proposed rate increase, the budgeted amount for children’s treatment services would increase from $22.9 million to $25.5 million, though the budget did not break down the spending for intensive in-home services specifically.

Another preventative program, called crisis care, is composed of short term emergency placement so that, Missey said, “where the parents can’t take care of the child, that child doesn’t necessarily have to come into foster care.”

Unsicker questioned whether the roughly $2 million allocated to crisis care in the budget is sufficient.

“You’re putting so much emphasis on prevention, and putting more money into prevention,” Unsicker said at this week’s budget hearing, “and I’m just looking at this and it’s $2 million, which is not a whole lot in the scope of our budget.”

Missey said that it’s also a question of whether current providers “are available to use that money,” and said they should have conversations with places like the crisis nursery center in St. Louis to ask whether they can expand.

Luebbering added that the crisis services are limited and specific services and they haven’t been fully expended them the last few years, and that “if we were thinking we were needing more money here, we probably would’ve requested.” 

“We’re trying to look at what other prevention type services out there that we need to build up,” Luebbering said, through Family First.

The Family First Prevention Services Act, enacted by Congress in 2018, set out to provide federal funds focused on prevention resources, and to reduce the use of congregate homes for foster youth, also called residential treatment facilities. 

So you take my kid, you put him in foster care, you pay the foster parents money. What if I needed that and if I had that money, then my kid would no longer be neglected and you would have never taken them?

– Rep. Deb Lavender (D-Kirkwood)

The state has been appropriated the same roughly $10 million to spend to develop new programs for Family First every year since fiscal year 2020. They have, as of last fiscal year, spent just under $300,000 of that now $10.8 million. Missey and Luebbering said they hope to spend more this year. 

Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, who is on the subcommittee that heard this budget this week, said at the hearing she agreed with the shift toward prevention.

Lavender questioned whether the money the state pays for foster care could be better spent given to the family itself, to avoid neglect claims rooted in poverty.

“So you take my kid, you put him in foster care, you pay the foster parents money. What if I needed that and if I had that money, then my kid would no longer be neglected and you would have never taken them?” Lavender asked.

Missey said it’s a question he often had when he served as a judge. 

“The definition of neglect is so broad you could drive a truck through it,” Missey said. “And so it’s philosophically exactly the right question to ask, particularly as we move forward to shift the nature of this.” 

In an interview, Lavender said the 13% increase for contractors plus 100 new workers is a “good place to start,” and that she was encouraged by the direction of the department under Director Missey, and understood the department may not be able to use a massive increase in preventative funding abruptly, without this transition. 

Rep. Michael O’Donnell, R-Oakville, said at the hearing that he appreciated the discussion of “return on investment,” meaning what the state spends on foster care now versus what it could spend investing in prevention. 

“I love the fact that you guys actually have a vision that says we’re going to reduce the number of kids in foster care,” O’Donnell said. “It’s going to have a fiscal impact on the entire state budget.”

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

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A recent ruling says the House can limit the public’s access to certain legislative records (Getty Images).

A Cole County judge has ruled 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 in 2019 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. 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. 

The 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.”

Missouri judge hears arguments over whether legislative rule violates open records 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, the lawsuit states. Others refused to produce the records without redacting email and postal addresses of the purported authors.

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Motorists Advised of Lane Closures on Route 54 Near Kingdom City

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Motorists Advised of Lane Closures on Route 54 Near Kingdom City
Visitor (not verified)
Thu, 01/26/2023 – 16:05

CALLAWAY COUNTY – Starting Friday, January 27, contractors for the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) will be lifting the approach slab on the westbound Auxvasse Creek Bridge on U.S. Route 54 in Callaway County, north of Kingdom City, creating a smoother driving surface for travelers.Due to the work being completed, a single lane of westbound Route 54 will be closed from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. MoDOT says work is expected to just take one day to complete, but if there are any delays the same traffic control could be in effect on Monday, January 30 as well.Motorists are advised to use extra caution through work zones, obey all traffic signs, and avoid any distractions.All work is weather permitting and could be delayed. For more information and updates about this project or other transportation-related matters, please call 1-888-ASK-MoDOT (275-6636) or visit www.modot.org/central. Follow MoDOT Central Missouri District on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for project updates.                                                                       ###

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Central

Published On
Thu, 01/26/2023 – 10:03

National Dems give New Hampshire, Georgia more time to change 2024 primary dates

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A DNC plan would move the earliest date away from the longtime first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, though New Hampshire would maintain an early role and vote just a week after South Carolina (Kate Brindley/New Hampshire Bulletin).

WASHINGTON — New Hampshire and Georgia will have a bit longer to implement key changes to when and how they hold Democratic presidential primaries, under an extension a Democratic National Committee panel approved Wednesday.

Election officials will have until June 3 to move New Hampshire’s 2024 Democratic presidential primary to Feb. 13 and Georgia’s to Feb. 20, if they want to hold early primaries next year.

New Hampshire must also expand access to early voting if it wants to remain one of the first states in the country that votes on Democratic presidential candidates.

The DNC panel in December shook up the longstanding caucus and primary calendar and decided voters in South Carolina would go first in picking Democratic presidential nominees, followed by Nevada, New Hampshire, Georgia and Michigan.

The proposal would move the earliest date away from the longtime first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, though New Hampshire would maintain an early role and vote just a week after South Carolina.

GOP state leaders opposed

The extension, the Rules & Bylaws Committee approved Wednesday following a 25-0 vote during a virtual meeting, gives New Hampshire and Georgia several months to make their primary election changes beyond an original Jan. 5 deadline, though the additional time is unlikely to sway GOP state leaders, who remain opposed to the changes.

That factor has elicited concerns from New Hampshire Democrats who are imploring the committee to work with them, given the GOP governor and Republican-controlled state legislature have rebuffed cooperating with Democrats to implement changes to state law.

“I want to be very clear about one thing — we share the president’s and the RBCs commitment to elevating the voices of Black, Latino and Hispanic voters,” said panel member Joanne Dowdell of New Hampshire. “And we believe it’s possible to lift up diverse voices and keep New Hampshire at the start of the process. These two things need not be mutually exclusive.”

“We agree that our goal with the early primary window shouldn’t just be to tell the story of one state or a single group of voters, it should be to tell the broader story of our party — both our values and our ability to appeal to voters all across the country,” Dowdell added.

The new requirements for New Hampshire to remain an early primary state, she said, put the state’s Democrats in a “no-win position.”

If New Hampshire and Georgia don’t make the adjustments, they would need to hold their Democratic presidential primaries in the regular window, which runs from the first Tuesday in March through the second Tuesday in June.

If the states opt to hold their primary elections outside that window without the waiver, they could face repercussions from the national party, including a prohibition on Democratic presidential candidates campaigning in the state and the state losing half its delegates.

Frustration with New Hampshire

Several members of the Rules and Bylaws Committee voiced frustration with some New Hampshire Democrats during the meeting, arguing that some comments being made publicly are harmful to the party.

Leah Daughtry, a panel member representing New York, said it was incumbent on the committee to “set up a calendar that reflects a 21st-century voting reality, as opposed to something that happened 100 years ago.”

Daughtry said she was “taken aback and quite frankly shocked” by some New Hampshire Democrats saying they were surprised by the panel’s decision to re-work the order of states that get waivers to hold their primary elections early in the process.

“Hanging their argument on this 100-year-old privilege is really, for me as an African American woman, quite disturbing in as much as this law that they passed was passed even before Black people had the right to vote,” Daughtry said, adding it was also before women had the right to vote.

Mo Elleithee, representing the District of Columbia on the committee, sought to remind New Hampshire that the state would still hold the second voting day in the process.

“Even I as a veteran of several New Hampshire primaries have to admit, like this notion that New Hampshire is first in the nation is a bit of a fallacy,” he said. “New Hampshire has historically been second in the nation behind Iowa. That has been its role.”

Elleithee said he understands that Iowa is technically a caucus and that New Hampshire state law says the state’s primary election must be the first of its kind, though he challenged the distinction.

“Let’s be real … it has been viewed as the second-in-the nation contest,” Elleithee said. “Based on our proposal, it is still the second-in-the nation contest. We have maintained the tradition that New Hampshire has asked us to maintain.”

December vote

The DNC Rules & Bylaws panel voted in December to change the order and the states that are granted waivers to hold primaries early in the year, moving slightly away from Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina as the early states.

The new lineup for 2024 would have South Carolina vote first on Feb. 6, followed by Nevada and New Hampshire on Feb. 13, Georgia on Feb. 20 and Michigan on Feb. 27.

President Joe Biden, who in 2020 didn’t win a primary until South Carolina, had requested the shift in the party’s presidential nomination process.

The changes were approved on a mostly unanimous voice vote, though Scott Brennan of Iowa and Dowdell voted against the new primary calendar.

Election officials in several of the states and Iowa have rebuked the decision, saying they simply won’t change when the state holds its primaries. Iowa and New Hampshire also have state laws requiring them to vote before other states, complicating the matter.

Rules and Bylaws Committee Co-Chair Minyon Moore said during the Wednesday meeting the panel remained “committed to seeing”  Biden’s vision for the 2024 primary move forward.

“We want to make sure the states have as much time as they need to work through this process,” Moore said.

“South Carolina, Nevada and Michigan have all completed their waiver requirements to our satisfaction,” she noted. “New Hampshire and Georgia remain working on their progress. Albeit it is for different reasons, but we are still committed to seeing the president’s vision and we want to make sure the states have as much time as they need to work through this process.”

The post National Dems give New Hampshire, Georgia more time to change 2024 primary dates appeared first on Missouri Independent.

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Interstate 155 in Pemiscot County is Reduced for Concrete Work

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Interstate 155 in Pemiscot County is Reduced for Concrete Work
Visitor (not verified)
Thu, 01/26/2023 – 15:00

SIKESTON― Northbound I-155 in Pemiscot County will be reduced with a 10-foot width restriction as contractor crews perform concrete work.   
This section of roadway is located from the Tennessee State line to mile marker 9.4. 
Weather permitting, work will take place Monday, Feb. 13 through Monday, March 6 from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. 
The work zone will be marked with signs.  Motorists are urged to use extreme caution while traveling near the area. 
For additional information, contact Resident Engineer Seth Bollinger at (573) 243-0899, MoDOT’s Customer Service Center toll-free at 1-888-ASK-MODOT (1-888-275-6636) or visit www.modot.org/southeast. 
 
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Districts Involved

Southeast

Published On
Thu, 01/26/2023 – 08:59

Business Route 60 Reduced for ADA Sidewalk Improvements in Wright County

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Business Route 60 Reduced for ADA Sidewalk Improvements in Wright County
Visitor (not verified)
Thu, 01/26/2023 – 13:40

WILLOW SPRINGS – Business Route 60 in Wright County will be reduced to one lane as contractor crews construct sidewalks. This project is part of the Missouri Department of Transportation’s initiative to bring roadway facilities into compliance with the current standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The section of roadway is located between East Tripp Street and East Newton Street in Mansfield, Missouri. 
Weather permitting, work will take place Tuesday, Jan. 31 through Wednesday, March 1 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.   
The work zone will be marked with signs. Motorists are urged to use extreme caution while traveling in the area.
For more information, please call Resident Engineer Audie Pulliam (417) 469-2589, the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Customer Service Center toll-free at 1-888-ASK-MODOT (1-888-275-6636) or visit www.modot.org/southeast.
 
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Districts Involved

Southeast

Published On
Thu, 01/26/2023 – 07:38

U.S. House GOP takes aim at fake pills containing deadly fentanyl sold on social media

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Bags of heroin, some laced with fentanyl, are displayed before a press conference (Drew Angerer/Getty Images).

WASHINGTON — On a June 2020 morning, Amy Neville entered her son’s bedroom to wake him for an orthodontist appointment.

Fourteen-year-old Alex didn’t wake up.

He died of fentanyl poisoning after taking a counterfeit pill he bought from someone he met on Snapchat, Neville told GOP lawmakers Wednesday during a roundtable discussion of the role “Big Tech” plays in the staggering number of fentanyl overdose deaths in the United States, particularly among minors.

“Through this app, Alex was able to overcome the natural limits that keep most kids from the hardest drugs,” the San Diego mother testified. “The natural limits include a supportive family, a good school, a strong community and other safeguards we knew to provide … Social media, however, transcends these natural limits.”

During the three-hour discussion, Republicans on the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee took aim on multiple fronts, including legal immunity granted to technology companies, and the flows of synthetic opioids, like fake pills laced with illicit fentanyl, entering the U.S. at the Southwest border. The event was organized by the Republican majority, and was not a formal congressional hearing.

Drug overdoses top 100,000

Drug overdose deaths reached a grim milestone in November 2021, topping over 100,000 deaths annually. The pace has continued, with synthetic opioids as the main driver of overdose fatalities, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lawmakers and invited guests, including Neville, criticized technology companies, singling out Snapchat, for allowing illicit drug transactions involving minors to occur over social media platforms and online marketplaces.

“Big tech has many problems, but the lethal fentanyl sales is not a general big tech problem, it’s a Snap-specific problem. Snap’s product is designed specifically to attract both children and illicit adult activity,” said Carrie Goldberg, of the Brooklyn-based law firm C.A. Goldberg PLLC.

The firm filed suit against Snap Inc., in October on behalf of nine families whose children experienced fentanyl poisoning after accessing it via Snapchat, eight of whom died, including Alex Neville.

“… It’s the only app that’s aimed at children where parents cannot see the content, yet Snap still wants parents to be responsible for what their kids do on it,” she continued.

Goldberg highlighted Snapchat’s disappearing message and geo-location features as facets of the app that allow drug dealers to target minors and evade law enforcement.

Not so, said a representative of Snap.

The company says it’s made “significant operational improvements” to detect and remove drug dealers from the platform, and it has added new layers of protection for users ages 13 to 17, including a new parental tool called Family Center, which allows parents to see their teens’ Snapchat content.

“We are committed to doing our part to fight the national fentanyl poisoning crisis, which includes using cutting-edge technology to help us proactively find and shut down drug dealers’ accounts,” a Snap spokesperson said in a statement Wednesday.

“We block search results for drug-related terms, redirecting Snapchatters to resources from experts about the dangers of fentanyl. We continually expand our support for law enforcement investigations, helping them bring dealers to justice, and we work closely with experts to share patterns of dealers’ activities across platforms to more quickly identify and stop illegal behavior. We will continue to do everything we can to tackle this epidemic, including by working with other tech companies, public health agencies, law enforcement, families and nonprofits,” the statement continued.

Continued appeals to Congress

Goldberg previously testified in front of the committee, when Democrats held the reins in December 2021, for a hearing to “hold Big Tech accountable” by amending Section 230.

Section 230, part of U.S. communications law since the mid-1990s, generally shields social media platforms from legal liability for what is posted on their sites by third parties.

Republicans and Democrats alike have pushed, with little success, to amend the law.

Presidents Joe Biden and Donald Trump have both spoken out against the law.

Dozens of legislative proposals to change Section 230 fizzled during the last two sessions of Congress, including legislation spearheaded by then longtime Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman Mike Doyle, who chaired the Communications and Technology Subcommittee.

Republicans have largely slammed big social media platforms for what they view as unfair content moderation, including banning the profiles of former President Donald Trump. Snapchat banned Trump in January 2021.

Meta, Facebook’s parent company, announced Wednesday it will reinstate the former president’s Facebook and Instagram profiles in the coming weeks following a two-year ban.

Legislation on drug classification

With little agreement on how to regulate content moderation by social media companies, GOP leaders of Energy and Commerce’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee on Tuesday reintroduced the HALT Fentanyl Act, which aims for stricter classification of illicit synthetic fentanyl-related substances under the Controlled Substances Act.

Illicit fentanyl that enters the U.S. drug supply is widely manufactured in Mexico using precursor chemicals from Asia. The synthetic opioid is significantly more potent than heroin.

A February 2022 Government Accountability Office report on drug and human trafficking highlighted the use of social media and e-commerce platforms for drug traffickers.

According to a Drug Enforcement Agency analysis last year, six out of 10 fentanyl-laced fake pills contain a lethal dose of the synthetic opioid.

Officials seized 14,700 pounds of illicit fentanyl in 2022, with the vast majority coming into the U.S. via land border crossings, according to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

Wednesday’s roundtable, led by Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, also featured Laura Marquez-Garrett, attorney with the Social Media Victims Law Center, and Spokane County, Washington, Sheriff John Nowels.

The post U.S. House GOP takes aim at fake pills containing deadly fentanyl sold on social media appeared first on Missouri Independent.

For the complete story from MissouriIndependent.com click on the title of this article or click on the "post" link above

Roadway Improvements to Begin on I-70 in Montgomery County

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Roadway Improvements to Begin on I-70 in Montgomery County
Visitor (not verified)
Thu, 01/26/2023 – 12:10

Nighttime Lane Closures Scheduled

Project
I-70 Resurfacing in Montgomery County

HANNIBAL – The Missouri Department of Transportation and its contractor, Magruder Paving LLC., will soon begin work on a resurfacing project spanning across 32 miles of Interstate 70 in Montgomery County from the Callaway County line to just east of Route F, near High Hill.

Preliminary guardrail work will begin mid-February which will require nighttime lane closures from mile marker 165-181.  Drivers can expect lane reductions up to one mile in length while guardrail work continues through mid-April. 

“Paving operations are expected to begin in March, as weather and temperatures allow.  Work will continue through June and drivers can expect ramp closures as work progresses.” explained Missouri Department of Transportation Area Engineer Jeff Niemeyer.  “All guardrail and paving work will be completed during nighttime hours between 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.,” he added.

All work is weather dependent and schedule changes could occur.  The public will be notified of traffic impacts, including ramp closures, through signs, message boards, news releases and social media as scheduling is planned.

We ask that motorists please be attentive in work zones for their safety and the safety of highway workers. 

For more information contact MoDOT’s Customer Service Center toll-free at 1-888-ASK MoDOT (275-6636) or visit us online at Improve I-70 | Missouri Department of Transportation (modot.org).

 

Districts Involved

Northeast

Published On
Thu, 01/26/2023 – 06:09

SB Interstate 155 Off Ramp in Pemiscot County Closed for Concrete Work

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SB Interstate 155 Off Ramp in Pemiscot County Closed for Concrete Work
Visitor (not verified)
Thu, 01/26/2023 – 10:45

SIKESTON—Southbound I-155 Off Ramp at Exit 17A in Pemiscot County will be closed as Contractor crews perform concrete work.  
Weather permitting, work is scheduled to begin Monday, Feb. 13 at 6 a.m. and completion is anticipated Monday, March 6 at 5 p.m. The work zone will be in place 24 hours a day until work is completed.   
The work zone will be marked with signs. Motorists are urged to use extreme caution while traveling near the area.  
For additional information, contact Resident Engineer Seth Bollinger at (573) 243-0899, MoDOT’s Customer Service Center toll-free at 1-888-ASK-MODOT (1-888-275-6636) or visit www.modot.org/southeast.  
                                                                                                               
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Districts Involved

Southeast

Published On
Thu, 01/26/2023 – 04:41

US DOT Webinar on Preparing for DOT Discretionary Grant Opportunities

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US DOT Webinar on Preparing for DOT Discretionary Grant Opportunities
keith.jennings
Thu, 01/26/2023 – 08:44

This webinar is being provided for those who are less familiar with DOT grant programs and processes to provide an introduction to materials on the Navigator and to spotlight a few open NOFOs.

 

Feb 8, 2023, US DOT Webinar on Preparing for Upcoming DOT Discretionary Grant Opportunities

Description: Join staff from across the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) in this webinar to highlight several resources created to help potential grant applicants navigate different funding opportunities. This session will dig into some of the tools available on the DOT Navigator – the Department’s one stop shop for technical assistance, including the upcoming funding opportunity calendar, tools for identifying Federal disadvantaged community areas, and which programs provide non-Federal match flexibility. The session will also spotlight several funding opportunities at USDOT that are currently accepting applications to expand transportation opportunities to urban, rural, and Tribal communities.

Speakers:

Amit Bose, Administrator, Federal Railroad Administration, USDOT

Andrea Jacobsen, RAISE Grants Program Manager, US DOT Office of the Secretary

Lynda Tran, Director of Public Engagement, US DOT

Veronica McBeth, Senior Advisor, Federal Transit Administration, USDOT

Mariia Zimmerman, Strategic Advisor for Technical Assistance and Community Solutions, USDOT

 

When: Feb 8, 2023, 03:00 – 04:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Registration link for the Feb. 8 virtual webinar: https://usdot.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_RIEqzND6Rn-khxCI7Y1QiQ.

Published On
Thu, 01/26/2023 – 08:45

Regional board plans area-wide 'crime summit' in spring

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The East-West Gateway Council of Governments, made up of the St. Louis area’s top elected officials, plans to hold a region-wide ‘crime summit’ this spring with police leaders, prosecutors, school officials, academic experts and others.

For the complete story from the Post click on the title at the top of this article.  Help support LOCAL journalism by subscribing to the Post Dispatch by clicking HERE

Missouri Republicans push for state to take over control of St. Louis police department

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St. Louis Metropolitan Police officers in the juvenile unit visit with St. Louis Public Schools students on Dec. 8, 2022 (Photo courtesy of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department).

Kansas City is the only major city in the country where the city’s elected leaders don’t control the local police department — a state-appointed police board does.

Up until 2013, St. Louis was in the same boat. 

However, the city gained local control of its police department after a 2012 statewide referendum. 

Now 10 years after the city officially reclaiming supervision of the police, a Missouri Senate bill aims to put St. Louis’ police department back under state control — a policy originally born out pro-slavery leaders’ attempt to maintain control 150 years ago.

“State control originally took hold in St. Louis because Claiborne Jackson, Missouri’s segregationist governor during the Civil War, feared a city in which the Union would control the arsenal,” Dan Isom, St. Louis’ public safety director, said in prepared remarks for the Senate committee hearing Wednesday.

The bill proposes that Republican Gov. Mike Parson would appoint four police commissioners, who would serve on a board alongside the president of the St. Louis Board of Alderman. The police board would assume control over the city’s police department on Aug. 28.

It states the mayor or any city officer would be penalized $1,000 for “each and every offense to hinder the board,” as well as be “forever be disqualified from holding or exercising any office of the city.”

The city would be required to maintain no less than 1,142 members on the police force under the legislation. 

Sen. Nick Schroer, a Republican from St. Charles County, said he’s concerned about crime in the city spreading to his district.

“Our goal is to create a safer city of St. Louis, a stronger region that will protect people whenever they want to bring their families in their businesses into the city of St. Louis,” he said. 

Schroer also said promises were made 10 years ago by the former mayor to lower crime, and they have not been met. 

Sen. Nick Schroer, during his time in the Missouri House, engages in debate with his fellow legislators (Tim Bommel/Missouri House Communications).

Isom, who was the city’s police chief in 2012 when the referendum was passed, countered that the city has made strides to decrease violent crime, despite state lawmakers’ continued push to loosen gun restrictions since 2007.

“Missouri has some of the loosest gun laws in the country,” Isom said.

Isom said when the Missouri legislature adopted permitless concealed carry in 2016, law enforcement officials warned about the impact but were ignored.  

From 2016 to 2020, Isom said firearm homicides increased in the city by 50% – from 177 to 266.

However, from 2020 to 2021, he said the city’s homicide rate fell by more than 25 percent, and the violent crime rate fell 23 percent over the same time period.

“The return to local control has not resulted in an increase in violent crime,” Isom said. “An increase in weapons has increased the violence on our streets.” 

Isom also said taking away the authority of local elected officials to guide policing in St. Louis would also disconnect police officers from the communities they serve. 

“When a local mayor is in charge of their police force, they can serve as a translator between community needs and policing imperatives,” Isom said. “Removing this local connection will engender feelings of mistrust between officers and community, ultimately making officers less safe.”

Two St. Louis police associations — the St. Louis Police Officers’ Association and the Ethical Society of Police — testified in support of the legislation. The two associations are currently suing the city to block a law expanding civilian oversight of the police. 

“The Ethical Society of Police extends its unwavering support and is proud to have worked hand in hand with Sen. Nick Schroer on this vital piece of legislation,” Sgt. Donnell Walters, the association’s president, said in a written statement.

The association leaders said low pay and officer retention in the city is a huge problem. 

Sen. Brian Williams, D-University City, said the shortage of officers is not just a St. Louis problem. 

“We do have a shortage of officers with the highway patrol, and they’re under state control,” Williams said. “That’s not monolithic to the City of St. Louis, so I want that fact to be out there.” 

While the hearing’s focus was on police, Republican lawmakers on the Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee — a committee that doesn’t include any senators who represent the city — spent a good amount of time criticizing the St. Louis’ elected prosecutor.

Republican legislators have made it clear that challenging the authority of Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner — a progressive Black Democrat — is a top priority this year. 

A House bill, sponsored by Rep. Lane Roberts, R-Joplin, would allow the governor to appoint a special prosecutor in the City of St. Louis for five years to prosecute violent crime cases. That’s if the governor determines that “a threat to public safety and health exists” in the city based on “reviewing various relevant statistics.”Sen. Jason Bean, R-Holcomb, asked Schroer if there was anything lawmakers could do to make Gardner prosecute cases.

Schroer said he is working on filing a separate bill to address Gardner’s “refusal” to prosecute some cases.

“Ultimately, I hope we can do the work that the Senate did a couple years ago in trying to address that issue,” said Schroer, referring to unsuccessful proposals in 2020 to take away Gardner’s jurisdiction over violent crime cases. “And hopefully we can get that in the house and fix that as well.” 

If both the Schroer’s bill and Roberts’ bill pass this legislative session, the governor would have the ability to appoint people to control both St. Louis city’s police department and prosecutor’s office.

The post Missouri Republicans push for state to take over control of St. Louis police department appeared first on Missouri Independent.

For the complete story from MissouriIndependent.com click on the title of this article or click on the "post" link above

Missouri committee debates transgender sports, healthcare, drag shows for nine hours

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David Hall, who performs as drag queen Kaycee Adams, answers a question from Rep. Ron Copeland, a Salem Republican, during Tuesday’s House General Laws hearing (Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent).

The Neiss family drove from St. Louis to Jefferson City on Tuesday, a trip they’ve made many times over the past four years.

The reason is always the same: Legislation they fear will harm their transgender son.

On the agenda Tuesday night in the House General Laws Committee were a litany of bills aimed at limiting transgender students participation in sports and banning gender-affirming health care for minors.

When he testifies, like he did Tuesday, 11-year-old Dan Neiss is quick to tell lawmakers about his magic tricks, his unicycle — and his desire to play sports with his friends.

“People keep talking about how it’s unfair. But we’re talking about kids,” he said. “Adults are always telling us it’s not about winning; it’s about having fun. And how fun would it be if you couldn’t play sports?”

Sweeping education bill clears Missouri Senate committee without anti-transgender provision

His father, Russel, was much more direct with lawmakers. The family had to arrive for an 8 a.m. hearing in the Senate, then stuck around for a House hearing Tuesday night that started at 4:30 p.m. 

I love my son and care for him,” Russel Neiss said. “His school loves and cares for him. His camp loves and cares for him. His friends love and care for him. In fact, the only people who bully my son and make him feel he is not loved and cared for sit in this [legislature].”

With just 25 hours of notice and reports of an impending snowstorm, dozens of LGBTQ advocates rallied in the Capitol rotunda and stomped into packed hearing rooms Tuesday afternoon to stay through until the committee adjourned around 2 a.m.

Some voiced a feeling of invisibility after they had testified in opposition to similar bills for years.

This year, however, they saw at least a glimmer of change sparked by their advocacy.

State Rep. Chris Sander, a Republican from Lone Jack, decided to remove his name from a bill he had co-sponsored that would place restrictions on venues that host drag performances.

He told The Independent his friend Jordan Braxton was testifying in opposition of the bills, and that caused him to reconsider his position.

Katy Erker-Lynch, LGBTQ advocacy organization PROMO’s executive director, told The Independent she hopes Tuesday’s testimony will change the minds of other Republicans in the legislature as well.

“I couldn’t be prouder of how the community showed up,” she said. “I hope those who testified began to change the hearts and minds of lawmakers and they’ll focus on the real issues facing Missouri instead of forcing a culture war.”

Transgender athletes

Three bills debated Tuesday night seek to restrict transgender athletes to participating as their sex assigned at birth.

Lawmakers proposed nearly identical legislation last year but could not get a bill to the governor’s desk by the end of the legislative session.

Republican Reps. Jamie Burger and Bennie Cook, who filed the same legislation last year, joined Rep. Brian Seitz, a Branson Republican, before the committee Tuesday.

Seitz argued his bill “protects women and girls from being taken advantage of by men.”

“Medals that should belong to biological female athletes are instead held by biological male athletes. Girls’ opportunities are being taken away from them by biological males,” he said.

He spoke about Lia Thomas, a transgender woman and former University of Pennsylvania swimmer who stirred controversy after her success in the pool. He referred to Thomas by her name prior to her transition, also called a “deadname.”

“The hopes and dreams of our daughters and granddaughters are being sacrificed on the altar of inclusivity,” Seitz said.

Rep. Keri Ingle, a Lee’s Summit Democrat, pressed the three sponsors of the transgender sports bills about the Missouri State High School Activities Association and National Collegiate Athletics Association rules surrounding transgender athletes.

None of the sponsors knew the policies.

MSHSAA requires transgender athletes to be taking puberty-suppressing medication or hormones for at least one year for them to compete according to their gender identity.

In the 2021-2022 school year, only five transgender students were eligible to compete according to their gender identity, having completed MSHSAA’s process.

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Mayor of Kansas City Quinton Lucas said the five children are “important,” but the bill would hurt an entire community.

“We deal with a high number of suicides of trauma of depression for our trans children in Kansas City, Missouri,” he said. “Fundamentally, that’s in many ways all that we need to discuss today.”

“I want to make sure they have places where they don’t feel like they need to hate themselves or feel marginalized or feel that there is no reason to be alive,” he said. “And that’s what happens with legislation like this does.”

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft testified in support of the bills as a private citizen, he said, not as a representative of his office.

“I’m a father of a 10-year-old girl,” he said. “I want to make sure that she has the opportunity to compete and do the best that she can do and compete in a somewhat fair arena.”

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield,  said she was surprised to see Ashcroft. 

“Traditionally, when you come into this building to testify, what types of bills are you here for?” she asked.

He listed various issues, like election law and prevailing-wage legislation.

Quade remarked that it seemed outside of his job as Secretary of State. 

“Can you commit to us that this won’t be used in any sort of campaign?” she asked.

“What I can commit to you is that this is the way I’ve always felt about it,” Ashcroft said.

Ashcroft told The Independent in April he was not intending to seek re-election as secretary of state in 2024, though he is widely considered a likely candidate for governor.

Despite presence from officials and lobbyists, most of the people who testified in support or opposition were private citizens.

Three and a half hours into the hearing, PROMO members agreed to stop speaking on the transgender-athlete legislation to get to the other topics on the agenda.

Gender-affirming care

Members of LGBTQ advocacy organization PROMO and other concerned Missourians watch Tuesday’s House General Laws Committee hearing from an overflow room (Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent).

Three bills under the committee’s purview sought to stop gender-affirming care for transgender minors, both hormonal treatments and surgical procedures.

Rep. Brad Hudson, a Cape Fair Republican sponsoring one of the bills, kicked off comments with a list of age-restricted activities, like drinking alcohol.

“We recognize that there are certain substances and activities that students can not engage in,” he said.

Rep. Mazzie Boyd, a Hamilton Republican, made the same argument. 

“The realization that children need time to develop is not new,” she said.

They, alongside the third bill’s sponsor Justin Sparks, quoted from a study that has been misrepresented by conservative news outlets and legislators. They pointed to the study’s finding that people that underwent sex-reassignment surgery are more likely to die by suicide, but they didn’t acknowledge that the study compared these individuals to the general population.

“The community that goes and gets these kinds of treatments already has a higher rate of suicide than the general population,” state Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, told the bills’ sponsors, arguing that the treatments do not cause suicidal ideation.

Lobbyist Garrett Webb spoke in opposition of the bills on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which he said represents 1,100 pediatricians and practicing trainees in Missouri.

“This is a very complex, complicated decision that is best left to the child and their family and their practitioner,” he said.

Webb said the sponsors’ concerns that children under the age of 18 were undergoing surgical transitions were moot. Doctors don’t perform these procedures on children that young, he said.

Brandon Boulware, father of a transgender girl, asked legislators to consider the social challenges of being a transgender child.

“Being transgender is an enormously difficult act. It comes with tremendous sacrifices,” he said. “Think of every uncomfortable moment you had growing up; multiply that by 100. That’s what trans kids face every day.”

But those in support of the bills were afraid transgender youth may have regrets even as transgender teens and adults told lawmakers that they had never been happier as a result of gender-affirming care.

“It doesn’t make any sense that we are allowing [children] to make this big of a decision,” Jennifer Houcek said.

Drag performances

Some speculated that the last-minute addition of eight bills to Tuesday’s agenda was the result of controversy surrounding a drag performance at the Columbia Values Diversity Breakfast.

Three drag queens performed what they considered a “G-rated” show to an audience that included middle school students, and Republican politicians statewide admonished their participation in the event.

The performance drew immediate criticism from Republican leaders, including Gov. Mike Parson and Attorney General Andrew Bailey. By Monday, bills pertaining to drag performances were added to the House General Laws Committee agenda.

Two bills addressed drag shows, one seeking to define drag venues as a sexually oriented business, joining the likes of strip clubs and adult arcades.

“Prior to the madness of the last few years,” Boyd said, “it was assumed we do not take children to drag shows the same way we assume we do not take children to strip clubs.”

She said she wrote her legislation to restrict children from seeing drag shows — but it would also set zoning restrictions and ban drag venues from serving alcohol.

Her bill’s definition of drag is murky, committee members said. It could be interpreted to include any cross-dressing performance, like “Mrs. Doubtfire” and even Shakespearean theater, Merideth said.

The other bill, sponsored by Rep. Ben Baker, R-Neosho, adds the definition of an “adult cabaret performance” and seeks to keep minors away from drag shows that contain “prurient interest.”

Baker said he would define prurient interest as “lustful intention.” 

Drag performers at Columbia event push back against Missouri Republican attack

Ingle asked if he had seen the drag performance at the Columbia Values Diversity Breakfast and if he would classify it as prurient.

Baker had seen video clips of and did not consider the show obscene and would therefore be allowed in the public eye under his bill.

Boyd, in contrast, wants to restrict children from seeing any drag.

Ingle asked her: “Do you believe that drag is sexual in nature?”

“Yes,” Boyd said. “I believe children should not be seeing that.”

One of the three diversity-breakfast entertainers, David Hall, who performs as Kaycee Adams, came to the hearing dressed in the blue-sequin jumpsuit from the performance.

Hall said he’s a mentor who doesn’t want his kids to see him “in any bad light.” But then the president pro tempore of the Senate shared his image on Twitter.

Hall spun in his jumpsuit, pointing out that nearly all his skin is covered. 

“What about this is sexual?” he said. 

Rep. Ron Copeland, a Salem Republican, asked him and the other drag performers testifying about another show Copeland alleges has nudity and sexual content. Copeland asked if nudity is appropriate in front of children.

They all said no.

Jordan Braxton, an intersex woman and drag queen Dieta Pepsi, told legislators during her testimony that Sander had pulled his support.

“Chris Sander is no longer backing this bill,” she said. “That’s how absurd it is.”

Sander told The Independent after the hearing that he’s known Braxton for 18 years, having met her at one of her performances.

He had been co-sponsoring Boyd’s bill but thought its language could ban Pride celebrations, so he removed his name.

He was still in favor of keeping minors away from graphic performances, but he has only known them to be in spaces that are already age restricted.

So, he thought writing a bill narrowing on the graphic shows would be “worthless,” he said — mirroring concerns LGBTQ advocates shared in the hearing.

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Missouri American Water pitches 25% rate increase for St. Louis area customers

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Missouri American Water is pushing for a 25% rate increase, a bump of about $150 a year for the average customer.

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GOP renews push to block Missouri cities, counties from mandating EV charging stations

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Cities and counties would be barred from mandating businesses install electric vehicle chargers unless the city or county paid for them under a Missouri House bill (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Requiring business owners to install electric vehicle chargers is an infringement on their freedoms and a mandate they can’t afford, members of a Missouri House committee argued Wednesday. 

Primarily Republican lawmakers voiced support during a committee hearing on legislation that would require cities and counties to pay for electric vehicle chargers in order to mandate businesses install them. Even then, they could only mandate five spots, regardless of the size of the lot.

“We’ve gotten the cart before the horse in many, many ways,” said Rep. Jim Murphy, R-St. Louis County, is sponsoring the bill. “When we look at electric vehicles, are they the future? Maybe. Probably. But not assuredly.” 

Murphy introduced similar legislation last year after St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis passed legislation to require businesses install chargers in some situations — such as when they redo parking lots or expand.

“What we’re doing now is using building codes to push political agendas, and what this is – really it’s a new green deal piece of legislation to force people into something that they really can’t afford to do,” Murphy said. 

Murphy remarked at how many parking spaces are “tied up” for handicap-accessible parking, military personnel, curbside pickup and pregnant women. 

“If I put in 10 or 12 or 15 more spots that have electric charging stations and that parking lot is full and you pull in in your gas-guzzling pickup truck, are you going to park in that spot anyway?” Murphy said. “Is there going to be fistfights?” 

Missouri ranks 7th in electric vehicle use, but access to charging remains a key barrier

Committee members and lobbyists representing business and fossil fuel interests were largely in agreement that the free market should determine the transition to electric vehicles. If businesses want to install chargers, a lobbyist for grocery stores and retailers said, that should be their decision. 

“We can’t charge what it costs per hour to pay for these. It is very expensive,” said David Overfelt, who testified in favor of the bill on behalf of the Missouri Retailers Association, the Missouri Grocers Association and the Missouri Tire Industry Association. 

In a committee discussion on the bill, legislators remarked that the government did not require businesses to install gas pumps to accommodate conventional vehicles and argued with environmental advocates who spoke against the bill.

Jack Meinzenbach, testifying for the Missouri chapter of the Sierra Club, argued the bill would prevent local governments from encouraging enough chargers as more affordable electric vehicle models hit the market and it’s not just Teslas on the road.

“I don’t like the fact that you are taking away local control from cities and counties,” he told the committee. “That’s what you guys have been doing for years.”

Meinzenbach said he bought a Tesla four years ago and only goes to hotels, restaurants and shopping centers that have chargers. He said a grocery store in Columbia that installed chargers has seen a surge in its business. 

“And those businesses that have them – they put them in at their own expense,” replied Rep. Darin Chappell, R-Rogersville.

He went on: “And then your experience is that those businesses have seen an uptick in their business because of that. So is it your basic testimony that the free market does indeed work?”

Meinzenbach said it does in places like Columbia. 

“But in rural areas? They need help,” he said. 

Chappell said his district is rural and asked: “How much time do you drive your Tesla in the rural areas?”

Meinzenbach said he drives to Springfield and Joplin. 

“So we’re good. We’re good. Even down in the hills, we’ve still got electricity – we’ve had electricity for a while,” Chappell said. 

Meinzenbach asked how many people in Chappell’s district have bought electric vehicles, and Chappell said that could be a philosophical decision. 

“They’re not going to buy one if they can’t plug it in,” Meinzenbach said. 

Chappell replied: “We may not buy them anyway.”

Earlier in the discussion, Chappell opined on the way electronics manufacturers change chargers to make people keep buying new ones. He worried about the same in electric vehicle charging technology.

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“It seems to me rather presumptuous not only to assume that electric vehicles will be the future, but that this version will be the future,” he said. “I’m just old enough that I remember when the first question that they asked you at the filling station was, ‘regular or unleaded?’”

He went on to say that lead as an additive in fuel has fallen away – “not because government stepped in and imposed it as such” but that the market bore it out. 

Lead is a neurotoxin, and its inclusion in gasoline for most of the 20th century polluted the air and poisoned generations of children, lowering average IQs and causing ADHD and other issues. 

The government did, in fact, ban lead in gasoline. The Environmental Protection Agency began phasing it out in the 1970s. It was fully banned in the late 1990s. 

Lead poisoning among children plummeted as the prevalence of leaded gasoline fell over the last decades of the 20th century.

And even without lead, Meinzenbach said pollution from gasoline-powered vehicles is a public health threat.

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Questions about street lights or highway construction? Read the Road Crew transcript

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Ask the experts from the Missouri Department of Transportation, St. Louis and St. Charles counties and St. Louis City your questions about highways and roads. The live chat starts at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

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Questions about street lights or highway construction? Ask the Road Crew, live now

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Ask the experts from the Missouri Department of Transportation, St. Louis and St. Charles counties and St. Louis City your questions about highways and roads. The live chat starts at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

For the complete story from the Post click on the title at the top of this article.  Help support LOCAL journalism by subscribing to the Post Dispatch by clicking HERE

Missouri lawmakers debate plan to put St. Louis police under state control

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The union representing St. Louis police is pushing for the change amid ongoing contract negotiations.

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‘At a tipping point’: Missouri lawmakers debate plan to put St. Louis police under state control

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The union representing St. Louis police is pushing for the change amid ongoing contract negotiations.

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AmeriCorps ranks Missouri 10th in the nation for formal volunteering in latest Volunteering and Civic Life in America research

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January 25, 2023Jefferson CityThe Missouri Community Service Commission (MCSC) announced today that AmeriCorps determined more than 1.4 million Missourians formally volunteered through an organization from September 2020 to September 2021. These volunteer efforts made a $3.1 billion impact on the state, establishing Missouri as 10th in the nation for formal volunteerism.

House efforts target suicide especially among veterans

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      One House member continues his push to reduce suicide in Missouri, particularly among the state’s veterans.        Representative Dave Griffith (R-Jefferson City) has made veterans’ issues a priority throughout his five years in the House, and now chairs the chamber’s Veterans Committee.  Over the summer he also chaired an interim committee on Veterans’ Mental … Continue reading “House efforts target suicide especially among veterans”

St. Louis director makes feature debut with thriller filmed in St. Charles, Granite City

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“All Gone Wrong,” directed by Josh Guffey of South County, arrives Jan. 27 on digital platforms.

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Guard cable repairs will narrow southbound I-29 in Buchanan County

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Guard cable repairs will narrow southbound I-29 in Buchanan County
Visitor (not verified)
Wed, 01/25/2023 – 13:15

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – Repairs to damaged guard cable will narrow a section of Interstate 29 in Buchanan County on Thursday, Jan. 26. Contractors from Superior Rail System, LLC., working with the Missouri Department of Transportation, will close the southbound passing lane of I-29 between mile markers 46.8 and 47.4. Repairs are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. and be completed by 11 a.m. During that time, a 10-foot width restriction will be in place.
Drivers should stay alert and obey all traffic signs, barricades, and flaggers to safely navigate through the work zone.
All work is weather-permitting, and schedules are subject to change.
MoDOT asks drivers to work with us by always buckling up, keeping your phone down, slowing down and moving over in work zones. Know before you go and check what work zones you might encounter at traveler.modot.org.
While at modot.org, sign up online for work zone updates. Information is also available 24/7 at 888-ASK-MODOT (275-6636) or via social media.
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Wed, 01/25/2023 – 07:11

Wave of mass shootings prompts Biden to call yet again for assault weapons ban

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U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on preserving and protecting Democracy at Union Station on Nov. 2, 2022, in Washington, D.C. Biden addressed the threat of election deniers and those who seek to undermine faith in voting in the upcoming midterm elections (Michael A. McCoy/Getty Images).

WASHINGTON — Following a mass shooting on the eve of Lunar New Year in which 11 people in a predominantly Asian neighborhood in California were killed, President Joe Biden again urged Congress to pass legislation banning assault weapons.

Communities across America “have been struck by tragedy after tragedy, including mass shootings from Colorado Springs to Monterey Park and daily acts of gun violence that do not make national headlines,” Biden said in a statement.

There have been several mass shootings in the span of 72 hours across America:

Vice President Kamala Harris, who is from California, will travel to the state following the recent mass shootings, according to White House pool reports.

Feinstein bills

Two gun bills have been reintroduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and cosponsored by dozens of Senate Democrats.

One would raise the age of purchasing an assault rifle from 18 to 21, and the other bill would “ban the sale, transfer, manufacture and importation of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and other high-capacity ammunition feeding devices,” according to a release from Feinstein’s office.

So far, 39 Senate Democrats and one independent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, cosponsored the bill that would ban certain assault weapons. One of the cosponsors is Pennsylvania freshman Sen. John Fetterman.

There are some types of guns that are exempted in the bill, such as 2,200 guns used for hunting, household defense or recreational purposes. The legislation also grandfathers in any weapons that were “lawfully possessed at the date of enactment.”

39 mass shootings in 2023

As of Tuesday evening, there have been 39 mass shootings this year, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks mass shootings across the United States.

“January isn’t over yet and we’ve already had 39 mass shootings in America,” Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts wrote on Twitter. “Enough is enough. We must take action to end gun violence.”

In the House, Democratic Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island is expected to introduce a companion version of Feinstein’s bill regulating assault weapons and raising the minimum age to 21, according to a release from Feinstein’s office.

But any gun-related legislation the Senate is able to muscle through is unlikely to succeed in a Republican-controlled House. And even though Democrats control the Senate with a slim 51-seat majority, including independents, any gun control legislation would need to garner 60 votes to get past a filibuster.

House Democratic Whip Katherine Clark of Massachusetts said in a statement that Republicans “have a moral duty to end their partisan obstruction and allow these commonsense ideas to finally become law,” and pointed to the bipartisan gun control legislation Congress passed last year.

When Democrats controlled both chambers,  they with the help of some Republicans passed and Biden signed into law a comprehensive federal gun safety legislation package that also included billions for mental health funding.

The bill provided millions in funding for states to enact “red flag laws,” which allow the courts to temporarily remove a firearm from an individual who is a threat to themselves or others, and $11 billion in mental health services for schools and families, among other provisions.

Texas, New York

The push for gun control legislation followed the devastating mass shooting at a Texas elementary school in which 19 children and two teachers were murdered, and a mass shooting in New York in which a white supremacist targeted a supermarket in a predominately Black neighborhood, and killed 10 Black people.

Biden said, referring to a ban on assault weapons, that the “majority of the American people agree with this common sense action.”

“There can be no greater responsibility than to do all we can to ensure the safety of our children, our communities, and our nation,” he said.

The Brookings Institution, a left-leaning think tank, analyzed data from the Midterm Election Voter Poll, and found that 17% of voters identified curbing mass shootings as a top three priority.

The poll surveyed more than 12,000 Americans across 11 battleground states.

“Mass shootings and gun policy are a high priority for voters regardless of whether they live in rural, suburban, or small or large urban areas of the country — voters from all geographical areas named gun policy as a key priority at either 16% or 17%,” according to the Brookings report.

The report also found that 68% of voters surveyed in the Midterm Election Voter Poll supported banning AR-15 style rifles. That support for banning those weapons also varied by region, with 82% of voters in urban areas in support of banning AR-15 style rifles, compared to 70% of voters in the suburbs and 59% of voters in small towns.

In 1994, Congress passed a temporary 10-year ban on assault riffles, but it expired in 2004 and lawmakers have never renewed the ban.

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Questions about street lights or highway construction? Ask the Road Crew, 1 p.m.

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Ask the experts from the Missouri Department of Transportation, St. Louis and St. Charles counties and St. Louis City your questions about highways and roads. The live chat starts at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

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Major food processing center and cold storage facility to open in Kansas City, investing $199.6 million and creating 583 jobs

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January 25, 2023Kansas CityWest Liberty Foods, a leading protein processor, announced today it will open a food processing center in Kansas City, attached to supporting cold storage facility to be developed by Vertical Cold Storage. The companies are expected to invest a combined $199.6 million and create 583 jobs.

St. Louis Work Zones January 26-31

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St. Louis Work Zones January 26-31
Visitor (not verified)
Wed, 01/25/2023 – 10:55

ST. LOUIS – Motorists traveling I-270 in North St. Louis County should be aware of possible delays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28. Crews will be closing one westbound lane at New Halls Ferry to rebuild the Halls Ferry Bridge.
For more on roadway closures due to construction, additional work zone information and real-time roadway weather conditions, go to http://traveler.modot.org/map.  For real-time traffic, visit www.gatewayguide.com. All work is subject to change and may be shifted due to inclement weather.
Motorists should be aware of the following on-going closures:
I-55, St. Louis City, two left lanes closed northbound and southbound between Gravois to Weber until summer 2023.
I-55, St. Louis City, the ramp from Germania to northbound and the ramp from Loughborough to northbound will be closed through 2023.
I-55, St. Louis City, the ramp from northbound to Loughborough will be closed through 2023.
I-55, St. Louis City, one left lane northbound closed from Bayless to Arsenal through spring 2023.
I-55, St. Louis City, the ramp from Lafayette/Truman and the ramp from Cherokee to southbound I-55 closed through December 2023.
I-70/44, St. Louis City, express lanes and the ramp from the express lanes to Broadway are closed through spring 2023.
I-70/44, St. Louis City, Biddle on-ramp to 70/44 closed through spring 2023.
I-70, St. Louis City, southbound Broadway bridge over the interstate is closed through spring 2023.
I-170, St. Louis County, the Lackland Bridge over the interstate will be closed through July 2023.
I-170, St. Louis County, one southbound right lane will be closed at Lackland through July 2023.
I-270, St. Louis County, one lane is closed on the one-way outer road (Pershall Road) from West Florissant to New Halls Ferry through summer 2023.
I-270, St. Louis County, one lane is closed on the one-way outer road (Pershall Road) at Ford Road through April 2023.
I-270, St. Louis County, one lane is closed on the one-way outer road (Dunn Road) from New Halls Ferry to Washington/Elizabeth through mid-summer 2023.
Route 67, St. Louis County, one northbound and southbound lane closed north of Route 94 until April 2023.
Route 100, St. Louis County, one westbound lane closed between Hanley and Brentwood through summer 2023.
Route 100, St. Louis County, multiple single lane closures eastbound between McKnight and just east of Hanley through summer 2023.
Route 94/364, St. Charles County, exit ramp to Jungs Station Road/Heritage Crossing closed through spring 2023.
Route 94, St. Charles County, one westbound lane closed between Pralle Lane to Muegge Road through June 2023.
Route HH, Franklin County, all lanes closed over Calvey Creek through May 2023.
Please see the list of daily road closures, weather permitting:
Thursday, January 26
I-70, St. Louis City, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., various lanes closed on Cass Bridge over I-70.
I-255, St. Louis County, 5 a.m. to 3 p.m.., one eastbound lane closed at Jefferson Barracks Bridge and Koch Road Bridge.
I-255, St. Louis County, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., one westbound lane closed at Jefferson Barracks Bridge and Koch Road Bridge.
I-270, St. Louis County, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., one eastbound and westbound lane closed at New Florissant.
Route 100, St. Louis County, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., one lane closed westbound between McKnight and Brentwood.
Route 100, St. Louis County, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. one eastbound lane closed between Bopp Road and Romine Drive.
Route 180, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one lane closed between Route 67 (Lindbergh Boulevard) and I-270.
Route 340, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. one eastbound lane closed between the north end of Chesterfield Parkway East and Appalachian Trail.
I-70, St. Charles County, 8 p.m. – 5 p.m., one lane closed from David Hoerkel Parkway to Wentzville Parkway.
Route 61/67, Jefferson County, 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., one northbound and southbound lane closed from the Meramec River to Tenbrook.
Friday, January 27
I-255, St. Louis County, 5 a.m. to 3 p.m.., one eastbound lane closed at Jefferson Barracks Bridge and Koch Road Bridge.
I-255, St. Louis County, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., one westbound lane closed at Jefferson Barracks Bridge and Koch Road Bridge.
I-270, St. Louis County, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., one eastbound and westbound lane closed at New Florissant.
Route 100, St. Louis County, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., one westbound lane closed between McKnight and Brentwood.
Route 100, St. Louis County, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. one eastbound lane closed between Bopp Road and Romine Drive.
Route 340, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. one eastbound lane closed between the north end of Chesterfield Parkway East and Appalachian Trail.
Route 180, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one lane closed between Route 67 (Lindbergh Boulevard) and I-270.
Route 61/67, Jefferson County, 6 a.m. to noon, one northbound and southbound lane closed from the Meramec River to Tenbrook.
Saturday, January 28
I-255, St. Louis County, 5 a.m. to 3 p.m.., one eastbound lane closed at Jefferson Barracks Bridge and Koch Road Bridge.
I-255, St. Louis County, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., one westbound lane closed at Jefferson Barracks Bridge and Koch Road Bridge.
I-270, St. Louis County, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., one westbound lane closed at New Halls Ferry.
I-270, St. Louis County, 4 a.m. to 3 p.m., eastbound exit ramp to Washington/Elizabeth and two eastbound lanes closed from New Florissant to Washington/Elizabeth.
Route 100, St. Louis County, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., one lane closed westbound between McKnight and Brentwood. 
Sunday, January 29
No scheduled work
Monday, January 30
I-70, St. Louis City, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., various lanes closed on Cass Bridge over I-70.
I-255, St. Louis County, 5 a.m. to 3 p.m.., one eastbound lane closed at Jefferson Barracks Bridge and Koch Road Bridge.
I-255, St. Louis County, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., one westbound lane closed at Jefferson Barracks Bridge and Koch Road Bridge.
I-255, St. Louis County, 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., eastbound ramp to Koch Road closed.
I-270, St. Louis County, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., one eastbound and westbound lane closed at New Florissant.
Route 100, St. Louis County, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., one westbound lane closed between McKnight and Brentwood.
Route 100, St. Louis County, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. one eastbound lane closed between Bopp Road and Romine Drive.
Route 180, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one lane closed between Route 67 (Lindbergh Boulevard) and I-270.
Route 340, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. one eastbound lane closed between the north end of Chesterfield Parkway East and Appalachian Trail.
I-70, St. Charles County, 8 p.m. – 5 p.m., one lane closed from David Hoerkel Parkway to Wentzville Parkway.
Route 61, Jefferson County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one eastbound and one westbound lane closed at Joachim Creek.
Route 61/67, Jefferson County, 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., one northbound and southbound lane closed from the Meramec River to Tenbrook.
 Tuesday, January 31
I-255, St. Louis County, 5 a.m. to 3 p.m.., one eastbound lane closed at Jefferson Barracks Bridge and Koch Road Bridge.
I-255, St. Louis County, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., one westbound lane closed at Jefferson Barracks Bridge and Koch Road Bridge.
I-270, St. Louis County, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., one eastbound and westbound lane closed at New Florissant.
I-255, St. Louis County, 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., westbound ramp to Koch Road closed.
Route 100, St. Louis County, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., one westbound lane closed between McKnight and Brentwood.
Route 100, St. Louis County, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. one eastbound lane closed between Bopp Road and Romine Drive.
Route 180, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one lane closed between Route 67 (Lindbergh Boulevard) and I-270.
Route 340, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. one eastbound lane closed between the north end of Chesterfield Parkway East and Appalachian Trail.
I-70, St. Charles County, 8 p.m. – 5 p.m., one lane closed from David Hoerkel Parkway to Wentzville Parkway.
Route 61, Jefferson County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one eastbound and one westbound lane closed at Joachim Creek.
Route 61/67, Jefferson County, 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., one northbound and southbound lane closed from the Meramec River to Tenbrook.
 Wednesday, February 1
I-70, St. Louis City, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., various lanes closed on Cass Bridge over I-70.
I-255, St. Louis County, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., one westbound lane closed at Jefferson Barracks Bridge and Koch Road Bridge.
I-255, St. Louis County, 5 a.m. to 3 p.m.., one eastbound lane closed at Jefferson Barracks Bridge and Koch Road Bridge.
I-270, St. Louis County, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., one eastbound and westbound lane closed at New Florissant.
Route 100, St. Louis County, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., one westbound lane closed between McKnight and Brentwood.
Route 100, St. Louis County, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. one eastbound lane closed between Bopp Road and Romine Drive.
Route 180, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one lane closed between Route 67 (Lindbergh Boulevard) and I-270.
Route 340, St. Louis County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. one right lane closed eastbound between the north end of Chesterfield Parkway East and Appalachian Trail.
I-70, St. Charles County, 8 p.m. – 5 p.m., one lane closed from David Hoerkel Parkway to Wentzville Parkway.
Route 61, Jefferson County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one eastbound and one westbound lane closed at Joachim Creek.
Route 61/67, Jefferson County, 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., one northbound and southbound lane closed from the Meramec River to Tenbrook.
Route 110, Jefferson County, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., one lane closed at Route 67. Flaggers will direct traffic through the work zone. 
# # #

Districts Involved

St. Louis

Published On
Wed, 01/25/2023 – 04:53

Nighttime Lane Reductions Continue for Interstate 70 and Missouri Route 19

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Nighttime Lane Reductions Continue for Interstate 70 and Missouri Route 19
Visitor (not verified)
Wed, 01/25/2023 – 10:35

Closure of South Outer Road I-70/Tree Farm Road at New Florence Scheduled

HANNIBAL –   Drivers will continue to experience temporary traffic impacts over the next few months when traveling on Interstate 70 and Missouri Route 19, near New Florence.
The Missouri Department of Transportation and its contractor, Emery Sapp & Sons, Inc., have scheduled the following traffic impacts:
Intermittent rolling lane closures will continue through the month of February along I-70 near the MO 19 exit to move equipment into the median between 8 p.m.-10 p.m. and 4 a.m. – 6 a.m. 
Beginning as early as Jan. 30, I-70 will be reduced to one lane in each direction between mile markers 174 and 176 from 8:00 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. for bridge concrete placement.  All ramps at Missouri Route 19 will remain open.  This work is anticipated to continue over then next month.
Early February, Missouri Route 19 will be reduced to one lane just south of Interstate 70/Tree Farm Road near New Florence between 8 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. for temporary pavement widening.  All ramps at Missouri Route 19 and access to the south outer road/Tree Farm Road will remain open. Flaggers will direct motorists through the work zone. This work is anticipated to be completed within one week and will begin when site conditions allow.
The South Outer Road of Interstate 70/Tree Farm Road near New Florence, west of Highway 19, is tentatively scheduled to temporarily close as early as February 6 but no later than the first week of March, dependent upon when site conditions allow earth work operations to resume.  The road will remain closed over the next several months with anticipated re-opening in mid-summer.
All work is weather dependent and schedules are subject to change.  Drivers will be alerted to all traffic impacts through signs and changeable message boards. “As construction continues on the bridge replacement and interchange improvement project, we would like to remind drivers to be attentive in work zones and put down your cell phones to eliminate distractions,” said MoDOT Area Engineer Jeff Niemeyer.  
Drivers can learn more about the specific construction phases of the project and traffic impacts by viewing the video series created to help keep drivers informed.  The stage 1 construction video can be found here:  MO 19 Bridge Replacement Over I-70 & Interchange Improvements – Stage 1 – YouTube.  For more information about this new interchange project, visit us online at Missouri Route 19 Bridge Replacement and Interchange Improvement over I-70 | Missouri Department of Transportation (modot.org). 

Districts Involved

Northeast

Published On
Wed, 01/25/2023 – 04:30

Routes A and H in Ralls County Closed Due to Winter Road Conditions

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Routes A and H in Ralls County Closed Due to Winter Road Conditions
Visitor (not verified)
Wed, 01/25/2023 – 05:35

HANNIBAL – Routes A and H in Ralls County  are closed due to road conditions from the winter storm.  The roads are curvy and hilly and  drivers are advised to stay on major roads.  Please use alternate routes and refer to MoDOT’s online traveler map at www.modot.org for updates.
Winter is here!  Are you prepared?  The predictions for the weather this winter include a lot of snow, and MoDOT needs your help to stay safe.  Follow these safety tips to help us get through the season: Winter Driving Tips | Missouri Department of Transportation (modot.org).

Districts Involved

Northeast

Published On
Tue, 01/24/2023 – 23:31

Missouri realtors vow to fight GOP push to make it harder to amend state constitution

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Sam Licklider, right, lobbyist for the Missouri Association of Realtors, testifies Tuesday against changes in the initiative petition process (Rudi Keller/Missouri Independent).

The Missouri Association of Realtors, an organization that spent millions in recent years on two successful initiative petition campaigns, is warning lawmakers it will oppose anything more than tinkering with the way the constitution is amended by voters.

During testimony Tuesday before the House Elections and Elected Officials Committee, Sam Licklider, lobbyist for the realtors, reminded lawmakers that his organization has members in every legislative district of the state.

“Any changes that need to be made should be measured and minimal,” Licklider said during testimony Tuesday. “If it goes overboard we will be prepared to take such measures as may be required.”

The realtors have the financial power to mount a major campaign against any changes to the initiative process the organization doesn’t like. 

In 2010, the realtors raised $4.4 million to amend the Missouri Constitution to prohibit sales taxes on real estate transfers. That was followed in 2016 by a $5.6 million campaign to prevent lawmakers from extending the sales tax to services.

But Republicans have made overhauling the initiative petition process a top priority for the session. The committee will vote Thursday, Chairwoman Peggy McGaugh, R-Carrollton, said.

On Tuesday, her committee held hearings on five proposals that would alter the initiative process to make it more difficult to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot, or more difficult to pass, or both.

Currently, it takes signatures equal to 8% of the voters in six of the state’s eight congressional districts to get an initiative changing the constitution on the ballot. Once certified for the ballot, it takes a simple majority vote to enact the proposal.

The first bill heard Tuesday is similar to proposals that received extensive debate but ultimately failed in last year’s session. Rep. Mike Henderson, R-Bonne Terre, wants to increase the number of signatures to 10% of voters and require that standard be met in every congressional district.

Henderson’s proposal would also increase the majority required for passage of constitutional amendments to two-thirds of the vote from a majority.

“It is my belief the document should be a living document,but not an ever expanding document,” Henderson said.

Other proposals heard Tuesday would:

  • Leave the threshold for making the ballot unchanged but require a majority of voters in at least 82 Missouri House districts as well as a statewide majority to pass.
  • Require signatures equal to 8% of voters in every congressional district and a two-thirds majority to pass and put all constitutional amendments proposed by voters on the general election ballot in November of even numbered years.
  • Set the signature threshold at 7% of voters in every congressional district and increase the majority required to a majority of all registered voters, not just a majority of votes cast. In an election with turnout less than 50%, no initiative could obtain the required majority.

The push to make it more difficult to amend the constitution by initiative has taken on an increasing urgency for Republicans who have watched voters repeatedly enact measures they would not have passed through the General Assembly.

Using the initiative petition process, Missouri voters approved medical marijuana in 2018 and legalized all consumption of marijuana in 2022. A constitutional amendment expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2020 and altered the way legislative districts are drawn in 2018.

Proposals already filed for possible signature-gathering in advance of the 2024 election would raise the minimum wage and enact ranked-choice voting for statewide elections. Abortion rights groups are considering whether to push a Missouri ballot measure, encouraged by a 63% majority that defeated a Kansas proposal to restrict abortion rights.

Few, if any changes are being proposed for initiatives that would change statutes. Missouri lawmakers can repeal or revise statutory ballot measures – and did so in 2011, when the legislature repealed and rewrote puppy mill regulations approved by voters just a year earlier. 

Lengthy proposals that should be statutory enactments are being proposed for the constitution because backers worry that lawmakers will reverse the decision of voters. 

“The statutory amendments are subject to the General Assembly’s whims,” Columbia attorney Dan Viets, who chaired both campaigns for marijuana, told the committee. “The General Assembly has shown time after time that it has little regard for the will of the voters.”

Those lengthy proposals, Henderson said, make it difficult for voters to understand what they are voting on.

“A lot of them feel like they are hoodwinked because they don’t know all that it does,” he said.

The post Missouri realtors vow to fight GOP push to make it harder to amend state constitution appeared first on Missouri Independent.

For the complete story from MissouriIndependent.com click on the title of this article or click on the "post" link above

Lincoln County judge reduces $1 million cash bail for ex-police chief charged with murder

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A Lincoln County judge Tuesday reduced by half the $1 million cash bail for a former Louisiana, Mo., police chief who is charged with felony murder and drug trafficking.

For the complete story from the Post click on the title at the top of this article.  Help support LOCAL journalism by subscribing to the Post Dispatch by clicking HERE

Sweeping education bill clears Missouri Senate committee without anti-transgender provision

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Neon Liebson, a transgender student from St. Louis, says his name into the microphone at the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee meeting Tuesday. He and other students who missed school to testify did not get to give their comments, but the committee acknowledged them by allowing them to say their names. (Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent)

A Senate committee removed a controversial proposal targeting transgender athletes from a wide-ranging education bill Tuesday, but the committee’s chair indicated more debate to come on the issue.

On a six to three vote along party lines, the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee approved legislation that would dictate how history and race are taught in Missouri classrooms, as well as establish a statewide transparency portal for public schools, among other provisions.

The legislation — which is an amalgamation of three separate bills — seeks to enshrine parent rights, establish a statewide website for school curriculum and bar schools from teaching critical race theory.

Cut from the bill was a portion that would bar transgender girls from competing according to their gender identity, a topic that dominated the lion’s share of testimony against the proposal during Tuesday’s hearing.

Sen. Rick Brattin, a Harrisonville Republican sponsoring one of the bills, said the provisions were designed to “protect women in athletics.”

But for those who traveled to the Capitol to testify against the proposal, including students and parents, the excised language unfairly targeted an already vulnerable population.

“It conveys a message [transgender students] don’t belong,” Anne Kraus, equality manager for PROMO, the state’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, said.

“Please let our kids play without a fear of being outed, shame or questions. Just let them play the games they enjoy,” she said.

The at times heated hearing is expected to repeat Tuesday evening, when a litany of bills regarding transgender students and LGBTQ rights in general are being heard by a Missouri House committee.

The bill passed Tuesday is sponsored by Sen. Andrew Koenig, a Manchester Republican and the education committee’s chairman. He made it clear as witnesses spoke Tuesday that he “had no intention of having that in the bill,” referring to the transgender athletics proposal.

“I believe there’s other committees and other bills that are going to be addressing that issue,” he said.

Neon Liebson, a transgender student from St. Louis, says his name into the microphone at the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee meeting Tuesday. He and other students who missed school to testify did not get to give their comments, but the committee acknowledged them by allowing them to say their names (Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent).

As Tuesday’s committee meeting wrapped up, with many who hoped to testify not getting the chance, tempers flared.

“That’s enough, that’s enough,” Koenig yelled at parents and students who confronted him as the hearing drew to a close.

“What about my son’s rights?” a man from Lee’s Summit shouted. “You spent 18 minutes on a man from Florida — a man from Florida,” another attendee said.

While the bill no longer bans transgender girls from participating in school sports, many of its provisions still generated controversy.

Six students, three as young as 11, were prepared to testify against the bill but were not able to speak before the committee voted on the legislation.

Alissa Barnholtz, a Parkway Central High School junior, and Clara Bass, a Lafayette High School sophomore, traveled to the Capitol to oppose Brattin’s bill. They are part of a group of students with Cultural Leadership, a program that trains students to become social justice advocates.

“Students’ learning shouldn’t be a political issue. There shouldn’t be bills restricting students trying to learn,” Barnholtz said in an interview with The Independent after the hearing concluded.

She’s worried the bill would restrict her history class to teaching a narrow perspective.

“We’re all just trying to learn in the most raw and unfiltered way as possible. And there are bills trying to tell us students what we can and cannot learn,” she said. “It just isn’t fair.”

Bass noticed books being banned in her school library and other restrictions placed after Rockwood School District parents accused the district of teaching critical race theory — a concept she doesn’t believe is taught in her high school but said others might think it is.

She said some have the wrong interpretation of what is going on in schools.

“People have just such a warped misunderstanding of what these lessons actually are,” she said. “No one is making me feel guilty when teaching me about slavery. “

The bill passed by the committee doesn’t define critical race theory but gives examples of what kind of concepts would be banned, such as “individuals should be adversely or advantageously treated on the basis of individual race, ethnicity, color or national origin.”

Critical race theory, according to a Columbia News article, is a study of how racism has affected United States society and law.

Only one person spoke in favor of Brattin’s bill on Tuesday: James Harris, a longtime Jefferson City lobbyist representing a Florida-based nonprofit called Opportunity Solutions Project.

He said parents should get more control, accusing schools of “a lot of questionable things.”

Sens. Lauren Arthur and Greg Razer, both Democrats from Kansas City, said legislation like Brattin’s would create a difficult teaching environment.

Schools are now worried about being able to teach [critical-thinking] skills and offering different viewpoints and lenses out of fear that it may offend a parent who then will use legislation like this to file a lawsuit,” Arthur said.

The ACLU of Missouri’s executive director Luz María Henríquez said the bill would open districts to costly litigation.

The post Sweeping education bill clears Missouri Senate committee without anti-transgender provision appeared first on Missouri Independent.

For the complete story from MissouriIndependent.com click on the title of this article or click on the "post" link above

Governor Parson Signs Executive Order 23-02 In Preparation of Forecasted Severe Winter Weather

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Governor Parson Signs Executive Order 23-02 In Preparation of Forecasted Severe Winter Weather

johnathan.shiflett

Tue, 01/24/2023 – 17:30

January 24, 2023

Activates Missouri National Guard Members, Extends State of Emergency Declared for Gygr-Gas Customers

Jefferson City

Today, Governor Mike Parson signed Executive Order 23-02, activating the Missouri National Guard to assist local authorities in responding to severe winter weather that is forecasted to begin across Missouri this evening.
The Order also extends the existing State of Emergency established in Executive Order 22-08 and later modified and extended in 22-11. Liquified petroleum gas containers owned by Gygr-Gas may continue to be filled by other Missouri propane companies through February 28. 
“As always, we pray for the best but want to be prepared for the worst,” Governor Parson said. “While we hope Missourians will see little disruption due to forecasted winter weather, state government and the Missouri National Guard will be on alert to assist with response efforts if the need arises. Roadways could become increasingly hazardous, and we want to urge Missourians to be prepared and avoid traveling in poor conditions.”
Executive Order 23-02 will expire on February 28, 2023, unless otherwise terminated or extended. 
To view Executive Order 23-02, click here. 

Missouri Supreme Court hears AG’s opposition to prosecutor’s jurisdiction in innocence claim

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The Missouri Supreme Court building in Jefferson City (photo courtesy of FLICKR/David Shane, licensed under CC BY 2.0).

The Missouri Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday from the state’s attorney general opposing yet another local prosecutor’s attempt to argue the innocence of a man convicted of murder.

This time the case was for Michael Politte, a man who was charged with murdering his mother in 1999 when he was 15. 

In May, former Washington County Prosecuting Attorney Joshua Hedgecorth filed a motion arguing that Politte was “erroneously convicted.”

“Michael Politte spent 23 years in prison for the murder of his mother, Rita Politte, based on physical evidence that has now been scientifically proven to be false,” Hedgecorth wrote in his motion.

Politte was released on parole in April. 

Previously, if elected prosecutors believed a person was wrongfully convicted, there wasn’t anything they could do about it. 

A state law passed in May 2021 changed that, giving prosecutors a pathway to present evidence of innocence to a judge. Hedgecorth filed his motion a year later, and it’s among three of such cases so far. 

The Missouri Attorney General’s Office — previously under Eric Schmitt and now under Andrew Bailey — has vehemently opposed the prosecutors’ motions.

Tuesday was no exception. 

The attorney general’s team argued that the Washington County prosecutor didn’t have the jurisdiction to file the motion.

While Politte was charged in Washington County, his trial took place in St. Francois County. However, the Washington County prosecuting attorney still tried the case. 

A jury found Politte guilty of second-degree murder in 1999, and the St. Francois Circuit Court sentenced him to life in prison. 

Yet, it was clear by the Supreme Court judges’ questions to Assistant Attorney General Andrew Crane on Tuesday that this case is also an opportunity to finally define the attorney general’s role in these new innocence proceedings — something that local judges and prosecutors have struggled to understand. 

Though the law clearly states that the prosecutor — and not the attorney general — represents the state, the attorney general has been allowed to take an outsized role in these cases.

Did the attorney general’s office have the authority to challenge Hedgecorth’s jurisdiction in the first place, under the new law?

Tricia Bushnell, executive director for the Missouri Innocence Project, argued Tuesday that the new state law gave the attorney general a “limited role” in these cases, and he overstepped when he asked for a change of venue in Politte’s case. 

“We do not concede that the attorney general had the authority to bring this matter before this court,” Bushnell said. “They are not a party… When we look at how the Missouri constitution and statutes have always held that the criminal trials, the criminal matters are the role of the prosecutor.”

Crane argued the new law doesn’t limit the attorney general’s authority to intervene and appear in any case where the state has an interest.

“And as we just discussed, the state’s interests are at stake,” Crane said.

Hedgecorth, a Democrat, lost his re-election in November, and the county’s new prosecuting attorney John Jones, a Republican, represented the state on Tuesday. 

In an interview with The Independent on Monday, Jones said he hasn’t “made any decision” on whether or not to continue to pursue the motion to vacate Politte’s murder conviction, if his office prevails in the Supreme Court case. 

“The case is still under review,” Jones said.

The case

On the morning of Dec. 5, 1998, Politte, then 14, found his mother’s body face-up on the floor and her body on fire, according to Hedgecorth’s motion.

During his 2002 trial, the prosecution relied on expert testimony that claimed scientific analysis confirmed the presence of gasoline on Politte’s shoes, Hedgecorth stated. 

“This was the only physical evidence that connected Michael Politte to his mother’s murder,” the motion states. “This evidence laid the foundation for the case against him.”

In 2020, the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) Crime Lab re-evaluated the chromatography analysis of Politte’s shoes and concluded there were no ignitable liquids present. 

“With that analysis, the singular physical evidence against Politte is now universally recognized as false,” the highway patrol analysis states. 

Similarly, the trial expert testimony that this fire was started with an accelerant – which made the alleged gasoline on Politte’s shoes damning evidence of guilt — has been proven false as well. 

After learning about the chromatography analysis, Hedgecorth wrote that his office undertook a review of the case against Politte and has determined that, in light of the scientific evidence, his conviction “cannot be sustained.” Hedgecorth said the new state law allowed him to file the motion.

“Mr. Politte has maintained his actual innocence since the morning of his mother’s tragic murder,” Hedgecorth states. “He has never wavered.”

The post Missouri Supreme Court hears AG’s opposition to prosecutor’s jurisdiction in innocence claim appeared first on Missouri Independent.

For the complete story from MissouriIndependent.com click on the title of this article or click on the "post" link above

Traffic Alert: Signal and lighting repairs scheduled for U.S. 71 now through Feb. 3

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Traffic Alert: Signal and lighting repairs scheduled for U.S. 71 now through Feb. 3
Visitor (not verified)
Tue, 01/24/2023 – 16:30

 
JACKSON COUNTY – Crews will be replacing lights and repairing various signals along portions of northbound and southbound U.S. 71 between The Paseo and the Blue River. This work will cause various lane closures in the area on weekdays between now and Friday, Feb. 3, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily. Motorists may experience delays in the area and are advised to plan ahead. All work is weather permitting.
 Motorists are reminded to slow down and pay attention while driving in work zones. Not all work zones look alike. Work zones can be moving operations, such as striping, patching or mowing. They can also be short term, temporary lane closures to make quick repairs or remove debris from the roadway.
For more information about MoDOT news, projects or events, please visit our website at www.modot.org/kansascity. For instant updates, follow MoDOT_KC on Twitter, or share posts and comments on our Facebook at www.facebook.com/MoDOT.KansasCity/. MoDOT Kansas City maintains more than 7,000 miles of state roadway in nine counties. Sign up online for workzone updates or call 888-ASK-MODOT (275-6636).

Districts Involved

Kansas City

Published On
Tue, 01/24/2023 – 10:29

Route B Bridge over I-57 in Mississippi County to Be Replaced

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Route B Bridge over I-57 in Mississippi County to Be Replaced
Visitor (not verified)
Tue, 01/24/2023 – 16:20

Bootheel Bridge Bundle Construction Continues

SIKESTON – Construction to replace the Route B bridge over Interstate 57 in Mississippi County is slated to begin in mid-February. The bridge is located near Bertrand, Missouri.
Weather permitting, work will begin Monday, Feb. 13, with completion anticipated by Friday, June 30.  
As construction is underway, Route B will be closed in the vicinity of the bridge. Traffic will utilize the interchange ramps from northbound I-57 to travel south on Route B or from southbound I-57 to travel north on Route B. Throughout construction there will be minimal impacts to I-57 traffic. Impacts to I-57 traffic will occur during demolition of the existing bridge and as the beams are set.
The new bridge will raise the vertical clearance for I-57 traffic. In addition, roundabouts will be constructed on either side of the bridge. Roundabouts are known to result in calmer traffic while still allowing traffic to flow efficiently. Additional details will be released prior to construction of the roundabouts.
The bridge is included in the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Bootheel Bridge Bundle design-build project, which will improve 17 bridges throughout Southeast Missouri. Completion of the Bootheel Bridge Bundle design-build project is anticipated on or before Dec. 31, 2023. The design-build project website is available at https://www.modot.org/bootheel-bridge-bundle.
This bridge is also included in Gov. Mike Parson’s $351 million Focus on Bridges program, which will repair or replace 250 bridges across the state. 
The work zone will be marked with signs. Motorists are urged to use extreme caution while traveling near the area. 
For additional information, please contact MoDOT’s Customer Service Center toll-free at 1-888-ASK-MODOT (275-6636) or Travis Slayton, project manager for the Robertson Contractors Team, at (573) 785-0880. 
###

Districts Involved

Southeast

Published On
Tue, 01/24/2023 – 10:15

Donor privacy law being used by Missouri agencies to conceal public records

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The “Personal Privacy Protection Act” was designed to shield nonprofits from having to disclose their donors to government agencies (Getty Images).

Over the course of two nights in early December, Gov. Mike Parson hosted a holiday gala for individuals and corporations who donated money to the nonprofit that helps maintain the Missouri Governor’s Mansion. 

Who were the big donors who cut a check and got to dine with Parson and his taxpayer-funded staff? The Governor’s office won’t say. 

Citing a law passed last year designed to shield nonprofits from having to disclose their donors to government agencies, Parson’s office redacted nearly all information from the event’s program when it turned it over as part of a request under Missouri’s Sunshine Law. 

That included blacking out the gala’s sponsors and other donors who attended — even the publicly available names of the nonprofit’s board of directors. 

The redacted gala program is just the latest example of how the new law — dubbed the “Personal Privacy Protection Act” by its supporters — is impacting transparency in state government in ways large and small. 

Among its most high profile effects: The law was cited by the Parson administration as justification to shut down immediate public access to state contracts, and has raised concerns that it could conflict with existing laws regarding records of investigations by law enforcement agencies.

Its impact has also been felt is smaller ways. 

The Department of Public Safety, for example, no longer includes any names of individuals associated with nonprofits in public communications, even going so far as to crop out images of Red Cross volunteers from social media posts. 

Parson’s spokeswoman didn’t respond to requests for comment. But the law’s biggest boosters argue the administration’s interpretation of the law is absurd. 

“It’s as if no one is actually reading the text of the law,” said Ryan Johnson, a local elected official in Cass County and former lobbyist who helped lead the effort over the last three years to enact the Personal Privacy Protection Act into law

The issues being raised in Missouri, he said, have not been a problem in “any of the other 13 states where this language has passed.”

The law was designed to protect the privacy of “Missourians that wish to support the causes they believe in,” Johnson said, “without fear of having their name, home address and other sensitive information broadcast to their family, employer, neighbors and others who may disagree with their beliefs.” 

He added: “It does not, in any fundamental way, disrupt the status quo.”

But others aren’t as convinced. 

The law includes language prohibiting government agencies from releasing, publicizing or otherwise publicly disclosing any information that “identifies a person as a member, supporter, or volunteer of or donor” to a nonprofit organization. 

“The restrictive language under the Personal Privacy Protection Act seems to be fairly comprehensive,” said David Roland, a veteran transparency advocate who serves as director of litigation for the libertarian Freedom Center of Missouri. 

At least one bill has been introduced in the Missouri House this year by a Republican legislator seeking to amend the law by exempting from disclosure prohibitions any personal information submitted to the state by an entity seeking a contract.

It would also exempt personal information voluntarily provided for the purpose of public outreach or marketing “intended to show appreciation, inform and or educate,” among other provisions. 

Dire predictions

Former state Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Republic, championed the “Personal Privacy Protection Act” during his time in the Missouri House (Ben Peters/House Communications).

The Personal Privacy Protection Act was pitched as necessary to protect people’s privacy to donate to causes. Proponents pointed to a law in California struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court that mandated nonprofits disclose large donors as a reason to take action.  

The proposal received support from an ideologically diverse group, including the ACLU of Missouri, Americans for Prosperity and People United for Privacy — all of which have 501(c)(4) arms, an Internal Revenue designation that allows them to participate in political activity without having to disclose their donors.

The Missouri Independent is an affiliate of States Newsroom, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that discloses its donors.

State agencies raised concerns about the proposal as it was making its way through the legislative process. Records obtained by The Independent show officials within the Parson administration doubled down on those possible red flags soon after the legislation was approved by lawmakers and on its way to the governor’s desk. 

In a May 20 memo, the legislative director and general counsel of the Department of Public Safety wrote that the new law could undermine efforts to work with nonprofit partners, and that it could conflict with existing laws regarding records of investigations by law enforcement agencies.

The Personal Privacy Protection Act, they wrote, could hinder prosecution of certain unlawful activity, explaining that “it is unclear how a prosecution for a crime such as theft from a nonprofit organization could occur that would be consistent with (PPPA) and the right to a public trial…”

Questions from The Independent about the law’s impact on investigations were forwarded by a DPS spokesman to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, which said it would not be able to comment other than to say it complies with the Personal Privacy Protection Act. 

Also last May, the Department of Revenue’s legislative director warned in a memo that the new law would negatively impact the agency’s ability to effectively administer tax credit programs “that depend upon an individual making a financial or non-financial contribution to a nonprofit organization.”

The memo also said the law could “be so inconsistent with the statutes authorizing such tax credits that the credits are no longer administrable.” Specifically cited in the memo were the donated food tax credit, the educational assistance organization tax credit, the pregnancy resource center tax credit and the diaper bank tax credit. 

It’s possible, the memo said, that the law “may interfere with DOR reviewing or auditing withholding and income tax obligations of 501(c) organizations.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Revenue said no lost revenue has been identified as a result of the legislation, but “we have not completed a tax season since the passage of this law. Any guess related to a future loss of revenue would only be speculative at this point.”

Public records give no hint of whether Parson was concerned about the issues being raised within his administration. He signed a wide-ranging bill that included the Personal Privacy Protection Act on July 1 with no mention of the donor privacy provisions

The Office of Administration — the agency that handles state contracting — pointed to concerns that the law would require it to limit public access to contracts that were, at the time, available on a state transparency portal. 

In a preview of what would take place a month later, the agency’s director of purchasing, Karen Boeger, wrote in an early August email to administration officials that if the transparency website was taken down, anyone from the public seeking a copy of a potentially lucrative contract with the state would need to file an open records request instead. 

That would give the agency time to “manually review and redact any 501c identifying data,” Boeger wrote, though she added that this will create a “significant bottleneck for the public getting access to purchasing records.” 

The Parson administration’s decision to shut down immediate access to state contracts drew a sharp rebuke from the Republicans who championed the Personal Privacy Protection Act. 

“The plain language of the bill does not interfere with our Sunshine Law as it relates to state contracts,” former state Rep. Jared Taylor, R-Nixa, said at the time. 

Johnson said he can’t “fathom how publication of these items would cause a problem, especially because the law is not intended to be retroactive.”

Sunshine law

Gov. Mike Parson speaks during a press conference on May 29, 2019 (Jacob Moscovitch/Getty Images).

Parson has had a rocky relationship with state transparency laws. 

In 2021, the Missouri Supreme Court concluded Parson’s office improperly redacted records, charged exorbitant fees and knowingly and purposely violated the state’s open records law. 

In response, Parson’s office pushed for legislation to essentially reverse the ruling and allow government agencies to withhold more information from the public and charge more for any records that are turned over.

Parson’s office listed the change among its legislative priorities for 2022. Public records show Andrew Bailey, Parson’s general counsel who was recently appointed to serve as Missouri attorney general, met with the legislative sponsor of the Sunshine Law bill shortly before the 2022 legislative session. 

The legislation failed to garner much traction, though a similar bill has been introduced this year that Roland, the attorney and transparency advocate, said would “severely curtail the information available to the public.”

As for who attended the December holiday gala in the Governor’s Mansion, the Personal Privacy Protection Act has Parson’s office convinced it must remain tight-lipped. 

But the law has no such restrictions on the nonprofit that received the funds, Friends of the Missouri Governor’s Mansion. 

While it didn’t name the donors who attended the festivities, it did post on its Facebook thanking by name the corporations and individuals who sponsored the gala.

Sponsors included the state’s largest utility, Ameren Corp., telecommunications company Charter Communications, tobacco manufacturer Cheyenne International and nursing home executive Rick DeStefane, among others.

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Fifty years later, our lives still at risk

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Abortion-rights supporters march in Colorado in May 2022 in the wake of a leaked U.S. Supreme Court opinion that indicated justices were likely to overturn Roe v. Wade (Kevin Mohatt/Colorado Newsline).

Fifty years ago, a very different U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade.

Radical right-wing extremists control the Supreme Court and serve in elective office. We have fewer freedoms than we did a generation ago. We suffer, and women die because of it. When the Supreme Court ruled last June to strip away our rights to abortion care, it opened the floodgates for states to pass abortion bans and put our health at risk.

One in three women across America have already lost access to abortion. And more restrictions are coming.

Fifty years after Roe, we all live in a separate and unequal country where you may or may not have the right to receive critical needed medical care.

We already see the effects in our communities. State abortion bans prevent cancer patients from getting chemotherapy. Women with chronic diseases can’t get the medications they rely on for treatment, because they could or might become pregnant. Patients with ectopic pregnancies or undergoing miscarriages can’t get life-saving medical care.

States that banned abortion already had higher maternal death rates and fewer doctors. Conservative legislators in many of those states have refused to expand Medicaid to more working class families, putting their health systems further into crisis and causing more hospital shutdowns — especially in rural areas.

One in four women will have an abortion by the age of 45, which means someone you know and love has had an abortion. Our right to abortion and our right to health care itself should not depend on where we live. But here we are.

So-called “pro-life” politicians are performative politics at its worst. State-level conservative legislators in states like Texas, Florida and Georgia preach about sanctity of life yet vote against expanding health care to the poor. Their votes sentence millions with treatable diseases and medical conditions to go without help, some even to die with illnesses that could have been cured. Right-wing politicians in Congress create a crisis around the debt ceiling so they can push for more health care cuts through Medicare and Medicaid. Yet they trumpet ever more national abortion bans.

So what do we do about it?

Right wing activists and donors spent the last 50 years working towards this day. We live in the world they wanted to create. We must do the hard work of building a better world for all of us.

Vote — not just in presidential years, and not just for presidents. Elected officials in the House and Senate, in the state capitols and governors’ mansions, write the laws we live under. If judges are on the ballot in your state (such as the Wisconsin Supreme Court seat up for election this spring), take the time to research them all and only vote for the candidates who will rule in support of our rights and freedoms.

Run for office. If your local elected officials or local judges aren’t representing you, run to replace them.

Fund the grassroots organizations that work year-in, year-out on defending our freedoms, including our right to health care, and advocate for expanding and improving our access to care.

Pay attention to what our municipal governments, and our state legislators are up to. Many states are considering abortion bans and other restrictions on our health care. Your legislators need to hear from you to stop it, and focus instead on making health care more affordable and available to all.

States like Oregon, New Mexico, Minnesota and West Virginia are considering health care expansions on the state level to make insurance more affordable, including a public option and Medicaid buy-in programs. And Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming have yet to expand Medicaid health care to low-income working families in their states.

Your legislators work for you. On this anniversary, tell them to stop attacking our health care and fight to expand it instead. And if they don’t, run to replace them next year.

This commentary was originally published by Colorado Newsline, a States Newsroom affiliate. 

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Division of Labor Standards Reminds Public Works Contractors to Help Set Prevailing Wage

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Division of Labor Standards Reminds Public Works Contractors to Help Set Prevailing Wage
nomland
Tue, 01/24/2023 – 11:19

January 24, 2023

Jefferson City – The Division of Labor Standards within the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations is reminding contractors that work on public works projects that the annual Contractor’s Wage Survey deadline is nearing. Each year, Missouri’s prevailing wage rates are determined based on information provided through Contractor’s Wage Surveys. These surveys may be submitted electronically to the Division of Labor Standards by Jan. 31.

Missouri’s Prevailing Wage Law establishes a minimum wage rate that must be paid to workers on Missouri public works construction projects valued at more than $75,000, such as bridges, roads, and government buildings. The prevailing wage rate differs by county and for different types of work.

State law requires that all workers working on public works projects be paid the proper prevailing wage rate. Prevailing wage rates are determined by actual hours worked, for a particular occupational title (classification/trade) in each individual county throughout the state.

The Division of Labor Standards encourages completing the Contractor’s Wage Survey online by January 31 or, if submitted by mail, the survey must be postmarked by January 31. If electronic filing was utilized last year, it will be necessary to re-register.

###

Communications Staff

Department of Labor and Industrial Relations573-751-4091communications2@labor.mo.gov

State Awards $30 million in Funding to Help Companies Find and Train Workers

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State Awards $30 million in Funding to Help Companies Find and Train Workers

johnathan.shiflett

Tue, 01/24/2023 – 10:00

January 24, 2023

Jefferson City

Today, Governor Mike Parson announced that the Department of Economic Development (DED) has awarded $30 million through the ARPA Workforce Training Grant Program. The program is focused on helping companies address workforce shortages by recruiting and training thousands of Missourians.
“As we continue to invest in our workforce, we’re excited to announce the recipients of the Workforce Training Grant Program,” Governor Parson said. “From day one, our administration has made it a top priority to ensure employers have the workers they need to expand and grow. A stronger workforce means a stronger tomorrow, and this program will go a long way in ensuring Missouri workers can meet the demands of the future.”
The ARPA Workforce Training Grant Program, funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), was launched in August 2022. The program awarded competitive grants to a wide range of applicants and will train workers for a variety of industries including child care, health care, broadband deployment, manufacturing, and more. The grant is also aimed at helping those who need it most, encouraging recipients to train at-risk and low-income populations.
“This program is going to help employers in critical industries find the workers they need to propel our economy forward,” Maggie Kost, Acting Director of the Department of Economic Development said. “At the same time, it will equip real people with job skills that improve their lives, provide for their families, and benefit their communities.”
“Our team has worked hard to make the Workforce Training Grant Program as efficient as possible in helping Missouri’s workforce recover from the impact of the pandemic,” Kristie Davis, Director of Missouri One Start said. “This program is advancing our goal of helping workers develop their skillsets while ensuring companies can recruit the talent they need. We’re proud to make these historic investments that will have a lasting impact on our state’s workforce, economic growth, and overall wellbeing.”
For details on recipients of the ARPA Workforce Training Grant Program, please see attachment. 
To learn more about DED’s ARPA-funded grant programs, visit ded.mo.gov/arpa.
Workforce Training Grant Program Recipients v2 (1).pdf

State awards $30 million in ARPA funding to help companies find and train workers

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January 24, 2023Jefferson CityThe Department of Economic Development (DED) announced today the award of $30 million through the ARPA Workforce Training Grant Program. The program, funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), is focused on helping companies address workforce shortages by recruiting and training thousands of Missourians.

You can now get a marriage license online in St. Louis city, St. Charles County

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Under a law passed by the Legislature in 2021, St. Louis city and St. Charles County have begun allowing couples to get marriage licenses online without appearing in person at government offices.

For the complete story from the Post click on the title at the top of this article.  Help support LOCAL journalism by subscribing to the Post Dispatch by clicking HERE

Drag performers at Columbia event push back against Missouri Republican attack

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Nclusion Plus peformers Artemis Grey, KayCee and Faye King perform Thursday morning at the Columbia Values Diversity breakfast in Columbia. (Photo courtesy Nclusion Plus).

A drag performance last week at a diversity event attended by Columbia middle schoolers was “high-brow and innocent,” not the salacious sexual display alleged by Missouri Republicans, the marketing director for the group behind the performance said Sunday.

At the annual Columbia Values Diversity Breakfast, timed to be near the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, three members of the drag performance group Nclusion Plus put on a musical show as part of the festivities.

The annual breakfast draws hundreds of attendees of various ages, and this year’s audience included about 30 middle-school aged students from Columbia Public Schools. 

“The approach we took to songs, when we told the entertainers, was to offer something positive, uplifting, a song fit for a general family audience,” Brandon Banks, director of marketing for Nclusion Plus, said in an interview with The Independent.

Hours after the event, Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, tweeted that his office was “inundated with calls & emails re: grade school kids being forced to sit through a drag show” at the breakfast.

In his tweet, Rowden included a link to a Substack blog post by Libs of TikTok which primarily shares content by LGBTQ creators and programs to a far-right audience. Libs of TikTok’s creator Chaya Raichik posted video footage of Thursday’s drag performances on her blog and Twitter.

The subjects of previous Libs of Tik Tok’s tweets have been overwhelmed with violent threats following the account’s posts.

Gov. Mike Parson added to the criticism on Friday, when his official Twitter account stated he was “deeply concerned about reports that Columbia middle school students were subjected to adult performers during what is historically a MLK Day celebration. This is unacceptable.”

And by Friday afternoon, Attorney General Andrew Bailey had sent letters to the Columbia Public Schools and Columbia city officials accusing them of violating laws protecting children from sexually explicit material.

In the nearly identical letters, Bailey accused district Superintendent Brian Yearwood and city Mayor Barbara Buffaloe of working “actively to undermine Missouri’s laws by deliberately subjecting a group of middle-school students to an adult-themed drag show performance.”

Bailey suggested that the performance violated a law requiring parents to be notified of the content of human sexuality education and to be given a chance to opt-out of that part of the curriculum. He also cited a new criminal statute making it class A misdemeanor to give “explicit sexual material” to a student. 

The law defines the prohibited materials as depicting “human masturbation, deviate sexual intercourse (non-vaginal sexual relations), sexual intercourse, direct physical stimulation of genitals, sadomasochistic abuse, or emphasizing the depiction of postpubertal human genitals…”

Nothing even faintly resembling the prohibited explicit material was presented, Banks said.

“There was nothing sexual, nothing of any kind that this performance conveyed,” he said. “This was a completely G-rated, family-friendly, uplighting, motivational, positive experience.”

The conservative backlash, Banks said, ignores the content of the performance to make political points.

“It feels like we are being treated as the chum in the water for the sharks to feed on,” Banks said. “It is just fear-mongering at the end of  the day and it feels like it is taking our community backwards.”

‘G-rated’

Each of the Nclusion Plus performers lip-synched a performance to a song – Don’t call me baby’, recorded in 2008 by Kreesha Turner; “This Is My Life,” recorded in 1968 by Shirley Bassey; and Collect my love, a 2015 recording by Alex Newell – and the trio performed together on the finale, “Hold on (for one more day),” a 1990 song by Wilson Phillips.

In an interview Monday, Rowden said he didn’t understand what Banks means by a “G-rated” performance.

“That’s a distinction without a difference and it’s people looking for ways to justify things that they have no business trying to justify,” Rowden said.

The problem, Rowden said, was that the Columbia Public Schools permission slips sent to parents asking that students be allowed to attend did not specifically say that a drag performance was part of the program.

Rowden said he had meetings scheduled with district officials later this week.

“If a parent sent their child to a diversity event without knowing that there was going to be a drag show there, I think there was a failure of communication somewhere,” Rowden said. “So, I’d like to figure out where that was.”

District spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark, in a statement Friday, said “attendees are not provided specific details of the performances in advance of the event.”

​​Columbia Values Diversity Celebration advertised  the event online as including “entertainment by Nclusion+,” which on its own website says it promotes “LGBTQIA+ events, media, and education.”

The district received complaints from two parents who sent a child to the event, Baumstark wrote in the district statement, and “also received numerous communications from parents who did NOT have students at the event, individuals who do NOT have children enrolled in CPS, and individuals who do NOT reside in our community.”

In a letter to Parson that was distributed to the district’s parents on Sunday, Yearwood pushed back against Bailey’s assertion that the performance violated any laws governing sex education or what materials can be provided to students. 

“Any characterization of the ‘Columbia Values Diversity’ Breakfast as ‘child endangerment’ or having a ‘sexual nature’ or violating state law is categorically false,” Yearwood wrote. “Although CPS was unaware what the performance by NClusion+ would entail, their program was not an ‘adult’ performance. This type of misrepresentation is harmful to our students, our staff, and our community.”

The performers at Nclusion Plus did nothing more risque than might be seen in a high school theatrical performance, Banks said. The only reason it has come under attack, he said, was from people who don’t want children to know that gay people exist.

“If we have to be called into war, so to speak, that is just how we have to respond, to do something to defend our community when they need us,” Banks said. “But at the end of the day, we hope this is a blip on the radar and no harm was truly done.”

Proposed legislation

Two bills seek to add venues that exhibit drag performances to the list of establishments defined as “sexually oriented businesses.”

One of these bills, introduced by freshman Rep. Mazzie Boyd, R-Hamilton, will receive a public hearing Tuesday in the House’s General Laws Committee. 

The House added her bill — and a slew of bills targeting transgender Missourians — to the committee’s agenda Monday.

The label of “sexually oriented business,” which currently includes establishments like strip clubs and adult boutiques, would limit the time and audience for venues presenting drag performances. 

The establishments could only be open until midnight and no minors could enter. If included in the definition of sexually oriented business, drag venues would also be barred from serving alcohol.

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Aviation turmoil shifts attention to stalled confirmation of FAA chief

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An American Airlines plane takes off from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Oct. 1, 2020 in Los Angeles, California (Mario Tama/Getty Images).

A breakdown in the federal aviation system earlier this month threw a spotlight on the absence of a Senate-confirmed leader of the Federal Aviation Administration, prompting Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to push for the chamber to confirm President Joe Biden’s choice to lead the agency.

But key Senate Republicans have raised concerns about that nominee, Denver International Airport CEO Phil Washington, that could complicate the confirmation process of a position that is normally noncontroversial.

Few outside the aviation industry and transportation policymakers typically notice when the FAA is without a Senate-confirmed leader.

But the difficulties the agency faced this month brought a renewed focus to the nomination, which had been troubled by Republican opposition.

A ground stop, caused by a bug in an FAA alert system, which halted all U.S. flights for a few hours earlier this month, sparked public statements by Schumer, a New York Democrat, and Colorado Democrat John Hickenlooper, Washington’s chief advocate in the Senate, to push for the Senate to vote on his confirmation.

“With recent events, including airline troubles and last week’s tech problem, this agency needs a leader confirmed by the Senate immediately,” Schumer said in a Jan. 15 press conference.

“I intend to break this logjam, work to hold a hearing for Mr. Washington, where he can detail his experience and answer questions and then work towards a speedy Senate confirmation.”

Schumer added that fixing the problems at the agency begins and ends with filling the FAA administrator role.

“Air travel in America shouldn’t grind to a halt because of an outdated computer system,” Hickenlooper said in a statement.

“The FAA needs a permanent Senate-confirmed administrator who knows how to get things done. Phil Washington, who served for 24 years as a U.S. Army command sergeant major, is that person and the Senate should confirm him.”

Administrators outlast presidents

Unlike some other executive branch agencies, the FAA administrator typically does not resign when the president’s term ends.

The last Senate-approved administrator, Stephen Dickson, had been nominated by former President Donald Trump and was in office from August 2019 to March 2022. The agency’s chief safety official, Billy Nolen, has been acting administrator since April 2022.

Biden renominated Washington for the post this month after his first nomination, in July 2022, expired without action at the end of the last Congress. Washington’s confirmation would make him the first Senate-confirmed Black person to lead the FAA.

Schumer blamed Republicans for delaying the confirmation. However, Washington state Democrat Maria Cantwell, who leads the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that oversees aviation, has not scheduled a confirmation hearing.

A spokeswoman for Cantwell did not return a message seeking comment.

The Denver International Airport deferred an interview request for Washington to the White House. White House communications officers did not respond to messages.

GOP opposition strengthens

The Republican opposition to Washington has hardened since his nomination in July.

At the time, the leading Republican on the Commerce Committee, Mississippi’s Roger Wicker, said he was concerned about Washington’s lack of aviation experience. Prior to joining the Denver airport —  the world’s third-busiest, according to an industry group — in July 2021, Washington was a member of Biden’s transition team and led transit agencies in Denver and Los Angeles.

Then in September 2022, Washington was named in a warrant served by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office related to a contract L.A. Metro had given to a politically connected nonprofit. The target of the investigation appeared to be County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, but authorities also sought communications with Washington.

Wicker said in a Sept. 14 statement that he was “deeply troubled” by the connection and that the “vetting process will require additional scrutiny and review into his leadership at LA Metro.”

More recently, Wicker’s likely replacement as the ranking Republican on the Commerce Committee, Texas’ Ted Cruz, has said Washington’s military service could present a problem.

Federal law requires the FAA administrator to be a civilian. Washington’s Army career, from 1976 to 2000, could require a congressional waiver, Cruz said in a statement.

“Phil Washington does not qualify as a civilian under the statute and, therefore, is ineligible to serve as FAA administrator absent a congressional waiver or a change in law enacted by both the Senate and the House,” he said.

“The Senate has repeatedly required adoption of a waiver when an FAA administrator nominee was a retired member of the military,” Cruz continued. “But with Phil Washington’s extreme lack of aviation experience and the scandals surrounding him, I am unsure how Democrats plan to obtain passage of such a waiver.”

Cruz did vote for similar waivers for Defense secretaries Lloyd Austin and Jim Mattis.

Democrats have shown no immediate signs of backing down from the nominee, though.

“I’ve worked with Phil Washington for decades and believe that he is a visionary leader,” Colorado Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet said in a Monday statement.

“He has served Colorado well, and the Senate should confirm him as soon as possible.”

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Federal judge could decide as soon as February to yank abortion pill nationwide

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Access to the abortion pill nationwide is in the hands of a Texas judge (Phil Walter/Getty Images).

WASHINGTON — A Texas judge could decide as soon as next month whether to force the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to pull its two-decade-old approval of the abortion pill, which accounts for more than half of pregnancy terminations in the United States.

A nationwide injunction in the case, as requested by anti-abortion groups, would deny abortion medication even in states where abortion is legal and affect millions of individuals’ reproductive rights decisions. The legal fight is viewed as likely to eventually make its way to the Supreme Court, which in 2022 overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion rights.

The FDA is urging the federal judge — an appointee of former President Donald Trump — not to issue a preliminary ruling in the case that centers on whether the agency exceeded its authority to approve mifepristone in 2000, whether it erred in making changes to when and how the medication can be used in 2016 and if sending the medication through the mail is legal.

The federal government, in a court filing on Jan. 13, said the anti-abortion groups’ lawsuit to force the FDA to pull the pharmaceutical from the market “is extraordinary and unprecedented.”

“Plaintiffs have pointed to no case, and the government has been unable to locate any example, where a court has second-guessed FDA’s safety and efficacy determination and ordered a widely available FDA-approved drug to be removed from the market — much less an example that includes a two-decade delay,” wrote attorneys for the U.S. Justice Department.

The 52-page opposition to a preliminary ruling says such a decision “would cause significant harm, depriving patients of a safe and effective drug that has been on the market for more than two decades.”

Suit filed in mid-November

The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine along with the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Pediatricians and Christian Medical & Dental Associations filed the lawsuit in mid-November along with four doctors from California, Indiana, Michigan and Texas.

They argue in the 113-page lawsuit the FDA “exceeded its regulatory authority” to approve mifepristone and misoprostol to end a pregnancy within the United States. The two-drug regimen is currently approved up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy, though it was originally approved for up to seven weeks gestation.

“This case challenges the FDA’s failure to abide by its legal obligations to protect the health, safety, and welfare of women and girls when the agency authorized the chemical abortion drugs mifepristone and misoprostol for use in the United States and subsequently eliminated necessary safeguards for pregnant women and girls who undergo this dangerous drug regimen,” wrote attorneys from the Alliance Defending Freedom, the anti-abortion legal organization leading the case.

The lawsuit then calls on the court to “issue a preliminary and permanent injunction ordering Defendants to withdraw mifepristone and misoprostol as FDA-approved chemical abortion drugs.”

If the judge declines to do that, he could rule in support of one, or several, of the anti-abortion groups’ other claims in the case.

That could mean a court order to eliminate the mail-order option, reinstate the in-person dispensing requirement, re-apply in-person dispensing solely to doctors instead of prescribing healthcare providers like physician’s assistants or nurse practitioners, or wipe out the 2016 FDA changes to when and how the medication could be used.

Among those were increasing the number of weeks into a pregnancy mifepristone can be used from seven to 10 and making changes to the dosage.

The lawsuit doesn’t address the FDA’s decision in early January to allow commercial pharmacies to dispense the abortion medication after receiving a prescription from a healthcare provider; though if the judge were to require in-person dispensing by a doctor again, pharmacy pick-up of a prescription wouldn’t be possible.

Abortion rights advocates said during a briefing in January that while the case would be a joke in any other court, they are taking the filing in the North District of Texas seriously, in part because of the judge who will handle the case.

Kirsten Moore, director of the Expanding Medication Abortion Access Project, said “the idea that a drug approval infrastructure could be up to a single judge or that states would be able to recreate their own drug approval process is rash and downright dangerous.”

Jennifer Dalven, director of the Reproductive Freedom Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the case “would be laughed out of court if it were filed somewhere else” due to several procedural defects.

But because of the federal district court and the judge, Dalven said, she is taking the case “quite seriously.”

“Mifepristone was approved over 20 years ago. It’s been used safely and effectively by millions of people for early abortion care and to treat miscarriages,” Dalven said. “But unfortunately, in the world we are living in today, we have to take this case seriously.”

A decision from the judge could happen any time after Feb. 10, when the last filings are due in the case, Dalven said.

Abortion rights advocates, she said, weren’t yet sure if the judge would hear oral arguments or issue a ruling without taking that step.

Trump appointees

The lawsuit is working its way through the U.S. District Court for the North District of Texas, the same district that issued a preliminary ruling in favor of the Texas attorney general and anti-abortion organizations regarding emergency medical treatment for pregnant patients.

That Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act case, State of Texas v. Becerra, was filed in the Lubbock Division and overseen by Judge James Wesley Hendrix, while the medication abortion case was filed in the Amarillo Division and is being presided over by Matthew Joseph Kacsmaryk.

Kacsmaryk was appointed by Trump in 2019, as was Hendrix.

The U.S. Senate voted 52-46 to confirm Kacsmaryk in June 2019 with Maine’s Susan Collins as the sole Republican to vote against him.

Collins told The Washington Post ahead of the vote that Kacsmaryk had an “alarming bias against LGBTQ Americans and disregard for Supreme Court precedents.”

“Mr. Kacsmaryk has dismissed proponents of reproductive choice as ‘sexual revolutionaries,’ and disdainfully criticized the legal foundations of Roe v. Wade,” Collins said in her statement to the Post. “Such extreme statements reflect poorly on Mr. Kacsmaryk’s temperament and suggest an inability to respect precedent and to apply the law fairly and impartially.”

One of the reasons abortion rights organizations are concerned about this particular case, Dalven said, is because the anti-abortion organizations filing the case went “to extraordinary lengths to get their case before” Kacsmaryk.

She also criticized them for filing the suit, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, just after the November 2022 midterm elections.

The Alliance for Defending Freedom, the anti-abortion legal organization that filed the case on behalf of the anti-abortion medical associations and doctors, said in a written statement released in mid-November the FDA “illegally” approved the prescription abortion medication.

“On behalf of the national health care organizations and physicians we represent, we ask the court to hold the FDA accountable for its reckless, unlawful behavior,” said ADF Senior Counsel Erik Baptist.

Suing ‘over virtually any FDA action’

The U.S. Justice Department argued in its Jan. 13 filing the anti-abortion organizations didn’t have standing “to sue over virtually any FDA action” and criticized the logic they used to argue the doctors could be harmed by the use of abortion medication.

“As Plaintiffs’ argument runs, if FDA approved a new heart medication, emergency physicians would have standing to challenge the approval on the theory that some patients would experience adverse events under the new treatment; in contrast, cardiologists would have standing to challenge the approval on the theory that some patients would no longer require their services,” they wrote.

The federal government also sought to defend the approval of mifepristone in 2000, saying the FDA’s decision followed a comprehensive review of scientific data, which “demonstrated that the drug was safe and effective for abortions under the specified conditions.”

The FDA, the Justice Department lawyers wrote, “reviewed three separate clinical trials involving more than 2,500 pregnant patients, and those trials provided substantial evidence of effectiveness and showed a low rate of serious adverse events.”

“Rather than confront the significant evidence confirming mifepristone’s safety,” the Justice Department lawyers wrote, the anti-abortion organizations filing the lawsuit asked the judge “to second-guess the agency based on five selected publications.”

The FDA, in fact, considered the studies, they wrote.

“None purports to conclude that mifepristone is unsafe. Indeed, three of them expressly endorse mifepristone as a safe treatment,” the Justice Department lawyers wrote. “Moreover, Plaintiffs misconstrue these studies and their relevant findings.”

Biden memo

The White House, on what would have been the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, sought to address the ongoing disputes over abortion medication.

President Joe Biden issued a memo calling on Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to consult with the attorney general and the Homeland Security secretary to bolster access to medication abortion.

Biden calls on the three men to consider issuing guidance for people seeking access to mifepristone along with guidance for doctors and pharmacies that plan to continue prescribing or dispensing it.

Biden noted in the memo there “have been reports of efforts to suppress access to medication abortion.”

“State officials have announced that they will impose restrictions to limit access to this evidence-based, safe, and effective medication,” Biden wrote.

He mentioned a letter that 22 state attorneys general sent to his administration that “threatened to enforce State laws that purport to interfere with access to mifepristone.” The states represented included Arkansas, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Tennessee.

“In Florida, the Governor recently said that major pharmacy chains in the State will not offer mifepristone,” Biden wrote.

“Florida health officials issued guidance discouraging pharmacies from dispensing mifepristone, claiming that State law limits where abortion medication can be provided to hospitals, clinics, or physician offices,” Biden added. “These actions have stoked confusion, sowed fear, and may prevent patients from accessing safe and effective FDA-approved medication.”

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Governor Parson Makes Seven Appointments to Various Boards and Commissions

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Governor Parson Makes Seven Appointments to Various Boards and Commissions

johnathan.shiflett

Mon, 01/23/2023 – 15:18

January 23, 2023

Jefferson City

Today, Governor Mike Parson announced seven appointments to various boards and commissions. 
Tim Francka, of Bolivar, was appointed to the Missouri State University Board of Governors.
Mr. Francka is the Administrative Director of Long Term Care for Citizens Memorial Health Care Foundation. He has been with the Foundation since 1989. He also serves as a member of the Missouri Health Care Association board of directors and currently serves as the Missouri delegate to the American Health Care Association. Mr. Francka holds a Bachelor of Science in finance and business from Missouri State University.
Lisa Newcomer, of Jackson, was appointed to the Missouri Board for Respiratory Care.
Ms. Newcomer currently serves as Vice President of Regional Operations for Saint Francis Healthcare System in Cape Girardeau. She previously served as Service Line Director of Cancer Services at Saint Francis Healthcare System, and she is an American College of Healthcare Executives fellow. Ms. Newcomer holds a Master of Business Administration with an emphasis in health care administration from William Woods University.  
Tameka Randle, of Cape Girardeau, was appointed to the Missouri Housing Development Commission.
Ms. Randle currently serves as Executive Director of People Organized to Revitalize Community Healing (PORCH), a non-profit organization. She serves on the Cape Girardeau City Council as the Ward Two Representative. She holds a Bachelor of Science in education from Eastern Michigan University and a Master of Public Administration from Southeast Missouri State University.
David Sater, of Cassville, was appointed to the Coordinating Board for Higher Education.
Dr. Sater is a retired pharmacist and former owner and operator of Sater Pharmacy in Cassville. He is a former Missouri State Senator for District 29 and a former Missouri State Representative for District 68. He has been a member of the Missouri Pharmacy Association since 1973. Dr. Sater holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from Missouri State University and a Doctorate of Pharmacy from the University of Missouri – Kansas City.
Jeff Schrag, of Springfield, was appointed to the Missouri State University Board of Governors.
Mr. Schrag is the owner and founder of Mothers Brewing Company in Springfield and is the publisher of the Daily Events newspaper. He has served as the chairman of both the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce and the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. He has also previously served as President of the Missouri Press Association and the Missouri Craft Brewers Guild. He holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism and mass communications from Kansas State University.
Harry Thompson, of Lohman, was appointed to the Air Conservation Commission.
Mr. Thompson currently serves as President of the Cole County Farm Bureau. He is a retired owner and operator of a row crop and livestock farm. He previously served on the boards of MFA Inc. and Missouri Farm Bureau.
Chris Williams, of Carl Junction, was appointed to the Missouri Mining Commission.
Mr. Williams is currently the Vice President of Operations at Capital Materials in Jefferson City. He also serves on the Executive Committee of the Missouri Limestone Producers Association. He has previously served as Vice President of Aggregate Operations for Erlen Group. Mr. Williams holds an Associate Degree in business administration from Missouri Southern State University.

Governor Parson Makes Seven Appointment to Various Boards and Commissions

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Governor Parson Makes Seven Appointment to Various Boards and Commissions

johnathan.shiflett

Mon, 01/23/2023 – 15:18

January 23, 2023

Jefferson City

Today, Governor Mike Parson announced seven appointments to various boards and commissions. 
Tim Francka, of Bolivar, was appointed to the Missouri State University Board of Governors.
Mr. Francka is the Administrative Director of Long Term Care for Citizens Memorial Health Care Foundation. He has been with the Foundation since 1989. He also serves as a member of the Missouri Health Care Association board of directors and currently serves as the Missouri delegate to the American Health Care Association. Mr. Francka holds a Bachelor of Science in finance and business from Missouri State University.
Lisa Newcomer, of Jackson, was appointed to the Missouri Board for Respiratory Care.
Ms. Newcomer currently serves as Vice President of Regional Operations for Saint Francis Healthcare System in Cape Girardeau. She previously served as Service Line Director of Cancer Services at Saint Francis Healthcare System, and she is an American College of Healthcare Executives fellow. Ms. Newcomer holds a Master of Business Administration with an emphasis in health care administration from William Woods University.  
Tameka Randle, of Cape Girardeau, was appointed to the Missouri Housing Development Commission.
Ms. Randle currently serves as Executive Director of People Organized to Revitalize Community Healing (PORCH), a non-profit organization. She serves on the Cape Girardeau City Council as the Ward Two Representative. She holds a Bachelor of Science in education from Eastern Michigan University and a Master of Public Administration from Southeast Missouri State University.
David Sater, of Cassville, was appointed to the Coordinating Board for Higher Education.
Dr. Sater is a retired pharmacist and former owner and operator of Sater Pharmacy in Cassville. He is a former Missouri State Senator for District 29 and a former Missouri State Representative for District 68. He has been a member of the Missouri Pharmacy Association since 1973. Dr. Sater holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from Missouri State University and a Doctorate of Pharmacy from the University of Missouri – Kansas City.
Jeff Schrag, of Springfield, was appointed to the Missouri State University Board of Governors.
Mr. Schrag is the owner and founder of Mothers Brewing Company in Springfield and is the publisher of the Daily Events newspaper. He has served as the chairman of both the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce and the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. He has also previously served as President of the Missouri Press Association and the Missouri Craft Brewers Guild. He holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism and mass communications from Kansas State University.
Harry Thompson, of Lohman, was appointed to the Air Conservation Commission.
Mr. Thompson currently serves as President of the Cole County Farm Bureau. He is a retired owner and operator of a row crop and livestock farm. He previously served on the boards of MFA Inc. and Missouri Farm Bureau.
Chris Williams, of Carl Junction, was appointed to the Missouri Mining Commission.
Mr. Williams is currently the Vice President of Operations at Capital Materials in Jefferson City. He also serves on the Executive Committee of the Missouri Limestone Producers Association. He has previously served as Vice President of Aggregate Operations for Erlen Group. Mr. Williams holds an Associate Degree in business administration from Missouri Southern State University.

Governor Parson Makes Seven Appointments to Various Boards and Commissions

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Governor Parson Makes Seven Appointments to Various Boards and Commissions

Dakota.Julian

Mon, 01/23/2023 – 15:06

January 23, 2023

Jefferson City

Today, Governor Mike Parson announced seven appointments to various boards and commissions. 
Tim Francka, of Bolivar, was appointed to the Missouri State University Board of Governors.
Mr. Francka is the Administrative Director of Long Term Care for Citizens Memorial Health Care Foundation. He has been with the Foundation since 1989. He also serves as a member of the Missouri Health Care Association board of directors and currently serves as the Missouri delegate to the American Health Care Association. Mr. Francka holds a Bachelor of Science in finance and business from Missouri State University.
Lisa Newcomer, of Jackson, was appointed to the Missouri Board for Respiratory Care.
Ms. Newcomer currently serves as Vice President of Regional Operations for Saint Francis Healthcare System in Cape Girardeau. She previously served as Service Line Director of Cancer Services at Saint Francis Healthcare System, and she is an American College of Healthcare Executives fellow. Ms. Newcomer holds a Master of Business Administration with an emphasis in health care administration from William Woods University.  
Tameka Randle, of Cape Girardeau, was appointed to the Missouri Housing Development Commission.
Ms. Randle currently serves as Executive Director of People Organized to Revitalize Community Healing (PORCH), a non-profit organization. She serves on the Cape Girardeau City Council as the Ward Two Representative. She holds a Bachelor of Science in education from Eastern Michigan University and a Master of Public Administration from Southeast Missouri State University.
David Sater, of Cassville, was appointed to the Coordinating Board for Higher Education.
Dr. Sater is a retired pharmacist and former owner and operator of Sater Pharmacy in Cassville. He is a former Missouri State Senator for District 29 and a former Missouri State Representative for District 68. He has been a member of the Missouri Pharmacy Association since 1973. Dr. Sater holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from Missouri State University and a Doctorate of Pharmacy from the University of Missouri – Kansas City.
Jeff Schrag, of Springfield, was appointed to the Missouri State University Board of Governors.
Mr. Schrag is the owner and founder of Mothers Brewing Company in Springfield and is the publisher of the Daily Events newspaper. He has served as the chairman of both the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce and the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. He has also previously served as President of the Missouri Press Association and the Missouri Craft Brewers Guild. He holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism and mass communications from Kansas State University.
Harry Thompson, of Lohman, was appointed to the Air Conservation Commission.
Mr. Thompson currently serves as President of the Cole County Farm Bureau. He is a retired owner and operator of a row crop and livestock farm. He previously served on the boards of MFA Inc. and Missouri Farm Bureau.
Chris Williams, of Carl Junction, was appointed to the Missouri Mining Commission.
Mr. Williams is currently the Vice President of Operations at Capital Materials in Jefferson City. He also serves on the Executive Committee of the Missouri Limestone Producers Association. He has previously served as Vice President of Aggregate Operations for Erlen Group. Mr. Williams holds an Associate Degree in business administration from Missouri Southern State University.

Heavy, wet snow to create a Wintry Wednesday

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Heavy, wet snow to create a Wintry Wednesday
Visitor (not verified)
Mon, 01/23/2023 – 12:40

Motorists urged to avoid or delay Wednesday morning commute

JEFFERSON CITY – A winter storm is expected to bring snow to much of Missouri beginning Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, affecting Wednesday morning’s commute. Snowfall amounts up to 4 inches have been forecasted for the north and central part of the state with 5 to 9 inches possible south of Interstate 44.

The Missouri Department of Transportation urges all drivers to be aware of changing road conditions both where they are and where they plan to be.

“Crews will be out Tuesday night as the temperatures drop and conditions change from rain to snow,” said Becky Allmeroth, MoDOT’s chief safety and operations officer. “We are expecting a very heavy, wet snow which is great for making snowmen but can make roads very difficult to drive on. If you must be out, adjust your speed to the road conditions.”

If you need to travel, make sure you have a full tank of gas, blankets, gloves and provisions like water and snacks in the event of an emergency. Make sure your cellphone is fully charged, but never use it while driving. If you should slide off the road, or are involved in a crash, stay inside your vehicle with your seat belt buckled until help arrives. 

If you encounter a snowplow or salt trucks on the road, always give them room to work. Do not tailgate or try to pass. Snowplow operators are reacting to the road ahead of them with a very limited field of vision. You may see them, but they may not see you.

Missouri road conditions are available 24/7 on the Traveler Information Map at www.modot.org, or through MoDOT’s smartphone app, available for iPhone and Android phones. You can also find road conditions and warnings by following MoDOT on Facebook and Twitter or by calling 888-ASK-MODOT (888-275-6636) to speak with a customer service representative.

#  #  #

For more information, call MoDOT at 888-ASK-MODOT (275-6636) or visit www.modot.org. To receive the latest statewide news and text alerts, signup for e-updates.

Follow MoDOT: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

Districts Involved

Statewide

Published On
Mon, 01/23/2023 – 06:37

TRAFFIC ALERT: Lawrence County Route OO CLOSED Northwest of Mt. Vernon Jan. 27 for Pipe Work

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TRAFFIC ALERT: Lawrence County Route OO CLOSED Northwest of Mt. Vernon Jan. 27 for Pipe Work
Visitor (not verified)
Mon, 01/23/2023 – 12:35

When: 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Friday, January 27
Where: Lawrence County Route OO between County Road 1100 and County Road 1105 northwest of Mt. Vernon
What: MoDOT crews replacing damaged pipe underneath the road
Traffic Impacts:
Route OO CLOSED where crews are working
Drivers will have access to driveways and entrances on either end of the work zone but will not be able to travel through the work zone
Drivers urged to find alternate routes
No signed detours planned
Signs and message boards will alert drivers approaching the work zones
Check MoDOT’s Traveler Information Map for road closings/traffic impacts
Weather and/or scheduling conflicts could alter the work schedule.
 
(For more information, call MoDOT in Springfield at 417-895-7600 or visit www.modot.org/southwest)
(Follow MoDOT’s Southwest District: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram |YouTube)
(Take the Challenge! Buckle Up/Phone Down)

Districts Involved

Southwest

Published On
Mon, 01/23/2023 – 06:33

Missouri prosecutors face losing jurisdiction over violent crime cases

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State Rep. Lane Roberts, R-Joplin, speaks on the House floor during the 2022 session (Tim Bommel/Missouri House Communications).

Republican legislators have made it clear that challenging the authority of St. Louis’ elected prosecutor Kimberly Gardner — a progressive Black Democrat — is a top priority this year. 

And they’ll be searching for a way to make that challenge constitutional. 

On the first day of the legislative session, Republican state leaders said Missouri could strengthen its criminal justice system by appointing special prosecutors in areas they believe elected prosecutors aren’t managing their caseloads. 

While Gardner was not named in their opening comments, it was implied.

“There’s got to be some consequences for prosecutors for not doing their job,” said Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, during a press conference. “Speaker [Dean] Plocher is passionate about it, and he lives on that side of state where I think probably the most egregious realities are happening.”

In his first speech as House Speaker, Plocher – who represents West St. Louis County – said he understands why some Missourians “have lost trust in dysfunctional local governments where some officials refuse to prosecute violent offenders.”

The only bill filed that relates to appointing a special prosecutor names the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office specifically, and it’s sponsored by state Rep. Lane Roberts, R-Joplin.

As introduced, the bill would allow the governor to appoint a special prosecutor in the City of St. Louis for five years if the governor determines that “a threat to public safety and health exists” in the city based on “reviewing various relevant statistics.”

The special prosecutor would have “exclusive jurisdiction” to prosecute certain offenses — including murders, assaults, robberies, hijacking and other violent offenses — and be given a budget to hire up to 15 assistant prosecuting attorneys and 15 staffers. 

Gardner’s office declined to comment on the proposal.

The bill also explicitly states the special prosecutor “shall not be the attorney general.”

During special sessions in 2020, Republicans similarly made two failed attempts to hand over an unprecedented amount of Gardner’s authority to then-Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt. 

Schmitt would have been allowed to take over homicide cases if Gardner’s office had not filed charges within 90 days of the incidents or upon request from the “chief law enforcement officer.”

The Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys fought vehemently against the provision in 2020, saying that Missourians “have never wanted statewide politicians to meddle in local affairs.” 

State Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, said the current bill “feels like a partisan blame game more than it does a solution to the problem.”  

Other parts of Missouri, as well as the country overall, have seen a rise in crime, he said. On top of that, Merideth said St. Louis police officers have to fight crime with their “hands tied,” after Missouri Republicans pushed to loosen gun regulations in 2021.

“We’ve actually seen some progress in St. Louis City as compared to other comparable cities in the last couple of years,” Meredith said. “And I think that’s not getting noticed.”

Smart vs. tough on crime

State Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis, speaks during debate Friday, May 6, 2022, on the state budget (Tim Bommel/Missouri House Communications).

On Jan. 17, the bill was referred to the House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee, which Roberts chairs. 

Roberts said he plans on introducing an amendment when the bill comes up in committee that would expand the bill to impact every elected prosecutor in the state and provide more benchmarks that would trigger the governor’s authority, “as opposed to leaving it open.”

Targeting the bill only at St. Louis, Roberts said, could pose a legal challenge.

“We could encounter some constitutional issues, and we want to avoid that,” Roberts told The Independent on Thursday. “And if we broaden it out a bit, it means that there are other cities in the state who might benefit from the authority of the governor to do this.”

Roberts said the legislation, which includes several other provisions relating to public safety, was a product of a summer working group that included two Democratic House members from St. Louis, state Reps. Marlon Anderson and Donna Baringer. 

Anderson, who represents part of North St. Louis where crime is high, could not be reached for comment. 

Baringer, who represents a more affluent part of the city and has long been critical of Gardner, said she spoke with Gardner and asked what she needs to help support her in prosecuting crime. 

“The takeaway from speaking to the St. Louis City circuit attorney was that she said she needed money because she needed help,” Baringer said. “And so she was looking for money to do that.”

Baringer believes the bill helps the circuit attorney without providing her with “a blank check.” The money outlined in the bill, however, wouldn’t go towards Gardner’s office, but towards providing a governor-appointed special prosecutor with 30 more staff members. 

Baringer acknowledges that Gardner wouldn’t agree with having the authority that was given to her by St. Louis voters stripped from her.

“Crime is so bad in the city of St. Louis that we’re at a loss as to how to get back under control,” Baringer said.

State Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, a Democrat who also represents part of North St. Louis, said he respects Roberts because he’s often willing to work across the aisle, but he adamantly opposes the bill. He sees the legislation as an “anti-local control” bill.

Gardner is the first African-American to head the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office, and she won her re-election Democratic primary in 2020 with more than 60% of the vote.

“The people of the City of St. Louis are smart enough to know who they want representing them,” Aldridge said, “and who will help them move their city for when it comes to public safety and being in a safer city.”

North St. Louis has a long history of disinvestment and inequities, he said, which goes to the heart of the city’s crime issues. 

He doesn’t want to see young people killed or walking down his street with guns, he said, but that means being “smart on crime,” not just tough on crime. 

“We need to really get to the root cause of the problem,” Aldridge said. “These quick fixes want to put a bandaid over a wound and it isn’t going to do it. We needed to take the whole cancer out and then stitch it back up. It’s not going to be easy work, it’s going to be generational work.”

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News media literacy is more important than ever

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In Missouri, House Bill 492 , the “Media Literacy and Critical Thinking Act,” would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to establish a pilot program for the 2024-25 and 2025-26 school years in five to seven schools (Photo by scanrail/iStock images).

This week has been designated as “National News Literacy Week.” It could not be more important or timely as we continue to be bombarded with misinformation, disinformation and downright lies in all corners of the public square.

What is most alarming is the utter disregard and disrespect for facts and truth practiced and tolerated by many of the very people we look to and count on tell us like it is.

What is “National News Literacy Week”, and when did it start?

The primary purpose, now in its fourth year, is to stop the proliferation of false information and teach consumers how to identify trustworthy news sources and content.

The week is dedicated to reclaiming credibility, rebuilding public trust and addressing the steps being taken to sustain those goals moving forward. The focus will be on fact gathering and the reporting processes to emphasize the openness and transparency required, all of which is so critical to building a trustworthy relationship with the public.

Another primary goal is to inspire citizens, educators and students to learn how to become smart consumers of information.

How do we prepare ourselves and future generations to critically analyze and assess the information we are receiving from various sources and determine its accuracy and  credibility?

That is where media literacy comes in.

Media literacy is not a new concept, and its meaning has evolved over time. In addition to developing the ability to evaluate messages and information from various sources, it is just as important to learn how to develop and use messages and dialogue effectively.

Media literacy is critical to the survival and perpetuation of a healthy democracy.

In many ways as consumers — and victims — of message bombardment, we are way behind the curve.

Even when we just had access to newspapers, radio and television, there was a lot to sort through, to understand and to absorb. You may recall early efforts to manage access and viewing, primarily of children.

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But today, with 24-hour TV programming, myriad options to access all kinds of information on a plethora of media outlets and the Internet with all of its unlimited information and reach, it is easy to be overwhelmed and misled.

How can one achieve medial literacy and become a smart consumer?

Consulting multiple media sources to compare the coverage or treatment of the same issues or events, in many instances, could be helpful in determining where facts and truths lie.

But media literacy involves so much more.

Since 1997, the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLA) has worked to empower all citizens to be able to evaluate all forms of public communication, and to become smart consumers and practitioners.

NAMLA advocates offering media literacy education as early as grade school and throughout high school, and encourages setting aside a “Media Literacy Week.”  Age-appropriate resources and tools are provided to assist students, educators, librarians, community organizations and parents.

Congress and many state legislatures have gotten involved to improve media literacy.

Congressional Bill H.R. 4668, the “Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy Act,” was introduced in 2019. The bill instructs the Department of Education to provide grants to state and local educational agencies to promote media literacy and digital citizenship.

The specific purpose of the bill is show citizens how to access, analyze, evaluate the accuracy of media content and information, and make educated decisions about “products and services, education, health, and wellness based on information obtained from media and digital sources.”

The bill is still in committee, awaiting passage by the House of Representatives.

In June 2022, the U.S. Senate introduced a similar bill, Senate Bill S.4490. But it focuses specifically on providing media literacy education to elementary and secondary school students.

It directs the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to provide grants to state and local educational agencies, public libraries, and qualified nonprofit organizations to “develop and promote media literacy and digital citizenship education for elementary and secondary school students.” Passage is pending.

In 2017, eleven states introduced bills to address media literacy education to improve students skills. Various states emphasize and support different aspects of media literacy.

In Missouri, House Bill 492 , the “Media Literacy and Critical Thinking Act,” would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to establish a pilot program for the 2024-25 and 2025-26 school years in five to seven schools.

The pilot in addition to addressing media literacy, must develop strategies for student learning in classroom curricula, and demonstrate various literacy strategies used. The bill requires that a report be compiled and submitted to the legislature when the pilot ends in June 2026.

What happens in Missouri schools when it comes to media literacy learning long-term will likely be determined after the pilot is completed.

On Jan. 4 of this year, New Jersey became the first state in the nation to require media literacy be taught in K-12. The law passed with bipartisan support.

SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.

With the growing emphasis on news media literacy, it shows the fragile state of trust in the sources and dissemination of accurate information in our public discourse, not only in terms of politics and public policy, but in many aspects of our lives — whether we are grappling with how to best deal with a pandemic, or addressing educational, economic, social and other issues.

How do we separate fact from fiction and truth from lies in trying to find meaning solutions and paths forward? How will we teach and help ourselves and future generations know the difference?

Deliberate and concerted efforts from our leaders, institutions, and from all of us will be required.

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State awards $261 million through the ARPA Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program to fund 60 broadband expansion projects

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January 23, 2023Jefferson CityThe Department of Economic Development (DED) announced today that it has awarded a total of $261 million through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program to 60 recipients for projects that will expand and improve internet access statewide. Projects receiving funds are expected to create more than 55,000 connections in locations that previously lacked adequate internet access.

State Awards $261 million through Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program to Fund 60 Broadband Expansion Projects

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State Awards $261 million through Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program to Fund 60 Broadband Expansion Projects

Stephanie.Whitaker

Mon, 01/23/2023 – 10:02

January 23, 2023

Jefferson City

Today, Governor Mike Parson announced that the Department of Economic Development (DED) has awarded a total of $261 million through the ARPA Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program to 60 recipients for projects that will expand and improve internet access statewide. Projects receiving funds are expected to create more than 55,000 connections in locations that previously lacked adequate internet access.
“We’re proud to announce the recipients of the Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program, which represents a major step forward in strengthening Missouri’s internet connectivity,” Governor Parson said. “Our goal with American Rescue Plan Act funds is to make investments that have a lasting, positive impact for Missourians statewide. Today, we have accomplished that for broadband expansion, which is vital to supporting education, health care, business, and agriculture in today’s economy.”
The ARPA Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program, administered by DED’s Office of Broadband Development, was launched in August 2022 to invest in broadband expansion. The program awarded competitive grants to a wide range of applicants, including traditional internet providers as well as electric and telephone cooperatives. The program prioritized unserved and underserved areas. Funds will be used to build new connections that will deliver symmetrical speeds of 100 Mbps upload / 100 Mbps download or greater.
“Today’s announcement is great news for Missouri businesses, communities, and families who need and deserve access to quality internet,” said Maggie Kost, Acting Director of the Department of Economic Development. “Broadband expansion is a critical priority, both for economic development and improving the lives of people across our state. We’re grateful to partner with recipients of this grant program to bring more connections, and greater opportunities, to all Missourians.”
“I’m incredibly proud of the hard work and careful consideration the Office of Broadband Development team contributed to the success of this grant program,” said BJ Tanksley, Director of the Office of Broadband Development. “We truly believe these investments will be transformational for broadband expansion in Missouri. As we continue striving for a fully-connected future, we look forward to this program’s results and appreciate the stakeholder support that helped make it possible.”
Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program Recipients v2.pdf

Civil rights group objects to using federal COVID aid for jails

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The ACLU wants to U.S. Treasury to stop the use of American Rescue Plan Act dollars to build or expand correctional facilities. (Alex Potemkin/Getty Images)

The American Civil Liberties Union is asking the Treasury Department to take a harder line on states and local governments using federal American Rescue Plan Act money to build and expand correctional facilities.

One of the projects it cited is in Scott County, Iowa, where local officials had previously considered using the federal money for a new juvenile detention center.

The ACLU is asking the Treasury’s office of inspector general to investigate and reiterate to governments “that they may not use those funds to build or expand jails, prisons or other detention facilities and that there will be consequences for doing so.”

The money, the ACLU says, is intended to help governments respond to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter included the signatures of ACLU officials in nine states, including Iowa.

In Scott County supervisors decided last fall not to use American Rescue Plan funds for the detention center, instead choosing to use their own capital improvement money. However, officials in the county say they have the legal right to do so if they want, and they have not closed the door to the possibility if the money is needed in the future.

Scott County concluded it would be legal to use American Rescue Plan Act for its Youth Justice and Rehabilitation Center, shown here in a rendering, but ultimately decided not to use the federal dollars. (Illustration courtesy of Scott County)

County supervisors say their legal advisers have reviewed the matter and said the project is eligible. The county broke ground on the $27 million Youth Justice and Rehabilitation Center in October. Construction is expected to be completed next year. The county had previously considered using about $7 million in ARPA funds for the center.

Ken Beck, chairman of the Scott County Board, declined comment Friday on the ACLU letter.

The Treasury Department has given conflicting signals about the legality of using ARPA funds for the Scott County project.

In an article in The Nation magazine last July, an official in the department’s inspector general’s office said the county’s intended use of ARPA funds was not permissible. However, in September, the Quad-City Times reported that the department cleared the way for use of the funds and that it said The Nation was mistakenly given information that conflated two separate parts of the law.

In its letter, dated Jan. 18, the ACLU says the treasury department “must give clear guidance on what is prohibited under each of these categories.”

Pete McRoberts, policy director for the ACLU of Iowa, said in an interview this week that it’s not legal to use ARPA funds for the Scott County project. The ACLU, along with other groups, had previously objected to the county.

“We could read the law,” McRoberts said Thursday.

The ACLU of Iowa also has objected to expansion of the facility, McRoberts said, because it allows the county to incarcerate more juveniles, which is harmful, especially on racial grounds. The organization has cited figures saying that in Scott County “1 out of every 22 Black children is detained, versus 1 out of every 457 white children.”

County officials have said they have an obligation to detain juveniles who are ordered held by the court system, and that it is better to have them in the community rather than send them to facilities in other parts of the state.

The new facility would essentially double the number of beds and replace a four-decade old juvenile facility in downtown Davenport that all sides agree is inadequate.

Other projects cited by the ACLU in its letter are in Maine, Arkansas, Arizona, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and Alabama. The Missouri project is St. Charles County’s plan to use $57.25 million to expand its county jail.

In Alabama, the state is building two new 4,000 bed prisons for men, with plans for a future women’s prison. It plans to use $400 million in ARPA funds, 20% of its total allocation, the ACLU said.

The ACLU says the federal government has gone after individuals for misuse of ARPA funds, including criminally charging more than 1,000. But it says the federal government hasn’t exercised the same kind of scrutiny with state and local governments.

“The focus on investigating and acting against those who have misused COVID-19-related funding should include state and local government entities, and not be limited to individual bad actors,” the ACLU letter said.

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Man convicted of selling fentanyl at St. Charles casino, causing three overdoses

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Authorities said three factors linked multiple overdoses that occurred within two hours in August 2020: fentanyl, the Ameristar Casino and Ledra Craig.

For the complete story from the Post click on the title at the top of this article.  Help support LOCAL journalism by subscribing to the Post Dispatch by clicking HERE

Missouri AG says lawsuit shows ‘dystopian’ ties of big tech, federal agencies to suppress speech

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Attorney General Andrew Bailey speaks Friday to the Missouri chapter of the Federalist Society gathered the Missouri House chambers. (Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent)

A “shadowy organization” in the Department of Homeland Security leads the effort to undermine free speech by coercing social media companies, Attorney General Andrew Bailey said Friday in a speech to the Missouri chapter of the Federalist Society.

In his first public speech to a nonpartisan audience since taking office Jan. 3, Bailey talked about what he calls “one of the most important First Amendment suits in a generation.”

Former attorney general Eric Schmitt filed the civil lawsuit in May alongside Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, alleging the federal government’s collusion with social media companies.

Schmitt and Bailey have published some of the evidence of the case, largely emails from federal officials asking social-media employees to diminish messages that health officials deem misinformation during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Each day we uncover additional evidence that leads back to a shadowy organization within the Department of Homeland Security,” Bailey said.  

The Federalist Society, a conservative legal group focused on the original interpretation and application of the U.S. Constitution, invited Bailey to give a keynote address at its annual conference, held in the chamber  of the Missouri House of Representatives. 

Bailey replaced Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Caleb Stegall who was unable to attend.

Members of the Missouri chapter of the Federalist Society applaud Friday as Attorney General Andrew Bailey begins a keynote address for the chapter’s annual conference, held in the chamber of the Missouri House. (Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent)

The organization welcomed Bailey with standing applause to begin his speech, which summarized the ongoing litigation against the Biden Administration.

“I have in my possession tens of thousands of documents and pages of deposition testimony that show we no longer live in the nation our parents inherited,” Bailey said. “We now have a historical epic characterized by a dystopian relationship between the federal government and big tech, social media giants.”

His office has deposed several top-ranking officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, who recently retired as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The attorney general’s office released the 450-page deposition of Fauci, and far-right influencers celebrated the AG’s litigation.

“Our work has only just begun and will not stop until we have routed out this vast censorship enterprise and all those who seek to steal our First Amendment liberties,” Bailey said.

He not only took issue with the federal government’s alleged role, but he also placed blame on social media companies – who he often referred to as “big tech” – in his speech.

“The collusion on the part of big tech social media is equally frightening, where woke corporations are designing algorithms and policies intended to stifle free, fair and open debate,” he said.

Jesus Osete, former general counsel for Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, told the Independent after Bailey’s speech that social media companies – while they are private entities – operate like a “town square.”

A woman in a black and pink blazer shakes the hand of a man in a suit. There is an ornate podium in front of them and red curtains behind

Jennifer Bukowsky, president of the Jefferson City chapter of the Federalist Society, greets Attorney General Andrew Bailey as he arrives Friday to speak to the society. (Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent)

“It basically touches everybody’s lives in our communications these days. So, it has become a modern town hall,” he said. “That’s why it’s so important and why there’s so many repercussions for how we’re going to regulate it, if at all.”

Applying The Federalist Society’s principle of thinking of the country’s origin, he said he doesn’t believe the United States’ founders would approve of the government suppressing speech.

Bailey spoke to the Federalist Society in a friendly manner, often using “we” and “us” pronouns.

“We know what they really want, and that is to label us a threat: any voice that doesn’t believe in climate change, any voice that believes that parents have a right to be involved in their children’s education and any voice that believes that a man cannot get pregnant,” he said.

Members of the organization reached out to shake Bailey’s hand on his way out of the chamber.

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U.S. mayors at the White House hear praise from Biden on rebuilding post-pandemic

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President Joe Biden speaks to mayors from across the country Friday during an event at the East Room of the White House. Biden hosted mayors who are attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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Ukrainians by the thousands arrive in states, but with a time limit

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A person from Ukraine holds their Ukrainian passport before being allowed to cross the San Ysidro Port of Entry into the United States to seek asylum on March 22, 2022 in Tijuana, Mexico. Nearly 200,000 Americans have applied to sponsor those fleeing the war. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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Planned Roadwork for Northeast Missouri, Jan. 23 Through Feb. 4

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Planned Roadwork for Northeast Missouri, Jan. 23 Through Feb. 4
Visitor (not verified)
Fri, 01/20/2023 – 16:45

HANNIBAL – The following is a list of general highway maintenance work the Missouri Department of Transportation has planned in the Northeast Missouri region for Jan. 23 – Feb. 4.
All road closures and planned roadwork may be viewed on the Traveler Information Map at http://traveler.modot.org/map/.
Inclement weather may cause schedule changes in some of the planned work. There may also be moving operations throughout the region, in addition to the work mentioned below. MoDOT asks drivers to work with us by buckling up, putting your phone down, slowing down and moving over in work zones.
Lewis County
Route H –Jan. 23-27, the road will be CLOSED to through traffic at Missouri Route 6 in Lewistown to Route Y between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. for pavement patching operations.
Macon County
Route J –Jan. 23, the road will be CLOSED from Alpine Ave. to one-half mile east of Alpine Ave. between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. for core drilling operations on the bridge over Mussell Fork.
Marion County
Route MM –Jan. 24-25, the road will have short-term CLOSURES at various locations between Veterans Road and Paulina Drive in Hannibal between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. for brush cutting operations. 
Monroe County
Route FF –Jan. 23, the road will be CLOSED to from Route PP to Route V between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. for pavement patching operations.
Route K –Jan. 23-25, the road will be CLOSED to from Missouri Route 151 to the Randolph County line between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. for pavement work, brush cutting and drainage operations.
Route V –Jan. 30 – Feb. 1, the road will be CLOSED to from Route FF to U.S. Route 36 between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. for pavement patching operations.
Ralls County
Missouri Route 154 –Jan. 25, the road will be CLOSED to from Missouri Route 19 to U.S. Route 54 between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. for pavement patching operations
Route H –Jan. 23-24, the road will be CLOSED to from Route HH to Route A between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. for brush cutting operations.
Shelby County
Route Z –Jan. 26-27, the road will be CLOSED to from  U.S. Route 36 to Missouri Route 168 between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. for pavement patching operations.
Winter is here!  Are you prepared?  The predictions for the weather this winter include a lot of snow, and MoDOT needs your help to stay safe.  Follow these safety tips to help us get through the season: Winter Driving Tips | Missouri Department of Transportation (modot.org).

Districts Involved

Northeast

Published On
Fri, 01/20/2023 – 10:44

Lane Closure Scheduled for Northbound I-35 at Mile Marker 25, Jan. 23-24

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Lane Closure Scheduled for Northbound I-35 at Mile Marker 25, Jan. 23-24
Visitor (not verified)
Fri, 01/20/2023 – 16:20

CLAY COUNTY – MoDOT plans to close the left lane of northbound Interstate 35, at mile marker 25 (Kearney, MO) for utility work and to move equipment in the work area on Monday, Jan. 23 and Tuesday, Jan. 24. This closure will be in place beginning at approximately 6 a.m. until 10 a.m. both days.
This work is part of a larger project, which is in partnership with the City of Kearney, MoDOT will construct a new interchange on I-35 at 19th Street (144th Street) approximately 1 mile south of Route 92.  The new interchange will cross over I-35 and will include ramps to/from I-35. The improvements will also include bike lanes and accommodate pedestrians with trail and sidewalk. 
For potential impacts to traffic, please review KC Scout cameras at http://www.kcscout.net or consult our real-time traffic partner, WAZE. Motorists are reminded to slow down and pay attention while driving in work zones. Not all work zones look alike. Work zones can be moving operations, such as striping, patching or mowing. They can also be short term, temporary lane closures to make quick repairs or remove debris from the roadway.
For more information about MoDOT news, projects or events, please visit our website at www.modot.mo.gov/kansascity. For instant updates, follow MoDOT_KC on Twitter, or share posts and comments on our Facebook at www.facebook.com/MoDOT.KansasCity.  MoDOT Kansas City maintains more than 7,000 miles of state roadway in nine counties. Sign up online for work zone updates or call 888-ASK-MODOT (275-6636).
 

Districts Involved

Kansas City

Published On
Fri, 01/20/2023 – 10:17