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March 16, 2009 March 16, 2009 Document Transcript

  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 1 of 56 Guest hopes to expand anti-chip law language ST. JOSEPH NEWS-PRESS by Alyson E. Raletz Monday, March 16, 2009 State lawmakers have returned to a debate that gets under the skin of privacy advocates. The Missouri Legislature in 2008 made it illegal for employers to force their employees to have microchips implanted for any reason. Well, the area politician responsible for the language that made it into state law is back with a more widespread proposal. Rep. Jim Guest, R-King City, is proposing legislation that would prohibit anyone from coercing another person into yielding to implants of any identification devices. HB 550 lays out penalties for violators, which include a $10,000 fine and then $1,000 each day the device remains implanted. Aside from being a violation of adults’ privacy, Mr. Guest said: “I’m very concerned about it being done to children who may not wish it later. Some hospitals are encouraging chips in newborns.” The bill wouldn’t make it illegal simply to be implanted, as anyone who willingly desired one still could obtain one. The chips often are promoted for their tracking capabilities during traffic accidents or child abductions. Mr. Guest proposed the bill in a House committee last week. A vote will take place at a later date. Schaaf’s own panel rejects his bill A House health care transformation committee voted down a proposal from its chairman that would help prevent patients from having to switch physicians because of insurance changes. Rep. Dr. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, “for the umpteenth time” attempted to persuade legislators to support an effort to stop health insurance companies from excluding health care providers from their health care plans. Dr. Schaaf said if physicians, pharmacies or home health care agencies are located in the geographic coverage areas of the benefit plan and are willing to meet the terms and conditions, insurance companies shouldn’t be able to discriminate against them. Often, he said when employers switch insurance companies or the companies themselves revise their plans, employees have to find a new physician or risk paying for their care out of pocket, thus destroying the doctor- patient relationship. “That’s horrible for the continuity of care,” he said. Insurance companies and other critics argue “any willing provider” legislation would drive up health care costs. Dr. Schaaf did see some success in his committee, though. Committee members voted up his “octo-mom” bill, which is intended to limit the number of embryos that can be implanted into a woman. HB 810 still needs a thumbs-up from a House rules committee before it can move to the floor for full debate. Tongue-in-cheek Rep. Ed Wildberger, D-St. Joseph, proposed a slash to Missouri State Fair funding last week, but he said he didn’t mean it. Mr. Wildberger, a House budget committee member, offered an amendment that would have transferred fair funding to state cybercrime task forces, which got cut out of the budget in 2008. Mr. Wildberger, who eventually withdrew the “tongue-in-cheek” amendment, said he offered it as a statement that the state should be using its dollars more wisely, contending that the task forces deserved more support. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 2 of 56 The budget committee supported an amendment from Dr. Schaaf to limit the finance fees on debit cards people use to collect their unemployment benefits to 85 cents. Missourians on unemployment now have to pay $3 every time they use the debit cards. Kruse confirmed Senators backed Gov. Jay Nixon’s local nomination for the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education. The Senate on Thursday confirmed the re-appointment of Lowell Kruse, a St. Joseph Democrat, to the board. Mr. Kruse has served as Heartland Health’s chief executive officer since 1984. His term on the nine-member board would end in June 2015. Heartland employs the Senate’s president pro tem, Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, as its marketing/communications officer. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 3 of 56 Mo. senators not living up to party stereotypes on earmarks By Bill Lambrecht POST-DISPATCHWASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF 03/16/2009 WASHINGTON — Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond is growing weary of being demonized by what he calls a "jihad" against the time-honored use of earmarks in Congress to bring money and projects back home to constituents. Sen. Claire McCaskill is growing impatient that Bond and others are unwilling to give up a practice she likens to "robbing Peter to pay Paul." Missouri's two senators present the bookends of thinking in a debate that reached a crescendo last week with President Barack Obama calling for reforms after signing an earmarks-laden spending bill. The Missourians defy typical labels in politics. McCaskill was one of a handful of Democrats to vote against the $410 billion spending bill, citing its 8,500 earmarked special projects as a main reason why. Bond, on the other hand, was among just nine Republicans joining the Democratic majority to pass the legislation. He did so after engineering more than $200 million in projects for the St. Louis region via the practice of attaching "earmark" requests outside hearings and other civics book methods of how a bill becomes a law. "The folks who count, the people of Missouri, have told me they appreciate what I have done for them," Bond said, responding to charges that earmarks are wasteful pork. In the spending bill that became law last week, Bond's earmarks included big outlays, including more than $100 million for lock-and-dam reconstruction and environmental work on the Mississippi River, as well as smaller spending projects such as $238,000 for the programs of the United Way of Greater St. Louis. "Some people have gone on a jihad saying that government bureaucrats in Washington should make 100 percent of the decisions about discretionary funds," Bond said. "I find that unbelievable. The government bureaucrats making those decisions don't know what those needs are in St. Louis. Or Potosi. Or Tarkio." Bond, who has announced he is retiring after his fourth Senate term ends in two years, was asked On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 4 of 56 whether he had read anti-earmark legislation introduced recently by McCaskill. He implied that he hadn't gotten to it. "I was busy sorting through my socks drawer," Bond remarked in an interview. McCaskill, not known for parsing her words, paused before responding to Bond's jab. "Kit and I have worked together well on many things, and I respect his long service. But this is just one issue where we're never going to see eye to eye," she said. But she quickly brought up Bond in referring to "honeypots," an insiders' term in Washington used to describe the generous allocation of earmarks to senior appropriators in Congress. "He is obviously in that kind of position of power," she said of Bond, third-ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee. "This idea that some nameless, faceless bureaucrat in Washington is passing out money if some senator or member of Congress does not come to the rescue is not accurate It's a specious argument," she said. McCaskill disputed critics who argue that if she does not embrace earmarks, Missouri will be denied its fair share of the bounty from taxes. Missouri projects can compete with other proposals, she said. And hundreds of grant opportunities exist for projects back home if members of Congress bother to look for them, she said. "If they spent half the energy on grants that they do on earmarks, they would be more efficient and get more bang for their bucks," McCaskill said. Despite the efforts by McCaskill and other would-be reformers — Obama among them — earmarking seems likely to continue as a way of doing business in Washington. Obama, who made liberal use of earmarks himself as a senator, called for more transparency and other reforms to limit pet projects during his presidential campaign. Obama called the $410 billion spending bill "imperfect" because of its earmarks but said he needed to sign the leftover legislation in order to operate government for the fiscal year already under way. Besides forcing the spending process into the open, McCaskill wants to ban private interests from receiving earmarks and give individual members more authority to object to earmarked projects from the floor. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 5 of 56 But even with her Democratic Party running the show in Congress, McCaskill acknowledged that her new legislation is unlikely to advance and that she will be forced to offer amendments to other bills if she hopes to get her way. "This is a very, very ingrained habit," she said. "This is something that members who do it feel is fundamental to their jobs. They absolutely love it." On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 6 of 56 Analysis: Mo. House budget chair amasses power By DAVID A. LIEB Associated Press Writer Twenty-nine members of the House Budget Committee met in a morning-to-midnight marathon in Hearing Room 3 to hash out the details of Missouri's $22.8 billion budget. But the real work already had been done behind the closed doors of State Capitol Room 306. That's the office of House Budget Committee Chairman Allen Icet, whose power over Missouri's money has grown stronger because of an evolution of House rules and tradition. As the control wielded by the House budget chairman has risen, the ability of other lawmakers to influence the budget has declined. So has the ability of the general public to comment about the proposed budget. Candy Young, a political science professor at Truman State University, has overseen the school's government internship program since 1991. She's appalled at the change in the way Missouri's budget is crafted. "The level of deliberation compared to the level of deliberation in the early '90s is so minimal that it is really frightening," Young said. According to the state constitution, Missouri's governor must submit an annual budget plan to the Legislature. And lawmakers are barred by the constitution from passing most other spending bills until they act on governor's budget recommendations. As recently as a decade ago, the chairman of the House Budget Committee introduced the governor's budget plan as legislation. Those bills were referred to various House appropriations committees specializing in such areas as education, agriculture and social services. If members of those specialized committees didn't agree with one of the governor's budget proposals, they had to get enough votes to amend the bill. The specialized committees then sent the budget bills to the House Budget Committee, which could make more changes before passing them to the House floor. Democrat Tim Green, who now is a senator from St. Louis, was the last House budget chairman to introduce the governor's budget as legislation in 2002. He also pushed for a rule change requiring lawmakers to cut from one part of the budget if they wanted to increase another part. The next year, Republicans took control of the House and new budget chairman Carl Bearden, of St. Charles, took greater control of the budget process. Bearden stopped introducing the governor's verbatim budget as legislation, instead using his own proposal as the initial budget bills. He also ended the practice of specialized appropriations committees amending the budget bills. Instead, he asked the committees to make mere recommendations. Those changes were prompted partly by politics. Bearden said recently that he disagreed philosophically with the budget put forward by then-Democratic Gov. Bob Holden. He also believed the appropriation committees had become so cozy with their oversight subjects that they were hesitant to make cuts. "They have a tendency over time to become advocates instead of appropriators," Bearden said. Subsequent Republican budget chairmen have built upon Bearden's precedent. In 2005, then-House budget chairman Brad Lager (now a senator from Savannah) did not introduce his budget bills until March 30 - less than a week before the House Budget Committee began four days of hearings on the bills. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 7 of 56 This year, Icet, R-Wildwood, introduced the last of his operating budget bills - for health, mental health and social services - on March 5. Six days later, the House Budget Committee considered, debated, amended and approved the entire budget in one long day of work. Although the public had a general opportunity to testify previously to the House Budget Committee, they had no chance to comment after Icet introduced his actual budget proposal. Democrats complained they also had little time to look it over. "When you give a legislative body hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to vital programs literally hours before they have to vote on them, they cannot reasonably be expected to make decisions, and the public doesn't have an opportunity for input," said Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, who served as House budget chairman in 1990s, left office and then returned this year to the House. Adding to Kelly's angst was the requirement for lawmakers to offset any spending amendment with an equal amount of cuts elsewhere in the budget. That requirement allowed Icet to set a cap on the state budget when he introduced his bills. And it meant Democrats were prohibited from trying to spend more of the federal economic stimulus money than Icet had proposed. Icet makes no apologies for the power he has amassed. "Historically, it's a matter of courtesy that the budget chairman introduces the governor's budget, because the budget bills originate in the House," Icet said. But Icet adds, "Why do you put something that you philosophically disagree with into your budget bill, and then you have to change your own budget bills. It really makes no sense to start that way." Although the governor constitutionally must propose a budget, the Legislature constitutionally must pass the budget. And ultimately, the governor can spend no more than the Legislature allows. "I don't think future budget chairmen will ever go back to introducing the governor's budget - it doesn't matter what party they are," Icet said. EDITOR'S NOTE - David A. Lieb has covered state government and politics for The Associated Press since 1995. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 8 of 56 Federal stimulus package impacting budget activities at State Capitol Sunday, March 15, 2009, 5:24 PM MISSOURINET By Steve Walsh The General Assembly's 2009 legislative session resumes next Monday following the annual spring break, and lawmakers face the task of completing work on the budget. Senator Kevin Engler (R-Farmington), the Senate Majority Floor Leader, says lawmakers are going to have to put together a budget without knowing how much federal stimulus money Missouri will receive. "We don't know if we've got money to complete mental health," says Engler. "We don't know if we're going to have to close down some agencies. We don't if we're going to have make huge cuts in services and education or higher education." Engler says lawmakers are having a tough time dealing with the unknown. "The federal government hasn't even written the rules to apply for it yet," says Engler. "So, it's very difficult to budget that money when you don't even know what the rules or the strings attached are going to be." On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 9 of 56 Missouri needs to strengthen, clarify Sunshine Law, some say By Tony Messenger ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH 03/15/2009 JEFFERSON CITY — For 18 months, a cloud of suspicion has blocked out some of the sunshine from the second floor windows of the Missouri Capitol. Investigators tapped by the attorney general's office tried to determine whether then-Gov. Matt Blunt and his employees were following the public accountability laws that require certain documents to be maintained as open records. In fact, some laws were being skirted, investigators argued in their final report, which was released this month after more than a year and a half of legal wrangling and political squabbling in which Missouri's Sunshine Law became front page news. So now, 18 months later, what has changed? The biggest change took place the day the investigation started, when Blunt announced he was implementing a new e-mail retrieval system that would preserve every e-mail sent from the governor's office. That system is still in use in the governor's office today, but it hasn't been expanded to other departments because of concerns over cost. But when it comes to clarifying which e-mails are public records, ambiguity reigns supreme. Blunt's attorneys have argued the former governor did nothing wrong, and even the investigators who concluded otherwise ended their report with a list of eight unanswered legal questions. Meanwhile, hundreds of other public officials in the Capitol continue to claim precisely what Blunt claimed when the e-mail issue caught him in this complicated legal web — that their e-mails are not public records. In the Blunt case, more than 60,000 pages of such e-mails were ultimately released to investigators and reporters. But even after the release of those e-mails, investigators and Blunt's defenders came to similar legal conclusions: mostly, that the law isn't all that clear. "Issues concerning Missouri's Sunshine Law and record retention statutes will continue to remain unresolved after the release of this final report," investigators Mel Fisher and Rick Wilhoit wrote. "Some, if not all of these issues have great public significance and are in need of resolution by the legislative or judicial branches of Missouri government." More clarity is needed to determine which records must be saved, said Leonatti, the court-appointed attorney who ultimately oversaw the Blunt investigators' final product. After going through a Sunshine Law court case that cost taxpayers more than half a million dollars and ended with no clear rulings, Leonatti has come to the conclusion that the state public records laws need to be changed. Part of the problem is that there are two key laws governing public records: the records retention act and the Sunshine Law. Those laws don't quite mesh. The record retention act describes how long government officials must maintain certain records, including those in electronic form. But it leaves implementation of the law up to specific guidelines adopted by those officials. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 10 of 56 The Sunshine Law is the law determining how public officials are to respond to requests for public information. It doesn't specifically mention e-mails. New Attorney General Chris Koster says the intersection of the two laws creates a real problem. Speaking to a new coalition of Sunshine Law advocates meeting Thursday at the University of Missouri, he said the records retention law, in particular, was "ambiguous." "It is absolutely arcane," Koster said, "verging on incomprehensible." Neither law has many teeth in terms of being enforced, one of the reasons prosecutors rarely seek to enforce the Sunshine Law in court. In the Blunt case, investigators sought records from his administration, which wanted to charge hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce the records. Ultimately, in a settlement agreement, the records were provided to investigators and the press for free. At the same time that case was going on, however, another, quieter e-mail battle has been brewing. For more than two years now — totally separate of the Blunt controversy — lawyers for the Missouri House and Senate have maintained that individual representatives and senators are not subject to the Sunshine Law. The argument, drawn from an appeals court case that determined individual school board members don't meet the definition of a public body, holds that legislators have no real power on their own, outside of the committees or other bodies to which they belong. Creve Coeur City Councilwoman Laura Bryant was dumbfounded last year when she found out that she couldn't see e-mails and other documents sent by her elected representative. She and some of her colleagues had been involved in a dispute with their representative and had sought his records. But lawyers for the House said the records weren't subject to the Sunshine Law. Numerous other Sunshine Law requests for individual House or Senate members' e-mails and other documents also have been denied in the past couple of years. The issue isn't one of politics. Requests have come from Democrats and Republicans, and the results are always the same: The Sunshine Law doesn't apply to individual members of the Legislature. But plenty of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle disagree with that legal interpretation. Former state representative Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, now a policy advisor to Gov. Jay Nixon, said he thought his records should be open. Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican and a former senator, also said such records should be public. In April 2008, then-Sen. John Loudon, a Chesterfield Republican, sent a letter to Nixon, who was attorney general at the time, asking for an opinion on the issue. Loudon, acting at the behest of some Creve Coeur city council members, wondered why public officials using public computers wouldn't have to provide their documents to the public. Jean Maneke, a lawyer for the Missouri Press Association, also asked for a ruling, in a letter calling it a matter of "significant importance." Nixon never issued such an opinion. So the question, like others raised by the Sunshine Law dispute with Blunt, remains unresolved. For Leonatti, the lawyer who was embroiled in the Blunt e-mail quagmire, the answer lies in the very body that says its members don't have to follow Sunshine Law. "We really need some help from the Legislature," Leonatti says. The Sunshine Law has "got to be brought into the 21st century." On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 11 of 56 To that end, Rep. Tim Jones, R-Eureka has sponsored a bill backed by the press association that would make a variety of changes to the Sunshine Law. But that bill makes no mention of fixing the e-mail problem. Why? "It was never discussed," Jones said. "The press association didn't bring that issue to me." Maneke said Jones' bill was meant to be a relatively non-controversial measure intended to provide a few minor fixes to the Sunshine Law. It opens up some Missouri Ethics Commission hearings to the public and it tightens language requiring public bodies to provide information in an electronic format, when requested. State Rep. Jake Zimmerman, though, has filed his own Sunshine Law bill that would address the issue of e- mails as public records. Zimmerman, a Democrat from Olivette, has bipartisan support for his bill, filed shortly before the deadline for new bills. Republican floor leader Steve Tilley — an important member of House leadership — is a co-sponsor. The bill would change the definition of "public body" to include any public official, statewide elected official, or state employee, who is "operating in their official capacities and using state-funded equipment for their official communications." That would mean representatives and senators would have to disclose their e-mails and other public documents to those who ask for them. Maneke hopes Zimmerman's bill gets passed on its own or attached as an amendment to the larger Sunshine Law bill. "We're going to have to find an answer to this question of individual members of the House and their e-mails," Maneke said. Bills are House Bill 316 and House Bill 699. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 12 of 56 Missouri behind in Sunshine test Missouri's in the middle among states providing public documentation. Cory de Vera News-Leader When it comes to making public documents easily available online, Missouri lags behind 25 other states, a survey found. Several groups supporting open government designed a state-by-state survey, testing the online availability of 20 different kinds of open records that serve the public good. Results of the survey were released to coincide with Sunshine Week, March 15 to 21. "Digital technologies can be a great catalyst for democracy, but the state of access today is quite uneven," said Charles N. Davis, in a news release. Davis is executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition. "The future of Freedom of Information is online access, and the states have a long way to go to fulfill the promise of electronic self-governance." Of the 50 states, Texas fared the best in the survey. It offered all 20 of the selected document types online. Mississippi fared the worst; it offered only four of the documents. Missouri fell in the middle of the pack, offering 11 of the selected documents online. Records offered online in Missouri included statewide school test data, Department of Transportation projects and contracts, records of political campaign contributions and expenses, disciplinary actions against physicians, audit reports, disciplinary actions against attorneys, fictitious business names, nursing home inspections, a database of expenditures, consumer complaints, and school bus inspections. Records that Missouri does not offer online at the time of the survey but that some other states were providing included environmental citations and violations, teacher certification records, bridge inspection and safety records, inspection records of child care centers, personal financial disclosure reports of officials, hospital inspection reports, school inspection and safety reports, records indicating which gas pumps were dispensing the wrong amount of fuel for amount charged, and death certificates. Online inspection records of day care centers might have been helpful to Theresa Gerald, she said. According to the survey, 23 states were providing day care inspections online, though Missouri was not one of them. Last January, Gerald had to scramble to find day care when the center that her daughter attended abruptly shut down. She said when searching for a center, she might have checked inspection reports if they were online. But it's also important to her that they are in a format she can easily reach and understand. "With all these government Web sites, they don't make them user-friendly," said Gerald. "If you don't have computer savvy, sometimes I really have to fish my way through, jump through hoops and back to get to the section I want." The survey did not grade states on how easy it was to find the records, according to the news release. In some cases a state might have been posting some transportation contracts online, but not all transportation contracts. Generally, if some information was posted in a usable fashion, the state received credit for having it up, the news release said. The study was developed by a group called Sunshine Week, the American Society of Newspaper Editors' Freedom of Information Committee, the National Freedom of Information Coalition, and the Society of Professional Journalists' FOI Committee. The actual state-by-state surveying was conducted by newspaper and broadcast journalists, journalism students, state press associations, and reporters and editors from the Associated Press. To see more information on the report findings, go to Sunshineweek.org. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 13 of 56 Armstrong joins racers for Tour of Missouri By Staff reports The Rolla Daily News Sun Mar 15, 2009, 10:41 AM CDT Rolla, Mo. - Event organizers and Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder on Friday announced the participation of Team Astana, widely considered the world’s top stage racing team currently, to the line up for the Tour of Missouri, an elite professional cycling race scheduled for Sept. 7-13. Joining that group is Tour de France winner Lance Amstrong, who is making a cycling comeback. Rolla is a stage finish for the race on Sept. 9. St. James is a stage start once again this year the next day. The Kazakstan-registered Astana team joins previously announced top United States-based teams Garmin- Slipstream and Columbia-High Road, one of Italy’s top pro tour teams Liquigas, as well as the Swiss-based Cervelo Test Team. Astana’s participation marks the fifth entrant into the 15-team field. “This is a big development for the Tour of Missouri,” said Chris Aronhalt, the managing partner of event organizer Medalist Sports. “To have the participation of Astana is yet another huge step for this race. The Tour of Missouri’s reputation is evidently very solid in the minds of the top teams and riders. To have Team Astana join the already great line-up of teams is good for all coming to see the 2009 Tour of Missouri.” Astana is the team of top Americans Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer. Their roster also includes 2007 Tour de France winner Alberto Cantador of Spain, who raced in the inaugural Tour of Missouri, and Tour de France podium finisher Andres Kloden of Germany. “We are very much looking forward to coming to the Tour of Missouri. We like to compete in the big American races,” said Johan Bruyneel, the general manager of Team Astana. “The Tour of Missouri is a very good race and will be competitive this year looking at the initial roster of teams. As always, we will bring a very good team to compete for the win.” The overall course will start in St. Louis and end in Kansas City, routing more than 600 miles of the Show-Me State. Last year an estimated 435,000 spectators lined the roadside for the event; while people from 145 countries watched live coverage via the world webcast of the event. A pair of Americans has won the first iterations of the race: Christian Vande Velde, who finished fourth overall in the Tour de France before winning in 2008; and George Hincapie, who won the inaugural race in 2007. Both Vande Velde and Hincapie are expected back with their Garmin-Slipstream and Columbia-High Road teams, respectively, this year. “To welcome Team Astana to the field is great for the state,” said Missouri Lt. Governor Peter Kinder. “Noting they are one of the world’s best teams will surely draw large crowds and media attention to our state. It’s another sign this race is growing into one of the premier cycling events in the world.” Race rosters will not be announced until next August but team directors are already talking about sending many of their top stars, said Aronhalt. The race will be contested over seven days and seven stages. There will be two circuit races (St. Louis, Kansas City), one individual time trial (Sedalia), and four point to point road races (Ste. Genevieve to Cape Girardeau; Farmington to Rolla; St. James to Jefferson City; Chillicothe to St. Joseph). Though a stellar world-class field was presented last year, the three-year-old race is expected to be even better as the Tour of Missouri was granted an upgrade to one of the top five-ranked events outside Europe by international and national federation’s for cycling. Additional teams will be announced in coming weeks. The Tour of Missouri’s premier sponsors to-date are Missouri Tourism, Missouri Farm Bureau of Jefferson City and St. Louis-based companies Drury Hotels, Emerson and Edward Jones. Industry sponsors to date are MAVIC, Yakima, and Hincapie Sportswear. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 14 of 56 Incentives for Tech Labs COLUMBIA - Senators debated a tax-credits bill that has provisions to create new jobs. Governor Nixon hoped to see this tax credit bill on his desk this week, but it looks like he will have to wait. The bill doubles the caps on an existing tax credit for technology-based companies. "In a company like ours, which is in a rapid-growth mode, job-creation is a top priority, and so when the state offers incentives that makes it easier for us to invest on those new positions, it facilitates our growth," Columbia- based ABC Labs VP Kristein King said. Senator Matt Bartle from the Kansas City area is opposed to tax-credit policy. He says this bill will only help a handful of businesses in the state. "The intent behind the bill is not to benefit certain interest groups," Senator Jeff Smith from St Louis said. "It is to create jobs and try to stimulate this economy that's so stagnant right now." This bill also creates tax credit for equity investments for research and development startup companies. "The part of our business that supports the early phases of drug development is suffering somewhat because of our economy," King said. "Our clients are not investing in that new R&D." As for ABC Labs, if the demands from its clients come back, it is ready to hire again. KOMU-TV Reported by: Suvro Bandyopadhyay Edited by: Jill Glavan Posted by: Becca Habegger On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 15 of 56 Nixon jumps in debate over Missouri Plan By Jo Mannies, Beacon Political Reporter Posted 1:15 a.m. Mon., March 16: Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has apparently opted to jump into the fray over the state's system for selecting judges. Bottom line: Nixon, a Democrat and a lawyer, sent out a surprise statement late Friday making clear that he likes the process just the way it is. That's in contrast with his Republican non-lawyer predecessor, Matt Blunt, who sided with those who wanted an overhaul that would give the governor more say -- and possibly give the state Senate a key role. But what's notable here is the timing. Nixon chose to weigh in a day after critics of the current system had testified at a state Senate hearing. Nixon's opinion is key, because it sends a signal that he'd veto any bill that the Legislature passes that would change the current setup, known as the Missouri Plan. That means the critics would likely have to hinge their hopes on a vote of the public, by getting their alternative on a statewide ballot. (There's a couple ways to do so that would sidestep the governor.) Nixon issued his statement at the close of business Friday, right after the state Supreme Court and the governor's office had sent out releases announcing that the state's seven-member Appellate Judicial Commission had just sent over to the governor a panel of three potential judicial nominees to fill a vacancy on the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District. It's up to the governor to pick one of them. The appointment will be Nixon's first major judicial selection. The nominees were selected by the seven-member commission, which is made of three people appointed by the governor, three lawyers from the Missouri and headed by the chief justice on the state Supreme Court. What was unusual was the electronic statement that Nixon chose to swiftly send out late Friday: “For decades the Missouri nonpartisan court plan has served as a model judicial selection process for states around the country. This method of selecting judges has stood the test of time by minimizing the influence of politics in the administration of justice. "The individuals whose names I received today are bright, qualified legal minds, and I look forward to interviewing each of these nominees personally. This panel stands as a testament to the fact that the Missouri plan has produced courts that have served the state well for decades, and which should be protected in the future.” Nixon's comments echoed a show of support a couple weeks ago by retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who offered up her generally pro-Missouri Plan views at a conference at the University of Missouri-Columbia. More notably, Nixon's statement came just a day after various critics addressed the Senate Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee. The panel was conducting a hearing on Senate Joint Resolution 9, sponsored by state Sen. Jim Lembke, R- Lemay. A similar resolution has been introduced in the House. (If passed by both chambers, such a resolution could go straight to the ballot without any action by the governor.) On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 16 of 56 Lembke has been part of an effort to revamped the Missouri Plan. Various proposals have offered different approaches. Some would give the governor a stronger voice, some would give the Senate veto power, and some call for public access to the records of the commission's interviews with the possible nominees. All would curb the clout of the Missouri Bar, which some conservative Republican critics allege is too liberal and too aligned with Democrats. Those testifying in favor of the resolution included former Blunt aide James Harris, now executive director for group called Better Courts for Missouri; Dan Pero, president of the American Justice Partnership Foundation, Prof. Stephen Ware, University of Kansas School of Law; Prof. William Eckhardt, University of Missouri– Kansas City; Bev Ehlen, president of the Missouri Chapter of Concerned Women for America and Janet Engelbach, legislative director for Missouri’s Eagle Forum. Harris said in a statement issued the day of the hearing, “We need to continue the dialogue regarding judicial selection taking place in Missouri now because the process is broken. "The trial attorneys continue to control the judicial selection process," Harris said. "They have created a niche business for themselves - by presenting their cases before the very same judges they are appointing to the bench, donating to their campaigns – they are a 'special interest' group, looking out only for themselves, not the common good of all Missourians.” On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 17 of 56 No profits means no tax credits to fund St. Louis-area projects By Tim Logan ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH 03/15/2009 Back in December, Stephen Acree got some good news. The nonprofit he runs, the Regional Housing and Community Development Alliance, helped win $1 million in federal tax credits to turn a desolated block of north St. Louis Victorians into 40 new brand new apartments. The competition was fierce — 24 St. Louis-area projects applied for the credits; six received them — and Acree's group had a hand in three of the winners. But these days, getting the credits is the easy part. The market to re-sell them for cash to fund developments has withered in recent months, shrinking by nearly two-thirds. And that has projects all over the St. Louis region hitting the brakes. "It's almost impossible to find investors right now," said Richard Baron, chief executive of McCormack Baron Salazar, a major St. Louis-based builder of affordable housing. "Very little multifamily housing is going to get built, because there's no money to do these deals." The use of tax credits to fund real estate development has boomed in recent years, and it's been essential to funding many hard-to-pull-off projects, using private capital to fund affordable housing and fix old buildings. Missouri last year issued nearly $162 million in credits for historic renovation, a program widely credited with helping revive downtown St. Louis. The national low-income housing tax credit program was worth $8 billion in 2007, and created almost 75,000 units of affordable housing. And a program called New Markets Tax Credits spends $3.5 billion a year to spur new business in poor neighborhoods. They work like this: A developer, nonprofit or housing agency applies for credits. Then they sell them for cash to investors. The cash helps fund the developer's project and investor use the credits to write down their tax bills. In past years, the biggest buyers have been big banks, investment houses and other huge, profitable, financial institutions. Lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac alone bought up to 40 percent of the low-income credits, providing a gusher of cash to build housing across the country. But Fannie and Freddie are off the table now. Once-big buyers such AIG and Citigroup are on life support. Profits — and tax liability — have evaporated and that gusher has slowed to a trickle. LOW-INCOME SLOWDOWN While the market for historic credits — so important in St. Louis — has held up, experts say, the slowdown has been severe in the low-income arena. Nine billion dollars worth of those credits were issued last year, says Dan Smith, a tax partner with Novogradic & Co., a San Francisco-based accounting firm that specializes in tax credit programs. So far, $3 billion to $4 billion have been bought; the rest of them are still on the market. And investors paid 70 to 72 cents on the dollar, far less than the 90 to 95 cents typical in better times. "That means that one-half to two-thirds of projects could not find an investor at any price," Smith said. And projects that could sell their credits generated less cash. It's a big change from just a couple of years ago. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 18 of 56 When Acree and others were working on the Crown Square redevelopment in Old North St. Louis in 2007, they were able to turn $2.7 million in historic tax credits into $3.1 million in financing from a private investor. A return of $1.16 on the dollar. "That's not happening anymore," he said. Instead, they're scrambling to close a financing gap — no easy feat these days. Maybe that means more debt. Or a secondary source of financing. It complicates matters, and slows a project down. Across Missouri, at least 30 projects that have been awarded tax credits are stalled right now for lack of financing, said Katie Watts, a government liaison for the Missouri Housing Development Corp., the state agency that runs the program. Watts was recently in Washington, where she attended a conference learning about measures in the recently passed stimulus package to help bridge that gap. The bill includes $2.25 billion to help cover the difference between what credits are worth and what investors will pay for them. And the U.S. Treasury has agreed to buy back unused credits from states, at 85 cents on the dollar, to provide cash state housing authorities can then give developers as grants instead of credits. PROFITS WOULD HELP Those measures could help, experts say, but the best way to revive the tax credit market is to revive demand for them. That means getting the economy back on track. In other words, profits. "The investment community really needs to make some money again, so they can use a tax credit," Thom Amdur, associate director of National Housing and Rehabilitation Association. There are still some buyers. U.S. Bancorp's Community Development Corp., which is based in St. Louis, bought more than $1 billion worth of credits last year for historic, low-income, New Markets and renewable energy projects, said chief executive Zack Boyers. It hopes to do the same this year, though Boyers acknowledged the credit markets make it hard to pull off as many projects these days. "We're very committed to the business," he said. It remains to be seen how many others will wade in. The St. Louis Equity Fund raises money each year from its investors — a mix of local banks and St. Louis-area companies — to buy credits and keep cash flowing into local development. It's in the midst of surveying members to see how much they want to spend in 2009, said chief executive John Wuest. Last year, its funds came to $25 million, and it would like to hit that mark again. "We just don't know if that's going to happen," he said. Back at the other end of that flow of money, Acree is still looking for financing to revive that blasted block on Dick Gregory Place. He's confident that he and his partners will find it, and find money for two other projects that have credits but no cash. Meanwhile, they're laying out the project. But in this climate, it won't be easy. "We're used to having to work hard," he said. "We'll just have to work a little harder." On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 19 of 56 MU officials plan budget in uncertain economic climate COLUMBIA MISSOURIAN By Nathan Winters March 15, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT COLUMBIA — University budgeting in these uncertain times is like steering a ship without a compass. The University of Missouri System's four campuses have been struggling for the past six months to gauge revenues and expenses in order to prevent a shortfall. First, the slumping economy nationwide led to caution in the legislature about state appropriations for the UM System. In early December, the Department of Higher Education asked state campuses to put together scenarios for 15-percent, 20-percent and 25-percent cuts. The urgency prompted UM officials to declare a hiring freeze in November and implement expense reductions in January. UM System President Gary Forsee additionally asked for the authority to impose furloughs, or unpaid leaves of absence. To ensure enough money was available to meet potential state cutbacks for this fiscal year, the administration sought an immediate reduction in spending on travel, entertainment and other nonsalary expenses. On top of that, MU is dealing with the impact of the largest freshman class ever, with a trickle-down effect over the next four years. The total student population is anticipated to grow by about 1,000 students next fall as well. In the midst of the uncertainty, the federal government passed a stimulus package that creates, in theory, a pool of funds universities could tap, especially for grant opportunities. Although federal stimulus money will help boost state appropriations, the General Assembly still must pass a budget for fiscal year 2010 — and that could happen as late as May. “This is the most volatile period, really, I can remember in the last 30 years here at the university in terms of not knowing where things are going,” MU Deputy Provost Ken Dean said. Dean and Tim Rooney, MU's budget director, are responsible for planning a budget for MU under conditions that change on a daily basis. So far, they have pinpointed $17.3 million in potential savings from the hiring freeze and targeted cuts. MU has a complex $1.7-billion budget based on income from the state, tuition, grants and revenue streams from hospitals and clinics, residence and dining halls, athletics and the bookstore. Those revenue streams make up about 53 percent of budgeted income, though it stays with the various services. The operations fund, which is financed by state appropriations and tuition, makes up about one-third of the total budget. Tuition money is a larger factor than state appropriations, Rooney said, which makes enrollment numbers an even greater concern than state funding. Based on current enrollment projections, he said he is expecting a flat freshman enrollment next year, but a growth of about 1,000 students overall. While smaller than the role of tuition, state appropriations are still a major part of the university's operations budget. For planning purposes, Rooney said he assumes the funding levels will be equal to this fiscal year's budget as proposed by Gov. Jay Nixon. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 20 of 56 “We assume that the pact with the governor of no reduction in state appropriations is going to occur, and yet, we have contingency planning in case it doesn’t,” Rooney said. Flat state appropriations still create problems for the budget planning process. "I think you need to realize that even if our budget next year from the state is flat, we have costs that are going to go up, such as increases in utilities," Dean said. "No matter how you look at it, those are expenses we have to be able to deal with next year." There is also uncertainty over when MU will actually find out their level of state appropriations. "In a good year, we don’t know that until May, and there are predictions that it could be longer than that," Rooney said. The hiring freeze was the first cost-saving measure to be implemented, he said, because about 70 percent of the university's expenses are allocated to personnel. MU has approximately 11,457 full-time employees, including the hospital and clinics and about 1,833 faculty, which includes assistant professors, associate professors, professors and faculty within the extension program and the hospital. According to MU spokesman Christian Basi, $8.32 million is currently expected to be saved over a 12-month period as a result of the hiring freeze. These predictions are a combination of savings from both administrative and academic staff. Basi said exact savings from the hiring freeze are hard to predict because of changing salaries and the possibility of positions being combined. The university's budget office is also in the process of capturing $9 million in nonsalary funds from the various divisions across campus. This amount is equal to 5 percent of the state appropriations for the current fiscal year, Rooney said. The $9 million is being put into a central account at the university and would be used in the event of a withholding from the state, he said. If no withholding occurs during the current fiscal year, it would be held during during the next fiscal year as a contingency. One nonsalary expense that will not see reductions is an area called cost of goods sold, an accounting term for items bought for resale. An example of this would be materials purchased and sold through the bookstore. “To tell them they have to cut back on those expenses doesn’t make any sense because then they wouldn't have anything to sell,” Rooney said. Auxiliary services such as Campus Dining Services and athletics will continue to pay overhead to the university to cover their share of administrative expenses. The nonsalary cuts allocated among the divisions were fairly proportional, except for Campus Facilities and MU Extension. The extension program absorbed a smaller cut because of a potential reduction in state appropriations. Campus Facilities, though, is assuming a bigger hit than other divisions because it can defer projects across campus. “Campus Facilities is taking a larger-than-normal share because they can defer large expenses such as renovations and repairs, so that helped reduce the cuts for the academic departments, which is what we always like to do,” Rooney said. He said the division was also able to take a larger cut because of early planning on its part. “To give them credit, before this whole thing started to unfold, even before the president’s nonsalary letter came out, they began thinking about delaying and pushing things to the back burner,” Rooney said. “They were wise enough to anticipate this.” On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 21 of 56 When asked about other options for savings, Rooney said all options are being considered but any further savings would begin to affect personnel more directly. “There’s not much left,” he said. Rooney and Dean stressed that savings reductions are being done in the best way possible to minimize the impact on students. “We are not going to do this in a way that compromises the student experience,” Rooney said. One area under consideration is the hiring of new faculty during the freeze to accommodate any spike or change in student interests. “We’re looking to fill really pressing needs where we need to meet the student demand,” Dean said. “That’s No. 1, it seems to me. We have to meet the student demand for courses and instruction.” The hiring freeze does allow exceptions, including the addition of faculty who would be funded by grants. “We have to be mindful of those opportunities,” Dean said. Overall, MU officials are still in the early stages of planning the budget for the next fiscal year. “I think it’s a responsible budget," Rooney said. "We’re in uncharted waters. It’s best to be conservative, it seems to me." On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 22 of 56 Missouri bill would curb drivers' use of text messages, but may be hard to enforce Monday, March 16, 2009 By Cherish West Southeast Missourian Missouri drivers could face fines of up to $200 for writing or reading cell phone text messages under a proposed state law. On Wednesday, Missouri senators gave first-round approval to SB 130, part of a larger transportation bill sponsored by Sen. Ryan McKenna, D-Crystal City. If the bill is signed into law, Missouri will join eight other states in barring texting while driving. Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, said the proposed ban against texting would be hard to enforce. Until an officer gets close enough to a vehicle to pinpoint what the driver is doing, Crowell said it will be hard to prove. But that is why, he said, Missouri already has a law against reckless driving. "Ryan McKenna makes a valid point that text messaging while driving is dangerous," Crowell said. "I've seen a lot of things happen in cars that negatively impact one's ability to drive. That's why we have more or less the catch-all law that says if you are operating a car in a careless and imprudent way, you will be ticketed." Missouri's careless and imprudent driving law says drivers must exercise the highest degree of care so as to not injure anyone or damage their property. "I think that's the best way to regulate this, rather than go into the Missouri statutes and write out every little thing that constitutes bad driving," Crowell said. Missouri's statute against careless and imprudent driving addresses the larger issue of driver inattention. Lt. John Hotz, spokesman for the Missouri State Highway Patrol, said inattention continues to be the leading cause of fatal crashes in Missouri. "Basically anything we do while we drive besides drive can take away our attention," Hotz said. "Adjusting the radio, looking for a CD, talking to a passenger, tobacco use, eating and drinking." Hotz said he sees drivers doing everything from reading books to shaving to adjusting their hair and makeup. But as cell phones have become increasingly popular, they have become the No. 1 source of driver inattention, according to the National Safety Council. Twenty years ago, fewer than 900,000 people in the United States subscribed to wireless services, according to the safety council; few traffic safety experts mentioned driver distraction as a safety concern. Now, more than 100 million people use cell phones while driving, the council says. Hotz said cell phone use was listed as the type of inattention responsible for 12 fatalities, 516 injury crashes and 1,175 property damage crashes on Missouri roads in 2007. Since most people don't admit that they were on a cell phone at the time of an accident, Hotz said, the "numbers are probably low." A study by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis estimates 6 percent of vehicle crashes are attributable to cell phone use. The National Safety Council has recommended banning drivers from using cell phones, hand-held or not. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 23 of 56 While no state has such a ban, five states — California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Washington — have mandated the use of hands-free cell phones. Three pending Missouri House of Representative bills would require drivers to use their phones with an earpiece or a speaker rather than holding them to their ears. But Pam Fischer, director of the New Jersey Division of Highway Safety, is no fan of that alternative. "Any phone conversation, whether it's hand-held or hands-free, is distracting and can instantly take a driver's mind and eyes off the road," she said in a March 2 news release, which said 1,421 New Jersey crashes in 2007 involved hands-free talking. In the first 11 months since New Jersey's ban went into effect, more than 108,000 tickets were issued. University of Utah researchers found that cell phone users at the wheel behaved just like drunken drivers. Being on the phone while driving delayed the ability to brake safely and caused more accidents. But unlike other traffic safety issues such as drunken driving, there are reasons to allow phones in the car. Phones help drivers stay in touch with family, make and change plans, promote on-the-road safety programs such as the Amber Alert system or provide assistance in an emergency. Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association defends drivers' use of the phones, because they say more than 200,000 emergency calls are placed on wireless phones every day. All the proposed Missouri bills would excuse drivers who use their phones for emergencies. Sam Licklider, lobbyist for the Missouri Association of Realtors, said he agrees that texting while driving is dangerous, but he opposes the hands-free legislation. He said he's seen bigger issues than cell phones, from people driving down Interstate 70 reading the newspaper to others disciplining their children. "It seems strange to pick out one thing and place a ban on it. Especially something like cell phones that are used pervasively in the U.S. in all forms of business," he said. "What is the difference between having a conversation with a person seated next to you in the car and having a conversation on the cell phone?" The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website notes that a passenger could alert a driver to a potential hazard, while a person on the other end of the phone cannot. If any of the bills are approved before Missouri General Assembly session ends May 15, they would take effect Aug. 28. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 24 of 56 Hobbs forms Senate committee CAPITOL CALLING-ROSENBAUM Earlier, I blogged about how Rep. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, had formed a committee to run for the 18th District Senate seat. Last week, another Republican lawmaker filed a committee for a potential state Senate run. Rep. Steve Hobbs, R-Mexico, filed papers with the Missouri Ethics Committee to raise money for a challenge to Sen. Wes Shoemyer, D-Clarence. Hobbs, a close ally of House Speaker Ron Richard, R-Joplin, is the lone Republican state representive representing Boone County. The formation of a new committee, of course, doesn't equate to a declaration of candidacy. That won't be known until next year. The 18th District Senate race was the most expensive and competitive contest in the 2006 election cycle. Shoemyer defeated then-state Rep. Bob Behnen, R-Kirksville, by a small margin. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 25 of 56 Farmers reap loss of trust By Phillip O'Connor ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH 03/15/2009 Martinsburg, Mo. -- Like the railroad tracks that cut through the center of this quiet farm town, a Wall Street- style financial scandal is dividing many who live here. A trusted advisor delivered above-average returns to a growing number of clients for a few years until one day, almost without warning, the scheme collapsed, and some of the investors were jilted. This wasn't a slick tycoon who manipulated stock portfolios, but a well-liked farm wife who bought and sold the corn, soybeans and wheat grown by her friends and neighbors. Now, just like those who trusted Bernard Madoff, who pleaded guilty last week to bilking investors of billions, many of the hundreds of farmers who trusted Cathy Gieseker face financial disaster. Late last month, state authorities seized the assets of T.J. Gieseker Farms and Trucking after a routine audit raised several red flags about Gieseker's grain-trading business. Both the Audrain County prosecutor and the attorney general's office are considering criminal charges and civil action. "It's kind of like the Midwest Madoff to a certain extent," Department of Agriculture official Chris Klenklen said. "There's a lot of indications that a lot of fraud was involved." Gieseker transported crops from grain farmers, promising that she would later pay them a high return for their yield. And, for a while, she delivered on her word. But the collapse of her company has many folks in northeastern Missouri speculating that Gieseker was operating a pyramid scheme, whereby she used money from new investors to pay higher returns to earlier investors. So far, more than 140 farmers expect to be hit with losses that could total more than $15 million. Over the past decade, fewer than 100 Missouri farmers have been victims of grain fraud. That number could more than double with the Gieseker case, Klenklen said. Soon after the state seizure of her company, Gieseker was hospitalized for an undisclosed treatment. She could not be reached for comment. "She's right now trying to sort out kind of what the state is alleging," said her attorney, Travis Noble, who said Gieseker was living at an undisclosed location. "She has a pretty compelling story about what transpired," Noble said. "I can't really say yet what that is. (It) is something that is not her fault. The truth will come out." 'TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE' Gieseker, 44, grew up in the area. She serves on the local school board and was active with her two daughters in 4-H. Acquaintances said there were no indications she lived a lavish lifestyle. Known for a salty tongue, she lives in a modest farm home off a gravel road a few miles north of town. She drives a Ford Expedition. She did most business by phone from a home office that shared space with a washer and dryer. "She spent some money, but not to the tune of millions of dollars," said Steve Hobbs, a farmer who grew up with Gieseker and her family. Gieseker and her husband ran the grain and trucking business for more than a decade before he died in 2007 from cancer. That year, the company reported about $30 million in sales, making it one of the largest companies of its kind in Missouri. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 26 of 56 Gieseker's company would promise to pay farmers for their grain in advance. In some cases, she paid 30 percent above what the area elevators were paying. Once delivered and sold, a grain elevator company would pay Gieseker, who then would issue a check to the farmer. "Her business plan worked real well as long as the grain prices were going up," Klenklen said. "But when the prices dropped like they have the last six months, that operation doesn't seem to work very well." Even many who lost substantial amounts say Gieseker alone can't be responsible and point fingers at Archer Daniels Midland, the giant grain company. Farmers said Gieseker often told them she was doing business with ADM, which seemingly enhanced her credibility. "Everybody assumed she had a contract with ADM, and the volume she did is why she could pay a higher price," said Derek Stuckenschneider, who claims Gieseker owes his grandfather $10,000 for soybeans. ADM said it did business with Gieseker but had no forward contracts with her company that would have guaranteed her a price for future deliveries. Any grain she sold the company would have been purchased at the spot price on the day it sold. Farmers should have been alarmed when Gieseker began delaying payments, Klenklen said. But no one contacted the agriculture department. He speculates some may have been reluctant to put an end to what had been a profitable venture. Some of Gieseker's customers stirred animosity when they boasted about the prices. Others, however, said they had their suspicions and avoided doing business with her. "Quite frankly, when people told me the deals they were getting, I thought it was too good to be true," said Hobbs, a Republican House member. "When I can't figure out how to get even close to that price, ... something had to be going on." Still, as word of the profits spread, so did the number of Gieseker's customers. Eventually, she had a client base that covered an area east of Highway 63 and north of Interstate 70 and stretching into Illinois. "The whole thing boiled down to greed," said Bill Fennewald, another business owner in town. "Somebody is scared somebody else is getting something that they're not." 'A HELL OF A SALESMAN' On a damp, overcast morning last week, farmers in blue jeans and ball caps, many carrying briefcases or large manila envelopes, trickled into the Knights of Columbus Hall to file claims for their losses with the department of agriculture. Many didn't want their names published. "I don't want people to know how stupid I am," one farmer explained. During the three days the department spent in town, 142 farmers filed such claims, and officials expect to receive more before a March 31 deadline. In a close-knit community where families date back generations and reputations are guarded, many farmers speculated that some won't even bother. "They'd rather lose the money than be embarrassed," Hobbs said. Klenklen, the agriculture department official, said he was unnerved to find that so many farmers lacked signed agreements that guaranteed the prices Gieseker promised. "I'm going to commit to sell all my crops to you for the next four years and I don't need anything in writing from you?" Klenklen said. "I struggle with that. She must have been a hell of salesman." So far, state officials have recovered about $100,000 owed to Gieseker for grain she delivered. The state also collected a $297,000 letter of credit required for her grain dealer's license. Gieseker was able to empty a $560,000 company bank account before the state could seize the money, Klenklen said. Investigators are looking for any assets to sell. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 27 of 56 "Our priority is to get as much money back for the farmers as possible," said Travis Ford, spokesman for Attorney General Chris Koster. "We'll worry about punishments and penalties down the road." Most farmers said they expected to receive pennies on the dollars for their losses. "Like suing the tooth fairy," one farmer said. The loss of income comes at a crucial time, when taxes are due and many are just weeks away from planting corn. Some farmers said they were cutting back on expenses, putting off equipment purchases and meeting with lenders. When grain prices soared last summer Linus Rothermich, who farms 900 acres in Callaway County, agreed to sell almost his entire crop to Gieseker for $358,000, substantially more than anyone else was offering. After he delivered the grain and a week before he expected to collect, the state seized the company. "If I had a check from her, I'd have all my debts paid, money to pay taxes and maybe even enough to start thinking about putting some money away for retirement," Rothermich said. Rothermich, 44, said he had had to take out a loan against land he had finished paying off six years ago, to continue farming. "Now I'm in a deep hole to dig out of." 'NEIGHBOR AGAINST NEIGHBOR' If the losses are as large as rumored, many expect farmers will be forced to sell land or other assets, restructure loans or worse. "Now they're in a situation of talking with their banker about whether they can even go to the field," Klenklen said. Under bankruptcy laws, a judge could seek to recoup millions of dollars that Gieseker paid to farmers in the last 90 days, a time of year when large amounts of money change hands in the grain business. "If that happens, it's going to pit neighbor against neighbor," Klenklen said. "It has to be a dilemma that everybody has on their minds." Even more unsettling to some, if fraud is discovered, the court could go back and seek to recover even more money that Gieseker paid out. "There's a lot of uncertainty," Hobbs said. "It's just a mess. An absolute mess." Meanwhile, Hobbs wants a task force named that would discuss the establishment of a fund to cover such losses and legislation that would raise the minimum bond requirement for the state's 400 or so grain dealers, about half of which are elevators. Regardless of the outcome, many say the controversy is bound to change the way business is done in a community where for as long as anyone can remember a person's word was considered his or her bond. Said Hobbs: "Unfortunately, the community will be the worse for it because the amount of trust people put in people's words has been shaken really hard." On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 28 of 56 New state militia document in question The Associated Press Columbia -- A new document meant to help Missouri law enforcement agencies identify militia members or domestic terrorists has drawn criticism for some of the warning signs mentioned. The Feb. 20 report called "The Modern Militia Movement" mentions such red flags as political bumper stickers for third-party candidates, such as U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, who ran for president last year; talk of conspiracy theories, such as the plan for a superhighway linking Canada to Mexico; and possession of subversive literature. "It seems like they want to stifle political thought," said Roger Webb, president of the University of Missouri campus Libertarians. "There are a lot of third parties out there, and none of them express any violence. In fact, if you join the Libertarian Party, one of the things you sign in your membership application is that you don't support violence as a means to any ends." But state law enforcement officials said the report is being misinterpreted. Lt. John Hotz of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said the report comes from publicly available, trend data on militias. It was compiled by the Missouri Information Analysis Center, a "fusion center" in Jefferson City that combines resources from the federal Department of Homeland Security and other agencies. "All this is an educational thing," Hotz said of the report. "Troopers have been shot by members of groups, so it's our job to let law enforcement officers know what the trends are in the modern militia movement." But Tim Neal, a military veteran and delegate to last year's state GOP convention, was shocked by the report's contents. "I was going down the list and thinking, 'Check, that's me,"' he said. "I'm a Ron Paul supporter, check. I talk about the North American union, check. I've got the 'America: Freedom to Fascism' video loaned out to somebody right now. So that means I'm a domestic terrorist? Because I've got a video about the Federal Reserve?" On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 29 of 56 ‘Fusion center’ data draws fire over assertions Politics, banners seen as suspect. COLUMBIA DAILY TRIBUNE By T.J. Greaney Saturday, March 14, 2009 Tim Neal of Miller County was shocked recently when he heard a radio program about a strategic report compiled by state and federal law enforcement agencies to combat terrorism. On the Web ● Controversial law enforcement report outlines Missouri 'militia' habits Titled “The Modern Militia Movement,” the report is dated Feb. 20 and designed to help police identify militia members or domestic terrorists. Red flags outlined in the document include political bumper stickers such as those for U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, talk of conspiracy theories such as the plan for a mega-highway from Canada to Mexico and possession of subversive literature. But when Neal read the report, he couldn’t help but think it described him. A military veteran and a delegate to the 2008 Missouri Republican state convention, he didn’t appreciate being lumped in with groups like the Neo- Nazis. “I was going down the list and thinking, ‘Check, that’s me,’ ” he said. “I’m a Ron Paul supporter, check. I talk about the North American union, check. I’ve got the ‘America: Freedom to Fascism’ video loaned out to somebody right now. So that means I’m a domestic terrorist? Because I’ve got a video about the Federal Reserve?” Blogs and Web sites frequented by people interested in civil liberties issues have been overloaded in recent days with comments from angry readers who view the document as a precursor to an American KGB spying on U.S. citizens. “The government is out of control, we are just trying to survive,” wrote one poster who identified himself as John Adams. But state law enforcement officials said the report is being misinterpreted. Lt. John Hotz of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said the report was compiled by the Missouri Information Analysis Center based in Jefferson City and comes purely from publically available, trend data on militias. Hotz said MIAC, which opened in 2005, is a “fusion center” that combines resources from the federal Department of Homeland Security and other agencies. It was set up to collect local intelligence to better combat terrorism and other criminal activity, he said. “All this is an educational thing,” Hotz said of the report. “Troopers have been shot by members of groups, so it’s our job to let law enforcement officers know what the trends are in the modern militia movement.” The report’s most controversial passage states that militia “most commonly associate with third-party political groups” and support presidential candidates such as Ron Paul, former Constitutional Party candidate Chuck Baldwin and Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate last year. Hotz said using those or similar factors to determine whether someone could be a terrorist is not profiling. He said people who display signs or bumper stickers from such groups are not in danger of harassment from police. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 30 of 56 “It’s giving the makeup of militia members and their political beliefs,” Hotz said of the report. “It’s not saying that everybody who supports these candidates is involved in a militia. It’s not even saying that all militias are bad.” Not everybody agrees. At a “Tea Party” to protest wasteful government spending Thursday in Flat Branch Park, several people displaying the Revolutionary War-replica “Don’t Tread On Me” flag were upset to learn the MIAC report lists the banner as a “militia symbol.” “That’s insane,” said Doug Wendt looking at the MIAC document. “That is not a militia symbol. That is American history. This is historic. The only animosity” American colonists “ever directed with this was towards England.” Roger Webb, president of the University of Missouri campus Libertarians, also took offense. “It’s absolutely obscene,” he said of the report. “It seems like they want to stifle political thought. There are a lot of third parties out there, and none of them express any violence. In fact, if you join the Libertarian Party, one of the things you sign in your membership application is that you don’t support violence as a means to any ends.” Neal, who has a Ron Paul bumper sticker on his car, said the next time he is pulled over by a police officer, he won’t know whether it’s because he was speeding or because of his political views. “If a police officer is pulling me over with my family in the car and he sees a bumper sticker on my vehicle that has been specifically identified as one that an extremist would have in their vehicle, the guy is probably going to be pretty apprehensive and not thinking in a rational manner,” Neal said. “And this guy’s walking up to my vehicle with a gun.” On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 31 of 56 Unruly fans who don't keep rage in check face jail time, stiffer fine under proposed law By Susan Weich ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH 03/15/2009 At 6 feet 4 inches tall and 330 pounds, Steve Hodges is a pretty intimidating figure. But in 40 years of officiating, he has taken his share of abuse from fans. "One time I had a mother of a player on a varsity girls basketball team follow me almost all the way into the dressing room, cursing me and telling me I was the worst she'd ever seen," he said. "I told her 'I'm getting ready to shower, so unless you want to scrub my back, you're going to have to leave.' " Hodges laughed when he told that story, but he and other officials are concerned about an upswing in bad behavior. Hodges, a Democratic state representative from southeastern Missouri, is co-sponsor of a bill with Rep. Jason Grill, D-Kansas City, that would stiffen penalties on anyone who attacks a sports official. Whereas most of these incidents are minor, the National Association of Sports Officials gets more than 100 reports every year about physical contact between coaches, players, fans and officials. In Missouri, the confrontations are classified as third-degree assaults and are punishable by up to a $300 fine. But Grill and Hodges want the penalty for an official's attacker to be up to $1,000 or one year in jail. Illinois already has a similar law. Hodges said he hoped this legislation was just the beginning of a discussion we should be having about youth sports in Missouri, and I couldn't agree more. As I've said in previous columns, my daughter plays ice hockey and softball, and I've seen some terrible behavior by fans, coaches and players. The discussion after numerous games has centered not on play but on poor conduct. Bob Cunningham, who is the referee in chief for USA Hockey's Central District, which includes Missouri and Illinois, said people today seem to have less respect in general for authority, whether it's political, religious or athletic. In a typical year, he investigates about a dozen physical assaults on referees, which fortunately have not resulted in any serious injuries. Even more prominent are the verbal attacks; Cunningham says they are the main reason new officials hang up their whistles. "This legislation is a step in the right direction, but my personal hope is that the penalty gets to a point where no one wants to go there because, after all, it's just a kid's game," he said. Officials say part of the reason parents lose sight of the fun factor is because they dream of a college or professional career for their athlete. In addition, youth sports have become very expensive and time consuming. In the case of my daughter, she plays on three different ice hockey teams. One of the teams has annual fees of about $1,400, and the equipment — including skates, sticks and a helmet — is an additional $600. Another of her teams requires monthly travel that over a season totals several thousand dollars. During hockey season, which runs for about six months, my daughter is on the ice at least five times a week. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 32 of 56 Grill said parents who have made similar investments often feel that they have a right to voice displeasure when their child or the team isn't playing well. "That's fine, but let's not take it to a level where we can't or don't care to control our anger," he said. A check of Internet sites, including YouTube, shows numerous stories and videos of sports officials being assaulted, including one video at a local high school hockey game last year. In that incident, the official fought back and got suspended, too. Fortunately, no recent attacks have risen to the level of one 15 years ago at a basketball game in Florissant, where the coach of a sixth-grade boys basketball team punched a referee in the face, knocking out the referee and two of his teeth. As the official lay unconscious and bleeding on the floor, a 12-year-old player threw a metal chair at him, breaking his ankle. The referee got a five-day stay in the hospital, and the coach got a five-year prison sentence. Parents who are getting hot under the collar at a game should think about the consequences of their actions, which include setting a poor example for their children and the others on the team. Players do mirror the sportsmanship not only of the coach but of the parents. "These are the times in a kid's life when they can use all the role models they can get," Cunningham said. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 33 of 56 Area school officials question Obama's education proposals Sunday, March 15, 2009 By Alaina Busch Southeast Missourian As state and local school officials await the details of President Obama's new education initiatives, they are questioning the resources needed to comply with the emerging policies. With his budget and education plan, Obama is proposing broad changes to the American education system. In a speech last week, he laid out several ideas, including charter school expansion, incentive pay for teachers and curriculum improvements at the state level. Obama targeted higher education with changes to student financial aid in his budget, proposed last month. The maximum Pell grant, which is awarded to low-income students, would increase to $5,500 for the 2010-2011 school year. The current maximum award is $4,371. The grant amount would be indexed to inflation. In what higher education experts say is one of the more controversial elements of the budget, Obama proposed to end the Federal Family Education Loan Program. About 4,800 Southeast students are enrolled in the program, which awards federally guaranteed student loans at rates set by the government. Students borrow from banks and the government pays the interest while the student is in school and during a grace period after graduation, said Karen Walker, Southeast financial aid director. As proposed in the budget, the government would loan directly to students, a move the administration said would save taxpayers $4 billion a year. Depending on how the program is reorganized, Walker said, there could be issues with the government assuming the responsibilities. "There is still a question of whether it would end up being cheaper for the government to run the entire program," she said. Students would still receive the same level of aid but the quality of service could suffer, she said. "There's no agency currently that could absorb that volume of work," she said. While outlining his education plans, Obama made several challenges to state education departments to improve curriculum and early learning programs. With the increased assessment and reporting required under the No Child Left Behind Act, Missouri resources have been strained, said Stan Johnson, assistant commissioner of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. "Any new thing that's coming down will certainly continue to increase our workload," Johnson said. He said the department faces employee cutbacks for next year and that resources could be spread thin with more mandates. "The degree of that strain is unknown at this point," he said. In an effort to increase student success, Obama proposed tying teacher wages to achievement while cracking down on teachers who perform poorly. Local school administrators said a merit-based pay scale for teachers is a complex policy to enact. "It's easy to talk about, but it's much more challenging to implement something like that more fairly," said Dr. Ron Anderson, superintendent of the Jackson School District. Schools have already become more accountable for focusing on student performance in recent years, said Dr. James Welker, superintendent of the Cape Girardeau School District. "I would rather see them do something to increase salaries across the board," he said. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 34 of 56 Lobbying seems impervious to ravages of recession By RICK MONTGOMERY The Kansas City Star At least one bloc of professionals can count on a real economic stimulus this year — and, go figure, President Barack Obama is promising to beat them down. They’re the people who lobby in Washington. Fighters for pharmaceutical firms. Protectors of petroleum interests. Water carriers for Wall Street. “They’re the powerful and well-connected interests that have run Washington for far too long,” intoned the president in a recent radio address. With government growing and campaign-trail promises poised to take flight, so too will the fortunes of the K Street crowd that Obama pledges to defeat, say groups that monitor them. “The more government gets involved in the private sector, the more businesses are going to spend hiring these lobbyists to lobby away,” said Craig Holman, a lobbyist. He works for the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. Never mind recent prohibitions on the wining and dining and the golf outings that Capitol Hill’s 15,000 registered lobbyists once showered on members of Congress. As a group, they just notched their busiest and most lucrative year ever. In 2008, according to records compiled by the watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics, lobbyists posted a 14 percent jump in earnings. Their clients spent more than $3 billion to schmooze and host events, grease re- election campaigns, draft legislation, pressure, push-poll and produce public-awareness ads. “I know they’re gearing up for a fight,” Obama said. “So am I.” Some observers say his peeved-populist approach could backfire. It was Obama’s presidential campaign, after all, that bested all others last year in soaking up donations from health professionals, drugmakers, banks and electric utilities. All now stand in the crosshairs of sweeping reform proposals, and “yes, they can” exercise their First Amendment right to lobby your lawmakers. Obama “has got to manage this carefully,” said John Samples of the Cato Institute’s Center for Representative Government. “He ran as a thoughtful, post-partisan candidate who wanted to change the tenor and divisiveness of Washington. He could be running the risk of harming that brand.” As if the president hadn’t provoked enough industry giants to come out breathing fire and flinging PAC cash, Attorney General Eric Holder recently raised the ire of the National Rifle Association — deemed by some as the lobby that outinfluences them all. At a news conference, he floated the possible resurrection of the assault- weapons ban that Congress let expire in 2004. He explained that it would undercut drug cartels in Mexico. “Of course, gun owners are going to be energized” to fire back, said NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam — just as they did against President Bill Clinton and other politicians, mostly Democrats, who pushed the ban in 1994. “We’d have to expend resources fighting a battle we all fought 15 years ago.” Sen. Claire McCaskill and other Democrats question whether the gun-rights lobby needs to be stirred up. “I think it’s counterproductive,” said Missouri’s junior senator. “Everyone around here is pretty hyperfocused on the economy.” Some of the leading lobbies on the health care front say they don’t expect the skirmishes to get that nasty. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 35 of 56 Weighing in for the mighty Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) — among the top spenders on K Street last year — senior vice president Ken Johnson put it this way: “As long as discussions avoid a single-payer system, or a government-run system, and the conversation avoids discussion of (drug) price controls … we believe President Obama has a fighting chance of getting it done.” Even “Harry and Louise” may stay out of sight. The $21 million ad campaign in 1993 — featuring a middle-age couple fretting over their medical options under President Clinton’s comprehensive-care proposals — is given credit for swinging opinion against the effort. Big-business groups mostly agree on the need to make health care more accessible. “It would be difficult to bring back Harry and Louise without recalling the contentiousness of 1993-94,” said Ben Goddard of Washington-based Goddard Claussen, which created the spots. “I’d advise against it.” Many Capitol Hill players have changed jobs since then: •Resigning as House speaker elect in the face of a 1999 sex scandal, Republican Bob Livingston of Louisiana wound up running a lobbying firm that now earns more than $40 million a year. •Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican and a former Senate majority leader, last summer strolled the halls of Congress on behalf of Belgian beer giant InBev, seeking to acquire St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch. •Former Democratic congressman Dick Gephardt of Missouri lobbies for coal interests. (Gephardt has his work cut out battling the “green lobby,” the fastest growing in Washington. The number of lobbyists paid to advance climate-change legislation has tripled in the last five years.) A 2005 study by Public Citizen found that 43 percent of the 198 Congress members who had left office since 1998 became registered lobbyists. On the day he bowed out of Congress in 2005, Louisiana’s Billy Tauzin became chief executive of PhRMA. Reported salary: $2.5 million. Just two months earlier, he helped steer into law the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 36 of 56 Missouri lawmakers propose limits on historic preservation tax credits By Virginia Young POST-DISPATCH JEFFERSON CITY BUREAU CHIEF 03/15/2009 JEFFERSON CITY — State Sen. Jeff Smith says he can't walk down his street in the Shaw neighborhood of St. Louis without seeing the benefits of Missouri's historic preservation tax credit. Many of the century-old homes on Flora Place have been renovated with help from the program, which pays 25 percent of the construction cost. Smith said his block captain told him: "I wouldn't have redone my house" without it. Smith, D-St. Louis, has been busy defending the tax credit lately to Senate colleagues. Last week, several Republican senators proposed a bill that would make the program subject to annual appropriations and cap it at $50 million a year. That would be a 70 percent reduction from the $170 million authorized last year. The proposal is sending tremors through the St. Louis offices of downtown boosters, the mayor, developers and banks. Scores of projects have relied on the credits to breathe life into areas such as the Washington Avenue loft district and landmarks such as the Old Post Office, Cupples Station and the Chase Hotel in the Central West End. Mayor Francis Slay said Friday that the credit "might be the most important tool in the renaissance of the city of St. Louis." He said it had spurred $1.8 billion worth of construction in the city, turning around deteriorating neighborhoods and business districts. But although preservationists have prevailed in past legislative skirmishes, this year promises to be tougher. Republicans, who control the Senate, are holding up Gov. Jay Nixon's jobs bill and say it won't pass unless it includes caps on all tax credit programs. "Nobody's debating" the merits of rehabbing buildings, said Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah. "We're saying we do not have unlimited resources in Missouri." SOARING PROGRAM COST The state has dozens of tax credit programs subsidizing everything from high-tech businesses to farms. Combined, they cost the state more than $532 million last year. When the state issues a tax credit, the treasury agrees to forego that amount of money. The recipient gets a voucher, which can be used to reduce income taxes or various business taxes. In most cases, the credits also can be sold to a bank or wealthy investor. Historic preservation is drawing the most attention because it is one of the largest outlays and one of the few programs that has no cap. It exploded from $2.5 million in credits being redeemed in 1999 to $140 million claimed last year. Over the program's 10 years, historic credits have cost the state $646 million. As a result, Missouri leads the nation in fostering investment in historic buildings, ranking No. 1 in a 2007 study by the National Park Service. More recently, the Legislature's Joint Committee on Taxation surveyed other states about their preservation efforts; 28 responded. None came close to the $140 million that Missouri spent. The two largest programs were in Virginia ($80 million) and Ohio ($60 million). There's no consensus on exactly how much the state benefits from its investment. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 37 of 56 To its admirers, the credit generates jobs, increases tourism and boosts income, sales and property taxes paid into state and local coffers. Sen. Smith told colleagues on the Senate floor last week that the state got back $1.78 for every $1 of tax credit. But that figure came from a state study that was six years old. The updated calculation by the Missouri Department of Economic Development estimated that every dollar returns only 23 cents. Jim Farrell, who lobbies for the Missouri Coalition of Preservation and Economic Development, said the 23-cent figure fails to take into account construction jobs, business for suppliers and spinoff benefits. "Where there was a vacant or underutilized building for 40 to 50 years, now it's turned into the Westin Hotel or lofts," Farrell said. "It doesn't account for that." Preservationists cite an analysis by Washington economist Donovan Rypkema, who concluded that the program had produced 40,000 jobs in a decade. Then there are intangible benefits that flow from cleaning up contaminated or crime-ridden properties and rebuilding housing where people can walk to shops and schools. Patty Maher, a general contractor, uses the tax credit to restore homes in south St. Louis neighborhoods such as Benton Park, Fox Park and Forest Park Southeast. "Every area I'm in was once a really bad, boarded-up area, and they've all come around in the past 10 years," Maher said. "Now, everybody wants to live there." WORK IN PROGRESS No matter how worthy the projects, Lager, chief sponsor of the Republican plan, said historic buildings should compete with other worthy programs for state money. "Go out and tell some guy who lost his job that we're giving 25 cents on every dollar to restore an old building when he can't feed his family," Lager said. In addition to capping the program, the pending bill would set a $25,000 credit limit for homes, base overall allotments to urban areas on population and bar recipients from drawing benefits from multiple programs for the same project. Preservation proponents say the bill would kill the program by creating uncertainty and drying up private financing. "If they don't know the credit's going to be there, they're just not going to be able to do the project," said Debbie Sheals of the Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation. Countered Sen. Jim Lembke, R-Mehlville: "We have a pie that's only so big." Senators invited critics to look over their bill and send in suggestions. But historic preservation coalition members balk at any talk of compromise. "This is like asking which door you want to take to go to the slaughterhouse," said St. Louis attorney Jerry Schlichter, who helped draft the law setting up the credit. For his part, Smith said the $50 million cap was "irrational." To kill it, he promised to invoke the Senate's tradition of letting any senator talk endlessly. Said Smith: "I'll stand as long as I have to stand." On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 38 of 56 Missouri lawmakers' plan would cap ATM fees for jobless benefits By CHRIS BLANK/The Associated Press March 13, 2009 | 6:48 p.m. CDT JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri lawmakers have proposed capping bank fees that unemployed residents pay to withdraw jobless benefits using state-issued debit cards. About 100,000 Missourians — or roughly three-quarters of those receiving jobless benefits — receive their payments through MasterCard debit cards managed by Central Bank of Jefferson City. Others receiving the benefits use alternatives such as having the funds deposited directly into their bank accounts. Those using the debit cards can access their money for free at Central Bank and at Allpoint ATMs. Central Bank also won't charge for one withdrawal each week at other ATMs, though the bank that owns the ATM might. After that one free withdrawal, Central Bank charges $1.75 for each transaction, and the price gets even higher — up to $3 — if someone is trying to access unemployment benefits while in another country. To limit those fees, House budget writers this week added a provision to the state's roughly $22 billion budget that would cap ATM charges at 85 cents per transaction after the first withdrawal each month. State Rep. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, said he offered the cap to protect residents from what he called "outrageous" bank fees. Supporters of his idea went even further in criticizing the banks. "The banks have been taking people to the cleaners," said state Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia. But Schaaf's amendment doesn't limit the other fees that can be charged. For example, users can use another bank's ATM once per week to check their account balances, but they are charged 50 cents per transaction if they check it more than once a week. And if there are no deposits, withdrawals or purchases for 180 days, the unemployed worker is charged $1.50. Frustration with ATM fees has grown as more Americans are out of work and qualifying for jobless benefits. The Associated Press reported last month that 30 states have inked deals to provide unemployment benefits with banks that include Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and US Bancorp. The AP review found all the programs carry fees. In 2003, states paid out $4 million of unemployment insurance through debit cards, but by 2007, that increased to $2.8 billion. That's likely to continue growing and could top $10 billion by next year. In Missouri, the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations signed a two-year contract with Central Bank last April. Administering the debit card payments doesn't cost the state any money, and after the contract expires in 2010, it can be renewed for five more years. Labor Department spokeswoman Wanda Seeney said the state doesn't track how many withdrawals are made per person each month or how much the unemployed pay in fees. Analysts say a recipient uses a card an average of six to 10 times a month. Seeney said Missouri stopped writing paper checks to save postage and printing costs and because of security concerns such as having the payments lost or stolen in the mail. "The debit card is a faster and more efficient payment, and the workers still have the option of having their deposit put into an account," Seeney said. Central Bank did not immediately return a call seeking comment Friday. Several state lawmakers have raised concerns about the ATM fees, but at least one member of the House Budget Committee defended the program. "The processing fee for the ATM machine is an expense to the bank," said state Rep. David Sater, R-Cassville. "They don't make any money on those things; they lose money. They do it as a customer service." On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 39 of 56 Senate OKs special plates to foster tumor awareness, medal recipients THE ASSOCIATED PRESS 03/14/2009 JEFFERSON CITY — The Senate has approved special Missouri license plates for brain tumor awareness and recipients of the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal. Besides the registration fees, the brain tumor awareness plate would cost applicants $25. Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, says the plate would help educate people about brain tumors, which are one of Missouri's leading causes of death. The military license plate would honor those who received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal. The medal is awarded in many lesser-known military campaigns. Senators approved the new license plates 33-0 on Thursday. The bill now moves to the House. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 40 of 56 EDITORIALS … & Letters to the Editor Zweifel’s initiative He calls it “Invest in Missouri” COLUMBIA DAILY TRIBUNE By Henry J. Waters III Sunday, March 15, 2009 State Treasurer Clint Zweifel zigzags the state and leans on lawmakers promoting “Invest in Missouri,” his program to increase the return on state deposits in exchange for expanding the state’s linked-deposit program. Zweifel’s initiative is driven by a legitimate need to remove the cap on interest the state can earn on time deposits placed in Missouri banks. Recently this statutory formula has produced a return as low as .20 percent. Zweifel wants banks to pay usual market rates, currently about 2 percent. Without the “archaic” cap, Zweifel says, he would invest an additional $250 million in community banks and today the state would realize an increased yield of $10 million to $15 million per year. Missouri is only one of two states with such restrictions on the interest rate it can receive. Not surprisingly the banking lobby is fighting the change, and in Missouri the banking lobby often gets its way. So Zweifel is proposing a compromise. “Invest in Missouri” also would expand the linked-deposit program, which has the opposite effect on the yield received for placing state money in community banks. Linked-deposit has existed for decades under various names. First spawned by then-Treasurer Wendell Bailey under the moniker “MoBucks,” this scheme is a clever way for the political class to curry favor by passing out cheap money to local banks under the rubric of economic development. These subsidized loans are supposed to create local business development, an argument never proved. Of course, banks and their borrowers will take the 2 to 3 percent subsidy provided by the state and tout how much money changed hands, but the only sure effect is the loss of return to the state. Nobody tries to prove any business starts up solely because of the loan subsidy. Anybody can prove the state loses money in every one of these deals. However, linked-deposit is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future, so Zweifel is trying to expand its list of eligible business categories and streamline loan processing to encourage banks to accept removal of the deposit interest cap. The banks and their observant friends in the state legislature aren’t yet buying. Zweifel’s plan has been introduced in the House and Senate, but can it get past the banking paddling line? I don’t like the linked-deposit add-on, but the time deposit interest-rate cap should be removed. The treasurer probably would have had no more trouble promoting his cap removal without the linked-deposit bribe. The bankers regard their sweetheart rate cap as much more valuable than the changes in linked deposits. Since banks aren’t about to go for the rate cap removal, legislators will have to change the law over their dead bodies, an act of minor courage they should be able to muster, so adverse is the current law to the fiscal interests of taxpayers. So far, no such resolve is apparent. Zweifel is working hard to curry grass-roots support. Maybe he will pull it off this session, but chances are he will have to extend his selling spree into another season. Give him credit for pushing the rate cap issue. As his campaign goes forward, let him consider concentrating on this important issue alone without making linked- deposit even worse than it is. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 41 of 56 On the corners, anti-stimulus revolution carries on MIKE HENDRICKS COMMENTARY KC STAR PRIME BUZZ BLOG Tea bags,” he bellowed. “Anybody want a tea bag to hold up?” The man, an older gent, reached into a Lipton box and passed out props for Saturday’s Johnson County tea party as horns honked in support of more than 100 street-corner protesters. A woman in an SUV rolled down her window and hollered. “Get his a-- back to Kenya; we don’t want him here,” she said and gave a thumbs up as she drove off. Saturday morning. Mission Road and 95th Street. Different location from last week and the weeks before. No telling where they’ll turn up next weekend as the anti- stimulus revolution soldiers on. Now, if you’ve been paying attention to the polls, then you know that 60 percent of Americans approve of the job President Barack Obama is doing, while 30 percent disapprove. (The remaining 10 percent were napping or something.) We don’t see demonstrations to counter the one in old Leawood the other day. Probably because there’s trepidation about the stimulus package, even among those of us who pray that its passage last month will end the economic bloodletting. However, stimulus opponents nurse no uncertainty. So for four weekends running, they’ve gathered with signs that say “No to Socialism” or something more elaborate, such as this one drawn up by Kevin Frye of Overland Park: “Obama job hunting ad. Looking for community organizer w/communist views. No experience necessary. Smokers Ok. Ask for Nancy.” Frye handed out several others with varying slogans to anyone who forgot a sign. “I wake up every night thinking about this crap,” he said. Most of the dozen or so folks I spoke with are worried about the future of the country, especially if Congress authorizes more spending to augment the $787 billion in stimulus money now flowing to the states. I asked several folks what they would do to keep us from sinking into another Great Depression. “Let’s ride it out like we always do,” said Wendy, a stay-at-home mom from Independence, who wouldn’t give her last name. Look what “they” did to Joe the Plumber, she said. Her friend Carolyn, a Lee’s Summit landlord, agreed. “If we’re going to hand out money at all, let’s hand it out to the American people.” she said. That’s right, Wendy said. “Even if people use it pay off their credit cards, that’d free them to spend money on other things.” The first two Kansas City tea parties were directed at congressional Democrats who voted for the stimulus package, or “porkulus” as tea party-goers call it. Rep. Dennis Moore’s office in Overland Park on Feb. 21 and Sen. Claire McCaskill’s headquarters in Westport during a snowstorm seven days later. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 42 of 56 But for the past two weeks, people carrying signs just show up no place special when word goes out. The organizer of Saturday’s event, a financial adviser named Clint Anderson, claimed no affiliations. “I’m not part of any organized anything,” he said, except for the great many Americans who are fortunate to have a job. Not everyone in the crowd was so lucky. “We have four people living in my house and none of them are employed,” said Mike Doyle of Prairie Village, who lost his job in November as a quality supervisor at Gear for Sports. Then why, I asked, was he holding a sign that said, “I want my country back, and my money”? Certainly a guy in his spot might benefit from the stimulus, if it works the way it is supposed to. “My problem is that I believe in capitalism,” he said. Don’t most of us? Though right now, it seems to me, capitalism could sure use a kick in the whatsit before we all go broke. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 43 of 56 Our opinion: Agriculture underpins regional economy ST. JOSEPH NEWS-PRESS Sunday, March 15, 2009 During National Agriculture Week, which begins today, we are called to better understand the contributions of the farmers, ranchers, researchers, conservationists and agribusiness entrepreneurs who collectively are major players in our economy. Agriculture employs more than 1 out of 10 workers in Missouri — and likely more than that in Northwest Missouri. The value of the state’s crop, livestock, processing and other agricultural sectors accounts for 7 percent, or $12.4 billion, of the gross state product. On Friday, supporters of agriculture will gather for the annual Farm/City Breakfast in St. Joseph, a city that understands how one is dependent on the other. Among the messages to be shared, there will be a renewed call for every American to: Understand how food and fiber are produced. Though misunderstandings persist, the process is better understood here than on Wall Street or in Washington, D.C. Policymakers would do well to remember that the farmers were among the first environmentalists and advocates for humane treatment of animals. No farmer or rancher of merit has ever achieved lasting success by abusing the land, water or livestock that provide their livelihood. Appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products. The last few years have brought attention to food safety and the instances when somehow the food supply has been compromised. Again, the vast majority of farmers who make their living from providing foodstuffs to the world are not the problem, but in fact are critical to finding solutions for getting products to retail outlets in uncompromised condition. Value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy. We return to this thought again and again. Without a strong agricultural base, this region’s present and future would be much less robust and promising. There are dozens of ideas for how to help agricultural interests, but here’s one of the best: Make agricultural policies more predictable so that participants can make long-term investments. Another top concern: Diversified smaller farmers and ranchers need to be forever valued as critical to a sustainable rural economy. Acknowledge and consider career opportunities in the agriculture, food and fiber industry. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education provides insights: The average annual wage of an experienced agricultural biochemist is $104,500; for an experienced farm or ranch manager, $83,700; for an experienced agricultural inspector, $46,300. “This is a diverse industry that includes everything from the farm gate to retail to the plate,” says Dr. Terry Heiman, DESE’s director of agricultural education. “It also includes the conservation and improvement of our natural resources. There are careers in research and in providing new technologies to producers and food manufacturers to ensure our nation’s and world’s well-being.” It’s heady stuff, and yet it’s true. Agriculture — far from our financial and political capitals — matters to the country, and will for years to come. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 44 of 56 Choosing judges Tweak the ‘Missouri Plan’ COLUMBIA DAILY TRIBUNE By Henry J. Waters III Saturday, March 14, 2009 Recently a move has been afoot to scuttle the so-called Missouri Plan for selecting judges on the Missouri Supreme Court and appellate courts, a system originally designed to reduce the influence of politics in judicial selection and widely emulated in other states. Under the Missouri Plan, a panel of three lawyers and three lay members chaired by the chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court sends three nominees to the governor, who chooses one to fill a judicial vacancy. Conservative critics say trial lawyers dominate the process, resulting in too many liberal judges. Ideally, from their viewpoint, they want the federal system: The governor would nominate judicial appointees for confirmation by the state Senate, the most blatantly political method possible. Blessedly, this attempt to completely gut the Missouri Plan is failing, but they seek a constitutional amendment now under consideration in the state Senate that would go too far in that direction. It would reduce the number of lawyers on the selection panel, making lay members the majority, open their screening process to the public, remove the chief justice from the process and allow the governor to veto the first group of recommendations, causing the panel to send up another list. The best thing about these recommendations is the call for more openness, allowing public scrutiny of the panel’s full range of choices. Broad agreement exists on this point from both sides of the debate. The other proposals intend to produce fewer judges whom critics regard as too liberal. Close observers say the process delivers choices reflecting the general philosophy of sitting governors. Republicans might not particularly like an appointment by a Democrat, but next thing you know Democrats are registering similar gripes about a Republican chief executive. With its non-partisan process, the Missouri Plan is designed to mitigate such excesses. Nobody can reasonably say our high courts are unfairly biased in favor of trial lawyers. Conservatives can say it, of course, but if they want to affect judicial outcomes, they should head for the legislature, not the judicial selection process. It’s a fine idea to second-guess judicial selection, but not with intent to gut a basically good process in favor of one so much more easily manipulated by a political majority. Neither side should have such sway. Let us analyze the Missouri Plan and make it even more open and non- partisan if we can, but above all, let us protect it from the type of dismantling that current critics want. If the choice is between their current resolution and no change at all, now is the time to make no change at all. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 45 of 56 Earmarks Let’s hear it for pork COLUMBIA MISSOURIAN By Henry J. Waters III Friday, March 13, 2009 During the reign of George W. Bush — and I use the descriptor consciously — the use of good old pork barrel funding was elevated to an art form. They even rarified the name, calling the projects earmarks. Contrary to popular denigration, a few remained sows’ ears, but most were purses of good serviceable cloth, if not silk. Upon taking power, Democrats righteously excoriated Republicans, who had held power during the age of the earmark. No more well-defined standoff occurred than right here in Missouri, where newcomer Claire McCaskill assumed a role as one of the Senate’s primary critics while her senior colleague, GOP stalwart Kit Bond, stood out as one of the proud leaders of the pork parade. McCaskill & Co. won the election, and now her mentor, President Barack Obama, leads an ongoing Democratic chorus in condemnation of earmarks. He says he can’t avoid signing a Bush holdover budget containing some 8,000 such spending projects but vows his coming spending plans won’t include such horrors. McCaskill was one of five senators voting against the Bush-Obama nose-holding plan, able to make a statement against the other 95 without threatening the spending. But look. All the fun and games aside, let’s get more serious about the earmark method itself. To start with, let’s call it pork, a much more felicitous name. The system allows individual senators to designate about 1 percent of the appropriations budget for projects of their liking. By this method, local projects can be funded that never would make it through the full-Senate budget process. Critics say this is the problem, but I say it’s the magic of the system. For every bridge to nowhere, many more worthwhile projects can achieve attention and valuable funding. We can point to several in Missouri brought here by Sen. Bond, including the MU Life Sciences Center that bears his name. We’d be well served if we could look forward to the McCaskill State Historical Society or other valuable edifices of her choosing. I will grant this process reeks of politics, but so what? The whole damn budget reeks of politics. What better way to use a small part of the spending for funding local projects here and there chosen in the most efficient way possible: in direct discussion between a legislator with money to spend and local people with intimate knowledge of needs and wants? We locals can judge the wisdom or possible chicanery of porkers, or earmarkers, if you must. Moreover, one could not design a better economic stimulus method. These are capital projects with all the stimulus advantages thereto appertaining. Finally, remember pork spending does not increase the size of the overall budget; it merely hands a small portion around. Let’s start by ending the carping about the current pork-laden budget bill. Then, if we regain our wits, let’s allow for continuation of a civilized pork barrel process with more transparency, which would be a good refinement. Soon after her election, I told Sen. McCaskill she should continue to rail against pork if she wanted but, because it was available, bring it home. Now, by golly, I think she should quit railing, turning her prodigious talents instead to proper use of the system. She and the rest of her peers could do some good. Would they rather have the earmark money disappear into the maw of the general budget, where it will disappear like a raindrop in the ocean? On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 46 of 56 In Our View: One person’s pork is another’s bacon JOPLIN GLOBE President Barack Obama earlier this week signed a $410 billion spending bill. During Senate deliberations, Missouri’s two senators, Democrat Claire McCaskill and Republican Christopher “Kit” Bond, voted differently from each other. One of those senators joined earmark opponent Sen. John McCain and voted against the bill, saying that it was loaded with pork and criticized the entire earmarking process. The other senator voted for it, and in a flurry of press releases trumpeted the acquisition of $31 million for Southwest Missouri and $1 million for MoSMART. Can you match which senator cast which vote? Go ahead and guess. We’ll wait. If you answered McCaskill, then Bond, you’re right. But we’re guessing you didn’t answer correctly — especially considering that the senators reversed their votes from the economic stimulus bill. As much as we like federal money for local projects, we don’t like the earmarking process. We think the $950,000 coming to Joplin for sidewalk repair could have withstood a thorough review and passed on its own merit. But the wind, rhetoric and general gumflapping about earmarks is getting almost as rotten as the process itself. The talk about earmarks has some Republicans sounding like tax-and-spend liberals and some Democrats sounding like no-nonsense fiscal conservatives, leaving us in a crazy world where up is down, nobody in Joplin runs red lights and Mizzou-RAH fans scream “rock, chalk, Jayhawk.” However, it’s more realistic that politicians are just using the politics of earmarks when it’s convenient for them, not because they are serious about watching earmarks. Taxpayers for Common Sense estimates that 8,570 earmarks in the omnibus bill accounted for $7.7 billion of the $410 billion bill. That’s only 1.8 percent. But, it’s still $7.7 billion of our money. Hopefully, someone in Congress will take earmark reform seriously. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 47 of 56 Kansas and Missouri should pass primary seat-belt laws KC STAR Missouri officials have been trying for years to pass a primary seat belt law. The measure has won approval in the Senate three times but always meets resistance in the House. That’s a tragedy, given that such a law would save an estimated 90 lives a year in Missouri. Under a primary seat belt law, police can stop a motorist solely for failing to buckle up, something they can’t do now. Twenty-seven states have such laws, which encourage greater seat belt use. But Missouri continues to resist, and this year that should change. Kansas also has a chance to enhance highway safety. A primary seat belt law has passed the Senate and awaits action by the House Transportation Committee. In Kansas, passage of the bill would mean $11.2 million to $13 million more in federal transportation aid that the state has been passing up. Missouri would receive between $16 million and $20 million in federal funds to pay for safety, education and engineering. This is the last year such funding will be available. The financial incentive alone should be enough to encourage both states to do the right thing — particularly in the middle of difficult economic times. Why are such large sums of money being left on the table? Opponents of primary seat belt laws say the government shouldn’t dictate seat belt use. But the law already requires motorists to buckle up; this is simply an issue of enforcement. As state Department of Transportation Director Pete Rahn points out, drivers can be stopped for a dirty license plate but not for failing to wear their seat belt. Some argue that a primary seat belt law might encourage racial profiling, meaning more minority drivers might be stopped. But Rahn says studies in six states with black populations comparable to Missouri’s shows that seat belt laws don’t result in such disparities. The House is expected to vote on a primary law when it returns from its recess later this month. The measure is only a few votes short in the House. This year it must pass. In Kansas, too, legislators must do their part to improve roadway safety. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 48 of 56 Missouri's budget should reflect our values By Jeanette Mott Oxford and John Bennett POST-DISPATCH 03/12/2009 A huge budget battle is shaping up in the Missouri Legislature. House Budget Chairman Allen Icet, R- Chesterfield, has proposed deep funding cuts to social services, health, mental health, corrections and other essential programs in budget bills recently filed. The bills shift general revenue dollars away from education, replacing them with federal recovery package funds. The Legislature already was operating under circumstances not for the faint of heart. As Gov. Matt Blunt's term ended and Gov. Jay Nixon moved into the helm in January, the Office of Administration projected that the state could face a $342 million deficit for the fiscal year ending June 30. This would force the new governor to make substantial mid-year cuts since a balanced budget is required by the Missouri Constitution. Balancing the state budget may seem like a Sudoku puzzle to many, a matter of trying different figures until the math problem is solved. But beneath the numbers, every budget is a moral document, reflecting our deepest values. Our revenue and expenditures should meet human needs, promote the common good and reflect honesty and accountability. The budget crisis before us offers stark choices. We can slash state spending to care for our most vulnerable citizens or we can look for creative alternatives that will improve the quality of our life together. It is time for serious discussion of the Tax Justice for a Healthy Missouri income-tax revision plan put forward by Missourians for Tax Justice (House Bill 567 and Senate Bill 300) and supported by The Long Spoons Coalition of People of Faith. Fair taxation means that we all contribute our fair share to the common good, and Missouri's very regressive income tax system is a complete failure in that regard. The proposed legislation would: — Modernize the outdated tax brackets. Missouri's top tax bracket of $9,000 was set in 1931 and has never changed. — Reduce taxes paid on average for the 60 percent of Missourians with the lowest incomes. This is done, in part, through a refundable tax credit of $150 per household member, phasing out between $30,000 and $50,000 per year for singles and between $60,000 and $80,000 per married couple filing jointly. — Work toward creating an overall fairer tax system in which middle- and low-income Missourians aren't asked to pay more as a percentage of their income in taxes than the wealthiest Missourians. — Produce more than a billion dollars in new state revenue to provide for our state's essential needs. Even in better economic times, the general response of Missouri legislators is to ask "who do you want us to cut?" when citizens come to testify to appropriations committees about the many unmet needs in our state. Given this history, without vigorous outcry by the Missouri public, the budget that the Legislature will pass in May probably will focus on cuts and line items frozen at the previous level. Flat-level funding in reality is a cut. To his credit, in his State-of-the-State address, Gov. Nixon has proposed increases in funding for public schools, partial restoration of health care cuts that were made four years ago and shielding state colleges and universities from funding cuts. The governor also proposes deep reductions in some areas. While we appreciate the care his staff has taken to look for the least harmful places to cut, we are concerned about the chronic understaffing that On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 49 of 56 has plagued many of Missouri's essential services for years under both Democratic and Republican administrations. We are concerned about the more than 700,000 Missourians without health care, veterans who are homeless, low-wage workers without affordable child care and neighbors with mental illness who are incarcerated instead of receiving services through community mental-health programs. Shouldn't we address these needs through an income tax system that is modern, fair and adequate? In his inaugural address, President Barack Obama called for a new era of responsibility and reminded us of the price and promise of citizenship. In Missouri, that includes a serious discussion of our state's budgetary needs to find a moral way to help each other and improve the quality of our common life. The current financial crisis demands that we wait no longer. Now is the time. State Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford, D-St. Louis, is sponsor of the Tax Justice for a Healthy Missouri income-tax revision plan. The Rev. John Bennett is outreach coordinator of Missouri IMPACT, an ecumenical and interfaith grassroots network. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 50 of 56 SPRINGFIELD NEWS-LEADER VOICE OF THE DAY Repeal of helmet law will cost taxpayers Steven W. Zehner Editor's note: The Missouri Senate on Thursday voted to repeal the state's helmet law. The legislation now moves to the House. During testimony on SB 27, Senator Ridgeway stated "it's a matter of choice," insisting Missourians should be allowed to make this choice without interference from what she calls a "nanny state" affecting one segment of society -- motorcycle riders. Senator Ridgeway says if the real goal is to save lives and prevent injuries, Missourians should be forced to wear protective headgear in automobiles. "The number one cause of head injuries in the state of Missouri is automobile accidents," said Ridgeway, "So we should all, under that theory, if it is the gold standard, have to wear helmets inside a passenger automobile. Now we all know that is ludicrous." The number one cause of head injuries in the state of Missouri may be automobile accidents, but motorcycle fatalities and head injuries are down in Missouri because there is and has been a helmet law in effect. It appears the law works. I've been a brain injury survivor for 11 years. (My injury was not due to irresponsibility.) It is moderate, but it will never heal, never get better and in fact, it could get worse. Brain injuries don't just affect the injured. I have seen first hand what the effects are on family and friends. If the law passes who pays? A few senators indicate the only reason they would not repeal the law is because of the cost to the insurance companies. They believe if the law is repealed there should be a stipulation that individuals choosing not to wear a helmet would sign a waiver releasing the insurance company from liability. So, if the insurance companies are not financially responsible, who is? Even without the "sign off" stipulation, insurance companies have coverage limits. If a person is injured severely enough, their insurance will max out quickly. In most cases the state will be forced to absorb the cost. So, it is not just the person taking a risk with their own life, but the irresponsibility of that person straining our states resources by absorbing the cost of their medical bills, rehabilitation, maybe Social Security etc. Where would our Senate like to take this additional expenditure from: schools, hospitals, teachers, police officers, firefighters' salaries, maybe from the highway fund, or a tax increase? The consequences of this bill will certainly overtax the programs that assist those like myself. The truth is our government must at times put laws in effect to protect the public from the irresponsibility of some of its citizens. How about repealing the seat belt or child seat law, or how about DUI laws? Aren't these individual "choices" as well? The public would never stand for it. Why? It affects us all. Anyone on the road is at risk. By the way, what is the cost to the taxpayers just for the Senate bringing this bill to the floor, a bill that offers so many liabilities to the taxpayer and no benefits? Oh wait, there is the benefit of someone feeling the wind through their hair. Steven W. Zehner lives in Lebanon. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 51 of 56 Guest columnist, Ron Mitchell: Leave Missouri Plan alone JOPLIN GLOBE OP-ED March 13, 2009 02:30 pm The Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan was created to level the playing field so that any individual in court would be on equal footing before the law, even if the opponent was a governor. This was not always the case, and would not be the case under the changes urged by critics of the Missouri Plan and currently proposed in the Missouri General Assembly. In the late 1930s and early ’40s, Missouri was plagued by corruption at many levels of state and local government. Political bosses in both St. Louis and Kansas City controlled the election of numerous political officials, including judges, and often controlled the outcome of cases that were brought before some of the “machine-supported” judges. Fed up with justice that was neither fair nor impartial, prominent citizens and members of the bar organized an initiative campaign to install a merit-based judicial selection plan in Missouri that still exists today. Under this system, three nominees are sent to the governor by a commission that includes three lawyers elected by the lawyers in the districts where they reside, three non-lawyers appointed by the governor and one judge of the Supreme Court of Missouri. The commissioners serve “staggered” terms of six years, so no one governor can dominate the commission by appointing a majority of commissioners. Critics of the Missouri Plan claim that the makeup of the commission is outdated, and that other states have decreased the role of lawyers on their commissions. This simply is not true. In communities our size, elections work well because candidates are not required to raise large sums of money and can get out and meet the voters, but on any large scale, the Missouri Plan is still the best method for selecting impartial judges. Since 1940, when Missouri adopted the first merit- selection system, 32 other states have adopted some form of merit selection. Of those 32 states, 21 states allow for a majority of lawyers on their nominating commissions. Of those 21 states, 18 states mandate a majority of lawyers. Missouri falls squarely in the majority of states that have adopted merit-selection systems. The changes proposed by the critics of the Missouri Plan would push our state into the minority, with no clear explanation as to how those changes would benefit judicial selection. Under a system being proposed in Senate Resolution 9 and House Resolution 10, the governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate, has total control over the nominating commission. The system becomes totally political and the result will be a judiciary subservient to the will of the governor and the General Assembly. The citizens of Missouri would once more be subject to judicial outcomes dictated by special interests. It is these special interests who, though very limited in number and highly secretive about the source of their funds, attack the plan with misinformation and misstatements of facts. Their four main contentions are: * The governor should be able to “sweep” a majority of the commission immediately upon taking office by appointing four lay members whose terms run concurrent with the governor’s and are not staggered. * The governor should have at least 10 choices, not three. * All lay appointments should be subject to confirmation by the Senate. * All application and meeting notes should be open to the public. The first three changes eliminate the concept of “merit” in merit selection and make the selection process akin to a political circus that is often seen at the federal level. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 52 of 56 While openness is important to any government function, publicizing all activities of nominating commissions will have a chilling effect on applicants who seek office but wish to keep their application information private unless they make a panel. Many qualified applicants are not prepared to announce to their co-workers and clients that they are seeking a judgeship when they have not even made the panel. Presently, notices are given as to meeting locations, number of applicants and demographical data are released. Nominees’ backgrounds and information are released to the public when the commissions make their recommendations, which makes judicial nominations the most open selection process in state government. The Missouri Plan has no room for the politics of the past and should be protected from the onslaught of well- funded special interests who seek greater control of our independent judiciary. Ron Mitchell is a Joplin attorney and served as president of the Missouri Bar Association and on an American Bar Association advisory council on judicial independence. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 53 of 56 Court's workers' compensation ruling favors employers NEWS-LEADER Jerry A. Harmison Jr. RE: case of Missouri Alliance for Retired Americans v Department of the Labor and Industrial Relations, Division of Workers' Compensation. Below is a summary we shared with our clients. Case No. SC88368 As you will recall, labor organizations challenged the constitutional validity of the 2005 changes to the workers' compensation law. There were nine claims. The Missouri Supreme Court has now ruled that the labor organizations do not have standing to raise eight of their nine claims because these claims are not yet ripe for review, and because no injured person or group of persons joined this action. Any assertion that the amendments will deprive a particular person of the person's constitutional rights are, at this point, completely hypothetical. As such, there is no "justiciable"claim as to these provisions at this time. The Missouri Supreme Court did rule on one claim, Count IV, wherein the labor organizations requested declaratory judgment as to the scope of the exclusivity clause in section 287.120 RSMo. The workers' compensation amendments of 2005 narrow the definition of "injury" that falls within the definition of an "accident," which limits the scope of the act. Removing certain injuries and accidents from the act's scope places workers who have suffered those injuries outside the definition of "accident." The Supreme Court ruled that workers excluded from the act by the narrower definitions of "accident" and "injury" have a right to bring a suit under common law, just as they could and did before the act initially was adopted, because they no longer fall within the exclusivity provision of the act. Clearly, this is a favorable ruling for employers. Of course, the battle is not over because individual employees or groups of employees may raise the same constitutional arguments in future cases. Also, an employee who now falls outside of the workers' compensation act because his claim is not compensable may file a civil personal injury claim against the employer. However, the employee/plaintiff must carry his burden of proof demonstrating the employer was negligent. The workers' compensation cases we have seen to date excluding coverage are situations where the employee is equally exposed to the injury in his normal non-employment life, i.e. the employee falls on a level floor and there is no ice, oil, water, etc. It would seem very difficult for an employee to win a civil case in such a situation. However, employers will want to consider their risk of negligence when deciding whether or not to deny a workers' compensation claim. ... Jerry A. Harmison Jr., lives in Springfield On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 54 of 56 Missourinet House bill would change Missouri abortion laws Sunday, March 15, 2009, 9:00 PM By Brent Martin Abortion regulations in Missouri would be tightened under a bill passing the House and headed for the Senate. HCS HB 46 & 434, sponsored by Rep. Bryan Pratt (R-Blue Springs), does two things: it enhances Missouri's informed consent law and creates the crime of coercing someone to have an abortion. A similar bill died in the Senate last year, when concerns were raised that it could interfere with discussions between a parent and a pregnant daughter if the parent advocated the daughter have an abortion. Under the bill, the physician performing the abortion must describe the abortion method and its risks, give information about the fetus and offer to show the woman a sonogram. Print or video material produced by the Department of Health on abortion must be provided to the woman. The information must be provided 24 hours prior to the abortion. Pratt says he addressed concerns about the coercion section this year, tying coercion to other felonies. The bill states that someone commits the crime of coercion when they assault or stalk the woman. A boss could be charged with coercion if he threatens to fire a woman if she won't have an abortion. A felony coercion charge could also be levied if someone threatens to pull a scholarship of a co-ed who refuses to have an abortion. Pratt insists the bill would not criminalize frank conversations between a parent and daughter when the daughter faces an unplanned pregnancy. House Majority Floor Leader, Steve Tilley (R-Perryville) says floor debate in the House might have been harsh and emotional, but in the end the House gave the measure overwhelming support. The bill passed the House on a 115-to-43 vote. It now heads to the Senate. Invest in early childhood development ... it pays off Sunday, March 15, 2009, 6:49 AM By Jessica Machetta Early childhood education is an economic investment, according to a Minneapolis economist visiting Missouri. Jessica Machetta reports... Rob Grunewald works for the Federal Reserve, but he's also co-authored a policy paper titled "Early Childhood Development: Economic Development with a High Public Return." His study has been looked at by policy makers and in legislative hearings throughout the U.S. He says government should make an economic investment by providing early childhood education, especially to at-risk families. Grunewald says 85 percent of children's brains are developed by the time they're three years old, and that studies show where they are stacked among their peers by the time they enter Kindergarten is likely where they'll remain for the rest of their lives. "Because of that, the environment in early years is so impactful to children, we believe investments should be made in those early years," he says. He says they're less likely to need remedial education, are more likely to graduate on time, make more money once entering the workforce, which means they pay more taxes, and are less likely to commit crime. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 55 of 56 He says while many states have some pieces in place, a more comprehensive approach needs to be taken. Economists have shown that return can be as high as 20 percent. Grunewald says over the last five years, a number of states have been investing more in pre-school programs, childcare facilities and home visits for at-risk expectant mothers, but that's not enough. Grunewald, Associate Economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, will give a free public presentation entitled "Early Childhood Development: Economic Development with a High Public Return" at 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 18, in the Coulter Lecture Hall of the Coulter Science Center on the Westminster College campus. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824
  • MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS D AILY N EWS C LIPS C o l l e c t e d / A r c h i v e d f o r M o n d a y , M a r c h 1 6 , 2 0 0 9 -- Page 56 of 56 USA TODAY MISSOURI NEWS Monday, March 16 Columbia - For years, an antique cabinet in the Boone County Courthouse served as a plant stand. But during recent renovations, workers opened the cabinet and found about 1,000 files dating back to the Civil War. The Missouri secretary of State's office identified the files as records from the former Sturgeon Court of Common Pleas from 1860 to 1921. On the Web : www.senate.mo.gov/sencom – Telephone : (573) 751-3824