Experts: When census is finished, Missouri likely to retain ...


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Experts: When census is finished, Missouri likely to retain ...

  1. 1. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 1 of 71 Experts: When census is finished, Missouri likely to retain nine congressional seats Monday, June 21, 2010 By Alaina Busch ~ Southeast Missourian State experts predict Missouri will retain its nine Congressional seats, but the count will be close. Enumerators will wrap up the door-knocking portion of the census in late July, said Lori Simms, spokeswoman for the Missouri Office of Administration. She said there is a final push to make sure everyone is counted because the difference could mean the loss of federal funds or Congressional representation. "The most recent estimates were projected that Missouri would retain the seat but it would be a narrow margin," Simms said. She said the state also receives about $1,300 in federal funds for every person counted. A phone line will be open until July 10 for people who have questions, did not receive their census or have not been visited by an enumerator. The mail-back rate statewide came in at 73 percent, 1 percent ahead of 2000, Simms said. She said there was less participation in the counties south of Interstate 70. However, a couple of Southeast Missouri counties increased response numbers. Perry and Ste. Genevieve counties reached an 82 percent participation rate as of April 27, before the door-to-door phase. Cape Girardeau County's participation rate was 69 percent, even with 2000 participation levels. Stoddard and Bollinger counties had lagging participation rates as of late April. In Bollinger County the participation rate was 59 percent, compared to 67 percent in 2000. "We're winding down but we're still out in the field," said Sydnee Chattin-Reynolds, deputy regional director in Kansas City, Mo. The office monitors census efforts in Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri and Oklahoma. She said Missouri's one percent increase in the mail-back rate was significant. "The more people that mail it in, the less we have to go into the field," she said. In more rural areas like Southeast Missouri, she said census workers depend more on local efforts to prepare for the count. "The census is a community census," she said. Real estate agent Thomas M. Meyer chaired Cape Girardeau's complete count committee. He said the group of about 20 community leaders made contact with community organizations. Committee members also went door-to-door promoting the census, he said. "It preceded the census workers themselves, so they were welcomed," he said. He said his office also has received more calls to check on vacant properties. "I feel that we're going to come in higher than we did in 2000," he said. For census questions, call 866-872-6868. News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  2. 2. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 2 of 71 Some companies win, some lose in tax breaks David A. Lieb • Associated Press • June 21, 2010 Jefferson City -- While asserting new tax breaks are urgently needed for Ford Motor Co., Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is delaying tax credits that could help finance tens of millions of dollars of development projects. Nixon's two-sided approach to tax incentives came to light this past week. He first announced he was cutting $47 million from Missouri's existing portfolio of tax credits. Then Nixon announced he was calling a special legislative session to approve up to $150 million of new tax breaks over the next decade for Ford and other manufacturers. While some companies will win, others may lose. That has led to political sniping in the capital city. And it has left some would-be developers confused, frustrated and even near tears. The raw emotions were on display this past week at a meeting of the Missouri Housing Development Commission, one of the first entities affected by Nixon's tax-credit freeze. The commission oversees a state agency that functions like a bank, providing financing for housing projects for low- and middle-income income residents through tax-free bonds and tax credits. Most of its 10 members are appointed by the governor. But the governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer and attorney general also are members of the commission. Over the past couple months, the housing commission has canceled or pared back its meeting agendas to avoid voting on tens of millions of dollars of tax credits for more than a dozen proposed housing developments in St. Louis, Kansas City and St. Joseph. An e-mail obtained by The Associated Press shows the delay comes at the behest of Nixon's administration. Nixon's liaison to the housing agency, Rex Burlison, sent a May 6 e-mail to State Treasurer Clint Zweifel, then the chairman of the commission, asking him to postpone meetings until a replacement can be chosen for executive director for Pete Ramsel, who resigned March 1. Zweifel then canceled a May 21 meeting at which tax credit applicants had been expecting a decision. After Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder threatened to force a meeting through a procedural maneuver, the housing commission ultimately met May 26. But the tax credits were not on the agenda. The commission met again last Wednesday to approve a budget, but again left the pending tax credit applications off the agenda. New chairman Jeffrey Bay, a Kansas City attorney and recent Nixon appointee, said he wasn't comfortable considering projects without an executive director who could conduct a thorough review of applications. But few people seem to believe the executive director vacancy is the only -- or even primary -- reason for the tax-credit delay. "My understanding is (Nixon) has some concerns about tax credit programs across the state and wants to take a close look at those before they move forward," Zweifel said. At last week's meeting, Kinder called the lack of an executive director a "flimsy" and "bogus" reason not to consider a financing revision needed for a St. Louis project that had been approved in February. Kinder, a likely challenger to Nixon in the 2012 elections, accused the governor of a strategy of delaying "until the developers are brought to their knees." Burlison, in turn, accused Kinder of "shilling for" a St. Louis project being developed by Paul McKee, a contributor to Kinder's campaign committee. News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  3. 3. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 3 of 71 In the audience sat some sad-faced, tax-credit applicants. Francie Broderick, the executive director of Places for People in St. Louis, was near tears as the commission quit without taking action on her proposal to renovate a building into 23 apartments for people with mental illnesses. "It's a project that's desperately needed," she said. "We've invested money in putting the plans together for it, and we need to know because we have people who need housing immediately." Kansas City area developer Tony Krsnich, of the Landmark Investment Group, was equally frustrated. He's seeking tax credits to renovate an old hotel into 40 apartments for people age 55 and older. While the state delays, the summer construction season slowly passes by. "Without this MHDC piece, my project -- and every project that's being talked about -- is dead," Krsnich said. He added: "What this would mean to the economy is quality, affordable housing and jobs today." Nixon also is focused on jobs -- in particular the 3,700 that exist at Ford's assembly plant near Kansas City. He says new tax incentives are essential if Missouri wants to entice Ford to produce its next-generation of vehicles there. The low-income housing tax credits, meanwhile, are not necessarily the most efficient means of economic development. A 2008 state audit determined that for every $1 of tax credits -- which typically are sold by recipients -- just 35 cents goes toward actually building the housing. News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  4. 4. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 4 of 71 Shoemyer questions purpose of special session By DANNY HENLEY Hannibal Courier-Post Posted Jun 19, 2010 @ 11:59 PM Jefferson City, MO — State Sen. Wes Shoemyer, D-Clarence, is not thrilled with having to go back to Jefferson City next week for a special session of the Missouri Legislature, and it has nothing to do with interrupting his summer vacation. On Friday, Gov. Jay Nixon called the special session in an effort to get the Missouri Automotive Manufacturing Jobs Act passed. The measure would allow qualified manufacturing facilities or suppliers that bring next- generation production lines to Missouri to retain withholdings taxes typically remitted to the state. The total amount of incentives available under the act would be capped at $15 million a year. “In order to justify the $15 million that is asked for in tax credits for the Ford plant we have to go into future state employees’ pensions and ask them to contribute 4 percent of their salary,” said Shoemyer, who voted against the pension legislation during the regular session. “I just have a real problem with those who say they want tax- credit reform creating another tax credit and then saying we have to balance this tax credit by taking away from state workers. That’s just not the way to do it.” For additional details, see the Saturday, June 19, edition of the Courier-Post. News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  5. 5. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 5 of 71 State budget reductions affect scholarships MOREnet lost all its state funding due to cuts. THE MANEATER By Jimmy Hibsch Published June 19, 2010 Several college scholarship programs took a big hit with about $300 million in state budget cuts announced by the governor Thursday. “Some might say we’ve been belt-tightening,” Gov. Jay Nixon said at a news conference Thursday. “We may have to punch another hole in the belt this time.” Nixon announced a $301.4 million cut in spending reductions – about $280 million from state program cuts and $20 million to be offset by increased federal funding. These cuts come after $900 million in cuts during the 2010 fiscal year, which ends June 30. State budget director Linda Luebbering said the cuts were necessary for two reasons. “One, our state revenue collections continue to come in less than expected," Luebbering said. "Two, there was some legislation that needed to be passed in order to save money and the legislature was not able to get it all passed.” Among the hardest hit was the Access Missouri college scholarship program, which lost $50 million of its $83 million. The Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority may offset this with a one-time $30 million grant. The Access Missouri program currently provides need-based scholarships of up to $2,150 for students at MU and other public state, as well as various other amounts for private institutions and community colleges. Luebbering said the cuts may shrink the awards to $500 at public institutions. Also affected is the state’s Bright Flight scholarship program, which will lose $4.1 million, about a quarter of its state funding. The merit-based program currently offers high-achieving high school seniors a $2,000 scholarship to attend a Missouri post-secondary college or university. The Missouri Department of Higher Education predicts the scholarship will drop to $1,900 for the 2010-2011 school year. Nicole Jones, an incoming freshman journalism student, will be receiving the Bright Flight scholarship for the next four years. As a result of the statewide cuts, she may receive $400 less than Bright Flight scholars in the past. “I personally am not very happy about it because they already cut it this year and that's money you count on from the time you get your ACT score back if it's high enough,” Jones said. “I'm also glad that at least I am guaranteed that much money from it because I wouldn't be surprised if they end up raising the necessary score with that big of a cut.” In the fall 2009 semester, 60 percent of Missouri students received some form of financial assistance such as the Access Missouri or Bright Flight scholarships. Despite all of the higher education cuts, the tuition freeze agreement Nixon reached with public four-year colleges remains safe, Luebbering said. "The tuition freeze is a high priority for the governor,” she said. “Even if we have to make more cuts, I don’t see that deal ending.” The Missouri Research and Education Network, or MOREnet, a consortium of schools, public libraries, higher education institutions and the University of Missouri System, lost $6.8 million, all of its state funding. News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  6. 6. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 6 of 71 Members of the MOREnet council met Friday to determine the future of the 20-year-old consortium, which provides technical services and high-speed Internet connections to its members. The council unanimously agreed to continue all services by enforcing budget reductions and increasing member fees, executive director John Gillispie said. “The governor faced an incredibly difficult decision,” he said. “We find the result unfortunate and disappointing at best.” Gillispie said MOREnet will cover 20 percent of its reduction by further lowering the operating budget, and compensate for the rest by raising member fees. “The state subsidy, which has traditionally been used to equalize services between urban and rural areas will no longer be available,” Gillispie said. “MOREnet has no choice but to increase fees in order to make up for this loss of resources.” Although Luebbering said she hopes Thursday’s cutbacks will suffice for the 2011 fiscal year, which begins July 1, she acknowledged she isn’t certain. “We had to make cuts in just about every area of state government,” Luebbering said. “We’re hoping that the revenue will start to turn around a little bit and the $300 million the governor had to reduce will keep us in balance for the entire fiscal year. We obviously don’t know anything for sure, but we’ll continue to monitor it.” News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  7. 7. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 7 of 71 Educators worry about impact of latest cuts By BRENT ENGEL Hannibal Courier-Post Posted Jun 19, 2010 @ 08:30 AM Hannibal, MO — Hundreds of school students in Northeast Missouri might have to find another ride to class if districts slash bus routes in the wake of additional state funding cuts. Gov. Jay Nixon has announced almost $300 million in reductions from the state’s $23 billion budget. For area districts, it means a loss of anywhere from $30,000 to more than $400,000 in transportation reimbursements. Many already had trimmed budgets substantially, and administrators now must cut additional dollars. “We have no room to absorb anything,” said April Huddleston of Lincoln County R-3 in Troy, which already had said it would no longer bus students if they live within 3.5 miles of attendance centers. “It is sad.” “I think this disproportionately affects rural districts,” said Mike Gray of Bowling Green R-1. “It hurts the kids.” Hannibal anticipates a $145,000 loss of funding. Superintendent Dr. Jill Janes said the district would study areas to cut. “Now that we know, we just have to look at our expenditures and see what we can do,” Janes said. For some districts, cuts could be made in bus routes, but some administrators have not ruled out eliminating staff to balance budgets. Lincoln R-3 and Clopton R-3 are among districts seeking property tax increases in August to offset the losses. Jim Masters of Monroe City R-1 fears many rural districts will be forced to look at eliminating programs. “It presents a rather unique challenge for us,” he said. “Things are tight. We’ll have to figure out how to make it all work.” Masters compares the situation to having a high-performance car that gets 34 miles a gallon. The trip ahead is 35 miles long and the driver has only one gallon of gas. “Pretty soon, we’re all going to have to walk,” Masters said. “Diminishing resources eventually will have an impact.” As with many superintendents, Eric Churchwell of Palmyra R-1 is pleased Nixon did not touch foundation formula funding, which provides the majority of state funding to districts. While he said he’s “disappointed” with the transportation cuts, he understands. “You can’t spend money you don’t have,” Churchwell said. “There’s only so many pieces of the pie.” In addition to transportation funding cuts, Nixon ended state aid for a student loan program for health care professionals and training grants for adults who want to start agriculture-related businesses. He also killed a program that provides high-speed Internet connections to schools and libraries. Other areas taking big hits were health care, substance abuse counseling and tax credits for development. Gray fears that the cuts to education are only the beginning. “We don’t think this is the worst year,” he said. “We think next year will be.” News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  8. 8. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 8 of 71 State's unemployment rate drops in May Monday, June 21, 2010 By Melissa Miller ~ Southeast Missourian Missouri's unemployment rate fell slightly for the second month in a row during May, according to a new report from the Missouri Department of Economic Development. The state's unemployment rate fell to 9.3 percent in May, down by two-tenths of a point from 9.5 percent in April. In March, Missouri's unemployment rate was 10.2. "I think we have likely seen the worst of the recession and unemployment has peaked," said Bruce Domazlicky, director of the Small Business and Research Center at Southeast Missouri State University. "However, like at the national level, economic growth is unlikely to be fast enough to have much of an impact on unemployment so rates will only come down slowly." Missouri's non-farm payroll employment shows 4,900 jobs were added in May, according to the DED report. The federal government added 7,300 jobs in May, including many temporary census workers. In the private sector, leisure and hospitality jobs increased by 1,000 positions. Local companies are cautiously optimistic about the future of the economy, said Mitch Robinson, executive director of Cape Girardeau Area Magnet, a not-for-profit economic development organization. "I've talked with several companies that seem to feel positive about their current business situation as well as the near future," said Robinson. Individual county data for May has not yet been released, but during April, Cape Girardeau County's unemployment rate was at 6.4 percent, significantly lower than the state average. Robinson said there is pent-up demand among local employers who have delayed hiring as they wait for economic conditions to improve. "You don't want to hire somebody and then have to lay them off in two months," Robinson said. "Training new employees is very expensive and time consuming. [Businesses] have to make sure they are at that point where they are willing to hire." Several local companies are currently working their current employees overtime to keep up with production demands, rather than hire new workers, he said. In Cape Girardeau County, unemployment rates have fallen in the month of April for the past several years. There is a strong seasonal factor that causes this, Domazlicky said. "This is partially due to construction picking up as well as, to a lesser extent, retail sales," he said. "After Christmas, retail sales tend to flatten out for a while until spring purchasing picks up." News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  9. 9. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 9 of 71 Mo. gov. signs bill punishing patients who spit JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Sexually violent predators who spit or urinate on mental health workers could face new criminal penalties. Gov. Jay Nixon has signed the legislation into law. It allows for a felony charge against a violent sexual predator who knowingly causes mental health workers to be in contact with various bodily fluids. The crime carries maximum penalties of four years in prison or a $5,000 fine. If the offender is infected with HIV or hepatitis B or C, the maximum prison term would be seven years. A similar provision makes it a crime for prison inmates to spit or urinate on employees of the state Corrections Department. --- Mental Health bill is SB774 On the Net: Legislature: News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  10. 10. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 10 of 71 Builders, lawyers pan bill’s lien requirements COLUMBIA DAILY TRIBUNE By T.J. Greaney Sunday, June 20, 2010 Depending on who you listen to, a reform to state mechanic’s lien law is either a much-needed protection for homebuyers or a major setback for sub-contractors. New legislation reforming the process whereby contractors file claims for payment on residential construction work is now sitting on Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk. And although it overwhelmingly passed both houses of the General Assembly, some unhappy lien attorneys and sub-contractors are making a last-minute push for a veto. The mechanic’s lien law on the books in Missouri pre-dates the Civil War in some sections, but it wasn’t until the recent slowdown in housing construction that its weaknesses came to the forefront as a state issue, say reformers. In 2008 and 2009, nonpayment of sub-contractors and material suppliers skyrocketed and title insurers were faced with a situation where they were often unable to accurately gauge risk. David Townsend, president and CEO of Agents National Title Insurance in Columbia, said things got so bad that mechanic’s liens were popping up six months after a homebuyer had closed on a new home and lawsuits were sometimes being filed as late as a year after the closing date. “Nobody has clean hands in this,” Townsend said. “Unfortunately, sub-contractors continue to work with builders that might not have the best payment history.” Convoluted webs of sub-sub-contractors made it increasingly difficult for title insurers, like Townsend, to secure lien waivers from everyone who had done work on a property and affirm that a deed was free and clear of potential liens. The new law seeks to streamline the process. It requires land owners to record the planned closing date for a house 45 days in advance. All contractors and material suppliers must then file a “notice of rights” with the recorder of deeds at least five days before the closing date if they believe they’re still due payment. If a contractor fails to file notice, he forfeits his rights to place a lien on the house. “All we’re trying to do is get subs paid,” Townsend said. “As a title insurer the last thing we want is unpaid subcontractors. And we feel the best way to do that is for the subs to stand up and say, ‘here we are.’ ” But others see major problems with the bill. Diane Gray, a Clayton attorney who handles lien litigation, said she has scrutinized its language and finds no punishment for a homebuilder or property owner who fails to notify subcontractors of an impending sale. Therefore, she said, the onus will be on the sub-contractor or supplier to monitor activity at the recorder of deeds office and be prepared to file notice in a very small window of time. If the material supplier or sub-contractor has jobs across the state, that task can be even more time consuming and costly, said Gray. “He has to do this on every property whether it has been a problem payer or not,” Gray said. “He can’t predict if he’s going to get paid or not. So in order to protect his rights he’s going to have to file a ‘notice of lien rights’ every time a ‘notice of sale’ has been filed.” Gray also worried about the expansion of the definition of “residential property” in the bill to include high-rise apartment buildings, street, sidewalk and utility work. In a seven-page letter to Nixon, Gray pointed to stricter requirements placed on workers to produce paid and unpaid invoices when filing lien claims and new rules on when a subcontractor may be liable for “Slander of Title” as unfavorable. If sub-contractors don’t jump through these new procedural hoops, she said, they lose their lien rights. News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  11. 11. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 11 of 71 “Overall, how are the subs and material suppliers going to operate in the state with these onerous requirements?” Gray said. Still, the legislation has support from the Home Builder’s Association of St. Louis and Eastern Missouri which says three-quarters of its members are sub-contractors. It also has support from the National Electrical Contractors Association, the Missouri Banker’s Association and the Missouri Land Title Association. “If we don’t get the bill signed or approved, we’re going to have major, major problems,” said Sean Flower, the president of the local district of the Home Builder’s Association. Supporters like Townsend and Flower believe the ultimate goal of the legislation is to avoid court whenever possible. In court, contractors typically get only 50 to 80 cents on the dollar of what they’re owed and then must pay attorneys’ fees out of that payment. “We want them to get 100 percent of what they’re owed,” Townsend said. But others are less thrilled, seeing the law as infringement on a long held right. “Lien law goes back to the founding fathers,” said Tim Thomas, the president of American Steel Fabrication and an official with the American Subcontractors Association-Midwest Council. “It was the only way to guarantee the people who built our country got paid for the work they did.” The bill is currently undergoing a comprehensive review by Nixon’s office. The Associated Press contributed to this story. News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  12. 12. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 12 of 71 MoDOT: Heat might cause pavement problems HANNIBAL, Mo. (AP) -- The Missouri Department of Transportation says the excessive heat that's hit the state could cause road damage. MoDOT says roadways have already begun to buckle in parts of Missouri since the sweltering weather arrived last week. For the rest of this week, the forecast calls for high humidity and temperatures in the 90s in most of the state. MoDOT says pavement buckles when moisture builds up under weakened joints, then heats up and expands. The agency says motorists should drive cautiously on roadways where buckling has occurred. News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  13. 13. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 13 of 71 2nd Cameron prison starts training rescue dogs CAMERON, Mo. (AP) -- A second prison in the northwest Missouri city of Cameron is training rescue dogs to make them more adoptable. Corrections Department director George Lombardi will be at the Western Missouri Correctional Center on July 6 to welcome the dogs and meet inmates selected for the Puppies for Parole program. Lombardi wants to expand the dog-training program throughout Missouri's prison system. Inmates already are training dogs at prisons in Jefferson City, Pacific, Vandalia, Licking and Bonne Terre. Dogs also were added recently at the Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron. And a St. Joseph prison will add the program soon. Lombardi says the dogs "add immeasurably to the prison environment." News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  14. 14. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 14 of 71 Senators expect to pass proposal to end anonymous ‘holds' on nominations By Dan Eggen Washington Post staff writer Sunday, June 20, 2010 Sen. Claire McCaskill said Saturday that she has enough votes to end the Senate's long-standing and much- criticized practice of allowing the use of anonymous holds to block nominations. McCaskill (D-Mo.) said Sens. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) had agreed to support the effort, giving her the 67 votes necessary to change Senate rules. Supporters include nine Republicans, and only Sen. Robert C. Byrd (W.Va.) is opposed on the Democratic side. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) "strongly supports Senator McCaskill's efforts and will work with her to schedule a vote as quickly as possible," said Reid spokesman Jim Manley. The use of secret holds has enraged lawmakers of both parties by allowing the minority party to hold up presidential nominations with no public admission by the intervening senator. Under McCaskill's proposal, senators could still place holds, but would have to do so publicly. Republicans have been particularly aggressive in their use of holds during the Obama administration, including a widely criticized move by Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) earlier this year that stalled 70 appointments. McCaskill is scheduled to testify this week before the Senate rules committee, which would have to sign off before the effort could proceed. News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  15. 15. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 15 of 71 Blunt visits all Mo. counties in US Senate race QUEEN CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Republican Roy Blunt says he has completed his quest to visit all 114 counties and the city of St. Louis as part of his U.S. Senate campaign. Blunt said he accomplished the feat as he campaigned Saturday in Queen City, which is in rural Schuyler County in northern Missouri. Blunt also said he now has attended more than 500 campaign events. Blunt is a congressman from southwest Missouri and is seeking to replace retiring Republican Sen. Kit Bond. The leading Democratic candidate in the race is Secretary of State Robin Carnahan. News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  16. 16. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 16 of 71 Missouri overhauling controversial sentencing guidelines By Heather Ratcliffe ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH 06/20/2010 ST. LOUIS — When a woman from Platte County, Mo., was convicted of videotaping the sexual abuse of her 16-year-old pregnant daughter, state guidelines recommended that she get probation. Instead, a judge sentenced her last month to 58 years in prison. "If 58 years is an appropriate sentence, which I think it is, then probation cannot be appropriate," said the prosecutor, Eric Zahnd, reflecting the frustrations of many that the advisory guidelines are too lenient. The disparity in that case is an extreme example of what critics say can be the irrelevance of guidelines used to try to bring consistency to punishment. Now, Missouri officials are working on an overhaul to try to get the often- ignored guidelines more respect. Statutes set a sentencing range for each crime. But judges have wide latitude within that range — ordering a relatively high sentence for a heinous crime, for example, or a lower penalty for a defendant who makes restitution. The guidelines represent an attempt to help judges apply those statutes under specific circumstances. A study published in 2008 by the National Center for State Courts showed that 20 states and the District of Columbia have guidelines. For some, such as North Carolina and Minnesota, their use is mandatory. For others, including Missouri, Wisconsin and Ohio, they are advisory. The federal system switched some time ago from mandatory to advisory. Illinois is among the states with none. The NCSC says this remains a hot topic among policymakers concerned with prison crowding and the disproportionate number of blacks who are incarcerated. (The report noted that 12 percent of Americans are black, but they are 44 percent of the prison population.) Supporters of rigid guidelines say they achieve consistency and help control discrimination. Opponents say they tend to fill the prisons and may induce unfairness by stripping judges of discretion. The Missouri Legislature requires the Missouri Sentencing Advisory Commission to figure averages of actual sentences every year for every possible crime, and from those to calculate ranges of "recommended sentences." State Supreme Court Judge Michael Wolff, who heads the commission, has appointed a subcommittee to review the process. The results could be small tweaks to the 175-page sentencing guide or a complete overhaul. "The subcommittee can take a fresh look at it and make sure we're presenting information in the sentencing process that will be helpful for the judge," Wolff said. FRUSTRATED PROSECUTORS For years, many Missouri prosecutors have called guidelines "meaningless" and "a waste of resources." They say the system is unfair because officials lump categories of crimes together, and some crimes are not charged often enough to make a meaningful calculation. The guidelines do not take into account when a defendant is convicted of multiple crimes at the same time, critics say, and they never call for the maximum sentence allowed by law. "There is simply no way to provide for enough variables in any recommendations that make it meaningful in sentencing," said Zahnd, the Platte County prosecutor. News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  17. 17. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 17 of 71 St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce said she has been against the guidelines since getting elected more than a decade ago. "Each case needs to be evaluated on its own merits," she said. "There is no formula that is going to ensure that justice is done." She offered the example of Tyran Hubbard, who pleaded guilty in 2007 in St. Louis Circuit Court of forcible rape and sodomy. He had raped and beaten a female college student at gunpoint in her apartment, was interrupted attempting a similar crime less than a week later and eventually was arrested lurking near apartments where many college students live. The guidelines recommended 12 years in prison. Judge Timothy J. Wilson gave Hubbard 30 years. The guidelines do have supporters, who argue that the information empowers judges and sets realistic expectations for people not familiar with the judicial process. St. Louis Public Defender Mary Fox said that defense attorneys often highlight recommended sentences when advocating for their clients. "They're reasonable," Fox said. "They are a good starting point; then a judge has to take a look at each case individually." Fox said the guidelines took into account plenty of factors — including criminal history, education, age and employment. THE VALUE OF GUIDELINES Wolff, the Supreme Court judge, said data showed that 90 percent of Missouri sentences end up within the recommended range. He said only 5 percent of defendants were sent to prison when the guidelines recommended probation. "This is just a piece of information about what judges are doing in the whole, not what ought to happen in any given cases," Wolff said. "We make it clear that the judge is free to give a more harsh or lenient sentence within the statutes." He added, "You can argue from any individual case that a recommendation seems too lenient." James McConnell, the prosecutor in Shelby County, who will serve on the subcommittee, said the debate usually came over violent or sex crimes. He said there was not much disagreement about sentences for property crimes. Some lawmakers have proposed eliminating recommendations for the most serious crimes, McConnell said. "Those are the ones in which most of the time prosecutors don't think they make sense," he explained. States with guidelines have an advantage when someone complains about the fairness of a sentence, said Brian Ostrom, a researcher at the NCSC and an author of the study. "Having a sentencing commission or sentencing guidelines in place allows people to have that conversation in a meaningful way," he said. Ostrom said the study showed that guidelines make sentences more predictable and effectively reduce disparities from irrelevant factors, such as an offender's race or economic status. "They result in greater consistency in deciding who goes to prison and for how long," he said. Illinois lawmakers have passed a series of judicial reforms that include creation of an Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Committee. It will gather statistics for elected officials but not set guidelines. THE FEDERAL SYSTEM In 1984, Congress established sentencing guidelines for the U.S. district courts as a way to balance penalties across the country. At that time, a cocaine offense punished by a 30-year term from a federal judge in North News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  18. 18. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 18 of 71 Dakota might have drawn probation from a federal judge in Florida, said Doug Burris, chief U.S. probation officer for the court's Eastern District of Missouri. The federal guidelines, initially mandatory, brought longer sentences that tripled the federal prison population in 20 years, Burris said. In a 2005 case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that judges were not bound to follow the guidelines except for mandatory minimum sentences. Burris said appeals courts generally will sustain a sentence outside the guidelines if the judge gives a reason for it. Said Burris: "A judge who knows the entire background of case and the defendant standing before them can script a better sentence than a mathematician in 1984." News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  19. 19. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 19 of 71 Would residents accept a pop tax? State in need of money — but no proposal yet ST. JOSEPH NEWS PRESS By Andrew Denney Sunday, June 20, 2010 at midnight Missouri does not tax its residents for buying soda pop or junk food. But some cities and states across the country, looking to improve public health — as well as raise revenue — have decided to tax food and non- alcoholic beverages of questionable nutritional value. Mary Jo Watkins, a supervisor for instruction at Helen Davis State School who was shopping at Hy-Vee Friday afternoon, said she would agree with a tax on the sugary drink for public health reasons. “People would be healthier if they drank less soda pop,” Ms. Watkins said. Kim McDaniel, a Rea resident who also was shopping at Hy-Vee, said she didn’t like the idea of taxing fatty snacks. “What’s junk food to one person might not be junk food to another,” Ms. McDaniel said. Savannah resident Roger Pearl, a driver for Fed-Ex Ground who said he starts every day with Mountain Dew — and never coffee — said imposing a tax on soda pop could cause consumers to buy it less, which could hurt local businesses. “When you increase the price of stuff, people will either pay it or say ‘It’s not in my budget,’” he said as he was shopping Friday at Apple Market. His wife, Teri, said she wouldn’t agree with a tax on soda, saying the choice to drink it is a “personal preference.” “It’s a free country,” she said. “People can choose if they want to be healthy.” No tax on pop or snacks has been proposed in the state, nor have any state leaders recently said in public that there should be. But since the recession began, the state government has had to tighten its belt. Last week, Gov. Jay Nixon announced a new round of budget cuts amounting to more than $300 million. The state has traditionally avoided increasing taxes, and this year has been no different. Lawmakers prefer to balance the budget through spending cuts and fee increases. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, Missouri is one of 17 states that do not have some form of tax on soft drinks or unhealthy foods. The Kansas legislature failed to pass a proposal this year that would have levied a one-cent tax per teaspoon of sugar in a beverage. But the bill failed to win approval from a committee. Kansas State Sen. John Vratil, a Leawood Republican who proposed the measure, said the bill was intended not only to help the state raise revenue, but for public health purposes as well. The proposal, he said, was “just common sense.” But, Mr. Vratil said, while the bill had support from many Kansas residents, soft drink manufacturers and distributors fought against it, saying it would disproportionately affect lower-income residents. Opponents of junk food taxes have argued about their effectiveness. In an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent pointed out that West Virginia and Arkansas — which have taxes on pop — are among the “fattest” states in the nation: third and tenth, respectively. And South Carolina, which is ranked as the fifth fattest state, has taxes on both junk food and soft drinks. News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  20. 20. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 20 of 71 But a study released Thursday by the American Journal of Public Health claims that raising the price of pop could reduce consumption and improve public health. In the study, researchers raised the price of soda at a cafeteria in Boston by 35 percent, and found that consumption declined by 26 percent. Comparatively, Missouri is a fat state, and a generally unhealthy one, at that. In 2009, 28.1 percent of Missouri’s population was obese, making it the 13th fattest state in the country. In a study released by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development in 2007, researchers estimated that 82 percent of adult obesity results from taking in excess calories, But for those seeking to lose weight, making healthy choices when buying food can be easier said than done, especially in financial terms. Donna Mehrle, coordinator for the Missouri Council for Activity and Nutrition, said families might see less expensive, yet less nutritious, food as cheaper in the short run. “You can feed your family and yourself less expensively with foods that aren’t as healthy,” she said. But while consumers of junk food might be saving themselves a buck, the ailments that can come from eating too much of it could end up costing them and others more in the long run. Stan Dorn, a researcher with the Urban Institute, said when one member of society gets obese, “the rest of us pay.” “Put differently, it’s your God-given right as an American to eat foods that risk obesity,” he said. “But you need to help pay your fair share of the burdens that such risks impose on the rest of us.” News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  21. 21. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 21 of 71 DNR: Finley River Sewage Spill May Have Been Preventable By KSPR News By Joanna Small Story Created: Jun 18, 2010 at 10:17 PM CDT Story Updated: Jun 18, 2010 at 10:17 PM CDT The Department of Natural Resources is trying to determine if a wastewater treatment plant in Christian County is negligent. Late Wednesday evening, 162,000 gallons of only partially treated sewage spilled into the Finley River in Ozark. A two-and-a-half hour power outage at the plant caused the error, and now DNR will decide if it could have- and should have- been prevented. "Can't prove it but she was getting sick." Stewart Plank has always had his reservations about the Finley that flows behind his Ozark house. "I spend quite a bit of time down here, sit and read a book and listen to the river and all that." Sounds safe, after , you can't hear bacteria. But he says the river likely contains it; that's why he doesn't let his young daughter swim in it or keep the fish he catches in it. "There's Giardia, there's e.Coli, there's Hepatitis, there's Salmonella," explains Christian County Health Department Administrator Karen Potter. She agrees with Plank's amateur assessment. Several times a summer the e.Coli count in the river is too high to allow access. And now there's another problem- "On Wednesday evening storms came through, high winds and lightning- they lost power for approximately two-and-a-half hours," explains Kevin Hess with the Department of Natural Resources. Sewage spilled from this wastewater treatment plant into the river. The only stage in the cleansing process skipped is when the water is infused with ultra violet rays. Because it's the same stuff you get from the sun the water really goes through a natural cleansing process. "The ultra violet disinfection is the last treatment prior to it being discharged," says Hess. In other words the spill could have been worse, but now DNR is determining if it could have been prevented. "We're still continuing our investigation, working with the city to see what we can do to prevent this from happening again." Like utilizing a back-up system in the event of a power failure. "It's a quarter of a mile from here, not even that, where they dump the water out." Plank says he just utilizes common sense; sewage leak or not his contact with the Finley stops at its banks. DNR asked the city of Ozark to complete a series of tests on the water Thursday and Friday. Those results show no bacteria levels outside the daily limits, however that doesn't mean what happened isn't a problem. DNR says what happened as a result of the outage is a violation of the terms of the plant's permit, and that Ozark should have notified the state agency about the sewage spill sooner. News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  22. 22. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 22 of 71 Drunken driving will cost offenders more money in Missouri KY3-TV SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The high cost of drunken driving is about to go up, in dollars. That's beyond the lives put at risk, criminal charges, and the threat of losing your license for a long time. One requirement to get your license back after a driving-while-intoxicated conviction in Missouri is the Substance Abuse Traffic Offenders Program, or SATOP. The educational program is not cheap, and it's about to get even more expensive. "I got pulled over for speeding. I'd been at a bar, blew a .114. Back then, that's what the blood alcohol content was, and I got a DWI," said Paul Preece. Preece's DWI offense was in May 2002. He's taking the necessary steps to get back his license. "I haven't had one for eight years, and haven't drove for eight years. It's been kind of a burden," Preece said. The bill for the SATOP program can also be a burden. Preece says the price tag held him back. "Yes, the fees are pretty expensive for this program," he said. First of all, everyone pays a screening fee of $271. On July 1, that goes up to $375. "There's no way around that; no financial assistance," said Cheryl West, SATOP Administrator for Safety Council of the Ozarks. Then it's on to the educational part of the program. Preece and about 20 others are spending the next couple days in a weekend intervention program administered by Safety Council of the Ozarks. "This was a live and learn situation," said Preece. It's 20 hours of education with a price tag of $440, unless you qualify for help. "I'm glad I qualified for financial aid, so it only cost me $150, but that is the minimum," said Preece. On July 1, the minimum goes up to $250. For a 10-hour educational program, the mimimum price goes from $100 to $130. Part of the reason for the increase is to add more money to the financial assistance fund. "They're seeing that when clients are referred to a higher level program, they're unable to afford it, and so they wanted to make the 4th level program also eligible to clients for financial assistance," said West. West worries the higher fees could cause some to ignore SATOP and drive anyway. "Which, as of right now, could be a felony charge," she said. Of course the best way to avoid the fees is "Don't drink and drive. That's one thing; because you will pay for it," said Preece. SATOP is is a state program that is administered by many different agencies, just one of them being Safety Council of the Ozarks. Besides SATOP fees, DWI offenders have to pay a license reinstatement fee, and purchase high-risk car insurance to drive again. News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  23. 23. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 23 of 71 'Perfect storm' hammers trade unions and contractors alike By Steve Giegerich ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH 06/20/2010 A member of Sheet Metal Workers Local 36, heating and cooling contractor Mike Curran still considers himself a union man through and through. That speaks volumes, considering that Curran's relationship with the labor organization now consists of letters demanding the payment of delinquent dues, lawsuits from the union naming him a defendant and summons to appear in St. Louis federal court. Curran is far from alone. Since the onset of the recession, dozens of St. Louis area contractors have also been hauled into court as local construction trade unions — plumbers, carpenters, electricians and more — seek unpaid dues for workers' pension, welfare, health and vacation funds. What's changed is a collision between a 2008 federal law governing union pensions and the beginning of the Great Recession, which experts say has increased the number of restitution settlements tradesmen have negotiated with union officials. "Percentage-wise it's a little bit worse — we're having a heck of a time collecting our money," said David Zimmerman, the business manager and president of Local 36. It was not unusual — even before the economy tanked — for union-affiliated firms to fall behind on payments to employee benefit funds. In fact, a review of the U.S. District Court for Eastern Missouri docket prior to the collapse of the economy shows hundreds of claims filed by labor groups seeking restitution from contractors. But labor leaders and construction business owners concur: Though the exact number of court-ordered judgments isn't available, they've seen more complaints filed against contractors (and more bankruptcies among contractors) during the recession. "The contractors didn't understand the ramifications when they signed the contract and the unions didn't understand the impact of the Pension Protection Act," said Jim Kistler, the president and CEO of the Associated Builders and Contractors "Heart of America" chapter in Kansas City. "You put these two things together with the recession and you have a perfect storm hitting both sides." The Pension Protection Act obligates fund administrators to act legally on behalf of the beneficiaries, the workers, if the account balance dips below 80 percent of the payout owed retirees. "We have to do everything we can to collect the funds. It's our fiduciary responsibility for our members," explained George "Butch" Welsch, the owner of Welsch Heating and Cooling and a member of the joint contractor-union committee that oversees the Local 36 benefit plans. For Curran, who says he hasn't drawn a paycheck in two years, the union benefit fund's pursuit of his assets has pushed him to the brink of bankruptcy. "I'm done," he said. "They've got me where they want me, they can take their pound of flesh from me." News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  24. 24. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 24 of 71 To stave off legal action, Zimmerman says, Local 36 does whatever it can to work out mutual payment agreements with contractors in arrears. "But once they quit returning phone calls, we just have to do what we have to do," he said. "The bottom line is we're not a bank." To the president of St. Louis chapter of the Associated General Contractors, Curran and Local 36 alike are casualties of an economy that has left no sector of the construction industry unscathed. "There are no good guys and no bad guys," said Leonard Toenjes. "Everybody is just doing what they have to do." In the case of the contractors, survival means staying afloat in a local sector that has seen business fall off by 31 percent in 2008-09 and another 30 percent over the first three months of this year, according to an Associated General Contractors survey. Projects that once drew interest from five contractors are now attracting 20 or more bids, said Toenjes. Moreover, banks that once bailed out contractors with short-term loans have curtailed credit in response to the wide-ranging financial crisis. As a result, contractors have been forced to choose between meeting payroll, compensating suppliers or making good on their obligations to union benefit plans. In most cases, it's the benefit fund that goes wanting, say Toenjes and others. And that's where the economic conditions visited upon the construction industry runs head-on into the Pension Protection Act. As the title implies, the legislation was passed with the best of intentions, said St. Louis University accounting professor John McGowan, a nationally recognized authority on the legislation. But for companies and labor organizations struggling to maintain the 80 percent level, the timing of the 2006 act couldn't have been worse. Within 26 months, the stock market collapsed, gutting private and public retirement accounts along with the investments of millions of other Americans. In 2008 alone, the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation — the government agency that insures retirement plans — reported losses in its portfolio totaling $4.8 billion, according to a report McGowan prepared for the Associated Builders and Contractors. Entering 2008, the pension account administered by the Carpenters District Council of Greater St. Louis and Vicinity had the capacity to meet 98 percent of its potential obligations. By the end of the year, the balance stood at 82 percent. Council officials say the percentage of funding has remained at or near that level ever since. Zimmerman said the fund controlled by Local 36 of the Sheet Metal Workers at one point dipped to 71 percent but is now above 80 percent. Union officials call federal court a final, reluctant stop in the process to recoup unpaid dues from contractors. In general, labor groups turn the matter over to attorneys after a contractor fails to respond to delinquency notices sent at 30 and 60 days. With unemployment among trade workers believed to be as high as 40 percent, labor leaders say they are not unsympathetic to the plight of the contractors. "If we see if something is not collectible, we quit chasing them," said Terry Nelson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Carpenters' Council. That has not been Mike Curran's experience with Local 36 of the Sheet Metal Workers Union. News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  25. 25. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 25 of 71 Curran came to appreciate the benefits of union membership while employed as a heating and air-conditioning worker and sheet metal worker at the outset of his career. It seemed only natural for Curran to sign a pact with Local 36 on behalf of his own employees when he went into business for himself in 1992. Curran says he erred by not hiring a lawyer to review the contract terms 18 years ago. The oversight came back to haunt him in 2006. When his business slowed to a crawl, Curran opted not to renew the agreement with Local 36. He is not the first signatory contractor to suffer the consequence of ignoring the fine contractual print. "Unlike a traditional contract that expires when it's over, a collective bargaining relationship continues until you get out of the contract," said Terry Morgan, an attorney with the National Labor Relations Board. The legal term for obtaining a divorce from a labor agreement is "withdrawal liability." The price: between $100,000 and $200,000, including attorney fees. Industry advocates say there's a good reason many small contractors don't know about the consequences of withdrawal liability: They are not businessmen. "Just because I know how to install a window doesn't mean I know how to run a window company," said Toenjes. "The balance of knowledge of the industry and business knowledge is hard to strike. And there's a high churn rate because of that." Still, witness the docket of unresolved judgments and liens in U.S. District Court, the collateral damage from the recession seems destined to stretch out for years to come. "It's a downward spiral that is difficult to come out of," Toenjes says of the adversity that has struck organized labor, workers and contractors with equal vengeance. "This is the very definition of 'victims of circumstance.'" News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  26. 26. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 26 of 71 Jay Nixon calls special session BY TONY MESSENGER ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH 06/19/2010 JEFFERSON CITY — Calling automobile manufacturing vital to Missouri's economy, Gov. Jay Nixon on Friday called lawmakers back to the capital city with the task of passing a bill that would offer about $150 million in incentives to Ford and its ancillary suppliers over the next 10 years. The day after cutting $300 million from the state budget and cutting 250 state jobs, Nixon decided that state employees — future ones, at least — were going to have to take in a little more bad news. The Ford bill will happen only if lawmakers also approve changes to the state pension system that will have future employees in effect financing the Ford incentives. It's a touchy combination of seemingly unrelated issues that has Nixon receiving criticism from members of his own party. Still, the governor said he believes that cutting pension costs and doing something to make sure Ford reinvests in its 3,500-employee plant in Claycomo — a Kansas City suburb — are both important enough to bring lawmakers back over the summer. "Economic incentives should be used to put Missourians to work and strengthen communities," Nixon said. "Investing in the future of Missouri's automotive industry meets that important standard, and it would provide a solid return on investment for the taxpayers of this state. But it's important that we offset the costs of that investment to make sure we have government we can afford." Nixon's decision was immediately praised by business leaders who see the value in keeping Ford in Missouri as other states have come calling with their own incentive deals. "The inability of the Legislature to reach agreement on this pro-jobs legislation before the end of the regular legislative session hindered, but not did not destroy, Missouri's opportunity for manufacturing expansion," said Ray McCarty, president of Associated Industries. The bill in question, the "Manufacturing Jobs Act," would allow Ford to keep up to $10 million a year in employee withholding taxes as long as it invests a certain amount of money in modernizing its Claycomo plant. The bill would also make up to $5 million a year available for other automotive manufacturing businesses, such as those that supply Ford. Nixon had pushed for the bill late in the session, but like many bills involving tax credits, it was opposed by a group of Republican senators who said that the state's tax credit system was out of control and needed to be reined in. The increase in tax credits — which reduce the amount of revenue coming into the state — has exacerbated Missouri's budget crisis. Ironically, Nixon joined the bandwagon against tax credits in the middle of the session, but he was careful to avoid criticizing tax credits that he deems important for business development. Since the session ended, Nixon has been slowing down the issuance of low-income housing tax credits, and developers have criticized him for harming job prospects in the construction industry. On the last day of the session that ended in May, Nixon and others tied fate of the Ford bill to that of the pension bill. But the House and Senate ended up in a standoff, with the pension bill dying in the House and the Ford bill failing to pass in the Senate. The same problems could pop up again in the special session. News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  27. 27. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 27 of 71 Democrats and Republicans familiar with the pension legislation have suggested it was problematic as written, particularly with the creation of a new oversight board that Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said has "potential for corruption." Minority leader Rep. Paul LeVota, D-Independence, had asked Nixon in a letter this week to consider alternative ways to pay for the Ford incentives, such as closing tax loopholes and collecting sales taxes on Internet sales. Nixon said those proposals were "nonstarters" in the Republican-controlled Legislature. News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  28. 28. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 28 of 71 Mo. Gov. calls special session for Ford incentives By CHRIS BLANK Associated Press Writer JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is shopping for a Ford. The governor ordered lawmakers back for a special session starting Thursday to consider millions in tax incentives and pension plan changes to entice the automaker to keep its Kansas City-area plant producing. The union at the Claycomo plant, which employs 3,700 people, fears that without the tax breaks, Ford Motor Co. won't give the factory another vehicle to build if it stops making Ford Escapes next year. Claycomo also makes the Escape's twin, the Mercury Mariner, but Ford is eliminating the Mercury brand later this year. It builds the Ford F-150 pickup truck as well, but Escape-Mariner production employs the bulk of the workers. The United Auto Workers Local 249 said on its website that Ford is moving Escape production to a plant in Kentucky, which is being set up to make vehicles off Ford's global compact car underpinnings. Ford has not said which products will go to the Louisville Assembly Plant, nor has it officially said that Escape production will end next year at Claycomo. A person briefed on Ford's plans said no final decisions have been made on where to produce a new version of the Escape. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans have not been made public. The union local president did not immediately respond to a message Friday. Ford's decision likely depends on the outcome of the proposed tax breaks, as well as local and national contract negotiations with the UAW. The union's national contract with Ford and the other Detroit automakers expires next year, and Ford is likely to be the first to bargain with the union and set the pattern for Chrysler Group LLC and General Motors Co. Missouri's proposed tax incentives would allow manufacturers to keep half their state employee withholding taxes if they invest in factory improvements for new product lines. Suppliers would get additional incentives. The program would be capped at $15 million annually, though earlier drafts of the plan have limited any single company to $10 million annually. To offset the cost, Nixon wants to revamp Missouri's employee retirement system by requiring new employees to start contributing around 4 percent of their pay and delaying their retirement. A special legislative session will cost Missouri about $125,000 for each five-day work week, according to Nixon's budget office. On Thursday, Nixon announced $300 million of reductions in state general revenue expenses, including sizable cuts to college scholarships and public school busing. But he said the incentives for Ford are needed for Missouri to compete for future auto jobs. "Investing in the future of Missouri's automotive industry meets that important standard, and it would provide a solid return on investment," Nixon said. House Speaker Ron Richard, R-Joplin, said he does not know whether there are enough votes to approve the retirement changes. He predicted the Ford incentives would be an easier sell. Sen. Luann Ridgeway, whose district includes the Claycomo plant, said the incentives package is necessary. News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  29. 29. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 29 of 71 "It makes it exceedingly more difficult to reach out to Ford and say please spend hundreds of millions of dollars investing in a 1950s plant when Missouri does nothing," said Ridgeway, R-Smithville. Critics contend that Missouri cannot afford to spend so much to keep one company, and say it is unfair for future state workers to pick up the tab of the tax breaks. "At a time when the state is struggling to provide for the welfare of its citizens, Missouri should not make the welfare of a profitable corporation a higher priority, especially when there is no guarantee Ford will keep its jobs in Missouri," said Rep. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis. --- Associated Press writer Tom Krisher contributed to this report from Detroit. News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  30. 30. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 30 of 71 General Assembly to convene in special session next week,; tax break for Ford is topic By STEVE KRASKE The Kansas City Star Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is ordering lawmakers back to Jefferson City next week to consider tax incentives for the Ford Motor Co. Ford is expected to move production of the next version of its Escape/Mercury Mariner SUV from its Claycomo plant to Kentucky next year. The carmarker, which also builds the F-150 pickup at Claycomo, would need to retool the plant to build a different model. The plant employs about 3,900 workers. “Automobile manufacturers and suppliers employ thousands of Missourians in every corner of the state,” Nixon said Friday, “and it’s vital that Missouri remains a hub of automotive production for generations to come.” Nixon, a Democrat, said he will ask lawmakers convening at noon Thursday to consider a tax break that would allow Ford to retain withholding taxes that typically are sent to the state — a break that could be worth up to $15 million a year. The General Assembly came close to passing the measure during the legislative session that ended in May. It easily passed the House and won a preliminary vote in the Senate before stalling on the session’s final day. Nixon said Ford is in the midst of finalizing decisions about restructuring operations and locating production lines. Other states, most notably Michigan, are aggressively competing for Ford jobs, he said. This will be the sixth special session that Missouri governors have called since 2001. In his message, Nixon also asked lawmakers to consider a way to pay for the incentive package through cuts in future state pensions. He proposed requiring new state workers to pay 4 percent of their salary to the state retirement plan. “It’s important that we offset the costs of that (Ford) investment to make sure we have government we can afford,” Nixon said. The announcement of the special session came just one day after Nixon signed off on the state’s next budget, cutting about $300 million because of faltering state revenues. Those cutbacks came on top of hundreds of millions of dollars in other reductions that lawmakers made this spring. But some lawmakers predicted that giving tax breaks to Ford could be a tough sell. “At a time when the state is struggling to provide for the welfare of its citizens, Missouri should not make the welfare of a profitable corporation a higher priority, especially when there is no guarantee Ford will keep its jobs in Missouri,” said Rep. Jamilah Nasheed, a St. Louis Democrat. Rep. Paul LeVota, an Independence Democrat, said he wasn’t convinced that lawmakers would pass both the Ford package and the pension cuts. The state Senate has battled over tax breaks in recent years. One problem, LeVota said, is that Nixon has coupled the tax breaks with the pension cuts. LeVota, the House minority leader, said he had encouraged Nixon to propose several options for paying for the tax breaks. News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  31. 31. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 31 of 71 “The biggest risk is that they’re tied together,” LeVota said. “There is a handful of people who don’t like the idea of taking away incentives for state workers.” Still, the convening of a special session was welcome news at the Claycomo plant, where local economic development and union officials have been concerned about what vehicle will replace the SUV. “We’re very pleased that the governor and the legislature will reconsider this issue,” said Jeff Wright, president of United Auto Workers Local 249. “This isn’t just good for Ford and the UAW, but for all of the automotive industry in Missouri.” News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  32. 32. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 32 of 71 Extent of cuts for school aid hits home BY TIM BARKER POST-DISPATCH 06/19/2010 When Gov. Jay Nixon revealed plans Thursday to slash a pair of scholarship programs aimed at the state's neediest and brightest students, it sent the higher education community into a frenzy. A day later, public and private schools are still scrambling to figure out exactly what the news will mean for students. And they fear that some of those students could be forced to leave school. "Everyone was expecting a cut. But no one expected it to be this large," said Jim Brooks, director of student financial aid at the University of Missouri-Columbia, where one in four Missouri students is helped by the two programs. Nixon's plan to trim more than $300 million from the state budget includes the virtual gutting of Access Missouri, an $82 million program for low- and middle-income students that was cut to $32 million. There also is a 25 percent reduction in the smaller Bright Flight program, aimed at keeping top students from leaving the state. For now, administrators, parents and students are awaiting details on the cuts. In a worst case scenario, Bright Flight awards could drop to $1,500 from $2,000. Access Missouri awards have two payment levels, based on whether a student goes to a public or private school. The maximum award could drop to $500 from nearly $1,700 last year at public schools, and to $1,000 from more than $3,500 last year at private schools. While the Department of Higher Education figures out the new payment levels — it could be a week or more before financial aid officers have more information — schools such as the University of Missouri-St. Louis are exploring ways to minimize the damage. "We'll look for ways to make sure the campus remains accessible for students in need," said Bob Samples, spokesman for UMSL, where more than 1,600 students receive aid from the programs. The problem is that most, if not all, of the state's institutions have financial troubles of their own. Endowments have suffered along with the nation's economy. Private donors have become more tight-fisted. And the state also cut funding for higher education by 5 percent. Still, the cuts in Access Missouri soon may be modified because of an infusion of cash announced last week by the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority, which is giving the state $30 million for scholarships. The student loan agency characterized the infusion as a one-time event and said the money comes from a surplus generated through a series of financial restructurings undertaken during the past few months. Will Shaffner, director of business development and governmental relations for MOHELA, said the money is being released to the state, which will decide how to use it. "With the current crisis, we want to make sure that when the state has to make tough choices, the students will be protected," Shaffner said. While it's possible the money could be used to create a separate scholarship program, the Department of Higher Education said Friday that it simply may be rolled into Access Missouri. But even with that $30 million, the governor's cuts still represent a 25 percent reduction in funding for a program that had already been trimmed about 10 percent by legislators. For some students, that's going to be too much, said George Wolf, vice president and dean for enrollment services at Westminster College, where nearly a third of the students get money from the targeted programs. "Bottom line: It will keep some kids from going to school," Wolf said. "I have no doubt about that." News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  33. 33. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 33 of 71 That type of thinking has some financial aid leaders suggesting that it's time to reconsider the Bright Flight program, which rewards students based on their ACT scores. Rarely does that money make a difference in whether those students — who don't tend to come from poor families — are able to attend college, said Faith Sandler, executive director of the Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis. "It may be a nice benefit, but does it fill a critical need when we are cutting essential aid?" Sandler asked. For some schools, however, the governor's cuts were far from a worst-case scenario. The state's private schools are understandably conflicted about the cuts, considering that, just a few months ago, they were battling not to be left out of Access Missouri altogether. That was one scenario floated by Nixon while working to get everyone on board with a plan to end the practice of giving larger scholarships to students at private schools. The so-called equalization will go into effect in 2014. One of the schools at the forefront of the campaign to retain Access Missouri money for private-school students was Missouri Baptist University, which organized a pep rally, phone bank and letter-writing campaign. University president R. Alton Lacey took the news of the governor's cut with that in mind. "It's not great news. But it's probably not the worst news either," Lacey said. "I'm just glad the program is funded at any level. And that we are included." Still, things will be getting considerably tougher for students like Montez Brown, a freshman among 650 Missouri Baptist students helped by Access Missouri and Bright Flight. Brown, 19, a business administration major who's already working 30 hours a week, still owes the school $1,500 from last year. Now's he looking for a second job to offset the lost scholarship money while wondering when he's going to find time for study and homework. "I thought we were supposed to be the future," Brown said. "But now they're taking this money away from us." News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  34. 34. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 34 of 71 Schools face tough times after recent budget cuts by Kermit Miller Posted: 06.18.2010 at 6:32 PM RUSSELLVILLE, MO. -- Organizations and agencies funded by the state are still assessing the fallout from the latest round of budget cuts. Without a doubt, education is the biggest loser in the latest round of cuts. Gov. Jay Nixon completely eliminated a program that subsidizes internet access in schools. And he sliced tens of millions from school bus funding. Like most rural superintendents, Russellville’s Jerry Hobbs depends heavily on state funds. The cuts mean no new school bus this fall to replace one of the aging units in his fleet. "We're probably gonna go from 93,000 to around 45,000 to 50,000 dollars," Hobbs said. The reduced funding from the state barely covers the $255,000 a year needed to run buses during the year. “It still costs us to run the buses,” Hobbs said. “We still have to haul the kids.” "Restricting these funds was not an easy call,” Nixon said at Thursday’s budget cut announcement. “But it will allow us to preserve full funding for K-12 classrooms.” True, but some small districts likely will have to use classroom money to provide bus service, which is required by law. The tightening money situation did not allow the governor to protect most new programs. One exception is an $8.3 million appropriation for a comprehensive smoking cessation program in Medicaid moms. The administration said that's a smart hedge against future costs. "Low birth weight babies are very expensive in the Medicaid program,” State Budget Director Linda Luebbering said. “So we believe by providing this funding we'll save at least as much in the Medicaid program.” It's the kind of choice people like Hobbs can appreciate, but not without wincing. "I feel sorry for the governor and the legislature as they have to try to make those cuts,” Hobbs said. “I know it's difficult. I know it's necessary. But it also puts us in a difficult position too.” College Administrators are also bemoaning the cuts to the state's scholarship programs. However, by doing that, the administration was able to honor its deal with tax supported institutions not to cut their budgets severely. In return, they will honor their joint pledge not to increase tuition. News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  35. 35. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 35 of 71 State determining where next job cuts will come JEFFERSON CITY NEWS TRIBUNE By Bob Watson Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon this week announced plans to cut another 255 state jobs, as part of his effort to keep the state's budget balanced. "We've taken a look at departments across state government, to increase efficiency, cut costs and save money," Nixon told reporters Thursday as he announced both his signing of the budget bills for the 2010-11 business year and $280 million in additional withholdings, and the job cuts. When this next round of job cuts is finished, Missouri government leaders will have sliced about 2,500 jobs from the state's payroll since Nixon took office in January 2009 -- about 18 months. And that's on top of former Gov. Matt Blunt's administration's job reductions, which eliminated positions until the total number of state employees was below 60,000. "We're hoping that the majority of (the new cuts) will be through attrition," Budget Director Linda Luebbering told reporters, "but, no, we don't know specifically." The budget director said the agencies still are determining which jobs will be affected by the new cuts. For that matter, the Office of Administration did not have an immediate answer to where the previous cuts had occurred, or how many were jobs filled with people at the time the positions were eliminated. The only information available Friday covered a total of 192 Merit System jobs cut in the 2009-10 business year that ends June 30, including 29 positions in Cole County, 2 jobs each in Boone and Camden counties, and 1 job each in Callaway and Miller counties. Luebbering said OA officials still were trying to determine the location and type of other jobs affected by the last two years' reductions. But administrators do know which departments are affected by the new cuts: Mental Health will lose the most jobs, at 92 FTEs (full-time equivalent). Social Services is second, with 70 positions. And the Office of Administration is third, with 52 jobs lost. Read an expanded version of this article in our newspaper or e-Edition for Sunday, June 20, 2010. Newspaper subscribers: Click on an e-Edition article and log in using your current account information at no extra charge. For help, e-mail News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  36. 36. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 36 of 71 Nixon cuts funding for MOREnet, largest Internet access manager By MARÁ ROSE WILLIAMS The Kansas City Star Internet access has just gotten more costly for the state’s financially strapped schools, colleges, universities and libraries. The $281 million in state budget cuts approved by Gov. Jay Nixon this week included the last $7 million of the state’s subsidy to MOREnet, the largest manager of Internet access for educational services. It’s the fourth cut made to the subsidy since January. To offset the loss of those state dollars, the MOREnet consortium, serving more than 700 institutions across Missouri, Friday voted to bump up the cost for its service. How much has not been determined. The state cut represents about a quarter of the MOREnet budget and the second half of what had been a $14 million state subsidy. The executive director, John Gillispie, said MOREnet has provided low-cost telecommunication, support services and training for students, community residents and telehealth-care clinics for 20 years. “This budget cut may make access to some of these services cost prohibitive to certain members of the consortium,” Gillispie said. The largest MOREnet client is the University of Missouri four-campus system. MOREnet manages all the Internet access for the system, including MU’s University Hospital. Gary Allen, system vice president for information technology, was not sure what the financial impact will be to the university. Gillispie said the budget cuts “primarily impacts K-12,” which could see a minimum 35 percent rate increase. Service cost varies among school districts depending on size and the level of band width service used. But he said a district with the maximum student population and using the maximum band width could be charged about $33,875 a year. Kansas City School District officials said they, too, haven’t been told what the additional cost will be to the district. “But we are going to have to try and find a way to pay it to continue having Internet access for our schools,” said Eileen Houston-Stewart, district spokeswoman. “In our current financial state, any increase is going to have a significant impact.” News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  37. 37. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 37 of 71 "Crisis" Situation For MOREnet COLUMBIA - After losing all state funding, the Missouri Research and Education Network, or MOREnet,decided Friday morning to continue operations. MOREnet held a teleconference with its staff, council, members, and sponsors Friday morning. MOREnet provides internet and network services to schools and libraries. It said although it anticipated cuts, it did not expect anything of this magnitude. On Thursday, Governor Nixon announced $281 million more in state cuts. It included $6.8 million in cuts to MOREnet. MOREnet is weighing a number of options to try and adjust to the cuts. Council members challenged the MOREnet staff to think of creative ideas. One of those options would mean relocating to a smaller building. MOREnet is currently located of LeMone Industrial Boulevard, but says it is shopping smaller buildings to move in to. It also said it had some resignations recently that it would not refill. On the conference call, council members called MOREnet a "fundamentally irreplaceable" service for school districts. Representatives from area school districts said during the conference they would have to consider other options depending on the magnitude of the fee increase. MOREnet says it will likely need to double the fee increase that was originally planned. It is also trying to become a more appealing service and increase its value. It may adopt a "cafeteria" style format. Currently, it offers memberships and anyone who is a member has the same service package. The new format would let clients pick and choose which services they want. MOREnet is working on finalizing the rates for the upcoming year before they are due on July 1. KOMU-TV Reported by: Blake Hanson Edited by: Michael Brannen News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online:
  38. 38. 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 , J u n e 2 1 , 2 0 1 0 -- Page 38 of 71 Missouri prisons will cut back visiting hours BY PHILLIP O'CONNOR ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH 06/19/2010 On Friday, as she has almost every week for the past 10 years, Judy Martin drove from her Arnold home to the state prison in Farmington, Mo. She visited a young man from her church who was convicted of murder when he was 18 years old. "He's told me over and over that I've made such a difference in his life — and I know I have — just because somebody cares about him," Martin said. But soon, Martin, 67, and others like her, may no longer be able to spend as much time with inmates. Come September, Missouri plans to cut prison visiting hours, a move corrections officials say will save money on overtime pay. "With the current fiscal climate and how the budget is and never knowing what's around the corner, we've been taking at look at how we can become more efficient," Department of Corrections spokesman Jacqueline Lapine said Friday. But some corrections experts fear that Missouri's cost savings could come at a price. They point to studies that show family visits and educational programming are the most crucial components in the successful rehabilitation of criminals. "Prisoners who are able to maintain quality contact with loved ones throughout a prison term have a much better chance of post-release success in the community, and a much lower recidivism rate," said Terry Kupers, an Oakland psychiatrist who works with inmates and has studied the effects of prison visitation. Those who don't are more likely to be the object of excessive force and abuse from staff and prisoners. "Perpetrators select prisoners to abuse who have no quality contacts outside the prison" Kupers said. The changes in visiting hours come at a time when corrections facilities across the country confront drastic budget shortfalls. With tax revenue off sharply as a result of the economic downturn, many are searching for savings in everything from food to telephone usage. Several states have eliminated education and treatment programs while others have granted inmates early release. "These are very tough choices they're being forced to take," said Joel Dvoskin, a psychologist with the University of Arizona medical school, who has written extensively on prison mental health issues. While research is clear that maintaining positive ties to the community increases an inmate's chances of living a law-abiding life outside of prison, the first priority must be to keep staff and inmates safe, Dvoskin said. "You have to look at what they would do otherwise to trim their budget," he said. "You can't cut stuff that has immediate safety implications for staff or inmates. I'm sympathetic. Budgets are bad." Despite Illinois' precarious financial position, a Department of Correction official there said no visiting hour changes are planned. Locally, the St. Louis County jail recently moved the daily starting time for prisoner visits from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., in part to save money and because there were few visitors during those early morning hours, Superintendent Vincent Vaughn said. News Clips online: — Subscribe via: Missouri Senate online: — Senate Communications online: