Headline: A note from Phill [Entered: 11/18/2011]
A couple of notes for the upcoming Thanksgiving holidays.
First, we will not be producing a version of MPANews for the week of Nov. 21-25. All of my reporters will be on holiday break and state government promises to be very inactive.
However, I will be in town and will update the web edition of MPANews [http://www.mdn.org/mpanews] along with NewsBook [http://www.mdn.org/newsbook].
Also, if you were planning on a column and need or desire one from me, give me a call (573-353-7525) and I can put one out. I have several pre-written ones, so it would not be a problem. I can post it on the column archive site [http://www.mdn.org/mpacol].
Second, I noticed that a few of you have been posting material on MPAShare [http://www.mdn.org/mpashare]. If you have not already registered, please do so and try it out. And let me know if there is anything you would like changed.
Starting in December, I’m thinking about including submissions from you into MPANews — not necessarily all, but the ones I think would be of interest.
I’ll write you more on that later.
Have a great Thanksgiving and remember to grieve for the turkeys.
Headline: University of Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel suspended after DWI arrest [Entered: 11/17/2011]
By Stacey Kafka [Email: email@example.com, Cell: 630-329-5886) – Please remove contact info. if published.]
University of Missouri head football coach Gary Pinkel was suspended without pay for one week after being arrested Wednesday night [Nov. 16] on charges of driving while intoxicated.
The suspension will cause Pinkel to miss Saturday’s [Nov. 19] game against Texas Tech.
The Boone County Sheriff’s Deputy arrested Pinkel on Wednesday around 10:15 p.m. in Columbia. Officers pulled Pinkel over for lane and signal violations. After pulling Pinkel over, deputies believed Pinkel had been drinking. Officers transported Pinkel to the Boone County Jail where he later posted $500 bond.
Major Tom Reddin would not comment on specifics, but this is Pinkel’s first offense.
Last year, MU football players Beau Brinkley and Will Ebner were arrested for DWI charges and subsequently suspended. Assistant coach Bruce Walker also was arrested for DWI. Both players were suspended for two games as a result of their arrests.
In a statement released Thursday [Nov. 17] morning, Pinkel apologized for his actions.
“My staff and I constantly reinforce with each of our players the importance of not putting yourself into a position such as this. I did not follow that here and for that, I sincerely apologize to the University of Missouri, to our administration, to the Board of Curators and to our fans. I have already met with our staff and communicated with our players and have apologized to them,” Pinkel wrote.
Athletics Director Mike Alden also released a statement saying he is disappointed in Pinkel’s actions.
“He is known as a man of great character and integrity. However, this absolutely goes against everything we stand for and everything that he teaches his players in regards to our social responsibilities. We hold ourselves to very high standards, and this is a very serious breach of those responsibilities,” Alden wrote.
Pinkel said he will face whatever form of punishment the athletic department finds necessary.
“I accept full responsibility for my actions and will abide by whatever course of action our leadership deems appropriate,” Pinkel said.
MU Chancellor Brady Deaton also released a statement saying he is disappointed to hear about Pinkel’s arrest.
“Coaches must hold themselves to the very highest of standards. His lack of judgment is especially concerning since he serves as a role model for our students,” Deaton said.
At a press conference Thursday [Nov. 17], Alden announced Pinkel will not coach Saturday’s game against Texas Tech. In addition to his week-long suspension, Pinkel’s punishments include donating a week’s salary to the MU Wellness Resource Center. This salary totals more than $40,000.
Other financial punishments include a one-year pay freeze, no social and academic incentives and no bowl bonuses.
The financial impact of this DWI arrest totals more than $300,000. Aside from the financial impacts, Pinkel must write an apology letter to fans, will have a letter of reprimand placed on his file and must complete 50 hours of community service by next summer.
* Get the radio stories on the athletic director’s announced actions [ http://www.mdn.org/2011/STORIES/GPINKEL.HTM ] the radio stories on the athletic director’s announced actions
* Get the radio stories on the arrest [ http://www.mdn.org/2011/STORIES/PINKEL.HTM ] .
* Get more radio stories on the arrest [ http://www.mdn.org/2011/STORIES/ALDEN.HTM ] .
Headline: Author of Missouri’s child abuse statute says it should be changed [Entered: 11/16/2011]
By Stephanie Ebbs [Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Cell: 618-525-4700) and Rebecca Woolf [Email: email@example.com, Cell: 317-828-5131 – Please remove contact info. if published.]
Missouri has a similar exemption to Pennsylvania that allows child abuse reports to be made to an employee’s supervisor rather than directly to police or child-protection services.
Thirty-five years ago, Kenny Rothman co-sponsored Missouri’s child abuse law, which requires anyone who works with children to immediately report suspected child abuse.
But like Pennsylvania, that law requires that some professionals such as teachers only have to report the suspected abuse to their supervisors.
Rothman, now a St. Louis County attorney, said if he could do it over, he would not have included that exemption.
“The administration could cover it up like it was done here in Pennsylvania, or it could take too long because administrations have a tendency to be bulky and cumbersome,” Rothman said.
A staff attorney from the Missouri State Teachers Association said he does not think a change is necessary and that the system works well with teachers reporting abuse to principals.
“I don’t think it would really change the outcome, quite honestly,” said the staff attorney for the Missouri State Teachers Association, Kyle Farmer. “I like for my teachers to be able to send it to the principal or whoever it is in their school district just because I think that’s what the law says, that’s what it requires, but at the same time it actually doesn’t prohibit teachers or any mandatory reporter from making that phone call.”
Senate Democratic Leader Victor Callahan, D-Independence, said he has not heard of any plans to change the child abuse law during the upcoming legislative session.
* Get the radio story [http://www.mdn.org/2011/STORIES/ABUSE.HTM]
* Get the full text story. [ http://www.mdn.org/2011/STORIES/ABUSELAW.HTM ]
Headline: Missouri’s Transportation Department director presents his I-70 toll road plan to lawmakers. [Entered: 11/16/2011]
By Elizabeth Hagedorn [Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Cell: 314-913-0639) – Please remove contact info. if published.]
Transportation Department Director Kevin Keith found a receptive audience to his toll proposal from the Joint Committee on Transportation Department.
Several members agreed there should be discussion next year on using tolls to fund reconstruction for Interstate 70, although some suggested alternative revenue sources including a sales tax increase.
Kevin Keith urged lawmakers to support his department’s plan to make Interstate 70 a toll road to recover the costs of major improvements to the interstate. The worn-down interstate’s overcapacitated lanes and old bridges are among the reasons Keith said the interstate is in desperate need of a repair.
Under the plan, MoDOT would partner with private contractors to improve I-70 from the U.S. Highway 40-61 junction in Wentzville to the I-470 junction near Kansas City. Such improvements could include the expansion of new lanes, bridges and dedicated truck lanes on the interstate.
Keith said he estimates the project would cost anywhere from $1.5 billion to $4 billion, but he said a newly renovated interstate would keep MoDOT from spending $75 million to $95 million per year on maintenance.
“[We] have got to have some way to pay for it. And right now it’s the only option I know of,” Keith said.
Other lawmakers, including House Transportation Committee Chairman Charlie Denison, R-Springfield, suggested a sales tax increase as another source of funding.
In 2007, Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, supported a statewide sales tax increase to deal with overcrowded interstates.
Stouffer also expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of a new toll.
“I have a concern — I don’t know how real it is — that if you toll 70, you will push traffic onto other roads that aren’t built for the heavy traffic,” Stouffer said.
Keith said it was a “valid concern” and that a toll would undoubtedly cause some traffic to leave.
He estimates the project could be completed in the next five years.
* Get the radio story. [http://www.mdn.org/2011/STORIES/70.HTM]
Headline: Missouri redistricting panel met in secret to draw maps [Entered: 11/17/2011]
By Jessi Turnure [Email: email@example.com, Cell: 314-780-1078) – Please remove contact info. if published.]
Missouri’s new state legislative district maps are being drawn in secret by a panel of appeals court judges.
Without any public notice, six judges met Thursday [Nov. 17] in Jefferson City to work on the district maps. They refused to allow a reporter to attend the meeting and refused to disclose any information on the meeting or plans.
Western District Court of Appeals Judge Lisa Hardwick, who’s chairing the panel, refused to comment.
Chief Judge Don E. Burrell Jr. on the commission kept walking when asked about the meeting.
The other four judges serving on the panel are Robert G. Dowd Jr., Nancy Steffen Rahmeyer, Roy L. Richter and James E. Welsh.
The appeals court judges were appointed by the state Supreme Court to draw the maps after two bipartisan citizens commissions failed to meet the deadline for redrawing Missouri’s House of Representatives and Senate districts to conform with the 2010 census.
The House Democratic leader voiced criticism of the secrecy when he was told about it.
“On public policy matters that are important, that only happen every 10 years like this does, that are of that importance, I think they should be done in a full and transparent process in front of the world to see,” said Rep. Mike Talboy, D-Kansas City.
The new maps will take effect for the 2012 elections.
* Get the radio story [ http://www.mdn.org/2011/STORIES/SECRET.HTM ] .
Headline: Missouri and Midwest farmland values continue to rise [Entered: 11/15/2011]
By Matt Evans [Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Cell: 660-525-1313) – Please remove contact info. if published.]
The average value of farmland in several states throughout the Midwest and West is up 25 percent from last year despite droughts and flooding.
According to a survey released by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, that’s the biggest annual increase in land value since it began keeping survey records in 1994. The Federal Reserve said bumper crops and strong farm income from northern Plains states is the biggest reason for the increase. The reserve covers western Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Colorado and northern New Mexico.
Kelly Smith with the Missouri Farm Bureau said Missouri’s farmland has also seen steady gains in value the past few years.
“This would be across the state — whether it’s cropland, pasture land, forest, timberland — we have seen values rise,” Smith said.
Smith attributes the rise mostly to rising commodity prices.
* Get the radio stories [ http://www.mdn.org/2011/STORIES/FARMS.HTM ].
Headline: Missouri’s unemployment rate drops for October [Entered: 11/15/2011]
By Stacey Kafka [Email: email@example.com, Cell: 630-329-5886) – Please remove contact info. if published.]
The Department of Economic Development released a report showing unemployment dropped to 8.5 percent in October — down 0.2 percent from September.
According to this report, Missouri’s unemployment rate is 1 percent lower than the U.S. unemployment rate.
The industries that saw the largest job increase were leisure and hospitality, private education and administrative support services.
Top officials from the Department of Economic Development were unable to comment.
Spokesman for the governor’s office Scott Holste was also unavailable.
Headline: Missouri’s Supreme Court upholds a state law regulating sex shops [Entered: 11/15/2011]
By Rebecca May [Email: RJMN69@mail.missouri.edu, Cell: 314-369-2949) – Please remove contact info. if published.]
In a unanimous decision, Missouri’s Supreme Court upheld a law that imposes restrictions on sex shops, including a ban on full nudity. The law also bans the facilities from being located near churches, schools, homes or other sex shops.
The law contains a large number of requirements for strip clubs, pornography shops and other types of sexually oriented businesses.
The law, passed in 2010, followed several years of effort to impose restrictions on sexually oriented businesses. In 2005, a similar measure was struck down by the state Supreme Court on a legal technicality.
The restrictions had faced stiff lobbying opposition from the adult entertainment industry.
Those efforts preceding the 2005 passage triggered a federal grand jury investigation into whether campaign contributions by the industry had contributed to House actions against the bill. Among those called before the grand jury was former House Speaker Rod Jetton, who denied any improper behavior. No indictments were issued.
The industry argues the restrictions are an infringement on free speech.
In its decision, however, the court held that the “the restrictions in question are designed to serve the substantial government interest in minimizing the negative secondary effects caused by sexually oriented businesses.”
* Get the radio story [http://www.mdn.org/2011/STORIES/SCSSHOP.HTM].
* Get the bill, now law [ http://www.mdn.org/cgi-bin/bills/billhttp.exe?FORM=SB&NUM=586&YEAR=2010 ]
Headline: Missouri’s Economic Development director calls it quits [Entered: 11/15/2011]
The embattled director of Missouri’s Department of Economic Development, David Kerr, will leave his position at the end of the year.
Kerr’s department has come under attack after the failure of an economic development project promoted by his agency left the city of Moberly with nearly $40 million in bonds for a project that has been abandoned.
Earlier this year, the company, Mamtek, failed to make payments on bonds for development of factory in Moberly under a project approved by Kerr’s department.
Mamtek’s failure and the state’s role in promoting the venture have triggered two ongoing legislative investigations.
Also being investigated is the department’s approval of tax breaks for a project in southeast Missouri that was withdrawn after it was discovered that the developer had been convicted of check fraud.
The legislative investigation is also spotlighting the failure of an economic development project in Kirksville by a company called Wi-Fi Sensors.
A statement issued by the governor’s office reported that Kerr would continue to work for Gov. Jay Nixon as an unpaid consultant.
In the statement, Kerr was quoted as saying he wanted to spend more time with his children.
Kerr is Nixon’s second Department of Economic Development director. He took office in November 2009 after the former director, Linda Martinez, announced her resignation, expressing frustration that she could not meet with the governor to discuss their differences over economic development.
Headline: Three Republicans announce for statewide office [Entered: 11/15/2011]
Three Republicans announced Tuesday [Nov. 15] their intentions to run for statewide office — two for lieutenant governor and one for governor.
St. Louis businessman Chris McKee and state Sen. Brad Lager, R-Maryville, both announced they will run for lieutenant governor. St. Louis businessman Dave Spence said he would run for the GOP nomination for governor.
Current House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, dropped out of the race for lieutenant governor last week.
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who had been expected to run for governor, announced Friday (Nov. 18), that he would seek another term as lieutenant governor instead.
McKee is the son of St. Louis area developer Paul McKee, who had been pushing legislators for packages of tax breaks for St. Louis area development.
Spence is a current head of the firms Alpha Packaging and Legacy Packaging, which make products for pharmaceutical companies. Lager was the Republican’s unsuccessful candidate for state treasurer in 2008.
Headline: House transportation chairman says sales tax would better fund I-70 redevelopment [Entered: 11/15/2011]
By Mengti Xu [Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Cell: 573-289-8229) – Please remove contact info. if published.]
Chairman of the House Transportation Committee Charlie Denison said the head of the Missouri Department of Transportation has contacted him for the proposal of making I-70 a toll road.
Denison said he supports highway funding, but toll roads are not the best option.
“All goods coming in and out of the state of Missouri will go up if we use toll roads. So is it a good source of funding? Not necessarily,” Denison said.
Denison said another possible option for funding might be a sales tax increase.
“Not gasoline tax, because we need to probably bring that down a little bit, but turn around and do a sales tax,” Denison said.
But Denison said it might take several years to make that happen. Meanwhile, he said, I-70 is not the only highway that needs to rebuild.
“We have a dire need on 70, but we get just as great a need on (Interstate) 44 in my opinion,” Denison said. “And we get just as great a need for some of our farm-to-market roads that are not getting anything at this particular time.”
Denison said the state needs to find a new source of revenue to build new highways.
* Get the radio story. [ http://www.mdn.org/2011/STORIES/TOLL.HTM ]
Headline: Joplin reports progress in housing reconstruction [Entered: 11/15/2011]
By Alex Goldman [Email: email@example.com, Cell: 847-650-7097) – Please remove contact info. if published.]
Joplin city officials said almost half of the 7,500 homes that were destroyed in the May 22 tornado are now under repair.
Joplin has issued almost 3,700 building permits for repairs, rebuilding and new construction projects.
Joplin spokesperson Lynn Onstot said more than half of the building permits call for repairs of more than $100,000.
Onstot credits much of the progress to the thousands of volunteers that came to Joplin following the May tornado.
Headline: Rising number of pedestrian deaths prompts MoDOT safety campaign [Entered: 11/15/2011]
By Ashley Massow [Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Cell: 847-858-1906) – Please remove contact info. if published.]
As pedestrian deaths so far this year threaten to surpass last year’s total, the Missouri Department of Transportation launched a pedestrian awareness campaign called “Be Smart. Be Seen.”
Transportation department spokeswoman DeAnne Rickabaugh said there have already been 54 pedestrian deaths for the first nine months of 2011. There were 57 pedestrian deaths in 2010, which puts 2011 on track to surpass this statistic.
Rickabaugh said drivers and pedestrians should be more attentive to one another, especially in highway situations. Drivers should pay attention to pedestrians, and pedestrians should take measures to ensure their own safety, she said.
Rickabaugh suggested pedestrians walk on the shoulder against traffic flow and look drivers in the eyes. She said pedestrians who do not know how to address their car troubles should stay in their cars if possible and call police for assistance to deal with the issue.
MoDOT plans to hold events to spread awareness about pedestrian safety.
Headline: Governor’s offer to give state help to St. Louis County parks might not be possible [Entered: 11/17/2011]
By Mengti Xu [Email: email@example.com, Cell: 573-289-8229) – Please remove contact info. if published.]
Gov. Jay Nixon said Wednesday he will offer state help in managing some St. Louis County parks to keep them open. However, Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, said it is not the governor’s business to offer that help.
According to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article, Nixon said a state-county operation would save money. However, Lembke said he questioned where the money would be from. He said it is unconstitutional to use money dedicated to state parks to fund parks outside the system.
“He can’t unilaterally go around the appropriations process and promise funds that he does not have ability to appropriate,” Lembke said.
Lembke also said they have serious challenges to set the priorities in spending the taxpayers’ money in the budget process and there is no extra money for Nixon to fulfill his promise.
Lembke said what the governor can do is to encourage the county executive to rearrange the county’s priority. He said the county can find money elsewhere and make cut other places in the budget to fund the parks.
Lembke said he has heard from many constituents saying they want the parks to remain open and he is communicating with the county executive office on the behalf of the constituents.
Headline: Capitol Perspectives: Interim committees [Entered: 11/18/2011]
By Phill Brooks
Without much fanfare, a small group of Missouri legislators has been working on putting together a plan that could be one of the major issues for the 2012 legislative session.
It’s a politically thorny issue involving how tough to be on sentencing convicted criminals in the face of arguments that punishment wastes taxpayer money and to impose long prison sentences on first-time, non-violent offenders is not particularly effective.
Before term limits, we used to see a lot more of this kind of long-term, fact-finding and consensus-building efforts by legislators when the Missouri General Assembly was not in session.
Interim committees, like the sentencing group, that meet during the summer and fall provide vehicles for building the coalitions needed to win legislation its passage.
Without the constant disruptions legislators face during a legislative session, there is something special I’ve seen develop among legislators in their level of understanding and collaboration when they have the opportunity, collectively, to fully concentrate their attention on a single issue.
That intensity of work can lead to stronger bipartisan partnerships on issues that deeply divided lawmakers at the start.
One of the best examples was an interim committee on medical malpractice in the 1970s. Back then, the partisan divide on malpractice lawsuits was as deep as it is today. Republicans tend to take a pro-business stance by arguing for restrictions on liability lawsuit awards against businesses and doctors. Democrats tend to argue the position of civil attorneys in opposition to limiting damage awards.
It was a fascinating process for me to watch as a bipartisan group of senators, starting with significant policy differences, began to develop a consensus while also expanding their own knowledge of the issue. In 1976, their efforts led to adoption of a comprehensive package addressing what they concluded was a real crisis in affordable malpractice insurance coverage for doctors.
A key provision of their package later was thrown out by the state Supreme Court. But the original 1976 law had laid the foundation for subsequent legislative efforts that defined Missouri’s current laws on medical malpractice.
Today, we don’t see that kind of intense, interim session work as often as we did a few decades ago. Now, efforts to craft major bills in preparation for a legislative session tend to be done during meetings by special interests and agency officials that are held behind closed doors with little or no public debate.
The recommendations of these groups might not even be announced until just before the start of a legislative session. There might be little effort to involve legislators with opposing views in any significant role in drafting the proposal.
The last day of the 2011 regular legislative session was a perfect example of the price our state pays for crafting legislation through this kind of short-term secret process rather than through interim committees that meet in public and have a longer focus.
Three of the biggest issues before state lawmakers last session — development of a St. Louis-China cargo hub, limiting tax credits and laying the groundwork for a second nuclear power plant — died because of major, unresolved disputes in the session’s final hours.
Negotiations to work out the final details all had been done behind closed doors, secret from the public and even from many of the legislators who were going to be asked to cast votes. In fact, the final nuclear plant compromise emerged so late in the session’s last hour that the sponsor bowed to complaints from his colleagues that they did not even have time to read the bill before voting.
That secret approach continued with the efforts to put together a package for the special session. As a result, the governor and legislative leaders discovered that a number of lawmakers were not on board with the package.
Looking at this from the perspective of more than a few decades, I have a sense that our term-limited legislators have lost the sense of working to achieve long-term objectives.
Before term limits, when legislators expected to be around for years, the more effective lawmakers committed years to develop expertise on an issue, craft a working law and develop the coalitions to assure legislative success.
Now, it has to be done quickly without the future-focused thought, deliberation and consensus-building that I had seen in years past.
As always, let me know (at firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any comments. If you would like your comments, or a portion of them, included in a future column, let me know and be sure to include your full name in your email.
[Phill Brooks has been a Missouri statehouse reporter since 1970, making him dean of the statehouse press corps. He is the statehouse correspondent for KMOX Radio, director of MDN and a faculty member of the Missouri School of Journalism. He has covered every governor since the late Warren Hearnes.
Past columns are available at http://www.mdn.org/mpacol.]