(Jefferson City) – Missouri senators debated the first measure of the 2015 legislative session when they discussed Senate Bill 12 on Monday. The bill would modify provisions relating to agriculture. Senator Brian Munzlinger (R-Williamstown) sponsors the measure and told his colleagues the proposal is nearly identical to a bill lawmakers passed last year:
During debate, Sen. Jill Schupp (D-Creve Coeur) tells the sponsor she has some concerns about his legislation. Senate Bill 12 has received preliminary approval from Missouri senators and still needs another vote before it could move to the Missouri House of Representatives for similar consideration:
On Tuesday the Missouri Senate Seniors, Families and Children Committee heard Senate Bill 82. Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal (D-University City) sponsors the measure, which would require long-term care facilities to be encouraged to institute policies facilitating familial involvement in the well-being and support of its residents:
Senator David Sater (R-Cassville) is the committee chair. He tells the sponsor, as a pharmacist, he supports the proposal. Senate Bill 82 awaits final committee action:
This is the second week of the 2015 session in Missouri.
(Jefferson City) (AP) – The Missouri House is putting an end to committee meetings at country clubs and restaurants.
House Speaker John Diehl said Wednesday that, effective immediately, all House committee meetings will be held at the Capitol.
That decision comes a day after the House Telecommunications Committee held a meeting at the Jefferson City Country Club, where lawmakers heard a presentation and ate a meal provided by the Missouri Telecommunications Industry Association.
A similar meeting of the House Utility Infrastructure Committee was scheduled for Wednesday evening at the country club.
But Diehl, a Republican, said that meeting would instead be held at the Capitol, without a lobbyist-supplied meal.
Minority Leader Jacob Hummel says that’s a good first step, and that Democrats support a bill that would ban such off-site meetings during the session.
(Little Rock) (AP) – A bid to end Arkansas’ practice of commemorating Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. on the same day has failed.
The House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday rejected the proposal, which would have removed Lee from the state holiday honoring King. The proposal failed on a voice vote.
Arkansas is one of three states to jointly celebrate the two on the third Monday in January.
The proposal called for designating Nov. 30 as “Patrick Cleburne – Robert E. Lee Southern Heritage Day,” a state memorial day but not a legal holiday. It would have repealed a state law declaring June 3 as a state memorial day in honor of former Confederacy President Jefferson Davis’ birthday.
(Willow Springs) – City officials in Willow Springs have decided to not fix the coin-operated water dispenser.
City Administrator Bob Pollard told the council at their January 21 meeting that the dispenser has been out of service for about seven months now, and that it would cost anywhere from $3500 to $5500 to repair the machine, and roughly $1000 to fix the wall.
Pollard stated that since the dispenser has been down for so long most of the customers have since started using the rural water dispenser, which is operational throughout the week. He also let council know that the dispenser took in about $1,000 annually but was costing more in repairs, and was in constant need of repair.
(Mountain Home) – An inmate at the Baxter County Detention Facility faces new charges after she was allegedly caught smuggling morphine pills.
52-year-old Theresa Pate of Mountain Home faces charges of possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia, both felonies.
Pate was initially arrested by the Mountain Home Police Department on January 23 on misdemeanor warrants for non-payment of fines and probation violation. She was transported to the Detention Center for booking and was subject to a strip search. During this search, the jail matron reportedly observed a small metal object drop to the floor, which contained two pills determined to be morphine.
At report time, bond for the new charges has not yet been set, but she continues to be held without bond on the previous probation violation hold and has a bond of $4,535. on the non-payment of fines charge.
(Mountain Home) – Arkansas State University-Mountain Home (ASUMH) recently received a collection of paintings depicting scenes along the White River, thanks to a generous donation from Jim and Brenda Dugan, owners of Dally’s Fly Shop in Cotter.
The River White Art Collection consists of a suite of 45 original watercolor paintings by Duane Hada, a well-known local artist and angler. Each of the paintings was executed on-site along the route of the river. Hada attributes his “life-long passion as artist and angler to being raised close to nature in the rural Ozarks’ Buffalo and White River country.”
ASUMH is housing this collection in the Trout Nature Center, located inside the Vada Sheid Community Development Center. A dedication and reception honoring donors Jim and Brenda Dugan will take place February 13 at 6 PM in the Trout Nature Center.
by Summer Ballentine, AP
(Jefferson City) (AP) – Missouri lawmakers and state elected officials likely will receive a pay increase after some state Senate Democrats successfully filibustered Wednesday, stalling efforts to block the raise.
A state commission in November recommended $4,000 more a year for legislators and 8 percent more for the governor and other state officials in fiscal years 2016 and 2017. That would be a raise of more than $22,000 a year for the governor, upping the office’s annual pay to $156,088.
Suggested increases will take effect automatically if lawmakers don’t block the raises by Sunday. House members voted overwhelmingly, 133-15, in support of a resolution to forego higher pay, but those efforts have met resistance in the Senate.
Senate Democrats spoke at length Wednesday in favor of a pay raise. Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal said the current $35,915 a year isn’t enough, considering the work lawmakers do, and she raised concerns that the pay might discourage qualified candidates from running for office.
Sen. Jason Holsman, a Kansas City Democrat, says lawmakers should get a raise, even though it’s politically unsavory and could be used against them in re-election campaigns.
“Are we making political decision in what we think is in best interest of our own careers or making a decision in the best interest of the state in terms of recruiting good people to this job?” Holsman asked senators Wednesday.
Voters amended the state constitution in 1994 to relieve lawmakers of the politically sticky issue of setting their own salaries. The last time legislators and executive-branch officials got a raise was the 2009 fiscal year.
Still, senators from both parties said taking no action and allowing the raises to take effect could reflect poorly on them.
Republican Sen. Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph headed Senate efforts to block the salary increase, saying lawmakers don’t need more money, especially at a time when Gov. Jay Nixon has cited lagging revenues when freezing funds for existing programs.
Schaaf said it’s “almost embarrassing” for legislators to take a raise when Nixon hasn’t proposed upping state employee pay next fiscal year.
But Schaaf also said after the filibuster that he doesn’t plan to try halting the pay increase again.
Although the deadline for lawmakers to act is Sunday, senators effectively have until Thursday, which is the last day they’re scheduled to meet this week.
by Summer Ballentine, AP
(Jefferson City) (AP) – Nearly 38 percent more Missouri residents than last year have signed up health care insurance so far under the federal exchange, according to data released Tuesday.
About 209,336 residents signed up for coverage as of Jan. 16. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay touted the numbers during a phone conference with reporters, saying they represent about 57,000 additional covered Missourians compared with the entire first enrollment period last year. The total number of enrollees could grow in the coming weeks before the open enrollment deadline on Feb. 15.
Re-enrollees account for 59 percent of those who have signed up, and 41 percent are new to the federal insurance exchange.
President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act set up the marketplaces to help families and individuals find insurance. Enrollment was rocky because of technological issues when the exchange first launched in 2013.
Among the people who’ve signed up so far this year, about 88 percent will receive financial assistance.
St. Louis resident LaDonna Appelbaum told reporters Tuesday that she signed up for coverage through the marketplace months before doctors diagnosed her with stage 3 breast cancer. Her husband also injured his hand in a boating accident months after enrolling.
If they didn’t receive tax credits to subsidize the cost of insurance, “we would struggle,” Appelbaum said.
Total enrollment through the middle of January in the 37 states served by HealthCare.gov is about 7.1 million people. At least another 2.4 million signed up in states running their own exchanges.
(Jefferson City) (AP) – Missouri Republican lawmakers say requiring photo identification at the polls will prevent voter impersonation fraud.
Bill sponsor Rep. Tony Dugger, of Hartville, said during a House hearing on Tuesday that he has included exemptions for older Missourians and a way for those without a valid, non-expired photo identification to get one free of charge.
The bill would make Missouri one of the strictest states for voter identification.
Only non-expired Missouri or federal government issued ID would be accepted.
Voters must approve a constitutional amendment to allow the state to require photo ID because the Missouri Supreme Court has ruled any photo ID requirement violates individual voting rights.
Opponents say the legislation seeks to disenfranchise groups who traditionally support Democrats and are less likely to have a photo ID.
(Jefferson City) (AP) – Missouri’s attorney general says police should wear body cameras more frequently but that the public and media shouldn’t have unfettered access to the recordings.
Attorney General Chris Koster said in a letter sent to lawmakers Tuesday that concerns about individual privacy made current public records laws unsuitable for widespread use of body cameras.
Requiring police to wear cameras to record their actions is one proposal filed by lawmakers in response to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man, by a white Ferguson police officer.
Supporters of body cameras say widespread use would provide evidence of what happened in situations like Brown’s shooting.
Koster agrees but says there should be restrictions on the footage to prevent voyeurism at the expense of privacy for those recorded.