The Missouri Times | January 9, 2022

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The Missouri Times

JANUARY 9, 2022


A look at the House floor leader’s ‘basic goals’ for session Kaitlyn Schallhorn

As the legislative session gets underway, the House will keep a keen focus on the budget and congressional redistricting, Majority Floor Leader Dean Plocher said. Of course, there will be other issues that arise that will attract attention: A bevy of election integrity and security bills have been filed as well as legislation aimed at education, an issue that has risen in popularity among Republicans across the nation and one Plocher said will certainly be addressed. And there are the usual suspects: GOP-backed bills further restricting access to abortion services and

increasing the ability to own and carry firearms colliding with the Democrats’ cascade of legislation that would do the exact opposite — including tweaking last year’s Second Amendment Preservation Act (SAPA). But the priorities, according to the floor leader, will be on money and maps. “Our basic goal must be what we are constitutionally obligated to do — and that is pass a budget and somehow pass the congressional redistricting. Our biggest approach to getting things done is what we are mandated to do by the constitution,” Plocher said in an interview. Continued on Page 9.


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Scott Faughn, Publisher | | @ScottFaughn Kaitlyn Schallhorn, Editor | | @K_Schallhorn Cameron Gerber, Reporter | | @CamGWrites James Turner, Reporter | | @JamesTurner3rd


Kaitlyn Schallhorn

Preparing for the start of session, and for the layout of this particular edition of the paper, I glanced at my calendar and was struck by the date: December 28. Dec. 28, 2018, was the day Bre Payton died at just 26 years old. Some of you, especially those who work in Republican politics or are frequent viewers of Fox News, probably know of Bre. She was a vivacious, young, conservative political commentator. But to me, she was one of my greatest friend. Politics aside — although, boy did we love debating politics — Bre was kind. She believed in truth and compassion, but she never seemed to place a premium on one over the other. Bre was intelligent, confident in her own beliefs and opinions but always willing to sit down and listen to someone else’s point of view. Bre was selfless. Three years ago, I was still living in New York City, attempting to navigate a particularly

tumultuous period in my life, balancing countless doctor’s appointments, and wondering if I should move halfway across the country. Bre was based in Washington, D.C., but would often be in my city for television hits. Usually, without letting me know first, without giving me the opportunity to talk her out of it, she would postpone her trips back to D.C. to accompany me to doctor’s appointments or even just to sit with me for a few hours in a Midtown Irish pub to catch up.

I often wonder what Bre would think, what advice she’d have — on my life, on the state of politics today, on a fast food restaurant’s newest French fry recipe — especially at the start of a new year. I do know, however, that she’d approach a new year’s challenges with grace, with compassion, and with an insatiable drive for authenticity. It is Bre’s legacy I’ll think of as we start this new year and legislative session, and it’s one I hope you, readers, might consider as well.

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Kaitlyn Schallhorn After spending a legislative session away from the Capitol, Chez Monet has re-opened its café in the Capitol basement on Jan. 5 — just in time for the hungry lawmakers, lobbyists, staffers, and visitors to return. Joan Fairfax’s Chez Monet moved to the Governor Office Building on Madison Street last year after serving up delicacies in the Capitol since February 2018. “Being away for this last year helped us realize this is where we belong,” Fairfax said. “So many people are so appreciative,

and that is just the best. We are very glad to be back!” Chez Monet will be open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Unfortunately, Fairfax said, Chez Monet will close its location in the Governor Office Building due to a staffing shortage. She said she would have kept that location open as well if she had found enough help. Originally from Tipton, Fairfax first opened Chez Monet on High Street in 1991 after working at Gerbes Super Market for some time as the bakery manager in mid-Missouri.

Eventually, Fairfax closed the High Street location and began working out of her home where she has a commercial kitchen. She specializes in cakes for all occasions and offers catering services as well. But when the opportunity arose, a vacant café in the Capitol basement, Fairfax opened up shop in February 2018, in the midst of the legislative session. Chez Monet has become a family affair — with both relatives and friends working at the restaurant throughout the year.

Expanding liberty and opportunity


Oracle Corporation (NYSE: ORCL) and Cerner Corporation today jointly announced an agreement for Oracle to acquire Cerner through an all-cash tender offer for $95.00 per share, or approximately $28.3 billion in equity value. Cerner is a leading provider of digital information systems used within hospitals and health systems to enable medical professionals to deliver better healthcare to individual patients and communities. “Working together, Cerner and Oracle have the capacity to transform healthcare delivery by providing medical professionals with better information—enabling them to make better treatment decisions resulting in better patient outcomes,” said Larry Ellison, Chairman and Chief Technology Officer, Oracle. “With this acquisition, Oracle’s corporate mission expands to assume the responsibility to provide our overworked medical professionals with a new generation of easier-to-use digital tools that enable access to information via a hands-free voice interface to secure cloud applications. This new generation of medical information systems promises to lower the administrative workload burdening our medical professionals, improve patient privacy and outcomes, and lower overall healthcare costs.” “We expect this acquisition to be immediately accretive to Oracle’s earnings on a non-GAAP basis in the first full fiscal year after closing— and contribute substantially more to earnings in the second fiscal year and thereafter,” said Safra Catz, Chief Executive Officer, Oracle. “Healthcare is the largest and most important vertical market in the world—$3.8 trillion last year in the United States alone. Oracle’s revenue growth rate has already been increasing this year—Cerner will be a huge additional revenue growth engine for years to come as we expand its business into many more countries throughout the world. That’s exactly the growth strategy we adopted when we bought NetSuite—except the Cerner revenue opportunity is even larger.” “Cerner has been a leader in helping digitize medical care and now it’s time to realize the real promise of that work with the care delivery tools that get information to the right caregivers at the right time,” said David Feinberg, President and Chief Executive Officer, Cerner. “Joining Oracle as a dedicated Industry Business Unit provides an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate our work modernizing electronic health records (EHR), improving the caregiver experience, and enabling more connected, high-quality and efficient patient care. We are also very excited that Oracle is committed to maintaining and growing our community presence, including in the Kansas City area.” “Oracle’s Autonomous Database, low-code development tools, and Voice Digital Assistant user interface enables us to rapidly modernize Cerner’s systems and move them to our Gen2 Cloud,” said Mike Sicilia, Executive Vice President, Vertical Industries, Oracle. “This

can be done very quickly because Cerner’s largest business and most important clinical system already runs on the Oracle Database. No change required there. What will change is the user interface. We will make Cerner’s systems much easier to learn and use by making Oracle’s hands-free Voice Digital Assistant the primary interface to Cerner’s clinical systems. This will allow medical professionals to spend less time typing on computer keyboards and more time caring for patients.”


All-cash tender offer for $95.00 per share, or approximately $28.3 billion, that is immediately accretive to Oracle’s earnings. Accretive to Oracle’s earnings on a nonGAAP basis in the first full fiscal year after closing and will contribute substantially more to earnings in the second fiscal year and thereafter. Cerner will be a huge additional revenue growth engine for Oracle for years to come as Oracle expands Cerner’s business into many more countries throughout the world. Transaction is expected to close in calendar year 2022. The closing of the transaction is subject to receiving certain regulatory approvals and satisfying other closing conditions including Cerner stockholders tendering a majority of Cerner’s outstanding shares in the tender offer. Oracle anticipates retaining an investment grade credit rating. Oracle brings significant experience helping power the largest industries. Oracle provides industry solutions that run the core operations for customers in the world’s largest industries. Industries covered by Oracle today include, among others, Financial Services, Telecom, Utilities, Pharmaceuticals, Hospitality, Retail, Food & Beverage, Construction & Engineering, Manufacturing and Government. Oracle also brings best in class cloud infrastructure to drive digital modernization, substantially lowering the total cost of IT in these critical industry sectors. Cerner is a leader in the healthcare IT industry and a complementary business to Oracle. Cerner is a leading provider of digital information systems used within hospitals to enable medical professionals to deliver better healthcare to individual patients and communities. Cerner has over four decades of experience modernizing electronic health records, improving the caregiver experience, and streamlining and automating clinical and administrative workflows. Together, Oracle and Cerner will protect customer investments and transform healthcare. systems and increase the time they spend directly caring for patients. More information about this announcement is available at the Oracle and Cerner corporate websites.


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Mark Birk chosen to be next Spire STL Pipeline preserved Ameren Missouri president while FERC weighs its fate Cameron Gerber

Mark Birk took the helm of Ameren Missouri at the start of the new year as its new chairman and president amid a series of executive changes at the company. Birk has served as Ameren’s senior vice president for customer and power operations since 2017, but his tenure with the company stretches for more than 30 years. Birk has served Ameren in several roles, including as its vice president of energy trading and senior vice president of corporate strategy and risk management. Birk replaces Marty Lyons, who is taking over as Ameren Corporation’s next CEO. “Mark is an outstanding leader who is passionate about customer service and operational excellence,” Lyons said. “I am excited for him to lead Ameren Missouri. In the course of his career at Ameren, Mark has led numerous operating and corporate functions, always focusing on continuous improvement for the benefit of our customers, communities, and shareholders.”

Birk is a St. Louis County resident. He is a previous president of the STL Community College Foundation and serves as a cabinet member of United Way of Greater St. Louis as well as a member of the Downtown St. Louis Advisory Board of Greater St. Louis, Inc. Birk is part of a new wave of leadership for Ameren. Lyons is taking over as president and CEO next year for Warner Baxter, who will transition to executive chairman of its board of directors. Ameren Missouri also gained a new director of community and economic development in Rob Dixon, who left his position as director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development earlier in 2021, and a new vice president of economic, community, and business development in 36-year Ameren employee Patrick Smith, Jr. Gwen Mizell also took the lead on Ameren’s renewable energy transition as its first chief sustainability officer last month. She serves as its vice president of innovation.

MO can get $99M for EV charging network Kaitlyn Schallhorn

Missouri is slated to draw at least $99 million to develop its electric vehicle (EV) charging network under the colossal federal infrastructure package. The White House estimated Missouri will receive $99 million over a five-year period to expand and support its EV charging network. About $2.5 billion in grant funding will also be up for grabs that the state could apply for, according to the White House. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said rural and lowerincome areas “that have been overlooked by the private companies” will be a focus for the network as funds are distributed. Granholm said the federal government plans to enlist local governments and states’ help in establishing the network. “We consider the local units of government and the states to be indispensable partners in making sure the decisions are being made wisely but that they also are going to the places where we know there really is need to incentivize the purchase and to get people feeling comfortable … if they do purchase an electric vehicle,” Granholm said. The $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework package was

signed by the president late last year following extensive negotiations. Overall, it includes $7.5 billion for the nation’s first network of EV chargers. Money distributed through existing funding formulas will reach states sooner whereas new projects and grants are expected to take longer, federal officials have said. “With the investments from the bipartisan infrastructure deal, we’re going to finally be able to begin building an energy system that’s fit for the 21st century with innovations that allow us to lead a global clean energy market,” Granholm said. The Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives (AMEC) has been working to expand the state’s EV network in rural communities. Each of Missouri’s 47 coops has at least one EV in their fleet of work vehicles. “While some people might be leery of the technology, there’s certainly an opportunity for partnerships with rural electric cooperatives and those who want to own electric vehicles,” AMEC CEO and Executive Vice President Caleb Jones has said. “We’ve worked closely with all of our member-owners to ensure they have every possible opportunity to participate if that’s something that they want.”

Cameron Gerber The Spire STL Pipeline can remain in operation for the time being after federal regulators issued a temporary certificate last month. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) voted to offer the pipeline a temporary certificate of public convenience and necessity to remain active while the commission weighs its ultimate approval. Spire had three business days to accept the offer in writing. The pipeline was already covered under an emergency order set to expire on Dec. 13. While FERC’s latest order will allow it to stave off a shutdown for now, Spire Missouri President Scott Carter reminded stakeholders the conversation was far from over. “While this is good news and we feel confident in our ability to provide reliable natural gas service to our St. Louis customers through this winter heating season, we’ll turn our focus to the long-term certificate for the pipeline,” Carter said in an email to customers. “We’ll stay engaged in the process to ensure everyone has the information needed, and we remain committed to keeping our customers informed about the pipeline’s status and any potential impact to natural gas service.” Commissioner James Danly partially dissented in the decision, pointing to the commission’s

handling of the situation rather than Spire’s actions. Danly noted the original certificate’s expiration date, writing the commission was “ginning up the artificial urgency leading to today’s issuance.” The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) sued FERC in 2019 over its approval of the pipeline earlier that year, alleging the commission failed to prove the pipeline’s benefits would outweigh its environmental impact. Despite trading barbs with the Spire STL team about a series of emails to customers it said created an air of panic and led to threats against EDF employees, the group encouraged FERC to allow the pipeline to continue operations through the winter season. “EDF has consistently urged FERC to ensure reliable service to St. Louis customers this winter. The unanimous statements from the participating FERC commissioners should put to rest the fear and uncertainty Spire has created in St. Louis,” Natalie Karas, EDF’s senior director and lead counsel, said in a statement. “Chairman Glick also expressed concern regarding Spire’s fear campaign and stated that ‘it is important to turn down the rhetoric and examine the facts.’” The EDF isn’t Spire’s only critic: Congresswoman Cori Bush and several leaders from the St. Louis region decried the company’s

emails about the regulatory fight, while the Sierra Club’s Missouri chapter urged the company to halt disconnections amid cold weather as well, pointing to its recentlyapproved rate increase. Missouri’s Public Service Commission (PSC), which has supported the pipeline before its federal counterpart, also took note of Spire’s correspondence with customers and ordered it to draft a letter to stakeholders describing the situation “as accurately as possible.” Congressional Republicans urged FERC to approve the certificate, warning a shutdown could have a “devastating effect on the local communities, resulting in a spike in the cost of natural gas and widespread service outages.” A three-judge panel on the D.C. Court of Appeals remanded FERC’s approval of the pipeline in June and denied a request for a rehearing in September. Spire has pursued legal and regulatory options to keep the pipeline operational, even bringing the case before the U.S. Supreme Court in September. The high court denied Spire’s motion for a stay, but the team renewed its application before FERC’s order. If taken offline, the project would leave 175,000-400,000 customers in the St. Louis region without service, with a gap lasting up to 100 days before another source is connected, according to Spire.

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emotional support, and mental health Nearly $13 million in federal funds to ser vices are provided will be a critical aid students experiencing homelessness priority, both locally and at the state has been earmarked for Missouri, which level,” the DESE proposal said. Sen. Dan Hegeman, chairman of the the state’s education off icials plan to use to develop sof tware to better identif y Senate Appropriations Committee, said the ARPA funding for homeless these students. But in order for the Department of students was something he believed the Elementar y and Secondar y Education legislature would approve during the upcoming session. (DESE) to utilize the “I think the plan from money, dedicated through DESE seems like a good the American Rescue Plan place to start and meet the Act (ARPA) of 2021, the requirements. I look forward Missouri Legislature needs to visiting with them and to give approval. asking them questions In its plan submitted to during the appropriations the federal government, hearings to make sure we are DESE said it would use its getting the best use for the $12,822,529 to develop a funds,” Hegeman said. sof tware system that would Rep. Peter Merideth, help local education agencies ranking minority better identif y families’ Senate Appropriations Chairman the Dan Hegeman member on the House Budget homeless status. The department “ believes that Committee, also said he believed the additional training and a sof tware legislature would quick ly authorize solution are necessar y to improve the spending of the funds. He said he’s accurate identif ication of homeless spoken to teachers, social workers, and families,” it said in the proposal. advocates who expressed the diff iculties of simply tracking down students who “Identif ication is the f irst step.” “The identif ication process for are impacted by homelessness to ensure homeless children and youth is they’re attending school — especially complex under the legal def inition of during the past two years of the ‘ homeless,’” Mallor y McGowin, a DESE COVID-19 pandemic. “Their problems are huge. It’s not just spokeswoman, said. “DESE is interested in a sof tware solution to support a lack of a house. It’s a lack of the ability districts and homeless children and to get dressed and have transportation youth. This solution would streamline to show up to school on a daily basis if the identif ication process, increase they don’t k now where they’re coming accuracy, and potentially help connect from ever y day,” Merideth said. “It’s those identif ied with community having access to good, healthy meals, getting a good night’s sleep, not having resources more quick ly.” Since no work can commence on the massive trauma impact their education. project until the legislature approves The list goes on and on.” the funding, there is not yet a cost estimate for the development of the sof tware, McGowin added. Additionally, the department would use the money for competitive grants for local education agencies with a high concentration of homeless students and to provide wraparound ser vices and training across the state. “Ensuring that educationally related supports and wraparound ser vices such as trauma-informed care, social and

A complex process


Growing up, Mo, now 16 “was on the go a lot” due to the nature of his mother’s job — traveling around Florida and the St. Louis area. It was diff icult to f ind a school, and even when Mo did, he was of ten out of the classroom, missing weeks at a time. Despite racking up so many absences, Mo said his school would rarely contact his mother. “My school could have reached out to

my mom more since I was missing so are something SLPS students experience many days and ask, ‘Is he OK? Does he — but it’s substandard and inadequate need any work sent home?’” Mo, whose housing, Thomas-Murray said. last name is being withheld to protect The McKinney-Vento Homeless his privacy, said in an inter view. Assistance Act requires local education Now in St. Louis, Mo is enrolled in agencies to identif y students who may a program that allows him to attend be experiencing homelessness and school virtually (where he feels more ensure they have access to the same comfortable learning) and in a smaller- standards and curriculum as their setting classroom while he catches up peers, according to McGowin. In on credits and courses he’s missed. If Missouri, school districts are required he’s ever late or misses an in-person to ask questions of families, including session, Mo said the instructor is quick about living arrangements, at least to reach out. yearly that could identif y potentially The U.S. Department of Education, homeless students. under the McKinney-Vento Homeless “Because this is a complex Assistance Act, def ines a homeless identif ication process, an automated student as an individual who lacks a and objective process would make f ixed, regular, and adequate nighttime identif ication quicker and more residence. consistent,” McGowin said. “When a student is highly mobile DESE data from 2018-2019 identif ied and moves around a lot, legally 921 students between the ages of 13-19 they are considered homeless,” said who were homeless in the Jefferson City Deidra Thomas-Murray, the homeless school district with nearly 400 of those coordinator for the Saint Louis Public students between the ages of 13-15. Schools (SLPS) Students-In-Transition The department identif ied 9,122 Off ice. “I think people assume because students in the Kansas City 33 district students have a roof over their heads, and 31,291 students in the city of St. they’re not homeless, but Louis. we all k now that’s not Conf luence Academies in true. We have families who St. Louis identif ied 1,294 are threatened with their students, and Excelsior utilities being turned off, Springs 40 near Kansas City and we have families right identif ied 937 students. here in St. Louis living Merideth, who has ser ved without gas or heat, and in the legislature since that’s substandard housing. 2017, expressed displeasure It’s inadequate.” in how long it’s taken for At least 20 percent the General Assembly to of students in SLPS are authorize federal COVID House Budget Committee homeless, Thomas-Murray Ranking Minority Member Peter funds. Merideth said, noting that percentage “We’re just sitting here only covers k nown homeless students. with this money not appropriated. Now Thomas-Murray said she works with we’re going to get there, we’re on a tight school employees, from teachers to timeline to get this money out, and counselors to secretaries and more — we’re not going to have time to dig into to educate them on how to identif y a the deals of how we’re appropriating it,” student experiencing homelessness so Merideth said. “We’re just going to have no one falls through the cracks. to say, well, here’s authority to spend And she’s no stranger to the the money.” issue. Thomas-Murray experienced “There are a lot of things we need the homelessness following Hurricane dollars for. It’s just whether or not the Katrina. She came to St. Louis where schools will be equipped to do it,” he she lived in a two-bedroom apartment continued. “I’m conf ident that the state with about 15 other people. is not.” Overcrowding apartments and houses


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Missouri Right to Life’s mission is to protect innocent human lives. While providing funding for life-saving programs like Alternatives to Abortion, Missouri must continue to protect women from the deceit of the abortion industry. Pro-life Missourians do not want to subsidize businesses that provide abortion services. Pro-life Missourians do not want to pay for abortions. Thank you to pro-life legislators who work hand-in-hand with Missouri Right to Life! Because of our work together to pass pro-life legislation in Missouri, abortion could soon end in our state!

P. O. Box 651 Jefferson City MO 65102


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seeks to reverse certain Senate Republican fissures Boggs hunting regulations for landowners still prevalent in upper chamber as session kicks off James Turner

Rep. Mitch Boggs pre-filed legislation to allow Missourians to obtain a hunting license or possess a permit to take wildlife on their property without registering their land with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). HB 1694 would require the Conservation Commission to distribute landowner hunting permits upon request of any resident or nonresident who owns 5 acres of property. The legislation would also allow qualified owners to make a yearly request for a free two-day permit for nonresident immediate family members to hunt wildlife on their land. As of 2020, MDC requires citizens to register their land before receiving a free or discounted three-year landowner permit to hunt turkey and deer on their property. Under current MDC regulations, residents must own at least

20 acres of land and nonresidents must own 75 acres or more to obtain a license. “It’s about landowners’ rights to harvest deer on their land free of charge,” Boggs said. Boggs said constituent outreach was the driving force behind the legislation and said he’s received “1,600 interactions” on social media regarding the issue. He said farmers are uncomfortable with the government’s registration process, arguing it can be a disadvantage to rural Missourians who lack internet access. Boggs filed a similar bill last year which was endorsed by the Missouri Cattleman’s Association. The bill received bipartisan support from the Conservation and Natural Resources Committee, passing 15-4, but ultimately did not reach the floor for a vote — which Boggs attributes largely to time constraints on the House due to COVID-19.


Kaitlyn Schallhorn

It was almost as if the frigid temperatures in Jefferson City Wednesday were a reflection of the relationships between GOP members of the upper chamber as session got underway for the year. The previous legislative session — as well as a special and veto session during the interim — widened fractures among senators, especially those in the GOP. Conservative members remain incensed that the legislature, with the help of most Republicans, passed an FRA renewal package without advancing any legislation curtailing public spending on abortion providers or affiliates. Conservatives, led by Sen. Denny Hoskins, began 2022 by holding the floor to decry perceived slights of dishonesty, exclusion from meetings, and deviations of tradition. It all came to a crescendo when Hoskins inquired of Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden to grill him on a meeting of Republican senators ahead of session — which he dubbed the “Super Secret Special Secret Caucus Meeting” — that did not include the full caucus.

“Do you think a good way to build trust is to schedule super secret special caucus meetings without all the caucus?” Hoskins asked. Rowden said multiple Republican senators had requested a meeting. “I wasn’t the only one that wanted to be there,” Rowden said. “I think the notion that one individual has the ability to cause all of these waves to happen and all of these shifting sands in the Missouri Senate without a lot of support from a lot of other people is a false notion and is a dangerous one.” During the conservative speeches, most of the Republican and Democratic members of the Senate appeared insouciant as they did not remain in the chamber. More senators from both parties came to the floor while Rowden spoke with Hoskins. The Conservative Caucus’ commentary stood in juxtaposition to Schatz’s opening speech just moments before. The Republican leader expressed hope and implored his colleagues to embrace unity during the new legislative session. “The challenges of the past two years have been great and have only seemed to intensify, but I am hopeful. I am hopeful because the senators

here today have demonstrated before that they can put aside personal differences in order to overcome the obstacles before us,” Schatz said. Earlier in Hoskins’ inquiry around the chamber, he called for a quorum to be established as only a handful of the conservative cohort remained on the floor at their desks. “Maybe the other Republicans in the room decided to have a caucus meeting that we weren’t invited to,” Hoskins said. In all, Sens. Rick Brattin, Bill Eigel, Mike Moon, Bob Onder, and Paul Wieland, joined Hoskins. “The senators that are out here on the Senate floor don’t want there to be troubled waters anymore than those that aren’t on the floor right now,” Eigel said. “But it’s not a decision that you come to if you don’t feel you have don’t have a trust to move forward and have productive conversations in the future.” The Senate moved on to the reading of pre-filed bills following the exchange between Hoskins and Rowden. On the other side of the Capitol, the lower chamber began session and gaveled out without much fanfare.

We have a new member of The Missouri Times team who will be chasing down stories for us in the statehouse this year. If you see James Turner, who is finishing a degree in political science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, around the Capitol, be sure to say hello. And get to know him a little more with a brief Q&A below. Where are you from? JT: North St. Louis County. I grew up in Ferguson, Missouri, and have lived in University City. (Go Cardinals!) What is your favorite food/restaurant? JT: Cheeseburgers are a go-to at almost any St. Louis restaurant. Chinese food/ Panda Express for fast food. Smoothie King for treats. And of course, Imo’s for pizza. When it comes to Missouri politics, what are you most interested in? JT: Missouri has such a rich history of influential leaders like Harry Truman, Bill Clay, John Danforth, etc. I’m interested in seeing who are the people in Missouri politics today who will have similar lasting legacies on our state or even the country. Who would you love to have dinner

with, dead or alive, and why? JT: Martin Luther King Jr. is someone who has achieved near-universal respect in society — despite at one point being one of the most unpopular figures during his life while pursuing his goal of civil rights and economic quality. There’s a lesson in the discipline of fighting for equality with unity and nonviolence despite the setbacks that may come with it. As a private citizen, he was able to push the country closer toward being a more perfect union in a way few have in history. There’s a lot to learn for him as a leader and a person. Why do you want to be a journalist? JT: I’ve lived through and experienced several historic events in my life, and I’ve always wanted to find the full context behind it, to find every angle. In my experience observing politics, there are so many stories to be told and questions to be answered. I want to inform people about the events that shape our democracy by telling stories and answering the questions readers have about our government and the people serving in it.


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Mike Cierpiot, Michelle Pleus recognized for work on securitization bill Cameron Gerber

New House committee chairs

Cameron Gerber

As lawmakers return to the capital city for session, multiple representatives are stepping into new leadership roles as committee chairs. Here’s a look at the chairmen and what they bring to their new positions. Rep. Jeff Porter will steer the House Transportation Committee, stepping in for Rep. Becky Ruth, who resigned from her House position to take over as director of the Office of Child Advocate. Porter, who served as its vicechair for a year, will lead the committee in considering infrastructure and its impact on the state’s economy. “We know we have important decisions to make to ensure the viability of our roads and bridges for future generations, and the state is fortunate to have new revenue sources to tap into, but we want to do our best to make sure taxpayers get the best results for their dollars in a fiscally responsible manner,” Porter said. Porter is an insurance agent serving his second term in the statehouse. He also served as mayor of Montgomery City for more than 15 years and has worked in leadership positions for several local organizations. Rep. Craig Fishel was tapped to chair the Consent and House Procedures Committee which is tasked with ensuring the House conducts its affairs in a “fair, responsible, and efficient manner.” Fishel, a business owner and former member of Springfield City Council, said he was up for the job. “This is a vital committee as we must work to lay out the rules for this honored chamber and consider how to best operate within the confines of decorum,” Fishel said. “My experience in local government will be a guiding

factor as we decide how best to serve the House this year.” Fishel has represented part of Greene County in the lower chamber since 2018, serving as the committee’s vice-chair this session. Beyond his legislative duties, he has served as vice president of properties for the Boy Scouts of America and as a board member for the National Spa and Pool Institute. He has also owned and operated Fishel Pools in Springfield for more than 42 years and holds leadership roles with several local churches. Rep. Bill Falkner, former mayor and councilman of St. Joseph, is the new chair of the Local Government Committee. Having also served as a member of the Missouri Municipal League’s Board of Directors, Falkner said he was excited to help address the issues impacting communities across the state. “As someone who served on the local level, I understand the challenges facing our local government officials,” Falkner said. “I am excited to put my knowledge to work to help the members of my committee create policy that will ensure our local government entities remain efficient, accountable, and transparent.” Falkner was also a founding member of the Local Government Caucus formed in 2019 and served as vicechair of the committee this year under the late Rep. Tom Hannegan. A small business owner, he has represented part of Buchanan County since 2019. Rep. Mike McGirl is the new chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, tasked with examining Missouri’s sources of revenue and tax policy. He replaces Wayne Wallingford who the governor has picked to lead the Department of Revenue. “It’s an honor to be able to work

with my colleagues to make our state a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars. I will continue to support and promote fiscally conservative policies to ensure each and every dollar is used appropriately,” McGirl said. McGirl who represents HD 118 in Jefferson and Washington counties, is a longtime certified public accountant. He is the former Washington County collector. House Speaker Pro Tem John Wiemann is leading the House Insurance Committee now following Rep. Justin Hill’s resignation. “I’ve spent most of my life working on issues related to the insurance industry and I’m excited to be able to share my knowledge and expertise with the members of the committee,” Wiemann said. The St. Charles County Republican is a licensed insurance broker and president and CEO of Midwest Physician Insurance Advisors. He is the previous vice-chairman of the House Insurance Policy Committeee and chaired an insurance subcommittee. Rep. Jon Patterson has been picked to serve as the chair of the House Emerging Issues Committee for the rest of session. He is the previous vicechairman of the committee under Rep. Aaron Griesheimer who resigned last week. “I am excited to get to work with the members of my committee and ready to find effective policy solutions that will move our state forward,” Patterson said. Patterson, a private practice general surgeon, represents HD 30 in Jackson County. Outside the legislature, Patterson practices public service through serving on medical missions.

Sen. Mike Cierpiot and chief of staff Michelle Pleus were honored by Evergy in October for their efforts on a bill that will help utility companies transition to clean generation. The language allows utility companies to issue bonds to finance energy transition costs if approved by the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC), also known as securitization. The measure progressed through the upper chamber with little opposition and made it onto the governor’s desk as part of an omnibus utility bill signed into law in July. Pleus, in her first session on the legislative side of utility issues after a lobbying career, helped shepherd the complex language through the upper chamber the initial year it was proposed in the legislature. “It was awesome to get it there and pass it in its first year after all the work we put in,” Pleus said. “It was my first time fighting for an issue in this role, and it was huge to get it done. I love my job, and it’s just icing on the cake to receive an award for it.” Pleus helped Cierpiot respond to concerns raised

by other legislators and stakeholders during session, working to come to a compromise that maintained the authority of the PSC and Office of Public Counsel (OPC) through a series of small changes to the language. “We were proud to be honored; it was a collaborative effort getting the bill passed, and Michelle did amazing work,” Cierpiot said. “It will help utility companies and it was great to get it across the finish line in its first year.” Evergy Power PAC’s Friend of the Grid award is presented every year to legislators and staff who have worked on energy-friendly legislation. Evergy President and CEO David Campbell presented the award to Cierpiot and Pleus Wednesday. Evergy, which established its goal for net-zero carbon emissions by 2045 last year before the PSC, backed the legislative effort to encourage utilities to make the switch to clean generation. The commission previously required Evergy to set up a liability account for a coal plant shuttered in 2019, with then-Commissioner Daniel Hall suggesting a securitization bill.


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Expanded ESA bill floated in Senate Kaitlyn Schallhorn

One of the most talked-about bills to pass during the previous session was legislation creating $50 million in tax credit-funded accounts for public and private school expenses. Rep. Phil Christofanelli’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program was specifically billed as aiding students with disabilities or in low-income families. It applied to counties with charter governments or in a city exceeding 30,000 people and is triggered by K-12 transportation funding. This year, Sen. Rick Brattin wants to further opportunities for students to access an education savings account (ESA). A member of the Conservative Caucus, Brattin pre-filed legislation to make eligible any public school student or first-time enrollee for an ESA if they live in a household with an income that is not greater than two times the threshold used to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Like last year’s bill, the ESA funds would be managed by the state treasurer. However, unlike Christofanelli’s legislation, the money for this program would be appropriated by the General Assembly as opposed to a tax credit. There are also no demographic requirements included in Brattin’s bill. Brattin likened his SB 841 to a “voucher system” and said the previous ESA bill was a “great first step.” “I believe the people are wanting something more robust, something that applies to everyone, not just depending on what zip code you live in,” Brattin said. “When we’re passing state policy, in my opinion, it has to be across the board and for all to take advantage of.” Brattin’s ESA program would allow for families to use the money on tuition and fees for a private school or non-public online learning program, payments for curriculum or tutoring services, or textbooks. Money could also be used for tuition and fees at eligible postsecondary institutions and required college textbooks. Once a student becomes eligible for the ESA program, they would remain in the system regardless of a change in income until the student graduates from high school or turns 21 years old. Should a student suddenly become ineligible, the money would be transferred back to the fund overseen by the state treasurer. “I’m a school choice advocate. I believe the dollar absolutely should follow the students and allow for [parents] to decide what educational choices are best,” Brattin, who is running for U.S. Congress, said. “Protecting public systems is not what we’re charged to do — especially when we see in numerous areas they’re failing our students. Are we supposed to make sure our children

are trapped in these situations where they’re below the standard on every testable aspect or do we pass policy that ensures parents and children have the best tools at their disposal?” Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden said he plans to make education and school choice a priority for this upcoming legislative session. (To note, Rowden was not commenting specifically on Brattin’s bill but on education reform in general.)

Another state already multiple programs


Having multiple versions of education choice programs is not completely unique. The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program was instituted in the Sunshine State in 2001, allowing for state tax credits for contributions to certain nonprofit scholarship-funding organizations. Those organizations, in turn, provide scholarships to students in low-income families. But Florida also has the state-funded Family Empowerment Scholarship Program with two branches: one aids students in lowincome families and the other helps students with disabilities. However, only one is a true ESA. The Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities operates as the largest ESA in the nation. It provides up to $10,000 for each student to use on private school tuition, homeschool curriculum, and other expenses. It is funded through the Florida Education Finance Program, the legislature’s education funding formula. Florida also has the Reading Scholarship ESA program which gives public school students in third through fifth grade $500 for tutoring and other literacy programs and instructional materials. It is funded through legislative appropriation. “The COVID pandemic and its effects on schools have made it clearer than ever that families require a variety of options to ensure their children receive their education. Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) in particular give parents the flexibility to spend their education dollars in ways that can customize student learning, by allowing them to choose the education settings, materials, and services that best fit their children’s needs,” Scott Kent, a spokesperson for Step Up For Students, a Florida nonprofit, said. “As ESAs expand in popularity, so will the kinds of services that will be available to meet families’ demands,” Kent added. “These include such innovations as micro-schools and learning pods and even hybrid learning in which online learners or homeschoolers contract with public schools to attend certain in-person classes.” The Florida Legislature just expanded eligibility for its Family Empowerment Scholarship Program earlier this year. It is funded through the Florida Education Finance Program, the state’s funding formula for education.

Before the gavel pounded to start a new legislative session, the Senate floor bustled with excitement as 18 women, many wearing black and red, lined up near the dais for photos. The women made up the cohort of the 36 female state senators in Missouri, past and present, who were able to be in town to celebrate the

culmination of a new book sharing their stories. Mary Gant Newquist, the first female state senator in Missouri, was also on hand for the event. She received a standing ovation when she was introduced on the floor. Called “You Can, Too!” the book was a project spearheaded by the

11 women who currently serve in the Senate — the most ever at one time. Sen. Jeanie Riddle said the book, which tells the stories of every woman who ever served in Missouri’s upper chamber, was a “group effort,” from the title to a page of fun facts. The project is to promote literacy across the state.

Money, maps to be ‘basic goal’ of session for Plocher Continued from front cover.

When it comes to the budget, Plocher said the legislature will need to transparently appropriate an unprecedented influx in federal funds while also addressing newer challenges in supply chain concerns and inflation. He said an emphasis should be placed on advancements in education and workforce development. “I don’t doubt that Missourians are challenged and many of them are suffering. The goal is to get many of them into a job and not just receive checks,” Plocher, an attorney and former municipal judge, said. “Those checks that the federal government has been handing out have to be paid back at some time.” “We’ve, perhaps, walked into what could be, in a twisted sense, a perfect storm,” he continued. “When we have supply chain challenges coupled with the federal government flooding the economy with money, we have an overabundant supply of cash and an underabundance of products and goods people need to live on which is driving up the cost of those goods while they’re challenged to find employment.” From the massive infrastructure package recently signed into law to pandemic relief funds still awaiting to be greenlit by the legislature, Plocher said he was “confident” lawmakers will be able to “appropriately allocate

the resources” from the federal government. However, Plocher stressed that allocation must come with pellucidity. “We need to do our due diligence and have a transparency element to how these resources are going to be spent and where the benefit is going to be provided to Missourians so we can look back at this saying, dollar per dollar, we did it the right way,” Plocher, the speaker-elect, said. It’s possible the legislature will also work on approving a new Capitol improvement project — this time within the building, Plocher said. “There was a great deal of investment put into the outside of the building to keep the water outside. But the infrastructure and challenges that our grounds crew are always facing with technology, with wear and tear on a building now over 100 years old, we’re talking about doing different things,” Plocher said. Redistricting will provide a unique challenge to legislators, Plocher said, as House members have not been in the General Assembly long enough to have worked on previous maps drawn 10 years ago. He acknowledged there is a time crunch which could add additional pressure. It was no secret tensions flared between the two chambers as the last legislative session came to an abrupt halt. But Plocher has maintained at least a slight air of positivity ahead of

a new session, saying the “House is more than happy to work with the Senate.” “I’m certainly confident to pass a law it takes both the House and the Senate to agree upon it,” Plocher said. “The challenges, I think, always come within the bodies, and that’s a Senate thing in regards to how they’re going to handle their house compared to how we handle our house.” Plocher doesn’t seem interested in letting weather, COVID-19, or upcoming elections derail the session. He said the legislature will “be in session unless things drastically change” with inclement weather or pandemic policies. “We have a job to do,” Plocher said. “I think it comes back to why we’re all there. We’re all there because we believe in the future of Missouri; we’re all there because we want to make Missouri a better place tomorrow than it was today. Ultimately, I think that is what will bring us back and ground us to what we’re going and why we’re doing it.” “We’re certainly going to have some challenges with those who are maybe trying to gain a pulpit position to leverage something for another office, but I hope people sit down and look at why they’re there and not what they want to do later down the road,” Plocher continued. “We have an immediate opportunity to do something now.”


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Griesheimer leaves General Assembly Kaitlyn Schallhorn

As the General Assembly gaveled into session, Rep. Aaron Griesheimer joined his colleagues in the House. But it will only be to wish them well and give a formal goodbye. Griesheimer is ending his time in the legislature, as well as bowing out of a state Senate campaign, to become the fulltime director of education and training for SITE Improvement Association. His final day as a state representative will be Jan. 5. Griesheimer has represented HD 61 in Franklin, Gasconade, and Osage counties since 2019. He chaired the House Emerging Issues Committee and served on the Higher Education, Transportation, and Rules - Legislative Oversight committees as well. A well-known name in politics in his district, Griesheimer had launched a bid for the upper to replace Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz who is term-limited. He reported nearly $74,000 cash on hand in the latest filings. “I’m most proud that I was able to somewhat make a difference in the state of Missouri in my short time in office,” Griesheimer said in an interview. Griesheimer said his biggest legislative accomplishment was getting Lyndon’s Law passed. The legislation signed by the governor in 2019 gives the Department of Revenue the authority to revoke the driver’s license of someone who hits a highway or utility employee in a work zone or an emergency responder in an emergency zone. The bill was inspired by Lyndon Ebker who was fatally struck in a work zone by a motorist in Franklin County in 2016. Ebker had been a 30-year employee of the Missouri Department of

Transportation. Prior to his legislative service, Griesheimer served as the director of client relations at Steamboat Financial Group. And he worked for seven years as the assistant director of government relations at SITE Improvement Association. SITE Improvement Association is an independent contractor group primarily representing those in the asphalt paving, concrete, earthmoving, highway/bridge, landscaping, sewer/utility, and specialty construction fields. The association has been in operation since 1996. Griesheimer said he returned to SITE Improvement Association in June for a parttime position that allowed him to still work as a legislator and run for Senate. But when the opportunity arose for him to work with SITE Improvement Association in a larger capacity, Griesheimer said he had to take it. “At times we (public servants) are so focused on helping others, we neglect to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of our own careers, futures, and most importantly, our families,” Griesheimer said. “My intent was never to leave a legacy in Jefferson City. There have been many who served before me and many more will serve after me. I have always known my legacy will be that of a father and husband. My wife and children have cheered me on through campaigns and willingly made sacrifices for my life as a public servant.” “My new role provides longterm stability and a chance for me to be home for dinner with my family nearly every night,” he continued. “I know it’s the right move for us.”

In what he called a “first step,” Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo proposed a higher threshold for a procedural move that ends floor debate amid cacophonous cries of a lack of trust in the upper chamber. Rizzo’s rule change resolution would up the number of senators needed to move a previous question (PQ) motion forward to 10 from five. It would also require a two-thirds vote for the motion to be sustained rather than just a majority. Proposed Thursday before session concluded for the week, Rizzo said he hoped to see a “vehement discussion” on the proposal next week. “Approving the resolution would be a positive first step in restoring the trust in the Senate. It’s an olive branch that I think they could extend to us to show that they are ready and willing to move forward,” Rizzo told reporters later. Democrats and conservatives kicked off the session by decrying what they view as fractured trust with the Republican majority — complaints that have carried over from last year. Sen. Bob Onder, a member of the Conservative Caucus, said it was unlikely he would support the PQ rule change but stood in solidarity with Rizzo’s overall message. “There’s no question senators from both sides of the aisle have used the phrase ‘erosion of trust’ and many variations of that,” Onder said. “I think we have a common cause in restoring that trust which has always allowed the Senate to function as a body. I don’t think I can support your resolution, but no question, senator, your

proposed change would really empower … a minority to stop things they wanted to stop.”

Senate is ‘not special right now’

Led by Sen. Denny Hoskins, a handful of conservatives in the upper chamber kicked off the legislative session by denouncing perceived slights of dishonesty, exclusion from caucus meetings, and deviations of tradition on Wednesday. Hoskins and Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden even faced off on the floor about a December meeting of Republicans that some conservatives were not invited to; Rowden has said the meeting was held at the request of several other senators — not leadership — who wanted “to have a conversation that they felt like wasn’t going to be used against them.” Senate leaders, including Rizzo, Rowden, and President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, were inundated with questions about the state of relationships in the upper chamber, particularly among Republicans, in a post-session press conference. Rowden maintained he would help any member who “respects the Senate and wants to get good stuff done” but said leadership would not “go out of our way to overly

cater to a relatively small group of people within our caucus.” As for the PQ, Rowden held fast in his belief that it should be used as little as possible and not weaponized. “I think that this place is special because things like the previous question matter, and we want it to continue to matter,” Rowden said. “I’m way more interested in protecting the Senate and what has made the Senate special. From my perspective, it’s not special right now. It’s not what it was 20 years ago, and we should strive to make it that way again.” While it’s often used in the House, the tactic is seen much less in the Senate, a body that ardently values tradition and decorum. It was 1970 when a PQ was used in the Senate after a more than 100-year hiatus. Since, it has been used about several dozen times successfully. A PQ was last used during a special session in 2020. Rizzo said his resolution was the “beginning” of what could be done to make his party “feel more comfortable” as session progresses. Rizzo, now infamously, ended the legislative session last year abruptly after slamming Republican leadership for throwing curveballs and being dishonest to the Democrats.

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MoDOT will seek more Amtrak funding Kaitlyn Schallhorn

When session began in early January, Amtrak’s twice-daily roundtrip service passenger trains in Missouri ceased to just one per day. But the Department of Transportation director said he will continue to push the legislature to appropriate additional money to increase services again. Beginning Jan. 3, only the morning departure from Kansas City to St. Louis and the afternoon departure from St. Louis to Kansas City is operational along the Missouri River Runner line, according to an Amtrak notice. Trains 311 and 316 are suspended. Amtrak funding is split between the federal government and the state. Legislators only appropriated enough money to run the twice-daily round-trip trains through half of this fiscal year. The budget included $10.85 million for the rail program and $25,000 specifically for Amtrak station repairs and improvements. Patrick McKenna, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) director, said an additional $2.5 million was needed to bump the service back up for the next six months without running into an arrearage. “We will in our budget proposal request enough money to run the full service. That’s a decision we’ll advocate for as we have consistently over many years,” McKenna said in

an interview. As part of its fulfillment to the federal government with long-term planning, McKenna said MoDOT routinely surveys Missourians who want greater Amtrak service. He said it provides both economic and environmental benefits for the entire state — not just the communities the Amtrak line runs through. “We hear a lot about expanding mobility options in the state. Not everyone has a car,” McKenna said. “There’s a benefit to the modality of the multi-mobile nature for people to have options. It’s good for the environment. It’s good for the economy.” Amtrak did see a decline in passengers during the pandemic while services were shuttered or reduced, an Amtrak spokesperson said. Missouri River Runner trains provided service to 154,417 passengers in fiscal year 2019; 86,398 passengers in fiscal year 2020; and 77,179 passengers in fiscal year 2021. “A federal law requires states to pay a portion of the cost of certain Amtrak trains. Missouri’s state budget does not include funding for continuing to operate two Missouri River Runner round-trip trains,” an Amtrak notice said. The Missouri River Runner service brings in more than $200 million in annual economic impact for the state, MoDOT has said. It supports more than 1,250 jobs.

Parson: No plans for special elections yet Kaitlyn Schallhorn

Gov. Mike Parson does not plan to grant Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s request for special elections to fill the six House vacancies at this time. Ashcroft, on the opening day of the legislative session, sent a letter to the governor asking him to issue writs of election to fill the Republican vacancies. Without those six seats, House Republicans do not have a supermajority. Parson said this is the first time the secretary of state has made such a request. A spokesperson for Ashcroft confirmed his Wednesday request was the first. “We’ve had different scenarios before, and I’ve never received a letter from the secretary of state. We’ve had Democrat openings before, and I’ve never received a letter so I’m not sure what that was all about,” Parson said in an interview. “The

General Assembly, that’s the legislative branch’s job to do that, and there’s been no requests from their side of it.” The governor also noted redistricting was still ongoing, and those district lines have not yet been drawn and confirmed. “I think there’s a lot of moving parts than just saying call a special election,” Parson said. With the resignations of Reps. Aaron Griesheimer and Justin Hill Wednesday, the House has six vacant seats. The other seats have been emptied because Wayne Wallingford left to become the new Department of Revenue director, Becky Ruth resigned to lead the Office of Child Advocate, Tom Hannegan passed away last year, and Rick Roeber was expelled from the House after an Ethics report said he abused his children. Ashcroft said if Parson issued writs of election by Jan. 10, special elections

could be held during the April 5 municipal elections with “minimal cost to the taxpayer, but substantial benefit to Missourians.” Without an election, the seats would remain empty for another year, Ashcroft said. “Residents in the affected districts will be represented only by their state senator as lawmakers take crucial votes on spending, abortion, and congressional redistricting,” Ashcroft, a Republican, said in his letter to the governor. “As a state, it is critical that we take the appropriate steps to ensure that all Missourians are fairly, justly, and equitably represented at all levels of government,” he continued. “By calling a special election, these vacant seats can be filled and the constituents of these districts can again have full representation in the Missouri General Assembly.”

Medical marijuana sales reach $200M Press Release

Fourteen months after the first sale to a qualified patient occurred in a Missouri medical marijuana dispensary, the total sales as part of the state-regulated medical marijuana program reached the $200 million mark. Facilities began receiving licensing and certification from the Section for Medical Marijuana Regulation within the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) two years ago this week, and they began receiving their approval to operate following the commencement inspection process in June 2020. More than 300 facilities are now operating

in Missouri as cultivators, manufacturers, dispensaries, testing laboratories, transporters and seed to sale providers. “Nearly every facility who was part of the initial round of licensing is now up and running and providing beneficial products and service to the patients of Missouri,” said Lyndall Fraker, Director of the Section for Medical Marijuana Regulation. “We are proud of the tenacity shown by both our regulatory team and all of the facility operators who were able to clear so many hurdles that COVID-19 presented during a critical time.” DHSS is charged with providing safe and secure access to medical

marijuana for qualifying Missouri patients. 158,169 qualified patients and 3,283 caregivers are currently active in Missouri’s program. Including Missouri, 21 states have implemented medical marijuana laws since 2005. The national average for implementation is 29 months, and Missouri was able to implement its medical program in just over 23 months. Only five states implemented medical programs faster than Missouri (Pennsylvania, New York, Utah, Minnesota and Oklahoma). More information about Missouri’s medical marijuana regulatory program can be found at

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“There is not a more dedicated public servant...”

Wallingford picked to lead Revenue Department Cameron Gerber

After a lengthy career in the Missouri Legislature, Rep. Wayne Wallingford was picked to join the governor’s Cabinet as the Department of Revenue director. Wallingford returned to the lower chamber for a second term last year after serving in the Missouri Senate from 20132020. Before his tenure in the legislature, he held leadership positions in the U.S. Air Force and with major food chains — management experience Gov. Mike Parson said made him a perfect fit to lead the department (DOR). “We look forward to him implementing his vision at DOR to provide the best possible service for the people of Missouri,” Parson said. “There is not a more dedicated public servant that I’ve ever met than Wayne Wallingford, and I look forward to him being part of the team.” Wallingford spent nearly 25 years in

the U.S. Air Force, serving as chief of the Intelligence Division in the U.K. and the Electronic Intelligence Analysis Division in Hawaii. He was awarded several medals during his service, including the Silver Star. He has also worked as McDonald’s chief people officer for southwest Missouri, vice president of operations for iSold IT in central Missouri, and in various leadership positions with Taco Bell. The Cape Girardeau Republican has chaired both the House and Senate Ways and Means committees during his legislative tenure. “To say it’s a great honor to serve on the governor’s Cabinet would be an understatement. I look forward to working with the other Cabinet members to make sure Missouri remains a great place to live, work, and raise a family,” Wallingford said. “Success isn’t built on just one individual; it takes a team effort. I know I’m inheriting a

great team at the Department of Revenue, and together we will continue to work to ensure Missourians get the kind of customer service they deserve.” Associated Industries of Missouri President and CEO Ray McCarty applauded the appointment, saying AIM’s Tax Committee would work with Wallingford to “ensure the tax laws are administered as fairly as possible for Missouri taxpayers.” “We have enjoyed working with Director Wallingford during his tenure in the Missouri Legislature, and we look forward to working with him in this new role,” McCarty said in a statement. “I think Wayne is an excellent choice,” Sen. Holly Rehder, who now holds Wallingford’s seat in the upper chamber, told The Missouri Times. “He’s seen firsthand how important this department is to our constituents — and how costly it can be for them when it isn’t running efficiently.”


Missouri’s State Board of Education hopes to see legislators increase minimum salaries for educators by $10,000 by the 2025 school year to combat a severe teacher shortage. The board’s Legislative Committee presented its priorities during a recent meeting, agreeing upon its desire for a $35,000 base salary, an increase that would cost $12 million if approved by the legislature. While the recommendation was unanimously approved, several board members suggested the base rate did not go far enough and would need to be revisited in the future. “When compared to other states, Missouri is at or near the bottom when

it comes to what we pay our teachers — both when they enter the profession and as they advance throughout their career,” Board President Charlie Shields said. “Our eight border states have made headway in addressing teacher pay in recent years, while Missouri has remained stagnant. DESE is working to implement a wide variety of recruitment and retention strategies, but we must have legislative support to ensure Missouri students continue to have the best educators possible in their classrooms.” Missouri ranks last in average starting salary for teachers in the U.S., and No. 45 in terms of average salary, according to the National Education Association. Educators aren’t the only Missouri

workers hoping to see a wage increase: Gov. Mike Parson announced he would recommend a substantial minimum wage increase for state workers, another proposal that will go before the legislature. Senate GOP leaders appeared open to the governor’s proposal but noted there were concerns about the cost when asked last week. “Certainly why the governor did it makes perfect sense. There’s a workforce problem everywhere — including in state government,” Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden said. “I think we want to try to find a way to do it in what we conceive to be the right way but also a way that we would get a requisite number of votes in both chambers.”



Ashcroft defends sweeping Texas voting law, considers it a model for Missouri Kaitlyn Schallhorn

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft defended a sweeping Texas election law in court recently, arguing it could be a model for Missouri as session gets underway. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law last year legislation that tightened his state’s voting regulations, including by banning most drive-thru voting, prohibiting local election officials from distributing unsolicited mailin ballot applications, and strengthening mail-in voting rules. Critics, including the state’s Democratic lawmakers, have said the new law is voter suppression. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has sued to block the Texas law, a move Ashcroft said was “partisan” in nature. Ashcroft, an attorney, filed an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas in late December in defense of the law. “The most important reason, I think, for me to get involved here is I believe that the state of Missouri knows best how to run the state of Missouri’s elections. If I do not defend the rights of states to run their own elections, then eventually the Department of Justice and the federal government will come and try to take over our elections,” Ashcroft said in an interview. “I think it’s improper that the Department of Justice, for partisan, political purposes, is besmirching the election laws that are duly passed and enacted in the state of Texas.” In his amicus brief, Ashcroft said: “The test of our nation’s election system is not found in landslides, but when the outcome turns upon a handful of votes. Vote fraud need not be massive to undermine an election’s outcome. And people are more likely to vote if they believe their ballot will be fairly counted.” While Texas’ new law

contains a myriad of voting measures, the DOJ focused on two particular provisions in its lawsuit: one which restricts the amount of assistance someone can give a voter with a language deficincy or who is disabled and another which requires certain identification information on mail-in ballots. Specifically, the DOJ challenged limitations placed on assistants to just aiding a voter on reading and marking a ballot or directing a voter to read or mark a ballot. The assistant can no longer answer voters’ questions, including who is on a ballot or what their political affiliation is. The assistant must certify he or she did not coerce, encourage, or pressure the voter in any way and will not divulge information to another person about how the voter cast the ballot. Additionally, the new law requires early voting clerks to reject ballot applications that do not include the same identification numbers or social security number used on the voter registration application. “Laws that impair eligible citizens’ access to the ballot box have no place in our democracy,” said Kristen Clarke, an assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. “Texas Senate Bill 1’s restrictions on voter assistance at the polls and on which absentee ballots cast by eligible voters can be accepted by election officials are unlawful and indefensible.” But Ashcroft argued the provisions were efforts to make Texas elections more secure, not disenfranchise legal voters from being able to cast a ballot. “We want to make sure that when ballots are cast, they’re cast by that individual voter,” the secretary said. “We don’t want people having undue influence over a voter.”


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Our place in history Issues to watch Caleb Rowden

William King, Shirley Chisholm, Robert Smalls, Susanna Salter. In the annals of American history, there are dozens of notable names whose legacies are substantial and universally recognized. But throughout that same history, you will find names like the aforementioned ones; names many don’t know, but whose impact was equally consequential. William King was the first governor of Maine after it became a state in 1820 and was a leading proponent for statehood before that date. As you are well aware, adding a state to the union prior to the Civil War was no small feat as the number of free and slave states had to remain equal. The corresponding slave state that came into existence because of William King’s persistence — Missouri. Shirley Chisholm served seven terms in the United States Congress. She was America’s first Black congresswoman and was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. A historic political career and yet a name that many Americans wouldn’t recognize today. Robert Smalls was born a slave and went on to be elected to Congress in a southern state — South Carolina. Perhaps even more impressive is how Smalls got his freedom. Before the end of the Civil War, while he was working as a slave aboard a Confederate warship, Smalls and his fellow slaves commandeered the ship, sailed it out to sea, and surrendered it to the Union Navy. Smalls once famously said: “My race needs no special defense for the

past history of them and this country. It proves them to be equal of any people anywhere. All they need is an equal chance in the battle of life.” Susanna Salter was the first woman elected to any political office in America. She was elected mayor of Argonia, Kansas in 1887 on the Prohibition Party ticket. Salter didn’t run for re-election but lived to be 100 years old. I stumbled across an article about these and other little-known public servants over Christmas break. In reading their stories, I am reminded of one very important reality as we begin the 2022 legislative session: For most, if not all of us serving in the Missouri Legislature, the legacy we leave likely won’t be our name being remembered but rather the accomplishments we work together to deliver to the people of Missouri. These individuals accomplished some of the most consequential things possible in their time, and yet they are largely unknown today. I can’t imagine many people will recognize the name Caleb Rowden decades from now. But I hope and pray they can point to some of the things we will accomplish this session and say “that made my life better.” As Republicans, we have been given a generational opportunity to lead in Missouri with veto-proof majorities in both chambers and a Republican in the Governor’s Mansion. That means, generally speaking, the only group who can truly deter us from enacting family-supporting, job-creating, child-inspiring policies for the people of Missouri … are ourselves. This session, I believe the Missouri

Senate will once again be led by a dedicated group of governing conservatives who recognize our constituents did not elect us to yell the loudest or say the most outlandish thing in order to advance our political ambitions, land our names in the news, or go viral online. The people of Missouri elected us to lead and deliver meaningful and lasting conservative wins that make our state stronger and our citizens’ lives better. That means delivering more accountability and choice for parents in their kids’ education. That means passing commonsense election reforms to ensure it is easier to vote and harder to cheat in the Show-Me State. That means putting more money back in the pockets of working Missourians through tax relief. And it means pushing back against President Biden and an out-of-control federal government that is crippling future generations’ opportunity at economic success. These are not wild or crazy ideas. They are simply solutions to problems that we know exist in our state. At the end of the day, that’s really all any of us should be interested in — finding solutions to problems. We cannot allow ourselves to fall prey to the prevailing notion that this session can’t be successful. Simply put, the stakes are too high, and Missourians are counting on us to lead and to deliver the policy wins that matter most for them and their families. Let’s not let them down.

John Rizzo

Get ready for a clown show, because the circus is coming back to town. On Jan. 5, one of the most interesting sessions in years will begin. Let’s peek under the big top at some of the issues that will create an unprecedented level of absurdity this year:

1. U.S. Senate Race

Fueling every fire in the building is a U.S. Senate race in which the attorney general is trailing in the polls behind a former governor who resigned in disgrace. To gain some ground, expect Eric Schmitt to inject himself into any part of the legislative process that will give him a quick headline.

2. Congressional Maps

With the retirement of Sen. Roy Blunt, various state senators and representatives are now looking to move up a rung on the political ladder (see above). Expect multiple disagreements over where the new congressional boundaries will be and plenty of “legislation hostage-taking” as these aspiring congresspeople try to draw the best district for themselves. And don’t forget — the legislature will need to pass an emergency clause to set the districts by the filing date.

3. Supplemental Budget

With a record budget surplus and the complete and total victory in the courts by those who fought to expand Medicaid to working people, the budget/appropriations committees will have to move quickly. For anyone who still has common sense, this should be an easy decision: Did Missourians vote for it? Yes. Did the Supreme Court Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb unequivocally instruct the legislature Rowden represents SD 19 in Boone and to fund it? Yes. Will that matter to ideologues who for over a decade have Cooper counties. pushed a culture war by opposing it?

No. Bottom line — it’s good politics for Republicans in primary elections to fight against health care. Let’s hope national Democrats never find a cure for cancer because right-wing idealogues would never take it. (See next point.)

4. COVID-19

The omicron variant is here, and thankfully, we now know how to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Unfortunately, the attorney general has bullied local health boards into dropping their guard against this deadly virus. As a result, children will be left unprotected in our schools, and health departments will have their hands tied. Expect a lot of horse de-wormer to start getting passed around at Republican Caucus meetings. In conclusion, there are a lot of moving parts in this legislative session and any or all of them could ignite the powder keg that melts down the whole session. I bet even P.T. Barnum couldn’t produce a show this bizarre. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so serious. The good news is: There are people still working to move Missouri forward, and I’m proud to stand with them. The Senate Democratic Caucus is going to keep rolling up our sleeves and putting Missouri families first. We invite anyone — and everyone — to do the same. There is a lot of common ground on which we can achieve some common good if people will just cut the nonsense, ignore the clowns, and get to work. So step right up, watch the show, and please don’t feed the animals. Senate Minority Floor Leader John Rizzo represents SD 11 in Jackson County.


The Missouri Times


2022 sets Missouri’s trajectory for economic growth Environment Missouri looks forward Daniel P. Mehan

In many ways, Missouri’s economy is measured against what happened in 2020. That year will always be defined by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic contraction — which left hundreds of thousands of Missourians out of work. What came next was a year that saw the economic cycle steady and point toward recovery. Businesses began to regain normalcy. By late 2021, Missouri had recouped more than 80 percent of the jobs lost during the pandemic. Our state’s success has been helped tremendously by a number of timely policies championed by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and passed into law by our pro-jobs governor and Missouri General Assembly. We passed a vital investment in our transportation infrastructure. We leveled the sales tax playing field for our local Missouri retail businesses, finally giving them fair competition against online giants. We stopped a wave of opportunistic COVID-19 lawsuits that threatened our reopening — growing our momentum for upcoming legal climate reforms this session, including a much-needed update to Missouri’s statute of limitations. Thanks to this work and the individual efforts of thousands of employers across our state, we can say that today, by and large, our economy has recovered. Moving ahead, 2022 must then be a year that charts a path for where our economy goes next. Toward that goal, the Missouri Chamber has released an aggressive legislative agenda to help Missouri flourish as the economy moves beyond recovery and into growth. Any discussion about our economy must lead with workforce. For years, preparing Missouri’s workforce has been a major undertaking at the Missouri Chamber, as expressed in our Missouri 2030 strategic initiative. We believe Missouri needs to make the most of the workforce we have — dedicating resources to giving Missourians the skills they need to thrive in both the economy of today and the future. This year, we are asking the legislature to reauthorize the Fast Track program, which provides scholarships to adult Missourians who decide to pursue degrees, credentials,

or certificates in in-demand fields. We believe the program can help even more people if lawmakers decide to make Fast Track compatible with the apprenticeship revolution happening in our state today — allowing students to use these resources for apprenticeship expenses. Retention is also crucial to Missouri businesses. We will ask lawmakers to give employers more tools to invest in upskilling and retaining their current workers through short-term credentialing programs. Furthermore, we must ensure Missouri students are prepared for college or job training programs. We will be advocating for placing a greater focus on helping high school students access all available training and financial aid opportunities. This will empower students to enhance their employability as they seek to enter the workforce. The Missouri Chamber also has big plans to advocate for tech and innovation industry growth in our state. Just this fall, we published a newly-updated Technology 2030 Report showing that Missouri is a leading state for growth in energy tech and IT. We are also primed for fast growth in tech manufacturing — this means Missouri has a key opportunity to help address the global computer chip shortage. Missouri also has one of the nation’s most inclusive tech economies, with our state near the top for women and diversity among our tech workforce. Today, technology is utilized in every business, and the Missouri Chamber is taking steps to position Missouri to lead in tech growth. We have united many of Missouri’s leading companies in technology and innovation by forming a new Missouri Chamber Technology Alliance. Nearly every industry is represented in the alliance, including health care, education, utilities, and manufacturing. The Technology Alliance is building out strategies to maximize Missouri’s position as an emerging tech hub. This year, our focus on tech involves policy to help Missouri businesses enhance their cybersecurity protection in response to the growing number of disruptive and financially devastating cyberattacks. The Missouri Chamber will also look to develop policy to build our

state’s research and development capacities — so that the seed for new innovations can start in Missouri and lead to job creation right here. We believe these policies, and many others in our 2022 agenda, will find much support in the Missouri General Assembly. We have high hopes. As always, the Missouri Chamber will also remain vigilant against proposals that seek to legislate how private businesses should operate — and we expect to have a fight on our hands in 2022. At the federal level, the Missouri Chamber is pushing back hard against the Biden administration’s heavyhanded, overreaching vaccination mandate which stands to impact more than 3,700 Missouri employers. Likewise, we will also stand against legislation already filed in Jefferson City that seeks to forbid employers from exercising their right to require that their workers are vaccinated against COVID-19. Our stance on this is simple — let businesses decide. Every employer is different. Some employers have decided that COVID-19 vaccinations are needed to keep employees and customers safe, or that a vaccinated workforce is essential to minimize work interruptions due to outbreaks of the virus. In other workplaces, employers have decided it’s not essential to be vaccinated. Still others are encouraging vaccination rather than requiring it. In every case, it is never appropriate for politicians to legislate how businesses should be run. Long before COVID-19, employers have had a firmly-established legal right to make their own decisions on vaccinations. And that right should remain — let businesses decide. To all employers in our state, I want you to know that the Missouri Chamber will be standing up for you this legislative session. We are in the Capitol every day working on your behalf. If there is anything we can do for you, please let us know. We are optimistic about where Missouri is headed and the 2022 legislative session is a critical opportunity to help move Missouri forward. Let’s make the most of it.

to 2022 legislative session

Bridget Sanderson

With Missouri’s 2022 legislative session beginning, Environment Missouri, a citizenbased statewide environmental advocacy organization, is already looking forward to working alongside our many coalition partners, state legislators, and supporters to protect our state’s clean air, clean water, and public spaces. Some of our main environmental priorities for this legislative session are: securing the right to repair our electronics and farming equipment; getting lead out of our schools’ drinking water; and protecting our state’s caves and threatened bat species. First, the right to repair aims to take on big companies that push us to buy more stuff and throw it away instead of fixing it. We already use and throw away too much stuff, but the companies that make electronic equipment actively make it difficult to repair things, so we end up throwing away even more. Many manufacturers make repairs proprietary, with the manufacturing company maintaining total control of the repair process. When the manufacturer is the only option for repair, they can drive up the costs or push consumers to buy new, unnecessary products. To cut waste, we need to empower more repairs. Rep. Emily Weber has introduced a bill to do just that. Beyond consumers, farmers are also struggling to repair newer tractors and other modern electronic equipment. Manufacturers install digital locks on equipment that blocks anyone but the dealership technicians from performing repairs. We have been working alongside Rep. Barry Hovis to support farmers who provide our food with more repair options across the state. Getting lead out of drinking water is important because there is no safe level of lead for children. Alongside Rep. Paula Brown, Environment Missouri Daniel P. Mehan is the president is pushing for clean drinking and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of water in Missouri’s schools. Commerce and Industry. Our children need clean, safe drinking water — especially where they go to learn and play

each day. Unfortunately, lead is contaminating drinking water at school, pre-schools, and child care facilities. The problem stems from pipes, plumbing, faucets, and fixtures that contain lead. To keep children safe and healthy, the state must get the lead out of the drinking water at schools across Missouri by using state and federal funding that already exists. Finally, Environment Missouri believes that we need to protect the lands and ecosystems that define our state. Known as the “Cave State,” Missouri has more than 7,300 recorded caves. Our beautiful cave system houses an important pollinator and pest controller: the bat. Unfortunately, despite their importance to a healthy ecosystem, bats have too often received a bad rap. Missouri’s bats are insectivores, eating many pesky bugs such as mosquitoes and crickets. Bats can eat an impressive 1,000 pests per hour, helping to protect humans from disease-carrying bugs, and improving agricultural yields. Bat populations have been dwindling in North America due to climate change, habitat loss, and endemic diseases such as White Nose Syndrome. In fact, eight of Missouri’s 14 bat species are listed on the Missouri Species of Conservation Concern. It is time to prioritize the Cave State’s bat population and their natural habitat. Environment Missouri supports additional funding directed to the protection and conservation of our caves and to assist the entities currently protecting our bat populations. We work hard to protect our home and neighbors in Missouri. During the 2022 legislative session, we hope you join us to push for new laws that protect our right to repair, clean drinking water in our schools, and healthy habitats for our state’s favorite nocturnal pestkiller. Bridget Sanderson is the executive director of Environment Missouri.


The Missouri Times



If I’m being honest, it was really a long time coming. As a social conservative who voted with Republicans on issues like abortion, gun owner rights, and tax policy, Democratic Party leadership always sort of looked down on me for voting my conscience — and my district — during the eight years I served in the House of Representatives as a leading voice of the Blue Dog Democrats. Of course, that’s when there was still such a thing as a Blue Dog Democrat. Today’s radical left purity tests have led to the extinction of the Blue Dog, the rise of socialist influences, and the relegation of the Missouri Democratic Party to irrelevance. This didn’t happen overnight. In my early years in the House, Democrats numbered 72 and an even 36 of us were pro-life while the other 36 were proabortion. About half of us were gun owners or NRA members too. Now, today’s Democratic Party is a monolith: no room for conscientious dissenters. But,

I was still willing to fight for the party that I once believed in until it was infiltrated by anti-police activists bent on defunding law enforcement. As a man who sacrificed to protect our community as a police officer for 17 years and who now has represented more than 1,000 police officers on behalf of the Fraternal Order of Police for the last 10 years, I just don’t understand how law and order became a wedge issue and how Democratic Party leaders think it benefits the most vulnerable among us to declare war on the heroes that patrol our streets and keep our families safe. Party leaders like Tishaura Jones, Kim Gardner, and Cori Bush, with all of their hateful and dangerous anti-police rhetoric, represented the final straw. Their non-stop lies and malicious attacks against police officers, and frankly, me personally, made it clear to me that I was fooling myself to think that the Democratic Party could be saved. Understand that I’m talking about the leadership of the

Democratic Party, not the people who vote Democrat. I believe that most voters in both parties are good people who see things much as I do: The toxic influence of the far-left is making this country a more dangerous, divided place to live. I’ve never believed that voters were the problem, and I was always surprised by people on either side of the aisle who hated the members of the opposite party, rather than the agenda of the opposite party. For me, I’m the product of a mixed-marriage: My father is a Reagan Republican, and my mother was a Kennedy Democrat. When you came to the dinner table, you’d better have an opinion about the issues of the day, and you’d better be ready to defend that position. Throughout my childhood, I was never firmly on the side of my mother or father; I loved them both and respected both of their opinions so I’ve always been devoid of partisan hatred. But, they were both strongly pro-union which is why I ended up running as a Democrat for public office at a time when

Dems were more pro-labor. Today, Republicans are far more friendly to organized labor than they used to be while you have Democrats like Tishaura Jones and Wesley Bell actively engaged in union-busting, particularly when it comes to their dealings with my police union. It wasn’t until right before my mother’s death that I finally admitted to myself that I was a Republican. After never voting for a Republican for president in her life, Mom confided in me that she had voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, and I, in turn, confided in her that I hadn’t voted for Clinton either. So it was my mom I was thinking about last year when I colored in the dot next to Donald Trump’s name. And, it’s my mother, and so, so many others just like her — just like me, who are so disaffected

that time, it quashed plans for the construction of the second unit of the Callaway Generating Station. It has also deterred the construction of new nuclear power plants for the past 45 years, and if left in the statute, it will block new nuclear facilities in Missouri for the next 45 years. Attempts to modify or remove 393.135 have been met with strong resistance from the solar and wind energy lobbies. Federal leverage and generous subsidies financed with tax dollars have made their lobby powerful. Wind and solar energy will certainly play a significant role in our nation’s energy future, but their intermittency is a serious flaw. Clearly, they are now being propped up by an anti-dog-eat-dog law in Missouri. Wind energy has become the renewable energy advocates’ first choice. Great Britain is a world leader in wind

generating capacity. According to Wikipedia, Great Britain has 24.3 gigawatts (GW) of wind generating capacity — 13.9 GW onshore and 10.4 GW offshore. However, actual electric generation, not capacity, is what counts. So far in 2021, they have generated less than 2 GW for 22 percent of the time and less than 1 GW for 9 percent of the time. Looking for an explanation, some are claiming the wind on the island doesn’t blow as much as it used to. Paul Homewood, a retired British statistician noted: “It does not matter how much wind capacity you have. Naught percent of anything is still nothing.” The great Texas freeze-up last winter made one thing abundantly clear: Electric generating facilities with “on-site” fuel storage are the bedrock of energy security. During the big freeze, natural gas power plants failed as pipeline pressures dropped.

The fact that Texas is steeped in natural gas made no difference. On-site fuel storage makes coal-fired and nuclear power plants the most trustworthy and secure electric generating options. Coal is facing an army of frenzied opponents, making its future questionable. Recent news headlines focused on the U.S. Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (HR 3684). The $1 trillion plan has been duly adopted by Congress and signed by the president. Sec. 40321 of the act allocates $6 billion for infrastructure planning of micro and small modular nuclear reactors. Unfortunately, I don’t believe a state that has thumbed its nose at nuclear power since 1976 should expect to receive more than a few stale crumbs from that funding. The Missouri Air Conservation Commission (MACC) is a bipartisan commission charged with

with the Democratic Party — who I am thinking about now, as I share my switch to the Republican party. It would serve politicians — and our country — well if hard-working, honest, wellmeaning people, like my mom, were who all elected officials were thinking about in these dangerous, uncertain times. Jeff Roorda is the business manager for the St. Louis Police Officers Association. He served as a Democratic member of the Missouri Legislature and as a police officer.

HB 1684 could fix antiquated statute limiting Missouri’s energy options Ron Boyer

In her 1957 novel, “Atlas Shrugged,” Ayn Rand introduced us to the concept of the “anti-dog-eat-dog” law. In her book, the anti-dog-eatdog law was a law designed to thwart the competitiveness of the efficient companies so the less efficient companies could compete. It embodied the antithesis of free-market competition. And yet Missouri — a state that prides itself in liberty, innovation, free markets, and hard work — has an onerous anti-dog-eat-dog law residing in its code of state statutes. That law, Sec. 393.135, RSMo, prohibits electric utilities from charging their customers for costs related to the cost of construction of power generating facilities until they are fully operational. The powerful 64-word statute became law in 1976. As was intended by its supporters at

protecting our state’s air quality. Nuclear power plants can generate electricity with zero traditional air pollutants and zero greenhouse gas emissions. As an advocate for clean air, the MACC has adopted, by a unanimous vote, a resolution asking the Missouri Legislature to address Section 393.135 and the intractable roadblock it creates for financing and construction of new nuclear power facilities. Rep. John Black has responded to the need to unshackle the development of nuclear energy. HB 1684, sponsored by Black, could open the door to a more secure energy future for families and businesses across the state. Ron Boyer is a member of the Missouri Air Conservation Commission.


The Missouri Times


We must protect 7th Amendment Update the State: Missouri should use Ken Barnes surplus to update state technology Recently I went on my very first duck hunt. We were at a private duck club just outside of St. Charles, which is by most accounts the mecca of duck hunting within our state. The winds were high and the weather overcast. It was chilly. These, I’m told, are all the conditions expert duck hunters dream about. Sure enough, not long after settling into the blind, various species of ducks flew all around us. There were literally thousands of birds within our view. As they flapped their wings and circled around high above our heads, the designated duck caller of our group attempted to replicate duck sounds in an effort to get the birds to drop close enough for shooting. We waited — impatiently. As the ducks got to a point in the sky where we believed they were just close enough, we opened fire. We were wrong; they weren’t close enough. We repeatedly shot too early, and we missed a lot. Back at the lodge, Howard (the duck club manager) invited me to join him for a Bloody Mary. He knew a lot about hunting ducks, and as we emptied our glasses, he shared some of his wisdom with me. By the time we had poured our second round of drinks, we had finished our onesided discussion about the necessity of exercising patience while hunting ducks and the conversation drifted into the more familiar but volatile topic of politics. Not surprisingly, Howard was a big fan of the Second Amendment and had little use for lawsuits. Undeterred but fully expecting our cordial conversation to turn more heated, I waded in kneedeep to “tort reform” and the right to trial by jury. Howard was clearly suspect of the political views coming from a trial lawyer who didn’t know how to properly shoot ducks. We talked for several minutes, and I could tell Howard was unlikely to become a fervent supporter of MATA’s issues, but at least he listened and did so with civility. Then, just as we tilted back the last of our drinks, Howard conceded that we ought to protect all parts of the constitution lest we might ultimately end up with gun control. I took that to mean he could become a supporter of the Seventh Amendment. We shook hands and went our separate ways.

I could tell many tales about encounters with those who believe in tort reform but haven’t really considered how attacks on the Seventh Amendment could open the door to attacks on other rights they hold dear. The same person who believes steadfastly in their First Amendment right to constantly tweet their views on everything will often regurgitate calls to reign in the civil justice system. Missouri’s Constitution proclaims that the right to trial by jury shall remain INVIOLATE. That’s a pretty powerful word that is synonymous with “undisturbed.” Yet, despite this constitutional promise of an undisturbed right to trial by jury, legislative measures to effectuate limitations on the civil justice system are persistent and pervasive. Bills have already been filed attempting to shorten the statute of limitations, preventing victims of asbestos from having their day in court, and protecting product manufacturers who cut corners resulting in destructive property damage, injuries, and death. These are just a few examples, but there will likely be many more bills filed that aimed at disturbing the right to trial by jury and tilting the scales of justice even farther in favor of big business and against the individual who was harmed. We are all blessed to live in a country and state where our constitutions afford us rights that most of the world does not enjoy. The Second Amendment affords us the right to keep and bear arms. The First Amendment assures us both the right to free speech and freedom of religion. The American way of life would be difficult to imagine without such core rights. The same constitution that affords us these and other bedrock American rights also contains the right to a trial by jury under the Seventh Amendment. Remember the next time you are out hunting or worshiping or speaking your mind — or any of the other many things we have the constitutional right to enjoy — that attacks on the Seventh Amendment today could be attacks on our other constitutional rights tomorrow.

Conner Kerrigan

In mid-December, the information technology agency that serves Virginia’s General Assembly was hit with a ransomware attack that hobbled their legislative operations. Even closer to home, Capital Region Medical Center was recently the victim of a cyberattack, rendering the entire hospital “inoperative” for more than two weeks. Gov. Mike Parson has already laid out a plan to spend $400 million on broadband for the state — but an even higher emphasis on technology could be the game changer that protects the legislature and state agencies from the inevitability of a cyberattack while establishing Missouri as a leader among state governments. Even with the windfall of money that came to our state government during the pandemic — and the resulting infrastructure bill passed at the federal level — this will be a difficult session to get anything done. Let alone something that has clearly been off the legislative radar for quite some time, like technology updates. With Senate Republicans effectively split into two parties, Democrats in actual disarray, and a redistricting vote that just got a lot more complicated with the departure of Rep. Justin Hill,

​​Ken Barnes is the president of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys. He practices at The Barnes Law Firm in Kansas City.

it seems almost silly to ask. But my argument here is quite simple: There is no downside to using some of the surplus funds to update our state government’s technological infrastructure. With cyberattacks getting worse — real ones, not the kind where a journalist right clicks to see a page’s source code — it’s only a matter of time before the Missouri Legislature gets hit. Anyone who has ever worried about a Sunshine request is going to be really peeved when someone comes in and easily accesses all of their emails without asking. This is a bipartisan, noncontroversial issue. Our state needs updating. It’s not just cybersecurity, either. Investing in our digital infrastructure could have ramifications for many other issues that have plagued Missouri for years, even decades. I’m sure elected officials from the St. Louis region would love to see sales taxes paid on all of those cars driving around with temporary plates. That would be easier if the Department of Revenue was given the funds to significantly update its computer systems. Citizens and legislative

employees alike would love if the websites for both legislative chambers were updated. I know this because I have been both of those things, and I’ve struggled to operate these sites, which look like they were created when I was in grade school. Te c h n o l o g y updates can also have positive implications for infrastructure, agriculture, transportation, communication, and so many other aspects of Missourians’ daily lives that state government affects. When researching for this column, I typed in “technology” to the legislation search bar on the House website. Nothing came up. On the Senate website, I had to hit cmd+F and type it in … since there is no search bar. Still nothing. This means one of two things: Either no bills have been filed that have anything to do with technology, or the state website’s search function is broken. Either way, the issue needs to be addressed. Conner Kerrigan is a former political communications professional who lives in Columbia.


The Missouri Times

Diverse energy means reliable energy. Preparing for the future doesn’t just mean being ready for the unexpected. It means being ready for whatever’s next. That’s why we’re always working to bring you more reliable, more affordable and more sustainable energy. The more diverse our energy mix, the more reliably we deliver energy to your homes and businesses. That means, whatever the future holds, you’ll have the energy for it.

The Missouri Times



Former legislator launches legal Cheryl Robb-Welch to lead MOCADSV challenge to lobbying ban Kaitlyn Schallhorn

Kaitlyn Schallhorn Former Rep. Rocky Miller has mounted a legal challenge to Missouri statute which bars legislators from lobbying for at least two years following their service in the General Assembly. Miller said the statute, which was added to the Missouri Constitution in 2018, violates his free speech rights. He represented HD 124 in Camden and Miller counties from 2013-2021. “Earlier this year, I was approached by a business which needed help navigating some environmental regulation issues with the state. Unfortunately, I was unable to help them because of a recent law that bans me from advocating for them to the government,” Miller said in an interview. “Some call this lobbying, but the constitution calls it freedom of speech and petitioning your government.” “I am suing the Missouri officials who enforce this unconstitutional infringement on my

rights,” Miller said. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri late Thursday. It names Elizabeth Ziegler and other members of the Missouri Ethics Commission (MEC) as the defendants. His lawsuit seeks an injunction against the lobbying ban for legislators from being enforced as well as compensatory damages. According to the lawsuit, Miller was approached by a company in November and was asked to provide lobbying services in Missouri’s executive and legislative branches. Miller has spent three decades as an engineer in Missouri with a particular focus on environmental engineering. The lawsuit said Miller’s background in engineering and legislative services made him “uniquely qualified to advocate” on behalf of that company but the lobbying ban prevented him from being able to successfully register as a lobbyist with the MEC.

“The Lobbying Ban acts as a prior restraint on speech by completely banning Miller from speaking to legislators and executive department officials on behalf of others. The Lobbying Ban is also a content-based restriction on speech because it regulates the substance of what Miller must say; it permits him to speak about his own interest, but not Prospective Client’s,” the lawsuit said. “Thus, the Lobbying Ban also restricts Miller’s right to petition the government.” The lawsuit said the statute also infringes on the company’s right to petition because it prevented it from hiring its “chosen advocate.” In 2018, 62 percent of voters approved Amendment 1, otherwise known as Clean Missouri. Among its myriad of provisions, Amendment 1 increased the wait time for legislators to transition to lobbyists from six months to two years.

Cheryl Robb-Welch has been named the new CEO of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (MOCADSV). She took the helm of the organization at the start of the new year. Robb-Welch, who has served as MOCADSV’s chief operating officer since 2002, is a former executive director of a domestic violence shelter in Cape Girardeau and a former sheriff deputy in Cape Girardeau County. She has been recognized nationally for her expertise in organizational management, policy development, and strategic vision and planning, according to a news release. “The first time I met Cheryl, I knew she was an extraordinary advocate and a woman to be reckoned with. Two decades on, I’m even more impressed and grateful to her,” Colleen Coble, MOCADSV’s outgoing CEO, said. “Cheryl’s leadership will continue to advance MOCADSV through her brilliant clarity, her vision, her determination, and her compassion. Join me in congratulating and

celebrating one of my favorite people, Cheryl Robb-Welch, who will continue to lead my favorite organization.” Coble is retiring as the organization’s CEO after more than three decades. With a rallying cry of “onward,” Coble’s legislative accomplishments during her tenure include adding lack of consent to felony rape charges, establishing the crime of domestic assault, obtaining firsttime state funding for domestic and sexual violence services, adding sexual assault victims to eligibility for protection orders, and much more. She was also able to obtain federal disaster relief funding for domestic violence services in 1994 — the first in the nation. “When we found Colleen to head MOCADSV in 1988, we truly found a jewel,” Mary Ann Allen, a former board chair, Public Policy Committee chair, and executive director of MOCADSV member agency Haven House, said. “It has been an honor to serve with her and a thrill to watch what she has accomplished to improve the lives of abuse survivors and their children. Under her leadership, we have grown from a small

group of well-intentioned advocates to a network of well-trained professionals throughout the state. I wish her all the best in retirement.” Coble began her career as a journalist, which took her from Missouri to Washington. It was there in the Pacific Northwest where she met a group of women who were starting an advocacy group. Coble volunteered at the f ledgling program — and thus her advocacy career was born. Coble served on the National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women in addition to committees in Missouri that addressed gender issues in the court system. She is a founding member of the Missouri Battered Women’s Clemency Coalition as well as a founding member of the National Network to End Domestic Violence where she also served as public policy chair. She was awarded the National Network to End Domestic Violence’s Diane Reese Award in 2009 during a ceremony at the U.S. Library of Congress for her “outstanding commitment to social justice and advocacy for battered women.



The Missouri Times

Officials unveil Bicentennial Bridge

Cameron Gerber Hundreds of visitors enjoyed a new view of the capital city after crossing the newly-opened Bicentennial Bridge connecting the statehouse to the Missouri River. The Bicentennial Bridge connects to a 30-acre parkland north of the Union Pacific Railroad, expanding Capitol tourism and providing access to the new park on a strip of land along the Missouri River known as Adrian’s Island. The entrance to the bridge features a Gold Star Memorial honoring veterans and their families, and educational panels honoring the project’s many sponsors are set to be added along

its length. Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin joined Gov. Mike Parson and other officials before a large crowd to officially open the bridge on the Capitol grounds on a sunny afternoon, touting the long-gestating project as the perfect finale for the 200th anniversary of Missouri’s statehood. “The time has come to reconnect the Capitol with our riverfront, and what a perfect place for it,” Tergin said. “We’re really excited that we get to celebrate this in our state’s bicentennial year. What a legacy this is for the state of Missouri.” The nearly $5 million project

has been in the works for decades. The largest project approved by the Bicentennial Commission, the bridge has been sponsored by the DeLong family, which put $3.5 million behind the project over the years; Union Pacific, which announced its $200,000 sponsorship earlier this year; and several local and state benefactors. “We get to be part of a bicentennial celebration and this Bicentennial Bridge that a lot of people had the forethought to make this a little better for all of us,” Parson said. “We can recognize the families, but also the thousands of people who will get to enjoy this here in Jeff City, right

here at the state Capitol, and to be part of our Missouri history.” While Missourians can now cross the bridge onto the land beyond the railroad tracks, Tergin noted the project was far from complete. The commission is still taking donations to complete the trails and place park equipment on the island, along with other amenities planned for the entrance to the bridge. The Deborah Cooper Park, located along the Missouri River, includes walking and biking trails and will feature assets taken from the statehouse during its renovation, including stone columns from the top of the building. A large

outdoor chess board created by the local Scout troops and the World Chess Hall of Fame is set to be a centerpiece of the park but has not yet been placed. The park commemorates Cooper, a local bank employee who pushed for a development on the site in the 1980s. Cooper died in 1986, and her family started the Deborah Cooper Foundation in her memory to raise money for the project. The deed for the land required the project to be named after her. Tergin, Parson, and other officials broke ground on the project last August, a year to the day ahead of Missouri’s bicentennial date.

The Missouri Times



SAPA could be harmful to domestic Missouri rural health care facilities violence victims, MOCADSV says warn of federal vaccine mandates Kaitlyn Schallhorn

The Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence urged the Missouri Supreme Court to strike down the new, controversial gun law, noting the impact the Second Amendment Preservation Act has on a domestic abuser’s ability to acquire a firearm. The Second Amendment Preservation Act, dubbed SAPA, took effect in late August. It declares federal laws that could restrict gun ownership among lawabiding Missourians as “invalid” and restricts law enforcement officers from enforcing federal firearm regulations that could be deemed invalid under the law. As the coalition (MOCADSV) noted in its amicus brief, Missouri statute contains what has been dubbed a domestic violence gun loophole. This loophole was created in 2016 when the state expanded concealed carry, doing away with permits. Language preventing individuals convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or the respondent of a full order of protection from possessing a gun became essentially null since it was triggered through the concealed carry permit process. A bipartisan group of lawmakers in both chambers unsuccessfully attempted to fix the loophole during the previous legislative session. Sen. Lauren Arthur, a Democrat, and Rep. Ron Hicks, a Republican, have said they will attempt to do so again this coming session. In its brief, the MOCADSV said although state law has contained this loophole for several years now, victims were still afforded some level of protection due to a similar federal law that, through a collaboration among state and local law enforcement with federal counterparts, could prevent an abuser from obtaining or possessing a firearm. SAPA, however, “has chilled that cooperation with federal law enforcement, putting domestic violence survivors at increased risk of becoming victims of armed abusers,” MOCADSV said. “Domestic violence is all too common across the country and in Missouri. But it is the presence of guns in the hands of abusers that frequently turns domestic violence lethal,” the MOCADSV said in the brief. “It is imperative that abusers’ access to firearms be limited to protect domestic violence survivors.” The MOCADSV is represented by Everytown Law, the litigation arm

affiliated with Everytown for Gun Safety, the country’s largest gun violence prevention group backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Last year, a Cole County judge denied a request to block SAPA from going into law. St. Louis and Jackson counties had sued, asking the court to find SAPA unconstitutional. SAPA has also garnered federal attention. Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Gov. Mike Parson faced off with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) while the federal agency urged the court to strike down the new law in August. A statement of interest from the DOJ alleged the measure violated the federal Supremacy Clause and decried the negative impact it could have on law enforcement. “Every time we think Missouri firearm laws cannot become weaker at protecting domestic violence victims, they do,” Jennifer Carter Dochler, the public policy director for the MOCADSV, said. “SAPA threatens to worsen Missouri’s deadly domestic violence crisis by making it more likely that abusers will obtain and possess firearms free of any law enforcement consequences.” But supporters of SAPA, including Parson and Schmitt, said the law is meant to defend Missourians “from federal government overreach by prohibiting state and local law enforcement agencies from being used by the federal government to infringe on Missourians’ right to keep and bear arms.” “We believe in the state of Missouri that an individual should lose their rights when they commit a violent felony — not when they commit a misdemeanor. We’ve never said that a misdemeanor is a reason an individual should lose their Second Amendment rights or any rights, for that matter,” GOP Rep. Jered Taylor, SAPA’s author, has said. “My argument is that … if we need to change Missouri law to make some crimes a felony, if it’s a domestic violence situation, then let’s make those a felony, and those individuals should lose their Second Amendment rights.” SAPA has even caused consternation in the U.S. Senate Republican primary race. Former Gov. Eric Greitens received backlash from pro-gun ownership groups when he said the bill was pushed by “career politicians and RINOs” that “actually defunded the police.” Greitens, one of several GOP contenders for the open Senate seat, has since said he supports the Second Amendment and SAPA.

Kaitlyn Schallhorn

The Mental Health Department and a few rural health care facilities warned of detrimental staff shortages that could shutter services if a federal coronavirus vaccine requirement for health care workers is allowed to stand. The warnings are included as declarations in Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s legal fight against the federal requirement provided to The Missouri Times. Oral arguments for the case were held Friday before the U.S. Supreme Court. Tim Schrage, the administrator for Scotland County Care Center in Memphis, said about 30 percent of the nursing home’s employees would be lost because of a refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine. And already, the facility has deeply dipped into its reserve funds to pay a staffing agency to help with a workforce shortage and cover rising minimum wages. “While the intent of this emergency regulation may be to protect our elderly nursing home residents, I fear the result of this regulation may actually create more harm,” Schrage said in his declaration. “We could not continue to operate our facility with 30 percent decrease in our workforce. We would be forced to close our doors and displace the residents who enjoy residing in the Scotland County Care Center and who desire to live in the community where they have lived their entire lives.” Additionally, Brittany Vanlandingham, the administrator for the Monroe City Manor Care Center in northeast Missouri said more than 50 percent of her staff is still unvaccinated. And the majority of those unvaccinated said they would refuse to get the COVID-19 shots. Valerie Huhn, director of the Department of Mental Health, said its behavioral health hospitals had a registered nurse vacancy of about 35 percent and a licensed practical nurses vacancy of 54 percent as of September 2021. “Even if a small percentage of DMH’s workforce is lost because of the vaccine mandate, operations will be negatively impacted,” Huhn said. “Many facilities across the state have indicated that they would have to close their facilities if CMS were to issue a vaccine mandate, which would displace thousands of residents across the state and affect the entire health care system,” said Nikki Strong, the executive

director of the Missouri Health Care Association. “Skilled nursing care facilities are typically the only facilities that can provide the acute care services their residents need. The impact of skilled nursing facility closures due to the mandate will inundate hospital capacity leaving little room for others in the community to receive the care they need. This type of bottleneck to the health care system would likely create a healthcare access issue across the state.” The nation’s highest court has scheduled oral arguments on Friday in the cases covering vaccine mandates for health care workers under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) umbrella and for large employers. Appeals judges have halted the CMS mandate in many states, including Missouri. Schmitt, who is running for U.S. Senate, has led the charge against the federal government’s vaccine mandates. His team will argue before the court against the CMS mandate but is also a part of the lawsuit against the employer mandate as well. Ahead of the arguments, nearly every Republican state senator and dozens of state representatives in Missouri signed onto letters in opposition to federal vaccine mandates. “It is critical for states to maintain dominion over legislation affecting public health because such decisions often have disparate impacts on rural and urban areas that must be considered,” one letter said. The rule from the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) required employers with at least 100 workers to ensure they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing. The CMS mandate required all health care workers, clinical and nonclinical, under Medicare and Medicaid programs to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The White House had said both rules would cover about two-thirds of the country’s workforce. Missouri ranks last in the nation in terms of the number of health care personnel who have completed vaccination status, according to CMS data. Only 64 percent of those workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.



The Missouri Times

Haffner to run for re-election, remains committed to floor leader race Kaitlyn Schallhorn

Rep. Mike Haffner will run for re-election to the Missouri House in 2022 instead of mounting a rumored congressional bid. A Republican, Haffner remains committed to vying for the majority floor leader spot. “Each one of us knows Washington is broken and in need of principled conservatives with integrity, strength, and wisdom to lead in these challenging times. I am humbled by the encouragement from current and former colleagues, numerous combat veterans, as well as countless supporters to consider entering the race for Missouri’s 4th congressional district,” Haffner said. “I will never retreat from this battle to save our country, but my mission has remained the same: to provide combat-tested and proven leadership where it will have the greatest impact and that is working with our House Republicans in 2022 and beyond,” he continued. Haffner is a Republican who has represented HD 55 in Cass County since 2019. He’s the chairman of the Joint Committee on Agriculture and the vice-chairman of the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. He informed his colleagues of his intention to run for majority floor leader in May, with a threepronged pitch:a clear and succinct vision, enhanced communication with weekly and daily floor schedules, and a focus on policy teams to coordinate debates.

Haffner owns and operates a Christmas tree farm and is a highly-decorated Navy veteran. He was the commanding officer of a F/A-18 Hornet squadron and led combat air patrols over New York City after 9/11. “It is an honor to do the people’s work and to serve alongside you. Together I know we can pass an agenda that protects our freedoms by limiting government’s role in our lives and make Missouri a better place to live, work, and raise our families. Together we will hold the line,” Haffner said Thursday. “All 6 million Missourians are counting on us.”

Former MO GOP Chair Doug Russell joins Taylor Burks campaign

Cameron Gerber

Taylor Burks’ bid for Missouri’s 4th congressional district found its campaign chair in former Missouri GOP Chairman Doug Russell. Russell led the party from 2005-2009 and served in leadership positions in former Gov. Matt Blunt and former Attorney General Josh Hawley’s campaigns for statewide office. He is also the president of utility product provider the Durham Company in Lebanon and a former member of the University of Missouri Board of Curators. “Taylor has the background and experiences which make him a perfect fit to represent the conservative values of the 4th congressional district. He has what it takes to stand up to the politicians in Washington and against the failed policies of the Biden administration,” Russell said. “We need a candidate that understands the dangerous world we live in and the threats of the socialists’ agenda on our individual rights. Taylor is that candidate, and I am proud to join the grassroots team he has grown from the ground up.” Burks was the first Republican to serve as Boone County clerk, a position he was appointed to by then-Gov. Eric Greitens in 2017. He previously led

the Division of Labor Standards. He grew up in the Ozarks and was raised on his family’s farm before serving three combat deployments with the U.S. Navy. He reported more than $186,000 in campaign contributions in the third quarter and ended the reporting period with more than $168,000 on hand, according to his campaign. He recently scored endorsements from 13 county officials from across the district. While the district may look different come Election Day, CD 4 is currently a diverse section of the state, ranging from Columbia sweeping west to just below Kansas City, stretching down to Pittsburg and Lebanon, and settling north of Springfield. It includes Whiteman Air Force Base in Johnson County and Fort Leonard Wood in Pulaski County. Burks will face state Rep. Sara Walsh, Sen. Rick Brattin, longtime TV anchor Mark Alford, and cattle farmer Kalena Bruce for the Republican nomination. Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler is vacating her position to face a crowded field of contenders for a U.S. Senate seat.


The Missouri Times


Blunt co-sponsors bill to protect local MO gets $13M in transportation TV stations from signal interference grants for storm recovery efforts Cameron Gerber

While low power television (LPTV) stations are vulnerable to broadcast interference from larger stations, a bill co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Roy Blunt aims to offer them a chance at federal protection. LPTV stations broadcast locally-produced or specialized programming through a weaker signal. These stations are not guaranteed protection from interference or disruption by full-powered stations through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) due to their designation as secondary stations. The Low Power Protection Act co-sponsored by Blunt and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden would allow LPTV stations to apply for Class A status protecting them from being bumped off the air. “Local television stations play a unique and critical role in their communities, keeping viewers

informed, entertained, and alerted in an emergency,” Blunt said. “The Low Power Protection Act would help ensure smaller stations, especially those in Missouri’s rural areas, are able to continue providing coverage that people depend on. I appreciate Senator Wyden’s partnership in this effort and the strong support the bill has received from local, state, and national broadcasters. I look forward to continuing to work together to advance the bill.” A one-time filing window was opened in 1999 by a similar act, creating the Class A status and allowing stations to apply for a license, according to Blunt’s office. The new legislation would open a new application period to extend protection to more networks. A myriad of broadcasting organizations backed the bill since it was introduced last week, including the LPTV Broadcasters Association, Missouri Association

of Broadcasters, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, and the National Association of Broadcasters. “Millions of viewers across the country rely on LPTVs for local news, weather, community affairs, and emergency information, particularly in rural areas and smaller markets,” the National Association of Broadcasters said in a group statement. “This legislation would ensure Americans’ access to these vital stations and provide assurance that their signals can remain on the air.” The legislation was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation after being introduced. Blunt is not seeking re-election in 2022 to the seat he’s held for more than a decade. Several contenders have thrown their hats into the ring to compete for the spot.

Cameron Gerber

Missouri is slated to receive more than $13 million in emergency relief funds from the federal government to repair roads and bridges damaged by flooding and storms in 2019. The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) awarded a nearly $2.4 million grant to address infrastructure damage from severe storms and flooding in March 2019 and almost $11 million for the fallout of similar storms in April 2019. Funds will offset the cost of replacing or reconstructing roads, bridges, and safety equipment damaged during the storms. Missouri was one of 42 states awarded the emergency relief grants. In all, $1.39 billion was earmarked to respond to weather crises across the country — the largest emergency relief grant pot awarded since 2011, according to USDOT. “Emergency relief funding is critical to restoring vital transportation links damaged by severe weather and other unexpected events that are heavily

relied upon by communities for daily travel,” USDOT Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Stephanie Pollack said. Further funds are expected to come from the bipartisan infrastructure package, Pollack said. The bill included the $8.7 billion Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Costsaving Transportation (PROTECT) program offering grants to help communities increase the resilience of transportation infrastructure to weather events. Missouri should see $6.5 billion for federal highway programs and $484 million for bridge replacement and repairs over the next five years from the massive federal investment. The state is estimated to receive $100 million for broadband infrastructure, $99 million to expand its electric vehicle (EV) charging network, and $866 million for improvements to the state’s water infrastructure, among a myriad of other investments, according to the White House.




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