Missouri Senate passes bill to raise the age of juvenile prosecution

Currently, 17-year-olds are prosecuted as adults. Senate Bill 793 would change that.

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — By unanimous vote, the Missouri Senate approved a bill that would raise the age of juvenile prosecution for most criminal offenses.

Currently, 17-year-old Missourians are prosecuted as adults. Senate Bill 793 would raise the minimum age for prosecution in courts of general jurisdiction to 18 — unless the accused is already certified as an adult or is charged with a traffic or curfew violation.

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The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau, believes this measure would humanize the Missouri court system, while also making it more efficient. In a press conference held March 8 immediately following the bill’s passage, he noted how the criminal justice system often fails to rehabilitate those it punishes.

“The recidivism rate for people in the juvenile justice system is a lot better than putting them in the criminal justice system,” Wallingford said. “In the criminal justice system, people say it’s kind of like a graduate school for criminals.”

Senate Bill 793 awaits further debate in the Missouri House of Representatives. The state legislature has until May 18, the end of its 2018 regular session, to take action on the bill. If approved by the House, the measure would need the governor’s signature or a two-thirds veto override from both chambers to be enacted into law.

As a multimedia specialist for the Missouri Senate, I created a short video package on the legislation’s passage. View the video below, and be sure to visit the Missouri Senate website for daily updates on state government news.

Missouri Senate passes regulatory reform for public utilities

Senate Bill 564 sets a cap on rate increases, but some say it could have unintended consequences

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Senate endured a multi-day fillibuster over Senate Bill 564, a proposal to cap public utility rate increases and alter the regulatory framework of the Public Service Commission.

The bill’s supporters say it would ensure consumers’ electric costs stay consistent between billing periods, and would provide avenues for public utility companies to update a deteriorating electrical grid.

Opponents believe the bill would hurt the PSC’s ability to protect consumers, ultimately resulting in higher rates down the road. They see it as a giveaway to moneyed interests that lobbied hard for the bill’s passage.

The issue crossed partisan lines. The legislation is sponsored by Republican Sen. Ed Emery and is supported by many of his colleagues of both political parties, but was pilloried by Republican Sens. Rob Schaaf, Gary Romine and Doug Libla, who led the filibuster against the bill. The conservative trio was bolstered by Democratic Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, who joined the filibuster hours after it first began.

Under Missouri Senate rules, a single senator can hold the floor for debate on a bill indefinitely, forestalling a final vote in the process. Opposition senators began the filibuster shortly after 7 p.m. on Feb. 7. Swapping in and out, they held the floor through the night and into the next morning, all the while atttempting to negotiate concessions from the bills’s supporters. Over 24 hours later, having secured a compromise, they relented.

Senate Bill 564 was declared perfected on Feb. 8, and was officially passed by the Senate a week later. It now awaits further action in the House of Representatives.

As a multimedia specialist for the Missouri Senate, I compiled a short video on the debate for official government use. Watch the package below, and don’t forget to check out the Missouri Senate website for daily updates on the 2018 legislative session.

Missouri Senate debates prevailing wage reform

Proposals range from partial to full repeal of the statute

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Several state lawmakers are seeking changes to Missouri’s prevailing wage law, the statute mandating a minimum hourly rate for workers on public construction projects. That baseline normally varies by county and trade, and almost always exceeds the state’s minimum wage.

Opponents of prevailing wage say the law stifles economic development and makes construction prohibitively expensive in poorer communities. Supports of the law say it protects the rights of Missouri workers from out-of-state contractors.

Four proposals were heard by the Senate General Laws Committee on Jan. 24. The same committee is set to hear one more bill on Wednesday — what some, though not all, are calling a piece of compromise legislation from Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington.

The debate so far is divided along party lines; Democrats, by-and-large, are standing by the prevailing wage statute as it’s currently written, while Republicans are seeking out reform.

The Missouri General Assembly is controlled by a supermajority of Republicans in both chambers. The Missouri GOP also holds the governor’s mansion, making changes to prevailing wage quite possible.

As a multimedia specialist for the Missouri Senate, I created a video package on lawmakers’ efforts to reform the prevailing wage law. Watch the video below, and don’t forget to check out Missouri Senate Communications’ full coverage of the 2018 legislative session on the Senate’s official website.

Republican senator asks Missouri governor to resign

Sen. Rob Schaaf admonished his party’s leader during a floor speech Tuesday evening

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, a Republican, is losing support from his own party after a television station’s report last week of his extramarital love affair that occurred before he assumed office. In the report, the mistress, secretly recorded by her now ex-husband, also claims the governor sought to blackmail her with nude photographs to keep the affair quiet.

Greitens has offered an apology for the affair, but has said the blackmail allegations are false. He now faces a criminal investigation from a St. Louis circuit attorney.

Several Democratic lawmakers sought the governor’s resignation last week, but, for a while, Republicans seemed to hold their tongues.

Not anymore.

On Tuesday, as many as five Republican members of the General Assembly went public, asking Greitens to willfully step down.

One of those lawmakers, Sen. Rob Schaaf, a Republican from St. Joseph, gave a speech on the Senate floor. In the Tuesday evening address, Schaaf outlined other areas in which he has previously admonished the governor. The senator has frequently butted heads with Greitens on issues including education and government transparency.

At the close of his oration, Schaaf spoke directly to the camera as if addressing Greitens himself.

“No matter how you spin it, you cannot escape the stench of cover-up,” Schaaf said. “So governor, I’m asking you, please resign.”

Watch Schaaf’s speech below.

Missouri General Assembly kicks off 2018 legislative session

The part-time legislature will meet from January to May

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri legislature is back in session, ushering in a new year of conflict, compromise and co-operation.

State lawmakers traveled to the capital this week for the start of the second regular session of the 99th Missouri General Assembly. Session officially began Wednesday afternoon.

In the Senate, newly elected Sen. Mike Cierpiot was sworn in by the chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court. The Lee’s Summit Republican takes over from former Sen. Will Kraus in representing the 8th Senatorial District. Kraus, also a Republican, resigned from the Senate when Gov. Eric Greitens appointed him to the Missouri Tax Commission last summer.

Another Kansas City-area Republican, Sen. Ryan Silvey, is also leaving the Senate. On Tuesday, the governor appointed Silvey to the state’s Public Service Commission. A confirmation hearing was held Thursday morning for Kraus and Silvey, with both receiving full Senate confirmation shortly thereafter.

Silvey, though of the same party as the state’s chief executive, was a vocal critic of the governor. As a senator, Silvey was often a thorn in Greitens’ side during last year’s legislative session. As the Kansas City Star reports:

Silvey routinely criticized Greitens’ reliance on so-called dark money — campaign contributions routed through nonprofits to conceal the origin of the money. He was part of a bipartisan group of senators who called for the creation of a special legislative committee to investigate whether the governor engaged in illegal activity during his 2016 campaign as well as during his time as governor.

“We can no longer turn a blind eye to the unprecedented games being played by Gov. Greitens and his political machine,” Silvey said last year. “You can’t ignore possible unethical behavior by the governor or his campaign, just because you share the same party label. Missourians deserve to know what happened and it’s the duty of the Senate to find out.”

During the opening session, the Senate addressed a few housekeeping duties and offered a preview of what’s to come. Republican Sens. Rob Schaaf and Gary Romine vowed to oppose confirmation of five gubernatorial appointments to the State Board of Education — the same members who, in December, voted to fire former Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven. The governor later withdrew his interim appointees, then resubmitted them Wednesday as in-session nominees, giving the Senate more time to act on their confirmation but meanwhile removing them from the board.

On Thursday, Democratic Sen. Jamilah Nasheed brought up the costs of opposing the nominees, saying doing so might have the effect of shutting down the Education Board until May. Without the five appointees, the board lacks a quorum to conduct business. Sen. Romine said the board’s hiatus would be unfortunate but bearable, and that the governor could remedy the situation by selecting nominees that are less controversial.

In Wednesday’s end-of-day press conference, Senate Republicans, who currently hold a super-majority in the chamber, addressed potential changes to the Missouri tax code, measures to stimulate economic development and working with the governor to improve state infrastructure.

Democratic leadership discussed filing amendments to last year’s Senate Bill 43, which raised the bar for proving workplace discrimination and altered whistle-blower protections. Sen. Gina Walsh, the minority leader, criticized the governor’s controversial Education Board appointments, but said she cannot speak for other members of her party.

As part of my duties as a multimedia specialist for the Missouri Senate, I compiled a short video on the start of the new session. The package features Cierpiot’s swearing-in and quotes from Senate leadership during Wednesday’s press conference.

Lawmaker proposes ‘largest tax cut in Missouri history’

Republican Sen. Bill Eigel wants to cut taxes while upping infrastructure funding

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri state Sen. Bill Eigel, a Republican from Weldon Spring, has pre-filed a bill that would offer a major overhaul of the state’s tax system. He said the measure would cut taxes for a majority of Missourians while streamlining the collection process by doing away with some deductions and exemptions.

What’s different about this bill is that it also calls for a raise in the state’s fuel tax — currently one of the lowest in the nation — to increase infrastructure funding. Eigel, who hails from a growing suburban community, said he realizes the importance of maintaining Missouri’s transportation systems. Even though he has opposed raising the fuel tax before, he believes such a measure is acceptable when included in a larger package that reduces the overall tax burden on Missouri citizens.

Eigel said the bill dovetails with like-minded proposals currently making their way through the Republican-controlled United States Congress.

Some worry the measure is too extreme, as it proposes a slow elimination of the income tax in its entirety. Others simply believe now is the wrong time for Missouri to consider cutting taxes that pay for important public programs that are already underfunded — things such as education and health care.

As a multimedia specialist for the Missouri Senate, I had the opportunity to create a video package on the proposed legislation. Watch it below, and be sure to visit senate.mo.gov for the latest updates on this specific legislation, Senate Bill 617, and other notable bills.

The Missouri General Assembly is set to convene Jan. 3 to begin its 2018 regular legislative session.

Kirksville’s A.T. Still University celebrates 125th anniversary

A northeast Missouri medical school celebrates a pivotal milestone

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KIRKSVILLE, Mo. — A.T. Still University of Health Sciences (ATSU), the country’s first osteopathic medical school, celebrates its 125th anniversary this weekend.

To honor this milestone, the ATSU Communication & Marketing Department collaborated with the Kirksville Daily Express on a special insert for the daily newspaper. The section, available online or on local newsstands Wednesday, features several articles on the history of the institution, what sets it apart and where it might be headed in the future.

Support local journalism by reading some top-notches pieces, bylined by yours truly:

University works to serve local community

A history of the White Coat Ceremony

What is ATSU’s standardized patient program?