Parson signs HB 85 establishing Second Amendment Preservation Act


  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Today, Governor Mike Parson signed HB 85 into law, establishing the Second Amendment Preservation Act in Missouri.

“Throughout my law enforcement career and now as Governor of the state of Missouri, I have and always will stand for the Constitution and our Second Amendment rights,” Governor Parson said. “This legislation today draws a line in the sand and demonstrates our commitment to reject any attempt by the federal government to circumvent the fundamental right Missourians have to keep and bear arms to protect themselves and their property.”

HB 85 prohibits state and local cooperation with federal officials that attempt to enforce any laws, rules, orders, or actions that violate the Second Amendment rights of Missourians. These protections against federal overreach are triggered if federal officials attempt to violate the state or federal constitution.

Additionally, the bill is an acknowledgment that the right to keep and bear arms is fundamental and inalienable, and that the nation’s federalist constitutional structure limits the federal government’s authority over states.

Under HB 85, any person or entity who knowingly deprives Missouri citizens of their right to bear arms – as protected by state and federal constitutions – will be liable for redress and monetary damages of $50,000 per occurrence. Local law enforcement’s ability to assist federal officials in other instances remains unchanged under this legislation.

“HB 85 puts those in Washington D.C. on notice that here in Missouri we support responsible, law-abiding gun owners, and that we oppose government overreach and any unlawful efforts to limit our access to firearms,” Governor Parson said.

For more information on HB 85, click here.



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Ed Emery announces bid for Congress


  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Former state Sen. Ed Emery is eyeing a new political office: Congress. 

The Republican who served in both chambers in the General Assembly announced his candidacy for the 4th congressional district a day after Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler officially jumped into the U.S. Senate race

“It is not ambition that drives me, but what I see as the clear abandonment at the federal level of Biblical principles, national heritage, common sense, and the values that have made America great,” Emery said in his announcement. “The contempt for the truth and the perversion of justice must not go on.” 

“If, as a nation, we are to continue to enjoy the immeasurable blessings God has poured out from our country’s [earliest] and miraculous beginnings there must be a return to those freedoms and eternal truths that have born us this far,” he continued. 

The district spans a large and diverse swath of Missouri, from the Columbia area sweeping west to just below Kansas City and down to Pittsburg and Lebanon, settling north of Springfield. Emery represented SD 31 on the western side of the state which includes Barton, Bates, Cass, Henry, and Vernon counties. 

From Vernon County, Emery served four terms in the House before moving across the building. He chaired the House Utilities Committee as well as the Special Committee on Immigration Reform. 

Emery is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Rolla and worked in the oil and gas industry, making him a natural fit to champion utility issues while in the General Assembly. 

Sen. Rick Brattin replaced Emery in the Senate after he termed out. 



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Department of Social Services prepares Missourians for the gradual return of the regular SNAP/ Food Stamp program


  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Starting later this summer, the Department of Social Services (DSS) will take gradual steps to ease Missouri’s return to the regular SNAP/Food Stamp program operation.  DSS will send out letters in July to notify SNAP recipients of important upcoming dates of SNAP changes to move the state steadily toward the resumption of the regular program.

Since March of 2020, Missourians have received Pandemic Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (P-SNAP) benefits each month that maximized the SNAP amount based on the size of the household. Missourians are also getting a temporary 15 percent SNAP benefit increase through September.  August will be the last month for P-SNAP benefits to maximize benefits based on the household size.  September will be the last month Missourians will get the temporary 15 percent SNAP increase.  Regular SNAP benefits will resume on October 1, meaning Missouri households will start getting the regular SNAP benefit amount their household is eligible to receive.

Throughout most of the pandemic Missouri temporarily suspended recertification interviews the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) requires SNAP participants to do at recertification every 12 to 24 months dependent upon how they qualify for SNAP. On August 1, Missouri will resume SNAP recertification interviews.

“It is very important for SNAP recipients to be aware and prepare for the upcoming actions the Department of Social Services will take to help ease Missourians’ transition back to regular SNAP,” said Jennifer Tidball, Acting Director, Department of Social Services. “Hopefully, sharing this information well ahead of the actions will give Missourians time to consider, plan, and budget for the future change in their benefit amount and to know what is required to successfully complete the recertification process.”

Missourians can apply for SNAP benefits 24/7 online by visiting MyDSS.mo.gov, or sending completed applications and verification documents by email to FSD.Documents@dss.mo.gov, or by fax to 573-526-9400.

The Missouri Services Navigator has information on over 2,800 programs and services available in the state. Missourians in need of information on SNAP, Medicaid, Child Care Subsidy, LIHEAP, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefit programs can visit dss.mo.gov. Missourians who have questions not specific to an individual’s case can use the DSS Virtual Assistant to get immediate answers to basic questions 24 hours a day. Phone assistance is also available Monday through Friday, 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. call 855-FSD-INFO or 855-373-4636.

SkillUp and Missouri Work Assistance (MWA) are free programs available to all SNAP and TA recipients that help low-income Missourians with career planning, overcoming challenges to work, as well as getting and keeping a job.



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New semiconductor wafer jobs coming to Missouri


  

Missouri is gaining 75 new jobs thanks to an $800 million supply agreement between semiconductor manufacturers GLOBALFOUNDRIES (GF) and GlobalWafers (GWC).

The new jobs will go to GWC’s MEMC facility in O’Fallon, where specialized wafers — thin slices of semiconductor used to manufacture solar cells and integrated circuits — are manufactured for GF’s facilities across the country. Ameren Missouri helped facilitate the deal through its Economic Development Incentive which provides discounts on energy to new or expanding companies that meet the criteria outlined in its Smart Energy Plan. 

“Missouri is a great place to work and we are encouraged by the GLOBALFOUNDRIES and GlobalWafers announcement to expand operations in O’Fallon,” Matt Forck, vice president of community, economic development, and energy solutions at Ameren Missouri, said. “With the Ameren Missouri Smart Energy Plan, we are able to help businesses grow, bringing new jobs to the area while ensuring smart, reliable energy is always available to power the grid of the future.”  

The deal included a $210 million capital expansion for the facility, and the announcement comes as the world faces a semiconductor chip shortage, impacting everything from the auto industry to household appliances. 

According to Ameren, 12 percent of the world’s semiconductor manufacturing capacity is in the U.S. The industry garnered Congress’s attention as well; U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, a supporter of the massive bipartisan U.S. Innovation and Competition Act that passed by the Senate this week, praised the opportunity to grow the industry in Missouri. 

“The supply chain of these computer chips is highly complex and largely dominated by other countries,” Blunt said. “We need to begin making more chips at home to protect U.S. industries from chip shortages like we have seen in recent months. This announcement is good news for semiconductor manufacturing and will create steady, good-paying, high-tech jobs for Missourians.”

Gov. Mike Parson also welcomed the expansion and Missouri’s effort to bolster the nation’s supply. 

“We’re proud to see a Missouri business step up to address the critical semiconductor need we are seeing in countless industries all across our state and nation,” Parson said. “MEMC’s expansion will strengthen the global semiconductor supply chain, promote American manufacturing, and support good-paying jobs right here in Missouri.”

The wafers will be used for a myriad of applications including 5G, aerospace, radar, and wireless connectivity. The expansion was made possible by more than $9 million in investments from the state, Ameren, Spire, Greater St. Louis Inc., and the city of O’Fallon.



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From legislating to lobbying, a look at Kurt Schaefer’s progression through government 


  

From lawyer to policymaker to partner at a governmental relations firm, Kurt Schaefer has been on all sides of Missouri government over the past two decades. He is no stranger to the complex relationships and conflicts that arise in state government. 

Schaefer is a partner at Lathrop GPM Consulting, a law and governmental relations firm with offices in Jefferson City and Columbia. But he’s also a former assistant attorney general, deputy director of the Department of Natural Resources, and Appropriations chair in the Senate.

Schaefer said his experience in all aspects of government — from the lawmaking process to the executive branch to the courtroom — informed his work to this day.

“The legal world is more complicated than it used to be, and it’s not as simple as a legal solution necessarily,” Schaefer told The Missouri Times. “When you’re looking at solving problems for clients, you have to look at the entire universe of things that are available and what the issue is that needs to be resolved. Having the ability to be in both governmental relations and legal like I am, you understand maybe [what] isn’t right and maybe you need to have some of that language rewritten.” 

“I enjoy having the ability to solve problems across the spectrum,” he added.

Schaefer chaired a talented Appropriations Committee that also included then-Sens. Mike Parson and Mike Kehoe as well as current Appropriations Chair Dan Hegeman. 

“We had a great team working on very difficult post-recession budgets,” he said. “Over one two-year period, we had to cut over $1 billion due to declining general revenue. But we were always able to face the budget difficulties as friends and colleagues.”

In addition to serving in the Senate with the current governor and lieutenant governor, Schaefer also served all eight years in the upper chamber with his then-Lathrop law partner, Attorney General Eric Schmitt. He said one of the most notable things he carried with him from the upper chamber was a friendship with the late Sen. Dan Brown, another staple of the Appropriations Committee, who passed away last month.

“I made friendships that will last me the rest of my life, no better example than Doc Brown,” he said. “He was a veterinarian from Rolla, extremely smart, just a great guy I never would have met had I not been in the Senate. He was my vice-chair in Appropriations for years, and we were a great team.”

“Those are the friendships that you make that last forever,” he continued. “That collegiality in the Senate — I miss the day-to-day of that. I’m fortunate in that I’m still at the Capitol, and I still get to talk to my friends.”

The second Republican to represent Boone County and the first to serve two terms, Schaefer learned lessons about working with others around him to accomplish legislative goals during his tenure in office; he said the relationships built in the statehouse were key to enacting policy in whatever role he found himself in, and his time as a senator gave him the momentum to continue building them. 

Kurt Schaefer leads the Senate Appropriations Committee, April 5, 2016. (THE MISSOURI TIMES/TRAVIS ZIMPFER)

Schaefer specifically praised Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden, his successor in the Senate, for his representation of a conflicted district. 

“When you look at somebody like Caleb Rowden, he’s someone who works really hard to do the right thing for the people he represents,” Schaefer said. “You’re representing a group of people who are polarized. That can be an extremely difficult thing to do because your objective is to do the right thing for your constituents. Caleb Rowden always does that.”

Rowden applauded Schaefer’s work, both in the upper chamber and around the statehouse. 

“Kurt has always been one of the smartest guys in state government — whether in his legislative role or otherwise,” Rowden said. “His ability to comprehend big issues quickly was valuable for him during his time in the Senate and remains valuable in his government relations work.”

After facing term limits in the Senate and making a bid for attorney general, Schaefer turned his attention back to governmental relations and law, drawing on that experience to give clients a broader perspective on the issues they bring forth. 

“A lot of the time, a client will come with an issue, and they know they have a problem that needs resolving, but they don’t always know what the right route is. A lot of times, you have a statutory structure that regulates a particular industry, and it’s decades-old; it doesn’t reflect that industry or business any longer,” he said. “A client will say they have a legal problem because the best way to do this business does not fit, and a lot of the time the response is the structure isn’t updated to reflect how business works in that area. A lot of things you think are a legal issue but end up a governmental relations issue.”

Ray McCarty, President and CEO of Associated Industries of Missouri (AIM), said Schaefer made good use of his knowledge of the legislature in his lobbying work. 

“I worked with Kurt on some pretty labor-intensive issues during this session, and he has worked really hard,” McCarty said. “He follows a long line of legislators who have used their experience to parlay into a career in legislative advocacy, and he’s done a really good job of making that transition.”

The firm essentially merged with former legislator Harry Gallagher and longtime lobbyist Heath Clarkston, according to Schaefer, with Doug Nelson coming aboard as well. Nelson, a former assistant attorney general who Schaefer interned for almost 30 years ago, complimented Schaefer’s expertise in multiple areas and his work ethic over the years — even when work put them on opposing sides of an issue. 

“When I think of Kurt, regardless of whether I’m working with him or against him, he’s blessed with a level of intelligence that should never surprise me,” Nelson said. “He’s a hard worker, and he understands government and the law. It’s all helped him as he’s begun moving into this lobbying role.”

In terms of his current work, Schaefer said he had gone from working all hours drafting the night before a trial to taking a broader look at the tasks ahead of the firm — a change he was happy to take on. 

“What I enjoy now is I get to step back and look at bigger picture issues and try to help clients on a much broader view than just the day-to-day,” he said. 

From one side of Missouri’s government to the next, Schaefer has made his mark on the state’s policies and is sure to continue to do so. 

Scott Faughn and Kaitlyn Schallhorn contributed to this report. 

Cover photo provided by Hannah Beers Sutton. 



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Opinion: Gambling with the FRA could lead to ruin


  

Lately, there has been a significant amount of coverage on the failure of the Senate to pass a voluntary tax paid by hospitals that allows us to draw down a large federal match referred to as the Federal Reimbursement Allowance (FRA). This tax generates more than $1 billion, and the match adds another $2 billion.

Rep. Ingrid Burnett
State Rep. Ingrid Burnett

Established in the 90s, the FRA has had wide support from providers that pay the tax, and it allows us to maximize the federal dollars we use to fund Medicaid. It has been handily renewed on an annual basis by the General Assembly because it’s the major revenue stream that funds our current Medicaid program. Since we do not have to allocate nearly as much money from general revenue into Medicaid as we would without the FRA, it frees up that spending to go toward other important state services.

But for the first time since its creation in 1992, the General Assembly failed to extend the FRA.

This year, two Conservative Caucus members in the Missouri Senate upped the ante by adding an amendment to prohibit funding abortion with federal dollars (which is already illegal) and prohibiting funding a wide range of forms of birth control.

Setting a prohibition on state funding of birth control violates federal law. When this amendment made it onto a version of the bill in the Senate, Senate leadership withdrew the bill because passing that version of the bill risked Missouri losing all of its federal match money for Medicaid.

By conflating Medicaid and abortion, they have forced legislators into a false choice between funding health care by maximizing our resources and jeopardizing Missouri’s budget. The governor will likely need to start making drastic cuts to other state programs — like education, transportation, and economic development — to make up for the Medicaid shortfall if we do not have an FRA.

But we can still fix this mess. This is the ante that’s on the table: The deadline to reauthorize the FRA is Oct. 1 as the current authorization expires Sept. 30.

Gov. Mike Parson has a chance to end this lunacy both within his power as governor and as a leader of his party in this state. As governor, he can call a narrowly-tailored special session to pass a clean version of the FRA as Missouri General Assemblies have done for nearly three decades. And as a leader of Missouri Republicans, he can denounce the shameful, indecent behavior on the part of extremists within his party who have chosen to gamble the lives and livelihoods of Missourians to promote themselves with anti-birth control rhetoric.

He must stop this reckless and disgraceful high-stakes poker game with our tax dollars because the consequences of this “winner take all” dynamic could be catastrophic.

Governor, it’s time to put the cards on the table and call all players back to session to end this reckless and dangerous game with our tax dollars. There is time to get this tax renewed with a simple majority — if you act now, in time for the Oct. 1 deadline.

The stakes are too high to entertain any other outcome.



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Alex Dubinsky seeks to be Missouri’s youngest state rep 


  

With Rep. Tracy McCreery terming out of her House seat, student and former campaign strategist Alex Dubinsky is gearing up to run for the open spot

Dubinsky, an incoming law student at Washington University, is no stranger to the campaign trail: He worked with freshmen Reps. Jo Doll and Bridget Walsh Moore on their bids and served as organizing director for Cort VanOstran’s 2018 congressional race. 

“I believe in the power of public service to make an impact on people’s lives,” Dubinsky told The Missouri Times. “That’s why I’ve been working to get Democrats elected up and down the ballot  This past cycle I helped elect two tremendous women to the Missouri House, so I decided to throw my own hat in the ring. I felt like this was an opportunity to help move our state forward and make it a state we can all be proud to call home.”

If elected, Dubinsky would be the youngest state representative in nearly a century at age 24 by the time he was sworn in: Rep. Charlton Fulbright began his tenure 13 days shy of his 24th birthday in 1935, the most recent comparable case, according to Missouri Legislative Library Administrator Nathan Elwood. The age threshold for being sworn into the House has been set at 24 since the state’s first constitution was enacted. 

While his age is often brought up when he discusses his run, Dubinsky hoped to bring the voice of a new generation to the statehouse. 

“People ask me a lot if I see it as an advantage or a disadvantage, but I don’t see it as either — I see it as an opportunity to bring a fresh perspective from a new generation,” he said. “We grew up as a generation saddled by college debt and saw mass shooting after mass shooting on TV far too often. It’s all about bringing that new perspective, and I think that will be very welcome in Jefferson City.”

The St. Louis County native became involved in policy during high school, organizing with other students on gun control issues and attending Moms Demand Action meetings. 

“I felt I needed to do something to address this epidemic of gun violence we have in this country,” he said. “In Jefferson City, I would want to get common-sense gun reform passed. That’s a tall order in a state that’s trying to nullify gun laws, but we need universal background checks in this state. We need to make sure folks who are convicted of domestic violence can’t get access to guns. These laws would make us safe and make our communities safe — it just makes sense.”

Dubinsky also voiced his support for public schools and education funding, Medicaid expansion, and remote voting options. 

McCreery recently announced her own 2022 bid for state Senate.



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Farm Bureau stands united behind America’s farmers, ranchers at southern border


  

In rural Missouri, we know what it’s like to feel forgotten. Coastal elites think of us as “flyover country” and have no idea what our lives are like or what we struggle with. When hard times come, the last thing you need is to feel like nobody’s listening and nobody cares.

One of my favorite things about Farm Bureau is how we treat each other like family. Like any family, we don’t always agree on everything, but we are there for each other in our times of need.

I was recently reminded of the strong Farm Bureau family connection when four of my counterparts in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas issued a plea for help. Their states form the entirety of our southern border with Mexico. Over the past few months, an unprecedented influx of migrants has illegally flooded over the border. Many have been detained in overcrowded facilities and have been exploited in unconscionable ways by human smugglers known as “Coyotes.”

However, there is another element of the story that has been largely ignored. Nearly all of the illegal crossings are happening in remote, rural parts of the border. This means farmers and ranchers have been bearing the brunt of the influx.

Responding to the call from our border states, all 51 state and territorial Farm Bureaus banded together to demand that the Biden administration listen to their pleas and take action. In a joint letter, we gave voice to local farmers and ranchers and conveyed what is happening on the ground.

These local Farm Bureau members have seen “cut fences, destroyed crops, compromised water sources, vandalism, litter on their property and more.” As we explained in our letter, Coyotes are “making false promises and doing whatever it takes to get paid and get away, including jeopardizing lives and property. In their desperation to evade law enforcement, Coyotes abandon people, steal vehicles, vandalize property and threaten the safety and livelihoods of farmers and ranchers. They are often criminals who smuggle drugs and firearms into the country, frequently leaving them on farmers’ and ranchers’ property, causing unrest for farm and ranch families.”

This lawlessness has forced hardworking families to live as if they are under siege: taking shifts doing chores, keeping children inside, and monitoring animals more closely out of fear of Coyotes and illegal immigrants. Local resources have been exhausted, leaving farmers and ranchers to fend for themselves. This situation is inexcusable, and it needs to end immediately, for the good of everyone involved.

All 51 state and territorial Farm Bureaus sent this unprecedented joint letter to the Biden administration because the situation is dire and our friends need help. The human toll on both sides of the equation is enormous. I am proud to stand with our fellow farmers and ranchers on the southern border to call on the federal government to fix this problem without further delay and put an end to this senseless suffering.



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Columbia City Manager John Glascock retiring next year


  

After nearly two decades working for the city, Columbia City Manager John Glascock is retiring in January. 

Glascock announced his retirement Thursday. The city will begin searching for a replacement in the coming months. It has not yet chosen a consulting firm to aid in its search.

“To the council, thank you for putting your trust in me and allowing me to have greater input into the direction of the city government. To all of my staff, it has been an honor to work with you and represent the city,” Glascock said. “And to the residents, thank you for allowing me to be a part of a great community that wants the best for everyone. Together, we have accomplished many great things and I am very proud of those accomplishments.”

  • Columbia Mayor Brian Treece applauded Glascock’s leadership and his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as his work with the city’s cabinet and finances
  • Glascock was named interim city manager in 2018; he has served in the position in a permanent capacity since 2019.

He served in multiple roles since beginning with the city in 2003, including director of public works, chief engineer, and acting director of water and light. Before working for the city, he spent 19 years with the Department of Transportation



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SAPA to be signed into law by Parson this weekend


  

The Second Amendment Preservation Act, a controversial gun-rights proposal approved by the legislature on the final day of session, is scheduled to be signed into law Saturday. 

HB 85, commonly known as SAPA, would nullify any federal law that restricts gun ownership, including those related to taxes, tracking, confiscation orders, and prohibitions on possession. Another section would require those who knowingly deprive a Missouri citizen of those rights to be liable for redress for $50,000, including law enforcement departments.

“I’m happy that the governor agreed with the General Assembly, he recognizes the threat the current administration poses on Second Amendment rights to law-abiding Missourians,” sponsor Rep. Jered Taylor said. “I look forward to standing next to the governor on Saturday to push back on the federal government’s overreach and protect Second Amendment rights in Missouri.”

Gov. Mike Parson is scheduled to sign the measure into law Saturday in Lee’s Summit at Frontier Justice, the same shooting range Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler launched her U.S. Senate campaign from Thursday. 

The bill was a focus of Republican leadership as this year’s session drew to a close; the Senate passed it after a lengthy standoff the night before session ended, and the House gave its final approval with an hour left before the legislative deadline. 

The measure saw extensive pushback from the other side of the aisle. Senate Democrats filibustered the bill for several hours, and House members voiced their own opposition to the bill before its final passage. One point of contention was an attempt to add a provision closing a loophole in state law allowing domestic abusers access to firearms, a measure its proponents are already gearing up to champion again next year. 

“It is my hope that as we have a discussion about the right to bear arms that we also have a conversation about how we can keep vulnerable people safe and that guns and intimate partner violence are deeply connected,” said amendment maker Sen. Lauren Arthur.

Other lawmakers argued the bill would encourage fringe groups and said the ability to sue law enforcement for violating the act was essentially a way to “defund the police.”

Parson has signed several pieces of legislation into law this week; a bill signed Monday will create a statewide Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). Another outlining who could inspect agricultural facilities was signed Thursday, along with a resolution affirming the state’s financial commitment to the East Locust Creek Reservoir Project in the northern part of the state. 



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Agricultural facility inspection bill to be signed into law


  

After passing through both chambers of the Missouri Legislature, a bill outlining who could inspect agricultural facilities is scheduled to be signed into law this week. 

HB 574, sponsored by Rep. Kent Haden, would designate the Missouri departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources, local sheriffs and law enforcement, and other federal and state agencies as the only authorities able to inspect agricultural facilities, including facilities raising livestock. Other entities would be allowed to inspect the property by invitation only. Charter counties would be exempted from the new statute. 

Gov. Mike Parson is scheduled to ceremonially sign the bill Thursday in Trenton. 

Biosecurity concerns were the driving force behind the bill; untrained people inspecting the premises could bring in disease and decimate a cattle or swine operation, something Haden had seen firsthand. 

“I’m a veterinarian by occupation and have worked with various livestock over the years,” Haden told The Missouri Times. “One of the things that got this bill going was animal welfare groups coming in with fake badges and inspecting the grounds. There have also been people doing this with no actual training. These units are very biosecure, and any diseases coming in could devastate a population.”

Haden, who previously served with the Department of Agriculture as the state epidemiologist, said repopulating some swine operations could cost millions if the facility were contaminated. Another concern of his was out-of-state entities attempting to enforce their own regulation on Missouri producers, something he said was occurring in other states. 

Missouri’s agriculture groups came out in droves to back his legislation, testifying in favor of it in committee and supporting it over the three years Haden sponsored it. 

“This bill was supported by the Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Cattlemen’s, Missouri Pork, the Soybean Association — all the major ag players said this was something they needed,” he said. “Our livestock producers right now have some very challenging times they’re in, and the industry felt these protections were needed.”

The legislation is not without its critics: Bob Baker with the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation pointed to a provision restricting the use of evidence or witness testimony from unauthorized parties or those observing the conditions from other property in court as one of several concerns of his organization. 

“This even works both ways — if there’s a crime being committed against an agricultural operation and somebody witnesses it, they can’t testify to support the farmer,” Baker told The Missouri Times. “It just sends a message to the general public that there’s a lot of bad actors in the ag community, it seems nonsensical in every sense of the word.”

While that provision crossed the finish line with the rest of the bill, another was removed in the Senate. The original version of the bill included cat and dog breeding facilities among the list of protected operations but an amendment excluded them after other groups testified against the bill, pointing to existing regulations on such facilities. 

Though he didn’t approve of the amendment, Haden applauded Sen. Jeanie Riddle’s work handling the legislation in the upper chamber. 

“I’ve sponsored the bill for three years now, and Sen. Riddle helped it out on the Senate side,” Haden said. “She was extremely helpful in getting it through.”

Parson is signing several pieces of legislation this week; a bill signed Monday will create a statewide Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) while a resolution set to be signed Thursday affirms the state’s financial commitment to the East Locust Creek Reservoir Project in the northern part of the state.



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Missouri abortion law stymied by federal appeals court


  

After the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the preliminary injunction placed on Missouri’s restrictive abortion law, the Attorney General’s Office said it will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to step in. 

In its opinion, the Eighth Circuit said Missouri “failed to demonstrate that its policy priorities outweigh the public interest in access to pre-viability abortions or the significant interference with [Planned Parenthood’s] business and the harm to pregnant individuals who might seek a pre-viability abortion before final judgment in this case.” 

It upheld a lower court’s decision to impose a preliminary injunction on the law — meaning it still cannot be enforced. 

Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt said his office will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. The nation’s highest court has already agreed to take up a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks. 

“My son Stephen has shown me the inherent beauty and dignity in all life, especially those with special needs. While we’re disappointed in the Eighth Circuit’s decision, their decision does provide an avenue for this case to be heard by the Supreme Court, and we plan to seek review in the Supreme Court,” Schmitt said in a statement to The Missouri Times. “I have never and will never stop fighting to ensure that all life is protected.” 

HB 126 — championed by Republican Rep. Nick Schroer and signed into law by Gov. Mike Parson in 2019 — sought to ban abortions after eight weeks. It included “nestled” components placing restrictions at 14, 18, and 20 weeks. The bill did not allow for exemptions for rape or incest survivors. 

The bill also sought to ban abortions solely based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome. A federal judge blocked the bill from being implemented the day before it was set to go into effect. 

“Given the Eighth Circuit’s January ruling in a similar Arkansas pro-life case, I was not surprised by today’s decision of the court to uphold the preliminary injunction of two very important pieces of the ‘Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act.’ While I am disappointed in this ruling, I remain very hopeful that our Attorney General Eric Schmitt will take this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, [which] has vowed to take up a similar Mississippi law later this year,” Schroer said. “Keep in mind, 95 percent of the strongest pro-life bill in the nation remains intact and is Missouri law today. I will pray that our Lord guides our Supreme Court justices in the coming months as they will hopefully take up this issue and other pro-life laws across our great nation.”

A spokesperson for the governor did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt said his office will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. (OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR)

In its opinion, the Eighth Circuit pointed to a previous Arkansas case in which, like in Missouri, the state argued its abortion law was merely a regulation of pre-viability abortions instead of a ban. However, the Arkansas law ultimately blocked women from making a decision to terminate a pregnancy in general — thus the court said it constituted a ban which is unconstitutional. 

The court said the gestational age provisions in Missouri’s HB 126 indeed are “bans.” It also called the prohibition of abortions based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome is also a “ban” because it would prevent women from receiving pre-viability abortions in general.

The court said: “Missouri’s focus on the number of women unaffected by the gestational age provisions is misplaced. The irreparable harm analysis turns on the nature of the injury likely to result from the challenged action, not the number of people who would be injured.” 

Out of the 2,910 abortions performed in Missouri in 2018, 1,210 were pregnancies terminated at eight weeks or less, according to statistics from the Department of Health and Senior Services. In 2017, 3,903 abortion procedures occurred; 1,673 were at eight weeks or less. 

Judge Jane Kelly authored the opinion and was joined by Judge David Stras and Judge Roger Wollman. Stras, appointed to the court by former President Donald Trump, dissented on the Down syndrome provision. 

“There may well be women in Missouri who terminate their pregnancies solely because of a positive Down syndrome diagnosis, test, or screening, but the problem is that Reproductive Health Services has not identified any of them. It instead asks us to fill in the gaps — basically, guess — that there are women out there who do so, despite the variety of ‘health, family, financial, [and] other personal reasons that can factor into a decision to terminate a pregnancy.”



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Ransom, Parson’s strict constructionist pick for Missouri Supreme Court, sworn in


  

Judge Robin Ransom had just left a bowling tournament with her friends and was headed to dinner at Happy China in St. Louis when a 573 number flashed across the screen. Knowing it was likely a Jefferson City number, Ransom shushed her friends but disappointment began to set in when she heard Andrew Bailey, the governor’s general counsel, on the other end of the phone. 

But then Bailey asked her to wait, and it clicked: She wouldn’t be on hold if Gov. Mike Parson had not picked her for the open position on the Supreme Court of Missouri. 

Ransom is slated to begin work officially this week in the iconic red-brick building across from the Capitol — about two weeks after Parson officially introduced her as his pick for the bench. She’s coming to the state’s highest court after serving as a judge on the Court of Appeals Eastern District, having previously worked as a circuit judge and in family court and as a prosecutor. 

During her interviews for the open Supreme Court seat, Ransom was one of the few applicants to describe herself as a “strict constructionist,” meaning she interprets the law as: “it is what it is and says what it says.” 

Judge Robin Ransom

“I always say — and I think I said in the interview — I’ve never been creative with what I think the law means,” Ransom said in an exclusive interview with The Missouri Times. “There are laws with outcomes you’re going to like and there are laws and procedures that have outcomes that you personally don’t like. But that part is not what the judicial system and job are about; it’s about doing what the law says, and it’s not the popular decision all the time.” 

“The law is not to be manipulated and bent and twisted to meet the outcome that I want. If the interpretation can be different, that’s one thing. But getting creative with it is something else, and that’s just not something I’m willing to do.” 

It’s paramount, Ransom said, for judges to compartmentalize — separating emotions and personal lives from what the law actually says. She also said she doesn’t view the job as a box to check in order to climb the career ladder but as a way to contribute to society. 

“Someone told me once that the robe had magic powers — once you put it on, you can do whatever you want,” Ransom said. “Being important in the workplace has never been a goal because I’m important in so many other areas that are important to me. The job affords me the ability to take care of myself and my family and do what I think we should all do, which is to give back and contribute to society.” 

Ransom is a graduate of Rosati-Kain High School, a private Catholic school in St. Louis. Her father, a firefighter, took her out of public school after a second labor strike disrupted her education. 

“At the end of the day, I don’t fall into a label, and I don’t let anyone box me into a label. When they say, ‘how do you feel about or approach doing your job,’ I do what I feel is right. It might not be what’s popular today or what’s popular tomorrow, but it’s what I think is right, and that’s the job I’ve been tasked with — doing what I think is right. For me, that’s reading law and figuring out what I think the law says,” she continued. “I’ve been doing it a long time, and I really feel confident that I’m the same person now as I was when I went into this in 2002.” 

“I don’t have a goal to see my name in lights. I’m comfortable with who I am and am much more proud of the process I use to decide a case and doing what I think is right much more than if the outcome of a particular decision makes waves.” 

Ransom said she keeps work life and social life separate. In fact, some people were not even aware that she was a judge until they read about her Court of Appeals Eastern District appointment in a St. Louis newspaper. 

Ransom’s strict constructionist interpretations shine through in many of her opinions, including one case in which she affirmed a trial court’s summary judgment in favor of Six Flags over a minor who said she experienced sexual harassment when she was an employee. A mother, Ransom said she was “angry” by the behavior of the male non-supervisory coworkers who were ultimately fired and would have discussed the incidents with the supervisors herself. 

But not everything “warrants a payday,” Ransom said. The two male employees, who were also minors, were fired just days after their “inappropriate behavior,” and the female employee remained in her job despite superiors giving her the option to move to a different ride at the park. Ransom’s opinion, from July 2020, said the minor failed to establish two key points in her claim of sex discrimination: that Six Flags employees knew or should have known about the harassment prior to it being reported and that the conduct affected a condition, privilege, or term of her employment at Six Flags. 

The opinion also cited multiple Eighth Circuit Court decisions which detailed if an incident would rise to the level of an objectionably hostile work environment. 

Another opinion dealt with the fallout of a traffic accident. Then, a man who had been rear-ended alleged juror misconduct after it awarded him $1 in damages, and it was revealed two jurors had said they did not believe in awarding compensation in trials like this one. In Ransom’s opinion, she said she did not find the jurors’ decision to award just $1 in damages was “evidence of bias or passion, rather than an assessment of the strength of [the appellant’s] evidence supporting his claims.” 

“I don’t think it’s incumbent on me to second guess what those people in that room decided,” Ransom said “They gave $1 for a reason.” 

When asked how she feels that a judge can maintain a strict constructionist judicial temperament over time, Ransom responded: 

“Appellate work is simple and difficult all at once. As the lawyer, you have to know what are you telling me went wrong. When you get to me, whatever you’re telling me what you think went wrong, that’s what you have to stand on. We don’t get to redo a trial; we don’t get to say trial court just screwed everything up. What specifically and whatever you say, you’re sort of stuck with that. Sometimes people want us to look at was a decision fair or just the emotional piece and that’s not what appellate work is. We read the dry transcript; we weren’t at trial. I might have done things a totally different way than what this judge did. It’s not about emotion — that’s over there and the job is over here. There are things you can be compassionate about; there are things you can be angry about. But does that make the outcome of that case wrong? Not necessarily. And I think people have problems — litigants or attorneys — when they get opinions that affirm, affirm, affirm. Most things, from what I’ve seen, don’t rise to the level of a redo of the trial court. It’s very simple things that we look for. I think it’s difficult for people to understand we’re not looking at things with passion and emotion. It’s what happened in the trial court and whether it was right or not that’s it.”

Ransom also discussed the controversial hearings after the appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. After his nomination, Kavanaugh was accused by Christine Blasey Ford of sexual misconduct when he was a teenager. The U.S. Senate narrowly voted to confirm Kavanaugh’s nomination to the high court in October 2018 — a vote Ransom said she would have supported. 

“He didn’t commit a crime. It was potential bad behavior versus criminal conduct and looking at his legal prowess and whether or not he could do the job,” Ransom said. “I probably would have still voted to confirm, just looking at what I heard in those hearings. You may not like him, but I’m not sure I would have been the one to keep him off the [U.S.] Supreme Court.” 

Ransom described her conversation with Parson prior to his selection of her as an appellate court judge as more of a personal one. The pair discussed their upbringings, families, and who they were as people — not caselaw. 

She is Parson’s first appointment to the Supreme Court of Missouri. As Supreme Court judges must retire at age 70, there will be two more selections during his term.



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Opinion: Washington’s Hartzler is the wrong way for GOP


  

Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler made a “special announcement” this week, regarding the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Senator Roy Blunt.

As she ultimately enters the already crowded Republican primary field for U.S. Senate in Missouri, Hartzler joins Attorney General Eric Schmitt, disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens, and personal injury lawyer Mark McCloskey.

Hartzler joins a former Democrat in Eric Greitens, and Mark McCloskey who has given to Democratic politicians over the years, with the most liberal voting record in the Missouri GOP delegation.

In her 10-plus years in the House of Representatives, Hartzler is the lowest-ranked Missouri Republican among reputable conservative organizations including the American Conservative Union and Club for Growth. The American Conservative Union, which produces the gold standard for conservative rankings, has given Hartzler a lifetime score of 78.29 percent, the lowest score in the Missouri delegation. Fiscally conservative Club for Growth has given her a very low lifetime score of 66 percent. Time and time again, Hartzler has voted to increase our national deficit into the trillions, placing the burden on future generations of hard-working Americans.

It is no secret that Hartzler is a moderate and at risk of abandoning the Trump “America First” agenda if elected to higher office.

In her current position, following Jan. 6, Hartzler issued an official statement that claimed President Trump’s “unpresidential remarks” incited rioters. She issued a tweet welcoming Joe Biden with open arms as president-elect. The fact is, Hartzler is not the strong defender of President Donald Trump that she claims to be.

While there will be many attempts to spin Hartzler as a conservative and alternative to Eric Greitens, nothing could be further from the truth. Her record shows that she is a Kansas City moderate, and her candidacy would only help Greitens — which would ultimately put the state in play in the general election.

Missourians deserve a fighter for the “America First” agenda championed by Trump. Missouri deserves a true “America First” conservative as their representative in the U.S. Senate and they will not find that in Hartzler.



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Missouri ranked No. 32 in broadband access; millions invested in improvements 


  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri is ranked No. 32 in broadband access compared to the rest of the country, according to Tim Arbeiter, director of broadband development at the Department of Economic Development

Arbeiter said there are more than 147,000 unserved or underserved households and more than 392,000 individuals without reliable internet access in the state. The state has made drastic improvements despite the high numbers, substantially increasing its ranking since 2018. 

“This is actually up nine spots, so we’re making progress in the right direction,” Arbeiter said. “Is it where we want to be? No. There’s a lot of work to be done in this space as it relates to access.”

Arbeiter presented data on Missouri’s broadband access, ongoing projects, and planned efforts before the House Interim Committee on Broadband Development Thursday. He noted the state ranked in the bottom five for low-cost internet access, with 23 percent of Missouri students lacking reliable internet access; his department is partnering with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to improve internet access for students and schools.

More than $824 million has been invested in broadband projects across the state from the USDA, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and other partners, he said. The projects are in various stages of development, with additional proposals awaiting FCC approval.

In terms of the state’s contribution, more than $22 million in CARES Act funds went to enhancing internet access; of those reimbursements, $4 million went toward distributing internet hotspots to 38 health clinics, while $8 million went to colleges for distance learning and another $2.4 million connected more than 2,500 homes. The State Broadband Access Program also funded access for nearly 7,000 homes. 

The seven-member interim committee was approved by House Speaker Rob Vescovo to convene during the interim with Rep. Louis Riggs at the helm. Riggs pointed to the transition to virtual learning, work, and health care at the height of the pandemic as one of the catalysts for the new committee. 

“The recent pandemic demonstrated that high-speed broadband internet can no longer be considered a luxury; it has become a necessity far too many Missourians have done and continue to do without,” Riggs said. “This committee was appointed to study where we are as a state in 2021, where we need to be, and what steps we need to take as policymakers and appropriators to ensure that broadband internet is readily available to every Missourian who wants it.”

Riggs has listed internet access as a priority of his tenure in the lower chamber; he previously told The Missouri Times he would “keep running until broadband is universal in rural Missouri.”

The group will focus on four basic areas: business applications, online education, precision agriculture, and telemedicine. It will also look at things other states have implemented when it comes to broadband access, Riggs said. 

Other members include Reps. Bishop Davidson, Travis Fitzwater, Jay Mosley, Wes Rogers, Travis Smith, and Sara Walsh. 

The committee will convene monthly throughout the interim; Riggs said the committee would file a report on its findings in December.  



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