Lost your vaccine card? Here’s what you can do in Missouri


  

Those who have received any of the COVID-19 vaccinations were given a small white card that lists the date and vaccine dose. While most places aren’t requiring proof of vaccinations, some businesses, like cruises and venues, might require proof of inoculation. 

But what happens if you lose your card? 

Missouri does not yet have a digital version of the vaccination card, but those who used the state’s Vaccine Navigator website to schedule their shot would have emails and information on their profiles showing their vaccination information, said Lisa Cox, communications director for the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). However, that’s not exactly a digital version of the vaccination record card. 

DHSS is not giving out replacement cards, Cox said, but Missourians can request immunization records from DHSS which would include that information. 

Missourians can also contact their providers as some pharmacies, such as CVS, can reissue a card if the original has been lost or destroyed. 

Some states, such as New York and California, are offering digital vaccination cards. Walmart, too, has a digital record for those who have been vaccinated at its pharmacies can access. 

As of Friday, more than 2.3 million Missourians have completed the vaccination process. And 53.8 percent of adult Missourians have initiated the vaccination process. President Joe Biden had set a goal of 70 percent of adults in the U.S. receiving at least the first dose by July 4. 



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Missouri congressmen awarded for conservative voting records


  

The American Conservative Union Foundation (ACUF) awarded four of Missouri’s congressional delegates for their 2020 voting records this week. 

Congressmen Billy Long and Jason Smith were recognized with the award for Conservative Excellence for their 2020 voting records. Both scored 93 percent on the organization’s Ratings of Congress, which runs head-to-head comparisons of lawmakers’ voting records on priority areas for the group, including taxes, regulations, elections, the environment, and more. Congressmen Blaine Luetkemeyer and Sam Graves were also recognized for their scores, receiving 85 and 82 percent respectively. 

The awards were presented during a ceremony this week in Virginia with 105 members of Congress receiving various awards. ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp said the group was proud to recognize the delegates for their alignment with ACU’s mission. 

“We hold these award presentations every year to recognize members of Congress for their conservative voting records,” Schlapp said. “Missouri Representatives Billy Long and Jason Smith both earned 93 percent ACU Ratings because their votes in the 2020 session reflect a firm commitment to conservative values. We were honored to host them at our event, and we commend them for holding the line against Nancy Pelosi’s socialist schemes.”

Of Missouri’s Republican delegates, Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler scored 79 percent, Congresswoman Ann Wagner received 67 percent, Senator Roy Blunt scored 74 percent, and Senator Josh Hawley received 78 percent. 

Schlapp unveiled the new rating platform this year; the updated system is meant to encourage conservative voting and is being used to determine speaking invitations for this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) event which is scheduled to take place in Texas July 9-11. 

Smith and Long are said to be considering bids for Blunt’s seat after Missouri’s senior senator announced he would not be seeking reelection. While they have yet to officially join the race, they would face at least one congressional colleague in the primary; Hartzler announced her bid last week, and Wagner has expressed interest in throwing her hat in the ring. 



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State offices closed Friday for Juneteenth holiday


  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri state offices will be closed Friday in recognition of Juneteenth, the first new federal holiday to be enacted in nearly four decades. 

President Joe Biden signed a bill into law Thursday afternoon establishing the holiday, the first new federal day of recognition since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983. Gov. Mike Parson joined other state leaders around the country in ordering the closure for state offices. 

“All state offices will be closed tomorrow to celebrate Juneteenth, our nation’s new holiday. It is our first new national holiday in almost 40 years,” Office of Administration Commissioner Sarah Steelman said in an email to state employees. “Please join me in the national celebration of this important event in the history of our nation.” 

The U.S. Senate unanimously signed off on the bill Tuesday, and the House gave its approval Wednesday. While the holiday is on Saturday this year, most federal employees were given Friday off in recognition. 

The holiday recognizes June 19, 1865, the day Union Major General Gordon Granger announced the end of slavery in Galveston, Texas, in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation enacted two years earlier. 

 Juneteenth has been recognized in Missouri as Emancipation Day since 2003. The statute requested all offices of government and educational, religious, commercial, and fraternal organizations to devote part of the day to recognize the holiday. The law requested these groups “devote some part of the day to remember the proclamation that began the full realization for all people in the United States of the self-evident truth, as stated in the Declaration of Independence of the United States, that all men are created equal.”

The bill also established the Missouri Juneteenth Heritage and Jazz Festival and Memorial to recognize the struggles and hardships of those who had been enslaved; this year’s festival will take place Saturday in Kansas City.



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A look at how Schmitt has taken on the federal government as attorney general


  

Attorney General Eric Schmitt officially announced his bid for U.S. Senator Roy Blunt’s seat on March 24, pledging to defend former President Donald Trump’s policies again the Biden administration.

“As attorney general, I’ve already sued the Biden administration and I’m going to keep suing Joe Biden to protect all Missourians when necessary,” Schmitt said. “I’ve been holding the Biden administration and the Democrats accountable on important issues like border security, the Second Amendment, and regulations that cripple our economy.”

Here’s a look at the federal challenges leveled by the Republican in his role as attorney general. 

California assault rifle ban

Schmitt joined 21 attorneys general in support of a recent decision striking down California’s assault weapon ban. The coalition filed a brief June 16 urging the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold a lower court’s decision overturning the ban on what it defined as assault weapons, which had been in place for more than three decades. The ban was overturned by a lower court earlier this month and appealed by the state the week before.

Navigable Waters Protection Rule

Schmitt is opposing efforts to revise the federal Navigable Waters Protection Rule enacted under the Trump administration. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan and the Army Corps of Engineers announced their intention to revise the rule in early June, saying the move was prompted by claims that the current version was causing harm to local governments and organizations.

Schmitt sent a letter to Regan and Jaime Pinkham, acting assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, opposing the move on June 15. Schmitt argued the groups were exceeding their statutory authority through their definition of “waters of the United States” by attempting to regulate private property.

David Chipman’s appointment as head of ATF

Schmitt joined 19 Republican attorneys general in a letter to U.S. Senate leadership on May 25 opposing the appointment of David Chipman to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). The letter, led by Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, pointed to Chipman’s “long history with organizations whose mission is to erase the Second Amendment.”

Department of Education

Schmitt joined a 20-state letter on May 20 urging the Biden administration to reconsider proposals mandating the use of critical race theory (CRT) and the 1619 Project in classrooms; a push to bar the mandate on the state level was also considered in the legislature this year.

“American history, civics, and historical literacy are a crucial facet of education in schools across the state and country,” Schmitt said. “Reframing that history through the flawed and harmful lens of critical race theory and the 1619 Project would be a disservice to Missouri students.”

Childrens’ social media site

Schmitt joined 43 other attorneys general in a May 10 letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg urging him to halt the development of a version of Instagram for children. The letter cited concerns over cyberbullying, exposure to online predators, and mental health.

“Social Cost of Carbon” analysis 

Schmitt led 22 states on an April 27  letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) opposing its use of “Social Cost of Carbon” analysis to make certification decisions on interstate natural gas pipelines. The letter argued the method was flawed and not authorized under existing law.

“Our nation’s energy sector should not be held hostage by President Biden’s insistence on imposing a ‘social cost’ for certain greenhouse gases and imposing crushing federal regulations,” Schmitt said. “Under the ‘Social Cost of Carbon’ analysis, private companies who want to build interstate natural gas pipelines to provide cheap, affordable energy to Missourians and those across the country would be subject to greater regulations and red tape.”

Biden asked the Eastern District Court of Missouri to dismiss the suit on June 4, but the

Packing the U.S. Supreme Court

Schmitt joined a coalition of 20 attorneys general on an April 22 letter to Biden opposing potential administrative and congressional efforts to increase the number of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court.

“President Biden’s and congressional leaders’ attempts to pack the United States Supreme Court will undermine the independence and impartiality of the nation’s highest court and sour public confidence in our judicial system,” Schmitt said.

Washington, D.C. statehood

Schmitt joined 21 other Republican attorney generals on a letter to Biden on April 13 opposing a push to establish statehood for Washington, D.C. The coalition said doing so would “constitute an unprecedented aggrandizement of an elite ruling class with unparalleled power and federal access.”

Migrant Protection Protocols 

Schmitt filed suit against Biden, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and other members of the administration on April 13, calling on them to reinstate Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocols.

Under the policies, individuals arriving at the southern border seeking asylum were turned back to Mexico and given notices to appear in immigration court. The protocols were suspended in January.

“President Biden’s failure to control the massive influx of migrants — an influx invited by his lax policies — has opened the floodgates to human trafficking that will have lasting effects on Missouri and the United States and puts our nationally-recognized efforts to fight human trafficking in jeopardy,” Schmitt said.

State tax policy

Schmitt sued the U.S. Department of the Treasury and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on March 29, pointing to the interpretation of a provision in the American Rescue Plan Act Schmitt said would force states to pick between COVID-19 relief funds or their tax policies. Schmitt said the suit was meant to provide clarity on the reach of the bill’s tax provisions.

“Properly understood, the tax mandate imposes only a very narrow restriction on the states’ ability to cut taxes — it merely prohibits the states from taking COVID-19 relief funds and deliberately applying them to offset a specific tax reduction of a similar amount,” the lawsuit said.

The suit was dismissed in mid-May, with the judge finding the matter was “not ripe for adjudication” and that the impact was too speculative to be further considered.

Oil and gas operations on federal land

Schmitt joined 13 states on a suit against the new president on March 24 for an executive order imposing a moratorium on future gas and oil leasing and drilling permits on federal land.

“President Biden’s actions will negatively impact a wide swath of Missourians and Missouri industries, including agriculture, manufacturing, and more,” Schmitt said in a statement. “Missourians are already feeling the pain at the gas pump, and if President Biden continues to rule by executive order, it will only get worse.”

Wyoming, another state included in the suit, moved for a preliminary injunction in early May, giving the federal government until June to file a response brief.

A federal judge in Louisiana reversed the ban on June 15, citing the “omission of any rational explanation in canceling the lease sales.”

Climate change executive order

Schmitt joined 11 other state attorneys general in a suit against the Biden administration in March, fighting an executive order enacted by the new president. 

Executive Order 13990, signed in January, revoked a number of policies from the Trump administration while mandating their review. It also underscored the White House’s focus on clean energy and the environment. The coalition contested the expansion of federal regulations through the executive order, pointing to the potential impacts the mandates could have on various industries.

“Manufacturing, agriculture, and energy production are essential to Missouri’s economy and employ thousands of hard-working Missourians across the state,” Schmitt said in a statement. “From higher energy bills to lost jobs, this massive expansion of federal regulatory power has the potential to impact nearly every household in this state — that’s why today I’m leading a coalition of states to put a stop to this executive order and protect Missouri families.”

American Rescue Plan Act

Schmitt and 20 other attorneys general signed a letter March 16 asking the U.S. Department of Treasury to ensure the American Rescue Plan Act will not impede states’ ability to implement taxes, noting the act forbids states from offsetting reductions in tax revenues with COVID-19 relief funds.

“Congress should have no say or control over Missouri’s ability to cut taxes, and the American Rescue Plan should not hinder Missouri’s ability to cut taxes,” Schmitt said. “That’s why I joined this 21-state coalition — to get a clarification from the Treasury Department and ensure that the federal government isn’t overreaching into state tax policy.”

Keystone Pipeline

Schmitt joined 20 other state attorneys general on a suit against the Biden administration for the revocation of the Keystone XL Pipeline on March 17. The suit argued the administration did not have the authority to cancel the permit under the U.S. Constitution and violated the separation of powers by making a move relegated to Congress.

Schmitt backed a letter urging Biden to reinstate the permit in February. The letter alleged the revocation would lead to thousands of displaced workers and increase the nation’s reliance on energy produced in other countries. 

“The revocation of the 2019 Presidential Permit for the Keystone XL pipeline is a job-killing decision that will burden Missourians with higher energy bills, including those who are already being crushed amidst the pandemic,” Schmitt said. “President Biden needs to reverse his decision immediately – the jobs and livelihoods of thousands are at stake.”

The pipeline was terminated in June after Biden refused to reinstate the permit.

Immigration

Schmitt led 18 states in a letter asking the president to reverse the cancellation of Operation Talon, an ICE initiative focused on removing illegally present sexual offenders from the country in February. The letter argued the program’s cancellation could encourage predators seeking to illegally enter the country and exacerbate human trafficking. 

The program has not been reinstated as of June 17. 

Election integrity

In December, Schmitt threw his weight behind Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s challenge of the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The suit alleged the four battleground states leveraged the COVID-19 pandemic to alter voting laws improperly and sway the election. Schmitt led 16 other states in the amicus brief.

“The integrity of our elections is of critical importance to maintaining our republic, both today and in future elections,” Schmitt said at the time. “The stakes of protecting our Constitution, defending our liberty, and ensuring that all votes are counted fairly couldn’t be higher. With this brief, we are joining the fight.” 

The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the case that same month.

China

Another notable suit was leveled against another country: Schmitt sued the Chinese government — namely the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Communist Party — alleging the suppression of important information and the silencing of whistleblowers over the COVID-19 pandemic last year. Missouri was the first state to do so, with Mississippi following shortly thereafter. 

“In Missouri, the impact of the virus is very real — thousands have been infected and many have died, families have been separated from dying loved ones, small businesses are shuttering their doors, and those living paycheck to paycheck are struggling to put food on their table,” Schmitt said of the suit. “The Chinese government lied to the world about the danger and contagious nature of COVID-19, silenced whistleblowers, and did little to stop the spread of the disease. They must be held accountable for their actions.”

Schmitt officially served the Chinese government on May 19, 2021.

This story has been updated. It was originally published March 15. 



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McCloskeys plead guilty to misdemeanor harassment, assault charges


  

Mark and Patricia McCloskey — the couple who became infamous after they waved their guns from their porch as a group of protestors gathered near their home in St. Louis last year — pleaded guilty in court Thursday. 

Mark McCloskey, who is a Republican U.S. Senate candidate, pleaded guilty to a Class C misdemeanor of assault in the fourth degree and agreed to a $750 fine. Patricia McCloskey pleaded guilty to a Class A misdemeanor of harassment in the second degree and agreed to a $2,000 fine. 

Both McCloskeys agreed to turn over their firearms to the state. 

“One year ago, an angry mob crashed through my gate and threatened my wife, my family, and my home. The prosecutor dropped all charges against me except for a claim that I put people in imminent fear of physical harm. That’s exactly what I did, that’s what the guns were for. And any time the mob comes and threatens me, I’ll do the same thing again to protect my family,” Mark McCloskey said in a statement to The Missouri Times. 

“I will never back down to the liberal mob in the Senate, and I will always stand strong for Missouri.” 

Mark McCloskey also addressed the incident in a video posted to Twitter Thursday in which both he and his wife hold guns. Mark McCloskey is wearing a pink polo like he did during the altercation last year.

The incident stemmed as nationwide protests broke out last year following the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man in Minneapolis. The officer who killed Floyd has since been convicted of murder. Protesters in St. Louis were marching to the mayor’s house when they turned onto the private street where the McCloskeys lived. The couple said there feared for their safety. 

Judge Richard Callahan, the special prosecutor assigned to the case, said he did not take into consideration Mark McCloskey’s status as an attorney or rumors of a pardon from Gov. Mike Parson when handling the case. 

“If by happenstance the governor does take the time to consider a pardon in this case, I hope it will trigger an interest in the backlog of pardon applicants who may or may not merit executive clemency, but at least deserve an answer,” Callahan said. 





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‘We will fight tooth and nail to defend’ gun rights


  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Gov. Mike Parson and Attorney General Eric Schmitt pushed back against the federal government in their response to the Department of Justice’s inquiry into the Second Amendment Preservation Act (SAPA): “We will not stand by while the federal government tries to tell Missourians how to live our lives.” 

Parson and Schmitt responded to the federal government’s inquiry in their own seven-page letter Thursday regarding HB 85 which the governor signed into law Saturday. SAPA sought to declare federal laws that could restrict gun ownership among law-abiding Missourians as “invalid” in the state. It also said public officers and employees cannot enforce federal firearm laws that would be deemed invalid under this law, and those who do so could be subjected to a $50,000 penalty. 

The Department of Justice sent a letter to the state’s Republican leaders this week seeking clarification on the new law and raising several concerns, including whether the state was attempting to void federal laws. 

“Missouri is not attempting to nullify federal law. Instead, Missouri is defending its people from federal government overreach by prohibiting state and local law enforcement agencies from being used by the federal government to infringe Missourians’ right to keep and bear arms,” Parson and Schmitt said. 

Their letter argued Missouri “has every right under our system of government and the Tenth Amendment to place limitations on what state and local officials may do,” It said the DOJ did not identify any conflicts SAPA created with restrictions on state activities and hiring practices when it comes to federal law. 

Schmitt and Parson also accused the DOJ of conflicting its own policies when it comes to so-called sanctuary cities, places that limit cooperation with the federal government over immigration issues. 

“President Biden and the Department of Justice have decided to reward states and cities that refuse to cooperate with enforcing constitutional immigration laws that protect our citizens against foreign threats, but now they attack Missouri for refusing to cooperate with enforcing unconstitutional gun confiscation laws that put our citizens in danger and degrade their rights. You cannot have it both ways,” the letter said. 

The pair blasted the Biden administration for having a “radical, anti-gun position” and said the state would “fight tooth and nail” to defend SAPA and Second Amendment rights. 

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HB 85 specifically says taxes and fees imposed on guns, ammunition, or firearm accessories “not common to all other goods and services and that might reasonably be expected to create a chilling effect on the purchase or ownership of those items” is to be considered an infringement on Missourians’ Second Amendment rights. Registration or tracking of guns and gun ownership also falls under that category, according to the bill’s text. 

SAPA says federal acts deemed to be an infringement on individuals’ Second Amendment rights “shall be invalid in this state, shall not be recognized by this state, shall be specifically rejected by this state, and shall not be enforced by this state.” 

The DOJ’s letter laid out five key areas of concern with HB 85, particularly as the bill “purports to declare unlawful federal firearms regulations.” 

“Under our federal system, a state cannot nullify federal law,” it said. “Instead, where federal law conflicts with state law, state law is preempted.” 

In particular, one point of concern with HB 85 is the domestic violence gun loophole. HB 85 defines “law-abiding citizen” using state law, but federal law prevents convicted domestic abusers from possessing a firearm.

Rep. Jered Taylor, HB 85’s author, said he believed the state to be on “great legal ground” with SAPA.  He added he believes the new law “is going to hold up” should it be challenged in court. 

“In my opinion, it seems as though they recognize what the intent of the law was which was to stop enforcing or helping to enforce federal gun laws, to protect Second Amendment rights in the state of Missouri while ensuring we do enforce Missouri law and the baddest of bad guys are put away to make sure we have safer streets in Missouri,” Taylor told The Missouri Times in an interview Thursday. 

Parson and Schmitt also criticized the DOJ for having “leaked to the news media” its letter seeking clarification and said it was “riddled with a misunderstanding of the law and falsehoods.” Their response was sent in a press release Thursday afternoon.



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DESE submits American Rescue Plan proposal for local schools, teacher retention 


  

Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) submitted its request for federal funds through the American Rescue Plan Thursday, allocating most to local schools to respond to the pandemic.

Of the state’s $1.96 billion allotment through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III) fund, 90 percent would go to local education agencies (LEAs) under the department’s plan. The remaining 10 percent would be used to address the impact of the pandemic through state-level initiatives and projects. 

Going forward, the department intends to invest the funds in technology and the state’s teacher shortage, an issue Missouri has grappled with since before the pandemic. The department hopes to fund a statewide recruitment campaign and grants geared toward retention and recruitment. 

“As we look to the future, it’s clear that Missouri schools face several key issues we must address,” Commissioner Margie Vandeven said. “DESE will use the unprecedented opportunity presented by ESSER III to partner with others to invest in the educator workforce, to commit resources to rigorous learning acceleration, and to address the digital divide.” 

According to the department, only 25 percent of the state’s schools were able to operate on a fully remote basis at the height of the pandemic. By the close of this school year, more than 99 percent were offering on-site learning options. 

The proposal also included a redesign of the state’s assessment system to focus on early literacy, support learning processes, and align with priority standards. 

The plan was presented before the state Board of Education earlier this week; as noted by board members, the state will have immediate access to two-thirds of its allocation with the remainder dependent on the approval of its application. Spending authority for the funds would have to be granted by the legislature, either through a supplemental budget or a regular appropriation. 

The digital divide is also a focus of both the Missouri Legislature and the federal government; the House Interim Committee on Broadband Development is convening through December to evaluate the state’s access, while the White House released a new mapping tool Thursday aimed at highlighting areas of the country that lack adequate coverage.



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White House unveils new broadband mapping tool, finds most of Missouri lacks adequate access


  

As conversations on broadband access continue in Missouri and around the country, the White House is rolling out a new mapping tool showing where improvements are needed.

The Indicators of Broadband Need map, a collaboration between the White House and the National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA), shows data on internet access across the country, depicting counties and areas with poor access in red. 

According to the interactive tool, most of the U.S. experiences inadequate broadband access. In Missouri, a majority of counties have at least 15 percent of their population without internet access at all with rural areas reporting even higher percentages. 

Indicators of Broadband Need map screenshot
The White House’s Indicators of Broadband Need map shows areas in need of better broadband access in red.

Bharat Ramamurti, deputy director of the National Economic Council, said the map demonstrated the breadth of the digital divide in the United States. 

“This map will give the public more tools to explore and understand where broadband is lacking,” Ramamurti told reporters Thursday. “The bottom line from this map, in my view, is that the need for investment in broadband infrastructure is huge in the United States, but it also means that the opportunities and the productivity gains from making those investments are huge if we can solve this problem.”

Ramamurti and White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean Pierre hosted a virtual press call to unveil the new tool Thursday. The map pulls data from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Census Bureau, Microsoft, M-Lab, and Ookla to paint a picture of the areas facing poor access. It includes data on locations reporting a lack of connection by different devices, as well as percentages and statistics by county. 

“Broadband is necessary for Americans to do their jobs, to participate equally in school learning and health care, and to stay connected — yet by one definition, more than 30 million Americans live in areas where there is no broadband infrastructure that provides minimal acceptable speeds,” Pierre said. “Broadband is as critical as electricity and water — that is something that experts say, and that’s why today’s announcement is so important.”

According to Ramamurti, the Biden administration projected an investment of $65 billion through the American Jobs Plan infrastructure package could build out infrastructure for areas without access, close the digital divide for minority and lower-income families, and address high-speed internet costs. Negotiations over the package are ongoing on Capitol Hill. 

Broadband access has long been a topic of conversation in Missouri, especially since COVID-19 drove education and work online last year. The House Interim Committee on Broadband Development met for the first time last week to hear a report from Tim Arbeiter, director of broadband development at the Missouri Department of Economic Development. According to the department, the state is ranked No. 32 in broadband access compared to the rest of the country. 

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. 

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

The committee will convene monthly throughout the interim and file a report on its findings in December. 



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Ryan Johnson, Cass County commissioner, launches Congressional bid


  

Ryan Johnson, an associate commissioner in Cass County, announced his candidacy for Missouri’s 4th congressional district Thursday. 

“Over the past few weeks, I’ve been encouraged by conservatives across Missouri’s 4th district to run for our open congressional seat. After careful thought and prayer, I’ve decided to run for this seat. This district needs strong, uncompromising conservative leadership and proven active duty military experience,” Johnson said. “I will bring those qualities to Congress and help stop the Biden administration’s socialist agenda.” 

Johnson unseated an incumbent commissioner last year in his bid for the Cass County Commission — his first political campaign. He is a veteran who has served in both the Army and Coast Guard, spending eight years in active duty. He’s worked for Congressman Sam Graves and led the Missouri Alliance for Freedom, a nonprofit conservative advocacy group. 

In an interview with The Missouri Times, Johnson stressed his commitment to conservatism and the importance of “follow through.” 

“It’s one thing to get elected to office. It’s one thing to say the right things on the campaign stump, and it’s another thing to advocate for, advance, and particularly pass conservative priorities or kill legislation that is not conservative,” Johnson said. 

Johnson is a lifelong Missourian who grew up in Blue Springs and attended the University of Central Missouri. He met his wife in Washington, D.C., through their work with the Coast Guard and returned to Cass County after they were married. The couple has three children. 

Johnson said a formal campaign announcement is in the works for next month. 

Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, who has represented the district for nearly a dozen years, is running for the open U.S. Senate seat

Former state Sen. Ed Emery said earlier this month he is also running for the 4th congressional district. Sen. Caleb Rowden, former state Rep. Caleb Jones, Sen. Denny Hoskins, Sen. Rick Brattin, and more are considered possible contenders for the seat as well. 

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. 



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Galloway begins citizen-requested audit of city of Town and Country


  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway today announced her office has begun an audit of the city of Town and Country, located in St. Louis County. Residents of Town and Country requested the audit through the petition process.

“My office will conduct an independent review of the financial practices of Town and Country government to ensure operations are efficient and effective,” Auditor Galloway said. “I appreciate the engagement of citizens in this process and welcome those with specific concerns to reach out to my office through the Whistleblower Hotline.”

Under Missouri law, the State Auditor`s office may be called on to audit a political subdivision of the state if enough qualified voters of that entity request the audit. The petition to audit Town and Country required 750 signatures; 840 petition signatures were verified.

Individuals who would like to provide information for consideration in this or any audit may contact the State Auditor’s Whistleblower Hotline at moaudit@auditor.mo.gov or by calling 800-347-8597. Concerns may also be submitted anonymously online at auditor.mo.gov/hotline.



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Taylor: SAPA will hold up in court


  

JEFFERSON CITY, MO. — The Second Amendment Preservation Act (SAPA) is already sending a clear message to the federal government that Missouri will not enforce federal gun laws that infringe on Missourians’ rights, Rep. Jered Taylor said of his legislation after the Department of Justice (DOJ) sent a letter to the state. 

Taylor said he believed the state to be on “great legal ground” with HB 85 which declares federal gun laws that could restrict gun ownership for “law-abiding citizens” as “invalid” in the state. He added he believes the new law, which Gov. Mike Parson signed Saturday “is going to hold up” should it be challenged in court. 

Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton sent a letter to Parson and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt this week seeking clarification on HB 85. He also warned the new law could hamper relationships between the federal government and Missouri and noted the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause would allow federal laws to supersede state law. 

“HB 85 threatens to immediately disrupt the working relationship between federal and state law enforcement officers, many of whom work shoulder-to-shoulder on various joint task forces, for which Missouri receives ample federal grants and other technical assistance,” Boynton said. “In addition, HB 85 risks sowing confusion among both the regulated community of federal firearms licensees, who are obligated under criminal penalty to comply with federal law, and Missouri citizens. And as drafted, HB 85 raises significant concerns under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution.”

Taylor said the letter made many “assumptions,” some of which were accurate. 

“In my opinion, it seems as though they recognize what the intent of the law was which was to stop enforcing or helping to enforce federal gun laws, to protect Second Amendment rights in the state of Missouri while ensuring we do enforce Missouri law and the baddest of bad guys are put away to make sure we have safer streets in Missouri,” Taylor told The Missouri Times in an interview Thursday. 

Boynton listed several concerns in the seven-page letter, but one particular point related to the domestic violence gun loophole. HB 85 defines “law-abiding citizen” using language in state statute, but federal law prevents convicted domestic abusers from possessing a firearm, Boynton noted. 

But Taylor said SAPA did not change any laws when it comes to domestic abuse and pushed back on the loophole narrative. 

“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,” Taylor 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.” 

“An individual shouldn’t lose their Second Amendment rights for committing a misdemeanor because what misdemeanor is next?” 

As for clarification, Taylor said he would support putting together a list to ensure law enforcement officers fully understood SAPA. 

“Our law enforcement in the state of Missouri will not be helping enforce federal gun laws on law-abiding citizens in the state of Missouri,” Taylor said. 

HB 85 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. 

Parson signed the bill on June 12 at Frontier Justice, a gun store and shooting range, in Lee’s Summit. 

“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,” Parson said at the time. “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 firearms.” 

Boynton asked Missouri to respond to his letter with the clarifications requested by Friday. 

A spokeswoman for the governor said she had not seen the letter and could not immediately provide a comment from Parson. A spokesman for Schmitt did not immediately respond to a request for comment either.



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Missouri cannot disregard federal gun laws, Justice Department says


  

In enforcing the Second Amendment Preservation Act (SAPA), Missouri cannot reject or disregard federal gun laws, the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) said in a letter to Gov. Mike Parson less than a week after he signed the bill

SAPA, sponsored by Rep. Jered Taylor, seeks to declare federal laws that could restrict gun ownership as “invalid” in the state. It also said public officers and employees cannot enforce federal firearm laws that would be deemed invalid under this law, and those who do could be subjected to a $50,000 penalty. 

Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton told Parson and Attorney General Eric Schmitt the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause supersedes the new law. He also warned the law could hamper relationships between the federal government and Missouri. 

Because HB 85 conflicts with federal firearms laws and regulations, federal law supersedes this new statute; all provisions of federal laws and their implementing regulations therefore continue to apply,” Boynton said. “Federal law enforcement agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the United States Marshals Service, and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern and Western Districts of Missouri, will continue to execute their duties to enforce all federal firearms laws and regulations.”

“The public safety of the people of the United States and citizens of Missouri is paramount,” he said. 

HB 85 specifically says taxes and fees imposed on guns, ammunition, or firearm accessories “not common to all other goods and services and that might reasonably be expected to create a chilling effect on the purchase or ownership of those items” is to be considered an infringement on Missourians’ Second Amendment rights. Registration or tracking of guns and gun ownership also falls under that category, according to the bill’s text. 

SAPA says federal acts deemed to be an infringement on individuals’ Second Amendment rights “shall be invalid in this state, shall not be recognized by this state, shall be specifically rejected by this state, and shall not be enforced by this state.” 

In his letter, which was first reported by Associated Press, Boynton lays out five key areas of concern with HB 85, particularly as the bill “purports to declare unlawful federal firearms regulations.” 

“Under our federal system, a state cannot nullify federal law,” Boynton said. “Instead, where federal law conflicts with state law, state law is preempted.” 

Boynton also listed concerns regarding whether Missouri is seeking to directly regulate and limit federal law enforcement agencies, possibly impeding in state-federal partnerships, and potential targeting of state or local employees who worked for or cooperated with the federal government. It also seeks a clarification of the effective date of HB 85. 

Boynton asked Missouri to respond to his letter with the clarifications requested by Friday. 

A spokeswoman for the governor said she had not seen the letter and could not immediately provide a comment from Parson. 

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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 with Democrats saying it is a “defund the police” measure and could encourage dangerous fringe groups. 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. 

Parson signed the bill on June 12 at Frontier Justice, a gun store and shooting range, in Lee’s Summit. 

“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,” Parson said at the time. “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 firearms.” 

Earlier Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Schmitt joined a brief with nearly two dozen other attorneys general in support of California repealing its decades-old assault weapons ban. 

The Biden administration has made curbing gun violence a priority for his time in office. 

Following the news of the federal government’s letter to Parson, Senate leaders praised and castigated the move. 

“This is the same group of Republicans who are ready to risk $2 billion in federal health care funding [because] they want to deny women access to contraceptives and think the feds aren’t watching,” Senate Minority Floor Leader John Rizzo said on Twitter, referencing the ongoing FRA reauthorization negotiations

On the other side of the aisle, Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden said: “Missourians value their [Second Amendment] rights. I won’t let the DOJ, Joe Biden, or anyone else take those rights away. 

Cameron Gerber contributed to this report. 



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Galloway issues latest monthly report on Missouri’s use of federal stimulus dollars received through CARES Act funding


  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — State Auditor Nicole Galloway today released her 12th  monthly report detailing state government’s use of federal stimulus dollars intended for the COVID-19 response. Last year, Auditor Galloway announced that her office would examine the state’s distribution and spending of funding received under the CARES Act and other federal assistance programs passed by Congress.

The most recent report shows Missouri’s spending of federal assistance for the month of April, as well as the cumulative expenditures since the state began receiving funding in April 2020. Through April 30, 2021, Missouri has received $4.1 billion and spent $3.66 billion of this assistance. In April, the state spent $142.6 million.

A significant portion of the expenditures to date were for services through the state’s Medicaid program, MO HealthNet and other programs receiving federal matching funds ($945 million), and funding passed through to counties and the City of St. Louis ($521 million). Other funding has been provided to schools, institutions of higher education, child care providers, long-term care facilities, and developmental disabilities waiver providers. Funds have also been used for food and nutrition programs, mental health services, purchase of personal protective equipment, virus testing, contact tracing, vaccine preparedness and access, workforce development, economic development programs for small businesses, COVID-19 dedicated personnel costs, emergency rental assistance, and other disaster relief purposes.

In addition to the monthly report examining the state’s spending, the Auditor’s Office also has an online tool to give Missourians a detailed look at expenditures. The COVID-19 Response page tracks not only how much is received and expended in relief funds, but also lists which state and local government departments, vendors and expense categories are receiving the most funding. The information on the website provides data on expenditures and is updated regularly.

Auditor Galloway’s efforts are similar to work performed by the previous State Auditor’s administration, which reviewed the state’s use of funds received through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Under Article IV, Section 13 of the Missouri Constitution, the State Auditor has a duty to ensure the accuracy of the state’s accounting of its spending.

A copy of the report on Missouri spending of federal assistance can be found here.



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Schmitt joins support for repeal of California assault weapons ban 


  

Attorney General Eric Schmitt joined 21 attorneys general in support of a recent decision striking down California’s assault weapon ban. 

The coalition, led by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, filed a brief Wednesday urging the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold a lower court’s decision overturning the ban on what it defined as assault weapons, which had been in place for more than three decades. The ban was overturned by a lower court earlier this month and appealed by the state last week.

The coalition argued the ban was unconstitutional per the Second Amendment and urged the appellate court to “apply strict scrutiny” to the case. 

“Calling modern rifles ‘assault weapons’ is a misnomer— they are most often used by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes like personal protection or target and sport shooting,” the brief said. “There is nothing sinister about citizens keeping or bearing a modern rifle. Law-abiding citizens keeping and bearing modern rifles benefit public safety, counter-balance the threat of illegal gun violence, and help make our homes and streets safer.”

“California should not be permitted to invade its own citizens’ constitutional rights, and this court should not imperil the rights of citizens in this circuit and other states with its analysis,” it continued.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state would continue to fight the decision, arguing the firearms were dangerous and recalling the incident that led to the 1989 law. 

“This ban was enacted after a shooting that took the lives of five schoolchildren and injured countless more, and my administration will do whatever it takes to continue protecting Californians and leading the nation in gun safety laws,” Newsom said in a statement. “This is a fight California will never back down from, period.”

Schmitt has weighed in on the federal government numerous times over the past year, from similar letters to pending lawsuits against the new presidential administration. He recently joined other attorneys general on a letter opposing the appointment of David Chipman to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and wrote to oppose an attempt to revise a Trump-era water regulation this week. 

The Second Amendment was also a focal point of the Missouri Legislature this year; Gov. Mike Parson signed the Second Amendment Preservation Act (SAPA) last week, a bill proponents say protects the Second Amendment rights of Missourians.

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Opinion: Cattle markets need transparency


  

As livestock producers, we strive to care for our animals and raise a wholesome product for our family, friends, and neighbors. In return, we want a fair price for our livestock, which is increasingly difficult these days.

Last spring, the COVID-19 virus crippled the meat and poultry supply chain. The fallout from disruptions in processing and transportation fell squarely on the shoulders of livestock producers. A few dominant meatpackers certainly seemed to put the squeeze on farmers and ranchers while making record profits. Notably, four major packers control more than 80 percent of today’s U.S. beef packing industry.

Missouri Farm Bureau President Garrett Hawkins
Missouri Farm Bureau President Garrett Hawkins

An August 2019 fire at a processing facility in Holcomb, Kansas, and disruptions during the pandemic reignited long-standing concerns about transparency in cattle markets. In recent months, the dramatic spread between the price producers are receiving for fed cattle and the price packers are charging for wholesale boxed beef going into the supply chain has further fanned the flames of frustration among farmers, ranchers, and feeders. The end result squeezes the pocketbook of both consumers and producers.

In late May through early June this year, packers were making a profit in excess of $1,100 per head while cattle feeders were struggling to break even. At the same time a year ago, the same packers were making upwards of $1,100 per head while cattle producers netted losses of over $300 per head. Keep in mind, packers were raking in these profits on cattle they had owned for less than seven days.

To address concerns of competitive imbalance, U.S. Representatives Vicky Hartzler and Emanuel Cleaver recently introduced the Optimizing the Cattle Market Act. Currently, the price for the vast majority of cattle sold is based on less than 20 percent of the cattle that are actually traded on the negotiated spot cash market. This results in limited price information to establish the base price for formula contracts and forces producers to be price takers instead of price makers. The Hartzler and Cleaver bill would establish regional mandatory minimum thresholds of negotiated cash trades in cattle marketing while allowing for flexibility across regions.

The bill would also require USDA to create a Beef Contracts Library to catalog marketing contracts between packers and their feeders while protecting producer confidentiality. Much of the lack of fluidity in the fed cattle market is due to opaque terms imposed by packers. More price transparency will help level the playing field for family farmers and ranchers.

Finally, the bill would require packers to report each day the number of cattle scheduled to be delivered for slaughter over the following 14 days. Cattle producers could use this information to project packers’ needs and better plan their marketing decisions.

The Optimizing the Cattle Market Act, along with The Cattle Market Transparency Act introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators Deb Fischer and Ron Wyden, aim to improve transparency in the cattle market. Farm Bureau supports this commonsense approach and is urging congressional lawmakers to get on board as cosponsors.

The time for action is now. Next time you’re grilling your favorite piece of meat, remember to take a minute to call or email your members of Congress and ask them to back these bills. We need lawmakers to turn up the heat.



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