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Governor Parson delivers 2022 State of the State Address

Below is information released by Governor Parson’s office:

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -Today, Governor Mike Parson delivered the 2022 State of the State Address to the Missouri General Assembly.

Following a recap of 2021 and Missouri’s Bicentennial year, Governor Parson proclaimed that Missouri is strong today and will be even stronger tomorrow.

Governor Parson’s speech focused on budget priorities and America Rescue Plan Act spending goals for 2022: workforce and education, infrastructure, agriculture, community development, health care, and public safety.

“With a historic budget surplus and federal dollars coming to our state, we want to build on our past momentum to capture even greater opportunities for the future of Missourians,” Governor Parson said. “When other states will be filling spending gaps and budget shortfalls, we will be making investments in the future, because in Missouri, we took a common-sense approach to the pandemic, never shut down businesses, and have always had a conservative and balanced budget.”

Workforce and education

During his speech, Governor Parson expressed that now is the time to double down on workforce development and skill up Missouri’s workforce. To do this, Governor Parson called for the Missouri Fast Track program to be permanently established, $31 million for colleges and universities through MoExcels, and $20 million for the state’s 57 area career centers.

To further support the education of Missouri’s children, Governor Parson proposed multiple investments in K-12 education, including fully funding the Foundation Formula and raising starting pay for Missouri teachers to $38,000 per year.

“Last year, 95 percent of Missouri schools saw the value of in-person learning and did the right thing by keeping their doors open and our kids in schools where they belong,” Governor Parson said. “We know the vast majority of Missouri educators get it right day-in and day-out, and no one in this chamber would be where they are today without quality educators in their lives, myself included.”

For Missouri Higher Education, Governor Parson called for nearly $470 million to fund the top capital improvement projects at state community colleges and four-year institutions. Combined, Governor Parson recommended nearly $600 million in higher education investments that are expected to generate over $1.1 billion in economic impact for the state, strengthen communities’ assets, and bolster workforce development programs.

Governor Parson also recognized that in order for Missouri to be successful, the state must recruit and retain talented public servants across state government. To do this, Governor Parson called on the General Assembly to pass an immediate 5.5 percent cost of living adjustment for all state employees.

Infrastructure

To build on the state’s past successes, Governor Parson again called for major investments in infrastructure, including $75 million for the Transportation Cost-Share program established by his administration in 2019, $100 million for low-volume roads across the state, and $400 million for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems.

Additionally, Governor Parson called for $400 million toward broadband expansion projects statewide, the single largest broadband investment in state history. This proposal would connect 75,000 households, expand access to rural areas and underserved urban areas, and update and expand wireless networks across the state.

Agriculture

Governor Parson also reminded the General Assembly of the continued need to support Missouri agriculture, the state’s number one economic driver.

To help ensure the agricultural way of life remains strong and can be passed down to the next generations, Governor Parson called for $10 million to expand agriculture innovation and workforce programs.

Community development

Governor Parson announced, that with the General Assembly’s approval, the state can make meaningful long-term investments in local communities by allocating $250 million for a statewide revitalization program. With local matching, this competitive grant program will encourage strategic local investments to revitalize communities spur local economic recovery and growth.

Additionally, Governor Parson expressed how more citizens and travelers are experiencing Missouri’s great outdoors. To complement this state asset, expand tourism, and drive small business growth and job creation, Governor Parson proposed investing $69 million to begin construction of the Rock Island Trail, which will become the largest circular rail-to-trail network in the United States.

Health care

The COVID-19 pandemic further revealed the need to strengthen health care networks across the state. That is why Governor Parson proposed $34 million to increase telehealth and telemedicine services in rural communities and the construction of a new multi-agency health lab to increase cross-collaboration for safer, healthier Missourians.

Additionally, Governor Parson called for doubling the capacity of Missouri’s six Autism Centers to help more families navigate the challenges of diagnosing and treating autism as well as reduce wait times for families needing services.

Public safety

During his speech, Governor Parson expressed his continued support for Missouri’s law enforcement officers. He also recalled last year when Missouri established the first law enforcement training academy at a Historically Black College and University at Lincoln University.

“We must work to strengthen our communities by supporting our men and women in law enforcement and learn from the failed policies in other cities and states to never allow anti-law enforcement measures to take hold in this state,” Governor Parson said. “In Missouri, we defend law enforcement, not defund them.”

This year, Governor Parson proposed investing $11 million to upgrade Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) academies and provide more scholarships for law enforcement officers to receive POST certification and put more officers on the streets. These investments will aid with recruitment and retention efforts statewide and help keep communities safer.

Additionally, Governor Parson asked the General Assembly to invest nearly $140 million in certain community health centers across the state for vital capital improvements to help meet the increased demand for mental health and substance use disorder services.

Legislative properties

Governor Parson also called on the Legislature to establish a Cash Operating Expense Fund that sets aside 2.5 percent of general revenue to mitigate budget cuts and provide greater flexibility during emergencies.

“With a Cash Operating Expense Fund, we can achieve financial stability when the rainy days come,” Governor Parson said. “This is the responsible thing to do, this is the conservative thing to do, and this is the right thing to do.”

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Harris invokes MLK in voting rights push, urges Senate to 'do its job'

(The Hill) – Vice President Harris marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday with a speech in which she urged lawmakers to honor the civil rights giant’s legacy by passing voting rights legislation.

Harris, addressing Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church remotely from Washington, argued that Americans’ freedom to vote is “under assault” by GOP laws in Georgia and other states that she said could make it harder for 55 million Americans to vote.

The vice president accused supporters of those laws of seeking to “interfere” with U.S. elections “to get the outcomes they want” and urged the Senate to “do its job” by passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which is currently stalled in the upper chamber.

“We know the threat we face. We know that this assault on our freedom to vote will be felt by every American in every community in every political party. We know that, if we stand idly by, our entire nation will pay the price for generations to come,” Harris said in prepared remarks delivered from the White House.

“Today, we must not be complacent or complicit; we must not give up; and we must not give in. To truly honor the legacy of the man we celebrate today, we must continue to fight for the freedom to vote, for freedom for all,” she continued.

Harris’s remarks Monday capped a weeklong, forceful push by the Biden administration for passage of legislation named after the late congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis as well as an election reform bill known as the Freedom to Vote Act.

Last week, President Biden and Harris traveled to Atlanta to speak about voting rights. In a fiery speech, Biden pushed the Senate to weaken the legislative filibuster — the 60-vote threshold for advancing most legislation — in order for the bills to pass amid GOP opposition.

However, the president has not been successful in moving Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), two moderates who oppose changing the filibuster.  

Still, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is expected to tee up a vote to end debate on a bill that merges both pieces of voting rights legislation when the Senate returns on Tuesday.

Following her remarks, Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff are expected to take part in a service event at Martha’s Table, a local nonprofit in D.C.

The White House public schedule was otherwise largely empty on the federal holiday. Biden, who spent the long weekend at his home in Delaware, recorded a video statement that the White House distributed on Monday. Biden and first lady Jill Biden packed food boxes at a food bank in Philadelphia on Sunday as part of a day of service for the holiday.

During her speech on Monday, which lasted about five minutes, Harris described King as a “prophet” who pushed for change in the United States despite threats on his own life and against his family.

“He was a prophet in that he saw the present exactly how it was and the future as how it could be, and he pushed our nation toward that future,” Harris said.

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KS AG urges FCC to act on phone scams and fake callers

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is urging the Federal Communications Commission to put in place common-sense measures that will stem the tide of foreign-based, illegal robocalls that attempt to scam Kansans. 

Schmidt joined attorneys general from all 50 states and the District of Columbia in submitting comments this week to proposed FCC regulations that will govern telecommunications entering the United States. The attorneys general urged the FCC to require gateway providers, those who allow foreign calls into the United States, to implement technologies that will make it difficult for robocalls to enter the U.S. telephone network. This includes using STIR/SHAKEN, a caller ID authentication technology that helps prevent spoofed calls.

Schmidt’s request follows efforts in December 2021 when he and a collation of attorneys general successfully helped to persuade the FCC to shorten by a year the deadline for smaller telephone companies to implement STIR/SHAKEN.

The attorneys general are asking the FCC to require these gateway providers to take additional measures to reduce robocalls, including:

  • Responding to requests from law enforcement, state attorneys general, or the FCC to trace back calls within 24 hours.
  • Blocking calls when providers are aware of an illegal or likely fraudulent caller.
  • Blocking calls that originate from numbers that are on a “do not originate” list – such as government phone numbers that are for incoming calls only.
  • Ensuring that foreign telephone companies they partner with make sure that calls are being made from legitimate numbers.

The attorneys general are also encouraging the FCC to require all phone companies to block calls from a gateway provider if it fails to meet these requirements.

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Kansas lawmakers stop in Pittsburg to discuss upcoming legislative session

PITTSBURG, Kan. – Some Kansas lawmakers made a stop in Pittsburg today for the chamber’s legislative send-off. They discussed a number of topics they’re focusing on for the upcoming legislative session.

Four legislators, four different goals. That was the theme Friday at the legislative send-off in Pittsburg. One of the goals involves the state’s grocery sales tax. It’s one of the top on the list for 2nd District Representative Ken Collins. Rep. Collins says “We have one of the higher sales tax rates in the country and our sales tax rate statewide is 6.5%, of course, counties and cities they add on sometimes, a percent or two there, so, we want to reduce the, or eliminate the state portion of that if at all possible.”

Representative Collins says it’s a key point for him as it directly impacts border areas in the state, especially southeast Kansas. “We have competition, people shopping in Missouri and people shopping in Oklahoma, and sometimes when a person is settling in this area that is part of what goes into their idea, what side of the border they should be on, and I just want to see Kansas get more of a fair deal there.”

Another issue on the table for economic growth, is the highway 69 corridor. Plans are already moving forward to expand it to four lanes all the way to Pittsburg, but, 3rd District Representative Chuck Smith says more needs to be done. Representative Smith says “If you look at the bypass right now in Pittsburg, there’s 7 stoplights from one end of town to the other end of town, and it’s not longer a bypass, it’s a busy road, so we need a corridor to get the truckers and so-forth around town.”

Other topics discussed today included funding for Pittsburg’s wastewater plant, as well as legislative redistricting.

Every 10 years, with the census, congressional districts are assessed and re-drawn as needed to accommodate population change. Representative Richard Proehl says accurate redistricting is essential this year as the state saw some big population moves in the rural and urban areas.

Representative Proehl says “We look at urban and rural areas and our urban areas are growing and our rural areas are shrinking, so, our districts out here in the rural areas will get larger as far as area wise.”

Proehl says it’s going to be key to work with the urban legislators on redistricting to ensure population counts are evenly distributed across the state.

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Missouri lawmakers share split views on Jan. 6 riot

ST. LOUIS — Somber tributes are planned to mark the one-year anniversary of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. As the investigation into the chaos continues, some lawmakers in Missouri are speaking out about what happens next.

Images of the Jan. 6 insurrection will forever be linked to a sad day in American history. The police union said around 140 officers were injured, including 80 U.S. Capitol police officers and roughly 60 from the Metropolitan Police Department.

Four protestors associated with the event died, including Ashli Bobbit, who was shot as she entered the capitol, and one officer.

“I don’t have to remind what happened that day. Many of us lived it,” said Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois). “Some may try to downplay it or deny it was a threat, but they know better.”

Two Missouri politicians are also recalling that day. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri.) said the event was a terrible scene, but he also blames Democrats for spreading “fear.”

“The only thing they have is politics of fear, and it started last Jan. 6, and they have used that event to try and consolidate their power to push this fear politics,” said Hawley. “That’s what you see this guy doing this, and this is year, I think you see Americans reject fear.”

Missouri Congresswoman Cori Bush points the finger at Hawley and other Republicans for contesting the presidential election results. She alleges it incited the chaotic scene.

“The core of this was to invalidate the votes of millions of black and brown and indigenous community members,” said Bush. “They turned out to deliver house, senate, and the presidency to Democrtas.”

As the House committee investigating the insurrection laid out their 2022 plans, which include several hearings, Hawley is downplaying Democrats.

“This is the party that weaponized the FBI against parents, the party that calls demonstrators insurrectionists, the party that wants to control this country and make sure they stay in control,” he said.

Bush filed Resolution 25 to investigate and expel any member of Congress that worked to overturn the election. She has 50 signatures so far in favor of it.

“The basis we’re standing on is Section 3 of the 14th Amendment which says no person who works or rebels against the United States government can hold an office in Congress or president,” said Bush.

Democrats in Washington, D.C. are marking the anniversary from the Capitol tomorrow with a moment of silence, first-hand testimonies from lawmakers, and a prayer vigil.

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Discussion opportunity with Joplin City Council candidates

JOPLIN, Mo – Coffee with the Candidates takes place this year at Joplin Greenhouse on January 15th.

The event kicks off at 8:00 a.m. and features Joplin City Council candidates Kate Spencer, Brian Evans, and Mark Farnham.

This is the perfect opportunity to ask questions about the candidate’s values, their vision for our community, and their reasons for running for City Council.

 

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Governor Parson to end COVID-19 state of emergency

JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Missouri Governor Mike Parson announced today that the COVID-19 state of emergency will expire on December 31. He had declared the state of emergency back in March 2020.

Governor Parson stated in a press release, “Thanks to the effectiveness of the vaccine, widespread efforts to mitigate the virus, and our committed health care professionals, past needs to continue the state of emergency are no longer present,” Governor Parson said. “Over the last 22 months, we have coordinated with local, state, and private partners to mitigate COVID-19 and work towards returning to normalcy. We all now know how to best fight and prevent serious illness from this virus. The State stands ready to provide assistance and response, but there is no longer a need for a state of emergency.

Only 20 other states have related COVID-19 state of emergencies still in place, with three of those bordering Missouri.

Governor Parson said that Missouri never had mandates or forced lockdowns. He said the main focus was on providing support and assistance to Missourians, health care facilities, and businesses. He also gave encouragement to get vaccinated and stay diligent as we continue to battle COVID-19 while trying to live our normal lives.

It was also stated in the release that Agencies, boards, commissions, and departments are able to pursue rulemaking if permanent changes to regulations are needed after December 31 to improve long-term outcomes for Missourians, health care facilitates, and businesses.

With a COVID-19 vaccination being the best method of serious illness prevention, and over 62 percent of Missourians choosing to get the vaccine, Missouri now stands in December alone with 565,000 doses of the vaccine being administered with 42 percent being part of the primary vaccine series.

It was also communicated to healthcare workers in Missouri that there will be flexibility during this period of transition.

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Lawmakers want to change Missouri's distracted driving law

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri has one of the laxest laws in the country for drivers on cell phones, and nearly a dozen lawmakers hope to change that in the coming months.

The Show-Me State is one of only two states in the nation without a law that bans drivers from using their cell phones while behind the wheel. For the third holiday season in a row, a Columbia family is without their husband and dad after he was hit by a driver video chatting.

Randall Siddens was picking up cones after the biking portion of a triathlon race on May 5, 2019 when a car swerved past the police escort and knocked over his coworker, and hit him head-on. 

“This was preventable, and it shouldn’t have happened,” Adrienne, Randall’s wife said. “It just shouldn’t have happened.”

Randall who was 34 at the time, was known by his family as outgoing, selfless, and the best husband and dad around.

“It was after the bike was done. Everyone was off the course and was either running or was done, and they were trying to open the course back up,” Adrienne said.

Randall was a full-time dad but worked on the weekend for Ultramax. Adrienne said, on the day of the race, Randall got to the course at 3:30 a.m. Hours later she received a handful of phone calls from numbers she didn’t know.

“As I’m listening to those, my heart just stops,” Adrienne said. “I made it to the hospital, and he was breathing still. They got him into surgery, and I didn’t see him until after.”

Video from a police officer’s dashcam shows 25-year-old Regine McCracken slamming into Randall before hitting his work truck. Police said McCracken was Facetiming and driving nearly 20 miles an hour over the speed limit when she knocked over Randall’s coworker and hit him. 

“The biggest thing was his head trauma because she hit him going so fast and he flew a good 120 feet,” Adrienne said. “Everything could have been fixed, but his brain injury was just the limiting factor. He could never talk, could never eat.”

Six months after the crash, Adrienne had to make the difficult decision of taking Randall off of life support due to his brain injury, failing kidney, and other complications. At the time of the crash, Adrienne and Randall had been married nine years and had two children under the age of three and was four months pregnant with the third. 

“She was born October 13 and he died Nov. 18,” Adrienne said. “So, he technically did hold her, or she laid on his chest.”

Randall and Adrienne’s oldest daughter Aspen is now 4 years old, their son Declan is 3 and Jemma is 2. 

“It makes you angry and I’m angry too because my kids are young enough they are never going to know who Randall was,” Adrienne said.

Under state law, only drivers 21 and younger are prohibited from texting while driving, but the law says nothing about social media like Snapchat or Facebook. The consequence for breaking the law is a fine of up to $200 and two points against the driver’s record. 

“For many people, there is stil that urge to pick up the phone, look down, type a message out, look at a video and look at an Instagram feed,” Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, said. 

Razer is one of at least seven lawmakers who have filed legislation for the upcoming session to change Missouri law. Each bill looks to strengthen the existing law, one of the weakest in the country according to AAA.

“My legislation will not allow for literally picking up the phone or a wireless commuication device, look at it and being distracted,” Razer said. 

He said the current law is costing the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) federal money. 

“A couple of million dollars that could be coming into the state to help educate Missourians that we miss out on because our laws are so laxed,” Razer said. 

His proposal would allow Missouri drivers over the age of 18 to use Bluetooth or hands-free to talk or text, as long as the driver does not have his or her phone in their hand. Both Republian and Democrat lawmakers have filed bills for the upcoming session, which starts on January 5, to ban drivers from using their phones while driving. 

“Especially with the bipartisan nature of this legislation, I’m not sure what’s taking so much time to get this passed,” Razer said. “I’m hopeful that this will be the year that we can get it done.”

Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) said distracted driving caused 87 fatal accidents, more than 4,300 injury crashes and 11,000 property damage only crashes last year. 

“Our law is so, it’s just laughable and it’s pathetic, so we have to do better,” Adrienne said. “Nothing moving forward will bring him back but I wouldn’t wish this on anybody. I think something good has to surely come out of it and I don’t know what that good is yet.”

As for McCracken, who hit Randall, she pleaded guilty earlier this year to first-degree involuntary manslaughter along with driving with a suspended license. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The judge also said she had four prior convictions for driving infractions and had been given medication after an overnight stay in the hospital before the crash.

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24 states join lawsuit against Head Start mask, vaccine mandates

JOPLIN, Mo. – Attorneys General in the 4-States join a lawsuit against a federal mask and vaccine mandate for Head Start programs.

Under the Biden administration’s mandate, teachers, contractors and volunteers in the programs are required to be fully vaccinated by January 31, 2022. The mandate requires students to wear masks.

Head Start provides resources to primarily underserved children and their families. Those against the federal mandate argue that it will place greater strain on the availability of early childhood programs for low-income families.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry spearheaded the petition. Joining him are attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Wyoming, and West Virginia.

Allegations

According to Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s Office, the states allege that the Head Start Mandate is not only beyond the Executive Branch’s authority, contrary to law, and arbitrary and capricious; but it also violates the

  • Administrative Procedure Act’s Notice-and-Comment Requirement,
  • the Congressional Review Act,
  • the Nondelegation Doctrine,
  • the Tenth Amendment,
  • the Anti-Commandeering Doctrine,
  • the Spending Clause,
  • and the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act of 1999.

Statements in Part

Missouri AG Eric Schmitt:

“Head Start Programs provide much needed resources for underserved communities, single moms, and other parents who may be struggling to provide care. Forcing children to wear masks all day is counterintuitive, as children have a very low risk of contracting, spreading, or becoming seriously ill from COVID-19. Further, forcing those children to wear masks all day could hinder crucial development,” said Attorney General Schmitt. “Additionally, requiring volunteers, teachers, and contractors to be vaccinated by the end of January will certainly lead to job loss and program cancellation, harming those underserved communities who rely on the Head Start Program. We’ve heard from parents across the state about how these mask mandates are harming their children. The Biden Administration does not have the authority to issue these onerous mask and vaccine mandates, and as we have with all of his illegal edicts, we will fight them vigorously in court.”

Oklahoma AG John O’Connor:

“This unconstitutional mandate for pre-school students, staff, and volunteers will cause mayhem for educators and low-income families in Oklahoma. My office will continue to fight for the rights of Oklahomans and defend the rule of law against the Biden Administration’s burdensome overreach,” said Attorney General John O’Connor.

Kansas AG Derek Schmidt:

“Kansas families are already facing challenges finding child care,” Schmidt said. “The Biden Administration’s adoption of this one-size-fits-all mandate will worsen child care shortages. This mandate is likely to result in the loss of staff, closure of facilities or at least reduced capacity for low-income children. It is another example of the administration taking shortcuts and failing to consider consequences as it rushes forward, and the courts should strike this mandate down as they have others.”

Lousiana AG Jeff Landry:

“Like all of his other unlawful attempts to impose medical decisions on Americans, Biden’s overreaching orders to mask two-year-olds and force vaccinate teachers in our underserved communities will cost jobs and impede child development,” added Attorney General Landry. “If enacted, Biden’s authoritarianism will cut funding, programs, and childcare that working families, single mothers, and elderly raising grandchildren rely on desperately.”

Full Petition

24-state lawsuit against federal Head Start mandates

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Watch: President Biden to speak today on COVID

President Joe Biden will deliver remarks today, December 21, 2021. The White House has him scheduled to speak at 1:30 pm CT.

Biden will talk about the status of the country’s fight against COVID-19. National News agencies expect him to announce additional actions to protect Americans and aid hospitals as Omicron spreads.

The White House is live-streaming his remarks on its YouTube channel. You can watch it above, or, click here.