September 1, 2014

McCaskill: body cams inevitable (AUDIO)

Senator McCaskill starts hearings on the militarization of police departments a week from today.
One issue she expects the committee to discuss is whether federal law should require all police officers to wear body cams.
Use of body cams by police departments has gained momentum since the Michael Brown shooting three weeks ago in Ferguson. The officer involved ws not wearing a body cam nor did his car have a dash cam. Senator McCaskill says it’s only a matter of time before all officers have body cams, though. She says it hasn’t been that long ago that the dash cams began to proliferate in police cars. She recalls what she calls a “brutal” hit and run case involving a Highway Patrolman recorded by a dash cam in the trooper’s car. She says the recording was instrumental in catching the motorist who hit the trooper.
McCaskill thinks the cams would help curtail racial profiling, an issue that emerged in the Ferguson.
She also thinks the use of the cams would avoid a lot of misinformation and avoid mob mentalities taking over in certain situations. McCaskill says she’d like to see uniform use of the cameras sooner rather than later.
She expects body cams to be only one of a series of issued the committee will hear about.
AUDIO: McCaskill interview 3;18


Home health care workers want more (AUDIO)

Missouri’s home healthcare workers want Governor Jay Nixon (D) to get involved in their negotiations for higher salaries.

The union for people that perform in-home care services says it has been negotiating with the Quality Home Care Council  since November and has resolved non-economic issues.  But the going is tough as it tries to increase the average salary of $8.60 an hour to $11.00.

Home Care attendant Elizabeth Travis of Columbia says the agencies the caregivers work for get $15.56 from Medicaid for each hour the attendants work. She wants Nixon to pressure the council to pressure the local agencies.

AUDIO: Travis :23

Travis says the workers want a standardized, higher, wage statewide. She says the average home care attendant earns $1100-$1400 a month, and wants to live with the same dignity that they try to give to their clients


Changes to higher education funding formula take effect today (AUDIO)

The way Missouri taxpayers fund higher education is changing today.

A new law requires state colleges and universities to set standards for student retention, graduation rates, and job placement.   Ninety percent of any proposed funding increase for any given school will be based on whether the school has met its own standards.

The schools could set easily-achievable goals but the sponsor of the bill, Senator David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), doesn’t think that’s likely.  “I’m very confident universities will come up with rigorous standards…The department of higher education…will have some input to say, ‘…this really probably isn’t strong enough,’” he says.

The legislature, which appropriates money to the institutions, also can evaluate the standards.  He says Universities that don’t achieve will get smaller funding increases, or no increases, a situation that will send a message to a university’s governing board members that things need to be improved.

The bill is becoming law today but its impact won’t be felt until the next state budget is written.

AUDIO: Pearce interview 17:07

McCaskill to investigate police militarization (AUDIO)

Senator McCaskill plans a hearing on the militarization of police departments as soon as Congress returns to Washington from its August break.  She is among the critics of the use of military equipment in the Ferguson riots, suggesting the department had equipment it doesn’t need and misused the equipment it had.

McCaskill says her committee needs to look at how much equipment departments have gotten, how often they’ve used it, and how expensive is it to maintain.  She recalls when she was state auditor looking into the hazardous materials equipment that had been sent by the federal government to Missouri police departments after the 2001 terrorist attacks and finding more than half of the departments had never taken the equipment out of its boxes.

She says, “Some of these programs is the transfer of equipment that’s no longer needed. So in some of these instances it’s getting utilization out of the equipment at the local level that the federal government no longer has a use for. So that’s not a waste of taxpayer money. It may become a waste of taxpayer money, however, if this equipment is expensive to maintain and really isn’t utilized or shouldn’t be utilized.”

McCaskill says some of the equipment used in Ferguson was used in a way that worsened the situation by antagonizing the crowd. She thinks the Ferguson experience also emphasizes the need for people using the equipment to be properly trained.

Congress returns to Washington after Labor Day.

AUDIO: McCaskill interview 3:57

Recount starts on Right to Farm Amendment (AUDIO)

The Secretary of State has started a recount of the vote on the Right to Farm Amendment that was narrowly approved by voters earlier this month. The amendment passed 499,581-497,091.  The 2490-vote margin amounts to .24% of the 996,672 total votes.  State law provides for a state-paid recount if the voting difference is .5% or less.

Spokesman Wes Shoemyer of Missouri Food for America, the opposing group, says the recount is being sought as a matter of keeping faith with opponents, noting, “This was a grass roots…effort for us. And I just  think that when people work that hard, not to do everything possible to secure a victory would do a real disservice to politics in the state of Missouri or issues in the state of Missouri or, frankly, the people of the state of Missouri.”

The recounting is done by county clerks who have until September 15 to finish the job. Backers of the Right to Farm Amendment say a recount is futile. Shoemyer says it will only take one vote changed in one-third of the elections’ 3899 could reverse the result.

Five counties had set recount dates within hours of the state’s call for checking of the ballots.  Washington County has scheduled its recount for Aeptember4.  Lincoln, Henry, and Crawford Counties will do their recounts on September 8. Boone County has scheduled five days for its recount: September 4-5 and September 8-10.  All counties must finish their work by September 15.

AUDIO:: Shoemyer interview 3:54