August 31, 2015

New municipal court law concerns Missouri Municipal League

A state law that took effect on Friday tells municipalities they can make less revenue from traffic tickets and fines than they were allowed under the Macks Creek law. The Missouri Municipal League calls the municipal court reform bill that is now law an “overreach.”

Missouri Municipal League Deputy Director Richard Sheets

Missouri Municipal League Deputy Director Richard Sheets

State lawmakers and the governor said cities were abusing the municipal court system and making too much revenue. They wanted lower limits on that revenue and new standards, reporting mandates, and enforcement options. Senate Bill 5 includes new standards and reporting requirements and lowers the cap to 12.5-percent in St. Louis County and to 20-percent in the rest of the state.

Earlier story:  Missouri governor signs municipal court reform bill with ‘real teeth’

Deputy Director Richard Sheets says the tighter limits on revenue would hurt public safety, primarily in smaller cities in outstate Missouri.

“Cities weren’t using this money to operate their general operations. They were primarily using this money to help fund their police department and maybe their municipal court,” said Sheets. “Those cities that might have been too aggressive in their traffic control are very few.”

Sheets says the League isn’t sure how new reporting mandates and standards might mesh with municipal court reforms the state Supreme Court is preparing. It also has concerns about the new limit to fines of $300 and that cities can no longer issue warrants to whose who fail to appear for a traffic violation.

“The concern there is that will encourage violators to avoid prosecution and just not come back to court and not pay their fine,” said Sheets.

Sheets says the League and its attorneys are weighing its best options for litigation or future legislation regarding the new law.

Missouri Task Force One leader remembers Hurricane Katrina

This week marks ten years since Hurricane Katrina devastated portions of the gulf coast. Members of Missouri Task Force One were called in by the federal government and helped rescue victims, often by boat and often from homes. Approximately 80 members from Missouri helped with the hurricane efforts.

Missouri Task Force One members helping victims to safety during Hurricane Katrina

Missouri Task Force One members helping victims to safety during Hurricane Katrina

Task Force leader Doug Westhoff says he remembers the people who were helped.

“The heart of the people was probably one of the most notable things that sticks out in my mind. They were very appreciative of the efforts we were making and the efforts of the federal government,” said Westhoff. “It was a huge flood event that I don’t think anybody could anticipate. It was certainly a notable response that will probably never be replicated again in my career anyway.”

“Every time one of these events occur, there’s always an impact to humans. That’s always an emotional challenge for all of our responders,” said Westhoff.

Westhoff says the federal government was criticized for its response to the disaster, but he says that response was there early.

Aerial photo of Hurricane Katrina flooding

Aerial photo of Hurricane Katrina flooding

“Very few people knew that first responders had been moved in prior to the storm making landfall. That was never really reported,” said Westhoff. “It was very frustrating to us as first responders to be down there and engaging in activities sixteen hours a day and everything in the media that we were seeing had a negative connotation about the government’s response or lack thereof. We were down there beating our heads against the wall and working our rear ends off.”

At least 1,200 people died in Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent floods. The Hurricane was the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, including more than $100 billion in total property damage.


Ameren begins moving nuclear waste to central Missouri site

Ameren has started moving spent fuel into its new dry cask storage facility in Callaway County that will hold a portion of that fuel. Shannon Abel with Ameren said the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is also involved in the move to ensure the process is done safely.

Ameren's dry storage canisters

Ameren’s dry storage canisters

“We have lots of regulatory oversight to ensure that this is done correctly and safely,” said Abel.

Abel said there have been five successful trials runs completed prior to moving the spent fuel. He said the move is another safe method to store its fuel.

“All we are doing is moving from a pool of water into a dry storage canister. From a safety standpoint, we are every bit as safe or probably more than the original design,” said Abel.

The process to move fuel to the new facility began this week and will continue for the next 6-8 weeks.

“This is our first opportunity to move used fuel out of the spent fuel pit and into dry storage canisters. It’s new to us, but not new to the country,” Abel told Missourinet.

The cost of the facility was undisclosed, but Ameren said the cost of the project does not affect rates for customers.

Missouri Highway Patrol investigating crash that killed trooper Friday morning

A Missouri Highway Patrol Trooper has been killed in an accident west of Mexico.

Missouri_Highway_PatrolTrooper James M. Bava, 25, died in the crash of his patrol car this morning on a county road. At 8:29 a.m. he was pursuing a motorcyclist that he had seen commit a traffic violation, according to Corporal Scott White.

“A few minutes later communication operators at Troop F headquarters in Jefferson City attempted to contact him by radio and did not receive a response. At 8:35 Troop F received a report of a Missouri State Highway Patrol vehicle crashed on Route FF. Emergency responders arrived on the scene and confirmed Trooper Bava had been killed in the crash.”

The patrol isn’t sure how the crash happened but is calling it a one-vehicle accident. Trooper Bava’s patrol car was equipped with a dash cam but the patrol said it doesn’t know yet if the video survived the crash.

Trooper Bava had been with the patrol since July, 2013. He is survived by his parents, two sisters, a brother, and a half-sister. He is from the St. Louis area.

Governor Jay Nixon has ordered that all flags at Patrol facilities be lowered to half-staff to honor Trooper Bava.

In a statement, Nixon said, “The death of Trooper Bava is a reminder of the dangers that the members of Missouri’s law enforcement community face each time they put on their uniforms, and how they willingly put themselves in harm’s way. We join his family, friends, and colleagues in mourning his death, and the flags at half-staff will honor Trooper Bava’s service and sacrifice.”

The Patrol says the investigation into the crash will continue through the weekend.

Several new Missouri laws take effect today

Dozens of new state laws take effect today, dealing with health, protecting seniors and victims of sex crimes, municipal courts, education, and more.

Governor Jay Nixon says events in the State Capitol should not include the selling of alcohol.  (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The Missouri State Capitol (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

One that received particular attention during the legislative session is the municipal courts reform bill, SB 5, prompted in part by the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, Junior in Ferguson just more than a year ago. Proponents of change said municipal courts particularly in the St. Louis region were collecting too much in traffic tickets and fines and adding to social injustice in the region. The new law lowers the limit on how much of a city’s annual revenue can come from those sources and also sets minimum standards for courts and additional standards for municipal governments and law enforcement in St. Louis County.

Missouri Governor signs municipal court reform bill with ‘real teeth’

Washington University professor wants Missouri juvenile court reforms

Another bill becoming law today requires Missouri public and charter schools who teach sexual education to include information about sexting, sexual predators, and online predators.

Proponents hope the change will protect children by teaching them to recognize and respond to dangers, but critics didn’t like that broader legislation to reform sex education in Missouri wasn’t given consideration.

Missouri sex education to now include info on predators and sexting

After years of work by multiple lawmakers, Missouri law will now specify what mental health needs insurance companies must cover related to eating disorders. State law has already required that companies cover treatment for mental health issues including eating disorders, but a lack of specificity meant patients’ claims were often denied. That left those patients’ treatment plans in jeopardy after they met body weight or other targets, and it fell to families to pick up the cost of the mental health care needed to prevent a relapse.

The bill becomes law today but it gives insurance companies until January 1, 2017 to implement the changes. Advocates say the law puts Missouri ahead of other states in dealing with this issue.

Missouri bill to better cover eating disorder treatment becomes law

Advocates speak about importance of bill to treat eating disorders

Victims of sexual assault in Missouri can now seek orders of protection from their attackers. Advocates told Missourinet such orders, created in 1980, have never been available to rape or sexual assault victims; only to victims of domestic violence and stalking.

Under the same bill, the state can now intervene when children are being sexually abused by other children. State law previously allowed the Children’s Division to investigate cases of abuse involving an alleged perpetrator with care, custody, or control of the victim.

The legislation also requires licensed care centers in Missouri to have sleep policies based on the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Missouri Governor signs bills dealing with child sexual assault, protection orders for sexual assault victims

Bill to help adult and child sexual abuse victims goes to Missouri governor

Bills would allow orders of protection for Missouri rape victims

Lawmakers told of ‘gap’ in Missouri law on kids abusing kids

Another bill that becomes law today, but for which largely becomes effective January 1, 2016, reduces the length of time a person can spend on the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Governor Jay Nixon vetoed that bill but the Republican-led legislature voted to overturn that veto before the session ended.

Legislation that aims to protect seniors from financial exploitation also becomes law today. Missouri is one of few states in the nation to enact something like the Senior Savings Protection Act. It allows financial agents to put a 10-day hold on transactions they believe could be attempts at exploitation of a person 60 or older or with a disability. During that hold the broker-dealer must contact state investigators and can reach out to the person’s family or guardians.

The bill had bipartisan support, including from Secretary of State Jason Kander.

Measure meant to protect seniors’ savings becomes Missouri law

Proposals target fraud against Missouri seniors and disabled

Some of the other bills becoming law today create an advocate for the military in Missouri, create a margin insurance subsidy for the state’s dairy farmers, and require that liquid nicotine for e-cigarettes be in child-safe packaging.