August 2, 2015

Missouri Senate Leader Resigning

Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles) is going to resign from office. In a statement Friday from Dempsey, he cites spending more time with family as his decision to step down.

dempsey

Sen. Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles)

“It is with mixed emotions that I announce that my time in the legislature has come to an end. I have been honored to serve. I have been blessed in more ways than I can count, and I leave owing a great debt of gratitude to my neighbors who have allowed me to serve,” says Dempsey.  “However, my family is my highest priority, and in the proud tradition of the ‘citizen legislator’ the framers of our Republic envisioned, I now return to private life.”

Dempsey was first elected to the House in 2000, where he eventually became majority floor leader. He was elected to the Senate in 2007, becoming majority floor leader before being elected to serve as the Senate’s top leader.

Senators will elect a new leader from among their colleagues, possibly at the veto session in September.

He is the fifth lawmaker to resign in the past year. Dempsey’s resignation will be effective August 7.

 

 

 

Curriculum being developed to help prevent child abuse in Missouri

Discussions are taking place to build a curriculum for mandatory reporting of child abuse in Missouri. Emily van Schenkhof, with Missouri Kids First says there’s a communication gap that needs to be fixed.

Missouri Kids First Deputy Director Emily van Schenkhof

Missouri Kids First Deputy Director Emily van Schenkhof

“We have a lot of people that are legally mandated to report child abuse when they see it that have no idea what that means. That’s scary,” says van Schenkhof. “That’s one of the things our task force is really focused on is making sure that folks who are mandated by law to report child abuse are trained and understand what their obligations are. That’s a pretty big gap that we have going on in our state,” says van Schenkhof.

Van Schenkhof says the standardized curriculum will be available for people and will explain the state’s child abuse laws.

Proposed Missouri ban of powdered alcohol will be back in 2016

The effort to ban powdered alcohol in Missouri has not ended.

Jason Grellner testifies for the Missouri Narcotics Association at a hearing on April 13, 2015 for Representative Patricia Pike's (right) bill proposing a ban of powdered alcohol in Missouri.  (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Jason Grellner testifies for the Missouri Narcotics Association at a hearing on April 13, 2015 for Representative Patricia Pike’s (right) bill proposing a ban of powdered alcohol in Missouri. (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Word last year that a company was prepared to market powered alcohol sparked numerous state legislative efforts throughout the country to ban its sale. 89 bills were offered in 40 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The latest state to enact a ban was Illinois, where no lawmakers voted against it.

A bill to ban it in Missouri didn’t advance out of the committee process, but its sponsor, Representative Patricia Pike (R-Adrian), says she’ll try again in the 2016 session.

“I do feel there are still concerns,” Pike told Missourinet. “We did hear from pediatricians, the Missouri Narcotics [Officers’] Association, Children’s Mercy Hospital Network and Cardinal Glennon poison centers.”

Julie Weber with the Poison Center at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center told a House Committee in April she was concerned with how much powdered alcohol might look like candy.

“We receive 54-thousand calls a year and of those, traditional alcohol products comprise over 1,300 of our calls,” said Weber. “59-percent of our calls come in on pediatric patients, and you think about the accessibility in-home, and the majority of these calls happen because of look-alikes, like candy, looks like medicine sometimes. With this, if you look at the powdered alcohol, it looks like fun dip, and they can have a good taste.”

Jason Grellner with the Missouri Narcotics Officers’ Association said the product’s original website promoted sneaking it into concert venues or sporting events to avoid high drink prices or last calls.

“This is purely being marketed for abuse. This is just an easy way to conceal alcohol and continue the disease of alcohol abuse,” said Grellner.

The website for Palcohol, maker of powdered alcohol whose website Grellner saw a previous version of, has since revamped that website and said the language he saw was “experimenting with some humorous and edgy verbiage about Palcohol. It was not meant to be our final presentation of Palcohol.”

It now decries its earlier statement about sneaking its product into venues, which it said also included a disclaimer elsewhere on the page about using it in a responsible and legal manner. It’s page now includes this argument: “Powdered alcohol will make it easier to sneak into venues. Not true. A shot of liquid alcohol is 1/4 the volume of a shot of powdered alcohol so it’s much easier to sneak liquid alcohol into venues.”

The site also presents the argument that banning the product will increase demand for it and make it easier for children to access it. It concludes a series of rebuttals with the statement, “all of the criticisms are just hyperbole created by people who have no knowledge of the product.”

A request for an interview with Palcohol maker Mark Phillips was unanswered by the time this story was written.

Missouri Senator resigns after allegations of sexual misconduct

In a Facebook message and press release today, Senator Paul LeVota (D-Independence) says he’s resigning from the Missouri Legislature following accusations of sexual misconduct by two interns. He continues to deny the allegations, but says he “will not put my family, myself, or the senate through the process of dealing with the veracity of false allegations and character assassination against me.”

Sen. Paul LeVota (D-Independence)

Sen. Paul LeVota (D-Independence)

LeVota’s resignation comes after a Senate report released to the press this week detailing allegations of sexual misconduct by a University of Central Missouri student intern who served in his office this year. The female student claimed she experienced a pattern of sexual harassment including unwelcome text messages and explicit requests for sexual activity. The report said that when she informed LeVota’s chief of staff about the matter she believed she “was subject to retaliation.”

Records of the text messages were not available from either party. The intern said she no longer had the phone and LeVota would not turn over his citing “privacy concerns about personal information on his telephone.”

The intern says she received two sexual advances from LeVota on January 26. After having a few drinks at an event in Jefferson City the student claims that LeVota encouraged her to come his apartment instead of driving to her residence in Fulton. While at his apartment she claims that LeVota said, “If you want to sleep with me tonight, I won’t tell you no.” She told investigators that she turned him down and LeVota apologized but “continued acting in a flirtatious manner.” She said he also made derogatory comments about the intern’s boyfriend and joked about his anatomy.

The student says she slept on the couch at his residence but says there was no physical contact. LeVota denies she was ever there, though she described to investigators the inside of his apartment including the color of the couch.

After that January evening, the intern told investigators, she became the subject of retaliation by LeVota and was not included in workplace projects.

In a statement from Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles) Thursday, he says “since the release of Wednesday’s Workplace Harassment Report, new information has come to light which bears further investigation by the Senate.” He went on to say that LeVota has been removed from the Senate’s Rules and Ethics Committee.

Following Dempsey’s press release, it was learned that the Kansas City Star reported Thursday that a second former intern who served in his office in 2010 claims he also propositioned her. LeVota also denied those allegations. Calls made to LeVota’s office by Missourinet have not been returned.

In a statement from Governor Jay Nixon today, he says he has not received a formal letter of resignation, but says “This is a necessary step and is in the best interests of his constituents.”

Nixon can call a special election to fill LeVota’s Senate seat.  His term would have ended next year.

LeVota’s resignation is effective August 23, 2015. LeVota is married with two daughters.

See LeVota’s full statement here: LeVota – State Senator Resigns

 

Missouri is closer to having first comprehensive energy plan

Missouri is preparing its first statewide energy plan. Representative Rocky Miller (R-Lake Ozark) will chair three Energy and Environment Committee hearings around the state in between now and October to weigh in on Governor Jay Nixon’s proposals.

Representative Rocky Miller (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Rocky Miller (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Miller says Missouri needs an “all of the above” energy plan.

“Here in Missouri, our energy profile is about 80% coal. That allows us to have relatively inexpensive electric rates, but that particular profile becomes harder and harder to do. We’re going to have to look at allowing other methods of producing power to be used in Missouri.”

Miller says the state is behind the rest of the nation in having a real energy policy. Miller says an energy strategy would be useful on many levels.

“Apparently we had something in 1992, but it was put on the shelf. I’ve never seen it and I’m the Chairman of the Energy and Environment Committee. We want something that’s out there and that our economic development people our energy people and our utility people use all the time. We want something that’s a little more useful rather than just something to apply a check mark for a government official.”

He says legislation should be ready in the new session in January.

The hearings will begin Tuesday, July 27. The first stop is St. Charles Community College, in St. Charles. The August 13 hearing will be in Independence then at Lake of the Ozarks on September 17.