July 29, 2014

Transportation tax supporter says choice is crucial (

Backers of the transportation sales tax on the ballot a week from today say it’s the only chance Missourians have to adequately finance future transportation needs.

Supporters say the choices are limited when it comes to raising the billions of dollars needed for roads and bridges at the state and local levels for years to come.  Toll roads don’t have much support.  A fuel tax hike big enough to do the job has even less.  A three-quarters cent sales tax increase seems to have narrow majority support.

Senator Mike Kehoe of Jefferson City has pushed this issue since being elected four years ago.  He says 2,000 bridges in the state system are on a watch list and almost 900 will close in two years without the additional funding.

Opponents say big trucks that do the most damage are not going to have to pay any more taxes.  But Kehoe says they will continue paying the present fuel tax while they haul the goods Missourians buy at their stores.  He says consumers will pay the extra amount whether they pay the increased sales tax or pay the increased retail prices a substantial diesel tax increase will cause.

 

Mass grave dedicated from Civil War Battle of Moore’s Mill

Reporting and photography: Bill Wise, Missourinet

Today in 1862, the Civil War Battle of Moore’s Mill was waged near the central Missouri Town of Calwood. Some of the dead Union and Confederate soldiers were buried in a mass grave near the site of the battle.

cannon1

Reenactors shot vintage cannons at the dedication of the Moore’s Mill Mass grave.

Because they were not given a proper military burial at the time, local Civil War historians conducted an official ceremony yesterday, including a double cannon and rifle salute, the laying of wreaths, a trumpet rendition of Taps, and the dedication of a 5-foot tall granite marker at the fenced-in grave site. After the Union victory, U.S. General Oden Guitar ordered the mass grave at the sight after the battle. The grave was unmarked until it was discovered in April 2013 by local historians using sonar equipment. The Elijah Gates Camp #570, Sons of Confederate Veterans, organized the research and fundraising for the erection of the monument. Forces and guerillas who fought in the battle from both sides were from Missouri, Iowa, Louisiana, Ohio, and Indiana.

Convicted killer compares Gov. Nixon, Missouri to Hitler, Mengele, Auschwitz (AUDIO)

43-year-old Michael Shane Worthington is scheduled to be executed early the morning of August 6 for the 1995 murder of his neighbor, Melinda Griffin. Griffin was found raped and strangled in her Lake St. Louis condo.

Michael Shane Worthington (Courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

Michael Shane Worthington (Courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

Worthington, like other convicted men, their attorneys, and death penalty critics, say Missouri’s execution protocol is wrong for keeping secret details about procedures and drugs used, and for using compounding pharmacies that they claim could produce faulty drugs.

Such critics say compounding pharmacies have a history of producing drugs that are too potent or too weak, and could cause an inmate to suffer, which would violate the Constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

Worthington has strong words for Governor Jay Nixon (D) and the state.

AUDIO:  (21 seconds)  “Basically he’s no different than a Joseph Mengele and Adolph Hitler, you know what I mean? This place is a baby Auschwitz,” Worthington tells Missourinet. “They’re just marching us through there and experimenting on us like Joseph Mengele did. That’s why they called him the angel of death. Nixon and his people are no different.”

Worthington says compounding pharmacies are, “basically a meth lab. It’s really no different. These people might be educated, but they’re making drugs to kill us and then they want to hide behind the secrecy clause.”

“We’re told it’s pentobarbital but we don’t really know it is,” says Worthington of the execution drug. “We’re just told it us. We’re not allowed to know where it comes from so we can’t investigate to make sure that the company … what complaints have been against them.”

Ready to be executed

Worthington says he is prepared to die. He just believes the way the state carries out executions is wrong.

“I know where I’m going. I know I’m saved. I know I’ll be okay. I know I’m forgiven. I know I messed up in life,” says Worthington. “My life’s been hell and horrible. I don’t want to die [in prison] an old man, so getting it over with now is perfectly fine with me. They’re doing me a favor. I don’t like the way they go about doing the things they do, but I’m perfectly willing to go. I’ve had no fear of death.”

Worthington claims drugs and alcohol robbed him of his memories of the night of the murder, and says those drugs and alcohol also likely rendered him “impotent,” and unable to have attacked Griffin. He claims two other men were likely responsible; men with whom he had an association and whom he believed went into Griffin’s apartment to commit a burglary.

Griffin’s mother, Carol Angelbeck, says she’s heard that claim before, and says it was proven to be false.

“He says that [those two men] had unplugged all of Mindy’s … her television and everything and when my husband went in when they gave us the condo back …nothing was touched, so that was a lie,” says Angelbeck.

Worthington tells Missourinet that his attorneys urged him to confess and coached him on what to say, and says parts of his confession didn’t match the case.

Angelbeck doesn’t believe that, either.

“He pled guilty in open court, under oath, and he gave a blow-by-blow description of what he did to Mindy,” says Angelbeck, who says he described the crime matter-of-factly to the court. “He strangled her twice,” she says.

Most upsetting to Angelbeck was that Worthington also tells Missourinet that he had a friendly relationship with Griffin, but Angelbeck says she’s actually relieved to know what he’s saying about the crime today.

“As a decent human being and as a Christian I really was feeling a little bit sorry for him maybe,” says Angelbeck, “and this proved to me that he is never sorry, he still won’t take responsibility, so his sentence is right and it should stand.”

Asked what he would say to Angelbeck, Worthington says it hurts to know that he was the cause of Griffin’s death, saying that the two men he believes were responsible knew of Griffin through him.

“I could have possibly been there that night. I don’t know,” says Worthington. “I don’t know what it was, but yes I’m guilty in part … whether I was the actual killer or whether I was the actual one that raped her, it doesn’t matter to me. I still feel guilty in my heart.”

Worthington is set to have a clemency hearing Thursday. Governor Nixon will decide whether to grant him clemency.

Angelbeck tells Missourinet she still plans to witness Worthington’s execution.

 

Transportation tax opponents say it’s the wrong way (AUDIO)

Missourians will decide a week from tomorrow if they’ll  pay more sales taxes to keep money flowing into state roads and bridges.

Missourians for Better Transportation Solutions can’t hope to match supporters of the transportation sales tax plan dollar-for-dollar.  But they plan to heavily use social media, limited funding, and arguments that there are better alternatives.

The organization’s Treasurer, Tom Shrout, says the group is not entirely against a sales tax.  But it thinks backers of the plan are taking their plan the wrong way. He says it would support a “very, very small” sales tax to fund AMTRAK Service or older adults transportation programs.  But he says the user of the highway system should pay most of the costs of upkeep of roads and bridges.

Otherwise, he says, an increase in the fuel tax should be the way to go.  Shrout says the legislature has the authority to increase that tax without voter approval.  Otherwise, he says, truckers crossing the state won’t bear any of the costs of the roads their big trucks damage while the sales tax increase  will hit low-income Missourians disproportionally hard.

We’ll hear from supporters tomorrow

(AUDIO) Shrout interview 10:58

Not all agree that Missouri should monitor prescription drugs

As a New York Times article highlighted this week, Missouri is the only state without a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP), but not everyone agrees on how big a problem that is.

Senator Claire McCaskill

Senator Claire McCaskill

Senator Claire McCaskill (D) calls it embarrassing that Missouri doesn’t maintain a database of the prescription drugs Missourians buy, a database that doctors, hospitals, pharmacists and others could access. Proponents say such a program could help identify individuals who “doctor shop,” and stockpile prescription medications to sell illegally.

She says Missouri has now become, “a Mecca for opiate dealers all over the country. Every opiate dealer in the country knows they can come to Missouri and avoid detection.”

Some opponents of such a program say the database it would create could be abused or hacked into.

Representative Kevin Engler (R-Farmington) says those arguments are weakened by the lack of problems in the 49 states that have a monitoring program.

“You’ve had years of experience from these other states that have not resulted in a breach of security on the database, or [a registry] hasn’t been shown to be the way police are going after people or going after doctors,” says Engler. “It’s simply used to try to stop, at the start of the process, the abuse of legal drugs.”

Representative Kevin Engler (left) and Senator Rob Schaaf (right)

Representative Kevin Engler (left) and Senator Rob Schaaf (right)

However, Senator Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph) says other states have had problems.

“The database has been hacked in five states; in Florida, Virginia, Colorado, Utah and Washington,” says Schaaf.

Schaaf also points to stories of abuse of a database, such as that of a police officer in Utah who used the registry to go into a couple’s home and take their prescription pills, and of a Utah man who says immediately after his wife died of cancer, police showed up at his home asking to confiscate her pain medication.

Schaaf says there are also questions about the effectiveness of a monitoring program. He says studies of monitoring programs, “do not consistently show that they reduce deaths from opioid overdose, and at least one shows that when the PDMP is enacted, heroin use actually increases.”

Schaaf thinks a database would violate Missourians’ liberty, and says they should ask themselves whether they want the government to know what prescriptions they are taking. Still, he’s proposed versions of a registry and says he’s willing to compromise.

McCaskill believes a registry will fight prescription drug abuse, and hopes state lawmakers “wake up” about the issue soon.

“We’re killing Missourians by not doing this database,” says McCaskill.