An attorney representing convicted child molester William Hopkins argued for the Missouri Supreme Court to toss out the state’s Sexually Violent Predator law. Lawyer Chelsea Mitchell told the judges they should scrap the law because it doesn’t allow for those who are declared Sexually Violent Predators to ever be unconditionally released. “The statute on its face is punitive because it would never allow discharge” said Mitchell. In court documents filed by Mitchell, she contends the Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) Act is punitive, and in violation of the constitution because it doesn’t provide protections such as the Double Jeopardy clause (where a person can’t be prosecuted for the same crime twice). The state counters that those protections only apply if the act is criminal in nature, and notes the Missouri high court has already held the Sexually Violent Predator Act to be civil, not criminal, in nature. In 2015, a federal court in St. Louis held that Missouri’s SVP Act was not unconstitutional on its face, but in violation as applied. The federal bench has not determined what remedies will be applied in that case. Prisoners found guilty of a sexually violent crime are declared SVPs when there is probable cause to believe that they are likely to engage in sexually violent predatory criminal behavior upon their release. William Hopkins was serving his term first degree child molestation he completed the state’s offender treat program. Before his release from prison, the state alleged he was an SVP and filed to have him committed to the state. After a series of court hearings in which Hopkins tried to have the motion dismissed, a jury found him to be an SVP and a circuit court committed him to the custody of the Missouri Department of Mental Health. Once committed as an SVP, incarcerated inmates become patients and are sent to the state psychiatric hospital, either in Farmington or Fulton, where they are entered into the Sex Offender Rehabilitation and Treatment Services, or SORTS, program. Once there, they can only be “conditionally” released, meaning they will always be under state supervision after being let out into the public. In court documents, Hopkins’ attorney Mitchell argued that the passage of time and experience demonstrates that being committed under the Sexually Violent Predator Act “is punitive, lifetime confinement”. She argued that such conditions are punitive, and therefore unconstitutional, even if the state Supreme Court had already determined the Sexually Violent Predator Act to be a civil, not criminal, act. Before the state Supreme Court, Hopkins’ Mitchell said that under the law as it now stands, Hoskins would be unjustly committed for life. “This is the ultimate confinement. Mr. Hoskins custody will never end. He will never be out of government control now that he has been committed as an SVP. It’s statutorily impossible under the current version of our law.” She asked the court to declare the law unconstitutional. “If we want to commit someone in Missouri, let’s do it with integrity. Let’s sent it back to the legislature and say ‘You must comply with constitutional standards’, and this version of the law doesn’t” As is its custom, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments last Wednesday, and will deliver an opinion in the future.
After the flood in West Plains and Highway Patrol troopers out in full force. All in 60 seconds. Bill Wise reports.
Top Stories: A bill heads to the state Senate floor today that could determine whether hundreds of jobs will open up in southeast Missouri. And you will see extra state troopers on Missouri interstates today, on what traditionally is one of the busiest travel days of the year.
An energy bill moving through the legislative special session called by Governor Greitens has been narrowed in scope from its original form.
The current version was passed by the House and is under consideration in the Senate. It’s tailored to allow lower utility rates for two industrial plants that would provide up to 600 jobs in the impoverished Bootheel region of the state.
The bill as originally filed Monday included what was referred to as the “PSC enabler” portion. It allowed the PSC – Public Service Commission – to loosen rules governing investor owned utilities to allow for modernization and upgrades to the power grid.
Ameren, the state’s largest energy supplier, claims its $500 million modernization effort in Illinois led to improved reliability, more affordable rates and a boost in jobs. Ameren’s Warren Wood says “There’s a number of different benefits we see from accelerating the pace of smart grid investments”.
A staff report from the PSC late last year acknowledged “minor modifications to the current regulatory structure may be necessary in the future to encourage significant additional investment in grid modernization”. Those modifications were included in the PSC enabler portion of this week’s original bill.
One of the provisions would allow a utility to hike rates in advance of making infrastructure upgrades to the grid. Lawmakers are divided on this idea and the call to modernize overall.
The special session session legislation was first sent to the House Utilities Committee, where it was molded into the form that’ll likely be sent to the governor. Three of its members offer their thoughts on the portion contentious portion that was sliced away.
GOP member Rocky Miller of Osage Beach, who chairs the committee, would like to see the PSC adopt the modernization measures.
“I’m willing to let the Public Service Commission see what they can do” said Miller. “Let’s see if we can right this ship, see if we can get some modern rates that benefit all of us.”
House Republican Tila Hubrecht of Dexter, who also sits on the Utilities Committee, thinks the regulatory structure of utilities will have to be modified eventually.
“So I do think that, at some point, we do need to address the issues with rate stabilization, grid infrastructure and what not.” Hubrecht thinks lawmakers have delayed taking action on the issue for too many years.
Democrat Peter Meredith of St. Louis is one of four minority party members on the Utilities Committee. He sees advantages to allowing utilities to boost rates ahead of upgrades, but is skeptical of the power companies’ motives.
“A company that has a guaranteed return on investment and a monopoly in our state, and who is making strong profits with an enormous reserve in place right now, it’s arguable that they already should be able to make those improvements, and are doing, and that they’re really just trying to increase their profits a little bit.”
Although there’ll be no utility rate adjustment mechanism legislated during the current special session, various stakeholders could push for the issue to return in next year’s General Assembly in Jefferson City, if not sooner.
You will see extra state troopers on Missouri interstates Friday, on what traditionally is one of the busiest travel days of the year.
The Patrol will be participating in Operation C.A.R.E. during the holiday weekend. Patrol Captain John Hotz says that stands for Crash Awareness Reduction Effort.
“Well we know this is kind of the unofficial kickoff of summertime and there will be a lot of people traveling for the weekend,” says Hotz. “And so we are encouraging people to be aware that there is going to be additional traffic out there.”
You will notice Missouri state troopers stationed at 20-mile intervals Friday and again on Memorial Day along interstates 29, 44, 55 and 70. They will be looking for all traffic offenses, including speeding and aggressive driving.
Captain Hotz tells Missourinet that every available trooper will be on the road, enforcing traffic laws and assisting motorists.
“The overall goal is to increase our visibility out there. We know the more patrol cars we have out there, the more people see and they typically drive in a safer manner,” Hotz says.
Hotz says that Missouri state troopers made 135 DWI arrests during the 2016 Memorial Day holiday weekend. 13 people died and another 451 suffered injuries in traffic crashes during the 2016 Missouri Memorial Day weekend.
Hotz is urging motorists to slow down, be courteous and to wear their seat belt this weekend.
“Well we know that speed is the number one cause in fatal traffic crashes that we have,” says Hotz. “Inattention is the number one cause in all crashes, but of the fatal crashes that we work, speed is the number one factor.”
This year’s fatality counting period for the holiday weekend begins Friday evening at 6 and will end at 11:59 p.m. on Memorial Day Monday.
A bill heads to the state Senate today that could determine whether hundreds of jobs will open up in a poverty-stricken area of Missouri. It would give special electric rate deals to an aluminum plant and a steel mill that want to open in southeast Missouri.
After a five hour debate on Wednesday, the House passed the measure 120-17 and sent it to the Senate.
Bill supporters say it could help create about 500 high-paying jobs in the bootheel region. They also say Missouri’s industrial electric rates are not competitive with other states.
Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, supports controversial language removed from the bill that would relax regulations in order to let utility monopoly Ameren replace aging equipment.
“We have a crumbling infrastructure that we are not willing to fix,” says Nasheed. “I think that this is a perfect time because this is extraordinary because we will create 3,000 jobs, not just 500 jobs in the bootheel.”
The wording that Nasheed wants could be added back into the measure during the legislature special session that’s underway.
Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, is concerned about ratepayers making up the difference.
“If you have a business model that only works by getting millions of dollars in subsidies from ratepayers, it’s not a viable business,” says Koenig. “I certainly wouldn’t want to pass something that would allow basically a subsidy to a steel mill or an aluminum smelter if they’re providing energy below cost and then they have to shift that to ratepayers.”
Sens. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, and Bill Eigel, R-St. Charles, say the measure would give the companies lower rates for up to ten years.
“Wouldn’t you like to think that ten years from now, senator, that the rate you’re paying to Ameren would the same rate you’re paying today,” asks Schupp.
“I’d like that at my own personal residence, senator. And my business,” exclaimed Eigel.
The state legislature could finish its special session today.
A Senate committee hears a bill that would give electric rate deals to an aluminum plant and steel mill that want to open in Missouri’s bootheel region. Alisa Nelson reports.
Missouri officials say 3M plans a $40 million expansion at their Springfield plant.
The state Department of Economic Development says the expansion is expected to create 90 new jobs.
The Springfield plant produces industrial adhesives and tapes for the aerospace industry and heavy industrial customers worldwide.
The plant manager says the investment builds upon 50 years of successful operations in Springfield, and 3M’s commitment to the community.
3M also has operations in two other Missouri communities: Columbia and Nevada.
3M’s website says the company has 90,000 employees and $30 billion in sales. The website also says 3M has paid dividends to its shareholders without interruption for 100 years.
Missouri lawmakers in Washington differ on how to deal with an insurance company’s exit from Affordable Care Act exchanges.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City announced Wednesday that it would pull out of the individual exchanges by the end of the year. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the move could leave as many as 25 western Missouri counties with no coverage.
4th District Republican Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler represents a large chuck of those counties. She contends the pull-out is the direct result of the Affordable Care Act’s mandate which, according to her, makes it difficult for insurers to provide affordable plans.
She says “Obamacare broke the healthcare system and state by state, the system is collapsing”. She’s urging the Senate to pass the Republican backed American Health Care Act, which narrowly passed the House 117-113 earlier this month. All 193 Democrats voted against the bill, along with 20 Republicans.
The 5th District represented by Democrat Enanuel Cleaver also includes a large swath of the counties impacted by the Blue Cross Blue Shield exit. He thinks the insurance giant’s move should be a wake-up call for Congress.
“Trumpcare is not the answer” said Cleaver. “Congress must come together to improve the ACA, not start again from zero with a plan that would harm so many Americans.”
A non-partisan government report released Wednesday said the Republican plan would provide a $119 billion deficit reduction, but would also lead to 23 million fewer people having healthcare over the next 10 years.
Perhaps anticipating the Blue Cross Blue Shield exit, Missouri’s Democratic U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill introduced legislation a week ago to prevent counties from having no insurers on their health care exchanges.
Under her plan, people without an option would be able to buy healthcare insurance from the exchange in Washington D.C. That market has national plans which provide work based coverage for the staff of every congress member.
The difference is, instead of getting an employer contribution, people on the exchange would be getting the same subsidies currently offered in exchanges in their state. McCaskill’s measure would instruct the Treasury Department and the Department of Health and Human Services to set up a mechanism to give people in the states access to the national plans.
Short of the McCaskill offering being adopted, the Missouri exchange has few options. One scenario would be for the state to suspend the penalty for not having insurance and allow people to go uninsured.
Such a move could be plausible in Missouri, which is governed by Republicans who are largely hostile toward Obamacare in general.
A senate committee is looking at Don Rone’s “jobs boost” legislation today at the Capitol. Bill Wise reports.