April 21, 2015

Movie star Bill Paxton finds ancestor with a Missouri connection

A television and movie star’s look into his father’s family history has brought him to eastern Missouri’s Warren County.

Bill Paxton visits with Missouri Historian Gary Kramer.  (Photo courtesy of TLC)

Bill Paxton visits with Missouri Historian Gary Kramer. (Photo courtesy of TLC)

Bill Paxton has been in numerous Hollywood movies including Aliens and Apollo 13, in recent years he starred in the HBO series Big Love, and appears as Sam Houston in the upcoming television mini-series Texas Rising.  He will be featured on TLC’s Who Do You Think You Are? Sunday night.

Paxton discovers his great-great-great-great-grandfather Benjamin Sharp fought in a historic battle during the Revolutionary War at age 14.  Sharp later worked in civil service, helping elect senators, laying out districts, and building new communities in Virginia before spending the remainder of his life in Missouri.

Executive Producer Dan Bucatinsky said Paxton was disturbed to find out his ancestor owned slaves.

“There’s sort of an inevitability of it and there’s also having to come to terms with our own connection to ancestors who may have in fact owned slaves, but he has a very emotional and intelligent way of contextualizing that,” said Bucatinsky.  “There’s a record that he discovers in Missouri at the end of his life that makes him realize that even for the time that he was living, Benjamin Sharp was someone who thought about, cared about, and had empathy for his slaves.”

Paxton met with the director of the State Historical Society of Missouri, Gary Kramer, to go over Sharp’s original will to find out what happened to the slaves after his death.  Kramer also reveals that Sharp’s grave is nearby on land Sharp once owned.

Bill Paxton visits the grave site of his ancestor Benjamin Sharp.  (Photo courtesy of TLC)

Bill Paxton visits the grave site of his ancestor Benjamin Sharp. (Photo courtesy of TLC)

Research Manager Aleta Rozanski said the film crew was able to find the grave site of Paxton’s ancestor deep in the woods of Warren County.

“We we’re lucky that the current property owners were able to help us trek back there on our scout,” said Rozanski.  “So, we were able to locate the grave before we shot and decided it would be a really incredibly, powerfully, moving location for Bill to visit at the very end.”

Click here for a preview of Sunday’s episode featuring Bill Paxton.

Last year the program brought a former Sex in the City star to the Missouri State Penitentiary, and Paxton’s story isn’t the last time this season the show will visit Missouri.

Missouri Senate leader pulls support for key piece of chamber’s budget proposal

The plan to lump together the budgets of three state agencies and let them divide up their money has lost a key supporter.

Senate President Tom Dempsey

Senate President Tom Dempsey

House and Senate lawmakers were supposed to begin public negotiations Wednesday. The holdup has been the proposal of Senate Budget Chairman Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) to lump together most of the money for the Departments of Health, Mental Health, and Social Services into two pools, reduce the increases the House proposed for those agencies by 4 to 6 percent, and let them decide where in their programs to put money.

Senate President Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles) says he can no longer support that.

“If you don’t have a willing participant in the governor’s office I think it makes it very hard to trim in the areas that Kurt and we would like to see greater efficiency,” said Dempsey. “What would happen potentially is the governor would make cuts in areas that are very harmful to the people that we are trying to serve.”

Without Dempsey’s support, Schaefer’s position to negotiate with House budget leaders is significantly weaker.

Republicans want to get the budget to the governor by the end of next week, so that if he vetoes or withholds proposed spending, the legislature will have time to consider an override.

Missouri legislature proposes shorter time limit for welfare recipients

The state legislature has sent Governor Jay Nixon (D) a proposal to tighten work requirements for receiving federal welfare money and cut by 15-months the lifetime limit for an individual to receive it. The changes apply to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, program, for Missouri households with children younger than 18.

Representative Diane Franklin carried the welfare legislation in the House.  (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Diane Franklin carried the welfare legislation in the House. (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The leader of the state House’s Republican majority says he expects Nixon to veto the bill, but is confident that veto would be overturned. The bill did clear both chambers with large enough majorities to overturn a veto.

The bill, SB 24, would limit a parent to receiving TANF benefits for 45 months in a lifetime rather than the current 60, with exceptions for those who receive benefits as children or in cases of hardship or abuse. Recipients who fail to meet the program’s work activity requirements could lose half their benefits.

The bill’s fiscal note, prepared by legislative researchers, says it would on January 1 immediately remove from the program 3,155 families who have been on it for more than 45 months. That is estimated to include more than 6,000 children.

House Sponsor Diane Franklin (R-Camdenton) said that note assumes those families will still be on the program through the end of the year. She said at the end of this year there will only be 38 families who are on the program now, that will have reached their 60-month limit, and said there are still appeals processes and hardship exemptions.

House Speaker John Diehl, Junior, (R-Town and Country) says those people who would be removed from the program, “have been on welfare long beyond any reasonable definition of temporary.”

See how State House members voted on the proposal

Senate President Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles) said the money saved by the reductions in people on the program would go into getting recipients back to work.

“Some of the complaints you get are, ‘What do I do about childcare,’ or ‘How do I get to work?’ Those questions … we’re providing more funding by shortening that number of weeks for temporary assistance, we’re taking that money and putting into those areas which are going to help people be employed.”

Democrats, though, say the proposal will cost the state $400,000 for computer programs to track welfare recipients’ work participation.

“I just think that is just so bizarre,” said Representative Stacy Newman (D-St. Louis). “How many other programs have we not fully funded, and yet we’ve got to go back and find $400,000 … to be mean to poor people?”

The plan would set aside 2-percent of the money for TANF for alternatives to abortion services and another 2-percent for programs that encourage health marriages and responsible fatherhood.


Increase of Missouri’s fuel tax for transportation runs out of gas

It appears that a motor fuel tax increase proposal is dead in the Missouri legislature.

Senate Floor Leader Ron Richard (photo courtesy; Missouri Senate Communications)

Senate Floor Leader Ron Richard (photo courtesy; Missouri Senate Communications)

Senator Ron Richard (R-Joplin) said there doesn’t seem to be a way for the proposal to get past legislative opposition.

“Even if the Senate passes it, the House said they’re not supportive,” said Richard. “So I’m not sure if I want to waste any time.”

House Speaker John Diehl, Junior (R-Town and Country), has said it appeared a solution for transportation funding would have to wait until the next legislative session that begins January 1.

Without the hike, the Transportation Department is in jeopardy of losing $167 million in federal matching funds. When asked if the legislature will be able to address that problem this year, Richard said, “Apparently not. I guess we are going to close more roads and bridges.”

“We don’t have another solution that we feel confident can make it through,” said Senate President Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles County). “I think we are both supportive. No one has proposed an alternative that we think can get out of the Senate,” said Dempsey.

Richard added, “Even the Governor.”

The measure would have raised the gas tax by two cents in January.  An effort to pass it out of the Senate this week was stalled by a filibuster.

How they voted: Missouri House on shorter lifetime welfare limit

The state legislature has approved a plan that would shorten the amount of time a person can stay on a state program that distributes federal welfare dollars.  Republicans say the proposed changes to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program would emphasize the need for recipients to work.

See how members of the state House voted on that proposal below:

How they voted - House on Welfare changes 04-16-2015

Click here to see who your state representative is using the search tool on the House’s homepage