October 22, 2014

Gephardt sees Congressional hostilities softening (AUDIO)

A former Missouri Congressman who ran for President twice thinks time will restore Congress to a productive level after several acrimonious years.

Richard Gephardt now heads his own lobbying company in Washington after 26 years representing part of St. Louis in the House, six as Majority Leader and eight years as a Minority Leader.

He says the unpopularity of Congress is not new and says it’s usually unpopular because getting a majority of 535 people to agree on major issues can generate a lot of controversy.

Gephardt thinks the condition has been worsened by voters angry about the recession. “A lot of people lose their jobs, lose their house, lose their pension,” he says. “They get angry, understandably, and they tend to send people to represent them who are equally angry and having made up their mind ‘that these are the answers’ and ‘it’s going to be my way or the highway.'”

He says  many of those members are leaving or are becoming more likely to compromise. He says he’s an optimist who thinks Congress will get back to a more normal situation between the chambers and within the chambers and in relations with the President, whoever it might become.

But, Gephardt says, decision-making will never be easy in Congress

Gephardt joined former House Speaker Dennis Hastert during a seminar in Washington.

AUDIO: Gephardt, Hastert 7:25

Nixon: new ‘Ferguson commission’ will seek lessons from unrest

Governor Jay Nixon has announced the creation of an independent commission that will study the unrest in Ferguson since the shooting of Michael Brown August 9 and make recommendations for how to make progress on the issues behind it.

Governor Jay Nixon announces the Highway Patrol will take over security in Ferguson (screencap courtesy of KSDK)

Governor Jay Nixon

He plans to announce its membership next month.

Nixon says the commission will have three main goals: to conduct a thorough, wide-ranging and unflinching study of the underlying social and economic conditions underscored by the unrest in the wake of Michael Brown’s death, to tap into expertise needed to address key concerns identified by the Commission, from poverty and education to governance and law enforcement, and to make specific recommendations for making the St. Louis region a stronger, fairer place for people to live.

Nixon announced the Commission today at St. Louis Community College-Florissant.

“How do we move on from shouting past one another in the streets, on the internet and the evening news?” Nixon asked. “Some people would tell you that the choice is one thing or the other: trust or force, speech or silence, black or white. It is far more complicated than that.

“Legitimate issues have been raised by thoughtful voices on all sides. Shouting past one another will not move us to where we need to go. Outsiders eager to grab the national spotlight and push their own agendas do not have the best interests of this community, this state or the nation at heart. We need to solve these problems ourselves, we need to solve them together, and we need to act now,” Nixon said.

Nixon stresses the commission will not investigate the Michael Brown shooting, and says the responsibility for that investigation remains with the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney and grand jury, the FBI, the federal Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney General.

“Whatever the outcome of their investigations, we must move forward together,” says Nixon.

He included a stern message that seemed targeted at those who have resorted to looting and property damage, or might in the future.

“More acts of violence and destruction like those we have experienced at times during the past 73 days will not be tolerated, and will only hurt the communities that have suffered the most at the very time they need restoration and healing.

“Our faith, our laws, and the principles on which our democracy was founded demand more of us,” said Nixon.

He asks those interested in joining the Ferguson Commission to apply on the state’s website.

Nixon has been harshly criticized by some for his handling of the situation in Ferguson, including several state legislators from the region. Some accused him of being “missing in action” during the early days of unrest.

The governor has defended his actions and says he was involved from “very early in the process.”  He also created the new Office of Community Engagement to look for solutions to problems regarding race, educational and economic opportunities.

Missouri Sen. Blunt talks handling of Ebola, halting travel (VIDE0)

Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) says Ebola is enough cause for concern to stop people from coming into this country from areas where its outbreak continues.

Blunt, speaking Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, says travel visas for passengers trying to enter the U.S. from Ebola-stricken countries should be temporarily suspended.

“I’d suspend those visas until we have this under better control and have a sense that the carriers they are using are monitoring this in a better way than they have been up ’til now,” says Blunt.

He says Americans feel less safe than they did a month ago after questions were raised about how hospital workers are protected and trained to handle disease outbreaks.

“People didn’t get upset about this as long as hospitals were dealing with it in the right way,” says Blunt. “You had two missionaries come to Emory [University], they were there, they were cured. I didn’t see a single comment by any American saying we’re concerned that this isn’t being handled correctly.”

The Ebola situation has amplified the criticism some have leveled at Republicans, saying they are refusing to confirm President Obama’s nominee for Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murphy. They are accused at holding it up at the direction of the NRA, who doesn’t like that Murphy sees gun violence as a public health issue.

Blunt says a different kind of politics is behind the delay in that confirmation vote.

“Until this came up, frankly, I’ve heard very little discussion about the Surgeon General. I’m hearing now that the Attorney General nomination won’t happen until after the election. We keep putting everything off until after the election and that’s one of the reasons that things don’t work.”

Blunt thinks Americans see this as the latest in a series of situations for which government response hasn’t been what it should be.

“If this was one incidence where people thought the government wasn’t doing what the government was supposed to do, it would be much less of a reaction than we see now where there’s this long list of the government being one step behind whether its the border, the IRS, the Secret Service,” says Blunt. “Now this health concern is more real than it would be if there wasn’t a sense that the government is just not being managed in a way that people would want it to be managed.”

Missouri health lab can now do preliminary Ebola tests (VIDEO)

Missouri now has a lab to conduct preliminary tests for the Ebola virus.

The State Public Health Laboratory in Jefferson City has been designated an Ebola Virus Disease testing lab in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Laboratory Response Network. Preliminary testing of samples for Ebola can now be done at that state lab before being sent to the CDC lab in Atlanta for confirmation testing.

Governor Jay Nixon (D) announced the designation Friday and stressed that there are no cases of Ebola in Missouri. He says he asked the Director of the Department of Health and Senior Service to apply for the designation earlier this month, and confirmation came on Thursday.

Nixon is also releasing $3.3-million in the state budget that he had withheld, for local public health agencies.

Committee to recommend better Missouri Water Patrol training

The chairwoman of a state House committee studying the merger of the Water Patrol into the Highway Patrol says some recommendations that the committee will make are becoming clear.

Representative Diane Franklin (photo; Kyle Loethen)

Representative Diane Franklin (photo; Kyle Loethen)

Representative Diane Franklin of Camdenton and her committee have heard two days of testimony, much of it from former Water Patrol troopers, some of whom are retired and others that are still working under the Highway Patrol.

Franklin says one thing that seems clear is that training, particularly in swimming, must return to the level it was at prior to the merger.

“You’re on the water, you’re in the water, and they articulated several things there; you may need to arrest someone that’s arresting you, you may need to save someone,” says Franklin. “We all know how important those survival … if someone gets a hold of you they can drown you too.”

Franklin says her committee will certainly recommend improved training when it submits its report before the end of the year. She would only specify that troopers must receive more training in swimming, but did not say the recommendation would be limited to that.

She says another theme in the two hearings has been the traditional role of the Water Patrol before the merger, and what is missing since the merger.

“That idea of a community officer on the water that they know like the back of their hand,” says Franklin. “They can respond to various crises that arise on the water and they provide that assurance to anyone that is on the water that they can help if their boat’s broke down or if someone’s injured or if there is a crash, or even the law enforcement issues. For the most part what I heard is that even residents and business owners alike would like to know who they’re talking to, who they’re calling, and have that relationship that I think is a value to any community.”

Prior to the second hearing of the House Committee reviewing the 2011 merger of the Highway Patrol and the Water Patrol, protesters held signs and wore shirts calling for justice for Brandon Ellingson.  One (center of image) wore a lifejacket improperly and handcuffs, simulating how Ellingson was reported to have been when he fell out of a patrol boat and drowned, May 31.

Prior to the second hearing of the House Committee reviewing the 2011 merger of the Highway Patrol and the Water Patrol, protesters held signs and wore shirts calling for justice for Brandon Ellingson. One (center of image) wore a lifejacket improperly and handcuffs, simulating how Ellingson was reported to have been when he fell out of a patrol boat and drowned, May 31.

Several of those who testified said that kind of familiarity is no longer felt.

The committee is beginning to explore some things that Craig Ellingson wants them to. He is the father of Brandon Ellingson, who drowned while in the custody of a trooper on the Lake of the Ozarks, May 31. That trooper, Anthony Piercy, told a coroner’s inquest he didn’t have enough training.

Craig Ellingson says the merger has been a failure and he says it led to the death of his son.

“The guys that patrol the area need to patrol the same area and be familiar with the lake and get to know some of the people on that lake,” says Ellingson. “Right now a lot of people don’t know their water patrol officer. And as they said, it takes up to a couple of years to get the training that they really need to be sufficient on the water, and right now they’re not getting it.”

The committee also heard from some of those testifying who have years of experience on the water that they aren’t spending much time there now.
“It’s very disconcerting to hear that you have someone who has 30 years of experience that’s a lieutenant but there’s no pocket for them to fit into in order to serve an area where they’ve served 30 years prior,” says Franklin. “You know, that’s bureaucracy.”

The committee will offer a report to the Speaker of the House by the end of the year, with recommendations for changes.