Missourinet’s Brian Hauswirth interviews Kehoe after the rally.
Five special assistant U.S. Attorneys for the St. Louis region were sworn in on Thursday as part of Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s Safer Streets Initiative.
Schmitt says this team of state and federal prosecutors will focus on violent crimes cases.
“Tackling a problem as large and widespread as violent crime takes constant action and discussion. With the swearing-in of these five talented Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys and continuing our work with U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen and his talented team, I’m reminding Missourians that I’m not backing down from fighting violent crime,” said Schmitt.
This week, St. Louis Alderman Brandon Bosley asked for the National Guard to be deployed to north St. Louis to combat the city’s growing rate of violent crime. The unofficial murder count for St. Louis is 36 this year.
“I think Alderman Bosley has rightly pointed out that we need to do something. As far calling in the National Guard, I’ll leave that to the Governor.” Schmitt said.
The five Special Assistant U.S. States Attorneys, who were sworn in by the Hon. Rodney Sippel, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri, are Katharine Dolin, Gregory Goodwin, Jennifer Szczucinski, Natalie Warner, and Jordan Williams.
Schmitt began the Safer Streets Initiative in January and has expanded the cooperative agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to include Springfield and Kansas City.
A bill moving quickly through the Missouri House attempts to stop a high voltage, wind energy transmission line designated to run through private property in northern Missouri.
The bill was voted out of committee Wednesday and proponents expect it to be on the House floor within two weeks, with the staunch support of Speaker Elijah Haahr.
“In light of the recent PSC decision on the Grain Belt Express, the General Assembly will act to protect Missourians from private companies trying to seize their land through eminent domain. The legislation the House is moving forward is vital for many Missourians who otherwise would be forced to allow unreasonable restrictions on their family farms, damaging the value of their land and taking away their private property rights,” Haahr wrote in an official statement this week.
At issue is the developers’ use of eminent domain to get the acreage they need to put up transmission towers in a span of 200 miles through Buchanan, Clinton, Caldwell, Carroll, Chariton, Randolph, Monroe, and Ralls counties, involving more than 500 landowners
Bill sponsor Jim Hansen, R-Frankford represents two of these counties. He says he supports wind energy but finds the approach heavy-handed. “If they want to do it, all they have to do is go out and get the easements and build the project. We’re just saying that you don’t have the right to use eminent domain to cross people’s property and all of our agriculture land if you’re a private entity and that’s what they are,” Hansen says.
But the Public Service Commission on this past March voted unanimously to give Grain Belt Express Clean Line LLC a “certificate of need and necessity.” Former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon argued on behalf of the company.
The PSC stated “There can be no debate that our energy future will require more diversity in energy resources, particularly renewable resources,” said the Commission. “We are witnessing a worldwide, long-term and comprehensive movement towards renewable energy in general and wind energy specifically. Wind energy provides great promise as a source for affordable, reliable, safe and environmentally friendly energy. The Grain Belt Project will facilitate this movement in Missouri, will thereby benefit Missouri citizens, and is, therefore, in the public interest.”
The proposed line promises to deliver 3,500 megawatts of renewable energy from western Kansas to southeastern Missouri and into Illinois, and Indiana where it would connect to a grid that supplies energy to heavily populated northeastern states. Get more background from Missourinet.
The Public Service Commission ruled that the landowners would have to be compensated for use of the land and caps the amount of agricultural land used for each tower.
Grain Belt must act on the certificate within two years but Chicago-based Invenergy wants to acquire the project from Clean Line Energy Partners out of Texas and the PSC must approve that.”
“This is still all about private property and personal property rights. That’s the big issue,” Hansen says. “This is still a private company, not one you can buy stocks in. It’s owned by someone.”
Peggy Whipple, who argued on behalf of Clean Line before the Missouri Supreme Court and the PSC, says the commission decision legally deems the company to be a public utility, answerable to local regulators.
“We have legal control over this company that will develop this line for everything that we could hope to have it for, other than rates only.” Rates would come from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and must be just and reasonable, she says.”
In a three-hour hearing Monday, lawmakers heard from landowners and farmers in support of the bill (against Grain Belt) and municipalities and businesses that want the promise of cheaper, clean power.
Small cities and their utilities spoke against the bill, saying they need the new power lines. Carroll County Commissioner Bill Boelsen:
“My previous job before I took on this job was high-voltage electricity. I traveled the entire United States working on substation transformers. This country’s infrastructure is crap anymore. It’s 70, 80 years old at least.”
Todd Hayes, VP of the Missouri Farm Bureau told the panel that farmers need control of their land.
“It would definitely limit some of the ability we can use our property for, some of the things for future use with this line being overhead. Not all of the lines follow property lines. Some will be crossing lines in different fields in different ways.
Stephen Franke, a businessman from Hannibal says they’ve been promised energy a third cheaper than the open market.
“Two cents a kilowatt-hour an entire third cheaper for a community with 20 percent poverty rate. That’s substantial. In addition, a 25-year contract, we’re locked in which means we can do capital planning, we can do reserve planning. We’re not exposed to the risk of an open and volatile market.”
Marilyn O’Bannon of Monroe County says she will lose farmland and room to till:
“When do you give the right to somebody to take their business across your business. I’m going, as a landowner, to give up a lot of income. I’m not talking a few dollars here, a lot of income to allow something to come across my property that I will get no value from.”
O’Bannon says she and her fellow 500-plus landowners were not contacted by the company. She says that even if Grain Belt asked for an easement, she would not negotiate. “The only way they can get that is through condemnation suits and that is where eminent domain is going to be a problem.”
A landowners group and similar interests plan to appeal the PSC decision
-Brent Martin contributed to this report.
U.S. Senator Roy Blunt surveyed flood damage in Atchison and Holt Counties Friday and like, the governor, took aim at the way the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages its rivers and reservoirs.
“For more than 15 years, I have said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ river management plan is not the right plan for Missouri. After seeing the damage today, it is clear that plan needs to be looked at. The Corps should be prioritizing flood control, navigation, and drinking water. Environmental concerns are a part of that discussion, but the priority should always be on protecting people and property.”
Governor Mike Parson is also outspoken about flood prevention and says he will meet with the governors of Iowa and Nebraska to ready their questions for the Corps.
“What is the management of the river, what’s changed here, why are we having these floods?” he asks.
John Remus, chief of Missouri River Basin Water Management for the Corps told Missourinet a week ago the current focus on the mainstem of the Missouri is flood control.
“Situations where we have high runoff or an event like this, flood control is all we operate for and in fact on the mainstem dams we have done no operations for anything but flood control since March 15th of 2018,” Remus said in a press briefing.
Missourinet contacted the Corps’ public affairs office for additional comment on non-disaster management and policy. We have gotten no response to date.
Meanwhile, farmers and displaced residents are apprehensive.
Brent Martin, KFEQ News Director has been in the field in Northwest Missouri since the flooding began. Yesterday, he spoke with county commissioners who are “fearful that there’s more water coming and these levees are already broken and they are not going to be fixed, probably within two years.”
“It’s a real disaster in Atchison County, especially from I-29 to the river,” according to North District County Commissioner Richard Burke, “And that’s basically everything in the flood plain in Atchison County. That takes in 70,000 acres.”
The United States Department of Agriculture UnderSecretary Bill Northey is also focusing on recovery after touring the area Thursday. He told Martin in an interview that he was not prepared for the scope of the damage
“It’s just mind-boggling to be able it in person, how much water there is and how much water has to get off of here to eventually make this land such that they can get out there and get some planting done,” says Northey, a former Iowa Secretary of Agriculture.
A bill awaiting a vote in a Missouri Senate Committee would fund construction and operation of a new museum in Jefferson City all about the steamboat era in Missouri.
Bill sponsor, Sen. Mike Bernskoetter of Jefferson City, says the funds should come from fees collected from casinos for each person who boards gambling riverboats because that is where today’s gaming industry initially gained steam in Missouri. In the year 2000, state law was changed to allow gambling boats to stay docked.
The bill would increase the fee from $2.00 to $3.00, which is shared among the communities where casinos are docked, the Missouri Veterans Commission and the state.
The bill would fund moving the Arabia Steamboat Museum and its contents from Kansas City to Jefferson City.
The lease runs out on the Kansas City building in 2026 and the Pittsburgh, Pa., company that built the riverboat Arabia wants the remains of the boat for display.
“I think it would be terrible to let it go to another state,” Bernskoetter says, “It’s part of our history.”
“This would be a way to keep the museum here in Missouri without costing general revenue or taxing people some other way,” he says.
Bernskoetter says the Missouri State Museum, which is inside the capitol building, could be moved and rebuilt to accommodate the steamboat facility and more.
“We’re only one of two states that have the state museum in the Capitol,” he says. “I think the state museum to display artifacts from the state of Missouri would be better suited to be outside of the Capitol and leave the Capitol more for learning about the legislative process.”
The $40 million in revenue for the Steamboat Legacy Fund would also help recover sunken steamboats along the Missouri River, he says.
“There’s the steamboat Malta up near Malta Bend, there’s 400 of them all along the length of Missouri but there’s 200 of them in the Kansas City to St. Louis region,” he says. “There’s about six of them that they would like to dig up that are from different time frames, five or six different decades.”
Bernskoetter says if the bill passes, there are plans to put the museum on former prison property on the east side of Jefferson City.
The new museum would open on the 200th anniversary of Jefferson City becoming the state capital of Missouri.
Copyright © 2019 · Missourinet
MoDOT continues to work with Nebraska and Iowa to provide alternate routes while major roads are closed, including I-29 near Rock Port. Northbound I-29 traffic into Iowa is being detoured at I-35 in Kansas City, where travelers will continue north on I-35 into Iowa.
From Des Moines, travelers will drive west on I-80 and continue onto I-680 to connect back with I-29 near the Council Bluffs/Omaha metro area in Iowa.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol has additional marine operations troopers and swift-water rescue equipment in northwest Missouri. The patrol conducted three swift water rescues in Holt County over the weekend and troopers are going house-to-house in Watson, Missouri, after the levee breach on the Nishnabotna River.
Rhonda Wiley, Emergency Management Coordinator for Atchison County says some people are not taking seriously the dangers of moving water. “Part of the problem is from people who are not from this area, that are rerouting through our area. Even though they have had to pass barricades, and pass detour signs. They just keep coming out to where they’re trying to find a way around to get to Nebraska, to get to Omaha.”
Governor Mike Parson urges Missourians to use caution around floodwater as Missouri River levels near cresting at major flood stage in some Missouri communities. Rain will move into the western part of the state tonight through Wednesday morning but is expected to have minimal effect on current river levels.
He cautioned that despite Missouri River crests this week, flooding will remain a hazard well into the spring because of a combination of additional melting now from the north and saturated ground.
According to a press release, the Missouri Emergency Management Agency assisted the city of St. Joseph with recruiting volunteers for sandbagging efforts with the coordination of AmeriCorps St. Louis, Missouri Adventist Community Services, Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief, and the Missouri Department of Corrections.
Inmates from the Women’s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic & Correctional Center have been helping with sandbagging in the northeastern town of Clarksville along the Mississippi River.
In Holt County, a water treatment facility is shut down operations because of flooding. The Salvation Army has provided bottled water to the area.
The governor’s office warns that standing water can carry infectious diseases and hide other hazards, including road damage, glass, and sewage. Storm drains can create an extremely dangerous situation for anyone caught in the current. Avoid walking through floodwater and keep children from playing in it.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) has released its second set of draft rules for the state’s first medical marijuana program.
The new draft covers “cultivation facilities, dispensary facilities, infused products manufacturing facilities and medical marijuana establishments in general.” Read draft rules.
The rules, for instance, set limits on how many facilities can be owned by one entity, separate testing facilities from dispensaries, regulate waste and byproduct disposal and set distances between facilities and schools, daycares and churches.
The DHSS Section for Medical Marijuana Regulation released rules for qualified patients and primary caregivers in February. The agency held public forums in Jefferson City, Poplar Bluff, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Springfield in January and February to hear more about the needs of patients and caregivers.
Lyndall Fraker, Director of the DHSS Section for Medical Marijuana Regulation, says, “All feedback we received was considered, and is still being considered, as we continue drafting the rules.”
Public feedback can still be submitted on feedback on these drafts using the online suggestion form.
Jack Cardetti, a spokesman for Missouri medical cannabis trade association (MoCannTrade), praises DHSS for taking the time to hear from citizens and stakeholders before creating rules.
“It’s a steep hill. [The Missouri Constitution] lays some fairly aggressive timeline to get applications out to patients, applications out to those who want to be involved in cultivation and dispensary and they have done a nice job,” Cardetti told Missourinet.
The June 4 deadline to have the program plan in place was created in an amendment to the Missouri Constitution approved by voters this past November. But the process of creating such a program is new to the state.
Lisa Cox, DHSS spokesperson, calls the effort “monumental.”
Remaining rules include sales, transportation, physicians and healthcare providers, and taxation.
The Missouri Department of Transportation has closed Interstate 29 at Rock Port (MM 110) at the Missouri/Iowa border due to flooding in Iowa.
Anyone wanting to use I-29 northbound should use I-35 and then I-80 into Iowa. For more information visit: https://www.modot.org/2019-northwest-missouri-flooding
Here are some important safety reminders:
- Don’t drive through any flooded areas. A few extra minutes for a detour could lead to a life saved.
- MoDOT reminds motorists it only takes six inches of water (or less!) to lose control of your vehicle and possibly be swept into rising floodwaters.
- Any time there is water over the roadway, there may be unseen damage to the road surface below.
- Stay alert and do not drive through water over a roadway or around construction barricades. MoDOT encourages all motorists to Turn Around! Don’t Drown!
Full closures of I-29 are in place at
US 136 at Rock Port, Mo. (Exit 110); and
Iowa 92 South of Council Bluffs, Iowa (Exit 48)
Those who would normally use I-29 as a through route should instead use
I-35 N from Kansas City to
I-80 West in Des Moines to
I-29 near the Council Bluffs/Omaha metro area
and vice-versa until further notice.
Travelers already on I-29 North
Drivers who are currently heading north on I-29 should use US 71 North north of St. Joseph to I-35 if possible.
Those north of the US 71 junction can continue to Rock Port and take US 136 East to US 71 North to I-35. DO NOT take US 275 North. Flooding in Hamburg, Iowa will block your progress.
State Representative Louis Riggs, R-Hannibal, tells the story of a constituent who runs a major hog farm operation and has had to drive to a McDonald’s in another town to have the broadband to upload important veterinary records.
That constituent is Missouri’s Director of Agriculture, Chris Chinn.
Chinn lives in Shelby County in northeast Missouri, a spot that did not qualify for the most recent round of FCC outreach to underserved areas, the Connect America Fund, Phase II (CAFII) Missouri telecommunications companies qualified for almost $255 million of CAFII money.
Riggs represents eight of the most underserved counties in the state and applauds the most recent round of federal funding: $550 million in subsidies provided by the USDA Rural Utilities Service pilot program to help in underserved rural and Tribal areas with a population of 20,000 or less.
The FCC Broadband Progress Report shows that 1.25 million Missourians don’t have access to high-speed Internet (25mpbs/3mbps). The majority of those citizens live in rural communities. Between 50 and 60 percent of rural residents do not have broadband internet access, according to various sources.
Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks was in Kansas City last week to discuss these funds which were OK’d by Congress and President Trump on February 15 to avoid another government shutdown.
Riggs says Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, Rep. Jason Smith, Sen. Roy Blunt and all of the Missouri Congressional delegation have focused tirelessly on broadband. It’s now up to the utilities to buy in, including all of the rural electric cooperatives. Not all of the co-ops, governed by local boards, want to undertake this additional infrastructure.
“It is a substantial investment,” Riggs concedes.
“They are, to my mind, the major players across the state in terms of getting fiber to the homes, the gold standard,” Riggs says. “The folks who want to grow their tax base, get more money for our schools, rural roads and bridges, this is the ideal way. We don’t have to raise anybody’s taxes; we just increase the value of the property they own.”
He says his local research shows that property value can increase by $3,000 to $5,000 with high-speed fiber to the home.
Riggs also argues that this is the best way to keep or bring young farmers back to Missouri. “The FFA students who want to take over the family farm are not going to if they are kept in the dark.”
“The young folks who are coming online are using precision agriculture…it’s what’s being taught in the schools,” he says.
Along with the investment of utilities, Riggs insists it is up to Missouri legislators to “step up” and make it work, including approving the $5 million Gov. Mike Parson has requested to enable the work of the state Broadband Office.
Riggs has also introduced HB1162 to keep the awarded broadband funds in the state if a provider fails to perform.
In the first round of Connect America Funds auction, AT&T won $400 million, then declined to build out.
He says the state is in a much better position to find another provider. Read Missourinet’s coverage of the Broadband Development Office.
“It’s to say, give us the benefit of the doubt here,” he says. “We’re light years ahead of where we were a year ago today.”
The state’s top law enforcement agency does not know how many untested rape kits remain in crime labs and hospital storage rooms across Missouri.
But they have six months to find out.
Attorney General Eric Schmitt tapped Judge M. Keithly Williams to be the state coordinator of the newly-established Sexual Assault Kit Initiative. The program is funded by a $2.8 million federal grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, applied for by the previous state Attorney General Josh Hawley.
Schmitt says his office will hire staff, who have six months to determine how many rape kits remain untested in order to get the remaining 75 percent of the grant.
Williams says this inventory will be very different than the previous “suggested” inventory of 5,400 samples.
“When that inventory, or that suggested inventory, was discovered, about 40 percent of the agencies actually responded to the survey and about 40 percent of the hospitals responded to the survey so we actually don’t know what we’re going to find when the inventory begins,” Williams said Wednesday.
“This inventory will be very different. It’s not just calling and asking ‘how many do you have?’ We’ll actually be helping law enforcement and the hospital staff do a physical count, record the information, have it prepared to put in a database so we will know precisely the location of each untested kit and we’ll know where to begin our task.”
Schmitt says part of the process is finding out from law enforcement why there’s a backlog. Late last year, CNN highlighted the Springfield Police Department for destroying older, untested rape kits.
“We really do want to work in a cooperative way. Testing takes money and that’s part of this grant process too,” he said. “It takes an incredible amount of courage for a victim to come forward and submit to this test–and they deserve to know answers.”
Once they build a database, those involved in a rape case should have access to the information they need: hospitals, police departments and victims who can look up the status of their individual case.
“This is really an ongoing process, we haven’t yet started the planning,” Williams said. “I suspect it’s going to take years, to be honest. It’s a long-time coming.”