Friday, January 19, 2018

Greitens: We're getting rid of government cars

(From Gov. Eric Greitens)

Today, Governor Eric Greitens announced that more government cars are being reduced, saving $2.2 million in taxpayer money.

“We found another 86 government cars that weren't needed, and we’re getting rid of them! $2.2 million of your tax dollars saved. It's amazing what can be accomplished with some common sense. It's your money and we're fighting to make sure the government doesn't waste a cent of it,” said Governor Greitens. “Thank you to Carol Comer in the Department of Natural Resources for being a budget hawk and defending taxpayer dollars.”

In FY18, the Department of Natural Resources reduced their vehicle fleet by 86 cars—approximately 14% of their total fleet. The Office of Administration confirmed that this reduction will result in $2.2 million in cost savings.

Warrensburg Republican's bill would reform welfare by providing incentives to pay child support on time

(From Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg)

As many of you may know I have filed several pieces of legislation this year addressing tax, welfare and labor reform issues that burden citizens all across the state. On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to present Senate Bill 610 during a legislative hearing in front of the Senate Seniors, Families and Children Committee. This was the first of many steps to guiding the welfare reform bill to a successful passage through the legislative process.

During the committee hearing on Senate Bill 610 senators and advocates alike voiced support for this legislation. I recognize welfare reform is one issue many want to see addressed during the 2018 legislative session. Through welfare reform, I believe we can decrease the number of children living in poverty as a result of delinquent child support payments.

Under the proposed bill, Missouri’s welfare laws would incentivize absent parents to pay their child support payments on time.

During the hearing, we heard testimony that revealed there were 91,000 single-parent homes on child support as of Nov. 2017. Of this total, only 25 percent of these families actually received child support payments. I believe Missouri taxpayers should not be funding SNAP benefits for able-bodied adults who are not taking care of their children. Through this bill, we are holding the parent who is not actively involved in their child’s life accountable for their financial duty as a parent.

My bill does allow absent parents to be exempt under three conditions: 1) A court has allowed the individual to delay payment; (2) The individual is complying with a payment plan; or (3) The Department of Social Services determines the individual has good cause for non-support.

On Wednesday, the Missouri Senate’s Appropriation Committee held its first hearing of the year. During the hearing, lawmakers heard testimony from various statewide agencies regarding their funding requests for the upcoming fiscal year. It is my hope, even in a tough budget year, we can fully fund the state’s education foundation formula and at least maintain our current funding levels for higher education institutions across the state.

It is noteworthy to mention there were updates made at the federal level to 529 savings accounts as of Jan. 1, 2018. I have filed Senate Bill 882 to bring Missouri’s 529 plan up to date with new opportunities allowed under federal law. Parents wanting to save money for their children’s educational needs before they reach college can do so by enrolling in the MOST 529 college saving’s plan. It is a tax-free savings plan that allows a person to deposit up to $325,000. Not only does the plan allow for parents to use the account to pay for elementary, high school and college expenses, but it also allows them to transfer the plan into a MO Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) if needed.

The MO ABLE account makes it possible for parents who have children with disabilities to save money to pay for medical expenses. To be eligible for the account, the child must be diagnosed before the age of 26. We know that unforeseen medical emergencies can happen at any age and we want parents to be able to make financially sound decisions about the future of their children.

The difference between a MO ABLE account and a basic savings account is that saving more than $2,000 would not disqualify their child from receiving government benefits like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income. Both the MOST 529 plans and the MO ABLE accounts offer individuals the opportunity to save and invest through tax-free savings accounts. By expanding these programs, we are able to help more families make smart, financial investments for their child’s educational and medical expenses.

In addition to these legislative issues, I had the honor of nominating University of Central Missouri President Charles Ambrose to the Midwestern Education Commission. Through his involvement in higher education, Ambrose’s reputation for innovation and leadership speaks for itself. His most recent accomplishments include the formation of the Military and Veterans Success Center on the UCM campus, the development of The Missouri Innovation Campus model for higher education and the creation of the Military and Veterans Success Center at UCM. I believe we are truly fortunate to have President Ambrose serving on this commission.

It is always a pleasure to have visitors from the district and this week included members of the Midwest and Central Board of Realtors. The group included Robert Ashford, Dan Chipey and Brenda Oliver along with many others. Also the Missouri Society of CPA’s held their annual meeting and lobby day. As a CPA, I have always appreciated their support during my time in the Missouri House of Representatives and I am grateful for their support as I serve in the Missouri Senate.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Greitens outlines tax reform plans

(From Gov. Eric Greitens)

Today, Governor Eric Greitens announced the principles for his plan for state tax reform.

“For too long, our tax system has benefited special interests. Our tax plan puts working families first. We're simplifying the tax code so small shops can compete with big businesses. We’re cutting taxes on people that work hard so they can keep more money in their pocket. And we're doing it in a responsible, revenue-neutral way so we don't put our children in debt. It's the boldest state tax reform in America because it's tax reform for working families--not lobbyists and special interests,” said Governor Eric Greitens

In the coming weeks, Governor Greitens and his team will release a detailed tax reform plan that follows the following principles:

-Cut taxes for working families.
-Lower taxes for businesses to create more jobs.
-End loopholes that primarily benefit big businesses and high earners to responsibly cut taxes without breaking our budget.
-Cut taxes in a way that is fiscally sound, maintains our state’s triple-A credit rating, and does not burden our children with debt.

· This revenue-neutral plan is responsible and bold. It cuts taxes for more than 97% of Missourians.

· The Governor's plan cuts the personal income tax rate for anyone earning more than $9,072 a year.

· For 380,000 low-income working Missourians, the Governor’s plan will eliminate taxes entirely—cutting their tax bill to $0.00.

· It cuts taxes on businesses to create jobs—making Missouri one of the best five states in the country for corporate taxes.

· It does all this responsibly. By ending loopholes and unnecessary, unfair, or out-of-step breaks in our tax code, Missouri can cut taxes without going into debt.

In the coming weeks, the Governor will lay out the plan in further detail, work with the general assembly to translate these principles into draft legislation, and travel the state to promote these tax cuts for working families and small businesses.

State auditor backs bill requiring state to pay interest on late income tax refunds

(From State Auditor Nicole Galloway)

Demanding that Missouri taxpayers be given a level playing field, State Auditor Nicole Galloway today said she supports legislation requiring the state to pay the same interest rate on late income tax refunds that taxpayers must pay if they are late with their income tax payments. The provision is in House Bill 2165, filed this week by state Rep. Lauren Arthur, of Kansas City.

The inequity between the interest rate paid by the state (0.7 percent) and that required of taxpayers (4 percent) was one of many issues highlighted by areport released this month by Auditor Galloway. The audit found that refunds to taxpayers are being increasingly delayed by the administration.

“Missourians are rightly frustrated with the delays on getting their state tax refunds because the administration has put them at the back of the line,” Auditor Galloway said. “That frustration is exacerbated by the fact that the state pays them next to nothing in interest for holding their money longer. I urge legislators to pass Rep. Arthur’s bill to give Missouri taxpayers the level playing field they deserve.”

“Hardworking Missourians are required to pay interest if they file their taxes after the deadline,” Rep. Arthur said. “It is only fair that we demand the same accountability from our state government. HB 2165 ensures that Missourians receive their tax refunds on time by forcing the government to pay for being late.”

In addition to highlighting the disparity between the interest rates, Auditor Galloway’s report found that taxpayers are not compensated for late refunds unless interest exceeds $1. For instance, a $250 refund would not include an interest payment paid by the state until it was a year late. The bill repeals this limitation, meaning interest would be paid to taxpayers on all late refunds, regardless of the amount. By contrast, if taxpayers are late paying tax to the state, they are charged not only 4 percent interest but a 5 percent penalty as well.

The number of late refunds has increased over the last several years, but worsened in 2017 with 155,000 refunds paid with late interest, an increase of 86 percent. That is in addition to the number of refunds paid late with no interest, which was at least 400,000. The Auditor said the Department of Revenue does not necessarily pay refunds in the order in which they are received and as a result, is selectively paying larger returns to avoid large interest payments.

The audit found at one point during the 2017 tax season, the Department of Revenue had $200 million worth of refunds processed and ready to be paid to Missourians, but the Office of Administration directed the Department of Revenue not to pay the refunds because other spending priorities came first.

Auditor Galloway issued the report despite unprecedented attempts by the Greitens administration to obstruct audit work. Throughout the audit process, auditors faced repeated delays and unwillingness by the administration to provide the requested documentation. Last spring, Auditor Galloway issued a subpoena in order to obtain information on the state's management of income tax refunds. At the conclusion of the audit, the administration refused to provide the standard written assurance it had not withheld relevant information from the audit staff and had disclosed all provisions of laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements that the agency believed would have a significant effect on the audit.

The complete audit on the timeliness of income tax refunds can be found here. House Bill 2165 can be found here.

Vision 2022 update, Main Street Project on tap for Joplin City Council work session

Notice is hereby given that the City Council of the City of Joplin, Missouri, will hold a work session beginning at 5:45 p.m. on Monday January 22, 2018, in the 5th Floor Council Chambers, 602 S. Main to hear the following topics below.


1. Update on the Sanitary Sewer collection system plan and the next phase to develop a Hydraulic Model of the system.

2. Vision 2022 update

3. Update on the Main Street Project by Taylor Cunningham

4. Any other business

Court documents: Former Rangeline Sonic manager says any touching with underage carhop was consensual

In a document filed today in federal court, a former Rangeline Sonic manager appeared to admit to having sex with an underage girl.

The filing was part of a response to an amended lawsuit filed by the girl, who was working as a Sonic carhop at the time.

The former carhop sued Chris Alred, 30, other Sonic managers, Rangeline Sonic and D. L. Rogers Corporation, which owns the local franchise.

In her lawsuit, the teenager alleged that she encountered an atmosphere of pervasive sexual harassment at the job, which eventually led to what she described as an unwanted sexual encounter with Alred.

That incident led to the filing of felony statutory sodomy charges against Alred, since the carhop was 16 at the time.

In the response that encounter was addressed in a single sentence:

Any and all touching between Alred and Plaintiff was consensual. 

In Missouri, however, 16-year-olds cannot legally consent to sex.

A description of what happened, from the teenager's account was included in the September 10 Turner Report:

For a time, Alred was transferred to another Sonic, but he called the girl and asked her to come to his Joplin apartment where his wife was home at the time. During their conservation, Alred told the teen that "she was on her way to owning her own store" and that every partner chooses one good person to run a store and that she was that person, the lawsuit says.

During the conversation, the petition says, Alred, whose wife was asleep in another room at the time, began making inappropriate comments about another underage carhop who he found attractive.

The teen said she needed to leave. He took her to her vehicle, then got in and told her to drive away from the apartments and park.

What happened next is described in the Joplin Police Department probable cause statement:

In the east parking lot of 1715 S. Rex Avenue, in Joplin, Jasper County, Missouri, Christopher E. Alred told (the victim) who was (16) at that time to perform oral sex on him. Christopher E. Alred walked her to her vehicle and sat in the passenger seat. (She) was in the driver's seat. (He) removed his penis from his pants and put his hand on the back of (her) head."

After that, he roughly used her until the act was completed.

The lawsuit also alleges that Alred raped another Rangeline Sonic carhop.

Alred is scheduled to go to trial April 24 in Jasper County Circuit Court.

Alred also has a Joplin Police Department warrant for his arrest on an assault charge and a Jasper County warrant for felony driving while intoxicated (the sixth time he has been charged with that crime.

Previous posts

Joplin Police Department incident spotlights return, new guidelines explained

The Joplin community has been heard and Joplin Police Department incident reports returned as of about three hours ago.

After City Manager Sam Anselm stopped the incident spotlights the community, which had learned a considerable amount about how the JPD operates and what officers have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, immediately began a petition signed by more than 5,000 people to have the reports returned.

The reports will follow the new "be kind" motto City Manager Sam Anselm put in his new guidelines.

Previous posts

Message to city leaders- Joplin residents are demanding the truth- and we can handle it

Petition to restore Joplin Police incident reports nears 5,500 signatures

Joplin Police Department incident spotlights may return- but without any personality

Anselm's social media guidelines anger Fraternal Order of Police, supporters

After important people complain, Turner Report to follow new guidelines

After giving it a lot of thought, I decided it was time to issue new guidelines for the Turner Report.

It has been brought to my attention that such people as David Wallace. C. J. Huff, Angie Besendorfer, Mike Woolston, Bruce Speck, Dwight Douglas (and possibly thousands of others) have been offended by the things I have written.

It bothers me greatly that there are people who do not like what I have written so from this point on, I will ask six questions before I publish a post:

Is it true?

Is it helpful?

Is it inspiring?

Is it necessary?

Is it kind?

Can Joplin City Manager Sam Anselm read it without blushing?

Joplin R-8 proposal would combine middle school sports, cheerleading squads

The Joplin R-8 Board of Education will hear a proposal to combine all middle school sports and cheerleading squads when it meets 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Memorial Administration Building.

The move continues the approach taken by the district when it combined the East, North and South basketball teams and instituted intramural programs at each school.

The sports affected, in addition to cheerleading, would be football, volleyball, wrestling and cross country.

The move is necessary, according to the proposal, which was submitted by athletic directors Matt Hiatt and Jacob Williams, because of Joplin's move into the COC Conference.

Anselm's social media guidelines anger Fraternal Order of Police, supporters

The next time the Joplin Police Department considers issuing a report on a meth arrest, it needs to make certain it is kind and inspiring.

Those are two the guidelines City Manager Sam Anselm cited in his message revealing the social media policy he is putting in place following his controversial decision to end the popular Joplin Police Department incident spotlights.

Judging from the reaction on the Facebook page for the Fraternal Order of Police Southwest Regional Lodge No. 27, local police and their supporters are not pleased with Anselm's message, which said that the guidelines he was giving them are "probably found on posters in elementary school classrooms across the country."

Anselm has said he is concerned about the negative comments that have been left on the page and told the Turner Report that there could be legal problems with turning off comments for selected posts, due to First Amendment issues.

Those on the lodge's Facebook site also slammed what they saw as Anselm's hypocrisy, noting a social media message he had sent that did not seem to meet his guidelines.