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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of March 2, 2015

The chief of staff to State Auditor Tom Schweich and an aid to Schweich's mentor Jack Danforth were among the final people to speak to the State Auditor prior to his death, according to two news releases.

Schweich's chief of staff, Trish Vincent, said in a statement released Thursday Mar. 5 that the auditor seemed distraught during an early morning phone call on the morning of his death. Vincent also said Schweich had not slept the night before his death and had been physically ill.

After the call with Schweich Vincent then called Kathy Schweich, the auditor's wife. When she did not pick up the phone, Vincent followed up with Martha Fitz, a member of Danforth's staff and a close friend to the Schweichs.

Fitz eventually got a hold of Kathy Schweich and the Auditor around 9:40 a.m.

According to a statement, Fitz discussed the rumors about his religion with the Auditor at that time and how she thought Tom Schweich should respond. Fitz told Schweich she believed it was best for others to respond to the rumors, not Schweich.

The Auditor then threatened to kill himself before handing the phone to his wife.

Fitz then said she heard Kathy Schweich say, "He shot himself!".

The two stayed on the line until paramedics arrived. Tom Schweich was later pronounced death at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.

Missouri Representatives and Senators are pushing for an Article V Convention in order to amend the U.S. Constitution.

The Missouri Senate Rules, Joints, Resolutions and Ethics Committee heard four resolutions Wednesday, Mar. 4 each asking for a constitutional convention.

Article V of the U.S. Constitution requires two-thirds, or 34 of the 50 states, to call a convention.

Three of the four proposed resolutions call for a convention in order to focus on term limits, a balanced budget and the federal government's powers.

"We are seeing a lot of things wrong with the federal government," said Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia. "The federal government is never ever going to fix this problem. They've created the problem. They're never going to fix it. It is incumbent on the states to fix it."

Convention of States Project Director Michael Farris testified in favor of the resolutions and said he has been working with several states to have them adopt resolutions of their own.

"The resolutions are virtually identical to resolutions that have been passed in three other states: Georgia, Florida and Alaska," said Farris.

Opponents of the resolutions testified it was not the right time to call a convention because of what the country is currently facing.

"The concern is timing," said Frank Rice from Union, Missouri. "The timing of this with so much on the plate in Congress, the election coming up. We have ISIS. We have a runaway debt beyond our wildest dreams. We have so much that this Congress has on its plate. I don't see how we can make it anymore divisive."

The House Emerging Issues Committee also heard two resolutions on the same topic along with a bill that defines how delegates in Missouri would be chosen if there were a convention.

The last national constitutional convention was held in 1787.

A firearm possession charge against a convicted felon was dropped by a St. Louis circuit judge because of a state constitutional amendment passed by voters in November.

Judge Robert Dierker said Raymond Robinson acted within his right to possess a firearm under Amendment 5.

Dierker said the amendment is unconstitutional because the text of the amendment fails to differentiate between a violent and non-violent felon.

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, sponsored Amendment 5. He disagrees with the judge.

"Amendment 5 says violent felons can't possess firearms," Schaefer said. "It also says that anyone adjudicated mentally incompetent can't possess them."

St. Louis Chief of Police Sam Dotson wrote on his blog the amendment makes the jobs of police officers and prosecutors harder.

"What Missouri's Amendment 5 does do is give criminals the cover to have firearms, and it makes it harder to hold them accountable for their actions," Dotson wrote.

But Schaefer said St. Louis has a problem with crime every year.

"They are as restrictive on guns in the City of St. Louis as they can be and their crime has gone up every single year," Schaefer said. "The prosecutor Jennifer Joyce and Sam Dotson have both admitted they have a crime problem that they have no solution how to fix."

Schaefer said the purpose of the amendment was not to allow convicted felons the right to possess firearms, but to have the decision to remove the right justified by the crime.

"Should somebody who has a felony for criminal non-support for tax evasion, should they lose the right to own a hunting rifle for the rest of their lives?" Schaefer said. "Probably not."

Schaefer said those who want to repeal the amendment are just playing politics.

"You know, this is a political ploy by people who are simply anti-Second Amendment," Schaefer said.

Not one witness nor committee member voiced opposition at the House Corrections Committee hearing about a bill to release Jeff Mizanskey after 21 years in prison on marijuana charges.

Mizanskey was sentenced to life in prison without a chance of parole because it was his third felony drug conviction.

Among those voicing support for his release was Rep. Justin Hill, R-St. Charles County and a former police officer who worked drug cases.

"From my history working for the DEA and local task force in the St. Louis area, this marijuana charge does not fit the sentencing," Hill said. "I've charged people in federal court with a thousand pounds of marijuana and they got quite a lesser sentence than this."

The committee chair -- Rep. Paul Fitzwater, R-Potosi -- also voiced support. Fitzwater had visited Mizanskey less than two weeks earlier.

"Not one time did he complain to me [that] he's been unjustly accused, I'm innocent, get me out of here. Not one time did he do that and I was impressed with that," Fitzwater said.

Mizanskey's brother, daughter-in-law and son spoke to the House committee.

"I am now fulfilling my mother's last words to me before she passed. She made me promise to be committed to getting justice for Jeff. That is why I am here today," said Mizanskey's brother, Mike Mizanskey.

"I am pleading to you...only you have the power to correct the wrongful incarceration of people serving life without parole for marijuana offenses," he said.

Because it was Mizanskey's third felony drug conviction, the state's current law allowed the judge to impose a life sentence without the chance of parole.

Last year, Missouri's legislature passed a major overhaul the state's criminal laws that will prevent a life-long sentence under similar circumstances.

More than 360,000 signatures were delivered to the governor last spring urging Gov. Jay Nixon to release Mizanskey.

In addition, the House committee was read a letter to Nixon from the man who prosecuted Mizanskey. While describing Mizanskey as a drug dealer with multiple offenses involving more than just marijuana, Tony Nenniger urged Nixon to grant Mizanskey clemency.

The May 2014 letter from Nenniger, now a circuit judge in Sedalia, cited repeated criminal violations. But, he concluded that because of Mizanskey's years in prison and his public acknowledgement of guilt, he supported the petition for clemency.

Nixon has given no indication of a decision in the Mizanskey clemency.

Top state officials and elected lawmakers along with hundreds more packed the Church of St. George and St. Michael Tuesday morning to say goodbye to State Auditor Tom Schweich who died last Thursday.

Schweich died Thursday after suffering an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

The chapel filled up before the service began, so the church had to open another room just off the chapel for guests to watch the funeral on a screen.

Former U.S. Sen. Jack Danforth gave the eulogy and shared a personal conversation he had last Tuesday with Schweich.

Danforth said Schweich was upset about a radio ad that made fun of his physical appearance and a "whisper campaign" insinuating Schweich was Jewish.

This made Danforth very angry and he called for the end to politics as usual.

"The campaign that led to the death of Tom Schweich was the low point of politics," Danforth said. "Now it's time to turn this around. Let's make Tom's death a turning point in our state."

Danforth spoke for nearly 20 minutes and called out the anti-Semitic "whisper campaign" against Schweich, doing so even without directly calling out newly-elected Missouri GOP Chairman John Hancock, who is accused of leading the campaign.

"The only reason for going around saying that someone is Jewish is to make political profit from religious bigotry," Danforth said.

With many lawmakers in the church, Danforth called on them to make politics wholesome again.

"I believe deep in my heart that it's now our duty, yours and mine, to turn politics into something much better than its now-so-miserable state," Danforth said.

With 2016 gubernatorial candidate and current Attorney General Chris Koster sitting in the chapel, Danforth referenced his race to succeed Gov. Jay Nixon.

"It used to be that Labor Day of election years marked the beginning of campaigns," Danforth said. "This campaign for governor started two years in advance of the 2016 election and even at this early date, what has been said is worse than anything in my memory. And that's a long memory."

Gov. Jay Nixon appointed John Watson interim state auditor last Friday.

Watson had previously served as Nixon's chief of staff and a senior adviser to the governor.

"I not gonna do it no more," said Sen. Mike Parson in an emotional speech to his Senate colleagues vowing that he would reject negative campaigning that he suggested contributed to Tom Schweich's death.

Parson spoke of reports that Tom Schweich's apparent suicide was prompted by false claims he was Jewish and after a campaign advertisement made fun of his small size.

"I no longer will stand by and let people destroy other people's lives using false accusations and demeaning statements all in the name of money to win an election. I'm not gonna do it no more," Parson vowed in a voice breaking with emotion. "Nor will I support candidates that use such tactics."

Parson referenced each of the individuals in the Senate chamber seeking elective statewide office in two years and called on them to make a change.

"We could start today by making a commitment to the people of this state and ourselves that we're not going to use propaganda, we're not going to destroy people's lives at all costs to win an election. Instead we could start talking about who we are, articulating the differences between ourselves and our opponents and being honest with the facts."

Parson cited a radio advertisement that compared Schweich's small stature to Barney Fife in the old TV comedy show.

"It speaks volumes to how far out of hand this all has become, to base things totally on one's appearance and to make reference to one being small and being able to be squashed like a bug should be unacceptable to all of us," said the the former Army military veteran and former Polk County sheriff.

Home-schooled students in Missouri could participate in public school activities if a bill is passed.

The House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee heard testimony on the bill, which would require public schools to allow the home-schooled students in their attendance area the opportunity to participate in any activity sponsored by the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) or any activity sponsored by the school.

"With these people paying taxes I think that they should get something for the dollars that they are contributing to the public school system," said Bryan Spencer, R-Wentzville. "This is one way we can give them some value to their dollars that they're paying."

Supporters of the legislation said they hope the bill will begin to bridge the gap between the public school and home-schooled community.

The requirements for school activity participation would be the same as the public school requirements.

Representatives who oppose the bill said they are concerned that there is no easy way to track the requirements for home-schooled individuals.

"To open it up to home schools we don't really have the oversight on them that I think we should," said Ira Anders, D-Jackson County. "We don't have oversight on their attendance. We don't have oversight on their grade point average or anything like that. So at this point I am still opposed to this."

For the second week in a row, lawmakers closed a committee hearing to discuss $75 million of taxpayer money that will go to Capitol improvements.

The meeting was forced to go into a subcommittee until enough committee members were present to close the meeting.

The hearing was only open to the public for 10 minutes.

During that time, lawmakers discussed how $35 million would be put towards converting the MoDOT building into legislative offices as well as potentially building an underground tunnel to connect the current MoDOT building to the Capitol.

Director of Facilities Management Cathy Brown said the $35 million would also be used for mezzanine removal, to make offices more compliant with codes as well as enhance Capitol security.

During the open portion of the meeting, legislators discussed the other $40 million that is currently being used to upgrade all elevators within the Capitol as well as create new fire safety plans among other improvements.

The committee discussed going to Austin, Texas as well as other Capitols to look at their security technology and gather ideas for Missouri.

-Get the radio story

Last Week

Gov. Jay Nixon issued a statement late Friday that one of his long-time staffers will replace the deceased Tom Schweich to be state auditor on a temporary basis.

Named was John Watson who had been Nixon's chief of staff until stepping down to become a senior adviser to the governor.

Previously, Watson had served as chief of staff for Nixon when he was attorney general.

The statement indicated that Watson would resign when Nixon chooses a permanent replacement.

Under Missouri's Constitution the governor has the power to fill the full remaining term of a statewide office vacancy without review by the legislature.

A state law requires the governor to name a replacement "immediately."

Watson's appointment transfers to a Democratic staffer the auditor's office that had been held by a Republican who was reelected without Democratic opposition.

Gov. Jay Nixon will no longer travel to Cuba on Sunday after the death of State Auditor Tom Schweich.

In a statement released by his office Friday afternoon, Nixon said his wife, Georganne, will take his place on the trade mission.

“The First Lady has represented the State of Missouri on numerous trade missions in the past and is well-prepared to lead this important delegation,” Nixon said in a statement. "I’m confident that this will be a productive mission for the benefit of farmers, ranchers and all Missourians".

Since the governor will no longer be traveling, the trip will be paid for by the Hawthorn Foundation.

Gov. Jay Nixon could not be hired at the University of Missouri under a passed Senate measure.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, would prohibit any member of the University of Missouri board of curators from hiring the individual that appointed them to the board.

"It's directed at any governor who puts the majority of members on that board to make sure that those curators are not pressured to then put whatever governor that put them on the board in the position of president or other position at the university," Schaefer said.

The bill received overwhelming support in the Senate chamber, and passed by a vote of 30-2.

One of the two that voted against the measure was Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, who said that the legislature shouldn't bind the curators to make a decision on who should be hired by the university.

"[The curators] are professional people," Holsman said. "We should trust them to make what's the best decision for the state. If the governor is the best person for that job, then they should be free to make that decision. If he's not, then they should be free to make another decision."

This is the first year under the Affordable Health Care Act that Americans will have to pay a federal tax penalty for not having health insurance, but Sen. Kurt Schaefer has introduced a bill that would give Missourians without coverage a tax break.

"For those people that have to pay that penalty, they can take that as a deduction from the adjusted gross income on their state taxes so that they at least get some relief from the state of Missouri for the overbearing pressure that the federal government is putting on them for not being able to afford insurance in the first place," said Schaefer, R-Columbia.

Schaefer said he believes the bill is the first of its kind in America, and doesn't understand why anyone would oppose it.

"I don't know why anyone would want to pile on people who are already in a difficult financial position by not giving them a break on their state taxes when they are being charged a fine and penalized by the federal government," Schaefer said.

But Senate Democratic Floor Leader Joseph Keaveny said he will oppose the bill because it diminishes the incentive for Missourians to obtain health insurance.

"I think it is an attempt to undermine the incentive for people in Missouri to get health insurance, and I think that's counterproductive, number one, to the intent of the Affordable Care Act," said Keaveny, D-St. Louis City. "And I think it's an attempt to undermine the ability to stimulate people in Missouri to get health insurance which I think is a good thing."

No further action has been taken on the bill.

Thomas A. Schweich, 54, Missouri's State Auditor, died Thursday, Feb. 26 in St. Louis of what reports are calling "self-inflicted gunshot wounds." Schweich was serving his second term as State Auditor and had just entered the 2016 gubernatorial race as a Republican against Catherine Hanaway. According to the Missouri Official Manual, "Schweich had a distinguished career, during which he gained extensive experience in conducting investigations and rooting out corruption in the private and public sectors.

Schweich was born on Oct. 2, 1960 in St. Louis, and was educated in the St. Louis County Public Schools. After receiving his undergraduate degree from Yale, he went on to study law at Harvard University. He practiced as an attorney before working with the federal government under former U.S. Sen. John Danforth.

In 1999, Schweich was appointed to Chief of Staff for Danforth's investigation of the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. He also worked under Danforth and three other Ambassadors in the United Nations.

Schweich was named Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State under the Bush administration. While working for the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, he managed over 4,000 people in over 40 different countries, with a budget of $2.5 billion. Schweich led diplomatic missions to some 30 countries, including Pakistan, Kenya, Russia and Columbia. In Afghanistan, his work helped decrease opium production across the country and rebuild the country's legal infrastructure. In 2007, he was named Ambassador by President Bush himself.

Schweich's death came as an utter shock to the members of the Missouri General Assembly. A prayer service was held in his honor inside of the Missouri House of Representatives. He is survived by his wife Kathy and his two children.

State Auditor Tom Schweich with his family being sworn in for his second term Jan. 12, 2015.
Legislators and staffers at a prayer service for the late Tom Schweich

Thursday morning Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich was hospitalized with what was described as a "medical situation" in St. Louis.

About an hour later numerous news organizations reported he had suffered a self-inflicted gun shot wound.

Soon after, a spokesman from his office confirmed his death.

"It is with great sadness that I confirm the passing of Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich today," said Spence Jackson. "Please keep in mind his wife Kathy and two children."

About 20 minutes after the statement was released, the House reconvened to hold a prayer for Schweich.

The top three state officials, Gov. Jay Nixon, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, and House Speaker John Deihl, joined members of the House and Senate.

Those who were present recited the Lord's prayer along with a few passages from the book of Psalms.

Officials from around the state have released statements of grief and have sent prayers to Schweich's family.

"I am deeply saddened by his sudden loss," wrote Attorney General Chris Koster. "And extend my heartfelt sympathy to his family."

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill also issued a statement of sympathy.

"I am very sad, and hurt so much for Tom Schweich's family," McCaskill wrote. "Hug those you love."

Missouri's Constitution provides that Nixon will appoint a sucessor as auditor.

Gov. Jay Nixon and members of the Missouri General Assembly gather in the House of Representatives for a prayer service honoring State Auditor Tom Schweich on Thursday, Feb. 26. (Photo by Chris Mathews)


Rep. Elijah Haahr bows his head during the prayer service for State Auditor Tom Schweich on Thursday, Feb. 26. (Photo by Chris Mathews)








After gaveling out about an hour ago the House will reconvene at 1:45 p.m. for a prayer service for State Auditor Tom Schweich.

Schweich was hospitalized this morning with what was described as a "medical situation" in St. Louis.

He was taken to a hospital for treatment, but multiple reports say Schweich suffered a self-inflicted gun shot wound.

The announcement of the prayer service came from House Speaker Pro Tem Denny Hoskins on Twitter.

The House passed a bill Thursday, Feb. 26 that seeks to make Missouri the final state in the nation to have a system where all prescription drugs above a schedule II classification are monitored by a program.

Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, sponsored the bill and said it is high time Missouri join every other state with a similar program.

"Time and time again, we have shown that Missouri's controlled substances are not controlled and that we are a hotbed for abuse," she said.

Many of Rehder's fellow Republican spoke out against the bill, citing government overreach in their remarks.

Rep. Keith Frederick, R-Rolla, is one such opponent of the bill.

"We speak on the campaign trail of wanting smaller government, but incrementally, we increase the reach of government bit by bit, bill by bill," Frederick said. "This is how it happens right here, right now."

The bill requires the Department of Health and Senior Services to set up a program and the funding for the program "shall be provided exclusively by gifts, grants, and donations," according to the bill.

Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin, objected to that part of the bill.

"I have a concern that we are causing trouble a couple of years down the road by limiting how we can fund it," White said.

Fellow Republican Rep. Shawn Rhoads, R-West Plains, said the bill is a good start to solving the problem.

"Obviously, this plan is not perfect, but it is a start in the right direction," Rhoads said. "Maybe we can change a little here, change a little there, and make it better down the road."

43 Republicans voted against the bill, but the bill passed by a vote of 107-48.

The bill now heads to the Senate.

An issue seen in other states is being dealt with by two Missouri lawmakers.

The bills proposed by Senators Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, and Ed Emery, R-Lamar, would prohibit public higher education institutions from denying religious student associations benefits available to other student associations.

Schaefer said he wants lawmakers to address this problem now so it does not happen here.

"I know one of the first questions probably some of you will have, well, has this happened in Missouri?" Schaefer said. "I'm not aware if it officially happening, but I have been told by some students, including some who have graduated from public institutions in Missouri 10-15 years ago that their organizations were told that they could not have meetings on campus. So, it's been going on a long time, I think it's more mainstream attention now because of what's happened in California and Tennessee but we need to make sure that this does not happen in the state of Missouri."

MU Law professor Carl Esbeck said the bill is a good idea for Missouri but it's not the first state to deal with the issue.

Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, said he thinks the bill might be taking some light away from traditional American values.

"America was founded on religious freedoms, but where do we cross the line that were aiding and abetting a theocracy?" Brown said

Missouri's abortion clinic would be inspected every year by the state health department under new legislation passed by the Missouri House.

Bill sponsor Rep. Kathy Swan, R-Cape Girardeau, and supporters of the bill said the measure would increase patient safety.

However opponents of the bill say the proposal is designed to restrict abortions in the state.

The bill now heads to the Senate.

The Missouri House passed a bill that would change how unaccredited school districts are pay for students to attend an accredited school immediately, if passed in the Senate.

Supporters of the bill said, while the legislation is not a perfect solution to the issue of school transfers.

Supporters said the bill provides the best possible way for students in unaccredited districts to attend an accredited school without unaccredited districts having to pay an extremely high cost.

Opponents of the bill said the legislation would take away a school board's local control to determine when it is appropriate to sell a school building, especially when a government body outside of a district determines how a district's tax dollars are spent.

Opponents also said the bill, which would only account for transfers from an entire unaccredited school district, rather than a school district with some unaccredited schools, creates an unfair difference.

St. Louis Sen. Jamilah Nasheed confirmed Wednesday afternoon the resignation of Public Safety Department Director Dan Isom just months after his appointment.

Nasheed said the former St. Louis City police chief confirmed his plans to resign in a phone conversation just a bit earlier.

"Today's development, it's truly an embarrassment to the governor's administration. It's a horror story when it comes to public relations," Nasheed said.

Isom was named as the state's chief law enforcement officer in August, shortly after the unrest in Ferguson.

Isom became the second black in the cabinet of Gov. Jay Nixon.

Nixon addressed the resignation in a Wednesday afternoon statement.

"Isom has been a strong leader for the department and an invaluable member of my cabinet," he said. "I am deeply grateful for his wise counsel and leadership, and wish him all the best as he resumes his work at UMSL.”

The same news release said Nixon staffer Peter Lyskowski will take over the department on an interim basis.

The Missouri Supreme Court was urged to let the voter's will prevail on two constitutional amendments that were invalidated by the courts.

One voter approved amendment heard would strengthen gun rights, the other would establish a right to farm.

Missouri voters approved both in 2014 but subsequent court decisions struck the measures down because of how the legislature worded the ballot description.

A lawsuit brought by St. Louis City Police Chief Sam Dotson urged the court to affirm rejection of the voter approved gun rights measure.

Dotson's attorney Chuck Hatfield said there was an irregularity in the wording of the description that appeared on the ballot.

Hatfield said what the voters saw on the ballot was not a proper summary of the amendment, rather the constitution.

Among the lawyers arguing on behalf of voter approval was Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R Columbia, the bill's sponsor.

"There is zero evidence for this court to look at and say that anyone was mislead much less plaintiffs don't even allege they were mislead," Schaefer said.

Following the debate over gun rights, the Right to Farm amendment displayed the same type of debate in the Missouri's highest court.

A lawyer testifying in favor of rewriting and voting on the amendment said the ballot did not accurately describe what Missourians voted on regarding farming.

Mark Hearne with Farmer Care testified the amendment should stay as it stands.

It is unclear when the court will come to a decision.

A Cole County judge ruled Wednesday that Missouri's partnership with a Common Core testing company is unconstitutional.

House Speaker John Diehl, R-St. Louis County, said the House will vote to defund the agreement.

"The people of Missouri have made it clear they have a distaste for Common Core and that they do not want to see their tax dollars wasted on these federally-produced standards," Diehl said in a statement. "We will continue to focus our efforts on developing Missouri-based standards."

Judge Daniel Green also stopped a $4.3 million payment to the company which would have covered the state's membership fees.

A spokesperson for Gov. Jay Nixon did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

It is unclear if the governor will appeal the ruling.

Drug prescription records of Missourians could be stored in a central database if a measure is passed by the House.

The House gave preliminary approval on a bill that would establish a prescription drug monitoring program in the state.

The program would require pharmacists to record prescriptions of specific drugs that are commonly abused such as painkillers.

Supporters of the legislation say it will prohibit residents from surrounding states who already have this program in place from using Missouri to get their recreational drugs.

"Their seeing us, the Show Me State. 'Come to the Show Me State so that we can go ahead and go to your doctors and pharmacies and get the drugs we need and take them home,'" said Kevin Engler, R-Farmington. "I don't think this is a good tourism mechanism from the state of Missouri. The fact that we are the number one doctor-shopping state in this country should be an embarrassment to this body."

Representatives also said this will help senior citizens.

"This is not just about our younger generation that's using these as recreational drugs," said Glen Kolkmeyer, R-Odessa."These are true life stories about our seniors that we need to take care of."

Representatives who oppose the bill said they are concerned about the security of patient's medical records on the database.

"This is the tip of the iceberg," said Keith Frederick, R-Rolla. "Can you really believe this database is going to be secure? The Pentagon can't keep North Korea from hacking our database."

Planned Parenthood could lose state funds under a measure presented to the Senate Seniors, Families and Public Health Tuesday, Feb. 24.

The measure would establish a priority list of organizations that could receive state funding for family planning.

Planned Parenthood is not explicitly included in the list.

“State funds for family planning is about prioritizing”, Sen. Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau, told the committee.

“This bill does not remove funding. It doesn’t cut funding. What its main goal is to prioritize."

M'Evie Mead, State Director of Organizing at Planned Parenthood affiliates in Missouri, spoke in opposition of the bill.

“What it does really is in that list of priorities exclude the experts in family planning care, so what the bill would do is say when it comes to giving out family planning funding, we as a state would decide to exclude the experts in family planning care," she said.

Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis County, said the number one reason why people go into the emergency room is the STDs, because there are people who are sexually uneducated”.

Laura Sandaval, Senior from Washington University opposed the bill, “This legislation targets the most vulnerable women in our state, expand the Medicaid to women and family planning centers are the only option for many women”.

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

For many years, abortion rights opponents in Missouri's legislature -- from both parties -- have sought to restrict or completely block state family planning funds from going to organizations that provide abortion services or refer women to abortion providers.

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee Feb. 24

The Senate judiciary committee heard testimony on two bills that would determine when a police officer could use deadly force.

Bipartisan support came from committee chair Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Greene County, and Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, who urged the committee to change the law.

Missouri law allows for police to shoot at a potential felon who is fleeing.

"This bill is not an attack on law enforcement," Nasheed said. "This bill would not prevent officers from using deadly force when necessary."

The Chief Elder and Spiritual leader of Afrikan Village and Cultural Center spoke in favor of Nasheed's bill.

"There is a difference between what is right and what is legal," said Ray Hagins. "I'm trying to see my community be healed."

Dixon said the committee would not be able to vote on either bill until Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis, has the opportunity to present her bill on the same issue next week.

Gov. Jay Nixon addressed the Missouri Farm Bureau conference Tuesday, Feb. 24 about his upcoming trip to Cuba and the role of Missouri agriculture in keeping the state from financial ruin during the Great Recession.

When Nixon arrives in Cuba this weekend, he will be the first American governor to visit the communist state since President Barack Obama announced the easing of certain restrictions with the island nation.

Nixon said previous trade missions during his time as governor has prepared him for his trip to Cuba.

"I've led successful trade missions to China, Brazil, Taiwan, Korea, Europe and Canada, closing agreements to sell nearly $10 billion in Missouri goods," Nixon said. "Many of these agreements were focused specifically on agriculture."

Nixon said the mission to Cuba could yield big things for Missouri agriculture producers.

"Expanded trade with this island nation of 11 million people is a tremendous opportunity to show increased demand for what we grow and raise here in Missouri," Nixon said.

After his speech to the farm bureau, Nixon took questions from the press.

One topic Nixon addressed is the continued story of the St. Louis Rams possibly leaving for Los Angeles.

This comes as the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders announced over the weekend their intention to explore building a stadium that both teams would share in Carson, California just outside of Los Angeles.

Also this week, the Inglewood City Council is expected to fast-track a proposal to build a stadium in the LA suburb.

This proposal is the brainchild of current Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who is expected to be in Inglewood when the council votes on the issue.

Nixon said the consequences of the Rams leaving St. Louis would be devastating.

"If we do nothing and the team leaves, we lost $10 million a year in state revenue," Nixon said. "That's what those NFL players pay when they come here."

Nixon also talked about how the Chargers, Raiders, and the Inglewood City Council play into the Rams situation.

"I've talked to the commissioner a number of times, twice in the last few weeks," Nixon said. "The NFL has put together a committee for their strategy on the LA market, so I would defer that to them."

Nixon also addressed the latest school transfer bill moving through the Senate, specifically the issue of charter schools.

"You want to have accountability in charter schools," Nixon said. "I've supported public charter schools in policy areas over the years and I think providing a venue of opportunity, especially in challenged school districts, is an appropriate public policy movement."

Former television host Montel Williams testified at the Capitol in favor of legislation to make medical marijuana legal.

The bill would make it legal to have a prescription for cannabis and purchase it from a care center within the state of Missouri.

Missouri Veterans of Foreign Wars Representative Tom Mundell told lawmakers how using cannabis helped change his life.

Mundell said cannabis helped cure his post-traumatic stress disorder.

Following Mundell's testimony, Williams testified and said that not every prescription pill works.

He told the committee he was able to cut down his pain pills by using cannabis.

Williams also said he was not concerned about those wanting to use marijuana to get high, only those who need it for medical purposes.

Legislators said they were concerned about the cost of setting up a care center and how it could be detrimental to those who do not get approved.

A Senate debate concerning legislation to address issues with school transfers in Missouri shifted to a discussion about under-served African-American youth.

Sen. Gina Walsh, D-St. Louis County, proposed an amendment that would ensure any plan to use money from the Children's Fund of St. Louis County for any school transfer provision had to be voted on by an electorate.

"I do not like when we go around the people who sent us up here," Walsh said. "I'm sorry, I just don't like it."

The fund was established to address a decrease in available funding for mental health services for adolescents.

According to Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis County, there should be ways that fund can be used to help under-served African-American youth.

"There's a monopoly on this," Chappelle-Nadal said. "We're all being taxed and there are other entities that service children of high needs who should be part of this. What we do in our language is create another board strictly to deal with children who are in unaccredited school districts. And we want to ensure that these kids get wrap-around services. This state cannot afford to have another Michael Brown, period."

Walsh's amendment was defeated, in a 17-13 vote.

Taxpayers would be required to foot a $1 million bill to broadcast legislative meetings if a bill heard by a House committee is passed.

The bill would require all Capitol sessions, joint sessions and committee hearings to be broadcast and live streamed on line.

Members of the House Government and Oversight Accountability Committee were concerned about the fiscal estimations for the bill.

The sponsor of the bill, Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said he does not believe the bill would cost as much as estimated.

"I personally believe that we could do it for considerably cheaper," said Rep. Rowden. "I know that for a fact given the experience I have in this realm."

The current predicted costs for this bill include $120,000 per year for three video specialists.

However, Rowden said there would not be a need to hire video specialists depending on the type of equipment used.

In order to decrease the amount of funding needed for the bill, Committee Chairman Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City suggested only broadcasting chamber sessions.

"I'm highly skeptical of this $1.1 million fiscal note," said Barnes. "I bet we could get it up on Ustream for less than $5,000."

Rep. Robert Cornejo, R-St. Peters, said he was concerned about the technology malfunctioning and causing delays.

"I would hate to see us put something into the statute that would then delay a debate in the House and moving legislation forward," Cornejo said.

Opeoluwa Sotonwa, the executive director of the Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, testified in support of the bill.

Sotonwa also wanted to make sure that captions would be included along with the broadcast in order make it more accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing.

"We want to make sure we have these services and these meetings accessible to those that are deaf and hard of hearing in the state of Missouri so they can have access to the information and feel a connection to their government and see the proceedings and the legislative process," Sotonwa told the committee through an interpreter.

Last year, this bill was proposed but was not passed because of similar concerns regarding its financing.