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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of March 9, 2015

After two St. Louis County police officers were shot during protests outside the Ferguson Police Department, several senators reflected on the sacrifices that the state's police officers have made during the recent events in Ferguson.

"While certain facets of the law enforcement response to Ferguson have themselves been the subject of scrutiny and even criticism, it's absolutely clear that we as a state owe these officers an enormous debt of gratitude for all they have sacrificed and done to keep the public safe," said Scott Sifton, D-St. Louis County.

Sifton concluded his speech by calling on both lawmakers and the state as a whole to remember Martin Luther King Jr.'s teachings of nonviolence and peaceful protests.

Sen. Gina Walsh also shared her thoughts on the shootings. Walsh comes from a law enforcement family.

"It was a crime of opportunity to take a shot at these people that are trying to bring peace to the St. Louis County area," said Walsh, D-St. Louis County. "And I hope that we all when we go home this weekend, we hug our kids and our grandkids and we think about those folks lying in the hospital there and what their families are going through this weekend."

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed added she would keep her thoughts and prayers on the two officers. She called the attack "cowardly" and said she expects a swift investigation to bring the shooters to justice.

"And for that senseless act of violence to occur during a time that we have seen so much progress throughout the months due to the Ferguson situation, its appalling," said Nasheed, D-St. Louis City.

The wounds suffered by the two police officers are serious, but not-life threatening. They have been released from the hospital.

The Senate passed a bill Thursday, Mar. 12 that would limit the amount of damages a person can collect from medical malpractice lawsuits.

If made into law, the bill would cap the amount awarded for personal injury to $400,000. For catastrophic injury and death, the limit would be $700,000.

"The final version of Senate Bill 239 might not be the bill that I would file, but it is a bill that will be getting my vote today," said Sen. Scott Sifton, D-St. Louis County. "And I would encourage members of the body to support it."

The bill was passed 28-2 and will now head to the House.

The House passed its version of the state's budget on Thursday, Mar. 12 after a long and sometimes contentious debate over education and Medicaid expansion.

On Tuesday, House Republicans voted down an amendment that would've expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Republicans like Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, say the existing system is already broken.

"The decisions we make today are going to have impacts on future General Assemblies, on future citizens of the state of Missouri and they're not all going to be positive if we expand Medicaid," Fitzpatrick said. "It's a broken system, it needs fixing... but expanding it and just hoping things are going to get better for everybody isn't the way we need to go."

Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-St. Louis County, says her experience with the current system when she was a staff member in the Senate in 2005 wasn't a good one.

She says the Republicans supposedly fixed the system 10 years ago, but it really isn't fixed.

"If it's broken, who broke it?" McCreery asked. "And if it's broken, you [Republicans] have a super-majority in this chamber. Why can't you fix it? You can do anything you want."

Another item of contention was the School Foundation Funding Formula.

Democrats charged the Republicans are underfunding it because they're giving away millions of dollars a year in tax breaks, but Republicans fired back, saying they put more money into the formula than Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon did in his budget.

"I think it's a bit disheartening for folks to get up and say that we're not doing something while offering no real, relevant, functional solutions by which to do the things that they're speaking about," Columbia Republican Rep. Caleb Rowden said. "It's really really easy to lob bombs. It's a little bit harder to govern."

At the end of the budget debate, Fitzpatrick said Nixon should be happy with the budget the House passed.

"I just ask the governor to take this budget seriously," Fitzpatrick said. "We are passing a budget that I don't think he's going to need to withhold from."

House Assistant Democratic Leader Gail McCann-Beatty, D-Kansas City, said Republicans can't fully fund education for one reason.

"As long as we continue to see tax cuts and increases in tax credits and nothing done to increase revenues, we're going to be able to fund our foundation formula," she said. 

All 13 House-passed budget bills now move to the Senate.

Three senators and two House members called on Missouri Republican Party chairman John Hancock to resign from his leadership post.

The call for his resignation on Thursday, Mar. 12 comes just two weeks after State Auditor Tom Schweich committed suicide at his home in Clayton.

Sens. David Pearce, Mike Parson, and Gary Romine were present at the news conference as well as Reps. Bill White and Jim Neely.

Pearce said Hancock needs to go.

"The reason why we're asking for change is because the party is not working," Pearce said. "Our chairman has not responded to media calls, not offered a new direction, and really has been more interested in keeping his job than in leading in the party."

Hancock launched a media blitz Thursday, doing a lengthy interview on KMOX in St. Louis before doing interviews with many other media outlets throughout the day.

"Now's the time to unify the party, not divide it," Hancock said on KMOX.

Sen. Mike Parson gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor just days after Schweich died and he repeated his calls for the end to politics as usual.

"We have let this thing get out of hand, what I believe, the politics in this state," Parson said. "And it's going to be up to some of us to show leadership and to be able to somehow make sure that we get politics back in some orderly fashion."

Hancock called out the members who asked him to resign.

"It's disappointing that some fellow Republicans have jumped to conclusions before the truth has been fully revealed," Hancock said on the radio.

Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin, said the Republican Party must rise up and not allow dirty politics in to their party.

"We need to tell our own candidates, our own operatives: this is not going to happen in our party anymore," White said. "We're not going to do this kind of advertising, we're not going to run these kind of smear campaigns. We need to be the ones to say we're not doing it."

Pearce said two to three additional senators would have joined the press conference, but they could not due to scheduling conflicts.

The Missouri Supreme Court transferred all Ferguson municipal court cases to Eastern District Appellate Judge Roy Richter in an effort to "help restore public trust and confidence," in Ferguson's courts, according to a press release.

The transfer came one day before the Ferguson City Council voted to remove City Manager John Shaw from his post.

Two days after the case transfers were announced, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson resigned from his position.

"Judge Richter will bring a fresh, disinterested perspective to this court’s practices and he is able and willing to implement needed reforms," Chief Justice Mary R. Russell said in a press release.

The court has authorized Richter to, "implement needed reforms to court policies and procedures in Ferguson to ensure that the rights of defendants are respected and to help restore the integrity of the system."

Representatives serving on the House Health and Mental Health Policy committee heard testimony on a bill that would change current law that determines when the Department of Health is required to make records regarding the rate of infections public.

House Staff Member Chris Dunn is working with bill sponsor Rep. Sue Allen, R-St. Louis County. He said Allen reported a statistic in the hearing that requires the attention this bill provides.

"I think [Allen] said about 75,000 people a year die from a hospital acquired infection," Dunn said. "And hospitals don't want that to get out, and I'm not trying to beat up hospitals, but they don't want that to get out. If you find out that a hospital isn't doing a good job with preventing infections, you won't go to that hospital. If you don't go to that hospital, they lose money."

The bill includes provisions that detail which types of infections require reporting. The bill would expand the list of infections that require reporting to include those associated with c-section and vaginal birth, hip and knee replacements and hysterectomies including abdominal, vaginal, and laparoscopic.

Ventilator associated events and central-line related bloodstream infections must also be reported.

The Attorney General's office is appealing a Cole County judge's ruling that struck down the state's agreement with a group providing Common Core testing supplies.

The release states the case does not affect already scheduled Spring 2015 assessments.

The decision to remain a member of the group has been criticized by Republicans including House Speaker John Diehl, R-St. Louis County, who said the House will vote this session to de-fund the agreement.

The Missouri Black Caucus held a news conference Wednesday afternoon to express their frustration with House Speaker John Diehl, R-St. Louis County, for what they called his lack of commitment to legislation dealing with issues relating to the unrest in Ferguson and the death of black teenager Michael Brown.

Missouri Black Caucus chairman Rep. Brandon Ellington, D-Jackson County, said Diehl's decision not to assign seven bills filed that deal with issues brought to the forefront by the unrest in Ferguson could send a bad message to nation and world.

"Missouri is sending out a message that we're racist and we don't care." Ellington said.

He also said while legislation filed by Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, changing the amount of money cities can bring in through court fees is good, it does not address the underlying problems in the state. That legislation passed the Senate in early-February.

It has not been assigned to a committee in the House.

Diehl addressed the Caucus' concerns in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.

"I am disappointed with the inaccuracies reflected in the comments made by Rep. Ellington," Diehl said. "As I said in January, we will have all bills dealing with this important issue referred before the legislative spring break. As they move through the process, we will weigh their merits with a reasoned approach based on facts, not emotion."

The bill aimed to release a man who is serving a life in prison for marijuana charges has added an amendment that would make him eligible for parole.

Jeff Mizanskey is currently serving life in prison for three marijuana-related felony drug convictions.

The House Corrections Committee discussed the bill Wednesday Mar. 10.

The committee approved an amendment that would give the state parole board the jurisdiction to release Mizanskey.

Committee chair Rep. Paul Fitzwater, R-Potosi, said he was not sure if the committee would have the authority to release Mizanskey.

"I'm not sure if it's constitutional and we have the power to release an inmate like this," Fitzwater said.

The board would also have to grant Mizanskey parole within 30 days of the bill becoming law.

Fitzwater also said since new criminal code is going into effect in 2017, this bill would only apply to Mizanskey.

A bill legalizing cannabis for medical purposes passed the House Emerging Issues Wednesday, Mar. 11 by a 10-1 vote.

The legislation sets up a mechanism for the state to tax and regulate businesses which would grow marijuana, caps the number of growers and dispensaries while allowing doctors to prescribe cannabis when needed.

Missouri lawmakers voted to approve the use of hemp oil last year for medical purposes. Several states, including Illinois, legalized medical marijuana. Washington state, Washington D.C. and Colorado have decriminalized the use of cannabis.

A new bill introduced in the Missouri Senate seeks to eliminate racial profiling by Missouri police in light of the death of black teenager Michael Brown.

Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis County, sponsored the bill and said she filed the legislation in light of the events that occurred in Ferguson.

"It was a devastating point in Missouri history, and in our countries history," said Chappelle-Nadal. "Right now we are the embarrassment of the country. As people are making policies and are interacting with similar situations everyone is learning from the Ferguson experience. They always say let's not do what they did in Ferguson."

The bill would create definitions for certain words already inside a state law mandating how police officers write reports. The bill would also require police to include more information about pedestrian stops, which is not covered under current law.

The bill also requires every law enforcement agencies to conduct yearly reports from their officers to see if individual officers have patterns of stopping or arresting minorities.

Chappelle-Nadal was joined by member of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Don't Shoot Coalition and Veterans For Peace. The three groups support her legislation.

"One of the things we have to understand is we have to deal with the legacy of racism," said Michael McPhearson, the executive director of Veterans For Peace. "So we have to deal with that legacy within the framework of the laws. But we also have to deal with that racism within the framework of how we socialize and relate to each other as people."

The legislation has not yet been assigned to a committee. Chappelle-Nadal told reporters she hopes Senate leaders take her bill serious. Sens. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, and Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, have also filed legislation dealing with police conduct.

Get the bill.

A bill that would set a cap the amount of damages someone can receive from being injured by a doctor has been perfected.

Tuesday evening the bill was largely debated on the Senate floor by Sen. Scott Sifton, D-St. Louis County, and Sen. Dan Brown, R-Phelps, the bills sponsor.

Sifton said he wanted to be sure that the bill that was perfected was one that would be beneficial, not harmful.

"The last thing we want to do is have something leave this chamber," Sifton said. "Become law, and have immediate unintended consequences that have everybody back the next year trying to fix the problem we just caused."

In order to pass the bill Brown agreed to increasing the malpractice cap to $700,000.

"Never had I agreed to that number before," Brown said. "I don't think it's the right move, but I'm hoping this gives some certainty."

The bill needs one more vote before the Senate before it can be sent to the House.

The Senate debated a bill Tuesday, Mar. 10 that would establish when and under what circumstances an expert witness can testify in court.

However, multiple senators from both parties filibustered the bill after it came up again during the Senate's evening session.

Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, sponsored the bill.

"Currently, we use a standard called the Frye decision recognizing that the trial judges have the responsibility to act as gatekeepers to exclude unreliable expert testimony," Kehoe said.

Kehoe wants Missouri to change to another standard.

"Forty states have now adopted the Daubert... Standard to use in their court systems," Kehoe said. "All of our surrounding states with the exception Illinois now use this standard and Missourians who have appeared in front of the federal court are already operating under the standard. So, It's only the state court that has not adopted it yet."

The Daubert Standard determines whether an expert witnesses' testimony can be used in a federal court preceding.

Sen. Jill Schupp, D-St. Louis County, offered an amendment that urged the Senate to allow the expert's expertise in the expert's opinion rather than the testimony itself.

Schupp then asked Sen. Scott Sifton, D-St. Louis County, about the amendment and what effect it would have.

"What the underlying bill does is it deletes from current statute the existing expert witness standard and inserts the federal standard," Sifton said. "What your amendment would appear to do is modify that insertion of the federal standard by reinserting part of the existing state standard."

Schupp also pointed out how the long delay of the case would affect the plaintiffs and their financial position especially in domestic violence cases.

"My concern that if those cases are coming forward, the time delay, the expense delay, sometimes there is one person in that relationship who controls the purse strings and may also be the person who is perpetrating the acts of domestic violence," Schupp said.

Schupp's amendment was ultimately defeated during the filibuster that ran until midnight when the bill was laid over.

The House gave first-round approval Tuesday, Mar. 10 to its $26 billion budget that includes nearly $5.8 billion for K-12 education and $1.26 billion for higher education.

But what the House didn't put in its budget left more than a few members unhappy.

One such item the House didn't include is an expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Rep. Judy Morgan, D-Kansas City, offered an amendment to expand Medicaid and said this is personal to her.

"As a member of the minority party, I lose on more votes than I would like, but not winning on Medicaid expansion is one of the most heartbreaking ones for me," Morgan said.

Rep. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said the current Medicaid system is broken, so the state should not create a new one.

"The reality that we deal with in this body... is that there is a growing monster in our state that is starving the life out of our general revenue and that is our current Medicaid population," Rowden said.

The House defeated Morgan's amendment by a 115-44 margin.

Another item left out of the budget is a pay raise for state employees.

The House's budget isn't the only budget that doesn't include such a pay raise.

Gov. Jay Nixon and the Senate don't include a pay increase either.

Engler chastised his fellow members for not helping state employees.

"Last year, we came up with a whole one percent and then we couldn't deliver it until the end of the year," Engler said. "For the past almost 10 years, we haven't even come up with a raise that kept up with the deductible part of the insurance for the state employees."

Rep. Jon Carpenter, D-Clay County, said state employees should blame the legislature's lack of frugality with the funds they're given.

Carpenter said the reason Missouri's employees are the lowest paid in the nation is because "this body over and over again has made the decision that we are not going to preserve revenues necessary to give them a raise."

After five hours of debate, the House approved all 13 of their budget bills by voice vote.

The Senate Small Business Committee met Tuesday, Mar. 10 in a completely packed hearing room to discuss the bill. Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, is the bill supporter and gave a full-throated defense of his legislation.

"Unions argue that the benefits of union membership justify workers to pay the dues," Brown said. "They argue that states with lower union membership have significantly lower wages. And the facts, as we'll see in testimonies, show that those statistics just are not true."

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay testified in opposition to the bill.

"I'm very, very proud that St. Louis is a strong union town," Slay said. "It's one that has outstanding union leadership."

The committee heard many from other opponents of right to work during the nearly three-hour debate. They said unions help provide better wages, superior health care and pension benefits.

Mark Sweeney of McCallum Sweeney Consulting testified for informational purposes. His company is a location consulting firm focusing on manufacturing and industrial clients.

"We help our clients make the most informed decisions to go to the location that best meets their strategic and operational needs," Sweeney said. "The vast majority, certainly well over 75 or 80 percent, of our manufacturing clients express a preference for operating in a non-union facility."

Sweeney said that clients often will limit their location searches to only states with similar right to work legislation in place.

As is customary upon its first reading, the committee took no immediate action on the bill.

Regulations for legal lenders in Missouri were the subject of a Monday hearing of the House Banking Committee.

The committee heard testimony on three bills that would place new regulations on businesses that offer loans to help cover costs associated with lawsuits, like court and attorney fees. This is the third year in a row legislation has been filed relating to legal lenders in Missouri. Current legislation would, if passed, require civil justice lenders to registers with the state and standardize contracts between consumers and legal lenders.

This is the second year in a row that legislation has been filed concerning the issue.

One of the bills -- sponsored by Rep. Don Gosen, R-Ballwin -- would ban the loans outright.

Two other bills -- one sponsored by Rep. Tony Dugger, R-Hartville and another sponsored by Rep. Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield -- would regulate the industry by creating uniform font sizes and require lenders to disclose certain information like the loan's interest rate.

The main difference between the two bills it that Haahr's legislation requires a cap on interest rates. Dugger's does not have a cap.

No immediate action was taken relating to the three bills.

Missouri welfare programs that distribute temporary unemployment benefits would have new requirements if legislation is passed by the House.

The House Children and Families Committee heard four different bills each pertaining to the state's welfare program and different aspects of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The bills would allow benefits for food-stamp recipients without dependants to expire and prohibit the use of an electronic benefit transfer card at an ATM.

Rep. Diane Franklin, R-Camdenton, sponsored one of the bills that would decrease the lifetime limit that a person is eligible to receive temporary assistance from five years to two years.

"The state is not the end all to helping people move from a point where they need a helping hand to being in the workforce," Franklin said. "We can only provide so many dollars and so much time and so much face-to-face."

One of the bills that the committee heard has already been passed by the Senate.

This bill would require the Department of Social Services to conduct an investigation in order to determine if a person within a household that is receiving TANF benefits is cooperating with the work requirement.

Under the bill the person would have to be actively searching for work or participating in certain work activities.

The bill would also establish an orientation, conducted by Department of Social Services, in order to inform families of the program's benefits and new requirements.

"My objective is to have a program that is efficient, encourages people back to work and makes people self sufficient and not dependent on the federal government," said David Sater, R-Cassville, who sponsored the bill. "This is a temporary assistance to needy families, not a permanent assistance to needy families. We want them on their own."

Those who testified in opposition of the bills at the committee hearing said they were concerned about the effect these bills would have on the children of the families.

Amira Wyatt with Operation Breakthrough has experienced the need for temporary assistance.

"It is increasingly hard to support a family and truly support a family," said Wyatt. "You do fell like you're being penalized for trying to be a productive citizen. At what point can we change that?"

Members of the Missouri House heard testimony regarding the costs of building a new stadium in order to keep the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis.

The House Government Oversight and Accountability Committee heard testimony from Dave Peacock who was appointed by Gov. Jay Nixon to do a 60-day analysis of the Rams situation.

Peacock said if there is no firm stadium plan by the end of the year, there would be a high risk of losing the Rams to California.

Committee Chairman Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, said the state needs to be careful not to pick "winners or losers."

Barnes said Missouri's legislators need to work for its taxpayers rather than take care of a private industry.

If a new stadium is built in St. Louis, Peacock said it should be Super Bowl eligible.

A Super Bowl eligible stadium meets the NFL's 72,000-seat requirement and could bring more revenue to the state.

Barnes said the Rams currently have the lowest operating income in the league and the value of a team in Los Angeles is likely higher than the value of a team in St. Louis.

Last Week

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.

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