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Archive for July, 2014

(Jefferson City) (AP) – The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld privacy protections against police searches of cellphones, but Missouri voters looking to fortify those rights will get their chance next week.

The Aug. 5 ballot measure known as Amendment 9 would require police to obtain a warrant before searching or seizing “electronic communications and data,” such as cellphones, emails and computer flash drives. Supporters argue that including those protections in the Missouri Constitution could help guard against excessive government intrusion, and they cite the recent National Security Agency eavesdropping scandal as motivation.

“People are outraged at the invasion of their privacy, and they want to fight back,” said Sen. Rob Schaaf, a St. Joseph Republican and organizer of the Protect Our Privacy campaign committee.

But the proposal may have little actual effect because courts already have ruled that the U.S. Constitution’s search-and-seizure protections apply to modern digital devices, said Kansas City attorney David Oliver, whose firm deals with privacy cases

“This may make the proponents feel good, that there is this provision in Missouri’s constitution,” he said. “I don’t think it has that much practical significance.”

Still, amendment backers say a constitutional safeguard is far more preferable than continuing to rely on the courts – or Congress – for updated interpretations of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, written two centuries ago. The federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act was passed nearly three decades ago in a belated attempt at legal catch-up, albeit at the dawn of the Internet but before cellphones and digital cloud storage.

“It is a core American value that the government doesn’t go on fishing expeditions, searching through our papers and things, looking at our communications, following us around,” said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri, which has launched a “Yes on 9″ campaign to boost support for the proposed amendment. “Amendment 9 makes it crystal clear that those protections that have been part of our democracy for over 200 years also cover our electronic communications.”

The exact question before voters will read: “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended so that the people shall be secure in their electronic communications and data from unreasonable searches and seizures as they are now likewise secure in their persons, homes, papers and effects?”

The resolution to place the measure on the ballot was approved in the Missouri House 114-28, and it received only one `no’ vote in the Senate. That vote was cast by Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a Democrat from University City who said she objected to the proposal’s overly broad wording and the possible restrictions it might place on police and prosecutors, including those fighting sex trafficking and child pornography.

But both Schaaf, who co-sponsored the resolution, and Mittman said a broadly written amendment was needed, even though the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that police must show probable cause and obtain search warrants before seizing cellphones

“Technology has taken off at a startlingly fast rate,” Mittman said. “Our rules, regulations, ordinances and statutes have not kept up with the pace of change.”

As of Monday, just nine days before the vote, no organized opposition had emerged, including among Missouri prosecutors and law enforcement officers. The digital privacy amendment is one of five proposed constitutional changes on the statewide ballot.

Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond, president of the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association, said he expects few problems should voters approve the measure, though he noted it could conflict with a 2013 state law that allows drivers to show electronic proof of car insurance. He also noted that even before the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, his deputies would request warrants before searching phones and computers during traffic stops if the owner did not provide verbal consent.

“I don’t see any problem with the passage of this amendment,” Bond said. “I don’t really have any heartburn over it.”

(Little Rock) (AP) – Attorney General Dustin McDaniel wants to defend in court a $5 million tax break the Legislature gave the natural gas industry after the state’s top finance official said the exemption was unconstitutional.

McDaniel on Friday filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit challenging the measure approved earlier this year exempting sand used in natural gas drilling from state sales taxes. The tax break was included in the Department of Finance and Administration’s revenue services division budget, an approach the lawsuit argues is unconstitutional.

DFA Director Richard Weiss, the defendant in the case, agreed in a Friday court filing that the approach was unconstitutional.

McDaniel asked to intervene so he could defend the tax break.

Lawmakers approved the break in March, overriding a veto by Gov. Mike Beebe.

(Little Rock) (AP) – A Little Rock native who has worked for several nonprofits will be the first Arkansas director for the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights group.

The Washington-based Human Rights Campaign announced Monday it had hired Kendra Johnson as its state director as part of its $8.5 million Project One America campaign to promote LGBT equality in three southern states.

Johnson was born and raised in Little Rock and has worked at several nonprofits, including Better Community Development and the Women’s Project. She has an undergraduate degree from Spelman College and a graduate degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Johnson’s hiring was announced as court fights are underway at the federal and state level over Arkansas’ ban on gay marriage.

(ORN Photo)

(ORN Photo)

(West Plains) – The Boys and Girls Club of the Greater West Plains Area held a special inter-club dodgeball tournament this past Friday.

Executive Director of the West Plains Club, Dakota Crow, told Ozark Radio News more about the Duck and Dodge Ultimate Dodgeball Tournament:

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Ashley Smith, Youth Development Professional with the West Plains Club, was the one who came up with the idea for a dodgeball tournament. She told Ozark Radio News why she chose the sport:

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Snow cones were also available for the kids and staff during the event.

Unfortunately for the West Plains Club, they weren’t victorious, as the Poplar Bluff Boys and Club won the tournament. Club kids did, however, get a chance to take a little frustration out on some of their Club’s staff – after the tournament, the children and staff had a number of games against one another.

(West Plains) – A meeting concerning the “Right To Farm” amendment to the Missouri Constitution will be held Tuesday at the West Plains Civic Center.

154th District Representative Shawn Rhoads spoke with Ozark Radio News and talked about the meeting:

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Detractors of the amendment say that they’re worried about the wording of the amendment, which they consider “vague”. Rhoads addressed this concern:

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Rhoads also addressed some other concerns brought up concerning the amendment:

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He also said the “Right To Farm” amendment shouldn’t be a Democrat or Republican issue:

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Again, the meeting concerning the “Right To Farm” amendment will be held Tuesday at 7 PM in the Dogwood Room of the West Plains Civic Center. The public is invited and attendance is free.

(Mountain Home) (AP) – A Baxter County judge has sentenced a Cotter man to 20 years in prison for sexually assaulting a young girl.

63-year-old William Bardin was sentenced Thursday. Bardin pleaded guilty in June to repeatedly raping a girl under the age of 14 over several years.

He was recorded admitting that he assaulted the girl in his home and in an ice cream truck he drove.

Bardin started assaulting the girl when she was about five or six years old. She is now a teenager.

He must complete 14 years of the sentence before being eligible for parole.

(Cabool) – Four people including three children were seriously injured Sunday morning after a one-vehicle accident near Cabool.

The accident happened at 6:48 AM on Route M, about 8 miles north of Cabool, when the southbound vehicle driven by 30-year-old Brandon Stark ran off-road and overturned, striking a tree and coming to rest.

Stark was seriously injured and flown to Mercy Hospital in Springfield. Two 8-year-old children and a 10-year-old girl were also seriously injured and also taken to Springfield hospitals.

A report from Troop G of the Highway Patrol states that none of the occupants were wearing a seatbelt when the accident occurred.

(Alton) – Three people were injured after a head-on collision Saturday morning.

The accident happened at 11:25 AM on Route AA, about 2 miles north of Alton, when the eastbound vehicle driven by 53-year-old Karen Eaker of Alton crossed the center line and struck an oncoming vehicle driven by 69-year-old Wayne Andrews of Jefferson City.

Eaker suffered serious injuries, and was taken to Mercy Hospital in Springfield by ambulance. Andrews and his wife, 68-year-old Patricia Andrews, suffered moderate injuries and were taken to Ozarks Medical Center in West Plains.

(Lee’s Summit) (AP) – Missouri health officials say although three rabid bats have been found this summer in a Kansas City suburb, the statewide number of total rabies cases is down.

One person was bitten by one of the rabid bats found since June 1 in Lee’s Summit and was treated for the bite.

There have been 14 rabies cases reported in animals so far this year in Missouri; seven were rabid bats and the others were infected skunks. Officials say that’s substantially lower than the 39 rabies cases reported for the same time last year. Missouri usually has about 50 rabid animals detected annually.

Kansas has had 26 cases of animal rabies reported this year.

Bats are good for the environment because they eat tons of beetles and mosquitoes, and bats also normally don’t attack people.

(Houston)- 33rd District Senator Mike Cunninham says that he is unsure Medicaid expansion will pass in the state, which worries local hospitals including Texas County Memorial.

Cunningham was invited to the TCMH Board of Director’s most recent meeting to speak about healthcare from a legislative point of view. It was Cunningham’s second visit to TCMH, one of four hospitals in his congressional district.

Wes Murray, chief executive officer at TCMH, explained to Cunningham that TCMH does not receive support through a local tax nor does the hospital receive “cost plus” reimbursement for Medicare and Medicaid patients because TCMH does not have a critical access hospital designation.

Cunningham explained that of the 34 state senators, one-third support Medicaid expansion, one-third support Medicaid expansion with certain provisions in place, and one-third are completely against Medicaid expansion.

Cunningham shared that there is less than a 50% chance Medicaid expansion will pass in Missouri and noted that he would support Medicaid expansion with provisions in place such as a sliding scale, co-pays and deductibles.

Murray shared that 80% of the people that would benefit from Medicaid expansion are working, but unable to afford insurance.

Murray also added that a new report from the Hospital Industry Data Institute (HIDI) shows what hospitals in Missouri are experiencing “financial stress”, with Texas County and all of the hospitals in Cunningham’s district are experiencing the “most stress”. The stress test looked at all acute care hospitals across the state and the hospitals’ payer mix ratio; operating margin; uncompensated care as a percent of gross revenue; cumulative cuts through 2019 as a percent of operating revenue and percent change in inpatient volume from 2009.

Hospitals in the South Central region are experiencing the most stress based on financial data collected in the Missouri hospital annual licensing survey, utilization data included in the HIDI inpatient discharges database and future reimbursement reductions that hospitals will experience as a result of the Affordable Care Act and the American Taxpayer Relief Act.

The average small hospital has 7.1 percent of uncompensated care as a percentage of the hospital’s gross revenue. At TCMH, the uncompensated care is 8.7 percent of gross revenue.

Linda Pamperien, TCMH chief financial officer, told board members that the hospital lost just over $98,000 in June, with year to date loss of $742,172.56.