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Recent Missouri editorials

February 13, 2018

The Jefferson City News-Tribune, Feb. 11

Sad saga continues

The sad saga of Carl DeBrodie’s death and his loved ones’ attempts to find answers and get closure is continuing.

Last April, police found the decomposed body of the mentally challenged man wrapped in plastic and encased in concrete. His body was inside a trash container and a wooden crate in a storage unit in Fulton.

Since then, few details of the investigation have been released, and no one has been charged.

Callaway County authorities have faced public criticism over the pace and lack of information released, the Fulton Sun recently reported.

Last week, Callaway County Prosecuting Attorney Christopher Wilson issued a news release, saying he has reasons for being tight-lipped. He cited Missouri Supreme Court rules of ethics and prosecutors’ “obligation to refrain from making statements that jeopardize” investigations. They also must “refrain from making statements that heighten public condemnation of the accused,” Wilson said.

No one expects him or other officials to skirt court rules and ethics. But after close to a year, DeBrodie’s family, as well as the public, simply want assurance the case isn’t being dropped, that leads are being followed, that progress is being made.

“Carl DeBrodie has not been forgotten,” Wilson promised.

Meanwhile, DeBrodie’s mother, Carolyn Summers, isn’t waiting any longer for answers. She has filed a civil lawsuit naming more than a dozen defendants, including: Second Chance Homes and Rachel Rowden, who owned and operated Second Chance; Sherry Paulo, a “qualified disability professional” employed at Second Chance; the Callaway County Public Administrator’s Office and Callaway County Public Administrator Karen Digh Allen, who was appointed DeBrodie’s legal guardian in 2008.

The suit alleges eight counts: wrongful death, three civil rights violations, two civil conspiracies, negligence and right of sepulcher.

Rudy Veit, Summers’ attorney, said: “Certainly, we know there was a grievous wrong done here somewhere. It’s a matter of finding out who was responsible and who dropped the ball.”

For Summers, the lawsuit is more about finding answers than anything else.

In that vein, we hope she succeeds.

_____

The St. Joseph News-Press, Feb. 12

Protect, provide for the children

Thousands of Missouri residents - young children and teens - depend on the bureaucracy to do one thing exceedingly well: protect and provide for them while they are in state care.

This work proves hard even under the best of circumstances, and this is not that time. The number of young people in the Missouri foster care system now is about 13,000 and rising.

“The pressures of a growing system, as well as the demanding and emotionally grueling nature of the work, have made it difficult to be responsive to the needs of those requiring help,” says House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff.

Safety is a fundamental, as should be attention to creating a stable, caring environment where children will thrive. But the average time a child spends in foster care is estimated to be two years and about half of the children experience three or more foster care placements.

“We need to find ways to best serve our children and youth who, at no fault of their own, are put in challenging circumstances,” says Richardson.

It appears Missouri is entering a productive time of focusing on these issues and applying multiple resources to the task in a coordinated way. Richardson is doing his part by appointing Rep. Jim Neely, R-Cameron, to head a new Special Committee to Improve the Care and Well-Being of Young People.

“With the amount of legislation filed to address the policies and practices of the programs that serve as the state’s safety net, a specific committee with its sole mission to carefully evaluate each proposal was needed so we ensure every child in Missouri has the opportunity to succeed in life,” Richardson says.

The committee’s oversight includes the Children’s Division of the Department of Social Services, the child welfare services, the Child Abuse/Neglect Hotline, the School Violence Hotline, Intensive In-Home Services, Foster Care and other services.

Meanwhile, Gov. Eric Greitens and first lady Sheena Greitens have made improvements in foster care services a priority. In December, the first lady announced the state has joined a multistate system for sharing information electronically and expediting the placement of children in safe, permanent families across state lines.

Also, the state is a participant in a research study focused on foster parent recruitment and retention. The goal is to determine the best ways to select and support foster parents, and to lower turnover rates for foster parents that can reach 60 percent after one year.

Our safety net for children sags under the weight of many challenges. Cooperative efforts such as these can help lighten the load.

____

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 10

Lawmakers make it easier for monopolies to raise electricity rates

Warner L. Baxter had barely taken his seat in the CEO’s chair at Ameren Corp. in 2014 before he promised to be “relentless” in pursuing regulatory relief in Missouri. It took him four years, capped by legislative opponents’ extraordinary 24-hour filibuster in the state Senate, but last week he took a big step closer to his goal.

The Senate, which annually has blocked Ameren Missouri’s attempts to ease its regulatory burden, gave in this time. A 27-hour power play orchestrated by GOP leaders overcame 24 hours of nonstop talking by three Republican opponents and one Democrat, and the Senate approved Senate Bill 564 shortly before 10 p.m. Thursday. The House is expected to go along without the drama.

Ameren calls it a “grid modernization bill,” saying it provides faster returns on investments in system upgrades. Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff, was skeptical, saying it was less about grid modernization than “bank account maximization.”

Labor interests had quietly urged Democrats to vote for the bill, believing that most of the 3,000 jobs that Ameren has promised will go to union members. Most Senate Democrats appeared to comply. But the measure was passed on a voice vote, freeing senators from defending a recorded vote on a bill that will surely raise electricity rates.

Gas companies already are allowed to automatically pass along certain infrastructure costs. SB 564 grants Ameren and the state’s two other regulated electric companies a faster way to recover infrastructure spending.

In return for having its regulatory burden eased, Ameren agreed to cap rate increases for five years at no more than 2.85 percent a year. After five years, Ameren can seek the PSC’s approval to renew the deal for another five years.

Ameren also agreed to return to customers about $100 million in tax savings it expects from the federal tax-cut bill within 90 days of SB 564′s final passage. Ameren had argued it couldn’t return tax savings without a lengthy PSC rate case, though the Legislature could have authorized a shortcut.

SB 564 is far less ambitious than deregulation bills that Ameren has proposed in the past, “I don’t think it is so bad that it’s horrible,” said Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, who opposed it.

Still, for the first time, the PSC’s power to regulate what are, after all, profitable and reliable monopolies has been broached. A relentless company may want another bite of the apple.

“Will this be enough for them?” Schaaf asked. “Good luck, fellow senators, dealing with this again next year.”

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