Why Two States Remain Holdouts on Distracted Driving Laws

Link: https://khn.org/news/article/distracted-driving-state-laws-two-holdouts-missouri-montana/



Despite such tragedies, Missouri is one of two states — the other is Montana — that do not prohibit all drivers from text messaging while operating vehicles. (Missouri has such a law for people 21 and under.)

Before this year, Missouri state lawmakers from both parties had proposed more than 80 bills since 2010 with varying levels of restrictions on cellphone use and driving. Similar legislation has been proposed in Montana, too. In both states, such bills have faltered, largely because Republican opponents say they don’t think the laws work and are just another infringement on people’s civil liberties.

Nevertheless, Missouri Republicans and Democrats introduced at least seven bills this session concerning hand-held phone use while driving — and road safety advocates think such legislation has a better chance of passing this year. Montana, meanwhile, has a bill seeking to block localities’ distracted driving laws.


Supporters of hands-free driving laws concede that distracted driving restrictions are not a panacea for all traffic fatalities. And even if Missouri passes additional restrictions on cellphone use, small nuances in wording could influence whether such a law is effective.

Nationwide, about 3,000 people typically die in distracted driving crashes each year, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, though researchers suggest that’s an undercount. While hands-free options are now standard for new vehicles, the number of distracted driving deaths has stayed relatively steady. They represented at least 1 in 12 traffic fatalities in 2020.

Distracted driving laws reduce fatalities — if, like the ones established in 24 states, they ban all hand-held cellphone use rather than banning only a specific activity such as texting, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association and a study published in 2021 in the journal Epidemiology. Banning texting alone does not make a difference, those researchers found.

Oregon and Washington saw significant reductions in the rates of monthly rear-end crashes when they broadened their laws to prohibit “holding” a cellphone as compared with states that banned only texting, according to a study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Those two states also prohibited holding a phone when stopped temporarily — say, at a red light.

Author(s): Eric Berger

Publication Date: 6 Feb 2023

Publication Site: Kaiser Health News

Republicans ride ESG backlash to state financial offices

Link: https://rollcall.com/2022/11/17/republicans-ride-esg-backlash-to-state-financial-offices/


Republicans picked up state financial officer positions during the midterm elections amid a campaign against environmental, social and governance investing.

Five positions — in Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nevada and Wisconsin — flipped from Democratic to Republican in races for state auditor, controller or treasurer. Of the 50 directly elected positions, Republicans won 29 and Democrats won 19, according to an analysis from Ballotpedia. Two races remain uncalled.

A handful of Republicans’ campaigns for state financial officers focused on ESG, echoing sentiments from GOP officials at statehouses across the country and in Congress who say ESG investing is harming capital markets and domestic energy production and reject the case made by Democrats, major investors and other proponents.

At stake is a suite of legislation and rules that would curb ESG as a material consideration, along with other financial factors, for investors. The proposals include policies for states’ pension funds to divest hundreds of millions of dollars from financial institutions that incorporate ESG — and especially climate — in their investment decisions.

Author(s): Ellen Meyers

Publication Date: 17 Nov 2022

Publication Site: Roll Call

Missouri Professor Wants Gov. Parson to Apologize




A cybersecurity professor who verified the vulnerability that left the Social Security numbers of upwards of 100,000 teachers accessible on a Missouri website is demanding Gov. Mike Parson apologize after he threatened those who exposed the weakness with prosecution.

An attorney for University of Missouri-St. Louis Professor Shaji Khan sent a letter Thursday to Parson, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and other agencies telling them to preserve records related to the episode — often a first step before a lawsuit.

The letter is the first indication that Parson may face a legal challenge over his response to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch story last week detailing how Social Security numbers had been left exposed on a DESE website. The day after publication, Parson called a news conference where he threatened the newspaper, its journalists and those who helped them with prosecution — and said law enforcement would investigate.

Author(s): Jonathan Shorman and Jeanne Kuang, The Kansas City Star

Publication Date: 22 Oct 2021

Publication Site: Governing

St. Louis mayor vetoes firefighters’ pension change; action sets up a veto override fight when aldermen reconvene April 19

Link: https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/st-louis-mayor-vetoes-firefighters-pension-change-action-sets-up-a-veto-override-fight-when/article_b2c1a7d3-3c7c-52d1-b2ff-98fb5096d473.html


Warning that it would be “fiscally irresponsible,” Mayor Lyda Krewson on Thursday vetoed a bill that would return supervision of all city Fire Department pensions to a firefighter-controlled board.

The Board of Aldermen earlier this month approved the bill despite warnings from Comptroller Darlene Green, Budget Director Paul Payne and others that the measure would reverse some reforms enacted in 2012 that put a check on the city’s pension liabilities.

Krewson, in her veto message to aldermen, said she shared those concerns.

Author(s): Mark Schlinkmann

Publication Date: 25 February 2021

Publication Site: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Missourians May Get to Keep Erroneous Unemployment Payments

Link: https://www.governing.com/finance/Missourians-May-Get-to-Keep-Erroneous-Unemployment-Payments.html


Legislators are taking action after Gov. Mike Parson’s administration resisted calls to let Missourians keep unemployment benefits they were paid in error.

The House Special Committee on Government Oversight on Wednesday heard seven separate proposals to forgive the return of unemployment payments mistakenly given to people who did not intend to commit fraud.

Committee Chair Rep. Jered Taylor, R- Nixa, said the committee will likely combine several of the bills, some of which are nearly identical, into a single proposal. The committee would then hold a vote on the proposal early next week.


Publication Date: 11 February 2021

Publication Site: Governing

Despite retired St. Louis teacher’s death, daughter collected $150k in pension

Link: https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/despite-retired-st-louis-teachers-death-daughter-collected-150k-in-pension/article_70f559eb-3a4e-5e2c-b080-bd3bbe06b6bd.html


For more than seven years after the death of a retired St. Louis teacher in 2012, her daughter kept collecting nearly $150,000 in pension benefits, federal charging documents unsealed this month say.

The teacher’s daughter, Cheryl Ladner Kimbrough, has been arrested on five felony counts of wire fraud. She pleaded not guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in St. Louis.

The indictment says Kimbrough’s mother, who is identified only by the initials A.L., retired in 1999 and moved in with Kimbrough in southern Texas. After the death of Kimbrough’s mother on Sept. 16, 2012, pension payments continued to be deposited into the joint account she held with Kimbrough.

Author(s): Robert Patrick

Publication Date: 8 February 2021

Publication Site: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Pension official: Firm facing lawsuit tried to influence Missouri lawmakers


A Canadian firm that is being sued by Missouri’s largest public pension system for allegedly mishandling investments has hired a lobbyist who tried to influence legislators and put pressure on the pension outside of court proceedings, a pension official said in court testimony.

The private equity firm Catalyst Capital Group hired a lobbyist after the Missouri State Employees’ Retirement System filed its lawsuit in October. Pension system executive director Ronda Stegmann testified in a court hearing last week that lobbyist Richard McIntosh tried to set up a meeting with Stegmann, two legislators and Catalyst executives, The Kansas City Star reported.

Original Source: Associated Press

Publication Date: 28 January 2021

Publication Site: Missouri Lawyers Media

Editorial: Vote-conscious aldermen embrace a fiscally unsustainable pension idea

Link: https://www.stltoday.com/opinion/editorial/editorial-vote-conscious-aldermen-embrace-a-fiscally-unsustainable-pension-idea/article_f4050760-f8bc-575d-9995-cb0fa5112f1c.html

Description: Editorial saying that St. Louis, Missouri aldermen are considering merging locally-controlled pension plan for firefighters with state-controlled plan, which will make pension costs skyrocket again.


A major problem in controlling costs was that the pension was under state control. Firefighters were historically very successful at lobbying state lawmakers for generous benefits, regardless of how much it cost city taxpayers. The city passed pension reform legislation in 2012 creating a new, locally controlled pension system for newly hired firefighters. Existing and retired firefighters stayed in the old system. By 2020, costs dropped back down to $12.4 million, less than half of their 2013 peak.

Publication Date: 23 January 2021

Publication Site: St. Louis Post-Dispatch