Posted 11/2/2012: This week, I was able to cover the Missouri GOP bus tour kick-off in Jefferson City. The opportunity was important because it taught me how to cover government officials.
There were many candidates at the event, but the one I was most interested in talking to before the election was Secretary of State candidate Shane Shoeller because of the controversy there has been on ballot language lately. I had recently done a story on Amendment 3, and changes possibly being made to Missouri's Non-Partisan Court Plan. In the story, there had been a lawsuit over the language on the ballot for the Amendment, and I was interested in what Shoeller had to say about it. He said he thought the Secretary of State's office had more lawsuits against them for ballot language than ever before.
It was also interesting to hear the main points each candidates emphasized in their speeches for last stitch efforts before election day.
On Tuesday, I covered a story about Todd Akin reporting that he has reached $1 million in online campaign funds. The story was not too difficult, except that Senator Claire McCaskill's office did not return my calls. It is difficult to write a well developed story when a huge part of the story is missing. The story would have been better with a quote from how McCaskill's office or how the Missouri Democratic Party feels this will affect Akin's campaign.
On Thursday, the Silver Haired Legislature met to discuss propositions to help elderly folks in Missouri. The group is made up of senators and representatives 60 years and older from 10 areas throughout the state. They come up with 18-25 proposals to vote on and condense into 5 propositions for the General Assembly. The propositions focus on funding for senior programs. The story was a little difficult to report on because there were so many proposals, and they were not always perfectly clear in explanation.
The week helped me to understand how quickly a reporter must work to get day-turns done in time.
The current system removes appellate level judges from having to seek election in partisan elections. For state appeals judges, they are selected from a panel of nominees compiled of three governor appointees, three lawyers selected by the Missouri Bar Association and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court."The original Constitution had the proper checks, and currently there is no check on the judicial branch of government as far as how we choose judges to the highest court," said Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County. "The Missouri Plan is currently controlled by one special interest group: the trail attorneys."
The amendment eliminates the Chief Justice from the panel and allows the governor four appointees to the commission instead of three, which would make his appointees the majority.
Lembke said the "modest" change would allow the people of Missouri to hold the governor accountable for the people the governor puts on that commission. Lembke said this will restore a check between the executive branch of government and the judicial branch.
The Missouri Bar, as well as other opponents of the amendment have stood up against the amendment claiming there is no reason to change something that works, and the current court system works.
I was disappointed I was not able to add in some controversy which arose during the week. Supporters of the amendment brought a suit against the Secretary of State's Department to change the description of the amendment provided to voters on the ballot. Supporters say the summary is insufficient and does not provide the voter's enough information. The court ruled in favor of the Secretary of State, so the summary will stay as it is. Also, opponents of the amendment have continued to campaign against the amendment.
I learned this week that when news develops on a story I am working on, I have to work harder to keep up to date with changes. My story would have been better if I would have been able to add in the developing news.
Rick Tyler said it is very important that Missouri Republicans win a seat in the Senate if Republicans want to have a majority. In order for this to happen, it is crucial that Akin gains more support and raises more money to fill the gap between his and U.S. Senate candidate Claire McCaskill's campaign funds.
Tyler was also Press Secretary for Gingrich for over 10 years.
The official date to drop out of the Senate race is on Sept. 25. However, overseas and military ballots are sent out on Sept. 22, so if they withdraw after the 22, they would have to pay the costs of the ballots already printed, according to Stacie Temple, Communication Director for the Secretary of State's Department.
Tyler said there is no way Akin will drop out of the race.
In 2008 the Guaranteed Fund was passed as a way to help funeral homes out of their debt. The fund, however, was supposed to be short term. Now it is three and a half years later, and the fund is costing the state about $18 million a year, and not even helping the funeral homes to a great extent. This is because the Guarantee Fund does not account for inflation rates, so funeral homes are still having to cover the difference, and still losing money. There has been discussion on the possibility of a private firm which would not be state funded, but in which would serve a similar purpose to how NPS was supposed to be.
Representative Chris Molendorp, (R), says this is the first of many hearings to discuss plans on how to deal with the debt.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said that 35-40 percent of corn is diverted to ethanol production this year. The problem comes in because consumers of corn, like livestock owners, have to use corn to feed their livestock. The Environmental Protection Agency recently started a 30-day open-commentary period for the public to give feedback on whether there should be a waiver to the federal mandate of ethanol production this year because of the drought. The decision will be made on Nov. 12.
I am working on figuring out exactly who has requested the waiver, and that is how I will finish up writing the story.
Though it was difficult, my first story was on the drought and the effect it has had on people's lawns and plants. This is an important topic because Missouri is one of the states most impacted by the drought. I talked to a horticulturist from the University of Missouri who gave advice on how people can care for their lawns during the drought. I also talked to a forecaster from the National Weather Service who provided information on what we can expect from the rain from Hurricane Isaac. My third source, a landscape company owner from St. Louis, told me how his company expects to benefit from the drought because of the extra help people need with their lawns. The story was not a particularly difficult subject, however I was not all that impressed with my story. It was difficult to come up with good angles since the drought will be affected by Hurricane Isaac, and I am obviously not a weatherman. I hope to produce better stories from here on out so that I can be proud of my work.
Missouri Digital News is produced by Missouri Digital News, Inc. -- a non profit organization of current and former journalists.