News from the Missourinet(Three Stories)

MSP tours in Jefferson City to resume, following May tornado

You’ll have the opportunity again soon to tour the old Missouri State Penitentiary (MSP) in Jefferson City, about four months after an EF-3 tornado struck the facility.

The Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City’s front entrance (2019 file photo courtesy of Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau)

Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau (JCCVB) spokeswoman Brittney Mormann says modified tours will be offered.

“We are actually going to start tours beginning October 1 and we’ll run those through November 30, which is typically our end of tour season,” Mormann says.

The modified tours will include access to housing units one and three and the old gas chamber, where 40 Missouri inmates were executed between 1937 and 1989.

It will also include the popular “ghost tours.”

Mormann tells Missourinet the CVB has lost $308,000 in revenue since the tours stopped, because of the tornado.

She says more than 33,000 people toured MSP in 2018, with some coming from different states and countries. Mormann says that resulted in a $2.5 million economic impact on Jefferson City.

MSP was one of about 240 Jefferson City area structures struck by the tornado. Mormann encourages residents to take a fall tour, noting the tornado will be mentioned.

“Our tour guides are going to do the best of their ability to tell you about the history as well as that new layer of history with the (May) tornado coming through on the property,” says Mormann.

MSP, which was known as the “Bloodiest 47 Acres in the United States”, housed high-profile inmates like James Earl Ray and boxer Sonny Liston.

You can find more tour information at Net profit from tour ticket and merchandise sales goes back into the preservation of MSP, which opened in 1836.














Veteran’s home loan benefits hiked to fund other veterans’ services, “slippery slope” says nation’s largest VA lender

The nation’s largest VA-backed mortgage lender has gone to battle over recent congressional increases to veterans’ fees for home loan benefits.

Chris Birk, Director of Education for Veterans United Home Loans

In an Op-Ed recently published in The Washington Post and The Kansas City Star, Chris Birk, Director of Education for Veterans United Home Loans warns that a recent hike in mortgage fees and another bill to extend that increase will “make it more difficult and even riskier for some Veterans to get a VA loan.”

The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act became law in June and H.R. 3504 passed the U.S. House by voice vote and is awaiting a Senate committee hearing. Missourinet has been contacting members of the state’s congressional delegation about their stance on the latest bill; so far there have been no responses. Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler’s communications director on Aug. 28, “We are looking into this now.”

Both measures are designed to provide fellow veterans with hard-earned support and benefits, but Birk argues, “Extending these fees would force VA borrowers to pay more than $750 million to use their home loan benefit over the next seven years, with most of that money going to programs that have nothing to do with housing. The Congressional Budget Office projects the two bills will produce a combined $160 million government windfall.”

The fee revenue is there for the government to repay lenders and recoup losses if veterans default on their loans, but that rarely happens. A Mortgage Bankers Association’s National Delinquency Survey this year shows that veterans using VA loans have the lowest foreclosure rate in the United States.

“Duty and order and obligation are so ingrained in military borrowers and the VA does such a tremendous job in helping to service these loans and keep veterans in their homes, that more money comes into those coffers than goes out in those claims losses. This is a well that Congress has come back to time and again and we see a pattern emerge over time where this fee, which is enshrined in law, is raised for a certain number of years with the proviso that it will be pulled back,” Birk says.

With the possibility of rising interest rates and seven years of increased fees, Veterans United commissioned an independent study to gauge those impacts on future borrowing.

The researchers summarized, “A rising rate environment coupled with continued increases of the VA Funding Fee would hurt waves of military buyers and communities that depend on the economic impacts of housing. As many as 365,000 Veterans and military families would be priced out of using their home loan benefit if rates and fees keep rising.”

Birk posits that VA benefits of all types should not be subject to Congress’s “pay-as-you-go” budget rules:

“They’re paying it to make sure their brothers and sisters are taken care of, are getting the benefits and care that they deserve. Asking those tough questions about should we be funding veterans benefits on the backs of other veterans, how do we approach expanding care are paying for them — are important questions that we need to be asking. I think we lose sight of that slippery slope we’ve been on now for more than a decade.”






















A snapshot of the Missouri Legislature’s special session this week

Missouri lawmakers will return to the State Capitol in Jefferson City on Monday for a special session involving a complicated State Supreme Court ruling about vehicle sales.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson signs legislation on July 10, 2019 (file photo courtesy of Governor Parson’s office)

While it’s not officially on the special session agenda, Democrats in both the House and Senate will have an opportunity to speak on the respective floors about the issue of gun violence, which is a top priority for the Legislative Black Caucus.

Governor Mike Parson (R) announced in August that he’s calling the special session over the Supreme Court’s “Kehlenbrink vs. Department of Revenue” case.

“After reviewing the court’s decision, we’ve decided to call a special session because it’s simply the right thing to do for the people of our state,” Parson announced in August. “The enforcement of this decision would create a financial burden on Missouri taxpayers and unnecessary government red tape that we can proactively prevent.”

The Supreme Court’s summer ruling involves using the sale proceeds of a vehicle as a credit against the purchase price of a new vehicle when calculating sales tax. Essentially, the Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that state law unambiguously permits the sale proceeds of only one vehicle as a credit against the purchase price of a new car, for the purposes of calculating sales tax.

“And really, the simple version of it (the Supreme Court’s ruling) is when you trade cars in, for example if you trade two cars in, you get a credit back on those two cars or for that model if you’re buying another one. There was a ruling by the Supreme Court that says you can only do one,” Parson told Missourinet on August 15 at the State Fair in Sedalia. That was the first time the governor had spoken publicly about the issue.

Parson says the ruling impacts about 2,000 to 3,000 Missourians, adding this is money out of their pocket.

GOP leaders in both chambers indicate the special session should end by Friday.

House Majority Leader Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, has released a schedule indicating the House will have a technical session on Monday, with floor debate and discussion expected Wednesday morning and afternoon. The House is expected to give final approval to the vehicle tax bill on Wednesday.

Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, tells Missourinet he expects the Senate to take possession of the bill on Thursday. A Senate hearing would take place Thursday, and Schatz expects the Senate to approve the bill on Friday.

Under the state Constitution, both chambers will also hold the annual veto session Wednesday at noon, which means they will stop the special session and then reconvene it after veto session ends.

Governor Parson vetoed six bills this year. State Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, tells Missourinet he doesn’t expect any override attempts in the House or the Senate.

As for the Legislative Black Caucus, they support legislation allowing cities with high gun violence, like St. Louis and Kansas City, to approve their own gun control legislation. They wanted Governor Parson to include the issue in this week’s special session.

The governor opposes that, saying there are “many different opinions on how to find a solution.” Governor Parson met with State Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove, D-Kansas City, and other Black Caucus leaders behind closed doors last week at the Capitol. Representative Manlove says the governor is pushing for improved job opportunities in St. Louis and Kansas City.

The governor told Missourinet’s Jill Enders in St. Charles last week that he plans to send Missouri state troopers to St. Louis within the next 30 days. Parson also supports working with churches, to help prevent violence.

Manlove and other Black Caucus members will have an opportunity to discuss the issue on the floors of the House and Senate. Manlove tells Missourinet children are still dying, noting there have been more than 100 Kansas City homicides in 2019.

She says gun violence is “ravaging our streets,” and notes Kansas City and St. Louis have consistently ranked in the top ten deadliest cities for at least a decade.

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