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In case you missed it...

by Paula Tredway | January 8, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
Jeremy Jacob/FULTON SUN Bill Johnson, middle, mingles with guests Thursday at his retirement party in the city council chambers at Fulton City Hall. Johnson officially retires as Fulton's director of administration after more than 25 years in the position and more than 30 years in city government, serving seven years as the city manager in Marceline prior to Fulton. In his Fulton tenure, Johnson oversaw several projects, including the construction of a new city hall, police station, fire station, recreation center and Highway 54 overpass.

Jan. 2

South Callaway Band performs at Alamo Bowl

According to a press release, the Bulldog Pride Marching Band from South Callaway High School in Mokane was one of nine bands that performed in the mass band halftime finale at the 2021 Valero Alamo Bowl football game Wednesday at the Alamo Dome in downtown San Antonio, Texas.

South Callaway joined bands from Colorado, Oklahoma, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and an additional band from Missouri to perform a medley of crowd favorite songs that featured "Sweet Caroline," "Living on a Prayer," "Don't Stop Believin'" and "Y.M.C.A." The 650 member combined "WorldStrides Band" rehearsed Tuesday and Wednesday morning to prepare for the performance.

Earlier this week, the Bulldog Pride Band competed in the Alamo Bowl marching festival. There, the band took home third place in the field show competition and third place in the parade competition.

In addition, the band was awarded "Best Field Show Drumline" -- a major honor for the band.

Besides the performances, band members visited SeaWorld Texas, took a cruise on the San Antonio River in the Riverwalk District, took an elevator ride to the top of the Tower of Americas observation tower and toured the historic grounds of the Alamo.

Missouri legislators hope to hit the ground running

Maps are on the minds of lawmakers as they return Wednesday to the Capitol.

In the Senate, congressional redistricting is expected to take up much of the focus at the start of the 101st General Assembly's Second Session, both Republican and Democratic leadership said.

The General Assembly is responsible for creating maps to designate the state's new U.S. congressional districts following the 2020 census.

The COVID-19 pandemic delayed census results, and Gov. Mike Parson didn't call a special session on redistricting as some lawmakers were hoping. Now, the House and Senate have to pass a map under a tighter deadline as candidate filing begins Feb. 22. Missouri legislative leaders released their proposed map for congressional districts late Thursday afternoon.

Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, said he's expecting a busy session with redistricting leading the list of legislation members need to sort out.

Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, also said he expects redistricting to be the major issue at the start of the session, noting that lawmakers have to prioritize the issues directly in front of them.

Jan. 3

Kith and Kin: Nancy Hanson

Nancy Hanson was born and raised in Callaway County. Her parents are Lewis and Janice Baumgartner. Her mother is an interior decorator and her father is best known as "the world's worst farmer." He was an after-dinner speaker who traveled around the country sharing stories of life on the farm.

Hanson is involved in several community organizations. She serves on the board for Callaway County Extended Employment, Central Missouri Dream Factory, Fulton Kiwanis and most recently the Fulton Public Schools Foundation. She also is an active member of Central Christian Church.

Hanson graduated from Westminster College with a degree in mathematics and earned a master's degree in counseling from Stephens College. She taught high school math for several years, but is now a stay-at-home mom.

"Sometimes you have to give up your career to answer your calling," Hanson said.

Hanson and husband, Keith, have two daughters. Sarah Hanson is a sophomore at College of the Ozarks and Shelby Hanson is a student at Fulton High School.

What was your first job?

Mail & More, Inc., a mail processing facility in Millersburg. I helped label and sort mail, and worked with many friends who I still consider family.

Medical marijuana sales in Missouri top $200M, meeting expected projections

Medical marijuana sales in Missouri crossed the $200 million mark in December, only 14 months after the first medical marijuana dispensary opened.

More than 160,000 Missourians have access to medical marijuana products, said Lyndall Fraker, director of the section on medical marijuana regulation in the Department of Health and Senior Services.

"We believe it will continue to grow," Fraker said. "It will certainly hit 200,000 patients before July, which would be the three-year mark.

"We believe we have some really good operators in Missouri that are doing a really good job."

Applications for patient medical marijuana cards have steadily grown during the first 2½ years, he pointed out.

More than 10,000 patients have applied for cards each of the past 10 months.

"As more facilities opened up and came online, it stimulated folks to go ahead and get their patient cards," Fraker said. "I believe the number tailed back down a little bit."

Jan. 4

FDA expands Pfizer boosters for more teens as omicron surges

The U.S. is expanding COVID-19 boosters as it confronts the omicron surge, with the Food and Drug Administration allowing extra Pfizer shots for children as young as 12.

Boosters already are recommended for everyone 16 and older, and federal regulators on Monday decided they're also warranted for 12- to 15-year-olds once enough time has passed since their last dose.

But the move, coming as classes restart after the holidays, isn't the final step. A panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to decide later this week whether to recommend boosters for the younger teens with a final decision by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC's director.

The FDA also said everyone 12 and older who's eligible for a Pfizer booster can get one as early as five months after their last dose rather than six months.

FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks said even though serious illness is uncommon in younger teens, a booster will help them avoid that risk -- while also helping reduce the spread of omicron or any other coronavirus mutant.

"Hopefully this will be not just a call for people to go get their booster shot," but for the tens of millions of unvaccinated Americans to rethink that choice, Marks said. "It's not too late to start to get vaccinated."

The FDA based its latest booster decision largely on real-world data from Israel that found no new safety concerns when 6,300 12- to 15-year-olds got a Pfizer booster five months after their second dose.

New Bloomfield baby first born in 2022

The first baby born at St. Mary's Hospital in 2022 arrived just less than 24 hours after the new year took hold.

Benjamin Starnes arrived at 11:59 p.m. Saturday -- more than a week before his due date.

"I think he wanted to be a New Year's baby," his mother, Maddie Starnes, told staff at the hospital.

Benjamin's father is Josiah Starnes. The Starneses live in New Bloomfield. Benjamin -- who weighed in at 7 pounds, 6 ounces -- is their first child.

St. Mary's Hospital presented the family with a congratulatory basket, which included "goodies" for Maddie and Benjamin.

St. Mary's Hospital's Blessed Beginnings Family Birth Center offers innovative technology, patient-friendly design and the latest advances in care that work together to promote health and healing in a relaxing, family-oriented setting, according to a St. Mary's Hospital news release. The center offers 14 labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum rooms, allowing mothers and their new children to stay in one comfortable room for the entire childbirth experience.

Jan. 5

Insurrection prompts year of change for US Capitol Police

A year after thousands of violent pro-Trump rioters overwhelmed police officers at the U.S. Capitol -- severely injuring dozens in the process -- the force dedicated to protecting the premier symbol of American democracy has transformed.

The leaders who were in charge of the U.S. Capitol Police on Jan. 6, 2021, were ousted following criticism for intelligence and other failures that left the legislative branch vulnerable to the stunning attack. And more broadly, the agency that was once little-known outside of Washington now has an elevated profile, leading to a roughly 15 percent increase in funding and a greater awareness of its role in the patchwork of groups that protect the region.

With the nation's political divide running deep and an unprecedented number of threats against lawmakers, there is still concern about the readiness of the Capitol Police to thwart another attack. But experts said the shock of the insurrection has prompted needed changes, including better communication among the Capitol Police, other law enforcement agencies and the public.

"It's a sea change between this year and last year in terms of how the Capitol Police are thinking, and operating," said Chuck Wexler, the head of the Police Executive Research Forum, an organization that focuses on professionalism in policing. "They're going to be over-prepared, and willing to be criticized for being over-prepared."

Holts Summit woman appointed to MSU board

A Holts Summit woman has been appointed to the Missouri State University Board of Governors.

Ann Kampeter was selected to join the university's governing body by Gov. Mike Parson in a series of appointments Monday.

An MSU alumna, Kampeter currently serves as a trustee on the MSU Foundation Board and its development committee. She's also on the Samaritan Center advisory board.

Kampeter recently served as the parish secretary at St. Stanislaus Catholic Church for 15 years before retiring in January 2021.

In 2020, Kampeter made a seven-figure donation to MSU to improve health care program facilities, including the university's speech-language and hearing clinic. Shortly after, MSU renamed its Professional Building to Ann Kampeter Health Sciences Hall.

Jan. 6

Fireworks erupt on first day of Missouri legislative session

Early fireworks highlighted the first day of the legislative session.

The session began shortly after noon.

In the House, the session began with the personal items. Members recognized a moment of silence for Republican Rep. Tom Hannegan, who died of a stroke at 51 in October.

The House also recognized two representatives who marked their last day in the chamber Wednesday. Rep. Aaron Greisheimer, R-Franklin County, left to take a position with a contractors' organization.

Rep. Justin Hill, R-Lake St. Louis, left to take a consulting job in Florida. On his way out, he spoke on the floor, railing against Missouri's initiative petition process, expanded Medicaid, media coverage of government and voters' decision to block Right to Work.

"The initiative petition process is a constitutional crisis," he said. "The people are always going to vote for things that are going to sound good."

The Senate convened shortly after 12:30 p.m.

Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe opened the session with the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer, which called for a clean slate for lawmakers.

Hospital officials discuss sharp increase in COVID-19 cases

Hospital and health officials across Missouri sounded the alarm Wednesday for sharply increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases, with some saying they are seeing more confirmed cases than at any time since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Leaders of Kansas City-area hospitals said in a phone conference that they are trying to treat the patients and respond to an intense demand for COVID-19 testing while also facing staffing shortages.

Dr. Mark Steele, executive chief clinical officer at University Health, said the system's two hospitals in the Kansas City area are treating 98 patients with COVID-19, who are filling 25 percent of the licensed beds. At the same time, Steele said, just more than 100 of the system's employees are out with COVID-19.

Steele said the numbers are about 45 percent higher than the system's previous high mark from last winter and from the prior delta surge.

The hospital is also dealing with more than 1,000 calls a day to its call centers from people seeking tests, with employees able to perform about 450 tests per day, he said. Testing positivity rates reached 35 percent in the last week, "by far" the system's highest positivity rate, he said.

Health officials in the Springfield area echoed the bleak message during a briefing Wednesday.

Jan. 7

MOSERS investments show positive growth

The Missouri State Employees Retirement System -- MOSERS -- received a 26.4 percent market return on investments for the year ending June 30.

The return wasn't enough to pull MOSERS off the Joint Committee on Public Employee Retirement's annual Watch List (produced in December each year). But it is a sign of growth.

Michael Ruff, executive director of the committee, told committee members at a hearing Thursday gains and losses are not recognized immediately, so the investment returns will show over the next five years.

"That is a very positive development," Ruff said.

Lawmakers created the joint committee in 1983 to monitor the work and financial stability of various pension funds that provide retirement benefits to state and local government employees. The list helps lawmakers stay abreast of plans that have struggled to meet obligations.

The list includes public employees' retirement plans that have funded ratios of less than 70 percent on a market value basis (they cover 70 percent or less of liabilities). Liabilities are benefits for public employees the plans expect to have to pay out in the future.

Nine plans made the list this year. Others on this year's list include the Judicial Retirement Plan, MoDOT & Patrol Employees' Retirement System (MPERS), and six more-localized plans.

Election security gets spotlight at Capitol rally

Several dozen Missouri voters rallied Thursday at the state Capitol to apply pressure on state lawmakers to enact election security reforms.

The "Let's Take MO Back" rally, as its organizers called it, brought about 50 people to the state Capitol on Thursday, exactly a year after supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., in an attempt to overturn the election and disrupt Congress from formalizing President Joe Biden's win.

Thursday's event, which lasted a couple hours, included remarks from lawmakers, conspiracy theorists and concerned Missourians.

The rally was headlined by Douglas Frank, a high school math teacher from Ohio who claims to have found algorithms that indicate the 2020 election was rigged. His claims have been widely discredited.

During his presentation Thursday, Frank reviewed election participation data with rally participants and said voter rolls in every state are inflated by 10 percent, claiming voter rolls are outpacing population data.

Frank said election security issues develop when states don't clean voter rolls and keep updated information, claiming he's found phantom ballots in nearly every state.

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