Drought alert 

Gov. Mike Parson signed an executive order this week declaring a drought alert for the state. This order activates Missouri’s Drought Assessment Committee, which is made up of federal and state agencies. The U.S. Drought Monitor shows that portions of Missouri’s 60 counties are experiencing moderate, severe or extreme drought conditions. The committee, made up of the Department of Transportation, Agriculture, Natural Resources, Economic Development, Public Safety and Health and Senior Services, will meet next Wednesday in Jefferson City. The group will then make recommendations to Parson by June 9. Most of the state was in a drought alert for the second half of 2022. 

St. Louis Circuit Attorney 

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Gabe Gore was officially sworn in Tuesday. During his first full day in office, Gore explained in a sit-down interview why he wanted to take the job and his priorities moving forward. With a backlog of thousands of cases, many of which are violent, the newly appointed St. Louis Circuit attorney will have his hands full. Gore said within an hour of being sworn in, he assigned someone to conduct an assessment of the warrant office. Last week, Parson said his legal counsel, Evan Rodrigeuz, who was serving as interim circuit attorney, found 4,800 warrant application that had been reviewed. The governor saying at least 1,000 of those were Class A and B felonies. Gore took with oath Tuesday, surrounded by his family, friends and local and state officials. His swearing in comes two weeks after Kim Gardner abruptly resigned. Gore said he was surprised by her resignation, but she wasn’t getting the job done. The former federal prosecutor and partner at the law firm Dowd and Bennett lives and works and has raised his family in St. Louis, all reasons why Parson said he appointed him. 

Execution halted 

Less than one day after advocates sent a petition filled with thousands of signatures to Gov. Mike Parson Tuesday asking him to stop the execution of a man convicted of killing two Missouri jailers more than 20 years ago, a federal judge halted next week’s scheduled execution. Michael Tisius is now 42 years old, but back when he committed the crime in 2000, he was 19. Those who gathered at the Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty rally inside the Capitol Tuesday said what Tisius did was wrong, and he should be held accountable, but the state should not be executing a man who was a child when he committed the murder. The U.S. district judge stopped the execution amid questions about the literacy of a juror in the case. 

MHA report 

The Missouri Hospital Association said there’s been a decline in the vacancy turnover rates among nurses, but hospitals are still struggling to fund and retain staff. On the same day two major Missouri hospital systems announced a merger worth billions of dollars, a new report by the Missouri Hospital Association (MHA) shows that while workforce issues have only slightly improved, they remain a major concern. Missouri’s healthcare industry is still feeling the effects of COVID-19, as the nursing turnover and vacant rates are nearly 20%. The MHA report shows that southeast and south central Missouri have the most troubling rates of turnover. The state currently has roughly 33,000 nurses working in hospitals with an additional 7,000 vacant nurse positions. 

DESE budget 

A record-setting state budget is waiting for Gov. Mike Parson’s signature. It’s a spending plan worth nearly $51 billion and it includes money for teacher pay raises, expending pre-kindergarten and even school safety improvements. Even with a fully funded formula, there are some education issues lawmakers wish they would have addressed. Nearly a quarter of the state’s school districts were only in the classroom four-days a week this year and some lawmakers were pushing to require schools to go back to five days a week. While other members wanted an overall education reform bill, creating a Parents’ Bill of Rights and establishing open enrollment, but none of that made it across the finish line. What did make it to the governor’s desk is $345 million to fully fund public school transportation for the second year in a row and money to the responsibility off the district to raise teacher pay to $38,000. In total, the budget for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education totals roughly $10 billion but it will be up to the governor and his team to approve the entire budget or reject it. He has until the end of June to decide.