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Torture prompts Jefferson City talk - and action on 2010 ballot proposal

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 16, 2009 - Torture isn't just on the minds of D.C. politicians and the CIA. The topic has also trickled down to Jefferson City, where state Rep. Maria Chappelle-Nadal,D-University City, has succeeded in getting a ballot proposal on the 2010 ballot to help World War II POWs who suffered permanent injuries, some of them by torture.

And during Friday's debate over a bill governing private prisons used by Missouri, state Rep. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, asked -- in all seriousness -- if there were provisions to make sure no U.S. citizens would be water-boarded there. He added that only terrorists should be water-boarded, which some say is a form of torture.

Chappelle-Nadal said in an interview Friday that she was thrilled by the final passage Thursday of her resolution, HJR15, which will go on the November 2010 ballot unless the governor calls a special election.

The approved wording states:

"All property, real and personal, of the state, counties and other political subdivisions, and nonprofit cemeteries, and all real property used as a homestead as defined by law of any citizen of this state who is a former prisoner of war, as defined by law, and who has a total service-connected disability, shall be exempt from taxation;"

Chappelle-Nadal said she had proposed the measure on behalf of a constituent who had been a World War II prisoner of war, and told horrific stories of how he had suffered his permanent injuries through torture.

There's roughly 300 such POWs in Missouri who suffered total service-related injuries, many incurred through torture. All are now elderly and many have limited incomes, she said. Such a tax break could help them, and would show how the state recognizes the suffering they endured for their country, Chappelle-Nadal said.

The lost taxes to local entities would amount to about $186,000, she said.

A bit later Friday, on the floor of the House, Nieves approached a microphone during debate over provisions in SB44, a bill governing the conditions in private jails used by the state or local jurisdictions.

Nieves asked, "Could they water-board people in these private prisons?"

He was assured that such actions could not take place.

Nieves explained that he wanted to make sure that no citizens of Missouri or the United States would be water-boarded in such facilities.

"I say water-boarding is OK for terrorists...I want terrorists to be water boarded,'' Nieves said. "But not U.S. citizens."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.