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Business as Usual in Jefferson City After Terror

September 12, 2001
By: Robert Sandler, Anna Nichols, Sarah Molina, Nicholas Rummell
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The financial effects in Missouri of Tuesday's terror got the attention from various state government officials Wednesday.

For all the tragedy of Tuesday, Missouri government might have made a small profit from the shutdown of the financial institutions based in New York.

At the end of each business day, the State Treasurer's office puts any uninvested funds into U.S. Treasury securities.

But Tuesday, with Treasury offices closed in New York, the State Treasurer's office found itself holding about $60 million. So, the state was forced to invest its overnight holdings in Missouri-based financial institutions.

As a result, the Treasurer's chief of staff, Chuck Miller, said the state might have actually received a better return on its investments.

The state took approximately $60 million that would usually go into Treasury Securities and Tuesday invested it into smaller Missouri banks, Miller said.

Other potential profiteering was getting the wrath of Missouri's Attorney General, Jay Nixon.

Nixon announced Wednesday his office was investigating consumer reports of gas stations that were "unjustified" in raising prices. He said his office was acting against profiteering by issuing cease and desist orders against up to 40 stations that raised prices to $2.50 per gallon and above.

Nixon said the civil penalty for price gouging is up to $5,000, but if prosecuted in a criminal court, it could be a Class D felony.

He also said that his office was investigating claims of some stations that charge a price different from what it actually charges.

The Attorney General's office encourages people to report price gouging concerns by calling 1-800-392-8222.

As for the Attorney General's authority with stations that accurately advertised the sale price of the gas, his office cited a law that is limited to sales in a disaster area or takes "advantage of a person's physical or mental impairment or hardship caused by extreme temporary conditions."

Down the street from the Attorney General's office, the state Insurance Department was awaiting reports on how the New York losses might affect insurance rates and Missouri-based insurance companies.

"We are finding out from minute to minute what the impact is," said Randy McConnell, public information officer for the Missouri Insurance Department. McConnell said that it is too early to anticipate what kinds of impacts Missouri could expect.

Department officials noted that most Missouri insurers do not conduct business with East Coast companies.

In the statehouse, Missouri's legislature resumed its special session activities, although some lawmakers said normalcy was difficult to achieve.

"All of us are feeling not only saddened but also assaulted," said Rep. Vicki Riback Wilson, D-Columbia. "But, there was comfort in knowing that we could carry on in the functions of government."

House and Senate leadership emphasized the importance of continuing their current special session.

"This is absolutely where we need to be, doing the people's business," said House Minority Leader Catherine Hanaway, R-St. Louis County.

Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, said the Senate has a "firm resolve to do the work of the people."

The legislature's veto session convened Wednesday along with the special session. No vetos were overridden.

Lawmakers met in a building where extra security measures ordered by the governor Tuesday continued on Wednesday -- some outside doors locked and armed guards at the open entrances.

The State Capitol in Jefferson City had its security measures increased after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. A major driveway around the building was closed and a security barracks was built.

Wednesday morning, white signs were posted around the building notifying people that auxiliary doors were closed and to use a main door.

In addition, similar restricted access and more security guards were on hand at state buildings.

The grounding of commercial airlines caused several top Missouri government officials to be stranded across the country.

State Treasurer Nancy Farmer was unable to fly out of New Mexico, where she had been attending a conference.

Missouri Director of Health Maureen Dempsey was able to catch an Air Force flight out of Washington, D.C., to Scott Air Force Base near St. Louis.

The Department of Mental Health reported that Director of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Michael Kouty and Prevention Supervisor Charles Williams were stranded in North Carolina but are expected to fly home today (Thursday).