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NewsBook: Missouri Government News for the Week of February 9, 2009

. Bill would put year long moratorium on foreclosures (02/12/2009)

Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis County, has introduced a bill that would halt the foreclosure process for a year.

After the moratorium, the foreclosure process would be expanded from about 30 days to around 90.

Bray said she hopes this will keep more people in their homes during difficult times.

. Senate passes bill aimed to get tough on pre-need burial dealers (02/12/2009)

Missouri lawmakers passed a bill on Thursday that would aggressively regulate pre-need burial dealers whom customers use to buy their funerals in advance.

The effort comes as a direct response to a St. Louis-based company that failed to provide funerals for 55,000 Missourians in 2008.

The bill faces one more Senate vote before going to the House.

. A new bill would prompt drug testing for welfare recipients (02/11/2009)

In an effort to stop tax dollars from going to drug users, a Southeast Missouri senator sponsored a bill that would require drug testing before you can receive welfare benefits.

Those against the bill express concerns about the children who's parents fail the drug tests.

The committee will vote whether to send the bill to the senate floor sometime next week.

. Public Defenders could find relief in the form of private lawyers (02/11/2009)

Republican Senator Jack Goodman proposed a bill that allowing local districts to contract private law firms to take on public defense cases.

Goodman says the case load is too large for public defenders to handle right now and that private law firms will be able to provide relief.

. Four-day school weeks are up for debate (02/11/2009)

The House Education Committee approved a bill today that would give Missouri school boards the option of adopting four-day school weeks.

Maynard Wallace, chairman of the committee, referred the bill to Rules Committee today.

The bill is expected to pass through Rules Committee and be on the House floor next week.

. Biodiesel on the way in, ethanol on the way out? (02/11/2009)

A bill passed the Senate Agriculture Committee on Wednesday that would require all diesel sold in Missouri to contain 5 percent biodiesel.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, says biodiesel is better for the environment and is cleaner for truck engines.

At the same time, two bills in the House and one in the Senate would repeal the state's mandate that all gasoline contain 10 percent ethanol.

That bill smoothly passed the General Assembly in 2006.

. Tax credits bill passes committee but some say it may stop there. (02/11/2009)

Chairman of the Senate Jobs Committee said the tax credits bill will have a hard time passing through the Senate.

This bill would provide tax credits to not only small-business owners but also homebuyers. 

. Bills would limit where sexual predators can go (02/11/2009)

Crime Prevention Committee members heard bills that would limit where sex offenders are allowed.

The proposed bills would prevent sex offenders from going into Missouri state parks and public parks or prevent them from serving as youth athletic coaches.

. A lack of consumer protection clauses in Callaway legislation worries some senators (02/10/2009)

The CEO of AmerenUE warned legislators that the company will walk away from the second Callaway plant if Missouri does not ease restrictions on its utility rates.

Though Ameren supports a bill, sponsored by Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, that would allow them to recuperate the financial costs incurred, some of their largest consumers -- including their single largest consumer, Noranda Aluminum -- voiced their opposition during a Senate commerce committee hearing.

. Gay legislator left off House committee on children and families (02/10/2009)

After hearing that some members of a House committee on children and families found her "offensive," an openly gay state representative is questioning whether her sexual orientation led to her rejection from the committee.

Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford, D-St. Louis City, has served on the Special Standing Committee on Children and Families for four years but said she has not been given a satisfactory answer on why House Speaker Ron Richard, R-Joplin, denied her a position on the committee.

. Two Senate bills seek to increase penalties for dogfighting (02/10/2009)

In the wake of former NFL star Michael Vick's imprisonment for the crime, two Missouri Senate bills that would increase penalties for those who attend multiple fights have been introduced.

The bills also would require dogs who are seized in fighting-related investigations to have a hearing within 30 days to determine where the animals should be sent or rehabilitated.

. Senate confirms Linda Martinez (02/10/2009)

Linda Martinez was confirmed as director of the Department of Economic Development with a simple majority by the Senate.

Martinez is the first woman to hold this position.

This wraps up a lengthy debate that included scrutiny over Martinez's positions on illegal immigrants as well as accusations that she was not being confirmed to the office because she is a woman.

. Missouri senators seek consumer protections in funeral business (02/10/2009)

A bipartisan group of senators debated a bill that would protect consumers who pay for their funerals in advance.

The bill came in response to a 2008 scandal that robbed 55,000 Missourians after a funeral service company failed to provide burial costs.

Senators say the bill needs fine-tuning before it reaches a vote. 

. Anti-abortion resolution causes heated debate in the Missouri House (02/10/2009)

The Federal Freedom of Choice Act has not even been introduced in Washington, D.C., but it is already causing heated debate in Jefferson City.

Many Democratic legislators believe passing a House resolution opposing a federal bill that has not been introduced is foolish, but Republicans contend that the issue involves more than just abortion.  

Some Republicans fear that Congress is simply looking to expand its power and authority in passing the act.

. Missouri veterans say they want slot machines. (02/10/2009)

Missouri's House heard a bill which would allow gambling machines in veterans clubs.

Many veterans showed up at the meeting to voice their support.

While no one at the hearing opposed the  bill, one representative can see the state's side.

. Missouri senator wants to send STD and cancer information to parents of all female sixth-graders in public schools. (02/10/2009)

Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, introduced a bill to the Senate Health Committee that will mandate the dissemination of HPV and cervical cancer information to female students' parents.

The bill would also provide funding for free HPV vaccinations to young women not covered by private insurance. 

. The head of the State Emergency Management Agency says things are getting back to normal in southeastern Missouri after an ice storm rolled through in late January. (02/09/2009)

John Campbell, the acting director of SEMA, says 11,000 Missourians are still without power today, after ice storms knocked out the lights for 135,000 customers in late January.

Campbell blames eight deaths on the storms, which caused nearly $200 million in damage. Entire counties were left without power, and thousands of utility poles lie on the ground in the southeastern part of the state.

. Missouri's treasurer wants to change a law that provides a disincentive to invest taxpayer dollars in Missouri. (02/09/2009)

Clint Zweifel says Missouri is one of only two states in the country with the law, which puts a cap on yields from in-state investments.

He wants to change the law and then invest more money here to stimulate Missouri's economy.

. A House bill that would prohibit discrimination against homosexuals was withdrawn Monday. (02/09/2009)

House Bill 582, which would prohibit discrimination against a person's sexual orientation, was withdrawn Monday.

 The bill's sponsor, Mike Talboy, D-Kansas City, says the bill was withdrawn because a name needs to be removed.

One Republican representative is against the bill because he says homosexuals are already protected. Various Democratic representatives disagreed.

. Bill would provide guidelines to students trying to transfer school districts (02/05/2009)

Rep. Theodore Hoskins, D-St. Louis County, has introduced legislation to create criteria establishing the conditions to reject a student trying to transfer from an unaccredited district to an accredited one.

The bills gives the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to right to establish the criteria.

. Confirmation of Economic Development designee delayed -- again (02/05/2009)

Missouri senators dubbed Thursday "Groundhog Day" because it marked yet another day they postponed a vote on the same gubernatorial designee -- Linda Martinez, a St. Louis lawyer, who is Gov. Jay Nixon's pick to head the state's Economic Development Department.

Some Missouri senators say they won't confirm the governor's selection until they have more information on Martinez's stance toward the hiring of illegal immigrants. 

State Sen. Scott Rupp, R-St. Charles County, says that she has done legal work supporting businesses that hire undocumented workers, but a Democratic senator from Independence says Martinez, in fact, shares the same attitude toward protecting jobs for legal Missourians as Rupp.

. House approves tax credit bill for businesses (02/05/2009)

The House approved a bill that would remove the annual  $6 million cap on the Quality Jobs Act, which provides tax credits for business expansion.

The bill also would create an act allowing small-business employers to retain the Missouri withholding tax from the salary of any new jobs added to their payroll.

. The Missouri House of Representatives gave preliminary approval to an economic development plan. (02/04/2009)

The package acts as a stimulus plan by cutting taxes for Missouri business and creating jobs.

The bill aims to pick up Missouri business in these tough economic times.

. Plan to repeal ethanol requirement controversial (02/04/2009)

Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Kansas City, has sponsored a bill that would repeal Missouri's requirement that gasoline sold in the state contains 10 percent ethanol.

Bartle appealed to the Senate Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee during a hearing on Wednesday.

His bill met opposition from numerous entities, especially corn growers.

. Debate over the state's first nuclear plant is dividing the state's Public Service Commission. (02/04/2009)

Commissioners were split evenly today in their discussion regarding whether to jump into the debate on the Callaway power plant.

Some members of the commission say it will be best to wait until after the legislative session to allow lawmakers to solve the problem of how to fund the project.

. A St. Louis Democrat accuses a St. Charles Republican of being sexist during a Senate confirmation hearing (02/04/2009)

Sen. Robin Wright-Jones, D-St. Louis City, says Sen. Scott Rupp, R-St. Charles County, does not want Linda Martinez to be confirmed as director of the Department of Economic Development because she is a woman.

The freshman senator's comments came during a 2-hour filibuster by Rupp, when he said his frustration with Martinez was because she had not met with him.

Rupp said his issues with Martinez are mainly her stance on illegal immigration and said he hopes her personal views will not her affect her job performance.

. Bill would add 16 cents to current cigarette sales tax (02/03/2009)

Rep. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, introduced legislation that would increase the sales tax on cigarettes from 17 cents to 33 cents -- a 16 cent increase.

Nasheed said this should bring $90 million in state revenue but still keep Missouri low in the rankings on its cigarette taxes.

Missouri currently has the second lowest cigarette tax in the country, but were this measure to pass, Missouri would rank fifth in the nation.

. New license plate proposed in House Transportation Committee hearing (02/03/2009)

Rep. Scott Lipke, R-Jackson, presented a bill Tuesday that could introduce a second standard Missouri license plate.

The fee-free plate is predicted to be very popular among drivers.

. Committee debates merits of funding statewide first responder communications upgrade (02/03/2009)

Public safety officials urged legislators Tuesday to find funds for a statewide radio communications system to avoid the kind of problems that plagued firefighters and police at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

The House Public Safety and Corrections Appropriations Committee was reviewing a proposal to establish a statewide system that would allow police and fire and rescue personnel to communicate with each across the state.

. CWIP opponents include consumer rights advocates and environmentalists (02/03/2009)

The debate surrounding the creation of a second power plant in Callaway County has consumer and environmental advocates struggling to find their place in partisan politics.

With AmerenUE lobbyists touting pro-business lines to Republicans and unionists promoting the plant for pro-worker reasons to Democrats, some of the lobbyists who work for consumer rights and the environment are having trouble finding support among their traditional allies.

. Legislator pushes bill for fire-safe cigarettes (02/03/2009)

A cigarette debate took a new turn before a Missouri House committee on Tuesday.

Representatives heard testimony in favor of a bill that would impose fire-safety regulations on cigarettes.

. Secretary of State Robin Carnahan announces U.S. Senate bid (02/03/2009)

Democrat Secretary of State Robin Carnahan announced today in a YouTube video that she will run for the U.S. Senate.

Hailing from a political family, the secretary of state's father, Mel Carnahan, served as governor from 1993 to 2000. While campaigning for Senate, he died in a plane crash. His wife, Jean Carnahan, was appointed to Senate in his stead.

The secretary of state's brother, Russ Carnahan, is currently serving as a U.S. representative.

. New quality rating system proposed for Missouri preschools (02/03/2009)

President Pro Tem Sen. Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, introduced a new scale to rate state-licensed childcare providers.

The new rating system would be voluntary and make participants eligible for additional state-funded resources.

. Proposed bill could expand teachers' power in the classroom (02/03/2009)

A bill that would expand teachers' power in protecting students and school property cleared the state House Education Committee on Tuesday.

The bill, proposed by Rep. Maynard Wallace, R-Thornfield, lifts liability on any school employee who uses force to prevent violence on school property.

. Senator's bill would complete capital improvement projects and reduce tuition (02/02/2009)

Money from the 2007 sale of MOHELA assets would bolster a higher education tuition reduction fund and still be given to certain capital improvement projects at state colleges and universities if a Senate bill receives favorable action this legislative session.

The bill, proposed by Senate Democratic Floor Leader Victor Callahan, would first channel revenue from the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority toward capital improvement projects.

. Extended debate blocks senators from using laptops in chamber (02/02/2009)

The resolution brought forth by Senate Majority Floor Leader Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, would have allowed senators to bring laptops into the Senate chamber.

Engler ended debate on the resolution Monday and said he does not intend at this time to bring it forward again.

At the center of the debate was the question of what was better: senators in the chamber who are on the computer and not necessarily paying attention or senators who leave the chamber to conduct business electronically and therefore miss debate.

. A bill regulating pre-need funeral contracts will now move to the Senate floor. (02/02/2009)

After much discussion, the Financial and Governmental Organizations and Elections committee added an amendment to Senate Bill One.

The bill creates regulation for pre-need funeral contracts.

The amendment provides security for an insurance contract involving pre-need funeral contracts.

. Unemployment insurance fund headed toward insolvency (02/02/2009)

The state has asked the federal government for more than a quarter of a billion dollars so it can continue to make payments to unemployed Missourians.

The state's Labor Department spokesperson says the move allows unemployed Missourians to receive their unemployment benefits on time.

. Democrats propose bills to aid military families. (02/02/2009)

Democrats will file four bills this week to aid military families.

The bills aim to provide stability when a service member is called to active duty.