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NewsBook: Missouri Government News for the Week of February 16, 2009

. Budget Office reviews federal stimulus funds (02/20/2009)

Budget Director Linda Luebbering and senior financial adviser Paul Wilson held a budget briefing with the press today to review the federal stimulus funds' impact on Missouri's state budget.

The stimulus funds do not affect state budget for fiscal year 2009, and the state can expect to receive a base of $4.3 billion. Billions more can be acquired through grants for which Missouri would compete against other states.

No funds can be deposited into reserve or rainy day funds, and most of the funds must be used by a certain time or else be appropriated to other states.

. Nixon urges passage of jobs bill, tax credits and all (02/19/2009)

In a forum with state lawmakers Thursday, Gov. Jay Nixon urged Missouri senators to pass a proposed jobs bill that includes an abundance of tax credits for businesses in the state.

The bill met approval in the House of Representatives last week but awaits a vote on the Senate floor.

Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, said he has no doubt successful passage of the bill will meet a mid-March time frame, but he expressed a need to sort out the bill's job-creation and tax credit goals.

. Gov. Nixon more than ready for federal stimulus (02/19/2009)

With 219,000 unemployed Missourians, Governor Jay Nixon says he'll take all the help from Washington he can get.

Nixon told the Missouri Press Association that he plans to invest in education and job training as well as alternative energies and new technologies.

But Nixon did not offer any figures or dollar amounts to back up his ideas.

. Roy Blunt jumps into the 2010 Senate race. (02/19/2009)

Republican U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt announced Thursday that he will seek the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kit Bond in 2010.

At a statehouse news conference, Blunt stressed the importance of maintaining enough Republican seats in the Senate to block the agenda of a Democratic president and Democratically held Congress.

Before his election to the U.S. House, the Springfield Republican served as Missouri's Secretary of State. He is the father of Missouri's former governor Matt Blunt.

The leading Democratic candidate for the race is Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.

. Nixon excited by stimulus projects; Republicans wary (02/18/2009)

Gov. Jay Nixon announced at a Wednesday press conference his plan to spend $4.4 billion of federal stimulus money.

He wants to funnel money to three key areas: education and worker training, infrastructure and technology.

Republicans agree with sending money to MoDOT for road and bridge improvements but are concerned with spending more on education and health care than the state can pay once federal dollars disappear.

. St. Louis lawmaker proposes to suspend Missouri death penalty until major changes are made. (02/18/2009)

A new bill would temporarily halt the Missouri death penalty for three years while necessary revisions are made.

The bill would also create a 10-person commission to study the death penalty and discuss alternatives.

. House committee hears bill that could reshape St. Louis (02/18/2009)

The Corrections and Public Institutions Committee heard a bill that wants to transfer state land in order to build a new bridge over the Mississippi River in St. Louis.

Bill sponsor Rep. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, testified that the state land would be shifted from a corrections facility to MoDOT to facilitate the building of the bridge.

. A proposed bill would ban over-the-counter sales of Sudafed in hopes of cracking down on methamphetamine production. (02/18/2009)

The House Crime Prevention Committee heard a bill that would require consumers to have a prescription to buy Sudafed. The classification of the drug will be changed.

Supporters of the bill say they think this bill would cut down on the amount of Sudafed being supplied to methamphetamine labs.

. Senate bill would decrease the amount of nuclear waste traveling through the state. (02/18/2009)

Senators agree to charge a fee to shippers of radioactive waste that travels through Missouri.

This fee would serve to cover the cost accrued by the state because of a federal statute.

This measure would also increase safety precautions for those who work with nuclear waste products.

. St. Louis City senator wants to put the stop on red-light cameras (02/18/2009)

Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, says red-light cameras infringe on basic liberties offered to people by the U.S. Constitution.

His testimony came during a Senate Transportation Committee hearing, during which the committee heard his bill to outlaw all red-light cameras statewide.

Red-light cameras were cited by law enforcement to decrease accidents and drivers running red lights.

. Hope of autism coverage brings testimony, skepticism (02/17/2009)

More than a dozen parents of autistic children spoke before the Senate Small Business Committee to urge support of a measure that would require limited health care coverage for autism.

But one committee member argued the bill does not go far enough.

. Debate continues in the House over AmerenUE's proposed rate increase. (02/17/2009)

The House Utilities Committee heard from all sides on the bill to allow AmerenUE to pass financing costs to its customers during construction of a proposed Callaway II plant.

The bill's fate is unclear; one St. Louis County lawmaker called the bill repugnant and unconstitutional.

Others discussed the bill's job-creation effects.

. Tax credit bill faces opposition in Senate (02/17/2009)

A job-creation plan endorsed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon ran into opposition from a group of Republican state senators during session Tuesday.

Despite being sponsored by a fellow Republican, other GOP senators questioned whether tax credits specified in the bill would achieve their expected results of job creation and expanding Missouri's economy.

. Missouri's Senate was urged to pass a bill that would require businesses to alert people if their personal information has been hacked. (02/17/2009)

Missouri is lagging behind the 44 states that have already passed legislation similar to a bill Missouri's Senate heard.

If the bill passes, businesses will be required to notify their customers if their financial information has been stolen.

. Lawmaker wants Missourians to use hands-free cell phones while driving (02/17/2009)

A dozen states have laws that bar drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving. 

Rep. Joe Smith, R-St. Charles, says Missourians should adopt a similar law.

But some of his colleagues say a handheld cell phone ban would be too difficult to enforce.

. Missouri motorcyclists soon may not need helmets (02/17/2009)

The House Transportation Committee debated a House bill looking to repeal the law requiring protective headgear while operating a motorcycle.

Supporters of the change say it should be the drivers' choice.

On the other side, opponents argued that the use of helmets can save lives.

If the change is made, the law would still require any passenger or operator 21 and under to wear headgear while on the motorcycle.

. State Tresurer Clint Zweifel wants to increase his investment abilities (02/17/2009)

State Treasurer Zweifel introduced his two-part "Invest in Missouri" plan looking at making low interest rates more available to small businesses and investing in community banks.

He says he hopes this will create more jobs in Missouri, but he's waiting on support from lawmakers.

. Senate bill would require Missouri hospitals to report nursing staff assignments. (02/17/2009)

Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis County, introduced a bill that calls for a daily public posting of nursing assignments on every hospital floor in Missouri.

The bill aims to address safety issues related to understaffed hospitals with overworked nursing staffs.

. State senators question federal stimulus stipulations over health care, education (02/16/2009)

Missouri is expected to receive an estimated $4.4 billion in federal stimulus funds out of a $789 billion package cleared by Congress on Wednesday. Gov. Jay Nixon plans to accept the maximum amount of money allocated to Missouri state government, said Budget Director Linda Luebbering.

But members of the state Senate Select Committee on Federal Stimulus Oversight are raising questions over the stipulations attached to the use of funds in health care and education.

. A Missouri House bill would alert teachers of problem students. (02/16/2009)

After a story of a student killing another with his bare hands, Missouri's House gave first round approval to a bill that would give teachers more knowledge of problem students.  

The bill would allow a sheet to be attached to a student's permanent record, highlighting any bad deeds.

. New tax credits proposed to Senate Appropriations Committee (02/16/2009)

State government departments proposed new and continuous ways to distribute tax credits to certain facilities and purposes.

Proposals included tax credits for environmental, education, transportation, agriculture, insurance purposes and infrastructure for sports complexes.

Get the radio story.

. Bill would put yearlong 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 one can receive welfare benefits.

Those against the bill express concerns about children whose 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)

Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mt. Vernon, proposed a bill that would allow local districts to contract private law firms to take on public defense cases.

Goodman says the caseload 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.