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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of October 8, 2012

In less than a week, the State Education Board will decide whether the St. Louis Public School District is fit for regaining provisional accreditation.

The district lost accreditation in 2007, and a state-appointed board took control of operations.

The CEO of the state board Richard Sullivan said a long-range recovery plan was set up by the board in April of 2008 that outlined goals to reach the required academic standards set by the state.

"We spent a lot of time in town hall meetings and gathering people from the community just listening and getting feedback from the community," Sullivan said. "By staying focused on the kids and focusing on the plan and working with our superintendent we have been able to make the progress we have made."

The district will hear on Tuesday, Oct. 16 whether or not it is granted provisional accreditation by the state. The state standard for provisional accreditation is that a district must meet six out of the 14 standards required. The district met seven of those requirements after the 2011 academic year.

Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, or DESE, spokeswoman Sarah Potter said the district still may not gain accreditation.

Read the newspaper story

Eight public safety officers from across Missouri were awarded the state's highest honor for demonstrating courage and risking their lives to save others.

St. Louis Police Officer, Daryl Hall, is the first officer to receive the award posthumously.

Hall was killed in April by gunshots outside a downtown nightclub in St. Louis.

Another recipient of the award is medic Joseph Heath of the St. John's Ambulance Service in Springfield.

Heath risked his life to save two young girls from a house fire in January.

He said he is grateful for the award because there are officers who save lives all across Missouri who do not get the same acknowledgment.  

Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, and Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, are working on a bonding bill for the 2013 legislative session that would ask voters to pass the largest state bond issue in thirty years.

The two lawmakers said the nearly $1 billion bond issue would make improvements on university campuses, mental health facilities, the state capitol building and state infrastructure.

Kelly said this is the fifth consecutive year he will push for a bonding bill. He said the state needs to take advantage of the current low interest rates, low construction costs and the state's AAA credit rating to make capital improvements.

If passed, the bill would be named the Fifth State Building Bond. Kelly said he hopes the bill is passed early in the session so it can appear on the April ballot. If voters were to approve the bill, it would be the largest state bond issue since the Third State Building Bond, which was issued in 1982 and worth $600 million.

The Silver-Haired Legislature met at the state Capitol Thursday to discuss propositions from seniors throughout the state.

The legislature is a group made up of Missouri citizens 60 years. The group is comprised of Representatives and Senators from ten areas throughout Missouri. The Senate and House meet to come up with proposals from all the areas that they will present next year to the General Assembly.

On Thursday, the Senate and House met separately to vote on the 18-25 bills proposed. On Friday, the two chambers will meet to pick the five most important bills to present to the General Assembly during it's 2013 legislative session.

Mary Lou Brennan, the Senate Majority Leader, has been part of the legislature for 15 years now. Brennan said there is often not much controversy because all members are focused on the quality of life for seniors throughout the area. Brennan said if there is controversy, it is usually if they should cut taxes.

"Meals have always been my number one priority as is to most people because it is so important," Brennan said. "In the home delivered meals, many people have no touch with outside world other than home delivery."

State Auditor Tom Schweich released an audit of the Missouri State Public Defender this week, which stated the system is suffering from a case overload.

The public defender system has been seeking relief from the overwhelming amount of cases they receive each year, according to a press release from the system. The audit shows the caseloads have increased 70 percent since 1990, but staffing has only increased by 58 percent in the same amount of time.

In the statement, Cat Kelly, the director of the Missouri State Public Defender, said she disagrees with the report’s “Citizen’s Summary.” However, in a later interview, Kelly said the audit is helping the system determine the best way to measure its overload and that she agrees with much of the audit.

The Citizen's Summary is a one page breif with important information for taxpayers, written by the state auditor. 

“I don’t think there is any question that we are overloaded,” Kelly said in the interview.

She said while the audit clearly shows the problems of trying to precisely measure the issue of too many cases and too few lawyers, the summary skips over the issues and “paints with too broad of a brush.”

The audit revealed the public defender system lacked the information necessary to determine the amount of staff hours needed per caseload.

The audit also shows the public defender system spends approximately $1.7 million a year on employee travel but they have not tried to come up with ways to cut these costs and increase employee productivity.

After a day of interviews and deliberations, Missouri's Appellate Judicial Commission has selected three nominees to fill a vacancy on the state Supreme Court.

The nominees, according to a statement from the commission, are:

Wilson had been a long-term aide to Jay Nixon as both attorney general and governor. Nixon appointed Wilson to fill a Cole County circuit court vacancy in 2010. Wilson subsequently was defeated when he sought election to a full term on the bench.

The nominating commission was tasked with picking a successor to state Supreme Court Justice William Ray Price JR. after he retired in August.

The commission selected the nominees from a list of 18 candidates. Gov. Jay Nixon now has 60 days to appoint one of the nominees to fill the vacancy, according to state law. If the governor does not appoint one of the nominees, the commission will choose one in his place.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Teitelman currently chairs the commission, which includes three lawyers selected by the Missouri Bar and three non-lawyers appointed by the governor. The non-lawyers on the current commission include two who were appointed by Gov. Blunt and one that was appointed by Nixon.

Joplin tornado victims still living in emergency trailers will soon have to pay rent--and at least one Missouri politician says it might be too expensive.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, said this week that it will begin charging rent in December. A two-bedroom trailer in Joplin will cost $595 per month and a 3-bedroom unit will cost $757 per month.

But state Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin, said people who are still living in the FEMA trailers 18 months after the tornado are people who don't make enough money to pay fair market prices.

"If you have a single-parent family working a minimum-wage job, there isn't a lot of places you're going to be able to afford."

White said the high prices could force low-income disaster victims to search for alternative housing, in a city that saw much of its low-income housing stock destroyed by the 2011 twister.

FEMA regional spokesman Michael Cappannari said the rates are based on a federal formula that aims to find the "fair market" price for housing in disaster areas. Low-income families will also be able to ask the agency for a lower rent by filing an appeal within the next 60 days.

Missouri’s Appellate Judicial Commission interviewed 18 candidates Wednesday to find a successor for state Supreme Court Justice William Ray Price Jr., who retired in August after 20 years on the bench.

The commission interviewed lawyers and judges from all across the state, seven of whom also applied last year when another spot on the court opened up after the retirement of Justice Michael Wolff.

Throughout the interviews, candidates stressed their diverse legal backgrounds and qualifications for the job. One candidate, state Court of Appeals Judge Mark Pfeiffer, said whoever gets the job will be taking over for "a legend."

"I don't think you can come into the interview process and say 'I can fill his shoes, I can be the next Judge Ray Price,' because I don't think he would want that and I don't think any judge on this board would want that," Pfeiffer said.

Another, St. Louis lawyer Benjamin Lipman said that previous judicial experience shouldn't be the only factor considered. Some Supreme Court Justices have come to the bench without ever having served as a judge--including Price himself.

"In private practice you have such a diversity of the issues that you deal with as well of course as you're dealing directly with the actual people who come before the court," Lipman said.

The appellate commission, established under the Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan, is responsible for narrowing down the field to a final three to send to Gov. Nixon for consideration.

The current group is chaired by Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Teitelman and includes three lawyers selected by the Missouri Bar, and three non-lawyers appointed by the governor. The non-lawyers on the current commission include two who were appointed by Gov. Blunt and one that was appointed by Nixon.

According to state law, once the commission submits its three nominations to the governor, he will have 60 days to appoint one to fill the vacancy. If Nixon fails to appoint one of the three nominees within 60 days, the commission will choose one to fill the vacancy.

With election months tend to come political phone calls telling people why or why not to vote for a particular candidate.

Missouri lawmakers have attempted to regulate these calls for years, but the House has shut this motion down every time. This year, Missouri law has expanded the telemarketing no-call list to include cell phones.

Traditionally, that legislation also included regulations on political calls, but this year it did not.

"We've tried to add cell phones to the no call list for the last three to five years. Unfortunately, every year those were added together, the bill did not make it. So in order to get cell phones on the no call list, we de-coupled them," Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee's Summit, said.

Now, although Missouri now enjoys a cellular no-call list, political calls are exempt from the law.

Sen. Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville, was pessimistic about a future addition of political calls to the list.

"I think it did become more difficult now that other pieces have passed, and this is the only one left sitting out there," said Rupp.

According to the Associated Press, Spence received a $950,000 contribution from the Republican Governors Association.

This contribution comes after Spence received $1.1 million from the same association last month.

The Democratic Governors Association recently gave $2.5 million to Governor Jay Nixon's campaign.

November's election is the state's first since losing a congressional district, but because of illegal immigrants, Missouri has one less representative in Washington D.C.

Congressional districts are based on the most recent census and the census does not ask about immigration status.

Missouri's State Demographer Matt Hesser said, "It's fairly safe to say that Missouri has fewer or a smaller percentage of illegal immigrants then some other states such as Texas or California. And so Missouri is competing against states that have illegal immigrants when it comes to distribution of seats within the U.S. House of Representatives."

The Center for Immigration Studies reports there were about 10 million illegal immigrants counted in the last census in 2010.

Steven Camarota, Director of Research for the center, said, "A state like California has one, two, maybe three extra congressional districts because of the illegal immigrants who sent in their census forms back. And a state like Missouri, which doesn't have a lot of illegal immigrants may lose a congressional seat because of it or maybe also an electoral vote in the time of the presidential election." \

Voters who would still like to register to vote in Missouri must have their applications postmarked by Wednesday, Oct. 10.

Secretary of States' Office spokesperson Stacie Temple said that 4.1 million voters in the state are registered and 152,000 registered this year.

Temple said voters have several options if they would like to register in person.

"They can either register in person at their local election authorities' office, or if they happen to be renewing their drivers license they can do it at the Department of Revenue, the library, or an office that offers public assistance," Temple said.

Voters can also download an application at and send it to their local election authority. Voters can also use the site to view the location of their registration and polling place on election day.

Missouri became one of nearly 500 public universities to join Project Degree Completion on Monday.

The program, designed by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the Association of State Colleges, set a goal to have 3.8 million college graduates by the year 2025.

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities said this graduation push is a necessity for the United States economy because it will increase the number of trained and knowledgeable workers.

Other goals outlined in the plan are the improvement of student advising and easier access for students who previously dropped out to return to the university.

Though, ultimately it will be up to the university to decide what changes they will make to reach this goal.

"What we've done is set a big goal," said Paul Hassen, spokesman for the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. "It's really up to the individual campuses to figure out how they can make changes to their own academic programs and other policies to increase the number of students that graduate from public colleges and universities."

The University of Missouri already meets some of the requirements laid out in Project Degree Completion with a 6-year graduation rate of 70.7 percent and a 6.4 percent increase in enrollment in 2011.

Lambert airport is planning to double the price of parking in two public garages for the first two hours.

The price will increase from $2.50 to $5 and 24-hour parking will increase from $21 to $23.

Lambert airport spokesman Jeff Lea said the airport is running out of parking spots in garages because people are using the garages for picking people up instead of for long-term use.

“The demand is so great that we are restructuring some of our rates to be more competitive and offer more services for those who are going to park long-term,” Lea said.

Lea also said the airport understands the difficult financial times some people are currently in.

“We were very mindful to be cost competitive with many of the different services that are around the airport and especially when it relates to parking because we know that money is tight with our customers,” Lea said.

The Airport Commission will vote on the new rates Wednesday.

Missouri high schools and colleges are accustomed to federal funding from the Department of Education and the Workforce Development Program.

However, Governor Nixon's "Campus Innovation Program" is state funded.

Nixon announced on Feb. 16 that he and The University of Central Missouri would train students for career opportunities in high-demand fields and cut the time it takes to earn a college degree.

He later announced on Aug. 1 the same goals with Missouri Western State University.

President Greg Prestemon of The Economic Development of St. Charles said the state funds are taking a lot longer than federal funds because every campus involved in the program is not familiar with how they operate.

Prestemon said he does not know details of the funding, including when and how the funds will be implemented.

President Chuck Ambrose of the University of Central Missouri said there has been more value added to his campus because of the grants.

Ambrose said although the grants are a "mess in process," they will eventually get sorted out and programs will be launched on nine campuses across Missouri.  

Nixon's Press Secretary, Scott Holste, said in an e-mail that he does not have any level of detail on implementing the funding.

Repeated phone calls to Governor Nixon's office were not returned.

Rick Tyler, U.S. Congressman Todd Akin's (R-MO) campaign adviser, said the campaign is very grateful for the contributions. Tyler said the support shows that while McCaskill has more campaign money to spend on misleading ads, Akin is running a robust grass roots campaign about the truth.

Akin has had a very controversial campaign since his "legitimate rape" comment in August. Recently, however, he has received support from big names in the GOP such as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee as well as a recent endorsement from the NRA.

Tyler said the reason for the support is because the people across the country realize how important it is to have Akin in the Senate in order to, "repeal Obamacare we cannot repeal Obamacare, reverse the trillion dollars of deficit, and restore America to a position of prosperity, freedom and strength."

Last Week

The National Rifle Association endorsed Democrat Chris Koster this week in his re-election bid for the Attorney Generals' office. Koster is the only Democratic candidate running for statewide office to receive an endorsement from the NRA.

Koster received an A rating, which is given to candidates who have a proven record supporting the second amendment. The NRA gave Kosters' Republican challenger, Ed Martin, an AQ rating.

AQ ratings are given to candidates who answer a candidate survey on gun rights favorably, but do not have a proven record. Campaign spokeswoman Rachel Levine said Koster has proven a commitment to the second amendment throughout his political career.

When Koster was a prosecutor in Cass County in 1999, he appeared in a NRA television commercial.

Hitting almost every Bass Pro Shops in the state of Missouri this week, Governor Nixon is challenging hunters to donate 10,000 deer to help feed the hungry in the state.

The Share the Harvest program is now it it's 21st year. Cheryl Fey heads up the program for the Missouri Department of Conservation.

"Let's not let that deer meat go to waste in today's economy. And for some folks, deer meat is healthier," said Fey.

Last year, hunters donated more than 6,000 deer across the state.

During this weekend's urban hunt, the Missouri Conservation Federation is footing all the fees associated with donating a deer to the program.

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced it will give Joplin $2.4 million to help the city test for and cleanup soil contaminated with lead and cadmium.

According to EPA Region 7 spokesperson Chris Whitley, parks and residential areas are being targeted for the cleanup.

"It's up to the city of Joplin to prioritize those properties. Essentially what they'll be looking for are areas frequented by children," said Whitley.

The EPA estimates around 1500 to 2000 areas in Joplin will need the soil remediation.

Governor Jay Nixon announced on Aug. 1 the state would be funding Missouri high school and college programs.

The programs will aid students and prepare job opportunities around Missouri by expanding advanced placement courses across the state for high school students and creating jobs for college students.

Spokesperson Mary Stoltz of the Missouri University Science and Technology said the school is prepared academically, but is confused on how the money is going to be distributed by the state.

The President and CEO of the Economic Development Center, Greg Prestemon, said state funding is non-traditional.  Traditional funding for education comes from the Department of Education or a Workforce Development program.

Prestemon said the center does not know how the money will be distributed to them. Another concern he has is that the state will provide money to the center to create jobs, but the state loses money if no jobs are created.

The Governor's office did not return phone calls or emails by the time of this posting.

Republican U.S. Rep. Todd Akin failed to report $129,000 in pension income that he has received over the past decade working in the Missouri House, his campaign said Thursday.

Akin spokesperson Steve Taylor verified that Akin failed to include the money in his Congressional disclosure forms and that he has amended them to fix the errors.

Akin acknowledged the mistake in a letter to the House Ethics Chairman Jo Bonner on Tuesday, according to a report from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

"This is an unintentional oversight and I regret any inconvenience this may cause," Akin wrote.

This is the second time Akin has failed to adequately complete the disclosure forms. Akin amended about $350,000 in property holdings in 2010, according to the Post-Dispatch.

This November Missouri voters will decide if the state’s cigarette tax will increase.

Proposition B would increase the tax of a pack of cigarettes by 73 cents, bringing the total to 90 cents a pack. Missouri currently has the lowest tobacco tax in the country.

According to the state auditor's fiscal estimate, Prop B’s passage would bring in an estimated $283 to $423 million a year. Twenty percent of these proceeds would go to tobacco abstinence programs, 50 percent to elementary and secondary education and 30 percent to higher education.

Supporters said Prop B’s increased tax will discourage smoking and provide important educational funding.

“For potential teenage smokers, there’s a strong correlation between price and starting to smoke. And so, we know the tax will produce revenue that we need, and we also hope that it will discourage teenage smokers,” Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said.

Opponents said raising the tax will produce a loss in revenue when people travel to border states with cheaper taxes to purchase their tobacco. If Prop B passes, half of Missouri’s eight border states will have lower tobacco taxes.

“Prop B’s outrageous and unfair 760 percent tax increase is devastating because it will hurt Missouri consumers, it will force small businesses to close, it will cause people to lose their jobs, and it will generate less tax revenue for local and state coffers that are already stretched thin because of the great recession,” said Ron Leone, executive director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association.

The Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan was established over 70 years ago in an effort to eliminate partisanship in the nominating commission for Missouri judges.

Senator Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, supports Amendment 3, which would make a few changes to the Missouri Plan. The main changes would allow Missouri's governor greater control over appointing nominating committee members.

Currently, the nominating commission is made up of three lawyers, three governor appointees and one Supreme Court Judge. The amendment would eliminate a Supreme Court judge and add another governor appointee. Lembke said this will allow the citizens of Missouri to have someone to hold accountable for the commission.

Lynn Whaley Vogel, president of the Missouri Bar Association, said there is no reason to amend the plan because it has served as a model for other states to eliminate partisanship.

The Missourians for Fair and Impartial Courts said it does not expect Amendment 3 to pass on the November ballot.

Missouri voters will decide if St. Louis police will gain local control on the November ballot.

St. Louis and Kansas City are the only two cities in the country that have a police force controlled by the state.

For the past few decades, St. Louis police tried to gain local control, but legislature has not passed any of their proposals.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay is a longtime advocate of local control. He says this issue will better serve citizens.

"We're looking for accountability, we're looking for efficiency, we're looking to save money and we're also looking to make a better department that is going to help reduce crime in our city as well," Slay said.

Supporters said this proposition will hold police officers more accountable and will help eliminate the high levels of crime in the city.

The American Civil Liberties Union says this proposition will limit citizen input and deny them a civilian review board.

Slay said the ACLU has taken this issue to court and it was dismissed.

The proposition is a compromise between the St. Louis Police Officer's Association, A Safer Missouri, and Slay.

Brooke Foster, spokesperson for A Safer Missouri said the compromise reflects the interests of police.

Some provisions are the protection of pension plans and the protection from political meddling.

Former Mamtek CEO Bruce Cole will be coming back to mid-Missouri after ending his fight against extradition from California, according to the office of Missouri's Attorney General.

Nanci Gonder, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Chris Koster said Cole appeared in an Orange County, Calif. court on Wednesday. Cole faces multiple felony stealing and security fraud charges in relation to the failed Mamtek artificial sweetener plant in Moberly.

Gonder also said the Randolph County Sheriff's Office will arrange for Cole's transportation back to Missouri and the Attorney General's Office will be leading the prosecution.

A firm being investigated in Florida for alleged voter registration fraud said it has not had any operations in Missouri since 2004.

State republican parties in seven other states have fired Strategic Allied Consulting, a firm based in Tempe, Arizona, after some its members were accused last week of registering fake voters in a dozen Florida counties.

David Leibowitz, a spokesman for the firm, said it hasn't worked in Missouri for eight years and has no plans to set up operations here.

Stacie Temple, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Secretary of State's office, said voter fraud is a class C felony, which is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

She confirmed that state authorities are not looking into the firm in Missouri.

Rep. Scott Sifton, D-St. Louis County, is one of more than a dozen lawmakers pledged to not take gifts or meals from lobbyists while serving in the legislature. The lawmakers included in this group include former Speaker of the House Steven Tilley.

"It's just out of control. The report released by the ethics commission earlier this week, that just in the first 8 months of this year, Missouri lawmakers and staffers have received more than 23 hundred gifts," said Sifton.

Sifton is currently running for state senate against incumbent Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, to represent St. Louis County.

The Missouri Ethics Commission reports Sen. Jim Lembke is one of the biggest beneficiaries of these gifts.

Lembke said Sifton is avoiding issues that matter in the election.

Supporters of the Missouri Plan amendment said the explanation of the changes by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan's office is biased and will not give voters a fair view of the amendment.

The legislature did not write its own ballot summary, so the task was left up to Carnahan's office. Supporters claim the writing is insufficient and does not give enough detail to voters.

This comes as opponents of the amendment continue to raise money to fight against the amendment. The Missourians for Fair and Impartial Courts said in a statement that they will continue to educate Missouri voters on why the amendment is dangerous.

A bacon shortage in the U.K. left many Americans worried the tasty meat might become scarce in the U.S. as well.

According to Missouri Pork Association Executive Director, Don Nikodim, the nation doesn't have to worry about a shortage.

However, Nikodim said bacon prices may increase due to the drought.

The drought increased the price of feed, which has made caring for livestock more expensive for farmers, forcing them to charge more for meat.

Nikodim said it is too soon the know how high the price of bacon will rise, but the cost should not increase more than a few dollars.

Nikodim said bacon lovers should pig out on their baconators while they can.

"Just enjoy bacon, enjoy it often and go out and stock up if you think you need to," Nikodim said.

The drought will likely effect bacon and other pork products next year.

The Cape Girardeau City Council voted 4-3 Monday against repealing an ordinance that would allow deer hunting within city limits.

Council members in favor of the ordinance said urban hunting is a good way to deal with the growing deer population.

"It was by determination that I thought urban deer hunting was the way to approach that and similarly it's been implementing in, I believe, 13 additional cities within the state of Missouri," said Mark Lanzotti, one of the council members in favor of the odrinance.

Cape Friends of Wildlife opposes the ordinance. The group claims the ordinance is not safe and is ineffective. Stephen Stigers, the head of the group, hoped the council would repeal the ordinance before it goes to special election.

"It was their opportunity last night to repeal the ordinance, to put it behind us, and not have to take it to a special election which will cost approximately $20,000," Stigers said.

The special election will be held in April.