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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of December 16, 2013

Last Week

Secretary of State Jason Kander announced Thursday, Dec 12, the online version of the state's Official Manual.

The book is titled in state law the "Blue Book" because the printed version of the book originally was bound in a dark blue cover.

In 2010, however, the legislature passed a law banning a printed edition of the book, allowing the secretary of state to produce only an online version.

Earlier this year, the governor signed into law a measure pushed by the Missouri Press Association that would allow the secretary of state to enter into an agreement with a non-profit organization to produce a printed version and charge a fee to cover the costs.

The latest version, the second online-only version, covers the years of 2013-2014. It is dedicated to Pres. Harry S Truman to honor the 60th anniversary of his leaving office.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon joined a bi-partisan group of three western Missouri legislators Thursday, Dec. 12, to renew his call to restore the voter-approved limits on campaign contributions.

Nixon called for an end to "the corrosive flood of unlimited campaign money to candidates" in a Kansas City speech where he was joined by a Republican senator and two Democratic House members.

Nixon's call came two days after the secretary of state announced approval of another initiative petition campaign to put the issue on the statewide ballot. Three proposals have been approved for circulation, two from the same person.

In January, Nixon had warned legislators he would support an initiative petition campaign if the legislature did not take action.

Several measures already have been prefiled in the Missouri Senate for the 2014 legislative session.

In addition to restricting how much any one person or organization could contribute to a campaign, some of the proposals also would restrict how much legislators and their immediate families could accept from lobbyists.

Some of the proposals also would prohibit prohibit a legislator from serving as a lobbyist for two years after leaving office. Another provision would prohibit statewide elected officials and legislators working as campaign consultants for other government officials.

Missouri voters overwhelmingly approved campaign contribution limits in 1994.

Supporters of the legislative action to repeal limits argued that wealthy special interests had found ways to get around the limits by forming and funding large numbers of separate political committees that then contributed the money to candidates. Instead of contribution limits, legislative critics of contribution limits pushed through stronger disclosure requirements and restrictions on fund transfers between political committees.

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports Missouri is one of only four states with no limits on contributions.

Missouri is the only state with the combination of no limits on campaign contributions, no limits on lobbyist gifts and no restrictions on a legislator becoming a lobbyist immediately after leaving office.

Allen Nicklasson was executed Wednesday night, Dec. 11, within an hour after the U.S. Supreme Court over-ruled a appeals court decision delaying the execution.

Gov. Jay Nixon quickly issued a statement that he had denied to a clemency petition for Nicklasson.

"The brutality of this crime is unquestioned," Nixon wrote in his statement.

Nicklasson and a partner had been convicted of killing motorist on I70 who had stopped to assist them when their car had stalled.

The partner, Dennis Skillcorn, was executed in 2009.

The murder of Richard Drummond occurred in 1994.

"While the sentence carried out this evening cannot lesson the loss for Mr. Drummond's family, it nevertheless will give them the knowledge that justice has been done," Attorney General Chris Koster was quoted in a statement issued shortly after the U.S. 6-4 Supreme Court decision.

It was Missouri's second execution in three weeks and the second to use a different drug, pentobarbital,  after Europe objected to the planned use of Propofol that primarily is produced in Europe.

Eight Democratic legislators from the Kansas City area issue a statement criticizing Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro's handling of the Kansas City School District that has lost its accreditation.

The lawmakers charge Nicastro may have ingaged in improper influence or "rigging bidding procedures to assure an organization supported by the Kansas City business elite was awarded the contract to develop a long-range plan for the district."

The legislative complain was issued Wednesday, Dec. 11.

Earlier in the week at a news conference, Gov. Jay Nixon said the state Board of Education should monitor and evaluate the situation.

Last month, Nicastro was criticized for providing advice to supporters of a statewide ballot initiative proposal to restrict tenure rights for public school teachers.

The president of the State Board of Education came to Nicastro's immediate defense immediately after stories of Nicastro's communication with the anti-tenure group.

"It's unfortunate that special interest groups want the Commissioner to choose sides in debates that serve the interests of adults not children," Peter Herschend said in a written statement issued by the Education Department.

Rep. Chris Kelly said Tuesday that Gov. Jay Nixon's proposal to build a new psychiatric facility at Fulton State Hospital violates the state Constitution.

"For the past five years the Governor has ignored the problem in Fulton," said Kelly, D-Columbia. "All the Governor is doing is releasing money that the legislature put in the budget to plan for Fulton. He's simply stopping his previous obstruction."

Nixon announced Monday in a visit to the Fulton State Hospital that his balanced budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2015 would include recommendations of a strategic bond issuance to release funds for the construction of a new psychiatric facility.

Kelly said he supports the idea of a new facility, but the governor's proposal violates Article 3, Section 37 of the Missouri Constitution because it isn't done through a vote of the people.

The Governor's office responded to the criticism, saying similar measures had been taken in the past with regards to construction on buildings like the Truman State Office Building, the Metropolitan St. Louis Psychiatric Hospital and the Northwest Missouri Psychiatric Rehabilitation Center.

"There have been appropriation bonds in the past that have been used for capital improvement projects that have used these type of bonds without prior voter approval," said Scott Holste, the press secretary for the Governor. "The Governor believes this is the appropriate way to move forward on this."

In the Missouri Supreme Court hand down Tuesday, the court upheld for a second time law requiring unaccredited schools to pay for students to go to a different school.

The 1993 Missouri law in question requires unaccredited districts to pay for the costs for students if they choose to go to a nearby accredited school instead.

Opponents of the law argued that the law violated the state constitution because it is an unfunded mandate on local districts.

The unaccredited Kansas City School District estimates it could cost the district as much as $150 million to fund student transfers when the districts entire budget is just $268 million.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster appealed the stay of execution for convicted killer Allen Nicklasson just hours after the stay was granted. A panel of federal judges granted the stay late Monday. Nicklasson was scheduled to be put to death at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. He was convicted in the 1994 slaying of business man Richard Drummond.

Court appeals also delayed the execution of Joseph Paul Franklin on Nov. 20. He was set to be put to death at 12:01 a.m., Nov. 20, but appeals delayed the execution until just after 6 a.m. that same day.

If Koster's appeal is granted, Nicklasson would be the second person Missouri executed in three weeks after almost three years without an execution.