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NewsBook: Missouri Government News for the Week of September 18, 2006

. Missouri's college loan board decides to go ahead with it's asset-sale meeting. (09/22/2006)

The Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MOHELA) decided Friday to go ahead with its Wednesday meeting to consider the governor's plan to give up of the board's assets for a statewide building construction program.

A Democratic representative had urged a delay because of the three recent resignations and two replacements on the board.

Also on Friday, it was learned that another governmental board that will process the loan board's assets had inserted into its resolution a ban on universities using buildings financed by the funds for some forms of stem-cell research.

. Missouri utility companies will not be allowed to raise rates to cover fuel costs (09/22/2006)

Public Service Commission Chairman Jeff Davis said utility companies are not allowed to raise rates at their discretion to cover rising fuel costs. 

Davis said the vote in question will allow utility companies to apply for an adjustable fuel charge as part of an eleven-month rate case process overseen by the Public Service Commission.

The rate case process will help determine what the actual fuel costs are and make sure the fuel charge is necessary.

. Health officials recommend HIV tests for all Americans (09/22/2006)

The Center for Disease Control recommended that all Americans ages 13 to 64 be tested for HIV as part of their regular health checkups. 

CDC officials hope the testing will detect cases earlier and slow the spread of the virus. 

The recommendation is not legally binding for doctors and patients would be able to decline the tests. 

. The voter ID law heads to the state Supreme Court. (09/21/2006)

Missouri's Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for Wednesday on appeal of a circuit court's recent decision invalidating the state's voter ID law.

The law, passed this spring by the state legislature, requires a person to present a government-issued voter ID in order to vote.

Also Wednesday, the court will hear an appeal the Cole County circuit court decision to put the tobacco-tax increase proposal on the November ballot.

. Opponents of the stem cell ballot proposal roll out radio ad campaign (09/21/2006)

The radio spot features a real doctor. In the ad, he tells a patient that he's going to vote "no" on the constitutional amendment this November.

That doctor is also a board member of the group, Missourians Against Human Cloning, which paid for the ad. The group's executive director, Jaci Winship, says she takes issue with the amendment because it would allow embryonic stem cell research in Missouri.  

If passed by voters in November, the amendment would ensure that all forms of stem cell research allowed under federal law would remain legal in the state. 

. The state's department of transportation says Missourians are using seat belts less than last year. (09/21/2006)

The transportation department says only 75 percent of Missourians are using seat belts compared to 77 percent last year.

Jeff Briggs, a spokesman for the department says the decrease of people using a seat belt is a source of concern.

According to the report, 68 percent of people who die in Missouri car accidents are not wearing seat belts.

The report also shows that properly worn seat belts, in conjunction with working air bags, can reduce a person's risk of death by 63 percent in a car accident.

. Group pushes for mental health awareness (09/20/2006)

Missouri Partners in Crisis is a new group that advocates mental health awareness.

The group wants the legislature to reinstate money lost through cutbacks in health care.

Get the radio stories here.

. MOHELA Board is one more member short (09/20/2006)

James Ricks, an employee of Southeast Missouri State University, resigned from the MOHELA Board on Tuesday.

This latest resignation is the third in a week, and comes only days before a vote by the Board on the fate of MOHELA's assets.

Get the newspaper story here.

Get the radio stories here.

. Infant returns safely; House Republican says system works (09/20/2006)

The infant kidnapped in Franklin County was returned home after a lead from the sister-om-law of the kidnapper.

Chairman of the Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee commends Missouri law enforcement on their success in returning the infant home quickly.

Get the newspaper story here.

. Missouri drought conditions may lead to government relief. (09/20/2006)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency states that ninety-six out of Missouri's one-hundred and fourteen counties are natural disaster areas because of the recent drought.

Governor, Matt Blunt, sent a letter asking for a formal declaration from the USDA, so Missouri farmers can partake in federal relief funds.


. Monarch Butterflies move through Missouri on their way to Mexico. (09/19/2006)

Monarch butterflies started their migration south a week late, but entomoligists don't think the delay will harm them.

The butterflies are currently traveling through Missouri on their annual trek to Mexico.

The warm weather in the Midwest caused the butterflies to delay their trip.

Entomoglists still expect a normal population size for the butterflies at the end of the migration season.

. Missouri Health Department Warns Missourians of Shingles (09/19/2006)

A Missouri Health Department spokesperson advises Missourians to be aware of the symptons of disease that cost MOHELA college loan board one of its members.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Tuesday that a Higher Education commissioner had submitted his resignation because of health effects from shingles.

Shingles is an outbreak of a skin rash or blisters, and is caused by the chickenpox virus.

After a person has had chickenpox, the virus retreats to the nerve endings and remains there. When a person's immune system is weakened, the virus may be reactivated in the form of shingles. .

The disease is more common in the elderly, and it is not life-threatening. Shingles may cause severe pain that lasts 3 to 5 weeks. 

. MOHELA loses two members a week before its asset sale vote. (09/19/2006)

The state's Higher Education Interim Commissioner, Charles McClain, said he was resigning as interim director the end of this week for health reasons.  The department's commissioner is included as one of the MOHELA board members.

Also resigning is Marilyn Bush, an executive with Bank America.

The two are among four MOHELA board members that Attorney General Jay Nixon has said have potential conflicts of interest in voting on the sale proposal.

. Payday loans: Not the best way to avoid debt (09/18/2006)

Consumer protection groups say payday and title loans actually put customers into more debt.

Some loan agencies in Missouri charge as much as 300% and generally expect repayment within two to three week's time.

Get the radio stories here.

. E. coli outbreak spreads closer to Missouri (09/18/2006)

Illinois and Nebraska have reported cases of E.Coli.

Missouri grocery stores are taking precautions.

Get the radio story
. Voter ID ruling to be challenged (09/18/2006)

Last week a Cole County judge declared the voter id law to be unconstitutional because it placed an unfair burden on voters. The law required voters to show a government-issued ID at the polls. 

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Delbert Scott, said he will file an appeal to the state's Supreme Court this week. 

. Missouri letting FDA handle E. coli cases (09/15/2006)

The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about fresh bagged spinach carrying E. coli. 

The FDA confirmed cases in several states including much of the Midwest.

A spokesman for the Missouri Dept. of Health and Senior Services said the FDA is dealing with the issue on a national level, but Missouri has not been apart of the investigation.

. Missouri's Voter ID law is tossed out. (09/14/2006)

A Cole County circuit court has tossed out the law passed earlier this year that requires voters to present government-issued photo IDs to be able to vote.

Circuit Judge Richard Callahan held that the requirement imposed a burden on women and the poor who would have to get photo IDs because they did not have driving licenses.

Callahan's decision was criticized by the Republican governor, but praised by the Democratic secretary of state who had been a leading opponent of the proposal.

No immediate word from the attorney general as to whether he would appeal the decision.

. Sandra Thomas still the winner in Republican state auditor recount (09/13/2006)

Sandra Thomas was declared the winner in a ballot recount for the Republican state auditor primary Wednesday. The result was announced by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.

The recount was requested by Rep. Jack Jackson (R-St. Louis County) after the Aug. 8 primary resulted in a difference of only 0.6 percent of votes between he and candidate Sandra Thomas. Thomas led the primary by 1,844 votes. State law allows the runner-up to request a recount if the margin of difference is less than 1 percent.

Thomas gained 28 votes in the recount process.

. Voter ID ruling yet to be handed down. (09/13/2006)

Cole County Circuit judge says he hopes to have a decision on the Voter ID case at the end of next week.

Rachel Bunning has more from the state Capitol.

. Columbia Little League team receives yet another honor (09/13/2006)

The Daniel Boone All-Star Little League team received recognition from the state House and Senate for their participation in the 2006 Little League World Series.

The team is only the second team from Missouri ever to participate in the international competition. 

. Blunt: "Stop playing politics" (09/13/2006)

Governor Blunt met with university presidents from all over Missouri to discuss the Lewis and Clark Discovery initiative.

Among the more than 20 attendees was UM system President Elson Floyd.

. Tax Formula to be Reformed (09/13/2006)

Chief Financial Officer for Clayton School District says property tax formulas in use since the 1930s need to be reformed.

Senate Pro-tem Mike Gibbons says current methods are complicated and need to be restructured.

. For the first time in recent memory, Missouri lawmakers will not have a single non-budget veto to discuss at their annual veto session. (09/12/2006)

Besides a few items in the state's budget, the legislature will not have any vetoes to discuss on Wednesday during the annual veto session. It's the first time in more than two decades that a governor has signed every single bill passed by the legislature.

The only vetoes from Gov. Matt Blunt were "line-item" veto cuts in the budget.

Blunt's spokesman, Spence Jackson, says the lack of bills vetoed this session speaks to how well the legislature works with Blunt.

Leaders in the state's Democratic party disagree, and say Blunt and the Republican leadership should have gotten more done this session.

Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, says the veto session should be used to pass legislation authorizing the sale of college loans and a bill to create a work program for people with disabilities.

. Nixon says MOHELA board members should refrain from voting (09/11/2006)

Attorney General Jay Nixon told reporters those who were members of MOHELA's board and the Cordinating Board for Higher Education should recuse themselves from voting on the governor's latest MOHELA plan.

The Board will meet to go over the plan and vote on September 27th.

. Gov. Blunt commemorates a solemn anniversary (09/11/2006)

Gov. Blunt was the keynote speaker for an event held at the Capitol honoring those who lost their lives in the World Trade Center attacks. 

Speeches were also made by officials from the Missouri National Guard and the Department of Public Safety regarding advancements made in the protection of Missourians. 

In addition to extending his gratitude and condolences to families, Blunt also used the oppertunity to reaffirm America's efforts in the global war on terror. 

. The Senate Education Committee chair says a state takeover of St. Louis schools is not top priority (09/11/2006)

Sen.Gary Nodler, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said that although the St. Louis School District needs help to get back on track, a state takeover of the district was not the state's top priority.

In a provision of the 1999 desegregation settlement, the state has the authority to establish its own transitional governing body over the district if it fails to meet state academic standards for two consecutive years.

So far, the state has created an advisory committee to investigate the school district and its shortcomings.

The state's education commissioner recently suggested a state takeover was possible.