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NewsBook: Missouri Government News for Week of March 31, 2003


. Auditor's report finds employees used state planes to attend parties (04/03/03)
JEFFERSON CITY - Funerals and retirement parties are just a few of the places state officials have flown on the taxpayers' dime, according to State Auditor Clare McCaskill. In a report released Thursday, McCaskill details her department's year-long audit of state passenger plane use from 1999-2001.

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. House passes bill that could bring tax breaks for senior citizens (04/03/03)
JEFFERSON CITY - The House advanced a bill to the Senate Thursday that would cap tax assessments on homes and property of senior citizens.

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    . High school association debated in House bill (04/03/03)
    JEFFERSON CITY - Students and association representatives clashed in a hearing regarding the Missouri State High School Activities Association.

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    . Bill consolidating state health plan blocked in Senate (04/02/03)
    JEFFERSON CITY - The Senate sponsor of legislation to establish a task force to review consolidation of health care plans for state workers has given up.

    The measure has faced stiff opposition from the University of Missouri that has fought to prevent its plan from being merged with the state.

    The sponsor of the bill stopped debate after a filibuster by Columbia's Senator, Ken Jacob.

    . Alignment of tobacco industry and state interests raises questions whether the Attorney General will go to bat for Philip Morris (4/2/03)
    JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's attorney general's office says they are considering filing a brief in a $10 billion court verdict against cigarette-maker Philip Morris.

    The tobacco company has warned that the Illinois court verdict and the required appeal bond -- in excess of $12 billion -- jeopardizes the company's financial stability and, thus, it's ability to continue to make payments to states, including Missouri, under the national tobacco settlement plan.

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    . Flood Plain Lands Would Be Protected From Development By Proposed Bill (04/02/03)
    JEFFERSON CITY - Nearly ten years after the great floods of '93, the House Conservation Committee is considering a bill that would protect flood plain lands from future development. Supporters of the bill say it will help keep people and buildings off the water's edge.

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    . Utility Companies Speak Out Against Protecting Farmland from Public Use (04/03/2003)
    JEFFERSON CITY - Ameren UE and other utility companies say they oppose a proposed House bill that would protect farmland from being condemned for public use in building power lines. The power companies say the bill would mean higher costs and longer construction times.

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    . Election Bill Gets Preliminary House Approval (04/02/03)
    JEFFERSON CITY - By a voice vote, the House gave first round approval to legislation designed to bring Missouri into compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act. Federal funding is supposed to entice states to get rid of punch cards, make all polling places accessible to the disabled, and create a voter database. If the proposal becomes law, Missouri stands to receive $76 million over the next three years.
    . St. Louis City cops one step closer to living anywhere in Missouri (04/01/03)
    JEFFERSON CITY - The House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee passed, on a 14-3 vote, a bill that gets rid of the residency requirement for City of St. Louis police officers. Now, St. Louis City cops must reside within the city limits.
    . Transportation reform package wins initial Senate approval--but is less than some expected (04/01/03)
    JEFFERSON CITY - MoDOT's director won't be appointed by the governor, and an inspector general won't be calling the shots. But some lawmakers say the plans passed will bring more legislative oversight to MoDOT. Get the radio stories.
    . Senate committee passes video gambling bill (04/01/03)
    JEFFERSON CITY - Video gambling machines would be allowed in bars and truck stops. Revenue from the machines would be placed into a trust fund for higher education.

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    . Committee defeats Hancock refund reserve fund (04/01/03)
    JEFFERSON CITY - A measure that would send tax refunds into a reserve fund instead of back to the taxpayers was defeated in a Senate committee Tuesday.

    Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, sponsored the constitutional amendment that would put excess taxes the state collects over its revenue lid set by the Hancock amendment into a revenue stabilization fund.

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    . A Profile on Former CIA Agent and Current Senator Jon Dolan (04/01/03)
    JEFFERSON CITY - A spy has entered Missouri's Senate in the form of an ex-CIA agent who now chairs the Senate's Transportation Committee.

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    . A draft foster care report recommends higher salaries and lower caseloads for foster care workers. (03/31/03)
    JEFFERSON CITY - Higher salaries and a lower case load for child welfare workers were among the recommendations cited Monday in a draft report from the Supreme Court Commission on Children's Justice.

    The report includes recommendations from the committee's four work groups.

    The full commission will develop suggestions from each work group's recommendations. These will be included in the commission's final report to be released June 13.

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    . The Senate Appropriations Committee decides to make another attempt at administration help in cutting the state's budget. (03/31/03)
    JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's Senate will try to get what Republicans in the General Assembly couldn't: cooperation from the state's department heads as to how to cut two-thirds of a billion dollars from the state budget.

    The Senate Appropriations Committee reached consensus last night to direct their staffers to go back to the state's departments for information on where to cut programs, a mission House Republicans attempted and failed.

    As a result of that failure, for the first time in recent memory, the House did not pass a budget with line by line appropriations for individual state programs. Instead they passed a package of budget bills that allots a lump sum to each department.

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