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NewsBook: Missouri Government News for the Week of September 4, 2006

. 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.

Get the radio story here.

. Judge sets Monday as ruling date for tobacco tax increase measure (09/08/2006)

A Cole County judge said he would rule on Monday whether or not the proposed tobacco tax increase will be on the November ballot. The measure would increase the state's cigarette tax to 97 cents.

Attorneys in support of the measure say the secretary of state wrongly rejected  over 1,000 signatures.

Get the radio stories.                 

. MO Department of Transportation plans to improve 800 bridges by 2012 (09/08/2006)

Governor Matt Blunt in partnership with Missouri Department of Transportation announced a plan to improve the poor condition of 800 bridges throughout Missouri on Thursday.

The Safe & Sound Bridge Improvement plan is slated for completion by 2012 and is expected to cost between $400 million and $600 million. The majority of funding will come from existing federal bridge replacement funds.

"MoDOT is evaluating the state's bridge system to identify the 800 bridges that most need to be improved," Transportation Director Pete Rahn said in a press release Thursday. "Bidders will have until 2012 to get these bridges in good condition, then keep them that way for at least 25 years."

A winning bidder for the project will be approved by the summer of 2007 and a list of bridges in need of repair will be completed later this year.

. Missouri's public safety director urges people to report schoolyard bullies (09/07/2006)

Mark James, the state's director of public safety called upon students, parents and school officials to make use of Missouri's School Violence hotline.

Jennifer Hunter supervises the call center. She says the hotline fields an average of 500 calls per year. Once a call is received, dispatchers relay the information to the law enforcement agencies and school where the incident occured.

The hotline is funded by a federal government grant, and was created in 2001.

Get the radio story here.

. Voter ID ruling to be issued next week (09/06/2006)

With less than ten weeks before the November elections, a judicial decision on the fate of the state's new voter identification requirements was put off until next week by a Cole County Circuit Judge.

A federal lawsuit against the new law was also filed Wednesday in St. Louis.

Get the newspaper story. 

Get the radio story here.

. Nixon urges MOHELA board to reject sale. (09/06/2006)

Attorney General Jay Nixon sent a letter to MOHELA's board urging them not to accept the governor's new proposal. 

In the letter, he reminds MOHELA of its responsibility to Missouri students.

Get the newspaper story here.

Get the radio story here.


. No special session planned for Missouri (09/06/2006)

The Associated Press reported that a special session will not be held in Missouri this year.

Earlier this summer Blunt said he would call a special session if legislators couldn't agree on a Medicaid fraud bill and a bill to restore Medicaid coverage to disabled residents.

. Three former Natural Resources Department directors endorse the KATY Trail lawsuit. (09/05/2006)

The three former directors have joined a lawsuit that seeks to block the administration's plans to give up ownership of the KATY bridge in Booneville.

Among those filing an amicus brief is the DNR director during the administration of Missouri's last GOP governor, John Ashcroft.

The administration has argued that the old KATY railroad bridge in Boonville is unsafe and too expensive to repair.

. A state program to warn pregnant women of the dangers of alcohol for their unborn is being translated into Spanish. (09/05/2006)

The Missouri Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Rural Awareness and Prevention Project  is in its final phase of translating intervention brochures and fliers into Spanish.

The Spanish brochures and fliers are part of the larger intervention scheme that Missouri has undertaken to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome.  The state program is funded by the the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to promote awareness among women of ages 18-44 in Missouri.  

Fliers and brochures are available at various locations including clinics and community centers in 71 rural counties along and south of I-70, excluding St. Louis and Kansas City.

The state program recently received an annual grant of $425,000 from the CDC. 

. Missourians urged to look out for Forest Pests (09/05/2006)

Missouri's Conservation Department says that the Emerald Ash Borer and the Gypsy Moth can potentially damage Missouri's forests and  affect it's ecosystems.

Emeral Ash Borer kill Ash trees by eating their inner bark and the Gypsy Moth caterpillars feed on the leaves of Oak and other trees.

Emerald Ash Borers are spread in firewood travelling accross borders from several North Eastern States and the Gypsy Moth eggs attach to solid surfaces. Therefore, hitchhikes on trailers and campers entering Missouri through other states.

Missourians are encouranged to buy local firewood and burn firewood from other states immediately. And, travellors entering Missouri should check their belongings for egg masses and scrape them off if found.