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NewsBook: Missouri Government News for the Week of January 8, 2007


. A Democrat is named chair of a Missouri House Committee by the Republican House Speaker. (01/11/2007)

It is the second time Rod Jetton has given a Democrat chairmanship of a legislative committee.

House Speaker Rod Jetton named St. Louis Democrat Rodney Hubbard to chair the House Committee on Urban Affairs.  Two years ago, Jetton gave chairmanship of the committee to another St. Louis area Democrat -- Ted Hoskins.

This year, Republicans went even further, giving Hoskins and Hubbard an office just off the House chamber -- an area usually limited majority party. 

The two black Democrats have supported some Republican ideas for urban education.


. Missouri's Supreme Court chief justice urges legislators to provide pay raises for judges. (01/10/2007)

In the annual State of the Judiciary address to a joint session of the legislature, Mike Wolff endorsed the pay-raise package of the state Salary Commission.

But he gave the issue just three sentences in a 24-minute speech.

The sponsor of the resolution to reject the pay-raise plan said he was disappointed Wolff did not provide a more detailed explanation for his support.

The pay plan raises the salaries for judges, legislators and statewide officials.  It automatically will go into effect unless rejected by a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate before the end of January.


. Missouri's governor endorses the auditor's plans for the college loan program. (01/10/2007)

Missouri Republican Gov. Matt Blunt released a letter Wednesday in which he commended the Democratic State Auditor's plans to review the MoHELA agency.

The governor's praise came one day after the state Republican Party attacked the proposed audit as politically motivated.

In his letter, Blunt asked the state auditor to include in her review information his office had received of "sweetheart pension plans" at the student-loan agency.


. Group pushes for Missouri health care coverage in 2007 (01/10/2007)

Representatives from groups affected by the Medicaid cuts passed in 2005 gathered at the Capitol Wednesday to urge Gov. Matt Blunt and state legislators to make heath care reform a priority this year.

More than a dozen Representatives of welfare-advocacy groups announced the launch of a campaign for restoring the cuts.

The Medicaid program which provides health care coverage for the lower income expires in July 2008.  Legislative leaders and the governor have made restoration of the program a top priority for this year's legislative session.  But so far, no proposal has been offered.


. Still no decision from Missouri's governor on a special session (01/09/2007)

Gov. Matt Blunt told reporters Tuesday he still has not made a decision on whether to call a special session to run at the same time as the legislature's regular session.

Blunt had raised the possibility of a special session as a way to fast-track his proposal to sell off parts of the state's college loan program to finance his statewide building construction program for higher education and bio-technology businesses.

The governor said he still was talking with legislative leaders on how to proceed with the plan.


. Missouri's Senate votes to keep the digital era off of member desks. (01/07/2007)

By an overwhelming margin, Missouri's Senate rejected a proposal that would have allowed members to have laptop computers on their desks in the chamber.

Critics charged it would be distractive to Senate debate and discussion.

Laptops are allowed at the Senate's press table.  And most members carry cell phones and other PDA devices (sometimes quietly tapping on the touch pads while the Senate is in session).


. The contribution limit is off for Missouri legislators. (01/08/2007)

A Cole County circuit judge has suspended a law prohibiting state legislators and others from taking campaign contributions during the course of the legislative session that runs from early January until mid-May.

The judge left in-force a provision removing the prior state limit on campaign contributions.


. Missouri's new auditor sworn into office with a vow on MoHELA. (01/08/2007)

The three children of Susan Montee hosted her swearing-in ceremonies in the Capitol rotunda Monday.

In her inaugural address, Montee renewed her vow to make as a top audit priority the governor's proposal to sell off part of the assets of the state's college loan program.


. Missouri's tax collections growing slower than expected. (01/08/2007)

Missouri tax collections fell below projections for the first half of the state's budget year, according to figures released by the state's Office of Administration.

For July through December, the administration reports a 4.4 percent increase -- a touch shy of the 4.5 percent increase upon which the state's budget is based.

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee chairman warned the surplus legislators have to spend in this year's session could amount to zero.