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NewsBook: Missouri Government News for the Week of February 26, 2007

. Immigration draws attention of Missouri lawmakers (03/01/2007)

The Missouri legislature is rife with bills that aim to crack down on illegal immigration - an issue that some think is second only to health care this year.

While legislation that has passed the House would make English the language in official proceedings and ban illegal immigrants from attending the state's universities, other bills focus on reigning in illegal hiring practices.

. Group backs bills to reverse Medicaid cuts (03/01/2007)

In 1997, doctors diagnosed Richard Green with multiple sclerosis.

About five years later, Green's employer of 20 years fired the wheelchair-bound Ozark resident. Green said he became too expensive for the company to employ.

Thursday, the 40-year-old single father of three lost his Medicaid coverage. His monthly $1,350 disability payment began this week and exceeded Medicaid's minimum earnings limit.

Thursday, Green also joined the advocacy group First Things First Campaign in the capitol to support companion bills that would restore health care coverage to those cut from the system two years ago.

. State will audit Agriculture Department, investigate harassment settlement (02/28/2007)

State Auditor Susan Montee says the state will audit the agriculture department.

The audit follows the dismissal of agriculture director Fred Ferrell, accused of sexually harassing a secretary.

The secretary claims the state offered her $70,000 to keep the allegations quiet.

. State Executive Officers attack Blunt over Ferrell sexual harassment case (02/28/2007)

The top two female statewide officials are taking on Gov. Matt Blunt just days after the forced resignation of the Agriculture Department director over a sexual harassment law suit.

The sexual harassment settlement would have been paid to former Agriculture Department employee Heather Elder out of the department's budget rather than the state legal fund. In light of that, State Auditor Susan Montee, a Democrat, said she will audit the Agriculture Department at the end of the fiscal year in June.

"We just know there's something about the way this transaction was being handled that feels improper and looks improper," she said.

. Bill would allow pharmacists to administer flu vaccine (02/28/2007)

Under a bill that received initial Senate passage pharmacists would be allowed to administer influenza vaccines.

The bill would provide that the State Board of Pharmacy could grant a pharmacist who can prove that he or she has achieved clinical instruction beyond a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy with the authority to administer the shot.

. A 5 pm deadline requires the St. Louis City school board to turn in any new evidence that would support the school system to maintain its accreditation. (02/28/2007)

The St. Louis City school board has been declining for months now. 

This lead to the state Education Board stepping in to force St. Louis's school board to shape up.

March 22nd, the state Education Board plans to meet to determine whether St. Louis will maintain accreditation.

. Right to stand your ground debated in the Senate (02/28/2007)

Senate Bills 41 and 64 would give a homeowner the right to use force if they feel threatened when a person breaks into their home. The person who uses justified force will have an absolute defense to criminal prosecution.

The Senate voted Wednesday to pass the bills for perfection.  The concurrent resolution in the House already passed with a vote of 143-4.

. House votes to ban illegal immigrants from state's colleges (02/28/2007)

The House gave initial approval today to a bill that would ban illegal immigrants from attending the state's colleges and universities.

Some Democrats say the measure might result in higher education institutions being denied funding by the legislature.

. The governor comes under attack from a fellow statewide Republican official for his administration's handling of the sexual harassment charges. (02/27/2007)

State Treasurer Sarah Steelman announced late Tuesday afternoon she was stopping payment on the check that the administration had issued in an effort to settle a sexual harassment complaint against the Agriculture Department's director.

Steelman charged that to cut the $70,000 check, Agriculture Department had implemented a financial system that "has allowed the director of a department accused of sexual harassment to authorize payment of tax dollars to the victim in a secret agreement with no transparency to the taxpayers."

The State Treasurer also announced she had filed "sunshine" law requests for all the documents related to the check -- which published reports indicate the complaining employee had returned to the state uncashed after rejecting the settlement agreement.

Steelman is the state's only woman Republican statewide official and the first Republican to voice public criticism of the administration's handling of the affair.

. Senate Republicans are pushing for all Missourians to have health care coverage (02/27/2007)

Senate Republicans are pushing for all Missourians to obtain health insurance in a bill proposed to a Senate health care committee Tuesday.

Sen. John Loudon, R-St. Louis County, is sponsoring the measure, which would also set up a state-run program for offering private insurance plans to Missouri's uninsured.

. Republican representative seeks ban on alcohol vaporizers (02/27/2007)

Call it a scotch without the rock -- or the glass -- or the liquid.

Since 2004, a North Carolina-based company has sold a vaporizer that turns 80-proof liquor into mist, which an individual then inhales.

But Rep. Jerry Nolte, R-Gladstone, has sponsored a bill that would prohibit the use or possession of any such device that vaporizes alcohol. Gladstone discussed the bill Tuesday with the House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee.

. Democrats call for investigation into Governors actions regarding sexual harassment allegations (02/27/2007)

Following the resignation of the director of the Department of Agriculture Monday, Democrats from the House and Senate held a press conference Tuesday morning demanding an explanation from the Governor's office and action by the legislature.    

Sen. Jolie Justus  said the sexual harassment allegations and the Governor's actions once the allegations surfaced represent a "culture of corruption" that exists in the state government.  She and other Democrats have called for the House and Senate to take immediate action.    

House Majority Leader Tom Dempsey said right now this is a personnel matter and the legislature should not get involved.  

. Senator Joan Bray questions Governor Blunt's handling's of Department of Agriculture sexual harassment case (02/26/2007)

Democrat Senator Joan Bray along with five other female democrat legislators drafted a letter to Governor Blunt demanding answers on the sexual harassment case in the Department of Agriculture.

The letter questions the administrations handling of the investigation of the case which was conducted by the Highway Patrol and the offering of $70,000 of hush money.

Bray personally wants to know why the Governor waited so long to ask for the resignation of the Department Director and why he was reinstated after the sexual harassment became public.

. Women legislators demand answers from the governor on a sexual harassment case. (02/26/2007)

Six Democratic women legislators sent the demand to the governor on Sunday.

The letter came after newspaper reports that a female employee in the state Agriculture Department had been offered $70,000 to settle a sex harassment complaint against the department director -- if the woman would remain silent.

In their letter, the women legislators ask the governor to explain why the director was allowed to remain in office and under what authority a payment was authorized to keep the information from becoming public.