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NewsBook: Missouri Government News for the Week of August 20, 2007

. Missouri's Supreme Court chief justice called before a Senate committee (08/23/2007)

The Senate majority leader announced Thursday that he has called a meeting of the Senate Rules Committee to question members of the Appellate Judicial Commission about the process by which they selected the three nominees for a state Supreme Court vacancy.

The chief justice, Laura Stith, chairs the commission.  The governor is reviewing the nominees.

Sen. Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, previously has attacked the nominating commission for holding its meetings in secrete.  He's called on the state Attorney General to conduct an Open Meetings Law violation investigation.

. Missouri's House passes the governor's business tax breaks. (08/23/2007)

By an overwhelming margin, the House passed and sent to the Senate without significant change the two proposals the governor has sent to lawmakers.

Democratic efforts to strip special-interest tax breaks from the broader economic bill were defeated or ruled out of order.

In addition to the bill providing tax breaks for business and developers, the House also passed a proposal designed to streamline repair and maintenance contracts for state bridges.

The Senate meets next week to take up the proposals.

. Health Department Director terminates Attorney General in Planned Parenthood Lawsuit (08/22/2007)

Health Department Director Jane Drummond terminated Attorney General Jay Nixon from representing the department in a Planned Parenthood Lawsuit Wednesday.

Drummond said Nixon was too closely tied to Planned Parenthood, including receiving financial support from the organization. She also said Nixon's pro-abortion record was a reason for his removal.

As the state's lawyer, Nixon cannot be fired from a state related case but a department can choose to use independent council.

Nixon said the issue is "about law not politics."

. Ballot initiative could undo part of Amendment two on stem cell research (08/22/2007)

Ballot language filed Wednesday with the Secretary of State's office could undo portions of Amendment Two, which was passed in 2006 and legalized stem cell research.

The filing group, Cures Without Cloning, was immediately criticized by the state's largest research firm and state Democrats.

. Bridge rebuilding bill moves through the House (08/22/2007)

A bill moving through the legislative special session could speed up a bridge rebuilding program which includes 13 bridges in Boone County.

The rebuilding project would replace 802 of the lowest rated bridges within the state by 2012 and would include 25 years of maintenance by the contractor.

Current state law requires contractors to obtain a bond for the full amount of the construction project from an insurance company.

The problem is no insurance company will provide a bond for such a lengthy process.

. A governor's task force recommends 24-by-7 mental health facilities on every college campus. (08/21/2007)

That was one of 33 recommendations announced by the task force that had been created by the governor in the wake of the Virginia Tech. shootings.

The task force also recommended better coordination of campus security with local public safety agencies.  The state's Public Safety Department director said less than one-fourth of the state's schools had shared their plans with local public safety agencies.

The task force also recommended better tracking of student disciplinary records and that teachers talk with students about emergency procedures on the first day of each semester.

. Missouri's latest anti-abortion law lands in federal court. (08/20/2007)

Planned Parenthood filed suit Monday challenging legislation passed earlier this year that requires abortion facilities to be licensed as ambulatory surgery centers.

The law takes effect August 28.  Planned Parenthood had warned earlier that the law could prevent their Kansas City and Columbia facilities from providing abortions.

The lawsuit asks the western district federal court to block the law from going into effect until it can be reviewed by the courts.

. Missouri's auditor questions background checks for teachers. (08/20/2007)

The State Auditor charged that persons with questionable background were able to become teachers because of problems with the state's background checking system.

Susan Montee said her office had discovered 77 teachers with criminal backgrounds were teaching during the 2006-2007 school year.

Education officials said current state laws dealing with the matter needed to be cleaned up.

. Missouri's newest Democrat enters the Senate. (08/20/2007)

Missouri's newest Senate Democrat found sat alone on the opening day of Missouri's legislative session -- just weeks after Western Missouri Senator Chris Koster announced his switch from Republican to Democrat.

Koster has been stripped of all his Senate committee posts that he had been given as a Republican.

He met with Senate Democrats during a closed-door session after Monday's Senate session, but no decision was announced on what, if any, committees he would get from the Democrats.

. Special Session begins (08/20/2007)

Missouri's legislature began it's special session Monday with a nearly empty House and Democrats bickering in the Senate.

The House of Representatives held a short technical session Monday to introduce bills and adjourned within minutes. Senate Democrats spent an hour discussing a list of grievances including the short notice about the special session's start date.

The governor called for a special session to reexamine an economic development bill and to speed up repairs on Missouri's bridges.

The original bill pushed by the governor would give tax breaks to companies which pay more than the county average and pay at least half the cost of employee health care.

But Blunt added a number of other items in the special session call including legalization of ticket scalping and tax breaks for cattle producers.

The House will discuss the bills in committee Tuesday and Wednesday and should be brought before the House Thursday. The Senate should begin looking at the bills next week.

. The end (08/02/2007)
This is the last one.