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NewsBook: Missouri Government News for the Week of August 27, 2007

. MODOT finally gets what it's been wanting for over a year. (08/30/2007)

The Missouri legislature passed the bill that allows the 800 bridge project.

The plan gives a team of contracters 5 years to fix over 800 bridges and 25 years to maintain them.

. The recently turned democrat Senator Chris Koster shares his idea on his plans for the next legislative session. (08/29/2007)

Koster explains his agenda plan remains the same as a democrat from when he was a republican.

Medicaid will continue to be his number one priority.

. Senate passes a bill to deal with the state's bridge problem. (08/30/2007)

The Senate went into night discussing a bill that would attempt to fix 802 bridges in Missouri. 

. Cole County Judge upholds school funding method (08/29/2007)

A Cole County Judge rejected claims by almost half of Missouri's public school districts that the state distributes money unfairly.

The lawsuit, which has lasted for three years, argued the equation used to determine how much of the state's yearly budget is spent on public education is unfair.

State public schools are funded partially through the state and partially through local taxes so budgets can vary by district.

Judge Richard Callahan said the state constitution does not require equal funding throughout the state.

Get  the radio story

. Ticket scalping legislation to be heard on Senate floor (08/29/2007)

The Senate is set to discuss the statewide economic bill, including ticket scalping legislation.

Under this provision, ticket scalpers would be able to resell tickets for events at prices more than face value.

Sen. Matt Bartle is sponsoring the amendment.

. Missouri's latest anti-abortion rights bill is blocked (08/28/2007)

A Western District U.S. judge issued a temporary injunction enforcing a law passed earlier this year by the state legislature that Planned Parenthood says could close abortion facilities in Columbia and Kansas City.

The law would require abortion clinics to be licensed as ambulatory surgical centers.

The abortion regulation law also prohibits Planned Parenthood from providing sex-education materials to public schools.  It is one of dozens of laws that took effect Tuesday.

. Missouri's Supreme Court punts on a decision on campaign contributions (08/27/2007)

The Missouri Supreme Court passed off to the state Ethics Commission responsibility for deciding whether political candidates will be required to refund contributions in excess of a prior state law.

In the 2006 session, the legislature had repealed those limits on contributions to candidates.  But earlier this year, the court held that law to be unconstitutional.

The court had been asked whether candidates had to return excess contributions the collected before the court's decision.  The court refused to rule on that question, pushing the issue off onto the Ethics Commission.

Among those with the biggest stake in this issue is Gov. Matt Blunt who would have to refund nearly $4 million he collected when the contribution limits were not in effect.

. St. Louis Senator Skeptical of City Development Plan (08/28/2007)

Democratic Leader Maida Coleman expressed concerns about a provision in the Governor's economic development bill .

The Senate will consider the bill Wednesday as part of this year's special session.

. Senate convenes to discuss economic development bill (08/27/2007)

The Senate will convene Wednesday to discuss an economic development bill, which includes provisions that would set up tax credits for developers and businesses.

The bill also contains provisions legalizing ticket scalping, and sets up broader restrictions on tax increment financing projects.

. Blunt unveils new illegal immigration policy (08/27/2007)

Governor Blunt wants state and local law enforcement to get involved in cracking down on illegal immigration.

Under his new plan, the immigration status of individuals presented for incarceration will be checked.  If the person is an illegal immigrant, they will be detained.

Blunt cannot mandate local law enforcement policy, only encourage.

. Bill passed by Senate Transportation Committee to rebuild 803 Missouri bridges. (08/27/2007)

A single consortium of contracts would get responsibility for maintaining more than 800 bridges in Missouri under a plan approved by the Senate Transportation Committee Monday.

The bill provides a 30 year plan that includes an initial five year construction period and twenty-five year maintenance period.

The measure -- one of two issues for which the governor called the legislature into a special session -- was approved by the House last week.

. The Senate Economic Committee approves the governor's tax breaks for business. (08/27/2007)

Without opposition, the committee approved the package of tax cuts for businesses and developers.

The House had approved the measure last week.  It is one of two items for which the governor called lawmakers into a special session.

In addition to tax breaks for development, the proposal also would legalize ticket scalping for athletic events.

. 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.