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NewsBook: Missouri Government News for the Week of September 17, 2007

. Missouri's Ethics Commission backs off. (09/20/2007)

Faced with a lawsuit against a closed-door meeting, the state Ethics Commission rescinded an order warning political candidates they might have to refund campaign contributions that exceed the state's contribution limit.

The commission's decision came just one day after a Cole County circuit judge heard arguments in a GOP case that challenged the commission's original decision because it was made after a one-hour closed door session.

In a telephone-conference call Wednesday, the commission voted to drop its earlier decision had take up the issue at another meeting on October 4.

At issue is a state Supreme Court decision that threw out a legislative plan to revoke the voter-approved limits on individual contributions to political campaigns.

. West Nile Threat Prominent Through October (09/20/2007)

While summer is coming to an end, the threat of mosquito bites, and West Nile Virus, is prominent until the end of October.

A Missourians risk of contracting West Nile Virus is rare, but it does exist.

30 cases have been reported for the year, including the death of a St. Louis woman last week.

Get the radio story here.

. Governor's Health Coverage Plan Faces GOP Resistance (09/20/2007)

Governor Matt Blunt's health care plan is causing concern among fellow Republicans.

Members of the House and Senate are worried about the price of the Governor's plan which he announced Tuesday.

The plan carries an estimated $19.5 million dollar price tag for the state in the final months of 2007.

Missouri is the home to 700,000 uninsured citizens.

. Hispanic community leader responds to illegal immigrant car crash (09/19/2007)

Jorge Riopedre, the secretary of the St. Louis Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said he did not anticipate backlash from legislators over the accident involving an illegal immigrant in Clayton yesterday.

Riopedre was concerned that people would try to take this incident and use it to generalize about all immigrants.

. Missouri roads to get international truck drivers (09/19/2007)

As of this month, that truck you pass on Interstate 70 could be a Mexican or Canadian vehicle.  And the new North American trucking system is generating arguments about safety from the union for American truckers.

Effective Sept. 6,  Mexican and Canadian truckers were given expanded rights to travel through the U.S. as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

While there is no estimate of how many foreign trucks will be rolling through Missouri, nationally around 500 trucks will be entering the country at any given time.

. Missouri Highway Patrol Uses Multi-Lingual Officers, Not Interpreters (09/19/2007)

Captain Tim Hull, Director of the Public Information Division for the Missouri Highway Patrol, says the patrol keeps a list of all officers that are proficient in languages other than English, and uses that list to solve language barrier dilemmas.

Hull also says some cases in which an officer and a citizen do not speak the same language might not require an interpreter, if enough communication is established, and the event in question is a fairly minor one.

Get the radio story.

. Governor Blunt unveils plan for the uninsured (09/19/2007)

The plan involves a three-phase proposal to help low-income people in Missouri obtain health insurance.

The first phase of the plan could be in operation by February with the hope of covering 131,500 working adults- including those without children- with incomes of up to 185 percent of the poverty level.

Get the newspaper story here.

. English is the Standard for Missouri's Driver's License (09/18/2007)

Two patrons at a Clayton restaurant were injured today when an SUV lost control and drove onto the restaurant's patio.

Police had trouble communicating with the driver as he spoke little English.

While Missouri does offer driving guides in Spanish and Bosnian, citizens cannot get a driver's license without some English skills.

. Missouri's GOP sues the state's Ethics Commission (09/17/2007)

The Republican Party suit charges the commission violated the Opens Meeting Law when it met behind closed doors last week to discussion the commission's policy on a state Supreme Court decision involving campaign contributions.

The court struck down a law repealing contribution limits, but left it up to the Ethics Commission to decide whether candidates would have to return excess contributions collected prior to the court's decision.

The commission met in a closed session for about one hour before voting on its policy without any discussion.

The motion instructs the commission staff to advise candidates that they might have to return the excess contributions.

. Outgoing Public Service Commissioner Steve Gaw Spoke About Both His and the Commission's Future (09/17/2007)

Gaw cautioned Missourians against future utility rate increases.

He also spoke about the PSC's need to push further in their investigation of AmerenUE regarding the Taum Sauk disaster.

In regards to his own plans, Gaw was guarded in his response.

. MoDOT Receives $2 Million Grant to Study I-70 Truck Lane Expansion (09/13/2007)

The Federal transportation department will fund the study that will look at a 750 mile stretch of the Interstate across Missouri and 3 other states.

If it is decided that Missouri needs the 4 truck only lanes, the estimated cost is $3.5 Billion.

. Growing Armadillo Population Poses Threat to Missouri Drivers (09/13/2007)

The next time you go for a drive, you might want to watch out for armadillos.

. St. Louis Plant to Investigate Possible Hazardous Wastes Release (09/13/2007)

The threat of hazardous wastes emitted by a St. Louis plant has provoked an investigation.

Sigma-Aldrich Inc. and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources entered into a Letter of Agreement to begin investigation of the facility.

The agreement will research whether or not cleanup is necessary.

. Bob Barker's turn to come on down! (09/12/2007)

The price was right for Bob Barker Wednesday as it was his turn to come on down as he was inducted into the hall of famous Missourians at the State Capitol.

In a building filled with serious business, the unveiling of a bust of Baker was a bit of fun.

Before the unveiling Barker, sporting his trade marked tan, peeked under the sheet and said he hoped the bust would look 15 years younger than he is now.

"I'm hoping that I'm cute," Barker said.

. Republicans select Ron Richard as the Speaker-elect of the House (09/12/2007)

Joplin's Ron Richard is the Speaker-elect of the House of Representatives.

He will fill succeed Marble Hill Republican Rod Jetton in the 2009 legislative session.

. Blunt firm in support of chief of staff (09/12/2007)

Governor Matt Blunt continued to stand behind chief of staff Ed Martin in spite of calls for Martin's resignation from members of the Hispanic community.

Hispanic Rep. Timothy Flook also gave his support to Martin, saying he did not feel Martin's remarks were racist. 

. Nixon's campaign prepares to return over limit funds, Blunt yet to decide. (09/12/2007)

Jay Nixon has decided to return any and all over limit campaign contributions in compliance with the Missouri Ethics Committees decision and the State Supreme Court's ruling.

The Court reinstated campaign limits that had been done away with and ordered all over limit contributions already collected to be returned unless a hardship could be demonstrated.

Blunt and his campaign have not decided whether they will show the committee grounds for a hardship or not.

. Judge denies halt of MoHELA funds (09/12/2007)

A Cole County Judge denied student's request to halt the transfer of $350 million to the state from the higher loan authority.

The student's, who have filed a lawsuit and are seeking class action status, claim the transfer does not adhere to Missouri statute about the role of MoHELA.

Judge Richard Callahan said the plaintiffs failed to prove that their case had the likelihood of succeeding.

. Missouri's Ethics Commission meets behind closed doors to decide candidates may have to return campaign funds. (09/11/2007)

After a one-hour closed-door session, the commission adopted a resolution that candidates might have to return excess contributions unless it created a hardship.

The commission's action follows a state Supreme Court decision that threw out legislation that had repealed voter-approved limits on individual contributions to candidates.  The court left it to the commission to decide whether the decision should be appeal retroactively -- covering millions of dollars collected by candidates during the months before the court's decision.

The commission instructed its staff to advise candidates that the excess contributions "may be in violation of the Campaign Finance Law."

. Missouri's Supreme Court chief justice defends secrecy in the process of picking appellate-level judges. (09/11/2007)

Justice Laura Stith appeared before the state Senate Rules Committee whose chairman has attacked the Appellate Judicial Commission for secrecy in its proceedings to select nominees for the latest Supreme Court vacancy.

Stith told the committee that publicizing the names of all the applicants would discourage some lawyers from applying.  But the committee chair -- Senate GOP Leader Charlie Shields -- said openness would give the public a stronger voice in the process.

. Civil rights activists call the dismissal of the governor's chief of staff. (09/10/2007)

The calls come in response to comments about Hispanics by Ed Martin that critics charged are racists.

"Every frigging developer can figure out who is illegal, and when he says - like he told them - there's a bunch of Mexicans out there, I guess some of them probably are not legal," Martin was quoted as saying at a state Housing Development Commission meeting.

A commission official who had wrote the governor to object to the comments subsequently resigned.  "I am extremely proud of my Mexican heritage, culture and especially my family and I will not let anyone demean or degrade it, least of all Mr. Martin," Jim Torres wrote before his resignation.

At a news conference in St. Louis, Blunt defended his often outspoken chief of staff.

. Cyclists from across the world begin racing in Missouri Tuesday. (09/10/2007)

Fifteen teams are included in the 600 mile race with six stages that begins in Kansas City and ends in St. Louis.

Drug testing will take place after every stage of the race, according to lieutenant governor's office which is coordinating the event for the state. The leader of each stage along with two random cyclist will be tested. 

. Missouri Guard to gain two battalions, 890 soldiers. (09/10/2007)

The Missouri National Guard announced the creation of one new infantry battalion and a new medical battalion.

The infantry battalion will be stationed at various locations throughout the state, and the medical battalion will be headquartered in Jefferson City.

The new infantry battalion is the first in the state since 1974.

. New GOP leaders to be decided on Wednesday (09/10/2007)

Missouri House Republicans will decide on new leadership behind closed doors on Wednesday.

Rep. Allen Icet R-Wildwood and Rep. Ron Richard R-Joplin are both contending to be named the new Speaker of the House.

The current Speaker is Rep. Rod Jetton R-Marble Hill.

. Lawsuit seeks injunction in MOHELA sale (09/10/2007)

A lawsuit by student loan holders begins Tuesday asking a Cole County Judge to bar the state from financing the MOHELA building plan.

MOHELA voted Sept. 7 to go ahead with the sale despite the lawsuit and the recent passage of student loan legislation at the national level.