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NewsBook: Missouri Government News for the Week of September 24, 2007

. Governor Blunt Announces Faith-Based Missouri (09/27/2007)

The new program allows the state to hand out contracts to religious groups for charitable purposes.

A five person team has been put in place to study how the state can best work with faith-based communities.

Get the Radio Story:

. Democratic representative comments on the last minute additions to a senate bill (09/27/2007)

Representative Paul LeVota calls the actions disheartening. 

He says this will show Missourians that there needs to be a change in how representatives do their work.

. Two Missouri lawmakers charged with misdemeanor for fake identification (09/26/2007)

Democratic Representative Joe Aull and Democratic Senator Jeff Smith along with a Kansas City lobbyist were charged with a misdemeanor after misuing a player's gambling card at the Isle of Capri Casino in Boonville.

The charges carry a maximum fine of $500 and up to six months in jail.  The incident also prompted Republican spokesman Paul Sloca to call for Smith's resignation from the Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence committee.

. Nixon Accused of Illegal Campaigning (09/26/2007)

The Missouri Republican Party has accused Attorney General and Democratic candidate for governor Jay Nixon in a press release of illegally using a state vehicle to attend political fundraisers in Ladue and Kirksville.

Other Missouri State Officials, including Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder and State Treasurer Sarah Steelman, have confirmed they do not use state vehicles for non-official purposes.

. Watchdog Position Created to Address Communication Challenges (09/25/2007)

Jim Lundsted will serve as the state's first ever Interoperable Communications Officer.

Governor Matt Blunt created the position under the Department of Public Safety to address the state's emergency communications challenges.

. Missouri's newest abortion law is put on hold by a federal court. (09/24/2007)

A federal court imposed a two-month ban on enforcing a law passed earlier this year which requires some abortion facilities to be licensed as ambulatory surgical centers.

Planned Parenthood had argued that the provisions could force the organization to close its abortion facilities in Kansas City and Columbia.

District Judge Ortie Smith gave Planned Parenthood and the state 60 days to work out an agreement on providing waivers to licensing requirements.

In the meantime, an official with Planned Parenthood says another provision in the law -- designed to block the organzation from providing materials for sex ed classes -- will not prevent the organization from providing educational services to students.

. Missouri Continues To Resist Joining Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board (09/24/2007)

After being absent for around three years from Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board meetings, Missouri attended the Board's meeting last week as a non-participant. 

Department of Revenue spokesman Lowell Pearson said Missouri will begin to become more actively involved in pushing forward the decision whether or not to take necessary steps to join the Board, which deals with standardizing Internet sales tax systems.

St. Louis County Democratic Senator Joan Bray, a longtime critic of Missouri's boycott of the Board, said she still does not foresee any movement by the state legislature on this issue soon.

Get the radio story here.

. 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.