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NewsBook: Missouri Government News for the Week of October 8, 2007

. Utility Regulator Lin Appling faces another accusation. (10/12/2007)

The state's Public Counsel, who represents consumers in utility cases, has filed a complaint against Appling -- charging the Public Service Commission judge had pressured him to stop pursuing another complaint of improper behavior.

Earlier, the Public Counsel, Lewis Mills, had sought to have Appling remove himself from voting on a Kansas City area utility rate increase case after Appling revealed he had talked with a utility official about the utility's rate issues.  Judges of the PSC are bound by judicial rules that prohibit discussing cases before them.

After Mills had questioned that earlier discussion, Mills said that Appling approached him to request he not pursue the matter.

Last year, Appling was accused of impropriety because of a personal relationship with a female lobbyist for a firm competing with a company that had a case before the PSC.

. The Blunt administration settles a sexual harassment case (10/12/2007)

A settlement agreement has been reached with a former Agriculture Department employee who had charged the department director with sexual harassment.

The settlement agreement drops the administration's original requirement that the former employee keep silent about her complaint.

The department director was accused with seeking unwanted physical contact and suggesting he would like to see the employee in a wet T-shirt contest.

The Blunt administration originally called in the Highway Patrol to investigate the employee's complaints and then agreed to let the department director stay on the job despite a Patrol report.

. Agriculture ranked the most unsafe job in Missouri. (10/11/2007)

The next time you reach for an ear of corn, consider what it took to produce it.

Data from the National Safety Council shows agriculture is Missouri's most dangerous industry.

One in every 300 farmers is injured on the job each year.

. Ethanol blamed for rising food costs. (10/12/2007)

According to USDA data, beef prices have gone up between 2-4 percent in the past year.

In Missouri and across the country, Corn prices have gone up because ethanol has fueled more vehicals... and fueled more demand for the crop.

But a Missouri beef-industry leader disagrees.

. Soybean for the roads (10/11/2007)

The Missouri Department of Transportation is testing the use of soybeans in highway paint.

The paint uses soybeans instead of petroleum ingredients, which makes it more environmentally friendly.

Missouri set the world record for soybean production last year.

. Missouri's former House speaker is out of the AG race (10/11/2007)

Associated Press quotes U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway Thursday as saying she will not seek the Republican nomination for Missouri attorney general.

Prior to becoming U.S. attorney for eastern Missouri, Hanaway had elected speaker of Missouri's House after she led the campaign for GOP takeover of the House.

Hanaway's announcement comes just days after another St. Louis County Republican -- Senate President Pro Tem Mike Gibbons -- is scheduled to formally announce his candidacy for the office.

. Missouri's state auditor charges millions of dollars in "excessive" perks for MoHELA staff. (10/11/2007)

A state audit released Thursday reports that a few top officials of the college loan agency received salary bonuses and severance packages exceeding $3 million.

The audit also lists perks for workers that included holiday parties with liquor and DJs, gift cards, and retreats at holiday resorts.

Susan Montee told reporters that what she termed "excesses" had appeared to ceased as her audit was in progress.  An official for the agency told reporters that the MoHELA board had ceased the spending activities that were questioned by the audit.

The audit documents a growing surplus in profits that MoHELA had generated in financing college student loans.  The legislature, earlier this year, passed legislation requiring transfer of some of those profits to a statewide building-construction program.

. Public Service Commissioner Under Investigation (10/10/2007)

Commissioner Lin Appling is accused of having improper conversations with a Kansas City Utility's vice president.

If Appling discussed the utility's proposed rate increase with the company's vice president in private, it would violate the standards of the commission and Appling would have to recuse himself from this particular ruling.

. A House committee considers if school activities should be monitored by the state (10/10/2007)

A House committee considered if the state should regulate the Missouri State High School Activities Association.

Those who oppose state oversight say schools already monitor the association's regulations and government supervision is unnecessary.

Proponents say the association is unfair to large schools and there is currently no way to guarantee the agency will make consistent decisions about student athletics. 

. Devlin awaits processing, may need protective custody (10/10/2007)

It could take months for child-kidnapper Michael Devlin to be transfered to his permanent home in a maximum security prison.

Devlin must first be processed at a reception and diagnostic center, which could take up to six months.

Once Devlin is moved to a prison, he can request protective custody should he feel he is in danger from other inmates.

. State Cars May Have Trouble Filling Up (10/09/2007)

State ethanol supporters are acknowledging that state cars utilizing E85 may have have trouble filling their tanks.

Half of the new vehicles purchased by the state of Missouri are required by law to be E85 compatible. 

Operating the cars on the eighty-five percent ethanol blend may be difficult, as Missouri has less than one hundred E85 fill stations, the majority located rural areas.

. Nixon agrees to pay for political use of his state car. (10/05/2007)

Associated Press reported Friday that Attorney General Jay Nixon has agree to reimburse the state for the use of his car and staff for political events.

Nixon's announcement comes after a storm of Republican attacks focused on a YouTube video that claimed to show Nixon using his state car to attend a political fund raiser.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Republican governor, Matt Blunt, rejected a challenged from Nixon that Blunt also agree to reimburse the state for costs related to political activities by the governor.

. Missouri politicians are finding YouTube a tool and a threat. (10/05/2007)

The recent YouTube video claiming to show Missouri's attorney general using a state car to attend a political fund raiser has highlighted video sites are serving as both as a tool and a danger for Missouri politicians.

YouTube entered mainstream Missouri politics on Sept. 25, when a video allegedly showing Democratic Attorney General Jay Nixon using his state vehicle to travel to fund raising events for his gubernatorial campaign sparked statewide news coverage.

But politicians also say that YouTube can be an inexpensive way to get their messages across.

. Missouri Ethics Commission Puts Off Voting on Campaign Contribution Returns (10/04/2007)

In an open door meeting, the Ethics Commission unanimously voted to take an in-depth investigation on the number of candidates its ruling will affect before any decision is made.

The Commission made a decision earlier this year but re-tracked it after the Republican Party accused the Commission of being in violation of the state's Sunshine law.

Both major political parties were represented at the meeting.

. Missouri County Associations are fighting against a law that undermines its authority (10/04/2007)

These associations are now supporting two lawmakers trying to overturn this new law.

They do not want to see their authority taken away.

. Investigation Underway in House Staff Leak. (10/03/2007)

House Chief Clerk Adam Crumbliss is conducting an investigation into a possible confidentiality breach.

The information related to the Speaker of the House Rod Jetton's involvement in a piece of special interest legislation that was slipped through the legislature.

Get the radio story.

. Fifth largest duck and geese population to fly over Missouri (10/03/2007)

One of the biggest duck and geese populations in recent history will be flying over Missouri this fall in what biologists are predicting will be the fifth largest flight of waterfowl in the last fifty years.

Researchers are expecting its peak in late October.

. Abortion opponents wants panel to investigate if Planned Parenthood is following new law (10/03/2007)

A group of abortion opponents is circulating a petition to ask for a grand jury to investigate if Planned Parenthood located in Overland Park is following the new state abortion laws.

The group wants the grand jury to investigate whether Planned Parenthood is performing late term abortions, reports suspected child abuse and whether it is involved in the illegal trafficking of fetal tissue.

. Attorney General calls to stop tax credits for housing project, project says action is political (10/03/2007)

Attorney General Jay Nixon plans to stop funding an O'Fallon housing development contract through tax credits. 

Nixon says that the Gundaker Commercial Group was using tax credits while employing undocumented workers.

President of the Gundaker Commercial Group, Mike Hajna, says that all workers on the project are legal, local, and union laborers.

Get the radio story here.

. Local school opposition remains to school-bus seat belts, despite a Jefferson County bus accident(10/02/2007)

A spokesman for one of Missouri's major school associations says the organization remains opposed to mandating seat belts in school buses.

The comments came on the day a school bus accident in Jefferson County injured six students.

Although the governor has proposed requiring seat belts on new school buses, the proposal has made no headway in Missouri's legislature.

. The PSC imposes tree-trimming rules on electrical corporations (10/02/2007)

The Public Service Commission passed a rule requiring electrical corporations in the state to follow guidelines restricting vegetation near electric lines.

This is the first time in the Commission's history it has ruled how utility corporations are to trim their trees.

St. Louis City has been affected by major power outages the past three consecutive years.

. UM System not contacted about student loan agreement (10/01/2007)

Month's after Missouri's attorney general announced a proposed code of conduct for student loan activities by Missouri's public and private universities, the University of Missouri system has not signed the agreement -- along with a majority of the state's other public universities.

Among the provisions, the code includes prohibits kickbacks to schools, requires information disclosures about preferred lenders and limits school employees participation on lender advisory boards.

The University of Missouri system has not been contacted about signing a state sponsored student loan code of conduct regarding their preferred lender list, UM-System spokesman Scott Charton said.

. Representative Wood responds to Jetton Amendment (10/01/2007)

Missouri lawmakers passed legislation that makes it virtually impossible for a county commission to turn down a petition to form a village as long as 15 percent of the people within the village to be incorporated sign it.

Republican Representative Dennis Wood will introduce legislation that reverts Missouri law back to the way it was before the legislation was passed.

. Montgomery City's dual-jurisdiction youth center is lone facility in Missouri (10/01/2007)

Two Joplin-area teens recently entered the Montgomery City Youth Center, and are the first to enter the dual-jurisdiction program from this region.

Dual-jurisdiction program members enjoin juvenile and adult sentences after a conviction or guilty plea in court.

The Montgomery City Youth Center offers educational training to ultimately allow program members to possibly re-enter the community.