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NewsBook: Missouri Government News for the Week of October 15, 2007

. Governor Blunt Accused of Mansion Misuse (10/17/2007)

Blunt's campaign denied reports of using the Governor's mansion for fundraisers and campaign events even though their own finance report suggests otherwise.

The Democratic Party responded by demanding Blunt's campaign to reveal to the public complete lists of all that attended the events and what they gave to the campaign.

. Staph Infection Strain Causes Waves in Missouri (10/17/2007)

A new and deadly strain of staph infection has Missouri educating its medical community in the hopes of preventing a rising death toll.

The strain develops resistance to many antibiotics, making treatment difficult.

. Cole County Judge decides State funds schools to full 25% as constitutionally required. (10/17/2007)

Cole County Judge Richard Callahan decided in favor of the State in the last stage of the school funding lawsuit which has gone on since 2004.

The Committee for Educational Equality argued in the case that the state did not reach it's constitutionally mandated 25% of the state budget in funding public education.

It is still unclear if the Committee for Educational Equality will appeal the decision, but the Committee's Lawyer, Alex Bartlett, said the decision will be made soon.

. Nixon, Blunt tied in Rasmussen poll (10/17/2007)

The telephone survey shows Blunt with 44% of the Missouri vote and Nixon with 43%.

The survey, taken Oct. 10, shows Blunt leading with married voters and those who have children at home.

There is a +/- 4.5% margin of error according to the Rasmussen Report Web site.

. Blunt's campaign reports paying for Mansion expenses (10/17/2007)

Associated Press reported Tuesday that the campaign for the Republican Governor listed a payment of about $20,000 to the Mansion Preservation organization for "fundraiser expenses."

A spokesman for the governor denied that funds were solicited at the mansion.

Earlier, Blunt's campaign had attacked the Democratic gubernatorial candidate for using his official state car for campaign events.

. Missouri Prison Population on the Decline (10/16/2007)

The Department of Corrections says the launch of statewide sentencing guidelines has helped decrease the prison population.

The system was put into place in November 2005 after Missouri reached an all-time high prison population.

Department spokesman Brian Hauswirth says Missouri is a pioneer in decreasing prison population.

. Blunt sails past Nixon in campaign fund raising. (10/15/2007)

The latest campaign finance reports showed Republican Governor Matt Blunt raising $4 million for than Democratic Attorney General Nixon.

The latest reports Blunt with $6 million in then bank while Nixon has $2.7 million.

Monday's filing show Blunt had raised more than $1 million in the last three months -- compared to more than $600,000 by Nixon.

Blunt's fund advantage, however, could be reduced substantially by the Missouri Ethics Commission if it decides that candidates must return contributions that exceeded the contribution limits that the legislature had repealed, but which the state Supreme Court subsequently reinstated. 

. First disbursement of MoHELA sale money sent to state colleges and universities (10/15/2007)

The first installment of funds from the MoHELA asset sale were distributed today according to a Governor's office news release.

The $39,411,523 payment went to nine locations including; Harris Stowe State University, Missouri State University, Northwest Missouri State University, Southeast Missouri State University, Truman State University, University of Missouri-Rolla, St. Charles and East Central Community colleges and the Department of Economic Development Missouri Technology Corporation.

. 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.