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NewsBook: Missouri Government News for the Week of October 29, 2007

. Missouri's governor says he has no specific office policy on e-mails. (11/02/2007)

Matt Blunt told reporters in St. Louis Thursday that his office has no specific policy on deleting or retaining e-mails. 

Instead, he said, he expects his staff to follow the state's Open Meetings Law.

Blunt's comments came in response to former staff lawyer who claims he was fired because he raised questions about the legality of the governor's staff deleting digital records.

. The school-funding lawsuit continues. (11/02/2007)

The organization that represents nearly one-half of Missouri's school districts has appealed a lower-court decision rejecting the group's arguments that the state's funding system violates the constitution.

The lawsuit, rejected by a Cole County circuit judge, claims that the current system fails to provide an adequate level of funding as required by the state Constitution and violates the U.S. Constitution because in provides substantially different levels of per-student funding among the state's school districts.

The organization's attorney noted that in 1993 the Cole County circuit court had upheld their arguments in a similar lawsuit -- a decision that prompted legislative action to raise taxes to fund a new funding system for schools.

. The chair of the House Education Committee plans to file legislation to expose sex offending teachers (11/01/2007)

The proposal would prohibit schools from some confidentiality agreements with teachers they dismiss.

But the proposal has run into opposition from one of the major education organizations in the state.

. Urban Deer Population Creating Problem (11/01/2007)

Although the Conservation Department created an urban deer season to control the number of deer in urban areas, the high number is still creating a problem.

Lonnie Hansen, a Resource Scientist with the Conservation Department, says drivers in urban areas should be especially watchful during this time of the year.

. The governor's fired attorney tells AP he was seeking support for another job. (11/01/2007)

The Associated Press reports that Scott Eckersley said he would have kept quiet if Blunt's office had helped get him another job.

About one month after his termination as a lawyer for the governor, Eckersley disclosed he had warned the Blunt administration that their refusal to turn over internal e-mail memos violated state law.

After that, the Blunt administration sent various reporters documents claiming to show Eckersley was guilty of using state resources for private legal services, accessing a group-sex Internet site and making "unclear reference to drug use."

While distributing the e-mails to reporters, Eckersley's attorney has complained the governor's office has refused requests to provide the e-mails to his client.

. Eckersley case is "the worst character assassination I've ever seen in Missouri politics,"says Cardetti (10/31/2007)

Cardetti says he is calling for the Blunt administration to release the attorney/client privilege on Eckersley in order to make closed documents public.

Cardetti says these documents will prove once and for all whether or not Eckersley did advise the governor's staff that deleting office emails was in fact illegal according to Missouri open records law.

. Eckersley attorney speaks out against attacks from governor's office (10/31/2007)

Steve Garner, Scott Eckersley's attorney, hit back at claims the case against the governor's office is politically motivated. 

Garner said the case is solely about winning back Eckersley's reputation.

He also said he believed the governor was being misinformed by his staff.

. The governor's office distributes personal emails from a fired staffer. (10/31/2007)

Various news organizations across the state are reporting getting from the office of Gov. Matt Blunt a large number of internal and personal emails concerning the staff attorney the administration had fired in late September.

At the same time, Blunt's office has refused a request from the fired employee for similar information -- saying that the records were closed under provisions of the state's public records law.

In a cover letter with the documents sent to reporters, a lawyer for the administration suggested improper behavior and sexual activities by the former employee.

. Spring Freeze Delays Fall Foliage (10/30/2007)

A late freeze in April has set things back in Mother Nature's schedule.

Bruce Moltzan, a forest pathologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, says you can still expect to see fall colors.

. National Lawyers group calls for a halt to executions (10/29/2007)

The American Bar Association released a statement today calling for a moratorium on all executions until  state's work out problems in their death penalty system. 

The Missouri Bar Association has not taken a stance on the issue.

. Embattled PSC Judge Lin Appling steps aside from a utility rate case. (10/26/2007)

Appling has removed himself from the pending Kansas City Power and Light rate increase.

The state's public counsel had filed a motion before a state appeals court seeking Appling's removal from the case after Appling said he had a private conversation with an official of the utility about the company's rate issues.

In a written statement, Appling proclaimed his innocence, but said he wanted to avoid a court battle.

Appling's term on the commission actually ends in a few days (Oct. 31), although he will remain on the utility-regulating Public Service Commission until the governor appoints a replacement.

. Mike Kindle blames poor 9-1-1 funding on voters' decisions. (10/29/2007)

Rural counties in Missouri face a lack of funding for their 9-1-1 centers, and the President of Missouri's National Emergency Number Association, Mike Kindle, says voters have had the chance to fix that.

Kindle says there have been two ballot initiatives to increase taxes to pay for 9-1-1 upgrades, and both were rejected by Missouri voters.

According to Missouri's Public Safety Director, 77 percent of Missouri counties lack the capability to locate callers using cell phones.

. Robertson considering joining Eckersley legal team (10/29/2007)

Chip Robertson, the former Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice and leading Republican lawyer in the state, will decide soon whether or not to join the legal team of Scott Eckersley.

Eckersley, former deputy counsel for Gov. Blunt, said he was fired after he told the governor's office their emails were public record.

Get the radio story here.

. Blunt sets abortion task force in motion (10/29/2007)

Governor Matt Blunt wants to know how abortion affects men, women, and children in various capacities.

A task force will determine these effects through research into emotional, physical, and social factors.

John McCastle, president of the Alliance for Life-Missouri, pitched the concept to Governor Blunt.

. Governor's office attorney says he was fired over e-mails (10/28/2007)

A former lawyer in Gov. Matt Blunt's office says he was fired last month after he raised questions about how the governor's staff was handling office e-mails and public records requests, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports.

Scott Eckersley's dismissal came at a time when the governor and his staff were under fire for saying e-mails on state computers were not necessarily public records. They also acknowledged that office e-mails were being routinely deleted.

. Database for victims not statewide (10/24/2007)

MOVANS, the Missouri database that allows for victims of violent crimes to check the custody status of their attackers, has been updated.

Two Missouri counties, though, opted out of having the database - either version - at all. 

Hickory and Schuyler County don't have the MOVANS database in place.

. Jefferson City High School relies on coaches to educate players on health risks (10/24/2007)

After a Jefferson City High School athlete contracted a staph infection, the school says it will not make any changes to its current health education policies.

Coaches at the school are required to attend yearly training to help them identify potential health risks, and are then expected to educate their athletes.

However, the school does not check to see whether its coaches follow through.

. The Katy Trail bridge sale wins a federal court decision. (10/23/2007)

A federal appeals court has upheld the administration's effort to sell the Katy bridge in Boonville.

Attorney General Jay Nixon had sought to block the plans by the state administration to allow sale of the bridge.

The the appeals court held that the state has no ownership rights to the bridge.

. Presidential Hopefuls File for Super Tuesday Election (10/23/2007)

The race for the presidency is officially underway in Missouri as presidential hopefuls were allowed to register with the state.

All candidates must register with the Secretary of State's office in order to ensure their name is on the ballot February 5th.

Missouri will join 19 other states on that day in electing the presidential candidates.

. University of Missouri System adopts code of conduct agreement (10/22/2007)

University of Missouri employees who assist students getting loans have been officially barred from working for a lending company or accepting money or gifts from loan agencies under an executive order signed Monday by the University of Missouri System's interim president.

The order parallels the voluntary code of conduct that the state attorney general has been urging colleges and universities to agree to since March.

A UM-System news release states that Interim President Gordon Lamb issued an executive order which will be added to the University's Collected Rules and Regulations, but makes no direct mention of Attorney General Jay Nixon's code of conduct agreement.

. Chronic Care Improvement Plan aims at improving patient health while reducing state costs (10/22/2007)

The Chronic Care Improvement Program (CCIP) is being called the possible backbone for the state's new Mo HealthNet program. 

CCIP provides health care coaches to work with patients to create a plan of care for dealing with chronic illnesses,  the concept being that health and state costs can both benefit from a more coordinated approach that focuses on a person's overall lifestyles rather than specific medical symptoms.

140,000 of the roughly 825,000 Medicaid recipients are eligible for CCIP, 53,000 of which have been enrolled.

. National billboard regulations probably won't be utilized in Missouri (10/22/2007)

Despite the new legality of electronic billboards, Missouri probably won't utilize this type of advertising.

Missouri's outdoor advertising regulations are stringent, and most of the billboards in the state don't meet regulations.

. Columbia Senator arrested on suspicion of drinking and driving (10/22/2007)

Columbia Senator Chuck Graham was released from jail early Sunday morning after being arrested following an accident near his home.

Police said they smelled alcohol on Graham, noticed his eyes were blood-shot and he mumbled and slurred.

According to the probable cause statement, Graham told police he drank a "few beers" before driving. Graham refused a Breathalyzer or blood test.

He was released on $500 bond. Refusing a Breathalyzer or blood test can lead to a driver's license being immediately revoked for a year under state law.

. 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.