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NewsBook: Missouri Government News for the Week of November 5, 2007

. Missouri Ethics Commission Hands Down Campaign Contribution Decision (11/08/2007)

The Commission took another small step to resolve the ongoing issue.

It will now send letters to the candidates telling them that they are under investigation.

Both Attorney General Jay Nixon and Governor Matt Blunt will receive these letters as both have millions of dollars at stake.

. Today the Missouri state Capitol dome was lit up for the first time in its history. (11/08/2007)

The restored chandelier is up in the air one day ahead of schedule.

This time, the added energy-saving lights, are strong enough to fill the whole rotunda dome with light.

. Capitol chandelier raised after 364 days (11/07/2007)

Almost a full year after the chandelier in the Capitol building fell, the 95 foot long, 8,000 pound chandelier was raised Wednesday and the dome was fully illuminated for the first time in 40 years.

"It fell a year ago and now 364 days later we put it back up," Tom Sater, a restoration consultant, said.

. Senator Michael Gibbons suggests an investigation of the governor's office (11/07/2007)

Republican candidate for the state attorney general, Sen. Michael Gibbons, R-St. Louis County, suggested the hiring of an independent prosecutor to investigate potential violations of the Sunshine Law by the governor's office.

The comments were made in an interview with a Columbia Tribune reporter. 

. Decreases in Funding Loom over MoDOT's Progress (11/06/2007)

MoDOT has released its annual report to the Missouri legislature.

In it they site major improvements including the nation's largest drop in traffic-related fatalities and improved pavement.

However Jeff Briggs, a spokesman for MoDOT, says these improvements may be at risk as funding will drop by almost half in 2010.

. Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri faces more litigation (11/05/2007)

Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, which oversees clinics in both Jefferson City and Columbia, now faces more litigation following a petition filed in Kansas to form a grand jury to investigate criminal allegations.

The petition, submitted by an anti-abortion coalition to the Johnson County District Attorney's office Friday, contained enough signatures to meet the threshold to invoke a rarely-used Kansas law allowing state residents to call for grand jury investigations, according to Brian Newby, elections commissioner for Johnson County, Kan.

The allegations are being brought against an Overland Park County office for alleged violations of Kansas law between 2004 and 2007 -- among them illegal abortions and illegal trafficking in fetal tissue.

. 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.