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NewsBook: Missouri Government News for the Week of January 19 , 2009

. Missouri budget leaders predict a slight growth in the state's budget (01/22/2009)

Missouri's Republican legislative budget leaders and the governor announced agreement on the revenue forecast for the state.

For the next fiscal year, that begins July 1, the agreed on a modest budget increase of 1% -- higher than some of the more dire warnings that had been sounded about the effects of the national economic downturn on the state's budget.

The revenue estimate comes shortly after Gov. Jay Nixon promised to recommend any funding cuts for higher education, in return for college promises to not raise tuition rates.

However, the predictions for the remaining five months of the current fiscal year were more somber -- a $261 million shortfall in revenue below the state's current budget.

How the governor proposes to address that budget shortfall may be explained when Nixon unveils his budget proposals to legislators on Tuesday (Jan. 27).

. Bill filed would allow AmerenUE to increase rates to pay for interest (01/22/2009)

A more than three-decades-old, voter-approved law would be revoke if the newly filed bill, sponsored by Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, is passed.

Scott's bill would allow companies like AmerenUE to raise their consumer rates before the utilities are being provided in order to help build a second power plant in Callaway.  The statute that would be removed prevented electricity companies from charging for services not yet being provided.

The bill, if passed, would allow companies to increase their rates to pay for the accumulating interest on the loan taken out to build the plant.  The company would still be regulated by the Missouri Public Service Commission.

Get the newspaper story.

. Minority party member named to head of Senate committee (01/22/2009)

For the first time in at least 40 years, a member of the minority party has been appointed chair of a committee in Missouri's Senate.

Sen. Victor Callahan, D-Jackson County, will chair the Progress and Development Committee, comprised mostly of Democrats.

Callahan said Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields appointed him in an effort to make Senate more bipartisan.

"I think we recognize that these problems are not Democrat problems or Republican problems," he said. "They're our problems, and the solution should be our solution."

. Missouri DSS national accreditation process is coming to an end (01/21/2009)

12 circuits in the Children's Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services have yet to meet national accreditation standards.

Efforts to achieve national accreditation through the COA began in 2004.

A spokesperson for the DSS said St. Louis City and the remaining circuits should receive accreditation by the end of 2009.

. Governor Nixon vows to not cut funding for higher education (01/21/2009)

Gov. Jay Nixon announced that funding will remain at the same fiscal year 2009 levels for 2010.

He also announced that all of the institutions receiving funding will not raise tuition next year in return for no budget cut.

. New bill focuses on minority impact (01/20/2009)

Rep. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, has introduced a bill that would require lawmakers to consider legislations impact on minorities in addition to legal and financial matters.

Nasheed cites the $5 billion in grants and loans given to Missouri minorities as a reason to examine their effectiveness.

The bill has not yet been assigned a committee.

. State roads could decline, Transportation Department says (01/20/2009)

The director of the Missouri Transportation Department warned that state roads would begin to deteriorate as early as next year because of rising inflation.

Because the department cannot afford to redirect revenue from one project to another, Transportation Department Director Pete Rahn said funding sources are limited to user fees and tolls.

. Nixon: Driver license offices will be competitively bid (01/14/2009)

Gov. Jay Nixon on Wednesday announced a plan to revamp how local motor vehicle and driver license offices are awarded in the state, claiming, "The era of license office patronage ends today."

Previously, contract agents at the offices were not competitively bid, and Nixon said the appointments were often made on the basis of political favoritism.

Nixon's plan calls for competitive bids, a process that began Tuesday when a request for proposals from interested vendors was dispersed for six of the state's contract offices by the Missouri Department of Revenue.

. Energy leads Senate seminars (01/13/2009)

The Callaway 2 plant has taken center stage in Missouri's debate on energy policy.  In an educational seminar Tuesday afternoon, senators listened to presentations made by advocates of different groups, including AmerenUE, renewable energy and consumers.

. Nixon starts first day with executive orders and cell phone bans (01/13/2009)

At Gov. Jay Nixon's first press conference aimed at highlighting the first official efforts of the Show Me Jobs initiative, his staff tried to seize the cell phones of the press, initially saying it was a security matter.

When the press refused to relinquish their cell phones, press secretary Scott Holste went back into the governor's office and returned rescinding the ban on cell phones.

The governor's communications director later acknowledged that rather than a security issue, the effort to ban cell phones was because Nixon does not want visitors in his office distracted by the phones.

Within a couple of hours after the governor's office attempted to ban cell phones in Nixon's office, the Republican lieutenant governor's office issued a statement saying they would "gladly provide Blackberry phone chargers" for reporters at their news .

. Republicans praise Nixon's inaugural address (01/12/2009)

Top Missouri Republican leaders praised Jay Nixon's inaugural address -- both for stressing bi-partisanship and for being brief.

The state's sole Republican statewide office holder, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, termed the speech a success.

With overcast skies and temperatures hovering around freezing, Kinder, Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields and House Speaker Ron Richard all said they appreciated that Nixon kept the speech short -- just eleven minutes. 

. Nixon inauguration is a brief affair (01/12/2009)

Gov.-elect Jay Nixon was sworn into office just before noon Monday to become Missouri's 55th governor.

With an emphasis on job creation and innovation, Nixon told Missourians that "today marks a new day for Missouri."

At the beginning of his speech, Democrat Nixon stressed bi-partisanship -- a theme he had set during the transition period after his November election.