From Missouri Digital News:
MDN Menu

MDN Home

Journalist's Creed


MDN Help

MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News
MDN Menu

MDN Home

Journalist's Creed


MDN Help

MDN.ORG Mo. Digital News Missouri Digital News MDN.ORG: Mo. Digital News MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News
Lobbyist Money Help  
NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of September 29, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri will have to make additional cuts to state spending if slower-than-expected revenue growth continues, according to State Budget Director Linda Luebbering.

The state released the August general revenue report for the 2015 fiscal year Thursday, Oct. 2, which showed a 3.8 percent revenue growth rate from 2014. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon's budget recommendations were based on an assumption of 5.2 percent revenue growth. The growth rate is also less than the 4.2 percent figure predicted by the General Assembly. Luebbering said the state will be approximately $100 million short of the revenue necessary to fund the budget if the 3.8 percent growth rate continues the rest of the year.

"We hope to get to 5.2 percent growth for the year," Luebbering said. "We knew more of that growth would happen later in the year, so the fact that we're not at 5.2 now is not overly concerning."

Nixon has already vetoed or frozen hundreds of millions of dollars from the budget, pending an increase in revenue. But Luebbering said those withholdings are based on the 5.2 percent revenue growth assumption, so more cuts could be on the horizon.

"If nothing else changed, we would have to look at possibly doing some mid-year spending cuts," Luebbering said.

In Dallas, Texas a man is being treated for Ebola, an infectious and generally fatal disease that gives patients a fever and severe internal bleeding. 

Health Department spokesman Ryan Hobart said they would work with the CDC if there was a patient in Missouri who was diagnosed with Ebola.

"If it was found that somebody did have Ebola they would work with specifically the Centers for Disease Control like what is happening in Texas," Hobart said. "To make sure the proper protocols for isolating the patient and ensuring they are getting the proper care are followed."

The director of the Missouri Health Department could not be reached for comment.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol superintendent was forced to provide answers regarding the drowning death of a 20-year-old boater in the custody of a trooper.

Brandon Ellingson, an Iowa resident, was arrested for boating while intoxicated on May 31, 2014.

Trooper Anthony Piercy had handcuffed Ellingson and gave him the wrong kind of flotation device, so when Ellingson fell off the side of the patrol boat, he drowned.

Col. Ronald Replodgle testified to the success of the merger with Ellingson's father and uncle sitting in the committee room.

"[The water patrol] now have mobile computing devices," Replodgle said. "They have an enhanced radio system we rolled out statewide."

Craig Ellingson, Brandon's father, said the committee failed to acknowledge why they were actually meeting.

"Today, the straw that broke the camel's back is Brandon's drowning," Ellingson said. "If he wouldn't have drowned they wouldn't be here today."

The next meeting regarding the merger will be held Tuesday, Oct. 14 in Osage Beach.

Current House Majority Leader and incoming speaker of the House John Diehl, R-St. Louis County, proposed Wednesday letting Missouri voters decide the future of the state's lottery.

Diehl said his motivation behind the proposal is transparency on whether the lottery is really helping to fund education.

"We need to look at how people are being misled about the lottery and not addressing the fundamental cost of public education and the government’s role in promoting gambling, often to those who can least afford it," Diehl said in a statement.

Senate Education Committee Chairman David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, said he is concerned as to where the money would come from if the proposal passes.

"It is funds that are dedicated to education and if we did do away with gambling, we'd have to come up with that $270-290 million from some other source," Pearce said.

House Education Committee Chairman Mike Lair, R-Chillicothe, said the proposal is a good idea.

"The idea of using lottery money for education is kind of a backdoor way of funding something that we feel is very significant," Lair said.

In September, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon said it was time to take a "fresh look" at the relationship between the lottery and education funding.

This is also when Nixon appointed five new lottery commissioners, most of whom have an educational background.

If the proposed amendment were put on the ballot and approved by voters, Missouri would join Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, and Utah as the only states without a lottery.

Several pension plans are found to be underfunded in a state auditor's report released Tuesday.

State Auditor Tom Schweich's report looked at 89 public pension plans that cover 546,000 past state or local governmental employees. The report found the plans to be underfunded by $16 billion.

His audit singled out 15 plans that a deputy described as being on a "watch list."

Among those singled out were pension plans for employees of the Highway Patrol and the state Transportation Department along with local government worker plans in Kansas City and St. Louis.

The audit cited two problems -- the national economic recession that had lowered the value of investments held by retirement systems and failure to require a high enough contribution from either workers or government agencies to assure financial stability.

"If the actuary says to the trustees of the plan: you need to make a $10 million contribution for the year in order to keep it well funded and you make something less than that, that would kind of tend to bring you to the poor side," said Deputy State Auditor Harry Otto. "Or, if your investments are doing so poorly and it's not growing, the plan isn't growing or keeping above a certain investment size so that's got future liabilities funded, that would drag you into a watch list position."

the auditor's office does not have a plan in place to make sure the plans are funded, Otto said. He said he thinks public awareness of the issue will bring "considerable interest to see that these plans are well funded going forward."

Two months after Leon Taylor's execution date for a 1994 killing of an Independence, Mo. gas station attendant was delayed, he has a new execution date.

In a news release Monday, the Missouri Supreme Court set Nov. 19 as Taylor's new execution date.

According to the Associated Press, Taylor was scheduled to die Sept. 10, but the execution was delayed because his lawyers asked for more time to work on his case.

Instead of executing Taylor on that date, Missouri did execute convicted killer Earl Ringo Jr. for a double homicide in Columbia in 1998.

Inmate Mark Christeson is scheduled to be executed Oct. 29.

Should Christeson and Taylor be executed on their set dates, Missouri will have executed 10 people in 2014.

Last Week

Missouri will be the home to the world's most productive Ford assembly plant under an expansion plan announced by the company Thursday, according to a news release from Gov. Jay Nixon's office. 

Ford announced an additional 1,200 jobs and a second shift in the Kansas City area plant. Missouri offered Ford a tax break package to invest in the area in 2011. Ford can receive the tax breaks if they meet a job creation and investment threshold. The governor's office did not provide specifics about the package or the amount Ford would be able to receive in tax breaks.

The Claycomo plant assembles Ford F-150 Regular, SuperCab and SuperCrew pickup trucks as part of Ford's investment. By the end of 2014, the plant claims they will employ more than 6,000 hourly workers.

Those workers on the Transit assembly line will work in two-shift patterns and those on the F-150 production line will work in three-crew shifts. The production of the new Transits will bring the manufacturing from overseas. According to Nixon's office, adding the second shift to the Transit production will allow the Claycomo plant to have more capacity to build vehicles than any other Ford plant in the world.

Nixon, along with Ford Motor Company executives and UAW leaders, made the announcement from the plant. Nixon thanked Ford for investing in Missouri.

"Surging demand for the vehicles built here in Kansas City is a credit to the hard-working Missourians whose tremendous skills, creativity and work ethic continue to drive our economy forward," Nixon said in a news release. "On behalf of six million Missourians, I thank Ford for its ongoing investment in our state, and the working men and women of this region who demonstrate each and every day the value of Missouri's exceptional workforce."

Crude oil is currently being transported throughout 34 counties in Missouri.

The Missouri Department of Transportation's Administrator of Railroads Eric Curtit says MoDOT is working with the Federal Railroad Administration to ensure the safety of all rail lines.

Republican Dave Hinson serves on the House Transportation committee and says the public should not be concerned about the transportation of crude oil by rail.

"What folks have to understand is that we have breaks in the pipeline and the containment is fairly quick," said Hinson. "I just don't see why there would be a great public outcry about this."

Democrat Joe Keaveny serves on the Consumer Protection committee and says the transportation of crude oil is still a new process and needs to be monitored.

"It's a mode of transportation that's relatively new," said Keaveny. "We're still struggling to get our arms, to get our thoughts wrapped around the best way to monitor and to regulate it."

Missouri is the fourth largest freight transporter in the country.

All 50 of Missouri's non-partisan judges have been recommended for retention by the Missouri Judicial Performance Evaluation Committees.

The committees are comprised of an equal number of lawyers and non-lawyers, who evaluate judges based on ratings from lawyers, written opinions from judges and jurors' ratings of trial judges.

"As President of the Missouri Bar, I can tell you we have an important job and we take that job very seriously," said Reuben Shelton, president of the state bar during a press conference regarding the results held Wednesday, Sept. 24. "This is the job of getting recommendations and information to the voters of Missouri."

During the conference, statewide coordinator of the committees Dale Doerhoff discussed how the merit-based appointments of the so-called Missouri Plan have set an example for other states.

"When the people of Missouri adopted the non-partisan court plan in 1940, the purpose was to free our appellate courts and metropolitan trial courts from the grip of special interests," Doerhoff said. "In the 74 years since its creation, the non-partisan court plan has achieved that purpose. In fact, it's become a model for the country adopted in over 30 states."

Missourians will vote on whether to retain these judges on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

The committee tasked with reviewing the Missouri Water Patrol merger with the Missouri State Highway Patrol will hold its first meeting next Wednesday, Oct. 1.

The committee is chaired by Rep. Diane Franklin, R-Camdenton.

According to the news release, a few of the topics to be discussed are the way the division is being managed, the training methods, and the cost-benefit analysis.

This is the first of two scheduled meetings.

Next Wednesday's hearing will take place in the state Capitol at 10 a.m. and a subsequent meeting will be held Tuesday, Oct. 14 at Osage Beach City Hall.

The hearings come after the drowning of a man who was arrested on the Lake of the Ozarks this summer.

Groups assigned to review and rewrite Missouri's learning standards begin their work just days after Missouri’s Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro announced her retirement.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released the dates in which the groups are supposed to meet. The teams of parents and educators first met on Sept. 22 and 23 in Jefferson City. Four more dates have been set for team meetings: Oct. 2, 3, 20 and 21. The work groups have until Oct. 1, 2015 to deliver their academic standards recommendations.

House Speaker Tim Jones is just one of the legislative Republicans who have taken lead on the issue. He said it's important to put educational standards in the hands of those who have the best interest at heart.

"Our goal with the workgroups is to vest decision making authority in Missouri parents and teachers who have the best interests of our young people at heart," Jones said, as quoted in a news release. "The people of this state have made it absolutely clear they oppose the Common Core standards and that they want Missouri citizens and educators, not government bureaucrats, making the decisions that will impact the educational future of out children."

Common Core supporters expect the work groups will find that the work the schools have already done while adapting their curriculum's to Common Core to be sufficient.

Brent Ghan, spokesman for the Missouri School Boards' Association, said the Missouri School Boards' Association, a supporter of Common Core, supports the review of the education standards by the work groups but stands by the learning standards set by Common Core.

"We have supported the current Missouri learning standards that are in place that we feel like they are rigorous and will set high expectations for student performance in our state," Ghan said. "We have not been opposed to reviewing those standards as the legislation calls for it in establishing the work groups and we're certainly open to reviewing it and I think the school board members who are serving on the work groups are going into this with an open mind and are very willing to review the standards, but we generally have been pleased with standards that have been in place."

Gov. Jay Nixon directed the state auditor Monday afternoon to perform an audit of the St. Louis City Recorder of Deeds office.

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City welcomed the news.

"There have been allegations surrounding the Recorder of Deeds mismanagement and I think that this audit would really bring everything to light in terms of what has been happening there for the last 10 years," Nasheed said.

Nasheed sent Nixon a letter in July asking him to order the audit.

"My goal is for the people of St. Louis to have the most efficient city government possible, free of corruption and lawlessness," Nasheed's letter read in part.

Among the violations the previous Recorder of Deeds committed according to Nasheed's letter was hiring a relative, which is a violation of the state's nepotism law.

State Auditor spokeswoman Vanessa Chandler said they received Nixon's letter.

"We read the letter and plan to move forward with the audit as requested," Chandler said.

The Democratic nominee in the Missouri 4th Congressional district in northern Missouri announced Monday, Sept. 22 his endorsement of clemency for a convicted repeat drug offender -- Jeff Mizanskey.

Mizanskey was sentenced to life in prison without parole for marijuana possession in 1993.

The sentence came under the Missouri "prior and persistent" drug offender law after Mizanskey was arrested two previous times for marijuana offenses.

In April, a clemency petition was delivered to Gov. Jay Nixon's office with more than 360,000 signatures.

At a news conference outside the statehouse, Congressional Candidate Nate Irvin asked Nixon to grant Mizanskey clemency in this case.

"Jeff Mizanskey has been in prison for 21 years for marijuana possession without a chance of parole," Irvin said. "To me, that just defies all common sense."

Mizanskey's brother Mike also spoke, saying his brother has missed many family milestones.

"Some of the events are his sons graduating from high school and growing into very good men, the birth of his grandchildren, the marriage of his son and countless marriages of family members," Mizanskey said.

Show-Me Cannabis Director of Research Aaron Malin said Mizanskey has already served enough time for his crime.

"Mr. Mizanskey is in prison for violating the law, and I think the question that's before us today is whether or not the punishment that he was given is deserved for the law that was broken," Malin said.

Nixon's press secretary Scott Holste said the clemency petition continues to be under review.

The Missouri chapter of the AFL-CIO officially endorsed current Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster for governor Monday.

The endorsement came after Koster spoke to convention delegates.

According to the news release, Koster finished his remarks and a delegate made the motion to endorse Koster's 2016 gubernatorial campaign.

Missouri AFL-CIO president Mike Louis said Koster's record speaks for itself.

"His record has shown his commitment to improve the lives of working families and to bring economic justice to the workplace and social justice to Missouri," Louis said in the news release.

Koster is the only major Democrat to announce his intentions to run for governor in 2016.