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Missouri Government News for Week of Jan. 15, 1996

Governor's Legislative Program

A crack down on crime topped the legislative program Gov. Mel Carnahan presented to a joint session of Missouri's legislature Wednesday.

The governor recommended alternative schools for violent students, tougher sentences for sex offenders and more money for adult-abuse shelters.

There were few surprises in the governor's address since he had announced most of his major recommendations earlier -- including a reduction in the state sales tax by one-quarter of a penny per dollar.

Republican leaders charged the governor was trying to sound Republican in an election year with his recommendations for getting tough on crime and cutting taxes was election year politics. For details of the governor's package and reaction, see:

Let the Voters Decide

The director of Missouri's Police Chiefs Association told a Senate committee that Missouri voters should decide whether to legalize concealed weapons.

That's the same position that Gov. Mel Carnahan has taken on the issue. During last year's session, Carnahan had warned he would veto a packed-pistols bill unless it were submitted to the voters.

But many supporters, including the NRA, have rejected efforts to submit the issue to the voters.

Many top law enforcement officials have oppposed legalizing concealed weapons.

Last year, a similar proposal failed in the legislature after extended debate by opponents. For stories with more details and digital audio see:

The Profits of Crime

More than 500 Missouri prisoners are on the welfare roles and dozens actually are getting welfare funds, according to a report from Missouri State Auditor Margaret Kelly.

Kelly's review of a the State Corrections Department found 508 inmates whose name also appeared on the state's welfare roles. A detailed check into 86 of those cases found 67 inmates whose welfare benefits had not been reduced or eliminated, according to the auditor.

"Missouri taxpayers have been footing the bill for 'felon-fare' for inmates' familes and friends," Kelly charged.

The Social Services Department director, Gary Stangler, charged Kelly's audit was misleading and prompted by her candidacy for governor.

Stangler said nobody in prison actually cashed a welfare check. Only in a few cases did somebody else actually cash the welfare check, Stangler said.

Senate Approves Tougher Speeding Penalties

The Senate gave preliminary approval to legislation that would reimpose misdemeanor penalties for speeding.

The bill, which faces one more vote in the Senate before going to the House, undoes legislation passed just one year ago that dropped speeding down to an infraction.

Prosecutors had complained that an infraction-level penalty prevented them from getting arrest warrants for violators who failed to show up for their court hearings.

Meanwhile, another bill to keep the 55 mile per hour speed limit on two-lane and urban roads has become bogged down in Senate.

Some opponents of the bill argue the speed limit should be allowed to go back to what it had been prior to the federally-imposed limits. For more details, see Senate approves toughening penalities for speeding.

Education Standards Approved

Missouri's Education Board has approved a set of new standards for measuring student performance and learning in school.

The standards have been attacked by critics as reducing emphasis on basic skills like reading, writing and math.

The Education Board made few changes in the proposal that had been recommended by its staff.

Adoption of statewide measures of student learning are part of the broad "Excellence in Education" legislation passed by Missouri lawmakers in 1993.