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NewsBook: Missouri Government News for the Week of May 7, 2007

. Health insurance tax break sent to the governor. (05/11/2007)

Missouri's House passed Friday and sent to the governor a measure that would provide an income tax deduction for health insurance premiums.  It also would provide businesses with a tax deduction on group health insurance policies.

The measure also put the state in the medical debt-collection business.

A Senate had stuck on a provision that made the state's Health Department responsibility to collect unpaid medical bills.  It authorizes withholding tax refunds and lottery winnings to help pay off unpaid bills to doctors and hospitals.

. Missouri's legislature sends tax cuts for the retired to the governor. (05/11/2007)

Missouri's House Speaker estimates that about 250,000 retired Missourians would enjoy reduced taxes under the measure cleared by the House and sent to the governor Friday.

The proposal would phase in a tax exemption on a portion of Social Security benefits and some other retirement benefits.

Democrats charged that the surplus state funds to finance the tax cuts were possible only because of the cuts to the Medicaid health care program for the lower income that the Republican administration had made two years ago.

. Missouri lawmakers finish the budget one day before the deadline. (05/10/2007)

Missouri lawmakers finished a budget Thursday night that leaves at least $200 million of state revenues unspent.

The budget provides one of the largest percentage increases for spending in state tax collections in recent years -- more than 6% -- thanks to unanticipated increases in tax collections. 

Although the budget left an unexpended surplus in revenue, lawmakers are considering a variety of business and personal tax cuts that could wipe out the surplus.

. Defensive use of force bill still up in the air (05/10/2007)

With time quickly running out in the Missouri General Assembly, legislators are rushing to come to a compromise regarding a bill that would allow Missourians greater rights to kill intruders entering their home or vehicle.

Dubbed the "Castle Doctrine" by supporters like the National Rifle Association and a "Shoot First" issue by opponents like the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the issue is one that has been debated by state legislatures across the country since first passed in Florida in 2005.

. Dam and reservoir regulation clears the Senate. (05/10/2007)

The Senate approved a measure that would expand state regulation and inspection to high-risk dams.

The measure came in response to the collapse of the Taum Saulk reservoir more than two years ago.  It had been exempt from state regulation because it was a power-generating facility under federal regulation.

Rural legislators complained that the bill would impose unnecessary government interference with rural ponds and lakes.

The measure goes back to the House which had approved a much weaker version of the bill.

. Missouri virtual classrooms to be ready for attendance in August (05/09/2007)

Virtual classrooms will be up and running in August because of a bill passed last session.

The bill is intended to help students who have medical conditions that require them to stay home as well as help schools who can't afford to offer advanced placement courses.

. With waters rising, prices drop (05/08/2007)

As the Missouri River's waters rose Tuesday, customers took advantage of falling prices at a nearby lumber yard.

The National Weather Service says the river will reach major flood stage on Thursday.

. AARP rallies for MoHealthNet legislation (05/08/2007)

Members of the Missouri AARP gathered in the Capitol Building rotunda and met with legislators Tuesday to voice their support for legislation pending in the House that replaces the state's Medicaid system.

AARP members focused specifically on a provision in the bill that would create a system to help older Missourians and adults with disabilities make health care choices. 

The organization is concerned that under a change made to the bill last week, the system will be run by in-home care providers.

. Governor activates emergency operations in preparation for flood (05/08/2007)

Gov. Matt Blunt has declared a state of emergency and formed a team of rapid response agencies, including the Missouri National Guard, Core of Engineers and the State Emergency Management Agency, to prepare for this week's expected flood.

Rains from recent storms have already swollen the Missouri, filled tributaries and saturated the ground.

The rapid response team, which also includes the Transportation Department, Natural Resources Department, State Highway Patrol and the National Weather Service, are identifying what areas are the most flood-prone.

. Senate rejects anti-bullying education (05/07/2007)

An amendment to an education bill by Democratic Senator Jolie Justus led to an impassioned debate on the merits of anti-bullying educational programs.

Justus said she believes it is important to protect children from bullying specifically based on race, gender, sexual orientation and other categories.

. Missouri's House sends the MOHELA sale bill to the governor (05/07/2007)

The bill that would allow the sale of MOHELA finally passed in the House Monday and was sent to the governor.

Approval came on a near party-line vote with most of the House Republicans supporting the governor's plan to sell more than $1/3 billion of the college loan program assets to finance a package of building construction projects and college scholarships.

. Rep. Zweifel to petition placing MOHELA bill on November 2008 ballot (05/07/2007)

After approval of Governor Blunt's proposed sale of MOHELA assets, Representative Clint Zweifel vows to petition moving decision to ballot in November of 2008. 

The Democrat from St. Louis County says that the MOHELA decision belongs to the voters.