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NewsBook: Missouri Government News for the Week of March 3, 2008

. Missouri's governor seeks more than $1/2 million from the state for his e-mails. (03/07/2008)

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday that Gov. Matt Blunt's has demanded $540,000 to pay for office e-mails sought in an investigation looking into destruction of state records.

The investigation is being conducted by a team of special investigators looking into allegations by a former lawyer for the governor's office of record destruction within the office.

The newspaper reports the payment demand comes from a private attorney hired by the govrnor in a response to the record requests.

. The state's college loan program shows it's first loss. (03/07/2008)

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday that the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority is reporting it's first operating loss since its creation more than a quarter of a century ago.  The newspaper reports that 16 employees have been laid off and another 23 left unfilled.

The report comes after the legislature approved a plan pushed by the governor to sell off more than $200 million of the agency's assets.

Critics warned the governor's plan could undermine the financial stability of the program for college loans. 

MOHELA has been seeking legislative authorization to originate loans directly as part of an effort to improve its financial situation.

. Missouri's House approves tracking individual prescriptions (03/06/2008)

Pharmacies would be required to report to the state information about individual prescription drugs that have been dispensed under a measure approved by the House and sent to the Senate.

Proponents argue such a statewide database will help in anti-crime efforts against illegal drugs.

The bill contains an amendment adopted by the House that outlaws the abortion pill known as RU-486.

. The House votes to ease rate regulation over some phone companies. (03/06/2008)

The House passed by an overwhelming vote a measure that give phone companies more flexibility in setting their rates.

Proponents argued that easing state regulation would lead to expanded features provided by companies in more rural areas. 

While easing regulation of land-line companies, the bill also seeks to impose some state oversight of VOIP -- voice over Internet Protocol by which phone service is provided through Internet and is largely unregulated by the state.

. Driving permits only for the enrolled student finds Missouri legislators in doubt. (03/05/2008)

While Illinois tries to reduce the legal age to get a driver's permit, Missouri stays restricted. The bill would allow 14 year olds to gain a driver's permit, giving them two years of experience instead of one. Missouri Republican Senator John Griesheimer says by tightening the law, Missouri is saving lives.

Under another bill presented to the House Urban Education Committee, a driver between the ages of 15 to 18 will have to be enrolled in school to obtain or keep their driver's license.

. Medical Marijuana Bill has Little Chance of Passing in the House. (03/05/2008)

A group supporting the use of medical marijuana calls the election year a main opponent of a bill to legalize it.

 One of the bill's sponsors says that it is simply too controversial to pass with many representative's running for re-election this fall.

. Meet the superdelegates (03/05/2008)

Missouri state Rep. Maria Chappelle-Nadal says she's 99 percent sure she will be going to the Democratic National Convention without endorsing a presidential candidate. And she's not alone.

One of Missouri's prized Democratic superdelegates, the Democrat from St. Louis County said she has been offered private meetings with Sen. Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton, but has refused to meet with either campaign and is waiting for the rest of the country to decide before making an endorsement.

. Rep. Ed Robb's twins bill moves out of committee (03/05/2008)

A Columbia representative's "twins bill" will move to the Missouri House floor, the Education Committee decided Wednesday.

Rep. Ed Robb, R-Columbia, worked to pass a bill that would give parents of multiple-birth siblings authority over their children's classroom assignments.

. Alleviating restrictions for doctors prescribing drugs (03/05/2008)

A measure presented to the House Wednesday would expand doctors' rights to prescribe pain medications.

The bill would update current terminology by removing the word "intractable" from the Pain Intractable Treatment Act.

No one testified in opposition and the committee took no immediate action on the bill.  

. A bill is heard in the Senate regarding informed consent of a woman who opts to have an abortion. (03/05/2008)

Sponsored by Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, the bill calls for more information to be presented to women who are considering having an abortion. Included in this new information would be an informative video as well as new printed information.

During the session, Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, lashed out in opposition to Right to Life of Missouri, making claims that it does not represent legislators or itself properly.

. Anti-illegal foreigner bills finally heard by Senate Immigration Committee (03/05/2008)

Seven Senate bills were heard by the Senate Immigration Committee that would give the state more power against those who reside in Missouri illegally. Senate bills 751, 1186, 1255 deal with illegals receiving public benefits, such as welfare.

Senate Bills 858 and 927 covered the knowledgeable hiring of illegal workers and the barring of illegal aliens from public university. State Treasurer Sarah Steelman testified in support of greater penalties for employers who knowingly hire illegal workers.

. A Missouri senator opposes North American Union (03/05/2008)

Sen. Chuck Purgason, R-Caulfield, urges opposition to North American Union in a committee reading.

Similar to the European Union, a North American Union would loosen restrictions at the borders between Canada, Mexico and the United States.

Three witnesses testified in opposition and said the union is a scheme conducted by government officials.

. Legislators are trying to prevent the state from collecting state taxes on the federal tax rebate (03/04/2008)

Missouri's legislature is beginning efforts to assure that the state does not collect taxes on the federal tax rebate signed by President Bush last month.

A spokesperson from the Department of Revenue said legislators should not expect to see any deductions because this rebate does not count as income, making it exempt from state taxes.

. Missouri House votes in amendment to ban chemical abortions (03/04/2008)

The Missouri House voted to outlaw the abortion drug RU-486.

The amendment was tagged on to a bill that would create a statewide database to monitor prescription drugs.

The bill has raised several privacy issues, such as who has access to the database.

. Police force hearing canceled again (03/04/2008)

For the second week in a row, the hearing of a bill that would allow the city of St. Louis complete control over its police force has been postponed.

Hazardous road and weather conditions were given as reasons for Tuesday's cancellation.

. Harassment could be considered a class D felony with Republican Rep. Joe Smith's bill (03/04/2008)

Harassing someone who is 17 years or younger could result in up to four years in prison if the accused is 21 or older.

The bill defines harassment as disturbing, frightening or intimidating another.

Harassment also includes causing emotional distress and using unwanted coarse language with another.

. Senate votes to expand state DNA registry (03/03/2008)

A Senate vote to expand the state's DNA database to include minors sparked debate in Jefferson City on Monday over whether the state should be doing more to compensate those wrongfully convicted in the state.

The Senate unanimously voted to pass a bill proposed by Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, that would include juvenile offenders convicted of certain misdemeanor and felony crimes.

. MOHELA to compete with other loan originators (03/03/2008)

A Senate bill would give the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority 10 percent of the money generated from loans so the agency can generate its own.

MOHELA decided on the 10-percent figure with the Missouri Bankers' Association. The loan authority would receive up to $200 million a year.

The executive director of MOHELA said the funds would help the organization through the current credit crunch.

. Senate committee passes bill lowering Boating While Intoxicated limit (03/03/2008)

A bill to bring drunken boating in step with drunken driving limits was passed in the Senate Financial Committee on Monday.

The bill lowers the blood alcohol limit from .10 to .08 when driving a boat on Missouri waterways. The bill  must now go before the full Senate for approval. 

Members of the Missouri Water Patrol say 100 percent of last year's boating fatalities involved alcohol.

. Senator introduces revisions to organ donation act to committee (03/03/2008)

Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles County, introduced a bill Monday to the Senate Financial and Governmental Organizations and Elections Committee that would revise the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act of 1968.

The revisions will expand the number of people in relation to the donor who can give consent for the donation, other than first-person consent from the donor.

It also calls for, among other things, revisions that will give priority to transplants and therapy over over use for research and education if the donor does not specify.

. Rising flu cases spark concern in Missouri legislature (02/28/2008)

Citing the rising number of flu cases hitting Missouri, one legislator has filed a bill that would create a pilot program to bring vaccines into schools.

The bill was proposed one week before a CDC advisory panel recommended extending flu vaccinations for children from ages 6 months up to 18 years old. The previous recommendation was age 6 months to age 5.

The Missouri bill is sponsored by Sen. Norma Champion, R-Springfield. She said she wants to give the Health Department a long leash in stipulating the parameters for a flu-vaccination program. Champion said she is not in support of making the vaccine mandatory, but rather just wants to make it more available to children.

. Teachers would face tougher background checks under a measure passed by the House. (02/28/2008)

The House sent the Senate on Thursday a measure that imposes tougher requirements for background checks on teachers. The proposal also requires schools to report to the state any sex offense allegation against a school employee.

Although approved by an overwhelming majority, a few legislators expressed concerns about protecting teachers from false allegations.

Get the bill, HCS HB 1314.

. The Senate approves alternative teacher certification bill (02/27/2008)

After a filibuster that ran into the evening, the Senate approved by an overwhelming margin a bill that would allow people without teaching degrees to teach in  public schools.

Supporters said the measure would enhance the quality of teaching in fields such as math and science.

But Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis County, argued the bill would allow unqualified people into the classrooms. She conducted a one-woman filibuster blocking a vote by the Senate until late evening.

. Legislation targets sex offenders (02/27/2008)

Sex offenders are in the cross hairs of the General Assembly this year with numerous pieces of legislation coming from both parties that aim to restrict the rights of people on the Missouri Sex Offender Registry.

The centerpiece of these efforts is a bipartisan joint resolution proposed in the Senate that would make the registry retroactive, which would force sex offenders who committed their crimes before the enactment of the registry to sign up. If the legislation passes, voters would vote on the issue in November.

. New requirements for petition gatherers (02/27/2008)

The House of Representatives approved new restrictions for ballot petition gatherers.

The measure would prohibit pay by the signature and also require Missouri residency.

Signature gatherers would be restricted from receiving signatures for more than one petition and must not receive them by mail or via the Internet. 

. Missouri residents might not have to pay state taxes on federal rebate (02/27/2008)

A Missouri bill would exempt state residents from paying income taxes on federal rebate checks.

In response to the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 recently signed by President Bush, the Missouri bill would put the money back into the hands of American workers.

. No major surprises on the opening day for filing. (02/26/2008)

The opening day to file for the August primary produced no surprises for the statewide offices.

For governor, U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulsof and state Treasurer Sarah Steelman were among four who filed for the Republican nomination. Attorney General Jay Nixon was the only candidate to file for the Democratic nomination. All three previously had announced their campaigns.

Four of the five offices got both Republican and Democratic candidates -- but not the secretary of state's office. The current holder of that office, Democrat Robin Carnahan, was the only person to file for the job.

. The House approves tougher laws on sex offenders in the classroom. (02/26/2008)

The House gave first-round approval on a measure that would require a school to report an allegation of sexual abuse within 24 hours.

The bill also would toughen requirements for checking the backgrounds of teaching applicants. It also would provide lawsuit protections for school employees to tell another district about sexual abuse allegations that have been made against a teacher.

. Senate debate stalls a vote on forcing biodiesel on truckers. (02/26/2008)

Extended morning debate prevented the Senate from taking a preliminary vote on the measure that would require that all diesel fuel sold in the state contain at least five percent biodiesel.

Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Jackson County, complained the proposal would lead to higher food prices because of the shift of corn production for fuel.

The bill's supporter, Senate Transportation Committee Chair Bill Stouffer, said the proposal would create new jobs in Missouri in biodiesel production.

In 2006, the legislature passed a measure requiring that gasoline contain ethanol.

. Opposition emerges to the idea of flu vaccinations in school. (02/26/2008)

A St. Louis senator has raised questions about a bill filed earlier this week to establish a pilot project for flu immunization in schools.

Sen. John Loudon, R-St. Louis County, charged the bill involved "vaccination without representation."

. School enrollment required for underage drivers (02/26/2008)

A bill presented to the House Urban Education Committee would prohibit the Revenue Department from issuing driver's licenses to anyone under age 18 not enrolled in school.

School districts would report those ineligible to the Department of Revenue.

But the Missouri Association of School Administrators stood in opposition to this approach and provided an alternative.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Rodney Hubbard, D-St. Louis, was open to the idea.

. Missouri Democrats not concerned about Ralph Nader (02/26/2008)

Ralph Nader has thrown his hat into the presidential ring for the fourth time.

While Nader has taken votes from the Democratic Party in the past, Missouri Democrats say they are not concerned.

. Staph infections to be more closely monitored in Missouri hospitals with Rep. Rob Schaaf's proposed bill (02/26/2008)

The Missouri Health Care Policy heard a bill Tuesday that would require every Missouri hospital to establish a methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) control program to insure that staph infections do not spread.

 The bill would also require that all cases of staph infection, whether hospital- or non-hospital-acquired, be reported to the Department of Health
and Senior Services.

. Missouri to receive $200,000 from maker of birth control pill (02/25/2008)

Attorney General Jay Nixon announced today that Missouri will get $200,000 as part of a $5.9 million settlement of a civil action against Barr Pharmaceuticals, a drug company that makes birth control pills.

The lawsuit, filed by the attorneys general of 34 states and the District of Columbia, charged that Barr Pharmaceuticals and Warner Chilcott, another drug company, were violating antitrust laws by preventing generic versions of a prescription oral contraceptive, Ovcon, from being on the market.

The $200,000 will reimburse the state's costs in pursuing the case and will also be applied to consumer protection law enforcement.

The lawsuit against Warner Chilcott was settled last year for $5.5 million.

. Bipartisan bill would create tougher laws against dogfighting (02/25/2008)

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard a bill Monday that would make it a felony to be a spectator in a dogfight for a second time. The bill would also mandate a disposition hearing for the rescued animal and make local animal control officials responsible for the dog for 30 days.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville, says the bill is the result of a police bust last fall in Stoddard County, where officials found 26 dogs trained for fighting.

. Bill would give independent organization authority to certify teachers in Missouri (02/25/2008)

A proposal by Sen. Luann Ridgeway, R-Smithville, would make the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence responsible for teacher certification of professional people looking for a career in education.

Both the Missouri National Teachers' Association and Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, oppose the plan, saying ABCTE does not require the right training for educators.

. Village Law Repeal moves through Senate (02/25/2008)

The highly controversial village law is one step closer to being repealed. A Senate version of the bill to return the statutes back to the 2006 language was finalized in the Senate on Monday afternoon.

Last year, language was passed making it easier for rural land owners to establish a village. The changes were passed late in the session as an amendment to a larger bill up for consideration.

. A Missouri senator introduces bill to committee to ensure tax-free weapon sales to foreign nations (02/25/2008)

Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles County, introduced a bill to the Senate Ways & Means Committee that backs a part of the U.S. Constitution that allows the sale of weapons to foreign countries to go untaxed.

The United States currently sells defense articles on the United States Munitions List, which includes items from artillery to airplanes, to foreign countries for their defense use.

The bill would ensure that these articles go untaxed when sold by state defense dealers.

. Missouri senator introduces school-based influenza pilot program (02/25/2008)

Sen. Norma Champion, R-Greene County, introduced a bill that would allow schools to participate in a pilot program distributing the influenza vaccine to students.

Missouri's flu cases spiked this season, and Champion's bill would make the vaccine readily available for students in order to reduce the spread of the virus.