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NewsBook: Missouri Government News for the Week of March 17, 2008

. Questions surround the reponsibility of privately owned dams when they fail in Missouri (03/19/2008)

The US Army Core of Engineers takes the responsibility for levees in the state as well as federally owned dams that provide hydroelectricity.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources regulates and inspects private and public owned dams that are 35 feet and higher. If a dam is less than 35 feet and it fails, then the responsibility is that if the dam owner.

. Insure Missouri plans make their way into legislature (03/13/2008)

After months of deliberation, Missouri Republicans have filed legislation to implement the governor's proposed Insure Missouri to expand government-backed health care coverage for more Missourians.

But the various bills that have been filed go quite a bit further than the governor's original idea, even including provisions to establish requirements for school physical education courses.

The first bill to be filed using the phrase "Insure Missouri" would provide health care to an additional 150,000 people not covered by MO HealthNet, said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles County. The bill, however, makes the exact number of people covered subject to the legislature's annual appropriation.

. Bill to prohibit college to illegal immigrants has passed to the Senate on Thursday (03/13/2008)

A bill prohibiting illegal immigrants from attending institutions of higher education was approved by the House and sent to the Senate among much heated debate.

The bill was met with fierce opposition who deemed it racist, restricted and archaic.

Bill sponsor Rep. Jerry Nolte, R-Gladstone, says Missouri taxpayers will be hurt if the bill does not get passed.

. Matt Blunt's office files its own Sunshine Law demand (03/12/2008)

Less than a week after the governor's office demanded more than $500,000 to comply with a document request from the attorney general's office, Matt Blunt's chief of staff has demanded virtually all e-mail documents held by the attorney general.

A memo to the attorney general from the governor's chief of staff contained a list of 15 separate requests, the broadest being "copies of all e-mail backup tapes or other storage mechanisms for any e-mail messages transmitted to or from the attorney general's office." 

The memo gives no reason as to what the governor intends to do with the information.

The attorney general has appointed an independent task force to investigate allegations that his staff has ordered destruction of state documents. The governor's office has demanded more than $500,000 to cover the costs in turning over documents requested by the attorney general's task force, which is headed by the former Highway Patrol superintendent during the administration of Gov. John Ashcroft.

Included in the governor's demand are "all documents ... regarding the investigative committee appointed by the attorney general ... to review the policies of the office of the governor."

. The House Urban Issues Committee approved a bill that would give the city of St. Louis complete control of its police force (03/12/2008)

Since the Civil War, the St. Louis Police Department has been under control of a board appointed by the governor.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay urged legislators to give his city local control of its police force.

St. Louis police union representatives testified in opposition, expressing their fear of pension loss if the city gained control over the police budget.

. The Senate votes to make mortgage fraud easier to catch (03/12/2008)

The Senate gave first-round approval to a measure designed to make it easier for prosecutors to address mortgage fraud.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, said the increase in cases involving mortgage fraud is astounding and that officials need more tools to prosecute offenders.

. Legislature addresses high gas prices (03/12/2008)

Missouri drivers are refueling less as gas prices continue to rise. This is decreasing the amount of fuel tax collections that fund the state Transportation Department. Sen. John Griesheimer, R-Washington, says not to worry. This shouldn't result in any major problems for MoDOT's road projects.

With the state's 17-cent fuel tax funding MoDOT's projects and the decrease in gas sales, legislators have discussed alternative sources of funding for MoDOT. One option is taking out the fuel tax completely while adding a 2-cent sales tax that would lower gas prices and help MoDOT's progress.

. A bill is presented that would outlaw sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants in Missouri (03/12/2008)

Rep. Gary Dusenberg, R-Jackson County, presented a bill that would prevent any local government from passing legislation that would allow it to become a safe haven for illegal immigrants.

He contends that Kansas City has become a sanctuary city and that the tax dollars of American citizens should not be spent catering to the needs of illegal immigrants.

. Missouri House votes to ban illegal foreigners from public universities (03/12/2008)

The House bill would require public institutions to verify to lawmakers that they have not knowingly admitted illegal immigrants into their university.

The bill came to a voice vote and was approved for perfection.

. Safety for high hazard dams in Missouri (03/11/2008)

The House Environment Committee heard a bill that would establish tougher safety regulations on high hazard dams.

Missouri has 1,200 dams that are at risk of failure and loss of life.

The only person to testify against the bill raised concerns about the regulation fees.

. House committee shut down initiatives to expand health care profession education (03/11/2008)

The House Budget Committee rejected an effort to restore the governor's recommendation for $13 million in state funds for a program to expand health care educational programs at Missouri's higher education institutions.

The committee voted to cut the funding in Gov. Matt Blunt's recommendation in one amendment by a 10-13 vote. It also voted against adding the funds to "Preparing to Care" in a 12-12 vote on two amendments offered by Reps. Ed Robb, R-Columbia, and Sara Lampe, D-Springfield.

. Missouri Department of Transportation reacts to gas prices (03/11/2008)

While gas prices continue to fluctuate in Missouri, revenue for the Transportation Department has remained the same.

Each penny increase in gas tolls costs the department $100,000 a year.

. Missouri's Senate approves a rating system for child day care centers (03/11/2008)

The Senate proposal would require a five-star rating system for day care centers administered by the state.

Participation by child care facilities would be voluntary.

Critics, however, warned that competition would force day care centers to participate and that the costs to meet the requirements for the highest ratings would drive up the cost of day care for parents.

The measure faces one more Senate vote before going to the House.

. House makes a controversial move over anti-tax proposal (03/11/2008)

Missouri's House approved without allowing debate a proposed constitutional amendment to block courts from ordering tax or spending increases.

The House speaker pro tem called an end to a debate without letting Democrats offer amendments.

. Missouri's Senate votes to force truckers to use biodiesel (03/10/2008)

After hours of debate that ran into the evening, the Senate on Monday gave first-round approval to a measure that would require biodiesel in trucks.

Supporters argued it would help the environment and farmers. Opponents charged it was a government mandate.

. Future economic problems might impact education funding (03/10/2008)

Missouri's House budget chairman said Monday he will recommend a cut in the governor's spending plan for the University of Missouri System when his committee takes up the higher education budget this week.

Rep. Allen Icet's proposal would drop the governor's 6.1 percent increase in state funds for the UM System general education budget to a 4.1 percent increase for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

. House will hear bill allowing teachers without education degrees in Missouri classrooms (03/10/2008)

The Missouri House will hear a bill this week that will permit professionals who do not possess an education degree to teach in state classrooms.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Scott Muschany, R-St. Louis County, will require the Missouri Board of Education to issue teaching certificates to professionals who complete a certification course with the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence.

. Licensed professional counselors may be considered mental health professionals (03/10/2008)

A bill sponsored by Sen. Frank Barnitz, D-Lake Spring, that would allow licensed professional counselors to be considered mental health professionals under the Missouri Department of Health has passed out of committee.

 The bill would allow LPCs to assess detainment for up to 96 hours to determine if a patient should be committed to a mental health center.