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NewsBook: Missouri Government News for the Week of April 7, 2008

. Missouri's governor subpoenas the news media. (04/11/2008)

The Associated Press reported Friday that it's lead statehouse reporter was subpoenaed by an attorney defending Matt Blunt in a lawsuit filed by one of the former attorney's for the governor's office.

The attorney, Scott Eckersley, has charged he was defamed by the governor's administration when it distributed to the media personal e-mails from Eckersley's government e-mail account.  The material distributed by the administration included private legal advice from Eckersley and communication with a former female acquaintance.

At issue appears to involve where the e-mails actually were read or distributed.  Blunt's attorney is seeking to have the case transferred from Kansas City to Jefferson City. A wrongful termination lawsuit filed by Eckersley already has been transfered.

The Associated Press reports that the Kansas City Star also was subpoenaed, although it's statehouse reporter has since moved out of state.  AP and the Star are two of several news organizations that have been given the thick packet of private e-mails by the administration.

. A lid on the state's budget clears the House. (04/10/2008)

The Missouri House passed and sent the Senate Thursday a measure that would impose a cap on the growth of the state's budget.

The limit would be based on the growth of the state's population and the inflation rate.

The constitutional amendment, if it clears the legislature, would require statewide voter approval to take effect.

. The Missouri House votes a mixed message on illegals. (04/10/2008)

Missouri's House gave final passage to a measure designed to crack down on illegal foreigners -- but then voted to reject a federal effort designed to establish a national standard for identification of legal residents.

The first bill, sent to the Senate, includes a number of provisions on illegals including banning sanctuary cities, tougher language denying driving licenses to illegals and requiring driving licenses be given in English only.  The measure also requires police to check the legal presence of persons they arrest and confine.

The measure now goes to the Senate which earlier had approved a similar bill.  Unlike the House, however, the Senate plan includes penalties on businesses that hire illegals.

The second bill sent to the Senate Thursday prohibits the state from complying with the federal Real ID Act that establishes national standards for driving licenses issued by the states. 

. Senate opposition stalls action on tax breaks for a Canadian firm. (04/10/2008)

An administration request for tax breaks to encourage location of an aircraft manufacturing plant in Kansas City ran into a number of questions in Missouri's Senate Wednesday.

The administration is seeking approval to award up to $40 million per year in tax credits for 22 years to the Canadian firm Bombardier which is looking for a location to manufacture a new line of passenger jets -- for a total that could reach $880 million.

Supporters argue the plant would be a major economic boost for the entire state.

But critics in the Senate questioned awarding tax breaks to a foreign corporation that are not provided to Missouri firms.  Others argued the legislature should have power to review whatever deal the administration works out with Bombardier.

. Democrats drop their filibuster against the top aid to former Cong. Dick Gephardt. (04/10/2008)

Senate Democrats allowed a vote Thursday on the confirmation of Kevin Gunn to the state's utility-regulating Public Service Commission -- after several Democratic candidates got funds from Gunn's campaign organization.

Two weeks ago, Senate Democrats had blocked a vote on Gunn.  They complained he still had an active campaign fund for his Senate race.  Gunn had been a Democratic candidate for the state Senate seat held by the Senate's President Pro Tem Mike Gibbons, R-Kirkwood, who is leaving the Senate.

Gunn dropped his candidacy after his nomination, but had not closed out his finance committee until Tuesday -- just two days before Senate confirmation.

In addition to refunding contributions to a number of donors, Gunn's campaign also distributed funds to several Democratic campaign organizations.  Among the largest transfers was $35,000 to the St. Louis City Democratic Central Committee and $20,000 to the state Senate Democratic Campaign Committee.

. MoHELA's loan bill wins quick House committee approval. (04/09/2008)

The House Higher Education Committee has approved a measure to let the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority originate federally backed college loans directly to students.

Under a compromise reached with the financial industry, the bill would limit the number of loans MoHELA could issue to 10 percent of the prior year's total federal-backed college loans issued in Missouri.

Under current law, MoHELA is restricted to purchasing and taking over loans that are issued by other financial institutions.

MoHELA officials have said they need the right to originate loans to assure the agency's financial stability.  Earlier this month, the agency reduced a scheduled $5 million transfer to the state to help fund the governor's statewide building construction program.

. The House approves a bill to put sanctions on illegal foreigners in Missouri (04/09/2008)

House passage came after hours of debate on the measure that roles together a number of different proposals to crackdown on illegal foreigners in Missouri.

The bill would outlaw sanctuary cities. It would also enlist law enforcement to be responsible for reporting illegal foreigners and it would make English the exclusive language on the Missouri driving exam.

. Insure Missouri makes its way to the floor (04/08/2008)

The Senate Health Committee approved Tuesday a major expansion in government-financed health care coverage for the lower income population.

The bill sponsor, Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles County, hopes to bring it to the floor as early as next week.

Under the measure, more than 200,000 more Missourians ultimately would be covered at a cost to the state exceeding $90 million per year. Some would be charged for the coverage at a rate based on income.

. A bill that proponents say would reduce the risk of future adverse incidents in hospitals faced no opposition (04/08/2008)

The bill would require hospitals to report incidents that could adversely affect patient health to the federally sanctioned Patient Safety Organization.

Richard Royer, former chair of the Patient Safety Organization, said this educational approach of this improvement project is intended to reduce and prevent medical errors from occurring.

. The death of a legislator's child prompted a bill that would provide tax deduction for funeral costs (04/08/2008)

Rep. Jeff Grisamore, R-Jackson County, identified with his own bill on a personal level. It's been more than five years since the loss of his seventh child.

Grisamore mentioned the difficulty of dealing with expensive funeral costs while suffering the loss of a loved one.

. St. Louis would gain control of its police department if a bill can make its uphill battle to the House (04/08/2008)

A bill to give St. Louis control of its own police department was delayed by the addition of an amendment that proposed control for Kansas City of its police force.

The bill is in the House Rules Committee and needs to be approved to reach the House. 

. House Environment Committee hears a bill against trash monopoly program (04/08/2008)

The House Special Committee on Energy and Environment heard a bill that would prohibit St. Louis County's attempt to establish a trash monopoly program in its unincorporated areas.

Councilman John Campisi from St. Louis County testified at the hearing that the new bill will allow households to contract with trash haulers for recycling and bulk pickup on an as-needed basis, just as was done before the monopoly program.

. State House passes resolution for "Ronald Reagan Day" (04/07/2008)

The House passed a resolution to make Feb. 6 known as Ronald Reagan Day.

Rep. Beth Low, D-Jackson County, said a better honor would be to support stem cell research to find a cure for diseases such as Alzheimer's, the disease Reagan died from.

. Goodman stands alone at Senate judiciary hearing (04/07/2008)

Not one supporter testified in favor of a Senate bill that makes forcible rape or sodomy of children under 12 a crime punishable by death.

Witnesses expressed concerns that the bill would have a chilling effect on rape reports, as so many victims are abused by older family members. 

. Missouri Republican Party spokesman resigns (04/07/2008)

The state's GOP spokesman, Paul Sloca, has resigned, the Associated Press reported today.

According to the AP, Sloca said his resignation was driven by his desire for a change, and he said he plans to pursue professional consulting opportunities.

As of Monday, the Republican Party has not hired a replacement for Sloca, who had been with the party since 2003.

. Senate Finance Committee unanimously passes petition reform bill (04/07/2008)

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, would require that all petitioners in the state be Missouri citizens. The bill would also prohibit petitioners from being paid for each signature they collect.

Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, who sponsored a similar bill in the Senate, said he is relying on the momentum of the House bill to get the measure passed. 

Special interest groups such as the National Rifle Association have come out in favor of the bill.

. Leading members of the Budget Committee clash over public school funding (04/03/2008)

A phase-in of the funding formula to distribute state dollars to public schools was debated between Representatives Allen Icet and Margaret Donnelly on this week's edition of the public television show "Jeff City Journal."

 The funding formula bill, which was passed in 2005, calls for a seven-year phase-in, which Democratic representatives say is too long.

. Missouri House members vote to ban new casino licenses for two years (04/02/2008)

If this legislation passes, Missouri riverboat casinos will be unable to receive a casino license until 2010.

The bill specifically affects Kansas City and the extreme competition with border rivals.

Democrats who oppose the bill say the gambling industry is profitable and popular, bringing in revenue to Missouri.

. Senate rejects proposal removing attorney general's power over no-call list (04/02/2008)

The Missouri Senate adopted an amendment Wednesday to keep the status quo of the state do-not-call list. A bill expanding the provisions of the program put the Public Service Commission in charge of the list.

Majority Floor Leader Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, said the attorney general's office uses the success of the program to its political gain. Shields forced debate over the bill to conclude and laid it over to the informal calendar.

The next action remains unknown.

. After months of delay, Missouri legislators finally got around to hearing the governor's plan for expanding health care (04/01/2008)

Missouri legislators were urged to consider a bill that would expand health care for lower income families under the Insure Missouri plan.

The plan would provide coverage opportunities to 200,000 uninsured Missourians.

Those that testified against it said transformation of the health care system would not be a successful approach for the low income population. 

. Bare-headed bikers get the OK from the Missouri House (04/01/2008)

The house gave first-round approval to a bill that would not require adults to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Gary Dusenberg, R-Jackson County, would make that law for persons 21 years of age and older.

Opposing Rep. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, says this change would kill more Americans and leave Missourians paying for the cost.

. Death penalty moratorium faces uphill climb (04/01/2008)

A moratorium would be imposed on the Missouri death penalty with a bill from Rep. Bill Deeken, R-Jefferson City.

The bill would also create a 10-member bipartisan commission to analyze death penalty cases.

However, with only six weeks left in the legislative session, passing the bill will be an uphill battle.

. The Senate votes to crack down in illegals (04/01/2008)

The Senate gave first-round approval to a package of provisions to block state services to illegal foreigners and toughen laws against hiring of illegals.

The bill, however, takes a two-sided approach. 

It would grant immunity for someone to drive an illegal to a hospital or a soup kitchen, and it would allow some illegals to remain enrolled in public universities and junior colleges.

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

. The House passes a constitutional amendment limiting local property tax increases (04/01/2008)

The Missouri House passed a proposed constitutional amendment with an overwhelming majority that would limit local property tax increases.

Sponsor of the bill, Rep. Charles Portwood, R-St. Louis County, says the proposed amendment is a broad-based package to bring tax relief to the voters.

. Senate finance hears a package of bills that would overhaul Missouri elections (03/31/2008)

With primary season in full swing, some Missouri senators are looking to complete major overhauls that could change election procedure in the state.

The Senate Financial Committee heard a package of election reform bills Monday afternoon.

. Alternative teacher certification bill brings opposition from professors, teachers' unions (03/31/2008)

During a House committee hearing, professors from William Jewell College and the University of Missouri-Columbia opposed a Senate bill allowing the American Board of Certification for Teacher Excellence to start a program in the state.

The committee passed the bill with a 6-1 vote.

. Initiative reform bill gains private support (03/31/2008)

The Senate Finance Committee heard from lobbyists for more than a half dozen interest groups Monday in favor of a bill that would require all petitioners to be Missouri citizens. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, said he had not lined up any of these witnesses.

The bill would also keep petitioners from being paid per signature and force them to carry only one petition at a time. Parson said these regulations would prevent fraud in the initiative process.

. Missouri representative draws a faint line between spectatorship and lawmaking (03/31/2008)

Rep. Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhart, called Monday for a prohibition on tax credits for professional sports teams that do not place a minimum one-year ban on athletes who test positive for steroids.

However, the same day that he filed the bill that would keep money from these teams, Roorda was feeding money back into such organizations as he attended opening day for the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.