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NewsBook: Missouri Government News for the Week of April 28, 2008

. A state senate candidate knocked off the ballot. (05/02/2008)

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday that Rep. Juanita Walton was removed from the ballot for the St. Louis area seat held by Sen. Tim Green.

The paper reports that the Secretary of State's office removed Walton from the ballot on the basis of a Revenue Department finding that the Walton family owed the state more than $39,000 in back taxes.

The claim arises from the early 1990s when the Waltons were involved in operation of a Revenue Department fee office, according to the paper.

. Alternative teacher certification signed. (05/02/2008)

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt has signed a bill that provides an alternative method for a person to become certified to teach in a public school.

The new law will allow persons without education degrees, but certified by the the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence to teach in public schools.

Supporters argue the new law will allow high-level professionals to teach.  Critics charge it will allow into the classroom persons without training in effective teaching techniques.

. Missouri's Senate approved a $240 million tax credit to a Canadian aircraft company (05/01/2008)

Missouri's Senate voted to give up to $240 million in tax credits to a Canadian aircraft company that proponents argue would bring 2,100 new jobs in Missouri.

Senate leaders scaled back the original $880 million plan after facing stiff opposition from members in the Senate.

The measure now goes back to the House which had approved the administration's original $880 million package of tax credits for the Canadian firm.

. Missouri representatives are skeptical of gas tax repeal. (04/30/2008)

The Missouri House gave preliminary approval to a plan that eliminates gas taxes for the entire Summer.

Gas payers would receive a reimbursement after a three month period ending in September of this year.

But with a couple of weeks left in the legislative session, the measure faces a long hall to ever get to the governor's desk.

. Missouri Legislators agree that children need more protection at school. (04/30/2008)

A bill passed in the house was reviewed by the Senate Education committee on Wednesday. If approved, the bill will require annual background checks for all school teachers and administrators.

 The bill's sponsors says the legislation is a bi-partisan effort to stop sexual abuse in schools. It will also create a way for school districts to receive information about sexual complaints filed against potential employees.

. A proposed Medicaid amendment came from an unexpected source in the Missouri House. (04/30/2008)

The Missouri House spent the majority of the afternoon debating the state's 2005 Medicaid cuts after a restoration proposal came from an unlikely source -- an anti-tax Republican.

Rep. Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, put Democrats on the spot by proposing an amendment to a tax bill that would increase taxes more than $300 million in order to restore the cuts.

House Democrats such as Judy Baker of Columbia cried foul over Hunter's proposal, calling it unconstitutional and a convenient political tool.

. A bill that would give almost $1 billion in tax breaks to a foreign company gets voted down in committee (04/30/2008)

A bill that would give almost $1 billion in tax breaks to Bombardier, a Canadian transportation technology company, was voted down 5-2 in a Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee hearing.

But the bill will be brought up again tomorrow with changes that some legislators hope will sway voters the other way.

. A clerical mistake was caught after Missouri legislature accidentally voted to outlaw chemical abortions. (04/29/2008)

For the second time, Missouri legislators passed a bill that they did not read. Senators said they made a mistake when they passed a provision without debate that would have outlawed chemical abortions.

Legislators said the provision that slipped through was caused by a clerical mistake when the bill sponsor was handed the wrong copy of the bill.

. Amtrak continues running twice daily across the state (04/29/2008)

The Missouri House and Senate budget negotiators agreed to provide $8 million in operating subsidies to keep two passenger trains running between St. Louis and Kansas City.

Sen. Bill Stouffer of mid-Missouri says it was important to work out the on-time performance of the trains.

. Gun rights ralliers voiced support for a bill that would protect gun ranges. (04/29/2008)

The bill would protect gun range owners and users from civil and criminal liability.

It was met with great vocal support from those at the gun rally held at the Capitol on Tuesday.

. Sex offender registry laws applied retrospectively. (04/29/2008)

Republican Sen. Jason Crowell presented a constitutional amendment before the House Crime Prevention Committee.

The amendment would force more sex offenders to register even if they were convicted prior to the adoption of the registration requirement.

Any laws requiring the collection of DNA analysis or restricting sex offenders from residing near a school or child care facility would also be applied retrospectively.

. MoHELA given power to issue student loans. (04/29/2008)

Missouri's House sent the governor a measure that will allow the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MoHELA) to directly issue federally backed loans for college students.

Under current law, MoHELA is restricted to purchasing loans issued by other financial institutions.

MoHELA has argued it needs the measure to secure its financial health.

Under the proposal, the agency would be limited to issuing no more than 10 percent of the total of federal loans issued in the state.

. State government buildings will fly flags at half-staff for fallen military residents (04/28/2008)

A bill passed through the Missouri House will require all government building to fly the state and national flags at half-staff when any Missouri resident is killed in the line of duty.

Bill sponsor Rep. Tim Meadows, D-Imperial, received praise from both parties for pushing the legislation along so quickly.

. Missouri lawmakers say the U.S. Supreme Court decision on voter IDs will have little impact on state (04/28/2008)

State officials said Monday that a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding a voter identification law in Indiana will not likely affect the state policy regarding such IDs.

The state Supreme Court struck down a voter photo ID requirement in 2006, finding that such a law placed a "heavy burden" on voters.

. House minority leader raises stir over campaign contribution limits (04/28/2008)

Missouri House Minority Leader Paul LeVota, D-Jackson County, asked three House Republicans to not vote on an upcoming bill dealing with campaign contribution limits.

The three House members would stand to gain more than $100,000 combined from excess contributions gained during a seven-month lift on limits last year.

LeVota says the three should not vote because the passage of the bill would directly benefit their campaigns.

. Missouri House rejects cutting the minimum wage for waitresses. (04/24/2008)

The House defeated a bill that would have cut the minimum wage level for workers who get tips.

Defeat came after women legislators charged the bill discriminated against women. They argued that the bill targeted waitresses, a majority of whom they argued are women.

Bill supporters argued that those getting tips could afford a lower minimum wage because of the income they get from tips.

. Senate debates a bill that would legalize midwifery (04/24/2008)

A bill that would legalize midwifery was held over after debate on the Senate floor Thursday.

This is a second attempt after a Cole County judge threw out part of a health insurance bill that passed through the legislature last year that would have legalized midwifery.

. Changing the rules for DWI offenders (04/23/2008)

The Missouri House gave first-round approval to a bill saying drivers who have lost their driving privilege to an alcohol-related offense will be required to use a Breathalyzer before driving.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Neal St. Onge, R-St. Louis County, says there are too many DWI offenders still on the road.

The House also fixed a loophole in a bill concerning DWIs constituting as a felony. If passed, any person with three or more DWIs would be charged with a felony no matter where they received them.

. A bill intended to reduce pollution received first-round approval in the Senate. (04/23/2008)

The Carthage, Mo., community struggles with strong odor caused by a recycling plant that converts animal parts into petroleum. A Senate bill will attempt to curb pollution violations that cause the odors.

The Senate bill received first-round approval on Wednesday. If passed, the bill will clarify punishments and fines for those who violate air and water pollution standards set by the city.

. Mo. House gives first-round approval to bill that legalizes Aquila plant (04/23/2008)

The House endorsed a bill Wednesday that saves Aquila Inc. $150 million and a controversial plant near Peculiar.

Opponents said the bill, which allows the Public Service Commission to retroactively approve power plants, undermines local authority and puts powerful companies above the law. 

. Rep. Shannon Cooper denies any wrongdoing in receiving money from casino lobbyists (04/23/2008)

Rep. Shannon Cooper, R-Clinton, received almost $1,000 from the Ameristar Casino in Kansas City and says that his staying there doesn't affect his votes at the Capitol.

But some Democrats think there are questionable ethical issues involved because of Cooper's status in the House as the chair of the Rules Committee and as a member of the Joint Committee on Gaming and Wagering.

. Legislature's concerns over MOHELA continue after first payments (04/23/2008)

Senate Democrats have expressed concern over the financial stability of the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority despite the agency's first partial payment last week to public universities for building projects.

MOHELA's executive director said a portion of the payments for building projects were postponed based on the agency's minor losses in recent months.

While some legislators say they fear for the future of MOHELA, others say loan agencies across the country are experiencing the same difficulties.

. Insure Missouri lingers in Senate (04/22/2008)

Missouri's Senate began debate Tuesday on a measure designed to provide low-cost health care coverage to an estimated 200,000 Missourians.

The measure would expand the old Medicaid program, but require a co-pay from higher-income recipients. A Democratic critic charged the bill was designed to meet the interests of medical-care providers including hospitals.

. Senate debated a measure to restore health care coverage to those cut in 2005 (04/22/2008)

Democratic senators debated a bill that would not fully restore health care coverage to the more than 90,000 people who were cut in 2005.

Republican senators say the cost of full restoration would be too high.

. The bill that would consider cyber-bullying a crime passed out of committee in the House. (04/22/2008)

Tina Meier, the mother of Megan Meier, a Missouri teen who committed suicide after being harassed online, was at the House Crime Prevention Committee testifying on behalf of the bill.

For cases like Meier's, this legislation would impose stiffer penalties for harassment committed by an adult against a child.

Meier said the lack of prosecution for online harassment allows cyber-bullies to say anything they want, which, in turn, destroys lives.

. Missouri Corn Merchandising Council funds study of ethanol (04/21/2008)

A study released Monday and paid for by the Missouri Corn Merchandising Council suggests ethanol could save Missourians almost 10 cents per gallon of gasoline this year.

As of Jan. 1, 2008, gasoline sold in Missouri must contain 10 percent ethanol, which is produced in part from corn and soybeans.

Sen. Luann Ridgeway, R-Smithville, said requiring consumers to use ethanol fuel, which uses almost 30 percent of the state's corn, could have a devastating effect on Missouri's economy.

. Child Bill of Rights meets controversy in Senate committee (04/21/2008)

With Gov. Matt Blunt hoping to extend the death penalty to child rapists by the end of his term, Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Jackson County, voiced strong opposition to a bill giving new rights to child witnesses. Bartle said the bill may keep defendants from having a fair trial.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, said the bill would create consistency in child abuse cases. Supporters of the bill also say it would prevent children from becoming scared and lying on the stand.

. Gov. Blunt seeks death penalty for child rapists (04/21/2008)

Gov. Matt Blunt renewed his call for legislation that would allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty in cases of forcible rape of a child. 

Members of both the Senate and House applauded the governor's effort, but Jackson County Senator and Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Matt Bartle said he thinks the best chance of passing the bill is waiting until next session.

. Missouri House passes bill banning coercion of abortions (04/21/2008)

The state House passed a bill Monday that would make it a crime to coerce a woman into having an abortion.

It also reinforces a law passed in 2003 that calls for a 24-hour period between when a woman consults a doctor about an abortion and when it can be performed.

Opposition to the bill says that it is further restricting the rights of a woman to an abortion and of doctors to perform them.