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NewsBook: Missouri Government News for the Week of February 23, 2009

. Bill would have abandoned cars on state highways towed faster (02/26/2009)

Cars left on the state highways for more than 10 hours would be considered abandoned and be subject to towing under proposed legislation.

But Sen. Tim Green, D-St. Louis County, said he was concerned 10 hours was too quick and could create a windfall for towing companies.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Bill Stoufer, R-Napton, said that he would consider changing the number to 24 hours.

Currently cars in non-urbanized areas are only considered abandoned after 48 hours.

Get the radio story.

. Missouri receives $223 million in federal stimulus money (02/26/2009)

Gov. Jay Nixon deposited over $223 million of federal stimulus money into a newly created bank account in the State Treasury.

In order to house this check and any other upcoming federal funds, Nixon created two banks accounts to separate the old money from the new.

. Missouri says no to new cell phone laws (02/26/2009)

It's the latest threat to motorists: death by text-messaging, when drivers keep their hands on their cell phones instead of on the wheel.

St. Louis County Republican Representative Joe Smith is sponsoring a bill that would require Missourians to use hands-free cell phones or headsets while driving.

But other lawmakers say the bill would be too much government and impossible to enforce. 

. Missouri's House votes to cut business taxes. (02/25/2009)

Missouri's House gave first-round approval Thursday to a measure that would exempt a larger portion of inventory from the state franchise tax.

Current law exempts the first $1 million from taxation. The House-approved measure would exempt the first $10 million. 

Legislative staff estimate the proposal would cost the state about $12 million in the 2011 budget year.

. New bill would give state funding to Missouri's virtual schools. (02/25/2009)

Lawmakers want state funding for Missouri's virtual school program.

The computer-based courses are offered to students who couldn't otherwise attend classes regularly because of medical, financial or other reasons.

Bill supporters say state funding would help improve the program.

. Red-light camera ban stopped by Senate Transportation Committee (02/25/2009)

Republican Jim Lembke's proposal to ban red-light cameras throughout the state was voted down in committee Wednesday by a vote of 8-2.

Lembke argues the cameras are just a revenue generator that could impede on drivers' constitutional rights.

Opponents to the ban say the cameras have decreased traffic violations and crashes.

. Bill seeks to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation (02/25/2009)

Supporters told the Senate Progress and Development Committee that the bill makes all Missourians equal, while others say companies who don't discriminate provide a better workplace atmosphere for their employees.

Meanwhile, opponents say people who have been fired because they simply were bad workers will take advantage of the law to sue their former employers for discrimination.

. Lieutenant governor says Missouri will have to turn away funds from federal stimulus (02/25/2009)

Peter Kinder said expanding unemployment will lead to the state's unemployment compensation fund to run out of money in two years.

He said any change to the state's system for unemployment benefits would have to be a change made by the legislature.

Without that change, Kinder said, no money for unemployment benefits could be accepted by the state.

. Noodling, the act of hand fishing in Missouri streams, would be legal under a proposed agriculture bill. (02/25/2009)

The bill would regulate when "noodlers" can fish.

The season would last from June till July and allow noodlers to catch five catfish per season.

Opponents of the bill say noodlers would greatly affect and decrease the catfish population in Missouri.

. Autism mandate bill finally hears opposition (02/24/2009)

Last week's Senate Small Business Committee was so packed with supporters of a proposed insurance mandate on autism that witnesses in opposition had to be rescheduled.

What at one point was an impassioned gathering with a room full of parents, some teary-eyed, went back to business as usual as a slew of insurance lobbyists offered testimony in opposition.

. House gives a preliminary yes to the four-day school week (02/24/2009)

Despite accusations from members of both parties that children do not spend enough time in school, the House gave first-round approval to a bill allowing districts to adopt a four-day school week.

The measure would only be optional and leaves the decision to school boards. Supporters say it would cut costs, but critics' concerns included how to care for children on the extra day off, what times kids will be waiting for the bus, whether the day would be too long for the best learning and even if teen pregnancy rates would go up.

. Forsee recommends UM System Extension project also be spared from budget cuts (02/24/2009)

The University of Missouri System president told Missouri lawmakers he was as surprised as anyone when Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon proposed to slash UM Extension's state funds by half for the 2010 fiscal year.

UM System President Gary Forsee said when he reached the January agreement with Nixon that could keep state funding of the higher education at the same level as last fiscal year in exchange for tuition staying the same, he viewed the extension program as part of the system's budget .

Forsee recommended restoring the extension program's state funding to the budgeted amount for the 2009 fiscal year during a hearing with the House appropriations committee.

. One commissioner says Missouri is married to coal. (02/24/2009)

The Public Service commissioner, Jeff Davis, also said, "Money isn't growing on Wall Street's trees anymore."

The Senate heard four public service commissioners discuss coal dependencies and nuclear power in Missouri, as well as the impact the bill would have on the Public Service Commission and its ability to regulate Missouri utilities.

There is still no vote on the bill that would give Ameren the ability to recover financing costs related to the construction of a second power plant in Callaway County.

. Repeat alcohol offenders could soon face tougher penalties. (02/24/2009)

The House Public Safety Committee debated a bill Tuesday that would require the courts to consider continuous alcohol monitoring for repeat offenders.

The bill defines continuous alcohol monitoring as the automatic testing of alcohol levels at least once an hour regardless of the person's location.

The bill would allow for repeat offenders to be eligible for reduced sentences if they remain alcohol-free for a specified amount of time.

. Health bills propose changes to autism insurance laws. (02/24/2009)

Several lawmakers introduced bills requiring insurance companies to cover treatment of autism.

Insurance companies don't currently cover many associated treatment costs, leaving Missouri families in financial straits.

. Missouri senators discuss spending of the state's federal stimulus money (02/24/2009)

The Senate Select Committee on Oversight of Federal Stimulus met today and had a conference call with the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The NCSL answered questions about the rules of spending options and what Missouri's options are. After the conference call, Gov. Jay Nixon's policy director spoke on behalf of Nixon's office and shared what the governor has been looking into as far as spending.

. Coercing women to receive an abortion under a proposed bill created heated debate. (02/23/2009)

A proposed bill would make influencing a woman to receive an abortion a crime.

Both supporters and opposition spoke in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Opponents say the bill would cause harm to women who are in abusive relationships, and supporters say the bill would protect women from further health complications after receiving an abortion.

. Tax credits would be aimed at helping small businesses (02/23/2009)

A bill that would create tax credits for small and start-up businesses faces opposition in the Senate.

Sen. Luann Ridgeway, R-Smithville, an opponent of the bill, said she thinks the bill is tailored to help only those businesses that can afford to send lobbyists to Jefferson City to create specialty legislation.

. Stimulus helps unemployed Missourians; businesses will pay (02/23/2009)

The state's unemployment insurance fund will run dry on Tuesday, and Missouri will start borrowing $260 million from the federal government over the next three months to continue payments.

The federal stimulus law says all unemployed Americans will receive an extra $25 per week until the end of the year.

Missouri's Labor Department spokesperson Wanda Seeney says jobless Missourians will start receiving those benefits March 3.

. Budget Office reviews federal stimulus funds (02/20/2009)

Budget Director Linda Luebbering and senior financial adviser Paul Wilson held a budget briefing with the press today to review the federal stimulus funds' impact on Missouri's state budget.

The stimulus funds do not affect state budget for fiscal year 2009, and the state can expect to receive a base of $4.3 billion. Billions more can be acquired through grants for which Missouri would compete against other states.

No funds can be deposited into reserve or rainy day funds, and most of the funds must be used by a certain time or else be appropriated to other states.

. Nixon urges passage of jobs bill, tax credits and all (02/19/2009)

In a forum with state lawmakers Thursday, Gov. Jay Nixon urged Missouri senators to pass a proposed jobs bill that includes an abundance of tax credits for businesses in the state.

The bill met approval in the House last week but awaits a vote on the Senate floor.

Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, said he has no doubt successful passage of the bill will meet a mid-March time frame, but he expressed a need to sort out the bill's job creation and tax credit goals.

. Gov. Nixon more than ready for federal stimulus (02/19/2009)

With 219,000 unemployed Missourians, Gov. Jay Nixon says he'll take all the help from Washington he can get.

Nixon told the Missouri Press Association that he plans to invest in education and job training as well as alternative energies and new technologies.

But Nixon did not offer any figures or dollar amounts to back up his ideas.

. Roy Blunt jumps into the 2010 Senate race. (02/19/2009)

Republican U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt announced Thursday that he will seek the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kit Bond in 2010.

At a statehouse news conference, Blunt stressed the importance of maintaining enough Republican seats in the Senate to block the agenda of a Democratic president and Democratically held Congress.

Before his election to the U.S. House, the Springfield Republican served as Missouri's secretary of state. He is the father of Missouri's former governor Matt Blunt.

The leading Democratic candidate for the race is Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.

. Nixon excited by stimulus projects; Republicans wary (02/18/2009)

Gov. Jay Nixon announced at a Wednesday press conference his plan to spend $4.4 billion of federal stimulus money.

He wants to funnel money to three key areas: education and worker training, infrastructure and technology.

Republicans agree with sending money to MoDOT for road and bridge improvements but are concerned with spending more on education and health care than the state can pay once federal dollars disappear.

. St. Louis lawmaker proposes to suspend Missouri death penalty until major changes are made. (02/18/2009)

A new bill would temporarily halt the Missouri death penalty for three years while necessary revisions are made.

The bill would also create a 10-person commission to study the death penalty and discuss alternatives.

. House committee hears bill that could reshape St. Louis (02/18/2009)

The Corrections and Public Institutions Committee heard a bill that wants to transfer state land in order to build a new bridge over the Mississippi River in St. Louis.

Bill sponsor Rep. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, testified that the state land would be shifted from a corrections facility to MoDOT to facilitate the building of the bridge.

. A proposed bill would ban over-the-counter sales of Sudafed in hopes of cracking down on methamphetamine production. (02/18/2009)

The House Crime Prevention Committee heard a bill that would require consumers to have a prescription to buy Sudafed. The classification of the drug will be changed.

Supporters of the bill say they think this bill would cut down on the amount of Sudafed being supplied to methamphetamine labs.

. Senate bill would decrease the amount of nuclear waste traveling through the state. (02/18/2009)

Senators agree to charge a fee to shippers of radioactive waste that travels through Missouri.

This fee would serve to cover the cost accrued by the state because of a federal statute.

This measure would also increase safety precautions for those who work with nuclear waste products.

. St. Louis City senator wants to put the stop on red-light cameras (02/18/2009)

Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, says red-light cameras infringe on basic liberties offered to people by the U.S. Constitution.

His testimony came during a Senate Transportation Committee hearing, during which the committee heard his bill to outlaw all red-light cameras statewide.

Red-light cameras were cited by law enforcement to decrease accidents and drivers running red lights.

. Hope of autism coverage brings testimony, skepticism (02/17/2009)

More than a dozen parents of autistic children spoke before the Senate Small Business Committee to urge support of a measure that would require limited health care coverage for autism.

But one committee member argued the bill does not go far enough.

. Debate continues in the House over AmerenUE's proposed rate increase. (02/17/2009)

The House Utilities Committee heard from all sides on the bill to allow AmerenUE to pass financing costs to its customers during construction of a proposed Callaway II plant.

The bill's fate is unclear; one St. Louis County lawmaker called the bill repugnant and unconstitutional.

Others discussed the bill's job-creation effects.

. Tax credit bill faces opposition in Senate (02/17/2009)

A job-creation plan endorsed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon ran into opposition from a group of Republican state senators during session Tuesday.

Despite being sponsored by a fellow Republican, other GOP senators questioned whether tax credits specified in the bill would achieve their expected results of job creation and expanding Missouri's economy.

. Missouri's Senate was urged to pass a bill that would require businesses to alert people if their personal information has been hacked. (02/17/2009)

Missouri is lagging behind the 44 states that have already passed legislation similar to a bill Missouri's Senate heard.

If the bill passes, businesses will be required to notify their customers if their financial information has been stolen.

. Lawmaker wants Missourians to use hands-free cell phones while driving (02/17/2009)

A dozen states have laws that bar drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving. 

Rep. Joe Smith, R-St. Charles, says Missourians should adopt a similar law.

But some of his colleagues say a handheld cell phone ban would be too difficult to enforce.

. Missouri motorcyclists soon may not need helmets (02/17/2009)

The House Transportation Committee debated a House bill looking to repeal the law requiring protective headgear while operating a motorcycle.

Supporters of the change say it should be the drivers' choice.

On the other side, opponents argued that the use of helmets can save lives.

If the change is made, the law would still require any passenger or operator 21 and under to wear headgear while on the motorcycle.

. State Treasurer Clint Zweifel wants to increase his investment abilities (02/17/2009)

State Treasurer Zweifel introduced his two-part "Invest in Missouri" plan looking at making low interest rates more available to small businesses and investing in community banks.

He says he hopes this will create more jobs in Missouri, but he's waiting on support from lawmakers.

. Senate bill would require Missouri hospitals to report nursing staff assignments. (02/17/2009)

Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis County, introduced a bill that calls for a daily public posting of nursing assignments on every hospital floor in Missouri.

The bill aims to address safety issues related to understaffed hospitals with overworked nursing staffs.

. State senators question federal stimulus stipulations over health care, education (02/16/2009)

Missouri is expected to receive an estimated $4.4 billion in federal stimulus funds out of a $789 billion package cleared by Congress on Wednesday. Gov. Jay Nixon plans to accept the maximum amount of money allocated to Missouri state government, said Budget Director Linda Luebbering.

But members of the state Senate Select Committee on Federal Stimulus Oversight are raising questions over the stipulations attached to the use of funds in health care and education.

. A Missouri House bill would alert teachers of problem students. (02/16/2009)

After a story of a student killing another with his bare hands, Missouri's House gave first round approval to a bill that would give teachers more knowledge of problem students.  

The bill would allow a sheet to be attached to a student's permanent record, highlighting any bad deeds.

. New tax credits proposed to Senate Appropriations Committee (02/16/2009)

State government departments proposed new and continuous ways to distribute tax credits to certain facilities and purposes.

Proposals included tax credits for environmental, education, transportation, agriculture, insurance purposes and infrastructure for sports complexes.