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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of September 28, 2009

Missouri's Office of Administration reported Friday the state had suffered a 9.97% drop for the first quarter of the budget year.

Administration officials had been expecting a decline, but not at the level of nearly $190 million less in revenue collections for the last three months compared to the same three-month period last year.

State Budget Director Linda Luebbering said she could not recall the last time the state had suffered a similar revenue decline in a budget quarter.

Although the administration already has made spending-authorization cuts, Luebbering warned the latest figures would require more belt tightening.

Attorney General Chris Koster announced Thursday that he was suspending any new settlement agreements under the state's Second Injury Fund.

The program pays the health coverage claims for disabled and injured workers who become reinjured on the job.

Koster reported that the solvency of the fund, financed by business assessments, was in jeopardy.

For some time legislators have been warned of financial problems with the program because of a cut in the assessment charged to business to finance the program.

After Governor Nixon dismissed DNR Director Mark Templeton, the Missouri Republican Party stepped forward, saying Nixon needs to take action against three of his top staff members who may have known about the dangerous E. Coli levels in the Lake of the Ozarks.

So far, Nixon's staffers have no comment in regards to the GOP's statement.

But Republican Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder's top spokesman said there are too many unanswered questions revolving around the issues, and accused the DNR of a cover-up.

Health Departments in Missouri are not worried about a shortage in seasonal flu vaccines.

Kansas City is temporarily out of adult seasonal flu vaccine, but are not concerned because they are expecting a new shipment in shortly.

St. Louis County has yet to see a lack of seasonal flu vaccine.

Missouri Senator Chuck Purgason is tired of being ignored by Congressman Roy Blunt.

Purgason wants to talk to Blunt about the future of the Republican Party.

With a one-sentence letter, state Rep. T.D. El-Amin, D-St. Louis City, officially resigned from the Missouri House of Representatives Sept. 30.

Gov. Jay Nixon, who's job it is to receive resignation letters when the legislature is not in session, said in a press release, "There is simply no place in public service for those who are involved in bribery."

A special election will be held on Feb. 2, according the release.

Just days after reports surfaced that a top aide of the governor's office knew about pollution levels at the Lake of the Ozarks, Democrat Gov. Jay Nixon suspended the head of the Department of Natural Resources.

Using words like "unconscionable" and "disgust" suspended Department of Natural Resources head Mark Templeton for two weeks without pay and announced an investigation into the Department of Natural Resources.

Nixon made the announcement in a conference call with the media Wednesday, where his staff stated he would not take questions from reporters.

Templeton provided the governor's office with incorrect information regarding beach closures in late May due to unacceptable levels of E. coli, Nixon said in the conference call. The department claimed a beach at the Lake of the Ozarks had been closed during a period from May 18 - June 11 when it had not.

Nixon described both the failure to close the beach and the incorrect information as "the latest in a series of failures" by the department and said he was "angrier than words can describe."

The spokeswoman from the Department of Natural Resources testified that the aide knew about the high pollution levels May 29. The governor has maintained that he didn't know until June 29.

Nixon repeated his earlier statements that he was personally not aware of the E. Coli levels until a month after the high levels were discovered.

The investigation will look into systemic problems within the Department of Natural Resources and possible solutions.

State Rep. T.D. El-Amin says he will resign Oct. 1.

He says he was forthcoming with his resignation and submitted paperwork to the governor's office dated September 24, 2009.

El-Amin plans entered a plea for the charges of bribery and will be sentenced in December.

The first challenge to a red light citation in Columbia was dismissed in municipal court on Monday.

So far Columbia has issued 152 citations and 30 have been paid. Currently there is one other outstanding affidavit that will be in court Oct. 5.

A portion of the proposed lines will overlap with lines used by telecommunications companies.

The proposed lines will ignore a broadband deficient area in Jefferson County.

The state Transportation Department will award $1.55 million to more than 1,000 employees this year.

MoDOT is the only state agency to give bonuses, and they come at a time where other state workers' salaries are frozen.

But the legislature and Gov. Jay Nixon can do little to stop the system because MoDOT fuds itself through revenue such as the gas tax.

Days after the Kansas City Star reported a top staffer of the governor's office had been told about pollution at Lake of the Ozarks, Gov. Jay Nixon said he wasn't told.

At a news conference in Kansas City on Monday, Nixon said any information about the pollution reports that might have been passed to the governor's staff was never brought to his personal attention.

Just days earlier, the Star reported that a Natural Resources Department staffer told Senate investigators she had told an aid to Nixon about the pollution problems nearly a month before the governor's office has claimed it know about the issue.

The aid, the department's public information officer, has since left her position. The governor's aide she said she had told is Jeff Mazure.

Last Week

The Kansas City Star reported Friday that a former Natural Resources Department aid claims to have informed the governor's office about reports of high pollution levels at Lake of the Ozarks.

The claim was found in the transcript of an interview the former DNR staffer had with Senate investigators.

According to the newspaper, a top senior Nixon adviser was told about the high bacteria levels within 24 hours after the department got the information -- a month earlier than the governor's office has claimed.

The DNR staffer has since left the department.

Federal student loan interest rates have decreased despite the lending crisis.

Although applications for federal loans have increased, state officials say there is not shortage of funds.

St. Louis Democratic Representative T.D. El-Amin pleaded guilty to bribery Thursday.

Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields and House Minority Leader Paul LaVota both said they are disappointed with El-Amin's actions.

But they did say they are glad he is being held accountable.

Neither say they think there is an ethics problem within the Missouri General Assembly.

Gov. Jay Nixon announced Wednesday broad plans to clean up the water in Lake of the Ozarks.

The initiative, to be carried out by the Department of Natural Resources, will focus on stricter regulation of wastewater permitting and further testing of the lake's water.

The governor could not specify what the program will cost or where the money will come from.

Republicans called Nixon a fox guarding a henhouse in a news release concerning his ability to negotiate with groups who donated to his campaign.

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)is asking Missouri for a six percent increase in pay for some 7,000 workers.

AFSCME donated $60,000 to Nixon's campaign last year. Republicans claim this will make it difficult for Nixon to negotiate impartially.

The union AFSCME presented a declaration to Governor Nixon asking for adequate staffing.

Negotiations between the state and the union begin today.

Personal testimonies were given by state workers that have been attacked at their job on account of under staffing.

Gov. Jay Nixon hired a consultant without competitive bids, and the state then doubled his spending cap within two months of being hired, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Nixon hired the Baller Herbst Law Group in July to seek more federal stimulus grants for broadband Internet access in Missouri. The state initially set a spending limit at $50,000, then raised it to $100,000. Baller spent nearly $72,000 in July and August alone, according to the paper.

State Republicans questioned the no-bid deal, while Nixon's top spokesperson defended it because of the "short deadline and the expertise needed" to apply for grants, according to the Post-Dispatch.