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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of October 12, 2009

Mark Templeton will return to work as the director of the Department of Natural Resources next week, Gov. Nixon announced Friday.

Templeton has been on unpaid suspension from the department since he provided the governor's office with false information regarding beach closures at Lake of the Ozarks.

Gov. Nixon also announced he will withdraw his appointment of former DNR Deputy Director Joe Bindbeutel to the Administrative Hearing Commission. Bindbeutel publicly accepted responsibility in September for DNR's delayed release of water tests showing high E. Coli levels.

The governor's actions came at the end of an internal investigation into the Department of Natural Resources. The final report cited a number of instances in which Missouri beaches were not closed in light of high E. coli readings.

The House Intelligence Oversight Committed voted 6-3 to approve a recommendation to create a committee that would have direct oversight of the Missouri Information Analysis Center.

MIAC is the governmental agency responsible for the report that accused Right winged Christian people of being melitia members.

According to Republican Representative Doug Funderburk, who made the recommendation, the goal of the new commission or committee would be to provide leadership, overall policy direction, and direct oversight of MIAC.

But Democratic Representative Tim Meadows, who voted against the recommendation, said there needs to be more discussion on the issue during the 2010 legislative session before any more action is taken.

Despite the hype about charter schools, MAP test scores suggest they may not be performing as well as thought.

On average, charter schools in Kansas City and St. Louis performed below the state average with only a few expectations.

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The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is making available a toll-free hotline for H1N1 flu.

Missourians, including health care professionals, can call 1-877-FLU-4141 (1-877-358-4141) to get their H1N1 questions answered.

Specialists will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer questions about flu symptoms, medical care, and vaccines. Medical professionals will also be on hand to help with other questions callers may have.

State Health Department Director Margaret Donnelly, was unavailable for comment at the time of the release.

As the health care debate rages across the U.S., President Barack Obama's plan for expanding the use of electronic medical records is being met with skepticism in Missouri.

Supporters see electronic medical records as a major money-saving device that could transform America's health care system, but many health professionals, including several physicians in the Missouri legislature, doubt the technology could deliver the promised savings.

The federal stimulus package provides $19 billion in assistance for doctors and hospitals to ditch their paper systems in favor of electronic record keeping.

Obama has said much of his $900 billion plan can be paid for through changes to the health care system, including $80 billion from switching to electronic medical records.

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Beginning Oct. 14, the Missouri Department of Corrections is installing a new media access policy.

The changes include:

An after hours call placed to Department of Corrections spokeswoman Jacqueline Lapine was not returned.

The Natural Resources Department will conclude its investigation on the passing of false E. Coli information Friday, DNR spokesman Travis Ford said.

Upon conclusion, Gov. Nixon may re-instate currently suspended department head Mark Templeton.

Earlier, Sen. Brad Lager, R-Maryville, said a "cover-up had been underway" at the department relating to the E. coli matter.

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Months after the eastern Missouri town of Washington got national attention for requiring a prescription for some common cold medicines, a second town has followed suit in the campaign against illegal meth.

This week, Union's city council approved an ordinance to require a doctor's prescription to purchase a cold medicine that contains pseudoephedrine -- a key ingredient in cold prescriptions like Sudafed.

Proposals for a statewide prescription requirement have failed in the state legislature.

Scott Holste, a spokesman for Gov. Jay Nixon, has directed all questions about the administration's investigation into a delay releasing E. coli reports to Natural Resources spokesman Travis Ford.

An earlier Associated Press report quoted Sen. Brad Lager as saying that an "organized cover-up" is hindering his committee's investigation into the E. coli matter.

Ford was one of three people named by Nixon's office on Sept. 30 to investigate information failures at the Natural Resources Department

The Associated Press reported that Sen. Brad Lager has charged that his committee's investigation into the E. coli matter has been hindered by Natural Resources Department leaders.

Larger was quoted as saying that the state attorney general should consider appointing special investigators to review the matter.

For the last several weeks, investigators for Lager's committee have been interviewing various administration officials about the administration's delay in releasing a report indicating high contamination levels at Lake of the Ozarks.

Previously, Larger had told MDN he was considering subpoenas because of the lack of cooperation by administration officials.

Colorful leaves will be seen sooner than usual this year, says Mizzou's forestry professor Steve Pallardy.

He says the cool temperatures are making the leaves change color early.

Governor Nixon said he will ask legislative leaders to change Missouri's DWI laws.

He told the St. Louis Post Dispatch the state's laws need major revamping.

He said to the paper he wants, "to improve a system that's riddled with loopholes and dark corners."

The Nixon administration denied further comment.

Last Week

Missouri has borrowed $150 million from budget reserves to fund such programs as education and Medicaid.

Although state revenue collection is down 10 percent for the year, Budget Director Linda Luebbering said this borrowing is a separate issue from Missouri's decline in revenue.

Gov. Jay Nixon will address the loss in revenue collection with further budget cuts, Luebbering said. She added that this money will be used to address immediate cash flow issues. The state has tapped into the fund nine out of the past 10 years.

Friday's withdrawal leaves $170 million in the fund, which begins the year with a $520 million balance. The state took $125 million out of the fund in July and another $75 million in August. All money borrowed must be paid back to the fund by May 15.

Missouri Department of Public Safety spokesman Mike O'Connell says Missouri and other agencies across the nation are currently reviewing what the Federal government has proposed.

O'Connell says the state will announce if it will accept or decline the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's proposal late next week.

AmerenUE has asked for a interim rate increase to offset losses from lower demand and safety improvements.

The Public Counsel said AmerenUE does not qualify for the emergency standards previously required by the PSC for a rate increase.

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In response to a CBS news story highlighting the dangers of a potentially harmful  experts in Missouri say the potentially harmful waste byproduct fly ash is being safely contained in Missouri.

Ameren UE spokesperson Tim Fox says the company uses half of its fly ash to make concrete and properly stores the other half.

The state will take in nearly 20,000 doses of the swine flu vaccine this week, a state Health Department spokesperson said.

Local health agencies are in charge of distributing the vaccines to health care providers, such as doctors and clinics.

While most Missourians won't be covered by this week's doses, the state is set to receive 70,000 vaccines next week and nearly 300,000 more two weeks from now.

Overall tax collections have dropped by 10 percent compared to the same period last year according to State Budget Director Linda Luebbering.

Scott Holste, Gov. Jay Nixon's spokesperson, expects the governor to make additional budget cuts based on these numbers.

The Foundation Formula - which funds K-12 education - will not be one of the areas considered for budget cuts, Luebbering said.