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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of February 22, 2010

With Bikers, Tea Party supporters and an influx of youth contributing to a near record turnout, Missouri Republicans are searching for more.

The Missouri Republican Party held their annual Lincoln Days event in St. Charles Friday and Saturday. With attendance estimated around 800 - double the previous year - according to Lloyd Smith, executive director of the Party, the message of the weekend was one of inclusion.

House Majority Leader Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, attributed the rise in attendance to work he and Senate Majority Leader Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, did mobilizing younger voters. After a low turnout at the event last year in Kansas City, Tilley said he and Engler spent the last year attempting to drum up "young energy and exuberance."

Get the final Lincoln Days wrap-up newspaper story

With a scoop in one hand and a cup in the other, Sen. Kurt Schaefer doled out ice cream during an event hosted by Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder at the annual Republican Party Lincoln Days convention. After retiring his scoop, Schaefer, R-Columbia, took a few minutes to spoon out his thoughts on state issues and the state of the Republican Party.

State Budget

Gov. Jay Nixon held a meeting last week with Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields, Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Mayer and Majority Leader Kevin Engler.

Schaefer said he assumed the meeting centered around $300 million in federal dollars Nixon had included in his budget proposal that the U.S. Senate decided not to include in its jobs bill last week. House Budget Chairman Allen Icet, R-St. Louis County, - who said he spoke to Mayer - confirmed Schaefer's assumption and said no decisions were made about what to do if the money does not appear.

"I think what the General Assembly would like to know from the governor, Schaefer said, is what his proposal is now that we're tasked with dealing with a budget he gave us that is clearly not in balance."

Get the newspaper story

While U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt may not be the official senatorial candidate of Missouri Republicans, party leaders are giving the indication they expect him to be.

Speaking at a town hall meeting on the second Lincoln Day, U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-MO, said "Roy Blunt's race this year is a must win."

Before Blunt can face presumed Democratic general election opponent Robin Carnahan, however, he must win the Republican primary. One of his primary opponents, state Sen. Chuck Purgason, R-Caulfield, was seated in the crowd to hear Akin's remark.

Purgason was not on the panel that featured party leaders Blunt, Akin, U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-MO, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields and House Speaker Ron Richards.

In his opening remarks, Kinder said Gov. Jay Nixon had squandered a budget surplus left for him by former Republican Gov. Matt Blunt and had cost the state thousands of jobs.

"We've got an executive branch now that's asleep at the wheel," Kinder said.

In what may have been a hopeful slip of the tongue, both Richard and state Sen. Tom Dempsey - a moderator of the event- referred to Kinder as "Governor Kinder" at one point during the event. Kinder has announced he will run for governor in 2012.

In response to a question on the "fair tax," Shields said the state Senate to begin debate next week on a proposal to end Missouri's income tax and instead increase the state's sales tax rate. Shields added, however, that he doubts the proposal will pass the Senate.

Richard, whose House passed a similar measure last year, said he worries that increasing the sales tax rate could drive business across state lines in cities that border other states.

Two questions from the audience focused on growing the Republican party through diversity. According to Blunt, one minority group should mesh perfectly with the party.

"Hispanics are very pro-family, their socially conservative, they work hard. They should be Republicans."

In response to a similar question, Shields also said Hispanics should be natural Republicans.

They "value faith, family, and hard work," Shields said.

Tea Party activists and U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt were the focus of the first day of an annual Missouri Republican party gathering.

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, in a speech introducing Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, said the future of the Republican party lies in the hands of non-traditional party loyalists.

"We rise or fall on the voting behavior of swing voters," Kinder said. "These are the Tea Party movement folks."

Tea Party activists were also mentioned twice by Pawlenty, who said conservatives of all types needed to focus on inclusion.

"I hope we realize we are first constitutional conservatives," Pawlenty said.

In his 30-minute speech, Pawlenty also offered his support for U.S. Rep Roy Blunt, who is running for the soon to be vacant U.S. Senate seat currently held by Christopher "Kit" Bond.

Get the newspaper story.

State Sen. Chuck Purgason said his campaign is focused on meeting with people, not highly visible campaign material.

Purgason, a Republican from Caulfield, said that he is focusing on support from "people my type," the kind of people he meets at campaign events.

"I talk to the frustrated guy who realizes he's going to pass onto his kids as massive debt," Purgason said during the Missouri Republican Party's Lincoln Days event.

Purgason said the number one issue in his U.S. Senate race should be balancing the federal budget, something he said his Republican opponent U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt has failed to do in his time in Washington.

"The Republican party had an opportunity (to reign in federal spending) when they were the majority from 200-2006," he said. "Blunt was part of the leadership that added debt... He enjoys earmarks and failed to balance the budget."

Even though the Lincoln Days entrance and convention floor was covered with Blunt balloons, Purgason said he was undeterred.

"In my first race for state rep the party worked against me," Purgason said. "I've been there before."

In reference to a bill mandating Autism insurance coverage in Missouri, Purgason also cited fiscal responsibility.

"Right now we're looking at dollars with every bill," he said. "We need to figure out how we're going to pay for it... We're broke."

U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-MO, said his election to the U.S. Senate would change the future of the country.

"I've never run for office before where I thought weather I got elected or not actually had the likely hood of truly affecting the absolute future of America," Blunt said.

The St. Charles Convention Center was awash in blue and white Blunt balloons as state Republicans began their annual Lincoln Days event. Blunt's campaign rally, however, was not part of the official Lincoln Days schedule, according to Missouri Republican Party spokesman Jonathon Prouty.

Blunt is facing opposition in the Republican primary from State Sen. Chuck Purgason, R-Caulfield, among others.

In a speech that lasted over 10 minutes, Blunt did not mention Purgason or other Republican challengers, instead focusing on expected Democratic U.S. Senate Candidate, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan and national Democratic leaders.

The third floor indoor balcony of the Embassy Suites, attached to the convention center, was adorned with a large "Roy" banner. Other candidates with balcony signs included current House Speaker Ron Richard, R-Joplin, who is running for state Senate; current house budget chairman  Allen Icet, R-St. Louis County, who is running for state Auditor; Icet's opponent, former Bush administration official, Thomas Schweich; and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder.

None of Blunt's Republican U.S. Senate challengers had banners hanging, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Purgason did have a booth.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty will give a speech to the convention during a banquet dinner this evening.

The Associated Press reported that two Missouri Senators, Brad Lager and Kurt Schaefer, have filed bills to move water testing responsibilities to the Health and Human Services and away from the Natural Resources Department.

The bills come the same day Lager's office released to the Associated Press a draft report from a Senate committee affirming that people did get sick from swimming in bacteria-damaged water at the Lake of the Ozarks last summer.

Lager, a Republican from Savannah, said the report says that the Natural Resources Department cannot be trusted and violated public safety and health.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, however, reports that Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis County, said there are some things in the report she does not agree with. Bray also serves on the committee that produced the report.

Lager's office has delayed public release of the report until next week to give some members of the committee time to comment on it and suggest changes, The Associated Press reports.

A spokesman for the Natural Resources Department, Judd Silvka, said the department would not comment before receiving the report.

Gov. Jay Nixon signed into law the first bill of the 2010 legislative session on Thursday.

House Bill 1540 requires motorists to obey directions made by law enforcement officials while enforcing infractions and requires judicial procedures for an infraction to be the same as a misdemeanor, according to the House's Web site.

"This new law will mean that when Missouri law enforcement issues tickets for infractions, prosecutors and judges can handle these matters in the same way as criminal matters," Nixon said in a statement. "This will ensure that infractions are enforced and prosecuted effectively, thus keeping Missouri's roads safer."

The bill, passed by the House on Feb. 11 and the Senate on Feb. 25, was sponsored by Rep. Scott Lipke, R-Jackson.

As the summit on national health care raged in Washington on Thursday, a pair of bills in Missouri that would put money into the pockets of medical care providers more quickly unanimously passed the House and Senate.

Rep. Timothy Jones, R-St. Louis County, the sponsor of the House's version said the bill "will eventually, I believe, result in lowered health care costs because you're going to get rid of a lot of inefficiencies in the system, and providers are not going to have to spend manpower and time chasing down these claims that previously were not paid."

Jones said the bill would help clear up current ambiguities in the payment of health care insurance claims across the state.

The Southeast Missourian reports that a Mississippi County judge has decided to bring assault case against former House Speaker Rod Jetton to trial.

Hearing the testimony of one victim, Jetton's accuser, Associated Circuit Court Judge Terry Brown found probable for the trial.

The alleged victim, Mary Elizabeth Lowe of Sikeston, testified that she had discussed sex with Jetton by text message, but had not agreed to be punched during intercourse, the Southeast Missourian reports.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Mar. 10.

Rep. Timothy Jones, R-St. Louis County, has two bills hanging in the House General Laws committee that will tighten the Missouri Sunshine Law.

The first piece of legislation would require a four-day notice prior to a meeting that will discuss tax increases, eminent domain, zoning concerns and tax increment financing.

The second bill is much stricter than it's first version. It includes all of the same provisions as the first and adds a string of other requirements.

Some of the most notable subsections state that the Missouri Ethics Commission records would be open to the public, there is a five-day notice of meetings, and that a rule would be created for all elected or appointed officials to take a training course on the Sunshine law.

Even from prison, former Missouri State Sen. Jeff Smith's voice can still be heard.

Smith is e-mailing tweets to an aid who is then posting them on Smith's Twitter account.

Smith is allowed by federal law to send e-mails to the aid under a law letting inmates use electronic mailing services.

Officials at the Manchester, KY Correctional Facility Smith is at and the Federal Bureau of Prisons disagree over the legality of the Tweeting.

A Manchester, KY officer who refused to be named said the act is violation and Smith's e-mail will be shut down.

Federal Bureau spokesperson Felicia Ponce, however, said it was not.

Jeff Smith's twitter feed: 

The Missouri Senate voted unanimously to pass a bill that will charge those who download nude images of girls 14-years-old and younger.

This bill gives the victim the right collect at least $150,000 from people caught downloading their image.

This bill is a state statute that expands a national law passed by President Bush in 2006 that puts sex offenders on a national registry.

Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Jackson County, settled on 14-years-old being the cutoff age because he says the bill's intent is to catch pedophiles, not statutory rapists.

Members of a Missouri house committee discussed on Wednesday the possibility of ending a practice in which legislators are reimbursed for cell phone fees.

Currently, lawmakers may submit a request to have their personal phones payed for by taxpayer money, but some committee members wondered if asking the state to pay these fees opens a door that would make private information public.

Members of the House Administration and Accounts Committee debated what records were public under the Sunshine law regarding state-funded technology.

The Senate's president pro tem ruled out of order amendments that would have required a one year delay after leaving office before a legislator could become a lobbyist or take a paying government job.

The amendments were offered to a Senate bill dealing with a broad range of campaign and governments ethics issues sponsored by the chamber's president pro tem, Sen. Charlie Shields.

He ruled in favor of an objection raised by the Senate's GOP leader that amendments dealing with jobs outside of legislative service went beyond the scope and title of his bill.

The original bill's title was relatively short - "relating to ethics."

But Shields offered a revised version "relating to Missouri ethics commission oversight over public officials while serving in and running for office."

No one voiced opposition Wednesday during a Senate Education Committee hearing to give children of illegal immigrants in-state tuition.

Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Jackson County, sponsored the bill and said she was very surprised no one came forward to oppose the legislation.

Students without legal documentation can't get jobs upon high school graduation because they don't have a Social Security number, and they often can't afford higher education, Justus said.

The committee's chairman, Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, wouldn't say if he'd schedule the bill for a vote. Justus, who has filed the bill two consecutive years, said if the committee doesn't vote on the bill this legislative session, she'll try again next year.

Missouri's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released a memo Wednesday outlining 2 percent cuts to Missouri schools.

The cuts come in response to Gov. Jay Nixon's supplementary budget recommendations for the current fiscal year, which were more than $40 million below full funding for the state's K-12 education foundation formula.

Currently serving his eighth and final year in the Missouri House of Representatives, Curt Dougherty said he has learned an ugly but important truth: it is hard to get your opinion recognized without a lobbyist.

"It's just the way it is down here," said Dougherty, D-Independence, referring to the influence of lobbying. Dougherty was recently a subject of a column in The Kansas City Star, written by political columnist Steve Kraske. In it, Dougherty is quoted as telling a group of home inspectors who opposed a bill that their opinion wouldn't get heard effectively without aid from a lobbyist.

Dougherty stood by his comment when asked about it last week. And his point that lobbyists play an important role in informing the public was supported by one of the most ardent supporters of lobbying reform.

Missouri has similar legislation when it comes to pension.

In 2007, Republican Representative Jason Crowell sponsored the bill that prevents Missouri's elected officials from collecting pension if convicted of a felony.

With only a few alterations, the Education Appropriations Committee approved the majority of Gov. Jay Nixon's education funding recommendations.

On Tuesday, the committee did not discuss the foundation formula or Nixon's in-state tuition freeze agreement, instead focusing on primary and secondary education issues.

The committee voted against allocating funds from the Career Ladder program into the Parents as Teachers program

Although the Education Appropriations Committee has made the final decision on its bill, the Budget Committee determines the final version of the education appropriation to presented to the House.

Members of the House Budget Committee explored an unconventional method of boosting revenue within the state's Correction Department.

Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said the state should put elderly prisoners on parole and into facilities so they can receive Medicare benefits.

Candidates from across the state waited in long lines to file, some for over 2 hours.

The Secretary of State's office was full of hopefuls from all across the state.

Current Missouri Secretary of State, Robin Carnahan and Missouri Congressman, Roy Blunt, both entered the race for the U.S.Senate seat.

JEFFERSON CITY - A Senate committee voted on Monday to move forward a bill that would require abortion providers offer a woman an ultrasound of her fetus at least 24 hours prior to an abortion.

Bill sponsor Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, said at a hearing last week that seeing a photograph of the fetus and hearing its heartbeat would deter women from getting an abortion. Legislative staff said 11,580 abortions took place in Missouri in 2008.

"The most effective way to protect children and keep women from being wounded for life is to ensure that women facing unplanned pregnancies have received factual information concerning their decision," he said.

Opponents of the bill said at the hearing that an ultrasound would be ineffective.

Get the newspaper story.

Roughly $300 million of the state's revenue next year is in jeopardy.

A U.S. Senate bill passed Monday did not include federal money Gov. Jay Nixon had been counting on in his budget.

Nixon's recommendation, released in January, includes funds that are to come from a federal jobs bill, but State Budget Director Linda Luebbering said the Senate bill that passed Monday did not include these funds, though a jobs bill passed in December by the House of Representatives did. Both houses will have to approve identical versions of the bill before it can go to the president for approval.

"That means that the governor has sent us a bill that, through no fault of his own, is $300 million high," Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said. "We've got to dig our way out of that hole, I don't see any other option."

Get the newspaper story.

The effort in the General Assembly to make Missouri the first state to ban synthetic marijuana hit a slight roadblock on Monday in the House, but the bill's sponsor said he still expects the drug known as K2 to be outlawed.

The House Rules Committee had been expected to vote on the legislation sponsored by Rep. Ward Franz, R-West Plains. Its language is similar to that of a bill introduced by Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, and discussed in committee last week. However, Franz said the House committee had mistakenly classified some of the other drugs included in the bill and it would need to be edited in the next week.

Gov. Jay Nixon would be forced to gamble for funds to bolster the state's declining budget under legislation proposed Feb 17.

The bill, proposed by Rep. Mark Parkinson, R-St. Charles County, would deduct $2 from Nixon's paycheck twice a month to buy Powerball lottery tickets and place any potential winnings in a fund called "Governor Nixon's Scratch-off, Match-off Fund."

The fund would be dissolved and moved into General Revenue if the governor's potential winnings were to match or exceed $300 million -- the exact amount in Nixon's budget recommendation for Fiscal Year 2011 that comes from an extension of federal stabilization funds that has not yet been approved by Congress.

"The odds of that, the second stimulus funding package being passed by the Feds are probably the same odds as winning the lottery," he said.

Get the newspaper story.

Former St. Louis police commissioner Vincent Bommarito has resigned to Gov. Jay Nixon, and Nixon has accepted the resignation.

Bommarito was accused of using his position to get a nephew out of jail on a drunk driving charge earlier this month.

City officials and state lawmakers had urged Nixon to fire Bommarito, a nominee of former Gov. Matt Blunt. Rep. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, criticized the governor for passing the buck instead of deciding Bommarito's fate himself.

Republican Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields says senators will take a harder look at Nixon's replacement nominee after the scandal.

Last Week

A House committee voted against a bill stripping funds from prisons, part of a budget cut plan to help the governor keep his in-state tuition freeze promise.

Last week, House Budget Chairman Allen Icet, R-St. Louis County, asked the six House appropriation committees to make five percent cuts to their budgets. Gov. Jay Nixon's tuition plan requires Missouri's colleges to freeze in-state tuition in order to receive 95% of their budget from government appropriations. To execute the promise, Icet has asked the six committees to spread the brunt of the cuts.

The House Public Safety and Corrections Appropriations Committee voted for Icet's $1.5 million cuts for public safety, but voted against a bill cutting $19 million from the Corrections Department.