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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of September 20, 2010

The man who intended to stab Gov. Jay Nixon but instead slashed a college official in the throat will be represented by Missouri's public defender office, a spokeswoman for the office said.

Casey Brezik, 22, is charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action for the stabbing of a college dean at Penn Valley Community College in Kansas City on Sept. 14.

The Associated Press reports a judge has entered a not guilty plea on Brezik's behalf, which is "routine," said Cat Kelly, a spokeswoman for the state public defender's office.

Brezik and his family could not afford a private attorney, said Leon Munday, the assistant district defender in Kansas City.

Missourians aren't getting what they voted for, and the state's schools missed out on more than $20 million in funding this year during a budget crunch, state Auditor Susan Montee said.

State lawmakers have eliminated some of the requirements in Proposition A, which voters passed in 2008 and ended loss limits at Missouri's casinos. The changes include ridding of a provision that extra revenue from lifting the $500 loss limit be sent to schools as additional money, not to replace existing state funding.

Lawmakers ended that with 2009 legislation, shorting schools by $20.9 million, Montee said in an audit released Thursday.

But up to 140 of Missouri's 522 school districtsdistricts wouldn't be eligible for the extra money under the state's education funding formula, said Michelle Clark, a spokeswoman for the state's Elementary and Secondary Education Department.

Tom Schweich, the Republican opposing Montee in her re-election bid, declined comment on the audit.

Major insurance companies in the state and across the nation dropped their child-only policies to avoid penalties for denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, according to Travis Ford, communications director for the Missouri Insurance Department.

Anthem BlueCross BlueShield and Coventry are among the companies that have decided to no longer carry child-only plans.

The federal law mandates that a child with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied a health insurance policy, which means the insurance company must pick up the tab for any pre-existing medical conditions.

"Our department and others around the country are working with the major health insurers to encourage them to resume offering this product in a way that is financially feasible for them and for consumers," Ford said.

Clayton School District has received 40 requests from students trying to transfer to its schools from unaccredited ones, a district spokesman said.

Parents can take their kids out of unaccredited districts, such as St. Louis, and move them elsewhere, with the district footing the bill.

Whether other districts need to accept them is being worked out in court. Clayton is not accepting transfers until the decision comes down.

Missouri students have averaged a 21.6 on their ACT college-entrance exams for the past five years.

Even though the score is above the national average of 21.1, the state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said it's looking to improve Missourians' scores.

But at a meeting Tuesday, the department could not come to a decision on how to do that.

Three new provisions affecting children's health care coverage in Missouri and across the country will hit insurance companies as a series of provisions of the federal health care law take effect this week.

The changes, stipulated by the federal law, take effect Sept. 23 for new and renewed policies. Among the list of this month's changes are three provisions that significantly impact child health care, said Travis Ford, communications director for the Missouri Insurance Department.

Missouri's insurance industry predicts few problems with the federal law expanding child health coverage.

Candidates vying for two of Missouri's statewide-elected offices are divided whether to use automated telephone calls as Election Day draws near.

U.S. Senate candidate Robin Carnahan and incumbent state Auditor Susan Montee, both Democrats, said their campaigns will not use the automated messages, also known as "robo" calls.

Tom Schweich, the Republican running against Montee, said he will use a "limited" number of robo calls. Spokespeople for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Blunt refused multiple requests to interview Blunt.

After Fox News Channel filed a lawsuit against Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Robin Carnahan for running a campaign advertisement the network said violated law, Carnahan's campaign continues to run the ad.

Carnahan has requested a federal Judge make a quick ruling on the case.

Brad Ketcher, a former top aide to Carnahan's father, late Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan, thinks the judge will grant her request.

Missouri judges now can see the cost of sentencing a criminal to either prison or parole.

The program's supporters say it aims to reduce repeat offenders and cut costs to Missouri taxpayers.

St. Louis defense attorney Travis Noble says the program may put elected Missouri judges at a disadvantage.

A Cole County judge ruled Monday that Proposition A, which would limit the ability of Missouri cities to levy earnings taxes, will remain on the ballot.

The judge ruled against an effort to have the measure removed from the ballot on technicalities.

Shawn Bell has dropped his effort to get an order of protection against state representative Brian Nieves, R-Washington, according to multiple sources.

Bell, a campaign worker for one of Nieves' rivals in the Republican primary for Missouri's 26th Senate district, had accused Nieves last month of assaulting him. Nieves had denied the allegations. Last week, the Franklin County prosecutor announced there was not enough evidence to charge Nieves with assault.

Nieves is favored to win the heavily Republican district against Democrat George Weber in November.

Bell's attorney was not immediately available for comment.

Last Week

The fate of a ballot measure that would curtail the ability of Missouri cities to enact an earnings tax now rests in the hands of a Cole County judge.

Cole County Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetem heard arguments in the case Friday, concerning Proposition A. The judge is expected to rule early next week.

Get the print story.

Large state budget cuts on the horizon mean extending the tuition freeze for Missouri's university students would "not make economic sense," University of Missouri System President Gary Forsee said Thursday.*

"Going a third year without any tuition increase with our incredible enrollment growth would start to not make economic sense for the state, for the university and for the public," he said. "It would be sending a wrong message to students and parents at this time."

Forsee delivered Thursday's opening address at the Governor's Economic Development Conference in Kansas City. He highlighted the "conundrum" the state's schools face between improving graduation rates and making higher education more accessible and affordable.

Gov. Jay Nixon said Thursday that he was "not scared" after learning he was the intended target of a man accused of stabbing a Kansas City college dean.

"I'm serious about this job, serious about traveling around Missouri and serious about seeing the people of this state," he said.

The Associated Press reported earlier Thursday that the accused attacker, 22-year-old Casey Brezik, told investigators he meant to attack the governor.

The Fox News Network (FNC) and its journalist Chris Wallace filed a lawsuit against the Robin Carnahan for Senate campaign Thursday.

In an attack ad, Carnahan's campaign used a 2006 interview between Wallace and Missouri Republican Senate candidate Roy Blunt.

FNC says the ad incorrectly portrays Wallace as a Carnahan supporter.

Carnahan's campaign refused to comment.

Get the radio story.

The Capitol Police, Department of Public Safety, and the Missouri Highway Patrol did not comment.

The Missouri Highway Patrol is in charge of Governor Jay Nixon's security detail.

A man attacked a college dean at a function in Kansas City Nixon attended.

Get the radio story.

Capitol Police said the Capital Mall in Jefferson City was put on lock down Thursday after it received a package containing white powder.

Authorities cleared the area at 12:30 pm.

Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, says renovations need to happen at Missouri's Capitol building.

Flanigan proposes submitting to Missouri voters a bond issue for restoring the home of Missouri government.

One of the concerns Flanigan cites is mold in the building. Outside the building, stairways have been blocked because of broken stone steps.

The State Auditor Susan Montee reports that a speed trap law has been making extra revenue and not placing it where it belongs.

Montee says this violation will lead to a string of others in Missouri areas.

The Macks Creek Law, also known as the speed trap law attempts to prevent fees from traffic violations to only amount to a portion of a county's revenue.

The additional revenue is supposed to go to schools and Montee is going to recover the missing money and make sure it does.

The 2010 Veto Session yielded a two-hour long debate over House Bill 1903 which would create a fund for special federal funds.

While the bill passed through the House with three votes against it and the Senate with no distention, it was a nearly tied vote to override the veto.

Proponents of the override say the bill enhances transparency in government, while opponents argue portions are unconstitutional.

House Speaker Ron Richard said reviving a bill that would create separate treasury accounts for federal funding is his top priority in Wednesday's veto session.

Richard said the bill would create more transparency with federal funding. The legislature passed it overwhelmingly in the spring.

Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the bill in July, saying in a statement that it was "needlessly creating duplicative funds in the state treasury" and that transferring the funds "would violate federal law." 

House Minority Leader Paul LeVota, D-Jackson County, said Nixon hasn't directly communicated with him about defending his veto.

Gov. Jay Nixon canceled his news conference Tuesday morning at a Kansas City community college after one of the school's deans was slashed in the the throat.

Nixon was to speak at Penn Valley Community College about the $58 million Missouri received to improve rural broadband Internet access.

A student wearing a bulletproof vest stabbed the dean, The Kansas City Star reports. The dean, Albert Dimmitt, Jr., is in stable condition at a hospital following surgery, according to the Associated Press.

A conservative group on a tour through Missouri stopped by the state Capitol on Monday, bearing a message of fiscal austerity. At the same time, one of its out-of-state backers is being sued for campaign finance violations.

Two state officials have opposing views on the results of the Preliminary Annual Performance Reports.

The reports list two St. Louis area school districts as "unaccredited" after only meeting five out of 14 academic standards.

Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-St. Louis County, says the results are unacceptable. A St. Louis public education official says the annual performance reports are only indicators aimed at improving districts and are not causes for concern.

After the California gas line explosion, the Missouri Public Service Committee is creating more safety precautions.

The chairman of the MPSC, Robert Clayton, says the first inspection was a success.

Clayton says this type of surprise test is something the commission wants to continue throughout the state.

House Speaker Ron Richard isn't sure a fund to manage federal money will work, but he wants to "test it and see," he said Monday.

Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the proposed fund, which would manage federal stimulus money. Lawmakers will reevaluate the bill during Wednesday's veto session.

Richard said he doesn't want the session to turn into "pure purpose of spectacle."

"I think it's important for us to track that money," he said. "That's our duty and part of our constitutional responsibility."

Nixon vetoed the bill this summer because he said it was too similar to funds already in place, and because it might be unconstitutional.