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NewsBook: Missouri Government News for the Week of April 2, 2007

. Tax breaks for buying health insurance pass the House (04/05/2007)

Missouri legislators from both parties are putting overwhelming support behind tax breaks for Missourians and small businesses to buy health insurance.  A bill that would allow a state tax deduction for health insurance premiums was passed by the House Thursday.

Although the proposals are receiving wide bipartisan support, some Democrats say they are only a small step in addressing health care coverage.

. Missouri Senate passes Medicaid reform bill for third reading (04/04/2007)

After a generally mild debate, the senate voted to pass Senator Charlie Shield's Medicaid bill for a third reading. 

Shields says the focus of the bill is on treating wellness, not illness and disease like the current system does.  The bill has faced a hard road not only from Democrats who say it does not restore eligibility cuts made to Medicaid in 2004, but also from Republican Senator Jason Crowell who calls the bill vague.

. Senate Education Chairman talks extensively about education issues (04/04/2007)

Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, sat down with an reporter to about his realtionship with unversities and the problems in education.

He said his widespanning higher education bill has been a compromise between lawmakers and unveristies and also said that revamping the education system should be a priority.

. $60 million to go to Missouri health centers for the uninsured (04/04/2007)

Federally qualified health centers will be a big part of HealthNet, the Generaly Assembly's plan to restructure Medicaid, and would receive $60 million under an appropriations bill recently passed by the House and currently before the Senate.

A federally qualified health center is a health center that receives federal funding from the state to provide health care to the uninsured and Medicaid patients. In addition, it receives cost-based reimbursement from the state for Medicaid patients. There are 19 in the state.

Gloria Crull of the Family Health Center in Columbia explains what they plan to do with the money and what a federally qualified health center is. Rep. Robert Schaaf, R-St. Joseph explains why he thinks the funding is a bad idea.

. House passes procedural death penalty bill (04/04/2007)

A bill that would allow Missouri's execution team to remain anonymous and would create a crime of disclosing the identity of a team member passed through the Missouri House of Representatives on Monday.

The death penalty has been on hold in Missouri since last June, when a federal judge ruled that Missouri's execution process posed an "unnecessary risk of unconstitutional pain and suffering".

. Missouri's Senate rejects restoring some Medicaid budget cuts. (04/04/2007)

By a near party-line vote, the Senate defeated a proposal to restore about 37,000 working low income to the health care coverage program.

Only two Republicans voted for the amendment.  It was offered to a broad bill to restructure the entire program that serves nearly one million lower income Missourians.

. Senator seeks to decrease local power in governing animal farms (04/03/2007)

Senate debate prevented a vote Tuesday on a bill that would essentially prohibit local governments from regulating large-scale animal feeding operations.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Chris Koster, R-Harrisonville, would prohibit counties from adopting or upholding agricultural health regulations that are stricter than the state's standards.

Koster touted the bill as a compromise, citing the support of 20 organizations.

. Debate rages in the senate between members of the Republican party concerning Medicaid (04/02/2007)

Senate Bill 577 introduces a new Medicaid program for Missouri which includes rewards for healthy lifestyles, health care advocates, and committees that review health care providers and reward the best ones.

The issue of individual choice concerned Republican Senator Jason Crowell who accused the bill's sponsor fellow Republican Senator Charlie Shields of putting bureaucrats in charge of micromanaging the health care system in order to save money.

. The Do-Not-Resuscitate bill is one step closer to reality. (04/02/2007)

The Missouri House gave first-round approval to the Do-Not-Resuscitate bill.

The bill still has one more vote to go until it can pass the House.

. House Majority Leader says seat belt bill will be debated Wednesday. (04/02/2007)

A controversial provision that would give more authority to police officers in ticketing drivers and passengers may get another chance Wednesday night, House Majority Floor Leader Rep. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, said Monday.

Rep. Neil C. St. Onge, R-Ellsville, chairman of the House Transportation Comittee, has proposed a bill that would give officers the authority to pull over any vehicle in which a passenger or driver isn't wearing his or her seat belt. Currently an officer can give a ticket to an unbuckled offender, but only after the driver of the vehicle has been pulled over for a separate offense.