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NewsBook: Missouri Government News for the Week of April 23, 2007

. Missouri's governor and state auditor trade shots (04/27/2007)

Missouri's Republican Gov. Matt Blunt accused Democratic State Auditor Susan Montee of conducting an incomplete audit of the Second Injury that Montee says will run out of money in 2008.

Blunt's spokesperson told the AP that Montee wanted to raise taxes on Missourians "for payouts to trial attorneys like her and her husband."

Montee shot back saying the governor's order for the Labor Department to conduct its own study was a waste of taxpayer dollars.

The Second Injury Fund provides covers job-related injuries of workers previously injured.  Earlier in the week, Montee release an audited projecting expenses would exceed income for the fund in 2008 because limits the Republican-controlled legislature had imposed on charges to business to cover the fund.

. Missouri's Senate rejects allowing tobacco settlement funds for human health research. (04/25/2007)

The Senate overwhelmingly rejected an amendment that would have removed a human-health research prohibit in use of $13.5 million in tobacco settlement funds.

The appropriation section would restrict the funds to research into agricultural-related issues.

The Senate Appropriations Committee chairman said the restriction was added in order to avoid an extended stem-cell research debate.

. Senate gives final passage to MOHELA plan. (04/25/2007)

"Crap," "embarrassing," "ridiculous" and "appalling" were just four words Democrats used to voice their opposition Wednesday before the Senate overwhelmingly gave final passage to the plan to sell off some of the assets of the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority.

The bill passed by a near party-line vote with just one Republican voting against and three Democrats for the bill.

Although a Democratic filibuster had blocked a preliminary vote on the governor's plan for days, opponents made only relatively short statements prior to the Senate's final vote.  The measure now goes to the House.

. Missouri's State Auditor warns a program for injured workers is running out of money (04/25/2007)

State Auditor Susan Montee released an audit Wednesday that predicts the program which provides health and disability coverage for re-injured workers will run out of money in 2008.

Montee blamed legislation passed in 2005 which imposed a limit on charges that could be assessed against business to finance the program.

. Senate Committee hears Intellectual Diversity Bill (04/25/2007)

The Senate Education Committee on Wednesday held a hearing about a bill that the sponsor says will stop students from being discriminated against for their political or religious views.

Proponents and opponents of the bill were equally represented with testimony taking up much of the meeting, not leaving enough time to go to a vote.

. Senate shows disapproval of embryonic stem-cell research (04/25/2007)

The state Senate on Wednesday once again showed their disapproval of embryonic stem cell research by putting limitations on life sciences research.

Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, the leading proponent for stem cell research, offered an amendment to an appropriations bill that gives money to the Department of Economic Development, among other departments. His amendment would have removed language from the bill that limits life sciences research funding to only supporting animal and plant research.

. The lawsuit against the former state agricultural director will move to the next step. (04/25/2007)

After the Agricultural Department made a failed request to a Cole County judge to immediately rule in its favor, the lawsuit will now move on.

The lawsuit filed by Heather Elder, a former employee, is in response to sexual allegations made by the agricultural director Fred Ferrell.

A problematic, agreement between Elder and the agriculture department says Elder would have received over eighty-two thousand dollars for promising to drop all claims and leave from the department.

State attorneys are trying to make Elder's case erroneous by saying that even though the department's agreement with her was not set in writing, the oral agreement was just as valid.

The judge brought up questions about the agreement's secrecy.

. Blunt and Jetton renew call for Social Security tax cuts (04/25/2007)

House Speaker Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, and Gov. Matt Blunt renewed their call Wednesday for the General Assembly to pass a Social Security tax cut for Missouri seniors.

At a midday rally attended by several senior advocacy groups, Blunt said the cuts were possible because of the state's economic prosperity and a projected state budget surplus.

Critics of the cut say it will benefit only the wealthy.

. Missouri's Senate votes to repeal the loss limit at gambling boats. (04/24/2007)

The Senate gave first-round approval to repealing the voter-approved $500 daily limit for an individual's losses on a gambling boat.

Approval came after the Senate sponsor offered a substitute that would impose higher taxes on gambling boats.  The extra tax revenue would fund a new college scholarship program.

The sponsor, the Senate's Republican leader Sen. Charlie Shields from St. Joseph warned that the state was in danger of losing gambling boat revenue to Kansas.

The measure faces one more Senate vote before going to the House.

. Senate denies Missourians $100 million rebate (04/24/2007)

Senators overwhelmingly rejected a bill amendment Tuesday that would have refunded $100 million to Missouri income tax payers.

Sen. Victor Callahan, D-Jackson County, proposed that the state refund half of its 2006 surplus, saying returning the money to state residents would benefit both Missouri families and the economy.

. Lawmakers try to keep Missouri manufacturing afloat (04/24/2007)

With the manufacturing industry in decline and losing jobs, a number of bills this session are aimed at giving the industry a leg up in Missouri.

The biggest proposal, which advocates say would be one of the most significant developments for manufacturers in years, would eliminate the sales taxes levied on utilities used for manufacturing.

. Students could choose what school to attend (04/24/2007)

Students across Missouri could be able to choose which school to attend under a measure that has moved to the full House for debate.

The measure, now part of a long list of other bills awaiting House action would provide that students could have their pick of school district within a 30 mile radius of their home district.

. A Senate filibuster blocks lifting the loss limits on gambling boats. (04/24/2007)

A six-hour debate in the Senate blocked a vote on a measure to repeal the $500 daily loss limits for gambling votes. 

The Senate majority leader put his bill aside shortly after 11pm Monday night after it became obvious that opponents would not allow the measure to come to a vote.

It was the second evening filibuster this session on the proposal.

. The House votes to ban Planned Parenthood from school sex education courses. (04/23/2007)

The house voted to prohibit schools from accepting services for sex education courses from any organization that performs or promotes abortion.

The measure passed the House by a margin of better than two-to-one.  It now goes to the Senate.

. Restoration of projects cut from MOHELA plan "doubtful" (04/23/2007)

The chance that the $46 million that was cut from University of Missouri System building projects will be restored is "doubtful" one powerful House Republican said Monday.

"The idea has been brought up. The problem is we would have to make a motion that is called 'exceeding the differences,'" House Budget Chairman Allen Icet, R-St. Louis County, said. "The House has passed 16, the Senate has now passed 16 and the funding for the Columbia and Kansas City buildings is in neither version."

. Blunt has edge in fund raising over Nixon in 2008 governor's race (04/23/2007)

Some 18 months before the election, Matt Blunt finds himself millions of dollars ahead in his expected campaign against the Democratic Attorney General in 2008 for the governor's seat.

The latest campaign finance disclosure reports show Blunt's campaign has raised almost $3 million during the final quarter of 2006 and the first quarter of 2007, bringing his cash on hand for the 2008 election to over $4.5 million.