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NewsBook: Missouri Government News for the Week of November 19, 2007


. Governor's Chief of Staff removed from office (11/20/2007)

After a series of missteps by the governor's chief of staff, Ed Martin, Gov. Matt Blunt replaced him with the Department of Revenue Director.

Blunt dodged questions about if he asked Martin to resign and said Martin wants to pursue other things.

Martin has drawn criticism for how he has handled the e-mail scandal in the governor's office, the non-partisan court plan and other issues over the less than one year he has served as the governor's chief of Staff.


. Blunt's office refuses to say if it will cooperate with a public records investigation. (11/17/2007)

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Saturday that a spokesman for the governor has refused to answer whether the governor would cooperate with an investigation started by the attorney general into complaints on how the governor's staff handles emails.

The chief lawyer for the Republican had issued a letter late Friday charging Democrat Jay Nixon's investigation was politically motivated and demanded that Nixon explain where he got the authority to undertake the investigation.

The state's open meetings and public records law, Chapter 610,  gives the attorney general explicitly authority to enforce the law's requirements. "Any aggrieved person, taxpayer to, or citizen of, this state, or the attorney general or prosecuting attorney, may seek judicial enforcement of the requirements of sections 610.010 to 610.026."

Nixon has appointed a retired Highway Patrol superintendent, retired judge and a retired trooper to pursue the investigation into complaints about the governor's handling and release of emails.

In his Friday letter, the governor's lawyer also demanded that Nixon's office pay the legal expenses of the governor's office for responding to the investigation.


. A campaign is being mounted within and outside Missouri's legislature to change the nonpartisan court plan. (11/16/2007)

Missouri's nonpartisan court plan was created almost 70 years ago and now serves as the model for how many states pick judges.

But after Republican criticism of the process used to pick Missouri's newest Supreme Court Judge during the summer, groups on both sides of the issue are gearing up for a possible fight to change or abandon the system.

The most direct challenge to Missouri's nonpartisan court plan comes from a conservative activist organization, the Federalist Society, which is seeking signatures to put repeal of the system on the 2008 statewide ballot.


. Attorney General Launches Investigation of Governor's Office. (11/15/2007)

Attorney General Jay Nixon has launched an investigation into the governor's office to see if the Sunshine Law has been violated.

Nixon has appointed a retired highway patrol superintendent, Mel Fisher to lead the investigation.

On the same day, the governor announced he had issued an order for his Office of Administration to come up with a plan to retain emails sent and received by state government.

The actions come after a former lawyer for the governor said he had warned the governor's office that their practices with emails might not be in compliance with state law. 

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Thursday morning that the governor's top lawyer has filed a complaint against the staffer's law license for violating attorney-client confidentiality.


. Commission Says Decompression Phase Needed for Returning Soldiers (11/15/2007)

Daniel Bell with the Missouri Veteran Commission says the Commission hopes to one day have a gear down phase of about 30 days before soldiers go back into the community.

Testimony during the Veteran Affair Committee meeting Thursday also involved having time for soldiers to decompress. 


. Missouri veterans are asking for more money to expand their services. (11/15/2007)

With more Iraqi soldier coming back home with severe mental issues, some Missouri veterans say they need to expand and update their facilities to accommodate these new veterans.

Veterans are asking for a one eighth sales tax to help generate more money.


. Missouri officials have proposed new rules to stop life insurance companies from deceiving active military members. (11/14/2007)

Missouri officials have proposed new rules to stop life insurance companies from deceiving active military members.

These rules come after national complaints of insurance companies recruiting military officials to help sell


. Sloca Calls For 19 Democrats to Surrender E-Mails. (11/14/2007)

Missouri Republican Party Spokesman Paul Sloca filed a sunshine law request for 19 Democrats to hand over all of their emails from the past three years.

Democrat Paul LeVota, the House Minority Floor Leader, called the move harassment, as well as "sad and desperate."

Sloca says he made the request to keep Democrats from establishing a double standard for how the sunshine law is used.


. Missouri's Highway Patrol defends shoving a reporter questioning the governor (11/14/2007)

A spokesman for the Patrol said they had reviewed Monday's incident and determined there had been no improper action.

The Patrol assigns armed officers to provide security and transportation for the governor.  In that role, a Patrol official said the officer had the right to physically move a reporter who was impeding the governor's car from leaving.


. Representative Jane Cunningham Announces Plans for a Bill on Sexual Misconduct in Schools (11/14/2007)

Cunningham said she got influence on the bill from a recent AP study that stated during a five year period in Missouri, 2,570 cases of sexual misconduct on educators.  Also Missouri ranks 11th as one of the worst states with sexual misconduct.

Cunningham says one of the main problems in Missouri is the statute of limitations and the inability for school districts to have access to records of allegations.

Hearings for the bill are scheduled for January 16th and 23rd during the legislative session.


. State auditor releases audit about abuse in Missouri care facilities (11/14/2007)

State auditor Susan Montee released an audit finding state agencies could do more to protect people in Missouri care facilities.

The audit focused on the departments of Social Services, Mental Health and Health and Senior Services. It found the agencies did not perform periodic criminal checks on employees and found people with histories of child abuse, theft or pending charges working in long-term care facilities in the Department of Health and Senior Services.


. Health and Social Service Help Available by Dialing 211 (11/13/2007)

The United Way of Greater St. Louis and the Missouri Foundation for Health have teamed up to provide Missourians with a free calling service.

Missourians can call the information number and gain access to numbers and contacts regarding problems or questions they may have in many areas.

Dr. James Kimmey, president of the Missouri Foundation for Health, said Missouri is the twenty-first state to offer this program on a statewide basis.


. Reporter shoved by the governor's security staff. (11/13/2007)

The Kansas City Star's Web site is displaying a video in which one of the governor's security staffers shoves a reporter away while a group of journalists were questioning Matt Blunt about the firing of a former staffer.

Blunt was in the back seat of a car about to depart from a speaking engagement in Kansas City for another event.

After Blunt said "we really have to go," The Associated Press reports Blunt's security aid shoved a Kansas City Star reporter into two other reporters just before the vehicle drove away.

The reporters were questioning Blunt about his fired staffer's claim to have warned the governor's office that the office practice of destroying emails could violate state law.