It is the last day that I will be reporting at the capitol in 2009. I covered a story today about Representative Tilley's ethics legislation bill. There are a couple of these flying around now from Senator Shields and Representatives Flook, Kander, and LeVota. These are all in response to recent corruption in the Missouri legislature from the past year with Smith, and El-Amin. Tilley said he wants to cut down on lobbyists paying for meals and sporting event tickets. I also spoke to former Republican Senator Larry Rohrbach about the issue, because Tilley's bill directly targets previous legislators who are looking to become lobbyists, saying they have to wait half of a year. Rohrbach does not understand why. He said the day after he left office he became a lobbyist. We will just have to wait and see if the bill goes through in the session. Which I hope to be down here reporting on the session next semester.
The first day being down in Jefferson City was a cold one. It's hard to believe that the semester is coming to a close. Today I covered the story about Chris Koster and a campaign donation of 2,500 dollars that he received from Premium Standard Foods a branch of Smithfield Foods. The Missouri Clean Water Campaign said Koster should return this money, because it is a conflict of interest.
Premium Standard Foods has to update its pollution control technology by July of 2010, according to an agreement made by former Attorney General Jay Nixon. The environmental group thinks that this money could make it more difficult for Koster to enforce this, and pusue a case against the company if they do not adhere to the agreement.
No one was available for comment at Koster's office. The office said they plan to pursue the litigation if necessary. However, there was no comment on whether or not they would return the money. It was a story that creates a known dilemma now for Koster. I have no idea whether they will return the money or not.
Only a couple of weeks left in the semester. Then the session begins.
It's the last day before Thanksgiving Break, and it was a big news day down in Jefferson City. The St. Louis area, Kansas City, and even Ste. Genevieve violated 2008 EPA regulations of 75 parts per billion air quality on five different days in the previous year.
I was surprised to hear that Ste. Genevieve failed to meet the requirements. However, DNR said because it is not too terribly far from St. Louis, it still catches some things.
I spoke to a spokesperson from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Renee Bungart about the issue.
She expects things to get even tougher with the EPA continuing to lower the standard. She and the DNR encourage people to be more environmentally friendly. She recommended such things as carpooling, and not topping off at the gas station.
She said the DNR places the monitors, and I thought that the placement of the monitors might be a reason for the pollution. That they might be put in areas that are not truly representative of the overall air quality of St. Louis. However, Bungart said that the placement of the monitors on several factors such as wind direction and relation to other facilities.
I am excited to head home for Thanksgiving Break, and it's weird to think I will not be back here until December. Once again, where has the semester gone.
This first full week in November marks the first week of the new mandatory curbside recycling program in Jefferson City.
The issue has been debated over the past month, because of several issues. These include citizens paying more for less pick up service, and older residents struggling with two carts instead of the voluntary bags that people used to be allowed to use.
I spoke to the Assistant Community Development Director Charles Lansford about the issue and he was very optimistic about the future of the program. Citizens commenting in the article that ran in the Jefferson City news tribune after the program started Monday seemed to react in a more positive manner. Lansford also said the number of positive phone calls and e-mails about the recycling program have increased.
It makes sense, people are not going to be happy about paying more for less service. However, the city's view is that this is going to be better in the long run, because it is keeping from more trash going into the city's landfill.
All is well in the newsroom, Phill has returned from wherever he was last week. It's still raining in mid-Missouri. I have felt as if I have lived in Seattle, MO. However, today I got to tackle Governor Nixon's administrations latest news.
Governor Nixon appointed a new Economic Development Director on Thursday. Nixon appointed Kerr who has several credentials for the job that include president of AT&T Kansas and Secretary of Commerce for the state of Kansas.
I called several people trying to get responses to the new appointment. I was able to get the Republican party's response to it. Overall, their Executive Director hopes that Kerr can get things going, but he is definitely going to have some challenges, one being having a working relationship with the Governor.
Next week is November. I can't believe it. It seems like just yesterday it was the beginning of September and my first day down here, being thrown into the world of political news. I also look forward to see what will be going on next week in the world of Missouri politics.
Secretary of State Robin Carnahan when speaking last night to students about multiple campaign issue, gave a very intriguing response to a question about gay marriage. She said she believes marriage is defined by a man and a woman, Missouri should consider civil unions.
I was not able to get in touch with Carnahan, but I did speak to her campaign press secretary Linden Zakula. After our conversation, I think it is fair to say that this comment brought unwanted attention and is a distraction to Carnahan's goals of her campaign.
This is not a help to her campaign. I want to see how her campaign will unfold and the results of the election in just over a year.
Today, I got a taste somewhat of what it is like to be here during session.
I covered the conference call of the state intelligence oversight committee. A member of the committe, Rep. Funderburk, recommended their be a change in oversight of MIAC.
The same agency, that when information came out, accused right wing Christian people of being members of a militia. Definitely controversial, misleading, and outlandish.
This is definitely a baby step towards any sort of legislation or oversight body being created. Ideas were thrown around about who should be on an oversight body, but nothing was decided. It is something that will be discussed in detail, I imagine during the session.
It is a very important issue, and I do truly believe that politicians want to get this right, because we're talking about the safety of Missourians.
There may or may not be change, but I'm certain there will be lengthy intense debate.
Today was great. I covered a very interesting story that is still developing.
A spokesperson from Lt. Governor Kinder's office said that there could be a possible cover up within the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The levels of E. Coli were extremely high according to findings at the Lake of the Ozarks in late May, and now the speculation and blame has begun.
It was so much fun to cover and write this story today. I got great soundbites from Gary McElyea, the Director of Communications for the Lt. Governor. The issue is close to many people in Missouri, and it makes me wonder why these findings were kept secret. Our TA Abby Grimmett tried to speak with Nixon's office about it, but did not really get much.
Also the Missouri GOP released a very powerful press release saying that Nixon should dismiss some very prominent people in his office, including the Chief of Staff, Senior Policy Advisor, and his Communications Director.
I'm interested to see where this story ends, and ultimately who else will be to blame for holding back these findings.
Today was quite the eventful day in the Missouri Digital Newsroom. T.D. El-Amin was the third democratic legislator from St. Louis to plead guilty over the past month. He plead guilty today to bribery charges.
Our TA Abby Grimmett was on the story today, and with her I called several politicians, both democrat and republican multiple times. I also called the Missouri Democratic and Republican parties several times. I was hoping to get great sound bites from both of them, however, I never received comment from either. It was one of those frustrating days, where you call and call and no one comments. It is big news, but people are reluctant to comment for whatever reason. It could be that they are being bombarded or do not want to say something they regret. Abby was able to get in touch with President Pro-Tem Charlie Shields and Rep. Paul LeVota. They provided good bites for the story.
I always began thinking of ideas for a possible feature story. I will be glad to come back down next week and get going again.
Missouri Digital News is produced by Missouri Digital News, Inc. -- a non profit organization of current and former journalists.