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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of April 5, 2010

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a spending plan that adds another $300 million to the approximately $200 million in cuts approved earlier by the House to the governor's spending plan.

After the governor had presented his budget to lawmakers in January, he announced last month that he had concluded that his plan needed to be trimmed by about $500 million because of continued declines in state tax collections and uncertainties concerning federal funds.

While Nixon never presented lawmakers with a detailed plan on how to make those cuts, his budget director did work with the Senate Appropriations Committee chair in developing a list of potential reductions.

The Senate plan now goes to the full Senate.

Mark McGwire name graces a piece of St. Louis piece of the I-70.

But if a bill in the House passes, his name would be replaced by Mark Twain.

The legislation already passed through the Senate.

By an overwhelming majority, the House has passed a bill which provides definitions for cyberbullying.

The definitions include use of the internet to harass or intimidate students and allows offenses to be more quickly targeted as bullying.

The bill also gives greater immunity to teachers enforcing school discipline.

In a voice vote, the Missouri House gave first-round approval to statewide DWI reform bill.

Members added several amendemnts. One, from Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis, essentially repeals many of the original ideas in the bill. Colona's amendment would allow first-time DWI offenders to keep the conviction off their record. Also, the amendment calls for allowing those who complete DWI court programs to recant a guilty plea. Colona said this will give offenders more incentive to participate in DWI courts.

Bill sponsor, Rep. Bryan Stevenson R-Webb City, said going through DWI courts is necessary for repeat DWI offenders. He spoke of his cousin who has gotten four DWIs.

"It's very traumatic for him. It's very traumatic for the family," said Stevenson. "And in those types of situations, it's an addiction, and there needs to be treatment."

After a lengthy debate, House members also approved an amendment that would allow police to collect blood samples from DWI suspects without a warrant.

Speaking in Columbia one day after a Senate committee proposed new cuts to higher education, Gov. Jay Nixon affirmed his support for a tuition deal reached with Missouri's public colleges in November.

"I'll do everything within my power to make sure that we uphold that deal," Nixon said.

Next week the University of Missouri Board of Curators will set tuition for its four campuses next year, and MU Chancellor Brady Deaton said MU will recommend that the curators stick to the plan to freeze in-state undergraduate tuition.

"We're honoring that and feel good about it," Deaton said.

Boone County could add storm water runoff damage and old tires to its nuisance reduction ordinance, under legislation heard by the House Crime Prevention Committee on Wednesday.

The bill allowing the expansion cleared the Senate late last month.

"Waste tires are always a problem in every county because water gets in them," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia. The collected water can cause mosquito and health problems.

Schaefer said Boone county officials came to him asking for old tires and storm water runoff damage to be added to the list of items under the nuisance ordinance, which already includes items such as "derelict" vehicles, garbage and excessive weeds.

The Manufacturing Jobs Act would reward manufacturing companies for creating or retaining Missouri jobs.

The bill proposes decreasing those companies' tax withholdings by half if they meet all requirements.

After passing the House, it now moves on to the Senate and should be voted on in committee sometime next week.

If it passes committee and the Senate, it would need Governor Nixon's signature to become law.

Governor Jay Nixon detailed the state's progress in refocusing the scope of state government.

Nixon said the budget process has been difficult but that he's worked diligently with members of both parties and from both the House and the Senate.

He denied any charges of not being transparent in his approach to negotiations over budget cuts.

The governor once again proposed merging and making more leaner some state departments.

The examples the governor gave were merging the Highway Patrol and Water Patrol into one department as well as creating a Department of Education by dissolving the Departments of Higher Education and Elementary and Secondary Education.

Opponents teamed up against a plan to merge the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Water Patrol that Gov. Nixon is pushing.

The House Public Safety Committee heard testimony on the bill. The plan would save $2 to $3 million annually by cutting duplication between departments, a Department of Public Safety Department spokesperson said.

But the bill's fiscal note shows "unknown" cost savings, and the committee's chairman, Rep. Mark Bruns, R-Jefferson City, said without real cost cutting, the measure will stay in rough waters.

The plan would allow water patrolmen to work on the highways during the winter, the Water Patrol's offseason. Highway Patrol troopers would help the Water Patrol on the waterways in the summer.

But that's "looking for disaster," unless the state pays for costly training, a former Water Patrol commissioner said.

The Springfield News-Leader has released a four-page list of proposed budget cuts provided by the Missouri administration's budget director.

The list would reach the $500 million the governor has said needs to be cut from the budget recommendations he presented to lawmakers in January.

Although acknowledging his budget plan needs to be cut, Jay Nixon has not publicly presented a revised budget to the legislature.

The list of "potential reductions" released by the state budget director came after requests from reporters concerning a list mentioned by the Senate Appropriations Committee chair, according to the News-Leader.

A spokesperson for the governor said list of cuts emerged from discussions between the budget director and the Senate Appropriations Committee chair.

COLUMBIA - Columbia voters approved a plan Tuesday to allow law enforcement to put security cameras on downtown streets.

The camera plan got 11,093 votes, or 59 percent.

Karen Taylor, whose son Adam was attacked in a downtown Columbia parking garage last summer, headed the plan to install the cameras. Police were able to track down Adam Taylor's attackers because of security camera footage in the garage.

"In a perfect world, I wouldn't want cameras, either," Karen Taylor said. "But we don't live in a perfect world, and that rang true to my family last June 6."

Opponents feared "Big Brother" watching over them downtown.

"I think it's a shame people are willing to surrender their liberties because of a little crime in town ... OK, a lot of crime in town," mayoral candidate Paul Love said in an interview with KCOU/88.1 FM, the University of Missouri's student radio station.

The Columbia City Council had opposed the plan, forcing Taylor's group of camera supporters to gather petition signatures to get the measure on Tuesday's ballot.

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, denied any of his anti-surveillance colleagues in Jefferson City would try to pass legislation preventing the cameras from going up.

Starting with a bill to target education infrastructure, the Missouri house heard debate Tuesday evening concerning amendments to add ballroom dancing to physical education programs and open enrollment for students on HB 1543.

Earlier in the session, two bills were passed that encompassed similar ideas as both the ballroom dancing and open enrollment amendments.

The ballroom dancing amendment died, but the open enrollment amendment is still pending.

The in-state tuition freeze deal struck between Gov. Nixon and Missouri Higher Education could be undermined by a new budget cut, according to Senate budget leaders.

The cut, proposed by Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, was discussed Tuesday in a Senate Appropriations Committee meeting.

"The reason why we discussed it is because we're trying to come up with $500 million," Mayer said, referring to the large deficit left in the fiscal year 2011 budget.

The House and the Senate have passed individual bills mandating insurance coverage for applied behavioral analysis therapy to treat autism spectrum disorders. A cost difference divides the two bills, with the House setting a $36,000 annual cap for treatment while the Senate bill would cap treatment at $55,000.

The two bills also differ on an age limit for coverage, with the House bill requiring coverage until age 18 and the Senate until 21. Additionally, the House bill establishes licensure requirements for therapists, while the Senate version does not.

The sponsor of the original Senate bill, Sen. Scott Rupp, R-St. Charles County, proposed his body's version to the House committee.

Rupp said he was confident the two chambers could come to "a very good working compromise," and that the Senate would be willing to decrease the coverage age to meet the 18 and under limit set by the House. Rupp also suggested "meeting in the middle on the cap," and said a $40,000 maximum received "pretty wide acceptance from both insurance companies and autism advocates."

Get the newspaper story.

Missouri's House Special Standing Committee on General Laws discussed a bill that would stop public funds going to professional sports teams that black out home games that aren't sold out at the stadium.

Representative Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, sponsored the bill, citing the economic impacts the game has on restaurants, bars, and local television stations when the NFL prevents broadcasts.

This would stop professional sports teams from getting revenue through taxes and tax breaks if they did not publicly broadcast every home game.

Ten other states have submitted the same legislation, including New York, Pennsylvania, and California.

Last season, the Kansas City Chiefs were blacked out once and the St. Louis Rams were blacked out twice, and five times in the last two seasons.

Senate Appropriations Vice Chairman Senator Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, says he wants the governor to be more visible in the budget cutting process.

Schaefer pressed the state's Budget Director Linda Luebbering for a list of budget cuts proposed by Governor Jay Nixon.

Luebbering said there is no such list and that there won't be a list of cuts proposed by the governor because he would rather make the budget process a conversation rather than a list of demands.

COLUMBIA - Voters will decide whether the city's Police department can install security cameras on downtown streets.

Supporters, including the mother of a man whose attackers were caught after authorities reviewed a Columbia parking garage's camera footage, say it's a safety issue.

Opponents are concerned that "Big Brother" would be watching their every move downtown.

The Columbia City Council refused to OK the cameras last year, prompting surveillance supporters to gather petition signatures to get the measure on Tuesday's ballot.

Missouri Digital News will have the vote results late Tuesday.

Hazardous materials linked to a U.S. Attorney's investigation were held in a storage locker on Rangeline Street in Columbia.

The Department of Natural Resources conducted an investigation in late January into space at Storage Mart Temporary Storage Facility, located at 2403 Rangeline St, according to documents obtained through a Sunshine request. Department investigators found 30 gas cylinders that may have contained "a extremely hazardous material that would ignite upon contact with air," although initial "investigations indicated no release," according to a department report.

The documents make no reference to radioactive issues, although the original source who disclosed the situation described it as an investigation into radioactive gas.

The department's report identified the cylinders containing the hazardous material has having originated from Umicore, advanced metals company with U.S. headquarters based in Quapaw, Okla. The company's president confirmed the cylinders originated from his company.

Get the newspaper story.

Last Week

Missouri's budget director reported a continued decline in the state's general revenue collections for the month of March.

Nine months into the fiscal year, the administration reported a 13.3 percent decline compared to the prior fiscal year.

The decline is significantly below the administration's revised figures for tax collections for the current fiscal year.

Around 125 positions within the Corrections Department would be eliminated under cuts proposed by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The cuts would affect prisons across Missouri and would shave almost $4 million dollars off the budget proposed by the House.

In a separate measure, the Senate committee rejected a House proposal to fund health services for inmates with $100 million of expected federal funds. The committee decided to revert to the governor's position, funding the services with money from general revenue.

Both chambers must agree on the same budget proposal before it can be sent to Gov. Jay Nixon.

Republican House members have asked Missouri's Attorney General to file suit against the federal government, according to an Associated Press report.

Rep. Ward Franz has filed a resolution asking Attorney General Chris Koster to file suit against the federal health care legislation or join a similar suit filed by other states.

A spokeswoman in Koester's office said he has not sued, but is watching the situation, the Associated Press reports.

By an overwhelming margin of 63-86, Missouri's House rejected a proposal that would give St. Louis budget and policy control over its police department.

Since the Civil War, the St. Louis Police Department has been under the control of a board nominated by Missouri's governor.

St. Louis officials have urged giving the city control over its police agency, but the idea has run into stiff opposition from some St. Louis police officers.

By an overwhelming margin, Missouri's House gave first-round approval to a measure that would let lawmakers and their staffers carry hidden weapons into legislative chambers -- if they have concealed weapons permits.

Current law allows any member of a governmental body with a concealed weapons permit to carry a weapon into a meeting of that body.

The measure approved by the House would expand the right to the Capitol building as well as committee meetings in the Capitol. It also would extend the right to include legislative staffers who have conceal-and-carry permits.

Approval came just a week after observers reported that two House members had to be restrained from a physical confrontation during House debate.

The deadline to file to run for office in the 2010 elections passed Tuesday.

The Associated Press reported that Rep. Linda Fischer, D-Bonne Terre, will be opposed by her husband John Fischer, who is running as a Republican.

Linda Fischer obtained an order of protection against John Fischer last week the Associated Press reports. Three days later John Fischer filed to run for office.

John Fischer denies that he has ever physically abused his wife and that his running for office has anything to do with the protection order she filed against him.

In other filings, the Democratic Party does not have a candidate opposing U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, a Republican representing Missouri's ninth district. The Columbia Daily Tribune reports that this is the first time a member of the state's Congressional delegation has run without a challenger from the other major party since 1984 when Richard Gephardt ran unopposed.

By an overwhelming margin, Missouri's House approved a measure to require a doctor to offer an ultrasound to a woman before an abortion could be performed.

The measure also requires that a prosecutor be informed in advance before an abortion is performed on a woman under the age of 18.

House approval, by 113, is greater than the 109 votes that would be required to override any veto by the governor.

The measure now heads to the Senate where a Democratic filibuster had stalled action on a similar abortion-restriction measure.