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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of September 13, 2010

The fate of a ballot measure that would curtail the ability of Missouri cities to enact an earnings tax now rests in the hands of a Cole County judge.

Cole County Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetem heard arguments in the case Friday, concerning Proposition A. The judge is expected to rule early next week.

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Large state budget cuts on the horizon mean extending the tuition freeze for Missouri's university students would "not make economic sense," University of Missouri System President Gary Forsee said Thursday.*

"Going a third year without any tuition increase with our incredible enrollment growth would start to not make economic sense for the state, for the university and for the public," he said. "It would be sending a wrong message to students and parents at this time."

Forsee delivered Thursday's opening address at the Governor's Economic Development Conference in Kansas City. He highlighted the "conundrum" the state's schools face between improving graduation rates and making higher education more accessible and affordable.

Gov. Jay Nixon said Thursday that he was "not scared" after learning he was the intended target of a man accused of stabbing a Kansas City college dean.

"I'm serious about this job, serious about traveling around Missouri and serious about seeing the people of this state," he said.

The Associated Press reported earlier Thursday that the accused attacker, 22-year-old Casey Brezik, told investigators he meant to attack the governor.

The Fox News Network (FNC) and its journalist Chris Wallace filed a lawsuit against the Robin Carnahan for Senate campaign Thursday.

In an attack ad, Carnahan's campaign used a 2006 interview between Wallace and Missouri Republican Senate candidate Roy Blunt.

FNC says the ad incorrectly portrays Wallace as a Carnahan supporter.

Carnahan's campaign refused to comment.

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The Capitol Police, Department of Public Safety, and the Missouri Highway Patrol did not comment.

The Missouri Highway Patrol is in charge of Governor Jay Nixon's security detail.

A man attacked a college dean at a function in Kansas City Nixon attended.

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Capitol Police said the Capital Mall in Jefferson City was put on lock down Thursday after it received a package containing white powder.

Authorities cleared the area at 12:30 pm.

Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, says renovations need to happen at Missouri's Capitol building.

Flanigan proposes submitting to Missouri voters a bond issue for restoring the home of Missouri government.

One of the concerns Flanigan cites is mold in the building. Outside the building, stairways have been blocked because of broken stone steps.

The State Auditor Susan Montee reports that a speed trap law has been making extra revenue and not placing it where it belongs.

Montee says this violation will lead to a string of others in Missouri areas.

The Macks Creek Law, also known as the speed trap law attempts to prevent fees from traffic violations to only amount to a portion of a county's revenue.

The additional revenue is supposed to go to schools and Montee is going to recover the missing money and make sure it does.

The 2010 Veto Session yielded a two-hour long debate over House Bill 1903 which would create a fund for special federal funds.

While the bill passed through the House with three votes against it and the Senate with no distention, it was a nearly tied vote to override the veto.

Proponents of the override say the bill enhances transparency in government, while opponents argue portions are unconstitutional.

House Speaker Ron Richard said reviving a bill that would create separate treasury accounts for federal funding is his top priority in Wednesday's veto session.

Richard said the bill would create more transparency with federal funding. The legislature passed it overwhelmingly in the spring.

Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the bill in July, saying in a statement that it was "needlessly creating duplicative funds in the state treasury" and that transferring the funds "would violate federal law." 

House Minority Leader Paul LeVota, D-Jackson County, said Nixon hasn't directly communicated with him about defending his veto.

Gov. Jay Nixon canceled his news conference Tuesday morning at a Kansas City community college after one of the school's deans was slashed in the the throat.

Nixon was to speak at Penn Valley Community College about the $58 million Missouri received to improve rural broadband Internet access.

A student wearing a bulletproof vest stabbed the dean, The Kansas City Star reports. The dean, Albert Dimmitt, Jr., is in stable condition at a hospital following surgery, according to the Associated Press.

A conservative group on a tour through Missouri stopped by the state Capitol on Monday, bearing a message of fiscal austerity. At the same time, one of its out-of-state backers is being sued for campaign finance violations.

Two state officials have opposing views on the results of the Preliminary Annual Performance Reports.

The reports list two St. Louis area school districts as "unaccredited" after only meeting five out of 14 academic standards.

Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-St. Louis County, says the results are unacceptable. A St. Louis public education official says the annual performance reports are only indicators aimed at improving districts and are not causes for concern.

After the California gas line explosion, the Missouri Public Service Committee is creating more safety precautions.

The chairman of the MPSC, Robert Clayton, says the first inspection was a success.

Clayton says this type of surprise test is something the commission wants to continue throughout the state.

House Speaker Ron Richard isn't sure a fund to manage federal money will work, but he wants to "test it and see," he said Monday.

Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the proposed fund, which would manage federal stimulus money. Lawmakers will reevaluate the bill during Wednesday's veto session.

Richard said he doesn't want the session to turn into "pure purpose of spectacle."

"I think it's important for us to track that money," he said. "That's our duty and part of our constitutional responsibility."

Nixon vetoed the bill this summer because he said it was too similar to funds already in place, and because it might be unconstitutional.

Last Week

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Robin Carnahan says she doesn't expect her campaign to use automated "robo" calls, although she can't control Democratic groups working on her behalf.

Carnahan also deflected use of negative ads against her opponent, Republican U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, saying both candidates should be prepared to defend their records.

The latest Real Clear Politics poll average shows Carnahan trails Blunt by 6 percent. Carnahan told Missouri Digital News she doesn't "spend a lot of time looking at those polls."

Fish farmers brought Asian carp to the United States in the 1970s to eat algae and eliminate pesticides. Now researchers are trying to create a pesticide to kill them.

Floods in the Deep South nearly thirty years ago allowed the Asian carp to escape from fish farms and move north. Now, they're damaging ecosystems and they have no predators to stop them from spreading rapidly.

Banek believes eating the Asian carp is one way to lessen the number of carp in the Missouri River. But he says demand for Asian carp is very low, and they're only worth half the price of other commercial fish.

Figures released by the U.S. Transportation Department show that nearly 9 percent fewer Missourians died in traffic accidents in 2009.

Numbers from 2005 show a steady decline in traffic fatalities in the Show-Me state.

Claire McCaskill held a town hall meeting on Thursday at William Woods University in Fulton.

Issues about the economy and fiscal responsibility were discussed with a more moderate tone coming from the senator.

Extending a program that creates jobs for low-income families and Missouri's dependence on coal and increasing pressure to go green were topics that constituents had questions on.

First it was E. coli in Lake of the Ozarks, and now the state says the heat caused a large patch of grass to die on the Missouri Capitol's south lawn.

But the heat couldn't have caused the 50-yard-long straight line between living grass and the dead patch, and the tire tracks of dead grass amongst an area of living grass, said Kris Schaperle, who owns All Seasons Landscaping in Jefferson City.

Schaperle said only misuse of chemicals could cause such a massive patch of dead grass.

The Capitol groundskeeper did not return phone calls seeking response.

In the wake of a recently released report by state auditor Susan Montee that revealed serious flaws in the administration of two major tax credit programs, Governor Jay Nixon Wednesday inaugurated a commission charged with studying the state's 61 tax credit programs and recommending reforms to reduce inefficiencies and ensure a greater return on the taxpayers' investment.

A nationwide study concludes Missouri's bridge quality is the 11th-worst in the country, even as the state spends $700 million to repair hundreds of them.

The Reason Foundation, which produces an annual ranking of states' roads, said Missouri has thousands of deficient and functionally obsolete bridges.

Bridges that are open are safe, said Bob Brendel, a spokesman for the state's Transportation Department.

The department's Safe and Sound bridge program has fixed 210 old spans, and will eventually repair 800 of them.

After earning five bronze stars and nearly shooting a man who would become president, Gilbert Pritzel receives the Legion of Honor, the highest French award.

Governor Nixon presented Pritzel with the award after the French Consulate in Chicago contacted him about the opportunity.

 Once awarded, Pritzel explained how he nearly shot a man sneaking around camp only to find out later that it was Dwight Eisenhower.

Four casino proposals remain in the running for Missouri's up-for-grabs license, after the state's Gaming Commission threw out a Kansas City-area proposal Tuesday.

The commission gave Sunway Gaming LLC's plan the boot because the application was incomplete, LeAnn McCarthy, a spokeswoman for the Gaming Commission, said in an e-mail.

A planned casino in St. Louis and another in the North St. Louis County suburb of Spanish Lake remain in the running. They'll compete against proposals in Cape Girardeau and Sugar Creek, a Kansas City suburb.