From Missouri Digital News:
MDN Menu

MDN Home

Journalist's Creed


MDN Help

MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News
MDN Menu

MDN Home

Journalist's Creed


MDN Help

MDN.ORG Mo. Digital News Missouri Digital News MDN.ORG: Mo. Digital News MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News
Lobbyist Money Help  
NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of August 22, 2011

In a letter addressed to Republicans, Peter Kinder is encouraging people to focus on more than just stories in the media.

After undergoing scrutiny due to his affiliation with an ex-stripper, Kinder is trying to rebuild his reputation and says he still plans to run. Kinder's spokesperson Jared Craighead says he believes the letter will do just that.

"The reaction has been very positive and people are very anxious for us to begin talking about the issues that matter. And that's exactly what we plan to do," Craighead said.

Kinder was originally supposed to announce his decision to run after Labor Day, but has decided to wait until he has the chance to talk with residents around the state.

Budget Committee members questioned health department officials about why they are still working with a private contractor that failed to fulfill the terms of their $11.4 million contract. The company, Syncare LLC, was hired to provide support and assessment of care plans but has not been able to handle the sheer volume of calls.

Syncare has been allowed to bill the state for 50 percent of their work and has already fallen behind.

"How long can we expect Syncare to bleed the way they're bleeding and continue to perform," Rep. Randy Asbury R-Higbee said.

Members of the committee also said the department was partially to blame for awarding Syncare the contract.

"We're not satisfied with the performance on a number of fronts," said Deputy Director of the department Peter Lyskowski. "But it would be irresponsible to just point the finger at Syncare."

Committee chair Ryan Silvey R-Kansas City, read concerns about Syncare from the Office of Administration evaluation. It including the fragmented nature of providing service, poor ratio of supervisors to staff, lack of detail in their execution model and no back-up plan. According to the document "there is concern with the plan with oversight to ensure satisfactory performance."

"I think the department has failed here miserably," said Rep. Dave Schatz R-Sullivan.

Arguments continued for the immediate termination of the contract but there is currently no plan to do so. Lyskowski said they did not want to create a void in service.

"It would seem that the missteps in the last few months have created a void and it's a crisis," said Rep. Jeff Grisamore R-Lee's Summit.

JEFFERSON CITY - While defending the arguements raised in the lawsuit, Rep. Chris Kelly D-Columbia, says State Auditor Tom Schweich has no legal standing to sue Gov. Jay Nixon.

"I agree with Schweich that this was an overreach on the part of the governor," Kelly said. "I disagree with him constitutionally."

In a previous Budget Committee hearing, Kelly blamed the legislature for the executive spending power. He said they failed to control a provision giving the governor the power to use estimates to determine disaster relief funding.

The estimate provision allows money from the treasury "to provide for expenses of any state agency responding during a declared emergency at the discretion of the governor provided the services furnish immediate aid and relief.

One of the complaints listed in the lawsuit was that Nixon's budget cut funds from Republican offices but not Democratic.

"I think the suit is political," said Kelly.

Schweich insists that his motivation is about government transparency. A scathing St. Louis Post-Dispatch named cuts from his own budget as his true motivation.

Kelly has called for legislation to close administrative budget flexibility during the next legislative session.

"The place to resolve this is in the appropriations process," said Kelly. "Not in the courts."

Leaders from Missouri's major business and labor organizations expressed confidence Tuesday that a bill to create an international trade hub at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport will pass the legislature's special session.

Dan Mehan, president of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, said he believes leaders from both political parties are coming together on the idea of passing the legislation. Mehan and his colleagues said they are optimistic it can be done, but know that the General Assembly will have to act swiftly.

"If we want to compete in the way that we know we need to, we're going to have to be bold about it," Mehan said.

The business leaders said they hope for Missouri's government to create $360 million in tax breaks to foster trade relations with China by establishing an international cargo airline.

Under the plan proposed by legislative leaders and the governor, those tax breaks would be coupled with reductions in other tax credits including credits provided to historic building developers, the elderly, handicapped and house renters.

The business leaders' news conference came on the same day that indications emerged from a Senate working group of divisions about the plan -- particularly the proposal to eliminate tax credits for lower income elderly residential renters.

Mehan and his partners said they believe that almost 18,000 temporary jobs would be created in the construction field and 11,000 permanent jobs would be created to run the hub. Business leaders said they hope the addition of these jobs will repair some of Missouri's unemployment issues.

Missouri auditor Tom Schweich demands an apology from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which criticized his motives for filing a lawsuit against Gov. Jay Nixon.

The Post-Dispatch suggests Schweich's suit aids only his political agenda.

Schweich refutes these claims.

“When somebody comes out there with such a scandalously, lying argument, such a completely false editorial and misleads the people about what their state auditor is up to, I have to say something about it," Schweich said.

Schweich says Nixon's withholding of state funds for disaster relief violates Missouri's Constitution.

Confronted with the issue, Nixon said he will continue to balance the budget.

The governor's plan to provide tax breaks for business development and a China hub in St. Louis ran into opposition before a Senate work group Tuesday.

Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, termed the proposed tax breaks approaching $500 million as irresponsible.

Many of the tax breaks in the package drafted by the governor's office and legislative leaders focus on development of an international trade hub project at Lambert International Airport in St. Louis.

Sen. Chuck Purgason, R-Caulfield, said the proposal is still a work in progress and a lot more debate is needed during the special legislative session which begins on Sept. 6. After the public session, Purgason and a few other senators also met behind closed doors.

Purgason, one of the Senate's most outspoken budget hawks, has said that the savings in reducing tax credits was worth the cost of the China hub tax breaks.

Crowell said since the state's budget is so tight, he doesn't think there is room for irrational spending.

Recent corn yield estimates forecast a 125-bushels-per-acre yield in Missouri, roughly 20 to 30 bushels per acre less than the average yearly amount.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Director Bob Garino said the farmers are less likely to be affected because corn prices are already very high.

However, a high demand of corn plus smaller yields causes a spike in commodities prices. Garino said 2010 was also a down year, with yields similar to 2011.

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled to standardize suspect lineups to try to avoid influencing eyewitness testimony.

However, representatives from the St. Louis Police Officers Association and Missouri Fraternal Order of Police said they don't think the ruling will affect Missourians.

Jeff Roorda, business manager for the St. Louis Police Officers Association, said Missouri's police officers take care that lineups aren't tainted.

"We, as the Police Officers Association, know that our cops are doing the right thing and will continue to do so whatever the law is," said Roorda.

Roorda said that although this is an area of national concern, he does not believe the New Jersey ruling is representative of police practices nationwide.

"I think it's a public reaction to some very small percentage of cases where the process has been abused," said Roorda.

Roorda said Missouri doesn't have a standardized lineup procedure, but varies by county and he does not know of any plans to regulate police lineups in Missouri.

With the recent damage caused by Hurricane Irene on the East Coast, FEMA's disaster relief funds are wearing thin and Joplin is no longer being prioritized.

FEMA has adopted an "immediate needs" strategy that provides relief to those disaster areas most in need.

Joplin's tornado that hit almost three months ago does not earn the Missouri town a spot on FEMA's immediate needs list. The residents of Joplin must wait until FEMA can afford to send them more funding.

FEMA spokesperson Josh Deberge said that while areas with the most immediate needs, such as the East Coast, will receive funding first, all disaster areas including Joplin will receive promised money.

"Basically what it means is there are permanent projects out there that were associated with disasters, that the money for those projects will likely be delayed. That does not mean that there will be a reduction of funds or that money will be taken away," Deberge said.

FEMA said they will return to normal operations when Congress votes to replenish the fund. However, they don't know when that will happen.

For now, relief is focused on the East. But FEMA promises recovery efforts in Joplin will not be left unfinished.