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NewsBook: Missouri Government News for the Week of August 19, 2013

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s push to attract businesses from other states drew criticism in a letter from Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander.

Kander said the governor should focus on fostering new businesses in Texas to create jobs and economic growth. In the letter, he noted large companies such as Monsanto and Express Scripts that began in Missouri had remained in the state and created hundreds of jobs.

“The evidence shows that if a company comes to a state because of a sales pitch, there’s a good chance it’ll leave for a better deal in some other state in the future,” Kander said.

Television ads emphasizing the lack of income tax and the regulatory environment in Texas have aired in the St. Louis, Springfield and Jefferson City-Columbia markets. Perry plans to visit Missouri on August 29.

An interim House committee met to begin discussing ways of improving how the House does business.

Chief Clerk of the House Adam Crumbliss talked to the committee about the current state of the legislative branch and how it does not serve the public as well as it could.

Crumbliss highlighted several ways the House can improve itself including eliminating several committees and creating sub-committees, allowing for a more in-depth look when needed. Crumbliss also recommended using former representatives as a resource since many representatives are inexperienced.

According the chairman Dwight Scharnhorst, the Interim Committee on Legislative Institutional Infrastructure and Process will meet again during the veto session.

House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, announced a new initiative allowing Missouri residents to decide the next members of the Hall of Famous Missourians.

This is the first time members of the public will have input on the decision, which had previously been made solely by the Speaker. Residents can submit their nominations online until September 13. Missourians and visitors to the capitol will then have the chance to vote on their final choice. The nominees with the two largest vote totals will be enshirned in the hall.

“During my time as a member of the Missouri House I have heard from citizens from all around this state who have strong opinions about great Missourians that should be included in the Hall" Jones said in a press release, "This is their opportunity to have their voices heard."

Last year's inductees in to the Hall of Famous Missourians include the first African-American baseball coach Buck O'Neil, Dred Scott and conservative radio show host Rush Limbaugh.

Gov. Jay Nixon urged Republicans Wednesday to not override his veto on a House bill that would that would remove 870 names from the sex offender registry.

The bill would remove adults who committed sex offenses as juveniles from the state and county sexual offender notification websites.

Nixon said removing these names poses a risk for public safety.

"The leadership of the House may be ready to help violent sex offenders hide from the public and law enforcement, but their victims, and the millions of Missourians who use these websites to help keep their families safe, are not."

Republican legislators have said that a veto of the bill is likely.

Some supporters say adults who committed sex offenses as juveniles deserve a second chance.

The veto session will take place on September 11, where Republicans will be given the opportunity to override Nixon's veto on the bill.

Attorneys with Great Rivers Environmental Law Center filed suit on Monday against several Missouri government entities, saying they helped stop the implementation of a renewable energy law.

The Renewable Energy Standard Law requires utility companies like Ameren Missouri, Kansas City Power & Light and Empire District Electric Company to increase their use of renewable energy to at least 15% by 2021.

Attorneys claim that the Missouri Secretary of State did not publish important aspects of the law. They said this left it unclear whether utility companies needed to create new energy infrastructure.

One plaintiff in the case, Vaughn Prost of Missouri Solar Applications, said that renewable energy policies are working in 28 other states, and it should be in Missouri, too.

"It's a critical issue because if utilities aren't required to deliver renewable energy to Missouri, the law is largely meaningless," Prost said. "Missouri isn't getting new jobs or the new renewable energy that should be built here."

The four defendants in the lawsuit are the Missouri Joint Commission on Administrative Rules (JCAR), Secretary of State Jason Kander, the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) and Governor Jay Nixon.

ACT released national and state-wide reports of how the 2013 high school graduating class scored on ACT tests.

Missouri students scored slightly better than the national average, but the report showed more than half of Missouri students did not meet college-readiness standards in all four of the subjects tested.

The ACT considers benchmarks the scores needed for a student to have a 75 percent chance of receiving a C or better in the corresponding college course. Of the Missouri students researched, only 28 percent met those standards on all four parts of the exam, and 24 percent met no benchmarks in any category.

Missouri students scored the best in English, where 72 percent of them met the standards.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has enlisted outside help to fix the state's failing school districts.

At a Missouri State Board of Education meeting Tuesday, the board announced a partnership with CEE Trust, a consulting firm based out of Denver.

Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro said it's all part of an effort to address a crisis in several of the state's unaccredited and under performing school districts.

CEE Trust will be operating primarily out of the Kansas City Public School district. It will analyze data and gather feedback from residents in order to submit

its recommendations to the school board.

DESE spokeswoman Sarah Potter said the state is also considering hiring another firm to directly analyze potential fixes for St. Louis area districts.

"We go to an outside consultant for two reasons," said board president Peter Herschend. "One, we don't have the manpower internally, and two, an outside consultant is just that. They have a broader exposure to what has and hasn't worked around the country."

The contract between the two allocates $385,000 for CEE Trust, which Nicastro said is funded by outside foundations.

Nicastro said the board will have to give final approval before any action is taken on the company's recommendations. She said the public will also be instrumental in enacting any of the recommended changes.

CEE Trust is expected to submit its recommendations for potential solutions by January of 2014.

A Kansas City health provider confirmed another case of Cyclospora Tuesday. There have now been five cases of Cyclospora confirmed in Missouri this year.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is working with the Centers for Disease Control and other agencies to investigate whether or not these cases are linked to cases in other states.

The parasite has been much more prevalent in the Midwest than on either coast this year.

There are only 11 reported cases in Illinois and four in Kansas, but 155 cases were reported in Iowa, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

The state with the most cases this year is Texas, with 247 of the 539 cases reported in the United States.

Cyclospora is a parasite that can cause a variety of intestinal issues for a few days to over a month if left untreated. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services urges individuals experiencing prolonged gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea, severe stomach cramps, or nausea to seek medical attention.

About nine percent of those infected were hospitalized, but the parasite is not usually life threatening and most people with a healthy immune system recover without treatment eventually. The median age of those infected is 51.