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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of October 21, 2013

The state's ACLU is suing the Mo. Department of Corrections for adding the supplier of the drugs used for Missouri executions to the "execution team."

The execution team is made up of anyone who provides direct support to an execution like doctors and nurses.

However, state law prohibits individuals from naming any member of the execution team without consent of the department's director.

The ACLU said people should have access to the names of those supplying the drug for the executions.

Get the radio story.

Governor Jay Nixon announced Thursday his administration is withdrawing support for his administration's proposal to modify the state's existing waiver under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP.

The decision comes two weeks after the proposal to cut nearly 60,000 able-bodied adults from the state's food stamp rolls.

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, welcomed Nixon's decision and proposed a solution to help food stamp recipients.

"If we truly have a problem with feeding the homeless by way of the government, then we need to create jobs for those individuals so that they can feed themselves," Nasheed said.

Governor Jay Nixon addressed a room full of educators Wednesday afternoon in order to show the importance of public education at the k-12 levels.

Nixon says he plans a "significant down payment" toward fully funding the state's public school funding formula, but failed to give any specific numbers or solutions.

The budget for fiscal year 2014 provides $3.1 billion in funding to elementary and secondary schools. This amount falls over half a billion dollars short of the target amount for next year's budget.

Nixon also said he would like to see the law dictating how students transfer from unaccredited school districts changed, but again provided no solution.

Democratic Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, acknowledged the language of the law is "a little dicey" and that lawmakers need to change it.

"That's a heavy burden on those kids that decided to stay. Okay, a lot of those funds are leaving as a result of individuals playing that game [transferring]," Nasheed said.

After controversy led the Department of Corrections to change lethal injection protocol, department officials declined to answer more questions about the issue.

Due to earlier controversy with the drug propofol, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon halted the execution of inmate Allen Nicklasson, originally scheduled for Oct. 23. The department said it has not set a new execution date for him.

House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, said the Governor is not being upfront with either taxpayers or elected public officials with any of the information they have.

“There’s becoming a real atmosphere of closure, of non transparency, non cooperation of obfuscation, by Governor Nixon’s administration,” Jones said. “This is just one of the latest examples. I find all of it very troubling.”

The next execution in Missouri will take place Nov. 20 for Joseph Franklin.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon was named chair of the National Governors Association Security and Public Safety Committee Wednesday.

According to a statement from the governor's office, the committee helps ensure governors' views are heard when making federal policy decisions about homeland security, the National Guard, homeland defense, criminal justice, public safety and veterans affairs.

Nixon's office released a statement which quoted Nixon as saying "I'm honored to head up this vitally important committee. Keeping communities safe, and helping them prepare for and respond to national disasters, has been a key focus of my administration."

NGA Chair Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Vice Chair Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper selected Nixon as the committee's leader.

The Missouri Department of Corrections released a statement Tuesday announcing it had found a new lethal injection to use in place of propofol.

Officials will use the drug pentobarbital instead, after controversy over whether or not the department should use propofol.

The European Union warned the United States to not use the drug for lethal injections, or they would limit the supply of propofol imports. Propofol is used as an anesthetic, and many doctors worried about the impact of a limited supply.

Eventually Gov. Jay Nixon called on the Department of Corrections to find something other than propofol for executions and halted the execution of inmate Allen Nicklasson, originally scheduled for Oct. 23.

The next execution in Missouri will take place Nov. 20 for Joseph Franklin, sentenced to death for a 1977 murder in St. Louis.

The Missouri State School Board decided Tuesday that despite recent gains, Kansas City Public Schools are still not ready for provisional accreditation.

The board stripped the district of its accreditation in 2012, and in the past year the school has seen a slight upturn in its performance.

Despite attaining performance levels that would qualify the district for provisional accreditation, board President Peter Herschend said it wasn't a difficult decision for him to vote against the request.

"They're trying very, very hard but they didn't win the ball game this year," Herschend said. "The process is a three-year process, and there is good reason for that. Because it takes that long for results to be made permanent."

Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, sent a letter to the board Monday urging it to grant temporary provisional accreditation. Silvey said doing so would allow lawmakers to revisit school transfer laws that are currently putting unaccredited St. Louis districts in financial peril.

However, the controversial issue barely surfaced in the short period before the board made its decision.

"It would be foolishness to say the board is not aware of the potential ramifications of the school transfer law," Herschend said. "But that was not the guiding concern with our standpoint."

Some state laws allow previously furloughed federal workers to receive double their usual pay for not working during the government shut down -- but not Missouri.

Federal employees filed for unemployment benefits across the country during the government shut down. The issues is whether or not those employees have to give their unemployment benefits back to the state now that they will receive back pay for time missed during the shut down.

If not, those workers can "double dip" by holding onto their unemployment benefits and receiving their back pay.

The Missouri statute that applies states in a situation where a claimant already received unemployment benefits, "the employer shall withhold from the employee's back pay award the amount of benefits so received and shall pay such amount to the division and separately designate such amount."

Basically, the federal government would have to give the back pay to Missouri instead of the employee, according to the statute; However, Missouri Department of Labor spokesman Tom Bastian said the statute was designed to apply to private companies, not the federal government.

The Department of Labor's website actually states the employee is responsible for paying Missouri back, which would not be in accordance with state law. But whether the federal government pays the state back or the employees pay, taxpayers will not be forced to double fund time off for federal employees.

Missourians may yet again get a chance to vote on raising their taxes if a new ballot measure gets enough signatures and passes a statewide vote.

Lobbyist Rodney Gray submitted the proposed ballot measure to Secretary of State Jason Kander on Tuesday.

The initiative would increase the sales tax one percent, or one cent, if passed. All of the proceeds from the proposed tax increase would go toward improving Missouri roads.

The proposed measure is similar to a bill that failed in the Senate in May.

Rep. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, voted against the proposal in the House and remains opposed to a tax increase. Koenig said it was similar to the failed tobacco tax increase.

"A one cent sales tax is a huge tax increase for Missourians," Koenig said. "That's something I'm going to be opposed to."

The wording of the proposal still needs to be approved by Attorney General Chris Koster before Missourians can sign the petition.

Nixon met with higher education leaders from around Missouri to discuss funding for the coming fiscal year.

While Nixon says he doesn't have any concrete numbers for the education budget, he insists that funding will increase substantially.

He also says the public defender system's threats of furloughs are not a priority because many other departments are in similar situations.

"They weren't picked out any different than anybody else and they won't be treated differently as we move forward. As revenues become available we'll look at releasing restrictions as the dollars become available."

The government shutdown didn’t mark the end of temporary state employee layoffs.

If Governor Jay Nixon does not release any additional money for Missouri’s public defender system, they say they will face a hiring freeze starting Nov. 1.

State Public Defender Cat Kelly said if the appropriation isn’t released, they will begin furloughs on Jan. 1.

Kansas City Division Director Joel Elmer said they have been working to avoid these measures.

“We have been in continuous contact with the governor’s staff since the withhold occurred,” Elmer said. “We continued to ask that the money be released and we remain hopeful that it will be.”

Representatives from the Cities for Educational Entrepreneurship Trust (CEE-Trust) testified in front of the Missouri State Board of Education Monday with their plans for Kansas City's unaccredited urban school system.

The Kansas City Public School district has been stripped of it's accreditation after several years of below-proficient performance.

"There is no urban system anywhere in America that is performing at the level that our students deserve," said Ethan Grey, Executive Director of CEE-Trust.

Grey and his team are in the research phase of a six-month long process to develop recommendations for the Kansas City district to follow.

CEE-Trust expects their final recommendations to be ready in February of 2014.

Last Week

Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said on Thursday he will not be running for reelection in 2014 and will not seek election to the State Senate in 2016.

Kelly told MDN his decision not to run was based on the General Assembly's focus on things like banning Sharia Law and failing to improve the state's infrastructure.

"The legislature spends way too much time on frivolous political nonsense," Kelly said.

Kelly currently serves as the chairman of the House Infrastructure and Job Creation Appropriations Committee and has served eight terms in the House.

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, scolded Gov. Jay Nixon and the Missouri Department of Corrections for halting an execution set for next week.

“I will work with the governor to get him what he needs to carry out his responsibility,” Schaefer said. “He just needs to let us know what that is.”

Following doctor protests and exportation embargo threats from the European Union, Gov. Jay Nixon stopped the execution of Allen Nicklasson, who was to be put to death with the anesthetic drug Propofol.

Nixon ordered the state corrections department to come up with a lethal injection alternative and instructed Attorney General Chris Koster to ask the Missouri Supreme Court to set a new execution date for Nicklasson.

The Missouri Department of Corrections has not returned any phone calls or emails. Schaefer said they have not been “transparent” with the public and he hopes they work out a sustainable plan for future capital punishment executions.

“What we’re not going to do is act like the federal government and just by default stop enforcing a law that is required to be enforced,” Schaefer said.

A top Missouri House Democrat has joined Republican leaders in their calls for a Maryville sexual assault case to be reopened.

Rep. Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis) started a petition Wednesday for the alleged sexual assault victim Daisy Coleman called “Demand Justice for Daisy.”

The case has garnered national attention and has some Missouri state officials calling for an investigation.

“There needs to be a fresh set of independent eyes and look at that investigation. I think that an impartial, outside entity probably needs to do an independent investigation,” Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) said.

The case was originally dismissed by the Nodaway County Prosecutor in 2012.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced today the U.S. House of Representatives will not block the vote on a bipartisain Senate budget deal, allowing Congress to raise the debt ceiling and potentially end the government shutdown by Thursday.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education takes in over $500 million in federal funding each year.

Since the start of the partial government shutdown on Oct. 1, 2013, Missouri Department Communications Director Sarah Potter said they did not have any furloughs. She said they have been keeping a close eye on the Capitol Hill discussion.

“We were able to keep drawing down federal funds this whole time,” Potter said. “But, I think things were going to change if we actually hit the debt ceiling, because I’m not sure at that point—whether or not those federal payments would be made.”

Despite her looming concerns on the temporary fix, she said her department will breathe a sigh of relief.

Potter said that money funds everything from career and technical programs, school lunches, Title I and special education.

“That cloud hanging over our heads, is gone now,” Potter said. “We’re very thankful for that.”

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and Republican House Speaker Tim Jones sent out statements Tuesday urging Attorney General Chris Koster and Nodaway County Prosecuting Attorney to revisit a closed sexual assault case that has drawn national attention to Maryville.

"I make no claim to knowledge of all the facts," Kinder said in the statement. "Still, facts revealed in exhaustive media reports, including the 4,000-word piece in the Kansas City Star, raise all kinds of questions that it is now clear won’t be put to rest. These questions will fester and taint the reputation of our state for delivering impartial justice to all."

A spokeswoman for Koster said in a statement earlier Tuesday that the attorney general wouldn't have the authority to reopen the local case.

But Jones, R-Eureka, who has stated his intention to run for Attorney General, cited a state statute that he said indicates otherwise.

"I firmly believe he is empowered to do so under state statute 27.060," Jones said. "I am calling on him to utilize his authority to intervene in this matter so that we can be confident that justice is served."

Kinder said Koster and Rice should ask the Circuit Court to convene a grand jury in the case to look further into the evidence and hear testimony from witnesses.

  State Rep. says Maryville sexual assault case "blown out of proportion" 10/15/2013

Spokespersons for both Gov. Jay Nixon and Attorney General Chris Koster declined to comment on whether the two will get involved in a controversial sexual assault case out of Maryville that has attracted national attention to the state.

According to a story from the Kansas City Star, Daisy Coleman was allegedly sexually assaulted in January 2012 by schoolmate Matthew Barnett, the grandson of former state Rep. Rex Barnett, R-Maryville.

But charges against Barnett and two other students were dropped due to insufficient evidence.

In a press release, spokeswoman Nanci Gonder said Koster doesn't have the authority to intervene.

"Charging decisions in criminal cases are exclusively within the discretion of elected county prosecutors in Missouri," Gonder said.

Rep. Mike Thomson, R-Maryville, who represents the town where the alleged sexual assault occurred said he didn't know the full scope of the case and that his town is being misrepresented.

"I'm going to be a little closed on this matter," Thomson said. "I don't want it to spread, I want it to die."