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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of November 25, 2013

Gov. Jay Nixon called Missouri lawmakers into session to authorize him to offer tax breaks to Boeing as part of a multi-state competition to attract the aircraft manufacturer to locate a new plant in Missouri.

The legislative session will begin at 4pm on Monday, Dec. 2, and will face a Dec. 10 deadline set by Boeing for proposals, according to the governor's statement.

Nixon's call, issued noon Friday, Nov. 29, followed a session two days with St. Louis business leaders where he discussed the company's solicitation of proposals from states on where to locate the new plant to produce the 777X aircraft.

A statement issued Friday by Nixon's office said the governor was seeking authority to award up to $150 million per year for large-scale areospace projects under existing programs that provide tax breaks to businesses.

Nixon's formal proclamation, however, did not indicate a cap on the amount of tax breaks to be authorized.

In his announcement, Nixon stressed the need for swift action because of Boeing's deadline and the other states competing for the project.

"In order to put forward a competitive proposal on this very aggressive timeline, decisive legislative action is required," Nixon was quoted as saying in his office's release.

Friday, Dec. 6 would be the soonest anything could be passed by the legislature. The state constitutional provisions for the legislative process require a minimum of five days to pass a bill.

This will be the second time in recent years that lawmakers have been asked to provide tax breaks to attract an aircraft manufacturing plan.

In 2008, the legislature passed a tax-break package for Bombardier. But the Canadian-based company chose to locate its new plant in Canada. At the time, legislative critics charged Missouri was just being used to give Bombardier leverage to get a better deal from Canada.

Boeing originally had planned on locating its new plant in in Washington state. But the company began looking at other states after a union in Washington rejected the company's proposed contract for some of the workers at the new plant.

Last Week

Health insurance plans set to expire on December 31 because of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act will be able to continue into 2014, according to a Thursday statement by Gov. Jay Nixon.

John Huff, the director of the state's insurance department, sent a letter to all Missouri health insurance providers Thursday that told them they could continue coverage on plans that would otherwise be canceled.

"In an effort to give Missourians as many insurance options as possible, the department will expedite the process for health insurance companies wishing to continue their Missouri-compliant plans into next year," Huff said in a statement released by the governor.

Millions nationwide have had their health insurance plans canceled because they do not comply with requirements under the Affordable Care Act. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notified states last week of a transitional policy allowing such plans to continue with certain notifications to consumers.

Nixon's announcement came just a few hours after Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, called on Huff to allow Missourians to renew their health insurance for 2014. He said Missouri was one of six states not to allow renewals and that it was necessary so Missourians did not feel the "blunt" effects of losing their coverage.

"Doing so quickly would give as many Missourians as possible the opportunity to renew their policies before their cancellation at the end of the year," Barnes said in a statement on his website.

Reps. Tony Dugger, R-Hartville, and Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis County, will work to pass bipartisan legislation making it easier for active military members to run for office, according to a Thursday statement from Secretary of State Jason Kander.

Current Missouri law requires a candidate wanting to run for office to file in person so they can get on the ballot. This bill would allow a military member to designate someone to file for them.

"When members of our armed forces choose to continue their public service by running for office, they should be on a level playing field with other candidates," Kander said in a statement

The Associated Press reported that Education Department Commissioner Chris Nicastro advised advocates of an initiative petition to restrict teacher tenure rights.

If passed, the initiative would require public schools to evaluate teachers primarily on student performance data from standardized testing to guide decisions on promoting, demoting, firing, and paying personnel.

Political Director for the Missouri National Education Association Mark Jones says this would hurt students rather than help them.

"Just having high stake testing doesn't improve student performance. Actual in class resources for educators, reducing class size, and helping children that come from distressed families are what we need to be doing with our educational resources," Jones said.

Jones also said this testing would cost up wards of five and a half billion dollars to implement.

The President of the State Board of Education issued a statement supporting Nicastro's actions.

"It is the duty of Missouri Commissioner of Education to serve all members of the public, not just select groups," the statement read.

The commissioner's involvement has upset leaders of teacher's unions.

"It definitely raises red flags, beyond what I would call an advisory role," Jones said.

The petition needs the 160,000 signatures to be placed on the November 2014 ballot.

President Barack Obama met Wednesday with state insurance directors regarding his initiative to stop the wave of canceled health insurance plans.

Missouri State Health Insurance Director John Huff did not attend the meeting, and a spokesperson says he was "not supposed to" attend.

Department officials said Huff has made no contact with President Obama's administration during this time, and have no new information regarding their plans for those under the 14 canceled insurance policies.

Missouri Hospital Association spokesperson Dave Dillon warns Missourians under these canceled plans about making a quick decision on policies.

"If you had a policy that was canceled, there may be better options in the marketplace," Dillon said. "So you should definitely identify whether it’s best to just do nothing if infact you can continue that plan or whether it makes more sense to shop around."

  At least 21 states have decided if they will let consumers keep their old plans for a year, even if it conflicts with the new heath care law. Dillon said the awaited decision is an indication that Missouri's  government is too disengaged. 

"Well certainly what would be helpful, the last thing that any consumer needs is any additional confusion about what their options are so if in fact a decision needs to be made," Dillon said. "The sooner it is made the better it is for those individuals who may have had policies cancelled."

Many other states, including New Jersey and California are still weighing their options.

Sen. Gary Romine (

Medicaid Transformation Committee Chair Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington, said he is surprised and frustrated that Gov. Jay Nixon canceled next week's Medicaid meeting amid a change of venue.

Committee chairs Romine and Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, accepted Nixon's invitation to meet to talk about Medicaid next week, under the condition that the meeting be moved to the Capitol building.

Nixon delivered a letter to the Medicaid committee chairs Tuesday canceling that meeting, claiming the change of venue would transform the discussion into a political game.

"I can only conclude that this last-minute change of heart demonstrates that, as we saw last session, you and your leadership have chosen to give politics precedence over the substance of the discussion," Nixon wrote in his letter to Barnes and Romine.

Romine said he was frustrated their letter to the governer was taken out of context.

"Our intention was truly just a matter of an organized effort to have the best meeting forth," Romine said.

Romine said he knew the governor initially wanted only the media and the committee members at that Medicaid discussion, but he and Barnes wanted to move the meeting because it would have to be open to the public.

Romine said he hopes to talk to the governor soon about negotiating, but has not made that effort yet.

"I feel like we need to let the dust settle after the hype of the response letter he sent out," Romine said.

More than six hours later than expected, white supremacist Joseph Paul Franklin was executed in Missouri Wednesday,  making his death the state's first execution in almost three years.

Franklin was convicted for killing Gerald Gordon outside a St. Louis area synagogue in 1977. Throughout his life he racked up eight murder convictions.

The 63-year-old was put to death at the state prison in Bonne Terre Wednesday morning and the Associated Press reports Franklin was pronounced dead at 6:17 a.m.

Franklin was originally sentenced to an execution at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, but his lawyer's last minute attempts to keep him alive delayed the execution for more than six hours.

Wednesday was the first time Missouri used the drug pentobarbital for an execution. Originally, the state would have used the drug propofol, and would have been the first state to do so. After controversy overseas and at home over the drug, Gov. Jay Nixon forbid the use of propofol for executions. 

Mo. Governor Jay Nixon delivered a letter to the legislature's Medicaid committee chairs Tuesday, Nov. 19, effectively cancelling a meeting he had scheduled with the committees for next week to discuss Medicaid expansion..

Nixon had called for the meeting to be held at an office building across the street from the governor's mansion.

In response, House Medicaid Chair Jay Barnes responded that the meeting should be in the Capitol building itself, in one of the legislative committee hearing rooms.

Nixon rejected the suggestion in a response one of his staffers confirmed was a cancellation of the session.

"I can only conclude that this last-minute change of heart demonstrates that, as we saw last session, you and your leadership have chosen to give politics precedence over the substance of the discussion," Nixon wrote in his letter to the two legislative chairs.

When Nixon first announced the meeting, Barnes, R-Jefferson City, had complained that staff of the governor's office would not negotiate details of the meeting including the format.

Barnes had been one of Nixon's best allies among Republican legislators in pursuing an overhaul of Medicaid that would include expansion of eligibility, although not as high as Nixon had proposed.

One week before Nixon's cancellation of the legislative meeting, the Senate's interim Medicaid committee had approved a tentative report that did not include Medicaid eligibility expansion.

The Missouri Department of Insurance is still looking into ways it will handle last week's announcement from President Obama regarding canceled health insurance policies.

As a response to tens of thousands of canceled health insurance policies nationwide, the President said last Thursday that health insurers had the option to keep selling plans that didn't comply with the Affordable Care Act for one more year.

But in Missouri, where 14 policies had already been canceled with an unknown number of Missourians affected due to the previous requirements, the carriers must have permission from the state to grant exceptions so the canceled plans can be filed again.

Five states have made announcements saying they will not allow late renewals of canceled policies, while six have said they will.

The Missouri Department of Insurance said it has reached out to the health industry for its input, but still has yet to come to a decision.

The Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED) released its state jobs report Tuesday, which shows a sharp drop in Missouri's unemployment rate.

The jobs report covers the months of September and October, in which the unemployment rate fell to 6.9 percent, then to 6.5 percent, respectively.

According to the DED, that puts the unemployment rate at its lowest level since September 2008, and for the 50th consecutive month Missouri's unemployment rate is lower than the national average.

The report combined the September and October data due to the partial government shutdown.

Missouri will carry out its first execution in nearly three years early Wednesday morning after a last minute clemency appeal to Governor Jay Nixon was denied Monday,

The clemency request was filed by the attorney of convicted serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin.

Franklin was convicted for a sniper attack on a man in suburban St. Louis in 1977 and, according to the Associated Press, committed up to 20 murders in multiple states.

In a statement on Monday Nixon told Missourians to keep the victims of Franklin's murders in their prayers.

"This cowardly and calculated shooting was only one of many senseless acts of extreme violence that Franklin, motivated by racial and religious intolerance committed against numerous victims across the country," Nixon said.

The Department of Corrections has come under fire since modifying its execution protocol and refusing to disclose which chemicals make up the execution drug.

After Governor Nixon's decision to allow legally married same-sex couples file join tax returns last week, a state lawmaker says it's time to impeach the governor.

Rep. Nick Marshall, R-Parkville, announced the plan on his Facebook page. He wrote that Nixon "disregarded the laws and constitution of the state of Missouri."

Marshall says the governor's executive order to allow same-sex married couples to file joint returns violates a constitutional amendment Missouri voters passed in 2004 that said the state only recognizes marriages between a man and woman.

"You can't pick and choose what parts of the constitution you're going to enforce," said Marshall. "The governor has sworn an oath. Part of his duties are to faithfully execute the law and that includes the Constitution of Missouri. And he hasn't done that. In fact, he's violated that."

Marshall says he plans to file the articles of impeachment next month.

The last Missouri official to be impeached was Judi Moriarty in 1994 for criminal misconduct when she back-dated her son's filing for an election.

Calls to the governor's office went unreturned Monday.

President Obama announced changes to his health care law on Thursday, allowing consumers to continue using old plans through 2014 that would otherwise be canceled.

Yet, it may be too late for some residents in Missouri, where 14 policies have already been canceled due to Affordable Care Act requirements.

"The problem is if the filings have already been withdrawn, now the carriers may be in violation of state law unless they get an exception from the department. It may be too late for them to retrench and redo rates by the first of the year," said Larry Case, Vice president of the Missouri Association of insurance agents.

The Missouri Department of Insurance and the Governor's Office refused to comment on whether the department will be granting exceptions so previously canceled plans can be filed again

A Missouri Senate committee's refusal to recommend expanding Medicaid to the Missouri legislature disturbed more than just the Democrats who walked out of the committee meeting.

Around 75 African-American Missouri Clergy met with Gov. Jay Nixon Monday, asking him to attend to the needs of who they say are the most vulnerable in the state.

The main issues they discussed with the Governor for twice the amount of time they scheduled include:

Rev. Dr. Jimmy Brown of St. Louis said he wants to see legislators start to stand up for not what's politically right, but morally right.

"When they hear of an issue being wrong, even though it may be wrong in a minority community, they should stand up for what’s right," said Brown. "So we’re not addressing just one area of issues, but we are addressing the issues of the whole state."

The group plans to bring more than 500 clergy from across the state to the state Capitol and rally two times during legislative session.