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NewsBook: Missouri Government News for the Week of January 28, 2008

. Senator Koster's Legislation to Crackdown on Methamphetamine Use and Production (01/31/2008)

Sen. Chris Koster, D-Cass County, introduced legislation that would include Missouri in a new meth education project called the Missouri Meth Project.

The bill seeks to increase sentences for meth dealers and pay sheriff deputies higher salaries.

Koster is seeking the Democratic nomination for attorney general.  A Republican state senator suggested Koster's bill and news conference were driven by politics.

. Committee discusses teacher-student Internet connection (01/30/2008)

The Education Committee discussed possible changes to a bill targeted at ridding Missouri schools of sex offenders. Committee Chairwoman Jane Cunningham said school districts need to be held more accountable for hiring teachers that have been charged with sexual misconduct.

The bill would create better background checks, add three offenses to a list that prohibits teacher certification and get rid of the statute of limitations.

. Committee wants MSHSAA to play by its rules (01/30/2008)

At a hearing Wednesday, the Special Committee on Student Achievement discussed a bill to put the Education Department in charge of state schools' extracurricular activities.

The bill would make both public and private schools abide by the rules set forth by the department.

. Bill to raise pay for math and science teachers in Missouri Public Schools (01/30/2008)

Republican Senator Matt Bartle is the sponsor of a bill that would issue pay raises and stipends for teachers of math and science in Missouri Public Schools.

Bartle says the in order to respond to the demand for teachers of math and science, there needs to be some sort of incentive in place to encourage more college graduates to become math and science teachers.

Another critical aspect of the bill is the proposal to issue teacher certification for college graduates with either a math or science degree.

. Cyber Bullying Debate Continues (01/30/2008)

Senate Bill 762, sponsored by Democratic Kansas City Senator Yvonne Wilson, would modify the definition of "bullying." Antibullying policies carried out by school districts would include cyberbullying and electronic communication.

The bill was influenced by the suicide of a St. Charles child. The ecducation committee will consider the bill after Wednesday's hearing.

A similar bill by Republican Sen. Scott Rupp would classify cyberbullying as a crime under harrassment.

No one testified in opposition.

. Local Control for St. Louis Police (01/30/2008)

Democratic St. Louis Senator Maida Coleman is the sponsor of a bill that would put the St. Louis Police Force under local control.  Currently, the police force is controlled by a commission whose members are appointed by the Governor.

Coleman sponsored a similar bill last legislative session but it was defeated.  The main concern over the bill is the status of pension for police officers.  The bill is still in the economic committee, waiting for a vote.

. GOP Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee promoted at the state Capital his plan to abolish the federal income tax. (01/29/2008)

Under Huckabee's plan, the income tax would be replaced by a national sales tax.

Huckabee spoke at the headquarters of Associated Industries, one of Missouri's major business organizations.

At the same time Huckabee spoke, Democratic candidate John Edwards was addressing supporters in another part of town.

Missouri's presidential primary will be held next Tuesday.

. Chlamydia plan aims to curb high rates (01/29/2008)

St. Louis city has the highest number of chlamydia and gonorreah cases in the country. 

House health committee discussed a bill to allow doctors to prescribe antibiotics for patients they've never met, in hopes of stopping the sexually transmitted disease.

. Bill would require sex offender registry search of all student housing applicants (01/29/2008)

The Committee on Crime Prevention and Public Safety discussed an amendment Tuesday that would require universities in Missouri to check the state sex offender registry for all university housing applicants. Applicants found in the registry are already prohibited from living in university housing, but the amendment would make the search mandatory for every applicant.

Representative Sam Page, D-Creve Coeur, introduced the legislation and cited previous legislation in Illinois and low costs that would be passed on to the applicant.

. Hulshof to join the gubernatorial campaign. (01/29/2008)

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Tuesday that Central Missouri Congressman Kenny Hulshof will announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination for governor.

Hulshof would become the third major Republican to enter the race.  Last week, both Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and State Treasurer Sarah Steelman jumped in just days after Gov. Matt Blunt announced he was dropping his re-election campaign.

Hulshof is a Columbia resident.  He was reported to have considered running for governor in 2004.

Hulshof's entry likely precludes a campaign by House Speaker Rod Jetton who told reporters last week he would not run if Hulshof entered the race.

. Cyberbullying Bill Would Expand Crime of Harassment (01/28/2008)

Tina Meyer, mother of St. Charles teen Megan Meyer who was a victim of cyber bullying, lent her voice in favor of Senate Bill 818, a bill that would expand the crime of harassment to include electronic devices such as the Internet.

St. Charles Republican Scott Rupp, the bill's sponsor, said his office received countless calls with stories of kids who were victims of cyber bullying. 

The bill has yet to be voted on in committee.

. House Dems make school safety top priority (01/28/2008)

At a press conference Monday afternoon, Missouri House Democrats outlined plans to improve public schools as part of their Move Missouri Forward initiative.

The group discussed a bill to appropriate $1.5 million to the Education Department for a school safety and violence prevention program.

. Availability of Tax Information Main Concern (01/28/2008)

A bill sponsored by President Pro Tem Senator Michael Gibbons focuses on the availability of property tax information for citizens.  The main problem, says Gibbons, is that tax payers do not have ready access to tax information which results in confusion. 

The bill also moves up important tax dates.  Assessors would be required to notify taxpayers by February 15th of real property assessment increases and with help from the county clerk, will also estimate the tax liability for property on which assessments are increasing.  Assessors would also need to certify the assessment book on April 15th, weeks earlier than the current deadline of May 31st.

No one testified in opposition of the bill but those in favor of the bill did raise concern over the deadline, saying when it comes to property tax assessment rates, accuracy counts more than punctuality.

. Steelman and Kinder in, Talent out & Carnahan thinking. (01/25/2008)

The Republican gubernatorial campaign began to take form late Friday afternoon, according to reports from The Associated Press.

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder confirmed he definitely will run for the job and State Treasurer Sarah Steelman said she too will seek the office.

Meanwhile, former U.S. Senator Jim Talent ruled himself out of the race.

And on the Democratic side, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan was quoted as saying she considering taking on Attorney General Jay Nixon for the Democratic nomination for governor.

. The first formal candidacy is announced in the aftermath of Blunt's departure. (01/25/2008)

Former St. Louis Rep. Jack Jackson formally announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor.

Jackson is the first to campaign announcement since Gov. Matt Blunt's announcement he would not seek re-election.

Jackson was an unsuccessful candidate for the GOP nomination for state auditor in 2006.  He said he made his decision to seek the lieutenant governor's job after Peter Kinder told him he would not seek re-election to the post but, instead, was going to seek Blunt's job.

In the meantime, the list of potential candidates for governor continues to grow -- but none have made a formal announcement.

. Another Missouri lawmaker faces criminal charges. (01/24/2008)

The Associated Press reports that Re. Brad Robinson, D-Bonne Terre, has been charged with a felony for driving away from an auto accident in which a pedestrian was struck.

The incident occurred during the early-morning hours of New Year's day.

The two-term Democrat becomes the sixth lawmaker to face criminal charges in the past year.  Other lawmakers have been charged and/or convicted for credit card fraud, presenting false identification at a gambling boat, an immigration fraud scheme and drunken driving.

. Missouri's House Speaker puts toes into the gubernatorial campaign waters. (01/24/2008)

House Speaker Rod Jetton told reporters Thursday that he has the financial backing and the support to make the race for the governor.

Jetton suggested that only his wife's possible objections stood in his way. He said he would talk with his wife over the weekend about a possible campaign.

Jetton is the third Republican to raise the possibility of going after the state's highest position after Gov. Matt Blunt announced earlier this week he was dropping out.

. Nixon stresses Democratic unity after Blunt announcement (01/23/2008)

Surrounded by dozens of cheering partisan legislators, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Nixon emphasized the unity in his party, in contrast to the uncertainty and possible primary election the Republican party now faces in the governor's race.

Meanwhile, Sarah Steelman and Peter Kinder have both released statements regarding possible possible runs for governor.

. Blunt not first Missouri politician to bow out (01/23/2008)

Gov. Matt Blunt's announcement today was far from the first of it's kind.

A handful of former Missouri officials left politics at what seemed to be the height of their careers for a "myriad of reasons" as one former Senator put it.

Though some cited money as the main factor in deciding to leave office, Blunt assured that fund raising had nothing to do with his choice.

. Blunt tells reporters he lacks a mission for another term. (01/23/2008)

Gov. Matt Blunt repeated  told a Wednesday morning news conference that his decision to drop out of the campaign for re-election was that he just did not have a sense of "mission" for a second term as governor.

Rejecting a number of questions about other possible motivations, for nearly an hour Blunt repeated told reporters his decision was based on a sense that he had accomplished all that he intended as governor.

The governor said he had made his decision within the past few days after discussions with family and prayer.

As for the future, Blunt said he has no future plans after his term as governor ends in January 2009.  He did not, however, running for public office sometime in the future.

. Matt Blunt drops his campaign. (01/22/2008)

In an announcement that stunned Missouri's statehouse, Gov. Matt Blunt has dropped his campaign for re-election as governor.

Blunt released his statement and posted it on YouTube just minutes after he held a short conference call with state Republican leaders to inform them of the decision.

Several Republicans who attended the conference call said the governor added little to his formal statement that he he did not have the "same sense of mission for a second" term.

In recent months, Blunt has come under increasing attack for reports that his top staff had ordered destruction of state e-mails.  His budget proposals announced last week had raised concerns from some Republican legislators that the large spending increases would endanger the state's budget.

Blunt leaves the campaign with slightly more than $4 million in his campaign war chest.