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MPANewsBook: Statehouse News for MPA Members: 9/23/2009 - Archived File

The state official in charge of creating jobs in Missouri resigned on Sept. 14.

The letter of resignation from the director of the Department of Economic Development, Linda Martinez, was submitted and accepted by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, but neither Nixon nor Martinez were available to explain why she resigned only eight months after receiving her post.

However, Martinez wrote to Nixon, "I am sorry we have been unable to meet and therefore we have been unable to discuss and reconcile our different views on how to move the state that we both love forward."

Despite reports from several news agencies that embattled former state Rep. Steve Brown, D-St. Louis County, had refused to turn in his law license, the Supreme Court confirmed Sept. 14 that they had received Brown's petition for voluntary suspension.

Art Magulis, Brown's attorney, said he sent the petition, along with Brown's license, to the court's disciplinary council office last Wednesday Sept 9. The Supreme Court made a motion to suspend his license on Friday. Although they have now received Brown's petition, the suspension is not automatic, and the chief disciplinary council will still have to review the petition and make a recommendation before any final action is taken.

Brown resigned from the Missouri House of Representatives last month after pleading guilty to federal obstruction of justice charges relating to the unsuccessful congressional race of former state Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis City.

Brown's sentencing date is set for Nov. 20.

In the annual veto session held in Jefferson City on Sept. 16, Missouri lawmakers upheld all vetoes made by Democrat Gov. Jay Nixon following the 2009 legislative session.

By a straight party-line vote, Missouri's House upheld the Democrat governor's veto of a measure to require the administration give legislators keys to the top of the Capitol.

The dome-key measure was the only veto for which even a motion was made at Wednesday's veto session.

The override motion failed 86-71 -- well short of the 109 votes need for a two-thirds majority to override a governor's veto.

The bill's original sponsor, state Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem, said it also contained more important financial oversight provisions that outweighed worries about issuing extra keys to the Capitol's dome area.

Four of Nixon's vetoes were brought to the House floor, with three withdrawn after brief debate.

In the Senate, not a single motion for an override was made as the lieutenant governor read off the list of bills vetoed by the governor. 

The Missouri Department of Higher Education showed a 40 percent increase of student loan defaults

The department released figures that showed 4,617 borrowers from across the state are in default on their student loans -- up 40 percent since 2008.

State officials attributed this increase to the current economic climate and high unemployment rates.

"When people lose their jobs or are working less, they typically have to prioritize things like housing and food. Sometimes they're not able to make a payment like a student loan payment--that might lead to create a default," said Paul Wagner, deputy commissioner of the state's higher education department.

The pension board for state workers decided Sept. 17 that the state will need to kick $276 million into the pension fund for state employees next year -- a $20 million increase over the current budget year, according to the state budget office.

The payment is the result of the national economic downturn that cut the investment returns on the retirement fund.

While large, the amount approved by the pension board is a bit lower than the original $303 million estimate -- thanks to a change in accounting practices.

Money for the pension fund is derived from two sources: state contributions and investment earnings.