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MPANewsBook: Statehouse News for MPA Members: 10/14/2009 - Archived File

The state took in nearly 20,000 doses of the swine flu vaccine the week of Oct. 5, a state Health Department spokesperson said.

Local health agencies are in charge of distributing the vaccines to health care providers, such as doctors and clinics.

While most Missourians won't be covered by the doses, the state is set to receive nearly 370,000 additional doses within the next month.

As the first H1N1 vaccines arrive in Missouri, the state's Health Department says it's leaving it up to local health agencies to decide who gets and who does not get the medicine.

"Every county is different. We think that the local health departments know best how to get (the vaccines) efficiently out to the public," Health Department spokesperson Kit Wagar said.

Overall tax collections have dropped by 10 percent compared to the same period last year according to State Budget Director Linda Luebbering.

In total, for the months of July, August and September, the state collected nearly $189 million less than the same period last year.

"It does look like there will need to be additional restrictions on spending," Gov. Jay Nixon's spokesperson Scott Holste said, although Nixon is "committed to keeping (funding) for essential programs in place."

One of these "essential programs" is the Foundation Formula, a program that funds K-12 education. Nixon will not look at cuts to the education fund, Luebbering said, adding that cuts to programs such as Medicaid were also off the table due to restrictions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Many Missourians who saved money on their electric bill due to the mild summer could end up paying more in the future if the state's biggest electric utility gets its way.

Because of the cool weather, AmerenUE reports a decline in electric demand -- no doubt caused by reduced air conditioning use. The company says it has not yet calculated the precise decline.

But the lower electric demand is one of the factors AmerenUE has cited for it's request for a temporary rate increase. In the past, interim rate increases were only granted on an emergency basis.

Low customer demand due to the mild summer coupled with increasing debt resulting from improvement projects put AmerenUE in a place where they felt an interim rate increase was necessary before a decision was made on the general increase, said AmerenUE spokesperson Mike Cleary.

Before the state's utility-regulating Public Service Commission is a request to allow a 1.7 percent interim rate increase -- pending the PSC's decision on its request for a general rate increase of 18 percent that had been filed back in July.

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Despite a national report on the dangers of fly ash, AmerenUE officials say Missouri is storing it properly.

Fly ash is made from burning coal. According to a 2006 report from Missouri's Energy Task Force, 85.6 percent of the state's electricity is produced by coal.

AmerenUE spokesperson Tim Fox said the company recycles half its fly ash to make concrete and stores the other half on-site in ash collection ponds.

"Fly ash is an unavoidable result of burning coal to generate electricity, but on the positive side we are able to recycle it and reuse it," Fox said.

Fox said Ameren is a leader in recycling fly ash to make concrete. The ash has been used to make concrete since the 1930s.