From Missouri Digital News:
MDN Menu

MDN Home

Journalist's Creed


MDN Help

MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News
MDN Menu

MDN Home

Journalist's Creed


MDN Help

MDN.ORG Mo. Digital News Missouri Digital News MDN.ORG: Mo. Digital News MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News
Lobbyist Money Help  
NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of October 17, 2011

The Missouri House of Representatives passed a constitutional amendment in a special session hearing Tuesday to create a new tax credit review process voted by both the House and Senate.

Under the new tax credit review process, it allows the General Assembly to review the tax credit programs every four years instead of six years applied by sunsets.

The Senate is in favor of sunsets, but Rep. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, said it is unfair that one person can in effect kill a program.

"We should not allow one senator to filibuster a renewal if a program comes to an end on a certain date and it needs to be authorized for renewal," Silvey said. "We don't believe that one senator should have the power to in effect kill a program that takes a majority of senators to create in the first place."

House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, said: "What the Senate did is they took almost all the provisions that we all liked out and put in some provisions that they knew we didn't like, like the Compete Missouri, and then said, 'By the way, you needed to live up to your end of the deal.'"

Tilley said the House never wanted to break one provision of their deal but that it is the Senate who broke the deal.

Although the House passed the proposed amendment in the hearing, the senators show no intention of returning to the state Capitol to discuss it with the House and vote on it. Tilley said the House didn't have sufficient discussion with Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, and he said he thought Mayer didn't do what he should do.

The time period for the special session is 60 days, but after 45 days of debate, the House and Senate still haven't come to an agreement on the bill. With just 15 days left to a Nov. 5 deadline, the House and Senate might end up in a stalemate with no legislation passed. Tilley said if the Senate doesn't want to conference with the House, there is nothing else the House can do.

While legislators continue stalling on the tax breaks for a China air cargo transport hub in St. Louis, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon will spend a week in China as part of a business trade mission. Nixon will be joined by a slew of officials, including state Rep. Jason Kander, D-Kansas City.

Although Kander said he doesn't know why he is invited by the Governor's office to the trip, his objective is to do everything he can to increase the sale of Missouri products -- and he said the failure of the China hub bill won't affect the trip.

"It's just one of the extra tools in the tool box," Kander said. "With or without it, I think it's a very worthwhile trip."

Kander said the trip is a good opportunity to advertise Missouri products.

"There's a wide range of products that we want to discuss with the Chinese that we think they should purchase from right here in the state," Kander said.

He said increasing Missouri exports in China will add more job opportunities for the local workers.

On the House floor Thursday, Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said the Senate is not following through on their legislative obligations as lawmakers.

"The only people who are unwilling to come to the table are the people in the Senate," Kelly said. "Mr. Speaker, it is an abdication of their obligations under oath of office. It is not good, and we should not encourage it by backing down."

Representatives voted to take the China hub legislation to conference and say they will continue working pass it.

Senate leaders said they have no intention of bringing members back to special session to debate the issue.

As the special session ekes on, so does the life of the China hub economic development bill.

In its annual ranking scorecard, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranked Missouri 44th in energy efficiency.

The council looks at six areas related to energy efficiency to put forth these rankings.

Research manager for the council determining rankings, Maggie Molina, said Missouri does well when compared to other states in state government initiatives but lags behind top-ranked states in all other areas.

In a study completed earlier this year, the council found Missouri could save more than $6 billion and create around 8,500 local jobs if the state adopted new energy efficient policies.

Vice chairman of the Special Standing Committee on Renewable Energy, Rodney Schad, R-Versailles, said Missouri must do something to improve these rankings.

"That's not good news. If it's true and the ratings are correct, I think it's time we get busy and try to come up with some energy efficiency ideas," said Schad.

The committee did not meet during special session because energy efficiency was not on Gov. Jay Nixon's agenda.

Although Schad said he is unaware of specifics, the Special Standing Committee on Renewable Energy has two or three ideas for energy efficiency improvement and will work on those when regular session begins in January.

The Missouri House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution Thursday to continue to fund Boeing's F-18 fighter jet program, but just last week, the House majority voted to support Lockheed Martin Corp., Boeing's Texas-based competition.

While discussing last week's resolution on the House floor, Majority Leader Tim Jones, R-Eureka, said he skimmed it.

"It was about jets, it was about jobs, it was about the Missouri economy. So I think it’s unfair to criticize those of us that don't have that inside baseball knowledge," Jones said.

Boeing generates $1 billion for the state each year and employs 15,000 workers in the St. Louis area.

"I love military fighter jets; you know, the more the merrier," Jones said.  

The total number of confirmed cases of listeria, which most often causes fever and flu-like symptoms, has risen to five in Missouri.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention informed the Department of Health and Senior Services Thursday of the additional case.

According to the CDC, unsanitary conditions at Jensen Farms in Colorado caused the bacteria to contaminate the cantaloupes.

The five people who consumed the contaminated cantaloupe were hospitalized. One of the five has died; according to local media, the cause of death is not linked to listeriosis.

Nationwide, there have been 126 reported cases and 25 deaths. The FDA released an environmental assessment of reasons why the outbreak started in Jensen Farms. The assessment identified a couple of factors contributing to the outbreak, one of them being the facility design.

State and local health officials in Missouri continue to look for contaminated cantaloupe being sold.

The CDC has said to avoid cantaloupe with a green and white sticker that reads: Product of USA- Frontera Produce-Colorado Fresh-Rocky Ford-Cantaloupe, or a gray, yellow and green sticker that reads: Jensen Farms-Sweet Rocky Fords.

At a Capitol news conference, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder criticized Gov. Jay Nixon's administration for acting too slowly on resolving the SynCare issue.

Kinder blamed Governor Nixon for the backlog of Missourians still waiting to receive state approval for in-home medical care after the state cut ties with SynCare.

Nixon's spokesman Scott Holste refused to give a reaction to Kinder's criticisms.

"The reaction is I'm referring you over to the Department of Health for an explanation on how the backlog is being reduced and what they're doing about it," said Holste.

But a Health Department representative declined to answer any questions when contacted, and Director Margaret Donnelly was not available.

During Gov. Jay Nixon's visit to Kansas City Tuesday Nixon announced he is leaving for China on October 21st.

While in China the Governor says he plans to close deals between Missouri businesses and Chinese buyers.

This announcement comes one day after China-hub legislation died in the special session. The piece of legislation called for tax incentives to China-hub investors for warehouses in St. is as well as creating an international hub at an unused Lambert Airport terminal.

Though legislation supporting Chinese trade and exports to China died, Nixon is still traveling to China to close on trade deals.

Nixon's administration is confident that Chinese buyers will follow through on contracts despite the failed legislation.

His spokesperson said that Missouri's products are in high demand world wide regardless of legislature backing the trade plan.

During an Interim Committee of Criminal Justice hearing, almost half a dozen families told similar stories about how their lives were ruined due to the current sexual offender registration system.

One woman, Pam Baumstark, spoke on behalf of her son, Zach, who was arrested by federal agents on child pornography charges, which led to his eventual death.

When Zach was just fourteen years old, he and some of his friends were interested in sex. Baumstark says that being teenagers, they chose to download some sexual videos online of girls that were the same age as them. That website was monitored by an agency that had downloaded child pornography in hopes of attracting sexual predators. Four years later, Zach faced the harsh realities of his mistakes.

"It wasn't until two months after Zach turned 18 that the St. Charles County Police were at our door to confiscate his computer," Baumstark said. "The police questioned Zach with no lawyer present."

After weeks of the special legislative session, a wide-ranging tax credit reform bill was unable to pass through the Senate Monday.

Representative John Diehl, R-St. Louis County, said he had hoped the Senate would have considered going into a joint conference committee to forge a compromise, saying the House was "ready and able" to do so.

Talks over the legislation ground to a halt over the Senate's call for seven-year termination dates on the tax breaks.

Senate President Pro-Tem Rob Mayer says Monday's actions by the Senate have effectively killed the legislation, however he did not rule out the possibility of similar legislation reaching the legislature during the 2012 regular session.

Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich said he will have legislation letting him look further into the practices of the state Division of Finance.

Representative Sue Allen, R-St. Louis County, will file the legislation on his behalf.

Schweich held a news conference Tuesday announcing the move, which comes after the Missouri Bankers Association took legal action against the auditor for investigating what Schweich called "critical oversight" of the state's banking sector.

When the Magic City Moberly was trying to create 600 jobs through the Mamtek company, it wouldn't have expected it came with hope but left with despair.

Former Mamtek CEO Bruce Cole promised to bring the project back to life through a new American Sucralose Manufacturing Inc. based in Dallawell.

Cole promised a payment of 250,000 dollars but only paid 45,000 dollars.

The Finance Director of Moberly, Greg Hodge, said he has confirmed with the Bank of New York Wire Department that the rest of the payment of $205,000 was returned to Hong Kong because of a wrong routing number in the international transaction. Hodege said he was expecting to receive the money when China's weeklong holiday was over.

However, Hodge's hope soured the following week, when he said in an email that he "will be making no further comments about the situation."

Moberly's City Manager Andy Morris said he doesn't have any insights at this time. He is simply waiting for the money.

As of late last week, Moberly still has not received the payment.

Mamtek solicited money from Chinese investors by promising foreign visas. The EB5 visa program provides long term visa to foreigners who invest 500 thousand dollars in a U.S. development project.

A China-based firm Well Trend reported to the Columbia Daily Tribune that four Chinese investors have already put up two million dollars in the project.

The project's failure also has led to a downgrade of the city's credit rating from A to B. That means the city's future borrowing costs are likely going up, and the value of the bonds to investors has gone down.

Columbia Republican Senator Kurt Schaefer said the result is damaging the local economy.

Missouri Senate Governmental Accountability Committee is investigating the issue.

The Department of Economic Development is required to provide all the documents on the issue.

Governor Jay Nixon's administration awarded a one-million dollar state loan to Wi-Fi Sensors in 2009 to launch its manufacturing company in Missouri.

But the company missed its first payment on the loan back in November of 2010.

The company planned to produce transmitters that could be attached to remote devices and report conditions of those devices back to a central computer.

The company promised 40 new jobs and over four million dollars in private investments.

But the company has only created 15 to 20 for a short period of time.

The company has left the town of Kirksville without any jobs created and with an abandoned facility with its space now leased to Hollister Incorporated from whom the company bought the building in 2009.

In an e-mail response to questions, Wi-Fi Sensors Chief Operating Officer David Fuhr wrote they remain optimistic that one of the many defense department contracts they are relying on will land to help them with employment.

The Kirksville community is disappointed about the outcome of the project.

Director of Job Creation Phil Tate says his department wants to see taxpayer dollars used wisely and it is a disappointment when they are not.

The one-million dollar loan came from a state grant program.

Tate says this type of loan can be faulty since it is a high-risk federal fund taken from Missouri housing and urban development.

Wi-Fi Sensors Founder Peter Fuhr wrote in an e-mail they are fully aware of their delinquency in the loan payment and are working with the Economic Development Department to work out a solution.

Peter Fuhr wrote on an e-mail message to St. Louis state Senator Joseph Keaveny they have pumped close to four million dollars of money into the company.

A state Senate committee launched an investigation on Wi-Fi Sensors' default on the loan.

Director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior services did not respond to charges that her department is putting the lives of Missouri’s elderly in danger.

This comes after Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder publicly called on the Nixon Administration to act now in a health care crisis for Missouri’s senior citizens.

This crisis stems from the Department of Health and Senior Services privatizing in-home health care after the state canceled it's contract with Syncare, the company originally hired to perform these assessments.

The privatization of these health care services means that assessments for health care are taking much longer than they previously did.

Patients used to be able to go through their private health care providers to get these assessments, which then were submitted to the Department of Health and Senior Services, but now the Department is hiring temporary workers to complete assessments.

“Only 400 of 1,000 patients on the critical needs list have been assessed, that’s in 48 days. That means that there are 600 seniors in critical condition, who have been waiting for months for assessment for care who have not even been looked at,” said Kinder.

Diane Noah, Executive Director for HomeCare of Mid-Missouri urges the government to go back to the old way of assessments.

Private health care companies are not only able to do assessments, but it’s something they’ve always done.

It is unknown how many backlogged assessments still exist, but in September there were nearly 10,000 cases.

Kinder along with Senator Bob Dixon R-Springfield and Representative Tom Long R-Springfield stressed the importance of acting now, instead of waiting for regular session in January.

The Department of Health and Senior Services hired temporary employees in September to complete backlogged assessments, which is costing taxpayers an additional $8 million this year.

The governor’s office would not comment on the issue, instead directing questions to the Spokesperson for the Department of Health and Senior Services.

Get the radio story here.

Get the print story here.

With little discussion and no opposition, Missouri's Senate refused to agree to a conference with the House on the main issue of the special session, business tax breaks for business and development of the "China hub."

The chamber subsequently adjourned with no plans to bring the full Senate membership back before the session must end Nov. 5.

Technically, the Senate rejected the House version and asked the House to accept the Senate's approach that includes termination dates for other tax breaks. The Senate did not include in its motion a customary request for a House-Senate conference committee to negotiate the differences.

In a short explanation to his Senate colleagues, Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer described the differences between the two chambers as "irreconcilable."

The House, later this week, could pass the Senate version.

But Senate leaders described that as unlikely given the House opposition to some of the Senate provisions.  And in a later response to a reporter's question, Mayer said that it would be accurate to describe the bill as effectively dead. 

The bill would provide various business tax breaks including breaks to encourage development of a China air transport hub in St. Louis.

By a huge margin, the House previously had rejected the Senate's demand that the bill include corresponding reductions in tax credits for developers of low income housing and historical preservation project.

House members argued those tax credits stimulate development in local communities.  Senate members argue that with Missouri government facing the prospects of deep budget cuts, it must scale back tax credits that cost the state more than $500 million per year.

The Senate's action leaves the governor with just one of the items he had requested the special session to approve -- changing a law that was interpreted as blocking public school teachers from using social media to communicate with their students.

Senate leadership say the Missouri special legislative session is effectively over — without having reached a decision on changing the date of the state's presidential primary election. The primary is said to have no impact in February, Republicans claim they will make their decisions by caucus.

Senators proposed competing amendments on Monday: one to eliminate the primary in favor of a caucus and one to keep the primary but move it to January. Debate ensued over whether votes in such a primary would yield any significant results.

"I do not want to waste $8 million, at a very difficult time in the state's history, on a beauty contest," said Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, who favors of the caucus plan.

Some Republican senators said a caucus enables the public to choose candidates without spending state money on an election, but others said a caucus alienates voters and does not encourage presidential candidates to visit or campaign in Missouri.

"There's a reason there's discontent with government: Elected officials are not listening to their constituents," Sen. Brad Lager, R-Maryville, said in support of his amendment to move the primary to January.

The senators described Missouri's population as a cross-section of the national population, ideal for a successful primary election. With almost six million residents in both urban and rural areas, the state is a better representation of national sentiment than smaller primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, said Sen. Timothy Green, D-St. Louis County. Green said campaign ads and visits for a primary election the money bring in enough money to the state's economy to make up for the cost to the state.

Both amendments were defeated by a majority vote. The Senate convenes later in the week, but Senate leaders said they have no intention of addressing the matter again.

As of the end of September, Gov. Jay Nixon's campaign for governor in 2012 has raised more than $4 million while Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who is expected to announce his candidacy soon, has raised less than $2 million.

Craig Hosmer, Nixon's campaign treasurer, said Nixon received more donations because his performance in office has gained the loyalty of the people.

"I think he's been very effective," Hosmer said. "I think he's done a lot of things that are very popular with people, and I think he's been a great governor."

Rich Chrismer, Kinder's campaign adviser, would not directly comment whether he thought reports of Kinder's patronage at a St. Louis strip club affected donations.

Chrismer said Kinder is expected to declare his candidacy next month.

Last Week

Missouri Secretary of State, Robin Carnahan, is criticizing Republican lawmakers for their plan to cancel next year's presidential primary elections.

Carnahan, a Democrat, calls the idea "wrong-headed." She says eliminating the primary would not allow ordinary Missourians to voice their presidential preferences.

The Missouri GOP suggests that they will use a caucus process to pick its delegates for the national nominating convention.

Republican supporters say the cancellation could save the state somewhere between six to eight million dollars.

The Senate will discuss the legislation next week during special session at the Capitol building.

A member of the state Department of Economic Development signed off on tax-exempt bonds funding the failed Mamtek facility, the department official told the Committee on Governmental Accountability on Tuesday.  

The committee's meeting continued its investigation into Missouri government's role in the deal with China-based company Mamtek and other economic development projects.

Missouri senators questioned Gov. Jay Nixon's economic development department officials on why it put its stamp of approval on tax-exempt bonds funding the Mamtek project, which sapped funds from the city of Moberly's reserve fund when Mamtek defaulted on its bond payment and backed out of the deal.

The committee heard testimonies to figure out if and when the visas for Chinese investors, also called EB-5 visas, and tax-exempt bonds that were offered by Mamtek can be used effectively for funding economic development projects.

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, asked Sallie Hemenway and Chris Pieper from the Department of Economic Development what they did to ensure due diligence before giving Mamtek tax-exempt bonds. They said they would supply that information with other requested documents in the near future.

"As we get the documentation that we requested from the department that we would see some level of confirmation that was done. And I think based on today, we're not really sure until we see those documents," Schaefer said.

The Department of Economic Development puts a stamp of approval on tax-exempt bonds, and Hemenway said she was the one who signed off on the status for use to fund the failed Mamtek project in Moberly.

The two witnesses said they originally gave the tax-exempt status to Mamtek based mostly on a readiness to close on the deal, although they also considered the potential for job creation and investment.

Schaefer said he is concerned that if they're defaulted on, tax-exempt bonds could create heightened scrutiny on municipal bonds coming out of Missouri in the future. He said he has talked to professionals who would argue that the default has already lowered Missouri's bond rating.       

Following a Republican caucus Tuesday afternoon, Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, says the House and Senate will conference on Monday to attempt to work out their differences.

There is much debate surrounding termination dates around the China hub bill. Without these termination dates, Mayer says the Senate will not pass any bill.

Mayer also says the Senate will take up a bill to terminate presidential primary voting in Missouri in an effort to save the state $6 to $8 million. Mayer says that money would be better served in education or health care, and that the primary process is meaningless.

Senate leaders said they would begin conference committee meetings next week when, regardless of whether a consensus is reached, Mayer said he expects the special session to end.

Ameren Missouri met with officials from every Missouri electricity provider Tuesday about ways to meet certain federal energy regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency, including limits to air pollution between states..

Warren Wood, the vice president of Ameren Missouri, said the creation of Ameren's desired new nuclear power plant in Callaway County wasn't on the table at the meeting. But Wood said the fight to create the power plant -- known as Callaway Two -- is not over.

"There's a great deal of interest in economic development, jobs, reliable, affordable power for the future, and I think the subject of Callaway Two is going to come up because it's an important option for the future," Wood said.

A law prohibiting public financing of ongoing energy construction projects has been the main obstacle to Callaway Two's creation. An amendment to a jobs bill repealing this law died in the Missouri House last week.

Bacteria from Colorado cantaloupe has infected a fourth person with listeria in Missouri, the state Department of Health and Senior Services confirmed Tuesday.

The most recent victim is in northwest Missouri, state officials said in a news release. Three other cases have been reported in eastern and southwestern regions of the state.

So far, all those infected in Missouri have been hospitalized and one, an unidentified 94-year-old, died from the infected fruit.

All cantaloupes from Jensen Farms of Holly, Colo., have already been recalled.

However, health officials urged consumers to look out for any fruit from the farm shipped between July 29 and Sept. 10. 

<="" div="">