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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of November 12, 2012

In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Gov. Jay Nixon said the state would not be able to comply with a departmental deadline for states to set up state-based health insurance exchanges through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

In the letter, Nixon referenced Proposition E, a measure passed in last week's election by Missouri voters that prohibits the establishment of a state-based insurance exchange.

Lawmakers tried to pass legislation in 2011 setting up a state-based exchange, but it never passed.

Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder said the legislature doesn't need to be in any hurry to set up a state-based exchange.

"The people of Missouri have twice been heard on this," Kinder said. "They have twice rendered a negative verdict on Obamacare in a super majority."

Missouri will face another deadline next February for states to decide whether or not to apply for a state-federal partnership exchange, but Nixon made no comment on what the legislature's next move might be when session begins on Jan. 9.

Missouri is one of 13 other states that have taken steps to reject the Affordable Care Act.

The Missouri Public Service Commission is looking to create a separate residential rate class with a lower rate specifically for low-income residents.

Kathleen Chitwood, who represents low-income residents like herself in Missouri, said the bad economy put her and many others she works with in a bind to pay for necessities like groceries and utilities. She serves as an alternative board member for the Jefferson Franklin Community Action Corporation.

Chitwood said this new rate class would directly benefit her and those she represents.

Rep. Darrel Pollock, R-Lebanon, said he doesn't see the new rate class as something the commission should be looking into. Pollock, who is the chairman of the House Committee on Utilities, said he opposes a new rate class because there are already programs and laws in place to help low-income residents.

Opponents are also concerned a cut in a rate class for low-income residents will mean a spike in rates for others. Missouri Public Service Commissioner Robert Kenney said other rates may rise, but they may not.

"The whole idea of rate design for utilities is so complex anyway that it's really an oversimplification to say 'well, if we set up a low income class then everyone is paying more,'" Kenney said.

In September the commission created a docket for stakeholders to comment on the possibility of the creation of a new rate class. It is currently reviewing and evaluating the responses. Kenney said the next step is to hold a face-to-face workshop of all the stakeholders to determine the best thing to do.

For 137 years, it was legal to kill a Mormon in Missouri. The state's violent history with this religious group is far in the past, however.

Missouri voters selected Mitt Romney, a Mormon, in this year's presidential election.

The Mormons began moving to Jackson County after Joseph Smith pronounced Independence as the location of Zion. Conflict soon broke out on the frontier. Patrick Mason, author of the book "The Mormon Menace," said other white settlers were not fond of the theocratic politics, abolitionist sentiments and polygamy practices of the Mormon settlers.

Mason said Mormonism changed in the late nineteenth century to conform with American norms, as it gave up polygamy and its political party. Throughout the 20th century, Mason said Americans grew more tolerant of religious pluralism.

 A surge in Chinese students is driving an increase in the overall number of international students attending colleges and universities in Missouri and across the country, a new study has found.

The survey, done by the Washington-based Institute of International Education, showed that Missouri ranks 13th in the number of enrolled international students with 16,061, a six percent increase from 2011, which mirrored the nationwide growth.

Peggy Blumenthal, a spokeswoman for the institution, said many of the students think an American education will better prepare them for jobs in an increasingly globalized economy.

"They think its worth the investment," Blumenthal said. "The kind of training they're going to get here in the states is going to give them a better chance at a really good career back in China or here in the states or wherever around the world that they decide to go."

More than 200,000 Chinese students came to the US for a college education last year, as did about 100,000 Indian students.

Missouri's minimum wage will increase from $7.25 to $7.35 in 2013.

In 2006, Missouri voters approved a ballot measure that linked minimum wage to the cost of living.

"Not something as important as minimum wage," said Karen Buschman, spokeswoman for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce. "It shouldn't be tied to something that automatically increases."

Buschman said the high minimum wage will drive businesses, and the jobs they create, to Missouri's bordering states. Illinois is the only adjoining state with a minimum wage higher than $7.35.

"The last few years we have pursued legislation to try to disconnect the minimum wage from the mandates it is currently tied to," Buschman said. "We have been unsuccessful, but it will likely be part of our legislative priorities for the upcoming year."

Lara Granich, director of Missouri Jobs With Justice, said the fear that businesses will suddenly flock to bordering states is unfounded.

"All the research shows that that does not bear out. That's just a scare tactic in the public today to try to keep the minimum wage down," Granich said.

The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a state law giving the state power over the city of St. Louis in residency requirements for firefighters.

Residency requirements are dictations of where a city employee must live.

The court ruled that because regulating residency requirements is not fixing the powers, the legislature can create laws about them.

"We're very disappointed. We really believe that personnel rules for city officials should be left up to the locally elected officials- it's a real local control issue," said Missouri Municipal League director Richard Sheets.

Sheets said he believes St. Louis and Kansas City are the only cities affected at the moment because they are the only charter cities with disaccredited schools this law applies to.

Dean Katerndahl, Mid-America Regional Council Director of Government Innovations said he doesn't think the Kansas City area will be affected greatly.

"The residency requirements by and large were put in decades ago," Katerndahl said.

Katerndahl adds that because Kansas City residency requirements cover such a large area of suburban and urban housing, he doesn't see a large change coming.

The House Interim Committee on Government Bidding and Contracting met on Tuesday to discuss ways to better improve the process of government bidding.

Yet the meeting was at a stalemate after the director of the Department of Revenue refused to attend for the third time.

"She's refused to show up three times, and instead what she does is send persons within the department that can answer some factual questions but won't give any answers on how policy might be improved, and that's just unacceptable," said Rep. Jay Barnes R-Jefferson City.

Committee members said the department lacks a strict set of rules for which to be held accountable.

"If they do not have written specific rules to follow, how can anyone determine if their process is consistent," said committee chairman Rep. Sue Allen R-St. Louis County. "If anyone who loses a bid comes back, there could potentially be 183 lawsuits or more."

Committee members held the meeting to find ways to improve the process of bidding in Missouri, but without the presence of the director, they were unable to address policy.

Barnes said he expects the director to appear at a meeting in the future, but will exercise subpoena power if she does not.

"Representative Barnes indicated that the expectation is that the director will show up to one of our meetings," Allen said. "However, the speaker of the House has the power to subpoena someone, so that should happen."

The Missouri Department of Economic Development released the State Jobs Report for Missouri from the month of October on Tuesday.

John Fougere, spokesman for the MDED, said payrolls added 13,000 new jobs for the month of October.

Missouri's unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.9 percent. The rate has been lower than the national unemployment rate for 38 consecutive months

Fougere also said the Missouri labor force grew by nearly 10,000 people in October.

Last Week

Gov. Jay Nixon addressed how he will work with veto-proof majorities in both houses at his first press conference since being re-elected Thursday.

House Speaker Rep. Tim Jones, R-St. Louis County, issued a challenge to the governor Wednesday, saying Nixon would have to work better with the legislature than he has in the past. Jones said the governor would have to "make his agenda known and his opinions known on specific legislation" so lawmakers "can pass a bill one time and have it become law."

When asked to respond to Jones' comment, Nixon said he does not approach his position in a partisan way and will "continue to work with members of both sides of the aisle."

Nixon also said, "being the chief executive of the state has many things that are broader or different than that, and they take a tremendous amount of energy," in regards to working with the legislature.

After only serving two years in the Missouri Senate, a former state House Speaker has been chosen to serve as the Senate's Republican Floor Leader.

Senate Republicans picked Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, to serve as the leader of the majority caucus. Richard was first elected to the state Senate in 2010 after serving for 8 years in the state House. Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles County, will serve as Senate President Pro Tem.

Both the legislative chambers hold veto-proof majorities after House Republicans gained five seats Tuesday night, giving them 110 seats to Democrats' 53. Republicans lost two seats in the state Senate, but still hold 24 seats in the chamber, giving them one seat more than is necessary to override a gubernatorial veto.

Speaker of the House Tim Jones, R-St. Louis County, said yesterday that he was willing to work with Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, but is also willing to use the power of his caucus to override the governor if necessary. Dempsey did not specifically reiterate Jones' stance today and said he hopes to work with the governor to help Missouri.

"We'll encourage the governor to communicate with us, and we'll certainly extend my hand to communicate with him, so that these priorities that are so critical to the state of Missouri are accomplished," Dempsey said. 

Earlier in the day Senate Democrats chose Jolie Justus, D-Jackson County, as their Democratic Floor Leader. Justus will replace Sen. Victor Callahan, D-Jackson County, who was term limited out of office.

Justus said the governor "plays his cards very close," but she said she has a great relationship with Nixon, which she hopes to maintain as Democratic Floor Leader. 

Armed with super majorities of Republicans in the Senate and in his own chamber, House Speaker Tim Jones laid down a challenge for Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon: work with the GOP, or see your vetoes overridden.

Speaking at the state Capitol on Wednesday, House Speaker Tim Jones, R-St. Louis County, said the governor would need to engage in "true, actual negotiation" with his party to put his ideas into state law.

Republicans also selected most of their caucus leaders Wednesday. State Rep. John Diehl, R-St. Louis County, has been chosen as the chamber's majority leader.

GOP lawmakers deliberated for more than four hours before reaching their decisions on the caucus leaders. They met in the House chamber, but did so in a secret meeting, going so far as the lock the chamber's doors, bar the press from listening in and taping pieces of cardboard over the chamber's windows to prevent people outside from seeing any of the action.

The House Democrats are meeting to elect their leadership Thursday.

The turnout for Tuesday's election was 4 percent lower than the November 2008 election.

The Missouri Secretary of State's office had projected a 72 percent voter turnout, but only 2.7 million people -- 65 percent of registered voters -- showed up to the polls.

The Secretary of State's office accumulated the projected turnout after all 115 counties and St. Louis City sent in voter turnout projections, and they predicted 72 percent of registered voters would vote -- a 3 percent increase from 2008.

Osage County had the highest voter turnout with more than 72 percent of registered voters. But, that mark was still a 4 percent drop from the 2008 election.

Sullivan County had the second lowest turnout with just over 52 percent. County Clerk Jackie Morris said this was an improvement from what she projected.

"I projected less than 50 percent," Morris said. "We only had three local races that were contested."

This election's turnout was half a percent higher than the 2004 election.

State Rep. Jason Kander will take the reins as the state's top election official after defeating Republican state Rep. Shane Schoeller.

The Kansas City Democrat defeated his opponent by a 49-48 margin with 100 percent of precincts reporting. Kander beat Schoeller 33,620 votes.

Kander takes over for retiring Democrat Robin Carnahan who was first elected to the office in 2004. Kander, a former army captain and attorney, was first elected to the General Assembly in 2008.

During the campaign, Kander pledged to fight against attempts by Republicans to require photo identification to vote.

Schoeller was first elected to the House in 2006 representing a district north of Springfield. He served as Speaker Pro Tem and was briefly House Speaker when Steve Tilley resigned in August.

Kander is now charged with enforcing the state's election laws. His term expires in 2016 when he will be eligible to seek re-election.

Missouri's cigarette tax will remain the lowest in the country after voters reject Proposition B.

The Associated Press called the contest at midnight.

The measure would have raised the tobacco tax from 17 cents per pack to 90 cents per pack of cigarettes. The tax increase was projected to bring in $283 million to $423 million in revenue. The ballot measure would have diverted the revenue to K-12, higher education and smoking cessation programs although the legislature would not have to necessarily follow the guidelines specified in the measure.

Voters rejected similar proposals in 2002 and 2006.

The GOP has won a two-thirds majority in the Missouri House giving them enough votes to override vetoes from Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.  

The Republicans won or are leading in 110 seats with the Democrats taking the remaining 53 seats.

Current House Speaker Tim Jones, R-St. Louis County, is expected to remain Speaker when the next legislative session begins in January.

All House seats will be up for re-election in 2014.

The GOP has held on to control of Missouri's Senate despite losing two seats.

The Republicans will hold at least 24 seats with the Democrats holding at least nine. Only half of the Senate's seats were up for re-election this year.

The Democrats gained a seat in redistricting with a GOP suburban St. Louis district shifting to Kansas City. Incumbent Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, is trailing his opponent state Rep. Scott Sifton, D-Affton, by 2,000 votes with two precincts yet to report.

The Republicans are expected to chose current Majority Leader Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, to be their next President Pro Tem, replacing term-limited Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter.

Republicans hold a two-thirds majority necessary to override a gubernatorial veto.

The terms of the senators elected tonight expire in 2016.

Incumbent Democratic state Treasurer Clint Zweifel won a second term over his Republican challenger state Rep. Cole McNary.

The Associated Press called the race for Zweifel with 82 percent of precincts reporting.

Zweifel is the first state Treasurer to be re-elected since Bob Holden in 1996. Zweifel campaigned on Missouri's AAA credit rating and pledging to protect the state's pension plan for government workers.

McNary is the son of former St. Louis County Executive Gene McNary and ran on a plan to fix funding problems in the pension system. Zweifel, a former St. Louis County state representative, succeeded Republican Sarah Steelman in 2008 after defeating Republican state Sen. Brad Lager.

Zweifel's term expires in 2016 when he will be ineligible to run due to term limits.

Cape Girardeau Republican Peter Kinder has won his third term as lieutenant governor in a race against former state Auditor Susan Montee.

Kinder leads Montee by a 53-42 margin with 71 percent of precincts reporting. Shortly before 11 p.m. Montee called Kinder to concede.

Kinder's campaign focused on his record as a champion of conservative causes, especially his public opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

Kinder, who is only the second Missourian to win a third term as lieutenant governor. He was the only statewide Republican to win in the 2008 election cycle and was widely seen as the candidate to take on Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon this year. But, a series of reports about Kinder's spending habits and visits to strip clubs knocked him from the gubernatorial contest.

Montee was elected as auditor in 2006, but lost her re-election bid to Republican Tom Schweich during the 2010 election. Montee became the chairman of the state Democratic Party and jumped in the lieutenant governor race when the presumptive Republican nominee was former House Speaker Steve Tilley. Tilley exited the race after his divorce while Kinder dropped his gubernatorial campaign to seek re-election.

Kinder also had to overcome a tough primary opponent in state Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah. Kinder won the primary by 15,000 votes.

His third term expires in 2016 when he could seek re-election.

Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster won re-election as the state's chief law enforcement officer against his Republican challenger Ed Martin.

Koster leads by a 53-44 margin with 72 percent of precincts reporting.

A former Republican, Koster switched parties prior to running for Attorney General in 2008 to replace Jay Nixon. During the campaign, Koster pointed to his record as a prosecutor and cracking down on Medicaid fraud during his first term. He also criticized his challenger as being inexperienced. Koster was also endorsed by the National Rifle Association.

Martin was running for a congressional seat in St. Louis before dropping out of the race to challenge Koster. Martin was the former Chief of Staff to Gov. Matt Blunt before resigning after reported open-records law violations.

Koster defeated Republican Mike Gibbons in 2008. His new term expires in 2016 when he can seek re-election.

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon has won his second term as Missouri's governor defeating Republican challenger Dave Spence.

Nixon leads with a 52-46 margin with 73 percent of precincts reporting. Spence conceded the race to Nixon.

Nixon's win over the St. Louis businessman makes him the first two-term Missouri governor since the late Mel Carnahan's term expired in 2001.

His campaign focused on his "independence" from the national Democratic party and his fiscal discipline in balancing the state's budget without raising taxes. Nixon also opposed a key part of President Barack Obama's health care law -- the individual mandate.

Spence's campaign focused on his status of a political outsider. The contest became heated when Spence filed a defamation lawsuit against the governor for referring to Spence as a "banker" in a television ad.

Nixon's career in public office began in 1988 when he was elected to the state Senate. He was the state's longest serving Attorney General, an office he held until winning the 2008 gubernatorial contest.

Nixon's term expires in 2016, when he will be ineligible to run for re-election due to term limits.

Missouri's governor will no longer maintain the authority to establish a critical piece of the Affordable Care Act.

Voters passed Proposition E by a 64-36 margin with the 49 percent of the precincts reporting.

The measure will prevent the governor from creating a web-based exchange where consumers can compare different health insurance plans and prices. The measure blocks the governor and any state agency from implementing such an exchange without the approval of the legislature or voters.

The Republican-controlled General Assembly sent the measure to the voters in an effort to block the creation of the exchange. The Affordable Care Act stipulates that states must submit plans for an exchange to the federal government in January or states can adopt the federal exchange program.

St. Louis City will gain control of its police department.

Proposition A was passed by a 65-35 margin with 49 percent of the precincts reporting so far.

St. Louis is only one of two cities -- the other being Kansas City -- in the country whose police department is governed by a board appointed by the governor. Proposition A is the culmination of a long effort to bring the police force under the city's control. Previous efforts were stalled in Missouri's legislature.

Supporters argued the current system was antiquated and that giving the city control would save the taxpayers money. They said it was unfair for the city to spend so much money on the police, but not have control over its operations. Opponents argued that the change could harm the benefits of police officers.

The St. Louis City police force was put under state control during the Civil War and the arrangement has stuck.

Missouri's U.S. House incumbents seeking re-election have all won their races.

Democratic Reps. Lacy Clay and Emanuel Cleaver won their districts decisively against Republican challengers. Incumbent GOP Reps. Blaine Luektemeyer, Vicky Hartzler, Sam Graves and Jo Ann Emerson also won re-election in their districts.

The one open seat in the state -- a suburban St. Louis and St. Charles county district -- was also won handily by Republican and former U.S. ambassador Ann Wagner. Wagner's district was formerly U.S. Rep. Todd Akin's who did not seek re-election to challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill.

One incumbent not on the ballot -- Democratic U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan -- was defeated by Clay in the August Primary after Carnahan's district was eliminated by the Republican-controlled General Assembly in 2011.

Missouri last one congressional seat after the state's population grew at a slower rate than other states. Missouri will send six Republicans and two Democrats to the next Congress that opens in January.

This is the first time since the Civil War Missouri will send less than nine members to the U.S. House

Incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill has survived a tough re-election fight against Republican challenger Todd Akin.

CBS News and NBC called the race for McCaskill when she led the St. Louis congressman by a 51-42 margin with 36 percent of the precincts reporting. Around 9:30 p.m. Akin's campaign spokesman Rick Tyler said the congressman called McCaskill to concede the race.

McCaskill ran on her record as a "moderate" in the heavily partisan U.S. Senate and capitalized off several gaffes from her opponent.

She was considered one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators in the country at the beginning of the election cycle. This changed, however, after her opponent made comments suggesting women could prevent pregnancy from "legitimate rape."

Despite a large financial disparity, Akin defeated his main Republicans rivals, Sarah Steelman and John Brunner, in the August primary but struggled after the victory. McCaskill inserted herself into the Republican primary by running a set of ads aimed individually against Brunner, Steelman and Akin.

The congressman gained national notoriety after his comments on rape and abortion. Support for Akin quickly shrunk as fellow Republicans soon called on Akin to exit the race and conservative-advocacy groups, such as Crossroads GPS and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, pulled their support and money from Missouri.

Akin was able to slightly overcome the damage to his campaign after the September deadline for him to drop out of the race passed. A Mason-Dixon poll sponsored by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Kansas City Star released Oct. 26 showed McCaskill with only a 2 point lead over Akin.

In October, McCaskill reported raising almost $16 million for her campaign against Akin's $4 million tally.

As the campaign entered its final stages on Oct. 29, McCaskill's mother, Betty Anne McCaskill, died at age 84.

McCaskill's second term will last until 2018. She was first elected to the U.S. Senate during the Democratic wave of 2006, defeating incumbent Republican Jim Talent.

The constitutional amendment to change the way appellate judges are selected has failed.

The Associated Press called the defeat of Amendment 3 with a 77-23 margin with 42 percent of precincts reporting.

The measure would have given the governor more control over the selection of state Supreme and Appeals Court judges. The amendment would have changed the composition of the seven-member panel responsible for interviewing and selecting judicial candidates to submit to the governor to fill a court vacancy.

Currently, the panel consists of three citizens appointed by the governor, three lawyers selected by the Missouri Bar Association, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Amendment 3 will/would have removed the Chief Justice from the panel and replaced that seat with a gubernatorial appointment.

Supporters argued the amendment would bring more accountability to the selection of judges by investing more power in one person who is elected. Opponents countered that the change would inject partisan politics into the process.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has won Missouri's ten electoral votes.

CBS News called the race for Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan lead the state by a 60-38 margin with 20 percent of precincts reporting over President Barack Obama.  

Missouri, which was once considered a bell weather state, did not see much action from either presidential candidate during the campaign. The 2008 election was only the second time in a century Missouri did not side with the eventual presidential winner.

Clint Zweifel at At Nixon's Watch

At 8 p.m., one hour after Missouri polls closed only 30 of the state's nearly 3400 precincts have reported results.

Most of the results have come from rural counties such as Texas County.

The Secretary of State's office said the delay in reporting could be because voters are still casting ballots in many precincts. Voters in line when the polls closed at 7.p.m. were still able to vote. 

The Secretary of State's spokeswomen, Stacie Temple, said they did not know the specific reason for the delay in posting results, except that it can take a long time for the ballots to be counted.

The state's polls have closed after being open since 6 a.m.

At the time the polls closed, the Republicans already secured a majority in the state Senate due to unopposed GOP incumbents and half of the seats not being up for re-election. At the start of the night, Republicans hold 18 of the Senate's 34 seats. The Democrats have also already gained a seat due to redistricting when a Republican St. Louis County seat was moved to the urban Kansas City. The Democrat in that district is running unopposed.

Secretary of State Robin Carnahan projected a 72 percent voter turnout for the election.

Voters who were in line by 7 p.m. are still able to vote.

Regardless of the outcome Tuesday night, Missouri voters will have made history.

It will be the first time the state has chosen fewer than nine members of Congress. Missouri has dropped to eight districts because the state's population did not rise as fast as other states.

Also, voters will get a chance to elect a lieutenant governor for a third term for the first time since World War II.

The Secratary of State's office is projecting a 72 percent voter turnout across the state.

Gov. Nixon spent his last election day with stops in Columbia, Springfield, and Kansas City.

He focused mainly on appealing to what he has done for Missouri in the past.

"He is running on his track record right now, and he has a good track record to run on," Nixon campaign manager Oren Shur said.

Shur said Nixon focused his speeches on matters that are important to Missouri today.

"He's talking about job growth, maintaining our fiscal responsibility, keeping taxes low, and moving our economy forward," Shur said.

Challenger Dave Spence used his stop in Columbia to say that Nixon has been keeping the truth by "playing a game of hide-and-seek" with Missourians.

Spence said he is confident in victory, but that the decision is in the voters' hands now.

"At this point its pretty much out of our hands, and all the work hopefully comes home to roost, and then the Republican momentum will hopefully carry us over the goal line," Spence said.