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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of February 10, 2014

A luncheon with the media put the governor in the hot seat about a plethora of issues, including a new form of the tax cut bill he vetoed over the summer.

On Thursday, Gov. Jay Nixon announced he met with Sen. Will Kraus, R- Lee's Summit, to generate a tax cut bill that they can agree on.

Nixon said he would like for the legislature to stop generating tax cut bills that favor the wealthy corporations of Missouri, and instead shift the focus toward working families.

The governor provided a list of requirements that he says must be met in order for him to sign off on the tax cut bill.

Get the print story.

A few states have faced complaints recently from citizens being stopped for data collection of hair and blood samples.

According to complaints, a police officer directs the driver into a traffic stop where the National Highway Traffic Safety Association collects data information from drivers.

Rep. Ken Wilson, R-Smithville, said his bill would make the stop unconstitutional. He said people feel compelled to stop when they see a police officer waving them down.

The stops are voluntary, and the participants receive money compensation for their time. The bill's sponsor said people are unaware that they do not need to stop at the check point.

But Wilson did not get complete support from his party. Rep. Mike Kelley, R-Lamar, said since the stop is voluntary it is not unconstitutional.

Rep. Mike Kelley, R-Lamar, sponsored a bill that increases the maximum speed limit on rural freeways and interstates.

Kelley said the increase shouldn't cause a change in traffic fatalities.

"When you're driving at 70 mph, if you hit a brick wall, it's not going to matter whether you were driving at 70 mph, 80 mph, 100 mph, in most of those high speed collisions, we know where it's going to end." said Kelley.

Opponents say that an increase in the speed limit has caused an increase in traffic fatalities shown in a prior study.

The bill has not yet made it to the House floor for debate.


Sen. Jamilah Nasheed asked the NRA to look at her license and see she has a Concealed Carry Permit.

Democrats said it was guns, while Republicans said taxes caused the Senate to take a half hour break Wednesday, Feb. 12. 

Majority Floor Leader Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, said the lawmakers met to discuss the tax cut bill.

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, said it was probably to discuss her amendment that was added to the gun nullification bill the previous night.

"The NRA called immediately after I offered the amendment and said that, they would take a, this would be a rated vote on third read," said Nasheed.

The National Rifle Association opposed the provision of a bill that would require gun owners to report weapon theft within 72 hours.

In a statement posted on its website, the NRA referenced the amendment Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, tacked onto the proposal Tuesday night, calling it an "anti-gun provision."

Nasheed said her amendment was only meant to keep gun owners accountable for stolen property and help law enforcement agencies do their job.

"It's really unfortunate to have the National Rifle Association against a simple amendment," Nasheed said in response to their press release. "I'm not 'anti-gun.' I have a CCW, and I own guns." 

The NRA argued the change is unfair to gun owners and makes them a victim twice. The statement read, "victims of gun theft should not be punished further by being prosecuted for such a 'crime.' Police resources should be focused on finding the real criminals responsible, not further victimizing those who have had not only their belongings stolen, but their sense of security and privacy as well."

Before the NRA's statement, bill sponsor Brian Nieves, R-Washington, said he did not care where the NRA stood on the issue and he did not think Nasheed's amendment was neither a bad nor good thing.

"I can live with it, I wouldn't raise it on a flag pole and say it's the greatest thing I have ever seen, but I can live with it," Nieves said.

Nasheed defended the bill, arguing the NRA used the amendment to express disapproval of the entire bill.

"They're bullies," Nasheed said. "I think they're trying to bully Senator Nieves. They probably don't like his overall bill and they're using my amendment to attack the overall bill." 

The original bill aims to make federal gun laws unenforceable in Missouri. The Senate approved the measure Tuesday night, but it must survive another Senate vote before it can make it to the House floor.

The House gave initial approval Wednesday, Feb. 12, to a new lottery ticket designed specifically for veterans.

The proposed constitutional amendment would create a separate veteran's lottery ticket and the proceeds would go toward the Veterans' Commission Capitol improvement trust fund.

Bill sponsor Rep. Sheila Solon, R-Jackson County, said the bill is a way to pay back veterans for what they've done for this country.

"This is the least that we can do for them to make sure that we fund out veterans homes, our veteran's cemeteries, and our outreach programs," Solon said.

Rep. Jeremy LaFaver, D-Jackson County, opposes the measure and cited the existing lottery and its lack of contribution to the education system.

"The lottery is one of the most inefficient ways that our state government can produce revenue because for every dollar that somebody buys a lottery ticket, only 25 cents actually makes it to a school or veteran home," LaFaver said.

The House needs to vote on the measure one more time before it is sent to the Senate where it has failed in each of the last few years.

The House gave approval Wednesday, Feb. 12, to a medical professionals conscience rights bill.

The bill would allow any medical professional to refuse to take part in any procedure they deem to be a violation of their conscience.

An example of a procedure a doctor could excuse themselves from would be performing an abortion.

House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, sponsored the bill and explained why he is introducing the bill for the third time.

"It's about protecting patients from having people engaged in their care who don't believe in the care they're providing," Jones said. "It's about protecting our health care system and making sure that everybody involved in that care is fully invested in what they're doing."

Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis County, vigorously opposes the bill and said it is an attack on women.

"To be clear, this is just one more vagina-specific bill in an election year that is designed to hurt women," Newman said.

After an hour-long debate, the House gave approval to the bill with a 116-38 vote.

10 Democrats voted in favor of the bill and 1 Republican voted against the bill.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri filed suit against the state late Tuesday night involving the constitutionality of a Missouri law denying the legal recognition of same-sex marriages.

Grant Doty, Staff Attorney for the ACLU, filed the lawsuit in the Sixteenth Judicial Circuit District in Kansas City.

Doty said the current Missouri law violates two elements of the U.S. Constitution.

First, the fundamental right to marry guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment in the Due Process Clause. Second, he said it violates the Equal Protection Clause.

"Our Missouri Constitution only recognizes marriage between a man and a women and so we feel like state officials need to honor the state constitution," said Mike Hoy, Executive Director of the Missouri Catholic Conference. That's their sworn duty."

Eight same-sex couples around the state filed the suit. One of those couples told their story at the state Capitol in Jefferson City Wednesday morning.

JoDe and Lisa Layton-Brinker have been together for six years and married since 2010.

Both women have been in the hospital before, and said the law in place made them take extra steps during those times.

"We had to make sure that we had filed or brought our paperwork to the hospital so they could have it on file that you know we were married," said Lisa Layton-Brinker. "You know, she was my spouse or I was hers so that we would be allowed visitation. So that we wouldn't be kicked out of the hospital."

Hoy said the Catholic church teaches that no person should be discriminated against. But, he said the church does not believe marriage between a man and a women is discrimination.

Doty said the suit outlines many protections married couples receive that same-sex couples do not.

He said if everything goes perfectly with the lawsuit, the state would recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages.

Dozens of Future Farmers of America high school students flooded the state Capitol today to support a bill proposing agriculture or career and technical courses satisfy certain subject-specific graduation requirements.

Rep. David Wood, R-Versailles, sponsors the bill that would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to adopt this policy on high school graduation.

"In the governor's State of the State address, he was making the statement that 75% of high school graduates need a college degree to get a good-paying job," Wood said. "I don't buy into that. There's a lot of good jobs in technical fields that don't need a four-year degree."

Eldon FFA President Drew Koerner said he plans to go to college, but his professional classes prepared him to know what he wants to do.

"This could open doors for more students and younger students to explore careers they could potentially enter," Koerner said. "More students could learn and gain professional experience while they're still in high school."

Rep. Genise Montecillo, D-St. Louis County, said she is concerned high school students that took fewer academic courses would not be prepared for high-level math and reading skills needed to succeed in professional schools.

"These fields and areas are becoming more and more specialized," Montecillo said. "That specialization is requiring more academic skills as well."

The House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education took no action on this bill.

After several amendments to the federal gun law nullification bill were approved, one Democratic senator's proposed amendment raised opposition from Republican counterparts.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, was not happy with Senator Scott Sifton's amendment aiming to protect local police from litigation.

"This nullifies the nullification of the nullification bill. This is probably the worst possible amendment we could look at towards this bill," Nieves said. 

The amendment was ultimately defeated and the bill passed the first round of Senate approval.

Missourians would be asked to pay a penny more per sales tax under a measure approved by the House for the November ballot, on Tuesday, Feb. 11.

Missouri's House Transportation Committee moved the bill forward with an 11-2 vote. The bill would give Missouri voters the choice to increase sales tax by one percent during a ten year period.

The bill would delegate 10 percent of the revenue from the tax to go toward local transportation funds for cities and counties, and the remaining 90 percent would go to Missouri Department of Transportation.

In a hearing about future transportation plans, MoDOT explained that their total budget could not maintain Missouri's transportation system without voters passing the bill.

Democratic efforts to raise the state minimum wage met a strong wall of opposition from business lobbyists during a Senate hearing.

The Senate Small Business Committee met in a jam-packed hearing room on Tuesday afternoon to hear the heavily debated bill.

Sponsored by Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, the bill would raise the state minimum wage from $7.50 to $10 an hour.

"Currently, an individual who works a full time job at a minimum wage level, and who's supporting a family of three, will fall below the federal poverty line," Nasheed said during the hearing. "To me, that is appalling."

The bill's heavy opposition claimed that increasing the minimum wage would result in higher unemployment rates across the state, especially in teens seeking low-skill jobs.

"In 2009, the minimum wage was raised in the middle of the year about 10 or 11 percent," said David Overfelt, president of the Missouri Retailers Association. "In the next six months of the year, the economy grew by 4 percent, but teen jobs decreased by about 600,000."

According to Nasheed, more than 20 states have initiated bills that aim to increase their minimum wages.

As is customary upon its first hearing, the committee took no immediate action on the bill.

A budget leader in the Missouri Senate offers a new idea to address the tax cut.

Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, proposed to delay tax cuts until the state fully funds more allocations for public schools.

"How can you say that we would be reducing the money to schools if we commit that we've already funded the schools," Silvey said.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Will Kraus, R-Jackson, said he'd be willing to consider the change.

Representatives from animal shelters across the state appeared before a House committee, Tuesday, Feb. 11, urging lawmakers to support legislation intended to set a level playing field for dog ownership.

The bill, presented to the House General Laws Committee would set a state-wide standard for dog ownership. Bill sponsor, Rep. Ron Hicks, R-St. Peters, said he didn't want cities banning individuals from owning specific dog breeds.

"Any dog can bite," Hicks said. "Why are we only picking out a few?"

Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, said that he was concerned about the body infringing upon local government authority, and said he believed the local governments could handle this matter on their own.

Representatives from the Missouri Federation of Animal Owners, The Kansas City Pet Project and the Missouri Veterinary Medical Association testified in favor of the bill.

As is usual upon first hearing, the committee did not take any action on the bill.

The Missouri Senate debated whether enough changes have been made to last year's controversial gun bill.

Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, presented what he called the "new and improved" bill. Nieves said the revised version removes references to previous gun control acts and asserts that "knowingly" enforcing infringements leaves police liable.

The new version gives Missouri law enforcement discretionary power to appropriately interpose for law-abiding citizens and eliminates the portion of the bill forbidding gun owners' names from being printed in the media, Nieves said.

Nieves also said the bill allows, but does not require, school districts to install volunteer school protection officers.

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis County, said she does not support the bill.

"It's a waste of taxpayers' dollars to deal with something we know is going to be found unconstitutional and end up in court," Nasheed said. "To bring forth a piece of legislation that does nothing to reduce gun violence is a slap in the face of many mothers who have lost their children as a result of gun violence."

Sen. Scott Sifton, D-St. Louis County, submitted an amendment that would protect state law enforcement from civil liability should they cooperate on joint investigations with federal agents.

Sen. Holsman, D-Kansas City, introduced an amendment presenting self-defense sprays as a nonlethal solution to stopping violent threats.

Sen. Brad Lager, R-Maryville, proposed an amendment aimed at ensuring school protection officers are appropriately trained.

The Senate took no immediate action on the bill.

A Senate finance and government committee discussed a plan to phase out electronic voting machines and replace them with paper ballots Monday, Feb. 10.

Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, said the overall subject matter remains the same from legislation introduced last year, but a few changes were made to make the measure more powerful.

"The only problem with the bill was the cost," Nieves said.

The new bill requires the electronic voting machines to produce the paper ballot, which is about $7 million cheaper than the previous cost of machine ballots in the 2006 election.

Supporters of the measure said paper ballots are more effective than the current electronic system.

They said electronic ballots run on secret software that can't be audited, making it easy for machines to be tampered with causing inaccurate election results.

There are currently 18 states that use paper ballots in elections.

Sarah Potter, the communications coordinator for The Missouri State Board of Education, said the state has received more than 400 recommendations and comments involving unaccredited schools.

Missouri has three unaccredited schools districts, two in St. Louis County and one in Kansas City.

During a meeting Monday, the board discussed choices for students, finance and accountability and improving educator quality.

Peter Herschend, president of the board, said he thought the plan for improving accountability lacked any changes from the current plan. He said he has trouble understanding why the board would continue with a plan that is currently failing.

“This is a discussion about how to do the business of education better where we have failed,” said Herschend.

Board members said a major problem is getting quality educators to teach at failing schools.

Herschend said he wanted to know how the board, at a policy level, could ensure that failing school districts have quality teachers.

A member of the board, John Martin, said he thinks the best way to create incentive for teachers is to show the rewards of teaching at such schools. Martin said most teachers become educators for specific reasons.

“I want my work to be meaningful. I want the respect that goes along with doing a good job,” said Martin. “I want to see that what I do makes a difference in the world. Those are the kinds of things that people get into education for.”

The Department of Education will present plans to the board on Feb. 18.

George Lombardi

Department of Corrections Director George Lombardi defended his department's handling of three recent death penalty cases while being scrutinized by lawmakers.

The House Government Oversight and Accountability Committee questioned Lombardi, as well as a University of Missouri law professor, a Kansas City attorney and representatives from the Missouri Attorney General's office.

Rep. John Rizzo, D-Kansas City, asked MU law professor Paul Litton if inmates on death row could successfully challenge their sentence if they don't know the pharmacy on the execution team.

"It seems almost impossible," Litton said. "I don't see how."

Lombardi testified after Litton and defended his department.

After being questioned for nearly 30 minutes, Lombardi has some final comments.

"This whole issue and the way our department has been besmirched and vilified in the press especially is really disturbing to me because this is not what this department is about" Lombardi said. "We're much more than this."

Committee chair, Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, questioned Lombardi on whether there were any other known or feasible alternatives to lethal injection the state could use to execute inmates.

"I do not," Lombardi said. "The only other alternative is the gas chamber."

Missouri has executed three inmates since November. Those inmates are Joseph Franklin, Allen Nicklasson, and Herbert Smulls.

All of them were killed by one drug, pentobarbital.

Lombardi told the committee the department has had to change their execution protocol three times in the last six months. This is due to a shortage of execution drugs and the lack of some European companies willingness to send them to the United States for executions.

Republican Catherine Hanaway, a former U.S. Attorney and Missouri House speaker, announced Monday she will run for governor in 2016.

Hanaway's announcement marks the first Republican to enter the race as the party tries to take back the office they have only held once in the last 20 years.

In a written statement released Monday, Hanaway said, "After serious consideration, discussion and prayer with my family, I am excited to announce that I will be a candidate for governor in 2016."

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon is barred by term limits from seeking re-election.

Hanaway said she is beginning her campaign now to build a strong grassroots fundraising basis.

"We can no longer sit idly by as the de facto Democrat nominee continues to raise money and build his organization," Hanaway said.

Her announcement was not a complete surprise. Hanaway has been talking with a number of Republican lawmakers, including some that were in the General Assembly where she was once a top leader.

"The reason I'm talking to legislators now is so that when I become governor I am ready to hit the ground running and running hard on day one," she said.

Hanaway, 50, was elected into the Missouri House in 1998. She represented a suburban St. Louis district while Republicans were in the minority party. Hanaway became a leader within the GOP and helped Republicans take over the House in 2002.

Her colleagues chose her to be Missouri's first female House speaker.

In 2004, Hanaway lost a bid for secretary of state. She was appointed by President George W. Bush to be the U.S. Attorney for eastern Missouri the next year. She resigned from that office in 2009 and joined former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft in private legal practice in 2009.

"I think having been out of office for ten years has been the best preparation I could have had to be governor of Missouri. I spent a lot of time in the real world working to make a living," she said.

In September of last year she left to join a different firm.

Hanaway cited economic development as her top campaign theme. She endorsed the income tax cut bill pushed by Republican lawmakers that Nixon has attacked.

"If you allow people to keep more of their income, they will reinvest it in hiring people," Hanaway said.

Last Week

Missouri lawmakers rejected a governor-appointed commissioner nomination, thereby banning him from serving for life.

During a Senate hearing on Thursday afternoon, Missouri senators voted to ban Tim Dollar, from ever leading the Missouri Conservation Commission by a 16-14 vote. Dollar was appointed by Gov. Jay Nixon to head the state Conservation Commission in December of last year, but awaited confirmation by the Senate.

"It's been over 35 years since we've had a commissioner on the conservation commission from northeast Missouri," Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, said. "And the agreement last year was that the next one would be from northeast Missouri." 

Although Nixon broke his promise to the representatives from Missouri's northeastern districts, many senators did not believe imposing a lifetime ban on Dollar was an ethically sound alternative.

Shortly after eight republican lawmakers signed onto a filing for impeachment of Gov. Jay Nixon, Rep. Jake Hummel, D-St. Louis, said in a statement that the "crazy wing" of the House Republican Caucus had "taken over."

The House Resolution calling for impeachment of Nixon refers to his executive order to allow same-sex couples to file for a joint federal tax return.

"If House Republicans insist on embarrassing themselves with sham election-year impeachment proceedings, then, by all means, they should have at it," Hummel said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

Republican House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, released a statement responding to the resolution and said he takes the allegations "very seriously."

"The allegations against the governor regarding his repeated violations of the Missouri Constitution are ones I take very seriously and that certainly merit thorough discussion and investigation," Jones said. "At the same time the act of impeachment is something that should be utilized sparingly and only in response to an egregious abuse of the laws of our state."

A few days after Gov. Jay Nixon announced he will double available funding for low-income propane users, one Democratic lawmaker said the decision is unacceptable.

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, said the governor's plan will result in a decrease in funding for low-income, non-propane users in Kansas City and St. Louis.

People on the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program receive subsidies for their heating systems whether they use propane, natural gas or electric furnaces.

Nixon announced on Monday that the state had received $14.9 million from the federal government for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and that he would be using the money to increase financial assistance for low-income propane users due to increased propane prices.

According to Nasheed, cities like St. Louis and Kansas City rely the least on propane usage. The Missouri Department of Social Services was unable to verify that at this time.

Nasheed said low income households in St. Louis and Kansas City need the funding just as much as the low income households in rural areas.

Get the print story here.

By a straight party-line 9-23 vote, Missouri's Senate voted down the governor's proposal to expand Medicaid to adults making below 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

The proposed amendment was sponsored by Sen. Paul LeVota, D-Independence. Before entering the Senate, LeVota had been the House Democratic leader.

Supporters argue that more than 300,000 Missourians would be added to the health-care program with federal government paying the complete cost in the first few years.

"It brings in money to our state," LeVota said. "It expands the number of people who are covered and is the right thing to do."

But the Senate Appropriations Committee chairman, Sen. Kurt Shaefer, R-Columbia, promptly rose to warn that eventually the state would be required to match federal funds and that money would end up getting taken out of the education budget.

"Does anyone really think that you can add three to four hundred thousand more people on welfare and it not cost you any more or save you money," Schaefer asked and then promptly answered his question, "That alone is an absurd argument."

The amendment was offered Wednesday, Feb. 5, to a measure that would require Medicaid recipients throughout the state receive their services through managed care systems.

The president of Missouri's Chamber of Commerce blamed defeat on failure to connect Medicaid expansion with broader changes in the system. "Pure Medicaid expansion without responsible reforms is not a solution and will be a non-starter with Republican lawmakers," Dan Mehan said in a written statement.

A package of changes in Medicaid was recommended by a Senate Medicaid interim committee, but that recommendation did not include Gov. Jay Nixon's expansion call.

In the 2013 legislative session, there had been an effort by a House Republican -- Rep. Jay Barnes, D-Jefferson City -- to incorporate Medicaid expansion with a number of structural changes in the welfare program.

That approach, however, never got to a legislative vote after Senate leaders called the idea dead in their chamber.

Missouri's legislature worked as if it were business as usual while upwards of 6 inches or more of snow began piling up around the statehouse Tuesday, Feb. 4.

The Senate cleared a bill designed to facilitate wireless phone companies using government-owned poles and facilities for wireless transmitters.

One of the provisions would restrict when a municipality could deny a wireless company access to a pole to reasons of safety or reliability, or if there is insufficient capacity.

The measure's sponsor, Sen. Brad Lager, R-Maryville, said the state's current laws were hampering wireless expansion.

As the snow continued to fall, House and Senate staff were sent home early. But some legislative committee hearings continued to be held.

The disruption caused by the weather was far less than in February of 2011 when more than a foot of snow blocked more than 100 persons from getting out of the Capitol building.

Staffers, lobbyists and legislators spent the night playing cards and sleeping with blankets brought in by state emergency workers.

Getting out of the building was made impossible by winds that created drifts more than two feet high.

The Senate Judiciary Committee discussed bills, Monday Feb. 3, that would modify whistle blower protection and require all impeachments be tried by Senate.

Sen. Brad Lager, R-Maryville, is sponsoring the whistle blower bill and says it reverses interpretation changes made 10 years ago.

“With this bill, in order for there to be a whistle blower protection, there actually has to be a finding of something wrong happening,” Lager said.

Republican Sen. Ed Emery , of Lamar, sponsored the impeachment bill that would have impeachments tried by the Senate instead of the Missouri Supreme Court.

“There is no other state in the country that does impeachments like Missouri now does,” Emery said. “Prior to the 1945 constitution, we were just like the federal government. Now, we’re unlike any other state in the union.”

The committee took no immediate action on the bills.

Gov. Jay Nixon announced Monday, Jan. 3, that he was doubling the amount lower-income Missourians can receive in assistance for propane purchases.

"No hard-working Missouri family should have to choose between putting food on the table and staying warm," Nixon said.

The amount a person could receive, which previously had varied from $264 to $450 per year, will increase to $528 to $900 per year.

As part of the increase, Nixon announced the state had received $14.9 million more in federal funds for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

Nixon's announcement was criticized by Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City. She said expanding benefits for rural Missourians who heat with propane would deny increases for lower-income residents in St. Louis and Kansas City who also are dealing with higher heating bills due to the unusually cold winter.

Propane prices have nearly doubled, or more, in the past month because of shortages blamed on growing exports of propane to foreign countries.

Nixon's announced said about 10 percent of Missouri households -- 245,000 -- rely on propane for heating.

Also Monday, House Speaker Tim Jones announced he was putting on a fast track a resolution calling on the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the price increase.

The resolution cleared a House Committee Wednesday, Feb. 5, and is scheduled for House debate the following week.

A similar resolution calling for a federal investigation was introduced in the Senate.

The state attorney general has announced he is conducting his own investigation.

Across Missouri, several court cases are dealing with the constitutionality of red-light enforcement cameras.

In a packed hearing room Wednesday evening, Missouri representatives sought to solve some issues and streamline the camera's enforcement.

Rep. Robert Cornejo, R-St. Charles, questioned the constitutionality of the bill.

The measure would not add points to a person's license if the only evidence of a traffic violation came from an automated traffic enforcement system.

"If it’s a moving violation, whether it’s issued by a police officer standing there or by a red-light camera it doesn't matter," Cornejo said. "If it’s a moving violation, you need to asses points. If it’s a non moving violation, then you know, points don’t need to be assessed."

Bus and train operators would be protected from assault under legislation heard by a House committee Monday, Feb. 3.

The legislation, heard by the Missouri House Committee on Urban Issues, would allow first-degree assault charges to be given to a person who attacks a mass transit worker.

"An attack on the transit worker is putting all passengers at risk as well as the general public" Ken Menges said, the director of United Transportation Union.

The measure made its way to the governor's desk in the last session, only to be vetoed due to an added controversial amendment.

The committee also heard legislation that would grant business licenses for community improvement needs.

Radio story

The director of Missouri's Public Defender Commission testified in front of a House funding committee Monday to ask for more money to hire more lawyers.

Director Cat Kelly would use increased funding to help protect children and teens who don't have legal representation and to alleviate the workload of public defenders.

Kelly raised questions about the constitutionality of 4,000 juveniles going without legal representation.

“There are so many areas where there are people going either unrepresented or underrepresented cause there’s a lawyer standing besides them,” said Kelly. “But a lawyer who hasn’t had the time to actually do what they need to do on the case, which doesn’t require the constitutional requirement either.”

Kelly also focused on getting funding from the state to relieve public defenders' work load.

She gave the committee three solutions for addressing case loads. They include contracting cases out, adding staff, increasing funding or a combination of all three.

Kelly said she would like to see 51 lawyers added to the system by the next fiscal year.

Funding would be given to the system so they could hire private lawyers for cases outside a public defender's main jurisdiction. Kelly said public defenders drove about two million miles last year to represent cases outside their jurisdiction.

Kelly said if lawmakers were to only do one thing this year, she would like to see cases contracted out.

There were few comments from the committee, but Rep. Kathie Conway, R-St. Charles, expressed her feelings on issues involving underrepresented juveniles.

“When I first heard about this problem with the juveniles and some of them not even given the opportunity to have counsel, [it] disturbed me a great deal,” said Conway. “And so I think this is something I can’t impress on the committee enough. We need to address this.”

Gov. Jay Nixon on Friday called for special elections for three vacant Missouri House seats.

Nixon scheduled the special elections for Tuesday, Aug. 5.

The districts without a state representative are the 67th, 120th, and 151st districts.

The 67th district is vacant because Rep. Steve Webb, D-St. Louis County, resigned in December 2013 after being accused of stealing campaign funds.

The 120th district has been vacant since Jason Smith, R-Salem, resigned in June 2013 after being elected to the U.S. Congress in Missouri's 8th Congressional District.

The 151st district is vacant because state Rep. Dennis Fowler, R-Advance,  resigned in December to accept Nixon's appointment to Board of Probation and Parole.