Capitol Reports, September 21, 2012

In Legislative News, Missouri Press News On
- Updated

MPANewsBook: Statehouse News for MPA Members
Go to http://www.mdn.org/mpanews for the latest version.

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Headline:  Akin, McCaskill spar at Missouri Press Association Forum [Entered: 09/21/2012]

By Jordan Shapiro

In their first formal debate of Missouri’s U.S. Senate campaign, U.S. Rep. Todd Akin and incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill traded barbs on Akin’s controversial comments on rape and abortion.

At the debate sponsored by the Missouri Press Association, moderator David Lieb of the Associated Press directed his first question to Akin about his statement that a woman cannot get pregnant in cases of “legitimate rape.”

“I’ve answered this question repeatedly and I don’t believe this election, overall, is about talk but it is really about two visions of what America is,” Akin said.

McCaskill said Akin’s comments were “unacceptable” and added that they provided a view into his other positions.

“I think Congressman Akin’s comments open the window to his views to Missourians. He has apologized for those comments, but they say a lot about how he views things and that’s where Missourians need to pay attention,” McCaskill said.

Akin took aim at McCaskill’s voting record as a member of the Senate and tied her to President Barack Obama.

McCaskill fired back and said the St. Louis congressman was part of the “gridlock” in Washington.

Federal spending and the national debt drew contrasts from both candidates with Akin supporting GOP vice president nominee Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan that would give seniors a subsidy to purchase private insurance plans instead of the current Medicare program.
Akin said Ryan’s plan was a good start, but if it were his budget his plan would be “more conservative” and pay down the debt sooner.

McCaskill said Akin ultimately wants to privatize Medicare. If re-elected, McCaskill said she would shrink the deficit and introduce means testing to federal entitlement programs to cut down on fraud and abuse.

In a forum marked by contrasts and disagreements, McCaskill and Akin found some common ground — the federal government should not be involved at efforts to reduce obesity.

The press forum was held Friday, Sept. 21, in Columbia at the annual Missouri Press Association convention. In addition to Akin and McCaskill, Libertarian Party candidate Jonathan Dine also participated in the forum.

Missouri gubernatorial candidates — Gov. Jay Nixon, Republican Dave Spence and Libertarian Jim Higgins — also participated in a forum.

Spence attacked Nixon for his campaign contributions from trial attorneys and said the governor’s office was “up for sale.”

Nixon did not address the accusations and said Missouri was “headed in the right direction.”

When asked about providing relief for children living in the unaccredited St. Louis City and Kansas City school districts, Nixon and Spence both said they would work to boost the districts’ performance and dismissed vouchers for students to attend a private school as a solution.

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Headline:  Akin has until Tuesday to withdraw name from ballot. [Entered: 09/21/2012]

By Eric Stoyanov and Christine Roto

The deadline for Todd Akin to withdraw from the U.S. Senate race is quickly approaching.

Akin, as well as any other candidate, has until Sept. 25 to remove his name from the ballot by court order. The deadline is only three days after military ballots are mailed out on Sept. 22. After those ballots are mailed, the costs associated with withdrawing from the race would increase substantially, since ballots sent overseas cannot be changed.

Should Akin withdraw, he would be responsible for repaying the costs from the printing of ballots. The military ballots would also not be counted if Akin withdraws.

“Well there’s no way to change (the military ballots), so unfortunately, if something would change on the ballot, those voters would just be simply disenfranchised,” said Stacie Temple, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan’s communications director.

Akin’s withdrawal would also create a problem for the Republican Party. Republicans would be forced to find a new candidate in a short period of time.

“If a candidate withdraws on Sept. 25 or prior to that deadline, then the candidate’s party nominating committee would have until the fourth Friday before the election, which happens to be Oct. 12, to elect a new nominee,” Temple said.

Republicans began to distance themselves from Akin after his controversial comments on rape and abortion, with some calling for Akin to drop out of the race. This pressure came from top Republicans, such as presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, as well as conservative groups, such as Crossroads GPS and the National Republican Senatorial Campaign, which have pulled advertising support for Akin from Missouri.

Despite setbacks Akin has recently gained support from former House Speaker and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. Akin’s campaign adviser Rick Tyler said Gingrich offered to come to support Akin. He will attend a series of fundraising events to help Akin’s campaign fill the gap between his and Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s campaigns.

Tyler also said that the Republican party must secure a spot for a Republican in the Senate if they hope to win a majority.

The Missouri Federation of Republican Women Vice President Rosa Robbs said Akin still has a lot of support in Missouri, and it will be very helpful for Gingrich to help.
* Get the print story [ http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/WITHDRAW.HTM ] .

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Headline:  Teachers union, Normandy School District say accreditation loss is more complicated than test scores [Entered: 09/19/2012]

By Alexander Mallin
Normandy School District in St. Louis County is slated to lose its accreditation, and a top district official said community outreach is essential for recovery.

The Missouri State Education Board said Tuesday the district has until Jan. 1, 2015, to improve its poor standardized test scores to earn back its state accreditation or face being taken over by a state board.

The school district currently only meets five of the 14 standards required for accreditation. To earn full state accreditation, a district must meet at least nine standards.

According to Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education spokeswoman Sarah Potter, the district has had some of the lowest scores in the state on the Missouri Assessment Program tests. She said there is currently no good system in place to turn performance around and the state will likely take over the school if scores don’t improve.

“The board of education could divide the district into smaller districts,” she said. “They could close the district or merge it with another district.”

But, teachers unions, such as the state chapter of the National Education Association said instructors in the classroom aren’t fully to blame for the faltering scores in Normandy.

“Outside influences, home life, community resources and economic issues play a big role in how well students are able to concentrate and do in their school work,” MNEA Director Ann Jarrett said Wednesday. “Our hope is that this will be a wake up call and it will generate honest productive conversation about what can be done to help those students to attend a great public school.”

Phillip Boyd, the Normandy district’s Chief Administrative Officer, said 95 percent of his district’s students live in poverty, which he said presents some obstacles for the students and teachers to overcome.

“There’s no barrier regarding children coming into school from poverty that says they can’t learn,” Boyd said Wednesday. “What it says is we should all do what we can both internally, in the school system, or externally, to the school system, to address some of the issues that hold some of our children back.”

Normandy joins the Kansas City school district, which is facing a similar time line to turn around or face a state takeover. St. Louis City schools are also under the control of a special board since they lost their accreditation in 2007.

In the 2012 legislative session, lawmakers flirted with the idea of ending the two-year wait period between when a school district loses its accreditation and when the state can intervene. The measure failed as it became connected to a bill removing seniority as a criteria for laying off teachers in financially struggling school districts.

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Headline:  Former Mamtek CEO charged with fraud, theft [Entered: 09/21/2012]
By Matthew Patane

The man who ran a company promising to bring jobs to Moberly was arrested last week for fraud and theft.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced the arrest of businessman Bruce Cole, the former CEO of Mamtek, and filed five counts of felony theft and securities fraud charges against Cole.

The original economic development project promised to bring about 600 jobs to Moberly through the construction of an artificial sweetener plant. The project fell through after Mamtek U.S., the domestic branch of the China-based company, defaulted on a $39 million bond payment to Moberly. The city has since defaulted on the payments and had suffered a downgrade in its credit rating.

During a press conference held Tuesday in Moberly, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported that Koster accused Cole of taking at least $700,000 from money intended for the factory, using the money to sustain foreclosure proceedings on his Beverly Hills home.

The Tribune, also reported that Cole’s house was sold earlier this year when a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge ordered to money be put into an escrow account to pay off creditors of the Mamtek project. Later, the Securities and Exchange Commission sued Cole and his wife, Nanette Cole, on similar grounds. The commission accused the Coles of defrauding more than $900,000 worth of Moberly bond funds to keep their home from falling into foreclosure.

Cole is facing a sentence of about 55 years in state prison if he is convicted of all five counts, according to the Tribune.

The collapse of the economic development project resulted in multiple investigations, including one from Koster and the commission. State lawmakers conducted their own investigations of the matter during the 2012 legislative session when members of the House and Senate oversight committees held multiple hearings and questioned members of the state Department of Economic Development.

The hearings resulted in similar reports from the two committees, both of which called for increased due diligence standards for economic development projects. While attempts were made to formalize the proposed regulations into law, no bills were passed by the end of the session. The sponsors of the legislation, however, both said that the matter of increasing due diligence standards and mandates on state and local officials would be brought up again in the next legislative session.

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Headline:  Missouri school districts will apply for Race to the Top funding this fall. [Entered: 09/20/2012]

By Nick Thompson

Fifteen Missouri school districts are entering a tight competition for a chunk of $400 million in education grants this fall.

This round of the Race to the Top initiative is different from past phases, as it is a district-level competition. The U.S. Department of Education will award the grant money to between 15 and 25 school districts. The department is looking for schools that display commitment to personalized learning environments.

The school districts in Missouri applying are: Kansas City, St. Louis, Camdenton, Cape Girardeau, Ferguson-Florissant, Fort Osage, Jefferson City, Joplin, Normandy, North Kansas City, Poplar Bluff, Raytown, Riverview Gardens, West Plains and West Platte.

Missouri has yet to receive Race to the Top funds since the program began. The state education department applied for Phase One of the grants in 2010, but finished 33rd. In Phase Two, it finished 30th.

Race To the Top has been controversial in the past amongst teachers and educational policymakers. Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch wrote in an August 2010 Los Angeles Times editorial that Race to the Top would not improve education.

The Missouri State Teachers Association opposed the program in 2010, because of the burden it would place on educators and lack of educator input in the reforms.

However, MSTA spokesman Tim Fuller said the applications for the district-level competition incorporate more local control.

Applications for district-level competition are due on Oct. 30. The education department will announce the winners in December.

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Headline:  State Supreme Court hears arguments on MOSIRA funding bill [Entered: 09/19/2012]

By Wes Duplantier and Brendan Cullerton

The state and anti-abortion rights groups made their arguments before Missouri’s Supreme Court Wednesday, Sept. 19, in Jefferson City as part of legal challenge to a funding bill for biotechnology companies.

In 2011, state lawmakers passed legislation establishing a fund to help more biotechnology companies get started in the state. But that measure, known as MOSIRA, was written such that it could take effect only if another tax bill was signed into law.

The other bill never passed but the state began putting the funding in place anyway. In February, a Cole County circuit court judge then struck down MOSIRA, saying that making the funding bill dependent on the passage of the other law was unconstitutional and the state appealed the ruling to the higher court.

“The legislature made very clear…abundantly clear that it did not intend section A to become effective unless and until Senate Bill eight passed [the other tax bill] and was signed by the government,” said Stephen Clark, attorney for the anti-abortion rights groups.

Anti-abortion rights groups are working to stop the funding bill’s implementation because its funding is doled out by a 15-member board that is not publicly elected. They have said that without direct citizen oversight, the board might vote to fund businesses that harvest tissues from unborn children as part of their research.

“There is not any pro-life protections on Senate Bill 7 [MOSIRA] that would protect that money from being used for human cloning and embryonic stem-cell research,” said Susan Klein, Missouri Right to Life lobbyist.

* Get the radio story [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/MOSIRA.HTM]
* Get the print story [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/MOSIRA12.HTM]
* Get the MOSIRA bill, SB 7 [ http://www.mdn.org/cgi-bin/bills/billhttp.exe?FORM=SB&NUM=7&YEAR 11.S1 ]

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Headline:  Military personnel deployed overseas can vote in the upcoming presidential election through e-mails. [Entered: 09/20/2012]

By Matt Evans

Military personnel deployed overseas and in combat zones can use e-mail to vote. The upcoming general election will be the first time people in the military can cast their votes for the next president using e-mail. So far, the program has been well received.

“Anything that makes it easier and more convenient for our military overseas voters to vote is certainly a positive development,” said Stacie Temple, communications director for Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.

Military personnel overseas can still cast their ballots through the absentee system, but it can take up to three weeks for people in the military to receive the ballot and another three weeks to send them back.

Randy Watson voted in elections when he was stationed overseas and he said it could be difficult to get the ballots back in time before the election.

“Back then you had to mail it in. You had to mail it back to your election authority. With mail from overseas, you’re talking approximately three weeks to get it back. So you have to make sure your timing is right,” said Watson, who is now a state voting assistance officer with the Missouri National Guard.

Military personnel can cast their ballots using the secure e-mail and then follow the ballot until the local election authority confirms it got the e-mail. Only personnel deployed in combat situations are eligible for e-mail voting.

* Get the print story. [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/MILIVOT.HTM]

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Headline:  Study estimates majority of Missourians will be obese by 2030 [Entered: 09/20/2012]

By Lauren Bale
A new study conducted by the Trust for America’s Health predicts 13 states, including Missouri, will have over 60 percent of the population classified as obese by 2030.

Trust for America’s Health reviewed Center of Disease Control records of the body mass index of 400,000 Americans from 1999-2010 in order to project the growth of obesity in each state.

According to the study, states will save over $13 million in health care costs by 2030 if they reduce the average body mass index of their population by 5 percent.

Amy Stringer Hessel, the program officer for Missouri Foundation for Health, said Missouri health organizations are actively working to change state polices and promote healthy lifestyles.

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Headline:  Missouri General appointed as chairman of the National Guard Association of the United States. [Entered: 09/20/2012]

By Katherine Kreider
Adjutant General Stephen Danner is the second Missourian to serve as the chairman of the National Guard Association.

Danner was elected as chairman at the NGA convention in Reno, Nev. last week.

The NGA was created to provide each state and territory with representation in Washington D.C. Their stated goal is to obtain better equipment and training by educating Congress on militia needs.

Danner served as the top official for the Missouri National Guard and was awarded a Bronze Star and Combat Action Badge for his service in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Gov. Jay Nixon said in a statement that Danner’s “leadership skills and the genuine concern he has shown for those under his command will enable him to serve well the men and women of the Guard and their families.”
Danner will serve as chairman of the board for the next two years and hopes to “maintain the momentum” of the association.

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Headline:  Nixon releases first negative ad [Entered: 09/20/2012]

By Matthew Patane

After a series of positive ads touting his own record, incumbent Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon released his first negative ad Thursday.

The ad criticizes his opponent, Republican Dave Spence, for his relationship with Reliance Bancshares Inc, which has yet to pay back $40 million in federal bailout money. The ad states that Spence was on the bank’s board of directors in 2011 when it voted against repaying the bailout money. Spence later resigned from the board

Nixon’s ad comes in response to an ad from Spence, which was released earlier in the week. Spence’s ad attempts to tie Nixon to President Barack Obama and criticizes the governor for his support of the federal stimulus. Spence’s ad also blames Nixon and Obama for the “failure” of Missouri’s economy and loss of jobs.

* Get a database of state-run political ads [http://www.mdn.org/2012/ELECT/ADS.HTM].
* Get Nixon’s Sept. 20 ad [http://www.youtube.com/watch?vuF6kuN1fw&feature=player_embedded].
* Get Spence’s Sept 18 ad [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yK7mbR1nyI&feature=plcp].

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Headline:  Hundreds of millions in federal dollars could be cut from state’s hospitals in 2014. [Entered: 09/18/2012]

By Nick Thompson

Missouri hospitals could soon lose funds from budget cuts to Disproportionate Share Hospital Adjustment Payments as part of the federal health care law.
The payments are part of Medicaid funding, and go to hospitals that serve large proportions of uninsured and under-insured patients. The payments help hospitals cover the cost of caring for these patients.

Missouri was the seventh largest recipient of DSH funding in the nation in 2011. The DSH cuts were intended to complement Medicaid expansion in the federal health care overhaul. Missouri lawmakers have not decided whether or not they will expand Medicaid to cover people with higher incomes than allowed under the current program.

Dave Dillon, a spokesman for the Missouri Hospital Association says the federal law was designed to curtail the effect of the cuts with the Medicaid expansion. He said state health decisions will have to consider this effect.
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Headline:  Capitol Perspectives: Overcoming Political Catastrophes [Entered: 09/21/2012]

By: Phill Brooks

In the aftermath of the Todd Akin controversy, one of my reporters asked me if I could remember a Missouri politician who had recovered from a similar catastrophic setback.

I could not immediately think of one Missouri candidate who has been able to reverse a catastrophic setback.

Instead, what I recall is a long history of campaigns that got derailed by an event, story, self-inflicted wound or bad behavior. And no matter how hard those candidates tried, their campaigns never got back on track.

For Missouri, the biggest example would be U.S. Sen. Tom Eagleton. He was the Democratic candidate for vice president in 1972 — briefly. When stories emerged that he had undergone electric-shock treatment for depression, he was pushed off the ticket despite initial assurances from the presidential nominee, George McGovern, that he stood behind Eagleton “1,000 percent.”

In 1992, Republican Bill Webster appeared to have the edge to become the state’s next governor. He lost that edge when stories emerged that he was under federal criminal investigation. Webster frantically kept denying the stories, but his campaign was finished and Democrat Mel Carnahan was elected. Webster later ended up in federal prison.

Another Missouri public figure who saw his political future destroyed by a criminal investigation was Warren Hearnes — despite not being charged with anything.

Hearnes had been one of the most effective and dynamic governors I’ve covered. But in the aftermath of stories about federal criminal investigations into his administration and his taxes, Hearnes never again won elective office. Instead, he lost every subsequent race after he left as governor in 1973 — races for the U.S. Senate, state auditor and even for a local judgeship to which he had been appointed to fill a vacancy.

Most recently, we’ve seen Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder drop his expected campaign for governor after stories about his visits to a bar that featured scantly clad women. Kinder did win the August GOP nomination to keep his job as lieutenant governor. This November, we’ll see if there’s a full political recovery.

The most tragic campaign reversal we’ve seen in recent Missouri history came after Carnahan’s death in the closing weeks of his campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2000.

Prior to Carnahan’s fatal plane crash, polls showed Republican John Ashcroft well ahead in his campaign for re-election. But that was dramatically reversed after Carnahan’s death.

Ashcroft tried to get his campaign back on track, but the emotions that arose from Carnahan’s death and the stand-in campaign of his widow had a lasting impact Ashcroft could not overcome. He became the first man in American history to lose a U.S. Senate race to a dead man.

Yet, Ashcroft also is a demonstration of how to recover. The recovery, I think, from his near-tearful concession speech. “Missouri is a compassionate state and, I think, in a very special way, they have demonstrated their compassion,” he said.

Before the end of the year, George Bush named Ashcroft as his choice to be U.S. attorney general. I remember wondering at the time if the gracefulness of Ashcroft’s concession played a part in his selection.

Another example of recovery arises from the 1976 campaign of Democrat Joe Teasdale against Kit Bond’s re-election campaign for governor.

Teasdale had a track record of verbal blunders and he made a major blunder during his campaign. Consumer protection was a major theme of his campaign. He promised that if he were elected, he would fire the five members of the Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities.

Oops. PSC members serve terms fixed by law. They cannot be fired — even by a governor.

It was a huge campaign gaffe. Yet, Teasdale was able to overcome that gaffe and defeat the sitting governor.

He did it with some of the slickest TV commercials I’ve seen in Missouri. They flooded the airwaves in the closing weeks of the campaign. Bond was unprepared for the avalanche of TV ads. The GOP governor struck me as overly confident and taking his re-election for granted until it was too late.

But, there was another component to Teasdale’s success that might provide a lesson for today’s political candidates. The Jackson County Democrat misspoke so often that he had become adroit at sidestepping verbal missteps. At times, Teasdale displayed almost humor as he would acknowledge his verbal mistakes. It seemed to take off the edge.

Teasdale adeptly sidestepped the PSC gaffe simply by switching to a promise that he would demand the resignations of the PSC members.

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[Phill Brooks has been a Missouri statehouse reporter since 1970, making him dean of the statehouse press corps. He is the statehouse correspondent for KMOX Radio, director of MDN and a faculty member of the Missouri School of Journalism. He has covered every governor since the late Warren Hearnes.
Past columns are available at http://www.mdn.org/mpacol.]

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