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   JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri's Republican-led Legislature put a priority on cutting taxes this year. But the same lawmakers who passed a $700 million income tax cut also approved numerous little-known fee increases.

   One of those measures could increase fees on driver's licenses and vehicle registrations, costing Missourians almost $22 million annually.

   Another bill would impose fees on mailed-in speeding traffic tickets, affecting an estimated 170,000 cases annually.

   Missourians could pay more to get copies of their own medical records or court transcripts. Businesses could get charged more for certain Agriculture Department services. And court fees could rise in some places.

   Although fees and taxes both take money from people, many Republican lawmakers have drawn a philosophical distinction. They say taxes are applied generally, and fees are charged only for specific services.

 
Published in Local News

   JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri lawmakers are down to their final day to pass legislation before their annual session ends.

   Legislators face a mandatory quitting time of 6 p.m. Friday. Several significant issues remain unresolved with fading prospects, including an overhaul of the state's tax credit programs and a proposed transportation sales tax that would go on the 2014 ballot.

   The Republican-led Legislature already has passed several other priority measures. Those include an income tax cut projected to eventually reduce state revenues by about $700 million; several pro-gun measures; and changes to state labor laws and workers' compensation claims.

   The Legislature defeated a Medicaid expansion for lower-income adults that had been a priority of Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

 
Published in Local News

   JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri House has rejected tough new evaluation standards for school principals and administrators.

   The House voted 82-76 to defeat the measure Wednesday, one of Republican House Speaker Tim Jones' top education priorities.

   This marks the second defeat of legislation to impose evaluations based largely on student achievement. Previous versions of the bill would have subjected teachers to the evaluation standards, but that provision was removed from this bill in an effort to pass the measure.

   The evaluations would have started in the 2014-15 academic year and would've included multiple measures and be conducted at least annually. School personnel would have been classified on a four-point scale ranging from highly effective to ineffective.

 
Published in Local News

   It looks like the last of the safeguards Missouri legislators had initially placed on casinos could soon be tossed out.  

   A bill now before the Senate would let the state’s 13 casinos issue short-term loans to gamblers, secured by the gamblers' bank accounts.  The measure easily won approval in the state house last month.  

   Casino executives say they need to be able to provide credit in order to attract high-end gamers who don't want to carry large amounts of cash.  

   The measure would repeal the last of the safeguards that were in the original state law voters passed in 1992 when they legalized riverboat gambling.  The rule requiring riverboat casinos to actually be on a boat on a river, and $500 loss limits have already been repealed.

Published in Local News

   JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - People fired for missing work and not following company rules could have a harder time claiming unemployment benefits under a bill sent to Gov. Jay Nixon.

   The House voted 98-57 to pass the measure Wednesday. The Senate passed the same bill in February.

   Fired workers who engaged in "misconduct" at the workplace can be denied benefits under current law. But the legislation expands the definition of "misconduct" to include chronic absenteeism and "knowing" violations of an employer's rules. The current standard requires "willful disregard" of an employer's regulations.

   Supporters say many workers fired for reasons such as sleeping on the job are allowed to collect benefits under the current system. Opponents say the measure could deny benefits to people fired wrongly.

 
Published in Local News

   JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Gov. Jay Nixon says he remains opposed to a bill that would raise the state sales tax while cutting income taxes for individuals and businesses.

   Nixon released a statement Thursday saying that a sales tax increase would shift the tax burden to seniors and veterans on fixed incomes. He said it "is not the right approach to growing our economy or creating jobs."

   His reaction comes after the House passed a bill Wednesday that would gradually cut the individual income tax by two-thirds of a percentage point over five years while also reducing business taxes.

   To offset part of the lost revenue, the bill would gradually raise the sales tax by three-fifths of a cent.

   Nixon also had opposed an earlier version of the bill passed by the Senate

Published in Local News

   JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri House wants to block the scanning and computer storage of personal documents needed to get a driver's license or state identification card.

   Legislation given initial approval 141-14 on Wednesday would bar the Revenue Department from scanning documents needed for driver's licenses or concealed weapons permits. Documents that have been scanned would need to be destroyed.

   The bill needs another vote before moving to the Senate, where members have criticized the driver's license procedure.

   Previously, license clerks looked at applicants' documents, took a photo and printed the license. Under the new system, licenses are printed and mailed by a contractor several days after people apply. Revenue Department officials have said the new procedure makes licenses more secure and saves money.

   Some Missouri senators are pressing the state's driver's license agency to stop collecting documents from people with concealed gun permits.

   But the head of the agency said Wednesday he's reluctant to halt the practice.

   Since December, clerks in Missouri's local license offices have been making electronic copies of concealed weapons permits for a state database of driver's license applicants. Concealed gun endorsements are noted on driver's licenses.

   Some Republican lawmakers have expressed concern about the document database. During a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Wednesday, Chairman Kurt Schaefer asked the Revenue Department to stop making and keeping copies of concealed gun permits.

   Revenue Director Brian Long said he's unwilling to commit to that, because the scanned documents provide protection against fraud. But Long also said he will consider it further.

 
Published in Local News
There's a fight brewing in Jefferson City over new education standards in math and English, called the Common Core.

The national standards define the skills and knowledge students should have. And proponents say Missouri students need Common Core in order to stay competitive with students from 45 other states that have adopted them.

But some state lawmakers are balking, claiming that the move to Common Core will give federal education officials too much control over local schools. Senator John Lamping co-sponsored a bill to repeal Common Core in Missouri. The Ladue Republican has accused federal education officials of coercion. He and other opponents have also questioned the cost of implementation, since the standards call for computerized testing.

The State's Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro says the new standards only outline what students should know, not how schools and teachers should go about teaching, because Common Core doesn't dictate curriculum.

Both Missouri and Illinois adopted the standards in 2010. Illinois will achieve full implementation in the 2013-14 school year, a full year ahead of the Show-me state.
Published in Local News
Addiction recovery advocates will rally in Jefferson City today to urge Missouri lawmakers to pass legislation that's aimed at getting medical help for drug overdose victims.

A bill sponsored by Republican state Representative Bryan Spencer, would grant immunity from minor drug possession charges to overdose victims and people who get medical help for them. Ten other states, including Illinois, have already enacted the so-called "good Samaritan" laws. Spencer's bill is based on the Illinois model.

St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he supports the measure, saying that saving lives is more important than pursuing minor drug charges. But St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch expressed doubts that the law would make much difference, telling the paper that people who abuse alcohol or heroin "aren’t the most responsible" people.

Advocates say the state can't afford to ignore the problem. They cite research by the Missouri Recovery Network and Roosevelt University, which suggests that heroin and opiate abuse poses a particularly deadly and growing threat in Missouri, especially the St. Louis area.
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri welfare recipients would be barred from using their benefits for alcohol, gambling or adult entertainment under a proposal from two state senators.

The legislation outlined Monday would also prevent welfare recipients from using their electronic benefit card for sporting events, lottery tickets, amusement parks, zoos or museums.

Repeatedly misusing welfare money would carry a felony charge and prison sentence.

The measure would stop short of preventing welfare recipients from purchasing banned items, because electronic benefits could still be converted into cash.

Republican Sen. Will Kraus, of Lee's Summit, and Democratic Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, of University City, are sponsoring the measure.
Published in Local News
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