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Friday, 10 January 2014 16:51

Audit criticizes regulatory board vacancies

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A new audit says Missouri has too many vacancies on several advisory and regulatory boards.
 
Friday's report from State Auditor Tom Schweich says 27 percent of seats on boards overseen by the Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration were vacant as of June 2013. Vacancies are filled by the governor, an insurance department official or the board itself.
 
Five of the 37 boards examined lacked enough appointed members to make a quorum during meetings. The report also found 63 percent of the appointed board members served beyond their term expiration date.
 
In a response included with the audit, the department says it will continue to work at filling vacancies.
 
Overall, the department received a "fair" rating, the second lowest on the auditor's four-part scale.
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The chairman of the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus is stepping down.
 
   Democratic Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, of St. Louis, said Friday that she decided to resign because some members of the 16-member group were upset about her appearance with Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder at a news conference in December.
 
   Nasheed and Kinder were criticizing the decision of a state commission to delay low-income housing tax credits, as part of an informal deal to pass new tax incentives for Boeing.
 
   She became the chairwoman in 2013, after her election to the state Senate. She previously served six years in the House.
 
   Nasheed says the group's vice-chairman - Democratic Rep. Brandon Ellington, of Kansas City - will take over her duties until the caucus elects a successor.
Published in Local News
PLATTE CITY, Mo. (AP) - A California man has been sentenced to 19 years in prison after about 13.3 pounds of cocaine were found in his vehicle in northwest Missouri.
 
Platte County prosecutor Eric Zahnd announced Friday that 37-year-old Marcos Gonzalez, of Stockton, Calif., was sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty in October to first-degree drug trafficking. Zahnd says the cocaine was valued at $600,000.
 
In April 2013, a Platte County deputy stopped Gonzalez's U-Haul van for a routine traffic violation. While searching the van, the deputy found heat sealer and rubber bands, which Zahnd says are commonly used to package narcotics and bulk cash.  The deputy found the cocaine inside the bottom lining of three black suitcases.
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A lawsuit is challenging Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon's order that the state accept jointly filed tax returns from same-sex couples legally married in other states.
 
Nixon said the directive applies to tax filing status and doesn't authorize same-sex marriage. The Missouri Constitution states only marriages between a man and a woman are valid in the state.
 
The lawsuit asks Nixon's order be declared unconstitutional. It was filed by officials from the Missouri Baptist Convention Christian Life Commission and the Missouri Family Policy Council.
 
Missouri's tax code is tied to the federal code. Nixon said couples who file joint federal returns must file state taxes jointly. Federal officials determined legally married same-sex couples would be treated as married regardless of where they live.
 
A Nixon spokesman declined comment about the lawsuit.
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri lawmakers open their annual session Wednesday with some different priorities than those of Gov. Jay Nixon.
 
Republican legislators plan to pursue an income tax cut again after the Democratic governor vetoed last year's attempt.
 
House Speaker Tim Jones wants to consider "right to work" legislation that prohibits union bargaining fees from being a condition of employment. Nixon has said he would veto such legislation, so lawmakers may consider bypassing Nixon by referring it to the ballot.
 
Nixon has made Medicaid expansion a priority for a second straight year. But it's still not a priority for Republican legislative leaders.
 
There is agreement among the governor and some lawmakers that Missouri should change its student transfer law affecting unaccredited school districts. But so far, there is no consensus on a specific plan.
Published in Local News
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Missouri has dropped the GED and made the switch to a new high school equivalency exam.
 
The Columbia Missourian reports that beginning this month, Missouri began using HiSet, which Educational Testing Service is offering. The switch came with the introduction of a more costly computer-based version of the GED.
 
Even though the state went with the lowest bidder, the new exam will be more costly for some test takers.
 
Previously it cost $40 to take the GED once, with each retake costing another $40.
 
Missouri adult education official Tom Robbins says the most affordable way to take the HiSET is to pay $95 for the five-test battery. Participants get two free retests within a 12-month period. Out of that amount, $10 goes to the state to administer the program.
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Death penalty opponents are using the 25th anniversary of Missouri's resumption of capital punishment to highlight their desire to halt executions.
 
George Mercer was executed on Jan. 6, 1989, for the 1978 rape and slaying of waitress Karen Keeten in the Kansas City area. Mercer's execution was Missouri's first after a nationwide moratorium on capital punishment was lifted in 1976.
 
Since then, Missouri has executed 70 inmates.
 
Death penalty opponents planned a news conference Monday at the Missouri Capitol.
 
Missouri slowed its execution pace in recent years during court challenges to its procedures.
 
But it executed two people in the past two months and is scheduled to execute Herbert Smulls on Jan. 29 for the 1991 robbery and slaying of suburban St. Louis jewelry store owner Stephen Honickman.
Published in Local News

Ameren Missouri and Illinois crews are also dealing with the perilous conditions.

There are nearly 53-hundred customers in St. Clair County without power and 500 in Macoupin County without power in Illinois.

In Missouri, crews are working to restore power to a dozen customers in St. Charles and about 30 customers in St. Louis County. The St. Louis County customers have been affected by a downed power line at Lindbergh and Schuetz. Over 600 customers in Jefferson County are crossing their fingers that power will be restored to them soon. 

Published in Local News

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri county prosecutors are working together to improve their crime-fighting efforts.

The Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys has created committees to discuss best practices, with a focus on getting convictions while protecting the rights of criminal defendants.

The Kansas City Star reports the committees will study such issues as handling forensic evidence, eyewitness testimony and the use of jailhouse informants. Other subcommittees will consider handling cases involving children, the elderly, drunken driving and sex crimes.

Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd says the effort was prompted in part by two recent cases — the release of 29-year-old Ryan Ferguson after he was jailed for more than a decade for a Columbia homicide, and the dismissal of sexual assault allegations in a Maryville case that caused a public uproar.

Published in Local News
Thursday, 02 January 2014 15:21

Missouri drivers have safest year since 1940's

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The year 2013 was the safest on Missouri roads in more than six decades.
 
Preliminary figures released Thursday by the Missouri State Highway Patrol show that 741 people died in traffic crashes last year.
 
Patrol Capt. Tim Hull says that's the lowest number since 683 people died on Missouri roads in 1947.
 
Missouri officials have placed an emphasis on reducing traffic fatalities in recent years.
 
The Department of Transportation has installed cables in the medians of some four-lane highways to prevent cross-over crashes and rumble strips on the sides to warn drivers when they are close to running off the road.
 
Since 2005, Missouri traffic fatalities have declined 41 percent.
 
Of those killed in crashes last year, 63 percent were not wearing seatbelts as they were required to do.
 
Published in Local News

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