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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Running afoul of Missouri's open government laws could carry a smaller financial penalty but no longer require proof the law was knowingly broken under legislation before a Senate committee.

Officials or agencies now can pay up to $5,000 for a purposeful violation and up to $1,000 for a "knowing" violation. The Senate legislation would reduce the amount of the lesser penalty to $100 and no longer require a violation be committed "knowingly" for there to be punishment.

Supporters say the changes would make enforcement of the Sunshine Law just like that of other statutes.

Organizations representing cities, counties and other local governments are critical. They question levying penalties against people who can be volunteers and who accidently violate an open meeting or public records requirement while serving their communities.

Published in Local News
Friday, 14 March 2014 14:40

Missouri could set record for executions

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Missouri is on pace for a record number of executions in 2014, with two more inmates on the verge of getting their execution dates.
 
The Missouri Supreme Court on Thursday issued show cause orders in the cases of Leon Taylor and Michael Worthington. The orders give attorneys for the two men until April 14 to show why an execution date should not be set.
 
Missouri executed two men late last year and has already put to death two other convicted killers in the first two months of 2014 -- Herbert Smulls in January and Michael Taylor in February.
Jeffrey Ferguson is scheduled to die March 26 for abducting and killing a teenager in St. Charles County in 1989. In addition to Taylor and Worthington, the Supreme Court has issued show cause orders for five other death row inmates, meaning their execution dates could be set soon.
 
Missouri’s highest number of executions in a year was nine in 1999. The state executed eight men in 1938 and seven in 2001.
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri schools would be barred from electronically tracking students if legislation passed by the state Senate ultimately becomes law.
 
The legislation approved Thursday would prohibit public school districts from using "radio frequency identification technology" to track to location of students or transmit information about them.
 
The technology already is used to identify livestock and pets, track inventory for businesses and allow cars to pass by electronic toll readers without stopping to pay.
 
Republican Sen. Ed Emery, of Lamar, is sponsoring the bill banning the devices to track students. Emery said he's not aware of any Missouri schools that have sought to use the technology.
 
The Senate voted 27-5 for the bill, which now goes to the House.
Published in Local News
 ATLANTA (AP) - Jabari Brown scored 26 points, Earnest Ross added 24 and Missouri barely kept alive its hopes of an NCAA bid, beating Texas A&M 91-83 in double overtime in the second round of the Southeastern Conference tournament Thursday.
 
The Tigers (22-10) squandered a nine-point lead in the second half, and Texas A&M (17-15) forced another extra period when little-used senior Blake McDonald made a steal under the basket and flipped to Alex Caruso for the tying layup with 8 seconds remaining.
 
Missouri twice failed to get off a shot with chances to win the game in the closing seconds. It didn't matter. The Tigers finally wore down the Aggies, who had lost at Missouri 57-56 just eight days earlier.
 
Caruso led Texas A&M with 28 points, hitting 5 of 9 from 3-point range.
Published in Sports
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri drivers would not have points assessed against their license for tickets issued by automated traffic cameras under legislation endorsed by the state House.
 
The House gave initial approval to the bill Wednesday that would regulate red-light and speeding cameras.
 
Photo traffic enforcement systems for Missouri municipalities have been the subject of ongoing court cases and many cities have temporary halted enforcement. The measure would require cities to meet certain standards in order to operate speeding or red-light cameras.
 
Supporters say the measure would streamline traffic enforcement across different municipalities and give guidance to the courts. Opponents say it circumvents the point system and could keep dangerous drivers on the road.
 
The bill needs one more affirmative vote before moving to the Senate.
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The number of Missouri residents using a federal website to enroll in health insurance is growing, but not as fast as had been projected.
 
Figures released Tuesday show nearly 75,000 people had enrolled in health policies by March 1. That's up by more than one-third from the Feb. 1.
 
Yet Missouri remains behind the enrollment targets originally set for federal health care law. The March 1 number is about where Missouri was expected to be on Feb. 1.
 
Missouri was projected to enroll 118,000 people by March 31.
 
Missouri is one of 36 states where the online insurance marketplace is being run by the federal government.
 
Health care advocates intensified their efforts over this past weekend to persuade people to sign up for the insurance policies.
 
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A new audit says Missouri's low-income housing program is inefficient and among the costliest in the nation.
 
The report Monday by State Auditor Tom Schweich says Missouri awards more low-income-housing tax credits per capita than any other state.
 
But the audit says the program is inefficient because only 42 cents of every $1 in tax credits goes toward the actual construction of housing. The report says the rest goes to investors, syndication firms and federal taxes.
 
Special committees that have analyzed the program have reached similar conclusions in the past. But lawmakers have been at loggerheads over whether to pare back the program because some say it has a laudable goal.
 
The audit says the tax credits helped finance about 47,000 housing units since 1998.
 
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri farmers will get a larger property tax bill for their land starting in 2015.
 
Property tax for agricultural land is based on its productive value. Farms are divided into eight groups based upon land quality, with the best in Grade 1 and the worst in Grade 8.
 
The Missouri Tax Commission has recommended increasing the productive values for all farms by about 5 percent. State lawmakers' deadline to reject that proposal was this past weekend. It means the new values will be in place for the 2015 and 2016 tax years.
 
The tax commission estimates the change will mean about 10 cents more tax per acre. The commission says the last change in productive values took effect in 1995.
Published in Local News

   Students at the University of Missouri are being warned to be extra vigilant after a female student reported being raped near campus over the weekend.  

   The student told Residential Life that she'd been raped late Saturday night or very early Sunday morning in the 800 block of Richmond Avenue. University officials say they're working with the victim to make sure she receives the resources and assistance she needs.  

   Additional details about the crime haven't been released.  Police say their investigation is ongoing. 

Published in Local News

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A recent decline in Missouri's casino revenues is raising questions among lawmakers about the extent to which the state can continue to rely on gambling to fund key programs.

Attendance at Missouri's 13 casinos is down almost 9 percent from last year.

Missouri relies on two sources of casino revenues. A portion of a per-patron fee is used to pay for the operations of the Missouri Veterans Commission, which oversees seven nursing homes. A state tax on casino revenues helps fund public schools.

The House has approved an additional $22 million for public schools because of the funding shortfall and lawmakers are considering a temporary funding boost to help the veterans' homes.

State officials are citing this winter's cold weather among the causes for the revenue decline.

Published in Local News
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