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Wednesday, 05 February 2014 13:37

Senate panel blocks MU curator appointment

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri Senate committee has blocked one of Gov. Jay Nixon's nominees to serve on the University of Missouri Board of Curators.
 
The motion to endorse Cape Girardeau lawyer Michael Ponder failed Wednesday on a 5-5 vote.
 
Ponder was first tapped by Nixon for the post in January 2013. The Senate did not act on his nomination last year, but Nixon reappointed Ponder in June and he has been serving on the board since then.
 
It was Ponder's previous position in state government, however, that concerned members of the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee. Ponder previously served on the State Board of Education, where senators say he made controversial decisions to implement education standards and a school funding law.
 
Ponder declined to comment on the vote.
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - An attorney for a Missouri death row inmate is asking the state Supreme Court to overturn his conviction because prosecutors failed to disclose evidence that he was beaten by police before confessing.
   The attorney for Reginald Clemons on Tuesday urged the high court to use the findings of a specially appointed judge to set aside Clemons' conviction for the 1991 deaths of sisters Julie and Robin Kerry.  Prosecutors say the sisters were shoved off the Chain of Rocks Bridge into the Mississippi River in St. Louis after being raped.
   Clemons was one of four people who were convicted or pleaded guilty in the case.
 
   Special Judge Michael Manners concluded last year that prosecutors suppressed evidence that police may have beaten Clemons while questioning him.
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri House committee is considering a one-cent sales tax increase to fund state transportation projects.
 
Transportation officials said Tuesday the penny tax could generate $8 billion over the next decade. They say the tax increase is necessary for the state to maintain roads and bridges, and to fund new infrastructure projects.
 
If approved by the Legislature, the tax would go on the statewide ballot in November. The tax would need to be re-approved by voters after 10 years to remain in effect. Ten percent of funds raised by the sales tax would go toward local transportation projects.
 
The measure cleared both the House and Senate but failed to win final passage in the waning days of last year's legislative session.
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri House committee is considering legislation that would change the ability of certain public employee labor unions to collect fees.
 
The Workforce Development and Workforce Safety Committee heard public testimony Monday on the measure its supporters call "paycheck protection."
 
If passed, the measure would go to the voters for approval. Sponsoring Rep. Holly Rehder, of Sikeston, says that would get around a likely veto from Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, who vetoed similar legislation last year.
 
Rehder's bill would require annual written authorization in order for union fees to be automatically deducted from a person's paycheck. Unions would also need authorization to spend a person's fees on political activities.
 
Unions representing "first responders," such as police and firefighters, would not be affected under the measure.
Published in Local News

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Governor Jay Nixon has set an August 5th special election to fill three vacant Missouri House seats.

Nixon announced the House election dates Friday, but he did not call for a vote to replace Senator Ryan McKenna, who he appointed in December as the state labor director.

The 120th House District has been vacant since Republican Jason Smith of Salem resigned in June upon winning a special election to Congress.

The two other House seats opened up in December. Democratic Representative Steve Webb, of Florissant, resigned while facing criminal charges. Republican Representative Dennis Fowler of Advance resigned when Nixon appointed him to the state Board of Probation and Parole.

The special election announcements come as Nixon is facing a lawsuit seeking to compel him to call the elections.

Published in Local News
BOLIVAR, Mo. (AP) - A southwest Missouri man accused of plotting shooting attacks at a movie theater and a Walmart has been found guilty.
 
Polk County Prosecutor Ken Ashlock said Blaec Lammers was convicted Friday of first-degree assault and armed criminal action. Judge William Roberts on Thursday threw out a charge of making a terrorist threat. Lammers agreed to allow a judge to hear the case without a jury present.
 
Ashlock said Lammers told authorities he originally planned to open fire on the opening-night crowd for "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 2" at a Bolivar theater in November 2012. He then opted for the Walmart because he could get more ammunition there.
 
Lammers was arrested after his mother told police she feared he was planning an attack.
 
Sentencing is scheduled for March 20.
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - One of Missouri's largest labor organizations has hired a former Republican House Speaker as a lobbyist.
 
The Missouri AFL-CIO hired Steve Tilley this week as the labor organization prepares to combat "right to work" measures this year. The legislation would prohibit labor contracts from requiring that all employees pay union fees.
 
Tilley was first elected to the House in 2004 and became Speaker in 2011. While in that office he shied away from "right to work" and said it was not part of his agenda.
 
He left the House in 2012 to become a lobbyist when term limits barred him from seeking re-election.
 
"Right to work" is a top priority this year of House Speaker Tim Jones, Tilley's successor. Jones says Missouri needs the policy to compete for jobs.
Published in Local News
ST. LOUIS (AP) - By the time the U.S. Supreme Court refused a last-minute stay of execution for Herbert Smulls, the Missouri inmate was already dead. His attorneys say it was the third straight time a Missouri inmate has been executed with an appeal pending.
 
Late Wednesday, attorneys for Smulls made one last appeal to the Supreme Court. It had already ruled hours earlier that the execution could proceed.
 
Smulls' attorney Joseph Luby says the stay was denied at 10:24 p.m., four minutes after Smulls was pronounced dead.
 
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster says in a statement that the Supreme Court has ruled that pending litigation is not sufficient to stop an execution. He says the state directly asked the high court if the execution should be stayed, and was told no.
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri Senate committee is working through ideas for addressing struggling school districts and a law that forces unaccredited districts to pay for students to transfer.
 
   The Senate Education Committee examined legislation this week sponsored by its chairman, Republican David Pearce of Warrensburg. The panel focused last week on a proposal by several St. Louis-area senators, and Pearce says there will be hearings on other proposals in the next two weeks.
 
   Pearce says the committee needs to decide what is important to include in a bill. Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey said Thursday he would like the full chamber to start debate on a proposal in mid-February.
 
   Pearce's measure provides partly for creating a statewide "achievement district" to manage underperforming schools in unaccredited districts.
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri woman who as a teenager wrote that killing a young neighbor girl was an "ahmazing" thrill is now asking a judge to overturn her guilty plea.
 
   Alyssa Bustamante testified in court Thursday that she wouldn't have pleaded guilty to the 2009 slaying of 9-year-old Elizabeth Olten if she'd known about a pending U.S. Supreme Court case involving juvenile murder defendants.
 
   Bustamante had been facing a first-degree murder charge punishable by life without parole. She pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in January 2012 and was sentenced to life with the chance of parole.
 
   The Supreme Court later ruled that mandatory life prison sentences for juveniles were unconstitutional.
 
   Bustamante's new attorney is citing that case as a reason to undo the plea agreement.
Published in Local News

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