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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - State officials are projecting that 24,000 new jobs would be created if Missouri chooses to expand its Medicaid program.
 
The Department of Economic Development said Friday that raising the program's eligibility to levels called for by the federal health care law would bring $9.9 billion in new wages to the state.
 
Gov. Jay Nixon has asked lawmakers to expand the program to include adults earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level - a little less than $33,000 annually for a family of four. Nixon's administration estimates that 300,000 Missourians could join the program under those levels.
 
The Republican-led Legislature has repeatedly rejected expanding the program and argued the state couldn't afford it. But a Republican House member introduced legislation this week that would partially expand the program.
 
Published in Local News
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - The lawyer for a middle-school football coach who's accused of kidnapping and killing a 10-year-old girl in Missouri says Craig Wood is planning to plead not guilty. The public defender's announcement came during a brief hearing today.
 
Wood is accused of snatching Hailey Owens as she walked home from a friend's house Tuesday evening in Springfield. Court records indicate her body was found in Wood's basement. Prosecutors say she was shot in the back of the head and that she had ligature marks on her wrists, suggesting she was tied up.
 
Public defender Chris Hatley said Wood plans to contest the charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping and armed criminal action.
 
Wood appeared by video from a jail where he is being held without bond. He spoke only briefly to answer several questions from the judge. Hailey's parents, older brother and five other family members attended the hearing.
 
A prosecutor challenged Wood's use of a public defender, saying police found evidence of a $1 million trust in Wood's name. He said, "I think he can afford his own attorney." The defense attorney replied that "it's frankly none of his business." The judge said he would consider the matter.
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri senators have passed legislation that would send federal agents to jail for enforcing some federal gun laws.
 
The Senate voted 23-10 on Thursday to send the measure to the House. It would declare any federal law considered by the state to infringe on gun rights to be null and void in Missouri. Federal agents enforcing those laws could face up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
 
Courts have consistently ruled that states cannot nullify federal laws. But supporters argue the measure is necessary to protect law-abiding gun owners from intrusive federal regulations. Opponents say it wouldn't survive a court challenge.
 
Earlier this week, the Senate stripped a provision from the legislation requiring gun thefts to be reported within 72 hours.
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri Senate committee has advanced legislation on student transfers and unaccredited school districts, clearing the way for debate by the full chamber.
 
The Senate Education Committee endorsed the bill Thursday. Committee Chairman David Pearce, a Republican from Warrensburg, says the vote is a huge step.
 
Numerous bills have been filed this year to address struggling school districts and a state law requiring unaccredited districts to pay tuition and transportation costs for students who transfer to a nearby accredited school. The law has led to financial problems for unaccredited districts and concerns among accredited schools about the number of transfers they must accept.
 
Students have transferred during the current academic year out of St. Louis County's unaccredited Normandy and Riverview Gardens districts. The Kansas City district is also unaccredited.
 
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri's four-year public universities would be rewarded for good performance under legislation passed by the state Senate.
 
Under the bill, the 13 universities would get funding increases tied to certain performance standards.
 
The colleges would work with the Department of Higher Education to develop five goals. Three of those goals must be tied to graduation and retention rates as well as job placement in a field appropriate for a graduating student's degree level.
 
The legislation would apply only in years the state can afford to increase higher education funding and would expire in 2016.
 
A 2012 state law requires the development of a funding formula for Missouri's public universities.
 
Senators voted 33-0 to send the measure to the House on Thursday.
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri House Republicans are sticking together this year in their quest to enact an income tax cut.
 
The House passed a pair of tax cut plans Thursday on party-line votes, with Republicans in support and Democrats in opposition.
 
That's a stark contrast from last September, when 15 House Republicans splintered from the majority to prevent an override of Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of an income tax cut.
 
House Speaker Tim Jones says Thursday's solid Republican vote should be a signal for Nixon to work with lawmakers on tax cuts.
 
Nixon denounced the bills as "fiscally irresponsible experiments" that would funnel money away from schools.
 
Nixon has said he will sign an income tax cut only if it protects school funding and also reins in state tax credits.
 
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri senators have given first-round approval to legislation that would reward the state's four-year institutions for good performance with more funding.
 
Under the measure endorsed Tuesday, public universities would establish performance criteria. The criteria would be used to determine how much extra money the institutions get during years the state can afford to increase college funding.
 
Universities would work with the Department of Higher Education to establish five performance goals. A university's goals must include graduation and retention rates, as well as job placement statistics. The formula would expire in 2016.
 
Missouri is currently using a similar mechanism to fund the universities but the measure would put the change into law.
 
The bill needs another vote before moving to the House.
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Two bills making their way through Missouri's Republican-led Legislature represent the state's latest attempt to oppose the federal health care law.
 
Senators passed measures last week that would impose additional regulations on insurance navigators, who help consumers sign up for health plans on the exchange marketplace.
 
One bill would require navigators to take a written exam and undergo a criminal background check before working with consumers. Another would require navigators to purchase a $100,000 bond and be liable for unlawfully sharing a customer's personal or financial information.
 
Republicans say the measures would protect Missourians from fraud. But Democratic opponents say the bills are designed to block access to health care.
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The state of Missouri faces the loss of nearly $70 million this year in tobacco settlement payments due to a unique pricing advantage enjoyed by some cigarette companies.
 
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Missouri is the only state which signed a landmark settlement agreement more than 15 years ago to not eliminate a loophole allowing small cigarette manufacturers and retailers to avoid making escrow payments. The payments are required of companies that didn't sign the settlement.
 
State lawmakers have refused requests by two Missouri attorney generals over the past 12 years to neutralize the pricing advantage. And a federal arbitration panel found that Gov. Jay Nixon neglected to file lawsuits against the smaller tobacco companies to force them to pay into the escrow fund when he was attorney general.
 
Missouri could also lose tens of millions in tobacco money each year for at least seven years.
Published in Local News

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri lawmakers could clear up a legal thicket entangling communities' red light cameras while also applying the brakes to cameras designed to nab speeders.

State approval would be required for speed or red light cameras on state highways, and communities seeking to place them elsewhere would need to follow specific requirements. Speed cameras on local roads would be limited to school zones, work zones and areas where serious traffic accidents are excessive.

Legislation endorsed by a House committee also seeks to address recent court cases over red light cameras. Appeals courts have focused on how points are assessed for violations caught by red light cameras.

The bill would specify that traffic infractions captured by speed or red light cameras would not lead to points on a motorist's driving record.

Published in Local News

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