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Thursday, January 24, 2008


As it does in January of every election year, the Missouri Ethics Commission adjusted the state’s caps on individual campaign donations to account for changes in the Consumer Price Index. However, since by statute the commission must round inflationary adjustments to the nearest $25, the limit for House candidates will remain unchanged at $325.

For Senate races the limit will rise to $675 from $650. The cap for statewide candidates went to $1,350 from $1,275. Political party committees can give about 10 times the normal limit.


With about a month until candidate filing opens and nine months until the November general elections, Republicans are left without a candidate for governor. In the wake of the announcement, several prominent Republicans are considering running, including Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, House Speaker Rod Jetton, State Treasurer Sarah Steelman, Senate Majority Leader Charlie Shields and U.S. Reps. Kenny Hulshof and Jo Ann Emerson.

Blunt becomes the first Missouri governor to pass on seeking re-election since the 1960s, when the state constitution was changed to allow incumbent governors to seek a second consecutive term.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Great Week in Jefferson City

Some of the toughest challenges for many of us who serve in the Missouri General Assembly is the time we spend away from our families. Fortunately this was not a problem for me last week when Patricia, Mate and Vincent (first timer to the Capitol) joined me. They had fun doing the normal site seeing and on Thursday they spent the day with me at work. As the picture clearly indicates Mate was thrilled! I think it may have had something to do with informing him minutes earlier that the Christmas tree at home would have to come down.

Ignition Interlock Bill Heard

On Tuesday the House Transportation committee heard HB1423. Here's the bill summary:

This bill specifies that anyone who has had his or her driving license and privilege suspended due to an alcohol-related traffic offense will be deemed to have not fulfilled the suspension and a restricted driving privilege will not be issued until the person has completed 30 days of a suspension and has filed proof with the Director of the Department of Revenue that his or her motor vehicle is equipped with a functioning, certified ignition interlock device as a required condition of the person's restricted driving privilege. If the person fails to maintain the proof, the restricted driving privilege will be terminated or his or her license suspended, or both.

These laws, when drafted properly, can dramatically decrease the number of drunk driver related accidents. It works by having devices installed in a car that prevents the ignition from starting if traces of alcohol are found on the driver's breath.

Dr Richard Roth (pictured above) flew in from New Mexico as an expert witness. He has dedicated many of the last years to studying the issue and has helped New Mexico gain national attention by helping to draft legislation that has reduced the number of drunk driving accidents. Dr. Roth has a very impressive resume that includes receiving a Ph.D in physics from Princeton University, working with James Cronin and Val Fitch on Nobel Prize (1980) winning experiments in Elementary Particle Physics, and is a member of the New Mexico Governor’s DWI Leadership Team.

On top of all these great things Dr. Roth also was raised in the 67th District and attended Holy Family Grade School in his younger days. For more information on HB1457 or Dr. Roth's work please click the following links:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Gov. Blunt Will Not Seek Second Term

Gov. Matt Blunt today released a television address to Missourians announcing that having achieved virtually everything he set out to accomplish when he ran for governor he will not seek a second term.
In his address, Gov. Blunt cites among his accomplishments turning an inherited $1.1 billion deficit into three straight surpluses without a tax increase, cutting taxes, ending the education cuts of the past and providing budgets that will deliver $1.2 billion to universities, classrooms and students, rescuing the broken Medicaid system and transforming it into a network of care for vulnerable Missourians and helping turn record job-loss into nearly 90,000 new jobs.
The governor called a news conference tomorrow morning at 9:30 am where he is expected to discuss his announcement.
A video file of the governor’s television address is attached and is also available at http://youtube.com/GovernorMattBlunt.
The following is a transcript of Gov. Blunt’s television address:
"Fellow Missourians. Let me speak directly with you. In 2004 I promised leadership, vision and change. It was more than a slogan, it defined a mission. You elected me to chart a new course.
And together we are creating a future of greater opportunity for all Missourians.
We inherited a budget that was $1.1 billion dollars in the red and turned it into three straight surpluses without increasing taxes. In fact, we cut taxes.
In contrast to the old education withholdings and cuts, my budgets will have delivered 1.2 billion new dollars to our universities, classrooms and students.
A broke and broken Medicaid system is being transformed into a network of care offering vulnerable Missourians healthier lives at a cost taxpayers can afford.
We have turned record job-loss into nearly 90,000 new jobs.
Hundreds of millions of dollars in waste has been eliminated and we reduced the size of government.
What we set-out to achieve four years ago has been accomplished.
Once when asked if he were running for re-election another governor responded, “Yes, I like being governor.” When I read that I thought at the time that I never wanted to run for any office just to hold it. I did not run for governor to have a title, but to bring change to state government.
The habit of politicians is to remain in office and the desire to prove oneself in the next election is strong. After a great deal of thought and prayer, and with the knowledge that we have achieved virtually everything I set out to accomplish, and more, I will not seek a second term in the upcoming election. Because I feel we have changed what I wanted to change in the first term there is not the same sense of mission for a second.
At the end of my term, I will have served twenty years in public service, ten years in the United States Navy followed by ten years in state government. Melanie and our son William Branch mean the world to me. I have spent more time away from them than I would like. We are ready for the next chapter in our lives and I am looking forward to spending more time with them.
Some will wrongly think that this is a retirement from the effort to improve the lives of Missourians. But they will have failed to understand that the greatest and wisest leadership of our state is not housed within the ornate offices of the Capitol. It springs from our citizens, communities, churches and institutions of private life.
There are new and important initiatives we can achieve this year.
Their success will help keep the change working for Missouri families.
I will focus on these initiatives.
To serve as your governor is a great privilege. I will continue to work every day to be worthy of the faith and confidence you have placed in me.
Thank you for listening, and may God continue to bless our great state.

Monday, January 21, 2008


During his 2008 State of the State address on Jan. 15, Gov. Matt Blunt proposed a $22.94 billion state operating budget for the 2009 fiscal year, which begins July 1. The proposed budget would increase total state spending by $1.45 billion – or 6.8 percent – from original FY 2008 appropriations

The governor is also seeking an additional $106.3 million in supplementary spending for the current fiscal year.


Amid the continuing scandal over his administration’s deletion of potentially embarrassing e-mails, Gov. Matt Blunt is unilaterally moving ahead with a $2 million plan to permanently archive all e-mails sent or received by most executive branch agencies, The Associated Press reported on Jan. 16.

Blunt has faced criticism over the e-mail issue since the summer. Scott Eckersley, Blunt’s former deputy counsel, claims he was fired for advising the administration that its e-mail deletion practices violated state law. In a wrongful termination and defamation suit recently filed against the governor and four current or former members of his staff, Eckersley said the governor’s office ordered high-ranking administration officials to routinely destroyed sensitive e-mails after The Kansas Star used the state’s Sunshine Law to obtain e-mails that exposed the administration’s efforts to pressure the State Highway Patrol to criticize Attorney General Jay Nixon for not pursuing criminal charges relating to the Taum Sauk reservoir collapse. The patrol’s own investigation had already concluded no charges were warranted.

Rather than seeking money from the General Assembly through the normal budget process, Blunt is using reserve funds to establish the e-mail archive. An estimated $500,000 a year will be needed to maintain the archive, funding that will require legislative approval starting with next year’s budget process.

According to the AP, the state computer system administered by the Office of Administration handles approximately 1.5 million e-mails daily. The OA system includes the governor’s and lieutenant governor’s office and most state agencies. The transportation, conservation and natural resources departments maintain separate e-mail systems, as do the Highway Patrol, the judiciary, the legislature and other statewide elected officials. Those systems aren’t subject to the governor’s archiving plan.


Because of a Missouri Supreme Court ruling reinstating the state’s campaign contribution limits, Gov. Matt Blunt was slated to return $4.46 million in over-limit donations. According to his latest campaign finance disclosure report, however, the governor has only returned about $2.2 million to contributors.

John Hancock, the governor’s campaign spokesman, told The Associated Press that the unreturned money is tied up in investments that carry penalties for early withdrawals. The Missouri Ethics Commission gave candidates until Nov. 26 to declare whether they would return over-limit donations or seek a hardship exemption to keep the money. Blunt had said he wouldn’t seek a hardship. The commission set no deadline by which money must be returned or announced penalties for candidates who fail to honor reimbursement pledges.


State Rep. John Bowman will resign from the Missouri House of Representatives effective Jan. 31 after pleading guilty on Jan. 11 to a federal misdemeanor charge of bribing a bank official. Bowman, who originally had been charged with a felony, is expected to receive probation when he is sentenced on April 3.

Bowman, D-St. Louis, was one of 17 people indicted in January 2007 as part of a fraudulent credit scheme run by Robert Conner, a former vice president of Bank of America’s Chesterfield branch who offered lines of credit to unqualified applicants in exchange for kickbacks ranging from $2,500 to $5,000. In November, Conner was convicted of 36 felony charges relating to the scheme.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Back in Session

After two months of a break from blogging I'm back and so is the Missouri Legislature. Our first day was January 9th and both Republican and Democratic leadership gave speeches on how both sides would cooperate in order to serve Missourians. Perhaps it will happen but I'm predicting once again you'll see the usual amount of bickering between the two parties.

As usual some interesting and sometimes crazy legislation has crossed my desk this week. As these pieces of legislation get signatures and filed I will post them here on the blog with some of my own thoughts.


Only one of six reports on various aspects of the state’s health care system that lawmakers required as part of last year’s bill renaming Medicaid as MO HealthNet was submitted on time and three have yet to be finished or even started, The Associated Press reported on Jan. 7.

The reports were due by Jan. 1. Only Attorney General Jay Nixon’s office turned in its mandated report on time. Two reports from the Missouri Department of Social Services were turned in on Jan. 2.

One of the tardy reports is due from the Joint Committee on MO HealthNet, which is to consist of five senators and five representatives. However, no members have yet been appointed to the panel. Reports from the legislative budget office and the recently created MO HealthNet Oversight Committee, which oversees the program, are also late.


Local governments don’t have to comply with the state minimum wage law voter approved in November 2006, Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan ruled on Jan. 8. Callahan said the way the statute is worded makes it inapplicable to local governments. The judge, however, did not address claims that the law violated various provisions of the Missouri Constitution.

The ballot measure initially raised the state minimum wage to $6.50 from $5.15. As of Jan. 1, the wage increased to $6.65 an hour due to an automatic cost of living adjustment.


Gov. Matt Blunt’s former deputy counsel sued the governor and four current and former high-ranking members of the governor’s staff for defamation and wrongful termination relating to allegedly illegal destruction of official documents by the administration. Scott Eckersley filed the suit, which seeks unspecified damages, on Jan. 9 in Jackson County Circuit Court.

Eckersley claims he was fired in September after advising his superiors that members of the governor’s staff were routinely violating Missouri’s open records and records retention laws. After the allegations because public last year, members of the Blunt administration orchestrated a smear campaign in an attempt to discredit Eckersley, but quickly back off most of the claims after media outlets questioned their veracity.

In addition to Blunt, the others named in the lawsuit are Ed Martin, the governor’s former chief of staff; Henry Herschel, the governor’s former chief counsel; Rich Chrismer, Blunt’s top spokesman; and Rich AuBuchon, chief counsel for the Office of Administration. Both Martin and Herschel resigned due to the growing scandal late last year.