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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of December 26, 2011

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The report from a legislative staff concluded that the administration did not maintain adequate records to judge the benefits from the hundreds of millions of dollars the state provides in tax credits. The Committee on Legislative Research Oversight Division is concerning about the tax credits program for Department of Economic Development after the division reviewed the statutes and procedures.

The Oversight Division Director Mickey Wilson said the revenue return of millions of dollars remained unclear.

Missouri gives away more than one-half billion dollars per year in tax credits for various business and special interest activities.

It's been a major issue of dispute in the ongoing debate about economic incentives for business.

Get the radio story.

Kansas City's House representative Jason Kander is proposing putting limits on political donations at $500, at $1,000 for Senate campaigns and $2,000 for statewide offices.

Kander said capping contributions to state's political candidates would protect democracy and the voice of average Missourians since unlimited campaign contributions could let special interest have more influence than they should.

Kander said people want to believe that the people they send to Jefferson City are working on the best interest of the state, but disadvantage of six figure contributions for average Missourians is obvious.

The proposal would also have a two years ban on former lawmakers from working as a lobbyist, which could help avoid them from improperly using special relationships they have after they leave their office.

Meanwhile, the proposal would ban officials from accepting any gift from a lobbyist.

Kander said officials should use their own salary to pay for food and buy tickets for games.

The saga of redistricting Missouri's House and Senate began almost a year ago.

After the bi-partisan citizen commissions deadlocked and couldn't decide on the new maps, the task was turned over to a panel of six Appellate judges selected by the Missouri Supreme Court.

Those judges have been criticized for their lack of transparency.

The judges would meet in secret behind closed doors to decide the fate of the new Senate and House districts.

Critics say that's a blatant disregard for Missouri's Open Meetings and Record Laws which requires most state boards and commissions to post meetings and leave them open to the public.

A legislative committee was told Wednesday that longer prison sentences can lead to an increase in crime.

An expert with the Pew Research Center on the States told the legislature's Interim Committee on Criminal Justice that states that cut prison sentences also saw a decrease in crime rate.

During the past ten years, Missouri saw in increase in crime rate, but also saw an increase in the amount of criminals in prison.

The committee is working on a plan to cut prison  expenses and the crime rate in the state.

Months after a quasi-governmental agency nearly accepted $21 in federal grants to set up Obama's federal health care plan in Missouri, lawmakers wonder if the agency has the authority to do so.

The Department of Insurance says the state must set up some type of exchange or else the federal government will.

Lawmakers say the debate over the exchange will be a hot topic when legislative session begins in January.

Missouri State Treasurer Clint Zweifel has issued the state's largest single unclaimed property return to an individual in state history.

The treasurer's office declined to release the name of the woman and other details for privacy reasons. It did say, however, that the return was made up of one security.

Zweifel's office says it also returned $100,000 to a man in St. Joseph, Mo. for a claim made up of 15 different security accounts.

The state has 38 accounts each worth more than $100,000 that have not been returned, according to Zweifel's office.

According to Zweifel, about one in ten Missourians has unclaimed property.

He said the best way for Missourians to seek unclaimed property is through the state's website,

National statistics show an increase in the number of kids who are following in the footsteps of their offender parents.

George Lombardi, Director of Missouri's Department of Corrections, is one of many who acknowledge that this trend exists.

"Well, you know, the children of incarcerated parents are seven times more likely to go to prison than other kids," Lombardi said.

He also says the best thing the state can do is make sure kids are involved in youth mentoring programs.

Big Brother Big Sister is a program for kids whose lives have been affected by drugs and crime.

The program has reported an increase in the number of kids enrolling who have one or both parents in prison.

Semi-truck and school bus drivers will be breaking the law if they reach for their cellphone while driving, under a federal law taking effect in January.

"Distracted driving is an issue that the trucking industry is very concerned about," said Tim Crawford, president and CEO of the Missouri Trucking Association.

Drivers could face a fine of up to $2,700, and they could lose their license after more than two offenses. A driver's trucking company could face a penalty of up to $11,000 for a driver violation, Crawford said.

The Missouri Department of Transportation reported that drivers are 23 percent more likely to be in an accident while using their cellphones; drivers using their cellphones caused 21 fatal accidents in 2010, said Capt. Tim Hull of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Two Missouri senators blame robocalls for failing to pass telemarketing legislation in the past.

Cape Girardeau Senator Jason Crowell filed a bill that would add cellphones to the no-call lost and ban certain automated calls from telemarketers.

A telemarketer violating this act could face up to a $5,000

Crowell said the bill will not cost the state money and he will continue to work with the attorney general to make any changes. He will present the bill during the regular session, which begins January 4.

Jefferson County Senator Kevin Engler has sponsored the cellphone no-call bill from 2006 to 2008 but it died each time. He said legislators need to decide between peoples' privacy and politicians' campaigns.

Contrary to popular belief, mental health experts say the holiday season is the most unlikely time for people to commit suicide.

Numerous media outlets each year report the rumor that the holiday season sees a spike in suicides, said a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania who is releasing, for the 12th year in a row, research that shows this is a myth.

Dan Romer, the director of the Adolescent Communication Institute of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at Penn State, began researching the trend of holiday suicides in 1999. He said although there were about 60 stories released during that time reporting the holidays would see a jump in suicide numbers, that claim actually proved to be false.

"It's never been true as long as people have kept records in the northern hemisphere that there's more deaths at this time of the year due to suicide," Romer said.

Romer said many reporters hear rumors or simply think the idea of people suffering from the "holiday blues" makes sense, and so they report on it, many times without checking facts.

Rep. Ray Weter, R-Nixa, is sponsoring the bill that would require gas stations to give the public 24 hours notice before they could increase gas prices by 3 cents or more.

Weter said he doesn't care if gas stations raise their prices as long as consumers get a 24 hour notice.

Ron Leone, the executive director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, said the plan is unreasonable and impossible to comply with.

"The main problem with the bill is that when it comes to the price of motor fuel, it literally is a commodity, which means that the price fluctuates multiple times a day," Leone said.

Weter said he is not surprised by that response and that opponents could argue in committee against posting gas price increases.

Last Week