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For his final state budget, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is taking no risks.

His proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 features no grand gestures of setting up new programs, and calls for limited increases for the state’s current operations.

Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian is free and back with family and colleagues after 545 days in an Iranian prison. Several news agencies knew about diplomatic efforts to free him. So, why did they choose not to run the story until his release was secure? Also, the end of Al Jazeera America, Sean Penn says he’s “sad about the state of journalism in our country,” and Univision buys The Onion, really. From the Missouri School of Journalism professors Amy Simons, Mike McKean and Stacey Woelfel: Views of the News.

Missouri Capitol
File Photo / KBIA

A proposed ban on lobbyist gifts to Missouri lawmakers and other public officials has approval from a House panel. 

A move to abolish the death penalty in the Show-Me State is getting a hearing before a Missouri Senate committee.

Senate Bill 816 is sponsored by Sen. Paul Weiland, R-Imperial. He told the committee on general laws that being a pro-life Republican should also include the end of life.

via Flickr user 2012 Pop Culture Geek

On February 28, all eyes will turn to Hollywood for the Academy Awards. Comedian Chris Rock is slated to host the telecast. But, pressure is mounting on him to join a boycott over the lack of diversity in this year's pool of nominees. Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee are leading the charge for actors, directors and producers of color to simply stay home that night.

Claire McCaskill
Kristofor Husted / KBIA

Missouri's U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill is planning a hearing this week on the growing abuse of heroin and prescription painkillers. 

Missouri lawmakers will try to make the most of a short week, which could include the next batch of ethics bills.

The shorter work week is due to the Martin Luther King holiday, as well as Gov. Jay Nixon's State of the State Address Wednesday night.

Updated 5:49 p.m. Jan. 14 - In Missouri, it usually takes a few weeks or even a month for the first bills to be completely passed out of one chamber and sent to the other, but not this year.

The Missouri House fast-tracked four ethics bills and on Thursday passed them on to the Senate, during the first full week of the legislative session.

A Missouri Senate committee is weighing legislation that would eliminate the 1 percent earnings tax in both St. Louis and Kansas City, effective Dec. 31, 2017.

Republican Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, who's also running for attorney general, brought his bill before the Senate committee on ways and means Thursday.  He said that a similar tax in Maryland was ruled unconstitutional, and it could cost Missouri millions of dollars if the same thing happens here.

(Will be updated as campaign-finance reports are filed)

Republican Eric Greitens, an author and former Navy SEAL, appears to have bested his rivals for governor in both parties with his latest fundraising numbers.

Greitens’ latest campaign report, filed Friday, showed that he has raised $1.5 million since Oct. 1. That puts him slightly ahead of the $1.4 million reported by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat and the longstanding fiscal frontrunner in the crowded battle to succeed outgoing Gov. Jay Nixon.

The NFL owners voted late Tuesday to allow the St. Louis Rams to move to Los Angeles, effective with the start of the 2016 season. Actor-turned-activist Sean Penn told the Associated Press he has nothing to hide following the publication of his 11,000-word account of an interview with Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. How did the meeting in the jungle clearing come to be? And, why did Rolling Stone agree to give the drug kingpin editorial control prior to publication? Also, Netflix’s “Making a Murderer” proves once again audiences crave true crime stories, and the Missouri legislature considers tightening restrictions on some journalists while easing up on others. From the Missouri School of Journalism professors Amy Simons, Earnest Perry and Mike McKean: Views of the News.

via Flickr user Erick Drost

The NFL owners voted late Tuesday to allow the St. Louis Rams to move to Los Angeles, effective with the start of the 2016 season. This is a big sports story for St. Louis and Los Angeles, but it is so much more.

Associated Press: “Rams relocating to Los Angeles leaves St. Louis as two-time loser

Two companion measures that would require Missouri voters to show photo identification at the polls have been passed by a House committee.

The first one, HJR 53, is a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow for a photo ID requirement, and would need to first be passed by Missouri voters.

While U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., clearly has his philosophical and political differences with the president, last night he praised Barack Obama’s plan to embark on a major effort to cure cancer and boost medical research. The president is putting Vice President Joe Biden in charge of what he calls “mission control” of that effort.

Last year, after losing his son Beau to brain cancer, the vice president said that with a “new moonshot” America could cure cancer. The president agrees and made boosting medical research one of the biggest proposals in his speech.  

Missouri House of Representatives

Former Missouri Senator Paul LeVota has transferred more than $100,000 from his campaign committee to a political action committee that lists his wife as treasurer. 

Updated at 4:28 p.m. Jan. 8 with announcement from Homeland Security- The regulatory clock is now ticking loudly for state lawmakers in Jefferson City, Mo., and Springfield, Ill., to ensure that residents of both states can use their state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards as proper forms of identification to board commercial airliners.

Members of the news media who regularly cover the Missouri Senate will soon be doing so from another location.

The Senate voted 26-4 Thursday to bar members of the press from the floor of the Senate, including use of a table that has been reserved for reporters for decades.  The new rule takes effect March 29.

It appears that Republican leaders in the Missouri House and Senate are putting their money where their mouths are when it comes to ethics changes.

During his opening speech, House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, said he'll refer all ethics bills to committee on Thursday, a move that often takes place days, weeks, and sometimes months after the start of a legislative session.

Although Missouri’s state revenue collections dropped slightly in December, the state’s budget chief says plans are still on track for Gov. Jay Nixon to base his budget proposal on a hoped-for 4.1 percent income hike during the coming fiscal year.

Missouri Budget Director Dan Haug says Nixon and the General Assembly’s budget chairmen have tentatively agreed on that income growth estimate to use in crafting budgets. Based on the 4.1 percent hike,  $360 million in additional revenue should be available for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt was at Kansas City-based MRIGlobal Tuesday to talk about the importance of increased funding for the National Institutes of Health.

NIH received an additional $2 billion in the omnibus spending bill that passed last month, a funding increase of 6.6 percent.

That’s the biggest increase in a decade, although Blunt pointed out that wasn’t hard to accomplish “because there hadn’t been an increase in NIH funding since 2003,” when Congress made a commitment to double funding for health research.

Ron Richard is about to spend his first full session as president pro-tem of the Missouri Senate.

He was elected to the post by his colleagues in September after Tom Dempsey resigned a year ahead of time, and shepherded the upper chamber through veto session. The Republican from Joplin also served as House Speaker from 2009 to 2010, and is the only elected official in Missouri history to lead both chambers.

Richard sat down recently with St. Louis Public Radio’s Marshall Griffin and talked about what he hopes to accomplish, and about getting started as president pro-tem:

House Speaker Todd Richardson’s legislative career is full of defied expectations.

Before he was elected to House leadership, Richardson helped bring substantial changes to Missouri’s embattled Second Injury Fund – an issue that bedeviled lawmakers for years. And after the misdeeds of his predecessor, the Poplar Bluff Republican rose to the speakership much earlier than anybody expected.

Missouri lawmakers are back in Jefferson City as they prepare to kick off the 2016 legislative session at noon today.

In addition to passing the state budget, they're expected to tackle several other issues, including ethics reform and Gov. Jay Nixon's push to build a new NFL stadium for the Rams.

The Missouri legislative session starts on January 6 and ends in mid-May. As politicians converge on Jefferson City prepared to debate bills in the state House of Representatives and Senate, “St. Louis on the Air” assembled a panel to discuss the upcoming session.

On Monday’s show, we discussed what’s likely to happen, what’s unlikely to happen and what to keep an eye on. Joining the show:

File Photo / KBIA

Missouri lawmakers will try in 2016 to tighten ethics laws in response to allegations that former lawmakers acted inappropriately toward interns.

Republican leaders of the state House and Senate say ethics is a priority in the session beginning Wednesday. House Speaker Todd Richardson says the culture of Jefferson City needs improvement.

Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder may have put U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., in a difficult position with his harsh comments about a law Blunt originally co-sponsored when he served in the U.S. House.

The law establishes federal standards for issuing driver’s licenses. Residents of a few states, including Missouri and Illinois, whose licenses don’t comply could be denied access to federal facilities or commercial airplanes. Passports will work if federal agencies say those licenses are no longer acceptable government issued identification.

drivers license
Missouri Department of Revenue

Missouri residents soon will no longer be able to use their state driver's licenses as identification to get into most federal facilities. 

Who owns the Las Vegas Review-Journal? Someone paid $140 million in cash for Nevada’s largest newspaper, but no one knows who that someone is. The rather unusual situation has staffers demanding answers. Also, Disney’s promotion machine is on full blast for Friday’s release of ‘Star Wars: A Force Awakens.’ Will the film live up to the hype? And, Serial returns for its second season. Why don’t fans seem as interested in Bowe Bergdahl as they were Adnan Syed? From the Missouri School of Journalism professors Amy Simons, Earnest Perry and Mike McKean: Views of the News.

rickbrattin.org

Editorial from KBIA News Director Ryan Famuliner

By now you may have seen the articles with headlines like, “Striking MU athletes could lose scholarships,” and “Legislation targets Mizzou football team strike.” They are referring to a bill pre-filed by state Representative Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville), HB 1743, which calls “any college athlete on scholarship who refuses to play for a reason unrelated to health shall have his or her scholarship revoked”

Disney’s promotion machine is on full blast for Friday’s release of ‘Star Wars: A Force Awakens.’ Will the film live up to the hype?

Kristen Hare, Poynter: “Bloomberg Business made some data journalism our of ‘Star Wars’

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