House endorses plan for federal school money

The Missouri House has endorsed a plan Tuesday to use $189 million of additional federal stimulus money for public schools.

The House plan would use some of the money to offset shortfalls in casino tax revenues that were to go to schools. But most of the additional federal money would be used to offset state revenues already budgeted for schools this year — allowing the state money to be saved and distributed to schools next year.

The House gave the legislation initial approval by voice vote after no one expressed opposition during a brief discussion. The bill needs another vote to advance to the Senate.

House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, said the plan would provide a more steady funding stream for schools than one originally proposed by Gov. Jay Nixon. That plan would have used the federal money to boost school funding this year, then cut state aid next while asking school officials to carry over some of their money from one year to the next.

Nixon’s budget director, Linda Luebbering, said Tuesday that the governor’s administration now supports the plan endorsed by the House.

Luebbering said she initially had concerns about whether the federal law allowed states to use the money to supplant state dollars already budgeted for schools, but she said those concerns have since been alleviated by federal education officials.

The money at issue is Missouri’s share of a $10 billion plan signed last August by President Barack Obama that was intended to help schools cover their staff salaries during potential financial hardships caused by the economy.

House passes bill for St. Louis police control

Legislation granting St. Louis control over its police department is heading to the Missouri Senate.

The House passed legislation 109-46 Tuesday that would end 150 years of state oversight of St. Louis police. The police department currently reports to a board consisting of the St. Louis mayor and four appointees of the governor.

Efforts to end state oversight stalled in past years. But this year’s bill gained momentum for several reasons. More than two-thirds of city voters backed a nonbinding resolution last fall urging local police control.

House Speaker Steven Tilley is backing this year’s legislation, and supporters have raised new arguments that local control could save the state money. And wealthy businessman Rex Sinquefield is financing a potential 2012 ballot issue on the topic, if lawmakers don’t act.

Senators seek to create education study panel

Missouri senators have endorsed a proposal to create a new task force to study the effectiveness of the state’s teachers.

The 14-member committee would offer recommendations to ensure teachers are fairly evaluated while considering the academic success of students. The task force also would offer recommendations to ensure teachers are given opportunities to improve and to share ideas with other teachers. The education panel’s report to lawmakers and the state education board would be due by the end of the year.

Members of the committee would include state lawmakers, the state education commissioner, teachers, a school board member and an academic researcher.

Senators gave first-round approval Tuesday to legislation creating the education task force. The legislation needs another vote before moving to the state House.

Proposal calls for more petition signatures

A Missouri lawmaker wants organizers of initiative petitions to collect signatures from all of the state’s congressional districts before their measures go on ballots.

Initiative petition campaigns are currently required to get signatures from a percentage of voters in six of the state’s nine congressional districts. Hartville Republican Tony Dugger is proposing an amendment to the Missouri Constitution to change that requirement.

Dugger told a House panel Tuesday that the current process allows initiative petitions to go to the ballot without signatures from rural congressional districts.

Initiative petition organizers say requiring signatures from all districts would greatly increase the number of signatures campaigns have to gather, making it harder to submit petitions.

The proposed amendment would have to be approved by voters if it passes the House and Senate.

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