Statehouse News: Oct 12 to 16

The following headlines are compiled each week by Sarah D. Wire, a senior at the Missouri School of Journalism. The weekly newsletter — drawn from stories by student-reporters with Missouri Digital News — is dispatched to members of the Missouri Press Association.

Gov. Jay Nixon with Natural Resources Department Director Mark Templeton

Gov. Jay Nixon with Natural Resources Department Director Mark Templeton

Investigation of Natural Resources Department finds other failures, governor says — The Department of Natural Resources failed to protect the public from high levels of bacteria in lakes across the state, Gov. Jay Nixon said in a news conference Oct. 16. An internal investigation of the Department of Natural Resources revealed several cases in recent years when the department failed to close state beaches even though E. coli levels were above the state standard. At the conference Nixon reinstated the department’s director, Mark Templeton, who had been suspended for two weeks during the investigation. He also rescinded the nomination of the department’s former deputy director, Joe Bindbeutel, to a state commission. Nixon’s comments came on the heels of accusations by Senate Commerce Committee chairman Brad Lager, R-Maryville, that the governor’s administration had organized a “cover-up” of E. coli related issues.

Cities draw ire of ACLU for pseudoephedrine crackdownEarlier this year, the town of Washington in eastern Missouri adopted an ordinance requiring a prescription to purchase any cold medicine that contains pseudoephedrine — a key ingredient in the production of methamphetamine. On Tuesday, Union, which is also in Franklin County, adopted a similar ordinance. Now these ordinances are under attack from the ACLU.

Urban deer harvest up 83 percent — According to a Missouri Conservation Department news release, hunters checked 1,242 deer during the urban portion of Missouri’s deer-hunting season. Boone County had the largest harvest with 247 deer checked.

Missourians can now call 24-hour swine flu hotline — With the first waves of flu season hitting Missouri, the state Department of Health and Senior Services has set up a 24-hour phone line for people who have questions. According to a department news release, operators will answer the number, 1-877-FLU-4141 (1-877-358-4141), 24 hours a day, seven days a week in order to respond to questions about symptoms, basic medical advice and the availability of the H1N1 vaccine.

State expansion of electronic medical records is met with industry skepticism — As the health care debate rages across the U.S., President Barack Obama’s plan for expanding the use of electronic medical records is being met with skepticism by some in Missouri. Supporters see electronic medical records as a major money-saving device that could transform America’s health care system, but many health professionals, including several physicians in the Missouri legislature, doubt the technology could deliver the promised savings.

Charter schools fall below average state test scores — According to data released by the state’s education department, students in Missouri’s charter schools aren’t scoring as well on standardized tests as their public school counterparts.

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