Nixon staff seek to ban cell phones at signing event

Tuesday, January 13, 2009 | 7:52 p.m. CST; updated 10:13 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 13, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon's first gubernatorial news conference, which he held to sign three executive orders geared at economic reform, got sidetracked Tuesday by his staff's efforts to ban reporter cell phones.

Nixon press secretary Scott Holste said initially that the cell phone ban was a security matter, though that was later recanted. The ban was later said to be a product of the Nixon team's transition from the attorney general's office, where cell phones are not allowed past building security.

When at least one reporter threatened to boycott the news conference if reporters were forced to relinquish their cell phones, Holste went back into the governor's office and returned rescinding the cell phone ban.

Just hours later, the office of the sole Republican statewide office holder, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, sent out an e-mail offering Blackberry chargers during news conferences put on by his office.

"During capitol newsers, we will gladly provide Blackberry phone chargers for use during your reporting," wrote Gary McElyea, the director of communications for the lieutenant governor's office, in an e-mail to capital correspondents. "It is my goal to do what I can to allow you to better inform the citizens of Missouri."

While the cell phone debate took on partisan tones, the governor's office said in a news release that three new executive orders are part of a bipartisan plan.

The three executive orders signed by Nixon set about creating an automotive jobs task force, creating an economic stimulus coordination council and directing the creation of a pool of funds for low-interest and no-interest direct loans for small businesses.

The committees are designed to prepare Missouri for steps the auto industry and the federal government are going to be taking in the coming months.

"Last month, Gov. Nixon announced the Show-Me JOBS Initiative, a bipartisan plan to get Missourians back to work and support small-business growth," the news release read. "Today's executive orders include three of the proposals in the Governor's Show-Me JOBS Initiative."

Some Republicans were not convinced that the executive orders were bipartisan, however.

"I'm not saying the Republicans will be opposed to it, but usually when you announce a bipartisan proposal, it's announced by both parties," said Senate GOP Leader Kevin Engler, R-Farmington.

The governor has focused during his first day-and-a-half on job creation, leading off with a meeting with young businesspeople and entrepreneurs immediately following his inaugural address.

"Director-designee (Linda) Martinez (of the Department of Economic Development) and I sat down with a small group of young innovators, entrepreneurs and business owners to discuss the challenges they're facing during these difficult economic times," Nixon said. "They want to grow. They want to create jobs. They want to succeed."

The executive orders continued in the job creation vein, and members of both parties are backing the goals behind them.

"I applaud the governor for having a priority of getting some job creation and growth," Engler said. "I haven't gotten a chance to look at the details of the proposals to see if they will actually stimulate growth and development, so we'll have to wait for that to happen."


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