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Eagle Scout Nixon takes on new project - insurance coverage for autism

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 6, 2009 - Later this morning, Gov. Jay Nixon -- who was honored earlier this week as an example for fellow Eagle Scouts -- will be stopping by St. Louis' Judevine Center for Autism to announce that he's renewing his quest to make insurance coverage available for Missourians with autism.

According to his office, the governor will make "a significant policy announcement" regarding autism coverage during three stops today: Columbia, St. Louis and Kansas City.

"At each stop, Gov. Nixon will join medical professionals and families to detail four specific principles he feels would be essential for meaningful legislation requiring autism coverage,'' his announcement says. The governor is to be accompanied by John Huff, the director of the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration.

During the last legislative session, a measure for autism insurance coverage was passed overwhelmingly in the state Senate, but died in the state House. A legislative panel is to consider the issue sometime this summer, with the aim to have an autism bill come before the Legislature again during the next session, which begins in January.

 As for that Eagle Scout honor:

Nixon, who attained the Boy Scout rank of Eagle Scout when he was 13, learned this week that the Great Rivers Council of the Boy Scouts of America (which takes in 33 counties in central Missouri) has selected him to receive the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award. Fewer than 1 in 1,000 Eagle Scouts get the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.

“Scouting had a tremendous impact on my life growing up in DeSoto, and taught me lessons and values I carry to this day,” Nixon said in a statement. “I am deeply honored to receive this award, and thank the National Eagle Scout Association and the Great Rivers Council. Each February when I participate in the ceremony in the Capitol rotunda to honor the newest Eagle Scouts in the Great Rivers Council, I am even more assured of the role that Scouting has in developing our next generation of leaders.”

According to the governor's office, he will receive the award next year. Nixon will join a select Distinguished Eagle company that includes U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Lexington, and former U.S. Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, D-St. Louis County, as well as "astronauts Neil Armstrong and Jim Lovell, former President Gerald Ford... Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, adventurer Steven Fossett, and film director Steven Spielberg."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.