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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of April 11, 2011

Missouri's House passed a bill that would protect farmers from repeatedly getting sued over the smell of animal manure.

Rep. Casey Guernsey R-Harrison is the sponsor of the bill. He said this bill helps to protect the rights of farmers and Missouri's agriculture industry. Guernsey said this is legislation Missouri needs to preserve the industry.

"If we don't fix this problem we aren't going to have the AG industry in this state."

Another supporter of the bill, Rep. Chris Molendorp R-Cass County, says this bill allow some of our counties to take care of nuisances and makes it easier for

Opponents to the bill, like Rep. Mike Colona D-St. Louis, said the bill doesn't acknowledge the property value decrease when a farm moves next door.

"So that I am to believe, that if a big hog farm moves next to me, where morning, noon, and night I don't have that great smell of bacon, as the gentlemen from that side of the aisle said the other day...I have the smell of hog...manure, that will not affect the value of my property?"

The bill will go to the governor next.

One victim of domestic violence brought her story to the steps of the Capitol lawn.

While lawmakers earlier in the week discussed banning domestic violence abusers from owning guns, a crowd Thursday gathered outside the state Capitol to honor crime victims.

One of the event's speakers, Carol Cromer, told the crowd of her years living in fear of her abusive husband.

"It had consumed my life so long that I was unsure of what it would be like to live life normally again," said Cromer.

He stalked her, threatened her, and even set fire to her home and car, she said.

Outdated domestic violence laws, Cromer said, prevented law enforcement officials from keeping him behind bars.

Attorney General Chris Koster told the crowd that he is pushing for comprehensive legislation to strengthen domestic violence laws.

This includes extending the length on orders of protection granted to victims like Cromer.

"[Abusers] do not value their own lives. Therefore expecting them to value someone else's life is incomprehensible," said Cromer.

In what House Republicans portrayed as a snub,  the Senate refused to even consider on differences with the House on redrawing congressionl district lines.

Rather than taking up the House passed measure Thursday and voting on the House request for a conference to work out their differences, the Senate simple adjourned for the weekend.

In response, House Republican leaders called off a work session for Monday -- eliminating one of the remaining work days for a legislative session that must adjourn in four weeks at 6pm Friday, May 13.

"If the Senate had responded to our request on the redistricting map, we would very likely have had something to do," said Rep. Tim Jones, the House majority leader.

The House Democrat leader, Rep. Mike Talboy, said he's never seen anything like this before.

"It's disappointing that we get to some sort of standoff where we decide that we're going to adjourn early," Talboy said. "It is what it is at this point."

Rural Senate Republicans have the biggest complaints about the way the lines are drawn, and the differences between the House and Senate maps are mostly out-state issues. Both maps confine St. Louis City to a single district, which would eliminate the district of Democratic U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan.

Sen. Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville, who sponsored the Senate redistricting bill, said the redistricting process has been more difficult than expected.

"Once you change one thing in this map, it's the ripple effect across the whole state. So one change causes a change somewhere else and then what happens is you maybe are solving a problem with one person but you might cause a problem with two," says Rupp.

Rupp says he hopes to reach a compromise next week. He says that would allow enough time to override a possible veto from Gov. Nixon in the current legislative session rather than putting it off until a fall veto session.

The Missouri Senate voted to expand the list of infectious diseases for which firefighters will receive disability or death benefits.

The bill's sponsor is Sen. Ericc Schmitt, R-St. Louis County.

He said these diseases were added because they can be contracted by firefighters in the field.

Some of the new additions include hepatitis, rabies and the plague.

Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, spoke against the bill.

Schaaf, a practicing physician, said he wants to make sure firefighters aren't compensated for diseases not acquired on the job.

"And it's kind of hard for me to believe that every case of HIV, hepatitis, plague, etc., that a firefighter gets was only because he or she was on the job," Schaaf said.

Firefighters are required to have an annual physical examination with blood test to qualify for the benefits.

The bill now moves on to the House. There are only 4 weeks left in the legislative session.

The Missouri House of Representatives passed a bill that would soften regulations on removing lead-based paint from homes and businesses.

Supporters of the bill say state regulation procedures can be too expensive, and children can be harmed in the long run if families cannot afford to get the lead paint removed properly.

Harrisonville Republican Representative Rick Brattin says some businesses are too scared to remove harmful lead themselves, in fear of getting a fine.

"If you're really about business, and really about protecting our businesses and the children at the same time to where we actually do remove the lead in a safe manner, but not killing the business so they don't even want to touch it, I urge the body to vote for this," said Brattin.

Opponents of the bill say the lessening of safety rules pertaining to lead are endangering constituents, especially children.

St. Louis Democratic Representative Jill Schupp said federal regulations don't do enough to remove lead from the state's environment.

"Missouri leads in lead poisoning, and we need to ensure that the safety of our children, and our citizens, and our communities, and our clean water...that those are our number one priorities."

Additionally, Schupp said, "It takes a pinch of lead to kill or permanently damage someone. These regulations take away Missouri's own regulations to ensure our children and our adults remain safe."

The bill passed out of the House with a majority.

State lawmakers gave final approval Wednesday to a bill that repeals a number of restrictions set in place by the dog-breeding law, passed by voters last November.

In a press conference following the House vote, Gov. Jay Nixon had little to say regarding his opinion of the legislation. He simply stated that he would be sure to review the bill and promised to continue the allocation of resources for law enforcement practices.

The law currently in place tightens the rules governing practices of dog-breeders throughout the state. The legislation passed by the House would undermine those restrictions.

The bill removes the 50-dog limit placed on kennels as well as requirements for larger cages. Instead, the bill requires using regulations to be set by the Department of Agriculture.

The new legislation would also allow for civil penalties and misdemeanor charges for repeat offenses, apply a $25 annual fee to support law enforcement efforts and allow licensing costs of up to $2,500 instead of $500.

State senators followed the lead of the Missouri House on Wednesday by passing a redistricting plan that eliminates a St. Louis congressional district.

The Senate endorsed the House of Representatives' map a week after the House's own approval of the proposal, which eliminates the district currently occupied by Democratic U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan.

Despite minor differences between the originally proposed maps, both plans dissolve Carnahan's district, split Jefferson County among three districts and divide Jackson County into two districts. The maps also place Boone County into the new Fourth District, to be represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, instead of being represented by another Republican U.S. Rep., Blaine Luetkemeyer.

The Senate approved the House bill with a vote of 22-11 after Senate Redistricting Chairman Sen. Scott Rupp, R-St. Charles County, proposed a change to the plan that made the House map virtually identical to the Senate's own proposal, thus eliminating any differences between the two.

Gov. Jay Nixon has signed a bill that extends unemployment benefits to Missouri citizens, effective immediately. The bill reached Nixon's desk after Senate Republicans who filibustered the bill reached a compromise about federal stimulus funding.

Recipients of the benefits will receive their extension benefits in the next couple days.

"I called on members of the Missouri Senate to roll up their sleeves and pass this legislation that will provide 20 weeks of additional unemployment assistance to Missourians who have lost their jobs because of no fault of their own," Nixon said.

The legislation will provide $105 million in federal stimulus money to Missourians who have already exhausted other unemployment benefits. The extended program continues until Jan. 7, 2012, when they will expire.

The bill included an amendment to cute the state-funded benefit extensions from 26 to 20 weeks.

Governer Nixon said he hopes the benefit checks will be sent to unemployed Missourians within the next few days.

More than 100 people attended the state Capitol's first-ever Muslim Day sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri Muslim Rights Task Force.

The event was organized as a response to a few bills that have been brought up in the statehouse regarding foreign law. Those bills include one sponsored by Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific, and another sponsored by Don Wells, R-Cabool. Although Curtman's bill rejects foreign law, it does not specify Shariah law in its language like Wells' bill does.

"It doesn't specify any religious group..." Curtman said about his bill, "It just says in our courts we're going to use American laws... If it deprives somebody their fundamental liberty...then the judge is going to side with protecting peoples rights."

The resolution drafted by Wells calls for a ballot measure for the next election that would ban using Shariah law in court. Wells said he was compelled by one of his constituents to draft the legislation. Wells called Shariah law "very oppressive."

"I have been accused of being a bigot and doing it against a religion, which is entirely not true," Wells said. "I'm not doing anything against a religion; It does not mention religion, it mentions law."

Curtman said his bill is fundamentally different than Wells' resolution and said specifying Shariah law was "not good policy."

Imam Muhammad Hasic from the Bosnian Islamic Center of St. Louis also spoke at the press conference. He called on lawmakers to leave his religious freedoms intact.

"Islam is teaching me to respect, help and love my neighbors," Hasic said. "Please do not forbid me to do that."

The Missouri House gave final approval to a bill which would overhaul proposition B. Proposition B was passed by Missourians in November.

The bill would eliminate a potential cap on the number of dogs a breeder can own. It would also relax restriction for feeding and housing animals.

Democrat Margo McNeil says the bill throws out the opinion of voters.

Other democratic representative voiced concern over the relaxation of living conditions.

The bill passed by a vote of 85-71. It will now move on to Governor Nixon.

Missouri's House gave first-round approval to changes in the payday loan industry Wednesday.

The House voted along party lines for a bill, which would change several provisions on payday loans. The bill would lower the annual percentage rate maximum to 1,564 percent from the current 1,950 percent. The bill sponsored by Rep. Ellen Brandom, R-Sikeston, would also limit the number of times a borrower can "rollover" their loan to three from the previous six.

Brandom said her bill protects the consumer while also preventing the payday loan industry from going bankrupt. She said her bill came as a result of an ad hoc committee appointed by Speaker of the House Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, to address the payday loan industry.

Democrats said Brandom's bill does not do enough to protect the consumers and benefits payday lenders.

"This bill is a gift to the industry," Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia, said.

The Missouri House sent legislation to the governor to extend unemployment benefits by a vote of 138 to 13.

The bill came from the Senate where a Republican filibuster had held it up for weeks.

While about 10,000 longterm unemployed Missourians will get their benefits restored, the bill come with some concessions.

Future unemployed Missourians will see their benefits cut by six weeks, a concession the House made to the Senate.

Democrat leader Mike Talboy from Jackson County says the House needed to pass the bill or fear, "Sending this over to, whether there called the four horsemen of the apocalypse or as I've dubbed them, the lunatic fringe."

Rep. Barney Fisher, R-Richards, said it was time to get to the governor, "We had to accept them really and concur in what the Senate did. I don't think their changes were drastic. I think they were reasonable and it was time to pass that bill and get it to the governor."

Just months after Wisconsin Democrats fled their state Capitol in protest, a proposed constitutional amendment to prevent that from happening in Missouri sparked little debate in its Senate hearing Tuesday.

The Senate General Laws Committee heard a joint resolution that would keep members of the state legislature from leaving the state to delay a vote. Should a legislator leave the state, his or her seat would be vacated.

The amendment's sponsor, Mike Parson (R-28) says it's vital that Missouri lawmakers have an obligation to do what they came to Jefferson City for. 

"I just think leaving this state so you don't have to vote or perform your duties which you took an oath to do is wrong," said Parson.

However, it's unlikely that what happened in Wisconsin would happen in Missouri.

If Democrats were to walkout of the Missouri legislature, there would still be enough members present to hold a session.

Wisconsin requires sixty percent of members present to hold a session, while Missouri only needs a majority.

Following the lack of debate on the bill, the Senate chose to take no action on it.

The Senate failed to vote on the House's redistricting plan because of opposition by several Missouri Senators.

At issue is splitting up counties including Jefferson County and St. Charles County.

Republican after Republican stood up in opposition to the Republican sponsored proposal, including the Senate Majority Floor Leader, Tom Dempsey.

"I'm telling you my displeasure with the House map and my preference for the Senate map, and as we move forward, you know, that's what my focus is on," Dempsey said.

Most opposing Senators said the Republican Senate's plan is a better alternative, but Sen. Ryan McKenna, D-Jefferson County, said he opposes both plans.

"For my county to be the only county in the State now to have 3 congressmen and women is a hard pill for me to swallow," McKenna said.

Legislators have until the end of the day Monday to come to a decision in order to make the governor act on this plan before the session ajourns.

Former talk radio host turned politician calls out flaws in current political system at an Anti-Tax event. 

The potential presidential candidate for the Republican Party, Herman Cain, made an appearance sponsored by the United for Missouri group.  

Cain jumped from topics of eliminating an income tax to strengthening state's individual rights. Among the issues Cain addressed, President Barack Obama's name came up several times.

"We have a president who doesn't know how to lead," said Cain.

Tea Party activists have called on Cain to push for smaller government and less spending, all issues that he says he identifies with.

"I have people ask me all the time, 'Is this Tea Party thing going to go away?' I say, What thing are you talking about? Are you talking about people who want to take back their government? No, it's not going away it's going to get stronger and stronger," Cain said.

He was previously a radio talk show host for five years for WSB-Atlanta and was the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza.

The business-man turned politician has created an exploratory committee for the 2012 presidential run.

Cain is also on a fervent tour around the country to get his platform out there. Last week he spoke at a Tea Party rally in Iowa, and was off after his speech in Missouri to fly to North Dakota.

Cain will be visiting Michigan, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Florida and Texas all within the week.

Missouri dog shelters and their dogs gathered in the Capitol for Humane Day on Tuesday. The 18th annual event hopes to bring awareness to the public and legislators about animal shelters.

This year, Prop B was also apart of the agenda. Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation Executive Director Bob Baker says the new bill actually weakens current humane laws.

Baker said it is also an issue for consumers. He said the Better Business Bureau of Missouri had many complaints last year from puppy purchasers.

"And these dogs turned out to be sick and ill and they have to spend hundreds of dollars on veterinary bills for these dogs," said Baker.

Stray Rescue in St. Louis volunteer Connie Davie collected over 1,000 signatures for Prop B and hoped Humane Day encourages legislators to protect the dogs.

The House and Senate have both voted to repeal Prop B.

The Senate Health Committee held a public hearing Tuesday on a House-passed bill that would take some funds away from substance abusers in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

Program members under suspicion of substance use would be drug tested. If they fail, they would be deprived of funds for a year and referred to a treatment program.

Funds would be allocated to a third-party provider.

Sikeston Republican Representative and bill sponsor  Ellen Brandom says this bill could prevent children from being born into harmful environments.

"We have all these babies being born to mothers who test positive for drugs, and if they're using meth or crack, these children, some of them have irreversible brain damage and live on psychotic drugs their entire lives," said Brandom.

Smithville Republican Senator Luann Ridgeway emphasized how drug users wouldn't likely spend funds on their families.

She said, "If you're in the work program, and you've been tested, and you've shown you have dirty tests, it just doesn't make sense to me that that money is actually going to go back into the household."

Opponents, however, say the measure fails to ensure funding for these treatment programs, and this bill could make already-poor families even poorer.

Colleen Coble with the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence said, "Without the component of treatment being made available, beyond just a referral, we will have very poor children with less money in the household and without an addictive parent."

According to Ridgeway, this bill is different from a similar Senate bill because it does not let users keep money while in a treatment program for their first failed drug testing offense.

Despite his party's support for President Barack Obama's health care plan, Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster filed a "friend of the court" brief Monday that aims to remove the mandate requiring most Americans to obtain health insurance.

Koster wrote in the brief that upholding the individual mandate would "imbue Congress with police powers rejected by the Founding Fathers and never before permitted by the Supreme Court."

The brief was filed in response to resolutions passed in the statehouse in January that called on the attorney general to challenge the constitutionality of the health care law and to defend Proposition C.

A $20 million funding boost to higher education budget was tentatively approved Monday by the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, proposed to his committee Monday a plan to increase the Missouri higher education budget in order to help reduce costs for students.

Schaefer said they have a commitment with all university presidents to help decrease overall student costs in response to receiving additional funds. Schaefer said the reductions would not affect planned tuition increases, but that they would help reduce overall student expenses such as course fees.

"They [university presidents] are working in good faith to reduce costs," Schaefer said.

  Committee heard bill to make crime scene video and photos closed records.

Two weeks ago, St. Louis police officers shared a controversial crime photo to the Internet, now lawmakers have proposed a bill that prevents crime photos from being released to the public.

Though the incident in St.Louis happened after the bill was filed, both raise the question of how easy it should be to gain crime scene photos.

This bill will make these records closed - no longer protected by the state's Sunshine law as public records.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Scott Largent, R-Clinton, said he wants to protect the victim's families by preventing the release of these photos.

President of the Missouri Coroners' and Medical Examiners' Association John Clifton agrees.

“Just imagine if your daughter or granddaughter was the victim. Would you want to see her photograph in the newspaper or on television or in a tabloid or on the Internet?” he said.

The Missouri Press Association's executive director Doug Crews, said the press needs to access these photos to inform the public.

President of the Missouri Broadcaster's Association Don Hicks opposed the bill as well. He said personal distress is not a reason to make an exception to the Sunshine Law, which allows the press access to records in order to inform the public.

The committee will continue to discuss this bill as the session continues.

The Senate Redistricting Committee passed the House's congressional district plan Monday soon after its quick passage in the House last week.

Like the accompanying Senate proposal, the plan would eliminate the St. Louis congressional district currently occupied by Democratic U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan. The committee approved the House proposal with a 4-3 vote after hearing little opposing testimony. Two Democrats and one Republican voted against the House map.

The House plan now awaits a vote on the Senate floor, where it will meet its partnering proposal, which senators have yet to vote on.

Committee member Sen. Robin Wright-Jones, D-St. Louis City, voted for the Senate proposal last week but against the House one Monday. She said neither map gave blacks nor Democrats the proper representation. Wright-Jones also said she wanted the governor to veto the plans so that they could go to the courts.

"I do not think color necessarily plays during the process, but it does play for me," Wright-Jones said. "The minority voice and a Democratic voice would have a  better voice in a neutral court."

Legislators must complete the redistricting process by the end of the legislative session in May; if they fail to agree on a map the courts will be tasked with making a decision on the matter.

Last Week

It was not a Democrat, but in fact a Republican, that filibustered Sen. Brad Lager's (R-Savannah) bill to give firefighters the ability to participate in political campaigns.

Sen. Luanne Ridgeway (R-Clay County)filibustered the bill on the Senate floor.

Ridgeway said she opposed giving firefighters the right to engage in politics because it could create for them a conflict of interest.

"You want to know that if you're the mayor of a town and you have your house on fire [if] the firefighters are campaigning against you," said Ridgeway.

Lager said it was more important to grant firefighters their "fundamental right" to engage in politics.

"You should have the opportunity to be part of the process that our Founding Fathers put in place," said Lager.

Also under the bill, local municipalities would decide whether or not their firefighters should have the right run for office.

The Senate did not vote on the matter and the bill was placed on it's informal calendar.

Several Republican Senators ended their filibuster Thursday afternoon against a plan to extend unemployment benefits for Missourians from 79 to 99 weeks.

Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis, and his supporters ended the filibuster after meeting with Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, R-Dexter.

The two sides agreed upon a deal requiring the Senate Appropriations Committee find $250 million in federal stimulus money to send back to the federal government.

The comprise also included an amendment to the bill, which lowers state unemployment benefits from a maximum of 26 to 20 weeks.

After ending the filibuster, Sen. Lembke called the agreement a great victory for Missouri taxpayers.

"I won, I won, my goal from the beginning was to send back as much stimulus money as possible, borrowed money from the federal government, and that's what we accomplished today," Lembke said.

The bill is scheduled to be heard in the fiscal oversight committee on Monday, it needs a final vote in the Senate before it moves on to the House.

With a possible federal shutdown looming, Missouri lawmakers are waiting to take precautions until more information from Washington is released.

The closure of the Capitol's activities would come as the deadline for the budget debate in Congress expires this Friday. If a budget plan is not completed, federal buildings won't have the money to even turn on their lights.

As of November 2010 there were 110, 562 federal employees and retirees in Missouri, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Labor. Many of these people are employed in the military, which means if the government shuts down they will not receive paychecks until a budget is decided on.

This could last for as short as a few days to as long as several months. The last shutdown occurred in the mid 1990s and lasted for three weeks.

Linda Luebbering, the State Budget Director, said the effects in Missouri could depend on which Missouri programs are effected.

"Until the federal government gives us more information on what programs are impacted, it's challenging to plan because we receive federal money in buckets," Luebbering said. "What bucket they decide to cut absolutely has to be known before we can do specific planning."

In Missouri, specific federally funded areas of the state, such as national parks, would be closed and projects put on hold. This would include large scale construction projects waiting for EPA approval as well as MoDot projects that are funded partially by the federal government.

Get the print story here

The Senate Bill has passed in both the House and Senate and is on its way for Gov. Jay Nixon to sign.

If the Governor signs this bill it will be the first bill he has approved all legislative session.

The tax will diminish within the upcoming five years until it is completely phased out for fiscal year 2016.

The House voted 105-51 on the bill Wed.

Sponsor of the Corporate Franchise Tax bill also known as Senate Bill 19, is R-St. Louis County, Eric Schmitt.

According to Schmitt, Missouri is one of the few states still with a corporate income tax.

"It is really a disincentive to invest or to expand in Missouri so we thought it was time for this antiquated tax to be phased out over five years," said Schmitt.

Supporters also say eliminating this tax will make Missouri more attractive to businesses and encourage them to expand without the concern of being taxed for working within the state.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce noted Missouri at a disadvantage to neighboring states who do not have both a corporate franchise tax and a corporate income tax. States with no corporate franchise tax include Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio and Texas. Idaho and Nebraska have the choice to either pay a corporate income tax or a franchise tax not both.

If the Governor signs this legislation, Missouri will follow a similar path to Kansas who will have phased out the tax completely by this year.

However, opponents of the bill say eliminating this tax will affect all Missourians because there will be millions lost for the state.

The Corporate Franchise Tax produced $87.5 million for Missouri in fiscal year 2009.

The opponents, who are a majority of Democrats, say there is a no promise of more business in Missouri.

According to Democratic Floor Leader, Mike Talboy, D-Jackson County, phasing the tax out will put Missouri in a $84 million shortfall.

"By the sponsor's own words, has no idea if it's going to come in. I think that's a dangerous game to play especially in this economic time," said Talboy.

However, Budget Committee Chair, Republican Rep. Ryan Silvey said the budget had been perfected for this type of phase out.

Silvey also said the phase out will not take effect until 2013, and by then he said more businesses will have expanded.

Senate Bill 19 is the first of the "Fix the Six" initiative to pass. The Missouri Chamber of Commerce along with other corporate groups have put together the "Fix the Six" agenda earlier this legislative session. The purpose of the six-part initiative is to reinvigorate state business in Missouri.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce has been pushing for the phase out of franchise taxes more than a decade.

Currently, businesses will only be taxed if they make more than $10 million. Opponents also said this is discriminatory against businesses in different areas, specifically urban versus rural.

Talboy said Corporate Income Tax maybe next on the chopping block to bring in more business.

"It's another debate that we have heard on the floor for a couple of years and I think we are the lowest of the state's that have a corporate income tax, and the only state's that are beating us are state's with no corporate income tax," said Talboy.

Supporters say this bill allows business owners to operate according to their moral and religious code and can refuse selling drugs like Plan B if it induces an abortion.

This bill also requires doctors to give women more information about abortion-inducing drugs before distributing the drugs.

Rep. Rory Ellinger D-St. Louis opposes the bill.

"I speak as a father and a husband. I would certainly hope that my wife and daughter would have this choice, particularly in the case with rape or some horrible example like that."

He says this bill is a violation of a women's privacy.

Rep. Stacey Newman D-St. Louis opposes the bill for reasons similar to Ellinger's

"If your belief is that women on their own cannot make intelligent family planning decisions, then you vote yes on this bill."

Not a single Republican opposed the bill.

The bill goes to the Senate next.

Just weeks after the House passed legislation restricting late-term abortions, the Missouri Senate passed a similar bill that would require doctors to determine a fetus's viability if a woman wants to get an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Before performing an abortion on a viable fetus, doctors would have to get a second opinion from another physician.

Opponents of the bill, like Jackson Democratic Senator Jolie Justus, argued lawmakers should not interfere with a family's decision to carry to term a fetus older than 20 weeks with a fatal abnormality.

She said, "What [legislators] are doing is basically interfering with the practice of medicine by passing this bill, because this is a decision doctors should be making with their families, and we should not be interfering with that here in the legislature."

Justus said this legislation is a waste of time, as usually, abortions after 20 weeks typically are not done on viable fetuses.

"This bill affects abortions that take place after 20 weeks. In 2009, there were 63 of those abortions in the state of Missouri. Every one of those abortions was on a non-viable fetus," she said.

Despite opposition, the bill passed out of the Senate by a vote of 27 to 5 with no floor debate.

Dexter Republican Senator and bill sponsor Rob Mayer has been working on late-term abortion legislation for years.

He said, "We are very pleased it was third read and passed out of the Senate. It makes sure, in most cases, viable children are saved from abortion."

Under the bill, doctors would be guilty of a Class C felony if he or she performs a late-term abortion without seeking a second doctor's opinion on the fetus's viability.

By voice vote, Missouri's House gave first-round approval Thursday [April 6] to a measure that would provide a package of tax breaks to businesses developing an air-transport hub with China in St. Louis.

The measure would extend tax credits and other corporate tax breaks over a 16-year period. Legislative staff report it could cost a total of up to $480 million in lost taxes.

The bill's sponsor is a rural mid-Missouri Republican who was asked why he supported a bill affecting St. Louis.

"This bill affects the entire state, not just the St. Louis area, not just any one area. It's going to create demand for all of Missouri and their products and goods," said Rep. Caleb Jones, R-California.

"The folks from my district are going to be able to load up cattle and drive to St. Louis and drop their cattle off and have them in China the next day," Jones told his House colleagues during the House debate.

But the measure likely will face strong opposition in the Senate.

"The American economy is being rocked by a trade war that was started by China through their manipulation of their currency," said Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, after hearing of the House vote.

"Does the state of Missouri really want to start spending state taxpayer dollars to continue those trade imbalances," Crowell asked.

Crowell has been the leader in near filibusters to block extending business-development tax breaks arguing the state needs stronger assurances that tax breaks for business actually produce sufficient economic benefits.

With the first chamber vote involving a redistricting plan, Missouri's representatives voted mostly along party lines and with limited debate Wednesday to pass a map that eliminates a St. Louis congressional district held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan.

The Republican-led effort in the House resulted in a 106-53 vote approving the proposal, just two votes away from a two-thirds majority needed to supersede a veto by the Governor should he choose to do so once the maps are finalized.

House Redistricting Committee Chairman Rep. John Diehl, R-St. Louis County, said that even though not everyone was happy with the result, the redistricting process was fair and the map was the best proposal for the new districts.

"Even with the challenge we faced, we committed to all to complete this process in a fair, open and transparent matter that ensured adequate representation for all Missourians," Diehl said. "The map may not completely satisfy everyone, but it is complete and contiguous."

Democratic Floor Leader Rep. Mike Talboy, D-Jackson County, said that despite Carnahan being "targeted" through the elimination of his district, Democrats could not fight a majority vote by Republicans. Instead, Talboy said, they would have to wait until the Senate finished with its proposal to see the final district layout.

Senate Republicans say they are ready to negotiate with the governor and end the filibuster over unemployment benefits subsidized by federal stimulus money.

Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, said he is not targeting the unemployed citizens of Missouri, and instead is trying to send a message to the federal government. He said if the governor will agree to send $300 million of the $570 million of stimulus money already allocated to the state back to Washington, then they would end the filibuster.

"I think it is important not only for Missouri, I think it is important for all states, to stand up and say to the federal government, ‘we are not willing to be accomplices in your overspending and you piling debt on this nation and on this generation and the next," Lembke said.

Democrats are concerned that if the money does not stay in Missouri, then it will go to other states instead of paying down the federal debt.

"These are already dollars that people of Missouri have paid into the system, the federal government has authorized those dollars to be sent to Missouri and we are essentially saying no and sending them back to the federal government and it is just going to go to somewhere else," Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Jackson County, said.

After repeated attempts to contact the governor or his staff, a press release was issued saying he would continue to support the unemployed citizens of Missouri.

During an interview, State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal called St. Louis Businessman, Rex Sinquefield, a plantation owner when talking about the St. Louis police control bill.

Chappelle-Nadal explained her comments as being directed toward an African-American audience.

She says that there are people who have been personally attacking her over the issue, but says she hopes for a respectful and substantive discussion moving forward.

Jefferson City residents overwhelmingly voted Tuesday to keep their current curbside trash and recycling pickup.

Election results from the Cole County clerk's office indicate 5,669 voters, or 74.5 percent, approved maintaining the system. Only 1,961 people, or 25.5 percent, disapproved.

The system has been in place since 2009, when the City Council voted to add recycling, decrease the number of pickup days per week from two to one, and add a few dollars onto the cost. Jefferson City residents pay about $15 a month per household.

Opponents said it wasn't right to pay more for less service. Supporters of the current system said those opposed didn't have a backup plan for trash pickup.

A resolution that would give the state the option of opting out of certain federal laws was filibustered by Senate Democrats Tuesday.

Sen. Jolie Justus (D-Jackson County) and Sen. Victor Callahan (D-Jackson County) stalled the vote the resolution that would give the state the option of enforcing laws that would restrict gun rights, allow for same-sex marriage, or legalize abortion.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Brian Nieves (R-Washington), said on the Senate floor the measure would keep the federal government in check.

But Nieves also said if passed, "probably nothing changes" in the way the state government functions.

After nearly an hour of discussion, the Senate voted to place the bill on the informal calendar.

The House Redistricting Committee approved plans for redrawing congressional district lines, including eliminating Democratic Rep. Russ Carnahan's south St. Louis district and splitting suburban Kansas City.

That's because Missouri's population didn't grow as quickly as other states. As a result, it's losing a congressional seat, which requires a change of district lines around the state. Those include the lines around Kansas City in Jackson County, where Donna Turk lives.

"The situation is both the Senate and the House maps, carve up Jackson County like a Christmas turkey," Turk said.

Turk says the proposed plan will make the new districts uncompetitive. She says it will carve out all the Republican votes out of Jackson County and make the remaining 5th district essentially guaranteed to be Democratic.

Another place it affects is Jefferson County, a suburb of St. Louis. The county is currently entirely in the third district, held by Russ Carnahan.

But the proposed change would get rid of the district and divide the county between three others.

”But as we look on it now, we’re in a unique situation. If we have three representatives, we can call all three up," Jefferson County Executive Ken Waller said.

The map now goes to the House.

Director of the Missouri State Teacher Association, Mike Wood said teacher tenure is a protection that should be offered to teachers from being fired for arbitrary reasons.

However, the sponsor of the bill is St. Louis County is Representative Jane Cunningham.

Cunningham pulled up a chart with two lines.

The red diagonal line represented the increasing amount of money given to get up Missouri test scores, and the second was the very flat line showing the improvement in test scores.

Cunningham said eliminating teacher tenure is one of the reforms that Representative Scott Deckhouse and herself have come up with.

Another reform within the bill was performance based salary which rewards teachers for better test scores and evaluations.

However, opposition said this type of merit based salary could affect the relationship between teachers.

Wood said it’s ridiculous.

"To put teachers across the hallway in competition with each other for increases of salary at their expense just doesn't lend itself to being conducive in a learning environment," said Wood.”

Cunningham said the performance based pay and elimination of teacher tenure is a way to keep around good teachers and reward them.

JEFFERSON CITY - A day after a Senate committee passed a map to eliminate Democratic U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan's district, the House Redistricting Committee followed suit.

Committee Chairman Rep. John Diehl, R-St. Louis County, proposed the map that was passed with a 10-1 vote. The only "no" vote came from Rep. Ron Casey, D-Crystal City, who's from Carnahan's district.

Diehl allowed anyone to propose alternative maps and the only other representative to propose one was Casey.

"Everybody's criticizing it, but nobody can show you anything that's better. It's probably a pretty good map, and I think the fact that Senate and the Democrats came up with a map that's only about two percent different than this one. I think that tells you we are probably pretty close to the right answer," said Diehl.

Casey's proposal kept three of the eight districts the same as Diehl's, but left St. Charles and Jefferson County whole.

His proposal lost by a 7-4 vote. Casey then proposed an amendment to Diehl's plan to keep Jackson County whole, which also lost by a 10-1 vote.

Dozens of Jackson County residents were angry because both maps divide their county.

"They carve out all of the Republican votes in Jackson County and put them in the sixth district to make fifth district super fortified Democrat and the sixth district super fortified Republican." said Donna Turk of Jackson County.

The Senate debated the plan but did not vote whether to require Attorney General Chris Koster to sue the federal government for not enforcing immigration laws.

Sen. Will Kraus, R-Jackson County, sponsors the bill.

Kraus says border states will gain congressional representation because every person, legal or illegal, counts as part of a state's population.

"Those are people that are here undocumented, illegal, and they need to be deported," Kraus said.

Sen. Maria Chappell-Nadal, D-St. Louis County, opposes the plan and says without an overall understanding of federal immigration law, the plan will not help Missourians.

"By putting this on the ballot, we're really not addressing the issue, we're simply saying the Attorney General needs to do his or her job, but what does that mean," Chappell-Nadal commented.

Kraus said the federal governement has an illegal immigration problem and while Missouri is losing a congressional seat, border states are gaining representation because illegal immigrants count toward a state's population.

He says his plan would force the federal government to explain why they aren't doing their job.

If passed, the plan would go on the November 2012 ballot.

The House voted to relocate the Missouri Housing Development Commission within 40 miles of the Capitol.

They decided against having the entire offices in St. Louis and Kansas City relocate.

St. Louis Representative Jill Schupp said the original plan would have hurt the 40 St. Louis and 80 Kansas City government employees.

Boone County Representative Chris Webber wants the House and Senate to have more control over the committee, but said having the CEO separate from the offices won’t let the commission be very effective.

Schupp said keeping the office will save the state more than 2 million dollars.

The plan would allow pharmacies to refuse to sell abortion pills like Plan B if doing so violates their moral beliefs.

Southwest Missouri Republican Representative David Sater owned a pharmacy in Barry County for more than thirty years. He is the bill's sponsor.

"I'm trying to protect pharmacies from having government intrusion into their lives and having to stock certain products such as RU-486, such as Plan B and Ella," says Sater.

Springfield Democratic Representative Sara Lampe opposes the bill. She says women need to have access to emergency contraceptives, especially in sexual assault cases.

"As long as an eleven year old girl is raped in the state of Missouri, families need options. And pharmacists...pharmacies...have no right to deny that service," says Lampe.

The legislation would also prohibit a non-physician from providing abortion-inducing drugs to Missourians.

The bill requires one more vote in the House before moving to the Senate.

A month after KMOX broke the story of Governor Jay Nixon's flight costs, Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder is under fire for his travel expenses.

Kinder says using campaign funds, he'll pay the state back more than $35,000 for staying in St. Louis area hotels.

Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder tells reporters he'll pay the state back more than $35,000 for staying in St. Louis area hotels. The 329 stays date back to 2006.

Rep. Jamilah Nasheed D-St. Louis says Kinder is right to pay back taxpayers.

"At the end of the day politics is perception. Even though that may have been legal, the perception of government spending for personal use is not acceptable."

Nasheed has pushed to strip money from Gov. Nixon's travel budget. Last week the House passed its version of the budget which included a half million dollar cut to Nixon's travel.

At a Senate Committee hearing, lawmakers discussed a bill that would require schools to produce its own definition of bullying, a policy for reporting instances of bullying, and procedures to conduct annual confidential surveys from students.

These measures would have to be implemented in all Missouri schools by September 2012.

Jackson Democratic Senator and bill sponsor Jolie Justus says it is crucial Missouri implement its own attack against bullying.

She said, "The reality is this is an incredibly serious situation. We have children who are terrorized, some to the point of taking their own lives. This is something that we actually have been working on for quite some time in the state, to make sure we have an effective bullying bill that takes care of the problem in the state."

Morgan Keenan with the Safe Schools Coalition of Missouri says state laws do effectively reduce bullying.

"There's 13 states that have passed anti-bullying laws similar to this, that have enumeration, training mechanisms, and reporting encoded into the law. Of those 13 states, they've seen a 30% reduction on average when it comes to reported cases of bullying," said Keenan.

At the hearing, Scott Emanuel with Growing American Youth recounted his own fear of being bullied for his identity.

"The last thing that I wanted to do in that school was to say not only am I polish, but I'm also gay...becuase I thought, gosh, if they don't like me for being Polish, they're going to hate me for being gay," he said.

At the hearing, no one testified against Justus's bill.

A killing spree in front of a Tucson grocery store more than two months ago left six people dead and thirteen wounded, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Police say the accused gunman, Jared Loughner, used a high-capacity magazine containing 32 rounds.

Some states are considering a ban on high-capacity ammunition, but not Missouri.

President of the Missouri Sports Shooting Association Kevin Jamison says if large capacity magazines are useful for killers, they're useful for people in self-defense.

"Sometimes you need a full-size magazine because you have a full-size problem. And while that happens rarely, when it happens to you, that's a hundred percent of the time," says Jamison.

Attorney Dale Roberts teaches firearms law for the Missouri Bar Association as well as concealed carry certification classes in Columbia. He says most people don't need high-capacity ammunition, but that doesn't mean it should be outlawed.

"The law doesn't require me to demonstrate need. The law says I have a right to own things," says Roberts.

On the other hand, Communications Director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence Ladd Everitt says restrictions on magazine size could have saved lives in Tucson.

"We want to be decreasing the lethality. We don't want to be making it easier for people to kill more people," says Everitt.

Coincidentally, the Missouri legislature is considering bills that would put more guns in the hands of Missourians.

The House passed a package of six pro-gun bills, including a measure lowerign the minimum age to carry a concealed weapon from 23 to 21.

After letting unemployment benefits run out for thousands of Missourians, the Senate leadership promises to revisit the issue by the end of the week.

Floor Leader Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, said he hoped to bring the $105 million in federal money to the floor again and attempt to break a filibuster, which lead to the benefits expiration. The federal money would extend benefits for 20 weeks for the more than 34,000 unemployed Missourians.

Missouri's House overwhelmingly approved the extended benefits months ago, but the proposal has hit a major roadblock in the Senate. Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, has led a filibuster against the funds and said Missouri needs to send a message to Washington about irresponsible spending. Lembke said rejecting the funds would save the federal government $96 million.

"At the end of the day we will get a vote on unemployment," Mayer said.

"The federal government is broke ... my position is looking out for what is best for the Missouri taxpayer," Lembke said.

Localized control of the St. Louis Police Department is making headway in the Missouri Senate after passing with roughly two-thirds support in the House of Representatives in February.

Sponsor of the House bill, Rep. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, said she is "elated" by the 6-2 vote in the a Senate committee hearing.

"It clearly shows that people are beginning to understand the importance of local control."

Sen. Maria Chappell-Nadal, D-St. Louis County, said she will not be on board until specific language over benefits is included in the bill.

"There is language in there, even though it says it will not impact pensions, it sunsets the language that is currently in our statute that talks about health insurance and life insurance, salary schedules and what happens with widows," Chappell-Nadal said. "They are taking that language out of current statute and that is one of the biggest concerns I have in this conversation."

Nasheed defended the bill and said civil service benefits would be provided by the city.

Environmental Protection Agency and Missouri Department of Health officials say there is no need for public concern about radiation emanating from Japan's nuclear meltdown across the ocean to Missouri.

Trace amounts of radioactive material have been found in Illinois and Iowa, but levels are well below the regulated limit.

Missouri has yet to have any readings indicating any change in radioactivity since the incident.

After the results of the 2010 census, Missouri will lose one seat in the Unites States House.

The Senate committee agreed on a map that is similar to the redistricting plan proposed by the House. Both plans will eliminate a congressional seat held by a Democrat in St. Louis city.

The committee's chair Senator Scott Rupp said the new map based on the populations of different areas as well as other considerations.

"Our committee's attempt was to make them equal in population. Also to try to make them as contiguous and compact as possible. And also take into account the existing lines," Rupp said.

Rupp said under this plan, every single district will gain population due to the lost seat.

The next step for this plan is the Senate floor.

The House Rules Committee passed a resolution calling on the governor and attorney general to write a letter protesting federal health care. Although the resolution passed, it met some opposition in the committee, and the final vote rolled in at 7-4.

Last week the Missouri House passed a bill that would add Missouri to the multi-state Health Care Compact, which would put health care under state regulation. The same Democrats who voted no on that bill, voted against sending this letter.

The resolution will now move to the House floor for debate.

Advocates for a more equal and integrated mental health care system in Missouri hope for the closure of the state's six habilitation centers.

Younger families have opted to keep their children in house or in community based living that would put an emphasis integration.

Some families with older children are more reluctant however to see the centers closed.

If the centers are closed or consolidated, Rep. Craig Redmon, R-1, says the fiscal savings would be beneficial.

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To see HB 421, click here.