JEFFERSON CITY - The special session of Missouri's General Assembly officially ended Thursday without agreement on most of the items requested by Gov. Jay Nixon.
The House adjourned Thursday without plans to meet again before the automatic adjournment on Nov. 5. The Senate adjourned for the last time earlier in the week.
The major issue proposed by the governor that failed was a $360 million package of tax breaks for development of an air cargo transport hub with China in St. Louis.
It is only the third time in at least one-half century that lawmakers failed to pass the major issue for which a Missouri governor called a special session.
The failed "China hub" bill contained several other items requested by the governor including cuts in tax credits for developers, businesses, special interests and various activities. The House and Senate gridlocked on House refusal to accept the tax credit restrictions.
Senate leaders refused to proceed on a few of the governor's proposals without lawmakers being able to reach agreement on tax credits and the China hub.
It was the 52nd day of the legislative session when the House called it quits. Gov. Jay Nixon said in August that he hoped the session would last two weeks.
According to legislative staff, the session cost about $280,000 in mileage reimbursement for members, daily expense costs and extra staff.
Only two of the numerous issues proposed by the governor cleared the special session.
The issues proposed by Nixon and their fate are:
- Revise the teacher-student Facebook law restricting school staff from using social media to communicate with students. Status: passed and signed by the governor. The governor had asked the legislature to repeal the earlier law completely. The legislature, however, amended rather than repealed the social media communication restriction. The revised law requires school districts to create their own electronic communication policies.
- Tax breaks for science and technology companies. Status: passed and signed by the governor, but in limbo: The legislature passed the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act. However, the bill contains a provision requiring passage of the failed China hub bill for the bill to take effect. In a statement issued with his bill signing, Nixon announced the administration would implement the measure and questioned the legality of making the law contingent on passage of another bill.
- Incentives for business and to increase foreign trade at the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. Status: dead. The legislation to create a China air cargo hub was the major issue for which the governor called the special session. It included a package of $60 million in tax breaks for freight companies and $300 million for developers of warehouses and other infrastructure facilities in St. Louis to attract a Chinese airline. The bill contained several other separate proposals proposed by the governor that died with the death of the China hub bill..
- Compete Missouri, a program to provide incentives to attract and retain businesses, update job training programs and increase the efficiency of business development programs. Status: dead. The provision was included in the failed China hub bill. The Senate included it in its version of the bill, but it was removed from the House version.
- Tax breaks for businesses that establish digital data centers in Missouri. Status: dead. Part of the failed China hub bill.
- Tax credits to attract amateur sporting events. Status: dead. Another element in the failed China hub bill.
- Stronger powers to collect back taxes. Status: dead. The governor's proposal would allow the state to contract with private debt-collection agencies to collect back taxes. It also would provide a forgiveness period for some owing back taxes. The proposal cleared the House but died in a Senate committee.
- Change in the state's presidential primary election date to March of each presidential election year. Status: dead. Rules of both the Republican and Democratic national parties impose cuts in the number of votes Missouri can cast at the national conventions if the state does not delay the February date for the presidential primary. As the special session stalled on the issue, Missouri's Republican Party switched to caucuses for selection of convention delegates. The Senate abandoned the bill after a proposal to abolish the presidential primary for just 2012 failed on a tie vote.
- Property tax relief for Joplin businesses. Status: dead. The original proposal would have provided a property tax reduction for businesses with property destroyed by a natural disaster, similar to a tax break provided to residential property owners. The measure passed the House, but died in a Senate committee without a vote.
- Control of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department shifting to the City of St. Louis. Status: dead. The matter of local control of the city's police department, instead of the current state-controlled board of police commissioners, was barely addressed in the Senate in favor of focusing on an agreement regarding China hub. As he had during the legislature's regular session earlier this year, Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer refused to allow a vote on St. Louis local controll without approval by the House of an economic development bill that included sunsets on tax credits.
Factors cited by legislators for defeat of the China hub bill included:
- The House and Senate remained gridlocked over the issue of tax credits. Key members of the Senate argued that the state needed to scale back on tax credits because of impending cuts the state will have to make in the budgets for education. The governor proposed and the Senate adopted a provision requiring regular legislative reauthorization of the state's various tax credit programs. The House, by an overwhelming margin, rejected sunsets on two of the state's largest tax credit programs. The House speaker and other House members argued that requiring re-approval for a tax credit program would allow any one member of the Senate to kill a tax credit by filibuster without allowing a full chamber vote on continuation
- Legislative leaders in both the House and Senate say a major factor causing resistance to the China hub were stories about Mamtek, a Chinese manufacturing company in Moberly, Mo., that essentially vanished after it defaulted on bond payments and failed to create promised jobs under a project that had been touted by the Nixon administration.
- Some fiscal conservatives in Missouri Senate say there is a growing coalition of members who oppose picking winners and losers in tax breaks for business. They argue that economic development tax breaks should be across the board, available to any business that uses the tax benefit to create a new job.
- The Senate majority leader -- Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles -- said term limits played a role because it has led to lawmakers to do not have "a real long-term perspective in working with other members."
The regular session of the General Assembly begins on Jan. 4 and could include issues that died during the special session. Pre-filing for bills begins on Dec. 1.