JEFFERSON CITY - In their latest effort to halt state funding for new biotechnology companies in the state, attorneys for Missouri anti-abortion rights groups told the state Supreme Court on Wednesday that the funding should be permanently stopped because of a provision in a measure lawmakers approved during their 2011 special session.
Attorneys for three anti-abortion rights groups said Wednesday that the court should block the establishment of a state program set up under the Missouri and Innovation Reinvestment Act (MOSIRA). That measure sets aside a portion of the tax revenue the state collects from existing biotechnology companies to give tax credits and loans to new start-ups and companies from other states.
But a provision in the MOSIRA legislation said the bill would only take effect if lawmakers passed the so-called "China Hub" bill, which would have created incentives for economic development at the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. The legislation failed, but the state began implementing MOSIRA anyway.
"The Legislature made very clear...abundantly clear that it did not intend section A to become effective unless and until Senate Bill 8 passed and was signed by the government," Stephen Clark, attorney for the anti-abortion rights groups, told justices Wednesday.
In February, a Cole County circuit court judge then struck down the funding law, saying that making the funding bill dependent on the passage of the other law was unconstitutional. The state appealed that ruling to the higher court.
Anti-abortion rights groups working to stop the funding bill's implementation argue that its funding is doled out by a 15-member board that is not publicly elected. The groups say that without direct citizen oversight, the board might vote to fund businesses that harvest tissues from unborn children as part of their research, a practice they strongly oppose.
"There is not any pro-life protections on Senate Bill 7 that would protect that money from being used for human cloning and embryonic stem-cell research," said Susan Klein, a legislative liasion for Missouri Right to Life.
In defending the state's actions, Solicitor General James Layton conceded the argument that the second bill didn't pass. But he said the court should simply sever--or throw out--the contigency language in the MOSIRA bill and order it implemented as if it were passed without it.
"The General Assembly cannot make an entire bill's effectiveness conditional on the enactment of another bill that is still pending before that same General Assembly," he said.
The bill on which the MOSIRA legislation was contingent dealt with a variety of different tax credit programs, which have become a source of contention among lawmakers as the state's budget has tightened in recent years and dollars have been cut from other areas.
The billed that failed in the 2011 special session would have created or modified incentives in areas ranging from sporting events to ownership of historic buildings to an economic development project that would have aided Lambert St. Louis International Airport.
After heated debates that lasted much of the summer, House and Senate negotiators failed to reach agreement on the various programs and adjourned the special session was adjourned. In the view of the groups challenging the state's actions Wednesday in the Supreme Court, that failure should have killed the MOSIRA bill.
Both sides in the challenge to the MOSIRA bill gave their arguments in Wednesday's, but the court likely will not issue a ruling in the case for several weeks.