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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of January 28, 2013

Several Missouri business groups are pushing lawmakers to cut their taxes. And Missouri shoppers could be the ones making up the cost.

Several business groups are pushing lawmakers to pass a bill that would cut taxes for Missouri business owners by more than $50 million each year.

The businesses say Missouri has cut its taxes to compete with Kansas, which recently made business income tax-free. But those tax cuts have Kansas facing a budget deficit of about $200 million for next year. And that fact has some Missouri lawmakers pumping the brakes about enacting big tax cuts here.

State Sen. John Lamping said Thursday that there is one way that Kansas can close its budget hole.

"The only way you're going to go to zero income taxes is raise sales taxes," said Lamping, R-St. Louis County. "That's what they're going to do."

Lincoln University would receive the smallest increase in state funding out of all of Missouri's public four-year institutions under a new higher education funding model being pushed by Gov. Jay Nixon.

Nixon, a Democrat, proposed during his State of the State address Monday a $150 million budget increase for education with $34 million going to the state's public colleges and universities. But just how much of that increase each school receives would now be based on a new set of performance criteria.

Nixon's recommendation used a performance funding model developed by the Missouri Department of Higher Education that uses five performance measures. The four common performance criteria for all institutions are student progress, increased degree attainment, quality of student learning and financial responsibility. Each university is allowed to pick their own fifth criteria.

"The universities were involved in deciding what all the measures were," said Paul Wagner, the deputy commissioner at the state's Department of Higher Education.

Under the proposal, Lincoln University could have received a maximum increase of $744,000. But the governor's budget would only give it 60 percent of that amount, resulting in an increase of about 1.5 percent of its budget or about $446,000.

The Associated Press reports on the same day that Gov. Jay Nixon delivered his State of the State address calling for campaign spending limits, he received a $10,000 donation from St. Louis-based World Wide Technology.

The following day Nixon then received a $25,000 donation from Cincinnati-based RightCHOICE Managed Care, Inc.

AP reports the $10,000 donation from World Wide Technology was meant to pay for inauguration costs.

In response, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, called out the governor who had recently said that large campaign donations erode the public confidence in elected officials.

"And I mean if that's the case the governor has taken more large individual contributions than any other elected official I know so I'm actually really surprised that he made that statement," Schaefer said.

Schaefer also said if the governor wants to have a real conversation on campaign spending limits it has to discuss all the realities.

"To say that it's everyone else's problem and everyone else is causing the problem when frankly the governor is taking more large individual checks than anyone else is pretty silly," Schaefer said.

Nixon's spokesman was unavailable for comment because he was traveling around the state with the governor.

Four days after Gov. Jay Nixon called on the Legislature to cut back and reform Missouri's numerous tax credits, the state Senate passed its first bills, and all of them expand the tax credit system.

The chamber voted 32-0 on three bills that extend existing benevolent tax credits. With a 28-4 decision, the lawmakers also voted to create two new tax credits meant to attract amateur sports events to the state.

Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, sponsored legislation to renew five tax credits directed toward non-profit agencies that help those in need.

The senate also passed two tax credits meant to attract amateur sports events to the state. Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, said the overwhelming majority support in the passage of the benevolent tax credit along with the amateur sports bill is a sign of good things to come for the state.

"It proves that we have the ability to look at these things and make independent judgments," Schmitt said. "It's January and I think the fact we were able to come together on both of these issues shows a lot of promise when we begin to address overall tax and tax credit reform."

The Missouri Medicaid Coalition presented lawmakers with more than 1,500 from concerned citizens.

The letters were delivered to the office of Rep. Sue Allen, R-Town & Country. Allen serves as the chairwoman of the House Approproations Committee on Health, Mental Health, and Social Services.

Members of this coalition are calling for a Medicaid expansion to provide coverage for 260,000 Missourians without health insurance, especially single parents and childless adults.

Retired Jefferson City Reverend John Bennett says that Medicaid expansion is a moral obligation to Missouri legislators. His main concern lies with Missouri's uninsured children.

Associate Pastor of Jefferson City's First Baptist Church Jeanie McGowan said, "I just hope the people of faith from all over our state will get interested enough to really research this and find out the facts."

Gov. Jay Nixon's recent budget proposals are in favor of this expansion. The Department of Social Services is looking at one of the largest percentages of budget increases with this new proposal.

Gov. Nixon discussed his proposal in Kirksville today. "Providing health care for an estimated 300,000 more Missourians - men, women and children- who currently have no health insurance is the smart thuing to do, and it's the right thing to do," said Nixon.

Two days after Missouri’s governor called for performance-based higher education funding in his state of the state address, University of Missouri System officials voiced their support for the same proposal.

Nikki Krawitz, the UM System’s vice president of finance and administration, along with several other higher education institution representatives spoke in front of lawmakers Wednesday to present their need for state funding.

Krawitz and several other higher education officials told lawmakers they supported Gov. Jay Nixon’s proposal to base funding increases on performance. On Monday, Nixon proposed a $150 million budget increase for education with $34 million going toward higher education that would be determined by a performance model developed by the Missouri Department of Higher Education to go into effect in the upcoming 2014 fiscal year.

“This is good for our university and it’s good for our state,” Krawitz said.

Truman State University President Troy Paino told committee members that he is worried the focus of such a formula wouldn’t be on quality learning but on the amount of degrees produced.

A St. Louis County lawmaker has brought a cargo hub for Lambert St. Louis Airport back into the discussion in Jefferson City.

Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, is proposing a state tax credit that would be applied to units of exported goods placed on cargo flights to global destinations.

The authorization of the credits would be capped at $7.25 million.

"This is an opportunity for us to become a marketplace where there is a reliability," Schmitt said. "There's a schedule and the freight forwarders know that they can get their goods through St. Louis."

The proposal for a Lambert air hub became known as "China Hub" in 2011 when Gov. Jay Nixon called a special session and lawmakers attempted to follow through with the initiative.

In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky trial, Missouri legislators are continuing to debate what defines a criminal in sexual abuse cases.

Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-St. Louis County, has sponsored a bill that would mandate that a witness of child sexual abuse come forward or face criminal charges. Schmitt said that the ultimate goal of this bill is not to criminalize people who are witnesses, but protect children in Missouri from sexual abuse.

"I think at the end of the day, what it comes down to for me is doing the right thing and expecting our neighbors to do the same to protect our kids," Schmitt said.

Current law states that only certain professionals who deal with children have a legal obligation to report cases of child sexual abuse.

Schmitt's bill provides that all people above the age of 18 would be required to report these cases to law enforcement. Those who fail to report a child sexual abuse case would face one year of jail time or a $1,000 fine.

Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, said only reasonable people should be held liable.

“I could see in my own mind somebody saying, ‘well I didn’t think what I saw was sexual abuse’ and the court saying ‘oh no you’re going to jail,” Schaaf said.

Missouri's troubled Second Injury Fund poses a risk for the state of several million dollars, with liabilities of $28.1 million.

The most recent proposal by Sen. Scott Rupp, R-St. Charles County, would allow the surcharge to be raised incrementally up to 6 percent in two years. It would also lower the interest rate paid on delayed benefits, restrict eligibility and eliminate permanent partial disability benefits.

Rupp's bill was reported out of committee on Jan. 29 and is on the Missouri Senate calendar for debate.

A new plane available for use by state officials will cost nearly $900 per hour for operational costs, Patrol Superintendent Col. Ronald Replogle told state lawmakers Wednesday.

The chair of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood, said it was highly unusual for the money to be given that quickly.

"Even in a state government, a two-week turn around is incredible, just incredible," Stream said.

Other representatives questioned why the General Assembly was not notified before the purchase, and how the Highway Patrol came up with the money for the expenditure.

Replogle apologized for not telling the legislature of the Patrol's purchase beforehand. Replogle said he filled out the paperwork to be approved by the Department of Public Safety and the Office of Administration.

The Missouri Senate has until early next month to decide if they will confirm the appointment of Doug Nelson for the Acting Commissioner for the Office of Administration. Nelson's confirmation has been held up on the Senate floor as senators continue to question and investigate the purchase of the new plane.

Missourians originally in favor of a 2008 renewable energy proposition said the passage of a bill before the House to change the requirements will undermine their previous vote.

In 2008 voters approved Proposition C, which called for a move away from coal and toward cleaner energies including hydropower, wind power and solar power.

Currently, there is a quantity limit on the hydroelectric power that will count toward this standard. The bill changes the law to include all hydroelectric power, including already existing plants such as the Taum Sauk hydroelectric power plant operated by Ameren Missouri, which was originally excluded from the standard.

The House Committee on Utilities met to discuss the bill and homeowner and self-proclaimed “bible-thumping” Republican Francis Baab voiced her dissent for the proposed bill.

"Don't undermine the intent of what I went to go vote for,” Baab said.

Baab said she and her husband purchased solar panels for the incentives Proposition C promised, and said she feels changing the intent of the proposition will undermine all of her work.

Supporters of the bill, including Trey Davis, President of the Missouri Energy Development Association, said wind and solar power have an unfair advantage right now under Proposition C. He said since higher quantities of hydropower would not count, the creation of solar and wind power is in higher demand.

"Contrary to the folks on the other side's belief, this is not because we don't want to invest in renewables,” Davis said.

Davis said this proposition promised to create jobs, but he says the way it is hydropower plants are not encouraged to expand and create jobs. He added that the advantage solar and wind power plants have could cause hydropower to scale back and kill jobs.

A tax approved by voters in individual counties may soon be a source of funding for the University of Missouri System's extension program.

The extension program, first established when the system accepted federal lands through a land grant program, requires that the universities provide access to research and community outreach throughout the state.

Sen. David Peace, R- Warrensburg, sponsored a bill to allow the formation of extension districts to support a tax that funds these programs in individual counties.

Each district will have its own vote, allowing for voters to support or to reject the tax.

"It's obviously voluntary, not anything that anyone has to do," Pearce said.

The way union members opt into and out of their money being used for political purposes is once again before state lawmakers.

The bill sponsored by Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, would require employees to agree each year, in writing, to having an automatic deduction for any political purposes. The same bill was introduced last year and the year before but never made it out of committee. Burlison said he based his legislation on the most recent version of that bill.

He said many union members are unaware of their right to opt out of having any of their dues used for political purposes.

“It’s important to protect a union member’s hard-earned salary,” Burlison said. “This ensures that the union is held more accountable.”

He said many union members join out of necessity but do not always agree with the political goals of the union.

The law already makes automatic contributions to political committees voluntary. Those contributions are separate from automatic deductions for union dues, which can be used for some political activity. Union representatives said members are notified each year of their right to opt out of having their dues used for any political activity and they can do it at any time.

“Every union has to notify every member annually of their right to opt out, they also have to provide the form,” said Mike Louis, the secretary-treasurer of Missouri AFL-CIO.

Reps. Kevin McManus, D-Kansas City, Karla May, D-St. Louis, and Michael Frame, D-Eureka, questioned the singling out of unions specifically in the legislation.

“There seems to be a concerted effort in this General Assembly to decimate labor unions,” Frame said.

A measure making its way through the state Senate would require Missouri school districts to train their faculty to respond to situations involving firearms and intruders.

Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, filed the bill one day before the Connecticut shooting. The bill would put gun-safe programs into effect in Missouri's public schools. Brown acknowledged some confusion surrounding his bill, but stressed that the bill promotes "gun-safe education" rather than gun safety.

"This bill has nothing to do with teaching kids how to shoot," Brown said.

Brown's bill would function in two parts, the first focusing on education for teachers. The proposal would establish a training program that would train all school faculty members on how to respond if a firearm or intruder is found on school grounds.

The legislation would also require schools to establish a gun-safe education program for students, such as the NRA's Eddie Eagle Gunsafe Program for first-grade students.

   The performance of Missouri's higher education institutions could be the future determining factor in how much money they receive from the state.

The heads of several higher education institutions told lawmakers Tuesday they were in favor of performance based higher education funding as was proposed the day before by Gov. Jay Nixon during his State of the State Address. 

Nixon proposed a $150 million budget increase for education with $34 million going toward higher education that would be performance-based instead of based on past funding. 

Rep. Mike Lair, R- Chillicothe, warned all institutions that money talked about in the Nixon's speech yesterday wasn't available yet. 

"It's all pending on legislation," Lair said. "The money's not there." 

Despite much vocal opposition of Gov. Nixon's Medicaid expansion proposal, state lawmakers have expressed interest in additional funding for a different Medicaid related program--a state unit that works to expose Medicaid fraud.

The group, which is part of the Department of Social Services, investigates potential Medicaid fraud and reports violators to the Attorney General's office. The head of the unit, Markus Cicka, stated his case to state Representatives that increased technology funding would save the state money in the long run.

On Monday Nixon challenged state lawmakers to work with him on expanding Medicaid coverage in his State of the State Address. Republicans, who hold a veto-proof majority in the House and Senate, said they were not swayed by Nixon's arguments.

"I mean...did you see any Republicans stand up when he said that?" Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-Buchanan, asked rhetorically. "There is zero chance that this Medicaid expansion passes."

The call for more funding to stop Medicaid fraud received a vastly different response.

"I think if there is any budget worth giving more funds to, it's your shop," Rep. Jeff Grisamore, R-Jackson County, said to Cicka.

The day after Gov. Jay Nixon called for reform in Missouri's tax credit system, the Senate has endorsed a bill creating new credits aimed at attracting amateur sporting events to the state.

Sponsoring Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-St. Louis County, has proposed similar legislation for several years, but he said he thinks this measure has a better chance at passing the House and Senate.

"The is a better bill, and I think a real testament of how the Senate operates to make a good idea better and make it more accountable," Schmitt said.

The credit creates two different tax credits to draw amateur sporting events, such as college tournaments, to the state. It would give groups like the NCAA up to five dollars for each admission ticket sold for a sporting event.

A fiscal estimate included with Schmitt's bill says it could cost the state more than $3 million per year.

But Schmitt said the economic effects of those sporting events could outweigh the potential cost.

"I don't think the fiscal note tells the whole story on this," Schmitt said. "Do you believe it's better to have these events than not to have these events, and if we have an incentive to bring these events is the state better off? I think the answer to that is yes."

Missouri House Republicans are again pushing a constitutional amendment that would require Missouri voters to show valid, state-issued photo identification before they can cast full ballots in the state’s elections.

Republicans have pushed similar bills for several years, with last year’s version passing the House but dying in the Senate. But the elections committee heard testimony Wednesday on measures that could advance further because Republicans in the House have a majority that is nearly large enough to overcome a potential veto by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

The GOP controls 109 seats in the chamber and would need just one more to override the governor. The party is expected to pick up that seat in a special election that will be held in early April to fill a seat in southwestern Missouri.

Republicans argue that requiring photo identification will prevent voter fraud and say that such credentials are already needed to do many everyday things, such as rent a movie from a video store.

But Democrats, as well as advocates for the disabled, the elderly and for minorities say that the law would effectively block those voters from the ballot box by requiring them to provide documents they don’t have, such as a birth certificate, or by imposing prohibitive costs, such as transportation to a state license office or the cost of a day off from work to get the identification.

Gov. Jay Nixon delivers his State of the State address

During his State of the State Address, Gov. Jay Nixon presented one of the broadest agendas in recent years by a governor.

His package, presented in a nearly hour-long speech to a joint session of the legislature Monday night, Jan. 28, included issues supported by Republicans as well as a few issues strongly opposed by GOP lawmakers.


The Missouri General Assembly listens to the State of the State address.

Nixon's proposals include:

  • Get get the print story on the non-budget proposals,
  • Get the print story on the governor's budget.
  • Get the radio story
  • Get the governor's budget plan.
  • Get text of the governor's speech
  • The economic model relied on by the state to predict the effects of tax incentive programs drew criticism during a House committee hearing.

    Howard Wall, director of the Institute for the Study of Economics and the Environment at Lindenwood University and a Show-Me Institute research fellow, criticized the model for over-emphasizing economic multiplier effects from new jobs.

    “It’s nothing more than a reflection of the model builder’s belief in how the economy works,” said Wall. “Instead of looking at what happens in some fictitious model world, I look at what actually happened.”

    The chair of the House Government Oversight and Accountability committee, Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, thanked Wall.

    “As a representative who was on a one man crusade. It seemed like at the start of last year against the (Regional Economic Models, Inc., or) REMI model, I really appreciate your perspective," Barnes said.

    “The REMI model also assumes that the jobs created were created as a result of the tax credit. Even the Department (of Economic Development) would probably admit you can’t prove that.”

    Wall and others testified about the Quality Jobs program, a state tax incentive program that gives companies tax breaks for creating jobs. The House Government Oversight and Accountability committee was originally created in response to the failure of Mamtek, a company approved for a range of state and local tax incentives.

    Barnes asked each of those giving testimony about improving the Quality Jobs program so more of the companies create the jobs they plan to create when they’re approved for incentives.

    “How do we avoid the complete whiffs and end up with more home runs?” Barnes asked. He said it seemed giving the Department of Economic Development more discretion may give better results.

    Last Week

    Transportation funding proponents want Missouri shoppers to pay an additional cent in their sales taxes for 10 years in an effort to fund what supporters say are desperately needed transportation improvements.

    The transportation commission proposal began by stating additional funding was necessary since cuts to the department don't solve long term transportation problems.

    Missouri Department of Transportation director Kevin Keith spoke on the matter earlier Thursday in support of a Senate bill and told senators that interstate updates were important for Missouri's economy.

    The proposal stated that the extra funding could create thousands of jobs, safer roads, reduce traffic congestion, and improve Missouri's economy.

    A chance for the public to speak on a set of Republican voter identification bills was scheduled to start at 6:45 a.m. on Tuesday. But after pressure from democrats and the media Thursday, a Republican chairwoman has opted for a later start.

    The original start time would have been nearly an hour before the state Capitol building is even open to the public.

    Missouri's Secretary of State, Jason Kander, blasted the original early morning start time saying it was "not open and honest government."

    Rep. Sue Entlicher, R-Bolivar, is the House Election Committee chairwoman and who picked the original start time. She said her idea behind the earlier start was to give the public plenty of time to express their opinion.

    "I'm an old farm wife and we get up early around our house so it just never dawned on me that people would feel a little bit displaced at 6:45 in the morning," Entlicher said, "but that's alright, we're going to go with what everybody feels best at."

    Entlicher also said she's spent plenty of time up at all hours of the day as a former county clerk so the early start time didn't seem unreasonable to her.

    In response to the Republican chairwoman's move to a later start time for the public hearing, Democratic Floor Leader Jacob Hummel said sometimes public pressure is "a wonderful thing."

    "I'm glad that they've decided to correct their obvious voter suppression efforts," Hummel said.

    Entlicher said if public hearing testimony runs beyond the full House's typical 10 a.m. start time, it will resume after the chamber adjourns, and the committee could reconvene for more public remarks the following week if necessary.

    Gov. Jay Nixon exiting the state's new aircraft
    Nixon refused to answer any questions from reporters as he was caught exiting the aircraft Thursday afternoon.

    Nixon's spokesperson also refused to answer questions about the plane.

    Legislators have complained that the plane was purchased with Highway Patrol funds without their knowledge.

    Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said he supports the governor's need to travel, but he questioned purchasing a new plane at the time state has other budget needs.

    Missouri's new $5.6 million plane

    Governor Jay Nixon is breaking in the new plane in his state fleet, but that same plane has put one of his top administration officials in the hot seat.

    A Senate confirmation vote on the governor's choice for Commissioner of Administration was delayed after senators voiced objections to the administrations $5.6 million plane purchase.

    Senate Appropriations Chair Kurt Schaefer said lawmakers learned about the purchase just a week earlier.

    Schaefer had sponsored Doug Nelson's confirmation, but echoed the objections raised by his colleagues about the purchase.

    "This is an issue of essentially either failing to recognize, or simply not caring about the General Assembly's role in how the public's money is spent," Schaefer said.

    The plane, paid for out of the Missouri State Highway Patrol's equipment fund and is available for use by any government agency for travel. In it's first two days of state use, only the governor was reported to have used the aircraft.

    The governor's office refused any comment about the matter, refusing to even confirm the governor's use or purpose of his trips.

    Get the radio story

    The Associated Press reported Thursday that the state's Transportation Commission chairman has proposed a one-cent sales tax increase for highways.

    The proposal was discussed at a conference of the state Chamber of Commerce.

    Any tax increase of that size would require statewide voter approval.

    Earlier in the day, the Senate Ways and Means Committee heard a broad tax bill that, among other things, includes a one-half cent sales tax for transportation.

    Missouri workers who contract a disease during employment may be forced to file claims with the state instead of against their employers to see benefits under a bill moving through the Missouri Senate.

    The Senate Small Business, Insurance and Industry committee sent a second injury fund bill to the full Senate that would put workers with occupational diseases under the state's workers compensation program.

    The bill aims to fix the troubled fund which currently owes $28.1 million to Missouri workers that sustained a second injury while at work. During a Senate hearing earlier this week, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry discussed adding the term "occupational disease" back into the bill.

    Occupational disease is defined as an identifiable disease caused by employment with or without human fault. Legislation last year tried to do the same thing but ultimately didn't pass.

    Along with "occupational disease," several other items were added to the bill including a two year limit on submitting medical bills and offering a refund instead of a credit to an employer that has prepaid to the fund but goes out of business.

    The tax bills of Missouri businesses and business owners could change dramatically under two bills set to be considered by a Senate tax committee this morning.

    Republican Sens. Eric Schmitt and Will Kraus have each put forth proposals that would reduce the state's corporate income tax over the next five years and would allow business owners to deduct more of their business income from their tax bill.

    The measure sponsored by Schmitt, R-St. Louis County, would cut the corporate tax rate from the current 6.25 percent to 3.125 percent by 2017 and would allow business owners to deduct half of their business income.

    The proposal from Kraus, R-Lee's Summit, would allow a 25 percent deduction and would reduce the corporate rate to 3.25 percent by 2017.

    Official estimates with each bill say those actions would cut state revenue by tens of millions of dollars each year.

    Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, has proposed a bill that would create an offense for failing to prevent an illegal firearm possession or for the failure to safely store a firearm. The bill also would require a parent or guardian with a child enrolled in a school to notify the school district -- or the governing body of a private or charter school -- that the parent or guardian owns a firearm.

    Under the bill, an offense would be a Class A misdemeanor unless death or injury results, making the offense a Class D felony.

    "This bill is very important to me because in urban cities across the nation, we experience gun violence every single day and usually our type of gun violence deals with people who live in high poverty areas, areas where there aren't enough resources," Chappelle-Nadal said.

    Sen. Brian Munzlinger R-Williamstown, who proposed a bill last week that would declare certain federal firearm laws unenforceable, said he believes Chappelle-Nadal's bill is a step above and beyond what would make anyone safer.

    Munzlinger, however, believes programs such as the NRA's Eddie Eagle Program should be instituted in schools.

    The Missouri State Highway Patrol has purchased a new multi-million dollar plane without the prior approval of state legislators, granting Gov. Jay Nixon and state officials access to another aircraft.

    This picture of the new state Highway Patrol plane was tweeted by Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, on Wednesday.

    Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, said the plane is in the hangar at the Jefferson City airport and Gov. Nixon will fly to St. Louis in it on Wednesday.

    The $5.6 million purchase earned the ire of many lawmakers including those on the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee.

    Committee members questioned Acting Commissioner of Administration Doug Nelson about the purchase, who said there was nothing he could have done to stop it. Nixon appointed Nelson to the position last year, but his nomination still requires approval by the state Senate.

    Originally, committee members decided to reject Nelson's nomination for Commissioner of Administration. After discussion, members decided to accept the nomination, with plans to discuss it later on the Senate floor. Senate President Pro Tem and committee chair Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles County, discussed a possibility of a debate on the nomination on Thursday.

    "I'm okay voting him out today and then having some conversations with senators," Dempsey said.

    While Nelson's appointment may be in jeopardy, the committee showed support for other appointees including two for the Public Service Commission.

    Chief Justice Richard Teitelman gave his State of the Judiciary address Wednesday before a joint session of Missouri's General Assembly.

    Teitelman's speech paid tribute to some of the improvements made in the court system throughout recent years and addressed plans for further growth. He said he plans to improve court experiences for people with disabilities.

    "We in the judiciary are doing what we can to create more opportunities for people in Missouri to gain access to our courts," Teitelman said.

    Grant funding is allowing the Supreme Court to provide interpreters, closed-captioning services and informational brochures written in Braille and audio files in all court cases.

    Teitelman also paid tribute to the work done by Missouri's drug courts and the court's recent expansion to aid military veterans. After creating one of the first drug courts nationwide, Teitelman said that Missouri now stands as a national leader in drug courts. Missouri now has treatment court divisions treating all but two of Missouri's 45 judicial courts.

    "With a graduation rate exceeding 50 percent, Missouri now has more than 12,000 graduates who successfully have completed treatment in court programs," Teitelman said. "In addition, nearly 600 drug-free babies hae been born to treatment court participants."

    Uncertainty over whether the governor has the power to fill a vacancy in the lieutenant governor's office by appointment would be laid to rest under a bill approved by the Missouri House.

    The proposal would permit the governor to appoint an acting officeholder until the office could be filled during the next general election. The House passed the bill Wednesday by a vote of 115-45.

    Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon has previously said that he has the authority to appoint someone in the instance of a vacancy in the lieutenant governor's office. Republicans, however, have said a special election would be required to fill the post.

    The House approved the bill the day after Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson formally resigned from her U.S. House seat. Nixon announced that the special election for that seat will be held June 4.

    The election bill now heads to the Senate.

    The Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee approved the appointment of former democratic senator Stephen Stoll to the state’s utility regulatory commission.

    Gov. Jay Nixon nominated Stoll for a spot on the Public Service Commission before, but dropped the nomination in February of last year. At Wednesday’s committee hearing Sen. Brad Lager, R-Maryville, said he has watched this process very closely and has worked to find a Republican to work with Stoll.

    The Republican-controlled Senate would not approve Stoll’s nomination without a Republican nomination to the commission as well, so when Nixon dropped Stoll’s nomination in 2012 before the acceptance deadline, it allowed Nixon to appoint Stoll again this year.

    “From a person who has watched and been a part of this process very deeply as we’ve worked to find a Republican to work with Steve, there’s many of us who have high hopes for what’s going to happen over there,” Lager said.

    Nixon nominated Republican Bill Kenney, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder’s former chief of staff, to the commission along with Stoll this year. During Wednesday’s committee hearing the members voted unanimously to approve both nominations.

    The Senate itself still has to approve these appointments.

    Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, announced the creation of a special committee chaired by Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, to decide on the details of a $950 million bond issue.

    Kelly has worked with Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, on a bill Schaefer pre-filed in the Senate. That bill, which would be a constitutional amendment like previous bond issues, would provide funding for construction at college campuses, state buildings, and parks.

    "Where it goes is going to be an organic process," Kelly said.

    Jones indicated the bond issue could contain some funds for transportation infrastructure but did not give any specifics.

    "(The committee) will be the ones that will dive into the weeds," Jones said. "The specifics will be ironed out by the committee and with the Senate."

    As speculation grows that Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder might be leaving his post for a run at southeast Missouri's vacant Congressional seat, the state House endorsed a bill Tuesday that would require a statewide special election to fill his seat.

    The House voted just hours before the resignation of Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson, which became effective just before midnight Tuesday.

    Gov. Jay Nixon has announced that the special election for her seat will be held June.

    Nixon, a Democrat, has said he has authority to appoint someone to fill the rest of Kinder's term if he leaves.

    But, Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem, is sponsoring legislation that would allow the governor to appoint a temporary replacement, but would require a state vote to select a permanent replacement.

    The House is expected to have a final vote on the measure Wednesday and send it to the Senate.

    A Columbia Democrat in the Republican-dominated Missouri legislature will be the leading force behind the one of the biggest financial projects in recent memory--a near $1 billion bond issue.

    Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, is the chair of the Infrastructure and Job Creation Appropriations Committee that will work on the proposed $950 million bond issue. Kelly said his bipartisan nature will help him succeed in a Republican-dominated state legislature.

    "I think that the challenges are more perceptual than real," Kelly said. "In the last legislature I was the chair of an appropriation committee, and everyone on that committee will tell you I behaved in a very bipartisan manner," Kelly said.

    House Speaker Tim Jones said he created this committee specifically for the bond issue, and Kelly's bipartisan work in the past was a big reason he was chosen to work on the issue.

    Thousands of Missouri workers see reduced state benefits if Missouri lawmakers pass a bill moving through the Senate about the troubled Second Injury Fund.

    But bill supporters said that without a solution, Missouri workers might not see any money at all.

    The Second Injury Fund pays benefits to Missouri workers who have a preexisting condition and then sustain a second injury while at work.

    Those benefits are paid for by the state's businesses as part of their workers compensation insurance. But the fund now has more benefit claims coming in then there is money to give out.

    As of Jan. 1, the Second Injury Fund was $28 million in debt and 30,000 workers compensation cases are still pending, according to the state Attorney General's office.

    Seven members of the St. Louis City school board could take back control of the district they have been elected to run for the first time in six years, under legislation moving through the Missouri Senate.

    The district lost accreditation in 2007 and has since been under the control of a state-appointed school board. After regaining provisional accreditation last October, Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, wants to give control back to the elected seven-member school board.

    Currently, Gov. Jay Nixon, Mayor Francis Slay and the Lewis Reed, the President of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen are those responsible for appointed the board's three members.

    Nasheed said publicly elected officials would represent the views of the people better than those appointed by other politicians.

    "I'm going to begin to talk to those that are in support of it and those that are in opposition to it to see if we can find common ground to make this bill a bill that everyone in the city of St. Louis will be willing to support," Nasheed said. "But I'm a firm believer that democracy should rule."

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    Just steps away from the bust of arguably Missouri's best baseball player, two St. Louis County senators filed legislation Tuesday afternoon to name the new Mississippi River bridge after Stan "The Man" Musial. This comes less than a week after the St. Louis Cardinals legend died at the age of 92.

    Musial was inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians, located on the state Capitol's third floor, in September 2000.

    Sens. Eric Schmitt and John Lamping have each filed a bill to name the bridge after the legendary outfielder. Schmitt, R-St. Louis County, praised Musial's accomplishments on and off the field.

    "He was an outstanding example of what it meant to care for people, to treat everyone the same and that rarest of commodities now, especially people who reached his level of excellence, humility; and there's a lot we can all learn from Stan 'The Man' Musial," Schmitt said.

    He also described Musial as being truly one of a kind.

    "In an era and in a time where there are so many disappointments with people we hold up as heroes on the athletic field, and those examples were on center stage even the week he past away, Stan Musial stood for something better than that," Schmitt said.

    The Missouri Senate also held a moment of silence Tuesday in honor of Musial's memory.

    Over in the House, Rep. Rick Stream, R-St. Louis County, described Stan "The Man" as probably the last American sports hero.

    "Stan was one of the very best ballplayers to ever play the game, but he was unquestionably the best person that ever played the game of baseball," Stream said.