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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of April 15, 2013

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed legislation Friday that would have placed a tax on all vehicles purchased by Missourians, regardless of where they were purchased.

Earlier this session, bill sponsor and former car dealer Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said the bill would help protect Missouri car dealers since it would help decrease competition with out-of-state care dealers, such as those in Illinois.

In his veto letter, Nixon said the bill takes away the rights of Missourians to vote on proposed tax increases. State lawmakers passed similar legislation last year, but Nixon vetoed that measure as well.

Last year, Nixon objected to a retroactive section of the bill that would have forced those who purchased cars out-of-state before the passage of the legislation to pay the taxes. This year's legislation stripped out that retroactive language and proponents had said the elimination of that provision would make the bill "veto-proof."

A Missouri Supreme Court decision also from last year ruled that the Department of Revenue could not collect local taxes on vehicles purchased out-of-state.

Hundreds of gun activists took to the state Capitol on Thursday to rally behind a measure that would block any laws relating to gun control.

A protestor at the Second Amendment rally in the Capitol rotunda on Thursday

While at the same time, the House gave its approval to Rep. Doug Funderburk, R-St. Peters, who proposed a bill that would forbid federal officials from enforcing federal gun laws in Missouri. The chamber approved the legislation in a 115-41 vote, with some Democrats joining most Republicans.

But Rep. Jon Carpenter, D-Kansas City, said there is not a need for new gun laws, but instead to follow federal law.

"But I support what people in my district, and I'm sure people around the state say all the time, which is don't pass new laws, enforce the ones we've got on the books," Carpenter said. "They don't say legalize machine guns, grenade launchers and anything else you want."

Carpenter said that this specific bill allows people that are treasonous to the United States get their hands on guns because federal law would have no effect in Missouri.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

Young veterans might soon get more help from the state in paying for a college education, under a measure endorsed Thursday by a Senate committee.

Most students are required to live in the state for one year before they can get the in-state tuition rate at Missouri's public colleges and universities.

The Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs and Health gave its unanimous backing to legislation that would exempt veterans from that requirement and allow them to get in-state status simply by showing that they currently live in the state. The committee took the unusual step of voting on the bill on the same day that it heard public testimony.

Tom Mundell, the Senior Vice Commander for the state chapter of Veterans of Foreign Wars, spoke in a favor of the bill in front of the veterans' committee. 

Mundell, a former Army staff sergeant, said in an interview that veterans need in-state tuition so that they can get an education in addition to the skills they learn while serving.

"They were all they could be for our country, for our state while they were in the military," he said. "It's very important for us to focus on these warriors, these leaders, these highly trained people for our future."

The veterans' bill passed the House and now heads to the full Senate.

The Senate's top budget official proposed to cut $6 million from the Office of Administration's budget, saying he wants answers from the department about the sharing of Missourians' personal information with the federal government.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, proposed to cut the money from the Office of Administration’s information technology division Wednesday during a continuation of the committee's review of the state's proposed 2014 budget. The cut money was supposed to be dedicated to the scanning of source documents, a practice that has come under fire recently at the Capitol.

The division used money to scan and retain source documents, or personal information needed to obtain a driver's license in Missouri. Some of these documents were then sent to the federal government, enraging Missouri's legislature and launching an investigation.

At the committee hearing Wednesday, Sen. Kiki Curls, D-Jackson County, questioned Schaefer about the cut, and he said he wants answers from the department.

“I think that we have a lot more questions that have to be answered, and I think that's a sufficient amount to cover what we need to find out and we'll move forward and go to conference and hopefully find some of those things out on exactly where some of that money is going,” Schaefer said.

The committee also cut funding from the Department of Public Safety for the same reasons. It also approved a $4.5 million addition to the Office of Administration's information technology division that is dedicated to security enhancements.

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed the thirteen bills that make up the state's budget Wednesday night.

On the House floor Wednesday, lawmakers gave first-round approval to a bill that deals with a number of public safety issues in North Kansas City.

Before approving the bill, however, representatives adopted an amendment that added “right-to-work” language to the legislation. The amendment, proposed by Rep. Rick Brattin, would only apply the right-to-work language to state’s law enforcement officials.

The amendment states that any law enforcement agency or organization cannot force officers to pay any dues or fees as a condition of employment.

"People are being forced against their will to pay dues and things of that nature that they don't believe are right," said Brattin, R-Harrisonville. "And all other state employees and public servants have the right to choose except for our law enforcement."

Rep. Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhart, said that this amendment will negatively affect public safety in the state.

“To only apply it to law enforcement in the state, I can tell you we will have dreadful outcomes for our ability to provide public safety to the state,” Roorda said .

The bill requires another affirmative vote before moving to the Senate.

Some school districts would no longer be required to pay the state prevailing wage on construction projects under a bill approved by the Senate Small Business Committee Wednesday.

Prevailing wage laws require workers on government projects to be paid at a certain rate. Bill sponsor Rep. Casey Guernsey, R-Bethany, said the high level of prevailing wage made it more expensive for school districts to undertake necessary construction projects.

“It’s not because they don’t want to, not because they don’t have high taxes, but because they simply, flat out cannot adhere to prevailing wage laws,” Guernsey said.

Mike Louis, representing the Missouri AFL-CIO, said there was a compromise being worked out on prevailing wage behind the scenes in the Senate. For that reason, he said he testified against the bill.

“There are negotiations going on,” Louis said. “We believe a viable bill may come out of that.”

The bill has already passed the House. With one senator absent, the Senate Small Business, Insurance and Industry Committee voted to pass the measure 5-1 Wednesday.

The committee also heard testimony on another measure that would have tied the prevailing wage for most of the state to the average weekly wage in the state and exempted maintenance and minor repair work from the wage requirements. No action was taken on that bill.

The sponsor of a Missouri Medicaid expansion bill said Wednesday that expanding the state's Medicaid rolls has no chance of passing the General Assembly this session.

Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, said that since the Senate declared Medicaid expansion "dead" his bill has no chance of passage. He said once the Senate says something is dead, it is.

Barnes' bill would change the Medicaid system as well as expanding it to 100 percent of the federal poverty level, below the 138 percent called for by the federal health care law. His bill was scheduled to be heard in the House Rules committee, however, according to Rules Committee Chair Rep. Jeannie Riddle, R-Mokane, Barnes asked that his bill not be read.

While Barnes said his current bill would not be able to pass this session, he said discussions would continue.

Senate Republican Floor Leader Ron Richard also said Medicaid expansion is dead Wednesday. He said because the Obama administration pushed back cutting hospital DSH payments until 2015, there was no longer a sense of immediacy.

Richard also said that if Barnes' bill did make it through the House, it would not get through the Senate because there is not enough time left in the session.

"The timing is on the side of those against Medicaid expansion," said Richard, R-Joplin.

Rep. Jacob Hummel, D-St. Louis City, said he believes there is enough time to pass Medicaid expansion and he is hopeful that the Rules Committee will get it to the floor.

"We still haven't created 24,000 jobs and we still haven't provided health care," Hummel said. "The pressure isn't off."

In the past few weeks, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon has met with both the House and Senate Republican caucuses to discuss expanding Missouri's Medicaid rolls. Nixon had expressed optimism about expanding Medicaid after both meetings.

A spokesperson for Nixon was unable to immediately comment.

Nearly two years after a devastating tornado tore through Joplin, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said they want to provide relief to help them continue to rebuild.

Legislation from Sen. John Lamping, R-St. Louis County, would take money left over from four separate funds, not dedicated to relief and not being used, in order to reach $15 million for relief funding. That money would then be distributed from the Office of Administration to Joplin over a period of two years.

The money would be dedicated to replacing nearly 750,526 feet of sidewalks that were damaged by the tornado, falling trees and debris.

    The Senate gave first-round approval to the bill. The legislation requires one more affirmative vote before it can go to the House.

The House Ways and Means Committee advanced Senate-backed legislation to cut the state's income tax rates and raise the state sales tax on Tuesday.

Rep. Andrew Koening, R-Manchester, said cuts should only take place if revenues are increasing. Koening amended the bill to require that revenues must increase by more than $100 million from the previous year for the cut provisions to go into effect.

Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst, R-St.Louis City, said Ronald Reagan's presidency provides evidence that tax cuts generate economic growth.

"My opinion is that the more taxes citizens pay to the government, the less activity you will see in the marketplace," Scharnhorst said.

The left-leaning Missouri Budget Project has ten reasons to oppose the legislation on its website. The think-tank predicts tax cuts would cause harmful cuts in state spending.

A House Committee cleared a sales tax increase ballot proposal on Tuesday that would be used to fund transportation projects.

If the measure was passed by the legislature and voters, Missourians would pay an additional one-cent sales tax for a period of 10 years to fund transportation improvements.

The House Transportation Committee voted the measure out of committee 14-1 on Tuesday. The measure would put an additional one-cent sales tax in place for Missouri for 10 years and generate $7.9 billion. Ten percent of the funds would go to the local counties and cities. After the 10 years, voters would choose whether to keep the one-cent tax in place or whether to do away with it.

The measure states that while the 10 year tax increase is in place, a tax increase can't be put on gas or tolls can't be placed on existing highways and bridges without the approval of voters.

If the current measure is approved by the General Assembly, it would go to a vote by Missouri citizens and representative in support of the measure said they realized Missouri voters will need some convincing to pass a tax increase.

Rep. Ed Schieffer, D-Troy, said he supports the measure but lawmakers have to persuade Missouri voters to pass the tax increase before they would vote on it in 2014.

"We got a little work to do to sell this before it goes to a vote of the public," Schieffer said. Missouri citizens rejected a tobacco tax increase last year that would have helped fund Missouri's public schools.

Missouri Department of Transportation Director Dave Nichols said if the measure isn't passed by Missouri voters in 2014, the department still has a long term plan for the next 20 years for transportation funding.

After no action was taken in the Missouri House on legislation to reform Medicaid on Tuesday, Governor Nixon spoke at a rally on the need to stand united on the issue.

Nixon said that making it easier for hundreds of thousands of working Missourians to obtain health care is the right thing to do.

"Strengthening Medicaid will allow these hard working Missourians to keep a job and their health coverage. You know it, I know it, deep down everybody here in the state Capitol knows it," Nixon said.

He urged the supports in attendance to contact their elected representatives to take action. Nixon said opponents should support Medicaid expansion because it will create 24,000 jobs in the first year.

"That is why executives and educators, cops and clinicians, doctors and dentists in every corner of our state have come out in support of this common sense plan," Nixon said.

Republican opponents of Medicaid expansion, including House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, said Missouri's choice to block Medicaid expansion was made clear in the last election.

"In my opinion, a super majority of Missourians, who I consider all of my constituents, do not want us to implement any form of Obamacare in this state," Jones said.

The Senate Appropriations Chair Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, released Tuesday a set of Highway Patrol documents indicating the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives may have had access to a copy of Missouri's concealed weapons permit holders.

Previously, the state administration had acknowledged the Social Security Administration had been given the information as part of a Social Security fraud investigation.

The Highway Patrol memo obtained by a legislative subpoena indicated that the investigation was being pursued jointly with ATF -- the federal agency that regulates firearms.

Earlier in the day, Gov. Jay Nixon announced the Revenue Department will no longer scan concealed weapons permits into an image database of Missouri drivers.

Schaefer said he is still concerned that other departments are still retaining digital files of personal documents.

"This issue isn't going to end until we get resolution of how are protecting the public's information. Because what we've shown with the CCW permit (controversy), they're not protecting it," Schaefer said. 

At a news briefing shortly before the disclosure, Nixon described the legislative inquiries as an effort to divert attention from his effort to expand Medicaid.

With thousands of people crammed in the state Capitol, overall security has increased significantly.

State Capitol administration says it is expected to see over 1,000 people rallying to support Medicaid expansion.

Mike O'Connell, the communications director with the Missouri Department of Public Safety, said security changes are due to the amount of people in attendance at the state Capitol.

"Security staffed is based on the amount of people at events at the grounds of the state Capitol," O'Connell said. "And that is an accurate statement."

O'Connell said he is not authorized to comment about specific security issues at the state Capitol or in general. 

In a short statement, Gov. Jay Nixon announced the Revenue Department no longer will scan concealed weapons permits into an image database of Missouri drivers.

The announced came the day after the head of Department of Revenue resigned.

Senate Appropriations Chairman said he thinks more officials in the Department should lose their jobs.

"I think there are probably other people who, at this point, many of us have an absolute lack of confidence in their ability to represent the public and carry out responsibilities of a state agency," Schaefer said.

But the governor's office did not say what will happen to the current database records. Nor did it indicate whether they would continue scanning other personal documents such as birth certificates and marriage licenses. Tom Dempsey, the Senate President Pro Tem, said he would still like the Revenue Department to destroy all the concealed weapons permits files it has already collected.

"It's a positive step. A step in the right direction, but it doesn't get us to where we need to be," Dempsey said.

Yesterday, the Senate President Pro Tem sent a letter to the Revenue Department demanding that all scanning and retention of personal documents be stopped.

The police station is no longer the only place potential criminals can get fingerprinted.

Officers may use the fingerprint scanners if "[t]here is reasonable suspicion that the person to be printed has committed, is about to commit, a criminal act," according to a statement released by the Highway Patrol. Additionally, officers are permitted under the new policy to fingerprint anyone who gives consent.

Senate Appropriations Chair Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said he wants the Highway Patrol to more clearly define what constitutes "reasonable suspicion."

"The fact that they can now take your fingerprints in the field with this new device or this new technology that didn't previously exist...I think that's an issue," Schaefer said.

The Highway Patrol Office finds itself in some hot water after releasing a list of gun owners to the federal government. The Director of the Department of Revenue Brian Long announced his resignation Monday.

Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, cautioned against judging everything the Highway Patrol does just because of the controversy surrounding the Department of Revenue.

"I suspect those guys do something everyday somebody doesn't like. But I don't think that diminishes their stature as law enforcement agency and I don't think that diminishes their stature, or ability to use technology," Flanigan said.

The statement released by the Highway Patrol states that the 27 scanners, 11 of which are on a loan, cost the state about $42 thousand.

A state Senator charged the Nixon administration threw the director of the Revenue Department, Brian Long, "under the bus."

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, made those comments on the Senate floor following Long's resignation announcement earlier in the day. This, following the controversy that his department released the private information of concealed carry permit holders to the federal government.

The senators also called on the Gov. Jay Nixon to speak up about the Department of Revenue's refusal to stop storing concealed carry information.

Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, said he wants his questions answered by the governor himself, who has stayed rather quiet about the entire situation.

"Jeremiah Jay Nixon, your Department of Revenue is doing something that has our entire state concerned," said Nieves.  

Nieves referred to Long as the "sacrificial lamb" who Nieves said is taking the heat for the department's situation.

Missouri Director of Revenue Brian Long resigned Monday after investigations uncovered that his department had released private concealed weapons information to the federal government.

Long's resignation came after he had acknowledged his department had created a database of persons holding concealed weapons permits and that Missouri's Highway Patrol had turned that database over to the federal government.

Earlier in the day, State Highway Patrol Superintendent Ron Replogle said he will not resign.

"I will stay in this position until the Governor asks me to leave it," Replogle said.

The concealed weapons permit information had been turned over to the federal Social Security Administration.

There were conflicting reports Monday as to whether the Social Security Administration actually was able to access the digital disks provided by the Patrol.

At a Monday news conference, Mo. Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer said he had been informed by the federal agency that they could access the data, but that the disk was destroyed.

In a later email to reporters, however, the Social Security Administration said the information was encrypted and "our agent was unable to open it or view the data it contained, and it was destroyed."

According to Luetkemeyer, whose district covers central Missouri, the Social Security Administration requested the conceal and carry information to see whether anyone who received mental health benefits also met the mental health qualifications for a conceal and carry permit.

In his session with reporters, Col. Reploge said providing the information did not violate Missouri law, but that his agency is looking at the issue.

Missouri law prohibits disclosure of concealed weapons permit information, except for law enforcement purposes.

Gov. Nixon has named Deputy Director of Revenue John Mollenkamp as acting director of the Revenue Department.

Last Week

Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster announced Thursday, April 11, that he would not appeal the ruling, which struck down a state law exempting moral objectors from providing certain forms of birth control, such as contraception. Koster announced that he would not appeal the ruling the same day state representatives adopted a resolution requesting him to appeal the federal court's ruling.

"The Republicans’ attempt to deny contraceptive coverage to women in Missouri is just plain foolishness," Koster said in a statement. "The Republican effort to deny contraceptive coverage cannot be supported by case law or sound public policy.”

While Koster said he would not appeal the ruling, he said in the statement that he had asked the court to clarify its ruling in order to "maintain the right of religious employers to exclude contraceptive coverage if they are also exempt under federal law."

The state law had exempted health care providers, such as employers and insurers, from providing mandatory insurance coverage for contraception, abortion and sterilization due to religious or moral objections. Providing that coverage is required by federal health care law.

In March, U.S. District Judge Audrey Fleissig issued the ruling and said the state law was "pre-empted" by the federal law.

With pressure building in the state Capitol on officials accused of illegally sharing information on Missouri gun owners, the state House of Representatives gave its approval Thursday to a measure that clamps down on the government’s ability to retain that information and senators grilled top officials from the Highway Patrol and Department of Public Safety, with one senator calling for their resignations. 

House Speaker Tim Jones called for Attorney General Chris Koster to investigate the Department of Revenue Thursday in front of Koster's office

In a broadly bipartisan vote, the House backed legislation that forces the state Department of Revenue to destroy copies of any “source documents” that people have to provide when they apply for an endorsement to carry concealed weapons on their state-issued identification cards. Such documents can include things like gun owners’ birth certificates.  The measure explicitly bans any state employee from sharing information about gun owners with the federal government.

Meanwhile, in the Senate Appropriations Committee, Republican senators grilled two top state safety officials. Led by Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, senators spent hours probing how the State Highway Patrol had released gun owners' data in response to a federal government request.

"It's not the responsibility of this committee to play 20 questions with every state agency to guess at what public money is being spent on to appropriate it to any agency," said Schaefer, who is the chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

Officials from the Department of Revenue initially denied that such records existed. But the head of the state highway patrol, Colonel Ron Replogle, confirmed Thursday that his agency had on two occasions sent the entire list of 163,000 Missouri permit holders to an investigator with the federal Social Security Administration.

He said the agent was investigating whether people who have concealed carry permits were fraudulently claiming social security disability benefits for a mental illness. People with mental illnesses are not able to have concealed carry permits in Missouri.

Andrea Spiller, the assistant director of the state Department of Public Safety, said that Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon has never been briefed about the release of gun owners' information, a statement that caused Sen. Ryan Silvey to express his disbelief.

"Do you think we're idiots?" Silvey asked Spiller, clearly exasperated.

Later, Silvey said that both Replogle and Spiller should lose their jobs as a result of the controversy.

"What I know is, if I was governor [sic], your resignation and your resignation would have been on my desk yesterday," said Silvey, R-Kansas City. 

Schaefer said that the appropriations committee might issue a Senate subpoena to bring the social security agent to Jefferson City for further questioning by lawmakers.

Later Thursday, House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, called for Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster to open a formal investigation into the Department of Revenue and he said a House committee will also be scrutinizing the agency. Koster's office declined to comment on Jones' request.

 A Group of at least 50 University of Missouri students converged on the State Capitol Thursday to push voting privileges for the student representative on the Board of Curators and other issues that affect students' everyday lives.   

The Associated Students of the University of Missouri rallied at the Capitol on Thursday for current legislation that has an impact on UM System students. The Associated Students of the University of Missouri is a non-profit student lobbying organization with participants from students of all four schools of the UM System.

Abigail Thomas, legislative intern for the student organization, said she is at the Capitol two days a week to advocate for UM System students on four specific issues. She said the four issues are getting a student vote on the Board of Curators, encouragement for students to major in STEM programs, funding for the UM System, and landlord-tenant relations.

Rep. Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, said she encourages students to come to the Capitol because the issues students face are different then the issues of her average constituents.

"When I can put a name and a face to an issue then it's a lot easier for me to advocate for that issue," Beatty said.

As session at the Capitol is nearing a close, one Republican Representative says he is fighting to help improve certain children's education.

Dwight Scharnhorst's bill "Bryce's Law" was named after his grandson who passed away from complications related to autism, and he said he wants to create a better life for these children.

Scharnhorst said this bill would create a tax credit for individuals who donate to a special needs scholarship organization and would benefit all people involved.

"I want these children to have a chance for an improved quality of life, so that their family can enjoy their lives in a more comprehensive way," Scharnhorst said.

But opponent Jim Ward, of Crystal City Mo., said that it would be better not to specify individuals with particular disabilities, as it does not affect everyone.

While Scharnhorst said this bill can only improve the quality of these children's lives, Ward said clarification is needed for a situation where the cost of education exceeds the scholarship amount.

Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency Wednesday night after a string of dangerous storms swept across Missouri, according to a press release.

Tornadoes reportedly touched down in the St. Louis region and other areas of the state, while heavy winds and rain caused power outages in the southern parts of Missouri.

According to the press release, Nixon will visit affected areas Thursday and meet with community leaders.

"We will continue to work closely with local officials to assess damages and provide any needed assistance," said Nixon, a Democrat.

The Senate approved a bill which prevents welfare benefits being used at adult entertainment places such as casinos, strip clubs and liquor stores.

Bill sponsor Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis County, said she was dismayed where people were spending their benefits.

Chappelle-Nadal said the bill was "to make sure that the dollars that we have go to the people and especially the children that need those resources"

The bill would require benefits spent on adult entertainment to be reimbursed.

The bill faces another vote before moving on to the House.

The sponsor of a bill to protect citizens' privacy from a new licensing system came under fire in the House Wednesday for ignoring another looming privacy issue.

Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, argued that a bigger problem already exists. The Missouri Department of Revenue, he said, is able to sell personal information to at least 4700 third parties, including insurance companies, lawyers and others who resell information.

"I’ve offered bills in 2011 and again this year to block it, but nobody’s interested because the lobbyists want to keep selling it. If we’re interested in privacy we will block the sale," Kelly said.

The bill sponsor, Rep. Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, said the bill would offer protection from the new licensing system. Richardson said the protection was no small thing, as it would stop outside parties from accessing 1.6 to 1.7 million personal documents in the next year.

Kelly voted to give the bill preliminary approval, despite his insistence that it was not a real solution to privacy issues.

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed's bill that would allow St. Louis school’s tenured teachers to be fired based on incompetency reached a stand-still in the House Committee on Education on Wednesday.

The bill provides that tenured teachers who are deemed incompetent by the school would have 30 days to improve or be let go.

Under the current statute, St. Louis schools must give teachers a semester to improve before firing them.

Nasheed said she filed the bill to put St. Louis schools on an equal playing field as other schools in the state, which all follow the 30-day statute.

Most committee members did not oppose the bill itself, but the amendment that was added by Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D- St. Louis County, to pass the bill through the Senate.

The amendment states that the Department of Secondary and Elementary Education would need to go through the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules and the state board in order to change accreditation standards in St. Louis schools.

Mark Van Zant of the Department of Secondary and Elementary Education said the amendment is a step backward.

“This means it would step back the new accreditation plan that schools have already been preparing for,” said Van Zant.

Nasheed said getting the bill passed is going to require a little bit of give-and-take.

“I don’t think the bill you saw today is going to be the bill you see in the end,” said Nasheed. “I think there’s going to be some drastic changes.”

Committee chairman Rep. Steve Cookson, R- Poplar Bluff, said he thinks the committee will have to re-work the bill to pass it out of committee.

Cookson said he hopes the committee can pass the bill out next week.

After Gov. Jay Nixon called for increased performance-based funding for higher education in his State of the State address this January, a funding model doing just that will finally reach the Senate floor for debate.

The higher education funding formula bill, sponsored by Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, was voted out of the Senate Education Committee Wednesday in a 7-2 vote.

The formula would divide higher education funding into six main categories within each institution, instead of just appropriating funds for each separate university or school.

Ten percent of the total funds would go toward performance-based funding. If an institution satisfies certain performance measures such as increased student retention, better graduation rates or improved learning, it would be eligible to receive this kind of funding.

Pearce stressed the importance of this kind of results-based funding instead of support as a result of political clout. He cited a $1.3 million amendment proposed in a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Tuesday by Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, that sought additional funding for Missouri State University as an example of this.

"This is a ringing endorsement of why we need performance and formula funding," Pearce said.

A House bill that would create taxing districts to support University of Missouri Extension programming was also voted out of committee in Wednesday's hearing.

The House General Laws Committee approved a proposed amendment to Missouri’s Constitution that would expand protections for Missourian’s right right to bear arms in a hearing Wednesday.

If it is placed on the ballot, the proposed amendment would ask Missouri voters whether or not an additional component should be added to the Missouri Constitution's section on the right to bear arms.

The addition would give every citizen the right to have, make and buy ammunition and other parts critical to the proper functioning of firearms. Under this provision these rights could not be infringed on and amounts of ammunition could not be limited.

The proposed amendment would also make it illegal for any state or federal tax or excess charge to be tacked on to ammunition and parts.

There was no debate or discussion on the bill before the vote.

An effort to make it harder for misbehaving employees to get unemployment benefits continued Wednesday at a House hearing.

The House Workforce Development and Workplace Safety committee considered a measure that would broaden the definition of misconduct under which a fired employee could not be awarded benefits.

Bill sponsor Sen. Will Kraus, R-Jackson County, gave examples of instances where an employee received unemployment after repeatedly falling asleep on the job, using profanity in front of school children and chronic absenteeism.

“Our courts have liberally construed our definition of misconduct,” Kraus said.

The bill, passed by the Senate in February, would expand the definition to include chronic tardiness and absenteeism, violation of employer policies and actions that could cause the employer to be sanctioned or fined by regulators.

Instead of requiring a “wanton or willful” disregard for an employer’s interest, the updated definition would include a “knowing” disregard or violation of the employer's policies.

The new definition would also include conduct outside of the workplace that is “reasonably related” to the performance of the job. This drew criticism from labor advocates.

Otto Fajen, a lobbyist for the Missouri National Education Association, said he was concerned that the language was too broad.

“We want to make sure that if you’re looking at something away from the job, that it causes harm or has some effect,” Fajen said. “It’ll be the law of the land and it’s going to be looked at in excruciating detail.”

The committee did not take any action on the bill.

The Department of Revenue came under fire once again from the Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday morning about whether or not they are sharing Missourians' personal information with the federal government.                             

Republicans have been charging that the state Revenue Department has been sharing the information with the Department of Homeland Security even though such action is against Missouri law.

Committee chairman Sen. Kurt Schaefer presented documents at Wednesday's hearing that he said proves the department has been sharing the information even though they have denied doing so. Schaefer has threatened to hold back on approving the department's budget for next year until the matter is resolved.

The Columbia Daily Tribune reported Wednesday that the Missouri State Highway Patrol has turned over a list of concealed weapon permit holders to federal authorities on two occassions. The Tribune also reported Department of Revenue officials turned the list over to the Highway Patrol in January.

"I'll tell you right now, your budget for DMV (the Department of Motor Vehicles) in my opinion is at zero," Schaefer said.

Schaefer provided documents from the Revenue Department to the Department of Homeland Security, including a checklist that shows the requirements of the REAL ID act, that he said indicates the department's compliance with the federal REAL ID Act.

Revenue Department Director Brian Long said the checklist does not show Missouri's compliance with the REAL ID Act, it is just telling Homeland Security that Missouri's system is comparable.

According to a press release sent out Wednesday morning, State Auditor Tom Schweich said he will audit the Revenue Department after receiving a letter from multiple senators asking him to do so.

Get the radio story.

Public employees would have to annually agree in writing to pay union dues under a measure approved by a House committee Wednesday.

The bill, which passed through the Senate in March, requires unions to collect forms each year from public employees to authorize automatic paycheck deduction for dues and the use of dues for political purposes.

Supporters of the measure say it increases the freedom of public employees to choose whether or not to contribute. Opponents have criticized the measure as an attack on unions.

The measure passed the House Workforce Development and Workplace Safety by a vote of 7-4.

Recent evidence shows that the state Department of Revenue could be keeping a digital database of more personal information than state law allows.

For several weeks state lawmakers have accused the Department of keeping digital copies of documents used to obtain drivers licenses and concealed carry permits. Lawmakers claimed this database was created to comply with the federal REAL ID Act and has been shared with private entities.

Senator Will Kraus, R-Lee's Summit, sponsored a bill that would prevent the Department of Revenue from keeping such documents and force them to destroy any digital records they have been keeping.

Governor Jay Nixon and Alana Barragan-Scott, the state director of revenue, have denied the existence of such a database.

However, Senate Appropriations Chair Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, showed a document, previously retained by Nixon's administration, that shows evidence of the database.

"It's right here," Schaefer said. "I'm happy to share this document with anyone who wants to see it. They can look at the federal register. Let's just move beyond that. You can call it a magical database if you want. I just call it the Department of Revenue's database that they've said is required by REAL ID."

Gov. Jay Nixon kept the pressure on Republicans on Tuesday to expand Missouri's Medicaid program, telling Senate Republicans that such a move would help poor families afford health care while bringing the state millions of federal dollars.

Nixon said he believes there is still time for Republicans to pass the expansion during the spring legislative session.

Nixon talks to reporters after making his case on Medicaid to Republican senators on Tuesday, April 9.

"I think the more I talk with legislators, the more focused they become on this opportunity," he said. ""We clearly have time to get this done. We clearly have time to move this forward. And I'll continue to press this."

Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey said Nixon fielded questions from his Republican members, but he said his position on changing Medicaid hadn't changed.

"There was no agreement with the governor to move forward on Medicaid expansion that came out of this most recent meeting," said Dempsey, R-St. Charles.

Nixon, a Democrat, met with House Republicans last week to push the expansion, which part of the federal health care law passed in 2009. The Democratic governor has also been traveling the state and meeting with local hospitals in recent weeks to tout the expansion's benefits right in Republicans' own districts.

The federal health care law requires states to expand their Medicaid programs to cover families who have an income that is about 138 percent of the federal poverty level, about $32,500 per year. The expanded coverage is to take effect Jan. 1, 2014, and the federal government would pick up the cost for the expansion's first three years.

Nixon also said he was going to meet with Senate Democrats and speak with U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius about Missouri's expansion efforts later Thursday.

The House Budget Committee voted 17-9 Tuesday in favor of a measure to cut a property tax credit for low income renters.

The bill, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, would bring $56.6 million back to the state budget, allowing it to be balanced for next year.

But Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said the bill is a tax increase that unfairly targets the poorest of Missourians.

"I don't know why we don't include corporations and homeowners in this," Kelly said. "Why do we only go after those in society that are the least powerful?"

Dempsey, R-St. Charles, said the funds would be redirected appropriately in the budget, and that it would prevent abuse of taxpayer money for those who might use the check at the casino rather than for personal needs.

The renters tax credit measure is now headed to the House floor. If approved there, it will go to Gov. Jay Nixon.

A House committee passed a measure Tuesday that asks the Missouri Attorney General to allow businesses to refuse health care insurance coverage for birth control and abortions to their employees.

The House Rules Committee passed a measure that would request the Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster to overturn a previous U.S. Court District decision so institutions can refuse to pay for health coverage items such as birth control if it goes against their religious beliefs.

Koster has until Friday to accept the request if the Measure passes on the House floor. House Speaker Tim Jones said the fast approaching deadline makes the measure very time sensitive. Jones said the measure would give religious institutions the right to refuse to include the birth control mandates of the federal health law in their insurance coverage.

"In it's essence, it provides protections for various institutions, religious and non-religious, but mainly focusing on religious institutions," Jones said in reference to the federal health law.

Rep. Steve Web, D-St. Louis County, said people claim birth control mandates restricts institutions' religious rights but that those same people are actually restricting the rights of others by not including birth control in their employees' insurance coverage.

"Contraception and things of that nature is a personal decision," Webb said. He said he understands both sides of the argument but said the measure limits women's rights and sets a bad example for the future.

A resolution before Missouri House would recognize April 15, 2013 as "Jackie Robinson Day" in Missouri.

If approved, Missouri could celebrate next Monday the achievements of Jack Roosevelt "Jackie" Robinson as the first African-American Major league baseball player. and courageous civil rights activism.”

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Randy Dunn, D-Kansas City. It cleared the House Tourism Committee on Thursday April 4. Dunn said he is sponsoring that resolution also in recognition of the movie “42”, about the life story of Jackie Robinson.

“There is a lot of baseball fans at the Capitol,” he added.

That should be the reason of having this resolution approved. “I absolutely hope so,” he confirmed.

On April 15, 1947 Jackie Robinson played his first game in Ebbets Field for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He started his professional baseball career in early 1945 accepting a written offer from the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro leagues.

Gun safety is still a hot topic in the state Capitol as one Democratic Missouri senator said Tuesday that she wants to create laws that require parents to notify schools they own a firearm.

Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis County, said it should be a priority to keep firearms out of childrens hands by putting parents in charge.

Chappelle-Nadal said that the legislation needs to prevent children from getting access to firearms.

"In the urban areas, we have an absolute crisis on our hands," Chappelle-Nadal said. "Our colleagues in the senate have to find a way where we are not taking away the privileges of some, but allowing the deaths of so many."

But Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, said the bill would never pass because lawmakers cannot force parents to inspect their children's rooms.

With six weeks left in the legislative session, the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee concedes that a revised criminal code could fail to pass for a second straight year.

"If both houses can reach an agreement, I wouldn't be opposed to moving on it before this six week period is up, May 17 being our last day," Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Greene County, said, "But something of this magnitude I am very hesitant to rush."

This Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Jackson County, has over 1,000 pages and introduces a new class of felony and misdemeanor. It also reduces penalties for non-violent criminals and streamlines language last updated in 1979.

Dixon said he would not rule out the possibility of a special session to pass the revision measure.

The House's bill to revise the criminal code is only slightly further along in the legislative process. It was voted out of committee last week and will face debate on the floor of the House.

The Republican-backed Medicaid expansion plan may not make it through the House, but its biggest advocate has already accounted for the possibility of lacking support.

The House Government Oversight Committee passed a Medicaid bill Monday that combined four individual bills sponsored by Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City.

The bills targeted programs already accounted for in the larger Medicaid bill, also sponsored by Barnes.

"If we're not going to move forward with House Bill 700 I think it's a good idea to extend Ticket to Work," Barnes said.

The Ticket to Work program provides employees with disabilities with the opportunity to receive employment support services in order to encourage long-term employment and economic independence.

In addition to extending the life of the Ticket to Work program, the combined bills include provisions that would extend Medicaid to foster care children up to the age of 26, establish a ten-year Medicaid transformation task force and implement Medicaid tax reform.