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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of April 29, 2013

Gov. Jay Nixon's administration charged Friday, May 3, that a computer connected to the Missouri House tried to access records of people in Missouri who have permits to carry concealed weapons.

The administration has filed an open-records request for records concerning the access attempt.

According to the administration, repeated efforts were made to access the database using an account the administration had provided to the federal Social Security Administration. That account, which had access to the records of permit holders in Missouri, was given to Special Agent Keith Schilb. Schilb told the Senate Appropriations Committee last week that he asked for the records as part of a planned investigation into potential disability fraud. He said the investigation never made it out of the planning stages because he was unable to access the records after repeated attempts.

A spokesperson for the governor said he did not know if law enforcement officials had been contacted nor whether there were any direct ties to an actual House computer as opposed to a visitor's computer using House WiFi access.

At about 10 a.m. Thursday, May 2, the State of Missouri Data Center "detected repeated and unauthorized attempts" to access the server containing the information, according to the administration's release.

The administration's release claimed that the chief clerk of the House refused to provide the administration with access to House computing records. Neither the chief clerk nor officials from the Office of Administration, which issued the release, were available for immediate comment.

The Office of Administration release gave no indication whether the computer access came from a computer installed in House offices or from a visitor's computer accessing the House's public WiFi.

The Sunshine Law request is the most recent development in the continuing investigation into the scanning and sharing of Missourians' personal information, including the list of concealed carry permit holders.

A measure in the Missouri House would allocate $50 million to repair the state Capitol and another $38 million to fund build a new state office building and repair the Transportation Department's building adjacent to the state Capitol. Some lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin, said the current MoDOT building could be a Capitol annex for legislative staff.

Rep. Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhart, opposes the plan and said it is government at its worst.

"The whole approach is not good stewardship of taxpayer dollars, and I'm not going to be a part of it," Roorda said.

House Democratic Floor Leader Jake Hummel, D-St. Louis, said the budget for the measure was higher than he expected, and he would like to know exactly what the MoDOT building would be used for before supporting the plan.

With only two weeks left in the legislative session, the House must approve the measure once more before sending it to the Senate.

Gov. Jay Nixon added $86 million in new building construction projects to his budget proposal Thursday, May 2.

Nixon released his proposals to legislators after his budget director reported an 11.2 percent increase in state revenues for the last eleven months of the budget year.

That is well above the original 3.9 percent upon which the budget passed by the legislature last year was based.

Nixon's amended budget proposal includes $28 million for repairs to the state Capitol, $45 million for state parks and $13 million to design a new mental hospital in Fulton.

The governor's spending increase recommendations came just eight days before the constitutional deadline for lawmakers to finish the budget for the 2014 fiscal year that begins July 1.

The legislature must finish work on the budget by Friday, May 10.

A few hours after the governor's announcement, the House passed it's own version of a building construction budget that allocated $50 million for improvements at the state Capitol and another $38 million for construction of a new state office building along with improvements to the Transportation Department building adjoining the Capitol.

In addition, the House gave first round approval to seeking voter approval for a bond issue for state building construction across the state that could exceed $1 billion.

A handful of Republicans in the state Senate Wednesday night held up a GOP-sponsored measure that would allow power companies in the state to tack surcharges on to customers' bills to pay for infrastructure upgrades.

To increase customer rates, Ameren and other power companies currently need to seek permission from the state's utility regulator, the Public Service Commission, through a traditionl rate case. That process can take up to a year or more.

But this bill would allow Ameren and other power companies to impose a surcharge to fund new infrastructure between the general rate cases in what's called Infrastructure System Replacement Surcharge.

Opponents, like Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, argue the utility companies already take in enough profit and don't need to pass this cost off to customers.

“If they’re going to pay higher rates, then my little old lady constituent is going to pay higher rates, and I can’t have that,” Schaaf said.

Others, including Sen. Brad Lager, R-Maryville, argue an ISRS is needed to invest in needed infrastructure and technology.

“If our position in this state is, you know, we’re not going to allow any new investment. Go to the Public Service Commission and figure it out... I believe, with all due respect we’re going to keep getting what we’re getting," Lager said.

A filibuster lasting more than three hours stalled the bill before it was laid aside.

As states around the country pass stricter gun laws, state lawmakers are looking to encourage gun businesses to come to Missouri.

The Missouri House gave first-round approval to a measure Tuesday, which would give a maximum of $3 million in tax credits per year to ammunition manufacturers relocating to or expanding in Missouri. The credit would expire after six years.

Bill sponsor Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin, said he’s been targeting specific companies in states like Colorado and Connecticut and plans to send them letters informing them about the legislation and to tell them Missouri will be “a friendly state toward them.”

He said right-to-work legislation and other labor reform isn’t going anywhere, so this is the best way to incentivize businesses to come to Missouri.

“I vote for very few tax credits, but what other option do I have to try and convince people to come here,” White said.

Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis County, opposes the measure and said the measure was not based on fact but “based on the hysteria that certain manufacturers have threatened to leave particular states.”

An effort to let workers refuse to join or pay dues to a union appears to have stalled once again. The chance of what supporters often call “right to work” getting to the floor in either chamber appears slim.

The spokesperson for Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, said Wednesday right to work would not happen this year. Earlier in the year, at a mid-session press conference, Dempsey himself said many senators were passionate about the issue because they believe Missouri not being a right-to-work state puts Missouri at a competitive disadvantage.

“But they also recognize that we have a Democratic governor who has said he’ll veto the legislation and that we simply lack the votes to move it forward over his objections,” Dempsey said.

The right-to-work bills would make it illegal for joining a union to be a requirement for employment. This would mean an employee with a union employer could refuse to pay union dues.

Opponents argue such measures are intended to destroy labor unions because individuals could get the benefit of collective bargaining by the union without paying dues. Supporters counter that employees should have the freedom to join a union or not if they choose and that right-to-work states are more attractive to businesses.

One obstacle for right-to-work legislation has been the lack of unified support for the efforts in the business community. Some statewide business groups in Missouri have endorsed the legislation, including the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

The Associated General Contractors of St. Louis, however, opposes the legislation. President Len Toenjes said the passage of such legislation would put members’ current union contracts at risk and could cost them millions and even force them to shut down.

“Many of our contractors have existing multi-year labor agreements,” Toenjes said. “In the short term there will be potential for a lot of out-of-state competition coming in. The potential would be to harm businesses that have been in St. Louis for decades.”

House Speaker Tim Jones, R-St. Louis County, said he doesn't think the Senate is interested in moving forward with right to work.

"We'll be moving a lot faster and earlier next year and hopefully the Senate will show some interest," Jones said. As for debating right to work on the floor of the House this year, "we'll have to wait and see."

After the recently proposed budget slashed funds to the Revenue Department along with other state agencies, acting department director John Mollenkamp appeared before the Senate Appropriations committee Wednesday morning and said it continue to scan the documents required for their new licensing procedure.

The department has come under investigation for its involvement in the scanning and sharing of personal information, such as documents used for obtaining a driver's license. They also shared a list of concealed carry permit holders in Missouri with the Social Security Administration.

Officials from the Social Security Administration also appeared before the committee. They said they asked for the list for the purpose of detecting fraud in the Social Security system. They maintained they were never able to access the list, and they never decided to open a full investigation.

Revenue Department Acting Director John Mollenkamp failed to show before lawmakers earlier in the day, despite a joint committee's request that he appear.

The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules asked Mollenkamp to come before the committee and explain why the department did not make a public rule through the state to inform residents of recent changes to the licensing process.

The department's general counsel, Trevor Bossert, told lawmakers that, in retrospect, it may have been a good idea to let them know of recent document process changes. Bossert said when the department made the changes to the license process, he believed it was an internal issue that the public did not need to be aware of.

Committee Chairman Sen. Eric Schmitt, R- St. Louis County, said the department should have come to the committee to get the rules vetted before putting the new requirements in place.

The Missouri Senate passed a tax credit reform package Tuesday that drew opposition from both sides of the aisle.

The measure would cut caps on tax credits for renovations on low-income housing and historic buildings, but includes incentives for the creation of data storage centers, investments in startups and promoting international trade at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, coined the "China Hub."

Sen. John Lamping, R-St. Louis County, voted against the bill. He said putting all of the separate credits into one package prevents lawmakers from judging them based on their individual merits.

"That's why people's opinion of government is so low," Lamping said. "Because they say, well, where do you really stand for anything?"

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, said she voted against the measure because it didn't include an expansion of the land-assemblage tax credit that is in the House version, and because the lowered caps on developing low-income housing and historic buildings would hurt development projects in her district.

"I think there's a human value to tax credits that many people don't see," Nasheed said. "Individuals are able to get jobs as a result of development. You have some senators they don't want to do anything with tax credits, you have some that want to cut tax credits, you have a Governor that wants to cut tax credits. But with all of those different elements into play, you won't get anything done."

The bill passed on a 22-11 vote, it will now head back to the House.

With just weeks left in the year's legislative session, Republican lawmakers in both chambers pushed forward more gun legislation Thursday, over the vocal objections of Democrats who say the focus of gun debates should be on preventing violent crime.

The state House voted 123-34 to pass a measure that would allow school teachers to carry concealed weapons in their classroom and act as "school protection officers." Republican supporters said during debate that those teachers could protect students from a school shooting like the one that killed 26 people in Newtown, Conn. in December.

But Democrats, led by Rep. Stacey Newman, said that putting guns in classrooms would be a dangerous practice. Newman, D-St. Louis County, said Republicans were backing the bill as a means of expanding firearm usage to support gun manufacturers. She said lawmakers should be doing more to prevent gun deaths in the urban areas of the state.

In the Senate, the General Laws Committee voted 3-1 along party lines to move forward a bill that would lower the age limit for getting a conceal and carry permit from 21 to 19. That idea is part of a bill that would also make it a felony for any state official to enforce federal gun laws.

Sponsoring Rep. Casey Guernsey, R-Bethany, said the provisions on federal gun laws are not merely symbolic. He said that he fears that Congressional Democrats will move to expand federal health care laws to include gun control measures in light of the Newtown shootings. He said he wants to stop those additional laws from being enforced in Missouri.

"For a calculated president to pass legislation through Congress and really shove it down the American citizens throat and then to tie in gun control--that's deplorable," said Guernsey, R-Bethany.

That bill is now headed to the Senate floor.

Gaming lobbyists want gamblers in Missouri to walk into a casino, free of cash or credit cards, and still be able to make bets at tables, their lobbyists said Tuesday. 

Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst is sponsoring a bill that would allow riverboat casinos to do just that. He said many major events come to Missouri and visitors want the ability to use credit to gamble in the state.

"People traveling around the country do not want to carry checkbooks and take the risk of identity theft through credit cards," said Scharnhorst, R-St. Louis County.

A representative of a national anti-gambling organization opposed the bill in an interview after the bill's hearing. Tom Grey, senior adviser for the organization Stop Predatory Gambling, said gambling clients should only be allowed to make bets with the money they bring into the facility.

"If you can't lose what you carry in, you ought not go in," Grey said.

The Senate Commerce Committee heard the bill on Tuesday and it would allow Missouri gambling boats, ferries or floating facilities to give customers a line of credit in exchange for chips, tokens, or the ability to play other gambling games.

To receive the loan, customers will have to fill out an an application and get a background financial check. These customers would have no more than 30 days to pay the loan back to the gambling facility.

The Senate Committee didn't take an immediate vote on the bill. It must now pass the committee before it moves to a vote on the full Senate floor.

Twice a year the time changes in Missouri, and on Tuesday, at least one lawmaker said he wants to end that practice.

State Rep. Delus Johnson is the sponsor of a bill that would enter Missouri into the New Standard Time Pact. Once 20 States will join the New Standard Time Pact, the summer time will become the standard time year-round and the actual switching of the clock, twice in a year, will be eliminated.

Implementing daylight saving time year-round would make lighter evenings but darker mornings. Johnson, R-St. Joseph, told the Senate General Laws Committee that he believes lighter evenings will increase the outdoor business production.

“In the United States South Carolina already works on Daylight Saving as New Standard Time Pact,” Johnson said at the Senate hearing.

The Senate panel did not vote Johnson's bill Tuesday.

Lawmakers at the state Capitol debated about emerging health care issues and a bill which would create a statutory cause of action for damages against health care providers.

If passed, HB 112 would allow citizens to sue health care providers for personal injury or death due to the failure of health services.

This bill states that the elements of statutory cause of action are the health care provider failed to use their skill learned, and that this failure ultimately caused injury or death.

Not all lawmakers in the senate agreed as Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis County, said that an individual would not be able to have a trial by jury because of the non-economic damages involved in the bill.

A state Senate committee approved a bill restricting access to abortion-inducing pills Monday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve the House version of a bill requiring doctors to be physically present for both the first and second dose of an abortion pill known as Ru486.

Susan Klein, a lobbyist with Missouri Right to Life, said the legislation would prevent the possibility of Planned Parenthood clinics in Missouri from allowing a doctor to administer the pill remotely. In some instances, a physician can approve access to the pill over webcam after an assistant examines the patient to confirm the pregnancy is at the correct stage. Klein said it was a common practice in other states surrounding Missouri.

“It just ensures that a physician is in the room with a woman when she begins the abortion procedure,” Klein said. “This is a pro-active bill to prevent that from happening.”

Currently, a physician administers the first dose of the drug and the second dose is taken at home. The bill would require the second dose to also be taken in the presence of a physician.

Michelle Trupiano, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood, said taking the abortion-inducing second dose was more convenient and safer for the woman. With only one facility in Missouri providing non-surgical abortion services, Trupiano said requiring women to return again would restrict their access.

“It’s one of the safest medical procedures you can receive,” Trupiano said. “This isn’t about safety.”

The committee voted along party lines to pass the legislation, with Republicans for the measure and Democrats against.

The panel also held a hearing on a House bill that would make it more difficult for employees to prove discrimination by raising the standard of evidence and capping non-economic damages. It would also change the law regarding protections for whistleblowers. The committee did not take any action on that bill.

Despite a claim the practice of scanning and retaining personal documents made it possible for authorities to find Boston bombing suspects faces in Massachusetts' driver license database, a House committee Monday sent legislation to the floor that would ban the Missouri Department of Revenue from using the same technology.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Will Kraus, R-Jackson County, would ban the department from keeping copies of personal documents needed to obtain Missouri licenses and would require the department to dispose of its current database.

Kraus said he considers it a privacy issue, and said he worried hackers could compromise the current database.

Richard McIntosh, a lobbyist registered with the third party company MorphoTrust USA which helps produce Missouri licenses, said the scanning of documents with facial recognition is, in part, what helped Massachusetts authorities identify and find the Boston bombing suspects.

Rep. Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, however, said this legislation is a matter of privacy intrusion and said he thinks the Boston suspects could have been caught regardless.

"I'm sure there are instances where we wouldn't be able to prosecute some crimes if we didn't have cameras on every street corner, or drones flying overhead taking surveillance of every city in the state," Richardson said.

Before passing the bill through, the committee decided to take out the provision which would hold county sheriff's offices responsible for issuing and printing concealed carry permits.

Last Week

Gov. Jay Nixon said Thursday that he will not comply with a subpoena to testify in a case involving the state illegally sharing the personal information of Missouri gun owners.

The Stoddard County Circuit court has issued a subpoena for Nixon to testify on May 3 as part of a case involving Missouri license offices sharing information about gun owners with the federal government and third-party companies. The plaintiff's attorney in the case, Russell Oliver, has said he wants to question several high-ranking state officials in connection with the lawsuit against the state Department of Revenue and a local license office.

KMOX reporter Brett Blume cornered the governor at an event in St. Charles on Thursday and asked him whether he plans to answer Oliver's questions.

"Governor what about the subpoena? And are you going to appear at the May 3rd hearing?" Blume asked.

In a jumbled answer, the governor first flatly rejected the idea that he would appear in Stoddard County. Then he quickly said he'd turn the matter over to his legal counsel.

"No," Nixon said. "I, I, I've, people, by golly, guys, I've been in public service for 26 years, I've been, uh, huh, eh, I'll leave that to the lawyers."

At the eve of a crime victims memorial ceremony at the Missouri state Capitol, a federal act was reintroduced to the U.S. House on Thursday and advocates pushed for crime victim rights.

A subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary heard testimony Thursday from supporters of The Victims' Rights Amendment. The measure would give crime victims a constitutional right to be notified for sentencing of the crime, to attend any court proceedings for that crime, and to speak at the proceedings about the crime they experienced according the National Organization for Victim Assistance

Rep Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhart, is a 17-year veteran of law enforcement. He said he didn't think any states banned victims from criminal court hearings. He said although he thinks most states already give crime victims' rights, the issue is important enough that it should be in the U.S. Constitution.

There are benefits that all states participate in when it comes to crime victims. Dan Eddy, the executive director of the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards, said all 50 states currently have compensation programs to financially help the victims of violent crimes.

Eddy said on average, all the state compensation programs collectively provide about $500 million in funding for about 200,000 crime victims every year. Missouri provided over $5 million to 1,051 crime victims in 2012 according to the Missouri Department of Public Safety.

A Republican in the Missouri state Capitol said Thursday said he wants to "break the state's poverty cycle" by requiring the children of welfare recipients across the state to attend school for 90 percent of the school year, or else risk losing their family's state benefits.

Rep. Steve Cookson, R-Poplar Bluff, who sponsored a bill last year that would have banned schools from discussing sexual orientation when not related to human reproduction, coined the "Don't Say Gay" bill by opponents, said he proposed the measure in response to concerns from constituents.

"I was contacted by some education people," Cookson said. "People that were out in the communities and around the state about some remedies to help them have students be at school in regular attendance so that they could positively impact the child with educational opportunities."

Some have dubbed it the "Don't Get Sick" bill, saying the unspecific bill language could pose a problem for students who contract illnesses that put them out of school for weeks at a time, like mononucleosis.

Cookson said he thinks his bill should have a different label.

"I would label it "Breaking the Poverty Cycle" bill," Cookson said. "By making sure that students are educated so that is there best ticket out of poverty into a better life."

A piece of legislation that Rep. Chris Kelly has been working on for five years was heard for the second time by the House Budget Committee on Thursday.

Kelly's measure is a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the Missouri government to issue bonds to fund projects for the state's public universities and highways. The measure has three weeks to get through the legislative process, but Kelly still has hope.

"I'm not a fortune teller, I'm a legislator," said Kelly, D-Columbia. "But, I think we're alive and still in the game. I don't know yet, but I'm going to work until they ring the bell."

But, some representatives said they are upset that part of the legislation aimed at helping women and minorities was struck from the constitutional amendment.

Rep. Gail McCann Beatty, D-Jackson County, was brought to tears and demanded to know why this part of the legislation was omitted. She said she will not support the legislation on the House floor. And Rep. Denise Monticello, D-St. Louis County, voiced the same concerns.

"This is concerning and it is upsetting," Monticello said. "And I think it is very difficult for the majority of the members in this body to understand what it's like to be a minority or a woman."

Kelly said if it had been up to him, he would have left the language in the constitutional amendment. But, other legislators expressed concern that it did not need to be included. Kelly also said that including women and minorities simply restated current Missouri law.

The House passed legislation Thursday that would allow firearms to be permitted in company cars.

Sponsoring Rep. Stan Cox said that this bill would increase safety for business employees in dangerous areas.

"Lets say that you go everyday into a dangerous area that you feel uncomfortable, and you decide you want to protect yourself or your family," said Cox, R-Sedalia. "This allows you to protect yourself or your family."

But Rep. Margo McNeil, D-Florissant, said that these cars would become main targets for robbery and that people could obtain these weapons and commit even more gun violence.

The measure now moves to the Senate.

The Missouri House passed legislation Wednesday that would reduce the state's income tax while raising the state sales tax rate.

Rep. Doug Funderburk, R-St. Charles County, said an income tax cut creates a "rising tide" in economic growth because it allows workers and business owners to keep more of what they earn.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee's Summit, was already passed by the Senate. The House amended the bill to direct some of the increased sales tax revenue to fund roads, schools and a new state mental hospital at Fulton. The amended version would raise the state sales tax from its current rate of 4 percent to 4.6 percent.

The bill would also reduce the state's top individual income tax rate from 6 percent to 5 1/3 percent and would reduce the corporate rate from 6 1/4 percent to 5 1/2 percent. The bill would also allow business owners who file their business income on their individual state returns to deduct 50 percent of the income beginning in 2018.

The bill phases in the tax cut provisions by scaling back the rates beginning in the 2014 tax year and ending in the 2018 tax year.

Rep. Jon Carpenter, D-Clay County, said the bill is "voodoo economics" and doubts the change in tax policy will generate enough revenue.

"I doubt literally a single person will make the decision to come and live in Missouri because we've taken the income tax rate from 6 percent to 5 1/3 percent," Carpenter said.

Despite touting it as one of this year’s legislative priorities, Missouri lawmakers remain divided on reducing the state’s tax credit programs.

While several other bills related to tax credits have passed in one chamber or another, significant pieces have yet to make it to the governor’s desk. Nixon has previously called for the scaling back of tax credits for developers that cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

During a Senate committee hearing Wednesday, Rep. Anne Zerr, R-St. Charles, presented her omnibus tax credit bill as a starting point for discussion between the two chambers.

“More than anything, this is an attempt to keep the discussion going,” Zerr said. “This is not a perfect bill.”

The Senate Jobs Committee did not take any action on the bill immediately after the hearing, but Committee Chairman Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-St. Louis County, said a vote would be taken promptly on a substitute identical to a bill already passed by the Senate. That bill has been in the House since late February.

Schmitt said there was still time to come to an agreement in conference committee now that the House has formulated its position. He said moving forward with a bill the Senate has already passed rather than trying to alter the House proposal would give the most room for negotiations to take place in conference.

“It gives everybody plenty of room,” Schmitt said. “Hopefully there’s enough time."

Job placement and performance would be key to winning higher education funding increases in a measure that received first-round approval in the Missouri Senate on Wednesday.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, would create a new model for calculating education funding for Missouri's higher education institutions based on performance and job placement. The bill provides that 10 percent of each public institution of higher education's state appropriation must be designated and set aside for performance-based funding.

The bill would require the state's Coordinating Board for Higher Education to define performance measures for each institution, which would be used to delegate funds.

The Senate added an amendment that would provide an additional 10 percent of the institution's funding based on the number of students who get jobs after graduation.

In addition to Lager's amendment, the Senate approved another amendment that would create a separate funding system for Truman State University. Amendment sponsor Sen. Eric Schmitt said Truman State is the only highly selective liberal arts college in the state and is different than any other state institution, meaning it should not be compared to Missouri's other higher education institutions.

Pearce's bill require one more affirmative vote before it can head to the House.

Despite saying last week that his legislation to reform Missouri's Medicaid system was dead, the Republican sponsor of the legislation appeared to make an attempt Wednesday to revive the bill before he ultimately dropped the issue.

Rep. Jay Barnes sponsored a bill that would reform the state's Medicaid system, including expanding eligibility to 100 percent of the federal poverty level while reducing eligibility for pregnant women and the State Children's Health Insurance Program. He admitted last week that the legislation had no chance of passing the General Assembly this year after Senate leadership declared the issue "dead."

Senate Republican Floor Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin, previously said Barnes' original legislation would not pass in the Senate this year. Richard said the Senate would take up the issue in the next session.

Barnes, R-Jefferson City, offered an alternative to Medicaid reform on the House floor Wednesday, which he dubbed "mini-Medicaid." The House gave preliminary approval to the bill, which includes four aspects of Barnes' original reform legislation. The bill would expand the Ticket to Work disability welfare program, simplify the Medicaid enrollment process, raise the age for foster care children to be eligible for Medicaid to 26 and create a joint interim committee to evaluate Missouri's Medicaid program.

"Maybe we can talk with the Senate and get serious about giving Missouri the most market-based Medicaid system in the entire country," Barnes said.

Before the House approved the legislation, however, Barnes offered an amendment to the bill that would have included the provisions of his original Medicaid reform bill. He ultimately withdrew the language from the "mini-Medicaid" bill, citing the Senate's stated refusal to pass any legislation regarding the expansion of Medicaid. 

"Unfortunately the Missouri State Senate has indicated it does not have the stomach to pick up a Medicaid transformation bill this year," Barnes said before withdrawing the transformation, expressing his hope that the joint interim committee would lead the way for future transformation.

State officials would no longer be able to enforce federal gun laws under a bill passed through the Missouri House Wednesday.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Casey Guernsey, R-Bethany, would prohibit state officials from restricting the use of guns manufactured in the state.

Forty-three Democrats voted against the bill, with some opposing it on the grounds that it was too far-reaching.

“The Second Amendment says we have the right to bear arms—we do have the right to bear arms—but if you’re talking about when it comes to specific weapons and if people having the right to use silencers and all that,” said Rep. Karla May, D-St. Louis City. “This extreme gun legislation is extreme.”

Guernsey said he proposed the bill because he thinks the federal government is misdirecting its legislation.

“They should be focused on mental health solutions, which is a productive conversation to have,” Guernsey said. “Instead here we are today, having to spend time to further protect the Second Amendment rights of Missouri citizens.”

Guernsey’s bill also lowers the concealed carry age from 21 to 19.

Two top House Republicans backed off of their initial criticism of a state contract aimed at moving state aid recipients onto federal disability aid after the Department of Social Services agreed to revise the contract.

Earlier in the week, the House Government Oversight Committee held a hearing with the Social Services Department to discuss a contract made between the department and a Boston-based consulting firm, Public Consulting Group.

The department made the contract in November to save the state money by switching people from state taxpayer funded programs to federally funded disability programs. The contract would give PCG more than $2,000 for each Missourian that switched to federal disability aid.

In the hearing, a few lawmakers said the contract would give people less incentive to find work, which would result in permanent welfare recipients.

The Social Services Department sent a letter to lawmakers Wednesday saying that it will amend the contract with PCG.

Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, and House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, said in a press conference Wednesday that the amended contract will save the state money. They announced that the Social Service Department's contract will no longer include foster children or recipients of the tax assistance for needy families program, but it will include people receiving excessive Medicaid with serious diseases or medical conditions.

"We want our disability system to be one that provides assistance to those that have medical conditions or disabilities that truly will prevent them from working," Jones said.

Governor Jay Nixon has been ordered testify in a Stoddard County court case involving the personal information of Missouri gun owners, a lawyer in the case confirmed Tuesday.

The Stoddard County Circuit court has issued a subpoena for Nixon to testify on May 3 as part of a case involving Missouri license offices sharing information about gun owners with the federal government and third-party companies.

The lawsuit has sparked a fervent investigation into the Department of Revenue by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Senate gave its approval earlier this week to a proposed budget that slashes funding for the revenue department in response to the scandal.

Nixon has spoken publicly about the case over the last month, and the plaintiff's attorney, Russell Oliver, said that means the governor should have to testify in Stoddard County.

"At some point in time, it's very evident from his public statements, that he has had conversations with people. who are involved in this case," he said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

Nixon can ask a judge to quash the subpoena, meaning he wouldn't have to testify, but Oliver said he had not received any notice that Nixon planned to do that. The governor's staff did not return a phone call about the case by press time.

House Republicans in the state Capitol recently advanced a measure that would arm teachers as a proposed solution to mass shootings like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, added identical amendments to two different gun bills in the past week that would allow conceal carry holders that are teachers to undergo training in order to have a weapon on them while they teach.

Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis County, said that’s not the right answer to prevent massacres in Missouri schools.

“This is allowing teachers to be law enforcement,” Newman said. “That should be a red flag for everyone.”

One of Brattin’s amendments was placed on a bill that moved to the Senate last week. The other needs one more vote to follow suit.

On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Education heard a similar bill that would allow school districts to hire armed police officers to patrol schools as permanent employees.

Currently, Blue Springs School District in Kansas City is the only school district that allows full time armed officers as staff.  Other school districts can have law enforcement in schools but only as part time employees.  In these districts, the officers’ salary is a shared expense between the municipality and school. 

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Sheila Solon, R-Jackson County, said that having police officers in schools allows for faster response time, greater prevention and better relationships with students to prevent in-school and out-of-school violence.

The measure would also make it easier for school employees to report child abuse by removing any possibility of adverse employment action or repercussions for taking action.

After about 20 minutes of debate on the bill, the House Fiscal Review Committee passed a measure that is estimated to put more than a one-quarter billion dollar hole in Missouri's budget by 2016.

Over the next five years, the tax overhaul proposal would cut individual income taxes by two-thirds of a percent, cut the corporate income tax by 1 and a quarter percent and raise the state sales tax from 4 percent to 4.6 percent.

Rep. Noel Torpey, R-Independence, asked legislative researchers if the state could be stopped from losing too much.

"Talking about the fiscal note and the dollar amount, if it goes too far one way or the other does it stop? Or are there other methods to say, wait we've cut too much?" Torpey asked.

"Not in this bill," was the reply from Ross Strope, the acting director of the legislative research oversight division.

Legislative researchers have estimated the bill will cost the state more than a quarter billion dollars in revenues by 2016.

The heavily republican committee passed the bill on a party line vote of 6-2. The proposal now moves to the House floor.

The bill to name the Interstate 70 bridge linking Illinois and Missouri after late Cardinals slugger Stan "the man" took a step backward Tuesday night on the Senate floor.

Sen. Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis County, had an issue with a different part of the bill that named what is known as the "Poplar Street Bridge" after former Missouri Representative William Lacy Clay Sr.

Chappelle-Nadal proposed an amendment that the addition of Sr. be added after the former Congressman's name to distinguish him from his son, current congressman William Lacy Clay Jr.

"I don't think the current Senator, or the Congressman deserves to have a bridge named after him. I think his father does," Chappelle-Nadal said.

Sen. Eric Schmitt, said he added his own amendment to the bill only after the first amendment forced the bill to go back to the House for another reading.

"I wasn't going to do because it was clean, and we were just going to take it up and pass it," Schmitt said.

Schmitt's amendment allows the Missouri half of the bridge to be named after Musial without the approval of the Illinois state legislature.

House lawmakers pushed for Missouri cops to get insurance coverage for mental disorders and delayed health diseases obtained on the job that eventually lead to death.

The Senate Small Business, Insurance, and Industry Committee heard a bill on Tuesday that would include psychological disorders in police officers' workers compensation package if the disorder was caused by on-th-job events.

Mark Bruns, a lobbyist for the St. Louis Police Officers' Association said firefighters began receiving coverage for physiological disorders in the 1980s after a hotel structural collapse In Kansas City, Mo. In July 1981, walkways collapsed in the Hyatt Regency hotel. The collapse resulted in 114 people dead and 216 others injured.

Bruns said he wants law enforcement officers to have the same coverage as firefighters when it comes to psychological disorders.

The bill would also expand work-related delayed health illnesses that lead to death, to include when public safety employees are traveling to and from work and when they are on meal breaks.

Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Charles, is a firefighter and paramedic and he said that firefighters breaks get interrupted if there is an emergency.

"Even if we're eating lunch or if we're eating dinner, if the alarm goes off we have to respond," Hinson, bill supporter, said.

The Missouri House passed the bill last week in a 154-0 vote. The Senate committee must now vote on the bill and if it passes there them it moves to the full Senate floor.

The Missouri Senate passed its own version of the budget Monday that takes away funding from agencies that have been criticized for scanning and sharing personal information.

The Senate completely eliminated funding for the Motor Vehicle and Drivers License Division within the Department of Revenue. Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, has led probes into the department's scanning of documents for driver's license applicants. Schaefer has also spoken out against a conceal-carry list that the Department of Revenue forwarded to the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

The Senate also removed $20 million from the office of the director within the Department of Public Safety in its version of the budget. The department oversees the patrol, which told the Senate Appropriations Committee that it forwarded the list to the U.S. Social Security Administration.

Schaefer said he will not restore funding to the agencies unless they provide the answers he believes the legislature still needs.

"It's inappropriate to appropriate the public's money if you can't get a decent response from a state agency," Schaefer said.

Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, said the General Assembly should not deprive the agencies of oxygen by cutting funding if there is an issue. Schmitt said the legislature should work to address the problem directly.

Amid controversy over state agencies' handling of personal information, a Missouri lawmaker proposed a shift in the role of one department on Monday.

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, added $2 million into the Senate's version of the state budget to relieve the Department of Revenue of its duties in issuing conceal-carry permits.

Schaefer wants county sheriffs to conduct the entire process. Sheriffs offices already accept applications, process background checks and issue the permits. Permit-holders then take the information to a license bureau to receive a Photo ID to indicate they are endorsed as a conceal-carry holder.

Schaefer and other Republican lawmakers have criticized the Nixon administration and state agencies for sharing the conceal-carry list with federal agencies.

Schaefer said the scandal has breached the public's trust in state government.

"I think a lot of what we are now having to do as elected representatives and senators is go back and patch that up and rebuild that integrity that never should have jeopardized in the first place," Schaefer said.

Gov. Jay Nixon said the Department of Revenue will no longer scan or keep documents needed to obtain a conceal-carry permit. However, Republican lawmakers say the administration has not done enough to address the scandal.

Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, said directly elected sheriffs can do a much better job issuing the permits than unelected bureaucrats can.

Democratic Senators made another and perhaps final attempt to expand Medicaid during debate over the Senate's version of the budget Monday.

Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, tried to tack on nearly $900 million in federal funding to expand the program for low-income adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Gov. Jay Nixon proposed the expansion as part of his originial budget in January.

The GOP-led Senate defeated Justus' amendment and the Senate passed its version of the state budget without an expansion of the program. The House has also passed its budget without the expansion.

Under legislative rules, lawmakers cannot add funds into the final budget that were not featured in either chamber's plan.

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed said she was disappointed the state is not acting to help its working poor.

"Its a very sad, sad situation that we're in a situation that we're at a point where we can bring in monies to help the indigent, and to help the poor, and we're denying it," Nasheed said.

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said that the cost of the state's Medicaid program continues to increase, which compromises funding the state could spend on K-12 education. Schaefer said the only logical place to cut funding in the future would be in education if it becomes difficult to sustain the cost of Medicaid.

Sen. John Lamping, R-St. Louis County, said he was glad to have the opportunity to vote against the expansion on the floor. Lamping said the General Assembly will look back in a few years and realize it did the right thing.

The House forwarded seven pieces of legislation to the Senate Monday, including a bill that allows gamblers to take tokens out on credit, and a bill that exempts the state from Daylight Saving Time.

The gambling bill, sponsored by Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst, R-St. Louis County, would allow for casinos to enter into a loan agreement with a gambler who has completed a required credit application.

Scharnhorst said the bill will bring more revenue to the state.

Rep. Steve Cookson, R-Poplar Bluff, said this would take advantage of gamblers with low incomes.

“This is a non-existent problem. Let’s put it away like we should,” Cookson said.

But Rep. Myron Neth, R-Liberty, said the bill already accounts for those who should not be taking out loans.

“The casinos will not extend this credit unless they know they’re going to get it paid back,” Neth said. “So the idea that this is somehow praying on the poor or the disadvantaged is completely untrue. Those people can apply, but they will get declined.”

The House also backed Rep. Delus Johnson’s Daylight Saving bill which exempts the state from turning the clocks forward, therefore extending the amount of sunlight per year.

Johnson, R-St. Joseph, says the bill will lower the rates of depression and suicide which he says happen more often during periods of less sunlight.

The main opposition came from Rep. Margo McNeil, D-St. Louis County, who said she was concerned about children being at the morning bus stop in complete darkness.

The House also passed five other bills dealing with tax incentives, uninsured motorists, clerical errors with the state auditor, screening newborns for congenital heart failure and co-pays for cancer treatments.

While the Senate took up the state's budget Wednesday evening, the Office of Administration IT department saw deep cuts and the Department of Motor Vehicle's budget was wiped to zero.

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R- Columbia, the Appropriations Chairman, said the committee needs a commitment from the departments involved to stop scanning licenses and sharing information before they can get their funding back.

The senator made the threat to cut the funding a few weeks ago when the situation was unfolding. In justifying the cuts, Schaefer said the purpose of the database is to ultimately share it with other states.

"I think before we do that we need to have a public discussion of what people want," said Schaefer. "Because what I've heard from people from going around the state is that people don't want that. They want a driver's license, they want security in the procedure, but they don't want to have to give up all their privacy to do it."

Jolie Justus, D-Jackson County, questioned the necessity of the cuts and said there needs to be balance in his decision.

"My concern is, what if you are never satisfied with their reasoning?" asked Justus.

Schaefer said once the investigation develops and his questions are answered by the departments in the next few weeks, then the budget cuts can be reconsidered.

Lawmakers questioned the morality, wisdom and viability of a new process identifying Missourians that qualify for federal disability income.  

The new process would create three classes of people with disabilities. Rep. Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, expressed concern that the two lowest classes would result in many borderline cases, some of which do not really need the federal aid.

"It's not like we're talking about clear-cut instances where people are eligible for a program that they're not getting," Richardson said.

Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, also said that switching Missourians to Supplemental Security Income would give them less incentive to find work, resulting in cases of permanent welfare recipients.

The Department of Social Services estimated that switching residents to federal aid would result in $28 million in general revenue savings, simultaneously costing the federal government that same amount, in addition to the cost of sustained disability aid.

The state would pay Public Consulting Group over $2,000 per Missourian who switched to federal aid.

Despite December's lingering drought conditions leading barge industry trade groups to predict Mississippi River barge traffic could slow to a halt, Gov. Jay Nixon has declared today's flooding conditions of that same waterway a state of emergency.

Liz Norrenberns, a hydraulic engineer with the Missouri Army Corps of Engineers, said the change in conditions occurred quickly because of the mid-April storm's rapid onset and its more than six inches of rain water.

"In 2008, it just kept raining, and it would build up day after day, so there was time for people to prepare," Norrenberns said, "this one was very quick."

State disaster relief workers have been working to sandbag the banks of the river in an effort to hold off any damage due to the flooding. Norrenberns conceded said only so much can be done.

The river levels are expected to stabilize within the week.