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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of May 6, 2013

A day after Missouri lawmakers sent him a bill that would overhaul the state's tax system, Gov. Jay Nixon said he had major concerns with the legislation and suggested he would veto the measure.

"At this time, certainly, I'm not looking at it with an eye to add it the structure of Missouri government," Nixon said at a press conference Friday, May 10.

The legislation, which the House passed to the governor's desk Thursday, May 9, would cut taxes for individuals, corporations and small businesses

The tax-cut plan would reduce the state's top individual income tax rate by a half of a percent over the next ten years. The plan would also allow small business owners who deduct their business income on their individual returns to deduct 50 percent of their business income. The plan would also reduce the state's corporate tax rate from 6.25 percent to 3.25 percent over the next ten years.

"I have serious concerns about a tax bill yesterday evening," Nixon said Friday. "Taking more than 800 million dollars out of our state budget ... is not a fiscally responsible approach."

Bill sponsor Rep. T.J. Berry, R-Kearney, had a more optimistic outlook during Thursday's debate.

"Ten years down the line we will have less taxes and more revenue, that's where I see us," Berry said.

While Nixon and House Democrats said the tax cuts could leave a more than $800 million hole in the state budget, legislative staff estimates are not as drastic, and state that the proposed cuts could amount to as much as a $692 million per year hole in the state's coffers.

Missouri's House send the governor measures to eliminate tax breaks for lower income, but to provide tax breaks for businesses and those getting business income.

House action came shortly after they passed the final version of the state's $25 billion operating budget for the next fiscal year that begins July 1.

Legislative staff estimate elimination of tax credits for lower income elderly and disabled home renters will save the state $57 million per year.

Legislative staff offered estimates for the tax-cut bill that ranged as high as $692 million per year. In addition to business tax cuts, the measure would provide exemptions individuals' income that comes from businesses and would drop the income tax rate.

Extra tax revenue would come from expanding the state's sales tax to cover sales conducted on Internet.

The House vote fell short of the two-thirds vote that would be necessary to override a governor's veto.

Gov. Jay Nixon had criticized a larger tax cut bill that had been pending before the legislature.

The Missouri House approved the state’s budget Thursday, despite threats from Gov. Jay Nixon that cuts to the Department of Revenue would lead him to lay off staff in the agency.

But Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, said Nixon would be solely to blame for anyone put out of a job.

“His threat yesterday is disgusting, it’s dishonest, and it’s deplorable,” Barnes said. “It’s an insult to the intelligence of all Missourians.”

Republican budget leaders cut the department’s budget by 1/3, they said the cuts will allow further investigation into the department’s sharing of gun owner’s private information with the federal government through its new licensing procedure.

Rep. Rick Stream, R-St. Louis County, said Thursday that lawmakers would send a letter to Nixon stating their intent to restore the last four months of the department’s funding once they reconvene next year.

But House Democrats said they support Nixon’s decision to act on the notion that the budget constitutes a full-year’s worth of funding. They said it would be too big of a gamble to rely on the General Assembly to pass a supplemental budget fast enough so as to not put sales taxes and people’s ability to obtain driver’s licenses at risk.

The Senate is now voting on the budget proposals and has given its approval to about half of them.

With just days left in the legislative session, the Missouri House passed a measure Thursday that would put $1.2 billion of bond money into state building upgrades if voters approve.

House members voted 136-23 in favor of a bond measure to repair and upgrade the buildings. If it's approved by the legislature the bond measure would on Missouri's ballot in November 2014.

Republican House Speaker Tim Jones said the bond money would help build new college classrooms, upgrade the state's mental hospital and that it would create much-needed construction jobs throughout Missouri.

"This is an opportunity of a generation," said Jones, R-Eureka. "Missourians will reap deep dividends."

Jones sponsored the bill, but he said that one the bill's Democratic supporters, Rep. Chris Kelly, was influential in getting the speaker and most House members to support the measure. Kelly, D-Columbia, was absent for Thursdays vote. Kelly's staff confirmed that he was still recovering from chest pains that had put him in the hospital earlier this week.

But whether the bond measure will advance through the legislature this year is still uncertain. About a week remains in the regular legislative session as the measure moves to the Senate for the first time. Jones acknowledged that time is running short, but he said that even if it does not pass this year, he expects it will move more quickly next year and still be on the November 2014 ballot.

Despite bipartisan support for the measure, the Missouri House rejected a bill creating stricter evaluations for school principals and administrators.

Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, sponsored the bill in the Missouri House, which failed with a 76-82 vote.

Rep. Steve Webb, D-St. Louis County, said during his past 5 years in the legislature, the legislature has done "nothing significant" about the education system.

"Let's put a letter grade on this legislature. It's been an F," Webb said.

Sponsor Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, stood on the sidelines of the chamber during debate and votes. She tried to persuade members of the House to vote for the bill, but was eventually escorted from the chamber after Rep. Keith English, R-St. Louis County, yelled at her to stop threatening people and leave.

A sign outside the door of Rep. Doug Funderburk, a Republican who voted for HB 436

Missouri's House passed a bill to the governor's desk that would make federal firearm laws unenforceable in the state Wednesday night.

The measure would also allow certain employees in schools to carry concealed weapons and would make the minimum age to obtain a concealed carry permit 19 instead of 21.

Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis County, deemed the bill "more NRA-sponsored legislation.”

"This is a serious problem around the country and yet Missouri is a laughing stock because all we do is deal with bills that allow for availability of firearms," Newman said.

The bill needs to be signed by Gov. Jay Nixon before becoming law.

Missouri senators passed a House bill Wednesday to cut taxes for individuals, corporations and small businesses after Democrats led a late-night filibuster on Tuesday.

The plan is similar to a Senate bill passed in March, but it does not include a sales tax hike. Gov. Jay Nixon said in March he would veto a tax overhaul including a sales tax hike because it would hurt the poor, who tend to pay a larger share of their income toward sales taxes.

The plan would reduce the state's top individual income tax rate by a half of a percent over the next ten years. The plan would also allow small business owners who deduct their business income on their individual returns to deduct 50 percent of their business income. The plan would also reduce the state's corporate tax rate from 6.25 percent to 3.25 percent over the next ten years.

Throughout the periods of implementation, state revenues would have to increase by $100 million from the previous year for the tax cutting provisions to take effect. Legislative researchers estimate the plan could reduce state revenues by $700 million annually when fully implemented.

Missouri's Commissioner of Administration Doug Nelson said he is being blocked from information of who tried to access a website from a Missouri House computer that contains the names of concealed carry owners in Missouri.

When asked twice if the Office of Administration would provide the press with the same information the office had requested, Nelson did not guarantee the information would be shared.

"We would have to review the request," Nelson said.

Nelson said House Chief Clerk Adam Crumbliss responded to OA's request with the House's own open record request to the Office of Administration.

Nelson said in the House's response to OA's request, Crumbliss said the records would not be provided because they are exempt under Missouri's Sunshine law.

Missouri lawmakers passed an appropriations bill Wednesday that gives Missouri state parks $24 million.

The measure would allocate funding for parks to improve surface water conditions and for the renovation and maintenance of historic sites.

Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, said the state should not give this much money to parks since tax money already gives them $80 million per year.

"On one hand, they're telling us that they can't manage what they have," Silvey said. "Then on the other hand, they're saying we need to give them more land."

Silvey also said the $24 million would be better spent funding higher education facilities, which he said deserves more funding.

Silvey went through a long list of higher education projects that were not fully funded and have not been completed.

"Missouri Southern State Health Sciences building--18.9 is what we appropriated, 15.2 is what has been spent," Silvey said. "Are we going to finish that? No."

Those who spoke in support said they did not want to give more money to the higher education projects that have not been completed.

Only four Senators voted against the provision.

Gov. Jay Nixon speaks to reporters Wednesday, May 8, about the 2014 budget.

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon threatened to cut staff and reduce services Wednesday unless state lawmakers took another look at their approved budget.

Nixon issued the threat a day after a conference committee approved budget proposals that would only fund the state departments responsible for printing and issuing licenses for motor vehicles for two-thirds of the year.

"They leave me no choice," Nixon said. "I will reduce staff and services accordingly, including making the necessary layoffs effective July 1."

The conference committee, which is made up of House and Senate members, approved an almost $25 billion budget that goes into effect July 1. That budget would fund the state Division of Motor Vehicles and a division of the Office of Administration for eight months. Nixon called the committee-approved cuts "unprecedented" and "irresponsible."

Nixon refused to answer any questions after Wednesday's press conference and did not specify the department from which staff would be cut.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said Nixon's call for cutting staff was "unnecessary."

"There is absolutely no reason for the governor to layoff (staff)," said Schaefer, R-Columbia. "If he wants to do that, there's nothing I can do about that, it's not my call."

Schaefer said the budget conference committee would not meet again on the issue.

Lawmakers have until Friday to pass a budget to the governor.

The Missouri Senate is poised to vote on a measure that some lawmakers think will bring more jobs to the state, but others think could bust the state's budget.

A vote is expected on a massive tax overhaul bill Wednesday. The measure would decrease both corporate and personal income tax rates in phases over the next 10 years.

Opposing Democrats filibustered the bill for several hours Tuesday night. Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Jackson County, said Republicans threatened the Democrats into ending the filibuster.

"The message that we received was that if we did not allow this to come through to a vote eventually, that many of the priorities that we have been trying to defend over the last few months would be forced to a ID was the one that was brought up front and center," Justus said.

The "photo ID" bill would require Missouri voters to have a government-issued photo ID.

Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee's Summit, said he was unaware of a forceful message toward Democrats.

"All I can tell you is I know (the photo ID bill) was taken in from the chair of the Committee, so it was put on the calendar," Kraus said.

  State tornado relief for Joplin is one vote away in the Missouri Legislature 05/07/2013

A House committee voted Tuesday to create a temporary fund to help Joplin repair streets, bridges, and roads destroyed by the 2011 tornado catastrophe.

Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, presented the bill to the House committee on Tuesday in place of the bill's sponsor, Sen. John Lamping, R-St. Louis County. Flanigan said the bill was put together specifically to help with areas in Joplin.

The House Economic Development Committee voted 22-0 on the bill that would create a temporary "Rebuild Damaged Infrastructure Program" that would expire on June 30, 2014.

The program would provide money to Missouri areas that have been declared a natural disaster by the U.S. president. The money from the program would only be used to repair infrastructure needs such as streets and roads that were damaged from that particular natural disaster.

The temporary rebuild program would be funded through current funds such as the Lewis and Clark Discovery Fund and the Missouri Health and Educational Facilities Authority Act , that would amount to about $14 million for natural disaster areas in Missouri. The money from the current funds would be transferred to the newly created rebuild program on July 1 if the bill is approved in the current session.

On a Sunday afternoon on May 11, 2011, Joplin was hit with a tornado moving 200 mph. The tornado resulted in 158 deaths and over 1,000 injured people according to the National Weather Service. The tornado is ranked as the seventh deadliest in U.S. history.

Lawmakers from both chambers in the state Capitol spent several hours Tuesday mulling over differences in their proposed budgets for next year.

The final product includes a cut of four month's worth of funding for the Department of Revenue, exactly 1/3 of its proposed budget. It comes as lawmakers continue their months-long pressuring of the department on its controversial new licensing procedure.

Republican budget leaders said extending the budget would be reconsidered at the start of next year's session when more answers are available.

But controversy arose in a press conference when lawmakers appeared to be relying on bills that hadn't yet passed, like the repeal of a renter's tax credit that Gov. Jay Nixon has said he will veto.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Kurt Schaefer said he expects Nixon to pass it because he included it in his own version of the budget earlier this year, but Nixon has stated in recent weeks he only included it as a part of a larger tax credit reform package.

"This is a request that he made for $56 million and how it would be spent," said Schaefer, R-Columbia. "He clearly indicated in his own budget proposal that he would be prepared to spend that money so I hope he won't veto the bill."

The finalized budget must be sent to the governor's desk by Friday.

On Tuesday, the House overwhelmingly gave first-round approval to Bryce's Law, which would create scholarships to help parents pay for education for special needs children, like those with autism.

The vote only came after the bill's sponsor, Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst, R-St. Louis County, announced the program would be funded by grants instead of a tax-credit.

Bryce's Law is named after Scharnhorst's late grandson, who had autism.

If approved, Scharnhorst said he will stay on it for the rest of his life to work to find grants with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to fund the program.

"I am willing to go outside this building hat in hand and beg to educate these children," Scharnhorst said.

He also said he believes these new changes could help it finally pass both chambers. However, the plan still needs one more vote in the House before going to the Senate and there's less than two weeks left in the legislative session.

The bill would name bridges after former Democratic St. Louis Congressman William "Bill" Clay and St. Louis Cardinal great Stan "The Man" Musial.

Bill sponsor Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst, R- St. Louis County, said the bill will help Musial's name live on forever.

"What a great way to honor his name, with a monument that is going to last that long" Scharnhorst said.

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, said she was elated that Bill Clay would have the honor.

"That's a man who paid tribute to the movement, with an African American community for inclusion and it is well deserved" Nasheed said.

By passing the House the bill will go to the desk of Gov. Jay Nixon for approval.

The state Senate gave first-round approval to a bill which would create a legislative committee between sessions to study the way in which elementary and secondary public schools receive state funding -- otherwise known as the “foundation formula.”

Sponsor of the measure, Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-St. Louis County, said it could bring to light some of the issues within the formula and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“If they [people of St. Louis] knew [the department] was taking $3 million away from Special School District or $11.5 million away from St. Louis Public, people would be outraged and that’s exactly what’s happened,” Schmitt said.

Schmitt said with the foundation formula underfunded, DESE took state money away from certain schools in his district, such as Kirkwood and Parkway, without approval from the legislature. He said these schools were funded mostly locally rather than from the state.

The full bill needs another vote in the Senate before heading to the House for debate.

At least four law enforcement officials will be part of a committee to investigate the controversy in which the Department of Revenue released conceal carry information of more than 160,000 Missourians to a third party.

One member is the prosecuting attorney from Stoddard County, Russ Oliver, who is responsibile for a subpoena issued to Gov. Nixon.  Oliver issued the subpoena but said he still wants to question several other high level officials on the matter.

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said he would like to turn the entire process of issuing conceal carry permits over to county sheriffs, who are also involved in the committee.  Sheriffs Stuart Miller of Audrain County and Oliver Boyer of Jefferson County are currently named as members, but more officials will be added in the coming weeks.

After declaring a lack of cooperation from the Nixon administration, Speaker of the House Tim Jones announced the creation of the committee to delve into the controvery's origin and ways to prevent further problems.

The scandal erupted when state lawmakers discovered the Highway Patrol sent conceal carry permit information to the U.S. Social Security Administration to be used for an investigation into permit carriers with mental disabilities. The breached information included data regarding over 160,000 Missourians.

"I feel it is necessary to set up the [committee] to help rebuild the public's trust," Jones said.

Jones said the committee will issue a report by September 1 on its findings.

Last Week

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.