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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of March 3, 2014

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster received support in his pursuit to ban California's egg law.

In 2015, a California provision of a multi-year national farm bill would require better treatment of chickens, which they would extend out to all states that supply their eggs.

The initiative would require farmers to expand their hen houses enough for chickens to lie down in any direction.

Missouri farmers collectively sell 2 billion eggs to California each year, but in order to comply with this law it would cost farmers $120 billion combined.

In the beginning of February, Koster sued California saying the law was unconstitutional.

Now, Nebraska, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Alabama and Iowa have joined Missouri in challenging the law.

“We welcome the five states joining our effort,” Koster said in a press release.

But Koster said it is not just about farming practices.

"At stake is whether elected officials in one state may regulate the practices of another state’s citizens, who cannot vote them out of office."

Rep. Sheila Solon, R- Jackson County, introduced a bill for the third year in a row that would prevent health care providers from charging more out-of-pocket costs for oral cancer treatments than intravenous treatments.

Solon said the intravenous treatments are harder on cancer patients because they have to be hooked up to an IV for hours and experience harsher side effects.

She said bill will also help economically because it will allow patients to get back to work more quickly than when they have to go through the intravenous treatment.

Solon received bipartisan support from Democrats who commended her work on the bill.

The same day the House passed a bill extending the waiting period for having an abortion from 24 hours to 72 hours, a democratic filibuster in the Senate blocked it.

State lawmakers spent four hours Wednesday, March 5, debating the measure.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, said he wants pregnant women to have sufficient time to reflect on this life changing issue.

Opponents of the bill said the government does not have the right to tell a woman to wait 72 hours to have an abortion.

"This bill is a bill to really stop women from having abortions. I mean, this is a stall tactic right here," Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City said.

A split among Senate Republicans delayed a vote on one of the key issues for the GOP-controlled legislature -- a cut in the state's income tax rates.

Last year, Gov. Jay Nixon had vetoed a tax cut measure arguing it would harm funding for local public schools.

This year, the Senate's tax-cut sponsor -- Sen. Will Kraus, R-Jackson County -- entered into extended negotiations with the governor's office to craft a bill the governor could sign.

On Wednesday, March 5, Kraus presented his compromise to the Senate chamber.

It would tie income tax rate reductions to increases in education funding and cuts in tax breaks for real estate developers.

"I think we can put bill after bill on the governor's desk, he's going to veto it and basically just say that hurts education," Kraus said to his colleagues in presenting the compromise approach.

Under the proposal Kraus presented to the Senate, a major portion of the income tax cut would not take effect until the state met the funding level set in the state law that allocates state appropriations to local public schools.

But the Senate Appropriations Committee Chair -- Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia -- argued that would delay the full tax cut implementation indefinitely. Schaefer said the state is more than $600 million below the legal minimum funding level for education and unlikely to reach the legal level in the immediate future.

Schaefer also questioned whether Kraus really had a solid deal with Nixon to sign a tax-cut bill.

"They are pretty slick about how they word things," Schaefer told Kraus. "So while you may believe you have a deal, it may not be a mutual feeling on the other side."

Another senator offered an alternative that eliminated all of the provisions sought by the governor and more than doubled the size of the tax cut Kraus had brought to the Senate.

The original bill would have phased in income tax rate reductions based on tax collection growth. Legislative staff estimate that when the tax cuts were fully phased in, the state tax collections would be more than $900 million less each year than would have been collected without the tax cuts.

Because each year of the phased-in income tax rate cut would occur only if there had been a growth in tax collections in a prior year, Kraus argued his plan would not cut government agency budgets.

"We're not going to be cutting core-level budgets with this proposal. We're going to take the growth of government and return it to taxpayers," Kraus said.

But Sen. Paul LeVota, D-Kansas City, attacked Republicans for seeking tax cuts while some also where pushing for a sales tax increase for transportation.

"We're actually discussing an issue where we're going to raise some taxes to fix the roads, so we're not in apposition where we have so much extra money."

Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, donated $250,000 to his campaign fund to challenge Sen. Brian Nieves for his seat in the Senate.

"When I got in the race I wasn't kidding, and I can't get in half-way, so I had to make a statement that I am in this race, I am going to continue on this path and I plan on winning the 26th seat," Schatz said.

Nieves was unavailable for comment.

Schatz said he heard that Nieves may withdraw from the race.

Both legislators have filed for the upcoming Republican Primary in August.

The Missouri House passed a bill Wednesday, March 5, that would cap non-economic injuries a plaintiff can collect if they sue a doctor for medical malpractice.

The non-economic injuries capped under the bill are damages for pain and suffering.

The bill passed despite a number of Republicans voting against it.

Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, sponsored the bill.

He said caps on pain and suffering damages are very helpful for different people and groups.

“Caps go a great deal to reducing the costs for not only the medical community, but for the patient,” Burlison said. “It also reduces the number of claims and also reduces the amount of defensive medicine.”

Speaking in opposition, Rep. Jeff Grisamore, R-Jackson County, implored members to think about the victims as if they were their kids.

“I don’t want to see legitimate victims of medical malpractice and negligence, even if unintended, thrown under the bus of economic expediency,” Grisamore said. “And to place an arbitrary lifetime cap of $350,000 for non-economic damages for pain and suffering, mental anguish, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfiguration, and loss of the capacity to enjoy life… Madame Speaker, it is immoral, and it is not pro-life, and it is not constitutional, or in keeping with our Bill of Rights.”

The bill passed by a 94-61 margin and now heads to the Senate.

State lawmakers gave first round approval to a bill that would require women to wait 72-hours instead of 24-hours to have an abortion after giving consent.

Most Democratic representatives strongly opposed the bill and said it involves too much government involvement into the personal lives of Missouri citizens.

But, many Republicans said asking for a three-day waiting period is not that much to ask for.

"I feel that this is a very important decision that is being made," Sonya Anderson, R-Springfield, said. "And not only is life of the mother being affected, but we're talking about the life of a child."

Rep. Linda Black, D-Desloge, added an amendment to the bill requiring women to watch an informative video and sign off on it prior to having an abortion. The House adopted the amendment.

"It's patronizing, it's insulting," Rep. Margo McNeil, D-St. Louis County said in response to Black's amendment. "It's really a shame that here this body that holds freedom and the rights of people to act according to their conscience in a constitutionally accepted way, to act in a constitutionally accepted manner, we are putting these kind of prohibitions and I find it insulting."

The House approved the bill by a 115 to 37 vote, which is more than the two-thirds majority to override a governor's veto.

The measure needs another vote to get to the Senate.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced, Wednesday, March 5, a woman is paying $39,000 for rebuilding efforts in Joplin after an investigation revealed she took a large portion of money collected for Joplin-tornado relief and spent it on herself.

Sidney Ray-Bazan collected more than $133,000 in donations and illegally withheld more than $39,000 - nearly 30 percent - of that money for personal use.

"Some individuals diverted charitable donations for personal gain," Koster said in a statement. "I am pleased that today we return a portion of that money to the people of Joplin."

Koster's statement said the check will go to the Community Foundation of the Ozarks,which will give the funds to Rebuild Joplin, a non-profit agency dedicated to Joplin's rebuilding efforts.

In addition to repaying the funds, Ray-Bazan agreed not to solicit funds for charitable purposes in the state of Missouri for five years. The Attorney General's Office filed an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance with the Jasper County Circuit Court Wednesday. The agreement is subject to court approval.

Gov. Jay Nixon announced. Wednesday, March 5, the state of Missouri will sell $3.2 billion in Missouri goods to Quebec over the next four years.

The agreement would increase Missouri's exports to 15 percent by 2018. Missouri's Director of Economic Development Mike Downing and Quebec's Minister of Industrial Policy Elaine Zakaib signed the deal.

"Selling more Missouri goods abroad creates more Missouri jobs back home," Gov. Nixon said in a statement. "Canada is our largest trading partner, and this $3.2 billion agreement with Quebec will solidify this relationship while strengthening Missouri's economy for years to come."

Nixon made the announcement on a delegation to Canada where he met with Canadian companies and the American Chamber of Commerce in Toronto.

Canada purchased nearly $4 billion in Missouri products last year, making the country Missouri's largest export market.

Sen. Will Kraus, R-Jackson County, said he and the governor’s office talked through a tax cut bill that the Gov. Nixon would potentially sign.

His message during Wednesday’s Senate debate was to get a reasonable bill to the governor’s desk.

“We are trying to work within the confines of getting a bill that will be signed into law,” Kraus said. “I think a reasonable bill has a reasonable chance, and that is all we can do at this point.”

Kraus and the governor’s office worked out a compromise that stipulated tax cuts would not kick in until the School Foundation Formula is fully funded.

The Foundation Formula provides funding for school districts across the state and is more than a half billion dollars behind schedule.

Sen. Paul LeVota, D-Independence, said he is opposes this bill, and said other people should not change their stance.

“If you believed in the original purpose of the bill, then you have to be against this because it doesn’t even do that,” LeVota said.

Missouri representatives want to give the State Board of Education authority to restrict where students from unaccredited districts can transfer.

Rep. Rick Stream, R-St. Louis County, is sponsoring a bill that creates a statewide achievement school district as a political subdivision, to which State Board of Education must transfer all under-performing schools in an unaccredited district. The bill also requires the state board to provide assistance teams to borderline and provisionally accredited districts and to continue monitoring schools assigned to an unaccredited district.

"I'm trying to protect the receiving districts from being overwhelmed with more students than they can handle," Stream said. "The sending districts, I'm trying to protect them by reducing the tuition payments that are being sent to the receiving districts."

Rep. Mike Cierpiot, R-Jackson County, presented a bill that includes a private option. Once superintendents within a reasonable bus ride say they can take no more kids, transfer students can choose to attend private schools funded by tax credits.

Members of the state House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education expressed concerns that these proposals may be moving problems from one school to another, and they will be masked by the receiving school's population. Rep. Genise Montecillo, D-St. Louis County, said she fears commonalities between unaccredited schools are not being considered.

"When we look at districts that are unaccredited, the common thread is that they have very, very high poverty rates," Montecillo said. "We're putting more impediments on these students when they have less time in a seat. We could be making things worse."

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

Plans to update a dilapidated state mental health facility were stalled by a filibuster during a Senate hearing Tuesday, March 4.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, would raise the cap on revenue bonds by about $600 million. The substantial amount of money the state would have to borrow would go toward both rebuilding the Fulton Mental Health Hospital in Callaway County and renovating higher education facilities owned by the state.

"It's probably time to take care of some of our buildings that I believe we have an obligation to here in the Senate," said Parson during the hearing.

However, the bill met stiff opposition from more fiscally-conservative lawmakers who want to keep the state from furthering its debts.

"You want us to go from around $4.1 billion in total indebtedness up to like $4.7 billion?" asked Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph.

"One of the things I keep hearing is that this is the perfect time in history to borrow money," said Schaaf. "I don't believe that at all. I think that this is a horrible time in history to borrow money."

Sensing that there would be no vote on the bill, the Senate adjourned for the evening.

A bill presented to the House on Tuesday, March 4, would reinstate a ban on foreign ownership of farmland, with some exceptions.

In 2013, foreign entities were allowed to own farmland as long as the total amount of land owned did not exceed 1 percent of the total agricultural land in Missouri.

In addition, the Director of the Department of Agriculture had to grant approval over any foreign ownership.

In this bill proposed, by Rep. Tony Dugger, R-Hartville, a ban on foreign ownership would be put in place with the exception of any owner from the months of October 11, 2013 to August 28, 2014.

Rep. John Wright, D-Rocheport, asked Leslie Holloway of the Missouri Farm Bureau, who testified for informational purposes, if the 10-month lift of the ban had anything to do with the Smithfield transaction.

Smithfield Foods is a pork and hog producer that operates in eight different states, Missouri being one of them.

Last year, China proposed a $4.7 billion deal to buy Smithfield.

Holloway and Dugger both said they were unsure of the bill’s motives.

After a 3-year, online-only hiatus, Missouri's Official State Manual will return to print publication.

According to Secretary of State Jason Kander's website, the manual has been published by the state for over 100 years, and contains detailed information on local, state and federal governments. It also contains stories, essays and pictures that help preserve the state's heritage.

In 2010, Missouri lawmakers voted to discontinue the printing of the manual, more commonly referred to as the 'Blue Book', and place the information solely online.

In a press release issued Tuesday, March 4, Kander announced that through a joint effort with the Missouri Press Association, the 2013-2014 'Blue Book' will be available in print once again.

The Missouri Press Association, a non-profit organization, will be in charge of the production and distribution of the new Blue Book.

"We look forward to putting this comprehensive resource back into print," said Doug Crews, Executive Director of the Missouri Press Association. "Interacting with elected officials and government agencies is vastly easier with a 'Blue Book' at your fingertips."

The House General Laws Committee was urged to prohibit landlords from restricting firearms on rented property.

The bill heard by the committee Tuesday, March 4, would provide that a leaser could legally keep a weapon and not be in violation of the lease agreement. The bill also would provide that a landlord would not be responsible for damage cause by the tenant's use or possession of a firearm.

The bill's sponsor is Rep. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane.

"I even have a directive from the St. Louis County house authority that instructs its managers and landlords to included a weapons prohibition in their lease agreement," Riddle told the House committee.

"As of 2012, census records show 7 percent of all Missourians rent apartments, that is a significant amount of the population that would have their Second Amendment rights violated and unable to defend themselves in a dangerous situation."

Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis City, said that private property owners have their own rights as well.

"Government intrusion of regulation is one thing, but there's nothing that prohibits me as a private citizen owning a building discriminating against a gun owner if I want to," Colona said. "So its not a governmental intrusion for me as a private citizen to prohibit guns on my property, why do you want to tell me what to do with my private property?"

A proposed rewrite to the Missouri criminal code would impose greater sentences for violent crimes committed within the state.

"For the past three years, this legislature has been vetting what will be the most significant rewrite of the criminal code since 1979," said Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Jackson County, during a press conference on Tuesday, March 4.

Among the supporters who attended the conference were members of the Missouri Bar, the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (MAPA), and state legislators.

"[This bill] brings new tools for prosecutors to use so we can successfully prosecute cases and do what is right in every case and every situation," said Matt Selby, president of MAPA. "We support this revision because it promotes public safety."

Violent crimes are the main focus of the 1100-page bill. Under the bill, drunk drivers involved in fatal wrecks could face up to a decade in prison. Four new felony classes would be added for child sexual abuse cases, and incest would be added as an aggravating factor for these crimes.

Supporters are unsure when the revision will be debated by legislators.

Last Week

One of the state's largest unaccredited schools could regain accreditation under a measure given first-round approval by the state Senate Wednesday night, Feb. 26.

Rather than accrediting or stripping accreditation for an entire school district, the measure would require the state Board of Education to make accreditation decisions on the basis of separate buildings, or schools, within a district.

Only if  55 percent or more of the district's buildings were unaccredited could the entire district lose accreditation.

Under that provision, the unaccredited Normandy School District in St. Louis County would regain accreditation since it barely has enough buildings that meet accreditation standards, said the bill's sponsor -- Sen. Dave Pearce, R-Warrensburg and chair of the Senate Education Committee.

Normandy's accreditation could happen in time for the next school because, Pearce noted, the bill has a section that would put it into effect immediately upon approval by the governor.

Supporters argue that determining accreditation by separate schools rather than then entire district would reduce the number of students seeking transfer to other districts under a law guaranteeing the right to transfer by student in an unaccredited district.

It also would save money for the student's district that has to pay tuition costs of the schools receiving the student transfers. The transfer cost to Normandy has financially threatened that school and led to an emergency $5 million appropriation measure in the legislature to keep the school open in the remaining months of the current school year.

Missouri's education commissioner Chris Nicastro has said the current transfer costs for unaccredited schools is not sustainable for unaccredited districts.

"If their home district goes bankrupt, if their home district can't afford to pay their bills, that's not if we can keep that district afloat, if we can reduce the money that is leaving that district, then I think we're all successful," Pearce said.

The Senate's Democratic leader for the bill said the provision also would allow students to attend accredited schools closer to home than if they had to transfer to an outlying district.

"It saves dollars and it keeps kids local and in their community," said Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal D-St. Louis County.

Accreditation of schools is one of several changes in the bill designed to address problems arising from the current law that give students in an unaccredited district the legal to transfer to an accredited district.

In St. Louis and Kansas City, some accredited schools have complained they lack the facilities and staff to handle a large number of transfers.

The bill would set up a process for managing transfers and would give the highest priority for available seats to the lowest achieving students.

In addition, the bill would require a school district to pay at least some of the tuition for a student in an unaccredited school who transfers to a private school located within the district.

The measure faces a second vote in the Senate before going to the House.

Struggling students would be given the priority for their choice of school transfer if their current school district is unaccredited in an amendment to a measure debated by the Senate.

The amendment to a bill on unaccredited schools was sponsored by Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis County. She said the whole measure is about education reform.

"This whole conversation is about the children who are most in need and giving them options," she said.

Her amendment, however, came under criticism from Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph.

"Why are we rewarding the low-achieving student? I mean, is the student low achieving for sure not within the student's control?"

Legislation would allow terminally ill patients to take drugs not fully approved by the FDA.

Under the measure, the drug must have passed stage one of the FDA approval process, which is the safety phase, and the patient must consent to taking the drug.

The bill would also states all other doctor-recommended options must have been used before a patient can experiment with an investigational drug.

Rep. Jim Neely, R-Cameron, is a physician and sponsored the bill. He explained one situation of a family with two boys who have Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

"One boy is responding well to the treatment - the other boy can't get it because it's an investigational medication," Neely said. "And they won't bring in the other child. It'd be tough to be that parent."

Neely said a hospice agency voiced concern on the bill because they thought it would give false hope to patients.

"I think it is compassionate," Patrick Ishmael from the Show-Me Institute. "I think it provides hope and I think it's humane."

Neely said the bill would give people the right to be in charge of their own life and allow people to make their own decisons about their treatment methods.

Just hours after Missouri executed its fourth inmate in as many months, a Springfield Republican lawmaker said he wants to bring greater transparency to the execution process.

Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, introduced a bill that would would bring the execution process out of secret.

Burlison said much of the controversy surrounding Missouri and the death penalty shouldn't have happened.

"A lot of this could've been avoided if this process and the decisions that were made were not done in secret," Burlison said.

Early Wednesday morning, Missouri executed Michael Taylor who was convicted of kidnapping, raping, and murdering a teenage girl in Kansas City in 1989.

Like the other inmates Missouri executed in recent months, Taylor was executed with pentobarbital, but this time, a different pharmacy provided the drug.

Attorney General Chris Koster refused to name the pharmacy, citing the execution team's anonymity.

Burlison said Missouri's process must be out in the open for the public to see.

"I think that whatever our process is, it's a process that we should trust, and that it's a process that should be open to the public," Burlison said. "And if it's not open to the public, then I think that people in general are losing their faith in government."

The committee took no action on the bill.

Missouri Senators voted to give the State Board of Education power to eliminate failing school districts.

Under the act, if the Board of Education and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education determined a district could not afford to finish the school year, the district would be prevented from starting in the fall and could be shut down alltogether.

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, sponsored the measure. He said it prevents situations like those in St. Louis counties where a district came to lawmakers asking for extra money to survive until summer.

"I am moving that crisis point sooner," Schaefer. "So, not when we're 500 feet before impact in a train wreck, but when we're five miles down the road and we know there's a stalled truck on the track."

The amendment is part of a proposal aiming to help failing school districts.

A measure before a House committee would change the Missouri state flag for the first time in a century.

Rep. Jeff Roorda, D-Jefferson County, is the sponsor of a bill that could change the flag or standardize it.

“There's some folks that don't think that the design is consistent across the state,” Roorda said. “There's some folks that think that maybe we ought to update the flag as Colorado did.”

The measure would commission the Secretary of State along with one person from each congressional district to travel the state and gather public opinion.

Roorda said the commission has no strict plans to change the flag but just gather public opinion to see what they should do.

The flag was originally designed by Marie Elizabeth Oliver and adopted in 1913.

Attorney General Chris Koster made a statement after the execution of Michael Taylor early Wednesday morning, Feb. 26.

Koster was quoted as saying Taylor spent 20 years attempting to convince the courts to overturn his death sentence, five years longer than Ann Harrison lived on this earth. He asked that people take a moment to keep Ann and her family in their thoughts and prayers.

Michael Taylor and Roderick Nunley were convicted 25 years ago of abducting 15-year-old Kansas City girl Ann Harrison as she waited for her school bus. Taylor and Nunley were also found guilty of repeatedly raping the girl, then stabbing her to death and leaving her body in the trunk of a stolen car.

Taylor's attorneys petitioned for a stay of execution due to questions about the state's supplier for the new execution drug, and concerns that pentobarbital would cause their client inhumane pain and suffering. Gov. Jay Nixon and the Missouri Supreme Court denied the petitions.

Taylor's execution marks the fourth in four months.

A plan to force unaccredited school districts to help pay tuition for some children to attend private schools survived in Missouri's Senate.

The Senate effectively shot down an effort to remove a plan that could force an unaccredited school district to pay some or all of the tuition costs for students to attend private schools within the district.

"We're just trying to provide an additional local option, an additional local option that children and those families do not currently have," said Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles County.

The fight to take the funding for private school enrollment was led by Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City.

"Are we fostering an environment where all kids have the chance to succeed when we're giving money to private schools that have admission standards that say 'we're not going to take all kids?'"

The provision for private school tuition was included in the Senate Education Committee's proposal to address the state's failing school districts.

Tuesday night, Feb. 25, the Senate effectively defeated Holsman's amendment to take that provision out of the bill.

Instead, the chamber voted to substitute language that would impose additional requirements on private schools that would be eligible, such as being accredited.

The measure before the Senate would require an unaccredited district to pay at least part of the tuition of any nonsecretarian private school in the district that the student chose to attend.

The tuition costs could not exceed the tuition the unaccredited school charged students from outside its district.

In addition, private school tuition would not be paid if there was any public school that remained accredited in the unaccredited district.

Unlike current law in which an entire district is either accredited or unaccredited, the proposal before the Senate would allow separate buildings, or schools, in an unaccredited district to remain accredited.

By a 22-6 vote, Missouri's Senate rejected giving unaccredited and provisionally accredited districts the power to fire teachers including tenured teachers.

The provision had been included in the substitute approved by the Senate Education Committee the week before.

But on Tuesday, Feb. 25, the committee's chair -- Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg -- voiced support to his colleagues for taking out the provision.

Pearce had offered that committee substitute, but he said he realized there could be unintended consequences that would cost troubled districts their best teachers.

"It would be a disincentive for some teachers to possibly work in the toughest in those districts that are struggling because what assurances would they have they would have a job?" Pearce asked.

"What would prevent a whole lot of people just saying this is going to be unfair, I'm going to leave and going to a neighboring building in my district. And who's left to teach?"

Even supporters of allowing troubled districts to fire tenured teachers voiced support for dropping the idea voicing fears it could cause a filibuster or get the bill vetoed by the governor.

Kit Bond

A major leader in the creation of the modern Missouri Republican Party came before a state business group to promote a measure that already has been rejected by GOP state lawmakers -- Medicaid expansion.

Kit Bond spoke to a conference of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, an organization that has retained the former U.S. senator and former governor to lobby for the idea.

Bond repeated his opposition to the underlying federal health care law, but warned that the law includes cuts in federal medical payments that will harm Missouri health providers without the extra funds from Medicaid expansion.

"If Missouri doesn't act to address these coming cuts, I'm concerned that hospitals in rural and inner communities will be forced to make dramatic cuts in their services and in some cases, close their doors," Bond said.

But Bond's endorsement for Medicaid expansion has not won over two of the harshest Republican critics in the Missouri Senate.

"Other than being a mild curiosity, I don't know that it really adds much to it," said Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia. "I understand he has a position that he's advocating for, but I don't know if that's going to change anybody's mind."

The Senate's only physician, Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, said he was in more agreement when Bond had voiced opposition to the entire federal health care law.

Bond, however, argued to the business group that Medicaid expansion could be used as a vehicle for major changes that Republicans have sought in the system.

"A Missouri solution designed with true market principles can reward the values of hard work, self sufficiency and personal responsibility; not punishment which the current system too often does," Bond said.

Bond cited various ideas that have been proposed in the legislature including health savings accounts by which recipients would have a choice in how to spend limited health care funds and extra charges for services like emergency rooms that were used inappropriately.

But Schaafer said some of these changes would require changes in federal law and beyond what Missouri has the power to require in its Medicaid program.

Bond said he has been talking with individual Missouri Republican legislators, but he acknowledged that there are not yet sufficient votes for passage.

"Do we have all the votes now? No, but we've got a significant number who are working on the process and I can tell you that there are enough of them engaged in the process right now that there will be, as the session develops, a significant group coming forward."

Earlier this year, a Medicaid expansion effort was defeated in the Senate without a single Republican vote in support. Last year, a similar effort failed in the House with only one Republican vote in support against more than 100 against expansion.

    It was ethics day in the Missouri statehouse, Tuesday Feb. 25.

Ethics bills presented to lawmakers in both the House and Senate, would:

Rep. Kevin McManus, D-Jackson County, a sponsor of one of the ethics bills, said he is not trying to terminate the process between lobbyist and legislators, but he said he wants to address the excessiveness of lobbyist gifts. He said his goal is to restore the faith of the Missouri general public when they see the lobbyist reports printed in newspapers throughout the state. 

Rep. Don Gosen, R-St. Louis County, asked about the possibility of legislators resigning early in order to start their two or three year cooling off period sooner.

Another bill sponsor, Rep. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said in reply that that is a possible result of the legislation, but he said the desire of the cooling off period is to make the legislative process as pure as possible.

Rep. John McCaherty, R-St. Louis County, asked why the General Assembly only would be affected by these ethics bills and not the governor or executive branch. Rowden said he did not leave them out for any particular reason and would be willing to make amendments on that issue.

McCaherty also questioned bill sponsors on the purpose of not allowing legislators to work as paid consultants.

Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis City, said that he really did not see the problem with the way things are and that full disclosure has already provided complete transperency.

The discussion of ethics bills in the Senate entailed much less discussion, but bills proposed by Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, and Sen. Will Kraus, R-Jackson County, both addressed similar principles.

Neither the House nor Senate took action on any of the bills presented.

Missouri lawmakers want to ignite the state's economy with legislation that would allow hiring business recruiters to bring jobs from other states.

The bill, known as the Missouri Business Recruiters Act, would create positions for state business recruiters. The recruiters would lure out-of-state businesses to Missouri and receive compensation for each business relocation equal to 2 percent of the withholding tax received from the relocated jobs.

The bill states that the jobs have to be retained for one year before the recruiter can receive wages. Also, the recruited jobs must be full-time jobs at or above the national average in wages.

Missouri residents would be asked to decide on a law that requires voters to provide a government-issued photo ID in order to vote in an election.

The measure was given first-round approval by the House Tuesday, Feb. 25. The House then gave first-round approval to a companion bill that would impose the requirement if the constitutional amendment was approved.

The implementation bill's sponsor, Rep. Tony Dugger, R-Hartville, said this is the only reliable way to prevent voter fraud.

"There are Missouri counties with abnormally high voter rolls. Many, 90 percent of the population of the county, even one county that has 105 percent of registered voters," said Dugger. "The only way to truly verify one's identity on election day is with a photo ID."

Opponents argue the bill will disenfranchise inner city and minority residents.

Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said he believes the real purpose of this bill is to prevent older black women from voting.

Kelly also asked the bill's supporters to cite instances of voter fraud in Missouri.

"I think, if you're going to support a bill that's going to disenfranchise 220 thousand Missourians, you should be able to name a single instance," said Kelly.

The bill was passed along party lines with not one Republican voting against the measure nor one Democrat voting in support.

Previously, the legislature had placed a similar constitutional amendment on the November 2012 ballot. Legal challenges however, tied the measure up in the courts, thus blocking the issue from being submitted to the voters.

Conflicting views from exonerated killers, a rape survivor and numerous attorneys were presented Monday, Feb. 24, to the Senate Judiciary Committee on a measure to impose tougher standards on the use of eyewitness testimony in criminal cases.

Joshua Kezer was exonerated of murder by an appeals court after spending nearly two decades in prison.

"I was put in prison for 16 years," Kezer said. "That means their killer was left on the street. That's not acceptable when other people could possibly be victimized."

A different side was presented by Kansas City area Kim Case who described her trauma from gang rape.

"I was choked to unconsciousness more times than I can remember," Case said. "I was beaten and gagged and brutalized."

She said she correctly identified her attackers and that the bill's proposed changes would make it harder to process cases like hers.

Bill Sponsor Joseph Keaveney, D- St. Louis city, said the bill was drafted using recommendations from former prosecutors, city judges, a retired judge and law professors.

Part of the team is University of Missouri Law Professor Paul Litton. He said the U.S. had a record-breaking 87 exonerations in the past year.

“The main cause of wrongful conviction is wrongful eyewitness identification,” Litton said. “This happens not because of malice, but because our memories aren’t as good as we thought they were.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee took no immediate action on the bill.

After months of debate, House Budget Chairman Rick Stream, R-St. Louis County, and other House leaders agreed on a bipartisan plan to fund a new state mental hospital in Fulton.

Rep. Jeanie Riddle's, R-Mokane, district is home to the current hospital. She said a new hospital hasn't been built for a multitude of reasons.

"Progress has been prevented because of revenue shortages, lack of political will and mostly bureaucrats," Riddle said.

The measure calls for a 5-year revenue bond proposal in which Missouri would pay approximately $47 million a year into the bond.

This is different than the 25 year proposal Gov. Jay Nixon proposed.

Stream estimates the interest payments on the bonds will only cost taxpayers $30 million over 5 years, a savings of $120 million over Nixon's plan.

Republican House Speaker Tim Jones, R-St. Louis County, criticized lawmakers who came before him, saying they should have done something about the hospital.

"This project's long overdue," Jones said. "Our predecessors before this probably could've taken care of this issue decades ago."

Republican Majority Leader John Diehl, R-St. Louis County, said this is a good use of taxpayer's money.

"This is a way to do this project in a manner which is fiscally responsible," Diehl said.

Shortly after the announcement, Nixon's press secretary Scott Holste released a statement on behalf of Nixon.

"We applaud Chairman Stream for working on a bipartisan plan to issue bonds to address this issue so that the project can begin without needless delay," the statement said.

The Republican-led House Workforce Committee heard two bills Monday, Feb. 24, involving right-to-work legislation in Missouri.

Right-to-work means an individual has the right to decide if you want to join a union.

The first measure heard by the committee would allow workers to refuse to join a union or pay union dues.

Bill sponsor, Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, said the right to choose is fundamental to our liberty.

Rep. Karla May, D-St. Louis City, opposed the measure.

“We want to protect workers, but when we’re protecting workers we are protecting their right to organize,” May said.

Jay Atkins, a lobbyist for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, testified in favor of the bill. He said the choice to sign into a union contract should be up to the employee.

“I think it is smart for workers to operate with a contract and if they can do that,” Atkin said. “But I don’t think it’s smart to force them into it.”

Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, said non-union employees do not have the right to bargain and are at the whim of the employer.

The second measure would allow each county to vote separately if it wishes to allow right-to-work to pass.

24 states have currently passed right-to-work legislation.

A new measure in the Missouri House encourages food stamp recipients to buy fresh fruits and vegetables from their local farmer's market.

The House Government Oversight and Accountability Committee heard a bill, Monday, Feb. 24, that would create a pilot program that allows food stamp recipients to buy fresh fruits and vegetables with their electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card. 

 The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, would also allow those who purchase fresh produce to receive a dollar-for-dollar match of their food stamp money if they purchase $10 of fresh   produce a week.

Once the recipient purchases fresh produce, the Department of Social Services would put matching funds onto that person's EBT card.

Several groups advocating for healthier lifestyles testified in support of the bill.

Co-founder and executive director of Cultivate Kansas City, Katherine Kelly, said a program her organization supports, similar to the bill's pilot program, is good for the community.

"Our experience is that local food, fresh food at farmer's markets is a healthy addiction," Kelly said. "Once you taste really good healthy food, you want to keep coming back."

Dan Kuebler, vice president of Missouri Farmers Market Association, said one specific area of the state needs a program like this.

"Out in the country, there's a great need for this," Kuebler said. "It's difficult for those communities to find the funding for a program like this. They just don't have the population density and the foundations to support them."

Rep. Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, expressed reservations about giving the department the authority to determine what exactly a farmer's market is.

"We might think about writing [the farmer's market] definition into the statute," Richardson said.

No one spoke in opposition and the committee took no action on the bill.