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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of February 23, 2015

Gov. Jay Nixon issued a statement late Friday that one of his long-time staffers will replace the deceased Tom Schweich to be state auditor on a temporary basis.

Named was John Watson who had been Nixon's chief of staff until stepping down to become a senior adviser to the governor.

Previously, Watson had served as chief of staff for Nixon when he was attorney general.

The statement indicated that Watson would resign when Nixon chooses a permanent replacement.

Under Missouri's Constitution the governor has the power to fill the full remaining term of a statewide office vacancy without review by the legislature.

A state law requires the governor to name a replacement "immediately."

Watson's appointment transfers to a Democratic staffer the auditor's office that had been held by a Republican who was reelected without Democratic opposition.

Gov. Jay Nixon will no longer travel to Cuba on Sunday after the death of State Auditor Tom Schweich.

In a statement released by his office Friday afternoon, Nixon said his wife, Georganne, will take his place on the trade mission.

“The First Lady has represented the State of Missouri on numerous trade missions in the past and is well-prepared to lead this important delegation,” Nixon said in a statement. "I’m confident that this will be a productive mission for the benefit of farmers, ranchers and all Missourians".

Since the governor will no longer be traveling, the trip will be paid for by the Hawthorn Foundation.

Gov. Jay Nixon could not be hired at the University of Missouri under a passed Senate measure.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, would prohibit any member of the University of Missouri board of curators from hiring the individual that appointed them to the board.

"It's directed at any governor who puts the majority of members on that board to make sure that those curators are not pressured to then put whatever governor that put them on the board in the position of president or other position at the university," Schaefer said.

The bill received overwhelming support in the Senate chamber, and passed by a vote of 30-2.

One of the two that voted against the measure was Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, who said that the legislature shouldn't bind the curators to make a decision on who should be hired by the university.

"[The curators] are professional people," Holsman said. "We should trust them to make what's the best decision for the state. If the governor is the best person for that job, then they should be free to make that decision. If he's not, then they should be free to make another decision."

This is the first year under the Affordable Health Care Act that Americans will have to pay a federal tax penalty for not having health insurance, but Sen. Kurt Schaefer has introduced a bill that would give Missourians without coverage a tax break.

"For those people that have to pay that penalty, they can take that as a deduction from the adjusted gross income on their state taxes so that they at least get some relief from the state of Missouri for the overbearing pressure that the federal government is putting on them for not being able to afford insurance in the first place," said Schaefer, R-Columbia.

Schaefer said he believes the bill is the first of its kind in America, and doesn't understand why anyone would oppose it.

"I don't know why anyone would want to pile on people who are already in a difficult financial position by not giving them a break on their state taxes when they are being charged a fine and penalized by the federal government," Schaefer said.

But Senate Democratic Floor Leader Joseph Keaveny said he will oppose the bill because it diminishes the incentive for Missourians to obtain health insurance.

"I think it is an attempt to undermine the incentive for people in Missouri to get health insurance, and I think that's counterproductive, number one, to the intent of the Affordable Care Act," said Keaveny, D-St. Louis City. "And I think it's an attempt to undermine the ability to stimulate people in Missouri to get health insurance which I think is a good thing."

No further action has been taken on the bill.

Thomas A. Schweich, 54, Missouri's State Auditor, died Thursday, Feb. 26 in St. Louis of what reports are calling "self-inflicted gunshot wounds." Schweich was serving his second term as State Auditor and had just entered the 2016 gubernatorial race as a Republican against Catherine Hanaway. According to the Missouri Official Manual, "Schweich had a distinguished career, during which he gained extensive experience in conducting investigations and rooting out corruption in the private and public sectors.

Schweich was born on Oct. 2, 1960 in St. Louis, and was educated in the St. Louis County Public Schools. After receiving his undergraduate degree from Yale, he went on to study law at Harvard University. He practiced as an attorney before working with the federal government under former U.S. Sen. John Danforth.

In 1999, Schweich was appointed to Chief of Staff for Danforth's investigation of the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. He also worked under Danforth and three other Ambassadors in the United Nations.

Schweich was named Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State under the Bush administration. While working for the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, he managed over 4,000 people in over 40 different countries, with a budget of $2.5 billion. Schweich led diplomatic missions to some 30 countries, including Pakistan, Kenya, Russia and Columbia. In Afghanistan, his work helped decrease opium production across the country and rebuild the country's legal infrastructure. In 2007, he was named Ambassador by President Bush himself.

Schweich's death came as an utter shock to the members of the Missouri General Assembly. A prayer service was held in his honor inside of the Missouri House of Representatives. He is survived by his wife Kathy and his two children.

State Auditor Tom Schweich with his family being sworn in for his second term Jan. 12, 2015.
Legislators and staffers at a prayer service for the late Tom Schweich

Thursday morning Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich was hospitalized with what was described as a "medical situation" in St. Louis.

About an hour later numerous news organizations reported he had suffered a self-inflicted gun shot wound.

Soon after, a spokesman from his office confirmed his death.

"It is with great sadness that I confirm the passing of Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich today," said Spence Jackson. "Please keep in mind his wife Kathy and two children."

About 20 minutes after the statement was released, the House reconvened to hold a prayer for Schweich.

The top three state officials, Gov. Jay Nixon, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, and House Speaker John Deihl, joined members of the House and Senate.

Those who were present recited the Lord's prayer along with a few passages from the book of Psalms.

Officials from around the state have released statements of grief and have sent prayers to Schweich's family.

"I am deeply saddened by his sudden loss," wrote Attorney General Chris Koster. "And extend my heartfelt sympathy to his family."

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill also issued a statement of sympathy.

"I am very sad, and hurt so much for Tom Schweich's family," McCaskill wrote. "Hug those you love."

Missouri's Constitution provides that Nixon will appoint a sucessor as auditor.

Gov. Jay Nixon and members of the Missouri General Assembly gather in the House of Representatives for a prayer service honoring State Auditor Tom Schweich on Thursday, Feb. 26. (Photo by Chris Mathews)


Rep. Elijah Haahr bows his head during the prayer service for State Auditor Tom Schweich on Thursday, Feb. 26. (Photo by Chris Mathews)








After gaveling out about an hour ago the House will reconvene at 1:45 p.m. for a prayer service for State Auditor Tom Schweich.

Schweich was hospitalized this morning with what was described as a "medical situation" in St. Louis.

He was taken to a hospital for treatment, but multiple reports say Schweich suffered a self-inflicted gun shot wound.

The announcement of the prayer service came from House Speaker Pro Tem Denny Hoskins on Twitter.

The House passed a bill Thursday, Feb. 26 that seeks to make Missouri the final state in the nation to have a system where all prescription drugs above a schedule II classification are monitored by a program.

Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, sponsored the bill and said it is high time Missouri join every other state with a similar program.

"Time and time again, we have shown that Missouri's controlled substances are not controlled and that we are a hotbed for abuse," she said.

Many of Rehder's fellow Republican spoke out against the bill, citing government overreach in their remarks.

Rep. Keith Frederick, R-Rolla, is one such opponent of the bill.

"We speak on the campaign trail of wanting smaller government, but incrementally, we increase the reach of government bit by bit, bill by bill," Frederick said. "This is how it happens right here, right now."

The bill requires the Department of Health and Senior Services to set up a program and the funding for the program "shall be provided exclusively by gifts, grants, and donations," according to the bill.

Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin, objected to that part of the bill.

"I have a concern that we are causing trouble a couple of years down the road by limiting how we can fund it," White said.

Fellow Republican Rep. Shawn Rhoads, R-West Plains, said the bill is a good start to solving the problem.

"Obviously, this plan is not perfect, but it is a start in the right direction," Rhoads said. "Maybe we can change a little here, change a little there, and make it better down the road."

43 Republicans voted against the bill, but the bill passed by a vote of 107-48.

The bill now heads to the Senate.

An issue seen in other states is being dealt with by two Missouri lawmakers.

The bills proposed by Senators Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, and Ed Emery, R-Lamar, would prohibit public higher education institutions from denying religious student associations benefits available to other student associations.

Schaefer said he wants lawmakers to address this problem now so it does not happen here.

"I know one of the first questions probably some of you will have, well, has this happened in Missouri?" Schaefer said. "I'm not aware if it officially happening, but I have been told by some students, including some who have graduated from public institutions in Missouri 10-15 years ago that their organizations were told that they could not have meetings on campus. So, it's been going on a long time, I think it's more mainstream attention now because of what's happened in California and Tennessee but we need to make sure that this does not happen in the state of Missouri."

MU Law professor Carl Esbeck said the bill is a good idea for Missouri but it's not the first state to deal with the issue.

Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, said he thinks the bill might be taking some light away from traditional American values.

"America was founded on religious freedoms, but where do we cross the line that were aiding and abetting a theocracy?" Brown said

Missouri's abortion clinic would be inspected every year by the state health department under new legislation passed by the Missouri House.

Bill sponsor Rep. Kathy Swan, R-Cape Girardeau, and supporters of the bill said the measure would increase patient safety.

However opponents of the bill say the proposal is designed to restrict abortions in the state.

The bill now heads to the Senate.

The Missouri House passed a bill that would change how unaccredited school districts are pay for students to attend an accredited school immediately, if passed in the Senate.

Supporters of the bill said, while the legislation is not a perfect solution to the issue of school transfers.

Supporters said the bill provides the best possible way for students in unaccredited districts to attend an accredited school without unaccredited districts having to pay an extremely high cost.

Opponents of the bill said the legislation would take away a school board's local control to determine when it is appropriate to sell a school building, especially when a government body outside of a district determines how a district's tax dollars are spent.

Opponents also said the bill, which would only account for transfers from an entire unaccredited school district, rather than a school district with some unaccredited schools, creates an unfair difference.

St. Louis Sen. Jamilah Nasheed confirmed Wednesday afternoon the resignation of Public Safety Department Director Dan Isom just months after his appointment.

Nasheed said the former St. Louis City police chief confirmed his plans to resign in a phone conversation just a bit earlier.

"Today's development, it's truly an embarrassment to the governor's administration. It's a horror story when it comes to public relations," Nasheed said.

Isom was named as the state's chief law enforcement officer in August, shortly after the unrest in Ferguson.

Isom became the second black in the cabinet of Gov. Jay Nixon.

Nixon addressed the resignation in a Wednesday afternoon statement.

"Isom has been a strong leader for the department and an invaluable member of my cabinet," he said. "I am deeply grateful for his wise counsel and leadership, and wish him all the best as he resumes his work at UMSL.”

The same news release said Nixon staffer Peter Lyskowski will take over the department on an interim basis.

The Missouri Supreme Court was urged to let the voter's will prevail on two constitutional amendments that were invalidated by the courts.

One voter approved amendment heard would strengthen gun rights, the other would establish a right to farm.

Missouri voters approved both in 2014 but subsequent court decisions struck the measures down because of how the legislature worded the ballot description.

A lawsuit brought by St. Louis City Police Chief Sam Dotson urged the court to affirm rejection of the voter approved gun rights measure.

Dotson's attorney Chuck Hatfield said there was an irregularity in the wording of the description that appeared on the ballot.

Hatfield said what the voters saw on the ballot was not a proper summary of the amendment, rather the constitution.

Among the lawyers arguing on behalf of voter approval was Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R Columbia, the bill's sponsor.

"There is zero evidence for this court to look at and say that anyone was mislead much less plaintiffs don't even allege they were mislead," Schaefer said.

Following the debate over gun rights, the Right to Farm amendment displayed the same type of debate in the Missouri's highest court.

A lawyer testifying in favor of rewriting and voting on the amendment said the ballot did not accurately describe what Missourians voted on regarding farming.

Mark Hearne with Farmer Care testified the amendment should stay as it stands.

It is unclear when the court will come to a decision.

A Cole County judge ruled Wednesday that Missouri's partnership with a Common Core testing company is unconstitutional.

House Speaker John Diehl, R-St. Louis County, said the House will vote to defund the agreement.

"The people of Missouri have made it clear they have a distaste for Common Core and that they do not want to see their tax dollars wasted on these federally-produced standards," Diehl said in a statement. "We will continue to focus our efforts on developing Missouri-based standards."

Judge Daniel Green also stopped a $4.3 million payment to the company which would have covered the state's membership fees.

A spokesperson for Gov. Jay Nixon did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

It is unclear if the governor will appeal the ruling.

Drug prescription records of Missourians could be stored in a central database if a measure is passed by the House.

The House gave preliminary approval on a bill that would establish a prescription drug monitoring program in the state.

The program would require pharmacists to record prescriptions of specific drugs that are commonly abused such as painkillers.

Supporters of the legislation say it will prohibit residents from surrounding states who already have this program in place from using Missouri to get their recreational drugs.

"Their seeing us, the Show Me State. 'Come to the Show Me State so that we can go ahead and go to your doctors and pharmacies and get the drugs we need and take them home,'" said Kevin Engler, R-Farmington. "I don't think this is a good tourism mechanism from the state of Missouri. The fact that we are the number one doctor-shopping state in this country should be an embarrassment to this body."

Representatives also said this will help senior citizens.

"This is not just about our younger generation that's using these as recreational drugs," said Glen Kolkmeyer, R-Odessa."These are true life stories about our seniors that we need to take care of."

Representatives who oppose the bill said they are concerned about the security of patient's medical records on the database.

"This is the tip of the iceberg," said Keith Frederick, R-Rolla. "Can you really believe this database is going to be secure? The Pentagon can't keep North Korea from hacking our database."

Planned Parenthood could lose state funds under a measure presented to the Senate Seniors, Families and Public Health Tuesday, Feb. 24.

The measure would establish a priority list of organizations that could receive state funding for family planning.

Planned Parenthood is not explicitly included in the list.

“State funds for family planning is about prioritizing”, Sen. Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau, told the committee.

“This bill does not remove funding. It doesn’t cut funding. What its main goal is to prioritize."

M'Evie Mead, State Director of Organizing at Planned Parenthood affiliates in Missouri, spoke in opposition of the bill.

“What it does really is in that list of priorities exclude the experts in family planning care, so what the bill would do is say when it comes to giving out family planning funding, we as a state would decide to exclude the experts in family planning care," she said.

Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis County, said the number one reason why people go into the emergency room is the STDs, because there are people who are sexually uneducated”.

Laura Sandaval, Senior from Washington University opposed the bill, “This legislation targets the most vulnerable women in our state, expand the Medicaid to women and family planning centers are the only option for many women”.

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

For many years, abortion rights opponents in Missouri's legislature -- from both parties -- have sought to restrict or completely block state family planning funds from going to organizations that provide abortion services or refer women to abortion providers.

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee Feb. 24

The Senate judiciary committee heard testimony on two bills that would determine when a police officer could use deadly force.

Bipartisan support came from committee chair Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Greene County, and Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, who urged the committee to change the law.

Missouri law allows for police to shoot at a potential felon who is fleeing.

"This bill is not an attack on law enforcement," Nasheed said. "This bill would not prevent officers from using deadly force when necessary."

The Chief Elder and Spiritual leader of Afrikan Village and Cultural Center spoke in favor of Nasheed's bill.

"There is a difference between what is right and what is legal," said Ray Hagins. "I'm trying to see my community be healed."

Dixon said the committee would not be able to vote on either bill until Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis, has the opportunity to present her bill on the same issue next week.

Gov. Jay Nixon addressed the Missouri Farm Bureau conference Tuesday, Feb. 24 about his upcoming trip to Cuba and the role of Missouri agriculture in keeping the state from financial ruin during the Great Recession.

When Nixon arrives in Cuba this weekend, he will be the first American governor to visit the communist state since President Barack Obama announced the easing of certain restrictions with the island nation.

Nixon said previous trade missions during his time as governor has prepared him for his trip to Cuba.

"I've led successful trade missions to China, Brazil, Taiwan, Korea, Europe and Canada, closing agreements to sell nearly $10 billion in Missouri goods," Nixon said. "Many of these agreements were focused specifically on agriculture."

Nixon said the mission to Cuba could yield big things for Missouri agriculture producers.

"Expanded trade with this island nation of 11 million people is a tremendous opportunity to show increased demand for what we grow and raise here in Missouri," Nixon said.

After his speech to the farm bureau, Nixon took questions from the press.

One topic Nixon addressed is the continued story of the St. Louis Rams possibly leaving for Los Angeles.

This comes as the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders announced over the weekend their intention to explore building a stadium that both teams would share in Carson, California just outside of Los Angeles.

Also this week, the Inglewood City Council is expected to fast-track a proposal to build a stadium in the LA suburb.

This proposal is the brainchild of current Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who is expected to be in Inglewood when the council votes on the issue.

Nixon said the consequences of the Rams leaving St. Louis would be devastating.

"If we do nothing and the team leaves, we lost $10 million a year in state revenue," Nixon said. "That's what those NFL players pay when they come here."

Nixon also talked about how the Chargers, Raiders, and the Inglewood City Council play into the Rams situation.

"I've talked to the commissioner a number of times, twice in the last few weeks," Nixon said. "The NFL has put together a committee for their strategy on the LA market, so I would defer that to them."

Nixon also addressed the latest school transfer bill moving through the Senate, specifically the issue of charter schools.

"You want to have accountability in charter schools," Nixon said. "I've supported public charter schools in policy areas over the years and I think providing a venue of opportunity, especially in challenged school districts, is an appropriate public policy movement."

Former television host Montel Williams testified at the Capitol in favor of legislation to make medical marijuana legal.

The bill would make it legal to have a prescription for cannabis and purchase it from a care center within the state of Missouri.

Missouri Veterans of Foreign Wars Representative Tom Mundell told lawmakers how using cannabis helped change his life.

Mundell said cannabis helped cure his post-traumatic stress disorder.

Following Mundell's testimony, Williams testified and said that not every prescription pill works.

He told the committee he was able to cut down his pain pills by using cannabis.

Williams also said he was not concerned about those wanting to use marijuana to get high, only those who need it for medical purposes.

Legislators said they were concerned about the cost of setting up a care center and how it could be detrimental to those who do not get approved.

A Senate debate concerning legislation to address issues with school transfers in Missouri shifted to a discussion about under-served African-American youth.

Sen. Gina Walsh, D-St. Louis County, proposed an amendment that would ensure any plan to use money from the Children's Fund of St. Louis County for any school transfer provision had to be voted on by an electorate.

"I do not like when we go around the people who sent us up here," Walsh said. "I'm sorry, I just don't like it."

The fund was established to address a decrease in available funding for mental health services for adolescents.

According to Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis County, there should be ways that fund can be used to help under-served African-American youth.

"There's a monopoly on this," Chappelle-Nadal said. "We're all being taxed and there are other entities that service children of high needs who should be part of this. What we do in our language is create another board strictly to deal with children who are in unaccredited school districts. And we want to ensure that these kids get wrap-around services. This state cannot afford to have another Michael Brown, period."

Walsh's amendment was defeated, in a 17-13 vote.

Taxpayers would be required to foot a $1 million bill to broadcast legislative meetings if a bill heard by a House committee is passed.

The bill would require all Capitol sessions, joint sessions and committee hearings to be broadcast and live streamed on line.

Members of the House Government and Oversight Accountability Committee were concerned about the fiscal estimations for the bill.

The sponsor of the bill, Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said he does not believe the bill would cost as much as estimated.

"I personally believe that we could do it for considerably cheaper," said Rep. Rowden. "I know that for a fact given the experience I have in this realm."

The current predicted costs for this bill include $120,000 per year for three video specialists.

However, Rowden said there would not be a need to hire video specialists depending on the type of equipment used.

In order to decrease the amount of funding needed for the bill, Committee Chairman Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City suggested only broadcasting chamber sessions.

"I'm highly skeptical of this $1.1 million fiscal note," said Barnes. "I bet we could get it up on Ustream for less than $5,000."

Rep. Robert Cornejo, R-St. Peters, said he was concerned about the technology malfunctioning and causing delays.

"I would hate to see us put something into the statute that would then delay a debate in the House and moving legislation forward," Cornejo said.

Opeoluwa Sotonwa, the executive director of the Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, testified in support of the bill.

Sotonwa also wanted to make sure that captions would be included along with the broadcast in order make it more accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing.

"We want to make sure we have these services and these meetings accessible to those that are deaf and hard of hearing in the state of Missouri so they can have access to the information and feel a connection to their government and see the proceedings and the legislative process," Sotonwa told the committee through an interpreter.

Last year, this bill was proposed but was not passed because of similar concerns regarding its financing.

Last Week

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, has sponsored a bill that would set a statewide standard for Uber and other similar companies. The bill would also ban local governments from setting their own regulations on ride sharing services.

"So what the bill would do is allow Uber to operate in Missouri despite the fact that you've got local governments that are trying to Balkanize the regulation of it to essentially prevent Uber from operating in Missouri," Schaefer said.

The senator's own city passed regulations on Monday that require Uber to comply with many of the same regulations taxi cab companies must follow.

Columbia Councilwoman Laura Nauser said she doesn't understand the problem with requiring Uber to meet the same requirements as taxi cab companies.

In addition, Nauser said she is tired of the state and federal government trying to take control away from local city governments.

"I mean these cars are driving on our streets," Nauser said. "It's no different than any other business licensing requirement we do with any other business in our community."

The Missouri House passed two measures Thursday, Feb. 19 that would make Missouri the 32nd state to actively require some sort of identification to vote.

The first measure passed by the House is a constitutional amendment that would require a photo ID to vote.

Bill sponsor Rep. Tony Dugger, R-Hartville, said the constitutional amendment gives the voters the right to choose if they want to show a photo ID when voting.

"It would be up to the voters to decide," Dugger said.

Rep. Brandon Ellington, D-Jackson County, is the chair of the legislative Black Caucus.

He said this is not right for Missouri.

"This is not anything that is going to make the state of Missouri better," Ellington said. "I don't see it improving the voter process."

Rep. Glen Kolkmeyer, R-Odessa, shared his story of having to present a photo ID when buying a gun last summer

"If we had half, only half, of the identification in the process to go through to vote as we do to purchase a handgun, people would be outraged," Kolkmeyer said.

The second bill is what Dugger called the "nuts and bolts, I guess you could say, of how we would implement photo ID if the voters do pass the constitutional amendment."

An amendment added Wednesday would require the state to pay for a birth certificate for those that do not have one.

That was enough for Rep. Shamed Dogan, a black St. Louis County Republican, to support the bill.

"We're providing those state IDs to hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Missourians for free," Dogan said. "We're allowing them access to vote, in many cases, for the first time when they haven't been able to vote before."

The Joint Resolution passed by a vote of 118-39 and the House bill passed by a 118-37 margin.

The House gave first round approval on a bill and a constitutional amendment that would require voters to have a federal ID in order to vote.

This is the third time the General Assembly has tried to circumvent past Missouri Supreme Court decisions saying it is unconstitutional to require voters to present a federal ID in order to cast a ballot.

The legislation requires voters to identify themselves by proving that they are a U.S. citizen and Missouri resident.

If passed, this issue would be decided by voters.

In Missouri, current law dictates voters have to provide identification using anything from a state issued license to a utility bill with their name and address on it.

Supporters of the bill and amendment say that it will not only insure the identity of the voter but also an honest election process.

"We have an HJR that gets together before the voters and we get them to actually weigh in on this issue." said Rep. Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield. "And what we have is a constitution, a state constitution, that we are trying to amend in order for us to do something that many other states have done around the country."

Representatives who oppose this legislation are concerned the bill will unlawfully keep some elderly, disabled and poor Missourians from voting.

Rep. Karla May, D-St. Louis City, compared this legislation to Jim Crow laws.

"We are in a state of institutionalized racism right now, even in the state of Missouri," said Rep. May. "You're supporting racist legislation with no evidence of a problem that needs to be solved."

Final approval on both the bill and constitutional amendment could come with in the next few days.

If Sen. Joe Keaveny's, D-St. Louis City, bill is passed by the legislature, discrimination of any kind based on sexual orientation and identity would be illegal in Missouri.

Currently, the Missouri Non-Discrimination Act (MONA) does not have provisions that make it illegal for housing providers, employers or any other businesses in the state to refuse services to an individual based on their sexual orientation.

Debbie Jackson, a self-identified conservative, told the Senate progress and Development Committee this issue would not be top of mind for her if it were not for own child.

"When my child became increasingly depressed, was acting out and eventually became suicidal at the age of four, my perspective on a lot of things changed," she said. "You see, my child is transgender, and coming from such a long-standing conservative background, I never would have believed it was possible if I hadn't seen her distress first-hand, right in my own home."

Jackson told the committee that being LGBT is not a choice, but a natural part of a person's identity.

But the bill's opposition told the committee the bill puts the rights of the LGBT community at odds with individuals' right to religious freedom.

"With regard to people that run small businesses, in particular, those that practice in the wedding industry, I guess the question I would ask the committee is, is there a way to respect the rights of those in the LGBT community and also respect the rights of those, who for religious conviction reasons, cannot lend their artistic talents to a wedding ceremony for a gay couple?" Tyler McClay, a lobbyist for the Missouri Catholic Council, asked the committee.

Keaveny told reporters the bill will be ready for a vote next week.

Congresswoman Ann Wagner, R-Missouri, visited the state Capitol Wednesday to testify in favor of legislation at hearing of the House Committee on Civil and Criminal Proceedings to testify in favor of a bill that would expand the definition of sex trafficking of a child to include advertising a child for sexual purposes.

Rep. Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, sponsored the bill.

"Four years ago we passed legislation that made Missouri one of the strongest states in the country as far as local legislation," He said. "This is just the next step in order to keep up with the ongoing threat."

Wagner said users can log on to websites and can order a young girl to their hotel room as easy as ordering a pepperoni pizza.The congresswoman also said the age that kids are normally entered into trafficking are between 13 and 14 years-old and cannot control the situation they are in.

The committee did not take immediate action to the bill and nobody testified against the measure.

Republican Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, filed legislation Thursday to block the sale or refinancing of bonds by Gov. Jay Nixon to fund a new stadium for the St. Louis Rams.

Nixon said last week during a news conference he wasn't ruling out going around the General Assembly to build a proposed stadium north of the Edward Jones Dome.

In a statement, Silvey said the bill is not about Nixon or the Rams.

"This legislation is about establishing in law that the executive branch does not have the authority to put our state into debt without legislative or public approval," He said. "It’s critical we immediately stop what could set a very dangerous precedent in this state.”

Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, filed a resolution earlier this month which said the state would not commit to paying off any new bonds issued by Nixon.

Neither measure has had any hearings scheduled.

Conversations on a new school transfer bill began on the Senate floor Tuesday evening.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensbug, is similar to one vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon last year.

The bill, unlike last year, does not allow for unaccreddited school districts have to pay for the tuition of a student to go to a private school.

"So we're back again." Peace said. "Has the problem gone away? Absolutely not."

Pearce does not anticipate this bill being vetoed.

"I will applaud the governor," Pearce said. "This year he has reached out to those of us who have worked on this bill in the past and has said he would be willing to work and negotiate on some issues this year."

The bill was tabled until Wednesday

Lobbyists would only be able to spend a total of $25 a year on a single elected official under a measure presented to the House Government Oversight Committee Tuesday, Feb. 17.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, would also ban lobbyists from spending more than $5 on a single expenditure.

"The thought process of the $5, not to exceed $25, is to eliminate things like out-of-state travel, sporting events and expensive meals," Alferman said.

Though not a single lobbyist testified in opposition of the bill during the hearing, one testimonial raised questions about group and caucus expenditures.

"We've talked about individuals, but what about group and caucus reporting," said Mike Reid, a lobbyist for the Missouri Society of Governmental Consultants. "These are questions that need to be answered."

In addition to Alferman's bill, both the House and Senate have advanced bills to limit the revolving door of lawmakers becoming lobbyists by inserting a "cooling-off" period after leaving office before becoming a lobbyist.

Sen. Roy Blunt in the House Lounge

Sen. Roy Blunt visited the state Capitol Tuesday to promote a bill that he says would increase government transparency.

His bill introduced in the U.S. Senate is similar to a bill Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Union, has introduced in the Missouri House.

Blunt says the bills are common sense measures.

“It’s what people would expect to have happen,” Blunt said. “There’s so much disclosure on so many other kinds of communications now that what would be wrong with government just saying clearly who’s paying for this?”

Curtman echoed Blunt’s statement.

“It’s something that the people just kind of expect,” Curtman said. “When the government does communicate with the people, we have to make sure that we’re applying certain checks and balances and that we are offering that transparency.”

Blunt also addressed a potential shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security if Congress doesn’t agree on a funding solution before next Friday.

“We should move forward with the House bill,” Blunt said.

The House passed a bill that funded the department, but didn't provide any money for President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration.

Senate Democrats have since blocked the House bill from being debated twice.

He also addressed Sen. Claire McCaskill who is currently in Cuba and Gov. Jay Nixon who is going to Cuba in March.

“That will be a great market for us sometime,” Blunt said. “I personally think that that market is much more likely to be a market where they actually pay for what they get once the Castro brothers are gone.”

Blunt is also scheduled to address the House while in Jefferson City.

Rep. Andrew McDaniel, R-Deering, has sponsored a bill to help stop abuse in nursing homes. The bill would allow relatives to install monitoring devices in nursing home rooms.

McDaniel said he believes there is a trend of abuse in nursing homes.

"Basically I've had a constituent call me and talk about different things about people with bedsores, not rolled over right, and stuff like that," McDaniel said. "And lying in their fecal matter."

If a patient shares a room with another patient, the bill requires both families to give consent before the monitoring device can be installed.

In addition, McDaniel said care providers in nursing homes have no reason to worry about the monitoring devices.

"I'm also deputy sheriff so I was always in everybody's eyes as well," McDaniel said. "So if their doing their job right and promptly and taking care of the elderly, there should be no issue."

The Missouri Association of Nursing Home Administrators declined to comment.

The measure would raise the speed limit on multi-lane highways in rural areas from 70 mph to 75 mph.

The measure's sponsor is Rep. Mike Kelley, R-Lamar in rural southwest Missouri.

Kelley quoted the exact words from a Transportation Department study that concluded many drivers simply ignore the posted speed limit.

"Many drivers are frustrated by speed limits that are set lower than the perceived safe and reasonable speed," Kelley told the committee citing the department report.

"The drivers perceive the road conditions, weather and traffic to determine safe and reasonable speed.Otherwise, it creates conflict and frustration between the slow and fast drivers. Constant speed is the key,without it accidents increase".

Kelley said drivers are frustrated by Missouri speed limits that are lower than other states with poorer highways.

"I truly believe it is a public safety issue. I believe there are roadways that currently are being underused on the speed limit that is available.

Kelley cited the recent improvements made to I44 and I49 that warranted higher speeds.

He said a higher speed could reduce the congestion frustration for drivers.

Kelley said other states have the speed limits higher than Missouri's. He mentioned the German autobahns which have no speed limits in some areas, but strict laws and heavy fines for safety violations.

The only person to testify against raising the speed limit was the chief engineer of the Missouri Transportation Department, Ed Hassinger.

"Our roads are more congested, traffic volumns are higher, truck volumns are extremely higher in the places that we're talking about. Really, this is a discussion of safety versus convenience," Hassinger said.

He said a study in Kansas found a 50 percent increase in fatalities after raising its speed limit to 75 mph.

"When you have speed, you can't outrun the laws of physics. Accidents are going to be more serious. Fatalities and serious injuries are going to go up."

Kelley noted his bill would not change current law that lets the Transportation Department set a lower speed limits in specific areas where it determines a reduced speed is needed for safety reasons.

The committee took no immediate action on the measure.