From Missouri Digital News:
MDN Menu

MDN Home

Journalist's Creed


MDN Help

MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News
MDN Menu

MDN Home

Journalist's Creed


MDN Help

MDN.ORG Mo. Digital News Missouri Digital News MDN.ORG: Mo. Digital News MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News

Special Interests Dominate Session

State Capital Bureau

May 12, 1995

JEFFERSON CITY _ In the final hours of a legislative session marked by cantankerous debate, the Senate was quieted as Sen. Harold Caskey delivered a somber obituary for his concealed weapons bill.

His voice cracking and close to tears, Caskey announced he was dropping any further efforts for the bill that had been threatened with a session-ending filibuster.

With pro-gun lobbyists looking on from the gallery, the moment typified this session.

On any given day, at any given time abortion and gun lobbyists could be found pressing issues outside the chamber doors or gabbing inside a lawmakers office.

These lobbyists found lawmakers prepared to listen and act. For the first time in 40 years, the Republicans had control of enough votes to get their issues debated.

"At least 35 percent of the time was spent on these issues," said President Pro Tem Jim Mathewson, D-Sedalia.

But for all the internal changes and pressures, the end result is that little law was altered.

Gov. Mel Carnahan annihilated the anti-abortion bill with a veto. A filibuster blocked the concealed weapons drive. And in the House, Democratic leaders blocked the GOP's agenda on issues like restricting welfare.

Meanwhile, the governor was able to get most of his major issues passed.

"Given the content of the session it is nothing short of amazing. I feel vindicated," he said.

In January, the governor laid out this agenda:

@ A bill that would let voters kill big tax increases approved by the legislature.

@ Legislation that would keep kid criminals in jail longer.

@ Measures that would give tax credits to people who are self-employed and those who are caring for the elderly.

@ More money for the Caring Communities Program, which brings social services into schools.

@ A budget that would provide huge a funding increase to the state's prison system.

Tax limitation and juvenile crime were approved less than 24 hours before the legislature came to a close. The Caring Communites Program, also, got bi-partisan support.

The prison expansion budget program passed with little difficulty.

The tax credits for the self-employed and elderly were two Carnahan measures destroyed by the abortion fray, the governor said. Carnahan said the sponsor of an anti-abortion bill used them as revenge for the governor's stance.

But the governor, armed with his vetoed pen and political power, had more ammunition.

Carnahan refused to sign a bill forcing women seeking an abortion to get state-approved counseling. He sent the bill back to the legislature, knowing sponsor's didn't have two-thirds of the vote, which they needed to override the veto.

The governor also sacrificed legislation that would give more money to a school health program because it had an anti-abortion amendment on it.

"This legislation was killed by anti-choice extremists more interested in their agenda than providing health services to Missouri's children," Carnahan said. He said the program's funding is in "serious jeopardy"

Carnahan had promised to veto the bill that would let Missourians carry guns secretly. But it never made it to his desk.

Throughout the session, a constant presence of pro-gun lobbyists with buttons that say, "I trust you" lingered in the halls.

But they may have reached too far.

The concealed weapons lobbyists did not want the bill submitted to Missouri voters.

When he dropped his efforts for passage Friday, Caskey said he had promised to kill the bill rather than allow it to be submitted to the voters.

"I gave my word I would kill the bill," he said. "If you tell a lie, you are a liar. If you break your word, you are a damnful liar."

Without that voter-approval requirement that the governor supported, however, Senate Majority Leader J.B. "Jet" Banks, D-St. Louis, had vowed he would filibuster the bill and block a vote.

But Caskey warned the bill would be back next year _ an election year _ and it would be written by the National Rifle Association, which is known for its strong lobby.

"It will be a different bill that will be fostered by the NRA," Caskey said Caskey. "It will be a tougher bill."