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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of April 23, 2012

The Missouri Senate has given first-round approval to a constitutional amendment that would increase the number of citizens on the Appellate Judicial Commission from 3 to 4 and give more power to the governor.

The Commission is now composed of one Supreme Court Justice, a member of the bar from each appellate district, and a non-bar member citizen from each appellate district.

The Appellate Judicial Commission fills vacancies in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals.

"The changes I am trying to make is that the people can hold somebody responsible for those decisions that are made," said Sen. Jim Lembke, R-Saint Louis County, the resolution's sponsor.

Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Lawrence, opposed the resolution and said it would "scare" him if the issue went to a statewide vote.

"In a state like Missouri, where we no longer have contribution limits for political candidates, bringing the Supreme Court into that mix, there is a great potential for corruption," Goodman said.

The House passed the so-called "Whistleblower Protection Act," which would place caps on punitive damages against businesses.

Rep. Kevin Elmer, R-Nixa, sponsors the bill. He said he has worked hard to reach a compromise on this bill.

"We are trying to balance the rights of individuals along with the right to earn a living, the right for businesses to operate within the state," said Elmer.

Opponents of the bill said it actually limits the rights of whistleblowers by limiting the amount whistle blowers can receive in court. Whistle blowers are already protected under federal and state law.

"People do not need to be restrained when they are reporting things that are going to impact our citizens in a negative manner," said Rep. Karla May, D-St. Louis.

The bill passed by a vote of 86 to 66. It now moves to the Senate for further approval.

The “More for Less” campaign, designed by the Missouri Students Association (MSA), protested at the state Capitol building agaisnt rising costs to higher education.  

In January, Gov. Jay Nixon proposed a budget cut of 15 percent to public universities. If that cut had passed, Missouri higher education would take a funding blow for the third year in a row.  

About 125 students attended the protest.

MSA President Xavier Billingsley said higher education should be the priority of a state, and investing higher education can help develop the state and create jobs.

MU student Mary Karchar said the increased tuition is very hard for her parents to pay.

Rep. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, and Rep. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, spoke at the rally and said they support this campaign.

Silvey is House Budget Committee Chairman and oversaw the reversal of Nixon's proposed cuts. Nixon also took steps to counter his own proposal and added $40 million from a national mortgage settlement to the higher education budget.

On Tuesday, the Senate passed their version of the budget with level funding for higher education.

House Speaker Pro Tem Shane Schoeller, R-Greene County sponsored the bill.

The bill tightens the proof of identification requirements for Missouri Residents when registering to vote.

If put into law immigrant and refugee advocates are afraid it will make it harder for naturalized citizens to vote.

The Missouri Family Network, testified in support.

Although, The Missouri Secretary of State's office testified against it.

As well as Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates.

The bill is now headed to the House floor.

The Missouri House gave first-round approval to legislation aimed at preventing failures of future economic development projects.

The legislation is in response to the failed artificial sweetener plant in the Mid-Missouri town of Moberly.

The project had promised hundreds of Missouri jobs, but was shut down when Mamtek defaulted on a payment of $39 million in bonds issued by the city after creating less than a dozen jobs.

The bill would require information to be shared between state and local officials on companies applying for development incentives and would subject start-up company executives to financial background checks.

Bill sponsor Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, said it's time to hold companies accountable.

"If somebody wants millions in taxpayer benefits, they've got to be willing to take small, very small steps to prove to the state of Missouri that they're actually delivering on the promises they're making," Barnes said.

The House must approve the bill one more time before sending it to the Senate.

The May 6 deadline is approaching for The American Cancer Society and American Lung Association to get signatures to increase Missouri's tobacco tax by seventy-three cents.

If the required amount of signatures are reached, voters would vote on the increase on the the November ballot.

If approved, a spokesperson for a Missouri chapter of the ALA says it could produce up to $423 million in revenue for the state.

Smoke-shop employees, republican legislators, and the Governor are all opposed to the tax.

Several Democratic legislators and members of the American Cancer Society and American Lung Association are in support of the measure.


The Missouri Senate restored funding to a government-funded health care plan for the blind.

The plan would continue health care coverage for blind residents whose incomes are too high to qualify for the state's Medicaid program. Yet House Budget Chair Ryan Silvey is already criticizing the Senate's decision. He said the $10 million plan unbalances the budget.

The passage of the revised plan came after a two-day stall by Republican senators.

Now it will go back to the House for review.

The Senate Education committee discussed a bill to make CPR training a graduation requirement for high schoolers.

Sally Sharp, a teacher, cried as she testified in favor of the bill. Sharp almost died when she went into cardiac arrest and none of her surrounding co-workers knew CPR. However, someone else came in to perform CPR on her and save her life.

"Can you imagine ten years from now, if this bill passes, how many more high school students are going to be able to help someone survive a very scary experience?" said Sharp.

While some senators and witnesses spoke out in opposition for the bill, their concerns were the same. Some did not want the training to be a graduation requirement, and some were concerned about the cost of the training for the state.

Costs for the training varied by organization; however, the bill's sponsor, Rep. Rick Stream, R-St. Louis, says the training would only cost about $200.

The bill would equip nearly 70,000 high school seniors with the skills to save a life with CPR. The bill would not require students to become certified, only trained in how to perform CPR.

The training could occur in any class in school. 

According to the American Heart Association, almost 383,000 people go into cardiac arrest outside of a hospital every year. Only about 11% survive, most likely because they don't receive CPR in time.

The committee discussed the bill but took no action.

The joint resolution would put it to a vote of the people on whether or not the state adheres to certain federal laws and actions.

Supporters say the federal government have overstepped their bounds on laws and regulations that should be left up to the state. They cite specific constitutional amendments and sections.

The opposition says the bill could be grounds for secession. Sen. Robin Wright-Jones said it's part of the Republican agenda to break away because "we have an African-American president."

However, there are some state and U.S. constitutional issues the legislation faces.

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    The Senate ended a two day gridlock and passed the state's $24 billion budget early Wednesday morning.

The Senate passed their budget, which includes level funding for K-12 and higher education and some cuts to social services programs. The Senate began debate Monday afternoon, but was unable to come to an agreement for two days. 

A group of nine Republican senators threatened the budget's passage and presented a list of demands to Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, before they would let the budget come to a vote. 

The demands included eliminating a state employee pay increase and a reduction in early childhood grant funds.

Schaefer said his budget was balanced, despite the employee pay raise and a loss of $70 million in expected revenue from a tax amnesty program that has languished in the General Assembly over the past year.

The group of Schaefer's fellow Republicans disagreed.

"I believe structurally the budget is not in balance," said Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, who was one of the nine Republicans objecting to the budget.

The Senate's budget is $87 million lower than what the House passed and what Gov. Jay Nixon proposed. Major changes include eliminating $16 million in child care subsidies and $11 million in foster care programs.

The Senate rejected an attempt to remove a proposed pay increase for state employees late Tuesday night during the debate on the state's budget.

Since Monday afternoon, the Senate had been deadlocked on the state's $24 billion operating budget as a group of nine Republicans emerged to challenge the budget put forward by Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia.

Seven Democrats joined ten Republicans in keeping the proposed two percent increase for state workers making more than $45,000 a year.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, offered the amendment to eliminate the pay increase, which is projected to cost the state $32 million.

"My concern is that when you have a budget that has a several hundred million dollar shortfall and you have a new decision item the pay plan will happen at the expense of other things," Dempsey said.

Schaefer, who authored the pay plan, opposed the effort to not raise the pay of state workers who last saw a raise in 2008.

"If you want to keep them working, you have to pay them," Schaefer said.

With the planned pay increase the Senate's budget is still $87 million below what Gov. Jay Nixon proposed and what the House passed last month.

"If we say we value our state employees then we need to show it," said Sen. Kiki Curls, D-Kansas City, who voted against the amendment.

The budget must be sent to Nixon's desk by May 11.

Under a proposed amendment, biological parents and adoptive parents could voluntarily make a “post adoption contract agreement” to allow contact after the adoption between the biological parents and the child.

Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, sponsored the amendment. He said most biological parents want to see their children even though they are not under a good condition to raise the child.

Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said he supported the amendment as well as the bill.

“Under this amendment, nobody has to do anything. It’s all voluntarily…Letting go is so hard some times,” said Kelly.

Rep. Rory Ellinger, D-St. Louis County, opposed to the amendment. He said this amendment would set up a conflict between biological parents and the adoptive parents.

The House passed the bill, with the amendment, and now moves to the Senate.

An amendment to a transportation bill will make it easier to transport the radioactive chemical, colbalt-60, through Missouri.

The legislation would waive the transportation fee for companies like Nordion Inc. (based in Canada) who transport radioactive waste.

Nordion Inc. is a member of the trade group which drafted the amendment.

House Transportation Committee Chairman, Rep. Charlie Denison, R-Springfield, offered the amendment to the House Transportation Committee.

"This deals with materials that have been coming through the state for probably as long as I can remember. It's nothing new. It's something that we need to have," said Denison.

"It was presented and attached relatively quickly...After looking into it last weekend, I would have to question the whole idea. It deals with a higher level of radiation than anyone anticipated," said Rep. Tom McDonald, D-Independence.

The House approved a bill that would require parental consent for children under the age of 18 to use a UV tanning bed.

Rep. Kurt Bahr, R-St. Charles County, proposed an amendment that would require minors to wear 50 SPF sunscreen while tanning. After several representatives pointed out down falls of the amendment, including difficulty of enforcement, Bahr withdrew the amendment.

Rep. Gary Cross, R-Lee's Summit, sponsors the bill. He said it would educate parents so they can make better decisions for their children.

"If we can make a difference in somebody else's life, that's what it's all about," said Cross.

He said this bill does not intend to hurt small businesses.

"I don't believe that we need government and we need to spend our law enforcement resources going in to different tanning salons and monitoring to make sure that they've got permission slips," said Rep. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg.

The bill needs to be approved by the House one more time before moving to the Senate.

The Senate adjourned near midnight after eight hours without a compromise on Missouri's $24 billion budget.

A group of nine Republican fiscal conservatives held up the budget over concerns the state is spending too much money. The group of fiscal hawks held several closed door meetings with Republican Senate leadership during Monday's evening session.

Majority Floor Leader Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, said progress had been made over the course of the evening and the two groups only had a few issues left to resolve. Among the issues are a proposed pay raise for state employees and cuts to early childhood programs.

Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, was one of the nine senators who blocked a vote. Lembke directed his criticism toward Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia.

"There are a number of colleagues who have a concern that is not being met," Lembke said.

The lengthy debate on the state budget is unprecedented in recent decades. Typically, the Senate rubber stamps the budget approved by the Appropriations Committee.

The group of nine said they were concerned about the revenue estimates used to balance next year's budget. Schaefer's budget relies on $50 million of additional revenue from lottery sales than what the state took in last year.

When asked if the group's claim the budget was not in balance was true, Schaefer said "no."

The sounds of singers and bagpipes echoed through the Capitol rotunda as Missouri's Department of Labor honored the state's fallen workers.

April 23 marked Missouri Workers' Memorial Day.

People showed up to honor loved ones who died working in construction, transportation, and many other industries.

The mother of a Joplin tornado victim recalled her son's heroic acts that saved lives during the storm.

Last Week

House democrats managed to defeat the legal tender bill due to a low presence of republicans present on the House floor, early Thursday afternoon. Most representatives attended a press conference at the Governor's mansion during the vote.

At first, it was defeated by a close vote of 81 to 42. Rep. Tim Meadows, D-Imperial, later called for a reconsideration, which led to the bill eventually, being passed by a vote of 95 to 37.

Speaker of the House Tim Jones asked Meadows to reconsider the bill.

The bill would allow gold and silver to be used as currency as well as add a pediatric cancer research trust fund to individual and corporate income tax forms.

The bill's Sponsor Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific, said the bill will help with inflation and create jobs.

"It allows for people to establish a clearing house in our state for a more convenient exchange of gold and silver in commerce," said Curtman.

Rep. Mike Talboy, D-Jackson County said the bill itself is embarrassing as well as the inability to pass it.

“That bill probably stands no chance at one being constitutional and two actually passing in the Senate, even in committee,” said Talboy.

The bill now moves to the Senate for further approval.

Missouri will join a coalition of energy firms to apply for a multi-million dollar federal grant that would fund several small nuclear reactors in the state, Gov. Jay Nixon announced Thursday.

Flanked by high-ranking officials from various industries, Nixon said Missouri has partnered with energy provider Ameren Missouri and international nuclear technology development firm Westinghouse Company to receive as much as $452 million from the federal Department of Energy.

"When it comes to creating jobs and transforming our economy, projects just don't get any bigger than this one," Nixon said.

Officials said funding would go toward building up to five Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, or SMRs, in Callaway Co., Missouri. These plants would generate as much as 225 megawatts of power, one-fifth of the production of normal nuclear power plants.

One these large nuclear reactors already stands in the county and debate has long waged over the creation of a new plant--known colloquially as "Callaway 2." Funding, though, has never been secured.

According to Westinghouse representative Dr. Kate Jackson, the SMRs must be built at least 24 months after federal funding is received. Just how much funding will not be known until later this summer, she said.

Missouri's Senate is set to consider the state's $24 billion budget Monday, more than one week after the Senate Appropriations Committee concluded their mark-up.

The Senate will began debate Monday on a budget freezes spending on both K-12 and higher education.

Gov. Jay Nixon had originally called for a 15 percent cut to public universities, but the House and Senate both found additional funds to reverse that proposal. The General Assembly dipped into welfare programs such as child care subsidies and health care for the blind to fund the state's public colleges at the same level as last year. A $40 million payment from a national mortgage settlement also helped.

The budget passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee is $86 million less than what passed the House last month. Most of that money came from various social services programs. The committee cut $13 million from foster care programs and another $16 million in child care subsidies.

Some conservatives in the Senate, however, said they are concerned with the amount of spending and how tax credits deprive the state revenue.

Tax credits have long been a controversial issue in Missouri's legislature. Disagreements between the House and Senate over whether existing tax credits programs should have a expiration date or "sunset" derailed last fall's special session.

In a deposition obtained by the Associated Press, MO Health Net Division Director Ian McCaslin said there's no guarantee that patients could extend their current health care policies if the new plan is blocked.

Molina Health Care of Missouri recently launched a lawsuit against the state after it was dropped as a Medicaid insurance provider.

Molina is now looking to stop all patient registration and to start the re-bidding process on the Medicaid contracts, worth 1.1 billion dollars.

The State said a reduced number of Medicaid insurance companies will save up to $56 million dollars over the next three years.

It was released that Molina came in last out of all Medicaid insurance bids in 2012.

Molina scored lowest in the categories of primary and specialty care and behavioral health.

In September of 2011, Molina was slapped with a sanction by the Missouri Department of Social Services for a failure to provide proper case management to behavioral health patients.

Molina Health Care of Missouri has declined to comment.

Two Republican Senators blocked a vote on a bill Thursday to make it harder for teachers to earn job protection tenure.

Senate Education Committee Chairman David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, and Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, blocked the measure, which would increase from five to ten years the amount of time it takes a teacher to get tenure.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-St. Louis County, also eliminates seniority as a criteria to be considered when a school district has to lay off a teacher due to budget constraints.

The measure was not assigned to Pearce's education committee, but it was passed through Cunningham's General Laws Committee.

Pearce said it would have been nice to have a thorough vetting of the issue.

Cunningham laid her bill over and said she did not want her colleagues to have a long debate on the issue on a Thursday.

Lawmakers, lobbyists, and other Capitol employees joined forces to raise money for the Samaritan Center.

The legislators formed teams to participate in a softball tournament Wednesday night. Teams participating in the tournament not only played these softball games, but individuals also participated in a home run derby.

Legislators named their own teams, even making shirts with a team logo. The Field-a-Busters, The Gunzlingers, and Team Tilley were just a few of the team names.

A Republican amendment to a bill would require doctors providing abortion services to buy an additional $3 million in medical malpractice coverage.

The bill is meant to require research on fiscal impacts for covering chemo treatment methods and treatments for eating disorders and infertility on health insurance.

Rep. Andrew Koenig, R-St. Louis Co., offered the amendment after Tuesday approval of his bill that would place restrictions on abortion inducing drugs.

The Senate Committee on Governmental Accountability is investigating the way the Guard handles conduct problems.

Several Guardsmen came forward Wednesday to testify in favor of the investigation. Brandon Knott and Eddie Ratliff worked under alleged neo-Nazi Nathan Wooten and testified he didn't get the punishment he deserved.

Capt. Gason Gipson also testified in the hearing. Gipson is being investigated for sexual misconduct but believes the evidence against him is false.

The Missouri House and Senate both approved bills that would strip the ability of unlicensed childcare providers to continue their services if there is a court case against them.

After the defendant is cleared of charges related to abuse, neglect or death of a child in their care, the services can continue.

The House bill would require fees up to $10,000 for unlicensed providers falsely disclosing their services as licensed.

Cole County Circuit Clerk Brenda Umstattd stepped down Wednesday after a Missouri audit found at least $14,669 in missing money.

Umstattd's resignation is effective immediately and Cole County Presiding Judge Patricia Joyce will act as appointing authority for the circuit clerk until a replacement is named.

State Auditor Tom Schweich rated the overall performance of the entity "poor."

Schweich also cited "deficiencies in internal controls" and "noncompliance with legal provisions" as problem areas.

"The state auditor's report is very serious and reflects numerous deficiencies in the operation of the clerk's office," Joyce said in a press release.

Joyce also said the clerk's poor fiscal management put at risk "hundreds of thousands of dollars."

The Senate General Laws Committee heard testimony Tuesday on a bill which would make changes to Missouri's open records law, commonly known as the Sunshine Law.

The hearing comes a month after Republican State Auditor Tom Schweich released a report showing that state and local government bodies have been routinely violating the law.

Missouri Press Association (MPA) executive director Doug Crews was at the hearing and called these changes to the Sunshine Law "taking baby steps."

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, who said the bill would affect all local and state government agencies.

Schaefer said the auditor's report showed there are still violations of the Sunshine Law throughout the state and this is an attempt to do something about it.

"The bottom line is we need more transparency in quasi governmental entities," Schaefer said.

Representative Shane Schoeller, R-Willard, the bill sponsor said the new resolution changes the language in the measure to summarize voter I.D. protection on the ballot.

The removal of the language the Cole county circuit court had rejected would be recorded in the House and Senate Journals.

Ron Berry, Director of Policy and Governmental Affairs, opposed the changes on behalf of the Secretary of State. He said, "We believe that as its current resolution, it does not have force in effect."

The bill sponsor said this measure would actually increase voter turnout because individuals' votes would be more protected.

During the public hearing he said, "When voters know their vote really counts and they don't believe there's any fraud associated with that election, they're more likely to want to show up and cast that ballot."

The House General Laws Committee heard public testimony Tuesday on Rep. Rodney Schad's, R-Versailles, bill banning pets from the state Capitol building.

Schad said only service animals with proper training and certifications should be allowed.

"There's been increasing problems in the building because of animals," said Schad.

Two witnesses testified against the bill during the hearing.

Some Missouri lawmakers are also against this bill.

Sen. Luann Ridgeway, R-Smithville, brings her pet dog to the Capitol building everyday.

"I don't know why he sponsored this," said Ridgeway. "There's been not one complain from anyone or the cleaning crews."

If passed, the bill will head to the House floor.

In a press conference Tuesday, Commissioner of Education Chris Nicastro said the state board of education had no choice but to close the charter schools that serve almost 4,000 St. Louis school children.

Nicastro said the academic levels of the Imagine schools were among the lowest performing in the state. The schools academic levels were well-under the St. Louis public school average and the state average.

Nicastro also called for the oversight of charter schools academically and financially.

Currently, the state board of education does not have authority over charter schools and Nicastro said this needs to change.

"We do believe that the state board of education should have the authority to intervene in chart schools just as they do other public schools," said Nicastro.

The closings will be effective at the end of the school year and the Department of Education has set up a transition office for students and their parents.

In a 116-34 vote, the Missouri House approved a bill that would place stricter restrictions on abortion-inducing drugs.

The bill requires RU-486, an abortion inducing drug, to be administered in a hospital or abortion facility. It also provides women with more information regarding the drug being administered.

The legislation requires women to have a physical exam 24 hours in advance of the drug's administration.

"I believe that life is in the womb. This is a serious procedure that should have regulation on it," said Rep. Andrew Koenig, R-St. Louis County, the bill's sponsor.

The vote did not come without opposition.

"Let's trust our women, let's trust our doctors, to know whats in the best interest of their bodies and to keep government out of that doctor's office, so they can have the same sovereignty that is extended to our businesses," said Rep. Jason Holsman, D- Jackson.

"Back off. Trust women. Let them make their own informed decisions," said Genise Montecillo, D- St. Louis City.

Koenig's legislation received some praise from female House members.

"I applaud what you are doing for the women of Missouri," said Rep. Jeanie Riddle, R-Callaway.

The audit by Republican State Auditor Tom Schweich gives the state's bidding, procurement and monitoring of 183 contract license offices in Missouri a "fair" grade.  

Schweich said he found several concerns including extremely long contract procurement cycles, not providing bidders with the details of what they would be evaluated on, inconsistent application of the contract award point system and not creating written criteria for evaluating bidders' responses.

He also found that the state Office of Administration a accepted late proposal and allowed a non-for-profit bidder Alternative Opportunities to operate and rebid for a contract despite a violation of their current contract.

Schweich said the Department of Revenue and Office of Administration need to improve their policies, procedures and enforcement.

"We have no evidence that anyone was gearing the procurements toward alternative opportunities...but we do know that the process was modified and altered in a way that advantaged that company. This creates an appearance of impropriety that concerns us," Schweich said.

He said this does not necessarily mean that there is an impropriety. Under the system initiated in 2009, the goal was to eliminate political bias in these contracts. Schweich said he is hopeful that if the process is improved, politics will be eliminated from the process.  

A bill that would attempt to remove the requirement of employers to provide medical coverage for birth control has been heavily debated by the Missouri legislature this session.

The proposed measure would remove the requirement of employers to provide medical coverage for birth control, if it is against their religious beliefs.

The action is in response to Obama's contraceptive mandate, which would provide women with birth control free of charge from their employer or insurance company.

The bill sponsor Sen. John Lamping, R-St. Louis County, said he intends to give more religious freedom to employers so they don't drop health care coverage all together.

Lamping's legislation would also allow the Attorney General to make civil claims in a lawsuit, if the employer is forced to provide coverage.

Senate Minority Leader Victor Callahan, D-Independence, said the bill moves the responsibility of insurance companies to individual employers.

"This isn't a very good bill because you're extending this authority to employees that can have any basic objections to a plan and now they have civil claims paid for by the Attorney General," Callahan said.

If the bill passes, it would be in conflict with the Affordable Care Act and the federal government. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the health care law in June.

Lamping's bill has already passed the Senate and a similar bill has already passed the House. It needs one more vote in either chamber to be sent to Gov. Jay Nixon's desk.

Missouri lawmakers gave the first round approval to bill making a it a crime to enforce the Affordable Care Act, known by critics as "Obamacare."

The penalty for anyone trying to enforce President Barack Obama's health care plan would be charged with a class A misdemeanor.

The bill sponsor Rep. Kurt Bahr, R-St. Charles, said it is the state's job to recognize what is and is not constitutional.

"The Federal government does not have the power to tell us what we have to purchase," Bahr said.

Democrats said the U.S. Supreme Court has the power to determine what is and is not constitutional and this type of measure should wait until the Court has ruled.

The Supreme Court is expected to deliver their ruling on the law in late June.

Senate Education Committee Chair David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, and House Higher Education Committee Chair Mike Thomson, R-Maryville, worked together on legislation designed to make it easier to transfer credits.

Pearce said this bill would make the process more efficient.

"It is a proven fact, that time is the far as it’s going to the school. The longer it takes the more debt the student incurs, and also the more likely the student may not finished," Thomson said.

Rep. Steve Webber, D-Columbia said he opposed the bill.

"If the goal is just to pass out degrees, we can get everybody a degree. The goal should be declare quality education. We seem to concern more about the number of degrees we handed out than the quality of the degree represents," Webber said.

The Senate passed the measure without opposition, and the House passed it with only three "no" votes.

Both measures need one more vote in the other chamber before they are sent to the governor's desk.

Missouri's state auditor said Monday that he will appeal a court ruling made last week about a ballot issue to repeal the state's income tax.

The ruling, issued by Cole County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Joyce, said the auditor's financial analysis of the ballot issue was "insufficient."

Schweich said he was appealing the ruling because his office believed the original analysis provided an "accurate range of possible impacts" that was the best they could provide with the information given to the auditor's office.

A Missouri Senate bill to make disruption of a house of worship a crime resulted in a continued discussion of first amendment rights in a House committee hearing Monday.

The bill, sponsored by President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, covers any house of worship, including any public or private structure used for any religious purpose. It would also bar individuals from injuring, threatening or interfering with any person's attempt to practice their religion or enter a house of worship.

The bill, which was already passed by the Senate, received a hearing in the House. Jeremy LaFaver, on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri, came to testify in opposition to the bill. LaFaver said that although he understands the intent of the bill, there are constitutional issues with the bill that could interfere with people's freedom of speech.

"People don't have the right to be right, but they do have the right to be heard." LaFaver said.

The House Workforce Development Committee approved another bill Monday that would alter laws concerning whistle blower protection.

The Committee passed the measure by removing the original provisions in the bill that would have limited employee lawsuit damages and substituting in the new language. The same committee passed a bill last week that exactly mirrors the one passed Monday.

Originally the bills required modifying state statute to require discrimination to be a motivating factor instead of contributing one. Removal of this language in both bills was prompted by Gov. Jay Nixon vetoing the bills two times before, including once earlier this legislative session.

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