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Lobbyist Money Help  

Tax Cuts Uncertain

May 16, 1996
By: Dana Coleman, Elizabeth McKinley, Angie Gaddy
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - With less than 24 hours in the legislative session, Gov. Mel Carnahan and senate leaders traveled from office to office in the statehouse Thursday night trying to hammer out last minute legislative packages.

As of 8 p.m., lawmakers had no plan for a $150 million tax cut. In fact, they were not sure which bill to use as the vehicle.

If lawmakers do not figure out how to make the cut by tonight, then of excess state revenues to Missouri taxpayers would be delayed until 1998.

The state has broken through a revenue lid, and has to return about $150 million dollars.

Despite the lateness of the hour, the governor said he was confident a compromise would be reached.

"The legislature's in a better position than they've been all session to get the right result," the governor told reporters as he moved between senator's offices.

"Now, it's not resolved. There's still lots of differences, but it's in a position where I think a bill can be written and passed."

Over the past few weeks, legislators have been kicking around several tax cut proposals.

A two-cent tax cut on groceries, a bigger income tax deduction for private pensioners and people with kids, have all been considered. But late on the eve of the closing day, no consensus was reached.

The governor indicated all of those options were acceptable to him.

In other legislative action:

* The Senate killed part of a bill that would have banned lobbyists from giving gifts to lawmakers.

Sen. John Schneider made the motion to kill the lobbyist gift ban, said a ban on lobbyists giving anything to a lawmaker would be unconstitutional and would not work.

"This isn't going to stop anyone from getting a free dinner. All it's going to do is stop the reporting of it," Schneider said.

The St. Louis County Democrat said a lobbyist simply could have one of his association's members pick up the dinner tab to get around any prohibition on the lobbyist.

Schneider said stronger reporting of lobbyist expenditures was a more effective method.

Earlier in the day, he tacked an amendment onto an election bill that would increase access to information about lobbyist gifts. The Missouri Ethics Commission would make the information on an electronic system available to the general public.

* The Senate also stuck onto that election bill a fix for what has become a near emergency for Missouri Democrats -- the possibility Bill Clinton would not appear on the Missouri ballot as a presidential candidate.

The national Democratic Party scheduled its national convention so late that Clinton will not be nominated until after Missouri's August 27 deadline for the party to certify its presidential candidate for the ballot.

An official with the Secretary of State's office said the problem was real and did not appear to be a solution except a change in Missouri law.

The election bill, with the fix to Clinton's Missouri ballot problem, is headed to a House-Senate conference committee.

But with just hours left in the session, the situation hands Republican lawmakers the opportunity to try to keep Clinton off Missouri's ballot with a relatively short filibuster.

* SAFE SCHOOLS

Punching a friend at a school-related event could result in a felony charge -- if the prosecutor wants.

One provision in the so called "Safe Schools Act" makes it a felony to knowingly cause physical injury to another person; the measure makes it a specific crime to assault someone on school grounds.

Prosecutors would use their own discretion whether to charge someone with the felony.

But the bill's sponsor, Rep. Steve McLuckie, D-Kansas City, said he didn't think the local prosecutors would use the law on "practical jokes."

The House approved on Thursday what could be the final version of the governor-backed "safe schools" bills designed to keep violence out of Missouri's schools. With today as the last day left in the session, the Senate must approve the final version before Gov. Mel Carnahan can sign the bill into law.

The bill gives $10 million in grants to schools districts to set up or fund alternative schools, which are schools for students who "for whatever reason can't function in traditional classrooms," McLuckie said. "They allow students to get their acts together."

Among other provisions in the bill are statewide expulsions, reporting between schools and juvenile authorities, and requiring local boards of education to establish a written discipline policy.

But some legislators contend the "safe schools" bill will not get to the root of the problem.

"The school system is out of touch with what's happening today," said Rep. Fletcher Daniel, D-Kansas City. "Kids don't need penitentiaries. They need love and understanding."

Daniel said he did not think more police would help stop violence in schools, but it might help win an election.

* HOG REGULATIONS

Corporate hog farms are going to have to clean up their sties - a bill is on its way to the governor.

Legislators balanced environmental and corporate concerns to finally approve a bill that would impose restrictions on Missouri's growing hog farms, hailing it as a good compromise.

One provision under the bill would require expanding farms to apply for a construction permit with the Department of Natural Resources. Other measures would step up control of animal waste systems, requiring a mechanical shut-off of the system in the event of pipe stoppages. These provisions are designed to keep animal wastes from public drinking water.

The bill creates a buffer zone between hog farms and their neighbors, or private property. Corporate hog farms also would be required to apply for construction permits locally and notify the community of their intent to build.

Although environmentalists claim the bill is necessary to clean up these growing farms, some rural legislators are worried the bill regulates farms too much.

"The changing swine industry has created this problem," said Rep. Dale Whiteside, R-Chillicothe. "They've got to get their heads out of the sand and realize they can only go so far with regulation."

* ZERO TOLERANCE

After passing the House version just an hour earlier, the House sent both Senate and House versions of the bill to a conference committee to agree on a final version. The bill would buckle down on drivers under the age of 21 under the influence of alcohol - including videotaping of sobriety tests.