Posted 12/01/2011: This week was mostly devoted to working on my feature story. Hundreds of thousands of acres in Northwest Missouri were flooded for months after the Missouri River flooded. Entire farms, and towns were wiped out. Some people lost everything. Businesses shut down. They couldn't stay open because most of the roads were flooded including Interstate 29 - a major North/South highway running through the state and through Iowa. Some parts of the county remain inaccessible because of destroyed or still flooded roads six months after the floods began. The two counties effected the most by the floods - Holt and Atchison Counties - are the biggest grain producing counties in the state. And this year, the harvest was down. Some of the land has been flooded for so long, it won't be farm-able for years to come. This will affect the economy statewide. The levees haven't been built back yet, and might not get built back before high water comes in the spring. That means another harsh year could be in store for the region and the people who live there. Two people even lost their lives in the floods in Northwest Missouri. Still, there hasn't been much media coverage about the floods in the region. I'm heading up there a week from today and am looking forward to talking to the people effected by the floods and what their plans are to rebuild after such a devastating summer.
I was only at the Capitol one day this week because I had an interview set up for one of my normal Capitol days for my Broadcast 1 Package. But the one day I was there was a good day. I finally feel like I'm getting the hang of this. I came into the Capitol, found a story, grabbed an interview and was finished with two wraps in no time. I was done and out of the office by noon. It wasn't a hard-hitting breaking news story, but it was interesting and something Missourians care about: farmland values have risen again to an all-time high.
It was a busy week at the state Capitol. The Speaker of the House, Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, a front-runner for the Republicans for the Lieutenant Governor seat, suddenly dropped out of the race. Also that day, Missouri Department of Transportation officials announced that they'll try to make Interstate 70 a toll-road. Needless to say, it was a busy news day.
We tried to get an interview with Tilley all morning and I actually saw him twice, but was without a marantz and couldn't get an interview. Finally, after waiting outside his office for about 30 minutes, he came out and I got a quick interview. He said he just didn't have the passion for politics like he used to and wanted to spend more time with his kids, but he is still going to finish out his term as Speaker of the House. While interviewing other lawmakers about Tilley dropping out of the race, I asked a few questions about toll roads on I-70 and that led to another story for the day.
It was a busy, but fun day at the Capitol.
Things are a little slower around the state Capitol without the Special Session. Hardly any lawmakers are here and things just seem to move at a slower pace. Most of us began working on our feature or enterprise stories this week. There was a lot of news coming from other places than the Capitol so we still had a lot to do. The biggest story this week is probably the Wentzville GM Plant expanding and adding 1800 jobs for the state.
I've been chronicling the ups and downs (mostly downs) of the special session on this blog. Well, it's finally over - and it didn't take long. Only two senators were in session Tuesday: Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, and Senate Majority Floor Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles. The entire session lasted less than a minute.
The only two bills that passed both the House and Senate during the special session were the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act, or MOSIRA, which is designed to bring more jobs and funding to high-tech Missouri companies, and the "Facebook-fix," which modified the law about student-teacher online communications. Nixon signed both of those bills into law last week.
The session has been dying for more than a month, and now it's finally dead.
But the week was far from over. On Thursday, news of an E. coli outbreak in St. Louis was our top priority. The state refused to talk to any of our reporters. So I headed over the State Department of Health and Senior Services to wait it out and see if anyone would talk. And nobody did. I sat in the waiting room until the office closed. For THREE hours, nobody from the state could even spare a minute to talk to me about the E. coli outbreak. What is the state doing to protect it's citizens? Why will the state not talk to reporters about an E. coli outbreak? None of those-or any-questions were answered.
The House finally passed the China hub bill with bipartisan support by a vote of 98-48. But, the bill as Phill has called it, is more of a China nub. Only $60 million remains in tax credits from the originally proposed $300 million. Also in the bill, a decrease in the tax rate for all Missouri corporations - from 6.25% to 5.5%.
But left out of the bill were sunsets for the tax credit programs. That was something that Senate leadership has repeated the bill would need to pass. They'll get their chance at the bill when they come back to the Capitol Tuesday. House leadership says they are open to negotiations on the bill, but they hope the Senate will just take up the bill and pass it.
Come back next week to find out.
House and Senate leadership kept the special session alive last week, but not a whole lot has happened with the session this week. The House and Senate both are in technical session and things were pretty quiet around the Capitol, but that doesn't mean nothing happened.
A big source of stories came from the failed Moberly-China business venture Mamtek. Former Mamtek CEO Bruce Cole started a new company called American Sucralose Manufacturing and entered into an agreement with Moberly to take over all Mamtek's debt. The agreement stated Cole would pay the city $250,000 by October 3. The Secretary of State's office told me no company with the name American Sucralose Manufacturing was registered to do business in Missouri and they would have to register with their office before doing any business in the state. Moberly City Manager Andy Morris seemed pretty confident that Cole would come through the second time around.
This week I learned that just because legislators aren't around, doesn't mean there isn't a lot of news going on around here.
After that press conference, I went to the House Economic Development hearing where they were supposed to take up the China Hub bill. That meeting got rescheduled to 4:30. We went upstairs and found House Speaker Steven Tilley and other House leadership going into a meeting with Mayer and other Senate leadership to try and hash out a compromise.
When Tilley emerged he said half of his caucus just wanted to "shut down" the special session and go home since the two sides were so far about on the key China Hub bill. Mayer expressed that half of his caucus was the same way. It looked like a dim chance a compromise would be reached any time soon.
Back at the rescheduled Economic Development hearing, the committee refused to even take up the China Hub bill. Committee Chair Anne Zerr said, "it's just not ready yet." Since the bill didn't make it past the committee it couldn't be debated on the House floor the next day unless the rules were amended.
I went back and talked to Mayer after the committee didn't take any action on the bill. He looked disappointed and talked the whole time with his head down and arms crossed. It was clear he wasn't optimistic a deal could be struck before his Friday deadline. When asked if the Senate would take up any of the other bills the House passed, Mayer said no emphatically.
I wrote my two wraps and went back to Columbia - only an hour late for my Broadcast 1 lab. The House Republican Caucus met Thursday night and must have come up with something to continue the special session because it still went on Friday and the Senate took up several bills and adjourned until Monday.
A new development comes to a "blighted" area - one destroyed by a natural disaster.
The property where the new development would go is appraised and that developer is required to pay taxes on the appraised amount of the land until the project is completed.
The property is still appraised every year, but any taxes that are above what the flat tax is is paid into a different fund that the city (or county) uses to pay off bonds or loans given to the developer.
After I got the understanding of a TIF down, it was time to go to another meeting. A House Committee on Natural Disaster Relief hearing. It was interesting to hear all the departments give updates to the committee and how much help some of these areas will need.
Then Thursday was shaping up to be a slower day when we got wind that Gov. Nixon was trying to push health care exchange around the legislature. It turned out to be a misunderstanding, but a group of senators stopped a vote that would accept a $21 million grant to begin laying the ground work for health care exchange, but not actually enacting it.
Another fun week at the Capitol. I can't wait to see what next week will hold.